Tag Archives: food

Healthy Snacks Delivered to Your Door Step… Sign Me Up Please…

I used to loooooooove Fruit Roll-ups when I was a kid. When snack time rolled around at school, I’d whip out my tube of strawberry flattened fruit, unroll that puppy and then roll it right back up around my little finger to make one, long, fruity finger. Classy, I know. Hey, I was in first grade… and my fruit finger was delicious. Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit by the Foot, any sort of fruit snacks… I loved them all.

I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d had any sort of fruit snack other than the literal kind – like an apple. But just a few weeks ago I was introduced to the  natural, whole-foods version of the Fruit Rollup, thanks to Healthy Surprise

It happened when one day I came home from work and found this guy on my door step:

box

I knew it was coming — the company contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out a box of their vegan, gluten-free, soy-free snacks. “You mean, snacks I can actually eat?!” I thought… bring it on!

I got my box and when I opened it I found chocolate chip cookies, macaroons, caramel corn, hemp seeds, flavored nuts and fruit snacks. Here’s what the little treasure chest looked like…

open-box

And here’s all my new snack loot layed out on the kitchen table…

contents

How fun is that?! You can sign up with Healthy Surprise and get one of these healthy treasure boxes on your door step once a month. What a cool way to discover tasty new products. Brilliant idea! I sure wish I’d thought of it…

Thanks, Healthy Surprise for sending me a box, and in particular, for the fruit snacks.

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Curried Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup

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It may look like just soup… but this is so much more than that. That little bowl right there is jam packed full of flu fighters – ginger, garlic, onion and sweet potato. We’ve been cramming these ingredients into alot of meals these days to help get us through the winter flu-free. So far it’s working (knock on wood). And with delicious finished products like this rich, creamy soup, getting that daily dose has been quite tasty, I must say.

Here’s a little more about why each of these four ingredients can help keep you from getting sick:

Ginger: Ginger is a root and has extremely strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident and anti-microbial properties. It’s long been a remedy to treat nausea and upset stomach (think gingerale on the airplane). Ginger is also an immune booster. Its heat drives circulation, warming the body and even causing a sweat to break. This helps to move colds and flus out of the body and leads to overall detoxification, which is necessary to maintain good health.

Garlic & Onion: Garlic, onion and other white vegetables are the scrub brushes of the vegetable world. When consumed, they get in there and scrub away the stuff that our bodies need to get rid of – viruses, bacteria, parasites (ick). That pungent smell you get when you cut into them comes from sulfides, which give them their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties among other health benefits.

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Sweet potato: Just like its orange-fleshy cousins, carrot and butternut squash, the sweet potato is oozing with vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese -  critical components for immune support and function. What’s more, they taste like dessert  – quite a delicious way to load up on the essentials.

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One more pro: curry, with its bitter and drying spices, helps to clear mucus and reduce inflammation as well. For centuries civilizations have used curry to flavor and to preserve their food. In fact the combination of ginger, garlic and turmeric is one of the oldest in the book dating all the way back to between 2500 and 2200 B.C. making curry possibly the oldest dish on the planet. Looks like those ancients were on to something….

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Curried Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2″ chunks
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 tsp curry powder
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or virgin coconut oil)
1 can coconut milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once you’ve chopped the sweet potatoes, spread them out on a baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive and a few shakes of salt and pepper and toss. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are browned.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Then add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Next add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so. Then stir in the sweet potatoes and cook five minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and pour in coconut milk. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and a little cayenne, if desired. Cover and simmer fifteen minutes.

To blend the soup into a smooth, creamy consistency, you can use either a blender, food processor an immersion blender. If you’re using a blender or food processor the steam can create pressure and cause the lid to pop off. So take caution and blend in batches if necessary.

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Lemon Drops

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Happy 2013! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday. I know I sure enjoyed myself. If you’re anything like me, here in the first few days of the new year, you’re struggling to get back into what was once your routine. And maybe wondering how you even got into that routine in the first place. The good news is, new years are new beginnings. After the holidays have turned our routines upside down and given us some distance from our own little hampster wheels (whatever that may be for you), coming back, we shouldn’t just jump back on and go right back to what we were doing before. With distance we gain perspective and are given the perfect opportunity to shake things up, do something different, try something new.

Maybe it’s the gym – you haven’t been in a while and you realize you really just have no desire to go. Don’t force it. Maybe you just really don’t like the gym. And it’s time to give the yoga studio down the street a shot. As you get back to your routine, go easy on yourself and listen to your inner voice to shape a new routine that’s going to make you happier and healthier in 2013.

After weeks of indulgence, going cold turkey on that sweetness we crave can be suicide. Start by weaning yourself off processed sugar. These little lemon cookies are perfect way to ease the transition. They’re made with honey so you’re not going to get that high and low you typically do with sugar and are full of good things for you like almond, coconut and lots of lemon. Lemon is high in vitamin C to help fight colds and flus and has an alkalizing effect on the body – just what we all need after eating lots of acidic foods like white flour and wine. Lemons also help to cleanse the liver and aid in digestion. Plus, that fresh tart taste can’t help but make you smile. Even better, add a lemon wedge to your water to get all these benefits throughout your day. It can be part of your new and improved 2013 routine.

I wish you all the happiness and health you handle in the New Year. Here’s to fresh starts…

lemon coconut cookies

lemon zest

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Lemon Drop Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 pinches of salt
6 tbsp honey
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla (I use vanilla powder)
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to lowest temperature possible (ours settled at 170 degrees).

In a mixing bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, dried coconut and salt. Whisk to mix well.

Depending on size, you’ll need about two or three lemons for the zest and juice. Zest lemons then set aside. Juice lemons into a separate small bowl. In another small bowl, add the honey, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk to combine.

In a stand mixer, add dry ingredients and begin to mix. While the mixer is running, slowly add wet ingredients.

To melt coconut oil, place in a small pan over medium heat until it becomes a liquid. Once the oil is in liquid form, slowly add to the batter while the mixer continues to run.

To make cookies, roll batter in balls (about 1 inch diameter) and place on a coconut-oil-greased baking sheet. For less mess, use plastic baggies over your hands to grab and roll dough.

Bake for one hour or until the outside is dry and firm.

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How to Build a Whole-Foods Pantry

As anyone who’s new to cooking knows, getting started can be quite an investment. You may have experienced this: You’re looking online for something to cook for dinner and find a recipe that looks delicious, but it calls for oils, vinegars and spices that you don’t just happen to have in the pantry. When you add those items to the shopping list, a simple home cooked meal is now more expensive than take out. Sound familiar?

Whether you’re just getting started in the kitchen or transitioning to a more whole-foods diet, building up to that point where a trip to the store is just for the fresh stuff can take a lot of time and money. Thinking about all the spices, oils, vinegars, grains, condiments can be quite overwhelming. But don’t let it intimidate you. To get started all you need are a few basics, and from there you can grow your pantry as you continue to experiment in the kitchen.

For sanity sake, stay away from recipes with more than handful of ingredients. Most of the time, the best dishes are the ones that only have a few. If something calls for umi boshi vinegar, novices: keep browsing. No need to get all exotic, when your pantry is still missing balsamic. That’s one you can build up to. But if curiosity gets the best of you, I’m the last person to stand in your way. I’d be lying if I said that my pantry grew out of practicality and a stick-to-the-essentials approach. I’m a sucker for new food stuffs. I always end up picking up a new spice or grain to add to the collection. That’s why my pantry looks like this….

Full disclosure: This is what our pantry used to look like. We’re in the middle of moving so it got packed up last week and now sits in storage until we can move into our new house. We have about three weeks to go until we can unpack after a few renovations are complete — one of which is the kitchen (eek!). As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m pretty excited about that one. For now though, let’s get back to the pantry….

I actually took these photos months ago with the intention of doing this post, but it’s taken me awhile to get around to it. Part of my delay has been the whole house hunting/buying/renovating/moving process (there hasn’t been time for much else), and part is that for some reason posting pictures of our pantry feels like showing the Internet my underwear drawer. It may sound odd, but, there’s a reason pantries have doors… I’m happy to put modesty aside though and expose my madness for the sake of helping others. I say madness because, well, I may be obsessed. I get excited when I have an excuse to pick up a new spice. I feel compelled to fill up the walnut container when it’s only 1/4 full. And if we’re out of quinoa, sound the alarm. OK… it’s not that bad. But, if you understand my obsession, you must be a whole-foods cook too.

What I’ve learned is if you’re really going to cook, the pantry has to be approached as an evolving collection – and one that’s developed with joy. Once you get going with your own and you have a few of the basics on the shelves, you can just continue to add one or two items with each trip to the grocery store.

Here’s my approach to organizing the panty and starting a collection of essentials for oils, vinegars, spices, grains, beans/lentils, produce, and packaged items. By all means, do with this what you will and feel free to start with what makes sense for you and what you like to cook and eat. Just always bear in mind, like nearly all processes, it’s a journey. The only destination is your pure enjoyment in the kitchen. So have fun!

Organizing the Pantry
No two pantries are alike so what works in ours may not work for you. Take into account the number of shelves you have, door space, etc. as well as which items you use most frequently and which items you use the least.

I keep the items that I seldom or occasionally use at the very top, and the items that are used on a regular, or daily basis in the middle, or at eye level. For us that means the top is baking ingredients – different flours, sweeteners, etc. Since I do a lot of gluten-free baking, I store a variety of gluten-free flours in a big air-tight container way up there out of reach. And I keep some of the more delicate flours in the fridge. I use those flours every few months to make a flour blend which gets  stored in an air-tight container that’s more easily accessible.

The shelf below that one holds coffee and tea, as well as cooking/storage items like plastic bags, aluminum foil and wax paper. And below that, just above eye-level (for me) are cooking essentials spices, oils and vinegars. Since we do a lot of cooking, I wanted these items to be easy to grab. Spices are on a turnstile, and oils, vinegars are organized with our favorites at the front.

The lower set of cabinets are organized the same way – with the most used items kept within reach.

I use nut butters in smoothies and put them on rice cakes for breakfast so they fall into our frequently used category. Nuts, seeds and food bars get snacked on. Nuts and seeds also end up in my usual lunch salad too so I like having those right there.

I store dried grains and beans in air-tight pop top containers. I keep them in the back and on the side of this shelf, just below eye level – accessible, but out of the way, along with oil containers that just happen to be too large to fit above (we make due with the space we have, right). Fresh cooking essentials like garlic, onions and root vegetables are kept in a glass bowl on this shelf too. I consider these types of produce to be pantry staples because they have a longer shelf life than other produce and can be kept in a cool, dark place for weeks and even up to a month. Onions and garlic are also the most basic of flavorings for every dish. Those are the real staples.

The last two shelves are mainly storage for things like baking dishes, bulk containers (that white vinegar in the back), hoarded shopping bags, and snacks not to be kept at eye-level – like those bags of M&Ms there.

The key to a well organized pantry is taking into consideration how you cook and eat. Your pantry should serve your needs in the kitchen and make cooking easier. It’s all about setting the stage to save time, money, while also making the experience as enjoyable as possible for you, the cook.

Pantry Essential Checklist

Starting from scratch and not sure where to begin? Here is my list of pantry essentials. With these in stock, you can make a number of fantastic dishes by simply adding a few fresh ingredients like fresh herbs, dark leafy greens, other veggies, and meats, if you like.

oils:
extra-virgin olive oil
virgin coconut oil
sesame oil

vinegars:
balsamic vinegar
mirin (rice wine vinegar)
apple cider vinegar

spices:
sea salt
black pepper
crushed red pepper
cumin
cinnamon
oregano

condiments/sweeteners:
honey
dijon mustard
cocoa powder

nuts/seeds:
almonds
walnuts
almond butter
chia seeds

grains:
brown rice
quinoa
oats

beans/legumes:
black beans
garbanzo beans
lentils

packaged items:
teas (herbal, green)
whole-grain pasta
whole-grain crackers

produce:
garlic
onion
root vegetables

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butternut squash + kale + white beans + quinoa

Things I will miss about winter:

1. My UGG boots
2. Using the excuse “It’s too cold” to do nothing but curl up and watch Bravo
3. Meals like this….

I’m coming to terms with the fact that this will likely be my last bite of butternut squash for awhile, which makes me a little sad. Is it weird to miss vegetables? Wait, don’t answer that… My husband on the other hand does not share my nostalgia for these peculiar-shaped roots. As the “chopper” of the household, he’d be happy if he never came head to head with one of these guys on the chopping block again. They sure are little boogers to get into, but man, it’s so worth it. That buttery flavor and heartiness make them the perfect healthy comfort food. Plus with their dye-your-skin-orange flesh they’re chock full of antioxidants to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, just when you need it the most.

Literally, all I did here is saute sliced red onion in a skillet. Add the squash. Then broth. Then kale. Then beans. Serve over quinoa and voila! You’ve got yourself a dinner that might make you miss b-squash too. It’s crazy healthy, and even crazier that it’s so delicious. I almost can’t believe it myself. Here’s the full recipe….

Butternut Squash with Kale and White Beans over Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash. peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thin crescents
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can cannellini beans (or 2 cups cooked beans)

For the dressing (whisk all ingredients together to combine):

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Rinse and drain quinoa well. Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil and add quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about five minutes. Add squash and stir to coat with oil. Cook 7-10 minutes. When the edges of the squash begin to sear and stick to the pan, stir in the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. When the squash is soft, add kale and stir to combine. When the greens have reduced, add white beans and stir to combine.

Serve over quinoa; drizzle with lemon dressing.

And enjoy that last taste of winter.

As sad as I am to pack up my UGGs and say goodbye to b-squash, I’m just as excited to move on to spring. To help you get your body ready for the season, I’m offering a Spring Clean Your Body program. Now is the time we can all use a little spring cleaning — inside and out. Sessions can be done individually or with friends. For more information, click here.

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Broccoli Crunch Salad


Years ago I remember having the most incredible broccoli salad. I couldn’t tell you where I was (which is bugging me), but I can still taste it. This salad (remember, I use the term loosely) ingeniously combined broccoli, red onion, raisins and bacon dressed in creamy deliciousness. I’m sure mayonnaise was involved, which I publicly detest but have been known to turn a blind eye to when it’s in chicken salad (shhh). Speaking of, I’m working on a delicious and mayonnaise-free chicken salad. So stay tuned for that. But back to broccoli… This salad left quite an impression. And I’ve since discovered a few others that can be the determining factor in my decision of where to dine, no lie. Sweet Tomatoes does a creamy one sans bacon. Then there’s Whole Foods’ version which is cream-free with cashews and sweet agave dressing. I wanted to make one that was a bit healthier. And I took it to a whole new salad-as-a-meal level. I’ve mentioned before that I love a good salad for lunch. And that my definition of a salad may be a bit different than the traditional. For me, lettuce alone does not a salad make. Mixed greens should merely be a backdrop to a medley of flavors, colors and textures. It’s gotta be interesting, delicious and (keyword here) satisfying. This broccoli crunch creation checks off all three boxes. Crunchy, sweet and salty all combined into one. For the dressing, you can use the same balsamic vinaigrette I did (see below for recipe), or just mix a little balsamic and olive oil (1:2 ratio), or use your favorite bottle (read the label!). Looking for something a little heartier? Add a scoop of quinoa for some extra carbs with protein.

What you need:

spring mix
broccoli, chopped
apple, diced
red onion, sliced in thin crescents
walnuts or cashews (or both), chopped
currants

For the dressing:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper

What you do:

Combine dressing ingredients and whisk together until combined. Combine salad ingredients, top with dressing and toss well.

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For the Love of Mac & Cheese

Last night my roommates and I hosted a macaroni and cheese cook-off. The only thing healthy about this was the green beans we made as a side/palate cleanser. Actually, I take that back. There’s nothing wrong with a little pasta, cheese and milk when it agrees with you. These dishes were made with real, wholesome ingredients. And that’s perfectly healthy … you know what I’m going to say, right? … “in moderation.” But making it your entire meal like we did last night … not so healthy. Nevertheless, I’m sharing this because who doesn’t love mac & cheese? We’ve all got to splurge every now and then. What else is Thanksgiving week for?

The winner was Mac & Cheese Cupcakes (our apartment’s creation). We think the bite-size minis would make a perfect party horderve (pictured top left). Other contenders ranged from the classic elbow mac and cheddar, to the gourmet: Martha Stewart’s cafe macaroni and cheese (pictured bottom left). The top right picture is of our entire spread. There would have been enough food to feed ourselves (eight mac & cheese-loving girls) and then put that guy on Man vs Food to shame. There were a lot of leftovers.

In the end it was the crispy edges on the cupcakes that gave them a leg up over the rest (pictured bottom right). The recipe (slightly adapted) from Epicurious is below. Enjoy, “in moderation.” Come to think of it, these individual servings help make that whole moderation thing a little easier too. That is, if you can stop at just one.

Mac & Cheese Cupcakes

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 ounces small elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chives, snipped
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • breadcrumbs

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to the package, until tender. Drain and toss with a little olive oil and set noodles aside.
Butter cupcake pans (2 large or 4 mini) and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then set aside.

In a large sauce pan, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until it’s well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Stir in the mustard, pepper, and salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Once thick, stir in the cheddar cheese until it’s melted and smooth. Fold in the macaroni. Then stir in the chives.

Spoon macaroni and cheese into the cupcake pans. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then dust tops with breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown on top, about 15-25 minutes.

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Rules to Eat By

These days you can’t walk down the grocery store aisle without seeing a food product that’s touting some sort of nutritional benefit. Be it calcium-fortified waffles, Splenda with fiber, or a box of Froot Loops with the “smart choice” check mark – you have to ask yourself, Really? We’re inundated with crazy messages about food. It’s overwhelming!

That’s why Michael Pollan, writer and food advocate, wants to get back to our roots. Aside from marketing and the food pyramid, what guides our judgment of what’s healthy? Our cultural knowledge should keep us on track (i.e. the little things passed on from mom and dad or that we just learn in passing). Whether you realize it or not, we all have little rules that we eat by. These rules shape our understanding of food, nourishment and health. Pollan says: “…culture still has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food, and this popular wisdom is worth preserving — perhaps today more than ever, in this era of dazzling food science, supersize portions and widespread dietary confusion.”

So, he’s working on a book to keep our collective cultural knowledge of eating from slipping through the cracks. Pollan gathered thousands of personal rules about eating and calls it a “collection of genuinely useful and nutritionally sound examples of popular wisdom about eating.”

As a taste, the first 20 are published in the NYT’s magazine.

A few of my favorites….

“You don’t get fat on food you pray over.”

“Avoid snack foods that end with the “OH” sound in their names: Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Hostess Ho Hos, Etc.”

“It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor.”

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Healthy Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

I know what you’re thinking … Healthy AND creamy? Liar.

No, really. This soup is rich, smooth and delicious. And it has only 3 grams of fat per serving, plus a solid dose vitamins A and C. How, you ask? There’s no cream. No butter. Just squash, potatoes, stock and seasoning. And it tastes just as decadent. On a cool, rainy day (read: forecast for this week), it’s fall-in-a-bowl perfection.

butternut squash soup

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Here’s what you do:

Peel and chop up all the vegetables and place them in a large bowl. Heat oil in a big soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add  the ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir together until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add the diced vegetables and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are tender.

Transfer the soup to a blender (you’ll have to do this in 2-3 batches) and puree. Hold the lid with a towel to keep from splashing and burning yourself. Return soup to pot and stir to even out texture. Continue heating if necessary and adjust seasoning with salt pepper.

Serve and top with chopped walnuts (omega-3s), pecans, raisins, or a dollop of cream if you like.

Sip, slurp, watch the leaves change colors. It’s fall.

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What Do You Eat In A Week?

My work BFF, Jennifer sent me this link. Check out the photos of families from all over the world (The U.S., Mexico, Japan, Ecuador, Mali…) surrounded by the foods they eat in a week. You can imagine how this looks already, I’m sure: Americans with pizza and potato chips and people in Mali with, well, rice.

If you took a picture of all the food you ate in a given week, what would it look like?

There’s also a table that compares average income, life expectancy, food consumption and amount spent on healthcare among other things in each country. No big surprise here. America has the highest income and spends the most on healthcare (nearly double what Japan, France and the U.K. shell out). Funny thing is people live longer in Japan (#1), France (#2) and The U.K. (#3) than in the U.S. (#4). One thing we do have going for us is we smoke less. The U.S. came in #7 in tobacco consumption. The English take that one.

Interesting stuff.

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