Study: Calorie Consumption in Fast Food Restaurants

With the increase of obesity and the increase of health awareness, more restaurants have been including calorie and nutrition content on their menus for consumers. A recent study has conducted research regarding how many calories a consumer thinks are in each meal.

Today, we see more restaurants including the calorie content, especially at fast food restaurants. The study took place in 89 fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, and Dunkin’ Donuts, in four cities in New England.

Researchers surveyed adults and adolescents during dinnertime and lunchtime to determine meal calories. The result was that all age groups underestimate the calorie content of their meals by a minimum of 175 calories.

A most interesting finding involves Subway diners. These Subway customers underestimated calorie content by -349 calories for adults and -500 for adolescents. We can clearly see from the data that the perception of calories and marketing can greatly impact what we believe is being consumed. Subway markets itself as low calorie with healthy options, but in reality you could be eating something with fewer calories at another fast food chain. Jared Fogel, for example, used Subway to loose weight. In reality, however, at Subway you can consume 1,160 calories in the Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich, over half of the recommended calories consumed daily, and twice as many calories at MacDonald’s Big Mac with 550 calories.

The trend of calorie disclosure is continuing to grow along with nutritional labeling at large restaurants. It will be interesting to see how or whether this impacts the consumers’ choices over time. What seem apparent is that marketing will have an impact on the calorie perception of consumers.



The Future of Food

The controversy concerning the labeling of GMO foods continues to be a battle between consumer groups and large food companies.   Many consumers are fighting to have GMO foods labeled.

In May, Vermont passed the first ever law requiring food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labeled GMO. This law will become effective in July of 2016, possibly signaling a change in our food consumption by knowledgeable consumers. This law could start a whole new way of marketing, labeling, and food production, if consumers stay away from GMO labeled food.

For those companies who support GMO foods, they say that GMO food is safe and the labeling is unnecessary and could scare consumers away from the food. Many consumer groups feel that GMO foods have not been tested enough to know if they are safe or not. The new Vermont labeling law may show that the words on the label, such as “natural”, are meaningless because these “natural” foods are really GMO

However, this change may not have a big impact because those who wish to eat non-GMO will have always have been buying organic or have looked for third party labels indicating “non-GMO” products. It will be interesting to see if consumers change their buying habits, when the Vermont law goes into effect and the GMO label is required on GMO food.


The Super Banana?

In recent food news, a new banana may become available on the market. The project to develop the new GMO banana has been conducted by Queensland University of Technology in Australia and supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Scientists have most recently proposed the super banana for U.S. testing and commercial cultivation in Uganda.

According to Professor James Dale, who is working closely with this project, approximately 700,000 children die and 300,000 children go blind because of vitamin A deficiency. The super banana could cure this problem, Dale says. ” Good Science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as the Uganda bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing a poor and substance- farming populations with nutritiously rewarding food.” This banana will have the same appearance as a usual banana, but with the enrichment will have a more orange flesh than a usual banana.

This “super banana” will contain beta-carotene, which will allow the body to produce vitamin A. This added characteristic will be used to help those with malnutrition in the developing world.

In the coming weeks, this super banana will undergo human testing in the U.S. Although the testing will happen soon, it is likely that this product would not be available or grown commercially until 2020.

A Quick Review- Molecular Gastronomy

A trendy food topic in recent years has been molecular gastronomy. What is that, you may ask? The simple answer is: it is a technique of cooking that transforms ingredients.

Molecular Gastronomy has become an increasingly popular sub-discipline of food science that seeks to create physical and chemical transformations of ingredients while cooking. Sometimes this discipline is associated with chemicals and artificial substances, but that is not always the case. This modern style of cooking uses special tools that take advantage of technical innovations from different scientific disciplines. Many recipes change the texture of a typical ingredient through cooking temperature and style.

Some examples of how or why people would use this type of cooking is to figure out: how ingredients are changed by cooking at different temperatures, how cooking methods affect the flavor and texture of ingredients, or how aroma affects our perception of flavor.

Some techniques and tools used for this kind of cooking can include:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Foams, or an immersion blender
  • Liquid nitrogen
  • Thermal immersion circulator
  • Food dehydrator
  • Maltodextrin
  • Spherfication
  • Enzymes
  • Hydrocolloids
  • Syringe

An easy recipe from this style of cooking is making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. The quick chemical reaction allows for ice cream to be made in a very short amount of time.

Here is a link to 10 Easy Molecular Gastronomy Recipes.






Gluten Free Dinning: Madison, WI


Fresco Shrimp Diablo

If you suffer from celiac disease, or have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, making your own food, or eating out can be difficult. In Madison, however, we have many great options. As a student, I love to go out to eat with friends!

The Silly Yak bakery produces delicious gluten-free bread that is certified gluten-free. They also have muffins, cakes, and buns. You can pick up, or have the products shipped nation-wide.

Rustic Kitchen is a completely gluten-free bread making facility. Breads and other delicious baked goods are available. They even offer unique gluten-free sourdough bread.


Wedge Salad from Graze

When dining out, many restaurants offer gluten-free menus and options. The Food Fight restaurants are very conscious of food allergies. Those restaurants include Bluephies, DLUX, Fresco, Aldo’s, Bassett Street Brunch Club, and quite a few more. Graze and Le’Etoile are also very accommodating to food allergies, just inform your waiter as to your desire to eat gluten-free


Bloom Bake Shop Birthday Cake

Most recently, one of my favorite bake shops is Bloom Bake Shop. Bloom has delightful cakes that must be ordered 48 hours in advance, but no one at your party will know it is gluten-free!

Here are some of my top favorite restaurants:


Top Breakfast Place:


Brunch Club Oatmeal

Basset Street Brunch Club

Best Gluten-Free Burger:


Best Sushi:

Red Sushi

Best Dressy-Casual:


Best Ethnic:

Ha Long Bay

Best High-End:


 Best Bread:


Red Sushi

Rustic Kitchen

Best Cake:

Bloom Bake Shop

Best Pizza:


Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly restaurant in Madison?


Farmers’ Market Spotlight: Dane County

The Dane County Farmers’ Market on Capitol Square is just around the corner! This is a personal highlight to my University of Wisconsin-Madison experience, a place where I get to meet and greet the farmers who produce excellent food for the area.

Capitol_Madison,_WIOn April 19th, the Dane County Farmers’ Market will resume on Saturdays outdoors on Capitol Square and Wednesdays at 200 MLK Blvd. From November through the spring, the Farmers’ Market can be found inside the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center or at the Madison Senior Center.

Madison hosts the largest “producer only” (i.e., agriculturally related products—no crafts– produced by the vendor) farmers’ market in the United States. I am lucky enough in Madison to have the opportunity to meet our farmers and get locally grown produce seasonally.

The history of the farmers’ market dates back to 1972 and was established with the help of Mayor Bill Dyke. The point of the market was to unite agriculture and city cultures. The market has always been located on the Square. Originally, the market was made up of only 5 farmers, but within a few years, dozens of farmers were coming to sell their produce. Now, vendors who want to join the market face a five-year waiting list.

Today, we still see the Farmers’ Market encircling our beautiful State capitol. It is the perfect location to showcase Madison city beauty and the excellent agriculture that surrounds our area.


The Saturday market at Capitol Square from April 19 through November 8 starts at 6am and ends at 2pm every Saturday, rain or shine.

#GFAFExpo Highlights and Overview

The Gluten and Allergen-Free Expo in the Chicago area took place on April 12 and 13 at the Schaumburg Renaissance Convention Center. I must say that it was quite the experience! The event was held over the two-day period with 150+ vendors; the amount of food available to try was overwhelming.

The event was split into two categories: the gluten-free area and the nut-free area. I think that this was very smart of the event organizers to separate those with severe nut allergies, so as to avoid having them purposefully or accidentally exposed to foods that would be harmful because of their nut content.

Overall, there were a lot of new products to try. Some of the highlights of the gluten-free expo were products new to me, which I list below:



I really liked that this restaurant had a completely gluten-free menu available. This restaurant caters to gluten-free customers.


Molly’s Gluten-Free Bakery

I am located in Wisconsin and it is great to have found another gf bakery with tasty treats. I enjoyed the fact that Molly’s had baguettes, something a bit more difficult to come by in the gluten-free world.


Green Valley Lactose Free 

This may not be a baked good, but Green Valley Lactose Free Yogurt and Kefir were delicious. I was not aware that yogurt could be lactose-free.


Sweet Ali’s Gluten-Free Bakery 

Sweet Ali’s had a great yellow cake! The sample was simply delicious. I found that the icing was too sweet for me, but I think that the texture of their product was phenomenal.


There were a couple of products I had discovered before the expo that continue to be a highlight:


Having the chance to speak with a Schar representative was a really positive experience. Schar is my favorite dried pasta, which you can find in many local markets. It was great to learn that all the ingredients are non-gmo, and that they will be re-formulated soon so that the pasta will also have millet, an added grain and nutritional boost.


Leo’s Gluten-Free 

Discovering Leo’s was a miracle at the time. I had been in the search of gluten-free ravioli that was easily available and had good texture. All Leo products are delightful and I would recommend the products to the gf and non-gf community.


Cabot Cheese 

I had the chance to try Cabot when visiting Vermont a number of years back. Learning how the cheese was gluten-free and lactose free was just an excellent bonus!


GF and Allergen Free Expo Final Note

One thing I noticed most about the event was the amount of available sweet products, many of which I tried.I think it is important to remember that gluten-free food is not diet food. Gluten-free eating is a dietary lifestyle that helps people with gluten sensitivity, inflammatory problems, and other health issues.

Eating gluten-free does not necessarily cut calories. In fact, many gluten-free foods contain more calories, as they contain simple carbs (instead of more complex carbs, like those found in wheat.) Therefore, the per-portion calories of many gluten-free baked goods may be heavier in calories than non-gf products. Nevertheless, gf eating seems to have important health benefits and with ordinary moderation in gf consumption, can help control caloric intake and help in weight control.

Overall, I had the chance to try tons of vendors. I really enjoyed the display of startup companies and well-established gluten and allergen free businesses.

A Quick Review- GMO Then and Now

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) continues to be the subject of controversy: is GMO a modern scientific miracle making food flavorful and less expensive, or is it an untested, unsafe monster? The NY Times does a great job at condensing a large amount of information concerning this controversy in its brief report that can be seen on You Tube.

This NYT report discusses the Flavr Savr Tomato, which was the first GMO food on the market. (See also my post “The First GMO”.) The Flavr Savr Tomato was genetically modified because of the customer unhappiness with over-ripe tomatoes in supermarkets. The idea behind genetically modifying the food was to make the tomato look fresh and last longer after having traveled long distances from farm to tomato distributors.

Calgene was the company that found the gene that regulates how a tomato softens and ripens. With this genetic information, scientists were able to change the makeup of the tomato by changing one gene causing the tomato to take longer to ripen, giving it a longer shelf life. In the NYT video, you’ll notice a spongy 30-day-old conventional tomato, compared to a plump Flavr Savr Tomato. (2:28)

Consumers appreciated the good look and taste of this tomato and there was little concern about its safety. Ultimately, this tomato product failed was because of trucking issues and the high price of this tomato.

Today we see, however, GMO used in wheat and in almost all soy and corn. These products have the benefit of being resistant to most pesticides and many pests, making them less expensive for large agricultural farm companies to produce. It is interesting to think that the commercially successful GMO food is a benefit to the large farmer, where the GMO tomato pleasing the consumer was a failure. At the same time, critics continue to question if these products are safe.

As a reminder, in the U.S. to know if a food has GMO, be sure to look for the label: Non-GMO verified, or Organic. In Europe, food containing GMO must be labeled to indicate GMO content.

The Use of “Natural”

So what does “natural” even mean?  You might notice that “all natural” labeling is used on just about everything at the grocery store, from chicken to chips to everything in between.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates labeling so that when a product has a label, it is supposed to be accurate and not misleading. Even without a specific FDA regulation, products should be accurately labeled. For example, if a product is labeled “hormone free”, the product should not contain hormones.

There are labels, however, that continue to be vague and misleading. For example, the producer of Nutella was successfully sued by a consumer who was misled into believing the label claiming Nutella was “healthy”, when in fact Nutella was full of sugar and fat. Learn more here.

Similarly, when it comes down to it, what does “natural” mean? A common misconception about “natural” is that it means organic. This is not the case. Presently, “natural” has no definition. In 2009, the USDA sought to define “natural” but those attempts went nowhere. You can learn about that here. The simple fact is, natural means nothing. See FDA basic summary.

As an educated consumer, don’t be misled by “natural”.   If you want “organic” and a product, look for the “Organic” label.

It’s Official…. Gluten & Allergy Free Expo here I come!

I am excited to announce that I will be a blogger for the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in the Chicago area on April 11-12. The GFAE is the largest Gluten/Allergen-Free Expo in the USA.

I am delighted to be able to share this upcoming experience with you. The list of vendors that will be attending the event is extensive and impressive. Some of my favorite companies and products that I have previously used will be there, including Udi’s, Glutino, Pamela’s, Enjoy Life, and Leo’s Gluten Free.

I always look for Pamela’s for a reliable gluten-free mix.   Their bread mix is excellent and very easy to make. I recently discovered Leo’s Gluten-Free ravioli, and my life has been changed! Leo’s has a large variety of pasta and ravioli with excellent taste.

The GFAE is a unique opportunity to learn more about the gluten and allergen free topics. Besides great vendors, there will also be speakers addressing issues that affect the gluten-free and allergen free community.  These speakers are from the business, medical, nutrition, publishing and restaurant community. Their expertise in gluten free food, cooking and recipes, and medical and nutrition insights will provide attendees with valuable practical knowledge.

I am looking forward to attending the event and introducing myself to the gluten/allergen-free community!