Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review - Jordans breakfast multigrain bars

Jordans Breakfast Multigrain bars
If you were expecting another positive review of a snack bar where I raved on about how delicious, how scrummy and how healthy, think again.  You see, some people might expect me to like everything I am either asked to review or maybe buy myself.  These just don't hit the mark and here's the story.....

The product
Jordans breakfast bars are available in a number of High Street shops as well as Amazon.  Amongst the multitude of garbage the supermarkets sell as snack food, these are pretty good in terms of their natural ingredients and heritage.

This breakfast bar is one of a range of 11 bars, covering a variety of tastes.  The other flavours do, however, sound tempting on the face of it: maple & pecan, luxury absolute berry bar are a couple that caught my eye.   Jordans also do a range of cereals too.  This is the only one I have tried so you could, maybe, argue I haven't given them a fair view.  Have I?   We cannot deny first impressions and it is human nature to allow these initial views to influence us.

The bars are sold in boxes of six bars.  The bars are 40g each but appear bigger because of all the packaging - the plastic covering, the cardboard box.... annoying, irritating.  Why manufacturers think they can still get away with putting their products in packaging which makes them appear bigger than they real are still puzzles me.  Jordans are not alone with this - many follow this dreadfully dishonest practice.

Nutrionally they are okay.  Each bar brings you 164 calories, 3.2g protein, 12.4g sugars and 3.4g of fibre.  Of the fat 5.1g of fat just 1.1g is saturated fats.  So on paper, they're not bad.  You won't get too fat on these and they do give you a boost of energy.

The cost
£2.23 buys you a pack of 6 bars, that's 37p each.  That's okay, I guess.

What are they like?
Remember this is my own view, you might disagree and absolutely love them.  I reckon they are sticky, a bit sickly with a bit of an "after taste" - almost as if there is some nasty sweetener mixed in.  But there isn't, at all.  They do contain plenty of sugar, glucose syrup, honey and raw cane sugar: no wonder they taste so sickly!

Also, worth noting that the bars I had contained hardly any fruit.  The ingredients list "fruit and nuts" at 27%.  So with that it's hard to know exactly how much fruit to expect, could be 26% nuts and 1% fruit. Could be that my box had a mixture that wasn't typical.  Nevertheless there was hardly any fruit at all which was disappointing.

So there you go.  If you aren't too interested in the details of the ingredients and the way they are blended together and don't mind something very sweet, these will be to your liking.  They are better than many other snack foods offered by mainstream supermarkets.  For me, I won't be buying these again, sorry.  Each to their own, as they say.

The Jordan website:

Friday, 26 July 2013


Very sorry I haven't been blogging much lately, so much is happening I have not had much of an opportunity to sit down and write.  Please don't read that as being surrounded by problems, far from it.

For readers in the UK you will already know that we now have some summer weather, at long last. This combined with long summer hours of daylight mean there's more things to do outside, like ride bikes and run.  It also means other things need attention, such as the garden etc which all takes time!  Here's a little round up of a few thoughts.....


For the summer the plan is to keep running as a means of "ticking over".  I am running two or three times a week and around an hour each time.  I love running at dusk or, even better, early in the morning and before anyone else is up.  That is the best time ever!  Also a brilliant way of setting myself up for the day ahead.

Although running has only become a feature in my life over the last few years, I love it and in some ways I prefer it to cycling.  I never thought I would EVER say a thing like that, having loved cycling since I was a kid.  Running seems such a natural thing to do and has lots of advantages.  At 51 I'm never going to break any records but I enjoy the odd race and fancy seeking an event in the autumn - maybe a nice muddy half marathon or even a 20.  

Already the mail shots are starting to come through and tempt me to sign up for the 2014 MK Marathon.  Having enjoyed it twice I might run this again and try and stay under 4 hours.  If I can manage to stay free of flu, or any other irritating bugs, colds, injuries etc I ought to run a good time.  However, my cyclist friend Jeremy is trying to tempt me to do a 150 mile Coast to Coast ride in June 2014 - all in a day, click here.  


Well I really have enjoyed cycling to work one or two days a week during the summer.  I am fortunate in that I have a variety of different routes to take and I sometimes decide to "make it up" as I go along.  Typically the distance is 22 or 23 each way and most is on fairly quiet country lanes - this is blissful!  Quite hilly though, but I don't mind this as I know it's good interval training.  I know my cycling muscles have improved over the last few weeks.


In the public sector, we seem to take it in turns in facing huge organisational change.  We've had our share of cuts over the last few years and I have managed to survive these.  In spite of that further savings have to be made and we're facing a further period of unprecedented change over the next two years.  I have no idea where these changes will take me or what I'll be doing, or indeed whether I will have a job at all.

What would be our first choice isn't always the best choice, and I am reminded of my trust in God for the right things to happen - for the right doors to open and close at the right time.

Running and cycling and eating well are all important components of staying in good shape.  They help me in being able to think things through, to step back and see things a little more clearly.  

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review - Frank bars

I was really pleased when I got an email from Frank.  No, not you Frank but instead those nice people at The Frank Food Company asking if I'd like to review some of their cereal bars.  You know, people are taking a bit of a risk when they ask me to review something and publish an article because they never really know what I'm going to say about them on my blog.  Nevertheless, an agreement was made and in hardly any time at all, a small package from The Frank Food Company arrived and so we can pick up on their review…..

The Frank Food Company
The background was simple and one that I can identify with.  How often do you buy something that's marketed as being "healthy" only to find it is junk, garbage, sticky goo, full of dodgy ingredients and tastes horrible?  If you're like me you've probably fallen into that trap and so too did Neil Robinson (the former Everton football player) who actually decided to do something about it.  After spending time experimenting and developing his recipes, he succeeded in producing a cereal bar which looked like a good product to market. The business started in 2012 - so still relatively new on the scene - and they supply their products via mail order (see their website) and through a growing number of other health food outlets.

The products
They have produced some cereal bars badged as "honest snacking" which is 100% natural.  This means free from dairy products (they're vegan friendly), also free from gluten and nuts.  Their website refers to the bars as being low in calories compared to other comparable bars.  Fine quality ingredients are used, they say, which includes some which are exclusive to them in the UK.  With each bar containing almost 4g of protein, that's a useful source. The FRANK bars also contain ENERGYSMART®, which is a patented, all-natural combination of carbohydrates from apple, grape and pears.   They have also developed some natural dextrins from grain which together provide valuable longer-lasting energy. 

The bars are 35g each and come in five flavours: strawberry & chocolate, orange & chocolate, double chocolate, blueberry & chocolate and oat & chocolate.  If you buy from their website, they cost £17 for a box of 20.  Before you ask, that works out at £0.85p each.  You can either buy a box which is a mixture of the different flavours, or a box where they're all the same.

Our review
Rather than simply review these myself, I thought I'd get some views from my family last weekend.  It was one of those rare English Sunday mornings when it was warm enough to sit outside and have breakfast which included the FRANK bars.  

My eldest daughter took the role of being the most picky taste tester, consistent with being a teenager programmed to be sceptical about these things.  She scrutinised the label of her first choice and queried "how can a double chocolate bar be healthy Dad?".  So even before she unwrapped the bar she was a bit dubious!  This was quickly followed by "can I unwrap it now Dad, I wanna start scoffing this!".  And so she did.  She didn't think it looked particularly nice, probably because it didn't look like a chocolate bar but there was a real "thumbs up" for the texture - this was nice and smooth.  She found a little piece of a fruit pip inside which took her by surprise (code for exclamations) but we wondered whether we should simply accept this will happen with products made using natural ingredients?

Rachel and myself shared the other bars and to be honest we had some mixed views about the taste.  We were impressed that there was a good dose of cocoa included as this is a really enjoyable and healthy ingredient.  The intensity of the taste was quite strong, perhaps too strong for some.   Rachel, also being a little mischievous picked up on the pea protein…. "you never want to be without your pea protein, do you?".  I didn't have a answer to that.  

Overall we liked the orange and chocolate flavour best of all.  It had a fairly pleasant taste and again we liked the texture.  While the taste of the bars weren't setting our taste buds on fire, we need to keep a few things in mind.

Firstly, these are not meant to be alternative Mars Bars and the like.  Instead these will release their energy over a period of time, which is exactly what we need: having a rush of sugar isn't good for anyone, let alone sporty, active people who need to consider their diet with some care..

At 35g they are ideal as a small, easily carried snack bar which will fit into almost any pocket.  They are quite firm and seem to stay together pretty well; this is helpful as the last thing you want is a handful of crumbs when you open the wrapper half way up a long climb.

These are healthy, made using natural ingredients.  This means they won't taste like Mars Bars or other high sugar, high fat, high garbage foods.  I reckon that as taste buds up and down the country gradually start to become accustomed to more wholesome food, this kind of snack will taste fine. 

Picky teenagers may take some convincing, especially if our view is typical.  But then, once more, this is not pretending to be something to be found amongst the regular chocolate and sweet sections in our shops.

These are definitely worth a try and you might find they're really nice and unlike other ordinary snack bars.  At 85p that's not a lot to lose but £17 on a box of bars is clearly more of an store cupboard investment. You can also rest easy in knowing the ingredients are okay with nothing dodgy padding it out.

Why not go over to The Frank Food Company and take a look around -

Friday, 12 July 2013

Interview with Jon Cobb - runner, blogger, general good egg....

I have been looking forward to publishing this little interview with my friend Jon, a man who we have known for sometime.  We rate him highly for many things - which includes him being a fellow runner.  Here's our conversation:

"Jon, what led you into becoming a runner?  What kind of distances and times do you run?"

When I was at school I ran the 800metres, but I remember coming last in the Luton all schools final for over 16’s and the lad who won the under 13’s got a faster time than me so I was no Coe or Ovett! I also was a smoker from the age of 13 which obviously didn’t help. Yes I played rugby and Soccer but when I left school I completely gave up all sports, becoming an armchair critic and taking the easy option of buying bigger sized jeans each year. I look at photos of me in my thirties and they really are quite scary, I wasn’t looking after myself. 

What triggered a change was an odd thing: The decommissioning of Concorde! I had always wanted to fly in it and had this down as one of my goals. I realised it was too late and so I revisited my list of goals to see if there were any other ones in which I might be on a countdown. I had always wanted to try my hand at boxing when I was younger but my father was quite anti, so it had never happened. So, as a 45 year old I walked into a boxing gym in London and trained. Fear is a wonderful motivator and I very soon realised that the fitter I was the less chance I had of being hurt! After 6 months I appeared on a show, which my wife attended, and watched me have seven bells knocked out of me, and she told me I wasn’t doing that again! (I’d go back and do it all again tomorrow, I loved it!)

At that time I was quite outspoken against running, as I couldn’t see the point. I did a bit as part of the boxing training, but reluctantly. It didn’t help that I ran in a pair of fashionable Lacoste trainers and my hip always ended up very sore!

In 2008 I was talking to an old school friend who sadly had a hereditary condition that made him blind, and he asked if I would run with him in the London Marathon. Now that was a challenge that inspired me, and so the next night I went out and managed to run a mile. The next day I did it again, and bit by bit it increased. The rest is history, 10k’s, halfs, then full marathons. I absolutely love running now and can’t imagine not running. In fact, being unable to run is a fear of mine if I’m honest.

Wow, that’s interesting Jon.  It must have been an honour to be asked.  What was running alongside a blind person like? What’s involved?

Mark’s partially sighted, so I didn’t need to be attached to him or anything like that, he just ran alongside me and I basically had to commentate the whole time, if someone slowed down in front of him they were in danger of getting their heels stamped on and losing their shoe! It was in training that he really showed how brave he was as I would forget to concentrate and he would trip on a pavement or a pot-hole. His knees were covered in cuts. I have the fullest admiration for him.

I agree, I like the half marathon best of all and I think we run similar times.  I think many new runners like the idea of going straight for a half.  Do you think this is a good first race or perhaps a 10k?

My favourite distance is the half marathon, and my PB is 1;41;57 and I’ve definitely got a sub 1;40 in me, but my favourite race is the Oakley 20 which is a delightful 20 miler organised by the excellent Bedford Harriers. It’s undulating, in beautiful countryside, and just short of hitting the wall!

One of the problems is cost nowadays. I do feel that races are quite expensive, and therefore one has to be selective. The first year I trained for the London Marathon, I entered two 10ks and four halfs (Stevenage, Bedford, Watford, Silverstone) but today that may well cost you about £150 in entry fees alone. 

For that reason, I think it’s easy enough to incorporate 10ks into a training regime, and actually go straight for a half. I think the other thing is not to underestimate what a 10k can take out of you if you run off too fast! I remember doing the Luton 10k and for the first 3 miles I ran with the club runners up at the front and I thought ‘this is easy’ but by the fourth mile I was overtaken by a steady procession of runners as I had nothing left in the tank. That can be quite soul destroying, so there’s an argument to run those distances only as a training run.   

"What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you as a runner?" 

I ran the London Marathon in 2011 and I made a mistake and played football 10 weeks before and I went over and twisted my ankle. To be honest I should have pulled out, but I already had started to get sponsored for my charity, but I really wasn’t prepared on the day, I just hadn’t put the miles in, and it turned out to be a hot day. 

I remember coming up to Tower bridge at about mile 13 and I knew I wasn’t right. I couldn’t keep my gels down, and they found me at Canary Walk and a little delirious! I got taken into the St Johns ambulance tent and I can remember hearing the doctor say ‘this man is seriously dehydrated, we need to get fluid into him quickly!’ 

They told me my race was over, and they got my son & his girlfriend to come and fetch me, but I wasn’t missing out on my medal, so once round the corner I re-joined the race and finished. I came in in 5:15 but felt a bit of a fraud as I’d had a 45 minute lie down!

"How does running benefit you?"

Oh in so many ways other than health and weight control. Three times a week I do a five mile jog at lunchtime. I’ll vary it between 7;30 minute miles and 8:30 minute miles, but breaking up my work day definitely increases my productivity in the afternoon. I feel cerebrally fitter as well.

I have a pretty stressful job and I need time to process things. A run is ideal for this. 

"You're also a Christian.  Does running connect with your faith in any way?"

Massively. Jacob wrestled with God, and the Psalms are full of ‘why God??’ appeals. That’s me when I’m out running, but its also about perspective, because I believe he created the universe, including the world and including little old England, and I think he did a fine job of it. Stumbling across a herd of deer, a hare, the smell of cut grass, there’s so much to enjoy, and it’s a reminder that he’s both powerful and loving. If he wasn’t loving why would he create something so beautiful?

I was on holiday in Turkey and I was out running and I disturbed this bush which was just full of these yellow butterflies which I assumed were blossom. The whole bush exploded as they all flew up in the air. Incredible!

I can identify with that Jon!  It’s also been said we can worship God in all we do, would you go along with this with running in mind?

At differing levels Doug: One is that we are told that our bodies are temples, places where God dwells through his spirit, so we want to keep it clean & healthy. But additionally, the longer I’m alive and healthy, the longer I can serve Him. 

"With staying in good shape for running, do you do anything else?  

I enjoy going to the gym. I have to be careful because gyms can be pretty vain places and I don’t want to get into that whole ‘body beautiful’ stuff.   Keeping fit is about sustaining my life and not about ripped muscles and sixpacks, but I know that I could easily get into that when I’m surrounded by a bunch of body builders who make me look quite small. 

Muscular blokes don’t make particularly good runners anyway! But I do enjoy a good work out and typically a session will involve an 8 minute warm up on a bike, some cardio on both the rower and the stepper, and then a session on the mats with either kettle bells or medicine balls. 

I’m always conscious that after 45 minutes, nobody looks as sweaty and exhausted as me! 

Does this gym training help with running?

Not necessarily, but I guess any kind of cross training is better than nothing. I would suggest anything which works on your core is good for running, but as I’ve said before, you just have to be careful about getting carried away and bulking up when you go to certain types of gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger never ran a marathon as far as I can tell! 

"What would be your "Top Tip" for a new runner?"

A couple of things Doug: Firstly, running is great because it allows for easily defined goals based on either distance or speed (or both!) so there’s plenty of targets that will keep you focused during those early weeks. Keep it small to start, involving running and walking and build it up. Perhaps the first goal is to run a mile non stop, or to run non stop for ten minutes. The only person you are competing against is yourself. 

Secondly, get a proper pair of running shoes having sought advice at a dedicated running shop where they can asses whether your running style. I stupidly ran for quite a long time before I did this, and did a lot of damage to my hip. It isn’t comfortable, it’s demotivating if it hurts and you could be doing a lot of damage. There’s not a great deal of expense in running, and I buy all my tops in the sales, but you need to look after your feet with a decent pair of running socks and a decent pair of Asics, saucony or NewBalance running shoes. 

And Jon is also a blogger, so why not go over for a read on his site:

Finally, thank you Jon for such a great run this evening!