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Kitchen Think: Fed Up With Our Extreme Eating Obsession


Here’s a question for you: would you ever order a meal in one of those restaurants that touts its food as “heart attack-inducing?”

A judge this week settled a copyright infringement dispute between two restaurants (one in Las Vegas and one in New York City) that each wanted exclusive rights to use that phrase to sell gut-busting food that might/could/will kill you. (Ah, the beauty of a good marketing gimmick…)

The cardiac-inducing menu items? Glad you asked:

• New York’s 2nd Ave Deli’s “Instant Heart Attack” Sandwich is made with a half pound of corned beef, pastrami, turkey (or salami, pick your poison), served between two fried latkes. It costs $24.95… and no sharing.

• Sin City’s Heart Attack Grill’s “Quadruple Bypass Burger” is made with 4 half-pound ground beef patties, with all the trimmings. It costs $12.94 (also no sharing). If you want bacon with that (20 slices), add $3.69. Oh, and if you weigh more than 350 lbs., you eat for free.

The judge ultimately ruled in favor the 2nd Ave Deli, saying that even “unsophisticated” customers can tell the difference between a latke-based sandwich and a “gluttonous” cheeseburger. But just in case there’s any confusion, the judge says 2nd Ave Deli can’t advertise outside of Manhattan.

So, back to the question… can you see yourself sitting down and ordering either of these gut-busting items (and remember no sharing)?

I know it’s a free country and if you don’t want to be exposed to this kind of place, find another restaurant… blah, blah, blah. Now, don’t get me wrong, Mama likes her junk food (sometimes). But doesn’t it seem like selling these items is just a huge waste of food and money and further evidence of this country’s obsession with extreme eating?

What kind of message does this send? That overeating is a joke, something to be indulged because it’s entertaining? Then the joke is on all of us… because eventually, we’ll all pay in one way or another.



Kitchen Think: Fighting Fat with Photos


A picture is worth a thousand words… or hopefully, a thousand fewer calories.

NYC Health Department Ad Campaign

New York City’s Health Department has started a graphic advertising campaign to shock people into seeing that super-size portions come with super-size consequences. The subway ads blame the food industry for making people fat with ginormous portions, sugar sweetened carbonated drinks and fatty foods.

Did you know that in the past few decades:

• Lunch time calorie consumption has jumped from 500 calories to more than 1,000 (most adults only need 2,000 calories per day).

• Bagels have gotten bigger. Plain bagels used to be 3 inches in diameter and have about 145 calories. Now they 5 to 6 inches in diameter (or bigger!) and have 350 calories.

• The serving size of a fast-food beverage has quadrupled, jumping from seven ounces in 1955 to 32 ounces today.

• When the chain first opened, a McDonald’s hamburger patty weighed 1.6 oz. Now, the largest burger patty weighs 8 oz.

• French fry portions have more than doubled, from 2 oz. to 5.4 oz.

• An 8 oz. cup of coffee with milk and sugar is about 45 calories. But many of us love goosed-up coffee drinks. A Venti (20 oz.) café mocha with whip cream and 2% milk is 410 calories!

• The standard dinner plate has jumped in size from 10-inches to 12-inches.

NYC Health Department Ad Campaign

You just know that this campaign has the folks responsible for sugary drinks and grande portions hopping mad. It should. For years we watched as boxes of everything from sugar-sweetened cereal to frozen fried chicken increased in size from “large” to “family size” to “jumbo.”

Now, many food-makers are trying to make it right by offering “100-calorie” size and “snack-size.” They are even trying to assuage their consciences by putting the calorie count for a serving- size on the front of the package. But breaking the habit of eating double-and triple-the-serving-size is awfully hard to do at home, especially when you’re used to eating oversized portions when dining out. And speaking of dining out, while some restaurants do offer low-calorie menu items, most diners continue to order the full-fat, carb-heavy, plate-filling items.

Why? Because that’s what they’re used to enjoying.

After the government launched it’s anti-smoking crusade in the mid-1960s, it took more than 20 years before we began to see a drop in the number of smokers. A whole generation had to be educated about the perils of lighting up before the statistics fell. We already know that there are now more obese and overweight children than any previous generation. Will we have to wait 20 years before we see any significant change?

Do we have a choice?

Kitchen Think: Fed Up With Pseudo-Sugars


We all have demons. Mine is sugar.

Mama has a really bad sweet tooth. It’s a struggle for me to end a meal without having some sort of goodie. A piece of fruit just won’t cut it.

That’s why I was intrigued by an article I read today about the rush to sell low-calorie sweets with fake sugar.

I’ve never cared for artificial, chemically made sweeteners. Aspartame (you know it as Equal) gives me a headache. Saccharin (also known as Sweet’n Low) leaves a nasty aftertaste in my mouth… same with sucralose (aka Splenda). At one time, I really liked cyclamates, but they took it off the market because it gave rats bladder cancer. Figures.

Have you heard of stevia? It’s been around for a few years, but it’s apparently now the new darling of the no-calorie sweetener world because it’s not made in a lab, but comes from a plant in the chrysanthemum family. You might have seen it sold as Truvia, Sweet Leaf or PureVia.

Like most “natural” products… it’s more expensive. But that hasn’t stopped food makers from adding it to everything from water (Glacéau Vitamin Water Zero) to yogurt (Tillamook)… and there are more on the way.

Stevia is the closest scientists have come to developing a pseudo-sugar that looks and tastes like real sugar. It even has a grainy texture like sugar. But, I think it’s a little too sweet, even for my sweet tooth. There’s a slight aftertaste, though, I admit, it’s not as bad as some of the others.

But I wonder: instead of looking for a substitute, why not simply cut back on sugar in your diet? Even if you eat something that is sugar free, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily fat free or cholesterol free. I worry that people will delude themselves into thinking they’re eating something healthy just because it contains a so-called “natural” sugar… and wind up consuming even more.

And, artificially sweet or not, that’s not good for anyone.






The Kitchen Think: Fed Up with Gluten-Free Wannabes


Well, here we go again…In the ongoing saga of our nation’s obsession with weight loss, I’m already fed up with the latest craze: Gluten-Free Groupies.

I find this new trend hysterical. If you’d uttered the word “gluten” five years ago to these people, most of them would have looked over their shoulder at their rear-end and figured you were referring to the plural of their butt cheeks. Now they peer over restaurant menus and coolly tell the waiter that they are “allergic” to gluten… then promptly splash soy sauce on their sushi (wheat is a key ingredient of soy sauce).

I’m not slagging-off those who suffer from real gluten issues such as Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease which damages the intestines and causes nutritional deficiencies… or those who have intolerance to gluten.

No, I’m fed up with sheeple who mimic celebrities and claim the need to be gluten-free… when all they really want to do is shed some belly fat (wouldn’t cutting back on the martinis be more effective?). What these people are doing is simply eliminating foods that may be high in calories… like bread and pasta. (Why not do that on your own? Do you really need to pin it on some trumped-up bogus allergy you don’t have? Doesn’t that de-value those with a real issue?)

But get real for a moment: Take a look at the nutrition labels on some of the “gluten-free” products. By going “gluten-free,” you may actually wind up putting ON weight because the amount of fat and sugar in these products is often increased to goose the taste. You may also be denying yourself needed vitamins and nutrients like iron, vitamin B and fiber.

I’m sure this diet fad will pass like all the others; eventually they all end up in the same place…down on South Beach doing a Master Cleanse with Dr. Atkins and a Caveman.

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: