Last week I watched a TV programme called Eat Well for Less. I was really hoping it would focus on healthy eating as a way to get people to be more mindful of what they eat ie. cut out the junk and unnecessary extras, waste less food and also help people choose cheaper options without forgoing quality and nutrition. It succeeded to some extent on the last point.
I was staggered to see this apparently average family consume 4 litres of high sugar orange juice very week. Not sure if they rely on BOGOFs but it is a product you often see in these.
Since when did orange juice become such a staple? As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s (yes I have got he grumpy old woman badge) juice came in tiny 50 ml glasses in the B and B’s of annual holidays or as tiny bottles of very sweet Britvic served in pubs! At home we had squash well diluted or Adams ale. Later as a 1980s holiday maker in Greece I remember the reps warning us off drinking the large cartons in a day as it could lead to upset stomachs- due to the acid I presume?
These days in hotels the juice is on tap and people fill large 200 plus ml glasses with impunity. In Boston a few years ago we had to keep saying no to hotel waiters as it seemed they topped it up all the time over breakfast and with a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic in tow, it was off limits. None of them seemed to have any awareness of the sugar content in even a small glass (6 teaspoons) no idea about diabesity then.
More recently the fashion for smoothies has increased sugar from juice intake and now I am told there is a new must have gadget called the Nutribullet which juices up fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds etc to make an allegedly more healthful drink. If you would not eat all this as a snack when whole, why do you need all its calories in one go?
Ask yourself do we really need all these new products?
What’s wrong with eating an actual orange or satsuma instead? That way you get the fibre from the fruit as well as some vitamin C which actually counts towards your 5 a day and takes longer to digest as well as damaging teeth less.
The Food industry makes a fortune selling us those little sachets of packet mix to flavour everything from cottage pie to fajitas. I have never liked to them due to the common inclusion of MSG which disagrees with me and of course their main ingredients of sugar (dextrose) and salt (sodium). They are also more expensive than mixing your own.
Back in the 70s and 80s When I lived in the inner city it was easy to go to the local shops and buy my own spices and experiment with all the then uncommon vegetables on sale, later on larger supermarkets began to stock a much wider range of spices for our increasingly spicy diets.
No little expensive jars for us but big packets to divide up and share with my friends as spices do go stale after a while and stored in honey or pickle jars in a dark cupboard. Don’t think I have ever thrown any out though.
With a few basic spices a wide range of meals can be created.
A medical student showed me basic curry mix learned from his Consultant and Mr Said’s curry became a household favourite (chilli, turmeric, coriander, cumin and salt that’s all- with cheap canned tomatoes to make the sauce.
Latterly as a teacher the students wanted fajitas and this is the recipe I will share today:
1/2 lime (or use bottled juice not the sweetened squash though)
1/2 green or red chilli or 1 teaspoon (5g) dried chilli powder
1 clove garlic
1x15ml spoon fresh coriander or parsley (Optional)
1x10ml spoon vegetable oil 1 medium chicken breast (or turkey or Quorn strips)
1 small onion
1/2 green or red pepper
For those of you addicted to the packet mixes try mixing up your own with half a teaspoon powdered coriander, cumin, chilli or paprika to taste, plus a little salt if you must.
1. Prepare the marinade in a bowl:
squeeze the lime;
peel and crush the garlic;
de-seed and slice the chilli;
chop the coriander;
stir everything together in the bowl with the oil.
2. On a red chopping board, remove any skin from the chicken and cut into strips.
3. Heat pan- Add the marinated chicken to the wok or frying pan and stir-fry for about 4 minutes.
4. Check that the chicken is cooked through should not be any pink
5. Add the onion and green pepper and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes
Wrap in tortilla and serve with guacamole or salsa!
With the current fashion for home baking thanks to The Great British Bake Off and other media influences I have been trying to extend my repertoire of sweet treats that will not add to the diabesity and heart disease explosion.
I was always taught to follow cake baking recipes to the letter in order to get the texture right however experiments with sugar substitutes when I was teaching just did not taste right hence my efforts to cut the sugar in many of the recipes we used. Fruit or plain scones without the sugar, muffins with 20% less all seemed to work well and taste fine.
At home I went further and started to look at some of our old favourites. Tea bread with 20% less sugar than the recipes and ditto lemon layer pudding or cheesecake. I also served up custard powder custard with no sugar at all in it over a crumble with no comments.
Fruit crumble is one of our all time favourites so this is the one I focussed on , Did I need to add sugar to the fruit –no not if it was canned in juice or had been frozen. How about apples? Well the secret is not if you add some home picked blackberries or fresh plums.
I experimented with the toppings for a while and although this does not have the solid texture of a traditional crumble it works for us!
Mix 400g blackberries – picked from the golf course last Autumn during my foraging expeditions and frozen . Add 200g sliced apples – Bramley’s or dessert it make no difference. Place in oven proof dish
Make the topping by rubbing in 30g butter to 50g spelt flour and 50g plain white. Stir in 20g brown sugar and 10 g porridge oats.
Sprinkle over the fruit. Finish with 10g mixed seeds.
Bake at 180 for 25 minutes. Serves 6 and gives about 168 calories a portion
I did not know whether to cheer or sigh at this week’s news in the UK that obesity experts are now launching a campaign to put pressure on the government and industry to cut the sugar content of food and drinks by up to 30%. ( see @Actiononsugar on twitter ) I could hardly believe it when on BBC breakfast this morning Louise Minchin expressed her amazement that 300g Heinz tomato soup contains 4 teaspoons of sugar. (My food of choice incidentally when feeling poorly as was childhood comfort food) Clearly she was never in a Food class taught by me or my colleagues over the last 30 years. I am amazed that more people do not seem to realise how much sugar they are eating
Indeed healthy eating has been on the curriculum for many years and I recall stacking up the sugar cubes with the bottles of cola and sauces as well as breakfast cereals- the ones aimed at children being the worst offenders. 36% sugar in one chocolate flavour cereal when the class collected the packets. Then there were the pies and canned foods students might not have realised were sugary. We even tried to dissolve a tooth in cola once!
Later on in the age of nutritional software we challenged classes to produce snack bars that were less sugary and fatty than many of the premium commercial ones. Yes we succeed too with fruit and nut flapjack, scones and the like. We went on company websites like Starbucks and saw for ourselves the calories from sugar (and fat) in those coffees so many people love tocarry around and from the mega double chocolate chip muffins. Sadly not everyone stopped buying them though and not just as a rare treat but regularly.
For my entire teaching career Professors like Philip James have been advising us to change our habits and develop more awareness. It must be so frustrating for them. Apparently Industry believes we all read and understand food labels and balance our diets by eating less ! so sugar does not need to be targeted…
Plums and greek yogurt
Dr Aseem Malhotra cardiologist and science director of the new group has highlighted the link between sugar consumption and diabetes (type 2) whether we are overweight or not. As a partner of someone who has turned back the tide on type 2 I can assure you that reducing sugar content in his daily diet as well as alcohol (sugary) has played a large part in this. #Diabesity can be reversed
Everywhere I go children are snacking on sugary products popping into the bakery for doughnuts and cakes on the way to school, some of those fruit flavoured packed lunch strips and ‘Childrens yogurts’ make me want to weep for their future health.
Our most recent builders never stopped to eat but they got through a half a kilo of sugar in their tea and coffee in 4 days….
Maybe this time industry will take some responsibility and allow us to control our sugar intake better.