Author Archive | Tim Werth

A Tale of Two Countries: Americans Are Enjoying Fast Food More Than Ever

Even in the age of organic-everything and green living, fast food is becoming more popular. A new study explains why some Americans are sticking with super-sized portions and greasy fries despite the abundance of natural food choices.

Healthy eating in the United States has been a growing source of contention for decades. Our glorious country has come to be known for larger-than-life portions, fried food, and lack of exercise.

As much as we don’t want to admit to eating the ice cream, burgers, and fries that our country has become famous for, it seems like we do it all the time. After all, 90% of U.S. homes regularly eat dessert and the typical American eats a burger 4.3 times per month.

So with this in mind, it is important to be conscious of the negative health effects that come with eating these foods. And, no, we’re not saying that it is a bad idea to have a burger and an ice cream cone once in a while! Rather, it is all about making healthy choices.

However, many households are losing the battle against junk food, and today fast food is becoming more popular with more Americans than ever before. According to a new survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Americans are changing their preferences on both where and what they eat — and not always for the better.

For the first time in the survey’s history, fast food restaurants were rated higher than sit down establishments when it comes to customer satisfaction. These restaurants, dubbed full service restaurants in the survey, saw a 3.7% decrease in overall satisfaction, dropping from 81 to 78. Fast food, on the other hand, stayed the same at 79 points (each scale is out of 100). The cheap prices at fast food restaurants is definitely a factor here, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Despite the stereotype, nutrition experts say that middle-class Americans are actually more likely to eat fast food than low-income Americans.

The ACSI’s managing director David VanAmburg explains to NBC that there are plenty of reasons why full service restaurants are suffering, including expensive prices, lack of variety, and lower grocery store prices, which encourage shoppers to cook more at home. He also mentions that even though prices are rising in restaurants, the service, meal, beverage selection, and overall experience doesn’t necessarily match the increased price.

Not only that, but fast food chains are stepping their game up and giving customers exactly what they want, while offering a different dynamic than what we have become accustomed to.

“The fast food category is not just about traditional burger chains anymore,” VanAmburg says. “It’s now about a number of newer, more dynamic, more diverse types of fast casual choices that really stress innovation and the quality of the food they’re serving. And the pricing is very competitive compared to full-service restaurants.”

The 5,000 consumers surveyed for the report chose Chick-fil-A as the winner in the fast food category. Papa John’s and Panera Bread tied for second place, Subway came in third, followed by Arby’s, Chiplote Mexican Grill, Dunkin’ Donuts, and KFC. All the fast food restaurants grew in customer satisfaction, while the sit downs lost points dramatically.

Cracker Barrel came out on top for the sit-down restaurants, followed by Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Applebees, Ruby Tuesday, and Chili’s in descending order.

With these trends in mind, VanAmburg explains that the American ideal of the traditional hamburger chain is changing. He explains, “We’ve seen burger chains languishing near the bottom of the ratings for a number of years now, but the gap is becoming greater between them and places like Panera Bread and even an alternative in the fast food category, like KFC.”

So while more Americans are concerned about eating healthy, the country clearly still deserves its reputation as a Fast Food Nation.

Why A Green Kitchen Remodel Is Worth the Investment

For many parents and homeowners, remodeling is a dreaded subject. It is something to be avoided and decried as too expensive, too time-consuming, and too difficult while the kids are still young. In fact, that aversion to change is likely why 47% of Americans haven’t updated their home decor in the last five years, with 9% having neglected it for more than a decade!

But remodeling is the best way to make your home feel more like an extension of who you and your family are. And it is the best way to increase the value of your home should you ever want to sell. That’s why many parents decide, reluctantly, to take remodeling one step at a time.

Among the more popular starting remodeling projects is the kitchen remodel. People remodel their kitchen for a number of different reasons: some want a more open floor plan, others want to improve the efficiency of their kitchen, and some just get tired of the ugly wallpaper that came with the house. For many people, the fact that even a minor kitchen remodel, done right, has an average return on investment of 82.7%.

But if you are in the market for kitchen remodeling, consider opting for greener options when selecting your design components. Not only will you have the satisfaction of leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, but it might even help to increase your home’s resale value.

According to Realtor.com, 61% of homebuyers in 2017 will be below the age of 35. As millennials continue to represent more and more of the housing market, they will bring with them their own tastes and desires, such as sustainable offerings. In fact, nearly 75% of millennials are willing to pay higher prices for sustainable products, more than any other generation.

Items such as sustainable kitchen cabinets, flooring, and countertops can make your kitchen look stunning and reduce the environmental effect of your remodeling project significantly. But even if you spend all your free time watching HGTV — all six minutes of it between tucking your child in bed and falling asleep on the couch — it can be hard to know what exactly is or is not sustainable.

We’ve put together a few quick tips to help you pick the right, sustainable materials for your kitchen remodel.

Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets are a great place to start your search, considering the majority of cabinets are made from wood. Make sure that your wood is either reclaimed or can be certified as sustainably harvested. Also be certain that they use formaldehyde-free glues.

Countertops
For countertops, look for materials that are recycled or at least made of sustainable materials. Some of the coolest options on the market are made of recycled glass and cement before being finished to look like limestone. You can also find a number of interesting counters made from wood reclaimed from old barns and other buildings.

Floors
While linoleum often gets a bad rep, it is a great option for environmentally friendly floors. Made from biodegradable materials, this durable flooring comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Cork is also a popular option, and it is made from wood that is carefully monitored to maintain available supplies.

There is more to consider, of course, such as energy-efficient appliances and the smaller touches like efficient LED lighting. But if you can find sustainable options for these three components, then you are already ahead of the curve.

Pediatricians Warn: Reduce the Juice For Young Children

For American kids aged two to 18, nearly half of the fruit they consume is in juice form. Now, pediatricians are urging parents to drastically cut back on the amount of juice in their children’s diets — and that children under one year old should have no juice at all.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement that spells it out in black and white: “Fruit juice offers no nutritional advantage over whole fruit.” While that juice box might contain vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants, the same can be said for whole fruit. But the real fruit also has fiber, which can help to maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as a healthy weight.

Too much juice consumption — especially at bedtime — can also lead to early tooth decay. The American Academy of Pediatrist Dentists recommends that children see a dentist before their first birthday. But now, pediatricians also say that kids should never consume juice before that time.

In the past, the AAP has made this recommendation for children under six months of age. During that time, the Academy says, nothing other than breast milk or formula should be consumed. Substituting juice for milk or formula can actually be harmful, as it keeps infants from getting the fat, protein, and nutrients they need.

But the Academy has expanded that initial recommendation to include the entire first year of life. While pureed and mashed foods are standard during this period, experts recommend that the only liquids babies should consume at this stage are breast milk, formula, or water.

The Academy also recommends that parents restrict juice consumption for children ages one to six. Because fruit juice and fruity drinks taste good, kids are more likely to consume too much. They’re often more convenient, so parents may rely on them to keep toddlers happy and occupied. But experts want parents to give their children whole fruits — which are fairly conveniently packaged already — instead of relying on sugary juices. And if they do give their kids juice, the amount should be limited to four to six ounces per day, depending on the child’s age.

Co-author of the new guidelines, Dr. Melvin B. Heyman, noted in a statement, “Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories. Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under one.”

Parents also need to be careful about reading the label when buying their juice at the store. They should make certain the juices they purchase are pasteurized, lest a child be exposed to E. coli or Salmonella. And they should also double-check to make sure the product is actually 100% juice. If it says “fruit drink,” “fruit beverage,” or “fruit cocktail” on the bottom, it’s not 100% juice.

“One hundred percent fresh or reconstituted fruit juice can be a healthy part of the diet of children older than one year when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet,” the recommendations say. “Fruit drinks, however, are not nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice.”

While these drinks may seem like healthy options, parents should not be fooled. As the Academy has said, “Fruit juice has no essential role in healthy, balanced diets of children.”

If your kids crave a flavor in their water, adding fresh berries, citrus, or cucumber is a much better option. They’ll get the benefit of the flavor and can eat the fruit after the water’s gone. But for parents who believe orange juice is a better alternative to soda, this report might require them to change their thinking.

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