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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Stop! Your salad could be killing you

By Brittney Jacox

February 20, 2009 | Millions of Americans spend millions of seconds wrestling between the super-sized combo and the "healthy" fast food alternative. What many do not know is that they are fighting a losing battle. That salad you so proudly eat may actually be sabotaging your diet.

Fact: McDonald's Crispy Chicken Salad with dressing has a hefty 51 grams of fat and 660 calories while a Big Mac has 34 grams of fat and 590 calories. You should have stayed with the Big Mac.

Many of us, although not interested in a hardcore diet, are earnestly pursuing balanced and healthy nutritional options. Advertisers have cleverly taken advantage of this lucrative fact and utilized an arsenal of diet-related verbiage to entice and cloak unhealthy foods as healthy. "Low-fat," "reduced calorie" and other buzzwords have invaded restaurant menus and grocery store shelves. It is no longer a simple task of using your common sense when selecting healthy foods.

Let us examine some of the foods we consume on an average day. Here are a few traditionally healthy foods you may want to avoid eating on a daily basis. Many of these foods may very well be responsible for secretly sabotaging your diet for years.

Granola: According to MensHealth Magazine, granola is one of the worst ways to start your day off. A single bowl can have as many calories as two bowls of cocoa pebbles with even less nutritional content. If you do decide to go with cold cereal for your breakfast, be sure to look for low sugar, high fiber cereal that is made from whole grains. Be wary of freeze-dried fruits in cereals promising natural nutrition, they are usually nothing more than overly sweetened dried fruits with little original nutritional value left.

Muffins: They are homemade and healthy, right? Wrong! Today, most muffins have become nothing more than glorified donuts or pastries. With high sugar and refined flour contents, your morning muffin may be the culprit for a failing weight loss plan. Many Americans have grown accustomed to the over-sized muffin as a healthy coffee shop breakfast item, but according to SusanMoores, R.D., the average muffin has 500 calories and 20-plus grams of fat, with little added benefit. Instead, find muffins made out of bran or whole grain, with real fruits and low sugar content.

Juice: One of the biggest misconceptions is that juice is the "healthy" choice. Although many juices do promise vitamin C and other nutrients, what they fail to embolden on the packaging is the soda-like sugar levels.

Sew Sun Wong, nutrition specialist and USU assistant professor, says, "Not all consumers check out the percentage of juice contained in the juice container. For example, Tampico (juice or punch), the number one selling brand of refrigerated juice drinks in stores across America, may have added vitamins and minerals but only contains 5-15 percent juice. Meaning, the rest is sugar water."

Many juice choices are as bad if not worse than soda pop. So the next time you grab for that juice box under the guise of being healthy, think of how many laps you will have to run to burn those calories off. Look for juices with high fruit juice content not just sugar water and flavorings. Also, find products with low or reduced sugar and if you have a juicer handy, try making some homemade juices without the manufacturer added sugars.

Salads: Salads are one of the best-disguised destroyers of diets. Many salads contain more fat and calories than fast food classics like burgers and fries. That is not to say that all salads are bad, in fact most salads are an excellent choice for a balanced diet, it all depends on what is added to the salad. Wong explains, "Salads come in different types: green salads, fruit salads, egg salads, taco salads, and etc. It is the 'additions' that most people do not pay attention to the extra calories, fat, or sugar they get. Croutons can add some extra 'crunchy calories.' Sometimes, fat free does not mean sugar free, or vice versa."

When selecting a salad, avoid heavy dressings like Cesar and Ranch they can account for the bulk of fat and calories on a salad, instead try light vinaigrette. The authors of "Eat This...Not That" have compiled an excellent collection of fast food and restaurant salads to avoid, and many of your favorite salads may just be included on the list.

Diet Sodas: Americans love soda pop. So much, they choose to drink soda as their primary drink each day. Just because it promises low calories does not mean it will not hurt your diet. Diet sodas have actually been linked to weight gain. It appears that as your body becomes more accustomed to in-taking sweet substances, it develops a preference for sweetness. Which means although you may not be consuming sugar in your soda, you will find yourself eating more sugary substances elsewhere (candy, cereals, desserts).

Your best option is to give your body what it was designed to receive, water. Treat yourself to a diet soda now and again, but remember that moderation is always the key.

Frozen Dinners: When you visit the frozen food section of your local supermarket you will notice that over half of the frozen dinners offered are marketed as a healthy meal option. As with almost all the items reviewed, there are good and bad versions of the food. Be sure to carefully read the packaging, not the big and colorful advertising words on the front, but the small and cramped nutritional facts on the back.

Many frozen dinners are nothing more than overly processed and refined foods with little to no nutritional value and high in sugar and carbohydrates. One example is the Healthy Choice Complete Selections Sweet & Sour Chicken meal with 430 calories, that is equivalent to two large scoops of Breyers Reese's Peanut Butter cup ice cream. The other thing to consider is, how many frozen dinners will you actually eat before you are filled. Many people will eat two or three "healthy" frozen dinners in one sitting, hardly anyone's idea of a healthy meal.

In striving to achieve a balanced nutrition and diet, nutrition graduate Amy Summers recommends focusing on four main points:
1) Avoid sugars--there are enough sugars in everyday foods, we donot need to seek out additional sources.
2) Natural foods-- this does not necessarily mean organic foods, simply look for foods in their simplest form, i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables, non-processed grains etc.
3) Drink plenty of water--avoid replacing your bodies' most important substance with sugary artificial drinks.
4) Moderation--too much or too little is usually not a good idea, avoid becoming too radical with any diet.

So next time you choose to drop the burger for the salad or swap the Coke for a juice box, you might be better off pleasing your stomach and sticking with the "unhealthy" choice, your waistline just might thank you for it.



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