Archive | February, 2012

Processed vs. Unprocessed foods: a look into your intestines

28 Feb

Ever wondered what your intestines look like when you are digesting food?

Check out this short video from a recent TEDxManhattan talk that provides a visual breakdown of the difference of how processed and unprocessed foods are digested in the body. This project was created by Stefani Bardin, honorary resident at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York, and teacher of Food Studies at The New School + Art, Media and Technology at Parsons, and gastroenterologist Dr. Braden Kuo of Harvard University.


Snacks 101

27 Feb

3534661790_f29b775f92Butter Beans Co-Founder + CEO, Belinda DiGiambattista, recently delivered an informative presentation to a whopping 500 kindergarten – 6th grade students about healthy snacks.

When you think about snacks, do you think of them as sugary or salty treats (that are filled with empty calories)? Or do you think of them as small meals that will provide your body with energy to help power you through your day?

We ask so much of our snacks. We want snacks to tide us over, satisfy a craving, taste delicious, be quick to prepare and easy to eat. With this in mind, Belinda encouraged the students to think about snacks as a small meal to help fill in the gaps, a time for your body to take in real nutrients and energy. She encouraged students to ask themselves “what benefits am I getting out of this?” when choosing a snack.

For example:  If you are having a snack of hummus and carrots sticks the answer could be: “This snack is fulfilling my want of something crunchy, fresh and savory, while giving me antioxidants (carrots) and healthy enzymes and fiber (carrots, garbanzos, lemon) to help my digestion, as well as good fats (thanks to the olive oil) to keep me full for a long time, protein (garbanzos) for building strong muscles and mental focus, as well as heart healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants!”

On the other hand, if you ask yourself the same questions about a packaged bag of “dorito’s” or fried chips your answer would be:  “This snack is satisfying my want of something savory and tasty, but full of fried fat and salt which makes my liver work extra hard and can make me feel slow and sluggish, is full of ingredients I can’t pronounce which will take a lot of time for my body to digest, and will probably leave me hungry again very soon!

The kids in attendance were completely engaged in this topic and in the takeaway – that your body will thank you for choosing snacks made from whole ingredients that fill you up and give you energy. They had great questions, loved learning about nutrition and were excited about new ideas. They listened attentively and then asked things like:

“What’s the difference between white bread and whole grain bread?” “How much sugar is in chocolate milk?” “Is it better to drink milk or orange juice for breakfast?” “Is strawberry milk better than chocolate milk?” “Is it OK to drink tea?”

It was interesting to see how many students raised their hand when asked if they skipped breakfast that day. In one group, roughly 25% of them did. How many of us rush out of the house before getting our own breakfast? These students, come from wonderful families all doing their best to raise bright and well nourished children. They are as hungry as the rest of us well informed adults trying to sort out our own health goals and dietary rituals, so that we can focus on the things we care even more about than our next snack.

What a gift, to have the opportunity to engage inquiring minds to consider the options before us. Truly, change on any front happens when we each take small steps; make small decisions that influence each next small step, and each next small decision.

Happy snacking to one and all.

Photo courtesy of ahemier

Wal-Mart’s new “great for you” seal. What does it mean?

24 Feb

Walmart-Great-For-You-logoWal-Mart is debuting its new green and white seal placed on foods that are “great for you.”  Wal-Mart has placed these seals on packaged fruit and vegetables, along with their in-house products that contain “lower levels of fat, sugar and artificial additives.”  Their motivation behind implementing this new seal is to help consumers easily see healthier choices that are available to them.

Why is Wal-Mart taking on this initiative?  A direct result of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign.  This past January, the First Lady met with Wal-Mart executives to help launch their “Nutrition Charter” which seeks to help families access affordable and healthy foods.  The Nutrition Charter is based on the following three pillars:

  • Reformulate products to improve nutrition by 2015.
  • Make healthy food more affordable.
  • Empower consumers to make informed choices by implementing a healthy seal.

We think that Wal-Mart has the right idea by directing consumers to foods that are less processed, helping lead them to make better decisions.  On the other hand, Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, and Founder of NuVal – a food labeling system developed in 2008, raises concerns that the “great for you” seal generalizes food too simply into two categories: good or bad.  For example, the system may reward the seal to products like walnuts and iceberg lettuce, but does not reward the seal on lightly sweetened green tea or butter.  If consumers only follow the seal, they miss out on incorporating key nutrients into their diets, and would have a more narrow view on what foods are good or bad for you. Then there is the question and issue of objective labeling..

Our quick tip for the next time you go grocery shopping anywhere, is to read the ingredient list.  It is generally best to stick with foods with ingredients that you can both recognize and source easily in your mind, and that you can pronounce.

Want to know what products are being rewarded the Wal-Mart seal? click here.

Interested in learning about the history of food labeling?  Check out this blog.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday Love

23 Feb


















-a sweet note from a happy second grader!

Parents, envision this: your child(ren) cooking up a delicious dinner for you after a long day

21 Feb

Many of you may have already read the recent New York Times article entitled “My Sons, the Sous Chefs” but for those of you who haven’t, you should definitely check it out.  One mother explains her story about getting her kids excited to cook for her. She offered a trade, instead of she and her husband cooking and the kids cleaning up and doing the dishes, once a week, each of her boys (aged 10 and 14) cook and serve dinner, and leave the clean up to the parents.

If your children are of the age where they can prepare a meal without a lot of supervision (her children were 10 + 14, and had many hours of experience in the kitchen), try challenging them to cook you a meal. Not only does this ignite their creativity in the kitchen, it allows you to sit back and relax (while still keeping an eye on them), and be presented with a delicious homemade meal, made with love by your children.

A pre-requisite though, is time in the kitchen with you of course, so that the lay of the land is clear – how to hold and use a knife while protecting valuable fingers, how to use the stove, the importance of not leaving cooking things unattended, and a few basic how to’s are helpful. Love the idea but need some support? Consider signing your kids up for our Butter Beans Food & Garden summer camp, where the lays of the land of cooking and all it entails will be delightfully and dutifully explored.

What are some of your favorite memories or experiences of cooking with your children?

Photo courtesy of