Archive for August, 2017

August 28, 2017

Is It Safe to Graze on These Snacks?

If you must be gluten-free to be healthy, you always have to ask: Is it safe to graze on this? In order to answer that question, I always start with the label. I recently purchased a Graze Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart snack. I was in a hurry, so I saved the label reading for later.
graze
I liked the natural looking package and I absolutely LOVE dried cherries, almonds, and chocolate. These are ingredients that can easily be gluten free and that I often use when I prepare dessert. The only noted allergens on the label are soybeans and tree nuts. Buying this didn’t seem like too big a risk.

When I got home and had time to read the label, I saw that the chocolate buttons include something called “cocoa mass”. I didn’t know exactly what cocoa mass was, but I recognized that it needed to be further investigated. I visited the Graze website.

After visiting the site, I still don’t know what cocoa mass is, but I found this statement located next to the list of ingredients:
“allergens
Graze is not suitable for people with allergies. All of our food is packed in the same place, so cross-contamination between any of our ingredients is possible. Our snacks may contain traces of gluten, eggs, peanuts, soya, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, fish and sesame.”

This statement appears next to the list of ingredients for each and every product on the website. It’s interesting to note that there’s not enough of some of these allergens to require a notation on the label, but there’s enough for the company to feel it necessary to note their possible presence in the product. I appreciate the fact that they’ve done so in a clear, visible manner.

Where does that leave you?

It’s always safest to err on the side of caution when you encounter an unknown ingredient. I also avoid products that say they are processed on the same equipment as wheat, rye, and barley or may contain trace amounts of these ingredients. If a label does not list any gluten containing ingredients, questionable items, or cross contamination possibilities, I trust that it’s okay to consume even though it may not be labeled gluten-free.
 
While I like the Graze story of 7 friends who quit their jobs to create better snacks, I cannot recommend these snacks to anyone who is gluten-free. On the other hand, if you’re not limited by the allergens, eat up!

Choose from mixes full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, superfoods, veggies, and protein. The flavor combinations sound interesting and the packages are easy to carry. Graze has a subscription service, so you can have them delivered right to your door.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s not safe to graze on these snacks, but you don’t have to miss out on enjoying dried cherries, almonds and chocolate!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

https://www.graze.com/us/shop/dark-chocolate-cherry-tart?format=multipack#tab-ingredient-tab

August 21, 2017

Sandwich in Some Healthy Habits

Today when the moon gets sandwiched between the earth and the sun seems like the perfect opportunity to sandwich in some healthy habits. I’m sure you’ve seen a million warnings in the past two weeks about protecting your eyes during today’s eclipse. You probably prepared by purchasing some special viewing glasses or creating a pinhole viewer. That tiny bit of preparation will protect your eyes as you view something spectacular.

eclipse

Eclipse


Making tiny changes in preparation for better health as you age can be just as easy and have a big impact over time. If you look at everything you think you should be doing to live a perfectly healthy lifestyle, it may so overwhelming that you don’t ever get started. Statistics indicate that the majority of us fall in this group. The CDC reports that only 20% of Americans meet physical activity recommendations and a 2016 study indicates only 3% of us live a healthy lifestyle.

It is important to note that you can improve your health by making small changes over time. A study published July 13, 2017, in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “Improved diet quality over 12 years was consistently associated with a decreased risk of death. A 20-percentile increase in diet scores (indicating an improved quality of diet) was significantly associated with a reduction in total mortality of 8 to 17%….” In other words, it didn’t take 100% improvement in diet to result in a significant reduction in mortality. And mortality is the extreme. Just imagine how much small changes can improve your everyday energy level, stamina, strength, flexibility, mental acuity, mood, and comfort level.

So often we look at eating well and working out as all or nothing propositions. When all seems like more than we can handle, we go for nothing. Knowing that even small changes can make a difference seems to indicate we should look at healthy habits more like a savings or investment account with benefits that grow slowly, but surely.

What do small changes look like?

Drink water 95% of the time rather than soda, diet soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, hot chocolate, or any other sweetened drink.
Eat an orange for breakfast rather than drinking orange juice.
Eat plain, unsweetened yogurt topped with fresh fruit rather than flavored yogurt.
Choose eggs and whole grain toast for breakfast rather than cereal and milk.
Snack on raw, unsalted nuts rather than the salted, roasted version.
Choose black beans over pinto beans.
Order a side of mixed vegetables rather than a choice of potato most of the time.
Reserve dessert for special occasions.
Snack on fruit rather than candy.
Pop your own popcorn using a tiny bit of olive oil spray.
Get salad dressing on the side and limit to 1 tbsp.
Buy frozen vegetables rather than canned when you can’t get fresh.
Cook with olive oil.
Take leftovers for lunch rather than eating fast food.
Substitute baked fish for one serving of red meat each week.
Eat less prepared meat.

Sandwich in some activity

Even if you don’t have an hour to spend in the gym, you can increase physical activity during your daily routine.

Stretch every morning.
Walk to lunch.
Walk a few flights of stairs before catching the elevator.
Do stair stretches before you head upstairs to shower.
Regularly park on the far side of the parking lot.
Do some yoga breathing at your desk.
Carry your own boxes.
Wear ankle weights on Saturday.
Do tricep curls with your cast iron skillet before cooking.
Find a video workout you can do at home when there’s no time to go to the gym.
Combine lifting light weights with warrior poses and lunges.

Make sure to rest

Get the electronic lights out of the bedroom.
Allow plenty of time for sleep.
Plan some down time each week.
Do something fun each week.
Don’t skip vacations.

As you can see, nothing on these lists sounds like a big deal. Everything is easily doable. In fact, it’s hard to believe that these changes can make any significant difference in your health. The great thing is, they can. Simple changes like these when made for an extended period of time can have many positive effects. Why not sandwich a few into your day?

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0502-physical-activity.html

http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)00043-4/abstract

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1613502

August 15, 2017

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits?

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits is written with you in mind if you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease or other conditions that may lead to a sudden need for bathroom facilities. I just got back from LA. During Sunday brunch I had a sudden reminder of how uncomfortable it can be to travel with a gastrointestinal condition. This travel tip deals with a subject that’s difficult to discuss in public.
cypress
If your guts are constantly in a knot and you can’t predict when diarrhea, gas, or pain may suddenly hit, it can be hard to imagine taking a long trip on an airplane or even in a car full of people. A fear of embarrassment or discomfort can lead to a gradual withdrawal from family outings and vacations.

Reluctance to disclose the real reason for resistance to certain situations often leads family and friends to misinterpret what’s happening. I mean who really wants to say, “I just can’t face the chance that I’ll poop myself during a 3-hour plane ride?” I don’t. It really doesn’t matter how close we are, I just don’t want to discuss that with you.

So, what should I do?

Pretend to be too busy, too sick, or too angry with Aunt Jane to attend?
Insist on a different trip that no one else is excited about?
Wear adult diapers?

Sometimes saying no may be the best choice. If your only motive is to take care of yourself, you’ve explored all the options that might make the journey enjoyable for you, and you still can’t find a way to make peace with attending, then say no. It’s only when you have an ulterior motive or when continual refusals begin to limit your access to a full life that saying no becomes detrimental.

Say yes within limits. If it’s hard for you to take care of yourself, establishing certain parameters in advance can make it easier to decide in the moment when presented with an invitation. For instance, you may want to have a rule that you only agree to car trips in areas with ample facilities. You may want to limit flights to 1 hour at certain times of the day. You could have a rule that you will not stay at friends’ houses so that you have the privacy of your own space. Along those lines, you can have a rule that you don’t share hotel rooms. If you know you usually have fewer problems an hour after eating, join the family after the meal rather than for the meal.
breakfast
Make sure you eat properly and/or take your medication on time. When you’re willing to say yes, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Adhering to the regimen that works best for you while varying your activity can make all the difference. Investing a little time in research and advance planning can make it possible for you to have plenty of medication on hand even when you miss a connection.
It can also mean that you have plenty of tummy friendly snacks on hand when meal times or restaurant options unexpectedly change.
orange tree
Focus on the good stuff. A beautiful view, a warm hug from your favorite cousin, or the smile on your grandson’s face when he meets LeBron James can all mitigate a little discomfort. After all, you may not feel perfectly well at home. If you can feel equally good and add some great memories, it may be worth risking possible inconvenience or embarrassment. If things turn out badly, you can make a different choice next time. If you always stop yourself before you start, you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff.

Bring the party to you. If you need to be in your own space to be comfortable, make your home the place everyone gathers. Let the travel be someone else’s problem. Instead of missing out on memories and contact with people you enjoy, develop your hosting skills.

That doesn’t mean you have to do a lot of work and throw a party. Just establish that you’d like to see everyone at a certain time and invite, invite, invite. When someone visits, relax and enjoy them. It may take some time to develop momentum, but eventually word will spread that your place is the place to be. Making your guests feel welcome is all it really takes to be a great host.

If you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, or Celiac Disease, should you push the limits and travel or should you stay home? There’s no right or wrong answer. What’s right for today may not be right for tomorrow.

The important thing is to always, always take very good care of yourself. For some of us that is in and of itself pushing the limits.

August 8, 2017

Snacks from Down Under

If you have a toddler, you may think I’m writing about snacks from down under the table. I get it. I just kept my one-year-old grandson for a week. I’m pretty sure there could be food under the food on my kitchen floor. I feel like I keep finding more every time I sweep. But, that’s not the food I’m referring to. Today, I tried Majans Bhuja Snacks from Australia.
snack bag mix
I’m not sure why I picked up the bag. Curiosity, I suppose. Well, curiosity and the fact that I’m always looking for snacks to carry along on a road trip or airplane. This one boasts no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, a low glycemic index, 5 grams of protein per serving, non-GMO ingredients, and it’s certified gluten-free.

I took a quick look at the ingredients before putting the bag in my basket. The noodles and chips in the mix are made from yellow peas, chick peas, sunflower or canola oil plus rice, potato, tapioca, salt, sesame & cumin. Scattered throughout the noodles and chips are green peas, peanuts, and sultanas seasoned with salt, fennel, chili, turmeric, paprika, and cane sugar. There’s also a little maltodextrin thrown in.

The serving size is about 1/2 cup and has 140 calories. There are 8 total grams of fat. One gram is saturated. There are no trans fats. Each serving contains 170 mg of sodium, 16 total carbs, 2 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of sugars. There are 5 grams of protein.

Reading the label for the original flavor, I’m pleased with the amount of sodium and I like it that the noodles and chips rely on peas more than grains for their substance. I could do without the maltodextrin, but I’m happy that there’s less sugar included than any other ingredient.
snack mix
I like the spice blend used in this mix. It has a bit of heat that I find a pleasant alternative to mixes that rely on sugar for flavor. The crackers and noodles feel a bit dense which makes them seem a little less manufactured than a Cheeto or Veggie Straw. I’m ambivalent about the peas. I feel this way about wasabi peas as well. In general, I prefer raw nuts or seeds to dehydrated peas. The occasional sweetness of the sultanas is a great balance for the heat.
For the Americans reading this, a sultana is similar to a raisin in that it is a dried white grape, but sultanas tend to be plumper, sweeter and juicier than other raisins. Turkey is a major producer of sultanas.

The price for this snack is reasonable for a gluten-free snack. I paid $2.65 for a 7 oz bag that will provide 7 servings.

Where does that leave us? The price is reasonable, the spice blend is pleasant, and the bag contains crunch. I suppose the pertinent question is whether I will buy it again. I might.

I can’t see making this mix a regular item on my shopping or travel lists. It doesn’t have an addictive level of crunch or salt that will make me crave it. On the other hand, it isn’t too sweet or too greasy and I like the spiciness. That means I will be likely to grab the occasional bag when I see it on the shelf.

I’m giving it a solid 6 for composition and a 10 for price. That’s not bad for a snack from down under.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

http://majans.com/products/us/bhuja-snacks/