Tricky Joe’s?

The Food Babe has attacked us where it hurts: right in our favorite “unique grocery store.”

There are a lot of issues in her inflammatory article blasting Trader Joe’s, but it does upset me quite a bit that TJ’s won’t respond to her requests to verify its claims to be entirely non-GMO. Whole Foods was third-party verified. Why not Trader Joe’s??

I’m taking back the soy sauce I thought I bought safely last week. Grrrr.

TraderJoesProductsGMOs

Of course, anybody who blindly shops at Trader Joe’s assuming everything is “healthy” is not paying attention. Sadly, we can never stop reading labels, people. Trader Joe’s has plenty of junk food on the shelves; plenty of HFCS, and artificial flavors and colors, and chemicals and additives and generally the kind of thing you’d want to avoid.licorice2

Trader Joe’s deal is that they’re inexpensive for “gourmet” or exotic products. That’s it.

They’re not necessarily healthy, they’re not necessarily organic, and they’re not free-pass shopping.

Sorry.

While you read the article, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Her photo shows Joe’s O’s next to Cheerio’s. Even my toddlers knew this wasn’t true. Cheerio’s are more dense and less salty than Joe’s O’s. They don’t look or taste the same. No way that’s the same cereal. So that’s just a mistake right there. Makes you wonder – is there other speculation in the article? Is she just flat out guessing?
  • She lists Barbara’s Bakery as “likely” to contain GMOs. I recently contacted Barbara’s because we buy so many of their cereals, and received written confirmation that they’ve been working imagestowards third party verification of non-GMO status (from the Non GMO Project). Their Shredded Oats are already verified (along with 16 other products – I’ve seen the Non GMO Project seal on several lately), and they hope to have all cereals verified before the end of the year. So she’s vilifies them without bothering to check her facts…wonder how many others in her “bad” list were actually checked out?
  • The whole article is basically a “he said, she said” between Trader Joe and the Food Babe. TJ’s website has a statement about their company policy to be GMO free in TJ label products. Food Babe asked for further verification; TJ’s refuses to pay for third parties to do so. I wish they would, but if you want to just believe Trader Joe’s isn’t hiding anything, you can. She hasn’t proved that they’re hiding anything, she’s assuming they are.

Anyway, check out the article and leave me (or Food Babe) a comment to let me know what you think. Are you a devoted TJ’s shopper? Or are you suspicious?

1044025_690123941014536_1517970690_n

Nutrition Mistakes!

Hello! Wow, I’ve been gone so long – it’s been a busy summer over here. I found a great slideshow today that I just had to share with you. It’s chock full of advice in easily digested bits (sorry) – AND there was even stuff I didn’t know!

So check it out: The Most Common Nutrition Mistakes

Are you guilty of any of them? Leave a comment!

See This Next

Out today in theaters and available to download on iTunes: a new movie from the producers of Food, Inc. that explores the problem of hunger in America.

I’ve made no secret of my personal gratitude for the WIC and food stamps programs, both of which I have utilized (along with patronizing and working for food pantries).

This is a complex issue but I trust these filmmakers and producers to explain it clearly and spur us all to action (see link for resources from Bread for the World to spark discussion and engagement in your community).

Check it out!

Squooshi Pouch Giveaway!

This is it…the moment we’ve been waiting for! Drum rolls! Huzzahs!

It’s a GIVEAWAY!!

If you’d like to try the Squooshi pouches that I reviewed yesterday (click here if you missed it), this post is for you – thanks to generous mom (and Squooshi founder) Shannon, we have an Assorted Four Pack of washable & reusable baby food pouches to give to one of our lucky readers.

Look! It's Animal Squooshi Pouches! At the ZOO! How cute is THAT?!

Look! It’s Animal Squooshi Pouches! At the ZOO! How cute is THAT?!

Since this is our first giveaway I’m gonna get all crazy controlling about it and make some rules. ‘Cause my house, my rules.

First: You have to read my review.

Second: You have to post a comment on THIS giveaway blog entry, telling me what you’d put in your Squooshis, should you be the winner. You may also say nice things about my review and/or make further suggestions for how to thicken my smoothies (I have already been schooled in the frozen fruit trick).

[note: just saying “Squooooooooooooooooshi!” will not qualify you – but it will make me laugh]

Third: I’ll pick a recipe to try. If my kids like it, you win!

Ha ha just kidding. They like everything in a Squooshi. You just win if I like your idea the best.

Yeah, I’m not doing any of this random number generator crap. That just leads to people posting asinine “Pick me!” comments and leaves luck up to … well … luck. And frankly I believe in effort and creativity over luck!

Plus yes I am a little bitter that my many pithy and fantastic comments have always been overlooked by evil random number generators which I am pretty sure work for my enemies and will one day take over the world.

(I reserve the right to use a random number generator if I can’t decide what comment is best. So please don’t let a lack of energy to come up with something be the reason you don’t enter. If you want to enter without a recipe, just leave a comment about your favorite part of my review. Kissing up is always welcome.)

So leave your comment below and let’s help each other fill our Squooshis!

On that vaguely naughty-sounding note, I think we’d better wrap this up.

Congratulations to ERIN who has won the Four Pack of Squooshis!

Squooshi Product Review

Full disclosure: I was given this product for free in exchange for the review.

Yesterday I revealed that FoodiEvangelist is delighted to be doing our first product review AND giveaway!! And I talked a bit about how this is a product our family has been waiting for for a long time.

After playing with these pouches for a few days – filling them, feeding them to my kids, washing them, and taking them on-the-go – I have found a lot to love about them. I’ve also got a few tips for you if you choose to get your own (or are the lucky winner of our giveaway!). And I’ve even got a couple ideas for Squooshi itself – I know you guys are listening!

(Skip to the bottom for a bullet list of pros & cons if you don’t want to read my fascinating-but-lengthy narrative review.)

The Squooshis arrive!

The Squooshis arrive!

So the first thing you’re gonna notice about these pouches is that they are really freaking adorable. I appreciate the effort they put into making the product cute (usually my son just has some company’s name hanging out the end of his gob).

carrying case

cloth bag for the 4 pack

They feel a little flimsy but they held up very well to everything I put in them. I wound up deciding that the Panda was my favorite design, not only because it is the cutest, but also, practically speaking, it is mostly translucent – which makes it easier to see the gunk inside when you’re cleaning. More on that later.

I received an Assorted Four Pack, the same item that we’ll be giving away (check back tomorrow for instructions on how to win!). This was a set of two large (4.5 oz) pouches and two small (2.5 oz) pouches, in each of their four animal designs. They arrived in a nice little reusable sack for storage. I believe I already lost it, but it was a nice touch.

Another thing I am sure I will be losing: the little caps. They are necessary for filling the pouches (you fill upside down, from the bottom – the big end – which then zips closed), and they are, thankfully, interchangeable between the sizes. Already one step ahead of me, Squooshi sells replacements. I also happened to have an old cap from a disposable pouch (probably a Plum Organics) in the bottom of the diaper bag, and that fit as well. Whew.

add your own spices!

kids eat better when they help with prep – plus it’s fun!

My daughter and I couldn’t wait to try them out, so we grabbed our organic applesauce from the fridge and doctored it with cinnamon just like she loves. Already I’m happy that I’m not spending the usual 50 cents on an applesauce pouch, and double happy that this one is twice the size of the ones I usually buy.

If you’re short on time, just throwing store-bought applesauce in these babies is still going to save you money and the kids are still going to have more fun (and make less mess) eating it than they normally would.

whoops

whoops

And then, our first snag: in my excitement I hadn’t read the directions very carefully and I overfilled the first pouch. You have to keep it at 3/4 full or less. Lesson learned. You also have to make sure you clean out the zipper part at the bottom so you can get a good tight seal. I was really anal about this for the first few rounds, and I decided my finger was the best tool for the job (I guess you could use a paper towel but then you un-do the environmental goodness; and my dishrags are always dirty). So if, like me, you tend to lick your fingers when cooking, make sure you don’t add anything to the pouch that you’re not especially fond of (e.g. bananas, for me).

ANYWAY…as it turns out, the seal is good. On another day we took them out in the lunch bag, and they didn’t spill at all. I was worried about that the whole time, but my worries were unnecessary.

inhaled this in 10 seconds

inhaled this in 5 seconds

So Maggie sucked the first (small) pouch right up – so quickly, in fact, that I was relieved I hadn’t spent a long time working on its contents. Right away I figured out that the small pouches were going to be too small for my kids. They would probably be great for a baby’s first foods. But my kids are half past 2 and 4, and they have healthy appetites. If you have preschoolers too, I’d definitely recommend the large pouches.

Another point about the smalls: I found it more difficult to fill them and to clean them (both cleaning the zipper to seal it and then later cleaning the whole thing). I’m really hands-on and I guess my fingers are just too fat to go in those little pouches! I much prefer working with the larger size. I’ll bet an even larger size would work for me & my kids, too! (are you listening, Squooshi?)

For our next experiment we went with a full-on, homemade smoothie. But I’ve talked a lot so I’m gonna just let you enjoy this one in a series of oh-so-fun photos…

The ingredients: leftover rejected breakfast, local honey, organic yogurt, farmer's market strawberries, wild blueberries, and yes spinach because I am THAT kind of parent

The ingredients: leftover rejected breakfast, local honey, organic yogurt, farmer’s market strawberries, wild blueberries, and yes spinach because I am THAT kind of parent

Worried it was not thick enough, I added banana. Mistake. I never like banana in smoothies b/c it overwhelms everything else, and son felt the same way.

Worried it was not thick enough, I added banana. Mistake. I never like banana in smoothies b/c it overwhelms everything else, and son felt the same way. Lesson: it is not the pouch’s fault if you can’t cook.

STILL worried about thickness, added oats. Later found recipe card that was included in package (oops), which suggested cooking oats. Ahhh...smart. Oh well. Blender mashed 'em fine.

STILL worried about thickness, added oats. Later found recipe card that was included in package (oops), which suggested cooking oats. Ahhh…smart. Oh well. Blender mashed ’em fine. And hey, this is getting REALLY healthy!

Finally dared to add this to the pouch, even though it still seemed runny. Dang it's hard to make a thick smoothie! Anyway it was fine...no spilling at all!

Finally dared to add this to the pouches, even though it still seemed runny. Dang, it’s hard to make a thick smoothie! Anyway it was fine…no spilling at all!

IMG_7984

finally a flash of brilliance – using a FUNNEL! Just a little tap-tap of the lid on the counter fills it up quick.

Satisfied customer...and larger size meant that the time it took paid off in the snack lasting more than a few seconds.

Satisfied customer…and the larger size meant that the time it took paid off – in that snacktime lasted more than a few seconds. Actually, he didn’t even finish this – so I threw it in the fridge for later!

OK, hope that was a nice break from my chatter.

smoothie detritus...

smoothie detritus…

So my biggest worry with these things was how to get them clean. I know from experience that anything with strawberry seeds and/or yogurt in it is very difficult to get clean. I’ve destroyed many a reusable straw & cup with those ingredients.

Therefore I am being very anal about religiously washing these out every time I use them, before anything dries inside. Even when we took them to the zoo, we all tromped into the bathroom and rinsed out the pouches after snack. I can’t speak to how well they clean up in other circumstances because I just wasn’t willing to try.

However, I have been delighted with how easily they have been rinsing out and how, with just a little soap and warm water (even in a zoo bathroom!), they come pretty clean without too much effort. It helps to seal them up with the soapy water inside and squish it around a bit. I even let a small amount of soapy water slosh around in them all the way home from the zoo. When we got back, voila! Clean!

Squooshis drying - HINT: turn a large spoon sideways inside them so they stay open. They'll dry faster and it will keep anything weird from growing inside.

HINT: while drying, turn a large spoon sideways inside so they stay open. They’ll dry faster and this will keep anything weird from growing inside.

This is where the animal patterns come into importance – the Panda is the most see-through of the pouches, and thus it is much easier to see when it’s all clean inside. As for the straggling bits of this-and-that stuck to the inners & outers, I was especially frustrated with trying to clean the small one with my too-big bottle brush.

But then, a moment of sheer genius: my daughter was due for a new toothbrush and I realized her old one was perfect for getting right into all those little corners, plus brushing off the slim grooves in the cap device. WOW! I am really very pleased with myself for figuring this one out, and I offer you that tip freely – no attribution required. 😉

By the way, they will go in the dishwasher, but in my experience this has taken the pictures off other products, breaks down plastics over time, and most importantly, doesn’t do much against dried-on smoothie (especially in nooks & crannies). So I suggest handwashing. With your kids’ toothbrush. Preferably after you buy kid a new one.

My only pseudo-disappointment with the Squooshi pouches is something that is obvious and unavoidable – and, ironically, part of their appeal: that the contents are always going to be fresh. This means that you can’t keep them in the pantry and you can’t throw them in the diaper bag and forget about them. You can freeze them – and they did defrost much faster than I expected – so this is a viable option as long as you remember to take them out of the freezer before kiddo is screaming for a snack.

If I had my druthers, I’d probably just buy one of the larger sets of the big ones, make contents in bulk, and keep a bunch of them in the freezer. I wish I could just get Pandas, though…(hint, hint).

For those of you “not into the whole brevity thing,” I hope this has been helpful and interesting. For those preferring bullet points, here ya go:

Pros:

  • Complete control over what goes in your child’s mouth – you can make it organic, local, fresh, and as healthy as you want (or as your child will eat!). Great use for all those CSA greens – hide ’em in smoothies. A wonderful way to help develop your child’s palate!
  • BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free…unlike many other baby food products, unfortunately.
  • They save lots of money! [single-use pouches run $1 on sale these days and up to $1.89 each]
  • Absolutely too cute – love love love the designs!
  • Kids will eat a lot of stuff (read: veggies) in a pouch, even if they won’t normally touch it. You know they’ve gotten at least one good serving of something healthy.
  • Less waste = better for the earth and therefore our kids.
  • Saving money!
  • Handy and fun for all ages. I don’t think my kids will outgrow them, and I already know they’re great in a lunchbox.
  • I found myself finishing off the smoothie that didn’t fit in the pouches, so they helped me eat a healthier snack than normal too!
  • Overall pretty easy to clean, no special equipment required (except snagging your kids’ toothbrush).
  • Did I mention saving the money?

Cons:

  • Small size difficult to fill & clean – but also not enough food for my kids anyway, so I wasn’t very motivated to figure out how to work with it.
  • The caps are easy to lose (but also replaceable).
  • Not shelf stable (yes I just listed freshness as a con…sigh). Nothing to be done about that, it’s just the reality of real food.
  • Have to think ahead to defrost (but does do quickly), and have to prepare ahead (though in a pinch, some spiced-up applesauce is a great filler and still saves money!).
  • Your smoothie ideas may suck (like mine) – but fortunately the Squooshi site’s blog has a growing list of recipes!
  • The whole endeavor takes time and effort. But if you invest in a decent number of them and freeze large quantities, you can mitigate this problem somewhat.

To sum up:
Squooshis are, like so many eco-friendly parenting choices, a commitment more than a convenience. But if you are willing to commit, I truly believe you will be doing right by your kids’ health, the earth, and your wallet.

Come back tomorrow for a GIVEAWAY of an Assorted Four Pack just like I tried for this review!