Tag Archives: food nutrition

Think Thin Bars…think again

Happy Friday,

Snack bars, especially ones marketed as healthy, are hard to resist.  Super convenient, easy to bring anywhere and don’t go bad for months.  Seems like a no-brainer.  C’mon, every body’s doing it.  So why shouldn’t you?

This post is not about why you should avoid all snack bar products.  That is extreme and there are some decent ones on the market.  This post is about one brand of bars, the Think Thin protein bars.  With a great brand name and terrific marketing plastered on the bars’ wrappers exuding the health benefits of their protein bars, how could you not be tempted to try Think Thin?  “Gluten-free, 0 sugar, low glycemic” – sounds good, right?

I became a loyal customer to their brownie crunch and chunky peanut butter bars years ago and I must say I fell hard for them.  The bars became a daily staple in my diet.  I may have had even more than 1 bar some days.  They tasted good and had high protein without carb overload.  But, these convenient protein snacks were not doing me any favors.  It took months for me to figure out that the bars were actually causing my body harm as the ingredients were not healthful or beneficial for me.  All I had to do was read the long list of ingredients to understand why I was not feeling as good as I usually did.

Let’s have a look at the Brownie Crunch Think Thin protein bar.  To begin, Think Thin does not make it simple for you to locate the ingredients online.  Go ahead – take a look at their product details page on their website.  Can you find the list of ingredients?  I found the nutrition panel, but no ingredients.  Here’s a screenshot of what you will see on the company’s website.

Brownie Crunch

And here is something I find very deceiving.  I clicked on “Learn More” as I thought this is where I could locate the ingredient list of the brownie crunch bar.  This is what I found:

learn more

learn more 2

Let’s go through their list.  High protein – yes, there is 20 grams of protein per bar, but let’s look at the source.  You can find the ingredients listed on a bar.  The protein comes from soy.  Overly processed, most likely genetically modified soy.  You will actually find the word “soy” listed in the ingredients 4 times!  Go ahead – count for yourself.

brownie crunch ingredients

Let’s move on to the 2nd item listed under “Learn More” about the brownie crunch bar – No Refined Sugar.  What you find in this bar is REFINED SUGAR ALCOHOLS, so technically not refined sugar.  The maltitol, which is listed twice in the ingredients, and glycerin are both sugar alcohols that are known to cause digestive upset.  Maltitol, which is a very common highly processed sugar alcohol used in sugar free foods, is mostly derived from corn.  Another big genetically modified crop.

Next is Gluten-Free.  Fine, the product is gluten-free, but that does not mean healthy.  Please understand what gluten is and gluten-free foods can be very unhealthy.  Potato chips and many ice creams are gluten-free.

Good Source of Fiber.  The brownie crunch bar has 2 grams of fiber.  That does not qualify as a good source of fiber for a 230 calorie snack.

Non-GMO Ingredients.  Please read this closely because the brownie crunch bar does contain genetically modified ingredients.  You will notice the company has listed they strive to source Non-GMO ingredients and only their Crunch Mixed Nut Bars do not contain genetically modified ingredients!  Ha!  They rely on us consumers being too busy and rushed to read the fine print.

Low Glycemic Index.  These bars have 25 grams of carbohydrates and only 2 grams of fiber.  It’s decent, but not great.

Dairy Free.  Well, brownie crunch bars are not dairy free as they contain milk fat and casein.  Here’s some information about casein: most allergic reactions to milk and cheese are because of casein.  When casein is broken down by the body, the peptide that it is broken down into acts as a histamine releaser.  This has been shown to aggravate autism symptoms.

Vegan.  Same as above – the brownie crunch and all their protein bars contain several animal-based ingredients.

This business practice of trying to fool the consumer is something that truly gets to me.  Think Thin did fool me once, but never again.

Let’s take another look at that ingredient list:

brownie crunch ingredients

There are 3 ingredients listed above that I believe are healthy and can be within a “healthy” snack product.  Those are water, almonds and sea salt.  All the other ingredients demonstrate how overly processed and fake this product is.  Natural flavors, which is listed twice, is a big no-no as it can be ANYTHING.  No joke – here is the definition of natural flavors by the FDA:

natural flavors

So yes, it can be anything.  Including monosodium glutamate (MSG).

I am not going to go through each ingredient and tell you my thoughts, as I know you are smart enough to see these Think Thin protein bars clearly for what they are.  But, here is a former post about another brand of snack bars where I do go through each ingredient.  Not surprisingly, you will see a ton of overlap in ingredients.

Read Your Ingredients!

 

 

 

 

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A look at Protein Bars, particularly IsaLean bars

Good Evening!

My wonderful brother has a friend who wanted my take on a particular brand of protein bars him and his wife have been purchasing.  These are IsaLean bars.  I had never heard of them, but the name alone suggested to me that these bars would be filled with highly processed ingredients.   Let’s have a look at what I discovered.

Here is the ingredient label of the IsaLean Bar in Natural Oatmeal Raisin flavor

IsaLean Natural Oatmeal Raisin Bar

My initial thought was “wow, lots of ingredients”, but where are the natural ingredients?  Oh yes, there they are!  Out of the over 40 ingredients, 4 are perhaps natural in my book (raisins, rolled oats, water and cinnamon).  So red flag #1, less than 10% of ingredients are natural.  Yikes.

Among the listed ingredients, the ones that give me great pause are: tapioca starch, lecithin, brown rice syrup, maltitol, fractionated palm kernel oil, natural flavor, malitiol syrup, polydextrose, high oleic safflower oil, natural flavor (again) and maltodextrin.  Here are some of the problems I have with each.

Tapioca Starch – Extremely high glycemic index of 85.  To compare, sugar has a GI of 70.  No nutritional value.

Lecithin – the label doesn’t tell us what type of lecithin is used.  It can be soy, eggs, milk, marine sources, rapeseed, cottonseed, and sunflower.  Most of the time it is derived from genetically modified soybeans. So what is lecithin?  It is the generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids (e.g., phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylinositol).  It is used in the food industry as an emulsifier in packaged food products.  This is a highly processed ingredient that is genetically modified and most likely chemically extracted.  I will take a pass.  (I would be less concerned if this was non-GMO soy lecithin, or even if the type of lecithin used was listed)

Brown Rice Syrup – this is a sweetener I see all over the snack bar market.  I am not a fan at all.  This has a glycemic index of 100 and, unless specified, is typically derived from genetically modified brown rice.  Don’t let the words “brown rice” fool you into believing this is healthy.  It is made from whole grain rice treated with enzymes that break down natural starches into sugars.  It is a refined and concentrated sweetener that is often used as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup.

Maltitol – This is one of the many sugar alcohols used to make processed snacks and desserts “sugar-free”.  Consumption of maltitol and other sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including a laxative like effect.  Maltitol is produced from starch mainly in corn or potatoes.  Definitely derived from GM food that is then highly processed into the final product.  My personal experience years ago with maltitol was an uncomfortable one.  I recall bloating and overall GI upset.

Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil – Let’s start with palm kernel oil, then we can touch on what fractionated palm kernel oil is.  It can’t be obtained organically. Instead, the oil must be extracted from the pit with a gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent. In short, palm kernel oil is a cheap, unhealthy fat, which well-known Dr. Andrew Weil recommends avoiding products containing it.  Now what about the fractionated palm kernel oil?  Fractionation is a further phase of palm oil processing, designed to extract and concentrate specific fatty acid fractions. Fractionated palm oil, as found in food products, has a higher concentration of saturated fat than regular palm oil and is used for the convenience of manufacturers who like its stability and melting characteristics.

Natural Flavor – this additive makes me angry because it can mean pretty much anything!  The FDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 defines the term natural flavor as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”.  In all seriousness, this can be anything, including MSG.  Here’s an example of a natural flavor ingredient that will turn your stomach – it’s called castoreum and is an extract derived from the beavers’ anal glands.  Mmmmmmm.  Just think of all the creative ingredients that can be hiding under the “natural flavors” label.

Maltitol Syrup –  Read Maltitol above, then add a more processed and concentrated version of this sweetener, which contains 50-80% maltitol and most of the remainder is composed of sorbitol.  Sorbitol is another sugar alcohol that has well-documented cases of stomach upset and diarrhea in some individuals.  Perhaps this is why sorbitol has been linked to IBS.  The glycemic index of maltitol syrup is higher than maltitol, but just slightly below sugar.

Polydextrose – This is a multi-purpose food additive synthesized from dextrose (glucose), plus about 10 percent sorbitol and 1 percent citric acid. It is a soluble non-viscous manmade polymer that is only partially fermented by the gut microbiota.  Food companies use this additive to bulk up product and add fiber.  I always opt for natural fiber, which is abundant in vegetables, nuts and seeds.

High Oleic Safflower Oil – This is a highly processed oil that has taken the place of hydrogenated oil (trans fats) to keep food shelf-stable and preserve flavor since all the negative attention about trans fats.  Here’s a study documenting how high oleic safflower oil, compared to high linoleic safflower oil and coconut oil caused an increase in tumors in rats.  My guess is 10 years from now these high oleic oils may be on the list of “bad” ingredients.

Natural Flavor – Why is it listed twice?  Well, see it above.

Maltodextrin – This is a food additive produced from starch (usually of corn in US, but can be wheat) by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic spray-dried powder. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavorless making it perfect for processed food manufacturers.  This has a high glycemic index of 95 (sugar is 70).

So what should you do if you want a high protein snack on-the-go?  Here are some suggestions:

Pumpkin Seeds – these will provide you with the same amount of protein (18g) as the IsaLean Bar does (both are 60g), and much more natural nutritive values.  Not to mention, lower carb and sugar than the IsaLean bar.  And they’re delicious!

Almonds – not quite as much protein (13g compared to 18g in 60g serving size), but full of healthy fats and vitamins/minerals.  You can spice almonds up on your own by roasting using your favorite seasonings and spice.  Just watch out for overloading on the salt – 1/4 tsp contains a whopping 590mg of sodium!

And I’m going to give the Mind Your Muffin almond cave bite (paleo, gluten-free, vegan) a plug here as it is a great option for on-the-go snack/sweet treat filled with organic, all-natural fiber and protein!  Only 4g of carbs and no sugar (and of course nothing artificial or highly processed).   Simple healthful ingredients to give your body what it needs and nothing it doesn’t.  You never have to be without the perfect snack with our cave bite subscriptions where the bites will be delivered right to your door every month!  So perfect!

There are many many protein bars out there.  If you do one thing, read the ingredients and look for red flags.  Do your best to stay away from them.

If you have any protein bars or snack foods you would like me to take a look at for you, please ask!  I’m very busy running my healthy baked goods company, but will definitely give it a look for you.

Keep up your awareness,

Gina

 

 

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My background in food, nutrition and health

In February 2007, my health began to decline.  You may ask, “Well, where was your health at this point?”  Great question.  I was a young 20-something with a constant flow of energy who ate anything she wanted and never got sick.  My health allowed me to play many sports and pull all nighters without the use of caffeine or stimulants when necessary (I was a procrastinator and would leave term papers until the very end).  This is where my health was the beginning of 2007.

So my taken-for-granted health began it’s decline in February 2007.  My health continued this downward spiral almost taking my life.  No doctor could save me.  I saw over 26 doctors, including specialists in infectious disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurology, dermatology, endocrinology , acupuncture, chiropractic medicine and integrative internal medicine.  I saw these specialists and more in a 2 year period that spanned several states, and not one of them could pinpoint what was going on.  They all agreed something was wrong and that it was only worsening with various pill treatments, and various therapies did not seem to help.  During this time I lost most of my friends, became distant from my family as I was unable to communicate what was going on, mainly due to embarrassment.  I lost my ability to keep up with any of my hobbies, sports and exercise.

I was in denial of my illness for quite sometime.  I continued working until I no longer could trust that my legs would not give out from under me without warning, or that my mind would not go “black” and within a few seconds I would no longer recognize where I was or what I was doing.  I would act like I was extremely busy to friends and family so they wouldn’t judge me perhaps thinking I was a hypochondriac.  I would then wonder to myself, “Am I crazy?  Is this all mental?  Am I imaging the layers of skin peeling from my body and my piercing blue lips in the mirror?”

I would go from being so cold trying to hide my  blue lips and piling on mounds of winter clothing in 80 degree temperatures, and then later that day being so hot that filling my bathtub with ice and lying in it seemed like the only way to cool down.  There were times when I would begin to stand up after being seated and fall right to the floor as my legs gave out.  There were periods of blackness where my eyesight would fade to a blackish-grey color not allowing me to see.  Every moment of my life was filled with pain and uncertainty.

During these trying times I gave everything I had to stay positive.  I decided I would stop pounding on doctors doors for answers only to leave their offices in tears of frustration.  I would turn to myself and my body for answers.  I would devote every morsel of energy I had to change the path my health was on.

I spent most of my time researching how to fix the multitude of problems I was experiencing that were leaving my body and mind crippled.   After 3 years of research, trial and error experimentation with alternative therapies/treatments and a complete diet adjustment, I was seeing great results.  I am a true believer that food is your lifeblood.  If we feed our bodies garbage, this will filter through all our bodily systems and wreak havoc upon our bodies and minds, eventually bringing us to our demise.

Learning the inner workings of how the human body digests and utilizes food, along with nutritional knowledge of foods, herbs and spices, has given me the ability to heal myself.  This knowledge is something so powerful, important and vital to each and every one of us; I want to share it to make everyone aware they can take their health into their own hands.

Over the last 3 years, I have coached dozens of people to understanding how food affects their health.  I have helped those looking to lose weight, diabetics, people with food allergies and people who just do not feel right.  These people have been able to take this information to achieve the best (happiest, healthiest) person they can be.  This coaching has allowed me to help many people.  But I want to help more.  I want the average American to know about the intertwining of food and health.  I want everyone to know a healthy breakfast is not Starbucks oatmeal, a bagel with cream cheese, an english muffin with peanut butter or pop tarts.  I want everyone to know that a bagel with cream cheese will impact how well he/she will function throughout the day and there is a domino-like effect of bad food choices.

In trying to help as many people as possible, I asked myself, “What is one of the worst foods the average person eats regularly?”  My answer: desserts.  Many people love their desserts.  Whether the dessert is the flour-less chocolate cake after dinner, the blueberry muffin at Starbucks with the 2pm pick-me-up or the fruit snack snagged from the vending machine, these foods are all less than ideal for you!

That is when I hit the kitchen and began experimenting with real foods to create real desserts.  I use only the purest ingredients, meaning no artificial anything, no preservatives, no fillers, no additives, no genetically modified foods (GMOs), no ingredients containing MSG and I use organic whenever possible.  During my research, testing and experience, I have noticed that many people feel much better without dairy in their diets.  Therefore, you will not find dairy in any of the desserts I bake.  I do not use any animal products or by-products in my baking, so no eggs, cheese, butter, gelatin, honey, etc.

Through research, my personal experience and clients’ experiences I have realized sugar is a food to steer clear of.  Yes, even unrefined, unprocessed, all natural sugar.  This includes agave nectar, honey, molasses, unrefined cane sugar, brown rice syrup and pure maple syrup.  Of course, you will have sugars present in your diet, but my concern is with eliminating sugars from the dessert portion of the diet.  This also includes all artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and food additives, such as maltodextrin (Stevia in the Raw) and dextrose (PureVia) .   All of these artificial sweeteners are commonly used to sweeten sugar-free foods or no sugar-added foods.  Sugar alcohols, such as maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol (Truvia) and xylitol cause gastrointestinal distress with cramping, diarrhea and flatulence.  Food additives such as maltodextrin and dextrose are derived via partial hydrolysis from starch (corn) and are absorbed as rapidly as glucose.  Since none of these are appealing to me and I stick to the “pure” ingredient guideline, I do not use any of these in my baking.

My journey to find the most pure ingredients to use in my baking has taken me to local farms, farmers markets and to the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore.  Yes, I have developed many recipes and baked goods that I am very content with, but I continue to research the latest health/nutritional developments so I may incorporate my findings into my recipes.  My goal is to deliver a variety of delicious healthy muffins that will make you feel great and not feel a moment of guilt afterwards (well, unless you eat a dozen muffins in a sitting…).

RealFoodsLady

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Why did I start this blog?

I have started this blog because of the overwhelming amount of information that we,  the American public, do not know and understand about the foods and beverages we consume.  I have been researching food, nutrition, and health over the last several years.  Each new piece of information I have learned has amounted to piles upon piles of research yielding one common finding – there is always more to discover about the truth behind our food.

The purpose of this blog is to share my knowledge and findings of food, nutrition and health.  This blog will help in understanding the complexities and obscurities of food in America so we may take our health into our own hands.

RealFoodsLady

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