In­ter­moun­tain pushes a healthy agenda for kids,

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It used to be that the worst thing that could hap­pen to you at a vend­ing ma­chine was your bag of Fri­tos got stuck on one of those me­tal coils. Well, for school­child­ren in Utah, vend­ing ma­chines just got a whole lot less sat­is­fy­ing. As part of a public ser­vice ini­tia­tive called Live, spon­sored by Salt Lake City-based In­ter­moun­tain Health­care, fake vend­ing ma­chines have been planted in schools and other public places.

They don’t ac­cept money and they don’t dis­pense any snacks. In­stead, the bo­gus vend­ing ma­chines con­tain im­i­ta­tions of the usual fare. When some­one pushes one of the ma­chine’s buttons, he or she is treated not to a nougat-filled candy bar or a bag of salty, crispy chips, but in­stead, the ma­chine de­liv­ers a bor­der­line-snarky bit of ad­vice meant to steer the snack-seeker to­ward a more health­ful al­ter­na­tive.

Ex­am­ples in­clude: “How about you run to the gro­cery store and pick up some fresh fruit or some­thin’? You could use a healthy snack, and the run wouldn’t hurt you ei­ther.” or “Pota­toes come from Idaho; potato chips come from the deep fat fryer.”

“Our goal with the Live cam­paign is to ap­proach this im­por­tant is­sue from a child’s point of view and of­fer pos­i­tive, help­ful so­lu­tions for fam­i­lies,” says Dr. Tamara Sh­effield, In­ter­moun­tain’s med­i­cal di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity health and preven­tion.

One in four Utah chil­dren is over­weight or obese, she added. “Live can help chil­dren be more phys­i­cally ac­tive and make more healthy food choices. By co­or­di­nat­ing with chil­dren, par­ents, schools and the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, we can re­verse the di­rec­tion this cri­sis is head­ing.”

A web­site sup­port­ing the Live ef­fort, in­ter­moun­tain­live.org, also fea­tures a mo­bile app, games, posters, sug­ges­tions for health­ier liv­ing and an on­line ver­sion of the de­cep­tive vend­ing ma­chine along with a video.

Out­liers agrees whole­heart­edly with the cause of child­hood nu­tri­tion, but we worry that these fake ma­chines may soon be the tar­get of kicks from frus­trated kids.

Rex Health­care says bye-bye to fries

Speak­ing of nu­tri­tion … Out­liers has to ad­mit we have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with french fries. We know their faults and try to end our re­la­tion­ships with the spuds, but we al­ways come crawl­ing back. Who can say “no” to a tempt­ing bas­ket of crunchy, per­fectly salted, deep-fried taters? But even with fries’ fla­vor­ful lure, there’s plenty of health-re­lated rea­sons that tip the scales in fa­vor of shun­ning the grease, and that’s ex­actly what the food ser­vice providers at Rex Health­care in Raleigh, N.C., are do­ing.

Last year, Rex elim­i­nated deep-fried foods from pa­tient meals, but still served them at their two cafes. That ac­counted for 17 tons of fries and 4,666 gal­lons of oil in 2011. Seven­teen tons.

But that’s about to change. Fe­bru­ary marks Heart Month, and Rex of­fi­cials say it’s the ideal time to wave good­bye to fried foods. Fans of al­lit­er­a­tion and healthy eat­ing will love Fe­bru­ary’s Fry­er­less Fri­days, when food staff ev­ery Fri­day all through the month will de­power the deep fryer to keep fried foods off its menus. This is an­other step in com­pletely van­quish­ing fries, tater tots and other deep-fried items from the hospi­tal.

The Fry­less Fri­days will ex­tend into March, rid­ding chicken nuggets,

Sex and the sin­gle orang­utan

An orang­utan at a Cleve­land zoo has be­come the first such an­i­mal in North Amer­ica to re­ceive an im­planted birth con­trol de­vice.

The Plain Dealer re­ports that a Cleve­land Clinic women’s health spe­cial­ist made a house call at the zoo re­cently to demon­strate how to im­plant the con­tra­cep­tive. It’s about 1½ inches long, slightly thicker than pen­cil lead and is meant for hu­mans.

Gen­eral cu­ra­tor Ge­of­frey Hall says the Cleve­land Metroparks Zoo doesn’t want the young Bornean orang­utan named Kira to breed, at least not yet. The pro­ce­dure went well, and Kira was back on her feet within hours.

In ex­change for her help, the clinic’s Dr. Ju­dith Volkar was given a back­stage tour of the zoo’s more ex­otic an­i­mals and got to sit on a gi­ant tor­toise.

If Out­liers had a gi­ant tor­toise joke, we’d put it here. But you’ve got us stumped, Cleve­land. chicken wings and fried chicken and fish from the menus. Rex of­fi­cials plan on tar­get­ing vend­ing ma­chines as well.

“For now, the vend­ing ma­chines and Court­yard Cafe still have potato chips and other junk foods. Down the road, Jim Mc­grody, Rex’s di­rec­tor of culi­nary and nu­tri­tion ser­vices, plans to look at other ways to re­place un­healthy choices with health­ier op­tions,” Rex spokesman Alan Wolf wrote in an e-mail.

Rex of­fi­cials plan on re­mov­ing its fry­ers in April and re­plac­ing them with convection ovens to re­pro­duce the crisp food while sav­ing calo­ries from fat and money from oil. Gourmet baked potato wedges are one of the menu’s re­place­ments. They’ll come pre­pared in va­ri­eties in­clud­ing Thai chili with gar­lic and cilantro, and dill pickle with sea salt and fresh dill and malt vine­gar. A mix of spice blends will be on hand to fur­ther en­hance fla­vors.

Many public schools have al­ready ban­ished deep-fried foods from their cafe­te­rias. Rex of­fi­cials say they’re the first hospi­tal in North Carolina to ditch the deep fryer.

Sea­soned baked potato wedges will re­place fries on the menu at Rex this spring.

Part of the Live cam­paign are posters that use hu­mor to steer kids to­ward healthy habits.

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