The debate around the government’s planned ‘sugar tax’ has been re-opened once again following the announcement that the childhood obesity strategy has been delayed. This comes at the same time as news highlighting that a number of hot drinks sold by high street locations contain ‘shocking’ amounts of sugar. With obesity strongly linked to heart disease and other serious illnesses, it’s important that we take responsibility to address the growing problem of obesity by taking a closer look at what’s in our food – avoiding many of the convenience foods that we’re so used to eating. Cooking from scratch is an effective way of demonstrating self care, and allows us to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies each day.
Hidden sugar and salt in foods
Many of us are guilty of picking up foods in the supermarket without even looking at their sugar and salt content. But what about the foods that we buy when we’re on the move? Grabbing a sandwich or snack on the go may be convenient, but the levels of salt and sugar added to them can be extremely high, for example (data via the Telegraph and BBC News):
- 3.1g of salt and 1.6g of sugar in a Starbucks panini
- 19.7g of sugar and 0.8g of salt in a Waitrose almond croissant
- 22.2g of sugar and 0.3g of salt in a Tesco chocolate fudge cake
- 79.7g of sugar in a Costa Chai latte
- 73.8g of sugar in a Starbucks white chocolate mocha with whipped cream
- 50.6g of sugar in a Café Nero caramel latte.
With our recommended average adult salt and sugar levels being 6g and 90g, these are quite worrying figures. They are even more of a concern for children, whose recommended levels are even lower than ours, but who still eat many of these foods.
Cut down on sugar and salt through cooking from scratch
One of the best ways to safeguard your health and practice self care is to cook your meals from scratch. Not only does this ensure that you are not consuming additional sugar and salt, but also means that you are able to cook foods which are healthier and lower in saturated fats too. Cooking from scratch may seem like an effort, but you can be sure of tastier, healthier food as a result. Some of the benefits of cooking from scratch include:
Being able to control portion size
Convenience foods often come in large portions, which many of us will eat in full in a bid to reduce wastage. By making food from scratch you can adjust recipes according to your preference, as well as being able to save leftovers for another day.
Cooking in large batches helps make meal planning effective
By cooking delicious home meals in big batches, you can save some to freeze for later, providing you with your own convenience food which you can have at a later date. But unlike other ready meals, you won’t have to worry about the sugar and salt content of your food. A slow cooker is one of the best kitchen tools you can buy, with many retailing for under £15, allowing you to cook delicious meals without the hassle.
Cooking from scratch isn’t complicated
Making basic foods such as sauces for pasta isn’t as difficult as you may think. For an easy tomato sauce, all you need is some onions, herbs, garlic and tomatoes. If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can always put the ingredients in a blender first. Even making your own bread can be simple with a bit of practice, and will be sure to save you money on buying inferior store-bought bread.
Supermarkets are making it easier to cook from scratch
Whilst supermarkets often have a bad reputation for selling us salty, sugary foods – they are making it easier for us to cook from scratch. From pre-chopped garlic and chillies to frozen chopped vegetables, there are many ingredients which you can buy which can save you time when cooking. Buying frozen vegetables is a great way to eliminate waste and ensure that you always have stocks in the cupboard.
Making meals from scratch saves money
One of the benefits you’ll notice the most from cooking from scratch is that you’ll save money. Buying herbs and spices at the beginning may seem expensive, but you’ll have stocks which will only need replenishing infrequently. Avoiding store-bought lunches and snacks will help you save money in your weekly budget, and you’ll be given far more choice with what you can create at home.
For recipe inspiration and great meal ideas, you’re spoiled for choice with online recipes. Jamie Oliver and BBC Food are some of the best, with plenty of basic and more adventurous recipes as you develop your home cooking skills.