My attitude to food has always been fairly functional. If I’m honest, I probably prefer eating to cooking. I’m more of a savoury person. Before my weight loss, I’d eat my dinner, then your dinner if you weren’t quick enough, but you can have my dessert!
In this section, I’d like to mention some hints and tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Part of eating well involves portion control. For an average dinner, I aim for 50% of the meal as veg, 20-25% lean protein such as chicken or fish and 20-25% whole wheat like pasta or rice. Many of the recipes call for exact weights, which is part of portion control. To facilitate this, I recommend you get a decent digital kitchen scales. Get one with a “Tare” facility, where you can place a bowl on the scales, press a button to zero the display, and then when you add your food, the weight displays. Eventually you get better at determining portion sizes, but it’s best to weigh where possible.
Try to vary the types of food you eat each day. I try to alternate between fish/sea food and meat on alternate days. I also have one day each week where we have a vegetarian meal. Similarly, I alternate the accompanying ingredients such as potatoes, rice and pasta each day. The variety means you have a more balanced diet and are less likely to feel bored eating the same food every day.
Make a shopping list and stick to it! There's no point wandering around the supermarket hoping to get everything you need. Check the recipes before hand and get the right ingredients.
Spend on a few key items
Butter and Oil
I use low fat buttery spread in many of my recipes. Many of the large producers have branded versions, but the supermarket generics are also fine. Make sure the container says it’s suitable for cooking and baking on the side. For oils, I use Fry Light One Cal Spray Cooking oil where needed. It does the trick without the slick! They have a buttery one now that adds a slight buttery taste that works well.
Regular table sweeteners for tea and coffee work fine as a sugar substitute. Again, there are several branded products available, but supermarket generics are fine and a fraction of the price.
There’s no need to buy store bought breadcrumbs. When a recipe asks for breadcrumbs, I always make my own. I recommend, two slices of Weightwatchers Wholegrain Bread blitzed with a hand blender.
Stock cubes are one of the best ways to get flavour into low fat / low cal dishes, though you do need to keep an eye on the salt content. Branded ones are nice for main meals, generic ones are fine for making pasta or rice.
Herbs and Spices
Fresh and dried herbs are a great addition to dishes and never more so when making low fat/low cal dishes. Keep fresh herbs fresh for longer by keeping them on a piece of wet kitchen paper, in a plastic bag in the fridge. Lidl do great freeze dried parsley and chives. The freeze drying process seals in the goodness and they add up towards another of your '5 a day'.
Make your own lunch
Anyone trying to watch their finances (and calories!) should seriously consider making their own lunch and bringing it to work. You should calculate how much money you're spending in work on food. Even in a subsidised canteen, you're probably still parting with at least €5 per day. That's €25 per week or €100 per month. Even if you manage to do it from Monday to Thursday, you'll definitely see the extra cash. The best way to manage making your lunch is to make it the night before and pop it in the fridge. (It's not going to happen if you try to make in the morning! - Also, don't make it too early in the evening, in case it gets all cold and eaten!).
"Pot & Pan Method" ™
Ok, so it's not trademarked, but it should be! Many of the recipes on the site call for using a large pot to simmer sauces and a separate frying pan to fry veg and other good stuff before being added to the pot. Individually frying separate ingredients is one of the best ways to get flavour into your food. Lightly browning vegetable like carrots and peppers releases additional flavours and a slight sweetness that really adds to the final result. Throwing all your veg in, then poking it about will never work. Overloading the pot causes the temperature to go down and the veg end up releasing liquid and just stew. My method might take a little longer, but I hope you find it worthwhile in the long run.