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.

Here’s your chance to help pick a new salt-free spice mixture

Food company press releases flood my e-mail inbox every day. Most have little that interests me, but one came in today that got my attention — a West Coast spice company is working with the American Heart Association and the National Kidney Foundation to come up with new salt-free spice mixtures. And it’s inviting consumers to vote on its new creations.

“Spiceology invites the flavor obsessed to choose their salt-free favorites from 11 new options crafted by Spiceology’s team of chefs. The four winning flavors will join Spiceology’s existing salt-free collection and provide a perpetual revenue stream to both the NKF and AHA, helping each to further their missions,” the release from spice company Spiceology states.

This one sounded good to me.

You can click here to see what its created and pick your favorites, you get to select five. The comapny is even offering several prizes for those who vote. Voters will be entered into drawings for:

  • LARQ self-cleaning water bottle
  • Vitamix blender
  • Made•in Carbon Cookware set,
  • Salt-free Spiceology signature blend lineup

Have fun and good luck…and stay away from spice blends with salt in them.

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.

Super foods? Maybe think again about these 25

I’ve never been a believer in so-called “super foods,” items that someone or other decides will do amazing things for our bodies. Every body is different which is what makes giving nutrition advice so complex.

So when I see articles like Don’t Spend Your Money on These 25 “Superfoods”, Say Nutritionists in Men’s Health UK, I’m not surprised.

Salt is salt, no matter where it comes from, I avoid it to help control my blood pressure.

The story says such offerings as banana bread, a pandemic favorite, cauliflower, raw spinach, Himalayan salt and turkey bacon aren’t all that some have said they are.

It’s a good reminder, no one food is going to turn your life around. Find what works for you and stick with that.

2021 Food Trends — breakfast is in, so are cookies

The Food Network is predicting that 2021 will be a year of big breakfasts, cookies and easier ways to find “healthy” foods, although what healthy emans depends on who is using the term, as ever.

The pandemic disrupted the usual breakfast routine for 80% of Americans. Less commuting to work and school meant more time for the most important meal of the day and food manufacturers are adapting. Look out for more convenient breakfast foods that are packed with functional ingredients like protein and fiber, such as Jimmy Dean Casserole Bites and Flourish Pancake Mix. Also expect familiar brands to up their breakfast game with tempting offers like Cinnabon’s CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwich,” Food Network reports in a piece entitled The Biggest Food Trends We’ll Be Talking About in 2021.

You can read all the predictions by clicking on this link.

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!

Another Salt-Free Salad Dressing from Farmer Boy: Balsamic Vinaigrette

After I wrote about a great low-salt, low-fat salad dressing find, Farmer Boy Lite Greek, the company was kind enough to send me samples of other dressings it makes. I discovered its Balsamic Vinaigrette has no salt and only four grams of fat per serving.

I’ve been enjoying it since it arrived, so much so I didn’t get to take a picture of the bottle before finishing it all, so the photo here is a stock shot from the company’s site. I’ll also post the nutrition info here.

A good choice for a low-salt, low-fat dressing.

The company also sent its regular Greek dressing, but with seven grams of fat per serving and salt, I passed it on to someone not as worried about salt and fat as I am because of my heart issues.

I found the brand on Healthy Heart Market. It’s also available on the company site and others.

Know what clean eating means? Here’s some help

Clean eating is one of those food terms that has been tossed around so much in recent years it’s almost lost it’s meaning. What does it mean, exactly?

Good question. You could do a Google search and get pages of links to explore. Or you can check this piece I found recently from the Cooking Light diet blog, Ask Our Expert: What Is Clean Eating, And How Can I Eat Clean With This Meal Plan?

Clean eating means sticking to whole foods as opposed to processed ones.

“In its broadest and most agreed-upon sense, clean eating means centering one’s diet around whole and minimally processed foods and ingredients,” the blog expert notes. But also, “it’s important to first note that “clean eating” has no official definition or defined protocol. Because of this, the eating approach can be interpreted and twisted to also include a variety of additional restrictions.”

So beware of food offerings claiming to be “clean,” with no official definition or regulation, the term is open to marketing manipulation.

Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study

I’ve written before about the challenges of eating local. How much locally grown food is available to us is often a function of geography. A new study shows the truth in that, with a few surprising exceptions.

A firm called Lawn Starter looked at the 150 largest U.S, cities and came up with the following rankings of the best cities for eating (and drinking) local:

Continue reading “Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study”

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