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Product Review: Maria Lucia Bakes Granola

17/02/2016

Katie Scott gives breakfast a makeover thanks to this tasty gluten free granola

We’ve all heard the saying: ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, so what better time to pack your fodder with all things natural, delicious and nutritious? Kick starting your metabolism and helping to keep you fuelled until lunch, a complex carbohydrate and protein based breakfast is ideal, but if the thought of a bodybuilder’s steak and egg starter is too much for your pre work 6am meal, then why not try brand new Irish brand Maria Lucia Bakes (www.marialuciabakes.com), who have launched a moreish collection of four granolas.

Handbaked in a BRC grade A factory in Ireland, the four flavours have been certified as gluten free and suitable for vegetarians, also boasting to being both wheat free and dairy free too. With a high fibre content to help with your digestion, the mixes are sweetened naturally with honey.

Still new to the cereal market, I was keen to see for myself what made these wholesome granolas stand out from the crowd, so Maria herself sent me some samples of the tasty sounding flavours. Here’s what I thought.Maria Betts February 2015

Granola with Apricot, Walnut and a hint of Treacle

I just had to test out this flavour first as I loved the sound of the chewy dried apricots paired with the husky whole walnuts. Also including almonds, toasted coconut, sunflower seeds and pure oats, the crunchy mix has been drizzled with treacle and honey for a subtle, sticky sweetness that isn’t too overbearing. Per 40g serving, a bowl is 181 calories with 10g of fat, although only 2g of this is saturates – the majority is healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from the nuts, which also contribute towards the 4g of protein. Out of 17g of carbohydrates, only 5g of this is sugar too. Fibre comes in at 4g. The sweetness is really subtle, which means it would taste great with Greek yoghurt or natural yoghurt, although I had mine with skimmed milk and a banana. The dried apricot chunks are firmer than I was expecting, providing a more solid chew, however the combination of flavours worked really nicely and the texture was really great too.

Cranberry, Coconut and Chia Seed

Now this granola really ticks my boxes, being really rather sweet in flavour. Winner of the best cereal category in the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards in 2015, it appears plenty of people agree with me here! This cereal is packed full with plump and juicy cranberries, as well as slivers of toasted coconut (looks like the dessicated variety), chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and rolled oats, all infused with honey and natural vanilla. The first thing I noticed, was that this granola has a much finer and smaller texture than the others, due in part to the small chia seeds combined with the oats no doubt. The pumpkin seeds work really nicely to bring out the sweet flavours as well as add a satisfying crunch to the cereal, although for me the cranberries are the best bit – really lovely and soft yet chewy. Per 40g serving, you can put away 183 calories, 4g of fibre and 5g of protein. Fats come in at 10g, although only 3.2g of this is saturated. Carbohydrates rank at 18.5g with 6.2g of this being sugar. Adding a banana and skimmed milk to my portion, I really enjoyed this one.IMG_3361

Cashew, Almond and Cinnamon

Ok, this one is my hands down favourite and I’m not even a huge fan of cinnamon! I found this one had an instant and satisfying punch of sweetness, the vanilla and cinnamon really coming through to enhance the chunky and rustic texture of the granola. I loved the plump pearls of sultanas generously scattered into the mix, their juicy taste pairing really nicely with the sunflower and pumpkin seeds that added an elegant crunch factor while emphasising the sweetness. Also containing roasted cashew nuts, coconut and toasted almond flakes, the protein content of the nuts really does keep you fuller for longer which stops you snacking. Sweetened with honey, vanilla and cinnamon, it also hits any cravings you may be having. I found this one the most flavourful of the bunch and the combination of textures and tastes really is brilliant. Nutritionally, you are looking at 183 calories per 40g serving, with 10g of fat (which includes only 2.2g of saturated fat). Carbohydrates have 18g of fat (with 7g of sugar), while fibre comes in at 3g and protein 4g.

No Added Sugar Granola

This granola is your standard, unflavoured and unfussy version, for those who their granola plain and simple. With a savoury taste and the texture predominantly featuring oats, this mix is less crunchy than the others, although it does still include the brand’s trademark use of pumpkin seeds. This unsweetened blend contains coconut flakes, cashews, hazelnuts, seeds, coconut oil and just a hint of vanilla and cinnamon – just enough to add depth to the flavour without distracting from the more savoury tones. Suitable for vegans, this fruit free option is also gluten and dairy free, offering 234 calories per 40g serving. Fats amount to 20.5g, although only 11.2g of this is saturated fat. You’ll also find 5.4g of carbohydrates, with 1.3g of this being sugar, the protein content totting up to 6.6g while fibre comes in at 5.7g. A good alternative to your classic bowl of cereal.

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