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.

Is Oven Rack Positon Important?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself every time I’ve baked – and regretted not thinking the answer through before consequently ruining my bake!

It’s easy to assume that no matter where you place your bake, the oven’s heat circulates just the same. But much like how fruits ripen at different points depending on the other fruits in the bowl, it’s much more variable than that and there’s no one-size-fits-all for oven racks.

oven-racks

Top Rack

Ideal for baking: crisps, potatoes, casseroles, pasta bakes

The top rack is where the majority of the heat settle as the heat rises to the top of the oven whilst it’s turned on. However, some foods shouldn’t be heated TOO quickly, so only foods which need to be browned and cooked quickly, rather than an overall bake, need to go on the top rack.

Middle Rack

Ideal for baking: lasagnes, cakes, cookies, sweet pies

The middle rack is the most loved amongst bakers making sweet stuff which requires the whole product to be baked evenly. Also good for stodgy foods which need to be cooked all the way through and not just on top.

If you have two sheets on the middle rack, however, it’s usually best to spread them out on the top and bottom thirds as they both won’t be baked evenly if they have to share the rack.

Bottom Rack

Ideal for baking: bread, pizza, savoury pies

The bottom rack cooks the bottom of the dish moreso than anywhere else, so things which don’t strictly need the topside baking or browning are the ones which need the bottom rack. Here is the closest position to the source of the heat.

Are Special K protein shakes healthy?

Although not available in the UK just yet, it’s sure to be no time until we see Kellogg’s Special K Protein shakes [https://www.specialk.com/en_US/products/shakes.html] in stores.

special-k-protein-shakes
After a succession of protein-rich food stuffs from the Big Bad Kellogg’s such as Special K Protein and Granola Protein Bars, it’s obvious where their efforts are being channelled right now.

Related: Mars and Snickers Protein Bars Review

But the real question is – are Special K’s protein products any better for us that their notoriously sugary, high-carb cereals and snack bars? If you don’t believe me, take a look through the nutritional info on specialk.com.

Their Blueberry Bliss snack bar, for instance, has a whopping 7g of sugar per bar (8% of your RDA sugar) and only 4% of your RDA protein, thanks to heaps of corn syrup, sugar, fructose, glycerin, mollases and more.

special-k-blueberry-bliss
I think it’s fair to say Kellogg’s Special K weren’t quite meeting the needs of health-conscious gym-friendly consumers with products like this, so a swathe of protein products have suddenly come aboard to fill the gap… and make more money.

Special K Protein Shakes Review

Unfortunately, whilst the range of protein shakes is huge – thirteen flavours in total – none of them are anywhere close to being healthy.

From French Vanilla to Vanilla Cappuccino to Chocolate Mocha, these protein shakes are promoted as a healthy way to ‘shake up your morning’ and really do sound too good to be true. A healthy but tasty dessert-like breakfast I can have on the go that will fill me up for hours?! Wow – sign me up!

And whilst this all sounds great, the proof really is in the breakfasty pudding – because the only boost being you’ll get from these protein shakes is an instant sugar/caffeine high… followed by the ultimate sugar low.

Related: Are protein bars actually good for you?

Irritatingly, half of the range are marketed as ‘breakfast shakes’, which is only going to heighten the obesity epidemic our generation is currently going through.

It’s products like this, packaged nicely and promoted for their convenience, which busy and lazy people alike will think are the answer to their prayers. What happens here, however, is people either end up replacing a wholesome breakfast (which would increase a person’s metabolism), or replace their typical breakfast-less starts for a super sugary shake that’s chock full of empty calories… and which inevitably leads to an 11am rumbling tum and a huge lunch to fill the void.

chocolate-mocha-protein-shake

So let’s take a look at Special K’s Chocolate Mocha Breakfast Shake and see what’s being served up for brekkie.

AHA – These shakes give you the option to trade in your delicious heart-healthy porridge or on-the-go potassium-rich banana for a slurpy calorie-laden shake filled to the brim with sugar, gellan gum, cellulose gum, sucralose, artificial flavours and canola oil.

Sounds tasty, right?

Yeyyyy – oh and that 20% (per bottle) protein content you were hoping would make you feel good is cruelly counteracted by 10% of your RDA carbs and, wait for it, a whopping 20% of your recommended sugar intake for the day.

Drinking a Special K protein shake and considering it healthy is like eating a banana split and telling yourself it’s potassium-rich. Just because elements of the finished meal have a little bit of something doesn’t mean the whole product ends up being so. And these protein shakes, unfortunately, are just like drinking a can of Coke or an energy drink for breakfast – so what’s my advice?

Avoid daft protein shakes and actually eat breakfast – you know, using your teeth and biting down on something – and drink plenty of water during the early hours. You’ll be hydrating yourself PROPERLY and won’t be starving hungry either.

It’s really not that hard, as long as you’re mindful that not everything with the word ‘protein’ in is inherently healthy. Far from it, actually.

Gluten-free Trdelníks (Doughnut Ice Cream Cones) Recipe

I don’t know if everyone will have seen trdelníks in the news (http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/25/these-doughnut-style-ice-cream-cones-are-the-stuff-of-dreams-5717454/) this year, but ever since I saw these beautiful creamy cones, I knew I had to recreate them myself somehow.

If you’re still perplexed by what trdelníks means, it’s basically a wrapped-up doughnut cone with ice-cream thrown in the middle. They’re amazing to look at, but unfortunately I could never get my hands on one as they’re (sadly) not available in the UK, and only in Prague by Good Food Coffee and Bakery.

LOOK AT THEM! *kisses screen*

doughnut ice cream cone recipe

Much like its predecessor, the Cronut, there have been many imitations popping up all over Instagram, but all seem to be equally calorie-laden (as you’d expect) and full of stuff which you just wouldn’t have to hand at home (such as emulsifiers and thickeners – ick!).

cronut

So what’s a doughnut+ice-cream fan to do?

Recreate a faux version with healthy ingredients instead!

Gluten-Free Trdelníks Recipe

Because it’s SO difficult to make a doughnut-style pastry without it being inherently bad for you, I switched out the dough for a puff pastry.

To make sure it wouldn’t bloat me or incur any nasty digestive discomfort, I switched out regular ready-rolled pastry for gluten-free pastry from Silly Yak.

Their stuff not only tastes great but binds together much better in a cone than homemade or commercial gluten-rich puff pastries do. They’re also suitable for vegetarians, so double winner!

Related: Homemade Oatie Ice Cream Cones Recipe

With the pastry, all you have to do is roll it out in a long, thin strip that’s about ½ inch thick.

Give your cone the classic doughnutty look by wrapping it around a cone-shaped mould (you can make one your own using sturdy paper), starting from the bottom and swirling it around until it reaches the top. Make this fairly tight so it remains in place but not so much that you won’t be able to remove the mould in the morning.

homemade doughnut ice cream cones recipe

Make sure you leave the dough on the mould in the fridge overnight. In the morning, remove from the mould and bake for 3 hours on 160c, turning over halfway through. If the cones aren’t looking browned yet, turn up the temp slightly. You want a final pastry cone which is soft but still has bite to it.

Leave to properly cool so that the ice-cream doesn’t melt into it. I pop them in the freezer for about an hour so that they definitely set.

Then all you have to do next is find some healthy ice-cream to finish your masterpiece. For my trdelníks I only use Coppa Della Maga ice-cream, purely because it’s tastes so milky & creamy, yet is made of completely natural ingredients, is low in sugar because sweetener replaces the sugar and there’s no gluten in this either!

I adore the Sesame & Honey flavour because it works so well with the pastry, but I’m sure any of their flavours work just as well! Now take a cheeky pic of your amazing faux trdelník & eat to your heart’s content! Delicious-o.

Should I avoid corn?

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d say I’m quite informed about food, but I’m still none the wiser about corn. Is corn healthy or not?!

sweetcorn healthy

We’re fed so many different tales about corn through the media, and opinions fluctuate so widely dependent on who the writer represents.

You’ll find a lot of American conglomerates wax lyrical about the health benefits of corn because the USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture) is obsessed with the stuff. America has the greatest heartland for producing corn, with up to 20% of all their imports coming from corn alone, so of course they’re bound to view it as the most positive commodity to come across Western soil! (If you need any further clarification, see here for a list of all the products made up of corn. Coca-Cola soft drinks, Heinz ketchup, Kellogg’s breakfast cereal, all US-owned, utilising corn as their main ingredient and bringing millions of dollars into the country. No public authority could possibly ever argue against them).

But what is the truth about corn? And should you avoid it for health purposes?

giphy

Let’s get the low-down. First of all, with the good bits:

  • Corn is naturally gluten-free, so you can buy cheap corn products even if you suffer with Celiac disease.
  • Corn is largely insoluble fibre (see here for the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre), which feeds the food bacteria in your gut.
  • High level of Vitamin B and Vitamin C are prevalent in raw corn products, including potassium and magnesium.

The bad bits about corn:

  • It’s naturally high in omega-6 fatty acids (see here about why Omega 6 acids can be bad for you) which aren’t good for you. Omega 6 acids increase arachidonic acid in the body, which in turn encourages inflammation.
  • Corn is high in starch which is a carb. Just no. Carbs will bloat you – that is all.
  • Corn is a main component of a lot of fatty, processed foods which grace fast-food restaurants, takeaway joints and ready-meal aisles. When processed, the nutritional elements of the corn are stripped out, usually replaced with sugars and trans-fats to mask over the lack of flavour. A good example of this is Nutri-Grain Strawberry Soft Baked Bars which are jam-packed (no pun intended) with additives like dextrose and cellulose, and of which use soluble corn starch as a main ingredient. Soluble corn starch has had all the good bits stripped out during processing, so all that’s left is a starchy product which refuses to go down. The term ‘corn’ in this instance should be switched out with ‘pure carbohydrate used for thickening’.

So now I think I understand why corn is so confusing…

almond joy hfcs

Yes, in raw form corn is great. Corn on the cob, popped corn, etc. is lovely and full of the natural fibre and vitamins corn should have. However, the nutritional benefits of corn get confused as soon as they are processed, or thrown into other foods. Think high fructose corn syrup, banned in the UK because it is even TOO processed for the UK and TOO sweet – see here for more info.

The word ‘corn’ itself means nothing, unless it’s completely raw, i.e. you’ve just bought an ear of corn. If a packaged product contains the word ‘corn’ in it, this doesn’t mean it has the health benefits that raw corn possesses and has probably been used purely as a thickener, not as a healthy addition.

Instead, look at the other main ingredients to get a good idea of how healthy the product is, as well as how the corn has been processed to end up in that package. Is it a syrup (think packaged cakes and tarts), is it a starch (think unhealthy crackers and wheat thins)? If it’s either of these, it’s no good. If it’s a flour, it’s not AWFUL, but could be better. If it’s corn maize, that’s probably the best you’re going to get.

To be on the safe side, go for unprocessed corn products, like sweetcorn or homemade tortillas, or just avoid corn if you’re worried about being misled!

 

My Favourite Healthy Energy Bars of the Week

In a rush? Need a quick pick me up but watching the calories? Do you need to keep your energy up, but glycemic levels low?

Then don’t let me keep you – let’s cut to the chase.

Here are my two favourite energy bars of the week from Good Full Stop and Max’s Protein Bars. Both are majorly amazing – full of only good stuff and perfect for on the run!

GOOD FULL STOP

I love these snack bars. They are exactly what they say on the tin – good…full stop. They’re especially great for people who suffer with digestive issues because there’s absolutely no gluten and no dairy in any of their range and all have a medium/low glycemic index (so you’re not craving loads more sugar afterwards – for more information about what the glycemic index means for you, see here).

good full stop bars

My personal favourite has to be the Nutty one which comes packed full of cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, rice bran and lotssss of yummy gooey dates. The dates give the bar a natural sweetness which won’t impede workouts (like some of the glucose syrupy Neanderthals mentioned here). Major fruit punch and a great smattering of fibre make this probably one of the most nourishing bars I’ve come across in a while.

MAX’S PROTEIN BARS

Ingredients are important – and never has it been more important than checking the ingredients on protein bars as you’ll see here. So rest assured that Max’s Protein Bars are absolutely 100% clean. They literally fit into any diet or lifestyle – Max’s are full of protein (17g!), are gluten free, completely natural, and with no nasties there is no contest when it comes to finding a protein bar full of top class nourishment.

My favourite is the Apple Cinnamon flavour as I’m just a massive apple pie fan. The oats give it such a great texture and mouthfeel and the dried apples pack an amazing natural flavourful hit. If you’re a bit whatever about apple pie, then I implore you to try the white chocolate and raspberry bar which tastes just like a candy bar, but without any of the bad stuff.