Food Is Not Your Enemy

Food Dyes: Safe or Scary?
December 31, 2009, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs, Sweets | Tags: , , ,

Yoplait Trix Wildberry Blue Yogurt is colored with Blue 1 and Red 40. Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese contains Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. Pepsi and Coke use caramel color. If you and your kids are consuming prepackaged and processed food, chances are you’re eating and drinking food coloring, be it natural (pigments derived from plants or animals) or artificial (synthesized in a lab). Any food dye that is used in the U.S. has had to pass muster with the FDA, but some of our approved dyes have been outright banned in Europe. So are these added colorings truly safe? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.

Navajo Stew
December 28, 2009, 10:44 am
Filed under: Beans, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

This dish is no joke. My friend Barbara first cooked it for me, and I just made it myself for the first time. I served it over quinoa, and used the plain 0% Fage Greek yogurt with it. A warning: the chipotles in adobo sauce are crazy hot. I took one chili out of the can and cut it in half, added just a touch of the adobo sauce, and that was plenty to give the dish a kick but not make it too spicy for my kids.

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 red or green bell peppers
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 (15 oz.) can of tomatoes
1 Tbsp. canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 oz.) can of butter beans or black beans, drained
flatbread (tortillas, lavash, or pita)
plain yogurt, sour cream, or Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Stem and seed the peppers and cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel the onion and cut it stem end to root end into thin wedges. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the garlic, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Stir and continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy.

While the vegetables roast, puree the tomatoes, chipotles, and cilantro in a blender until smooth. Set aside. When the vegetables are tender, put them into a 2- to 3-quart baking dish, stir in the tomato-cilantro sauce and the beans, and return to the oven until hot, about 10 minutes.

A few minutes before serving, warm the bread in the oven. Serve the stew in bowls topped with yogurt or sour cream, with warm flatbread on the side.

(Recipe courtesy of “The Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen)

Corn Refiners Association Prez Tells Me What’s What With Regard to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Okay, so yesterday I got a letter through the contact form on my Web site from Audrae Erickson, the president of the Corn Refiners Association. In my most recent column for AOL’s ParentDish, I advocated avoiding store-bought big-brand eggnog since it tends to contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). So Ms. Erickson felt the need to explain to me why HFCS is in fact awesome. Here’s her letter, with my comments inserted in all caps:

 Dear Ms. Schonborn:

We read the December 21 article “Christmas and Kwanzaa Foods: Safe or Scary?,” with interest. There has been a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. I AGREE. SOME STUDIES HAVE SHOWN HFCS TO BE NO DIFFERENT THAN TABLE SUGAR WITH REGARD TO HOW IT AFFECTS OUR BODIES, BUT A NEW STUDY HAS SHOWN OTHERWISE. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for future articles. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA),THE ADA IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT SIGNED A PARTNERSHIP DEAL WITH COCA-COLA–I FEEL THE NEED TO TAKE THEIR NUTRITION RECOMMENDATIONS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT  “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” AGAIN, SEE THE LATEST RESEARCH REFUTING THIS. The ADA also noted that “Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.)

High fructose corn syrup is used in the food supply because of its many functional benefits. It is used in certain applications for sweetening, and in other applications it performs functions that have little to do with sweetening. For example, it retains moisture in bran cereals, helps keep breakfast and energy bars moist, LARABARS MANAGE TO KEEP THEIR BARS MOIST AND THEIR ONLY INGREDIENTS ARE DRIED FRUIT AND NUTS–JUST SAYIN’ maintains consistent flavors in beverages and keeps ingredients evenly dispersed in condiments. High fructose corn syrup enhances spice and fruit flavors in yogurts and marinades. HOW ABOUT JUST USING FRUIT IN YOGURT, INSTEAD OF “FRUIT FLAVORS” THAT NEED TO BE “ENHANCED”? In salad dressings and spaghetti sauce, it improves flavor by reducing tartness. TARTNESS? ANY HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE I’VE TASTED HASN’T SUFFERED FROM THIS PROBLEM, AND THEY HAVEN’T HAD HFCS OR ANY SWEETENER ADDED TO THEM Many foods only contain small amounts of high fructose corn syrup. For example, it would take 39 slices of bread to reach the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily allowance of added sugars from high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a highly fermentable nutritive sweetener. It gives breads a pleasing brown crust. BREAD GETS A PLEASING BROWN CRUST FROM THE OVEN IF IT’S NOT A CHEAP PROCESSED BREAD. Please follow this link for more information. ( As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle. To read the latest research WHICH SUPPORTS THE CORN REFINERS ASSOCIATION’S POINT OF VIEW and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration,

Audrae Erickson, President

Corn Refiners Association

Washington, DC

The main problem here for me is that Ms. Erickson is staunchly defending not just HFCS, but processed foods in general. In the past generation or so, many many Americans have stopped preparing home-cooked food, and instead have relied on calorie-dense convenience foods like the ones mentioned in her letter. And during this time, the number of obese Americans has skyrocketed (there are many factors contributing to this crisis, but I believe processed foods play a very large role). In a few of my AOL columns, I have said that one of the main reasons to avoid HFCS is that by doing so, you will avoid the junkiest foods on the market. I stand by that recommendation.

Christmas and Kwanzaa Foods: Safe or Scary?
December 21, 2009, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Beans, Eggs, Food/Health Blogs, Meat, Sweets, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

Get ready for the imminent Christmas and Kwanzaa feasts, and all the rich, fatty goodness they provide. But is it all bad? Are you and your kids doomed to suffer an empty-calorie, end-of-year bloat? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out if there are some (somewhat) healthy foods in the mix.

No More Street Fish in NYC

The Health Dept. is barring street food vendors from selling seafood of any kind on the sidewalks of New York from here on out. The best part of the post on Grub Street about the new regulation? This comment from someone called Smokedragon: “[Street vendor] Kim’s Aunt’s fried flounder sandwich gets me through Fridays in Lent. I guess the Health Department wants me to go to hell.”

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Proves to Be Worse Than Sugar

This is big: a new study has shown that high-fructose corn syrup does in fact cause greater weight gain than sugar, and also leads to dangerous changes in the body. According to

“Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat.”

Hanukkah Foods: Safe or Scary?

During Hanukkah, Jewish people around the world retell and celebrate the story that one day’s supply of oil miraculously lasted for eight days when the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and rededicated the holy temple. And one of the ways they celebrate this is by consuming lots of food fried in oil, including potato latkes (pancakes) and jelly doughnuts.

Are there other, healthier foods served during Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, to complement all that grease? Well, there’s your gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil) and cheese blintzes and … yeah. Not so much with the healthy.

So is all the traditional Hanukkah fare just full-on scary food that should be avoided? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.

50 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day
December 8, 2009, 11:45 am
Filed under: Exercise, Food/Health Blogs, weight loss | Tags: , , has posted an extremely helpful list–how to cut 500 calories a day. It includes everything from advice about restaurant portions to info about how important sleep is to staying at a healthy weight. Two caveats: for the tip about drinking sugar-free, I would advise drinking water, not diet drinks; and for the advice about nuts, I think that a handful of nuts makes a great snack, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to avoid them.

Cauliflower Soup With Truffle Oil
December 2, 2009, 11:02 am
Filed under: Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

I made a cauliflower soup this week that was one of the easiest things I’ve ever cooked. Only ingredients are cauliflower, an onion, butter, and chicken broth, with truffle oil drizzled on top (you can add chives too, but I didn’t). The recipe is on

If you like to make soups, do yourself a big favor and buy an immersion blender, one of those things you stick right into your pot to puree the soup. It looks like this, and makes soupmaking super easy.