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6 Reasons to Stop Buying Microwave Popcorn

6 Reasons to Stop Buying Microwave Popcorn

6 Reasons to Stop Buying Microwave Popcorn

Ah, popcorn. A movie staple, a campfire favorite, even a Christmas decoration. We’re big fans of the stuff here at our house. The way we enjoy it, though, is the semi-old fashioned way: we make ours with the air popper (the truly old-fashioned way is in a skillet, over a fire, just in case you were wondering).  Back in our pre-microwave days in the 1980s, my mom always made popcorn with the air popper. She’d salt it a little and mix in some melted butter. Mmmmm…

Then the microwave relegated the air popper to the back of the cupboards, taking up space alongside the other hardly used appliances. It just seemed so much more convenient to just pop the bag in the microwave. Sure, sometimes a good portion of the bag’s contents were either charred or completely unpopped, but that was the trade-off for a pre-seasoned and effortless bag of popcorn. That’s the way it was for us, at least.

For Christmas in 2008, my parents gave us an air popper (we’re still using the same one) and some fun serving containers. We stopped buying the microwave stuff and have only used our air popper ever since. Though this is our preferred way to pop, there are other methods, like cooking it on the stovetop or microwaving popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag. Each way works well and is better than the stuff sold pre-packaged at the store.  Here are six reasons why you should take the boxes of microwave popcorn off your shopping list…

1. Homemade popcorn is frugal.
Hence the mention on here, right?  There is no denying that buying the popcorn kernels is much cheaper, especially if you can find it in the bulk food bins at the grocery store (most common in health/natural food stores).  With microwave popcorn, you’re paying for the bags, the brand, the oils and seasonings, and plastic packaging. For the same price of a few bags of microwave popcorn, you could get pounds of the kernels. It only takes a half cup of kernels in our air popper to yield a big bowl of popcorn. A pound of popcorn goes a long way. Even if you buy the popper (which run around $15-25), it’s still the more frugal way to enjoy popcorn. Just by skipping microwave popcorn and getting the kernels in bulk, the popper soon pays for itself in savings.

2. Homemade popcorn is less wasteful.
Whenever I make popcorn, there’s maybe two or three kernels left unpopped, maximum. And I’ve never had burned popcorn making it with the air popper. All those burnt/unpopped kernels at the bottom of the microwave is waste. Unless you’ve gotten microwaving popcorn down to a science or the popcorn setting on your microwave actually works, waste is practically inevitable.

3. Microwave popcorn takes as long to pop as homemade.
To prove this, I timed how long it took to pop half a cup of kernels (which equals a big bowl of popcorn). Barely over two minutes (plus the 30 or so seconds it took to get the popper out of the pantry, get a bowl out of the cupboard, and plug it in). That’s just about as long as it takes to do the microwave stuff. I can’t say how long it takes to do it the other ways I mentioned — on the stovetop or in the paper bag — but I’m willing to bet it’s pretty close. So, really, what are you paying for with microwave popcorn? Is it really that much more convenient?

4.  Microwave popcorn is unhealthy. Like, really unhealthy.
I recently read an article entitled, “7 Seven Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips” and microwave popcorn is on the list. Here’s why, quoting the article:

“Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. ‘They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,’ says Dr. Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.”

Yuck.

5. Cheap entertainment.
My older son has been entertained by the popcorn popper since the first time we used it, back when was barely two years old. Even now as a big five-year-old, he still likes watching the kernels spin and then pop like crazy. It’s a great way to dispell a grouchy mood. Even though the baby doesn’t eat popcorn yet (choking hazard and all), he giggles and squeals as we make it.  Homemade popcorn is also better for crafts like popcorn chains (can you imagine stringing greasy microwave popcorn?).

6. Homemade popcorn tastes better.
Microwave popcorn in “butter flavor” doesn’t come close to popcorn with real butter. It just doesn’t. It might take you a little adjustment at first if you’re used to the intensely flavored and super-salty stuff, but once you’re used to the wholesome taste of popcorn seasoned with some salt and real butter, you’ll think the microwave stuff is gross. Plus, there are other options for seasoning air popped popcorn: cocoa popcorn (my son literally licked the bowl clean), basil popcorn (yum), toffee popcorn (this recipe looks amazing), and more. The best part about homemade popcorn is that you control what goes (and doesn’t go) in it. You can make it as healthy or as decadent as you want.

All this is making me hungry. I’m going to go make some now. So should you.

Today’s article was written by Heather and shared from the following website: http://theparsimoniousprincess.blogspot.com/2012/01/6-reasons-to-stop-buying-microwave.html
Thinking About Food Labels: What the Future Might Bring

Thinking About Food Labels: What the Future Might Bring

woman-reading-food-label
woman-reading-food-label

In a move applauded by nutritionists and health experts (but criticized at the same time for not going far enough), the Obama administration has proposed sweeping changes to the regulations surrounding the labeling of packaged foods. The new proposal, announced and championed by first lady Michelle Obama, aims to make it easier for consumers to figure out whether a packaged food product is healthy or unhealthy, and whether it contains large amounts of ingredients that are potentially harmful to their health.

These proposed changes have been long in coming—the current standards were first introduced over 20 years ago, in 1993. Much has changed since then and Americans have become “supersized” in more ways than one. They are eating larger portions of foods than they did in 1993, and more is known now about the effects of harmful ingredients like hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and sugar than was known then. But today’s labels still hold to the old standards, which allow manufacturers to create “serving sizes” that are completely unrealistic, and to bury useful information like the actual amount of calories, fats, and sugars you’re likely to consume in the “fine print” of the label.

As an example, the current labeling standards allow manufacturers of soda to list its calories and sugar content based on a “serving size” of eight ounces, whereas the actual bottles of soda (which are almost always consumed in one sitting) contain 20 ounces, or 2-1/2 times more. Ice cream manufacturers currently use half a cup as the “serving size” used to calculate their products’ calorie and sugar counts, whereas most Americans consume an average of two cups when they eat ice cream.

The proposed standards would change this, and instead of listing calories “per serving size,” they would list them as “amount per 2/3 cup,” or using a similar easily recognized measure. Because of national and global concerns about obesity, calorie counts would no longer appear in small print, but be highlighted in a large font. Each packaged product would list the “number of servings per package” in a more prominent location and font. Also, for the first time, a new indicator called “Added Sugars” would be included on every label, which again relates to calories, because Americans consume over 16% of their total calories from sugar.

“Calories From Fat” would no longer be listed, because more recent science tells us that it’s the type of fat that is more important for consumers to know about. Therefore, labels will list amounts of “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat.” The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would also update their recommended “Percent Daily Values” (%DV) ratings for common nutrients to bring them into line with current science, and would finally add Vitamin D and potassium.

While all of these proposed changes are legitimate improvements, it’s (of course) impossible to please every special interest group that will be affected by new labeling regulations. Although consumers themselves will doubtlessly benefit, consumer advocates are disappointed because they were lobbying for changes like indicating added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats in a bold, colored font to indicate that they are present in high amounts. On the other side of the argument are food manufacturers and retailers who worry about the cost of new labeling requirements and what the new information might mean for buying behavior.

The bad news is that these proposed food labeling requirements are not slated to take effect for at least two years. The good news is that the FDA has put in place a very robust process designed to allow stakeholders to “weigh in” and contribute their suggestions. You can learn more about that process at www.regulations.gov and searching for the term “food labeling”.

 

The Truth About the “Five-Second Rule”

The Truth About the “Five-Second Rule”

5-second-popsicle
5-second-popsicle

You’ve probably heard of the “five-second rule”. That’s the tongue-in-cheek saying some kids and young adults use when they accidentally drop a piece of food on the floor but pick it up and eat it anyway. According to the “rule”, food isn’t likely to become significantly contaminated with bacteria if it remains on the floor less than five seconds. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we quickly grab that fallen potato chip before the cat gets it, brush it off, and stick in in our mouths (hopefully without anyone noticing). Most of us probably suspect this isn’t a great idea while we’re doing it, but is there actually any evidence to support the five-second rule?

Well, for those who admit to having done this once or twice in their lives (you know who you are…), you can feel a little bit better about it because there is some research that suggests the five-second rule might be valid.

Science has actually been studying the five-second rule for some time. In 2003, Dr. Jillian Clarke (then an intern and now a Ph.D.) analyzed the floors of the labs, dormitories, and cafeterias of the university she was attending, and found that far fewer bacteria were found than expected, possibly because most of the surfaces were dry, and thus did not encourage bacterial growth. She also found that very few “test foods” were significantly contaminated by E. coli bacteria from brief exposure to a surface that contained it.

A more recent study conducted at Aston University in Great Britain confirms her findings. The research team, led by Professor Anthony Hilton, studied a number of different floor surfaces and locations (carpeted floors, laminated floors, and tiles) with a variety of foods (toast, pasta, cookie, and a sticky candy) to see how much E. coli and Staphylococcus bacteria they attracted when dropped on these floors.

Unsurprisingly—as the five-second rule implies—time is a factor. The longer the food stayed in contact with the floor surface, the more likely it was that contamination would occur. There were also differences found in the floor surface itself, with carpeted floors being “safer” in terms of contamination than tiles. Says Hilton, “We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food.”

That said, the moister the food, the more likely it was to pick up bacteria. The other major factor to be considered is (as in real estate) “location, location, location”. That is, certain locations are dirtier than others, and thus more likely to result in bacterial contamination, even if you beat the five-second buzzer. Bathrooms are, not surprisingly, high risk – don’t even think of employing the five-second rule there. Your kitchen floors, especially if you cook a lot of chicken, might be more likely sources of salmonella and other bacteria than, say, your living room or dining room. And among the dirtiest surfaces they tested were the dining tables in restaurants, because they have been “wiped clean” with cloths that were rarely changed and washed themselves.

So Dr. Hilton’s recommendation is to use your own common sense when tempted to invoke the five-second rule. If you accidentally drop a piece of food, take one second of your five noticing the location you’re in, and another second to determine the nature of the surface the food fell on. Then you’ve still got three seconds left to decide whether to pick it up and eat it.

 

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