21 January 2009

Curb Your Cravings - Not Your Enthusiasm 399

January is the month of revival, whispers all around of a better year - aspirations held for those resolutions you have either penned to paper, or kept quietly in your thoughts.

According to data published from various studies published throughout the last 5 years, every January, roughly 40% of Americans vow to change something in their lives, in the form of a resolution. One of the top 3 resolutions is to lose weight1.

A study published in 2002 by Scranton University1, shows statistics for the percentage of people who had made New Year's resolutions, as the resolve to keep those resolutions dwindles steadily over time:
  • Resolutions held past the first week: 75%
  • Resolutions held past 2 weeks: 71%
  • Resolutions held after one month: 64%
  • Resolutions held after 6 months: 46%
The Study gathered data on the usefulness of resolutions made in January. To gather data, 2 groups of subjects were followed over a 6 month period and interviewed. The groups were made up of:
  1. People who had NOT sat down and made resolutions.
  2. People who DID make the effort to create resolutions.
The Study found that after 6 months time 46% of the people who HAD made resolutions were successfully accomplishing their resolution goals - compared to only 4% success rate of those who did NOT create resolutions .

This is good news for people who have reachable aspirations this year. For those of you who are seeking to shed extra pounds this year, it may be in your favor to write down a resolution or two. By keeping your resolutions in an accessible place, you create a reviewable bookmarklet of your goals. This will help improve your willingness to keep your word, as well as serve as a constant reminder of what you are working toward.

Once you have established your basic goals for weight loss, it is time to confront the barrage of seemingly frustrating obstacles, some are - portion control, peer pressure, advertising, self esteem, cravings and lack of motivation.

One of the biggest problems dieters face is curbing cravings for high calorie foods. The salty, crunchy and mostly grease laden mass produced items like chips, are readily available via retail shelves and can be found virtually everywhere - vending machines, break rooms and parties etc.

What can be done about cravings? Deprivation - The act of denying oneself access to these treats? Well studies also reveal that denying cravings only results in more weight gain, because most dieters succumb to the internal turmoil caused by the denial, and then start the binges. Binges are mainly eating large amounts of high calorie foods for an extended period, disregarding portion control or the caloric values. This can create an ugly cycle with dieters. It can be quite disheartening.

I think one effective method to ward off cravings is to find a similar food - one that is close to the texture, and taste of that high calorie, unneeded food you might crave. The key is to find the version that is the least in calories, yet still as tasty.

Thankfully flavor technologies are starting to catch up with the science of creating and marketing low calorie products. The bland, obviously doctored tastes of diet foods past seems to have dissolved, much like the once bad after tastes.

So keeping in tune with this post, I wanted to share that I discovered something recently, that was pretty nifty. Kellogg's brand 'Special K ' has started marketing low calorie snacks as part of their pro-low calorie product line. I think by far the multi-grain crackers they just released are one of the tastiest store bought crackers I have had in a while.

The closest retail comparison I could think of is "Wheat Thins". Now I have not been a fan of "Wheat Thins", the crackers are a bit too substantial for my taste. And they have an overpowering taste that competes with anything you add to them. Plus I find that I get this odd after taste when I have had a few at a time.

But Special K's multi-grain crackers surprised me. They have a very light & airy texture with bits of whole grains - but can still hold their own when used with a thicker dip or soft cheese. The taste of the cracker comes off very pleasant, with a slight hint of onion. Very buttery.

I honestly can say they were extremely good. Something I will keep in my pantry.

There is a second variety of Special K's crackers I tasted. The flavor is Italian Tomatoes & Herb. Now if you are someone who loves the taste of tomato bisque or sun-dried tomatoes - you will appreciate this variety.

I am not a fan of tomato bisque. I love marinara sauces and sun-dried tomato but something about that kind of soup just doesn't do it for me.

I did taste the crackers enough to get a sense of their flavor. The tomato flavor is pretty heavy in these crackers. IThe crackers actually reminded me of tomato soup with an aged cheese melted into it.

My husband (who happens to be an avid tomato bisque consumer) loved these crackers. As did my 20 month old. Plus they passed the "picky eater" test with my 5 yr old.

So if you are looking for something to curb your cravings, these crackers seem like a win-win. Per serving of 17 crackers it is only 90 calories. They come in individual portion controlled .77 oz pouches, or you can purchase a box of 6 pouches, and for larger amounts, the 8 oz carton is great for parties.

You can view more about the crackers , such as the nutritional & allergy info, by clicking on the above links (which point to Kellogg's website) or visit their product pages:

Special K Multi-grain Crackers:
Special K Italian Tomato & Herb Crackers:

Related Posts:

1Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).

15 January 2009

How sweet it is: The Skinny on Low Glycemic Sweeteners 73

The market for alternative sweeteners has started blossoming into quite the selection - no longer are consumers tied down to shopping at obscure health food stores or sending away bulk orders to specialty shops to find alternative ingredients, now super markets and even corner stores are following the trend which is shifting toward using natural whole ingredients.

While our quest for natural ingredients may have started as a trend, it may --- as a result of decades of digesting over processed, convenience type foods that saturate the market and whose establishments flood food courts and tend to cluster urban sprawl --- be a necessity to help reverse the ill-effects we have brought on ourselves through poor food choices.

There are many reasons to want an alternative sweetener, some include lifestyle choices - from Vegans who want to avoid bleached all-purpose sugar that may be processed using animal bones, to Raw Foodists who believe that all food they consume should be in the closest state to nature as possible (i.e minimally processed through heating), to those who are required to follow restricted diets such as those who suffer from Celiac Disease, or those who are diabeticsW. There is a great pdf document that you can download that touches on both Celiac Disease and Diabetes - outlining the connection between the two diseases and foods you consume.

In this post I want to concentrate on sweeteners that are suitable for diabetics. Those sweeteners that are low-glycemic. I will show some examples of each category of low glycemic sweeteners: unrefined, sugar alcohol, artificial, and herbal sweeteners.

There are many choices for alternative sweeteners. Natural, unrefined low-glycemic alternatives include:
  • Brown Rice SyrupW, which comes in different grades and gluten-free versions. It is normally used in cooking or baking ,by substituting a ratio of 1 1/4 times BRS to 1 amount of honey, molasses, or all-purpose (refined) sugar called for in a recipe [if using BRS to substitute for AP sugar - reduce liquids in your recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of BRS used]. The main component of BRS is maltose and several complex carbohydrates - which are absorbed very slowly by our bodies, making it a good low glycemic W choice.
  • Agave NectarW or Agave Syrup, is produced commercially in Mexico. Juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the piña.[1] The juice is filtered, then heated, to hydrolyze carbohydrates into sugars. Sources I have read say: "It is not manufactured from starch, but rather from fructans. [6] Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index only measures glucose levels, agave syrup is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market. [5] When using Agave, substitute 25% less for sweeteners called for in a recipe (ratio of 3/4 Agave to 1 cup refined sugar or other sweeteners), you will need to reduce your liquids by as much as 1/3. If using for baking make sure to reduce your oven temp by 25 F°.
Other low-glycemic Sweeteners options consist of Sugar derived alcohols such as:
There are many more sugar alcohol alternatives. Most are great because they actually prevent tooth decay, and they can be used in producing hard candies and confections. (seen allot in dental offices) The downside to these sweeteners is after a certain amount is eaten - it produces a laxative effect.

Another option and maybe the most well known category of low-glycemic sweeteners are those that are artificial. These artificial sweeteners have been largely used in commercialized products.
  • SplendaW , a.k.a Sucralose is approximately 600 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar),[4] twice as sweet as saccharin, and four times as sweet as aspartame and can be found in 4,500 products. Unlike aspartame, it is stable under heat and over a broad range of pH conditions and can be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf life.
  • AspartameW This sweetener is marketed under a number of trademark names, including Equal, NutraSweet, and Canderel, and is an ingredient of approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide. It is commonly used in diet soft drinks, and is provided as a table condiment in some countries. However, aspartame is not always suitable for baking because it often breaks down when heated and loses much of its sweetness.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners. and the safety of longterm ingesting. For those who cannot have sugar otherwise, these artificial sweeteners bring hope. Artificial sweeteners tend to have an unwanted aftertaste after ingested, and like Sugar Alcohol based sweeteners , they too have a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities.

The last category of low-glycemic sweeteners are herbal based. These sweeteners generally come from the parts of different herb families:
  • SteviaW The species Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives.
People have told me there is a learning curve with Stevia - you have to acclimate your tastebuds to the actual taste of stevia - it is sweet, but the ratio needs to be just right or you find a bitter after taste.

Recently the Food and Drug Administration (a.k.a FDA) approved 2 Stevia derived sweeteners, a first for the United States. One of the approved sweeteners Truvia, was developed by Cargil and The Coca-cola company.

Beverage brands such as Odwalla and Sprite's New "Green" line of sodas, all are planning to feature Truvia as the main sweetener in their products geared toward eco-friendly and diet soda buying consumers.

I got a chance to try Truvia. I was pretty interested because of what people had told me about Stevia, and that made it a challenge, plus the approval of this sweetener is pretty huge in the world of herbal ingredients.

Truvia comes in packets, much like Sweet 'n' Low, or regular table sugar you find at restaurants. Each packet is equal to 2 teaspoons of regular all purpose sugar. Truvia is also a Certified Kosher ingredient.

In the realm of eco-friendliness - The box and packets themselves are all recyclable paper and printed with Soy ink (big bonus there).

I tasted a few grains of Truvia by themselves, and noticed a very light vanilla note, and hints of tapioca. The aroma of Truvia is also similair to tapiocca custard. The look and texture is similair to fine sugar used in professional bakeries. I got a slight tingling, almost effervescence like sensation on my tongue once I tasted the Truvia grains.

Truvia did not pass my "coffee" test. I added it to my normal brewed coffee w/ half 'n' half and got a definite bitter aftertaste, similair to that of Dandelion greens. I would say that the ratio of one packet may be adjusted according to personal taste - I would use much less.

But maybe I need to acclimate my taste buds slowly to get used to the taste of Truvia in my coffee? I consider my morning coffee a sacred practice and I think I am not yet ready to change it. My favorite alternative to sugar in coffee is Agave Nectar - this stuff is great, I prefer the light colored agave syrup, as this has the least amount of flavor profile between Light Agave syrup and Amber Agave syrup varieties. If you taste the light agave syrup on your finger, it is very similair to normal sugar in taste.

Truvia preformed well however in my baking tests. I looked through the recipes found on the Truvia website. Some of the recipes include:
I decided to try the Classic Cheesecake recipe. It was not that bad, the taste was not as different as I had expected - texture was slightly affected, not as firm as traditional cheesecake formulas, but overall if you were looking to cut out refined sugar and calories this version might be a good bet. This cheesecake recipe has 270 calories and 4 grams of sugar per serving as compared to regular cheesecake that has 310 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving.

Overall I would say that Truvia is pretty pleasant to the palate when used in baking and is great when trying to use a natural low glycemic sugar substitute, similair to sugar in quality. The ratio of Truvia to sugar might need to be adjusted when substituting in recipes - but you can use a combination Truvia with Agave Syrup to cut the aftertaste of stevia, as they both are low-glycemic sweeteners.

You can visit the Truvia website for more info: http://truvia.com/index.html

02 January 2009

M&Ms Custom Printing, Colors for Any Event 79

Chocolate in bar form, from it's humble production years at the turn of the century, has gone hand-in-hand with military rations throughout history. From the America's first World WarW , when soldiers were given chocolate bars in abundance, as a cheap source of energy and nourishment. The unfortunate thing about chocolate is on it's own is most definitely guaranteed to meld into a puddle of chocolaty goo in the palm of your hand, or if carried close to your body too long.

During the Spanish Civil War , an innovator of Mars candy company saw Spaniard soldiers had been given chocolate encased in a sugary coating, which kept the chocolate from liquefying in the hot sun - which led to the development of the first M&Ms and a patent filed March 3, 1941, with actual production of the first M&Ms sold to consumers in paper tubes . M&Ms have been known the world over.

Custom M&Ms

22 Colors

Recently M&Ms have launched a very cool site,
so that you can create a campaign of custom
From birthdays to weddings - you choose from
22 colors and a variety of fonts to get your
perfect message on that candy coating.
The ordering process is very simple you choose
your colors,font and type in your message.
Once you have selected all the custom info,
you can see a dynamic demo in flash giving
you an idea of what your m&ms will look
like, featuring your colors & message.
Not only is there custom printing options
for the home consumer - But for businesses
as well.

I went ahead and ordered some for my husband's organization. He holds an elected office position and using the faces-on-m&ms option, I chose the organizations colors, then put his face on one side and his office title on the other side. The process is just as easy as the basic custom message - Upload your picture, crop it if you want a closer image, then their site techs will get the image resized so that it has the best appearance on the m&ms. I also ordered some basic m&ms with my personalized message.

I really liked the interactivity of m&ms site. It's a really neat service. Great for making an event even more special, or for advertising your business or organization. http://www.mymms.com/

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