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Monday
Feb022015

Want a Healthier Chip? Try Simply 7

Is there such a thing as a healthy chip? There are a lot of “healthier” chips out there, but often that means less fat and calories, not necessarily a more nutrient-rich food. Simply 7 Snacks showcases 7 standards, aiming to create a gluten-free product with no trans fats, cholesterol, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and using simple ingredients with all natural recipes to produce “simply delicious” chips. Although all natural doesn’t technically mean anything, Simply 7 defines this term as using ingredients that are closer to their original form (i.e., less processed).

That all sounded just fine to me so Simply 7 sent over a big box of their chips to taste-test, which included quinoa, lentil and hummus chips (4 flavors of each type). Geez, it was definitely what you'd call snack heaven!

My downfall with snacks, especially the salty-crispy-savory kind, is that I can’t stop munching...until my fingers hit the bottom of the package. They’re never filling so it’s easy for me to keep going. So I rarely keep these types of snacks in the house. This weakness of mine is the one and only negative I’ll place on Simply 7 Chips. But that’s entirely my fault of no self-control, so here’s my more objective nutritionist view:

Ingredients:  Simply 7 Chips do contain real quinoa, lentils and chickpeas but in flour form, along with other starches like potato starch, rice and corn flour. Because these flours are stripped of natural fibers, the chips are not a good source of dietary fiber (<1 gram per serving). Expeller pressed safflower oil is used in all the chips. I looked up “expeller pressed,” which means the oil is extracted from the safflower seed through basic mechanical force rather than with use of chemicals (therefore felt to be healthier); read more about that here. Various spices and sea salt are the other common ingredients. Depending on the flavor, you'll see other ingredients but as Simply 7 promises on its website, they are recognizable.

Nutrition:  The chips have no artery clogging trans fats or cholesterol, and are low in saturated fat (≤0.5 grams) and carbohydrates (12-18 grams per serving). All varieties contain about 130 calories and 5 grams fat per 1-ounce serving; the lentil chips are smaller so you get about 30 chips per ounce in comparison with 20 chips with the quinoa (with classic potato chips, you'd be eating twice the fat at half the portion size). The big bonus with the quinoa chips is 9 grams of protein per serving. Considering I’d eat at least two servings, that’s a nice boost of protein from a snack. They’re not low in sodium ranging from 260-420 mg; something to keep in mind if you're prone to bloat!

My childhood snack of pastel deep fried shrimp chips. Photo source: Kirbie's Cravings. Click on the image to see the blog post.Flavor:  Overall they tasted great! The texture reminded me of the Asian shrimp chips I grew up with—minus all the grease. These chips were satisfyingly crunchy and zesty but not at all oily. The Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Sour Cream Quinoa tied for my favorite flavor. Close second was the Cheddar Quinoa. The best basic no-frills chip was the Sea Salt Quinoa with just a hint of salty flavor though it was actually lower in sodium than the other varieties, at 260 mg.

Bottom Line:  Since the flavor of the quinoa vs. lentil vs. hummus did not differ greatly, I’d choose the quinoa for its protein value. But back to my one negative, my weakness of portion control…each bag is only 3.5 to 4 ounces, meaning there are 3.5 to 4 servings per bag. As I would easily eat at least two servings and the retail price is $3.69 a bag, it’s not likely I’d add these to my weekly shopping list. However, these would definitely be my go-to chip if I had a salty snack craving. They taste great even if healthy is not your focus. If you can control the portions (or don’t care about that), then absolutely check these out. You can get them discounted on Amazon when you buy in bulk.

1-ounce servings of the hummus and lentil chips

Disclosure: I received a shipment of Simply 7 Chips to help facilitate this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Monday
Jan262015

How To Unbreak Those Broken Resolutions

Still working on this one...Meta asked me to share a post on broken resolutions, because it’s something we can all relate to. I've had a few: do at least 15 minutes of yoga daily, eat more greens, get to bed earlier. But my main broken resolution is one I’ve been working on for three years now! Less screen time. I wrote a post about my attempt to limit it in 2012. At the time it felt like screen time was interfering with potential time spent with family/friends, reading books (the kind with paper pages) or just getting out of the house.

I think it’s been hard to meet this goal because almost everything I do (for work and play) involves a device. It’s not an excuse, really. But because of that I’ve realized the need to modify the goal, and hopefully that will make this year a success. I’ll get back to my strategies for that later.

The other part of this post I wanted to share was how I help my clients with their weight loss or nutrition goals. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that work better than others to keep them on track:

  1. Create no more than 1-2 resolutions because you need to put your full energy and focus into the goal. Try to choose a resolution you are dedicated and passionate to change, because you'll need a high level of motivation to keep going when one or two months pass and the passion cools. Make sure it’s you (and not your doctor, significant other, mother) who is fueling your resolution.
  2. Jillian Michaels asks, “What is your why? Outline and define it.” Dig deeper and ask why you want to make the change. If it’s personal and specific (“I want more energy with my kids,” “I want to sleep better at night”) instead of vague (“I’m supposed to do this”), you’re more likely to stick with it.
  3. Make the resolution measurable, realistic and with a time stamp. Instead of saying "I want to lose a lot of weight!" say "I plan to lose 15 pounds in 3 months because I know I can lose 1 pound a week.” Meta likes to call this idea of making small changes that can lead to good things the "Meta Effect."
  4. Write down the resolution and display it in a visible place, like on your refrigerator, screensaver, bathroom mirror, or car dashboard as a nagging reminder of your commitment. It’s about accountability. You could enlist the help of a trusted friend who checks in with you twice a month, or download an app (any surprise there are at least a dozen New Year’s Resolution apps to help you create, organize and track?). It all depends on how much you want this.
  5. Evaluate your progress once a week, ideally in a quiet moment like on a weekend day, when you can reflect on why you are or are not succeeding with the goal. If you're not making progress, reevaluate your strategy. Don’t feel badly to tweak the goal.

If you’ve tried all the above and still can’t stick with it, maybe you’re not ready for the change. I asked Fen Tung, my fitness contributor, what she does. I figured that with her driven personality, teaching eight exercise classes a week aside from working a full-time job at MIT, she must make and keep all her resolutions! She surprised me by saying that she stopped resolutions because she always broke them. “It almost made me fail more when I made ‘date goals’ with myself because I wouldn’t meet them, and I’d get really frustrated and depressed. I’d give up and say I’d start next week or next month, but then do nothing for months." Fen now believes that wellness should be a lifestyle with no beginning or end. She takes advantage of each new day to do something healthy. “I stopped making these weird rules about starting goals, but just tried my best each day and didn’t beat myself up.”

As for my screen time, I’m working on a few new things. I’ve realized the need to change my environment. If I want to cut down on screen time but my laptop, iPad, iPhone and HDTV are the first thing I see when I walk into a room, what do you think I’ll reach for? I plan to keep as many devices out of sight as possible so at least I won’t automatically reach for them. A big one is keeping the iPad out of the bedroom; once I start browsing it before bed, I don’t stop and lose out on sleep.

I’ve modified my resolution in that some screen time can be productive and uplifting. The past “failed” years haven’t been a complete waste as I’ve learned to identify necessary screen time vs. surfing that leaves me feeling drained and even depressed. I’m identifying and reaching for the moments when online resources teach or inspire. Interestingly, when this happens I can more easily go offline because I like to ponder those gems of inspiration.

I hope this post fuels ideas for your resolutions! Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments and how you plan to stay on track. For more inspiration, check out this funny video below by Meta about Broken Resolutions Blues, then head over to their Facebook page to share your broken resolutions along with how you plan to start fresh in 2015!

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.

Sunday
Jan112015

Quickest Soup Ever

A few years ago I posted Quickest Meal Ever, out of laziness really. It continues to be a mainstay of my weeknight meals, with a few variations of the protein or vegetable. Because it was such a basic boring recipe, I was surprised by the positive reader response, which makes me realize there are others who share my minimalist cooking techniques, at least during the work week.

I've followed up that recipe with a very fast healthful and yummy soup that I've been eating at least 2-3 times a week, especially since the weather has been freezing! It's a tomato tofu bean broccoli soup that is composed entirely of prepared and frozen items. I know it sounds gross with ingredients you've probably never paired together, but somehow it works!

Ready-prepared ingredients for the soup. I didn't use the Brussels sprouts this time but it's a veggie option.

The base is a low sodium creamy tomato soup from Trader Joe's. If you can't get that, try Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato, which isn't as creamy as Trader Joe's but still works. Frozen broccoli is usually chewy and low in flavor, but its texture is perfect here simmered in the tomato broth. Tofu also can be difficult but again it magically enhances this soup. I'd recommend firm or extra firm tofu, plain or flavored. Today I used a baked sesame seasoned tofu (by the way, I love the Nasoya marinated baked tofus...soo delicious even cold out of the package!). The canned beans are optional but will beef up the fiber, iron, protein and extra heartiness. I didn't need to add any salt or seasonings as the tomato and seasoned tofu infused plenty of zestiness.

If you don't have time to press, season and bake tofu, Nasoya's ready-to-eat baked version tastes fantastic. It even makes a great snack right out of the package.

The ingredients sound strange and it doesn't look that appetizing but I promise it tastes GREAT.

Everything is cooked and ready to serve, so simply heat together and eat! You can use this soup as part of a post-holiday "cleanse" or as a filling vegan lunch or dinner. You can add more vegetables or different proteins as desired, or pair with a handful of lentil chips (my review on these Simply 7 Chips is coming next month!) or even a classic grilled cheese sandwich if you need more hearty. This soup is chock full of potassium, protein, fiber and iron while being low in calories and fat. The vitamin C in the tomato soup improves the absorption of iron from the tofu and beans.

Quickest Soup Ever

(Makes one big bowl or 2 smaller servings)

Ingredients 

1 can Campbell's Healthy Request Soup (with 1 can water added) or 2 cups Trader Joe's Low Sodium Creamy Tomato Soup

2 cups frozen broccoli (or other green vegetable)

4-6 ounces baked marinated tofu, chopped into cubes

1/2 cup black, cannellini or red kidney beans (or your favorite), drained and rinsed

Directions

Bring soup and broccoli to boiling on medium-high heat, and then lower to medium heat. Add chopped tofu and beans into pan and heat through. Stir before serving and enjoy. Yummy even after refrigerating and reheating!