Tag Archives: Healthy Swaps

New Product Finds from ExpoWest

In March, I got to attend ExpoWest, a trade show for natural, organic, and healthy foods from all over the world (imagine a giant Whole Foods on steroids–and you get to sample everything!) The following new products, most of which are already in select stores or sold online, are my favorites for their combination of superior nutrition and taste.

The GFB (Gluten Free Bar)

From the company: “GFBs are crafted in small batches to achieve a taste and texture that other bars cannot match.”

My Nutrition Take: The Gluten Free Bar is free from more than just gluten: it’s vegan, dairy-free, casein-free, additive free, cholesterol free, preservative free, and trans fat-free. It’s also high in protein (with 11-13 grams per bar) and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (vegan, of course). GFBs stand out for their simplicity (which, in the world of snack bars, is a good thing): they use real, whole, and unprocessed ingredients like california almonds, organic roasted peanuts, dates, certified gluten free oats, and golden flaxseed. And unlike other gluten free bars, GFBs don’t use fillers and additives to make up for a lack of texture and flavor.

Nutritional Info: 220-240 calories, 6-10 grams of fat, 2-3.5 grams of fiber, and 11-13 grams of protein

Taste: The bars come in four flavors: Cranberry + Toasted Almond, Peanut Butter + Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Oatmeal + Raisin; each tastes like a denser, chewier, and heartier version of a cookie. While I always advocate snacking on whole, unprocessed foods, GFBs are a healthy choice when you’re on the run or traveling.

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Where to buy: GFBs can be found in select stores nationwide, or you can order them online.

Path of Life Side Dishes

From the company: “Path of Life manufactures the best organic and natural foods, prepares them to exceptional taste standards, then packages them to meet the lifestyles of today’s health-conscious individuals and families who are busy following their own paths— and know that good, nourishing foods are important for the journey.”

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My Nutrition Take: Path of Life’s Side Dishes, which come in steamable bags, are at the top of the frozen meals market. Unlike other frozen meals that use excess sodium, preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients, the Side Dishes use only ingredients that you’d use to make the same dish at home. The Lemon, Spinach, and Artichoke Quinoa, for example, contains cooked white quinoa, cooked red quinoa, artichoke, spinach, olive oil, garlic, thyme, sea salt, black pepper, and lemon juice concentrate–nothing else. These Side Dishes (which could also substitute as a meal; just add a salad) are perfect for on-the-go parents, workers, and students who don’t have time to throw together a homemade quinoa salad. And as a bonus for the consumer and environment alike, the ingredients come from farmers who use sustainable farming methods and don’t grow GMOs.

Nutritional Info: (per cup): 130-210 calories, 6-7 grams of fat, 2-3 grams of fiber, 0-1 grams of sugar, and 3-5 grams of protein

Taste: The Quinoa Side Dishes come in four flavors: Lemon, Spinach, and Artichoke Quinoa; Mediterranean Quinoa with Feta Cheese; Southwest Quinoa with Lime, Cilantro and Mango; and Quinoa with Brown Rice. Each tastes like a homemade versions of quinoa salad–and there’s no evidence of these having sat in your freezer for weeks!

Where to buy: Keep an eye out for Path of Life Steamable Side Dishes this Fall!

Tolerant Foods Black Bean or Red Lentil Pasta

From the company: “At Tolerant, we take organically grown natural legumes and make delicious organic red lentil (or black bean) rotini loaded with goodies.”

My Nutrition Take: Tolerant Foods pastas are made with just one Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.50.38 PMingredient–black beans or red lentils–but they still taste like your favorite noodles. As far as pasta alternatives go, these are one of the best on the market: because they’re made with legumes, as opposed to processed wheat, they’re high in protein and fiber and have a low glycemic index. Essentially, you’re getting the nutrition of a plate of black beans or red lentils with the taste of pasta–a great tradeoff for pasta lovers! Compared to regular pasta, Tolerant Foods has five times more fiber and twice as much protein, making Tolerant Foods pastas a more satiating choice.

Nutritional Info (per 85 grams, of about 1.5 cups cooked): 320 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 15 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein

Taste: Both the Black Bean and Red Lentil flavors taste and feel like regular pasta; and like regular pasta, they’ll mostly take on the flavor of your sauce.

Where to buy: Look for Tolerant Foods in Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

NuDeFood Breakfast Boost

From the company: “Ultra-Dense Breakfast Boost supplies generous quantities of naturally present vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein…Perfect for smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, pancakes, applesauce, and more!”

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My Nutrition Take: NuDeFood Breakfast Boosts come in small, single-serve packaging, making them perfect for a nutritious-conscious traveler. If you usually add things like chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, or cinnamon to your breakfasts (oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, etc.) but can’t carry them with you (whether you’re in the airport or hiking Machu Picchu), Breakfast Boosts fill the gap. They’re also great to have on hand when you’re eating something that just doesn’t fit your nutritional needs (if your cereal doesn’t have enough fiber, if your smoothie doesn’t have enough protein, or if your pancakes were made with white flour instead of whole wheat flour, for example). Each tablespoon adds six grams of heart-healthy fat, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 4.5 grams of protein. The ingredients aren’t processed, either: they’re ingredients you’d find in your own pantry or fridge, like California almonds, sunflower seeds, golden flaxseeds, and cinnamon.

Nutritional info (per package; 1.2 ounces): 170-210 calories, 12-16 grams of fat, 5-7 grams of fiber, 0-8 grams of sugar, 7-9 grams of protein

Taste: NuDe Breakfast Boosts come in three flavors. Original Spirulina has a mildly nutty taste; Antioxidant Berry Blend mixes tart with nutty, and Coconut Pecan Probiotic Blend has a sweeter coconut taste.

Where to buy: NuDe Foods hail from my hometown of Boulder, CO and can be found in stores throughout Colorado; you can also buy them online.

Superfood Snacks

From the company: “We source the highest quality organic & wildcrafted fair trade ingredients for all of our recipes…High ORAC antioxidant rating; boosts energy and vitality.”

My Nutrition Take: Superfood Snacks are small energy bites made with organic and raw ingredients that you’ve probably seen on superfood lists:  goji berries, maca root powder, walnuts, schisandra berries, reishi mushrooms, and green algae, to name a few. The bites are energy-dense, but they’re a great pick for an afternoon pick-me-up or to appease a sweet tooth (these are a much healthier choice than a fun-size Snickers bar).

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Nutritional info (per bite): 55 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 4.5 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of protein

Taste: Superfood Snacks comes in four flavors: Brazilian Chocolate Ecstasy, Chocolate Cherry Qi, Chocolate Goji Treats, and Green Chocolate Dream. Their taste and texture resemble a chocolate truffle, but with a little more zing, thanks to interesting ingredients like cayenne pepper and Himalayan sea salt.

Where to buy: Superfood Snacks can be purchased online.

Thanks to Jessica, Christian and Vicky from Patafoods for hosting me; and thanks to all the vendors for all of the samples!


14 Nutrition Hacks to Cut Calories, Refined Carbs, and Unhealthy Fats

It might not be so easy to switch from potato chips to kale chips or to trick yourself into believing that chia seed pudding is just as delicious as chocolate mousse, but some swaps and tricks–like the ones below–are so easy and sneaky that’s it’s pointless not to try them. These “nutrition hacks” focus on cutting out unnecessary calories, unhealthy fats, and refined carbs; look out for the next set of nutrition hacks, which will focus on adding vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and boosting their absorption!

1. Replace mayo, sour cream, or cream with Greek yogurt in both sweet (banana bread, muffins) and savory (tortilla soup, chili, spinach artichoke dip) recipes to slash saturated fat and boost protein. Or go above and beyond and try Greek yogurt in cupcake frostings, marinades, and French toast.

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2. Swap half of the ground beef for mushrooms in burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, and taco meat. Mushrooms have a similar meaty taste and texture in addition to valuable nutrients like vitamin D, niacin, copper, potassium, and antioxidants.

3. Add spiralized zucchini or carrots to spaghetti to bulk up your pasta dinner zucchiniand add vitamins and fiber.

4. Add equal amounts of potatoes and cauliflower to your favorite mashed potato recipe to cut calories and add glucosinolates, a type of antioxidant that helps in the detoxification process, as well as anti-inflammatory vitamin K.

5. Use hummus or avocado in place of mayo or butter as a spread in sandwiches or toast to add healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to boost satiety and heart health.

6. Swap half of your favorite cereal for a low-sugar, high-fiber cereal (try Nature’s Path Multigrain Flakes, Barbara’s Shredded Spoonfuls Multigrain, or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs) to cut sugar and calories and boost fiber. You’ll be able to enjoy a bigger and just-as-tasty bowl of cereal for a similar amount of calories and more nutrients.

7. Use fresh fruit instead of dried fruit in salads, oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal: one cup of fresh apricots totals 76 calories, while one cup of dried apricots adds 212 sugar-packed calories.

8. Skip the sugary syrup in your morning latte, and add flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder. A regular latte made with 2% milk contains 190 calories and 17 grams of sugar, compared to a flavored latte 250 calories and 35 grams (8.75 teaspoons!) of sugar.

9. Substitute riced cauliflower for rice in stir-fries, curries, pilafs, and burritos to cut down on refined carbs.

10. Skip the pizza dough and pile your choice of toppings on a portobello mushroom cap or eggplant slices.

Nutrition hacks

11. Serve your food on 9-inch plates as opposed to 12-inch ones: in a recent study published in the journal Appetite, diners ate 48% fewer calories (up to 275-350 calories!) when they ate off smaller plates.

12. Buy a good non-stick pan; the oil you use to prevent sticking adds 120 calories per tablespoon. The flavors of oil disappear during the cooking process anyway, so if you’re looking for flavor, add a light drizzle after cooking.

14. …or, instead of using oil for flavor, use vegetable or chicken broth to prevent vegetables, chicken, and fish from sticking to the pan.

5 Foods That Sound Healthy — But Aren’t

Low fat, low sugar, low salt, whole grain, gluten free, organic, natural, low carb: these are just a fraction of the adjectives you see splashed around food products in the grocery store today. In the food industry, food manufacturers have one goal–and unfortunately it’s not the health of their consumers. Profit is the name of the game; but because consumers are becoming more food-savvy, food manufacturers have had to step up their marketing game in order to sell otherwise normal products. Splenda comes with antioxidants; chocolate milk has omega-3 fatty acids; water can now put your to sleep. Keep an eye out for these five food products that aren’t as healthy as they seem:

5 Foods That Sound Healthy -- But Aren't

1. Better’n Peanut Butter
Better’n Peanut Butter is marketed as a low-fat, low-calorie, “diet” peanut butter spread. It contains 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories than regular peanut butter. But taking an already healthy, whole foods product, taking away its satiating and heart-healthy fats, and adding highly processed ingredients is not an improvement, by any means. At around 180 calories per two tablespoons, peanut butter is absolutely an energy-dense food–but every single one of those calories is high quality and satisfying. Better’n Peanut Butter’s 100 calories of processed paste (with fillers like tapioca syrup, dehydrated cane juice, rice syrup, glycerin, and tapioca starch) doesn’t match up in taste or nutrition, potentially setting you up for cravings and overeating down the line. And for the record: when a high-fat food is converted into a low-fat version of itself, it’s usually pumped full of extra carbs, sugars, and fillers to make up for the loss of taste and consistency (Better’n Peanut Butter contains 13 grams of empty carbs; regular peanut butter contains just four carbs, two of which are fiber). Stick with regular peanut butter–just keep portion sizes in check.

Healthy Alternative: Regular peanut butter made with two ingredients: peanuts and salt

5 Foods That Sound Healthy -- But Aren't

2. Who-Nu Nutritious Cookies
From the front of a box, you’d think you’re reading the label of a superfood: “As much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal! As much calcium and vitamin D as a glass of milk! As much vitamin C as a cup of blueberries!” But eating Who-Nu Nutrition-Rich cookies certainly won’t give you any of the same health benefits as eating oatmeal, milk, or blueberries. These aren’t cookies made with wholesome ingredients; they’re made with processed flour, corn syrup, and additives, making them no healthier than eating an Oreo along with a multivitamin. Plus, added vitamins and minerals aren’t absorbed by the body in the same way that vitamins and minerals from whole foods are: vitamins and minerals from whole foods are naturally packaged alongside other nutrients, like phytonutrients, cofactors, and enzymes, that maximize their absorption. Cookies are fine in moderation, but take them for what they are: dessert.

Healthy Alternative: Regular or homemade cookies, in moderation

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3. Fat-free Salad Dressings
Recently, salads have been made out to be the enemy in fast food restaurants: news sites decried McDonald’s Caesar Salad for being more fatty than their burger; Shape Magazine lists “12 Salads Worse Than A Big Mac,” and Eat This, Not That! slams “The Worst Salads in America.” And it’s true: these salads are packed with fat and calories, hitting the 1,600 calorie and 121-grams-of-fat range. But while salad dressings are partly to blame, add-ons like fried chicken, cheesy croutons, deep-fried tortilla shells, and sour cream also beef up the calories. Reaching for fat-free salad dressings isn’t the answer; vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and K and lycopene that require fat to be absorbed. Plus, fat-free salad dressings, like reduced-fat or “diet” peanut butter, use fillers and added sugars to make up for lost taste. In the toss-up between 120 calories of olive oil, lemon juice and herbs and 35 calories of sugar, sugar alternatives, artificial flavorings, and additives, go with the former.

Healthy Alternative: Homemade salad dressings; or look for store bought dressings made with as few ingredients as possible

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4. 100 Calorie Snack Packs
100 Calorie Packs are supposedly a dieter’s dream — they offer built-in portion control for easy-to-overeat snack foods. And the diet market has certainly eaten them up; they’re now part of a $200 million industry. But just because they’re 100 calories doesn’t make them healthy. Most 100 Calorie snack packs are comically small portions of processed foods like Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Cheez-Its, even Hostess cupcakes–and they still contain the same unhealthy ingredients as their full-size counterparts. They’re short on hunger-quashing nutrients like fiber, protein, and healthy fats and high in sugar, saturated fats, and refined flours–ingredients that will spike insulin levels and leave you just as hungry as before. Plus, they’re not even economically advantageous: snack packs can cost more than three times per ounce than full-size versions. You can still snack on 100 calorie portions; just make your own with healthful, wholesome ingredients like nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Healthy Alternative: 100 calories of unprocessed food, preferably high in protein, fiber, or healthy fats

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5. Enhanced Water
Vitamin Water XXX claims to “help fight free radicals and help support your body;” Dream Water supposedly helps you to relax and fall asleep. Even with health claims from boosting your immune system to heightening passion, enhanced waters (also called fitness water, functional water, or fortified water) are little more than water with the same vitamins you could get with a multivitamin (or better: real food) and trendy, buzzword ingredients. But for the most part, the efficacy — and safety — of these ingredients aren’t yet backed by science. Look out for added sugars (Vitamin Water has more than twice the amount of sugar in a can of soda), which might be hiding under names like crystalline fructose and fruit juice concentrate. If regular, free water is too boring, flavor it with sliced cucumbers or citrus, berries, or herbs.

Healthy Alternative: Regular water; tea

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