I don’t hate sugar per se, but I do hate how it is snuck into just about everything we eat. It is a highly addictive product, despite the sugar industry denying it – no shock there! The only way you can avoid sugar is to not shop in the centre of your supermarket! The less processed foods you eat, and the more you prepare yourself, the healthier you will be. Sure, you do go through withdrawal, and everything fresh & healthy tastes “wrong” for a while, but that passes, and once you adapt, it is hard to go back. I get posts in my feed of things like Malteser desserts, and Tim Tam’s and the such like – and all it does is put my teeth on edge when I think about how sweet they would be.
When I did Nutrition as part of my Certificate III in Fitness, the tutor asked the class, during a lesson on sugar, what one thing would the body burn first to give you a burst of energy. I was the only one in the class who said…sugar! The human body is intrinsically lazy, and hares to expend energy to run itself, so it looks for the easy way out. Given the choice between sugar, and fat as an energy source – sugar wins because it is easier to burn. However, if you don’t burn it off, it stores it to burn later…thus you get fat.
The sugar industry itself is responsible for a multitude of misinformation, dishonest advertising, and self-funded health reports relling us sugar is not a baddie! It is all very underhanded, and badically caters to the lazy cook, and those who really just don’t care!
There is no harm in some sugar! Have an occasional slice of cake, or biscuit, or a dessert…just don’t do it daily.
Dehydrated cane juice
High fructose corn syrup
Free flowing brown sugars
Corn syrup solids
Fruit juice concentrate
Some of these you will recognize as sugar, but what about ethyl maltol and maltose? Manufacturers are sneaking these types of sugar into everyday products without the consumer knowing what they are eating or drinking. Even the most health-conscious of us consumes processed foods, even if just on the odd occasion. However if we don’t know what these sugars are called, and what they can do to our bodies, how can we make informed decisions? Is the answer to simply avoid processed foods altogether, or are we simply misunderstanding sugar and the effect it has on us?
This often-maligned compound now comes in a dazzling array of flavours and textures from countries across the globe, writes Helen Greenwood.
We all know too much salt is bad for us. Yet we can’t live without the ionic compound known as sodium chloride or NaCl. Remove salt from the diet and you die. What’s more, your food tastes better with salt.
Thomas Keller writes in The French Laundry Cookbook: “The ability to salt food properly is the single most important skill in cooking … Salt opens up flavours, makes them sparkle. But if you taste salt in a dish, it’s too salty.”
The question is, which salt? In the past few years, Sydney cooks have been deluged with a flood of artisan salts. They are extracted from the Himalayas in Pakistan, skimmed at Halen Mon in Wales, drawn from pans in Brittany in France or evaporated from the sea at Trapani in Sicily. We are now inundated with choices. And colours. And textures.
Gourmet salts can be white (Maldon), pink (Murray River), black (Cypriot), red or green (Hawaiian) and grey or natural (Italian). They can be flaky or grainy, pyramid- or crystal-shaped. They can be damp, dry or powdery.
More importantly, these gourmet salts have different mineralities that give each one a different flavour. They have depth, power and pungency and need only to be used sparingly to great effect.
At Rock Restaurant in the Hunter Valley, chef and owner Andrew Clarke has been playing with gourmet salts. “We use anywhere up to 12 different salts in the restaurant,” he says. “We use the vanilla Halen Mon with balmain bugs after they’ve been grilled. We use a coarse-grain curing salt for meats. We use iodised salts to flavour blanching water. We use the Cyprus black salt to finish off our wood-roasted goat. We put Maldon on the table because it’s clean and has a soft sea-saltiness.”
All salt comes from the sea, whether it’s mined high in the Himalayan mountains or collected from salt flats in Bolivia. Yet this inorganic mineral carries the flavour of the environment in which it was formed. In the case of the famous French fleur de sel, or flower of the salt, which is “young” crystals that form on the surface of salt evaporation ponds, the flavour varies from region to region – like fine wines.
Alderman Providore is a specialist online food retailer that sells Himalayan, Hawaiian, Bolivian and French sea and rock salts. Former co-owner Tim Alderman maintains salts from different countries impart different flavours. “Each one has a different minerally quality, as distinct from Saxa,” he says. “The grey salt has a distinct mineral taste, the pink and rose salts tend to be more subtle and are different the Murray River salt. The textures change, too.”
This is a contrast to the traditional view of salt as a mono-flavouring. Most of us grew up with an iodised salt that just tasted, well, salty. It was mined and refined to remove most of its minerals and took away bitter – and any other – tastes. Plain table salt was also available but most people preferred iodised salt, which manufacturers starting producing in the 1920s after US studies found people were suffering from goitre, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency. It is believed Australians’ consumption of iodine has dropped considerably in the past few decades.
Humans need less than 225 micrograms of iodine a day. The mineral is found in seafood and sea salts, both natural replacements for refined salt.
Sea salts are harvested from salt pans, ponds or marshes, or by channelling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Sea salts are less treated than other commercial salts so they retain traces of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. Sea salts’ fans rave about their bright, subtle flavours.
Gourmet salts can be used for cooking or for finishing a dish and sometimes both. Like a spice or herbs, different salts lend themselves to being used at different times as you cook.
Kala Namak, or Indian black salt or sanchal, is an unrefined mineral salt that, despite it’s name, is a pearl-pink grey. It’s strong, sulphuric odour dissipates when used in Indian cooking and is magic with eggplant. You can also sprinkle it on melon or yoghurt as a final seasoning.
Italian sea salts, such as Ravida from Trapani, is produced from the low waters along the coast of Sicily. They are rich in iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium with a lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt. Delicate but with a defined flavour, they are finishing salts that bring a salad or a sauce to life.
Both these salts were part of a tasting held by The Salt Book. A dozen gourmet, plain and flavoured salts were lined up and paired with a variety of foods.
The exercise was fascinating. Strips of rare, grilled sirloin fared better or worse depending on which salt you used.
The coarse rock crystals of pink Himalayan salt looked pretty but the Ravida sea salt from Sicily made the meat jump in your mouth. The green Hawaiian salt was recommended with yellow fin tuna but added a polish to prawns.
James Ballingall, program director at the William Blue College of Hospitality Management in North Sydney, which hosted the tasting, used a brine made from Olsson’s macrobiotic salt to cure a chicken before roasting. The wonderful, tender, firm flesh tasted more like chicken than most birds, apart from organic chooks.
Good all-rounders, favoured by chefs and home cooks, are the Maldon sea salt and the home-grown Murray River salt. Guerande Fleur de Sel stood out as a pure, light seasoning that should only be used at the table.
Fleur de sel is a soft, moist salt that looks like sea foam and surprises consumers who are used to their salt being dry and grainy. Italian salts such as those from Trapani are also moist and often off-white.
The wonderful Riserva Camillone from Cervia in the Emilia Romagna region is strangely sweet. Flavoured salts such as Netherlands smoked salt, Tetsuya’s truffle salt, Cyprus lemon salt flakes and vanilla fleur de sel figured in the tasting, too.
They overpowered the plain ones and need to be used carefully.
Suggestions include salmon, kipfler potatoes, poached prawns and desserts respectively.
The key to a healthy diet is to cook fresh produce and then season it with a salt that has personality and provenance.
The Salt Book, Arbon Publishing, by Fritz Gubler and David Glynn, $34.99.
PROCESSED FOODS: THE REAL SINNERS
About 20 per cent of the world’s salt production is used in food. The remainder is used in the chemical industry and applications such as de-icing roads.
Most of the 20 per cent we consume is “hidden salt” in manufactured foods, from breakfast cereals to instant soups.
The Australian division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) has reported many Australians consume 10 times the amount of salt they need for a healthy diet. The recommended daily intake for salt is four grams but many Australians regularly consume up to 40 grams.
The chairman of AWASH, Professor Bruce Neal, has asked manufacturers of processed food to reduce the salt content of their products by 5 per cent a year.
AWASH’s research has shown excessive consumption of salt comes mainly from eating processed food and can lead to high blood pressure, kidney damage and stomach cancer.
A leading nutritionist, Rosemary Stanton, (pictured), advises people to avoid such products in the first place. “The problem is we eat so much of it,” she says. “That’s why our salt intake has increased so much in the past few decades.”
KNOW YOUR SODIUM CHLORIDE
Kala namak (also known as sanchal) Use in Indian cooking, on raw tropical fruits and cooked vegetables. It’s sold at Indian grocery stores.
Celtic salt, French grey sea salt Use for general purpose, soups, stews and sauces. Buy Coarse Guerande Salt.
Coarse salt Use for salt crusts on meat or fish, curing and flavouring in soups, stews and sauces. Buy Himalayan Pink, La Baleine, Esprit du Sel.
Rock salt Use for curing and brining. Not ideal for the table.
Flake salt Use as an all-round general salt in cooking or at the table. Buy Maldon, Murray River, Halen Mon, Pyramid.
Fleur de Sel (Flower of Salt) Use for salads, cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meats. Buy Le Paludier.
French sea salt Use in salads and on cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meat. Buy Le Paludier.
Grey salt (sel gris, Celtic sea salt) Use at the end of the cooking process or on the table. Good for casseroles and stews. Buy Le Paludier, Riserva Camillone sale di Cervia, Trapani.
Hawaiian sea salt (alaea, Hawaiian red salt) A natural mineral called alaea (volcanic baked red clay) adds iron oxide and imparts a mellow flavour. Used to preserve and season native Hawaiian dishes. Good for meats. Buy Alaea.
Italian sea salt Use for salads and to finish roasts and sauces. Great as a garnish on bruschetta. Buy Ravida.
Organic salt Standards include purity of the water, cleanliness of salt beds and how the salt is harvested and packaged. Certifiers include Nature et Progres (France), BioGro (New Zealand), Soil Association Certified (Wales). Buy Halen Mon, Olsson’s.
GJ Food The Fine Food Connection (Le Paludier Fleur du Sel and others from Guerande).
Cantarella Bros (Ravida).
Lario Imports (Trapani, Riserva Camillone sale di Cervia).
Alderman Providore, aldermanprovidore.com.au (Himalayan Pink, Alaea, Bolivian Rose, Sel Gris de Guerande).
Simon Johnson (Halen Mon).
F. Mayer Imports (Maldon).
The Essential Ingredient (Murray River Salt).
Waimea Trading, 0409 219 280 (Cyprus Black sea salt).
Olsson Industries, olssons.com.au (Olsson’s Pacific Salt).
HBC Trading, 9958 5688 (Himalayan Pink).
Kirk Food (Pyramid).
If losing weight was easy and simple and becoming thin and gorgeous was easy and simple, we’d all be thin and gorgeous. But it’s not always the case; if you want to lose 10 pounds, you have to lose 10 pounds. You can’t just sit down and hope some magic potion is going to give you a wish and then you’ll be thinner and more gorgeous than you were an hour ago. There is no magic potion or trick for weight loss. If you want to get healthy and fit and look great, you have to make some lifestyle changes. You have to stop eating like a pig, over-indulging, skipping the good stuff and hoping that the bad stuff is going to make you skinny. It’s not. You’re not going to get thin and stay thin eating nothing but milkshakes or drinking pepper water. You have to eat well, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.
Sorry (not sorry) – this is not what you want to hear. You want to hear that you can take a pill and lose weight and all kinds of good things will happen to you without you actually having to work for those things. And it’s not going to happen. You have to work for what you want and get actual results. It’s called responsibility and dedication. Diet trends and myths don’t work because you have to keep them up forever and ever and it’s not healthy or possible to do so. We have, instead, decided that we’d tell you that all those things you’re hoping will make you look good in time for beach season will not work long term. Skip them; make lifestyle changes for the better. These diets are myths and they will not work.
If you have celiac disease and you have to eliminate gluten from your diet, do it. But it always makes me laugh to see people who go gluten-free as if they’re doing something good for themselves as a whole. A gluten-free diet is not a weight loss tool. It’s a way for people with a certain illness to eat food without getting sick. So if you’re using this as a way of dieting, you’re just wasting time and money buying things that aren’t doing it for you.
Why would you drink just juice and hope that you could lose weight? Of course you are going to lose weight just drinking juice. You are eliminating actual food from your diet and you are not going to be able to keep that up forever. Can you go the rest of your life without actual food? No, you cannot, and that’s why these silly diets do not work.
See above – you cannot live on soup for the rest of your life. Sure, it’s healthier than juice, but it’s not a way of life. You cannot just hope that you will lose weight because you are eating only soup and hoping that weight loss comes to you in many forms. You have to actually go about losing weight like a real person by eating healthy foods.
It’s never a good idea to skip breakfast. Of course you feel thin when you wake up; you haven’t eaten in 15 hours. So skipping breakfast is not going to make you thinner or healthier. It’s just going to make you hungrier and it’s going to make you feel bad because your metabolism is going to slow down and work on a pace that doesn’t burn any calories.
Negative Calorie Foods
Some people call this the grapefruit diet, and it consists of eating only things that have negative calories. These are foods that have fewer calories in them than it takes to consume them. While most of these foods are healthy, they cannot complete your diet. You still have to eat and use regular meals if you plan on getting healthy and losing weight for the long term.
No More Carbs
You can’t do it; because carbs are amazing. Sure, it might work for a few days and you’ll feel good and healthy, but when you eat them again you’re going to miss them. And you cannot stay away from carbs forever. Some of them are actually good for you and you need those to survive. So skip the fad and just limit your intake.
Eating Every Two Hours and Skipping Meals
Little meals are good throughout the day, but you cannot skip big meals at all in favor of snacking and grazing every two hours. A handful of nuts or yogurt every two hours does not make for a healthy day. You’re doing yourself a great disservice assuming you can eat like this in a way that’s healthy and beneficial.
Drinking your Calories
All right, so sometimes we all do this. We order a small salad with nothing on the side and then we order three glasses of wine. While it might make for a fun occasional night out, it’s not good for us on so many levels. You can’t skip food to drink – it’s going to kill you. It’s disgusting and unimpressive and not at all good for you.
Did you know that some people say you should not eat certain foods together? For example, you should not eat carbs with protein because it will make you fat the way that they work together as they digest. Whatever; it’s not the truth. You can’t let people tell you that you can eat as much as you want if you just avoid eating certain things together. It’s not the way eating works.
Sure, not eating is going to make you lose weight. It’s also going to bloat you and make you feel awful. It’s not healthy, and it’s not good for anyone. You’re entire life will change if you stop eating. You’ll become sick, tired, anxious, stressed, grouchy, depressed and you still won’t feel as if you look good. Why? Because you won’t look good and you won’t feel good.
In part one of this article I gave you a run down on the basic causes for an unhealthy life through bad nutrition, and the need to turn that lifestyle and thinking around.
You don’t have to turn vegetarian or vegan to eat nutritiously, though it can help and with the plethora of products and the amount of recipes now devoted to these areas of food it is certainly a more pleasant diet now than it was in the 70’s and 80’s with its slabs of eggplant and grilled vegetables slavered in some sort of boring tomato-based sauce. I have to confess to only being a “partial” vegetarian as I love poultry and bacon way too much to totally forgo them. However, my partner and I found we slipped into a predominantly vegetarian diet without really intending to. We have always eaten a lot of salads, and by taking out a lot of the red meat and substituting it wih cheeses, grains, legumes and pulses…yes, and tofu which isn’t nearly as bad as everyone likes to make out…we found we had nutritious, filling meals that more than satisfied us. Portion control is an important part of a good diet. Many of us have spent most of our lives eating a lot more food than we really need to. No wonder we are getting so fat as a nation. The fact that it is a dinner plate doesn’t mean it has to be filled to the edges! To stop doing this, use smaller plates, or move to deep bowls.
When you shop, as much as possible avoid the areas of temptation in the supermarket…oh how they love to trap you! Steer your trolley quickly through the cake, biscuit, prepared sauces, and lolly sections. Try filling it with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean cuts of meat and poultry, oil-free dressings (there is a huge range now), Weight Watchers products (buy their cookbooks from the newsagents. They are very creative and easy to prepare meals that you would be proud to entertain with), nuts and dried fruits, cereals that aren’t full of sugar, wholemeal flours, sugar substitutes (though Demerara and raw sugars are okay), whole grain breads, low-fat yoghurts, canned lentils, chickpeas and white beans (rinse well before using), tinned tomatoes, low-salt stocks and table sauces…all this will give you a good start. Make your own desserts and cakes using basic recipes and substituting bran oil or grape seed oil for butter, and using natural yoghurt instead of milk, apple purée or honey as a sweetener. There are heaps of recipes around if you don’t want to experiment yourself. Oh, and shout yourself some good quality tea, and dark chocolate as both are full of antioxidants. Doesn’t mean you can eat a whole block in one sitting…but be generous with yourself. Also, contrary to popular belief (but something I have always believed) current research encourages us to eat more dairy in our daily diet, and shows that it actually aids in weight loss. As a cheese lover, I am eternally thankful (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6413146/Eating-more-cheese-can-help-fat-people-lose-weight-study-claims.html). Eat fresh fruit or process it in smoothies in preference to drinking fruit juices. They are full of sugar, and because they are separated from the flesh you miss the benefits of the natural fibre.
Now, to the question of supplements. Dietitians recommend that fish or krill oil capsules, along with a multivitamin capsule be taken every day. The fish oil is great for Omega-3, coronary and brain health, along with aiding the reduction of cholesterol, and is important for joint health if you have a rigorous exercise program. A blood test at your doctors will indicate if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals. It is useless taking these supplements if you don’t need them, as you will just piss them away.
You DON’T have to drink 8 glasses of water a day. There is absolutely no research to back this up, and in fact it seems that someone somewhere (possibly a bottled water salesman) decuded thatbthisvsounded likeva great thing to tell people to do, and presto, that is what everyone believes? The amount of liquids you need depends on what you are doing, and you need to look at what liquid you get from tea, coffee, milk, fruit and vegetables etc. it is as bad for you to imbibe too much water as to drink too little. The best way to judge it…if you are thirsty, drink!
It is best to eat meals after exercise and not before, but it depends on what time you do it. If early in the day, eat some carbs and protein (like a bacon and egg sandwich on wholegrain) when you have finished to stop you hitting the wall.
Don’t overload yourself with carbs at night; if eating potatoes, rice or pasta keep the portions small. Use kumera (sweet potato) as a potato and pumpkin substitute as it has less carbs. And remember not to eat more calories than you burn.
Don’t like eating fruit? Process it with some honey and top up with skim milk or organic apple juice to make a smoothie. Add a banana and you have lunch.
Sprinkle LSA (Ground Lindseed, Sunflower, and Almonds, available health food section of supermarket for about $3.00 for 250g) on your cereal, or add to smoothies or baked goods.
Eat berries including chia and goji. They are some of natures super foods; other foods that fall into the Superfood category are pomegranate juice (expensive and just sublime), Brazil nuts, walnuts, broccoli, oysters, eggs, salmon, red capsicum, soy and linseed bread, oats to name a few.
You don’t have to stop eating desserts or cakes. Make them yourself using low-fat recipes.
The best cheeses for healthy eating are Parmesan, Fetta, Goat’s cheese, Haloumi, Paneer, light ricotta, cream cheese, Quark and Pecorino.
Change to skim milk, light yoghurt, butter and cream, and use buttermilk in baking; Use Demerara, raw or muscovado sugar instead of white; Use wholemeal flour, brown rice, cous cous, pearl barley, polenta, faro, freekeh and quinoa.
Eat wholegrain, seeded or rye breads and rolls. “Burgen” bread is at the dearer end of the scale, but the breads are both delicious and healthy. Even my mother-in-law liked it. Also, check out artisan bakeries in your area for really great breads.
Change how you snack. Instead of chips, cakes, biscuits and sweets have fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, low fat/sugar health bars, low-fat yoghurts etc. If junk food is not to hand then you can’t reach for it when you want to snack. By stocking up on healthier options you will eat them instead. If you are already vegetarian, you should eat some nuts and seeds daily.
If you want to count calories (and if you are overweight it is a good idea to) you can download both iPhone and iPad apps to help you. CalorieKing is an Aussie app that means the foods are relevant to here, including fast-foods. It will connect you to their web site where you can join Calorie King for free, and by entering up a few details they will work out daily food plans for you. The only problem I have with sites like this is that it is time consuming to enter up your daily food intake and exercise (though if you do enter it all it will track whether you are under or over with your calorie intake). On the upside, you can save regularly eaten foods as favourites which makes the entry process faster.
Ensure you get 20-30 minutes of sun every day to promote the production of vitamin D in the body. Because sunlight is free, nobody who makes money from vitamin and sunscreen sales is going to promote exposure. It is an important vitamin to help prevent osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer and breast cancer. To read more go to http://www.naturalnews.com/003069.html. This amount of exposure every day without sunscreen is not going to harm you.
I am always banging on about Weight Watchers recipe books, and for good reason…they are fantastic. WW learnt long ago that if you want people to eat healthy food, it needs to be creative, tasty and easy to make. Their cookbooks fulfil all these criteria, and are a good way to learn portion control. They are heavily vegetable orientated, but in a good way. If there are two or three vegetables in a main dish, the accompaniment to the meal will always add another two or three. Some of their recipes are now amongst my favourites, including their Cheesey Cauliflower with Pancetta; Ricotta Gnocci with Fresh Tomato Sauce; Sweet and Sour Chicken; Lemongrass Prawns with Lime & Chilli Salt; Roasted Tomato Soup etc. get the message! They bring out new books regularly and are available from Newsagents. We use them to eat healthy low-fat, low-sugar portion controlled meals every day. My partner has shed kilo’s since adopting them. Use their Points System if you like, but it is not essential.
Some information on vegetarian diets. If you are considering becoming a vegetarian don’t be nervous about taking meat out of your diet. The vitamins and protein available from meat can also be obtained from dairy and vegetables (depending on whether you are a ovo-lacto vegetarian (no eggs or dairy), a vegan or a straight out vegetarian). It is no longer the 70’s and 80’s with totally uninspired vegetarian fare. Today, vegetarian recipes are creative, inspired and totally enjoyable. You’d be surprised what you can serve up to friends with no inkling, and no questions asked. Like all lifestyle changes, ensure that you read up about it or ask your doctor, nutritionist or dietician. The social stigma around vegetarianism has all but died, with more and more people opting for this healthy way to eat than ever before. The following links will provide you with some basic information that will help you realise that becoming vegetarian is not the hard work you think it is. http://www.fitwatch.com/nutrition/how-to-make-a-vegetarian-diet-well-balanced-and-healthy-125.html and http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/vegetarian_eating. There are a lot of recipe books out now for vegetarians, standard recipe book often contain vegetarian sections, and cafes and restaurants offer vegetarian options in their menu’s. My partner and I have not totally committed to the lifestyle but are probably about 80% vegetarian. We still enjoy the occasional hamburger, egg and bacon roll, and we still eat cold- cuts, fish and some poultry. How far you go with it is entirely up to you.
Remember, to be fit and healthy you need…healthy eating and exercise. It isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. The keywords to kick start your new life are EXERCISE, LOW-FAT/LOW-SUGAR and PORTION CONTROL…and NO SMOKING.
Here you are thinking I’ve written an article on my love of chocolate and the sexually deviant things you can do with it, when in fact it is an article on nutrition. That is not to say that chocolate is not good for you in moderation, though a jar of chocolate body paint can cause all sorts of …outcomes, the least being weight gain.
Diet and exercise, diet and exercise! Don’t people like me love to bang on about it! Hardly a day goes by where at some stage you are not going to run into those three words. They are becoming a modern day dictum, and with the increase in morbid obesity (well, obesity in general really!) in modern society, expect to hear a lot more. It’s all well and good to roll your eyes, let your belt out another hole or two and start buying your clothes from the Big Men’s department in “Target”, but sooner or later you are going to have to pay the devil. If you are slim, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will stay that way forever. Gravity will eventually have its wicked way, and it’s not going to be pretty!
A lot of the blame for our current move towards junk and fast food fixes is media and advertising driven. They keep telling us how time-poor we are, how busy our lives have become, and how we need to make things easier for ourselves. Fast food chains upsize deals and give you more and more junk for your buck (look for the healthy alternatives if you find yourself in one of these establishments.Everyone has them now). Cooking programs tell us that to be good in the kitchen we need a degree in Frnch cooking, every kitchen appliance that has ever been made, three hours to prepare a simple dinner, and a cuisine vocabulary that would befuddle the best of us. I’m a qualified chef and I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be bothered with a lot of the kitchen antics that we are subjected to on television. Quite simply, the pure joy of food and cooking is being taken away from us.
And we can’t overlook the obvious…our food culture is tied into tradition, and our families. One is left feeling that the advent of “meat and three veg” as a basis for our meals arrived with the convicts, and hasn’t changed a lot since. Fortunately as a counter-balance our love affair with Asian food ever increases, and it is perhaps here we will find our way to a healthier diet.
For those contemplating a healthier lifestyle, especially losing weight, are unfortunately going to find that it is useless to exercise without changing your dietary habits, and vice versa. There is NO easy fix, so the desire to move forward and improve your lifestyle must first and foremost be a positive drive and desire on your part. Diets are, at their best, a short term solution to weight loss and at their worst are capable of actually damaging your health. They are alsounsustainable in the long term. The whole key to healthy eating is very simple…common sense, and not depriving yourself of the things you enjoy but eating them in smaller quantities at longer intervals. You may not believe me now, but eventually you will lose the desire to eat a lot of these things at all. Good, healthy eating is about variety, what you cook, what you put in it, how you cook it and how much you serve. Recent advise suggests that we are better off eating 5-6 small meals a day instead f the three large meals we currently eat. And don ‘t forget; breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!
HIV people face a number of problems as far as nutrition goes, and like the condition itself varies from person to person. We are beginning to understand that long term dosing with our medications can potentially have serious health implications. You dan’t take the number of pills we are prescribed over a long period of time (for many of us it is going to be a period of 40+ years) and not expect some problems, especially coronary, renal, mental, and the possibility of cancers. It worries me, so I’m sure it worries you! I have made a lot of drastic changes to my life, albeit at this late stage when I’m approaching 60. It is no longer good enough to shovel in the meds, put on heaps if weight, eat unhealthy food, sit around doing nothing and expect everything to tick along nicely forever. You simply can’t live from blood test to blood test, and expect things to get better if you don’t take the actions to help improve the situation.
So as an ageing HIV demographic, what are the things we need to concern ourselves with, and keep an eye on? Well, the sme old culprits that we have all been trying to pretend aren’t the problem. High cholesterol (the bad type); too much fat, sugar and salt in our diet; too much processed food especially in the form of quick-fix meals, canned and bottled pantry items; way too much fast food of the unhealthy kind; and a tendency to see cooking, especially just for yourself, as a chore. Few people stop to think that it takes about 15-30 minutes to heat a ready-made meal. You can make a healthy salad with grilled or pached chicken and oil-free dressing, or a stir fry in the same time…and be a lot healthier for it. I know from personal experience in the past that a daily intake of cigarettes, alcohol and shit food is not going to give me the nutrition to lead an active, fulfilling life…yet still we do it – or at least USED to do it. So I’m her to give you some strategies for change, simple effective ways to shed the kilo’s, and get those blood test results scoring an A+…and it ain’t gonna hurt a bit. Well, maybe a little bit!
In my last column I talked about starting out at the gym as a way to start getting your fitness on-track, and since that was written there have been several articles out in HIV journals stating that diet and exercise are important for guys (and girls) in an ageing HIV population to promote a longer and healthier road to old age, and as a way of fighting off problems associated with obesity and bad diet. As a population in general, obesity is a big problem, especially as we get older, and lazier. One of the things that prompted me to get off my arse and start doing something about my health was observing people around me who were my age or older, and telling myself “that is NOT how I want to end up” as an older person. I don’t want to be fat, and wear my trousers up around my nipples; I don’t want to be stooped and crippled, relying on Zimmer frames and mobility scooters; I don’t want to have to rely on others to help me get about and just get through my everyday life; and I don’t want to be shuffling around and taking all day to move from one place to another. I saw a LOT of this in elderly people, and for me…it’s just not on!
Okay, so hopefully we have prompted some of you to start looking after your weight and mobillity. I brushed over diet in the last article, but in reality exercise and diet go hand-in-hand, even more so as you get older. It is such an easy matter to tweak your diet from unhealthy to healthy that I often wonder why people think it is so hard. There is very little that you have to give up in a balanced diet, though the emphasis does change from one of ‘oh, that is too much trouble’ to one of ‘okay, I’ll give that a go’ if you know you will achieve positive results.
I would like to think that we had all moved on from the diet we were presented with as we grew up, especially those of us brought up with the “meat and three veg” mentality of the 50’s and 60’s, though I do know of guys my age who still stick to that prescription, and have NEVER ventured outside the box. The move from ‘bad’ eating to healthier eating for me occurred with the discovery of Asian cuisine.The entire Asian approach to cooking (despite being a bit preparation – intensive, though fast to cook) with using all the proteins, plus fresh herbs and vegetables and sauces that were both tasty and healthy appealed to me from the very beginning. It is strange how my foods have changed over time, from a heavily red meat orientated style of cooking to a more poultry, fish and almost, on accasions, vegetarian styled cuisine. This was never intentional, it just seemed to happen, especially enhanced by the new exercise regimes I was putting myself through. As I mentioned in my last piece, I have a severe sweet tooth. I am one of those people who reads the dessert menu first in a restuarant, then decide what else to order from there. I have a weakness for potato chips, donuts, finger buns, cheese, chocolate and little cakey things from cafe’s. Have I given all this up in the rush for a better diet? Not on your life, though I do eat them in moderation these days. I have had finger buns twice this year – quite a severe deprivation for me, though I can’t say the same for chocolate. Full of antioxidants (I love really dark, bitter chocolate) is my excuse. So, what have I done to improve my diet? Nothing terribly radical, I have to say. To start with, I have never really followed diets, though did give the CSIRO diet a good bash, though I found it a bit too heavy with protein for my evolving tastes. I have to say it did work, and both myself & my partner lost weight while on it. I am currently personally promoting the Weight-Watchers recipe books, which are available from most newsagents. They started putting recipe books out about 10 years ago (originally only available through the WW organisation), and even then I was impressed with the variety and range of their recipes. I don’t follow their points system, though you can if you like – I just like theirrecipes, and they cover everything from breakfasts, to light meals, to main meals, desserts and snacks. They are one organisation that has moved with the times. There is a heavy emphasis on vegetables in their recipes which I personally like. So, what else can you do to help improve your eating habits? Eat a lot of fresh, raw leafy vegetables. With summer coming on, our diet will shortly go almost totally salad. It isn’t boring – there are many recipe books around now that just concentrate on healthy and interesing salads. Cut down on the amount of sugar and fats that you use for cooking. Use “Splenda” if you require a sweetener (it can be used for baking): substitute wholemeal plain & SR flour in baking: swap over to other oils for cooking such as Azalea, rice bran or grapeseed oils; use yoghurt and oil as substitutes for milk or cream in cooking; don’t overcook vegetables – vege cooking is one area where microwave ovens are great. Vege’s should still be a bit crisp when served; dry fry where possible, or grill; gives things like tofu a go – ignore the bad press, and make decisions for yourself (though I still hate soy milk). Cut back on coffee and drink tea instead. Limit alcohol consumption without going ‘dry’. All this will not cause miracles, but will be a good start and will give you the impetus to trial things yourself. A good, well-balanced diet will mean that you shouldn’t have to take supplements, though it seems to be very fashionable to do so. It is true that some ARV’s do cause depletion of certain vitamins and minerals in the body, though discuss this with a doctor or dietician before starting up on any supplement regimes. Don’t do things just because your friends do!
Now, for the big question! Do I believe in Superfoods? The short answer is…yes! The term “Superfoods” is used to denote foods that are packed full of nutrient and cover the gammit from exotic to mundane. The latest list includes Acai and Goji berries (it is well-reported that ALL berries are good for you and jam-packed full of goodies to help your skin, brain and heart, as wel, as helping to lower cholesterol; Coconut water which doesn’t taste half bad, and comes with some yummy additives these days – considered fashionable, especially amongt gym junkies; Probiotic cheese though I’d rather stick to a good sharp cheddar or a gooey brie myself; Omega-3-rich milk though there are other ways to get Omega-3, such as fish or fish oil capsules. If you do go to gym regularly, taking these fish oil capsules can help with your heart health as well as joint protection (not to mention assisting memory); Maitake mushrooms (yes, you read that right), though mushrooms in general are very good for you; Vine-ripened tomatoes, though the health benefits of tomato-rich diets are well known now – and how can you hate tomatoes!; Blue-Green Algae (Spirulina) is one I’ll pass on, thanks!; Yerba Mate (a South American tea) is something I’ve tried, but haven’t developed a taste for. There is quite a ritual involved in preparing it; Pomergranate juice expensive but oh so gorgeous and addictive it;s worth going into credit card debt for; and brazil nuts, which fortunately for me come in blocks of chocolate, so yeah, I eat them. I highly recommend you doing some internet research on superfoods, then pick out the ones you enjoy and include them in your diet.
So, the rules for good healthy eating are:
• Keep it fresh – fresh vegetables are not expensive, so stock up and learn to be creative. USE RECIPE BOOKS, don’t just steam and boil things…boring!
• Don’t deprive yourself of treats, just cut back on how often you have them. Keep health bars or trail mix in the cupboard for when you get those junk cravings – it works.
• If you get that ‘do I have to eat that’ thought when you are cooking a meal, then don’t cook it. If you don’t enjoy it you are not going to want to eat it. Nothing worste than making meals a chore.
• Cut back on fats and sugar – don’t cut them out, just rethink them. Remember that fruit juices are not always a healthy, sugar-free option.
• Don’t overcook foods like proteins and vegetables – you cook all the nourishment out of them by overcooking.
• Shout yourself a take-away occasionally – even I go to Hungry Jacks 2-3 times a year.
• Don’t cut out carbs and proteins from your diet – your body really needs them to function properly. If like me you go to gym early in the day, have a bacon and egg toastie after, and don’t feel guilty about it. Without the carb & protein hit you will go home and hit the wall. You burn a LOT of calories when you exercise.
• Eat as many raw vegetables as you like – they are so good for you.
• Don’t knock frozen and canned vegetables and pulses. Most vege’s are snap-frozen, and are often healthier than cooking them yourself. If you buy tinned beans and lentils, rinse them thoroughly before eating.
• Look at vegetarian options – you may be surprised. It is no longer the 70’s and 80’s, and slabs of eggplant with a melange of bland steamed vegetables.
• Buy wholegrain bread instead of white. Your body needs to work to get through all those seeds, so you feel full for longer. Also, rye breads and malted breads.
• I still like my full-cream milk, but there are plenty of options now. Don’t get caught up with all the trendy additives etc in milk now – these are things that are present in a balanced diet, and they really shouldn’t be in milk
Whatever you do, enjoy your food. It is one of life’s pure pleasures. But, like sex, think before you put it in your mouth!