Melissa Kravitz

Here's how food companies intentionally make their products addictive — and literally make us sick

Can’t stop eating that bag of chips until you’re licking the salt nestled in the corners of the empty package from your fingers? You’re not alone. And it’s not entirely your fault that the intended final handful of chips was not, indeed, your last for that snacking session. Many common snack foods have been expertly engineered to keep us addicted, almost constantly craving more of whatever falsely satisfying manufactured treat is in front of us.

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FDA bans cancer-causing food additives — but won’t enforce until 2020

Americans are no strangers to food additives: the preservatives, coloring and flavoring agents that keep foods looking fresh and taste better. A product of our desire for fast, cheap and satisfying eats that underscores our detachment from actually fresh, locally sourced foods, they are found in everything from nutrition-boosting salad dressings to McDonald’s French fries. But are they safe?

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Should plant-based proteins be called 'meat'?

Fried chicken, bacon cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza aren’t uncommon to see on vegan menus—or even the meat-free freezer section of your local supermarket—but should we be calling these mock meat dishes the same names? A new Missouri law doesn’t think so. The state’s law, which forbids “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry,” has led to a contentious ethical, legal and linguistic debate. Four organizations—Tofurky, the Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Animal Legal Defense Fund—are now suing the state on the basis that not only is the law against the United States Constitution, but it favors meat producers for unfair market competition.

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Our Coffee Addiction Is Destroying the Environment

When you wake up bleary-eyed and craving caffeine, the last thing you may be thinking about (or want to be thinking about) may be how your coffee consumption is ruining the planet. But just as we’re all adjusting to using aluminum straws instead of disposable, plastic turtle-killers in our iced lattes, we need to reconsider the impacts our preferred morning beverages have on the world surrounding us. After all, it’s too often overlooked that these minor routine habits (like tossing out unused food instead of composting it, or using plastic shopping bags once before they end up in a landfill) can add up, contributing to the detriment of our environment.

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Here's Why Our Food Systems Are a Central Feminist Issue

Seventy-four percent of American vegans are female, but is there any link between veganism and feminism? Superficially, one could look at decades of mass marketing meat, grills and other fire-and-flesh fueled products to men, infusing these inanimate culinary products with gender—but, speaking as a woman who loves steak (eating it, cooking it, all of it) and as a person with common sense, foods in and of themselves should not appeal to one gender identity or another. One could point to the surge of female-led steakhouses and butcher shops—like New York’s White Gold Butchers—as exemplary evidence that women of all kinds love meat, but veganism (for many) isn’t necessarily about a like or dislike of animal products. So why are three out of every four vegans female?

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Would You Replace Real Meals With Powdered Food?

Food: It's one of the few steady components of being a functioning human that should bring joy to each day, multiple times a day. But what if we cut out chewing for the sake of efficiency? Forget pancakes and bacon to lure you out of bed on a rough morning, the banh mi that will power you through your lunch break or the nostalgic home-cooked meal to wrap up a weekend. Protein powder has long been part of the smoothie-centric diet of fitness enthusiasts, but a growing movement to replace meals with powdered food may endanger cuisine's status as, you know, essential, for future work-centric generations.

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9 Warning Signs That You Should Avoid a Restaurant

In the era of Instagram, Yelp, OpenTable, and a seemingly endless flow of food blogs and amateur food critics, it's nearly impossible to go anywhere without a restaurant recommendation. But how do you know that the cute little Italian place your cousin swore served the best meal she ever had is worth dining at, especially when you walk by and something looks amiss?

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Flight Attendants Really Want You to Stop Ordering This Drink

After spending a few hours of your life being corralled into lines full of anxious travelers, having all of your personal belongings inspected by TSA agents, and squeezing yourself into an unreasonably small amount of space for the duration of a flight, the sound of a drink cart coming down an airplane aisle often signals a bit of relief for the dehumanizing rituals modern-day air travel forces upon us. One may not usually drink Bloody Marys or enjoy spend $7 on a minuscule bottle of alcohol, but our imbibing rules are often different in the air. Non-soda drinkers go from extolling the evils of Big Sugar to pleading with a flight attendant for the whole can, while non-water drinkers beg for the last drops of bottled water while stuck on the tarmac.

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Tom Brady's Insane Diet Is Potentially Dangerous to the Average Person, but It’s Helped Him Become an Elite Athlete

The Super Bowl causes unreasonably high calorie consumption on couches across America each year, but those out on the field are fueled by much more than a party-sized plate of nachos. Take Tom Brady, one of America's most popular (and possibly one of the most hated) professional football players, whose pre-Super Bowl diet is far more obscene than the $50 worth of chicken wings marinating in your fridge. Spoiler: There’s no salsa, pizza or beer. Or really, much of anything.

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9 Dishes Chefs Eat When They're Sick

When your nose won’t stop leaking, you can barely hear Netflix over your incessant coughing, and a trip outside the house seems like a death sentence, there’s only one way to cure the plague: Food. A plethora of ingredients are proven to help you feel better—perhaps better than any over-the-counter cold reliever—and soup is indeed medically proven to make you feel better when winter sickness makes everything feel bleak.

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There's Something Big Shifting in American High Cuisine

On a recent episode of their weekly comedy podcast, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher recount a laughably horrendous experience ordering the two token vegan items on a restaurant menu in Miami: some type of vegan burger (though not served on a vegan bun), and buffalo cauliflower (a whole head of cauliflower served with sauce on top). The two riff about people not knowing what vegetarians actually eat, and why so-called vegetarian items on menus often have strange ingredients or come from a completely different cuisine than the rest of the restaurant's menu. To anyone who has ever tried to avoid eating meat in a public setting, the concept is highly relatable. A former vegetarian myself, I quickly grew sick of asking if the dishes labeled vegetarian on restaurant menus were prepared with chicken stock or lard or who-knows-what animal part deemed necessary to create purportedly meat-free menu items. 

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Restaurants Use Menu Psychology to Make You Spend More Money: Here Are 7 Techniques to Avoid Being Suckered

What would you rather order? A $10 bowl of mac-and-cheese or a $12 four-cheese baked pasta skillet topped with artisanal breadcrumbs?

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That Ethical, Sustainable Chocolate You Love? It May Be a Fraud

Ten percent of products in the food and drink category are "adulterated or mislabeled," according to a new study by Ecovia Intelligence, an ethical product research firm. Seafood, parmesan cheese, Kobe beef, herbal tea—all of these products were investigated and outed as oft-disguised and mis-marketed in Larry Olmstead’s 2016 food fraud expose, "Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It." 

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Don't Be Fooled by These 12 Foods With Really Tricky Names

"What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked. Well, everything. Food-wise, when it comes to names, the particular label or nickname an ingredient or dish carries can mean the difference between enjoying your meal or being repulsed by testicles when you really wanted seafood. Naming mistakes can also lead you to miss out on the treats of the world, like Russia’s herring in furs (?!).

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12 Foods Chefs Never Order at a Restaurant

If anyone knows what to order at restaurants, it's chefs. Taking menus from their imaginative stages to physical manifestations on plates, chefs are experts on what to order in a way that those of us who have never managed a kitchen may never be.

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Do You Really Need a Meal Kit in a Box Delivered to Your Doorstep?

“To me, meal kits feel like cheating, not cooking,” chef Amanda Cohen wrote in a New York Times op-ed titled “You Don’t Need Blue Apron to Teach You to Turn On Your Oven.” But despite the hack for quicker, simpler homemade meals, Cohen found some good in the existence of these minimal-assembly-required cooking phenomenons.

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If You've Ever Smoked, You Should Load Up on These Foods to Protect Your Lungs

No matter how many times you’ve been told not to smoke because the damage from even an occasional puff is irreversible (somewhat true, depending on a variety of factors, like genetics), it’s likely that at some point in your life you’ve inhaled tobacco smoke. Perhaps all the ads reminding you that “Kissing a Smoker Is Like Licking an Ashtray” were not enough of a deterrent. But whether you’re a one-time smoker or a recovering pack-a-day nicotine addict, ignoring your lung health would be a serious mistake: Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and the fourth most common cause of death in the U.S.

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If PepsiCo Told You They Suddenly Cared About Your Health, Would You Believe It?

Soda is bad. The sweetened, fixing juice marketed at everyone from teens to the elderly is oft-accused of fattening and killing America, and is seen as a common enemy by health experts and weight loss aficionados alike. And while the soft drink industry is still valued at over $994 billion, Americans—miraculously—are slowly drinking less of the sugary stuff.

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Brunch Drunk Love: The Hungover Origins of Your Favorite Meal

A recent Top Chef episode challenged the chef-testants to combine breakfast and lunch dishes to fuse elements of two meals into one. To 21st-century diners, the so-called challenge wasn't an impossible task to be mastered only by the most talented culinary geniuses, but rather an accessible execution of a favorite weekend pastime: Brunch.

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Check Out Wacky Foodie City Ratings, as Americans Spend More Money on Restaurants Than on Groceries

Since the late '90s, spending at restaurants has slowly chased the amounts we spend at the supermarket. Finally, in June 2015, U.S. census data confirmed that Americans are spending more at restaurants than on groceries.

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How Low-Fat Foods Actually Made America Fat

In the second edition of the USDA’s Dietary Goals for the United States, published in 1977, Americans were advised to limit their intake of fats, replacing their regular fat sources (meat, butter) with complex carbohydrates and manufactured substitutes (margarine).

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Are You Eating Smuggled Avocados?

As climate change makes it harder for avocado growers to produce the fruits, the criminal underworld has seized on avocados' ever-growing popularity.

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Some of the World's Most Successful and Richest People Have Quirky Eating Habits: Is There a Connection ?

Simone Biles celebrates a win with pepperoni pizza. Steve Jobs was a vegan who ate only carrots or apple for weeks on end. Beyoncé sings that she has hot sauce in her bag and Hillary Clinton claims she carries spicy condiments in her purse. Bill Gates demands diet Cokes in his hotel refrigerators when he travels and eats cheeseburgers for lunch on an almost obsessive basis.

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Lab-Grown Meat Is the Future of Food: Are You Ready to Take a Bite? (Video)

Soon, your burger may come out of a test tube. Cultured meat—meat developed in a scientific lab rather than from slaughtered animals—is rapidly becoming the future of food, or protein, at least.

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The Many Ways Farmer's Markets and Small Family Farms Are Essential to Our Future

Ending food insecurity may be as easy as supporting your local farmers market. In advance of World Food Day on October 16, American Farmland Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes environmentally sound farming practices, named its top farmers markets in the nation, many of which are based in warmer southern states like Florida and Virginia. But no matter what region you live in, farmers markets and small farms are essential to community health.

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The Chopped Salad Super Craze: How Good Is It for You?

It’s 12:30pm on any given weekday in New York City. Hungry workers have emerged from their cubicles. Scrolling through Instagram feeds or swiping through midday emails on their cellphones, they join long queues snaking outside fast-casual restaurants tossing and chopping salads to order.

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Fancy Restaurants Now Serving... Dirt?

America's newest food trend may be dirt-cheap: dirt.

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One Restaurant Is Turning the Wood-Burning Pizzeria into a Thing of the Past

This past Earth Day, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would no longer provide permits for wood-burning pizza ovens. Currently outlawed in San Francsisco, the wood-burning ovens give off horrendous amounts of smoke and burn wood pretty rapidly. But what is New York without a traditional pie?

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The Chef of the Future Could Be a Robot - IBM Is Cooking Up Another Assault on Skilled Labor

There was once a time when all dirty dishes needed to be cleaned by hand. Warm water, soap, scrubbing -- all necessary. Then came the all-powerful dishwasher, a near necessity in American homes and food establishments. Small appliances like the microwave, toaster oven, blender and electric mixer have all made kitchen tasks unarguably easier, but with technology advancing at an unprecedent rapid rate, how long until inventions totally change the way we prepare food?

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