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    Archive for the ‘product reviews’ Category

    Made with Real Fruit. Really!

    018627431640Avid readers of Small Bites know how much I despise the “made with real fruit” scam so many processed foods love to advertise.

    In case you are not familiar with it, I am referring to items like fruit snacks or sugary cereals which boast about fruit on their ingredient list only to simply offer juice concentrates (think concentrated fruit sugar devoid of any nutrition).

    Alas, the folks at Kashi  mean what the say.

    Their new fruit & grain Tasty Little Chewies are advertised as being “made with real fruit” and, well, they’re not pulling a fast one on us!  The second ingredient, after all, is dates.  Not date juice,  not dehydrated date concentrate, but REAL dates.

    In fact, dates appear BEFORE chocolate on the ingredient list.  Knock me over with a flaxseed!

    These new bars are delicious, by the way.  I recently tried the Dark Chocolate Coconut flavor and am a fan.  I recommend adding it to your snack repertoire, particularly with this nutrition profile:

    • 120 calories
    • 1.5 grams saturated fat
    • 50 milligrams sodium (a mere 2% of the allotted maximum)
    • 4 grams fiber
    • 7 grams sugar (I am guessing only 4 grams are from added sugars)

    TLC indeed!

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    Keeping It Real With Your Cereal

    As someone who loves nutritious food, eye-catching websites, and freedom of choice, I must tell you about a new custom artisanal cereal company named [Me] & Goji.

    Created by three socially and environmentally conscious twenty-something businessmen unhappy with the vast selection of unhealthy — or healthy but tasteless — cereals on the market, [Me] & Goji allows you to create your own cereal from thirty different nutritious, 100% organic ingredients ranging from oat bran flakes and wheat germ to dried mango, goldenberries, and almonds.

    Your chosen ingredients are then hand-mixed and sent to you within a week in a sleek tube-shaped capsule (which, by the way, makes for a lovely and funky flower vase once empty!) that features your concoctions’ name (as christened by you), a nutrition facts label, and an ingredient list.

    Although the $11 price tag for an average capsule might seem hefty, it isn’t quite as astronomical when you consider that each capsule contains 21 ounces of cereal (many organic cereals available at supermarkets come in 14 ounce boxes and retail for $4.99.)

    Still, while more costly than buying a box of cereal at the supermarket, this is a wonderfully creative gift for a cherished healthy eater, cereal lover, or always-happy-to-get-some-free-food college student in your life.

    Which begs the Barbara Walters-inspired question. If you were a cereal, what type of cereal would you be?

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    New Year, Tastier You!

    Last February, a Canadian reader alerted me to YouBar, a small California-based company created by a mother-son duo that allows customers to create their own nutrition bars from a variety of healthy and organic ingredients ranging from almond butter to dates to ginger, cacao nibs, and oat bran.

    I liked the idea enough to blog about it, but never tasted a creation. Until now.

    Wow!

    For those of you not feeling the experimental bug, the website provides suggested bars. If you are feeling creative, though, you have free reign to head on begin crafting your own delicacy (which you even get to name!).

    Give yourself plenty of time, though, as the options are endless. Before you even think about choosing ingredients, decide just how big of a bar you want (the small weighs 1.25 ounces, while a large delivers almost two ounces.)

    My favorite part of the process? Once you start mixing and matching ingredients, a nutrition facts label appears on the screen, reflecting your personal bar’s nutrition information. No surprises here!

    Even the pickiest of creators should be satisfied thanks to the “special requests” option, which enables you to specify preferences like “I want ginger and cinnamon, but could you make it mostly ginger and just a pinch of cinnamon?”

    I am not at all surprised at their success and wish them the absolute best as they continue to provide healthy snacking — and the freedom to choose!

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    Sneak Peek

    The folks at Smart Balance sent me samples of their new shelf-stable peanut butter product due on supermarket shelves this April.

    The selling points are:

    * The inclusion of flax oil, bringing the ALA Omega-3 fatty acid total of a single two-tablespoon serving to 1,000 milligrams (63% of the Daily Value)

    * The absence of partially hydrogenated oils (hence no trans fats)

    * The use of agave nectar as a sweetener, rather than table sugar (sucrose)

    Mind you, the first two selling points can already be found in the company’s Omega Peanut Butter (pictured at left).

    Both the smooth and crunchy varieties of this new variety passed my taste test (as well as that of fellow tasters I asked to sample the product), but let’s talk nutrition.

    Although the inclusion of agave nectar is touted as a healthier choice since its sweeter-than- sugar status means you need to use less of it to sweeten, it isn’t a big enough difference in this case.

    Smart Balance is being truthful when they advertise this peanut butter as containing “33% less sugar than leading brands,” but you are talking about 2 grams per serving as opposed to 3 grams per serving (which translates to just four fewer calories.)

    What absolutely confuses me, though, is the fact that the company’s Omega Peanut Butter — already in stores — only contains one gram of sugar (in the form of molasses) per serving.

    They could technically advertise this product as having “100% more sugar” than the one they have already launched!

    I am also disappointed by the use of the term “naturally sweetened” in the packaging.

    Remember, there is no concrete legal definition of the term “natural” for food advertising.

    It is a word that means absolutely nothing; it is simply used to conjure up ideas of healthy, “back to basics” eating.

    After all, poisonous mushrooms are natural, but that doesn’t mean they are good for us.

    I don’t think this is “unhealthy” peanut butter by any means, but its sole unique selling point — the use of agave nectar — just isn’t that big of a deal.

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    Yum-mega Treat

    As regular Small Bites readers know, I am a big fan of snack bars.

    I can’t tell you how many times they have saved me — and my wallet — from junk food hell (i.e.: Bronx Zoo, Six Flags, Broadway intermissions.)

    I also like to name names, which is why I have given very high praise to Lara bars, Clif Nectar bars, Pure bars, GNU Flavor & Fiber bars, and Kashi’s “Tasty Little Crunchies” granola bars.

    Although each of those bars is uniquely different from the others, they all provide high-quality nutrition in a delicious way.

    Today, my list expands to include Nana’s Omega-Fiber Cookie Bars.

    These bars are most reminiscent of Flavor & Fiber, and even have a similar ingredient list.

    Each bar offers 130 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fiber.

    Certainly a great lunchbox treat — and an even better snack to have handy at the office when thoughts of the King Size Crunch Bar in the nearby vending machine start to take over.

    Here’s the ingredient list for the double chocolate flavor (vanilla almond is my favorite, though!):

    Fiber Mix (Whole Wheat Flour, Oats, Wheat Bran, Psyllium, Flax Seeds, Millet, Chicory Root), Fruit Juice (Apple, Pear, Grape), Rice Dextrins, Chocolate Chips (whole grain malted barley and corn, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and pure vanilla), Dutched Cocoa, GMO-Free Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Dried Apples, Raisins, Rice Crisp Cereal, Rice Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Baking Powder (non aluminum), Natural Flavors

    I do have two suggestions for the Nana’s team, though:

    1) No need to advertise your bar’s Omega-9 content. It is not an essential fatty acid, so we don’t need to particularly seek it out in food.

    2) The 250 milligrams of Omega-3 are great, but it would make them a lot more absorbable if you included ground — rather than whole — flax seeds in your fiber mix.

    Still, these are certainly worth making room for in your pantry.

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    FNCE 2008: Free of Gluten, Not Flavor

    Although many European and South American countries sell a multitude of products geared to individuals with celiac disease, the United States is only recently beginning to cater to this growing market with tasty, healthy, widely available alternatives.

    Many people with celiac disease have a hard time finding snack foods high in fiber and whole grains, which is why two manufacturers of gluten-free products stood out at the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo: Mary’s Gone Crackers and Crunchmasters.

    Mary’s Gone Crackers offers a variety of wonderfully crunchy (and delicious!) gluten-free 100% whole grain crackers and twig-shaped snacks.

    Made from brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, sesame seeds, and millet, each 1-ounce serving offers anywhere from 3 to 5 grams of fiber and no more than 150 calories.

    While some of the flavored twig snacks add up to a relatively high 300 milligrams of sodium per serving, all the crackers clock in at no more than 150 milligrams per 1-ounce serving.  In my personal cracker world, there is a definite “before” and “after” Mary’s Gone Crackers!

    Crunchmasters, also sells crunchy and flavorful multigrain and multiseed whole grain crackers.

    Each one-ounce serving provides 140 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and no more than 140 milligrams of sodium (the rosemary flavor manages to pack in a lot of taste in less than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving!)

    No wheat? No problem.

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    Panko Crumbs Power Up

    Next time you’re looking to make a breaded dish (i.e.: tofu, salmon, flounder, chicken, etc.) forget standard breadcrumb products loaded with sodium and void of whole grains

    Instead, reach for Ian’s whole wheat panko crumbs.

    FYI — the link I just provided lets you see what retailers in your state offer Ian’s products.

    Panko (Japanese for “bread crumbs”) provides a crisper, coarser crunch and texture than regular bread crumbs.

    And, the fact that this particular variety is 100% whole wheat is a big plus.

    Consider this. A quarter cup of Progresso bread crumbs contain 220 milligrams of sodium. Ian’s whole wheat panko? A mere 25.

    Remember that you can enjoy delicious, crunchy breaded products without deep frying.

    Let’s assume it’s flounder night at your home.

    Once every piece of fish is appropriately covered in crumbs, place them all on a cookie sheet and lightly spray each one with Pam (or brush with a teaspoon of olive oil).

    Then, simply place the cookie sheet in the oven (heated at 425 degrees) for approximately 20 minutes.

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    Cous Cous, Flaxseed, and Soy… Oh My!

    Hodgson Mill offers a wide breadth of healthy products — from ground flaxseed to whole wheat pastas to whole grain pancake and waffle mixes.

    I fully trust that anything they advertise as “whole grain,” truly is.

    No sneaking in refined flours or tacking on isolated fibers to bulk up values on their food label.

    One of my favorite Hodgson Mill offerings is the whole wheat cous cous with soy crisps and milled flaxseed.

    It takes less than ten minutes — and no cooking skills whatsoever, simply boiling water and stirring for 5 seconds — to get it from the box to your table.

    The best part? Each serving provides 6 grams of fiber, 16 grams of protein, 0 milligrams of sodium, and a terrific 450 milligrams of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids in a 230 calorie package.

    The ingredient list is beautifully simple. Whole wheat cous cous, soy crisps, and milled flaxseed. That’s it.

    I love having it as a side dish topped with a sauteed-in-olive-oil mix of garlic, onion, and peppers.

    Another tasty idea is to use it as a base for a refreshing summer salad — simply toss in raisins, chickpeas, diced carrots, red and green pepper strips, and chopped fresh cilantro.

    A triumphant trio indeed.

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    A Doctor’s Delicious Orders

    Dr. Andrew Weil is a renowned name in the field of nutrition who focuses on integrative nutrition (mainly the idea that food’s healing properties are a more effective option than that of most over the counter medications) and its role in overall wellness.

    Yesterday I was at Whole Foods browsing the food bar section and after picking out my usual (Clif Nectar chocolate walnut bars, Lara key lime pie bars, Pure chocolate brownie bars), I spotted a new product — Nature Path’s Dr. Weil’s pure fruit and nut bars.

    The banana manna flavor caught my eye. Three ingredients (organic dates, organic dried bananas, and organic almonds), 180 calories, four grams of fiber, sodium-free, no added sugars of any kind, six grams of heart-healthy fats, and ten percent of the daily potassium recommendation!

    There are four other flavors, including pistachio-nut and chocolate-coconut.

    By the way, chocolate-flavored fruit and nut bars are a great way to indulge a chocolate craving.

    They contain pure cocoa, which is naturally sugar-free and provides an intense taste comparable to that of conventional dark chocolate.

    I always make sure to have some in my office desk drawer and my backpack.

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    Would You Like Some Pizza On Your Fiber?

    Despite living in New York City — home of the much-talked-about Brooklyn pizza — where I am two or three blocks away from a “by the slice” mom and pop pizza place at any given moment, I am a fan of my homemade pizzas.

    I like tailoring the sauce to my own tastes, mixing in plenty of roasted garlic, oregano, pepper, and basil, and creating a wonderful aromatic blend.

    Given my interest in nutrition and love of whole grains, my pizzas are always made with ready-made Rustic Crust Old World organic Great Grains whole grain pizza crusts.

    The crispy, delicious flatbread is made entirely of whole grains and has a subtle olive flavor that adds to its appeal.

    An entire pizza crust — which can easily feed two or three — boasts an amazing 35 grams of fiber and absolutely no added sugars, trans fats, or genetically modified ingredients.

    Next time you’re in the mood for some pizza, kiss the phone goodbye and say hello to your oven.

    With a Small Bites approved organic Rustic Crust Old World Great Grains readymade pizza crust, some sauce, and cheese, you’re a mere 10 minutes away from a delicious, healthy meal.

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    Good-For-You Gourmet

    The thought of pasta ultra high in fiber conjures up unpleasant memories of trying chalky soy pasta (AKA hay) for the first time during the 2003 Atkins craze.

    These days, all my pasta dishes at home are made with whole wheat varieties.

    While the high fiber is a plus (a cup provides a butt-kicking seven grams), I genuinely enjoy the more substantial taste and texture they provide.

    Upon first hearing about Fiber Gourmet (a lower-calorie, higher-fiber pasta), I was skeptical.

    I was fully prepared to see “isolated soy protein” among the ingredient list.

    Color me surprised. No wheat alternatives, no sugar alcohols.

    The whole wheat noodles are made of whole wheat flour, modified wheat starch, and wheat gluten.

    The standard Fiber Gourmet noodles are comprised of durum semolina flour, modified wheat starch, and wheat gluten.

    Niacin, iron, thamine, riboflavin, and folic acid are added as they normally are to non-whole grain products.

    A look at the nutrition facts reveals that two ounces of uncooked Fiber Gourmet noodles — which yield one cup when cooked — provide:

    130 calories
    1 gram fat

    120 milligrams sodium

    20 grams fiber

    7 grams protein

    Not only are we talking very high fiber, we are also talking lower-calorie (a standard cup of egg noodles provides 210 calories).

    Wow!

    The back of the bag briefly explains Fiber Gourmet’s process:

    “Through our patent-pending technology, we are able to add high amounts of dietary fiber, while keeping the same taste and texture of standard pasta.”

    My hat goes off to the folks at Fiber Gourmet — their products passed several taste tests.

    I figured I should not be the only evaluator, since my interest in, and passion for, nutrition and healthy foods might mentally program me to automatically give high marks to a high-fiber product.

    So, I turned to more conventional palates in my social circle. Every single one approved.

    Since this is a product very high in fiber, I would not recommend eating two cups in one sitting, particularly if your diet is normally low in fiber.

    As great as fiber is, the “too much of a good thing” concept applies.

    Apart from gastrointestinal discomfort (particularly, again, if intake suddenly increases), an overload of fiber interferes with the uptake of certain minerals, including calcium and iron.

    This is best consumed as a side dish (think no more than one cup when cooked) to accompany a meal. A half cup, for instance, packs in 10 grams of fiber in a mere 60 calorie package.

    Alternatively, when making a large batch of conventional pasta, you can throw in some Fiber Gourmet noodles to up the fiber content in a pinch.

    Interested? Head over to the company’s site to place an order. It’s definitely a Small Bites approved purchase.

    You can also stop by their blog to catch up on product development and sales updates and read answers to consumers’ questions.

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    Good-For-You Gourmet

    The thought of pasta ultra high in fiber conjures up unpleasant memories of trying chalky soy pasta (AKA hay) for the first time during the 2003 Atkins craze.

    These days, all my pasta dishes at home are made with whole wheat varieties.

    While the high fiber is a plus (a cup provides a butt-kicking seven grams), I genuinely enjoy the more substantial taste and texture they provide.

    Upon first hearing about Fiber Gourmet (a lower-calorie, higher-fiber pasta), I was skeptical.

    I was fully prepared to see “isolated soy protein” among the ingredient list.

    Color me surprised. No wheat alternatives, no sugar alcohols.

    The whole wheat noodles are made of whole wheat flour, modified wheat starch, and wheat gluten.

    The standard Fiber Gourmet noodles are comprised of durum semolina flour, modified wheat starch, and wheat gluten.

    Niacin, iron, thamine, riboflavin, and folic acid are added as they normally are to non-whole grain products.

    A look at the nutrition facts reveals that two ounces of uncooked Fiber Gourmet noodles — which yield one cup when cooked — provide:

    130 calories
    1 gram fat

    120 milligrams sodium

    20 grams fiber

    7 grams protein

    Not only are we talking very high fiber, we are also talking lower-calorie (a standard cup of egg noodles provides 210 calories).

    Wow!

    The back of the bag briefly explains Fiber Gourmet’s process:

    “Through our patent-pending technology, we are able to add high amounts of dietary fiber, while keeping the same taste and texture of standard pasta.”

    My hat goes off to the folks at Fiber Gourmet — their products passed several taste tests.

    I figured I should not be the only evaluator, since my interest in, and passion for, nutrition and healthy foods might mentally program me to automatically give high marks to a high-fiber product.

    So, I turned to more conventional palates in my social circle. Every single one approved.

    Since this is a product very high in fiber, I would not recommend eating two cups in one sitting, particularly if your diet is normally low in fiber.

    As great as fiber is, the “too much of a good thing” concept applies.

    Apart from gastrointestinal discomfort (particularly, again, if intake suddenly increases), an overload of fiber interferes with the uptake of certain minerals, including calcium and iron.

    This is best consumed as a side dish (think no more than one cup when cooked) to accompany a meal. A half cup, for instance, packs in 10 grams of fiber in a mere 60 calorie package.

    Alternatively, when making a large batch of conventional pasta, you can throw in some Fiber Gourmet noodles to up the fiber content in a pinch.

    Interested? Head over to the company’s site to place an order. It’s definitely a Small Bites approved purchase.

    You can also stop by their blog to catch up on product development and sales updates and read answers to consumers’ questions.

    Share

    Tea. Simply, Tea

    Everyone has food quirks.

    One of mine, for instance, is that while I often crave cold tea drinks, I am not a fan of hot tea (unless I am sipping a cup of green tea with my sushi).

    Sadly, whenever I get the urge to drink a refreshing bottle of cold tea on-the-go, I am faced with various brands that pour in several teaspoons of sugar — many times just as much as a can of Coke! — into the mix.

    Iton En’s Teas’ Tea saved me. Their line (Rose Green and Jasmine are my favorites) is completely sugar-free.

    This does not mean they use artificial sweeteners or fancy euphemisms for sugar (i.e.: “evaporated cane juice crystals”).

    Quite simply, they allow the refreshing taste of tea to speak for itself.

    The result? A zero-calorie, tasty alternative for people who would like a little variety from water.

    By the way — if you are ever in New York, stop by their beautiful flagship store on Madison Avenue for all your tea needs!

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    Same Sugar Water, Different Name

    I must say, the executives at Gatorade deserve an award for repackaging and rebranding the exact same beverage under different names.

    Say hello to its new product — G2.

    Marketed as a beverage for “athletes off the field,” it is basically regular Gatorade with half the calories and carbs (25 calories and 7 grams of carbs per 8 oz. serving).

    The electrolytes — sodium and potassium — appear in the same laughable amounts (110 and 30 milligrams, respectively).

    Remember, 30 milligrams of potassium is equal to 0.6% of the daily requirement! You could get that same amount by eating a quarter of a small apple, a quarter cup of blueberries, or just one twelfth of a medium (9 inch) banana.

    According to the press release — which comes in a very sturdy and creatively designed box — “G2 is a… beverage designed to help athletes hydrate when they are off the field, so they will be better prepared for competition and training.”

    Hydrating off-the-field can be easily accomplished with water, or most other liquids, really.

    Sodium, meanwhile, is a mineral present in everything we eat. If anything, a large percentage of adults in the United States need to drastically reduce their intake. Adding 110 milligrams through a flavored drink to your day before engaging in physical exercise is truly unnecessary.

    And, again, the 30 milligrams of potassium this drink provides are not hard to come by in food (more examples: a tablespoon of peanut butter has 110 mg, a mere ounce of poultry provides 60 mg, and a cup of brewed tea clocks in at 86 mg).

    I understand the purpose of business is to sell products and make money, but many times I’m left scratching my head, asking, “why?”.

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    Whole Grains Even An Amateur Will Love

    Current statistics show that consumers in the United States eat 40 percent of their whole grains at the breakfast table.

    A large majority of this figure can be attributed to popular cereals like regular Cheerios, Total, and Fiber One.

    Although they offer their share of fiber (and millions of people like to start their day off with them), these cereals are often characterized as too bland by fiber-free eaters persuaded to switch to healthier breakfast foods.

    Consequently, these people often revert to sugary, “made with whole grain” varieties that are basically sugar flakes with a pinch of whole wheat flour thrown in to justify a “Whole Grains!” boast on the front of the box.

    I always think it’s good to let you know of smaller companies who are putting out delicious and nutritious products, so while we are in the cereal realm, I thought I would let you know about Barbara’s Bakery.

    Their Shredded Line of cereals is composed of tasty — and ultra crunchy, even after several minutes in milk — whole grain cereals.

    A 1 1/4 cup of Shredded Oats, for example, contains five grams of fiber, 230 milligrams of potassium, six grams of protein, and 2.5 grams of fat.

    Thank the nutrition deities for a realistic serving size! Too many cereal brands try to pass off half a cup as a serving.

    Tomorrow morning, measure out half a cup of cereal. Then laugh, as you realize that the average person eats at least an entire cup or breakfast.

    Since the first two ingredients are whole grains — whole oat flour and whole wheat flour — one serving of Shredded Oats covers a whooping ninety percent of the daily recommended intake of whole grains.

    I’m actually not big on packaged cereals, but, for the past several months, boxes of Shredded Oats have taken permanent residence in my cupboards.

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