America’s Healthy
Cooking Teacher

Imagine a World without Soda

My husband and I travel a lot for our work, as well as with family and for pleasure. We see a lot of sights…and stop at a lot of rest stops along the highways.


The other day, as we sat enjoying homemade sandwiches at a sunny picnic table, my heart broke at what I saw. Walking toward me was a group of people, all with large sodas in their hands. They could barely move. It appeared that each step was pure agony for them.


It got me to thinking and so here I am. I started to imagine what the health of humanity would look like if suddenly soda disappeared from grocery shelves and our lives?


Would we see less Type 2 diabetes, a pandemic that has become a virtual industry? Would we see fewer reduced triglyceride numbers? Would we see less obesity, especially among our children?


I think the answer is yes and the sad part is that most of us know this to be true. We know there are better choices than sodas the size of small wading pools. We know that the junk food peddled to us in every supermarket, convenience store, rest stop and street corner is slowly but surely stealing our collective health.


And yet… we continue to consume it with abandon.


I won’t say that I don’t understand its appeal. I wasn’t always into making healthy choices. I can remember the days when Oreos and Diet Dr. Pepper were the main course and dessert for me.


But then I grew up…or better yet, I was forced to grow up and make choices that helped me regain my health and in the process, become the best version of me that I can be. I now think of my first 26 years of life and wish I hadn’t squandered my health at such a young age, but then again, I wouldn’t be doing what I do with the passion with which I do it had I not gone through my own health crisis. The whole drama resulted in me living a life of passion and good health, with a mission to help people to avoid their own crises. My mantra now is “why wait?” Why wait until change is forced on you?


Making healthier choices is easy and delicious. But wait, you might be thinking…what about all these companies who are now peddling healthier versions of junk food to us? Isn’t’ that a good thing?


I walked through the rest stop to the ladies room, navigating a sea of junk food franchises from Cheese Boy to Dunkin Donuts, but it was McDonald’s that stopped me.


The sign read ‘The Simpler, the Better.” The gorgeous photos showed fresh foods being handmade from scratch and touted, in particular, the new Chicken McNugget “made from 100% white meat chicken.”




So I checked the ingredients and they are, in fact, improved. Wait…what? Before you lace up your running shoes and high tail it over to the Golden Arches, read on.  Despite what the company says on their site, there’s more to McNuggets than 100% chicken. The ingredients: White boneless chicken, water, salt, seasoning (yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring, safflower oil, lemon juice solids, dextrose, citric acid), sodium phosphates.


Is this better than the previous incarnation of McNuggets? Absolutely.


McDonald’s states on their website:


“McDonald’s USA today announced a number of moves across its menu as the company continues to evolve. This includes:


Removing artificial preservatives from several items which also don’t have artificial colors or flavors, including its iconic Chicken McNuggets. Across its breakfast menu, the pork sausage patties and omelet-style eggs served on McGriddles, Bagel and Biscuit breakfast sandwiches, along with the scrambled eggs on its breakfast platters, also now have no artificial preservatives.


rolling out new buns this month that no longer contain high fructose corn syrup, including the buns used on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches. The Artisan roll introduced in 2015 never contained high fructose corn syrup.


Completing a major commitment to only serve chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine* nearly a year ahead of schedule.


In total, these changes touch ingredients in nearly half of the food on McDonald’s menu.


“More than ever, people care about their food – where it comes from, what goes into it and how it’s prepared,” said Mike Andres, president, McDonald’s USA. “We’re making changes to ensure the food we’re proud of is food our customers love and feel good eating, and we remain committed to our continuing food journey at McDonald’s.”


Big deal.


General Mills has stated that all 36 varieties of their Progresso chicken soups (36 varieties of chicken soup??? Seriously? Do we need that many?) will now be made with antibiotic-free chicken.


Good news, right? I say again: big deal.


The company also states that artificial colors and flavors will be removed from 90% their cereals by the end of 2016. Big deal.


These are just two giants “re-formulating.” The list goes on and on. Company after company is seemingly improving their quality of ingredients.


Here’s why I say “big deal” to all of these improvements to junk food.


For decades, these companies preyed on us, taking advantage of busy families with less time to cook; the under-served; the young; the elderly; various ethnic groups and students peddling cheap food loaded with addictive fat, sugar and salt (and additives and other chemicals) that compromised wellness.


For decades the consumption of their foods created the “lifestyle diseases” we struggle to control today. Heart disease to diabetes, stroke and obesity can all be linked in one way or another to the regular consumption of fast convenience foods.


And now, because consumer pressure has grown so intense, they make little changes (that will be reflected in higher prices of these ‘new’ products), we are supposed to sing the Halleluiah Chorus, genuflect and continue consuming as though these companies are heroes, here to save us from ourselves, as though they are making changes out of nobility and concern for humanity and the planet.


Now I know you’re thinking any changes for the better are good. You’re right; they are. But in the end, we have to be honest and keep our eyes open to the fact that these companies created many of the health problems we face in the name of profit with no regard for your children, husbands, wives, sisters, mothers, fathers or neighbors.


I am of the mind that we can’t be lulled into complacency yet again by their wily tactics.


Now you guys all know me and know that when I rant and rave about something that harms our health and wellness, I always try to end on a high note and give solutions to problems. This one is easy.


Ditch the junk food (sorry, I do know it’s yummy and easy to get your hands on, but it’s not for you, my loves). Begin to incorporate whole grains, beans, veggies and fruit into your diet. Be gentle with yourself and take baby steps toward change.


But change you must.


Each week, remove one thing from your diet that you know isn’t serving the purpose of your life 9and we all know what they are…) and replace that ingredient with a healthy option. In six months, you will have developed a new style of eating and the adjustment will have been easy and delicious. You can do this. You must do this.


We can no longer afford to live with compromised health. We live in challenging times and we need to be strong if we are to get out of this thing alive!



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