Category Archives: Food Stars

A Healthy Sausage?

Eat by Stars is back in our local supermarket.  Here’s this week’s five items.

Organic Valley Egg Whites®

Per ¼ cup (an eggs worth): calories 25, fat 0g, carbs 1g, protein 6g

This is truly liquid chicken.  Well, mostly.  I guess you can’t have a chicken without the yolk.  I digress.  This carton gives us a good shot of protein, no fat, little carbs, and an ingredient list reading in its entirety “100% organic egg whites”.

Johnsonville 3 Cheese Italian Chicken Sausage®

Per link: calories 180, fat 12g, carbs 4g, protein 13g, (salt 34% DV)

Sausage can really be made out of anything, you know?  So why not start with something healthy?  A chicken base for sausage is definitely a step in the right direction, the incredibly long list of fillers is not.  Still, for a healthier sausage it’s not a bad option.

Fig Newman’s®

Per 2 figs: calories 110, fat 1.5g, carbs 23g, protein 2g

I still get a little confused when I see the star of The Sting hawking dressing, pretzels, and cookies.  No matter, at least he did it by offering healthier, organic, options.  This is Newman’s take on Fig Newtons.  Better yes.  But they’re still cookies.


Per 16 pretzels: calories 110, fat 0g, carbs 23g, protein 3g, (salt 20% DV)

I’m not sure when the notion pretzels are healthier than potato chips started.  In any event, let’s get this straight, pretzels are not a healthier snack than potato chips.  In fact, the case could be made they’re worse.  Potato chips don’t have the sinister enriched flour as ingredient #1.

Entenmann’s Cinnamon Donuts

Per 4 doughnuts: calories 270, fat 16g, carbs 29g, protein 2g

They’re dough that’s fried then covered in cinnamon flavored powdered sugar.  And absolutely delicious!  My wife and I have developed a tradition of doughnuts once a year on New Year’s Day.  That’s the definition of a 1-star food.

Disclaimer: I take all these pics myself at local markets.  Unless specifically noted(®), I am not attempting to single out a specific brand or company.  One company’s product is not different or better than another’s similar product. I get all my nutritional info from the package.  For items without packages I consult and the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory website.

What to Eat at CPK

Today Eat by Stars heads to its first pizza joint.  We start with the high falutin California Pizza Kitchen.

CPK presents itself as a better pizza joint.  Or healthier, at least.  Let’s go through the menu and find out if that holds grease in pepperoni.

We’ll give an overall view of each menu section and then highlight various choices. CPK only gives saturated fat grams, not full fat.  We’ll use saturated fat instead this go round.  Go check out the full nutritional info here.

Small Cravers

These are shareable small plates.  Think of them as small appetizers.  That’s not a bad thing.  You can definitely find a few good options.  And, as always, a few bad options.  Just don’t overload, you have a whole meal on the way after all.

The Wedge Saladcalories 278,  sat. fat 6g, protein 6g, carbs 5g

Asparagus + Arugula Salad calories 189, sat. fat 2g, protein 4g, carbs 8g

White Corn Guacamole + Chips calories 363, sat. fat 3g, protein 6g, carbs 48g

Mediterranean Focacciacalories 656, sat. fat 6g, protein 18g, carbs 83g


Unlike Small Cravers, the appetizers section is completely devoid of moderately healthful options.  If all you’re eating is an appetizer I suppose they’re OK.  But you didn’t come to CPK for an appetizer, did you?


Lots of land mines here.  Lots.  In fact, full salads are roughly a tie with half a pizza.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take half a pie over a full salad every time.  Even with ranch dressing.  If you opt for the greens, stay safe with the half portion.  Then swipe a slice.

Half Roasted Vegetable Saladcalories 298, sat. fat 3g, protein 5g, carbs 24g

Half Original Chopped with Garbanzo Beans calories 494, sat. fat 8g, protein 22g, carbs 13g (salt 41% DV)

Full CPK Cobb Salad calories 941, sat. fat 18g, protein 48g, carbs 22g (salt 69% DV)

Full Moroccan Chicken Salad calories 1370, sat. fat 12g, protein 43g, carbs 116g (salt 42% DV)


THIS is why we’re here.  It isn’t California Salad Kitchen.  So, what’s the verdict?  Well, it’s pizza.  So you can do better.  But follow a few simple rules and this may in fact be your healthiest pizza joint option.

  1. Share!  The pizzas aren’t huge.  Easily eaten by one person with an appetite.  Resist the urge and split a pie.  You’ll end up between 500 and 700 calories.  You can do MUCH worse.
  2. Thin crust.  Opting for the thin crust saves you 179 calories a pie.  Or, since your sharing, 89 calories.  Thin is in.
  3. Less toppings.  The less toppings the better.  The healthier the toppings the better.  Can you imagine?

Because there are so many options I won’t give specific pizza examples.  Check the full nutritional info for your favorite pie.


There are two, and only two, pasta options that rise above a 2-star.  Get those.  Avoid the rest.

Cedar Plank Salmon + Corn Succotash calories 637, sat. fat 8g, protein 52g, carbs 36g, (salt 23%)

Norwegian Atlantic Salmon with Wok-Stirred Vegetables calories 745, sat. fat 7g, protein 52g, carbs 25g, (salt 36% DV)

Tacos + Sandwiches

Like nearly every restaurant chain sandwich, they all fall in 2-star category.  You can’t find one less than 800 calories and 80 grams of carbs.  Just get a damned pizza will you?


You know the answer to this section.


A Tale of Two Cereals

Switching up Eat by Stars this week.  Today I’m comparison shopping.

Which of the above cereals is a better for you?  Is either a healthy choice?  Take a quick guess….

Did you go with Fiber One?  Me too.  Sounds healthier.  Looks healthier.  But both tout whole grain as ingredient #1.  Let’s go to the scorecards.

Calories: Chex clocks in with 130 calories to Fiber One’s 180.  The 50 calorie difference isn’t huge, but gotta give credit where credit is due.  Advantage: Chex

 Fat: Nearly identical.  2.5 grams for Chex, 3grams for Fiber One.  Advantage: Tie

Carbohydrates:  Finally a significant difference.  Chex has 26 carbs, Fiber One brings 41.  True to its word, Fiber One packs in 9 grams of fiber to Chex’s measly one gram.  But Fiber One also gives 2 extra grams of sugar.  And trumps Chex 21 to 17 on the mysterious “other carbohydrates” category.  Fiber One wins, barley.  Advantage:  Fiber One

 Protein: Chex 2 grams.  Fiber One 3 grams.  Advantage: Tie

Ingredient List:  Both have whole grain listed first.  That’s what the front of the box touts so proudly.  The boast fails to mention the 10 to 12 other ingredients contained therein.  Both are, like all cereals, processed.  Advantage: Tie

Taste:  I didn’t try either.  But you’ve gotta think the chocolate covered choice will win, don’t you? Advantage: CHOCOLATE Chex


Winner:  Yes, Fiber One has more fiber. Hence the name. But overall, neither option is “healthy”.  You certainly are OK downing a couple bowls a week, especially if the alternative is no breakfast at all.

But there are lots of better AM options.  Oatmeal, fruit, whole wheat toast, and eggs are a few examples.

Ultimately, despite appearances, Fiber One is not head and shoulders above Chocolate Chex.  More like a forehead.

A Trip Down the Frozen Food Aisle

This week Eat by Stars is exploring our grocer’s frozen food section.  Noticeably absent is ice cream.  No need to depress you.

“I said ‘burr, it’s cold in here’…..”

Cascadian Farms Organic Broccoli®

Per bag: calories 60, fat 0g, carbs 4g, protein 2g, (salt 1% DV)

Eat all you want.  Frozen veggies are just as good as the fresh version.  Provided the bag doesn’t add the phrase “In Sauce”.  (This one doesn’t).  And double check the sodium content.  Some unscrupulous vegetable purveyors add salt.  Jerk stores.

Healthy Choice Frozen Turkey Meal®

Per meal: calories 270, fat 4g, carbs 38g, protein 19g, (salt 22%)

I’ve never known anyone to actually enjoy eating a frozen dinner.  They usually fall somewhere between, “Eh”, and “I think that was meatloaf.  Or pudding.”  Nonetheless, if you’re forced to reheat a cafeteria tray, opt for the Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine versions.

Kid Cuisine Corn Dogs®

Per meal:  calories 330, fat 10g, carbs 52g, protein 9g (salt 25%)

I’ve heard being a parent can be stressful.  You’re tired, the kids are hungry, and you need something fast.  Do whatever you can to avoid a corn dog centered frozen meal.  Or, frankly, any “kids” frozen meal.

Texas Toast

Per slice: calories 150, fat 9g, carbs 15g, protein 3g, (salt 11%)

I admit, frozen Texas Toast is delicious.  But, adding 150 empty calories to your meal is not the smartest way to round out your dinner.  I’d rather spend the empty calories on a scoop of Chubby Hubby.


Per 2 taquitos: calories 250, fat 12g, carbs 26g, protein 8g, (salt 20%)

My only taquito experience is the gas station version.  Which means I’ve had frozen taquitos.  Unless you have one of those spinning hot dog/taquito cookers/warmers I’d suggest keeping your taquito intake confined to a I’m-drunk-and-no-other-food-is-available situation.  Tu casa es no taquito casa.

Disclaimer: I take all these pics myself at local markets.  Unless specifically noted(®), I am not attempting to single out a specific brand or company.  One company’s product is not different or better than another’s similar product. I get all my nutritional info from the package.  For items without packages I consult and the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory website.

My Favorite Lunch Spot

I eat lunch at Willy’s Mexicana Grill roughly once a week.  So it’s only natural I take a hard look at how healthy I eat at the place where they know my face is vaguely familiar.

Since the “make your own” burrito style presents numerous burrito/taco combinations, it’s difficult to accurately list nutritional information.  So we’ll examine Willy’s offerings in general terms using our stars.

Let’s do this by first checking out the shell and protein choices.  Then we’ll take a look at our toppings.  We’ll also discuss cheese dip, but we don’t really have to, now do we?

The Shell

We learned this at Taco Bell, but let’s reiterate:  Corn trumps flour.  And, obviously the smaller the shell the better.  Not good news for the big-ass burrito tortilla.

Corn Taco  calories 60, fat 2g, carbs 9g, protein <1g

Flour Taco  calories 70, fat <1g, carbs 14g, protein 3g

Burrito calories 280, fat 3g, carbs 54g, protein 10g


Your choices are adobe (spicy) chicken, sinaloa chicken, steak, pork, or tofu.  Both chicken choices are solid, but the adobe has bit more fat.  Steak is a slightly better choice than pork.

A word to the wise: the taco serving is a little less than half the burrito option. Examples: Adobe chicken (90 cals taco vs 210 burrito), Steak (77 cals taco vs 180 burrito).

  Adobe chicken, Sinaloa chicken, Tofu

 Steak, Pork

Fillers and Toppings

Notice the four star category is littered with veggies.  Simple choices really.

 Lettuce, pico de gallo (salsa), black olives, red peppers, corn salsa, cucumbers, onions, pickled jalapenos, fresh jalapenos, limes, cilantro, grilled peppers and onions

 Black & pinto beans, guacamole, southwest coleslaw,

 Rice, sour cream, cheese dip,

Chips and Cheese Dip

Chips are free.  Opt out and you’ll save yourself roughly 500 calories.  Cheese dip isn’t free.  Don’t opt in. Unless hung over.  And if that’s the case you should be at Five Guys.

Two Quick Notes

Salads:  I’ve lamented the taco salad numerous times, but a make your own place gives the best chance to keep it healthy.  Get only one dressing ramekin and keep it vinaigrette based.

Quesadillas: They’re fall somewhere between burritos and tacos in size and calories.  Adjust accordingly.

A Final Word

With lots of fresh veggies and lean protein choices Willy’s is a solid lunch spot.  If you avoid burritos.  Willy’s nutritional information lists the Adobe chicken burrito at 980 calories.  Its taco counterpart comes in around 300.

Bottom line: Stick to a salad or tacos, load with veggies, and leave the chips.

(You can easily extrapolate this review to similar places like Moe’s and Chipotle)

5 Healthy & Tasty Foods

Eat by Stars is back to the grocery this week with 5 healthy choices.  All of which are also quite tasty.  THIS is how to eat.


Per 2 cups (a small salad): calories 10, fat <1g, carbs 1.5g, protein 1g

You may know arugula as the lettuce looking stuff on top of a pizza at one of those upscale type pizzerias.  I know it as a great way to add a peppery depth of flavor to a salad.  Toss with olive oil and lemon, top with gorgonzola and walnuts and you may have the world’s healthiest lunch.


Per cup: calories 62, fat <1g, carbs 14g, protein 2g

If you fight a hefty sweet tooth, switching to fruit to scratch that itch is a monumental way to eat healthier.  Blackberries are a great example of Mother Nature’s candy.  You may never look at a gummy bear the same again.

Snack Sensations Pack®

Per pack: calories 180, fat 8g, carbs 21g, protein 6g

Grapes, apples, and cheese aren’t found encased in plastic together in nature, but no matter, this snack gives a solid mix of fats, carbs, and protein.  Making a good for you snack convenient is a rare way our food system helps us eat healthier.  Take advantage.

Babybel Cheese®

Per piece: calories 70, fat 6g, carbs 0g, protein 5g

Another entirely easy way to have a healthy snack.  Baby bell cheese gives you a good shot of protein to keep you feeling full longer.  And the three ingredients (pasteurized milk, salt, microbial enzymes) are how cheese has been made since, like, a really long time ago.

Perdue Individually Wrapped Chicken Breasts®

Per breast: calories 140, fat 1.5g, carbs 0g, protein 29g, (salt 15%)

This packaged chicken type is swimming in salt water so it doesn’t reach 5 star territory.  Nonetheless, it’s an easy way to add lean protein into your diet.  Don’t let great be the enemy of good.

Disclaimer: I take all these pics myself at local markets.  Unless specifically noted(®), I am not attempting to single out a specific brand or company.  One company’s product is not different or better than another’s similar product. I get all my nutritional info from the package.  For items without packages I consult and the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory website.

I Don’t Understand Turkey Ham

Thursday means Eat by Stars.  This week is five grocery items picked at random.  Including a sample from some new type of mashed up animal.  Very sci-fi.

Also, apparently this week I couldn’t find much worthy of a healthy rating.  I promise to do better next week.

Honest Sweet Tea®

Per bottle: calories 100, fat 0g, carbs 25g, protein 0g

It’s sweet tea.  Sweet tea is a sugar loaded soft drink.  However, the folks at Honest Tea give you the best option if you’re hankering for this southern classic.  It uses only 5 ingredients with nothing requiring a chemistry degree to decifer.  Plus, for you hippies out there, they use organic sugar and free trade tea.

Jennie O’ Turkey Ham®

Per 6 ounce (palm size) serving: calories 180, fat 9g, carbs 63g, protein 24g, (salt 63% DV)

Is there a TurPiggy farm somewhere producing all these hybrid Turkey/Pork options?  Turkey Ham makes no sense.  When something doesn’t make sense, don’t eat it.  Yes, that includes turkey bacon.  Like the ham variety, it’s full of fillers and processed beyond belief.  Get the real thing.  Ham/Bacon made from actual pigs.

VanCamp’s Pork and Beans®

Per can: calories 385, fat 3.5g, carbs 80.5g, protein 21g, (salt 56%)

Unlike our Turkey Ham this product has pork in it.  Sadly pork is listed as an ingredient in “contains less than 2%” section.  So we have pork and beans with very little pork.  Perhaps it should be called “Beans, other stuff, some sugar, and pork”.  Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well, huh?  Leave this on the shelf.

Light Hidden Valley Ranch Singles®

Per cup: calories 200, fat 17g, carbs 7g, protein 2.5g, (salt 29%DV)

This is one of the worst serving offenders I’ve seen.  The package indicates 80 calories per serving.  It’s natural to assume that’s one cup.  Not a chance.  You need to be a math whiz to figure out the true nutritional info.  Luck for you, math was my best subject.  And I have a calculator on my smart phone.

Oregon Canned Blueberries in Light Syrup®

Per can: calories 330, fat 0g, carbs 75g, protein 3g

These delicious and super healthy blueberries have been defiled by a sugary syrup mixture.  For shame!  Promise me you’ll never get any fruit in “light syrup”.  Promise!

Disclaimer: I take all these pics myself at local markets.  Unless specifically noted(®), I am not attempting to single out a specific brand or company.  One company’s product is not different or better than another’s similar product. I get all my nutritional info from the package.  For items without packages I consult and the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory website.