Tag Archives: healthy fat

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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Super Healthy and tastes like a chocolate shake protein drink – yes way!

As you may or may not know, I focus my diet on clean, pure and the most natural foods I can find that make me feel great.  How I feel is super important!  A few months back, I decided to begin incorporating a clean, hi-quality protein powder into my diet and I want to share with you my favorite and how I enjoy using this protein powder daily.  I tried a couple protein powders (all vegan) and compared the ingredients, how the ingredients were processed to produce the final product, how the protein powder made me feel, the amino acid profiles/content of each and (of course!) the taste.  I am very excited to share with you my favorite protein powder and my daily delicious protein drink!

And the winner is (dun dun dun dunnnnn)…SunWarrior warrior-blend protein powder in natural flavor.  You will see a photo of the large size bag below alongside the ingredients and utensils I use to make a delicious chocolate protein drink.

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This protein powder consists of pea, cranberry and hemp protein, along with medium chain triglycerides.  Yep, those are all the ingredients and I love it – simple pure ingredients.  If you are unfamiliar with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), allow me to let you in on some information about them.  Research has shown that MCTs help with digestibility and I can definitely attest to this.  MCTs are one of the reasons I love using cold-pressed EV coconut oil (organic, of course) in many of my cooked foods.  I can definitely feel the difference when I am not consuming MCTs in a meal.

Back to the protein powder…the consistency of the Sunwarrior warrior blend in natural is not at all chalky, like many rice based protein powders.  In fact, one of the other protein powders I tried was SunWarrior’s brown rice based protein blend.  Although I did not dislike the rice based blend initially, after I had the warrior blend, there was no comparing the 2.  The warrior blend blew the rice based blend away!  When trying both alongside one another, the rice based blend definitely revealed a chalkiness that does not exist with the warrior blend.  And I felt more awake and upbeat after consuming the warrior blend in comparison. I believe this may have to do with the MCTs (wink, wink), which you will not find in the rice based blend.  Check out the profile of my fav protein powder below:

  • Contains all essential amino acids in a complete, balanced profile
  • One of the best protein powders for any lifestyle, not just vegan or vegetarian
  • Free of solvents, GMOs, radiation, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, or artificial colors
  • Contains no animal products, dairy, egg, gluten, soy, added sugar, wheat, or yeast
  • Great source of energy
  • No cholesterol
  • Heart healthy
  • Increases metabolism to burn fat while building muscle
  • Easy to digest and creates a feeling of satiety (fullness)
  • Promotes healthy kidney and liver functions
  • A green, hypoallergenic food
  • Improves mental clarity
  • Helps relieve candida

How can you not love that???  Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff.  Here is my recipe for a delicious chocolate (cacao) protein drink I know I will have everyday because it tastes so darn good!

What you will need:

– Sunwarrior warrior blend protein powder in natural (amazon.com $38.11 for large bag)

– Raw Cacao powder (you can also use unsweetened cocoa powder)

– Unsweetened Almond milk (please avoid carrageenan when purchasing – you’re safe with 365 brand)

– Stevia (I use Nunaturals alcohol-free liquid stevia which you can find at iherb.com/amazon – I also love   Stevita Stevia which you can find on amazon)

– Filtered water

– Blender

– optional: Gotu Kola – I love this herb because it helps with circulation (available at iherb.com)

– optional: hemp protein powder – I tried a few hemp protein powders and I love the nutty flavor they add, so sometimes I will add if I’d like to increase the protein in the drink or just feel like adding a little nuttiness to my day

Directions:

– add 8oz almond milk to blender, 2.5 tbsp raw cacao powder, 1 scoop (21g) SunWarrior warrior blend protein powder, 4 droppers full of liquid stevia, 16oz filtered, or boiling water (I enjoy using boiling water as the drink reminds me of a hot chocolate)

– if you would like to add gotu kola, add 30 drops or less (that the maximum amount I will have daily)

– if you would like to add hemp protein powder, I love Manitoba Harvest HEMP PRO 50, which also has Omega 3, 6 and 9!  Serving size is 4 tbsp, but I add 2 tbsp since I am combing with another protein powder.  Hemp protein is very easy to digest – huge plus.

– now Blend!!!!!  If you like frothiness, blend longer, otherwise, 30 seconds will do just fine.

– …and enjoy!

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Because I understand I how important nutrition is, I have included below the nutritional breakdown of this chocolate protein drink with and without the hemp.

Without Hemp:

182 calories, 5.7g fat, 1g sat. fat, 190mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 12g carbs, 5.2g fiber, 21g protein

With Hemp:

242 calories, 7.45g fat, 1g sat. fat, 190mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 16g carbs, 8.7g fiber, 0.5g sugar, 28.5g protein

So for any plant-based diet haters who always say, “you can’t get enough protein without meat” I say check out this protein drink.  That’s what I thought…

I would love to hear about your experiences with protein powders (not just vegan ones) and recipes that you have incorporated into your diet!  Please share in the comments below.  And if you do try this recipe, let me know how much you loved it…if you live in a cold climate, or if you’re office is just cold, try placing this drink in a thermos and sipping on it all day.  I bet you it will not last all day…as it is that good!

-RealFoodsLady

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The most delicious and nutritious muffins EVER!

Apple Cinnamon Muffin

Apple Cinnamon Muffin

Unfortunately in our society today, the vast majority of Americans are plagued by food.  The overeating, the over processed foods, the lack of knowledge, the culture of celebrating all occasions with fatty, artificial and chemically processed desserts has led us to the grossly shocking statistic that 2/3 of America is either overweight or obese!  I have been fighting against these statistics advocating for a healthier population.

The problem I have encountered lies in the fact each of us can only do so much.  Whether it be tackling the day-to-day family requirements or being that key team player keeping your office together.  I have been helping people over the last 8 years learn about how the food you eat, or don’t eat, affects your health and well-being.  I have had terrific clients who have made great strides towards living healthier cleaner lives.  And what is truly amazing is watching my clients teach others – I love this domino effect!  I’ve been at client’s homes and seen first-hand their children choosing healthier snacks because the children see how mommy and daddy snack and emulate those habits.  So instead of the child reaching for an ice cream bar as a treat, they reach for sliced apples or a homemade all-natural nut bar (that I taught mommy how to make).

So getting back to how I plan on helping more people.  Obviously teaching people on an individual basis is great, but also limits how many people I can help because there is only so much time in a day.  I have spoken at meetings on nutrition and food where there are 40-50 people.  Then I am able to reach more people, but the results aren’t as great as with one-on-one coaching.  What to do…what to do…If only I could be in more places at the same time.

The more and more I thought about this, I continued circling the idea of a super healthy food product that would be very convenient for people.  I am sure you see people everyday eating different bars – protein bars, low carb bars, diet bars, gluten-free bars, etc. (you may be one of them)  I have personally searched high and low for a bar that met my healthy bar requirement and came up with zilch.  You’re probably thinking this is impossible because there are hundreds of bars available.  Yes, there are and I am surprised as well.  The reason I haven’t found a bar suitable for myself is I set the bar very high.  My framework for a “healthy” bar or snack food is listed below.  You may want to sit down before reading this list.

*only use the most pure, least amount of processed ingredients – REAL food ingredients!

*use organic ingredients whenever possible

*no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, no additives, no fillers, no genetically modified foods (GMOs)

*no trans-fats

*under 1 gram of sugar WITHOUT the use of sugar alcohols  (sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol, maltitol) or fructo-polysaccharides, such as inulin and FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides).  When I first personally experimented with sugar-free products I tried each of the above alternative sweeteners as they were listed as being natural.  Each and every one of these gave me cramping, major bloating, flatulence and a laxative-like effect.  Also, I do not find it natural to extract one component of a food found in nature and then mass produce that component into a concentrated form, one which was never intended by nature to be consumed in such a concentrated manner.

*low carb and low glycemic index, meaning under 15 net grams of carbohydrates

*high fiber, meaning more than 4 grams of fiber

*high protein, meaning more than 3 grams of protein

*under 195 calories

*no use of animal-products (no dairy, no eggs, no casein, no gelatin, vegan)

*soy-free

*free of MSG

*kosher

*are easily accessible as a grab ‘n’ go convenience food (available to anyone within the 48 contiguous States)

*make you feel good after consuming because there are actual NUTRIENTS in the food that have not been processed out, including healthy Omega 3’s

Now you see why I cannot find a bar that fits my guideline of “healthy”.  So I placed the challenge on myself.  Come up with a food product that meets all my expectations of a pure healthy food.  As I looked at the above framework, I knew I had my work cut out.  I hit the kitchen and after 2 years of baking, food experimentation, recipe development and taste-testing I have come up with a product that fits!  I have developed a line of muffins under the name Mind Your Muffin that are so delicious even kids love them.

Below are a couple frequently asked questions and my answers.  Please feel free to ask other questions!

Q: How are these muffins convenient?  Wouldn’t you have to purchase these muffins freshly made and because there are no preservatives, wouldn’t they only last a few days?

A: These muffins will only last a few days (5-7) stored in an airtight container at room temperature.  However, if you freeze them they will last up to 9 months.  Yes, I have tested these muffins and they have lasted 9 months in the freezer.  The muffins are individually wrapped and as long as they are kept individually wrapped in a freezer safe bag or wrap, you can grab a muffin from the freezer and 2-3 hours later it will be ready to eat.  For those of us who can’t wait 2-3 hours for thawing time, you may place the muffin in a toaster oven (about 3 mins at 350 degrees) or microwave (30-60 seconds on high).

Q: Where can I purchase these muffins?  Are they available in my grocer’s freezer?

A: These muffins are available to be purchased directly from me.  You can send a comment below to order or email me at mindyourmuffin@gmail.com.  The muffins are $3.75 each or a dozen for $40.  The muffins will be shipped to you the day they are made.  To keep muffins fresh and keep shipping costs as low as possible, I use USPS 2 day shipping.  The cost is approximately $11 per dozen and the muffins arrive in a box individually wrapped and kept in place by a muffin holder.  This ensures the muffins will  not move much during the shipping process.

Q: What flavors are available?

A: Apple Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice, Lemon Poppy and Gingerbread.

Q: Is there a website available with nutrition information and ingredients?

A: MindYourMuffin.com is currently under construction, but will soon allow you to order directly online and browse ingredients and nutrition information.

Q: I noticed your muffins are not gluten free.  Do you make gluten free products?

A: Currently we do not sell gluten free products.  However, these muffins have a very low gluten content so some people who have an intolerance (not allergy or celiac) can still enjoy these muffins!  Although I have made and approved several gluten free products, these are currently not available for sale due to higher cost.  The gluten free line may be made available for purchase in the future, along with other product lines, such as high protein muffins.

Q: Are Mind Your Muffin muffins safe for diabetics?

A: I have had much success with diabetic clients using these muffins as an everyday snack food.  Because there is virtually no sugar (all muffins have 1 gram of sugar or less) and low carbohydrate content, there is not a spike in blood sugar levels.  Also they do not experience the usual cramping, bloating, flatulence or laxative-like effect from eating typical sugar-free items available.

Q: How do you sweeten your muffins?

A: I use the purest form of stevia sweetener I have been able to find.  After trying over 35 different preparations of stevia, I found one that met all my healthy criteria and that tasted great.  Although the price is higher for a purer, less processed form of stevia, Mind Your Muffin is about quality and will never sacrifice quality to lower costs.

So by bringing these healthy muffins into the homes of people across America, I am able to help make great food choices everyday even when that sugar tooth craving flares up.  Until I figure out how to clone myself, Mind Your Muffin will carry my message.  Let’s be mindful about the food we eat and lose our muffin-tops!

Lemon Poppy Muffin

Lemon Poppy Muffin

Apple Cinnamon Muffin

Gingerbread Muffin

Pumpkin Spice Muffin

Pumpkin Spice Muffin

-RealFoodsLady

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Lose All Your FDA Dietary Guideline Baggage and Give (good) Fats a Try

We have been told for decades by the FDA and the media to avoid coconut oil and all other items with saturated fats like the plague.  Well, guess what…seems they may have been mistaken and should have been warning us to stay away from refined carbohydrates and sugars.  Check out the article (“Almost) Everything You Know About Saturated Fat is Wrong” at here.

In this article, Associate Professor of medicine at Harvard University, cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, is one of the many health professionals rewriting the dietary guidelines on saturated fats among other things.  The professor explains that saturated fats in moderation are healthy and that refined carbohydrates and sugars have been the leading contributors of this country’s epidemic of heart disease.

Saturated fat does raise LDL cholesterol “bad” cholesterol, but it raises the good cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.  LDL, HDL and triglycerides are all biomarkers looked at when predicting heart disease.  So saturated fats gain 2 positives and have 1 negative when it comes to measuring their role in heart disease.

Here is information that is VERY interesting.  There have been 3 groups of researchers who have weighed data from all available large long-term studies that tracked saturated fat intake and heart attacks or strokes.  All 3 of the groups found  no association between saturated fat and heart attacks or strokes!  The researchers found that people who consumed the most saturated fat had about the same rates of heart disease as the people who consumed the least.  That is mind-boggling considering how badly saturated fats have been demonized since the 1960s.

Mozaffarian also states that there is growing evidence that fats do not play a major role in obesity, which this country has a HUGE problem with.  Two-thirds of this country is either overweight or obese.  The State of Colorado has the lowest percentage of obesity in America and their obesity rate is above 20%!  Missouri maintains the highest obesity levels at 44%.  In the healthiest state in America, over 1 in 5 people are obese.  Sounds like something is wrong with the way we are living…don’t you think?  Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Back to Dr. Mozaffarian – he states that the main culprits giving way to our country’s obesity are starches, such as potatoes, refined carbohydrates and sugars aka poor quality carbs.  So what does this mean to us?  Well, cut out the potatoes (not sweet potatoes), cereals, breads, buns, etc that have been part of “healthy” meals.  I believe you can still eat these food item if you truly feel you must, but please for your health, make it only for special occasions.  Or find high carbohydrate foods that are least processed.  This DOES NOT mean Butternut bread made using enriched flour.  No, no.  This is not what I mean.  You see enriched products are highly processed, aka refined, and then vitamins/minerals are added in.  This is not natural and very processed.  Just because vitamins and minerals are added into a product does not mean your body will be able to utilize or absorb these.  Think about it…Do you think your body would be better equipped to absorb and utilize vitamins and minerals found naturally in your food or processed vitamins and minerals that have been added in a mechanically processed way?  I think we know the answer.

So when you are looking to replace your high carbohydrate foods, look for foods with minimal ingredients.  Yes, please always read the ingredient labels!  I recommend reading ingredient label over nutrition label because when reading the nutrition label your mind may revert back to information taught by FDA food pyramid.  Purchase whole produce – beans, nuts, quinoa, amaranth, millet.  If you need bread, try Ezekiel bread by Food for Life.  They make many bread products, ranging from cereals to english muffins – check their website out here.  When you are grocery shopping and you see “2% of less of the following ingredients” on the ingredient label, put that item down.  You do not want anything to do with these highly processed (usually harmful) ingredients.

An interesting fact I have found in coaching people away from traditional unhealthy, highly processed, refined diets is that as they lower their intake of carbs and raise their intake of fats (via nuts, seeds) the person will not only feel better, they slim down.  One client would not allow herself to have more than 40 grams of fat per day.  She just could not shake this.  It had been ingrained in her head so long that she had a difficult time drinking almond milk over skim milk, among other things.  With consistent coaching and her being able to see living proof via my personal diet, she has finally completely replaced her skim milk intake with unsweetened almond milk (homemade).  She says her cravings have decreased drastically as she is consuming less processed foods.  Her energy levels are very steady throughout the day, rather then the ups and downs she was experiencing with her highly refined processed diet.  She no longer fears using oils in cooking.  This was tough to break for her and many others I have worked with.

One of my favorite oils to cook and bake with is unrefined coconut oil.  I use Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut oil, which can be found at Whole Foods, online at herb.com, amazon or directly at http://nutiva.com.  I buy many food products online at iherb.com.  Great prices, customer service and shipping.  Check out iherb here and use coupon code NOW718 for up to $10 off your order.

I will write an upcoming post exclusively on the benefits of coconut oil.  Do not believe all the hype – but there is truth to some of it.  More on this later!

-RealFoodsLady

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