One of the best things about Trader Joe's is the aisle of nuts, nut/fruit mixes, dried and freeze dried fruit, and so on. In a traditional grocery store, I'm lucky to find very over priced nuts in the baking aisle. At Trader Joe's... they are a center piece!! One thing that was brought up on that chat Tuesday evening- and that was unfamiliar to some- was the idea of freeze dried fruits. We all know that dried fruit is usually loaded with sugar so it isn't a great juice for getting the benefits of fruit. Freeze dried fruit doesn't have any added sugar. It's simply- freeze dried. It has a different texture and the flavor comes through pretty intensely. It's not something I'd play on a regular basis- but there are times they are a fun treat! One other treat to share... kumquats! Up until last year, I didn't know what kumquat was, to be honest. I'd heard of them. But hadn't ever had one and wasn't sure I'd ever even seen one. They look like tiny little oranges. See how small they are? Here's the crazy thing about a kumquat- you eat the entire thing. Just pop it in your mouth. Opposite from an orange, the kumquat peel is sweet and the inside "meat" is tart. So a kumquat is a fantastic way to satisfy that sweet and tart craving. The thing I like about Trader Joe's is that the store is smaller so it's less enticing, less distracting, less confusing. Most of the items are made without high fructose corn syrup and less preservatives and junk like that. Lots of organic choices at better prices than the bigger stores. So if I pick up some cookies, I don't feel as bad about them because they are made better than "commercial" cookies. I can buy things that my kids like- cereal bars, for example- and the ingredient list is a much better fit for the healthy lifestyle I try to lead and provide. Here's another example of how I was inspired... I have to admit that I have a really bad habit of night time snacking. Jeff and I both tend to get the kids to bed, sit down and relax, and end up grabbing some very unhealthy snacks while watching TV. Lately, my snack of choice has been pretzels and french onion dip. Not good- and I tried making myself feel better because I was using pretzels instead of potato chips! And of course, I don't measure out a portion so I'm sure I've been consuming more than the 2 TB serving size (60 cal, 5 g fat). I picked up an alternative at Trader Joe's. Pretzel slims and garlic hummus. The hummus is 50 cal and 3 g of fat- not a huge difference. But the onion dip has 2.5 g saturated fat and the hummus has none. Sodium in the dip is about double the sodium in the hummus. So tonight? I measure out 2 TB and I count out my pretzel slims. One tip that was given in the chat is to take cottage cheese, puree it in the blend (until smooth) and then add a packet of ranch seasoning or french onion and make your own dip! Other items I picked up and am very much looking forward to enjoying: identity crisis chips (gluten free, whole grain, wheat free- 140 cal in 10 chips, 7 g fat- made with corn, potato, and brown rice). These are especially good with Pineapple Salsa (2 TB, 15 cal, 0 fat). take out thali- boxed indian cuisine in microwaveable pouches. Perfect for at work. Less on the healthy scale but certainly not unhealthy. 480 calories, 16 g fat, 13 g protein, 8 g fiber. Soup- like beef & barley, carrot ginger, and sweet potato bisque. frozen foods like meatballs, chicken quesadillas, soycutash (edamame, corn, red peppers), vegetable melange kid friendly options like peaches, yogurt, fruit leather, and even some organic lollipops I'm feeling like I'm well armed to face cravings and urges and so on. I've got a little stock pile of better choices within arms reach. I've been in such a bad place with eating and lack of motivation and lack of physical activity. Not so long ago, just the idea of thinking about healthy food choices made my head swim. I felt overwhelmed by the options and choices and I felt afraid to give up the junk that brings me comfort. It feels so good to be enjoying the better choices that I am better prepared to make!