Which Diet Works For You?

Are you one of the 32% of the population who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Or maybe, you’re one of the 38% who plan to exercise more.  Either way it suggests you would like to improve your lifestyle.

All good … but with all the diet plans floating around, how would you know which diet plan works best for you?

Fad diets come and go – celebrity diets, blood type diets, the new Atkins diet, Rosemary Conley, Whole Food Plant-based diet (WFPB) – the list is endless. A number of them are supported by sound marketing plans and are pretty expensive, too. No surprise it all gets so confusing.

Which diet is best for you?

The best diet for you is called “Moderation”.

It is true that if you follow a diet low in carbs, you lose weight.  Likewise if you eliminate fat from you diet.  If you’re a gym fanatic and workout 6-7 days a week, you are also likely to lose weight.

If you eliminate a food group (carbohydrates, fat or protein) from your diet, you will lose weight (unless you replace the calories with a different food).  But how sound and sustainable will your diet or lifestyle be?

If a healthy lifestyle was one of your New Year’s resolutions, moderation is key.  If you are aiming at weight loss, portion size matters.

What do you understand by a “balanced diet”?

The word “diet” has become synonymous with food restriction.  This is not the case.  The primary definition of the word “diet” is:  the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

A balanced diet is a plan that is sound and sustainable. It is sociable and you do not “come off” a balanced diet after a number of weeks.

  • A balanced diet provides you with the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
  • It also provides you with the right amount of energy.  If your energy intake is greater than your expenditure, you will gain weight and vice versa.
  • Sufficient fluids (not alcohol) are an integral part of a balanced diet.
  • A balanced diet is low in refined sugar and salt.

What foods make up a balanced diet?

Eatwell GuideIn order to function properly your body needs both macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) as well as micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main source of food for the brain and must be available in constant supply for the brain to function properly.  Carbs are found in foods such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that 50-55% of your energy intake comes from unprocessed whole grains, pulses and vegetables.

Fat

Eliminating fat or following a low fat diet can have serious consequences.  Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) cannot be transported round the body in the absence of fat. Besides, fat provides the body with energy, insulation, cell construction and prevents evaporation.  Good sources of fat are oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fat is 33% of your energy (calorie) intake.

Protein

Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes (to mention but a few sources). It is an essential food group, however, contrary to popular belief, your body does not require huge amounts.  The RDA is 1g / kg of body weight – which equates to approximately 10% of your energy intake.  The body cannot store excess protein.  When intake exceeds requirements, it is either eliminated in urea or stored as fat.

Vitamins and minerals

Your body’s requirements of vitamins and minerals is tiny when compared to carbs, fat and protein. If you are eating a variety of unprocessed foods, especially fruit, vegetables and legumes, your intake of vitamins and minerals should be sufficient.

Your New Year’s resolutions are SMART

A healthy lifestyle is achievable and sustainable.  It’s certainly not as overwhelming as it sounds.  If you manage a balanced diet (in the right portions), keep yourself hydrated and include 30 minutes of activity every day, you’re guaranteed quality of life.

Contact me for help with your weight loss programme.

 

My thanks go to:

NHS UK

Google Dictionary

Harvard Health Publishing

NHS Guidelines

Livestrong.com

Telegraph.co.uk

Image: Public Health England and Wales

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What does your traditional Christmas dinner consist of?

Merry Christmas to you, loyal followers of my blog posts.

Have you ever thought how Christmas was celebrated a few decades ago?  What was a traditional Christmas dinner like? On the spur of the moment, I thought I’d have a quick look at Christmas in Malta, not so long ago.

At the time, Malta being a devoutly Catholic country, Christmas centred around ecclesiastical celebrations.  In the run up to Christmas, young children participated (some still do, today) in a procession around the village (il-purcissjoni tal-bambin), carrying a figure of the baby Jesus and singing Christmas carols along the way.

Christmas
Baby Jesus, black treacle rings and imbuljuta

The Christmas crib and baby Jesus were typical decorations of every household with midnight mass, on Christmas eve, being the highlight of Christmas celebrations.  During this mass, a young boy was chosen to deliver a heart-felt Christmas sermon.  Another tradition that’s still around, to this day.

A tradition which seems to have died over the years is the traditional Maltese Christmas meal.  Turkey was not always on the Christmas menu.  In most  families, the Christmas menu consisted of a fattened capon (ħasi) accompanied with baked potatoes (patata l-forn) and a selection of seasonal vegetables.  Very often, the big bird and potatoes were cooked – kind-of baked but not exactly roasted – in a very large, tailor-made dish. On Christmas day, in the morning, housewives and husbands alike would take their dishes to the local bakery – home ovens were not large enough to cook the traditional Christmas meal. Crusty, local bread was typically served with the meal to mop up the juices from the bird and potatoes.  Usually, vegetables were cooked at home.

The main course was followed by a pastry ring stuffed with black treacle.  Nowadays, these traditional sweets, known as treacle rings (qagħaq tal-għasel), are found at local confectioneries, but they do not necessarily form part of the Christmas meal.  They’re more likely to be served at tea time.

As if that wasn’t enough, the traditional Christmas meal would end with a thick, warm drink of stewed chestnuts and cocoa (imbuljuta tal-qastan).  The warm, thick, chocolaty beverage was also the go to drink after midnight mass and throughout the cold, winter months.

I remember my mother cooking a traditional Maltese Christmas lunch.  What was Christmas lunch like, when you were younger?

My thanks go to

Azure.com – Top 5 Christmas Customs in Malta
A Maltese Mouthful
Ilovefood.com.mt
196flavors.com

Image:  Introduzzjoni ghall-ikel u nbid ta’ Malta – Puligraf Publishing

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Made Easy

Hi! Good to be back! It’s been very busy indeed, with plenty of study and a fair amount of experiments in the kitchen.

Speaking of cooking … a blessing or a curse?  A pleasure for some but a headache for others.  Would you like some tips on  how to make your meal planning easy?

I came across “Planning Meals” in my course work Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention and it inspired me to share these tips with you.

As a working mother, I always found meal planning very helpful.  But when my children left home, I was less fussed about planning meals. Old habits die hard and when I came across this section in my notes, it rekindled a passion from the past.

Historically, I used to spend a good couple of hours, typically on a Sunday afternoon, leafing through my cookery books.  I love it; so relaxing (agreed – not everybody’s cup of tea!) But the advent of the Internet changed all that!

From my course work I picked this very good tip – “theme nights” – which inspired me to write this piece and share it with you. Here goes …

Write down your “theme nights” – example: Monday – pasta; Tuesday – fish; Wednesday – mince / grains / pulses; Thursday – rice; Friday – soups / salad; Saturday – kids’ favourite meal; Sunday – family treat out / old favourite recipe.

There are various meal planning apps these days. Alternatively, you can go for a more flexible approach and run a search for the food you’d like to eat. Keep your searches simple – do not choose complicated recipes with plenty of ingredients – unless you are blessed with time on your hands.  The trend is five-ingredient recipes.

Refine your searches as you go – browse by ingredients instead of recipes.  If you have leftover pasta in the fridge and a broccoli head that’s losing it’s bright green colour, Google “pasta with broccoli” and presto! You end up with a number of recipes to choose from. It’s that easy!

Ask your kids for their suggestions, even if they’re still young.  Involving your family with meal planning will make it less likely you have complaints at supper time and instills good habits in kids.

What are the benefits of meal planning?

  • Meal planning saves time, effort and stress;
  • It’s cost effective;
  • You have all your ingredients readily available;
  • You can work around commitments by preparing ahead.

 

The secret behind successful meal planning is not how detailed your plan is, but how varied.  Make it interesting – present a rainbow of colour and texture with every meal.  Ensure meals contain carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to meet your family’s nutritional needs.  Look for seasonal offers, especially at your vegetable man and buy local produce.  Local fruit and veg in season, is likely to save you money and give you a product that’s more fresh than it’s imported counterpart.

Download your weekly menu planner, courtesy of Future Fit Training School of Nutrition, to get you started.

Weekly Menu PlannerWeekly menu planner (1)

My thanks go to:

Future Fit Training School of Nutrition
Lifehacker.com – Five Best Meal Planning Apps
Allrecipes.com – 5 Ingredient Recipes
Seriouseats.com – Dinner tonight: Pasta e Broccoli Recipe

 

How To Make Your Perfect Salad

Are you a salad person?  Not everyone is, but in the summer heat, nothing beats a fresh salad.  Most salads do not require any cooking, saving you hours sweating it out in the kitchen to prepare your meals.  Quick, easy and packed with healthy nutrients.

As if that’s not enough, salads can help you lose weight, as part of a calorie-controlled diet and the water content in fruit and veg helps in keeping you hydrated.

What do you understand by “salad”?

According to the English dictionary, the definition of a salad is: “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.”

Whether you are having a side salad with your meat or fish, or you’re having a salad as a main, remember that greens are an essential part of your salad.

Ingredients for a tasty salad

Indeed, greens are an important ingredient when making a salad. However, it is not appetising to be served with a mountain of salad leaves and a small topping of sorts.  The ‘perfect’ salad contains a balanced amount of ingredients and their taste and texture compliment one another.

When making your own salad, go for the freshest seasonal produce you can find.  Buying seasonal vegetables saves you money and they taste better, too.

Wash your vegetables thoroughly and dry them well (using a salad spinner or a clean tea towel) and cut them into bite-size pieces. Keep it simple; do not throw everything you find in the fridge into your salad.  The tastiest of salads are made up with a handful of ingredients.  A couple of salads that come to mind are the caprese and the Greek salad.

Variety is the spice of life … be adventurous with your ingredients.  Replace your meat or fish with grains or legumes – such as spelt, kamut, lentils, buckwheat, barley or quinoa (a seed not a grain) – to give your salad substance.

Make your salad as colourful as possible by including a variety of leaves and/or vegetables. Add texture to your salad by adding fresh or dried fruit, toasted nuts or seeds, olives and capers.

Making your own dressing

Season your salad and add fresh herbs to enhance the taste.  Finally, toss your salad in a delicate dressing of infused olive oil or make your own mixture of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider or balsamic).  For extra taste you can add ginger, garlic and whole grain mustard to your oil.  Put all the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar and mix well.

Here’s five classical recipes, courtesy of OliveTomato.com, to get you started.

My thanks go to

 

OliveTomato.com

Epicurious.com

Google.com for images

 

Do You Drink Enough Water?

Did you know that drinking enough water is part of a healthy lifestyle regime?  You can go without food for weeks, but you cannot go without water for more than just a few days.  Sixty per cent of your body weight is made up of water.

Water is the all important lubricant your body needs, for it to function properly.

Why is water so important?

On a hot summer’s day, water is indispensable to quench your thirst. But quenching your thirst is just one of the important functions of water.

  • Water regulates your body temperature especially in hot weather, during exercise  or when you’re ill;
  • It acts as a ‘lubricant’ keeping your tissues, spinal cord and joints moist;
  • Water is an essential element for good digestion;
  • It also aids in preventing constipation.

 

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration cannot be treated lightly; it can kill you within three days.

How would you know if you’re becoming dehydrated?  Waiting for thirst to strike, before you reach out for water, is not best practice.  There are other signs which suggest you are suffering from mild dehydration, even before you feel thirsty.

  • Dark-coloured urine;
  • Headache, dizziness, feeling foggy and lightheaded;
  • Feeling tired;
  • Constipation;
  • Dry eyes, nose, mouth and tight skin.

Drinking water

How much water should you drink?

The famous ‘8 x 8’ – i.e. eight glasses of eight ounces – has been around for a long time. However, the amount of water you drink cannot be pinned down exactly.  Different people have different requirements.  The amount of water you drink is determined by the type of food you eat, the temperature of your environment and your activity level. Illness is another factor which impacts the amount of water you drink. For example, if you’re feeling feverish, it is important to regulate your body temperature by increasing your water intake.

A good guideline to follow is one millilitre of water for every calorie burnt.  Therefore, if you consume circa 2000 calories in a day, aim for an intake of approximately two litres of water.

 

How do you keep yourself well-hydrated?

You can get some of your water through your diet.  An adequate amount of fruit and vegetables contribute towards your water intake.

Prepare your water for the day and keep track of the amount of water you drink.

Avoid sugary drinks and remember that coffee and alcohol make you urinate often; they are not necessarily suitable re-hydrants.

Now that you know how good water is for you, make it part of your healthy lifestyle. Drink or sip good old water regularly, throughout the day.  You may well find that you feel more energised too.  Enjoy …

 

My thanks go to:

Everyday Health

Shape

Apec Water

Rehydrate

How To Cook Buckwheat

Why do bodybuilders eat buckwheat?  Because they “eat clean” to build lean muscle.  Buckwheat is a super-food, high in protein and fibre, rich in nutrients and antioxidants.  And, like most whole foods high in fibre, buckwheat has a low GI which means, it releases energy slowly and keeps you full for longer.  Consequently, it helps you lose weight, when eaten as part of a calorie-controlled diet.

Buckwheat is gluten-free. It is not a whole grain; it is a seed, completely unrelated to wheat, barley or rye.

What are the benefits of buckwheat?

  1. It improves heart health, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
  2. Contains antioxidants which help fight against cancer
  3. Provides highly digestible protein
  4. High fibre content helps improve digestion
  5. Low GI helps prevent diabetes
  6. Gluten-free
  7. Good source of vitamin B.

Buckwheat is an ancient food.  It knows its origins to Asia and is a staple in Russian cuisine – used as a breakfast cereal, in soups, salads and stews.  In the recent past, the versatility and nutritional benefits of buckwheat have become recognised in the Western world.  Buckwheat flour is used in making pancakes and muffins.

How do you cook buckwheat?

Buckwheat has a subtle nutty taste, but similar to quinoa, it benefits from being used with tasty ingredients for a boost.  I paired it with mushroom and kale and the result was great!

Here’s the recipe for you to try …

Serves 2

  • one cup dry roasted buckwheat – rinsed
  • one medium-sized onion – finely chopped
  • three garlic cloves – crushed and chopped
  • good pinch of dried, crushed chillies (optional)
  • two tbsps olive oil
  • 150grms mushrooms – wiped and quartered
  • 150grms kale – rinsed, stalks removed and leaves torn in bite-size pieces
  • 375ml vegetable stock (I used two tsps Swiss Bouillon powder dissolved in hot water)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

Put the oil in a sauce pan and saute the onion until soft.  Add the garlic and chillies (if using).  Then add the mushrooms and kale leaves, stir and saute for two to three minutes.  Tip in the buckwheat, stir until the seeds are covered with the vegetable mixture. Add the hot stock, stir well and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes. Remove the lid, season with salt and pepper to taste, fluff with a fork and serve.

Try it and leave me a comment to let me know how you got on.  It’s so quick and easy to make … and the result is amazing!  Enjoy …

My thanks go to: