Our Quest to Find the Perfect Snack: Vitalicious Review!

Audrey eats ice cream with a smile

Audrey eating homemade ice cream

What do you look for when you want to find the perfect snack? What criteria does a food have to meet? For me, the basic requirements are that it be tasty but not detrimental to my health. My personal favorite snack is probably the Quest bar, a portable, high-protein, low-carb, no sugar added bar that tastes like dessert. Quest bars are the best bars, hands down.

I love Quest bars but you are NOT going to find a single bar for $2.39. Sorry.

I love Quest bars but you are NOT going to find a single bar for $2.39. Sorry.

However, Quest bars are ridiculously expensive (up to $3 per 60 gram bar at my local GNC!), so if you’re looking for a somewhat cheaper and also less processed snack, I would recommend Greek yogurt. My favorite plain Fage 0% has 22 g of protein and 9 g of sugar, all naturally-occurring from the lactose in milk. Just add some fruit/nuts/seeds/spices/whatever and it’s perfect! I have Fage for breakfast almost every morning.

From the WSJ. I remain loyal to Fage.

From the WSJ. I remain loyal to Fage.

Sometimes, though, you crave cakes and cookies and brownies and you don’t want to bother putting together a health-ified batch. Or you are way too tired to cook something and you know better than to stuff your face with greasy Chinese delivery.

Product Review

This week, Vitalicious kindly shipped us a few boxes of their products. We received various flavors of VitaTops, frozen muffin tops (no, not that kind) that are lower in calories and healthier than most similar products, and a box of frozen VitaEgg flatbread sandwiches. I was super excited to try them, and the haze from the dry ice contributed to the ambiance of suspense and anticipation. Props to Vitalicious for providing an element of mystique to their frozen food!

A blueberry muffin with an aura of mystique

A blueberry muffin with an aura of mystery…

I must admit, the VitaTops and VitaEgg sandwiches don’t look very pretty when you remove the overwrap and plop them on a plate to microwave them. But after they’re heated up, they smell delicious and taste even better. The VitaTops are moist (I know people hate that word; just pretend I said “not dry”) and rich-tasting, and I would definitely recommend them.

To be honest, I didn’t like the VitaEgg sandwiches as much – it’s tough, after all, to make frozen and reheated egg whites taste good. Audrey thought they were okay though. The Vitalicious products have a lot of added vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them a lot healthier than your average pastry, and each VitaTop has 100 kcal. However, unless you get the sugar-free version, they do have 11 g of sugar each, so don’t overdo it. Additionally, many of them are made with mostly refined wheat flour (if it just says “wheat flour” and not “whole wheat flour” or “100% whole wheat flour” then you can definitely assume it’s just white flour).

TLDR

Favorite snack staples:

  • plain nonfat Fage
  • Quest bars

If you’re craving pastries and want convenience:

  • VitaTops
  • (and I guess Quest bars again)

Pros of VitaTops:

  • delicious
  • taste like dessert, but healthier
  • lower in cals than real pastries
  • convenient

Cons of VitaTops:

  • some are high in sugar (still much less than real pastries!)
  • made with refined flour (but have fiber added in so it’s not as bad)

In conclusion: VitaTops are pretty good if you have a sweet tooth. VitaEgg sandwiches are less good.

Happy eating!

Jack’s Magic Beanstalk: Can We Trust Food Labels?

Because I am a nerd, all I wanted for my birthday was to go to Rainbow Grocery for the first time and pick out weird foods. I ended up buying low-carb bread from Julian’s Bakery (tasted like portobello mushrooms, and not in a good way), sprouted 100% whole grain corn tortillas from the Ezekiel/Food for Life brand (very inconsistent in terms of size and texture – bad quality control?), and (supposedly) high-protein low-carb pasta from Explore Asian.

julian-bakery

No. Just no. Do not buy this “bread.”

While I liked that the only ingredients were 100% whole grain sprouted corn with a tiny bit of salt and lime, these seemed sloppily produced.

While I liked that the only ingredients were 100% whole grain sprouted corn with a tiny bit of salt and lime, these seemed sloppily produced.

single ingredient, high-protein and low-carb pasta? seems too good to be true...

single ingredient, high-protein and low-carb pasta? seems too good to be true…

As a vegetarian, it’s really important for me to get enough protein. A lot of vegetarians become “starchatarians,” subsisting mainly on grains and starchy vegetables. That’s why I was so interested in Explore Asian pasta – it claims to have only 5 g net carbs and 25 g protein. Wow!

black-bean-pasta-nutrition

Calories are approximately the same as in regular whole wheat pasta, maybe slightly lower. But look – only 17 g total – 12 g fiber = 5 g net carbs?! And 25 g protein??

I cooked the pasta and had it with some Francesco Rinaldi no-salt-added, high-potassium pasta sauce. It was actually very good and not noticeably different from normal whole-grain pasta in terms of texture. When eaten plain, there was a slight bean taste, but it was not very noticeable.

However, when I looked at the ingredient list, I was rather skeptical of the nutrition claims. The only two ingredients in each pasta were the legume (soy or black bean) and water. While it is great that the pasta has a short and simple ingredient list, it casts into doubt the supposed nutrition information.

I sent the company an email saying that “black beans have a fat:net carb (total carbs minus fiber):protein ratio of 1:47:21, but the black bean pasta has a fat:net carb:protein ratio of 2:5:25” and asking how this was possible given that the only source of macronutrients in the pasta was the legume.

This was Explore Asian’s response:

“There are many varieties of black beans and the protein and fiber content also differs from one variety to the other by the soil type, amount of sunlight vs darkness it receives and of course amount of organic compost and rainfall!! [sic] All these parameters contribute to different ratios of total carbs (carbs+fiber) to protein. The range is 1.1 to 1.5 for our product. The nutritional panel has been derived from 2 lab testing both and is accurate. [sic, sic, and sic] Enjoy the taste of pasta with the benefits of the beans!”

umm... whatever you say, bean wizards.

umm… whatever you say, bean wizards.

Um… where to start? Yes, it’s true that there are different varieties of black beans and that their nutrient contents can vary. But come on, there is no way they vary this much. A total carb to protein ratio of 1.1 to 1.5?! If the average total carb:protein ratio in black beans is about 3:1, how does this make sense? Are we still talking about black beans here?

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.28.29 PM

Nutrition info for 100 g of dried black beans – just Google “black beans” and you’ll see it on the side bar on the right.

Maybe Jack’s magic beanstalk can produce beans that have well over 300% more protein than they’re supposed to, but I doubt Explore Asian has access to those kinds of resources. A more plausible explanation would be that the nutrition panel is just wrong. If this is the case, what does it imply? Perhaps the ingredient list isn’t right either and the pasta actually contains wheat – how will be company react if someone with celiac disease eats their purportedly gluten-free pasta and experiences an adverse reaction?

I wish I had a laboratory to see what’s really going on here, but I don’t, so I’ll have to leave it at this: the nutrition panel and/or ingredient list is completely and totally… bollocks. Don’t let these food companies trick you! Honestly, I’m sure we’d all be shocked to find out how much information on our food labels is inaccurate or just made up.