A balanced diet is not just about calories; the source of those calories will influence the overall quality of your diet and the true nutritional value.
Ideally we should be aiming for 50% of our calories being provided by carbohydrates, 35% by fats and 15% by protein. That really isn’t very helpful, when we can’t visualise those calories to start with but there’s a useful Public Health England graphic known as the eatwell plate …
Many people will ‘go on a diet’ each and every January. Their willpower and self control will last for a while, maybe long enough to shed the extra pounds, but maybe not. Most successful weight loss regimes…
Chia seeds, goji berries, wheatgrass, white tea… the list seems to get longer every week as another ‘superfood’ hits the headlines. Some less exotic everyday foods fit the bill, some may have even more antioxidants than the superfoods and many may already be in your fridge, freezer or cupboard.
This hearty Italian soup is made with pasta and beans and finished with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.
Serves 4, prep 30mins, cook at least 2 hours
100g/3½oz smoked, dry-cured bacon lardons
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g/14oz can chopped plum tomatoes
1.2 litres/2 pints good-quality chicken stock
400g/14oz can cannellini beans in water, rinsed and drained
50g/1¾oz spaghetti, snapped into short lengths
100g/3½ head baby leaf or spring greens, thickly shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
25g/1oz parmesan, grated
Put a large frying pan over a low heat, add the lardons and cook for 10 minutes until crisp, golden and the fat has run from the meat. Transfer onto a plate.
Tip the carrots, celery and onion into the bacon fat and fry for two minutes before adding the garlic, herbs and tomato purée. Cook for one minute, then add the tomatoes and most of the stock. Bring to the boil. Carefully transfer the soup to a slow cooker, cover with the lid, then cook on high for four hours until the vegetables are tender.
Stir the beans and pasta into the soup, adding the rest of the stock if it seems overly thick. Scatter the shredded greens over the top of the soup, then re-cover with the lid. Cook for 30 minutes until the pasta is tender. Stir in the greens, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then serve in bowls with a drizzle of oil and plenty of parmesan.
Heat the butter / oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, and gently fry for 15mins until the onions are soft and golden. Turn up the heat, add the mushrooms, then cook for a further 4mins. Pour over the wine (if using) and stock – don’t season with salt at this stage. Simmer for 40-50mins until the lentils are very soft. Season to taste, remove from the heat and stir in the tomato puree.
Heat oven to 109C /170C fan / gas 5. While the lentils are cooking, make the topping: Tip the potatoes into a pan of water and boil for approx. 15mins until tender. Drain well, mash with the butter and milk, then season.
To assemble the shepherd’s pie, put the lentil mixture in a large ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Scatter over the cheese and bake for 30mins until the topping is golden.
As a quicker alternative, use 3 tins of rinsed and drained green lentils – simmer them for just 10 mins after adding the stock.
Low calorie (450 kcal per serving); suitable for coeliacs; rich in iron, folate and fibre; suitable for freezing.