teasmall

Handy tea themed gifts ideas & reviews

With Secret Santa’s going off all over the place and Christmas fever taking over, there are sugary themed presents everywhere yes, but there are also some sugar-friendly presents too…. including festive ‘tea’ sets and unusual flavours to balance things out a little.

I’d thought I’d compile a mini tea review list as an alternative source of sugar-free gifts. I’m quite a fan of tea in all its forms. Tea was a pivotal part of my sugar-free journey and I enjoy trying and testing new ones (officially a tea geek if they exist).

So here are some sugar-friendly teas I’ve tried recently that could work as gifts or stocking fillers

Teapigs Popcorn tea

Popcorn? Tea? Oh yes. This I think is a cool stocking filler just because of the novelty. This Teapigs Popcorn tea smells somewhat like popcorn, but in my opinion it doesn’t really taste like it. I can sense what’s it trying to do. Like fruity teas the smell is different to the taste. It doesn’t blow my mind but I found this grew on me the more I had it. The flavour comes out as quite a light refreshing green tea and nowhere near as bitter as when you leave a green tea bag in a long time.

Teapigs popcorn tea review

Pukka exquisite collection

Now I’m a sucker for a pretty tin, so I ‘ooohed’ at this before I even tried what was inside the Pukka exquisite collection. The first tea is the Pukka peppermint & licorice which is insanely sweet. When I first tried it it was so sweet that I actually thought there might be sugar in the tea bag (there isn’t, don’t worry). This tea is seriously good if you or the person you’re buying for is looking for a sweet post meal craving buster. The other ‘Love’ tea is a calming chamomile blend. I’m not a massive camomile fan myself, but as I said, I like the tin!

Pukka exquisite tea review

Honeybush rose petal tea

Just one to add because it’s really unusual. Honeybush is known as the ‘wellness tea’ because it’s got a number of medicinal properties that are good for you. It’s a bit different because it’s a sweet tasting floral tea. The smell somewhat resembles my Grandmas’s pot pourri mixed with honey, but the taste is delicate, naturally sweet and at the same time refreshing. It’s really nice and I was kindly sent some of this to try, just so I became of Honeybush. It could be the new tea trend but I haven’t found any over here in the UK yet so keep an eye out otherwise you can get it send over from Honeybush Health if you want to go very unusual in your tea themed gift.

Pukka Original Chai tea

I’m a big big fan of chai tea especially at Christmas. I have traditionally bought Twinings Chai tea so I’d thought I’d try another. This Pukka Original Chai tea is different, it’s lighter and so weaker if you have it with milk like I do. It’s a lot spicier than the Twinings Chai tea with more of a kick thanks to the ginger and cardamom. I add extra cinnamon and nutmeg on top to spice it up even more. Even if you don’t like this one, there’s another two to try in the range; Green Chai and Vanilla Chai.

Pukka chai tea review

Other sweetish teas I’ve got on my wishlist (let’s see if my Mum reads this!). You could put these on yours too…

Clipper after mints review

Other random tea gifts I’ve come across:

  • I’ve had many incidents with bashing open my tea strainer so this floating one could solve some issues there.

  • Twinings always have a great selection of tea gifts with super pretty boxes and tins that are good for secret Santa presents

  • You could get a ‘TEA REVIVES YOU’ tea themed tea towel. Just saying!

ttrevives-ia9ed7133198c805b62defc3fc2f68691

 

Right I’m thoroughly tea-ed out here. Any other teas that you’re loving at the moment or have on your list? What non-sugary food/drink presents have you seen out and about that are a good alternative?

 

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolate

Review time: Dark chocolate brands

A little while ago I did a sugar comparison on dark chocolate brands to help you get an idea for those that are high and those that are low when it comes to sugar content.

I advocate dark chocolate as a lower sugar option in a number of instances e.g. better than a sugary low fat yoghurt, better than a Special K bar and better than a 100 calorie milk chocolate bar. However, as my previous post demonstrated, not all dark chocolate is equal.

I really used dark chocolate to help me transition from my post meal sweet fix for a period of time and I still dabble every now and then if I really fancy it. There are a world of brands and varieties out there. I can’t review them that fast because I simply don’t eat it often enough!

Nevertheless, here are some reviews on many of those that I compared and a few that have made it into my home!

lovechock-dark-chocolate-raw-100percent-pure-nibs

Willie’s Cacao Venezuelan Gold 72%

I ended up with this chocolate because I mentioned to my mum I wanted to try their 100% cacao block, and she was on the lookout for it as a present. I wanted the block because it’s good for grating and using in recipes. However, my mum found they had run out of it, and not wanting to disappoint, she picked me up a different one from the same brand.

This Venezuelan Gold 72% is about as sweet as I can tolerate – I don’t like to go below 72% cocoa solids these days (oh how things have changed!). This bar has quite a distinct unusual nutty flavour – sometimes I think I really like it, sometimes I’m not sure. It comes wrapped as two big thick squares, so it’s not great for breaking off and eating (I like thin and snappy) but it is superb for grating though. Try it grated over full fat natural yoghurt and frozen berries for a tasty, sugar sensible dessert.

Green & Blacks organic 85% (&75%)

This is a classic and the 70% is usually pretty widely available here in the UK at a reasonable price in most supermarkets and shops. A smooth texture and lovely taste, it’s quality dark chocolate.

I prefer the 85% as it’s a bit lower in sugar, but the 70% variety can come in a really cute little bar.  This is great for those that struggle to stop at one or two squares and need a bit of forced portion control…and it’s just so cute!

Lovechock

12% sugar (coconut nectar – so one of the healthiest forms of sugar)

80% cocoa solids

Dairy & gluten free

100% raw

OK, I was given a Lovechock bar  to try at a show I attended. It’s really really nice, so much so that I found I got ‘I could easily eat the whole bar’ syndrome. I don’t usually get this so I wonder if this has something to do with the different ingredients or if it’s just way up there in terms of taste. They also gave me an orange and goji berry one, which again was totally delicious, but a little higher in sugar and it put me on the border of being in sugar control!

If you want to try, you need to buy online, I found Detox Your World sells it for £2.78

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolatedark-chocolate-nero-and-bianco-fairtrade-and-organic

Lindt Excellence 90%

This is dark. It’s for the hardcore dark chocolatiers. It’s the lowest in sugar content, so it’s more bitter than sweet. I love this chocolate now, but I expect if you gave it to your Dairy Milk sugar-loving friend, they would screw up their face like they’d eaten a sour grape and say ‘That’s not chocolate.’ Try it and let me know how you get on!

It’s definitely one to work towards and if you can grow to like it as much as I do, then you can satisfy your chocolate fix with practically no sugar…result!

Nero & Bianco

I picked this up in my office canteen one day. I have to say I’m not a massive fan. It’s quite sickly sweet and doesn’t feel as good quality as other brands. I still have half a bar of it leftover that I haven’t touched. Enough said.

Lindt Excellence Chilli

This is so unusual and I love the chilli-choc combination. It’s a nice smooth texture with a great velvety kick afterwards.

However, despite being ‘dark’, it’s nearly 50% sugar, so beware. Don’t go eating this thinking you’re being dark chocolate virtuous, because I’d count it more towards the regular chocolate camp.

It was largely my dark chocolate of choice for a while, but as I became aware and I moved to the darker end of the scale it edged down the ranks. As my tastebuds continue to get used to a life less sweet, I probably won’t buy it again or at least for a while.

What other dark chocolate brands have you found and would like to share? I will continue to try some new ones over the next few months.

 

Thai-Italian-Seed-Stacked

Sugar-free snack review: Seeds Stacked

Last week someone commented on my Munchy Seeds Chilli Mix post and it reminded me I had another similar style product review I wanted to share with you. It’s always good to know about the new latest snacks on the block that keep you away from tempting sugary granola bars.

Seeds are an awesome sugar-free snack. You’ve got protein, good healthy fat and depending on the seed, a whole host of nutrients including:

  • zinc (think good skin)

  • iron

  • omega 3 fatty acids

  • selenium (immune system)

  • vitamin E (keeping cells strong)

  • phosphorus

As I said, I’ve already reviewed Munchy Seeds Chilli Mix, which were the first ones I found with a handy sized packet and an interesting flavour to spice things up a bit. Since then, I’ve also discovered the Seed Stacked brand, which I first picked up at The Vitality Show.

Seed Stacked come in two flavours: Thai and Italian.

Thai-Italian-Seed-StackedSeed-Stacked-in-Bowl-Thai-Italian

Thai

  • 20.4g protein per 100g

  • 12.4g sugar per 100g (less if you remove mango)

The thai flavour seeds have the spicy kick I really like and this is probably my favourite of the two. The packet is mostly sunflower and sesame seeds with a few pumpkin seeds sprinkled about.

However, if you look at the ingredients you will notice the word sugar! In the packet there seems to be the odd random chunk of mango which has been dried with added sugar. I don’t think it adds anything to the snack so ultimately  just remove the mango bits and you’ve got a really good sugar-free snack on your hands.

Italian 

  • 22.6g protein per 100g

  • 10.g sugar per 100g

Next up we have the Italian flavour. This is ridiculously nice sprinkled over a goats cheese and roasted vegetable salad. Again, there are these sun dried tomato bits which taste sweet to me, but there are quite a few and I’m not so obsessive that I will sit and pick them out. The number of ingredients on both of these packets is a bit more to my liking (think processed over clean eating), but they are great convenience fodder when you’re super busy.

So in summary, these aren’t sugar perfect, but they are a great savoury snack alternative. Really handy to add extra protein, healthy fat and explosive flavour to a lacking salad or as a grab and go snack.

You can buy Seed Stacked online in packs of 12 for £12 with free delivery or you can pick them up in Asda.

Anyone tried these and want to share their view? What do you think of the sugary mango chunks!?

I quit sugar chocolate cookbook review

Review: Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook

Love chocolate? Attempting to get on the low sugar train? These two things don’t tend to go hand in hand, do they? Fear not my chocoholic friend, help is at hand. Sarah Wilson has gone and made a completely sugar-free (and fructose-free) Chocolate Cookbook. I’ve purchased, read and road tested a recipe. So it’s only fair that I share my thoughts……

The book in a nutshell

  • A whopping 89 pages!
  • 74 recipes, although some are variations taken from other Sarah Wilson I Quit Sugar books.
  • Lots of extra and detailed information on things like the difference between cocoa and raw cacao.
  • Pictures, prettiness and pure salivating material.

I quit sugar chocolate cookbook review

My favourite bits

  • Substitution is easy (& encouraged). I don’t often have all of the random ingredients, and I like the fact that Sarah appreciates this and offers practical substitution options.
  • Sarah emphasises that these are treats and because they still taste sweet, they’re not appropriate whilst you’re on a formal sugar detox. I am in complete agreement, so this is possibly a better buy later on in your sugar-free journey.
  • Some combinations are brilliant. They’re creative and unusual, and I am thankful that they have been discovered!
  • Apparently you can have some of these chocolatey things for breakfast. Coco Pops you’d better watch out!

Sarah Wilson I quit sugar chocolate cookbook review

Know this

  • Recipes are generally made sweet tasting with rice malt syrup, stevia and coconut, so you’ll have to perhaps buy a few things. I will also add that fruit does not feature in any of the recipes.
  • Lots of the recipes involve coconut oil or butter so you will certainly need to get over any fat fear (if it’s still lurking).
  • Some recipes are what I would deem a bit ‘faffy’, but others are super easy and quick, so simple souls like me are well catered for.

I quit sugar chocolate cookbook reviewAll in all, I think it’s a good shout, especially if you’re at the point of being more or less safely off sugar, and you’re looking for a dessert alternative to natural yoghurt. You can buy and instantly download the Chocolate Cookbook for $16 which worked out just over £10. Some of these recipes are also great if you’re a serial baker or you want to impress some guests without a complete sugar blowout.

Here’s a picture of me with my adapted version of the Sweet Potato Fudge. I used walnuts and I didn’t add enough cocoa (whoops!). But they still turned out well and tasted mighty fine, hence the Happy Sugar Habits smile…

 I quit sugar chocolate cookbook review

Note: If you decide you want to purchase and you click through one of my links, I am an affiliate for Sarah and I get a small thank you. I’ve given my honest opinion on the book and am purely reviewing it because I genuinely think it’s good stuff for those on a sugar-free journey. All proceeds go to support the continuation of this blog. 

Any other good sugar-free resources you know about? Feel free to comment and by doing so you’ll be sharing the love with all who read this post.

Nakd cereal bars review

Review: Nakd cereal bars

Now I was in a quandary when Natural Balance Foods wanted to send me some of their Nakd cereal bars to review. I actually had to sleep on it. Why? Because at one point, these little bad boys fed my sugar addiction. They are not the most sugar saintly thing on the planet. Would it be right to review on my blog? And could I live in peace with a whole box of them in the house?

I thought about those who actually might be reading the post, and I figured I could put together quite an insightful piece on these. It could help those at different points of their sugar-free journey, in different ways. So here’s a review; a handy comparison on a sugar front (they sent me every flavour); and my opinion on when I think eating these is most appropriate.

Nakd cereal bar review: The good and bad

Nakd cereal bars review

One for the chocoholics!

Cereal bars were my thing. I was at the forefront of trying the latest one. They were the supposedly ‘healthy’ way to cure my sweet fix. About 2 years ago I discovered Nakd and I liked them a lot, for the following reasons:

  • Made with 100% natural ingredients i.e. not overly processed
  • Contain mainly just fruits and nuts. Not refined sticky rice puffs like other cereal bars
  • They are pretty substantial and do fill a gap
  • They have a little protein from the nuts
  • They taste delicious (I LOVED the cocoa orange one)

However, on a sugar front they are not so great, due to the following:

  • Most bars are made with dates and raisins. Nearly all of them are made with approximately 50% dates and then another 10-15% raisins on top.
  • Dates and raisins are two of the highest and most concentrated forms of sugar (and fructose) around. Some would even compare them to sweets.
  • They are big portions. 35g in a packet equals more sugar in one go (hard to not eat the whole thing)

How much sugar?

On average we’re talking 14-15g sugar per bar. This is near enough 4 teaspoons which is quite a lot in one hit. I’d say I eat 25g of natural sugar a day now, so it’s a big proportion of that. I found the average cereal bar, for example a Special K, usually was around 7g, so these are over double that. Natural sugars yes, but high in sugar nonetheless.

Nakd cereal bars review

Artistic shot of Nakd bars on my laptop!

Here’s a list of the lowest to highest sugar content by flavour:

  • Ginger Bread 11g
  • Pecan Pie 12g
  • Cashew Cookie 14g
  • Cocoa Orange 14g
  • Cocoa Delight 15g
  • Cocoa Mint 15g
  • Berry Delight 16g
  • Caffe Mocha 17g
  • Rhubarb & Custard 18g

The lower sugar ones are my favourite anyway and the Rhubarb & Custard tastes a bit chemical-like, so that makes picking easy in my eyes.

When to eat these?

So the question is, when are these appropriate? Here’s my view:

1. As a ‘better’ substitute/h4>
If you’ve decided you’re going to eat something sweet and are about to reach for a chocolate bar, a flapjack or a full on dessert, these are a better substitute. They were a definite ‘bridge’ for me in terms of switching bad foods to ‘better’ foods. However, now I would have a square of dark chocolate over one of these, and some greek yoghurt over that. I believe somewhat in a progressive journey.

2. When hungover

I’m most likely to have one of these when I’ve indulged on alcohol the night before. I’ve written about alcohol and blood sugar before, where you might find your body is craving energy while it processes the booze. One of these cereal bars can provide that sugar hit in a more natural way than a bottle of Lucozade if you’re on the go, and are desperately feeling awful.

In summary…

I’m hoping this post has been helpful to you wherever you are on your low sugar journey. I do think Nakd bars have a lot of sugar and they certainly aren’t something I’d advise to eat if you’re actively looking to cut down. They are a big NO for those on my Mentor Me Off Sugar programme and not something I eat regularly these days.

However, I appreciate, everyone is different and at varying stages of lowering sugar, so really, it’s your call. Some are mighty tasty and they are a lot ‘better’ than other sweet things. At least now you can save yourself some sugar credits by opting for the lower sugar ginger bread flavour and you’re fully aware of how much sugar you’re putting away when eating one.

I can’t believe I managed to sit with these on my desk and not eat all morning. A good sign I must have eaten a decent enough protein filled breakfast, and that I’m ‘safe’ from falling back to old ways.

If this has been useful please share, like, comment or wave ;)

What do you think of Nakd bars? I would really love to hear your thoughts on these….favourite flavour, when you eat them etc. 

Rooibos tea

Stop sugar cravings: Three new teas I’m loving

Sugar craving. Tea. Relief (at least a little).

OK, I know it doesn’t hit the spot all the time, but tea can seriously help on more occasions than not.

I still try new teas, even with a lack of cravings these days. My cupboard is stacked up in quite a ridiculous fashion. If there’s something I will enjoy reviewing for this blog it’s TEA!

Here are three that currently rock my tea filled world…

Regular Rooibos

Rooibos was initially a caffeine free option I wasn’t entirely sure of at first. I wanted to ease off the Earl Grey later on before bed. Fair to say it’s grown on me…loads. It’s got a distinctive taste and is very different from normal decaffeinated tea. A bit nutty and even moorish? I find I like a decent splash of milk to make it creamy.

I buy the Tick Tock brand in Morrisons but I find most home supermarket brands are pretty good.

Green Tea Rooibos

stop sugar cravings

I got given a few samples of this Tick Tock Green Rooibos at a recent trade show and I like it a lot. I go through real phases with green tea and I’m not usually a big fan. You can seriously mess it up by leaving the tea bag in too long and I’m prone to this. If you like rooibos tea however, this is a nice combination. The bitter edge that green tea can sometimes have is taken away. It’s also decaffeinated, which is a plus if super sleep is on your agenda.

Equali hazelnut and caramel loose leaf tea

Rooibos tea

Again, I was kindly given some of this and my heart shaped tea strainer came out to play. Named ‘It’s a secret’, it’s described like this on the website…

“A soft whisper, this tea reveals itself by releasing a woody and gourmand bouquet. The round flavours of caramel and hazelnut mingle happily with complex notes of Pu Erh, transporting us to unknown, but exciting territories”

I’m not quite there with this sophisticated level of tea description, but I’ll do my best.

stop sugar cravings

I’ve never gone crazy for fruit flavoured teas because I found they smelt so amazing, and I’d be disappointed by the fact they tasted more like dark scented hot water. Just me?

Anyway, this tea did smell incredible. Sweet, indulgent and like a Cadbury’s caramel bar. I was worried the same disappointment would happen. It does and it doesn’t. Obviously this tea does not taste exactly like eating a hazelnut drenched in sweet caramel, but it is satisfying, sweetish tasting and surprisingly refreshing. Unknown exciting territories? I’m not sure, but I’ll certainly drink it again. Just a bit unfortunate that currently you can only buy online.

Tea reviewing done. Time to get my daily rooibos fix.

Any crave soothing tea favourites? Or fruity teas that are worth a try?

stop sugar cravings

P.S I’m trying to take better pictures if you haven’t noticed!

Laura

 

Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course Review

Review: Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course

Whilst I get more into this blogging malarky I come to realise a few things. On the one hand, I like writing and expressing myself in this way however, on the other hand, I possibly can’t talk about sugar all the time. I’m sure you know by now that you should snack regularly, look out for invisible sugar and go easy on the orange juice.

So I’d thought I’d open out and review a few other things that have been going on, similarly aligned to the health and wellness-like theme.

Enter the Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course. I was lucky enough to go to The Yoga Show back in October where I entered and won a competition for this three day course. So I thought I’d do a bit of a review.

My previous yoga experience 

Now 2011 was my year for Bikram Yoga (a hot intense sweaty affair) and 2012 I was more of a runner with a spot of yoga here and there. When I say spot, I mean the odd You Tube thing at home. Least to say I was not well prepared for a new practice I had never experienced before but nevertheless, went with an open mind.

Teaching yoga

The Hot Power Yoga Foundation course is the pre-curser to the 200+ hour teacher training program. It’s designed to give you a feel for teacher training before you commit and it does a good job of that. I found myself in the deep end teaching yoga everyday (well attempting to teach)…

Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course Review

“Right now go into press up position, oh I mean the plank..yes…now downward dog…and breathe, yes just breath here…deeply (while I rack my brain to think of what you should do next)…bring your left leg up (oh no was that meant to be their right let, oops)…”

Do you know what, it was really quite a lot of fun. Everyone was encouraged to just have a go and make mistakes, which bought light hearted laughter to it all, even if you were balancing on one foot trying to twist into the Bird of Paradise.

And the rest…

Apart from the teaching, we also clocked up a fair bit of practice itself. It goes without saying that I obviously was aching in places I didn’t even know existed for about four days.

Guided practices were followed by close knit friendly lectures from Dylan Ayaloo and Craig Norris, two incredibly experienced and personable teachers. I felt entirely content in these, listening to the philosophy and the principles behind a mindful yoga approach, whilst sipping on a herbal tea. I reflected on all sorts of things the discussion touched upon, where many of the principles were readily applied to all walks of life.

I didn't quite make this pose...

Dylan showing us what he does… I didn’t quite make this one

The take away

The group bonded, we grew close and that’s what made this experience so very special. We shared, we balanced, we sweated, and I think at least half of us got a dead leg during the meditation practice (I know how to sit differently next time).

I must also say that I was tempted with the full teacher training but come on Laura, lets walk before you can run. I think that’s a bit ambitious considering I fall out of the Tree pose every five seconds. If you’re not sure whether or not to take the full plunge with teacher training, this course is a great teaser to see if it’s for you. Even if you’ve not interested in teaching, it’s worthwhile for just deepening your practice in a very holistic way.

All in all, thank you HPY for a lovely experience. I will add that after the three days, I could touch my toes for the first time in my life! Incredibly chuffed would be an understatement.

Pukka Detox Tea

Review: Pukka ‘Detox’ tea

So another review today of the tea variety. This time a tea by Pukka called ‘Detox’ that was kindly donated by my lovely mum just before Christmas. As I’ve mentioned before, tea in general is a great soother of cravings where I’ve previously praised both chai and licorice for their sugar detoxing properties. About time we mix it up and add another to the list!

Pukka ‘Detox’ Tea

Aside from a pretty box, which is always appreciated, the Pukka ‘detox’ is a blend of organic aniseed, fennel and cardamom to ‘cleanse and revive’. Rather suiting for January I guess, as many people are likely trying to ‘cleanse and revive’ after the various sins of Christmas and New Year.

Pukka Detox Tea

If you don’t like aniseed, or licorice, then you might want to stop reading now because the taste does come through. However, I think what I like most about this tea the most is the fennel…

fennelI heart fennel

Fennel is a strange looking vegetable that is naturally sweet tasting, so combined with the licorice and aromatic cardamon, you have a somewhat satisfying cuppa. Especially handy if you’re having a face off with the biscuits.

I will also add that fennel is a excellent digestion aid, so this tea is great after lunch or dinner to help sooth your insides.

I was so intrigued by my new found fennel love I bought one at the supermarket. It then sat in the kitchen for a few days since I didn’t really know how I wanted to cook with it. Eventually I thinly sliced half and tossed into a salad (worked well), and the other half I roasted, which further bought out the sweet flavour. So a big thumbs up to fennel!

The verdict

This tea is really really nice. It’s soothing, calming and tasty. Normally I’m a little wary of some ‘detox’ teas because they can taste a bit wrong – you tend to try and force them down solely for the health benefit. Not this one. I would happily drink it any time or day, and it might even start to push my old favourite Early Grey out on occasion.

If you want to try for yourself, you can pick Pukka ‘detox’ tea up from Sainsburys, Tesco, and even Amazon here (if you know you’ll forget in the supermarket).

Any other favourite ‘detox’ teas? or ideas for cooking with fennel? Leave a comment and I will like you a lot.