The Scoop on new Skinnybik Spelt Cookies – by guest expert Antigone Kouris-Blazos APD

Food Flash — By on November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Imagine if you were a dietitian that was constantly being asked by your patients if there was a healthy gourmet tasting cookie? One they could have with their cup of tea or coffee and that would not interfere with their blood sugars and cholesterol? Plus one that people with irritable bowel syndrome on the low FODMAP diet could also enjoy? Well you may say no, sorry and suggest alternatives. Or you could find a way to say ‘yes’ like this week’s guest expert.

About our expert:

Antigone Kouris-Blazos  is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at La Trobe University, past managing editor of Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition and www.healthyeatingclub.com, is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 25 years experience,  has co-authored 5 university text books and 3 of her own books including a cook book released this year and has over 40 published papers, mostly on the Mediterranean diet and longevity.

As far as I know, I am the first dietitian in Australia to develop a food product and take it to market.  If I am wrong, I’d love to hear about others who have done the same.  It took 2 years (in my spare time) to develop SkinnybikTM because adjusting the recipe to make it superior nutritionally would often result in a cookie that was hard, dry, tasteless or costly.  My dietetic and food science skills and love of cooking and eating certainly came in very handy.

But I could not have done it without my husband and biscuit lover Chris Blazos (Director of Skinnybik) who is a mechanical engineer with experience in food manufacturing.  He guided me on how sticky the dough can be in order to get through biscuit making equipment.  He also kept complaining that the cookies tasted great but were too dry (due to their very high fibre content) so I juggled the ingredients resulting in a texture resembling soft-baked like muffins or cookies just out of the oven.

Testing times

I also got over 200 patients to taste test at my clinic before I finalised the recipe.  When one of my patients said “are you sure these are healthy – they don’t taste healthy” I knew I was ready to launch.  We had achieved a cookie with wholesome nutrient dense ingredients like wholemeal spelt flour (14%), rice bran, oat bran (14%), almond meal, dates (9%), eggs and sunflower oil (contributing to its good levels of magnesium and vitamin E).

To reduce the carbohydrate load of the cookie for people watching their blood sugar levels, I removed half the sugar and added Splenda (sucralose).  Sucralose is not a sugar alcohol or a laxative so is suitable on the FODMAP diet.   I tried stevia but this left an undesirable after taste.  I then removed half the spelt flour and replaced it with oat bran and rice bran – this significantly reduced the starch content, greatly increased the fibre content to 11g/100g (most biscuits have less than 3g/100g) and did not affect the taste too much. SkinnybikTM is probably low GI but it has not been formally tested yet.

The cookie cuts it

There is no other cookie on the market which ticks so many good nutrition boxes and is made with spelt flour.  It is wheat free, dairy free, yeast free, free of artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, laxative sweeteners and aspartame.  It is suitable on the low Fodmap diet  because it is dairy free, wheat free, low in fructose, nil laxative sweeteners/polyols and only 1-2g date per cookie.

Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute healthy choice criteria for label reading are: Total fat >10g/100g or less, Saturated fat 2g/100g or less, Sugar 15g/100g or less,  Fibre 7.5g/100g or more, Sodium 120mg/100g or less.  Diabetes Australia Healthier Options criteria for sweet biscuits are: kilojoules 1500 kJ/100g or less, total fat 10g/100g or less if saturated fat is <1/3, sugar (no target), fibre 3g/100g or more, sodium 400mg/100g or less.

SkinnybikTM compares reasonably well to these recommendations, except for total fat. It is moderate in fat (15.8%) but is low in saturated fat (2%) and trans fats (0%). It contains only good fats from sunflower oil, rice bran and almond meal.  Compared to a regular oatmeal biscuit, it is reduced in:  sugar by 50%, carbohydrates 40%, calories 25% (has 53 calories per 15g cookie), total fat 25%, saturated fat 90%, trans fats 0%, salt 85%; increased in:  protein 70% and fibre 350%.  Check out the full Nutrient Comparison Table.

Editor’s comment:

Wow Antigone. Fantastic story and behind the scenes look, thank you. And thank you too for the samples. I loved the spelt taste and the hint of date.  SkinnybikTM can be purchased on-line and in selected IGAs, Foodworks, Health Food Stores (Sunnybrook, Passionfoods, Fresh n Crisp) and Hospital cafes in Melbourne only.  A gluten free version with a similar nutrient profile (mocha  & dark chocolate) is coming soon.  Enquiries www.skinnybik.com RRP:  $7.99 for 9 cookies in tube or 2 pack $1.99  (15g each).  What do you think lovely Scoop community?

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  • http://www.offdutydietitian.com Ash Jones APD (Off-Duty Dietitian)

    Wow I will have to look out for these! Great work Antigone, I’ve got some clients that I am about to make very happy.

  • http://www.grainddiction.wordpress.com Dea

    Brilliant!! I really love how food science and dietetics go hand in hand..absolute joy!

  • Emily

    These look fabulous, great work, very interesting! Love the cute shape of the biscuits too :)

  • Peter Smythe

    I love that these cookies are high fibre and have yummy ingredients such as spelt and bran. But then there is the sucralose that turns me off completely.
    Sucralose may not be a sugar alcohol or a laxative (though it does contribute to bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), but what about it’s suitability (or lack of) for health conscious individuals? It’s the end product of sugar treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide. This is nowhere near being a natural product, or something that should be in our food!
    While there’s still a lack of long term studies on Sucralose, it’s already known that the chlorine component of the final molecule is a dangerous carcinogen. Unfortunately there are few studies at all on Sucralose after the FDA approved it for human consumption, some of the trials lasted 4 days on human subjects. I could go on, but instead I will just continue to encourage my patients to eat real food, and not synthetic chemicals that we have so little information on.

  • http://www.scoopnutrition.com Emma Stirling

    Hi Ash, Dea and Emily – thanks for the feedback, I’m know Antigone appreciates it.

    And thanks too Peter for sharing your views on sucralose. Sweeteners seem to be one of those food ingredients that easily polarise people. And in my 20 years experience whether it’s sugar or honey or nutrasweet or stevia or sucralose, public opinion constantly shifts and there is always a new sweetener on the block to consider as well. As you pointed out sucralose is an approved food additive and I personally support the process our food regulators go through with safety assessment. At the end of the day, as you say so well, it’s about personal choice. But I agree that whole foods, close to the natural source have my 100% support.

    Emma

  • Antigone Kouris

    Thanks for the positive feedback and comment on sucralose.
    My main aim with the cookie was to reduce the carbohydrate load
    which was not possible if I retained high levels of sugar/dried fruit to retain the desirable sweetness. If it is of any consolation, I have replaced less than half of the dark brown sugar (not all of it) with sucralose as the sugar provides a nice texture and flavour. I was not able to use xylitol etc (not suitable on low fodmap diet) or stevia (due to aftertaste) and avoided aspartame as some people seem to be sensitive to this. In my experience, sucralose does not seem to affect my patients’ bowels. Using a small amount of artificial sweetener to improve the flavour of healthy ingredients is a positive way to use them rather than in the form of diet soft drinks. I too have faith in our regulatory bodies and Cancer Institutes.
    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners

  • Sarah Fitzmaurice

    I can also appreciate the idea of the biscuits but would not buy them because of the artificial sweeteners. I don’t like them – any of them. Staying natural, even if it means more kilojoules or carbohydrates, is preferable. Lowering the amount of sugar, to create a biscuit that is gently-sweet, is an attractive idea.

  • http://www.scoopnutrition.com Emma Stirling

    Thanks Sarah for sharing your views too. These products were designed to fit the need of people with an existing disease or medical condition such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome and as Antigone pointed out the main goal was altering the carbohydrate load. You can certainly experiment with lowering the sugar content in home baking and substituting or using a sweetener of your choice.

  • Antigone Kouris

    Hi Sarah, we tried creating a gently sweet version of Skinnybik by removing half the sugar and not adding any artificial sweetener.
    Well – it failed the taste testing that we did with my patients. They complained they were not as nice as their ‘usual’ indulgent cookies and they advised us to add more sugar! I think our palate has changed over the past few decades with many people preferring sweeter foods, including sweeter yoghurt (such as the popular artificially sweetened diet yoghurt), fruit (have you noticed that store bought fruit is sweeter than home grown fruit) and even vegetables (such as super sweet corn)!I do not necessarily agree with this trend but the average person expects biscuits to be pretty sweet.

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