Plan and Shop for Healthy Eating

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HealthyEating_cVaried but well selected and attractively presented meals can be a source of enjoyment to the whole family and bring satisfaction to the cook. Such meals make an important contribution to a healthy life. Pre-planning is essential for any catering to be successful. The following suggestions will help you plan varied and healthy meals and snacks that suit different tastes, budgets and dietary needs.


Planning

Make an outline of your week's menus, making particular note of any special meals you may need to cater for. Plan your menus to use ingredients and energy to the best advantage, but also make the meals interesting and varied.

Check special offers in local newspapers and shops, and try to include the best buys in your menus. Buy food in season when prices are lower, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables.

Plan the quantities you need carefully to avoid wastage.

Prepare and follow a shopping list; this will help you keep to your budget and remind you of family preferences.

Keep a basic stock of store cupboard items eg flour, pasta, rice, fats and oils as well as dried fruit tomato puree, canned tomatoes, stock cubes, canned fruit spices, herbs - so that you can always add interest to basic ingredients. Renew them regularly.

Cook ahead for meals e.g. making a larger quantity of a dish and freezing half for later, or using cold rice in salads.

Shopping

Shop after you have eaten. You arev more likely toimpulse buy if you stop when you are hungry.

Try to buy only what is on your list, being flexible only for specials and good buys.

Be price-conscious; buying cheapest is not always best; consider waste, other ingredients needed. i.e, total cost of the meal.

Read labels. The ingredients of packaged foods are listed in descending order of weight. You should knowwhat is in the food you are buying. Many foods now carry a nutrition label as well so that you can make comparisons between brands.

Check 'best before' dates.

Look very carefully at convenience foods. Would you get better value and quality if you made it yourself?

Bear in mind the facilities you have at home for storing food, e.g. freezer space.

Storing Food at Home

Store meat in a container or on a plate. covered or loosely wrapped, in the 'fridge', for up to three days.

If possible, cook fresh fish and offal on the day of purchase. Both require chilled storage.

Loose bacon and cheese can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator or cool larder. Unopened vacuum packed bacon and cheese may be kept longer, check the sell-by-date and pack instructions. Once opened keep in a container or wrapped in foil.

Store strongly flavoured foods in airtight containers or tightly wrapped in foil, away from foods easily tainted e.g. cheese, butter, milk.

Buy crisp, fresh-looking fruit and vegetables and use whilst fresh. Keep for 2-3 days only, stored in a cool well-ventilated cupboard away from light Salad vegetables like lettuce benefit from being stored in the fridge.

Root vegetables should be stored in a vegetable rack in a cool well-ventilated place for up to a week. Keep potatoes in the dark to prevent them from turning green.

To keep left-overs, and to store prepared or semi-prepared food, place in a non-tainting dish and cover with a lid or foil, keep in the refrigerator for the shortest possible time before serving, or freeze.

What is a Healthy Diet?

It is often said "You are what you eat". The food we eat must provide most of the materials needed by the body for total well-being.

Food nourishes the body in the following ways:

  1. It provides materials to be turned into energy.
  2. It provides materials for the building and upkeep of all body tissues.
  3. It provides materials which regulate all the body's processes.

The materials referred to above, known as nutrients, are the essential building blocks of good health. When choosing foods, the aim should be to produce a diet which provides all the nutrients in the correct proportions. A variety of food are essential as no one food contains all the nutrients you will need in the right proportions.

A healthy varied diet contains the following.

Water: The body is equipped with mechanisms such as thirst which help to maintain body water content within narrow limits. About 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) of liquid per day is needed. This can be provided from both food and drinks.

Proteins: Which provide materials (amino acids) for growth and repair of tissues. Excess to the bodys requirements converted to energy (4 Kcals/gram or 17 kilojoules) or is stored as fat.

Although the British diet has changed over the past years, the total protein intake has remained fairly stable. Many foods contain protein. Animal sources such as lean meat fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products provide all the essential amino acids needed by the body. For health, look for low or reduced fat alternatives where possible. This makes the vegetable sources of protein, such as those products found in cereal pulses, such as dried peas, beans, lentils and nuts, of great value to our diets.

Carbohydrates: Provide the main source of energy at 3.75 kcal (16 kilojoules) per gram of carbohydrate. It is recommended that about 55-60% of our calories should come from carbohydrates.

Tht principal source of carbohydrates should be from the unrefined complex starched present in whole grains made into cereals and flour, and in vegetables such as corn or potatoes. Starchy foods have an unfounded reputation for being fattening, but as a source of key nutrients they are a valuable part of a healthy diet.

The starchy foods also provide dietary fibre. Cereal foods and products, vegetables arid fruit art important sources of fibre.

Sugars, or simple carbohydrates, are found in table sugar, honey, jams, fruit and the sugars in sweets, sweet desserts and soft drinks. Sugar simply provides energy. It does not contribute anything else of value to a healthy diet. Its pleasant taste and intake should be watched as it is easy to overeat risking dental decay and becoming overweight

Fats: Supply the most concentrated source of energy at 9 Kcal (38 kilojoules) per gram of fat. Fats provide the small but essential quantity of certain fatty acids our bodies need for healthy growth and functioning. Certain fats such as margannes contain the fat soluble vitamins A and D and vegetable oils contain vitamin E. Besides these essential functions, fat also contributes to our enjoyment of food, by making foods more attractive to eat and in many cases, adding flavour.

However, it is recommended currently that dietary fat should only sUPPLY about one third of our calories. Many people now obtain as much as 40-50% of their calories from fat.

More than half the fat we eat is hidden. Processed and high fat meat, rich baked foods, fried foods and dairy products all contain a considerable amount of fat, often without our realising it. Visible forms of fat include margarine, butter, white fats, oils and tat on meat.

Vitamins and Minerals: Are needed for the regulation of body processes. Vitamins are referred to as fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) or as water soluble (vitamins B and C).

Altogether there are about fifty nutrients that are involved in human nutrition. Certain foods contain 'leader nutrients', meaning that a particular food is a valuable source of a certain nutrient. Vitamins and minerals are widely distributed in foods so it is advisable to include a variety of different foods on a regular basis.

The intricacies of these nutrients and how they work together to keep the body healthy are contained in nutrition text books for further reading.

Guide for Meal Planning

There is no single pattern of meal planning that ensures good health. A good diet can be made up in many ways, enabling each cook to add their own flair. All members of a family, from children to adults need the same basic foods, but in different amounts. To be well-nourished select a varied diet including fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereal products, low fat milk and milk products. and portions of lean meat fish or poultry and pulse vegetables. Follow the key word of 'moderation' in the use of refined products that may be excessive in sugars and fats. Cut down on salt in your food, and use herbs and spices to enliven your cooking.

The following guide is useful for planning which foods to include daily.

Milk and/or Milk Products: Are our leading source of calcium needed for strong bones and teeth. They also provide protein, B vitamins, and vitamins A and D. As most dairy products are high in hidden fats, try to use skimmed or low fat milk, cheese and yoghurts. Milk can be incorporated into soups, sauces and desserts. Cream and ice cream are not considered as good regular choices because of their high fat content.

Children and adolescents need 3-4 servings, adults 2 servings, and pregnant and nursing mothers 3-4 servings a day.

* One serving of milk or yoghurt is 275ml (1/2 pint). A serving of cheese is 40g (1 1/2 oz).

Lean Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs & Pulses: Provide protein and B vitamins, as well as iron for healthy blood cells. All visible fat should be trimmed from meat.

* One serving of lean meat (including offal), fish or poultry is from 50-75g (2-3 oz).

* A serving of soaked and cooked dried beans, peas or lentils is from 125-175g (4-6 oz). Everybody should have the equivalent of two servings a day.

Bread and Cereal Products: Provide B vitamins, iron and protein. Whole grain products providing fibre are the best choice as they have not had any nutrients removed during refining. Everybody needs 3-5 servings daily although younger children will need smaller servings.

* A serving of bread is one large slice.

* A serving of wholegrain cereal is 50-75g (2-3 oz).

* A serving of cooked pasta or nee is 125-175g(4-6oz).

Fruits and Vegetables: Are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. It is recommended that we eat a large variety of fruit and vegetables; e.g. 4-5 servings a day.

* A serving is 1 medium fruit or vegetable (e.g. apple, potato, tomato) eaten as such.

* A serving is 125g (4oz)of fruit or vegetable (e.g. juice, sweetcom, peas, beans, soft fruit).

Dark green or yellow fruits and vegetables, such as apricots, broccoli, carrots, spinach, swede and many others are rich sources of nutrients. Citrus frurts (oranges, grapefruits) and dark green vegetables (if not overcooked), tomatoes and potatoes provide vitamin C, needed every day.

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