James Whelan Butchers: Food to Diet For

Typical Diet Food!I got the evil eye from one or two customers this week accompanied by a sharp tongued reprimand. Patrons of James Whelan Butchers are no shrinking violets. I committed the heinous crime in this very column of recently referring to dieters as ‘fat fighters’. One woman went so far as to suggest I could do with a bit of fat fighting myself; that cut deep.

First of all, in my defense, a friend is currently attending a weight loss class and constantly refers to it in jest as fat fighters. I hate diets because I always feel, no matter how good the regime or what it promises, they always get a little boring and repetitive. I always assume a diet mentality; “I’m on a diet so therefore I couldn’t possibly enjoy my food”. I also think, “I can’t wait until I’m off this diet so I can have something really nice to eat”, and therein lies the problem. It’s this thinking that causes the inevitable failure. The reality is that many people of normal body weight eat great food and enjoy it so why can’t we all do that?

Firstly we have to sort a few things out in our minds. 1) Great tasting food need not make you fat and 2) any food in moderation, be that size or frequency, won’t cause you any harm. It’s not what you do occasionally that creates the problem it’s what you do every day or at least regularly.

This fat fighting friend of mine has approached the whole thing quite differently this time and I’m happy to report it is working. Instead of sticking to traditional diet foods, she has trawled the internet and her own cook books, adapted recipes and found ways of eating like a normal human being – for nourishment and taste – while still losing weight. She is attending Weightwatchers where all foods are given a points measurement and you have a certain amount of ‘points’ to eat every day. To be fair it sounds pretty flexible as long as you spend your ‘points’ budget’ wisely.

This time round instead of cardboard tasting crisp breads and bland grilled chicken fillets, which would have been staples on any previous regimes, she has filled her fridge with wonderful, tasty health giving foods. The main reason for this approach is that she didn’t want to have to cook one dish for the family and create special meals for herself. They have all been moved to this healthier way of eating and surprisingly, no one has complained or noticed and even desserts are still in evidence.

I called over for lunch the other day and watched the shopping being unloaded. A punet of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, some deli pancetta and parmesan cheese, fresh basil and chives, a full chicken, a pack of smoked salmon, a tub of crème fraiche, yoghurts, bananas, apples, grapes, blueberries, carrots, an aubergine, a butternut squash, leeks, spinach, rocket, onions – red, white, spring and garlic, stewing steak, paprika, Italian bread and duck breasts. It was a riot of colour and freshness; real food, exciting food and you could almost smell the nutrients it was so alive. I was inspired and amazed. “I thought you said you’re on a diet” I teased as I picked up the smoked salmon and the pancetta. “I am and it’s going really well,” was the quick reply.

I was slowly coming around to the idea that there could be such a combination as eating well, enjoying your food and losing weight. If this was a panto some of you would be screaming “Oh no there isn’t” but I can tell you, “Oh Yes there is!”

We had a diet lunch; a puff pastry circle (approx side plate size) rolled quite thinly and baked in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Two to three large handfuls of fresh spinach thrown on a dry hot frying pan until wilted down. The spinach was put on top of the cooked pastry base. Some crème fraiche and an egg were mixed together and a good tablespoon was drizzled over the spinach and then some smoked salmon was popped on the top. It was returned to the oven for a few minutes and when the salmon had been warmed through, it was plated up with a mound of rocket leaves on the top and garnished with some pesto. It was delicious. Dinner that night was Hungarian Goulash, hence the diced beef and paprika, and there was an interesting adaptation of the classic Eton Mess for dessert using yoghurt and a vanilla pod. At this rate even I could take to this dieting lark.

The bottom line is that diets can be utterly dull and boring if you just live on pre made ‘diet’ foods or they can be very exciting if you cook and experiment with real food. I’ve certainly seen the light and so to fat fighters everywhere, yes you can enjoy your food, stay healthy and even loose a few pounds into the bargain!

Drop into James Whelan Butchers in Oakville this week and pick up a copy of our low fat, healthy option recipe sheet. We are starting to develop a range of food products that are carrying points: Real Food Real Taste Low Calorie!

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

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