Posted by: Hallie | July 12, 2009

Swapping the bad(ish) for the better

Are you a label-reader?

I am an obsessive label reader…it started when I was losing weight for the first time, I would look at the calorie and fat content of everything that had a nutrition label. When I did Weight Watchers for a stint, I started paying attention to the fiber content of my foods (fiber = lower points, but I know now that adding fiber powder to ice cream doesn’t make it a health food. Right, Gina?).

These days, I read labels with other purposes, maybe not instead, but in addition to the calorie count. After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals awhile back, I started paying more attention to the food I was eating, and began making efforts to eat less “Franken-foods” made with crazy chemicals. I also try to avoid trans fats when grocery shopping, because trans fats are just bad news.

Yesterday, I hit up Whole Foods to swap out some items in my kitchen for healthier counterparts. First up…peanut butter.

I buy nut butter from Trader Joe’s because it’s cheap and all-natural, but a few weeks ago, I snagged (don’t judge!) some single-serving cups of Smucker’s peanut butter from a hotel’s breakfast buffet. I figured they’d be great for camping, or oatmeal breakfasts/snacks away from home. It wasn’t until later that I read the ingredient list and saw “partially hydrogenated soybean oil,” which means it contains trans fat.

I bought a single-serving pack of Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter, which I’m sure will be MORE delicious than the Smucker’s, with a much more desirable ingredient list.

peanut butter

Next…steak seasoning.

I made this swap because I realized that the Montreal Steak Seasoning we had at home contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil and even though it’s a tiny amount, is that really needed in SPICES? Me thinks not.

My harping on the evils of hidden trans fat finally convinced Mitch (or he wants me to shut up, one of the two) so he asked me to find trans-fat-free steak seasonings for tomorrow’s planned grilled dinner. Of course, I found it at Whole Foods. It’s basically the same thing, with less sodium per teaspoon and NO trans fat!

WF seasoning Montreal seasoning

At the store, I didn’t get why WF called it “Toronto” seasoning…and then I got home and put the two side by side. Toronto, Montreal…I thought that was hilarious and called Mitch to tell him, but he didn’t pick up his phone, which was probably for the best. I doubt he’d find it as clever as I did.


And finally…sweets.

I tried, I really did, to cut out my post-dinner treat…and then Mitch started buying Jello pudding cups and that was the end of that. Now, I’m not even that wild about the sugar-free (aka Splenda-filled) cups, but they were somewhat chocolaty and 60 calories a pop, so I was breaking into the boy’s stash. To keep myself away from the Jello and its less-than-natural ingredients, I bought two portion-controlled sweet snacks.


On the far right is a So Delicious dairy-free mint “ice cream” sandwich. I’ve had the full-size flavor so I know how, well, delicious, these are. They taste like mint chocolate-chip ice cream, and the mini size only has 90 calories apiece. Three bites of heaven (very processed, but better than the Jello, I’d say).

The item in the middle is probably new to you. These are ChocoPods, a 60-calorie serving of gourmet chocolate developed by Chuao Chocolatier, based out of San Diego. I picked the Picante flavor, which Chuao describes as “delicate dark chocolate shell filled with a blend of Cabernet wine caramel seasoned with pasilla chile and cayenne pepper.” Does that not sound amazing? I’ve tried their Spicy Maya flavor of chocolate, which is HOLY YUM so I have high hopes for this flavor (they make chocolate without chilis too).

The “healthier” swaps I made are all more expensive than the original (free versus $1.39 a pop for the peanut butter, for example). But I fully believe in “doing what I can” as far as making the best food choices for me (and Mitch, when he’ll let me!).

Have you made any product swaps recently due to the nutrition label/ingredient list? Do you have any “never-buy” ingredients that you don’t allow in your kitchen? I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t do all our grocery shopping, but I think every little swap I can make is a step in the right direction!

Before I head out, I have two items to report:

  1. For two days in a row, I did 45 minutes on the stair climber at the gym! I’m nursing a toe injury so I can’t run or walk hills outside, so I’ve been sticking to stairs. I used to not be able to do more than 5 minutes, so this is huge for me!
  2. Nina seems to be doing better, after an expensive trip to the vet for x-rays showed that she didn’t have any more bones in her digestive tract (sorry if TMI). The worst seems to be behind us, as long as she’ll stay out of the damn trash.


  1. sometimes i dread reading the ingredients list…a lot of my fave items have Hi Fructose Corn Syrup….sigh…

  2. I love this post!! 😀 Yay for healthier switches! I think one of the biggest switches I have made was switching from regular PAM to a spray Olive Oil! So much cheaper in the long run when you buy one of the pumps and use a Costco-sized bottle of Olive Oil! 😉

  3. Love the swaps! Toronto Seasoning – that’s funny!

    Mmm, Chuao is good.

    I can’t believe a few years ago I used to buy Jif Reduced PB and 100 Calorie Packs. OMG. My how things have changed. 🙂

    My never buys: HFCS, transfat, and any artificial sweeteners!

  4. Great post! I know what you are saying, as I have become more cautious of label ingredients lately too. I used to look at fat, calories, blah blah, but now the ingredients are more important to me. Way to through in the information about fiber 🙂

    I really don’t have any one ingredient that I don’t keep in my kitchen, as I refuse to have any “off limit foods”. However, I do have certain ingredients that I try to eat less often; partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (which is why natural pb is best), aspartame, and food coloring. I still eat foods with these ingredients in them, but I very rarely purchase them and only eat them every so often.

  5. A word about the Jell-o cups: if you just make instant pudding with skim milk, the nutritional content totally changes from the pre-made cups, for the better, obviously.

    So glad about Nina. Every time we get a vet bill, Billy reminds me that a bullet is only 50 cents 🙂

    There’s nothing I really ban from my kitchen but I have been trying to have less PHSO and HFCS and more fiber and protein.

    Way to go on the stair climber! A hip injury has kept me out of the gym but I hope to start back this week.

  6. Bahaha, looks like Whole Foods got their Canadian cities confused 😛 I also think it’s hilarious you call Mitch about those things. Chris gets random texts like that from me all the time…

    I used to do the Jell-o cups for dessert too! Now I have a couple squares of dark chocolate, or some fresh fruit. I realized that I just wanted something sweet to “finish” dinner, and it didn’t really matter what the sweet thing was. So I swapped out the fake sweet stuff for the more natural stuff 🙂

  7. I have to admit I’m not always a great label reader. I tend to buy mostly whole foods so when I buy things in boxes or frozen I often forget that what you see is not what you get. I think that’s why I love whole foods…most foods are free from my dreaded hfcs & partly or fully hydrogenated oils so it’s a little easier to shop.

  8. […] while looking up this seasoning, online, I found Hallie, at Healthy Twists, has a label comparison, of the two labels. Montreal Seasoning has hydrogenated oil, in […]

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