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Aldi Removes Foods With Undesirable Ingredients

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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aldiOver the years, there has been a growing number of people who take the time to read the ingredients on food labels. We all want to feed our families the best, healthiest, foods. Aldi understands this. The grocery store has removed foods that contain undesirable ingredients.

Aldi has its own private label of products. More than 90 percent of the products sold at Aldi are the ones they sell under their exclusive brands. The private label has been good for consumers because it enables Aldi to keep prices low.

The private label also allows Aldi to have significant control over what is sold on its store shelves. Aldi has the ability to control the ingredients in its private label brands. The grocery store chose to remove ingredients that many of its customers identified as undesirable. Aldi made the announcement after they actually started making those changes.

Aldi took out certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and MSG. The change has already begun, and by the end of the year, none of the undesirable ingredients will be in any of the foods in Aldi’s private label line of products.

In addition, Aldi’s SimplyNature line of products was already free of more than 125 ingredients that consumers have spoken out against. Aldi has also expanded its organic produce options. This gives consumers that are trying to bring home healthy food for their families more options to choose from, and at lower prices than they might find in other grocery stores.

MSG is an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate. It is one of the undesirable ingredients that Aldi has removed from their private line of products. MSG is a flavor enhancer that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines as “generally recognized as safe”.

Some people have no ill effects after eating food that contains MSG. Others can experience side effects that are known as “MSG symptom complex”. Those symptoms can include headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, or weakness. Researchers have not found a definite link between MSG and those symptoms.

Some parents of children who have ADHD, FASD, or autism, like to avoid foods that contain fake dyes and artificial colors. Many believe that the fake coloring in food dyes has an impact on children’s behavior. There are those who feel that certain artificial food dyes set off symptoms in children who are prone to hyperactivity.

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Food Industry Undergoing “Tectonic Shift”

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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EarthYou may have noticed a trend that is happening in grocery stores. Many stores have created their own brands of organic products. In addition, they are including more products that are allergy-friendly. It has been said that the food industry is undergoing a “tectonic shift”.

What is a tectonic shift? It is the name of a process that occurs when the plates that make up the Earth’s crust move. Land masses move closer to, or farther from, each other. Over time, this changes how the world looks.

People also use the phrase “tectonic shift” to refer to a change that has a strong and widespread impact. For example, the phrase has been used to explain a change in voting patterns. Right now, the way the food industry functions is going through a big enough change for people to apply the phrase “tectonic shift” to it.

What does that change consist of? Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb said that the “tectonic shift” in the food industry is one that is resulting in a push toward greater transparency and sustainability. It appears that this push is largely coming from the millennial generation.

For Whole Foods, the shift is going to cause many changes. It has influenced the creation of a new customer loyalty program. It also pushed Whole Foods to become more transparent about what’s on the shelves. People want to know what is in the food they are choosing for their families.

Transparency is important for people who strive to feed their families the very best foods. This is why consumers select organic products over non-organic ones. It is why people who have a family member with a food allergy take the time to read all of the ingredients on a food label. The more transparency, the less chance of an accidental ingestion of an allergen.

The other way the “tectonic shift” is affecting Whole Foods has to do with the environment. The company has created a rating system that takes into account holistic and “progressive practices” on the farm. This includes things like recycling and water. Overall, this gives the consumer greater transparency about where their food comes from (and how it was grown).

Whole foods also cut the amount of energy it uses in its freezers by 40% in the past five years. One way it did this was by adding doors to the freezers. You may have noticed other stores have the lights off in their freezers (until a customer walks by or opens a door).

The “tectonic shift” is affecting all grocery stores, not just Whole Foods. Overall, this will result in consumers being able to access healthier food that was grown in situations that are good for the environment.

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Simple Truth is Largest Organic Brand in U.S.

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 2:03 pm
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organicWhat is your favorite brand of organic food? If you shop at Kroger, the first brand of organic foods that come to mind might be one called Simple Truth. It is currently the largest organic brand in the United States.

The word “natural” on a food label doesn’t actually mean much of anything. There is little regulation about what foods can use that particular word. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed a definition for the use of the term natural or its derivatives.

The word “organic”, however, cannot be used on every food label. It can only be used on foods that meet certain regulations and criteria. Organic products do not contain GMO’s, artificial preservatives, or artificial colors. Organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Many consumers are seeking out organic products for health reasons. Simple Truth is Kroger’s organic food brand. It was created as a response to customers’s shifting over to organic foods. Food Dive reports that natural and organic foods accounted for $11 billion in sales for Kroger over the past 12 months.

CNN Money reports that Kroger’s sales of products in their Simple Truth brand hit $1.2 billion in 2014. Part of what makes that brand so popular is that it is sold at a lower price than the 365 line from Whole Foods. Interestingly, it appears that consumers who were going to Whole Foods for organic products have taken notice of Kroger’s Simple Truth line.

365 by Whole Foods Market stores were intended to compete with Trader Joe’s. The goal was to offer lower prices on produce and perishables than could be found on similar products in the “regular” Whole Foods stores. Their target market was empty-nesters, Millennials, and young upwardly mobile shoppers.

Whole Foods may not have taken into account the group of customers who want to eat organic products, but who don’t have the budget to shop at Trader Joe’s (or the “regular” Whole Foods store). If you’ve been wanting to eat more organic products, but found it difficult to afford, you might consider going to Kroger.

The thing to be aware of is that Kroger offers two similarly sounding product lines. One is called Simple Truth, which includes “cleaner” ingredient statements. The other is called Simple Truth Organic, which is USDA organic certified. Customers can make their own decisions about which to buy.

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Ways to Get Political About Real Food

Posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am
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The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15: Saving Money on Organic ProduceOne of the ways that Americans can get the attention of Congress is via lobbyists. For years, the big food and beverage companies have used lobbying to get their way in everything from what qualifies as a vegetable in a school lunch to what shows up on a food label. It might be time for people who are proponents of real food to get political.

Politico notes that many health-conscious food companies do not have lobbyists. As a result, Congress is hearing a whole lot from “Big Food” companies – who do have plenty of lobbyists – and not hearing much of anything from the other side. Here are some simple things you can do to fight for real food.

Vote with your dollars.
It has been said that voting with your dollars is an effective way to create change. Stop purchasing food products from companies that sell foods and beverages that are bad for people’s health. Spend your money on the companies that support free trade, that sell unprocessed foods, that do not include antibiotics in their food, or that recycle.

In order to be effective at this, you have to do some homework. Big food companies are starting to buy up some of the smaller companies that have a reputation of producing good food. Check to see who owns what before shopping.

Buy from Farmers’ Markets
Want to make sure that the produce you purchase is fresh and local? Buy it from the farmers’ market. Hand your dollars directly to a local farmer. You can be absolutely certain that the fresh produce you buy from a local farmer is the real thing. It definitely has not been processed, and it shouldn’t have any extra sugars added to it.

Buying local food is good for the environment, too. The food you buy at the farmers’ market doesn’t have to travel far to get to you. That’s better for the environment than produce that is stored in freezers for months before being placed on a refrigerated truck and driven across the country.

Start sending email.
Want to have your views heard by the politicians who represent you? Send your Senators and Representatives an email in which you describe your concerns about things like the content of school lunches, the amount of antibiotics in foods, or whatever other food concerns you have. Let them know what you want them to do.

In addition, be on the lookout for petitions that appear on social media. Sign the ones that ask “Big Food” companies to make changes to their ingredients (so their food will be healthier). The great thing about petitions is that it collects up signatures of like-minded people.

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How to Make Eating Gluten-Free Less Expensive

Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 at 3:43 pm
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Man saving money on groceriesSome people choose a gluten-free diet because it is a fad, or because they think it will help them lose weight. There are also many people who have to eat a gluten-free diet because they have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance, or an allergy to wheat, rye, and barley. Either way, it quickly becomes clear that gluten-free foods are more expensive than the “regular” kind. Here are some tips to make eating gluten-free less expensive.

People who need to eat gluten-free because of diagnosed health issues should always read the label of any food they are considering consuming. Find out what all the ingredients are. Check to see if the product was made in shared equipment that was also used with wheat, or if traces of wheat could be in the product as a result of how it was processed.

Check the Big Brands
There are plenty of brands that are dedicated to being gluten-free. Sometimes, these products can be more expensive than the gluten-free versions produced by the big brand names. For example, it is now possible to find gluten-free Cheerios and gluten-free Rice Chex. They might cost less money than a cereal from a dedicated gluten-free brand.

Naturally Gluten-Free foods
There are some foods that do not contain gluten (unless some company intentionally chooses to add it in). Unflavored popcorn is gluten-free. Some brands of potato chips are also gluten-free. Look for the “plain” flavor. (Seasoned potato chips could have gluten in them).

Vegetables and fruits are always gluten-free. Buy canned or frozen vegetables (that don’t have added flavors or seasonings) and they will last a long time. You can get a good price on fruits and vegetables when they are in season. The best thing about fresh produce is that it you can be certain that there is absolutely no wheat in it.

Make your Own Version
Gluten-free packaged pastries can be really expensive. It can feel unfair that the safe, gluten-free, box of cookies contains less product and cost more than the “regular” wheat filled versions. One way to cut down on the costs of gluten-free treats is to make your own version at home.

There are now plenty of gluten-free flours to choose from. These include flour made from: rice, almonds, coconut, sorghum, potato, black beans, garbanzo beans, and fava. You might also need xanthan gum (to help the gluten-free flour stick together).

These gluten-free flour options make it easy for people to bake up a big batch of cookies that are safe for them to eat. You will likely be able to make two or more batches from one package of gluten-free flour, and the package of xanthan gum will last for several batches. The cost of the purchase gets spread out over several batches of treats.

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Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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Trick-or-TreatAre you uncomfortable about handing out sugar filled candy to the trick-or-treaters that will come to your door on Halloween? There are plenty of healthier alternatives. Some families are choosing to hand out non-food treats instead of candy.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was created by the FARE (which stands for Food Allergy Research & Education). The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to make trick-or-treating safe for children who have food allergies. It promotes the safety, inclusion, and respect of kids who have food allergies, who are diabetic, or who have otherwise cannot eat certain foods or need to limit their sugar intake.

You can take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween. Download a sign from the FARE website that will let people know that you are passing out safe treats. Some families are painting an entire pumpkin teal and putting it on their porch. (The FARE website has other ways to get involved, too.)

FARE has a list of non-food items that you can hand out on Halloween instead of candy:

* Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
* Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
* Bubbles
* Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
* Mini Slinkies
* Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
* Bouncy balls
* Finger puppets or novelty toys
* Coins
* Spider rings
* Vampire fangs
* Mini notepads
* Playing cards
* Bookmarks
* Stickers
* Stencils

Not sure what to pick? FARE can make things really easy for you. They sell Teal Pumpkin Project Trick-or-Treat Goodie bags. Each comes with a selection of 50 non-food treat goodies, including 20 Halloween sticker packs (8 per pack), 10 bouncy balls (latex free, not for kids under 3 years old), 10 orange and black rope friendship bracelets, and 10 Halloween pencils). Order before October 15, 2015, and you can receive your bag in time for Halloween.

Another option is to visit your local dollar store and look for packages of non-food items to hand out. You might find Halloween pencils and erasers. One package of plastic army men, farm animals, or dinosaurs can be opened up and handed out to dozens of children – one toy at a time.

Those who do not celebrate Halloween, but will be participating in a “trunk-or-treat” or a fall festival at their church, might consider handing out non-food treats this year. It is a great way to avoid handing out a lot of sugar filled candy. It also shows compassion and respect for the kids who have food allergies. You will be giving these kids the opportunity to safely participate in the fun.

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How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 at 5:37 pm
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Fall PumpkinsPumpkins are the most popular fall decoration. You will find them for sale in grocery stores, at fall festivals, and in local pumpkin patches. It can be difficult to figure out which pumpkin to pick. The way to pick the perfect pumpkin depends upon what you intend to do with it.

Make Food from the Pumpkin
You can get a lot of food from your pumpkin if you know how to do it. Baked pumpkin seeds are tasty. You can use the pumpkin “meat” to make pumpkin puree. That can be used in pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin soup.

If you plan to cook a pumpkin, you should look for a small one. It needs to fit into your oven or crockpot. You will need to remove the stalk and cut the pumpkin in half in order to bake it in your oven. (Remove the pulp and seeds first). If you are going to use your crockpot, you need to be sure the cut pieces of pumpkin will all fit inside of it.

Carve the Pumpkin
Many people enjoy carving pumpkins and using them as fall decorations. People hold pumpkin carving parties when it gets close to Halloween. Carved pumpkins are the most popular type of Halloween decoration.

Will you be carving your pumpkin? If so, then you need to look for a large pumpkin that is sturdy and does not show any signs of rot. If your plan is to carve it right away, then you can go ahead and do that. Keep in mind that carved pumpkins tend to rot much faster than ones that have not been carved. You might need to purchase a replacement pumpkin later on.

Would you prefer to wait to carve your pumpkin? It would be a good idea to wait to make your purchase until the first week of October. Store the pumpkin outdoor in a cool, dry, place.

Painted Pumpkins
Pumpkins that have been painted with a funny face, an interesting design, or a Halloween inspired image, are cute and make fun decorations. Painted pumpkins are great to put on your desk at work. In general, people choose to paint small pumpkins.

Choose pumpkins that fit into the palm of your hand. You can find them at the grocery store. Avoid pumpkins that feel soft and select ones that have a smooth, firm, surface. Acrylic paint works best for painting pumpkins. It is water soluble and can be easily removed if you make a painting mistake and want to start over.

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Is Wool Vegan?

Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Yarn in basketAs summer turns into autumn, and the weather changes, people start wanting to wear sweaters and woolen socks. This may seem like a simple solution for coping with cooler, and then cold, weather. That being said, people who are vegan might wonder whether or not wool is considered to be vegan.

What does vegan mean? has a definition for the word vegan. “The word vegan refers to a food or material free from any animal products: no meat, milk, eggs, honey, wool, goose down, or leather.” It goes on to note that animal-derived byproducts, such as whey, lard, or gelatin, are not vegan. From this definition, we can conclude that wool is not vegan.

Why isn’t wool vegan?
Wool comes from sheep, alpacas, or goats. It comes from the hair that these animals grow naturally. This means that wool is an animal byproduct. If something comes from an animal – then it is not vegan.

People who are vegan choose a lifestyle that avoids animal mistreatment and slaughter. This important concept connects directly to wool. Many people mistakenly believe that when wool is harvested from an animal that it is the equivalent of the animal having a haircut. That might be true with some small farms, but is generally not the case.

Since the time when sheep were domesticated, humans started breeding sheep that produce extremely thick coats. Those coats are sheered off to harvest the wool. Some farms are not very kind to their animals when this happens and actually cause them harm. In addition, sheep can end up with too thick a coat in hot weather or no coat in cold weather.

What products use wool?
Wool can be found in many types of clothing. This includes sweaters, socks, and other winter clothing that is intended to keep people warm. It can also be found in business suits, upholstery, carpets, and even in the stuffing of some mattresses. Some types of yarn are made of wool.

Is used wool ok?
There seems to be some debate about whether or not it is ok for a vegan to buy a used sweater, that is made out of wool, from a thrift store. On one hand, it is still wool, and some feel that this means vegans should not use it.

On the other hand, some feel that the damage to the sheep has already been done. They note that buying a wool sweater at a thrift store doesn’t cause additional harm to an animal, and that it also doesn’t give money to the wool industry. Ultimately, each person needs to decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear used wool.

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Starbucks Added Pumpkin to PSL

Posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Pumpkin CoffeeThere are times when complaining on the internet results in changes. Such is the case with the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. Last year, there was a controversy because it didn’t actually contain any pumpkin. This year, real pumpkin has been added to the drink.

Last year, a well known food blogger complained a lot about Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. Not all of her claims about it were scientifically accurate, but she was right about one thing. There was no actual pumpkin in the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) from Starbucks.

One could argue that the name of the popular drink was appropriate because it truly did contain the spices that one would expect to find in a pumpkin pie. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assume that a beverage with the word “pumpkin” in its name would contain at least some real pumpkin.

Starbucks has responded to the complaints about the lack of pumpkin in the PSL drinks by making some changes. One was to add pumpkin. The other was to remove the caramel color.

It is unclear exactly why Starbucks removed the caramel color. It might be due to the complaints of the well known food blogger, who mistakenly thought caramel color caused cancer. Starbucks has not officially stated why it made that particular change, so we are left to speculate.

Here is the full list of ingredients in a Starbucks PSL:

* Espresso

* Milk (It should be noted that you can opt for soy or coconut instead of dairy milk)

* Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce (Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% or Less of Fruit and Vegetable Juice for Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto (Color), Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt)

* Whipped Cream (Light Whipping Cream [Cream, Mono and Diglycerides, Carrageenan]) (It should be noted that you can order a PSL without whipped cream.)

* Starbucks Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid)

* Pumpkin Spice Topping (Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove)

You can decide for yourself if this new version of the beloved PSL is for you. A quick glance at the internet shows that there is a group of people who are strongly opposed to the changes that have been made to the PSL. There is also a group of people who are happy about the changes.

In addition, there is a third group of people who want Starbucks to remove a specific allergen from the PSL. This is unlikely to happen, especially since there has been a call to have the dairy, the nutmeg, the annatto, the citric acid, and the caffeine removed.

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Free Range Vs Cage Free

Posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 at 5:27 pm
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EggsBuying eggs at the grocery store has gotten more complicated in recent years. When you were a child, your parents probably looked at the brand of the eggs and the price. Today, there are a lot of other labels to be aware of. Do you understand the difference between free range and cage free? What about all those other labels?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed a definition for the term natural (or its derivatives) on a food label. In general, it allows the use of the term on a product label if the food does not contain any added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

The word natural evokes a feeling of purity and wholesomeness. Some foods with that label are better than others. Natural doesn’t always mean that the food hasn’t had something added to it.

Cage-Free on an egg carton label describes a little bit about how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Cage-Free indicates that the chickens were uncaged. Those chickens did not spend their entire existence in a small cage. They were able to freely walk around, nest, and engage in other normal chicken behaviors.

The thing to be aware of with the cage-free label is that it doesn’t automatically mean that the chickens were allowed to have access to the outdoors. They might be freely walking around in an indoor environment. That indoor environment could be small.

Free Range
Free Range can also be called Free Roaming. The terms are interchangeable. These descriptions on an egg carton label describe how the chickens who laid those eggs were treated. Free Range, or Free Roaming, chickens were uncaged. They were able to walk around freely, and engage in nesting and other normal chicken behaviors.

The difference between Free Range/Free Roaming and Cage-Free is simple. Cage-Free chickens may or may not have been allowed access to the outdoors. Free Range/Free Roaming chickens did have access to the outdoors. It doesn’t say much about what that outdoor environment was like.

Pasture Raised
When you see the phrase Pasture Raised on an egg carton label, it means that the chickens who laid those eggs were raised in a pasture. These chickens did not have cages. They spend most of their time outdoors. At night, they were brought inside so they could sleep in a protected environment.

The word organic on an egg carton label can be a bit confusing. It doesn’t specifically describe the eggs at all. Instead, it indicates that the chickens who laid those eggs were fed with certified organic feed. It also means the farmer’s practices have been certified as organic.

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