Something new for your pantry: Tea seed oil

Tea seed oilNot to be confused with tea tree oil, tea seed oil is an edible oil pressed from the seeds of Camellia oleifera, a small shrub related to Camellia sinensis, or tea plant.  I recently received some samples from Arette, a company that distributes organic tea seed oil.  As this product may be unfamiliar to many of you, I thought I’d post a quick review/introduction.

Culinary Features

Tea seed oil has a thin, light texture, similar to almond or grapeseed oil–much less viscous and “oily” than, say, olive oil.  The flavor is also very light and clean.  There are times, of course, when you’d want a more robust oil–but for times when you’re looking for a light touch, tea seed oil fits the bill.

Tea seed oil makes a light, delicate vinaigrette, perfect for delicate greens that might be weighed down or overwhelmed by the flavor of a heavier or heartier oil.  Vegetables sauteed in tea seed oil remain almost dry to the touch, without the oily sheen you’d get from a heavier oil.

Nutritional Properties

Tea seed oil also has some unique nutritional properties. Although the texture reminds me of grapeseed oil, tea seed oil has a very different fatty acid profile. Continue reading “Something new for your pantry: Tea seed oil” >

Product Review: My KIND of snack bar

NS-FlavorsMy primary complaint with most granola and snack bars is that they’re all so high in sugar (or, in the case of the low carb bars, high in fake sugar). It’s not merely a nutritional objection; I find most of them unpleasantly sweet. So I was intrigued to learn about a new line of bars and granola from KIND, each with 5 grams of sugar or less–no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.

In a perfect world, of course, we’d all make all of our food from scratch–even our granola and energy bars!  [<== my recipe] 

But, there’s no denying the convenience of ready-made meals and snacks, especially when schedules are tight. In my last book (Secrets for a Healthy Diet), I devoted an entire chapter to how to select the best packaged food options–and leave the rest on the shelves. If these KIND Nuts & Spices bars had been around then,  I would have singled them out as an great example–because they meet all of my criteria.

1.  The ingredient list reads like a recipe, not a chemistry experiment.

2.  They pack a decent amount of protein.

3.  They’re low in sodium, high in potassium.

3.  They’ve even got as many grams of fiber as sugar.  (That one rule of thumb knocks virtually every other bar out of the running.)

Despite–or maybe because of!–all that, they taste really good. Like nuts and spices and grains. (Thanks to KIND for sending some samples my way).

Folks, you won’t find many product reviews on this site because I don’t like most of the products I’m asked to review. But I found these little bars to be pretty impressive–and worth passing along. If you’re looking for a ready-made granola or energy bar, these come pretty darn close to the stuff you’d probably make if you had the time.  (Actually, in terms of sugar, they’ve got my homemade snack bars beat by a mile.)  Just be sure you look for the ones marked “only 5 g sugar” on the front. The product line also includes some bars that are quite a bit sweeter and stickier.

This week: FODMAPs, fluoridation, Fitbits, food safety, and more!

A few months ago, I spoke at a conference attended mostly by fitness trainers and enthusiasts, and I noticed that about 75% of them were wearing activity monitors on their wrists or clipped to their clothing. To be honest, it seemed sort of strange and obsessive, but–hey–everyone needs a hobby.  So I feel a little sheepish about admitting to the fact that I am now the proud owner of a Fitbit One and am obsessively watching my daily step count and analyzing my sleep patterns! And I have to say, having an objective way to measure my level of activity really has made a positive difference. If I’ve  failed to crack 10,000 steps by 8pm, I’ll go out for a walk instead of sitting down at my computer or popping in a DVD.  For more on how “self-quantifiers” are using technology to monitor and improve their health, see this article I wrote for Intel iQ.

Once you start down the self-quantification path, it can be a slippery slope. My Fitbit One can be set up to coordinate with a number of popular online diet trackers, such as My Fitness Pal.  But if you’re using one of these to log your calorie or nutrient intake, keep an eye out for this common hazard.

Last week’s podcast delved into a somewhat lower technology solution to persistent digestive problems. Read more about the FODMAP diet and whether it might be the solution to your tummy troubles. Sometimes, of course, tummy troubles are actually caused by food poisoning–but is there any way to know which food was the culprit? More info on that here.

Finally, fluoridation is a controversial topic that’s being debated in communities around the U.S.  This week’s podcast reviews the main arguments for and against adding fluoride to the public water supply, along with some thoughts on the so-called “precautionary principle.”

For more food and nutrition hijinks, join me (and a few thousand other food- and nutrition-obsessed folks) on Facebook or Twitter.


Tracking Success

Originally published on Intel IQ
TrackingSuccessYou can’t manage what you don’t measure, they say. Although this old adage comes from the world of business and management, it’s equally true of behavior modification. Keeping a log of something (such as food intake, exercise, spending, or alcohol consumption) can be a surprisingly effective way to change habits. The very act of keeping track—even without consciously trying to change anything—often nudges you toward better choices.

When we estimate our habits, we tend to paint a rosy picture. We think we’re more active than we actually are, we underestimate how many snacks or drinks we typically consume, and we spend more than we realize on meaningless incidentals. What’s worse, our worst or most excessive habits are the ones we tend to be the least accurate about. The more people overeat, for example, the bigger the discrepancy between their estimated intake and their actual intake. Continue reading “Tracking Success” >

Mobilizing Your Health: Go-To Apps for Info on the Go


Originally published on Intel IQ

Eating has become an increasingly mobile sport. We now consume a third of our calories (and spend half of our food dollars) away from home. At the same time, we’re a lot more interested in what’s in our food these days. Fortunately, information has become more mobile as well. Most of us now carry the World Wide Web—and with it, the sum total of human knowledge—in our pockets. Even better, mobile apps can filter and organize all of that information, making it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, on the fly.

Want to know how many calories are in the popcorn at the movie theater? Wondering how sustainable the catch of the day is? Can’t remember how many pounds of tomatoes that gazpacho recipe calls for? Looking for a vegan restaurant near your aunt’s summer cottage? Rest assured: whatever you’re looking for, there’s an app for that. Continue reading “Mobilizing Your Health: Go-To Apps for Info on the Go” >

Product Review: Two Thumbs Up for Better Bean Company


Food companies frequently ask if they can send me samples of new  “healthy” food products to review.  I usually try to fend these offers off because, quite frankly, so many of these products are just over-processed, over-priced foods wearing a health halo.  [Note to PR reps: if you send it to me, I WILL post an honest review. If I ask you not to send it, that’s definitely a hint you should take.]

However, after checking out Better Bean Co.’s website, I was eager to try their new products and gratefully accepted their offer to send some for me to sample.  I have to say: These beans are just as impressive on the fork as they are on paper.

I eat a lot of legumes. They’re a great source of protein and fiber–and an essential food group for anyone looking to cut back on meat and/or grains, reduce the carbon footprint of their diet, or save money on groceries. And with so many kinds of beans and ways to cook with them, I never get bored.

As Good As Home-made (Maybe Better!)

Better Bean products are made the way I would make them myself–with wholesome, fresh ingredients and no chemicals.  They’re  fresh-tasting, well-seasoned, and with that firm texture that you just can’t get from a can.  Of course, you’ll pay a little more for these ready-to-eat beans than you would for dried beans that you make yourself. But, in my opinion, the quality and convenience easily justify the price. A $4 carton of Three Sister’s Chili makes a heart and yummy (and virtually instant)  lunch for two.  All five flavors are tasty but the chili and the Wholly Chipotle Bean dip were my favorite.

(One request for Better Bean: I appreciated the low-waste, recyclable packaging but would love it if the lids were just a little bit more secure.)

Distribution for these new products is still limited but growing quickly. You can check the company website for stores near you.