Friday, March 07, 2014

Balancing Act.

Many thanks for comments.  Haven't heard of a Citizens Card mentioned by Floss (whom we welcome) and also Margie, so perhaps this is for use in Canada.  Unfortunately don't have a bus pass (as not mobile enough to walk up to the nearest bus stop), but do have a debit card, although this does not have my photo on it.   Will have to make more enquiries.

Both Buttercup et al have mentioned planning a week's meals at a time, and with Margie mentioning it helps to plan balanced meals, thought this would make a good topic for today's blog as (coincidentally) happened to discover today (while clearing up) a booklet that gave useful info, not just to explain how to eat sensibly, but myself felt the suggestions within each category would be very helpful (to me esp.) when planning how to eat well on a low budget.  We just pick and choose from the cheapest foods in each section.

We're probably all familiar with the 'pie chart' that shows  the proportions of each type of foods we should be eating during the day.  The one-third being the carbohydrates and the same with fruit/veg,  the last third divided between dairy products and meat/fish, and a small wedge of fat and sugars. least.

What I did find really (REALLY) interesting was the proportions of each we should be having.  Just shows how many of us do eat more than we need to keep us healthy.   So here are the foods listed, with the amount we should be having each day - bet you will be surprised how little we need of some, and maybe more of others.

carbohydrates: bread, rice, potatoes and pasta contain the all-important nutrient carbohydrate, broken down by the body and used for fuel.  There are a wide variety of carbos, other than those mentioned (grains, cereals...).
How much we should eat a day can vary between 5 - 14 portions, and - like the pie-chart - one third of our diet should be made up of these foods - aiming to include them in all meals.
How much is a portion?  One helping is equal to 2 - 4 tblsp cereal; 1 slice of bread; 2 - 3 tblsp rice, pasta, couscous, noodles or mashed potato; half a small chapatti; 2 - 3 crispbreads or crackers.

fruit and vegetables: all low in fat and calories, and packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre that keep us in good health - protecting against stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
How much a day?  At least 5 portions that can be fresh, frozen, dried or canned.  A portion size is the amount we can hold in the palm of our hand, and mix and match so that we gain the widest range on vitamins and minerals.

dairy produce: milk, cheese and yogurt all contain calcium which helps to keep our bones and teeth strong.  Also a good source of protein although some can be high in fat (there are lower-fat alternatives on sale).
Aim for 3 portions a day working on 1/3rd of a pint of milk; a small pot of yogurt; 2 tblsp cottage cheese; or a matchbox sized portion of cheese (1.5oz/40g).

meat/fish, eggs and pulses: these foods are high in protein needed for building and replacing muscle cells in the body.  They also contain minerals such as iron (needed for producing red blood cells), Omega 3 fish oils (found in mackerel, salmon and sardines - this oil helps to protect the heart).
Good sources of protein for vegetarians are beans, pulses, lentils, soya and tofu.
From this section aim to have 2 - 3 portions a day.  One portion of meat, poultry (or veg. alternative) is 2-3oz (60-85g). Slightly more for fish (4 - 5 oz/120-140g);  2 eggs; 2 tblsp nuts; 3 tblsp beans, lentils or dahl.

foods high in fat and sugar: most of us don't realise that we could do without these foods altogether, but eaten in moderation (as a treat) won't do us harm other than add more calories to our diet so we end up gaining weight.  Sugary foods/drinks raise blood pressure, so choose low-cal/diet drinks. Reduce the amount of oil when cooking, using lower-fat alternatives when possible.
How much a day?  0 - 4 portions (the lower the better).  One portion is equal to: 2 tsp spread, butter, oil, salad dressing, sugar, jam or honey; tblsp Bombay mix; 1 rasher of bacon; 1/3rd of a vegetable samosa; 1 mini-chocolate bar; 1 scoop ice-cream or 1 tblsp cream.

Just typing these out has made me have a serious thing. Almost certainly my 'portions' are a great deal larger than the above, and I also eat more of them (B eats a LOT more).  Am now feeling guilty because I gave myself 3 rashers of bacon to eat with my salad, adding a handful of grated cheese as well.
However, the booklet does say "the number of portions people need varies, and these are given as a guide.  If needing to lose weight/diabetic your dietician will be able to tell you how much you should eat."

An interesting mention of salt.  Most of the time we are advised not to add salt to the meals we make/foods we eat, mainly because processed foods usually contain salt and the more we eat these the chances are we take in far too much salt.
The limit of salt intake per day should be no more than 0.2oz/6g, so if we have digital scales it is worth measuring it out just so we know just how much is enough.   When adding salt to water when boiling vegetables, the salt stays mainly in the water, so difficult to work out if we take in any or not. Ideally, add salt and the table where we have complete control (although it has to be said that chefs always recommend we add salt (and quite a bit) to the water when cooking pasta - and this definitely improves the flavour).

When dicing the veg for the soup I made yesterday, nibbled a bit of celery that was left, and having heard that adding when making a savoury dish is a good alternative to salt in a savoury dish (never believing it) was surprised when I found it really did taste 'salty'.  So there you go.

Without wishing to encourage readers to go all 'cheffy' and very neatly dice all vegetables to the same small size when making soup, have to say I impressed even myself when I came to eat said soup.  For one thing it took only 10 minutes of simmering for the veggies to be tender (normally taking half an hour), and when I heated the remainder today for my lunch, found it really did taste better than when made in the normal way (roughly chopped).  Not sure why, but it was also very pleasant to eat (each piece being exactly the same small size), and began to understand why top restaurants do go to the trouble of preparing the veggies in the way described yesterday. 
Not that I will always do this, but certainly - when entertaining - my soup will now be given the Michelin star treatment.  It doesn't cost any more, and doesn't really take that much more time, but definitely worth doing.

Here are a couple of recipes using rhubarb Granny G. Or are you wishing for something that can be eaten with days (cake etc)?

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam: makes 6 jars (14oz/400g size)
4.5lb (2kg) rhubarb, chopped
4.5lb (2kg) preserving sugar
thumb-size (2") piece fresh ginger, peeled/crushed
juice of 1 lemon
Place layers of rhubarb and sugar into a bowl, cover and leave to stand overnight.  By this time most of the sugar should have dissolved.
Put this mixture into a preserving pan. tie the ginger in a piece of muslin and add this to the pan with the lemon juice, then heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly for about 15 minutes, or until setting point has been reached.  Remove the bag of ginger, and pot up the jam in warmed, sterilised jars.  Seal and store in a cool place.  Can be eaten immediately when cold, or will keep for several months.

Rhubarb Chutney: makes 6 jars (14oz/400g)
3.5lbs (1.5kg) rhubarb, chopped
1.25lbs (500g) onions, peeled and chopped
2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh (peeled) root ginger
2.5 pints (1.5ltrs) white vinegar
2 lb (900g) soft light brown sugar
1 lb (450g) sultanas
1 tblsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Put the rhubarb, onions, apples, garlic and ginger into a preserving pan.  Add the vinegar the bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, stirring over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved, the increase the heat slightly to simmering stage and cook for a further hour or until thick, stirring occasionally. When a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean path, then the chutney is ready to pot up into warmed, sterilised jars.  Seal with vinegar-proof lids and store ways for a few months to allow the flavour to mature.  Good eaten with ham, cheese, chicken or pork.

Well, that's it for another day.  Writing late evening seems to work well as each time I've been finishing just after midnight, this means the blog is published on the right day.  And as mentioned in once comment, good to have it up and ready to read first thing in the morning. 
Just as well I changed the timing as Norma the Hair has altered the appointment tomorrow to an early start, so I wouldn't have had time to blog.  Now the Friday blog is ready - that's sorted. 
The advantage with writing/publishing early is that if - for some reason - I wish to watch something on TV and don't want to blog late, I can still write/publish it the following morning, so a day won't get missed.  
Not sure what will happen over the weekend as normally I do take Sunday off, but then if I'm writing the Sunday blog late Saturday, maybe won't need to take a day off at all.   Have to wait and see how it works out, but will be blogging tomorrow evening (for Saturday).  Hope to see you then.