Food reviews Feed

Taking Cheerios Oat Crunch out for a test spin in the toddler bowl

This post has been sponsored by SheSpeaks, Inc., General Mills and Cheerios. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Cheerios oat crunch flowers

We're a 4-box family, as in I buy four boxes of cereal every week. Yes, there is only three of us, but cereal is a frequent breakfast, snack and dessert food.

There's always some variety of Cheerios in the pantry, so I jumped at the chance to try the new Cheerios Oat Crunch cereal, which I purchased at my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. It has all the grocery bargains of a regular Walmart in a more streamlined place to shop just for food.

The nice thing about the cereal is that it comes in family-size boxes, since we're such a bunch of cereal hounds. And yes, even I, of the tiny stomach, can pour out a toddler bowl of Cheerios Oat Crunch for a nighttime snack. I'm at the stage in my eating where I can add in more whole grains. 

Cheerios Oat Crunch is made with Multi Grain Cheerios and topped with whole-grain oats and real cinnamon. Here's a closeup shot so you can see all the tasty bits.

Cheerios texture

That is some big-time hearty fun in a bowl there. The "multi" in the Multi Grain Cheerios is oats, corn, rice, millet, and sorghum. 

The husband likes to end his day with a bowl of it mixed with yogurt and frozen berries. The kid will eat it with milk for breakfast and a late-night snack, and I have my toddler bowl.

Cheerios toddler bowl

Mom tip: Don't get rid of your toddler plates and bowls, even if your kid is in college. They're great for portion control!



Stuff I love: Clean protein that isn't full of junk

There are around eleventy-billion purveyors of bariatric supplements and foods on the Internet. But as someone who has spent her lifetime eating "diet foods," I don't plan on stocking my pantry with "cookies," and "puddings" and "soups" and other prefab "foods."

Why are these freak-show foods so prevalent? 

Is it because bariatric surgery patients are jonesing for cheesecake and caramel macchiatos? 

mad scientist
This is not how one makes lunch.

I am determined to make my post-op food as clean as I possibly can, and I know that runs counter to some people's reliance on boxed and canned and bottled bariatric foods. So here's my list of clean favorites. First stop:

Premade protein shakes 

Before I even had my surgery in February, I had a couple weeks of a pre-op diet that relied increasingly on protein shakes. We'll get into protein powders in a bit, but the easiest way to down a bunch of protein is to grab a premade protein shake in a cardboard carton. And there are loads of gross ones out there (OK, gross to me). I tried a few varieties of one super popular brand (Premier), and quickly found them way too sweet. I know some people absolutely love them, but after surgery my disdain for sweet stuff got even stronger. It's kinda crazy -- before surgery I didn't really have a sweet tooth per se; it was more of a "food tooth." But after surgery? EVERYTHING is too sweet, especially foods that have artificial sweeteners or stevia. So now I either go without any sweetening or add a little honey, agave or sugar (usually just a teaspoon in my tea). 

Anyway -- the only premade protein shakes I can put up right now (I say that because my tastes are in a constant state of flux) with are Orgain Clean Protein. They have 20 grams of protein and are much cleaner than a lot of brands. There is some stevia, but it's not overkill.

Protein powders: Whey and vegan

I'm narrowing this list to whey and plant-based because I want to keep things simple. I don't mess with soy, and my dietitian told me that whey is the best absorbed protein source. I'm throwing in vegan protein because there are times my pouch is cranky and doesn't want the foamy texture that whey produces.

Man, I have been on a visionquest with protein powders! I made a lot of smoothies before surgery and already had a big collection of protein powders, but all bets were off after surgery. Protein powders that I used to like I now despised. Once again -- too sweet, too much aftertaste. So I was on the hunt for naturally sweetened protein powders that didn't contain stevia.

Whey protein

Chocolate: Whey to Go! Who knew! One of my old, old favorites fit the bill perfectly. I hadn't bought Whey to Go in years, but I checked the label and BINGO! no stevia. It's sweetened with beet sugar and has 9 grams of sugar per serving. It's a little higher in added sugar than my dietitian recommends, but I hadn't been drinking ANY protein shakes, so I'm not sweating the extra few grams of sugar. There's 20 grams of protein and a relatively short list of ingredients.  And it's fairly low cost -- some proteins are ridiculously overpriced (I'm looking at you, Shakeology). The chocolate flavor has a nice depth of flavor, so I haven't had to hit the bag of cocoa powder to amp it up. 

Vanilla: Garden of Life Organic Whey Protein was the first stevia-free whey protein powder I found, probably because it says "no stevia" right on the front label. This protein has 21 grams of organic whey concentrate and 11 grams of sugar, 9 of them added, which is a little high, but again, I'm not sweating it since my overall calorie level is so low for the day. It's really clean tasting, and while it isn't labeled vanilla, there is vanilla in it, so it's like a light vanilla. It's really good mixed with frozen fruit as it lets the fruit really shine through. I made a great smoothie with frozen mango, chilled green tea and a serving of this. 

Plant protein

Chocolate: Apparently Aloha protein powder has reformulated its recipe since the first time I tried it because I really like it now! Sometimes plant-based protein works better for me when my pouch needs something simple. It doesn't tend to foam up as much as whey-based protein powder. Aloha has a nice dark chocolate flavor while only having 4 grams of sugar from coconut sugar. It also uses monkfruit, which doesn't seem as "aftertasty" as stevia. There's 18 grams of protein that comes from pea, pumpkin seed and hemp, and you can buy it online or at Target. 

I don't have any favorite plant-based vanilla protein powders yet, but if I do find one, I'll update this list.

Other proteins: Collagen and Genepro

Collagen is a little controversial because a lot of dietitians don't think collagen peptides are a good protein source, but I use it pretty regularly because it disappears into any liquid hot or cold, and doesn't add any flavor. Many mornings my breakfast will be a cup of tea with a little honey and two scoops of collagen peptides. Hey, even if it isn't the highest quality protein, my cup of tea gives me 18 grams of protein from collagen, which is supposed to be great for your hair, skin, nails and joints, and all of those can use a little help. I haven't tried a lot of collagen brands, so I just stick with Vital Proteins collagen peptides, which you can find nearly all over. It also comes in single-serve packets, which are great for traveling. On our last road trip, I brought a bunch of packets with me and stirred them into coffee, tea and soup. Are there better brands you like? Lemme know in the comments.

Even more controversial is Genepro protein powder. A tiny little scoop -- 1 tablespoon -- purports to give you the equivalent of 30 grams of protein. But many people refuse to believe the claims made by the manufacturer because the serving size is so tiny. It's unflavored, mixes really well into hot or cold liquids and is great if you're low on protein for the day. I just don't know whether I'm getting 30 grams of protein or 15 or what!

I was going to go into vitamins and other things but I'll save those for another day -- this is plenty of food for thought.



Operation #shittogether starts this week! (Plus, a What's in My Gym Bag update)

Hey there! I've been a bit busy the past few weeks, first getting the kid off to college and settled in his apartment (done!), then coming home and cleaning up the wreckage of said move (done!)

With those two big things done, we're officially empty nesters (aside from the dog). It's the perfect time to work on refining habits and that's what I'm doing this week. 

First off, my lunchtime workouts were NOT happening, and wearing workout clothes all day doesn't count, so this week it's roll out of bed and into the gym. I downloaded Jamie Eason's LiveFit app on my phone, and this time I downloaded the right app. I tried it a year or so ago but I had downloaded the more elaborate BodySpace social fitness app, which made following her program too complicated. This time I downloaded only her program and it's a lot easier to follow. 

Here's a video intro to the first week:

 I had bought an intro package to some kickboxing classes, but to be completely honest, I'm just not ready for it yet. After a couple hourlong classes, I found that my shoulders were really hurting and various parts of my feet are not happy (I wasn't exactly kicking the bag properly).

But more importantly, the whole day after the class I was ravenously hungry, like bottomless pit hungry, so I switched to Jamie's program because I find that I'm not a hungry grizzly bear if I focus on weight training.

And I really missed the gym! Fortunately, the one we've been members of since 1999 recently went through a huge and much needed remodel, so I dropped my secondary membership to Planet Fitness. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Planet Fitness, but with the kid away at college, I'm not getting my value out of the Black Card membership, and we have a kid going to college, so I'm looking for ways to cut down on costs. (Our main gym has a crazy cheap yearly renewal.)

Food wise I'm still doing Weight Watchers and leaning on fruit and vegetables for the bulk of my meals and snacks. I used to plan my meals around the protein but now the vegetable is the centerpiece. By putting produce front and center I'm taking in more food for fewer Smartpoints.

Wait a minute, I'm burying the lede!

I had skipped last week's Weight Watchers meeting because I had a dental cleaning, but I had a feeling it was going to be good news today because:

  1. I've been working out more
  2. I've been going to sleep earlier, so ...
  3. eating less late at night.

So I step on the scale Wednesday morning and BOOM! 5 pounds down, which is HUGE for me. I've also been replacing my evening snack with a bottle of kombucha. I've really grown to love the stuff and it's only 50 or so calories for the whole thing, plus I think it does good things for gut health. Whatever's on sale is what I buy. So far, I'm loving all the flavors from Humm, Kevita and Big Easy 'Bucha.

So what I call Operation #shittogether is coming together very nicely in my first week!

So what's in my gym bag?

Go Dash Dot
First of all, I have a new gym bag! I covet gym bags the way some people love Pradas. I've got big ones, small ones, gray, purple, pink, blue -- a gym bag for every occasion. My newest bag is the Infinity bag from Go Dash Dot. The bag was designed with the input of more than 100 women to make sure every square inch of it is useful. It's large without being too bulky, has a load of zippered compartments decorated with cool tassels, a padded laptop area, a shoe compartment that doubles as a yoga mat holder, a very cool, stylish strap and a great smaller inner bag you can use as a cross-body bag, so your purse and gym bag fit into one neat duo. So not only is it a premium gym bag, it's also a work tote, a diaper bag, and a crossbody bag.Inside that bag is my Bandi belt. I have a few of them but recently I got a large size to comfortably stash my phone so I can follow my workout program. There are a load of similar belts on the market, and I've tried many, but I always come back to Bandi belts because they're cute and they have a latch so you don't have to crawl in and out of it.

In my Bandi, along with my phone, is a pair of Sol Republic Relays Sport wireless headphones. I had gotten them a few years ago on Kickstarter, then there were production problems with them and they stopped selling them. Now, it appears, they're selling them again, and they cost even less than they did on Kickstarter.  I've had a few pairs of Bluetooth headphones and these are my favorites. They seem to keep a charge awhile, they're super lightweight, charge quickly and they sound great. 

Because I don't want to pay $3 for a snack at the gym if I find myself in need of something, I usually stash a non-melty protein bar in there. Quest bars have their moments, but often there's too much sweeteners in them and just taste overwhelming, but I was sent a variety of Mauer Sports Nutrition protein bars. Each bar is around 200 calories and around 20 grams of protein (dairy, pea and nut blend), so one and a coffee makes a quick on-the-go breakfast, and half a bar is a decent snack. There are no artificial sweeteners or flavors, they're not cloying at all, there's a great selection of flavors (I am partial to the chocolate chip cookie dough), and many of them are uncoated so they won't melt in the heat. 

And bonus! If you use the code Gail20, you'll get a 20 percent discount on your order of bars.

And because I edit and write for the Fit Bottomed World of blogs, I have a ridiculous collection of athletic shoes. One of my jobs is to schedule social media on posts, so I read pretty much every post on every site, old and new. And because of that, I find myself playing "Target Lady" and dashing off to order things when I read reviews. One recent purchase was these Brooks Neuro shoes. Since the post is a year or so old and Brooks has already released a Neuro 2, I was able to score a great deal on them. They're super cool looking, and the cushioning on the soles is great.




Stuff I Love: Fancy livin' for less at ALDI

This is a sponsored post for ALDI.

Spongebob fancy living
When I think 'fancy living' my mind always goes to SpongeBob Squarepants.

At long last an ALDI has opened in Plantation. That hasn't stopped me from driving all over the county to shop at one -- I'd either go up north to Tamarac or down south to Cooper City or Pembroke Pines to take advantage of the deals.

For years I had heard about the stores and even met with representatives at FitBloggin' and BlogHer Food conferences, so the urge to drive a half hour to grocery shop was strong, since I knew that the company prides itself on a great selection of items. 

But now, finally, there's an ALDI on 12190 W. Sunrise Blvd. -- just east of the Sawgrass Mills shopping area. It seems to be a really good-sized store (the former site of a CompUSA), and there's plenty of parking. FYI; The bigger the ALDI, the wider the food selection.

Yes, ALDI is a no-frills bargain outlet, but what it lacks in fancy store displays it more than makes up for with surprisingly diverse and better-for-you products. You can check out the Healthy Living section on the ALDI website that highlights its fresh produce and meats, ever-expanding SimplyNature natural and/or organics line, LiveGfree gluten-free products, and sustainable seafood.

The store is great for inspiring dinner ideas -- grab a jar of their Priano pesto and spread a teaspoon of it on a chicken breast before baking it. Super simple and really tasty. And, oh my gosh, get the rosso pesto, too. It's pesto with sun-dried tomatoes and it's mind-blowing.

I like the fact that, aside from my favorite products, I'll also be surprised with items, like the bottle of Tajin seasoning ($2.39) I picked up because I spied a lime on the label. Tajin is one of those name-brand items that you'll find from time to time. The teenager loves that I found Cheez-It Grooves ($2.49) there this week, and I also found PB Crave cookie dough-flavored peanut butter ($4.99).

Aldi haul
Here's part of my Labor Day haul.

There are loads of products in each section but I wanted to highlight a few that I really love and buy again and again.

LiveGfree cornbread mix: I always have at least two boxes of this in my pantry. A fresh batch of cornbread is great to serve with my chicken chili, and I like to mix things up by adding a half cup of corn kernels to the cornbread batter. I also sometimes sub out the oil and use plain Greek yogurt to make a slightly lighter loaf. And the fact that the cornbread is gluten free is a big plus. I don't have celiac or anything serious but my doc said I was probably gluten sensitive and I feel a lot better when I keep it to a minimum. ($2.99)

Southern Grove Oven-Roasted Almonds: I hit up the ALDI first thing Labor Day morning, and since it wasn't super busy, an employee and I were perusing the almond section, wondering what the difference was between the roasted almonds and the oven-roasted almonds. Turns out the roasted ones contain peanut oil, which I avoid because my son has a peanut allergy. The oven-roasted almonds are simply almonds and salt, and those are the ones that I got, along with SimplyNature organic almonds, which are unsalted. ($5.79/Southern Grove; $6.49 SimplyNature)

Deutsche Kuche German Style Sauerkraut: I am seriously in love with this sauerkraut. ALDI is a German company, so it makes sense that they'd have some stellar kraut. Of course it's great on hot dogs and brats but I just attack the jar with a fork to get my fix of probiotics. (Yes, lowly sauerkraut is a superfood.) ($1.69)

SimplyNature freeze-dried fruit: This is a fairly new addition, and I am love the freeze-dried peaches, apples and strawberries. You can eat the entire bag for 100 to 130 calories, depending on the fruit. The apples still have their skins intact and it's a nice combination of green and red crunchy apple slices. It's a perfect lunchbox addition. ($2.99)

SimplyNature Organic Macaroni and Cheese: If you're going to make boxed mac and cheese, why not make it organic? My teenage boy loves this stuff and usually downs half the box in a sitting. I'll make a box, add a can of tuna and a cup of peas and -- voila! -- it's instant tuna noodle casserole. a super easy dinner. Another way to add extra protein is to sub out the milk and butter and use an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt. It adds extra tang to the cheese. It also comes in the slightly more elegant Shells & White Cheddar. ($1.29)

Aldi fancy stuff
Certain items have limited availability, so if you like them, snap them up while you can. I found some great German-style rye bread ($1.99, 2-year-aged English Cheddar ($3.49) and English cucumbers ($1.19) , which, come to think of it, would make a lovely fancy tea sandwich. They also had those teeny, thin haricot vert ($2.19) -- green beans to you non French speakers.

... oh, who am I kidding? I got a D in college French and all I retained is haricot vert.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Barissimo Fair Trade Certified dark roast coffee, which sells for the tiny price of $3.99 for a 12-ounce bag. That's about half what you'd pay for Fair Trade coffee, and it's great.

Oh! Those Asiago Cheese Crisps ($2.99) in the photo? They're FABULOUS, and if you're a fan of Panera Bread's Romaine and Kale Caesar Salad, these are just like those cheese "croutons" that top the salad.

Speaking of salad, ALDI ran a cheeky little ad, inviting a bunch of foodies to a dinner where they were served a lovely multi-course dinner and they had to guess which items came from ALDI (spoiler alert: they all did). Anyway, the kale salad prepared by Bon Appétit executive chef Mary Nolan looked especially delish, so here's the recipe, which would make a great entree salad:

Kale Salad with Lemon Yogurt Dressing, Marcona Almonds, Avocado and Dried Cranberries

  • ½ cup Friendly Farms Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons SimplyNature Organic Wildflower Honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Iodized Table Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Stonemill Essentials Peppercorn Grinder
  • 16 cups SimplyNature Organic Kale
  • ½ cup Southern Grove Dried Cranberries
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces, divided
  • ½ cup roughly chopped Marcona almonds, divided

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, lemon zest, salt and pepper until smooth.

Toss dressing with kale and thoroughly mix, massaging into leaves. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Toss in dried cranberries, half of the avocado and ¼ cup almonds. Mound into a large serving bowl and top with remaining avocado and ¼ cup almonds.

Recipe courtesy of executive chef Mary Nolan, Bon Appétit

* * * 

I really hope I've given you a different look at ALDI because the store has really been upping the healthfulness of its products, moving toward 100 percent cage-free eggs, taking junk food out of checkout lanes, expanding its gluten-free and organics and removing synthetic colors, MSG and other artificial ingredients from its own lines. 

You can find out more at,, and

Greetings from Planet Yogurt! (Stonyfield Grassfed review)

I am a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club. I received products and coupons to write this post, and all opinions are 100 percent my own.

We go through a lot of yogurt at our house, so much so that one of the produce bins has been reclaimed as the yogurt bin. It's usually filled with a variety of yogurts -- Greek, "regular," plain, fruit flavored and so on. There's usually a bottle of kefir in the fridge, too, (I'm a recent convert to plain kefir), and a quart of plain yogurt for recipes.

Got a lot of culture up in here!

Have you noticed that fat is making a comeback in the yogurt section? Hold up, dieters, it's actually a good thing. The past couple of years have seen the release of studies showing that America's fat phobia has come back to bite us in the ever-growing posterior. By taking out all the fat and replacing it with gobs of sugar, we're actually doing ourselves a disservice. The satiety that a little bit of naturally occurring fat provides works much better than sugar, which basically burns through you like jet fuel. For reference, HERE'S a study showing that people who consume full-fat dairy were actually leaner and had less cardiovascular risk than people who eat the fat-free stuff.

Let's get science geeky!

If those cows are fed 100 percent grass, instead of the corn, distillery waste and gummy worms (I AM NOT KIDDING) that many get, their milk is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids (good for lots of things) and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. What's so great about CLA? It may help people lose body fat. Hilarious, huh? 

OK, science geek - how's the yogurt?

Stonyfield grassfed yogurt
I like to play with my food.

Stonyfield recently sent me a variety of its new 100 percent grassfed whole milk yogurts, and I'll admit, at first I was a little freaked out. We've been programmed for so long to believe that fat is the enemy that it's unsettling to see the words "whole milk" on a label. 

But soldier on I did!

The yogurts I was sent were "old school" thinner yogurt, instead of thicker Greek yogurt, so these are lower in protein than strained varieties. Looking at the plain container, it has 120 calories, 5 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fat in a 6-ounce container. See? That's not scary at all. Grassfed is also organic, non-GMO and made without artificial hormones.

My husband's favorite combo is cereal and frozen berries topped with a container of yogurt. He appreciated the thinner texture of these yogurts as he mixed up his big bowl of yum. The flavored ones -- vanilla, strawberry and blueberry -- are 140 calories per container.

What did I do with the plain? Lemme tell ya: 

  • I subbed it for the milk and butter in boxed macaroni and cheese, and the teenager thought it was great. The tang of the yogurt gives the cheese powder some needed sharpness.
  • I used it in place of the liquid and fat in a boxed cornbread mix, giving the cornbread a little tang and moisture.
  • I mixed it with ranch dressing powder to make a super simple veggie dip. 

I know what you're thinking: Where's the smoothie recipe? Sure, you can make a smoothie with yogurt, frozen berries, crushed ice and a little stevia, but I wanted to give you some ideas you might not have thought of. But go ahead and make an awesome smoothie with it. The added fat will help with satiety, something that people often complain of when subbing a smoothie for a meal.

If you're wondering where to pick up Stonyfield grassfed yogurt, you can check the bottom of Stonyfield's product page HERE for a store locator.

All that and NOT a bag of chips

Blue diamond honey almonds
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

I have a teenaged boy who is blessed with the metabolism of a cheetah. Seriously, the guy eats pretty much whatever he wants and his 30-inch waist stays intact.

But that doesn’t mean I let him eat garbage.

Amid the occasional chips and cookies, I try and keep the snack stash pretty healthy. So when Blue Diamond sent me its Honey Dijon and Honey Roasted Cinnamon almonds, I knew it would only be a matter of time before …

Hey, where’d they go?

I’d love to show you the lovely snack combinations I came up with (the Honey Roasted Cinnamon go great with apple slices), but, alas, the almonds disappeared in a flash. This, friends, is life with a teenaged boy.

But, hey, I’m not mad – the kid got protein, healthy fats, fiber and other great nutrients. You don’t get that in a bag of chips.

If you’re concerned about portion control, buy those little Ziploc snack bags and portion out an ounce at a time – I find that when snacks are in separate portioned packages, I’m much less likely to overeat them.

Sure, there’s a little added sugar, but overall they’re not much more calories than a regular ounce of almonds, and a much better choice than other sweets.

Fresh Meal Plan review: You had me at 'pork waffle'

FMP fontina pork waffle

See that magificent creation? That, my friends, is "diet food," more specifically, it's a Fontina BLT Pork Waffle from The Fresh Meal Plan, a meal-delivery service available in South Florida and Orlando.

I had the opportunity to try out a few days of the plan this week and I was pretty happy (and satiated) with the three days of meals.

The nice thing about the plan is that you don't have to commit to a large, expensive plan. You can get two meals a day on a five-day plan for $79 a week, which is a good idea if all you want is someone to make you lunches and dinners. There are 5, 6 and 7-day plans and you can go all the way up to three meals and three snacks a day if you really want to make it a no-brainer. The maxed-out plan is $270 a week but you really won't have to buy any groceries at all. This isn't one of those plans where they ask you do supplement with your own produce or dairy products -- everything is included.

And even if you're doing the two-meal plan, you can still add on snacks or desserts if they strike your fancy, and if you do, may I suggest the Fontina BLT Pork Waffle. It's listed as a snack but I ate it for lunch this week and it was fantastic. It's basically pulled pork and cheese on a waffle with lettuce and tomato, all for around 300 calories.

The plan features free-range chicken, wild-caught fish, grass-fed bison and natural meats, and, as I found, the vegetables and fruits are equally fresh. I chose meals from the traditional plan, but there also are vegetarian and Paleo plans, if you're so inclined (but you won't be getting any pork waffles -- just sayin').

FMP sample day

Above is a sampling of what you'll eat on a typical day. Clockwise from top left is a breakfast pizza made with potatoes, cheese, eggs and turkey bacon on a thick foccacia-like base, a big turkey meatball with marinara sauce over pasta with garlic bread and spinach, a couple of gluten-free, Paleo snickerdoodles (all the desserts are Paleo and gluten free) and chicken with paella rice.

Truth be told, while the snickerdoodles were good, I'd prefer to have a more protein-rich afternoon snack. I also sampled a hazelnut cupcake and a blackberry bar. There was a little dessert labeled "Twix bar" but it was nearly 200 calories and I didn't feel like it was worth the calories. 

But the meals were all definite winners. I would heat them in my microwave in their BPA-free containers and then transfer the meals to a plate. Whether you're doing meal delivery or frozen meals, don't eat them out of the plastic container -- it's just a much better dining experience.

A couple other meals that were worth raving about:

FMP blueberry french toast eggwich

This is a blueberry French toast eggwich. I would have never thought to put egg whites, mozzarella cheese and turkey sausage between two pieces of French toast but it totally works. It's topped with fresh berries and nuts and comes with a couple of orange wedges.

FMP bison burgerAt right is a bison burger topped with cheese and served on a pita half with arugula and potato wedges, for around 400 calories. The burger was big and juicy and the arugula had a nice kick. It was a great lunch.

And as you can see, there's not a salad to be found. It's not stereotypical diet food. In fact, the company serves as the official pre-and post-game meal provider for the Miami Dolphins, and they work nutritionally with some of the players on and off season. They also work with Orangetheory Fitness and I AM CrossFit, the largest CrossFit group in South Florida.

Along with the meals, snacks and desserts, they also have a line of organic cold-pressed juices, which you can add to your meal plan. I tried the Beet Down, a mix of apple, beet, carrot, ginger and lemon, and the Green Power, a blend of kale, cucumber, apple, romaine lettuce, spinach, parsley, celery and lemon. Both juices were great -- the beet one was definitely sweeter than the green one, but the green one had a nice balance -- not too sweet, not too "lawn-clippy." 

So there you have it. My philosophy on meal-delivery services is that they're great if you're single or want to bring a healthy, balanced meal (or two) to work every day. It's a little trickier if you're in a family setting because you end up making meals for everyone and eating your own food. But it's also good if you want to jumpstart your healthy eating for a few days and want to reset your brain as to portion size and meal ideas.

Disclosure: I was provided three days' of meals from The Fresh Meal Plan. All opinions are my own. And I love BLT pork waffles.

OK, Dr. Oz, you win this time: I tried yacon syrup

Yacon syrup on oatmeal
That's a teaspoon of yacon syrup on this morning's oatmeal.

This being November sweeps week and all, last Monday's "Dr. Oz Show" breathlessly hyped a new metabolism game-changer: yacon syrup.

I had no idea what the stuff was but I did jump on the dried white mulberries bandwagon and loved them, and yacon syrup sounded pretty interesting. It's made from a Peruvian tuber, looks like molasses, has the consistency of honey and is only 20 calories a tablespoon. His angle on the show was that if people slurped a teaspoon before every meal it would help with weight loss.

I have no idea whether it's some new weight-loss miracle but I was intrigued by the flavor description and the fact that it's one third the calories of honey or agave and that it's a rich source of FOS, or fructo-oligosaccharides, which improve gut flora.

I am all about gut flora lately.

Have you heard about the nasty-sounding yet intriguing experiments on fecal transplants? Turns out the quality of your gut flora may have a lot to do with maintaining a healthy weight. (For those of you turned off by all this "poop talk," you can read more about it HERE.)

Anywhoo ... I bought a bottle of organic yacon syrup because, SCIENCE! And I drizzled a teaspoon of it over my oatmeal this morning.

OMG, you guys! It was way better than I expected. It's intensely sweet and has a molassesy flavor. You really don't need very much and that measly teaspoon was about 7 calories.

Since yacon syrup is a highly concentrated food derived from a tuber, I think it's best to seek out organic yacon syrup. That's just my thinking -- I figure any time you dry or distill any food, you're concentrating everything, including pesticides.

Because of the "Oz Effect," yacon syrup can be really hard to find and a lot of companies online are jacking up their prices, putting out sketchy products and turning the syrup into mysterious supplements.

People -- the whole point of being healthy is eating healthy! Use food, don't use capsules! That's why I bought the yacon syrup -- it's not some questionable supplement.

I was introduced to Essential Living Foods, a small, family-owned company that sells organic superfoods. Their prices are great, they have close ties to the farms that grow their products, they use eco-friendly packaging and they even have an Amazon Watch page on their website where they donate 25 percent of every purchase to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the Amazon and supports indigenous peoples.

I emailed back and forth with the brand communications manager for Essential Living and he said "the phone is ringing off the hook" from stores desperately looking for yacon.

"Oz set off a real firestorm. What he didn't realize is that the organic yacon market was TINY. ... Yacon harvest and processing isn't going through for another few months. We're nervous that a lot of scammers and fakers will be entering the market."

If you look over to the right, you'll see an affiliate ad for Essential Living Foods because I like to support companies that do good (and yes, I get affiliate commissions from any sales).

So, bottom line -- this yacon syrup is yummy! It's also expensive, compared with other sweeteners, but you really only need a little bit and you get a lot more for your buck than just sweetening. If you're interested, the Essential Living Foods yacon syrup is HERE.

These are a few of my favorite things

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but I’ve been compiling a list of things I really like that are all fitnessy and health-related.

I am eating one now, as I type.

Power Crunch bars
: I’m usually a chocolate-chocolate-CHOCOLATE kind of person when it comes to protein powders and bars – the darker the better. But French Vanilla Crème Power Crunch bars are fantastic. They have 14 grams of whey protein, only 5 grams of sugars and 205 calories. They’re exactly like those sugar wafer cookies so they’re light and crunchy, but since they have 14 grams of fiber, they have staying power.

Bar_mini_boxBalance Bar Minis: Way better than any 100-calorie pack of cookies or crackers or candy. Each sawed-off bar is 100 calories with 7 grams of protein and come in cookie dough and chocolate brownie flavors. They're great to keep in your gym bag, purse or desk drawer when snack time rolls around.


Taste the rainbow! (On second thought, that's a bad phrase to describe socks, but you get my drift.)

Thorlo Experia socks:
I have big feet (and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t deny … sorry, got carried away). All the cute socks come in ladies sizes, which I outgrew in middle school. Dude socks are usually white, black and gray, but Thorlos come in a rainbow of colors. More importantly, the arch support and cushioning are amazing, which I find especially important if you’re walking or jogging in minimalist sneakers. They’re not the kind of sock you buy in a giant bag at the sporting goods store, so I treat mine nicely and wash them inside out to keep the padded parts extra fluffy.


Jillian+Michaels+jm__podcast_iconJillian Michaels podcasts: If you think Jillian is just some screaming trainer on “The Biggest Loser,” you obviously haven’t listened to her podcasts. There, she uncovers her more laid-back, supportive and even goofy side. And did I mention that her podcasts are FREE? All you need to do is subscribe to them on iTunes, or you can also find them on the TuneIn radio app.

Quaker oatsOld-school oatmeal: Publix was having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on Quaker oatmeal, so I went old school and bought the old-fashioned oats. Turns out, they cook just as quickly as the quick-cooking ones, as long as you don’t mind a little extra oaty chewiness. But that was exactly what I was looking for – I figured that the less processed oats would stick with me a bit longer and I was right. Oatmeal is one of those foods I need to eat more of, as it keeps me full for ages, which I can’t say for many other foods. Tuesday’s oatmeal contained a banana, cinnamon, a tablespoon of almond butter, half a cup of lowfat milk and a teaspoon of honey. I had it at 9 a.m. and as of noon, I still was full. Perhaps I need to eat oatmeal for dinner …

Crystal light pure lemonadeCrystal Light Pure lemonade: I’m adding this as the finale because I truly love the artificial color and sweetener-free lemonade mix and to ask “WHERE THE HELL DID ALL THE CRYSTAL LIGHT PURE GO?” Ominous clouds were forming on my horizon when I saw the dreaded “clearance” tag on the shelf at Publix a couple months ago. Then – poof! – gone. Can’t find it at Target or Winn-Dixie either. The Crystal Light Facebook page also contains queries by quaffers wondering where it went, with a cryptic “it’s not completely discontinued” reply from the Crystal Light Facebook page manager. Then, on Monday, this message from the Crystal Light genie: “We don't want to give anything away, but we will be making an announcement about it later this week. We assure you that it will be available for purchase in the near future, so hang tight!”

DeliverLean: How does it taste?

Now that my DeliverLean week is over, I have to cook again. (Actually, I was cooking for my guys but now we're all on the same plate, so to speak.)

Deliverlean logoSo how was the food? Some thoughts:

  • The meals are large – no tiny, dollhouse food.
  • No silly sauces or preparations – just really good food, prepared and seasoned well. Every calorie is accounted for in a smart way.
  • The food is super fresh – the hot meals just take a minute in the microwave and the salads are crisp and not at all wilted.
  • Customer service is great – if you have any requests or dislikes (like my absolute hatred of fennel), just let them know.
  • Onjuice upskale
    OnJuice's UpsKale juice
    I tried three of their cold-pressed OnJuice juices, and one of them, Pina Kale Lotta, was really good. I was surprised that I'd like it because while I like kale, I don't usually like it in juices or smoothies, and they magically found a way to hide it in the blend of pineapple, cucumber and kale. Another big surprise -- the UpsKale blend of celery, cucumber, kale, parsley and lime.
  • I also got a sample of one of their gluten-free cookies from the Baked by DeliverLean line of desserts. You can sub out a dessert for one of the meals so it can fit into your weight-loss plan. Often gluten-free cookies are pretty crumbly and starchy, but this chocolate chipper was really good.

And now for some photos!

Remember what I said last week about always taking any frozen or delivered meal out of the plastic container and putting it on a plate? Here's why:

Deliverlean before and after
Now doesn't that meal of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa look much better on a plate than crammed into a black plastic container?

Deliverlean quinoa bean salad
Here's another great meal -- a quinoa salad with goat cheese, vegetables and beans. Super filling, colorful and full of fiber.

The week of meals was a great way to reframe my portions and discover that if the food is real food jam-packed with nutrients and flavor, I don't need a trough of salad to feel full. I also learned some great salad ideas.

Want to give it a try? (Remember, it's South Florida only, from Jupiter to Kendall.) You can sign up for 1 month at $24.99 per day and get three days free.

This is a compensated review for DeliverLean, but the opinions expressed are completely my own.