Tag Archives: food trends

Mean Protein: An EGG-cellent Choice

Easter has come and gone, but many of us are still finishing up the hard-boiled eggs that the Easter Bunny left. Given this season of rebirth and renewal, it’s a great time to check in on the incredible, edible egg.

Egg-cellent Nutrition

Eggs have been called “the perfect protein.” Going back to prehistoric times, most animal protein required finding, killing, and preparing meat, but gathering eggs just required foraging from inattentive fowl.

Today, a large chicken egg contains six grams of high-quality protein and high levels of iron, lutein, and choline. Eggs contain zero grams of carbohydrates and sugars, and although they do contain five grams of fat and 187 milligrams of cholesterol, multiple studies have found that there is no link between eating an egg a day and the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Types of Eggs

From a nutritional perspective, there is no difference between brown eggs, white eggs, free-range eggs, cage-free eggs, cruelty-free eggs, or any other kinds of hen eggs. The color of the egg depends on the breed of the hen, and while the size of the egg will have an impact on the nutrition content (e.g., a tiny quail’s egg will have less of everything than a giant duck’s egg), there is effectively no nutritional difference among different types of eggs.

Basic Eggs

  • Hard-boiled eggs are an easy, portable, protein-rich snack. Place eggs in a pot of cold water, and bring water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove pot from heat and let stand for 9-15 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and how “hard” you like it. Cooking eggs for less time results in slightly soft, bright orange yolks that can be spread on a cracker or bread. Cooking eggs longer will result in a paler yellow, almost greenish yolk with a crumbly texture. For best results, put eggs in cold water (to keep them from continuing to cook) and peel immediately. Fun fact: older eggs are easier to peel than fresher ones.
  • Soft-boiled eggs take much less time to prepare than hard-boiled eggs, but they’re not nearly as portable. For runny, soft-boiled eggs, cook as above, but remove eggs from water after 4-6 minutes. Soft-boiled eggs don’t need to be peeled; you can eat them right out of the shell with a spoon, or lop off the top of the egg and pour it over a salad of brightly colored vegetables. As discussed in our post on food pairings, the fat from the egg helps your body absorb the healthy carotenoids from the vegetables.
  • Scrambled eggs are not particularly interesting by themselves, but they lend themselves to countless variations and additions (to be explored in a future post). For basic scrambled eggs, crack eggs into a bowl and mix well with a whisk or fork until the white and yolk are well combined. Whisk in two tablespoons of milk per two eggs. Pour mixture into a hot nonstick pan (optional: heat butter or oil in the pan first), and using a rubber spatula, lift and fold the eggs until they form a pebbly consistency. Remove from heat immediately when they are cooked to your desired dryness, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Fried eggs are your better basic diner order. Put a teaspoon of oil or butter in the bottom of a hot, non-stick pan and break eggs carefully into the pan. With the heat on low, watch the yolk carefully as it changes from a dark, translucent orange to a light, opaque yellow. For sunny-side-up eggs, take eggs out of pan immediately. For over-easy, flip the eggs and cook for another 60 to 90 seconds. As fried eggs require butter or oil, they are a less healthy choice. However, try throwing a fried egg onto a bed of dark leafy greens—like spinach.

 

 

Diversity in the Workplace: What Foods Are “Kosher for Passover?”

Every spring, millions of Jews around the world celebrate Passover, the commemoration of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Passover is an eight-day, home-based holiday, where families and friends gather to retell the story of the Jews’ slavery in Egypt and their escape to freedom. Observant Jews eat only “Kosher for Passover” foods for the full eight days of the holiday.

Diversity in the Workplace: What Foods Are “Kosher for Passover?”

So, what does “Kosher for Passover” mean? According to the story of Exodus, the Pharaoh allowed Jews to leave Egypt, but only if they departed right away. That meant that the women cooking bread for the journey couldn’t wait for the dough to rise; they had to bake it right away—leaving it unleavened. To remember this escape from bondage, observant Jews eat no chametz (leavened bread) for eight days.

According to Chabad.org, chametz  is “any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and ‘rise.’ In practice, just about anything made from these grains—other than Passover matzah, which is carefully controlled to avoid leavening—is to be considered chametz. This includes flour (even before it is mixed with water), cake, cookies, pasta, breads, and items that have chametz as an ingredient (like malt).” The most common non-chametz food item is matzah, a flat unleavened bread.

From a foodservice standpoint, an office that wants to support its observant Jews can start by making sure that nutritional information is readily available for all the food it provides. A simple ingredient check can let people know if a food product contains any chametz (similar to how nutritional information provides important choices for people with food allergies or people watching their salt, fat, or sugar intake). Note that chametz includes most pasta, cookies, crackers, and even beer!

Foodservice managers who want to go a step further and supply “Kosher for Passover” foods need to look for packaged foods that have been certified “Kosher for Passover” by a Rabbi who is trained in the intricacies of Kosher food preparation. Note that there is a difference between the designation for “Kosher” and “Kosher for Passover.” Kosher foods prohibit certain ingredients (pork, shellfish) and require a complete separation of dairy and meat products. “Kosher for Passover” foods, however, include those prohibitions in addition to the prohibition of chametz.

Being culturally sensitive to observant Jews doesn’t need to mean supplying fully “Kosher for Passover” meals and snacks. Many foods are naturally appropriate, especially produce, meat, and dairy products.

And remember, Passover is closely tied to the Christian holiday of Easter. It is thought that the Last Supper was actually a Passover Seder, and like Easter, Passover celebrates eternal themes of rebirth and renewal.

What Were the Big Coffee Trends of 2016?

Here’s the buzz on America’s favorite beverage – coffee!

Plain Drip Coffee Consumption Is Declining.

According to the National Coffee Association’s 2016 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) report, generic coffee made in a standard drip coffeemaker is losing popularity in What Were the Big Coffee Trends of 2016?favor of gourmet coffee drinks, especially those make with espresso. Here are some stats from the report:

  • Daily consumption of espresso-based beverages has nearly tripled since 2008, according to the latest data from the 2016 NCDT.
  • Between 2008 and 2016, past-day consumption of gourmet coffee beverages soared from 13% to 36% among 18-to-24-year-olds, and from 19% to 41% for those 25-39.
  • For espresso-based beverages alone, the jump become 9% to 22% for the 18-24 group and 8% to 29% for those 25-39.

Millennials Are Leading the Charge.

As this blog has noted multiple times, Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) are at the forefront of many workplace and nutritional trends, and coffee is no exception. The NCDT report found that “Millennials are drinking coffee out-of-home, turning coffee consumption into a public expression of individuality.” Millennials also crave a connection to the products they purchase, and tend to be willing to pay more for fair-trade-sourced coffee.

A Looming Coffee Shortage?

From its first use in the sixteenth century to today, coffee has been a mainstay of many people’s days: especially their mornings. Many of us find it difficult to start the day without coffee’s caffeine and bitter flavor. A recent report, therefore, may strike terror in the hearts of many coffee drinkers. The Climate Institute recently released The Brewing Storm: The climate change risks to coffee, which suggests that wild coffee could be extinct by 2080. Want to make sure that our children and children’s children get to enjoy coffee too? Check out things we can do to mitigate climate change and issues for coffee growers.

 

The Least Unhealthy Halloween Candy

Making Healthy Choices the Week After Halloween

What's the least unhealthy Halloween Candy?

Right after Halloween is the time of year when people are likely to have lots of candy hanging around both the office and the home. We wish we could write a story on the healthiest Halloween candy, but unfortunately, candy is never a healthy thing to eat. It is, however, something that most of us do eat, and in fairly high quantities in early November. So, if you’re going to indulge, which candy does the least damage? Follow these guidelines:

Embrace the Dark, and Stay Away from the Light. As we’ve discussed, dark chocolate has significant health benefits, especially when compared to milk and white chocolate. Although most mass-market chocolate does not contain as much of the good stuff of dark chocolate (phenylethylamine, flavonoids, antioxidants, and theobromine), it does contain some of these nutrients. Milk chocolate has less, and white chocolate has almost none.

Go Nuts. Many people embrace nuts for their health benefits, including high protein and fiber levels, LDL-lowering fats, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant sterols. Halloween candy with nuts can fill you up and make you feel satisfied, so you are less likely to want to binge on your kids’ whole trick-or-treating bag.

Be a Sucker. Lollipops and sucking candies, like Jolly Rancher and Werther’s Hard Candy, keep your mouth occupied for a longer time than something that you can quickly chew and swallow. This can slow the constant hand-to-mouth feeding of Halloween candy.

Read Before You Eat. Even if you don’t have the original back for checking nutrition data, this information is easily available online. Three Musketeers bars, for instance, have lower fat and sugar counts than Milky Way bars. If it’s otherwise a toss-up for you, go for the healthier choice! Check out TwoFoods.com as a nifty tool for comparing your Halloween candy.

A further note of good news, as this blog has already discussed, portion control is a big part of making healthy choices. Most Halloween candy comes in “fun size” packages, designed for distributing to trick-or-treaters. Let this packaging work for you—helping you keep your indulgence to a minimum.

Ingredient du Jour: Coconut Water

The Health Benefits of Coconut Water

It’s happening again; a new superfood is gaining popularity, and its proponents are clamoring to extol its health benefits. Today, it is coconut water’s turn.

The Claims:Ingredient du Jour: Coconut Water

If you believe the hype, coconut water can do these things:

  • Rehydrate better than sports drinks
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Act as a “heart tonic
  • Treat headaches
  • Promote weight loss
  • Slow down the aging process
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Prevent cancer
  • Treat Alzheimer’s and dementia

The Pushback

Realistically, it’s unlikely that one substance could act like some sort of miracle elixir and solve the world’s health problems. Indeed, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scrutinized many of the claims of coconut waters’ marketers and found that they come up short. Several companies selling “raw” coconut water have had to revise their claims, and coconut water makers in general have significantly reduced their assertions of what coconut water can do.

Coconut water’s main claims to health benefits are its electrolytes (the rehydrating element of sports drinks) and its high level of potassium. However, Vita Coco, a popular maker of the beverage, settled a class action lawsuit in 2012. Consumer plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that Vita Coco misrepresented coconut water by calling it “super-hydrating,” “nutrient-packed” and a “mega-electrolyte.” And in a case of “too much of a good thing,” a New York man became ill from an overdose of potassium from drinking too much coconut water.

The Takeaway

Coconut water does contain a good amount of the nutrients potassium (19 percent RDA), calcium (4 percent), and magnesium (4 percent). It is fairly high in electrolytes and has less sugar than most sports drinks or fruit juices. A 2012 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that coconut water hydrated athletes just as well as sports drinks and that plain water hydrated just as well as both! When in doubt, you can rarely go wrong with plain water. If you’re craving something a little extra, coconut water is a healthier choice than juice, sports drinks, or soda.

 

4 Tips for Eating Healthier in the Summer

Healthier Food Options for the Summer

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Maybe a little bit too easy, especially for vacationers who tend to throw all caution to the wind and eat whatever they want when they are away from their routine. While the danger of summer weight gain is especially sharp for children, adults, too, can be at risk for packing in the calories during the summer months. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you healthier—but still happy—this summer.

4 tips for healthier eating this summer

Don’t Eat: Mayonnaise-laden potato or pasta salad. Mayonnaise packs a fat wallop: 10 grams of fat and 90 calories per tablespoon.

Replace with: If you’re craving the starchy goodness of potato or pasta salad, replace the mayonnaise-based dressing with an olive oil-based one. To retain a creamy consistency, try adding some Greek yogurt to the mix.

Don’t Eat: Fried clams. This  beach-town favorite contains 500 calories and 26 grams of fat for just ¾ of a cup!

Replace with: Steamed clams. Clams are a great source of protein and vitamin B12, so you should still eat them—just avoid the deep fryer. Steamed clams are traditionally served with drawn butter (melted butter), which should obviously be consumed sparingly.

Don’t Eat: Ice cream sandwiches. An unknown New York (genius) pushcart vendor invented the ice cream sandwich in 1899 when he served vanilla ice cream between two graham crackers. The treat has evolved since then, and it’s often a behemoth of two chocolate chip cookies surrounding a full serving of full-fat ice cream. These delicious sandwiches can contain 500 calories and loads of saturated fat.

Replace with: Make-your-own ice cream sandwiches. By choosing smaller portion sizes and healthier ice cream and cookies, you can create a frozen treat that won’t break your diet. Graham crackers, the original “bread” of the original ice cream sandwich, make a great choice!

Don’t Drink: Sodas or sugar-laden juices and teas. As we’ve previously discussed, sodas are across the board unhealthy, and many juices and iced teas are loaded with sugar.

Replace with: Reach for water or unsweetened tea, especially during the hot summer months when dehydration threatens.

 

Bone Broth Bonanza

We’ve done green juice, and we’ve done exotic super-grains. We’ve even done seaweed! The next trendy superfood is… soup! Yes, the most recent food trend is as old as the hills, or at least as old as the restaurant business—literally. Eighteenth-century French wayside inns used to provide bowls of broth, called restoratifs, for their restorative powers to weary travelers. Soon, a “restaurant” became a place to find restorative broths and other foods.

Is bone broth the hottest new trend in nutrition?

It turns out that those early French restaurateurs may have been onto something. Bone broth—with its similarities to English stock, French bouillon, and Italian brodo—is experiencing its 15 minutes of fame. Trendy New York chef Marco Canora has opened a takeout restaurant called Brodo, which serves nothing but bone broth and lauds the “old world nutrition and comfort that comes in each cup.” Paleo diet aficionados love the protein and nutrients, not to mention the lack of carbs.

So, what is bone broth, and what is all they hype about? Bone broth is simply a liquid made by roasting animal bones and then simmering them in water with aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs for many hours. Chefs and home cooks have been making such broths—usually called stocks— in the United States for hundreds of years. What makes bone broth different is the length of time it’s simmered: from 12 to 24 hours. The long simmer time breaks down the collagen, keratin, gelatin, and glucosamine and makes them easier to digest.

Bone broth’s proponents cite an array of health and personal benefits:

  • Improved immune system
  • Reduced cellulite
  • Stronger bones
  • Shinier hair
  • Better digestion, including the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and “leaky gut”

Science doesn’t necessarily back up all of these claims, but bone broth certainly isn’t an unhealthy food. It’s high in protein and low in fat and carbs, so if you use it as a replacement of an unhealthy snack, it’s certainly a good thing. And if you’ve got a cold, chicken bone broth has actually been proven to make you feel better. So drink your soup today!

Primary Season Special: Battle of the Ingredients – Chocolate

Milk Chocolate vs. Dark Chocolate

Introducing a new feature on the USConnect blog: battle of the ingredients!

At USConnect, we know you care about your health, so we help you make The Right Choice for a Healthier You™. That’s why we’ll periodically compare common ingredients of foods and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Which is better for you? Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?

Easter is right around the corner, and with it comes an onslaught of chocolate eggs, bunnies, and other shapes. So, if you’re going to indulge this Easter, which chocolate is better: milk or dark? To begin, it helps to know how chocolate is made. All chocolate (dark, milk, and white) starts with cocoa (cacao) beans with varying amounts of sugar, cocoa butter, and sometimes milk or vanilla. The type of chocolate depends on the percentage of cocoa in the mix, with dark chocolate usually having at least 70 percent, milk chocolate having no more than 50 percent, and white chocolate having less than 35 percent.

Let’s start with milk chocolate, which has traditionally been the most popular among American consumers. Milk chocolate, as its name suggests, contains milk, which gives it more calcium than dark chocolate (8 percent compared to 3 percent). Milk chocolate is also slightly lower in calories, fat, and saturated fat than dark chocolate. However, milk chocolate also contains significantly more sugar: 21 grams as opposed to 10 grams in dark chocolate. It also has higher cholesterol than milk chocolate.

Dark chocolate has more of almost everything than milk chocolate. As mentioned above, it has slightly more calories, fat, and saturated fat. More importantly, however, the higher cocoa content gives it more good stuff too: healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. It also contains high levels of theobromine, which may help to lower blood pressure. Scientists have been touting the benefits of dark chocolate for years, and now you know why.

Bottom line: no one would recommend an all-chocolate diet (although it would be delicious), but if you’re going to indulge, go for dark chocolate every time.

Bonus: how does white chocolate stack up? Since the primary benefits of chocolate come from cocoa, white chocolate is the least healthy of the three. Avoid—if possible.

Spice It Up!

Some like it hot, and food service providers are responding by turning up the spice. Across literally all food categories, peppers, spices, and hot sauces are showing up more and Spicy foods are literally exploding in popularitymore frequently. From spicy buffalo-flavored potato chips to sriracha-sauced burgers and chipotle beer, hot and spicy are the buzzwords of the flavor world.

What is driving this spice explosion? Several factors are combining to make spicy flavors more popular than ever. The biggest driver is probably demographics; market research firm Mintel found that a majority of Millennials (62 percent) consider themselves “adventurous eaters,” and three out of four Millennials want to experience more new flavors when eating out. And market intelligence firm IBISWorld calls sriracha sauce, a spicy combination of red chili and garlic, the “go-to condiment” for Millennials.

It’s not just Millennials who prefer spicier foods; 54 percent of all consumers enjoy hot or spicy foods, up from 48 percent just seven years ago. Another driver of this trend is the increased interest in different kinds of ethnic foods. Food court lo mein just doesn’t cut it for exotic food these days. Spice company McCormick documents greater interest in new spice blends like Shawarma spice (from Middle Eastern street food) and Japanese 7-spice (Shichimi Togarashi). Flavor company Kalsec notes that one out of four consumers is eating spicy food more often this year than last year. Kalsec also found that jalapenos are still the most popular pepper, but new peppers like arbol and japones chiles are gaining popularity.

There are some good health reasons to enjoy spicy food. For one, adding spice is a great way to add flavor without adding harmful salt to your diet. The capsaicin in hot peppers has been linked to speeding up people’s metabolism, which can help with weight loss. It can also dilate blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. As previously discussed on this blog, the curcumin in turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory properties. So spice it up! Your taste buds will eventually grow back, even if you try that crazy ghost pepper or “Carolina Reaper.”

What’s the Hot Ingredient for 2016? Seaweed!

Ingredient Du Jour: Seaweed

It’s official; the hot ingredient for 2016 is… [drum roll]… seaweed!You may be surprised to hear that the hottest ingredient trend right now is seaweed!

Yes, food trend forecasters are hailing seaweed as “the new kale,” as it replaces the dark leafy green in the affections of health-conscious eaters. And no wonder: sea vegetables (as aficionados call them) are extraordinarily high in many crucial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Read on to learn what all the fuss is about.

Types of Sea Vegetables/Seaweed

There are thousands of different species of seaweed, ranging from nutritious to poisonous, so don’t go down to the beach and start munching on what you find there. There are three basic categories of seaweed: brown, red, and green. Popular brown seaweeds include kombu (kelp) and wakame, which are frequently used in Japanese cooking. The most common red seaweed is nori, which is available in sheets and is familiar to many Americans as the seaweed that wraps sushi. Green seaweeds include sea lettuce and sea grass.

Nutritional Benefits

Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, a nutrient that maintains thyroid health. Although most table salt contains added iodine, the salt in processed food does not. Mild iodine deficiencies are becoming more common, but just one gram of brown seaweed contains 50 times the recommended daily intake of the mineral! Seaweeds are also high in potassium and calcium, as well as antioxidants that help fight inflammation and infection. A study has also linked brown kelp to the modulation of endocrine hormones like estrogen and estradiol, leading to a reduction of hormone-related cancers like breast cancer.

Downsides/Risks

Despite our perpetual search for a panacea, no one food is a cure-all. As with most foods, super or otherwise, moderation is crucial. Seaweed has a high natural sodium content, so consuming too much can lead to excessive sodium intake. Similarly, seaweed’s high potassium and iodine contents can be harmful in high doses. A more troubling concern is that seaweed  harvested from  polluted water will have those pollutants in the seaweed.  Although the FDA regulates commercial seaweed, it does not regulate supplements, so make sure these are from a reputable source.