• Hal Decker

Flavors for Life

I just recently signed up to compete in a local competition here is Las Vegas. The competition is based on an immune booster ingredient. It is put on by Flavors for Life, which is a non-profit organization and is a healthy culinary movement created to educate the Las Vegas community on how to cook and eat healthy. Their mission is to promote healthy cooking and eating to build healthier generations to come and to empower the culinary world to change America’s culinary culture and beat the obesity epidemic.

Think about this for a minute. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate reached 42.4% in 2017-2018 – surpassing 40% for the first time. Maybe higher now due to the Pandemic. This is a startling statistic. How did we get to this point?

I can probably write a 20 page article on all the reasons why, but for the purposes of this article, I will highlight a few of the key components.

Processed foods. What is processed foods? Most food needs some degree of processing, and not all processed foods are bad for the body.

However, chemically processed foods, also called ultra-processed foods, tend to be high in sugar, artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates, , and trans fat. Because of this, they are a major contributor to obesity and illness around the world.

In recent decades, ultra-processed food intake has increased dramatically worldwide. These foods now account for 25% to 60% of a person’s daily energy intake throughout much of the world. Staggering.

I have to admit that I am not a nutritionist, or a dietitian, but being a chef for over 35 years, I do know the values of healthy dishes. And one of the first things to consider is the amount of sodium. When you go shopping at your local grocery store, you walk down isle after isle and see all those prepared foods in their shiny packages saying buy me buy me. Look at the ingredients and what is in it. A serving of prepackaged luncheon meat can contain anywhere from 450 to 1,050 milligrams of sodium. Frozen pizza? A single slice of packaged pizza can have up to 460 milligrams of sodium. A serving of frozen chicken nuggets contains close to 600 milligrams of sodium. These are just a few examples of popular products we buy. We need to do better.

Fats. Prepacked food often contains fat, including trans fat. Trans fat helps give prepackaged foods a longer shelf life. Any food that lists hydrogenated oil contains at least a small amount of trans fats, which increase your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and heart attack and should be avoided as much as possible.

Sugars. Breakfast cereal, (which I am guilty of, love my Honey Nut Cheerios) has some of the highest sugar content of any foods. Processed foods tend to contain added sugar and, often, high fructose corn syrup. Added sugar contains no essential nutrients but is high in calories.

Regularly consuming an excess of added sugar can lead to compulsive overeating. It is also linked with health conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabeties, and inflammatory diseases.

Processed foods and beverages are among the major sources of added sugar in the diet. Sweetened beverages are a particularly significant source; people tend to consume much more sugar than they realize in soft drinks.

I can do research and go on and on, but the point here is that we need to watch what we eat. Eating and consuming a heathier diet is essential to healthy living.

To learn more about processed foods, Go to PROCESSED FOODS - YouTube

To go to their website, go to Flavors For Life

We will follow up with another post after the competition and will feature the winning recipes. Stay tuned.