3 Supermarket Foods We Cannot Live Without

Living in New York City is great…until you have to go grocery shopping. Then I’d rather be living in Connecticut. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.

Grocery shopping in New York can be a daunting task–elbowing and pushing your way through the crowds is hardly relaxing. But every now and again, you strike gold, discover an amazing new food, and if you’re lucky, live to tell about it.

I had one such day on a recent Sunday afternoon at Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side. I came across three amazing new foods that I now cannot live without, and I think you’ll find them equally satisfying.

Beans in a Box

Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils ($3.59)

Beans you can heat in the microwave, add to soups, or eat cold–it’s that easy. As many of you know, beans are an amazing food–full of protein, low in fat and an ideal substitute for meat in any dish. Cooking beans from scratch can take hours and I rarely find lentils canned. Problem solved. These keep in the refrigerator for days.

The Better Instant Oatmeal

Trader Joe’s Frozen Steelcut Oatmeal ($1.59)

Steelcut oatmeal takes forever to cook, so it’s usually a weekend thing for me. Until now, that is. It takes 3 minutes to heat these frozen blocks of magical oats to creamy perfection, and there’s no pot to scrub afterwards (bonus!). You get all the benefits of this fiber-rich food without the fuss. Give it some pizzazz by adding chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.

Chocolate in the Raw

Emmy’s Dark Cocoa Macaroons ($4.oo)

Decadently rich and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate morsels. I have nothing more to say. Other than the fact that they’re completely raw, 100% organic, vegan and gluten-free. They’re also super low in sugar–only 4 grams. Plus, raw cocoa is high in magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and a ton of vitamins. That’s a good reason to indulge.

Do you have any grocery store secrets to share with us? What’s been filling your shopping cart lately and how can we get our hands on it?

The #1 Thing To Avoid While Dining Out

I like to think that I fall into the category of being a serious foodie. Admittedly, I’m not as culinarily-inclined as some folks in this town, but I take pride in trying all the latest and greatest restaurants. If you are familiar with the NYC dining scene, you know that keeping up with all the new openings takes serious commitment and a lot of eating! And it’s usually not eating of the healthful kind. In fact, it can get quite gluttonous.

You may be wondering, how do I eat so many indulgent foods (read: foie gras, bacon, lobster mac ‘n cheese, bacon, eggs benedict, and well, bacon) but manage to stay on the slender(ish) side? It’s a good question, and one for which I have a simple answer.

In fact, it all boils down to 1 thing–a simple secret that’s easy to follow, doesn’t require counting points (math is not my forte), or keeping a food diary. If you’re like me and apply this 1 easy rule when dining out, you can order what you want and enjoy it without feeling guilty.

The Fine Print…Just a Little

Ready for the disclaimer? This is not a hallpass to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet with reckless abandon. You still need to watch your portion size and continue to exercise–whether it’s regularly hitting the gym, playing catch with Fido, or biking to work.

Alright, no more disclaimers. You want me to blurt it out already? I can take it hint. Here it comes…

The Secret, Revealed

The #1 thing to avoid while dining out is…the sauce. It’s that easy. No matter what you order (even if it’s a salad), just ask for the sauce on the side. If you don’t, the restaurant is likely to add a lot more than you need, thereby adding A LOT more calories without much incremental flavor.

Want Eggs Benedict for brunch? Order it. Love every bite of it. Just get the hollandaise on the side.

Hungry for steak? Get the filet mignon and ask for the red-wine reduction on the side. Done. Check.

Lobster Ravioli finished in a butter cream sauce? Ummmm, this is a no brainer…

Scallops sauteed in a lemon sauce (this is typically a “brown-butter” lemon sauce). Seafood is healthy, but you gotta get the sauce on the side.

Chicken satay with a peanut dipping sauce? Luckily, this one already comes on the side.

Anyhow, you get my point.  Sauce on the Side…”SotS” for short. Once your dish arrives at the table (with the sauce on the side), drizzle a little on your meal–just enough to make it palatable and impart some flavor. Most of the time, if you’re eating at a good restaurant, the ingredients should be high-quality enough to be tasty on their own.

So what’s the #1 thing to do when you’re dining out?

SotS. But you already know that by now.

Food You Should Be Eating: Boneless & Skinless Chicken Breast

Today we’re kicking off a new series here on the blog called “Foods You Should Be Eating.” (Pretty creative title, huh?)

This will be an ongoing series that highlights healthful foods that we think should be a bigger part of your diet. Over time, we’ll be examining a host of foods including fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy and proteins. Selections will range from the well-known to the relatively obscure, and we’re hoping to call attention to some great foods that you may not have heard of. We do a lot of food R&D over here at The Pump so we’re always learning about interesting new things.

As we go on this journey, I encourage you all to send in any recipes that you may have for the ingredients we’re discussing. We’d really like to engage The Pump community as we explore all these great foods. Let’s do this together!

And with that, let’s get started…

Boneless & Skinless Chicken Breast

Curried-Chicken-Breast_230px

Why not start with the obvious, right? Be it lunch or dinner, chicken breast should be a staple of your diet. It comes from the leanest part of the chicken so half a breast has just 2.5 grams of fat, but it packs a whopping 22 grams of protein. It also tastes great either on its own (especially if it’s coming from one of our kitchens here at The Pump) or as part of a more complex recipe, such as this excellent Curried Chicken Salad. Easy and delicious. Let me know what you think!

Chef Danny’s Curried Chicken Salad:

  • 1 Breast Chicken, cooked & shredded
  • 2 Tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Raisins
  • ¼ C Celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp Curry Powder
  • ½ tsp Lime Juice

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Required Reading: Top 5 Health and Wellness Links This Week (January 21, 2011)

Hope you all had a good week. We had a productive one over here at The Pump…served a bunch of food and made a lot of progress internally (exciting things that will be making their way into the restaurant sooner rather than later).

We also found some time do a little reading. Have a great weekend!

1. In South Los Angeles, New Fast-Food Spots Get a ‘No, Thanks’

In a controversial move, LA puts its foot down when it comes to new fast food places – they’re simply not allowed. While we like to think that people are capable of making their own smart decisions about food, we can’t blame the city for wanting to limit the temptations. Hopefully more responsible food concepts will fill the void.

Check out the article for some interesting perspectives from both sides of the debate…

2. How To Start Working Out When You Don’t Like To Exercise

Here’s a great, very realistic perspective on what it takes to get into working out when it’s really just not your thing. The key according to the author: get to a level of fitness where working out stops hurting and starts to feel good. Yes, such a thing exists! If you’ve been trying to get into a regular workout routine but it’s just not sticking, you should give this a read. The author provides 10 excellent tips on how to ease into it.

Check out the full post over at the Summer Tomato blog…

3. Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods

Did you know that Wal-Mart sells more groceries than any other company in the US? Me neither, although I guess it’s not that surprising when you think about it. But this suggests that this strategy shift could actually have an impact if it comes to fruition, and we’d be happy to see that.

Learn more about the changes and the timeline over at The New York Times…

4. Phys Ed: Brains and Brawn

What? Lifting weights actually makes you more intelligent? Running does, too, it turns out. It’s all about increasing blood movement to the brain, and both types of exercise have that effect.

Check out this fascinating article over at the Well blog…

5. The Onion: “Just Eat a Goddamn Vegetable”

The Onion has apparently figured out how to solve to the obesity epidemic (we’d expect nothing less). It seems so obvious now…

Junk Food in Healthy Disguises Part II: The Cereal Aisle

Back in September, I wrote a blog post that exposed several types of food as unhealthy despite their curious reputation for being “good for you.” It caused quite a stir and has been one of The Pump’s most popular posts to date. Check it out here if you’re curious: Junk Food in Healthy Disguises Part I.

In this post, I’m going to take it a step further by focusing on a very popular category of food that dupes a lot of people: breakfast cereal. The idea for this subsequent post came to me last night as I stood in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, trying not to be swallowed up by all the colorful boxes. (On a side note, you may have noticed that my last name is Kellogg. No relation to the food company, but nonetheless, I’d like to think it affords me some level of jurisdiction to comment on this subject–don’t you agree?)

Anyway, back to last night. I couldn’t believe how many options were available–an entire aisle at Gristedes dedicated to cereal. And the Gristedes in my neighborhood is the size of shoebox, so that’s saying a lot.

Most of the boxed breakfast items I could differentiate as junk pretty easily–things like Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Capital Crunch, and Fruity Pebbles. Others were more difficult to decipher–Honey Nut Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, and Basic 4, to name a few–mostly because of the flashy health claims on the box. “Made with Whole Grains.” “Lowers Cholesterol.” “Made with Real Fruit.” All these claims sound quite good.

Feeling anxious–even breaking a sweat–I removed my coat, placed my bags on the floor, and began scanning the food labels. 25 minutes later, I narrowed down my list to the top 4 cereals that try their hardest to make you think they’re healthful but offer no nutritional return. Don’t be fooled by the flashy front-of-the-box marketing tactics–these cereals aren’t actually good for you. Instead of picking one of these, opt for the alternative brand that I’ve suggested for each. Your morning will be much better off.

Top 4 “Healthy” Cereals that are really Junk Food in Disguise

1.  Kellogg’s Smart Start

Of all the cereals I reviewed, this one tops the list as having the most inflated health claims. It has 17 grams of sugar per 1 cup — that’s more sugar than Cocoa Puffs. It also contains high frutose syrup, which by itself negates all of the other health benefits, in my opinion. It may be 98% fat-free, but it’s 30% sugar.

Instead try: Kellogg’s Special K (only 4 grams of sugar) with fresh blueberries (less crunchy that the dried, boxed variety).

2. Kellogg’s Raisin Bran

The word “bran” is totally misleading here. This cereal contains a whopping 350 milligrams of sodium and 19 grams of sugar–that’s the highest sugar content of all of the cereals I scanned. You might as well have a cupcake with a side of salt for breakfast.

Instead try: Total by General Mills, which has more vitamins and minerals and far less sugar.

3.  Honey Nut Cheerios by General Mills

Although a serving of this one contains a relatively modest 9 grams of sugar, the ingredients list is pretty scary. 4 of the first 5 ingredients listed on the box are sugar derivatives–”sugar, modified corn starch, honey, and brown sugar syrup.” The sixth ingredient is salt. It may be made with “whole grains,” but modified corn starch and processed sugars are the principal ingredients here.

Instead try: Original Cheerios with a teaspoon of real organic, local honey.

4.  Kashi Go Lean Crunch

Not all Kashi products are created equal. They promote their cereals as “all natural,” but it doesn’t make them nutritionally superior. This one is very caloric–1 cup is 190 calories–and the sugar content is on par with Fruit Loops (13 grams). Although the sugar is “all natural,” your body processes it in the same way–by converting it into fat.

Instead try: Kashi Go Lean, which contains less sugar and more protein.

How to buy the Right Cereal

Now that you know which ones to avoid, here are a few tips for being a smarter consumer. For one, don’t read the front of the box. This is where you are most likely to get tricked. Instead, take the time to read the nutritional label on the back. Look for cereals that have 10 grams or less of sugar per serving and look at the serving size. When it comes to types, all bran/high bran cereals are the way to go.

Here are my recommendations: Fiber One, Grape Nuts, Kashi Go Lean, and Shredded Wheat Original.

Other, Healthier Breakfast Alternatives

If you have other options, you may actually be better off avoiding cereal altogether. Cereals tend to be highly processed, and processed foods often have much less nutritional value than their unprocessed counterparts. If you want to go with something more whole, I would suggest oatmeal, cream of wheat, barley, or even quinoa, topped with fresh fruit and nuts (walnuts or almonds). Add a glass of milk for protein.

But if these other options aren’t available to you, the tips and suggestions above should serve you well on your next trip to the supermarket. Good luck!

Any cereals, either good or bad, to add to this list?

* Photo courtesy of Terren via Flickr.

Exclusive: A Video Interview with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body

Exciting news! The Pump recently did an exclusive video interview with Tim Ferriss, the author of the brand new book, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. Ferriss, who is best known for the hugely successful self-help guide The 4-Hour Workweek, actually reached out to us (out of the blue!) because he’s a big fan of our food – it’s totally consistent with the diet regimen he advocates in his new book.

Ferriss spent more than 2 weeks in NYC promoting The 4-Hour Body, and during his visit, he ate only The Pump. That’s right–we fed him 2 meals a day for 14 days, 28 meals in total. We were totally flattered when his assistant, Charlie, contacted us and said that Tim wouldn’t eat anything else. If you saw a photo of him, you’d understand, and he promises that anyone who follows the advice laid out in his book can easily do the same.

The 4-Hour Body is Ferriss’ guide to achieving your most perfect self–from a diet plan that promotes rapid fat loss to a step-by-step (and incredibly detailed) guide to awesome sex. He teaches the reader how to be, well, perfect at everything.

And the timing of this interview was perfect because the book hit The New York Times bestseller list just this week! To go along with the interview, Tim gave us 12 copies, each signed, and we’re giving them away for FREE here on our blog – check out the details at the bottom of this post.

So without further ado, here’s Tim in own words, answering our most pressing questions about the new book.

1. What’s the craziest thing you did for the new book?

2. Why are you such a big fan of The Pump?

3. How is your book different than other diet books?

4. What’s your best advice for people struggling to resist holiday temptations?

5. What does The 4-Hour Body teach us about sex?

As you can tell, this is an intense book–it’s close to 600 pages. And you can get a signed copy for FREE, courtesy of Tim Ferriss and The Pump! All you have to do is be one of the first 12 people to leave a comment below. Good luck!

UPDATE: As of 5:00pm EST, all 12 free books have been given away. Sorry if you missed it, but please feel free to comment anyhow. If you’d still like to pick up a copy of The 4-Hour Body (we think you should!), you can order one over at Amazon.

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