Posts tagged diet
Quark is a naturally fat free spoon-able soft cheese. The Lake District Dairy Company, who have launched their new range of Quark in the last week, sent me a hamper of goodies so I could try using it in one savoury and one sweet recipe.
Quark is actually a completely new ingredient to me – I’ve never tried it in any of its forms. My colleague at work, who is Polish, explained that she uses it a lot and it comes in different types – the one she uses is the consistency of cottage cheese, but you can also get it in a wedge and like soft cheese. This Quark from the Lake District Dairy company was rather like mascarpone in texture.
The hamper contained all the ingredients, and I mean all… fresh meat, vegetables, dairy products, store cupboard ingredients (well except the eggs were completely scrambled – who sends eggs by courier?!), I needed to make a Lamb Moussaka and a New York Baked Cheesecake. The recipes have been developed by The Fabulous Baker Brothers who say that Quark is a truly versatile fridge staple. Thankfully the instructions seemed easy to follow!
Quark was used to make the cheese sauce for the Lamb Moussaka. I used butter, flour, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper and a tub of Quark to create the creamy sauce to layer up with the lamb mince and aubergine. It worked really well – the soft Quark easily melts into the sauce, and when baked gave the dish a lovely depth that complemented the mince and vegetables. The Lake District Dairy Company say that using Quark in this recipe instead of crème fraiche means you have 53% less fat, 158 fewer calories and 26% more protein per portion. That’s quite significant, and as it was really delicious I would definitely make it again this way.
In our house we generally prefer a chilled, set cheesecake. The one I normally make is a white chocolate full-fat affair with mascarpone, soft cheese, double cream and chocolate. If we are out for dinner I would definitely choose a chilled cheesecake over a baked one, and have never attempted to make my own baked cheesecake at home. But this version of New York Cheesecake was very easy to make – the topping is basically four pots (1000g) of Quark, butter, sugar, eggs, the zest of a lemon and some vanilla extract. Using Quark instead of cream cheese means there are a whopping 438 fewer calories, 76% less fat and 2.4 times more protein PER SLICE!!!! Wow. That is incredibly significant – an entire meal’s worth of calories saved by replacing one ingredient with another. No brainer.
And the cheesecake was good! The use of lemon zest and vanilla gave it a really lovely flavour, quite refreshing and not too sweet. I tried it out on family at the weekend, who do say baked cheesecake is their favourite, and they were very impressed with the Quark and how little difference it made to the flavour over using traditional ingredients. They didn’t even mind that I obviously didn’t cook the base long enough before adding the topping (sorry Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry – it had a soggy, and in fact leaky, bottom) – it might not have sliced perfectly, but it tasted good.
The idea of me receiving this hamper of goodies and trying out those recipes was of course for me to say whether or not I’d choose to cook with Quark again. And the answer is simply yes, I would. I’ve got quite a selection of recipes here from The Fabulous Baker Brothers that I’ve been sent, and I am hoping there will be more to come once the Quark website is up and running (it does seem odd to launch a product with only a holding page online).
It is great to have discovered a new-to-me ingredient that can be used as an alternative to cream cheese, crème fraiche, mascarpone, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, fromage frais, double cream and even soured cream – it is better for you than all of those, scoring “all green” on its on-pack Guildeline Daily Amounts information, and holds like the full-fat versions of those other products. I was also impressed with the flavour it provided; it does seem like the perfect product to keep in your fridge for all your cooking! Marvellous.
Thank you very much to the Lake District Dairy Company for sending me a hamper so that I could give Quark a proper test at home. If you want to try it for yourself, and I recommend that you do, you can buy it in Tesco and Morrison’s (in the cheese fridge!).
There are many things that make losing weight difficult. Motivation to eat healthily and exercise more comes and goes for all of us for many reasons. Sometimes it’s the weather – how hard is it to say no to a big baked potato at lunch time or a massive hot chocolate in the afternoon with our current climate? Sometimes it’s our lifestyle – it is more difficult to make good food and drink choices when you are busy and overtired. And sometimes it is the very fact that you are surrounded by food and drink all the time – it’s not easy to give into temptation when you can smell the chocolate!
For me and hundreds and thousands of people, what we do for a living hampers our weight loss efforts. Well unless you are a chocolate taster or a professional fast food eater your actual work isn’t the problem, it is the nature of what we do. Sitting at a computer for eight hours a day is a recipe for snacking, for drinking high sugar drinks, for giving in to temptation without even realising it. Especially when you work in an office with lovely people who provide cakes, biscuits and sweets weekly if not daily to help make everyone smile. And then there is the commuting. Not a problem I have any more as I’m only a short drive (or a long walk) from my office, but I admit there are always sweets in the car to help make journeys more bearable!
I mean, just look at this totally amazing cake… yes… look… drool… wish… want…
…I can confirm that this was quite possibly the nicest chocolate cake I have ever tasted. It was moist, had chocolate butter cream inside and on top, and of course Maltesers topping it off. So good. It was made by a colleague’s partner for our Red Nose Day bake sale (we raised just under £150 by the way!). An extreme example of how work can lead to over eating for sure (unfortunately the fact that calories consumed for charity don’t count is a myth), but there are often cakes in our office and when they are home made it is incredibly hard to say no. The fact is when someone brings in a home made cake I don’t want to say no, I want to eat it.
It’s not really the odd slice of cake that’s the problem, though (so colleagues, if you’re reading this, please continue to bake bake bake!) – we have weekly Weight Watchers Pro Points and Activity Pro Points that we can use to treat ourselves on occasional naughtiness like that. Not a problem, it is a lovely thing to share tea and cake with friends and I shall continue to do so when I fancy something that I’m offered. But it’s the fact that we’re sat on our bums moving little more than our fingers, that it’s too easy to not go out for a walk at lunch time thanks to a combination of the amount of work and the weather, that when we’re at work we eat for the sake of it. It’s the extra cereal bars, chocolate bars, cans of coke, full-fat lattes.
So what can we do? The best thing, of course, is to take all the food for the day to work with you. That should include a nice healthy but filling lunch and some healthy snacks for those grazing moments. Easier said than done and something I’ve been really bad at recently – getting into the habit of taking a packed lunch is key. And when you don’t have time or there’s nothing in the house? There are lots of healthy choices around, you just have to make the right decisions. This was an absolutely gorgeous Rainbow Salad from M&S with some honey and lime dressing – really tasty, I’d choose that one again. And thin cuppa soups are a brilliant way to “eat” without adding too many calories or Pro Points to your daily total – I always have some of those in my desk drawer.
I also try to keep a supply of healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, low calorie cereal bars and that sort of thing in my desk drawer – keeping snacks like that close to hand makes it easier to say no when someone offers to get you something from the corner shop.
The only way to lose weight successfully is to take in fewer calories than you burn off, so moving around is an absolute necessity. There’s not much chance of me getting a stand-up desk at work (not that I’ve asked), but I’m trying to see what things I can get done stood up, such as reading through reports and other documents. Organising any meetings away from my own desk also forces me to walk about, and of course making sure I take my hour for lunch and go out for a walk into town (without going into the cafes and coffee shops!) is great.
So now I’m after some inspiration. What should I keep in the house to create lovely things for midday eating in the office? What are the best healthy choices if you need to buy lunch? And what other things do you do to help curb your office over eating? Feel free to comment below.
I’m told that sometimes we all need a break. Whether it’s from work, from chores, from exercise, from anything and everything. Well this week, it is fair to say, I have taken a break from Weight Watchers. For various reasons on Wednesday I ate and ate and ate and ate. Then on Thursday I was hungry (probably because I’d eaten so much on Wednesday) so I ate like a pig again. Friday was, well, Friday, and included a plethora of treats including a Starbucks Caramel Cream Frappuccino (the photo of which sums up the week). And Saturday and Sunday I was away visiting friends and thoroughly enjoyed the bacon and cheese bagel, doughnut, Chinese takeaway, roast duck and baked potato, shortbread biscuits, rocky road, and pancakes. Yummy. I haven’t counted Pro Points since Wednesday morning. I stopped caring what I was eating. I’ve eaten proper meals, and vegetables, but I’ve snacked and gorged on other goodies too. I’ve just eaten what I’ve fancied. And then some.
I have still exercised. Which helps a bit. I’ve done my 30 Day Shred DVD five days out of seven and have been fairly active apart from that. I might be a lazy bum at times and have felt a bit apathetic towards many things this week, but I haven’t sat still, I’ve been moving around. I’ve just eaten a lot. I was fully expecting a gain when I weighed in this morning. I knew I deserved a gain. So the fact I have stayed the same is very surprising.
At the start of a new week I should start caring again. I got up yesterday (Monday is the last day of my Weight Watchers week), did my DVD, ate a couple of Weetabix for breakfast, popped a yoghurt and some fruit in my bag and went to work. At lunch time I walked to Morrisons and got a few bits including some much needed fruit and vegetables. I had a wrap for lunch (no photo as I wolfed that down way too quick) and some baked salmon and Mediterranean style vegetables for dinner. I had a bit of fruit and nut toblerone to use up my daily points, but I’ve not touched my weekly or activity points – not that I know how many I’ve got left because I’ve not been counting the rest of the week. So I’m back on it. Honest. There will be another 1lb off come next Tuesday. I hope.
This week blog ambassadors have been challenged to discuss how to stay on track on special occasions. This is centred around it being Valentines Day this week, but also includes birthdays, Christmas, Easter, dinner parties, lunch dates, and other such occasions.
I’m probably the wrong person to give advice on this. Especially this week when I have been particularly carefree about my eating. But I say if you’re going out for dinner for a celebration or a special occasion, and assuming you don’t go out every night of the week, then go and enjoy yourself. Make the most of the money you spend on a meal at a restaurant and the time you are spending with friends or family. If you fancy chips, eat them. If you fancy a desert, have one. Just don’t make a habit of it every day.
There are, of course, ways you could help yourself. On Weight Watchers you are given weekly points – 49 of them – that you can use for a treat such as a meal out or a takeaway. You can also earn activity points to top those up if you are planning on being particularly gluttonous. Plan ahead and use your points how you like.
The problems come, of course, when there is more than one of these “special occasions” in a week. Then it’s time to try and make better menu choices, perhaps; go for some nice fish, choose dishes with vegetables rather than chips, just have a main course, drink water with your meal. I think we all know how to be sensible and what the right choices are when we think about it. Don’t let dieting make an evening at a restaurant a miserable one.
All I can say is… bring on the pancakes tonight!
This week I was challenged by Weight Watchers to eat breakfast daily. I said last week that I am very bad at eating breakfast – I’m in too much of a rush in the mornings and besides don’t really fancy anything to eat. But I did, because it was a challenge. I had a selection of cereal in the house already (we like cereal for lunches sometimes) so I just made use of that and didn’t have to buy anything extra.
Here’s what I ate (always accompanied with a cup of tea):
Tuesday – Sultana Bran with Semi Skimmed Milk
Wednesday – Two Weetabix (no sugar!!) with Semi Skimmed Milk and an Apple
Thursday – Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with Semi Skimmed Milk
Friday – Jordons Country Crisp with Raspberries
Saturday – Jordons Country Crisp with Raspberries again – I do like this cereal but it’s really high in Pro Points at 5 for a portion not including milk.
Sunday – Oats So Simple (Original) with some Granulated Sweetener
Monday – One Weetabix with some Granulated Sweetener and Semi Skimmed Milk
I learnt that actually I can face a small bowl of cereal in the mornings, and I do have time to eat it – even today when I got up very late (I’ve no idea if I even set my alarm!) I was able to scoff a Weetabix.
The problem? Cereal and milk eats into my Pro Points total. I was five points down before I even started the day, which for some reason I found difficult to deal with! Also, whoever says breakfast keeps hunger at bay until lunch time lies! I was still as hungry by 11am if not 10am as I would be without eating breakfast. I did my best to go for a no points snack mid-morning but an apple wasn’t enough some days.
I think it’s something I could get used to during the week – I will do my best to continue to eat breakfast. But I think I might change it up a bit. I had some kiwi and pomegranate and grapes this morning along with some fromage frais which made a nice alternative and only one Pro Point.
This week, though, I am proof that you can still lose weight even if you use every single Pro Point available to you. I used all my daily points, all my weekly points, as well as the handful of activity points I achieved (I was a bit lazy I admit, I was recovering from all that skiing!). While I have been trying to make good food choices and not be tempted I have been using up what I have left to eat the chocolate and sweets still left from Christmas – three segments of Terry’s Chocolate Orange is a very worth while four Pro Points by the way! Even with that I lost 2lb. So I’ll take that with a grin and do my best to make better choices this week.
The challenge us bloggers have been set for the coming week is simple… sit less, move more… I’ll let you know next week how I get on! I started with good intentions by getting up half an hour earlier today to use the exercise bike before work, but I’ve just ended up doing chores like changing the towels, emptying the bins, you know the sort of thing. It all needs doing! I was once told “you don’t get to heaven on your good intentions” – so I fear I will have to do much better than that!
Here’s a question for you. If (“if” being an important word there!) I get up half an hour earlier to do a bit of exercise before work (I’ve just ordered Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD on a mass of recommendations – it won’t arrive in time for this weeks challenge sadly), should I eat breakfast first or afterwards?
When I reviewed new Special K Biscuit Moments last year I instantly became a regular purchaser – I loved the strawberry biscuit bars, they are sweet, satisfying, and remind me of Pop Tarts.
I received a box of the newest flavour in the post the other day – chocolate – and I couldn’t wait to give them a try. Would these remind me of Pop Tarts too? Would they be as nice as the strawberry ones?
Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. I opened the packet and instantly smelt chocolate. Mmmmm chocolate! I bit into one of the two bars and there it was, chocolate hit, yum. It’s a bit like they’ve smoothed a bit of chocolate spread in the middle of the crispy biscuit casing, it’s that kind of texture and flavour. The bars went perfectly well with a cup of tea as a mid-morning snack. And at only 98 calories per packet (two biscuits) they are a pretty good snack time treat.
For me, though, the strawberry ones still wins, it has that fruity sharpness that I like from a snack bar like this.
I made it clear in my last post about my Weight Watchers journey that I would not be counting while on holiday. For LincsGeek and I food on holiday is a very important part of the experience – we enjoy our food, enjoy eating out, enjoy finding a restaurant we love and going back to taste something else from the menu… and I enjoy just picking what I fancy from a menu rather than thinking about how many calories or how much fat I’m consuming. And anyway, you can’t spend valuable time away worrying about what you should or shouldn’t be eating.
Of course now I am back and ready to start again. I stepped on the scales this morning to assess the damage and was incredibly surprised. I lost weight. Just the one pound but if you could see the pile of hot chocolate glasses… and sweet wrappers… I know that skiing is good exercise, and you probably burn more calories when it’s -20 outside, but it has still come as a happy surprise.
Now I’m home again I’d better make sure I take positive steps to continue the trend downwards – I need to get meal planning again and desperately need to do a proper shop as we’ve not got a lot in.
Because I missed a week I have two challenges to concentrate on over the next seven days. The first is all about breakfast. Yes, yes, I know it’s the most important meal of the day, but unless I’m doing something that requires being fuelled up before I go (like skiing, a long walk etc), then nine times out of ten I don’t bother. I go through phases – I’ll eat breakfast properly for a few days before giving up and just waiting til my stomach starts moaning at 10am (or before). I’ve had boxes of cereal under my desk at work before now to try and get me into a routine of having breakfast as soon as I get in (I start at 8am so it’s early enough), but again I never get into a proper routine. So this week I will eat breakfast every single day, and try and vary it to keep me interested. It is most likely going to be cereal – weetabix, alpen, country crisp, that sort of thing. This morning I had some Sultana Bran. I give me til Friday.
I’ll introduce the other challenge later in the week.
What tips do you have for getting back on a decent diet after you’ve been off it for a week? What do you eat for breakfast?