Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

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Apologies, it has been such a long time since my last blog. It has been a busy time with work, family birthdays, and Christmas preparations, but now it is time to get back on track and time for a new recipe.

This is one that I like to cook on Saturday night as it is quick and easy and comforting. It uses mostly ingredients you have in the store cupboard or freezer, but can be made extra special by the addition of some fresh coriander and fresh lime juice.

I am using brown rice to add extra fibre, because most of us don’t eat enough.

You can also use a mixture of butternut squash and sweet potato or other types of squash.

I have used the coconut cream you buy in a block as this involves less wastage (a little of this goes a long way), and less unwanted chemicals, though you can use the tinned coconut milk if you prefer (use a quarter of a tin). The fat in coconut cream and milk is mostly saturated and government advice is to not have more than 10% of your energy from this or about 20g per day. This recipe will give you roughly 15g saturated fat, so just below this.

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2/3rd of a mug of brown rice (dried)

boiling water

olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

250g butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into cubes

1 red pepper, washed, deseeded and cut into medium-sized chunks

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons curry spices such as garam masala

cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

1/8 of a block of coconut cream

1 tsp of mango chutney or ½ teaspoon of sugar

200g frozen prawns

squeeze of lemon or lime juice

salt to taste

Method:

  1. Prepare the ingredients as above. Put the prawns in a bowl of cold water to defrost them a bit.
  2. Wash the rice in boiling water. Then add double the volume of water so for 2/3rd of a mug of rice add 1 1/3 mugs of boiling water. Put in a saucepan with a lid on a very low heat and leave for 20-25 mins. When cooked all the water should have disappeared, if it is too dry add more water.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a minute, then add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli flakes and cayenne and stir fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add 250ml boiling water and crumble in the coconut cream, mango chutney and tomato puree.
  5. Stir well and bring to the boil, then add the butternut squash and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
  6. Drain the prawns and run them under the cold tap to remove the excess ice. Then add them to the pan and bring back to the boil. Add the lime or lemon juice and cook for a few minutes to ensure the prawns are heated through. Taste it and add salt to taste.
  7. Serve on warmed plates sprinkled with chopped coriander and with the rice.
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Eating out in Budapest-traditional, basic food

This week’s post is a bit of a food account of my recent trip to Budapest, which I can highly recommend. As a nutritionist and food lover when I go abroad I am always interested in the food and drink. Here the food was simple and basic (which I liked) and also tasted and looked freshly cooked.

This pork dish which seemed to be a traditional dish contained lots of garlic and salt (probably more than I would use) but was very tasty. The sweet, red cabbage which I had with it was delicious. The chips were described as cubed potatoes!

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This chicken paprika dish was very basic and lacking in vegetables and was served with a heavy type of pasta, but you could appreciate that this was something to eat in the cold weather to keep out the cold (and we were very cold after an open air evening boat trip!).

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Generally meat was the order of the day (this is not a good place to go for vegetarians) but I did manage to have a lovely pike perch which may have come out of the Danube.

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Other food and drink highlights included this latte served in a weird-shaped glass and Palinka, a spirit which came in many different flavours (plum, apricot, cherry) and was an acquired taste but one I had grown to like by the end of the break.

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We also visited an amazing food market which had all sorts of fruit and vegetables. I was particularly impressed by the size of the radishes, which you can see in this picture.

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There were also lots of different cheeses to sample, freshly baked biscuits and different sort of cakes such as sour cherry strudel.

This may all sound quite heavy and calorific but on this trip we did a lot of walking and it was fairly cold in the evenings. My point is don’t be afraid to sample local food when you go away and enjoy it. It is part of the experience of travelling. Hopefully you won’t be eating foods that you eat at home. You may not love everything you eat (or you may) but this is part of experiencing a country and learning about its culture.

If you are going on a trip to the Christmas markets soon, enjoy! If not why not plan a trip to somewhere you haven’t been before and make sure you sample the local food?

Pan-fried seabass with parsley potatoes, carrots and green beans

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This sea bass dish incorporates healthy fats within a balanced meal. It is quick and easy to make so is the perfect mid-week dinner. It also works well with other types of fish such as trout, mackerel or salmon (though you may need to adjust the cooking time).

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 seabass fillets (approximately 200g)

1xtablespoons of olive oil

Slice of lemon

Salt and pepper, freshly ground

6-8 new potatoes

butter

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, washed and chopped

2 carrots

2 handfuls of green beans

  1. Wash the potatoes and add to a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until they are soft.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the other vegetables. Peel and chop the carrots. Wash and slice the beans.
  3. Place them in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for 8 minutes.
  4. Lastly prepare the fish. Season it with freshly ground salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
  6. Fry the fish for about 4 minutes each side.
  7. Turn off the heat and squeeze the lemon over the top.
  8. Drain the potatoes. Add a couple of knobs of butter and the chopped parsley. Toss the potatoes around in the butter and parsley to cover them.
  9. Drain the beans and carrots.
  10. Serve on warmed plates.

7 Common sense reasons to eat fat

A few weeks ago the government finally released its obesity strategy for children, which was heavily criticised by many health campaigners including Jamie Oliver. Jamie detailed the things that the plan was failing on (see link below), one of which is compulsory reduction of the sugar content of foods aimed at children.

Whilst sugar has been making headlines in this way again, there have also been headlines about butter and fat again in recent weeks. As usual it seems like scientists cannot decide whether it is good or bad. For example Dr Mozaffarian a researcher at Tuft’s University in Boston in America was involved with two pieces of research which were published over the summer (see the links below), one in support of eating butter (it did not lead to heart disease and may mildly protect you against type 2 diabetes) and the other against (saying replacing 5% of carbohydrates with polyunsaturated vegetable fat was better than saturated fat such as butter at keeping blood sugar stable). It is no wonder there is confusion.

But if you take the common sense view we need fat in our diet just as we need carbohydrates and protein. So here we are looking at what is good about fat, and there are quite a few things. So make room for foods containing fat in your diet such as meat, fish, eggs, and milk, but as usual steer clear of the processed versions and eat them in their most natural form.

What’s good about fat?

  1. It is a carrier of fat soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E, and K. For example whole milk is a good source of vitamin A, but skimmed milk contains much lower amounts of this vitamin. Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes and a good immune system.
  2. It is essential for healthy cells – the building blocks of our bodies. Fat particles form part of the cells.
  3. It is needed to make hormones – which control a multitude of body functions including our response to illness, injury and telling us when we are full.
  4. It makes food taste good. Yes, fat is important for enjoyment of food! Diet foods that have had the fat taken out and replaced with starch and sugar (carbohydrates) and chemicals are not as satisfying as the full fat versions so you may end up eating more than we intend.
  5. It slows down the digestion of starches. If you eat a meal of rice with a low fat vegetable curry the starch is absorbed into the blood very quickly and leads to a peak in blood sugar levels soon after the meal. If you eat a meal of rice and a vegetable curry which contains some coconut fat or butter, the rice is broken down to glucose more slowly.
  6. It stimulates the release of hormones that make us feel full and stops us eating more. Think about if you eat a really fatty meal, say a takeaway curry. At some point you find it really difficult to eat any more, you feel extremely full. However think about when you eat a Chinese takeaway, typically low in fat and high in carbs. You don’t feel so full; you can eat more. This is because fat stimulates the release of hormones that make you feel full, whilst carbohydrate stimulates the release of insulin, which drives you to eat more. Somewhere in between these two extremes of fat content will provide you with a meal which satisfies your appetite and keeps you full until the next meal.
  7. Some fats are essential – you need to eat them for important body processes. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are in this category. However we generally have much more omega-6 in our diet (from vegetable oils) than omega-3 fats. Increasing omega-3 fats in the diet has been linked to benefits such as improved mental health, improved intelligence in children and heart health. Omega-3 fat sources are oily fish (sardines, mackerel, pilchards, herring), walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

 

You can have a look at the two articles below and commentary about the government’s obesity strategy below:

‘Childhood obesity: Plan attacked as ‘weak’ and ‘watered down’’, BBC website, published 18th August 2016, available at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37108767

‘Failings of our new government’s childhood obesity strategy’, Jamie Oliver website, published 19th August 2016, available at:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/failings-new-governments-childhood-obesity-strategy/#A56e8V4FWDDyaxiY.97

Is Butter Back? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Butter Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Total Mortality, Pimpin, L et. al. PLoS One 2016; 11(6): e0158118.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927102/

Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials, Imamura, F. et. al. PLoS Med. 2016 Jul; 13(7): e1002087.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4951141/

 

 

Beetroot and tomato salad

Beetroot and tomato salad

Around this time of year our fridge is full of beetroot, courtesy of my Dad’s allotment. If you don’t grow it yourself, beetroot is available pre-cooked in supermarkets and now is a great time to eat it. Often called a superfood, beetroot is rich in nutrients including calcium, B-carotene (which is converted into vitamin A), folate (naturally occurring folic acid) as well as some vitamin C, iron and zinc and several other nutrients. It is fairly high in sugars giving it a sweet taste but it also contains a good amount of fibre.

Eating beetroot has been associated with many health benefits such as antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, helping to maintain a healthy gut, supporting the liver and helping to reducing blood pressure.

As far as taste goes, beetroot tends to be a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it, but given that it is packed full of nutrients and it grows well in this country, it is well worth adding it to your diet in the summer.

Excellent in salads (but best kept in a separate pot if you are taking a salad to work as it will turn everything pink!), it also works well in chocolate cake and brownies. The leaves are nutritious and can be used in salads.

Beetroot goes really well with tomato which is what goes into this really simple salad.

Ingredients:

One medium beetroot per person

2-3 tomatoes per person

Handful of fresh parsley (optional)

Olive oil

White wine vinegar

Method:

Slice the beetroot.

Slice the tomato.

Arrange on a plate.

Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar (to taste).

Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with some protein and some carbs, such as bread and cheese, grilled mackerel and boiled new potatoes, or grilled chicken and jacket potato.

Nutrition in the News – vitamin D recommendations change

Raw salmon fillet

It has been a miserable day weather wise, so it’s a good time to look at the new vitamin D recommendations. Vitamin D is made by the body by the action of sunlight on skin.

New recommendations

A recent government report recommended that everyone needs 10 micrograms a day of the vitamin. This is a change from the previous recommendation which were that only those over 65, pregnant and lactating women and children needed supplements. It was believed that others could get enough from the action of sunlight on skin.

Now the recommendation has changed and a supplement is recommended in winter months to ensure people are meeting this amount, as it is recognised that it is difficult to meet the target amount by diet alone.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

Foods containing vitamin D include cod liver oil, oily fish, eggs, liver, margarine, and breakfast cereals, however if you don’t eat oily fish everyday (and it is not recommended to eat it every day due to fish stocks and contamination risk), it is difficult to come close to an intake of 10 micrograms per day.

How do you make vitamin D in the summer?

To produce vitamin D in the summer months, you need to get short bursts of sunlight without using sunscreen, but ensure you don’t get burnt.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is important to maintain calcium and phosphate in the body, which is vital for growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Deficiency causes rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults). It is also vital to maintain a healthy immune system.

This BBC article and NHS choices page explain more about the changes:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36846894

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2016/07July/Pages/The-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-D-what-you-need-to-know.aspx

 

Summer ready – the long-term approach

Holiday

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the disarray surrounding the Brexit vote fades a little you may find your concerns moving towards your summer holiday and how you will feel stepping into the pool in a bikini/bathing suit. You want to feel confidant, slim and toned but with only a few weeks to go how can you best prepare yourself for that moment?

It may be tempting to go on a crash diet but before you do, consider the long-term approach.

By taking the long-term approach you recognise that you may not have reached your goal yet but you are on the way.

If in doubt, here’s why you don’t need to succumb to that crash diet and what to do instead:

  1. Severe dieting works only in the short-term

Diets work because you put a lot of effort into making them work. You do things such as recording what you eat, counting points or calories, eating low fat, eating small portions, avoiding certain foods. This works in the short-term but it is difficult to keep up in the long term. That is why many diets don’t work long term. Often after about three months, your motivation to stick to the diet wanes.

To avoid the three month lag, try not to pick a really severe diet but instead choose one that is not too restrictive so that you can keep it going for the long term, and not just a few months.

  1. When you are on a severe diet you focus only on a short-term goal

‘To lose a stone in time for my summer holiday’ may be your goal but once your holiday has been and gone, you are still left wanting to lose the weight and berating yourself for not achieving it.

Instead it is better to think of a long-term goal such as ‘lose a stone in a year and keep it off’ and think of why you want this? This brings a stronger motivation to do it. Then imagine a point in the future when you have achieved this. Visualise how you feel and what you have done to get there. You can then break this goal down into smaller targets so that it becomes achievable.

  1. On a severe diet you may not be getting enough nutrients from your food

This sounds obvious, but on a severe diet you not only restrict calories but also valuable nutrients, which can affect many processes in your body. For example levels of fat-soluble vitamins are much higher in whole milk and lower in skimmed milk, as the levels of these vitamins depend on the fat content of the milk1. The main fat-soluble vitamin found in whole milk is vitamin A, but there is also some vitamin D and E. Fat is needed to assist the absorption of these vitamins. Vitamin A is important in vision, growth and to support the immune system; vitamin D is essential for bone development; and vitamin E is an antioxidant.

  1. On a severe diet you may not be getting enough protein

Protein is not only found in meat and fish, it is present in milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses. It is essential to have some protein with each meal as it helps to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood, keeping you fuller for longer. So for example, have some nuts and seeds on your cereal in the morning, have boiled eggs in your salad at lunch and have a portion of meat or fish with your dinner. Protein is essential for many body processes such as supporting the immune system and making hormones.

In summary, by taking the longer-term approach, setting a realistic goal, ensuring you have a nutritious diet which includes carbohydrates, fats and protein will enable you to feel and look great on your summer holiday (if not this one, then the next!).

Whatever you eat, enjoy it and have a great summer holiday!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 10th Ed. 2000, Edited by Garrow, JS, James, WPT, Ralph, A.