Posted on October 16, 2014 at 00:22 AM
Food keeps evolving, like we do as individuals.
What’s trending in the evolution of products in today’s food space? Not surprisingly, interest in vegan, and dairy- and gluten free was at the top of the trend line at the IDEA Fit annual convention for fitness and nutrition professionals in Anaheim, Calif. As an attendee, I tasted offerings from a variety of up-and-coming food manufacturers, from makers of ice cream to imitation cheeses to meat made from pea protein.
Here’s what my taste buds told me.
Quest, which is known for its Quest bar, introduced Quest Protein Chips at the show. These chips are light, airy and crunchy. Best of all, they contain a whopping 21 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat and only 5 grams of carbs (sorry, no dietary fiber) per serving. My rule is that if a snack doesn’t contain at least 3 grams of fiber, put it back on the shelf. But I’ll forgive Quest for the lack of fiber, because, well, meat protein doesn’t contain fiber either. Total calories: 120. In contrast, a 1-ounce serving of Lay’s Oven Baked potato chips has 2 grams of fat, four times as many carbohydrates and only a smidgen of protein—2 grams—per serving (about 18 chips).
The ingredients that boost Quest’s protein content are a blend of potato starch, milk and whey protein isolates, which are made from fresh milk through a process that concentrates milk proteins and removes most of the carbs and dairy sugar (lactose). I tasted the Quest Sea Salt Protein Chips and couldn’t tell they were made from milk proteins. I finished the bag—guilt free!
You can buy Quest Crackers and its other products online. I did. When the box arrived, a friend came over and grabbed a bag. He didn’t like them because they weren’t salty enough. Okay, so here’s the secret to liking foods your taste buds aren’t used to: Mix half a bag of your favorite chips with half a bag of Quest. Each time you eat a bag, use less and less of the fatty chips and more of the Quest until your taste buds adjust. Believe me, they can—and will.
Enlightened: The Good-for-You Ice Cream
From the first bite, I was sold on Enlightened’s ice cream products. I tried the fudge and peanut butter bars, and its mint and chocolate wafer sandwich.
Every time I tried one of its ice cream products, I had to leave my email address, so I ended up leaving several because I loved Enlightened. Not only did they taste good, they had satisfying and creamy consistencies.
Each bar also contains twice as much protein—8 to 9 grams—than similar low-calorie products. For example, Skinny Cow’s fudge bar is 110 calories per bar and has 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of fat, compared to the Enlightened brand, which has 70 calories per bar, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of fat. I wish more easy-to-get-to stores sold it in the Washington, DC, area.
One of the reasons I stay away from canned tuna is because of its high sodium content, and it’s cooked twice, making it hard and difficult to flake when making tuna salad. FitFish is a great grab-and-go alternative for lunch or when you’re mentally drained from work and don’t feel like cooking at home. What I liked about FitFish was that it was cooked in its own juices with a “pinch” of salt and sealed in shelf-stable silver pouches, without preservatives.
FitFish’s show offerings included albacore tuna and sockeye salmon. I tasted both and enjoyed their clean, flaky goodness. You can buy FitFish online, but it is a bit pricey at $7.50 per pouch, or 24 for $180. But it’s easy to rationalize the value when you compared to the cost [read: bad for your heart) of a deli sandwich laden with fat, carbs and calories. My suggestion: Dress up a plain green salad with FitFish and a spritz of fresh lemon juice and any nut or seed oil.
Beyond Meat’s Real Meat
Beyond Meat introduced a 100 percent plant protein burger. As a girl who was raised in the Midwest on T-bones and burgers, I was a bit skeptical because I’ve tried fake meat before, and I’d pick my real burger over anything with roots.
But this “Real Meat” product, coming to supermarkets in October, was excellent. It not only tasted like hamburger but looked like ground beef and had a similar consistency. It was also moist.
Back in Washington, I bought Beyond Meat’s Grilled Chicken Strips, made from non-GMO soybeans and peas, at my local Whole Foods. The chicken strips weren’t bad, and if I didn’t know they were created from plant protein, I would have had a hard time putting my finger on the ingredients. It sort of had the consistency of grilled chicken, but it was a bit more compressed and solid. I probably wouldn’t buy the chicken strips again, but I can’t wait to stock up on Real Meat for my next ham, er, plant burger.
Then again, plant me back in Dubai at the Rivington Grill, and I’d order up its burger hands down. And, I won’t even go there about the fries.
Daiya’s Dairy-Free Pizza, Spreads and Cheeses
Another surprise winner for me was in the dairy-free cheese arena. Daiya (pronounced “day-ah”) offered samples of its gluten-free pizzas made with a brown-rice crust topped with a plant-based and lactose-free cheese. The crust was thin and crunchy, not gummy or dense.
When I returned to Washington, I used my Daiya $1-off coupons to buy a jack-style wedge of cheese and two of its cream cheese style spreads—strawberry and plain—which were also offered as samples at the convention. I chopped a bit of the jack-style cheese into small squares for my pasta salad. The cheese tasted okay, not bad but not great. I recommend Daiya cheese in its melted form—the pizza or make your own grilled cheese sandwich using your favorite Ezekiel-brand bread, which is diabetic friendly, gluten free, vegan and high in fiber.