Monday, January 31, 2011

Protein 2 – Fish, fowl and eggs

The fat content of poultry varies according to which type and part of the bird is eaten, whether the skin has been removed or not, and how the bird is prepared (roast, grilled, fried, smoked).
Ostrich has low levels of cholesterol and fat, duck has high levels. Chicken and turkey have more or less the same fat levels, but the dark meat (legs) of both have higher fat levels than the white meat (breast). Always remove the skin before cooking, unless you are roasting, in which case you need to leave the skin on to protect the meat. Roast poultry on a trivet so that the fat can run off, and remove the skin before eating.

Fish contains oil rather than fat (this means that the fat is liquid at room temperature). Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered beneficial. Omega-3 aids in regulating cholesterol, is anti-inflammatory, and it may help protect the brain from the cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer's. It is also probable that Omega-3 helps alleviate depression and A.D.D., and it can help people to cope better with stress.

Shellfish comes under the title of fish, but be aware that prawns have high levels of cholesterol at 130mg per 85gm serving. Keep in mind that you are unlikely to eat only 85gms of prawns, and that the healthy daily maximum ingestion of cholesterol is 300mg. If you are eating out, those prawns were cooked in butter. A lot of butter.

There has been ongoing debate over the years, regarding the pros and cons of eating eggs. One large egg contains a whopping 274mg cholesterol, all of it in the yolk. The debate seems to have been settled - for the moment, at least - in favour of the egg. But that being said, I would still advocate eating no more than three eggs a week - and not on the day you eat prawns!

Remembering that we should have 2 to 3 servings of protein per day, whatever our choice of source:

1 portion of protein equates to:
45gms poultry;
OR 60gm fish;
OR 1 medium egg

Vegetable combo : Wk56/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tblsp grated fresh ginger
1 red pepper, sliced
100gm green beans, sliced
100gms baby corn, quartered lengthways
150gm broccoli florets
50gm sugar snap peas, halved diagonally
1 x 300gm tin broad (fava) beans

1 Tblsp soy sauce
1 Tblsp hoisin sauce
6 spring onions, sliced

Spray a wok or large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion, garlic and ginger until the onion starts to soften.

Add the vegetables and stir fry for 3 – 4 minutes.
Add ¼ cup of water.
Cover and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.

Now stir in the soy and hoisin sauces and the spring onion.
Toss well to combine.

Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Serve with rice and sweet chilli sauce or mango chutney.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Protein – red meat

Protein is an essential nutrient that is not stored in the body, and so we have to eat some protein foods every day. Protein deficiency is rare, in fact most of us eat too much protein, so these days the focus is rather on the fat content of the protein source eaten.

The protein group comprises, as its main components: red meat (beef, pork, lamb); poultry (chicken, turkey, ostrich); game (venison, rabbit); fish; eggs; beans and pulses; nuts and seeds. This is rather an extensive and complex list, so today I'm only going to look at animal protein, specifically red meat. However, if you don't eat red meat, please keep on reading - the next paragraph applies to other protein sources, too.

Protein contains nitrogen-bearing molecules. The liver has to break these down and dispose of them; the liver's job is to detoxify the body, so it is not doing anything unusual, but it has to work that bit harder to process protein. In addition, there is some concern regarding the safety of consuming animal protein. Modern farming methods include the regular use of antibiotics, growth hormones, sex hormones and pesticide dips. All these are passed on to the consumer in meat products.

Up to 75% of the kilocalories/kilojoules in red meat come from fat, much of which is saturated (saturated fats are the ones we need to cut down on). Game meat - provided it is not 'reared' or 'farmed' may be a healthier choice since the animals have not been chemically treated and fattened for market. Or buy organic, if you can afford to.

Meat eaters generally have a low health rating. A meat eater is twice as likely to visit a doctor or be hospitalised compared to a vegetarian. And a meat eater may suffer from degenerative diseases up to ten years earlier than a vegetarian.

As I said at the start, most people - especially braai-loving South Africans - eat too much protein, which contributes to osteoporosis, acidity and heart disease. Obviously the healthy thing to do is to reduce red meat consumption to, perhaps, once every ten days (if you really must have it). Rather choose chicken, fish and/or vegetarian protein sources.

We only need two to three portions of protein per day (growing children, adolescents and pregnant women need slightly more) - whatever the source.
One portion of protein is equal to:
35gm (raw) of boneless meat, such as lean beef, lamb, pork, venison or offal (liver, kidney, heart etc). This sounds like a miniscule amount, but protein requirements are based on a formula:

Body weight (in kilograms) X 0.8 = no. of gms of protein required per day.

So someone who weighs 62kg requires 49.6 gms of protein food per day. That is the minimum needed for body function. Not much, is it?

Spicy stirfry lamb : Wk55/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : 20 mins + marinating 2hrs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tblsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1Tblsp Rose’s Lime cordial
! Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp vegetable oil
400gm lamb fillet, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
300gm spinach, roughly chopped
2 Tblsp pine nuts

In a large glass bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon,
lime, lemon and vegetable oil.
Add the lamb and, using your hands, work the meat and the marinade together.
Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, if you have time.

Spray a large pan or wok with non-stick cooking spray.
Briefly toast the pine nuts and remove from the pan.

Dry fry the onion and celery until they start to soften.
Add the lamb and any remaining marinade and seal the meat.
Pile the spinach on top of the lamb.
Cover and simmer until the spinach wilts.
Fold the spinach through the lamb.

Serve garnished with toasted pine nuts and a bowl of rice or noodles.

Pine nuts brown very quickly and retain their heat so they continue cooking after they are removed from the pan.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 56

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 56.

Olive and chicken pasta : Wk55/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm small pasta shells

1 onion, thinly sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into bite-size pieces
1 x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
12 pitted green olives, sliced

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion until it softens and begins to go golden brown.
Add the garlic and chicken to the pan and stir well.
Stir fry until the chicken is ‘sealed’.
Now add the tomatoes, stock powder and mixed herbs and stir well to combine.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the olive slices.

Serve the chicken over the pasta shells, with a green salad if desired.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The milk or dairy food group includes milk and all products that are made from milk and retain their calcium content. Cream, cream cheese and butter do not form part of this group; they are fats.

Milk and milk products are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium. That being said, they are not the only sources, or even necessarily the best. I can't emphasize enough that the best route to health is to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups.

These days there is a wide range of milk and milk products to choose from, and we are not restricted to cow's milk. Although sheep's milk and goat's milk are not readily available in South Africa, cheeses made from these milks are. Soy milk is available, and in some countries (I've never seen it here) rice milk.
Different milk treatments, such as drying, long-life, canning and ultra-heat-treating, provide products with a longer shelf life.

Although full-fat milk is only about 6% fat, products made from whole milk are comparatively high in saturated fats, so always choose the low-fat (about 2% fat) or fat-free (0.1%) varieties of all dairy products. Only children under the age of two need the full fat product - but NO dairy before six months of age, please. And no cheese before twelve months. Cow's milk is actually designed for calves, not humans, and it is very different in composition from human breast milk. Early feeding with cow's milk can lead to the development of allergies.

If you find it difficult to switch from full-fat to skim, then take it in stages. It is only the fat content that changes; the protein, vitamin and mineral content are unaffected. Use low-fat milk for a month, and then switch to fat-free. In South Africa, we now have a 1% fat milk option, too.

Admittedly, fat reduced cheddar is not terribly nice, although it is fine for cooking. For cheese sauce, I often stir through some fat-free cottage cheese for creaminess, and I add a bit of parmesan for extra flavour. The fat free feta, mozzarella and fromage frais are all good, as are low fat cheese spreads and cottage cheese. Be careful of ricotta and soft cheeses - they can be high in cholesterol. And try to buy white (un-dyed) cheeses - who needs artificial colourants, anyway? Cheeses often have high sodium (salt) levels, too. Substitute fat-free fromage frais or natural yoghurt for cream or sour cream in soups and sauces. Do this right at the end, and off the heat. If you reheat your soup or sauce, do so gently otherwise the yoghurt or fromage frais will separate out and spoil the appearance of your food.

The recommended ingestion for dairy products is 3 servings per day.
One serving equals:
200ml of milk;
OR 150gm of yoghurt;
OR 40gms hard cheese or feta;
OR 60gm processed cheese;
OR 125gm cottage cheese or fromage frais.

Vegetable calzone : Wk55/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
300gm whole meal pizza dough
4 Tblsp tomato paste

Small head broccoli, broken into florets
3 courgettes, sliced
100gm mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
6 spring onions, chopped
2 large tomatoes, sliced

80gm low fat feta cheese
2 tsp dried oregano

Heat oven to 220ºc.
Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.

Steam the broccoli, courgettes, mushrooms, pepper, onion and tomato for 5 mins.
Allow to cool slightly while you:

Cut the pizza dough into four and roll each piece into a circle about 20cm diameter.
Spread generously with tomato paste to within 1cm of the edge.

Pile ¼ of the mixed steamed vegetables onto ½ of each pizza crust.
Top with crumbled feta cheese and sprinkle with oregano.

Carefully fold over the pizzas and seal the edge with a fork.

Brush each calzone with milk.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the crust is nicely browned and crisp.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Salmon with asparagus : Wk55/2

NB: The quantities given in this recipe serve only 2 people
Serves 2 : Very easy : Quick - Easily doubled
2 salmon fillets

100gm green asparagus spears
100gm green beans, quartered lengthways
2 courgettes, sliced
50gm rocket salad, torn
½ x 400gm tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp chopped parsley
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mustard and parsley.
Set aside.

Steam the green beans and courgettes for about 5 minutes.
Cool slightly with cold water and drain.

Tip the cannellini beans into a bowl and add the salad leaves.
Now add the green beans and courgettes.
Toss well and divide between two dinner plates.

Steam the salmon for about 5 minutes, until it changes colour.
Add the asparagus and continue steaming for another 5 minutes.

Arrange the asparagus spears on the salad.
Top with the salmon.
Spoon over the dressing.

Remember to adjust the shopping list if you want to make this dish for more than 2 people.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Fruits are classed as carbohydrates. The fruit group includes all fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits, as well as juices. Be careful with canned fruit - the sugar content can be high; the same applies to juices - many of them are sweetened. And of course, dried fruit is very high in sugars. Fruits are naturally sweet, but, for the most part, low in calories and fat.

Like vegetables, fruit comes in the most wonderful assortment of shapes, sizes, colours and flavours - from delicate little bluberries, through to enormous watermelons. Also like vegetables, fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as flavonoids and polyphenols. Choose fresh fruit over juice. The vitamins and minerals are still there in the juice, but the fibre content is reduced. Dried fruit has more kilocalories/kilojoules and nutrients than an equal weight of fresh fruit. Some of the lighter coloured fruits, like apples, pears, sultanas and apricots are treated with sulphur-based preservatives when they are dried, to prevent discolouration. Anyone with asthma or allergies should exercise caution when eating fruits dried in this way. Dried fruit makes a great snack and provides a quick energy boost.

The recommendation for fruit consumption is two to three servings per day.
One serve is equivalent to:
1 medium apple, orange or pear;
OR 125ml juice;
OR 80gm (about half a cup) blueberries, raspberries or strawberries;
OR 3 prunes;
OR 1 Tblsp raisins or sultanas.

Personally, I eat very few bananas, maybe one a week, just because of the high sugar content. And the riper the fruit, the higher the sugar content - not just bananas. Limit dried fruit to 1 cup a week.
I make a lot of fruit salads - in South Africa, we are fortunate to have a pretty wide selection of fruits available throughout the year. But I know that in many places you're lucky to get more than apples and oranges during the winter months. Sometimes I set mixed, chopped fruit in a sugar-free jelly. If you want to do this, don't put pineapple or kiwi fruit in, they effect the set. Oh, and reduce the amount of water slightly.

Red pepper pasta : Wk55/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
240gm penne pasta
40gm low fat feta cheese

1 x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
½ tsp dried thyme
1 Tblsp red wine vinegar
1 Tblsp lemon juice
12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water until al dente.
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the onion and red pepper until they begin to soften.
Add ½ the tinned tomatoes, the thyme, vinegar and lemon juice.
Simmer for 15 minutes then part-blitz with a hand-held blitz stick.
Return to the heat and add the remaining tomatoes (tinned and cherry halves).
Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Tip the pasta into the sauce and turn well to combine.
Serve with a crumbling of feta cheese and a green salad on the side.

You can blitz the first half of the sauce to a smooth texture if you like. I did about 3 bursts with the blitz stick to leave it a bit chunky.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Vegetables are complex carbohydrates. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre - a great food for improving overall health and preventing disease. Plus, the vast selection and beautiful colours are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

It's best to eat vegetables raw, because the vitamins and minerals are easily destroyed by cooking. But unless you live in a very hot climate, and you only want to eat salads, you are going to be cooking vegetables most of the time. The most conservative way to cook veg is steaming - the nutrients are not boiled away in the cooking water. Otherwise, stir frying or microwaving is a good way to go. Whatever cooking method you use, just remember to cook for the shortest possible time, in the least amount of water.

For optimum nutrition, your daily veg intake should be varied - that means branching out from the stock standard peas and carrots every night. Try something different for a change. How about artichokes, okra or fennel bulb?
Did you know:
Artichokes and green celery leaves contain natural insulin?
Cucumber is rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin C?
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and lycopene?
Carrots are very high in vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and iron?
My top five vegetables for boosting health are: broccoli and spinach; butternut and carrots; and tomatoes and beetroot. My favourite veg - for flavour and versatility: tomatoes and broccoli.
All vegetables are good, regardless of whether they come to you fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.

All the experts are always on about '5-a-day' They are talking about five servings per day of vegetables and fruit. Personally, I would rather see that as '5 veg-a-day’, and fruit over and above the 5. Anyway, a minimum of 3 servings a day is what's recommended, so 1 serving of vegetables is equivalent to:
3Tblsp of cooked vegetables;
OR 2 cups of raw leafy veg (lettuce, spinach);
OR 1/2 cup vegetable juice.

Creamy fish with spinach and mash : Wk54/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
400gm mashing potatoes
200gm butternut
1 small onion, finely chopped
125ml fat free milk
300gm spinach

480gm hake fillets (skinless)
250ml fat free milk
1 Tblsp cornflour
1tsp wholegrain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the potato and butternut into chunks.
Cook together with the onion in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain well and mash.
Beat in the 125ml milk.
Keep warm.

Steam the spinach until it wilts.
Drain off any excess moisture and keep warm.

Poach the fish in milk until it flakes easily.
Remove from the pan and break into flakes.
Add the mustard and cornflour paste to the milk along with black pepper to taste.
(You may need to add a little more milk to the pan.)
Once the sauce has thickened, tip the fish flakes back into the pan.

Make a bed of mash on each of four dinner plates.
Top with the spinach and finish with the fish.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 55

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 55.

This file gives you a printer-friendly copy of the recipes that will feature next week. The photos are bigger than they are on the blog page.

Tofu and red coleslaw : Wk54/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
400gm firm tofu
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1 small green cabbage, shredded
3 large carrots, grated
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
120gm bean sprouts
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 Tblsp Rose’s lime cordial
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 Tblsp light soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated root ginger
2 Tblsp chopped coriander

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jug.

Put all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again.

Cut the tofu into fingers and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Spray the tofu sticks with non-stick cooking spray.

Spray a ridged pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the tofu for about 4 minutes each side, until it is crispy on the outside and heated through.

Pile the slaw salad into 4 bowls and top with the tofu fingers.
Serve with extra soy sauce.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Knowing what to eat

There are seven food groups to consider: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein, sugars and fats.
Today we are going to look at grains.

The grain group includes all foods made from wheat, rice, oats, maize, barley, rye, quinoa or millet. These grains originate as the fruit, or seeds, of grasses and grass-type plants. They are cultivated on a large scale as staple crops - crops which provide more food energy for world populations than any other food group. Potatoes are also included in this group. At least half of all the grains you consume should be whole grain. Choose whole grain breads and breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta, and wild or brown rice, rather than their refined counterparts.

When grains are refined, the outer husk, the bran and the germ are lost, leaving only the endosperm, which is pretty much all carbohydrate. Gone are the vitamins, minerals and fibre that used to be part of each little grain. Keep them whole, and they will keep you healthy!

An average person, of average height, weight, age and activity levels, consuming an average of 2000 kcals/8400kjoules daily requires 5-6 servings of grains per day.
1 serving of grains equates to:
1 slice of whole wheat bread,
OR 1 cup of ready-to-eat-cereal,
OR ½ cup of cooked pasta, rice or cooked cereal,
OR a potato the size of a large egg.
Of course, young children may find whole grains difficult to cope with, so they need to be introduced gradually as teeth and tummies develop.

Even though grains are an essential part of our daily food intake, too much of even a good thing can cause weight grain.

Bean and tomato stew : Wk54/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
4 large carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced

1 x 400gm can chopped tomatoes
2 x 400gm cans butter beans, rinsed and drained
2 – 3 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce (opt.)
4 Tblsp chopped parsley

Extra chopped parsley to garnish

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry-fry the onion, carrots and celery for 5 - 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
Add the tomatoes.
Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the butter beans, chilli sauce and parsley.
Allow to heat through.

Pile onto warmed plates and garnish with extra parsley and chilli sauce or chutney.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Legs ‘n’ salsa salad : Wk54/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
8 skinless chicken drumsticks
Chicken seasoning/spice

480gm new potatoes, halved

For the salad:
500gm green beans, chopped
1 onion. chopped
½ cucumber, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tblsp white wine vinegar
1 Tblsp lemon juice
Artificial sweetener to taste

Boil or steam the green beans until just cooked but still bright green and crispy.
Drain and cool under running water.
Once the beans are cool, put them into a bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients.
Toss well.

Boil the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water.
Drain and keep warm.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Sprinkle the drumsticks with the chicken seasoning.
Dry-fry the chicken over a moderate heat, for 20 minutes or until done, turning frequently.

Serve 2 legs per person with the potatoes and beans.

The bean salad keeps well in the fridge for several days – just be sure to seal the container you use, or everything else in the fridge will absorb the garlicky flavour and smell.

Monday, January 17, 2011


When I started this blog, I talked about keeping a food diary; but a food diary is only effective if you are totally honest. Studies show that if you are not honest, you can consume up to 43% more calories than you confess to. This is due to ‘sneak eating’ – which usually involves eating or drinking high fat, high sugar foods such as chocolate, salad dressings, alcohol and cold drinks. Even the milk in your tea and coffee throughout the day can mount up to quite a few calories, usually undeclared. So if you are serious about losing weight, and you think a food diary is the way to go, be sure to enter everything.

Before you begin your weight loss program, keep a very detailed food journal for a week. Include such things as your mood, state of health, who you are eating with, time of day etc. This can provide a very valuable guide as to your ‘food triggers’ – the things that make you eat. Few of us eat only because we are hungry. Many of us eat when we are not hungry at all!

Of course, weight loss is not the only function of a food diary. Healthy eating requires a certain amount of planning and tracking, just to make sure that you are eating the recommended number of portions in each of the food groups.

After two years of following a diet for weight loss/maintenance and improved health, I still weigh and measure everything and write it all down. I know it can be difficult if you eat out a lot, but serving sizes can 'swell' surprisingly fast when you don't keep a close eye. That restaurant steak is way over a 3 serving size (the recommended number of servings a day for protein foods). If weighing and measuring seems like hard work, maybe weigh and measure for the first week of each month, and judge by eye the rest of the time. But continue to write everything down with approximate serving sizes.

Always be aware of the food you are eating. And enjoy it! Slow down and savour it.

Tortilla wraps : Wk54/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Takes longer if you make the wraps
1 cup cake (plain) flour
1 cup nutty wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
10ml vegetable oil
190ml fat free milk, lukewarm
Pinch salt
Extra flour, for rolling out

My filling:
1 x 425gm tin tuna in brine, drained
1 stick celery, sliced
90ml low fat mayo
1 lettuce, shredded
2 carrots, grated
3 tomatoes, sliced
½ red onion, cut in rings
2 eggs, hard boiled and sliced

Mix the flours, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
Make a ‘well’ in the centre and pour in the milk and oil.
Work it all into a sticky dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3 minutes.
Rest the dough, covered with a damp cloth, for 10 – 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls and rest again for 15 minutes.

Take one ball of dough at a time and roll it out to ±20cm circle.
Spray a heavy-based pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry each wrap for 3 – 4 minutes each side.
Remove from the pan and lay on a clean tea cloth; cover with a sheet of foil (to keep in the moisture).

For the filling, combine the tuna, celery and mayo.
Spread this down the centre of each wrap and top with all the other salad-y bits.
Roll up each wrap and hold closed with a toothpick.

These tortillas are far superior to the commercial ones and well worth the effort of making. They also freeze well (unfilled, of course!) – seal in plastic and freeze for up to a month. Thaw fully, wrap in foil and reheat in a warm oven before filling with whatever you like.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Water, water, everywhere

It falls from the sky (if we're lucky).We swim and play in it. We wash in it. We take it for granted.

Our bodies are between fifty and sixty percent water, depending on gender. Every single cell of the body needs water to function optimally. Water helps the body get rid of toxins. Without adequate water the body's metabolism (how it burns fat) slows down - the same as it would if you skipped a meal. We need water to absorb and circulate the water-soluble vitamins (eight 'Bs' and 'C'). Water in the body helps control body temperature and aids in weight loss. It's required for proper digestion. It keeps our skin supple and looking good. Water is refreshing and contains no kilojoules, and it's as good as free (from the tap, at least).

A lot (if not all) diets want you to drink upwards of eight glasses of water a day, and if you aren't going to drink anything else it's probably do-able. But most of us still enjoy our morning cuppa - I know I can't do without mine. We actually need about two and a half litres of fluid a day. Approximately one litre will come from the food we eat, but the rest has to be ingested in some form of liquid.

If you live in a hot climate, or you do strenuous exercise, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, then you will need more liquid, and water is by far the best available. Don't let yourself be thirsty. By the time you consciously register that you are thirsty, you are already two percent dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to headaches, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and dizziness. You can go without food for two to three weeks, but going without water (liquids) will kill you in under one week.

Babies and toddlers have a less developed sense of thirst than adults, so they need to be encouraged to drink water in order to maintain a constant body temperature, especially after exercise. Set an example. It'll be good for your children and good for you.

Salmon mousse : Wk53/5

Serves 4 : Very easy : Extra time needed for setting
1 x 230gm can salmon in brine, drained
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup Helman’s low fat mayo
¼ cup lite tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 dessert spoon gelatin
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup white wine vinegar

Lettuce leaves
Sliced tomato and cucumber
Baby sweetcorn
Spring onions
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered

Tip the salmon into a bowl and flake it.
Add the onion, mayo and sauces to the bowl.

Dissolve the gelatin in the water, then add the vinegar.
Pour this mixture into the salmon mix and stir well.

Pour into 4 individual moulds or one large one.
Allow to set in the fridge.

Lay out the salad ingredients, in rings, around each of four plates, leaving a space in the middle.
Turn out the set mousse into the centre.
Garnish with the egg quarters.

Serve with crusty bread, if desired.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Link to .pdf file for Week 54

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 54.

Cheat’s pizza : Wk53/4

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 naan breads
4 Tblsp tomato paste
1 small onion, sliced in rings
4 large mushrooms, sliced
3 large tomatoes, sliced
4 rings pineapple. halved
1 round (80gm) low fat feta
4 slices lean back bacon

Simple salad of:
Mixed leaves
Sweet salad peppers
Cocktail tomatoes

Heat the oven to 200ºC.
Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the naan breads on the baking tray.
Spread with tomato paste.
Lay on onion rings, then sliced mushrooms.
Cover with thick slices of pineapple, then the feta and lastly the bacon.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with the salad.

Our feta cheese comes in rounds of ±70gms each. I sliced the through the middle before cutting in half. If your feta is not round, use 80gms (20gms per person) crumbled instead. You could use pita pockets in place of the naan breads.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

10 weight loss tips

1. Always, always eat breakfast. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning, and high levels of cortisol encourage fat storage. Cortisol is an anti-diuretic and can weaken the activity of the immune system.
Stress and anxiety will also raise cortisol levels. Insulin counters the action of cortisol. Insulin is released when we eat.

2. Eat your evening meal before seven - if at all possible. I know this is difficult if you eat out a lot, or work long hours and still have to prepare a meal when you get home. But allowing several hours between eating and bedtime will improve your sleep.

3. Slow down, you eat too fast. Put knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Count how many times you chew each mouthful - I bet it's less than 20 times, and the recommendation is 30! Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s had enough, so eating more slowly is essential.

4. Dish up, clear up. Whether you are snacking (hopefully fruit, nuts or seeds!) or dishing up dinner, serve a portion and put the rest away. Don't eat straight from the packet or container. Don't eat standing in front of an open fridge. Don't keep food hot while you eat - cold leftovers are not so appealing as a second helping.

5. Eat vegetables first. Fill up on veg and salads (slowly), and you won't be tempted to over-eat starches and protein. If you’re eating out, resist the temptation of the bread.

6. Ask for separate sauce/dressing. It is pretty well impossible to tell just how much dressing is on a restaurant salad - and I'm sure it's not a low-fat variety! If you are at home, measure your salad dressing. You don't need much. Gravy, cheese sauce, mushroom sauce, garlic butter sauce, whatever, measure.

7. Presentation, presentation, presentation. Serve food attractively - nice plate, nice cutlery, good glassware, well set table. That's what makes a restaurant meal appealing. So don't just dish up any old how; make it look good.

8. Practice portion control. Always. When you eating at home, make a point of weighing and measuring your portions. Portion sizes 'grow' if you are not watchful. This is a necessary lifestyle adaptation if you truly want to lose weight and keep it off. It's an eating style, not a restriction.

9. Don't feel deprived. If you want it, eat it - just remember 8 above. As the old adage goes 'a little bit of what you fancy does you good'.

10. Drink more water. We often confuse hunger with thirst. Have a glass of water before and after a meal - if you can't manage the post-prandial glass then you probably ate more than you needed to.

Pasta shells : Wk53/3

Serves 4 : Very easy : Very quick
240gm pasta shells
12 cocktail tomatoes, quartered
½ small cucumber, chopped
6 – 8 spring onions, sliced
1 small can sweetcorn kernels, rinsed and drained
½ cup thawed frozen peas
½ yellow pepper, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
Lettuce leaves
For the dressing:
2 Tblsp Helman’s low fat mayo
½ cup fat free plain yoghurt
¼ cup fat free milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Cook the pasta shells in lightly salted water until al dente.
Drain and rinse with cold water.

Measure the dressing ingredients into a small jug or bowl.
Whisk well to combine.
Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, cucumber, onions, sweetcorn, peas, pepper and bean sprouts in a large bowl.
Add the pasta and toss well.
Just before serving, stir the dressing through the pasta mix.

Place some lettuce leaves on each of 4 dinner plates or bowls.
Pile on the pasta and serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fish with lemon and herb mayo : Wk53/2

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
4 skinless hake fillets
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
4 Tblsp grated parmesan
2 Tblsp fresh chopped parsley
Grated rind of ½ lemon

For the mayo:
3 - 4 Tblsp fat free plain yoghurt
2 Tblsp Helman’s low fat mayo
30ml lemon juice
Grated rind of ½ lemon
2 Tblsp chopped fresh basil

Make the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients and mixing well.
Set aside.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley and lemon rind in a shallow dish.
Pat the fish with kitchen paper to absorb any excess moisture.
Dip the fish in the breadcrumb mixture and press gently to coat.
Gently shake off any excess crumbs.
Spray the coated fillets with non-stick cooking spray.

Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Dry fry the fish for about 5 minutes each side, or until the flesh flakes easily.

Serve with a dollop of the dressing.

I served mixed salad leaves, cocktail tomatoes, oven chips and frozen peas with the fish – the choice of accompaniments is up to you!

Monday, January 10, 2011


So here we are, the new year has begun, bringing with it new opportunities and challenges. Did you make any resolutions? What are your goals for this year? These notes on goal setting don't only apply to weight loss.

When we set goals, most of us tend to get carried away. We are far too ambitious - and the more ambitious we are at the outset, the less likely we are to succeed.When you think 'I need to lose weight', you will probably stipulate the total amount of weight you want to lose, and a specific (short) time period in which to lose it. This approach will more than likely fail because the goal you have set yourself is unrealistic and unattainable! Better by far to break it down into baby steps, and not to put a time limit on success. Success breeds success, so after completing the first baby step (e.g. losing 2kg) you are going to happily commit to the next (baby) step. And so on. Baby steps will help you win minor victories in the march to a major goal.

So what changes in lifestyle are you going to implement to achieve your mini-goal? Most people will say that to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more - right AND wrong answer!

To lose weight, we need to implement adequate healthy eating habits and sensible exercise.
Let's get the sensible exercise out of the way first. I am NOT a personal trainer. Personally, I am lazy; a lazy cook, and lazy generally. I have never exercised. Not in the formal go-to-gym/aerobics way. Yes, I played netball, tennis and hockey (most reluctantly!) at school. But I have always maintained that I got enough exercise looking after my husband, children and house. If you are into gym, then good for you; the endorphins produced by exercise are positive and very uplifting. The only exercise I introduced at the midpoint of my weight loss program was walking. Actually, not even walking. More of a brisk stroll; pushing my grandson in his pushchair, up to the local supermarket and back (not even a kilometer round trip), weather and nap times permitting, three times a week. But only if I felt like it. If you are not into gym, don't feel you have to start now, especially if you have a preclusive medical condition.

That brings me to the adequate healthy eating habits. Which is what I have been writing about over the past thirteen months – and what I will continue to write about.

Ham salad : Wk53/1

Serves 4 : Very easy : Quick
For the dressing:
1 Tblsp Patak’s tikka masala curry paste
1 tsp honey
1 Tblsp lemon juice
125ml fat free plain yoghurt
Small bunch of fresh mint
For the salad:
200gm mixed salad leaves
100gm dried cranberries
6 – 8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
8 baby corns, quarters lengthways
1 red pepper, sliced
300gm thick-cut ham, cut in sticks

Place the curry paste, honey, lemon juice yoghurt and mint leaves in a blender and pulse to combine.
Set aside.

Arrange the salad leaves in a large serving dish.
Scatter with the spring onions, corn and red pepper.
Top with the cranberries and sticks of ham.

Serve the salad with crusty bread.
Allow people to serve themselves with dressing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Link to .pdf files for Week 53

Go here for the recipes and shopping list for Week 53.

These recipes will feature on-line each weekday next week. The .pdf file gives a printer-friendly version with a shopping list so you can do your grocery shopping over the weekend.

Monday, January 3, 2011


After the last few weeks of celebration, over indulgence and lack of exercise, it’s time to start a recovery program. My house is in chaos and my digestive system is begging for mercy.

I have been preparing, serving and eating at least two formal meals a day for the last two weeks – breakfast was mostly an informal, help-yourself affair – but my guests leave today and I am back on the healthy eating track. Hopefully the weight I have picked up will come off fairly quickly.

Next week I’ll start sharing recipes again, until then I have some cleaning and laundry to do!

Here’s hoping 2011 will be a kinder year for all of us.