Amy’s Pick

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Peanut Butter

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Peanut butter is a staple in 90% of households in the United States. What could be more American than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Peanuts butter and other nut butters are all a good source of protein; the benefit to choosing a nut butter other than peanut butter is that they offer more vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Look for nut butters without added sugars and salt.

 

Amy’s top picks:

       Any brand, unsweetened and unsalted

       Sunbutter Organic Sunflower Seed butter

       Justin’s Classic Almond or Peanut butter

Grains

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Any whole grain is going to be a better pick than a refined grain so this list may be a bit like splitting hairs (or splitting grains as in this case). That being said, when looking at the nutrients commonly found in grains – fiber, magnesium, B-6, iron, and zinc, there are a few grains that far outshine the others. 

 Amy’s top picks:

      Quinoa

      Buckwheat Groats

      Bulgur

What would be at the bottom, you might ask?  Some of the grains that contain the least amount of nutrients, in decreasing order, are:  couscous, white rice, soba noodles, and corn grits.

Food Bars

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

The grocery store can be confusing and exhausting these days, particularly when straying from the produce department or the health-conscious co-op.  To help navigate the aisles, I’ll give you my pick each week on a different type of food that might be purchased in a standard grocery store.  Keep in mind, a healthy diet is based predominantly on whole, natural foods.  My pick is your best bet among brand-name products, not necessarily the best thing to eat.  Also, review the ingredients list periodically on these foods because brands frequently change their recipes without notification.

Amy’s picks from food bars:

     Larabar

     Kind

     gnu Foods flavor&fiber

Why: Snack bars have evolved into the mainstream in a big way, far beyond their beginning as those flavorless protein bars eaten primarily by serious athletes.  When purchasing snack bars, it is important to first look at the ingredients – do you recognize many of the foods?  Is the bar a mix of whole, real, foods that you could purchase on their own?  Larabars, for example, are made from dried fruits and nuts and thats it.   Whole foods = good choice.  The last on the list, gnu Foods bars, do have some derived ingredients, such as inulin, chicory root, and wheat protein isolates.  The first two are manufactured fibers which aren’t as high on my list as naturally occurring fibers.  However, the overwhelming number of whole foods in the ingredient list compensated and helped this bar eek into third place.  Another thing to consider when purchasing these bars is the purpose of the bar – convenient snack or meal replacement.  The calorie content of food bars varies greatly and some can pack a hefty punch.  Don’t assume that smaller bars mean smaller caloric loads.  General rule of thumb is to keep snacks around 100 calories.  A third thing to consider is the sweeteners used in the bar.  “Yogurt” coatings are generally best to be avoided.  Be aware of the many names sweeteners can take in the ingredient list –  corn sweetener, corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, malt syrup, maltose, maple sugar, molasses, raw sugar, rice syrup, rice dextrins, saccharose, sorghum, sorghum syrup, sucrose, treacle, turbinado sugar, and xylose.  Shew.  That was exhausting.  It may be easier to grab a handful of almonds and call it square.

Crackers

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The grocery store can be confusing and exhausting these days, particularly when straying from the produce department or the health-conscious co-op.  To help navigate the aisles, I’ll give you my pick each week on a different type of food that might be purchased in a standard grocery store.  Keep in mind, a healthy diet is based predominantly on whole, natural foods.  My pick is your best bet among brand-name products, not necessarily the best thing to eat.  Also, review the ingredients list periodically on these foods because brands frequently change their recipes without notification.

Amy’s picks from crackers:

     Wasa Hearty or Whole Grain

     Melba Snacks, Whole Grain variety

     Wild Harvest Organic Stoneground Wheat

     Nabisco Triscuit, Hint of Salt

     Kashi, Heart to Heart

Why: The vast majority of crackers available in your basic grocery store are nutritional duds. To find the best of the worst, compare the sodium, fiber, and trans fat content.  Choose a cracker that is among the lowest in sodium, the highest in fiber, and does not contain “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list.   Keep serving sizes in mind when making comparisons across brands.  You should also look for a whole grain (which provides the fiber among other nutrients) as the first ingredient. Ritz “whole grain” crackers , for example, claim to contain whole grains yet the first ingredient is an enriched fiber (a.k.a. not a whole grain).  

Tub Margarine/Butter

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The grocery store can be confusing and exhausting these days, particularly when straying from the produce department or the health-conscious co-op.  To help navigate the aisles, I’ll give you my pick each week on a different type of food that might be purchased in a standard grocery store.  Keep in mind, a healthy diet is based predominantly on whole, natural foods.  My pick is your best bet among brand-name products, not necessarily the best thing to eat.  Also, review the ingredients list periodically on these foods because brands frequently change their recipes without notification.

Amy’s picks from tub butters/margarines:

      Smart Balance Omega Light, Smart Balance HeartRight Light, and Smart Balance Light

      Olivio Light, and Olivio

      I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Fat Free

      Promise Fat Free, Promise Light, Promise active Light

Why: Tub butters and margarines can wallop you with heart-damaging saturated and trans fats.  So, when choosing a tub spread, you want to pick on one without trans fat and that is low in saturated fat.   The
saturated fat content can be found on the food label. The food label will also report the trans fat content but you can’t rely on this information.  The Food and Drug Administration allows a label to say “0 grams” if it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Read the ingredients list to make sure there isn’t any “partially hydrogenated” oil in the spread.   That is the way to find out if the spread is free from added trans fat.