I ran into a lovely nutritionist friend of mine the other day, and we were talking about whether it's possible to feel like you and the kids are eating luxury food when you're surviving on a gnat's budget. And more to the point, food that's good for you.
Now let's get this straight. All I know about food is What I Like, and What I Can Cook. Everything else blurs into insignificance when you're trying to feed kids on not very much at all.
But the fantabulous Emma - contact details at the bottom - has written a guest post for me about wonderful foods that, in the great scheme of things, are very good value indeed.
I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and have slipped in my own tiny bit of foodie knowledge. See if you can spot the difference between her wise words and mine.
Often thought of as a pricey vegetable, asparagus is in season right now (April - June) so you can proudly buy your British Asparagus during these months and save money as well as your conscience. Asparagus is a super healthy vegetable packed with nutrients, including folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, and also the mineral chromium, which helps keep blood sugar balance stable. Added to that, it is rich in the super antioxidant glutathione, which helps to protect cells from free radical damage and helps your liver to break down harmful toxins and chemicals. These vegetables go perfectly with a spring or summer meal, especially a barbecue - try chargrilling them or steaming and served with butter (see below - it's officially good for you!), mayonnaise or hollandaise.
Considered by those in the know to be the perfect protein, they are also inexpensive when compared to protein that comes from meat and fish. The protein they contain is really well absorbed because they contain all the essential amino acids in the correct ratio, including high amounts of the amino acid, leucine, which helps with muscle recovery after exercise. Eggs are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and vitamins A and D, which help with energy production, immune system function and the formation of strong bones and teeth. They are incredibly quick and easy to prepare, and are at their tasty and healthy best when scrambled and served with chives, smoked salmon and rye bread.
For the price you pay, nuts are the heavy weights when it comes to nutrients. They are loaded with calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, folate and vitamin E, while also providing heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. Despite being high in fat, research has shown that diets enriched with nuts do not cause weight gain; in fact they can even help with weight loss. Research has also found that eating nuts brings other health benefits, including lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids and higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Nuts provide a great snack, add crunch to salads and main meals, or why not try using ground nuts, like almonds, for baking instead of wheat flour. The best nuts to choose include raw and unsalted almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, brazils and pecans.
4. Coconut milk
Tinned food doesn't tend to be thought of as a luxury ingredient, but I think coconut milk is the exception. Low in price, yet rich and creamy, it will add delicious depth to your morning smoothie and bring a mild coconut flavour to curries and soups. It is a really useful store cupboard standby as it has a relatively long shelf life, and is a great option for those avoiding dairy products. Coconut is also now known to be a 'super food', rich in healthy medium-chain fats, including lauric acid, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. (Pic from wholelifestylenutrition.com.)
(pic from fairtrasa.com)
Butter is an affordable luxury that has had a bad press in the past, leaving many people choosing margarine instead in an effort to be healthy. The truth is that more recent research has now disproved many of the claims that link saturated fats to cardiovascular health problems, meaning butter is back on the menu. Margarine, on the other hand, is highly chemical and processed in nature, with much research revealing it to be far from the health food it claims to be. Butter is rich in vitamins A, E, and K2, as well as a short-chain fat called butyric acid, which is used for energy by cells in our colons and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Add to steamed vegetables to boost flavour and help your body absorb the fat soluble nutrients they contain.
Did you spot my own tip? If you did, and you'd STILL like to talk to Emma about nutrition rather than me, you can reach her at the Nourish Nutritional Therapy Centre, www.nourishcentre.co.uk
All the photos are mine unless specified. Please feel free to use then whilst referencing this site.