I'm a big proponent of buying food locally. I can't say that every item in my kitchen cupboards is locally-sourced, but I do make an effort to support local businesses by buying their products and giving them a shot. If they are good, I'll keep coming back for more. I typically favor less processed foods or foods that can be used as part of a meal, not a snack. Over the past few days of The Year of Me!, however, I wanted to see what I could find in terms of healthier alternatives to snacks, treats or even a food that might replace a meal (if you were in a pinch).
Here are a couple "snackier" foods from brands you may have already heard of, but never tried. Both foods happen to be gluten-free, containing minimal ingredients. It really works for these products - they taste great.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | Viola, Wisconsin-based MACROBAR
I picked up a couple of MACROBARs the other day at Whole Foods - Peanut Protein and Almont Butter with Carob. If you've never heard of carob, or wonder what it tastes like, think of chocolate. It has a fairly similar flavor and is often used as a substitute. It's non-dairy, so it works well for people who can't have traditional chocolate. The bars are made in Viola, Wisconsin, pulling all the ingredients from a local farm. The Peanut Protein bar has exactly four ingredients in it, and the Almond Butter with Carob has five. Not bad. So what's so special about this bar?
The name of the bar plays heavily into what makes this bar unique. I went online to research the company and found myself reading this great story. After I finished it, I read it to my husband. GoMacro, the company that makes MACROBAR, was started by the mother-daughter team of Amelia Kirchoff and Jolanta Sonkin. In 2003, Kirchoff was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a lumpectomy and radiation, Kirchoff turned to a macrobiotic diet instead of chemotherapy. Eatingmacrobiotically means that you follow a mostly-vegetarian way of eating that is based around grains, vegetables, fruits, organic and unprocessed foods. This diet is free of dairy, meat and oily foods. The diet is rooted in Eastern culture. Consumption of food is based on its yin-yang balance, where some foods are cool and moistening (yin) and other foods are warm and drying (yang). It is believed by many that a macrobiotic diet helps those with diseases, particularly in cancer treatment. In the case of Kirchoff, she has abided by a macrobiotic diet for nearly ten years and is healthy today.
The bars, truly a treat with really healthy ingredients, are the result of recipes Kirchoff and Sonkin created that follow macrobiotic principles while filling the void of something sweet - or dessert-like.Sonkinshopped the bars around Chicago and they were quickly adopted. I really liked both bars. Personally, I preferred the Almond Butter with Carob, but my husband really liked the Peanut Protein. Yes, the "bar" market is flooded, but it's really nice to stumble upon a company that was started with such great roots - and still sources everything locally! The bars are gluten free, organic, vegan and macrobiotic, and retail for $2.99. Yep, a little more than a candy bar, but so worth it!
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | Shiller Park-based Enjoy Life Foods
If you've got food allergies, going to the grocery store just to pick up a few things things requires a lot more work and energy than allergy-free shopping. Sure, we should all read ingredient labels, but with allergies as prevalent as they are today it's important to buy from brands you trust. Ideally, whole, unrefined foods should always take priority over packaged foods, but if you're the parent of a child with allergies, making a lunch or going on a play date with snacks can be fairly limiting.
Enjoy Life is a company that makes baked goods, cereals and snacks that are free of gluten as well as egg, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, casein, sesame and sulfites. A mouthful, but all of those foods or ingredients can trigger many common allergies. The company was started in 2001 by Chicago banker-turned-baker, Scott Mandell. The company's production facility is located in Shiller Park and distributes to stores throughout the United States and Canada. Not bad growth for a guy who developed his business based on an idea he had as part of a class he took while an MBA at Kellogg.
While at the store on Wednesday, I noticed that there was a new Enjoy Life product on the shelf. I usually buy something 'snacky' for my kids' lunches anyway, so I thought I'd give it a try. The new product, Plentil,are lentil-based chips that have exactly five ingredients in them. None of the ingredients are artificial or genetically modified - which is a rare thing these days. I liked the chips, but more importantly, my three and six-year-old like the chips...a lot.
In addition to Plentils, Enjoy Life also makes a variety of other foods, including cookies, cereals, bars, seed and fruit mixes and chocolate for baking.
Thumbs up to you, Plentils! And kudos to Enjoy Life for committing to making allergy-free food!
Thursday, August 30, 2012 | Arguably the best detox smoothie I've ever made
The other day I was reading an article about favorite smoothies among personal trainers. I can't find the source of the article right now, but remember reading one of the trainers added turmeric to his smoothie! I've juiced with turmeric and have used it in many detoxes, but have never made a smoothie with it. Turmeric is a spice that has a bright orange color and is a staple in Indian cuisine. Turmeric has also been touted for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and liver detoxing properties. I like to use fresh turmeric, but using the powder would be just as good.
I decided to make my own smoothie using nothing more than a handful of spinach, a few strawberries, an inch (or so) of turmeric and a little stevia. Strawberries and spinach together always taste good, but the spicy turmeric could go either way. I was surprised by how great it tasted! I probably could have added a little more turmeric to get a stronger flavor, but I wanted to play it safe. If you're looking for other foods to add to a smoothie or juice to help detox, here you go! Here's the recipe if you want to give it a shot:
Spinach Strawberry Turmeric Detox Smoothie
1 1/2 cups water
1 big handful spinach, torn
5 to 7 strawberries
1 inch of fresh turmeric, or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1packetstevia, or 1/2 teaspoon
Blend all ingredients thoroughly. Enjoy!
Traci D Mitchell is a healthy living and fitness expert. Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.
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