Sunday, January 15, 2012


(blogging 3 days in a row, I hope you are impressed!)

One of the sessions I went to at the recent Quaker Summer Gathering was Marion giving a talk on the latest thinking on nutrition, cardio-vascular disease and several other things. I didn't go the first time she gave it but heard so much about it over mealtimes that when she offered to run it again I went (she also did a 3rd rendition for the JYF and YF crowd which went well into the wee small hours apparently!).

Her talk covered many things most of which I won't insult by trying to regurgitate here having taken absolutely no notes at the time and am now finding that I'm totally unable to do justice at explaining. However one issue covered was lunches, and the value of making your own packed lunch rather than buying something at the canteen/shop - not on grounds of economy (which are equally valid!) but that then you know what has gone into it - how much sugar (sorry that is the bit I won't try to explain, however google Robert Lustig 'sugar the bitter truth' or watch this for more information!) and how much fibre.

Being a vegetarian who is wheat and dairy intollerant means buying a takeaway lunch limits me pretty much to sushi or a bag of chips. In anycase we have a healthy eating policy at work and as we eat with the children we are expected to model good practice so nipping down to the chippie isn't really an option! Also bought sushi has quite a lot of sugar in it and white rice doesn't have much, if any, fibre...

As anyone who has tried making sandwiches with wheatfree bread will testify it isn't a very satisfactory option so instead I take crackers. What kind has depended on whether at the time I'm feeling skint (rice crackers - the Japanese sort, not the 'ceiling tiles'), worried about food miles (corn thins - from Australia, slightly nearer to home) or over packaging (Ryvita - come in recyclable paperbased packaging but imported from the UK...). So basically whichever I choose I compromise on one principle or another.

Marion spoke of how when doing a locum stint in Australia where she 'had nothing better to do' she decided to count her calories to see how well her reasonably healthy diet compared to the recommended intake. She was pretty horrified to discover how quickly the calories clocked up! Her solution was lunches of brown rice and dahl which she made up in bulk and froze in portions. Someone commented wasn't that a bit tedious - not if you add things to the dahl each time you take one out, either leftover veggies in the fridge, additional spices etc. Having lived on a diet of pizza, beans and a kitkat for well over a year at school and a baked potato, coleslaw and hot chocolate at 6th form college I know that I can handle the same lunch on repeat so I'm not too worried! So with brown rice and dahl I'd get fibre, protein and other goodies mostly made up of 'good calories' ie ones the body can usefully use rather than empty calories like those in alcohol which the body ends up laying down as fatty deposits as it doesn't know what else to do with them.

So... rice. Well it sure isn't going to be grown here, although with current weather patterns some farmers may be seriously considering it! However I can get organic Australian brown rice so that is a start, not too far away. Packaging is ok if I get it from the bins at the health food shop who use biodegradable bags. So pretty good on that front. Apparently most white rice is neither good nor bad for you, it just passes through and doesn't even have much fibre left to help with that process - basmati has some goodness to it but brown rice on the whole is heaps better.

I figured I'd start off with brown rice (I have my first batch cooked and in portion sized tubs in the deep freeze ready and waiting) and leftovers and/or salads (it being summer) and see how I go. As the weather gets cooler I'll make batches of dahl too. It certainly seems a better option than imported crackers anyway. I'll let you know how it goes.

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