Cooking 101 – How not to live off instant noodles

If you’re new to cooking and just finding your feet in the kitchen, you’re not alone!  Student Money Mentor Claire has been there too and is keen to dispense some words of wisdom gleaned through her own culinary trials, errors and triumphs. 

cooking

Cooking – you either love it or hate it. Some people can add a pinch of salt and a touch of spice to meals with their eyes closed. They can tell what a dish needs just by smelling it and their desserts are to die for.

I, sadly, am not one of those people.

I am the kind of person who burns toast and then smears it with a thick layer of butter and jam to disguise the charcoal aftertaste. I either cook so much rice it lasts for a week and a half, or so little I need to cook a second batch because I can’t get the proportions right.

I have eaten porridge for breakfast and for lunch (Tip: Don’t do that, it is incredibly depressing) and chewed my way though pasta which I convinced myself was ‘al dente’ rather than undercooked.

This article is for people like me who are not gifted in the kitchen, but want to try. Please learn from my mistakes. Only once have I given myself food poisoning, but that was one time too many and now I have pledged to get better.

1. Measure things out

If you have room for a little electronic scale in your kitchen, buy one. They are pretty cheap and will save you guessing what 50 grams of grains looks like (although that is a fun game. If you are bored and want to try it, be my guest. The problem afterwards is trying to get the stuff back into the packet without spilling it over the kitchen floor)

If you don’t want to buy a scale, use proportions. Measure things out in tea cups and get the ratio right. Most recipes will have weights and cups so pick the one with applies to you.

young man at home kitchen in cook apron desperate in cooking stress

2. Follow those recipes

If you are making something and it looks a bit dry, trust it. Once you start thinking you are better than Nigella Lawson and varying the ingredients, it will be a recipe for disaster – literally. These people have tried and tested what they have written, so have faith in the food gods and simply obey their instructions.

3. Never underestimate a microwave

It can reheat, defrost and cook a wealth of things. There are several websites and videos with microwave hacks (see links below).  Not only do you save time and money, but it is a very easy way to cook veg which can be part of your 5 a day.

Also, it means you can freeze leftovers for another day, decreasing food waste. Many things can be frozen, including bread, fresh berries for smoothies, curries and fresh meats. However, do not freeze veg with a high water content (e.g. lettuce) or creamy things like cheese and yoghurt (unless you have followed a recipe for making your own ice cream). The curds will separate and it will taste very crystal-y (yes, I have tried it).

Also, when defrosting things, use a low setting for a longer time, don’t be impatient like me and whack it on high thinking it will speed things up. The outside gets hot and the inside is frozen. It tastes really strange.

HEALTH WARNING: Defrost everything thoroughly. Please.

http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2013/12/microwave-hacks-tricks-recipes/

http://www.oola.com/cooking-tips/8873/17-crazy-fast-and-easy-microwave-snack-hacks-muglife/

4. Cook together

Group of friends cheerfully cooking

If you want to cook a nice meal, get together with your flatmates and prepare it. Not only is it more fun, but you are more likely to do things better when you know there are other people, as you really don’t want to poison your friends. Plus, you may learn a few tips from them.

 

 5. Start simple

noodles

It is not a sin to use bottled sauces, in fact, I would encourage it! It saves time and you don’t have to buy a hundred different spices. It is not cheating just because it is easy. Also, pick simple recipes at the start, or get advice from family who have been cooking for decades. Before you go to uni, watch them prepare a meal and help out, so you can see what needs to be done. No one is expecting Michelin star food quite yet, but you have to start somewhere.

So those are my tips for the kitchen..  Instant noodles are acceptable once in a while, but I know you can do better than that.

One ultimate conundrum though is this: no matter how hard you try, your food will never quite taste as good as your mum’s. That extra pinch of love is something which you can’t buy in the shops

Staying Hydrated

This week is Nutrition and Hydration Week 2017 (13th -17th March ) so Fight The Fads have put together their top tips on how to stay hydrated!

sporty woman drinking water

How much water do we need?

It is recommended that men consume 2L or 10 glasses/day and women 1.6 L or 8 glasses/day.

However, water requirements depend on your activity levels and the surrounding temperature, so only view the above recommendations as a minimum!

 

The easiest way to identify if you are consuming enough water is checking the colour of your urine:

clear or light yellow = well hydrated
darker = dehydrated (the darker, the more dehydrated) DRINK WATER!

FTF tips on building your water consumption:

  1. Carry a bottle with you and fill it up periodically.
  2. Keep a glass of water on your desk at work.
  3. Keep a glass next to your bed. Many of us wake up dehydrated first thing in the morning.
  4. Switch one glass of soda or cup of coffee for a glass of water.
  5. Drink small amounts of water throughout the day to ensure you get enough.

NOTE: We often forget that we get hydrated from foods we consume, such as fruits, soups and stews. This accounts for 20-30%, the remaining 70-80% of our water needs comes from drinks, so choose wisely!

 

New Year New Start with King’s Wellbeing

New Year New Start: Build your vision for 2017

 Welcome back to King’s and Happy New Year!  As we step into 2017, our thoughts might be turning to academic and personal goals for the coming months.  Sometimes, we can be tempted to set ourselves lofty targets that leave us more stressed than motivated and feeling disappointed when we don’t meet our own expectations.  How many of us have banished all treats, signed up to the gym and pledged to spend an inordinate number of hours in the library, only to find ourselves binge-watching our favourite Netflix series, unhealthy snacks in hand a couple of weeks later?  We’ve all been there! And that’s OK.

NYNS email signature (002)

King’s Wellbeing takes a different approach.  Firstly, we want you to celebrate your achievements in 2016.  What went well? What are you proud of? Take a moment to reflect.  And what did you learn?  Even if everything didn’t go quite to plan, there is always something that we can take forward into the future to help us grow and we can feel proud of ourselves for making it through a difficult period.

Next week marks the start of our New Year New Start campaign and there’s a reason why we don’t subscribe to the ‘New Year New You’ motto that emerges every January.  We don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with the old you! We believe in the resourcefulness of all our students to build on the foundation that is already there and become the best version of themselves.

So, let’s not focus exclusively on what we want to change and dwell too much on the negatives.  Let’s look at where we want to be, what we want to achieve, and see 2017 as a year of new possibilities.  Try and focus on manageable and tangible goals as part of an incremental process of positive growth.  Don’t forget to recognise your successes along the way, however small, and remember to take care of your wellbeing!  If you’re struggling to identify your goals and how to get there and would benefit from some support, why not make an appointment for some wellbeing coaching?

 Don’t forget also that in addition to King’s Wellbeing, there are a multitude of services on campus to help you attain your academic, personal and health and fitness goals. Check out Study Skills, English Language Centre, King’s Sport and Be Active as a starting point.  If you’re trying to connect more with the KCL community, have a look at the KCLSU societies – from film and literature, to hot chocolate, to circus skills, there’s truly something for everyone! Looking for a friendly face and a listening ear to talk things over in confidence?  You can always get in touch with the KCL peer supporters or the Chaplaincy.  

For New Year New Start, King’s Wellbeing will also be around on every campus over the next two weeks to help you to get off on the right foot and provide a space to reflect on how to boost your wellbeing.  Join us for interactive stalls, relaxation workshops, yoga and more! New Year New Start needn’t be daunting and can even be fun!

 

Fight the Fads – Happy Healthy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome back to the new term at King’s!  King’s Wellbeing hopes that 2017 will be a happy and fulfilling year for you and is here, as always, to help you reach your academic and personal goals. With the beginning of a new year often bringing resolutions for positive change, Fight the Fads reflect on how to aim for a healthy approach to food without resorting to fad diets.

With 2017 now upon us, it’s hard to not be sucked into that ‘New Year, New You’ mindset. It doesn’t help that the media (generally) makes us feel guilty about indulging ourselves a little over the festive period. But before you get conned into the latest celebrity-endorsed fads and crash diets, read these tips from the nutrition experts for a happy, healthy and fad-free new year. Selection of healthy food on rustic wooden background

We have one top-tip: ditch the diets! You may be surprised to learn that the majority of dieters regain the weight (and often more) that they worked so hard to lose. There are a number of proposed reasons for this high rate of weight regain, and it involves complex interactions between our biology (homeostatic system), the environment and our behaviour- all of which are influenced by genetics. You can read more about the research into this area by following this link.

 Have a Happy & Healthy 2017: Top Tips from the Nutrition Experts

“Banish guilt from your vocabulary. Set goals for what you want to achieve throughout 2017. Being healthy is not just for January.”

 Annemarie Knight, RD

“Focus new year resolutions on HEALTH not just weight e.g. physical activity or alcohol intake.”

Jessica Lockley, RD2b

“Everyone overeats when they’re tired, bored, down or stressed – it’s biology! Take the time to understand WHY you eat!”

Sophie Medlin, RD

“Walk/cycle to and from work.”

Dr Nicola Guess, RD

“Think nutrition not just calories when making food choices. Learn to cook/prepare your food. Make time to plan/eat/enjoy meals.”

Sinéad Curran, RD

“Ask for tupperware as gifts and take a packed lunch- only takes 10 minutes, saves you £s, and is often healthier!”

Chrissie Brown, RD2b

“Focus on getting the basics right – vegetables, highly processed food, movement & alcohol within guidelines!”

Helen West, RD

My “diet” vs. healthy eating radar:

X Cuts out an entire food group X

√ More fresh, less processed 

Dr Megan Rossi, RD

“Food wise: eat low processed foods as much as possible. Be mindful: Feed your emotional needs with something other than food.”

Mike Sweeney, RD

“Smash your scale and set positive health goals instead.”

Rebecca Scritchfield, RD

“Plan healthy meals in advance and get uses to writing shopping lists. Reduces waste and takes the stress out of thinking what to cook.”

Susan Short, RD

“Don’t buy out of habit, take extra time when food shopping to look at all fruit & veg stocked. What can you add to your diet?”

Clare Cremin, RD

“Have lots of healthy snacks on hand to avoid munching on biscuits etc.”

Maeve Hanan, RD

“For those of us who like meat, but know eating too much is unhealthy & unsustainable- Partial substitution of meat by pulses.”

Dr Terri Grassby, Lecturer in Food Sciences

“Downsize don’t Supersize…the problem may not be what you eat but how much! #portioncontrol

Leah McGrath, RD

 

Fight The Fads – Embrace Frozen and Tinned Fruit and Veg

Healthy eating on a student budget isn’t always easy.  Fortunately, student dietitians Elisabeth, Caroline and Harriet aka Fight The Fads have first hand experience of finding ways to eat well without spending a fortune.  This month, they’re extolling the virtues of frozen and tinned fruit and veg!

Embrace Frozen and Tinned Fruit and Vegetables!

 Fruits and Vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals and all-important fibre to keep your gut healthy!

However as students on a bfrozen fruitudget, we all know fresh food is often the most expensive, and it can be tempting to cut back on these items to save money.

Although eating fresh, local produce soon after harvesting is ideal, research has found that there aren’t substantial differences in the nutrient content of tinned /frozen as opposed to fresh fruit and veg: great news for the health-conscious student!

Although certain water-soluble vitamins may be lost during the processing, the extent to which this occurs may be less than the losses occurred during cooking.

Often canned/tinned produce is processed straight after harvesting which prevents oxidation and therefore conserves the nutrient content.

 

Healthy Lifestyle – Term-time Tips

Looking for some tips for keeping healthy during the busy term?  Don’t fear, Fight The Fads are here!

Stress Eating 

Fresher’s ended and term has begun, so it’s time to get back down to some work. Balancing deadlines, lectures and our social lives means long hours in the library and health and well-being can take a back seat. So we wanted to share with you our three top tips for staying healthy during the busy term!

Meal Prep Sunday! 

On Sunday, we plan our meals for the week, and make sure we cook some additional portions so that we don’t need to spend much time cooking during the week. Prepping your weeks meals will help you eat more healthy and will also save you some pennies…We use tupperware to store meals in portions in the freezer.

Snack O’Clock

While studying it can be very easy to reach out to the vending machine in the corner of the library or pop in the nearest fast food chain. But we make sure we have enough snacks to prevent this from happening, as too many of these snacks will make you fat and also will not help you concentrate! We choose:
-nuts
-fresh and dried fruits
-carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery sticks with hummus or an avocado dip
popcorn

Work Out

Make sure you stay active to de-stress from a long day. Whether that’s a morning run, walking to uni/work, taking up a new sport, or having 5 minute breaks to walk up and down some stairs: Get moving! This will not only pump up your endorphins but it will also improve your concentration and mood.

Introducing Fight The Fads!

This week, Caroline, Elisabeth and Harriet aka Fight The Fads fill us in on their passion for debunking nutritional fads and promoting healthy food and lifestyle choices.

Three King’s dietitians have founded ‘Fight The Fads’ to bust food myths

ELISABETH CRESTA

HARRIET SMITH

CAROLINE DAY

There’s no such thing as a quick fix diet

We are three student dietitians at King’s: Elisabeth, Caroline and Harriet. Together, we’re Fight The Fads, a myth-busting group who tackle myths about dieting in the media and set the records straight with regular posts on FacebookInstagramTwitter (@fightthefads).

Have you been lured into low-carb, dairy-free or diets with false promises? Well if you have, we don’t blame you. With so much confusing information out there, it’s hard to know what diet to follow and who to believe. Whenever you’re online, it’s likely you’ll come across a new diet or “superfood” claiming to offer a quick fix cure for miraculous weight loss, ripped abs and a summer hot body…Oh how we wish this was true! However, a quick fix is never a solution to long-term problems (which is why it takes four years to qualify as a dietitian!)

FTF

Elisabeth (left), Caroline (centre) and Harriet (right) are fed up of nonsense diets

We’re fed up with the rise of self-styled nutritionists and “food gurus” on social media. They dish out advice without any (or questionable) nutritional qualifications. Anyone can qualify as a “nutritional therapist” for instance, with many courses offered on websites at bargain prices. For just £12 you could get yourself a diploma in child nutrition, without so much as a GCSE in science.

Dietitians are often viewed as the Nutrition police, so why should you trust us? The advice we give might not be sexy or offer a quick-fix solution, but it is based on the latest scientific research.

FTF2

Alarm bells should start ringing if you see a diet which:

  • Claims you can lose more than 2-3 pounds a week
  • Makes reference to ‘miracle foods’ or ‘superfoods’
  • Restricts certain food groups or requires that you eat foods in a specific order

Make sure you follow us and keep an eye out, Fight the Fads will be posting again on the King’s Wellbeing blog soon!