Ah January. New Years resolutions (remember those you made on 1 January?), and invariably, after stepping on the scales and noting the results of all of that turkey, ham, pavlova and drinks and snackies, it is time to watch what you eat. At least it is in my case.
I didn’t put on so much weight in December as a gradual glut starting from winter onwards. Canberra winters just invite comfort food, and now that I have kidlets, I struggle a bit to make time for exercise for myself. And then, just as spring arrived, there was the feast of Eat Drink Blog. How could any self respecting food blogger restrain themselves from sampling the best that Canberra has to offer?
Excuses, excuses. Ultimately I am responislbe for what I put in my mouth. And I know from experience, having reduced 18kg after the birth of my first son (and then almost that after my second, made easier by the Chinese practice of postpartum confinement), that you can reduce weight frugally. Really. OK I am still curvy but when I implement these principles I do in fact successfully reduce weight.
One of the key ways to reduce weight is to manage portion sizes. One of my favourite lifestyle books is Why Japanese Women Don’t Get Fat. Authors Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle argue that Japanese women eat much, much smaller portion sizes than women in Western countries. I found similar pattern in terms of portion sizes when I lived in Taiwan, although Taiwanese are slightly more generous. Certainly you could overeat if you wanted to in Taiwan, but plate sizes and restaurant servings were not nearly as large as in Australia. Since I am only 5ft tall and have a sedentary desk job, I cannot eat very much before I put on weight.
This recipe is easy peasy, and really it is hardly the most inventive dish. You could find it at any Thai takeaway and there are many ready made versions that you can buy. All of the ingredients come from ALDI. It is ready within half an hour.
Basically it is a sneaky copycat recipe.
I purchased a diet green chicken curry from ALDI. It cost me $4.71. A similar Lean Cuisine product, probably identical, costs $5.86 at Woolworths (or two for ten dollars on special) or $6.26 at Coles. I looked at the ingredients, the calorie count and what was in it. I heated it up and ate it (and enjoyed it). And I discovered a few interesting things:
- The dish was made up of 45% white rice – the rice was not especially high quality;
- The serving size was quite small;
- There was very little chicken in dish – perhaps less than two tablespoons in total and that’s being generous;
- It tasted nice, was easy to reheat but like most processed food probably contained unnecessary salt and sugar – possibly MSG? (I felt thirsty afterwards); and
- It came in a decent quality plastic container.
I kept that plastic container, washed it and recreated the EXACT SAME MEAL using the EXACT SAME DISH. For around the same price, I made FOUR serves of the same dish. I also increased the vegetable content to provide additional nutritional content, and used better quality Jasmine rice. If I lived in a tropical climate where things like lemongrass are plentiful and easy to grow I could perhaps even make the curry paste more cheaply than buying it.
How did the dish stack up in terms of calories against the ALDI version? Very well. The ALDI version had 318 calories, the Lean Cuisine had 298, while I counted my homemade version using Jasmine rice at 313. I also made lunchboxes using brown rice – which is lower GI and allows you to feel full longer plus is better for you – and this came to 350 calories. The recipe would work well for fish or tofu, and I plan to make this my diet lunchbox staple.
I think that ALDI delivers a good frozen diet product at a good price (and is cheaper than Lean Cuisine at Woolworths or Coles). And lets face it – we have all eaten these diet meals in a box at some time (I know I certainly did when I was at Weight Watchers). What I am pointing out that consumers pay a lot for diet food that is low calorie because there is not much in it. You can easily cook at home and produce the same meals – the challenge is to still dish out the small portion sizes and not cheat by eating more. The frozen or delivered meals work because you can’t heap a bit more on the plate, go back for seconds or sample as you are cooking. At least you can’t without admitting to yourself that you are doing it.
So my suggestion is next time you buy a diet meal, keep the packaging and recreate something similar at home. Eat that and ONLY that and you are on the way to managing portion sizes.
Ingredients (purchased at ALDI):
50-70g Thai green curry paste
1 400ml can low fat coconut milk
100g chicken thigh fillet, cut into small pieces
1 to 2 cups of green beans, cut into pieces
1/3 cup or more of frozen green peas
A dash of fish sauce (optional) [Note: I didn’t have this so substituted oyster sauce.]
Half a teaspoon of brown sugar (optional)
275g Jasmine rice
Fresh coriander or basil (if available) for garnish
- Spoon the curry paste into a saucepan. Cook briefly for a minute or so until fragrant, then add the can of coconut milk. Allow to cook for around five minutes.
- Add in the chicken thigh fillet (make sure you remove fat when you cut it into pieces). Allow to cook for around ten minutes until thoroughly cooked, then add in the beans and peas. Cook for around five minutes or so until the vegetables are tender yet not overcooked.
- Stir in the brown sugar and fish sauce (if using). Serve over freshly steamed Jasmine rice and garnish with herbs.
Thai green paste – 50c
Coconut milk – 95c
100g chicken (around one thigh fillet) cut into small pieces $1.06
Green beans 75c
Jasmine rice 60c
Total: $4.16 for four (compares with $6.26 Lean Cuisine from Coles, $5.69 Lean Cuisine from Woolworths or $4.71 International Cuisine health & vitality from ALDI).