7 Foods That Pretend To Be Healthy…But Aren’t

Processed foods are the main reason that we, as a society, are heavier and sicker than ever.  Unfortunately, food manufacturers have spent years and billions of dollars to convince us that there’s no better way to be happy, healthy and (gosh darn it!) full than to take advantage of the many foods they offer.

The foods (and claims) have evolved over time so I thought I would go over 7 of the current foods that pretend to be healthy…but aren’t.

 

The Big Empty (Calorie, That Is!)

 

 

Rice cakes and Pretzels

How did these guys become knighted heroes in the world of healthy eating? They’re nothing but highly processed foods that are full of empty calories. They must have a great PR guy!

Breakfast Cereals

The first commercial breakfast cereal, marketing in 1863 was called Granula. It was made from graham flour baked into a lump so hard it had to be soaked overnight to even be edible.  Graham flour was, interestingly enough, named after Reverend Sylvester Graham, who soon joined forces with John Harvey Kellogg.  After a falling out, Kellogg went on to start his own company to distribute his newest cereal, Cornflakes, which was considered to be more palatable than Granula.

In the years that followed, in the quest to make cereal desirable to the general public, even the healthiest brands have become highly processed products containing refined sugar while devoid of protein and nutritional value.  In an effort to make them seem healthier, they are often “fortified”, which simply means synthetic substances have been added to replace the nutrition that was destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Microwave Popcorn

From the chemicals in the bags to the “buttery” flavor and “artificial and natural flavorings”, this stuff just has to go.  Studies show that dangerous emissions (their word, not mine) released both during and after popping can lead to serious health issues including lung disease.

So what’s a girl to do when she really, really wants a crunchy snack?  No, I’m not going to tell you to get a stalk of celery.  I hate it when people say that because they know that’s not what I’m asking…

How about some good, old-fashioned, pop-it-yourself popcorn?  It’s low in fat and calories but it also has a good dollop of nutritional value as well.

The Low Fat Low Sugar Wars

You see the claims blazing from every shelf in every aisle of the store.  Low fat!  Fat free!  Low sugar!  Sugar free! We all know that too much fat and sugar in our diets lead to a plethora of health problems so it’s best to stay completely away from it, right?

Well, no.

First of all, let’s clear up all the claims on those processed foods such as bottled salad dressing, baked goods, yogurts and the like.  It’s a fact that when manufacturers reduce the fat in products that normally would contain it, they add more sugar or sodium.

Low sugar items usually contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose, which are associated with health risks.

Now for some real facts: Not only is fat necessary for our bodies to function properly, it’s also necessary for our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients from our foods. The same is true for sugar.

So, although we don’t need lots of added fats and sugars in our diets, we do need some and a balanced diet of varied whole foods will take care of that nicely!

Magical Healing Foods

Super food

There’s no scientifically based or regulated definition for super food but the word has long been used to identify a food that’s rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health.

The term was coined by the United Fruit Company around World War I to promote sales of bananas. This was right around the same time that the scientific world was beginning to isolate different vitamins and nutrients in regard to how their use (or lack of use) specifically affected the human body. When The American Medical Association published an article claiming that bananas cured Celiac Disease in children, United Foods ran with it. We now know this scientific finding to be faulty and that a banana is, sadly, just a banana.

You would have thought to be the end of the banana-as-a-superhero movement but, no. There was money to be made so the SuperFoods Express remained firmly on the tracks despite the fact that scientific studies show little benefit to focusing on them as a superior form of nutrition.

These studies look at the benefits of certain nutrients when used in very large quantities…certainly more than we could consume in a single sitting. They also look, in most cases, on just that nutrient or food, without considering that humans do not exist on a single source of nutrition. And the scary part? Some “super foods”, such as açaí berries and pomegranates, can actually damage your organs when ingested in large amounts.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit free radicals from doing damage to our bodies. They rose to media fame in the 1990’s when scientists began to discover that people with a low antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetable intake were more likely to experience damage from these free radicals.

As trials began to run on these findings, the food industry began to tout and market antioxidant-rich foods such as green tea and blueberries. Supplements also became popular.

Despite the fact that studies are inconclusive on the benefits of upping your antioxidant intake (and, in some cases, indicated it could increase health issues), these products continue to see – if you’ll excuse the pun – healthy sales.

One thing the studies did prove? That people who ate more fruits and vegetables of any kind were healthier overall than those who ate less,

 

The Bottom Line

Focusing your attention on certain foods that are perceived to have some magical advantage over other foods may draw you away from the balanced, yet varied, diet that is so important to your health.

Let’s just ignore the hype, shall we? Get out there and grab some whole foods…anything you want. Take any kind of fruit or veggie, any kind of lean meat, any kind of whole grain and turn it into something delicious! Feel free to take a stroll through the Let’s Get Cooking section of this website for some great recipes including homemade salad dressing recipes such as thousand island, blue cheese and Caesar!

Don’t forget to let me know how it turns out in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

 

 

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Pepper Steak Stir Fry

Pepper Steak Stir Fry

1 green pepper, thinly sliced

½ onion, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced

1  clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)

1 tbls olive oil

1 cup Korean Beef, thinly sliced

Heat olive oil in a heavy saute pan.  Add green pepper, onion, jalapeno pepper and garlic.  Saute until tender, about ten minutes.

Add beef and saute just until warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Serve with rice or horseradish potatoes, if desired.

2 servings, 285 calories per serving


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Roasted Asparagus with Pine Nuts

 

Roasted Asparagus with Pine Nuts

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and washed

2 tbls olive oil

2 tbls pine nuts

2 tbls Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Place asparagus on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and toss to coat.

Sprinkle pine nuts and Parmesan over asparagus and toss to coat.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or to desired tenderness.

2 servings, 235 calories per serving

Hack: Pine nuts can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 months or in the freezer for 6 months.

Hack: Use leftover pine nuts in Lasagna with Butternut Bechamel.

Hack:  Use leftover asparagus to make an omelette for breakfast!

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Classic Bread Pudding

Classic Bread Pudding

2 cups loosely packed cups sturdy bread, cut into cubes (2-3 slices)

2 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp butter

1 egg, beaten

½ cup milk

3 tbsp sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp vanilla

Toss bread and raisins in an oven-safe 4 cup casserole.

In a small bowl, mix butter, egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over bread and toss to combine.

Bake at 350℉ for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold.  Drizzle with caramel sauce if desired.

3 servings, 260 calories per serving

Hack: Any type of sturdy, plain bread can be used for bread pudding. Stale bread works as well but wait at least 30 minutes to bake so the liquid can soften the bread.

Hack: Assembled bread pudding can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours before baking.

Hack: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

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Fresh Whole Cranberry Sauce

Fresh Whole Cranberry Sauce
(Courtesy: Jacqueline Letouneau)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

3 cups cranberries (12 oz)

½ tsp finely chopped orange zest

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan stirring until sugar is melted. Add cranberries and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes or until cranberries pop and liquid just begins to thicken.

Stir in zest, cover and cool.

5 servings (½ cup), 175 calories per serving

Hack: Fresh or frozen cranberries will work equally well in this recipe.

Hack: Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days or frozen for up to a year.

Hack: Store sauce in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze leftovers in tightly covered freezer safe container.

Hack: To easily zest a whole orange, use a vegetable peeler. Lay unused zest in a single layer and freeze. Store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Hack: Puree the orange in the blender for use in recipes such as cakes, cookies or breads. 1 orange yields about ¼ cup, which can be sealed in a bag and stored in the freezer.

Hack: Use this cranberry sauce to make Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast.

Hack:  Use this cranberry sauce to make Cranberry Jalapeño Dip.

 

 

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14 Silly Kitchen Gadgets

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What are gadgets? While the terms gadget, utensil, tool and appliance tend to be used interchangeably, especially in advertising, gadgets are contraptions that are used for a specific purpose. It turns out that Americans are quite fond of our contraptions — to the tune of more than 1 billion dollars a year in sales. It’s no wonder that manufacturers, inventors, marketers and retailers are constantly on the hunt for new, unique gizmos to put on the market.

Some are great (where would we be without our vegetable peeler?) but I feel like the list of silly kitchen gadgets grows by leaps and bounds every year.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Just plain Silliness

The Melty Butter Knife

This is a product that promises to make spreading cold butter a breeze! It claims to use “heat conducting technology” that transfers the heat from your hand to warm the knife.

Unfortunately, a full 27% of Amazon users were not impressed, claiming that it did not work as advertised, while another 14% felt it was just ho-hum. On the flip side, almost 60% of users gave it a 4-5 star rating, stating, for the record, that was a fantastic little knife. Do you suppose this is a case of “cold hands, cold butter”?

I’ll just soften my butter out on the counter for a few minutes before I use it and save myself $19.95.

A Hot Glue Gun. For Cheese

It’s said to have a “proprietary cheese propulsion valve” that allows “complete control of cheese”. I’m sorry…what? Not only was I completely unable to type that with a straight face, I don’t even know what it means.

A full 66% of Amazon users gave this puppy a 4-5 star rating with comments that ask, “who’s ever had this much fun with their food?” and that it “perfectly squirts hot melted cheese”. It was even called the “perfect family activity” but I really had to struggle to find a user who had an actual use for it. One user built a house for her sons’ Legos out of cheese and crackers while another constructed an entire log cabin village in his room from pretzels and cheese. One even spoke of the very real prospect of Sunday morning cheese-wars.

Did the 1-3 star naysayers point to the absurdity of this product? The $50 price tag? Incredibly, their chief complaint was that it’s difficult to clean.

Perhaps it’s me, maybe I’m just not a fun person. And please don’t try to prove me wrong by inviting me to your next cheese and potato chip crafting party. I’m busy that day.

 

Trongs Prep and Eating Utensil

Translation: Little claws for your fingers so you never, ever have to come into contact with the food you’re eating. Of the 70% of Amazon users who thought they were aaaa-maaa-zing!, the comment I enjoyed most was the gal who used them “ because my work was having a hot wings potluck and I did not want to deal with a messy keyboard”. Because your work doesn’t have soap and water? I think there are bigger fish to fry there….

Not my cup of tea, but if you like ‘em, I’ve got a tip for you. The two pair pack has a cost of $49.31 but if you buy in bulk, you’ll get 6 pairs for $14.95. The company claims this is due to shipping costs. Let that sink in for a minute…

Square Egg Press — Because It’s Cool To Be Square

90% of users gave this gadget a 4-5 star rating, mostly because it’s “neat”, “cool” and “quirky”. One lady uses it because her eggs will stay put on the dashboard during tractor pulls.

Another user pointed out its usefulness for deviled eggs and, OK, I get that but the device seems labor intensive and time-consuming. It involves freezing the container for 20 minutes, peeling a hot hard-boiled egg, inserting it into the container and dropping it in ice water for 5 minutes. This is for each egg.

I guess you could drop $39.97 to get a 6-pack of these babies or take the long-winded advice from users who have put together assembly line instructions to make the most of their time in the kitchen.

It just feels to me like the reviewers here are trying to justify spending their hard-earned dollars on a device that will astound the ladies at the church picnic or convince their kids that they got eggs from a square chicken one time at the most.

Egg-A-Matic Skull Egg Mold

Oh, but wait! Here’s one for Halloween eggs!. His name is Fred. I’ll be if we look hard enough, we can find one for every holiday. If you think your friends would be impressed with square eggs, think of the hero worship you would receive if you could show up with seasonally themed eggs all year-’round!

 

The Grate Taco Cheese Shredder

The maker of this taco shaped cheese shredder claims that you’ll want to make every day Taco Tuesday with this nifty grater that keeps your cheese “neatly contained until you’re ready to aim it at your enchilada”. That doesn’t even make sense considering that you must turn this “taco” upside down to grate which lets the cheese fall freely out of the top (or is it the bottom?). With both ends open, I can’t imagine that it “contains” anything.

It would appear that I’m not alone. 7 of the 10 people who reviewed this product were compensated for their views and it still only got a 3 star rating.

Mildly disturbing

Bogeyman Egg Separator

This ceramic cup of repugnance is marketed as an egg separator but that doesn’t seem to be it’s main purpose. Why? Because it just doesn’t work. The consensus is that the holes are too small to be effective. Apparently, the whites just hang there like…well…boogers.

Even many of the almost 80% of people who rated it highly admit that they bought it for the shock value or collectibility of the item, not as a kitchen aid.

 

Condiment Dispenser Bottle Gun

This nifty picnic firearm comes with two refillable cartridges and a stopper to avoid accidental discharge (and presumed injury). On the off chance you should not consider this a gravely serious weapon of the highest caliber, the company is quick to warn you that this is not a toy, it should not be fired at the face or body of anything (man or beast) and it’s not suitable for children under 12 years old. I wonder if I would need a concealed carry permit to put this in my picnic basket?

The yayers and nayers are about equally split on this product. The nayers claim that it’s cheap and doesn’t work as advertised, although one user was quick to recommend that a Condiments Firearms Safety Course might be helpful.

The fans tell us that it’s a hit at parties and is especially fun for the under 12 set (the ones for whom this sidearm is deemed not appropriate).

As for me? I’ll keep that $21.95 right in my pocket. I couldn’t live with myself if someone were wounded on my watch.

 

Sir Perky Novelty Condiment Bottle Topper

This little guy lays his…ummm…below the belly button area across the top of your condiment bottle and when you’re ready (because this is all about what you want), he will release a liquid stream from his backside onto your sandwich. The advertiser recommends that you use protection and enjoy responsibly.

Sir Perky is also happy to stop up your wine bottle and or open your pop-top.

Over 70% of reviewers have taken pleasure in spending quality time with this little guy but I don’t know, man. He seems like a creep to me.

Sir Perky…back away from my mustard.

Gone Dark Side

Spartan Knife Set

Canadian Philosopher Matshona Dhliwayo once said, “A warrior proves his courage in the heat of battle.” I guess there’s no way to know how this battle ended but about 80% of reviewers seemed to think it was a win as they got to keep the knives

 

Voodoo Doll Knife Holder

Nothing says, “Thinking of You” like this voodoo knife holder, especially when the knives themselves are made from Premium Stabbing Stainless Steel. While most reviewers thought this was a great conversation piece, others returned it for being creepy or because the humanoid is made from plastic.

And, yes, he was referred to as a “humanoid”. It’s like they’re pretending he’s not a person.

 

Honorable Mention

Monkey Peeler

A little pricey at $11.06 but there’s nothing really wrong with this one. It’s just that I saw the title and thought (in horror), “Who would peel a monkey?!?!” I decided to throw it in here to see if anyone else had the same reaction. Anybody? No?

So There You Have It…

…the silliest kitchen gadgets I could come up with. What do you think? Would you buy any of these? Why or why not? What’s the silliest kitchen gadget you couldn’t live without?

Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

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Basic Homemade Tomato Sauce

 

Basic HomemadeTomato Sauce

3 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 8 medium)

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tbls lemon juice

Remove stems, if necessary, from tomatoes. It is not necessary to remove core or seeds.

Drop tomatoes in the blender and blend until smooth, in batches if needed. You should end up with about 8 cups of puree.

Put puree in a large saucepan, straining through a mesh colander, if desired, to remove seeds. Add salt. Simmer on low for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice.

Yield: 4 cups tomato sauce, 70 calories per cup

Hack: To make tomato paste, double line mesh colander with cheesecloth and place in bowl. Put 1 cup cooled tomato sauce in the colander. Cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Using cheesecloth, squeeze out any remaining liquid. Yield: 3 tbls.

Hack: Freeze cooled sauce in one cup servings in sealed freezer safe bags or containers for future use.

Hack:  If you have leftover tomatoes and no time to make sauce, simply puree them in the blender and freeze the fresh puree in sealed freezer bags or containers to cook with at a later date.

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Tangy Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Tangy Sweet and Sour Meatballs

¼ cup water

3 tbls apple cider vinegar

1 tbls soy sauce

½ cup brown sugar

3 tbls cornstarch

2 tbls olive oil

9 meatballs (thawed)

1 cup pineapple juice

1 each red, orange and green pepper, cut in 1” pieces

1 can crushed pineapple, drained (8 oz)

Mix water, vinegar, soy sauce brown sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pan.  Add meatballs and brown on all sides.

Pour in pineapple sauce and simmer meatballs, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Add peppers and pineapple. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the meatballs have an internal temperature of 165℉.  Stir occasionally but gently so meatballs don’t break up. 

Add cornstarch mixture and heat until sauce thickens.

3 servings, 560 calories per serving

Hack:  Freeze leftovers in serving sized portions for future use.


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Easy Classic Deviled Eggs

Easy Classic Deviled Eggs
(Courtesy: Suzanne M. Woodworth)

3 eggs

4 tsp mayonnaise

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp honey

Paprika (optional)

Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover pan and bring water to boil. Remove from heat and let the pan sit, still covered, for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, drain hot water from the pan and fill with cold water and ice to cool. Peel eggs.

Cut each egg in half lengthwise and gently squeeze white to pop yolks out into a small bowl.

Mix mayonnaise, mustard and honey with yolks and scoop back into whites. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired

3 servings, 125 calories per serving

Hack: Hard boiled eggs keep in the refrigerator for one week so consider making a few extra while you’ve got the water boiling! They make a great snack alone, pickled or in egg salad.

 

 

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Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1” squares

1 tbls butter

⅛ tsp salt

⅛ tsp pepper

1 ½ tbls sour cream

1 tsp prepared horseradish

Place enough water in a saucepan to cover potatoes and bring to a boil on the stove.

Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Add butter, salt and pepper. Mash using hand masher (or mixer if you prefer smoother mashed potatoes).

Stir in sour cream and horseradish, adding additional sour cream to obtain desired consistacy. 

Serve immediately.

One serving, 175 calories



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