Quinoa with Cinnamon, Fennel and Prunes and Food, Technology and Labeling

Happy new year, everyone!

I will cut to the chase: 2018 sucked in many ways for me and for many others. I don’t like to be negative but I’m just putting it out there because as Socrates says, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. We need to deal with the crap that is presented to us in order to get through it.

One of the areas I am examining is my life is looking at how I eat. I am getting so frustrated with my changing body and all the recommendations out there on how to do better. There’s the intermittent fasting, the vegan lifestyle, the meat heavy paleo lifestyle, the low fat diet, the high fat diet, the no oils diet, etc.

Looking at labels is overwhelming for me and I’m certain that I am not alone in being bewildered at how to proceed. So many cooking personality types are put off by the confusing food labels to even begin to think about cooking from scratch. It is just easier to order in or rely on prepared foods so as not to think about it and add to the stress of our day, even if we have good intentions to provide healthy food for ourselves and our loved ones.

I recently met Dr. Rod Wallace who has an interesting background in technology and he was kind enough to speak on the topic of how foods can be labeled to provide more succinct and easily relatable info on what we ingest. Read below and see what you think.

After you’re done reading, feel free to make this protein packed quinoa dish which I believe is good for us AND delicious.

Quinoa with Cinnamon, Fennel and Prunes:
6 cups of cooked quinoa (you know I LOVE me some leftover quinoa)
2 bulbs of fennel, washed and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and small dice
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
6 dried prunes, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbs olive oil or ghee
On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, place one layer of the diced sweet potatoes.
In a 450 degree pre-heated oven, roast for about 20 minutes or until tender-check with a fork.
While the potatoes are roasting, start sauteeing the other ingredients:
In a large frying pan over medium flame, heat up one Tbs of oil or ghee.
Add in the chopped fennel and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes.
At the same time, heat up the next Tbs of fat in another frying pan.
Add in the chopped onions and saute for about 15 minutes as well.
In one of the large frying pans, add in the last Tbs of fat, pour in the cooked quinoa, add in the cooked fennel, the cooked onions, the roasted sweet potatoes, the cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir to fully combine.
When the quinoa is heated through, adjust seasonings and add in the chopped prunes. Top with the roasted pumpkin seeds and serve,
This is great as a side dish or main dish.
Now for the expert on labeling-Dr. Rod Wallace……

Food, Technology, and Labeling:

How do we Make Technology Good for Food?

Why does it feel like technology is killing us, or at least our food?

I mean, instead of making a fresh breakfast, I sometimes buy my kids a breakfast sandwich, in all its processed glory. And I feel guilty when I do. We think of such fast food as unhealthful because of all the technology applied to create it.

But take a step back. Technology makes most products better.

What’s different about food? Initiatives to improve healthfulness energized the teams I led in the Fortune 20 food company. We wanted to nourish our families. Why didn’t we do better?

We have a communication problem. We rely on food labels to clearly tell us what’s healthful, but they don’t. We live in a country where ⅓ of college seniors can’t interpret a simple table—yet the Nutrition Facts on my bag of apples has 41 numbers (serving size, fiber, etc.) They say a confused mind takes no action, and we’re bewildered. Many Americans have given up trying to eat healthfully, and confusion is a key factor.

Our labels are also incomplete. Medical Facts Today says an apple is healthful because it provides fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavonoids. Most of those factors are not listed on the label. In fact, no label could fully explain how a food impacts the 37 trillion cells in the human body.

Companies must focus on sales. So, with healthfulness only driving sales in a few (labeled) situations, companies focus mainly on cost, look, and taste. The impact is clear:

·           A chicken today contains more than twice the fat, a third more calories, and a third less protein than a 1940 chicken (Purvis, 2005).

·           Most fruits and vegetables are unlabeled, and thus have less protein, calcium, iron, and riboflavin today than in 1950 (Scheer and Moss, n.d.).

·           Even many organic foods are less nutritious than the traditionally farmed foods of the 1950s and 1960s (Plumer, 2015).

A single, structured score that summarized complex information could fix the problem. Suppose we hired a nutritionist to provide a score comparing the healthfulness of different salmon origins. The nutritionist might develop a single, weighted score based on the amount of Omega 3 in the fish (highest in wild-caught), and the amount of antibiotics (higher in Chilean salmon.) The resulting, easily-compared score could help consumers judge whether to pay the premium for wild-caught fish, or opt for cheap Chilean salmon.

As Chilean farmers reduced antibiotics, their score would improve, and more Chilean salmon would sell at a higher price. That promise of a high price would provide a clear incentive to act rapidly. Today, Chilean farmers act only if activists pressure them.

Summarizing health impact simply with Scoring could help improve American health. And food companies could profitably focus their increasingly powerful technology on our health – not just on reducing cost. Everyone would win.

For a free graphic exploring food scores, visit RodWallacePhD.com.

Dr. Rod Wallace is a consultant, economist, and speaker. He stands for collaboration, which means he is committed to helping others develop innovative approaches that align self-interest and the common good.

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