Sunday, 1 April 2012

A healthy nudge

It must be annoying to go out with a Nutritional Therapist .. hot doc has to put up up with me wittering on about food a fair bit, regularly going awol in the supermarket whilst I examine the latest health foods on offer, plus giving a running commentary in the kitchen on the various ingredients he's using. To be fair he eats very healthily, but an NT can always see room for improvement, so I do have to try and stop short of giving him a full blown lecture on what he should and shouldn't be eating!!

Still I think by natural osmosis and listening to some of my ramblings his diet has gradually evolved in a healthier direction, and he was even quite happy to have soya sausages in his breakfast buttie this morning, rather than regular ones!! This is courtesy of Sainsbury's having come up with some pretty passable soya sausages from their new 'love soya' range (I don't think I could have got away with a Linda Mccartney vegetable sausage). But what it made me realise, is that whoever is responsible for doing the shopping and cooking in a household has great potential to improve the health of whoever they live with.

Let's face it, most adults will eat whatever you put infront of them (within reason), and most people will eat what's in the cupboards rather than make a special trip to the corner shop for their favourite snack. So even if your partner/children naturally gravitate towards KFC you can gradually nudge them towards healthier eating without having to get them offside by announcing that they need to go on a diet or start eating healthier.

You can of course go all out and ban unhealthy foods from your house - but this is likely to lead to opposition, resistance and even secret visits to MacDonalds!! Instead I'd suggest making small changes gradually and still keeping some 'naughty' foods in the house, so no one feels their under a fascist food regime.

Top tips for giving your household a healthy nudge:
- Add some healthy goodies to the snack cupboard mixed in with the unhealthy stuff so it doesn't stand out .... start with muesli bars alongside the double deckers, and salted nuts in with the crisps ... but gradually evolve to small packs of natural nuts, dried fruits and no-sugar healthy treats such as nak'd, EAT natural and fruitus bars, fruit roll-ups and dark chocolate dipped raisins.

- Make up a batch of healthy snack bars or cookies, see elanas pantry for some great ideas, and put these in a glass cookie tin on the worktop ... being in line of sight these will be more likely to be snacked on than the regular biscuits you have in the cupboard.

- Put some no sugar muesli and lower sugar cereals in the cupboard alongside the special K and frosties. In the winter make-up some porridge - if it's hot and available most people will eat it when it's cold outside. Chop up some fruit in advance and leave it on the table with some chopped nuts, dried fruit and other healthy breakfast toppings ... again if it's infront of your family but not forced upon them they'll probably try it. In the same vein you could try putting out some milk alternatives, start with sweetened soya milk as it's more palatable, but also put out rice milk and coconut milk (the one specifically for use as a milk substitute) as not everyone likes the same ones.

- Take the saturated fat out of as many recipes as you can without your household noticing ... most recipes that involve frying in butter can use olive oil instead and lots of dishes that recommend a sprinkling of cheese at the end, can easily go without. Your family also won't notice if you start using more tomato based sauces, rather than cream-based. When it comes to meat dishes gradually cut down on red meat til you're just serving it once a week. Instead cook with skinless white meat or fish and try serving a vegan supper a couple of times a week (no dairy, meat or eggs). If presenting a bean chilli to your family for dinner will get a bad reception then serve it up as a side dish .. perhaps as another option alongside chicken to go in your fajitas .. once it's on the table someone is bound to try it and they might even like it.

- Serve multiple side dishes of vegetables rather than one big mix .. once they've taken a tablespoon from each bowl they'll end up with more veggies on their plate.

- Pulses and beans are very good for you, they are rich in fibre, minerals and phytoestrogens, low in fat, but not everyone loves them. So rather than serving up a lentil casserole, just add some whenever you cook a stew, casserole, tagine ... anything with a sauce and vegetables in it can easily hide some pulses. You can also blend white pulses such as cannelini of flagolet beans into most soups to thicken them up (instead of using a potato) and no one will notice.

- Add some variety to your bread bin ... always have a wholemeal option if you usually have white bread, but also put some rye bread and wheat/gluten free rolls in there and they'll probably get eaten.

- Always put a jug of water on the table and pour everyone a glass whether they've asked for one of not ... most people will drink it, even if it's just so they can have a glass of something else once they' finished.

- Put some crudites and hummous out on the dinner table 20 minutes before you serve dinner ... it's an easy way to get hungry little ones to eat some vegetables before anything else.

- If you're serving dessert always offer a healthy pudding alongside you're usual unhealthy one - no one likes to feel left out by not having any dessert, but they might go for fruit salad with greek yoghurt rather than cheesecake if it's on offer.

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