Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Pret Protein Packed Superbowl

Expensive as it is, I do like to treat myself to a Pret now and then and like the fact they are first with new trends and offer genuinely healthy lunches on the go. The new protein packed superbowl caught my eye today as I was in need of a less carby lunch following a carb heavy breakfast and this ticked the box nicely.

It's all simple real food. Chargrilled chicken and egg form the protein basis and it's on a bed of lentils and quinoa - both pulses known for being good vegetarian protein as well as low GI. Chuck in some healthy fats from avocado, superfood spinach and then parsley, peas and lemon juice for flavour and a seed mix for crunch and extra protein and you've got a rock solid nutritional lunch right there.

Is it the most exciting taste ever? No, it is as you expect simple wholefoods but they do all taste great and complement each other nicely if not setting your taste buds nicely. What I like about Pret is that it tastes fresh. The avocado is firm but ripe and very creamy rather than mushy, the leaves aren't wilted but perky and crisp and the chicken in particular is very flavoursome and tender rather than the nasty stuff you get in cheap pre-packed salads.

It's just a good tasting healthy lunch and it really kept me going. I also bought a bag of kale crisps from there and this tided me over until dinner time with no need to snack. I can't afford to spend £5 on a salad every day but it was a good fit for me today.

Price: £4.99
Bought at: Pret A Manger
Nutrition per bowl: 411 calories, 16.9g fat, 3.9g sat fat, 3.6g sugars, 32.7g protein, 1.3g salt

Score: 7.3

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bounce Protein Energy Bites Cacao and Orange

I've reviewed plenty of the bounce balls before and I am a big fan of them even if they are expensive. I just find them a really convenient post or pre exercise calorie dense ball and I love their ridiculously chewy, heavy and close texture. They're feel satisfying and a good source of protein. They've now expanded into a range of snacking bags called bounce bites - available in three flavours: coconut and cranberry, sweet and salty almond and these cacao and orange ones.

The principle is sound -take an existing product and make mini bites of it in a sharing bag - it's something that seems to work for Cadbury and chocolate and cakes so why not for healthier snacks too. This 90g sharing bag has a recommended 3 x 30g servings and nutritionally they're pretty good with each serving giving you 6.6g protein, 7.4g sugars and 129 calories and apparently a good mix of fat, protein and carbs. There's no refined sugar and is made up of your usual cashews, whey protein, dried fruit and seeds etc.

I was expecting little mini versions of bounce balls so was surprised by the flat disc shapes of the bites, which were uniform in shape rather than the squashed irregular shape of Bounce Balls. Biting into my first one I have to admit these are a bit of a disappointment and not as good as bounce balls. The taste is right and I get the cacao and orange - although worth noting this is a healthier wholefoods chocolatey orangey taste rather than a treat version. The taste is actually pretty good but the texture is all wrong.

Rather than the dense fudginess and chewiness of Bounce balls these are dry and kind of dusty tasting and a little tough. I'm also a little confused by the size of the bag, 90g is too much but then the serving sizes are quite small and 129 calories and 6.6g protein is less than a standard bounce  balls so not as good after exercise. A sharing bag also seems odd for a food I associate with after the gym. I think I'd just rather have a bounce ball.

Price: £2.99
Bought at: Holland and Barrett
Nutrition per 30g: 129 calories, 6.3g fat, 2g sat fat, 7.4g sugars, 6.6g protein

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Marks and Spencer Cajun Spiced Plantain Crisps

So summer is definitely off the cards now and M&S is fully gearing up for winter treats but that means discounted M&S summer goodies! I found a couple of bits and bobs from the Spirit of Summer range discounted in my local M&S so I'm afraid there are still more summer related M&S products for me to try and review. It's a good chance for me to try things that I liked the look of but that just didn't excite me as much as some of the other products and so got overlooked.

I managed to get a bag of these cajun spiced plantain crisps for just £1 - bargain. Well bargainish as it's only a 100g and you could quite easily eat this pack in a single sitting because they are just delicious. I was slightly wary that these are crisps made of plantain, which is a member of the banana family so was a bit worried they might be a) sweet or b) more akin in texture to the banana chips you get in health food shops.

However, I needn't have worried because these are deliciously savoury. Emptying a few out, all my pieces were nice and large and intact with no broken crumbs like you sometimes get in badly transported crisps. The pieces were a mix of long strips and coins, which do resemble banana. However, texture wise, plantain is similar to a sweet potato crisp but less sweet with a nice crunch. Texture wise they are slightly different to potato crisps with a a nice thin crisp that isn't greasy but that feels satisfying  and light.

They are unbelievably moreish and addictive. As soon as I ate my first one I knew I'd have trouble stopping. Plantain crisps actually work really well but its the cajun spicing that is addictive. A heady mix of garlic, cumin, fennel, cayenne pepper, tomato and onion - it's smoky, deep, slightly sweet, tangy and really rather powerful. It's not spicy but the taste is impactful and it lingers in your mouth long after you've eaten it.

These were utterly wonderful and I'm a bit annoyed I only bought the one bag as had I known how delicious they are, I would have stocked up. On a final note, they are also suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians and the ingredients list is simply plantain, sunflower oil and then salt  flavourings and spices with a coating of rice flour. Too good just for summer, I hope these may make an appearance again next year!

Price: £1 (reduced)
Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per 25g serving: 130 calories, 8g fat, 0.9g sat fat, 1.4g sugars, 0.13g salt

Score: 8/5/10

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Aldi Domio Blueberry Yogurt

After being really rather impressed by the passion fruit Danio yogurt copycat by Aldi, I decided to give the blueberryone a whirl as well. I've made no secret that when it comes to yogurt I like high protein ones that super thick and the Aldi Domio yogurts do just this with a high protein content and a thickness that stands up to my 'hold a spoon upright unsupported' test.

Blueberry is also my favourite fruit and a favourite yogurt flavour of mine. Something about tart, plain yogurt and its creaminess just complements the sweetness of berries.  Now this is more of a jammy compote at the bottom so does have some added sugar and it is quite sweet and sticky but I fully expected this as that is what you get with Danio yogurts.

Once again this fully delivers and in my opinion is probably just as good the brand. The top is wonderfully creamy and also a dense but mousse like airiness that makes it feel indulgent and more a dessert than a yogurt. The blueberry compote is sweet but not overly so and when eating with the creamy yogurt almost tastes like a cheesecake without the base. There were also lots of whole bits of blueberry in there as well, which held their shape rather than disintegrating.

At 39p a pot and with a high protein content and fat free, I am fully sold on these yogurts. They taste great and whilst the sugar is a little high, you can always choose to leave some of the compote rather than mix it all in. These are likely to become a regular evening snack for me

Price: £0.39
Bought at: Aldi
Nutrition per pot: <0.5g fat, <0.1g sat fat, 16 sugars, 0.12g salt

Score: 8/10

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Marks and Spencer Moroccan Spiced Butternut Salad with a roasted carrot dip

This was an easy choice for lunch as soon as I clocked eyes on it. Just look how attractive it is – the bright colours, the mix of textures, lots of big chunks of vegetables and lots of Middle Eastern flavours and spices for a big punch of flavours. This is exactly the type of healthy, convenient product I love – based on lots of vegetables (with this containing 2 of your five a day) and lots of interesting tastes rather than just salad leaves.

To list every ingredient and component of this would take a while because there is so much in it but it essentially breaks down into a couscous with a Moroccan style dressing, a generous helping of soft and creamy tasting carrot dip and large chunks of roasted and spiced butternut squash. That’s not to say there isn’t a whole load more going on as there’s onion, peppers, chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, quinoa, spinach and dried apricot as well.

What works so well about this is that individually each component is delicious but also they also work together so you can eat the bits separately or mix them together. It’s really hard to pick what my favourite part is – maybe the roasted butternut squash –it’s soft but firm with a lovely earthy smokiness from cumin and paprika that complements its sweetness. But then the roasted carrot dip is delicious – I would buy a pot of this just by itself as a houmous replacement, its sweet and savoury and has a really thick luscious texture.

And that’s not to say I wouldn’t eat the couscous by itself either – with garlic, chilli and more lightly spiced Moroccan flavours, it’s fragrant and packs a real flavour punch with is accentuated by the mish mash of different textures, bites and flavours studded throughout.
The portion size is exactly right and made a great healthy lunch. Suitable for vegetarians, it’s certainly more interesting than a tuna nicoise or Caesar salad!

Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per pack:

Score: 8/10

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Moma Coconut and Chia Porridge - Dairy Free

I don’t really do premade porridge pots – generally they’re too sweet, too processed and frankly it takes no time to make from scratch and the you can add whatever flavourings you like. However, I’m quite partial to the moma bircher mueslis and as the pot a) has no added sugar b) came in a more unusual coconut and chia version, I was happy to pay the extra price to give it a go. It’s also a diary free instant porridge pot, which is quite unusual. Instead it relies on coconut milk – albeit coconut milk powder. 

The premise is the same as the usual porridge pots. Add hot water, stir , leave for a bit and dig in. I followed the instructions and came out quite nicely and it certainly smelt very coconutty. Despite the lack of sugar, it still tastes sweet and pleasant despite only containing 1.7g per pot. However, the texture isn’t as good as my regular porridge with a slightly more watery taste and texture. To an extent this isn’t Moma’s fault as it’s dairy free so is never going to be as thick and creamy as porridge made with milk.

However, I also make my porridge with proper almond milk or coconut milk and it’s still richer than this. I think this must be because it’s only coconut milk powder, which  you add boiling water to. Generally porridge pots texture is more watery because you’re adding water to them and I guess that’s the price you pay for convenience.

However, it’s a genuinely healthy breakfast on the go and it’s nice to see a porridge pot that isn’t pumped full of sugar and artificial ingredients. It’s also pretty high in protein with 6.6g per pot and although I still prefer making my own porridge so I can get a better portion size, this is fairly substantial. The chia seeds don;’t add a lot at 2.5% and when cooked in it don’t produve much bar the speckled appearance. Again when I make my own porridge I like to add chia at the end as a topping so I get the crunch.

Essentially homemade still triumphs but this probably the healthiest on the go porridge I’ve seen and would definitely be my go to choice if I needed a convenient option
Price: £1.49
Bought at: Ocado
Nutrition per pot: 247 calories, 8.4g fat, 5.1g sat fat, 1.7g sugars, 6.6g protein, 0.01g salt

Score: 7/10

Sunday, 18 September 2016

New Tesco Cereals

As I've said before I'm a compplete cereal addict and it usually ends my day as an evening snack as well beginning a day. No matter how many boxes and kinds I have at home, I can't help but always wander down the cereal aisle just to see what's new. There's a fair few new ones appearing including some interesting Tesco own label ones

I love bitesize shredded wheat and these two new versions with mutli grains initially caught my eye. Until I saw they 15% sugar. Considering normal bitesize shredded wheat has no sugar, I don't see why I'd swap to these. Either be healthy or be treaty like a good granola. There's a rye and quinoa one and a barley and spelt one

Similarly on the naughty cereal partners theme, there's the new Shreddies Max Protein granola tapping into the trend for all things protein. But again, it's pretty sugary and there are far healthier granola out there that also come in bigger boxes and are better value.

Luckily Tesco realise we want less sugary cereals with their new reduced sugar cranberry and almond granola. This is something I definitely want to try once i run down my existing granola stock.

As is this super grains and seeds granola with Oat and spelt flakes with puffed quinoa sweetened with honey, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseed. Yum.

Quaker are also getting in on the healthier eating with a new range of oat muesis with no added sugar including a nuts and seeds and a strawberry version. Quaker are synonymous with porridge and oats so I would be interested in trying their take on muesli

Whereas the Kelloggs Ancient Legends is making the move the other way. From their granolas and mueslis there is new Kelloggs Ancient Legends porridge - there's a plain one with no added sugar in and also a coconut one that is slightly sweetened although the sugar content is a lower than other porridges. Both are a mix of oats, barley, chia and spelt for a mix of grains. I do quite want to try these but there is no way I'm paying £1.99 for 6 tiny portions when a box of oats is £1 with enough breakfasts for weeks.

And finally if you want breakfast a little sweeter Tesco have launched golden syrup malt wheats  - a golden syrup take on Shreddies.

So many cereals, so little space in my cereal cupboard....there's just so much here I want to try.