bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery Store Lessons: Nutella & GO!

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Just when I think that everyone must know by now that Nutella, while admittedly delicious, is not part of a healthy breakfast, I hear a woman on the radio saying that she feeds her kids healthfully and gives them toast with Nutella about three times a week. I’ve said it before, putting Nutella on toast is essentially turning it into a candy bar. Well, lest spreading Nutella on your toast in the morning is too time consuming, or you want a Nutellalicious snack as well, there’s now “Nutella & GO!”, a single serve portable package of little bread sticks and Nutella.

But Nutella has nuts and milk, right? It must be a healthier option than a chocolate bar. Nope. The first ingredient? Sugar. The second ingredient? Modified palm oil. In one little package, there is 270 calories, 23 grams of sugar (that’s nearly 6 teaspoons!!!), and 14 grams of fat. On the upside, there’s 4 grams of protein, and 4% of your daily recommended calcium. Compare that to a chocolate bar (we’ll use Snickers as it’s apparently the best selling chocolate bar in North America): 250 calories, 27 grams of sugar, 12 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 4% of your daily recommended calcium. Yes, a Snickers bar has an extra teaspoon of sugar, but aside from that they are quite similar. Other chocolate bars have similar or lesser quantities of sugar than Nutella & GO!

Sure, Nutella can be a tasty treat, but it’s certainly not a healthy one.


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First ever giveaway!

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As you know, I’ve never had a contest on my blog before. Normally if someone approaches me to promote something on here I turn them down. That’s not what this site is all about. However, when a rep from KIND Snacks contacted me and asked if I’d like some free samples and the opportunity to give some to you too, I said “yes and yes!”. KIND is not paying me for this blog post and I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think they made a great product. I mean, how could I pass up some free KIND bars? Even if my boyfriend does love them too so I have to share them with him.

Some of the KIND bars are a little high in sugar; more of the older flavours that incorporated dried fruit. Most of the newer ones have 4-5 grams of sugar, which, without the use of non-nutritive sweeteners and sugar alcohols, I challenge you to find in any other snack bar. I love that they’re simple whole ingredients, primarily nuts, and are a good source of protein and fibre. They’re a great snack to stash in your bag, car, or desk for a quick pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. I can’t wait until their “strong” bars (with flavours like Honey Mustard, and Thai Sweet Chili are available in Canada. I must confess, one of my missions when I went to Boston to run the marathon last spring was to find (and eat) these Strong bars. Sadly, the only flavour I came across was the Hickory Smoked.

Okay, okay. I know you just want the free stuff. So… For your chance to win a free box of KIND Bars just comment on this post telling me your favourite flavour of KIND bar or your favourite product they make. My personal fave is the Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt. It’s the perfect marriage of healthy snack and decadent treat.

The contest will close on Monday, February 2nd at 9:00am AST. The winner will be randomly selected. Once contacted, they will have 12 hours to get in touch with me with their mailing details. If they don’t respond by that time, a new winner will be randomly selected. Good luck and happy snacking!

Update February 2nd:

We have a winner! Congratulations Vanessa! You’ll be receiving a free box of Kind bars in the mail shortly! Thanks to everyone who entered.


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Sexism and snacks

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Of course I couldn’t resist reading the article Nutrition Bars Are Sexist? Oh, Okay when it came through on my Google nutrition news alert. The author writes rather condescendingly about a blog post: The Stereotype-Driven Business of Selling Nutrition Bars to Women

In the original blog post Stephie Grob Plante writes, more than fairly in my opinion, about the marketing of “nutrition” bars to women. These bars include Luna, thinkThin, and Eat Like a Woman. I’ve only seen the former in Canada. However, based on the packaging and the marketing terms I’m in wholehearted agreement with Plante’s assessment of these nutrition bars appealing to the expectation that women desire to be thin and to lose weight. You can see the same thing in the advertisements for Special K and, let’s be honest, pretty much every product that is targeting women. The notion is that women need portion-controlled grab-and-go bars to avoid uncontrollable over eating and subsequent weight gain.

On the other hand, you see energy and protein bars targeting men and athletes. These products focus on packing as many calories and as much protein as possible into a single bar. As Plante points out, the marketing suggests that men are more inclined to forget to eat and need something that they can grab and scarf down.

The responding article, written by Katherine Timpf states that Plante seems to have forgotten that “marketing is about stereotyping”. Oh, okay. Because marketing is rooted in sexist stereotypes that makes it logical that nutrition bars employ said stereotypes to market their products to women. Just because sexism is insidious doesn’t make it okay.

Timpf asserts:

The advertisements are targeted at women who want to lose weight because the bars are intended to appeal to women who want to lose weight. How could this possibly be considered controversial?

Um… It can be considered controversial because the stereotypes employed to market these bars to women are offensive. To tell me, as a woman, that I should eat a bar because it will make me thin is presumptuous. It also goes beyond the implication that I chose my foods to stay or become skinny. It implies that thin is ideal. That I will be more successful in life, and more desirable to men, if only I eat their specially formulated snack bar. Good grief.

Timpf also states that somehow this is an issue to take-up with God(??!!!) because he created men and women differently and therefore, we have different nutrient needs. Yes, okay, on average, men need more calories than women. However, nutrient needs vary more among individuals than between sexes. And one little bar is not going to have a huge impact on your nutrient consumption for the day anyhow.

There is one good point made by Timpf at the very end of her article. That’s the fact that most of these “nutrition” bars aren’t particularly nutritious to begin with and they’re full of highly processed suspect ingredients.

Obviously, making your own snacks is ideal. However, we’re all busy and sometimes a snack bar does come in handy. There are plenty of decent options available that don’t employ sexist marketing messages. You don’t have to support the continued use of sexist marketing tactics. Choose snack bars that focus on the ingredients, nutrition, and flavour rather than telling you that you need to lose weight.


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Paper bag popcorn

A friend recently shared this link with me to an article on how to make your own microwave popcorn (she also shared that it works).

Lots of people are concerned about some of the ingredients in microwave popcorn (particularly some of the ingredients in the bag itself). This allows you to choose your source for corn kernels, use a plain old paper bag, and season your popcorn as you wish.

Topping suggestions:

  • nutritional yeast
  • parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper
  • sugar and cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • a little melted chocolate drizzled over-top
  • pretty much any herb and spice combo you desire


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Portion-controlled snack problem

There seem to be an increasing number of portion controlled low-calorie foods available. In theory, I like the idea of portion control. We all know that you’re likely to eat more chips if you’re eating from a large bag than if you serve yourself a small bowl and put the bag away before you start eating. For those who continue to hear the bag calling to them from the cupboard, mini-bags can be a great solution (as long as you don’t allow yourself more than one bag in a sitting).

My problem with the majority of these products is that they’re not going to provide you with any sense of satiety. Take these new Special K Fruit Crisps for example. At only 100 calories per two crisps they seem like a great idea. But what nutrition do those calories come with? Fibre? Nope, none. Protein? One measly gram (keep in mind a serving of protein is 6-7 grams). There’s only 80 mg of sodium and just under two teaspoons of sugar. When you think about it though, that’s a fair amount for the tiny bit of food and calories you’re eating. Wouldn’t you rather have something more satisfying? Even if you have to have a few more calories to do it, it may be worthwhile. And I do only mean a few. Have a piece of fruit and a few nuts or a piece of cheese (there are lots of convenient individually packaged options available now) and a couple of whole grain crackers. Sure, being able to toss something in your bag, desk, or car is handy but try to choose something that’s going to give you some nutrition and keep you feeling full for a while. Don’t waste your money on empty calories, you’d probably be better off eating the money (more fibre at least from the bills).