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Lean Green Food Finds

17 Mar

Lean Green Food Finds

Disclaimer: I have a financial relationship with and was paid to represent the products in this blog post and associated TV segment.

With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, you may have Irish-inspired menu ideas on the brain. But when it comes to green food fare, your food choices can also be good for the planet. Here are my top picks for some lean, green food finds:

KIND: Simplified, Sustainable Ingredients

KIND

  • Looking to simplify your life? Why not start with your ingredient list! The shorter an ingredient list is, generally the more clean and wholesome the food will be.
  • KIND bars are packed with simple wholesome ingredients you can see and pronounce – not to mention they do not contain genetically engineered ingredients.
  • KIND Nuts & Spices have 5 grams of sugar or less per bar with no artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols, so they’re a bar you can feel good about eating.
  • To learn more check out www.kindsnacks.com

Pistachios: Eating Local…and Loaded with Lutein!

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  • Pistachios are an excellent option when it comes to nutrition and health; pistachios are among the lowest fat and lowest calorie snack nut out there. They’re packed with protein and fiber which help you stay full for longer.
  • Did you know the hint of green in pistachios comes from antioxidants like lutein?
  • If you’re trying to make an environmental impact by eating locally, pistachios are a great option. Over 99% of all pistachios grown in the US are from California
  • Wonderful pistachios come in a variety of delicious flavors like salt and pepper and sweet chili and a serving size of 49 pistachios has just 160 calories (1/2 cup in shell or ¼ cup out of shell)
  • For more information check out www.getcrackin.com

good2grow: BPA-Free for Me!

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  • Good2Grow Fruit & Veggie Blends & Juicy Waters are a great way to quench your kids’ thirst without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
  • All of the good2grow products are non-GMO, the bottles are recyclable and the tops are BPA-free.
  • The good2grow character sippa-top containers are reusable, which cuts down on waste seen with other disposable water and juice bottles.
  • For more information check out www.good2grow.com

Lowering Your Food-Based Carbon Footprint

  • Climate friendly foods favor plants over animals; if all Americans eliminated just ¼ pound serving of beef per week, reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to taking 4-6 million cars off the road
  • When selecting seafood, choose locally caught, sustainably managed fish or herbivorous farmed stocks like tilapia, catfish and carp. Check out www.seafoodwatch.org for sustainable seafood selections
  • Buying organic is another great way to positively impact your environment; organic production means the food is free from pesticides, herbicides, drugs, fertilizers and genetic modification

For these and other lean, green food finds, check out my segment on San Diego Living at: http://www.cw6sandiego.com/lean-green-and-eco-eats/

Fresh Food From a Blender: The Vitamix Cookbook

5 Nov

Fresh Food From a Blender: The Vitamix Cookbook

I recently received a copy of The Vitamix Cookbook: 250 Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Make in Your Blender to review here on the fiber blog. Although I’ve been a Vitamix owner for about 5 years, I’m always eager for more recipes to test the limits of this timeless kitchen appliance.

For some historical context, I was a reluctant convert to Vitamix. My husband – Mr. Fiber – brought me on board following an unauthorized trip to Costco that happened to coincide with an in-store Vitamix Road Show.

He was as mesmerized by the demonstration as I was dumbfounded by the price. I plotted to return it (as I do with roughly all of his Costco purchases), but after flipping through the Whole Foods Recipes book that came with the Vitamix, I was sold.

Sure, I figured, you can continue to keep buying, breaking and replacing $30 blenders with crappy motors that can’t handle frozen fruit…or you can buy the Cadillac of blenders that is so powerful, it can make both hot soup AND frozen desserts.

 

High Fiber Soup in a Snap

Although most people think smoothies or juices when it comes to blending, for me, it’s all about the soup. I have always been in awe of the power of the Vitamix, with its blades that can reach speeds fast enough to create friction heat that bring soup ingredients to steaming hot in 4-6 minutes.

When I got my copy of The Vitamix Cookbook, I flipped right to Chapter 4 for Soups, Salads and Sides. The book features 40 fresh, new soup recipes that bring flavor to life in just a few minutes.

Most of the soups in the book have at least 3 g dietary fiber and under 500 mg sodium per serving, a good balance for homemade soups, which are hands-down healthier than canned, store-bought versions.

 

A Bit About the Book…

The Vitamix Cookbook is authored by Jodi Berg, the current President and CEO of Vitamix and a fourth-generation member of the 100-year old Vitamix company family. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical introduction in the book, which explains the foundations of the company.

Jodi explains how her great-grandfather founded the business, and that other Vitamix family members were challenged by digestive problems that caused them to seek solace in whole foods.

I love that all of the recipes in the Vitamix Cookbook are accompanied by accurate nutrient analysis, including dietary fiber (since most cookbooks forget fiber.) The food photography is beautiful and the layout of the recipes makes it easy to navigate and plot what’s going to go into the Vitamix next.

 

The Power of Whole Grain Flours

Chapter 2 features Breakfast and Brunch recipes, with great ideas for incorporating a variety of whole grain flours.

I have been using my Vitamix to make my toddler daughter baby food since she could eat, and I’ll certainly be incorporating the Banana Waffles (3 g fiber) and Bran Cherry Muffins (6 g fiber) recipes from this cookbook into our morning meals repertoire.

 

Recipe Rundown

I tested 8 recipes from the book – one from each chapter – and not surprisingly, my favorite was the soup sample, “Spiced Butternut Squash Soup”. With just 160 calories, 110 mg sodium and 4 g dietary fiber, this is a notably nutritious step up from your typical squash soup.

The Spiced Butternut Squash Soup recipe is below – but in the meantime, check out your own copy of The Vitamix Cookbook over at Amazon, and for more great Vitamix tips, tricks, videos and recipes, visit the Vitamix website.

 

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Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe from The Vitamix Cookbook by Jodi Berg

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (471 g) peeled, chunked butternut squash
  • 2 medium Gala apples (11 oz / 317 g), seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 4 cup (89 g) torn kale leaves
  • 1 cup (128 g) diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 5 cups (1.2 liters) carrot juice
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup (73 g) raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Combine the squash, apples, kale, onion, vinegar, carrot juice, almond milk, almonds, and spices in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Ladle half of the hot mixture into he Vitamix container and secure the lid. Select Variable 1. Turn the machine on and slowly increase the speed to Variable 10, then to High. Blend for 1 minute.
  • Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot. Repeat with the remaining soup. Stir together both batches to combine. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information

Amount per 1 cup (240 ml) Serving

  • 160 calories
  • 4.5 g total fat
  • 0 g saturated fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 110 mg sodium
  • 27 g total carbohydrate
  • 4 g dietary fiber
  • 6 g sugars
  • 5 g protein

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the Vitamix Cookbook for this post; thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

 

Back to School Roundup

25 Aug

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was paid to represent the brands featured in the blog post and the associated TV segments.

Back to school season is in full swing! Evidence suggests that a well fed kid is more academically successful than a hungry one. Makes sense: it’s hard to concentrate if you’re hungry!

This year, set your kids on the path to better learning with these tips on building a better lunchbox:

Way Better Snacks

  • I love chips – but they have to taste great. That’s why this BTS season I’m into Way Better Snacks – a revolutionary line of chips and crackers that feature 100% whole grain, premium ingredients like sprouted flax, chia and quinoa.
  • In addition to being nutrient dense, they also taste amazing and have no artificial ingredients and are GMO free.
  • Personally, the 2 flavors I can’t get enough of right now are Sweet Potato and Simply So Sweet Chili – each have 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber to help keep you fueled throughout the day – on top of a killer taste profile!
  • Way Better Snacks are available at Whole Foods, or you can learn more at www.gowaybetter.com.

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BODYARMOR

  • Healthy hydration is important at mealtime – but if you’re like me, and not a straight water person, you need to spice it up, and so BODYARMOR is a nice alternative.
  • BODYARMOR is a new, natural sports drink that is packed with potassium, electrolytes and coconut water, along with no artificial ingredients that comes in 7 great tasting flavors.
  • It’s a great option for younger athletes who don’t need all of the extra sodium and artificial ingredients found in other sports drinks – so one of those things kids love because of the taste, but parents love because of the quality.
  • Learn more at www.drinkbodyarmor.com.

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Cranberries

  • CDC data suggests that 60 percent of children do not eat the recommended amount of fruit per day (1-2 cups/day depending on age).
  • Cranberries are a great way to get more fruit in your kids’ diet and to keep back to school lunches exciting while helping them get the nutrition they need to succeed.
  • Cranberries are naturally low in sugar and high in acid, so they require some sweetening to make them palatable – but they have no more sugar than other dried fruits.
  • Check out this easy Cranberry Chicken Salad Sandwich on Flatbread recipe for a healthy and convenient lunch option.

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Peanuts

  • Protein is clutch for keeping you full – and we all know we should be eating more plant protein. Enter peanuts. With 7 grams of protein per serving, peanuts have more protein than any other nut; not to mention over 30 other vitamins and nutrients that make them truly a superb superfood!
  • I love peanuts for school lunch because they’re an affordable and convenient source of protein. You can pack a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a packet to dip apple slices into, or even add peanut butter to your smoothies for a meal on the move.
  • Peanuts also like to party. Try incorporating peanuts into your next gathering with this awesome Edamame Hummus with Peanut recipe.

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BarkTHINS

  • When I was a kid, lunch wasn’t lunch unless there was dessert. Even as an adult I still have a sweet tooth – but as a dietitian, I know the importance of calorie control. Which is why I love BarkTHINS. Oh my word, these are amazing – especially the pretzel flavor!
  • BarkTHINS – whose tag line is “Break up with boring” – is a snackable chocolate made with real, simple ingredients like dark chocolate, pretzels, pumpkin seeds and coconut.
  • I love that all of their products are Fair Trade US Certified and non-GMO. They even come in resealable pouches – so you don’t have to eat the whole bag at once!

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Three Bridges Pasta

  • If sandwich fatigue is getting you down, swap that sammie for some pasta! I love Three Bridges‘ line of refrigerated pastas and sauces. They’re convenient, delicious and super fresh for a healthy lunch in a jiffy.
  • I recently sampled the Organic Spinach & Cheese Tortellini. It’s a great option for families on the go who care about premium ingredients. Whereas a lot of frozen pasta products taste rubbery and are heavy on the pasta, light on the cheese – the Three Bridges tortellini are plump and fresh because they’re right out of your refrigerator!
  • There’s nothing artificial in any of the Three Bridges products, and I love that they even have “superfood” sauces that include ingredients like kale and porcini mushrooms.

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good2grow Organic Juicy Waters

  • Despite my distaste for plain old water, I’m still a huge hydration fan. But I feel it when parents say that most kids drinks are laden with extra sugars..because they are! That’s why I love good2grow Organic Juicy Waters.
  • These guys are just 30 calories per bottle with no added sugar. Kids love the adorable character sipper-toppers and parents love that they don’t spill, are BPA free and also reusable.
  • I found Organic Juicy Waters at 7-11 but they’re also available at Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies.

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Biena Chickpea Snacks

  • 3 meals a day doesn’t cut it for kids (or adults for that matter). You gotta have some in between meal snacks to meet your needs and prevent overeating at the next meal. And those snacks should of course feature fiber.
  • I recently had the chance to sample the whole line of Biena chickpea snacks, and let me tell you – these are A+ on the snacking report card. They’re crunchy but not fried and each serving has 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.
  • If you like spicy, you’ll love the Habanero flavor. All of the Biena products are non-GMO and gluten free. You can find these at Target or online at www.bienafoods.com.

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For more info on Building a Better Back to School Lunchbox – check out these 3 BTS segments I did last week:

Popchips’ Fiber Finally Poppin’ Off

13 Feb

Popchips’ Fiber Finally Poppin’ Off

I’ve always liked the idea of popchips – an un-fried potato product with “nothing fake or phony” – but I do admit I wasn’t a fan of their low fiber count.

The original popchips had just 1g fiber per 120 calorie serving. And while the ingredient list was clean, the starches consisted of potatoes, rice, and potato starch (white on white on white carb crime)… so the OG ones weren’t really a snack food worth a fiber fan’s time.

But I recently got my hands on a bag of the new veggie popchips. They caught my eye because they boast a better fiber profile. I bought the sea salt flavor, which this time around has 3g fiber in 120 calories.

The reason for the change? Popchips has wised up to the power of legume flour.

The ingredient list still starts with dried potato, but it goes on to include chickpea flour, navy bean flour, tapioca starch, beet powder, spinach powder, pumpkin powder, pea fiber, tomato powder, red bell pepper powder and kale powder.

In addition to the fiber pump, I think these veggie popchips also have a better, more nuanced flavor than the original popchips. They still stick a little too much to my teeth, and like all potato starch products, the texture is still slightly chalky.

Regardless, I would recommend the veggie popchips over the original popchips based on taste, fiber, and ingredient list alone. You can eat 1/3 of the bag (23 chips) for 120 calories & 3g fiber – and at 200 mg, the sodium count isn’t half bad either.

Now, you have to remember: if it looks like a chip and it tastes like a chip, it’s still a chip…and certainly not the same thing as eating real vegetables. You’re missing out on valuable nutrients like potassium and vitamin C there. But in a pinch, if you gotta grab a chip, I say the veggie popchips are a pretty good product.

 

Restaurant Calorie Counts: Right to Know?

10 Dec

Restaurant Calorie Counts: Right to Know?

The FDA recently finalized their rule stating that calories will have to be posted “clearly and conspicuously” at:

  • Restaurants with 20 or more outlets
  • Vending machines with 20 or more machines
  • Retail outlets such as movie theaters with 20 or more theaters

While calories need to be posted up front on menu boards at fast food establishments and in menus at casual fast and sit down restaurants, additional information such as total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars and proteins have to be available (provided upon consumer request, usually done online or pamphlet).

Why Disclose Calories at Restaurants?

  • Studies show eating out more frequently is associated with obesity, higher body fatness, or higher BMI. (Example: women who eat out more often (5+ times/week) eat 290 more calories on average each day than those who eat out less often.
  • Americans eat and drink 1/3 of their calories away from home
  • More than 2/3 of Americans favor posting calories throughout ready prepared food outlets including movie theaters, vending machines, supermarkets

Does Calorie Shaming Work?

  • NYC study: 1 in 6 customers used the calorie information and purchased 106 fewer calories than customers who did not see or use the calorie information at chain restaurants
  • Subway chains in NYC: 1 out of 3 customers (37%) reported that nutrition information affected their purchases; they purchased 100 fewer calories per meal than those who saw the information and reported it had not effect
  • Parents of kids age 3-6 who were presented a McDonald’s menu with calorie labeling ordered an average of 100 fewer calories for their children than those who did not receive calorie info

What Will Be the Impact?

  • CSPI estimates that similar changes at chain restaurants could result in 30 calorie per person per day decrease in intake
  • Product reformulation resulting from calorie posting rules has already and will continue to result in further reduction in calories (Example: California Pizza Kitchen’s “Small Cravings” menu, Cheesecake Factory’s “SkinnyLicious” line, Denny’s “Fit Fare”)
  • Obesity epidemic can be explained by 100 calorie per day imbalance – so baby steps are important!

By the Numbers: Why Does This Matter?

  • Medium movie theater popcorn without butter topping: 1,200 calories (same as 4 McDonald’s Cheeseburgers or 5 slices Papa John’s pepperoni pizza)
  • Cheesecake Factory: Bruleed French Toast 2,780 calories (would have to swim laps for 7 hours to burn off) – meal also has 5 days saturated fat and 24 teaspoons sugar; Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic: 2,410 calories (five hour job to burn off)
  • Outback Steakhouse: Bloomin’ Onion 1,959 (in total onion, 6 servings)
  • Claim Jumper Chicken Pot Pie: 2,078 calories and Chocolate Motherlode Cake: 2,768 calories per slice

For more information on the new FDA rule, check out my segment on KPBS San Diego on the topic here.