The Debate over Dairy

Full-fat dairy or low-fat dairy?

It seems to be a dividing issue when it comes to nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, and other nutrition experts.

I had heard from different places (news reports, my brother) that whole fat is the way the go.  The studies often suggest that people who consume full-fat dairy generally have less problems with obesity and diabetes.  However, when my son would go to his pediatrician, because of his BMI, she would often suggest that we switch to 1% or skim milk.  Then, when he ended up with high cholesterol, the dietician that we met with at the children’s hospital said to avoid saturated fats, which meant we officially made the switch to 1% in order to follow her guidelines.

During one of our library trips, I stumbled across The Great Cholesterol Myth, which opened my eyes to why we have the ideas that we have about cholesterol and saturated fat, i.e. that these are bad and that they cause heart disease (HINT: the root of these beliefs is due to money, politics, and deceptive research practices–surprise, surprise).   Sugar is the real “demon in the diet,” as the authors put it.

This led me to request a bunch of books about sugar, sugar versus fat, and detoxing/quitting sugar.  You would think that these books would all agree about dairy, but of all the things they do agree on (i.e. fructose is bad news), they are still divided on dairy.  I wondered if that was because of when they were published, if maybe the discoveries about full-fat dairy were more recent and just hadn’t fully spread.  Here’s what I found:

The g.i. Diet Cookbook (2005) – favors skim and low-fat dairy

The Sugar Fix (2008) – favors low-fat dairy and says to avoid too much saturated fat

The Sugar Blockers Diet (2012) – appears to encourage full-fat dairy.  It’s the only type of dairy listed.

21-day Sugar Detox (2013) – favors full-fat dairy and says no low-fat dairy

I Quit Sugar (2013) – says fat is good and to choose whole fat dairy

The Sugar Smart Diet (2013) – the recipes contain fat-free dairy

100 Days of Real Food (2014) – is for whole fat dairy because it is less processed

Sugar Savvy Solution (2014) – is definitely pro skim milk and nonfat diary

The Great Cholesterol Myth (2015) – is okay with lard but never takes a stance on dairy

The Sugar Detox Plan (2016) – says to avoid most saturated fat and opt for low-fat dairy

Eat Fat, Get Thin (2016) – You would think with this title, the book would be in the full-fat dairy camp, but actually, it says no dairy at all, except for grass-fed butter and lard.

So my hypothesis was wrong.  It’s not about dates.

Time to turn to some primary sources.

The following are results from academic journals and are mostly from peer reviewed scholarly journals found by searching a university library database.  Just read the blue to skip to my summary of each of the research findings.

  • “Effects of High and Low Fat Dairy Food on Cardio-Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Studies” by Benatar, Sidhu, and Stewart, published in PLOS ONE (2013):


In other words, you might gain some weight by eating dairy whether it’s low-fat or whole-fat.

  • “The effect of low-fat versus whole-fat dairy product intake on blood pressure and weight in young normotensive adults” by Alonso et al., published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (2009):


The amount of fat in dairy did not affect blood pressure, though the whole-fat dairy did cause some weight gain.

  • “Intake of High-Fat Yogurt, but Not of Low-Fat Yogurt or Prebiotics, Is Related to Lower Risk of Depression in Women of the SUN Cohort Study” by Perez-Cornago et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016):


Whole-fat yogurt lowered the women’s risk of depression.  (That’s a cool side effect.)

  • “Total and Full-Fat, but Not Low-Fat, Dairy Product Intakes are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome in Adults” by Drehmer et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016):


That’s a mouth full, but basically, more dairy, especially full-fat dairy, decreases the risk for metabolic syndrome, at least in middle-aged and older adults, which goes against the current dietary guidelines.

  • “High full fat dairy products intake is associated with increased blood glucose levels among hypertensive people” by Vallianou et al., published in Atherosclerosis Supplements (2011):


So, if you have high blood pressure, full-fat dairy, especially yellow cheeses, could have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels.

  • “Dairy Intakes at Age 10 Years Do Not Adversely Affect Risk of Excess Adiposity at 13 Years” by Bigornia et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2014):


“Adiposity”–had to look this one up.  It refers to being severely overweight or obese.  So, although they apparently aren’t totally confident about the results of the study, it showed that full-fat dairy seems to protect against being overweight.

  • “Involvement of dietary saturated fats, from all sources or of dairy origin only, in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes” by Morio et al., published in Nutrition Reviews (2016):


This one also comes to the conclusion that full-fat dairy doesn’t affect risk of diabetes.  It does, however, suggest limiting total saturated fat since that might change the effects.  The paragraph after this is also very careful to point out that studies that making any sweeping generalizations about a specific part of a food, like saturated fatty acids, shouldn’t be done since other aspects of a particular food could also influence a person’s health.

What do other diets that are considered healthy say?

U.S. News ranked the best diets overall and rated the DASH diet as the healthiest, followed by the Mediterranean diet.  The DASH diet clearly states that low-fat dairy is preferred, and the Medterranean diet is focused on limiting saturated fat, suggesting that it is also in favor of low-fat dairy options.

Additional thoughts from across the Internet

Articles saying that full-fat dairy may be good:

And there are many more.  It was actually difficult to find any general website not talking about the recent studies showing benefits for full-fat dairy.  Still, the following groups still say you should opt for non-fat or low-fat dairy:

  • The United States Department of Agriculture
  • The American Heart Association


Full-fat dairy contains more calories, so I think this may be why most of the diet books go for low-fat and nonfat.  If you’re trying to sell a diet book, people that try it need to lose weight; otherwise, you won’t sell many books.  People are more likely to lose weight if they reduce calories from dairy, so it makes sense.

However, the books that aren’t focused on weight loss and just generally mention that you might lose a few pounds following their way of eating tend to lean towards the full-fat dairy camp.  This could explain, too, why the research falls that way as well but admits that it could cause weight gain.

So perhaps a happy compromise would be to use low-fat and nonfat dairy until you get to your goal weight.  Then, once weight loss is not a goal, switch over the full-fat stuff.  And if weight isn’t an issue for you, go full-fat, baby!

Feel free to share your views on dairy below!


(NOTE:  This post contains affiliate links.)




2 Weeks on the Chia Seed Diet

Don’t you just love the library?  I love it more now that I know there’s a 75-book limit!  Plus, just like a book store, it’s arranged by topic, so I just browsed the diet books and cookbooks again.  And once again, I stumbled upon some interesting finds, one of which was The Chia Seed Diet book.

I had kind of slacked off on my chia use, so I had lots of chia laying around the house that I had just recently started trying to use up, and when I browsed the book, I saw lots of recipes using chia and no sugar.  Perfect.

The Premise

So this book, of course, touts chia as a superfood, full of protein, fiber, and Omega-3s, but I’d say the main idea is that if you add chia to your foods throughout the day, you’ll fill up faster and for longer.  Since chia absorbs water and turns to gel in your stomach, (1) you have to drink more water, which will fill you up, and (2) the gel sits in your stomach for awhile, which makes you feel fuller longer.

How I Followed the Diet

The first few days I was determined to add chia to everything that I could mix it into or get it to stick to.  However, it didn’t really affect my appetite, so by the second week, I had settled in to adding chia to pretty much the same staples: cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, peanut butter, whipped cream, sauces, and bananas.  I was getting anywhere between 1 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons each day.

What I Learned from Doing the Diet


  • Again, a diet without a lot of commitment, especially since I already had a lot of chia on hand.  I didn’t need to purge my kitchen or stock up on a bunch of new food items.  I was also somewhat familiar with chia, so I didn’t have any real qualms about trying to add it to foods in new ways.
  • It flexed my creativity trying to figure out how to work chia into my meals.  I put chia in my cereal, yogurt, salads, and smoothies, which is all pretty typical.  But for a packed lunch for work that consists of a sandwich (with no sticky condiments) and carrots (no dip)?  There was nothing for the chia to hold on to, so I took a banana, too.  I took a bite and then dipped the end in chia seeds.  It worked!  I also added chia to the top of my peanut butter and apples, and between the sauce and cheese of my pita pizzas.  I often stirred it into whipped cream, ketchup, and bbq sauce, too.
  • I increased my Omega-3 intake without having to resort to eating salmon.  I’m not a big fan of it, and it’s expensive.  This was much more palatable for me. Plus, I can add chia to my food without forcing it on everyone else.  If I buy salmon, everyone is eating it.
  • Fiber….and regularity.  Actually, I wasn’t irregular before, but this definitely increased my productivity in this area.


  • Those little suckers end up stuck in my teeth (and my permanent retainer).  Every.  Single.  Time.   I decided that carrying some gum with me when I was going to consume chia outside the home was a must.
  • I have to add a little more chia to the dish than what I actually want because many of the seeds stick to the side of the bowl or dish and are hard to get to.
  • It was easy for me to get distracted and forget to add the chia until right at the end of the meal, meaning I didn’t get as much as I had originally intended.  I even took a little baggie of chia with me to Chipotle, ordered a burrito in a bowl so that I could sprinkle it on, and then after getting the kids settled and eating, completely forgot to add any chia at all.  This is one of the reasons that I just stopped trying to add it to everything.
  • I never felt the extra fullness described in the book.  In other words, chia was not making me eat less, and as a result, I didn’t lose weight.


Overall, I think adding chia as much as possible to my day is not a bad thing.  For me, it didn’t aid weight loss, but I never thought it would.  After a few days of starting this “diet,” I started using MyFitnessPal to get an idea of calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients consumed, and generally speaking, I can tell exactly why I’m not loosing weight:  too many calories.  I’m not gaining either, though, just maintaining, which is something at least.   However, it felt good to see that I was almost always getting 40+ grams of fiber, and part of this was due to the chia.  I like it in my cereal.  I like it on a banana, and it’s fine in salads and smoothies.  In the end, the diet made me aware of the many ways to cram chia into my daily diet, so it was well worth giving it a try.

  The Chia Seed Diet



The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Lärabar

Time to look into Lärabar.  I’ve been putting this off since I know it’s not one of my favorites, but as I look at their website, I see that they have some other lines that I’ve never tried.  Let me see if they’re worth picking up.

As a reminder, when looking at snack bars, for now, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.

Lärabar Original

This line of Lärabars has over 20 varieties!  My son has sampled quite a few of them, and I think he liked all but the cherry one.  Here’s a few that interest me the most.

Chocolate Chip Brownie

I’ve had quite a few of these.  Of any I’ve tasted, this is my preferred one.  My husband doesn’t care for it, though, because he’s not a big fan of bars or cookies containing dates (though he likes dates on their own).


One of the first things you should notice is the short list of ingredients, all ingredients that you can pronounce and picture quite clearly in your head.  That’s really an amazing achievement.  I’d say these are the closest bars to what you would make at home.   I could easily throw all these ingredients into a food processor and end up with something similar, so obviously this passes the whole grains, nuts, and seeds, test.

The fat is reasonable, too, so not a problem.

The sugars, though.  There’s no added sweetener listed, but the problem is that the ingredients of the chocolate chips aren’t listed.  Most likely, there is sugar from those, but until “added sugars” is added to labels, it’s hard to tell what is sugar from the dates and what might be added from the chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough


Only 4 ingredients here, and because of the cashews, this has slightly higher saturated fat but still within reason.

Yet again, though, we don’t know what’s in the those chocolate chips.  Sugars is still pretty high at 16 g, but we still don’t know how much of it is added sugar.  And that bugs me.

I had to find out what was up with the chocolate chips.  Usually, if an ingredient is made up of separate other ingredients, they need to be listed.  I wonder how Lärabar gets around this, but I thought maybe their website talked about the chocolate chips somewhere.  And they do…in their FAQ:


So, as suspected, the chocolate chips contain sugar.  This might technically put added sugar in the top 3 ingredients for any bars with chocolate chips.

So let’s check out a bar without chocolate chips.

Cashew Cookie


Holy crap.  Two ingredients.  Now that’s impressive.  So obviously, at 18g of sugar from the dates, it’s possible that in the chocolate chip bars, the chocolate chips are actually making up a very tiny part of the sugars since this one has 18g.

In the end, I think this line of Lärabars fits all the criteria…and then some!  (I just wish I enjoyed them more.)

Lärabar Bites

These aren’t really bars but more like balls.  I’ve been tempted to pick up a bag, though, especially because of this flavor:

Mint Chocolate Truffle


Dates and almonds are the first two ingredients.  Saturated fat is good.  Chocolate chips would add a little sugar, but they’re the third ingredient and sugar is not likely the first ingredient in them).  Dates are the first and are most likely the cause of most of the 13g of sugar.

Might be keeping an eye out for these on my next shopping trip!

Lärabar Fruit + Greensstrawberry_3840px

What you see in this picture is pretty much what you get with this line.

Strawberry Spinach Cashew


Nothing out of line here at all.  Whole foods.  No added sugar (though adding “unsweetened” to the apples makes me wonder if they added anything to the strawberries or apricots).  Hardly any fat, and this combination actually sounds pretty good to me. And there isn’t even any chocolate in it!

Lärabar Nut & Seed Crunchy Bar

Dark Chocolate Almond

This is the most ingredients we’ve seen so far in Lärabars:


However, everything looks pretty good on it.  Honey is technically an added sweetener but one I find acceptable.  Maple sugar is in there, too.  Also, acceptable, especially since there are only 7g of sugar in the bar total.  Really, it sounds delicious.

I have yet to see these in stores, but I might pick up one to try (along with my bag of Mint Chocolate Truffle Bites!).

Lärabar Organic with Superfoods

Wow.  This sounds like a mighty line, doesn’t it?

Hazelnut, Hemp, & Cacao


And really it doesn’t look a whole lot different than the other bars we’ve looked at except for the hazelnuts and hemp, which aren’t prominent ingredients in their other lines.   Anyone else expecting this to take like healthy Nutella?


So, though I don’t care for their Original line much, Lärabar seems to have some varieties in other lines that I think might be worth trying.  And I think, generally, they appear to be the most natural and whole-food-oriented brand of snack bars so far.  I’m really quite impressed with that.


Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley, KIND bars, Kashi bars, and LUNA bars and keep watching for when I look for other brands of snack bars that I have yet to discover.





2 Weeks on the 8-Hour Diet

I was at the library with my family, picking out healthy recipe books, when I stumbled upon a book called The 8-Hour Diet.  I skimmed it, looking for the gimmick, but didn’t immediately see it.  I showed the cover to my husband, who said, “That’s where you eat for 8 hours.”  I kind of rolled my eyes and said, “Noooo.” But it turns out, he was exactly right.

The Premise

In the 8-Hour Diet, you eat for 8 hours of the day and you fast for 16.  The 8 hours that you eat can be any 8 hours of the day, and the books says you can pretty much eat whatever you want during that time.  There are 8 types of food that the author, Zinczenko, suggests eating with every snack or meal, which are broken into two groups: the health boosters (fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc.) and the fat busters (lean protein, low-fat dairy, beans, etc.).  However, multiple times throughout the book, he says that you don’t have to worry about “cheating.”  You don’t even have to do it every day; just 3 days a week is enough.  In general, the idea is if you don’t deprive yourself of any certain type of food, i.e. if nothing is off limits, then you’re more likely to be able to stick with it in the long run.

How I Followed the Diet

For the first week, my 8-hour eating period went from about 11:30-7:30.  Since I already try to incorporate the “health boosters” and “fat busters” into my daily diet anyway, I really didn’t have to alter my eating habits.

During the second week, I extended the eating from 8 hours to 9 or 9 1/2 hours.  I’ll explain why below.

What I Learned from Doing It

The Pros

  • It’s easy to jump right in to.  I didn’t have to go buy special foods or rid my house of the foods that weren’t part of the diet.  As a result, I could start immediately and was able to say, “I’ll just try it tomorrow and see if I can actually go 16 hours without eating.”  There was no initial financial investment and, therefore, there was no feeling that I had to commit to it for any certain amount of time.  Really, there was no pressure with it all.  Just, I’ll give it a try.  If I can do it, great.  If I can’t, oh well; it’s not the one for me.
  • The best thing, though, about doing this diet for a couple weeks is that I learned I can actually go long periods of time without eating.  I was really afraid of feeling horrible–growling stomach, headache, etc.–like I usually do when I don’t eat often enough.  However, I just did what the book recommended and drank lots of water and caffeinated tea.  That kept the growling under control, and I never got a headache.
  • Water.  I drank so much water.  I started each morning with nearly 20 oz instead of having breakfast.  Then, I would have my normal during the day, plus some, so that most days I was getting 40+ oz of water, which was much more than I was having before–actually over twice as much!
  • I went to bed earlier.  If I waited too late to go to bed, then I knew I’d be hungry and want to eat, so I tried to get to bed earlier to avoid that, which, of course, resulted in more sleep.
  • This diet could easily be done with any other diet to see better results.  (This is mentioned in the book, too.)  Just follow the other diet’s rules for the 8 hours that you’re eating.
  • Fasting at least 12 hours at night is supposed to be really good for you.  (Just Google “12 hours fasts” and start reading.) It’s not the first time I’ve heard this concept, so I feel like it’s something I would like to continue doing when possible.

The Cons

  • For the first week, I had a difficult time adjusting.
    • It was hard not to overeat, especially as I got close to the end of my 8-hour window.   I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to eat again for 16 hours, so I wanted to stock up while I could.  I will say that the book mentions that you can’t stuff yourself and expect to see results.  You have to eat until satisfied, not full.  This is something I struggle with anyway, but this diet made me really more aware of this problem.  I felt fuller quicker and longer but often ignored these signals.
    • We would eat dinner around 5 or so and be finished by 6.  I knew I would need a snack before bed, but I wasn’t actually hungry before 7:30, which made me either force a snack, making me overly stuffed, or skip a snack, meaning I was hungry right at bedtime, and had to cheat with a glass of milk so that I could fall asleep.  (Drinking a bunch of water at bedtime to stave off hunger pains was obviously not an option since I didn’t want to be up a million times during the night to pee.)
  • I take iron at night to help with restless legs, and I have to take it with food; otherwise, I get massive stomach pain.  If I take it too early, I often still end up with restless legs, so if I took the pill at 7:30, the end of my window, and didn’t go to bed until 10, then it didn’t work like it should.  This, in the end, is why I extended my window an extra hour or so.  That way, I could take my nighttime pills closer to bedtime.  I also felt less pressured to eat when I wasn’t hungry or to overeat at dinner, so I was definitely doing better with this during the end of the two weeks, which is why I think, in the end, I didn’t gain weight.
  • However, I didn’t actually lose much at all (like less than 1/2 pound in two weeks).  I was hoping it would be a miracle, but for me, it just didn’t work out that way.  After 10 days, I was back down to my starting weight.  That’s right.  I gained while I was on it at first.  But in the end, making it through all the Easter candy and treats and my husband’s birthday during the first week and still netting a small loss?  I suppose that is a miracle after all.


Although it’s not a diet I will probably stick with as written, I do want to continue the 12- to 16-hour fast, and now, I know that even if I stop eating at 9 and, therefore, can’t eat until 9 or later in the morning, as long as plenty of water is available, I can skip breakfast and just wait for lunch.  I’ve made it 16 hours for goodness sake!

I would love to hear if you’ve tried the 8-Hour Diet and how it went for you!


The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Kashi

Yesterday, I stopped at Kroger to pick up a few necessities for the weekend:  fruit, vegetables, bread, milk.  I was getting ready to pass the isle with the snack bars and thought for a second of getting another box of Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bars.  (Turns out I DID have to worry about them disappearing.  I went to pack one to take to work earlier this week, and they were all gone.  I was so disappointed.)  However, I thought it was probably better to use one of the Kroger coupons I talked about last time and try a different brand.  Kashi’s turn!

As a reminder, when looking at snack bars, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.

No kids this time meant that I could be a little more particular and not just grab one and hope for the best.  I’ll start with the two lines of bars that I opted for, though they weren’t necessarily the first boxes I reached for.

Kashi Layered Granola Bars


Peanutty Dark Chocolate

There aren’t many in this layered bar line.  One with coconut and one without.  Not a fan of coconut, so when in doubt, peanuts and chocolate.

First set of ingredients:  whole grains.  Score.

Second ingredient: peanuts.  Double score.

Third ingredient: date paste.  Sold.

Really, the fact that date paste is being used to sweeten this bar thrilled me.  When I make “cookies” at home, they are often just nuts, nut butter, and dates food processed together.  …speaking of these, I might need to make them this weekend.  Anyway…

Beyond the third ingredient, we start to see some other added sweeteners, but these bars meet my current guidelines, including the one about saturated fat.  Only 1g.

7g of sugar is a bit high, but I know some of it comes from dates.  The kids and I literally just sampled one of these.  Tasty, but not a super favorite.

Kashi Chewy Granola Bars

Honey Almond Flax

This is the other box I settled on.

Again, the first three ingredients do not contain sugar.  We’ve got whole grains, soy protein crisps, and almonds.  There isn’t even enough saturated fat for them to have to include it on the nutrition label.  Good protein, a little less sugar.  I expected deliciousness, but we tried these immediately after the chocolate layered bars.  Ada refused to even try it.  “I don’t like plain” (i.e. without a layer of chocolate).  Even I thought they had a strange taste to them, but I don’t know how much of that is because we had just sampled the others.  At this point, it’s not one I would buy again but will serve us in a pinch.

Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt with Chia

This was actually one of the first boxes I grabbed, but right away, I saw a problem:

Brown rice syrup is the third ingredient.  With nearly all the boxes that I picked up and put back down, this was the problem.  The third ingredient was often added sweetener.

Looking at this particular bar more carefully, though, it actually has less sugars, more protein, and more fiber than the layered granola bar that I opted for, plus with the added benefit of Omega 3.  These might be worth trying and breaking the rule for.

Kashi Crunchy Granola & Seed

Chocolate Chip Chia

They had me at chocolate and chia.


Look at the whole grains!  23g!  That’s the goal of any whole grain food.  Get up into the twenties with whole grain, and you know that the product is most likely entirely whole grain.  Love it.

This one, of course, also boasts Omega 3 due to the chia seeds, though, it’s not listed here like it was in the previous chia bar.  (That tells you how proud they are of that whole grain total!).

The problem is obvious, though, when you look two places:  the third ingredient is cane syrup and the amount of sugars is 9g.

And that’s exactly why I put this box back on the shelf.

Other bars in this line were very similar.  The third ingredient was almost always a syrup of some sort.

GOLEAN, Plant-Powered Bar

This is one line that I actually didn’t pick up or notice.  Let’s see if it’s worth hunting down.

Dark Chocolate Cashew Chia

Don’t these sound amazing?  Oh, but how disappointed I am:

Two out of the first four ingredients: syrup.  Darn.

So much to love about it, though–the protein, the good fats, all those nuts, the Omega 3.  See how I’m trying to rationalize having one of these?

Salted Dark Chocolate and Nuts

I had to give another one a chance.  Maybe it will be better.  I mean…look at it.


Here’s how it stacks up:

Booo.  Right away, syrup and syrup.  It’s very similar to the other bar in this line as far as nutrition goes, but it appears, for what I’m looking for, that this is not the best line for us right now.

Chewy Nut Butter

Salted Chocolate Chunk

Labeled “New” on Kashi’s website, I’m not sure I saw this line of bars either, but they do look like something I wouldn’t mind having.


Syrup.  Bah.

Cereal Bars

Ripe Strawberry

When at the store, I didn’t even bother looking at these.  I’ve look at the Nutrigrain version of these, and I was sure that the sugar content would be out of this world.

I do really enjoy the Kashi ones, though.  I have them before, and I would buy them again if it weren’t for…


The first ingredient is full of juice and sugar, so the 9g of sugar is not surprising.  It does give you a good comparison of the whole grains, though.  11g is okay, but remember that 23g from the other bar?  That’s why that other bar’s whole grain count is so amazing.


So, one thing is sure–Kashi certainly has a wide variety of bar lines.  I didn’t even look at the savory line here!  Happy that we at least found one to add to our snack bar possibilities!


Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley, KIND bars, and LUNA bars and keep watching for when I examine Larabar and other snack bar brands I have yet to discover!


The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – LUNA

I’m always waiting and watching for a deal, and today, I had coupons for 3 different brands of bars:  LUNA, Larabar, or Kashi.   Not too long ago, we bought a bunch of different types of Larabars, and CJ liked most of them.  I thought they were okay and were good in a pinch, so I figured we would try something different and go for LUNA.  Since the whole family was with me, I couldn’t really do a thorough analysis of the nutritional information, so time to write a post so that I’m prepared for next time (if they pass the test!).

As a reminder, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.



Chocolate Peppermint Stick

Yep.  I’m a sucker for mint and chocolate, so I went for this flavor.  An added bonus is that my husband is not crazy about mint and chocolate, so I didn’t think I would have to worry about them all disappearing during the week while I was at work.  He tried one, though, and actually enjoyed it.  I absolutely loved it.  Could’ve eaten a couple.   Again, I believe that’s always a good clue that it’s probably got a little too much sugar in it, but let’s see.


Saturated fat is decent, but as suspected, the sugar is a little high.   Looking at the ingredients, technically, the second and third ingredients after the protein grain blend are sweeteners.   There is also no mention of whole grains, nuts, or seeds, so in the end, this is 1 for 3.

Other flavors are similar.

Nutz Over Chocolate


A little less sugar.  Same saturated fat.  Some actual peanuts.  More protein, too.  A slightly better choice.

LUNA Protein

Chocolate Peanut Butter

I picked one of these up, but put it down because the saturated fat was 3.5g.


Ouch.  The sugars, too.  Yes, there’s more protein, but all of the bars in the protein line are right around 13g of sugar.

Moving on.

LUNA 5G Sugar

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk

So since sugar is an issue with their other lines, I thought this looked promising.


The ingredients start like most of the others–with that protein grain blend.  The second ingredient is a sweetener, so strike one.  Fat is good, and there are some peanuts.  However, the majority of the ingredients are not whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  Turns out, though, that for LUNA bars, this line appears to be the best.  So, in the future, if I need to choose a LUNA bar it will be the LUNA 5G Sugar Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk bar.  Wow.  That’s a mouth full.

Sadly, though, it appears LUNA bars will mostly need to be avoided (unless I need a quick mint chocolate fix, of course ;).

Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley and KIND bars, and keep watching for when I examine other snack bars like Larabar and Kashi.

Lean Ground Meats and Their Saturated Fat Content

When we met with the dietician about my son’s high cholesterol, we were told to avoid red meat and switch to turkey and chicken.  We had been using 90% lean ground beef but stopped that completely.

We buy turkey or chicken meatballs and turkey burgers.

We use ground turkey and chicken for meat sauces.

But I was wondering…how do lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken compare in terms of saturated fat?

Well, let’s find out.

Ground Beef

80% lean – 20% fat


90% lean – 10% fat


95% lean – 5% fat


So 3.4 grams of saturated fat in the meat that we usually got (because, for lean ground beef, it was so affordable at Sam’s Club).

I’m wondering how that compares to ground turkey, which we buy occasionally but definitely don’t enjoy as much.

Ground Turkey

        85% lean              93% lean

So the 85% lean ground turkey is identical in fat content to the 90% lean ground beef, while the 93% lean ground turkey is identical to the 95% lean ground beef.

That’s REALLY interesting.

Ground Chicken

Not actually a whole lot of choices when it comes to ground chicken, so here’s what I found from Perdue:

  92% lean                         98% lean


Obviously, the 98% lean is the best.  I know they make turkey like that, too, however, price is something I have to consider.  The 92% lean chicken is better than the 85% lean turkey, but probably more expensive, too.

For our budget’s sake, I suppose we’ll need to talk to CJ’s dietician this week during his checkup to see if there are other reasons concerning cholesterol for avoiding red meat or if that suggestion was purely due to the fat content.  It would be nice to have a little beef now and then!

And just in case you’re thinking maybe the amount of cholesterol is a problem:

80% lean ground beef – 60 mg

90% lean ground beef – 55 mg

95% lean ground beef – 53mg

85% lean ground turkey – 64mg

93% lean ground turkey – 60mg

Amazingly enough, turkey has more cholesterol than beef.


I would love to know what your favorite recipes are for lean ground beef and turkey.  Kid friendly, of course!  (And no, in our house, apparently tacos are NOT kid friendly.  😦 )


The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – KIND

I love the combination of chocolate and nuts (In fact, I’m secretly snacking on chocolate-covered almonds while I write this.), and since I’ve had the dark chocolate and almond KIND bar before, I figured it would be a good idea to examine them more closely, especially since I had a large amount waiting to be shipped through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.  I wanted to be sure that they fit into my new rules:

  1. whole grains, nuts, seeds
  2. low in saturated fat
  3. added sugars/sweeteners not listed as one of the first 3 ingredients

I actually found it a little difficult to find nutrition and ingredient information on their site.  When I clicked on ingredients, here’s what I got:


With labels pointing to the bar, saying “dark chocolate” and “whole nuts.”

However, I know there’s a sticky sweet something holding it together.

KIND – Nuts & Spices

Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

I went into the store for the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt pictured above, and still, I was surprised that the information wasn’t prominently displayed.  However, when I scrolled down far enough, I found both the ingredients and the nutritional information.

Technically, the sweet stuff is not within the first 3 listed ingredients, but the second ingredient, the chocolate flavored (?!?) coating, contains sugar.  Maybe we could get away with it on a technicality.  However, when I look at the rest of the list, there’s honey and glucose syrup (the sticky combination holding it together, no doubt) and even more sugar.  Add all of that up, and I’m sure it puts the sugar content in the top 3.

I truly appreciate that they added a note that 4g out of the 5g of sugars in the bar are from added sugars.  I can’t wait until all labels require this (coming soon!).

However, I believe that this disqualifies this particular KIND bar from being added to the snack rotation.  Bummer.  They have now been removed from Amazon cart and replaced with deodorant (so that I still have five items and can get my 15% subscribe and save discount!).  Definitely not as exciting.

Anyway, the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bar comes from their “Nuts & Spices” line.  I thought I’d check one of each of their other.


KIND – Fruit & Nut

Raspberry Cashew & Chia

Keep in mind that I’ve never tried this, but if I were to try any, this would likely be a flavor I’d enjoy.

Glucose syrup = ingredient number 2 = out

It has even more added sugar at 6g!

KIND – Healthy Grains Bars

Dark Chocolate Chunk

Okay…I have had these, and I once again blame Amazon Subscribe & Save.  There’s always coupons and deals on different types of bars, so I use the opportunity to give them a try.  These were awesome…and I have a pretty good suspicion I know why…

Okay, so I’m totally rethinking what I said about knowing how much added sugar is in something.    I can’t ignore that every single gram of sugar is added.  😦  I mean…look at it all.  There are all kinds of syrups, as well as honey, molasses, and sugar.  Geesh.

If you have nothing against sugar, though, these really are excellent, as are the Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt and the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate.  I got to sample all three of them in a variety pack from Amazon.

KIND – Plus

Almond Cashew with Flax + Omega 3

Again, these are ones I haven’t tried, but I figured I’d look at one more line…and it may have been worth it.

Look at that.  The first 3 ingredients are fruits and nuts, only 2 forms of sweetener, though they take the 4th and 5th spots.  After looking at some of the other bars, I am beginning to think that for now 4g of added sugar is fairly reasonable when it comes to snack bars.  Saturated fat is low, and there are no processed grains.  It looks like we have another possible transition bar as we wean ourselves from sweetened foods.  If I ever get around to trying them, I’ll let you know.  …maybe next month’s subscribe and save 🙂

Do you have a favorite KIND bar or snack?  Let me know!

**Note that the links (above) in this post are affiliate links.

Don’t forget to check out what I wrote about Nature Valley bars.

The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Nature Valley

So my son was recently diagnosed with high-cholesterol.  This has motivated the whole family to eat healthier, hoping that he can control this mostly inherited problem at least enough to avoid needing medicine.

Of course, we’ve cut out saturated fat by being careful about what meats and oils we cook with, but we’re also trying to exclusively eat whole grains instead of processed grains.  This has been challenging but not impossible.  Lots of healthy whole grain options are out there if you know where to look.  We’ve been relying a lot on Nature Valley crunch bars, with Larabars and KIND bars thrown in there when there are sales.  However, I would like to take our snacks in the next healthy direction, which is making sure that sugar and various forms of sweetener are not one of the main ingredients, which for now will mean they’re not listed as one of the top 3 ingredients.  Perhaps once we master that, we’ll be able to move sugar back beyond the 5th ingredient spots, but baby steps…

What I want to do is compare different brands and different bars within brands to see both the nutritional information, especially calories and saturated fat, and ingredients, focusing not only on the sugar content but also on whether or not the ingredients are mainly whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits.

Today, I’ll start with Nature Valley since their Crunchy Oats and Honey bars have been staples around here for awhile (even before we found out about the cholesterol issue).

Nature Valley – Crunchy

The crunchy bars below are by far our favorite, so I looked up their nutritional information from the Nature Valley website:

Oats ‘n Dark Chocolate


Oats ‘n Honey


Pecan Crunch


Love that whole grains are the first ingredient and that the pecan ones have actual nuts in them.  As you can see, though, sugar is the second ingredient.  Bummer.  Plus, there’s brown sugar syrup later in the list.  No wonder we love them so much!

Nature Valley – Protein

We’ve only ever had these two varieties, but based on the nutritional information, we might be switching over to these from the crunchy variety.

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate


Peanut, Almond, & Dark Chocolate


Although these have more saturated fat, likely from the peanuts and almonds, they are full of healthy fats and have more protein and fiber than the crunchy versions.  Sugar is the 5th ingredient, so this bar would only be a temporary solution.  However, it should serve as a good transition.

Nature Valley – Sweet and Salty

Dark Chocolate, Peanut, and Almond

We’ve never tried these that I can remember, but they looked similar to the protein bars above, so I thought I’d check out their information to see if they would be an alternative.


Second ingredient is corn syrup.  Third ingredient is sugar.  I bet they’re delicious 🙂

Sadly, though, they don’t meet the criteria, so not an option.


Protein Bars are the way to go for now, as far as Nature Valley is concerned.  I like Nature Valley because I can find them in the regular granola bar isle and not the health food section, which makes them much more affordable!

I hope to have similar posts in the future feature different brands like Larabars, Luna Bars, KIND, Quaker, Clif, etc.

What’s your favorite healthy nut, seed, fruit, and whole grain bar?

God’s Will – and the next President of the United States

Over the past year or two, I’ve really been thinking more about God’s will for me.  I’m not sure I’m where I’m meant to be, and I’m not sure I’m headed in the right direction.  For now, I’m kind of floating along, looking for signs, waiting for an obvious push in the right direction, and in the meantime, living life day by day.

Of course, also on my mind right now is the election.  How can it not be?  The flow of shares on Facebook related to the candidates are endless, and NPR is constantly doing stories on each of the candidates, what the primary loss or win means, who’s still in the race, and who might be dropping out…not to mention what to do about Mr. Drumpf.

After a recent discussion with a coworker, as I lie in bed trying to take a much needed nap, a thought came to my head…

Why be so concerned about which candidate will win?  God will take care of it.  Whichever candidate wins is God’s will.

But I realized that’s not right.  What will happen will happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not meant to play a role in how it happens.

I’ve been reading Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality by Raymond Arroyo, and I’m currently in the chapter about God’s will (which is perhaps why it’s on my mind more than usual), and she proposes 3 questions to check if something might be God’s will or not.  So I thought to myself, which candidate is God’s will?  Well, what’s the test for it?  The first is “Is it consistent with the Bible?”*

I was overwhelmed for a moment thinking that it would take forever to go through the Bible and determine this, but I quickly knew that lovelove was the answer.  (It always is.)  The main message of the new testament is love.

So which candidate is most likely God’s will?  The candidate that most embodies love.

Which candidate is patient?  Which is kind?  Which candidate does not envy or boast?  Is not proud or rude?  Is not self-seeking or easily angered?  Which candidate does not delight in evil but instead rejoices with the truth?  Who protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres?

There’s your candidate.

(I think mine passes the test.  Does yours?)

If you’re Christian and want to vote consistently with your faith, then vote for love.  Forget the lines of republican or democrat.  Forget liberal or conservative.  Forget self.  Love others, and love God.  Let that guide your decision.

And God bless.


*Note about the question above:  Actually, in the book, this is not the first question.  The first question is “Does it violate any of the Commandments?”  However, I was lying in bed and didn’t have the book with me, so I believe that I was drawing partly from what I remembered from another source.  The idea is the same, though–is it consistent with what we’re told in the Bible?  Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Love is always the answer.


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