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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why I'm Brand Choosy

You may have been wondering where I've been, given the lack of posts lately. Well, like many other people, I recently took a vacation. We went back to the lake, and I learned from my experience traveling there in July that I needed to bring a cooler of my usual foods with me, as the Oakland (Maryland) SuperWalmart doesn't have the best selection of whole and organic foods.

My husband says I'm "brand choosy," but to be honest, I wish I didn't have to be. Unfortunately, the majority of food products out on the market use too many additives and preservatives for my taste. When I find a brand that's made the same way I'd make it at home - with as few ingredients as possible and no artificial or questionable additives - I tend to stick with it. Since I already know what's in it, I save a lot of time by not having to recheck labels every time I shop. The last time I tried to find the kind of food I wanted while I was on vacation, I took a lot of time reading labels and found very few products that met my standards. So this time, I brought some of my own. I thought I'd share a little picture of what products and brands made my A-list for this vacation.

First, I brought my favorite cottage cheese, which is Friendship low-fat no salt added cottage cheese. The ingredients? Skim milk, milk and vitamin A. The other brands I found in the store had, at minimum, ten ingredients, and don't taste NEARLY as good. Plus, Friendship's no salt added variety has only 50mg of sodium per half-cup. Compare that to other makers, with 350mg or more per serving! Is it any wonder I'm so loyal to this brand? Unfortunately, it's only broadly distributed on the east coast, but I have been able to find it not only here in Pennsylvania, but also as far south as Florida.

Next, I brought my nonfat Greek yogurt. Although there are several good brands, I prefer Fage 0%. Again, ingredients are sparse - just milk and active cultures. And, the package contains a pledge that the milk comes from cows that are never treated with rBGH (bovine growth hormones). I have been able to find Greek yogurt while away from home, but many times, the only varieties available are sweetened. Since one of the things I love about Greek yogurt is that it is so creamy and rich that it DOESN'T need sugar to taste great with fruit, I prefer mine without any added sugar.

Now granola, as yummy as it is, is notorious for being packed with both sugar and fat. It's nearly always healthier to make your own at home. However, I've been fortunate enough to find a brand that's low in both fat (just 2g per serving, and only 0.5g saturated fat) AND low in sugar (6g per serving). The brand is Chappaqua Crunch, and the granola is appropriately named, "Simply Granola." I like the variety with raisins, and it's a fantastic topping for my Greek yogurt.

I also brought a few other items with me, store brands from my local grocery store - Wegmans. Wegmans has a great creamy peanut butter with only one ingredient - peanuts! Perfect. Away from home, I look for Smuckers brand natural peanut butter, which aside from having added salt, is still a fantastic option. And for my kids, who haven't yet learned the joys of stirring your peanut butter, I use Skippy Natural. Although it has added sugar, it's not bad with only 3g total per serving. Skippy adds palm oil to keep the product from separating.

Wegmans also has a great line of breads. One of the things I've found is that many whole wheat breads have high fructose corn syrup in them. Wegmans has a whole wheat bread that is sweetened without HFCS, but still tastes great. And for my white bread eating kids, they also have a whole grain white bread, that unlike the varieties offered by Stroehmann and Sara Lee, has more than 50% whole grains, and doesn't have unhealthy additives. If you don't have access to a Wegmans, I'm sorry to say that I haven't found another brand of whole grain white with these same characteristics. I'll be sure to post if and when I do!

So that's a little peek into what was in my cooler when I drove off to the mountains for the week. I hope you can find some of these brands in your local grocery. And please leave a comment to share the great finds you've made in the grocery aisles!


  1. Hey Liz, I know you don't like sweetened yogurt, but I made a discovery that might change your mind if you have this available back east. It's Cascade Fresh yogurt and is sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar or substitute. Really yummy and comes in a variety of flavors. Also, I found a fabulous brand of all-fruit jelly - St. Dalfour. It's a french recipe and they even have pear flavored! Really good!

  2. Hey Crystal! Thanks for the suggestion. I love adding fresh fruit to my yogurt, so I get those fruit juices along with the fiber of the whole fruit. However, it sounds like Cascade might be a good substitute in a pinch when I need a grab and go solution.

    As for the jelly, that sounds great! I have also used jelly (no sugar or sweetener added) in my yogurt and will have to look out for that brand. Pear flavored sounds like a yummy change. Thanks for sharing your favorites!

  3. Nothing wrong with being brand choosy!! Some of my favorites include

    Eden no salt added beans - a great source of lean, plant-based protein without the oodles of salt other companies add to their canned beans!

    Applegate Farms Organic Cheddar Cheese - rBGH free, pre-sliced so I don't have to bother weighing and yeah, lower in salt than most other cheddars

    Brad's Organic Peanut Butter - because a day without peanut butter just sucks!


  4. Great additions, Susan, thanks! I know low sodium is very important to you and I appreciate your tips. Cheese is one of the things that drives me nuts in sodium content. I'd love to have string cheese as a snack, but I just can't justify the huge amount of sodium, relative to the serving size.

    Haven't seen Eden beans in my store and will have to request them. No salt added beans have been really hard for me to find, and boiling my own at home takes more time than I usually have.