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High Taste, Low Cal Food With Paula Mee

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Paula Mee will be in with us every Wednesday in January cooking low cal, high taste recipes. Each week will be themed, this week she is talking about breakfasts and she will cook up some healthy alternatives to the typical breakfast.

Christmas is done and dusted, the waistline has a few extra inches for some of us! We all want to get healthy and try some new low cal foods to slim down.

Why should we eat breakfast:
It's true that people who eat breakfast regularly stay slimmer, are more mentally alert and may even live longer than those who don't eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast, for many people, might seem like the easiest way to trim their waistlines. However running out the door without breakfast can actually make losing weight more difficult!

Scientists continue to explore this peculiarity. It may be because the brain needs glucose to function and if we don't eat after a night's fast, the liver starts to produce glucose for the brain from its limited stores.

Hormones are then produced to alert the body of its hunger and its need for carbohydrate which can be broken down into glucose. If we skip breakfast, by the time we get around to eating, the liver has taken care of our glucose needs and the carbohydrate we eat is converted into triglycerides, the precursor to fat cells.

To help prevent these unwanted fat cells from forming the best thing we can do is eat breakfast.

In the long run, the calories we eat during the day are better distributed, instead of being eating all at once. Develop good family habits by sitting down to breakfast each day.

Paula - it is important to have these as your basic breakfast foods:

. Wholegrain cereals like granola and porridge
. Low fat probiotic yoghurt and low fat milk
. Mixed seeds (linseed, poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)
. Toasted mixed nuts (almonds, brazil, walnuts etc)
. Fresh fruit (mix of ordinary and tropical)
. Dried fruit compote
. Beans, poached egg and grilled tomato
. Agave and honey


Having breakfast is vital, but so too is what you eat. The following are eight core breakfast foods for your shopping list:

1. Wholegrain Cereals like Granola and Porridge
Research suggests that the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes can be up to 30% lower in people who regularly eat wholegrains as part of a low fat diet and healthy lifestyle.

The risk of cancer of the digestive tract may also be lower with higher intakes of wholegrains. These grains provide a food source for the 'friendly' gut bacteria which helps them to thrive and produce short-chain fatty acids which protect the gut wall.

Wholegrain cereal tends to have a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) than more refined processed cereals. This means they provide a steady slow release of sugar into the blood which, along with the fibre, helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Wholegrains contain up to 75% more nutrients than refined cereals. They contain two different types of fibre: soluble (which helps to lower cholesterol levels and promote healthy gut bacteria) as well as the insoluble type (which helps with the regular movement of food through the intestine, avoiding constipation and other bowel disorders).

2. Probiotic low fat Yoghurt
Yoghurt is an excellent source of bone minerals. Low fat live probiotic yoghurts contain very little saturated fat and lots of 'friendly bacteria' which produce enzymes that can be absorbed through the gut wall and enhance the immune system.

Low fat Milk
Milk is another excellent bone food. Low fat varieties with protective omega 3 fats are now available on the supermarket shelf. The calcium in milk is easily absorbed, unlike the calcium found in plant foods.

3. Mixed seeds
Seeds are nutritional nuggets. They are rich in protective unsaturated fats, fibre, some B vitamins, Vitamin E and phytochemicals. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are good sources of zinc and copper. Linseed (or flax seed) is a rich source of omega 3 fats and lignans (a type of phytoestrogen) which may help to relieve menopausal symptoms and reduce the risk of cancer

4. Mixed nuts
Many nuts contain 50% fat (except chestnuts which are only 3% fat). However, most of the fat in nuts is protective, unsaturated fat. As they are so nutrient dense, yet high in calories, you only need small amounts to benefit from their antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium, their iron and their essential fatty acids.

5. Fresh fruit or citrus fruits or frozen berries
Fruit is packed with phytochemicals, antioxidant vitamin C plus carotenoids, folate and fibre. Fruit is naturally low in fat, has very few calories and is a great energy-boosting start to the day. Citrus fruits such as grapefruits and oranges are great sources of vitamin C. It's estimated they also contain more than 150 different phytochemicals, many of which have disease-fighting properties. These citrus fruits are particularly protective against cancer of the mouth, throat and stomach. They can also help to lower our risk of heart disease and stroke when eaten daily.

Berry fruits are rich sources of phytoestrogens and many antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Blueberries are top of the list of fruits and vegetables in their antioxidant activity. Scientists are researching their potential in slowing the ageing process, protecting our arteries by reducing harmful cholesterol levels and protecting against age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

6. Dried fruits
There is now a great assortment of dried fruit available in supermarkets and health shops, from the familiar plump raisin to the more exotic cranberry, papaya and mango. They provide great variety, new tastes and a burst of instant sweetness to the porridge bowl. They also contain significant amounts of iron, potassium and selenium, as well as fibre and vitamin A. More than can be said of table sugar!

7. Eggs
Eggs are full of protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and Vitamins A, D and E. They also contain choline and biotin for healthy skin and hair. If blood cholesterol is normal, you can enjoy an egg a day if you wish. If you have high cholesterol, restrict intake to 3 a week. Obviously the healthiest way to enjoy them is without adding fat, so boil, poach or scramble in a non-stick pan.

8. Agave and honey
Agave is a natural sugar substitute to table sugar.
It has a lower Gi to other sugars and so may be useful in controlling blood sugar levels and hunger pangs.

Paula will show the viewers how to make a healthy alternative and talk about the difference in calorie content: See table below showing comparisons:

Food Calories Fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Sugars (g) Fibre (g) Salt (g)

Breakfast Roll*


Healthy alternative
Sardines on toast


Cereal, Toast, juice


Healthy alternative
Apple porridge, green tea


*White baguette, butter, 2 fried rashers, 2 fried sausages, 1 piece each of white & black pudding, 1 fried egg, ketchup

**50g of crunchy oat cereal with coconut, sultanas & almonds with 125ml milk, 2 slices of white bread, toasted, with butter & jam, 150ml glass of orange juice, tea and sugar

Breakfast Recipes

Apple Porridge

Makes 4 servings

. 325g rolled oats
. 300ml apple juice
. 2 Granny Smith apples
. 200g Greek yoghurt
. 55g sultanas or other dried fruit
. 25g flaked almonds, toasted
. 2 tbsp runny honey

You can have this either hot or cold. To enjoy it cold, soak the oats in the apple juice overnight. Just prior to eating, fold in the grated apple, yoghurt, sultanas and almonds. Drizzle over the honey and serve.

To have the porridge hot, soak the oats in the apple juice overnight. In the morning, add the oats and apple juice to a saucepan, and add 300ml water (you can use more according to your desired consistency). Heat the porridge over a low heat until thickened and heated through. Serve with the grated apple, yoghurt, sultanas and almonds sprinkled over and drizzle with the honey.

Fruit Compote

Makes 6 servings

. 115g dried apricots
. 55g dried cherries
. 55g dried blueberries
. 55g dried figs
. 55g dried pears
. 55g dried mango
. ½ cinnamon stick
. 2 tbsp runny honey
. 2 cloves
. ½ vanilla pod, split
. Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
. Saffron threads (optional)
. 15g flaked almonds, toasted
. 15g pine nuts

Put all the ingredients except the almonds and pine nuts into a non-reactive saucepan, and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Top up with water if necessary.

Allow to cool, then add the remaining ingredients and stir. Remove the cinnamon stick, vanilla pod and cloves.

Store in a kilner jar in the fridge to serve with porridge, wheatgerm, yoghurt or a combination.

The fruits listed above are suggestions - you can use any other dried fruit that you have.

Paula's Useful facts:

1. An average bowl of chocolate-covered breakfast cereal contains as much sugar as a chocolate bar and has negligible amounts of fibre.
2. These are desserts not breakfast cereals!
3. You can get four times more salt in a bowl of certain cereals than you'd find in a 25g bag of roasted peanuts. There are new cereals now with little or no salt.
4. Read the labels.

A Bone Building Breakfast

Serves 1
. 120g tin sardines in extra virgin olive oil
. 2 tsp tomato ketchup
. 2 tsp low-fat mayonnaise
. Few drops Worcester sauce to taste
. Freshly ground black pepper
. 2 slices coarse wholemeal toast
. 1 tomato, quartered

Preheat the grill to medium-high.
2. Thoroughly mash the sardines, ketchup, mayo, Worcester sauce and pepper with a fork until the bones are all smashed and you have a thick creamy consistency.
3. Divide the mixture between 2 slices of toast.
4. Put them on a sheet of foil under the grill until the fish starts to brown - about 3 minutes.
5. Remove and serve at once with the tomato.

Nutritionist Paula Mee