Product Review: Krisda Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Chips

There’s not much more satisfying than biting into a gooey chocolate chip cookie. When avoiding refined sugar is something you’re concerned with, though, the sad reality is that a simple pleasure like a chocolate chip cookie may no longer be an option.

The big label food producers jumped on this reality by offering a slew of “sugar-free” baking options, but they only replaced refined, processed sugar with refined, processed artificial sweeteners. I’ve aimed to buy chocolate in its more pure form, as dark as possible, 70% or more, for baking but I’ve never been a big fan of super dark chocolate and find it somewhat unsatisfying when I want something a bit sweet.

Enter Krisda semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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The one about carbs and the countdown…

There are a few choice phrases that I have thrown around a couple of times a week for the past month or so:

“Ugh, I feel awful.”

“I have zero energy.”

“I need a nap.”

“I want to eat all of the things.”

One thing all those phrases have in common? High-carb day.

Wait, what?! HIGH carb day?!

Typically, those would be the sentiments of fitness competitors in the midst of cutting back on their carbohydrates, longingly watching as their precious oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are diminished by yet another 1/4 cup.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I am a person that functions better on very few carbs. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, to be honest.

Years ago (high school-era) I had a lot of issues with allergies. I was checked over by an allergist who found that I have a slew of environmental allergies but although digestion issues continued to plague me, I was not having an allergic reaction to any foods so we couldn’t quite pinpoint what the issue was.

Based on the recommendation of the allergist, my parents then took me to a Naturopath to test for sensitivities that a traditional scratch test wouldn’t pick up. The process was somewhat tedious – beginning with an elimination diet that left me restricted to mostly rice and oranges for weeks.

Both my parents have severe food allergies (citrus fruits on one side, shellfish on the other) but the more common foods were quickly ruled out. Through the process of eating different things and monitoring my reaction to them the Naturopath determined that one of the major foods that I am sensitive to is yeast.

For years I experienced extreme lethargy, low energy and difficulty concentrating through the day. As it turned out, the culprit was bread (I wasn’t much of a beer drinker as a teen :P). Cutting foods with yeast out of my diet was life-changing. My head was suddenly less cloudy, my grades improved and I finished my last year of high school with honours for the first time since I started. All because I stopped having toast, sandwiches, pizza, etc.

Other foods that I am sensitive to include apples, olives (I have a reputation in my family for always throwing up after holiday dinners – olives, we later discovered, were behind it), lactose and most forms of alcohol. Removing these elements from my diet was somewhat easy and once they were gone I was amazed by how much better I felt. In some ways, I hadn’t even realized I didn’t feel well until I felt better.

That is the same experience I’m having with carbs right now. My previous meal plans have always included the brown rice, quinoas and sweet potatoes of the world and I always assumed that the way I felt after I ate them was just the way I was supposed to feel -I was just digesting, it was from my intense amount of training or even all in my head. I wasn’t losing weight or body fat, I felt bloated and too-full all the time and above all, I felt HUNGRY. Ravenously hungry. All the time. That lead to the half dozen times (which I’ve mentioned on here) that I found myself “off the wagon” and shoving my face full of whatever I could find.

Since the end of January my meal plan has changed and my only carbs are a 1/4 cup of oats right after my morning workout. I never realized how terrible I felt before until now because I feel great. I won’t deny craving junk food, or even having had slip ups out of boredom and over-accessibility, but my physical cravings are non-existent. I don’t spend all day thinking about eating, I’m satiated until my next meal.

Leg days are supposed to be my “high-carb” days where I incorporate those foods back into my diet and if I were to make a confession… I’ve only actually had one in four weeks. I feel like crap every time so I’d just rather not. I guess that makes me one of the few people that will happily clean their plate of vegetables and meat then ask if someone wants their potatoes.

Ultimately it comes down to how I feel – if I don’t feel good then I’m not going to do it. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at most “diets” that are marketed these days. If they make you feel bad then stop doing it. Just don’t take that advice when you’re in the gym, otherwise no one would ever do another burpie ever again… 😛

PS: Tomorrow marks 13 weeks until I hit the WBFF stage and I still have a lot of improvements left to make. Here’s hoping that being the anti-carb ends up being the best thing my stomach ever decided for me.

Product review: QuestBar

I the pleasure of once again volunteering at the OptiMYz Live Health Expo this year. (Check out last year’s fun here) Much like last year I found myself scoping the vendors out for products that I could review.

I had heard of Quest bars only because they’re the only type of pre-packaged protein bar that is allowed in my meal plan. Not really being the type to spend money (that I don’t really have) on a $3-$5 snack, I generally have opted for things like almonds and cottage cheese as reasonable protein snacks and avoided buying the Quest bars.

That being said, I happened upon a vendor from Nutrition Excellence at OptiMYz Live. The incredibly friendly sales rep, Joel, had brought along some of the brands that they represent and distribute around the country, including those from Quest Nutrition. The temptation to nab a couple of Quest bars was too strong and I ended up buying an entire box of 12 (various flavours) for $25.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I have eaten a lot of really crappy tasting protein bars in the past that did little for me nutrition-wise. These are fairly well known for being one of the few/only bars on the market that are low-carb, sugar-free, high-fibre, high-protein and gluten free. I also knew that Coach Krissy would never have allowed me to eat them (or would eat them herself) if they were the same filler-laden crap on grocery store shelves. That doesn’t say much for the taste though. If anything, the fact that they are “better” for you only seemed to make me think they’d taste like old socks.

Quite the contrary.

If there’s anything I regret is that I didn’t introduce these beauties into my diet sooner. They have become an amazing way to battle the mid-afternoon munchies and all day I look forward to having my 3 p.m. QuestBar!

It's a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo...

It’s a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo…

In case you can’t read that, the nutrition information is as follows:

Calories: 160
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 25g
Fibre: 17g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 20g

So far I’ve tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie flavours, with Strawberry Cheesecake on deck for tomorrow. The only problem I would say is that I’m going to burn through them so quickly that it’s not terribly affordable for anyone on a budget to eat these consistently. Sad face.

I am willing to change my budget around to try and fit them in though because I might be obsessed. So many protein bars are either sickly sweet, leave an unpleasant aftertaste or just taste… old. QuestBars have a really rich taste that actually tastes like what it says on the package. It’s a soft bar that is practically melt in your mouth and it’s a really decent size so you can make it last for a while.

By far, one of the best purchases I’ve made in a while.

Here’s another couple of crappy photos from OptiMYz Live that I snapped with my terrible camera phone. You should probably just go buy some QuestBars instead though…

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

The one at the end of week two…

Made it through another week of my road to the WBFF 2013 Atlantic Championships and I have nothing but good things to report.

My diet has been smooth sailing, I’ve had no problems staying on plan and my cravings for sweets have literally gone from uncontrollable to non-existent over the past two weeks. I’m never in a situation where I’m bored and feeling like I need a snack because I always know there’s another meal just around the corner so if I want to eat something I’ll cut up some cucumber or bell peppers and snack on that just to tide me over until I get to my next meal. (That’s happening right now actually, I’m munching on some green pepper because I know I have a full meal on the way in a half hour.)

It’s only been two weeks but I don’t think I’ve noticed any real changes as of yet. I should break down and weigh myself (I typically stay far away from scales) so that I can properly take my body fat percentage. I’m trying to get down to 15% body fat in increments of %5 at a time so I do need to keep an eye on how that is progressing, despite my reluctance to ever put any kind of focus on arbitrary numbers on a scale.

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The one with the first week finish…

I’m hungry and it’s awesome.

Most people would be pretty disappointed to be hungry but I find it to be supremely satisfying. Why? Because it’s a sign that my metabolism is starting to chug along again.

I’m coming up on two weeks on my new-and-improved competition diet and I think my body is finally starting to adjust. I found it really hard at first to get all of my food in through the day because I was so full. (TMI alert) I spent more than a week feeling huge, bloated and uncomfortable but yesterday I woke up and could feel a significant difference in my body. I think I could even see it, my stomach wasn’t as distended as it was just hours before and a layer of water had disappeared from under my skin, giving me a peek at definition I hadn’t seen in months! (Oh, hey quads! Nice to see you again!)

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Product review: Stevia sodas

I’m probably the worst person in the world to be reviewing these two products because I’m a recovering pop drinker.

In fact, up until the point that I decided to try these (purely for the sake of the blog) I hadn’t even had a carbonated beverage this year. I won’t deny that part of me was a little terrified that I would take one sip and suddenly turn into some Hulk-like monster, tearing down walls to get to the closest fizzy refreshment.

Yeah… not so much.

The usual disclaimer applies – I bought these with my own money (they were on sale) and neither one of these companies knows this blog even exists.

I picked up two different kinds of pop that are zero calorie and sugar free – sweetened with the natural sweetener stevia instead of HFCS or Splenda. I find that stevia sometimes has a strange aftertaste, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

The first one I tried was Zevia:

The flavour: Cream Soda

I was pleasantly surprised! It tasted like the cream soda I remember from my childhood (the clear kind, not the pink stuff) and it didn’t have the stevia after taste. If you’re looking for sweet though, you won’t find it here. My brain was anticipating that it was going to be sweet and it was a tad on the bland side – but refreshing!

The second can I cracked was that of Krisda Natural Soda:

The flavour: Root Beer

I thought that root beer would be a nice contrast to the cream soda flavour I had just tried. There was unfortunately one thing about Krisda that stood out for me and that was the stevia taste. It wasn’t terrible but it was enough that it masked the taste of the root beer which really should be delightful – it’s such a great natural flavour to work with!

In the battle of the stevia sodas Zevia comes out the winner hands down. If you’re a fan of pop and looking for something naturally sweetened, zero calorie, free from sodium, gluten and caffeine then definitely try a soda sweetened with stevia! They can be a bit pricey (these were on sale for $1 a can and are only sold in singles) but the can comes with a warning not to consume more than 2-3 a day so it’s probably a better idea to not overindulge in them anyway. 🙂

I think this would be a great way of weaning yourself off drinking soda but I’m a terribly biased water drinker and recovering popaholic.

Product Review: True Lemon

When life gives you lemons… make lemon water!

Water is my beverage of choice but every now and then it’s nice to add a little bit of flavour to my H2O. Sometimes it’s mint but more often than not it’s lemon.

Working in radio, lemon water is an important tool in the announcer’s tool belt. I do a lot of talking in the span of 7 hours (13 minutes an hour worth of newscasts) and the last thing I need is to lose my voice. It happens surprisingly often though if I am not drinking lemon water. Lots of people preach tea with honey but for radio people that’s not a solution – honey makes your vocal chords stick together so you need to clear your throat more.

The problem is… lemons are not incredibly portable and I find that the bottled lemon juice just doesn’t have the same freshness as just having a real squeeze of lemon. I was at the grocery store today and made the most fantastic discovery!

This isn’t like Crystal Light or any kind of drink mix, it’s lemons in a powder form and it’s delicious! It definitely tastes better than the bottled lemon and mixes really well in water! I have a recipe for lemon protein bars that I hadn’t made because it includes Crystal Light in the ingredients and I don’t eat/drink artificial sweeteners so I might give it a try using this instead. I think if I mixed it with soda water it would taste quite delightful.

Each packet is the equivalent to one lemon wedge!

Ultimately, lemon water is great for your throat, your liver, your stomach, digestion, asthma and allergies and a slew of other maladies and I think True Lemon is going to help me get a bit more into my day!

The one about goals…

If you remember, a few posts ago I outlined what my short term (6 month) and long term (12 month) goals are.

I was recently chatting with a friend about the post and they wondered why it was that I didn’t have any weight loss related goals on my list.

The answer is simple: I don’t believe in goals based on weight loss.

In fact, they make me kind of annoyed. I don’t hold it against anyone who makes those kinds of goals and I think from time to time they can (perhaps) have a purpose but let’s get real – they’re not realistic most of the time.

I won’t deny that I have been on “diets” in the past. It was my experience with LA Weight Loss and Weight Watchers when I was in my early 20s that ultimately taught me how to eat properly so I can’t really slag them off. I have learned a lot since then though and I really feel now as though focusing on a number is a sure fire way to derail your efforts.

It’s really no surprise that most people are obsessed with achieving a specific (arbitrary) number that is supposedly an “ideal” for every body type imaginable. How could they not when flipping the pages of ONE magazine and these are the ads you see:

All of these ads were within 15 pages of each other.

Fat burners are pushed on us in every women’s magazine.

The average person will burn about 100 extra calories a day while taking a fat burner (which is pretty much a banana). Generally, they’re geared more towards models and fitness competitors who are trying to get the last little bit of body fat off before they get in front of a camera. The spokeswomen in the advertisements look the way they do thanks to a combination of good genes, good food and good exercise habits. As for the “before and after” photos that are featured in many of the ads… some of these businesses (won’t name which ones) will hire fit people and pay them to GAIN weight and just reverse the photos.

Think about it this way, what kind of successful business model would have the consumer buy your product once and never need to buy it again? They want you to buy it again because they know you’re going to need to buy it again.

Weight loss is a positive side effect of living a healthy lifestyle. When I think about the long term I set my goals based on fitness and eating clean (a full, unrestricted diet granted). If, through both those things, I happen to lose pounds or inches then so be it. Obviously that is how my body is meant to be! I have been the same weight for almost a year, no yo-yo’s here. I don’t have to watch the scale go up and down because 1. I rarely weigh myself (I generally go by body fat percentage) and 2. I’m achieving the goals I set because they’re healthy and attainable. Ideal weights don’t take into account your genetics, body type, or musculature.

Do whatever is right for you, and your body. Hopefully that means setting goals based on eating well and being active rather than fighting against your own body to achieve a number that may or may not be meant for you.