Food Inflation…a Sure Sign of Spring

Written by John on February 23rd, 2011

As certain as swallows returning to Capistrano (or Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays reporting to spring training), the cost of nearly everything we eat is going up.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.  This certainty stems from months of news cycles dominated by bad weather and unrest in the Middle East – two things that can seem distant when not in your own back yard.  But every day, shoppers are seeing the fallout on grocery store shelves.  Disastrous weather decimated crops in many growing regions around the world.  Meanwhile, civil unrest has driven up oil prices.  The net result is less available food and higher costs to transport it to where it needs to go.

Rising food prices impact everyone on some level, but there are things you can do to minimize the impact.  It only takes a little forethought to create big savings.  So before your next shopping trip consider…

How you eat.  Meals prepared at home tend to be less expensive than eating out.  Even prepared food from the grocery store is more expensive than do-it-yourself alternatives.  So dig out those old cookbooks and plan a weekly menu.  You’ll save on your overall food bill and spend some quality time with your family.

Where you shop. While food is available nearly everywhere today (Toys R Us …really?!), concentrate your purchases in places that specialize in groceries.  Conventional grocers have the scale to reduce costs and offer regular promotions to lower prices.  Likewise, natural food co-ops work hard to minimize overhead and pass the savings on to their members.  Recently, savvy internet retailers like amazon.com have gotten into the grocery business, offering significant value and free shipping.

What you buy. With over 50,000 choices in the average grocery store, it’s too easy to spend money when shopping.  It helps to start with a list (see “How you eat” above) and stick to it.  Calorie-for-calorie, the best deals are on the perimeter of the store, where the less-processed, calorie-dense whole foods reside.  However, don’t forget to check out the bulk aisles for everything from cereals to snacks.  Finally, look for products with multiple uses in the kitchen.  For example, canister oats are not only an economical breakfast for the whole family, but can also be used in myriad recipes.

So while rising food prices may be inevitable, with a little effort you’ll save big.  Planning ahead allows you to prepare economical, tasty meals for your family and at the same time benefit from eating less processed, healthier meals.  After all, spending any more than necessary is for the birds!

 

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

Written by John on March 25th, 2010

The Organic Trade Association yesterday announced the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Their press release focused on an amendment that adds a pilot project to offer healthy organic food in school feeding programs.  As an organic manufacturer we applaud the OTA’s efforts to lobby for organic programs, however, this announcement fails to see the forest for the organic trees. 

The real news here is that Congress is finally waking up to the reality that we are feeding our kids to death.  This action acknowledges that the high calorie, low nutrition processed foods that pass for lunch at most schools is contributing to the obesity epidemic we face today.  And they are offering significant dollars to upgrade the menu.  While current nutrition programs receive about $16 billion annually, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010  provides an additional $4.5 billion over ten years for expanding and adding programs that:

  • Help Schools Improve the Nutritional Quality of School Meals
  • Create National Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in Schools
  • Promote Nutrition and Wellness in Child Care Settings
  • Connect More Children to Healthy Local Produce through Farm-to-School Programs
  • Strengthen Local School Wellness Policies
  • Support Breastfeeding in the WIC Program
  • Improve School Food Financing

The OTA release expresses it well, “As we all recognize, the health status of our children is crucial to the well-being of our nation’s future, and the food that they are fed in schools is key to that status.”  These words ring true whether or not the food is organically grown.

Click here to read more about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 http://ag.senate.gov/Legislation/CN%20budget%20framework-%20nutrition.pdf

 

The British Are Coming…And Not A Moment Too Soon!

Written by John on March 3rd, 2010

Every generation or so a British invasion hits our shores and shakes things up a bit.  This latest assault won’t “Twist and Shout” its way to Billboard’s Top 10, but it’s message is worth tuning in.

Jamie Oliver, British-born chef cum reality television star, has taken to main street USA to tell Americans they are too fat, which is somewhat ironic, given the UK is one of the few countries that can match our collective girth thigh for thigh.  He’s set his sights on Huntington, West Virginia, the least healthy community in the union, and his message is simple: we are feeding our kids to death.  And it’s hard to argue his point, when he shows us young kids suffering with “adult” diseases like heart disease and diabetes or reviews the weekly diet of an obese mom and her three obese kids.

The sad (or frustrating or maddening…your pick) thing is his message isn’t new or something we all don’t already know.  We have spent the last 30 years literally eating ourselves to death and in doing so, created the first generation of kids whose life expectancy is shorter than their parents. 

Oliver’s putting his cooking skill where his mouth is, working with the local schools to improve lunch menus, building basic nutrition into curriculums and spreading the gospel throughout the community…all under the spotlight of a reality television series.  While cynics may question his motivation, there’s no denying the problem is real and the need is great.  So what if it takes a cockney voice to alert us to our problem?  I say jolly good show, old chap!  With any luck, Oliver’s efforts will give a new generation cause to appreciate “When I’m 64”.

Click here for more in formation on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

 

IMPROVED FIT KIDS INSTANT OATMEAL RECIPE TO PROVIDE EVEN BETTER NUTRITION

Written by John on February 22nd, 2010

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (February 2010) —Country Choice Organic, a leading producer of USDA certified organic oatmeal, cookie and snack products, is reducing the sugar in each FIT KIDS Instant Oatmeal variety by 18 to 23 percent as part of an ongoing program to improve nutrition on all its products. The new FIT KIDS Instant Oatmeal arrives on store shelves in March. 

Country Choice Organic FIT KIDS Instant Oatmeal makes it easy for kids to eat a heart warming breakfast every morning by making whole grain, high fiber cereal taste delicious to the pickiest of children.   “At Country Choice Organic, we constantly review our products to find ways to improve our nutrition profile”, says Sharon Herzog, Research and Development Director at Country Choice Organic. “Reducing the sugar in FIT KIDS Instant Oatmeal is a perfect example of tweaking a formula to improve nutrition while still delivering the great taste kids want at breakfast.” 

Country Choice Organic FIT KIDS Instant Oatmeal is made with whole grain organic oats and fortified with calcium and iron, and available in kid-friendly flavors including, Chocolate Chip/Cinnamon Toast and Caramel Apple/Berry Blast Variety Packs. Found in organic food aisles nationwide, each package contains eight servings for a suggested retail price of $4.29. Every serving is a good source of fiber, protein and iron and contains no trans fat.   Find more information at www.countrychoiceorganic.com

 

Are You In the Zone?

Written by John on November 18th, 2009

Travel far enough away from the influence of American fast food and you’ll find populations with an abundance of nonagenarians (i.e., 90-year olds).  Coincidence?  I think not.  Instead, I submit that these pockets of longevity, so-called Blue Zones (I guess because of the abundant grey hair), exist precisely because they avoid our dysfunctional approach to food and exercise. 

BZBlue Zones were identified by a team of researchers funded by National Geographic and AARP.  To date, five geographically disperse zones have been identified (with more expeditions planned).  The common building blocks for longevity include: having the right outlook, moving naturally, being part of a tribe and eating wisely.  If these seem obvious, it’s because they are.  And except for, “wear clean drawers in case you get hit by a bus”, it’s the same advice you likely heard from your mom.

More interesting is how the “Blue Zoners” are applying their learning closer to home.  They recently conducted a Vitality Project in Albert Lea, MN, where local residents were encouraged to make small, manageable changes to their lives…kids walked to school, people planted gardens, neighbors volunteered, side salads appeared on fast food menus.  The net result?  Increased longevity, reduced health care costs, increased productivity, and more bliss (although work continues on modeling the relationship between reduced happy meal consumption and bliss).

Obviously, we don’t need to relocate to be “in the zone”.  There are small changes we can make that will have a big impact on our quality of life…now and in the future.  It starts with being more deliberate about what we eat, how we move and with who we connect.  If the research is correct, the changes will help us live better, longer and we can look forward to the day when “zones” exist only where living a long, rich life is not the norm. 

You can get more information on living better, longer at www.bluezones.com.

 

Healthy School Breakfast? How Notable!

Written by John on November 13th, 2009

One of our more rewarding endeavors is a partnership with a company trying to transform school breakfast.  Obviously this is no easy task, but with reams of data pointing to the importance of breakfast and reports exposing the empty calories masquerading as breakfast in many schools it’s a fight worth fighting. (Read about breakfast in Chicago Public Schools http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-cps-breakfast-nov05,0,209332.story?obref=obnetwork).

Notables® by Mission Nutrition, creates a grab ‘n go breakfast that kids eat at their desk.  There are NO TABLES involved (get it?).  Each Notables breakfast, when paired with milk, exceeds the minimum federal School Breakfast Program nutrition requirements by pairing shelf-stable whole grain foods and fruit products in a fun bag. 

They are committed to offering only the highest quality foods in a convenient, kid-friendly manner…which is where we come in.  Notables is currently using specially formulated Oatmeal on the Run bars in two of their bags, meaning kids get all the nutrition of a bowl of instant oatmeal right at their desks.

Our teams are busy looking for other healthy ways for kids to eat and will update you with our progress.  In the meantime, make sure your kids start their day with a notable breakfast…no matter where they eat.

You’ll find more information at http://www.notables.com.

 

Smart Choice…Says Who?

Written by John on October 26th, 2009

Why is anyone surprised that products carrying the “Smart Choices” seal may not be too smart?  After all, the manufacturers doing the choosing are in business to sell calories, not health.  And in a country that produces more calories than we could possibly consume (by last count, around 3900 per person per day), manufacturers seek every advantage – from plastic toys in the carton to nutrition claims on the carton – to make the sale.

The problem is too many of us choose to not think about the food we eat, abdicating our decision-making to people who may not have our best interests at heart.  Instead, we approach most meals like a NASCAR pit stop, stopping just long enough to slam down some “fuel”, while mostly ignoring the health impact (or benefit) of our choice.  So if Jeff Gordon burns high octane super-premium, why do so many of us run on low-test and expect it to not affect performance? 

Instead of relying on industry-supported health standards, shoppers need to take responsibility for making their own smart choices.  The good news is, with very little effort, you can find places with more to offer than empty calories.  The outer ring of most grocery stores is a good place to start.  Likewise, farmer markets and natural food co-ops offer healthy, sustainable food plus have knowledgeable staff to help you understand the difference between whole grains and donut holes. 

So next time you need to refuel, take a second to think about what you’re doing.  After all, your smartest choice might be to ignore the nutrition claims on the carton and instead focus on the secret spy decoder ring inside the box.

 

Good Morning America Meets One Smart Cookie!

Written by John on August 27th, 2009

Last week, Country Choice Organic Soft Baked Cookies made quite a splash – without a glass of milk. Our delicious and organic Soft Baked Cookies received accolades from Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Lisa Drayer at Women’s Health Magazine and  Phil Lampert , the Supermarket Guru!

This summer, Country Choice Organic re-launched the cookies in leaner, greener packaging to keep each cookie fresh and keep excess packaging out of landfills. Check out the links below to see what all the rage is about, or better yet, swing through the nearest organic food aisle, and taste them yourself.

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