Tips to reduce food waste.

Mouldy carrots, liquid cucumber, out of date yoghurts…we’ve all had it. In this time of us all trying to be more eco-friendly not only should we be trying to shop more locally and reduce petrol, buy local produce and reduce food miles, grow more food ourselves…but also not overbuying food that we don’t need and making sure food doesn’t get wasted.

The Food Waste Report says we throw away 1/3 of the food we buy, 6.7 tonnes a year. The main foods wasted being potatoes, bread and fruit and veggies. According to statistics if we stopped wasting food it would be the equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads! I found this figure pretty alarming. Reducing the amount of food waste is key if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Being a dietitian I must admit I do watch what others do in their homes. I’m not judging but just interested. What I tend to see is a lot of wasted food. Leftovers from meals being thrown away, things in the fridge not being used in time, fruit half eaten and then chucked in the bin. None of that is allowed in my house. If a banana is left in the car and is by the husband and is past its best it either gets used straightaway in my banana flapjack recipe or frozen for use later on. Leftovers are fought over for lunches! In fact I now just cook extra so the baby and I can have leftovers for lunch in the week, and the freezer can be fed.

I’d like to inspire you to be a little less wasteful so here are some tips:

Top Tips:

1. Plan, Plan, Plan. At some point in the week plan out what you are going to do for meals. In our house this is a flexible plan as I’m guided also by what is on offer in the shops. So I may decide to do a risotto, but leave the type of risotto flexible until I shop. Planning helps me buy the right things, saves me time and money and keeps me organised! It also ensures that most of  the time we don’t get caught out on a busy day with no time to cook…as I think about what we are all doing and try to plan in when I will have time to cook dinners.

2. You don’t need to throw away food just because it is past the best before date. There are 2 types of dates on foods…the use by date is important, food can be eaten up to the end of the ‘use by’ date, but not after even if it looks and smells fine. The best before date is different. This refers to quality rather than food safety. When the date is passed, the food won’t be unsafe but it might begin to lose its flavour or texture.

3. Keep leftovers. Leftovers are amazing. Use them for lunches, add them into the next days meal, add them to a whole new meal – use as the base of an omelette, a frittata, soups and stews… Or freeze them.

4. Be aware of what is in your fridge and veggie rack. Think about what needs using up first before you start to cook. Is the spinach wilting? Are the peaches going off? Then use them up quick! Stir fries are great for using most veggies, fruit can be lightly stewed and turned into a dessert or a compote for breakfast. Use the internet to find a quick recipe.

5. Make soups…if we have a glut of veggies it becomes soup time.  Homemade soups are so quick and easy to make. Soften a little onion, ad your veggies, cover with stock and simmer till the veggies are soft. Whiz in the blender, add seasoning and hey presto…fresh soup. It’s cheap, easy and full of nutrition.

6. Get composting 🙂 Scraps, peelings, apple cores, teabags, torn up paper and tissue, toilet rolls etc… can all be composted. Get a compost collecter in your kitchen and start a compost heap in the garden. Then use the compost to grow some yummy veggies!

7. Try to buy food that has less packaging or biodegradable packaging. Fruit and veggies can be bought loose, from the green grocer or have a box delivered from the farm. Recycle as much packaging as possible or compost some of it.

References:

WRAP. Food Waste Report. The food we waste.  April 2008. http://wrap.s3.amazonaws.com/the-food-we-waste.pdf

A little bit of morning crumpet, wheat/gluten free of course.

Crumpets are a things of greatness, why should you miss out if gluten/wheat free? I love pottering in the kitchen, trying new things and I also love warm baked goods that are more savoury than sweet…being wheat free crumpets are the kind of foods I’ve missed. The shop bought versions just don’t hit the spot and are pretty expensive, so whilst pregnant and craving yummy things I perfected this recipe. It’s an adaptation of one in the Health Gluten-Free Eating cook book by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney, so credit should also go to them as all I’ve done is play around to make it suit me!

Crumpets may sound like a tricky thing to make and they probably are if you are making them to look like the shop bought versions. Mine look nothing like those but they taste very crumpet like and are just so satisfying to make. So if you like baking give them a go:

  • 150g rice flour
  • 75g tapioca flour or cornmeal
  • 1 tsp xanthum gum
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • drizzle of rapeseed oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 ml milk
  • water
Mix the flours, xanthum gum, bicarb and cream of tartar together. Make a well and add oil plus eggs. Add the milk a little at a time and mix swiftly with a wooden spoon to start and then a whisk – a good arm building muscle exercise 🙂 Try to get air into the batter. If it still looks quite thick add a splash of water. If should be like cake mixture. Drop tablespoons onto a non stick pan or a flat griddle pan and cook until there are bubbles appearing. I find a lower heat is better and they take longer than a thick pancake would. Flip over and cook the other side. 
Crumpets cooking on the griddle

These are best eaten warm, I find quite a few of these seem to disappear as soon as they are cooked….who knows where they go?! They also freeze really well and can be popped in the toaster to defrost and warm. Amazingly these turn out with a proper crumpet texture which you may be able to see in this photo (if you can’t then you will just have to believe me!).

Best served with a bit of jam and a good cuppa 🙂 Alternatively the baby had hers with melted cheese and some cooked mushrooms which went down very well. Go be inspired and try something new in the kitchen this weekend.

The Art of lazy cooking…by the slow cooker.

I love my slow cooker. Fact. It’s one of my fav kitchen gadgets, along with my food processor, bread machine and the kettle. Shows I’m pretty lazy doesn’t it! I’d love to have the time to mix everything by hand, make bread by hand and boil water in a pretty singing kettle on the hob, but in my whirlwind life it just isn’t going to happen. So I cheat…pretty much all the time.

Today I fancied cooking a heathy stew full of beans, lentils, veggies and chicken. Now I’m looking after an active baby, running pilates classes, teaching step aerobics and writing a diet sheet today, not much time to cook. So my solution was to get out the slow cooker.

This is what we do…raid the cupboards and veggie rack, chop things nice and chunky, throw it all in and switch it on 🙂 Today we have chicken thighs, chunky bacon bits, carrots, squash and mixed beans and pulses all with some chopped tomatoes, fennel, mustard seeds and balsamic vinegar plus a star anise. Towards the end of cooking I’ll add a handful of fresh herbs and serve with mashed potatoes as its potato season in our house.

Give it a go, the house will smell lovely, the food will taste great and it’s all healthy stuff.

Local Produce, Give it a Go.

Local produce has always been around, local farmers have always been growing and producing, but somehow over the years we stopped buying it. The excitement of trying new “foreign” foods, the emergence of supermarkets containing almost every food you could ever want and prices have drastically changed the way we shop. Small shops are dwindling away and farmers have had to change the ways they do business. Take a look in your kitchen, where did you shop this week? Where did your fruit come from? Who looked after your chicken and what type of life did it have? Is anything local?!

I absolutely love Farm Shops (my husband will tell you that), whenever we are driving around and I see one a cry comes out of my mouth “Farm shop, Farm shop” and often my lovely, obliging husband will pull over and let me browse, smell, pick up foods and drool over yummy things. Living in Hampshire there are many Farm Shops off the beaten track, but also my local butcher sells local meat, a well known supermarket shop nearby had local strawberries in last week and some of our farm shops deliver weekly, plus our local chickens live at the end of my garden 😉 If you look around your area I bet you can find a way to get some local food. Look out for farmers markets and food shows too.

Local produce is any food that has been grown, raised, cooked, baked or produced within your locality.

So what are the benefits of eating local produce?

Here’s my thoughts, but please do add to them by commenting below…

1. Usually local produce has been well looked after – animal will have had space to roam, have been fed on healthy foodstuff and provide quality, tasty meat. Fruit and veggies will be grown as naturally as possible.

2. Buying locally is eco-friendly, less transport costs, you can even go and pick it up from the farm or have it delivered direct to you from the field.

3. Food is fresher, so tastier. The fresher your fruit and veggies the better they are nutritionally.

4. You are supporting your local farmers, so supporting your community and economy. Rather than supporting the pockets of your local supermarket 😉

5. Often farm shops and farmers markets have a great range of different foods – I’ve recently had watercress sausages, locally made biltong and some amazing apricot liqueur.

6. Food festivals and markets give you a chance to try before you buy and get ideas on recipes and cooking from the producers.

7. Buying what is in season can be cheaper. Stock up when things are in season, cook and freeze for later on or wrap and store veggies if they are suitable.

So how about taking up the challenge…try shopping locally for even some of your shop this month.

Baby Brekkie Ideas…

I was recently asked for some ideas for baby breakfasts, which got me thinking…. my baby is pretty easy with breakfast, we tend to stick with a range of cereals and add fruit to them. At 8am I’m not usually feeling in the mood for cooking. However it can also be good to vary things and most foods can be prepared to some extent the night before. Some here are my baby brekkie ideas, please let me know yours…

  • Readybrek with milk and fruit (we love banana and blueberries).
  • Scrambled egg on toast – make sure eggs are well cooked I find this best cooked on the cooker and not in the microwave. Try adding chopped ham/tomatoes/mushrooms whilst cooking the egg.
  • Bagel with cream cheese and tomato
  • Fruit salad with yoghurt
  • French toast/Eggy bread
  • Pancakes with fruit puree
  • Crumpet with butter and marmite
  • Hard boiled egg with toast
  • English muffins with melted cheese and cooked mushrooms
  • American pancakes with berries – see my previous post, use plain flour if wanted: http://dietitianuk.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/wheat-freegluten-free-pancakes/ 
  • Porridge fingers – Take a handful of porridge oats, and add just enough milk to cover them in wide-bottomed bowl, microwave for 60s.  Allow to cool before slicing into triangles/fingers. Or add mashed bananas and microwave for 90s.
  • Porridge – add different combinations of fruit to oats, add milk and cook in microwave. We love sultanas with apple and cinnamon at present. Baby loves the juice sultanas 🙂
  • Griddled peach slices served on an English muffin with cottage cheese.
  • Homemade Muesli (for baby and mummy!) – 65g oats with 175 ml apple juice, refridgerate overnight. Next morning grate 1 apple and 1 pear, add a little lemon juice and mix in, add any other fruit wanted and serve with full fat natural yoghurt.
Scrambled egg on toast!


Wheat free/Gluten Free Pancakes

Everyone loves a good pancake, myself included. So here is my adaptation… its both wheat free and gluten free 🙂 quick and easy to whip up. We like them for brunch with bacon or as a snack.

135g rice flour

1 egg

130ml milk

1 tsp baking powder

2tbsp oil/melted marg

optional –  1 handful sultanas.

Mix up the batter adding extra milk if needed, it needs to be fairly thick, about the consistency of double cream. Heat up a non stick pan (or I use a large griddle that fits across 2 burners on my cooker) and drop tablespoons on. When bubble start to appear on the surface flip the pancake over.

They take a couple of minutes each side. Best eaten warm 🙂

If you have any left (unlikely), these freeze really well, I tend to make up a big batch and freeze some, then take a few from the freezer and toast them as a snack.

Penny saving Prawns.

This weekend it was my birthday…. and birthdays mean special meals 🙂  This year having a baby meant the idea of getting dressed up and going out past 8pm felt like the last thing we fancied, and the prospect of an early morning after a late night was not so appealing….so instead we opted for a meal in. Take-away is almost a non-existant word in our house, mainly because I’m wheat free, can’t take too much spice at present and am not great with fatty food. I know, I’m a tough cookie to please at times. So we wanted a quick, tasty meal. The decision – king prawn and mussel thai green curry. Easy to prepare with fresh lemongrass, ginger, chilli, coriander and coconut milk, full of tasty veggies alongside the seafood and served with thai style rice and a chilled glass of white wine. Prawn crackers on the side as a treat . I could eat it all over again.

We ended up buying the fresh shell on prawns from the fish counter. These were not only cheaper by far, tastier and we got the added fun of deshelling the prawns 🙂 After dinner we collected up all the prawn shells. They have made a delicious fish stock and then got scoffed by the cats. A true bargain, feeding 2 adults, 2 cats and a tasty stock ready for a fish pie. Yum.

Prawns are a good lean source of protein, they have high levels of vitamin B12 as well as being a good course of Selenium, Omega 3, Vitamin E and Phosphorus. They are also low in fat and saturated fats so a healthy choice.

So I’d encourage you to have a look at your fresh fish counter/fishmonger, not only can it be tastier and fresher but it may be cheaper too.

Peppers stuffed with Quinoa (Wheat free, GF, DF)

I love vegetarian food, though I’m not actually a vegetarian. I love the colours, flavours and creativeness of it. We tend to have meatless meals 3-4 days a week and use lentils, beans and pulses a lot.

Last week I really fancied having a go with Quinoa, its not something we eat that often but being wheat free I can’t eat cous cous and had had an urge for making stuffed peppers, plus the baby hadn’t given Quinoa a go yet.

These came our really well, even if my husband had to take his in a plastic tub back to work to eat as his on-call phone rang! His comments were that it was difficult to eat without a knife but the Quinoa was delicious and nutty. The baby managed to eat hers all without a knife 😉 fingers sufficed and the whole lot went quite quickly, so I’m taking that as a compliment.


Recipe:

Remove the stalk and seeds from the pepper and then halve them, roast in the oven for about 30 mins at Gas Mark 5.

Saute a mix of veggies (I used mushrooms and courgettes), cook the Quinoa using stock and then add to the veggies with a little stock and plenty of fresh herbs.

Stuff it all in the pepper and top with grated cheese, bake until the cheese bubbles (Use Cheezly if you are dairy free as it melts best). Yum yum.

Wheat Free Flour Tips.

Due to the fact I have Crohn’s disease I’m on a wheat free diet. I’m not allergic to wheat, but definitely intolerant to it and I know quite soon after eating something that contains wheat. Wheat free food and all specialist food can be quite expensive so my way around that is to shop around and to make as much of my own wheat free food as possible. This means my cupboards are full of weird and wonderful things like Xanthum gum (one of my fav things, it has made my bread so much better) and many flours. I typically like to use rice flour, rye flour, potato flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, cornflour and tapioca flour. Buying all these flours can certainly add up, but there are a few tips and tricks I can pass on….

  • Don’t expect these specialist flours to be a good price at your local supermarket, but do keep checking as they sometimes have offers on.
  • Look online at the specialist health food stores, again they often have offers on.
  • Try health food shops and farm shops. One of my farm shops has the most fantastic range of wheat free foods and often has deals on.
  • Ethnic shops can be great. I get my rice flour, tapioca flour and potato flour plus rice noodles from the Chinese shop and my chickpea flour from the Indian shop. Much cheaper than anywhere else.
  • Although the premixed flours you can buy are easy they are not always the best, try mixing your own blends. I find rice flour with cornmeal and rye flour is good for bread.
  • Making your own bread is cheaper and usually better for you as you can control what you put in and add extra bits….I like a selection of seeds in my bread.
  • Most bought bread has a high salt content, when I make mine I put a tiny amount in or none at all.
  • Other wheat free goodies I regularly make are crumpets, pancakes and scones. Yum.
Here is a selection of the goodies I bought today from my local Chinese shop, now to get baking 🙂

Does Personality affect your ability to lose weight?

This week I was interviewed and quoted by a newspaper about a book written on personality and dieting. Daniel Amen thinks that there are 5 types of overeater – compulsive, impulsive, compulsive-impulsive, emotional and anxious overeaters. He suggests that each group of person should avoid certain foods and eat more of others in order to lose weight. This is all based on brain patterns as Daniel is a neuroscientist.

Here is the link…http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2030682/Weight-loss-tips-Knowing-weaknesses-key-says-Daniel-Amen.html

Personally I agree that there are different types of overeaters and personality does definitely affect the way people eat. We all know people who eat more when they are anxious and others who just have to eat food if its in the house but can resist if its not there. It would be right to say that different personalities respond to different approaches. For example some people work well with tackling their body image first, others want practical goals and some need a focus on activity. However I don’t agree with the food advice that Mr Amen gives. Whatever type of person you are a healthy balanced diet is key to weight loss combined with activity. The key ingredient is to have a personalised plan that suits your lifestyle and your food likes/dislikes. If your eating plan and activity plan are not based on things that you enjoy you are not likely to stick to them! Cutting out food groups like carbohydrate is never a good idea no matter what your personality.

My other thought is that some people may use this concept as an excuse… “well I can’t lose weight easily due to my personality. ” In admit it is really not easy to lose weight, it takes time, dedication and lots of hard work, sweat plus some tears, but the health benefits are amazing. Losing 10% of your body weight if you are overweight reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, it can help improve your overall sense of well being and your ability to go about everyday life.

Don’t put your health on hold, get your nutrition and activity sorted out as a matter of priority, it really will change your life.

Freelance Dietitian specialising in helping those with Eating Disorders and a Media Spokesperson for the profession.