Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips

Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips

Boy oh boy oh boy.

I’ve come down with a cold – and boy is it no fun!

It must have been all of the fresh air this weekend. Seriously! It sure is funny how that works. I went for a run Saturday and a long walk Sunday, and I swear, my body doesn’t know what’s going on! Or maybe it was that and the ginormous glass of wine I had Sunday night. Whoops! :)

On another note, my package from Vitacost (read why I like it here!) arrived last week:

vitacost These are a few of my favorite things!

I posted about the KIND bars here (and here!). My package also included Justin’s Almond Butter (yum!), Red Mill White Popcorn (double yum!), Annie Chuns Brown Rice Noodles (hellllooo pad thai), and some organic beef jerky. Oh, and my new-all-time-favorite-in-the-whole-wide-world (can you tell I really like them?!) chips: Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips.

OK, so let me tell you about these chips. I discovered them in the Orlando airport at approximately 7:30 a.m. before our flight home. I was looking at the selection of snacks that I could eat for breakfast/lunch and settled on a KIND bar, a banana, and a bag of Beanfields Pico de Gallo chips. Chips for breakfast?! Yes, chips for breakfast. Not my finest moment, but don’t judge. Besides, once you learn more about these chips, you might want to eat them for breakfast yourself (kidding, well…kind of).

I’ll let you in on a (not so secret) secret: I LOVE chips. I really really do. Just ask the fiancé. We can’t keep bags of kettle chips (ok, any chips for that matter!) in the house for very long. Because I deeeevour them. Kettle chips, barbeque chips, chips and salsa. You name the kind of chip, I likely love it. Except for pickle chips. Ewww. I hate pickles = I hate pickle chips. Sorry you pickle lovers, I just can’t. Or any kind of chips that are artificially colored, flavored, or preserved. Cuz that’s just gross, yo.

And as a certified chip lover, I have tried a fair share in my life. Many kinds of regular ‘ol corn tortilla chips, lots of flavors of kettle chips, chips made with whole grains…the list goes on. These, however, are by far my favorite chip for one of my favorite snacks: chips and salsa.

Just gimme a bowl of some good salsa and these chips, and I am one happy camper.

Why do I like Beanfields so much? Here are my top 4 reasons:

1) They are the perfect amount of salty and the right amount of hearty.

2) You would never guess that they are made from rice and beans – they are that good.

3) They contain a good amount of protein and fiber (4 grams each), less fat than regular chips (only 5 grams), and are gluten-free (unlike some other grain chips).

4) Made with black beans, navy beans, and long grain rice (along and a little safflower (or sunflower!) oil and sea salt), these are maybe the most delicious (and healthiest!) chips I have ever tasted.

Did I mention they come in seven flavors?! Boy, am I in trouble. Of the best kind of course. :)

Beanfields Bean and Rice Chips

Chips for breakfast. Mmmm. 

Check them out at http://www.beanfieldssnacks.com and look for them in your local health food or grocery store.

Smart Swap: Parmesan Crisps

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Well, I survived. Not only did I make it through my friend’s bachlorette party weekend, I even managed to make it through relatively gluten-free! We stayed in this amazingly beautiful condo on Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells. It was super nice and just look at this kitchen (but not all the junk we had thrown all over!):

kitchen

And yes, I’ll keep dreaming :)

So anyway, onto the week. On Monday after my first acupuncture session (super bizarre, but pretty cool at the same time!), I picked up some fresh-pressed juice (more to come on that in a future post!) and the bf and I went and grabbed some Mexican at one of our favorite places, Midtown Global Market. I did a posting on it ages ago (click here to check it out!), and to this day it’s still one of our favorite places to find good quality ethnic food. I had a delicious soft-shell crab taco from Sonora Grill and we split a tamale from La Loma Tamales. Mmm mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

tamale This picture does not do this tamale justice!

Wednesday we made Chicken Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps. If you’re a fan of Caesar salad but can’t eat the croutons due to being gluten-free, these are the ticket. Crisp, like bread croutons, and ridiculously easy to make.

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Shred some Parmesan (or whatever your favorite Italian cheese is to use with Caesar salad…Romano, Pecorino, etc.). Place some non-stick parchment or tinfoil on a pan. Place heaping tablespoons of cheese onto pan, spacing out at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until golden brown (time will vary so keep a close eye!). Take out, let cool, and remove from pan carefully to prevent them from breaking.

Taa-daa! And now you have Parmesan crisps. I think I’ve said enough…

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Enjoy!

And until next time, happy clean eating :)

Smart Swap: All-natural “Pop-Tarts”

Nature's Path Toaster Pastries

I grew up on Pop-Tarts. Especially in high school when getting ready was more important than sitting down to eat breakfast (priorities of a teenage girl, I tell ya!). I was always (wait, I’m still always) running late to school, so grabbing a package of cold Pop-Tarts out the door was easy. Brown Sugar Cinnamon was my favorite. Do you know what’s in Pop-Tarts? Here, check it out:

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Oh what’s that you see? Partially hydrogenated oils, artificial color (Red #40 and Blue #1), and high fructose corn syrup? Yep, me too. Disgusting. It sometimes sickens me to think of all the garbage I used to put into my body.

Now-a-days I know better. If I don’t have time to eat before I head out the door, I make my yogurt and granola and eat my banana at school (a pretty typical breakfast for me). The bf, however, recently discovered all-natural “pop-tarts”. Although toaster pastries are in general not the healthiest breakfast, if you or your kiddo is dying for a Pop-Tart, this would be the best all-natural alternative:

Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries – Frosted Berry Strawberry

Ingredients:

Wheat flour*, evaporated cane juice*, evaporated cane juice invert*, palm oil*, apples*, whole wheat flour*, powdered sugar*, corn starch*, vital wheat gluten*, dextrose*, strawberries*, strawberry flavor*, rice starch*, sea salt, leavenings (baking soda, cream of tartar), tapioca starch*, honey*, molasses*, citric acid, rice bran extract*, colored with betalains, paprika extract (from plants), vanilla flavor*, algin, sodium citrate, monocalcium phosphate, whey protein concentrate (milk). *Organic. Contains wheat and dairy.

Nothing artificial here!

Just frosted strawberry goodness. They also have an extra gram of protein, less fat, and less sodium than regular Pop-Tarts.

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Look to find them in your all-natural grocer, co-op, or perhaps even your favorite big box grocery store! You can also order them in bulk here: Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries, Berry Strawberry (Not Frosted), 6-Count Boxes (Pack of 12): Amazon.com: Grocery

Happy clean eating!

Smart Swap: Coconut Oil Popcorn

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Let’s make something clear here, I LOVE LOVE LOVE popcorn. In college, I would eat a bag as a meal (that was before I learned to cook, no judging!). It was cheap and quick. Not to mention almost anyone can heat up a bag of popcorn (although waiting until the perfect moment to take it out before it burns can be tricky!).

And I bought the low-fat stuff, which I assumed at that time was relatively healthy (so wrong!). What’s wrong with that you might ask? Read on…

The big issue is when the popcorn in artificially flavored (as most of the bagged stuff is). Now, those of you who know me know I’m against pretty much all things artificial (especially when it comes to what I am putting in my body!).

The University of Minnesota conducted a study (Go Gophers!) on diacetyl, a chemical in artificial butter flavoring, linking it to respiratory problems and even, gulp, Alzheimer’s. Read more here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57489905-10391704/diacetyl-chemical-in-artificial-butter-popcorn-linked-to-alzheimers-plaque-build-up/

And did you hear about this guy? He got “popcorn lung” from too much of the chemical. Popcorn lung! Who would’ve guessed.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/09/popcorn-lung-lawsuit-nets-7-2m-award/

Artificial ingredients are toxic to our health, and in my opinion should be avoided at all costs. So what’s your other option? To make it yourself! It’s seriously super easy.

I’ve been making mine with coconut oil (I promise it won’t taste like some strange tropical version of popcorn!). I’m not even the biggest fan of coconut, but you seriously can’t taste it. Or maybe you can a little. All I know is it is the most delicious popcorn I’ve ever tasted!

Coconut oil has had a bad rap in the past, probably because it is solid at room temperature (which freaks people out!) and high in saturated fat. However, it’s actually loaded with health benefits. And it’s not like I’m slurping up coconut oil at every chance I get, moderation is key here people :)

For a list of it’s benefits, check out more here:

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil

If it’s good enough for Doctor Oz, it’s good enough for me!

Here’s how you make your own insanely delicious, super clean, popcorn:

Ingredients:
2 TBS. coconut oil (I buy Whole Food’s 365 organic brand)
1/4 cup popcorn kernels (organic preferably)
Salt to taste
 
Instructions:
Take a large pot with lid (I use a 3 quart pot) and place over medium heat on stovetop. Add oil and kernels. Place lid on. As popcorn starts popping, shake pot. When popping slows to a couple of seconds in between, turn heat off and pour popcorn into large serving bowl. Salt to taste (a pinch of sea salt is plenty for me). 
 

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Smart Swap: Coconut Oil Popcorn
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 2-4
 
A delicious, all-natural popcorn made with coconut oil.
Ingredients
  • 2 TBS. coconut oil (I use Whole Food's 365 organic brand)
  • ¼ cup popcorn kernels (organic preferably)
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Take a large pot with lid (I use a 3 quart pot) and place over medium heat. Add oil and kernels. Place lid on. As popcorn starts popping, shake pot. When popping slows to a couple of seconds in between, turn heat off and pour popcorn into large serving bowl. Salt to taste (a pinch of sea salt is plenty for me).

Smart Swap: Baked Wonton Poppers

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I never ever used to like cream cheese wontons. In fact, I never really liked egg rolls either. Something about bland fried food (or bland in my book at least!).

However, all of that changed when a couple of winters ago the bf took me to this yummy little place called Señor Wong in St. Paul. It’s Asian/Mexican fusion, and they have the most amazing cream cheese wonton poppers. Jalapeño cream cheese filling complete with a spicy apricot dipping sauce. Seriously. So. Good. Changed my view on cream cheese wontons forever (which my body probably could have lived without, but oh well!).

The bf was craving Asian food last weekend, so we went to another yummy little place called Yangtze in St. Louis Park (a southwest suburb of Minneapolis, for those not familiar with the great state of MN!). It was here where I had the experience of foil chicken for the very first time. Never heard of it? Yep, I hadn’t either. Little nuggets of chicken and vegetables, baked in tinfoil triangles. Crazy hot trying to open those tiny little tinfoil packets up, but certainly worth it! We also shared some of the best sizzling rice soup I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a decent Asian restaurant (with great prices!) in the twin cities area, I highly recommend.

And although I was craving cream cheese wontons, we decided to pass as I figured I could make them at home. At make them at home is exactly what we did!

Super easy to do, and much healthier than the fried version. To make them even healthier, I used Neufchatel cheese (still cannot pronounce that word for the life of me!). A third less fat than cream cheese, and quite honestly, I cannot tell the difference.

The jalapeño adds just the right amount of spice. And the real kicker? Raspberry jelly. You can put a tiny bit over the top, or mix some right in with the cheese filling. Compliments the  spice of the jalapeño perfectly!

Here’s how to make your own less-guilt, amazingly delicious, baked wonton poppers!

Step 1: Lay out your wonton wrappers.

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Step 2: Dab a bit of cream cheese (no more than one tablespoon!) and jelly onto corner of wrapper. Trial and error is the key here. It took me a couple tries to find the right amount of filling…

20130310_125030  Step 3: Fold side over, wet ends with water (I used my finger, but you could use a pastry brush if you prefer). Too much filling will spill out the sides (if you’re like me, you’ll figure that out real fast!).

Step 4: Egg wash. Beat one egg and a splash of water in small bowl with a fork. Using a pastry brush, coat top of wonton wrapper with egg wash. This will help them to get nice and brown and crispy! Crispy is key here people.

Step 5: Bake at 375 degrees for about 13-15 minutes (depending on oven). Make sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

Step 6: Plate and enjoy!

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Perfect for your next party, or you know, a lazy Sunday :)

Now if I could only make those foil chicken thingies…

Baked Wonton Poppers

Serves Approx. 48 won tons
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, Starter
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Casual Party
Delicious baked cream cheese won tons with a jalapeño and raspberry filling!

Ingredients

  • 1 package wonton wrappers (all-natural brand)
  • 2 packages Neufchatel or cream cheese (8 oz. each) (preferably organic)
  • 2 jalapeños (minced)
  • 6oz raspberry jelly (preferably organic)
  • 1 egg (preferably organic)
  • water

Directions

Step 1
Lay out wonton wrappers on large cutting board.
Step 2
Mix cheese and jalapeño together. Stir in raspberry jelly.
Step 3
Add one tablespoon filling into corner of wrapper. Fold over and seal sides with water.
Step 4
Brush with egg wash.
Step 5
Bake at 375 degrees for about 13-15 minutes.
Step 6
Enjoy!

Super Bowl Sunday: Healthy Picks

Drum roll please….it’s the Super Bowl! The most watched televised event in all the world (isn’t that just nuts?!). My favorite part: the food, the drinks, the socializing, and oh, who could forget those crazy commercials. Yes I know I didn’t mention the football (seems that’s what it’s really about, huh?). Despite dating a football coach, it’s not my favorite thing to watch (he already knows this, and loves me despite!). And although I don’t really care who wins, any excuse to get together with friends, where food and some good beer is involved, is a winner in my book.

But oh the food. Some of it can be so bad for you! Loaded with artificial crap that your body just doesn’t need. So how can you try and stay clean this Super Bowl Sunday? Read on for my best (and worst!) picks:

Best Super Bowl Sunday Snacks:

1) Guacamole: Loaded with good for you avocado, with some jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and lime. Nothing bad for you here!

2) Tortilla Chips and Salsa: Although the chips might not be GMO-free, salsa is usually clean, and a much better choice than a cream cheese or sour cream based dip.

3) Nuts: A simple, clean snack. Packed with protein and amino acids. Try making your own spiced nuts and bringing them to share!

4) Hummus: Hummus is (almost!) always clean, and again, has a lot less calories and fat  than cream cheese or sour cream dips. Serve with veggies or clean pita chips.

5) Greek Yogurt Dip: Mix Greek yogurt with dried dill and parsley, fresh chives, fresh minced garlic, and a little Dijon mustard. Stir to combine, and enjoy with your favorite veggies!

6) Bean dip: Without the sour cream and cheese, bean dips can be healthy! Check out this one from The Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/white-bean-dip-with-pita-chips-recipe/index.html

Best Heartier Options: 

1) Chili: Maybe not always an option, but why not make some and bring yourself? The bf and I are whipping up a huge batch today. Check out my recipe here: http://eatcleanwithkate.com/?p=1674

2) Baked Egg Rolls: These are so easy to make, and so delicious! I’ve made BBQ chicken ones (see my recipe here!) but you could also fill them with taco, pizza, or buffalo chicken filling.

3) Baked Taquitos: Depending on the filling, these could be a clean choice. Especially if buying non-GMO corn tortillas. Made them for a party once, and they were a hit. Here’s my yummy recipe: http://eatcleanwithkate.com/?p=1427

 Worst Options:

1) Cream Cheese or Sour Cream Based Dips: Besides the high fat and calorie content, not likely to be clean unless you make it clean yourself!

2) Nachos: Loaded with meat, cheese, sour cream – yep, you get the picture.

3) Buffalo Wings: Loaded with calories and fat (especially the fried version!), and who knows where that chicken came from (or how it was raised!)

4) Sausage or Pepperoni Pizza: Loaded with fatty meat and cheese, definitely not your best option.

5) Mini Meatballs or Mini Wieners: Highly processed, and contains all sorts of garbage you don’t want in your system.

Alright that’s it! Enjoy the food, err…game :)

 

Smart Swap: Ketchup

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Ketchup. I love it so much, I could eat it plain. Seriously. Sometimes I make things just so I can have an excuse to eat ketchup. Yes, it’s that pathetic! I even eat it on leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving. Mmm. You can’t knock it till you try it! :)

However, regular ketchup has high fructose corn syrup in it, and that’s gross! Check out my blog post on it here: http://eatcleanwithkate.com/?p=1286 

Here are a couple of all-natural and organic ketchups I recommend:

All-natural options:

Heinz Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Hunt’s 100% Natural Tomato Ketchup

Organic options:

Tomatoes have one of the highest pesticide residue levels. Buying organic will help ensure you don’t ingest those nasty chemicals!

Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup

Annie’s Naturals Organic Ketchup

 

Smart Swap: All-natural Cola

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At the new Co-op (well new for as, as we hadn’t been there yet) the boyfriend and I picked up a can of all-natural Blue Sky Cola flavored soda this weekend. Curious as to how it compares to Coca-Cola, we decided to try it out. Now, if you’re a fan of the syrupy aftertaste of regular Coke, then this might not do it for you. But knowing what we know about how terrible high-fructose corn syrup is (see my post on it here!), and how bad the artificial sweeteners are in Diet Coke and other low or no-cal soft drinks (see that post here!), it’s a great alternative if you’d still like to enjoy the Coca-Cola flavor without all the other garbage that’s actually in Coke.

Blue Sky Cola Soda Ingredients: Filtered carbonated water, real sugar, caramel color (from sugar), tartaric acid, natural cola nut flavor, and citric acid.

Found at your local co-op or natural health foods store (or maybe even a big grocery retailer if you’re lucky!). Or buy Blue Sky Cola here online!

 

Smart Swap: Sour Cream

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A former student of mine makes these to-die-for tamales. Quite honestly, I wasn’t much of a tamale fan until I tried hers. I like to purchase a dozen or two at a time, especially if I am bringing them somewhere to share.

Although the tamales are quite delicious by themselves, I like to eat mine with sour cream to balance out the spice. Unfortunately, most of the standard grocery-store sour cream options are not clean ones. What a bummer! Luckily however, there are a few good options out there. I always suggest if you can buy organic, go for it. If you aren’t able to find any organic options at your local store, no worries, there are other good all-natural options out there as well.

Here are my suggestions for organic and all-natural sour cream options:

Best Organic Options:

1. Kalona SuperNatural Organic – my personal favorite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Organic Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Horizon Organic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Nancy’s Organic Cultured

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best All-Natural Options:

1. Daisy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Tillamook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Breakstone’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s do a comparison:

Kemps Cultured Sour Cream Ingredients: Skim Milk, Cream, Corn Starch-Modified, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Locust Bean Gum, Cultures, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)

Vs.

Daisy Sour Cream Ingredients: Grade A cultured cream

Hmm…why all the extra ingredients?

Hooray for all-natural sour cream! :)

Smart Swap: Gas Station Snacks

golean

This weekend marked the end to what turned out to be a busy month of traveling! A couple weekends ago my friends and I made the drive to Bismark, ND for another friend’s wedding. From the Twin Cities it’s about a 7 hour drive (depending on how fast you go and how bad traffic is!). Stopping for dinner at Subway on the way there, we bopped into the adjoining gas station to load up on some snacks for later. Talk about choices! It’s been awhile since I have stopped at a gas station for snacks (or taken a long enough trip in which fuel was going to be needed for later!). I had forgotten how many additives are found in so many of the snacks we Americans consume.

Next time you find yourself at the gas staion looking for some treats for later, check out the following options for additive-free snacking!

Nuts and Trail Mixes

A lot of trail mixes contain chocolate. Now while I have absolutely nothing against chocolate, most of the chocolate found in these mixes contain partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors (think M&Ms and their knock-offs!). And you don’t need any of that.

Another seemingly healthy ingredient in these mixes is dried fruit. Again, I have nothing against dried fruit. However, a lot of dried fruits contain partially hydrogenated oils, sulfites (to protect the color), and a lot of added sugar (fruit is sweet enough on its own if you ask me!). If you find a mix that doesn’t add partially hydrogenated oils, artificial color, or other additives to their chocolate or dried fruit, by all means, treat yourself! But if you’re having a hard time finding clean trail mixes, keep it simple. Peanuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds or a combination of nuts are almost always additive-free (make sure you read the label just in case!).

Suggestions: 

Planters Mixed Nuts and Raisins

Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts

Planters Regular, Salted, or Honey Roasted peanuts

Planters Regular or Salted Cashews

Planters Pistachios

Other good bets: Plain sunflower seeds

Note: Oftentimes smoked nuts contain MSG (Planters Smoked Almonds contain hydrolyzed protein, another name for MSG). Check out the Additive Awareness MSG post for more on other names for MSG.

Snack Bars

Hear the words ‘granola bar’ and you think it’s gotta be healthy, right? Wrong! Unfortunately what is supposed to be a nutritious snack turns out to be nothing more than a glorified candy bar. Not to mention the plethora of junk (think artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, corn syrup – the list goes on!) that is often added to them.

Suggestions:

Kashi GOLEAN or GOLEAN Crunchy! or GOLEAN Roll! Bars– Kashi is a great all-natural food brand, with lots of good options. The GOLEAN bars are the ones you’ll most likely find in a gas station, however, they also make other snack bars as well as crackers, cereals, cookies, and frozen entrees!

GoLean Crunchy! Chocolate Peanut Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 160

Fiber: 5 grams

Protein: 8 grams

 

KIND Bars– Another great all-natural food brand. Their Fruit and Nut bars contain just that, fruit and nuts, without any artificial ingredients. Their bars have even been featured as favorites in Self Magazine and Yoga Journal!

KIND Fruit & Nut Delight Ingredients: Mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts), dried fruit (raisins, apricots [apricot paste, glycerol (vegetable based), pectin, citrus fiber, citric acid], dates], honey, chicory fiber, non GMO glucose, puffed rice, flax seeds, soy lecithin.

Calories: 180

Fiber: 4 grams

Protein: 5 grams

Nature Valley Oats ‘N Honey Crunchy Granola Bars – Although most of Nature Valley’s other flavors and types of bars include high fructose syrup, their Oats ‘N Honey bar does not. Of all the options, this bar is the most commonly found one in gas stations.

Clif or Clif Crunch Bars – If you like Nature Valley’s crunchy granola bars and can find a Clif’s Crunch Honey Oat bar, go for this option. It’s make with 70% organic ingredients, doesn’t include high fructose corn syrup, and has an extra gram of fiber compared to Nature Valley’s bar!

 

Clif Crunch Honey Oat Granola Bar Ingredients: Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Sunflower Oil, Rice Crisp (Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract, Dried Cane Syrup, Salt, Calcium Carbonate), Honey, Natural Flavors, Organic Barley Flakes, Organic Rye Flakes, Oat Bran, Oat Fiber, Sea Salt (Real Salt®), Inulin (Chicory Extract)

Calories: 190

Fiber: 3 grams

Protein: 3 grams

Note: Of all the options, Nature Valley and Clif bars have the least amount of fiber and protein for the amount of calories, but they are still clean choices!

Smart Swap: Boxed Macaroni & Cheese

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Growing up, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese was one of my favorite lunchtime meals. As I grew older I continued to buy it once and awhile (especially before I learned how to properly cook in college!), savoring the memories of childhood summer vacations. Knowing what I know now, and wanting to eat as clean as possible, I have nixed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in favor of something more natural (Kraft’s version contains Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 colorings – eww!).

As I began my journey for an all-natural macaroni, I stumbled upon Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese products. What a treat! Not only is Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese all-natural, they also make organic, whole-grain (with the added benefit of more fiber), and even gluten-free varieties! On the occasion when I’m craving some macaroni and cheese, Annie’s does just the trick.

All-natural varieties include:
Shells & White Cheddar (also comes in Family Size)
Shells & Real Aged Wisconsin Cheddar
Arthur Macaroni & Cheese
Spirals with Butter and Parmesan
D.W. Whole Wheat Pasta & Alfredo
Lower Sodium Mac & Cheese
Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese
Classic Macaroni & Cheese (also comes in Family Size)
White Cheddar Microwavable Mac & Cheese
Real Aged Cheddar Microwavable Mac & Cheese

 

Organic varieties include:
Organic Shells & White Cheddar (also comes in Family Size)
Organic Alfredo Shells & White Cheddar
Organic Shells & Real Aged Wisconsin Cheddar
Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar
Organic Peace Pasta & Parmesan
Organic Classic Macaroni & Cheese
Organic 5-Grain Elbows & White Cheddar

 

Gluten-free varieties include:
Gluten-free Rice Shells with Creamy White Cheddar
Gluten-free Microwavable Mac & Cheese
Gluten-free Rice Pasta with Cheddar

Ingredients in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: ENRICHED MACARONI PRODUCT (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, FERROUS SULFATE [IRON], THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), CHEESE SAUCE MIX (WHEY, MILKFAT, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SALT, SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF CITRIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6, ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE)

compared to:

Ingredients in Annie’s Classic Mac and Cheese: ORGANIC WHEAT MACARONI, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, NON-ANIMAL ENZYMES), WHEY, BUTTERMILK, SALT, CREAM, NATURAL FLAVOR, NATURAL SODIUM PHOSPHATE, ANNATTO EXTRACT FOR NATURAL COLOR

If you are more of a Velveeta Shells & Cheese fan, check out Annie’s Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese offerings:
Deluxe Whole Wheat Shells & Extra Cheesy Cheddar
Deluxe Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
Deluxe Elbows & Four Cheese Sauce
Deluxe Rotini & White Cheddar
Organic Deluxe Elbows & Creamy Mild Cheddar Sauce
Gluten-free Deluxe Rice Pasta and Cheddar

And if you’re looking to spice up your macaroni and cheese, try out one of the following suggestions:
1) Use Greek yogurt in place of milk for a tangy, thicker version
2) Add in broccoli, kale, or another favorite green vegetable for added nutrients
3) Grate a favorite hard cheese over the final product (favorites include Smoked Cheddar and Parmesan)
4) Add in some spices (Red Pepper Flakes, Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, etc.)

 

Find Annie’s at your local co-op, health food store, or retail grocery store and feel good about treating yourself (or your kids!) to some good clean mac & cheese!

Sources:
http://www.annies.com/products/Natural-Mac-Cheese
http://www.kraftrecipes.com/Products/ProductInfoDisplay.aspx?SiteId=1&Product=2100065356

 

 

Smart Swap: Crackers and Chips

pita

One of my followers asked what type of chips and crackers I serve with the Buffalo Chicken Ranch Dip and if I have any recommendations for good all-natural options. Great question! And why yes, of course I do :)

Packaged crackers can contain preservatives, artificial flavoring, and even artificial color. Here are my recommendations for all-natural or organic crackers:

Kashi
Original 7 Grain with Sea Salt Pita Crisps
120 calories, 3 g Fat, 5 g Fiber, 3 g Protein per serving

 

Original Heart to Heart Whole Grain Crackers
120 calories, 3.5 g Fat, 4 g Fiber, 3 g Protein per serving

 

Original 7 Grain Snack Crackers
120 calories, 3.5 g Fat, 3 g Fiber, 4 g Protein per serving

 

Annie’s
Organic Bunny Classics Buttery Rich
70 calories, 3.5 g Fat, 0 g Fiber, 1 g Protein per serving

 

Nabisco
Triscuit Original
120 calories, 4.5 g Fat, 3 g Fiber, 3 g Protein per serving

 

Triscuit Thin Crisps Original
130 calories, 5 g Fat, 3 g Fiber, 3 g Protein per serving

 

As for tortilla chips, most are already all-natural and consist only of corn, oil, and salt. However, organic tortilla chips will ensure the crop was not genetically modified (more on that in another post!) or sprayed with harmful pesticides.

Here are my recommendations for organic or non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) chips:

Garden of Eatin’
Blue, Yellow, and White Corn tortilla chips (all made with organic corn)
140 calories, 7 g Fat (6 g for Yellow and White), 2 g Fiber, 2 g Protein per serving

 

Bearitos (Little Bear)
Blue, Yellow, and White Corn tortilla chips (all made with organic corn)
140 calories, 10 g Fat, 2 g Fiber, 2 g Protein per serving

 

If you have your own all-natural favorites, feel free to comment with your suggestions!

 

Smart Swap: Peanut Butter

PB

Mmm, peanut butter. Some of you probably eat it by the spoonfuls (and no, I’m not judging!). And who doesn’t love a good PB&J sandwich? Even after eating one almost every single day growing up, I still enjoy an occasional PB&J (especially toasted!). Or a PB&banana, or an apple with peanut butter. Yep, peanut butter is delicious. And we Americans sure do consume a lot of it (another thing I learned in Australia, as they don’t eat peanut butter like we do!).

Unfortunately, the peanut butter I grew up eating (specifically Skippy and Jif) contains partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oils are industrially created, and thus have high levels of trans fats, raising bad cholesterol and contributing to heart disease. All this from a food that is supposed to be healthy? These oils have even been linked to breast and colon cancer, a depressed immune system, and allergies. Eww.

Check out these articles for more info on the negative health effects of partially hydrogenated oils:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/trans-fat/CL00032
http://www.livestrong.com/article/318407-hydrogenated-oil-health-effects/

 

So what other options are out there? Luckily, there are quite a few. See below for my take on a good, better, and best substitute for healthy, all-natural, and even organic peanut butter:

Good: Skippy Natural Peanut Butter – Crunchy and Creamy

A good no-stir all-natural option. No heart-clogging partially hydrogenated oils used here! And out of the three options, this one you will most likely be able to find in retail grocery stores.

Better: Earth Balance Natural Peanut Butter – Crunchy and Creamy

Another no-stir all-natural option. Made with flaxseed for the added benefit of Omega-3s and sweetened with Agave rather than refined sugars. Also comes in a coconut & peanut version (crunchy or creamy). Look for in co-ops, natural health food stores, and participating retail grocery stores.

Best: MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter – Crunchy and Creamy

Love that this one is no stir and organic! No harmful pesticides or synthetic fertilizers were used and the peanuts have not been genetically modified (more to come on that in a later post!). Look for in co-ops, natural health food stores, and participating retail grocery stores.