Helpful Tips | Viva!

Helpful Tips

Helpful Tips

by Jane Easton


Squeeze the Fat!

Learn to cook with no, or very tiny amounts of oil. This can be achieved by:

  • Using non-stick pans and frying pans/woks
  • Using the 'poach' method instead of fat to cook onions, garlic and spices - the basic or 'foundation' ingredients of many meals. Do this by adding a little stock to the foundation ingredients - about 100ml/generous 3 fl oz - and simmering them until the onions are tender. Then add the rest of your ingredients to this mixture.
  • Using 1-2 squirts of oil spray
  • Using 1-2 tsp oil per dish maximum - perdish, not portion


Dressing Down

Or, how to dress salads the low-fat way! See out Product Guide for brands of salad dressing andDressing Down - Lower-fat Salad Dressings for easy home-made options. 


Pillars of Salt?

Whatever your dietary needs and necessities, it's always good to eat less salt. The good news is that our taste buds change every three weeks or so. In other words, what may have tasted strange will eventually taste good! Case in point - switching to Natex, a reduced salt yeast extract tasted very odd after years of salty Marmite and similar, but I,soon became used to the new flavour. However, when I used the salty variety again it tasted awful! My new tastebuds now enjoy a less salty taste. Meridian's No Added Salt yeast extract is also a good product. We have recommended low-salt stock cubes and other products wherever possible - see Product Guide. Many of these can be found in large, good supermarkets - otherwise try a health food shop. 


Beans, Beans, Beans.

Eat shed-loads of them! Pulses - peas, beans and lentils - are miracle foods for so many reasons. Mixing them with your meals increases their low-glycemic qualities, makes them more filling and adds more protein and iron - as well as being low in fat. Result! 

Try them:

  • In soups, especially those that are mainly vegetable-based - just add a handful of cooked pulses per portion n In salads - most beans work well, including cooked peas and whole lentils (green, brown or Puy)
  • In dips - hummus (made from chickpeas) is the obvious one, but there are plenty of other simple dips that can be whipped up in minutes from a can of beans and a few herbs and spices


Scintillating Cinnamon

Apart from being a great source of iron, calcium, manganese and fibre, cinnamon can help treat diabetes type 2. Seasoning a high carbohydrate food with cinnamon can help lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels. Cinnamon slows the speed at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar.

Cinnamon may also help diabetics (type 2) respond to insulin, and so assist in normalising their blood sugar levels. Cinnamon both stimulates insulin receptors and stops an enzyme that inactivates them, significantly increasing the cells' ability to use glucose.

Studies in humans are currently underway with a recent report from the US Agricultural Research Service showing that less than half a teaspoon per day of cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Even the lowest amount of cinnamon, 1 gram per day (approximately ¼ to ½ teaspoon), produced an approximately 20 per cent drop in blood sugar. Triglycerides and cholesterol were also lowered. When daily cinnamon was stopped, blood sugar levels began to increase.

So. sprinkle ground cinnamon on to your breakfast cereal each morning (instead of sugar!) and on to fruits, desserts, etc.


A note on hummus

The ready-made (or even reduced-fat) brands tend to be high in fat. The good news is that you can make your own very quickly! Just blend a tin of rinsed and drained chickpeas with a teaspoon of tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper - plus enough liquid to achieve your preferred consistency. 

Pimp Your Hummus!

Try adding one or more of these to the basic recipe to ring the changes:

  • Oil-free roasted red pepper pieces (blend in)
  • Sundried tomatoes (eg Merchant Gourmet Slow Roast variety, which are oil-free)
  • Fresh coriander

For the purists amongst you, hummus is even nicer when made with freshly-cooked chickpeas - ie non-tinned! Soak overnight, then boil or pressure cook until tender. Drain in cold water and allow to cool before making the hummus - a cup of cooked chickpeas is about the equivalent of a drained tin. And if you make a large batch of chickpeas, the surplus can be frozen for another time - use sealable sandwich bags or airtight plastic containers.