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A new KIND bar

KIND has released some new flavors. I got to try the Blueberry Pecan one this morning. It. Is. Delicious. It’s amazing: when you use real ingredients, things taste like real ingredients. This bar stars: Almonds, blueberries (blueberry pieces, whole dried blueberries), raisins, pecans, honey, cashews, non GMO glucose, crisp rice, chicory fiber, soy lecithin. This is a KIND plus bar, this one has added fiber.

Their other new flavors include:
Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants
Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein
Apple Cinnamon & Pecan
Pomegranate Blueberry Pistachio + Antioxidants
Peanut Butter & Strawberry

And this fabulous Healthy Indulgence Cube. This is awesome. I should get this for our studio.

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Granola Bar Face-off

I love almond flavored food. When Nature Valley came out with Roasted Almond flavored granola bars, I was quite happy. Then, at a recent event they had incredibly healthy snacks, including an assortment of Kashi granola bars. One of the flavors was Roasted Almond Crunch. JACKPOT! I’m a convert (which I guess gives you an idea of where this article is headed). I’ve been buying the Kashi bars for a month or so now, but the other day I ran out. I found a lone Nature Valley bar in the back of my desk drawer and had myself a snack. Wow. Huge difference from the Kashi bars. The NV bar was really sweet. It also seemed in some way less substantial. I’m here to compare the ingredients and the nutrition facts. I’ve added links to uncommon ingredients to give you a better idea of what these are made of.

Nature Valley
Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Almond Pieces, Brown Sugar Syrup, Yellow Corn Flour, Soy Flour, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor.
Ingredient total: 11
Calories per serving: 190
Total Fat: 8 grams (1 gram of saturated fat)
Sodium: 170 milligrams
Total Carbs: 28 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2 grams
Sugars: 11 grams
Protein: 4 grams

Kashi
Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals, Rolled Whole Grain Blend (Hard Red Wheat, Oats, Rye, Triticale, Barley), Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Natural Roasted Almond Butter, Soy Protein Isolate, Almonds, Kashi Seven Whole Grains & Sesame Flour (Whole: Oats, Hard Red Wheat, Rye, Brown Rice, Triticale, Barley, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Chicory Root Fiber, Honey, Rice Starch, Wheat Germ, Evaporated Salt, Gum Arabic, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Natural Flavor, Mixed Tocopherols for Freshness.
Ingredient total: 30
Calories per serving: 170
Total Fat: 6 grams (0.5 gram of saturated fat)
Sodium: 150 milligrams
Total Carbs: 26 grams
Dietary Fiber: 4 grams
Sugars: 8 grams
Protein: 6 grams

I’ll be honest, I thought there would be a very clear winner here.

If you look at the number of ingredients, NV wins with 19 fewer ingredients. Michael Pollan’s Food Rules might suggest NV is the winner. If you look at the nutritional facts, Kashi has lower everything except for fiber and protein, which you want more of. There’s a lot of stuff in the Kashi bars, both good stuff, and ingredients that make me wonder why they were included. I’d love to get a play-by-play of why each ingredient is used. Is it to up the density? Is it to hold it all together? Is it to improve the texture, the crunch, the visual appeal? Kashi has a lot of information on the website about their ingredients, more exploration is needed. NV has a few ingredients that I wish were replaced with more nutritious substitutes (yellow corn flour for one).

I’d love to hear other perspectives on this face-off. What would Alton choose?

Soda Quitting

Photo by Rex SorgatzOh soda. What is it about you that makes you so hard to give up?

I’ve had a few conversations with friends about the challenges of giving up soda. It’s so familiar, it’s such a part of our lives. What else would you drink with a burger? At the movies? For that afternoon pick-me-up? It’s so very much second-nature to grab a soda, order a soda with work lunch, pay for gas and get a cold one. It’s a habit, one that is tough to quit.

There’s something about that cold, sugar-sweet beverage. Do a search for “quitting soda” and you’ll get 280,000 results! People have different reasons for quitting soda and there are a lot of bad things in soda. Carbonated water, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, flavorings, color…the list goes on.

There’s also the matter of soda being ubiquitous. Every other commercial on TV, signs in stores, vending machines, billboards, it’s availability at every turn, the list goes on. So, does it seem, do the soda marketing dollars.

So how do you quit? I quit soda once before for the year leading up to my son’s birth. It was easier that time because I was doing it for the health of my unborn child. This time I just have my health to do it for. Just my health. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty big important thing.

Photo by Tim NorrisSome people will tell you to wean yourself off soda, but I do better if I just cut the cord and go cold turkey. If I have one soda, then I start to feel bad about cheating and at the same time start working on convincing myself that if one was ok, then two wouldn’t be so bad… I recommend replacing soda with water. I like it very cold. I like it with lemon or lime. I also have some single serve drink mixes in my desk drawer at work for when I’m really craving something with flavor and there’s no fresh fruit around. The Crystal Light ones are pretty good. I do have a few Kool Aid tropical fruit punch singles too, for when it’s time to go hard-core. I’m not suggesting having these everyday, the ingredients in these are not exactly natural. But, at some point your going to crack and want a cold sugary soda. On that day, tear into your drink mix stash and feel good that you didn’t give into the soda temptation.

Smoothies

A year and a half ago my parents gave me this blender for my birthday. It’s great. Mine came with 2 large travel cups with lids and I used it almost every day to make these yummy iced coffee drinks, which my mom knew I loved, so it was the perfect gift. I loved it.

However, as I have mentioned before, I like my coffee with loads of cream and sugar. Think melted coffee ice cream.

I saw Live and Let Diet when it first aired. In the show, Alton sings the praises of having a smoothie for breakfast and shares his recipe. Based on that show, I decided to retire the coffee drinks and change over to fruit-based smoothies. My recipe is a little different from Alton’s so I thought I’d share it. I don’t measure, so these are approximate and make 1 large smoothie.

1 1/2 cups frozen fruit
1/3 cup of yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons of wheat germ
3/4 cup of pomegranate juice
fill rest of cup with another kind of fruit juice

Blend on low until fruit is chopped up, then blend on high for 30 seconds or so. Drink with a straw, it’s more fun.

I get frozen fruit at Walmart. I can’t find it on line to link to, so it’s possible it’s not available in all areas, but here’s a photo of it. It’s not organic, but it is, as it says on the bag, a great value. It doesn’t include bananas which is important to me, bananas always overpower smoothies in my opinion. It’s a combination of strawberries, peaches, mango and pineapple. I also sometimes throw in some frozen blueberries.

For yogurt I usually use Stonyfield french vanilla yogurt because I believe in the company, the yogurt is good tasting, it’s organic and from Vermont New Hampshire*.

I love wheat germ. That is maybe weird, but it’s awesome on toast with peanut butter and honey and I like adding the nutritional kick of it.

If I lived near a Trader Joe’s, I would buy all my juice there. But, since I don’t, I buy bottles of 100% pomegranate juice usually in the healthy section of the grocery store. At this point I think you can find Pom Wonderful in a lot of places, but it also seems like acai juice is taking over as the new “it” juice.

For the other kind of juice, I mix it up for variety. Orange, grape, cranberry, blends, anything that is 100% juice. I also sometimes get the V8 Fusion juices, they tend to be on the sweet side but include vegetables.

The best thing about smoothies is that you can add in anything you need. My neighbor got me into using vitamin D drops during the winter last year—those were easy to add into the smoothie. I would really like to find kale juice, I’d add that in a heartbeat to up the nutritional value. Make them your own and enjoy.

* My apologies Wilton and Londonderry New Hampshire! Stonyfield belongs to you!

Oatmeal Outrage!

When McDonalds first started running ads for its new Oatmeal I was skeptical and irritated at the price, which was above $3 in my area. I personally don’t eat oatmeal (more on that later), but my son LOVES oatmeal and I could see myself ordering this for him as a healthy alternative to the breakfast sandwich.

The New York Times Mark Bittman wrote this article. It spells out so much of what is offensive about McDonalds trying to ‘do us a healthy favor’ when they are doing just the opposite, tricking us into thinking they are healthy, when really they are poison. This part stood out to me:

“McDonald’s [oatmeal] contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)”

What the heck, McDonalds! You are rotten to the core. I guess that is how you got on the NAUGHTY NEVER list!

I am a graphic designer. That means that I layout projects that end up being printed as posters, brochures, postcards and more. I do this with a great team of people and 4 times a year we produce a brochure we call our Quarterly. When the Quarterly is on press, one of the designers goes on a press check, which means we go to the printers and look at the sheets as they come off the press and approve the printing and the color. Our Quarterly happens to be printed near a Panera, so we do lunch from Panera each time we’re on press. Today I tried to Eat Like Alton, even spent time thinking about it in advance. This was going to be a great time to get in some leafy greens (on the everyday list) and I recall at one point having a salad there with salmon and wheat berries – double score (oily fish and whole grains). This was going to be a breeze. Then I looked at the menu.

While all the salad descriptions sounded good at first pass, they were all basic variations on romaine lettuce with chicken. Some came with bacon, some with almonds, one even comes with a drizzle of “BBQ sauce”. (Ewww.) With the exception of one (Fuji Apple Chicken) they all are made with romaine lettuce. I know everyone isn’t trying to Eat Like Alton, but isn’t everyone into organic and micro greens and variety. I was surprised to find all of their salads so…normal and average. But, it is tradition and I needed to get leafy greens in, so I chose the Chopped Chicken Cobb salad. Here’s how my thought process went: I don’t like red peppers, I don’t want tasty crispy wontons to tempt me, BBQ sauce on salad sounds gross, caesar is usually good IF the dressing is good and I don’t want apples in my salad…Chopped Chicken Cobb it is. Looking back, I should have chosen Fuji Apple Chicken with fruit, nuts and leafy greens and just forced my way through the apples.

Then the salad came.

When I eat out, I like to eat things I can’t or won’t make at home. This salad was utterly disappointing. Salads I make at home look better. The lettuce was pale, the tomatoes were winter tomatoes (anemic and cold-tasting, not juicy and summer-tasting), the eggs were rubbery and the dressing was pretty ordinary. Come on Panera, I know your called Panera Bread not Panera Salad, but you can do better than this. Toss in some other greens – spinach would be easy as would chopped herbs; use thicker bacon; toss in some avocado; make salad dressing that doesn’t taste like it comes out of a vat; and have some other protein options…chicken gets boring, especially chicken that looks like the precooked chicken they sell in any grocery store.

I’m pretty sure in the past I have had good salads at Panera, even great ones. I’m not sure when the menu change happened, but I’m hoping it is seasonal or a temporary thing due to the economy. When I get a salad at a restaurant, I want it to be bright, bursting with flavor and freshness. I want to feel healthy eating it and I want to feel better about myself because I made a better food choice while I have to watch other people eating a burger and fries. And I want good tomatoes. Is that too much to ask?

Normally I wouldn’t think of Panera as fast food, to me fast food is fried and has a drive-through. But my salad today makes me wonder if this is bad food karma for crossing the ‘never’ line.

(This photo is 1/2 of the salad, I’m saving the other 1/2 for lunch tomorrow. And yes, I do often eat at my computer and yeah, it’s a Mac!)

Today is Presidents Day. Some people had the day off. I did not.

Today is also Monday, which is a good day (as good as any) to start Eating Like Alton. To help you out, I’ve created this chart.

This chart has boxes so you can check off your ‘everyday’ foods, your ‘three-times-a-week’ foods, your ‘once a week’ foods, and reminds you of the ‘never’ list. It also has the helpful reminder to ‘eat breakfast every day, no exceptions’. This chart can help you keep track day-to-day, but also will help you reflect on your week and see where you need improvement (hello, oily fish!). If you’re the cheating kind and need something to help you stay in line, it will also let you know when you’ve already had that one dessert or one drink of your week.

Here’s a PDF of the chart EatLikeAltonWorksheet_4up you can download and print on an 8.5″ x 11″ size sheet of paper. This will give you 4 weeks worth of charts.