I am no saint when it comes to food. The title of this blog is It’s not easy being greedy for a reason. I am greedy and it’s not easy … but it’s bloody good fun. However, after a December of over-indulging, I doubt I am the only person to be saying to myself “okay, now’s the time to reign it in a bit, cut out the crap and eat healthily”.
I wasn’t too badly behaved this year, mainly because I had a stinker of a cold for 2 weeks which left me without an appetite for several days, and unwilling to booze as I was already dosed up to the eyeballs on Night Nurse (awesome stuff, by the way). That made the office Christmas party a bit dull for me as I drank sparkling water all night.
But as I have already mentioned, I did the obligatory Christmas shop which included many more things than I actually needed: I subsequently ate these goodies in exceptionally large quantities, washed down with wine, champagne, gin and Baileys.
So you may not think I am in the best position to be offering healthy eating advice to you, but since I lost a few stone several years ago doing Weightwatchers, I’ve managed to stay roughly the same size, give or take half a stone or so. After the recent festivities I am at the top end of that weight spectrum, so this is how I intend to get rid of a few pounds and still enjoy my life, and my dinner.
Plan, plan, plan
Luckily I am a little bit OCD and love planning my meals, so I enjoy this part of healthy eating immensely. If you try and organise a week’s worth of menu plans in advance, then you’ll be able to shop efficiently (and cheaply) and stay on the straight and narrow of your diet. I usually do my meal plans on the Thursday and then order my shopping to be delivered on the Sunday morning, so that I can use any ingredients to make meals for the start of the week. I hate it when Andrew decides to go out after work unexpectedly and spoils my plans!
If I am left to my own devices at lunchtime, without a packed lunch, then I will not be able to resist goodies from the local food shops. So instead I make my own lunch every day and eat it at my desk, meaning that I can plough through some work (or take a little peek at Facebook) and resist the temptations of M&S.
Winter for me means soup for lunch, which I make on Sunday from whatever veg needs to be used up in the fridge and take to work in a Thermos every day. Here’s a lovely recipe for butternut squash dahl which is filling and healthy, or a simple tomato soup.
Some people say it’s easier to eat healthily in the summer because you can bulk out your meals with salad, but I find it’s easier to make stews, curries and casseroles at the start of the week so you have dinners which just need to be heated when you get home from work. I usually make a stew and a curry on Sunday which can be eaten later in the week. This is why cooking from scratch is such a good way to improve your diet – you know exactly what’s going into your food and can tweak recipes to suit your own dietary requirements.
A few tips on these: never bother frying off the meat and veg first in oil as it adds unnecessary calories; use lots of herbs and spices to jazz up the flavour – beef with star anise, chicken with pink peppercorns, etc; use coconut milk powder mixed with skimmed milk or water instead of coconut milk; use healthy grains and pulses to bulk out dishes – chickpeas with chicken in a curry, and pearl barley in stews.
Have a stirfry once a week
South East Asian food in general can be very light and healthy but still packed full of flavour, and I especially like to have stirfrys at least once per week. If you use a wok, then you can ‘fry’ your meat and veg in a splash of oil and then add water if anything starts to stick. No matter what I am stir-frying, I always add some rice wine, light soy sauce (for flavour), dark soy sauce (for colour), garlic, ginger and chilli flakes to the first ingredients, then bulk out the stirfry with a pack of beansprouts and a pack of spinach. A 500g pack of rice noodles added to the wok makes enough stirfry for 3 large portions, so enough for lunch the next day if you are fed up of soup!
Cut down on your carbs
Don’t cut them out completely, but I do find I lose weight if I reduce the amount of carbs I eat – particularly bread and pasta. So on a typical day I might still have porridge for breakfast, lentil soup for lunch, but then have a small portion of brown rice or wholemeal pasta for dinner instead of bread and white pasta / rice. If you cut out the carbs as a quick fix, you’ll pile the weight back on when you start eating as normal, so make this relatively simple change part of your healthier lifestyle. Cauliflower ‘rice’ is a great alternative to rice with curries and stirfrys.
Avoid ‘white poison’
Read the labels before you put food into your mouth. The best food label is one which just has one ingredient, eg ‘chicken’ or ‘cauliflower’ but we can’t all be saints all of the time. Try and avoid hidden sugars though: sugar is often added to low fat foods to improve the taste and mouth-feel, so what seems like a healthy choice (low fat fruit yoghurt, low fat cheese) can often be much higher in sugar than you might expect. And that goes for savoury foods too – white bread is one such culprit! Trust your taste – if something tastes sweet then it’s got sugar in it, so try not to eat too much of it.
If I am going to eat sugar, I’d rather know I am doing it with a big slab of cake or a bar of chocolate – not stealth sugar when I mistakenly believe I am being healthy. Again, this is why cooking from scratch is better than relying on convenience food or ready made dinners – you know exactly how much naughty stuff is going onto your plate.
I’d love to hear your healthy eating tips – please leave your comments below, and hopefully we’ll all be having a healthy and happy 2015 together.