Tag: food

Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar Review

On a journey to find something healthy, something quick, and something tasty, I have been started the daunting task of buying different nutrition/protein bars. Below is my review of Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar.

Let me first start off with information on the product as can be found on Amazon:

  • PROTEIN: ZonePerfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Nutrition Energy bars are packed with 10 grams of protein to keep you going through your day
  • VITAMINS: A good source of 18 vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants (Vitamins C, E, and Selenium) to help support your immune system
  • FLAVOR: Chunks of chocolate inside, drizzles of chocolate outside and the delicious doughy texture of cookie dough all throughout
  • INGREDIENTS: Our snack bars do not contain any artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols

Also, here is a list of their ingredients:

Brown Rice Syrup, Corn Syrup, Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Sodium Caseinate, Soy Protein Isolate, Sweet Cream Layer (Corn Syrup, Fructose, Palm Kernel Oil, Milk Protein Isolate, Natural Flavor, Salt, Soy Lecithin), Whey Protein Isolate, Brown Sugar, Pasteurized Whole Egg Powder, Fructose Syrup, Chocolate Flavored Coating (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Cocoa Powder [Processed with Alkali], Soy Lecithin, Nonfat Milk Powder, Vanilla), Glycerine, Less than 2% of the Following:, High Oleic Safflower Oil and/or High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Butter Powder (Butter [Cream, Salt], Nonfat Milk, Tocopherols, Ascorbyl Palmitate), Calcium Phosphate, Peanut Butter, Natural Flavor, Chocolate Powder (Natural Cocoa Powder, Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Salt, Vitamin & Mineral Blend (Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid [Vit. C], Magnesium Oxide, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate [Vit. E], Niacinamide [Vit. B3], Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate [Vit. B5], Ferrous Fumarate [Iron], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vit. B6], Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin [Vit. B2], Thiamine Mononitrate [Vit. B1], Folic Acid [Vit. B9], Chromium Chloride, Biotin [Vit. B7], Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Cyanocobalamin [Vit. B12])


So now on to the actual review!

I bought these (thanks, Target) on a whim as I had heard of the Zone Diet and was intrigued that this came in several flavors including chocolate chip cookie dough and double dark chocolate. For those of you that do not know about the Zone Diet, you can click here for some information but essentially, like all diets, its mission is weight loss, its claim to fame is that you balance your hormone levels/blood sugar while staying “in the zone” and its process is complicated! I am definitely not advocating the Zone Diet, but I figured the bars were worth a try…

Now if you’ve ever had a meal replacement bar, a protein bar, or a “nutrition bar” you know those things can get hard like rocks, chewy like gum, or taste like chalk! Now, these bars actually taste good but my goodness are they sweet! Yes, I know I went for chocolate chip cookie dough but 18g of sugar in 1.58oz (45g) of a bar???? That’s 40% of the bar being nothing but sugar! How that adheres to the “zone diet” I have no idea because it must send your blood sugar levels through the roof! And yes, I know they say their bars “do not contain any artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols”. However, in the ingredients list has several syrups, sugars, oils, and butters which are definitely not good – plut the dreaded “natural flavor” is in there on repeat which is not good because it is essentially lab created but with “natural” components. Okay, let me say though that the bars do taste good overall and they are chewy without being rubbery!

Final thoughts – Would I buy these again? No. It’s not that they did not taste good but I do not feel full or sustainable after eating these. Typically a bar with 10-12g of protein should leave you feeling a bit more full than these do. Also, I am not one for sweets (I totally prefer savory snacks) so the fact that these are so sweet are a bit of a turnoff for me. I have also tried these pre- and post- workout and again, I do not feel satisfied so I am prone to eat again which is counterintuitive.

Cost – $15.99/12 bars (Amazon) or $8.99/10 (Target)

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Cooking with SunBasket

So to date, I have written about my experience to date with HomeChef, who I recently found out was hyped about by none other than Hillary Duff. I actually have a few updates since my last post from a couple of weeks ago (you can read it here), but this post is about a whole new company that I recently learned, researched, and took the plunge with! If you couldn’t tell already by the title, the company I am referring to is SunBasket.

First off, SunBasket is like HomeChef in that it is a cook-at-home meal delivery service. The ease in picking my dinners was great – they both even have apps for iOS and Android so you can make changes on the go. So what I want to do is a comparison of the two, with the caveat that I have not yet received my first order from SunBasket.

Let’s take a look at the next two weeks of recipes (this week I am doing HomeChef and next week SunBasket to test it out):

HomeChef (week of 9-16)
Hot jalapeño jelly-glazed salmon with crispy onion asparagus
Crispy salt and pepper shrimp with red bell pepper
Chicken Kiev with parsley-garlic butter and green beans
Greek Chicken & couscous with cucumber and feta
Cotija-crusted pork chop with Spanish rice

SunBasket (week of 9-23)
Spicy Greek shrimp with tomatoes, feta, and orzo
Korean chicken japchae with glass noodles and vegetables
Fettuccine Bolognese with garlic-sauteed baby broccoli
Mediterranean lemon chicken
Palermo steaks with warm fennel and tomato salad

Right off the bat, the menu selection from SunBasket is more cultural than HomeChef though I see HomeChef trying to make some bold choices!

Next, let’s compare prices, excluding any promotions:
HomeChef – $99.50 for 5 meals, 2 servings ($9.95 per serving)
SunBasket – $79.90 for 5 meals, 2 servings ($7.99 per serving)

So there is a cost-saving for SunBasket over HomeChef on a weekly basis. Now SunBasket’s prices do increase if you order fewer meals per week ($9.99 per serving when you order 2 meals; $8.99 per serving when ordering 3 meals). However, for the sake of not having to worry about meals during the workweek AND comparing evenly, we are doing 5 meals per week.

How about add-ons? What are add-ons, you ask? Well, let’s say you want to have some lunch meals or snacks OR you really liked the sauce you got in one of the meals and want to order more…
HomeChef add-ons vary week to week, but usually, consist of 2 salads, smoothies and protein packs (like extra meat or chicken).
SunBasket add-ons seem to be more plentiful. They actually break down their orders into Dinners, Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Proteins, and Pantry. Under breakfast, there are 5 options for egg bites, yogurt, oatmeal, granola, bread and spreads, juices, and coffee/tea. Under lunch, they have salads, soups, noodle bowls, and flatbreads. Snacks consist of dips, snackable veggies, nuts, crackers, sweets, jerky, and bars (think fig bars). The protein section is fairly self-explanatory but you can buy extra meats, chickens, fish, or vegetarian options! For the pantry, you can buy fresh kinds of pasta, sauces, oils, soups, large flatbreads, and coffees.

What a difference! I mean, I don’t see myself needing to buy a salad BUT it seems like I can really do my grocery shopping through SunBasket if I plan ahead.

Now, what about quality? SunBasket’s main selling point, especially to someone that isn’t subscribed, is that they are an organic company which means you can eat clean and organic – great for my Paleo friends! You can also customize your menu more so than with HomeChef. You can select a plan if you are paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free…or you can mix it up. With HomeChef, their ingredients are fresh but it is not are not always organic – I don’t always run to organic so it doesn’t quite bother me very much.

Overall I am waiting to see what next week’s box looks like as it’ll be my first with SunBasket! This may be a game-changer OR I will bounce back and forth depending on the meal selections. Either way, I have to say that these are some great options to try in order to save money, time, and the stress of having to cook something new every night!

So inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried any cook-at-home meal delivery companies? Are you interested in an unboxing of SunBasket’s delivery? Are you interested in signing up for one of the two mentioned above?

HomeChef Update

So back on August 20th, I wrote about a way that I am trying to cut back on excessive spending when it comes to my groceries, reducing waste with unused food, and reallocating time that was previously spent running from store to store. Well, 2 weeks in and going on to week 3, I wanted to share an update! Also, I want to add that this is not sponsored.

When I posted about HomeChef in my New Take on Groceries post, I wasn’t sure what to expect – honestly. I grew up with a mom that worked fulltime but also cooked every week. She taught me to love cooking and that the kitchen is all about organized chaos. She taught me that a little of this and a pinch of that were real measurements for ingredients. She taught me that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And with all of those lessons, I learned about cultural foods, how to basically cook for an army (I am having a really hard time cooking for just 2), and how cooking can bring people together. So when I decided to take a leap into these pre-planned meals, I thought I was shaming my up-bringing. I was not going out and buying my groceries, one cucumber at a time. I was not examining my produce or selecting that portioned ground beef (you know, the one that was priced $6.98 and not $7.02). I was not coming up with my own concoctions. I was not experimenting or playing with food. I honestly felt slightly ashamed.

But I knew I had to do something to help my husband and I cut down on cost, cut down on overindulgence, and reallocate time that has become so precious and so limited (working fulltime, going to school fulltime, and managing some personal side projects really take a toll). So I told myself that this is an experiment so the scientist in me could rationalize the change and took the plunge.

As I mentioned, my first order was curtesy of a promotion code and subsequent orders would cost a bit more but still be less than what we normally would spend on just the groceries themselves. I did a breakdown in my earlier post (you can find it here). So to date, these are the expenses we have incurred for any and all groceries:

HomeChef – $57.50 (week 01) + $89.50 (week 02) + $99.50 (week 03)
Local Farmer’s Market: $30 (week 01) + $32 (week 02) + $0 (week 03)
Local grocery: $30 (week 01) + $20 (week 02) + $28 (week 03)
Costco: $0 (week 01) + $0 (week 02) + $55 (week 03)
Subtotal: $117.50 (week 01) + $141.50 (week 02) + $182.50 (week 03)
GRAND TOTAL: $441.50

Now, I have to admit that some of the local grocery shopping was for our pups who eat home-cooked food which we mix with their kibble, but for the sake of the cost analysis, we will include it. Additionally, there were some expenses that were for work functions, but I cannot find that recent and it was partially reimbursed so we will exclude that. I also excluded non-food items like hand soap, detergents or aluminum foil (Costco for the win though). Also, I had cooked a storm before we started this so we had a LOT of food in the freezer so, for those 2 days when we didn’t have a HomeChef meal, we still had food without having to go out to eat or scramble for last-minute ingredients.

So if we look at what I had predicted for expenses for a month, we will go over $500 in groceries BUT we have had less waste, less time spent shopping (hence my weekend of homework), less gas running from store to store, and less stress during the week. In fact, I opened my fridge this morning and realized it was basically empty – and by empty, I mean full of milk, eggs, and those other staples but not full of food in every Pyrex we own.

Yes, we still have to make some additional improvements but overall, this is still a savings for us. On a given month, we could easily surpass $600 in groceries alone.


Now, let’s talk about the food itself.

I am still feeling guilty about not having my mother’s recipes sprawled about the counter or making up my own concoctions, but I have to say that some of these meals are going to become part of our regular meal rotation when this little experiment is over!

The food is really quite good and I am still able to play with the recipe a little bit – mostly because we cut out a lot of salt (some of these have 50% of your daily intake!). My husband and I also still cook together, most days. And on those days we aren’t cooking together, the recipes are simple enough that one can cook and the other can do homework or personal tasks and he doesn’t yell at me that “a little of that” doesn’t mean anything! Most importantly, we eat together, at the dinner table, and have 1 serving – and we aren’t hungry!

I am currently editing my first unboxing video of the HomeChef delivery, which comes every Tuesday for us and is well packed! So stay tuned as I hope to have that up this weekend.

And just to leave you with an idea on the meals we have had…

So inquiring minds want to know… How important is home cooking in your household? Do you eat out often? If so, how often? How do you manage your budget with groceries?

A New Take on Groceries

When talking about our home budgeting needs, the one area that always gives us some pause is the “groceries” line item. We have been saving money when it comes to our no spend weeks and our pantry challenges (which is using only what you have in the house for food) which we usually combined! In fact, this past weekend is the first in a month where our fridge is back at capacity!

We are eating healthy, cooking more, and enjoying the time together without interruptions. And yet we are still spending more than we really need to for a household of 2 (humans and 2 pooches).

So we are going to try a little something new and I am bringing you along for the journey! We are taking a new look on groceries and trying HomeChef!

So what is HomeChef? It is a meal delivery service that allows you to customize your meals on your dietary needs (say vegetarian, gluten free, and so on) BUT you are actually the chef. So that means that all the ingredients, including the “dash of pepper” or “sprinkle of salt” is included, along with the main ingredients and the recipe guide. Then you cook the meal. So, if you’re like me and you don’t use much salt in your meals, you can customize your dinner. The best part is that they provide the ingredients per the number of people and the recipe -nothing more. So there is less waste and no science experiments growing in the back of the fridge (c’mon…I know I’m not alone on this one).

Now you are reading this and thinking, didn’t you just say you are being frugal and not spending money? How does that align with ordering meals delivered to your door every week? Well thanks for asking!

We were lucky enough to get a promotion for our first box (slated to arrive Tuesday the 27th and I’ll bring you along for the ride) which only came out to $57.50 for 5 days worth of meals for 2 people. Now I’m not a mathematician by trade but… $57.50 divided by 5 days means that we are eating dinner for $11.50. And if you divide that by 2 … $5.75 per person, per meal, Monday through Friday. Honestly, I’ve spent more at Starbucks on one coffee that I finish in 5 minutes (don’t challenge me on that…I’m a coffee addict and proud).

But lets say we did not get a promotion to try out. The normal box of meals that we are trying is for 5 days and 2 people which equates to an average of $99 (some prices vary depending on the recipes you choose – like scallops would cost more than chicken). That still is only $19.80 per day or $9.90 per person.

That all means that in a month, we will be spending under $400 for varying meals on the most hectic nights of the week!

Now if we just supplement that with fresh, in season, produce from our farmer’s markets like fruit and some vegetables for our smoothies and weekend meals, then we can stay under $500 a month. And that means a monthly savings of over $100 for us! What?! I told you we like to eat! Plus we need to look at the bottom line which includes time spent looking at flyers, comparing prices, and actually going to the stores. And speaking of going to the stores, lets not forget gas!

So now you’re asking me what type of food are we looking at because you know I love to cook and won’t eat just anything… Since I won’t receive my first box till next week, I can only share what my menu is slated to be in no particular order:

Meal 1: Steak with Sauce Robert and spinach scalloped potatoes
Meal 2: Salmon with Dill Crema and green beans amandine
Meal 3: Jalapeño Popper Burgers with chipotle mayo and fries
Meal 4: Umami Miso-Mushroom-Cream Gemelli Pasta with Parmesan & green onions
Meal 5: Chipotle Refried Lentil Flautas with queso fresco & sour cream

I am very interested to see how these are packaged because with the 100+ degree weather we have been having, I don’t want my food to spoil before we get to cook it and eat it!

So tune in this upcoming Tuesday (8/27) as we uncover the world of meal deliveries you have to cook yourself! You may even want to follow me on IG where I’ll do some reviews live!

Smoothie Recipes – Week 02

As promised, though a day late, the smoothies from last week. Despite Monday being Memorial Day, I made it a point to keep up with the 5-day streak! In fact, I used Monday as a test day to see how a recipe I had planned for later in the week would be.

Just as a reminder, please check out Week 1 – Smoothie Recipes for a recap on what protein, collagen, and other ingredients I use in each smoothie. Also, I do not use any MLM products nor do I do any juicing – I want to make sure I get ALL of the nutrients from my smoothies…fiber and all.


Monday (Memorial Day) – Key Lime Pie
Greek Yogurt, Spinach (for color), ice, protein, one whole lime, lime juice, honey, organic graham crackers, collagen, and Maca. The liquid base was water.

Tuesday – “Pick Me Up Tuesday”
Old-fashioned oats, dates, greek yogurt, iced coffee (I used actual coffee I froze in an ice cube tray), collagen, protein powder, Maca, Greens Powder. The liquid base was almond milk.

Wednesday – Key Lime
Repeated Monday’s recipe!

Thursday – “Going Banana Nuts Thursday”
Banana, chia seeds, almond butter, Maca, cinnamon, walnuts, collagen, protein powder. The liquid base was almond milk.

Friday – “Going Choco-Bananas”
Banana, cacao powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, Greens Powder, protein powder, collagen, Maca. The liquid base was almond milk.


The biggest hit this week was “Going Banana Nuts Thursday” by a landslide! Also, key lime came in second though I still want to manipulate that recipe for a future smoothie!

I have also been dabbling in non-dairy yogurt as an option because some of my friends are steering clear of dairy right now. The only issue I have noticed is that non-dairy yogurt is much more watery than regular or Greek yogurt. In order to maintain a smoothie consistency, I have to cut some of the liquid that I use.

I have also started to add some Creatine powder to my husbands’ smoothies because he is deficient, which we found out after some blood work, and he is looking to start building more muscle mass.


Comment below if you are going to try any of these or are interested in learning more! Do you have any recipes or suggestions for me to try?

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Healthy Journey – You Are What You Eat

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question which started a 30+ minute conversation and then got me thinking that maybe I should make a post about this… We chatted about how I am working on my health and losing weight and regaining my life back. She was very happy for me and asked me what I changed in my diet to support the weight loss because it is common knowledge that weight loss and fitness is more than just exercise and it in fact starts in the kitchen!

While there is more to my fitness journey than food, like supplements and vitamins, no one wants to read a 20-page blog post (I’ll save that for my dissertation). Below is a view into what my diet consists of and why.

Breakfast

This is always drilled into us as the most important meal of the day and the skipping this is detrimental. Well, I have to admit that breakfast is almost never on the table (ha, literally) for me -weekdays or weekends. I usually wake up around 6:30am during the weekdays (and that is after hitting snooze a few times) and have to get ready for work and out the door in a little over an hour (yep, I push it close). So sitting down to have toast or cereal or oatmeal…none of that is on my morning list of things to do. So long as I have a few minutes to have my coffee and grab the headlines, I am good to go.

Now you could say I should wake up at 6:00am and make time for a meal but beyond time, I am also simply not hungry. I do not want, nor find the need, to consume calories when I am not hungry. It is almost like eating just for the sheer fact of eating and that is not at all necessary. In fact, the days that I eat breakfast like when I am on a vacation or at a conference, I feel sluggish and bloated.

So what do I have? I have my coffee with almond milk and agave, along with a few vitamins that I can take on an empty stomach, and I’m good to go. I gave up dairy milk about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back though I do consume dairy-based cheese and ice cream so this is not due to an lactose intolerance. I just simply did not like the taste of dairy milk nor did I like the treatment of cows to get said milk but that is for another day. I use agave over stevia or sugar or any other sweetener for a few reasons. Agave is a natural sweetener from the blue agave cactus so if you have ever had tequila, you’ve basically had agave. It has a lower glycemic rating than sugar and because it is liquid, it will mix better in hot or cold beverages. It has a slight earthy taste by itself but once mixed with my coffee, it cannot be tasted. I have tried stevia and have not liked the taste or aftertaste so I stopped testing the 1385 variations I found in the grocery stores. I don’t like other sugar alternatives because of the chemical compounds and eventual breakdown (equal and sweet-n-low have been linked to unsafe levels chlorine once dissolved).

Morning Snack

If I start to feel hungry, I will grab a handful of raw or roasted, unsalted almonds. Almonds are low in fat and have been recently linked to heart health when consumed on an empty stomach because it acts similar to fiber in pushing out that gunk. I may also have a banana to help with my potassium intake and my very small sweet tooth.

Lunch

This is always the heaviest meal of the day for me because I know I am going to be able to burn it throughout the day. I will make sure that I take the time to eat my meal too because a lot of times we are rushing through the day and scarf down whatever is available. I bring food from home that I cooked earlier in the week whenever possible and will make sure it is balanced with some sort of starch and some protein; when I have a salad, I will make sure to have a protein like tuna or chicken and a few crackers. This will keep me going throughout the day without feeling hungry. I also make sure to portion out my food and will usually only take one small individual-sized Pyrex with my whole lunch. Quick to heat and easy to eat.

Afternoon Snack 

When I feel a 3pm-dip coming on, I always have some sort of snack on hand that is not a candy. bar, a donut, or some other heavy food. Again, I tend to turn to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or dark-chocolate raisins. Sometimes on the weekends, I will have some string cheese and a few crackers since I know dinner will most likely be late. If it is going to be a long day, I may snack on a protein bar or a granola bar as well. I will also have a detox tea without sugar or honey -this just helps keep my tummy full and regular without bloat or gas.

Dinner

First rule for me is that I will not eat a heavy dinner. Second, 7pm is my cutoff. Why? Because I know I need to be in bed by 10pm and sleeping by 10:30pm — sleep is one of the other BIG weight loss and healthy actions for the body and I need at least 8 hours. So when I do eat, I tend to have a like protein like chicken or fish and always have to have some sort of vegetable -salad, corn, asparagus, broccoli…

When I do workout, because of my work schedule, it happens to be at 6 or 6:30 in the evening so when I do eat “dinner” it is always after 7pm. When that is the case, my “dinner” is almost always the same –a good-sized bowl of greek yogurt with granola that I buy at Sprouts or Whole Foods and I will add chia seeds and flax. The chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein while the flax is a fiber-source; the yogurt is full of enzymes that help regulate my digestive tract as well as, for women, help with our lady parts; the granola serves also as a fiber and expands in the stomach to help me reach that “full” feeling and not feel deprived. Sometimes I may change things up and add a few shakes of my “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s or a little honey for a hint of sweetness.

Dessert

Never ever deprive yourself of something because that is when you will fall off the wagon and spiral. Now I do not tend to have a sweet tooth but when I want something sweet, I have yogurt ice cream bars in my freezer which surprisingly are delicious (coffee flavored of course) or some fruit -cherries, watermelon, figs and peaches are my favorite when in season.

Water

Now this is what I like to call my secret weapon since I refuse to count calories, cut carbs, or heaven forbid drink those disgusting and useless shakes. Water is the staple for our bodies since we are over 70% water and every organ and system needs water to sustain operation. I actually have an app on my phone that reminds me to consume more water so on my days when I have horse-blinders on and forgot to even eat, I will always remember to drink my water. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day and when I have a workout day, that is the bare minimum.

When I feel adventurous and have the time, I like to add some flavor to my water by adding fruit or herbs. This helps keep things different, adds some vitamins and minerals, and serves as motivation to drink more. It is amazing how adding a few strawberries to your bottle will make you want more water.

Water also helps keep me feeling full so I will always drink a glass before a meal and I will have at least one glass during my meal, whatever that may be.

Miscellaneous

As I mentioned before, I do not and will not deprive myself of the things I enjoy just to shed a few pounds faster because when you have a “cheat day” or a special occasion, you are essentially counteracting everything you do on your other days and may even feel depressed which is detrimental to the success of the journey.

So when I want a beer or some wine, I will consume it in moderation and will make sure to balance it out with my meal, my workout, and my water consumption. For example, if I have a bottle of beer with dinner, I will have a glass of water as well. If I have some popcorn or chips, I will make sure that I will go an extra 10 minutes or take a small walk. If I have some tempting gelato or pizza, the next day will be a salad and few extra ounces of water.

I also have to mention that I will not turn to meal supplements like SlimFast or shakes that promise to help you lose weight. I have done more than enough research and those are all a part of fad diets. I do have protein powder in my kitchen and protein bars at my desk at work. I will admit that I have tried quite a gambit of shakes and meal replacements in my day and they are not effective, especially long term. Yes, you may feel better the first few days, but the longer you deprive yourself, the worse it gets and the harder it is to stay on track. Also, if you want the vitamins and minerals that these powder drinks offer, you may want to look at actual vitamins that your body, based on your needs, will actually help.

So tell me, what diet have you tried that has helped you? What is your daily food regimen?