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Fig Facts from the Farmer’s Market

22 Jul

Fig Facts from the Farmer’s Market

Figs are a fruit-lover’s fickle friend. They make a brief appearance in market from June-July, with a second showing again in August-October.

On the whole, fig season is a short one – but it’s worth catching these high fiber fruits while you can.

A one-half cup serving (roughly 3-4 whole figs) contains 120 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and is a good source of potassium (10% daily value).

Fig Fun Facts

If you find yourself needing more fig facts, here are some interesting tidbits from California Figs…and they should know, with California being¬†home to 90% of the US fig farming operation:

  • If you like fashion, thank figs: a fig tree was responsible for the first clothing in the Bible, from which Adam & Eve drew fig leaves from to fashion clothing
  • Because of their high alkalinity, figs are beneficial for people looking to stop smoking
  • Figs aren’t fruits – but rather flowers that have inverted onto themselves; the fig seeds are the real fruits (or drupes)
  • Figs are the only fruits (self-inverted flowers?) to ripen and semi-dry on the tree
  • The word sycophant (essentially – a self-seeking, servile suckup) derives from the Greek word meaning “one who informs against another for exporting figs” – figs were so revered that ancient Greek law forbade the exporting of high quality figs.

Fixing up Figs

So what do you do with figs? Personally I love to eat them whole – with a penchant for black Mission figs.

But figs aren’t just delicious and nutritious – they’re nice to look at too. Figs are gorgeous when sliced.

Add this appealing appetizer to your pre-party repertoire:

  • Spread 1-2 teaspoons goat cheese on a high fiber cracker
  • Top with a slice of fig
  • Finish off with a dollop of real honey

Are you fretting about not finding figs year round? Check out this interesting story from NPR¬†about more frequent fig availability from advances in growing techniques…and a little fig farmer trickery.

Bolder Flavor from Boulder Canyon

7 Jul

Bolder Flavor from Boulder Canyon

A pleasant surprise greeted me from an otherwise dismal vending machine display the other day: Boulder Canyon’s Chipotle Cheese flavor Rice & Bean Snack Chips with Adzuki Beans.

Sure, these rice and bean chips were still chips – but they were pleasantly light and crispy with a subtle flavor and impressive nutrition profile.

You don’t see a lot of adzuki beans in snack foods – but these were great, with adzuki beans beinng the 3rd ingredient on the ingredient list (after rice flour and corn starch).

Adzuki beans are popular in Japanese cooking, and they’re small and light red-brown in color. A 1/2 cup of cooked beans nets you 8.5 grams of fiber with 9 grams protein for just 110 calories…so they’re certainly a great fiber find…if you can find them.

If you can’t get the real beans, the chips are an ok runner up. A 1.5 oz serving bag (about 30 chips) of Boulder Canyon’s Chipotle Cheese chips provides:

  • 215 calories
  • 11 g fat
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 280 mg sodium
  • 26 g carbohydrate
  • 5 g dietary fiber
  • 3 g protein

And when you’re in a pinch, I’d say they’re a satiating snack food (albeit a bit high in sodium).

Anatomy of a Skinny Cow

5 May

Anatomy of a Skinny Cow

I recently found myself elbow-deep in a gas station’s reach-in ice cream freezer.

Buried beneath the high-fat, high-sugar off-brand offerings, I unearthed a seemingly healthier product: a Skinny Cow Vanilla low fat ice cream sandwich.

Now what makes this product healthier than other ice cream sandwiches? Well, here’s the run-down of a Skinny Cow…and of course we’ll start with fiber.

Fiber

Most skinny cow products have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber. What in the world is fiber doing in ice cream, you ask?

Well, real ice cream has no fiber because it’s made of fat and sugar, 2 bastions of the fiber-free ingredient world.

But Skinny Cow has wised up to consumers’ interest in fiber. So they shove in functional fibers like inulin, cellulose, and gums.

These fibers have not been shown to yield the same health benefits as naturally occurring fiber, like the type you find in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

There are certainly lower-calorie, tastier ways to get 3 grams of fiber. They’re called apples.

Calories

The Skinny Cow vanilla ice cream sandwich I tried had 150 calories. Compare that to a Klondike classic vanilla ice cream sandwich (which I also bought in case the Skinny Cow let me down) with 180 calories, so it’s not that big of a difference.

Your typical 1/2 cup serving of ice cream is going to set you back about 150 calories (250 calories if you’re going premium), so you’re not saving much on the calorie front with this guy.

Ingredient List

Now any processed ice cream product is going to run long on the ingredient list. And the Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich is no different.

It consists of skim milk, white flour, sugar, caramel color followed by some more sugars, sugar, corn syrup, and then a bunch of preservatives and fake fibers. And it sure tastes like it.

Taste

The Skinny Cow vanilla ice cream sandwich doesn’t really taste like an ice cream sandwich. The wafer is thin and disintegrates before you have a chance to chew.

But thankfully, before you notice the paper-thin wafer has disappeared, you’re hit with the cloying sweetness that is 14 grams of added sugar.

Furthermore, because it only has 2 grams of fat, you simultaneously miss out on that luscious mouthfeel you would expect from fat in ice cream…but then again, that’s what you get for buying an ice cream boasting about its skinniness.

Verdict

All in all I’d say pass on the Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. There are more satisfying ways to eat 150 calories of ice cream. And certainly smarter ways to get 3 grams of fiber.

 

Bare Fruit: The Next Best Thing to Fresh Fruit

10 Apr

Bare Fruit: The Next Best Thing to Fresh Fruit

It’s better to eat your fruit than to drink it. And it’s usually better to eat fresh fruit than canned or dried fruit.

But Bare Fruit Crunchy Apple Chips throws this recommendation on its head…because these dried fruit chips are actually as good for you as real, whole apples.

Whereas most apple chips (and most dried fruit in fact) include a ton of added sugar – these guys are just what they say: bare fruit.

You may have seen the Bare Fruit Crunchy Fuji Red Apple Chips recently at Costco. At first glance, I thought $7 for a bag of dried fruit and sugar?

But upon closer inspection, these snacks are the real deal. The ingredient list is incredibly clean. And short: Organic Fuji Apples.

As always, the proof is in the nutrition facts panel – a 1/2 cup serving of chips has 90 calories and 4 grams of dietary fiber.

Surprise: that’s EXACTLY what a medium-sized apple has.

The Bare Fruit Apple Chips are crunchy, tasty, and give you the satisfaction of a snack chip, with the real fiber of a fresh fruit.

So next time you need a convenient, fresh snack on the go, I say grab some Bare Fruit Apple Chips. You can find them at your local retailer, or check out the Bare Store Finder online here.

La Tour Whole Grain Puffs

1 Apr

La Tour Whole Grain Puffs

If you find yourself hungry in the Hawaiian Isles, check out La Tour Bakehouse, an artisan bakery located in Honolulu’s historic Chinatown.

While owner Thanh Lam and his crew churn out some amazing French bread, they have also expanded into packaged snacks, including a line of Whole Grain Puffs.

I recently had a chance to sample the honey glazed sunflower, flax, and sesame flavor puffs, which are available at Oahu farmer’s markets and retail outlets like Longs, Foodland, and Safeway.

These whole grain puffs pack a flavor punch! They’re light and crunchy, and slightly sweet. The texture is similar to a puffed cereal, but the seeds and grains add a heartier taste.

A one ounce serving has 120 calories, 6 grams fat and 3 grams dietary fiber. These are a great, high fiber addition to any afternoon snack, whether you can be at the beach or not!