Product review: Birdseye Create-a-meal – achievable easy and healthy meal for blokes?

Written by Guest reviewer on Tuesday, 04 October 2011.
Tagged: cooking for one, healthy cooking, overweight, review

Product review: Birdseye Create-a-meal – achievable easy and healthy meal for blokes?

Guest review by dietitian Nicole Senior APD, AN, author of Belly Busting for Blokes

Two thirds of Australian men are overweight or obese and their big bellies are putting them at risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer. One of the reasons blokes are bearing the brunt of the obesity epidemic is they tend to outsource their food, often to the fast food industry. Meal-maker products are ideally positioned to help blokes to resist the urge of fast food and throw a meal together with a minimum of fuss. Birdseye Create-a-meal is such a product. It all sounds good, but how does it stack up?

I asked my husband to prepare a meal for us on two different nights using the Honey Soy (we added chicken) and Teriyaki (we added pork).

What is it? A packet of frozen vegetables + 2 flavour sachets (not sure why two sachets considering it serves 3)

You add: 300g of chicken, beef or pork plus 1 cup cooked noodles or rice per person.

Serves: 3

Variants: teriyaki, honey soy and black bean.  We couldn’t get the Black Bean variant as the two supermarkets we visited were out of stock.

BB_300g_pork BB_Instructions_what_to_add__Honey_soy

BB_Honey_soy_chicken

300 grams of lean pork to start

The pack instructions

- add 300g meat + cooked noodles

The finished dish - three serves

Ratings...

Taste  Honey Soy 6/10; Teriyaki 5/10

  • The flavour fell a little flat for his taste, and mine too
  • The flavour of each of the vegetables came through, and they stayed reasonably firm. Each variant has a slightly different vegetable combination which adds variety: I liked the water chestnuts in the Honey Soy and the baby corn in the Teriyaki
  • You could make it tastier by adding your own onion and garlic when browning the meat, and garnishing the end meal with some lightly roasted nuts (cashews or peanuts) and fresh herbs (coriander, spring onion).
  • NOTE: the website nutrition information does not match the information on-pack due to recipe changes. I have requested they update their site. [Note: Birdseye have since updated their info online following this Product Review]

Nutrition  9.5/10

No complaints: the product consists of 75% vegetables and we know frozen vegetables retain most of their nutritional value. Each serve contains 200g of vegetables which is 2 ½ ‘serves’ of the 5-a-day recommended. The ingredients list is comfortingly recognisable and salt appears way down the list. The Nutrition information shows sodium as 597mg (honey soy) and 663mg (teriyaki) per serve, which is low for a product with an Asian-style sauce. It’s up to you to ensure the meat you add is lean, and the noodles are not high in fat, kilojoules or GI.

We used low-fat (99% fat free) quick-cook noodles (minus their salty flavour sachet) and low GI bean thread noodles (made from mung bean flour, aka cellophane noodles).  You could use rice: lower GI options are Basmati or Doongara. The three serves recommended made a satisfying portion for each of us (we put one in the fridge for the following day), however I reckon bigger blokes might need more and could even eat a double serve. 

Ingredients (Honey soy):

vegetables (75%) (broccoli, carrot beans, baby corn, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts), water, pineapple juice, sugar, thickener (1422 xantham gum), yeast extract, , garlic, soy sauce, canola oil, salt, fruit and vegetable concentrates, sesame oil, ginger

Ingredients (Teriyaki):

vegetables (75%) (carrot, broccoli, beans, sugar snap peas, red capsicum, water chestnuts), water, honey (3%), soy sauce (3%), sugar, thickener (1422 Xantham gum), yeast extract, ginger, garlic, lemon juice concentrate, salt, fruit and vegetable concentrates, spices, natural flavour

Nutrition information per serve – Teriyaki variant ­- compared to the fast food version

 

 

Create-a-meal: teriyaki (pack contents only)

Create-a-meal: teriyaki + 100g pork & 1 cup noodles

Create-a-meal: teriyaki + pork & noodles

Double portion

Teriyaki chicken, take-away

(Small, Noodle Box)

Teriyaki chicken take-away

(Wokinabox)

Serve size (g)

200

661

1322

385

409

Energy (kJ)

488

1701

3402

2221

1607

Saturated fat (g)

<0.1

1.3

2.6

2.3

3.3

Sodium (mg)

597

659

1318

886

2376

  Source: Product label, NUTTAB and www.calorieking.com.au

This table shows a serve made as per the instructions using lean pork and quick-cook noodles is low in saturated fat and salt, and modest in kilojoules. The numbers are similar for honey-soy with chicken. It is also a generous serve by weight (which helps fill you up). The Create-a-meal product compares favourably to the fast food/take-away version: it is lower in saturated fat and much lower in sodium.  Blokes with higher kilojoule needs could eat a double portion and not overdo saturated fat and salt. For example, a double portion providing 3,402kJ is still 35%DI for a bloke needing 10,000kJ.

Claims

BB_Teriyaki_pork_3_serves

  • ‘97% fat free’: well you’d hope so considering it's vegetables and sauce
  • ‘Ready in 15 minutes’: true if you’re an experienced cook, but allow an extra 5 minutes for the less experienced (we cooked our noodles in the microwave and this saved time).
  • 'This sauce delivers the perfect combination of flavours such as honey and garlic/ garlic and ginger/etc'. We think ‘perfect’ might be overstating it a bit: we thought it could do with more flavour.

Convenience  6/10

It's more convenient than buying and chopping all the vegetable ingredients from scratch, but you still have to organise the meat and cook the noodles/rice. My husband said he might as well have chopped the vegetables from scratch.

And as the flavour is only 5 or 6 out of 10 then the fun bit (the bit where you add flavours and taste it) is the only bit that's missing and you do all that work for a ho-hum meal - unless you add herbs and nuts - which defeats the purpose.

Cost  5/10

Create a Meal costs more than a pack of frozen stir-fry veges or even frozen mixed veges. Given its lack of real flavour, I don't feel it's worth paying $1 extra for that flavour sachet. You may as well use the plain veges and add your own sauce or paste, spices, herbs and nuts.

The verdict:
This product is definitely better for you than home-delivered fast food, and a good way to ease the unconfident into cooking. The flavour is a bit underwhelming: we’d suggest adding some pizzazz with fresh herbs and nuts. Nutritionally it’s great, provided you choose lean meat and lower GI noodles or rice, and it has surprisingly low sodium levels.

BB_Belly_Busting_cover

Nicole's new book Belly Busting for Blokes (New Holland RRP $24.95) is available from bookshops, department stores and online here

References / External articles