This is not a post about healthy holiday recipes. It is not a post about how to stick to portion control at the holiday buffet (although we do have one about that too). The holidays are a time where people cook up a storm and put time, love, and care into creating delicious and yes, indulging, meals and desserts. And we believe that we all have a right to enjoy these holiday goodies and to indulge in what the season has to offer!
Dear Lea: I just found your site – love it! I’m 66 and in need of a change – big one – among which I want to become healthier in my older age. What is the best way to start eating healthier – I’m a junk food junkie – mainly sweets. I would rather eat them than a good meal. Also, not fond of many meats, dont eat many fruits/veggies, etc. Basically not a good eater (and I feel it, it shows). –KE
If you live in the US, it’s likely you’ve come across someone in your life who has diabetes or for whom high blood sugar is a concern. It is estimated that over 29 million or 9.3% of the American population has either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and that 86 million are pre-diabetic, meaning they have higher than normal blood sugar levels. That’s a lot! The good news is that although a component of many diabetes cases is genetic, for many, changes in eating and lifestyle can make a significant impact.
Are you following a gluten-free diet but still experiencing digestive discomfort? In the past several years research has emerged suggesting that people with gluten intolerance (aka NCGS or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) may not just be sensitive to gluten but also sensitive to certain poorly digested carbohydrates called FODMAPS. Also, some people with lactose intolerance or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have found that their symptoms lessen when avoiding FODMAP foods.
What is FODMAP? FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. First brought to light by an Australian research team, FODMAPS can be problematic in people with IBS or existing digestive issues as they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and gas.
Gas, bloating, fatigue, brain fog and headaches are all common side effects of having a gluten intolerance. Even if you do not have a diagnosed gluten allergy or celiac disease, the symptoms that arise from accidentally ingesting gluten for those who are gluten intolerant can be uncomfortable, debilitating, and painful. Some people have a sensitivity to gluten and may not even know it, as symptoms can disguise themselves as other ailments aside from GI issues. If you feel any of the symptoms above after eating wheat, barley, spelt or rye, chances are your body is not digesting gluten properly and reacting in various ways.
For those looking for ‘free-from’ foods that are a perfect match for their flavor and health goals, the Tasteful Pantry does the research and the taste-testing on a variety of foods in the marketplace. We then summarize our findings in our “easily digestible” Product Reviews. We rate each product on a scale of 1-5 (1 being least, 5 being most) and provide our personal notes on the aspects of the product that we love (or don’t love). Here’s a key to the factors we rate:
Natural Factor: Not all ‘free-from’ foods (or any foods for that matter) are healthy or natural. This ranking tells you if the product is full of non-natural ingredients and is highly processed (a low rating), or is made from simple organic minimally-processed ingredients (a high rating).
Taste Factor: We admit it, we’re foodies. And we apply our foodie taste buds to tasting the foods we review. Too many ‘free-from’ foods out there resemble cardboard in taste and texture, but there are some really good ones too. We rank products for flavor and texture, and if the product meets our high standards for yumminess and leaves us drooling for more, it will get a high ranking!
Fullness Factor: Sometimes you want a snack that will fill you up and hold you over for a while. Sometimes you just want the taste of something yummy in your mouth but don’t want to fill up. This factor measures how filling one serving of the product is, whether it’s a snack or a meal item. We use a scientific approach (analyzing the ingredients and nutrients) and an experiential one (how full we felt after eating one serving) to provide you with a balanced opinion. 5 is super full, 1 is no impact on our stomach capacity.
Overall Rating: We take all the factors above into consideration, as well as our overall experience with the product, and synthesize it into this one number. 5 is we absolutely LOVED the product and could eat it all day, 1 is we wouldn’t touch it again with a 10-foot pole.
Macros: The 3 macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fat are the 3 main components of food, and what we need in large amounts for our bodies to function normally. These are also energy-yielding nutrients, meaning these nutrients provide calories. Depending on your diet and health goals, you may want to maintain a specific balance of macros (e.g. if you’re trying to build lean body mass you’ll want more protein), so we provide those numbers in our reviews for you right up front.
Gluten-Free (GF): Gluten-Free, per the FDA’s gluten-free labeling standards (<20ppm), or certified gluten-free by a third party organization.
Dairy-Free (DF): No dairy ingredients
Vegan (V): Contains no animal products including honey
Soy-Free (SF): No soy ingredients
Nut-Free (NF): Free from peanuts and tree nuts and produced in a nut-free facility, as communicated to us by the manufacturer. May contain coconuts.