Balancing Dinners…

Dinner appears to one meal where many of our bad habits appear. Often we arrive home tired and can find the contents of our fridge less than inspiring…Increasingly people report that they might not eat until late and will have not eaten since lunchtime so by the time dinner arrives they are starving. This results in eating too quickly and ultimately too much.
Firstly there are a few mealtime habits to look at. We should all aim to spend at least 20 minutes eating our meal. It takes the brain that length of time to realise when it is full. One idea can be to check the clock when you start your meal and again when you finish. If you notice that you have finished your meal in 5 or 10 minutes you are eating too quickly. Try placing your knife and fork down between mouthfuls and take time chewing your food. This way you are must more likely to eat to appetite.
Another common habit can be to eat while watching television. Research has indicated that when we watch TV while eating we tend to eat faster and also don’t pay attention to what we are eating. This can result in us eating more than we require and therefore eating more calories than we might need. Apart from eating too much, mealtimes should be viewed as a social occasion…an opportunity to catch up on your family’s day so try to keep the television out of the kitchen and dinner plates out of the TV room!

Portion control!! Poor portion control is one of the main reasons why about half of all Irish people are overweight or obese. Eat the wrong type of food (high-fat) and you will put on weight – simple! But eat too much food regardless of whether it is low-fat or low-calorie and you will also put on weight. To maintain a healthy weight, you must keep your portion sizes under control in addition to watching the fat and calorie content of foods.

So what is a portion? A “portion” can be thought of as the amount of a specific food you choose to eat for dinner, snack, or other eating occasion. Portions, of course can be bigger or smaller than the recommended food servings. A “serving” is a unit of measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount of food recommended in the Food Pyramid
Often we’re served larger portions of food than we need but don’t panic…remember you don’t need to clear the plate! Eat slowly and stop when you are full, don’t be afraid to leave some food on the plate.

6 main components for the dinner shopping list:

1. Carbohydrates;
The basis of any meal we should always include a carbohydrate rich food at dinnertime. Pasta is a low GI food and is a good low fat source of slowly released energy. However, like all grains, the more refined it is, the fewer nutrients there are, so wholewheat pasta tends to be a better choice. Many of the nutrients like Vitamin B are also removed from white rice, so choose a brown or wild rice with a lower GI instead. Steamed potatoes are good sources of vitamin C and potassium. Sweet potato is a great alternative to potatoes that is high in fibre and full of vitamin A. Cous Cous is a great low fat complex carbohydrate that is a perfect eaten hot or cold.
2. Colour; 
All our meals should have some colour in them and I encourage people to have a variety of coloured vegetables and salad in their diets. Green, red, orange, purple and white foods should be part of our diet. Try to have something green daily e.g. broccoli, cabbage, green beans, kale, pakchoi, spinach or Brussels sprouts. The cruciferous vegetables are great sources of folate. All vegetables contain phytochemicals which are compounds that are thought to help protect us against heart disease and certain cancers. TIP
Choose very green florets of broccoli, not yellowy green ones. Beta-carotene makes the broccoli green, so go for the darkest with the maximum amounts of antioxidant.
3. Flavour; 
Adding flavour doesn’t need to mean adding calories. There are many low calorie options that will ensure a tasty meal. Spices are derived from the roots, buds, bark and fruit of plants. Herbs are usually the leaves of certain plants. Always try to have a variety of flavours in your cupboard so you’re never short of a tasty addition to a meal. Traditionally, herbs and spices have been used to treat diseases for thousands of years. Spices such as chilli, mint, ginger, garlic, fenugreek and basil are thought to have health benefits.

4. Protein rich foods
We need to include a protein rich food at two or more meals per day. It is a good idea to have a variety of foods that provide protein to get maximum nutrition from your diet. Lean red meat is an excellent source of protein, iron and zinc. It can be a good idea to include red meat 2-3 times a week in your diet for adequate iron. Chicken is a good low fat source of protein. Avoid eating the skin and try to avoid adding too much fat in cooking. Fish is another important source of protein in the diet. Try to include both white and oily fish. It is recommended that we aim to include oily fish in our diets twice a week. Oily fish include – tuna, trout, mackerel or salmon. The omega 3 fats protect against heart disease by reducing the risk of clots, lowering harmful LDL cholesterol and keeping the heart beat regular. Research has found that eating oily fish twice a week can reduce the risk of stroke by 18%.

5. Good fats

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which can lower harmful LDL cholesterol without lowering the beneficial HDL cholesterol.

6. Plant sources of protein
Pulses including kidney beans, chickpeas, butter beans, soya beans and more are a great low fat source of protein, fibre and iron. The world cancer research fund recommends that we include plant sources of protein in our diets 3 or more times per week.