VISION – Have you heard about our Virtual Interactive Food Hall?

 

VISION is an interactive online shopping game & information tool based around a food hall and devised by the Service to help educate consumers on how to go about eating a balanced diet and essentially enable people to make more informed decisions about the food they eat.  When logging onto the site you will be invited to either explore the food hall at your leisure or take up ‘Are you Balanced?’ challenge.

The hall contains over 130 different foods each with their own ‘food label’ containing:

1) Generic information about fat, salt and sugar levels as represented by the Food Standards Agency traffic light system
2) The category each food falls into as dictated by the Food Standards Agency Eatwell plate
3) Interesting scripted nutritional and did you know facts

The challenge is based on the Food Standards Agency ‘eatwell plate’ and the user is asked to select 15 items of food to cover a day’s supply of meals, so breakfast, lunch and evening meal. Once the selections have been made, each item is scored and assessed against the eatwell plate at the checkout stage and the user is told how ‘balanced’ they are.  A receipt can be printed off at this stage and the user (depending on how well they have done) will either have the option of entering their name on a ‘high scores board’ or have the option to try again.  It is important to emphasise that the idea is not to create winners or losers, but get people thinking more about eating a balanced diet.

To complement the food hall we now have podcasts,  a game and food related quiz that tests amongst other things what has been learnt during a visit to the hall.  Indeed VISION now has the potential to provide a useful online educational tool for all who use it, especially secondary schools and adult education training programmes up and down the country.  

If you would like to comment on the site or think that you might be able to use the site for educational purposes, please get in touch with Heather Woodward on (01452) 426219 or email heather.woodward@glouucestershire.gov.uk .  VISION can be found at www.visionfoodhall.com, or accessed via the Gloucestershire Trading Standards website.

Saturated Fat -The Facts

Last year the Food Standards Agency launched a public health campaign to raise awareness of the health risks of eating too much saturated fat. The UK is currently eating a staggering 20% more saturated fat than current Government recommendations. As I’m sure many of you are aware, the long term effects of eating a diet high in saturated fat are that it can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, angina and strokes. Cardio Vascular Disease is the most common cause of death in the UK and in 2006 was responsible for about one in three premature deaths. It is a well known fact that diet is a key risk factor in heart disease and it is estimated that cutting our intake of saturated fat could prevent up to 3,500 premature deaths a year, and therefore save the UK economy more than £1 billion a year in related costs.

Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood over time. Foods which are high in saturated are:

• cakes and biscuits

• cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice cream

• meat products such as sausages and pies

• pastries • butter and lard

• cheese

• some sweet snacks and chocolate

There are a whole host of simple, positive and practical steps we can take to help improve our health and reduce the risk of developing diet-related illness. • The Food Standards Agency have some great tips on how to make small changes to your daily routine some of which include:

• Trying a skinny latte rather than a whole milk latte next time you find yourself are in your favourite coffee house.

• If you are tempted by pizza now and again, try choosing a lower-fat topping such as vegetables, fish or prawns, instead of pepperoni, salami or extra cheese.

• If you enjoy spaghetti bolognaise go for leaner mince to reduce the saturated fat content or try it vegetarian-style for a change.

• When you are cooking, use an unsaturated oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive, rather than butter, lard or ghee and go for thick, straight-cut chips instead of French fries or crinkle-cut, and if you’re making your own, pop them in the oven with a drizzle of sunflower oil, rather than deep-frying.

Of course most people don’t have time to tot up the amount of saturated fat they are eating every day but it’s a good idea to take a look at how much saturated fat is in different foods. As a general guide:

High is more than 5g sat fat per 100g

Low is 1.5g sat fat per 100g

The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day, the average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day.

So we here at the Vision Food Hall advise you to take a closer look at the label to moderate you saturated fat intake. Trading Standards make routine checks to ensure the information provided on a label is accurate, honest and true. Visit our virtual interactive food hall at http://www.visionfoodhall.com for some interesting nutritional facts about a whole variety of foods.

Eat more fish

It is recommended by the Food Standards Agency that we eat at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish. Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and oily fish is particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids.  

What is classed as oily fish?  
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring fall under this category and are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which has been linked to improving a persons ability to concentrate.  Oily fish is also a great source of vitamins A and D, the latter being essential for calcium absorption.   

What is classed as white fish?
White fish includes haddock, plaice, pollack, coley and cod and is generally very low in fat and very easy for the body to digest.  White fish does contain some omega 3 fatty acids but not so much as oily fish.  So, white fish is  a healthier low-fat alternative to red meat.  100g of haddock, for instance, contains less than 1g of fat. Lower in fat also means lower in calories.
 
What about shellfish?
Prawns, mussels, oysters, crab and squid fall into this catergory.  Shellfish are very low in fat, are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, iodine and copper.  
For some top tips on how to cook your fish go for steamed, baked or grilled fish or shellfish, rather than fried. This is because frying makes fish and shellfish much higher in fat, especially if they’re cooked in batter.

 If you are concerned with conservation issue, here are some top tips from the FSA to be aware of:  
• Buy a variety of fish to take the pressure off a select few
• Try and buy locally caught fish
• Try to find out how your fish was caught by asking retailers to supply information.
• If you are buying farmed fish, opt for those which have been farmed in open sea conditions. Avoid fish that rely on large supplies of wild-caught fish as feed (again, ask your supplier)
•  Keep asking questions of retailers. Consumer concerns eventually translate into supplier action

For vegetarians, it is worth noting that advice about eating oily fish is aimed at preventing heart disease. According to the vegetarian society, a vegetarian diet should already give you a head start in preventing this ailment.  Good sources of omega 3 oils can be found for the vegetarian diet, for example, flaxseed oil, hulled hemp seeds, rapeseed oil and walnuts all offer a source of omega 3. Again the vegetarian society suggests that a tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day would be a sufficient supply of omega 3.

Here at Gloucestershire Trading Standards we carry out tests each year to make sure you are getting what you pay for.  Some unscrupulous traders have been known to deceive the general public by trying to pass off an inferior type of fish for halibut or something similar which is obviously more costly.  Analysis will quickly show up one species of a fish from another.  If you have any concerns or would like to comment on any aspect of this post, please get in touch now on (01452) 426219.

Winter mood food

Did you know that winter depression, otherwise known as “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD, is thought to affect up to one in 15 Brits every year between September and April? Around another 17% of us are said to get a milder form of the condition, known as the “winter blues”.

A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Here are some top tips from the Food Vision Team to help you get through the last leg of winter!

  1. Always eat breakfast. This will give your mood its first lift of the day.
  2. Change your eating habits by taking regular snacks throughout the day incorporating foods like chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and dried fruit to keep those sugar levels up.  Get out of the habit of thinking you need three large meals a day.  
  3. A deficiency in selenium has been linked to feeling low.  Brazil nuts will help with this as will eating foods rich in omega oils. Choose oily fish such as fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines.  Non-fish omega-rich foods include walnuts, hemp oil and seeds.   
  4. Turn to protein-rich foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk — as these are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which converts in the brain to mood-enhancing serotonin. Make sure lunch and supper contain protein alongside starches — pasta, bread, potatoes.  
  5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. These will help you get brain boosting B vitamins together with vitamin C.  Fresh juice and salads are always a good place to start. 
  6. Drink water throughout the day.  This will keep your concentration levels up and help flush out your system. It will help digest the extra fibre you’re eating too.  Keep teas and coffees to a minimum as the caffeine will affect your mood, and cut out alcohol and fizzy, sugary drinks altogether. And finally…
  7. Do more exercise or get outside more. This boosts your circulation and produces endorphins, ‘feel good’ chemicals. Being in the sunshine makes you feel less drowsy and gives you more energy.

For more general information on what to look for on a label and interesting nutritional facts visit our virtual food hall now and take up our challenge!  Go to www.visionfoodhall.com

New Year – New Diet?

Amanda Glos writes…

As the New Year opens up in front of us, it is a time many of us embark on a pledge to a healthier diet regime, but please STOP, LOOK & READ the labelling of the food you are eating and don’t get fooled like me.

Let me explain. As a treat I bought myself some Medjool dates. Something that I thought was pretty healthy, as they are just dried fruit. As soon as I got home I decided to tuck into one. It tasted so wonderful I thought I would have just one more. It was at this point my eye caught a logo on the pack “1 of 5 a day = 4 dates”. So whilst munching through my second date I thought I would be very virtuous and eat 4 dates. I thought at least I could knock off one of my five a day fruit and veg. Feeling very pleased with myself I started eating the third date. It was at this point that I started feeling decidedly sick, and unable to eat anymore. Returning to the packaging for some clue or other, the answer was there, right along-side the logo “1 of 5 a day= 4 dates”! If I had eaten the 4 dates I would have consumed almost 60% of my sugar for the day!

I felt that the “marketing men” had got to me and I had been taken in by them. All the information I needed to make an informed choice was on the label, and in this case side by side on the front of the pack. My eye had been drawn to part of it and I didn’t bother to read any further. So please, STOP, take a closer LOOK, and READ the whole label so that you can make a balanced approach to your food.

For more information on food labelling go to the Vision virtual food hall.

Hospital Food

Check out Cirencester Community Hospital and its brand new restaurant. They are serving some really tasty, freshly prepared food to staff, patients and visitors. Its an amazing new premises with a well motivated kitchen brigade… and it’s open to the public.

I always had a perception about hospital food but when I see the work at the production kitchen at Stroud Maternity, the kitchens at Cirencester Community Hospital and the Gloucester Royal I am often impressed. Good ingredients simply prepared in some of the cleanest conditions I have ever seen with well trained staff.

Maybe I have been lucky I don’t know – what are your experiences of Gloucestershire Hospital meals? Be great to hear the good news… and the bad (if there is any).

Rob Rees MBE is The Cotswold Chef™

Chocolate – Is It All Bad?

ChocolateFor Chocolate Week 2009 Rob Rees, the Cotswold Chef, tells us what he thinks:

I adore chocolate. My wife is making me give it up – in fact it’s been nearly 3 weeks now without it (although I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times for a Wispa Gold). Is it good or is it bad? The science seems to be mixed about chocolate. As a chef I know that in terms of taste there is a massive variety in terms of quality due to the mixture of fat versus bean. Chocolate Week is a real celebration of chocolate starting on 12th October. I may get permission to indulge in a bar or two – maybe some Divine Chocolate as I love it. What are your views on chocolate?

Rob Rees MBE is The Cotswold Chef™