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How to Choose the Best Yogurt When you Have PCOS

How to Choose the Best Yogurt When you Have PCOS

 Who the heck does not like yogurt ? After all the possibilities for its use are endless! It can be used as a base in parfaits, smoothies, soups, pancakes, and can even pinch-hit for sour cream. It is rich in protein and calcium and also contains potassium which is important for ♥ health.  Yogurt also contains live, active bacteria cultures. These active bacteria cultures are also known as probiotics and are great for maintaining a healthy gut and digestive system. However, with so many choices choosing the best yogurt can be challenging to say the least!

Navigating the grocery store in search of can be tricky! Need some help grocery shopping? Check out my article on that very topic! I was in Shop Rite the other day and I kid you not – the yogurt aisle almost spans the entire length of the dairy aisle. I remember back in the day – the only two choices were Yoplait and Columbo . There were no flips, dips or cherry pie-flavored yogurts. Just the normal variety of boring flavors like vanilla, peach and strawberry.

 

Now a days there are SO many different options to choose from. Greek, traditional, flavored, plain, fruit filled, and varying percentages of fat are all factors to consider when buying yogurt. But what do these terms all mean? What is the best one in light of all these choices? Let’s get to the bottom of this madness asap!

yogurt bottles

 

What percentage fat yogurt should I buy? 

 

This question is tough. In all honesty – it depends on your #dietarygoals are as well as your overall health.

If you have high cholesterol or are just trying to keep your calories on the low side then choose either a low-fat (1%) or fat-free (0%) variety. These two choices generally have the lowest calorie value and contain a nominal amount of saturated fat. Look for labels that have the lowest amount of saturated fat.

 

 

when choosing yogurt

 

 

However, if your cholesterol is not an issue and you are just looking for a yogurt with a thicker consistency then opt for a 2 % or full-fat kind.

I personally prefer 2% or full-fat plain yogurt. My favorite traditional brands when I can find them (please don’t laugh 🙂 ) are YoBaby Whole Milk Plain Yogurt or Liberte Plain 2 % Yogurt.  Shop Rite generally carries the YoBaby.  But lately I can only find the plain Liberte yogurt at Whole Foods. The reason why I like these brands is # 1 (and most important) they taste pretty darn good ! And # 2 both brands contain under 10 grams of sugar. Also they have no added funky ingredients.

 

Which is best: Greek or traditional ?   

 

Greek yogurt is strained which makes it thicker, creamier, and smoother than traditional kind.  When comparing Greek and traditional yogurt, Greek has around double the protein but does have less calcium than traditional kind. Both the Greek and traditional varieties are usually well tolerated by individuals with lactose intolerance. However, the Greek type has less lactose (than traditional) and may be better tolerated than traditional yogurt. Most people prefer Greek to traditional yogurt because of the higher protein content.

Nowadays pretty much every major brand has both a traditional and a Greek yogurt. Even Chobani who started out their career just selling Greek now has a “old-fashioned non-Greek traditional smooth yogurt”. Therefore, you can be brand loyal and still get your pick of the litter!

However, please don’t fret if you just don’t love Greek yogurt! Many of my patients don’t like it and prefer the traditional style instead. Keep in mind – the average American consumes more than their daily requirement for protein. So if you opt for the non-Greek variety you will not be selling yourself short in meeting your protein needs.

 

 

Favorite Greek yogurt brands

 

For the Greek yogurts I personally bounce around brand wise depending upon what is on sale and has the lowest amount of sugar per serving. I shop mostly at Trader Joe’s. But unfortunately (aside from their ‘plain’ Greek) they do not carry a whole bunch of options under 10 – 12 grams of sugar.  Some of the Greek style brands in my fridge now are Siggi’s Greek – 2 % Black Cherry, Fage Yogurt-2% plain, and Chobani Plain Whole-Milk Greek Yogurt.

 

Should I buy plain, flavored, or fruit filled yogurt?  

 

One of the major issues with yogurt is it often has added sugars. It is made from milk (duh!) and therefore has naturally occurring sugar in it, called lactose. Thus, if you look at the nutrition label of plain yogurt, you will notice it has 12 g of carbohydrates.  Since this sugar is naturally occurring, it is not of concern. However, what is concerning is the large amount of added sugars in many yogurts. A serving of flavored yogurt can contain an upward of 30 grams of sugar depending on the brand. That is a wholelata sugar! A can of soda has about 24 grams of sugar so the comparison is clear.

 

 

How to dodge the sugar

 

You can skip the added sugars by buying plain yogurt. Then you can be creative and add your own fruit and flavors such as cinnamon and vanilla. Hello fancy pants! You can even go nuts with different extracts such as almond, coconut or coconut to pump up the flavors without the calories or carbs.

When you buy the flavored variety, check the nutrition label and try to buy a containing less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Some of the brands with the lowest amount of sugars including Dannon Oikos Triple Zero, Chobani Hints, and Siggi’s Greek mentioned above.

 

yogurt bowl

Trying to decrease your overall sugar intake? Choose plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit #squadgoals

 

Navigating the yogurt aisle used to be challenging! But now, you should be able to navigate the dairy aisle with ease. Opt for low sugar yogurts that fit your dietary goals, budget and taste palate.  Selecting an appropriate yogurt should now be pretty easy!

As always, if you have a question bring the nutrition label to your nutrition visit and the dietitian can review it.

What is your absolute favorite one on the market? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

 

Snack from the Fridge: PCOS-friendly snacks

Snack from the Fridge: PCOS-friendly snacks

PCOS-friendly snacks

 

I confess. I am a snacker at ♥. I know some people just don’t snack. They eat their 2-3 main meals per day and nothing in between. I my friends am NOT that girl. However, throw PCOS into the mix and snacking can become somewhat daunting! However, I have got you covered today with some easy-peasy PCOS-friendly snacks.

 

Often I prefer to have snacks rather than meals. But not just one or two snacks. More like a personal ‘buffet’ of all things snacky. You see, my husband is not a snacker. Because well, tough guys don’t snack. Hee Hee! SO any and all snacks in the house are for me, myself and I.

 

A little guac, some hummus, a couple bites of scrumptious cheese, some raw veggies and maybe even a couple spoonfuls of full-fat Greek yogurt. That sort of stuff just makes my heart smile. It is like a party – but I am the only one there. After all, snacks are delicious.  Right? I am just sayin’.

 

snacks

Trader Joe’s Guiltless Guacamole – one of my all time favorite PCOS-friendly snacks

 

 

Therefore, as a Registered Dietitian you probably don’t find it odd that I get tons of questions about snacks. I was trying to think if I could come up with a universal guideline when it comes to snacks. Then it hit me – mid ‘buffet’ line at my very own house: snack from the fridge NOT your cabinets.

 

Get Your PCOS Snack On

 

Fruit, veggies, yogurt, single-serving hummus & guacamole, cheese, and even leftovers are all super-duper healthy snack-a-roonies that all live in your refrigerator. Compare them with the snacks like chips, crackers, sweets and treats that typically reside in your kitchen cupboards. Therefore, looking to your your fridge when you get the munchies should be a no-brainer!

 

Set yourself up to succeed with healthy snacking by being proactive. Stock your refrigerator with healthy (and delicious!) options and make a solid effort to prep them ahead.

 

Wash and slice fruits and veggies BEFORE you even put them away when you return from the supermarket. Rock your Instapot to hard boil a half a dozen eggs. Can I say game changer! Or if you are super lazy grab some precooked hard boiled eggs from Traders.  And no – they are not as sketchy as you might think. Stash leftovers in single-serving clear containers (so there is no guessing what is in them!). No leftovers? Pick up a ¼ pound of chicken or tuna salad from the deli. Both make for delicious snacks. Buy single servings of cheese like Baby Bels, mozzarella sticks and Laughing Cow. Then arrange your refrigerator so the healthier foods are front and center, making it more likely that they’ll be the first thing you reach for when you’re hungry.

Easy peasy! Now sit down and high five yourself. You worked hard. No get yo’self a snack.

Hugs & High Fives,

snacks

 

 

P.S. Never. Ever. Ever. Grocery shop when you are hungry! Here is actual footage of my cart at Trader Joe’s last week.

 

snacks

Dietitian Disaster!

 

 

I kid you not! There is pretty much about $150 worth of snacks in that cart ♥ At least I bought bananas, right? Even dietitians have less than stellar days!

 

PCOS Friendly Fats

PCOS Friendly Fats

PCOS Friendly Fats

Did you know that there was such a thing as PCOS friendly fats? Well, if you didn’t thank goodness you landed on my page! I am so happy to have YOU!

There is no denying that fat should be an integral part of any women’s diet. But this is especially true for the diets of women with PCOS. For these amazing women, eating fat (and the right type!) is actual critical to their overall health. There are SO many ways dietary fats are beneficial. Where the heck do I even begin!?!

Number one, they give your body with energy to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats also help your body absorb vitamins, mineral and important nutrients. They also form the backbone of your sex hormones. This last part is especially important, as we know PCOS is a disorder marked by imbalances in hormones. If women don’t take in enough fat then they don’t have the natural resources to correct these imbalances.

Not to mention – fats made us feel FULL! And who does not want to feel full? Fats are such an important part of our diet – yet many women with PCOS tend to shy away from them. And the plot thickens ….

women with PCOS are twice as likely to suffer from athersclerosis

Did you know that women with PCOS are twice as likely to suffer from atherosclerosis than women without syndrome? Yup. This is because many women with PCOS, by nature of the disorder, have several inherent risk factors for heart disease. Many women with PCOS present with central adiposity (excess weight in the belly area), high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low ‘good’ cholesterol levels.  All of these risks significantly raise their risk heart disease and stroke.

SO I know what you are probably thinking …

“Hey Amy! So you are telling me that women with PCOS are already at risk for heart disease and you still want me to eat fat? What gives?!? Have you lost your little mind?”

Believe me on this one, cysta!

The simple answer – “Absolutely!” But fret not, the PCOS dietitian is here to give you the skinny on the best types of fats to include in your diet. But I will warn you – the explanation is anything but simple. You see, it critical to note that not all fats are created equal. Some are better for us than others. But even saying that is oversimplifying fats. The quality of fats are dictated by where they come from, how they are processed, raised or prepared as well as additives or preservatives it may contain. All these variables come into play when we considering whether a fat “good” for us or not. In future blogs we tackle the types of fats you should avoid – but onward to the good stuff!

 

PCOS Friendly Fats

 

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)

Let me count the ways I love monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)! MUFA’s can have a beneficial effect on your heart by optimizing your cholesterol levels. One of the ways that MUFAs do this is that they help lower the “bad” types of cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and while increasing the “good” (HDL) kind.

Tip: When trying to figure out the two cholesterol levels remember it this way: LDL is your lousy cholesterol and you want this level LOW, while HDL is the healthy cholesterol and you want these levels HIGH.

By optimizing these two values you can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, research supports that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful for women with PCOS. Trifecta! Talk about being a PCOS friendly fat!  Monounsaturated fats also offer nutrients to help with cell development and provide a good source of vitamin E in the diet. Where can you get your hands on these lovelys? The PCOS Dietitian would not leave you hanging!

Examples of Monounsaturated fats

olive oil bottle healthy fats

Foods high in healthy MUFAs include: olives, extra virgin olive oil, cold-processed sesame oil, avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazel, pecan and cashew) and seeds (sesame & pumpkin)

pumpkins seeds are really a PCOS friendly fat

                                                     But when speaking of the good –  there is always an exception to the rule – Refined Monounsaturated Fats

Canola oil, peanut oil and safflower oil are also monounsaturated fats. However, they are what I would consider modern refined processed oils. The majority of these crops are grown from genetically modified seeds. The oils are treated with high heat and toxic solvents. The processing increases the shelf life of the oils and removes most of the natural flavoring, making them more attractive for the industrial food industry. Please limit your intake of these types of oils as much as possible.

Buying tip: Most olive oils are actually blends of several oils including vegetable oils. Therefore, when buying olive oil look for the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) logo. For Italian olive oils look for (DOP), Spanish (DO) and ones from France (AOC) to make sure it is authentic.

How Much Do You Need of Monounsaturated Fats?

No need to go krazy! All fats, including monounsaturated fats, are high in calories, so use MUFAs only relative to your personalized daily fat requirements. Consume MUFA-rich foods instead of other fatty foods, NOT in addition to them! The goal for your overall fat intake should be around 25-35 % of your total calories. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated should make up the bulk of this.

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)

Well, I have to say, I have just as much love for PUFAs as I do for MUFAs. When you pour your favorite cooking oil into a pan, there’s a good chance you’re using a polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats are used to build cell membranes and line the covering of nerves. They are needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and for controlling inflammation. Studies support that eating polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats or highly refined carbohydrates reduces harmful LDL cholesterol and has a positive effect on the cholesterol profile. They can also help lower triglycerides.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats

 Examples of foods high in polyunsaturated fats include: walnuts, sunflower seeds, organic tofu, soybeans, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout.

Salmon contains lots of PCOS friendly fats

 

Note – just like the monounsaturated oils – canola, safflower and peanut oil – soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil also fall under the same ill as those modernized processed oils. They too are highly processed oils that go through an insane amount of processing with chemical solvents, steamers, neutralizers, de-waxers, bleach and deodorizers before they end up in the bottle. So please, when possible reduce their use in your cooking and limit your general consumption of foods that contain them.

 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Superstars

But on a much more positive note, I bet you have heard of the superstar Omega 3 fatty acids! Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats the body cannot produce. Therefore, we need to consume these guys in the diet.

PCOS Friendly Fats include foods like oysters

 Did you know that there are three different types of omega 3 fatty acids? The three types are DHA, EPA & AHA. DHA and EPA are the preferrable form and are found in foods like cold-water fish and algae. While ALA is found more in plant foods such as nuts and seeds, as well as in grass-fed beef.

The Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are seemingly endless! When consumed in right amounts they are known to help with everything from promoting a healthy pregnancy, to decreasing the risks for depression, dementia and even memory loss. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats. Not too shabby, right?

Examples of Foods Containing Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Foods that are high in omega 3’s include salmon (wild caught & sockeye), herring, mackerel, anchovies, oysters, sardines, pole & line caught tuna and lake trout. Vegetarian sources include algae (seaweed) walnuts and flax.

Buying tip: Polyunsaturated fats are much more vulnerable than monounsaturated fats. PUFAs are sensitive to light, air and sunlight. Therefore, keep foods high in PUFA’s away from direct light and when permissive keep in the refrigerator to prevent them from going rancid.

How Much Do You Need of Polyunsaturated Fats?

As important as PUFAs are there is no set requirement. However, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least 6 ounces of cold-water fish twice per week. If you do not like fish or feel like you are falling short on your intake, you may want to talk to your physician about a supplement. It’s especially important to consult your health care provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you take medicine that affects blood clotting, if you are allergic to seafood, or if you are considering giving a child an omega-3 supplement.

       Still stumped on how to get more PCOS friendly fats in your diet? Let the PCOS Dietitian give you some fun and fresh ideas.

 

Five Ways to Incorporate More PCOS Friendly Fats Into Your Diet

 1. Go nuts!

Snack on nuts instead of salty, carb-laden pretzels and chips. Nuts are a great source of heart healthy fats, super tasty and even come in single serving bags. Just make sure to keep your serving to around ¼ cup which equals around 180 calories, 14 grams of fat (almost all mono & polyunsaturated!), 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrates.

Almonds are a PCOS Friendly Fat

Tip: Trader Joes sells pre-portioned almonds and cashews called ‘Just a Handful of Almonds.” If you are looking for something with a bit more spice and kick the Emerald brand sells 100-calorie packs of flavored cashews, almonds and walnuts. The flavors range from Siracha, to jalapeño to chocolate and cinnamon. These are great to throw in your car, desk drawer or car. They travel extremely well.

 

 

 

 

2. Become Sandwich Savvy

Replace your cheese and/or mayonnaise on your sandwich with sliced avocado or even guacamole. This quick little swap decreases your intake of unhealthy fats while boosting your intake of monounsaturated fats. It also adds a whole new dimension to your ho-hum lunch!

 Tip: It seems like it always so hard to get avocados ‘just right.’ They always seem to be too hard or too ripe. Just a quick tip if they are green and unripe is to put them in a brown bag (just like you would other fruits!) and that will speed the ripening process. On the flip side, if you have an avocado on the counter that looks perfect – but you are not ready to use it – throw it in the fridge. This will halt the ripening process.

 

 3. Nut Butters

Nut butters – need I say more?!? I sometimes wish nut butters were a food group. If they were I would be SO in love!

PCOS friendly fats of peanut butter

Nowadays you can get almost every nut in spreadable form. Gone are the days when you could just get peanut butter. Now you can get cashew, almond, and hazelnut butters and my personal favorite – sunflower seed butter! Spread any of these heart healthy butters on celery, apples, bananas or even swirl into your morning oatmeal. But just like any fat be mindful that each tablespoon of nut butter packs a whopping 100 calories and 6 grams of fat. Yes, it is healthy fat – but next thing you know that “little” bit of peanut turned into half the jar. Sounds familiar?

Tip: When buying peanut butter always go organic! The crops are heavily sprayed and no one needs all those chemicals in their body. Also brands such a Skippy & Jiff (unless they state they are “natural”) contain hydrogenated fats – so don’t touch those bad boys with a ten-foot pole.

 4. Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia

Discover the magic of chia seeds. Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, calcium, antioxidants and Omega 3’s. They are a true super food. You can pretty much buy them in any grocery store including the obvious ones like Trader Joes and Whole Foods. A small bag goes for around $6 – $8 depending upon the brand. A small bag supplies well over 40 servings!

You can sprinkle on your yogurt, blend into your smoothies or make some killer chia pudding! See my recipe below for this tasty treat.

This is a Chia Pudding Recipe noting the PCOS friendly fats

 

Tip: Remember what we said about polyunsaturated fats like Omega 3’s? They are vulnerable to oxidation. Storing them in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life. However, most chia seeds come in special vacuum-sealed packaging. These packages can be stored at room temperature until they are opened. Once opened, throw the whole bag in the fridge to maintain their freshness.

5. Make your own salad dressings

Making your own salad dressing is SO easy! Once you start doing this – you will be ashamed you ever bought the crap in a bottle.  Plus, it a terrific way to get your PCOS friendly fats in AND your greens.

I urge you experiment with different types of oils when making your dressings. Have you tried avocado oil? It is a super mild oil that blends nicely with various vinegars, acids such as lemon and lime. How about walnut oil? It pairs awesome with balsamic and maple syrup. Check out the recipes below. You can always tweak the ingredients to suit your palate!

 

Avocado Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

3 tablespoon Avocado Oil

1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 clove Garlic, grated or crushed

Zest of 1/2 Lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon back pepper

For the Vinaigrette:

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Top off your favorite bowl of salad greens!

 

 

Lighten-Up Lemon Walnut Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallots (onions will work, too!)

2 tablespoons walnut oil

1 tablespoons REAL maple syrup (you can adjust up or down depending upon how sweet you like it!)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Combine all ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. A mason jar is a great storage vehicle.

 Phew that was a lot of info!  Hopefully I have convinced you of all the awesome benefits of including PCOS friendly fats in your diet. Rather than shy away from, you know have the important tools to make the most educated decisions when it comes to which fats to choose to support your PCOS. But as always I would love to hear your thoughts. What are some of your favorite MUFAs and PUFAs? What are your strategies for fitting them in your diet? Tell us in the comments below!

Support for women with PCOS  

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian

PCOS friendly protein bars – Quest Bars

PCOS friendly protein bars – Quest Bars

Choosing a protein bar that is PCOS friendly can be tricky! With such a variety of choices it is no surprise you are overwhelmed. Question – do you even know what you should be looking for when shopping for protein bars? Should you look for bars that are low in fat? Low carb? Low sugar? High fiber? It seems like the list of variables are endless! But don’t worry the PCOS Dietitian has your back 🙂

To help you make the best decision for your PCOS, I have decided to write a an educational series of blogs on several of the popular protein bars on the market. It is my goal to discuss the different bars and explain whether I would give them the PCOS stamp of approval. Please be mindful there are SO many reasons why someone might choose a particular protein bar. However, I am going to do my best to break down the protein bars down into four specific criteria: nutritional profile, ingredients, cost and taste. Each week I will review a different bar and base my review on the same criteria. That way you can make your own comparisons and select the best protein bar based on the information presented. So now let’s go assess our first bar: Quest Bars.

Quest Protein Bars

Are they PCOS Friendly ???

I decided to start by reviewing one of the most popular protein bars on the market: Quest Bars. For about the last three years, Quest Bars have claimed their fair share of the protein bar market. Touted nutritionally for their high protein, moderate carbohydrate, high fiber make-up Quest Bars are without a doubt a popular choice among protein bars. But how do they stack up for our specialized population of PCOS cysters? Let’s see …

This is an image of a Quest Bars. Quest Bars are an example of one of the many PCOS friendly protein bars
                                                     Quest Bars are an example of one of the many PCOS friendly protein bars        

Nutrition Profile

From a nutritional stand point Quest Bars present the PCOSer with a solid profile. Quest Bars are all about 190 – 200 calories per bar. Therefore, depending upon where someones calorie level is set, I would either recommend a Quest Bar as a meal replacement (in a pinch) or one of their snacks. For women with PCOS who only command a small number of calories, I might suggest splitting the bar into two pieces and consuming as two separate snacks.

Protein

One of the things I like best about Quest Bars is they are a true protein bar. What I mean by this is they actually have a significant amount of protein in each bar. I know this sounds like a no-brainer when we are talking about protein bars – but you would be surprised how many bars you think are protein bars actually have very little protein in them.  In order for me to call a bar a protein bar, it must have at least 15 grams of protein in the entire bar. Anything less than 15 grams is more likely considered a snack bar and not what I would consider a protein bar.

This is an image that states The PCOS dietitian's rule for determining whether or not a bar is really a protein bar or not

The PCOS dietitian’s rule for determining whether or not a bar is really a protein bar

Of note – we will be examining bars in this weekly series (such as Kind Bars) that do not meet my true protein bar criteria. This does not mean a bar is not a good bar if it does not have 15 grams of protein – it just means we cannot really call it a protein bar. So hang tight and we will get to that in the future! I wanted to start with a true protein bar and that is why I chose Quest Bars.

Quest Bars have a whopping 21 grams of whey protein!  For some women that could account for about 1/4 of the protein they need for the day. Protein breaks down slowly and promotes a feeling of fullness. This is why I often recommend Quest Bars for busy women with PCOS who are on the run. Quest Bars make a great high protein breakfast choice! They are a nice alternative to eggs and/or smoothies. Plus they need a lot less time and effort as well. No blender or cooking skills required!

However, be mindful if you are sensitive to dairy or are lactose intolerant you may have a hard time digesting Quest Bars. Due to the fact their main source of protein is whey (which is a derivative of milk!) you may need to consume them with caution if you are sensitive to dairy. Many patients who are lactose intolerant experience cramping, diarrhea and gas when they consume Quest Bars. So just be careful!

Toal Carbohydrates & Fiber Content 

You know in the world of PCOS we could never talk about protein bars without talking about their specific carbohydrate content. Not only are Quest Bars high in protein, they are also moderate in carbohydrates. I often consider a food moderate in carbohydrates if has between 15 – 30 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Per bar, Quest has only 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving. On most of my nutrition plans for women with PCOS, I allow for around 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. Therefore, Quest Bars can fit nicely as quick meal or snack option in my eating programs.

Fiber

As you can see in the image of nutrition facts below, Quest Bars contain a high amount fiber. They have 14 grams of fiber per bar which is about 60 % of your daily needs. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate the body cannot breakdown. Therefore, it goes out the same way it comes in! TMI!

Almost all the carbohydrates in Quest Bars come from fiber. Fiber helps you stay full and keeps your insulin levels low. Fiber can also prevent certain diseases, control hunger, and improve digestive health. IMO is the specific type of fiber Quest Bars contain. IMO comes from plant sources. It is similar to chicory root fiber, having the same texture, feel, and taste. It is also helpful for weight loss.

Be Careful if you have any GI Issues

However, with that being said (especially folks with stomach and intestinal issues – such as Crohn’s Disease, Colitis & Irritable Bowel Syndrome) some people have a hard time digesting the large amount of fiber in Quest Bars. So in addition to feeling full, they may also experience significant bloating and gas. If you are one of these people, I would HIGHLY suggest starting off consuming only small portions of the Quest Bar – maybe only a quarter of a bar at a time. While the fiber will do no long term damage, I would hate you to be gassy and bloated – as there is nothing fun about that!

This is an image which displays the nutrition facts for a quest protein bar. Highlighted on this particular image is the fact that the bar contains a moderate amount of protein and high amount of fiber. Also highlighted in this image of the nutrition label is the fact that bar contains sugar alcohols.

Quest Protein Bar Nutrition Facts

Ingredients

Artificial Sweeteners

Most Quest Bars contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener, erythritol, a sugar alcohol, and stevia, a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana  Stevia and sucralose appear in the last of the bars’ ingredients. Sucralose is just a different name for the more commonly known sweetener Splenda. This shows it they appears in small quantities.  Splenda appears after other low-sugar sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol.

This image shows an ingredient label for a Quest Protein Bar. The Highlighted Ingredients are the Different forms of sweeteners the bar contains. Of note are erythritol, splenda and stevia

Quest Protein Bars: The Highlighted Ingredients are the Different forms of sweeteners this particular bar contains

However, there are actually 7 Quest bars that don’t contain artificial sweeteners. Are they the most natural food in the world? Not at all, but you have to pick your battles sometimes. If you do choose to eat a Quest bar, you might want to choose carefully based on the type of sweeteners they contain.

Quest Bars without artificial sweeteners:

Cinnamon Roll

Strawberry Cheesecake

Double Chocolate Chunk

Lemon Cream Pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter

Banana Nut Muffin

Coconut Cashew

Many people ask me my stance on artificial sweeteners. In all honesty, I really have no stance. I truly feel like whether you choose to consume artificial sweeteners is a personal preference. For me personally, the research on the dangers of them is just not convincing enough.

On the flip side, that does not mean I am advocating you consume a boat-load of any type of sweetener! However, like everything I firmly believe if consuming a Quest Protein Bar is the worst of your dietary ills then you my cysta’ are in good shape. In future blogs I will dive into some of the research surrounding artificial sweeteners – but for you now all I can say is eat REAL food when you can.

Gluten Free

Quest Bars are gluten-free. However, with that being said, be careful (as I just noted!) if you do have any GI issues due to the high fiber content of these bars.

Dairy

Quest Protein Bars do contain dairy. But as we will discuss they have a form of dairy that is almost virtually lactose free. Boom!

If you view the label you will see the first ingredient states “Protein Blend: Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate.” The milk protein isolate is a no brainer – obviously it is made from milk and a dairy derivative. What may not be so obvious is the ingredient: ‘whey protein isolate.’

Whey is one of the two major components of milk. It is the liquid part of the milk that separates from the curds (the other major part), during the process of making cheese. However, what we want to zone in on is the type of whey contained in Quest Bars. Quest Bars contain whey isolate. Whey isolates contain a higher percentage of pure protein and can be pure enough to be almost lactose free, carbohydrate free, fat-free, and cholesterol free. So even if you are lactose intolerant, Quest Bars may still be an okay option for you as they tend to contain low amounts of this lactose.

     Cost

Quest Bars are pretty comparable to all protein bars on the market. They are available from every where from Trader Joes, to Whole Foods, to Vitamin Shoppe, Amazon (obviously!) and even gas stations such as Mobile and 7-Eleven. They tend to be the least expensive when bought in bulk on Amazon where you can buy a box of 12 for $23.79 which comes down to about $2.00 per bar. I have seen them in 7-Eleven for anywhere between $2.25 to $3.00 per bar. The Trader Joes near me in Orange, CT sells them for around $2.39. If you find a flavor you love — Amazon is always your best option.

     Taste

I have tried almost all flavors of the Quest Bars. You can order a variety pack on Amazon if you are interested in sampling different types from fruity ones (think Apple Pie & Lemon) to chocolatey ones (Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip). The flavor choices are seemingly endless.

Favorites

However, my personal favs are: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream. I would have to say I like the Cookies and Cream the best as it reminds slightly of eating Oreo Cookies 🙂 I recently tried the Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip thinking that it would taste like an oatmeal raisin cookie – but I was sadly disappointed. Many people who I work with also love the S’mores flavor but I have to say it just does not do it for me.

Duds

The flavors I like least are the fruity ones such as Apple Pie, Lemon and Mixed Berry. They tend to taste very artificial to me – more so than the chocolate based-bars. I don’t think I could ever finish a whole ‘fruit – based’ bar. It would probably make me sick to my stomach.

Texture

The texture of these bars is dense and chewy. They remind me a bit of the original Power Bars that first came out in the late ’90s. I cannot say I would ever describe them as ‘light’ such as I might a Power Crunch bar. There is very little ‘crunch’ appeal to them at all. I think this is due to the high fiber content. It is tough to make something appear light when you have put 50 % of someone’s daily fiber requirement into one little dinky little protein bar.

After Taste?

Most of the Quest Bars have a somewhat distinct after-taste. Even the ones sweetened with Stevia. It is not horrific by any means. But I would be lying to you if I said they tasted amazing. However,  with that being said – they taste better than most of the other bars on the market. But that may not be saying much!

The PCOS Dietitian’s Verdict – Quest Protein Bars

Hmmm … this is a tough one. I think Quest Bars are like many foods; they look good on paper, but can they stand up tall among all the categories ?

In terms of a nutritional profile, I would give Quest Bars an A/A-. They are solid. They are low enough in carbohydrates (~ 20 grams), high enough protein (20 grams, too!) and wicked high in fiber (13 grams) to fit into the class of being PCOS friendly for sure.

The ingredients I would consider somewhat iffy. While there are not a ton of ingredients and fillers like most bars – they still have artificial sweeteners (typically in the form of Splenda) and Palm Oil which is a highly refined saturated fat. For ingredients I would give Quest Bars a C+/B-. I wish they would get rid of the Splenda or at least show more directly that surcralose is really Splenda in disguise.

Cost they get a solid B. They are comparable with all the other protein bars on the market. You have to keep in my mind they have 20 grams of protein in most bars which is the equal to 3 ounce of chicken. So if you look at them that way – they are a good value when it comes to getting your protein in. Especially if you don’t love animal protein.

Taste the get a B They are not the most horrific tasting bar on the market – but they are certainly not something I would choose to eat all day. I think given the fact they have so much fiber and contain artificial sweeteners it would be virtually impossible for them to taste amazing given their nutritional make-up.

So all in all – I would probably rate Quest Bars overall a solid B. Relative to other bars – they will likely score higher – but still not A material.

As with any bars no matter what the brand – I would always encourage real food over supplements when possible. However, I am a realist and understand we all live in a busy, fast-paced world where sometimes food prep is non-existent. Quest Bars can certainly ‘pinch hit’ for a breakfast, lunch or snack. But do your best to round out the rest of your diet with clean sources of protein such as eggs, chicken, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lean red meat and turkey.

What’s your take on Quest Bars? Love ’em? Hate em’? Have a favorite flavor you are dying to share with our community? Tell us in the comments below.

And as always thanks for stopping by!

Support for women with PCOS

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian

PCOS Friendly Snacks – Summer Treats

PCOS Friendly Snacks – Summer Treats

Finding PCOS friendly snacks can be challenging, right? Especially mid summer when all your friends and family are hitting up the Sundae Hut! And If you are anything like me – then you LOVE a sweet treat in the summer! But if you have PCOS and are watching your carbohydrates then you know the pickings are slim in terms of tasty treats. But fear no more – I recently stumbled upon two tasty treats that are right up your alley. Not only are they low in carbohydrates – but they taste pretty AWESOME, too!

My two new summer obsessions are: No-Sugar Added Outshine Frozen Fruit Bars & Halo Top Light Ice Cream

 

Outshine Bars

No Sugar Added Outshine Bars are frozen fruit bars that come in a variety of flavors. Right now in my local Shop Rite they have two variety packs; one pack has Black Cherry, Kiwi & Mixed Berries while the other pack has the flavors Strawberry, Raspberry & Tangerine. I just bought the pack below. At Shop Rite in CT they are on sale this week with each box of 12 pops selling for $2.77. That is a score because I have seen these lovelies for as high as $5.99 per box! So scoop them up until Sunday when the sale ends.

Outshine has several products. Make sure to get the bars that specifically state “No Sugar Added. ” The regular Outshine Fruit Bars have about 15 more calories and 5 more grams of carbohydrates than the no sugar added variety. Not that this makes a huge difference but I just wanted you to be aware so you don’t get overwhelmed when you go hunting these PCOS friendly snacks down!

 

PCOS friendly snacks

 

How do I count the many ways I love No-Sugar Added Outshine Bars ?!? The reasons are endless but below are just a few

Made with real fruit

Excellent source of Vitamin C

No high fructose corn syrup

25 to 30 calories

No sugar added

Only 6 – 7 grams of carbohydrates per bar

No artificial colors or flavors

 

While most low-sugar/no-sugar frozen fruit bars are somewhat tasteless – Outshine Bars taste super juicy! I am not sure how they pack so much flavor for only 25 calories! It is crazy. If you are looking for a low calorie, low sugar and low carbohydrate frozen treat that is PCOS friendly – then Outshine Bars are the answer.

 

Halo Top Light Ice Cream 

 

Another of the PCOS friendly snacks I am LOVING this summer is Halo Top Light Ice Cream. While I have only tried the Vanilla Bean flavor I have to say I was very impressed.

 

PCOS friendly snacks

 

Halo Top Light Ice Cream claims, ” Finally healthy ice cream, that really tastes like ice cream.” And I have to agree! The consistency was smooth and you could really taste the distinct taste of the vanilla bean. It was not watery like Arctic Zero or Wink – two other low calorie frozen desserts that masquerade as ice cream. Halo Top comes in a range of flavors. Here is a list of all their awesome flavors — including ones “Birthday Cake” and “Chocolate Mocha Chip.” Yum!

 

 

Nutrition wise the profile is pretty hard to beat! Halo Ice Cream comes in pint sized containers (just Ben and Jerrys!) and seems to be located with the speciality ice creams and gelato in the grocery store. For the pint at Shop Rite I paid $3.65 and it was on sale. Regular price for the pint was around $4.99 – which for 4 servings is pretty pricey! I have seen it in most grocery stores including Whole Foods. With only 60 calories per 1/2 cup (that’s a serving!) that is about one third of the amount of calories as regular ice cream.

 

 

halo back label

Below is a breakdown of Halo per pint and per 1/2 cup serving:

  • Protein: 24 grams/6 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams/2 grams
  • Total Carbs: 56 grams/14 grams
  • Fiber: 20 grams/5 grams

 

As you can see Halo Top fits the profile of our PCOS friendly snacks. It is low in carbohydrates (14 grams / serving), high in fiber (5 grams / serving) and it even contains a modest amount of protein (6 grams / serving). Most regular ice creams on the market are high in fat, while Halo only provide 2 grams per serving!

 

So Amy how do you classify PCOS friendly snacks? Great question my friend. My guidelines for snacks for women with PCOS is that each snack is around 100 – 150 calories and at or under 15 grams of carbohydrates. Halo Top ice cream fits the bill rather nicely. And … most importantly … it tastes pretty dang good!

 

So next time you are in the mood for something cold, low in carbohydrates and tasty — get your little butt to the store and pick No Sugar Added Outshine Bars and a pint of Halo Top ice cream and you are good to go! You can thank me later ♥ ♥ ♥

 

I would LOVE to hear whether you are digging or not digging these treats. What did you love most about them most? Let us know in the comments below. XoXo

 

Support for women with PCOS

 

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian

PCOS Friendly Snacks – Parsnip Chips

PCOS Friendly Snacks – Parsnip Chips

 

PCOS Snacks – Parsnip Chips

Hello Y’All!

It’s Thursday and you know what that means? It means it is time to talk PCOS friendly snacks! Last week we talked about my little sweet and salty finds – Trader Joe’s Unsalted Peanut Butter Pretzels. If you missed last week’s posts and you love peanut butter half as much as I do – click here to read what you missed. Those nuggets are amazing! So onward to another PCOS Friendly Snack 🙂 

This week I decided to keep the Trader Joe’s theme going. But instead, this week I wanted to share something a bit saltier – or at least tastes saltier! Trader Joe’s Parsnips Chips.

PCOS Friendly Snack  – Trader Joes Parsnip Chips 

If you don’t already know – I love Trader Joes. Not only is it about 1/8 of a mile from my office – but it right on the way home from Crossfit. The people who work there are also so friggin’ nice! Plus they almost always have samples which a foodie like me loves, loves, loves. I sometimes feel like it sometimes my home away from home. Every time I am in there – I am always on the hunt for different PCOS friendly foods and snacks that taste good. Most days I end up feeling accomplished and happy. Today was a good day 🙂  I found these gems: 

This image is a bag of the PCOS Friendly Snacks - Trader Joes Parsnip Chips

Trader Joe’s Parsnip Chips – A great substitute for regular chips, $2.99 for about a 5 ounce bag

 

I have to say I was not sure what to expect when I bought them. I am generally not disappointed with anything I buy at Trader Joes and these “chips” were no exception. These chips reminded me somewhat of plantain chips – but not AS sweet. Don’t get me wrong they certainly do have a certain level of sweetness to them – but not nearly the same sweet after-flavor of plantain chips. I found the chips super crunchy and thicker than regular potato chips. But let’s see how they stack up nutritionally against their competitor — a standard serving of potato chips. 

How Do Parsnip Chips compare with Regular Potato Chips? DO they live up to the PCOS Friendly Snack Hype?

Serving Size 

Serving size is about 12 chips. This is pretty similar to regular potato chips in which you get around 15 potato chips per serving which is also the equivalent of 1 ounce of chips. Calorie wise they are slighter lower than the same size serving of potato chips. The parsnip chips have 120 calories per serving while potato chips have about 130 – 170 calories per serving. 

Fat Content

The fat between the parsnips chip and regular potato chips is almost even. Both types of chips have about 12 grams per serving. While this is not crazy crazy crazy high – it could cut into a hefty portion of your fat grams for the day. 

Carbohydrate Count

The main difference between regular chips and parsnip chips (and the reason I even wanted to talk about them!) is the carbohydrate content. The parsnip chips only have 3 grams of carbohydrates. Yes you heard me correctly – the parsnip chips have 3 grams of carbohydrates per serving while regular chips (depending upon the brand and style) have anywhere from 14 – 25 grams per servings. So in the world of PCOS – that is a BFD (Big Friggin’ Deal – if you were wondering!) 

The is label for Trader Joe's Parsnip Chips which is a PCOS friendly snack

The label for Trader Joe’s Parsnip Chips

Low Salt 

The salt content of the parsnip chips are also substantially lower than regular chips. The parsnip chips only have 90 mg of sodium – while most regular chips have anywhere from 150 – 300 mg per serving depending once again on the brand and style. Flavored potato chips often have the most sodium per serving – so beware. You want to stay under 1, 800 mg of sodium for the day. 

Overall verdict

The parsnip chips are solid. I would rank them an 8/10. They fit the criteria for a PCOS friendly snack. They are certainly a better choice than regular potato chips for women with PCOS due to their lower carbohydrate count. But they are still fairly high in fat and contain no protein. That does not make them a bad choice – it just means just like any other snack in your diet we must have the proper “budget” left in our daily requirements.

I felt that the serving of 12 was more than enough to fill me up. I think this was due to the high fat content of the chips. If you have more calories left in your snack budget – I might suggest eating them with a couple of tablespoons of hummus or guacamole. I did enjoy them and do feel when consumed in moderation they could be an interesting addition to your PCOS friendly snack arsenal. And remember variety is the spice of life for sure when it comes to snacking. 

Have you tried this latest find? What did you think ? Yay or nay? Give us the 411 on your favorite PCOS friendly snacks. I would love to hear what you are munching on! Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

Support for women with PCOS

 

 

 

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian

 

 

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