In addition to the numerous contributions here, I've decided to branch out for TheLocalBeet.com. Their concentration is more on eating fresh and locally, so there is some crossover.
This is the debut column focusing on the need for a year-round permanent farmers market in Chicago, though if your city could sustain one and doesn't have a year-round spot, you might get some inspiration.
Changing the way we inspect food would be a welcome improvement over what we've seen over the last few years, with scares in tomatoes and spinach and horror stories told in books such as "Fast Food Nation." And President Obama recently signed a bill to do just that.
But one member of Congress, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), seems a bit confused by the process.
"And what about food? President Obama said we can't eat as much food as we want and think the rest of the world will be okay about that, as if that matters to freedom-loving Americans. Well, we just heard last week that the Federal Government now under the Obama Administration is calling for a reordering of America's food supply. What is that going to mean? Now will the White House decide how many calories we consume or what types of food we consume?"
Well, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749) has passed the House of Representatives 283-142. The Senate has a different version, so there is still a ways before any bill will get passed.
The bill would give FDA the authority to pull risky products from store shelves. Currently, FDA cannot mandate a recall. Instead, the agency works with industry to orchestrate voluntary recalls. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of food facilities. To pay for the inspections, the bill would allow FDA to charge food facilities an annual $500 registration fee.
This isn't really a reordering of anything. Giving the FDA power to order a mandatory recall is quite new, and more inspections seems like a good thing to do. You might argue against more government interference, but with the recent food scares, perhaps we haven't had enough government interference.
The shots that we have taken against high-fructose corn syrup are also tied into the political power of Archer Daniels Midland. The power the company holds in Washington is part of why you can consume so much high-fructose corn syrup.
But if you are looking for a Hollywood portrayal of some of the issues we talk about here in the Balance of Food, seeing the movie might help. Or, if nothing else, it will pique your curiosity about this part of the HFCS tidal wave.
And if you go see the movie, tell us what you thought in the comments below.
If sadness abounds when one of your favorite food items switches from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup, what is the reaction when, amazingly, a favorite food item goes from HFCS back to sugar?
I had stumbled upon this low-fat Italian salad dressing that had sugar (why are we putting sugar in our dressings anyway?). But fairly recently, the dressing took the HFCS plunge and I had to give it up. Very sad.
But there was a recent victory to celebrate, and I rarely single out specific products, but kudos to Miracle Whip for going back to sugar.
My family grew up on Miracle Whip in lieu of mayonnaise. And so I followed along well into my adulthood. I subconsciously avoided the product when I started going in-depth into getting rid of HFCS. I used it rarely or not at all for awhile.
When I started doing the runs to Canada, one of the first products I would buy was Miracle Whip, sometimes even getting the "Calorie-Wise" version. Calorie-Wise is like their equivalent of low-fat, perhaps a countrywide desire to have more accurate labeling. Wish our labels in the U.S. were as "wise."
For the first time in years, I bought a Miracle Whip product in the United States. I got the regular version and brought it back home.
I was in the mood for a BLT, and the "new" Miracle Whip was the end piece to the puzzle. The taste test proves it, the improvement is made for the better.
Besides the obvious health concerns, products made with sugar taste much better (to me) than those with high-fructose corn syrup. It also felt less heavy, something you want in a mayonnaise-type product.
In the transition process, I checked out the label for the Canadian version: the Canadian Miracle Whip had glucose/fructose AND sugar. That can't be good. Turns out that glucose/fructose is HFCS. This changes my perspective on the Canadian runs.
I should have been more suspicious that glucose/fructose wasn't a good thing, but perhaps, I was naive that Canada would do something that unappealing. The U.S. has been pressing Mexico to carry HFCS (Thanks NAFTA), but I haven't seen the stories about our neighbors to the North.
There is more prevalent use of HFCS in the U.S. than glucose/fructose in Canada, but both countries use it way too much, and in products that don't need a sweetener, sugar or otherwise.
Do we need a sweetener in hot dog buns, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and countless other products? And is that why we have worse obesity in North America than in most of the world?
As dangerous as HFCS (glucose/fructose) is, the better question might be "can we find a way to have a food policy that doesn't treat sweeteners as a filler to reduce costs and make it harder for people to give up those foods?"
Summer is unofficially officially over; for some, given the weather, summer never really kicked in. But we did have a summer, where likely you ate the best and worst of what was there.
Summer is the season where we look forward to eating the best of nature, whether we grow it ourselves or visit a farmers market or go to a friend's barbecue. And summer is also the time where we indulge in foods we likely should have said "no" or at least stop before you did.
If you fall into patterns and situation eating, the end of summer is a great time to reassess what you like about what you're doing and what you don't.
I have prided myself on enjoying meals straight from farmers markets on vacation, yet on my trip to Halifax, I also had a beaver tail, a blueberry style donut, and much fried seafood.
Think of it as your "back to school" agenda. When you were a child, you prepared for the new challenges for the upcoming year. Did you finish the summer with loose pants? Tight pants? Eating pants 24-7?
New Years Day is seen as the symbolic start of the year, but for your stomach and taste buds, Labor Day is as good a time as any to see where you are and where you want to be.
Hopefully, you are in pretty good shape at this point, since the temptation to exercise has hit its peak and may go downward from here. Being too cold is a common excuse to not go outside and get in an extra walk, and that same cold weather is also a good reason to eat that second piece of pumpkin pie.
In traveling to Quebec, I regale my friends and acquaintances with stories of poutine, a dish common to Quebec of French fries with Quebec cheese curds and brown gravy poured on top. I usually joke that this dish is popular in the Canadian province since it gets so cold up there.
But what once was necessary survival, using our fat to get through the winter, is now not doing us much good, no matter how cold it gets.
Autumn/fall is the time to rethink the cold mentality. Farmers markets are likely still going on where you live. Stock up on fresh food, and maybe take the long way to get those food items to sneak in some extra exercise.
We bemoan being in the middle of winter, New Years Day, and complaining that we need to lose 10-15 pounds. Want to be in a better frame (of mind or otherwise)? Start now doing just a little bit better, and you could be one of those in January who says, "Well, 2-3 pounds might not be so bad to lose."
It's not fun to hear, but eating a better diet isn't just for bathing suit season or New Year's resolutions. You have to put in 12 months of work to get year-round success. The up and down yo-yoing is what gets us into trouble in the first place.
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is the tired cliche we've heard since childhood. What may be new is the importance of what and how much to eat for the morning meal.
In French, petit dejeuner means breakfast. This means tiny. But we certainly don't think in those terms when it comes to breakfast.
On my last excursion to Montréal and Quebec City, I got an opportunity to experience the two sizes of breakfast. I chased down bagels at St. Viateur all three mornings I was there in Montréal. Yes, I tried the Fairmount. By regular bagel standards, the Fairmount was pretty good. The onion bagel I purchased was cold but pretty light. But it couldn't sit in the same room as the St. Viateur. Each sesame bagel I bought was hot, smelled wonderful, and was amazingly light. My only complaint at St. Viateur was not being able to get butter.
On the morning that I got the Fairmount, I still went over to St. Viateur.
In Montréal, I truly had a petit dejeuner. Since I was moving pretty quickly, I needed energy and one bagel was enough without being too much.
By contrast in Quebec City, I stayed at a bed and breakfast. I had crepes with maple syrup the first morning. I added blueberry yogurt and a small glass of orange juice. That morning, I felt weighed down.
On Day 2, I went a protein route with fried eggs, bacon, toast, and blueberry yogurt. I had initially used one bread slice for toast, then added another. I felt I had enough carbohydrates, but the protein wasn't ideal. Better than Day 1, but still didn't feel great.
On Day 3, I had crepes with bacon. I got fewer crepes because I got the bacon. With the blueberry yogurt and milk, I had the best of those days, but they weren't as energy efficient as one light sesame bagel in Montréal.
You could easily argue that the Quebec breakfasts wouldn't work because I wasn't used to having so much food. True, but is it better to eat tons of food to start your day or just enough to get the motor running?
I have tried huge amounts of food for breakfast and smaller amounts as well. I know what works well for me.
When I was in Montréal in 2002, I stayed at a bed and breakfast. Back then, I ate what I wanted, so I looked forward to eating a lot at breakfast. And those breakfasts were good, but now they would seem too much.
So why did I stay at a bed and breakfast in Quebec in 2009? I wanted to test my theory. And I know which breakfast worked for me: Montréal all the way.
The truth is that unlimited food can be too tempting, speaking from personal experience. And unlimited to start the day is more than I can handle. Even as much as I ate in Quebec, I cut myself far short of what I would have done under 2002 rules.
So I know now that bed and breakfasts won't do me much good any more. But if I do stay there, I will have to limit my intake if I want to be at my best.
There is no right way to finding the balance of food, just your way. My typical breakfast is whole wheat spaghetti with homemade sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and a naturally low-fat Italian cheese sprinkled on top. Works for me.