Frozen dinners make a comeback

Frozen dinners are on a hot streak. Sales of microwavable meals are rising at the fastest pace in a decade, drawing attention from food-company executives otherwise struggling with falling sales for well known but outdated brands. “We believe this is not a blip,” said Sean Connolly, chief executive of Conagra Brands Inc., maker of Healthy Choice, Banquet and Marie Callender’s frozen meals. “For the first time in a generation, this space is starting to be modernized again.” Sales of frozen entrees rose 5.7% over the year ended July 15, according to market-research firm Spins, after annual growth of 0.6% and 1.5% the previous two years. The latest bump outpaces the 2% rise in overall packaged-food sales and marks a change from several years of diminishing sales in frozen meals earlier this decade. Conagra, Nestlé SA and Kraft Heinz Co. are spending millions of dollars to freshen up frozen brands, introduce new ones and expand manufacturing capacity. Karrin Childs, a 37-year-old accountant in Akron, Ohio, got past her aversion to bland frozen meals after trying Nestlé’s new Lean Cuisine dishes, such as butternut squash ravioli, in distinctive black packaging. “It’s always good to have one in your freezer in case of an emergency,” she said. Efforts to cut salt, sugar and other less healthful ingredients from ready-made meals appear to be resonating with customers who like their convenience. Sales of other frozen foods such as vegetables and pizza have also improved recently. Overall frozen-food sales rose 3% in the year ended July 15, according to Spins. The pickup in sales of frozen meals comes as companies have shaken up both the ingredients and the packaging used. Last year Nestlé introduced Wildscape, a brand of frozen foods made with ingredients like honey-bourbon brisket and cauliflower in gochujang sauce. Wildscape meals — like chimichurri chicken with roasted peppers, red potatoes, farro, aji amarillo purée and almonds — are packaged in semitransparent plastic jars inspired by ice-cream containers. “Historically it’s been about comfort food; now it’s about modern American cuisine,” said Jeff Hamilton, head of Nestlé’s U.S. foods division, which sells a dozen frozen-meal brands including Stouffer’s, Hot Pockets and DiGiorno. Conagra put its new Healthy Choice Power Bowls in plant-based, compostable packaging to appeal to consumers who said they didn’t like microwaving plastic. Healthy Choice sales rose about 20% in the fiscal fourth quarter ended in May, bringing the brand to $400 million in retail sales for the fiscal year. Mr. Connolly said that success encouraged Conagra to buy Pinnacle Foods Inc. this year for about $8.2 billion, adding Birds Eye, Evol Foods and other frozen brands to its product line. The deal is expected to close by year-end. Modern frozen food dates to Clarence Birdseye, who in the 1920s invented a way to flash-freeze fish, building on an Inuit technique he learned in Canada. That kept food from spoiling without losing as much flavor or nutritional value as slow freezing or canning. In the 1950s, Swanson’s TV dinners and Totino’s frozen pizzas changed the family dinner ritual. In the 1980s, food makers introduced low-fat and low-sodium brands to match diet trends. Most brands hadn’t changed much since then until recently, executives say.

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How to clean your grill with an onion

Did you go a little heavy on that barbeque sauce during your last cookout? It’s OK, life happens, and barbeque sauce is delicious. Plus, with this simple hack on how to clean your grill, you won’t have to worry about that caked-on barbeque sauce much longer. This grilling hack doesn’t require a brush or aluminum foil (which yes, is also a nifty way to clean your grill), but requires a simple vegetable: an onion. That’s right, an onion can actually clean your grill, while also being an eco-friendly product for your food, grill, and the environment. Numerous grillers rave about this simple trick, and how incredibly easy it is to do. Here’s all it takes: Cut an onion in half. Take your grilling fork and spear that onion on the skin side. Head over to your preheated grill (warming up the gunk on your grill helps to scrape it off) and rub the cut side of the onion on your grill. That’s it. Now, if the barbeque sauce on that grill is too powerful to your onion, you can actually loosen it up with other natural ingredients. Try spraying lemon juice or white vinegar across the grates to dampen and separate the gunk from the grates. The acidity can actually help with the cleaning process, and will make cleaning the grill with that onion even easier than it was before. Apparently, onions have antibacterial properties that can help with cleaning, especially with a messy outdoor grill. According to the National Onion Association, onions contain phytochemicals, which are various biologically active compounds that can be found in plants. The health-functional properties in these compounds actually include anti-cancer and antimicrobial activities. So why does this matter for the grill? For the antimicrobial activities, actually. An antimicrobial is an agent that can kill off microorganisms and stop growth, fighting bacteria and fungi.

Now, that’s holiday weekend news you can use!  For more, click on the text above.   🙂

Missouri becomes first state to issue law protecting citizens from accidentally buying fake meat

Missouri has passed a law that will protect consumers from the dangers of unwittingly purchasing fake or lab-grown meat. On Tuesday, the state passed the first law in the nation prohibiting companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry,” the law reads. The law was lobbied by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, USA Today reports. The group was concerned about the shoppers being confused by plant-based or lab-grown meat, synthetic meat that is grown from cultured animal cells, posing as meat from an animal. “The big issue was marketing with integrity and … consumers knowing what they’re getting,” Missouri Cattlemen’s Association spokesman Mike Deering said to USA Today. “There’s so much unknown about this.” The law states, “Currently, no person advertising, offering for sale, or selling a carcass shall engage in any misleading or deceptive practice including misrepresenting the cut, grade, brand or trade name, or weight or measure of any product.” Manufacturers that fail to comply with the new law will face a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is lobbying for a similar law at the federal level – prohibiting lab-grown and fake meat from using the words “beef” and “meat” in their marketing. Tofurkey, along with Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Good Food Institute (GFI) filed a lawsuit against the Missouri law. “All of these products that are currently on the market use descriptors that say what the source of the ingredients [is] … you’re going to find something that says soy-based vegan beef crumbles,” the GFI’s director of policy, Jessica Almy told NPR. “These compound names, like plant-based chicken, communicate to consumers what the source of the food is.”

Eating cheese and red meat is actually good for you

Grill up that steak and roll out a wheel of cheddar — because red meat and cheese are back on the menu for healthy living. Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, found that people who scarf down higher levels of red meat and cheese are likely to live longer. People who had three portions of dairy and 120 grams of unprocessed red meat per day benefited the most, the research team found. “Our findings on full-fat dairy and unprocessed red meat do challenge conventional thinking,” McMaster professor of nutrition and epidemiology Andrew Mente conceded to fellow researchers at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, Germany. Those eating the most dairy and red meat saw their chances of early death fall by 25 percent and fatal heart attack decreased by 22 percent, according to the researchers, who in their methodology accounted for differences in wealth and education, as well as other health habits. “It’s protective up to the serving sizes that we’ve identified. We are saying three dairy and we are saying around one portion of red meat [a day], or white meat,” said Mente. “Relative to carbs, I would say that saturated fat is beneficial — it’s pretty clear from this data.” White meat, such as chicken and turkey, also carried similar benefits, the researchers said. “Our results show that dairy products and meat are beneficial for heart health and longevity,” said Dr. Salim Yusuf, who teaches cardiovascular disease at the McMaster Medical School. “This differs from current dietary advice.” The researchers also said a healthy diet includes more than eight daily portions of fruit and vegetables and half-portions of nuts and beans.

This is the best news I’ve read in a LONG time!     🙂

America’s most fattening meals may surprise you

Think a breakfast burrito – filled with scrambled eggs, salty chorizo, ripe avocado and, of course, cheese and sour cream — sounds like a delightful way to start the day? Maybe so, but according to the 2018 Xtreme Eating Awards, it’s also a good way to start something else: a weight problem. The Cheesecake Factory Breakfast Burrito tops this year’s list of “honorees,” out today, of the most health-threatening chain restaurant meals. Compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest — the same DC-based organization that lobbied the government to mandate that chains must post calorie counts — it includes hits from popular national eateries like Chili’s, Uno Pizzeria & Grill and Shake Shack. The Cheesecake Factory’s winning dish delivers 2,730 calories, 73 grams of saturated fat and 4,630 milligrams of sodium, wrapped in a tortilla: like eating “seven McDonald’s Sausage McMuffins,” according to the press release. It’s also more than the 2,000 recommended calories that adults should consume per day. Cheesecake, a decadent destination, boasts a second dish on the ignoble list of eight: the Chicken Parmesan Pizza Style, which is exactly what it sounds like, with a twist. That twist is a serving of angel hair Alfredo, served atop the almost 10-inch pie like an ultra-rich appetizer. The whole thing clocks in at 1,870 calories, 55 grams of saturated fat and 3,080 milligrams of sodium: like eating “four pieces of Popeyes friend chicken plus four biscuits,” says the write-up. Meanwhile, the Deep Dish Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese at Unos takes the trophy for “worst makeup,” for its 2,320 calories’ worth of penne, cheese and buffalo chicken. Or, as the press release puts it: “You can’t beat deep dish for building deep belly fat.” Shake Shack gets the award for “worst revival,” for promoting the retro combo of a burger, fries and a shake. Sucking down a Double SmokeShack, a side of fries and a Peanut Butter Shake will set you back 2,240 calories, 55 grams of saturated fat, 3,170 milligrams of sodium and an estimated 42 grams of added sugar, according to the list. Or, it’s the equivalent of eating “three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese plus three McDonald’s Vanilla Cones.”

Don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry reading all of this!   🙂

How to choose a ripe watermelon

There’s nothing like digging face first (or with knife and fork if you’re feeling fancy) into a giant slice of watermelon on a hot summer day. A good ol’ wedge of watermelon — straight from the fridge, all juicy, sweet, and crisp — can be a serious thirst quencher when the sun is high in the sky and eating anything that’s not ice cold is out of the question. But there’s nothing worse than an unripe melon, so the best thing to do is go to your supermarket armed with the knowledge that will ensure you buy a melon that is perfectly ripe in the first place. Here’s what you need to know. Just click here.


Eggs can lower risk of stroke and heart attack, new study finds

An egg a day keeps the doctor away, according to a new study out of China. Researchers at Peking University Health Science Center found that the simple and cheap food, once thought to raise unhealthy cholesterol levels, dramatically protects the heart. They discovered that daily egg consumption is linked to 26 percent reduced stroke risk and 18 percent reduced cardiovascular disease risk. “The present study finds that there is an association between moderate level of egg consumption (up to 1 egg/day) and a lower cardiac event rate,” lead scientists Professor Liming Li and Canqing Yu wrote in the journal Heart. The researchers examined the diets of 416,000 people between the ages of 30 and 79. Subjects were asked how often they consumed eggs. Their health was then documented over a period of around nine years. The 13 percent of participants who ate one egg a day were found to have more than a quarter less chance of suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when there’s bleeding in or around the brain. They also had 28 percent less risk of death caused by a hemorrhagic stroke, and an 18 percent reduced chance of dying from cardiovascular disease.