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My Favorite Veggie Burgers June 30, 2009

Filed under: My favorite things!,Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 11:47 pm

If there’s a veggie burger out there, I’ve tried it. Here are my faves:


Sunshine Burgers

Organic Sunshine Burgers.  These are divine. They hold up on a grill and are especially good broken up in a tortilla with veggies. I especially like ’em because they are free of textured vegetable protein (TVP). TVP is a highly processed product which causes much of the nutrients to be lost and leaves little flavor.

Sunshine burgers use raw sunflower seeds as the base– a very yummy change from the usual burger. They are also soy free, dairy free, wheat free and gluten free.


TJ's Masala Burger

Trader Joe’s Masala Burgers.  These are inexpensive and delicious. These are also soy free and made with a potato base. Cook one on the Foreman for a great sandwich (add some tomato and spinach) or break it up and sautee with some veggies.


Amy's Bistro Burger

Amy’s Veggie Burgers.  Amy’s burgers are substantial, meaty-tasting burgers. I’m confident that these babies can convert any carnivore. Make a serious burger with these– add some sauteed onions, avocado, arugula… go crazy! The only downside is that they’re spendy. So, save up and buy a box. The “Bistro” flavor is my very favorite.


Wild Wood SprouTofu Veggie Burgers  

Wild Wood SprouTofu Veggie Burgers.  These burgers are made with sprouted soybeans which offers a nutritional boost over the more highly processed soy burgers. They have a nice surge of protein, so I like to make a lettuce sandwich with these and have it as a snack after a workout. I’ll lightly sautee one and wrap it in a big leaf of romaine. I add some tomato slices and a tiny bit of vegan mayo and mustard. Yum.


If you have other veggie burger faves, be sure to share them!


The Weekend Special: E. Coli with Cheese June 29, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 11:44 pm

What's really in that beef?

Really? More tainted food? The recent recall has now been expanded to 380,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted beef. JBS Swift Beef Company, located in Colorado, is the likely company to blame for this mess.

After 9/11, I thought terrorists would use chemical weapons in our food system as a way of attacking the U.S. I now realize that’s a silly fear- there’s simply no room for the terrorists. The big food conglomerates are doing a fantastic job all by themselves to poison our food supply.

I also find it funny that in order to identify tainted beef for this recall, you must look for the establishment number “EST. 969,” inside the USDA mark of inspection on your package of beef. Mark of inspection?!? Shouldn’t that mark indicate that the beef is safe? And that it was actually inspected?

This inspected meat is now part of what the USDA deems a “Class I Recall Health Risk”. This means:

This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

JBS claims to be on the forefront of food safety practices to reduce microorganisms in their products. JBS writes on their website that they use their “Multiple Hurdle Intervention Program” to keep meat safe. They describe the program as, “A comprehensive six-step carcass pasteurization process developed to fight pathogens including E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.” Here are the six steps:

1. Hide Washing

2. Steam Vacuuming

3. Pre-Wash/Organic Acid Rinse

4. Double Thermal Pasteurization

5. Thermal Organic Rinse

6. Cold Carcass Sanitizer

Weird… I could have sworn that when I moved out of my last apartment, I paid Stanley Steemer to do the same exact process on my tacky shag carpet… except for that “cold carcass sanitizer” step… ewww.

I hate to break it to JBS, but the “Multiple Hurdle Intervention Program” is a joke. Seriously, if the program was any good, should 380,000 pounds of tainted beef sail through all six steps? Of course, some of the contamination could have occurred through later manufacturing by other companies who purchased the JBS beef. But, the majority of the evidence is pointing directly at the Colorado beef factory.

Here’s my suggestion to JBS:  Ditch the six steps. Seriously, the steps are a pathetic attempt at trying to cover the real issue. The real issue is that these huge beef companies feed, raise and slaughter cattle incorrectly.

Here is 1 step (instead of 6) that JBS can implement to make another E. coli threat virtually non-existent:

1. Feed cattle what they’re supposed to eat (and let them graze happily to do so).

Nearly all of the meat eaten in the U.S. comes from grain-fed cattle. Cattle grow fast on grain; it’s economical and makes the meat more tender and fatty. But, grain increases the acid level of the animal’s colon which enables the growth of acid-resistant bacteria (like a dangerous strain of E. coli). The E. coli then gets transferred through fecal matter.

Recent studies have clearly found that if an animal is fed hay and fresh grass (even if only for the last 5 days of life before slaughter), the E. coli levels in the animal fall dramatically. Further, the few bacteria that are left are not acid-resistant and will likely be killed by human stomach acid if ingested. 

These companies are aware of this research; but, they choose to disregard it and play a simple numbers game. Big beef companies realize that if they go the grass-fed route, they can’t raise as many cattle. They also will have to wait longer to slaughter the animal. These extra costs are evaluated against the losses that could occur because of a recall and possible lawsuits from a tainted product. 

It’s becoming more obvious where the numbers are falling. These companies have chosen to risk the health of their customers so that they can make some extra bucks.          

But, I’m not totally cynical and overly harsh on these companies. In fact, I want to help JBS clean up their act. You can even join with me! Here’s how:

1. Reduce meat consumption. Americans eat too much meat as it is. Diets high in meat have been associated with increased risk for certain cancers, heart disease and obesity.

2. Buy meat from a local farmer who offers grass-fed, humanely raised and slaughtered meat. This meat will have more nutrients and will be less likely to be contaminated.

3. Don’t order meat entrees from a fast food joint. Fast food restaurants are the biggest customers of these big meat companies. And then…

4. Write a letter to a fast food company saying that you refuse to eat their meat products until they start purchasing from ethical companies that produce healthy meat.

5. Eat a veggie burger on the 4th of July!

I’ll post my fave veggie burgers tomorrow…


Wallet Guide to Safer Cosmetics June 26, 2009

Filed under: Personal Care Products/Cosmetics — aprasek @ 1:04 pm

Lotions and Potions


I complain about the cosmetics industry a lot. I know. I’m sorry. But, really (here I go again), these idiots need to clean up their acts!

There are ingredients in cosmetics that are undoubtedly harmful to human health. Yet, these toxic ingredients are still put into our products. Check out my earlier post on the Cosmetic Safety Database. The database will provide you with a toxicity rank for almost any personal care product. Just look up a few of the products you are currently using to see what’s in your bottle. It’s fascinating, frightening and empowering all at the same time.

After my first visit to the database, I ended up throwing most of my cosmetics away. Then I was depressed because I thought I could never feel good about using any cosmetics again. I figured that sans cosmetics, my hair would soon mold, I would have terrible B.O., my skin would flake off and my teeth would fall out. Thankfully, none of that happened. I am now confident that I can purchase products that benefit both my external and internal health.

To help you shop confidently, the folks at the Environmental Working Group have created a wallet guide that lets you know what ingredients to look out for. Print it out, fold it up and put it in your wallet!  Click here to get the guide.


What’s on Your Food? June 24, 2009

Filed under: Environmental Wellness,Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 5:03 pm

What's on my food?

Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of E. coli and salmonella hanging out IN our foods. Those nasty bacterias are chilllin with things like trans fats, artificial colors, ground up bugs, MSG and other junk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. It’s also vital that we know what’s ON our foods.  

Here’s a great site to help:  The Pesticide Action Network provides a tool that lists all the nasty chemicals sun bathing on your apple, almond, cucumber, etc. Find the tool on the right side of your screen when you open the link- just click on a food item and see what chemicals are used in its production.

It’s also important to remember that these chemicals don’t just sit on the plants; they also enter the soil. Some of these chemicals may also be taken into the plant by the roots. Thus, the chemical enters the fruit; so peeling won’t get rid of the culprit.

Moral of the story? Buy organic from trusted farmers or your local grocers. Organic will cost you a bit more, but it’s worth the investment. Not only are you contributing to the health of our environment, you’re also feeding your body with more densely nutritious foods. This will help keep your body and mind healthy, which likely equates to less money spent on medical bills.

At the very least, be sure to buy organic for the “Dirty Dozen” (conventional produce that is covered with the most chemicals). Find the “Dirty Dozen” list here.


Peace & Love 🙂



Honest Tea June 23, 2009

Filed under: My favorite things!,Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 11:02 pm

Thought I would share one of my favorite summer beverages:

Honest Tea

Mmmmmm… Honest Tea beverages. I’ve sipped on almost all the flavors, and every one is fabulous. 

I love ’em for so many reasons: 

The teas and punches are organic and fair trade… The unsweetened teas are flavorful… The sweetened varieties use just a bit of organic cane sugar… The teas are made from high-quality tea leaves and likely retain much of their health benefits… And most importantly,  all this good stuff is made by an ethical and socially responsible company.  

Check out the Honest Tea website for more info.

A little tip:  The teas that come in the glass bottles make great reusable beverage holders. I have about eight on hand and fill them up with my own brewed tea or my cranberry/cherry water (1-2 oz organic cranberry or tart cherry juice, 1/2 oz organic lemon juice and fill the rest of the bottle with water). I put these bottles in the fridge so I can grab a cold one on the go and not be tempted to buy a drink at the store. A healthy drink like this can be a nice change from water, and with just a bit of honey stirred in, can be a sweet treat.   


National Health Care Day of Service June 22, 2009

Filed under: Take Action! — aprasek @ 4:48 pm

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I can’t expect change if  I just sit around and wait for someone else to take care of it. 

If I want something different for this world, I should peacefully work my hardest to create it. And, if I don’t make that effort, then I have no right to whine about it (so… when I whine without just cause, please tell me to shut up and do something about it!).   

Here’s an option for action:  “National Health Care Day of Service”  

 About the event:

This summer, Organizing for America will fight to ensure Americans receive much-needed health care reform in 2009. Community service is a critical piece of our health care campaign and our National Health Care Day of Service on June 27, 2009 will highlight its importance.


The service events are happening Saturday (June 27th), all across the country (there are also a few events happening Friday evening). Each event is a little different; everything from gardening to blood pressure testing.

Visit the website and find an event near you to volunteer at.   


Health Care Reform: Should We Copy the Car Insurance Model? June 19, 2009

Filed under: Health Care Reform — aprasek @ 11:29 am

Stevan Burd, the CEO of Safeway Inc., has created an employee health insurance program that has cut health care costs for those enrolled, saved the company big dollars and has increased the health of employees.

The Safeway program, called “Healthy Measures,” is modeled after the car insurance system. Just as the car insurance model provides incentives to those who don’t speed or crash their cars, the Healthy Measures program rewards employees for having healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy weight and for not using tobacco.  

Here’s what Burd writes in his article for the WSJ:

At Safeway we believe that well-designed health-care reform, utilizing market-based solutions, can ultimately reduce our nation’s health-care bill by 40%. The key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year. The results have been remarkable. During this four-year period, we have kept our per capita health-care costs flat (that includes both the employee and the employer portion), while most American companies’ costs have increased 38% over the same four years.


Safeway’s plan capitalizes on two key insights gained in 2005. The first is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). Furthermore, 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 60% of cancers are preventable, and more than 90% of obesity is preventable.

Read the full WSJ article here. 

Burd discusses the Healthy Measure program:


My thoughts…


First off, the Safeway program sounds a lot more motivating than my current plan, which is so rudely named “Short-term Major Medical.” It’s not that I want a cutesy name for my health insurance, but based on the name of mine, I’ll likely only receive benefits should I die in some instantaneous and God-awful manner.
Since the hubs and I don’t receive insurance from any of our employers, this is the only plan that we can really afford. However, we did consider a plan called, “Three for Free.” Unfortunately, this plan charged four times the monthly rate of our current crappy plan. So, the “Three for Free” didn’t seem as attractive anymore. And, let’s be serious, even with those “three,” we’d still be underinsured (like the majority of Americans).

More importantly, the Healthy Measures plan focuses on positive reinforcements and person responsibility. This is a concept that is definitely missing in our current system and if used, could save billions. However, I don’t think this program is the end-all solution to our reform. Thankfully, humans are more complex than cars. So, a health insurance model would need to be a bit more complex than this…

What do you think? Is Burd onto something? Can we use the auto insurance model in our health insurance system?  

Burd is also the founder of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR). CAHR is led by business leaders and employers who are focused on reducing healthcare costs to protect American companies and workers.