As part of the restrictions here in the Netherlands I have fallen out of practice of planning for meals. I have one daughter back at school full time and my eldest has just started back four half days each week. For lockdown I stocked the fridge with food they could grab for lunch but I have seen that left to their own devices they have been eating family packs of crisps and tortilla’s occasionally accompanied with salsa or humous but we could have put goggly eyes on the fruit and veg and made friends out of them for all the likelihood that they would have been eaten.
Now we are getting back to some semblance of normality, after school clubs are up and running and swimming club practice sessions have started for over 12’s and I am resuming my job of family taxi driver and, as a result, have to get on top of organising the meals again and am taking this opportunity to have a clear-out of the rubbish food and eating habits we have developed over the last year and get us all eating healthier again.
This weekend was a bank holiday here in the Netherlands and as all typical bank holiday weekends, there was a day which was rained out and so I spent the time reviewing the British Heart Foundation’s website. BHF.org The biggest eye-opener I had was from looking at portion sizes rather than just the balanced plate. I found that although we were not necessarily eating badly we have definitely been eating portion sizes that are oversized and with more onus on carbs and protein than fruit and vegetables. I need to put more thought into the portions I am giving the girls throughout the day.
The Eatwell Guide
Fruit & Vegetables should make up 1/3 of your plate with 5+ portions a day.
Starchy Carbs should make up 1/3 of your plate.
Dairy and Alternatives should make up 1/5 of your plate.
Protein should be two portions per day (a portion being a hand sized piece for the person eating it).
This morning I got up a little earlier than everyone else and set the breakfast table. I had been allowing the girls to get their own breakfast while I got ready for the day but switched things around so that we all ate together.
This morning I put out:
Apple or orange juice, the site recommended only one 150ml serving per day and so I thought this would be an easy way to get the first portion of fruit ticked off.
Bowls for cereal (Cheerio’s, Mini Weetabix or Mini Shredded Wheat)
I realised looking at the recommended portion sizes that I have been giving the girls way too much food at lunchtime. Today I gave them cheese and crackers with cherries, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and coleslaw using the portion sizes recommended and I could see there was less food than normal but when I served up a similar portion for myself there was too much to eat. I loaded the meal into My Fitness Pal and it was around 550 calories so not crazy but I think I can easily reduce the portions down a little and then give the girls a snack when they get home.
I have a very traditional British mindset when it comes to evening meals. I was brought up on meat and two veg and while this isn’t wholly out of the park I need to stop thinking of protein as only meat. I currently try to have at least one meat-free day and one fish meal but I often forget that beans, chickpeas and eggs also provide protein and can end up over loading here.
I hope the small changes will help going forward and sometimes laugh that as a girl I was advised to take home economics which would have taught me about nutrition. At the time I did not see the benefit, but it would sure come in handy now trying to feed a family.