Eat right. Waste less. Save more.

“I want to lose weight/gain weight/bulk up/shred…etc… So how much food should I be eating?”
Possibly the most common question any nutritionist/dietician receives…well it’s definitely up there in the top 2 popular questions I receive constantly (the other being “when was the last time you ate McDonald’s or something similar?” To which I really have to stop and think about…it’s been ages, years actually…)

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to losing weight, gaining weight, bulking, shredding etc. because we are all different. Our lifestyles, our jobs, our levels of physical activity, our level of fidgeting (I’m a chronic fidgetor..). However there are some elements of a healthy diet that we can all do more regularly until it is becomes habit. A good habit :-).

Often times we are tempted to OVER-EAT. In other words CONSUME TOO MUCH food. Eat more than what our body requires, or even wants. Because of the short-term pleasure that our taste-buds experience. And the end result of such behavior? Weight gain. Weak joints. Extra pressure placed on our heart to pump blood into a “bigger” body. Hardened and weakened arteries. Just like a car, our bodies only need a set amount of fuel. However unlike a car in which extra fuel will simply flow out of the tank, our body stores the extra food is fuel… FAT… and this extra baggage adds extra strain onto the heart.

Eating the right amount of food can also save $$. No excess foods wasted therefore saving $$. No excess foods eaten that lead onto health problems that are costly to treat therefore saving more $$. Eating the right amount of food also “saves” food – so instead of eating everything all today, by consuming the right amount of food, food can actually be spread over 2 days for example.

So what does a serve of food look like? Well that depends you who ask, right..?

Here’s a simple guide I read in the Australian Healthy Food Guide (2008) that provides an easy-to-understand aide that can be used everyday by anyone to accurately “guesstimate” how much food you are consuming.
Food serving amounts

Other clever ways that to use up everything, decrease wastage and save $$:
1) Salad leaves:
– if you must use salad dressing, serve it separated from the salad. That way you prevent the salad from going soggy and you can serve the salad leaves the next day without it being a pile of wilting mush.
– Stir-fry leftover salad leaves alone or along with lean meat (cook the meat first, and then stir-through the extra leaves) and add your favorite (low sodium) Asian sauces.
– add it to quiches, soups or casseroles – a great healthy filler that adds healthy fibre bulk :-).

2) Bread:
– Why buy crumbs when you can DIY? Make fresh breadcrumbs from day old bread by whizzing it in a blender or food processor. Too easy. Make dry breadcrumbs by toasting the bread first and then whizzing it. If you don’t have a blender or processor, never fear, simply place the toasted bread in a bag, seal well and pound with a rolling pin (quite therapeutic after a crazy day at work…!). Use the crumbs to coat fish or mix with oats as a crumble onto of baked dishes. Crumbs can be frozen for use later as well.
– Make “bread and butter pudding dessert” with left over raisin bread, plain bread or bread rolls. No need for butter though – added canned or stewed fruit instead for a healthy treat. See recipe below for “Healthy bread and (no)-butter pudding”.
– Make croutons for soups. Cut stale bread into small cubes. Toast and use as a crunchy delicious topping for soups and casseroles.
– Make your own crackers. Slice bread thinly or roll sliced bread with a rolling pin till it is thin. Spray very LIGHTLY with vegetable oil (not coconut) and toast in the oven. You can use any bread. Store in an airtight container and use instead of crackers. This can be frozen. Sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar for a sweet cracker.

3) Wraps/Roti breads:
– Make chips by drying wraps/roti breads in a warm oven. Break apart and serve with chutneys or dips.
– Freeze for another day. These freeze well. Make sure that wraps/rotis are frozen flat so they don’t split when thawed.

4) Yoghurt:
– Make smoothies – add milk, fruit and a spoonful of oats and blend in a blender or shaker (leave oats out if there is no blender).
– Freeze it and serve instead of ice-cream for dessert. It is much more healthier and tastes great. You can add small pieces of fruit to it before freezing for a fruity frozen dessert.
– Use natural yoghurt in place of sour cream or coconut cream in savory dishes. (Yoghurt is thicker so you would only need to use half the amount.) Additionally if coconut milk must be used – make it fresh, leave in the refrigerator and remove the hard, solid part (the part that is high in saturated fat!). You will be left with a watery liquid. Add some natural yoghurt to this liquid – this will give you the creaminess of the coconut milk without the saturated fat and the liquid will still have the coconut flavour. 
– Freeze in ice-cube trays to use a block at a time in smoothies, soups or cereals (let it defrost first though!)

5) Cheese:
– Cheese that has gone too hard to eat can still be grated and then frozen or refrigerated or diced and used in soups and casseroles later. Do not eat mouldy cheese though.

6) Raw vegetables:
– Make soup. Add stock, canned tomatoes/soft tomatoes and canned beans and you have a healthy quick meal that is tasty and colourful! Serve with bread/croutons or ½ cup cooked rice/pasta/noodles. Soups can be frozen and defrosted for a quick meal when time is not available.
– Stir-fry. Slice leftover celery, capsicum, even sweet potato and pumpkin, and add to stir-fries.
– Roast. Vegies that are a bit stale can still be roasted in a hot oven – spray with a little oil and roast until tender. Serve with a meal or add to soups.
– Potatoes that have roots coming out of them are still edible. Remove roots and roast potatoes. Old potatoes make a great mash.

7) Fruit:
– Stew apples, pears and other soft fruits. Chop and simmer with a little water until they are very soft. Taste and then add just as much sugar as you need. Serve with yoghurt, custard, with cereal at breakfast, use as an ingredient in muffins/cakes/puddings. Or eat by itself hot or cold as a snack. Stewed fruit can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
– Make muffins. Soft older fruit is also great for baking in muffins, cakes or fruit loaves.
– Try a smoothie. Bananas that are too black to eat can be peeled and frozen and added to smoothies as they are or defrosted and used in muffins.

Foods last longer by storing well. The way you store food could be contributing to the amount you are wasting. Store it well and never throw anything out again.
1) Fruit and vegetables
a. Green leafy vegetables and herbs love humidity so they will last longer if you wash them, pat dry and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
b. Celery, broccoli, green beans, spinach, corn, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, leeks, carrots and turnips are best stored dry in a plastic bag in the fridge.
c. Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge so they stay dry.
d. Zucchini, cucumber, spring onions, beetroot and capsicum keep best in the fridge and don’t need to be wrapped.
e. Garlic, onions, whole pumpkin, potatoes, taro, cassava and sweet potatoes should be kept in a cool, dark, dry cupboard.
f. Break the hard ends off asparagus, stand upright in 2-3cm water & keep in the fridge.
g. Most fruit can be ripened at room temperature and then refrigerated to lengthen shelf life (except bananas – keep them out of fridge).
h. Light makes foods deteriorate faster so when you can store it in a cupboard. If on a shelf, try as much as possible to use a container that is not see-through.

2) Bread
a. Store fresh bread in a paper bag at room temperature; it may sweat in a plastic bag (especially in a hot kitchen) making the crust go soft and allowing mould to grow on the bread.
b. Whether in the pantry or the fridge, bread still stales fast. Keep it longer by storing it in the freezer. Wrap it well and don’t keep it too long (up to 1 month).

3) Cheese
a. Keep chilled and wrapped in grease-proof paper in an airtight container. Foil and plastic wrap are also okay to use.
b. Store grated cheese in the freezer as it doesn’t last as long as a block because of the amount of surface area exposed to air.
c. If cheeses come in a liquid, change the liquid with fresh water every few days. This works well for tofu as well.

4) Meat and poultry
a. Leave fresh meat or poultry in individual wrappers and store in the lowest part of the fridge until use as this is the coldest part of the fridge.
b. Use mince, sausages and poultry within 1-2 days and cuts of meat like steak, chops or roasts within 3-4 days. Or freeze meat or poultry in airtight plastic wrap or plastic bags.
c. Aim to get cooked meat or poultry in the fridge within an hour of cooking and use within 3 days.

5) Fish
a. Although best eaten fresh, fish will keep for up to four days. Wrap it in plastic and keep surrounded with ice. Replace the ice as it melts.
b. Fish freezes well too. Defrost in the lowest part of the fridge when needed.

Another great way to use up all the food you have in the best way to minimize waste as much as possible is to use cooked leftovers. Here are some examples of using cooked leftovers to create different meals.
1. Pies – Put leftover casserole, mince or cooked meat and vegetables in an oven-proof dish, add a layer of mashed potato/mashed taro and bake.
2. Omelettes – add an egg or two to leftover vegies and meat in a pan. Dinner in 10 mins. Maybe add some cheese for extra flavour if you wish. Serve with a tossed mixed salad.
3. Pasta – leftovers added to freshly cooked pasta can make a delicious meal. Add any leftover vegies and a can of tomatoes.
4. “Bubble and squeak” – leftover patties: Mash up the leftovers from a roast dinner and fry them as patties. Serve with salads.
5. Bean-based stews – add a can of beans and one of tomatoes to leftover sausages or cooked meat and make a tasty soup or stew to serve with potato mash/rice and salad.

Information was adapted from the article “Kitchen secrets: stop wasting food and save” published in Australian Healthy Food Guide, July 2008 edition.

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