Sweet Potato Hash with Bacon, Kale & Feta

I’ve made this several times in the past few weeks and still haven’t managed to get a good picture of it because it is just that good. Hot out of the pan, it’s a great wintertime comfort food, especially if you live in a house with a broken furnace like me, and is surprisingly good cold too, maybe with some sauerkraut or pickled carrots. If you’re looking for an extra decadent brunch, add a fried egg on top!

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New Tool for Celiacs: Food Scores

The Environmental Working Group just released a nifty new database called Food Scores that allows consumers to learn more about the products they regularly eat. For celiacs, understanding exactly what is in our food is a matter of life and death, but when we’re so focused on gluten, it’s easy to overlook other problematic aspects of our diets. Going gluten free can start with switching to Udi’s bread or Schar bagels, but that’s only the first step in building a healthy and sustainable diet for you and your family. Gluten free packaged foods aren't necessarily better for you than their glutenous counterparts.

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Using the Food Scores database, you can look up over 80,000 packaged foods available nationwide, and look at their score in terms of nutrition, ingredients and processing concerns. The site also lists ingredients, nutrition facts, certifications (gluten free, organic etc.) and lists major concerns associated with the nutrition and manufacturing of each product. You can even calculate the nutrition facts and percentages for someone of your gender and age!

quinoa nutrition scores

While I may not 100% agree with how Food Scores evaluates nutrition, I love how much thought has gone into the categories for analysis. The products can be flagged for having a lot of added sugar, for having genetically engineered crops, for having major food allergens, for being highly processed etc, though Food Scores is very careful to use the word ‘may’ in their findings.

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For example, a package of Lundberg ricecakes (one of my favorite snacks) “[m]ay contain high arsenic levels from rice and rice based ingredients.” As a consumer, that is an interesting and little known fact about rice that I could be taking into account when I purchase groceries for my household. Whether or not I choose to avoid rice products, I feel like that’s information that consumers should have when they go shopping, information that the food industry does a fair job of concealing.

Of course, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (real tagline: “Representing the Makers of the World’s Favorite Food, Beverage and Consumer Products”) had some nasty things to say about the new site:

“The Environmental Working Group’s food ratings are severely flawed and will only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.”

Ah, yes, the old “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” line. The GMA goes on to claim that Food Scores isn’t using “fact-based sources” for their analysis, completely ignoring the fact that Food Sources prominently features the products’ ingredients and nutrition facts given by the manufacturer and has been very transparent about their methodology regarding their scores.

Nowhere on the Food Scores website does it claim to be the highest authority on the healthiness of food in America. It is impossible to make a purely objective scale for rating foods, but the criteria used by the EWG are more in line with my values than the FDA’s MyPlate recommendations which the GMA claims is the “best advice” for maintaining optimal health. Sure, Food Scores is imperfect, in my opinion overhyping the benefits of organic food and adhering to the standard low-fat dogma, but I’d much rather get my nutrition advice from a third-party ranking that eschews processing and artificial ingredients than someone so obviously in cahoots with everything wrong with our food & agricultural systems. Boo on you, GMA. I think Food Scores is neat and I give you a zero.

Check out Food Scores here: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores

How do your favorite products line up? What do you think of their ranking system? Will you change your shopping or eating habits based on the information you learned?

 

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Where I've Been

Hello, world. It’s been so long! I’ve been dreadful about my gluten free internet presence for the past few months. This summer, I was working part time, which left me plenty of time for cooking, writing and learning. Now, I have a full time 9-5 (don’t get me started about the façade that is the 40 hour workweek) and am back in school, this time for nutrition consulting.

That’s right, I’m enrolled in the NTA’s Nutrition Consultant program and will hopefully be certified this June, enabling me to start my own nutrition practice and better help folks like you embrace real food and live their gluten free lives to the fullest. I am so far loving the course. It’s great to have a structured environment to study the things I already geek out about and I love the enthusiasm and knowledge that the other students bring to the table.

The business of this fall has meant that some other projects have fallen by the wayside (looking at you, Gluten Free Guide to College), but rest assured that I have a few things in the works that I think you’ll really enjoy.

That’s it from me! Thanks for sticking around despite my unexplained hiatus. I hope you all are having a lovely fall (or Indian summer, as the case may be) and are taking advantage of all things pumpkin and spice.

Happy Monday,

Alice

Peach Cobbler Muffins

It’s the tail end of the peach season in these parts, so here’s my final stone fruit recipe of the year: peach cobbler muffins. I’ve probably cooked, baked or preserved over 30 pounds of peaches this summer, which has left me a little peached out, but I’d still make these again in a heartbeat! They take almost no time to make and, with a little bit of yogurt or some nut butter, are a healthy snack or breakfast on the go.

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