Chapter Sixteen – Healthy Food does not mean tasteless food.
There is no need to use rich, high-fat ingredients to produce interesting and tasty dishes. Although the supermarkets are packed with low-fat alternatives and sugar substitutes I have moved away from using these in recent years. I am not a fan of what I term Industrial Food which is mass produced and chemically enhanced. What I do believe in is a ‘Cook from Scratch’ approach to healthy eating.
The more I have researched food manufacturing standards – and the chemical additives that saturate most processed foods – the more I have reverted to using the real stuff, but just less of it.
I don’t have a problem with semi-skimmed milk or low-fat yoghurts although I buy whole fat varieties and organic when I do use them. I use olive oil for cooking and on bread, potatoes and salads so have no need for reduced fat alternatives, which are loaded with hydrogenated fats, more dangerous than eating the real stuff.
If you like butter then learn to use a scrape instead of half a pound and this is more about your willpower than the fat content. Use full fat cheddar but slice it thinly or just sprinkle some grated cheese on your pizza or potato. Your taste buds will change as you reduce the amount of fats, sugars and salt in your diet and you will be amazed at how sweet and salty you will find processed food after a very short time.
You need healthy fats for most of the processes within your body and certainly the mistaken advice of the 80s which turned us into a fatphobic generation and carbohydrate addicts is one of the main reasons we are facing the obesity crisis today.
Use herbs, spices and basic salt and pepper seasoning to ensure that the food that you eat is tasty. Do not forget however; if you suffer from high blood pressure you need to cut back your salt to around one level teaspoon a day across all your meals. This means that you definitely should not eat any industrially prepared foods.
This is another area where you can gain weight-saving advantages simply by making your own sauces from natural ingredients. There is so much sugar in prepared sauces that you might as well sit down with a bag of sugar and a dessertspoon and work your way through it.
Make your own pasta sauces with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, red peppers and 10 ml olive oil. Season with Mediterranean herbs like basil and you will have produced a low fat and low sugar version that would delight any Italian.
Pasta and Rice
Please use whole grain pasta and brown rice as so many of the essential nutrients are removed from white starchy foods during processing. In fact, with white rice they have to re-fortify with B-vitamins after removing all the natural stuff. Brown rice is wonderfully nutty and full of fibre and health benefits.
You will see some ideas for portion sizes for these carbohydrates in the section on designing your own programme in the link at the end of the post, but if you add lots of fresh steamed vegetables to your dish you will find that there is more than enough on your plate.
Jams and marmalades
There is no getting away from it; jams and marmalades have lots of sugar in them. Eating them once in a while is fine but try and use a mashed banana, sliced tomato, sliced egg or a little honey instead. If you are going to have marmalade on your toast in the morning then have a scrape of butter and a teaspoon of the spread. If you are exercising and following the eating programme at least 80% of the time you can afford to enjoy the taste of real strawberry jam or marmalade as part of it. Again, it is down to you and your willpower. You know what a teaspoon is and it is up to you to be sensible as after all it is your weight you are trying to lose not mine.
As an alternative to jams and marmalades you might like to adopt one of the typical breakfasts here in Spain.
Most of us associate a continental breakfast with breads, butter and jams or perhaps sliced meats and cheese. However, here is Spain a very common breakfast or mid-morning snack is Toasted bread with olive oil and a spread made from tomatoes.
It is something we eat frequently when we are out for coffee instead of something sweet and because I usually do not eat traditional breakfast now at 8.00 in the morning breaking my fast at 11.00 or 12.00 suits me better. Over the years I have developed various recipes for this simple dish and it is so easy to whip up and so packed with nutrients that I thought you might like to find out more about it.
Although the dish is really easy to make and serve, it is absolutely packed with nutrients that work on so many levels in your body and benefit virtually every major organ, your skeleton and your immune system. Tomatoes, onions, Garlic, Red Peppers and olive oil. Mega nutritious and delicious.
You can make several days’ worth and store in an airtight container in the fridge. As there are no artificial additives and refined sugars it is a great alternative to other spreads and you can enjoy any time of the day. We have eaten in the evening for a supper from time to time.
I tend to use my own homemade Irish Soda bread which is yeast and sugar free. It can be a little crumbly but delicious with the tomatoes.
Basic Tomato recipe.
You will need one tomato per serving. Using up tomatoes that have gone a little soft is great and just wash and take out the central stem. Based on four tomatoes cut into cubes and put into a blender. Add 1 dessertspoon of Extra Virgin Olive oil and a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of mild pimiento powder. Blend until a puree. The skin of the tomatoes will solidify the mix so scrape into a dish or a storage container.
Red pepper addition with onion and garlic.
To make the tomato spread especially rich and also even more nutritionally dense chop up half a red pepper, half an onion and a clove of garlic and cook off with a little sunflower oil in a pan or in a microwave without oil but a little water for 10 minutes. Add to your tomatoes and blitz it all up together.
Take a fairly thick slice of either homemade wholegrain or from a bakery where it has been made on the supermarket premises (no additives) Toast both sides and then drizzle a little olive oil over the hot bread. Use a spoon and add a good amount of the tomato spread making sure that it covers all the top of the toast.
If you are vegetarian then make sure that you are using an alternative to meat, such as tofu or some other fermented Soya protein, so that you are obtaining the B-vitamins. Eating lean red meat as part of your eating programme is absolutely fine as long as you cut off most of the spare fat before cooking. I advocate lots of variety and if you are eating chicken, turkey, salmon, white fish during the week that only leaves a couple of days to eat lamb and beef anyway. Use about 6 oz. uncooked weight – and grill or roast.
I know that many people like a traditional cooked breakfast. If you feel you really must occasionally indulge in one, try to make it lower in fat by grilling the bacon and poaching the egg. Ideally you should stay away from bacon, sausage and black pudding on a daily basis and regard as a Sunday special. Better choices are a poached egg on toast with sugar-free baked beans, or scrambled egg on toast with grilled tomatoes.
Grill or cook in the oven, rather than frying. You will soon find that you have lost your taste for all the fat you were eating and you will notice the flavour of the food much more.
You can also use a microwave. Most items can be cooked in this way, but make sure that you get the right cooking containers.
The unbeatable fruit salad
There is much in the media about not eating too much fruit… I agree a diet that entirely comprises fruit is not going to give you the balanced diet that you need for health. However, fresh fruit that is in season has been part of the human diet since we first were able to pick it off the trees or bushes. That is a lot longer than the so called ‘guardians’ of our food intake have been. Fresh fruit as part of your daily diet is very important and is less calorific that drinking a large glass of the same fruit that has been juiced from four or five portions.
One of the most useful dishes I have eaten from childhood is fresh fruit salad. Growing up in South Africa enabled me to sample fresh peaches and grapes straight from the orchard or vine. The first time I made fruit salad for myself, I found it a bit of a chore, but after the first week I was hooked. I am going to give you the two versions that I enjoy the most, and they are really simple.
The fruit salad can be kept in the refrigerator in a large sealed container, and it will last for four or five days. I eat it for breakfast sometimes, or for a snack. It is also something to pick at when I am cooking dinner and feel tempted whilst waiting for the meal to be ready. Not only does it taste refreshing, but it is good for you. The apple juice is cleansing for the liver because of the pectin it contains and all the fruit has vitamins and fibre, which are essential in any healthy diet.
You can eat one or two small bowls day, and if you want a change you can top it with a yogurt. I often use as a supper and add a tablespoon of cooked brown rice to the mix with a yoghurt. You will find that the preparation time spent once or twice a week is the best half-hour you will ever invest in your diet.
Two red and two green apples, a bunch of seedless grapes, one fresh pineapple or a can of pineapple chunks in fruit juice, two pears, six plums and two large oranges. Cut all the fruit into pieces and add to sufficient apple juice to cover it. I recommend that you use fresh squeezed juice if you can and if you do not have a juicer then try one from the supermarket fresh produce counter. You do not need to use much just enough to make sure the fruit is kept moist.
Two peaches, one melon, a large punnet of strawberries, six plums, two mangoes, two papayas, a bunch of seedless grapes and four mandarin oranges. Cut into pieces and add to sufficient unsweetened juice to cover the fruit.
You can use whatever fruit you wish. This is your alternative to chocolate and biscuits. Its natural sweetness is easily processed by our bodies. Fruit still has a calorie value, but a breakfast bowl will only be about 100 calories and is ideal for a snack or extra filler if you are hungry.
There are other ways of using fruit in your everyday diet which are appetising and nutritious. As an alternative to fizzy, canned drinks, you can dilute fresh squeezed juices with sparkling mineral water.
©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015
You can find the previous fifteen chapters in the directory.
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