September 10, 2007

"Healthy" Convenience Foods: The Never-ending Quest

Are you one of those virtuous people who eats only natural whole foods, often purchased from local growers or grown yourself? Do you, without fail, take these wholesome ingredients and lovingly fashion them into delicious meals and snacks, cooking everything from scratch?

Good for you! Could you please come over to Crabby's house now and do the same for her?

Ah well, it was worth a try.

Whole foods and home cooking with only healthy ingredients is what the magazines act like we're all doing, and it's certainly the ideal. We all know a diet of mostly processed food is a Really Stupid Idea. (For example, this recent depressing study noted that British four year olds were getting roughly twice as much salt as they should from processed foods and that it was already showing up in their blood pressure readings).

But if you're not totally dedicated, exceptionally creative, and super well-organized, it can be a struggle. You need time, and nearby healthy food retailers, and cooperative (or at least coercible) family members in order to have any hope of banishing processed convenience foods from your life. It's theoretically possible. However, it ain't happening anytime soon at the Crab and Lobster household.

So for those of us who are perhaps not so creative or dedicated: we have our little repertoire of home cooked meals, which we make as often as we can stand. And we have our favorite restaurants and semi-healthy take-out options. (Crabby just discovered Pizzeria Paradiso, a D.C. pizza place that makes a tasty pie with a whole wheat crust. Paired with a salad: a quick dinner with minimal guilt!

Some of the time though, we end up buying stuff that's been pre-made or processed and packaged up for later. We buy crackers or bread or frozen enchiladas or pancake mixes or lunch-meats or canned beans or tofutti cuties. And as soon as we push our carts past the pyramids of fresh produce and venture into the rest of the grocery store? We have to pass through the gates of CompromiseLand.

(This is different from Don'tGiveaCrapWorld, where the majority of people seem to shop. Their stores are vast and their aisles are packed with tons of tempting options).

You know the drill. Say you've seen an ad for a new breakfast cereal. It promises to be whole grain and healthy but tasty, packed with healthy fruit and nuts. You are skeptical but perhaps you're just a tiny bit tired of your same old oatmeal every day, and you're tempted by the idea of the sweet crunch of a "regular" breakfast cereal like everyone else gets to eat. You locate the box and maybe it IS healthier than most! It's fairly low in calories, high fiber, a decent amount of protein, but whoa... look at all that sodium! And it's sweetened with high fructose corn syrup!

Do you buy it?

Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. Crabby's kitchen cupboards contain an embarrassing quantity of products that are "the best she could do." They're better than most but there's usually something wrong with them. They're not a total all out Junky but Yummy Treat, like transfat-packed cookies or something. But then they're not a virtuous sack of dried lentils, either.

Convenience Foods are on Crabby's mind more than usual lately, because she has just moved within four blocks of the Holy Grail for Almost-Healthy Convenience Food: A Trader Joe's!

Have you been there? Crabby has visited other locations over the years but hadn't ever lived close by enough to become a regular. So every couple of days she comes back with some new convenience item to try: Pre-cooked Microwaveable Brown Rice! Unsalted Blue Tortilla Chips! Fancy Greek Yogurt! Whole Wheat Pretzels! Dark-Chocolate Covered Almonds! Cheap Frozen Calamari! Black Bean Taquitos! Whole Wheat Low-Carb Tortillas!

So far, most of these Trader Joe items seem to be pretty reasonable compromise foods. They taste anywhere from OK to yummy, and they do their best to eliminate or minimize Bad Things. Some she will probably get tired of soon because that often happens--the novelty of the new item fades and somehow the "packaged" part of the flavor starts to stand out more. Crabby is rather promiscuous when it comes to convenience foods and few go on to become household staples.

Crabby's current favorite item is the Fage Nonfat Greek Yogurt, which is incredibly rich and tasty and high in protein (and expensive!). When mixed with vanilla and the sweetener of your choice, it tastes like freakin' cheese cake. (The Trader Joe's brand of Greek Yogurt, while much cheaper, tastes kind of salty and sour). The Scariest Item she's brought home? It's those low carb tortillas. The ingredients sound more appropriate for insulating your house than wrapping around a pile of beans and cheese and putting in your mouth. But the dang things only have 50 calories, they have an insane amount of fiber and protein, and they don't even taste bad.

It's funny though: we all have our own idea about what a Somewhat Acceptable Compromise Convenience Foods is--and our ideas may be totally different!

So while there are lots of Scummy Marketeers trying to lie to us about blatantly unhealthy food, even the products that are Sincerely Trying to be Good still end up falling short for many of us. Because Weight Watcher people need to prioritize their Points, and whole-food crunchy people need everything be as natural and organic as possible, while others are being extra careful about saturated fats or white flour or sugar or sodium or calories or fiber or transfats or the correct ratio of Omega 3's to Omega 6's.

Then there's the fact that everyone has their own personal health histories and nutritional goals. Plus, sometimes "reasonably healthy and convenient" means "astronomically expensive" and not everyone can go down that road. And some people stubbornly insist that their convenience food actually taste good!

The result is, while most whole foods work for nearly everyone, any packaged product is going to seem like a Toxic Poison to someone and a Gift From Heaven to someone else. It's sort of like looking for the perfect iTunes workout playlist: everyone agrees it's a great thing to have, but no two people would chose the same one. And other people's choices can seem downright ridiculous!

So Crabby would never presume to come up with a list of Best and Healthiest Convenience Foods. But she's still curious to hear about what you all look for and what you've found that's good! She would love some new ideas. (Has anyone, for instance, found a whole wheat pasta that doesn't taste like the box it came in?) Or, in contrast, since she tends to be a sucker for ads about Some Favorite Old Forbidden Convenience Food which has had a New Healthy Makeover, what should she be warned to stay far, far away from?


  1. I don't know that I have much to add today, Crabby. I don't buy all that many convenience foods although, if my husband is away, I will pick up some cabbage rolls. I am way to lazy to make the proper ones myself. And the occasional Subway sandwich with chipotle sauce is fine. I also occasionally indulge in perogies, ready-made, especially for breakfast.
    We eat Spelt pasta. It tastes fine and isn't as heavy as rice, potato, or bean flour pasta.
    Use the scientific approach, Crabby. Go on a mission to try all the convenience foods you can find. Self-testing is best.

  2. Yes.

    I just came from a blog that was holding high the organic food and the free range food and that everyone should buy it and if you can't afford free range chicken you should just go without because it's not worth the time to prepare the chicken and think of the chickens.

    Ugh! I'm sorry? I can't afford the *fancee chicken* (which may or may not actually come from chickens running free in a field of grass, if the Omnivore's Dilemma is to be trusted, which I think I do). I'm on a student's income. I don't have a garden to grow my own vegetables-- I live in an efficiency. I make most of my stuff from scratch, yes, because I can toss a pot of beans on the stove while I'm writing the introduction to my theiss, but you know, sometimes I do order in a pizza. Sometimes I even get the evil Chinese takeout, with sodium and MSG and everything is fried.

    (I'm sorry, I know I'm ranting.) I would love to buy everything healthy and organic and fresh and local and spend my weekends canning the vegetables from my garden, but I'm sorry, I cannot. Ask me again in five years, and if I am, I promise, I will never preach about how it is necessary for good living.

    I love Hot Pockets. I also love the snow peas that the local farmer's market grows. I'm not a bad person, I promise.

    Also, I just learned about Fiber One, which has 57% of the daily fiber requirements per serving and tastes great! No sugar!! Oh man, sweetened with aspertame. Do I buy or no? Man, I buy. 1/2 a cup of twigs and I'm set for my fiber for the day.

    Thanks for the post and I'm done.

    *hops off soapbox*

  3. I have a confession to make. I'm humbling myself before you and beg forgiveness, but I cannot help myself.

    Ok, here goes. ;-)

    After years of forcing myself to eat breakfast and years of skipping breakfast because I just am not hungry in the morning, I found the perfect solution for me. I never dreamt this is what it would be but it gives me the nutrients I need, it fills me up to mid-morning and actually tastes good:
    Slim fast French vanilla drink mix.

    I tried it one day for the fun of it and I really liked it. I thought, well, I'm not eating breakfast anyway. I tried just eating yogurt or a piece of toast, but my body just doesn't want food. So, I tried the SlimFast. I really like it.

    I don't drink it to lose weight, but I notice a huge difference the mornings I don't drink it. I get horrible hunger pangs mid-morning and don't feel as well as the mornings I do drink it.

    So, that's my fast food, if you can call it that.

  4. I Heard Somewhere that what we now know as Slim-Fast was originally a weight-gain supplement, meant to be taken with meals instead of replacing them.

    So, really, there's nothing inherently weight-lossy about it. ;)

  5. I eat spelt pasta as well (uh, at least I *think* it's spelt pasta, I bought them in germany and the word "dinkel" is written on the box, so it seems to me it means spelt in English?). Funnily enough, now it's the good old white pasta that taste like cardboard to me. How the tastebuds do get used to other things... :)

    Being a student, I have to compromise all the time. oh, it'd be nice to eat farm-products and stuff all the time, but meh. No choice here. So I just make sure to buy as many fresh foods as possible (I'm not going to buy canned lentils drowned in some weird juice if I can buy them dry and cook them myself). I am however a little lazy, and I lack time, so I make sure I get fresh AND easy to cook, too. I have a rice cooker in which I throw my brown rice, so that I don't have to worry about it while cooking something else. I use and abuse spices so that I don't have to prepare sauces for my dishes. Etc. Cooking is an art, but cooking something good while not spending more than 20 minutes on it is the kind of art I'm trying to master. ;)

    That said, I am lucky enough in that I usually tend to prefer 'natural-looking' foods to pre-packaged stuff anyway (so many of those tend to taste like crap, or barely average :|). And once I've found an option that works well for me, I quickly get how to prepare it, and it doesn't take me that much time any more.

    Unfortunately, it's going to be hard for me to recommend healthy convenience foods, since French brands probably don't mean much in the USA, much like the contrary. All I could do would be to advertise my pita bread, quickly heated, sliced in two, and garnished with tomato juice, mushrooms and whatever cheese I want to put on it.

    Anyway, as a general rule, and student or not, I try to eat whole-grains and fresh foods as much as I can (and can afford). If only because they do taste better. At least I live very close to the german border, and there, such foods are much less expensive than in France.

  6. Hi Crabby - new to posting but not to reading!

    I too am entrenched in the daily struggle to eat right, buy economically and prepare foods that my family will eat! I love vegtables fortunately and since being on Weight Watchers have learned many new things about how to eat properly and healthfully.

    You seem to make many of the right choices when you are shopping and I'll give you one good idea - I really like the Barilla Plus pasta. It is not whole wheat pasta (multi grain) but packs lots of fiber, protein and Omega 3s which I think is a whole lot better than the regular semolina pasta you'll find on the shelves. Oh and an added bonus - it tastes so good my whole family will eat it!

    PS. Love Pizzeria Paradiso! Just visited DC over Labor Day and we stayed right near there. YUM!

  7. Oh, I feel so lucky! I live on a ranch, so have a big garden, and we eat our own beef (gasp!)and buffalo from a neighbour, which we KNOW has no growth hormones, etc. Of course, there is a downside to having such a huge garden - I gave myself heel spurs a few years ago from working 12 hours straight on my feet every day, then spending hours in front of the stove doing all that canning and pickling!! But y'all haven't tasted salsa until you've had it made with everything home-grown!
    Here's a tip for you. Instead of using those dried up bread cubes in your Caesar Salad, try brushing a little olive oil on a whole-wheat pita, sprinkle with a little garlic powder and parmesan and broil it in the oven a few minutes, then cut it up and add to your salad. Yum, and fewer calories. (Just stopped in via Leah's blog and enjoyed this immensely, Crabby)

  8. I like ho-hos. They're not bad for you, right?

  9. Oh, Crabby -- speaking of healthy foods, I've just realized that something terrible has happened!

    My beloved 85% cocoa Lindt chocolate that I've been eating day in and day out for months now tastes boring and sweet to me. :(

    I may have to start buying baking chocolate.

    (Would baking chocolate count as a healthy convenience food? Dark chocolate is good for you and 100% baking chocolate isn't that hard to come by -- well, my supermarket has it, anyway.)

  10. Chicken Girl - Maybe it's time to try Lindt's 99% cocoa chocolate. ;) I don't think you can find something more hardcore than that!

  11. I'm always comprimising!

    I do find that, for me, planning ahead is key. If I can jot down a bunch of healthy snacks and meals and get them ready for me to just grab during the week, I do pretty well. If, however, I don't get a chance to sit down and take a minute to actually THINK about it, I find myself grabbing fiberone and zonebars at every turn (instead of as a treat now and then). So I think it's good to have some of those conveniency (high-fructose corn syrupy "health" foods) because they're great in a pinch - and usually better than the alternative imo. But for me when I get stressed out or don't have time to plan I find I rely a little heavily on them.

    (and I laughed when I read the part about the oatmeal...I ate regualr oatmeal for a LONG time and just got so sick of it. So I started adding things like honey and brown sugar or choclate chips. lol! At some point, my oatmeal got a bit worse than the "regular" breakfast ceral. I try to mix it up. But right now, I'm with Kashi go-lean crunch. yum. I'm plugging my ears! Don't tell me it's bad!)

  12. *embarrassed giggle*

    We try to be good! There are fresh (and frozen) veggies! There are fresh (and frozen) fruits! There are various kinds of meat to cook! We buy whole grain whenever available!

    But then there's the Other Stuff... The Multi-Grain Cheerios (which is only cereal I can have a full serving of besides regular Cheerios) - not so bad. The NutriGrain bars - They're treated like a dessert item, I swear! The Kraft Macaroni and Cheese - I can't help it, it's sooo good with ground beef thrown in. *sobs quietly to herself*

    I'm also apparently one of the only people who will fess up to liking McDonald's (*gasp!*) here in cyberspace. Not all the time, just every now and again. ;)

  13. Kery - I'm all over the 99% Lindt. ;) Problem is, they don't carry that at the supermarket, so I'd have to mail-order it or go all the way to the Lindt specialty store at the mall to get it. :p

    But, mmmm, 99% Lindt. Sticks to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter. :)

  14. Hi Leah,
    Self-testing is an excellent idea! I have been working my through vast quantities of convenience foods lately, all in service of human-kind. I just need to keep trying those dark chocolate covered almonds over and over to be extra, extra sure they're still yummy!

    I so totally agree with you--so many people want to impose these impossible standards on what we eat. And that 1/2 cup of twigs cracked me up! Rants are awesome especially when they're funny so no need to ever climb down off your soap box.

    Marijke, I totally get the liquid breakfast thing--I can't make myself eat solid food first thing in them morning either! I grew up on chocolate milk for breakfast and now have a huge nonfat cafe au lait and orange juice before I work out. (Then a second solid breakfast later because I'm a Pig). But if the slimfast tastes good to you and gets some nutrition in you, I'd say good going!

    Chickengirl--how interesting, I didn't know that about SlimFast. That's an amazing rebranding coup.

    Hi Kery--So is spelt a whole grain? If so, maybe I'll check it out! And I'm sure not getting the "lazy" part--sounds like you're one of the virtuous sorts whom I greatly admire who doesn't rely much at all on packaged stuff. Please send food!

    Hi Liz!
    That's so great that you're a big vegetable eater. I try, and love some of 'em, but a lot of time I'm frankly just eating them 'cause I'm supposed to. And actually, that Barilla Plus IS good and it's my current compromise choice. Not whole grain, but like you said, there's other good stuff in there and it actually tastes normal. I just love pasta so much I'd like to find one that was 100% whole grain so I could feel all smug when I ate it. But I'm with you, so far this is the best alternative.

    Hi Bag Lady!
    I've admired your comments over at Leah's, so it's fun to see you here. You sound so incredibly healthy! Wish I could sample your homemade salsa, sounds wonderful. And those Caesar salad croutons (sp?) are a great idea.

    Norabarnacle--I wish! Well, for someone who's as good about exercise as you are, you could probably sneak a few Ho Ho's here and there! (As a kid I always had to eat the hard chocolate coating off first, then unroll the thing and lick the cream out before eating the cake part. And for some reason, they tasted much better than Ding Dongs even though they had exactly the same ingredients!)

    Chickengirl I have no sympathy! I am terribly envious because I can't get much above 60% before it starts tasting too bitter.

    Hi Katieo!
    That's too funny about the oatmeal getting more and more 'dressed up!' My favorite all time cereal is Lucky Charms and I'd eat it every day if I could. (I actually do buy about 1 box a year, often when we're on the road in the van and normal rules do not apply!) And I'm sure those bars are a lot better than other treats, like, for example, Ho Ho's! Plus they've got like fiber and stuff right? :)

  15. Lisa,
    You had me laughing out loud with the kraft macaroni sobbing! I'm so glad I'm not the only one with embarassing items in my pantry. (And I have been known to pass under those Golden Arches myself upon occasion!)

    Kery and Chickengirl, I thought you guys were kidding about the Lindt 99% chocolate! Gaahhhghh! Way too hardcore for me.

  16. Hey Crabby and all,

    I have kind of the same antipathy to breakfast. Typically I will eat a Twist'um, which is mozzarella and cheddar in a stick. That keeps me from fainting until it's time for lunch.

    Infrequently, I will make myself some Bob's Red Mill Scottish Oatmeal, but then I put some butter on it, so I'm not sure how healthy you would rate that.

    My other favorite convenience food is Triscuits, which are getting healthier with, supposedly, no trans fats now.

    I don't make any special effort to find locally grown stuff--if there's some in our supermarket, I buy it. Other than that, I just have an antipathy to processed packaged stuff--I'm not sure it takes that much longer to make stuff from scratch. Can't stand spaghetti sauce in a jar. I eat Dreamfields pasta. Is that bad? It says it's high in fiber.

    Thank God I don't really like sweets that much. Cheetos, however.....

  17. I struggle with this issue so much! I go back and forth on it, which means I can't stay committed to either side. When I'm not eating whole foods, which is pretty frequent, I'm beating myself up for it. However, it seems unrealistic in our country. I guess it's possible (groan) but damn it's difficult.

    Compromises: soft serve frozen yogurt or skinny cow (which is scary, scary!)


    Granola bars from the vending machine at school.

    OK- here's my two tips:

    1) crock pot- cook while away!

    2) pressure cooker- cook in a hurry!

    3) soup! (this recipe came from Bobby Brown's book--the makeup artist) chicken both in a blender with broccoli and peas. Blend until smooth. Heat. Put cracked pepper and a dollop of Fage Greek Yogurt on top. Sounds hideous, but tastes incredibly yummy. Try it! It's so easy and quick.

  18. So, the whole first half of this post I'm going, "She needs to go to Trader Joe's. I don't know if it's ALL healthy, but it feels like it is." They should pay me for all the free advertising I do--but then that's not really their schtick.

  19. I could smell the dark chocolate in the comments so I hurried right over.

    Like everyone else I struggle trying to balance healthy eating with convenience. Bagged salad fixings are pretty much standard here, so there's never an excuse to not eat veggies.

    I'm finding that starches really are the culprit for me, so I've been trying to go very lightly with pasta, bread, rice, potatoes and cereal. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once accomplished, I feel better for not indulging.

    But chocolate.. DARK chocolate.. sigh!

  20. Crabby,

    Your post today is so perfect...I just came back from Trader Joe's. And I have only been there three times, so I'm still in very big discovery mode. The thing that stunned me today was the amount of prepackaged food that they sell there. Convienence food that might actually be somewhat healthy? Bring on that compromise!

    Here's what left the store today in my cart:

    Berry Mango Bran Muffins...these were the lowest in calories of all their muffins, and have a lot of fiber in them. The nutrition info is for 1/2 a muffin, so I came home and cut them all in half and froze all but one of the halves. I ate the last one, and they are pretty good!

    Olive Tapenade...I love olives, I love hummus, I love most middleeastern stuff. I have started making my own hummus after my last trip to TJ's, when I found tahini (I don't think I'll ever buy hummus's easy to make and tastes so much better). But I'm looking forward to this Olive Tapenade to go on top of...

    Wasa Crispbreads...these are one of my two favorite foods right now. Love, love, love them. The sourdough are the lowest I've found in calories, but some of the others have somewhat more flavor. But you can't beat that crunch.

    Fage Greek you, I'm in love with this stuff. It is a total treat and loaded with protein. I love this stuff and just bought another tub of it today. I put fruit, a bit of cereal for crunch and some splenda in it.

    Chicken Pot Stickers...these were a total gamble, I've never had them before, but they looked pretty good.

    Rotisserie Chicken...the TJ chickens are way cheaper than the ones they sell at my grocery store. I'm going to take the skin off and pull off all the meat and freeze some of it and have the rest in the fridge for the next few days to top salads, make wraps, etc with.

    I am so glad I found your blog! :)


  21. On the topic of oatmeal... A few years ago, I scared my partner with my breakfast cereal. While comparing cereals in the supermarket, it dawned on me that Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Count Chocola cereals were healhier than some of the "healthy" cereals (like Cracklin' Oat Bran, which should be called Soggy Oil Oat Bran). So, I came home with a pile of children's cereals - all those cereals my mom never bought when I was a kid. Grandma's Waffle cereal with Real Maple Syrup flavoring. Reese's Peanut Butter cereal. S'mores cereal.

    After a month or so, working my way through a big bowl of a mixture of these, I hit my gag point and changed my ways. I started buying Kashi. Since then, I changed over to oatmeal with a nuked banana and almond or walnut butter mixed in. My partner is happy with the Kashi with frozen blueberries (unthawed; she crunches 'em in the frozen slurry of soymilk they form).

    Anyway, have you looked at Eating Well? They have lots of ideas for healthy convenience food. They're a bit susceptible to advertising, but it's still worth checking out. For example, about a year ago they had a bunch of easy recipes in which you start with a tube of the ready-made polenta you often find with the cheeses.

  22. I have a lot of fruit and nuts in my orchard and they're all spray free. I also buy a lot of natural grained bread and make a lot of salads. I try to cook without oil or grease by grilling most meats.

    The goodness stops there...

    I also buy chocolate and other sugary treats. I don't worry too much about buying convenience foods because well they're convenient. Why not make life easier?

    We don't have anything like Trader Joe's in New Zealand. Sounds great. But I live in a small town so the choices of healthy convenience food are very limited.

  23. Crabby,

    Fage Yogurt!

    Trader Joe's! Life is good!

    Don't try to make onion dip with the Fage--undoes all the good and not too tasty!

    If it requires cooking, it is unlikely that I will eat it unless I am in a restaurant or at your house. What's for dinner?

    I go to a local market called Ivaronne's where the deli department takes up half the store and includes such wonderful freshly prepared foods as tilapia with tomato and onion, BLT chicken salad, chicken francese, grilled veggies, etc.

    I never know what will be available when I get there but it's always good. I go every week for a couple of meals worth.


  24. Amy,

    Everyone here likes the chicken potstickers from TJ's. Hope you do, too.


  25. I know whole foods are better for you, but inadequate skills in the kitchen and lack of time are massive obstacles for me. I do the best I can.

    Have you tried Ronzoni Healthy Harvest pasta? I like it. You can also mix whole wheat pasta with regular. I heard that that’s more bearable.

  26. Virtuous? No. But since switching to Core I definitely eat a lot more whole food than I used to. That doesn't mean that I've stopped eating take out or grabbing convenience foods at the market when it's, well, convenient. I'm of the opinion that folks gotta do what they gotta do.

    The only thing I'm leery about are the 100 calorie packs. While I understand that they help many people, I just see them as "healthy junk food" and that they can even hurt someone's weight loss efforts because the abuse potential is so high.

  27. I'm trying to stay away from anything with high fructose corn syrup, esp. if it's the FIRST ingredient.

    By the way, those cupcakes on top of your blog make me very hungry.

  28. I buy as much organic as I can but some is expensive. I buy the worst culprits like apples, soymilk, and peppers (stuff like that organic all the time) and the ones that won't kill you with chemicals in non-organic. You can afford organic if you eat simple because simple foods cost less than packaged convenience foods overall.

    Brown rice and beans and veggies are cheap and healthy. So is tofu and other grains. If you make stuff it's cheaper too. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- don't eat things created in a lab. Or at least don't eat them often. Cedar has been known to get fruit snacks and crackers but we make treats when we can. But we aren't perfect. I like a slurpee and some mnm's now and again (yikes).

  29. Hi Melissa,
    Good for you that you're averse to most processed foods. And it's nice they're finally putting at least a few other cheeses in single serving sizes now--used to be American was it or you had to buy a whole huge block of cheese that was sometimes hard to get through.

    Soap Box Girl--Great suggestions! We have a crock pot but bought it on sale and didn't realize it was too small for most recipes. It's so dumb, because we stopped using it pretty much right away and should just rebuy a bigger one--they're not that expensive. But we feel like we "already have one." Duh. And that soup sounds intriguing if you swear it tastes good!

    Lindsey, that's so funny! And hey, maybe if we keep hinting around Trader Joes' will decide to sponsor some of our blogs, and we can blather on about them and get paid! (OK, fat chance. A crab can dream).

    Hi Hilary! (And I'm still giggling about the "pronk phone call" over at Frank's). I'm also trying to rely a lot less on carbs and replace all the refined ones with whole grains (and dark chocolate).

    Hey Amy,
    So you're still in the 'dating' stage with Joe just like I am! Isn't he dreamy? Actually, I do remember from my occasional trips before that some prepared stuff tastes great at first and then I'd burn out suddenly and never want to eat them ever again--and I'm thinking maybe potstickers was one of those items! But it's so exciting to see all these attempted healthy foods that you can just GRAB instead of prepare from scratch.

    Hi Quito!
    And you have a photo now, how cool! I love that story of the breakfast cereal. I wonder if I really did allow myself Lucky Charms for breakfast every morning if I'd eventually want to return to something healthy naturally? Or if decades of pent-up Lucky Charms Longing would keep me eating them for the rest of my life? (Or worse, escalating to pop-tarts, then Krispy Kremes?) Hmm interesting idea for an experiment... And I'll have to check out Eating Well, sounds like a good resource.

    Hi Talia,
    Sounds like you have a great balanced approach! I'm envious of your orchard, although I'd probably manage to kill everything in it accidentally due to my slackitude so it's definitely better off on your property. And I'd say an orchard beats a nearby Trader Joes!

    Hi Terrie,
    Good tip on the onion dip because I was indeed scheming as to how to turn the yogurt into some sort of spinachy oniony dip thing. And your grocery store deli sounds awesome. (We have a Fancy Pants Eupopean style deli/market back home that has great stuff but it is SO FREAKIN' EXPENSIVE that even I, who will overpay drastically for convenience, can not bring myself to buy any of their tempting offerings!

    Hi Lily T!
    I'm glad I'm not the only person who wants to eat healthy without becoming a gourmet chef! And thanks for the pasta suggestions, I'll have to check out the Ronzoni! After a couple of whole wheat brands scared me off I've been doing the Barilla Plus until I could get a whole wheat recommendation.

    Hi Skinny Guy!
    Yep more whole foods are better, but it's so hard not to succumb to convenience! And I'm totally with you on those 100 packs too. It's fine for portion control as long as people acknowledge that it's STILL EVIL JUNKY CRAP and BAD FOR YOU and do it just as an indulgence. But I think a lot of people actually think they're eating something reasonably healthy.

    hi decaf!
    Funny how that corn syrup stuff is in everything now! I treat it sort of like sugar--something to really mimimize, but not something absolutely forbidden if it's in there in small enough quantities. And the Cupcakes are Evil aren't they? I think if the premise of the blog was more "Healthy Living is Easy and Fun!" I'd have someone rock climbing or something. But the premise is more "Healthy Living is a Pain in the Ass," so I have the cupcakes, which we only get to eat Sometimes, instead of All the Time. Which sucks.

    You are truly amazing. If anyone has an excuse for convenience food it's you, with all your bustling blogs and homeschooling Cedar and such, and yet you manage to do the whole foods thing so consistently! (I'm at least glad to hear about the M&M's!)

  30. At first glance "Whole Wheat Low-Carb Tortillas!" looked like "Low-Crab." Well, naturally Crabby wants things to be low-crab, or even no-crab. Cannabalism is bad!
    I've always been a from-scratch cook, since I grew up with many food allergies (learning to read labels before it was fashionable!) and most convenience foods, now that my food allergies are much fewer, just don't taste good. Chocolate, however, is not a convnenience food! You are all deluded! Chocolate is a staple, like flour.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  31. I go for Kery's style, mostly come-cooked. But once in a while a sushi or sashimi is good. Usually it comes with a cabbage salad and a soup on the side, and I find it to be both quick, good and satisfying.

  32. I'm back! (Already?!) Now I have read all your posts, and if I am not mistaken, some of you lack the time and some the money to cook from scratch? The time part is understandable, although not really an excuse in my eyes, not more than once or twice a week. But then I don't have children, and only 90 minutes of commute a day. And a husband who vacuums.

    What really intrigues me is the money part. Do you mean than cooked food is cheaper than buying the ingredients yourself in the US? That certainly is not the case in Europe. Well bad precooked food, which isn't tasty and leaves you hungry half an hour later is maybe cheap, but still... Nothing ready made beats the price of onions, cabbage, carrots, pasta, and a small slice of meat or fish. Is it not so over there?

  33. Hi Mary Anne,
    A low-crab tortilla, I love it! (And actually I have to confess to occasional cannibalism, which would probably be even less occasional if Crab weren't so darned expensive. But please don't tell the other crustaceans!) And I totally agree--my mistake, chocolate is a definitely a staple!

    Hi Pelikan!
    It does seem odd, doesn't it? But here we actually can get fast-food meals like pizza or burgers or chicken very, very cheaply. We also have the luxury of a lot of fancy expensive organic fruit and vegetable choices which cost a lot, and most of us are too spoiled to stick with the cheaper cabbage and carrots and beans every night. So frequently a "nice" home cooked meal can cost more than take-out. With a 90 minute commute, I think you are much less lazy than many of us to make so many home cooked meals. I should spend more time cooking, but especially for breakfast or lunch I will often include something that comes from a box or a package. Bad Crab!

  34. Boy do I miss Trader Joe's. But our Costco has lots of organic products from Amy's soups to Horizon no fat yogurt. I'm also lucky in that my husband hunts and fishes and we have gigantic berry bushes and a nice sized garden. Our local discount supermarket gets a lot of Kashi and "health food" products, too. So it keeps the costs down. And we homebrew. But yes, we have our share of evil pantry foods as well. Everything in moderation.

  35. Hi Anne-Marie!

    (Great blog, btw!) And I love the sound of the berry bushes and the fishing and all the healthy eating you do as a result. But I'm also glad to hear you have a few Evil Pantry dwellers too so I don't feel so bad!

  36. I *love* Ryvita with cream cheese on it. And dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries. Yum.

    I don't buy a lot of convenient foods...I find we eat healthier when I make stuff from scratch. Plus...I am a bad nibbler, so the less that is around for me to nibble the less I will nibble. Most convenient foods I find to be too bland or salty...although I will confess that a McCain's mediteranian thin crust pizzza (with extra cheese added of course) does hit the spot!

  37. Hi Geosomin,
    Ah I suspected you might be the virtuous type! I must check out that pizza though--it's nice to have some semi-healthy stuff stashed in the freezer for 'emergencies.'

  38. Hi again Crabby, just to put the record straight: my commute is 90 minutes both ways, and since I take the bike three times a week, I don't have to find the time to exercise afterwards = lots of time to cook. And since I like cooking... :-)

  39. Every time I take that dang quiz, it tells me the same thing: I'm Watership Down and no one will take me seriously until I stop talking about rabbits so much.

    Ms. Crabby, you never told me that I talk about rabbits so much. Sheesh. I thought I was just making interestin' conversation! ;)

    I do love your Friday posts.

  40. Wow, I love Pizza Paradiso. I just found your blog and was reading back through your archives, and got to the part where you said "please do it for me" and I thought "man, I totally would if she lived in DC but the chances of that being true are so low!". :)
    Then again, I love to cook. (Yeah, those last 10-20 lbs? Not going anywhere anytime soon. At least my beau likes them.

  41. hi Tanya!
    Unfortunately we're only in DC for a few more weeks before we move back to California (or else I'd be scheming about ways to get you in my kitchen!). But I really like it here. Especially now that it's not so hot and humid anymore. There's so much to see and do! And that's so cool that you're a Pizza Paradiso fan. Thanks for stopping by!


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