New To Me Whole Foods Finds

Today I’m here to share a whole bunch of foodie finds with you! Whole Foods in Arlington generously put together a bag of new to me goodies for me to sample.

Whole Foods Finds

Talk about the most exciting grocery store stop ever since I got to leave with a stash with my name on it! Whole Foods made sure to give me a combination of both products from their 365 value brand and other name brands they carry.

Whole Foods ArlingtonWhole Foods ArlingtonI’m curious if you guys have tried any of these products or brands before. Here’s what I got:


Whole Foods Chocolate Bars

  • Taza stone ground organic chocolate: I was psyched to see Taza in the bag because Tim and I toured the Taza factory back in the day and had a blast. Their chocolate is the real deal (none of this processed Hershey’s crap), and 70% dark is my preferred cacao level.
  • Sweetriot’s kickin’ coconut: This bar was one of my favorite goodies of them all! Seriously you guys, this brand is life changing. Paradise in my mouth. The coconut flavor isn’t overbearing at all. I’m sure you can assume that I had a lot of trouble limiting myself to one serving at a time with this one!
  • Whole Foods 365 brand dark chocolate with almonds: This one wasn’t bad, but it was definitely my least favorite of the three chocolate varieties I received. The texture seemed a little grainy to me!


Whole Foods: Organic CoffeeTim and I do really well with eating mainly organic produce now, but I never really stopped to consider drinking organic coffee. After sampling a couple of different Whole Foods 365 coffee flavors (organic breakfast blend city roast and organic colombian cup vienna roast), I’ve tried to buy organic k-cups more often so I can at least drink organic coffee at home. Drinking organic coffee all the time would be unrealistic, but I can taste the difference in quality! I liked the Vienna best since I prefer a medium roast. Coffee snobs out there, do you have any recommendations for me?


Whole Foods BarsWhen it comes to granola bars, protein bars, energy bars, etc. I find myself very skeptical. I used to swear by certain bar brands, but the more educated I become about food and nutrition, I find the sugar content too high in unless I’m in a bind while traveling. Or hiking up a mountain? If I’m not making a homemade bar, I usually stick to Kind bars or Larabars because I trust in the ingredients.

Here’s the rundown on the brands I tried from Whole Foods though:

  • Bobo’s Oat Bar: I think I was bias toward this one as my favorite of the three because this company is located in Boulder, one of the coolest places I have ever traveled to! I received the original flavor, and I couldn’t even tell that this bar was wheat free or vegan. The sugar content wasn’t out of control, and Bobo’s boasts being organic, having no artificial ingredients, and coming in gluten-free flavors as well.
  • Bonk Breaker Bar: I wouldn’t go as far as to call this one the “world’s best energy bar” like their packaging claims, but the ingredients are all real, and all Bonk Breaker bars are gluten-free and dairy free. Fun fact: these are actually the official bar of the Ironman triathlon series and of USA Cycling! Obviously I liked the chocolate and peanut butter combo, but I’m not sure my workouts are intense enough to need an energy bar like this for my pre-workout fuel.
  • ProBar: Finally, I also received a ProBar meal replacement bar (not pictured). I think I had a few bites of this one and then handed it over to Tim. I don’t like to use bars as meal replacements because eating full meals makes me happy. Why have a packaged bar when you can eat a delicious breakfast and savor each bite?


Whole Foods Arlington: Oils

I was really excited to receive new oils because Tim and I don’t really experiment with that many oil varieties. We pretty much stick to extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil, so almond and pumpkin were certainly new to us.

  • Whole Foods 365 brand almond oil: I had to research what to do with this one! I learned that it cooks at a high heat, improves vitamin E level, and actually has a lot of uses for at home skin and hair remedies! So far we’ve only used this for salad dressings, but I’d like to try it for under the eye circles or in other kitchen ways. Ideas?
  • La Tourangelle toasted pumpkin seed oil: This is perfect for all you pumpkin lovers out there! We’ve mainly used this for salad dressings too, so I guess we still need to expand our oil horizons. Over the weekend I drizzled some of this on vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seeds for dessert though. I highly recommend it!


Whole Foods Arlington: Snacks

  • Whole Foods 365 brand cashew butter: Yes, yes, yes! This definitely did not disappoint. In the nut butter world, I mainly stick to peanut butter and almond butter, but cashew butter was DELICIOUS. I enjoyed the variety for my pre-workout fuel of choice: cinnamon raisin Ezekial bread with nut butter and sliced bananas. It was also a great snack right from the jar!
  • Whole Foods 365 brand vanilla whey protein powder: Protein powder is something that I still don’t feel comfortable with. I’ve used a regular whey kind from Trader Joe’s in the past, and I’ve used the vanilla from Whole Foods (unpictured) since I received it in my goodie bag. I’ve mixed it into smoothies and made energy balls and cookies with it, but I still don’t know enough from a nutritional standpoint about regular whey, whey isolate, and casein. I recently opened this question up on my F&F Facebook page and received a ton of comments and opinions!
  • Ancient Harvest quinoa flour: I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t tried this yet! Does anyone have any recipes that call for quinoa flour you can recommend?
  • Whole Foods 365 brand summit seeker trail mix: I loved that this trail mix wasn’t too salty. I’m a sucker for salt, so having an unsalted variety helped me keep my snacking in check. This is a trail mix that I can easily replicate making on my own!

Aside from all the above, Whole Foods was also generous enough to leave a $20 gift card in the bag. Tim and I put the money to good use for a sushi and seafood night on a Friday night in together.

Whole Foods Arlington: Sushi

I know sometimes Whole Foods gets a bad rap for being so expensive, but I think it’s just a matter of putting in a little effort. At work, we recently organized foodie field trips to another Whole Foods store so staff could learn tips for shopping at Whole Foods on a budget. During the tour, they talked a lot about the 365 value brand as well as how to navigate the weekly sales flyers. They also talked about their options for buying in bulk at 10% off or paying by weight as to not buy giant containers of things you only need a bit of. Finally, I always try to remind myself that even if I’m paying a little more for my groceries, I can trust in the quality of my food and I’m investing in my health. That’s worth it to me!

–Let’s chat–
What is something at Whole Foods that you’ve always wanted to try? Have you guys tried any of these products before? What do you think? What are your tips for shopping on a budget at Whole Foods? Do you love or hate grocery shopping?

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post, but Whole Foods Arlington provided all the products in this post at no charge in exchange for writing this review. As always, all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links within this post.

My Nutrition Upgrade: Week 2

Happy Friday and first of November! Before we head into the weekend, I wanted to share my eats from last week and some tidbits from Week 2 of the My Nutrition Upgrade program.

I’ll share my food first!

Lunch on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last week was kale salad with pears, grilled chicken, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and goat cheese

Kale Chicken Pear Salad

And toward the end of the week we ate lemon farro chicken.

Lemon Chicken Farro Salad

Dinner on Sunday night was stuffed eggplant because we had a couple to use up from our farm share. We also had small salads on the side.

Stuffed Eggplant

On Monday and Tuesday I had soup. I’m calling this my “get rid of those greens” soup, because I had so many green veggies that were going to go bad and I pretty much just threw them all together to make this meal.

Get Rid of Those Greens Soup

For dinner on Wednesday and Thursday we ate spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs and tomato sauce.

Spaghetti Squash

Finally, dinner on Friday was splurge-worthy. I met up with Katrina and Slesh downtown at Stoddard’s (yes, this was my third time being there in the past 2 months). We ordered some CARBS with fondue for an appetizer, and then I ordered the goat cheese salad and the pork belly appetizer which came with cannellini beans, truffle-bean purée, and chive oil. Everything was delicious, but along with two gin and cucumber drinks I’m sure the calories added right up!

My Nutrition Upgrade

Speaking of drinks, one of the questions posed in my Google group for My Nutrition Upgrade last week was about alcohol and the best way to incorporate it into an otherwise healthy diet. Our nutrition coach informed us that most wines have about 100 calories per 5 ounces, so it’s important to pay attention to the size glass you are getting if you are paying attention to calories when imbibing.

Wine and Cheese

She also broke down the calorie counts and grams of carbohydrates for different types of beers:

Beer     Per 12-oz Serving
“Light” Beer     108 calories, 6 g carbs
Draft Beer     144 calories, 13.2 g carbs
Lager     168 calories, 13.2 g carbs
Ale     216 calories, 13.2 g carbs

Interesting huh?  She also recommended a couple of tips such as alternating a glass of water/seltzer in between ordering alcoholic beverages (something I should probably do more when I’m out!) and to steer clear of mixers, syrups, and sodas (something I already do).  Just thought you guys might be interested in that info!

Aside from that, the “upgrades” of the week were to shop smart and to clean out hidden sugars. I already knew most of the shop smart tips such as sticking to the perimeter of the store when you shop, being wary of packaging, and reading labels for things with fewer ingredients that are easy to pronounce. One new tip I learned though was to make sure to look both high and low on the shelves, because some companies pay grocery stores what’s called a “slotting fee” to house their products on the middle shelves at eye level. And a lot of these foods tend to be the processed and not so good for you items. Tricky!

grocery shopping 2

The hidden sugar lesson was my favorite so far. I learned that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day when the recommended amount of added sugar should not exceed 5 teaspoons. That’s CRAZY and can add up to an extra 350 calories per day from added sugars alone. The most helpful tip I learned to help decrease the amount of added sugar in my diet actually pertains to label reading. There is an equation called The Altman Rule where you add the grams of protein in a product plus the grams of fiber. If that amount is greater than the grams of sugar, it’s generally okay. If it’s less, it’s not. I know I will start being more mindful of this at the grocery store, and take it into consideration with some of the products I tend to purchase.

I want to hear from you – what meals did you guys enjoy last week? What’s your go to strategy for enjoying adult beverages while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Any comments about smart grocery shopping, hidden sugars, and your strategies for either?

Have a great weekend everyone! Tonight I’m lying low, but tomorrow I’m hosting a fall fest for my gym crew. Can’t wait!

Disclaimer / Disclosure:  I was not paid to write this post, but I was provided a free registration in the program in exchange for writing a review and sharing my experiences with my readers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Making the Switch: Eating Organic

A couple of months ago I went to Jillian Michaels’ Maximize Your Life tour in Lowell with my friends Ashley and Lauren.  My wellness obsessed co-workers Sheila and Dawn were also in attendance at this show.

Jillian Michaels Maximize Your Life

During the first half of the motivational talk, Jillian spoke a lot about diet and exercise.  A lot of the concepts she talked about were already familiar to me as a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, but they were nice reminders.  I especially enjoyed hearing them come from her because it reinforced a lot of the things that I already teach and preach!  The second half of the show was more motivational and inspirational, which was right up my alley.  It was all about living life to the fullest, bringing your intentions to action, living the life that you should, and aligning your passions and purpose.  Love, love, love.  I could go on and on about that kind of stuff all day long!

do what you love

However, one of my biggest takeaways from the first half of the show was hearing Jillian talk about what types of foods to avoid.  She rattled off almost every type of diet or diet label out there:  gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, Atkins, South Beach, pescatarian, Weight Watchers, low-fat, low-carb… the list goes on.  Jillian said that people are going to do their own thing and all the power to them, but the one thing she recommends avoiding actually isn’t a carb or sugar or meat, but any type of chemical food additives in the things we eat.  Think trans fats/hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, sodium nitrates/nitrites, growth hormones, MSG, BHA and BHT, antibiotics, and pesticides.

I will admit that I never paid much attention to these things before.   I definitely used to just focus on what I was eating in the sense of ensuring I was getting all the right food groups, but it goes well beyond that.  Seeing Jillian on tour motivated me to start educating myself more on the chemicals we consume on an every day basis.  I’m definitely looking well beyond every “all natural” or “only 90 calories!” label on products and making sure to look at the actual ingredient lists instead.  This is still a work in progress, as sometimes I just can’t resist a treat that has high fructose corn syrup in it!

I’d say the biggest change that I’ve made to date is that Tim and I have decided to make the switch to eating organic.  Making this switch hasn’t been easy, and it most certainly doesn’t happen overnight.  There have been a lot of conversations back and forth on the topic and let me tell you, we are definitely not eating EVERYTHING organic because we just can’t afford to and it’s too difficult to make a complete switch.  We are just trying to be more mindful and have made the following adjustments in our diets:

Artificial Sweeteners
I went cold turkey with Splenda and am now drinking my coffee with only a little splash of organic skim milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.

We now only buy organic meat.  Looking at pictures of cows treated with antibiotics versus those that are antibiotic free is crazy!  There is SUCH a difference in both look and taste.  I actually feel like gagging a bit now thinking of some of the meat I used to eat.  The hard part is that no matter what store you go to, there are just SO many labels.  There’s free-range, cage-free, grass-fed, all natural, no antibiotics, no hormones and so many more before you even get to an organic label.  It’s just been hard differentiating between all the different verbiage out there and knowing for sure what each one means.  I’m still learning.

We are getting our eggs organic and cage free.  Unlike meat, deciphering between the different types of eggs has actually been pretty easy.  It’s very clear which eggs are which!

We are TRYING to go organic whenever possible here, but we have not made the full switch.  We have with milk, but with cottage cheese, yogurt, and other cheeses we are still on the fence.  I just love my Chobani too much.  I’m open to suggestions for brands if you guys have them, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get to this point.  I tried organic cottage cheese from Whole Foods for a total of three days and thought it was so watery I could barely eat my breakfast.  Non-organic fat free from Trader Joe’s seems good enough to me.

We do not buy all our fruits and vegetables organic, but we are following the dirty dozen rule.  If you do a Google search for “The Dirty Dozen” you will find a lot of information on the twelve pieces of fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of pesticides versus those that have the lowest.  If our produce is on the dirty dozen list, we go organic.  If not, we get the regular versions.  Participating in the farm share is also helping us eat more organically, and we definitely notice a difference in the quality of our food when we do.

Red White & Blue Salsa

I think most people shy away from eating organic because it does come with a cost, mainly a higher grocery bill.  And trust me, I am someone who would calculate what I was spending as I put each item in my carriage so I wouldn’t go over my $75-$80 weekly grocery budget for two.  However, when it comes to what we’re putting in our bodies, we’ve decided it’s worth it to spend a bit more.  What we are spending each week varies on how much, if any, meat we buy as part of our weekly meal plans.  For example, last week we didn’t need to buy any meat and our grocery bill actually came in really low at around $60.  However this week we bought two packs of chicken and a pound of steak, and our bill was around $120.  Of course other things also come into play, such as whether we need to stock up on staples, how many meals out we’re planning on, and how many ingredients our recipes call for.  Either way, I am confident that we can cut the difference in what we are spending for better quality food from another area in our lives.

Tim and I have also noticed a difference in how we feel.  You know the feeling you get when you eat like crap one day and just feel sluggish and tired?  But the next day you eat well-balanced meals and feel pretty good?  Maybe it’s mental, but we think we actually feel even better about ourselves in terms of energy levels after making the switch to mostly organic eats.

Boston Public Gardens

All this being said, my recommendation to you if you are on the fence about making the switch to an organic diet, is to just do as much research as possible before taking that leap.  You want to make sure you are well-informed and stand behind your decision.  Also, it’s fine to take it day by day!  Again, this kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

Do you eat organic?  Any tips for someone looking to make the switch?

I’ll be back later with my Weekly Eats post!  Catch you guys then.