By Jerri Graham, Founder of Nothin’ But Foods
Prepared foods have a pretty bad rap. That’s mostly because there are some fairly horrible ones on the market. But despite common opinion, they’re not all bad! Through founding my own prepared snacks company, Nothin’ But Foods, I’ve come to understand that all prepared products aren’t created equal. There are some that shouldn’t be picked up with a 10-foot pole, and others that are thoughtfully made and quite healthy. But how can you tell? I’ve found that there are two golden rules to guide you through the good and evil of prepared foods:
1. Keep it real. Keep it simple.
First and foremost, fake food has got to go. Food should be real! Real food is made out of real ingredients. It has calories, flavors, texture, and taste. It doesn’t last forever, and it shouldn’t be made to. If you can’t figure out what your food is made of when you bite into it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
2. Look for short ingredient lists made up of real items you can recognize!
Recently, I was looking for a breakfast treat for my daughter and myself, and found an item claiming to be a “healthier” breakfast option. The calories were right, the fat perfect, and the fiber certain to make me happy, but there were 33 ingredients in those 150 calories! ‘Sure it may taste great,’ I thought. Yes, it would give me all those nutrients it promised, but at what cost? The real ingredients that were taken out to take away the fat, sugar, and real flavors were replaced with something. Ingredients shouldn’t be obscure or have to be ordered online in vats from a lab. Life’s too short to eat things you can’t pronounce.
I grew up in the ‘70s when meals covered in tinfoil were a treat, and a smiling girl named Debbie made my favorite snack cakes. It’s no wonder that I grew to love and crave those foods, and that I also ended up at 325 pounds by the time I graduated high school. The boxes with their labels and colorful smiling faces that I loved as a kid, became my tormentors as an overweight young woman. Then things sort of shifted. I became a mother and saw that food is not the enemy when it is eaten in the right way. As an adult and mother, I didn’t want to raise my daughter to have a complicated relationship with food. I didn’t want her to fall in love with the options that were unhealthy, simply because nothing better was out there. That’s when I got the idea to create better options that would not only be nutritious, but be something we actually wanted to eat, too. All Nothin’ But Premium Snack Bars and Granola Cookies are created to be the sort of snacks that satisfy the “cravings,” but aren’t the over-preserved, who-knows-what of the past.
Prepared foods certainly have their place in our cabinets. They make our lives easier and better, but only if we choose the right ones. Good food is simple. Companies that create truly wholesome foods know that each bite is someone’s sustenance for the day, and they care about what that means. In good prepared foods, each ingredient can be found in your grocery store down the road, and each piece has the taste, texture, and flavor that can only come when real ingredients are brought together to make something extraordinary.
Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Espresso Cheesecake
So long as you pay attention to the ingredients, packaged foods can be a smart and nutritious option. We’ve taken that one step further, and used Nothin’ But cookies as the start for this homemade dessert!
- 17oz pouch of Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola Cookies
- 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
- 8oz cream cheese or vegan cream cheese alternative (room temperature)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream or vegan sour cream
- 2 tsp espresso powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (the pods are prettier to photograph)
- 5 oz dark chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp cocoa nibs
1) Pulse one 7oz pouch of Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola Cookies with 1/4 cup of organic coconut oil. Pulse into a chunky crumb. Press into a bar pan with a release bottom. Place in the fridge and chill while you prepare the filling.
2) Melt 5 oz of dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals. A minute to 80 seconds gets them melted nicely. Stir to blend and melt the remaining. Add in espresso powder.
3) Blend cream cheese alternative and melted dark chocolate until they are nice and smooth. Add in a vanilla extract. Fold in vegan sour cream until mixtures are fully incorporated. Don’t over blend. Pour onto chilled Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola Cookie Crust.
4) Chill for three to four hours. Cut into squares and top each with a few cocoa nibs. So good I want to marry myself!
Jerri Graham is the Founder and CVO of Nothin’ But Foods out of Westport, Connecticut. Prior to starting her business, she worked in publishing as an editor and writer in the US as well as in Asia. As the mother of a teenage daughter, she is passionate about helping give young women the skills to succeed in life as well as entrepreneurship.