Tag: whole foods

5 Healthy Packaged Foods (Yes, They Do Exist!)

Kits-Organic-Fruit-+-Seed-Bars-Apricot-+-Sesame-Seeds With all my talk about whole foods lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about what I eat, but the most common one is: “So you don’t eat anything packaged or processed?” While I try to minimize those times when I do, I have found that it’s handy to keep a few packaged foods on hand for the odd occasion when I can’t have a whole food meal or snack.

Between crafty marketing in ads and on commercials and the crazy claims on the packages themselves, it can be tough to know which packaged foods are okay and which are just junk food dressed up as health food. I’ve found that the only way to really know whether something is good for you is to turn a blind eye to every single part of the package label except for the ingredients list. I don’t even pay attention to calories or grams of fat/protein/sugar/etc. any more, and here’s why: Food corporations have figured out that people are starting to demand healthier products and modern science has made it possible for them to engineer in better nutrient “statistics” by using a bunch of substances that are hardly even food. Protein isolates (usually from genetically modified soy) may boost protein content, but many dieticians and doctors warn against consuming them in large quantities. Fiber is another nutrient that’s often added into processed food, rather than occurring naturally from whole food ingredients. When I read the ingredient list on a packaged product, I’m looking for ingredients I recognize and can buy whole myself. If a company uses high-quality, whole, plant-based ingredients and wants to do the work of assembling them into something I can grab on the go, I’m happy to buy and consume their product from time to time. Here are five packaged foods that get a thumbs up for meeting those criteria:

Kit’s Organic Fruit and Seed Bars
The latest product in the Cliff Bar lineup, these snack bars are made from 100% organic, whole, plant-based ingredients. I had a Dark Chocolate Peanut bar last week and here’s what was in it: dates, peanuts, unsweetened dark chocolate, sea salt and almonds. That list is typical of all of the flavors available. There are no added oils or sugars. The dates act both as binder and sweetener. They cost $1.79 apiece and are available online, at Whole Foods, REI stores and, of course, Walmart.

Trader Joe’s Just Mango Slices
Yeah, I know – this is just dried fruit. But I’ve found that mango is somehow more satiating than other dried fruit, and just a piece or two satisfies my need for something sweet whenever a craving strikes. You can get dried mango elsewhere, of course, but the packaging at Trader Joe’s makes it feel like you’re eating a snack when you’re really just eating dried mangoes. Yep, that’s the only ingredient. $2.99 for a 6 oz bag.

Explore Asian Organic Bean Pastas
Here are noodles made from beans and water – and nothing else. I am sure the beans are ground or pulverized or processed in some other way to make a “flour” that is then combined with water to make a dough that can be cut into noodles, but if you absolutely have to have pasta, make it this pasta. The texture is decidedly different than traditional pasta, but I found the flavor of a mungbean variety I had some months ago to be quite tasty when paired with a homemade vegan pesto I made from scratch. The price tag may be the only thing unpalatable about these noodles – $3.99 for a 7 oz bag which purportedly contains 4 servings. Available online and at the Lund’s across the street from me. Look for them in your local store, too!

Hillary’s Eat Well Organic Burgers
Disclaimer! I have not tasted any of Hillary’s burgers yet, but I plan to as soon as my month of strict whole food eating comes to a close. I’m pretty excited about it, because these are the only vegan burgers I’ve found that are both organic and made from real, whole food ingredients. Also, there is this excellent review from the Food Babe. Hillary’s Eat Well has a wide variety of flavors, each starring a different combo of whole plant foods. In addition to the ubiquitous vegan black bean burger, Hillary’s has some intriguing varieties like Adzuki Bean Burger, Hemp & Greens Burger and Root Veggies Burger. There are even Veggie Bites, which are tiny little vegan nuggets that would be great on a salad. The whole line-up is also gluten- and soy-free. Available at hippie stores like Whole Foods, Mississippi Market (my local co-op) and online. I saw them in the freezer case at MM today and they were retailing at around $4 for a pack of two.

Beyond Meat Beef Free Crumbles
Remember all that stuff I said earlier about so-called healthy processed food having a bunch of protein isolates in it? Yeah, this one has that. The reason I’m including it here is because I listened to a 105-minute interview with Beyond Meat founder, Ethan Brown, on the Rich Roll Podcast the other day. Brown went into great detail about the quality and sources of his ingredients (non-GMO pea protein, the peas are sourced from a nutrient-rich speck of land in the south of France, etc., etc.), then I read this article and I was totally sold. I actually drove to Whole Foods (which only happens like twice a year) in search of the burgers, but they didn’t have them, so I got the crumbles instead. Laura and I made tacos for dinner that night and I devoured the leftovers in a taco salad (no chips) the next day. I have to say, I don’t know how Beyond Meat does it, but I’m glad they do, because this guy is going to change the world for real. Sadly, this is truly a processed food and the ingredient list is too long to copy here, so I suggest you only enjoy Beyond Meat’s delicacies on your cheat days, or any time you would otherwise eat plain old boring regular meat.

P.S. You can order all of these products at Amazon.com, and if you arrive there by clicking on the Amazon ad over in the right-hand sidebar under the “Support” banner, your purchase will help cover the cost of producing this blog.

The Only Diet Tip You Need

nutrition-label
If you have to read the label, you’re still doing it wrong!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a new weight loss coaching platform that I’m really excited about. For the first time ever, I’m offering specific dietary guidance to a test group of clients. While the final iteration of this program is still months away, what I’ve seen so far has been truly amazing. It’s exciting to be putting together a program that could potentially change hundreds or thousands of lives. What’s surprising about this “new” program is that there is nothing new about it at all. There are only two guidelines I’m using to develop the recipes and meal plans: Eat plant-based and eat whole foods. In short, if you have to read the label, you’re still doing it wrong.

The beautiful thing about this program is that it works for everyone. Of course it’s great for losing weight, but I’m also testing it out on a couple of athletes. The age range of the test subjects spans decades, and they come in all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. I can’t wait to see what’s happened with each of them at the end of the 4-week initial trial period. I’ll write a follow-up post here then and share the results with you. To be sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to my RSS feed, or get posts sent right to your inbox by filling in your email address and clicking “Subscribe” in the upper right-hand side bar, shown here:subscribe-hereYou can start changing your life today, simply by following the two guidelines: Eat plant-based and eat whole foods. Put down that box, bag or can and pick up some fresh produce, legumes and whole grains. Give your body more of the nutrients it needs and fewer empty calories. I promise you’ll start to feel amazing in just a few days.

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My Week as a Nutritarian

healthy-lettuce-wraps These lettuce wraps are what I had for lunch the other day. Yep, all of them, just for me. Then, about two hours later, I ate again – this time, it was a barley black bean dish. The rest of the day was similar, consisting of many meals constructed entirely from unprocessed, whole plant foods. This was my week of eating Nutritarian.

I not entirely sure that Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term “nutritarian”, but that’s where I first encountered it, on his web site. The premise is not unique to Dr. Fuhrman, though. Many doctors, dietitians and other health professionals have been espousing a diet that is truly whole foods and plant based for quite some time. I just like the term a whole lot better than “vegan” and I like the strict whole foods philosophy behind it.

If you’re wondering what a Nutritarian diet is, let me just tell you what it is not. There are no processed foods in this diet, including flour (so no breads, pizza, pasta, baked goods, tortillas, etc.), oil (yep, not even the supposedly healthy olive, canola, flax and coconut oils) sugar in any form (yep, not even honey), and it also shuns alcohol, caffeine and any added salt. If, like me, you are wondering what’s left that you can eat, let me give you a one-day run-down of what I ate:

– Rolled oats with blueberries, dried apricots, chia seeds, walnuts and almond milk*
– Kale/chard/berry/banana/chia/pea protein* smoothie
– 1/2 serving Almonds, 1/2 serving dried apricots
– 1/4 cup black beans and 4 olives
– Large salad of greens/tomatoes/1/2 cup chickpeas/1/4 avocado/red onion/lemon juice
– 1 medjool date
– 1/2 serving sunflower seeds**
– 1 portion vegan meatloaf* with 1/2 T soy sauce* **
– .4 oz dark chocolate*
– Bib lettuce burritos: 1 cup black beans/1/4 cup brown rice/1 small bell pepper/1/6 red onion/1/2 T jalapeño minced/2 garlic cloves/1/8 tsp kosher salt*, wrapped in bib lettuce
– 1 cup chopped pineapple
– 1 medjool date

Items with * were “cheat” items, because they were processed. The meatloaf was leftover from dinner the night before and was made with a small amount of tofu and salt, otherwise it would have actually been allowed.

Items with ** had added salt. I decided to allow myself up to 1500 mg of sodium per day, and on most days, I didn’t reach that level.

So, how did I feel? Honestly, great. My energy levels were as high as I can remember them being for months, despite having one of the worst weeks of sleep in months (due to non-diet related factors beyond my control). I was full all the time, and had a hard time getting in enough calories each day because the food is so nutrient dense and so light in calories. I didn’t miss beer, which I thought would be awful trying to live without, and I weaned myself from a highly-caffeinated two cups of coffee each morning to a brew that was 2/3 decaf.

I did find that I needed the protein supplement in my morning smoothie every day in order to hit my desired range of 80 -100 grams of protein per day, which I wanted because I’m trying to keep or build a little muscle while training for a marathon, but it would have been easy to hit the normal 60-70 grams of protein my body actually needs for normal function without the protein powder.

Cravings? Oddly, I had NONE the entire week until Saturday. I suspect it was because I knew the diet was ending on Sunday, so I started allowing myself to think about my usual “favorites,” bread, Toasted Oatmeal Flakes, and beer. The whole rest of the week, I didn’t feel deprived at all. There was tons of chocolate around the house and enough flour and other ingredients on hand for me to bake 200 loaves of bread, but I didn’t think about it. Apart from eating about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate over the whole week, the only sweet things I had were dried apricots, pineapple and dates.

Would I keep this diet up indefinitely? I think it would be difficult unless my spouse were on board (she was out of town this week). Certainly, eating out becomes a futile endeavor at all but the snob-snobbiest of health-food places. I will definitely keep some parts of the diet in, though. Like a whole-grain and fruit breakfast. I found that I only craved my usual junky cereal in the evening (Saturday and Sunday only) and I looked forward to a healthier breakfast each morning.

I will also try to cut out entirely the vegan meat substitutes I often eat, usually out of convenience. I may occasionally have tofu or tempeh, but processed veggie burgers and fake chicken nuggets have no place in my diet going forward.

While I didn’t miss bread or pasta much at all, I am sure that once it’s around again when my wife returns home from her trip, I’ll eat some. That being said, I won’t plan meals around those things any more, and will opt instead for healthier whole-grain dishes.

The toughest part for me was the salt – which is why I made the exception, and the plant milks – which I feel are necessary for jazzing up the oatmeal and other breakfast grains. I know I could make my own, and then it would be (by my standards at least) more of a whole food, but I’m not quite that ambitious. Yet.

I like doing things like this every once in awhile – try an extreme diet or workout program – just to see what sticks. It’s also interesting to watch my own reaction to the process. How will I battle a craving, how will I motivate myself to finish a tough workout, that sort of thing.

It’s this short-term, extreme leap-frogging approach that has helped me get as fit and healthy as I am today. My diet and exercise regimens are a far cry from where they were ten years ago, and I didn’t just wake up one morning and change it all. Testing my boundaries and looking at the process in a curious, scientific sort of way has led me to where I am today. I can’t wait to see where I am ten years from now!