Monday, March 10, 2014

Taste of Things To Come...

It's been a bit of a learning curve for me this weekend.  Brought about by a free booklet that came with the weekend supplement to the newspaper, the title being "How much SUGAR in your FOOD?"
giving the definite guide to the hidden sugar in the family shopping basket.
 Quite alarming really when we discover that we're only supposed to have TEN teaspoons of sugar per day, and then read  that some people consumer more than FIFTY teaspoons of sugar a day.

My first thoughts was that ten spoons a day was a great deal more than I eat (as I take sweeteners in my coffee, and drink water).  But then carbohydrates such as bread and pasta rapidly are converted to sugars by our body, and with 32 pages in the booklet giving close to 600 products that we buy/eat and the sugar content, have to say I was very surprised how many vegetables contained sugar, even if by only a small amount (examples: bok choi, 2 tsp; 1large swede, 8.5tsp; 1 leek, 1tsp;  garlic and radishes, and mushrooms (thankfully) none.

I'd already decided to convert to eating vegetable crisps instead of potato crisps (healthier I thought), so this weekend finely sliced a raw beetroot and dried it off in a very low oven.  These turned out well and I really enjoyed eating them.  But the booklet says one beetroot contains 1.5 tsp sugar.  So if I'd sliced and dried enough beetroot to fill a packet (the slices are very small when dried), these would probably have contained all my daily sugar allowance.

As I was becoming more despondent by the moment, decided to check the nutritional values on the (now empty) packs of M's hand-cooked vegetable crisps (they tasted lovely by the way), and a packet of Walker's potato crisps.  Comparing the amount per 100g, unbelievably, the potato crisps had less saturated fat, a lot less sugar, and less protein than the veggie ones, but more carbohydrate. The only advantage it seems with the veggie crisps is that they contained a lot more protein.  Possibly other brands would differ, but it seems nowadays we have to read every label on every tin or packet if we want to make sure we eat as healthily as possible.

When it came to the 'lunch' section, the booklet showed a ham sandwich as half tsp of sugar, with next to it a chicken salsa wrap containing 2.5 tsp sugar.  So now, armed with the booklet, we can choose the foods that contain the least sugars.   Yet, a similar booklet, showing how much salt is in our foods would put the ham sandwich higher than the wrap.  Seems we are doomed whichever way we turn.

If nothing else this proves that the only way we can be sure of eating healthily is to keep as much control over our food intake as possible.  Knowledge is a dangerous thing they say, and have to say that I'm not now certain that all these warnings will be continued indefinitely.  It wasn't so long ago that we were told to stop eating butter and eat margarine instead.  To eat no more than two eggs a week....and then comes the U turn.  It's now OK to eat butter as many margarines are not so good for us after all, and we can eat ten eggs a week if we wish (Margaret Thatcher used to eat four a day, and Saatchi lost weight eating nine eggs a day).  Soon we may hear that we need not cut salt out altogether.   Or has someone already said that?

Sugar - of course - has no nutritional value, so no real point in using it, other than in baking or when making preserves.   Interestingly the booklet gives 40 different foods that we normally choose to eat for breakfast (including bread/toast) but no mention of jam. 
However, did notice that in the 'snacks' section a slice of carrot cake contains eleven tsp of sugar (that's more than the day's allowance), and a Starbuck's skinny blueberry muffin 8.5 tsp.

Have just taken a quick look at the pages dealing with fruit.  Sad to say that we would need to eat only 3 fruit to reach our daily level, so what's all that 'eat five a day' about?  We can't do right for doing wrong it seems.

This is the problem with nutritional guides.  One book says 'eat all the fresh fruit and vegetables you wish' (full of vitamins and low in calories).  Now it seems we should restrict ourselves to those that have the lowest sugar content.  One whole avocado is good (contains only a quarter of a teaspoon), one portion of asparagus only half a teaspoon....  Have you noticed something - these are not cheap!

It's not all bad, the veggies I do like to eat (lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes,  bell peppers, cauliflower...), are half a teaspoon per portion and some even less.  Hellman's mayo is zero (though I believe the reduced fat in most brands of mayo has the fat replaced with added sugar).

The dessert pages in the sugar booklet are a bit scary, and although everything in the book was food that would be purchased in a store (tinned, packets, drinks, ready-meals, fresh fruit and veg etc) probably home-made desserts wouldn't be that much different regarding sugar content. 
I hate to think the number of 'sugar spoons' would be allocated to the Lemon and Lime Pie I made for B this morning, and because I was listening to the Archer's wasn't concentrating,  chucked in three whole eggs instead of just three egg yolks.  "Well, what the heck" I thought, "I use whole eggs when I make a quiche, and that turns out alright", so I used only half a tin of condensed milk (how much sugar has that), whisking it up with an extra 2 oz sugar (I threw in 2 handfuls actually, and bet that came to more than 10 teaspoons) plus the zest/juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon.  Poured this into a pre-baked pastry case (I'd forgotten I'd made it in a Fray Bentos tin, so the diameter was smaller than I expected (and why I used less condensed milk), baked it until just set (centre had a wee bit of a wobble), then when cooled down, chilled it in the fridge.  B said it was absolutely lovely.   So there you go - make a mess of the recipe and it still turns out alright.

Not sure how you all feel about the info we keep being given, but I for one am fed up with it.  Each time I read something new I feel guilty that I've been eating unhealthily for most of my adult life, and also feeding my family the same way.  Yet surely, if B is as healthy as someone twenty years younger (he eats loads of fat - butter, beef dripping, bacon cream, cheese.... and likes sugary desserts and eats loads of sweets), I can't have been doing too much wrong.  Possibly what I have been doing right is to always home-cook meals (other than the very occasional Chinese take-away we might have), and bake the cakes/biscuits etc instead of buying them.  A least a cook can keep control of what ingredients go into whatever she makes.

The last thing I want to have to keep doing is decide to cook something and then wonder if perhaps I shouldn't because it has too much of this, or not enough of that.  Dismiss a recipe (such as the Lemon and Lime Pie) because it contains too much sugar.   Trouble is, I love cooking, and I enjoy eating (not necessarily sweet things), and prefer to eat what I want rather than eat what I'm told I should eat (within reason - being diabetic I do have to be careful with some things).

Even so, it is right that we should have this information for we are still free to choose the road we take.   In the kid's food section of the booklet it gave 80 different products and many were loaded with sugar.  There was a pack of 'mini-chicken bites' that contained no sugar, and with all the hoo-ha about pre-formed chicken being made into 'bites/nuggets etc) it doesn't follow that because a meal contains no sugar it is necessarily good quality. Another reason to make children's food from scratch, at home, from baby-hood right up to adulthood. 

Well after midnight (missed yesterday as went to bed early), and just time for me to reply to comments.

A welcome to Juhli, who - after reading the recipe for Rhubarb Betty has been reminded of eating it many years ago.  It is time we brought some of these old recipes back into use, so if others readers have fond memories of meals their grannies used to make, then I'll chase up the recipes so we can all have a go at making and enjoying them.

Thanks to Hazel for sending the Kaiserschmarm pancake recipe.  It is far more elaborate than our basic Shrove Tuesday pancakes, but looks as though it will be really good to eat.  I may make some tomorrow for both B and myself.

Also thanks to Cheesepare for giving us his easy dessert.   That's the good thing about dried fruit, as when mixed into yogurt and left to stand overnight in the fridge, the fruit absorbs a lot of liquid from the yog, this in turn thickening the yogurt so it ends up (and tastes like) cheesecake.  The more dried fruit added, the thicker the end result.

Apparently the east coast had temperatures of 20C today.  Wow!  Yesterday I saw a bumble bee busy in the garden, and the birds are beginning to make their nests.  Temperatures dropping tomorrow down to 10C in our region, but as the country is sitting under a high pressure area at the moment, we expect several days of good weather.  With this in mind am hoping to scoot out with Norris either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Do hope you will find time to join me tomorrow (which of course is now today as it is after midnight), and if my day goes well should be writing up my next blog (Monday night for Tuesday) late tomorrow evening.  Have to say I'm getting myself all mixed up with this 'today/tomorrow' malarkey, but as long as there is a new blog published every day of the week (bar one), am sure readers don't care one jot what time (or day) it is written.  All I ask is you keep reading. TTFN.