The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

I was really excited to have my first article What’s The Deal With High Fructose Corn Syrup? published on Blogcritics recently! After talking to a few friends, it seemed like it would be helpful to post it here as well. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has been slammed in the news a lot recently – with studies tying HFCS to obesity, diabetes, among other chronic health conditions. The media and other health organizations are urging consumers to stay away from HFCS, and are asking food manufacturers to remove it from their products. And SNL recently did an awesome skit highlighting HFCS.

As a response, the Corn Refiners Association launched a campaign comparing HFCS to table sugar, disputing the claims that HFCS is unhealthy, and advocating for a change in the sugar’s name to “corn sugar.” The Corn Refiners Association has made statements that claim HFCS is “made from corn,” “is natural,” “has the same calories as sugar or honey,” “is nutritionally the same as sugar,” and “is fine in moderation.”

So, what exactly is HFCS? How is it made? And contrary to what the Corn Refiners Association claims, is it really bad for you?

To start, HFCS is basically corn syrup (glucose) that is treated with enzymes to convert it to fructose. Its then blended with pure corn syrup to produce a substance that’s 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Table sugar has a 50-50 fructose-glucose ratio, but the difference is that in HFCS – the fructose-glucose bonds are artificially generated, making them more chemically unstable. So while it is made from corn, I don’t think you could make the claim that it’s “all natural” – since it is a chemically treated, processed, man-made product.

Does HFCS have the same calories as sugar or honey? Yes (both have 4 calories per gram). Is it fine in moderation? Maybe. There have been studies that show that the while glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body, fructose is broken down only in the liver – lowering the levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and raising the levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. And yet, the Corn Refiners Association has studies that show that HFCS is broken down in the body the same way regular sugar is.

Additionally, because the price of corn is kept low through government subsidies, HFCS is a much cheaper sweetener than regular cane sugar. HFCS also acts as a shelf stabilizer – extending the life of packaged goods. Because of these two factors, HFCS can be found in everything – it is in: yogurt, bread, crackers, canned fruit, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, most packaged desserts, cereal, soda, juices, fast food, ice cream, oatmeal, waffles, chocolate, granola bars, salad dressings – the list goes on and on.

The problem here is that this added sweetness from HFCS is found in products one wouldn’t even expect to be sweet (bread and crackers, for example). This ends up making the “consumption in moderation” guideline nearly impossible – because there is hidden HFCS everywhere.

Just take a look at a few standard products in the pictures below: soda, yogurt, ketchup, bread, and pancake syrup. It’s actually shocking that there is HFCS in some of these products — like bread!

So that brings us back to the original question: is HFCS bad for you? My short answer would be – yes. For two reasons: 1) It is a processed, chemically modified ingredient and 2) It is hidden in so many foods that even if you try to avoid eating desserts, you could still be getting a ton of sugar from the HFCS in bread, granola bars, etc. While it may be the same as sugar in terms of calories, you’d never consciously add a couple of teaspoons of sugar on top of a turkey sandwich would you? Eating packaged foods that contain HFCS is akin to doing so.

The good news is, many companies are moving away from using HFCS in their products, so you can find good packaged food options that don’t have any added sugars in them. Just remember to read the label and look at the nutritional information – for example, bread with 10g of sugar likely has either added sugar or HFCS, which you should stay away from. Despite the Corn Refiners’ Association’s claims that HFCS is fine, I would much rather eat regular sugar in desserts in moderation vs. a chemically created sugar that’s in every product under the sun. I hope this is helpful – staying away from HFCS is really easy to do can only help your efforts to lead a healthier, less processed lifestyle.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Taking off the Training Wheels…

Hi Everyone!

I have some exciting news to share. It’s time for my blog to “grow up,” and move off wordpress.com onto my very own self-hosted site! I’m also planning on re-designing my site, so you’ll be seeing a whole new look and feel in hopefully a month or so.

Right now, I’m looking for great web designers / web masters who can help me with the wordpress.com to wordpress.org migration, and help me with the re-design:) So if you have any recommendations, please let me know.

It’s been a great ride so far sharing my thoughts, recipes and healthy living tips on The Picky Eater with all of you. Thank you so much for all your support, and you can look forward to many, many more posts from me on my newly designed site!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Five Easy, Healthy, Flavorful Indian Recipes

My dad is an amazing cook. We go there for dinner almost every week, mainly because it’s fun to hang out with my dad but also because I get to eat his gourmet meals. The thing with Indian cooking is it can go one of two ways:

  1. Really tasty, but super oily and full of fat (curries are made with butter, ghee, oil, cream, etc.) or
  2. Really tasty, with inventive ingredients and substituting spices for the oil – making it healthy and flavorful

The dinners I grew up with at home were more like option #2 above. My dad can make a “sabji” or “bhaji” (vegetable Indian dish) out of pretty much any veggie. It’s awesome. We have “Butternut Squash” sabji, “Collard Greens” sabji, “Beets and Beet Greens” sabji–the list goes on and on. It’s a great way to add a twist on a regular vegetable dish, and it’s not something you’d traditionally get in Indian Cooking. So these recipes are straight from my dad, and represent what I think is Indian Home Cooking at it’s best: easy to prepare, really nutritious and good for you, but so flavorful you keep going back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths… you get the picture.

Here are five easy and healthy Indian recipes, straight from my dad’s kitchen:

Moong and Toor Daal, Beans and Carrots Sabji, Whole Moong Daal, Zucchini Sabji, and Spelt Rotis (yes – that’s right – spelt!). The only note on these recipes is my dad’s “measurements” are super old-school — in that, there aren’t any. What I’ve found works well is to just play around with the spices and taste as you go. The recipes are really easy so you can’t totally mess them up.

Recipe #1 Moong and Toor Daal

The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1/4 cup Moong and 1/4 cup Toor Daal, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds and Turmeric; a pinch of Hing (asafetida), a pinch of Cayenne pepper, Salt & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, 3-4 pieces Dried kokam fruit (you can get this at the Indian store, or try dried sour plums), Cilantro

The directions: Cook the daal in the pressure cooker. Once the daal is done, fry the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and hing in 1 Tbsp EVOO. Put the spice mixture into the daal and stir until combined. Add the cayenne, salt, brown sugar and kokam fruit and heat through. Sprinkle cilantro in at the end

Recipe #2: Blue Lake Beans & Carrot Sabji

The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1 pound of Blue Lake Beans chopped, 1 Carrot chopped, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds and Hing (asafoetida); Turmeric, pinch of Cayenne pepper, 1/8 cup Urad dal, Salt & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, Masala (curry powder), Cilantro

The directions: Fry the spices (mustard seeds, cumin, hing, turmeric, urad daal) over medium heat in 1 Tbsp EVOO for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir until combined. Cook, covered for 10-15 min until the vegetables are cooked through and the spices have been fully absorbed. Stir in cayenne, salt, brown sugar, and masala. Top with Cilantro and serve.

Recipe #3: Whole Moong Daal


The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1/2 cup Whole Moong Daal, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds & Hing (asafetida); Turmeric, pinch of Cayenne pepper, Salt, Masala (Curry Powder) & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, 3-4 pieces Dried kokam fruit (you can get this at the Indian store, or try dried sour plums), Cilantro

The directions: Cook the daal in the pressure cooker. Once the daal is done, fry the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and hing in 1 Tbsp EVOO. Put the spice mixture into the daal and stir until combined. Add the cayenne, salt, masala, brown sugar and kokam fruit and heat through. Sprinkle cilantro in at the end

Recipe #4: Zucchini Sabji

The ingredients: 6-8 Zucchini chopped, 1 Carrot chopped, equal parts Mustard seed, Cumin seeds & Hing (asafoetida), Turmeric, 1 Serrano pepper cut in half, Salt & Coriander powder to taste, Cilantro

The directions: Fry the spices & serrano pepper over medium heat in 1 Tbsp EVOO for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir until combined. Cook, covered for 10-15 min until the vegetables are cooked through and the spices have been fully absorbed. Stir in salt. Top with Cilantro and serve.

Recipe #5: Spelt Rotis/Chapatis

The ingredients: 5 parts Spelt flour to 1 part Quinoa flour, Water (enough to form into a sticky dough – about 1/3 of the amount of dough) very small quantity of EVOO

The directions: Combine all ingredients to make the roti dough.  If you have a gas stove, hold the roti/chapati over a medium flame and it will puff up immediately. Turn quickly to flame-bake the other side. Do this several times, taking care that the edges are well cooked. Otherwise you can preheat a cast-iron tawa over medium heat. Place the rolled dough on the palm of one hand and flip it over on to the tawa. When the color changes on the top and bubbles appear, turn it over. When both sides are done, use kitchen tongs (chimta) to remove the roti from the skillet.

These rotis are soft and fluffy – you’d never guess that it’s unleavened bread. When I was growing up, it was common for us to have four out of five of these dishes for dinner: 2 sabjis, one daal and the rotis. This is completely my version of comfort food: warming, nutritious, delicious, and filled with nostalgic memories of dinners at home.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

New Giveaway – Delicious Healthy Chips & Oatmeal Bars from Corazonas!

Happy Saturday everyone! I’m very excited to announce my latest giveaway courtesy of Corazonas – a great company that makes delicious snacks infused with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols (read more about the benefits of plant sterols here). But first – I have to announce the winners of my HSN giveaway – congratulations to…

Our Grand Prize Winner – Amy!

Our runners up -Debbie, Carol and The Soul Searching Vegan!

Amy – you’ll win $40 in gift cards for HSN, and Debbie, Carol and The Soul Searching Vegan – you’ll receive $20 in gift cards for HSN. Please send me your mailing addresses (email to pickyeats@gmail.com) and you should receive your gift cards in a couple weeks. Congrats again on winning! Thanks again to everyone who entered – we had a new record of over 60 entries this time. And now, you all have a chance to win in my new giveaway: 3 varieties of healthy chips and 3 oatmeal bars from Corazonas (all the products in the pictures below!)

The great thing about Corazonas‘ products is that they have all natural ingredients, have amazing taste and texture, and are packed with nutritional benefits. The oatmeal bars are absolutely delicious: they are a great snack or dessert and have ~180 calories, 13-16 grams of whole grain, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein for a huge portion. The tortilla chips have ~140 calories for 14 chips, 3g fiber and 18g whole grain; and the potato chips have ~140 calories per serving, only 6g fat and 2g fiber.

Only a couple days after I received the products from Corazonas to try, I had already finished the oatmeal squares (they were that good). I also used the Lime Tortilla chips with my guilt-free, 7 layer bean dip which tasted great!

Now the important part:

To Enter: You can enter in one of three ways –

  1. Subscribe to The Picky Eater via RSS or via email
  2. Follow me on Twitter (@pickyeaterblog)
  3. Like The Picky Eater on Facebook

Leave a comment letting me know which option above you chose! Note – if you already are a subscriber, follower, or like The Picky Eater on Facebook, just leave a comment indicating that – it will count as one entry :)

This giveaway will be open until Thursday, April 21st at 11:59pm PST. I will be selecting the winners at random (via random.org) and will contact them via email. I’ll be announcing the winners on Friday, April 22nd. Be sure to enter today–these fun and delicious snacks are totally worth it!

48 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Two Quick & Healthy Snacks Under 200 Calories

I often get asked questions about what I eat day-to-day, and what kinds of things I like to snack on. Snacking is totally essential to my life – I’m the type of person who gets hungry more than 3 times a day, and if I don’t snack in-between meals I become – what the husband calls – “hangry.” Basically hungry + angry, the side effects of which are usually taken out on him. I don’t like snacking on packaged foods – because most packaged foods will just cause a spike in your blood sugar, which eventually results in a blood sugar crash (and then you’re back to being hangry).

My criteria for putting together healthy snacks include:

  • The snack should have a good combination of fiber and protein, so it’s both filling and nutritious – and of course – tastes delicious. A great example of this is carrot sticks and hummus, or high fiber crackers and laughing cow cheese (or low fat string cheese).
  • The snack shouldn’t have more than 200 calories, because then it’s encroaching on meal territory which you don’t want
  • Avoid pre-packaged snacks if possible (e.g. chips, granola bars, protein bars, etc.) Although – there are healthy packaged options of all these things which work well if you’re on the go.

Today – I thought I’d share two of my favorite healthy snacks. Each snack has only 2 ingredients, is less than 200 calories, and only takes 2 minutes to make! Don’t you love the running theme here?:)

Snack #1: Fresh blueberries and Low Fat Cottage Cheese

I love how filling this snack is – and the creaminess of the cottage cheese goes great with the sweet/tart flavor of the blueberries. I go for low fat (vs. non fat) cottage cheese because it still retains the great creamy texture but is only ~100 calories per 1/2 cup serving and has about 15g protein. The blueberries add a good amount of fiber (3-4g per 3/4 cup) and are about 60 calories for 3/4 cup.

Mixing the two together gives you a great snack for only about 160 calories! And trust me, this will keep you full for a good amount of time – it’s one of my “go-tos” between lunch and dinner. And it helps that the blue and white looks so pretty and fresh together in the bowl – I always eat with my eyes before I eat with my mouth.

Snack #2: Brown Rice Cakes and Almond Butter

I love all nut butters. Peanut, Almond, Cashew, Sunflower Seed, etc – the list goes on and on. I especially love this Almond Butter with roasted flaxseeds from Trader Joe’s – it gives you a nice serving of omega 3s and increases the fiber/protein in this nutty spread. 1 Tbsp of Almond Butter has only 100 calories, and has about 4g protein and 2g fiber. The brown rice cakes give you a ton of volume (one cake is huge!) for only 60 calories and 1g fiber.

I love how creamy this nut butter is – it’s definitely one of my favorites. Putting the two together gives you about a 160 calorie, filling, deliciously creamy snack. For some extra fun, you can add a drizzle of honey (1 tsp has about 20 calories), or a few raisins on top.

Try out these perfect pairings and let me know what you think. Both should keep you feeling full (but not heavy) and energetic (but not on a sugar high) for the time in between meals. And they definitely keep me from becoming hangry.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Delicious, Decadent, Chocolate Fudge Brownies

The theme of this weekend was absolute and total indulgence. Which, yes, isn’t healthy if you do it all the time – but once in a while (in moderation) is 100% ok. The husband and I went out to dinner on Saturday night and Sunday night – for two amazing meals with my dad and my brother. When we got home on Sunday, we were both craving something sweet – so we decided to make brownies. This was a team effort – the husband helped me in the kitchen so the brownies would get done faster!

Now generally, I’m not a fan of boxed brownies – they never compare to what you’d get at a bakery or what you can make from scratch. And sometimes they end up tasting really dry and processed. But trust me when I say that these brownies (made from a box mix) are the real deal. You would never guess that they are “boxed brownies”! And it’s all thanks to The Fat Witch Bakery at Chelsea Market in New York.

These are seriously the best boxed brownies I’ve ever had. My husband and I love this mix – the brownies turn out super moist, dense, and just melt in your mouth. You can add fun mix-ins too – like nuts or extra chocolate chips – pretty much anything you want! The other great thing is none of the ingredients are weird or sound like chemicals in this mix – everything in the mix is something you’d probably find in your own kitchen.

To make the brownies, you need: 1 box of mix, 1 stick of butter (7 Tbsp), 3 eggs, walnuts (or other mix-ins), cooking spray to grease the pan.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease baking pan (8×8 is what we used). Empty bag of chocolate chips (this comes with the mix) into a sauce pan and add butter. Melt over low heat over the stove top (or microwave), stirring constantly.

Step 2: Once the chocolate has melted, set aside to cool

Step 3: Pour contents of dry ingredients (from mix) into a medium sized bowl. Add 3 eggs and mix until smooth. It kind of reminded the husband of vanilla pudding when it was done.

I tended to agree with him, don’t you?

Step 4: Combine the chocolate with the eggs/dry mix. If you want to add in any other fun ingredients – do it now!

I decided to add in chopped walnuts

Step 5: Pour the batter into your greased 8×8 pan and bake 30-35 min until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Here is the batter, ready to bake…

And the brownies are done! They looked so good, it was so hard to wait for them to cool.

Like a land of chocolate… Once we cut the brownies, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them. I plated two for my husband

And then made him wait while I took another picture…

Then he finally got to eat. He was happy:) This is seriously the best brownie mix in the world – and while you can’t beat making brownies from scratch, these come in at a close second! I’d love to hear what more experienced bakers think about this mix – try it and let me know. In the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the brownies today as a pre-dinner snack. They’re just too good to leave on the counter!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Quick & Healthy: Black Bean and Pumpkin Veggie Burgers

It’s no secret that I adore veggie burgers. I just love all of the different flavors and ingredients you can pack into one delicious burger – it’s the perfect combination of health and comfort food. Yes – health and comfort food can go together! I’m always on the lookout for new veggie burger recipes, even though I’ve already made quite a few: my five ways with a Gardenburger patty, my southwest pinto bean burgers, and my budget-friendly black bean burgers. But recently I came across a recipe from Fannetastic Food for Black Bean & Pumpkin Burgers. I was intrigued by the idea of adding pumpkin into the burger mixture, and loved how simple the recipe was.

Btw – it’s also no secret that I’m a “fan” of Fannetastic Food – she always comes up with great recipes that are easy to make and healthy. The recipe with my notes are below, and you can see Anne’s original recipe and pictures here. Thanks Anne for a great recipe that was ridiculously easy to make (took less than 30 min), tasted great, and was full of nutritional goodness!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black beans (rinsed and drained) – I basically just used 1 15oz can of black beans – once you drain out the liquid/etc. it ends up being just a little over 1 cup
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin – make sure you get just pure, canned pumpkin (the only ingredient should be pumpkin!) make sure there are no sugars, etc. added and definitely don’t get “pumpkin pie filling” or anything to that effect
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (I just used regular whole wheat flour and it turned out fine)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (I might have added a bit more!)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • If you like your burgers with a bit of a kick, add a *small* pinch of cayenne pepper too
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Veggie burger fixings: ketchup, sliced red onions, sliced roma tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, whole wheat bun, spinach leaves (optional)

Directions

Step 1: Combine all ingredients (black beans through chili powder or cayenne if you’re using it) in a food processor and mix until mostly pureed – with a few chunks of black beans left. Note – you can also mash all the ingredients in a bowl, I used the food processor because it was faster and easier (for me).

Step 2: Once the bean mixture is at a desired consistency, form into 2 patties. Spray a large skillet with olive oil cooking spray, and cook on medium heat for 5-10 min on each side until lightly browned.

This what they looked like when they started cooking…

And what they looked like when they were almost done

One thing to note about this recipe is that the veggie burgers aren’t as “hearty” or “dense” as your normal Gardenburger or Boca burger patty. They tend to fall apart a bit more easily and are a bit softer. I really enjoyed the different consistency of the burgers – felt a little “falafel-esque” which was fun to eat. The husband thought they were a little too soft for him, and would have liked them to be more dense/thick like a traditional veggie burger patty. But he did say that regardless of the texture of the patties, the burgers had amazing flavor (and you couldn’t taste the pumpkin which was pretty cool) and were a great weeknight dinner. I pared the patties with a simple combination of pepper jack cheese, sliced onions, sliced tomatoes and ketchup, on a whole wheat bun of course. So satisfying and healthy!

 

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized