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?

Homemade granola is my constant…I add it into my yogurt, grab handfuls, bring it on hikes, and share it with friends. So, whats in my granola? Once I started to go through the ingredients, I began to doubt that what I make is really called granola, yet its not trail mix, maybe its a glorified cereal? However, the definition of granola is: A mixture of grains, dried fruits, nuts, and/or seeds, toasted and eaten as cereal or snack. Its granola after all!

lovely granola redo

The short of it: buy what you like from bulk bins at a natural food store and mix it all up.

granola label

Makes about ten 1 cup servings, ~200 calories per serving.

The long of it: Most grains, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit are packed with nutrients so as long as you get  a variety there’s no wrong way to mix it. Here’s a look at the nutrients I get every single day:

Organic Kamut Puffs (kah-moot)- The puffs are light (duh) and slightly sweet, almost caramel-ly but with no added sugar or salt. kamutThe kamut kernel is several times larger than the more commonly used wheat kernel and is nutritionally superior with 20–40% more protein, higher in lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

Organic Multigrain Cereal – made with a blend of wheat, barley, quinoa, spelt and just lightly sweetened with honey. Contains 5 grams of fiber per serving and most importantly adds a crunch to the mix.natures path cereal

Almonds – high in monounsaturated fats which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Good dose of magnesium (improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body) and potassium (mineral that is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function)

Cashews – lower in fat that other nuts, promotes good cardiovascular health (see almonds)

Walnuts – Excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (a fat that the body cannot make), which promotes cardiovascular healthy, better cognitive function, and anti-inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and eczema. Wow. mixed nuts

Rolled Oats – remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream

Dried Cherries – high level of antioxidants, which may prevent cancer, aging, and heart disease

Apricot -Contains antioxidants, particularly good source of Vitamin A and beta-carotene to promote good vision

Dates – Its nature’s candy…need I say more? I will because dates contain oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. They are a powerhouse all on their own. A date a day for all…

apricotsGinger – Effective digestive aid

Sunflower Seeds – Contains antioxidants, particularly good source of Vitamin E which neutralizes free radicals

Pumpkin Seeds – good source of the minerals including magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus 

So get to your natural food store and make the bins your adult version of a candy store. Its cheaper, healthier, and made for you, by you.

How many times have you heard someone say “I travel too much to eat healthy”, “I’m always on the go”, “I don’t get to choose what I eat”?

Try this for on-the-go: I stay in a hotel an average of 120 nights a year. That’s a lot of time spent on the road and navigating through all of the unhealthy choices. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my top do’s and don’ts when away from home.

1. Do Plan ahead. Know where you are going and what is there. This is dependent on how long you will be there and what your work hours are like, I understand that. Personally, I am not a super pleasant person if I can’t get a workout in. I always look-up the hotel gym, if it looks like it was last remodeled in 1989, then I check out the running trails around the hotel or gmap pedometer. This means getting up an hour before everyone else, but I know that I will be more alert and less cranky if I break a sweat. On the upside, its such a great way to see a new area.

2. Do bring snacks. You know what though, this doesn’t have to be a granola or power bar. You could just as easily bring small zip-lock bags with an ounce of nuts, some seeds, and dried fruit. If you don’t even feel like doing that though – many companies now make a ~200 calorie back of high energy nuts/seeds/fruits. I love the one pictured from Trader Joe’s.

trader joies handful

Or if you like the idea of customization for a packet but are short on time check out  You Bar. Its AMAZING, as you pick the ingredients the nutrition label per packet gets filled out. Here’s mine:

nutrition label for you bars

You’ll pay about$2 per pack. I don’t have anything against granola bars or power bars, but I prefer homemade packets. I also carry fruit in computer bag – very easy to take from a hotel in the morning.

The key point – if you don’t bring snacks, when you go out for the inevitable team dinner, you will eat a lot. You will attack the bread, along with an appetizer, a huge portion of a main course, and maybe dessert. Keep your blood sugar in check with your snacks, and then dinner will not be a disaster.

4. Don’t be a follower.  Don’t eat or drink something just because everyone else does. Wine is a passion for me, but in moderation. I reserve my wine drinking for nights with good friends. On a night out with clients, I sip on sparkling water. Similarly, if I treated every time I went to a restaurant as a trip to a restaurant, I would be fat. Instead I tend to look at company dinners as a place to find a meal. I don’t need to eat something unique and amazing. I mean seriously- its some random Tuesday night in a random city…before I read the menu I know I am looking for a lean protein with vegetables. PERIOD. I don’t get distracted by all the additional information. As soon as I hit a word like cream, potato, breaded, I stop reading and move on.

4. Do Be Picky. Again, counter-intuitive from what you always hear. But, shhh, here’s a secret, sometimes when I am traveling, I tell my clients I am a vegetarian.  I’m much closer to a flexitarian, but it helps to get the message across that fried chicken is not what I will be eating for lunch. Seriously, people expect you to conform when you are traveling and most meals are ordered for the group. By explaining specific dietary “constraints” no one gets offended when I am searching for a salad. I mean what would someone say to me, “you have to eat this fried animal?” I’ve used other crazy excuses like “lactose-intolerant, might be allergic to gluten, sorry that’s not kosher!”