Food News Today Transcripts for the week of September 19th, 2011

September 23, 2011

A vegan dining hall in Cattle Country, consumers weigh in on healthy eating, and will the government soon push insects as food? For September 21st, 2011 this is Food News Today.

 Good Morning.  We are now streaming both on our Facebook page "supermarketguru" and on food news today -dot- com.  Also, JUST A REMINDER TO download our Smarter Shopping app…Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news.  


In this morning's sustainability watch we head to Laos - a cricket farm in Laos to be exact.  Entomophagy or the act of eating insects is gaining popularity in the Western World.  Human insect-eating is common in cultures in parts of the world, such as North, Central and South American and Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, over 1,000 insects are known to be eaten in 80 percent of the world's nations – so when I heard that the European Commission was offering a massive £2.65 million prize to the group that comes up with the best idea for developing insects as a popular food, I wasn’t surprised.

Eating red meat the way we are is not sustainable, the production of food animals releases more greenhouse gasses than any other sector. In fact the FAO says livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.  So the European Commission is planning ahead...and hopes that some research group will be able to devise ways to convince people to eat insects despite the stigma.

The UK’s Food Standards agency is also set to investigate the nutritional value of insects. Insect meat is much lower in fat, and higher in calcium, than beef or pork.  The UK study is focusing on any risks presented by eating insects.

Insects can be a good source of not only protein, but also vitamins, minerals, and fats. For example, crickets are high in calcium, and termites are rich in iron. One hundred grams of giant silkworm moth larvae provide 100 percent of the daily requirements for copper, zinc, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin.

One memory I will never forget is my dad showing me canned chocolate covered ants in the Food Fair supermarket in Nutley, New Jersey and suggesting that if I was bad, those would be my dinner. 


In our Nutrition Story today we take a look at a new college Vegan Dining Hall.  Veganism seems to be getting celebrity status these days, Portia and Ellen are vegans, Sir Paul, Alanis Morissette, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, and the list goes on.   Now one of the most unlikely of places has just gone vegan…cattle country Texas.  One of the dining halls at The University of North Texas in Denton, known for its jazz program and hipster vibe, has opened a completely vegan full-service cafeteria that is, according to the school and some animal rights organizations, the first in the nation.

It’s called Mean Greens and is gaining popularity with omnivorous students who say they just want to be healthy. Inside Mean Greens, the ambiance is modern just like the menu. Quotes from Gandhi and Einstein line the tops of two walls. 

Among the 20 dishes at lunch are vegetables that are oven-roasted and then quickly seared on the griddle in full view of the diners.  Another innovation is the use of plates instead of standard-issue cafeteria trays, which cut both waste and water usage by 40 percent.

According to Reuters, surveys by food service providers such as Bon Appetit and Aramark have shown rising demand for vegan fare. Aramark's survey of hundreds of schools revealed that one in four students were actively seeking vegan options. 

Our Supermarket Guru Consumer Panel weighs in on the role that schools have - and should have to help kids eat healthier.  Consumers are split over supermarkets' involvement in easing the path to better nutritional choices for children. While nearly four out of 10 adults (39%) say, "I never notice my local supermarket getting involved in kids' nutrition," almost the same amount (38%) say they "occasionally notice the store reaching out to help shoppers make healthy food choices for kids."

Just 14% see the supermarket "frequently provide ideas, events and information on healthy food choices for kids." Another nine percent don’t expect this kind of help.

When responding to our exclusive quick poll on Nutritional Guidance for Children, adults were similarly split over the actions of schools their kids attend to encourage, encourage and provide healthy foods. Just 12% feel schools are excellent in this regard, and five percent don't see it as the school's responsibility. Most answers cluster around the middle:  31% say schools "sometimes do enough, but I feel they could do more"; 28% say schools "do the best they can, but their resources are limited"; 22% say schools "don’t do much at all to help."

Would adults like schools to do more? Absolutely.

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (73%) want schools to provide "more healthy food options for sale in the school cafeteria."  And 65% (they could name multiple responses) want "nutrition a part of the required curriculum."

It appears that adults think this could be enough to induce better eating habits among their children. Just 22% of survey respondents feel school is a "difficult" place to encourage the eating of healthy foods. Difficulty rises to 35% "at a friend’s house" and 26% when "dining out." Home is the least difficult place, cited by just 16% of adults.

In the minds of adults, the kids aren’t so bad when it comes to healthy eating. Half (49%) say their "kids are accustomed to eating pretty healthy foods," while 42% admit that "sometimes we struggle."  Just eight percent say "it’s always a battle."  

The school year is finally here! And it’s time we get our kids the best foods so they will be the best in school as they can be.  It’s also time to start fresh, encourage healthy eating habits and set a great example as a parent.  

There are some foods that make the top of the list in terms of super brain foods for kids (and adults!). In general, eating nutrient-dense meals, and snacks, and staying hydrated, at regular intervals and avoiding processed, sugary foods can boost brain development, improve concentration, and provide children the energy to make it through a school day.

It is also important to always send your child to school with at least a balanced healthy snack, even if all other meals are provided.  So what are the best foods for kids?

Eggs- whether hard-boiled, scrambled or sunny side up - are a great food or even snack for kids.  Eggs are rich in choline (a vitamin-like substance that is plentiful in eggs, but also found in nuts) which helps promote memory and brain development. Also, eggs provide long-lasting satiety because of their protein package. Consider serving your kids (or yourself) Egg Beaters which are all-natural egg whites, so they keep that high-quality protein but take out fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Plus, has tons of great recipes to inspire your morning; mix ‘em with some Ro*Tel chilis and you have one tasty (and healthy) omelet!

Look for healthy fats, which help “cushion” the brain; in fact 60 percent of your brain is made up of fat.  Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the brain and eyes (deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression). Avocados are another great fat, as well as flax, and chia seeds (which are full of fiber as well).

Whole grains are great for kids – most notably oats.  Getting your oats in a not so sweet granola is a great way to get kids to eat more whole grains.  The addition of some dried fruit and nuts, balances out the meal or snack. Whole grains in general contain phytonutrients, folate and B vitamins that boost memory.  Here's a good idea… pack sandwiches with whole wheat bread.  If your kids are not used to it, make a sandwich with half white, half whole wheat bread!

Protein is great to pair with whole grains and can help kids feel full longer, avoiding a sharp drop in blood sugar.  Choosing protein sources that are raised humanely and fed a proper diet, or pastured are your best bets.  Ask your local butcher about how you meat was raised.  

Berries, grapes, apples, pears and other seasonal fruits are rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber.  The fiber in fruit also helps keep kids regular, yes it’s not just a grown-up problem.

Parents would be surprised how little water kids drink at school.  After learning and running around all day most kids could use a couple glasses of water.  In fact, dehydration can lead to fatigue, fogginess, and more, so drinking plenty of water is crucial to keeping concentration and energy levels high.  Buy a reusable water bottle in the color or pattern that your kids like- or let them pick it out.  If they choose it, they are more likely to use it! 

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance email - please send them to to sign up. Next week’s stories will be in your Tuesday email.