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My first article at KQED

by | Oct 15, 2010
Kona Sunset

Kona Sunset

I’m still on vacation, so did not spend my week reading food and health stories. But I wanted to share my first article published at the KQED science blog QUEST, where I will be contributing weekly.

Have a great weekend!

Alice Waters’ School Lunch Initiative Effective At Instilling Healthy Habits In Children

by Darya Pino

A recent report issued by scientists from the Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley examined the impact of the School Lunch Initiative (SLI) on the eating behaviors of children transitioning from elementary school to middle school. The SLI is sponsored by the Chez Panisse Foundation, founded in 1996 by Alice Waters.

The SLI is a system-wide program that includes cooking and gardening classes, integration of school lunch with food and nutrition curriculum, and improvements in campus food and dining services. The report examined the eating behavior of children at schools enriched with the SLI compared with children at schools with similar foods but without the program. The research followed fourth and fifth graders for three years to see the effects of the program during the transition from elementary school to middle school, since this is a time when healthy eating often deteriorates in children.

According to the report, SLI may have the potential to reverse the deterioration of healthy eating habits that children typically exhibit as they transition to adolescence. Compared with children in control schools, kids at schools with the SLI ate more vegetables, fruits and demonstrated greater knowledge of nutrition and health. Students in the SLI also showed greater preference for vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables. Over the same period, children in schools without the SLI decreased their intake of fruits and vegetables both in and out of school. These trends were still apparent one year after completion of the SLI, when the students were in seventh grade.

The report is the first examination of the effectiveness of integrated school lunch programs on the healthy eating behaviors of children over an extended period. With the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, comprehensive school lunch programs have tremendous potential to improve the health and habits of developing children.

Though body mass index (BMI) improvements were not found in the current study, small sample size and measurement limitations may have made changes statistically undetectable. Since the trends observed in the eating habits of children in the SLI would predict a decreased risk for obesity, further studies are warranted to pursue the value of the program for improving health and body weight.

With the recent attention on the importance of school lunch programs (October 11-15 has been declared National School Lunch Week by the USDA), data on programs like SLI will be critical and could serve as a model for more broad government programs to improve nutrition at schools.

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My first article at SFWeekly

by | Oct 13, 2010


I’m on vacation in Hawaii this week, but thought I’d share with you my first article at SFWeekly (actually their food blog SFoodie) where I will be contributing a few times per month. My beat will be hunting down the most exciting new ingredients of the season and discovering what local chefs and business are doing with them. If you have any tips feel free to send them my way.

This week’s story is about a new product at one of my favorite food companies, Scream Sorbet. Their Macadamia Vanilla flavor made from California macadamia nuts is amazing and, somehow, vegan. It’s like the perfect vanilla ice cream, but with a hint of Honey Nut Cheerios. Trust me, it’s amazing.

Scream’s Macadamia Nut Sorbet Is Surprisingly Locavore

by Darya Pino​

For an ingredient as exotic as macadamia nuts, the word “local” may require a little loosening here in the Bay Area. But the fact that Emeryville-based Scream Sorbet found a California macadamia producer at all is surprising, especially considering their first experiments required sourcing organic nuts from Kenya.

For Scream’s latest macadamia vanilla sorbet, owners Nathan Kurz, Noah Goldner, and Stephanie Lao turned to MnM’s Nuthouse, a macadamia nut grower in Fallbrook, Calif., a quiet farming town in northern San Diego County.

Anyone who has tried them will tell you MnM’s nuts are special. Farmer Mark Marchese attributes much of that exceptional flavor to the nuts’ freshness. Delicate Omega-3 fatty acids quickly turn rancid during shipping at nonoptimal temperatures. With California-grown macadamias you can actually taste the freshness.

According to Marchese, the raw food movement may have also impacted the taste of MnM’s macadamias. To meet the demands of raw foodies they’ve altered their roasting process, reducing the temperature from 104°-110° F to 90°-100°. This requires longer roasting, but preserves both the nutrients and flavor of the nut in its natural state.​But there are other factors, too. California macadamia varietals ― cultivars developed by farmers returning from Hawaii after World War II ― are themselves unique. The flavor and texture of California macadamias are slightly different from those sourced from Africa, Australia, and even Hawaii itself.

MnM’s Nuthouse is not certified organic, but this reflects the realities and costs of growing a specialty crop rather than growing practices at the farm. Marchese says they would easily qualify for certification, since growing such a small-yield crop means they couldn’t afford to buy chemical fertilizers even if they wanted to. Mineral supplements are in the form of dust sourced at a local granite quarry. That goes into chicken feed, which MnM’s ultimately uses as tree fertilizer. The cost of organic certification is also a barrier, says Marchese. Macadamias are already so expensive to produce that any added cost would make them pricey enough to shrink demand.

Fortunately, MnM’s is now producing enough nuts to make Kurz, Goldner, and Lao hopeful that macadamia vanilla will become a mainstay. The nuts’ naturally high level of saturated fat, combined with the smoothness Scream achieves via the Pacojet, makes the nut-based sorbet almost indistinguishable from ice cream. Add to that the buttery, nuanced flavor of macadamias and whole vanilla beans (infusions aren’t necessary with the Pacojet) and Scream has created something that should make both vegans and omnivores rejoice.

Scream Sorbet appears at various Bay Area farmers’ markets, including Thu. at Ferry Plaza, Sun. at Fort Mason Center (ends Oct. 31), and Wed. at Castro and Upper Haight (both end Oct. 27). The Scream shop in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood is expected to open in late October.

It would be awesome if you’d head over to the article or give it a Digg.

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