Doing it the way they did it in the ’60s may not be a bad idea for your waistline, say nutritionists
As Mad Men comes back on TV for its seventh season, have you wondered why everyone in the show sports a fairly trim waist and looks healthy?
Everything we thought we knew about the dangers of eating too much fat has been turned on its head in the past few years. In a U-turn on advice we’ve been given for the last 40 years, a review of 72,000 studies found there was no evidence that saturated fats — found in butter, meat and full-fat milk — caused heart disease. Diet advisors back plans to stop fruit juice — previously seen as a super healthy drink — from being counted as one of your five-a-day because it’s so packed with sugar, which is the real baddie.
In fact, it seems the diet maxims our parents and John Hamm lives by could be good for us. Here are 10 tips from the past that nutritionists are now suggesting we employ for better health.
Butter your bread and drink milk
Your gran probably guzzled a pint of full-fat milk a day and spread butter thickly on her bread. But from the mid-1970s, we were told it was clogging our arteries and we should switch to margarine, sunflower oils and skimmed milk. Experts now say that saturated fat may not be as bad as we thought, while other studies link some manmade spreads to health concerns of their own. So, you’re probably safer with good, old-fashioned butter in moderation, nutritionists now believe. Evidence also suggests whole milk could be better than skimmed as it contains only 4 per cent fat and the cream contains vitamins A, D, E and K.
Tuck into lean meat twice a week
In the past 40 years, many of us have eaten less red meat because of worries that it’s fattening or unhealthy. But it seems grandma knew best when she insisted the family eat liver once a week and hearty roast beef on Sundays. The British Nutrition Foundation said there was no evidence to suggest moderate amounts of lean red meat were unhealthy and that it may help fight obesity, while the protein increased feelings of fullness.
Have fish on a Friday (and during the week)
For years, it was traditional in the UK to eat fish on a Friday, with sardines on toast a common lunch and kippers making a hearty breakfast. Today, fish consumption is at an all-time low in Britain. We should aim for two portions a week, one of them oily fish — salmon, mackerel or fresh tuna — but nearly 60 per cent of us don’t hit this.
Which is madness when you consider that fish is a dream diet food, with white varieties a low-calorie source of protein and oily fish rich in the Omega-3 fats linked to better heart health. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that when dieters ate fish a few times a week, they lost more weight than non-fish eaters.
Cook your own meals
Hiring a cook in Mumbai can burn deep holes in your pocket. However, not having a reliable source for your meals results in pigging on ready-to-eat-meals or eating out every day for every meal. Many of these meals contain chemicals like ethoxylated diglycerides or xantham gum. Granny didn’t keep those in her pantry and the long-term effects are unknown. Nutritionists say that cooking meals from scratch means you know exactly what goes into them and is far healthier and much cheaper on today’s tight budgets. Little wonder that research consistently shows that people who cook regularly are slimmer than those who don’t.
‘Go to work on an egg’
This advice died out in the 70s when it was reported that eggs increased cholesterol levels. We now eat less than half the number we did in the 60s, switching to breakfast cereals — heavily processed grains with lots of sugar. Studies show that eggs don’t raise cholesterol and are more nutritious than cereals, naturally packed with protein, vitamins A, E and D and zinc. One US study even found that when dieters ate two eggs for breakfast for five days a week they lost 65 per cent more weight than those who ate only a bagel.
Drink water or tea
Don’t down expensive fruit juices, smoothies and mineral water to beat the heat. Plain water or tea are cheaper and healthier. Scientists have found that sugar-based calories, like those found in sweet drinks, are more likely to cause tummy fat than calories from other sources, with fruit juice being no better than fizzy drinks. Tap water is free, contains no sugar, fat or calories and studies suggest antioxidants in tea could protect against disease.
Avoid foods with ‘low-fat’ or ‘LITE’ labels
These labels disguise the fact that manufacturers have often added extra sugar to make up for the lack of fat so the item still tastes appetising. And research now suggests diet foods don’t make us feel as full as normal foods, so we’re likely to over-eat in the long-run.
Bake your own treats
In the past, cakes were home-made for special occasions and not a daily snack from the coffee shop. Chips were a once-a week-treat. Rather than banning such indulgent foods, simply cook them yourself. Making them from scratch is time consuming and it’s only because of food factories that we can consume them so often.
Eat at the table
The dinner table was once the heart of family life. But TV dinners and longer working hours have made the dining ritual much less common. Research has long maintained that eating in front of a screen encourages mindless munching, which leads to consumption of more calories. Other studies show that families who eat together, especially around a table, stay slimmer together. Communal eating, with interaction and chatter, slows the pace of meals, regulating appetite and preventing over-eating.
Granny would ban snacks between meals, saying “You’ll ruin your appetite”. She had a point. Eating a nutritious three square meals a day was seen as common sense but we’ve become a generation of grazers, nibbling all the wrong high calorie foods without ever having a properly balanced meal of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables.