Tag Archives: sugar

“S” is for Sugar.

One of the ads placed in New York Times in an effort to educate people about how soda can affect weight gain.

One of the ads placed in New York Times in an effort to educate people about how soda can affect weight gain.

Christopher and I both suffer from a love of chocolate. While we generally try to eat healthfully, this morning we enjoyed a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes. There are many occasions when after dinner, one of use will comment that we could go for some of the dark sweet stuff. However, we know this about ourselves, and for the most part limit the amount of sweets in our home.

It seems that limiting our sugar intake, while some evenings can be a bummer, is a good choice, not just for us, but for families with children as well. A long-term study out of the U.K., that included 17,000 people, suggests that people who eat candy daily as children, may have an increased chance of committing acts of violence as adults. I hope someone lets Britany Spears know.

I don’t know if she gives her kids candy daily, but she was reported by some gossip sites to have spent $3,000 on candy in a single afternoon (much of that said to be for lollipops for her backup dancers) at the Sugar Factory in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, candy and sugar consumption in children has become such a concern, that some school districts are having to change policies to combat poor eating habits.

In an effort to help teach and reinforce healthy eating habits, New York City Schools have placed a ban on bake sales. This is in addition to limiting what can be sold through vending machines. Many states have similar legislation. A few years ago, California banned sodas in schools, and has limited items that can be sold to students based in part on the fat and sugar contents of the items. While some of the students are upset about the ban on bake sales due to the loss of revenue for club and athletic activities (bake sales are limited to once a month and only after the lunch period), the effort hopes to address the obesity issues many children face, and additionally researchers have found a correlation between health and  performance on tests.

However, not everyone supports changes such as these. The Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by 100 companies, believes that efforts to educate people about their food choices and healthy eating is the work of “food police” trying to limit our freedom. They have gone as far as to make television ads that tout the benefits of corn syrup as “just like sugar,” and run ads in the New York Times that claim that people are trying to control our individual food choices by asking “Are you too stupid to make your own food choices?” Of course, they have no complaints about companies who are telling us to eat their food products.

The bottom-line is that people are allowed to eat what they choose. Efforts such as the bake sale ban, and the PSAs about the risks of high sugar diets are working to ensure that people understand the outcomes of such diets. Encouraging better eating habits is necessary to increase the health of our nation’s people, and apparently, we need such messages.

This week an NPR article discussed a report released by the CDC which shows that¬†only one-third of American adults are eating the recommended servings of fruits (and they specify not fruit juice), and only 27 percent are eating the daily recommended servings of (not-fried) vegetables. The percentages decrease for teens. Perhaps the fact that they found that only one in five middle and high schools had fruits (not juice) and non-fried vegetables available to students is a signal that we’re not doing the best job modeling healthy eating habits.

Maybe we can learn from First Lady Michelle Obama’s scheduled appearance on Sesame Street, a follow up to her previous visit, for the November 10th kick off (of the show’s 40th anniversary) when she will teach about the importance (and tastiness) of vegetables while talking about gardening.

Cheers to eating more veggies,

Kerri

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Taking a Vow.

The Los Olivos dining hall at California Polytechnic University at Pomona is fascinating microcosm of the American food system, where in addition to health vegan options you can also find things like this: a bread just labeled "Yellow." Photo by Christopher.

The Los Olivos dining hall at California Polytechnic University at Pomona is fascinating microcosm of the American food system, where in addition to healthy vegan options you can also find things like this: a bread just labeled "Yellow." Photo by Christopher.

I never lived in a dorm. I never had a “meal plan” in college. And as a result I have never experienced or reflected on the daily impact of this process. Until now. In fact, the closest I ever came to eating food in a college dining hall was when I downed a small carton of chocolate soymilk at the University of San Francisco cafeteria nearly a decade ago. However, for the past week I have been lucky enough to eat at Los Olivos, the mess hall at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona.

As a fellow of the Ahimsa Center, which focuses on the practice and study of nonviolence, as a part of the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, I have been well fed three times a day. During this experience I have found that the lessons learned during the dollar diet project, and during our most recent experiments in eating have significantly changed my habits. I find myself asking for smaller portions from the food service staff, making choices based on nutrition guidance from the USDA, and avoiding foods high in fats and sugars.

But in my suite, away from the brightly lit space, and public accountability of the college cafeteria, a package of Oreo cookies occupied a small piece of real estate on our kitchen counter. Yet the space these cookies occupied in my mind was far lager. I avoided them for the first couple of days. I felt that our study of Gandhi was a good reminder about the need for self-restraint. Yet the conversations late into the night gave way to deeper urges, and by one in the morning I was picking the chocolatey goodness from my teeth.

During the following day’s lecture we briefly discussed the notion of “vows.” So today I have decided to take a vow to no longer eat prepackaged cookies. I feel comfortable with this little step, and find that this will keep my sweet tooth on a leash in a simple but practical way. I will limit my sweet eating to specially home baked treats from family and friends, and rare outings at restaurants. It will be like taking my sweet tooth out for a walk every now and again instead of letting it roam the neighborhood.

I will replace this urge with healthier options like strawberries, melon, and grapes in the dining hall while I remain at Cal Poly. These succulent options have been readily available, as have decent vegan options at each meal. According to Dr. Tara Sethia, founder of the Ahimsa Center at the University, this is one of the things she has spent the last few years developing. Her commitment to nonviolence extends beyond the classroom and the study of Gandhi, and into the cafeteria where all students have the option to practice nonviolence (at least in eating).

Every day there has been a delicious nonviolent option, from curry to chili, and yesterday the grilled teriyaki tofu, steamed vegetables, and rice more than satisfied. The salad bars also stand in the center of the dining hall as a testament to student’s interest in leafy greens.

However, the standard fare is far from diverse: corn dogs, burgers, pizza, rows of sugary cereal dispensers, and liquid sugar flowing freely from soda taps. This contrast is a good representation of the current food system in the United States. Where healthier, more sustainable options are available if you make a concerted effort to find them among the faster foods. This is where Gandhian self-restraint comes into play. In my case with the Oreo’s, it may take something like a vow to eat better.

– Christopher

P.S. I am doing a new mini-blog during my stay at the Ahimsa Center. It’s called “Going Gandhi” and will document some of my experiments in truth as related to my study of nonviolence.

PPS. Speaking of sugar…Kerri’s sister has started a cake blog here. Her stuff is artful and tasty, so check it out.

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Sweet (In)Dependence.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

While sitting on the lazy bike at the gym on Saturday, I glanced up from Louis Fischer’s book “Gandhi” to see Joey “Jaws” Chesnut cramming down his 68th hot dog to set a new world record and defend his title as part of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest which has been held on July 4 for the last 94 years on Coney Island in New York City. Call it coincidence, but as I read about one man fasting to create powerful social change, another man waved a large trophy in the air, while 1.5 million people like me sat watching it on national television.

As part of our most recent experiment in eating, Kerri and I have been spending quite a lot of time at the gym, planning menus, and doing our best to eat well, but the process has been quite challenging at times. There is food everywhere, most of it is sweetened or salted to a “bliss point,” and when people get together, it’s usually over a meal. The eternal invitation to indulge is hard to resist. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the power of vegan cupcakes during Father’s Day, but as Saturday was Independence Day the veggie dogs, potato salad, and sugar cookies at our friend Justin’s house were ready to be enjoyed en masse and pushed into the depths of my belly.

I went back to reading about Gandhi. More fasting. More political change. Then another glance up at the television. On a commercial break there was one ad proclaiming that you could “Use food to lose weight!” complete with before and after pictures. Another for a salad dressing that apparently had something to do with a man and his dog getting the paper (the sound was off). And on another television, a breeze of snack crackers danced around the screen as kids chased them into the house. Our culture is food obsessed, and utterly self conscious about our weight (rightfully so?). This duality is hard to reconcile in any meaningful way, and is exactly what I have been struggling with. At that moment in a room packed full of other people looking to be fit, it seemed comically tragic.

After the gym, I spent the morning preparing sugar cookies. This says it all.

But if that is not enough. I even made my own dyes for the frosting. A crafty endeavor stemming from a desire to not eat “chemicals,” or “artificial” food products. I think this is what literary people call irony, and our country’s attitudes toward health and eating are marinating in it. Regardless, while making the cookies I could not help but eat chunks of dough every now and then, and when they came out of the oven, it was easy to find the ones that had to be eaten (this one is a little too crisp, that one a little too broken). And so my physical exercise was easily overcome by the buttery baked biscuits of sugar.

I began to wonder what Gandhi would say about Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and an event such as this annual eating contest. I thought about my own struggle to eat well and get in shape. I wondered if it would ever really be possible to create lifestyle habits that are both bliss filled and healthy. If you have suggestions, please get in touch.

To the taste of sugar in my mouth,¬† the need to be fit, and a culture gone wild over it’s eats…

– Christopher

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