Product Review: Dr. McDougall’s Split Pea Soup

As I’ve grown into my thirties, I’ve had to factor in new concerns when I pack my little “min-meals” on work days. Where before, I looked pretty much exclusively toward total and saturated fat content, to watch my weight, now I’ve started looking at sodium content and fiber content too. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the problems about prepared foods is the high sodium content, as salt is necessary to give foods a longer shelf life. A good fiber intake, of course, keeps you regular, along with drinking a lot of water.

Enter Dr. McDougall’s Split Pea Soup, which I haven’t seen for sale in the stores near me; instead, I found it on Amazon Fresh, and I thought I’d give it a try. It comes in packs of six, for $9.78, which is pretty reasonable. It’s freeze-dried, so you have to add water, then microwave for about a minute and stir. The result is some pretty darn good split-pea soup.

But hold on, Steven! Aren’t peas a vegetable?! Indeed they are…but as I’ve said in the past, when vegetables are powdered, or pureed, as is the case here, they tend to lose their texture, which often grosses me out less than the actual taste. Onion powder is another example of this phenomenon, as is tomato sauce.

The best thing about this product is that while it has only two percent total fat, and no saturated fat, the sodium content is only fifteen percent of your daily requirement, which is very reasonable, and it has forty-eight percent of your daily required fiber! If you compare that to just about any comparable product, and certainly most of the other stuff I take to lunch during the weeks, you’ll see that there’s little else among prepared foods that even comes close to this. So while it’s tasty, the best thing about this product is actually how good it is for you in just about every category I view as important. I heartily recommend this product for you, the picky eater. Go find it!

Product Review: Stouffer’s Baked Chicken Breast Dinner

As I’ve mentioned on the site before, I work ten hours a day on weekdays, so I need to bring some food options with me if I want to save money, ideally three small meals to be eaten at my breaks during the day. For the second and third mini-meals that I eat, there are several frozen and pre-packaged lunch/dinner options, one of which I’ll be scarfing down in the late morning, one in the mid-afternoon. Today I’ll be reviewing one of my all-time favorites, perfect for me and for you, the picky eater!

I’ve been eating the Stouffer’s Baked Chicken Breast meal for probably a good decade-and-a-half. It’s 210 calories, which is pretty reasonable if you’re someone like me, a larger person still looking to eat approximately 2000 calories per day. For the small meals I eat during the way, ideally, I’m looking for no more than fifteen percent of my daily total fat and daily saturated fat intake. This meal has 9 percent total and 13 percent saturated. That’s pretty healthy.

It does have 31 percent of the daily recommended sodium intake, which is a little more than I like, but here we run into a not-so-happy fact about pre-packaged meals: they’re going to be high in salt content. They have to be, to make sure the food stays fresh longer. In a future article, I’ll talk more about the dispute among leading minds in the field, about how much salt is “too much” in a typical, healthy diet. In the meantime, suffice to say that 31 percent isn’t great, but it’s not as bad as some other frozen dinners, like most of those in the Hungry Man line, some of which I like, but which easily have 70 or 80 percent of the daily recommended sodium. That’s way to much for me, and total and saturated fat, and sodium, are always key things I’m going to be looking for.

This dinner features a small chicken breast portion and mashed potatoes in a savory gravy. That’s it, no vegetables in sight. As such, it’s pretty much perfect for me, since, if there were vegetables, I’d just end up eating around them, and throwing them away. I like to bring along a couple of pieces of bread, ideally Martin’s potato bread, my favorite, to sop up the excess gravy. That helps to fill me up, since the portion for this dinner is nice, but not too huge.

This particular meal is one that gets my highest possible recommendation, and it’s proven its staying power, since I’ve been eating it and it’s been on the market for so long. It retails for as much as $5 in most stores, but I like getting them through Amazon Fresh, which is a fantastic service, where they go for $3.99 each right now. Again, that’s a little more than I’d like to pay for this item or another like it, but still within the range that I aim for, especially when you consider that in Manhattan, where I work, I could easily pay double that for lunch. So look for this option, which is widely available, and enjoy. I have been, and imagine I will continue to do so for many years to come.

Product Review: Lean Cuisine Craveables Pepperoni Pizza

Hey folks, I’m back again with another product review for one of the mini-meals that I like to take with me to work on weekdays. This one is the Pepperoni Pizza by Lean Cuisine. There are several Lean Cuisine frozen meals I like, and this one is pretty high on the list. This is advertised as having “pepperoni and basil with a four cheese blend.” Luckily, none of the cheeses is feta or one of the stinky cheeses that I tend not to like. This meal option is 390 calories, and for that, you get a nice, personal-sized pizza topped with pepperoni…once again, no veggies to pick around.

This meal has 14 percent of the daily fat recommended, 15 percent saturated fat, and 24 percent sodium, all of which are pretty reasonable. It’s also pretty tasty. The sauce, cheese, and pepperoni all contribute to make a quality product, and there are no onions or anything else lurking in the sauce. My only complaint would be that there’s not a whole lot of sauce, and the crust is a bit doughy. I suppose that’s almost unavoidable, considering that these are mass-produced, but that’s what keeps this from being one of my all-time favorites. Still, it’s one that I find myself going back to; it’s a familiar favorite, and there’s nothing I need to pick around or throw away.

This retails for $2.89 on Amazon Fresh, which is actually a very good price. At most stores you can probably expect to pay about $4, which is another convincing argument for getting Amazon Fresh. Since trying Amazon Fresh I really can’t say enough good things about it. I could almost write poetry about it; I’m that enamored with it. The fact that they’ll just bring whatever you want right to your door and you don’t have to fight your way through the lines at the grocery store is just heavenly. But I digress. The Lean Cuisine Craveables Pepperoni Pizza gets my hearty endorsement. Consider adding it to your daily and weekly pantheon of easy-to-prepare meals, oh picky eater.

More Proven Breakfast Options

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I work ten hours a day, five days a week, so it’s vitally important that I bring some food with me to my job, otherwise I’d be buying breakfast and lunch at the places around me in Manhattan every day, and it would get really expensive. Therefore, I like to buy food in bulk (usually from Amazon Fresh or Boxed.com), and bring stuff for two-three small meals with me when I take the train in the mornings. I’m usually not really hungry first thing when I wake up, but I know that breakfast is necessary, to get the metabolism going. One of the breakfast options that I like is a protein shake and a Nutrigrain bar.

I’ve been eating the Nutri-Grain Bars, made by Kellogg’s, since I was in high school. I remember the art teacher’s office was stocked with them, and I would have one, along with a cup of instant hot chocolate, every lunch hour while working on my studio art projects. It brings back pleasant memories when I have a Nutri-Grain Bar, even today. They come in several different flavors, apple, mixed berry, blueberry, and strawberry, among others. My favorites are apple and mixed berry. The bars are low in sugar, total and saturated fat, and they’re a good size, not too big, not too small.

To wash down the Nutrigrain bar, a nice protein shake is a good way to go. There are several on the market. Kellogg’s makes a Special K Protein Shake that’s pretty good in either the chocolate or french vanilla flavor. They come in packs of four. Other good options are Ensure shakes, which come in a variety of flavors. I’m not a fan of the strawberry, but the original chocolate or vanilla are both good, or the butter pecan is delicious, but difficult to find for sale where I live. These come in packages of six.

Ultimately, when I’m looking at protein shakes, I’m looking for the total and saturated fat to both be less than ten percent of my daily recommended amount. Most of the Special K or Ensure ones have 8 percent daily fat and 3 percent daily saturated fat. Combine that with any of the Nutrigrain bars, which have 5 percent total and 3 percent saturated, and you’re looking at less than 15 percent total and saturated fat for your whole breakfast, which is pretty healthy. Once again, these options are comfortable, and familiar. Like with a bowl of cereal, you know what you’re getting, and there’s no surprises. I have this breakfast usually multiple times a week, and I can fully recommend it to you, my fellow picky eaters, as well.

The Best Cereal for Picky Eaters (and my favorites)

I think that part of what bothers me sometimes about eating out is that if someone else is preparing your food, then you don’t know what’s in it. That means that regardless of what you’re ordering, if it’s something you haven’t gotten before, or if you’re going to a restaurant for the first time, you don’t know if what you’re getting is going to be a hit with you, the picky eater.

Getting products at the grocery store (or getting your food delivered to you at home from Amazon Fresh, like I do), it’s comforting to get the same products if you’re not feeling adventurous, because if you’ve gotten them before, you know exactly what you’re getting.

Going forward, one of the things I plan on doing here on the site is to review some of my favorite products, the ones that are more than likely to be on my grocery list every time I place an order, which me and my wife tend to do every two weeks. Cereal has always been one of my favorites, probably in part because cereal is carbohydrates, and carbs are called comfort food, for good reason. For me, the best cereal tends to be uniform, which is to say that one bite is much like the last. I’ve been eating cereal all my life, for as long as I can remember. I don’t tend to be a fan of the very sugary cereals, especially as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve tried to watch my sugar intake so I stay away from cereals like Honey Smacks, Golden Crisp, and Fruit Loops.

So what is the best cereal for picky eaters like me?

Over the years I’ve had a few that I’ve enjoyed, like Shredded Wheat, which isn’t very sweet at all, so it’s not to everyone’s taste, and the unfortunately named Product 19, which is actually pretty difficult to find these days. The best cereal for my diet, that is to say the ones I seem to go back to more and more often, are all Kellogg’s products: Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Raisin Bran. All of them are relatively low in sugar, and Raisin Bran is especially good, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve wanted to make sure I was getting plenty of fiber, and Raisin Bran is quite high in it. Last year I got a hemorrhoid, which comes about mostly from a lack of drinking enough water and not getting enough fiber, and since then, I’ve been super-careful to get plenty of both, because that was a painful experience I’d just as soon not go through again.

Any of the above three cereals are a reliable go-to meal for me, which I’m actually more likely to have for dinner than for breakfast. Freak that I am, I oftentimes like to have dinner and lunch foods for breakfast, and breakfast foods like cereal for dinner, or for a late-night snack. Any of the three, part of a well-balanced diet, go best with fat-free milk. I used to drink two-percent milk when I was younger, but in the effort to reduce total and saturated fat from my diet, I switched to fat-free a few years ago, and I found I got used to it pretty easily.

So that’s my recommendation this time around: select some go-to cereals that you can eat several times a week, preferably ones that are fairly low in sugar and, if possible, high in fiber.

My Manifesto: What I’m All About

Hi everybody. My name is Steve, I’m an adult male in my thirties, and I live in New York

Steven Finkelstein, the "Vegetables Suck" guyI am, and always have been, an extremely picky eater.

When I was a kid, I pretty much only ate hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and french fries. Vegetables were anathema to me, and there were a number of other things that I disliked also. Because I didn’t exercise much and I didn’t eat a balanced diet, I was overweight, and pretty unhappy about it.

But now that I’m all grown up (in body, if not so much in mind), I have increased the number of things that I eat, branching out into a number of different ethnic cuisines, including Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and even Ethiopian.

The reason I started this website is because I wanted to help others who are picky eaters like myself. After years of modifying my diet and exercise routine, I’m at the ideal weight for someone of my height. Incorporating exercise into what is still a relatively restricted diet, I’ve been able to avoid the foods that I dislike, like virtually all vegetables, eggs, seafood, and a number of other things, but I’m still in good shape, active, and healthy. I’d like all my visitors to this site to be able to say the same, and I’d like this to be a forum where we can talk about the best ways to cook, and eat, so that we can enjoy the things we like, distance ourselves from the things that we don’t, and still lead healthy, active lives.

What I’ve got planned in the weeks to come is to share my diet and exercise tips, as well as recipes that I’ve tailored to my exact specifications, so that I can enjoy them without suddenly getting a mouthful of something that grosses me out. I’ll also be reviewing restaurants that I go to, and recommending the ones that I’ve enjoyed.

We all have different tastes, and if you’re a person who can order anything at a restaurant and be assured that you’ll enjoy it, then more power to you. But for those of us who can’t stomach broccoli, this website may be for you. I’m all about keeping the tone here light and easy…I don’t take myself too seriously at all, and you shouldn’t either. Life is too short for that, and life is too short to eat string beans.

Now forward, to great taste, and good health!