For the Greater Goods

A lifestyle blog for the conscious consumer


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Friday Finds

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, food, and fun! Today while you’re relaxing and still digesting yesterday’s meal, check out what I’ve been checkin’ out this week…

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1. This year’s CNN Hero of the Year goes to a very deserving young woman.

2. While most of Black Friday sales target traditional consumerism, here’s a Black Friday deal that saves lives.

3. Colorful foods are veering away from artificial dyes and towards a more natural solution. 

4. In the wake of the events in Paris, a reminder to hold onto hope and stay united.


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Food For Thought

The local farm to table food trend has taken the restaurant industry by storm, but there is another socially conscious movement that is starting to pop up among our favorite eats: charity. When it comes to charity, the restaurant industry might not be the most obviously place to look, but times are a changin’. I’ve recently come across three restaurants that are helping their communities in three very different ways.

Rosa’s Pizza: Helping the Needy One Slice At a Time

I am particularly interested in the entrepreneur who created Rosa’s Pizza because he is a fellow Babson grad and got to meet Ellen Degeneres. It gives me hope that one day Ellen might grace me with her glorious presence… A girl can dream.

What makes Rosa’s Pizza so unique is its pay it forward business model. For only a $1 you can buy a piece of pizza for a homeless person. It is so simple and inexpensive, yet clearly has seen great success. If you want to participate, but don’t live near Philly, you can still donate slices of pizza by clicking here.

Worth Our Weight

WOW Cafe Santa Rosa: Developing great lives through good food

Worth Our Weight is a cafe in Santa Rosa that empowers at risk youths by providing a unique, yearlong apprentice opportunity in the culinary industry. The young adults (age 16-24) in the program face major challenges such as: difficulties with the law, homelessness, or significant family disruption. The program offers an introduction to sustainable farming, professional cooking, operating a restaurant, and access to high-quality food prepared by chefs and the skills to prepare quality food for themselves. Apprentices who successfully complete one year’s training may be invited to stay for a second year of advanced training, which includes: learning the role of sous-chef, line cook or manager. Click here to learn about how you can get involved.

The Stray Cat Cafe

The Stray Cat Cafe: Helping Strays Find Their Way

The motto at the Stray Cat Cafe is: “Eat, Drink & Rescue!”. They directly support the  Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, which rescues abandoned or displaced dogs and cats and puts them in happy, safe homes. To date the LDCRF has saved over 18,000 animal lives.

The menu focuses on the 3 S’s: soups, salads, and sandwiches. The menu is scattered with cleverly named items such as Cats-a-dillas, Cat Nip Dip (contains no actual cat nip), and the Calico Club. Following the cat theme, the inside of the cafe is scattered with pictures of adopted cats. Not a cat person? Not a problem. You can check out the Lost Dog Cafe, which the Lost Cat’s sister restaurant and benefits the same Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation. Both restaurants are locating in Arlington, VA.

So if you’re ever in any of these areas, definitely grab a bite and support an amazing cause. And if you know of any restaurants that are making a difference in your communities, write them in the comments down below.


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Buttered Up

If I were to say, “I love peanut butter”, it would be a bit of an understatement. It is more like “I cannot survive without peanut butter”. Growing up I played a lot of sports, but since I was also a picky eater, I only had a few options when it came to fueling up before games and practices. Peanut butter was always my go-to. And even though I don’t eat nearly as much as I used to, I still eat it fairly regularly. And I don’t know what I would do without it.

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When used correctly nut butters can serve as a really healthy snack. They’re packed with protein and healthy fats, but sometimes nut butters can also be packed with tons of sugar and weird ingredients. But not Justin’s.

One day at the grocery story I came across Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and was initially intrigued because of the simple ingredient lists. But as I began doing more research about Justin and his company, I realized the company does so much more than produce delicious nut butters.

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This is a great alternative to Nutella. There is half the sugar and (in my humble opinion) all the flavor.

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The founder, Justin Gold, started concocting nut butters in 2004 in order to support his active and vegetarian lifestyle. When he perfected his concoctions, he started a company that values passion, innovation and corporate consciousness. He utilizes sustainable practices by “sourcing the highest-quality, local ingredients, simplifying the supply chain, and initiating environmentally friendly office practices”. In addition to that Justin’s pays-it-forward by supporting the Conscious Alliance, a hunger relief organization, and the Whole Planet Foundation, a poverty relief organization.

This one is my favorite. Simple PB. Doesn't get old. There is also a plain peanut butter spread available, but I like the subtle sweetness that the honey adds.

This one is my favorite. Simple PB. Doesn’t get old. There is also a plain peanut butter spread available, but I like the subtle sweetness that the honey adds.

Honey PB

All that being said, it probably isn’t a surprise that Justin’s products are a bit more expensive than your average nut butter. They cost about $10. But in my mind, I like knowing that I’m eating something that is better for me and better for the environment. I like supporting a company that is conscious in its practices.

“Our products are made with common sense. A sense that cooking in small batches ensures higher quality. And that selectively choosing fine, all-natural ingredients will make it taste better.”

Of all the almond butters I've tried, this one is the best. And you know I'd never lie to you.

Of all the almond butters I’ve tried, this one is the best. And you know I’d never lie to you.

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If you still need a little inspiration, check out all the recipes on Justin’s website. There are tons! I was looking some of the recipes after I ate a huge plate of lasagna last night and wasn’t even a little bit hungry, but I would have willingly stuffed my face with some of those. They look amazing! Justin also makes nut butter cups that I think I need to try soon. Like maybe right now…

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Tea Time

I’m switching things up today. You might remember back in September I had Karrie from Karrie Oasis write a guest post for my blog and I wrote one for her. Well we’re at it again!

Every Tuesday Karrie writes a Tea Time Talk post where she reviews all sorts of teas. If you’re a tea lover, you have to check them out. I wanted to get in on the fun and thought she’d write a great tea post for my blog. Karrie discovered a really cool brand called Numi and here is her complete review. You can also head over to her blog to see my post about a photographer who’s made it her mission to spread awareness and inspiration through art.

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I was so excited when Annie asked me to do another guest blog post, and even more excited when she wanted me to write about tea! She asked me if I knew of any conscious-type tea brands. To be honest I hadn’t really thought too much about it before she asked, and I was surprised I hadn’t. When I was in Target one day, I decided to check out the tea isle to see what they offered. I was not expecting much, but to my great, and wonderful, surprise, I did find something–Numi. It is exactly what I was looking for–a brand that was conscious about their packaging, their tea, as well as the people that are apart of every step of the process.Numi 1

Numi’s vision is found on their front page: Numi inspires well-being of mind, body and spirit through the simple art of tea. Our company is rooted in the principle of creating a healthful product that nurtures people and honors the planet. In all of our company initiatives, we strive to foster a healthy, thriving global community while bringing you the purest, best-tasting organic tea.

Packaging:

The packaging of Numi’s tea is eco-friendly. They use recyclable cardboard, which is printed with soy-based inks, and natural biodegradable filter tea bags. Most items can be recycled or composted. They have even won a bunch of eco awards because of these actions.

Tea and People:

Their tea is organic, and what that means is that they don’t use chemicals. They use 100% real ingredients, and no artificial flavors. From the very beginning, in the gardens that these teas are grown in, they are nurtured and are made with love. Since there are no harmful chemicals, it means that not only is it good for the consumer and the environment, but it is also good for the workers. Numi values the people who work for them. They do this by having Fair Trade Certified and Fair Labor Practices. All the teas have different certifications and stamps on their boxes because many come from different gardens around the world, including in India, China, and Egypt. Every worker in each garden community can vote democratically on how they use their Fair Trade funds, usually for things like education, health programs and sanitation. Even if a garden may not be certified, Numi makes sure they get Fair Labor by direct sourcing, which ensures quality of the products and the fair treatment of the workers. Numi even allows their own employees to have 4 paid hours a month to volunteer-how awesome is that?Numi 2

One cool initiative that Numi is also a part of is called H2OPE. This is a charity in which they are trying to help people who are in need of safe and clean drinking water. They explain how important water is to people all over the world especially in 3rd world countries and what they go through to obtain water, which is usually not safe to drink. I think this is such a great idea, especially for this brand. Because what does it take to make a cup of tea? That’s right…water. You can donate money on their website, and you can even host tea parties to raise money as well. If you want to learn more, watch this video.

Now, on to the teas. I bought the Rooibos tea and the Chocolate Pu-erh tea. Both are delicious. The Rooibos comes from South Africa and is a type of herb that calms and has a vanilla-y type flavor, but, of course, no artificial flavors here-it’s all natural. Rooibos is also caffeine free which is great when you want a nice cup of tea before bedtime. The Chocolate Pu-erh is really good as well. Very velvety and yummy. It has a combination of pu-erh tea, organic cocoa, vanilla beans, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s a great combination of flavors. And hey, skip that bowl of ice cream and drink a cup of this for dessert instead-you won’t have any regrets!Numi 3

I love that you can find this brand at Target. It is easily accessible to most, which is really great. Although they don’t sell all their products here, including they’re flowering teas (they look so cool), and loose leaf teas, they do have a generous selection and I definitely want to try more. Can’t find them at your Target? Use their store locator to see if they sell it somewhere in your area. You can also order other products from their website, and the prices are truly reasonable.

I am so glad Annie asked me to do this post. I will now be more conscious about learning where my tea comes from and it truly is exciting to see what companies like Numi are doing to help the people and the planet we call home!


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Lollipop Lollipop Oh Lolli Lollipop

What if I told you there was a lollipop that tastes good and is good for you? I know, I know. I’d be skeptical too, but hear me out.

I had no idea such a thing existed until my boyfriend’s mom (hi Theresa!) introduced me to Dosha Pops and the Ayurvedic lifestyle.

Now, I’m not a doctor and I’m still fairly new at this, but I would love to share with you what I have learned so far. I think it is exciting stuff.

The Ayurvedic lifestyle is all about being conscious of your individual body and needs. It is a 5,000-year-old science of natural healing with the theory that health exists when there is a balance between the three doshas, which are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Three Doshas

The doshas are dynamic biological energies found in the human body and mind that govern physical and mental processes. They constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, foods, the seasons, and any other sensory input that feeds our mind and body. To figure out your doshas you can take a quick quiz here or an extended one here.

Now how does all of this relate to lollipops? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Whether or not you follow or believe in the Ayurvedic lifestyle, Dosha Pops are still a great candy alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth. Dosha Pops was founded with the vision that candy doesn’t have to simply be a guilty pleasure. Instead it can be a way to lead a balanced lifestyle by having healthier indulgences. All of the lollipops are handmade with ingredients that support a healthier lifestyle and balance your doshas.

The lollipops are made with Non-GMO pure cane sugar, which may get you thinking, “Uh sugar? How can this be healthy?”.  While cane sugar is still sugar, it offers essential nutrients and minerals that refined and white sugars do not, such as magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, iron and B12.Cane sugar is also easier to digest and lacks the harmful chemicals often used in the refining process. On top of that each flavor hosts its own benefits from a variety of wholesome ingredients such as hibiscus, pomegranate, turmeric, and chai to name a few.

I tried the Chai Me Up pop and thought it tasted great! It was unlike any lollipop I’ve ever had. It definitely gets my stamp of approval. And while I may not be a health expert, I am a candy expert.

Dosha Pops

Dosha Pops also believes in giving back. In the past it has been a sponsor for the Women In Entertainment Luncheon, Mount Holyoke Club of NY, the New York Methodist Hospital Red Stocking Soiree, and Women Organized Against Rape. Last fall the people at Dosha Pops decided to run a non-profit nomination campaign to find an organization that best aligned with their company. They discovered Bent On Learning, which teaches yoga to public schools in New York City, and decided to give their end of the year donation to this organization.

So if you’re trying to get healthy this year, try incorporating Dosha Pops into your diet to satisfy sugar cravings. It’s much better than having a Snickers! And if you’re interested in learning more about the Ayurvedic lifestyle and diet, the book Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra is a great place to start.


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Friday Finds

Welcome to my first installment of Friday Finds. I feel like I come across articles or videos during the week and am like “that would be a neat thing to post on my blog”, but it’s not something I can write a whole post about. Ya know?

So I decided to create a list on Fridays of the interesting things I’ve seen/read during the week. The list will include: social issues, conscious products,  health and wellness, inspirational stories, and obviously I will throw in some funny videos because a good laugh never hurt anyone. Here is what I have been watching, reading, and found interesting this week.

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1. Taylor Swift is donating all of the proceeds from her song “Welcome to New York” to New York City Public Schools. But be careful of what might happen if you listen to too much Taylor Swift. 

2. Have you seen the controversial catcalling video?  It’s been fairly prevalent in social media this week. But what may be even more controversial is this man’s response.

3. This is an interesting article about what foods may be threatened by climate change. Try not to panic, but chocolate and wine are on the list.

 

4. Check out Old Wool New mittens, hats, and gloves. They’re made out of old sweaters and look super warm. Be prepared, winter is coming!

5. In this video adults and kids are asked what they would change about their bodies. It’s one of those videos that really makes you think. 

6. And here is a video of a baby otter learning how to swim. Enjoy the cuteness. 

 


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Conscious Box #1

About a month ago I found a deal on Ruelala that offered a 3 month Conscious Box subscription for 40% off and I couldn’t say no! A Conscious Box is like any other subscription box where it sends you a bunch of product samples once a month. The only difference is all the products are conscious/organic/natural/good for you. So it is only fitting that the conscious blogger tries and reviews the Conscious Box.CBox 1

Last Wednesday I got my first box and I must say I wasn’t disappointed. I got about 15 samples in my box, which I thought was a lot! So rather that go through every single product, I’m just going to touch on 4:

Runa Energy Drink– I will admit I was skeptical about this one at first because energy drinks can be really bad for you. And their “clean energy” slogan and the fact that there are no carbs, sugar, fat, calories, anything… seemed too good to be true. But alas. I did some research and it seems to be legit. The drink is made with a leaf from Ecuador called guayusa and it is brewed in the same way tea is and from what I’ve read it is as safe as drinking tea. In fact, it tastes pretty much like tea, but with some added carbonation. Since even the smallest amount of caffeine can make me the most obnoxious, jittery person in the world, I can’t really comment on the caffeine level. Let’s just say there is definitely caffeine in this.

Dr. Jacobs Naturals Soap– This stuff smells so fresh and crisp and pure and natural! This soap (I keep wanted to type soup, I think I need some soup) is made with olive oil so it locks in moisture and doesn’t dry your hands out. It is also very versatile. The packaging claims you can use it as: shampoo, body/face wash, toothpaste, dish soap, and laundry detergent. And it comes in so many lovely smells like lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus.

Wipe’n Clear Biodegradable Lens Wipe– I tried these on my glasses and they work exactly how they should. It cleaned them up real good and didn’t leave any streaks. The only difference between these and other lens wipes is the biodegradable cloth, which is an extra thumbs up in my book. Usually to clean my classes, I’ll just wear them while I shower… So you could say these wipes are definitely a step up.

Recycled Paper Greetings Card– The company behind these cards has 2 missions: 1) help save the environment 2) save the world from boring greeting cards. Can I get a hallelujah? When I look for cards, I feel like the good ones are few and far between, but these cards are actually funny and clever and edgy and good. This is actually one of the best cards I’ve found in a while.

CBox 2A few of the other things I got in my box were: an iron supplement, dog treats (which I can guarantee are doggy approved), a chocolate nutritional drink, moisturizer, and soooo many coupons. Can’t wait to get my next one!


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Be Healthy And Happy

Today I’m switching things up a bit. Meet Karrie. She wrote my post today. We pulled a Parent Trap-esque move and switched places for this post. And you can head over to her blog to see the post I wrote.

Karrie is a very positive person and writes a blog about what makes her happy and I think that’s great. I thought she would have some great insight for my blog. So without further adieu, here is Karrie’s post about how conscious eating habits make her happy:

Becoming happier and healthier is a goal I have been trying to stick to lately, and one of the best ways I know to do this is by eating and drinking healthy.  When I eat healthy, I feel happy because I know that what I put into my body is going to be good for it. How many times have you eaten fast food and instantly regretted it? I don’t know about you, but for me, it always seems like a great idea at the time because it tastes super yummy, but afterwards, I know I should have chosen a better option.

Now, I am also not saying I am the healthiest person out there by any means, because I do enjoy unhealthy snacks every now and then, but lately I have been trying to make smarter decisions regarding what I choose to put in my body. I am also not a doctor or a nutritionist. I am just telling you what works for me, and if it helps you out, then great!

Here are three things I have been doing lately to help me eat and drink healthier:

-Transition by mixing some good with some not-so-good:

I love fruit, and although eating it plain can be delicious, I also like sprucing it up by adding in some extras. Sometimes I will get a bowl full of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, or any other berries I have on hand, and put a little bit of Greek yogurt on top with some chocolate chips (just a few) and mix it all up. That little added chocolate makes it taste even better. I also like putting fruit in my cereal, for a little added flavor. I also like putting peanut butter and/or Nutella on bananas, and I also like making chocolate covered strawberries or frozen bananas. Yummm! Basically, I like adding just a little bit of something that’s not super healthy to something that is healthy, because I don’t want to crave just unhealthy foods. By doing this, I don’t just ignore the cravings completely, because eventually I will want to eat something unhealthy so bad that I gorge on that instead. This way, I enjoy eating something that is not so healthy in smaller portions and with something that is healthy.

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-Be aware of ingredients

Earlier this year, we found out that my boyfriend was allergic to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, so basically anything that has wheat in it is a no go for him. Since wheat is found in many things, I was forced to read labels on anything that could possibly have gluten in it. I never really paid attention to such things before, because there was no need to, but it has made me much more aware of what is in certain products. Because of this, I think I have been straying away from the more unhealthy items and attracted to the more organic and less processed items. I’m definitely not saying you need to become gluten free to be able to do this. All you need to do is read labels and understand what it in certain products so that you can decide if it is something that you should be putting into your body.

GF products

Water, water, water

You’ve probably heard many professionals, including your doctor, tell you that you need to drink a lot of water. There’s always the debate about how much you should be drinking each day, and again, I’m not a doctor, but online the consensus is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, also called the 8 x 8 rule. Sometimes it differs based on weight, exercise or other personal reasons, but that’s what is recommended. I have been trying to drink a lot more water in my daily life because I know it’s good for me (not to mention it’s supposed to be great for your skin as well). If you don’t like the taste of water, then here’s a little tip: put fruit in it! I have been doing this for about a year and a half now and I love it. When I go to the gym, I usually just drink plain water, but when I’m at work or at home I usually cut up some lemons, maybe some limes, strawberries, mint, oranges, cucumbers or whatever I think will taste good (but not all of them together) and I swear it makes me drink more water. Also, a cute water bottle is a must and makes a huge difference. Annie has actually blogged about this before, so check it out here. What I like about water bottles is that they usually say you how much they hold, for example the one I usually use is 20 oz., so I know that I have to drink 3 of them each day to get my daily intake. This rarely happens, but I like being able to keep track. Water is truly good for you. I always feel better when I stay hydrated throughout the day.

Water

Again, I am no expert nor am I super healthy, but when I do have healthy eating and drinking habits, I can tell because not only does my body feel better, but I am also usually in a good mood. And remember, if you make healthy choices, your body will thank you both now and later. Go forth and be healthy and happy!


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The Endangered Species Chocolate Ranking

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’m kind of a chocolate expert (toot toot). My credentials don’t go beyond the fact that I eat A LOT of chocolate, but believe me; I know what I’m talking about.

I’ve seen these Endangered Species Chocolate bars every time I go to the grocery store and I thought it was about time I tried some. Yes, not just one, some.4 barsYou can probably tell by the brand name that Endangered Species Chocolate has something to do with endangered species. 10% of net profits go to species conservation, habitat preservation, and humanitarian efforts. Currently the donations go to the African Wildlife Foundation and the Xerces Society. But that is not the only great thing this company is doing.

They are Rainforest Alliance certified (ethical business standards), USDA Organic certified, and 30% of the packaging is made from recycled materials. Endangered Species Chocolate also tackles a problem I wasn’t aware of: palm oil. Below you will see the impact conventional palm oil production has on the world.

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Endangered Species Chocolate uses Agropalma, which is a certified sustainable palm oil committed to zero deforestation.

So after hearing all of these great things, the real question here is, is the chocolate good? And the answer is yes.

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Here is my ranking of a few (six!) that I tried from my most to least favorite:

Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans: I was a little surprised by how much I liked this one because I’m not usually drawn to coffee flavors. The sweetness of the chocolate and bitterness of the coffee compliment one another very nicely. 

Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint: This one was a close second. The mint flavor is subtle, but adds another dimension to the smooth, rich dark chocolate. I really like that the mint flavor is natural and doesn’t taste overly sweet or artificial.

Dark Chocolate with Raspberries: I will admit the raspberry flavoring isn’t very predominant, but the pieces of raspberry do add extra sweetness. I think this bar would be great for someone who normally indulges in sweet milk chocolates, but likes to mix it up with dark chocolate once in a while.

Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee: This one has so much potential! The sad part is that the toffee bits are few and far between, but when you get a piece with a good amount of toffee in it, it’s goooooood.

Dark Chocolate with Blueberries- I may be a little biased on this one. Being from Maine (the leading U.S producer of wild blueberries) I have high blueberry expectations. Chocolate covered blueberries are sold by the carton up here and I was a little disappointed in the low blueberry to chocolate ratio. 

Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds: This is the only one I was actually disappointed with. The almond pieces are very, very tiny. Normally when I crave chocolate with almonds I’m looking for that extra crunch. You don’t really get that with these little shreds of almond. The cranberries add a little bit of flavor, but like the almonds, are very small in size.  

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There are a lot of other flavors available, but I had to limit myself to six. You can check them all out at the Endangered Species Chocolate website. If you try a flavor I didn’t get a chance to review, I would love to hear what you think!


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All Kinds of KIND

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If you know me personally, you have probably had the pleasure of hearing me rant and rave about my love for KIND bars. I have also probably offered you (and forced you to eat) one.

I’ve always loved the convenience of a nutrition/energy/protein bar. Growing up playing sports nonstop made these bars a regular part of my diet. They were easy to grab before, between, or after practices or games. But even when I retired from my athletic career, these bars remained an easy snack I continued to eat on the reg.

Since graduating college and trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I have definitely become more conscious about what kind of food I put in my body. So when I finally took a real good look at the ingredients in the bars I ate, I was not too pleased with what I saw. Between the unpronounceable ingredients to the amounts of sugar and fat, I was basically eating a really bad tasting candy bar.

I quickly searched for a healthy alternative to fill the void. KIND bars kept coming up and lucky for me they are sold at a bunch of local grocery stores. And I lived happily ever after.

Unlike other bars there are no mysterious ingredients. They are made up of simple and all natural ingredients like nuts and dried fruit and spices that are not ground up into mysterious nougat.  KIND bars also have none of that icky GMO stuff in them. Their philosophy is “mysteries belong in novels, not in your food”. And they believe that “if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it shouldn’t go into your body” .

fruit and nut kind bar unwrapped

KIND bars are a delicious, filling treat that you don’t have to feel guilty about chowing down on. Because they’re mostly made up of nuts, they’re packed with protein and healthy fats. I’ve tried basically every flavor I can get my hands on. As of right now my favorite bar flavors are: Maple Glaze Pecan and Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan, and Madagascar Vanilla Almond. KIND also makes a mean granola!

And sadly there are so many KIND products I have yet to try!  I was looking at the KIND website and found out there are so many products I’ve never even seen at a store!  I’m going to have to hunt them down somehow… You can check out all the yummy flavors here. Which ones look tasty to you?