Monthly Archives: July 2015

Ingredient du Jour: Great Grains

Grains are a staple in much of the world, but many in the United States haven’t explored much beyond quick-cook white rice. Luckily, interest in more exotic grains has risen in recent years, and a greater variety than ever is available in a wider variety of stores. Read on to learn which grains pack the greatest nutritional punch.Which grains pack the most nutritional punch?

  • Quinoa: One of the most popular “superfoods” of the past decade, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), has been a staple in the Andes for millennia. Although people frequently refer to quinoa as a grain and use it as a replacement for rice, it is technically the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant. This makes it related to such other superfoods as spinach and chard and accounts for its high nutritional value. One cooked cup contains 222 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 21 percent of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of fiber. It is also high in calcium, magnesium, and folate.
  • Brown Rice: Brown rice is cheaper and easier to find than quinoa, although it doesn’t quite measure up to quinoa’s profile. Brown rice is actually the same grain as white rice, but it retains its bran and germ, which are removed for white rice. The bran and germ provide many nutrients, including almost a full day’s supply of manganese as well as five grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. One cup has 216 calories.
  • Farro: Italians have been cooking with farro for centuries, but it didn’t gain traction in the United States until our most recent concern with simple carbohydrates and desire for whole grains. Although the term “farro” may be used to describe a specific species of wheat grown in Tuscany, it is also used as an umbrella term for three different species of wheat: spelt, emmer, and einkorn. Farro is an ancient cousin of modern wheat with significantly higher nutritional power. Like other complex carbohydrate grains, farro has a chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. One cooked cup has 200 calories, eight grams of protein, and seven grams of fiber. Farro is also high in complex carbohydrates called cyanogenic glucosides, which have been linked to lowered cholesterol.

Breaking News? Sit-Down Restaurants Are Often As Unhealthy As Fast-Food

Fast-food restaurants have been getting a bad rap for years, and rightfully so; between the high fat and sodium contents and the urging to “supersize it,” fast-food has been a strong contributor to this country’s obesity epidemic. However, the vilification of fast-food restaurants has led many diners to assume that all other restaurant food is okay, which is of course not the case. Ingredients are ingredients no matter how quickly they’re served and consumed.


The “breaking news” about the unhealthiness of many sit-down restaurants is the result of a 2015 study published by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign professor Ruopeng An in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It shows that people eating out at either fast-food or sit-down restaurants consumed an average of 200 more calories per day than those who ate at home. They also consumed more cholesterol, more sodium, and more total fat. The surprising data is that people who ate at sit-down restaurants actually consumed more sodium and cholesterol than those who ate at fast-food restaurants.

An, who studied seven years of data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, suggests that the social nature of dining out lends itself to extended meals, giving people time to consume more food and drink. Further, all the bad press given to fast-food restaurants may encourage people to feel that sit-down restaurants are a healthier option, without actually considering the nutritional content of their meals.

One answer to this problem may come in the form of new federal nutritional labeling regulations that go into effect in December of 2016. Under the regulations, all chain restaurants (those with more than 20 locations with the same name) will need to post nutritional information for all standard menu items. A similar local law in Washington State saw calorie awareness triple and calorie consumption decline, so hopes are high that these results can be replicated on a larger scale.

The federal labeling regulations also apply to vending machines, but USConnect is far out ahead of the game on that one. Our Bistro To Go kiosks and vending machines already provide nutritional information, and our The Right Choice…For a Healthier You™ program helps lead diners in the right direction.

USConnect and Route 66 Partner with Life in Green to Provide Eco-Friendly Coffee Solutions

USConnect’s premium coffee service, Route 66, is pleased to announce its new partnership with Life in Green packaging and accessories. USConnect, the United States’ only nationwide wireless integrated food service network, provides the highest quality fresh food through a variety of customized dining services, fresh-food vending services, unattended retail services, and office coffee services.


For many years, USConnect had purchased coffee for its office coffee services from other vendors, but in 2013, USConnect CEO Jeff Whitacre started thinking about how USConnect coffee could stand apart as its own brand: a brand that reflected the company’s values. Recognizing the iconic power of Route 66 in American culture, Whitacre and the USConnect team chose Route 66 as the name for its new coffee line. “There’s nothing more American than Route 66,” says Whitacre. “It represents the American spirit of adventure, of travel and experiencing new things in new places. As people travel along Route 66, they stop in coffee shops and diners all across America. This coffee celebrates that journey and the spirit of those travelers.”

Indeed, Route 66 roasters scour the world in search of the best beans and blends to create the most flavorful coffees. Each American Heritage coffee (see full list below) is named for a different stop on Route 66, representing the scope of the American experience. But for USConnect, it wasn’t enough to just embrace the American spirit of adventure. In order to help keep America great, Whitacre and USConnect felt that Route 66 should be an eco-friendly company. To that end, Route 66 is partnering with Life in Green to provide cups and accessories with the smallest possible environmental footprint. It’s about celebrating what’s best about America!

From the sunny shores of California to the Lone Star State, Route 66 coffees will magically transport coffee drinkers from their desks to some of the most notable places of our great nation:

California Blonde: A light, lively, perfectly balanced cup that’s easy to drink all day

Rocky Mountain Blend: From the heights of the Andes to the heights of the Rockies, this 100% Colombian coffee is fresh and heady.

Lone Star Select Roast: This 100% pure estate-grown coffee is as rich in flavor as the Texas soil.

Sonoran Desert Decaf: This seductive blend of the most flavorful coffees carries a unique, rich flavor without the caffeine.

St. Louis Doughnut Shop Blend: This medium roast is a great way to start the day with a smooth, clean taste and delightful aroma.

Chicago Dark Roast: Every sip of this rich, deep, robust roast is as vibrant in flavor as Chicago’s great heritage.

Food Pairings That Increase Nutritional Benefits

They Go Together Like Peaches and Cream

Food Pairings that Increase Nutritional Benefits

Certain foods seem like they were meant to go together. Peaches and cream are a famous Southern dessert, for instance, and who hasn’t enjoyed a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Although these pairings may taste great together, they don’t offer any additional nutritional value by being combined. Some food pairings, however, boost each others’ health benefits in important ways:

  1. Green Tea and Lemon Juice: As discussed in an earlier post, green tea is very high in anti-oxidants called catechins. Lemon juice (or the juice of any citrus fruit like lime, orange, or grapefruit) helps to break the catechins down faster so that the body can absorb them better.
  2. Colorful Vegetables and Fats: Colorful vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and peppers contain nutrients called carotenoids. Carotenoids like lycopene and beta carotene can help fight disease and inflammation. Studies show that when eaten with fat (in the most recent study, it was an egg), carotenoid absorption increased 3.8-fold. Salad dressing would do the trick, or pair your bright vegetables with an avocado to add healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Read our post on oils to learn more about the healthiest fats.
  3. Turmeric and Black Pepper: Turmeric has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties. Now, a study has shown that when consumed with black pepper, the availability of its curcumin (the active nutrient in turmeric) increases 2,000%. This means the body can absorb it much better and faster.
  4. Beans and Vitamin C: Beans are an important source of iron, especially for vegetarians or those who rarely eat meat. The iron in beans and other vegetables such as spinach is called nonheme iron (as opposed to heme iron, which is only found in meat, poultry, and fish), and the body can’t easily absorb it. But when it’s paired with Vitamin C, it converts to a form that the body can absorb more easily.
  5. Grilled Steak and Rosemary: Rosemary adds nice flavor to a grilled steak, but it also takes something important away: the carcinogens that can form from the grill. If you don’t like the flavor of the herb, just add some rosemary extract for its anticarcinogen properties.

Ingredient Du Jour: Chia

Chia seeds—those tiny  black and white morsels—are making a splash in the world of nutrition. People are sprinkling them on salads, mixing them into muffins, and blending them with beverages. But why the sudden fascination with the seed that until recently was mainly used to create funny hairstyles on terracotta animals?

chia seeds are a great healthy food!In fact, the chia seed has a long history going back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures where it was a staple crop. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, Chia comes from a plant called Salvia hispanica that belongs to the mint family. When it was reintroduced to North America almost three decades ago, it was only available in a few health stores. Now, however, chia is widely available across the United States. Here are some of the reasons chia seeds have become so popular:

  1. They’re full of antioxidants. A two-tablespoon serving of chia seeds contains 11 percent of the RDA of selenium, which can lower the risks of heart disease and cancer.
  2. They’re high in fiber. One serving provides 10 grams of fiber: that’s 30 percent of the RDA!
  3. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce cholesterol.
  4. They contain many important vitamins and nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, folate, and copper.
  5. They build strong teeth and bones with 9% of the RDA of calcium.
  6. They’re high in protein for such a small seed: 2.3 grams in a two-tablespoon serving.
  7. They can support weight loss because of their “satiety factor.” That means that they make you feel full due to their high fiber and protein contents as well as their unique characteristic of forming a gel when they are mixed with a liquid.
  8. They can aid digestion and reduce blood sugar in people with type-2 diabetes. The gelling mechanism noted above slows down digestion and can prevent spikes in blood glucose levels.
  9. They can be eaten whole. Whereas flaxseeds need to be ground in order to release their health benefits, chia seeds can be consumed as-is.

The bottom line is that chia seeds pack a big punch in a small package. Look for healthy food suggestions identified by The Right Choice… for a Healthier You™ logo to find options enriched with this tiny superfood.