Archive | October, 2014

The Great Greek Yogurt Conspiracy

24 Oct

Has anyone else noticed how Greek yogurt is everywhere lately? Or I guess I should say “Greek-style” yogurt, because at least in the UK, you can’t call it Greek yogurt if it’s not made in Greece. Just ask Chobani — they’re the most popular Greek [style] yogurt in the US, but got kicked out of the UK because Athens-made Fage sued them, saying Greek yogurt must be made in Greece using a particular straining process and cannot contain additives and preservatives. Chobani said “this isn’t over,” but for now, the UK yogurt aisle is full of the superior Fage Total, Liberte, and a bunch of impostors.

I don’t normally get worked up about things like this. I buy almost everything generic and go out of my way to walk to Aldi to save money. But the other day I learned the hard way that Greek yogurt is not something to scrimp on.

First, let me explain why Greek yogurt has become such a health food buzz word. As Fage argued against Chobani, what makes Greek yogurt Greek is the straining processed. This is most important because it makes the yogurt extra thick with extra protein. That’s why I like it — the protein boost, and that’s why Greek [style] yogurt has become so pervasive. Somebody somewhere on some health site said that Greek yogurt was the healthiest, best snack ever. And a bunch of non-Greek yogurt companies decided to cash in.

As I mentioned earlier, Fage Total is the authentic and best Greek yogurt, but it’s also the most expensive. Here is the nutritional information I took off their website:

fage total nutrition57 calories per 100g and 10.3g protein.

jeremy clarkson not bad
However, I usually don’t splurge for Fage because I put plain yogurt in my breakfast overnight oats and the superior creaminess and taste of Fage doesn’t shine through. So I buy Liberte, which is a Canadian brand that is always on sale at Waitrose. It’s nutritional information is similar enough to Fage:

Liberte uk nutrition9.6g protein as opposed to 10.3g, but still, not bad.

But last week I had a moment of weakness. I wanted individual pots of flavored Greek yogurt to have as a snack. I was in the queue at Aldi, which was so long it snaked around to the dairy section (I realize that makes no sense to you if you haven’t been to the store, but trust me, the queue was long), and noticed 4-packs of Greek-style yogurt. I grabbed one, quickly looked at the protein content, and thought, “6g, not bad.”

jeremy clarkson not badAnd the 4-pack was less than £1, so I bought two different flavors. And then I got home and tasted the “Greek-style” yogurt. It was no Fage. It wasn’t even Liberte. It tasted — and I hate to say this, because I don’t want to be one of those OMG CHEMICALS AND UNCLEAN FOOD people — but it tasted fake. So I did what I should have done while back at the store — I looked at the ingredient list. Keep in mind that Fage and Liberte have the same 2 ingredients: milk and cultures, that’s it. I understand flavored yogurt will have more, but check this out:

aldi greek yogurt nutritionMaize starch and pork gelatin.

This “Greek-style” yogurt should not be called Greek yogurt not because it’s not made in Greece, but because it’s not strained. It’s thickened artificially with maize starch and pork gelatin. Unless you happen to prefer extra thick yogurt, this “Greek” yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt with thickening agents. And the “not bad” 6g of protein I saw was per 125g pot — it only has 4.8g per 100g, which is less than half of Fage and Liberte.

This, friends, is why you have to be cautious of food trends. Everybody and their brother makes “Greek-style” yogurt now, but few are the nutritional powerhouses they claim to be. And now I’ll get off my Greek yogurt soapbox to show you this photo of a dapper autumn pug that I found on my external hard drive in a folder marked “Cute Animals” that I have no recollection of creating years ago:

pug blazer

Advertisements

It’s the second week of October, Merry Christmas!

9 Oct

And now, part II of a feature I started in December 2011: Things White Middle Class People Get Overly Worked Up About.

On Monday during my weekly grocery shop in the rain (sans umbrella because the Fitbit-wearing left arm must always be free to swing and the right arm must pull the trolley) I saw chocolate Santas at Aldi. It didn’t really register with me, and I went onto Sainsbury’s. There I saw an aisle of Christmas gift suggestions. At Waitrose I saw Christmas poppers. And then it dawned on me that even though my parents and I had just booked our trip to Biltmore for December, it was still only the second week of October.

Had this been in America, there would have been an uprising — angry mobs with Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed pitchforks. There’s an understood rule in the U.S. that you do not celebrate anything Christmas-related until after Thanksgiving. (6pm on Thanksgiving to be exact, or maybe earlier this year, I haven’t seen any Black Friday doorbuster ads yet). To get an idea of how worked up Americans get over this, take a look at these comics:

santa turkey comic
thanksgiving christmas comic
could we finish thanksgiving dinner first

thanksgiving mall decorations
As you can see, Americans get really riled up about this — but why? Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. Why don’t they want to get a jump start on it? I doubt they really care about how Mr. Turkey feels getting passed over (judging by the comics, he’d like that!).

Turkey christmas music

pumpkin santa turkey comic All I can think of is that it’s about time. As Jim Steinman wrote in Meat Loaf’s song “Heaven Can Wait”: “And all I’ve got is time until the end of time.” If you want to get deep about it, time really is all we have — everything else like health, wealth and happiness can extend our time and make it more enjoyable, but once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. Adam Carolla joked on his podcast that old people continually wake up and eat earlier and earlier in the hopes that one day they’ll actually gain a day back by moving everything forward (like showing up for Thanksgiving dinner so early that you arrive on Wednesday night instead). We don’t want to think about December in October because it’s like skipping over two whole months we’ll never get back, and we’re supposed to “live every day to the fullest.” On the other hand, I like getting into the Christmas spirit early (maybe not second week of October early, but November will do). Since I head back to the U.S. for Thanksgiving through Christmas, I would miss out on the London festivities if they didn’t start so early (and they’re allowed to start early since Thanksgiving is not a thing and Halloween barely is). I get that people feel like retailers are taking advantage of them by pushing the holidays too soon, but think of it the other way — if people started at least thinking about Christmas gift ideas a little earlier (not even buying yet), then there’d be less stress and rush in December. But of course, life is all about prolonging the inevitable, isn’t it?

Falling in love with fall and running (and, OK, pumpkin spice)

2 Oct

I think fall might be my favorite season, and not for your stereotypical white girl reasons.

psl white girlAlthough I did run to Waitrose (literally, I was awkwardly sweating in the queue) to overpay for a can of Libby’s pumpkin to make pumpkin spice overnight oats and pumpkin spice smoothies (which are better than pumpkin spice lattes because I use pumpkin spice tea and they also don’t cost £5 (is that what a PSL costs? It’s been a while since I’ve been to Starbucks).

pumpkin spice girls

ANYWAY…

The reason I like fall (OK, autumn, since I’m in the UK) is because it’s the perfect running weather — not I-need-3-tissues-just-to-wipe-my-sweat summer hot or dear-god-how-is-it-25-out-that’s-F-not-C winter cold. Since I officially booked my flight home for Thanksgiving, I decided it’s high time I start training for the Thanksgiving 10K again. Last year it was my very first race ever and it was amazing. Yes, it was 25 degrees out (that’s -4 C) and I had to weave my way through an obscene amount of other runners, but I got such a thrill. I remember sprinting to the finish and even running to the car after. It was a stark difference from my 5K in April which I finished huffing and puffing and feeling defeated. Part of that could have been a bug coming on, but I also think I hadn’t been training properly. Part of me feared I peaked on Thanksgiving last year and I haven’t been running the same since. I’ve just been plodding along, taking a walking break the minute any part of my body felt remotely uncomfortable.

Eventually the reality of the race in less than 2 months set in and the weather got cooler and I decided to get serious about running again. Last Tuesday, the day after that ominous day, I ran 5K under 30 minutes, something I haven’t done since last fall. And then two days ago I did it again — but even faster. And today — yep, you guessed it, even faster. I’m starting to fall in love with running again. There’s just something about that cool breeze, the perfect Spotify playlist (thank you all-you-can-eat data plan) and going for a “high score.” Running may be a competitive sport with professionals and prizes and actual human beings that can run a marathon at a pace of 4 minutes, 41.5 seconds per mile (how?!! I’m not sure I could maintain that speed for 50 meters), but ultimately it’s about competing against yourself, setting new goals and personal records — high scores (or I guess low scores if we’re going by time and pace). This year my goal is to finish the Thanksgiving 10K in under an hour (or right on the dot, I won’t be picky). Months ago that seemed like a pipe dream, but if I can maintain my current 5K pace for twice as long, it may just become a reality. I know there will be thousands of people in the race who are faster than me (I recently read a blog by a runner coming back from an injury who was disappointed by his 30 minute 5K time, saying “I don’t know if you can even call that running.” Here I am rejoicing about a 30 minute 5K), but I just need to be faster than 2013 Renee. As my Over the Rhine T-shirt says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”