Chobani’s Apple Cinnamon: Thumbs in the Middle

Thumbs firmly in the middle for Apple Cinnamon.

Chobani makes my favorite Greek yogurt out there. There is nothing better than a nice blueberry or strawberry banana Chobani. When I heard they had some new flavors, I was excited to try them. First on my list? Apple Cinnamon.

The Good:

Apple Cinnamon’s fruit-on-the-bottom is tremendous. Imagine the filling of a cinnamon Pop-Tart with all of the weird fatty taste of the Pop-Tart stripped away along with all of the artificial sugars in the filling. It’s that good.

140 calories, 14 grams of protein. Not bad at all.

All natural flavoring.

The Bad:

Greek yogurt is already pretty tart. They perfectly replicate the tartness of an apple. How much tart is too tarty? This comes pretty close. To its credit, the tart level is exactly as you’d expect if you bit into an apple covered in Chobani yogurt.


Won’t buy this one again unless it’s the last one on the shelf. It’s not that bad but the other Chobani flavors, including blueberry, strawberry banana, pomegranate, and pineapple are much more my style.


Eating Clean Week Day 3 Recap: Spoiler – J’s Wins

It could have said anything; J's Customers, J's Fans, didn't matter. I was eating there.

If you lived in the Lehigh Valley through the 1980’s and 1990’s, you were familiar with J’s Cheesesteaks and Subs. Amoroso’s rolls, or a very close imitator, book-ending fresh cold-cuts, cut thin, with stringy lettuce, ripe tomatoes, oil, vinegar, and I get mustard on mine. The cheesesteaks may even be better.

I didn’t stand a chance.

J’s was a 5 minute car ride from my house and on the way to and from every major childhood stop: my mom’s work, me and my brother’s middle school, my dad’s work, both malls, all three grocery stores we shopped at; we literally saw it every day.  J’s, for reasons unknown to me, disappeared from my most convenient location, South Fourth Street, Allentown, PA, in or around 1999.

It’s bad enough that I’m already addicted to hoagies. I love the texture, the taste, the combination of deli meats, cheeses, mustards, oils, vinegars, and pickles. The stringier the lettuce, the better, and if the tomatoes aren’t neon red, don’t put them on my hoagie. On a random errand run to Quakertown, I took a back way home to kill time and there it stood, shining like a sign from God in the middle of Telford, PA. It was J’s and it was open.

My dad and I had already eaten so there was no way I was convincing the cheapest man ever to stop to eat a second time within two hours of eating the first time. But I did make a mental note

Like a lighthouse guiding me from Lansdale, the familiar J's logo means great hoagies and lots of fun memories.

of it’s location. A few days passed and it became an obsession. I was hyping it to my mom, telling my brother about it, and having dreams of dancing hoagies.

I had a bowl of oatmeal (two packets of Quaker Weight Control, 320 calories, 14 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar) on Wednesday morning and read some of the new ESPN book. I assembled some patio furniture when my mom offered to take me to lunch. This was my opening: I suggested J’s.

I had seen they have a Facebook page and, being my father’s son, I printed 2 copies of the 7 inch sub, small fry, and small drink for $4.99 coupon. We were headed for Telford.

I had a calorie deficit going into Wednesday but I didn’t want to binge. I needed to make a smart choice on the sandwich to offset eating the fried food. I knew going in that I was going to eat the fries. They were a small and the serving size while a great value was small enough that it didn’t make a dent in my healthy eating on a day where I was planning to cheat. The fries were very similar to Oreida Fries, which for one serving are 130 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 21 grams of carbs. Oreida’s facts list the serving as 11 fries; J’s gives you about 18. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s two servings for 260 calories plus will throw in 140 more calories for whatever they’re frying it in, making it an even 400. Using Wawa’s nutritional information, I calculated what my hoagie would be since the products and ingredients used are very similar: 440 calories, 25 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, but 2850 grams of sodium, 450 more than the daily recommended value from the processed meats, cheese, and bread. The fries also had a tremendous amount of salt; in addition to the processed salts, they were salted after coming out of the frier. I wouldn’t hesitate to estimate there was at least 2000 mg of salt on the fries. To drink, I had water.

The meal was moderately high in calories even when choosing the healthiest sandwich on the board and only drinking water at 700 calories. But the taste. And the memories.

It is no hyperoble that when I say it tasted just like I remembered, if not even better. I savored every last bite. The juice from the pickles, the way the cheese interacted with the turkey, the salt from the fries. They had a crane game. An old, early 90’s cop shoot-’em-up, not unlike the N.A.R.C. machine that sat at the entrance to the que at South Fourth street. Even the restaurant smelled like the one on South Fourth Street! This was a dream come true. I just wish my brother Bill could have been up from Florida to share this with us.

I get excited over the little things. Here is a photo:

Two beautiful J's hoagies with fries. An Italian and my turkey hoagie, with Mom across the table.

Before I wax any further, the rest of the day was a success, minus the increasingly frustrating salt encounters. After lunch, I was at 1020 calories,  41 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fiber. Through the rest of the day, I had two plain Chobani’s topped with fresh blueberries, determined on Day 2 that two Chobani’s topped with blueberries “equaled about 220 calories, 36 grams of protein, a gram or two of fiber from the blueberries, and the added benefit of flavor and cutting about 80 calories per Chobani from the prepacked Chobani blueberry flavor thanks to erasing the sugar heavy blueberry mix they use.” And I also had my three protein shakes: one before my workout, one after, and one before bed. As established on Day 1, the three shakes total 550 calories and 120 grams of protein. 1020+220+550=1790 calories, with 177 grams of protein. For dinner, I had a natural peanut butter sandwich on Arnold’s Multi-Grain bread that was established on Day 1, which comes out to 620 calories with a little bit more than 30 grams of protein per sandwich, with about 10 grams of fiber. For the day, I was at 2410 calories, about 210 grams of protein, 26 grams of fiber, and super low levels of simple sugars.

Rules from day 1 that I followed:

  • Avoid simple sugars
  • Eat 4-5 times daily
  • Maintain a 1/1 ratio of  grams of protein consumed to body weight lbs
  • Maintain high fiber levels
  • Drink, drink, drink water
  • Avoid any beverage with calories
  • Maintain 2000-2500 calorie diet

Rules from Day 1 I did not follow:

  • Avoid fried foods

Day 3 was a successful day even though I made a choice in eating the fries that was against my self-appointed rules. I maintained high fiber consumptions, I drank over four gallons of water, I avoided any beverage with calories, was in my 2000-2500 calorie range, I avoided simple sugars, I ate five times, and I consumed a gram of protein per pound of my body weight, which was 201 lbs at the start of the day. Wednesday was not a lifting day, so I spent 90 minutes on the elliptical on fat burn mode, burning just under 1,100 calories at a nice pace.

General observations:

  • Finding new ways to eat protein is very challenging; there is really only so much Greek yogurt and shakes I can consume. I may inject some cottage cheese into my diet, which includes slow burning cassein protein.
  • Finding ways to keep eating is challenging. When I eat right, or come close to eating really well, I am much fuller faster. The proteins and the fibers fill me up and I have to force myself to consume more protein.
  • It’s only Day 3, but I’m feeling better. My moods are better, my sleep is getting better, and my muscles aren’t as sore from exercise the next day.
  • I’ve made nice gains in my leg lifts and chest lifts.
  • I feel better when I’m at the gym. The positive decision to eat well for one me propels me to have confidence to work as hard as I can at the gym.

To see my previous two days, click the links below:

Eating Clean Week Day 2 Recap: When Making Mistakes, Keep Portions Small

Follow @EatThisNotThat on Twitter for helpful food substitutions that help fine tune your diet. Now owned by Men's Health, they not-so-coincidentally offer many suggestions that are found in the MH's 125 Best Foods For Men list.

Day 2 started off positively not unlike Day 1 (See how that went down, here). At the recommendation of Men’s Health’s 125 Best Food’s For Men list published in the November 2010 issue, I started my day with what they listed as the best oatmeal for men, Quaker Weight Control Instant Oatmeal. The guide suggests Cinnamon flavor, but I bought the variety pack. I prefer the Banana Bread flavor which they don’t sell individually. Oatmeal has a tremendous array of health benefits, mostly from the high amounts of fiber, which have very positive health effects, it contains and the low amounts of sugar. Quaker Weight Control brand has only 1 gram of sugar, against 6 grams of fiber, along with a strong 7 grams of protein for 160 calories per package. I started the day off with two of these mixed with hot water, for 320 calories, 2 grams of sugar, 12 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein.

For an in between snack, I had a plain Chobani Greek yogurt topped with organic blueberries. I would have this twice, so we’ll say the blueberries, about 10 berries each time, plus the yogurt equaled about 220 calories, 20 grams of protein, a gram or two of fiber from the blueberries, and the added benefit of flavor and cutting about 80 calories per Chobani from the prepacked Chobani blueberry flavor thanks to erasing the sugar heavy blueberry mix they use.  For the record, I use Self’s Nutrition Data calculator for foods that don’t have nutrition facts printed on them. It’s a particularly awesome tool for health junkies.

Right out of the gate, I’ll add in my three protein shakes, one pre-workout, one post-workout, and Cassein protein directly before bed for about 550 more calories and 120 more grams of protein. The total for the day so far is 1090 and we’re cruising right along.

For me, lunch has always been my toughest meal. It is easy for me to avoid bad foods when I wake up because oatmeal, yogurt, and protein shakes are such quick, cheap, easy, and healthy foods that they can be had on the go and had without much thought. Dinner is easier for me than lunch because when eating dinner, I have a “looking down” view of what I ate that day. It’s easier for me to finish strong on a strong day or even finish strong a day when my eating habits have been weaker. Every meal is a chance to make a great decision for your body.

And Day 2’s lunch was no doubt a trap meal. Or it should have been. My family and I went to the Olive Garden to celebrate me obtaining my first real employment opportunity. I thought I would have a light lunch by ordering the soup, salad, and bread sticks with an unsweetened iced tea. For my soup, I had one bowl of Pasta e Fagioli which appeared to be the most healthy of the choices. It turns it out, it was. It has only 130 calories, 17 carbs, but a whopping 6 grams of fiber, with the lowest sodium of any soup on their menu, 680 mg, which is half as much as any other soup on the menu. The unsweetened iced tea has 0 calories other than maybe one or two from the lemon I squeezed into it and it does have plenty of anti-oxidants. Freshly brewed teas, black or green, has a load of anti-oxidants and keeps you hydrated with a hint of caffeine. So the first two choices were positive ones, but the one that wasn’t may surprise you.

While I haven’t been particularly been mindful of fat, I do try to keep saturated fats out of my diet. I have done this mostly irresponsibly, anecdotaly. Nina Teicholz of Men’s Health points out that it has never been proven that saturated fats are particularly bad for you. Ancel Keys, who won a Nobel Prize for his hypothesis regarding saturated fats, conveniently threw out data that proved his hypothesis inconclusive as pointed out in the docu-comedy Fathead, which is my favorite film that I’ve seen in the last year. What this segue is leading to is that I ate the salad at Olive Garden and it is surprisingly high in saturated fats.

One serving of the salad, which is all I consumed, has 26 grams of fat, anticipated because of the olive oil used in the dressing, and 4.5 grams of saturated fats. But the more I read about saturated fats, the less I am concerned about 4.5 grams here and there. I’ll just attempt to keep them moderate. The most surprising factoid about the Olive Garden salad is not the fat or the 350 calories, but the 1930 mg of sodium. According to the Mayo Clinic, American’s consume, on average, 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is nearly 1,000 mg more than the daily recommended value. At 1,930 mg of sodium, the salad at Olive Garden nearly matches the daily recommended value for sodium intake for an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day. Two plates of this salad will put you at just under 4,000 mg. Absurd. High sodium levels are found in processed foods and sodium occurs naturally in almost all foods. The Mayo Clinic recommends that most adults should consume much less than the daily recommended value. Increased sodium levels creates high sodium levels in the blood which make your heart work harder and puts more pressure on your arteries. This increased pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. On a side note, I also had one breadstick for a ridiculous 150 calories, 400 mg of sodium, 5 grams of protein, 28 carbs, and just two grams of fiber. Bad sodium day.

The final caloric tally for the day was approximately 1720, under my daily goal, which in this case, isn’t necessarily a good thing; I finished the day at approximately 170 grams of protein. I could have used those extra calories to up my protein intake. The problem on Day Two was my sodium intake, which was offset by the four gallons of water and two unsweetened iced teas at Olive Garden. I completed a very successful chest workout, continuing a high reps, low rest, low weight routine with 10 minute warm-up cardio and 20 minute post-workout cardio. Going into Day 3, June 15, 2011, the goals were to 1.) Eat more, 2.) Lower sodium intake, and 3.) Eat more protein.

Here’s a preview of what happened yesterday; I found an old friend that I thought had died and gone to fast food heaven in Telford, PA:

Eating Clean Week: Day 1

Just in time for beach season, decided to fine tune the diet. Yesterday was day 1 of my 14 day clean streak goal. Some of my goals for the next two weeks:

  • Avoid fried foods
  • Avoid simple sugars
  • Eat 4-5 times daily
  • Maintain a 1/1 ratio of  grams of protein consumed to body weight lbs
  • Maintain high fiber levels
  • Drink, drink, drink water
  • Avoid any beverage with calories
  • Maintain 2000-2500 calorie diet

Along with these fairly straight-forward, but difficult to follow, rules, I’ll be maintaining my plan of weight training five days a week, with a focus on high reps, high sets, low weight. My starting weight is 204 lbs with an estimated body fat, using this tool, of approximately 12.24%. My goal isn’t necessarily to lose weight but to increase muscle while decreasing body fat.

Day 1 was a success. Depicted above are some of the items I consumed. Chobani Greek Yogurt makes for a great snack many times throughout the day. Each individually packed plain Chobani is only 100 calories with an amazing 18 grams of protein per container. I really like their pomegranate and blueberry flavors but those add an extra 40-60 calories per cup as well as simple sugars that are added to create the texture of fruit on the bottom and the protein level decreases by 5-7 grams per cup when purchasing the fruit versions. Eating 3 plain Chobanis a day equates to only 300 calories with an awesome 54 grams of protein, 1/4 of my daily goal. These are also getting much cheaper; after being close to $2 per cup for much of last year, I have purchased them recently for $.88 a cup at Redner’s and $1.22 at Wal-Mart. And for those who are looking for them on the go, Wawa recently started carrying many varieties for $1.49 a cup. As popularity grows, I hope these will become even cheaper.

You will also notice in the photo the Arnold’s whole grain bread and natural peanut butter. I highly endorse Arnold’s bread; their is only 110 calories per slice and carbs and simple sugars are lower than most breads. Arnold’s has a wide variety of breads that are similarly delicious, including double protein and double fiber options, but their whole grain option fits directly in the middle of double protein and double fiber: 5 grams of protein per slice and 4 grams of fiber. Two slices to make a sandwhch makes it 220 calories of bread but 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber for only 8 grams of sugar. I also endorse Arnold’s because it is filled with whole grains and it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which Princeton and others have concluded is processed differently than other sugars by the body and significantly increases the likelihood for body fat to be produced. When eating clean and doing high levels of aerobic exercise, the goal is to make as much muscle as visible as possible. HFCS can contain up to 80% fructose while table sugar only contains about 50%; the increase in fructose can contribute to an increase in obesity and insulin resistance. With HFCS in just about everything, I’m glad I’m able to purchase Arnold’s who has a commitment to avoid using it.

I chose natural peanut butter for much the same reasons. Smucker’s natural peanut butter contains two items: peanuts and salt. That is really what peanut butter should be; most non-natural brands contain HFCS and other additives which negate the health benefits unsaturated fats in peanut butter provide. Others natural brands add unnecessary oils. Smucker’s contains peanuts and salt. The less processed the item the better. Most major brand peanut butters contain unnecessary additives and preservatives when all you really need is peanuts. If peanuts are not the first ingredient in peanut butter, and you’d be surprised how many brands this is true for, don’t buy them. According to this HFCS-free list, Skippy peanut butter also contains no HFCS. Smucker’s runs you 200 calories per Tbs; eyeballing it, I usually use about two Tbs. For 400 calories of peanut butter, healthy fats, and 20 grams of protein, it’s delicious. The sandwich totals out at about 620 calories with 30 grams of protein, a bunch of fiber, and a lot of healthy fats that contribute to overall health. Peanut butter contains high levels of monounsaturated fats which fight hunger pangs, are good for your heart, and help lower your cholesterol.

Another snack item that I consumed yesterday was the Snicker’s protein bar seen in the photo. I had this guy right when I woke up. It’s 290 calories, has 20 grams of protein, is fortified with lots of vitamins, and amazing 10 grams of fiber. If you want to feel full, eat one of these. The fat, fiber, and protein will all help deflect hunger pangs. The drawback to these bars is that they can be high in sugar and contain HFCS. This particular bar contains 22 grams of sugar and lists HFCS as one of its last items in the ingredients. Admittedly, I had one of these to indulge. There are healthier and more natural protein bars but this one is my favorite taste wise.

Throughout the day, I drank nearly 3 gallons of water. That may seem excessive, but the ever reliable Wikipedia says water intoxication occurs at much higher levels than the recommended 1-2 liters of water per day. The strenuous exercise coupled with daily hydration needs has me drinking like a camel. I love George Carlin, but when he asks “When did America become so thirsty?” I can only respond: when they found out how powerful of a life tool proper hydration can be. Water consumption has many obvious and not so obvious benefits: water keeps you hydrated, your muscles lubricated, helps prevent tears, pulls, strains, and sprains, improves brain function, and keeps you feeling full.

Adding everything up (1 PB sandwich, 3 Chobanis, 2 Snickers bars), I was up to about 1,500 calories, 100 grams of protein, lower levels of sugar, tons of water, and 42 grams of fiber, I was short in my caloric intake goal as well as my protein goal. To supplement this, I consumed about 50 grams of protein via shakes , just Optimum Nutrition Natural Chocolate Protein, HFCS-free, mixed with water, twice. Once before the gym once directly after. I also consumed 20 grams of protein via Optimum Nutrition Cassein Peanut Butter Chocolate protein directly before bed. This added approximately 550 more calories and 120 more grams of protein for a total day of 2050 calories and 220 grams of protein. Day 1 was a success.