London Fashion Week... it seems so long ago now! I didn't realise just how busy I would be in the run up to going away for several days, so when I was asked if I wanted to trial a range of gluten free, junk free meals, I wasn't going to say no. Especially when those meals would help me save time cooking, provide me with a healthier option than most ready-prepared meals and improve my general health through going gluten free. Regular readers may know that I'm a big advocate of a healthy lifestyle - I still find it hard to say no to chocolate and cake (what girl doesn't?!), but my diet is very important to me.
The meals are made by ilumi, who've been specialising in healthy and delicious nut, gluten and dairy-free foods for nearly ten years; their meals are all single portion, slow cooked and sealed in pouches and microwave cookable. Their mission sums it up perfectly:
To create delicious, colourful, deeply flavoursome foods that our customers can trust, to make them accessible and convenient, and to spread the word about eating for wellness to the wider community.
The ilumi 7 day Boost Your Energy diet has been designed with zero compromises (curries, spicy stews and warming soups, for example), and includes seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven main dishes, with snacks and even a couple of gluten-free beers. My meals included the following:
Pea, Pancetta & Mint Soup
Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
Kerala Chicken Curry
Spanish Rice & Vegetables
Tomato & Herb Sauce
White/Yellow Basmati Rice
The only problem I had with the food plan (and this is purely due to my work/lifestyle) was that I couldn't eat all that was included in a week - this kept me going for nearly three weeks! What I was sent to review lasted me the run up to Fashion Week and for a week or 10 days after. When I work away from home I don't have access to a microwave, and as these are all microwave meals, I continued with my large salads for those lunchtimes when I was working away and had the ilumi meals when I was at home.
I also rarely eat a large meal in the evening, usually opting for a protein shake after my workout; if I have to cook a meal from scratch I end up eating after 9pm and I just can't eat that late (not good for your digestion either). However, because these meals take only a couple of minutes in the microwave, I decided to have the soups in the evenings and the larger, rice-based meals during the day. So I mixed up the meal plan quite a bit - I guess we all have to tweak them to work round our individual lifestyles. I definitely subscribe to the "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper" school of thought.
The plan includes Nairns porridge for breakfast, which is great for me as I always have porridge or homemade muesli anyway, and some snacks of oatcakes and biscuits, plus the beers I mentioned. The selection was huge - there was loads of variety and nothing that I didn't want to try - and I was eager to find out 1. how they tasted, and 2. whether they would improve how I felt generally.
The verdictI'm glad to say that all the meals - without exception - were absolutely delicious. None tasted like they had come out of a packet, and they didn't have the usual high-salt, over-sweet flavour I despise of most ready meals (I don't add salt to anything ever, and I don't add sugar to drinks or breakfast either). ilumi really have done a great job in using fantastic ingredients and creating allergy-free meals that are perfect for people with a lot of special dietary requirements; I'm not one of them, but I'm conscious of eating too many processed foods and know that my health suffers if I do (headaches are a big problem).
It's hard to pick the ones I liked the most as they were all so tasty, but if I had to pick my favourites it would be the Spanish Style Rice & Vegetables, the Pea, Pancetta & Mint Soup and the Za'atar Chicken. Nothing was too spicy (despite being labelled as such, they were quite mild), and all were full of flavour.
As for feeling better - I have to admit that I didn't notice much change. HOWEVER - this is probably due to the fact that my diet is pretty healthy to start with. I don't eat processed cereals, or drink coffee, or fizzy drinks, and I eat a ton of salad, protein and at least some fruit everyday. I mentioned that my weakness is eating naughty food on top of the healthy stuff; if I were to go and buy a week's worth of standard ready meals and ate nothing else, I can guarantee you I'd be getting headaches, feel very bloated and sluggish... none of that happened with ilumi's meals, and I ate a lot of them. So in conclusion, if your diet is great to start with, you can eat these ready-prepared meals with the certainty you'll not be putting crap in your body, and if your diet is pretty bad to start with, then you have an option of quick and easy meals that are healthy, nutritious and taste amazing to kick-start a healthy eating plan (or as a back up during those too-busy-to-cook times).
So - 100% recommendation for ilumi's meal from me. The 7 day Boost Your Energy diet costs £40 (free delivery to the UK, charges apply to EU countries), which I think is really reasonable. Meals cost between £1.75 and £3.75 so you can try individual meals if you'd prefer.
Let me know if you've had ilumi meals yourself, or are thinking about giving them a go. Or do you have any dietary requirements that these meals would cater for? Do share in the comments!