Posts Tagged ‘calories’


The Five Worst Drinks in America

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By Kimberlee Davies

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), between 1988 and 2008 the proportion of obese American adults increased from 23 percent to 35 percent. The CDC considers an adult with a “body mass index” (BMI) greater than 30 to be obese (for reference, a 5 foot 6 inch person would have to weigh at least 186 pounds to exceed a BMI of 30). Despite consuming all those calories, most Americans still do not eat enough fruits and veggies. In 2009, only 14 percent of American adults ate at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day. How can consumers fix this problem—and control their waistlines?

One simple step is to alter our liquid consumption. Many drinks are effectively liquid candy; the worst offender contains the caloric equivalent of three Big Macs. By reducing, replacing, or entirely cutting these beverages out of their diets, consumers can significantly decrease their sugar intake. Eat This, Not That! recently produced a list of the “20 Worst Drinks in America.” Here’s a list of the top five offenders and some suggestions for replacing them.

Photo credit: Men’s Health

1) The top culprit is Cold Stone’s 24 oz Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shake. That 24 oz cup packs in 1,750 calories, 140 grams (g) of sugar, and 64g of saturated fat. So what? That level of sugar is equivalent to 30 Chips Ahoy cookies, and the saturated fat rivals 68 strips of bacon. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic recommends a maximum of 16g to 22g of saturated fat per day (a third of that in this shake). They also recommended consuming only 30g to 45g of sugar daily for women and men respectively.

Try this instead: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Smoothie! Freezing the bananas and yogurt beforehand gives the drink the texture of a milkshake. The tasty treat only has 350 calories and 31g of sugar. Cut out the honey and the sugar goes down to 22g.

Photo credit: Starbucks

2) Starbuck’s venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream provides a whopping 13g of saturated fat and 94g of sugar.

Replacement: The ideal coffee substitution is black coffee. With 5 calories, no sugar, and no fats, pure coffee is the healthier way to get your caffeine fix. If you can’t stand the bitterness, you can always add sugar and milk yourself (so you know exactly how much goes in the mug).


Photo credit: Mountain Dew

3) Mountain Dew is the top soda to avoid. In addition to its 77g of sugar, the sweet treat includes brominated vegetable oil (BVO) among its ingredients. BVO is used as a flame retardant in plastics and can build up in body fat. With stats like that, maybe the 48 percent of Americans that drink soda daily will consider a diet change.

A delicious and healthy replacement is homemade soda. While this may sound unbearably complicated, the beverage just requires mixing seltzer water and your favorite 100 percent fruit juice. The CDC recommends 2oz of orange juice with seltzer water for a refreshing 30 calorie drink. If daily soda drinkers switched to this concoction, they would knock out nearly 95,000 calories annually from their diet.

Photo credit: Rockstar

4) Rockstar Energy Drink takes the medal for the least healthy energy drink. Who needs caffeine for an energy charge when consuming the 62g of sugar in this caffeinated beverage? No wonder this drink is “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women,” as stated on the label.

Replacement: Why not just stick with coffee and tea?




Photo credit: Wegmans

5) Possibly the least expected offender is SoBe Energize Green Tea. This bottle of tea has been saturated with 51g of sugar. Sugar lists far above green tea on the ingredients list.

As usual, the best alternative is to make tea at home. When you make something, you know exactly what has gone into it.

Over the last 50 years, Americans stopped viewing these beverages as irregular treats and started considering them as a way to meet their weekly, and sometimes daily, hydration needs. The Mayo Clinic recommends that a healthy adult consume between 8 and 13 cups of fluid per day. To decrease sugar and fat intake, Americans could exchange these sugary drinks for water. Consuming more water would lead to better hydration, less fatigue, and improved overall health.

Kimberlee Davies is an intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. 

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.


Food for All: How to Respond to Market Excesses

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On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his or her views on how to fix the broken food system. If you live in NYC, you can register to attend for FREE by clicking HERE, or tune in on the 28th via livestream. We will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

Raj Patel argues that climate change, financial speculation, and other factors have disrupted the food system. (Photo Credit:

In his introduction to a chapter in the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s new book, Eating PlanetNutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, award-winning writer, activist, and academic Raj Patel describes five reasons for the multiple failures of today’s modern food system and suggests important policy responses.

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight and another 1 billion are hungry. Both problems are signs that while the current food system has worked to produce calories and profit, it has failed to nourish the world. According to Patel, there are five reasons why the food system has come up short:

1. Climate Change. Global weather has been unpredictable, with storms, floods, and droughts occurring with greater intensity and frequency than in the past. These weather patterns have reduced global wheat harvests by 5 percent over the past 30 years.



2007-2008 Food Crisis: Causes, Responses, and Lessons Learned

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By Jameson Spivack

The world food crisis of 2007-2008 caused a substantial rise in the cost of food, especially staple foods such as rice, wheat, and corn. This rise in price had a devastating effect on hungry people in the developing world.

When food prices rise, poor people in developing countries are hurt the most. (Image source: IFPRI)

Between 2005 and 2011, world prices for rice, wheat, and maize rose 102 percent, 115 percent, and 204 percent, respectively, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With price increases, people with less disposable income must spend a larger percentage of their earnings on essential staple grains, and less on other food and non-food items. This can have a significant impact on nutrition.

In seven Latin American countries, this increase in price led to an average 8 percent decrease in the amount of calories consumed. Before the crisis, 35 percent of households in Ecuador received an adequate amount of calories; afterwards, only 22 percent were receiving healthy levels of calories. In developing countries, if prices rise 50 percent across the board, and there is no rise in income, iron intake will decrease by 30 percent, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In the Philippines, this 30 percent decrease in iron consumption would mean that only 5 percent of women have adequate levels of iron.



Meeting Nutritional Needs with ‘Biofortified’ Staple Crops

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By Yassir Islam

Whether a bowl of rice or a piece of bread, millions of poor people around the world eat large amounts of staple foods day in and day out. Now, a new technology promises to make such foods more nutritious.

HarvestPlus expects that millions of Rwandans will be eating these beans within the decade. This should greatly reduce the iron deficiency that leaves at least half of Rwanda’s preschoolers physically and mentally impaired. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

While staple foods provide calories, they simply do not provide enough micronutrients such as iron, zinc, or vitamin A that are required for good health. People who do not get enough micronutrients suffer from a ‘hidden hunger,’ often with serious consequences.

Without zinc, an eight-year-old girl may have the stature of a five year old. A young boy not getting enough vitamin A—an amount easily provided daily by a small, orange sweet potato—could go blind, permanently. It is these precious nutrients, needed in only minute amounts, that can make—or break—a young person’s life and haunt them through adulthood.

The ideal solution is, of course, a more diverse diet, but that is beyond the reach of millions of poor people often living in remote rural areas. This is where more nutritious staple foods can help; scientists are breeding new varieties of staple food crops that are richer in micronutrients through a process called biofortification. They scour seed banks to find seeds that contain the desired nutrients and then breed these into popular varieties using conventional methods.

The first crop out of the door was sweet potato. White or yellow sweet potato is traditionally eaten in Africa. Working with partners, HarvestPlus, a global agricultural research program, successfully released in Uganda and Mozambique an orange sweet potato that is far richer in vitamin A. Children and women, who are most susceptible to vitamin A deficiency, are eating substantially more of this locally grown orange sweet potato.

“Me and my family are experiencing better health with fewer visits to the local clinic since we incorporated the orange sweet potato into our diet,” a local farmer in Uganda recently attested to visiting HarvestPlus staff.

HarvestPlus and its partners will soon release two other nutritious staple foods in Africa: beans with more iron and  a vitamin A-rich maize.

Rwanda, a country of lush rolling hills, claims bean as its staple. “Beans are the bread of Rwanda,” says Jean D’Amour Manirere, HarvestPlus Country Manager for beans. Manirere shepherds new iron-rich bean varieties through field trials and ultimately to farmers and consumers. HarvestPlus is conducting a feeding trial in Rwanda to demonstrate that these new beans do reduce iron deficiency. With this seal of approval, local partners will be able to get these beans out to smallholder farming communities throughout Rwanda. Farmers will be able to save and share seed to grow, year after year.

HarvestPlus expects that millions of Rwandans will be eating these beans within the decade. This should greatly reduce the iron deficiency that leaves at least half of Rwanda’s preschoolers physically and mentally impaired. Once beans have taken root in Rwanda, neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and several other African countries where people regularly eat beans will also benefit.

In Zambia, a different crop that has become synonymous with African diets is about to become more nutritious: maize. These new varieties are a distinct orange color due to their vitamin A content. “First, we want to confirm that these varieties perform well in the field,” says Eliab Simpungwe, HarvestPlus Country Manager for maize. “We are already working with two seed companies to test this maize in the field.” HarvestPlus partners will begin by first releasing these varieties in provinces where rural households grow maize and where the incidence of vitamin A deficiency among women and children is high.

How do people react to these new ‘orange’ crops? We have found that when you explain their nutritional benefits, people are willing to include these foods in their diet. A HarvestPlus study in Zambia found that there is no stigma attached to orange maize, so the color should not be an issue. Coupled with its more nutritious profile and good field performance, orange maize should easily carve out a niche in farmers’ fields—and the Zambian diet. Once proven in Zambia, orange maize will be adapted to numerous other countries not just in Africa where maize is a popular food.

Biofortification may ultimately prove to be most successful because it uses food crops that rural communities are already growing and eating to deliver better nutrition. It also has built-in sustainability. Once scientists have bred the high-nutrient into the crop, it stays there—nourishing many generations to come.

Learn more about HarvestPlus’ work in Rwanda and Zambia.

HarvestPlus is a Challenge Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It is based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Yassir Islam is Senior Communications Specialist at HarvestPlus.