Category Archives: Product Review

hickory farms

A couple of foods are staples in my house during the Superbowl. Chili, which is going to be a future entry, and a hickory farms beef stick to snack on. In keeping with my effort to see if I can sacrifice fat but not flavor I picked up a hickory farms turkey summer sausage instead.

The first thing I noticed is that the turkey versions come in a few different flavors. A little red flag went 21_t.jpgup when I saw this because I wondered if they were trying to “enhance” the flavor of the turkey version by adding something. In the beef version all we need is the smoked meat goodness but for the turkey one I was forced to choose something with added honey and brown sugar or jalapeno.

Turns out my red flag was right. The first thing I noticed was the color, it seemed a little to light for a smoked meat product and the texture just didn’t have that snap that I have come to expect from hickory farms. For me there was no comparison between the turkey summer sausage and the traditional beef stick. Overall the turkey version was edible, it was just a completely different product and not something I’ll be including in future Superbowl menus.

The one thing you can’t ignore about the two though is the comparison in fat. Looking at 2oz of both products the regular beef stick has 190 calories with 150 of them from fat including 9 grams of Sat Fat and 1 gram of Trans Fat. The turkey version, however, has a more modest 90 calories with 30 of it from Fat including 1 gram of Sat Fat and no Trans Fat. Those numbers do show a huge difference but honestly I would just skip the turkey stick and eat more chili, salsa and guacamole all of which are tasty and if prepared right good for you.


fried chicken sandwich

I am a sucker for Kentucky Fried Chicken but I know that it isn’t a health food. Recently I wondered which fast fried chicken option was the least harmful so I compared the numbers on chicken sandwiches at KFC, Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A.

First KFC’s Crispy Twister which came in at 550 calories (250 of it from fat) with 6 grams of Sat Fat

Next was Chick-fil-A Classic Sandwich with 410 calories (150 from fat) with 3.5 grams of Sat Fat

And finally Popeye’s Tame Chicken Deluxe Sandwich with a petite 728 calories (351 from fat) with 9 grams of Sat Fat.

chickfilacow.jpgI actually thought the three sandwiches would come in pretty close to each other so I was shocked to find how much more the Popeye’s version was. So much so that I looked at a couple of different sources to make sure these numbers were right. It just goes to show that doing a little research up front can save a lot of calories and fat grams on the back side. Armed with my new info I hit up the local Chick-fil-A to try the classic sandwich and see if I liked it as much as KFC’s. Sorry Colonel, I liked it better. The wheat bun seemed fresher and the patty itself seemed to have a lot more juice than the KFC version.

Now I know that the grilled versions most of these restaurants offer are much better choices, and honestly I do pick those most of the time. But when I’m in the mood for a little fried chicken goodness on a bun looks like I’m heading to Chick-fil-A.

plant sterols

In 2000 the FDA approved the health claim that plant sterols reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels.   Since then products have begun to pop up that contain plant sterols with the latest being Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange Juice.   First of all I have to admit that I’m leery of products that claim they have plant sterols in them because of how loose the requirements on these claims are.  But, I wanted to take a look at this and other products to see what the deal was.

On the label it says that “foods containing at least 0.4 g per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a total daily intake of at least 0.8 g, as part of a low saturated fat, low trans fat and low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Minute Maid Heart Wise contains 1g of plant sterols per serving (which is 80z).”   Then I compared that to Promise activ™ SuperShots™ which is a yogurt based drink that provides 2.0g plant sterols per serving (which is one supershot).

The interesting thing is that reading the FDA report the way this stuff works is that it really should be taken with a meal.   Which means in theory you should take 0.4g with lunch and 0.4g with dinner and taking more than that has not been proven to make any more or less of a difference.    Hmmmm…so let’s look at the price.

At my local Vons the Minute Maid is 0.08cents an ounce and the Promise Active drinks are .30cents an ounce…..ouch!     Considering the Promise shots aren’t really designed to drink half of it and re-seal it, purchasing the Minute Maid (although higher priced than normal orange juice) seems like a better and more usable way to consume your twice daily sterols.   But, keep in mind that you need to drink two glasses of juice a day…one with each meal to get the full impact.   So that means you’ll be going through about a bottle of juice every three and a half days.    

So, if you drink OJ that much anyway then I could see it being a good thing.  I drink a couple of glasses a week, so for me that would be A LOT of OJ.  So, how to include them?   That is a topic for another time.


Pizza is a weakness for me and something that can pack a high cholesterol punch.   Sure you can make it “lighter” or better for you, but when I think pizza I really think pepperoni and cheese.   So, I tried Hormel’s version of Turkey Pepperoni vs. their normal pepperoni to see if I could eat a little healthier without sacrificing flavor.   

Looking at the nutrition facts I was happy to find that the turkey version of this popular dried meat has 70% less fat than the regular kind.   Guess what else…..I can’t taste the difference.    I took a slice of both, plain, without anything else to distract me and ate them one at a time….to me there was no difference.  So imagine when you throw in the sauce, a little cheese, etc.  you won’t miss the fat.    This is the best find yet.  

corn dogs

I was less than excited to do this product test after my experience with the soy hot dogs.    The only thing I had going for me was that I found out long ago everything tastes better on a stick.  For my corn dog taste test I decided to pick three alternative type dogs and just elminate the traditional ones all together.   I’ve had a normal corn dog, everyone has, so I have a good idea of what they taste like.  For this entry I picked a soy corn dog (sigh), a turkey corn dog and a chicken corn dog.

serveimage.jpgserveimage.jpgserveimage.jpgI started with the turkey dog and to be honest this one had an unfair advantage.   Hot Dog on a Stick currently operates in 12 states and started making their namesake in 1946.    You may not be aware but HDOS uses 100% Turkey dogs and fries them to perfection.   But at 20% of my daily Saturated Fat allowance and 17% of my daily cholesterol it is by no means a health food.    

Next I bit the bullet and heated up the soy dogs by MorningStar Farms, these have 3% of my daily Saturated Fat and 0% Cholesterol so I anticipated a disaster like my soy hot dog challenge I did last week.   I was wrong.    Although not as tasty as the HDOS these were absolutely passable.  I baked them in the oven to make them a little crisp and with a sizable helping of Ketchup and Mustard I enjoyed it.    The only downside is that they are a little bland, the flavor didn’t jump off the stick but it didn’t make me jump off the couch to spit it out either. 

Finally the chicken dogs and for these I picked the leader in chicken, Foster Farms.  What I found interesting was if you didn’t want cheese in the corn dog (which I’m against by the way) then you had to get a honey battered one.    This ended up being the deal breaker for me.  The batter just didn’t taste right and I couldn’t get over the sweetness.  

The verdict is that I’m only going to keep the MorningStar Corn Dogs in my freezer.    But, if I happen to be at the mall with a Hot Dog on a Stick and need to eat lunch….there are worse choices right?

hot dogs

When I was thinking about what foods I eat that can’t be good for me, Hot Dogs came to mind right away.   So I bought a couple of options.   I picked a soy based dog called “Smart Dogs” by Lightlife and Turkey dog by Louis Rich.

smart dog

I started with the one I was least excited about trying, the Smart Dog.   The marketing says, “The world’s first FAT FREE hot dog.  Real hot dog flavor with the snap of a meat frank…without the fat, calories or nitrites.”   How could I have not heard about this earlier?  Fat Free and real hot dog flavor…..that sounds like exactly what I was looking for…..hey why is it a light brown?   After getting over the color I took my first bite and honestly that is as far as I got.     To get an idea of what it’s like take a banana (for the texture) and marinate it in liquid smoke for about 3 months.    Then slap some mustard on it and slam it down.    I kept the pack in my fridge for a few weeks and then tossed them, but luckily they were only $4.29 for a pack vs. the $1.25 I got the Turkey dogs for.  Smart Dogs get a VETO!

Next on to the Turkey dogs by Louis Rich.   Again the color was different than a normal hot dog, but not as off as the soy dog of death.     For these I was pleasantly surprised, I could eat em and they tasted pretty good.     Looking at the numbers these have 8% of my Saturated fat and 8% of my cholesterol for the day, but compared to a normal dog that has 24% of my Saturated fat and 18% of my daily cholesterol I’m saying this first test is a victory.

So here is how I eat em.    Louis Rich Turkey Dog, store brand wheat bun, Grey Poupon and Sabrett’s Onion in Sauce.     Is it a Nathans, Pinks or Dodger Dog?   Nope, but a very real alternative.