This is the fourth year I’ve been a judge in these comprehensive Food Awards. I never cease to be amazed and impressed at the innovation and creativity of our food manufacturers. And grateful that a magazine like Healthy Food Guide takes the time and trouble to select such interesting, time-saving, and nutritious products. A win-win for shoppers as well as producers.
The judging procedure
I was one of four judges including media nutritionist and foodie, Joanna McMillan, HFG editor, Andrea Duvall and HFG dietitian, Brooke Longfield who did the initial culling and introduced each category to us. I think she did a great job narrowing down each Category to only four finalists – a tough task in certain categories.
We had 11 Categories to judge, each with 4 finalists. I came in without breakfast (something I usually never do) but still left with my stomach full after taste-testing and reviewing 44 new products!.
Our task was to select an overall winner for each Category. All four products would still make it to the lists of Highly Commended products.
Categories ranged from the best Time-saving product, the best Vegetarian food, the best allergy-friendly staple to the best Kids’ lunch box snack. It was hard going and many times it was very close. Still there could be only one winner in each category.
5 overall trends that struck me
Here are the 5 big nutrition trends I noticed in these new products.
The word Protein is obviously a big buzz word at the moment and appeared many times on things as diverse as granola clusters and savoury crunch bars. I guess with Paleo, body builders and the CSIRO Wellbeing Diet pushing a higher protein intake for weight loss, it was bound to spill over into mainstream products.
This novel seed (high in fat, omega-3s and fibre) popped up in many food products – once as a combo-mix with brown rice and next in a muesli as a supporting ingredient. Like kale, coconut and turmeric, it’s all the rage. I have reviewed chia here.
Coconut is not surprisingly huge and features on many new products due to the world’s fascination with coconut fat, coconut milk, coconut yoghurt and drinking the liquid inside a young green coconut itself. With assaults to the belief that saturated fat doesn’t do any harm (something I don’t align with), the high saturated fat content of coconut never seems to worry marketers. Read my thoughts on coconut water and coconut sugar.
Many of these new products use the appeal of having a healthy digestive tract to entice you to buy. This is set to continue and will shift to more on a healthy microbiome (gut flora) as our knowledge increases.
Use of smoky ingredients
Smokiness is in! You’ll spot lots of smoked paprika and smoked eggplant, which is fine if you like that flavour. I enjoy it but don’t want to be overwhelmed by smokiness. You’ll see it reflected in the smoky spice blends we now see for sale.
The 8 products I loved
These 8 struck me as most useful for busy women who don’t have a lot of time but want quick healthy meals and in-betweens.
Edgell Lentil Salad [have reviewed it on the site here]
In the Ready-Made meal Category, this salad tub had me as it’s shelf stable, so does not need to be refrigerated. Great for an office lunch when you can’t get out. I have found it hard going getting through a whole tub but feel it would be nice shared between two to accompany a can of tuna or 1 cup of pulled pork.
Birds Eye Stir-fry frozen vegetables
For $5 for a large 500g pack, this is an economical way to get those 5 serves of veggies in. So handy to have in the freezer. Gives you variety, adds colour and saves you time buying 5 or 6 different vegetables.
Soyco Peanut Satay Tofu
Having lived and cooked for a vegetarian in a meat-eating household for over two years, I can vouch that it’s hard to find a protein substitute to replace the fish or chicken. Loved the flavour of this firm tofu and it saves you the time of marinating before cooking.
Burgen Gluten-free Soy-Lin bread
A great-tasting bread and an amazing improvement in gluten-free baking. Bread is often missed on gluten-free diets so if you have to eat without gluten this bread is well textured with a top flavour. Smallish slice but miles ahead of past offerings. I reviewed it in my August newsletter.
Happy Snack Company Roasted Fava Beans
Dietitians have been trying to make legumes interesting and snack-able for years. Now this new product takes legumes to a new level. The Red Pepper and chilli flavour really hits the spot.
Chris’ Fun-Size Hummus
I liked the 3-packs with their small tubs which are perfect as a snack with celery sticks or crackers.
Yes, you can spoon out your own mini-portions from a big tub but these make life easy. They have the same yummy Chris flavour we’ve come to love.
Chobani Meze Dip
Clever idea – to use thick Chobani yoghurt as the base of these interesting dips. Something savoury for once.
Table of Plenty Savoury Bar
Why do muesli bars always have to be sweet? I like this one with its herby flavour. Just would prefer it a little thinner and less hard to bite into.
The bottom line
There are plenty of healthy and tasty foods out there. Manufacturers big and small are responding to new food trends from coconut to chia, and kale to whole grains, but you’ve got to know it’s there and get out and shop for it. You can read about the winners in detail in the latest issue of Healthy Food Guide magazine so you know what’s out there that will suit you and your family.