Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Curious, I bought a box of packets made by Sun Crystals. Each 5-calorie packet contains a mixture of stevia and pure cane sugar that is the sweetness equivalent of 2 teaspoons of regular sugar. Costing $3.99, it’s a fairly competitive price for 50 packets per box. (I got mine on sale for $3.59, or something like that—I lost the receipt.) Plus, the company donates one percent of their sales to 1% For The Planet, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental causes. That just sweetens the deal for me (sorry for the lame pun, but you know your lovable-but-corny Food Meister had to go there, right?).
How’d the Sun Crystals packets fare? The sweetener’s tasty enough that I actually bought a second box. Good-bye liquid stevia. (At least, until I get [fill in the blank] and decide to buy a bottle of the wet stuff again.)
The only downside to the stevia and cane sugar packets is that one is not enough for my tea cup. I’m a 2-packet-per-cup person, but it’s probably just my zest for sweets in general. Still, 10 calories for 2 packets is better than the 60 calories found in straight sugar. And Food Meister’s waistline is a full supporter of low-calorie stevia products!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Zevia’s Natural Ginger Ale especially impressed me. I have never been a fan of the leading conventional ginger ale sodas, both the regular and diet varieties, so I assumed that this taste test would be no different. But Zevia really comes through on the ginger ale flavor. It doesn’t have that stinging “after burn” effect of the usual brands. All I tasted was sweet, sweet ginger ale goodness. Unbelievable!
I swear, after trying out these Zevia Natural Sodas, it makes me want to open up a website dedicated to selling nothing but food products containing Stevia. It’s so cool to know there’s a naturally calorie-free soda that really delivers on flavor. Are you paying attention, conventional soda execs?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Remember my review of Hansen’s Diet Root Beer soda? I gave it a thumbs up, even though it took me drinking an entire 6-pack (not all in one day, LOL) before I got used to the different taste. Not knocking Hansen's (because it's still a decent soda brand), but Zevia Natural Root Beer is delicious. From the very first sip, I was digging the flavor. Which I wasn’t really expecting, since (even though I hate to admit this) my taste buds prefer Splenda over Stevia for certain food products, so I assumed Hansen’s Splenda soda would fare better than Zevia’s Stevia soda in the taste department.
Unlike that older flavor I had first (unwittingly) tried, the newer Zevia Natural Root Beer flavor is smooth—like the big league brands, but without the poisonous chemicals. And it has just enough bite from the natural anise seed and ginger root extracts to give that ooh-la-la tingle, but not so much that you’re left with a bitter aftertaste.
I need to go tell that store owner who sold me the older Zevia soda to stock up on the newer flavors. Or, better yet, I need to ask Trader Joe’s (my favorite grocery store) to start carrying Zevia. Why shop at two stores if I don’t have to?
A downside of Zevia is its cost. A 6-pack is currently priced at $5.99. Compare this with Hansen’s price of $2.69 and it can cause some sticker shock. Those of you who drink the conventional soda brands (Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc.) are probably scoffing at both prices, am I right? I did, too, until I bought my first natural soda and realized how much less I drink the stuff.
I swear, there is something mighty addictive in those conventional sodas. Downing a 2-liter of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi a day is easy as pie for me. I just keep craving more and more of the stuff. But switching to a more natural soda, I find myself enjoying a few sips and then storing the rest of the can in the fridge for later (or for even the next day). What an amazing difference! Instead of feeling like my usual diet soda addict self, I feel in control. And so, while the natural soda may cost more per ounce, I’m actually saving money each week.
As you can see from the photo, the Zevia company was nice enough to give me a case of all six flavors, plus a thermos lunch tote and a t-shirt. (The t-shirt was made in the USA. Cool!) I’ll be testing out all 6 flavors, so stay tuned for more Zevia soda reviews.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This zero-calorie diet Ginger Root Beer from Zevia did not dazzle my taste buds. (And Food Meister really, really wanted it to go down smoothly!) Since first hearing about Zevia, the diet soda sweetened with stevia, I was ecstatic with hope. Liquid stevia is my favorite natural sweetener to use in tea, coffee, and baked goods. So it makes sense that stevia would fare just as well in soda, right?
Apparently, good sense has gone fishing on this one. Where did Zevia Natural Ginger Root Beer stevia soda go wrong? Although it passed the sniff test, the diet soda sorely bombed during the taste test. There is a spicy, sharp undertone that doesn’t sit well with me.
The best way to describe this flavor … Have you ever eaten one of those jelly gumdrops, the kind with the granular sugar coating? This diet soda tastes like the red gumdrop flavor. But (and this is a mighty big but) this drink has the same dentist-inspired aftertaste as Hansen’s Pomegranate diet soda. I will say, though, that it's a step above the carbonated pomegranate in the taste department.
And speaking of carbonation, I use that term loosely here. While the flavor has a sharp bite to it, most certainly from the ginger, I couldn’t say the same for its fizzy attributes. The Zevia soda went near-flat within a few hours of opening, even though I took my initial sips and then promptly covered the top with a plastic baggie sealed by a rubber band. I do this all the time with Hansen’s diet sodas and those opened cans last a good day or two before starting to fizz out on me.
Sadly, Zevia’s Ginger Root Beer Diet Soda will not be replacing my usual Hansen’s Diet Root Beer Soda anytime soon. Perhaps I’ll try a different Zevia soda flavor in the future, but at $5.99 for a six-pack, it’s not quite on my short-list of things-to-do. Ole’ Food Meister’s quest for a suitable Splenda soda replacement will just have to wait.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
At first sniff, Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea reminds me of caramel mixed in with the not-so-delicate odor of, well … burnt ash. (Oh, yes, sounds yummy I know—In fact, I bet you’re racing out the door at this very moment to buy a box.)
But do I give up and toss the Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea box? No, of course not; Not a health food junkie like ole’ Food Meister here. I laugh in the face of menacing foods.
So, I start boiling water. And I look to the box to find encouragement to go on with this taste test.
Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea may not produce the most inviting fragrance, but it does have some nutritional pluses. This flavored black tea contains 90 milligrams of flavonoid antioxidants per serving. Inflammation and certain heart-related illnesses can be avoided with a diet rich in antioxidants. I feel better about testing this tea already.
Well, just a tad.
This Lipton tea also contains a modest amount of caffeine with each serving—35 milligrams—which should be just enough to provide health benefits without unleashing the jitters. In moderation, caffeine may reduce the risk of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.
So, how was it? Sorry, but Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea is not going to be on my grocery list any time soon. The woodsy smell overpowers the caramel aroma, making Food Meister one sad puppy. I really did want this no-calorie tea to replace my morning cappuccino. Sigh.
Maybe if I had never tried the white chocolate cappuccino in the first place, then this tea would have tasted better. But it’s too late; my taste buds have been spoiled. I still have the rest of the tea box, sitting in my cupboard. Perhaps I’ll give Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea another try when my cappuccino container runs out. If I could get used to the tea’s woodsy aroma, my health (and waistline!) would thank me.
One last thing for you adventurous types who are still willing to try this tea. On the box, it suggests drinking Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea chilled as an alternative to the usual warm brew. If you normally drink your teas and coffees warm, I’d advise disregarding this idea—unless, of course, you’re trying to decrease your appetite by ingesting foul drinks. In my opinion, coldness does nothing to enhance this tea’s already tainted flavors.
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Friday, March 20, 2009
During my last few visits at Trader Joe’s, though, I kept eyeballing the stack of Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger boxes. They sat right next to the Morningstar brand of veggie burgers, like they were in some sort of vegetarian-lovers duel.
Last week, I finally got the courage to buy a box of Dr. Praeger’s brand. After all, it’s a healthy food product—it’s my honorary duty to the blogosphere to taste test it. Okay, maybe that’s just the dreamer in me talking. But at only 110 calories and packed with 5 grams of fiber per vegetable patty, it’s a heart-healthy price to pay. Each patty also offers 6 grams of protein, 14% iron, and 50% calcium.
What’s my review of the California Veggie Burger? If you like eating vegetable patties, then this one is well worth trying. There are actually whole vegetables that taste like vegetables in this product! That’s what I’m talking about; let’s keep our veggie burgers real—and real tasty.
I find myself eating Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers as is. (No bread or condiments required to enjoy this baby.) Its thin, crisp outer layer and whole vegetables inside make this veggie burger a natural winner during mealtime.
By accident, I also bought a box of Dr. Praeger’s Tex Mex Veggie Burger. And I didn’t even realize it until my first bite. Holy fire tamale! This vegetable patty is not for diners with delicate taste buds. Me, I enjoy spicy foods. But if you don’t, then pass on the Tex Mex Veggie Burger (your salivary glands will be forever grateful).
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Thursday, March 19, 2009
So, to keep what little sanity I have left, I am a fan of ice cream that lists pronounceable ingredients—such as the Breyers brand. The full-fat variety of ice cream is usually my vice, but yesterday I was feeling frisky. I grabbed a carton of fat-free vanilla and didn’t look back.
How’d Breyers Fat Free Ice Cream taste? Well, the ice cream was so frozen solid, even a heated scooper couldn’t dig much into it. (And let me tell you, Food Meister tried very hard!)
What gives? The outside of the Breyers Fat Free Ice Cream carton looked fine at the supermarket. No frost whatsoever. But inside, it’s iceberg city. Major disappoint.
What little I did taste of Breyers Fat Free Ice Cream wasn’t bad. A little icy, but the vanilla flavor was pleasant enough. If it hadn’t been so darn rock hard, I’d actually buy it again. Maybe I’ll try buying a carton from a different supermarket to see if there’s a difference. A little iciness around the edges is not such a bad tradeoff for less fat and calories.
Try Breyers Fat Free Ice Cream if you dare; you’ve been warned about the potential hardness problem.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I bought the calorie-free chocolate syrup with every intention to use it. Really! I figured I like Walden Farms Chocolate Dip, so naturally their chocolate syrup should be a hit with my taste buds as well.
But I was still nervous. I mean, I’m used to drenching my ice cream and milk with the 100-calorie varieties of chocolate syrup. How could a calorie-free syrup compare to all that sugary goodness?
In the end, curiosity got the best of me. (If you’re a foodie like me, then you know a new product—however scary the thought—cannot be passed up.) So I tried Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup yesterday, on top of ice cream and mixed in with milk.
How it’d fare? Not too shabby! I like it better on top of my ice cream than mixed in with milk, but either way is fine—especially if you’re looking to shave some calories from your diet. With the first couple of tastes I noticed a faint aftertaste, but it faded away after that.
Toady for lunch, I had another bowl of ice cream topped with Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup. (Oh, the sacrifices I make to make sure my food reviews are up to snuff for all of you!) This time I didn’t experience any aftertaste with the chocolate syrup. I’m in love!
One final note about Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup: refrigerate it ahead of time (before your first taste test). When I first tried the syrup straight from the cupboard it was runny, but it got thicker after being in the fridge. It does make a difference!
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Saturday, March 14, 2009
In a comparison of iceberg lettuce vs. romaine lettuce, romaine lays a “nutritional smackdown” on iceberg. The following table gives a side-by-side comparison of iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce per one-cup raw serving (shredded).
Interestingly, although each is based on a one-cup serving, the iceberg lettuce weighs in at 72 grams whereas the romaine is a lightweight at 47 grams. What’s more is that romaine lettuce contains an overall higher amount of nutrients. So, iceberg is more dense and contains fewer nutrients? Yes siree bob, no doubt about it—romaine packs a nutritional punch in the lettuce arena.
This nutritional data was obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database. Here, I am just posting the more interesting figures found. For a complete look at the nutritional profiles of these two lettuce types, a simple search on the USDA database will bring up the information.
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vitamin A (IU)
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Friday, March 13, 2009
I received an email yesterday from the Consumer Relations Manager for the Hansen Beverage Company. It was in response to my question regarding the use of Splenda instead of Stevia in their diet sodas. My suspicions were right; Hansen's went with Splenda because of the prior FDA stance that Stevia be sold as only a dietary supplement.
With the recent FDA green light for rebaudioside A to be extracted from the Stevia herb and used as a sweetener, Hansen's product development team may have a new sweetener for their diet sodas. Only time will tell ...
Interested in what I think of Hansen's Diet Soda? Check these links out:
My review of Hansen's Diet Root Beer, Black Cherry, and Tangerine Lime
My review of Hansen's Diet Pomegranate Soda
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Today I got my first taste of Hansen’s diet Pomegranate flavor. You remember that cherry-flavored cough syrup with the sharp aftertaste that was forced down your throat as a kid? Well, Hansen’s Diet Pomegranate Soda kind of reminds me of that medicine.
Does this mean Hansen’s Diet Pomegranate Soda is a total bust? This may come as a surprise, but … not necessarily. The reason why I say this is that some of you may like the taste of pomegranate and its rather intense sweet-tart flavor. I, on the other hand, have only a lackluster liking for the fruit in general. Sure, pomegranate juice makes its way into my fridge on occasion. But it doesn’t pass my lips without some sort of water dilution.
So, if you’re into eating pomegranates, this diet soda may be all the rage with your taste buds. But if the pomegranate fruit makes your lips pucker in a bad way, then proceed with caution.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Tea has gotten a lot of positive reviews in the past few years. Whether it’s green, black, white, or chocolate, the average tea bag packs a nutritional punch without adding calories to your daily diet. Folate, potassium, manganese, and magnesium are among the vitamins and minerals found.
But what really gets people a-buzzing about tea is the antioxidants this warm drink contains. Antioxidants are known to detoxify our body’s cells. This detoxification helps prevent dangerous free radicals from overpopulating within the cell. Free radicals wreak havoc by encouraging blood clot development, atherosclerosis, and even cancer.
Okay, enough about the health benefits of tea—let’s move on to Trader Joe’s Chocolate Tea. This tea is basically a decaffeinated black tea with natural flavoring from cocoa beans. This tea also contains a hint of vanilla and coconut, giving it a unique flavor that compliments the chocolate taste.
Overall, I’d say that Trader Joe’s Chocolate Tea has a pretty decent flavor to it. Honestly, it doesn’t help me when I have strong cravings for real chocolate. It does hit the spot for those times I want a little taste of something chocolate, but don’t want to rack up extra calories.
On occasion, I’ll add a few drops of the calorie-free sweetener Stevia and a splash of nonfat milk to Trader Joe’s Chocolate Tea for a richer flavor. Don’t expect this concoction to give your Aunt Emma’s award-winning, bazillion-calorie cocoa drink a run for its money, but it is tastier than those 25-calorie cocoa packets at the store.
I'm sadden to announce that Trader Joe's Chocolate Tea is no longer in production. When my supply runs out, I think I'm going to try Celestial's Chocolate Caramel Tea next. Crossing my fingers ...
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Monday, March 9, 2009
Out of the several Walden Farms products I have bought, some fare better than others in the taste department. Since there are so many products in this line that I’ve tried, I’ll start with a review of Walden Farms sweet dips. In upcoming posts, I’ll review other Walden Farm items.
The sweet dips are my favorite items from Walden Farms, by far. I regularly buy their Chocolate, Caramel Dip, and Marshmallow Dip. The key to enjoying these dips is to use just minimal amounts of the stuff. So if you’re using, say, the Chocolate Dip as a compliment for your strawberries, all you need is a small dab per strawberry. Use any more than that and you’ll end up with a yucky aftertaste instead of sweet calorie-free chocolate.
Walden Farms Chocolate Dip is also tasty with bananas, pretzels, raisins, and a variety of nuts. For the Caramel Dip, I usually use it with apple slices. It is a really yummy alternative to those calorie and fat laden caramel apples at the supermarket and at the cider mill. With Walden Farms Marshmallow Dip, I usually put a little bit on top of my Jell-O or pudding. And sometimes I just enjoy a dab or two straight out of the container when my sweet-and-gooey cravings hit.
I do have to say this, though: When I have a really strong craving for chocolate or candy, a Walden Farms dip is not going to “hit the spot” for me. As with many healthy alternative snack foods, they’re only so useful in fending off junk food cravings.
Another good use for Walden Farms dips is in baked goods. I use a few tablespoons of the Chocolate Dip in place of the conventional melted chocolate many brownie recipes call for. My recipes turn out well and the flavor is still good. Depending on the cake flavor, I use either the Chocolate Dip or the Caramel Dip (and sometimes both). I’ve used the Marshmallow Dip in my cake and brownie recipes, but it didn’t seem to add much flavor, so I don’t recommend incorporating this one into your baked goods.
And there you have it—my review of Walden Farms sweet dips. Stay tuned for more of my reviews on Walden Farms products in future posts.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009
Now that rebaudioside A, a sweet steviol glycoside found in the Stevia leaf, has been deemed by the FDA as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), I’ve noticed a buzz developing. People who previously viewed Stevia as unsafe are now curious about this natural herb. While the Stevia herb as a whole has not been given the okay as a sweetener by the FDA, there are many of us who have used it for years in place of sugar and manmade sugar substitutes.
As of now, the Stevia leaf is officially classified as a dietary supplement. Some say that the reason why the FDA does not allow Stevia to be marketed as a sweetener is because there is no money to be made by the government with natural herbs. Whatever the case may be, it is a fact that the Stevia herb has been enjoyed (without harm) as a natural sweetener for many years in certain countries, like
My first experience using Stevia was ho-hum, at best. I bought a box of the SweetLeaf Stevia Plus Fiber packets and my taste buds were sorely disappointed. There was a bitter aftertaste with the powdered form of Stevia that I just couldn’t fully get used to. It could be that the added fiber caused this aftertaste and the packets without fiber are okay. I couldn’t tell you for sure, though, as that lackluster experience had me reaching for my Splenda packets again.
But then I discovered the liquid form of Stevia. What a difference! A few drops in my tea or coffee gave me all the sweetness I needed, without the ugly calories. There was a short “break in” period of using the liquid Stevia before my taste buds got used to the slightly odd tang.
I’ve used liquid Stevia products from SweetLeaf and NOW Foods, and both brands taste good. The original liquid Stevia is my favorite, and I use 5-6 drops religiously every morning in my cup of cappuccino.
I’ve tried several of the flavored versions as well, including Raspberry Chocolate, Valencia Orange, and Root Beer. I half-heartedly used the root beer one in carbonated water, but stopped when I found Hansen’s Diet Root Beer Soda. The orange-flavored liquid Stevia goes pretty well with hot tea (both green and black). It’s been several years since I used the raspberry chocolate one and, honestly, I can’t remember right now what I used it for.
As for using liquid Stevia in your baked goods, I say go for it! I use it in my cakes, brownies, and muffins all the time and I get many compliments on them. (I also use applesauce/baby food in place of oil, which of course adds to the sweetness of the baked goods.)
If you plan on using liquid Stevia in your next cake, just make sure to use it sparingly. I personally find that using 10 drops of the sweetener per single layer cake, brownie batch, or 12 full-sized muffins gives the right amount of sweetness without adding a bitter aftertaste to the food.
I like liquid Stevia just fine, but it really is an individual thing. My husband has tried it once in his green tea and hasn’t used the natural sweetener since. It all depends on how willing you are to give liquid Stevia a try. If your blood glucose levels are fine, you don’t have a weight problem, and like sugar a lot, chances are you’ll want to keep using sugar.
One word of caution before I go: make sure the liquid Stevia you buy is a clear liquid (unless, of course, it’s of the flavored variety). Out of convenience, I once bought a different brand of Stevia than the two I mentioned earlier (SweetLeaf and NOW Foods). I opened the jar up at home only to discover something that looked and oozed like black automobile oil. I knew how liquid Stevia should look (clear and runny like water), but what if some newbie had found this unsavory bottle and thought this was normal? Yikes!
Whew! This turned out to be a longer post than I planned. I hope my experience with Stevia has helped you.
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Saturday, March 7, 2009
I’ve been a diet soda drinker since adolescence. Over the years, my favorite flavors and brands have changed, but there’s one soda that had me addicted: Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. After five years of drinking 4 liters of the stuff almost every week, I knew this love-hate relationship had to end if I wanted to truly live a healthy lifestyle.
Three weeks ago I gave Hansen’s Diet Root Beer a try. This brand of soda contains no aspartame, preservatives, or artificial flavors and colors. The diet varieties do contain Splenda, though. I’ll have to email Hansen’s to find out why they don’t use natural Stevia instead. When I get a response, I’ll post it on this blog.
At $2.69 for a six-pack, Hansen’s is pricier than other sodas. The good news is that with the prices of many major soda brands rising, Hansen’s sodas aren’t that much pricier anymore. And I don’t know about you, but when I buy a product that is more costly I end up using less of it—that higher price really makes me think before engaging in mindless consumption!
So how does Hansen’s Diet Soda stack up to the usual brands? It’s actually pretty good! However, I did need to drink a six-pack of their diet root beer before completely taking a liking to the slightly different taste. (So if you plan on giving this diet soda a try, be prepared to give it a chance before dismissing it as cruddy.) Now, their diet root beer soda tastes no different to me than any other diet root beer soda I’ve drank before.
I also tried Hansen’s Diet Black Cherry. It doesn’t mimic my beloved Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, but it’s not a dud either. I plan on buying more of this flavor, if that says anything. Another flavor I tried was Diet Tangerine Lime. It is really good right off the bat, with no aftertaste!
I plan on eventually trying all of Hansen’s diet soda flavors. (Pomegranate is next on my list.) I’ll let you all know how the other flavors taste soon in another post.
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Friday, March 6, 2009
I have been buying a mix of organic and non-organic foods for several years now. But if my budget allowed, I’d be buying organic almost all of the time. I feel safer eating organic foods that haven’t been doused in harmful pesticides or pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones.
Okay, back to the original question: Does organic food taste better? In a nutshell, YES! Organic fruits and vegetables are more flavorful, organic meats are fresher, and packaged organic foods taste better than their non-organic counterparts. Not every organic food you buy is going to be an instant hit, but I think it’s safe to say that most will grab your taste buds better than the conventional variety of foods.
What sparked this post on organic foods? Cabbage.
See, I’ve bought the conventional variety of cabbage for years. And, let me tell you, it wasn't out of enjoyment. It was a vegetable I ate out of guilt, something that wasn’t very tasty but was good for my health.
Last week, I bought my first head of organic cabbage (it was on sale). What a difference! The organic cabbage is so deliciously sweet that I find myself eating it raw as a snack. (This, coming from a former chocolate and sugar addict—seriously!)If you despise cabbage, give the organic variety a try. And this goes for other organic foods as well!
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Thursday, March 5, 2009
Over the years, I have tried a lot of healthy foods. Some were instant winners and some were instant losers, but mostly they took time to warm up to. No, I'm not saying that eating healthy means sacrificing taste; however, your taste buds may need an adjustment period before you give up on a particular new food.
Enter the Making Healthy Food Choices blog. Times are economically challenging for many of us right now. I know what's it's like to spend money on a new healthy food product only to end up throwing most of it in the trash because it tastes horrible. My goal with this blog is to help you decide whether that new healthy food is worth buying.
So, bookmark this blog, read my healthy food reviews, and stop spending money on healthy foods that taste like cardboard. :-)
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