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Grain-ous Crime

Grains or oats are the new hotcakes. The idiom “selling like hotcakes” ought to be updated to “selling like grains” because that’s exactly what’s going on around us. Of course we couldn’t imagine people fighting over a sack of wheat but they would over the last bag of Nova. The grains phenomenon has affected almost everything—from crackers to drinks to cosmetics. Maybe we should rename this website as Fiber.com, might get more hits.

  1. Sun Chips (Frito Lay)

Sun Chips pioneered the grain-chip selection and has since then grown into a dieter’s indulgence. It contains less Sodium and Saturated fat than Doritos and packs in more fiber. Keep the serving to about 15 chips and you’re back on the road to fitness. Sun Chips is the saturated fat winner in this category—with only one gram per serving—should be enough reason to make us reach for the grain. Now that’s what we call keeping a sunny disposition.


2.Nova (URC)

What’s with naming these chips after meteorological terms? Science aside, what’s so cosmic about Nova is that it tastes nearly as great as Sun Chips and has a slightly thicker texture—for those who prefer a massive crunch. The individual pack has the acceptable caloric content, plus fiber! The other flavors may taste fuzzy but the cheese variant is enough to gratify any junkie craving sans the guilt.


3. Oheya! (Oishi)

Oheya! has only one draw to us buyers—its name, which I had to murmur about a million times before I got it right. With150 calories, 255 mg sodium and <1 fiber—we’re better off snacking on the big, bad tortillas! Too salty and zero on the flavor, people think it’s the cheaper version of Nova or Sun Chips, but in reality a bag only contain 20 measly grams. Do I hear rip off? Oheya’s attempt to dethrone local favorite Nova is just as close as me waking up with snow on our porch. That’s just great because we don’t even have porches in the sunny Philippines!

4. Skyflakes (Monde)

Skyflakes is the ultimate Filipino staple, from office drawers, sari-sari stores to high school uniform pockets. We’ve forever held this notion that saltine crackers = diet food, but looking through the stats dictates that we may even be better off with a real sandwich! The Oat variants (Oat Fiber and with Flaxseed) may add to the anorexic appeal, but are nothing spectacular save for their grainy texture. With more that 100 calories and saturated fat enough to fuel 10% of our day, (that’s for 3 crackers) this leaves us reaching for another pack to give us enough energy to even stand.

With vegetable shortening being the 2nd or 3rd most used ingredient for such a thin slab, we’ll know what to blame once our thighs start to bulge after eating 10 crackers too many.

5. Nature Valley (General Mills)

The Valley must be brimming with syrup because each bite of this bar attacks us with a bad case of dental caries. Calorie-wise though, this energy booster can revive the famished. However, going for a daily dose of the crunchy variety (Cinnamon, Oats ‘n Honey and Peanut Butter) would give your teeth enough stress you’d be saying: An Apple (Cinnamon) a day never keeps the dentist at bay.

As a consolation, you might think, “Why don’t we give our teeth a break and go for the Chewy Trail Mix instead?” Sorry to burst your bubble because if there’s anything that would invite the dentist to your doorstep, it would be this bar’s 14g of syrupy sweetness. With the 2nd ingredient listed as high maltose corn syrup, we’re sure to get a sugar high with every loaded bite.

6. Nesvita (Nestle)

The breakfast you can drink is bustling with heaps of nutritional essentials. Need a morning pick me up? Need a fiber lift? Need a vitamin boost? Nesvita’s got that all covered.

Do you need a monotony of flavors as well? Why, Nesvita’s the perfect choice! Taste one and you feel like you’ve tasted them all.


Nestle’s packaging is so craftily designed it brings our attention to highlighted areas such as Fiber and Calcium and veers us away from the nasty ingredients section.

With 11g of sugar (Original), this officially makes Nesvita the “SUGAR you can drink”. The Chocolate variant tries to ease on the bad stuff by adding only 7.9g sugar and more fiber.

What’s so preposterous about Nesvita’s nutritional label is that the table looks all cheery and tummy friendly but fails to distinguish among the fat groups(there are 3 kinds but it only lists FAT in general) and omits Sodium, which is a vital part of my graph. So start your day right, with a sugar rush and a deviant manufacturing food label—both courtesy of Nesvita.

7. Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bar (Pepsico)

With luscious flavors like chocolate chip and peanut butter, it’s so hard to resist a bar. Put in 100 calories per portion,and you probably can’t wait to take a bite out of it—but wait up, care to bring along the 7g sugar baggage as well? Sound the alarm because this baby’s got a tad more sugar than necessary.

Still can’t resist its chewy goodness? Re-christen the bar as dessert, and go around swearing by this new fact: This is the healthiest dessert ever! Ah yes, what people would do for the love of all things sweet. Count me in.

8. Nova Granola Bar (URC)

The Chips may be fab but we’d pass on the Bar. Imagine calling yourself a “Multigrain Snack Bar” with Glucose Syrup as the 1st ingredient, and on the 4th we find the synonymous sugar. Too much sweet going on for such a little fella. Why not go for the real Nova instead with fewer calories and half the sugar content?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention: Worst tasting granola bar. Ever.

9. Pringles Multigrain – Creamy Ranch (P&G)

Pringles is navigationally off course, trying to pass off its Multigrain series as an equal oat alternative. We all should have learned by now that not all oats are created equal and Pringles falls on the least fiber-filled sphere. With Rice Flour as its main component and hints of potato flour wedged in between, it’s just like snacking on the average Pringles—with the same amount of Fiber and nutrients. It’s still got the crisp crazy goodness of Pringles, so it’s all right to indulge—so long as you’re not on a strict, anti-potato diet.

Even with only a handful of products under this category, the honor and horror roll system cannot be ignored. Time to mete out the best and worst among the Oats/Grains Snacks:

In the Pantry

1. Sun Chips Original (Frito Lay)

With 140 calories, 3g fiber and only 1g saturated fat, Sun Chips is the reason why the Grain Chips category was born.The sun is definitely shining on this snack because munching on these crunchy and zesty thins can certainly make your day.


2. Nova – Cheese (URC)

While Nova ain’t exactly Sun Chips, it does manage to pack fewer calories and sodium and still serve a lip-smacking, crunchy chip. It makes the ideal single-serve snack and goes well with salsa too!


3. Nesvita – Chocolate (Nestle)

Chocolate-flavored Nesvita makes the perfect breakfast or snack to those who need the fiber and energy boost. It’s a malt-filled drink with 109 calories and 11g fiber—enough to rival the terribly sweet granola bars. Take it hot or cold, who couldn’t resist this nourishing, mildly sweet and flexible snack?

Down the Drain

1. Nature Valley Oat ‘n Honey (General Mills)

Nature Valley takes the word “Crunchy” so seriously, it does a better job at pulling off my teeth than my dentist. Add the ludicrously high sugar content of 12g, and watch your dentist ban you from his office for life.


2. Nova Granola Bar – Caramel Peanut Crunch (URC)

With nothing spectacular to boast about its nutritional content, there is no way Nova can EVER justify this horribly sweet slab disguised as a heavenly granola bar. I had to stomach 99 calories of pure torture just to write this down. Brand extension has never been this ridiculous.


3. Oheya! – Cheese (Oishi)

Trying to sound cool has been the only purpose of Oheya’s inception because if there’s anything to describe its nutritional content, well, it’s way uncool! Like Nova Granola Bar, I would rather waste the calories on something more sinfully delicious and filling at the very least.


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Grain-ous Crime in Numbers

With even just a few players in this category, the variations are conspicuous. From fiber laden to sugar hoarders, check out how your favorite fares in the oats and grains segment.

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The Spud and the Furious in Numbers

For those who constantly fail in exercising prudence when snacking, here’s a sneak peek on the numbers aspect of the the nutritional label. When you can’t trust your taste buds to lead you to the right snack, why not put your faith in the math?

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The Spud and the Furious

We all know Lay’s happens to be the top-of mind brand with its signature yellow bag invading the psyche of everyone who thinks of the word: potato chip. Despite this grocery cart invasion, local chip manufacturer Oishi (Liwayway Manufacturing) dominates the shelves with its massive displays and extensive potato categories. From Potato Chips to Gourmet Picks to my newly discovered Strip Fries, every word that pertains to potato, chip and   been used and abused by Oishi. Meet the new Philippine potato giant. However, will their creations equate to the new Lay’s or better? Let’s not forget, another junk food giant, Jack ‘n Jill, likes to play in the chip department as well. As always, our taste buds will decide.

Moving on: Thinking of the various spud-based categories can be so tedious it ought to be an article on its own. Potato chips and wedges are just among the common types, and we haven’t even covered the peculiar creations like shoestring potatoes or those born from potato flour. And so, to make life simpler and this site much easier to read, we’ve decided to create a catch-all page for anything with a hint, slice or speck of potato in its ingredient list. That’s a lot—we know—but no worries, you won’t find kamote (sweet potato) here.

1. Lay’s (Frito Lay)

Meet Lay’s, Big Potato Boss and the Lord of the Spud Universe. It has grabbed the greatest market share in the potato chip segment, and everyone just adores it. Its oily goodness is still within the nutritional barometer, though Sour Cream tends to edge close to the salt danger zone. What’s so incredible is its 1g saturated fat content. That beats Pringles and everything else made in the Philippines in almost all nutritional accounts.

And that’s not all. Baked! Lay’s suddenly drops from heaven, and we get 0g fat content. Unbelievable. Though it tastes and looks 100% different from its prototype, it’s just as great. I consider it more like a Baked Pringles, and that’s swell even because, don’t we all love Pringles?

2. Lay’s Kettle Cooked Chips (Frito Lay)

Crunchy goodness with an assortment of zesty flavors like Jalapeno, Sharp Cheddar and Sea SaltLay’s Kettle Cooked Chips can satisfy any salty craving. What’s great is that with 1g saturated fat, it stands at par with the other Lay’s chips. What’s better is that it even has fewer calories (by 10 calories) and less salt.

3. Lay’s Stax (Frito Lay)

This potato-crisp-in-a-can would’ve been at par with Pringles if it wasn’t stacked with saturated fat as well. Coming nearly as close to 2x the fat level of Pringles Original, Lay’s Stax is on the verge of falling off our pantry heap. A digit of a calorie more than its serving size (160 calories, upper limit) and it’s about to be tossed to the waste pile. Okay, I’ll stop with the “stack” jokes now, so let’s switch to Pringles instead.

4. Ruffles (Frito Lay)

Ruffles is Lay’s flirtatious cousin—tastier, more crisp and all curled up. With flavors like Cheddar and Sour Cream and Sour Cream and Onion, we certainly can’t get enough of this salty party staple. With its 1g saturated fat content, no wonder it gets more irresistible. Still, with 160 calories and greater salt content for the flavored variants, go easy on the ridges because they pack in more fatty punch than Lays’ flat out chips. Baked! Ruffles is another holy grail with its 0.5 saturated fat content but with its salt content reaching the 200 mg level, stay within the serving size and you’ll be safe, though a bit thirsty.

5. Pringles (P&G)

Once you pop, you can’t stop! So true! The trick to enjoying a good ‘ol can of Pringles is actually to stop once you consume its serving of 16 chips. This way, the calories and salt intake are kept to a minimum and you can still enjoy more for the next day. Pringles-Reduced Fat introduces 2g of saturated fat, not much of the stark difference from the other flavors but acceptable enough for the calorie counter. With new exciting flavors like Blueberry and Hazelnut, Shrimp, Indonesian Satay and Nori, I’d say: Try them all! One day at a time though, for the love of your kidneys.


6. Pik-Nik (Pik-Nik)

Pik-Nik mimics everything there is with French fries—the oil, salt and even the catsup! Amazing what manufacturers can do to copy a fast food favorite—how even the health risks are also captured in the can—plus preservatives! What’s also unbelievable is that Pik-Nik has come to a point that of surpassing the destructive level of the real French fries. With >5g of TRANS FAT (from partially hydrogenated soybean oil) and more than 2x the saturated fat content, Pik-Nik makes a small bag of McDonald’s fries sounds like a life saver. Now I know where to blame my vertigo.

7. Piattos (URC)

The Philippines’ number one chichirya (snack) is technically called the “fabricated” potato chip. Seriously, that’s the official category. Good thing it’s a tasty one! The small bag poses minimal risk and if eaten in moderation (like once a day, not once a meal). In the spud category, Piattos is perhaps the best way to go—minimal calories and oil. So yes, fabricated is “good” in this sense. Don’t bother checking your dictionary. Go for Sour Cream with only 110 calories—sweet, huh?


8. Jack ‘n Jill V-Cut (URC)

I seriously never understood why so many of my peers have this love affair with V-Cut. Maybe it’s the zesty barbecue flavor that is absent from Lay’s? Maybe because it’s cheap? Whatever the reason is, with its 7g saturated fat content (roughly 35% of our day’s requirement wasted on cured potato), I’d say PASS.

9. Jack ‘n Jill Potato Chips (URC)

This is one spud masterpiece following the fatty footsteps of V-Cut. Like Lays and Ruffles, V-Cut and Jack ‘n Jill Potato Chips carry the same genetic blueprint, but unlike their Frito Lay counterparts, not much innovation was placed in their inception. You see, V-Cut and the Potato Chips have the EXACT stats in their nutritional information. This makes my life easier then. No need for a review, just scroll up to V-Cut.

On the bright side, thank God for Cheese! The cheese flavored Potato Chips—not bitingly salty like the other URC cheesy snacks—is the saving grace for this variant, never mind its escalating fat content. one less reason to skewer this fat building creation.

10. Roller Coaster (URC)

I give Roller Coaster an A for innovation. The rounded idea is simply astounding and the flavor, 100% Piattos! Kudos for this bright new idea in the market. From hexagon thins to rolled up cheesy goodness, who doesn’t love Roller Coaster? Kids always fall for its loops of golden crunchiness. As for the adults, I’d lay off this juvenile delicacy because it packs in more calories, salt and fat than Piattos. If you’re looking for cheese potato crisps, go for the leaner cuts of Piattos and leave the loops to the little ones who can afford the excess calories.

11. Ridges (Oishi)

Another name we could give Ridges is the Widely Improved and Leaner V-Cut. Ridges slashes all things bad with V-Cut—about 50 calories and half of its saturated fat content. It also introduces flavors like Onion and Garlic, Wasabi and of course, Cheese! With its 4g saturated fat content, it still is a deadly indulgence but if you’re feeling patriotic, Cheese Ridges is certainly the lesser spudisaster.

12. Gourmet Picks (Oishi)

Let us re-christen this snack’s name to Fat Gourmet Picks. While the flavors—Kimchi, Wasabi & Nori, and Sea Salt—are guaranteed to catch any gourmand’s attention, regular indulgence will no doubt eventually switch our attention to their growing waistline. With a serving size enough to provide ¼ of the saturated fat needed in a day, we’re probably better off eating the real thing. If not, there’s always the generic Oishi Potato Chips—never mind its façade as a gastronomic Plain Jane—that has 2g less saturated fat and a roster of the standard potato chip flavors.

13. Natural Potato Chips (Oishi)

I wonder if the employees at Oishi ever get mixed up with their potato snack food offerings. With Potato Fries and Crisps and whatnot, it could get really confusing; add in another variant with the most uncreative and generic name possible and you’re in for some serious trouble. Who names their product “Natural Potato Chips”? Ask a diser in the grocery and he might lead you to the Lay’s aisle. I don’t suppose this concept will be winning any award for creativity, but it sure does have a winning chance among the local Potato Chip brands. With 3g saturated fat, it’s a runner-up for the lean chip category, next to Oishi Shoestring Potatoes. With calories and sodium numbers that are low enough to contend with Lay’s and Ruffles, go for Oishi Potato Chips and forget words like “Gourmet” ever existed.

14. Shoestring Potatoes (Oishi)

Never underestimate bad packaging and absent advertising. Despite its cliché design and name, this snack bags the local award for best potato snack with its all-time low calorie and fat content. It’s thin, crisp and with the right amount of zest. No frills necessary, just plain potato fun!

15. Beer Match Potato Crisps (Oishi)

The fact that Potato Crisps belongs to Oishi’s Beer Match Series should be indicative of the snack’s utter disregard to all things healthy and life-preserving. Amazingly enough, its stats fall within the nutritional barometer, except for saturated fat at 4g (20% daily requirement). Still, this fat content falls within the median of local potato snacks, at par with Piattos and Ridges. However, for the beer bashers who cannot resist Potato Crisps’ appetizing flavors like Cream Garlic and Cheese—fine, dig in! Don’t worry, it goes well with water too!


16. Beer Match Potato Fries (Oishi)

Like Potato Crisps, Oishi Potato Fries belongs to the Beer Match Series—easily spotted with its signature matte foil pack in an attempt to lure beer drinkers, who really hate the glitz and glare especially in the wee hours of the intoxicated morning. The tagline Baked Not Fried! adds to that draw, implicitly screaming: Eat me with beer and you won’t get that fat! But you will still get fat, with a minimum shot of 3g saturated fat and 220mg sodium from the Cheese variant—and that’s already the healthiest serving in this 3-pack. The Ketchup and Plain Salted variants easily pack in more saturated fat already placing them alongside the health hazard of Beer Match Potato Crisps. If you’re a beer guzzler rather than the calorie counter, you can count on the Cheese and Ketchup Potato Fries to whoop up the revelry with their zesty kick. For the party pooper, stick with the Cheese, or better yet, ask your host for some roasted peanuts instead.

17. Strip Fries (Oishi)

One couldn’t help but admire the pleasantly designed packaging of Strip Fries that could perhaps be the next Pik-Nik, except that it contains zero trans fat. That’s right, for the non discriminating potato muncher, Pik-Nik and Strip Fries might as well be twins with Pik-Nik as the evil twin, of course.

With flavors like Sea Salt, Sour Cream and Mesquite Barbecue, bring on your oohs and aahs, but before you take the first strip, consider this: Strip Fries contains 5g saturated fat (25% of the daily requirement). A bit hefty for a stripped snack.

18. French Fries (McDonald’s)

Ah yes, the superior spud of the land goes to McDonald’s French Fries. Most sought after sandwich siding and made more delightful when eaten with hot fudge sundae. Who doesn’t love these oily pickings? The 1oz serving size at 92 calories sounds amazingly acceptable, but don’t get your hopes up. The small bag of fries already contains 2.5oz of these calorific strips—that’s a minimum of 230 calories with every meal! And since “Upsize” is word that naturally comes after “May I get your order?”, no diet is spared. If you’re planning to go low on calories but wouldn’t want to miss out on the spud siding, go for Lay’s Original. Almost the same everything but fewer by 80 calories.


19. Kettle Chips (Kettle Brand)

Thick and crisp, each bite of a Kettle Chip is filled with savory bliss. Raring to munch on something jammed with more potato? Go for Kettle Chips with only 150 calories and 1g of fat. Best of all, these chips hog less salt that their Frito Lay counterparts and still taste great. With awesome flavors like Cheddar, Sea Salt and Sour Cream, there’s plenty to meet your discriminating taste buds.

20. Funky French Fry Snax (Pinnacle)

There’s something really funky about this snack because it lists down Enriched Flour as ingredient number one. Next comes vegetable oil, then tapioca starch.

Oh wait, this is the spud section, right?

Indeed, just wait. Ingredient number 4 goes to cornstarch then finally, POTATO flour! So right, Funky does belong here—don’t hate this small fry just because it misspells the word “Snack.” Hate it for being a potato phony, with 270mg of sodium to boot.


Time to dish out again the honors and horrors in the Spud department:

Make sure the top honors stay in stock, while you can go ahead and burn the health disasters!

Keep in the Pantry:

1. Baked! Lay’s (Frito Lay)

With 0g saturated fat and only 120 calories (10 less than Baked! Ruffles), we give the floor to Baked Lay’s, Calorie Champion and Master Spud Snack. This baked beacon is the same old Lay’s with a bit of a Pringles touch. What more can potato lovers ask for?


2. Kettle Chips (Kettle Brand)

Tired of the Frito Lay cliché? Go for Kettle Chips with only 150 calories and 1g of fat. Best of all, they hog less salt that their Frito Lay counterparts and still taste great.


3. Pringles – Reduced Fat (P&G)

We know that once we pop, we can never stop munching on Pringles! They’re so incredibly scrumptious, we tend to forget to breathe after noshing on the whole can.  With 140 calories, 2g saturated fat and 135 mg of sodium, this is the healthiest Pringles yet. But next time, don’t forget the 16-chip rule!


4. Shoestring Potatoes (Oishi)

Best choice in the local market goes to these lean yet fiercely addicting spud strips. No chip in the land has gone below the 140-calorie and 3g-saturated-fat levels and Oishi’s Shoestring Potatoes has leapt to potato perfection with this snack.


5. Piattos (URC)

Lip-smacking great, you’ll be licking your fingers with satisfaction and forget etiquette ever existed. Calorie buster goes to Sour Cream with 110 calories, while the Cheese variant bestows an all-time Philippine low of 3g saturated fat.


Down the Drain:

1. Pik-Nik

Two words: TRANS FAT. (Oh, and it’s 5g of that evil fat, to boot!) Banished by food agencies and even by fast food restaurants, why does Pik-Nik still stock up on this nutritional abomination? We now have another crime to add to our list: Death by Pik-Nik.


2. Beer Match Potato Fries (Oishi)

We should be high five-ing Potato Fries for veering from the Filipino’s fondness for all things fried and going for baked. But wait, before you start formulating that special handshake with your beer buds, listen and beware: The killer Ketchup flavor has 180 calories and 8g saturated fat. 40% of the day’s fat coming from these fries alone and no drinks yet? Even beer lovers would not drink to that.


3. V-Cut and Jack ‘n Jill Potato Chips (URC)

Tied in the same number, why not? After all both chips have the same stats, they deserve to share the same spot. Providing us with 35% of our day’s saturated fat and 180 calories, these chips are a definite taboo even for the couch potato.


4. Lay’s Stax (Frito Lay)

The only way to tarnish Frito Lay’s reputation is to bring up Lay’s Stax’s fat fiesta. With 4.5g saturated fat, that’slike 4x the fat content of the potato chips. Next time, get your spelling and nutritional math right because I’d rather stack my pantry with Pringles.


5. French Fries (McDonald’s)

Free from trans fat and the other health hazards, these fries seem to escape the nutritional wrath—but we’re talking about 1oz here. A bag of Small fries actually contains 2.5 oz, Medium with 4.1oz and Large with 5.4oz. Come on, no one eats Small French Fries, unless you’re really scrimping on cash! So let’s take medium as an example: 377 calories, 262 mg sodium and layers upon layers of oil. Add in 2 packets of catsup and that’s 400+ calories of indigestible potatoes in your belly.


And that ends another junkie’s section on the world’s favorite snack: Potato Chips. Stay tuned for the nutritional facts comparison in an upcoming entry. In the meantime, spuds up!

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Who let the cat out of the bag?

I did. Well, to be more specific: We will.

“Stop being so cryptic,” you might think, so let me go straight to the point. The Lazy Black Cat’s going to strip these snack-time favorites we call “junk foods” bare and spill the beans on their horrendous nutritional labels and chemical-infested chips and pieces.

We need to bring back justice in the junk food universe (which has been harshly contaminated by bad fats and excessive sugar and salt), or else everyone will be flabby and bald by the end of the decade. Calendar check—that’s right—2011 just started. On the off-chance this decade has been christened with an –ing nickname, it sure isn’t synonymous to nutrition.

Anyway, with the nutritional assessment and catty remarks of this self-proclaimed food savant, let’s all hope that we can survive the Terrible 10’s (plausible, right?) and welcome the Roaring 20’s with both legs and kidneys functional. If we do, then consider this blog as having succeeded in its gastronomic mission.

Stay tuned, as this blog will be brewing in no time.


I counted 4 clichés—my bad. I confess to being a cliché-holic out of verbal enjoyment. However I will steer clear from these literary embarrassments as much as possible, not to mention suppress the temptation of dishing out cat-related idioms and expressions. In case I do fall for the truism trap, feel free to point them out, so that I can acknowledge your benevolence.

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