Vegan Paradise: Nut Milk Yogurts Come to the UK

FINALLY! You can BUY nut milk yogurts from your local supermarket.

I think it’s fair to say there is no shortage of nut milks in the supermarkets any more. Go back several years and shoppers would have wondered ‘Nut milk who?’ with ‘dairy-free’ very rarely known about, let alone discussed. But now you can’t move for almond milk, hazelnut milk and cashew milk scattering the shelves!

almond-milk-raw

I’m personally a massive fan of nut milk – I adore creamy cashew milk with my porridge – but it always seems a shame that the nut milk train ends at just plain milk. After all, traditional cow’s milk also makes cheese, butter and yogurt – why isn’t nut milk as multi-dimensional? Why can’t I get a smorgasbord of rich, creamy nut milk goodies?

Turns out, scientists around the globe have been wondering the same question and have thankfully come up with their first revolutionary creation – nut milk yogurt!nush-dairy-free-yogurts

That’s right folks, dairy-free brand Nush have recently announced they’re going to be launching the UK’s very first nut milk yogurts, made with top quality avola almonds. Available at Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic and Ocado, these yummy dairy-free yogurts are harvested with less water than dairy alternatives and incorporate no pesticides or fertilisers at all, meaning vegans can also enjoy this creamy dreamy treat.

Are you a vegan or lead a dairy-free lifestyle? What do you think of nut milk yogurts coming to your supermarket?

Are Oatmeal Cookies Healthy?

Oatmeal cookies are quite possibly the most divisive cookie choice ever. It’s the Marmite of the baked goods world.

oatmeal-raisin-cookies-healthy

So often they are considered “bland”, “like chewable Ovaltine” and, overarchingly, “too healthy”. But are oatmeal cookies actually a more nutritious choice than Double Chocolate Chip or Snickerdoodle? Or are Oatmeal Raisins just another tasty treat from the oatmeal franchise who have been several misrepresented?

Related: Are Granola Bars Actually Healthy? 

Are Oatmeal Cookies Healthy?

First of all, let’s look at the typical ingredients list on a standard Oatmeal Raisin cookie. Let’s go for the best of the bunch – Subway’s own.

Ingredients:

Flour Enriched ( Wheat Flour, Barley Malted Flour, Niacin Vitamin B3, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1, Riboflavin Vitamin B2, Folic Acid Vitamin B9 ), Sugar, Raisins, Palm Oil, Oats, Eggs, Water, Molasses, Salt, Whey, Baking Soda, Cinnamon

oatmeal-cookies-healthy

Well, there are healthy oats in these cookies

Whilst we all know that eating oats can help improve digestion (See here for why oats are great for digestion) and regulate blood sugar levels, oats are actually the 11th ingredient in the bunch, preceded by sugar, raisins and palm oil. Before all of these, however, is enriched flour which ups the carb intake ten-fold.

Raisins are healthy snacks, so these are healthy too

Yeah, I guess raisins are okay but they are actually full of natural sugars and eating too many of these is just as bad as eating table sugar. They also have a medium GI (Glycemic index) which means they make your blood sugar shoot up if you eat too many of them (more on the Glycemic Index here).

There isn’t as much sugar as in other cookies

HA! Believe what you want but thanks to the pure sugar, raisins, and molasses (basically just brown sugar), four Oatmeal Raisin cookies contain on average 16g, whilst four Double Choc Chip cookies contain 9g of sugar on average.

So which cookie is my healthiest option?

Of course, we can now rule out Oatmeal Raisin as healthy, and a lot of cookies get their sweet and snappy nature from lots of sugar and oil, so your best option is to find a recipe online that suits your lifestyle. My favourite are the three ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies from My Whole Food Life which are comprised of just peanut butter, a little syrup and salt. Delish!

 

What is the difference between vitamins & minerals?

What does it mean when a food purports to have ‘essential vitamins & minerals’? We’ve all heard of Vitamin C being good for immunity and Vitamin B for hair and skin, but what is the real difference between a vitamin & a mineral?

vitamins-minerals

Vitamins

You’ll get all your essential vitamins from fruits and vegetables – which includes Vitamin C from oranges, Vitamin A in artichoke & Vitamin B in avocados. This is probably why you’ve heard vitamins talked more about in advertising campaigns and in the media, as a way of selling healthy fruits & veg.

You’ll also hear that vitamins are great for naturally maintaining healthy hair, skin & nails. That’s because vitamins help release energy from the food you eat, and produces the building blocks of red blood cell and protection against decay. Vitamin supplements are great for progressively gaining better health and work better when consumed regularly.

Vitamins are usually better absorbed when they come into contact with minerals, and that is why vitamins & minerals are usually associated – so that you can get the most goodness from your foods!

Minerals

Minerals are found in liquids & soils and are also found in root-based foods like potatoes, parsnips & legumes. This is why you get most of your minerals from plant-based dishes like stew or soups.

Whilst vitamins fight to protect the tender parts of the body – the red blood cells – minerals work with the harder parts of the body, such as the muscles, bones & maintaining a good acid-alkaline balance. For more short-term ailments, such as fatigue you’re better off with a mineral supplement. For longer-term general health ailments such as calcium deficiency, you’re good with vitamins.

You won’t find handy names for minerals in the same way you do with vitamins – there’s no Mineral A or Mineral B, minerals are instead the things you might buy supplements for, such as zinc, magnesium & potassium. Some metal-based minerals such as copper and lead aren’t good for you and should be avoided at all costs, so it pays to watch out for the good minerals.

In general, minerals retain more of their nutritional value in the form of a supplement than vitamins. Vitamins can lose nutrients when heated or chemically altered, so if you’re feeling sleepy, an Iron supplement is more likely to serve you well than a Vitamin B supplement.

Which Coffee Shop Makes The Best Porridge?

Starbucks

This is entitled ‘Perfect Porridge’ on its packaging, so it had a lot to live up to. Fresh milk is added to the dry oats rather than hot water, so you get the option after purchase of either regular or soya milk.

starbucks-porridge

Toppings are included in the £1.99 price tag, and you have a good choice of toppings, from sugar, sweeteners, vanilla, nutmeg, cocoa powder, cinnamon, honey and dried fruit in sachets. It’s nice to have the option of so many toppings included in the price, although something that isn’t hugely sugary would have been nice, such as peanut butter or fresh fruit.

Related: The Best IBS-Friendly Porridge Toppings

Although milk is added, the dried oats just don’t seem to blend properly and you get a synthetic tasting bland porridge without much integrity. Not very nice at all, not even with the addition of the toppings.

starbucks-porridge-2

Costa Coffee

A small 80g pot of packaged porridge – is it really worth £2.10? It’s difficult to think you’re getting your money’s worth when it looks so measly and when you know full well that the oats themselves probably cost around 2p.

costa-coffee-porridge

In the pot is 60% whole grain oat flakes (all good so far), dried skimmed milk (not bad at all), and lots and lots of refined sugar (uhoh). Hot water is added to mix it all together. Because of the dried skimmed milk, you don’t get the usual luxurious creaminess of fresh milk, nor do you get the option of choosing a dairy-free milk so vegans and lactose intolerants can say bye-bye to this morning staple.

Related: “Instant” & “Convenience” Oatmeal: Quaker Oats Aren’t Healthy

The texture is okay at best – the flakes are a bit mealy and it is way too sweet, and it didn’t actually fill me up at all. Fine for a sugary snack, but not really a decent breakfast option.

Caffe Nero

I’m a massive advocate of Caffe Nero so I had all the hope in the world going into this one and trying out their porridge, any disappointment would have felt like a massive blow.

nero-porridge

Like with Starbucks, skimmed, semi or soya milk is added hot to this porridge pot, or you can add water if you prefer. The choice of toppings isn’t as extensive as Starbucks but the options of maple syrup, berry compote or sugar and sweeteners is nice, although a less sugary topping would again be preferred.

This one was really nice and tasted more like the stuff I make myself at home. Smooth, full of large oats and really creamy. I had mine with soya milk and it tasted super luxurious yet light. Really nice even without any toppings and amazing with an espresso.

Pret A Manger

Pret generally make outstanding food so it’s no wonder they go the extra mile with their porridge options, with their Proper Porridge (the usual) and Five Grain Porridge (oats, quinoa, amaranth, golden linseed, brown linseed, cooked in coconut water).

pret-porridge
Proper Porridge

As you might expect, the latter is one of the nicest coffee shop porridges – rather than scolding it with hot water or lumping it full of hot milk, they cook it in advance and then keep in warm in serving pots. This gives the oats sufficient time to soak up their surrounding flavours and liquids – anyone who has made overnight oats knows the majesty of this technique.

pret-porridge-2
Five Grain Porridge

Toppings include the usual sugar, sweetener, honey and berry compote, plus a mango and seed compote which is actually really good. The seed addition is a nice touch as I was getting a bit fed up of only having sweet toppings.

The texture is lovely and because it’s been warmed through properly, every spoonful tastes great. On top of that, you can also eat it straight away out of the tub!


Overall, Pret wins because it actually tastes like some care has gone into making a perfect porridge. The others seem like they just want to make a pretty penny off of a very cheap breakfast staple.

In general, avoid the instant porridges which only use dried oats and hot water – the flavours won’t combine correctly and will taste bland.

On the flip side, too much milk and not enough stirring makes the liquid and the oats separate from one another – they need properly mixing, over a longer period of time, so they can combine whilst capturing all the flavours. A mixture of hot water and hot milk seems to work best for the Pret porridge.

Alflorex Biotics Review: How much does it help IBS?

I’m naturally sceptical when it comes to probiotic products. Before I was officially diagnosed with IBS, I tried expensive supermarket probiotic drinks like Yakult and Actimel because I imagined they’d fix my tempestuous stomach. Turns out, not so much.

All they did was make me feel more bloated, as well as giving me ‘squeaky teeth’ – the phenomenon of way too much sugar in concentrated form, so I had to stop taking them.

Since being diagnosed and learning more about IBS, I tried a few other probiotics (see my review of Symprove Probiotics here), which were pretty good, so I was less sceptical when this year I was given the chance to try Alflorex probiotics.

alflorex-ibs

Alflorex is a natural precision biotic food supplement which comes in the form of easy digestible small capsules. I was sent 4 weeks’ worth so had plenty of time to work it into my usual routine.

After 1 week I noticed subtle changes, but not dramatic. The bloating I would usually feel after a larger meal felt less uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure if this was just a placebo effect and you can’t really tell after 1 week alone anyway.

After 2 weeks I did start to see noticeable improvements, mainly in terms of bowel movements and the way I was able to eat larger meals without experiencing stomach cramps. In general, from the moment I woke up my stomach felt calm, whereas before I had to down 2 pints of water just so I could feel like my gut was cleansed.

probiotic-drinks

After 3 weeks I wanted to see if the Yakult drinks I tried and failed with before would work better alongside Alflorex. I’d really not recommend it, it just exhausts your gut and makes digestion even more difficult than before. It turns out that consuming multiple strains of bacteria isn’t good for the gut at all – different cultures target different areas of the gut. Too many targeted areas just over-runs the gut and creates more muscle spasms than normal (there’s more detailed information on the use of multiple strains here).

After 4 weeks I stopped using Yakult and just had the one capsule of Alflorex a day as before and my stomach started to feel normal again. Easy and calm digestion reduced the bloating and made eating a lot more enjoyable.

Overall, I think this stuff works, but definitely give it four weeks to really ride out the full capacity of the product. Oh and don’t mix with other bacterial strains as it simply undoes all the natural good of Alflorex!

 

Are These The Worst Convenience Foods To Buy?

Have we reached peak laziness?

When did it become so difficult to take something out of its packaging, chop it, wash it or, heaven forbid, butter it?!

According to research by the BBC, sales of pre-peeled potatoes went up 40% from 2010 to 2011 and is continuing to grow year on year, whilst diced onions were up 14% and prepared vegetables were up 17%!

I, for one, am not a fan of lazy foods in the slightest.

Not only do they strip the heart and soul from the food by throwing in lashings of chemicals to preserve it/thicken it/make it stay pretty over time, but there is no enjoyment to be had during consumption any more.

We’re cramming morsels down our faces as we rush off to the next meeting, we’re no longer preparing food because our schedule doesn’t allow for it, so we don’t think of food as sustenance or important nourishment any more, all it is is another tick on the To Do list.

The unavoidable outcome of this is that these types of busy on-the-move people are unaware that this is why they’re always tired/stressed out/hungry for more… because what they’re eating, whilst colourful, is vacuous, tasteless and diminishes wellbeing at a horrific rate.

Here are the top 7 worst convenience foods you can find in stores, which will prove just how much we hate our bodies/using cutlery! FYI – This list is designed to showcase the worst of the worst… do NOT buy these if you care about good food!

Pre-buttered malt loaf

prebuttered-convenience

I was shocked and disgusted when I saw this. PRE-BUTTERED?! Has the world gone mad? Next, Soreen will be sending a drone to open the ever-so-hard-to-open plastic wrapping too!

Pre-cooked jacket potato

mccain2Probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen, it’s almost laughable that a 5 minute microwaveable potato is considered one of the most revolutionary things to happen in the 2000s.

Oh, and there is How To Cook instructions on their site in case you really were struggling to make sense of your starchy nemesis.

Pre-cut avocado

avo-ms

When M&S launched this in April there was considerable backlash concerning the sheer laziness of the product. Not only is it lazy, avocados are inherently good at a) telling you they’re ripe (the knobbly bit falls off), and b) keeping the flesh firm with its rough outer shell. By taking the flesh out, putting it in a pot, and preserving it with parsley no less, you’ll get a much mushier and mangey avocado experience.

Pre-mashed mashed potato

tesco-mash

This has been around for years, and it is one of my biggest bug bears. Homemade mashed potato is delicious, fluffy, filling and creamy. Pre-mashed mashed potato comes packed with heavy cream, lumps of butter and way too much salt, making it super unhealthy, and making you wish you’d just had the patience to boil a few potatoes for half an hour instead. Ruin your Sunday dinner with this delight today!

Crustless bread

kingsmill-crustless

This is obviously one for the kids, but really – does this need to be a thing? Assuming the parents opened the packaging themselves (although I’m quite certain they’d deem this too difficult a task), they’re also probably not far away from a knife which, yes would you believe it, CUTS CRUSTS OFF MANUALLY. Unless you live in a cave and the closest thing to a knife you have is the sharp end of an elephant’s tusk, then you really have no excuse.

Grated cheese

cathedral-city

So so commonly used, grated cheese is a prime example of convenience food becoming normalised. To most, it’s far easier to whap out of a bag of grated cheese and sprinkle over your cottage pie, but just remember that by not bothering to grate a block of cheese yourself, you’re also eating heaps of potato starch into your diet (to stop the cheese from caking in the bag). Potato starch is a delicious combination of empty calories, carbs, and sugars. Yum!

Microwave sausages

walls-saus

Sausages are not a food you eat if you’re trying to be healthy, but if you have kids who demand them, serving up microwave sausages is a massive sin that won’t help their health and wellbeing at all. That’s because the guys at Walls pack the ‘succulent’ sausages out with loads of water, rusk and yummy potato starch, leaving only 60% for actual pork meat. A typical good sausages needs at least 80% pork for it to give you the good bits such as protein without making you starve later on.

And here are some of the foods you should DEFINITELY be making yourself at home…

Hummus

Literally chickpeas, water and lemon juice. Throw in a bit of tahini if you fancy it, but you don’t have to if you don’t want the extra fat. Tahini-free hummus recipes are abundant, so don’t fret. Homemade hummus is cheap as chips, with half of the fat of packaged hummus.

Banana bread

Full of butter and sugar, you’re far better off making your own. Not only will it be tonnes healthier (you can add in oats, nuts, seeds, whatever you like) it will also taste so much fresher! See this healthy banana loaf recipe.

Salsa

Literally just chopped tomatoes and spices, you can easily whip up a homemade salsa in seconds from stock items you’ll definitely have in the pantry. Tastes so much better, and isn’t heaping with that nasty vinaigrette supermarkets like to plough their salsas with.

Smoothies

I’m sure this is common sense, but you’ll get so much more goodness from homemade smoothies. You can add in the bits and pieces you like the most and make and eat within seconds. If you struggle with IBS or have digestive issues, there are a list of Low FODMAP smoothies you can whip up super easily too.

Soup

Yes, I know canned soup is cheap, but with the sheer amount of salt in each can your palate will not thank you. Make your own with stock, fresh meat and vegetables and enjoy a whole new soup experience.

 

flpajacks

Clean Eating Protein Flapjack Recipe – Only Four Ingredients!

This recipe came about after relentlessly searching for ‘healthy flapjack recipe’ and getting back seriously unhealthy flapjacks full of sugar (just no butter).

I’m a massive advocate for high protein, low sugar recipes which are full of wholesome ingredients and, if they’re fairly calorie-dense but full of wholefoods, I’m fine with it.

So I decided to give it a bit of a whizz myself to see what could be substituted. After all, a classic flapjack recipe is just oats, golden syrup, butter and brown sugar. The oats are the main bit and are of course the only healthy bit, so they can stay. The rest of the ingredients did, however, need a few tweaks.

The butter I thought could be replaced by coconut oil. It has pretty much the same texture in a bake, with the only downside being the lack of creaminess.

So to perk up the creaminess, I thought to throw in some peanut butter which would not only add that extra bit of texture, but it would also amp up the protein levels.

A flapjack is not a flapjack without super sweetness, which is typically from the brown sugar and golden syrup. And, whilst super delicious, they’re so bad for you that they should never be added to anything, in my opinion.

cranberry-flapjacks

So instead of golden syrup and brown sugar, I added honey which offers the same gooey texture but with less of the sweeteness. To amp up the sweetness I added cranberries and raisins and a sprinkling of delicious ground cinnamon. For me, this gives the right amount of sweeteness without overwhelming my palate with sugar. Some might need more sugar, to which I’d recommend adding a sweetener or some more honey, but the idea is to keep the sugar as low as poss.

I added the protein powder and sesame seeds to give it a little extra protein punch, and that little bit of extra flavour.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (get the raw stuff which actually tastes like coconut)
  • 3 tablespoons honey/maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons 100% peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon cranberries (I use frozen cranberries because they’re cheaper and can keep them all year round)
  • 1 tablespoon raisins/sultanas
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 200g rolled oats (the bigger the oat the better)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method

In a saucepan melt the coconut oil, peanut butter and honey until completely blended. Of course, if you’ve used a crunchy peanut butter there will be peanut chunks left over, but that’s fine.

Once this is all mixed, take off the heat and add in your cranberries, seeds and raisins.

In a separate bowl mix together half of your oats and all of your cinnamon (only add half in whilst you’re mixing in the spices just in case you think your mix could use fewer than 200g oats in the later stages).

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and keep adding in the remaining oats until you’re happy with the consistency. The consistency should be thick, but still sticky so it can be pressed into the bottom of a baking tin without crumbling. You’ll get a good idea of this by taking a spoonful and squishing it in your hand to see if it makes a ball without falling apart.

In a lined baking tray, squish the mixture down so it’s nice and firm like a cheesecake base (because there is no real butter in this, the consistency is more likely to crumble, so this is an important part of the bake!)

Bake in the centre of an oven at 180c for 15 minutes, or until the flapjacks start to brown at the edges.

Remove from the oven once finished, and DO NOT TOUCH until at least an hour afterwards. Cutting into it too early doesn’t allow it enough time to set.

After a long waited hour, chow down on these healthy clean-eating flapjacks!

The Easy Cups To Grams Convertor

Do you know how many grams are in a cup? Or how many cups are in a gram? You may think you do, until the type of flour changes or the type of sugar switches and suddenly the conversion of cups to grams is completely different!

The amount of times I’ve searched for a recipe, found one that’s fab and got excited, only to be disappointed when the ingredients were in cups. The only option after that is a) go through endless websites trying to find out all the gram equivalents for each ingredient, or b) the much easier and most popular option… abandon it.

cupstograms

I scoured the web to find all the converted measurements I could find for cups to grams for the most common baking ingredients. If there are any that I’ve missed that you use frequently, pop us a comment and I’ll try to get that added 🙂

Hope it helps! Happy baking!

buttercake-005

Plain Flour, Self Raising Flour, Wholemeal Flour, Caster Sugar, Raw Cacao, Seeds, Dried Fruit

1/8 cup = 16 g
1/4 cup = 32 g
1/3 cup = 43 g
1/2 cup = 64 g
2/3 cup = 85 g
3/4 cup = 96 g
1 cup = 128 g

Cornflour, Ground nuts, Bread Flour, Gluten Free Flours, Crushed Biscuits, Protein Powder, Cocoa Nibs, Grated Mozzerella

1/4 cup = 30 g
1/3 cup = 40 g
1/2 cup = 60 g
2/3 cup = 80 g
3/4 cup = 90 g
1 cup =  120 g

Bread Flour

1/4 cup = 34 g
1/3 cup = 45 g
1/2 cup = 68 g
1 cup = 136 g

Granulated Sugar, Brown Sugar, Palm Sugar, Raisins, Sultanas, Agave Nectar

1/4 cup = 50 g
1/3 cup = 67 g
1/2 cup = 105 g
2/3 cup = 134 g
3/4 cup = 150 g
1 cup = 210 g

Icing Sugar, Rye Flour

1/4 cup = 25 g
1/3 cup = 35 g
1/2 cup = 50 g
2/3 cup = 70 g
3/4 cup = 75 g
1 cup = 100 g

Oats, Desiccated Coconut

1/4 cup = 21 g
1/3 cup = 28 g
1/2 cup = 43 g
1 cup = 85 g

Maple Syrup, Honey, Molasses

1/4 cup = 85 g
1/3 cup = 113 g
1/2 cup = 170 g
2/3 cup = 227 g
3/4 cup = 255 g
1 cup = 340 g

Butter, Margarine, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese

1/4 cup = 57 g
1/3 cup = 76 g
1/2 cup = 113 g
1 cup = 227 g

Dry Rice, Shortening

1/4 cup = 48 g
1/3 cup = 65 g
1/2 cup = 95 g
2/3 cup = 125 g
3/4 cup = 140 g
1 cup = 190 g

Dry Couscous, Chocolate Chips

1/4 cup = 45 g
1/3 cup = 60 g
1/2 cup = 90 g
2/3 cup = 120 g
3/4 cup = 135 g
1 cup = 180 g

Table Salt

1/4 cup = 75 g
1/3 cup = 100 g
1/2 cup = 150 g
2/3 cup = 200 g
3/4 cup = 230 g
1 cup = 300 g

Chopped Nuts, Dried Breadcrumbs, Grated Carrot, Goji Berries, Chia Seeds

1/4 cup = 40 g
1/3 cup = 50 g
1/2 cup = 75 g
2/3 cup = 100 g
3/4 cup = 110 g
1 cup = 150 g

Fresh Breadcrumbs, Marshmallows

1/4 cup = 15 g
1/3 cup = 20 g
1/2 cup = 30 g
2/3 cup = 40 g
3/4 cup = 45 g
1 cup = 60 g

Cream, Purees, Chickpeas, Beans, Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup = 60 g
1/3 cup = 75 g
1/2 cup = 120 g
2/3 cup = 150 g
3/4 cup = 180 g
1 cup = 240 g

Mashed Banana, Nut Butter

1/4 cup = 65 g
1/3 cup = 85 g
1/2 cup = 130 g
2/3 cup = 170 g
3/4 cup = 195 g
1 cup = 260 g

Milk

1/4 cup = 60ml
1/3 cup = 80ml
1/2 cup = 120ml
2/3 cup = 160ml
3/4 cup = 180ml
1 cup = 240ml

Are Special K Granola Bars Healthy?

If Special K’s protein shakes are anything to go by (Read here: Are Special K Granola Bars Healthy?) then I’m not too optimistic speculating whether Special K’s granola bars are healthy or not.

For decades, the term ‘granola’ has carried undertones of health and good wellbeing. This all started because Dr James Caleb Jackson, a health spa extraordinaire, invented ‘granula’ from nothing more than a graham flour which was crumbled and then baked until crisp. And ‘granular’ remained this way as a genuinely healthy cereal, all throughout his time during the late 19th century and throughout the 1900s.

granola

This all changed in the 60s when ‘granular’ came to be reinvented into something completely different and ‘of the times’. Whilst the main components remained the same, additions such as sweeteners, sugars, fruits, nuts, and syrups were added to appeal to the new flavour-mad generation of hippies and young children.

The first commercial granola came to fruition in 1972 by Pet Milk, called Heartland Natural Cereal which added cane juice, canola oil, brown rice syrup and natural flavourings to add a little more to the rolled oat recipe devised by Jackson.

The name changed from ‘granular’ to ‘granola’ when John Harvey Kellogg (of the brand Kellogg’s) developed a similar cereal, but for legality reasons gave his the name of ‘Granola’. And so granola was born.
Just a brief look at granola throughout history shows how little we really know about the stuff, and how warped our view of granola’s ‘health halo’ actually is.

Which brings us back to Kellogg’s Special K granola bars. Are they in the original health halo we expect of a granola bar, or are they just another candy bar in oat-y clothing?

Related: Why Breakfast Biscuits & Granola suck for IBS sufferers

Corn syrup is the 2nd ingredient (after rolled oats) in all of their fruit bars, with sugar, fructose, dextrose, glycerine, fruit concentrate, molasses, malt extract and fruit puree the main components that make the bar palatable.

Their dark chocolate granola bars do not use the healthy 85% or more dark choc we might expect either – with sugar the 1st ingredient in the dark coating, followed by palm oil, soy lecithin and salt). The only cocoa used is processed and barely noticeable in both ingredients list and taste.

You may be surprised to know that the worst Kellogg’s snack bar in terms of calories and sugar is the Chocolate Caramel Protein Meal Bar (170 calories, 15g sugar), closely followed by the Cranberry Almond Chewy Nut Bar (150 calories, 12g sugar). To put it into perspective, this is around the same calories as a Mars bar and the same sugar as a Kit Kat. The amount of fibre is limited per bar as fibre-rich ingredients such as wholegrains, nuts and seeds fall to the bottom of the list.

kelloggs-chewy

If you’re so loyal to Kellogg’s that you know you could never part from them, I’d say their cereal bars are probably the healthiest way to go. Although their cereals do contain a bit of sugar, there is wheat fibre, whole grain wheat and wheat bran added to these bars. They also have on average fewer calories and sugar than any of the other snack bars in Kellogg’s range.

kelloggs-cereal

Personally, I’d steer clear of Kellogg’s as their friendly branding and bold product names are largely misleading. Instead, make your own granola bars (recipe here for Buckwheat Cranberry Granola), or buy low-sugar granola products such as Diablo’s bars or The Food Doctor food bars.

Quick Vegetarian Dishes: Halloumi Pesto Rice Noodles & Chargrilled Veg

Rice noodles are something I’d never tried until a few months ago. I’d never really seen them in shops and, to the honest, if you want rice you eat rice, if you want noodles you eat noodles, right?

rice-noodles-dish

Well, not if you’d rather avoid bloating. Rice is starch on steroids and egg noodles, whilst aren’t half as bad as pasta, The Great Gut Destroyers, they are still majorly wheaty and gluten-rich.

Rice noodles, on the other hand, are my new King. Made with rice flour (rather than wheat flour) they’re filling without causing any digestive discomfort. Plus, you can throw in all kinds of vegetables to add that extra crunch you need.

ilumi-noodles

Take a look at the recipe for my Pesto Rice Noodles with Chargrilled Veg for a healthy and INCREDIBLY healthy dinner. I eat this most days after work as it’s a great way to quickly get your nutrients, with barely any prep or long cooking times! I actually made this and ate it so fast the only photo I captured was pre-veg!

I add in the pesto as spice isn’t really a great thing for my IBS, but any seasoning or sauce should work equally well (although the pesto is very highly recommended!)

cottage-delight-pesto

Ingredients

  1. 170g Ilumi Singapore Rice Noodles – I cook them in the pot like a Pot Noodle, it’s so easy and mess-free.
  2. 2 slices Halloumi
  3. 180g Cottage Delight Sweet Pepper & Ricotta Cheese Pesto
  4. Several handfuls of your favourite veg. My favourite veg to chargrill are peppers, aubergine and onions.

Method

  • All you have to do is spread out your veg on a baking tray and lightly brush with olive oil.
  • Cook the veg under a hot grill for around 8 minutes or until the edges start to brown (but not burn!)
  • Add your slices of halloumi to a dry frying pan and fry on each side for around 2 minutes each.
  • Whilst you’re waiting, boil the kettle and full your Ilumi pot to just below the fill line and leave to stand for several minutes.
  • Once cool, drain the noodles well until completely dried out otherwise the pesto won’t hold.
  • In the frying pan, chop up the halloumi, add the veg once it’s grilled, and add half the pesto and smash it all together.
  • In a large bowl, pop the cooked noodles in as the base and add the remaining pesto, and then add the contents of the frying pan on top.
  • Leave to stand for a few minutes to let the pesto season the noodles.
  • Slurp up as soon as it’s cool enough to eat! Yummmm.