Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hooray for Vegesentials Fruit & Vegetable Smoothies!

When I recently discovered Vegesentials fruit and vegetable smoothies, there was just something about their products that sounded new and exciting, so I was thrilled when they sent me their range to try.

There were just two tiny problems:

1. I don't really like (and rarely eat) fruit. And, for that reason:
2. I don't really like (and never drink) smoothies.

Oh dear.

I think, although it would have the opposite effect on some people, it was actually the promise of vegetables in the mix that piqued my interest. But I still wasn't sure what to make of them.

So what are they?

The drinks range from adult-sized bottles of flavours - like beetroot, blueberry & cucumber,   celery, apple & kale,   and carrot, mango & parsnip - to kid-size 'on the go' bottles like strawberry and beetroot, and cucumber and pineapple.

They're all made without anything added whatsoever - what's in the bottle is 100% fruit and vegetables, which have been cold-pasteurised to keep them fresher for a bit longer. They all have at least 1 of your 5 a day, sometimes 2!

And if you look closely at the ingredients, there's always more fruit & veg than what the label says - most of the drinks include added pineapple, cucumber or mango, which I'm guessing is what keeps the texture so consistent.

Who makes them?

Vegesentials' website is very sweet: it tells the story of Patience and Andrew, a husband and wife team who started making smoothies at home as part of a healthier lifestyle, after Patience suffered a major health scare. She sent her kids into school with the drinks in their lunchboxes, word spread quickly, and soon parents were asking her for recipes and offering to pay her for a regular supply. So far, so adorable.

Patience and her husband took things full time in 2012 - beginning at food festivals and the like - but it's taken until now for things to really kick off: as of this week, the range is being sold at Waitrose and Ocado, and various other UK stockists.

What are they like?

As I said earlier, I am NO fan of fruit or smoothies, I never buy them (I get my 5 a day through veggies) and I'm certainly no health freak. And some of the flavour combinations sound a little bizarre, no?

Well, Patience has tirelessly tested each and every flavour, getting her kids involved as taste testers too, and this comes through with every single bottle.

The kids range is light, fruity and refreshing, with just the right level of sweetness. The vegetable flavours come through more on the finish, and blend seamlessly with the other ingredients, making the whole thing taste very wholesome and fresh.

The adult range is delicious too, with a wonderful variety and balanced flavours that mean there will be something to appeal to all tastes. I liked all of them, but there were some I absolutely loved - particularly, the beetroot, blueberry and cucumber, and cucumber, pineapple and spinach were an unexpected joy to drink! All of the 250ml bottles also contain less than 110 calories, which is great.

One of the best things is the feeling you get after you've finished a bottle - you feel energised, refreshed in a way no other drink can achieve, and just healthier. An added benefit is that some of the proceeds go to Diabetes UK.

I'm going to use them as breakfast smoothies, afternoon snacks, or even as evening mixers - I imagine adding a few sploshes of vodka or gin would make these refreshing summer cocktails. Obviously, I wouldn't advise doing all of these things in one day - they are pure fruit and vegetable, after all - and we all know what happens when you eat too much of them...

It's also the perfect way to sneak fruit and vegetables into your kids' daily routine, (especially if they're fussy eaters, although I imagine most kids would love these!) so I'll make sure I stock up when my nieces and nephew come over. And probably drink them all myself. I'm the best auntie.

So what are the downsides?
Well, there aren't really any, to be honest. The only thing is that - because these are made with such expertise and total care - they're not maybe as cheap as you'd hope. The 250ml adult bottles are £1.99 each, the 750ml larger bottles are £3.99, which isn't outrageous at all, but may put it outside the 'drink it every day' price range for many people.

1. The 250ml bottles are currently on offer in Waitrose at £1.59 each - go, go, go! Before I buy them ALL.
2. The ingredients, in most cases, list quantities (i.e 1/3 of a cucumber, 1 slice of pineapple). This is the joy of Vegesentials - you can tell Andrew and Patience just desperately want to make people healthier, rather than doing it to get rich - because now you have the rough measures to get experimenting in your own kitchen. I'd still make sure you have a few bottles of the real stuff for the days you can't be bothered, though...

Grab the adult sized bottles of Vegesentials at Ocado, and the introductory 3 vegesentials flavours on offer at Waitrose now. The kids range will be on the shelves over the coming weeks. And when you've tried them, tell us what you think!

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