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Big Food News: The Latest Steps Food Conglomerates Take to Promote Health

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It's happening more and more. Food producers and food sellers (remember Disney's new promise) are changing their ways in an effort to make or promote healthier food. KFC, Del Monte Foods and Wendy's are the latest big food conglomerates to announce their good food moves (or in the case of Wendy's good food advice). Here's the recent rundown:

1. KFC announced last week they are switching to a trans fat free oil in all of their restaurants nationwide. By April 2007 all KFC restaurants should be trans fat free. This is good news but why? Like saturated fat, trans fats increase our risk for cardiovascular disease by increasing our 'bad' cholesterol. However, trans fats are worse because unlike saturated fats, they decrease our 'good' cholesterol, the kind that helps to protect us from cardiovascular disease.

Yes it it's great that they are getting rid of them, but take heed that this doesn't mean any of their products will be any lower in fat or calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram whether it comes from olive oil or lard so this doesn't give us a license to overindulge. And KFC foods will still contain saturated fat. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it probably won't make much difference to our waistline. KFC foods, especially those of the fried variety, should still be considered 'sometimes' foods.

2. Sesame Street favorites Elmo, Grover and Cookie Monster will soon be pushing canned green beans, sweet peas and corn. Del Monte Foods has partnered with the Sesame Workshop in an effort to encourage kids to eat their vegetables. We foodie advocates have been asking for this for a long time. It seems like a no-brainer to slap kid friendly characters on fruits and veggies instead of fast food, candy, sodas and high sugar cereals. So this is certainly a start. And research from the Sesame Workshop has shown that preschoolers will indeed eat 28% more of a vegetable (they specifically tested broccoli) if the product is branded with a Sesame Street character. Hey, it's still a marketing ploy but this kind of exploitation I can get behind. Let's just hope Del Monte keeps the sodium in check.

3. Fast food giant Wendy's recently partnered with the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to create www.Mom-rd.com, a website that aims to connect moms with registered dietitians (RDs), professional nutrition experts. The site features 3 RDs, (one of whom is a former fellow ADA Spokesperson, Rachel Brandeis, Go Rachel!), who offer articles and tips on healthy kid eating. All 3 are moms themselves and speak from experience when they answer the tough questions real world moms can send out to mom-rd cyberspace. So far the site is pretty commercial free with just a Wendy's logo towards the bottom of the homepage and a line about the fast food outlets partnership with the ADA in the site intro.

Big Food is feeling the pressure, so keep it on and this trend will continue to grow. Light at the end of the tunnel is starting to poke through all, keep the healthy food demand going!
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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