I had always heard about mystery shopping, but thought it was one of those mythical things that existed only in fiction and wasn’t actually a realistic job someone could do. Several years ago, though, I decided to actually put some time into researching mystery shopping to see if it was a real thing, and what resulted was years of shopping restaurants and getting free meals—and getting paid on top of it! Yes, I was a mystery shopper, and here’s exactly how it all works.
Becoming a mystery shopper is easier than you may think.
If you Google “mystery shopping,” you’ll find a whole host of sites to get you started. You can sign up with however many you want, but it’s an arduous process each time to get going. It’s like starting a new job—you have to fill out paperwork, but once you’re in the system, you have access to available shops at a variety of restaurants. The good news is, though, is that it costs you nothing to sign up and get started.
For me, I mostly shopped fast food places. Many of your favorite fast food restaurants participate in mystery shopping, so if you want a few free meals, this might be an option for you. Be aware, though, that once you’ve signed contracts with mystery shopping companies, you can’t openly talk about who you’re shopping with and where. So all I can tell you is that popular places are, indeed, mystery shopped.
Yes, you get free meals, but you do have to put in the work.
When it comes to the actual mystery shopping, you have to pay attention to the details. You’ll get a form before the shop that will tell you exactly what you’re looking for, so it’s important to read that form before you go into the restaurant. For example, one fast food place I used to shop frequently would ask me to time how long I waited in line and how long it took for me to get my food. It also asked to describe the outfit each employee I interacted with was wearing and how many times the fry cook shook the fry basket after taking the fries out of the oil. I also had to evaluate the entire establishment for cleanliness—including the bathroom and the exterior.
If a fast food place had a drive-thru, you also had to evaluate that experience. I would go inside the restaurant, do that piece of the evaluation, and then get in my car and go through the drive-thru to place another order. I was also often told exactly what to order. Some shops required me to place a special order, where I would have to order a menu item and ask them to change something about it (no onions, extra cheese, etc.).
The best part about mystery shopping, though, was obviously the free meals! Mystery shopping rarely pays much, but you do get free food. The fast food places I was shopping typically covered the cost of the meal and paid a $5 to $10 fee on top of it. When the companies would get desperate to have shops covered, though, they would start offering bonuses. There were a couple of shops I was able to grab that had upped the fee to $25 or more.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Mystery shopping isn’t for everyone, but it’s always worth it.
With mystery shopping, it’s important to consider the time investment and other costs that go into it. It’s probably not something you could do as a full-time job, first of all. Depending on where you live in the country, there might not be a lot of shops available to you. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and having a car made mystery shopping a breeze for me. I did probably five to 10 shops a week, depending on my schedule at my full-time job. Having a car was key—I was able to travel farther to get to shops or do a bunch in a day while driving from one to the next. I had to figure in the cost of gas, though, so that’s also something to keep in mind.
Mystery shopping restaurants is really fun if you have the time for it and don’t have a lot of expectations of making a lot of money. It’s a good way to be introduced to new restaurants and get meals for free. I loved to sift through the listings and look for places I could stop at while traveling or even restaurants in airports. I got many free coffees before boarding flights all over the country!
If you want to get started, you can literally just google “mystery shopping” and start signing up. Remember though that you are working and if you mess up your evaluation form, you run the risk of not having your meal paid for and not being paid. So while it’s a ton of fun, you still want to make sure you’re giving it your full attention and effort.
The post I’m a Restaurant Mystery Shopper—Here’s How It Works appeared first on Eat This Not That.
Earlier this year, another study — pulling from the same data source — found that middle-aged adults with abdominal obesity tended to have less gray matter volume than their normal-weight counterparts.
When your schedule allows for extra leisure time, you may feel inclined to crack open one of your favorite recipe books that you rarely get to thumb through to prepare a nice meal. Aside from a trip to the grocery store, you may also take inventory on which spices you already have. As you rummage through the small jars of coriander, rosemary, and Bay leaf, do you ever stop and try to recollect when it was you first bought that dried spice? If you’re not ardent about cooking, it’s easy to believe that your spice supply could be a couple of years old.
The question is, do spices go bad—and do they have to be replaced? Brian Bennett, executive chef of meal delivery service Eat Clean Bro, contributed his thoughts on when it should be time to toss out that stash of ground cinnamon or dried parsley.
How long do spices typically last in your cabinet?
“Spices in my cabinet usually only last about three months,” says Bennett, who admits to buying spices in small quantities and in their whole form, never ground, except for chili flakes and special curry spice blends such as Gram Masala and Vadouvan, for example.
For a chef, it makes sense that he’s mowing through spice jar after spice jar every couple of months, but for the person who doesn’t raid their spice cabinet every day, it’s more likely they’ve been holding onto that jar of ground sage for more than two years. If this is the case, Bennett suggests replacing that old spice.
“I would not try to hold any ground spices for more than a year,” he says. “Spices will not go rancid, but they will definitely become stale over time.”
Who wants to sprinkle flavorless turmeric atop a skillet full of vegetable stir-fry? The purpose of spice is to quite literally spice up a dish that otherwise would be bland on its own, right? Buying whole spices such as cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise have the potential to last longer.
“Whole spices should last for about two to four years,” says Bennett. Whole spices last longer because, contrary to ground, the inside of it has yet to be exposed to oxygen. Oxygen can essentially weaken the aroma and flavor of the ground spice over time, which is why it’s important to store spices in airtight containers, if not in the container it was originally purchased in.
RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.
What’s the best way to get the most out of your spices?
“Always toast your whole spices to get the most amount of flavor and help extract some of the oils,” says Bennett. The chef recommends purchasing a cheap coffee bean grinder to grind whole spices.
In addition to storing ground spices and dried herbs into airtight containers, it’s also important to store them away from the stove and from direct sunlight. Don’t keep spices in the fridge either, as the humidity could be detrimental to the longevity of the spice. There’s also the risk of the spice absorbing surrounding odors in the fridge.
So, while your spices won’t necessarily go bad or become inedible, they do lose their potency after some time, so it’s important to not hold onto ground spices for more than a year, while whole spices should be replaced every two to four years. If you’re looking to whip up some delicious recipes, we suggest you head to the store and re-stock your spice cabinet.
The post You’re Definitely Not Replacing Your Spices Often Enough appeared first on Eat This Not That.
In contrast, the more time a girl spent gaming at age 10, the more social interaction difficulties she experienced by age 12.
The meat aisle at your local supermarket is littered with labels—so you’ve likely noticed the term “grass-fed” and “grass-finished” on many cuts of red meat. If you’ve heard all the buzz behind grass-fed beef, you probably already know that it’s healthier than conventionally-raised meat. But, why is it better for you? And is the heftier price tag of grass-fed meat really worth it?
To get the lowdown on why grass-fed and finished meats reign supreme, we spoke to multiple experts who share everything you need to know before picking your next grass-fed protein, whether it be a rib-eye, a burger, or beef jerky. Spoiler alert: shelling out extra cash for grass-fed meat is worth it. Find out why—and then convince your family and friends to get on the grain-free bandwagon, too!
One thing to note: The term “grass-fed” significantly differs from “grass-fed and grass-finished” meat. Because the term “grass-fed” is no longer regulated by the FDA, manufacturers can feed their cattle grass at some point in their lives—but not for their entire lives—and deceptively label the meat “grass-fed.” To reap all the benefits of grass-fed meat, the animal must be fed a grass diet (free of grains) for their entire lives. If they’re only fed a grass diet for a portion of their lives and not for the entirety, the meat would be deemed grass-fed and grain-finished. The addition of “grass-finished” on a grass-fed label ensures that the animal only dined on greenery—as well as guarantees you’re getting the utmost nutritious cut. While grass-fed, grain-finished meat isn’t as wholesome as grass-fed and grass-finished, you’d still reap more benefits than eating conventionally-raised meat. Now, learn the differences of grass-fed (as well as grass-finished meat) against conventionally-raised meat.
Grass-fed meat provides more healthy fats.
Not only is grass-fed meat more lean than its conventional counterparts, but it also contains higher levels of healthy fats. “Research shows that grass-fed cows significantly improve the fatty acid composition of beef. Grass-fed meats are also richer in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids,” Jessica Handy, RD, tells us. Additionally, grass-fed meat boasts a more desirable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio—with a higher concentration of omega-3s to combat inflammation.
“Grass-fed animals have a higher concentration of α-linolenic acid and other omega-3s, while grain feeding results in higher amounts of linoleic acid and other omega-6s,” Chad Clem, Director of Research and Development at Applegate Natural & Organic Meats, tells us. Because the typical American diet is already high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s, a proportion that can lead to inflammation, it is important to supplement your diet with additional omega-3s—and grass-fed meat is a wonderful source.
RELATED: Your guide to the anti-inflammatory diet that heals your gut, slows the signs of aging, and helps you lose weight.
What’s more, it’s worth noting the differences in saturated fat composition of grain-fed versus grass-fed meat, Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS, tells us. “There are three main types of saturated fat found in red meat: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid. Grass-fed beef consistently contains a higher proportion of stearic acid, which does not raise blood cholesterol levels. This higher proportion of stearic acid means that grass-fed beef also contains lower proportions of palmitic and myristic acid, which are more likely to raise cholesterol.”
Grass-fed meat is one of the best sources of protein.
Grass-fed beef is an excellent source of protein—just three ounces (the standard serving size of red meat) of grass-fed ground beef boasts about 18 grams of the muscle-building macro. “The amino acids are also more bioavailable than plant-based protein sources,” Handy says. Unlike most plant-based sources of protein, animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and therefore has to obtain from food.
Grass-fed meat is full of antioxidants.
Glutathione (GT), is a new protein identified in foods that has the profound ability to get rid of free radicals within the cell, Clem tells us. Since GT compounds are higher in grass-fed beef than grain-fed, the meat can help protect the cell from oxidized lipids or proteins, preventing DNA damage. What’s more, “grass-fed beef is also higher in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT)—which are coupled enzymes that work together as powerful antioxidants—than beef from grain-fed cattle,” Clem says.
Grass-fed meat is packed with vitamins.
Cattle finished on grass have higher levels of A-tocopherol (vitamin E) in the final meat product than cattle fed high-grain diets, Clem says, citing studies that show that grass-finished beef contains three times more vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, than grain-fed. “Vitamin E helps delay the oxidative deterioration of the meat, which causes the meat to turn brown in color.” What’s more, grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of vitamin A, which is beneficial for skin and eye health. “Cattle that graze on solely grasses produce raw meat with a yellowish tint in the fat due to the carotenoids in the grasses. When making hay products for grain-fed cattle, around 80 percent of the carotenoid content can be destroyed,” Clem adds.
Grass-fed cattle improve the planet’s biodiversity.
Biodiversity refers to the Earth’s biological diversity and the variety of organisms that call our planet home. “Plants, wildlife, microorganisms, and fungi have evolved in a symbiotic relationship with grazing animals for thousands of years,” Handy tells us. “When we mimic these natural systems with cattle, a term also known as ‘biomimicry,’ we see improvements in the biodiversity and ecology of the land.”
“Well-managed cattle mimic the traditional patterns of wild herds by moving across grasslands, tilling and fertilizing the earth, aerating soils, and helping the grass to grow,” Mike Murray, CEO of grass-fed meat brand Teton Waters Ranch, tells us. “Holistic management of cattle promotes the landscape to flourish as it would naturally, encouraging native species to stay in these habitats and create a more diverse ecosystem which in turn makes it more resilient. Because 100 percent grass-fed cattle are allowed to graze on a buffet of the best plants and grasses, they eat exactly what their body needs at the time.” In turn, this nutrient-rich diet results in higher quality meat. “They get the nutrients from a more diverse diet, helping them to be healthier than feedlot-fed cattle. Healthy cows that eat a diverse diet of natural grasses and plants produce better-tasting beef with added vitamins and minerals, making it more nutritionally dense,” Murray says.
Grass-fed cattle carry less E. coli.
A Cornell study published in the journal Science shows that grain-fed cows are more susceptible to E. coli. “Most bacteria are killed by the acid of stomach juice, but E. coli from grain-fed cattle are resistant to strong acids,” James B. Russell, a USDA microbiologist and faculty member of the Cornell Section of Microbiology, explains in the study. “When people eat foods contaminated with acid-resistant E. coli—including pathogenic strains like O157:H7—the chance of getting sick increases.” However, there is a solution: feeding the cattle hay just five days before slaughter significantly decreased the amount of E. coli.
A large Consumer Reports study demonstrates that eating grass-fed meat instead of conventional decreases your risk of food poisoning and results in fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Out of 300 samples of raw ground beef tested, researchers found that conventional beef was twice as likely to be contaminated with superbugs than all types of sustainably-produced beef, noting that the most significant difference was seen between conventional and grass-fed beef. Only six percent of grass-fed samples contained superbugs. Another study published by the National Institute of Health notes that feeding cattle grains may increase human infections with E. coli and that the pathogens from grass-fed animals are killed by an acid shock similar to the conditions of the human stomach, which would, therefore, cut your risk of getting E. coli.
Grass-fed cattle take a long time to reach full weight.
“Grass-fed cattle take a longer time to reach full weight in comparison to grain-fed cattle because grass-fed cattle are allowed to roam on pastures and eat natural grasses,” Handy says. “Unlike conventionally-raised meat, grass-fed animals are not fattened on grains in feedlots, nor given growth hormones to speed the process.” Because grass-fed cattle aren’t exposed to unnecessary medication, this, in turn, ensures that antibiotics actually work on our own immune systems—which you’ll read more about below.
Grass-fed cattle are less likely to cause antibiotic resistance in people.
“Cattle are meant to eat grass, not feedlot corn and grain,” Murray reminds us. “When allowed to graze on grass as they are meant to, cattle are less likely to get sick and require antibiotics. It takes longer for a grass-fed steer to grow to full maturity, and that is also due to our commitment to no added hormones or antibiotics to promote growth.” Not only does the lack of growth-inducing hormones and antibiotics help the cow reach maturity naturally—deeming it more humane for the animals—but it also saves us from becoming immune to antibiotics important for human medicine.
“Antibiotics used for animal production purposes are unnecessary and contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious public health concern,” says Urvashi Rangan, PhD, Executive Director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “Infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria can be more difficult to treat and are a major public health problem. Because grass-fed cattle eat only forage, poor health that can arise from grain-intensive diets is prevented. In addition, pastures can only feed herds of a certain size, and in a properly managed pasture, the stressful and crowded disease-promoting conditions of the feedlot are eliminated. Healthier, less stressed animals need fewer antibiotics and other drugs to stay healthy.” In simple terms, happy cows yield better meat.
Well-managed grass-fed cattle are more environmentally friendly.
It’s no secret that raising cattle takes a huge toll on the environment. About 460 gallons of water are required to produce a mere quarter pound of beef—which is nearly what you’d find in a McDonald’s Big Mac—as well as contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gasses. However, those environmentally-detrimental repercussions are mostly relevant to grain-fed meat.
“Well-managed cattle that are moved around different pastures can sequester (store) carbon and help to mitigate climate change,” Mike Murray exclaims, enlightening us on how raising cattle responsibly can become a solution to climate change rather than a catalyst. “By moving the cattle around, the microbiota and root systems stay intact, allowing the soil to sequester more carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Murray says.
And Dr. Rangan agrees: “Managing cattle carefully to ensure that pastures are grazed moderately means restoring soil quality and cutting greenhouse gases by keeping carbon in the soil as organic matter rather than releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.” However, if farmers continue to employ conventional meat farming techniques, that can spell bad news for Mother Nature. “If carbon continues to increase at the rate it is now, this will increase the temperature of the Earth, continuing to disrupt wildlife and their habitats, inducing extreme weather, and many other negative impacts on our Earth,” Murray says.
Grass-fed meat tastes differently.
“Most grain-fed beef is finished off with a diet including corn. This creates a slightly sweeter flavor and much more marbling,” clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman, CN, states. “When a steak cooks, the fat from this marbling melts into the meat, creating a much more tender cut. Grass-fed tends to taste leaner and quite simply more like meat. Again, this is because of both the cow’s diet and the subsequent lower fat content.”
What’s more, beef, much like wine, contains terroir. Terroir is how a particular region’s climate, soils, grasses and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of a natural product—in this case, the beef, Murray tells us. Grass-fed dairy also tastes differently from dairy made with grain-fed cows. Just test it for yourself: try a spoonful of Maple Hill Organic grass-fed yogurt against a spoonful of Dannon’s and you’ll taste the difference!
In the U.S., total sitting time from 2007 to 2016 rose by about an hour a day, to 8.2 hours for teens and 6.4 hours for adults
Is there anything not made better by the addition of syrupy sweet slow-cooked caramelized onions? If there is, we haven’t found it just yet. You can use this simple and delicious recipe to add to so very many different meals: to top your favorite roasted vegetable or meat, to mix into a nice stir-fry, to stir into a thick creamy soup, to top a batch of garlic bread, or you could even top a dip or spread with some before you serve it. The possibilities are endless! In this caramelized onions recipe, you can cook them for as long as you would like, depending on what you’ll be using the final product for. We promise, they will only improve the longer you let them cook! But if you do plan to cook these down to an oniony jam (a consistency that is achieved after about 45 minutes of cooking), add an extra onion or two (you might as well, if you’re taking the time to do this) and keep the flame really low. Don’t have the time but still want the sweetness? Add a splash of balsamic vinegar in the final moments of cooking and you’ll have yourself a whole new recipe!
Makes 1 Cup
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
1⁄2 tsp salt
How to Make It
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended.
- Keeps for 1 week covered in the refrigerator.
Eat This Tip
What is onion jam anyway?
Okay, so above we mentioned that if you cook these onions long enough, they will slowly (yes, 45 minutes is slow for onions) turn into an oniony jam, of sorts. Most people classically tend to associate jam with sweeter ingredients like blueberries, strawberries or even raspberries. But there is a whole other world of savory and even spicy jams for you to play with here, and many of them taste just as great on a piece of toast or English Muffin in the morning as a sweet jam does. Next time you try this recipe, try adding a few additions like garlic or a few chili flakes. If you get really brave, try cartelizing a few strawberries in with your onions for a delicious contrast!
This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!
OK, let's face it: If you're an average-height woman nearing (or over!) 200 pounds, you do not fit in the "yoga body" category. Tall, long, lean, lithe, elegant—not me. I've done tai chi and qigong in the past and loved them. But honestly, in my mind, I've put yoga and bikinis on the same list: Not for me.
Here's part of the problem of being overweight or obese: It can sideline you. (And that's the last thing you need.)
If you were ever the big kid left warming the bench while everyone else played softball, after a while the bench feels like the place you belong. That can keep you from trying new things—things you may need to do if you're going to get active and shed pounds. Going to a class, or even to a gym where other people can see you in gym clothes, can be really intimidating.
Take my first yoga experience: I tried a yoga class at my Y one night to experience moves I found difficult, moves I found painful, and moves I found downright impossible: I burst out laughing when the instructor suggested pressing our knees to our elbows. (Yeah, right, lady!)
My after-class conclusion: Yoga for overweight and obese people definitely needs a different approach.
In the past few weeks, a few yoga products meant for full-figured people crossed my desk, and I decided to give them a try.
The first product for full-figured folks I received is a book titled Plus-Sized Yoga: Beginners Yoga for People of All Sizes by Donald Keith Stanley (plussizedyoga.com, $19). It introduces kundalini yoga, which involves meditation and mantras as well as postures, and does a good job of introducing the importance of breathing and hydration, as well as some yoga terms.
Stanley suggests meditations to suit your moods, and also ways to modify postures if you're uncomfortable. (Have a hard time sitting with your legs crossed? Lean against a wall to support your back, or put a pillow under your butt—it helps to have your bottom higher than your feet.)
As much as I loved the explanation of postures, the rest of the practice in this book seems best for dedicated beginners who are seriously interested in studying and making kundalini yoga a part of their life. I wasn't sure I could pick and choose moves to try (Stanley encourages you to do some in the order they're given in the book), and it felt strange to begin by myself what can grow into an intense practice.
The second product is a DVD called HeavyWeight Yoga 2: Changing the Image of Yoga, led by Abby Lentz (heartfeltyoga.com, $17). If you're intimidated by yoga, Lentz holds your hand through it, and the DVD will change your image of a "yoga body."
I was impressed with the people in the video; they are some of Lentz's students who are overweight and obese people of all ages practicing yoga (in leotards, no less) with beautiful, admirable confidence. I also liked the way Lentz modified poses so they're easier for people who are overweight. The commentary track is especially valuable—it's where Lentz explains the variations on poses that students do (for example, there is a student who's had multiple knee surgeries who uses knee-friendly options).
I called Lentz (who, at over 200 pounds, not only teaches yoga, but is a marathoner and a triathlete!) to talk about her approach to yoga and the benefits it can have for people who are overweight or obese.
"If you're obese, you may look at yoga and the body images typically associated with it and you think it doesn't apply to you. You think yoga's something you have to lose weight in order to do. But the benefits of yoga can be yours, regardless of size or your condition," she says.
And to Lentz, yoga is a great way to begin an exercise regime and get in touch with your body. "So many people describe themselves with such loathing—'I hate my thighs, I hate my belly.' But if yoga helps you develop affection for yourself, it's easier to make better, more loving choices to take care of your body—like more salad and less dessert."
Lentz's careful instruction suggests moves that are easier (her version of Child's Pose feels relaxing instead of like I'm cutting off air to my body) and safer for heavier people.
"It would be very reasonable to come into a class for the first time and think you could do a Half Shoulder Stand; it's a beginner's pose. But if you're overweight or obese, you're sending all that extra weight on your shoulders, neck, and throat. You could injure yourself. So I take apart the Half Shoulder Stand and give you the same benefits in different moves so you're safe," she says.
If you need another reason to give yoga a try, practicing may help you watch what you eat.
Oh, and need some yoga clothes? Lentz recommends Decent Exposures for plus-size activewear in lots of colors.
More Americans than ever are opting out of a morning meal.
This potato is massively grown in America, Africa, Asia.
You will not make a mistake at all if you replace the ordinary potato with the sweet, and this will be proved by these reasons:
Source of vitamins
Sweet potato is a source of vitamins and it contains vitamin B6, a large amount of vitamin C and vitamin D. With its regular consumption you prevent colds and viruses, and your organism more quickly cures diseases. In addition, sweet potato reduces stress and protects the body from toxins that may be associated with the onset of cancer.
Rich in magnesium and potassium
One of the strongest antistress minerals is exactly the magnesium, which you can find in the sweet potato. This mineral is indispensable to our body for healthy arteries, bones, heart, muscles and nerves.
The potassium contained in this vegetable regulates the heartbeat, but also the nervous system. In addition, potassium helps with kidney disease, muscle mass relaxation, and reduced swelling.
A huge amount of beta-carotene
The sweet potato is orange, and it is therefore clear that it contains an amount of beta-carotene. In this way, this vegetable helps maintain vision, strengthens immunity and contains a strong antioxidant that does not protect against cancerous diseases.
Controlling blood sugar
Although they contain carbohydrates, mild potatoes help regulate blood glucose levels. They are rich in fiber, which means they slow down the release of blood glucose and help regulate sugars.
The sweet potato is quite useful in culinary and can be prepared in different ways. Bake it in the oven, grill, make mashed, you can use it in soups or stews or add it to your morning shake.
Rich in vitamin A
About 250 thousand people die of serious diseases a year due to lack of vitamin A.
Twice more, say the World Health Organization, are losing sight.
“One potato provides enough vitamin A daily,” Lowe said.