Doing your food shop online isn’t necessarily easier. One click is significantly easier than actually walking to a particular isle (confectionery isle I’m looking at you), and those same BOGOF deals on processed food aren’t just flashing up on every page; they even remind you before you checkout: “are you sure you don’t want 72 chocolate cream biscuits while it’s 3 for 2 on family packs?”?!
Sure I agree it should be up to people to take some self-responsibility and know the difference between a banana and a banana smoothie (sometimes not much, sometimes a very very very lot), but actually I’m the one who’s spent thousands of hours studying and I couldn’t likely do your job like you can, so how can I expect you to know as much as me? I don’t. But I am here to help.
They say 5 a day, I say at least 8 if not 10. For a family of 4 that’s 280 portions of fruit and veg a week. That’s A LOT. It will take up a huge amount of your trolley. If you only like the fresh stuff, if might be better doing a mid week top up instead, that way you don’t get to day 5 and it’s all gone bleugh. Frozen definitely counts and it’s always handy to have stuff on standby. Tinned is ok too but nutrients are lost in the storing water and they don’t taste as nice either, so only buy tinned for emergency stocks if you can. Juice – max 1 x 100ml glass a day (that’s pretty small, FYI), preferably none, and definitely no added sugar. Smoothies; one a day, and only pure fruit/veg, and max 2 portions of fruit per smoothie. 2 bananas and 200g cherries in a glass is a lot of sugar in one hit; you’d unlikely eat the same in solid food in one sitting. Try this family challenge – buy one new fruit, veg or salad variety that you’ve never tried, every time you do a food shop. I like to let my kids choose what fruit and veg they want – the power element makes them more likely to eat it.
Chicken dippers, fish cakes, sausages and burgers are fine, sometimes. But they’re highly processed, have lots of added ingredients (many unnecessary) and over all don’t have as much actual meat/fish content as plain proteins. I’m not asking you to butcher a carcass or even fillet a whole fish. I don’t do that! But chicken drumsticks, lightly crumbed whole fish pieces, and a good bit of steak or mince to put in a spag bol are all things that most families and children will eat. If you’re a vegetarian, eggs are natures fast food, and unprocessed cheese contains protein and vitamins, though with some types being high in fat (and calories), watch the portions if weight loss is your goal. Vegans – try and steer clear of those processed meatless pattys and stick to whole food protein sources like tofu, quinoa, hemp and soy dairy alternatives.
Step 3 – Get racist with your grains
Ditch the white and go brown, or even better, dark rye or wholegrain varieties with added oats and tasty seedy bits! You already know wholegrains are more nutritious. Choose wholegrain or lentil versions of rice and pasta, and experiment with less common grains like quinoa, buckwheat and spelt. Everything from bakery items to cereals and ready meals are found these days using more wholesome ingredients than white flour, and some of them taste really good! Also, unless you’re super active or are a growing child, most people could do with eating fewer starchy carbs and grains anyway; if you’re going to cut calories this is a good place to start once the obvious junk food, alcohol etc have been reigned in.
The line is very blurry and the packaging doesn’t give much away. Some yoghurts have as much sugar as a chocolate mousse, and some cheesecakes have more calcium than a ‘healthy’ yoghurt. Look on the pack of any yoghurt and you’ll be horrified at the sugar, but ALL dairy has sugar, it’s natural lactose (milk sugar). It’s the added sugar in dairy that’s the issue. The fewer the ingredients, the better, and the lower added sugar, the better. Diet yoghurts are often watered down sugary junk yoghurts, and kids’ yoghurts can be the worst, sugar wise. Plain is best, but failing that ones that use fruit concentrate to sweeten are usually better than using actual sugar. Don’t dismiss ice cream as a pudding; some are pretty healthy when you compare them to other puddings! Frozen yoghurt isn’t always as angelic as it looks. But use your common sense and keep the all singing and dancing marshmallow chocolate extravaganza as a treat.
Butter or marge? Olive oil or coconut oil? Is peanut butter healthy (I was asked that exact question by a journalist once). The biggest problem I see with Mums wanting to lose weight is portion control. Have you ever tried putting the advised ‘1 tsp.’ butter on a slice of toast from a meal plan? That’s one dry bit of toast you’re left with! ALL fat types have their place, except trans fats in cheap margarine but nowadays most ‘spreads’ are just butter mixed with oil to soften them. Fat is necessary, do not cut out fat. But watch the portions – it’s very high calorie and easy to over eat. Oily marinades and salad dressings are easy to over use. Tip: get those baking measuring spoons, so helpful for measuring out small quantities of sauces and oils.
Anyone who makes everything from scratch is either lying or over 60; us Mums don’t have time for that! And that’s why you need to know the difference between nutritious convenience food and junk food.
Ready Meals: just pop it in the oven and it’s done, so it takes no more time choosing a healthier ready meal over an unhealthy one. The trick is to choose the freshest, minimally processed ones. So macirony cheese with it’s white pasta and processed cheese sauce isn’t nearly as nutritious as a gammon or salmon steak in parsley sauce. A cheesy mash topped cottage pie could have very little meat and the potatoes will have lost a lot of vitamins, but a breaded chicken kiev made with a whole chicken breast would be very filling and tasty. Just add microwavable vegetables (watch the butter, if added – the calories add up fast) for a complete meal.
Freezer foods: fresh soup freezes really well, just add some extra veg and protein (for example leftover steamed broccoli and some chopped ham) for a quick stew. Unless you’re very active, you probably don’t need bread and butter alongside too. From-the-bag frozen prawns, chicken or Quorn pieces and salmon fillets turn into a stir fry in 5 minutes, I always have these in my freezer.
Snacks: most cereal bars are chocolate or biscuit bars in disguise. But aside from the obvious fruit, yoghurts and nuts, not all bars are created equal and some aren’t bad at all. Be wary of natural sugar ones – dates, honey, syrup and dried fruit. Yes it’s natural sugar, but it’s very condensed, unlike fresh fruit. Good quality protein bars and low sugar nut bars are my go to, or low sugar oat biscuits. Instead of crisps, try salty olives, nuts, oatcakes, cheese pieces and lentil crisps; all way more filling and more nutritious. If it really is crisps you want, the high fibre lentil and pulse based ones are fab, and can be dipped in hummus or salsa too.
Eggs: natures fast food, anything becomes a meal with eggs. Omelette, frittata, scrambled, poached on top – just add whatever leftovers you have lying around, including lots of vegetables, and you’re good to go. Herbs and spices keep things interesting, and most people have a few little jars of these lying around so get experimenting.
Of course, you actually do know most of this already don’t you? So why aren’t you doing it? Because in a hurry it all seems like so much hard work, and you just want to get out there asap, and so you do what you’ve always done because it’s quick and you’re not quite sure how or when you’ll break the cycle….and I get it
I’ll come shopping with you (or we’ll do it online) and we’ll do a ‘normal’ shop like you normally do, only I’ll be with you and we’ll agree on little swaps as we go that you feel confident both you and your family will eat.
I won’t make you eat anything you don’t like, and we’ll probably save you some money too!
I can come to you but if you live too far we can do it either remotely or for a little extra travel cost I’ll visit you wherever you are in the UK.