Saturday, April 5, 2008

Food still has it all!

We are often given warnings, especially by some companies that sell the 'milkshake' diets, that our food is toxic and poor in nutrient content. They imply that we will all be much better off drinking their shakes rather than eating what Mother Nature has to offer. Ha!

But then on the other hand, some food purists are forecasting that we are all going to develop all sorts of cancers and ambiguous genitalia because of all the chemicals in our foods. They stress that 'organic' is the only way to live. Well, that would be more than excellent, but organically grown produce is not always within reach of all of us, so what now?

Now we face reality. The truth is that not all chemicals and food additives are harmful. Some serve a very useful purpose. Another truth is that, although most producers use pesticides and chemicals in varying degrees, there are still more than sufficient levels of nutrients in fresh or frozen produce to justify their daily consumption! In fact, while the war between producers and food purists continues to rage, scientists have concluded that any potential risk from chemical residues is still outweighed by the benefit of the reduction in chronic diseases and nutrient deficiencies when adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables are consumed.

Diet Start

Avoiding foods for fear of consuming artificial chemicals will definitely result in a high-protein diet, as well as a diet high in fatly, sugary foods. The inevitable conclusion of such a diet is obesity and the resultant long-term diseases related to it, as well as malnutrition. Besides, sugar, starch and meat products are not free from added chemicals. So there, Eat your fresh produce!

Salads: sink or swim

Salads don't guarantee leanness. You can and probably often do, go right over the top with what goes into your salads. Again, establish beforehand what your intention is when you want to eat a salad: is it to be a meal on its own, an addition to the main course or a starter?

Most salad ingredients offer abundant nutrition and very few kilojoules. A large, 100 g pack of lettuce leaves contains a humble 67 kilojoules. Other green vegetables such as baby marrow, green pepper, cucumber and broccoli contain (on average) around 100 kilojoules per 100 g. Thus, enjoying a medium-sized salad bowl filled with a salad made of these ingredients, dressed with an oil-free dressing, will provide you with no more than about 140 kilojoules. This is a real bargain in the healthy slimming stakes. But go one further and dress the salad with two tablespoons of a simple, basic vinaigrette (oil and vinegar) dressing. Instantly you have 'bulked out' your salad with an additional 840 kilojoules - kilojoules you cannot taste as you would taste say a slice of rye bread or a baked potato (that you could enjoy with your salad), and kilojoules that cannot make you feel any fuller.

The plot thickens more when you take the sink-or-swim decision to add delicacies to your salad: cheese, meat, eggs, oily fish and olives. When you want to add any or all of these delicacies, go light on the dressing. Use an oil-free dressing. Furthermore, regard this kind of all-in-one salad as a meal rather than an addition to your meal. In that way you will balance the scales and not experience that sinking feeling when you weigh yourself the following day and find that you have consumed far-far more fat kilojoules than you were aware of. Even a simple, mixed vegetable salad, if dressed heavily with an oily or creamy dressing, will cause your kilojoule intake to soar and your once-crisp, fresh salads to be drowned in fat limp and unappetising.

The bottom line is this: if you choose to have something light such as a salad, keep it light.

Desserts: the big guilt trip

Desserts tend to evoke more feelings of guilt than any other item on the menu. And we know the reason why: most desserts are laden with fat and/or sugar and dessert is not really necessary to satisfy the appetite. It is the proverbial 'cherry on the cake'. Many of us have the mindset that we are only entitled to dessert if we have been 'good'. And very few of us ever feel that we have been 'good', because we feel that being overweight is already a symptom of being 'bad'. So we don't really feel entitled to it, but we have it anyway; it's irresistible; we are addicted to sugar. Then we feel bad about having had it and the guilt trip sets in, a guilt trip that can only be alleviated by some chocolate. By then we feel we are in so deep already that we might as well go all the way - another example of the vicious obesity cycle in full motion!

Follow a few simple rules about dessert and banish the guilt.

  • Regard dessert is part of the menu, not 'over and above' it. Then, plan your menu accordingly, bearing in mind that the sugar and fat content of the dessert must make up part of the total intake of fats and carbos of the meal. In this way you will create the correct balance.
  • Trade in sugar for fruit. Many fruits offer an abundance of natural sweetness, reducing the need for extra sugar in the recipe.
  • If your recipe requires sugar, go for fructose. It is a natural fruit sugar with a very slow GI, thus keeping your blood sugar levels more even and thus preventing a further sweet craving later on.
  • Trade in cream for yoghurt. Even Greek yoghurt contains much less fat (and therefore kilojoules) than cream. It also tastes cool and refreshing on the palate, ideal after any meal.
  • Trade in ice cream for frozen yoghurt or sorbet. The fat content and therefore the kilojoule content is much less.
  • Bear balance in mind. A heavy meal warrants a very light dessert - such as sorbet or fruit salad with yoghurt - and a light meal might justify the enjoyment of a small portion of richness - such as cheesecake or chocolate mousse.
  • Don't have an all-or-nothing approach. It leads to a feeling of being deprived and that leads to bingeing. Have some - but just a little - and enjoy it without any guilt. Remember, guilt trips could cause hunger pains!

... andjoyohoxing