Wellbody Blog

At Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness, we understand there's only one thing harder than making healthy behavior changes: Sticking to them! We all need a little help from our friends, and that's the purpose of the Wellbody Blog, a friendly online gathering spot--a community well--where you can dip into health news; wellness tips; recipes; latest research about nutrition, exercise, sleep and hygiene; plus, real stories from virtual neighbors who are also trying to change their lives for the better. Start from wherever you are; share ideas, information, inspiration. At Pacific Science Center, we believe each of us can do something everyday to improve our health and well-being.

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Popcorn! If there's any snack food that has a split personality, this is it.

Healthy, low-fat, low-calorie source of dietary fiber? Or artery clogging, sodium slathered tub o' fat? 

All depends on how you pop and top it.PBs popcornSprinkle home-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast for deep umami flavor and a protein kick.      Copyright©Paula Bock

If you use an air popper or microwave naked kernels in a brown paper lunch bag with minimal or no oil, two cups of white popcorn have about 65 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber. If you pop popcorn in a pot on the stove with a olive, grapeseed or coconut oil, a two-cup serving is 110 calories.

Consumer watchdogs have long lambasted the buttery salted tubs of popcorn served in many movie theaters citing excessive sodium, saturated fat and trans fat (which can lead to clogged arteries) and monster portion sizes. Large movie popcorn vats can hold up to 1,030 calories – not including the ladleful of extra butter flavor that pours on 130 to 500 additional calories.

Commercial pouches of microwave popcorn often contain trans fat and dozens of added chemicals, including some that leach from the packaging when it's heated. One of the additives, diacetyl, can cause severe respiratory disease if you breath in the vapors when the bag is first opened. So definitely don't inhale!

When it comes to popcorn, the healthiest choice is to make your own at home. Bonus: It's quick and only pennies a serving!

For a boost of flavor and protein, sprinkle with nutritional yeast  a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, sold as yellow flakes or powder. It's a source of complete protein, low in fat and sodium and free of sugar, dairy and gluten. Filled with B-complex vitamins, some brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with vitamin B12.

Also known as "nooch," nutritional yeast does not sound yummy, but it is—adding a musky, umami, cheese-like flavor to popcorn or whatever else you put it in.

Other terrific popcorn toppings: soy sauce, miso, smoked paprika and parsley, cumin, hot sauce, furikake (with seaweed and shaved bonito flakes), lemongrass, chili, lime zest. Check out this popcorn topping slideshow on Serious Eats and go wild! 

And when you visit Wellbody Academy's Cafedium, be sure to stop by Professor Rosemary Baker's desk to peek at her recipes and cookbook.


Children's menus are stuck in a time warp, dominated by unhealthy fried chicken fingers, burgers, excessive cheese and sugary drinks, according to a recent study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.burgerandfriesPhoto/Food Safety News

"One out of every three American children is overweight or obese," says CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan, but the chain restaurant industry just doesn't get it. "They seem stuck in a time warp, serving up the same old meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda." 

Of 3,500 meal options for kids, 97 percent flunk nutrition guidelines calling for ½ serving of fruit or vegetable and an item that's at least half whole grain. The chains also violate health guidelines that say meals should not exceed 430 calories, 770 milligrams sodium, 35 percent of calories from fat, 35 percent of calories from added sugar, or 10 percent of calories from saturated and trans fats.

Subway is the healthy exception, including low-fat milk or bottled water (instead of soda) along with apple slices with kid-sized subs in all eight of its Fresh Fit for Kids meal combos.

On Seattle Times blog All You Can Eat, food writer Rebekah Denn explores healthy, local, reasonably priced eating-out options for families with kids: pho, scaled-down menus, veggie sushi.

Share your healthy, reasonably priced, family friendly eating-out tips—and you may win two free passes to Wellbody Academy. What do you do and where do you go when you're out with kids and need a quick, convenient bite? Do you carry your own fixings for avoid-meltdown-meals in the car? (If so, what foods do you bring? And what containers do you pack in?) Do you stop by a favorite local eatery near the park, school, playing fields or mall? Where do you go for family "destination" meals? Comment on Facebook or the Wellbody Blog, or email ProfessorWellbody@pacsci.org.

We'll share your tips with the Wellbody community in a future post and (did we mention this GIVEAWAY?) throw your name in the hat to receive two complimentary passes to visit Wellbody Academy and Pacific Science Center's other exhibits.

While you're here, check out Burger Planet’s drive-through in Wellbody Academy’s Cafedium and use the Customized Calorie Budgetizer to create a plan tailored to your gender, age and activity level.


Speaking of cravings and junk food, this simple recipe for kale chips is so delicious, so addictive, it elevates the bliss point of this nutritional superstar to the level of Cheetos.

KaleFirst, there's a satisfying crunch and tingle of salt. Then, the delicate green web of crisped chlorophyll melts in your mouth, spreading a warm glow across the tongue. Excellent with drinks; apple cider for the kids. Even children who won't touch other green vegetables will scarf down a bowl of kale chips.

Kale, in the Brassica family along with cabbage, collards and broccoli, is packed with antioxidant vitamins A, C and K – and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, five grams of fiber, 15 percent of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40 percent of magnesium, 180 percent of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C, and 1,020 percent of vitamin K. It is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

(The other primary ingredient, olive oil, is a vital component of the heart healthy Mediterranean Diet. Stay tuned for more about olive oil in upcoming posts.)

Yes, you can purchase a modest-sized bag of kale chips at the store for $5.79. Or, you can buy (or harvest) a bunch of the greens and make double the amount of kale chips for half the price. Bonus: just-out-of-the-oven aroma and warmth. Tip: Watch the kale chips carefully in the oven because they progress slowly from limp and wet to perfectly crisp and green (a short sweet spot) before quickly blackening.

Kale comes in curly, ornamental, green, purple and dinosaur varieties and can be grown all year round in the Seattle area.

Visit Wellbody Academy's Cafedium to play Apple A Day, an interactive, razzle-dazzle game that uses a Vegas-style slot machine to teach what foods have which nutrients and how those nutrients help your body.

Call for recipes! Share your favorite healthy recipes and wellness tips with the Wellbody Blog by emailing professorwellbody@pacsci.org. Thanks!

Cheetos, Dr. Pepper, potato chips . . . Ever wonder why we crave junk foods that add excessive sodium, sugar and fat to our bodies but little nutritional value?

junk food

This extensive report by Michael Moss on The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food in the New York Times Sunday Magazine delves into the laboratories and masterminds behind our guilty food pleasures to reveal the "bliss point" that helps food companies create the greatest amount of crave; the sociology underlying skipped meals and high-sodium Lunchables; and the whopping two teaspoons of sugar in a mere half-cup of Prego spaghetti sauce.

In an era when one in three adults is considered clinically obese, along with one in five kids, and 24 million Americans are afflicted by type 2 diabetes, often caused by poor diet, with another 79 million people having pre-diabetes . . . this is definitely worth a read.

Visit Wellbody Academy's Cafedium to play with hands-on gadgets that teach about nutrition and while you're here, check out the Influence Decoder in Wellbody Hall to learn more about how food industry marketing can impact our dietary choices. For example: Did you know that every year, the food industry spends more than $700 million marketing to children younger than 11 (mostly carbonated beverages, breakfast cereals and fast food restaurants) and that children ages 8 – 12 are exposed to an average 83 product advertisements a day?

LA Times Photo - Mummy Heart DseaseLA Times PhotoGreasy steak fries, cigarettes and wide-screen HDTV's didn't tempt our ancient ancestors back in the day, but recent CT scans of 137 antique mummies found they had coronary artery disease anyway.

So much for the Paleo Diet!

One in three of the mummies from Egypt, Peru, the American Southwest and Alaska had heart disease, according to research published in the Lancet by a team of physicians, biologists and anthropologists. Even hunter-gatherers from the Aleutian Islands, who subsisted on berries and a heart-healthy marine diet, were not immune.

This might suggest a healthy lifestyle and healthy environment can't prevent heart disease; clogged arteries are just a natural part of the aging process.

But don't reach for the donuts just yet! Doctors urge us to maintain good nutrition and exercise habits and, if you're on blood-pressure and cholesterol meds, keep taking them. If you don't, atherosclerosis could set in that much sooner! Read more in the Los Angeles Times and listen to NPR interview with cardiologist Randall Thompson.

Visit Wellbody Academy's Cafedium to explore how nutrition and exercise can impact how you feel day-to-day.