A new HFCS-free cracker

>> Thursday, February 26, 2009

A while back I wrote about crackers and HFCS. Wheat Thins was one of the brands rife with HFCS. Well, Wheat Thins has a new HFCS-free cracker out! Wheat Thins Fiber Select Garden Vegetable is HFCS and trans-fat free! It's a tasty cracker that has a better flavor (in my opinion) than regular wheat thins. It's still rather salty, but that seems to be the case with all crackers.

Be warned, though - the rest of the Wheat Thin line all contains HFCS. Even the other Fiber Selects 5-Grain flavor contains HFCS. It seems that only the Fiber Select Garden Vegetable flavor beat the HFCS trend.


Surprising HFCS food of the week

>> Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I don't know why this one always catches me off guard, but it does. Today's surprising HFCS food of the week is JUICE! I guess I always find it surprising because juice is thought to be so good for you, and yet it's so often a little juice floating in a sea of HFCS or sugar.

I was shopping for cranberry juice a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Langers Cranberry juice. I've gotten this brand before and was happy with is. So, I was surprised when I flipped it around to glance at the ingredients and saw that HFCS was the second ingredient! Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail is not immune - HFCS is the third ingredient (at least it's after cranberry juice this time!). Not all Langers and Ocean Spray juices contain HFCS - it pays to read those ingredients! Langers Plus juices, for example, use only other fruit juices to sweeten their cranberry juice - no HFCS or sucrose.

Cranberry juice swimming in HFCS

Cranberries are very tart, so it isn't unusual (in fact, it's the norm) for cranberry juice to be sweetened with sugar or another very sweet fruit juice (like apple juice), but HFCS in a fruit juice product is not an unusual thing. And sadly, products geared toward kids seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to adding HFCS to fruit juice products. Have you looked at the ingredients in a pack of Caprisun? Even some of the Minute Maid juice pouches contain HFCS!
Kids' juice prducts are often full of HFCS

So, what do you do? Read the ingredients!
For kids' products, look for 100% juice products. Those products almost certainly contain apple juice as the main ingredient (not my favorite juice - it's one of the least nutritious juices out there - a junk juice to me!), but at least it isn't HFCS or a sugar syrup. There is still some redeeming value to apple juice - the same cannot be said for sugar syrup. The most nutritious bets for juice boxes are ones that use orange juice or concord grape juice - both great juices worth drinking - but those usually aren't my kids' favorites.
Look for 100% juice on kids' juice products

There are also several "flavored water" pouches out there that are mostly water, sometimes a little sugar (but often less total sugar than found in a regular juice box), and sometimes a little fruit juice for flavoring. (Watch the ingredients, though, because some do contain HFCS!) I think that these can be good options too if you're looking for a pouch drink. Honest Kids is one of our favorites in this category.
Honest Kids and Minute Maid Fruit Falls are both HFCS free

For adults and kids alike - HFCS or not - remember that fruit juices should be a treat and not the primary drink for the day. A little juice at breakfast or with a snack is fine and dandy, but fruit juice with breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't recommended. Even the juices packed with good stuff - like orange, cranberry, pomegranate, and Concord grape juice - are also packed with sugar in the form of fructose.


And the winners of the POM Wonderful giveaway are...

>> Monday, February 23, 2009

The winners of the three coupons for a free 16-oz bottle of POM Wonderful are:

and Fatfighter!

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone that commented last week for a chance to win! Winners, please e-mail me (less.sweet@gmail.com) with your mailing address so that I can send you your coupon.


Snack time! Another granola bar option AND a cookbook review

>> Thursday, February 19, 2009

We like granola bars around here. They're fairly substantial, and you can tuck all kinds of good things in them. Once upon a time we bought our bars at the store, but so many contain HFCS or else don't appeal to my son that I switched to making them myself. (Plus, they're really easy to make, and I've found it's cheaper to make them myself.) Until recently, my go-to recipe has been the chewy granola bar recipe I posted about a few months ago. Now we have another recipe to add to the mix.

We've been making the Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars from the Sneaky Chef cookbook by Missy Chase Lapine lately, and they're a hit! Have you heard about the Sneaky Chef? It's hook is "Simple strategies for hiding healthy foods in kids' favorite meals." In a nutshell, it's a cookbook that hides pureed vegetables, whole grains, and healthy juices in foods that appeal to kids.

Not everyone is a fan of hiding vegetables and such in foods for kids, but I am. I think that it's a great option when you have a picky eater and it just makes sense to me to bulk up our food with good stuff. My husband and I have found that we like many of our meals better when we add pureed vegetables to our meals - like pureed sweet potatoes to taco meat or spaghetti sauce. And while I don't always advertise that I'm sneaking in vegetable purees to my son's favorite foods, I don't hide the fact either. I think that if you continue to offer the whole, unhidden vegetable as part of a child's meals, sneaking in some vegetables is not a bad thing!

Back to the cookbook... I've only tried a couple of the recipes in my Sneaky Chef cookbook, but they've both been hits. There are quite a few tasty looking recipes that I'll try in the future. We also have Jessica Seinfield's Deceptively Delicious - another cookbook with the sneaky premise - and it also has many great recipes (her turkey chili is a favorite of ours). They both take a bit of work to get the purees made, but you can get a lot of payoff for just a little bit of work if you freeze the purees in small serving sizees. The purees in the Sneaky Chef cookbook are more complicated because they use more ingredients than those in the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, which is one reason why I haven't used the Sneaky Chef cookbook very much. I like simple. If you have a picky eater or would just like to add some nutritious goodness to your regular meals, check these books out.

And now the granola bars... These particular granola bars are fairly delicate. We call them "cookie bars" because they're surprisingly sweet and aren't chunky (and well, anything is better if you call it a cookie). Kids and adults all like them. My son won't touch them if they have dried fruit in them, but some raisins or dried blueberries would be a great addition. I'd bet some flax meal would be a good addition too. I fiddled with this recipe very slightly, but I would love to hear any changes that you bakers out there might make to it!

Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars

2/3 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor
1/2 cup almonds, ground in a food processor (omit if allergic and add another 1/3 cup of ground oats instead)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal (or Rice Krispies if you aren't concerned about HFCS)
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 cup raisins or dried blueberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 315 F. Line a 9" square or a 13x9" baking pan completely with foil and lightly spray with oil.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds (if using), wheat germ, cereal, dry milk, cinnamon, and salt. Mix in the oil, honey, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips (and/or dried fruit). Mix well, then pour into the prepared baking pan. Press down with palm of hand, evenly distributing the mixture into the corners of the dish and back for 18-20 min.

Cut into bars while still warm. Bars will set up as they cool. Let bars cool completely before removing from aluminum foil.

Do you have a favorite homemade granola-type bar? Care to share?


Food for thought

>> Monday, February 16, 2009

POM Wonderful week continues! Don't forget to comment for a chance to win a coupon for a free bottle!

I'm reading the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman right now. I'm not sure that I completely agree with him on everything, but his book is thought provoking and I do find that I mostly agree with him. After an interesting discussion on the problems with interpreting and conducting meaningful food studies (especially when food companies themselves fund the research), there is this paragraph:

It could well be - and this is as close as I can get to Something I'm Very Nearly Sure Of - that by eating simple, natural, minimally processed foods, known to be at least benign if not beneficial, in place of foods that are suspect in any quantity (junk food, highly processed carbohydrates), or those that may be damaging if consumed in large quantities (animal products), you're going to be healthier and quite likely thinner. And if you believe me, you don't need to follow the results of any more studies.
This is all conjecture on Mr. Bittman's part, but I think that he does have a point. Our food has become processed to the point of being unrecognizable at times. Instead of reaching for an apple at breakfast, we reach for an apply-goop filled breakfast bar. If we were to reach for good, minimally processed foods - fresh fruits and vegetables, for example - instead of crackers and bars and chips and all of the other junk that is so tempting and easy to turn to, our waistlines and health would undoubtedly be better for it.

We eat more than our fair share of processed foods around here. And we also eat more than our share of meat and animal products. But it's changing. We're eating more vegetarian meals - not such a hard sell as my kids are not hugely fond of meat. My son is a champion complainer about meat dinners and vegetarian dinners equally. I hope that we can tip the balance toward fresh, minimally processed foods - fruit instead of crackers for a snack, nuts instead of pretzels, a homemade granola bar or pumpkin muffin instead of a pre-packaged bar. It's a hard sell with the kids (even with me sometimes!), but I hope that we can give them a taste and desire for fresh foods. The taste for real food will serve them well the rest of their lives.

We're striving for that balance, and we're getting there, I think. It's easier in summer than in winter, and it's easier with my daughter than it is with my picky son. And it's easier with time. I'm not looking to rid our house of processed foods - I think that would be excruciatingly hard with kids (heck, even for us adults) - just minimize their use.

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Bittman?

My guest poster last week, Jenna from Food with Kid Appeal, is having a giveaway herself! She's giving away the book 101 Foods that Can Save Your Life. Head on over and find out what you need to do to win.


It's a POM Wonderful week!

Last week was a tough one here. I was trapped in a house of sickness as my son, daughter, and husband all had the local crud. It made for long nights and no time or inspiration to post. Everyone seems better or on the mend now, and I have yet to catch the crud (knock on wood), so let's get started on a wonderful week!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by POM Wonderful to see if I'd like to try some of their pomegranate juice. Well, of course I did! Have you tried pomegranate juice before? I'm not a big juice fan - I typically don't like the taste - but I DO like pomegranate juice. Here's what my husband has to say about the flavor, "It has the right amount of tartness and isn't too sweet like grape juice. ... It's like cranberry juice without the bitterness and like grape juice without the cloying sweetness." I'll have to agree with him. It is quite like cran-grape juice, only better tasting and without the added sugar. My son, who is crazy about pomegranates, thought this juice was the best juice ever. (It didn't hurt that it came in a fun container.)
I am also generally not a fan of juice because most are empty calories. So many juices are mixed with apple or pear or white grape juice - junk juices, in my opinion. Look at kids' juices - most are nothing more than flavored apple juice. (I could go on, but I'll save my juice rant for another day.) There are some juices that are full of good stuff for your body, though - orange juice, cranberry juice, and purple grape juice come to mind. While whole oranges and cranberries and grapes still have more to offer than their juice, the juice of these fruits is still loaded with antioxidants and important vitamins and nutrients. We can add pomegranate juice to the good-juice list too.

POM Wonderful juice is 100% pomegranate juice with no added sugars, preservatives, colors, or filler juices. POM grows their own pomegranates (the "Wonderful" variety - for real!) in California and even makes their own bottles. POM says that not all pomegranates are created equally (think Concord grape juice versus white grape juice), and the Wonderful pomegranate is the cream of the crop when it comes to pomegranates.

POM Wonderful has provided a considerable amount of money (to the tune of $25 million) toward clinical research on pomegranates and their juice. In the clinical studies, participants drank 8 ounces of POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice daily. These POM funded studies showed potential benefits to cardiovascular health (especially as related to arterial plaque formation), prostate health (slower PSA increase), erectile function (sorry, I'm not going there), and antioxidant potency. Their studies showed that POM Wonderful juice had more and better antioxidants than red wine, grape juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, and green tea.

POM Wonderful is not cheap, but it is so good and packed with good stuff that we will be buying it again. Good tasting and good for you - a doubly good thing!


And now for the good stuff - win a coupon for a free 16 oz. bottle of POM Wonderful! POM very generously supplied 3 coupons for a free 16 oz. bottle of POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice to use in a giveaway here. To enter for a chance to win a coupon, simple leave a comment! You have until noon Sunday, February 22 to enter. The more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win! I'll draw 3 winners (and yes, you can win more than once if you comment more than once) Sunday afternoon and announce the winners on Monday.

And now a little comment about free samples. I have accepted free samples from companies in the past and will do so in the future. BUT, I only post on freebies that I can comfortably say that we enjoyed. If I don't like the product, I won't post on it (this has happened before). I see no need to disparage a company that was kind enough to provide a sample, but I also will not compromise my reputation by posting a positive review about a product that I did not enjoy (unless the company just wants the review - good or bad).


Guest post time! How much sugar is too much for kids?

>> Monday, February 9, 2009

Today I'm pleased to have a guest post from Jenna at Food with Kid Appeal. Jenna is a mom of two on a mission to help us all feed our kids better. She says, "I want to demystify the farce that healthy food doesn’t taste good." Right on, Jenna! Her guest post today is on a subject that I often struggle with - healthy snacks without too much sugar for the kids. Read and learn!

How much sugar is too much for kids?

It’s tough to know the answer to this question. In my research for the Kid’s Nutrition class I teach, I came across two different statistics on recommended sugar consumption for kids. Preschool Rock cites World Health Organization and Food Nutrition Board recommend no more than 10% and 25% (respectively) of calories coming from added sugar per day. Nutrient intake seems to suffer when sugar consumption is greater than 16% of total calories. Assuming a 1200-1700 calorie a day diet and using the 10% limit, that’s 7-11 tsp per day. Here is a list of how much added sugar (not naturally occurring sugar such as lactose-milk and fructose-fruit) is in common toddler food. The list provides grams per item. There are 4g of sugar in one tsp. Here’s how that could shake out in your child’s day: sweetened whole-grain cereal for breakfast (~8g) chocolate milk (12g) and a PBJ (8g) for lunch, a flavored yogurt for snack (14g) for a total of 42g (or 10.5 tsp) in the day. And that’s before any dessert items, juice drinks or fruit snacks!

How much sugar are you consuming with your snacks?

Even in our diet where packaged foods, and sweet treats are already limited, I found some regular sugary offenders. I focused on removing things that we ate frequently, and things I could find alternatives for. My choice was to get sugar out of our regular meals and snacks as much as possible so we could have occasional cakes, cookies and treats without fretting about health.

The problem: Flavored Yogurts. Avg. 14-19g of added sugar per serving. Even organic flavored yogurt, or kefir (yogurt drink) has added sugar in it. And while organic cane juice is better for you than white sugar or HCFS, it’s s
till sugar. If you only indulge in yogurt on occasion, these little containers of sweet tart goodness are probably ok, but most young kids do not eat yogurt in moderation. Many young kids eat it daily and some have it more than once a day. We had a yogurt based product several times a week.

The solution: Plain low-fat yogurt in a large carton, thawed frozen berries, granola or cereal puffs and honey. Here’s a post on how we eat our yogurt bowls.

Flavored yogurt has as much as a serving spoon of sugar in each container!

The problem: Craisins (dried cranberries). Dried cranberries have 18g sugar per serving!! A serving of craisins is ONE ounce. We ate dried cranberries in our home made trail mix, and plain for snacks on a regular basis.

The solution: Substitute raisins or other unsweetened dried fruit for dried cranberries. Eden organic makes dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice and we buy these for special occasions.

The problem: Oatmeal. We eat oatmeal from scratch between 2-4 times a week. We used to top it with sugar or honey. Not sure how much our oatmeal had, but instant flavored oatmeal have an average of 11 g of sugar per packet.

The solution: Little boo got mashed bananas and pears to sweeten his oatmeal as an infant and he always gobbled up two servings for breakfast. I decided what was good enough for him was good enough for us so I started serving mashed bananas and applesauce on oatmeal mornings for the whole family. I cook the oatmeal with raisins and between the three fruits, there’s enough natural sweetness to make a mighty tasty oatmeal. Here’s my steel-cut oatmeal recipe.

The problem: Granola Bars. They have 6g of added sugar per bar. We were probably eating granola bars 4 or more times a week for snacks.

The solution: I just found a recipe for home made granola bars that I’m going to try, (click here for recipe) but my solution was to just stop buying them and offer fresh fruit or trail mix with unsweetened dry cereal, plain nuts and dried fruit instead of pre-packaged bars. If my math is right on the bars in this recipe, they would be sweeter than the pre-packaged kind (10g vs 6g) but I haven’t made them yet, so the size may be bigger. Plus these bars call for half honey. Honey is still sugar, it’s just a better sweetener than sugar.

The problem: Raisin Bran. The boos love Raisin Bran and almost always want second helpings. The affordable “two scoops” variety has added sugar on the raisins, which are already deadly sweet! It’s hard to know how much of the sugar in RB is from the added sugar vs. the natural sugar in the raisins, but let’s just say it’s way too much sugar to start the day. 19 g of sugar is listed on the box.

The solution: While I have found some organic brands that don’t seem to have added sugar, raisins themselves are high in natural sugar. Plus I can hardly afford to buy as much organic raisin bran as the boos like to eat, so I started focusing more on cheerios and chex for breakfast cereal, which have 1-2 g of sugar. Since we eat so many raisins in trail mix, snacks and oatmeal, we don’t need them in our breakfast cereal too.

I don’t think going cold turkey on sugar makes sense, but if you look at the snacks and meals your family eats routinely my guess is you can come with a handful of alternatives, or think of new ways using fruit to sweeten items instead of sugar.

What sugary snack are you thinking of replacing?

I like to make my own granola bars. They still have sugar, but I get to control the amount of sugar and the quality of the rest of the ingredients. Flavored yogurts were an eye-opener for us. Not only do so many contain HFCS, but most are as sugary as a dessert! Our favorite brand by far is Cascade Fresh. They're sweetened using fruit juice and are so delicious!


Friday links

>> Friday, February 6, 2009

It's time once again to share just a few of the many blog posts that I've enjoyed this week!

Let's start with that perennial favorite, James Hubbard's My Family Doctor. Do you know about radon? I do, but I must admit that we haven't had our house tested for radon. Thanks to My Family Doctor's informative post on radon this week, I got my act together and got a deal on a short term radon detection kit through my state's radon program at the same time. Check it out!

Crunchy Chicken is having a Food Waste Challenge. It's a great idea that has me thinking about how much food we waste - more than I would like to admit. I plan to work on using as much of the food that we buy as possible. It makes sense in so many ways!

And another crunchy blogger for you - Crunchy Domestic Goddess regularly has informative and thought-provoking posts. I'm putting her on my must-read list!

Last, I want to share links to a couple of recipes that we made this week that get two thumbs up from the adults and children in this house. What's for Lunch featured a recipe for Coconut Cashew Chicken Satay Skewers (whew! That's a mouthful!) recently, and they are really delicious! The only thing I'll change next time is to set a bit of the marinade aside as a dipping sauce. We paired the satay with some steamed broccoli and Vegetable Pakoras from Cooking Light for a great meal.

Have a great weekend!


Surprising HFCS product of the week

>> Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last month I talked about cold medicines with HFCS in them. This month, it hits a little closer to home for me...

My 2 year old daughter is cutting molars. Those of you with kids know that's a painful process, so to help her sleep at night, I often give her some liquid Children's Motrin. The other night, I gave her some Bubble Yum flavored liquid Children's Tylenol instead. I noticed it was really thick coming out, which made me suspicious, so I checked the ingredients. Do I have to tell you what I found? That's right - our nemesis high fructose corn syrup! The Children's Motrin had corn syrup but not HFCS.

You can read my rant about ingredients in medicines here. It appears that not all Children's Tylenol contains HFCS. In fact, Tylenol's official site indicates that none of their Children'ts Tylenol contains HFCS, so perhaps I opened an older bottle or maybe they've recently reformulated to include HFCS.

So, remember to check those ingredients! And remember that companies frequently reformulate their products, so it pays to scan the ingredients of even "safe" products.

What am I going to do with this HFCS-laden Children's Tylenol? I'd be lying if I told you I threw it out. Medicine is expensive! So, we'll use it and then look for a HFCS-free replacement. Fortunately, the dosage is small, so she won't get a lot of HFCS from her medicine.


So you're ready to give up high fructose corn syrup...

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In case you missed it the first time around, my Snack Time post on edamame was featured as a guest post on Food with Kid Appeal. Thanks, Jenna!

I don't like to push my food agenda on other people. But this blog, well, it's all about us giving up HFCS, so if you're here, chances are you've already taken the plunge and expunged it from your life, or you're curious about what in the world you eat if you don't do HFCS, or you've read some recent study about HFCS and are curious about this strange ingredient, or maybe you're thinking of eliminating or reducing the amount of HFCS in your own diet. This post is for those of you in that last group.

Why eliminate HFCS in the first place? Our journey was spurred by concern of over consuming fructose. Since then, I've found that the quality of our diet has improved upon giving up HFCS. Giving up HFCS made us give up a lot of junk and switch to higher quality foods. We think about what we're consuming more. With two young kids to think of, eating higher quality foods (which usually translates to fresher and less processed) and teaching them to like those foods is really our biggest motivator. Last, it's nice to not worry about what the latest study says about HFCS - whether it's health concerns from consuming HFCS or a contamination scare. We went cold turkey on HFCS consumption in our house last June, and we don't regret it.

How do you get started on eliminating HFCS from your diet? I can tell you what we did. We started by resolving to not buy anymore foods containing HFCS (and by we, I really mean the frugal me). But then we (and by we, I mean my husband, who is whole-heartedly along for this ride) decided to go more hardcore and completely cleaned out our pantry and refrigerator of products containing HFCS. It was tricky at first finding replacement foods for some of the must-have items like ketchup, but now all is good. Our HFCS-free diet is second hand now.

Don't be afraid of ingredient lists! I'm an ingredient reader. I have been since my son was a babe and had infant food intolerances. As a chemical engineer, I'm actually a little fascinated by what goes into our food and am not scared of ingredient lists - you shouldn't be either! More and more, I think that it's important for us to know what we're eating and to understand what the ingredients in our foods are. I've spent much of my life blindly eating my food, but no more! I want to know what I'm eating. I want to be informed.

But I digress...if you want to give up HFCS, be prepared to also become an ingredient reader. Flip that box of bread crumbs over and take a quick scan of the ingredients (or better yet, make your own). Take a gander at the ingredient list of that jug of juice before you put it in your cart. HFCS is in strange places.

Now that we've been HFCS-free for three quarters of a year, it seems old hat now. It seems like such a hard, daunting task in the beginning, but it really hasn't been bad. I mindlessly scan ingredients of new products (and often of old standbys) before buying. I instinctively avoid certain types of products and can usually predict when something will have HFCS in it or not. Even now, though, we're occasionally surprised by a product that contains HFCS.

So, what are you waiting for? Whether you go all out like we did or simply reduce the amount of HFCS you consume, get started! You won't regret it!

And if you have an ingredient or a food or food issue question you'd like to see addressed here, let me know! I love it when readers and friends pose questions - especially if I don't know the answer. Our journey is just beginning, and the more questions you ask, the more we all learn!


  © Blogger templates Sunset by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP