June 30, 2010

Breakfast Sandwiches: Coming Up!

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day - but until recently, it had been pretty hard to get a good-tasting, moderate-calorie, high-fiber option on the go. Two ubiquitous outlets - Subway and Starbucks - now have high-fiber breakfast offerings that nutritionally outperform almost everything else in their market. 

When choosing a breakfast item, the two key nutrients are fiber and protein. These are the "satiety-inducing" nutrients - those that will help keep you fuller for longer than say, eating a high-carbohydrate, low-protein, low-fiber breakfast.


Subway, "What were you waiting for?!" Your breakfast sandwiches are genius (at least the Egg White Muffin Melts are). For somewhere around 200 calories you get 12-16 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. And at $2.50 for a sandwich and coffee combo, you're spending less than you would for a sandwich alone at Starbucks. You can read more about the nutrition information for the breakfast sandwiches here

A word to the weight-watchers: stay away from the flatbread versions. Even though Subway doesn't post nutrition info for those breakfast sandwiches, judging by their size and weight and other info on Subway's website, they likely have about 100 calories more than the ones on English muffins.


These sandwiches are a bit pricier, from both a monetary and caloric standpoint - but they do keep you fuller for longer than do Subway's. The two best breakfast sandwich options at Starbucks:
  • Reduced fat turkey bacon sandwich: 340 calories, 10 g fat, 22 g protein and 3 g fiber
  • Spinach, roasted tomato, feta & egg white wrap: 280 calories, 10 g fat, 18 g protein and 6 g fiber
Depending upon your location, a Starbucks breakfast sandwich sets you back about $3.50. And Starbucks also has instant oatmeal (avoid the oatmeal condiments) - featured in a previous post.

June 29, 2010

Newman's Own: Pretzel Conspiracy?

Pretzels often get a bad rap from the food police: they're full of white flour, salt and not much else. But the Newman's Own Organics The Second Generation line of pretzels appear to be an entirely different bag: they have 110 calories for 22 pretzels, 3 grams of protein, only 180 mg sodium and 4g dietary fiber. 

Or that's what the Nutrition Facts panel says...

The ingredient list looks like this:
  • Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour
  • Organic Brown Rice Syrup
  • Organic Sunflower Oil
  • Salt
  • Yeast
  • Soda
What's weird about this? The only fiber-containing ingredient is the first one, and if you'll note, it doesn't say "whole wheat flour". It's unusual (and unlikely?) that "unbleached wheat flour" in a starchy snack will yield 4 grams of dietary fiber, particularly because the older (first generation?) line of pretzels had almost the same ingredient list, but showed less than 1 gram of dietary fiber per serving. 

You can do your own comparison using Newman's Own-provided ingredient and nutrition information via the link at the bottom of this page: Newman's Own Pretzel Ingredient and Nutrition Information.

Where is all of this additional fiber coming from in the new pretzels? I await an answer from the Newman's Own folks, but in the meantime, I'm hopeful that the Nutrition Facts panel is correct, because if so, these are a tasty and much-needed addition to the world of pretzels!

June 19, 2010

Oatmeal Sticks Around for a Comeback

Have you ever heard people (maybe you?) complain that eating breakfast actually leaves you feeling more hungry later in the morning? This happens when the foods you choose for breakfast are too low in fiber. Eating a cereal like Special K or Rice Krispies - which are high in carbohydrate but have very little or no fiber - fills you up quickly but empties your stomach quickly, resulting in "rebound hunger".

How can you fix this? Add some protein or some fiber - or even better: both - to your morning meal. Oatmeal is an ideal breakfast. It is said that oatmeal "sticks to your ribs" - and you can credit the fiber for that.

One-half cup of dry instant quick-cooking oats has 150 calories, 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. If you cook that up with 1 cup of skim milk, you total out at 230 calories, 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Ask any dietitian - that's about as close as you can come to a perfect nutritional profile for breakfast!

If you're looking to add more fiber and get one of your fruit servings for the day out of the way, consider adding to your oatmeal:
  • 1/2 or 1 ripe, mashed banana (a great way to get rid of bananas that are going rotten, provides 1-3 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fruit such as nectarines, apricots or even apples (2-3 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/4 cup raisins (2 grams extra fiber)
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (2 grams extra fiber)
Making oatmeal at home with nonfat milk is one of the cheapest ways to obtain a satisfying, fulfilling breakfast; but, many retailers are now selling oatmeal for breakfast although it's usually at a pretty heavy cost to you, as pointed out in a recent Washington Post article.

June 16, 2010

Gigantes - The Giant Greek Lima Bean Dish

Most Americans know lima beans as the green - usually Fordhook - frozen variety found in our grocery stores. But the Greeks...they know lima beans! 

"Gigandes plaki" or "Gigantes" is a Greek dish meaning "giant lima beans" baked in a savory tomato sauce. 

Here's a great recipe made from dried giant lima beans with over 13 grams of fiber per one cup serving:

  • 1 lb dried lima beans (butter beans work well too - soak either overnight)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice (Rotelle works as well)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs tomato juice (V-8 is fine)
  • 2 Tbs fresh dill, chopped
  • Extra hot water to cover the beans by about 1 inch
  1. Soak the beans overnight
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F
  3. Mix beans with all ingredients except additional water
  4. Place mixture in large, flat baking or casserole dish
  5. Cover with enough hot water to rise 1 inch above bean
  6. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours or until beans are done

June 15, 2010

Brown Rice Helps Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk

A study published in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that substituting brown rice for white rice can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from Harvard and Brigham & Women's Hospital found that nurses enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses Health Study I and II who had high brown rice intake (2 or more servings per week) as opposed to low brown rice intake (less than 1 per month) had lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers recommend that replacing 50 grams per day (about 1/3 serving or 1/8 cup) uncooked white rice with the same amount of brown rice can help lower type 2 diabetes risk by 16%. They concluded that, "Substitutions of whole grains, including brown rice, for white rice may lower the risk of diabetes. These data support the recommendation that most carbohydrate should come from whole grains rather than refined grains to help prevent type 2 diabetes."

June 14, 2010

Stacy's Pita Chips: Whole Grain Hoax?

If you're like me, you like a high-carb, nutritionally void snack every once in awhile. Enter Stacy's Pita Chips. Somehow, pita chips have gotten a not-altogether-deserved "health halo" in the consumer's eye. They're usually only slightly healthier than regular chips, due mostly to the fact that they're baked (with some fat added) instead of fried. They are generally low in fiber and high in salt - your standard carb-y snack food. Not bad, but not great.

Stacy's (which isn't the cute, independent brand you think it is - but rather just another Frito-Lay brand), now comes in "Multigrain". Great - so at least they took care of the low fiber problem of the original "Simply Naked" version, right? Not exactly. Stacy's is just one in a long line of products pushing a Multi-Grain faux food: brown packaging, a few flecks of seeds in the product, and an almost identical white flour ingredient list as the original flavors.

Here's how it breaks down with Stacy's: 10 "Simply Naked" (original) chips have 130 calories, 1 gram of fiber. The "Multigrain" flavor has 140 calories in 9 chips and 2 grams of fiber. Double the fiber, isn't that good? 

Not if you look at the ingredient list: both flavors start out with "enriched wheat flour" - a.k.a. white flour - not a good sign for a first ingredient if you're looking for a whole grain food. Further down the "Multigrain" ingredient list you do find some whole wheat flour and stone ground whole wheat flour - but don't fool yourself into thinking you're eating a "100% whole grain" food. There might be some whole grain in there, but it's relatively unchanged from the original version. 

Just another example of how you can't rely on a food's packaging or the manufacturer's claims on the front of the package - the devil is in the details - and in this case, the details are in the Ingredients List.