Product Reviews


I’m addicted to Trader Joe’s on the whole, but I recently picked something up at TJ’s and now there is a I-need-a-handful-every-time-I-pass-by-the-kitchen problem. Let me present to you the culprit:

They seem innocent enough – 15 cookies for 110 calories and low in fat. But, 15 cats (I mean cookies) can become 30 or 45 pretty easily and it seems pretty silly to waste that many calories on something that provides no nutritional value.

I think this is a common occurrence for snacks. The serving size just doesn’t equal the amount you need to be satisfied – think about pita chips, M&M’s, etc. Rather than throwing away the tub, I am controlling the behavior by:

  • No handfuls – take a small cup or plastic bag and count out 15 cookies
  • Limit myself to one serving size a day

Does anyone else have advice for a snack that is addicting? Or would you just throw the tub away?

 

After passing out at 9pm (12am on the east coast in my defense), I was up  by 6am on Friday. After enjoying a luxurious workout and not having to hurry for the first time in weeks, we got ourselves together to visit Muir Woods. Unfortunately for us, it was pouring, so we hiked under umbrellas. The Redwoods were still beautiful; monstrously sized trees that date back to 1100, pretty inspiring. Imagine living here and coming to hike any weekend you wanted…an annual pass is $20.

redwoods

After the hike we were drenched and needed hot showers and food, and a bit of relaxation. Later in the day I was taken to a grocery store called Berkeley Bowl. This was Whole Foods on crack, but without the commercial feel; similar to a really large co-op. Here’s the things that impressed me most:

greens

Mixed Green Selection

mushrooms

Loose mushroom varieties

granola

Bulk Bins - this is just the granola

I love NYC and my grocery selection there, but this is just the definition of fresh and healthy. When the choices are this good, I just don’t see how someone could want fast food.

I am a very lucky girl. How many people can say they have a friend who works for Godiva? Well, I can! Lets not kid ourselves, chocolate is an amazing thing and life is too short to eat cheap chocolate. Among the premium chocolates, Godiva is great, but not too easy to obtain. You can’t really grab it as your checking out at the register. Its more of a gift item. Which brings us to the special gift I received as a sneak preview. Its the:

Legacy Truffle Collection: A Chocolate Journey, Celebrating 60 Years of Truffles. There’s a beautiful story in the box that walks you through the 60 years Godiva has spent making truffles – from the first truffle in 1946 to entering the US Market in 1986 with a few special editions and innovations along the way.

box

box and choc

This is a great gift item and should be treated as a chocolate tasting. I tasted the chocolates in chronological order and read the descriptions as I went along. This may sound dorky, but really any chocolate lover would do the same. You would, wouldn’t you?

choc tasting

  • 1946 Dark Chocolate – extremely creamy, no bite, almost no taste of chocolate, but incredible texture
  • 1950 Belgian Premier – same amazing texture, a little more chocolate
  • 1986 Grande Truffle – sweeter, back to familiar milk chocolate flavor
  • 1988 PralineFerrero Rocher in one tiny bite, absolutely amazing, I just want a box of these
  • 2008 Creme Brulee – sting in back of throat from the super sweetness, too sweet

For how pretty the packaging is and for the experience you can have with tasting, I think $18 makes this a reasonably priced gift. The Legacy Truffle Collection will be available in stores on November 1st.

For the Chocolate Lover – did you know you could get a free chocolate every month by joining the Godiva Club?? And, they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch…

I used to have an addition. A serious addiction – I would go to herculean efforts and pay exorbitant prices to get my hands on this cookie:

big cookie

The beautiful baked good you see above is a low fat Rocky Road Cookie made by Nutritious Creations. They are hard to find in stores so ordering by mail is a necessary evil. After the shipping & handling charge it comes to about $2 per cookie. The way I went around this was to convince a Natural Food Store to order in bulk and give me a 15% discount if I agreed to buy everything they ordered. So at one point I was carrying enough inventory of these cookies to start my own store! Shortly after I came to terms with the addiction and now I just have this cookie if I happen to find it in a health food store by accident.

So what’s amazing about them? The nutritional facts. That huge cookie is 170 calories and there are no chemicals in it!!! There’s barely any fat (3g) and as if it could get better there’s 4g protein and 3g fiber. Just to put this in context, look at the Kashi cookie below that’s next to the same mug you see above:

kashi comparison

The Kashi cookie is about 1/4 (maybe 1/5 the size) of my Rocky Road cookie and has 130 calories, more fat (5g), and has less protein (2g).

What else is amazing about them? They are delicious. You feel like you are eating a decadent jumbo cookie with no guilt. I like to heat mine in the microwave for 10-15 seconds so the chocolate gets a bit gooey.

Good luck findings these – let me know if you succeed!

Do you have any recommendations for treats like these cookies…omething that just seem too good to be true?

During the visit to Atlanta I spent time cooking with my mom, checking out Richard Blaise’s Flip Burger (Top Chef), and visiting the Farmer’s Market in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. If you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market you know its a good place to snack on some free samples. A little cheese, crackers, and whatever produce is in season…and they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

mushrooms

leafy greens

cheese

Well, in addition to all the usual local tastings, at the entrance to this farmer’s market we were given a small bag with packaged samples to try. If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you’ll know that I very rarely buy packaged goods, so a good way for me to try something new is to slip me a free sample. Here’s a review of the new goodies:

1. Sahale Snacks – Glazed Nuts: Almonds with cranberries, honey, and sea salt

  • Stats – Calories 112, Fat 8g, Sugars 4g, Carbs 6g
  • Review – I have stayed away from flavor enhanced nuts as long as I can remember. Every time I saw a TrueNorth nut cluster with something and something, I just scoffed and thought, why would you need to add to almonds when they are already amazing? If TrueNorth is anything like Sahale Snack though, I was wrong. The sample I tried from Sahale is delicious. The combination of sweet from honey, tart from cranberries and the addition of sea salt is just perfect. I would love to try the company’s other creations like cashews and pomegranates and almond PB&J. I loved Sahale’s philosophy: We stick to a simple idea: use only whole foods in their natural form, avoid processed and artificial ingredients, add “culinary magic”, and produce great tasting, nutritious snacks. I couldn’t agree more.
  • Final Note – the portion you see below is what came in the sample pack. As you can see, about 15 small nuts get you to about 110 calories. Nutritious food can be very calorie dense and this is not something you’d want to have a big bag of  while sitting on the couch in front of the TV…

sahali portion and bag

2. Cascadian Farm Organic Oats and Honey Granola

  • Stats – 2/3 cup is 230 calories, Fat 6g, Protein 5g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 13g
  • Review – I’m used to granola being about 200 calories for 1/4 a cup so I was curious about the ingredient list. Sure enough, in addition to oats, crisp rice is being used as a filler which helps bring down the calories (see the generous portion below). Munching on this granola is nothing to write home about…it doesn’t really stand on its own. However, if you add it to yogurt its got a great crunch and sweetness and it is nice to get more than the typical serving of 1/4 cup of crunch in your yogurt or oats. If you’ve ever had Quaker Oat & Honey Granola, this to me is an identical taste.
  • Overall – I wouldn’t buy this on my own, but seeing as I have 2/3 of a cup of it, I’ll sprinkle a bit on my yogurt until it runs out.

granola box and portion

I don’t buy packaged goods much, but here’s a few that have come way in the last month:

1. Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookies

Stats – 130 calories, 8g sugar, 3g fiber, 2g protein, WW Points – 2

kashi cookie

The Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookies look delicious right? Oh, but photography can be a bit deceiving! Here’s more of how I saw the cookie:

small kashi

Review –  Those 2 pictures are really the same cookie. Am I crazy, or is it really small? Unlike a good Larabar, its not good dense small, just small. I was hoping to make up for being 2 bites, it would be delicious. The what looked like grainy goodness just kind of stuck to the roof of my mouth and my teeth (for a while) and the chocolate tasted like plain sugar. Its incredibly dry. Not satisfied. At all.

2. Irene’s All Natural Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Stats – 25 calories per cookie, og fat, 3g sugars, 1g protein

biscottiReview-I saw Irene’s Chocolate Almond Biscotti at Whole Foods and was curious what something so low in calories would taste like. Curiosity was peaked by small number of ingredients too: egg whites, cane juice, wheat flour, almonds, cocoa. I love these. They have such a great chocolate flavor and crunch. They are absolutely guilt free. The only down side is they are really loud when you crunch into them. I’ve taken to dunking them in tea.

3. Larabar Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar

Stats – 210 calories, 6g Protein, 4g Fiber

larabar

Review – I love that the only ingredients are dates, peanuts, and cherries. This  new Larabar flavor does taste like PB&J! It was yummy and most importantly it really did fill me up for 2 hours. Great afternoon snack.

4. Pirate’s Booty: Veggie

Stats- 130 calories, 5g fat, 2g protein, 1g fiber

veggie bootyReview – Pirate’s Booty Veggie flavor like a healthy, non chemical version of Cheetos. Although its similar to eating air with a veggie salt flavor, I actually filled up for a few hours. I think this is a great thing to munch on, good snack for kids, and fun marketing.

And here’s one more pic just for fun. My gym at the hotel I stayed at last night:

gymYes, in front of the stair climber from 1989 is a stool. Presumably you use the stool to climb onto the ab cruncher. Lawsuit waiting to happen is all I have to say.

Ciao for now! What are some of your favorite snacks?

Hate is a strong word. But 5 products I “dislike” just makes it seem like I can’t commit to my opinion. My pet peeve is when companies with huge advertising budgets try to get their products to seem healthy. People buy these products because they are interested in being healthier. Its an injustice. Here’s my list of 5 products that I won’t put in my body, and the reasons why. Take a look at the reasons and see if you can apply the same simple logic to your purchases.

1. Dannon Light and Fit

dannon ingredients002dannon productWhy– there’s a reason its 80 calories a serving; its a freaking science formula.

  • This yogurt has been through the lab and back, why on earth does it have gelatin (animal parts like hooves), food starch, or fructose? Yogurt should have 1 ingredient: milk.
  • Artificial Flavors
  • Aspartame
  • Red 40

I think this is a dangerous product to consume daily. It contains pretty much every ingredient that may lead to cancer. I’d prefer to eat a product that has the claim “may reduce risk of cancer”, like strawberries, or “strengthens your bones”, like organic yogurt.

2. Kellogg’s Blueberry Cereal Bars

cereal barbar productWhy -If  you’ve ever heard the advice that if an ingredient label has too many unfamiliar words and a long ingredient list, you should put it back on the shelf. Look at that label! Do you know those ingredients? I could get into some of them are but I’m afraid the scientific explanation would be boring and gross. The best advice I’ve heard is: think about what it would take to make a granola bar at home, if the label is too far off from that, put it back.

3. JIF or Skippy Peanut Butter

Why-Peanut Butter should have one ingredient: organic peanuts! I think nut butters are one of the most delicious and beneficial foods. Why would you buy one that contains sugar and hydrogenated oil?

4. Smucker’s Sugar Free Preserves

Why? It contains Polydextrose, Maltodextrin, Sucralose, Calcium Chloride, Red 40. If I didn’t know better, it could be a recipe for red paint. Would you eat paint?

5. Kraft Singles American Cheese

kraft Why– It takes one ingredient to make cheese: milk. That’s not what I see on this label. I hate how this is marketed to kids and is a staple of the lunch time sandwich. Come on, America, can’t we have a better cheese define us?

***

I chose these 5 items because they could be things you eat everyday and I would hate to see someone slowly poisoning themselves. Do you really want to take a chance with preservatives, chemical sweeteners, and artificial flavoring? There are better choices for each so don’t let the marketing fool you.  Just take a quick look at a label, is there a long list of ingredients you are not familiar with? If so, just put it back!  If you have a minute google some of the chemicals mentioned – I don’t think you’ll be too happy with what you find.

Are there any products that you hate?

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