Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event


By: Alison Sacks, RD at Capitol Nutrition Group and Rebecca Scritchfield Media, LLC

This week I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Richland, Washington to participate in the Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event to discover all the goodness of Concord grapes and how grape juice is made! This unique region of Washington, located in the Yakama Valley is one of the top producers of Concord grapes and is absolutely beautiful! The experience was wonderful to see the harvesting process during peak season and get to know the farmers behind the Welch’s brand.  IMG_0201

Welch’s dates back to 140 years ago, when Thomas Bramwell Welch decided to serve Concord grape juice instead of wine at his church. He later went on to bottle the first pasteurized juice using Concord grapes that has become a common household name to so many of us.  The oldest Welch’s grape vine dates back to 1849 in Concord, MA and to this day is still producing berries. (Now that’s sustainability!)


Welch’s grower explaining the unique seed of the Concord grape that contains 77% of the polyphenols.

Family Famers: The Heart of Welch’s

At the heart of Welch’s are 1,000 family farmers who know that quality starts in the fields. For many of these farmers, it’s where their families and livelihoods have grown for generations. We spent the afternoon with Farmer Tim Grow whose first Welch’s memories date back to his childhood helping his grandfather on the family vineyard, where today his own two daughters lend a helping hand on the same family vineyard.


Concords are sweet, tangy, bold purple grapes that need a special climate to grow – specifically, chilly areas.

What Makes a Concord Grape Great

For starts Concord grapes are berries! What makes them distinct from most table or wine grapes are its bigger berries and seeds and deep purple slip-skin. Purple is a cue that fruits and vegetables have plant nutrients called polyphenols that can help promote health, especially heart health (the darker the purple, the more polyphenols).

Berry polyphenols act as antioxidants, helping to protect our healthy cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress. The majority of polyphenols are found in the thick skins and seeds of the Concords that are usually discarded when eating, which is why pressing Concords into juice helps to concentrate and preserve the heart healthy polyphenols.

Concord grapes are also an important ingredient in heart health. Decades of research has shown when 100% Concord grape juice is drunk consistently it helps support healthy blood vessels by increasing the flexibility of arteries for healthy blood flow. Studies also show Concords may also provide an anti-clotting effect similar to red wine and may help manage the effects of LDL or “bad,” cholesterol by keeping arteries free and clear of excess plaque build-up.

Check out this neat infographic on different ways you can pump up the purple in your diet.

Delivering the Fruit to the Glass


The treat tank where heat and enzymes are added to help extract the heart healthy polyphenols from the skin and seeds of the Concords.


A glimpse inside the belly of the grape harvester.

The Concord grape harvest is short and sweet, lasting only about 30 days between September and October. Due to climate variables, no two years of grape growing are alike but what makes Welch’s unique is their ability to blend grapes from multiple growing regions to deliver that consistent field-fresh flavor.

100% grape juice is made with nothing but whole Concord grapes-seeds, skin and all. From the time the Concords are picked in the fields they are inspected, washed and pressed into juice within 8 hours. During the pressing process the Concords are treated with heat and enzymes, which extracts the heart-healthy polyphenols from the grape seeds and skins and is releases into the juice.

Translating the Grape Science


Sampling a taste of the day’s harvest! Delicious!

We know less than 50% of Americans meet their daily fruit needs so adding 100% fruit juice can be a delicious and convenient way to help fill this gap. Including ½ cup of 100% fruit juice as part of a meal or snack is a simple way to help get in an extra serving of fruit and support a healthy heart. While fresh fruit contains more fiber per serving, consuming fruit in any form still delivers that same health promoting vitamins and minerals. Health experts agree that when 100% fruit juice is added as a compliment to whole fruit intake, consumption can actually double or triple.

8 ounces of 100% Concord grape juice provides 250 mg of polyphenols and contains more than 40 grapes. Its equal to 2 servings of fruit and high in immune boosting vitamin C and a good source of potassium-a key mineral important in regulating blood pressure.

One Juice-So Many Uses

Adding 100% fruit juice to your diet is an affordable and convenient way to help support a healthy lifestyle. Its year-round-availability and flavor variety makes it an easy way to sip sensibly or add to dishes. Look for labels that contain “100% fruit juice” or “No added sugar” and read ingredient labels to make sure they do not contain any added sweeteners or artificial ingredients. Looking for other ways to get creative with Concord grape juice?

  1. Add it to your grains! Make oatmeal or quinoa with 100% grape juice instead of water.
  2. Add a splash of 100% juice to seltzer water for a tad of sweetness.
  3. Make ice pops in the summertime or freeze into ice cubes to add to beverages.
  4. Dress up your favorite greens with a homemade salad dressing using 2 parts heart-healthy oil, 1 part of your favorite vinegar, and a splash of 100% grape juice.
  5. Cook with 100% grape juice instead of red wine.

Thirsty for More?

What are some of your favorite ways to use 100% juice? Feel free to share your favorite recipes by leaving a comment below. You can also follow the hashtag #DiscoverConcordGrapes and visit Welch’s Heart Healthy Recipe site for more flavorful ways to use 100% Concord grape juice.

Disclosure: My attendance at the Welch’s Vineyard Tour and Harvest Event was sponsored by Welch’s but I was not compensated to write this blog.

2012 #FNCE Celiac Disease Session Recap and G-Free Pavillion

I had a lot of fun walking through the gluten free section at the expo at #FNCE and saw a lot of great g-free products – some old and some I hadn’t seen before. Then later, I got to sit in on a really interesting session called “Celiac Disease: It’s Not Just the Digestive Tract” with Alessio Fasano, MD and Carren Sellers, MMSc, RD, LD, CDE.

By now, most people have at least heard of Celiac Disease, or might even know of someone who has it. It’s become much more commonly diagnosed over the years, mostly due to new diagnostic developments.

I wrote a session summary below and included links to some of the exhibit hall gluten-free products.

My key “take-aways” from the session were that people with Celiac need to be very careful with cross-contamination issues. There is no mandatory labeling for gluten-free so there is a chance products marketed as “gluten free” have traces and can cause a reaction.

Although this was not brought up in the session, I am aware of the gluten-free certification organization — “Products carrying the GF logo represents unmatched reliability and for meeting strict gluten-free standards. GFCO is the leading gluten-free certification program in the world.” You can look for the seal below on products to know they are truly gluten-free.

The other key “take away” was that people could have Celiac disease without GI symptoms that most people expect to feel. For example, iron deficiency anemia or fatigue could be the only symptom. If you aren’t sure you should definitely see a Registered Dietitian who specializes in digestive health.

If you are in the D.C. area, you may want to take a look at my digestive health services. If not, email me anyway and I can help you find a good RD in your area.

Here’s the detailed summary.

What is Celiac?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center the prevalence in the US is 1 in 133; an estimated 97% of those people living with it are undiagnosed.

What are the Symptoms?

If a person with celiac disease eats foods with those ingredients they might experience GI issues like chronic diarrhea. But one thing the panelists discussed was that many people don’t, and that makes nailing down a diagnosis potentially very difficult. Many people don’t experience any physical symptoms, but instead feel fatigue, and also very commonly anemia. It’s also found to be a co morbidity of Hashimoto Thyroiditis, another autoimmune disorder. Many times family history can also be a factor.

Gluten in Hiding

Many times foods that wouldn’t normally contain gluten can become cross contaminated through processing. Always read labels because many times you’ll see it will say somewhere on the label that it’s processed in a facility that also produces wheat. Labeling requirements are still being sorted out, but some products do carry a seal of approval. Here a few other hidden gluten sources mentioned in the session:

  • Coffee flavorings
  • Lipstick – the long-lasting kinds
  • Imitation seafood – the real stuff is g-free, but not the fake stuff
  • Fries – if they’re fried in the same oil as anything battered
  • Any contaminated cooking surface
  • Oats can potentially be if they’re produced in a plant that also processes wheat products
  • “flavorings”, “seasonings” and “smoke flavoring” all can contain barley
  • Basically, “when in doubt, leave it out”!

I’m Celiac – Now What?

The good news is, it’s completely treatable. The bad news is that you will need to avoid gluten for the rest of your life, which most likely means a big change to your eating habits.

Walking through the FNCE exhibit hall I found a lot of great products that can be a part of a well balanced gluten free diet. Here are some of the ones I really liked:

  • Gluten Free Living Magazine – great articles, tips, recipes and resources for people living with celiac.
  • Bob’s Red Mill has a over 70 products that are gluten free including baking mixes and flours
  • Pamela’s – she’s been making g-free foods since 1988 including a line of baking mixes
  • Udi’s has a really tasty line of g-free breads, tortillas and other baked goods
  • San-J – gluten free soy and tamari sauces that taste delicious
  • Dried cranberries – I was really excited to hear they’re coming out with 50% lower sugar versions next year!
  • Lundberg Rice – they offer a number of rice snack chips for those crunchy cravings as well as pastas, rices, couscous and, of course rice.
  • Sorghum flour – a whole grain alternative to wheat flour that’s great for baking. I tried cookies baked with it and they were amazing

Other Helpful Resources

Here are a few resources I found in the expo that I thought might be useful for folks

  • www.celiacdisease.net – if you’re newly diagnosed you might qualify for a free Gluten Free Care Package
  • www.gluten.net – find local gluten intolerance support groups and educational materials
  • Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet: Living with Celiac/Coeliac Disease & Gluten Intolerance – download the free e-book put out by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center
  • Shelly Case has a great resource guide
  • Rachel Begun, The Gluten-Free RD
  • InspiredRD blog has great recipes

Does someone you know have Celiac disease and need more information on how to cope?

Compare Your Favorite Foods Using MyFood-A-Pedia

MyFood-A-Pedia is a new nutrition tool designed for users to quickly access a food’s calories and MyPyramid food group information. This application also allows you to compare two different food items.

What makes this tool unique from other online calorie counters is that is calculates the total number of discretionary – or “extra”- calories from alcohol, solid fats, and added sugars in foods. These “extras” contribute to weight gain mainly because they sneak into our diets. Added sugars in “juice” drinks, sodas, and fat-free or light products can sneak up on a dieter without them even being aware. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and contains no nutritional benefit. Solid fats – such as saturated and trans fats – are artery-clogging fats that lead to atherosclerosis and other heart issues.

I did a few comparisons on the MyFood-A-Pedia site to give you an idea of how much two foods can vary – or how little they vary – in terms of their discretionary calories and nutritional benefit:

1. Orange Juice vs. Orange (Raw): One raw orange contains 62 calories, in comparison to a cup of sweetened orange juice that contains 130 calories. The orange juice also contains 29 extra calories, most likely from added sugars.

2. French Fries (deep-fried) vs. Baked Potato (plain): The calorie difference between French fries and a baked potato was huge – more than 300 calories! (478 for deep-fried french fries with ketchup compared to 159 for a baked potato). The French fries also contained 238 extra calories from solid fats… more than the total for the baked potato!

source: MyFood-A-Pedia

3. Butter vs. Margarine (and other spreads): I chose butter, stick margarine, and tub margarine. These items contained 36, 35, and 34 calories, respectively. All calories were considered “extras” from the solid fat. I wanted to compare these items because many people mistake margarine as a healthy alternative to butter, when in fact it contains nearly the exact same amount of calories per serving size, as well as the same amount of artery-clogging, bad-f0r-you fat. On the other hand, reduced-calorie margarine spread contained only 17 calories (and zero extras!) and light butter contained 25 calories (a 10 calorie reduction) with only 3 calories from solid fats.

While this online tool is a great way to find the calorie information about certain foods and to compare it to another as a healthier alternative, I did find one issue with MyFood-A-Pedia. I think it would be a much better tool if it provided more information than just how many calories it contained and what food group the item belonged to. It would be interesting to compare foods based on their fiber, vitamin and mineral, and fat contents as well as calories. Another tool that compared foods’ sugar content or grams of carbs might be beneficial for diabetics. However, I think this is a great start and an excellent complement to the MyPyramid tool that allows users to customize meal plans based on their specific MyPyramid plan. For more information or to use the MyFood-A-Pedia, visit http://www.myfoodapedia.gov/

Are You Getting Your “Fill” of Fiber?

If you have found yourself eating what feels like a good amount of food, but struggle with staying “full,” there could be a chance you aren’t getting enough fiber.

Fiber not only functions as a way to fill you up and make you feel fuller for longer, but it also has many amazing health benefits including:

  • improving gastrointestinal health and function
  • improving glucose tolerance and insulin response
  • decreasing LDL and cardiovascular disease risk factors
  • reducing the risk of some cancers.

Two Types of Fiber

Soluble and insoluble fiber are two types of fiber that you can consume, each with different functions in the body. Insoluble fiber helps move bulk through the intestines and promotes better digestive health. It is also linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer. You can find it in the skin of fruits and root vegetables, whole wheat products, nuts and seeds, and vegetables like green beans and spinach.

Soluble fiber is the ‘headline maker’ that can reduce your LDL cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. It does this by binding with fatty acids and decreasing the amount of lipids absorbed in the bloodstream. Sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, dried beans, nuts, flax seed, psyllium husk, apples, and carrots.

How Much Fiber?

Both types of fiber are important for filling you up and suppressing food cravings in a healthy way. Recommendations on fiber consumption vary with age and gender, but men under age fifty should consume 38 grams of fiber per day, while women of the same age should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, coming from a variety of fiber rich foods.

Great sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, cereal and grain products, and beans. Some of the higher sources are: raspberries, carrots, lentils, and brown rice. While grocery shopping, remember that in order for a food to be labeled “high in fiber” it must contain 5 grams of fiber or more.

According to the position paper of the American Dietetic Association regarding dietary fiber, “A fiber-rich meal is processed more slowly, which promotes earlier satiety, and is frequently less calorically dense and lower in fat and added sugars. All of these characteristics are features of a dietary pattern to treat and prevent obesity.” By filling up on more fiber, you will increase satiety (fullness feeling that tells you to stop eating) without a ton of calories, until it is time for another meal or snack, which is somewhere in a 3 to 5 hour window if you are eating enough nourishing food at meal time.

Here are some easy ways to sneak more fiber into your diet: 

  • Add fresh raspberries or blackberries to a high-fiber cereal or raisins to oatmeal in the morning.
  • Bring raw carrots and broccoli with hummus to work instead of going to the vending machine.
  • Snack on an apple with peanut butter for a sweet yet filling snack.
  • Toss in high-fiber add-ons to your favorite salad: almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, chickpeas, shredded carrots, or pecans.
  • Make a delicious high-fiber snack mix for when you’re on-the-go. Combine your favorite nuts with raisins, a handful of high-fiber cereal, and chocolate covered soy nuts.
  • Replace regular pasta or white rice with whole wheat pasta and brown rice, which are delicious fiber-rich alternatives.

Fruit Juice: Health or Hype?

Every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, drive down the road, we are bombarded with advertising from food marketers proclaiming that their product is the secret to weight loss, longevity, and pleasure. With over 200 food choices to make every day it is difficult to sort through claims produced by food manufacturers to make the best choice for your health. Today we’ll tackle the issue of fruit juices: health or hype

As part of its ongoing efforts to uncover over-hyped health claims in food advertising, the Federal Trade Commission has issued an administrative complaint charging the makers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said:

Any consumer who sees POM Wonderful products as a silver bullet against disease has been misled. When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made. Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.

No one can argue that Pomegranates are a wonderful and healthy food, full of vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants, but a line must be draw as food marketers push their products to the extreme. According to Self Nutrition Data, pomegranates are a good source of dietary fiber (11 grams each), 5 grams of protein, folate (107 micrograms), calcium (28.2 mg), vitamin C (28.8 mg), and vitamin K (46.2 mcg). Since POM is made from 100% pomegranate juice, one would think it would have many of the same great nutrients.

Not so. A $3.99 16-oz bottle has 320 calories, 72 grams of sugar, no fiber, and no vitamin C, calcium, folate or vitamin K. Yes, the only ingredient many be pomegranates, but by stripping away the fiber and nutrients, you just have sugar-water. Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t much different from a soda. This isn’t unique to pomegranate juice. All fruit juice loses much of the original fruit’s nutritional value when the juice is extracted, but POM is going a bit overboard with their health claims. A glass of POM a day is not going to prevent heart disease if the rest of your diet is laden with trans and saturated fat. It is important to look at your diet in its entirety, rather than trying to gain benefits from a single serving of fruit juice.

So let’s get over this hype and get healthy! Swap out the juice and reach for a piece of fruit! Aim for 2-4 servings of fruit per day. If you enjoy fruit juice, try diluting it with sparkling water to make your own spritzer. Next time you are at a grocery store, take a closer look at the health claims the manufacturer proclaims. Turn the package over and take a look at the actual nutrition panel and judge the food for yourself. Knowledge is power, and make sure you are well-armed!

What are your thoughts on this Fruit Juice Debate? Do you have any other health claims that you are confused about?