Reducing Salt Intake In Your Diet

salt

There is a never-ending stream of advice with regards to how people should live a healthier lifestyle.  Doctors, magazines and TV programmes alike are telling everybody to reduce their alcohol intake, quit smoking, eat five fruit and vegetables a day and exercise on a regular basis.  Amongst the things that they tell people that they should be doing is reducing the amount of salt that is in their diets.

The Health Risks

Whilst some salt in your diet is essential.  Too much salt is linked to many illnesses and diseases including heart disease and increasing the risk of having a stroke.  It can also cause damage to the kidneys if eaten in large quantities.  This is bad news for people who crave salt in their diets.  However, there are healthier options for people who crave salt in their diet.

Reduced Sodium Salt

A kitchen essential for those who are trying to reduce their salt intake but enjoy the flavour that salt gives their food is reduced sodium salt.  Using this when preparing food or adding it to food once it is cooked will still give you the flavour of salt, but will have a less harmful effect on your body. This is the first step in cutting back on salt in your food.

Avoid Pre-prepared Foods

Whenever possible, avoid buying pre-prepared foods as these are often high in salt. This applies to food in packets, frozen meals, and tinned food. If you prepare your meals yourself, then you have full control over how much salt goes into the dish. If you must buy ready meals, then choose ones that have reduced salt.  This means that they still contain salt and will have the flavour, but there is a reduced amount in that product, thus making it a healthier option.  Gravy granules are also available in reduced salt varieties.  Gravy is generally a very salty product so this is a good alternative.

Choose Naturally Salty Ingredients

Another tip is to cook with food that has a naturally salty flavour and will not require you to add salt to the dish.  Gammon and bacon are good options as they are naturally salty and will flavour any food that is cooked in the same pan.  You can also save the stock from a gammon joint to add to soups or gravy giving them a meaty, salty flavour.

Use Alternative Flavours

Finally, if it is simply that you feel that food is bland without the addition of salt, then look for alternatives to use in your cooking to add extra taste and flavour to your meals.  Experiment with different herbs and spices to find ones that tantalize your taste buds and use these instead.  They are a much healthier option and you will greatly reduce the amount of salt in your diet by doing this.

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RECIPE: Courgette and Tomato Bake

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Although I love meat, I also enjoy the occasional vegetarian dish too. This courgette and tomato bake is really quick and easy to make. It is something I sometimes make myself for lunch as there is enough for two days. I also make it as an accompaniment to meat as a family meal. There is an ingredient that some people think is rather unusual (yes, it does say ready salted crisps on the ingredients list), but this is a delicious topping. This dish will serve two people as a main meal or four to six as a side dish. Here are the recipe and some tips for adapting this recipe to your own tastes.

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Ingredients

  • 3 courgettes (zucchini)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 6oz/ 170g crumbly cheese
  • 2oz/ 60g butter
  • 2 packets ready salted crisps (potato chips)
  • Salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to the highest setting.
  2. Thinly slice the courgettes and halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. 
  3. Cover the bottom of an oven-proof dish with a layer of the courgettes.
  4. Add all the tomatoes to the next layer.
  5. Continue adding layers with the remaining courgettes. 
  6. Season the dish with salt and black pepper.
  7. Chop the butter into small cubes and place them across the top of the courgettes.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the courgettes have softened.
  9. Remove from the oven and crumble the cheese evenly over the dish.
  10. Open your bags of crisps and crush the crisps by squeezing the packet until they become crumbs. Sprinkle the crisps crumbs over the top of the cheese.
  11. Return the dish to the oven and bake until the topping has turned a golden brown. This should take around ten minutes.

Tips

Meat lovers– if you are not a fan of vegetarian food, then simply add some ham or crispy bacon to the dish. Alternatively, serve it as an accompaniment to grilled or roast meats.

Fish lovers– courgettes and tomatoes work well with most fish, so this recipe is a great side dish to serve with your favourite fish. 

Switch the cheese- I use Lancashire crumbly cheese and this is produced locally in the area in which I live. However, any crumbly cheese will achieve the same results. If you prefer a cheese with a different consistency, switch to using cheddar, Mozzarella, or any other cheese of your choice.

Adding flavours- I like this dish just as it is. However, there are plenty of other flavours you can add. Try adding garlic or herbs to give this a different twist. 

On a diet- You can reduce the fat content of this dish by sprinkling the vegetables with water rather than adding butter before cooking. Using a low-fat cheese is another way to reduce the fat content. Rather than using ready salted crisps for the crunchy topping, opt for wholegrain breadcrumbs, instead. 

 

Hot to Get Kids Eating Vegetables

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Vegetables are an essential part of a varied, healthy and balanced diet.  It is important that your child eats vegetables daily so that they remain healthy and develop normally.  One of the biggest challenges parents face is getting their children to eat vegetables. This is sometimes because they don’t like the taste, texture, or color and occasionally because they have choked on a particular food when they were younger and this has developed into a phobia.  Here are some tips on how you can get your children to eat vegetables.

Start As You Mean To Go On

It is important to introduce a wide range of vegetables from the start.  This can be done even in the early stages of weaning your child as vegetables are ideal for mashing pureeing.  They are also fantastic finger foods when your child moves to the next stage.

Set an Example

Children mimic their parent’s behaviour  If they see you eating a variety of vegetables daily, then they will see this as being the norm and follow your lead.  If they only see you eating junk food, then vegetables will become an alien concept that they be unwilling to eat. 

Make It Fun and Involve Them

Making mealtimes and the food that is served can help the meal to seem more appealing.  One way of doing this is to turn the food into pictures.  For example, top a pizza with cherry tomatoes and slices of pepper arranged into the design of a face.  Children also like to be involved in the cooking process and if they have made the food their selves or helped to prepare it, it can make the vegetables served more appealing.

Grow Your Own

Seeing the whole process of the creation of vegetables, from seed to serving on a plate, can make the food seem interesting. If they get involved in this process, they will feel pride in what they have achieved.  It is also a great way to educate children about how plants grow and the sources of different food types.

Disguise the Vegetables

If you are really struggling to get your child to eat vegetables and want them to benefit from the nutrients, then you can disguise the vegetables.  One way is to dice them up very finely in foods like casseroles, chilli con carne or spaghetti bolognese.  Soups are also a great way to disguise the vegetable content as they are usually pureed.  Similarly, making homemade pasta sauces with ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers and onions is a good way of disguising what their meal contains.

Healthy Eating in Italian Restaurants

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Most people enjoy a good evening out in a restaurant.  It is a great opportunity to let somebody else do the hard work of the meal preparation and the washing up, giving you the opportunity to relax and simply enjoy the food.  One of the most popular types of restaurants that people choose to visit is an Italian restaurant.  However, these are famous for their calorie-laden pizzas and rich pasta sauces. This can be difficult for those who are on a diet or are simply health conscious. In spite of this, much Italian food follows the principles of a healthy Mediterranean diet and lots of healthier options are available.  If you are looking for healthier options when enjoying an evening out in an Italian restaurant, then here are some ideas to give you inspiration for making healthy food choices.

Vegetable Based Dishes 

First, the Mediterranean diet is famous for making use of lots of brightly coloured vegetables, such as courgettes, tomatoes and peppers.  If you are choosing a pasta dish, then opt for one that is served with a sauce based around these ingredients rather than a richer, more unhealthy choice such as a cheese sauce as this is laden with fat and calories and will also lie heavily on your stomach for a long time after your meal leaving you feeling lethargic and bloated.

Meat Options

If you prefer a meat dish, then the healthier option is to look at chicken dishes rather than red meat dishes as these are usually lower in calories, whilst still providing ample amounts of protein.  If the meat is served with a sauce then try to choose a healthier option as previously described to reduce the fat and calorie content of the meal.  Many restaurants will also serve food without the sauce if requested.

Accompaniments

When choosing accompaniments to a meal, ask for salad rather than chips, potatoes or cheesy garlic bread, as many people find themselves overfilled by such carbohydrate heavy accompaniments.

Desserts

When it comes to desserts, it’s probably wise to avoid these altogether.  Many Italian desserts, such as pannacotta, are made using cream and are high in both fat and calories. However, if the temptation is too much, consider a fruit salad or a meringue.   Meringue is low in fat and calories, despite being made from a large amount of sugar.  Ask for any dessert you do choose to be served without additional cream, ice cream or custard.

How to Eat Healthily On a Budget

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One excuse that people often make for being overweight or unhealthy is that they cannot afford to eat well. They believe that eating convenience foods is cheaper than eating fresh foods. This doesn’t have to be the case. As a mum of four, I know how the groceries bill can soon add up but I still like to give my children a varied and balanced diet. Here are some ideas on how to eat healthily even when you are on a budget. 

Stock Up Your Cupboards

Buying lots of items that can be kept in the store cupboard is a good idea as these items will keep well. This will avoid the costs created when food is bought and then not used before its sell-by date. Items like pasta and rice are really cheap and are an excellent source of carbohydrates which are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. They also provide a lot of different options with regards to meal choice as you can serve them as part of many meals. Similarly, pulses are a really cheap option and are high in protein.  This includes tins of baked beans, although look at the salt content on the labels as this can sometimes be quite high. Tinned fruit and vegetables are also good to keep in your cupboards as they are inexpensive, store for longer and are usually prepared so you will save time as well as money.

Shop Frequently, Buy Less

One of the main reasons why people believe that buying fresh and healthy food is more expensive is because they have a big shop and then throw lots of food away as it has gone off or is past its use by date.  However, if you made the simple change of shopping more frequently and only buying items of food that you are going to use over using for the next few days, then this can be easily avoided.

Grow Your Own Vegetables

This is the ultimate way to save money and eat fresh, healthy foods. To grow a few simple items will not require you to have a large garden or to be particularly green-fingered. If you have a windowsill or a balcony, then you can grow a few vegetables- not enough to feed your family for the next year, but it’s a start.  Packets of seeds cost pence to buy.  Some of the simplest fruit and vegetables to grow yourself are tomatoes and courgettes.  Of course, if you are green-fingered and you have a large garden then you can plant fruit trees, potatoes and any vegetables that your family enjoy. 

Cheaper Cuts of Meat

People often dismiss the cheaper cuts of meat, but these are often the tastiest cuts. They are usually particularly well-suited to longer cooking methods, such as stewing or braising. Therefore, they are ideal for throwing into a slow-cooker with some water and vegetables before you leave for work and you will have a delicious and healthy casserole to come home to at the end of the day. Remember, to remove the fat before cooking!

Offers and Vouchers

Look out for any foods that are on offer or that you have collected vouchers for.  Many supermarkets have offers on healthier items such as fruit and vegetables as they are trying to promote healthier living. 

Eating Out on a Diet

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Dining out while dieting is where many people hit a stumbling block in their diet. The temptation to opt for a dish that is high in fat and served with a rich, creamy sauce can spoil the effort that you have made to lose weight for the rest of the week.  However, it is not necessary to avoid dining out altogether.  Here are some tips for dining out whilst dieting.

A Glass of Water

Taking the simple step of drinking a glass of water before you leave home can reduce your appetite making you less likely to overeat while you are dining out.  Similarly, drinking water with your meal will help to prevent you from overindulging.

Choose Your Venue Carefully

There are some cuisines that are more likely to offer a menu with lots of high fat and high-calorie meals. For example, fast food restaurants and fish and chip shops are places that are best avoided whilst you are on a diet.

Choose Meals Wisely

Take your time to read the menu and choose a meal that you will enjoy but that is also a good option for while you maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  If you are unsure of whether a meal contains ingredients that are high in fat and calories, then ask your server for advice.  Try to select a venue where there is a wide choice of food available on the menu or one that offers a salad bar.

Avoid the Sauce

The majority of sauces are high in calories and fat, so avoid these if possible. If the sauce is optional, then don’t order one.  If you find food too dry without a sauce then choose one that is vegetable based, such as a tomato sauce, rather than sauces that are cream based, such as peppercorn or brandy sauce. Similarly, ask for salads without the sauce. 

Side Orders

The accompaniments served with the main part of your meal can make a big difference.  If your meal comes with a choice of potatoes, then avoid fries and opt for boiled potatoes or a jacket.  A salad is also a good dieting choice as an accompaniment to your food.  Other additional items to avoid include side orders of garlic bread or onion rings.

Desserts

It is probably best to avoid desserts while trying to lose weight.  However, if you have a sweet tooth and can’t resist, then opt for a fruit salad, meringue or ice-cream.  Do not order extra cream or custard to accompany your dessert as this will only increase your overall fat and calorie intake.

Drinks

The drinks you choose can also make a significant impact on your calorie intake when eating out. Although most drinks are low in fat or fat-free, they are often high in sugar and calories. If you are drinking soft drinks, then opt for the diet options. In terms of alcoholic drinks, spirits are the best choice. Drink these either straight, with soda water or with low-calorie sodas. This is great news for G&T lovers!