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High Taste, Low Cal Food with Aveen Bannon

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Aveen Bannon, Nutritionist

Getting the dinner plate balanced.

Dinner appears to one meal where many of our bad habits appear. Often we arrive home tired and can find the contents of our fridge less than inspiring.Increasingly people report that they might not eat until late and will have not eaten since lunchtime so by the time dinner arrives they are starving. This results in eating too quickly and ultimately too much.

Firstly there are a few mealtime habits to look at. We should all aim to spend at least 20 minutes eating our meal. It takes the brain that length of time to realise when it is full. One idea can be to check the clock when you start your meal and again when you finish. If you notice that you have finished your meal in 5 or 10 minutes you are eating too quickly. Try placing your knife and fork down between mouthfuls and take time chewing your food. This way you are must more likely to eat to appetite.

Another common habit can be to eat while watching television. Research has indicated that when we watch TV while eating we tend to eat faster and also don't pay attention to what we are eating. This can result in us eating more than we require and therefore eating more calories than we might need. Apart from eating too much, mealtimes should be viewed as a social opportunity to catch up on your family's day so try to keep the television out of the kitchen and dinner plates out of the TV room!

Portion control!! Poor portion control is one of the main reasons why about half of all Irish people are overweight or obese. Eat the wrong type of food (high-fat) and you will put on weight - simple! But eat too much food regardless of whether it is low-fat or low-calorie and you will also put on weight. To maintain a healthy weight, you must keep your portion sizes under control in addition to watching the fat and calorie content of foods.

So what is a portion? A "portion" can be thought of as the amount of a specific food you choose to eat for dinner, snack, or other eating occasion. Portions, of course can be bigger or smaller than the recommended food servings. A "serving" is a unit of measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount of food recommended in the Food Pyramid. Often we're served larger portions of food than we need but don't panic.remember you don't need to clear the plate! Eat slowly and stop when you are full, don't be afraid to leave some food on the plate.

There are 6 main components for the dinner shopping list:

1. Carbohydrates:

The basis of any meal should always be a carbohydrate rich food. Pasta is a low GI food and is a good low fat source of slowly released energy. Rice is a great staple but as with all processed foods the more refined it is, the fewer nutrients there are, so chose brown pasta and rice. Steamed potatoes are good sources of vitamin C and potassium. Sweet potato is a great alternative to potatoes that is high in fibre and full of vitamin A. Cous Cous is a great low fat complex carbohydrate that is a perfect eaten hot or cold. Display; sweet potato, brown rice, cous cous.

2. Colour:

All our meals should have some colour in them and I encourage people to have a variety of coloured vegetables and salad in their diets. Green, red, orange, purple and white foods should be part of our diet. Try to have something green daily e.g. broccoli, cabbage, green beans, kale, pakchoi, spinach or Brussels sprouts. The cruciferous vegetables are great sources of folate. Red vegetables are a good source of lycopenes which can help protect the heart and against certain cancers particularly prostate cancer. Orange vegetables are a great source of vitamin A and purple contain lots of vitamin C. All vegetables contain phytochemicals which are compounds that are thought to help protect us against heart disease and certain cancers. Display; broccoli, tomato, carrot, aubergine, cauliflower.

3. Flavour:

Adding flavour doesn't need to mean adding calories. There are many low calorie options that will ensure a tasty meal. Spices are derived from the roots, buds, bark and fruit of plants. Herbs are usually the leaves of certain plants. Always try to have a variety of flavours in your cupboard so you're never short of a tasty addition to a meal. Traditionally, herbs and spices have been used to treat diseases for thousands of years. Spices such as chilli, mint, ginger, garlic, fenugreek and basil are thought to have health benefits. Display; mint, chilli, garlic, basil.

Healthy Option:

Chicken with Cranberry and Hazelnut Cous Cous; 656 calories

Serves 2


. 100g of Cous Cous
. 2 chicken breasts
. 50g dried cranberries
. 25g chopped hazelnuts
. 25g of chopped dried apricots
. Bunch of roughly chopped parsley
. 1 shallot peeled and chopped
. Juice and grated zest of one lemon.
. Some spray olive oil
. Boiling water


1. Place the Cous Cous in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak.
2. Place the griddle pan over medium heat. While the pan heats spray the chicken breast with some olive oil and season with pepper. Place the chicken on the griddle pan and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through.
3. While the chicken is cooking gently separate the Cous Cous with a fork and stir in the dried cranberries, hazelnuts, apricots, parsley, shallots and lemon. Slice the chicken breast and serve with the Cous Cous and a green salad.

Food: Chicken and Chips

Calories: 1019

Fat (g): 53.8

Fibre (g) : 5.9

Salt (g): 2.9

Healthy Alternative
Chicken with

and Hazelnut Cous Cous
656 13 4.3 0.6

3 Core foods for Dinner:

4. Protein Rich Foods

We need to include a protein rich food at two or more meals per day. It is a good idea to have a variety of foods that provide protein to get maximum nutrition from your diet. Lean red meat is an excellent source of protein, iron and zinc. It can be a good idea to include red meat 2-3 times a week in your diet for adequate iron. Chicken is a good low fat source of protein. Avoid eating the skin and try to avoid adding too much fat in cooking. Fish is another important source of protein in the diet. Try to include both white and oily fish. It is recommended that we aim to include oily fish in our diets twice a week. Oily fish include - tuna, trout, mackerel or salmon. The omega 3 fats have many health benefits including heart, joint and brain health. Research has found that eating oily fish twice a week can reduce the risk of stroke by 18%.

5. Good Fats

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which can lower harmful LDL cholesterol without lowering the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Rapeseed oil is another fat that is high in monounsaturated fat. Try using a spray oil to save on calories as it is important to remember that all oils contain the same calories.

6. Plant Sources of Protein

High fibre protein rich foods are considered low glycaemic index foods with lots of nutritional a great dinner option. Pulses are high in fibre, a good source of essential minerals including zinc, magnesium and iron and are low in both fat and calories. The world cancer research fund recommends that we include plant sources of protein in our diets 3 or more times per week.

Spicy Mexican pizza; 280 calories

Preheat the oven to 220C
Serves 2


. 2 medium sized wholemeal pita breads
. 100g of chopped tomatoes
. 1 tblsp tomato puree
. 100 g kidney beans
. 1 tsp of chilli sauce
. 1 large chilli sliced
. 1 sliced red onion
. 1 chopped yellow or red pepper
. 50g grated Edam or low fat cheese


1. Slice the medium pita pockets down the middle and open them up. Place them on a baking tray.

2. Mix the tinned chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, chilli sauce, peppers and tomato puree together in a bowl. Then spread the mixture evenly onto the pita breads. Top each pizza with the onion, sliced chill and cheese and cook in the oven (180'C fan/220'C) for 10-15 minutes, until cheese has melted.
3. Serve with a green salad

Food: Pepperoni pizza

Calories: 938

Fat (g): 47.3

Fibre (g): 0.3

Salt (g): 4.15

Healthy alternative

Food: Spicy Mexican pizza

Calories: 280

Fat (g): 3.95

Fibre (g): 8.5

Salt (g): 1.2