First came the astronomically successful blog, then a best-selling book, then the launch of her very own Mae Deli in London’s upmarket Marylebone.
Now Ella Mills née Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) is putting the final touches to the latest venture in her ever-expanding empire as her famous Energy Balls are set to launch into retail for the first time.
Vegetarian Ella famously shuns refined sugars, dairy, wheat and gluten, so her signature treats are a mix of dates, nuts, nut butters and coconut oil that have been a huge hit with the #eatclean brigade and look set to fly off the shelves as they arrive in Wholefoods and Waitrose.
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Vegetarian Ella famously shuns refined sugars, dairy, wheat and gluten – so she’s brought our her own energy ball
But at a stonking 433 calories per 100g, there’s only 17 calories difference weight for weight as a Mars Bar – with almost double the fat content and a much heftier price point to boot.
Could marketing these high fat, high sugar, high calorie treats as a ‘healthy snack’ be doing more harm than good?
We asked nutritionist and registered dietitian Nichola Whitehead of NicsNutrition.com for her advice when it comes to some of the top ‘healthy’ snacks around…
1. Deliciously Ella‘s Energy Ball in Cacao Almond
Expected RRP from £1.79, Waitrose and Wholefoods
Deliciously Ella ‘s Energy Ball in Cacao Almond Expected RRP from £1.25, Waitrose and Wholefoods
Per ball (approx. 40g): 17 4 calories; 12.7g sugar; 4.8g protein; 11.2g fat
Ingredients: Dates, almonds, cacao, almond butter, coconut oil, salt.
We say: These are nice and the natural ingredients are reassuring but they definitely taste quite worthy rather than a treat – especially considering how small each one is. Ella isn’t one for calorie counting, preferring to focus on the ingredients and this shows in the fact the energy content is about the same as a bag of Maltesers. They’ll be a huge hit anyway.
Nic says: A wholesome and a healthy dessert or sweet treat for mid-afternoon based around healthy ingredients.
2. The Primal Pantry Paleo Protein Bar Cocoa Orange
£1.99 from Ocado and Independent Health Food Stores
The Primal Pantry Paleo Protein Bar Cocoa Orange £1.99 from Ocado and Independent Health Food Stores
Per 55g bar: 174 calories; 22g sugar; 10g protein; 4g fat
Ingredients: Dates, coconut nectar, hemp protein, almonds, cocoa, dried orange.
This tasted like a yummy, but definitely virtuous, chocolate orange brownie. We had a bar at 11am and were still full by lunch at 1.30 thanks to the high levels of protein. Not one for a cheeky afternoon pick me up, more as fuel for exercise.
Nic says: A great protein hit and pre-workout energy bar.
3. Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs
From 99p in Waitrose, Boots, Holland and Barrett
Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs, From 99p in Waitrose, Boots, Holland and Barrett
Per 22g bag: 91 calories; 0.6g sugar; 2.6g protein; 4g protein
Ingredients: Chickpeas, rice, sunflower oil, flavourings and salt.
These are a bit like a crunchier Wotsit and actually much tastier. You wouldn’t feel deprived having these as a treat and they make a good light snack with an added bonus of protein and fibre that you wouldn’t get with a bag of crisps. They’re organic and vegan too.
Nic says: A good low-calorie alternative to crisps.
4. Bioglan Raw Bites Cacao + Coffee + Coconut
£1.99 from Holland Barrett
Bioglan Raw Bites Cacao + Coffee + Coconut, £1.99 from Holland Barrett
Per 35g serving: 178 calories; 12.7g sugar; 3.7g protein; 9.2g fat
Ingredients: Desiccated coconut, sultanas, cashews, dates, seeds, dried fruit.
These are a similar proposition to the Deliciously Ella balls and taste equally pleasant, but still definitely on the healthy side. You’d have to be very careful of portion control as they come in a big tub and 35g does not give you much bang for your calorie buck thanks to the snack’s fruit and nut base.
Nic says: A nice mix of protein and carbs for either pre or post workout. Great ingredients.
5. Urban Fruit Super Blueberry Blackcurrant
£1.97 for 100g sharing bag from all major supermarkets, Boots and independent health food stores
Urban Fruit Super Blueberry Blackcurrant £1.97 for 100g sharing bag from all major supermarkets, Boots and independent health food stores
Per 30g serving: 88 calories; 17.4g sugar; 0.6g protein; trace amounts of fat
Ingredients: Fruit sweetened with a dash of apple juice.
Unlike most dried fruit, these are sweetened with just apple juice so the fruit tastes much sharper and truer to its original flavour – the blueberries and blackcurrants are both delicious.
Again, you’d have to be careful not to just scoff the whole 90g bag, which actually represents three portions, as the sugar content would be sky-high.
Nic says: A great way of eating fruit on the go.
6. KIND Madagascar Vanilla Almond Bar
From £1.29 in Tesco, Wholefoods and Waitrose
KIND Madagascar Vanilla Almond Bar, From £1.29 in Tesco, Wholefoods and Waitrose
Per 40g bar: 210 calories; 4g sugar; 7g protein; 16g fat
Ingredients: Mixed nuts, chicory root fiber, honey, glucose syrup, rice flour, soy lecithin, sugar, salt, calcium carbonate.
This is kind of a middle ground snack; it has mostly healthy ingredients but it’s also much sweeter and richer tasting than most ‘health bars’. It would definitely fuel you for a workout thanks to the high calorie count, but you shouldn’t automatically think you’re making a good choice with this as a mid-afternoon snack.
Nic says: A good nut content but it has added glucose syrup, sugar and salt; better than most chocolate bars but not as good as other more wholesome bars.
7. Meridian Peanut Banana Bar
£1.19 from Holland and Barrett and independent health food stores
Meridian Peanut Banana Bar, £1.19 from Holland and Barrett and independent health food stores
Per 40g bar: 173 calories; 9g sugar; 7g protein; 9.5g fat
Ingredients: Peanuts, sundried banana, rice syrup, concentrated fruit juice, brown rice protein.
These are tasty and satisfying. Whilst they’re high in sugar, there is also protein to power you through too.
Nic says: Nice, healthy and simple snack bar with a good balance of healthy fats, protein and carbs.
8. Bounce Ball in Cacao MintAlpro Go On Mango
85p from Tesco and Ocado
Alpro Go On Mango, 85p from Tesco and Ocado. Made with fermented soya beans
Per 150g pot: 129 calories; 12.2g sugar: 7.5g protein; 4.2g fat
Ingredients: Fermented soya beans, sugar, mango, concentrated passionfruit juice, corn starch, flavourings, salt, calcium, citric acid.
This is a yoghurt-style pot made with soya, which ups the protein count, making it a good pre or post workout snack. There’s a layer of fruit concentrate at the bottom, like a slightly healthier Muller Corner and it tastes nice.
Nic says: It’s a shame that sugar is the second ingredient but it’s a fairly low-calorie, dairy-free dessert!
10. Nakd Carrot Cake Bar
£13.99 for 18 from Natural Balance Foods
Nakd Carrot Cake Bar £13.99 for 18 from Natural Balance Foods
Per 35g bar: 148 calories; 15.6g sugar; 2.8g protein; 7.6g fat
Ingredients: Dates, walnuts, raisins, almonds, cashews, carrots, cinnamon.
Not as delicious or indulgent as an actual carrot cake would be, but probably at least half the calories. Watch out for the high sugar thanks to the dates though.
Nic says: A 100% natural and wholesome snack bar that’s great for pre-workout.
11. Morrisons NuMe Apple Crisps
70p from Morrisons
Morrisons NuMe Apple Crisps, 70p from Morrisons, made form apple and lemon juice
Per 20g bag: 68 calories; 15g sugar; 0.4g protein; 0.1g fat
Ingredients: Apple, lemon juice.
These are pure dried apple with some lemon juice, and as such they are very low calorie and low in all other areas too – except for the fructose. These taste pleasant and are a good snack if you’re having a mid-afternoon slump, but probably not workout fuel.
Nic says: A great way of getting one of your five-a-day on the go. A brilliant alternative to crisps.
12. Squirrel Sisters Raspberry Ripple Bar
£2.49 from Holland Barrett, Planet Organic, Whole Foods, Revital and independent health food stores
Squirrel Sisters Raspberry Ripple Bar, £2.49 from Holland Barrett, Planet Organic
Per 20g bar: 87 calories; 6.6g sugar; 2.3g protein; 4.7g fat
Ingredients: Cashews, dates, sultanas, almonds, goji berry, raspberry powder
These are a bit misleading as the nutritional info refers to the fact that there are two tiny 20g fingers in each snack bar, so if you’re planning to eat the lot – which wouldn’t be a big stretch – then you’ll have to double the counts above.
Having said that, there are good ingredients in here and the raspberry one is really yummy. Just try eating half – it’s like being able to eat half a Twix or a KitKat!
Nic says: A super tasty, low calorie and natural snack bar – with great macros.
13. 100% Natural Brownie
£2.49 from Wholefoods, Planet Organic and independent health food stores
100% Natural Brownie £2.49 from Wholefoods, Planet Organic and independent health food stores
Per 50g bar: 414 calories; 16.3g sugar; 5.9g protein; 10g fat
Ingredients: Dates, cashews, date syrup, cacao, sunflower seeds, coconut oil
These are really similar to the Deliciously Ella balls but in brownie format, so dairy free, refined sugar free etc but this is a hefty slab, hence the high calorie count. This is really a proper swap for a traditional brownie rather than a healthy snack, but it almost tastes indulgent so that’s ok.
Nic says: A higher calorie snack but with pretty decent ingredients
Nutritionist and Dietician Nichola Whitehead advises on some of the top ‘healthy’ snacks
14. Gourmosa Chana Chaat Pot
£1.50 from selected Tesco and Asda stores
Gourmosa Chana Chaat Pot £1.50 from selected Tesco and Asda stores
Per 275g pot: 324 calories; 3.6g sugar; 14.6g protein; 10.4g fat
Ingredients: Chickpeas, lentils, pomegranate seeds, spices.
We say: Snack pots are becoming increasingly popular, but it’s definitely worth noting that just because something is positioned as a snack, it can easily have the same amount of calories as a lunch. These ingredients are great and the protein is excellent, but this certainly isn’t something to be consumed as a regular snack.
Nic says: A nice light lunch with wholesome ingredients.
15. Oompf Very Berry Energy Bar
£1.99 from Oompf Energy
Oompf Very Berry Energy Bar £1.99 from Oompf Energy
Per 55g bar: 216 calories; 24.2g sugar; 4.2g protein; 9.6g fat
Ingredients: Dried cranberries, dried apricots, cashews, almonds, honey, ginger.
Another similar idea to the other cold-pressed raw fruit and nut bars we’ve seen so far, this is a fairly hefty portion filled with whole natural ingredients that give a hit of energy, sugar, protein and fat. Ideal to keep you going or provide fuel for a workout. They taste good too.
Nic says: A good energy hit to have before a long run or cycle.
16. Ape Crispy Coconut Curls
99p from Co-Op, Ocado, Whole Foods and Planet Organic
Ape Crispy Coconut Curls, 99p from Co-Op, Ocado, Whole Foods and Planet Organic
Per 20g bag: 107 calories; 2g sugar; 1.4g protein; 8g fat
Ingredients: Coconut, seasoning.
These tasted a bit unusual at first as coconut isn’t usually associated with savoury snacking, but actually they were really moreish and a good replacement for crisps or popcorn. They also have more fibre and protein which will keep you a bit fuller.
Nic says: A super-tasty and relatively low-calorie alternative to crisps.
17. Lizi’s GoGo Granola in Treacle Pecan
49p from major supermarkets
Lizi’s GoGo Granola in Treacle Pecan 49p from major supermarkets
Per 20g bag: 100 calories: 2.5g sugar; 2g protein; 5.6g fat
Ingredients: Oats, rapeseed oil, dessicated coconut, fructose, pecan, treacle, chicory fibre, seeds.
Granola portions are always eye-opening and this is a teeny tiny bag compared to how most people probably serve any cereal – it still packs 100 calories.
The ingredients are good and wholesome and it could be a good emergency snack, but it doesn’t feel like a treat or as if it would satisfy hunger particularly. Nice flavour though.
Nic says: A lower sugar alternative to most granolas.
Most of the snacks we’ve seen have had a hefty calorie, fat and sugar load
18. Mighty Bee Coconut Jerky in Spicy BBQ
£1.80 from Wholefoods
Mighty Bee Coconut Jerky in Spicy BBQ £1.80 from Wholefoods
Per 15g bag: 61 calories; 3.7g sugar; 1.27g protein; 3.9g fat
Ingredients: Coconut, water, sundried tomato, smoked paprika and other herbs/spices.
Fitness pros have long recommended jerky type snacks as healthy workout fuel, and this dried coconut version is supposed to mimic this. It’s quite a divisive taste but the nutrition is good. Pricey though.
Nic says: A low-calorie, vegetarian version of beef jerky that has a nice taste!
19. Graze Cocoa Vanilla Protein Flapjack
£1.20 from Ocado and Sainsburys
Graze Cocoa Vanilla Protein Flapjack £1.20 from Ocado and Sainsburys
Per 54g pack: 252 calories; 13g sugar; 9g protein; 13g fat
Ingredients: Oats, margarine, golden syrup, soy protein, sugar, seeds, cocoa powder
This tastes like a normal sugary flapjack, because it basically is. Yes, it has some extra protein in, but there’s not even a nod to a healthier source of sugar. It’ll provide energy and protein but it’s in no way a virtuous snack for those looking for an alternative to a sugary treat.
Nic says: Similar ingredients and calories to a regular flapjack!
20. Ombar 72% Buttons
£1.49 from Ocado, Waitrose, Wholefoods and Planet Organic
Ombar 72% Buttons, £1.49 from Ocado, Waitrose, Wholefoods and Planet Organic
Per 25g bag: 146 calories; 6g sugar; 2.3g protein; 11g fat
Ingredients: Raw cacao, coconut sugar, probiotics
Raw chocolate can taste a long way away from actual chocolate but these are genuinely nice. They also include magnesium, flavanols and probiotics.
Nic says: A slightly healthier alternative to most milk white chocolates.
Most of the snacks we’ve seen have had a hefty calorie, fat and sugar load – with many comparable to a regular packet of crisps or some of the lighter chocolate bars like a Flake, KitKat or Toffee Crisp.
So should we just save ourselves some cash and stick to a 65p corner shop treat instead?
Nic doesn’t think so. She said: ‘I am a big fan of the ‘healthy snack market’ as it’s not just about the calorie, sugar or fat content – it’s about the actual ingredients. For health we should be eating more in the way of real, whole foods and less processed ‘junk’ food – i.e. foods that provide little in the way of nutrients.
‘Yes, a biscuit may provide a similar amount of sugar as a bar based around nuts and dried fruit, but with the latter you’re getting fibre, vitamin, antioxidants and healthy fats, as well as the natural, slow-releasing sugar for energy!’
But what about the stonking high calorie counts? How can they be justified as part of a regular healthy diet when some of them are almost a quarter of our RDA?
She says: ‘I would say it is a bit of a con marketing products as essential for ‘pre workout’ as if you haven’t had your last meal too long ago then your body will already be topped up with energy.
‘Eating too many high calorie snacks before and after your workouts could in fact completely derail any weight loss efforts.
‘I personally promote the 80/20 rule where there’s no such thing as good and bad foods, just good and bad diets. This means the odd Twix isn’t actually that bad for you; it’s what your diet looks like as a whole that counts.’