Monday, March 17, 2014

Um, Honestly???

Sooooo, sales of Lean Cuisine PLUMMET???

Jimmy sent out a link to this blog post about Lean Cuisine's sagging sales.  Honestly, I have never had many of these "TV" dinners, but I know lots of folks who eat them all the time.  Back in the day when I was doing Weight Watchers and got plenty of coupons, I did try a few of these "healthy"-type frozen dinners.  But I thought they were bland and the portions and ingredients left me starving.

Lean Cuisines are big with people watching their weight at lunch.  You can bring them into the office, pop them in the microwave, and when you are done, that's it.  Great for portion control, but I don't know anybody who confuses them with real food.

Roz O'Hearn (yes, that looks like a real name, not just a St. Paddy's name!) says that Nestle (the company, not the Marion) uses "the same quality ingredients our consumers purchase when cooking from scratch."

Being data-driven as I am, I had to check this out.  I checked out the ingredients list for the first entree I could find, something called "Glazed Chicken".  Yum.  Embedded in the long list of ingredients were lots that I never use when I cook from scratch.  And here they are:

High Fructose Corn Syrup
corn oil
modified corn starch
sodium phosphate
caramel color
partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
wheat berries (OK, might be some disagreement on this.  Some consider it natural, some consider it a natural poison.)
canola oil

Sorry to break it to ya Roz, but I don't think I could even buy modified corn starch at a store.  I think that is something people use when they are freezing things, not when they are cooking it from scratch.

Curious, I went to their website to check out more lists.  I noticed a new brand name, Honestly Good.  Now be careful and not use that phrase when describing food, since it is trademarked.   I guess it is just a brand, not an actual description of the actual food, which isn't as Honest as it first seems.

I scanned down the list of ingredients and found fewer than in the regular brand.  I don't have rice starch or dehydrated chicken broth in my pantry at the moment.  But wait, what is in this chicken broth?  My own scratch-chicken broth is chicken cooked in water and a few veggies for additional flavoring.  This chicken broth mix has added "flavor".  Yum, sounds flavorful.  They also add "natural flavor".  That's good.  I have lots of natural flavors in my food too.  I guess the difference between "flavor" and "natural flavor" is that one of the flavors is unnatural.

Its probably MSG.  They wouldn't "man-up" enough to admit that, in such an Honestlie-Good product and such.

Here's what I think about the sales plummet.  People aren't eating pasta anymore.  So many people are going wheat-free, and if they are going to blow it, a real pizza is a much better choice.  Just for fun, I started looking through all the ingredients lists for all the entrees.  Twenty-four out of the 24 I checked had added wheat.  When I tried to do a search, I found only two entrees that had no wheat at all.  People trying to avoid wheat altogether would also have a problem with the website.  When I entered "gluten" to exclude I got twelve pages of items, plus a gluten-ey list of entrees they somehow thought I would like at the bottom.

The one "Honestly Good" entree I checked had an astounding (to me anyway) 29 grams of carbs, and that included 6 grams of sugars that were hidden in various ways. 

Honestly, Nestle, people aren't buying your dinners because they suck.  They are either pasta or potstickers or whatever you want to call it, or bread or pita or whatever, and the few entrees that have the "safe" rice have either added gluten or wheat-based soy sauce.  We just don't want to eat that stuff anymore.  (And you should never have sold Peter's chocolate.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where's the Beef? Part 1

I could have written this:

Well, maybe not as well.  And my own situation wasn't as dramatic.  I was a vegetarian long-term, but only vegan for a short while because I went downhill more rapidly than he did.

Like Rhys, I was tired on the vegan diet.  I also struggled with restless legs, lots of skin problems and I caught every cold and flu version that passed my way.

For me, being vegetarian did "fix" certain problems, like weight and monthly hormones, but eventually it caught up with me.  I tried dozens of prescription and non-prescription creams and lotions for my skin, every type of shampoo and soap for my scalp, and every kind of laundry detergent on my clothing, but nothing helped.

Like Rhys, my gateway drug back to omnivorism was not bacon, it was a bottle of omega 3 capsules.  My skin and hair improved considerably.  My restless legs mostly stopped when I started taking Cal-Mag tablets.  My peripheral neuropathy stopped after I went on a low-carb diet.  I haven't gotten sick ever since I started supplementing with vitamin D over two years ago, so even a Paleo/Primal diet with sunshine didn't fully help.

However, unlike Rhys, I think it was my whole-foods macrobiotic diet that allowed me to be a vegetarian for so long without such severe consequences.  At least I had seaweed and a goodly amount of brown rice for my carbs, instead of wheat.  For me at least, I think an excess of wheat was the main culprit the whole time.  I remember when I became a vegetarian for the first time in my teens.  I had a huge bowl of wheat germ with milk for breakfast every morning, and my skin started to break out more.  Eventually I stopped eating the wheat germ so constantly, because it came in a little jar and I got tired of buying so much of it.

This winter I have allowed a bit of wheat back into my diet.  I was always following some sort of 80/20 rule, and didn't worry too much about going out to dinner, or the occasional cookie.  Right around Thanksgiving, we had a few goodies around the house, then with all the other holidays, there were more wheat options.  I tried to eat wheat only every other day, but eventually I started eating more.

You see, I work in the food rescue business, and most days I am working with mounds of bagels, boxes and bags of pastries, wonderful artisan loaves of bread wheat pasta.  So, a bagel here, a piece of broken cookie there, well you know the drill.

I started gaining weight around the holidays, and then I fell.  4 times!  Every time I fell, I would hurt my knee or something, then get stiff, then trip over something else in the garden.  My last fall was the worst.  I tripped on the vacuum cleaner, went sailing into a hope chest, and rolled down right on my already-injured knee.  My baby toe got numb and I still have problems with my knee several months later.  But then something really weird started happening.  My other toe got numb, and then my baby fingers.  I started running into everything and losing my balance.  And perhaps how I was sitting was causing a problem.  I used to sit anywhere, usually cross-legged on the floor and I could no longer bend my knee that far, or get up off the floor without damaging my knee further.  I couldn't do strengthening exercises or walking either.

I suspected that wheat was causing the problem, since the same symptoms happened after Thanksgiving.  I did a bit of reading and found that there is a condition called "gluten ataxia".  I don't think I have that, since my condition improved immediately after stopping all wheat.  I have been totally wheat-free for about two weeks now, and I am also doing Dr. Davis' wheatlessMarch challenge.  I know there is something else that is causing problems, and if I am not 100% better in a month, I will be eliminating other foods that could either be contaminating or cross-reactive.

This is so weird!  Who knew wheat could cause me to lose my balance?  Who knew it could cause nerve damage that may be permanent?  (OK, maybe Dr. Perlmutter.) Currently, I am experimenting with non-gluten grains to see if they are also a problem.  I don't know if it is due to the wheat proteins or the high-glycemic index of wheat products.  I KNOW that certain other foods are still a bother.  Now that I have drained the wheat swamp, other problems present immediately and dramatically.

I am not sure if I am ready to be one of those people who can't have absolutely any wheat.  In the meantime, I will continue to be one of those faddy people swept up in the anti-gluten craze.

Here's more info on gluten ataxia.