Product Placement

They Found A New Way For You to Eat Your Veggies

Savory vegetable yogurts – they do exist! I have to be honest, I prefer salt over sugar any day of the week. It’s this reason I do not enjoy eating yogurt for breakfast. It’s just too sweet, even if it is plain. For myself, yogurt falls into the snack category. So you can imagine my confused delight when I saw these Blue Hill Yogurts at Whole Foods.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Made from the whole milk of grass-fed cows, the flavors offered include Tomato, Sweet Potato, Carrot, Beet, Parsnip, and Butternut Squash. Naturally I picked up the only 3 varieties Whole Foods had on the shelf and headed home to timidly taste test. The review is as follows:

BEET
The Beet yogurt was by far the most tart, probably due to the raspberry vinegar found in the ingredient list. Clearly the honey wasn’t enough to carry the team. It was pretty good, but I cannot imagine consuming a whole 6 ounce container of it in one sitting. Popping it into the freezer for a few minutes and eating it as frozen yogurt seems more likely.

CARROT:
The Carrot yogurt was a little sweeter than the Beet. Unquestionably less tart, and therefore, a little richer. Of the three flavors it was the most boring with just milk, carrots, water, carrot juice concentrate, sea salt, and live cultures.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH:
Thanksgiving in my mouth, period. The sweetest of the three, which I attribute to the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. I could eat a whole container of this flavor, no questions asked.

Nutritionally, these yogurts run around 100-120 calories with 4.5 grams of fat, 4-5 grams of protein and 10-15 grams of carbohydrate (depending on the flavor). They may not be Greek or Icelandic yogurt, but with all natural ingredients, there’s no harm in changing up your yogurt every once in a while. Just keep in mind these are neither low fat or fat free dairy products.

You don’t have to eat the yogurts in a solitary fashion either. Incorporate them into smoothies, baked goods (morning glory muffins with carrot yogurt anyone?), dips or soup bases. Check out bluehillyogurt.com for a few recipes ideas!

Shameless Product Placement of April: Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmomy

Some say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. When it comes to quinoa, I beg to differ. Quinoa is the ‘moving on up’ of whole-freaking-grains so get ready to be amazed by what THR is about to throw at your noggin!

Whole grains are obviously a hot topic of discussion here on THR. This post isn’t about to stray far from that very subject today. Quinoa is one such example of a whole grain, despite it actually being a pseudo-cereal (we’re getting to that). And for those swearing off gluten, for medical or fad purposes, it also happens to be gluten-free!

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Photo Credit: Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Quinoa is a ‘pseudo-cereal’ meaning it’s a food similar to grains in how it’s cooked and eaten, as well as it’s nutrient profile. Having been harvested back nearly 4,000 years ago in the Andes region is what gives this seed its ‘ancient grain’ moniker. Us late-blooming Americans must be pretty late to the game because this protein-rich seed seems to be just now making its way into the forefront of the dietary world and current grain research. Such newbs. How late? Well, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Yeah, that late. Sure America doesn’t make up the United Nations, but you get my point. 

Grains (and their look-a-like counterparts) are often thought of as mainly carbohydrate, but quinoa bucks the traditional views of the grain world with its high protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Whole grains contain three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran and germ make up 25% of the grain’s protein content. Keeping that in mind, the germ of a quinoa seed takes up 60% of the grain’s real estate. To put this in perspective, the germ of a kernel of wheat makes up a measly 3% of the grain. Psh! What’s that wheat? I can’t hear you over quinoa’s awesomeness. 

Letmegeekoutforaminute. To dig a little deeper on this protein point for one hot second, those in the nutrition world look at protein in two categories: complete and incomplete. Sometimes it’s not just about quantity, but rather quality. The distinction between these two forms of protein lies in the number of essential amino acids the protein contains. Essential amino acids are deemed ‘essential’ because our stupid human bodies cannot make them, but are necessary for survival. Animal proteins are complete. Plant proteins? Not so much. But I’ll give you one guess as to which plant contains all nine essential amino acids. You guess it! I hope. Quinoa!

Now that you know why quinoa is so great, we are FINALLY to the Shameless Product Placement of April:

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend

Image from ancientharvest.com

Image from ancientharvest.com

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is a combination of traditional, black and red quinoa. While I enjoy traditional quinoa, the blend is a fun way to jazz up salads, serve in place of rice or pasta and works well when manipulated into burger form. The blend retains the natural nutty flavor of traditional quinoa that pairs well with a variety of ingredients. Do not be afraid to experiment with this beautiful product.

One rule to keep in mind prior to preparing: rinse the quinoa. Yeah, I know it says it’s ‘pre washed’, but quinoa develops a natural bitter coating called saponin that fends off pests and helps it grow without the necessity of chemical pesticides. I agree with the Whole Grain Council on this one, the extra rinse may help remove any residue left on the grain. Hey, a little extra water aint’ never hurt nobody (my words, not theirs).

One quarter cup of this tri-blend quinoa (dry) contains 170 calories, 2.5 g fat, 30g carbohydrate, 5g of protein. Ancient Harvest Quinoa Harmony Blend is certified USDA Organic and is a non-GMO food, if you’re into that stuff. Sold in most natural foods stores, click this link to find your nearest retailer.

Come back next week for a Harmony Blend quinoa recipe!

Resources:
wholegrainscouncil.org
http://www.whfoods.com

Shameless Product Placement of March: Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce

Shake off those dust bunnies because Shameless Product Placements are back! Readers take note – I receive no monetary compensation for the products in any of my posts. Now let’s get started!

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

I tried Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce by accident because an emergency. You see, yours truly doesn’t always develop five-star recipes. It’s rare, but occurs about once or twice a year. A few weeks ago, I decided to try to make my own chicken curry in the slow cooker. After 8 hours of simmering, I absolutely hated it. The minute I walked into my apartment from work, I knew I’d made a misstep. The smell wasn’t right. It wasn’t appalling, but definitely not what I wanted nor expected after dumping five ingredients into my slow cooker at 6am. In order the rectify the situation, I hustled up to Trader Joe’s to look for a supplemental Thai/curry sauce to doctor up the devil dish. I picked up two sauces, used one and was left with a bottle of Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce in my pantry for the past month or two.

Cut to a few weeks ago, when an impromptu dinner party sneaks onto my schedule midweek. On my train ride home from work that night, I contemplated ingredients I had on hand – basmati rice, zucchini, sesame oil, tofu and…oh yeah, TJ’s Red Curry Sauce. I picked up a few extra items from the food store and got to cooking. Now then, I did have a moment where I contemplated making my own curry sauce. You see, I don’t exactly love this sauce from a nutrition perspective. For starters its high in sodium, like so many bottled sauces before it. Its saturated fat content is also a little disappointing. One serving of TJ’s curry sauce contains 3.5g saturated fat (5 servings per bottle). So I pondered what I would use to make my own sauce, light coconut milk being at the top of the list. But then I remembered, ANYTHING containing coconut milk will be high in saturated fat even if one uses the ‘Light’ version. One serving of light coconut milk (1/3 cup) carries 3 grams of saturated fat (5 servings per can). So I’ll do the math for you. One bottle of Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce has 2.5 more grams of saturated fat than one can of light coconut milk. I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but in a pinch, I am willing to accept it.

Shameless Product Placements on The Healthy Revival can do a few things. I do these post to (1) help foster healthy snacking, (2) provide you with alternative products for substitutes when trying to cook healthier recipes, and/or (3) simply making home cooking a little bit easier. I believe, as a whole, our society has lost touch with cooking at home. So many people are under the impression that in order to put dinner on the table it has to be complicated and time-consuming. It’s one of my many quests in life to make people aware of this misapprehension. If that means you need to buy a pre made sauce (be it marinara, a good marinade, salad dressing, etc), then so be it. We can start there.

Per serving, one bottle of TJ’s Red Curry Sauce has 80 calories, 6g fat, and 3.5g saturated fat. As mentioned above, it is high in sodium so keep that in mind – ergo: do not add salt. You don’t need to.  Feel free to adjust the vegetables in this curry, there’s honestly no rules on this one! I used basmati rice, but as a dietitian, I recommend using brown rice. Do as I say, not as I do.

The Healthy Revival’s TJ’s Red Curry with Tofu

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Serves: 5-6

Ingredients

16 ounces of Extra Firm Tofu, drained, pressed and cubed (see below)
1 small onion, diced
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup uncooked Basmati rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Cilantro
1/4 cup water

Sriracha or your preferred hot sauce

Directions:

Prepare basmati rice according to directions.

To press tofu, line a large dinner plate with one layer of paper towel. Place tofu on plate, top with another layer of paper towel cover with a cutting board and weigh down with canned goods, a brick, etc. See below for image.  Let press for about 30 minutes, replacing paper towels halfway through. Once tofu has been pressed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Preheat oven to 375. Toss cubed eggplant in olive oil, season with pepper and place on an aluminum lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes until browned and tender. Set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat with sesame oil and 2 tsp of olive oil. Add tofu, season with pepper and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Add 1 tsp of olive oil back to pan. Once reheated, add onions, zucchini and red pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted eggplant and tofu, reheat.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Add the whole 11-ounce bottle of Trader Joes Red Curry Thai Sauce, once emptied, fill bottle with ¼ cup of water, replace cap and shake. Add contents of bottle back to pan. Stir, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Plate rice and top with curry mixture. Garnish with cilantro and hot sauce if preferred. Serve and enjoy!

Gabby’s Crazy Oats: Deliciousness Like You’ve Never Tasted Before

I was going to make this the Product Placement of the Month for December, but I chose not to for two reasons. First, I think those posts cheapen the product. I like the Product Placements because they familiarize all of you with products I enjoy, but these posts sometimes feel like low quality work. Not to mention they also get less foot traffic. Second, Gabby (of Gabby’s Crazy Oats) is a very dear friend of mine and I just couldn’t do that to her culinary creation. Before I get the ball rolling on this one, let me just tell you she ships. So if you live outside of the St. Louis area, don’t leave just yet!

Based on the post title and that opening paragraph, you may have deduced by now that Gabby’s Crazy Oats are in fact oatmeal cookies made by Gabby herself. Let me tell you, this girl makes some serious cookies. I like to think of her as a Keebler elf who makes wicked good human-size confections. A few years back, she was making these delectable treats for family and friends.  People quickly caught on to how unique these oversized cookies were so in 2009, she made it official and set up her own company at the encouragement of her loyal clientele. During that same year she partnered with Straub’s Market, a gourmet grocer in St. Louis. Today, you can find her cookies in all four of their stores’ bakery sections. What was once just a pipe dream has become this entrepreneur’s reality. Did I mention she did all this while we were lowly nutrition undergrads at Saint Louis University? Needless to say, I was insanely jealous and super impressed. Now heading into the fourth year of business, Gabby’s Crazy Oats are carving out their own niche in the gourmet baking world of St. Louis.

This picture doesn’t do them justice.

Much to the delight of her customers, she has expanded the variety of oatmeal cookie flavors and sizes offered over the years. One thing that hasn’t changed is her tried and true dedication to real, quality ingredients. I’ve said it on this blog numerous times, but an ingredient list can sometimes tell you more about a product than the nutrition facts label. If I can’t pronounce it, I’m not eating it. Well, these cookies are no exception to that rule. Each one of Gabby’s Crazy Oat cookies is made with the same basic dough recipe: rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, pure vanilla, baking soda, spices and sea salt. That’s the order they appear on the label. For those of you who may not know, all food labels list the ingredients in order of weight. The ingredient with the greatest amount of weight is listed first; the ingredient with the least amount is listed last. Notice the first ingredient in these cookies isn’t sugar or butter; it’s rolled oats. Those of us the nutrition world like to see this. But don’t let this fool you, Gabby’s Crazy Oats are still dessert and shouldn’t be misconstrued for a breakfast item. However, should you want to eat one for breakfast, no judgment here.

What’s more is these cookies are never frozen. Buy them in the store or have them shipped to you, they will never see the inside of a freezer. That’s a guarantee. Aside from their quality and freshness, there is something I love even more about Gabby’s Crazy Oats – they are incredibly unique. We’ve all had an oatmeal cookie before. But Gabby takes it to the big leagues with flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cranberry Orange Almond, Dark Chocolate Cherry Walnut, and Espresso Dark Chocolate. These aren’t your grandmother’s oatmeal raisin cookies, that I can promise you. Straub’s Market describes the six-ounce cookies as ‘honkin’ big beauties’ and they are exactly right. They are large, in charge and absolutely scrumptious.

Gabby’s Crazy Oats are the perfect holiday treat. They have a wow-factor all their own and are sure to be a hit at any holiday party. They also make wonderful gifts for Christmas or New Years! Don’t want to spend your weekends slaving away in the kitchen? Wrap these up and give them out, just be sure to keep them in their packaging to ensure freshness. With their homemade quality, your family and friends are sure to be impressed. Gabby’s Crazy Oats tagline reads: “Everything you want in a cookie and more…”. And let me tell you, it couldn’t be more right.

Flavors Include:
Chocolate Chip, Raisin, Cranberry Orange Almond, Espresso Dark Chocolate, Sweet and Salty, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Cherry Walnut, M & M, White and Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut

Cookie Sizes: *Priced per dozen
6oz. (the big ones)…$24.00
3oz. (typical cookie)…$12.50
1oz. (mini cookie)…$ 5.50

She asks for 3-5 days for local orders, so be sure to give her enough notice! You can also hop on over to your nearest Straub’s and pick one up today. If you live outside the St. Louis area, contact her by email at berragm@gmail.com to place your order. You’ll thank me later.

Shameless Product Placement of October

Before we dive into this post, let me catch you up to speed. After all, it’s been almost a month since you last heard from me.

I am going to be completely honest right now. I’m tired of studying and have had it up to here (makes motion to knees) learning and talking about nutrition. Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m not dropping out of school or changing my major. I’m merely burning out. Not a big deal.  It’s only October so there’s no need to be concerned.  Furthermore, MLB playoffs are cutting into my sleep time and I’ve become addicted to online Scrabble. Thanks to Hasbro, I now have it on my phone and I am playing it EVERYWHERE. For instance, waiting in the check out line at Trader Joe’s. I’m even to the point of asking random strangers on the T (Boston’s subway) how to spell labyrinth. True story. My scrabble addiction shamelessly knows no bounds and it’s actually inviting people into my life. Why?! How I am able to concentrate on a word game while riding the T is beyond me. Lately, my inner germaphobe has become quite ripe and freaks out about touching those hand poles. I’m beginning to feel like Monk. I mean, other people are noticing.

This Just In: “A girl was found on the T last night, selling her Trader Joe’s groceries to anyone willing to lend her their pocket dictionary. Authorities are concerned online gaming could be a gateway activity for much more reckless hobbies like bocce ball, table tennis and charades. No word yet on whether she got a triple word score using plankton. And coming up, why she had twelve hand sanitizers in her backpack. Stay tuned.”

This is honestly what my life feels like. I think this Scrabble frenzy is really just a vehicle for diversion.  When you take five graduate level classes in a semester, I think screws slowly start to come out. You decide you have to start reclaiming your life by placing imaginary boundaries where they shouldn’t be. I’m sure further posts will explore my (delusional) school rules surrounding not doing homework between the hours of three and five pm, mandated Wheat-Thins-eating while I do weekly biostatistics assignments and compulsive bathroom studying to avoid the constant distractors one finds in a 300 square foot apartment.

It is this very burnout you have to blame for my lack of posts.  Time is an obvious finger-pointing factor for my blog’s slow death.  More so, it’s my exhausted nutrition mindset that is entirely over reading, writing and talking about food. To help get my creative juices flowing, I actually looked up burnout in the dictionary…

“To be completely consumed and thus no longer aflame. To ruin one’s health or become completely exhausted through overwork.”

I am no longer aflame! This is serious. Graduate school is like a Bill Cosby sweater.  You put it on, where it out and feel pretty great about it until that one person starts talking about JELLO and you realize you made a huge mistake. That simile made no sense at all. And on that note, I should probably get to the point of this post. So let’s talk about, ugh, food.  Shoot me. 

Instead of discussing enzymes, glycogen, adipocyte formation or ketones, I’d like to make this post about a product I love. KIND Bars. In the tradition that is October, I thought I would post my version of a candy bar.  Don’t get me wrong; I can get down with a Snickers, Milky Way or 100 Grand any day of the week. But when I’m feeling calorie or ingredient conscience, this is what I reach for.

By now you can probably guess what I like most about KIND Bars. It’s their short and simple ingredient lists. You can see everything in the bar that is on the label.  No unpronounceable additives or hidden preservatives. They come in wonderful flavors like Apple Cinnamon Pecan, Fruit & Nut Delight, and Almond & Apricot.

You’re inner sweet tooth junky is either a) screaming or b) crying right now.  She said it was like a ‘candy bar.’ Anything that contains a fruit shouldn’t fall into that category. You’re ruining the one thing I love in an attempt to make it healthy! Settle down. My favorite of all the KIND bars is the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew.  It still has fruit, but you’re going to have to get over that because the thing is coated in dark chocolate.

One (1.4oz) bar has 180 calories, 9 grams of fat and 14 grams sugar.  For fun let’s compare that to a Snickers. One (2 oz) Snickers bar has 270 calories, 14 grams of fat and 28 grams of sugar.  Truly though, there’s no need to sell you on this point because no matter how much better the nutrition profile is on Kind Bars, they are downright delicious.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are nutritious, but when compared to a Snickers, they are less damaging.

Let me put it to you this way. If, due to my erratic behavior, ceaseless rambling and overall odd behavior, I were banished to a deserted island where I could no longer inflict myself upon others and I was allowed three things, a lifetime supply of KIND bars would be on that list.  A girl needs reliable sustenance after all.  No, but seriously, they’re that good.

I’m still working on the other two items. I’ve been mulling this one over for a while and all I come up with are items in lifetime supply quantities.  Can I do that? What a difficult question.  I’ve heard people say they would bring a photo album of their friends and family and that makes me laugh right out loud.  I mean if you want to survive, you’re wasting your genie wishes on perishable nostalgia. Mark my words; those photos will be used as kindling within the first week.  Plus I have this theory that if you were dumb enough to bring photos, the people would start disappearing from them. You know, like what happened to Marty McFly’s family photo in Back to the Future. Items I’ve considered more seriously include toothpaste, tents, and duct tape – remember – in lifetime supply quantities! Not that toothpaste will save my life, but I’ve got a thing about dental hygiene so I view that one more as a psychological aid.

Kind Bars can be found in Whole Foods, REI and should be available in your neighborhood grocery store. Check them out! They are worth it.  For more information about Kind Health Snacks check out their website here.

I Am Boosting the Economy One Frozen Dinner At A Time

While trying to bend with a learning curve that comes with graduate school, I am discovering what it means to forsake oneself for something bigger. Although my nutrition knowledge pool may be on the rise, my diet has gone to the gutter. Amid hunting for my normal foods, learning to run errands by subway, bike or on foot and trying to tackle the mountain of homework that calls my name each and every night, my dietary world feels to be in shambles at the moment. Oh, and let’s not forget my new Game of Thrones addiction. Say what you will about literary adaptations, but that show makes True Blood look like a tacky bargain bin romance novel meant for those without taste. Game of Thrones makes me want to put on a forty pound dress, learn how to ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow and eat a turkey leg…simultaneously. Word to the wise – get HBO. If profanity, nudity or gore offends you – don’t get HBO.Long ago I found my freezer can be my greatest ally in the kitchen. Gone are my days of lounging, cooking, and baking. I am still batch cooking, just on a smaller scale. Thanks to my time and space constraints, my traditional food choices have been slightly compromised for the sake of my own sanity. Lucky for you, my total anguish and partial melt down has paved the way for your body’s betterment. Rest assured, I receive no monetary compensation for this blog so the products spotlighted here are purely of my own opinion. There is no exchange of money for product endorsement. Just ask my depleted bank account.

Like so many people around our great nation, I am pressed for time. My coursework is demanding, homework is unrelenting and I live two blocks from Fenway Ballpark so you better believe I am getting used to living with noise. Perhaps my greatest Boston rival to date has been eating on a budget. Holy bagel sandwiches! Food is expensive out east. My conservative mid-west food spending days are over.  When my plane flew over the Pennsylvania border, there was no turning back. My new home city is awesome but high-priced.

Frozen Dinners – often times these words next to one another makes the health conscious cringe. Understandable. For MANY years frozen entrees meant three things: high sodium, high fat and no vegetables. Over the last decade however, the food industry has made some pretty substantial improvements in these pre-made meals. Still, at times walking through the freezer section can feel like a bad movie preview you can’t look away from because your intelligent inner self just wants to see if it can get any worse. Well that and those twenty milk duds you just ate make you think the lead actor looks like your gym teacher minus the unisex polyester gym shorts.

Enough schticking. There are two important things to remember when opening that freezer door:

  1. Not all frozen meals are created equal.
  2. Just because the word ‘healthy’ is on the cover doesn’t necessarily make it your waist or heart’s friend.

Below are three more favorable choices I find to be both nutritious and delicious. Because, let’s be honest, no matter how nutrient packed a meal is, if it tastes like crap from a dumpster that been rotting in the sun for four days, I sure as heck ain’t eating it.

PRODUCT #1
Amy’s Light in Sodium Vegetable Lasagna 

Yes, it’s a vegetable lasagna. Get over it. With stacks of organic lasagna noodles layered with tomato sauce, roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese, this one is unapologetically delicious. One serving has 290 calories and 8 grams of fat. The real thing about Amy’s Vegetable Lasagna that gets my heart pumping (in a good way) is its sodium content. With 340mg per nine-ounce piece, Amy’s makes Stouffer’s like a bottle of soy sauce. Most traditional frozen lasagna pieces run around seven ounces, pack 350 calories, 12 grams of fat and carry between 600 to 800 mg of sodium. You’re body and taste buds will thank you.

PRODUCT #2
Kashi Mushroom Trio and Spinach Pizza

With a whole grain and flax crust topped with a tomato Parmesan sauce, baby Portobello, champignon and shiitake mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella and provolone cheeses you really can’t go wrong. One serving (1/3 the pizza) has 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. The sodium content on this one isn’t a bragging point, however, it does bring a sizable amount of dietary fiber (4 grams) and protein (2 ounces). Enjoy it for dinner and heat up the leftovers for lunch the next day. Yum, yum!

PRODUCT #3
Amy’s Light & Lean Bean & Cheese Burrito

It’s like a fiesta in your mouth. This burrito has a whole-wheat tortilla filled with pinto beans, Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, brown rice and a tab of chili sauce. One serving contains 280 calories and 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of fiber and nearly 2 ounces of protein. Does the word burrito make you flatulent simply reading it? Well, take your Beno, drink some water and put the dog outside. No but really, for some, beans require practice. With practice will come tolerance. It may not be pleasantville, USA the first time around but it does get better with time.

Note: If you can’t find the Light & Lean version, the traditional bean and cheese burrito is just as good and honestly, the nutrition profile is not greatly different.

One final frozen dinner tip. Add vegetables. Toss up a side salad. Roast or steam vegetables. The possibilities are endless. The frozen dinners can be on the smaller end and rightfully so for the sake of calorie, fat and sodium control. The trick to making sure they are both filling and nutrient dense is to add some color either directly into the dish or on the side.

Happy Heating!

Shameless Product Placement of June

Holy freaking moly. How is it already the last day of June. When I got home from work Monday night, I sat down to ponder what my next blog post would be. After taking a few moments to review my monster list of topic ideas, the date hit me like a brick in the face. I quickly realized a shameless product placement was in order. They’re not always the most informative pieces, but they are easy.  Much like CSPAN, these posts are nearly effortless and run the risk of putting you to sleep. You’re welcome.
I cannot continue without first acknowledging this Blagojevich situation. How could he have possibly thought he could sell Obama’s Senate seat and not get caught in the process? We’re talking about a man whose dismissal from The Apprentice was reportedly due to his technological inadequacies. He literally could not use a computer or text for that matter. On Monday he was found guilty on 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, soliciting bribes, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes. I would think that in order to even attempt getting away with any of this, some knowledge of how to operate an iPhone would be necessary. This isn’t Hogan’s Heroes.  

Now then, the Shameless Product Placement of June is….

Natural Peanut Butter 

I was a kid raised on Jiff. It was (and still is) delicious awesomeness. From the artery clogging sensation it induced to the way it cements to plates in the dishwasher, I genuinely loved everything about it. It sufficed for the first twenty or so years of my life. But the honeymoon had to eventually come to an end. A of couple years back, a cardiovascular surgeon was a guest at the after school program where I volunteered to help teach inner-city middle schoolers how to cook healthfully. He brought in real human hearts, each one having a greater degree of cardiovascular disease. They were interestingly disgusting. Being the strong stomached girl that I am, I fainted only four times, wet myself twice and threw up once. You’d think after one of those episodes, someone would have asked me to leave the room.

The demonstration continued on with a miniature Eat This Not That lesson: chicken over red meat, fruit over candy, olive oil over butter, blah blah blah. One topic discussed was trans fats. Thanks to the butter vs. margarine post from Monday, you’ve been well-informed on trans fats. The thing about a lot of peanut butter products out there is they contain hydrogenated oil(s). That probably means nothing to most of you, so I encourage you to keep reading.  There’s a prize at the end.

To put hydrogenation into laymen’s terms, the word simply means to treat with hydrogen. By chemically introducing hydrogen to oils, it turns them into solid fats. It’s a process done to extend a food’s shelf life. You’ll recall from butter vs. margarine that NYC health code prevents food service operations from using artificial trans fats. Hydrogenated oils are one such example.

There is a slight catch when it comes to fat labeling. A product can claim to be ‘trans fat-free’ and list zero grams of trans fat on the nutrition label if there is less than 0.5g per serving. Okay, that’s fine. However, that food doesn’t necessarily remain trans fat free if you eat three servings of it. Enough about the mundane details of labeling, let’s get to the good stuff.

Similar to all other products I’ve chosen to spotlight on this blog, the theme they all seem to carry is simplicity. All of them (all two of them) have contained a limited number of easy-to-read ingredients. This one is no exception.

Most natural peanut butters typically have one, maybe two, ingredients: peanuts and salt. Yes, this is the kind you have to stir and store in your refrigerator. Over the last three years I’ve tried numerous brands and various nut versions – think almond and cashew. As a former Jiff devotee, the best one I’ve found is Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. It’s sweet and has a normal peanut butter consistency, not that gritty texture other natural nut butters often bring to the table. Best of all, Smucker’s has somehow discovered a way to make a natural peanut butter than requires little to no stirring.

Other than the traditional pb & j, I thought I’d give you some other unique ideas for ways to eat peanut butter.

  1. Spread onto a frozen waffle for an easy on-the-go breakfast or snack
  2. Stir it into your oatmeal as it finishes cooking and top with banana or apple slices
  3. Spread onto apple slices and top with granola
  4. Put into a smoothie
  5. Spread onto pretzels, graham crackers, or squares of dark chocolate
That list got increasingly decadent. For a while I boycotted peanut butter due to it’s fat content. Was I insane? Yes. Here’s the thing about fat.  Like the infamous carbohydrate, fat should not be feared. Of the macro-nutrients, fat is the most complex one to digest and therefore, keeps you feeling full longer. If you disagree that capitalizing on satiety is not a fundamental part of weight loss and/or weight maintenance, meet me outside. But peanut butter isn’t just a good source of fat, it also packs some protein.  Two tablespoons equal one ounce of protein.

Check this scrumptious stuff out!  No need to go to a health food store either. Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter can be found in your normal grocery store.  It’s available in Creamy, Chunky, Honey, or No Salt Added. Come back next week for I don’t know what, but it’s sure to be fantastic.