Earlier in the month (7th April), we reported that the best-selling men’s monthly magazine, Men’s Health, was launching some ready meals, specifically targeted at men, and which were created to be both high protein and nutritionally balanced.
This was followed up by an offer of a meal to try, and to review. Well, I’ve always enjoyed my food, so it would have been churlish to refuse. I was then somewhat surprised to get an email saying that a courier would be delivering not just one ready meal, but one of each of the whole range.
It’s hard work, having to eat a variety of different meals, but somebody has to do it.
I thought I was going to get away with trying them all to myself but I had to be persuaded that it would take longer to review them if I ate them all on my own, and was forced to share. Instead of 2 of us each having 1 meal at a time and then each not knowing what the other’s meal tasted like, we ended up having a 2 course meal, sharing 2 of the dishes at a time. That perhaps took out a bit of the subjectivity in that the taste buds of 2 of us were then involved.
Here are the results so far. We have also taken a Sainsbury’s ready meal by way of comparison; perhaps unfairly to them, it wasn’t one of their so-called “Be Good to Yourself” range, which may be why it rates generally less favourably on fat and sugar content along with higher salt and lower fibre.
The 4 Men’s Health dishes are all billed as high protein and in 3 out of 4 cases they do have more protein than the somewhat random Sainsbury’s meal.
In terms of nutritional balance, they do well in having fewer grams of fat and in 3 out of 4 dishes have less sugar. The meal with higher sugar content has sweet potato in it, which has 4.2g of sugar per 100g compared with just 0.8g for potato, so this is likely to be part of the explanation.
The MH dishes do well in their fibre content, with between 2 and 3 times as much as the reference dish from Sainsbury’s, and particularly well in their low salt content – anywhere from 40% to 65% of the level in the comparison dish.
There’s one area where I question the MH dishes and that is their interpretation of the “5-a-day” count in their meals, with 2 packs suggesting they are equivalent to 1 helping and the other 2 rated at 2 of the 5 a day. An NHS site suggests that you need 3-4 heaped tablespoons of vegetables (depending on which vegetable it is). While it is remarkable how many different ingredients MH have packed into their meals, I’m not saying they are wrong about one meal containing 2 portions of the five a day, but with a lack of training as a nutritionist I’m not entirely convinced.
In our comparison table, we have listed the factual nutritional information, but also two subjective points on which we ranked the meals: the faithfulness of the pack image compared with what the dishes look like when cooked and a (very subjective) rating of the taste of the dishes.
The Beef & Kale hotpot had, in our opinion, the least faithful image but a reasonable taste. The Thai Salmon and Edamame had a slightly more faithful image but was so delicately flavoured it was difficult to know that it was Thai cuisine based. We rated the King Prawn and Pomegranate as having the most faithful image though the pomegranate was not overly visible, but our taste-test winner amongst these 4 sampled dishes was the Shredded Beef Brisket, which had a good flavour along with the tasty rice and lentil mixture.
Is it down to the amount of Indian food your two testers get through in a month that we would prefer the herb and spice content of the MH range to be stepped up? We also felt that the Beef & Kale Hotpot with Sweet Potato should be renamed as “Beef & Sweet Potato Hotpot with Kale” as the Kale was far less visible than thesweet potato. Still, while the cooked dish looked a bit less appetising than the delightful photo on the packaging, the taste was good.
The Men’s Health range of nutritionally balanced meals are now making their appearance in supermarkets and shops across the UK so you can try them for yourself.
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