Lemon cake

Lemon cake

This is a simple loaf cake, easy to make, lemony and delicious. Perfect for Mother’s Day or any occasion (Saint Patrick’s Day?). There is something spring-like about lemons. They are refreshing and cleansing. They are the colour of daffodils. What’s not to love? I have reduced the sugar a bit in this recipe but it will still taste sweet and you can increase the fibre by using half wholemeal flour. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 oz (225g) butter or margarine

6 oz (175g) caster sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

3 eggs

8 oz (225g) plain flour (variations: use half wholemeal and half plain for more fibre, or substitute 2 oz, 50g with ground almonds)

3 teaspoons of baking powder

Method:

  1. Line a 8 x 21 cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
  3. Beat together the butter or margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy. This is the most important step.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time and if the mixture curdles add a tablespoon of the flour, with each egg.
  5. Then add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat again.
  6. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  7. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and spread out with a pallet knife. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife comes out clean from the middle.
  9. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning it out.
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New year: new you: new diet?

New Year

So we are well into the New Year. So did you start a new diet? How is it going?

At this time of year many of us feel motivated to change our diet for the better. A new year feels like turning a corner, where you can say goodbye to old habits and practice and re-inforce new ones.

But why is it so hard to keep going after the first week of January?

We may say it’s the cold, or the dark, or we have a cold, or we are too tired, or the wrong diet, or the wrong exercise plan or whatever excuse we use.

Could it be that we forgot the most important part of changing? That is actually wanting to do it for yourself and not for someone else, or because you think you should, or you’d quite like to have the body of Rihanna, but actually really, really wanting it.

Preparation for change is often overlooked, and that is why changing your diet suddenly and dramatically can do more harm than good.

Often people tell me they don’t have the willpower to make changes to their diet, but if you generate a strong sense of why you want to do it, and feel good about that, then you will have generated the ‘willpower’.

If you have found it difficult to keep going with your new diet this year, try looking at your motivation. Is this something you really want?

Write a list of the benefits of doing it and feel how good it will feel to achieve all of them. It is important to generate the positive feeling.

Once you have generated the feel good excitement about making this change, keep going back to it, daily if possible.

Once you have focused on the benefits and generated that feel good energy for some time, then make the change. I find this approach helps me to make positive changes.

If your New Year’s resolutions have now come and gone, don’t give up. Start again once you have generated the positivity for the changes that you want and see how much easier it is.

Happy eating!

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/

 

 

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.

What inspires you to cook?

Fish pie 003

Fish pie

A few weeks ago the BBC announced that it was closing the BBC Food website in order to save money. This prompted massive protest and a petition signed by 90,000 people.

Chefs including Nigella Lawson, the Hairy Bikers and James Martin contribute to the site. Thankfully the BBC announced that it will move as many recipes to the BBC Good Food website.

I am a big fan of BBC Good Food. It has thousands of recipes which are easily searchable. It is a good resource to find recipes from food programmes that are on the BBC, without having to buy the whole book.

This week I have picked out some recipes from BBC Food that have inspired me. It is worth having a look at the website before it is lost.

I tried these breakfast bars by Nigella, but I substituted some of the exotic ingredients for bog-standard ones such as raisins (instead of cranberries) and sunflower seeds (instead of chia seeds). It worked just as well,or you can go exotic if you have the time and the budget!

I made this fish bake inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie uses ½ pint of cream in his recipe, which serves 4. If you are uncomfortable with using cream, you can make a roux sauce with flour and milk.

There has been some talk in the press about the low-fat high carb diet being bad advice for those wanting to lose weight and I would agree with this to a certain extent. If you eat more fat, you will be more satisfied by your meals. Eating carbs without any fat leads to hunger soon after a meal . Fat slows down the absorption of carbs into the blood, meaning you are less drawn to sugary, fatty (unhealthy) snacks in between meals.

The recipes and link to the BBC article are below.

Let me know which recipes you try.

Happy Cooking!

 

Nigella’s breakfast bars:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/breakfast_bars_20_09760

Jamie’s Tasty Fish Bake

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tastyfishbake_73312

BBC article about closure of BBC Good Food: BBC unveils shake-up of online services including recipes, 17 May 2016, BBC News website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36308976

Or search BBC Food for your own recipes, before it goes!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/

 

3 Tips for spring: foods, daylight, sunshine

Broccoli_FreeDigitalPhotos.net_James Barker

Purple sprouting broccoli courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love this time of year, when the days are lengthening, the birds are singing and everything is coming into bloom. It is also a good time to explore some seasonal changes that can give your health a much-needed boost after a long winter.

Tip one: eat some seasonal foods

The season still effects what we eat to some extent. Even though salad is available in the shops all year round, you probably eat less salad in the winter, going instead for hot food more often. But once the weather starts to get warmer salad looks appealing again. 

Radishes, watercress, rocket and spring onions are in season at this time and will add a good boost to the nutrition of your diet.

It’s not just salad veg that is good at this time of year, greens such as asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens, good sources of folic acid and vitamin K, are all easy to find at this time of year.

Buying seasonally means you can ‘buy british’ , supporting our farmers and using less air miles to get food to our plate, which means the food will be fresher and more nourishing, and hopefully taste better. For example tomatoes are mostly tasteless throughout the winter, but when in season and grown closer to home have much more flavour. 

In terms of fruit, rhubarb is a good choice at this time of year. It can be stewed with a small amount of sugar and eaten with yoghurt or on your cereal. It is also great in a pie or crumble.

You may not expect meat and fish to be seasonal but their availability is also affected by the seasons. Lamb and venison are best at this time of year and lots of different fish and seafood such as crab, oysters, cockles, winkles, prawns, sardines, plaice and salmon.

For more information on seasonal foods have a look at:

http://www.lovebritishfood.co.uk/

http://www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk/

http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk/

Tip two: make the most of the extra hour of daylight

With the recent clock change we now have an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. You can make the most of it by going out for a walk or doing something outdoors in the evenings.

It is not so difficult to get out the house as having more daylight gives us an energy boost. I always feel as if I come out of hibernation at this time of year.

Tip three: get some sunshine at lunchtime

With more daylight, there is more opportunity for us to get some sunshine and now is the time of year when we can start producing vitamin D again (from the action of sunlight on skin). It is important to get some time in the sun (without sunscreen) every day. A lunchtime walk will ensure you get this. Make sure you don’t spend more that 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen though.

I hope you enjoy the fresh seasonal foods, extra daylight and getting outdoors more.