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Monday, November 27, 2017

Spokes Air-Puffed Potato Snacks: Product Review


One of the foods that many of my weight-loss clients identify as their weakness is potato chips. This doesn't surprise me since its one of the foods most highly associated with obesity.

The problem with potato chips is that they are easy to eat in large quantities (who can eat just one?), and they are very calorically dense. People also tend to crave them because they hit all the right salty, fatty, sweet (a lot have added sugar), carby, notes that we find addictive.

I never tell my clients to cut out a food altogether (although I recommend it for sugary soda!) if its something they love. I either tell them to work a reasonable amount it into their daily calorie limit, or find a healthier alternative that satisfies the craving.

For potato chip lovers, a lower calorie alternative may be these new snacks, Spokes, created by a Canadian company. Spokes are an air-puffed potato snack that has just 40 calories a cup, compared to 137 per cup for regular potato chips.

They are available in 9 flavours and are gluten-free and nut-free, and preservative free.

The company sent us BBQ and Salt & Vinegar flavours to sample and both disappeared in seconds. I asked my friend, a salty/carby snack addict, to weigh in. She loved the amount of seasoning, which she found was not overpowering, and adored the lightness and non-greasiness of Spokes, and gave both flavours equal marks. Little A, felt the BBQ could have more flavour but, overall, really enjoyed them too. Big A didn't get home from dance class in time to try the BBQ, which is her favorite chip flavour, but found the Salt & Vinegar a bit too salty (though she doesn't like S&V chips anyways). I tried the BBQ and thought they were really good. Salt & Vinegar doesn't do it for me so I didn't try them. From Adam's frequent dips into the bowl, I am guessing he enjoyed the Spokes quite a bit too!

So, do I recommend Spokes? If you are looking for a lower calorie alternative to regular potato chips, I absolutely do. But keep in mind they are not 'nutritious'. As I always say, the healthiest snacks are not found in the snack food aisle. They are always fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, unsweetened yogurt, etc. But I do think the 80/20 rule is a good dietary approach, so if you eat nutritious, whole foods 80% of the time, you can probably afford to include some treat (void of nutritional value) foods in there on occasion.

Disclosure: The company sent us the product to review, but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gluten-Free Comfort Food: Book Review


As you must know, gluten-free is all the rage now. While only a small percentage of the population have Celiac disease, or even a gluten sensitivity, it seems everyone is jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon because they think its going to help them lose weight, gain energy, cure their bloating/rashes/brain fog/infertility/headaches/stupidity...

Despite the ridiculous gluten-free trend, avoiding gluten is no joke for people who ACTUALLY need to avoid it. One thing that makes those folks despair, is the idea of having to give up their favorite comfort foods. If you are looking for gluten-free versions of your favorite recipes, 100 Classic Gluten-Free Comfort Food Recipes might be of interest.

Written by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, both home economists and experienced bakers, the book provides gluten-free recipes for classics such as oven-fried chicken, stuffing, gravy, lasagna, mac & cheese, waffles, various types of breads and buns, muffins, cookies, brownies and donuts.

What I like best about the book is the introductory chapter that explains what whole grains are. As you know, one of my biggest beefs (or tofus, if you're vegan), is that people often think things are inherently healthy if they are gluten-free, and this is definitely not true. Especially if grains containing gluten are replaced with refined gluten-free flours like white rice flour. They include a list of gluten-free grains and starches that can be used for cooking and baking. But they forget to mention konjac!

There are chapters for:


  • Soups and salads
  • Entrees and sides
  • Yeast breads
  • Yeast-free muffins and biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Pies and pastry
  • Puddings and other sweets


There are a lot of lovely, colour photos of the recipes and many helpful tips and variations to suit your taste.

I love that the recipes use whole grains, but there is a lot of sugar in the sweets, though that can easily be replaced by a healthier sweetener.

My one criticism is that for anyone who knows how to cook, a lot of the recipes are kind of superfluous given the vast availability of gluten-free foods. Like, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist (or home economist) to figure out that you can replace regular noodles with gluten-free noodles in lasagna, or you can use a gluten-free flour to thicken your gravy, instead of regular flour. But it does provide a good reference for what type of gluten-free flours work best for each recipe. I would say this is a perfect book for someone who is a relative newbie cook, and is looking for gluten-free recipes.

Do I recommend this book? For those with limited cooking and baking experience who want to learn how to cook and bake gluten-free, yes, this will be just what you're looking for!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seabuck Wonders Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil: Product Review


Most people these days seem to have jumped on the omega 3 fatty acid bandwagon whether its making a point to eat lots of fatty fish, omega 3 rich seeds, or simply taking a supplement.

But have you heard of omega 7?

Its another essential fatty acid lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Fear not, its now easy to get, from a vegan source no less, in sea buckthorn oil! I've told you all about sea buckthorn before, when I reviewed products from Seabuck Wonders. Well, now I have more to share about the benefits of this amazing plant.

Like other fatty acids, the omega 7 from sea buckthorn oil is an unsaturated fatty acid with a myriad of health benefits. It promotes cardiovascular health, like other fatty acids, and sea buckthorn is also cytoprotective, anti-stress, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, anti-atherogenic, anti-tumor, and anti-microbial.

Furthermore, one study found that sea buckthorn oil taken orally can help with dry eye...good news for me, a chronic dry eye sufferer! Its also good as a topical treatment for skin. Another study found it improves the symptoms of dermatitis (hello sensitive skin sufferer here!). For more info on benefits see here.

Seabuck Wonders recently sent me their Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil tincture to try. While it can be ingested, I was more interested in its topical uses.

My skin is dry, and sensitive and consequently prone to dullness and redness. I decided to try the Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil before bed one night in place of a moisturizer. I love the consistency. It is light and not at all greasy. Beware the colour though! The oil naturally has a bright orange colour, and I do find it turns my skin orange! If you want the Donald Trump look, you may not mind this, but for me, I will stick to using it before bed (just beware of staining if you have light coloured sheets). I love that unlike most skin care products, the active ingredients are not diluted with all sorts of fillers. Its done a great job of helping to heal the irritation I developed around my left eye (which waters a lot to compensate for dryness). My very sensitive skin has also not reacted to it, despite its potency. Yay!

If you want to take it orally, you could probably add it to a smoothie or something. Seabuck Wonders also sells a supplement is softgel format, specifically for hair, skin and nails, that combines the berry oil with biotin.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Most of us need to get more essential fatty acids, and sea buckthorn berry oil is one of the few sources of omega 7. Its also a vegan source of fatty acids for those who avoid animal products.

Disclosure: I was sent the product to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Confadent Oral Technology: Product Review


A few years ago when the girls' daycare announced there was going to be sugar-free gum day as a treat, I came in to pick them up, and caught a few moms lecturing the teachers on the dangers of artificial sweeteners and demanding that gum with sugar be allowed.

Oh boy did I have to bite my tongue!

While I can understand wanting to avoid aspartame, or whatever, there are lots of other sweeteners available that are better than sugar.

One of them is xylitol, a natural sweetener (for those of you who find 'natural'  to be a meaningful descriptor). It has slightly fewer calories than sugar and rather than causing tooth decay (one of sugars' many negative health consequences), it is actually protective of teeth.

Xylitol is available granulated and can be used in place of sugar in cooking and baking. It is also an active ingredient in many dental care products such as pastes and rinses.

You can also find xylitol in gums, like this new product, Confadent Oral Technology, which sent us several packs to sample.

The whole family gave them a try so we can share our feedback with you.

Adam, who is a ritual gum chewer, said he found he needed to chew several at a time because they are small, and he prefers gum in stick form. The girls liked the flavour, but found it did not last very long.

Overall, its great if used for its intended purpose:
"help prevent plaque and gingivitis, whiten teeth, and freshen your breath"

If however, you are looking for something merely for chewing pleasure, than you may be disappointed. But, frankly, I find that the case with most gum. After a few minutes of chewing I always have to spit it out or it starts to make me feel nauseous.

There is no doubt in my mind that we should all be avoiding gum with sugar. Oral health has now been determined to influence our risk for all sorts of serious chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Its not just a matter of having clean teeth!

So do I recommend this product? If you find yourself forgetting to brush your teeth regularly or having less than stellar check-ups at the dentist, or worrying about bad breath after meals, than stashing packs of these in your car and bag are a smart thing. Chewing for just a few minutes while the flavour lasts should be enough to get the protective benefits of the active ingredients anyways.

Disclosure: The company sent us the gum to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.