Quest Bars flavor reviews

So I am a big lover of protein bars, I often use them for my preworkout meal as I can eat them as I drive from work to the gym without making a mess! They also give me something sweet and tasty to look forward to after a day at work. Thought it was about time I reviewed the protein bars I have tasted and let you know my thoughts on them! This entry features the very popular Quest bars! Quest bars have a really good macro split, even when I began reverse dieting, I could still fit these into my leg day macros.

White chocolate and raspberry

Nutritional information: 200kcal; 9g fat, 21g carbs (14g fiber), 20g protein

Opinion: I have heard the white chocolate and raspberry flavor get a bit of a bad reputation, with lots of people preferring the Musclepharm version. Personally, I loved this bar. I had left it in my car so the white chocolate chunks had started to melt, which may have influenced my opinion, but the raspberry flavor came through really strongly without tasting artificial and there was a good balance between the two flavors. The texture was soft, with the right amount of bite!

Rating: Delicious – 9/10

 

Chocolate brownie

Nutritional information: 170kcal; 7g fat, 22g carbs (15g fiber), 20g protein

Opinion: I was really excited to try this flavor as I love chocolate. And brownies. But was actually very disappointed. I am definitely a lover of chunks and a variety of textures in a protein bar and this had neither. It wasn’t overly chocolatey either and tasted artificial and quite chewy. Sorry, Quest, I won’t be eating this one again.

Rating: Poor showing for Quest; 4/10.

 

Cookies and Cream

Nutritional information: 190kcal; 9g fat, 20g carbs (14g fiber), 21g protein.

Opinion: I absolutely love Oreos and was delighted when I opened the packet at all the chunks of cookies and cream. However, the taste was slightly artificial and not strong enough of the cookie aspect. The ‘cream’ part was deliciously light and crumbly and I loved the difference in textures between the cookie pieces, cream pieces and the bar itself.

Rating: Good in a Quest emergency, but prefer lots of the other flavors. 6/10.

 

Chocolate peanut butter

Nutritional information: 170kcal; 7g fat, 23g carbs (14g fiber), 20g protein.

Opinion: I am trying to frame this in a positive way….or to look for the good, but I am struggling. It was nice and soft feeling in the packet, but as soon as I opened the packet, I can’t say the aesthetics of the bar really tempted me. It smelt faintly of Reese’s cups, but the taste was bland and very artificial. I ate one bite and opted to do my workout without being fuelled by Quest! I would have much preferred there to have been chunks of either peanut butter or chocolate, I am definitely not keen on this chewy bar that some of these flavours seem to exude.

Rating: I can’t give a 0, as it was vaguely chocolate peanut butter. 1/10

 

Pumpkin pie

Nutritional information: 220kcal; 12g fat, 19g carbs (12g fiber), 21g protein.

Opinion: This was my last bar of these limited edition Quest bars, sniff, sniff. These have slightly higher fat macros, but slightly lower carb macros than a standard Quest bar so these normally fit into my upper body macro split better than my lower body split. This is the only coated Quest bar (as of right now!) and it is deeelicious. The orange coating is sweet and provides a nice contrast to the more chewy interior. I don’t get an overly pumpkin taste, more like a vanilla with a hint of pumpkin. So if you are a full on ‘fall pumpkin spice’ hashtagger, you may be disappointed. But I like my pumpkin in moderation so this is lovely. A bit sad that these are only seasonal!

Rating: Delicious, chunky, though not too pumpkin pie-esque. 7/10

 

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The truth behind the teaching ‘thank you’

I recently read an article on washingtonian.com about how DC public schools have adjusted their school system to paying teachers as professionals, with salaries in excess of $100,000. This article really resonated with me for a number of reasons; particularly the verbiage about how society views teachers. Since moving to Florida, I have been consistently amazed as to how many times I have been thanked for being a teacher, and not just by the children, or the parents of the children I teach, but by random members of the public. The first time I mentioned I was an elementary school teacher to a stranger, they touched me on the shoulder and commented “Oh wow, thank you for all that you do”. I really wasn’t sure how to respond. I felt like a surviving soldier returning from Afghanistan or someone who had just rescued a puppy; surely those acts warrant a thanks, but, a thank you for being a teacher? I have since realised that the common ‘thank you’ I receive, is a culmination of ‘thank you for doing that so I don’t have to’; ‘how on earth do you do that?!’ and ‘thank you for not being intelligent or motivated enough to pursue a business career so I can enjoy mine’.

Now I realise teaching isn’t for everyone, but is any career? So why does teaching receive so much thanks here in the States? Firstly, yes, the pay isn’t great, but there are many other professions that are underpaid too. Also, I am consistently told ‘I appreciate you’ by my colleagues, which I also find very strange. Why do I need to be told that purely because I am in work? I feel that the words are to try and paper over much bigger issues that exist. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I fundamentally disagree with lots of the American education principles and the priorities are in the completely wrong place, and I believe that this also attracts an interesting collection of people to the profession. From my experience, people are teachers here for these reasons:

  1. They love teaching. And education. And children. I think this covers the minority sadly, though I am lucky to be working alongside someone who encompasses these values. She is incredibly intelligent, witty, creative and is damn good at her job.
  2. It is an easy option. Now, before someone jumps down my throat, I definitely think it attracts the demotivated, not overly intelligent women who can do the bare minimum and get by. They aren’t particularly career driven and they are not anticipating making large amounts of money, but teaching pays well enough for them to live and to keep them busy.
  3. They view it as some kind of right of passage, or doing God’s work, or they are blessed. I will offer no further insight into what I think of that…

Praise without cause for praise is very false, and is not very successful. I realise that my colleagues, parents of children I teach and random strangers are trying to be nice, but I would really rather them save the ‘thank you’ for when I have done something beyond sign a contract to be a teacher.

 

Shrimp and lentil tabbouleh

IMG_20160208_200207 [148713]This dish is a perfect light dinner or lunch and can be made in a large batch and shared over tupperware for the week! It is nutrient dense, crunchy, tasty and fresh! It would also make a great side dish to other protein if you omit the shrimp. I served this evening dish on a bed of fresh spinach!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry lentils.
  • 15oz cooked shrimp.
  • 5 stalks of celery.
  • 1 medium red bell pepper.
  • 1 cucumber.
  • 1/2 fresh lemon.
  • Handful of fresh parsley.
  • 2 tbsp white wine/cider vinegar.
  • Black pepper.

Serves 5.

Nutritional Information

Per portion: 164kcal; 25g protein; 21g carbs; 1g fat.

Method

  1. Add the lentils to boiling water and cook in a saucepan for approximately 20 minutes over a medium/medium-high heat. You will need 2 cups of water for the 1 cup of lentils, but may need to add more if the lentils absorb all the water.
  2. Once the lentils are cooked, allow to cool.
  3. Chop the celery, cucumber and pepper into small chunks and mix with the cooled lentils in a bowl. Add in the shrimp (I buy Trader Joes frozen shrimp and defrost them overnight before adding into the dish).
  4. Squeeze the lemon and add in the white wine vinegar.
  5. Finely chop the parsley and add to the dish.
  6. Mix all the tabbouleh together and top with black pepper.

Gaining Perks to Poverty Calories

So, when I prepped for my fitness photoshoot back in November 2015, I ‘dieted’ for 20 weeks. Over those weeks, my calories were lowered and, as anyone who has ever dieted for a photoshoot or for the stage knows, prep diets don’t lend themselves to variety and indulgence. However, you soon learn it really is the small things that add that sense to your diet. Here is my list of prep ‘saviours’!

  1. Refeeds. What are refeeds you might say? These are days that I literally counted down to every week. My coach started alloting me refeeds about halfway through my prep. These are days where your calories are increased, specifically through extra carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores, boost metabolism and offer sanity! My refeeds included foods such as: bananas, oats, strawberry jelly/jam, bagels, Nutella, rice cakes, barbecue sauce and rice. What I loved about these was the feeling of pure indulgence whilst eating them; I also slept incredibly well after gobbling all this down!
  2. Almond butter. This was in my diet from day 1 to photoshoot day. It was something I looked forward to every day!
  3. Whey protein powder. This helped to stifle my very sweet tooth (thank you, Dymatize Birthday Cake/Double Fudge Brownie flavours!) and I also blended it with coffee to make a Frappucino and cooked a scoop in the microwave with some baking powder which made a pauper’s version of a Beltsander Brownie.
  4. Walden Farms. Their calorie free caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pancake syrup and salad dressings (my favourite is the caesar) were a lifesaver! They taste incredible.
  5. Spices. Paprika, cayenne pepper, seasonings, cinnamon….these added variety to my chicken and fish!
  6. BCAAs. I drank these like they were going out of fashion. Not only did it benefit my DOMS, but they taste like soda! The BCAA Xtend don’t have any calories either and my other favourites, Musclepharm, only have 10 calories per scoop.
  7. Chewing gum. All flavours, all varieties.
  8. Sugar free, fat free jell-o. I used to mix a tiny amount into my greek yoghurt to take away the sourness and also add different flavours!
  9. Jordan’s Skinny Syrups. These are so versatile and I loved mixing them into my yoghurt, coffee or oats!
  10. Herbal tea. Hot or cold. Celestial sugar cookie tea is delicious. Luckily, I also had a big stash of Twinings green tea flavours (gingerbread, cherry bakewall, salted caramel, fudge melts and caramelised green apple) to keep me going too!

Benchpressingbaubles

Exercise made me taller!

So I first started being interested in fitness when I saw a picture of myself at a family outing in summer 2009. I hated the shape of my face and decided something had to change. I had never eaten badly; my Mum is a fantastic cook who made plenty of healthy, balanced meals throughout my childhood (and still does now!) But when I moved to university, I replaced her homecooking with convenience meals… and alcohol. I also wasn’t overly active – I was a university student, who loved nothing more than going out drinking and eating cheesy chips at 3am. Over the summer, I started attending classes at the health club/gym that my Mum was a member of and lost about 8lb as well as growing, yes, growing, an inch taller! My posture had improved so much from exercsising that I became taller than my Mum. Check mark on the bucket list!

In 2009, I signed up for Cardiff half marathon (more was coerced into it when I had had a few vodkas!) and I loved the feeling of seeing my body change, as well as becoming visibly fitter. I loved doing the half marathon and completed 2 more in Cardiff subsequently. In 2011, my boyfriend of the time persuaded me to join this new low cost gym. I gave him my debit card details and told him to sign me up, as I am guilty of ‘bookmarking’ such things and then never following through! We signed up for a Friday evening class, with a very enthusiastic but friendly trainer and we loved it! I became a bit of a class attending-aholic, and loved the atmosphere and the friendliness of the personal trainers and the post workout endorphines. I became interested in nutrition and used meal replacement shakes for about 6 months, which was my first introduction to protein shakes. Something I was always fearful of (I lived up to the female stereotype of thinking this would make me bulky!)

After using meal replacement shakes, my weight loss plateaued and when I stopped using them, I gained back weight as I was left with big sugar cravings. I wasn’t sure what to do, so went back to the personal trainer who I had first met on the first day at the gym! He took me into the weights room (I refused to go in there unless personally escorted) and gave me a diet plan to follow. I can’t pretend I enjoyed my first few experiences of using real weights as opposed to lurid colored dumbbells that look like cat toys. But I perservered. And, oh, how things have changed!

-Benchpressingbaubles

Butternut squash, eggplant and onion curry with cumin infused cauli-rice

butternut squash curryIngredients

Serves 5.

  • 1lb butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 20oz chicken (cooked weight/optional)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 cauliflower (grated)
  • 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s curry powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Splash of coconut water
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

Nutritional Information

Per portion: 251kcal: 33g protein, 27g carbohydrates; 3.5g fat

Method

  1. Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat and add in chopped onion and half the curry powder (this would also be where to add in chicken). Cook until the onion is softened and browned.
  2. Add in remainder of vegetables (except the cauliflower) and the rest of the curry powder and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.
  3. When the vegetables have softened, pour in the almond milk and coconut water and simmer, with the lid on for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the grated cauliflower and cumin over a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan, stirring constantly.
  5. Serve immediately or separate out into portions for meal prep.

Teaching. Help, get me out of here!

“Oh you are a teacher, thank you for shaping our children’s future”…
“Teaching is such a selfless job”…
“You are so lucky you are a teacher, I am so jealous of all the holiday you get!”

Education. Teaching. Both such encompassing topics that, like anything, come laden with politics, stigma and stereotypes. Back in my teenage high school years, I fitted the middle class rebel stereotype – trying to create an idenity that would get me accepted into the ‘in crowds’ at school. So, after successful survival of high school and completion of my undergraduate degree; hearing that I wanted to teach flummoxed both my family and friends. I fully embraced the Primary Education PGCE and found that, contrary to popular beliefs, I actually loved teaching. Now, after teaching and educating for the past three and a half years, I find myself wanting to pursue an entirely different career.

I started my teaching career as many graduates do, by doing daily supply teaching at a variety of schools. I found this experience invaluable; it made me learn fast at how to both manage behaviour and deliver engaging lessons off the top of my head. I was ecstatic, however, when I was offered a full time teaching job three months later. My own class. It is, after all, what I had gone back to university for!

Teaching in Wales

My housemates and friends quickly learned to disspell the common misconceptions that teachers work ‘9 – 3.30pm’ and ‘play about with paints’. It completely infiltrated every part of my life, but I loved it. The endless cycle of planning, teaching and evaluating was incredibly rewarding and I really felt like I was making a difference. Though the curriculum underwent several big changes in my short time teaching in Wales, I enjoyed the challenge and the flexibility of creating lessons that I would have so desperately loved to have been part of as a child. I also enjoyed the accountability – I was personally responsible for ensuring that every child grew in confidence, knowledge and skills. Moreover, I loved how integral I was to the children’s lives; they couldn’t wait to see me each day and I felt the same towards them. Their quirks, personality and innocent views on the world not only amused me but often made my day.

Wales operates a very skills-oriented curriculum, with clear expectations for child progression throughout their primary years. There is great emphasis on cross-curricular learning, with lessons given a ‘real world’ link, encouraging the children to become independent lifelong learners. ‘Independent lifelong learners’ was a real buzz phrase, and I am not sure how much the curriculum itself influenced this, but that was definitely an aim of the most recent frameworks.

After teaching for three years in the UK, I decided to emigrate to Florida to live with my family who had emigrated about 10 years previously.

Teaching in Florida

I arrived in Florida fully aware that I needed to give my British qualifications an American equivalent. I quickly learned that I would have more on my plate than simply remembering to omit ‘u’ in lots of words or substitute ‘s’ for ‘z’. I began studying for my elementary exams; 5 hours of multiple choice questions taken in a cubicle, which I can only liken to being a laboratory rat. Only one 20 minute break was allotted throughout the entire exam, something, which, now, I should have probably realised was indicative for how the school system is run.

Like all careers, it is all about networking, and despite failing an aspect of the exam, I stumbled across a job in a charter school within my county. I was ecstatic – everything was falling into place! I arrived at school after getting fingerprints taken expecting an induction, but, instead, I was thrown into my new classroom midway through a Math lesson and thrust a textbook. From that moment until Veteran’s day, it was relentless. I was given ad-hoc advice on what to do, but, ultimately, it amounted to ‘follow the pacing guide’ and ‘teach from the textbook’. Each lesson followed the exact same format, dictated by the ‘drop down’ selection boxes on the planning sheets.

Creativity? 

The aspect I found the hardest was that the children were afraid of creativity. Any time I set a task, I was indundated with numerous questions from the children who wanted complete structure. I felt deflated. Not only was my teaching style having to be adapted to drop down boxes, the children only wanted lessons that could easily be assigned a percentage outcome to. Whoever thought that qualitative data could be analysed with a percentage? I started off ‘grading’ work by how I knew…detailed written feedback, editing work and setting targets; the time consuming, but effective method I had been so accustomed to in Wales. I proudly returned the work to the children only to be immediately asked “Where’s my grade?” They were not accustomed to receiving work back that didn’t sort them into groups of ‘A grade’ students and ‘B grade’ students. Moreover, the targets I had set the children were not well received. They saw this as a sign of weakness. They were so used to receiving ‘100%’ on their work that the prospect that their work was not perfect was a lot to handle. Perfect work? Surely this goes against everything a teacher wants? I mean, yes, I want great work, but I don’t want tick sheet perfect. I want some personality, flair and creativity. The focus is on gaining of knowledge and it is this knowledge which is seen as synonymous with intelligence.

Testing

America loves tests. I was shocked at the level of pressure the children are put under and that both their intelligence and the skills of the teacher are assessed as to how accurate they are at bubbling in Scantrons. These Scantrons are the bane of everyones’ lives and account for so much. The questions are often multi-step and all aspects have to be answered completely accurately for the children to get the point. As a result, many of the children I taught had been diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety at age 10. Ridiculous. The most anxiety I had at age 10 was if I wasn’t allowed dessert for a week as a punishment. Furthermore, the people who set the questions were very slapdash in writing them and the tests were filled with errors. The children were streamed in their classes based on their test performance. Again, where is the assessment of skills? People can be great at taking Scantrons, or be great at copying others or picking lucky options…but does this really measure intelligence? Thinking outside the box is a lot more cognitively complex than thinking inside a Scantron bubble.

Freedom

Ultimately, teaching in Florida has completely stifled both my personal and professional freedom. I viewed teaching in Wales as social; albeit mainly with little people, but with plenty of opportunity to do so with my colleagues too. Here, you are isolated. Literally locked in your teaching room (incase someone with a gun comes on a rampage) with only a 25 minute lunch break, most of which is spent filling in accident forms if a child falls over or in a queue for the bathroom. What happens if you need the bathroom other than in that 25 minute period? You have to wait to see if someone from the front desk will cover you. Being someone who easily drinks a gallon of fluids a day, the fact you have to drink tactically is both unhealthy and wearing. I never would have previously seen a bathroom trip as ‘me’ time, nor did I expect the bathroom to occupy vast proportions of my thoughts throughout the day.

It is definitely time to pursue something less restrictive and to break free from the Scantron-laboratory-rat-world.