Lara Bars

Aside from the kind you get wasted in, I’m not the biggest fan of bars. By that I mean, I don’t (generally) eat:

  • Protein and/or Weight Loss bars
  • Cereal and/or Nut bars
  • Nutrigrain bars
  • Fiber One bars
  • Quest bars
  • Isagenix bars
  • etc etc etc bars
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I’ll make an exception for these crummy things

Reasoning

  1. Taste. Many bars taste like chemicals.
  2. Calories vs. Satiety Some of these bars have a ton of calories for just a few bites. Even those bars high in protein don’t seem to satisfy me.
  3. Ingredients. I try to stick to whole foods. Many bars have too many weird ingredients.
  4. Expense. Bars tend to be pretty expensive for what they are.

Lara Bars

Lara Bars are fruit & nut bars advertised as “food made from food.” They are one of the only bars that I eat. And even these, I don’t eat often.

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Here is what they look like before I eat them. 

What I like about Lara Bars:

  • Made from whole foods. Take, for example, the Banana Bread flavor. It has only three ingredients: bananas, dates, and almonds
  • They are vegan.
  • They taste awesome. My favorite flavors are Cherry Pie (3 ingredients) and Carrot Cake (9 ingredients)
  • Nutrition. Every flavor I’ve tried has had a great nutritional profile.

What I dislike about Lara Bars:

  • Calories. Most are around 200-ish calories.
  • Addicting. Maybe it’s me – but I find them slightly addicting.  Meaning, I could easily  eat five bars in one sitting. Not good!
  • Not always easy to find. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, and they often don’t have my favorite flavors.
  • Annoying website. Don’t even go on it, it’s not worth the agony.

In Sum

If you’re looking for a decent bar, a Lara Bar might be a good pick. Especially if you’re trying to avoid processed foods.

But be wary. I would never buy a box and keep it in the house: the temptation is too strong.

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Your Food Can Talk

Vegetables and fruits background.
“Listen up, human. We’re trying to tell you something.”

Your Produce is Alive!!!

It lives. It breathes. When you close the refrigerator door, the citizens of your fridge even communicate amongst one another through chemical signals.

So how you store and prepare your veggies affects them. And who you store them with affects them as well.

Examples

1. Ripen your avocado.  Want to ripen your avocado faster? Store it in a brown paper bag with a couple of bananas. The bananas emit ethylene gas, which speeds the ripening process.

2. Save your avocado with onion. Chop up some onion. Place it in an airtight container with your avocado or guac. If possible, keep the pit. The gasses from the onion will slow browning.

3. Torture your lettuce. This is kind of disturbing. Your lettuce is still living. If you tear it up, it begins to produce higher amounts of anti-oxidants to protect itself from the horrors of your inhumanity.

On the downside, the torture makes it respire faster. I mean – wouldn’t you respire faster if someone was tearing you apart? So once torn, it won’t last as long. (Neither would you!). But if you plan to eat it in the next day or so, tear that ish up and watch the anti-oxidant levels rise.

Preparing Your Veggies

How you prepare your veggies has an enormous impact on their nutritional value.  Some nutrients are destroyed by heat. Some are enhanced by it.

Some fruits and veggies are made less nutritious through the process of freezing/thawing. Others (quick respirators) lose nutritional value so quickly that you are better off freezing them than not!

There is no universal best way to prepare your fruits and veggies. It all depends on the item in question, and perhaps on what your goals are.

BUT there is a nearly universal bad way to do it: Boiling!

Forget about the problem of heat. For most plants, boiling will leach water soluble nutrients into the boiling water. Unless you’re using that water in a soup, stew or broth, you’re basically losing those vitamins.

All of these tips come from one of my favorite books, Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.  You should check it out.  It’s a wonderful read.

For tips on carrots, see my post on How to Get 8X More Nutrition from Your Carrots
For tips on garlic, see my post Garlic, You’re Doing it Wrong.

If you have any tips like this, I’d love to hear them and share them 🙂

Happy Vegging!

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Leap (year) into Whole Foods

Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

Leap years are weird. But not as weird as spending the precious days of your life torturing yourself on one insane diet or exercise regimen after another, never quite satisfied with the results.

This leap year, I challenge you to take the biggest leap ever:

Shorten the food chain.
Say NO to a diet consisting mostly of processed foods.

But we are all starting in different places. So try one of two challenges, depending on where you are now.

Option One: One Small Step

My whole life, I ate a standard western diet consisting of 100% processed foods.

I didn’t think this was particularly unhealthy. I ate things like Weight Watchers meals,  rice cakes, whole wheat bread with peanut butter and jelly.  I ate things that I made in the microwave.

I started slowly. I couldn’t stomach  REAL whole food. Even by my mid-twenties,  I had never tried a salad.

How did I start my health journey? By eating iceberg lettuce with popcorn chicken. I kid you not. It was a small step. I go into more detail in my post Help! I HATE Healthy Food.

If this is where you are, here is your leap day challenge:

  • eat a salad for lunch EVERY work day for the entire month of March

This isn’t a diet. This is eating salads for lunch. So the good news is that you can still get wasted beyond belief on St. Patricks day!

Option Two: A Giant Leap

If you feel up to it, go big!

Here is your challenge: 

  • eat ZERO processed foods for the month of March; OR;
  • eat ZERO processed foods during the work week; OR
  • severely limit your processed foods ONLY AS NEEDED for the month of March (ahem ahem, you too can eat and drink some crap on St. Patricks day).

I wish I could tell you how much whole foods changed my life. There are no cravings, there is no suffering.  I look forward to every delicious meal.

And when I want a processed item, I have it. I am no longer addicted.

If you’re still getting a large portion of your nutritional needs from processed foods, I sincerely hope you take this challenge with me!

Happy leaping 🙂

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Michael Pollan is Food Shaming Us Again

…and I love it.

In the new Netflix docu-series “Cooked,” Pollan (bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire” among others), gets deep into it.

And by “it” I mean all of it.

Pollan covers topics from traditional open-fire cooking by indigenous people of Australia, to food processing by modern corporations, to India, to hippie hog farmers.

And that’s just episode one.

Here is what the media has to say

From the New York Times

Link: “Review: Michael Pollan and Pangs of Guilt, Not Hunger

Michael Pollan is food-shaming us again, this time in a four-part Netflix docu-series. It’s a gentle sort of shaming, and informative, but unless you’ve previously been converted to Pollanology through his books (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) or his other screen appearances (“Food, Inc.”), you’ll come away feeling mighty guilty about what you eat.

I’m beginning to detect where this is going….
Somehow, the NYT is going to make this about class and poverty.

Am I right?  Let’s see…

Mr. Pollan’s messages are important to hear and are engagingly presented in this series. Still, there’s a disconnect that’s never addressed. It would be great if all 7.4 billion of us could hunt our own lizards and cook them over an open fire, spend hours baking our own bread from grain milled on stone, and so on. But there’s a gentrification to Mr. Pollan’s brand of culinary advocacy.

The world’s poorest people — some seen in idyllic imagery here — have to devote long hours to basic subsistence, and the world’s relatively well off have the luxury to indulge in artisanal cooking. Yet applying his ideas across the whole range of human circumstances is a trickier subject than this pretty series wants to tackle.

Aha! I was right! Well I guess I had an unfair advantage. I did, after all, read the entire article before making my prediction.

In any event, sure, this reviewer is technically right. But I hate the focus of this review.

I mean really, a review of the show should be a review of the show. If you want to write an Op-ed, then I’d understand focusing on how difficult this problem is to solve globally.

I mean – aren’t most global issues difficult to solve?

The goal of this series is clearly to reach more people with information that matters. And that it achieves. Quite beautifully, at that.

From Mother Jones

Link: “Netflix and Grill: Michael Pollan Takes His Food Evangelism to the Small Screen”

This one’s a bit kinder, although they do criticize Pollan for failing to “offer viewers detailed advice about how to increase how much they cook.”

Much of the information presented in the Cooked Netflix series won’t be new to foodies who follow Pollan’s work. It touches on the rise of industrialization and processed food, the beneficial gut microbes that thrive when we eat fermented food, and the importance of eating meat that came from ethically treated animals. However, even viewers obsessed with health food trends will be seduced by the series’ vibrant scenes, which provide a glimpse of how cultures around the world make—and break—their proverbial bread.

My Take

I think the series is fantastic, and of course, I think Michael Pollan is fantastic.

I love the series for two reasons:

1. People Don’t Read

If you are reading this blog, then I congratulate you. Because while writers at the NY Times and Mother Jones are writing to an audience that is often highly familiar with Pollan’s work, the truth is that the majority of people don’t ever read.

Sure, plenty of people do read. But even among the most educated, plenty of people don’t.

And sure, more people are reading than ever before. On all sorts of media, yes. But I reiterate – many people don’t.

Media is increasingly converting to video. So when information that is normally found in books goes to Netflix, I’m all about it. Especially when it educates people on something so important.

2. Processed Food is Still King

Again, readers of the NY Times and Mother Jones represent a small subset of the population, despite these being huge publications. So when these publications write reviews, they are writing for so called “sophisticated people” who have heard it all before.

But most people haven’t heard it all before. They’re still confused. And it’s not their fault.

And sure – Pollan’s books (and similar books) are extremely well known. They have been read by millions.  But these millions represent a tiny percentage of the population as a whole.

I don’t take a militant approach to shedding light on important issues. I take a “leaky information approach.”

Most people don’t read, but the people who do – they spread the word. The others end up reading only the headlines. And that’s OK.

Most people don’t eat a reasonable diet, but the people who do – they spread the word.  We  won’t end up eating a perfect diet. And that’s OK. There is no such thing as a perfect diet. It’s all about steps towards better information for more people. This series helps us get there.

In Sum

I am so happy that awareness of the importance of whole foods is becoming stronger everyday. But for the vast majority of people in this country (and increasingly around the world), processed food is still king!! 

So I say – the more information the better! The more people reached the better!

This, my friends, is how progress happens.

And I applaud Michael Pollan (and people like him) for bringing important concepts to new people every day.

Great series. Check out “Cooked” on Netflix and let me know what you think.

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