Portion Control

A major issue (in my eyes) concerning weight loss and health, is the subject of portion control. Once upon a time I was guilty of this. I mean why have a slice of cake, when you can have a dirty big wedge? Why have a scoop of mashed potato, when you can have something resembling a volcano on your plate? And why have a grating of cheese, when a slab is better on a cracker? When it came to portion control, I was ridiculously off the scale. Not only was I generous to myself, but to others including my family who were lured to my food. The problem was, that once I started my healthy eating regime and actually weighing stuff, my stomach and brain had some serious shrinkage to do.

As I discovered more on my journey, I realised I was not the only one with a warped sense of portion control. I would ask random people, what they thought a portion was, and they too were guilty as charged. In fact they were so shocked that one woman immediately went out and bought a set of scales. Like many others, she just went along with what her parents had put on her plate, and carried on the way she was brought up. Another startling fact was that many people felt they had to clear their dinner plates. This is another habit from their childhood. Phrases from their parents like  “don’t you leave any food on your plate or it will block my sink” and “you won’t get any after’s (dessert) unless you finish every mouthful.” It appears that many people were influenced by their parents.  The notion of stopping when they were full, did not come to mind.

One group of people who spring to my mind was the school dinner ladies.  My goodness, they were cracking cooks, and I shall fondly remember the Manchester Tart and custard, which was definitely adult sized portions than that for a child.  Was I going to complain? Was I heck as like! School dinners especially in primary school (before they were stopped) were so delicious.  I’ve always had a healthy appetite, and will pretty much eat anything.  So the generous school dinner lady portions of dinner were given a big thumbs up from me.  In fact, one lady was so wonderful that she would always give me a little bit more.  I liked her a lot!  The only time I wasn’t keen on the dinner ladies, was when we were given bottles of milk to drink with straws at morning break time.  It was full cream milk, and when the bottles were warm in the summer, I could positively feel my stomach lurching.  It is one food memory I would have happily had no portion of!

So what is a portion?  How do you know what amounts you should eat?  Most foods have a guideline on the packaging.  This gives you all the details such as what qualifies as a portion, along with calories, fats, sugars etc.  Not enough people pay attention to this.  However turning to portion control, I wanted to do an experiment.  Below is a photo of two bowls of shreddies.  The one on the left is how many people fill the bowl at 80g.  The one on the right is the correct 40g portion.IMG_1302.jpg

The next photo shows a 75g uncooked portion of whole-wheat pasta.  Most people eat double this amount.  Taking calories from what should be around 257 calories (75g) to 514 calories (150g).

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You can begin to see, that if we keep doubling up portions at each meal, how we can be overeating and soon have weight issues.  When on my “Health Is Your Wealth” eating regime, the first thing I suggest to people is to actually weigh out what they are eating.  This can be a real shock at first, but a real benefit as to how weight has been added without much thought.

I remember the first time I decided to weigh out guideline amounts of for food myself.  I must have spent ten minutes shaking the scales, hoping and praying that there was some mistake and fault with them.  There wasn’t.  The scales were accurate, it was my head not wanting to accept what a correct portion amount was, that was wrong.  Interestingly,  once my body adjusted to the proper portion amount, I no longer felt hungry.  Although at the beginning of my regime and exercising portion control, I could have easily snapped.  Willpower is vital, but if you crack it, you will feel the benefits.  It is all about removing the previous habits of portion size, and replacing those habits with your new lifestyle.  It isn’t easy, because over generous amounts seem to be woven into us.  I can only encourage you by saying that once you do get used to it, your body feels less burdened with the digestion of food, and you end up feeling more comfortable.

Most people are not good with portion control, when it comes to healthy stuff either.  They think 3 peas on a plate is a portion, and one sprig of broccoli is another.  I shall be looking at getting more than your 5 a day later on in this journey, but what is noted, is that we are more generous with naughty food than the truly good stuff.

Making sure you eat enough and don’t starve yourself is another subject.  People crash diet and this sends the body into chaos.  It doesn’t work long-term ladies and gents.  This is a whole subject of its own, which again, I shall be writing about very soon.  Your first goal at present, is to modify your current amounts of food you are eating.  So if say your cereal bowl is overflowing, start with altering that.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Win over small changes, and you are more likely to continue the plan and make other positive steps.

The information that you should look out for on the packaging is similar to below.  Some food companies are extremely good, and give even greater detail.  Make yourself familiar with these boxes of information.  Check the calorie content.  Even some healthy foods have a high calorie content, so it is then that you need to check how much saturated fats, and everything else there is.  Not all fats are bad, but this is another subject which will be covered in future.  It is about striking balances and making better choices for you and your body.

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Creamy Spinach Soup

There are quite a few people feeling run down and under the weather with various illnesses at present.  So with that in mind, I wanted to post a recipe for a soup that will put some good stuff in your immune system.  You don’t have to include the cream if you don’t want to.

creamy spinach soup

 

Ingredients

20g butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1.3 litres chicken stock
300g spinach
Nutmeg
Juice of ½ a lemon
4 tbsp single cream

Heat the butter in a large sauce pan over a medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook gently for 8 minutes until onions are soft but not brown. Add the garlic and potato cubes and cook, stirring, for a further  2 minutes.

Add the stock, and gradually bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Add the spinach leaves, and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Purée the soup with a hand-held blender until smooth. Season with some freshly grated nutmeg.

Then, add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the soup back to the simmer and then stir in the cream.

Low Calorie Section

I have added a new section that I am adding to my site called ‘Low Calorie,’ as I am being asked by people almost on a daily basis, to give them recipes and ideas to eat healthier.

I would like to stress at this point, that although the recipes are ‘low calorie’ I do this with health, rather than weight loss in mind.  Many will enjoy a loss of weight naturally when they eat well and ditch the junk.  Just testing some of my recipes over the last week, I have lost well over half a stone in weight, yet I do not feel deprived.  It is important to eat well and make sure that you get the right calories in your body for your height/sex/age/weight and activity level.  With that in mind, I have a few useful suggestions for you.

 

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First I purchased a pedometer quite cheaply from Argos for around £14.00.  It simply straps to your waist and you can forget about it and get on with your day.  I always aim for 10,000 steps per day but often it will end up being 12,000.

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Second, I placed the nutracheck app on my phone, which enables me to find out what my calories should be.  It also allows me to check food calorie/fat levels and I can add the food either from a bar code scan or manual input.  I also get control over how much weight I may wish to lose, whether I wish to stay at my weight or if I want to gain some weight.  It gives me lots of useful data and some of which has been surprising.  Simply swapping dairy yoghurt to a soya alternative reduced my calories by quite a substantial margin.  The biggest shock was that I really enjoyed the soya version, and do not find it in any way a sacrifice.  The next myth I wish to dispel is that fruit and veg are ‘free food’.  I need to be clear that they DO contain calories.  For instance 1 large banana is around 92 calories, whereas a nectarine is 36 calories.  Little swaps and changes can make a huge difference.  The app also gives you information on how many of your 5 a day you are eating, plus how much water you have drunk and still need to drink!

Third, I purchased a good set of digital scales as portion control is the biggest issue many people have.  Weigh out 30g the recommended amount of Special K cereal, and be truthful as to whether or not that is the amount you usually place into your bowl?

To be healthy and to lose weight is not rocket science.  What it does require is discipline and commitment.  Exercise (even brisk walking) and eating well, will not just help you shift a few pounds but will make you feel more alive and well.

Over time, I shall be giving you some recipes for low-calorie foods to help you.  These will be rough calorie guides and of course depends on your portion sizes.

Here is to health for 2016!

Coconut Bean Soup

Low fat, spicy and packed full of good ingredients!  It is also a vegan recipe, so makes a good change to be off meat and let the body have a rest.  This recipe is popular in Africa and I understand it is particularly popular in Tanzania.  Today I made this for the Victory Health & Food Group and nothing was left over.  We decided to leave the salt out of the recipe, for those on a low salt diet (blood pressure) but you can always add a little for yourself.

 

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 green or red pepper chopped
8 tomatoes chopped
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
1 x 410g can of kidney beans drained
800ml of water
100g of cooked brown rice
2 tsp of medium strength curry powder
2 chillis deseeded and chopped (use 1 chilli if you are not keen on heat)
Salt and pepper

Place the olive oil in a large pan let it melt, then add the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes on a moderate heat. Do not let the onions colour too much.  Add the tomatoes, curry powder, chilli’s (if using) and fry for a further 3 minutes.  Then add the coconut milk, kidney beans, salt and pepper and water.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the rice and cook for a further 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Chicken & Avocado Salad

Looks like we are getting a bit more of a summer again here in the UK.  It has been rather pleasant over the last few days, and so the stodgy foods can be put to the side for a while. I have a beautiful ripe avocado just waiting to be eaten, and as they are so good for skin and hair who am I to argue?IMG_1749

I really enjoy this dish, which can be made as a nice light lunch or bulked out with new potatoes or a jacket potato for a main meal. I like salads, but they have to be tasty. So many restaurants that I have been in, seem to fill the plate with lettuce leaves and precious little else!

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken breasts or the same amount from left over chicken shredded
  • 3 slices of streaky bacon, cooked crispy and chopped into small bits
  • 100g watercress washed and dried on kitchen paper
  • 2 little gem lettuces washed and leaves separated
  • 1 Avocado sliced and chopped into 2 cm pieces
  • ½ a cucumber chopped
  • ½ red onion finely sliced
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Good pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Take your chicken, bacon, lettuce, watercress, cucumber and onion and mix together in a large bowl well. This is important as you don’t want clumps of any one type of food when you serve it up.

If you are serving this immediately then you can slice the avocado and add that too. If you are preparing it for later, then either wait to include the avocado or gently coat the avocado in lemon juice. The reason is because avocado can go a little bit mottled brown, if you leave it too long.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and either mix by shaking in a jam jar with a lid on, or whisk it up with a hand whisk.

Once all the salad ingredients are together then add the dressing, again making sure that it is reasonably well coated. If you think there is too much dressing, then save it in the fridge for a week or two, and use it up on something else.