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    Archive for the ‘cookies’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bakery Snacks

    I’m hoping you can help me decipher this.

    One of my co-workers is obsessed with these cookies and brownies made by The Protein Bakery.  He says they’re good for you because they are made with oats and because they’re high in protein and low in carbs.

    What do you think of them?

    — Rob (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    As regular readers of Small Bites know, few things make me as giddy as pulling back the curtains on Big Food and its desperate attempts to make run-of-the-mill treats seem like health food.

    That said, I am an equal-opportunity critic of nutrition nonsense, so when I see a company — whether it’s a corporate giant or an independent family-owned one —  with their hands in the proverbial “focus on one ingredient and call our sugar-laden product healthy” cookie jar, I feel a need to call them out.  Which brings me to The Protein Bakery.

    Continue Reading »

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    In The News: Sweet Detention

    An article in yesterday’s New York Times reports on the nutritional metamorphosis taking place in several hundred school districts across the country.

    A California law that passed in 2005 and went into effect last July set “strict new state nutrition standards for public schools, [requiring] that snacks sold during the school day [including at bake sales] contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.”

    Some schools are taking this further and applying it to birthday celebrations in the classroom.

    “In Guilford, CT, the school district’s health advisory committee has decided that birthday parties belong at home. At A. W. Cox Elementary, birthdays are celebrated with an extra 15 minutes of recess, special pencils or a “birthday book club” with commemorative inserts.”

    I applaud these innovative concepts.

    While there is nothing wrong with celebrating a birthday at school with cupcakes, I find it critical to instill in children that it is possible to enjoy these moments without highly caloric food.

    After all, it is precisely this behavior that is later replicated in adulthood and can become problematic.

    I am consistently surprised by the amount of people who will eat a slice of cake handed to them at an office birthday celebration even if they are not hungry or in the mood for cake.

    It can be very difficult to undo the “you always eat a slice of cake at a birthday party” reflex when it is perpetuated several times a year from preschool on.

    At the same time, a few of the images and anecdotes shared in this story worry me.

    First, the mention that “Piedmont High School [in Piedmont, CA] banned homemade brownies and cookies” from bake sales.

    Does this mean commercial varieties are allowed? If so, what is the logic behind that? I would much rather have a cookie simply made with flour, butter, sugar, and vanilla than one out of a box listing 20 ingredients.

    If the lack of information about included ingredients (and amounts) is troublesome, why not cut up each brownie square into two triangular halves and sell them that way?

    Lastly, am I supposed to believe that whatever else is being sold at these bake sales is somehow healthier than a brownie or a cookie? A lemon square or oatmeal raisin cookie can have just as many calories, sugar, and saturated fat.

    Then we have a photograph of teacher Anna X. L. Wong of Berkeley, CA, reviewing “good foods” versus “bad foods” with her kindergarteners.

    In the photograph, we can see that candy, cake, bubblegum, ice cream, and soda fall in the “bad” category, while a variety of fruits and vegetables make the “good” column.

    I am not arguing that candy, ice cream, and soda are healthy (although I do think that labeling bubblegum as bad is ridiculous), but I really hate the overly simplistic good food/bad food dichotomy.

    I find that it often leads to obsessive thinking, guilt, and can inaccurately be perceived as “foods that should never be eaten.”

    I would find it much more helpful if kids learned about foods from a consumption model (“foods to eat every day/once a week/only occassionally.”)

    What confuses me most is that many of these schools so intent on banning homemade baked goods for “health concerns” still allow sugary sports drinks and vitamin-enhanced drinks (which often contain just as much sugar as soda) to be stocked in their vending machines.

    I guess it’s hard to turn down those companies when they offer to build you a football field, huh?

    Very interested in hearing your thoughts.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Quinoa Cookies

    This weekend at a health food store I saw that a company called Andean Dreams sells quinoa cookies!

    I have tried quinoa in the past and think it’s bland.

    If I was to snack on just one of these cookies a day (only 140 calories), would it count as a serving of quinoa?

    — Natalie (last name withheld)
    Hackensack, NJ

    That would certainly be convenient, wouldn’t it?

    I’m going to have to burst your bubble and tell you that no, two of these cookies don’t come close to a serving of actual quinoa.

    Let me explain why.

    First up, the ingredient list:

    Organic Royal Quinoa flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, non-hydrogenated palm fruit oil, sugar cane juice, brown sugar, Quinoa pop grains, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), orange peel.”

    Although quinoa flour is a whole grain (offering approximately 4 grams of fiber per quarter cup), these cookies contain a mix of quinoa, tapioca, and rice flour.

    Thus, they are technically “cookies made with quinoa flour” rather than “quinoa cookies,” but that’s marketing for you!

    Notice, too, that there are two ingredients contributing sugar (sugar cane juice and brown sugar.)

    Now, let’s look at the nutrition facts.

    Two cookies contain less than a gram of fiber, and a mere gram of protein.

    Again, this is inferior to eating half a cup (one serving) of pure quinoa, which adds up to 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

    Seeking healthy ingredients in otherwise nutritionally empty foods is exactly what many food companies want you to do.

    I, however, would like you to enjoy a cookie because of its flavor, rather than a healthy ingredient that, as a result of either being heavily processed or mixed with refined grains and sugars, ends up contributing very little to the product’s nutritional profile.

    If you find quinoa bland, try topping it with sautéed vegetables or adding chopped walnuts and raisins to it.

    If you find it bland after implementing those ideas, then just enjoy other whole grains.

    Although quinoa offers plenty of nutrition, so do many other foods.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Vital Cookies

    I found this Canadian cookie company, and I have to say, I am completely addicted to their whole oat and cranberry cookies.

    Two cookies (26 g, they’re pretty small) [add up to] 120 calories, 5 g of fat (0.5 g saturated), 80 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrates with 2 g of fiber and 2 g of protein.

    Are these cookies worth how excited I am over them, or are they just as terrible as other cookies?

    — Kate Redfern
    (Location Unknown)

    The exciting thing here isn’t so much the figures you mention in your question (yes, you could potentially do worse, but this isn’t precisely a health food), but the fact that you feel satisfied eating just two 60-calorie cookies!

    The problem with cookies isn’t that some varieties offer 500 calories in that same size (in this case, 26 grams, which is slightly less than one ounce,) it’s the fact that people have a very hard time just having one… or two… or three… or six.

    I must say — it is quite refreshing to know that a 120 calorie package of cookies is available for sale. Figures it’s not a product made in the US of A.

    Anytime I walk into a deli in New York City and jonesing for a cookie I am faced with frisbee sized concoctions (closer to 100 grams!) that pack 400 – 500 calories a pop.

    Keep in mind, I am not disappointed that these cookies aren’t offering more nutrition. Nor do I think you should be seeking out “healthier cookies.”

    I don’t think every single morsel of food we eat needs to be rich in phytoestrogens, high in fiber, and devoid of added sugars.

    If these cookies are a treat in a mostly healthy and well-rounded diet, go ahead and enjoy them!

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    When One Cookie Is More Than Enough

    Marion Nestle posted some eye-popping information on her superb blog today.

    In today’s Dining Out section, The New York Times dedicated plenty of column inches to the history of the chocolate chip cookie, and topped it off with a decadent Toll-house cookie recipe.

    Dr. Nestle dissected said recipe and calculated that each cookie (5 inches in diameter, no less) adds up to 500 calories. Eek!

    FYI — you would need to eat 10 Chips Ahoy cookies to reach that caloric amount.

    Dr. Nestle also shares this historical tidbit:

    “If you want to understand the vast change in the food environment that has taken place in the last 30 years, take a look at an old (1964 or 1975) edition of the Joy of Cooking. Its recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for almost exactly half the ingredients of the one in the Times but makes 45 cookies.”

    Unless you exercise extreme restraint and self-control, chances are that whatever cookie you grab — regardless of size — you will eat in its entirety.

    Let’s face it — no matter what the caloric content of a baked good, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who will only eat half of it.

    My rule of thumb? Any cookie half the size of a standard CD can be eaten solo. Anything larger should fall into the “share with a friend” category.

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    This Is The 21st Century, Right?

    Not really a nutrition topic, but a food-related one I want to rant about.

    Can Family Circle please retire the “potential First Lady cookie contest” they initially created in 1992 in response to Hillary Clinton’s “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies,” quip to a reporter?

    It was cute — and culturally relevant — at the time, but now the whole thing just reeks of “oh, you’re savvy about foreign affairs? That’s cute, now go into that kitchen and whip up some cookies.”

    Besides, you know some poor unpaid intern is coming up with these recipes.

    In case you’re interested, this year it’s Cindy McCain’s Oatmeal-Butterscotch cookies vs. Michelle Obama’s Shortbread cookies.

    I’m still waiting for our current president to cook up a solid economic plan.

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    Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Nana’s Cookies

    Who doesn’t love cookies? Particularly soft, chewy ones saturated with chocolate chips?

    I’m willing to bet you do.

    I also have a feeling, though, that you watch your cookie consumption, since you know they are empty calories.

    Delicious, sure, but nutritionally void.

    What if I told you I had a tasty, chocolate chip vegan cookie made with whole wheat flour and oats?

    Let me tell you more about it.

    It has no refined sugars, white flour, dairy, eggs, cholesterol, hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.

    Its first and second ingredients are whole wheat flour and rolled oats, respectively.

    Interested?

    If you took the bait — read carefully.

    Nana’s Vegan Cookies are available nationwide, and described by their creator as “extremely healthy”.

    I have tried them myself and can vouch for their flavor. They are absolutely delicious. Chewy, moist, flavorful, and better than most conventional cookies.

    When I truly want to indulge in a sweet treat, I pick one up.

    “Indulge? How bad can they be? They don’t have any of the ‘bad stuff’,” you may think.

    Well, a 3.5 ounce cookie (the only available size) delivers:

    • 410 calories
    • 320 milligrams of sodium
    • 22 grams (5 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar (in the form of fruit juices)
    • 3 grams of fiber

    From a caloric, that’s equal to 7 regular Oreo cookies!  In fact, that same amount of Oreo cookies only delivers 0.8 fewer grams of fiber than this cookie.

    I find that people tend to automatically equate vegan, dairy free, fruit-juice sweetened, and whole grain with “healthy”, when that isn’t always the case.

    Remember that fruit juice is, essentially, sugar water, and our body metabolizes it very similarly to sucrose (table sugar).

    My rule of thumb? Cookies are not supposed to be health foods.

    Sure, a cookie without trans fats and composed of whole grains is a slight improvement, but it is still a cookie.

    Therefore, treat it as such. Enjoy it, savor it, but always consider its calories discretionary.

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