Target Grocery Haul – Paleo & Healthy Food Finds

Who doesn’t love Target? Pre-pandemic, it was one of my favorite stores to aimlessly wander on a Saturday morning and fill my cart with items for my home, pantry, fridge, freezer and more. These days with the pandemic ever present, I’m not walking around any stores; however, I am loving curbside grocery service.

Target offers one of the best contactless curbside shopping services where you can submit an order through the app, employees will do your shopping for you using your list and will bring your order directly to your car – all within a few hours of submitting an order through the app. It’s often difficult to get same-day curbside pickup slots at other stores, but Target always has curbside same day pick-up availability in my area.

Beyond convenience, Target has really upped their game by carrying many healthy items at fabulous price points. Here are a few great Paleo & healthy food finds from my latest Target grocery haul:

1. Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix – $4.99

Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix

Quick, tasty and grain-free pancakes are so easy to make with Birch Bender’s Paleo & Waffle mix. You just add water! The clean and diet-friendly ingredients produce fluffy pancakes that will satisfy any pancake craving. See my full review of this product here.

2. Applegate Naturals No Sugar Uncured Bacon -$4.59

Most bacon on supermarket shelves are loaded with sugar, preservatives and questionable ingredients. That is why I normally buy bacon from ButcherBox, who offer clean, sugar-free bacon as an add-on to their monthly curated meat subscription boxes. When I run out of ButcherBox bacon, Applegate Naturals No Sugar Uncured Bacon is my favorite stand-by option. As the name suggests, Applegate Naturals adds no sugar to the bacon and as an added bonus, it is Whole30 approved.

3. Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil – $8.49

Avocado oil is the perfect oil for high heat cooking; however, a 2020 study from UC Davis concluded that 82% of avocado oils on the market are rancid or mixed with other oils. With so many fraudulent avocado oils on the market, it’s important to do your research before adding any avocado oil to your cart. Chosen Foods and Primal Kitchen offer some of the best, pure avocado oils on the market. Although a bit pricey, this Chosen Foods oil at Target is the rare, real-deal and will last you a long time. (For additional information about the best oils for cooking, click here.)

4. Swanson Sipping Bone Broth – $1.79

Swanson bone broth

Bone broth has been all the rave for a while now. A few years ago, people used to line up at hip bone broth places in New York City to score overpriced cups of bone broth. Now there are more options to heat up some healthy bone broth at home. While it is fairly time consuming to make your own bone broth at home, quality, pre-made bone broth is now available at stores like Target. This tasty sipping bone broth from Swanson is super affordable and feature surprisingly clean ingredients.

5. Siete Grain Free Taco Shells – $5.99

Siete Grain Free Taco Shells

Avoiding corn and grain? Taco Tuesdays are now back if you can snag these grain-free taco shells at Target. The shells taste just like corn taco shells, but are non-GMO. Siete is a ground-breaking new brand who also offers delicious, grain free tortilla chips as well as clean taco seasonings, dairy-free queso, enchilada sauces, salsa and more.

6. Purely Elizabeth. Cinnamon Peanut Butter Grain-Free Granola – $5.99

Simply Elizabeth. grain-free granola

Purely Elizabeth., a relatively new and exciting brand, offers some of the cleanest breakfast foods on the market. When I am craving cereal or granola, this is my go-to choice. Although a bit pricey, this grain-free granola flavored with cinnamon and peanut butter is made from clean ingredients like almonds and seeds, includes MCT oil for brain health and energy and is satisfies both sweet and savory cravings.

7. Purely Elizabeth. Strawberry Hazelnut Cauli Hot Cereal – $2.79

Purely Elizabeth. Cauli Cereal

Speaking of Purely Elizabeth., they also offer on-the-go grain-free cauliflower-based hot cereals. Just like oatmeal (but without the grain), you only need to add water for an instant breakfast. The single serve cereals come in several varieties including strawberry hazelnut and cinnamon almond and have the same consistency of traditional oatmeal.

8. Primal Kitchen BBQ Ranch Dressing & Marinade – $5.79

Primal Kitchen BBQ Ranch Dressing

It’s often difficult to find salad dressings and marinades without gluten, dairy, soybean oil (or other seed oils), sugar, “natural flavors” and other sketchy ingredients. Primal Kitchen is one of my favorite paleo friendly brands for salad dressings, BBQ sauces, mayonnaise, oils and more. Most of their dressings, like this one, include quality avocado oil and stellar ingredients. Although pricey, Primal Kitchen dressings are a step above most others on the grocery store shelves.

9. Rao’s Homemade Sensitive Marinara – $7.39 (on sale)

Rao's Homemade Sensitive Marinara

One of the best tasting marinara sauces in the market has to be Rao’s Homemade. While you can find countless others at lower price points, none will rival the taste and clean ingredients of Rao’s. And Rao’s is one of the few tomato sauces that does not contain added sugar. Rao’s offers an assortment of sauces, including this sensitive formula which does not contain onions or garlic – which is unheard of with marinara sauces.

10. GimMe Organic Sea Salt Premium Roasted Seaweed – $1.99

Roasted seaweed snacks

If you are craving a salty, healthy snack on-the-go, these roasted seaweed snacks are a great option. With only three ingredients and no added sugar, these non-GMO and USDA certified organic are low in calories and include nutrients like iodine, calcium, potassium and iron.

This List is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

In addition to the great finds above, Target is an excellent place to shop for nuts (slivered almonds – $3.89), organic fruit (organic raspberries – $3.99), organic salad (organic spring mix lettuce – $2.59), organic canned pumpkin – $1.99 and so much more.

It’s Snack Time: Treat Yourself with These Healthy, Paleo Finds!!

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Dessert can sometimes be a somewhat foreign concept if you are cursed with multiple food allergies, follow a strict Paleo diet or have other dietary restrictions. The following scenarios ring true for many of us who fall into these buckets:

Scenario 1: You are celebrating a milestone event with friends and family at a swanky restaurant. Dinner plates are cleared and it is time for dessert and coffee. Naturally, there is almost nothing on the dessert menu that you can tolerate. The waiter takes orders and returns a few minutes later with a tray of mostly decadent treats and after dinner drinks. You look around in sheer awe of the masterful cakes, mousses and ice creams at your table. Then, you look down at your plate of … wait for it … fruit. Suddenly, a strong wave of disappointment hits you as you gaze longingly at the spectacular dessert plates in front of everyone else at your table.

Scenario 2: You are invited to a backyard barbecue birthday party at a friend’s house. Everyone surprises the birthday girl or guy with a sheet cake, candles and of course, the Happy Birthday song. All of the guests line up to grab a piece of cake …except for you. You sit there watching everyone enjoying every last crumb of their cake slices. A guest even asks you if you think you are Gwyneth Paltrow or something because you are skipping dessert. (Yes, I was actually asked that exact question at a party once.)

Let’s face it; dessert time can be awkward for those of us who have restricted diets. It often forces us to disclose our food allergies publicly or make other excuses for shooing away the sweet treats.

Dessert time doesn’t have to be a bummer for us, though. With some careful planning, we too can join in on the sweet after dinner fun. Here are five dessert ideas that offer the perfect indulgences on special occasions:

1. Frozen Banana “Ice Cream”

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

During the dog days of summer, there isn’t anything more satisfying than a bowl of ice cream. While plenty of non-dairy ice cream options are readily available in most grocery stores and health food stores, these “ice creams” are often loaded with added sugar, chemicals and other ingredients that we just don’t need to consume – even on special occasions.

No need to fret! Would you believe that there is actually a healthy, allergy friendly “ice cream” option available with zero added sugar? This fabulous “ice cream” includes just one key ingredient: frozen bananas! I must say I was absolutely amazed at the creamy texture and ice-cream like taste the first time that I tasted blended frozen bananas. Best of all, it is incredibly easy to make. This is also the perfect recipe if you are trying to limit the sugar intake of your children; they will never know this is a healthy treat!

Kitchen Tools/Items You Will Need:

  • Blender
  • Knife
  • Ziploc Bag

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas make 1 serving (peeled, sliced and frozen for several hours)
  • Topping of your choice

Instructions

  1. Peel 2 ripe bananas.
  2. Cut into small pieces.
  3. Place banana pieces in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Freeze banana slices for several hours.
  5. When ready to make the “ice cream”, dump the bag of banana pieces into the blender. Blend for 20-30 seconds (more time might be needed for less powerful blenders).
  6. Pour into ice cream dish and add the healthy topping of your choice (slivered almonds, raspberries, blueberries, etc.). Enjoy!

While a bag of frozen bananas would not be appropriate to bring to a restaurant for obvious reasons, these frozen banana bags can be easily brought to the homes of friends and family. Almost everyone has a blender handy and this recipe can be made with almost no fuss. If you don’t feel comfortable showing up to a party with frozen bananas in hand, simply save this treat for when you get home.

2. Barnana Banana Bites

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

Sticking with the banana theme, I recently stumbled upon my new favorite treat, Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites, while running a quick errand at my local drug store. The Barnana packages were placed in close proximity to the registers at the front of the store and caught my attention right away.

I guess I’ve always been a sucker for clever packaging, products advertised as being organic and anything banana flavored (as evidenced by my number one desert pick above). I didn’t realize at the time I first purchased these bites that they were actually a healthy snack.

If you don’t look at the ingredients closely, you will probably assume like I did that you are eating something naughty because the bites are so sweet and chewy. These banana bites have only two ingredients, though: bananas and water. You can’t get more natural than that! The bananas go through a dehydration process that is described in detail on the product packaging.

Consider bringing these along with you to your next dinner engagement or party. Dessert time might be much more enjoyable if you have these delicious bites to chew!

Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites are available at many drug stores, grocery stores, vitamin stores and health food shops. Although they offer several different flavor options (including plain, chocolate, coconut and peanut butter), I keep things simple by opting for the plain variety.

Prices can vary by store. One store by me sells a bag for close to $7, while another offers them at $4.99. Online retailers offer the best deals by far; some like Amazon offer amazing prices on packages of three or subscription services.

3. RXBARs

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and Paleo. These bars ate not Low FODMAP diet friendly because they contain dates.

For the longest time, it was nearly impossible to find a protein bar that was healthy, grain-free and tasty. Most protein bars out there have a lot of junk in them (sugar, chemicals, etc.) or taste like cardboard.

I was beyond excited when I discovered RXBARs last year. The company markets these bars as whole food protein bars with no B.S. And that is totally the truth!

Although available in 12 different flavors (chocolate sea salt, blueberry, apple cinnamon, mint chocolate, coconut chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, maple sea salt, chocolate chip, mixed berry, coffee chocolate and pumpkin spice), they all (with the exception of the peanut butter bars) contain the same 4 basic ingredients: 3 egg whites, 6 almonds, 4 cashews and 2 dates. I recommend avoiding the peanut butter bars and peanuts in general for reasons discussed here. All of the other flavors are solid options, though! (And no, they do not currently offer a banana flavor option.)

I usually drop one of the bars in my purse before heading out to a big event. Although not quite the same as a chocolate cake or other heavenly dessert, these bars provide a respectable alternative to the many desserts that you can’t eat at most restaurants or parties. My favorite flavors are the chocolate sea salt (if you are craving something salty, sweet and chocolate) and blueberry (if you are in the mood for something just sweet) options.

Best of all, these RXBARs are popping up everywhere. The cheapest option, though, is to order online here or here.

4. Hu Bars from Hu Kitchen

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free or follow a Paleo diet. Most of the bars are Low FODMAP diet friendly.

Hu Kitchen has started a food revolution in New York City. They operate two popular restaurants in Manhattan that focus on pre-industrial, healthy, non-GMO, organic and gluten-free foods. They also make out-of-this-world Paleo and vegan friendly chocolate bars.

Hu chocolate bars are one of my favorite treat options for special occasions. Hu Kitchen offers 8 different chocolate bar options, including hazelnut praline, crunchy banana, crunchy mint, salty chocolate and simple chocolate. All options have no refined sugar, cane sugar, gluten, dairy, emulsifiers, stabilizers, soy or GMOs.

Each bar is made from a few simple ingredients. For example, the salty chocolate bar contains just cacao, sea salt and organic coconut sugar. I challenge you to find a healthier chocolate bar!

Besides having only natural ingredients, these bars are absolutely scrumptious. I almost can’t tell the difference between these bars and some high-end chocolate bars that are loaded with sugar and crappy ingredients.

Those of you in the greater NYC area can pick these tasty bars up at Hu Kitchen restaurants, Fairway markets or Whole Foods. If the bars are unavailable in your location, Hu Kitchen also offers the option to purchase these bad boys online.

5. Healthy Hot Chocolate with Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

Most of us with dairy allergies have to skip the coffee or hot chocolate at restaurants or gatherings because non-dairy milk options are not usually available. We can now indulge in a hot chocolate treat when we get home! Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk powder mixed with the heated unsweetened nut milk of your choice offers a healthier and more nutritious option compared to standard hot chocolate. On hot summer nights, you can even make iced drinks with this versatile powder.

This Greens powder packs a healthy punch as it features 50 super foods, supplements and antioxidants. The silky chocolate flavor is thanks to 100% natural cocoa powder. The whole family will benefit from sipping this drink hot or cold. The best part of this powder, besides the oh-so pleasant chocolate flavor, is that there is zero added sugar. In fact, it is only sweetened with natural stevia extract.

Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk powder is available in most vitamin and health food stores. Some retailers like Whole Foods also carry this powder. For the best bang for your buck, purchase this powder online here.

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Note for those of you following a Low FODMAP diet: Mix the powder with 1/2 cup of nut milk only and fill the rest of your glass/mug with water. It’s just as delicious and Low FODMAP diet compliant this way.

Cheers to Having Dessert Options!

I hope that these options provide you with some new dessert ideas to avoid feeling left out of future celebrations! Although these desserts are fabulous and delicious (and mostly very nutritious!), all of these treats are probably best consumed only every once in a while. Do you have any other allergy friendly or diet friendly dessert hacks? Feel free to share your treat ideas in the comments section below.

Sweet dreams!!

Getting Your Veggies In … Even on Super Bowl Sunday!

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So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – an unofficial national holiday practically devoted to Americans gorging our faces with wings, nachos, burgers, chips and beer. At first glance, it’s probably not the most fitting day to run a blog post about adding more vegetables into our daily meals. On second thought, though, I think we can all benefit from sneaking in more vegetables daily – even on days like Super Bowl Sunday. So, here we go!

As many of you are aware, the standard American diet typically falls short of the recommended servings of fiber-rich vegetables. Vegetables not only contain fiber, which is super important for gut health, they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and ward off disease. Yet, many of us are skipping these healthy vegetables for tastier, empty calorie comfort foods. Let’s face it, we could all use more veggies in our lives.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to try to eat a healthy serving of vegetables with each and every meal. Yes, even breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been tough to accomplish every day, especially with a brand new job and a lot going on since the beginning of the New Year. I have been pretty successful in meeting this goal thus far, though.

The good news is that I have found a lot of easy and crafty ways that you too can get your “veggies on” every day. Here are three suggestions to help you add more vegetables on the sly with minimum effort:

1. Make Vegetables the Focus of Your Smoothies

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I’m all for juicing, but sometimes drinking cold pressed juices gives me a bit of a sugar rush. And the juicer is a giant pain in the neck to clean. These are just a few reasons why I usually blend vs. juice. One significant reason as to why I prefer smoothies to juices is because smoothies also contain fiber – which is lacking from most juices.

Smoothies are not always healthy. The biggest mistake that many people make is adding too much fruit to smoothies. I try to make vegetables the star of my smoothies and the fruit has much more of a supporting role.

The fabulous thing about smoothies is that you can really think out of the box when adding vegetables and make up recipes on the spot. I rarely make the same recipe twice. And my smoothie is always dependent on what I have in stock in my fridge or freezer at the time. Here are some vegetables that I regularly add to smoothies:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Beets (usually frozen)
  • Celery
  • Squash (whichever kind is in season)
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip

I usually add a bunch of vegetables from the list above to my blender, along with a 1/2 cup of coconut, almond or cashew milk. For a slight bit of sweetness, I add a small amount of wild frozen blueberries, pineapple or acai. To give my smoothies an added boost, I often add:

  • Fresh or powdered ginger (for a little spice)
  • Organic cacao powder (for a healthy chocolate kick)
  • Green Superfood powder (you can never have too many greens)
  • Cinnamon (for a warm flavor)
  • Fresh aloe (helps with digestion)
  • Collagen powder (helps with the gut, skin, hair and more)

As always, consult with your physician before incorporating any of the supplements above.

2. Consider Purchasing an Air Fryer for Quick, Healthy Vegetable Frying

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If you don’t yet own an air fryer, you don’t know what you are missing.

This past Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an air fryer as a gift from my sister Katie. At first, I thought it might be a fun new appliance that I would tinker with only on occasion. It turns out, though, that I use my air fryer several times a week these days.

Like the name suggests, an air fryer uses air as opposed to oil to fry/cook foods. So, what results is healthy, flavorful fried vegetables. (You can use a smidgen of oil if you prefer in the air fryer, although none is required for most foods.) You can actually cook meats, fish and other foods in the air fryer as well – although I haven’t been that daring yet to test the air fryer with these kind of foods.

I have cooked a number of vegetables (kale, butternut squash cubes, carrots, etc.) and starchy foods (shredded potatoes, sweet potato chunks, etc.) in the air fryer. Most vegetables and potatoes take less than 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer. And the air fryer tray is super easy to clean and maintain.

I typically will put a large portion of vegetables in the air fryer in the evening, eat some with dinner and reserve the rest for lunches I prepare for the next few days. I pair the veggies/potatoes with some form of protein for healthy, nutrient-packed daily lunches.

The best news is that you can snag an air fryer for less than $100. The model I use, pictured, is available at Amazon for $81. Trust me, it will change the way you cook.

3. Substitute Carb-Heavy Sides with Vegetables

When you eat out at restaurants, entrees are most commonly served with sides such as white rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, fries and other heavy foods. These options are definitely comfort foods that you almost expect to see on your plates when eating out. Many folks think of sides in the same way when cooking meals at home. But these carb-heavy sides can make an otherwise healthy meal significantly less healthy very quickly.

On a positive note, many restaurants are offering healthier, less heavy side options that focus more on vegetables and herb ingredients rather than empty carbs. At home, you too can incorporate more tasty vegetable sides into your daily menus. One such substitute is cauliflower rice. Below is a tasty cauliflower rice recipe that incorporates turkey bacon and herbs that will make you forget about white rice (I’m serious).

Savory Cauliflower Rice with Turkey Bacon, Herbs and Balsamic Vinegar

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If orange is the new black, than cauliflower rice is the new kale. Cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days – even on the menus of fancy restaurants. For the longest time, you could only find riced cauliflower in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Nowadays, even Walmart carries frozen cauliflower rice. And it is very affordable in all stores.

Back on Christmas day, I wanted to make a new, healthy vegetable side recipe to accompany the usual Christmas sides. So, I devised the recipe below. It is a very flexible recipe so you can use the herbs and seasonings that you have on hand at home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 strips of uncured turkey bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (if fresh cauliflower rice is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Fresh herbs (In the past, I have used a couple of fresh basil leaves or some fresh rosemary. Use what you have on hand.)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over medium heat, add saucepan with 1 tablespoon oil to stove.
  2. Stir in two cups of cauliflower rice (if using frozen cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water; if using fresh cauliflower rice, add 1/4 cup of water).
  3. Add balsamic vinegar to sauce pan. Add thyme, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rosemary. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir regularly
  4. On a separate pan, cook two strips of turkey bacon until crisp. Add pieces of bacon to the cauliflower rice.
  5. Continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes and stir often – until cauliflower rice is tender.
  6. Add additional seasoning to your taste preferences

Enjoy and Happy Super Bowl!

 

Start Your Day with a Healthy Protein Punch – Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie

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Breakfast truly does set the tone for the day. In fact, many nutritional experts agree that it is the most important daily meal. With that being said, breakfast is probably the easiest meal to veer off the healthy eating course.

And it is not difficult to do so! Think about it; many common breakfast foods like cereals, pancakes, muffins, granola bars, tarts and even most yogurts are loaded with sugar and other garbage. Eating these foods at breakfast sets you up for a day of blood sugar spikes and potential crashes by mid-day. This is the last thing we need during our busy days!

A Healthy Way to Start Your Day

There are much better ways to start your day. Why not add some healthy protein power to your mornings? Below is my Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie recipe that is not only protein-packed (which will keep you full until lunch) but is healthy, features no added sugar and tastes like a decadent dessert.

It’s called Almond Butter Cup because it tastes similar to the popular peanut butter cup candy – except the recipe features almond butter instead of peanut butter. (Almond butter is much healthier than peanut butter for reasons described in my earlier blog post here.)

Chocolate plant-based protein powder serves as the base ingredient of this recipe. Taste is subjective; so, find a protein powder that tastes great to your palate. Also, look for one without any added sugar and unnatural ingredients. (I also make sure any protein powder I purchase is gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.) Below are some protein powders that I recommend:

Rebuild Protein Powder – Chocolate

Orgain Plant-Based Protein – Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Sunwarrior – Warrior Raw, Plant-based Protein – Chocolate

Bulletproof Chocolate Collagen

Almond Butter Cup Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk or almond milk/cashew milk combination
  • 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based protein powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cacao powder (make sure it does not contain added sugars; I use this one.)
  • 1 handful of spinach (or you may use a scoop of green powder if you prefer)
  • 1 handful of shredded carrots
  • 8 frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (or you may use one small banana instead)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter (pick one without unhealthy or unnecessary added ingredients. Click here for guidance in selecting healthy nut butters.)
  • A pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

The instructions couldn’t be any easier. Just place all ingredients in your blender and blend away. A few seconds later, you will have a rich, creamy and protein-packed smoothie that keep you full for hours.

A Tasty Staple in Any Morning Routine

This is one protein smoothie that I can’t get enough of each morning. I literally wake up looking forward to making this tasty treat every day. This smoothie satisfies salty, chocolate and sweet cravings at once – which is rare for a beverage or food. Plus it is not only loaded with plant-based protein, it includes a one-two punch of vitamins and fiber. It’s a must try for anyone who loves peanut butter cup candies!

Say What? Affordable Organic and Healthy Food Options at Aldi

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It seems like Aldi is kind of hip now. Last weekend, one of the largest newspapers in NYC, the New York Daily News, featured an article called, “8 reasons why you should shop at Aldi.”

While I hadn’t shopped at an Aldi store in a few months, the article convinced me that I needed to hop in my car and head back there ASAP. In fact, I literally drove to my nearest Aldi within a few hours of reading the article. And I’m glad that I did! Upon perusing the Aldi aisles, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw all of the new organic and healthy food options – at beyond amazing prices. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

The Aldi Experience

For those of you who are not familiar with Aldi, it is a “no-frills” German supermarket chain that seems to be popping up everywhere. In fact, at least 10 stores are now open within 10 miles of my home. Go back a few years, and maybe there were only two stores in my area. You can even find an Aldi in Manhattan! Beyond my immediate area, Aldi stores seem to be expanding in most U.S. states and throughout Europe.

The author of the Daily News article says it best when he described Aldi as the “Jan Brady of supermarkets.” When you first enter an Aldi store, you kind of have to get used to the “no-frills” concept of the chain. You are not going to see the beautiful produce displays and neatly stocked shelves of supermarkets like Whole Foods, Fairway or Trader Joes. In fact, most items are haphazardly placed in cardboard boxes or containers at Aldi.

Aldi has some interesting quirks. Shoppers must insert a quarter to gain use of an Aldi shopping cart. (You get the quarter back upon returning the shopping cart, though.) Also, the store charges for all plastic shopping bags. This policy, though, encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags (which I remember to bring with me most of the time).

Aldi stores also carry mostly unique brands. They offer several brand lines that you can only find at Aldi stores, such as Simply Nature (natural and organic products), Fit & Active (food and beverages for healthy lifestyles), liveGfree (gluten-free line), Friendly Farms (dairy and dairy alternatives), Never Any! (meat without antibiotics, hormones or by-products), Little Salad Bar (vegetables/salad items) and more. Aldi stores also carry a limited and rotating stock of name brand items found at traditional supermarkets.

While kind of odd for a supermarket, these unique policies, unstructured looking aisles and limited brand options help Aldi keep overhead low. For example, they don’t need to hire as many employees for stocking shelves and no employees are needed for parking lot cart retrieval. The money they save on overhead translates into better prices for us consumers!

The “New” Aldi

Aldi had somewhat of an undeserved bad rap a few years ago. Back then, Aldi’s brand game wasn’t as strong and their shelves featured less healthy options. However, most notably there seemed to be somewhat of a stigma associated with shopping at Aldi a few year back. I remember shopping at an Aldi store in 2012 and overhearing a conversation between two neighbors who ran into each other unexpectedly at the store. Both ladies were acting somewhat embarrassed to be “caught” shopping at Aldi and were overtly making excuses as to why they weren’t shopping at the “regular” supermarket instead. Their exchange was almost humorous.

Back then, Aldi stores were not very crowded. Fast forward a few years later and Aldi stores are now super popular. Parking lots are jam-packed and the aisles are crammed with frugal-minded shoppers. Shopping at Aldi definitely seems more mainstream today.

Aldi’s low prices (especially when standard supermarket prices continue to rise) along with the expansion of healthy and organic food options continue to attract new shoppers and keep returning customers like me satisfied. As we all know, it’s very expensive to eat mostly organic and healthy foods – so Aldi’s incredibly low prices make healthy eating more accessible for everyone.

And there are so many great finds available at Aldi now! I am excited to share some of the organic and healthy items purchased at my recent Aldi shopping run:

Organic Arugula

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Arugula, which is hands down my favorite kind of salad green vegetable, is only $2.49 at my Aldi store. And it’s organic! Most supermarkets seem to offer organic arugula (with the exception of rare sales) at a price point of $3.99 or greater. My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Spinach

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Spinach is my go-to green veggie for juicing and smoothies. Organic baby spinach at Aldi is only $2.49 (compared to over $3.99 at standard supermarkets). My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Frozen Blueberries

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Blueberries are packed with antioxidants. Frozen organic blueberries are a regular staple item in my freezer. While packages at standard supermarkets could cost you around $4.99, Aldi sells frozen organic blueberries for only $2.79. My savings: around $2.20.

Organic, Antibiotic Free Chicken Breast

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This one is a total steal. It is hard to find affordable organic chicken at grocery stores. While some chicken will be marketed as antibiotic-free, the chicken will often not be organic. Aldi sells organic, antibiotic-free chicken breasts for an incredibly low price. The large chicken breast that I purchased (enough for two full servings) was only $5.33. I have been unable to find anything similar in standard supermarkets for under $10. My savings: approximately $5.

Organic Baby Carrots

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Baby carrots are fabulous in the juicer, in smoothies and are the perfect afternoon or anytime snack. Aldi sells a 16 ounce bag of organic carrots for $1.89. Compare this to $2.49 at a nearby standard supermarket, and I saved 60 cents by shopping at Aldi. Below is a juice that I made with these carrots:

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Pure Coconut Water

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Stores like Whole Foods sell pure coconut water for about $3.99 a pop. (Pure coconut waters need to be refrigerated and aren’t as widely available compared to the shelf stable coconut waters.) Trader Joes offers a great deal for pure coconut water for $2.99 a bottle; however, Aldi offers even a better deal at $2.29 per bottle! That is a saving of at least 70 cents per bottle. Needless to say, I stocked up on these coconut waters during my last Aldi shopping trip.

Unsweetened Almond Milk

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I love almond milk. The unsweetened almond milk varieties are a must for my smoothies and protein shakes. I can’t believe that unsweetened almond milk is only $2.29 at Aldi! The brand I typically buy at other supermarkets is at least $3.29. My savings: $1 or more. Note: They also sell coconut milk at Aldi, but I didn’t see any unsweetened varieties available.

Other Sweet Deals at Aldi

  • Slivered Almonds $2.99 – These almonds are usually very expensive at standard supermarkets. I am talking at least $5.99 at other stores. I use these almonds in many recipes including my carrot slaw and Asian salad recipes.
  • Bag of Lemons $3.29 – I use lemons often in hot water and to dress my salads. Lemons can be pricey at regular supermarkets. This Aldi bag featured a whole lot of lemons at a great price!
  • (Whole) Pineapple $1.99 – Wow! The cheapest price I have found outside of Aldi for a whole pineapple is $2.99.
  • 24 Pack of Spring Water $2.49 – I love the taste of Aldi spring water and the water comes in BPA free plastic containers. As an added bonus, the water bottles are made of recycled plastic.

A Word of Caution

While I have focused on the healthy food and beverage items that I have purchased, keep in mind that Aldi also carries a lot of junk and heavily processed foods also at great prices. Just like any supermarket, these not-so-healthy foods are definitely abundant at Aldi. I encourage all shoppers to carefully read labels of products before purchasing them. I tend to stick to certain Aldi brands, such as Simply Nature, Friendly Farms (for unsweetened almond milk only), Little Salad Bar, etc. to ensure that I am selecting only healthy and/or organic items.

Keeping Aldi in Mind for Future Shopping Sprees

While I can’t rely on Aldi for everything on my shopping list, it is a fantastic spot to save money on the healthy items above and more. I’m definitely going to try to shop there more often! Aldi is also a great store to shop at for large parties or holiday meals – which can often set you back hundreds of dollars at other stores. You can definitely save a bank load of money on key staples and ingredients at Aldi compared to traditional supermarkets.

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Some of the fabulous organic and healthy food finds that I picked up at Aldi.

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Eating Healthy During Chaotic Times and a Simple Carrot Slaw Recipe

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This week got the best of me! It was likely the sweltering heat, the multiple deadlines at work, the mid-week concert in Central Park, the dinner celebration for a family member and the general running around like a headless chicken that all contributed to me feeling more exhausted than usual by the end of this week. I haven’t welcomed a weekend with the enthusiasm as I did today in a very long time.

We’ve all had those weeks! For some reason, these action-packed and exhausting weeks tend to happen most often in the balmy summer months. It must be something in our blood that makes us want to spend as much time outdoors as possible in the summer and fill our calendars during these months to the max.

During these frenzied weeks, the last place most of us want to be is spending hours in our kitchens preparing meals. For some, increased stress and crazy schedules are the perfect excuse to veer off the healthy eating path. This doesn’t have to be the case, though! Plenty of quick, easy and most importantly diet compliant options are available even when time is of the essence.

My Healthy Eating Tips for Hectic Weeks

Unfortunately, most of the convenience foods that do not take long to make tend to be the most unhealthy for us (TV dinners, prepared foods from stores, etc.). And hectic weeks seem to give some of us an excuse to hop in the car and head straight to fast food joints for our meals. Don’t be tempted, though!  During the weeks when I am running around like a mad woman, I try to keep the following healthy items stocked in my kitchen instead of any unhealthy “convenience” foods:

  • Natural and Organic Rotisserie Chicken (from a local store)
  • Ground turkey or chicken (for a simple stir fry, burgers or meatballs)
  • Eggs (for quick and easy scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach, arugula, carrots and other salad fixings
  • Plenty of fruit (for snacking and smoothies)
  • Nut butters (click here for information about how to find healthy nut butters)
  • Dairy-free and gluten-free protein powder
  • Rxbars

Also Keep Simple Recipes Handy for Snappy Cooking

During crazy weeks, I also rely on my quick and easy recipes that encourage the use of only a few staple ingredients and pre-diced or cut vegetables (which cuts down food prep time immensely). I have shared some of these speedy recipes in previous blog posts, including:

Beyond my recipes, there are many fast and delicious recipes that you can browse in other blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and food-related websites. Keep them simple, though. I recommend focusing on recipes with only a few ingredients that can be made in under a half hour. Any more elaborate recipes just lead to more stress and post-cooking clean-up – which is the last thing we need when we are frenzied. Save the fancy recipes for quieter weeks.

Before I go put my feet up, slap on a facial mask and officially kiss this crazy work week goodbye, I wanted to share one more quick and easy dish: Carrot Slaw. This colorful dish is fabulous as a side dish or you can add grilled chicken for a full-on entrée.

Recipe: Carrot Slaw

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This recipe is so incredibly simple! This dish will literally be ready in about ten minutes, including prep time. This recipe below yields 2 servings.

Kitchen Items You Will Need:

  • Frying pan/skillet
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons oil (olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil or coconut oil all work well with this recipe)
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots (I recommend buying the pre-shredded carrots available at most grocery stores.)
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds (unsalted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Some fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley (optional)
  • A pinch of sea salt (I use fine sea salt for this recipe.)
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Set the stove heat to medium.
  2. Add the oil to the skillet/frying pan.
  3. Pour in the carrots followed by the slivered almonds.
  4. Add the cayenne pepper, dried thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  5. Mix all ingredients well until all carrots and almonds are coated in oil.
  6. Add the fresh herbs if applicable.
  7. Stirring regularly, cook on medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes (or until you begin to see a bit of brown on the carrots).
  8. Serve as a side or add grilled chicken if preferred.

Enjoy! And Happy Weekend!

 

Recipes: Chipotle Chicken Meatballs With Crunch and Easy Asian Salad

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It’s summertime! The season of barbecues, swimming, vacations, mesmerizing sunsets, boat rides and lounging at the beach. If you’re anything like me, you try to spend as much time as possible outdoors during these spectacular warmer months.

The last place that most of us want to be when it is so beautiful outside is slogging away in our kitchens preparing complicated dinners. Summer dinner prep should be simple and require minimum fuss. Some of my favorite dinners to prepare during the warmer months require almost no thought and just a few easy steps.

While I confess that most of my favorite recipes for the summer months require the use of an outdoor grill, I also have a few tasty and simple “indoor” recipes for days that we need a break from the grill.

Today, I am sharing one of my recent favorite concoctions: Chipotle Chicken Meatballs with Crunch paired with an Easy Asian Salad. These two recipes are a perfect pairing of spicy and slightly sweet. The food is incredibly quick to make, super healthy and scrumptious! Best yet, the recipes take practically no time at all to prepare – so you can get yourself back outside to enjoy the glorious warm weather!

Chipotle Chicken Meatballs With Crunch

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This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo and Low-FODMAP diet friendly.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cup and measuring spoons
  • Chopper or knife (if not buying pre-chopped celery)
  • Baking dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of ground chicken (14 oz. – 20 oz.)
  • 1 cup of chopped celery or red peppers (If you are following a strict Low FODMAP diet, use the red peppers instead of celery. Feel free to substitute with onions if you are not following a Low-FODMAP diet)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of ground chipotle seasoning (feel free to substitute chipotle for any other spicy seasonings in your pantry) Note: I like my food moderately spicy; use less or more depending on your tolerance for spiciness.
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Oil to coat the baking dish and 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the meatballs

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the oil of your choice (I typically use avocado oil but check out this article for some other ideas: The Best Oils for High Heat Cooking).
  3. Add the ground chicken to the large mixing bowl.
  4. Pour in the 1 cup of chopped celery. (To save time, I buy pre-chopped celery at the store but you can also use a food chopper or knife to finely chop the celery.)
  5. Add the cinnamon, chipotle seasoning, black pepper and salt.
  6. Mix all of the ingredients with your hands.
  7. Form meatballs and place them in the coated baking dish. (The recipe makes 12-15 medium to large meatballs.)
  8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the meatballs. (For extra zing, sprinkle a little extra chipotle seasoning over the meatballs.)
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove and serve … and pair it with Easy Asian Salad below.

If you are someone who is obsessed with grilling just about everything during the summer months, do not fear; instead of forming meatballs, you could always make chicken patties with this recipe and pop them on the grill!

Easy Asian Salad

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This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo and Low-FODMAP diet friendly.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:

  • Salad Bowl
  • Measuring Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bag/container of mixed greens (organic preferred) Note: If you are cooking for 3 or more, double this recipe.
  • 1/4 cup of mandarin oranges (in water not syrup)
  • 1/4 cup of blanched slivered blanched almonds (purchase a bag with no added ingredients or salt; if you can’t find a bag at your regular grocery store, they also sell these online at retailers like amazon.com.)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery (use red peppers instead if you are following a strict Low FODMAPS diet)
  • (If you are not on a Low-FODMAP diet, add 1/4 cup of green or white onions)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Healthy salad dressing of your choice (I use olive oil and fresh lemon)

Instructions:

  1. Empty 1/2 bag or container of mixed greens in a salad bowl.
  2. Add the chopped celery and slivered blanched almonds to the bowl.
  3. Mix the salad
  4. Sprinkle the black pepper over the salad
  5. Drain the water from the can of mandarin oranges. Add the oranges to the top of the salad.
  6. Dress conservatively with the dressing of your choice.

Enjoy!

 

 

Recipe: Delicious and Easy Ground Turkey Italiano

Lately, it is almost impossible to get through an entire day without seeing at least one advertisement for the many meal kit home delivery services available these days. Companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated are spending a pretty penny on advertising their meal kits in every communications channel possible.

We’ve all seen the B list celebrities on Instagram (who are clearly getting paid ridiculous endorsement cash) post pictures while gloriously preparing one of these meal kits. Naturally, these celebrities are typically wearing a full face of makeup and freshly blown out hair – which is how all of us look while we cook. Right?

While I confess that I have never ordered meal kit delivery from any of these companies (mostly due to my dietary restrictions), I know several people who have given these kits a try. While there is no argument here that these meal kits are generally very healthy and can offer a fun family activity on occasion, I have also heard quite a few complaints. For starters, the meal kits can be fairly expensive. Although cheaper than a lovely meal at a fancy restaurant, the meal kits will definitely make your wallet a lot leaner if you order them regularly.

I’ve also heard rumblings that these kits require a considerable amount of preparation time. And some recipes might be more complicated than others to prepare. Sadly, none of the chefs that star in these companies’ commercials come in the box to help you get the dinner on the table.

Lastly, and probably most applicable to me, many of these kits do not work for people who have multiple food allergies and restrictions. You might be able to find one that is gluten-free but not Paleo. Or soy-free but not Low FODMAP friendly. So, I have to permanently pass on these meal kits and go with plan B.

Plan B: A Quick and Easy Meal With Simple Ingredients

While I can’t purchase the meal kits, I love the idea behind them. These kits provide families and individuals the opportunity to cook meals that are a million times healthier than fast food, take-out, processed foods and TV dinners.

If you have the extra cash, the time and a relatively normal diet, by all means order away! If you don’t, no need to fret. There are plenty of other meal options that are much more inexpensive, safe for most food allergies/restricted diets and take no time at all to prepare! In fact, I have a few recipes like this that are in my regular rotation. Below is my first in a series of simple and healthy recipes that I am thrilled to share with you and your family.

Ground Turkey Italiano Recipe

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I’d like to be able to sit here and tell you that I spent a long time dreaming up this recipe, but that is far from the truth. In reality, this recipe came to life in a matter of minutes. Basically, I was hungry and running low on groceries. As many of you can relate, I simply relied on what I had in stock in my kitchen. To my amazement, this recipe turned out to be a pretty tasty concoction. In fact, I have made versions of this recipe dozens of times. It is a top request of family members.

What You’ll Need:

Slow cooker (crock pot), large mixing spoon, food chopper (optional)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 20 oz. package of ground turkey
  2. 2 cups of tomato sauce (If you are following a Low FODMAP diet, it is often difficult to find a jar of tomato sauce without onions or garlic. For Low-FODMAP diet followers, purchase a 14.5 ounce can of plain tomato sauce (preferably organic). Open the jar and pour the contents in a mixing bowl. Add an ounce and a half of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add dried basil, oregano, salt pepper and any other seasonings that you prefer. If you are not following a Low-FODMAP diet, purchase a 16 oz.jar of tomato basil sauce (preferably organic). Make sure the sauce does not include added sugar.
  3. 1/2 cup of chopped celery or red peppers (Use red peppers instead of celery if you are following a strict Low FODMAPS diet. If you are not following a Low FODMAP diet, feel free to substitute the celery or peppers with onions. Also, if you are looking to cut down time, purchase pre-chopped celery or red peppers from the store. You can use the rest of the celery or red peppers in your omelette, salad or other recipes. Otherwise, a food chopper would save you some chopping time.)
  4. 3/4 cup of shredded carrots (I typically purchase shredded carrots in a bag at the grocery store. You can also substitute shredded carrots for diced carrots.)
  5. 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  6. 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  7. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  8. 3 cups of arugula or mixed greens (raw or cooked)

Instructions:

  1. Add the 20 oz. package of ground turkey to your slow cooker. (If you prefer, you can lightly brown the ground turkey on the stove before adding the turkey to the slow cooker.)
  2. Pour the two cups of tomato sauce on top of the turkey.
  3. Next, add the 1/2 cup chopped celery (or onions)
  4. Add the 3/4 cups of shredded or diced carrots to the slow cooker
  5. The last ingredients are the seasonings. Add 2 teaspoons of basil, 2 teaspoons of oregano and sea salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Mix the ingredients together.
  7. Set the slow cooker to the 8-10 hour setting if you plan to cook the meal in the morning to serve at dinner time. Stir regularly if you will be home while the meal is cooking. (If you want to start the meal in the evening, set the slow cooker to the highest setting. The dish will be ready to serve in about two hours.)
  8. Serve over raw or sautéed arugula or mixed greens.

Or simply watch this video:

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Bit Nutty What’s In Most Nut Butters

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Yesterday while food shopping at my favorite grocery store, I spent at least 15 minutes reading label after label of the various nut butters stocked on the shelves. (I know; I totally need to get a life!) I thought it would be quick and easy to find some new and nutritious nut butters to add to my regular dietary line-up. After all, I was shopping in the “healthy” foods section of the store.

Boy, was I wrong, though! What I found instead was some sneaky and unhealthy ingredients being added to these “healthy” nut butters.

A Good Nut Butter is Hard to Find

Nut butters are one of my favorite sources of protein from a non-animal source. Because I am an omnivore, I like to diversify my protein sources as much as possible. While I avoid peanut butter (for reasons I describe below), a broad selection of other nut butter options are readily available in most supermarkets and health food stores these days.

My typical poison, or so to speak, when it comes to nut butters is almond butter. I always have almond butter stocked up and ready to eat in my kitchen. It’s a great go-to afternoon snack on its own, fabulous in smoothies and just delightful paired with fruit.

I have been purchasing the same brand of almond butter for several years: Woodstock Natural Almond Butter. It’s one of the few almond butters available in regular supermarkets without any troubling added ingredients. On the plus side, this brand is 100% natural (almonds are literally the only ingredient). The down side is that it is a bit pricey (close to $13 a pop). In fact, the only other nut butters without additives I found at the well-stocked supermarket last night were even more expensive ($15 and up!).

Additives We Just Don’t Need

Why Added Sugar?

Almost nothing annoys me more than when manufacturers add sugar to products that really don’t need sugar. Most of the cheaper nut butter jars and even some more expensive options at the supermarket I shopped at last night contained added sugar. And I studied all of the different varieties (e.g., almond, cashew, hazelnut, brazil, walnut) on the shelves. Seeing cane sugar pop up time and time again in many nut butters just left me shaking my head and wondering why extra sugar is needed in nut butters at all? We all get enough sugar in our diets; so, the last thing we need is sugar in hidden sources.

Palm: The Unnecessary Nut Butter Oil

Another troubling additive that I found in a lot of nut butters is palm oil. It turns out, palm oil is one controversial oil. It is not only super high in saturated fat; the palm oil industry is linked to some pretty serious environmental issues.

Palm oil is derived from the palm oil fruit, which is grown on trees in palm oil plantations (typically in Indonesia and Malaysia). Since palm oil is used in many food and products beyond nut butters, the demand for palm oil continue to grow. As a result, farmers are clearing out rainforests and other forest lands to expand palm oil plantations. This expansive deforestation has been linked to reduced biodiversity and increased greenhouse gas emissions – which of course is linked to climate change.

Regardless of the environmental implications, palm oil is absolutely unnecessary in nut butters. The 100% natural, one ingredient nut butters taste amazing without this oil; so why add it in the first place?

Skipping the Peanut Butter All Together

One “nut” butter I will never drop in my shopping cart is peanut butter. (I put nut in quotations because the peanut is not technically a nut; it is a legume.) Even though peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple growing up, I’ve since learned that peanut butter consumption can be harmful to our health.

Peanuts contain toxic molds, too much Omega 6 fats which can cause inflammation and often have high levels of pesticides. Some even have trans fats due to added vegetable oil. See the articles below for more information about the dangers of regular peanut butter consumption:

Hidden Dangers of Peanut Butter

Reasons You Should Not Eat Peanut Butter

Why I Gave Up Peanut Butter?

Finding Healthy Nut Butters Online

If, like me, you run into trouble finding a good selection of natural and healthy nut butters at your regular grocery stores, online stores are another option. In fact, sometimes you can snag even better prices online on amazon.com, vitacost.com or via Thrive Market. Here are a few excellent online options:

A Final Option: Make Nut Butter Yourself

One last option is to make your own nut butters at home. I have yet to make nut butter but plan to give it the old college try in the future. If you want to try to make your own nut butters, check out sites like Pinterest and YouTube for some guidance from experts!

Say Sayonara to Soda and Hello to Better Options!

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It’s no secret to anyone I know; I am no fan of sugary or fake sugary (diet) sodas. In fact, my family members, friends and twitter followers are likely growing weary of my regular tweeting and lecturing on the topic.

I gave up sugary and diet sodas about 10 years ago. The truth of the matter is that soda and I were growing apart for a long time before that. My initial “a-ha” moment about the potential dangers of soda came to me when I was just out of college. While at my first post-college job, I received a forwarded chain message about 50 unknown uses for Coca Cola. (Remember those forwarded chain emails that people would clog your email with 24/7; thankfully, that trend fizzled.)

I don’t remember who sent me the email about the uses of Coca Cola, but the more I scrolled through the list, the more mortified I became. Coca Cola was not only the refreshing beverage that I had come to know and love – it included chemicals that were capable of bleaching a toilet, removing oil stains from a garage floor, dissolving a tooth, stripping paint off metal furniture and more. Ick! In case you’re curious, here’s a similar list:

50+ Uses for Coca Cola

A Slow Goodbye

You would think that forwarded email would be enough to end my relationship with Coca Cola (and soda in general) once and for all; but it was not. Soda was a tough habit to break. It took a few more years and lots more articles and research on the topic before I said goodbye for (mostly) good.

I haven’t really thought about soda much in the last 10 years. On a few EXTREMELY rare occasions, mostly at parties or when it was the only option available wherever I was, I have splurged and sipped on a glass of Sprite or Ginger Ale. Soda is just not worth my time or energy overall any more, though. I have become content with the many other safer and healthier beverage choices out there. (See some healthier options below.)

Soda is Not Just Unhealthy…It’s Dangerous

Scientists and physicians have long studied the effects of regular soda consumption. For years, we were warned about the high sugar content of regular soda and the dangers of the artificial sweeteners in diet soda. Soda has been linked to everything from obesity to diabetes. Some of the latest research is even more troubling, linking soda consumption to higher rates of stroke, tooth decay and reduced bone density.

Consider the soda facts and research: It’s downright shocking that one 12 oz. can of Coca Cola includes almost 40g of sugar!  A 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew contains 77g of sugar. Diet soda is often branded as the healthier soda option. While diet soda does not contain sugar, the artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain and increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, large waist circumference and elevated glucose). Check out the research for yourself: 

Stop Drinking Soda

Risks of Diet Soda

Soft Drinks and Disease

Not to Fret…Better Options Are Here

Nobody can deny that soda provides the ultimate thirst refreshment; however, I’ve found a few fizzy beverage options that come pretty darn close to a satisfying glass of soda but without the health red flags. Here goes:

1)      Plain Old Seltzer or Mineral Water

It may be the obvious substitute but chilled seltzer or mineral water is almost as refreshing as soda – without the sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you are buying seltzer from a store, just make sure you steer clear of the options with added flavors or other additives. If you want to make your own seltzer, SodaStream is a great option; just avoid any of the SodaStream flavorings which are riddled with sugar or sweeteners.

2)      Seltzer with a Twist

My sister enlightened me to the art of doctoring up a seltzer. Here are a few things that you can add to seltzer to immediately up the flavor ante:

  • Fresh lemon or lime juice (or both)
  • Cucumber slices
  • Fresh ginger slices
  • A half teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
  • Sliced strawberries, raspberries and grapes… in fact, why not make a pitcher of seltzer and make a seltzer sangria!

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3)      Sparkling Kombucha

Kombucha, which is fermented tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria, is an acquired taste for some. I’ve heard it compared to skunked beer, vinegar and much worse (if you could imagine). I actually found a sparkling kombucha that is mild and refreshing: Raw & Organic Live Kombucha – Sparkling Ginger. It’s much healthier than soda (about ¼ of the sugar) and contains billions of live probiotics in one bottle. Plus, the founder’s personal story is inspiring – as he was on a quest to create a healthy and tasty kombucha following the death of his sister to cancer. If you have shied away from kombucha in the past, give this one a try.

4)      Sparkling Herbal Tea

Make your regular tea a bit more exciting by adding some sparkling water. Simply brew your favorite herbal tea (my favorites include ginger, chamomile and mint), chill and add sparkling water. Enjoy!