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Reviews

Flavrz Drink Mix Review

I’m always looking for low-cal, low-sugar beverage options. I am a true water junkie, but sometimes the insipid thirst-clencher just doesn’t cut it.

However, finding a quality H2O replacement is like picking out a chocolate easter bunny that will actually taste good–difficult.  The rows and rows of drinks reflecting back that grocery store, fluorescent-light sparkle can all be so bewitching. But pick one out and glance at its ingredient list, and that twinkle quickly fades. Sugar often tops the list, followed by dubious preservatives. And just because I’m craving something other than water doesn’t mean I want to drink down a meal’s worth of calories.

Then you have those drinks who’s “0 CAL” labels reach out to you from the shelves and try to grab your hand. But for me, their no-cal, low-sugar appeal runs away the minute I see the aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, or other oddly-named fake sweetener content. Call me paranoid, but I’m still a little skeptical about all those artificial sweeteners. Stevia, derived from actual plant foliage, I can handle. Chemically combined elements with possible studied negative health consequences, now that I’m not so sure.

Click here for review…

Lightlife Review

In general, I’m not a huge fan of fake, processed meat products (excluding seitan, because I really do like seitan). Not because they don’t taste good but because they tend to have lengthy lists of ingredients I can’t even begin to properly pronounce. Overall, I follow a Michael Pollan-styled philosophy: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Do you see much room for chemicals and preservatives in that sentence? Yeah, me neither.  However, I’m also a firm believer in the unvarnished platitude “everything in moderation.” So every once in awhile, when I’m craving something chewy, maybe even a little meaty, I’ll reach for a faux meat product. I’ve even posted a few reviews on products like these in the my early days as a blogger. (Yikes to those rookie photos that would accompany the posts.)

Over the past couple months, I’ve had a chance to try a few new meaty, meat-less products of Lightlife’s. One of them being the Buffalo Smart Wings pictured above. For many vegetarians, myself included when I first went chicken-free, giving up spicy, salty buffalo wings isn’t easy. So it’s nice to have products out there that can emulate this American favorite. Lightlife’s wings are definitely a little light on the buffalo sauce and the spice, but add some Sriracha and Ranch, and they’ll be able to satisfy most of your buffalo wing cravings. While their ingredient list does contain some questionable ingredients of which you definitely couldn’t find in my kitchen, the list doesn’t go too far overboard. And the faux buffalo wings are definitely healthier than their fatty counterparts, containing a mere 3 grams of fat, and significant serving of protein and fiber. Continue reading this review…

Justin’s Nut Butter Review plus Giveaway

I’ve professed my love for nut butters countless times on my site. In my humble opinion, there’s really nothing better than a banana smeared with a little nut butter. Even more delicious than this fantastic combination is the combination of nut butter with proceeds that go towards a a good cause. This is just what Justin’s Nut Butter does.

What first attracted me to Justin’s Nut Butter was there individually-portioned nut butter packets. While the excess packaging of course isn’t favorable*, one can’t deny that a pre-portioned package of nut butter make a good grab-and-go lunchbox item. Backpacking for the weekend and don’t want to lug around a heavy jar of peanut/almond butter? That’s what I instantly though of when I looked at these cutesy nut butter packets. Nut butter serves as an awesome energy-dense source of food.

*(Justin’s is currently working on this issue. They hope to unveil 66% renewable packaging by Earth Day 2012.)

As I researched Justin’s further, I became more and more intrigued. First, most of what goes into their jars/packets is sourced from organic ingredients, with as many locally-derived ingredients used as possible. Second, the company stands behind two positive outreach initiatives.

The company primarily supports the Conscious Alliance, “a grass-roots organization that provides youth awareness programs on severe hunger issues through its Art that Feeds program and other outreach initiatives.”  The Conscious Alliance has collected and distributed over one million pounds of non-perishable food donations to food pantries and global disaster relief programs nationwide over the past six years.

This is where Justin’s comes in. The company donates one pound of peanut butter to Conscious Alliance for every item sold at an in-store product demonstration, in addition to putting in volunteer time with the outreach program.

Next on the agenda, Justin’s will begin to focus their support on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the 2nd poorest county in the nation, located just 407 miles from the company’s offices.

While I prefer my nut butter in it’s simplest form (nuts, salt), Justin’s doesn’t fair all too bad in terms of keeping the ingredients list short. They steer clear of hydrogenated oils (Trans Fat, eeek) and don’t add sickening amounts of sweetener. They have a ton of fun flavors, like honey almond butter, maple almond butter, and chocolate hazelnut butter, the three flavors I was fortunate to try.

The honey almond butter was notably buttery with delicate hints of salt and subtle hints of honey, while the chocolate hazelnut was like a slightly more intense version of Nutella, favorably containing 2/3 less sugar and a few less ingredients. The only flavor I wasn’t a huge fan was the maple. I found it to be kind of bland, but Justin claims this to be his favorite.

You can click here to view their other products, which include my favorite, peanut butter cups. Yum.

Want to try some of Justin’s Nut Butter for yourself? Food-Fitness-FreshAir is giving away three jars (pictured above) to one lucky winner.

How to enter: (Leave a sepearte comment per entry.)
This contest closes on **Monday, March 14, 2011 at Midnight, 12:00am EST**

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to try Justin’s
2) Become a fan of F-F-F on Facebook
3) Follow me on Twitter
4) Link this giveaway on one of your blog posts and let me know that you did
5) Retweet this on Twitter: @GraceDickinson is giving away 3 jars of nut butter at Food-Fitness-FreshAir: http://bit.ly/dzXamL

One winner will be chosen at random by random.org.


Ayala’s Herbal Water Review

Yesterdays post about the traps of flavored beverages leads me into a review of one of my recent discoveries, Ayala’s Herbal Water. Ayla’s Herbal Water is a line of flavored beverages that I can finally stand behind. The beverages contain nothing but good ol’ H2O, infused with extracts from organic herbs. Which means zero artificial ingredients, zero preservatives, zero sugars, and by nature, zero calories.

The simple make-up of these drinks makes them incredibly refreshing. Herb combinations like “cloves-cardamom-cinnamon” and “lavender-mint” give plain old water a delightful boost of flavor, perfect for when I’m looking to switch it up a bit.

My current favorites include “lemongrass-mint-vanilla” and “cinnamon-orange-peel.” The flavor comes simply from what’s laid out to you in the name, with stimulating hints of each herb infused in every bottle.

You’ll have to play around with which flavors are for you. I like nearly all of them, but there are one or two that I find have a flowery taste that errs on the side of soapy. I personally wouldn’t fully recommend the “lemon-verbena-geranium,” but it could just be my personal preferences.

Unlike many other beverage companies that fill up their labeling space with a list of fortified vitamins and health claims, Ayala’s tastefully uses the space to simply describe the drink. Every bottle contains a lists of the herbs that are infused, giving a brief description about the nature of each herb. So if you’re having trouble choosing a flavor, you can start there for a quick guide. I recommend any of the mint flavors, but it’s also fun to experiment with some of the lesser-used herbs within beverages. If you’re looking for some bubbles, you can also check out Ayala’s line of sparkling water.

If you give them a try, let me know your favorite flavor!

Better Butter

Look out boyfriend, you’ve got some competition. His name’s Peanut Butter, and this childhood friend’s certainly not going anywhere.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime in between, you name it and I’ll be ready for some of that creamy, nut-filled butter. Peanut butter easily ranks among my top 5 foods. Pair it with a banana, and I’m in foodie heaven. Or, just hand me a spoon (even better, make it a chocolate spoon) and I’ll heedlessly serve myself straight up.

While all natural peanut butter definitely isn’t the worst food obsession to have, downing the nutty stuff can err on the side of dangerous, especially when those portion sizes aren’t kept in check. Sending even just a single spoonful of peanut butter into your mouth can mean a quick 100-200 calories and a dense load of fat plopped into your tummy.

That’s why I was excited when I got wind of Better Butter, a Philadelphia-based peanut butter company that adds extra flavor and nutrients to their peanut butter in order to lower the cal/fat content. Better Butter’s products utilize pumpkin or banana to stretch that peanutty goodness, naturally lowering the calorie and fat count to about half that of other nut butters.

Better Butter offers three flavors: Nutty Chocolate Chip, Maple Pumpkin, and Honey Nut Banana. The Nutty Chocolate Chip tastes similar to slightly-less-sweet brownie batter with an abundance of mini chocolate chips swimming around. Better Butter’s best seller, the Maple Pumpkin, resembles a thicker version of pumpkin pie filling with a faint nutty aftertaste. I have yet to try the Honey Nut Banana, but considering it contains my favorite combo. ever, I’m definitely curious to check it out.

Better Butter takes a wholesome approach, adding only natural ingredients to their products. Any sweeteners used come from either agave or maple syrup, and absolutely no GMOs, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors are added. Another pro, Better Butter tries to source all of their ingredients locally, purchasing their nuts from the Philadelphia area, jars from Lancaster, and shipping boxes from Ambler. But yes, they do ship nationwide, so check out their online store for more details.

My only complaint with Better Butter is the loss of that intense peanutty flavor. I’m afraid that for me, I can’t say Better Butter stands up to a banana quite the same way that a simple peanut butter does. However, it’s definitely spoon-out-of-the-jar worthy, which so far is probably my favorite way to eat Better Butter. I like to consider it a healthy dessert alternative. What’s 27-year-old founder and owner Marina Levtov’s favorite way to eat it?  “When I have leisurely time in the morning, I make a breakfast pizza with the Nutty Choc Chip. The combo of chocolate peanut butter, bananas, yogurt, and agave is the best.”
Now that’s a recipe I’m looking to give a try.
*Better Butter is also giving Food-Fitness-FreshAir readers a 20% discount off of all items. Simply enter foodfitnessfreshair in the coupon code box.