Saturday 30 July 2016

Koele Triple Baked Coconut Chips - Lemon and Chilli

More coconut reviews again today. I am trying to buy other snacks I swear. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from these coconut chips by Koele. I knew they would be a little like the strips of coconut but was interested to see if the addition of a lemon and chilli flavouring would actually deliver that savoury crisp feeling. For a small 30g bag at 130 calories, it feels huge and there are loads in here. I genuinely can’t believe they are 130 calories. Predominantly this is coconut that is tripled baked along the seasoning and coating. It’s gluten free, natural and free of preservatives. 

Opening the bag you get a good hit of aroma with lots of spiciness and a good savoury hit. The pieces are very small flakes, which are very thin and I was a little worried because of their thinness they would just be soft and flaky.

But surprisingly these are really crunchy. They have a good crunch in the mouth, feel very satisfying and actually do deliver that crisp sensation to a certain extent. If I wasn’t looking at them as I put them in my mouth, I could very easily convince myself I was eating shards of crisps. The flavouring is spot on – it’s really punchy and strong flavoured. I’ve found on a lot of these types of products (especially popcorn) the coating is really sporadic and not evenly coated but that’s not the case here. Every piece was bursting with flavour and it actually delivers on the taste it promises.

The lemon and chilli seasoning is actually fairly spicy with a nice, mild heat. Combined with the more subtle lemon it makes for a nice sweet, tangy, spice sensation. It also works very well with the natural coconut tropical taste and whilst there is the potential for this to go too sweet, it stays nice and savoury and salty.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from these but they were really nice. They actually remind me a little of all those lentil crisps or wholegrain waves out in the shops at the moment with a nice light texture with a nice crunch and a good flavour hit.

Price: £1.89
Bought at: Holland and Barrett
Nutrition per bag: 130 calories, 10g fat, 4g sat, 6g sugars, 0.16g salt

Score: 7.5/10

Thursday 28 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer - Crayfish, Rice and Quinoa Protein Pot

Protein is in as we all know and protein pots are one of the trendy new products in all the supermarkets following them being introduced in the likes of Pret. The protein pot isn't a full lunch or a snack but a little pot focused on protein typically 200 calories or under and also popular with the 5:2 diet crowd. Protein pots typically started out as basically pots of ready hardboiled eggs with some spinach in but as Pret and restaurants continue to innovate, M&S continues to try new things with a crayfish, rice and protein pot.

It's 134 calories and currently included in the Spirit of Summer lunch/sandwich meal deal as a snack option - definitely a more nutritious choice than a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar (although probably less enjoyable). Quinoa is a grain with more protein than others and also very on trend and then you also have the crayfish and some edamame beans for some more protein in the pot.

There's also a bit of spinach and some salad leaves and to make the whole thing more enjoyable a coconut, lime and chilli dressing. If I'm honest it's not the most exciting thing to eat in the world but it is tasty and a very easy way to get a boost of protein. The dressing, like most I have tried at M&S, just works and brings the whole thing to life. With exotic, creamy coconut, zingy lime and a bit of mild heat, it saturates the rice and quinoa giving the whole thing a very light, summery and uplifting feel.

It is also more filling than any other snacks as a result of the protein so perfect for everyone looking to make a healthier choice although it's hard to choose this when M&S have so many other delicious (and naughty!) goodies.

Bought at: M&S
Nutrition: 134 calories per pot

Score: 7/10

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Chimichurri Nuts

Back to the Spirit of Summer range from M&S today. I’ve been pretty impressed with the summer range mostly because the flavours really appeal to me – all modern, on trend, exotic with a focus on spice and lightness. It’s a bit more spice with these chimichurri mixed nuts; chimichurri being a South American zesty and herby sauce with a chilli kick.

It’s M&S so the quality of ingredients is pretty good – all the nuts were prime pieces, no broken bits or shattered crumbs, just whole deliciously crunchy pieces with tones of flavour in themselves. I really believe it’s worth paying more for nuts if you’re going to just snack on them raw as the flavour is so much better. Once you’ve tried them, you do notice cheaper ones are more stale and rancid.

It’s a really interesting mix of cashews, jumbo peanuts, macadamias and almonds with a good equal mix of all the ingredients rather than being bulked out with cheap peanuts. They’ve been roasted and you can tell as the flavour is enhanced and you can really taste the individual nuts flavour and distinguish even against the seasoning.

The seasoning is perfectly proportioned with every nut covered in its spicy, zingy taste but even though it’s got a lot of flavour, you do also get the taste of the nut. If I’m honest the chimichurri flavouring isn’t the most delicious spicing I’ve ever tried but it is tasty, just not as exciting even though it’s fairly spicy. Definitely a tasty mix overall and perfect for a little snack bag for dipping in and out of or for nibbles with drinks before a meal.

Price; £3.50
Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per 30g:  173 calories, 14g fat, 2.1g sat fat, 2.2g sugars, 0.35g salt

Score: 7/10

Monday 25 July 2016

Rachel's Organic Coconut Divine Rice Review

It’s another coconut based review today with a coconut rice pudding from Rachel’s’ organic. I’ve had a proper coconut rice pudding before with the Tesco dairy free one but this is a coconut twist on the more traditional milky rice pudding. I’ve always enjoyed the Rachel’s Organic rice puddings before and enjoy them as a fairly wholesome treat. This is again all natural ingredients made to a traditional recipe using milk, rice and cream and like the regular rice pudding it uses whole milk and cream for a more luxurious mouth feel.

The only twist on this one is the inclusion of organic coconut milk (helped along with a little natural flavouring) for a tropical and more modern take on what is a proper old school British dessert. For something a bit on trend, it’s a shame Rachel’s haven’t really done anything with the packaging. Bar the word ‘coconut’ on the outer sleeve, there is nothing to distinguish this from the regular rice pudding. 

And this isn’t even applied to the individual pots, which are exactly the same as the regular pots.
However, it’s taste that counts and unusually for me I decided to have it warm (I usually eat my rice pudding fridge cold). Lifting off the lid, you instantly get a nice sweet coconut aroma that is fairly strong whilst not overpowering and this intensified slightly after microwaving. I gave it a little stir and the texture is similar to the normal rice pudding from Rachel’s – fairly milky and smooth but not quite as thick as I like it.

It’s a very milky, soothing eat indeed and retains all the nursery charms of the regular rice pudding even with the coconut infusion. I have to admit whilst I enjoyed the proper dairy free coconut rice pudding from Tesco, rice pudding needs milk for that creamy, comforting texture.

As said, it’s maybe a little too runny with Ambrosia being my preferred thickness but the coconut comes through well rather than being too subtle or underpowering as I feared. The 150g pot is the right serving size as it is slightly too sweet and was potentially getting a bit sickly towards the end but as the pot is quite small, it didn’t really matter.

It’s not altogether a hugely exciting dessert but makes a fairly simple, not too unhealthy treat. Regular rice pudding is probably still king but it’s worth a try maybe.

Price: £1.30
Bought at: Tesco
Nutrition per 100g:  145 calories, 5.9g fat, 3.8g sat fat, 10.9 sugars, 0.3g salt

Score: 7/10

Sunday 24 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Passion Fruit Roulade

I've had my eye on this summery roulade from M&S for a while now but I don't usually buy desserts unless there's an occasion for it. Luckily with the summer weather, a barbecue and inviting people over I finally had an excuse to buy one.

It looked colourful and importantly for a summer dessert, quite light and fresh. For a dessert it's actually relatively guilty free. You get six servings per roll and each serving is very generous and yet they're only 120 calories each. Mostly because this is mostly a very light sponge with a good bit of whipping cream and some passion fruit sauce.

For once this was a delicate dessert that had been well packaged and was protected and intact and it cut very easily with each piece coming out clean and perfectly presentable. The swirl is aesthetically very nice and it's a nice colourful end to a barbecue.

The sponge is exceedingly good, not overly sweet in any way with a very light and fluffy texture that makes a nice soft pillow to the billowy dense cream and the little bursts of tropical fruitiness from the passion fruit. It all made for a very fresh end to the meal that felt not at all dense or sickly. I would prefer a little less cream and maybe a bit more passion fruit as I find cream quite dull and it can blanket over other tastes but all in all it's a deliciously summery pud and one I would buy again if we're lucky enough to have some more nice weather this summer

Price: £2.49
Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per sixth of a roll: 120 calories, 5g fat, 3.2g sat fat, 10.7g sugars, 0.17g salt

Saturday 23 July 2016

Waitrose Frushi (Taiko) Review

Always one for a novelty, there was no way I could pass this fruit take on sushi from Taiko I found in Waitrose, called 'frushi'. Taiko exclusively supply Waitrose for their normal sushi and I have to say it's probably the best supermarket sushi out there with a nice light, clean feel to it and powerful flavours.

For those who don't like fish or for existing sushi lovers looking for something a bit different, this replaces the fish in the centre with melon and mango and. It's then wrapped in the traditional nori and sushi rice and then coated in dessicated coconut for that extra tropical edge - coconut paring vary well with the sweetness freshness of mango. Two of the frushi are then covered in a mango and mint coulis and then topped with a blueberry. It looks extremely attractive and is presented absolutely immaculately and just look at those beautiful colours and delicate arrangement.

It's not exactly a big pack at just over 100g and four pieces and all together I calculated the whole pack is around the 150 calorie mark roughly. It's not going to fill you up by any means but as a light sweet finish to lunch or dinner it's perfect.

The rice as usual from Taiko is soft, sticky, delicate and light. The fruit is refreshing and cooling and in all this heat we've been having makes a much lighter and cooling sweet option that is easy to eat and not heavy. The whole thing isn't particularly sweet and at around 7.5% sugars in total is pretty low sugar. For any sugar fiends this isn't going to curb that sweet craving and it's hard to call a proper dessert.

Nevertheless it feels very clean and makes a good palate cleanser. One or two of these after a Chinese or Japanese meal would make a lovely refreshing end to it and whilst not overflowing with flavours, it's a simple and subtle little bite that I quite enjoyed.

It's pretty pricey for what it is (I got it at £1.75 on an intro offer with 25% offer) and if I'm honest the world probably doesn't need frushi. The fruit in it is so small it's not going to be one of your five a day by an stretch of the imagination but I did enjoy it and it's quite fun and makes a good talking point.

Bought at: Waitrose

Score: 7/10

Thursday 21 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Cafe Bakewell Tart Review

Whilst I'm a big fan of the M+S foodhall, I rarely venture in the cafe. With Pret, Starbucks and all the artisan coffee shops about, it just seems a bit old fashioned and not as exciting so never lures me into it. Somehow I ended up in one over the weekend and I decided to go for a slice of the bakewell tart. It looked extremely attractive, beautifully cut, nice big pieces with a visible splodge of raspberry jam, a good golden colour and lovely looking icing.

I'd like but to say more in a nutshell this was utterly immense. I couldn't fault it all. I often think I'm not really than keen on cake because generally all packaged cake is rubbish (and don't even get me started on that Mr Kipling rubbish!) but this reminded me of just how good it can be.

This was a proper bakewell tart and all elements were spot on. There was a nice firm base and crust that held everything together with a good bake and golden crumb. The frangipane was sweet, extremely flavoursome with a good hit of almond paste taste and was super moist and held together well. Not dry, not crumbly , just sheer almondy bliss. The raspberry jam actually tasted of raspberry and was fruity and sticky with a good amount in rather than a thin trickle. The icing on top actually seemed to have flavour beyond just sugar and wasn't too sweet and complemented the rest of the cake perfectly.

Every texture was spot and all the elements work together perfectly. No one bit overdominated and all the components just worked in harmony. It wasn't overly sweet or sickly, the slice was the perfect size and fairly generous and it reminded me just how good a proper bakewell tart is. None of this bakewell flavoured yogurts or cereal bars, this is the real deal. Utterly delicious and worth every calorie.

I have to say the coffee in the cafe was pretty good too and the little oat biscuit that came with it is a nice touch (and actually pretty tasty too). I can't say I'm mad about the decor or the ambiance of the M+S cafe but they do a pretty good bakewell tart.

Price: £2.50 a slice
Bought: M+S Cafe

Score: 9/10

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Spirit of Summer Cherry Pie Yogurt

With the hot weather, I tend to eat more yogurt - colf, fruity and refreshing it's one food I can actually face in a heat wave. M&S came to the rescue with another spirit of summer yogurt, this one promising to be cherry pie. Now I was let down by the peach cobbler yogurt, which, although absolutely delicious and a fantastic yogurt, wasn't authentically a peach cobbler. So I bought this in full knowledge it was going to be a cherry yogurt not a cherry pie yogurt. If there's one thing I've (half) learned is that yogurts do not make good substitution for cakes.

Like all the Spirit of Summer range, the packaging is colourful, vibrant and inviting. Peeling the lid off, I knew it was going to be fantastically fruity. A lovely, deep red colour and a strong aroma of cherries. M&S don't skimp on quality or quantity of ingrdients and this contains a whopping 19% cherries as well as cherry puree and it pays off. There's also clear chunks of cherry dotted throughout and these are big juicy pieces of real cherry not the little flecks you get in cheaper yogurt.

It's a proper full fat, real ingredients yogurt and this pays off in taste. It's 185 calories a pot so not one of your light yogurts by any means. But this means you get a lovely thick, unbelievably creamy and rich texture with a gloriously indulgent mouthfeel. Combine that with an unbelivably intense cherry flavour that is the perfect balance of tart and sweet and it's probably the best cherry yogurt I've ever had.

It's not really cherry pie at all though. Yes, the strong and rich cherry flavour means there's some element of it tasting like the filling of a good cherry pie but there is no crust element or vanillaness of anything like that so don't get your hopes up for that. But for a cherry yogurt, it's very, very good.

Price: £0.85
Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per pot: 185 calories, 9.9g fat, 6.5g sat, 16.4g sugars, 0.13g salt

Score: 7.5/10

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Graze Veggie Protein Power

I buy the Graze Punchy Protein nuts so often now, they’re delicious, filling and good for you and it’s great to have an alternative to crisps for snacking on that contains so much protein. They also have this Veggie Protein Power punnet which is in the same vein and promises 7g natural protein. This mix contains black pepper cashew nuts, spicy chickpeas and edamame beans. 

As usual, I just left the packaging. Perfect sized portions which are skimpy but just right for a light nibble. They’re easy to carry around and the design is lovely and stands out. Everything is high quality as usual with no damaged, dry, brittle or hard pieces and everything was in great condition.

This is another nice mix. The edamame beans are the least interesting element but still tasty with a nice soft crunch and they take on a bit of the chickpea coating. The chickpeas are delicious with a nice mild heat and all were the perfect texture – no overly hard ones to damage your teeth on! The coating is tasty with a nice chilli dusting. The star of this punnet though is the black pepper cashews. Delicious creamy cashews in a peppery coating that is just moreish with a nice savoury hit. I just wish there were more of these in a punnet as it is predominantly the chickpeas and edamame.

It’s a fairly filling little snack for 132 calories and with less salt than your average bag of crisps and the 7g protein, a good choice for a mid morning or mid afternoon snack. Frankly they’re a perfect nibble any time of the day

Price: £1.19
Bought at: Boots
Nutrition per punnet: 132 calories, 6.7g fat, 1.1g sat fat, 6.9g protein, 0.9 sugars, 0.25 salt

Score: 7.5/10

Monday 18 July 2016

Marks and Spencer Butternut and Smoked Paprika Sausages Review

The sun's finally here and my entire eating pattern has shifted. Most of my desire to cook has vanished and I just want lots of cold picky bits, deli items and salad. Of course I'll make an exception for the odd bit of grilled summer fare and anything for the barbecue is always a good summery dinner choice. I was browsing the M+S BBQ range, the Grill, and whilst there were loads of tempting looking offering that promised bags of vibrant flavour with exotic twits, it was actually the veggie sausages that won out.

I have to say on the whole M+S isn't great for veggie options. They have a lot of good veggie ready meals and the veggie percy pigs and colin the caterpillars are legendary but there are much better stores for meat alternatives. However, these butternut and paprika sausages were completely different to anything else I've seen and they looked pretty exciting and innovative.

Made of butternut squash, green lentils and soy protein, the sausages also contain brown rice, cheddar cheese, smoked paprikia and parsley for a really unusual combo. I tried both pan frying and grilling them and both times as they cooked the aroma coming out was incredible. Really complex with hints of savoury onion, deep smoky paprika and a really savoury smell that was totally alluring.

Texture wise they wouldn't fool anyone they weren't made of meat. They're much softer and quite easy to mush up if you want to. This actually worked out quite well for me as I had them in a seeded panini with some homemade caramelised onions and a bit of the Tesco avocado spread.

The colour is so warming and golden and the smell so inviting, I couldn't wait to dive in. And oh how they delivered. This is probably the nicest lunch I've had in a long time. The flavour of these veggie sausages is just heavenly. It's super complex and you can't really identify butternut squash or lentils , Instead it just has the most moreish slightly sweet but deeply savoury taste. It's the perfect level of saltiness and the spices are immense. The paprkia is rich, deep and smoky and the whole thing just sings with vibrancy.

Don't get me wrong these wouldn't convert a die hard carnivore but for veggies or anyone open to a meat free option now and again, they are amazing. With their wonderful rich, spicy flavour, I would happily buy these again.

Bought at: M&S
Nutrition per 2 sausages: 115 calories, 2.8g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 2.2g sugars, 1.23g salt

Score: 9.5/10

Sunday 17 July 2016

Tesco Avocado Spread Review

One thing I will give Tesco for is they do try new things. As far as I'm aware they were the first supermarket to have courgetti and cauliflower couscous before others also came along and capitalising on the healthfood trend they now have a coconut and an avocado spread. I see Waitrose have also just launched their own version but the Tesco one has been out a while now.

I picked up the avocado spread at a fairly priced £1.25. It's a reduced fat spread made with vegtable oils and 24% avocado oil. So essentially a Bertolli type product with some avocado in rather than being purely avocado. Through fortification it's also a source of vitamin A and D and it's a source of omega 3 fatty acids. It's also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Partly what drove me to buy is that it's in a small 250g pack. I just don't get through butter or margarine quick enough to warrant 500g packs even though they're often cheaper than smaller packs when on promotion. It promises a neutral flavour so I was intrigued to see just how avocadey it would be.

Opening it up it looks like your typical spread with a typical pale yellow colour. It's instantly spreadable straight from the fridge making it easy to use. Initially I tried putting it on top of some warm new potatoes instead of butter and noticed it didn't quite melt as quickly or as nicely as normal butter. The flavour was fairly neutral but it did have a bit of an avocado back taste to it.

I also used it for frying some veggie sausages and here it acted like a normal spread. It greased the pan nicely, melted quickly and left no trace of avocado taste on the sausages. On bread it's quite nice cold, easier to spread than butter with a nice little avocado hint to make it more interesting but I feel this would just be down right wrong on toast. Toast surely deserves only good butter?

It's lower in fat than butter but to be honest I just think this is slightly gimmicky. I'm sure vegans would appreciate it but I just found there was a slight avocado hint to it, which makes it less versatile and limits when you can use it. It is lower in fat than butter but that's not a big enough appeal to me and to be honest you're not really going to get any avocado goodness from this. If you want the benefits of avocado, eat an avocado. If you want something for your toast, stick with butter.

It is a nice little twist for cold bread and tastes nice and a bit different but for everyday use, I'll stick with what I know.

Price: £1.25
Bought at: Tesco
Nutrition per 10g serving: 53 calories, 5.9g fat, 1.4g sat fat, <0.1g sugars, 0.1g salt

Score: 6/10

Saturday 16 July 2016

Marks and Spencer ActiveHealth Italian Garlic Chicken Tomato and Bean Bake Review

M+S launched this new range under their activehealth brand a couple of months ago in support of Heart UK. It's a range of ready meals with added fibre and cholesterol lowering benefits that is also appproved by Heart UK as seen by the stamp on the packaging. To be honest I don't see why ready meals get such a bad press because there are some good options out there. I read through all the ingredients on this and they are all normal ingredients I recognise and nutritionally it's really good. There's 31g protein per pack, it's 2.6% sugars (all natural from veg etc) and the fat and salt are reasonable.

In addition there's 1.3g of beta glucan in the product, which are shown to lower cholesterol. The pack also has a whopping 12.5g of fibre so brilliant for your gut health and digestion. And if that wasn't enough it's 2 of your 5 a day. I really fail to see how this cannot be called a genuinely healthy choice.

The meals consists of a base tomato, red wine, bean and orzo pasta sauce with lots of garlic chicken breast chunks. There's kale and butternut squash spread throughout it and then it's topped with a oat and parmesan cheese crust. Sounds pretty good.

I ovenbaked it for 30 mins (this cannot be microwaved as you need the crust to crisp up and the chicken is raw) and the smell as I pulled it out the oven was really delicious. It smelt heartwarming, comforting with a rich red wine and garlic smell with hints of rosemary.

It was slightly different to get out of the pack onto a plate in an attractive manner as it's essentially a stew with a crispy topping but I managed (kind of). Regardless of whether this was a healthy meal or not , I thought it was delicious. The chicken breast was tender with a very mild marinaed garlic hint and the sauce was rich,thick and satisfying.

There was lots of veg and the mix of textures coming from borlotti beans, tender squash chunks and kale which I love. The parmesan and oat crust also added a nice contrast -it went crisp and crunchy against the mellow stew and the savoury cheesy hit was really nice.

It was also a pretty satisfying meal once served with new potates and veg (hey why not have more!) and made a really delicious dinner, which I would happily eat again were they not so expensive. I can't remember the price but it was above the £4 mark so not a reasonable expense for dinner everyday.

Bought at: Marks and Spencer
Nutrition per pack: 361 calories,8g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 9.9 sugars, 12.5g fibre, 31.2g protein, 1.63g salt

Score: 8/10

Friday 15 July 2016

Nakd Carrot Cake Review

I think it’s fair to say when Graze announced their new launches there was a lot of excitement and hype about it. I totally bought into the hype as well as Nakd bars are a particular favourite snack of mine. They’re tasty, healthy, natural and the perfect balance of being light but fairly satisfying for a perfect sweet treat. I straightaway went overboard and got all three of the new flavours  - Peanut Delight, Apricot Crunch and the limited edition Carrot Cake.

The carrot cake was obviously the one I had to start with. Usually I try and save what I think will be my favourite until last but I just couldn’t resist this. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Generally Nakd bars are pretty authentic with their flavours although rhubarb and custard let me down a bit. I’ve also been bitten numerous times by cereal bars and yogurts promising to taste of my favourite desserts and cakes and that not delivering. So would this give me a carrot cake hit?

Like all the Nakd bars, it’s a perfectly simple and natural ingredients list – simply dates (48%) , walnuts (20%), raisins (14%), almonds (10%), cashews (5%), carrots (3%) cinnamon and a bit of natural flavouring. It’s also dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, vegan and one of your five a day. So a pretty healthy choice all round. But of course it needs to be delicious as well.

Opening up and smelling it, my heart did sink a little bit. I couldn’t really detect anything like carrot cake and it just had that familiar date smell of Nakd bars. However, with the first bite my fears were reassured. It does actually taste like carrot cake!!!

I think having things like carrot and cinnamon in the recipe really as the taste is pretty authentic and you get all that lovely sweet, slightly spiced sponge taste of a genuine carrot cake. What makes this work extra well is the texture. It’s that lovely soft but slightly firm chewiness of a Nakd bar but combined with the lovely carrot cake taste it does actually feel like you are eating a carort cake once you start chewing and it breaks down as the bar has a slightly similar mouthfeel.

The high walnut percentage also massively helps in adding to the authenticity with a good amount of little bitesize pieces studded throughout the bar. You can taste and feel the walnut in each mouthful and again they just add to a genuine carrot taste. Myabe it was my imagination but I swear even a slightly sweetened iced topping was dancing around in the background.

In a nutshell, I loved these. Nakd have got the flavour spot on. It’s delicious, healthy and in my opinion has an authentic carrot cake taste. In all honesty, I can’t see these staying as limited edition. People are already going wild for them and I think they’ll sell well. I really hope it gets added to the range permanently!

Nutrition per bar: 148 calories, 7.6g fat, 0.7g sat, fat, 15.6g sugars, 2.8g protein, <0.1g salt
Score: 9/10

Thursday 14 July 2016

CocoPro High Protein Coconut Water

Coconut water is still on trend. Protein drinks are still on trend. Combine the two and you’ve got an ultra trendy product. This high protein coconut water from CocoPro adds whey protein isolate to coconut drink for a coconut water with a whopping 20g of protein. Protein is obviously essential for exercise and coconut water is famed as a great rehydrator as well so this is a gold star product for after training.

In addition the product contains some grape juice concentrate and stevia for sweetness but there is no refined sugar and in total it is only 2.8% sugars which is significantly lower than juices and many other drinks. There’s also a touch of vanilla flavouring which I guess is to counteract the whey protein taste in a similar way many protein powders are flavoured.

Pouring it out I was shocked by the colour. As a small 330ml carton you would usually drink straight from the carton so it was a bit unnerving to see such an odd coloured product. My first sip was also really strange – it tasted neither of the refreshing taste of coconut water or the creamy milkshake like flavour of other protein drinks. Instead it an odd, almost bitter and sharp taste with a quite strong vanilla flavour that clashed.

However, once used to this very different taste, I really enjoyed it. It’s a strange mix of creamy, dairy and coconut water which seem odd together at first but was tasty. It’s got quite a chalky texture and is quite drying in the mouth but it wasn’t dislikeable. It’s probably not something for the mainstream or for when you want a delicious drink but for its prime purpose after sport, it works. Very strong nutritionals, natural ingredients in a satisfying drink in an easy on the go format.

Price:  £2.79
Bought at: Holland and Barrett
Nutrition per carton: 137 calories, no fat, 9.1g sugars, 20.2g protein, 0.1g salt

Score: 7.5/10

Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Strand Dress Me Beautiful Feta, Sweet Potato, Pomegranate Salad (Boots)

Boots as I've said before is my prime choice for lunch on the high street - they just offer so much more healthy and interesting options and are pretty good at getting the newest and coolest brands in. On my most recent trip there it looks like Boots have launched a whole new range called The Strand. This crosses things from salad to sushi to bircher muesli pots and it all looks quite upmarket with its smart black packaging.

This salad honestly in appearance looks as good as anything from the likes of Eat and Pret and really stood out. It's a huge box of salad in a smart clear tray and looks so much more attractive than the other ready made salads you find in supermarkets.

The base is red salanova leaves with shredded beetroot and then topped with chickpeas, roasted sweet potato, spinach with a sprinkling of feta cubes and pomegranate seeds, a few sultanas and a little bit of red onion. It's a wonderfully colourful and vibrant salad and certainly beats a bit of limp lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Its also coated in a lovely tomato and harissa dressing which blends Middle Eastern spices like chilli, coriander and caraway seeds with a little honey for sweetness.

Its just enough to add flavour without drowning the leaves in gloop. There's plenty of sweet potato and chickpeas and everything works really well together. Spicy, tangy coated chickpeas and sweet potato pare s well with the fresh, crunchy leaves, salty bursts of creamy feta and sweet juiciness and acidity of pomegranate.

Nutritionally it's brilliant for a store salad with lower sugar and salt than most and it boasts 7g fibre and 11g protein as well as being vegetarian. I'm really impressed with this new upmarket range and look forward to trying more The Strand products.

Price: £3.75
Bought at: Boots
Nutrition per pot: 188 calories, 7.5g fat, 3.7g sat fat, 7.3g sugars, 7.1g fibre, 11g protein, 0.7g salt

Score: 7.5/10

I am now also in Instragram as theexcited_eater so follow for updates and healthy snacks!

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Pulsin Pea Protein Isolate

Although I am well on board the protein trend, this is the first protein powder I’ve bought. I am definitely not someone who is a stereotypical bodybuilder and primarily protein for me is about nutrition and overall holistic wellbeing rather than about big arms and a restrictive diet full of shakes and bars. I’ve always been put off protein powders a little bit as they seem so scientific and therefore not real food. However, I recently purchased this bag of pea protein from Pulsin who also make bars I like as well the Beond bars I’ve reviewed previously.

This is literally essentially just a bag of pea protein isolate, which essentially is a pea flour/ dust but it terms out peas actually quite a lot of protein. This powder is 82% protein with just 0.8% carbs and per 10g spoonful you get 8.2g protein – about the same as an egg.

It’s a completely natural, additive free protein source that is suitable for vegan and is free from soya, dairy, gluten and is non gm. There isn’t a freefrom box it doesn’t tick! It’s also a source of amino acids and vitamins A, B6 and C. Pouring it out it’s a bright green colour and you can kind of smell a trace of peas with a very floury texture.

The brand suggests it can be used in smoothies, porridge and juices so I went and used it a Nutribullet. I kept it quite simple and used a big heaped teaspoon of the powder along with a handful of blueberries, half a banana and a little almond milk  and water and whizzed it up.

The great thing about a Nutribullet is how thoroughly it blends everything so the pea protein got completely lost in the smoothie and therefore wasn’t noticeable with all the sweetness of the fruit but added a good dollop of protein to my drink. Although the powder is apparently unflavoured, I have noticed it does have a quite savoury pea tone, which means depending on what else you put in your smoothie, you might get a background taste of it as it isn’t neutral.

However, so long as you don’t try and put too much powder in and add in lots of flavour, this isn’t usually a problem and it’s a great way to add protein to your smoothies in a natural, plant based way. I’m sure there’s lots of other things I could do with it like adding it into soups (imagine it would work very well here) or even adding to pasta sauces to balance out a quite carb heavy meal with some protein.
The bag is also well designed and resealable and the perfect size at 250g vs those hulking big sport protein powders that you have to shove your hand in to get a scoop and then ends up getting dust everywhere.

I can imagine this would be a very useful product for vegetarians or those struggling to get enough protein.

Bought at: Wholefoods Market
Nutrition per 10g: 35 calories, 8.2g protein, 0.2g fat, 0g sat fat, 0g sugars, 0.38g salt
Score: 7 /10

Monday 11 July 2016

Vita Coco Cafe Cafe Latte Review

I'm a bit of a coffee addict and can drink even in the summer but sometimes when it's really hot, you just can't face a hot drink and that's where a nice iced chilled latte comes in for me. Coconut water is another brilliant summer staple that's very cool and refreshing - combine the two and that's got to be a winner for me.

I've always bought Vita Coco but have until now only tried their fruited versions -combining coffee and coconut water whilst intriguing could also go horribly wrong and I struggled to imagine what this would taste like. Much as I love coconut water, I wanted an iced latte feel to this and wanted it to be like the nice chilled coffee drinks you can get.

The packaging as always with Vita Coco is just great. It stands out, is loud, colourful and reminds me of holidays. The 330ml cartons are always really nice to hold and drink from and perfect for carrying out and about whilst travelling. Opening it up it certainly smelt of coffee. The prime ingredient is coconut water at 53% followed by low fat milk (so this is one Vita Coco that isn't dairy free) and then a good shot of Espresso with 120mg of caffeine per carton. There is also a little added sugar just to balance out the acidity of the coffee.

Pouring it into a glass it doesn't look that attractive I'll admit. However, it tastes just lovely. The flavour was spot and tasted just like any other chilled coffee drink only a healthier one with considerably less sugar than the likes of Starbucks chilled drinks.

It has a lovely almost caramel sweetness that is quite faint and not sickly but works well against a very strong espresso hit. I drank this in the car on a hot morning and it was perfect giving me a cooling coffee boost.

Price: £1.89
Bought at: Ocado
Nutrition per 100ml:  29 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 6.3g sugars

Score: 8/10

Sunday 10 July 2016

Meridian Cashew Bar Review

Meridian are the kings of nut butter - they're my staple brand as I love they are made with just 100% of any given nut with no added palm oil, salt or sugar and if it's almond or cashew butter for example, it is properly almonds and cashews and not bulked out with cheaper nuts. They also have a bar range and again a high nut content is the key focus. In this cashew bar for example it is 55% cashew nut so considerably more than mainstream brands that promise nut flavour and then are like 3% nuts.

This 40g bar contains 6g protein and there is no added refined sugar with the sweetness coming from brown rice malt, agave and some fruit juices. This ingredients is short and clean and its made with Meridian's cashew butter, which I love anyway so it all looked pretty promising.

It's a fairly decent sized bar and at around the 200 calorie mark, a more substantial snack as well. Opening it up it smelt like a nut butter and has a greasy film to it which was a good sign in my work suggesting the natural oils from the nuts. This bar has a soft, chewy texture with a reasonable density but it's pretty easy to eat and feels pretty energising.

The taste is pretty much cashew butter. It's really not a sweet bar in anyway and the cashew butter is very prominent. There is a little vanilla flavouring in there but it doesn't come through and overall lacks a little excitement. It's a very tasty bar, it's healthy and I would buy it again but it's not one I would go out of my way to search for as the taste is pretty one dimensional and they're pretty pricey. However, it is satisfying with a nice texture and filled me up nicely in a natural way so is perfect for an energy boost.

Price: £1.59
Bought at: Holland and Barrett
Nutrition per bar: 201 calories, 12.1g fat,2.4g sat fat, 8.7g sugars,2g fibre, 6.2g protein

Score: 7/10