Mindful Chef is a health-focused food box company set up by school friends Giles, Myles, and Rob in 2015. Since then, they've been delivering fresh produce and tasty recipes to thousands of people from small farms in Devon where they grew up. Their ethos is helping people lead a healthier life by reducing the intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. None of their fresh food boxes contain pasta, bread, or white rice, but instead are packed with fresh vegetables and wholesome ingredients. They cater for all different dietary requirements, including vegan, which is the option I went for when they offered to send me some of their fabulous meals.
Teriyaki tofu, seaweed & brown rice bowl
The concept of Mindful Chef is fantastic. They send out a box full of fresh ingredients, all weighed out perfectly, and a simple recipe which is easy to follow. Now I hate cooking, and I am terrible at it! I'm talking undercooked veg, overcooked rice, and bland everything. But with Mindful Chef, even a rubbish cook like me can whip up a tasty and nutritious dinner with minimal fuss! The other thing that I love about this concept is that I ended up eating foods and flavours that I would never have otherwise. I don't think I'd even know where to find seaweed let alone how to add it to a recipe! So their teriyaki tofu, seaweed and brown rice bowl was a big winner for me. The flavours are fantastic and really clever; they work wonderfully together to create a really delicious dish. Everything you need is right there in front of you so after a long day at work, you can come home knowing that a healthy dinner isn't too far away.
Brazilian black bean stew with brown rice
This recipe also got a big thumbs up from me. The macros for each meal are very handily listed on the recipe card, and can also be found on Mindful Chef's website, so for those counting macros or preparing for a competition, the hard work is already done for you. Again, the flavours in this dish were fantastic, with the sweetness of the creamed coconut marrying together with the bitterness of the beans to create a great balance. Mindful Chef also includes raw cacao powder in this dish which is a good source of magnesium, used by the body for energy production and promoting good circulation. Another ingredient which I would never have thought to include in my dinner so I love it!
Sugar snap, chickpea, and cauli rice biryani
One of the main ingredients included in this recipe was cauli rice, which I had heard of but never tried. Cauliflower rice has up to 75% fewer calories than regular white rice and it stays fresh for up to 12 months with no preservatives so it is definitely a healthier option. This recipe was also delicious and super easy to make! Its nutritional information is also very balanced, providing 447 calories, 53g of carbs, 21g of fat, and 21g of protein which is very good for a vegan meal.
I love the ethos of Mindful Chef and the fact that it is a humble British brand just trying to help the nation become healthier. They have so many different recipes that you would never get bored and it also encourages lazy people like me to get more active in the kitchen! It makes cooking easy and they cater for everyone. Their recipes are delicious and healthy, as well as being varied and exotic. I think I might have to sign up for a subscription myself! It's a resounding 10 from me.
Mindful Chef on Social
The Oppo brothers have an incredible story behind their brand and their ethos of providing affordable, healthy food to the nation is really inspiring. I was really excited to try their healthy ice cream as I had heard wonderful things about it!
Oppo was developed in 2011 by brothers Charlie and Harry after an adventure in exotic Brazil. They set themselves the challenge of breaking the world record for travelling by kite on land by using kite buggies to travel 1000km from the airport to a popular kitesurfing destination. During this challenge, the brothers lost a lot of their body weight through malnutrition but they stayed alive by eating the foods that grow naturally on Brazil's coastline, such as coconuts and wild super-fruits. This incredible experience inspired the brothers to create their own food using these ingredients and to make it indulgent and healthy all at the same time.
Their hard work and determination paid off, and they soon found that their product - low sugar healthy ice cream - was in high demand! They are now stocked in over 1,000 stores nationwide and they have even had investment from tennis champion Andy Murray! Oppo comes in three delicious flavours - Madagascan Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Mint Choc Swirl.
Each oppo ice cream flavour is made from fresh milk, cold pressed virgin coconut oil, and stevia leaf for sweetness. Stevia is a healthy, plant-based sweetener which is becoming a popular replacement for sugar. Stevia has several scientifically proven health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and stabilising blood sugar levels. The Madagascan vanilla flavour includes a hint of the African baobab fruit which also has many health benefits! Not only does it add a subtle tang to the flavour, it is also a rich source of vitamin C which boosts the immune system and contributes to better energy levels. This simple flavour is the perfect accompaniment to a raw cacao brownie.
Salted caramel is enjoying huge popularity in the food industry at the moment, so it's great that Oppo has developed a healthy option for this great flavour! 100ml (2 scoops) of this flavour contains only 75 calories which is fantastically low for an ice cream, along with 3.9g of fat, 6.6g of carbs, and 3g of protein, meaning the macro split is fantastic. The secret to Oppo's Salted Caramel flavour is the Peruvian lucuma fruit, which is rich in nutrients such as beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium, and protein. It has a maple-like taste which makes it perfect for this flavour combination in ice cream.
Mint Choc Swirl
The mint choc swirl was definitely my favourite flavour! It's always been my favourite ice cream flavour, and now that there's a healthy version it's ideal! The secret ingredient in this flavour is spirulina, which is big in the fitness world as it provides such a high percentage of protein per 100g. Oppo source their spirulina from the South China Sea continuing the theme of interesting and exotic ingredients.
I am incredibly impressed by Oppo's history and ethos. They are hugely concerned with the obesity crisis in the UK and believe it is partly down to low sugar foods being too expensive, which is why they are petitioning the government to lower the VAT on healthy foods from the usual 20% to only 5%. I am personally in total agreement with this, and I love their selfless ethos. The boys have developed three fantastic ice cream flavours which can confidently boast being not only healthy but delicious too! They make great accompaniments for other tasty desserts, or just to be eaten on their own. The only thing I would say is that the flavours are fairly plain (I like my ice cream to have different ingredient textures and various sauces and crunchy bits running throughout). It's a 9 from me!
Rude Health is a small London-based food and drinks company co-founded by Nick and Camilla Barnard. They celebrated 10 years of business in 2016 and they aren’t afraid of speaking up about real, honest food. Their ethos is about providing high-quality ingredients and products to the public and they have spent years perfecting all of their recipes. Their bright, loud, and exciting brand really sparks an interest in their healthy snacks and nutrition, but they stay humble by only using the kind of ingredients that you’d use in your home, with nothing artificial or refined. I was lucky enough to be able to try a generous offering of their products and I was not disappointed!
Made from spring water, rice, Italian almonds, organic cold-pressed sunflower oil, and sea salt. That’s it! Just five organic ingredients which make it vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. It has complex flavours, with the depth of the rice hitting you after the freshness of the spring water. The almonds provide a nice sweetness without the aid of nasty artificial sweeteners or other additives. It would be perfect pre- or post-workout, especially after a heavy triathlon training session. It tastes delicious on its own or partnered with their ultimate muesli. I’m definitely a big fan of this drink and I would happily have it every day!
Spiced Apple/Honey & Nuts Granola
Like the drink, the granola manages to be perfectly sweet without the help of chemicals or processed additives. The fruit adds a lovely touch, with the spiced apple providing a little tang in the background. The texture is perfect, not too crunchy, and feels fresh. You can tell this has been made with real ingredients without compromising any of the flavour.
Hazelnut Butter Porridge
The porridge comes in a super cute individual pot, with a handy guide written up the side of the packaging so that you know how much water to add. It’s very easy to make, just add boiling water! You could easily take this to work with you and either have it as breakfast at your desk or as an afternoon snack to keep you going through a long day. The hazelnuts add a lovely crunchy texture and the cacao is rich and indulgent without being unhealthy! Winner!
I love the Rude Health brand and all that it stands for. Their humble roots have blossomed into a really exciting brand with strong ethics just like Sundried. Their products taste fantastic and it’s good to know that there’s nothing artificial in what you’re eating. It’s a 10 from me!
Rude Health on Social
Vega is a well-established plant based protein company in the USA, so when I was asked to try some of their products as they start to make waves in the UK, I was thrilled! Vega was co-founded by Brendan Brazier, a vegan former professional Ironman triathlete, so Sundried and Vega share some common ground in our passion for ethical consumption and triathlon. Vega’s products boast organic ingredients which are all gluten-free, non-dairy, and high protein. What’s not to love?
Vanilla Flavour Essentials Nutritional Powder
The vanilla flavour essentials nutritional powder is made from a blend of pea, flaxseed, and hemp. Its wholesome vegetable ingredients provide you with the nutritional building blocks to start your day strong and are high in protein, fibre, and omega-3. Vega says that it’s great as a smoothie, but I decided to try out their recipe for Cashew Vanilla and Coconut Balls, which turned out to be amazing!
They are really easy to make - trust me, I am a terrible cook! They smell phenomenal and they are lovely and light with a sweet taste. They make the perfect post-workout snack, and knowing that they are raw vegan and organic means they are totally guilt-free! If you want to have a go yourself, you can find the recipe on the Vega website.
Chocolate Flavour Clean Protein
I also got to try to chocolate flavour clean protein, which is a protein powder made from pea, hemp, alfalfa, and pumpkin seed. It’s naturally high in protein and low in sugar which makes it the perfect clean vegan protein powder! It tastes great mixed with water over ice but there are also recipes on the Vega website which you can try.
So, the verdict. I must say I am impressed! Anyone who has tried several different vegan protein powders has probably had the same experience as me in having to endure thick, lumpy, powdery protein shakes which taste awful! Well, no longer. Vega’s products are light and mix well, and are perfect in tasty recipes so that you can stay nourished and happy all day long. I was really pleasantly surprised by these products as past experiences have made me dubious about plant-based protein, but the nutritional value of these products is excellent. It’s a 10 from me!
Vega on Social
It’s true they say abs are made in the kitchen, but how much of your day is actually spent in the kitchen? How can you keep healthy on the go without all our food going mouldy? Introducing the answer to your meal prep prayers, ‘Isobag’ the fitness bag for meal management, allowing you to create and store and up to 6 healthy meals, protein shakes and snacks in one lunch bag.
Why is meal prep important?
- Meal prep aka meal preparation, because planning and preparation prevents poor performance.
When you’re at home you can stock your cupboards with all the right foods to keep you on track, fresh greens, lean meat and sweets potatoes are easily accessed and the scales are on the side to weigh out your exact macronutrient requirements, therefore you’re not likely to fall off track as everything you need to succeed is right in front of you. However here’s the problem, what happens when you go away for the weekend? Have to go on a business trip? Visit family away? The likelihood is sometimes life gets in the way of your training and you may take a few days off, fine. Your body needs to rest and a few days won’t bring you any major setbacks, you may even be able to fit in a run on the go. When it comes to eating you can’t just take a few days off, it’s a basic human need and the problem is most meals on the road aren’t going to push you towards your goal. As much as one cheat meal can be beneficial, (see our post on cheat meals) a week of Little Chef, Burger King and KFC is sure to be detrimental to your goals and hinder your performance when you do return to a normal routine. Plus the chances are if you are used to eating clean, the thoughts of these foods churn your stomach and so taking healthy meals with you is a must. You’ll stay on track with your goals and can progress guilt free.
Benefits of meal prep:
- Save money eating out as well as on bulk buying ingredients.
- Portion Control.
- Healthy meals nourish your body and improve your mood.
- Save time - all your meals are already ready!
Q: So now your persuaded to meal prep, how are you going to take all these meals with you?
Isobag review: The bodybuilders lunch bag
As someone who has always struggled with transporting my meal prep, from protein shakers bursting all over trains to eating still frozen spinach when the staff room microwave blew up, I’ve had my fair share of food prep disasters, so for 2016 I decided it was time to invest in an Isobag and now I wouldn’t be without it. I opted for Isobag’s 6 meal management system, as it gives plenty of room to pack for two people, or last an overnight trip.
What you get:
- The Isobag: 18"x9"x8" (LxWxH)
- Weight: 4.5lbs.
- 6 - 16oz Containers
- 2 - 12oz Container
- 2 - 28oz Container
- 2 - 38oz Container
- 3 - Ice Packs
- 1 - Shoulder Strap
The bag comes with 12 containers, a detachable shoulder strap and 3 large ice blocks.
The containers are all BPA free, can be microwaved and are dishwasher and freezer friendly. There are ice block holders to either side of the main cool bag, as well as a further attachable ice pack holder which can divide the main section in two for extra cooling. I find you can either opt for less cooling and larger meals or more cooling but smaller meal containers, however even the ‘small’ containers still have plenty of room. The bag fits a maximum of 8 fresh meals at any time, 6 in the main compartment and two in the zip up top, plenty for a weekend away.
The bag itself may be large, but for what it does, it looks the part. I opted for black as I didn’t want to bring too much attention to myself and I’d say the bag looks like a gym bag, albeit a rather large one. The material is durable, standing the rigor of daily use and it even survives in our wet English weather, making sure my meals aren't soggy.The top storage compartment is perfect for supplements and cutlery (or in my case, wet wipes, allergy tablets and cutlery), as well as being isolated should it need to be used for further meals.The side pockets hold up to a 2 litre water bottle, flask or protein shaker.
The bag is very well designed, prepared for all your nutritional needs. It’s simple to setup and easy to carry. The ice blocks themselves need freezing for a few hours, but the gel keeps food cold for up to 16 hours. I’ve taken the bag away overnight and everything’s remained fresh after 24 hours, but it depends on what your food is and the temperature of your external environment also.
How long to meal prep for:
The Isobag I bought fits 6/8 containers and comes with 12. I’ve left 6 perfectly untouched so that once the 6 I use daily show signs of wear and tear, I have brand new ones ready. This means on Sunday night I meal prep 6 meals, 2 in the bag, 2 in the fridge and 2 in the freezer. I wouldn’t recommend keeping meals for longer than 3 days and be particularly careful of meat, even refrigerated, food can still go off.
I think meal prep bags such as this one get a lot of fame as being just for bodybuilders or those preparing to compete, but actually, this is a great addition for anyone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. My meals are prepped, cooled and best of all, don’t leak!