Try not to get too cheesed off (sorry/not sorry), but there's a chance that package of grated Parmesan you picked up at the supermarket may not actually be what you paid for.
According to a report released by Bloomberg Business earlier this week, major cheese manufacturers are cutting costs by bulking up their packages of "100 percent grated Parmesan cheese" with cellulose—a food-grade product often made from wood pulp—instead of actual cheese.
Angry? You probably should be. Take Castle Cheese Inc., a company called out by the FDA: they were passing their wood pulp–laced cheese off as 100% Parmesan—a mislabeling issue punishable by law.
Scared for your health? That might be an overreaction. The use of cellulose in commercial food production is nothing new—in fact, it's been commonplace since the 80s. And, as Toronto-based registered dietitian Abby Langer told Huffington Post, this practice is not necessarily as much of a health concern as some are making it out to be.
Cellulose comes from the cell walls of plants, she argues, making it a plant-based fibre. Its purpose in food is to act as a thickener or anti-clumping agent, and it's most often found in lower-fat products, such as light salad dressings or low-fat burgers, as it improves the texture of food without affecting the nutritional profile.
"I think it's just because 'wood in your food' sounds gross that people are freaking out about it," she told Huffington Post. "But why not freak out about the chemicals in the same food that are not some harmless fibre derived from plants?"
But Wisconsin-based food scientist Mark Johnson of the Center for Dairy Research claims that while cellulose itself is safe for consumption to a certain extent, there's "a temptation to [use] more than necessary," reports Global News.
As per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the acceptable level of cellulose in food is two to four percent. However, when Bloomberg Business performed their own independent laboratory tests, samples of multiple major U.S. brands of grated cheese contained cellulose levels as high as 7.8 percent.
The FDA report also found that Castle Cheese Inc.'s 100% grated Parmesan cheese sold at Target in the U.S. did not actually contain Parmesan. Instead, the product was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, cheddar and cellulose. The company has since filed for bankruptcy and the president is facing criminal charges.
Whether or not these higher-than-acceptable levels are present in cheese sold here in Canada is yet to be determined—though two of the U.S. brands that were found to be using cellulose in excess (Walmart and Kraft) are major purveyors of cheese in Canada.
In the meantime, there's a pretty easy workaround if you're concerned about your cheese not being 100% Parmesan: buy bricks of it and grate it yourself.
XLTL high-efficiency top-loading washer and dryer, GE Image courtesy of GE Appliances
Image by: XLTL high-efficiency top-loading washer and dryer, GE<br>Image courtesy of GE Appliances
Author: Canadian Living
There's more to laundry these days than just sorting colours. Here's the latest buzz in fabric care.
1. Fabric softener can save you money
Under a microscope, cotton fibres aren't all that dissimilar from strands of human hair. What's more, they're both at their most vulnerable when wet, which is why we use conditioner on our hair after shampooing. In the laundry cycle, that conditioning role is fulfilled by fabric softener. More than just perfuming your clothes and making them softer to the touch, fabric softener lubricates fabrics at the fibre level, reducing the damaging effects of friction in both the washer and the dryer, ultimately extending the life of your go-to garments.
2. "High-efficiency" washers aren't a fad
If you've still got a traditional agitator-method washer, you're officially in the minority. According to Jennifer Schoenegge, a clothes-care product manager at GE, high-efficiency (HE) washing machines now outnumber conventional washers in North American households. This is great news from an environmental standpoint, as not only can HE washers do up to four basket loads in a single wash but they also use half the water of standard models.
3. Not all high-efficiency detergents are equal
High-efficiency washing machines use cooler water than traditional washing machines; as a result, they require different detergents than agitator-method washers. Unfortunately, Schoenegge says some detergents that market themselves as being suitable for use in HE machines are simply repackaged versions of original formulas and can result in degradation of garment fibres over time. Look for detergents branded "HE Turbo," which offer protection against damage caused by cold-water washes, and collapsible suds that break down over the course of the wash and rinse clean in a single cycle. It's also important to avoid under- or overdosing detergent by measuring it according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
4. Dirty laundry doesn't always look dirty
In fact, "70 percent of the soil on your clothes is invisible—but it's there," says Margarita Bahrikeeton, global research and development leader for P&G Fabric Care. The tricky thing with these invisible stains (which are largely caused by oils from your body) is they attract even more dirt from the filthy water sloshing around inside your washing machine. Over time, Bahrikeeton says this dirt can degrade the contrast in your clothes, casting a "grey veil" over the entire garment that affects our perception of the colours. Although there are new detergents on the market containing polymers that claim to stop dirt from redepositing during the wash cycle (Tide Pods, for instance), you can take matters into your own hands by regularly washing your washing machine itself.
We show you how easy it is to get breakfast on the table when you start with our overnight steel-cut oatmeal. The best part? We have both sweet and savoury topping options so you can satisfy any morning craving.
Sweet and savoury make-ahead oatmeal recipes so weekday mornings don’t feel so hectic
Egg Benedict Oatmeal
Poaching an egg isn't as difficult as you may think. The trick is to keep the water at a gentle simmer and give it a good stir before you add the egg. Look for small ham steaks alongside bacon in the supermarket, or use up leftover cooked ham.
Image by: Jodi Pudge
By: Gilean Watts and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Source: Canadian Living Magazine: September 2016
Sweet and savoury make-ahead oatmeal recipes so weekday mornings don’t feel so hectic
Thai Peanut Butter Oatmeal
This combination of flavours is a little out there, but trust us—you'll want this dish for both breakfast and dinner. The chili pepper plays superbly against the sweet coconut chips and the creamy peanut butter, giving you the ultimate sweet and savoury fix.
Empty shopping bags, broken chairs, stacks and stacks of magazines—when writer Christina Gonzales realized her mom might be a hoarder, she went to the experts to find out how she could help, and repaired their relationship in the process.
At my mother's apartment, there are a lot of unspoken rules. "Don't open the kitchen cabinets" is one of them. I've only ever used one cupboard, which is right above the sink and houses the sieve, a few large ceramic bowls and the few packs of ramen noodles that haven't yet gone bad. I try not to ask my mom what's in the rest of those cupboards, or why our pots and pans are piled beside the stove and our dishes never leave the drying rack. I brought up the subject once in aggravation when I moved back home two years ago to save money. "You're too much, Christina," she responded angrily. It instantly brought me back to my childhood.
When it all began
As a kid, I was close with my mother, despite her inability to let anything go. From the outside, our family looked normal, but when you opened the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, it was obvious something was different. There were rooms filled to the ceiling with souvenirs of our past: my first mattress from a twin-size bed I had outgrown years before, reusable shopping bags, pillows, suitcases, books, a lime-green swivel chair. My mom's dresser overflowed with so many accessories, half-used bottles of body lotion, old blush compacts and loose coins that you couldn't even see the wooden surface. A layer of dust covered everything, which meant she didn't use—or even touch—the stuff. I was humiliated that our home was so disorderly.
The clutter really began to accumulate when I was about 11 years old. My mom stopped inviting people to our home, and I stopped, too. My best friends in high school asked me why we'd never hang out at my place, and I did my best to dodge their questions. My frustration stemmed from jealousy (why couldn't my mom entertain the way other moms did?) and a fundamental difference in what we thought "home" should mean (I longed to live in a house filled with family and friends; she thought home should be a private retreat). I would cry, yell and plead with her to throw things away, until my teen years, when I started to distance myself emotionally from her. I knew that no matter what I said or did, I couldn't control my mother's hoarding, and it was easier to avoid her—and the subject of home—altogether.
When I moved back home at 28—I'd quit my day job to pursue a full-time freelance writing career, and my mom offered up my childhood bedroom as a way to save money—it didn't take long before we had our confrontation about the kitchen cupboards. But this time, I realized I didn't want the cycle to continue; the bitterness I'd carried with me for years had to cease in order for us to have a healthy relationship.
Understanding the problem
What I'd always found most challenging was that she couldn't see where I was coming from—she truly doesn't realize her belongings are piling up around her. Yet, she's unlike the people I've seen on the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive; she's physically healthy, she's about to retire from a successful career and she has an active social life. She's also been a giving, supportive and loving mother. So what's the deal? I approached several specialists to help give me insight into my mother's hoarding issue.
Dr. Peggy Richter, a psychiatrist and the director of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that, while their houses might not look like the ones on TV, an estimated two to five percent of Canadians suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. Dr. Richter explains that hoarding is more than the inability to throw things out. "Rather, to be considered a clinical condition, it results in a significant accumulation that impacts the ability to use the space the way you would like or the way most people would," she says. "And people may try to minimize the impact. For example, maybe their kitchen is quite cluttered; they can still make breakfast, but they have piles in front of the oven, so they never use it anymore, though they claim they never did. Similarly, someone whose bed is too cluttered may claim that she prefers, and is more comfortable, sleeping on the couch."
Elaine Birchall, a social worker and hoarding behaviour and intervention specialist with clients in Ottawa and Toronto, says hoarders tend to save things for one of three main reasons: sentimental (this item represents my life and is part of me), intrinsic (this item is amazing and offers so many possibilities) or instrumental (I might need this someday). I think my mom is a sentimental hoarder. She once mentioned that her own mother discarded her childhood trophies and awards and that she wished she still had those things to help her reminisce. There's a certain glee she gets from pulling out an item that someone else would've thrown away long ago, like the cheerleading catalogue my now-40-year-old cousin was featured in when she was in high school in the '90s. "It's so nice. Maria was so pretty," she'd say.
Dr. Sheila Woody, a professor of psychology and psychology researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Collaborative Research on Hoarding in Vancouver, shed some light on how to approach my mom's hoarding disorder respectfully and without judgment. "Making your mom's apartment a place you want to live is not an appropriate goal," says Dr. Woody, noting that people with hoarding disorders don't realize the impact of their mountains of possessions. I first needed to accept that this apartment would never become what I'd always perceived as the ideal home. There was one thing that I could change, though, and that was the usability of the space. "If you're trying to make it so that [your mom isn't] at risk of falling over when she's trying to reach something, or not at risk of setting the house on fire when she turns the stove on, that's a very reasonable goal," says Dr. Woody, who adds that it's also important for there to be adequate room to get out of the apartment in case of an emergency.
Finding common ground
To ensure that my mom's apartment was no longer a hazardous zone, I began to help her discard what Birchall calls the "easy wins": For some, these are nostalgia-free items (such as old toothbrushes and grimy shoes) and those that are unsanitary (like expired food); for others, they're items the person feels no extreme need to save. Birchall recommended I calmly ask my mom if we could relocate old things to make room for new items we'd actually use. I did it for the first time a few months ago, when I called her from the grocery store to ask if we had soy sauce. When my mom went and retrieved it, she told me that it was expired. "OK, I'll buy a new bottle, and you can ditch the old one," I responded. When I arrived home, it was sitting on the kitchen counter ready for disposal.
In my childhood, I would've taken the bottle down to the garbage chute that instant, a nonverbal signal that there was absolutely no reason to keep expired condiments. Now, I understand that getting rid of things causes her real distress. Instead of feeling exasperated and ashamed, all I felt this time was guilt. I realized that I'd been acting like a punishing drill sergeant, pushing my agenda onto my mother by barking at her to see things my way. And, according to Birchall, that's exactly the wrong approach. "Even when my patients want to hold on to genuine garbage, unless it's contaminated, I have to do my level best to make them see the reality of this," she says. "And even then, I don't just try to get someone to agree to let go of something; I try to understand what the importance of that item is to them."
So I didn't ask my mom when she planned on discarding the soy sauce; I knew it wasn't a sentimental item and that she was practical enough to understand it wasn't safe to consume. There was no fight, no power struggle, no "I'm right, and you're wrong." Rather, I gave her the space to decide when it was the right time—if there was a right time—to throw out the bottle. I tried my best to be patient, to have a stress-free conversation and to respect the value of my mom's belongings while holding firm to my boundaries within our shared space. It's a slow process, but it's effective. Showing compassion for my mom's feelings about her stuff makes it easier for her to let things go. When I push too much, we backtrack on any progress we've made. The day after our conversation, I walked into the kitchen and that old bottle of soy sauce was gone. It was a small step, but for me—and my mom—it was a breakthrough.
Social worker and hoarding specialist Elaine Birchall gives her best advice for helping a hoarder.
1. Complete a safety audit. Find the heat sources, such as electrical panels, fireplaces, hot water tanks, furnaces and stoves, and make sure there is a clearance of at least four feet around them, if space allows. The paths to those heat sources must also be free and clear in case of fire and should be at least 33 inches wide.
2. Create boundaries and limits, especially if you live in the same home as the hoarder. Build a positive co-tenant dynamic by defining who "owns" each room and what is allowed in each space. Common areas must be clear so that all tenants can use the space and have a social life.
3. Decide on permanent spaces. A permanent place is a storage area that makes sense for an item. For example, you'd never store canned goods under the bed—you'd put them in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. When choosing a permanent place, hold the item and close your eyes. Ask yourself, "Where is the first place I'd look for this?" That is where it should be.
4. Do your research. Rather than insisting that you know why the hoarder should part with an item, find an appropriate expert source. For example, if a hoarder wants to keep expired foods, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the organization's website will explain why it's unsafe to keep around.
5. Show respect. Don't apply pressure. Work at the hoarder's pace and don't diminish his or her feelings. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes by doing a mental tally of 20 possessions you love and imagining how you might feel if a family member made you throw them away.
The move from high school to university is where the rubber meets the road, academically speaking. The transition can be difficult for many students—grades often drop due to much heavier course loads and much stiffer standards. But for Carol Drumm, who is entering her second year at the University of Toronto, the move to post-secondary education was a smooth one.
As a high school student at Toronto's Branksome Hall, Carol was enrolled in an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program instead of the regular curriculum, allowing her to tackle tasks she believes made the transition to university easier.
"The IB program requires students to take six courses and a theory of knowledge course; complete an extended essay, which is a two-year intensive research study in a subject of your choice; and participate in co-curricular activities under the areas of creativity, action and service. Completing all of this work in two years allows IB diploma students to arrive at university with a strong work ethic," says Carol.
An increasingly popular choice for parents and kids across the country, the IB diploma program provides a solid foundation for post-secondary-bound students. Grads say the focus on university prep gives them a distinct leg up. But getting your child into an IB diploma program can be challenging. While the curricula and standards remain consistent across Canada, fees and entrance requirements vary from province to province, district to district and even school to school. Here's what you need to know.
IB is about prioritizing Founded more than 40 years ago by the International School of Geneva in Switzerland, the IB diploma program operates in more than 3,800 schools in 146 countries. Four program levels encompass kindergarten onward, but the diploma program is most often the one parents and post-secondary institutions are looking for.
Sabrina Chee, a Grade 12 IB student at Western Canada High School in Calgary, says any driven student can join the program. "It can take passion, critical thinking and, of course, time management. A student's priorities also play a huge role. Mostly, it takes hard work and a willingness to go above and beyond what you are capable of doing."
Though it may sound like a program for academic elites, that's not the case, says Shelley Maximitch Johnston, an IB teacher at Abbotsford Senior Secondary in British Columbia. "We have such a variety of students that come through," she says. "The program is designed for anyone who has a strong work ethic and a passion for learning."
IB program structure IB programs aim to create well-rounded graduates: students who participate in community service, are physically active and engage in creative endeavours, such as music, dance or debate. But students at the top of their classes in regular public (or private) schools might find themselves needing to dig deeper for their IB diplomas.
All IB schools create their programs out of the IB framework, but each program differs. All the exams (known as "external assessments") are marked by international monitors and serve as ongoing report cards, not only for students but for teachers, too. Emphasis is on inquiry-based learning in which students are placed in the driver's seat to meet critical challenges that build skills needed for university.
Getting into the IB program IB diploma programs are taught in 155 schools in Canada. To find one in your area, use the search tool at ibo.org. There is no agreed-upon approach to how students are admitted. Some schools conduct a series of personal interviews and require entrance essays (completed at home or under the supervision of a proctor). And while some programs require top grades to get in, the overarching philosophy is to identify—and nurture—unrealized potential. Ultimately, schools are encouraged to open up the program to as wide a swath of students as possible. Cost of the IB program While independent schools commonly lump the cost of IB into tuition, public schools lack a unified policy. Costs can be significant because each school is required to pay for an IB program coordinator (who is also a teacher at the school) and annual fees, as well as provide teacher training, says Pamela Gough, a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee. "It's substantially more expensive to run [than the regular curriculum]."
The TDSB doesn't charge the 700 students enrolled in its six IB programs. "The IB program attracts people to the public board because it offers curriculum at a standard that some of the very best private schools offer," Gough says.
But other school boards can't afford such incentives. The Toronto Catholic District School Board bills parents $1,200 per year for the two-year diploma program, while the York Region District School Board charges $1,500 per year. At Abbotsford Senior Secondary in British Columbia, IB diploma program students study for free. There's also the potential for savings down the road. Students may get university credit for the program's three higher-level courses if they achieve a certain grade, though standards vary from university to university. Does IB better prepare your child for university? Andrew Arida, associate registrar for undergraduate admissions at the University of British Columbia, says UBC surveys show that former IB students rate themselves as "very good" or "excellent" more often than other grads in areas such as research skills, library skills, reading, comprehension and presentation preparation.
"International Baccalaureate students enter university more confident in their skills and abilities, and that level of confidence is sustained through to the end of first year," says Arida. "How you do in first year sets you up for the rest of your university career."
According to Arida, IB grads are often more involved on campus, and even the most lacklustre IB students tend to perform as well as (or better than) straight-A grads from traditional programs. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are also more likely to go on to university when enrolled in an IB diploma program.
A somewhat less definable factor—teacher satisfaction—also comes into play. "It's a program in which students who love to learn are being taught by teachers who love to teach," says Arida. "When you've got passionate educators and engaged students, that is remarkable in and of itself."
Carol says one of the most valuable lessons she learned is something many first-year post-secondary students struggle with: finding time for everything. "IB students participate in the arts, numerous clubs, sports teams and service initiatives, and we do this on top of a rigorous academic program. By the time I finished the IB diploma program, I had found my own concept of balance," she says.
For Sabrina, she says she hopes attaining an IB diploma will help her earn a spot at an Ivy League school or a university abroad. "I believe with the help of my teachers, classmates, parents, friends and the resources provided for me in IB, I'll achieve my goal."
Preparing your teens for university can be daunting for both teens and parents. Here are five things university students want parents to relax about.
With files from Robin Stevenson
This story was originally titled "Higher Learning" in the September 2014 issue.