Tag Archives: Sugar

Nuts About Soy Butter

There was a time when peanut butter was banned entry in our fridge because it triggered the rise of our adolescent bestie, the zit. Poor Peter Pan and Jif had to live a life of neglect along with the vegetables, as we favored cheese and eggs for our sandwiches.

Lately though, Peanut Butter has slowly been making its way back in our sandwiches, being protein-deprived most of the time. Lounging around the supermarket aisles and reading nutritional labels of peanut butter brands gave me a pretty clear direction on future purchases.

Actually, the peanut butter mantra is rather simple (I apologize in advance for committing treason):

  •  NO to local brands, unless you want a weekly visit to the dentist (and we do admit that an annual visit is already a pain).
  • As for foreign commercial brands, NO to Goober and my childhood sweetheart, Peter Pan.
  • YES to Skippy Natural (the one with “no need to stir” printed).
  • YES to Laura Scudder Organic Peanut Butter (love)!
  • MAYBE to PB Co. Dark Chocolate and Green Tea Peanut Butter because they’re new and I only bought them because they’re so kawai and cheap!
  • Last but not the least, NEVER to crunchy peanut butter! Damn, you make chewing such a difficult task!

I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and Skippy Natural

By default, the calories and fat level of peanut butter are normally high, so for those seeking a “healthier” option, go for an ingredient list that shows mainly Roasted Peanuts, as is the case for organic brands like Laura Scudder.

In the supermarket though, I’ve found that Skippy Natural already presents the least damaging nutritional data with 190 calories, 18% Saturated Fat and 3g sugar for every 2 tablespoons. That serving isn’t particularly diet-variety, so you can probably imagine that what to expect from other brands: flab or an early death.

Healthy Options, the store, provides other ” nut butter” categories that are health-friendly but on the budget-averse side. Seriously, I am still in the process of saving up for the almond butter, which costs as much as a facial (see why I’m torn) so I’ve settled for an interesting alternative: SoyNut Butter.

I.M. Healthy Soy Nut Butter has a dubious sound to its name and blue jar but with 170 calories, 8% saturated fat and 3g sugar for 2 tablespoons and without a speck of NUT, it’s an adolescent’s dream cream. Soybeans replace the nuts, so the protein content isn’t compromised. For anti-nuts, pimply kids or soy aficionados, here’s the sandwich spread we’ve been looking for (I’m the anti-nut, soy aficionado).

(Left) I.M. Healthy and (R) Skippy Natural

I.M. Healthy Soy Butter, Peanut-Free!

Don’t expect it to taste like peanut because it’s soy. The soy butter resembles the texture, color and overall “feel” of peanut butter but with hints of the soy flavor.

Don’t know what this “soy flavor” I’m talking about? Think soy milk or taho (for the Pinoys) and incorporate that taste with peanut butter.

Weird? Not really, my stash is half empty already.

Whether it’s peanut butter or soy or even to-die-for almond butter, what’s important is that every jar contains mainly these nuts or soybeans and less of the non essentials (like sugar, salt and other ingredient we more than 3 syllables). Even if I did look like a fool reading every jar in the grocery, I’m glad I found what I wanted: Skippy Natural and I.M Healthy Soy Butter. 

Glad to have you in my fridge. Now if only we can keep you long enough.


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Got Tea? Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v.2

As I read my previous top milk tea list (Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila), circa September 2011, I cringe and apologize for showing inexperience and passing off this passé list as a work of a tea connoisseur. Evil dazes and big question marks met my shallow judgment, and I admit that Kozui made it to the list because I found its green tea-inspired theme so kawaii (“cute”)!

The superficiality and naiveté have got to end, and so I proudly bring out the 2011 Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v2. No list is perfect, as no taste buds are alike, so treat it as a guide to this cat’s pet drinks to end 2011. Before you read on though, please not that I am disorganized, hate tapioca pearls, have a propensity to misquote prices and detest sugar, extra sweetness and creaminess—which my list will considerably reflect. Other than these flaws, tea is my next favorite drink to water, and so I wage war to those who screw up this life-changing brew.

Chatime Philippines Jenina Gonzales

1.       CHATIME  

Chatime remains as the undisputed milk tea provider as it combines price, flavor, variety and location. The customizable ice setting brings bias to my decision, being constantly allergic to ice-dominant drinks. Chatime’s got mousse, frap-like concoctions, milk teas, fruit teas and the add-ons that you’d expect from the typical milk tea fares—in large servings, so P100 already ensures one mighty burp. A loyal patron of the matcha mousse with pudding, I’d brave storms just to order this comfort drink. With an extensive offering that includes interesting and novel categories such as QQ Jelly and Oriental Pop Teas, I ought to live beside a branch. With newly opened branch in Unimartuh-oh, Happy Lemon’s got one less reason to be happy.

Serenitea Jenina Gonzales


Serenitea brews teas right in front of you, so as far as “organic” goes this has got to be the closest to Mother Nature’s green heart. With roasted rice and whatnot topping the drinks, there’s the feeling of natural goodness that every cup delivers. Going 0% sweetness wouldn’t be a problem because the tea’s flavor is strong, vibrant and soothing. Spying the Serenitea branch along Jupiter was awesome sight for the Makati dwellers and workers, who need a break from the sugar-infested drinks and syrupy fares of the central business district. Genmaicha Tea Latte makes my top list, and with pepper tofu, potato and chicken chops in the menu, not to mention Amaretto Tea Latte, there’s always a reason to find peace in Serenitea. 

Gong Cha Philippines J.Anne Gonzales

3.       GONG CHA 

Gong Cha collects lines for a living because every Gong Cha branch is perhaps never without a patron. Gong Cha offers milk teas, even “creams” up drinks for the non tea lover and offers fancy combinations (creative mixes) for the adventurous. Youngsters and yuppies may find delight in the ice cream and coffee offerings, so it has evolved into a tea-coffee place that can’t do without cream. Gong Cha’s tagline is probably: Location, location, location—and has effectively lived by this mantra. Properly situated, even in foodcourts, no one can ever “not” find Gong Cha. It finds you, and so popularity vote goes to this one.

Happy Lemon Philippines Jenina Gonzales

4.       HAPPY LEMON  

This will sound very immature but I have to say it still: Chris Tiu’s milk tea place. Chris Tiu + kawaii-sounding drink names in that signature smiley cup are enough to send giggly girls flocking to Happy Lemon. In Eastwood, Greenhills, etc. and soon in Trinoma, expect kids to arrive in hordes and sample the “rock salt and cheese” everyone’s talking about. The fancy names do live up to their expectations and produce fun and delightful drinks. I’ve found much love with my Matcha faves (matcha with adzuki bean and pudding and matcha with malt). From yakult to yogurt and lemon series, there’s a lot more reason to visit Happy Lemon than just basketball and boys.

 Cha Dao Philippines Jenina Gonzales

5.       CHA DAO 

Cha Dao is amazingly cheap, you can expect change for P100—and we’re talking Large with add-ons already! Assam and Wintermelon are crowd pleasers, but you can still expect the common favorites: Green tea, matcha, oolong, chocolate and classic. Why, they even have Kopiko – so very Pinoy!  Black sugar seems to be their not-so-secret ingredient, while the popping bobba as an add-on is sure to be a favorite (count me in). A locally established joint and based mainly in the Quezon City area, now there’s more reason to chill at home. Oh yeah, they deliver too!

Moonleaf J.Anne Gonzales


Flying to the moon may be a rare occurrence, but finding a P55 milk tea in Manila isn’t. Moonleaf’s got a pretty simplified menu scheme, 2 price segments (P45 and P55) for the drinks and add-ons—all offered in those XL cups (they’re really huge).  Wintermelon’s still on the list but so is my new favorite Oolong. Don’t be hasty in judging the giant coolers; they contain fabulous and tasty brews of various teas (like Jasmine and Black). Student’s choice award would probably go to Moonleaf as it bests others in terms of price, location (scattered in Diliman area, among other places) and taste (rich in flavor and caffeine). Note for the insomniac: Do not consume after 3pm or you’ll end up a zombie like I did! Note for the students: Now you can party, errrr, study all night!

That’s it for my Best 6 for 2011. I ended up with 6 because I couldn’t choose between Cha Dao and Moonleaf, so I included them both!

Many haters may distrust milk teas and deem them ‘’faddish drinks cloaked in Asian health myths” but since they contain mainly milk, tea, ice and some sweetener, can’t say they’re detrimental to our health either. With inexpensive choices available and unsweetened varieties part of the menus, the appeal is compelling and universal. At least they taste better than coffee (for me), supposedly harbor less calories than frozen yogurt and sit well with the budget friendly.

Milk teas are actually doing some kind of public service by getting the population to drink tea, disguised with fancy names and flavors—but tea nevertheless! That’s some kind of feat for a nation that discriminates vegans, hates anything that taste like leaves and thinks tea is “grandma’s drink.”

All rigth, tea time!

Previous Links:

Top 5 Milk Teas v.1: Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila

Chatime: It’s Cha Time! (Chatime @ SM North)

Happy Lemon: Promenade Picks: BonChon Chicken and Happy Lemon

Gong Cha: Going, Going, Gong Cha!

Cha Dao: Cha Dao To-Go

Moonleaf: Fly me to the Moonleaf Tea House


Filed under Beverages, Home

Let’s Jamba! (Jamba Juice BGC)

Pacquiao will probably hate me, but chaos-free EDSA during his match vs Marquez was too tempting for a swift drive to Jamba Juice at Bonifacio Global City. The nation might scorn me for abandoning local pride in pursuit of fruit, but I can never ignore the whimsical reasoning of my stomach. That, and my sleepless nights over acai have got to end!

The JJ Balloon, a better navigator than Googlemaps

It was a dehydrating trek to the Jamba area (it’s across R.O.X. or follow the balloon) located in this pristine lot with sawdust still layering some seats. There was a country vibe to the facade, which served the fruity-Jamba image quite well, but of course inside was rather the opposite: vermillion and sweet chaos. Good thing the lines weren’t that long. Skipping the Pacquiao match had its perks – reduced queuing time, which I imagine could be a real nuisance once the hordes of hungry sports fanatics decide to celebrate with mangoes, steel-cut oats and berries.

The smoothies and other drinks were prepared on-the-spot, so the constant buzz of the blenders forms the background sound for those who chose to dine inside. Skipping the aircon and going for the outdoorsy feel was another option: peace, quiet, a lot of sunlight and as already mentioned, sawdust.

Still, I’d go for country over blender music.

The infamous photobooth (Oh wait, is that my foot?)

First timers would be delighted to see their drinks poured from a hodge podge of raw materials, blended and transformed into those colorful smoothies. For those who can’t get enough of photos and tagging themselves everywhere, there’s the live photobooth which directly sends the photos to your email. Good thing, people were still in the lazy Sunday mood, so cam-whoring was not part of their agenda or perhaps my foot was just in the way. (Sorry, it was a long drive!)

(L) Acai Supercharger and (R) Banana Berry

From reading the list of ingredients of the drinks, you could already tell how the smoothie would taste, in close approximation. When I got a sip of my Acai Supercharger, it tasted way better than I had imagined. I was expecting sour-fruity shake, but what I got was Fruit by the Foot yummy-fruity flavor that was not hampered by the soymilk’s queer taste. The consistency was thick not because of the ice but because the drink was jam-packed with fruit. The same went for the Banana Berry that had that candy kind of fruity taste that brings comfort drink and nutrition in one cup.

With that voluminous serving of fruit, it’s natural to expect a lot of sugar and calories in one drink. I suppose that’s why they say it’s equivalent to a meal or a great refresher after a work-out. Whoever said Jamba Juice is a dieter’s dream still must be dreaming because with that much fruit and milk in one cup, you can’t expect to just fly away with zero calories. Same goes for diabetics who ought to check out the labels before indulging in a fruit fiesta.

Jambajuice.com is rather keen on posting the nutritional content of the drinks and food served at Jamba Juice, to which I’m grateful for. Here’s some trivia on our drinks plus what’s listed in my next visit’s to-try list:

The Acai Supercharger (16oz) is blended with acai juice, blueberries, strawberries, soymilk, raspberry sherbet, and antioxidant powerboost (equivalent to 2 fruit servings). A cup contains 260 calories, 46g sugar and 930% of the day’s Vitamin C requirement.

The Banana Berry (16oz) is blended with bananas, blueberries, apple-strawberry juice, raspberry sherbet and frozen yogurt (equivalent to 2.5 fruit servings). A cup contains 270 calories, 57g sugar and 3g fiber.

The Steel-cut Oatmeal variants are very promising buys in the future because they are all under the 300 calorie level, sport at least 5g of fiber and a maximum of 25g of sugar. With bananas, apple cinnamon and blueberry & blackberry as available toppings, this is going to be another tough decision.

If in the mood for granola (but with soymilk, so very PETA-friendly), the Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits would be very, very tempting for breakfast or snacks. Available in Mango Peach, Berry and Chunky StrawberryI can only wish that Jamba Juice will soon be blending in Quezon City! But wait, the 16oz parfait contains at least 550 calories and 55g sugar, so make sure you’re super hungry when you indulge in this granola cup!

With pretzels and California flatbreads, there really ought to be a next time. I haven’t even started with the breakfast snacks, the boosts and shots and my all-time favorite matcha!

Blending Soon in... QC? I wish.

Here’s to a new alternative to milk teas and fraps!

My grandmother might call it a  fruitshake shop wrapped in organic sophistication, but then, our blender’s broken so someone ought to make my smoothie.

Seriously though, Jamba Juice ought to blend soon somewhere up North. If you’re having trouble finding a spot, you can always use our house!


Filed under Beverages, Home

Bob’s Red Mill: Grainy Goodness

Whole grains and muesli are uncommon breakfast choices in the Philippines where fried rice, fried egg and fried beef rule the tables, menus and everyone’s wish list. Lately the cereal market has been booming, owning an entire aisle in supermarkets which is a great improvement, compared to yesteryear when I practically had to kneel to get a sight of a cereal box. Catered mainly to kids though, the market is fraught with cartoon characters, free toys and sugar.

Where’d the whole grains go? Most of you don’t but I do.

Meandering through S&R, I came across these 2 whole grain cereals that were promising in their see-through bags and well, were definitely inexpensive! Okay, I admit it was the cheap part that caught my attention.

Meet Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal and Old Country Style Muesli

Do not be fooled by the 10 Grain Hot Cereal‘s mini pellets that might resemble poultry feed. Let’s just refer to them as crushed oats – sounds better, right? The entire mix is composed mainly of Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Rye, Whole Grain Triticale, Whole Grain Oats, Oat Bran, and loads more of Whole Grain ingredients, including heart friendly Flaxseed. There is definitely no whole wheat deprivation in this package and thus the underlying feature we all love: rich in fiber! A serving boasts of 5g of fiber (25% daily value) that surely tops the fiber content of boxed cereals. A serving (1/4 cup dry) also imparts only 140 calories, 1g Total Fat and no sugar. 

Don’t expect the porridge to taste like chocolate pudding though. It took me several attempts to microwave it properly to achieve a smoother blend and at times, mixed it with banana and soy milk to greatly improve the texture and flavor.

And this brings me to Old Country Style Muesli. Again, another whole wheat bonanza with Whole Grain Wheat, Date Crumbles, Sunflower seeds, Raisins Whole Grain Rye and Whole Grain Barley topping the ingredient list. A serving (1/4 cup) provides 5g of sugar, inevitably contributed by the dried fruits. It’s so good and heartwarming though, it beats other muesli brands with its nutritional content: 110 calories, 3g Total Fat and 4g Fiber

There is of course a reason why they were bought and featured at the same time: I mix the two cereals for breakfast! Thus, sugar is limited, the flavor is shared and I get the perfect texture – a combination of almond crunch, fruity smoothness, a bit of chewy from the flaxseed and tender bites from the oats. This comforting meal does not even call for milk, banana or my favorite cinnamon. It tastes great on its own and with the Omega-3 and Fiber filling every meal, it makes the perfect breakfast.

Oh, and dinner too, if you’re as weird as me.

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Ciao Gelato

Show me another frozen yogurt stand, and get ready for a barrage of not-too-pleasant banter, with resonating words like uncreative, mainstream, and so yesterday. Indeed, froyo is so 2010. It’s time to revert and find folly in the good ol’ classics, in ice cream and more specifically, gelato.

Before any verbal insurgency starts to label me as old-fashioned, bear in mind that the gelato I’m talking about isn’t the usual fat laden and tooth-decay-sweet that once kept our hippies plump. Today’s gelato is almost fat free, comes in more exotic and adventurous flavors and is available in sugar or dairy free versions. Our generation brings bliss to those harboring the unquenchable sweet tooth, and gelato can easily kick froyo out of the top spot in the almost-healthy dessert list.

A fact deliberately ignored: frozen yogurt comes with sugar and cream and almost always, the toppings are an inevitable companion to ward off the sourness that most Filipinos hate, and will never learn to love. But gelato is au natural delight—tastes superb on its own, with no need for extra toppings, cones or that repulsive whipped cream.

Gelatissimo, for example, offers 90 to 97% fat free creations, sorbet, sugar free and dairy flavors and a rotating assortment that includes quite an interesting number such as Pannacotta, Pineapple, Rum and Raisin, Apple Pie, Truffle, Hazelnut, Green Tea and Lemon Cheesecake. The list is endless, and for a scoop (P110) or two (P160), a gastronomic feeling of astonishment and sweet fill can make us forget frozen yogurt was ever born. PETA-approved dairy-free dark chocolate is a universal favorite, while flavors with a hint of liquor can surely draw in the mature crowd. Mind you, my dad went for the Rum and Raisin and ordered that ever since. Not even the lure of Hazelnut could change his mind.

Italian favorite Affogato makes a heartening treat, complete with the lush tray, while fruity flavors (lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry, etc) will make a dieter’s best friend with their low calorie content. I can probably go on about every flavor, but there’s just one thing I want to say: Why go on a monotonous froyo binge when you can enjoy an adventurous feast with gelato flavors? If you’re going to be spending the same amount anyway and ingest the same amount of calories/sugar, just go for the real thing.

Once spotted in its corner spot in Greenbelt 5, Gelatissimo has found (not so) new homes in Serendra and TriNoma (just fabulous). Now, we northern folks can expand our territorial choices, which were once composed of just Cara Mia, Stick House, Sebastian’s and of course, the ubiquitous froyo stands.

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Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila

Just last year, people barely cared about tea, considered it a post meal obligation and called it a Chinese influence – which was weird because I was actually drinking Japanese matcha.

After being snubbed for centuries, fast forward to the present: Filipinos welcoming and bombarding the milk tea joints with the same Pacquiao intensity. Strange what these Asian popstars can do to our dietary preferences. From frozen yogurt and gelato to chai latte with pudding—much better though, wouldn’t you say?

Scouring through the Metro you will spot them everywhere, with names that have nothing to do with tea to a myriad of adjectives that could possibly describe drinks. Let’s not be fooled by flashy names and pink colored teas though; TASTE still matters. Oh, and location as well.  

Here are my Top 5:

1.       Chatime – Found in some SM Malls, Chatime provides fast, cheap and cha-rming (“tea”) drinks with customizable ice and sugar settings, not to mention the plethora of toppings that includes rainbow jelly, coconut jelly and aloe vera. With huge servings and a vast menu selection, you’ll never get tired of this place and neither will your wallet. With oolong tea, chrysanthemum tea and a host of Oriental pop teas included in the selection, and the mousse variants that will take straight to froth heaven, you’ll find yourself asking: So, when’s our next Cha Time?

 2.       Happy Lemon – Insanely popularized by Chris Tiu, females first flocked to Happy Lemon for the purpose of a celeb sighting. However, with its casual ambience and trendy, enticing and fancy offerings, everyone has been raving about Happy Lemon, the place and the owner—an added bonus. With innovative drinks including malt, yakult, yogurt, blueberries, coffee, and an assortment of teas, one trip is never enough. First timers encouraged to order the bestseller Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese can only say, amidst frothy smiles, “This rocks!”

3.       Serenitea – One of the pioneers in the local milk tea scene, Serenitea fuses organic and fun tea drinking in its giant swirly cup. There’s something very zen about the sight of real tea leaves (genmaicha, oolong, assam, black, green, jasmine—you name it) being scooped from their tranquil homes and brewed to our desired tea concoction. Savor the aroma that’s enough to summon Buddha for a sip of Grass Milk Tea or Passionfruit Fruitea. Straightforward and simple, de-stress at Serenitea with its peaceful atmosphere, yummy tea drinks and delightful menu fare. Yes, they serve delish snacks as well.          http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-z1zR5QEKf7w/Tdp4IMBR0XI/AAAAAAAABhM/mrwMu5jIaSc/s1600/0147%2BTealogy%2B006.JPG

4.       Tea.ology – Unfazed by the stocking dilemma at Mercato Centrale, I fled to Tea.ology’s Il Terrazzo branch for a queue-free experience. Undulating patience required, drinks are concocted to match each buyer’s tea and sweetness preference. With an atmosphere that mimics local cafes—complete with magazine racks, tempting product visuals and ornate sounding drink names—Tea.ology provides the less sinful alternative to the local calorific hangouts. Who can resist Roasted Barley Milk Tea, Dark Chocolate Milk Tea or Kyoto Matcha Milk Tea? This place is something even tea novices would pay their respect to. Amen to that. 

http://foodplace2go.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Kozui-3.jpg5.       Kozui Green Tea Café – Winner of the “Going Green” campaign is awarded to Kozui’s teas which are mainly—what else would you expectmatcha/green tea.  Not to be outdone by the more prominent milk tea joints, Kozui  (Tomas Morato) offers its green tea blend in various concoctions and fruity flavors. Not to be missed, the ice blended Korichio ventures to the “frappy” drink but with fruity fusions and of course, whipped cream! While Kozui’s food selections may be short on the so-awesome-I’ll be-back department, its tea drinks can certainly boast of the delicious tea twist. Green, but certainly not mean.

Will the Philippines be in the running as the next Tea Capital, perhaps in Southeast Asia? At this rate, I should hope so. Forget the frozen yogurt shops and coffee joints that are making us fat, pudgy and too chatty for our mates.

This time, let’s make time for tea!


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Wake up and Smell the Cereal

Breakfast is the meal that I would shed tears for, should I miss it by waking up late or prevented by any nocturnal family member. Which is why cereal ranks as high as dessert in my beloved stash. It is one of the food items that I would waive my sugar aversions for and welcome in extravagance.

This has got to be my happiest stash yet:

– Special K Red Berries, Blueberry and Plain

– Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted and Strawberries

– Nature’s Path Organic Multigrain Oatbran Cereal and Oaty Bites.

I started the law of <5g of sugar per serving but so far, only the organic cereals and plain Special K fit the requirement—and I refuse to eat just them! Hence, the sugar waiver allows me to enjoy other Special K, Honey Bunches and Cheerios (not in picture) variants as much as I please, every morning. Also, the nutritional provisions of my stash are rather acceptable:  <1g total fat and average about 110-150 calories per serving. Add in unsweetened soymilk and a banana and that’s one lip smacking power breakfast that can surely beat pancakes and tapsilog (Filipino breakfast of dried beef, fried egg and garlic fried rice). A breezy, hasty and nutrition-packed breakfast—all the more reason to wake up early!

We shouldn’t revel in the sugary wonder of all cereals though. While discussing them all at length can be tedious, here are some brands your grocery carts and pantries should not contain: Froot Loops (Kellogg’s), Frosted Flakes (Kellogg’s), Trix (General Mills), Oreo O’s (Post), Fruity Pebbles (Post), Cookie Crisp (General Mills), Lucky Charms (General Mills), Cocoa Puffs (General Mills), Cookie Crisp (Nestle) —sweetly suicidal sans the nutritional value. Pair them with whole milk and welcome to Biggest Loserville! To know more about the nutritional info on these cereal brands, check out: http://www.acaloriecounter.com/breakfast-cereal.php

I know a lot of people who skip breakfast in their weight loss endeavor, but the opposite holds true. Breakfast is like the sinister sitter who lets you eat all the Oreos for dinner without telling mom. Breakfast gives us the perfect excuse gorge on sugary delights disguised as cereal. So really now, why ever skip breakfast?!


Filed under Check the Label, Home, Smorgasbord

When Snacks Attack

We’ve heard them all before:

Don’t skip meals.

Eat more that 3 meals a day, in small portions.

Don’t starve yourself (or you’ll get fatter).

Eat, drink and be merry!

All right then, I’m good to go.

On second thought, don’t bother lecturing the Filipino on dietary wisdom, since these wee bits of advice already form part of the daily ritual that goes by many names: merienda, snack, break, recess, kainan (“eating time”), tsibog (“food”), bogchi (still “food”) and the more discreet: patikim (“Can I taste?”), pahingi (“Can I have some?”) or Libre (“Your treat!” Very common as I seem to hear it everyday.) Naturally, food forms the center of our universe and a day without merienda can already be considered a “diet” move. “No thanks!” as a response to a food offer is unheard of in the workplace and once everyone around you starts munching on their cookies, poking around their fish balls and slurping their noodles, it’s time we reach out for our hidden stash as well, rather than suffer the indignity of a grumbling empty stomach.

My hidden stash has been dwindling lately, from budgetary cuts to my newfound, made-up allergy to sugar. Still in the process of discovering the perfect (Note: yummy, low-cal, low in sugar, CHEAP and conveniently packed) snack, I’ve listed the runners-up. They may not appeal to everyone, but they sure have helped alleviate the pangs of hunger and the sudden dizzy spells of not having eaten for 3 hours.

Can you believe it? 3 hours without food—that’s like a hunger strike. What, is it Lent?

Don’t stay hungry. Pick up a righteous snack. Hope I can help you in that department.

1.       Del Monte Fit ‘n Right Fruit Snacks (Pineapple)

Ah yes, the L-Carnitine phenomenon secures any Fit ‘n Right product at the top spot, the Fruit Snacks included of course. Retailing at about P23-24 per cup (Mixed Fruits and Pineapple), we can get 115g of pure fruit and L-Carnitine goodness sans the fat. Imagine that, for nearly the same price as 2 bananas or 1 hot fudge sundae, we get a dose of healthy fruit with less sugar, and the best part is that it only contains 30 calories!

I’ve noticed though that not everyone’s fond of fruit, especially pineapples. When you’re hungry or just bored in the office, reaching for a cup of fruit is the last thing in your mind. People would rather order in pizza or look for real carbs in the cafeteria – a natural response to workplace hunger. A fruit cup does not really appeal to the 3pm taste buds and requires refrigeration if you want to enjoy it fully. I so get it, which is why it’s not the only snack in the list. If you’re craving for something partly sweet, fruity and juicy and can well afford to shell out more that P20, this fruit cup would be superb. At least you won’t have to worry about burning off the calories after work.

Nutri facts at a glance: 1 container = 155g, 30 cal, 0 fats, 8g carbs, <1 fiber, 5g sugar.

Ingredients of Pineapple Fruit snacks: Pineapple, water, 300mg L-Carnitine, ascorbic acid, citric acid, sucralose.

2.       Nestle Yogurt

This decade has introduced Yogurt as the Superfood of our generation and has spawned trendy derivatives to milk its popularity: frozen yogurt, yogurt drinks, kefir drinks, yogurt milk, frozen Yakult, yogurt candies, etc. Amazing how lactobacillus can be super appealing despite its dubious-sounding name. Despite the price (foreign brands can fetch for about P100), there are always blank spaces and carts colliding in the race to get the prized yogurt.

Nestle seems to occupy a third of the shelf space with its Fruit Selections Yogurt, not to mention the Yogurt drinks and newly introduced 0% Fat Yogurt which honestly tastes like WATER. I endured the tasteless and watery Mango and Strawberry 0% Fat variants for a week and ended up eating more because I always paired them with a banana (a total of 170 calories). Among the regular flavors though, I most enjoy the Berry Mix. Maybe because it’s purple or manages to capture the delightful blend of the better tasting berries. Whatever. This is one, I would endure despite it 110 calorie and 2g fat content.

For the same nutritional value as a granola bar, why not go for the yogurt? Less sugar, fruit flavored, comes close to ice cream (for the hot weather), and most of all, it contains lactobacillus. Who can say no to that?


3.       Banana

Gotta be clear on what “banana” I’m talking about with its vast assortment in the local food lingo. We have banana turon (deep-fried banana with langka wrapped in lumpia wrapper), banana cue (sugar-coated fried banana), maruya (mashed banana fried in some kind of thick creamy batter) and other banana street food creations I have never heard of. What I’m referring to though is rather simple, the plain, raw, oil-free fruit—all 110 calories of it.

A Cavendish banana retails for about P12 at 7-11 and Mini-stop branches. (How long ago was this photo? Selling the banana at P10 each. Hmph.) Rich in Potassium, zero in fat and a major recovery snack, the banana can probably give water a run for its money if it were only in liquid form. A medium-sized banana can surely battle hunger and banish one’s quest for sweets since it does contain sugar. Going overboard has never produced any heart failing results but sugar spikes are common, so don’t try finishing a dozen in a day. There’s a reason why we evolved to Homo Sapiens.

4.       Apple


An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but in comes the dentist. At 95 calories, the apple can be the banana’s greatest contender to sweet, sinless snacks. True, true. It tastes great, packs in a massive crunch, provides sufficient energy and is fat-free. Fiber is at the higher level and let’s not forget that it can keep us full for hours, as it can simmer down the cravings of that nasty sweet tooth.

Like the banana though, don’t let Eve’s bait tempt you into hoarding this fruit, since it also contains nearly 19g of sugar. That’s like guzzling bottles of juice or chomping on candy all day. Keep yourself to an apple a day and you’ll have every reason to flash those pearly whites. Don’t forget to brush though.

5.       Skyflakes

Skyflakes capitalizes on the Filipino’s knack for getting hungry and has amassed its popularity on being the drawer, bag, lunchbox and pantry staple. Yes, it has a lingering presence that goes beyond our TV screens. Thin, lightly salted and goes well with practically anything, Skyflakes has got to be the ultimate hunger killer—which is certainly the case since 3 crackers pack 105 calories, 3g fat (2g of which is saturated) and 200 mg of sodium. As an added bonus, it is said to ward off another pestilence called diarrhea and single-handedly dominate every dieter’s meals.

But don’t believe everything they tell you. With its calorie and sodium content enough to battle the common “chichirya” (local term for snacks or junk food), an ingredient list that provides no nutritional value (save for a minute amount of oats) and the awful fact that it isn’t even that filling (come on, you agree, right?), even Skyflakes isn’t perfect. Yes, it’s human after all.

6.       Chocolate Milk

Come on, we’re adults, so don’t expect me to talk about Selecta Moo or Magnolia Chocolate Milk Drink. I know they taste great, but really now, who brings a carton of chocolate milk to the office? Unless I want to be the official milk guzzler or plan to fatten up for Biggest Loser. I don’t suppose, “But mommy was the one who packed my lunch today!” would actually work as a credible excuse, in the office. Especially in front of the actual mommies.

Digression aside, it’s time we went for the fits-in-my-pocket chocolate drink – Milo 3 in 1.Now that’s more like it. It’s lightweight, high in calcium and rich in the Milo goodness we all grew up to love. Mix it with your afternoon coffee or dump it in your mouth (make sure your seatmate’s off somewhere when you do this) and enjoy a power surge coated in yummy Milo form. The sugar content is rather dubious (I can’t find it!), so I haven’t indulged lately. Also, I’ve been pairing it with something solid to counter the sweetness, so I normally end up eating and drinking calories (A sachet contains 103 calories already) for my snack. Sugar and carbs do not really make a wise meal.

The same goes for Nesvita and other cereal drinks – too sweet and a pain to mix in the office. I’ve not really included the high maintenance snacks that require a spoon, hot water and mug. Too tedious for me, lazy me. Also, with my made-up allergy to sugar, I’ve been abstaining from Nesvita (Chocolate variant has 7.9g sugar while Orignal has a whopping 11g my goodness!) and its cohorts because their sweetness level is enough to give me hives, and I wouldn’t want to go on sick leave all because a cereal drink caused it. HR would never believe me!

7.       Cup Noodles

Seeing the styro cup from afar already screams Nissin Seafood Cup Noodle, complete with the garnishing and aroma of mouth-watering ramen. A bit on the heavy side, it makes the perfect snack for those who missed lunch or just had Skyflakes for lunch. With 330 calories and 2g fiber, who needs rice and a viand when all you need is hot water and you’re good to go!

Of course we all know the danger of ingesting too much cup noodles. Well I didn’t say that we should eat this every day. With its 7g saturated fat (1/3 of the day’s needs), 1690 mg sodium (your other meals better not contain salt anymore) and 25 mg cholesterol (gulp!) it should be eaten in moderation or shared to the denizen at the nearest cubicle. Since it is a bit pricey at about P70-100 per cup, I don’t suppose we can afford this kind of daily snack anyway!

Local counterparts should be likewise explored like Lucky Me and the sotanghon cup that packs in fewer calories and cost way less than P50. Go try them all, but not everyday please. This is not the best way to control population.

8.       Hot Fudge Sundae

Summer and salty food can make us mindlessly queue at the nearest Froyo or DQ counter. At P25 and only 330 calories, why not opt for a Mcdonald’s sundae? Save up on more calories by going for a sundae cone.

You can’t deny the fact that the sundae strangely goes best with French fries but resist the urge! The sundae alone already contains 7g of saturated fat and a whopping 48g of sugar, but then, no one ever said that ice cream makes you thin, right?

Diet aside, Mcdonald’s already sells the least priced and rather edible (Believe me, you do not want to know what goes in a DQ Blizzard or a Wendy’s Frosty) ice cream there is in the Philippines. It tastes pretty good too. And for only P25, please don’t be stingy and allow yourself a cup of sweet bliss. You’ll burn it anyway. Right?

9.       Dark Chocolate


Rich in flavonoids and other stimulating happy hormones, chocolate is probably the next best alternative to getting high, if you’re downtrodden, pissed or just plain sleepy. I mean, getting intoxicated can get you fired, but noshing on a bar will give you the necessary lift while still maintaining productivity and your job.

So, who wants to be employee of the year? But wait, make sure it’s dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao content), not milk or white. We don’t want a living paradox—a fat model employee. If that were the case then I’d rather get high.

I’ve gotten pretty fond of Meiji Black Chocolate because it tastes light and bitter and goes pretty well with tea, oatmeal and my peanut butter sandwich. Problem is, I could never I understand the nutritional info – all in Japanese characters! All I can get in English is the ingredient list: Sugar, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, whole milk powder, lactose, cocoa butter, lecithin and flavoring.

Hmmm.. if you’ve got anything on the darker side, I’d really appreciate it!

10. Popcorn

It’s time we stopped referring to popcorn as mere theater food. The degradation ends now! Do recognize popcorn as the new comfort food and power snack rolled into that crunchy kernel, especially if we dig into the naturally prepared varieties. Microwave popcorn packs are a no-no since they contain hydrogenated oils and butter (= heart attack), but Chef Tony’s Sugar-free Popcorn – Original packs in 139 calories and 2% fiber for every 25g serving (that’s 1/4 of a big tub).

Sweet, crunchy and undeniably addictive, popcorn is the better alternative to cookies, chips and frosted flakes (Argh, the sugar!). At P120 for that gigantic 100g tub, this sure beats similarly priced goodies: Red Mango with toppings, a slice of Starbucks Cheesecake, a fastfood combo meal, a Bag of Lay’s plus drink, or a Big-time Taters popcorn with butter and soda (bad, bad, bad, plus you can’t stash it as tomorrow’s snack).

Good thing Chef Tony thought of the resealable tub so we can keep all the popcorn to ourselves! Now that’s what we call a Smart Snack.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve not listed food items such as peanuts (I don’t like them), carrot or cucumber sticks (Let us uncover our rabbit selves at home but when in the office, it is best to stay in human form), sandwiches (that’s what I have for lunch), cookies (those especially baked for diabetics and weight watchers taste like paper), tuna (will stink up the office), chips (I said low-cal, not a fat fest), pizza, ice cream, fries (all inconceivable here) as this is my biased and self-serving list.

If this list helps you decide what to stock up on your next grocery trip, then great, I feel so fulfilled.

If you find this utterly useless though, then that’s not really my problem.

“Have a gum,” would be my parting words.


Filed under Check the Label, Home, Smorgasbord

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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Filed under Check the Label, Home, Junk Food