Monday, 24 February 2014

Healthy Living With Tesco...

Image courtesy of Tesco.

After Christmas and the beginning of the year is when the majority of people want to go on some sort of health kick, whether it be eating a bit better or starting to exercise and look after yourself a bit more. I felt the same at the start of the year and started exercising a bit more and in all honesty me and Si do eat quite healthily in general. I love cooking and cook from fresh a lot of the time at home and then we of course have our treat nights. When I saw Tesco were launching a 'healthy living' range, I thought it would be good to try out some products from the range and see exactly how 'healthy' they claim to be (as we all know some 'healthy' products actually aren't as healthy when you see the sugar content for example), how tasty they are and of course what the prices are like.

Now I will never convert to ready meals from cooking fresh at home because I love cooking and I love knowing what's going into my food and experimenting with different dishes, but I work from home so have the opportunity to do this as and when I want to. I know some people don't have this option and work away from home, some for a few hours a day and some for longer, then you may have some people who work and look after their children for example, so quick ready meals like this are good and convenient for those kind of people that don't have time or maybe even the energy after work or whatever their day involves, to be cooking from scratch at home and putting a lot of effort in. At the same time these people shouldn't have to compromise on taste and deserve the best when it comes to ready meals/quick meals, of course within their price range.

Tesco healthy living products have replaced Tesco Light Choices and the Tesco Eat Live Enjoy range. The range offers two choices to suit customers' needs. The first line of choices claim to be 'big on taste, lower in calories' and are for those looking to lose weight (but at the same time have a calorie controlled diet and an active lifestyle - so basically you won't lose weight eating these products and not doing exercise or if you eat anything else that you want for the rest of each day - but that's a given really). They contain 30% fewer calories than a comparison product (same meal from a normal/regular range). The second line of choices claim to be 'beautifully balanced' and are for those trying to maintain their weight or wanting to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. The products in the range have been created by Tesco expert nutritionists, especially for people who love great tasting food and want to control levels of sugar, salt, fat and saturates.

The nearest Tesco to me is an express Tesco and I was pleased to see they did have some products from the range but not all of them. Initially when I was sent the product list, a lot of the products that I liked the sound of, weren't sold in my nearest Tesco, which was disappointing but like I said it was an express, so the normal larger Tesco's should sell the whole range. The range has over 230 products and I chose a few products that we both generally tend to like, so I could get both of our views.

I chose the Sweet & Sour Chicken with Rice for me and the Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodles and the Sausage and Root Veg Mash for Si. The first thing I noticed was the packaging was of a good quality and it was bright and attractive, with the pictures of the food on the front looking quite appetising. On the front of the packaging the main ingredients that people want to look out for when going on a diet or wanting to generally eat healthier are stated. So the total calories, fat, saturates, sugars and salt content are stated in terms of grams and then as a percentage against your recommended daily allowance of each. I like these values being in your face and clear on the front of the packaging as it allows those that are working out what they are going to eat each day to properly work out their intake of such ingredients and balance them out accordingly with what else they are going to eat for the rest of the day. There is also a clear description of each dish on the front so you know exactly what you're getting and then of course the full list of ingredients is on the back. One thing that did stand out to me as being quite helpful is on the back of the packaging there is a little Weight Watchers Pro Points section where it tells you how many points the product is based on what you're allowed in your Weight Watchers diet :). I thought this was quite handy and those that are on that particular diet will agree I think.

Sausage and Root Veg Mash (£2.75) - This product is 320 calories and has 5.7g of fat (8% of the recommended daily allowance), 3.2g of saturates (16% RDA), 6.0g of sugars (7% RDA) and 1.8g of salt (30% RDA). I thought the salt content was quite high on this one, compared to the other two dishes but I suppose if you balance that out with what you eat for the rest of the day it isn't too bad. The Weight Watchers Pro Points on this one is 8. The dish itself Simon said was tasty. He really likes sausage and mash in general so he was quite impressed with the flavour in general of the sausages and especially the mash as it's made from root veg. He isn't really a vegetable person but he said it was really creamy and full of flavour. He said the same about the sausages and said the gravy was rich. It's like trying to get blood out of a stone getting Si to describe how something is for me ha ha but yeah put it this way he soon demolished it up and said he would eat that again. The one thing he did say was that it didn't take long to eat and he didn't really feel full afterwards. He did say that for those on a diet, where they are having a controlled diet of food, snacks etc it would probably be sufficient as they would probably be having breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. Sometimes we eat breakfast then won't eat until dinner, which is usually home-made and a good size (not over the top but a good enough size so it fills Si up). Other times we miss breakfast, have a small lunch and then a proper dinner, so we don't really have a controlled diet where we eat all three meals at a certain time each day.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice (£2.75) - This product is 425 calories and has 4.5g of fat (6% RDA), 0.9g of saturates (5% RDA), 10.4g of sugars (12% RDA) and 1.7g of salt (28% RDA). So you can see the salt content is a little less with this dish but the sugars are a little higher, but again as long as it is balanced out with what else you eat during the day, it should be fine. Don't forget these ingredients have been controlled, so they aren't sky high as with some other ready meals you can get. Also you can get some of their products with these values being much lower so if you really have a highly controlled diet you can just look for the products with the lowest amounts that you still like the look/sound of. The Weight Watchers Pro Points for this dish is 11. I tried this dish and although I ate it all and enjoyed it, the sauce wasn't as strong as I tend to like. It was a very light dish which is obviously great for a healthy dish, but the sauce was thin rather than thick and didn't have as much flavour as I normally tend to like. This is a preferred taste though so for those of you who don't like a strong flavoured sauce, especially with sweet and sour, then this would be ideal. The rice was lovely and fluffy with egg and peas, I could have eaten more of that, but I love rice! It was the same in terms of how quickly the meal was gone and not exactly feeling full up after it, but again I'd say the same as I did above.

Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodles (£1.20) - This product is 271 calories so the lowest of the three we tried. It has 1.9g of fat (3% RDA), 0.6g of saturates (3% RDA), 16.2g of sugars (18% RDA) and 0.5g of salt (8% RDA). The Weight Watchers Pro Points value is 7. This was a frozen product, where as the other two were from the chilled section. Si tried this dish and at first he was saying it wasn't as nice as the same dish from downstairs (we live above a pub where he works). I said you have to just review it as it is as obviously most people won't know about the same dish from the pub downstairs which is more costly but surprisingly is in the lower calorie section of the pub menu at 480 calories. The brand of pub is Stonegate but that doesn't really help as some Stonegate pubs have the same menu but others don't. Anyway, with this Tesco one you are really controlling your calories at just 271 for this one meal. He did enjoy it and ate it all, it's just preference isn't it with some things, like me with the sauce in the dish above. Si thought the chicken was lovely and tender and there was enough of it in the dish, although the sauce wasn't that strong, but it does say 'mild' on the front of the packaging. I said it's probably because it's a healthy, light dish. The stronger the sauce, maybe the more calories are in the dish. Si had the same issue with the size of the dish and feeling full, but I think it's the same as I've mentioned above, these products are designed for people who are on a diet or generally trying to eat a calorie controlled diet, it's not going to be a really big portion. This will suit some people though as I've said above.

I think that if you are being so controlled as to check the salt, sugar, fat and saturates in each thing that you eat then you will be able to work with products like this, even if you have to choose the product with the lowest amount of everything every time. The values are plain and clear for you to see, so you can work out what to eat around these meals or choose these meals compared to what else you have already ate. I imagine if you are on a diet or just making healthy choices then you will probably prepare what you are going to eat at the start of each new week or every evening for the next day. I'm not going to lie I don't think these are the most flavoursome dishes, but we have only tried three of the over 230 that are available. It's a shame my local Tesco didn't have more options but like I said above it was an express Tesco. I don't think the prices are that bad but I suppose it depends how you buy the products. If you are buying enough for a whole week and especially if buying for more than one person then it will add up but healthy food/ingredients don't tend to be that cheap to be honest. It's sods law with the majority of junk food that it's cheaper than healthier alternatives.

The range doesn't just consist of main meals, they sell quite a large range, for example you can buy cooking sauces, desserts, cheese, snacks, side dishes, tinned and packet foods, salad dressings, sandwich fillings and lunches. Often they are sold as two for a certain amount or three for two which was the case when I got the products we tried. They also cater for vegetarians. You can see their range here.

As I've explained above I love cooking at home from fresh and will always choose to do that over buying anything in as we prefer it. However, we all have the days when we don't feel like cooking or simply need something quickly to eat as we have somewhere to be. So don't get me wrong we do eat ready meals, but it's very rare. Si said he would have the Sausage and Root Veg Mash again but not the Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodles and to be honest I wouldn't have the Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice again because it wasn't strong enough in flavour for me. I wouldn't say no to trying some of the other products from the range though, especially if reduced.

Have you tried anything from this range? If so, what did you think?

What are your go to products for healthy living or do you prefer to cook from fresh too?

Thanks so much for reading! I look forward to your comments - I always reply :).

Gem XxOo
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