A recent survey of our eating habits finds that consumption of fruit and veg has gone down in the UK compared with the last similar Government survey – the reason being that prices for these have 'rocketed' (as the tabloid headlines always have it) in the past five years.
And in the same week, another research project finds that we are filling up on 'cheap' starches such as sliced bread, pastry, biscuits and crisps to keep our food costs within budget.
I put the word 'cheap' in inverted commas because I was in one of the major supermarkets in Hereford the other day and noticed the price of crisps – a 40g 'serves one' pack of a typical brand was 66p. On the other hand, a single apple was 15p and a single banana 12p. So you could get two apples and three bananas for the same price as a bag of crisps.
A non-luxury brand of chocolate coated biscuits was £1.90. Three biscuits (an average serve, I guess) would then be 24p. So you could get two bananas instead of the biscuits, or one banana and one apple would be just 3p more.
My point? You can get fruits containing important nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium and fibre for the same price as virtually vitamin and mineral-free, high-fat/sugar/salt starches. And it's a fallacy that fruit is bound to contain fewer calories than the crisps or the biscuits.
There are around 200 calories in the 40g bag of crisps and 250 in the three biscuits. There are 340 calories in two apples and three bananas so you get 140 more calories than the crisps for the same price as well as a lot of good nutrients and no baddies. So if you are skinny and trying to get your calories then on all counts the fruit wins.
But the sad fact is that a lot of people claiming they have to 'fill up' on starchy low-nutrient foods as they can't afford fruit and veg, are actually very overweight or obese. I would lay a bet that there are fewer thin than fat people surviving on low incomes.
However, if you're strapped for cash and really do need to lose weight, eat the two apples with just one banana – 42p and 180 calories, saving 20 calories and 24p compared with the crisps. Or eat two bananas – 24p and 160 calories, saving 90 calories and spending no more than you would on the biscuits.
Ate last night
I craved a fish pie so I concocted a reasonably low-calorie one rather than the butter and cream laden ones that can so easily find there way onto a dinner plate. It served four, is about 475 calories a portion, and will freeze.
Judith's low-fat fish pie recipe
- 800g mixed fish fillets – I used salmon, farmed cod and smoked haddock
- 500ml skimmed milk
- 100g cooked peeled prawns
- 3 eggs, lightly hard-boiled, peeled and quartered
- 1 tbsp sauce flour
- 2 tbsp half fat crème fraiche
- 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Handful fresh chopped parsley
- Little salt and black pepper
- 600g boiled potatoes mashed with skimmed milk, a dash of light olive oil and seasoning
1. Skin any fish as necessary and place fillets in a large lidded pan. Pour over the milk and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Remove fish to a plate, using slotted spatula, break into large chunks as necessary and arrange in ovenproof dish, pouring any juices left on the plate back into the milk. Scatter the prawns and egg around the fish then tuck in a little. Strain milk through sieve into a saucepan.
2. Stir sauce flour into the milk and whisk over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in the crème fraiche, half the cheese, all the parsley and seasoning to taste. Pour over fish, lifting fish pieces so the sauce gets all the way to the base of the dish.
3. Spoon the potato all around the edge of the dish in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle remaining cheese over everything and bake at 180C for 25 minutes or until golden. Serve with plenty of green vegetables.
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