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    Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

    And, For My Next Magic Trick… Guacamole With No Avocados!

    Calavo_With_TaglineAs a nutritionist and journalist, ingredient list hunting is one activity that is right up my alley.

    Oh, yes, I do mean “activity”.  It is not at all odd for me to walk the aisles of a supermarket for a good half hour with the sole intention of seeing if I encounter any blog-worthy “WTF”-ness.

    I’m not in there for any other reason.  I don’t need garlic for dinner.  Not even a stick of gum from the checkout counter.  I’m just there to walk and — cross my fingers! — come across something heinous.

    Alas, I struck gold today with Calavo’s Guacamole Tortilla Chips.

    Here is what the front of the bag tells us:

    “Rich Guacamole Taste!”

    That’s more than a statement — that is an enthused proclamation.  But wait, there’s more:

    “So green and so good, you’ll think you already dipped.”

    Alright, then.  Let’s get our avocado goodness on.  First, though, let’s take a look at the ingredient list (I purposefully bold part of it to make sure you read the really crazy part).

    Whole white corn, vegetable oil and/or canola oil and/or soybean oil and/or sunflower oil, guacamole seasoning (salt, cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, salt, culture, enzymes], lactose, whey, buttermilk, maltodextrin, onion powder, garlic powder, sour cream [cream, nonfat milk, culture, enzymes], monosodium glutamate, citric acid, spice, lactic acid, natural flavor, tocopherols, yellow 6 lake, yellow 5 lake, titanium dioxide, blue 1 lake, red 40, corn flour, lime.

    I could potentially understand the use of guacamole seasoning in these chips, but why is it made from cheddar cheese?  At least Kraft’s highly controversial “faux guacamole” dip contained a smidge of avocado!

    The presence of all those artificial dyes in Calavo’s product also makes the “so green” tagline sound a whole less appetizing.

    What’s particularly odd, though, is that the company’s guacamole dips are the real thing (no artificial colors, no weird fillers, etc.).  These chips certainly tarnish their brand name.


    You Ask, I Answer: Choosing Cheese

    bocconcini-lgCan you recommend some cheeses that might be healthier than others to add to a salad?

    — Terri Korolev
    San Francisco, CA

    The key is to use cheeses that provide plenty of flavor but not a lot of saturated fat or sodium.

    Remember — the saturated fats in full-fat dairy are more atherogenic than those in other foods (like coconuts and cocoa beans).

    The absolute best choices are grated hard cheeses like romano and parmigiano-reggiano (also known as parmesan).

    In the case of romano, two tablespoons only add:

    • 40 calories
    • 2 grams saturated fat
    • 170 milligrams sodium

    That same amount of parmesan cheese, meanwhile, clocks in at:

    • 44 calories
    • 2 grams saturated fat
    • 152 milligrams sodium

    Another good addition to salads is bocconcini — fresh mozarella balls packaged in liquid (pictured alongside this post).  Two pieces of bocconcini provide:

    • 140 calories
    • 4 grams saturated fat
    • 40 milligrams sodium
    • 20 % of a day’s worth of calcium

    An ounce of whole milk ricotta also delivers strong flavors with a very decent nutritional profile:

    • 49 calories
    • 2.4 grams saturated fat
    • 24 milligrams sodium

    If you prefer cheeses higher in saturated fat and/or sodium (i.e: blue cheese, feta, Swiss, etc.), you can still include them.  The key is to plan out the rest of your meals accordingly.

    For example, if you crave a feta cheese-arugula-pear salad for dinner, make your breakfast, lunch, and snacks that day are low in saturated fat and sodium.

    Vegans: you can also enjoy cheeses in your salads — and I don’t just mean shredded-cheddar or shredded-mozarella imitations made from rice or soy.

    Dr. Cow, for instance, makes delicious nut-based cheeses.  Most of them also include acidophilus, which helps mimic the texture and flavor of aged cheeses (and offers health benefits of probiotics!).  I personally enjoy the aged cashew and crystal algae “cheese”.

    Similarly, there are a variety of vegan alternatives to grated parmesan cheese.


    You Ask, I Answer: Blue Cheese

    danish_blue_cheeseA friend mentioned that the bacteria used to make blue cheeses has similar beneficial properties to the bacteria in yogurt.

    Could you clarify?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    Like other fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, and tempeh), aged blue cheeses — including roquefort and gorgonzola — contain health-promoting live and active cultures (AKA “bacteria”) commonly known as probiotics.

    Blue cheeses contain significant amounts of Penicillium bacteria.  In the case of roquefort cheese, or instance, the specific bacteria is Penicillium roqueforti.

    Research on the specific health benefits of these strands is limited (largely because these cheeses are not consumed in the same quantities as yogurt).  However, it has been established that these are indeed probiotics that survive the digestive process (meaning they have some effect).

    As with anything else, probiotic foods are only effective if they are eaten on a consistent basis.

    Remember, too, that probiotics appear to work best in diets that are also high in prebiotics (leafy greens, whole grains, beans, and legumes are the best sources).

    More evidence that eating real, whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to go.


    You Ask, I Answer: Cooking & Calcium

    grated-cheeseSomeone I work with told me she heard that when you cook dairy products (cheese on pizza), the calcium is leached out because of the high temperatures.

    Is that true?

    — Monica Scharf
    New York, NY

    No, it is not.

    Calcium — like all other minerals — is very resistant to dry heat (i.e.: roasting, grilling, baking).

    You may also want to point out to your office-mate that the cheese sprinkled on your pizza has already been pasteurized, and therefore already exposed to high heat.

    In any case, even when raw cheeses are exposed to dry heat, their calcium content remains intact.

    Some calcium losses have been observed, though, when foods containing calcium — including non-dairy sources like kale, collard greens, and tofu — are boiled for long periods of time (at least twenty minutes).


    You Ask, I Answer: Soy Cheese

    This weekend I had brunch at a vegetarian restaurant.

    Since I am lactose intolerant, I asked the waitress if they had any vegan cheese.

    She told me they had soy cheese, but it wasn’t vegan.

    It was very busy and I didn’t want to keep her, but that didn’t make sense to me.

    In the end, I decided not to get it. I am not vegan, but I was afraid the cheese they had was some sort of soy and lactose mix.

    Does that make sense to you?

    How can soy cheese not be vegan?

    — Jaime (last name withheld)
    (city withheld), MI

    A good number of soy cheeses contain casein, a milk protein.

    This is usually done to better emulate the dairy-based product’s texture and taste.

    Although perfectly acceptable and appropriate for someone with a lactose intolerance like yourself (all soy cheeses are lactose free), the same can not be said for vegans, who omit all animal byproducts — including casein — from their diets.

    In the event that your request was related to veganism, she had your interests in mind. Good for her.


    You Ask, I Answer: Velveeta

    What in the world IS Velveeta exactly? Cheese?

    If so, why is it less expensive and “more melty” than cheddar, like all their commercials say?

    — Corey Clark
    (location withheld)

    Velveeta, which has been “pleasing families since 1928” (at least that’s what Kraft says), is processed cheese.

    This differs from “real” cheese in that it contains added milkfat, water, and some emulsifying agent (in order to mix the fat and water evenly.)

    A look at the ingredient list reveals:

    Milk, water, milkfat, whey, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, milk protein concentrate, alginate, sodium citrate, apocarotenal (color), enzymes, cheese culture.

    Alginate, by the way, is a thickener and emulsifier derived from brown algae (similar to carrageenan.)

    Velveeta is very far from achieving “100% cheese” status. It’s not even 51% cheese (if that were the case, it could be sold as a “pasteurized prepared cheese food”).

    Since it is approximately 40% cheese, though, it has to be legally advertised as a “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”

    Its low cost comes down to the fact that Velveeta is, in essence, “washed down” cheese.

    That also helps explain its unique melting properties. Its chemical makeup is different from traditional cheese, which is why it does not react to heat in quite the same way as, say, a slice of Swiss cheese.

    While we’re comparing the two, let’s take a look at their respective nutrition facts.

    One ounce of Swiss cheese contains:

    106 calories
    8 grams of fat

    5 grams of saturated fat (25% of a day’s worth)
    54 milligrams of sodium (a mere 2% of a day’s worth)
    8 grams protein
    22% of the Daily Value of calcium

    One ounce of original Velveeta, meanwhile, adds up to:

    80 calories
    6 grams of fat
    4 grams of saturated fat (20% of a day’s worth)
    410 milligrams of sodium (17% of a day’s worth)

    5 grams of protein

    15% of the Daily Value of calcium

    Velveeta’s sodium value is even higher than that of higher-in-sodium cheeses like cheddar (174 mg per ounce) and provolone (245 mg per ounce.)

    For what it’s worth, Velveeta sales experienced quite a spike in 2008.

    Kraft executives also explain that Velveeta sales increase approximately 50 percent on Super Bowl Sunday!


    Numbers Game: Skip and Save

    Next time you’re at Chipotle, keep in mind that you can save ______ calories and ______________ of a day’s worth of saturated fat by passing on the cheese and sour cream.

    a) 92/19 percent
    b) 137/34 percent
    c) 194/51 percent
    d) 230/65 percent

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.


    Mac and Cheese Grows (And Shapes!) Up

    After years of being labeled an unhealthy kids’ food, mac and cheese is receiving a glamorous, adult-friendly makeover from two fairly new companies — Road’s End Organics and Fiber Gourmet.

    Road’s End Organics offers a delectable vegan and organic whole wheat elbow macaroni “Mac and Chreese” (yes, that is ‘cheese’ with an extra ‘r’) that is also free of soy and nuts.

    The sauce gets most of its flavor from nutritional yeast, a popular vegan alternative to cheese.

    The best part? Each serving (half the box) adds up to:

    340 calories
    0 grams of saturated fat
    400 milligrams of sodium
    8 grams of fiber

    14 grams of protein

    25% of the Vitamin B12 Daily Value (I mention this since we are referring to a vegan product)

    This passed not only my taste test with flying colors, but also those of traditional Mac ‘n Cheese eaters (some of which asked me, “Are you SURE this isn’t real cheese?”)

    That is quite a feat, considering I used unsweetened soymilk as a base for the “cheese” sauce. If you are not of the vegan persuasion, you can certainly use cow’s milk if you so choose — preferably skim or 2%.

    Fiber Gourmet meanwhile, is keeping the dairy in mac and cheese but adding fiber in plentiful amounts.

    One serving (1 cup) of their new kosher-friendly, free-of-artificial-colors Mac and Cheese product contains a whooping 18 grams of fiber!

    A few things worth noting:

    First of all, the fiber comes from — yay! — actual food (modified wheat starch and wheat gluten, to be exact) rather than synthetic dust.

    Secondly, the folks at Fiber Gourmet have done an amazing job of creating a high-fiber pasta with top-notch taste and texture.

    There isn’t the slightest hint of graininess, nor does the pasta quickly congeal into a great big ball of mush like those awful low-carb soy pastas that were the rage for all of eight seconds in 2003. Are we SURE that wasn’t really fussilli shaped cardboard?

    Because the fiber content is so high, I would recommend having half a cup in one sitting (as a tasty side dish that delivers a reasonable 330 milligrams of sodium, more than respectable 9 grams of fiber, and only 90 calories!), especially if your current diet is not very high in fiber (in which case, too much too soon causes an intestinal revolt).

    Also, keep in mind that children’s fiber needs are different from adults. For children ages 3 to 16, fiber needs are determined by taking the child’s age and adding 5 to it.

    Hence, the 18 grams of fiber in each serving is too much for a 9 year old.

    With pre-teens, for instance, I would suggest mixing half a cup of Fiber Gourmet’s mac and cheese with another half cup of a “regular” variety.

    In any case, this is a wonderful way to boost fiber intake in a tasty, low-calorie way.

    Mac and cheese. It’s not just for kids anymore.


    Say What?: Script Check, Please

    Yesterday night I finally got around to watching The Bourne Ultimatum.

    While the fast-paced, loud action scenes were definite attention-grabbers, one thing that stuck with me as I walked out of the theater was a scene where a character orders a “heart-healthy omelette with goat cheese and peppers.”

    At the end of that scene, another character at the table leaves in a huff and states, “enjoy your egg whites,” confirming my belief that “heart-healthy omelette” was another word for “egg-white omelette.”

    I find this so captivating because it is a nutrition mistake I see people making all the time — ordering “heart-healthy” items and then sabotaging them.

    Adding goat cheese — or any cheese, for that matter — to an otherwise fat-free omelette is ridiculous. A mere ounce of goat cheese contains thirty percent of a day’s worth of saturated fat (the heart-unhealthy fat).

    Meanwhile, an omelette made with two whole eggs and no cheese contains 15 % saturated fat!! In other words, a regular omelette with two vegetables is, hands down, heart-healthier than an egg white and cheese one.

    A better solution for those of you seeking heart-healthy omelettes? Add healthy fats like avocado or seafood to your omelette, or ask the waiter to have your heart-healthy omelette cooked in vegetable oil, rather than butter.

    Besides, as I mentioned several months ago, including yolks in your omelette isn’t as bad as you might think.


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