Sugar – should we stop eating it?

Everyone’s talking about sugar at the moment. It comes in the wake of media reports of US researchers describing sugar as ‘toxic’, and stories of seemingly miraculous weight loss occurring when people cut all sugar from their diets.

At the most extreme end of the scale, several scientists have called for sugar to be regulated as a harmful substance like alcohol and tobacco. So should we all be getting on the no-sugar bandwagon?

It seems all nutrition experts agree that too much sugar – particularly the added sugar found in highly processed foods – is not good for anyone. But it’s useful to understand some context before we do anything extreme.

There is some interesting research going on into sugar and its effects. The findings so far seem to suggest, but not prove, a link between excessive sugar intake and chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes). Critics have pointed out that much of the research has been on animals, and both these and the few human studies have had subjects consuming vast amounts of sugar in forms that are not readily available in real life. Research is ongoing, and fascinating. But right now all the scientific community seems ready to agree on is that more research is needed.

In the meantime, what are we to make of the ‘cut out all sugar’ diets? Our experts agree it’s a good idea to minimise the added sugar in our diets, and doing this will almost certainly have an effect on weight, since sugary foods tend to be energy dense. This is especially true if you’re eating a lot of sugary foods and drinking sugary drinks to start with.  But demonising one particular food, no matter what it is, is not really helpful or sensible. The reasons people are overweight are complex, and rarely due to over-consumption of just one thing. And if we simply concentrate on eliminating one element from our diets without making sure the rest of what we eat is as good as it can be, we run the risk of being no healthier at all in the long run.

In health, as in many things in life, it is human nature to look for a magic solution; a quick fix. When it comes to weight loss we tend to love rules, and if they seem very simple – cut out all sugar – even better. It’s a lot simpler and more dramatic than ‘eat less and move more’, or ‘everything in moderation’. But I feel like we’ve been here before. Remember Atkins and the other low-carb diets? Or the extreme low-fat diets of the ‘80s? My feeling is that anything extreme is not sustainable, and we tend to end up back where we started, with the weight back on. Also worrying, is that cutting out all sugar is restrictive and difficult, and could encourage an unhealthy relationship with food. As happens when we concentrate on restricting anything in our diets, we focus on what we ‘can’t’ have.

What we do agree with the no-sugar advocates about is that sugary drinks are no-one’s idea of healthy food, and that a diet of fresh, whole foods with lots of colourful fruit and veges and a minimum of processed foods is ideal.

But long-term health – and keeping weight off long term – is not about avoiding one food completely. It is about eating a wide variety of good food, in reasonable portion sizes, every single day for the rest of your life. Get everything else right, and a small sweet treat occasionally is not going to kill you.

Weight-loss tips for men

Weight-loss expert Andrew Dickson shares information and advice for men who are wanting to lose weight.

I work with blokes who want to manage their weight better, and I’ve found they share a common belief: the amount of energy eaten on a particular day minus the amount of energy burnt equals how much fat they lose. But the science isn’t that simple.

In my experience, men often apply this half-truth by skipping meals (usually breakfast) to try and reduce their total intake of food over a day. I certainly did this when I weighed over 130 kilos. Unfortunately, this makes weight management almost impossible, as it causes the metabolism to slow down to prevent starvation. Eating like this actually stops you burning energy.

If you skip breakfast and eat your evening meal at around 7pm, the body has been without fuel for more than half the day – 7pm to lunchtime the next day is 17 hours or 70% of a 24-hour period. This means you actually eat most of your total energy intake in about seven hours. During the 17 hours without food, your metabolism slows and your body shuts down many non-essential functions. When you do eventually eat, your body will store as much as it can to try and compensate for the starvation time. This starts a dangerous cycle of starve-store-starve, and results in more body fat and lower performance.

An alternative is to try and eat a third of your daily energy intake between waking and lunchtime – breakfast and morning tea. Get another third of sustenance between 12pm to 6pm – lunch and afternoon tea. And get your final third of daily energy intake between 6pm and bedtime – dinner and a supper-time snack. This is ideal, and what I have adopted over the past two years.

And it all starts at the beginning of your day – just add breakfast. This increases your total energy intake but incredibly, you will likely lose weight. I have seen success from this simple change in eating habits in the blokes I am helping.

Top tips for blokes

  • Never skip breakfast. Even if it is a couple of pieces of toast with Vegemite or a meal replacement drink, breakfast kick-starts your metabolism.
  • Eat regularly. Work out when during the day you need to eat by dividing the amount of hours you are awake by six.
    eg. wake at 7am, sleep at 10pm = 15 awake hours.
    15 ÷ 6 = 2.5 hours. This means don’t leave more than 2.5 hours between eating.
  • Snacking is good. Eat three main meals and three substantial snacks every day.

Great snack ideas

  • Morning tea: Fruit with a decent amount of protein like bananas, berries, kiwifruit or avocado and about 25 grams of nuts like Brazil nuts.
  • Afternoon tea: A pottle of yoghurt and a wholemeal Vegemite sandwich.
  • After-dinner snack: Frozen yoghurt and a couple of gingernuts.

Gluten-free breakfast – the hardest meal of the day?

When I was first told that I shouldn’t be eating gluten, the meal I had the most difficulty with was breakfast.

I’ll come back to lunch, which has its own challenges, in another post! Dinner turned out to be surprisingly easy. All my favourite breakfast foods – porridge, muesli, French toast, pancakes and the like – were out. What could I replace them with? Here are some suggestions.

Toast

The good old staple of toast. Whilst gluten-free bread, in the main, is not as nice as bread with gluten, it actually makes up into a nice toast. In fact, I would recommend eating gluten-free bread toasted almost all the time, as it’s far better than eating it as fresh bread. Most spreads are gluten-free, and you can use avocado, hummus and other healthy toppings for a bit of variety.

Muesli

There are a number of excellent muesli-type cereals readily available. Both Hubbards and Healtheries make reasonably priced options – and have a good variety of flavours, stocked at all of the supermarkets. My favourite is the Healtheries High Fibre muesli, as it has the best fibre content of the commercial mueslis that I have looked at. If you can spend a little more money, the Brookfield Farms Macadamia muesli is very good, and available at New Worlds and most Countdowns. There are also any number of boutique mueslis available. The one I like the best is Cec’s Gluten-free Muesli (which can be purchased from their website, www.cecsmuesli.co.nz) but again, it’s more expensive. I tend to buy one of the expensive ones and two of the cheaper, everyday ones and mix them together. If you’re keen on trying new muesli, I strongly recommend attending the Gluten Free Food & Allergy Show, as there are many on display there! The other option is to make your own, and there are some excellent recipes around for this.

Porridge

Both Healtheries and Hubbards do a rice porridge offering. I add some dried cranberries and currants for a bit of extra flavour. Opinion is divided about oats. Some research (especially overseas) suggests that the amount of gluten per milligram is so tiny that oats are not considered to contain gluten. If you buy packet biscuit mixes from overseas, they will often contain oats. However, the requirements in New Zealand are a little more stringent, and oats are considered to contain gluten. I think this is one of those topics where you need to make the decision for yourself, but the prevailing advice is for coeliacs to stay away from oats.

Cooked breakfasts

In some ways, cooked breakfasts are easiest. Thin, crepe-like pancakes and waffles both translate very well to a gluten-free version. Simply replace the normal flour with gluten-free flour, and add a little vanilla or cinnamon. You may need a little more liquid as the gluten-free flour tends to suck that up more than normal flour. French toast is a little harder, but you can make it using gluten-free bread and because of the eggs and milk, it does jazz up bread that is a day or two old. I’d suggest something like Bakeworks pull-apart buns sliced thickly rather than the sliced loaves of gluten-free bread.

Café breakfasts

In cafés it is uncommon to have gluten-free options for muesli, but many cafés nowadays have gluten-free bread available. I tend to make up a ‘sides’ breakfast – mushrooms, bacon, avocado and gluten-free toast. Hash browns, or hash potatoes, are also gluten-free. A couple of things to watch for with café breakfasts are:

  • Is the bacon gluten-free? I know it sounds odd, but some bacon contains gluten. I guess it must be injected, but can’t figure out why they would do this!
  • Cross-contamination – this is where the items are cooked in the same place as items containing gluten. For example, a grill where burger buns are cooked and also steak, or a pancake pan which does both gluten and gluten-free pancakes. It’s worth checking with the kitchen to find out what they do.
  • Creamy mushrooms – you should always check that this is just a cream sauce. I’ve had experiences where the mushrooms have been cooked in a sauce with a flour base rather than cream.

Hotel breakfasts

Breakfast buffets at hotels can be great for those who are gluten intolerant. Most hotels have gluten-free bread for toasting if you ask, however the toasting machines have breadcrumbs and so on from normal bread, so this is probably not a great option. Most of the hot buffet foods work well for the gluten intolerant – bacon, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, tomatoes – but stay away from the sausages unless they specify that they are gluten-free. There is never any gluten-free cereal on display, but sometimes they have it if you ask. There is normally fresh fruit and yoghurt, so you can have quite a good breakfast!

Additional breakfast tips and tricks

Work mornings can be difficult, and if we don’t manage to eat breakfast at home, it’s much harder for the gluten intolerant to just pop to a nearby café and pick up a Danish or a bagel. To make weekday mornings easier, I keep cereal, gluten-free bread (in the freezer) and yoghurt at my office and tend to eat there.

Like everything else related to eating gluten-free, with a bit of preparation and a willingness to ask questions of the kitchen staff, you can easily cope with breakfasts.

Banana and oats breakfast smoothie

Are you one of those people who doesn’t always have time for breakfast? Try this quick and simple nutrition-packed smoothie instead.

You can whip it up before you head out the door and carry it with you. It’s high in fibre and protein and with the oats and fruit, it’ll keep you going all morning.

Breakfast smoothie

Serves 2
Time to make: 3 minutes

2 bananas
1/4 cup prunes
1/2 cup wholegrain oats
1/4 cup vanilla or honey-flavoured low-fat yoghurt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cups trim milk
handful ice

Step 1  Put all ingredients into the Vitamix. Start on low then increase to maximum power for 1-2 minutes, until smooth. Serve.

Variation

For a dairy-free smoothie, you could swap out the yoghurt and milk for dairy-free soy versions.
NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVE (2 serves)

Energy 1740kJ     Sugars 51g
Protein 19g     Fibre 7g
Total fat 4g     Sodium 140mg
Sat fat 1g     Calcium 470mg
Carbs 75g     Iron 3.5mg

Extreme makeover: Big breakfast

It’s a favourite weekend meal. But do you know how much energy and fat is hiding in it?

Try these tips to make your weekend brunch that bit healthier:

  • Streaky bacon can be up to 1/4 fat. Use Dansk, middle or eye bacon; it has much less fat and kilojoules. It needs careful cooking – don’t over-cook or it’ll be leathery. But the taste is just as good.
  • Pre-made hash browns have 530kJ and 5.7g of fat per serving. And it pays to check the pack: on some a serving is only one hash brown!
  • Instead try oven-baked cubed potatoes: cut a potato into 1cm cubes and bake with a light spray of oil in a hot oven. Just as quick as hash browns and much healthier, with barely any fat.
  • If you fry your eggs and use butter or oil, you’ll add still more fat. Opt for microwave eggs: scramble or poach eggs in the microwave and you don’t have to add any fat at all. For scrambled, just cook beaten egg in a bowl for around 2 minutes on medium, then break up with a fork. We hear this is how some restaurants do it!
  • Add some oven-roasted tomatoes for a vege boost: add these to the dish when you cook the potatoes and they’ll be collapsing and sweet by the time they come out.

How they compare

Traditional fry-up:
3 rashers streaky bacon, 2 hash browns, 2 eggs, 1 tomato
Total energy per serve = 2400kJ
Total fat per serve = 47g (22g saturated)

HFG breakfast:
3 rashers Dansk bacon, 2 scrambled eggs, 1 roasted tomato, 1 cubed potato
Total energy per serve = 1500kJ
Total fat per serve = 16g (4g saturated)

How to super-charge your breakfast

What can the most important meal of the day do for you? We have expert advice on the most tasty and nutritious breakfasts.

Nutritionists believe there is great logic in the old saying, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”, because the best way to kick-start your body in the morning is to give it the right fuel.

The word ‘breakfast’ literally means to ‘break the fast’ from the eight or 12 hours since your last meal the night before. By morning, your brain and muscles are crying out for starter fuel to spring them into action and face the day ahead.

Why is breakfast so important?

Eating breakfast has been identified as one of seven healthy habits that promote long life and good health.

Three keys reasons not to skip breakfast:

1. It boosts your nutrient intake

Studies in the USA and UK dating back as far as the early 1960s consistently show that breakfast eaters have better overall diets. Breakfast eaters have been shown to have a lower fat intake, a higher fibre intake, plus significantly higher intakes of almost all vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, iron and magnesium.

2. It improves memory and concentration

Nutrition researchers have found that people who eat a balanced breakfast can concentrate better and are more efficient at their work than those who skip it. For kids, there’s no doubt that breakfast is a must. Studies show that children who miss breakfast are less alert during the late morning hours and find it hard to concentrate on tasks that require prolonged mental effort.

Factory workers who skip breakfast have been found to be more prone to accidents and have a lower production output compared to those who have something to eat in the morning.

3. It helps prevent binge eating

Contrary to the beliefs of those who skip breakfast in the hope of losing weight, breakfast is a good friend. Skipping it means we are more likely to over-eat later in the day, usually something that’s quick to hand or a non-nutritious, high-fat fast food.

Breakfast nutrition

Unless you have a physically demanding job or play a lot of sport, a light cereal-and-toast style of breakfast is perfectly adequate and will meet all your nutrition needs. Comparisons with other breakfasts like egg and bacon, scrambled eggs, croissants, cheese on toast and banana smoothies show that cereal-based breakfasts are nutritionally superior, being lower in fat, cholesterol and kilojoules and higher in fibre and essential nutrients.

Here’s a checklist of healthy breakfast options:

Fruit

Eaten whole or sliced over cereal. To save time, prepare a plate of sliced fruit the night before and leave in the refrigerator. Melon slices, kiwifruit, berries, grapefruit segments, papaya or oranges in quarters are all good choices.

Fruit juice is a quick alternative with the same valuable vitamin C, but has little fibre. Vitamin C also improves the absorption of iron from cereals. Prunes, sultanas and other dried fruit add fibre and the mineral potassium.

Grains

Many people get most of their fibre for the day at breakfast so it pays to maximise your fibre intake at this meal. Aim for a mix of soluble fibre such as oats, for a healthy heart, and insoluble fibre such as wheat bran for regularity and bowel health.

Choose a non-sugary whole grain or bran type cereal, or else go for muesli or rolled oats (porridge) in winter. There’s no shortage of choice at the supermarket. Sprinkling some wheatgerm, rice bran or oat bran over a plainer puffed or flaked cereal will boost your nutrition. Many cereals are now fortified with B vitamins and iron which, along with the milk that is consumed with them, makes them a nutritious food.

If you prefer toast or muffins to cereal, make these wholemeal, mixed grain or white high-fibre if your kids hate ‘brown bread’.

Milk, yoghurt or cheese

These offer calcium for strong bones and protein as well as the B vitamin riboflavin. Many children are happy to drink a glass of milk (or hot milk with malt chocolate powder in winter) with breakfast. Cottage cheese and ricotta team nicely with raisin toast and make a good low-fat option, but are not as rich in calcium as cheddar cheese or yoghurt.

Eggs (boiled, poached, microwaved or lightly scrambled), or baked beans

These are ideal if you’re super hungry or want a hearty Sunday brunch. Add mushrooms, tomatoes or spinach for more bulk.

Breakfasts to suit different lifestyles

Ideas for breakfast-on-the-run

Scale up the servings to suit your activity and lifestyle. If you exercise regularly or have a physically demanding job, you will need larger portions, or a cooked breakfast to refuel your body, than if you don’t get to exercise much or are trying to lose weight.

No time to eat in the mornings?

Try our quick and easy ideas:

Breakfast at home

  • Try a liquid meal. Pour one cup of milk into a blender or food processor with any cut fruit (banana, strawberries, pear), 3-4 tablespoons of yoghurt and a pinch of nutmeg. Blend for 30 seconds until smooth and frothy. For a high-fibre shake, add 1-2 tablespoons of bran cereal or wheatgerm. Drink and run.
  • A bowl of muesli or bran cereal with low-fat milk and sliced banana.
  • Bircher muesli: start this famous oat breakfast the night before: Soak 1 cup of rolled oats and 2 tablespoons sultanas in 3/4 cup low-fat milk and leave covered in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, peel and grate an apple (with the skin) into the oats with a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of yoghurt and a sliced banana if you’re ravenous.
    Serves 3-4.
  • An orange or half a grapefruit.
  • Half a grain muffin, toasted and topped with cottage cheese or a slice of cheddar cheese.
  • Muffin with grilled cheese.

In the car, train or bus

Bolt out the door with

  • A sandwich you’ve made the night before plus a carton of flavoured milk.
  • A breakfast bar or muesli bar and a drinking yoghurt.
  • Throw a handful of Mini-Wheats, dried fruit and nuts into a plastic bag or container. Munch on the way to school with a carton of milk.

Gluten-free or wheat-free options

  • Avoiding wheat, oats and barley at breakfast is not easy! Look for cereals based on rice or corn (maize).
  • Fresh fruit salad with a bowl of Rice Bubbles or Corn Flakes (check for malt if you need to avoid it). Add cows’ milk or soy milk.
  • Rice cakes or rice crackers spread with margarine can replace toast. Add peanut butter, jam or marmalade as required. Tea, coffee or milk.
  • Eggs with tomato on gluten-free toast.

Breakfast out before work

Try these healthy café options

  • Thick fruit loaf toasted and topped with ricotta or cottage cheese. Cappuccino, flat white or latte with trim milk.
  • Grilled cheese and tomato on grainy toast. English breakfast tea.
  • Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with mushrooms and grilled tomato. Glass of fresh juice.
  • Fresh strawberries or diced melon tossed in a bowl with passionfruit pulp. Top with thick Greek yoghurt and  crunchy muesli.
  • Wholemeal muffin topped with grilled mushrooms or sliced tomato and a large glass of reduced-fat milk.
  • Milky coffee (latte, flat white) with bran and raisin muffin.

Breakfast and kids

Children need to start the day with a good breakfast. Breakfast functions as ‘brain food’, re-fuelling children’s brains as well as their bodies. Deprive children of breakfast and you may be depriving them of their ability to learn. Study after study shows that children who skip breakfast report tiredness and lethargy, have trouble concentrating on the morning’s lessons, and find complex mental tasks difficult.

Breakfast enhances

  • working memory
  • problem-solving abilities
  • accuracy in maths and other complex tasks (which teachers often schedule for the morning)
  • creative thinking

Breakfast makes a significant contribution to children’s overall nutrient intakes, according to the many studies on breakfast eating patterns. Children who eat breakfast tend to have a much healthier diet and are more likely to be consuming their recommended intakes of key nutrients such as iron, calcium, B vitamins and fibre. Children who skip breakfast do not make up the differences in dietary intake at other meals. A higher percentage of skippers do not meet two-thirds of the recommended intake for vitamins and minerals compared to those who eat breakfast.

Most children miss breakfast for two or three reasons: lack of time, being too tired, or not feeling like eating in the morning. If this sounds like your child, offer something light like fruit or a bowl of flake cereal with milk. Eating breakfast often helps them to wake up!
If he or she wants to rush off to school without eating, give them a breakfast bar to munch on the way to school or even a glass of milk, so at least they have something to see them through the morning. This combination is preferable to arriving at school with nothing to eat – it will still provide carbohydrate, some protein, B vitamins and fibre, depending on the cereal.

Choose a good cereal

“It’s better to eat the cardboard box than the cereal” is often chuckled over when buying cereals. But the truth is that even the sugary kids’ packet cereals today make a contribution to nutrition (especially with milk) and are better than having nothing to eat for the morning. Certainly they aren’t ideal in terms of fibre and whole grain content but they are inexpensive, low in fat, fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals and can be eaten as a snack any time of the day.

That said, how do you pick a good cereal?

Fibre: More than 6g per 100g minimum. Preferably more than 10g/100g or more

Sugar: Less than 15g per 100g; Less than 25g per 100g if from dried fruit

Sodium: For a low-sodium diet, look for less than 400mg per 100g

High fibre: Look for a minimum of 6g fibre per 100g, but preferably about 10g. Check the list of ingredients for wheat bran, whole wheat, whole barley, oats, brown rice. Oats and corn are always whole grain but what, rice and barley are often refined. Bran cereals (All-Bran, Sultana Bran) have 6-9g per serve, while Corn Flakes and Rice Bubbles are down at 1g.

NZ adults should aim for 25-30g fibre each day,but man get a lot less. An easy way to increase your fibre is to choose a high-fibre cereal like All-Bran and start the day with over a third of your requirement.

Low sugar

Look for less than 15g added sugar per 100g serving. When a cereal has dried fruit, you can’t tell from the nutrition panel how much is coming from the fruit and the added sugar, so you can allow a higher sugar level (up to 25g per 100g). The dried fruit adds fibre and vitamins.

Sodium (salt)

If you are watching your sodium intake for health reasons, look for a cereal with under 400mg per 100g.

Serving size

The standard serve of cereal used to be 30g, which means one cup of bubbles or flakes or two breakfast biscuits. Some manufacturers have decided to say a serve is 40g in an effort to claim the ‘highest fibre content’ or the ‘most vitamins’. So to get a true comparison, it’s best to use the 100g column when you’re looking at similar products.

Super-active

For those who burn up lots of kilojoules with a physically demanding job or are into sports in a big way, here are two hunger-buster breakfasts:

  • Fresh fruit salad; cheese omelette with wholemeal toast; tea, coffee, milk or juice.
  • Bowl of whole grain cereal with sliced banana and low-fat milk; crumpet, toasted and covered with a slice of cheese and grilled until melted; tea, coffee, milk or juice.

There are good reasons not to skip breakfast if you’re exercising but trying to lose body fat. Skipping breakfast reduces the quality of your training session due to lower blood glucose levels. It also makes you hungry and invariably leads to impulsive snacking and increased kilojoule intake later in the day.

How good is the liquid breakfast?

They taste good and they’re quick – grab one from the fridge and drink it in the car or bus – and Sanitarium’s Up&Go® claims to contain the goodness and fibre of two Weet-Bix with milk, although a quick glance at the ingredients list will tell you that it is not a liquefied version of that.

The fibre is from chicory inulin, which acts like soluble fibre. This is fermented in the gut. Soluble fibre from oats has been shown to be good for heart health.  Insoluble fibre, found in whole grains, is good for your bowels.

Nutritionists are cautious about comparing the fibre from inulin with the fibre from cereals, which have been well researched over many years. While there is good evidence so far that inulin has a positive effect on health, there is still a lot of research to be done to fully understand whether it is as good. Plant foods contain other nutrients, and fibre is not the whole story as to why whole grain cereals are so good for us.

Our advice

They’re a handy alternative when you’re in a rush, but plan to include insoluble fibres from whole grains and brans in your breakfast on most days. And be aware that they’re high in sugar: one Up&Go® has 18.5g, one CalciTrim Liquid Breakfast has 19.5g – both are more than 4 teaspoons – of sugar.

Piri piri chicken burgers

Serves: 4
Time to make: 30 mins, including marinating
Total cost: $14.00 / $3.50 per serve –
INGREDIENTS
  • 600g skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced red chilli
  • 1 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • oil spray, to grease
  • 4 buns or rolls
  • 2-3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • crisp lettuce
  • sliced tomatoes
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Step 1 Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic. Use a rolling pin to bang the breast into even thickness to double its original size. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Step 2 Measure the next 6 ingredients into a sturdy plastic bag or shallow casserole dish then massage the bag or stir to combine. Add chicken and turn pieces (or massage the bag again) until chicken is coated on all sides with marinade. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Step 3 Heat a large, lightly oiled frying pan or barbecue hot plate to a medium-high heat then add marinated chicken. Cook each side for 4-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (cut the thickest piece to see that there is no pink in the middle).

Step 4 Halve buns and spread with a little mayonnaise. Assemble lettuce, a cooked chicken breast then tomato slices between bun halves. Season if preferred and serve.

Variations

Make it gluten free: Use gluten-free varieties of bread and mayonnaise.

 

NUTRITION INFO

Kilojoules
1,640kJ
Calories
392cal
Protein
41g
Total fat
12g
Saturated fat
22g
Carbohydrates
35g
Sugars
7g
Dietary fibre
4g
Sodium
710mg
Calcium
70mg
Iron
2mg

Instructions

Step 1 Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic. Use a rolling pin to bang the breast into even thickness to double its original size. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Step 2 Measure the next 6 ingredients into a sturdy plastic bag or shallow casserole dish then massage the bag or stir to combine. Add chicken and turn pieces (or massage the bag again) until chicken is coated on all sides with marinade. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Step 3 Heat a large, lightly oiled frying pan or barbecue hot plate to a medium-high heat then add marinated chicken. Cook each side for 4-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (cut the thickest piece to see that there is no pink in the middle).

Step 4 Halve buns and spread with a little mayonnaise. Assemble lettuce, a cooked chicken breast then tomato slices between bun halves. Season if preferred and serve.

Variations

Make it gluten free: Use gluten-free varieties of bread and mayonnaise.

The anatomy of food poisoning

Summer fun is here — but it’s also the season of food-borne illness. HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr explains what’s happening in our bodies when food makes us sick, and how to avoid it in the first place.

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating or drinking something that contains harmful organisms. This can include bacteria, parasites, viruses and toxins. In 2011 there were 656 reported cases of food poisoning from 122 outbreaks. However, most food poisoning isn’t reported as it’s often quite mild and may affect only a few people.

What happens in our bodies when we eat something dodgy?

When we ingest pathogens from food our immune system begins a chain reaction designed to rid the body of the harmful invader. Symptoms, and how quickly they develop, depend on the type of pathogen and also how much of it we have been exposed to. Often, symptoms start almost immediately or within a couple of hours of consuming the contaminated food or drink but some types of food poisoning can take several days to develop, which makes it difficult to establish the culprit.

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever. Food poisoning will often pass within 24-48 hours and plenty of fluid and rest is normally all that is required for most of us. Drinks containing electrolytes are helpful with diarrhoea and vomiting as dehydration is a risk. Bland foods are advised but if we can’t keep anything down because of nausea it’s time to see the doctor.

Other indicators that we should seek professional help include: recent overseas travel, blood in faeces, severe headache, dehydration, any other symptoms, or we are just not feeling any better after two days.

Are there any lasting effects?

While food poisoning is not serious for most people, it can have serious consequences for others. People at most risk from food poisoning are young children, older people, pregnant women and anyone whose immune system is compromised by other disease. If that’s the case, or you’re on medication for heart disease or diabetes, see a doctor straight away if you suspect food poisoning.

Some pathogens can lead to more serious conditions. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an auto-immune condition affecting the nervous system that follows a campylobacter infection in a small number of cases. It is rare but serious, and can result in paralysis or death.

Salmonellosis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome) — an inflammatory condition that occurs as a reaction to an infection elsewhere in the body — or other non-intestinal infections.

What are the main culprits?

Some pathogens can be found naturally in foods such as raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, uncooked rice, flour, raw vegetables and bought salads. Other pathogens develop in food as a result of not being refrigerated quickly enough, or spoilage.

People handling food may have pathogens in the throat, nose, skin, hair or faeces. Food can be contaminated by touching the hair or nose and then touching food; smoking or going to the toilet without washing hands properly before handling food; or sneezing or coughing near food.

Cross-contamination of prepared foods can occur when surfaces and utensils are used for raw or cooked food containing pathogens as well as for other food.

Bacillus cereus can cause nausea, vomiting and possibly diarrhoea within one to six hours of eating infected rice or starchy foods such as potato flakes and pasta. Fortunately, this generally passes within 24 hours. Ingesting small numbers of this bacteria is not a problem but they multiply to dangerous levels when these foods are cooled too slowly, or not correctly stored in a refrigerator.

Preventing food poisoning: The 4Cs

  1. Clean hands (wash and dry them) before handling food. Clean utensils and scrub chopping boards between preparing raw and cooked food.
  2. Cook minced meat and sausages thoroughly (meat should not be pink) and cook poultry until juices run clear. Reheat leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
  3. Cover food. The only time food should be uncovered is when you’re eating it.
  4. Chill food. Keep raw and cooked food separate in the fridge. Use a chilly bin and frozen pad outside to keep food cool.

Summer safety: Avoiding food poisoning

Tips on how to handle and store food safely as the temperature rises.

Summer is all about spending time outdoors with friends – an evening barbie with the family after a long hot day, a picnic on the beach with the kids, a few nibbles and drinks with mates at a live sporting event.  But unfortunately food is more at risk of being contaminated by bad bugs in summer than at any other time of the year. With the right conditions these bugs can multiply in your food, leading to food poisoning and unpleasant side effects. Around 200,000 NZers are affected by food-borne illnesses each year, and some of these cases can be fatal. So it pays to handle and store food correctly.

Hands-on approach

For centuries microbes have been used in food production, primarily for preserving food, and are responsible for many popular foodstuffs such as cheese, yoghurt, bread and fermented foods. In recent years, beneficial bacteria known as probiotics have been deliberately added to food products such as yoghurt in an attempt to promote gut health.

But there are other microbes (bacteria, fungi, mould, parasites and viruses) that can accidentally get into food and cause food poisoning. These usually receive a helping hand from us. Imagine the number of microbes being transferred to your hands as you go about your daily business: opening door handles, using public transport, touching money as we pay our bills and typing on computer keyboards. Over the course of an average day, our hands can come into contact with more than 1000 different surfaces, and we may forget to wash our hands before handling food. Food poisoning incidents can also occur when food is kept at the wrong temperature, or incorrectly reheated, or it may have been subjected to cross-contamination (from mixing raw and cooked foods). All up, these inappropriate handling and storing methods can lead to more than 200 known diseases that can be transmitted through food.

Sussing out the symptoms

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary from mild to severe, and can occur immediately after eating or hours later. They can last anywhere from 24 hours to five days.
When you have food poisoning, you will probably experience one or more of these symptoms: vomiting, nausea, headaches, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Depending on the contaminant and the severity, fever and chills, bloody stools, dehydration and nervous system damage may follow. Some food-borne pathogens such as Listeria bacteria can cause other symptoms such as miscarriage or meningitis in susceptible people. Food poisoning can also lead to other long-term illnesses and symptoms.

Food safety at home

It may come as a surprise for you, but it’s estimated that around four out of 10 cases originate in the home. How could this be? Well, during the day, your pet may have run through the kitchen and contributed a few bad bugs to the microbe colony on your kitchen floor. Most of us would never contemplate eating off the floor but some of us use our washing-up cloth to wipe up floor spills also. Then if you proceed to wash your plates or wipe your chopping board with the same cloth, those bad bugs are transferred across, begin to multiply and before you know it you are racing to the toilet! Yep, food poisoning is as easy as that – and this is just one of the many ways it can happen to you and your family.

Clean cooking tips

  • To keep your food hygienically clean, try to keep all utensils, equipment (including your hands!) and preparation areas squeaky clean. Make sure you thoroughly wash and dry your utensils such as chopping boards and knives, as well as surfaces, after preparing raw meat, fish and poultry.
  • Always use different utensils for raw and cooked foods and wherever possible, use utensils over fingers when handling food.
  • Remember to keep long hair back and remove jewellery when preparing food, and always cover cuts on your hands with a waterproof dressing or use disposable gloves.
  • If foods such as poultry and stuffed or minced meat need to be defrosted, be sure to completely defrost them in the fridge or microwave before cooking. Avoid defrosting at room temperature, then sticking them into the fridge until you need them, as this encourages the growth of bad food bugs.
  • Fruit and vegetables should be washed prior to cooking to remove any soil residues that can house bad bacteria.
  • The way your food is cooked is as important as the way it is prepared, as inadequate cooking is a common cause of food poisoning. With most foods and especially meat, poultry and eggs, cooking is enough to kill most food-poisoning bacteria.
  • Generally speaking, food should be cooked to at least 75ºC or hotter, as this temperature kills most food-poisoning bacteria. And it should be eaten promptly at a temperature above 60ºC, or it should be quickly cooled until it stops steaming, covered and stored in the fridge or freezer.

In the microwave

Microwaves are great cooking tools: they’re quick and convenient. But it’s important to remember that if they aren’t used correctly, foods can be cooked unevenly, making them a perfect feeding ground for bacteria.

  • Try to cut food into evenly-sized pieces so they all take about the same time to cook. Or you could put larger or thicker items towards the outside edge of the dish. It’s also a good idea to cover the container of food with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap as this will help to trap in the steam, promoting more even cooking.
  • Always rotate food in the microwave during cooking and follow standing time directions before checking to see whether the food is completely cooked, as food continues to cook even after the microwave has turned itself off.

Chill time

  • Under the right conditions, cooked food can be stored in the fridge for about two to three days. Your fridge temperature should be between 0-4ºC at all times. More foods are thrown in the fridge during the warmer months to prevent spoilage but try not to overcrowd the fridge or the temperature may rise.
  • Fridge temperatures may need to be adjusted occasionally to cope with the extra foods, the constant opening and closing of the fridge door, and the higher ambient temperatures. It might be worth buying a thermometer to ensure your fridge is working at the right temperature.
  • It’s important to always refrigerate cooked foods separately from raw foods, especially raw meat, poultry and fish, to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Keep raw food at the bottom of the fridge to avoid raw juices dripping onto other foods and contaminating them.
  • Try to avoid freezing single large amounts of food: break up into smaller portions so you can defrost and use as you need. Remember to label the container (including the date) and remove as much air as you can to prevent freezer burn. And never refreeze defrosted foods.

Flies, cockroaches and other pests

During the warmer months, more eggs are hatched and more pests run free. Cockroaches, flies and mice are all common pests who carry diseases and microbes, which they transfer to every surface they touch, including us!

The best way to keep your home pest-free is to keep it scrupulously clean. If you need to use a spray, put all food away prior to using chemicals and keep it covered until the smell of chemicals disappears. Most insects will be in search of moist food and will head straight to your rubbish bin – deter them by placing all food scraps in a bin with a lid so they can’t get in.

Savvy shopping

Most entry points of supermarkets start with the fruit and vegetable section, followed by refrigerated meats, milk, cheese and yoghurts. But if you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense to pick up all these cold food items first because they’ll just get warmer and warmer, possibly even reaching the danger zone.

Next time you do a supermarket shop, head for the non-food items first, followed by the non-refrigerated drinks and dry goods. Next head to the fruit and vegetable section, then shop for refrigerated meats, stop off at the deli counter, then pick up some ready-to-eat foods and cold beverages. Last but not least, head to the frozen foods and hot food section. When packing your trolley, try to keep cold and hot foods separate, as well as raw and cooked foods.

At the checkout, unpack your trolley the same way you loaded it, keeping cold with cold and hot with hot. Put meat, poultry and seafood in separate bags and keep cold and hot foods well away from each other when transporting them home.

In-store intelligence

Anyone selling or providing you food has a responsibility to supply you with safe food. But mistakes can happen and food can become contaminated without anyone knowing. So before you enter the store, keep these points in mind:

  • Damaged packaging such as ripped bags or dented cans, and bruised or battered fruit and vegetables, and cracked eggs will spoil faster.
  • Use-by or expiry dates are placed on perishable foods such as pre-prepared meals, fresh meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and pre-packaged salads and vegetables. The older the food, the more chance there is for microbes to grow and reach levels to cause us harm.
  • Best-before dates are used on stable products such as canned, dried and frozen foods. You can expect the quality of the product to deteriorate (such as changes in its taste, appearance and smell) more than its safety when it reaches this date.
  • Load lines in refrigerators and freezers are marked by a black line. They are used as a packing guide to make sure cold air can circulate and chill all the foods evenly. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid foods piled over the load line.
  • Food handlers who use one set of gloves between handling different types of foods, or share utensils between foods, are not practicing safe food handling. If they’re that sloppy in your sight, image them out of sight!

Travelling home

Did you know the temperature inside your car can reach 30ºC and higher on those hot summer days? To limit food spoilage when travelling home, turn up the air-conditioner or wind down the windows and place packed food out of direct sunlight. Try not to leave your groceries in a hot car while you go off and run other errands. Or make it easy for yourself and store all your refrigerated and frozen foods in chiller bags – especially if your journey is longer than 30 minutes or it’s a hot day.

The great outdoors

When eating outside, most foods such as salads, dips, cold barbecue chickens and antipasto platters are prepared ahead of time. These foods are already high-risk foods and need to be kept at between 0-4ºC, which is very unlikely sitting outside on the picnic table. To help reduce the likelihood of food poisoning from these risky foods, only serve small amounts. Keep the extras in the fridge (if eating at home) or in the chilly bin (if out at a picnic ground) and top up as needed.

Serving and eating outside means there’s a high possibility of pesky pests diving into the uncovered salads, dips and meats, so it’s always a good idea to keep all food covered when it’s not being used. And if possible, keep food in the shade.

Barbecue at the local park

When heading to a local park for a barbecue, it’s important to transport all meat, salads, dips and cheeses in chilly bins or chiller bags. Avoid packing just-cooked foods into the chiller bag for transport as it will raise the temperature.

The barbecue and park benches will only be as clean as the last person who used them, so always clean the barbie and eating area before use. Public barbies can also be unreliable, burning food on the outside and leaving them raw on the inside. This is an issue for high-risk foods such as chicken, hamburgers and sausages, so always check the meat has been cooked completely before diving in.

When you’ve finished for the day, throw out leftover foods if they haven’t been kept cold. Cooked meat can be brought home for leftovers but it should reach your refrigerator within two hours of cooking.

The bottom line

Many of the food-poisoning cases that occur each year could be avoided by practicing simple habits such as washing your hands before and after food preparation, keeping foods in the appropriate conditions and away from the hot summer sun, and always washing your fruit and vegetables before using them. Remember, if in doubt, throw it out! Enjoy your summer.

– See more at: http://www.healthyfood.co.nz/articles/2008/january/summer-safety-avoiding-food-poisoning#sthash.RnkGeT8F.dpuf

Salmon sushi salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad

1 carrot
large handful slaw mix
large handful rocket
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
100g cooked fresh or canned salmon
2 strips crispy seaweed (or use plain nori sheets)

Dressing

1 teaspoon salt-reduced soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

Step 1To make salad, julienne carrot and combine with slaw, rocket and rice.

Step 2Mix dressing ingredients together and stir through salad. Top with salmon and seaweed.

Serving suggestions

If you prefer, serve with mayonnaise mixed with wasabi.