Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New study on fruit and vegetable consumption in the US

Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of a new study called the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009. This document summarizes data for fruit and vegetable consumption from multiple sources and, for the first time, breaks the results down by state. It also discusses policies and environmental supports that can make it easier for everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The report lists the top states for fruit and vegetable consumption, and the bottom ones. It's interesting to note that most of the former group are blue states, while the latter group are the red states. Does this mean that Democrats care more about what they put in their bodies? Or is there some other explanation?

While all states are well below recommendations, those states doing a better job of eating their 2 or more fruit servings and 3 or more vegetable servings are, for adults:

District of Columbia - 20.1 percent
Vermont - 17.9 percent
Maine - 17.7 percent
Hawaii - 17.5 percent
New York - 16.5 percent
Massachusetts - 16.4 percent
Connecticut and New Hampshire - 16.2 percent (tie)
Arizona and California - 16.1 (tie)

Among the states most in need of improving fruit and vegetable consumption are (among adults):

Mississippi - 8.8 percent
Oklahoma and South Carolina - 9.3 percent (tie)
Alabama - 9.8 percent
South Dakota - 10.0 percent
West Virginia - 10.3 percent
Kansas - 10.6 percent
Kentucky and North Carolina - 10.8 percent (tie)
Arkansas and Missouri - 11.2 percent (tie)

(Taken from a press release from the Produce for Better Health Foundation.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Healthy Savings from Mambo Sprouts

Coupons are awesome. They're a main reason I subscribe to my local Sunday paper--they have pages and pages of grocery store coupons. But most weeks I'm disappointed, as more coupons get left behind than clipped. This is because the vast majority of them are for products that I wouldn't buy: heavily processed foods, cleaners that harm the environment, sugary cereals, mixes and similar things filled with preservatives, refined sweets and beverages, and junky bars, cookies, and salty snacks.

This is why I am a frequent user of Mambo Sprouts coupons. Companies that offer coupons through Mambo Sprouts are carefully selected to be organic and/or natural, healthful, and good for the environment. The Mambo Sprouts folks have been around a long time -- I remember using the coupons years ago, back when "green" was just a color and when "organic" was a term most people thought were reserved for certain chemists. I'm sure I've saved over $350 on Mambo Sprouts coupons alone! Now, of course, they have a cool web site with recipes, articles, shopping, events, and printable coupons, in addition to their traditional coupon book and mailer.

Right now Mambo Sprouts is celebrating back-to-school with product savings that appeal especially to families like mine. For example, there's a coupon for $.50 off two Clif ZBars for kids, a convenient mid-day snack option on the go or packed in your child's backpack (they're organic and made with whole grains). They also have one for $1 off Robert's American Gourmet -- the folks who make Tings. Ben loves finding Tings in his lunchbox, and I feel good about it because they look and taste like "cheese puffs" but they're 100% vegan, baked (thus low in fat), and gluten-free (they contain only corn, expeller-pressed oil, nutritional yeast, and salt). Just a few of the kid-friendly savings include $.75 off a Healthy Valley product (have you tried their bars?), $1 off Ian's organic cookies (the chocolate chip buttons are vegan), and buy-2-get-1-free Stretch Island Fruit Strips. They also have $1 off my favorite coffee -- Equal Exchange (organic and fair-trade) AND my favorite tea -- Good Earth. They also have one for $1 off any Seventh Generation cleaner, which I always need!

You can get Mambo Sprouts coupons at Whole Foods (they have a special collection called "The Whole Deal") and at most health food stores (just ask the store manager or use the online store locator), and you can receive them by mail (they come with a newsletter with informative articles and recipes too) by signing up at their web site, mambosprouts.com. You can also print some (but not all of the ones from the booklet) from the web site. I recommend both getting them mailed to you AND signing up for their enewsletter, so you can get updates on new product savings, including online-only coupons.

The best thing about Mambo Sprouts (besides the money I've saved) is that I don't have to spend a lot of time combing through a newspaper or coupon web site to get the ones I really want--they've done the work for me!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegan at LAX

Note: This post nwas written on September 13, 2009

So here I am at the LA Airport and I have some time to kill so I whipped out Dan’s computer for a bit of a rant (for once, I left mine at home on vacation).

Dan and I are on our long-awaited trip out West, celebrating our landmark 10th anniversary. We’re waiting to board a plane to Portland, OR, America’s vegan-and-bike-friendly city, and we can’t wait. But first we must endure airports.

Before I rant, allow me apologize to Reno. Reno, I am sorry. I misjudged you. And I’ll miss you. I fully expected to have major problems finding decent food in Reno, but boy was I wrong! First of all they have the most amazing Whole Foods I’ve ever been to, with more vegan choices (local to the CA Bay Area) than I’ve ever seen. They actually have a Trail Mix "Bar" (not a bar like a wrapped snack, but like a salad bar)! Perfect with our morning oatmeal! And fortunately, we stayed at a hotel that is walking distance from the Whole Foods. Furthermore, we enjoyed s dinner out at a Thai restaurant that made everything vegan for us (thanks, Thai Lotus). And we enjoyed yummy dinner one night at Pneumatic, an all-vegetarian restaurant downtown. Thanks guys. I took some great pics there but my memory card got corrupted and is unreadable.

Anyway, to add to the vacation serendipity, yesterday we drove to Lake Tahoe for a day of biking and sailing, and happened upon a natural foods store (and I mean happened upon – we were looking for the bike trail that goes along the Truckee River and we went totally the wrong way and saw it, our own oasis!) called New Moon. We asked the folks there for directions and they got us back on the path, and after our 12-mile ride we lunched there, enjoying a 100% raw meal that was absolutely outstanding. We got the sprouted lentil salad with Indian spices and a cilantro dressing as well as the Raw-Co, a “taco” whose shell was red cabbage and innards were all sorts of delicious fresh veggies, seeds, soaked nuts, sprouted beans, and herbs/spices, served with a raw lemon tahini sauce.. Nothing could possibly beat this healthful, energizing, delicious lunch on this gorgeous day after a long ride. Plus the folks there were super-friendly.

So this morning we said good-bye to Reno, and now we have this horrific layover at LAX. With no time (or appetite) for breakfast this morning, getting off that plane, I was HUNGRY. No more trail mix, soy Jerkey, or Lara Bars (our usual travel fare); I wanted a real meal. Unfortunately the only places (without leaving security) to eat here are Burger King, Starbucks, a fish restaurant, and a California Pizza Kitchen kiosk (with ready-to-go food).

First, to Starbucks. We got a fresh fruit salad. A little pricey at $5 and change, but that’s no surprise at a Starbucks. Some of their drinks cost the same. (They also have nuts, trail mix, and oatmeal, all of which are good choices, but we were growing tired of these foods and craved a salad.)

Next, to CPK. They had 3 salad choices! Yeay! Oh, wait, ALL THREE have CHICKEN. Shame on you, CPK.

Next to the fish restaurant, called Gladstone’s Fish. They have salads on the menu! And it’s a sit-down place so surely they can make salads to order, right? WRONG. They flatly refused to make us a salad without some sort of meat in it. Shame on YOU, Gladstone’s Fish.

Next, to Burger King. They have a side garden salad, bird flesh optional! Yeay! So I got it. Imagine my surprise when I was told how much it costs – $5.79. Not that this is a terrible price for a salad, but this is Burger King for goodness sake. The guy in front of me got a ginormous burger with fries and drink... for around the same price. No wonder cash-strapped folks skip the salad and go right for the burger and fries! Understandably, they would rather pay less than a penny per calorie of food (typical “value meal”) than several cents per calorie (vegetables). What this comes down to, I have figured out, is that Burger King penalized people who try to eat well. How dare they charge so much for a salad, which by the way, as evidenced by the photo above, contained lettuce, five pathetic little baby carrots, four tiny cherry tomatoes, and of course the obligatory croutons and cheese (straight from the “garden”). I understand that they operate on volume, and thus must charge more for a salad (which also has a far shorter shelf life than, say, frozen french fries). But if they charge so much, no one buys it and the price has to stay high. So that said, why not reward people who want vegetables instead of fatty, salty food for lunch, charge them a fair price for the salad, and raise all other menu items by 1 cent? Call it BK’s own health tax. And imagine if their competitors did the same! Judging on this country’s current fast food consumption rate, I bet if they did this, they would make a huge difference in the morbidity rate in this country. But they’re not in the business of health, they’re in the business of profit.

The salad was surprisingly good. The vegetables were very fresh (I like to think this isn’t due to the addition of some chemical to retard spoiling, but I’d rather not go there right now). They also had lite Italian dressing (vegan), by Ken’s. The cheese was in a separate section so easy to omit, and the croutons came in an individually wrapped bag (there were about 49 ingredients in there, some not vegan, so I skipped them). An addition of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit (from Starbucks) would have made it better; in hindsight that is what I should have done. But it’s hard to be creative when you’re hungry. So... next time.

Off we go to Portland, where fresh, delectable plant-based meals abound.