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California Proposes Stringent Cap On Toxic Chemical In Drinking Water

California regulators are proposing a strict limit on a toxic man-made chemical that has contaminated water supplies throughout the state, particularly in its vast agricultural heartland.

California would be only the second state, after Hawaii, to establish a threshold for the former pesticide ingredient and industrial solvent known as TCP (1,2,3-trichloropropane) in drinking water. The chemical compound, identified in California as a human carcinogen, is no longer in wide use but has leached over the years into many wells and reservoirs.

The problem extends well beyond California and Hawaii, environmental advocates say, but the chemical is not regulated by the federal government. Citing federal data, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, says the chemical also has been detected in water supplies of a dozen other states, including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Puerto Rico.

Once TCP gets into the groundwater, it “persists for centuries,” according to the EWG’s April report.

The California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal would set the maximum allowable amount of TCP in public tap water at five parts per trillion — the lowest level that existing filtration systems can reliably detect and far lower than Hawaii’s.

It “is a top priority for the state water board,” said board spokesman Andrew DiLuccia.

TCP taints water systems serving nearly a million people from Sacramento to San Diego, according to the state water board. The compound is present at levels above the proposed limit in 562 wells, reservoirs and other sources belonging to 94 public water systems, according to 2016 data. Those numbers do not include private wells.

In California, the contamination exists in many urban areas, including in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Mateo counties. Though the source in those more populated regions is not known, the pollution is believed to come from industrial and hazardous waste sites.

“Los Angeles has quite a bit of contamination,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action. “It’s hard for water providers to pinpoint where it came from.”

But California’s most serious and widespread TCP contamination is in the agricultural counties of the Central Valley, where the chemical was an ingredient in soil fumigants sold by the Shell Oil and Dow Chemical companies from at least the 1950s into the 1980s.

During that period, farmers who grew potatoes, sugar beets and other vegetables used the fumigants to kill tiny, soil-dwelling worms called nematodes. Dozens of municipalities and public water suppliers across the state have filed lawsuits against Shell and Dow, alleging that the companies knew — or should have known — that the TCP in their soil-fumigating pesticides would migrate into groundwater and pose a serious health hazard.

Shell and Dow have denied wrongdoing. Shell quit selling its product, known as D-D, in the mid-1980s. About the same time, Dow opted to reformulate its fumigant, known as Telone, after which TCP declined to “generally undetectable” levels, according to company spokesman Jarrod Erpelding. He declined to comment further, citing pending litigation.

Shell sent an email response: “The former Shell agricultural product, last manufactured more than 30 years ago, contained trace amounts of 1,2,3 trichloropropane (TCP). It was used to control microscopic worms that attacked crops causing millions of dollars a year of crop loss for farmers, and was approved for use by the U.S. government and the State of California.”

Environmental advocates say the adoption of a regulatory limit for TCP is a crucial step to help cash-strapped, rural water districts pay for the cleanup of their drinking water.

“It allows the districts when they go into court to be very specific and say to the judge, ‘We’re going to need exactly this amount of money to purchase this kind of system to meet the state standards,’” said Bill Walker, managing editor at the Environmental Working Group and co-author of its report on the role of Shell and Dow in California’s TCP drinking water problem.

“It doesn’t guarantee they’ll win,” he said, “but it increases their leverage.”

At a public hearing on April 19, water board members heard testimony and received written comments on the proposed limit. Now the board is reviewing the input it received and will likely vote on the plan by summer, DiLuccia said.

The regulation would require water utilities to test their supplies for TCP and remove it from any public drinking water source that exceeded the threshold, starting in 2018.

The proposed limit is more stringent than Hawaii’s because it is as close as California could get to meeting its stated “public health goal” for TCP set in 2009, officials say.

Though it is difficult to know how long the California cleanup might take, the cost of TCP testing and subsequent cleanup could reach nearly $500 million over 20 years, according to one water board estimate.

TCP contamination “disproportionately impacts poor communities and communities of color,” said Jenny Rempel, of Community Water Center, a Visalia, Calif.-based advocacy group. “This is a problem where the cost should not be borne by taxpayers.”

Todd E. Robins, a San Francisco attorney who is representing more than two dozen of the water suppliers that are suing Shell and Dow, argues that the companies included TCP in their worm-killing pesticides to get rid of the compound without having to pay for proper disposal. It was a byproduct of unrelated manufacturing processes and, according to the suits, played no role in killing the plant-damaging worms.

“The TCP that we find today in groundwater is the result of past use of soil fumigants that contained TCP as an unnecessary ingredient,” Robins said. “Instead of paying for disposal costs, they started getting farmers to pay for them.”

“The saddest part of the story,” Robins added, “is that the … actual active ingredient breaks down in the soil after a matter of days and has rarely been detected in anyone’s groundwater.”

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One of the lawsuits filed by Robins, on behalf of the Del Rey Community Service District in Fresno County, says the companies knew they could remove or reduce the amount of TCP in their pesticides without compromising its effectiveness but failed to do so.

The complaint calls TCP a “hazardous waste” — a byproduct created in the manufacturing of a different chemical, allyl chloride, that Shell and Dow used to make plastics and other commercial products.

An internal Shell memo uncovered in Robins’ litigation cites $3.2 million in savings from “cost avoidance for disposal” related to the allyl chloride operations. The memo is dated Jan. 20, 1983 — a year before the company stopped producing the TCP-laced pesticide.

In addition to the pending cases, which also name distributors and marketers as defendants, Robins said he has settled eight cases against both Shell and Dow since 2010. He said he cannot disclose the amounts because of confidentiality agreements.

Last December, in a case tried by a different lawyer, a Fresno Superior Court jury awarded the city of Clovis $22 million against Shell to clean up its TCP-tainted drinking water.

In 2010, in a case brought by the city of Redlands, Shell won. The company argued that a nearby aerospace plant was the source of the toxin. Moreover, the wells in question were used for irrigation, and the jury didn’t believe they’d ever be used for drinking water.

As the lawsuits proceed, some California residents do what they can to protest the toxic chemicals in their water supply. Bartolo Chavez, 57, took time off his job in a juice packing house to testify at the recent hearing in Sacramento.

“We talk about the contaminants and the danger,” said Chavez, who has lived for 21 years in the Central Valley town of Arvin, Calif. “And [that] we’re exposed.”

He said he gets tokens from the water district to get free filtered water — not just because of TCP but because of other contaminants as well, such as arsenic and chromium-6.

“But the tokens aren’t enough,” Chavez said, speaking through a Spanish-language interpreter. “So in addition, we buy bottled water at Costco.”

Chavez and his wife, a hotel worker, pay about $50 a month for that water — a price they say they can ill afford. But leaving Arvin isn’t an option either, Chavez said.

“I have thought about moving, but it’s not so easy to find work in other places, especially when you’re older,” he said. “Our house is almost paid off, and to move would be to start over again, so it’s almost impossible.”

California Healthline Managing Editor Bernard Wolfson contributed to this report.  This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Best and Worst Salad Toppings

A few years back I typed up a list of New Year’s resolutions on a small piece of cardstock, laminated it, and put it in my wallet. On that list was the resolution to eat a salad every day, simply because eating salad always made me feel like I was doing something good for myself. After all, salad provides several vitamins and can fill you up while reducing your caloric intake. What could be healthier than a big, fresh salad? Unfortunately, many things, as I later found out. Salads can run the gamut of healthiness, depending on what is in them. Although that big bowl of greens may be packed full of antioxidants and fiber, it can also be laden with fat, cholesterol, and sodium—not to mention an overabundance of calories. Some restaurant salads can even contain more calories than a cheeseburger! Luckily, like most things in life, a salad is the outcome of several small decisions. To make sure you don't sabotage your healthy diet unintentionally, choose wisely the next time you order a salad from a restaurant or visit the salad bar. When dining out, don't be afraid to ask questions, make special requests (extra veggies, dressing on the side, light cheese) and ask about substitutions (like grilled chicken for breaded). Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate you as long as their kitchen is stocked with the ingredients you want. Here’s how to choose wisely next time you're making a salad at home or choosing one from a menu. Lettuce The foundation of most salads, lettuce adds substance, crunch, water, and fiber for very few calories—only about 10 per cup. But if you want all that and vitamins, too, toss out the iceberg and toss in the romaine, mixed baby greens and spinach. While iceberg lettuce is lower in nutrients (and still makes a decent choice if it's the only thing available), these other greens are rich in vitamins A, C and K, manganese, and folate. Protein Adding protein, such as lean meat, tofu, eggs or beans, will help bulk up your salad and keep you full longer. Unfortunately, many protein toppings are deep-fried, breaded and greasy, which adds unnecessary calories plus cholesterol, sodium and fat to your salad. Skimp on fattier toppings such as bacon and fried (breaded) chicken strips, and go for lean proteins instead. Grilled chicken, canned beans of all kinds, chickpeas, tofu, hardboiled eggs (especially whites), or water-packed tuna are leaner choices. Nuts and seeds are popular in salads, too, and while they’re a healthy source of good fats and some protein, they’re not exactly low-cal. If you choose to add them, watch your portions (1/2 ounce contains more than 80 calories). Cheese Restaurants know that people love cheese, so they tend to pile on multiple servings of it on their salads. It might be tasty, but it sends the calorie counts sky high! While cheese is a nutritious food that adds flavor, calcium, and protein to a salad, enjoy it in moderation due to its high fat content. Just a half-cup of cheddar cheese (the amount on many large restaurant salads) contains 18 grams of fat and 225 calories. To keep calories in check, use a single serving of cheese (approximately 2 tablespoons). Choose low-fat varieties as much as possible to save on saturated fat and calories. A smaller amount of a stronger-flavored cheese, such as Brie, feta, chevre, gorgonzola, sharp cheddar or bleu cheese will go a long way in helping you cut down on your portions. Pile on the Veggies Vegetables like bell peppers, grated carrots, sugar snap peas, and tomatoes provide flavor, fiber, and vitamins for few calories. Grated carrots, for example, have only 45 calories in a whole cup, and there are only about 20 calories in an entire red bell pepper. When building your best salad, use as many veggies as possible for extra filling power—and a nice crunch! Practice moderation when it comes to starchy vegetable toppings like corn and potatoes, which are higher in calories. And remember to go for a variety of colors to ensure you're getting several different nutrients and antioxidants in your salad bowl. Don't Forget the Fruit Don't leave fruit on the sidelines! Fresh, canned and dried fruits add a sweetness that can help temper the slightly bitter taste of greens and veggies. They also provide color and texture (not to mention nutrition) to your salad bowl. Chopped apples, pears, grapes, or mandarin oranges (canned in juice—not syrup—and drained) are excellent salad toppers. Chewy dried fruits (cranberries, raisins) work well, too, but they are also high in calories (so only use a sprinkle!). Avocados (and the guacamole made from them) are creamy and nutritious thanks to their heart-healthy fats, but they're also a concentrated sources of calories. Keep your use of avocado to a minimum if you're watching your weight. Crunchy Toppings Sesame sticks, crispy noodles and croutons are salty and crunchy but conceal lot of hidden fat. Better options include water chestnuts, apple slivers, a small serving of nuts, crumbled whole-grain crackers, and homemade croutons. To make your own low-fat croutons, just slice a large clove of garlic and rub it over both sides of a piece of whole-grain bread. Cut the bread into cubes and then brown it in the toaster or conventional oven. Dressing A very healthy salad could go very wrong with one too many shakes of oil or dressing. The main issue with dressing is its fat and sodium content—and the fact that people have trouble controlling their portions. Two tablespoons is an appropriate serving of dressing, but most restaurants serve much more than that, whether mixed in to your salad or served on the side. Those calories add up fast. When dining out, always ask for dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing before picking up your bite of salad. Caesar, ranch and other cream-based dressings (when not specified as low-fat) are calorie bombs worth avoiding. Look for dressings specified as "low-fat" that contain no more than 60 calories per serving. You can also add flavor for minimal calories by using salsa, vinegar or lemon juice. Salad may be the symbol of healthy eating, but not every salad is healthful—or diet-friendly. The healthfulness of your next salad depends on the simple choices you make when topping or dressing it. Perhaps my greatest discovery about salads was that because you can customize them so easily, you could make a huge main-course salad for a very small amount of calories. Pile in the lettuce and veggies, add a moderate amount of lean protein, sprinkling some cheese and a little something crunchy and measure a portion-controlled side of dressing, and you’ve got a dinner that won’t leave you feeling hungry.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1388

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

Eating a vegetarian diet can be very healthful and rewarding. However, most vegetarians—including soon-to-be vegetarians and their meat-eating loved ones—are concerned about getting adequate protein. Most people are accustomed to getting protein from meat, but what else contains protein? Aren't plant-based proteins "incomplete" or lower quality? Fortunately, with a bit of extra attention, you won't have any trouble meeting your protein needs just because you give up meat. There are so many protein-packed vegetarian options! Did you know that most foods, including vegetables, have some of the essential muscle-building nutrient? Without looking closely, it is easy to miss some great sources. (Who knew a cup of broccoli had 3 grams!) Nuts, seeds, soy products, cereal, eggs and dairy are all good meatless protein choices. These groups of food each contain different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and different levels of protein quality. There is no need to consume certain foods in special combinations as nutritionists once thought! When your diet includes a variety of each of these types of foods, you can rest assured that you're consuming all the amino acids you need for muscle growth and cell repair.  Pin this graphic for easy reference and scroll down for more details. Nuts Nuts provide a good dose of protein along with some heart-healthy fatty acids and antioxidants (vitamins A and E). They are also packed full of fiber. Take your pick! Many nuts have a significant source of protein ready to work for your body. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts are among the highest in protein, while chestnuts and hazelnuts, although they do still have some protein, are the lowest. Think out of the box when you’re adding nuts to your diet. They can be grated, toasted, ground or eaten raw and are great when combined with salads, wraps, soups and stews and baked goods. But pay special attention to portion size! Nuts are a great source of many nutrients, but do come with a hefty dose of calories, thanks to the healthy fats they contain. A single serving is just 1 oz! Many nuts are best when stored in a refrigerator, which helps keep their fats from going rancid (for up to 6 months).   Nuts, 1/4 cup Protein Calories Fat Peanuts, raw 9 g 207 18 g Almonds, dry roasted 8 g 206 18 g Pistachios 6 g 171 14 g Hazelnuts 5 g 212 21 g Pine nuts 5 g 229 23 g Cashews, raw 5 g 197 16 g Walnuts 4 g 164 16 g Seeds Seeds are another great way to grab a few grams of protein and many other nutrients. Healthful unsaturated fats, as well as phytochemicals, make seeds a powerhouse for heart disease and cancer prevention. Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) has 8.5 grams of protein. Add this amount to a salad or eat them plain for a quick snack. Sunflower seeds are easy to add to pasta or salads, or sandwich wraps, while sesame seeds are easily ground and sprinkled onto steamed veggies for a protein dusting.   Seeds (1/4 cup) Protein Calories Fat Hemp seeds 15 g 232 18 g Pumpkin seeds, roasted 9 g 187 16 g Flaxseed 8 g 191 13 g Sunflower seeds, roasted 8 g 205 18 g Sesame seeds, roasted 6 g 206 18 g Legumes Dried peas, beans and lentils belong to a group of food known as "pulses" or "legumes." Aside from soybeans, these plants have a very similar nutrient content, which includes a good dose of protein. On average, they have about 15 grams of protein per cup, and tagging along with the essentials protein are fiber and iron. Adding beans, lentils and dried peas to your meals is a great way to replace meat (a beef burrito can easily become a black bean burrito, for example) while still getting your much needed protein. Add pulses to soups, salads, omelets, burritos, casseroles, pasta dishes, and more! Make bean dips (such as hummus, which is made from garbanzo beans, or black bean dip) to spread on sandwiches and use as protein-packed dips for veggies or snack foods.   Legumes, 1 cup cooked Protein Calories Fiber Soybeans 29 g 298 10 g Lentils 18 g 230 16 g Split peas 16 g 231 16 g Navy beans 16 g 258 12 g Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 15 g 269 12 g Black beans 15 g 227 15 g Kidney beans 15 g 225 11 g Lima beans 15 g 216 13 g Pinto beans 14 g 234 15 g Soy Soybeans are a complete protein that is comparable in quality with animal proteins. Eating soybeans (and foods made from soybeans) has been growing trend in America for only five decades, but this protein-rich bean has been a staple in Asia for nearly 4,000 years! This plant powerhouse is used to create a variety of soy-based foods that are rich in protein: tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (TVP, a convincing replacement for ground meat in recipes), soymilk and "meat analogs," such as vegetarian "chicken" or faux "ribs" are all becoming more popular as more Americans practice vegetarianism. To learn more about using tofu, read Tofu 101. To learn how soy may impact your health, click here.   Soy Foods Protein Calories Fat Soybeans, 1 cup cooked 29 g 298 10 g Tempeh, 4 oz cooked 21 g 223 13 g Edamame, 1 cup shelled 20 g 240 10 g TVP, 1/4 cup dry 12 g 80 0 g Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted 11 g 200 1 g Tofu, 4 oz raw 9 g 86 5 g Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons 7 g 170 11 g Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened 7 g 100 0.5 g Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened 7 g 80 0.5 g Grains In a culture that focuses largely on wheat, it's easy to overlook the many types of other grains available to us. Some of these grains are very high in protein and can be included in your diet for both whole-grain carbohydrates and muscle-building protein. Quinoa is unusually close to animal products in protein quality, making it an excellent grain to replace white rice or couscous. It can also be cooked and mixed with honey, berries and almonds in the morning for a protein-packed breakfast. Other grains high in protein include spelt, amaranth, oats and buckwheat. Choose whole-grain varieties of cereals, pastas, breads and rice for a more nutritious meal.   Grains Protein Calories Fiber Amaranth, 1 cup cooked 9 g 238 9 g Quinoa, 1 cup cooked 9 g 254 4 g Whole wheat pasta, 1 cup cooked 8 g 174 6 g Barley, 1 cup cooked 7 g 270 14 g Spelt, 4 oz cooked 6 g 144 4 g Oats, 1 cup cooked 6 g 147 4 g Bulgur, 1 cup cooked 6 g 151 8 g Buckwheat, 1 cup cooked 6 g 155 5 g Brown rice, 1 cup cooked 5 g 216 4 g Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 4 g 128 3 g Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice 4 g 80 3 g Dairy If you consume milk products, dairy is a great way to add some extra grams of protein to your day. Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt are easily accessible, quick to pack and fun to incorporate into many meals and snacks. Whether you’re drinking a cup of skim milk with your dinner or grabbing some string cheese before you run errands, you can pack about 8 grams of protein into most servings of dairy. You’re also getting some bone-building calcium while you’re at it! Keep in mind that low-fat varieties of milk products are lower in calories and fat, but equal in calcium to the full-fat versions; low-fat varieties may also be higher in protein.   Dairy Protein Calories Fat Fat-free cottage cheese, 1 cup 31 g 160 1 g 2% cottage cheese, 1 cup 30 g 203 4 g 1% cottage cheese, 1 cup 28 g 163 2 g Fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup 14 g 137 0 g Low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup 13 g 155 4 g Parmesan cheese, 1 oz grated 12 g 129 9 g Whole milk yogurt, 1 cup 9 g 150 8 g Goat's milk, 1 cup 9 g 168 10 g 1% milk, 1 cup 8 g 102 2 g Swiss cheese, 1 oz 8 g 106 8 g 2% milk, 1 cup 8 g 121 7 g 3.25% (whole) milk, 1 cup 8 g 146 8 g Low-fat cheddar/Colby cheese, 1 oz 7 g 49 2 g Part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 oz 7 g 72 5 g Provolone cheese, 1 oz 7 g 100 8 g Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 7 g 114 9 g Blue cheese, 1 oz 6 g 100 8 g American cheese, 1 oz 6 g 106 9 g Goat cheese, 1 oz 5 g 76 6 g Feta cheese, 1 oz 4 g 75 6 g Part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 oz 3 g 39 2 g Eggs Eggs contain the highest biologic value protein available. What this means is that an egg has a near perfect combination of amino acids within its shell; when assessing protein quality of all other foods (including meat), nutrition experts compare them to the egg. This doesn’t mean that all other sources of protein are less healthful or less important but does mean that an egg is an awesome way to get a few grams of protein. At 6 grams for one large egg, there are endless ways to add it to your diet. Salads, sandwiches, breakfasts or snack—an egg can fit in anytime!   Eggs Protein Calories Fat Egg, 1 boiled 6 g 68 5 g Egg white, 1 cooked 5 g 17 0 g Liquid egg substitute, 1.5 fl oz 5 g 23 0 g As you can see, protein is EVERYWHERE in our diet, and even without meat you can get enough every day; you just have to look in the right places! For more ideas for using these various plant-based proteins, check out our dailySpark series, Meat-Free Fridays for recipe and cooking ideas! Selected Sources Information Sheet: Protein from The Vegetarian Society (VegSoc.org) Various nutrient profiles from The World's Healthiest Foods (WHFoods.com) Want to learn more about going meatless? Check out SparkPeople's first e-book! It's packed with over 120 delicious meat-free recipes, plus tips and tricks for going meatless. Get it on Amazon for $2.99 and start cooking easy, wholesome veg-centric meals the whole family will love!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=158

Umami: What You've Been Missing!

You've slimmed down your recipes, made healthy food swaps, and integrated vegetables into your meals. But do you ever feel like your food is missing something? When you finish eating, do you ever wonder why a meal just didn't hit the spot? You're probably missing umami. You've probably heard of the four basic tastes: bitter, sour, sweet and salty. Well, "umami," which means "yummy" in Japanese, is another distinct taste. Commonly found in fermented or aged foods, umami (pronounced ooh-mah-mee) adds that "mouth feel" to food. It makes your food feel richer, more delicious and more decadent. A key component in Chinese and Japanese cuisine, umami is starting to gain importance in Western cooking. American cooking tends to rely on fat or salt to get that feeling, but there are other, healthier ways to give your food and meals a little more oomph. Ever notice how parmesan makes pasta taste so much better? Or how much tastier ketchup makes your burgers? The parmesan, the tomatoes, and the beef all contain umami. Think about Japanese miso soup or almost any Chinese food. They're delicious and satisfying, thanks to umami-rich seaweed, fish, and soy sauce. Many foods are considered to have umami, including familiar foods like pepperoni pizza and hamburgers! And many condiments that seem to add "empty" calories (ketchup, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce) actually help food feel more satisfying when you eat it. Here's a list of some umami rich foods:

By adding more of these foods to your meals, you can boost your satisfaction and potentially eat fewer calories overall and avoid overeating. A little goes a long way, and many foods rich in umami should be used as seasonings rather than main ingredients because they can be high in sodium and fat. Try adding a pinch of Romano cheese to steamed veggies or adding asparagus or mushrooms to your salad. If you're feeling decadent, put a pinch of crumbled bacon or a couple of sun-dried tomatoes in an egg white omelet. That could be just what hits the spot! Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1348

30 Ways to Revitalize Your Lunch Break

Lunchtime doesn't have to be bland or boring, just as it doesn't have to be a frenzied time to run errands or multitask. Our printable calendar provides 30 ideas to add a little adventure to your midday break. Click here to download and print your Adventurous Lunch Break Calendar. (You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download this PDF.) If you think your friends or family members might benefit from these heart-healthy tips, share this calendar with them by clicking the "Share" button below.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1336

The “banana slicer” is an unnecessary answer to a first-world problem, and Amazon reviewers know it

Amazon is full of products that we don’t really need — things like Shittens and a mannequin for practicing circumcisions. In the latest edition of first world solutions to problems of the upper crust, a company called Hutzler is selling a banana slicer for $5.53. And while there’s probably somebody in the world who thinks this is just what they need, most of Amazon realized that the product is simply ridiculous.

Jim Anderson, who gave the product only two stars, was quite displeased. He wrote, “I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slicer is curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.”

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Another customer wrote a review entitled “perfect hamster stretcher” and had nothing but good things to say about the product, writing, “This slicer has changed my life. I keep one in my first aid kit as a stretcher in case my hamster passes out (like he does when it gets hot out). Its helped me more times than I can count.”

A number of customers felt that the product was not properly advertised, many of them noted that bananas were not included. A user going by the moniker “Thumpin'” wrote, “I can’t believe this slicer is listed as ‘great for cereal.’ I tried slicing Cheerios, Trix, Corn Flakes, and Chex, and each ended up crumily smashed, not neatly sliced. What’s worse, this thing is nigh useless on Cream of Wheat.”

RELATED: Yes, it’s creepy, but the Amazon reviews for this “real human rib” are wildly ridiculous

Several people noted that they had been looking everywhere for the perfect banana slicing product. They had been using their hands, chainsaws, hedge shears and just about anything available to cut into their fruit. IWonder wrote that the banana slicer was “just okay […] it’s kind of cheaply made but it works better than the hammer [he’s] been using to slice [his] bananas.”

A lot of people admitted to buying the product as a gift (mostly for in-laws). One user even wrote, “I am giving this as a wedding gift. I am also including a 30 day supply of bananas.”

5 Healthier Mac and Cheese Recipes

Macaroni and cheese is a comfort food staple, but let's face it: With all the cream, butter, and cheese (and artificial ingredients, if you're making the boxed variety), it's not the healthiest. But there's good news: With just a few swaps and additions, mac and cheese can get way healthier. Here's how.

1. Buffalo Chickpea Mac and Cheese This vegan macaroni dish is a little unconventional, but the additions are definitely worth the effort. The noodles are topped with crunchy romaine lettuce, spicy Buffalo roasted chickpeas, and creamy (non-dairy) ranch-style dressing. 2. Creamy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Butternut squash and Greek yogurt make this pasta dish super creamy and comforting without, you know, cream. A sprinkle of whole-wheat breadcrumbs on top adds some delicious crunch, and (bonus!) it freezes perfectly for last-minute dinners.  3. Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese This healthy casserole is topped with breadcrumbs made of (wait for it... ) broccoli. The cheesy sauce includes butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, and Greek yogurt. So it practically has more veggies than noodles, making it a dish you can feel good about chowing down on.   4. Vegan Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese The gluten-free, vegan "cheese" sauce this recipe uses gets its cheesy texture from nutritional yeast, making it a super healthy alternative to a classic roux. It also calls for lots of roasted garlic, so the end result is so flavorful, no one will know they're eating vegan and gluten-free—unless you tell them. 5. Bacon and Pea Macaroni and Cheese In this smokey, bacon-y mac and cheese recipe, bright green peas add some much-needed vegetables while creamy Greek yogurt replaces some of the cheese. It's a healthier option on pretty much all fronts. Naturally, we love it.

Originally published November 2014. Updated April 2017.

14 Ways to Cook Fish This Summer If You Don't Have a Grill

Nothing says summer like slapping fresh fish on the grill and enjoying a cold one with your friends on a patio. No grill, you say? Not to worry. There are plenty of ways to make a tasty summer meal with the kitchen equipment you already have, and we’ll prove it with these 14 recipes. From crisp salmon to juicy shrimp, fire up anything but the grill and get cookin’.

1. Broiled Striped Bass You can still get color and char on fish by popping that pan in the broiler. Essentially an upside-down grill, the broiler is our No. 1 solution to making fish taste just like you cooked it outside on your deck. This simple striped bass is covered in sweet tomatoes and briny olives. 2. Cajun Mahi Mahi With Mango Salsa This sweet and spicy fish gets its kick from Cajun seasoning, balanced out by a pineapple-mango salsa. Searing mahi mahi gives it a crispy exterior, and best of all, the whole meal takes 15 minutes, tops. Summer dinners are about to be easy AF. 3. Seared Salmon Searing is a quick way to get some color and crispy crust on a piece of fish. Plop a piece of salmon in a pan and let it cook without flipping for longer than you think. Serve with a warm lemon butter cream sauce. 4. Poached Cod in Tomato Sauce Poaching fish sounds tricky, but it’s another one of those simple cooking methods you need to try this summer. This mild cod dish is cooked in bubbling tomato sauce until tender. 5. Coconut Fried Pineapple Snapper As far as fried food goes, this snapper dish is fairly light thanks to just six ingredients. Dredge snapper in flour, dip in an egg-and-pineapple-juice mixture, then coat in coconut flakes. Serve with a side of roasted veggies, cauliflower rice, or a healthy fruit salad. 6. Oven-Fried Catfish A fish fry seems like classic summer food, but try making it a little healthyish next time by oven-frying. You’ll still get that crispy, battered coating, yet there’s no grease from deep-fried oil. 7. Baked Shrimp Boil A seafood boil just sounds like summer, but if you’re not in the position to cook outdoors, the answer is to throw everything on a sheet tray. Seriously, when have shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn ever steered you wrong? 8. Broiled Miso Cod With Asparagus Satisfy a craving for Japanese food sans takeout with this miso cod recipe. Veggies get tossed in a sesame oil sauce, and the fish is coated in a miso glaze. Make sure to factor in time to let the fish marinate for maximum flavor. 9. Braised Catfish Steaks Even if you don’t have a traditional Korean stone pot you can braise fish like a pro. Lug out any thick pan or dutch oven to make these sweet and spicy catfish steaks. 10. Steamed Red Snapper Like grilling, steaming is a simple cooking method—which gives you more time to focus on the gorgeous weather. This Jamaican-style red snapper is steamed in a spicy broth and served with tender veg. 11. Superfood Baked Salmon One pan, Whole30 approved, and 20 minutes from start to finish? We’re sold. Add salmon, Brussels sprouts, lemon slices, and a blueberry-balsamic mixture to a sheet pan, and bake for 15 minutes. Pro tip: Heat them under a broiler for 2 minutes to make everything extra crispy. 12. Poached White Fish in Tomato Basil Sauce Frozen white fish fillets sound meh, but with just a few extra ingredients, they’re practically a gourmet meal. Cook the fillets in chicken stock, white wine, and garlic, and throw in cherry tomatoes and fresh basil… 30 minutes on the stove and you’re good to go. 13. Baked Lemon Butter Tilapia Tilapia is a pretty mild fish, so consider this your go-to summer party staple—even picky eaters will enjoy it. Mix butter, lemon juice and zest, and garlic, then drizzle the mixture over tilapia. With a quick garnish of salt, pepper, and parsley, the fish comes out light, flaky, and just a little tangy. 14. Baked Honey Cilantro Lime Salmon Dress up your usual oven-baked salmon recipe with garlic and a honey-lime glaze. Once you dress the fish, all you have to do is pop the sheet pan in the oven for 25 minutes. Go ahead, pour yourself a drink while you wait.

 

Hershey getting health conscious, cutting chocolate calories by 2022

The Hershey Co. is promising to make major changes in the calorie count of some of its chocolate snacks.

The company announced last week that it wants to cut the calories in 50 percent of its standard and king-size confectionary snacks by 2022, and include easier-to-read nutrition labels on the front of 100 percent of its standard and king-size packaging by the end of next year.

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Hershey CEO Michele Buck said in a statement that the calorie campaign is part of the company’s efforts at “providing the choice and transparency” about its chocolate products that customers want.

“These steps will provide an even wider range of portion options and clear information to help them select treats that fit their lifestyles,” Buck said.

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here

About 31 percent of Hershey’s standard and king-size snack products contain 200 calories or less, the company said, and 70 percent already have front nutrition labels.

Chipotle to debut first dessert

Chipotle plans to add a dessert item to its menu this year.

The Denver-based Mexican grill announced Tuesday it will begin testing a fried dough dessert next month, Business Insider reported

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Chipotle’s buñuelos, a traditional Mexican dessert, are fried tortillas sprinkled with honey, cinnamon and sugar. They’re to be served with caramel-apple dipping sauce.

“It’s simple to make and requires us to add just a few additional ingredients,” Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said, according to Yahoo. “They’re delicious and complement our menu nicely.”

It’s unclear which locations nationwide will offer the dessert first. 

Although Chipotle announced last year that it would be adding a dessert item to the menu, the buñuelo comes as a surprise, as many speculated the restaurant chain would debut churros as its first dessert.Chipotle is known for being slow to change its menu. According to Business Insider, the addition of buñuelos will be the company’s third major change in 20 years.

The most recent addition was chorizo, which Chipotle began offering in October. 

The company also announced that sales at restaurants that have been open at least a year rose 17.8 percent in the first quarter, and revenue increased 28.1 percent to $1.07 billion. Chipotle’s stock rose, and Ells said the increases indicates a “strong start” to the year.

>> Related: Here's why Chipotle doesn't sell queso

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