Walden Farms review

IMG_8023Walden Farms is a US company supplying a range of products which should be particular interest to all fitness enthusiasts – indeed to anyone looking to up their fitness levels, and down their fatness levels, or indeed a bit of both.

Based in New Jersey, they supply a range of dips, sauces, spreads, jellies and dressings. Nothing unusual about that, you may say, but these are products that tend to feature fairly low on the fitness-fiend’s ‘to buy’ list. Usually packed full of sugars and saturated fats, fitness-focussed readers of this article would tend to avoid them – well, not quite like the plague, but certainly as much as possible.

So what makes Walden Farms products of interest to you, fitness-person? Across the entire range – which is growing almost daily – every single product has no calories, no fat, no carbs, no gluten and no sugars of any kind. Which is indeed pretty amazing!

Obviously, since its zero calories, there’s no good calories in there either – no protein, fibre or good fats – but those can be obtained from whatever it is you are putting Walden Farms products on top of in the kitchen. And I’m not going to mark them down for missing these nutrients.

By the way, when is ‘none’ not ‘none’? Here is the answer, because although the products claim to be zero calories, the ingredients list on each label says ‘Contains trace calories’. And what are trace calories? It is calories in such a small amount that you use more calories eating and digesting it than it provides. And due to that, it is all legally OK in the US and UK to call it zero calorie.

So, with practically no calories, what on earth is in these bottles? The main zero-calorie things I know are water, diet sodas, herbs and spices, coffee and teas. And none of the Walden Farms products are like those. The answer is: water. The biggest ingredient in each product is good old H20, purified and/or filtered. Plus much smaller amounts of many other items – some natural, many others less so – to give the flavour, colour and texture required.

The biggest nasty I found was sodium benzoate. Used as a preservative, it’s a compound that which a lot of people don’t approve of, although it’s totally legal of course in all foodstuffs. It is being phased out of Diet Coke, but is present in all the Walden Farms products I tried.

The nice guys at Discount Supplements – discount-supplements.co.uk – sent me a box of various Walden Farms products to sample – so it was time to stop writing, and start tasting and reading labels!

I did an unscientific taste check on five of their products, one from each of several ranges. Here are my thoughts on taste and ingredients.

1. From the sauces, I chose the Seafood Sauce. It’s for seafood, not made from seafood – and I’m not sure why they limit it for seafood in their description, the taste would go with many savoury meals. The taste is tangy, and I noted hints of tomato, cider vinegar and horseradish. The main ingredient, of course, is water – and it is runny compared to most UK sauces, but comparable to American chop sauce. Other ingredients include tomato paste and sea salt. It is the sea salt that gives me a concern – it is pretty heavy in sodium. One serving gives you 10% of the US recommended daily amount. But that’s not outrageous when compared to calorie-heavy sauces that taste similar.

2. Another sauce I tried is their Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce. This actually has real bits of tomato and peppers in it (but still legally zero calorie), and is remarkably lovely in taste, and I‘m sure it would enhance any pasta substantially – and will do in our house. Again it’s the sodium which is likely to concern a few people. A portion of this gives you 350mg of it – 16% of your recommended daily value. A large number, but again comparable to other similar-style products that come with tons of sugar too.

3. Let’s leave meals and move to spreads – and I’m really looking forward to this one – its peanut butter with extra flavourings – to be precise its Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Spread. I love peanut butter, the taste and the texture. And I love the taste of this, I get the peanuts, the cinnamon and the raisin in the flavour. But it has a weird texture, more creamy than I’d expect, so it’s far better put onto something (like bread) rather than eaten by the teaspoonful, in usual Chris Zaremba-style. And real raisins too – I’m not sure how they can be zero sugar, but I’m sure it’s a legally valid claim. Sodium is a bit high – but I can confidently predict this jar won’t be in the cupboard for long in our house!

4. Don’t like peanut butter, you strange person? An alternative is a fruit spread – and I tried the Blueberry Fruit Spread. Looks the right colour, smells right and tastes fine, but again the texture is unusual. Spread it on bread, and don’t expect any lumpy bits of real fruit – they would, of course, bring calories with them. Sucralose is here as the artificial sweetener, but there’s no sodium involved.

5. Finally, to coffee – and Walden Farms Hazelnut-flavoured Coffee Creamer. Americans love their flavoured coffee, and this does the trick with that big zero calorie plus point. This product in particular is a chemical lab in miniature on the ingredients list, with remarkably few truly natural-sounding ingredients. It is heavy on carrageenan – which is used in many dairy products – and gives some people an upset tummy. And the sweetener sucralose is surprisingly high up the ingredients list. But – if you like this sort of thing – it tastes fine in coffee, sweetens it well, and the favour reminds me of many trips to coffee shops in the US, where adding the creamer often brings 200 calories or more to your coffee.

In summary, this is a range of products that I suspect their food technicians and chemical engineers have laboured hard to keep within the no calorie, no fat, no carbs, no gluten and no sugars claim. And that is going to get them a lot of customers, including me for some of their products.

If that no sugar, no fat, no calorie approach is paramount for you, then without doubt this is the range for you. I doubt there’s enough sodium benzoate or sucralose to cause you concern unless you eat far too much from the range. But keep an eye on the sodium, it will mount up.

However, if you like your products as natural as possible, regardless of calories, fat or sugars, then my guess is you won’t be buying much from the range.

Me? I’ll take the sauces and the peanut butter, and for these I’ll happily take the Walden Farms rather non-natural approach in exchange for the zero calories. But the spread and coffee sweetener/flavouring isn’t for me; I don’t consume these anyway in full calorie versions, and I’m not going to change that due to the availability of zero calorie options for these.

A final word of thanks again to Discount Supplements for sending me the box. It’s very kind, thanks guys!