Pandemic food casualty: Costco food-court salads are off the menu

I sat down at a Costco food court this week, something I haven’t done since before the pandemic when Costco foolishly eliminated chocolate frozen yogurt from its menu.

Looking at the new ordering touch screens, I realized another of my old Costco mainstay items is also gone now — food-court salads.

The wall says it all — no more salads at Costco, only junk food now.

This picture I took of the menu wall says it all — Costco has nothing even remotely low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar on its menu anymore.

For years, my regular Thursday meal there would be a salad, without the massively fat-filled dressing, and a chocolate frozen yogurt. Both are gone.

I dropped my more expensive Costco executive membership back when the chocolate yogurt disappeared. Now I’m really glad I did that then. I have no reason to eat at Costco food courts. For the stop I made recenty, I only bought a diet Pepsi for the road.

It will be interesting to see if Costco comes back with a simpler salad like McDonald’s did. Its salad joins its sheet cake, the ill-conceived asai it had replaced frozen yogurt with, and its holdout vanilla frozen yogurt as pandemic food casualties at Costco.

As the pandemic winds down, it’s becoming tougher than ever to find healthy, or at least not unhealthy, fast foods.

Trying to kick sugar — here’s one no-sugar diet plan

I’ve written many times that of salt, fat and sugar, sugar is by far the hardest for me to give up. I tried a no-sugar challenge in 2020 but the pandemic and its concurrent stress wiped out that plan. So I’m always interested when I see pieces like EatingWell.com’s No-Sugar Diet Plan.

MY half slice of Junior's chocolate mousse cheesecake, Mmmmmmm.
My love of such things as cheesecake make it difficult for me to kick sugar.

The plan includes a week of do-it-yourself meals and is based on consuming 1,200 calories a day, so obviously for women rather than men who should consume around 2,000 calories daily.

Some of the items mentioned, like peanut butter energy balls, I would never eat because of my aversion to nuts. But some of the dinner main dishes, like Mediterranean ravioli with artichokes & olives, sound worth trying.

I’d suggest giving the menu plan a look and picking and choosing what you like.

Healthy fast food alternatives — not exactly but better than some choices

Lists of healthy, or at least the least unhealthy, offerings at fast-food restaurants seem to pop up every year. That’s because those places are ubiquitous. If you’re out and about, it’s hard to avoid them. Plus, if you’re on a restricted diet like I am, every once and a whole you want to feel normal again by eating where the masses eat.

My new tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.
My tiny oil and vinegar bottles for eating out.

This year’s list comes from Good Housekeeping, The 35 Healthiest Fast Food Orders You Can Get at Every Chain. A lot of salads make the list, beware of salt in those and in dressings though. I usually carry my own oil and vinegar in small plastic bottles to avoid salt-laden dressings.

It’s fun to see the classic White Castle slider on this list. “You don’t have to feel bad about enjoying a couple Original Sliders from White Castle — it scores better on the “healthy” scale than even the chicken or fish sliders. But here’s a surprise: if you’re looking for a vegetarian option, go with the Veggie Slider over the Impossible Slider to consume less overall calories and fat,” the article states. It doesn’t;t say anything about having six sliders at a meal as I sometimes do.

Oh well, happy eating.

Healthy Emmie sees good eating habits coming as we emerge from the pandemic

It’s always fun to speak with someone who is passionate about food. Online nutritionist Healthy Emmie certainly fits in that category. We recently spoke about her expectations for American eating habits post-pandemic, as well as about her philosophy of healthy eating.

“This pandemic is changing everything, it’s making people look twice at taking health into their own hands, ” says Emmie, who began her healthy eating quest at age 19.

Healthy Emmie

Now 26, Emmie, a vegan, offers a program called the Slim on Starch Weight Loss Program. She developed her eating philosophy as she helped her parents become healthier. Seeing it work on them, she now promotes it to the world.

She believes in whole-food, plant-based eating and includes starchy items like potatoes and white rice — which some nutritionists shun — in her diet.

Her theory — eating only greens (as I did after my first heart surgery) will leave you hungry and likely send you back to unhealthy eating habits. Including healthy starches can fill you up and keep you plant-based.

“Starch is to satiety as water is to thirst,” she says.

You can download her sample one-day eating plan from her website by clicking here. Scroll to the bottom of the page to get it.

Plant-based, whole-food eating for her doesn’t include all the imitation meat products coming to market in recent days. I agree, so many of those are high in salt and fat, they really are no better for you than real meat.

I’ve written in the past that I’m not ready to go completely plant-based (my daughter has, she’s leading the family on that front). But I see world eating habits moving in that direction, especially among Millennials and Gen Zers.

As the Pandemic has progressed, Emmie has seen two types of people — those who used the pandemic early on to get a better grip on their health; and those who binged, gained pandemic pounds, and now need to address being heavier than they want or should be. Her business doubled during the Pandemic, says Emmie, who in based in Boston.

“No matter what has happened during the Pandemic, it’s never too late to get started with a healthy diet, start today,” she advises.

I couldn’t agree more.

Pandemic Snacking: Crispy Broccoli at Trader Joe’s

Any list about healthy snacks always gets my attention because normally those words — healthy and snack — are a conflict in terms. Anything you want to snack, i.e. binge, on generally is not healthy because it contains high amounts of salt, fat or sugar, or perhaps all three.

That’s why a recent list of so-called healthy snacks at Trader Joe’s caught my attention with one list, crispy broccoli florets. I eat a lot of broccoli, but had never thought of it as a snack, or as crispy for that matter. So I bought a bag and gave them a try.

The result was mixed. Salt-wise, they’re ok with only 15 mg a bag. Fat content seems high at 20 grams, about half what I’m supposed to have every day on my heart-healthy diet. And there’s 5 grams of transfat, again about half what I can have.

Taste-wise, they taste like broccoli, but having that cold and crisped up somehow just didn’t seem right. The taste of them actually became less palatable the more I had. So I guess that would preclude binging on them.

So my search for healthy snacks goes on, sans broccoli.

Eating more fried foods during the pandemic? Stop, please

If you’ve taken some comfort in this pandemic by eating more fried foods, it’s time to stop now before you do some real damage to yourself. Even a small portion of fried foods can increase risk of heart disease, study says, is the headline on a recent CNN report.

“People who ate the most fried food per week had a 28% higher risk of major cardiovascular events, a 22% greater risk of coronary heart disease and a 37% heightened risk of heart failure, according to the study published Monday in the journal Heart,” CNN reports.

The news gets grimmer:

Splurge on the garlic fries at Safeco Field. They were a garlic-lover's dream.
Walk away from those fries, says a new study on heart health

“Each additional weekly serving of 114 grams or 4 ounces (½ cup) of fried foods increased the risk for heart attack and stroke by 3%, heart disease by 2% and heart failure by 12%,” according to results of the study. AS a point of reference, there are 117 grams in a medium McDonald’s french fry order. So eating that every week adds a 3% chance of heart attack or stroke.

As good as they are, put down the french fries. You want to live to see the end of this pandemic don’t you?

Smart Sugar Swaps? Not for me

I’m approaching the end of one month without any sugary snacks, cakes, candy — in short I’m eating nothing that I enjoy. This was a challenge from my wife as she realized we’d been going a bit overboard with such treats during our Covid quarantine.

I’m now four days from the end of the challenge. I’ve lost six pounds and am constantly hungry. So I was intrigued by this headline, 5 Smart Swaps to Make the Next Time You’re Craving Sugar.

Counting the hours until I can have one of these again.

Sadly, the swaps left me disappointed, and still craving sugar. Here they are (or you can click on this link to read the full story).

  • Sugar sweetened beverages: Instead of soda or sports drinks, make unsweetened fruit teas (hot or iced), sip sparkling water, or add fresh fruit or herbs to still or bubbly H20 for flavor.
  • Desserts and sweet snacks: Make fruit dessert, whether that’s combining dates with cocoa powder to make a truffle; dipping fresh berries in dark chocolate; making DIY ice cream with frozen bananas; grilling up fresh peaches or plums in summer; or enjoying cooked apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Sweetened coffee and tea: Add flavor by stirring in vanilla, cinnamon, coconut collagen, or cocoa powder.
  • Candy and sugary toppings (like syrup or jam): Use mashed fruit for syrup, DIY your own chia jam, or rely on unsweetened dried fruit like mango to satisfy your need for sweet.
  • Cereals and breakfast bars: Whip up a batch of overnight oats, make your own no-sugar granola, or prep grab-and-go options like protein pancakes so you always have something on hand.

That’s the best they have? I think I’ll wait for my sugar binge day February 1.

Two weeks into my no-sugar challenge — and five pounds lighter

As the year started, my wife challenged me to go for the entire month of January without any added sugar treats. I made it official by blogging about it here. Like a lot of people, we had been eating treats during the pandemic that we normally would not have in the house, such as candy galore from Chicago candy icon Fannie May, or cakes from a local bakery, Tag’s.

The bakery started delivering during the pandemic, even small orders. How could we pass that up? Not well, and you can probably tell that, after 18 days without sugar, I’m now hallucinating about chocolate cake.

The good news, I’ve lost five pounds in the past two weeks or so. The bad news — I’m hungry all the time as I was when I first completely changed my eating habits after a first stent was put in back in 2012.

What would a celebrity trainer say about Drake's Yodels?
Favorites like these haven’t touched my lips yet this year!!!

I also find I’m substituting starchy things — like bagels, English muffins and even whole wheat bread. I had pretty much cut those from my diet in recent years but had some in the freezer this month and so have turned to them.

I did buy some price-reduced after-Christmas candy, M&Ms and chocolate to be specific, which are sitting in our pantry waiting for Feb. 1.

This experiment has reminded me that if you eat healthy, I mean really healthy which means cutting most salt, fat and sugar from your diet, weight loss becomes simple.

You cannot eat enough plain veggies to gain large amounts of weight. Believe me, you should see my broccoli portions these days!

A Record Year for Nosaltnofatnosugar.com Thank You All

We had a record number of visitors to our No Salt No Fat No Sugar Journal in 2020, more than 34,600 people, eclipsing our old record set in 2017.

“Covid and the move to more eating at home sent a lot of people looking for healthier recipes like we provide,” says site Founder and Editor John N. Frank. “While a lot of people were binging on chips and junk food, I’d like to think some realized they need to get the salt, fat and sugar out of their diets as they think more about what they eat every day.”

This site’s recipe page remains its most popular feature.

Frank started the blog in late 2012 after his first angioplasty to open a blocked artery which nearly killed him. He’s since had a second stent inserted in a different artery in 2017.

He has utilized his prior experience as a food journalist to find or modify recipes to get out the excessive salt, bad fats, and high amounts of sugar that many Americans eat every day without realizing what’s in their food.

Frank recently was named a 2020 top executive by Marquis’ Who’s Who in recognition of his career in journalism, his work on this blog, his efforts to start a small theater and his volunteer work with Mended Hearts, a national peer-to-peer support group for those dealing with heart disease.

“I’ve been stuck inside all year like everyone else but I’ve tried to keep busy,” he jokes.

Did You Miss National Cookie Day? It’s every day during the pandemic, apparently

Did you know Dec. 4 this year was National Cookie Day? Me either, but it’s ok because it seems like during this pandemic, every day is cookie day for many. many Americans. U.S. cookie demand is up 25% in the pandemic while global cookie demand (crisps in Britain) is up 31.6%, found integrated marketing network Top Global LLC.

And almost all Americans, 95%, eat at least one cookie per month, Top Global found in its research. Roughly four in 10 of us eat many more than that (see the table here, provided by Top Global).

Top Global also has a map of the United States showing cookie consumption by state, along with data on which cookies are most popular where; just click here to see all that…and then have a cookie to celebrate 2020 being almost over!

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