Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: President's Choice Sugar Free Ketchup

PC Blue Menu Ketchup Type Sauce
I love Heinz's sugar-free ketchup. However, as many of us have discovered, it is often hard to find in grocery stores. Enter President's Choice (Superstore in Canada, Loblaw's) "Ketchup style type sauce". This great alternative is nearly identical in taste and texture to Heinz's ketchup, at a much lower cost, and at 65% fewer calories than the original version!


Per 1 tbsp (15 mL)
Calories  5 Cal
Fat  0 g0
Sodium  1.5 mg4
Carbohydrate  1 g1
Sugars  1 g
Protein  0.3 g
Vitamin C   2
%DV= % Daily Value
PV= Prepared Value
%PDV= % Prepared Daily Value


Tomato paste, white vinegar, water, salt, sucralose, spices (contain soybean oil, celery). contains 2 mg sucralose per 15 ml serving.

Other great sugar free/no sugar added ketchup alternatives include :

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Product Alert

Every now and then, I see a new product on the market that gets me excited. Occasionally, there have been times when I have been lucky enough to have played an integral role in creating the product; other times suggesting and recommending the idea for the product. Being in the nutrition and supplement industry as long as I have--with a marketing background as well-- I often come up with products/flavors that I can see being enjoyed by the vast majority of the public.

In this case, I merely suggested some flavors. I have been making "frozen yogurt" for as long as I can remember, and lately have been trying every yogurt under the sun. I emailed the people at Danone silhouette yogurt with a few questions/comments, among which I suggested some flavors that I would love to see their products selling and incorporating into their line. I am sure they have had thousands of requests, and mine just added to the already massive heap ( I must have sent approximately 25 suggestions--including cappuccino, coconut cream, a few pie/desserts, Tiramisu etc). Yesterday, while browsing the dairy isle at my local grocery store, ready to pick up my normal products, Silhouette's new packaging for their 16 packs caught my eye.... and so did their new "limited edition flavors". Having shamelessly professed my love of all things coconut, I have been searching high and low for a sugar free fat free coconut flavored yogurt. They have these in Europe at every corner store and yet aside from Liberte's fantastic Mediterranean line, have found barely any.

Of course I make my own coconut by mixing a vanilla/plain/Greek yogurt with Davinci's sugar free Coconut syrup (or Torani, Monin) or flavor drops, but it would be nice to be able to buy it pre-made. Although I take no credit for their new flavors (I wish!), Silhouette has expanded their line with:
Cappuccino, Caramel, Lemon Cake and Coconut Cream!

 Naturally, I snatched a pack up immediately.  Despite the fact that Silhouette by Danone is much thinner and less creamy than the other 2 brands making fat free/sugar free delicious yogurts (Source and Astro Zero), possibly due to gelatin content, I still do enjoy these yogurts very much.

As with the other 2 brands, Silhouette claims to have only 35 fat free*, sugar free** calories per container or 100 grams.

0 g
Saturated0 g0%
+ Trans0 g0%
0 mg
50 mg
6 g
Fibre0 g
Sugars3 g
3 g

In actuality, all these yogurts contain closer to 40 calories, since carbs and protein have 4kcal/gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. See not below on the meaning of fat free (which means 0.5g or less). If you calculate the carbs and protein alone--not even taking into account the less-than-0.5g fat clause, we are already at 36 calories. Adding the fat, for example using 0.4g of fat (which is considered fat free), we get:
 6g carb*4+(3g protein *4cal)=(0.4*9g fat)= 39.6 calories= 40 calories, and this is minimum.

My favorite way to enjoy them is with PGX granules sprinkles stirred in ( I sometimes add some sugar free syrup), or frozen! I will be posting a recipe for my go-to easy frozen yogurt in the future, so stay tuned!!! The key to making it properly is the container you freeze it in and the consistency of the yogurt itself. I find that if I don't do these correctly, the silhouettes sometimes form ice crystals, whereas the other 2 brands are less inclined to do so. However, their yogurts are wonderful and very versatile. I like their new flavors-- they are nice, smooth,  mild, and not at all over powering.
Silhouette has a nice variety of 17 flavors and I enjoy their limited editions! I hope these stick around for a long time!

*According to their site:
"Silhouettes is a product with 0 grams of fat. Nada, zip, absolutely no fat. However the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows products to be called “Free of fat”, "fat-free", "no fat", "0 fat", "zero fat", "without fat", "contains no fat", "non-fat" as long as they contain :
(a) less than 0.5 g of fat per reference amount and serving of stated size; or
(b) less than 0.5 g of fat per serving of stated size, if the food is a prepackaged meal.
Danone achieves a fat-free yogurt by a skimming process with its milk to extract dairy fat. During Silhouettes' skimming operation, fat is separated from the milk which results in two products: skim milk and cream."

**Sugar Free means:
Silhouettes has no sugar added which means it does not contain added: white sugar, a food that contains white sugar, brown sugar, syrup, molasses, glucose, honey or fructose.
Silhouettes uses a sweetener called sucralose.
That said, "no added sugar" doesn't mean there is no sugar in the product. Silhouettes contains sugar in its natural form from milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Silhouettes Plain is the only flavour that does not contain fructose.

All for just 35 calories per servingCoconut Creme Fat-free flavour with no added sugar.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Restaurant "light"? Not so much...

Increasingly, Nutrition has become a major topic of debate, becoming predominant as more science and information are brought to light and the implications and consequences of our lifestyles are becoming evident. Eating healthy seems to be the trend, and companies want to attach themselves to that image to capitalize as much as they can. Besides clearer and more easily defined nutrition label laws, a new trend which has emerged is the growing number of establishments and restaurants that are now including and revealing their nutrition labels in order to allow consumers to make informed decisions. Catering to this crowd, most have created special "light" and "healthy" menu options to entice customers to order their food. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is still far from perfect. Infrequent monitoring, an overzealous chef, or blatant misuse are still issues that will take time to sort out. Portion sizes are usually larger than stated and there is no fail proof "check" mechanism in place in the restaurant industry.

The USDA as well as various organizations and universities have started to monitor health and nutrition claims, often doing random testing and analysis at a food lab. Many studies have been done in the past 2 years.While most were within 10% of the claims, many were grossly inaccurate.  Researchers picked food, all with nutritional information available (either on the package or on the web), that was labelled as low calorie (<500 kcal).The researchers picked the lowest calorie meals on the menu at the restaurants on purpose. Here are a few of the results:

On the Border: chips and salsa

Stated label: 430 calories and 22 grams of fat
Actual lab results: 1452 kcal

Error: 237%!!

FYI, their Border Sampler is a whopping 2060 calories and 142 g fat.

Outback Steakhouse: classic blue cheese wedge salad (side):
Stated nutritional information: 419 calories and 37g of fat
Actual lab results: 1025 calories
Error: 144% more calories

Hungry Howie's: Pizza Sub
1/2 sub: 606 calories 24.2g of fat; whole sub 1212 calories and 48.4g fat
Actual lab results: 1728 calories
Error: 1.42x more calorie dense, or 42.5%

Also, be very careful with misleading labelling. For example, looking at their salad information:

Large Garden4 per sld.170.30092.91.51
Large Greek4 per sld.1096.74.3255017.11.85.6
Large Chef4 per sld.9963243413.61.68.1
Large Antipasto4 per sld.1016.73.4244772.81.47.8
Small Garden2 per sld.200.200103.41.71.1
Small Greek2 per sld.1267.45295818.22.16.5
Small Chef2 per sld.1146.73.5283964.21.99.4

Notice how they label the servings differently for the large vs. small sized salads. The Greek salad stood out quite a bit. The Large salad only has 109 kcal where as the small Greek has 126kcal. This is meant to mislead you, since the large Greek Salad has FOUR servings per order, whereas the small only has 2. So in actuality, the regular sized Greek (large- who eats a small?!) is 436kcal. This isn't so bad, and I would appreciate it if they list it as an entire serving size. Who orders a whole salad, and then only eats 1/4th of it?

Don Pablos: Chili Chicken Rellenos
Their nutrition label:  686 kcal for 2.
Lab results: 1018 kcal
Error: 332calories. 48% deviation.

Bob Evan's: Cranberry Chicken Pecan Salad (no dressing)
Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
Their nutrition information: 618 kcal
Actual Lab results: 1274 kcal
Error: 115%
One only shudders to think what the total would have been with the dressing included. The Colonial dressing is 433kcal per small serving! The French dressing is 395kcal per small 3oz serving.
Ask for salsa and mustard instead.

DENNY'S: Toast and Grits
Their nutritional information- Dry white toast 97 calories, Grits 86 calories.
Actual lab results: Toast- 283 calories per slice .Grits served with butter -258 calories instead of the reported 86.
Error: 191% more for the toast (most likely due to added butter); Grits: 200%!!

 Splurging once in awhile and enjoying your meal is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, I don't like it when companies mislead and lie on their nutrition labels.

 When customers are consciously trying to make better decisions by purposely ordering healthy-menu items, when in fact they are are not what they state they are, then this is cause for concern and perhaps a re-evaluation at the way the USDA and FDA handle this issue (there is no current guideline for restaurants, while packaged foods are allowed a 20% discrepancy margin).
Federal regulations are strict about the accuracy of the net weight of a package of prepared food, which must be at least 99% of the advertised weight. When it comes to calories, the count can be a far bigger 20% off. The Federal Government plays no role in checking the calorie claims in restaurants, which means it's up to the states to handle the job — with the predictable patchwork results. 
(Read more:,8599,1951798,00.html#ixzz1mgBG1OVG)

When taking into consideration the fact that various chefs are making these meals and they are all handmade, it is understandable to account for these variances. They are not prepackaged, weighed items. A slip of the hand or a generous pour of oil vary from chef to chef. I can be fairly certain that the chef is not going to take the time to weigh out 3oz of the salad dressing. These things are so easy to underestimate.  “Since our food is handmade, there can be variance in calorie counts,” he said. “One sandwich may have more mustard or mayonnaise, the next may have no lettuce or tomato.” Being mindful is the best strategy, as it is with all things in life.

"On average, the researchers found the dishes contained 18 percent more calories than claimed by the restaurants. Two side dishes exceeded the restaurants’ reported calorie information by nearly 200 percent. The researchers also found that frozen meals had on average 8 percent more calories than listed."

 “If the goals of these policies are to encourage a healthier society and weight loss, inaccurate calorie content information could well hamper these efforts,” Roberts says.
Writing in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the study authors attribute the smaller 8 percent discrepancy between their results and the calorie content information from the frozen food companies to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of nutrition fact information labels. Current FDA rules are more lenient toward underreporting calories than over-reporting them.

For the full article, please click here:

Luckily, as noted in the study and article, most of the restaurants only varied by 10 calories, and were general fairly accurate. The biggest misrepresentation tended to be on the "LOW Calorie Healthy" options. It is also important to note that several of the tested items were actually lower in calories then they claimed.
  If it sounds too good to be true.....
(see study here:

"On average, the food items measured ten calories higher than the restaurants' stated calories. That's essentially accurate. However, 19% of food items contained at least 100 calories more than listed, which suggests calories for individual foods can be unreliable. One item contained 1000 calories more than listed," senior author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging revealed.
The study results showed that lower calorie food items at sit-down restaurants tended to have more calories than listed. Additionally, items often viewed as healthier from both sit-down and fast food restaurants, like salads and soups, tended to have more unreliable caloric listings.
"We were pleased to see that average calories listings are accurate," Roberts said. "but we think it is very important that lower calorie foods not contain more calories than listed because such foods are purchased by people trying to control their weight. They will find that harder to do so if they are eating more than they think."
In sit-down restaurants, foods that were labeled as low calorie almost consistently contained more energy than was stated, while those shown to be high in calories actually had fewer than reported.
"Typically, the foods that were stated as low calorie on the menu contained more calories than they should, which is really bad for dieters," Roberts said in the JAMA report.(source:

Asking for dressing on the side is one method for those who are wary of nutrition claims and trying to reduce calories--or just bring your own (Walden Farm's calorie/fat free Individual packets are fantastic, as are their bottled dressings. Most people really enjoy their Italian).

 You can also politely ask that the chef is careful with keeping it as light as possible.
 Remember to always read the ingredients. Always use the nutrition information as a guide-- never as an absolute; the same goes for all packaged foods. The difference between a tsp of oil versus a tablespoon is very fine in the hands of someone who is rushing and free-pouring: a tablespoon has roughly 121 kcal and 14 g of fat, a teaspoon has 40 kcal and 4.5 g of fat.

As for packaged foods, read the label. Remember a gram of protein and carbohydrate each have 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories/gram. Do the math! If a product has 20g carbs, 5g protein, and 1g of fat, then there is no way it is under 100 calories (should be at least 109). For info on calorie counts, click here or for an previous article I wrote about this study and some interesting FDA nutrition labeling guidelines, click here.

RELATED QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: What foods or restaurants have you been suspicious about? What product would you love to see analyzed at a food lab?

Debate: What do you think of inserting calorie counts of items right in the description of the food on the menu?
Is this going to far and detracting from enjoyment, or is this a good and responsible movement toward a healthier society? Will this change consumer behavior?

For another interesting study on packaged meals click here:

 For a study on nutrition labeling, please click here:

Walden Farms Italian