Real Foods Reality

Still surrounded by the aftermath of trick-or-treating, I am trying not to spoil my children’s fun. But the large pile of Halloween candy feels like it is staring me down to see who will win. As much as I advocate for and try to stick to a real foods diet myself, there is room for exceptions.  I had a great teacher several years ago who reminded us that 51% of the time, is already “most of the time.”  So, there are times for a little processed food, but even to the Halloween candy extreme?  Fortunately, there is a growing middle ground, a quickly expanding selection of “health food” candy and treats.  Surveyed with a real foods lens, I would still dismiss them as candy, but on occasion, when looking for something special, a convenient treat, a more commonly accepted snack, a sweet bite in a pinch, there are some decent options.

One of several manufacturers, the Kashi company (owned by Kellogg’s) is making some of these products.  They recently sent me a bag of TLC Layered Peanutty Granola Bars as an example. I tried them with my family and with a group of parents I meet with monthly. For the most part, both children and adults liked them.  The bars are appropriately sized (not too big for children) and the packaging is minimal. Kashi has clearly put some effort into making as close to a real foods bar as possible while also giving it a candy bar appearance, an undeniably sweet chocolately taste, a decent shelf-life and convenient portability. I like the use of numerous grains, the added protein and fiber to lessen the blood sugar rush, and the lack of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors. For a full list of ingredients and nutrition information, click here.

At the same time, I would prefer something fresher.  I felt the bars I tried were somewhat dried out, saved only by the thick layer of chocolate on top. I also found the bars too sweet.  As much as I appreciate the recent research on the health benefits of dark chocolate, what sometimes gets lost is that it really should be eaten un- or just barely sweetened to capture these benefits.

But my main concern is with the use of what I am going to assume are genetically modified ingredients. Soy and corn derivatives, when not from certified organic crops, are almost certainly made from genetically modified raw materials. In addition to the chemical pesticide and herbicide residues on these crops, the fact that they have been genetically altered brings with it a whole new wave of potential health problems which researchers are only just beginning to explore.  As an incidental exception, I will jump into the lab, as it were, and participate in the ongoing public experiment of feeding ourselves genetically modified foods, but as a general rule, I stay clear of the most common GM products, which include soy, corn and increasingly other grains as well.  Even though I found Kashi listed as a member of the Non-GMO project, I was not able to find any indication on this product that it is free of genetically modified ingredients.  I would prefer a “new and improved” version, when it contains organic, or at least non-GMO ingredients.

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5 thoughts on “Real Foods Reality

  1. I like to adhere to a rule of making a sweet at home if I’m feeling like a sweet, although I know that’s hard with kids in the house. I view anything in a package with a fair amount of suspicion, even brands like Kashi (which is owned by Kellogg, the company that gives us Pop Tarts and Cheez-Its…)

    I’ve experimented with making chocolate drinks unsweetened, and it’s a hard switch! I’d love to hear any tips you have for using unsweetened dark chocolate.

    Eleanor

    • Hi Eleanor,

      I agree with your package suspicion, and preparing food at home is a great way to ensure you’re eating just what you want, nothing more.

      A few years ago I tried cacao nips (= just cacao beans crushed into a small pieces). It took a little while to appreciate the pure flavor of chocolate and not miss the sweetness we’ve grown accustomed to expect with the word “chocolate”. I discovered that combining pure (unsweetened) cacao (as nibs or powered) with some fat takes away the bitterness, so I’d suggest making your chocolate drinks with full fat milk or coconut milk. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a smoothie with pure cacao and an avocado as the fat (= delicious!). Another idea is to use spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc. liberally, as they give a hint of sweetness. Finally, try soaking raisins in a bit of water to hydrate them, and then add raisins with the now very sweet water into a blender when making a smoothie for nicely sweet drink.

      Would love to hear what you like. Enjoy!!
      Deirdre

      • All good ideas—thanks! I especially like the idea of adding chocolate to a smoothie that already has some naturally sweet ingredient(s). It is such a process of retraining old ingrained expectations. I appreciate your suggestions!

  2. I have a friend who uses Maple syrup in a lot of things instead of sugar. I know that’s not “unsweetened,” but it’s more naturally sweetened, and it takes only a little bit to go a long way.
    Just an idea.
    Have you ever tried a chocolate banana smoothie? Creamy, slightly sweet, very yummy!
    Good post by the way. I wish GMO was not even an issue, but since it is, it’s good to be aware.

    • I like using maple syrup too (wrote about it here: https://planithealthier.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/the-sweetest-season/). Research coming out of Canada has revealed additional health benefits of this tree “sugar”. Another good sweetener is honey, but I do recommend using a local raw honey. Eating local honey gives you the benefits of immune protection against possible local allergens thanks to your local honeybees, and honey in its raw form gives you that immune protection in a form with a lower glycemic load, so that it digests more slowly and reduces the sugar rush typical of sweets.

      Sweetening with the natural sweetness of fruit is also a great idea. A chocolate banana smoothie sounds like a great example. No added sweetness needed, especially with a nice and ripe banana.

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