Eating out – Restaurant meals aren’t good for you.

A cheeky dinner out can be costly for your waistline.

Researchers from the University of Toronto examined the calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol levels of 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down restaurants around Canada. They found that the average meal has 1,128 calories. Given the average daily recommended intake for a British woman is 2,000 kcals, that’s over half used up at once.

Even worse, these meals are some of the unhealthiest you can eat. Another recent study looked at fast food in the US for the last 14 years. It showed that the nutritional value of the food available has pretty much remained the same, despite pledges to offer healthy choices.

Food from the companies included – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell,  KFC), Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen – were analysed and scored against a healthy eating index. In 1997 they scored 45/100. In 2009 that had risen to just 48/100. This was also compared to the average American’s diet, which scores 55/100.

So, food from restaurants is unhealthy and fattening. This isn’t surprising, but it shouldn’t be too worrying either – as long as your other meals are reduced in size accordingly. This is the problem for most of us; if meals out are normal, the other meals creep back up to standard sizes.So this is a Foodswap opportunity If restaurant food – (even a sandwich from Boots or Pret) are regulars in your diet. Reduce your meals-out frequency by bringing a lunchbox to work. Make your date night focus on a home-cooked meal, rather than one at a restaurant or the £10 Tesco deal.
A general focus away from pre-prepared food will help you set your own portion sizes and control your own calorific (and nutritional) inputs, leading to a healthier diet

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Foodswap: diet drinks replace full calorie ones. Really.

Coke and Coke Zero

It sounds obvious, but if you’re a big soft drink fan, trade over to the no-cal version.

Why am I posting this? Because sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths every year. That means 1% of all obesity-related deaths are down to the soda fountain and the sugarwaters they dispense.

It’s hardly surprising; Just one can of sugary soft drink raises the relative risk of type II diabetes by around a fifth. Wow.

“But LazyFit!” Some of you are asking. “Aren’t diet drinks just as bad for you? They cause cancer and stuff!”

Well, probably not. Diet coke isn’t a saint. There is some evidence that some of the ingredients aren’t great for you – although the quantities involved would be equivalent to drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet soda every day.

So should you take up a soft drink habit? Not if you already only drink water. But it’s all a matter of small improvements (almost as if that’s the theme of this blog…). If ‘fat’ soft drinks are your sin, switch to diet versions. If you’re down to diet, consider the occasional fizzy water instead. Your liver, pancreas and waistline will thank you for it.

Plan your meals with Tesco

Are you bewildered by choice? Would you rather just have someone tell you what to do?

We at LazyFit are all about offering different approaches to weight loss and maintenance – we believe that there are small (and large) changes you can make to redesign your lifestyle into a healthy, sustainable approach. But sometimes we can feel the need for some outsider advice.

Tesco Health & Wellbeing is a new site (still in beta or ‘test mode’) from the supermarket Behemoth. Give it your current details and approach and you can select a range of diet approaches, like low GI, ‘Mediterranean’, diabetic support or healthy heart. These can then be tailored to you even more closely with a dizzying range of options from your activity level to your willingness to eat individual foods.

The site then prepares meal plans for you to explore, print, or even order online (naturally).

Once you’ve planned your food, the site then allows you to track how you really get on, both with a comprehensive food diary (with UK/IE nutrient levels) and even a place to record your exercise.

Despite the unwieldy name, it seems to share much of its DNA with its sister site, Tescodiets, with one very important distinction – it’s free.

If you’re just starting out, feel the need for a more focussed approach, or just fancy a change, give it a try – it may inspire you.

What the world eats – what does your food look like?

What the world eats -- a week's worth of groceries - Imgur

The Bainton family’s week, Cllingbourne Ducis, UK

 

Sometimes, it helps to lay it all out in front of you.

Food’s a funny thing. We all eat, but there are some significant differences from person to person and from culture to culture.

In 2008 husband-and-wife photojournalists published a book with a week’s worth of food from 25 families in 21 countries. TIME published 45 of these photos in three sets, linked below.

There’s an interesting insight into individual culture’s demons; the US’s prepared food, the UK’s reliance on snacks and Mexico’s love affair with Coca-Cola are all visible.

Does your weekly shop look more like this or like this?

Two ways to enjoy your day’s carb count

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On the left, a pile of fruit, nuts and vegetables  that collectively contain 30g of carbohydrates. On the right, half a burger bun, which also contains 30 grams of carbs.

If you’re on a carb-controlled diet (and you probably should be), 30 grams could be roughly your whole day’s intake. Which would you prefer?

The lazy way to plan your meals

eatthismuchThe LazyFit ethos of weight loss is that different approaches work for different people. You need to experiment to discover the right method for you.

Eat This Much helps you test a number of different dietary approaches to see which might be right for you.It describes itself as an autopilot for your diet – tell it your height, weight, aim and even your dietary approach (vegetarian, keto, Paleo, Zone, etc) and it spits out a week of foods for you to eat. Even more impressively, it allows you to include or exclude particular foods, like beans or sardines, and asks you to give an idea of how much prep time you’re willing to spend on each meal – and even how many meals you wish to eat and how much you’re willing to spend.

Admittedly, it would be helpful if it was able to account for leftovers. Pricing aside, I feel awful if I waste food and the systems menus were generating options that required 1/3 a pack of cream cheese for the week. Being a US-originated site, you many not be able to buy every ingredient it suggests, although in my testing there were few that I could not substitute. In addition, for city-dwellers like myself not everything on the weekly grocery list will be available in my local Tesco Metro. But these are all solvable issues and the system is still in its early days.

I was impressed with the range and variety of recipes available, and that these recipes were even provided in the weekly ‘what you’re eating’ list.

Of course, real life can frequently get in the way of a rigid diet plan. Drinks with friends or meals out cannot be easily incorporated in any meal planner. But if you allow a ‘contingency’ number of calories per week for this then Eat This Much is a very clever way to use a database-driven system to give you specific, personalised advice.

Foodswap: spaghetti out, courgettes in

courgette

If you’ve a pasta-fetish and you can’t imagine how those on a low-carb diet cope without a big steaming bowl of spag bol, trust me and give this a go instead.

Get a Julienne Peeler if you’ve not already got one. I like this one as it has a guard, which means you can leave it in the drawer without worrying about slicing your fingers.

Get a courgette (or a zucchini, if that’s what you prefer to call them). Use the peeler to make thin strips of courgette and flash fry them in oil or butter for about two minutes.

You’ll find your new spaghetti-replacement has only 3g carbs per 100g. Fantastic. As an added bonus, the different colours of the green outside and creamy inside make the dish more interesting, too.

Serve with a Bolognese or cream-based sauce and there’s a midweek evening meal in about 8 minutes of total prep and cooking time.

Foodswap: cucumber & pork scratchings for crisps

Hear me out!

No, it doesn’t sound like a great swap at first. But if you’re on a low-carb diet, pork scratchings are a perfect crisp replacement. They’ve still got the crunch you’re looking for but with no carbs. Why not make a hot sauce dip from mayonnaise and Franks or Tabasco sauce?

Cucumber works too. I find that if you cut the cucumber on a diagonal you end up with a good-sized crisp replacement that goes very well with this low-carb hummus recipe.

If you’re entertaining for Easter, give these a go on your guests and see how well they respond!

Junk food – and why it’s so much worse than you thought

 An amazing article by Michael Moss in the New York Times – which was adapted from his book – recently showed in full, unflinching detail exactly how well the snack food industry knows its sins.

In summary – The food industry has been doing amazing science, for decades, to make terrible food more addicting, and to market it so it penetrates every potential meal you eat. It worked.

It’s a little longer than the reads I usually publish here so if you’d rather, there’s a nicely-summarised version at Buzzfeed, which turns the article into 23 points. I’d encourage you to read the full version.

The book and its article go to great lengths to avoid painting the industry as evil, but rather just dispassionate – responding to the demands of the market. Moss writes:

The public and the food companies have known for decades now that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiralling out of control?

It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.

This is one way to look at it. But Moss already spoke about how the industry is aware of the damage it is doing.

[Michael Mudd, a vice president of Kraft,] drew a connection to the last thing in the world the C.E.O.’s wanted linked to their products: cigarettes.

“If anyone in the food industry ever doubted there was a slippery slope out there,” Mudd said, “I imagine they are beginning to experience a distinct sliding sensation right about now.”

Viewing snack manufacturers as corrupt drug pushers, like tobacco vendors can now be seen by many is an easy and possibly glib caricature. But more and more evidence is coming out regarding the real, systematic damage these food can do and the lack of understanding among consumers. There may be a time in the future where Big Sugar stands alongside Big Tobacco as one of society’s problem children.