What the F is THAT?

Although I feel like I’ve completely lost my blogging mojo, I figured the only way to get it back is to get on here and start typing away, right? I haven’t written a “typical” blog post since the Boston Marathon Bombings, and although Boston will never quite be the same, I figure it’s about time to pick myself up by the proverbial boot straps and carry on. Blog world, I’m back.

I was in the grocery store recently, and looked down at a shelf in front of me when something caught my eye. “Calorie Free Marshmallow Dip” it said. Wait, what? I thought I misread it. So I picked it up (almost embarrassed to be seen looking at such a monstrosity), and re-read the label. Yep, I was right the first time. Calorie Free Marshmallow Dip.

Walden-Farms-Calorie-Free-Marshmallow-Dip-072457323339First of all, who the hell eats marshmallow dip?

It was from a company called Walden Farms, which sounds innocent enough, no? It’s a farm! Farms produce delicious healthy real foods! Except for when the “farm” is really just a chemical plant churning out jars of calorie free crap. I went home and looked up this company online, which is where I found out the awful truth.

Walden Farms makes a whole slew of calorie free “foods”, including calorie free Peanut Butter, and calorie free “mayo”. WHAT THE F IS THAT?!?

peanut spread WF

Let’s explore this idea a little bit. Peanut butter is made from peanuts, which contain… ahem.. calories and fat. How on earth could a “peanut spread” be calorie free? Heck even PB2 (which I also hate) has calories for Christ sake, Which leads me to believe one thing: this is a lab creation, and is not even really food at all. Looking the nutritional information for this particular product confirmed my suspicions:

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 9.04.15 PM

The first ingredient is water. WATER. YOU’RE BUYING WATER. Next comes some thickeners, and after that, “fresh roasted peanut flavor”. Read that again. Peanut flavor. Isn’t this a peanut spread? WHERE ARE THE PEANUTS???  The ingredient list is finished out with some sucralose (splenda) which many people’s guts are sensitive to.

Yum. Lab-created peanut flavor thrown into some water, thickeners, and artificial sweetener. Call me crazy, but I don’t call that food, in any sense of the word.

Their other products are just as bad, so don’t think it’s just the Peanut Spread.  The Mayo, for example, is made of water, some thickeners, and “egg flavor”. Barf.

The kicker comes from the description of their products though. As quoted directly from their website:

CLASSIC PEANUT SPREAD that’s smooth and creamy with Natural Fresh Roasted Peanut flavor…When making a PB&J switch from other brands of Peanut Butter loaded with sugar and almost 200 calories in just two level tablespoons to new Walden Farms Whipped Peanut Spreads and save over 600 calories when made with Walden Farms Calorie Free Fruit Spreads, “The Walden Way.”

Ok, so other peanut butters are loaded with sugar? False, if you’re buying good quality peanut butter.  And most importantly, other peanut butters are made with REAL PEANUTS, not chemically formed flavors! The sad thing is though, that some people see these products and think that because it says “calorie free” that means it’s healthy. Or that the company’s claims that you can “save 10,000 calories per month” by substituting your regular foods with their chemical-concoctions, never mind the fact that if you actually do that, you’ll end up malnourished. (And who knows if all of these chemicals cause cancer. I’m not saying they do, I’m just saying…).

The company’s tagline makes me sick too. “Eat Healthy, The Walden Way”. Please excuse me while I go dry heave in the corner. Healthy? HEALTHY? How dare they prey on uneducated consumers to believe that these products are truly healthy.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into an angry rant, but since it looks like it’s heading that way, I might as well stick with the theme. How’s this for an idea? How about we eat real foods, grown from the earth, not from a chemical company. How about we eat foods that contain nutrients that our bodies desperately need in order to remain healthy, fight off disease, and heal injuries? How about we stop supporting companies that process crap like this and get back to foods that contain proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals? (Novel idea, I know).  I honestly feel that companies like this should not be legally allowed to call this stuff “food”. It’s water and chemicals, and that’s it. Shame on Walden Farms for promoting this as health food, and shame on consumers who are educated yet still buy this stuff just because it’s calorie free.

Have you ever tried any Walden Farms products? Would you buy “food” with this type of nutritional label just to save a few calories? Do you think there’s any chance that PB spread actually tastes like peanuts?

 

Fun Foods Friday Goes Nutty

It’s Friday! You know what that means? Time for some Fun Foods!

Today I present to you a snack that I made the other night on a whim. A bunch of things thrown into a bowl at random turned into one of the best (and easiest) snacks I’ve ever made.

So I shall share.

But first, it’s time for some random thoughts, because that is what my Friday posts have somehow morphed into. (Let’s be serious, most of my thoughts revolve around food, but there are some other things going on up there as well)

  • I’m sure by now, everyone’s heard of the “Bridal Hunger Games“… The “diet” plan that consists of having a feeding tube fed through your nose to your stomach, and providing the patient with 800 calories per day.  Really people? REALLY? 800 Calories per day? Just to lose weight for your wedding? It makes me sick. Not even getting into the health issues I have with this, the social implications are alarming. So now women think that they have to starve themselves to look acceptable on their wedding day? I could go on for days about this, but I won’t do that to you. You’re welcome.

Um, Yuck. [Picture links to source above]

  • I’m still loving Phillip Phillips on American Idol. He covered an Usher song this week, and killed it. I do believe I’m regressing to my tween years.
  • I’m Dying to go see Titanic 3D. Leo in his prime! The handprint on the window! The old couple in their bed while the ship is sinking! Ah, Titanic. You get me every time. (See above – Re: Tween years)

And now ladies and gents…

It’s Recipe time!!

These are some homemade granola bars that I made the other night, and just happened to polish them all off in about 2.5 days. Don’t judge.

Steph’s Peanut-Honey No-Bake Granola Bars 

What you’ll need:

1/2 C Organic Peanut Butter (I use creamy)

3/4 C Oats

3 Tbs raisins

2 Tbs unsweetened coconut flakes

3 Tbs Chopped dates

1 Tbs almond meal

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

2.5 Tbs Honey

What you’ll do:

Mash it all up in a bowl. Smash it into a pan. Cut. Eat. Smile 🙂

Looking at these pictures makes me want more. Now. 

Seriously though, I molded mine into about a 6″ by 6″ square that was about a 1/2 inch thick, and refrigerated for a little while to let it set. Don’t be fooled though, these puppies are filling and satisfying in small quantities! They are healthy, but they are still calorie dense so if you can control yourself, I would advise cutting them up into smaller portions for a snack. They are a great “energy” snack for that afternoon crash, or a pick-me-up on a hike or in the middle of a busy day when you just need something on-the-go.

Add-ins: There are endless possibilities here. I’ll probably add in some different flavors next time I make them: chocolate chips would be delicious, different types of nut butters such as almond or cashew would add a different flavor; chopped nuts such as pecans or walnuts would also add a nice touch! Be creative, and let me know what you come up with 🙂

 A quick note: I always buy and use Organic Peanut Butter from Trader Joes. If you don’t want to go organic, at least do yourself a favor and try a brand that is natural and only includes 2 ingredients: Peanuts and Salt. Sugar does NOT belong in nut butters! Natural nut butters also taste way better in my opinion.

Alrighty then. That is all. Now go enjoy your Friday!

If you can enjoy your weekend as much as this guy, you’re doing something right. 

What do you guys feel about the Bridal Feeding Tube trend? Has anyone seen Titanic 3D? Do you buy organic nut butters?

A Confession and A Countdown

Another week in front of us, huh? Well how about that.  How was everyone’s holiday weekend? Mine was actually pretty fantastic, and ended with a day trip to NYC with Will on Sunday, which was excellent in itself! Alas, now I’m exhausted, but lack of sleep is well worth an eventful weekend in my book.  As you can see from my title, there are two pieces to today’s post: a confession and a countdown.

First, the confession.

Let’s just get it out of the way before it gets awkward in here.

So, all of you (hopefully) know that I am a huge proponent of including fats in your diet (Yes, even saturated fat), and I am generally against substituting fake low-fat and fat-free chemical-laden foods for real foods.

Yet, in spite of this, I did something I’m kind of ashamed of.

If you spend a lot of time perusing healthy living or foodie blogs, you’ve probably heard about something called Pb2.

Yes, it’s powdered peanut butter. And Yes, it has 85% less fat and calories than real peanut butter. And Yes, I ordered some.

Let’s get ONE thing clear before anyone calls me a hypocrite:

I did not ever intend to replace my nutbutter intake with this. I only ordered it because I really love the taste of peanuts, and tend to eat a lot of peanut butter if I’m not careful.  Because peanut butter is so calorie dense, this can lead to far more calories than someone my size requires.

So rather than replacing the peanut butter in my oatmeal with Pb2, I simply got this so that I could add in some peanut flavor to my yogurt without over-calorizing (yes, it’s a word. well it is now) myself, especially on days with light or no training.

And the thing is, Pb2 really is an OK product. It is not chemically formed peanut butter, nor is it created with fillers and flavors. It actually is made of peanuts. It is peanuts that are basically pressed through a sieve, removing most of the oils/fats, and leaving behind a peanut dust that is then combined with salt and a tiny bit of sugar.

3 Ingredients. That’s it. That’s much more than I can say for some other “low calorie” peanut butters out there (ahem, Better ‘n Butter).  Although one of those ingredients is unfortunately sugar, it’s only a very small amount. I do think, though, that the product and flavor would be better without it.

So, after trying it in my yogurt the other afternoon (you just mix a tablespoon of powder with a Tbs of water, and voila! “peanut butter”), here’s my verdict.

I don’t get it.

Sure, it gives a peanut-y flavor, and yes, the consistency is similar enough to the real thing (although a little bit chalky), but it’s so very clearly not peanut butter. You know what it is about peanut butter that tastes so good? It’s the fat. Fat is one of the things that makes food palatable, which is why fatty foods are just so darn good. But this just didn’t have it (or it only had about 15% of “it”). It was tolerable, sure. But would I ever go for this stuff when I’m truly craving nut butter? Probably not.

I’m not saying it’s a terrible product, and I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t buy it, but it’s really not for me. Now that I have a whole jar, I’m sure I’ll use it up in my yogurt and to add some peanut flavor into smoothies, but in the future, I may just take a more novel approach and (gasp!) just flat out not eat so much damn nut butter. But even so, mark my words. A product like this will never, ever replace real nut butter in my house.  So if you’re looking for a low calorie way to enjoy real peanuts, and not some chemically enhanced crap, than this might be the right stuff for you. But please keep in mind that the fats found in nut butters are extremely healthy, and when eaten in moderation are an excellent part of a well-rounded diet. Moderation being the key word here, one that I seem to have a lot of trouble with on some days.

And now for the (pseudo) countdown. I know you’re excited.

5: The number of days UNTIL I GET TO GO SEE THE HUNGER GAMES!!!!!!! I can’t possibly begin to tell you how excited I am for this movie. It’s rather sickening, actually.

4: The number of hours I spent on a bus yesterday from NYC to Boston. All four of those hours were spent listening to the two dudes beside me laughing hysterically and LOUDLY at their comic books. Really?!?

3: The number of Deadlift reps I pulled at 145 lb on Friday, a new PR! ‘Nuff said 🙂

2:  The number of weeks I have left in my last class! Master’s degree, here I come. And on a related note…

1: The number of exams that are standing between me and my MS. So gosh darn close. Hallelujah.

Have you tried Pb2? What do you think of it? What awesome things are you counting down to?

Casual Friday

Guess What?

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!!

Baah!

Ok, Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

The other day I made the best snack ever.

It started out when I ate the new Peanut Honey Pretzel Luna Bar.

(Love at first bite)

Which inspired me to do this!

Peanut-Honey-Pretzel Bowl

Y-U-M

Plain Greek Yogurt, 1 Tbs Peanut Butter, 1 Tsp Honey, and Pretzels added at the last minute for some salty crunch!

(I also cheated and added in some raisins and a few chocolate chips, because I just can’t help myself)

I actually used this as my “first lunch” for the past few days. First lunch, you ask? Yes. On a normal day, I eat breakfast at about 6:30 am, so those of you who think I’m going to eat lunch at 12:30ish and then not eat again until dinner are cray cray. For a while I was eating lunch around 12:30, and then would be ravenous for endless snacks around 3 or 4, so I figured, why not just split it up into 2 small lunches? That way I know exactly what I’m eating, and I’m not reaching blindly for what ever’s available when I turn into a hungry Velociraptor around 3:30.

Add in the fact that I often don’t get to eat dinner until about 8, and that second lunch comes in quite handy (and essential for my own sanity and the safety of those around me).

So with that wacko schedule, what does a normal day of food look like for me? My breakfast and lunch are pretty standard; I am a creature of habit, after all. My dinner varies, but for a general idea, here goes:

Breakfast 6:30 am: Oatmeal cooked in Almond Milk, with a few additions.

Snack 10:30am: Clif Z Bar – preferably Peanut Butter flavor (You’ve probably noticed at this point, I have a mild obsession with peanut butter)

1st Lunch 12:30pm: (Amazing) Yogurt Creation above

2nd Lunch 3:30 or 4:30: Spinach Salad topped with grilled chicken, bell peppers, and black bean salad

(And although this was taken at home, this meal is not always this pretty and is usually scarfed down 1 bite at a time between patients at work… Just saying.)

Dinner: Usually a veggie, some sort of starch, and meat. The meat source varies between chicken, steak, pork, and salmon for the most part.

Here we have some grilled chicken, red potatoes, and roasted brussels sprouts and green beans. Pretty standard.

And then of course I’ve got to have my chocolate fix.

A small handful of chocolate chips tends to satisfy my sweet tooth quite well 🙂

So there you have it. Long story short, I eat a whole lot of peanut butter, bars, veggies, and meat.  And OF COURSE there are days when I eat more than this, or less than this, but the important thing is that I listen to myself and really try to eat when I’m hungry, which just so happens to be every few hours on most days.  Some of you may look at this and wonder why I have to eat so often (I’ll just remind you to refer back to the velociraptor picture above), but that’s just what I have found is best for me. If you feel better eating 3 square meals a day, or 6 small ones, or even 2 big ones, than that’s ok too. There’s no proof that we all have to be eating every few hours, or that you HAVE to eat breakfast, or yada yada yada. Do what fits your life best.

Now go enjoy your weekend!

Do any of you eat the same things over and over? Do any of you eat two lunches instead of one? Does a hectic schedule mess with your eating habits?

Monday Treats!

Quickie post today.

My upstairs neighbors hosted a pretty kick-ass Oscar party last night, so instead of reading/writing, I enjoyed some good food, good beverage, and great company! So due to my fantastic neighbors, you guys are getting a lot less of my time. Sorry!

First off, yesterday I went to a hot yoga class for the first time in about a month. Life has just been too hectic to go lately, but with an entire Sunday free, what better way to start my week than with 90 minutes of full-sweat posing and stretching?! The fact that my right wrist is missing about 10 degrees of extension due to an injury right now didn’t exactly make it blissful, but hey… no pain, no gain, right?

Nope, sorry. This is a lie.

(No, stupid, if your wrist is injured, you probably shouldn’t go to a class where a good 50% of your time is spent with your full body weight bearing down on your wrists.)

WHOOPS.

Wrist pain aside, my hips and hammies feel great! Yay for Downward Facing Dog, and my personal favorite, Eagle Pose.

Now on to the sweet Monday treats!!

I present to you:

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies.

I saw these sweet delectables over at Chocolate Covered Katie, and they are so freaking delicious (and healthy!) that I had to share them with you folks! I made a few mild adjustments, and also have started plotting for my future endeavors with these delicious balls of peanut-buttery heaven.

Despite what these pictures look like, these are in fact cookies, and not sliders.

What you need:

1/4 C Peanut Butter (I used organic creamy, with salt)

1/2 C Raisins

2 T Roasted, unsalted peanuts

1/4 Tsp Salt

1/8 Tsp Vanilla (I would actually use a little bit less than this next time)

(Gluten-free for all you gluten-freebies out there)

What you need to do:

Throw everything into a food processor and blend until smooth. Roll into balls, smoosh into bars, or however else you would like to eat these precious little PB treats.

*Note: I don’t have a real food processor, only the all-mighty As-Seen-On-TV Magic Bullet. Unfortunately, the MB, in all of its magical glory, isn’t quite strong enough for the full peanuts… soo…. if the Magic Bullet isn’t meant to work so hard that it starts smoking… that’s my bad. A real food processor is probably necessary to avoid unwanted house fires.

What I added in:

I ended up topping each one with a raisin (because to me, the combo of raisins and peanut butter is too good to resist) and added about 1 tsp of coconut to the batter.   I also added a little bit of coconut to top a few cookies, mostly for looks, but also for the yum factor (I’m a bit of a coconut fiend).  Needless to say, once I ate one with coconut on top, the rest of them got coated with it too 🙂

Next time I might try using dates instead of raisins, because I really like their consistency. Or maybe a mix of dates and raisins? If anyone tries them like that, let me know how they turn out! I’ll also probably try adding in a scoop of protein powder to the mix just for a little extra protein kick, but that may require adding in a little bit of water or they may be too dry.

As for this time around, all I have to say is…

YUM.

Addictive. Truly addictive. This recipe makes a glob of batter that is enough to make about 5 small cookies. Believe me though, they are rich; I couldn’t eat more than one at a time. The dough keeps well in the fridge (and in my opinion they are a little better after setting in the fridge for a while!) so you can keep them around for a great pre or post-workout snack during the week.

Again, I DID NOT make these up. I take no credit. I do, however, take full credit for eating them and enjoying them 100%. You can thank Katie for the recipe and for the fact that I found these too irresistible to keep from all of you! (You should also check out her blog for some WAY better pictures of these than I took, and for some other ridiculously good looking treats as well!)

That’s all for now. Have a great start to your week, and I hope you get to enjoy some great healthy treats today!

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… 

THESE are a few of my favorite things.

Happy Friday! Today, I just thought I’d take some time to share some of my favorite things with you all, so that maybe they can become some of your favorite things too! Because really, they’re all pretty awesome.

Ready?

Trader Joes Organic Creamy Peanut Butter. Seriously, this stuff is like crack.

Speaking of Peanut Butter… This is Buckeye Ice Cream from Toscaninis in Cambridge, MA. Hands down the BEST ice cream I’ve ever had. And you can get it in a microscoop (shown here). Perfect size for a little indulgence!

My new favorite breakfast! Oats cooked in Almond Milk, with a touch of brown sugar, a few raisins, and about a Tbs of PB plopped right in the middle. I also put some almond slivers on this one. De-li-cious.

Roasted Veggies! ALL veggies are better roasted, in my opinion. My faves are broccoli, brussels sprouts, and asparagus. Yum!

A great cup of coffee (or in this case, a Dirty Chai) is always appreciated. And some good latte art doesn’t hurt either! This is at Taste Coffe House in Newton, MA.

Ok, getting away from the food here. My absolute favorite workout of all time: stadium runs at Harvard Stadium. I took this while running one night, under the lights. Love!

On days when I can’t get to the gym, my pull-up bar is where its at! You can see the strap around my right knee; I do them assisted so that I can do more than 2 in a row 🙂

Moving on from all things nutrition and workout related — My triple wrap bracelet from Marc Bernstein NY. I’m actually madly in love with this bracelet, it’s kind of unhealthy.

My Nieces! Olivia above, and Maya below. It was Maya’s 3rd birthday last week, Happy Birthday little M! These girls are so amazing because they are so different from each other, and they are both so ridiculously adorable, unique, polite and friendly. And their mom is a pretty cool blogger to boot!

That’s all for now…

I realize that this is a big mishmash of things, most of which aren’t related. And I also realize that it would be creepy if some of these things (namely, my nieces) became your favorite things too. But for the rest of it, enjoy!

Happy Friday everyone!

My Food Philosophy

If you read a lot of fitness and nutrition blogs, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about a few things: IF (Intermittent Fasting), Paleo, Clean Eating, among other things. I do not follow IF, if only because I’m a ravenous beast in the morning when I don’t eat breakfast. Paleo doesn’t appeal to me for a number of reasons. But just because I don’t follow these practices, doesn’t mean that I think they are wrong, I just think that they might not be the best for me.

My food philosophy has little to do with strict rules and guidelines, and more to do with treating yourself well.

My very loosely followed guidelines are something like this:

  • Eat REAL foods whenever possible. Vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, real butter(!), fruits, etc. When you’re eating real, unprocessed foods, your body is better able to process and absorb the nutrients that it needs.
  • Even when snacking on “bad” foods, eat real foods!* What is a Dorito anyway? What is that color? If you want to eat some scrumptious snack foods, then by all means go ahead. But try to at least eat something that is made from just a few real-food ingredients. My general rule is that if there are things on the ingredient list that you A) can’t identify, and B) can’t pronounce, then it’s probably not real food. Stay away! *Note: I’m a firm believer that there are actually no “Bad” foods. Just try to keep this kind of stuff to a minimum, and you’ll probably want it less anyway. See below.
  • Eat more of the good stuff, and you’ll crave the fake stuff less. See, when I was in my early 20s, I ate all the convenience foods I could find. If it was frozen and made with some sort of cheese product, I was probably eating it. And it showed. And I craved it every day. Now that I eat much cleaner, even looking at that type of food in the grocery store makes my mouth go dry and my stomach turn a little bit. Stop eating non-food crap, and you’ll stop craving non-food crap!
  • Appreciate quality over quantity. Real butter. Gourmet cheeses. Eat a candy bar. Are you satisfied? Probably not. Now eat a square of high quality, gourmet dark chocolate. Are you satisfied now? Most likely.  Higher quality foods will satisfy you more than overly processed foods every time.
  • Eat some fat. Peanut butter is my lifeline, and eggs are good for you! Try having a little bit of full fat, high quality cheese, and you’ll probably be 10 times more satisfied than eating 5 pieces of low-fat cheese. Not only does quality make a difference, but fat is satiating and including a moderate amount in your diet will help you to stay more satisfied than gorging yourself with any non-fat processed replacement.

So there you go. These are my loosely followed food “rules”. I say loosely, because I believe that there is room for just about anything in everyone’s diet, within reason.  I am by no means the perfect eater, and I fall prey to sweets and snacks just like the rest of the world. But I understand that deprivation leads to self-control chaos, and indulging every once in a while helps to keep me sane and happy. Besides, what is a world without cupcakes and self-serve Fro-Yo?

Mixx Frozen Yogurt in Boston, MA. My Kryptonite.

What did I miss? What are Your food rules?