Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Ophelia's lasagne

There is an expression used for things that are missing an essential element - they are like Hamlet without the Prince. If that is the case I have been making Ophelia's lasagne as it has no pasta. Some time ago I made lasagne as a party dish and realised that it had so many colourful and delicious vegetables there was no point in adding pasta to it. When I first made that particular recipe I needed a lot of mushrooms and didn't have enough so topped up the volume with butternut squash. It was a wonderful addition both in flavour and texture so now I always put butternut squash into the mix. There is also eggplant (aubergine) and red peppers. I steam the veg, then layer them in a baking dish with onion and garlic passata. The topping is quark (any fat free soft cheese would do) mixed with chopped spinach, and a little parmesan for flavour - you don't need much. I think I might experiment in future using spinach or kale leaves to create a pretty layer with the other veg, and maybe broccoli steamed and chopped would mix well with the quark.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Morocco bound

I love the warm spicy flavours of Moroccan food. Recently the spice mix harissa has become more available but usually it is in oil. I have found that Sainsbury's now do a dry mix, harissa and rose rub. Hopefully other stores will catch on that not everyone wants their spices in an oily paste. I find adding a teaspoonful when making a vegetable soup really gives it a lift! The ingredients are coriander seed, dried red pepper, garlic, cumin seeds, caraway seed, paprika, chilli, sea salt, black pepper, dried rose petals and mint. Lovely stuff for those cold winter days.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Scary movies

The scariest things I have seen in a long time are the cookery videos of Paula Deen. There was the pie filled with melted chocolate marshmallows and cream and topped with a huge cone of whipped cream which Paula said was ‘so light’ you could almost believe it had no calories. Gosh really?
Then there was the French toast made from croissants dipped in eggs and heavy cream and fried then covered with bananas in syrup. ‘Makes you almost weep, doesn’t it?’ said Paula. Well, yes it did. For ultimate ghastliness however, the video of her eating a burger, fried egg and bacon between two iced donuts really takes some beating. The amazing thing about these recipes is that people are commenting on the food network website saying that they have tried them and they are now a family favourite.
I have to say when I first saw Paula I did wonder if she was for real. After all there is the redoubtable Jolene Sugarbaker and her trailer park cookery – now Jolene is the alter ego of a male comedian and great fun to watch as long as you don’t try the recipes (I think some people do) - but I can find nothing to suggest that Paula is anything other than a real person who actually means us to eat her sugar cream pie and fried butter balls.
This really is the Texas Cholesterol Massacre.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

National Curry Week

This week is national curry week in the UK. Pretty much always that in this house! On the weekend I had some time to cook and did a light chicken curry with onions garlic ginger, mustard seed and a whole host of other spices. I served it with a dish of shredded mixed greens cooked with nigella seed and curry leaves, a grated cauliflower pilau steamed with whole spices and saffron, and fresh coriander and mint chutney. My version of this chutney is to take a good big handful fresh coriander (cilantro) about half the amount of fresh mint leaves, a hot green chilli deseeded and chopped, and a 1 cm piece peeled chopped fresh ginger, and puree in a food mill with a little water, adding some lemon or lime juice to taste. This will keep in the fridge for about two weeks and adds quite a bit of oomph to just about anything. To make a milder sauce, just stir it into some plain yogurt.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Another birthday

My CRON birthday, that is. Two years old today. When I started I never knew where it would lead me and never knew how long it would last. Whatever happens, whether or not I actually gain some years of life, I know that the experience has been massively positive. I have gained so much in health and appearance, and feel so much better about myself. I am lucky in having a supportive partner, who although he is not CRd will happily share CR friendly meals. It feels good and it feels right.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I am reminded right now of the old pun, ‘winter draw(er)s on’. November in London is cold wet and gloomy with grey overcast skies. (Yes I am making sure to get my vitamin D) I have always, even before CRON felt the cold more than most and being cold makes me miserable and bad tempered. So I am cold-proofing myself this winter with some nice thermal silk underwear. Not glamorous, but it fits like a second skin under even the most fashionable clothes. I find the size aimed at a 12 year old child is a very good fit, and of course this makes the price very reasonable!

Thursday, 6 November 2008


We Brits love curry, it's sort of a national favourite dish having overtaken fish and chips ages ago. It can be very oily but it doesn't have to be if you make it at home. Last night we had breast of chicken in a light curry sauce with a side dish of casseroled courgettes (zucchini) okra, and peppers flavoured with garlic, nigella seed and lovage seed, a chunky tomato and cucumber salad and a fresh chutney made from blending coriander (cilantro) mint ginger and lemon juice. As you see I have translated British terms into American! One of the useful things I learn from watching American cookery programmes on TV is the equvalent names of some ingredients. For example I was able to confirm recently what I suspected, that April's favourite napa cabbage is the same vegetable as my favourite Chinese cabbage. But I can always learn from the most unlikely sources, even cooks who provide the most calorific recipes can give me tips on attractive presentation or combinations of herbs and spices. I do like the programmes of Ellie Krieger - my husband calls her 'the low-fat contessa' - her recipes are not CR'd of course, but she emphasises healthy ingredients and careful portion control of high calorie foods, which is a huge improvement on many people's standard diet, and many of her methods are CR-friendly. I recently saw her do panini using portabella mushrooms in place of bread. Way to go!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Minty Fresh

Recently in a restaurant I saw Moroccan style mint tea on the menu. I checked if it was sweetened and was told it was not, so I ordered it. It arrived in an elegant Moroccan teapot stuffed with fresh mint leaves and one teabag. It was delicious! I have had mint tea made with dried mint lots of times before but this was a flavour revelation. I went out to the market and bought a bunch of fresh mint and have been drinking mint tea ever since. I find it works very well with green tea also. It is so zingy that it is amazingly safisfying. You need quite a bit of mint - a few leaves will not give the full effect. Now all I need is an elegant Moroccan teapot. Fresh mint isn't always available on the market so maybe I will establish my own mint garden - in a container of course as I know it can spread out of all control if not in a pot by itself!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Hi and Lo

The high vs. low protein debate has kicked off again, not that it ever really went away or is likely to for some time to come. Since people don’t fundamentally change it reminds me of the debate that went on between British doctors in the late 19th century on the action of chloroform. English doctors said that chloroform affected the patient’s heart and it was essential to monitor the pulse. Scottish doctors said it didn’t affect the heart but the respiration and monitoring the pulse was a dangerous distraction that could kill the patient. The arguments became quite abusive! It was like a kind of warfare in which people sat at opposite ends of a field lobbing the occasional missile. ‘No man’s land’ was exactly that, they just didn’t meet in the middle. Many years passed and many people died under chloroform before the matter was finally resolved by the invention of modern monitoring equipment. Most of the protagonists were dead by then so at least no-one had the embarrassment of admitting he had been wrong (or the task of trying to prove he was still right.) Historically I know that it is not always the person who shouts loudest, or is best qualified, or the one who believes in something with an incandescent passion who is proven to be right. Only time can determine that. The famous Baron Lister was never going to agree with humble Dr Clover about how to deal with a choking patient, (he described Clover’s advice as ‘pernicious’), but time has awarded the palm to the quieter man. On the current debate, I have read the posts and the articles to which they refer, and have sufficient education to be able to follow quite a lot of what is being said. I can see that both sides are arguing from different kinds of studies and different sets of data but how much weight to give to the different studies and how to interpret them is beyond my capability. That is something I have to leave to the experts, and of course the experts disagree. The matter is so crucial that I would have thought that a conference on that subject alone might be the way to go, though attendees should beware of the shrapnel!

Oh and the chloroform thing? Both sides were right, it affects both the heart and the respiration depending on how it is used.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Another makeover

I got this recipe from a book of healthy slimmers recipes so it didn't need too much tweaking. Take 225g crisp cabbage, and 100g onion, finely chopped, and steam until tender. Add to 450g lean minced turkey, and season with thyme and sage for that really British taste! If you are worried that meatballs will fall apart, bind with eggwhite. Make about 20-22 small meatballs and put in a pan with 1 bay leaf, a tablespoon of tomato puree and some flavourful broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until done. The added cabbage and onion makes them really juicy and tender.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Lotsa mozza

Ok here is the gig about making fat-free mozza - use fresh milk. Heat it gently adding in the citric acid. One and half teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water to each gallon milk. (I finally tracked down citric acid in an Indian grocers, it is used for making paneer) When the milk is just below blood heat, about 88F it will begin to curdle. Now add the rennet - 1/4 teaspoon liquid dissolved in 1/4 cup water- and stir gently for about 30 seconds then heat to between 100 and 105F. Maintain that heat and in about 5-8 minutes you will have a smooth shiny curd and a lot of clear whey. Turn off the heat. Scoop out the curds into a microwave safe bowl pouring off as much of the whey as possible. (There will be lots) Microwave the curds for about 1 minute then stir well to distribute the heat. Microwave again about 30 seconds and stir again. Do this one more time at which point you could add either salt or any seasoning you like (the recipe says 1 tsp non-iodised salt). The curd should be stretchy, if not heat again. Roll into about 4 balls and put in iced water for half an hour for the best texture. The original recipe was made with full fat milk, but I still got a nice ball of mozza and it melted over some courgettes in the microwave.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Mozza misery

My first attempt at making fat free mozzarella has resulted in a mass of rubbery grains. The recipe says that this might happen with some brands of milk, so I have to get a different kind and try again. On the bright side I have been experimenting with some of Anjum Anand's delicious recipes. She has re-invented Indian cooking with a light fresh touch, very flavourful, easily made CR-friendly. I am enjoying the fresh coriander and mint chutney with strips of sweet fresh red pepper.

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Like many keen CR cooks, I often do a makeover on recipes I get from books and magazines. I used to like those big one-pot dishes with rice, but nowadays I tend to use grated cauliflower instead of rice which is easy as a side dish but as an ingredient means I have to tweak things a bit as it doesn’t absorb water and takes less time to cook. Here’s how I did a makeover recently. I started with a standard recipe for Spanish pork and rice. First I substituted chicken breast for the pork. (This would also work well with Quorn). The liquid required was a combination of chopped tomatoes in juice and vegetable stock. Most of this would be absorbed by rice, but as I was using cauliflower I reduced the liquid but not the flavour by using half a crumbled vegetable stock cube (organic low salt) instead of the stock. The cubed chicken, chopped garlic, sliced red peppers and onion were simmered in the tomatoes plus stock cube until about done, (thus omitting the original recipe’s suggested initial browning in 3tbs olive oil!) then I stirred in the grated cauliflower, added some drained water-canned artichoke hearts (the original recipe used ones from a jar in oil) and cooked gently for five minutes more until the cauliflower was done, the sauce thick and the artichokes heated through.

Thursday, 28 August 2008


This is, I know illusory but I feel as if I have spent the last 9 days eating at twice my normal rate! This is because I have been working as a volunteer with a venue management company at the Edinburgh Fringe. I worked shifts in the kitchen rushing about with trays of food and also walked miles around Edinburgh. The food was provided to volunteers for free and every day there were big cauldrons of soup made from fresh vegetables, also lots of veggie casseroles and bakes. So it was possible to eat pretty healthily. But my energy expenditure was huge! So not CR'd but I do feel that the sheer buzz of Edinburgh at Festival time and being surrounded with so many young creative people had a rejuvenation effect all of its own. It was a fantastic experience and if anyone is keen to sample what the Fringe has to offer without breaking the bank (accommodation and many of the shows were also free to helpers) it can recommend it!

Friday, 15 August 2008

The meeja

I was contacted recently by someone wanting to interview a CR'd woman prefereably aged 25-45 in the UK for a magazine article. Obviously I am way out of the age range, but I thought I would ask anyone out there if they might be interested. If you are let me know and I will pass on the journalist's details. She writes for magzines like Marie Claire etc.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Patty pan delight

Apologies for not posting recently - I can only plead the hectic and exhausting life of a retired person! Last autumn I loved experimenting with the many varieties of little squashes I was able to get on the farmers' market and have felt a bit bereft over the spring, however the first little disc shaped patty pan or summer squashes have arrived and I have been able to try something I had on mind - quiche. They are so lovely and tender you can eat the lot - even the thin skin and soft little seeds. I steamed one, then cut it across into two discs. I then scooped out the centre and mashed it with herbs, tomato paste and a few chopped olives. (There have to be a gazillion variations on this) Then as the mixture is a bit watery I added a teaspoon of powdered eggwhite. The mixture was put back in the cases and microwaved until set, which didn't take long. Hey presto, quiche without the pastry!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Easy peasy lemon cheesy

I tried three more shops to get citric acid without any success. In the end I went to the market and got lemons, 7 for £1. At one shop (the local Boots the Chemist, and I know they used to sell citric acid as many years ago I worked for Boots as a dispenser) they said they didn’t stock it any more as people were buying it and using it for the wrong things. I wasn’t sure what those things could be, but as usual Wikipedia had the answer. Golly gosh. Hope no-one thought I wanted it for that reason! Anyway I have my lemons now and if the cheesemaking works out and I want to do it regularly I can always get citric acid online from a homebrew supplier. At least no-one looked at me strangely when I bought seven lemons.

I tried the simpler recipe first, it is called superquick ricotta, and the online recipe stipulates 1 gallon milk, 1 tsp citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup cool water and 1 tsp cheese salt which is optional. In my version I estimated I would need 5 teaspoons of lemon juice for a quarter of that quantity. I started by zesting two lemons and squeezing all the juice. (I had other uses for the zest and excess juice) I poured 1 litre of skim milk into a pan, and whisked in two tablespoons of skim milk powder to give it more body. I then added 5 tsps lemon juice, put the meat thermometer in place, (I thought I would have to hold it but it propped quite neatly against the handle of the pan) and started to heat the mixture gently stirring with a plastic paddle so it wouldn’t burn. I watched as the temperature rose gradually to the required level according to the recipe (185-195F). Hmm – at 195F I had a nice pan of lemony milk. I added some more juice, about another teaspoonful, and hey presto the mixture broke into curds and whey. I turned off the heat. The mixture has to sit for ten minutes and this gave me time to cut a square of butter muslin and line a strainer over a colander. Ten minutes later I ladled the curds and whey into the muslin. It didn’t take long to drain and I stirred in a quarter of a teaspoon of low salt seasoning. It is supposed to drain for something like 30 to 45 minutes but I found it didn’t take as long, I suppose it is all a matter of the texture you want and I was looking for a soft cheese. The recipe says that if you want a firm cheese you can tie up the cloth into a bag and hang it from a hook.

This idea brought back hugely nostalgic memories, of when I was a small child and my mother bought unpasteurised milk and let it sour naturally in a big bowl. Sometimes she would tie it in a cloth and hang the cloth from the kitchen taps. When I was in my teens I remember some student friends deliberately allowing their bottled pasteurised milk to sour and then eating the curds out of sheer nostalgia for their mothers’ homemade soured milk. I did explain the difference between naturally soured raw milk and milk that has simply gone off, but they didn’t want to know.

But I digress.

I have chilled the cheese in the fridge and it is fairly dry and crumbly (perhaps it would be moister if I only heated it to 185F?) but with a good very fresh taste, different enough from the products I can buy to make me want to make this again. The faint tang of lemon is rather good! I found I could make it a bit moister by adding a little skim milk. It would be heavenly with sliced strawberries. I might try using it with eggwhites to make a cheesecake.

Oh – and the extra zest and juice? I simmered them gently for about 15 minutes until the zest was soft, topping up with a little water when necessary. I then cooled the mixture and used it with a few drops of culinary lemon oil, as a flavouring for ice milk. But that’s another story.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Please cheese me, oh yeah.

This homemade cheese stuff is amazingly healthy. Not that I have made any of it yet, but I have had some really good exercise footslogging from shop to shop trying to get the equipment and ingredients I need! I found the recipes on the internet and I deliberately chose the ones designated as easy. The first requirement was a dairy thermometer, or at least for the ricotta recipe one that would read 185 to 195 degrees and for the mozzarella, between 55 and 145. Problem number one – there are two sorts of cooking thermometers easily available; one for confectionary which records really high temperatures, and one for meat which goes from about 100 to 200 F which was the one I got. So I am OK for part of the range but for the lower temperatures it will be a clean fingertip, and a spot of luck. Luckily the recipe does describe what the mixture should be doing at various stages, so that will be my guide. Cheesecloth was hard to get but I managed it at the fourth shop.

I never thought I would get rennet but I finally tracked it down. The one thing I still haven’t got is citric acid, but Wikipedia tells me that lemon juice is 5% citric acid so I will have to use that for the time being. I didn’t even bother to look for cheese salt, which sounds very specialised, and is supposed to be optional anyway.

Both the recipes stipulate using whole milk, but of course I will be using skim, and I may decide to whisk in some powdered skim milk to increase the yield.

Phew! Now I am too tired to make the cheese.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Drop Zone

I have just stepped on the scales with some trepidation as I have been away for a few days but thankfully it has not resulted in a weight gain. Always tricky when you are not in a position to cater for yourself. I usually reckon that holidays mean a choice between being CRd by just eating less at the cost of not being ONd, or going for good quality food and accepting that I will not be CRd. So far the latter course has worked out as I am pretty active on hols so burning more calories than usual, and it was after all only for a few days, on the first of which I took packed food of my choice. This was another of our battlefield tours, the follow up to the Normandy beaches one we did last year, this one being Arnhem and the Rhine crossings. It was excellent and I learned a great deal. I think the highlight was Remagen, where there is a wonderful museum located in one of the original towers of the bridge. We were in Holland for two days and Germany for two. I don’t know if either of the hotels was typical, so can only comment on what we found. The breakfast buffet in Holland included a good selection of fresh fruit as well as yogurt and quark. The cereals tend to be refined, but for those who eat bread, there is good coarse wholemeal and rye often with sunflower seeds. Obviously I avoided the cooked breakfast in both countries! In Germany it was trickier as there was no fruit at breakfast and just plain yogurt but there was coarse bread, and one morning boiled eggs. Lunch was pretty easy as it is possible in hotels restaurants and supermarkets in both countries to get really good crisp fresh mixed salads. I can find my way around a German menu without any problem but in Holland we had some difficulty as neither of us speaks Dutch, and some restaurants don’t have a menu in English. In one really beautiful place we found a helpful waitress who did her best to translate for us. I pointed to an item on the menu. ‘What is this?’ She gave it a long hard consideration and eventually said ‘It is - part of a cow.’ No further elaboration was forthcoming. I decided to go for the vegetarian option and it was a good choice, a big platter of vegetables and chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce, with far more couscous than I could eat. Being Holland it also came with a sort of egg and cheese bake on the side, which I had a taste of. We had a set dinner for two nights in Germany so I simply had to be a bit careful, but we did get a good salad, plenty of vegetables, and tomato and vegetable soups. I am sure I ate far too much on those occasions but was able to adjust later! In the end it is not about what one does on any particular day but what one does overall. Back home I have raided the markets for vegetables salads and fruit, and have settled back into my normal healthy CRON diet. No temptation to depart from it! After all, as I said to my other half when we were in a cafe getting coffee ‘that chocolate pastry twist looks good, but not as good as the way my jeans fit’.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


I have read The CR Way with great interest, and now I am hoping that MR will someday be able to produce a book with his own views of how CR should be practised. Then I will be able to buy it, study it and put it on my bookshelf; but at the opposite end to Paul’s book as the fizzing and crackling that would go on between them if they were placed together could be distracting. I read what both Paul and MR say on the CRON daily list, I plough through the archives, (not as easy a task as one might think, as following the long threads of debate sometimes blurs exactly who is speaking, but I think I can make sense of it) and of course the differences are obvious. A recent comment on the raw food/cooked food issue added another item of divergence, but the main one as far as I can see is the question of protein. If I followed Paul’s guidance I would consume 0.8gm per kg body weight, that’s 32.8g a day, or approximately 11% of my total calories. MR on the other hand advocates at least 1.5g per kg for AL people and believes there are good grounds for 2g per kg for CRd people. Following MR’s advice I would be eating 82g of protein a day which would be just over 27% of my calories. This is a huge difference, and when one lives at the cutting edge where every calorie must do its job or be evicted from my diet, the choice achieves measures of importance unheard of by those whose greatest dietary decision is whether to have another beer.

The problem is that while in the CR society mailings it is possible even for the ignorant layperson to winnow out the anecdotally based theories from the ones with sound scientific underpinnings, the whole area is so vibrantly a work under construction, that differences will happen (and boy, do they happen!) even amongst those whose opinions I respect, and who know more about CR than I will ever know – in other words, the very people to whom I look for my guidance. So here I am being pulled, protein-wise in two opposite directions.

In the meantime I look forward to the day when MR and April can find time in their incredibly busy schedules to encapsulate their practice of CR in a book, both the scientific side and the practical.

I have done some number crunching on CRON-o-Meter and it is possible to achieve my DRIs (or at least the average woman’s DRIs, which I have to use in default of being able to find out what mine are) on both a 11% and a 27% protein regime, so that at least is good news. The one thing I can’t do is get those DRIs from food alone on 1200 calories a day if I include any but the most modest amounts of cereals or legumes in my diet.

Saturday, 31 May 2008


I love nuts, especially almonds, and it is great that they are so good for me, but of course they are very easy to eat in excess! I keep a pack of almonds in the refrigerator and when I have my mid morning snack (green tea and 7 almonds) I count them out and put the pack back so I am not tempted to have any more. Then of course they have been known to disappear in a few seconds! What a shame, they are so yummy I should be able to eat them more slowly and appreciate them more. Today I was working at the computer, green tea and a few almonds by my side, when I had an idea. I ate an almond and set an Outlook reminder for five minutes. Five minutes later, I ate another almond and set the reminder on snooze for five minutes more. And so on. As I was working, the time went pretty fast, and I was always surprised when the next reminder popped up! Nutty? You bet – but a slim healthy happy nutty.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Life, the CRONoverse and everything

Recent discussions on the CRS mailing list have reinforced what I was writing earlier. There is a sense in which there are no answers. Sometimes the only thing everyone is agreed upon is that there is no answer and sometimes there are very definite answers – several of them – and conflicting. The alcohol question, for example. Some say no, it’s empty calories and potentially addictive; some say yes in moderation, with study evidence to back it up. And then there is the protein question – two ends of the spectrum, two dedicated people, two opinions.

The only thing we in the middle can do is study and read everything, and try to understand as well as we can and then make our own decisions. This sounds daunting, after all it’s not about what colour to paint the front door, it’s about our lives. But of course we have already made the biggest decision we can – we are no longer putting junk food in our bodies, we concentrate on moderate amounts of fresh wholesome foods, try to ensure we get all our essential nutrients, and endeavour to keep fit. That in itself has huge value, and we are giving our bodies far more consideration than most other people. We can all see the benefits -- less visceral fat, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol. So at the moment we are all right, in a kind of global way.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Gulliver's Travels

When I was a child I read Gulliver’s Travels many times, and while the best known parts and the ones most frequently filmed are the voyages to the land of little people and giants, my favourite, (because I was a horrid little swot) was always the third part, the voyage to Laputa, especially the satires on scientific endeavour.

CRON is for me like a voyage of discovery, in which I have visited strange places, encountered some remarkable people and heard many theories. And I still have a long way to go. How often have I seen people new to CRON write in and ask for a handy guide as to what to eat, or even a diet sheet? There is no such thing. Even those who have been practising CRON for many years disagree about how it should be done. In fact as far as I can see the only two things all CRers agree upon are that you have to restrict calories and get all your nutrition. If you fail in either of these you are not doing CRON. As to whether the proportion of protein should be high or moderate, whether for or against supplements, for or against artificial sweeteners, for or against exercise and if so how much and what kind, tofu or not tofu, the CR Way vs. the MR Way, - debates rage and will probably continue to do so for some time. The whole field is in a state of flux, and meanwhile, the beginner finds some very convincing material on nutrition published in books or on the internet and follows it only to find out that either the writer is not regarded as an authority by the CRON community or the research is last year’s (or even decade’s) and has been superseded by new material. Even when research is current not everyone agrees on what weight to give it and if the experts can’t agree what chance is there for the rest of us. Now that the society archives are much easier to search, however, time can be well spent trawling through them to find recent entries on subjects of interest, but the threads must be followed through since what one posting says authoritatively can be shot down in flames by the next one. I read the mailing list every day and try to understand as much of it as I can. This does lead to the interesting situation when someone I know mentions a press article which gives a half-baked potted version of some nutritional information only to have me reply – ‘well, of course that is very simplified and not entirely accurate because what the original research actually said was...’ etc etc. That’s when their eyes glaze over and they edge towards the door. In the 18 months since I began I have learned a great deal, (by layperson’s standards only, of course!) and am still groping towards finding my own way. The teaspoon is poised, but which end will I choose to break my egg? And it has to be an individual thing. It’s not one size fits all, far from it. We are all built differently. My Lilliputian CRON will not be the same as another’s Brobdingnagian CRON, even though ultimately we all aim to be a high functioning struldbrug.

Friday, 16 May 2008


I have been remiss about providing more detailed values for foods and my only excuse is that since I retired from the day job I have been even busier than ever. Go figure.

Now just to recap – This is all about me. I have been trying to establish how to get my DRIs from 1200 calories a day. Regular readers will know that since the DRI tables are not adjusted for weight, mini-me’s DRIs are in many cases the same value as those for the average man twice my size, who is wallowing in the sybaritic luxury of consuming 2500 calories a day. The secret for those of us on fewer calories is not just to use those foods with good values of individual nutrients, but concentrate on the ‘star foods’ which do multiple duty for those nutrients which can be a problem. I never worry about vitamin A or C for example – with my intake of fresh veg I always get lots, and the only minerals I have to worry about are potassium selenium calcium and zinc – the rest I always get plenty of without any effort. What I am looking for are foods which give more, and preferably much more than 10% of my DRIs in 10% of my calories. If I concentrate on these it leaves me some leeway to include other foods which are less starry but still good. My first nomination is the humble mushroom. According to Cron-o-meter 545.5 grams of mushrooms contain 120 calories. The same quantity provides 16g of protein, impressive amounts of B vitamins, (only B12 is less than 10% of my DRI, it’s actually 9%) and 25% vitamin D. It provides 34% of my iron, 37% of my potassium, 92% of my selenium and 26% of my zinc. Now I am not going to sit down and eat 545.5g of mushrooms, but with those figures I know that they ought to be a staple in my diet and as it so happens I adore them!

My next nomination is asparagus. 120 calories worth of this yummy vegetable provides 13g protein, massive amounts of most B vitamins (but no B12) 45% of my Vitamin E, 12% calcium, 26% potassium, 25% selenium and 29% zinc. So bring on those juicy green stems! In fact most green vegetables can be counted as superstars, Swiss chard if you can get it (I see it rarely), kale, Brussels sprouts, pak choi, Chinese leaves, (is this the same thing as Napa cabbage in the US?), courgettes (zucchini in the US) broccoli, lettuce and even the humble cabbage. Spinach is great for potassium Vitamin E, zinc and most of the B vitamins, but I believe its calcium content is poorly absorbed. Celery is good for calcium potassium zinc and many B vits. And let’s not forget the cauliflower. Try inputting 480 g into cron-o-meter and comparing with 32.44g brown rice,(both 120 calories) then flip back and forth on the entries to compare nutrients. You’ll see why I use grated steamed cauli as an alternative to rice!

Another great star is tomatoes. 38% of my potassium, 10% zinc, 24% vitamin E and lots of B vits except 12, and of course all that lycopene. Red and green peppers are great for potassium zinc and vitamin E. And then there are pumpkin and butternut squash, for Vitamin E, potassium, and lots of B vits. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines provide masses of B12 bang for your buck, as well as iron selenium and protein. Oysters too but I loathe the wretched things! Low fat dairy products also provide a lot of vitamin B12, with zinc, selenium protein and of course calcium. The only truly fat-free dairy products we can get in the UK as far as I am aware are quark, yogurt, and cottage cheese, but cottage cheese is not a calcium star - 8% only of my DRI for 120 calories.

No fruits are true superstars, but the best for vitamin E that I have found so far are Kiwi 19, peaches, 15, apricots and nectarines 14, raspberries and blackcurrants 13. For potassium, the figures are melon 20, kiwi 13, apricots strawberries peaches nectarines 12. And notice which ones are on both those lists. Apricots are not available fresh for much of the year, so I use organic dried ones and soak them overnight to add bulk.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

More blueberries, but hold the Kreem-o-wip

It has been said that England and America are two nations divided by a common language. This is certainly true when we talk about food. Not only do the same things have different names on either side of the pond e.g. aubergine (UK) = eggplant (US), but the same words are used for different things: ‘biscuit’ means something quite different in the US and UK. Unless someone has an interest in the food of all nations, however, I find that on both sides of the pond we are deeply ignorant of each other’s language of food. A friend of mine once spent ages scouring her local supermarkets for zucchini which an American pen-pal had told her were a healthy food. When she told me she had asked everywhere but couldn’t find any I had to tell her we call them courgettes. But why did neither of them know this? Why did the shop not know? Since we all correspond and talk on the subject I think we should try and find out. I mean, I don’t eat butter but I know how much there is in a stick, even though it isn’t sold in sticks in the UK.

Then of course there are some foods which are common on one side of the water but rare or unobtainable on the other. Quite a few varieties of greens on the food databases I have never seen on sale here, and the cheese buyer for the Kensington Wholefood store has just responded to my enquiry after fat-free mozzarella to say it isn’t available in the UK. (One US item I know I can now get here – the Oreo cookie has just been introduced to the UK. Gee – thanks.) I would like to make clam chowder but so far a complete lack of canned clams is proving a bit of a poser. If anyone spots some on sale, drop me a line. I am pleased to report however that blueberries, which used to be a rare luxury item are now readily available if wildly variable in price from week to week depending on country of origin. The odd thing is I believe they are grown in this country but I have never seen English ones on sale.

The worst problems recipe-wise come with branded products. This, I have to say is much less of a problem with CRON recipes as they tend to use a high proportion of fresh foods, but many American cookbooks use a lot of branded stuff as ingredients, much more so than English ones. I saw a review on the English Amazon site of a low calorie cookbook sold and bought in perfect good faith, which the buyer said she had found unusable as it was American and made extensive use of products unheard of over here and with no equivalent. You know the sort of thing I mean – ‘take one box of Mrs Bagel’s reduced fat blueberry waffle mix, a cup of Kreem-O-wip, a package of instant Choco-pud, one teaspoon Acme buttered popcorn flavouring’ - etc etc – I think the buyer of the book had a lucky escape - that sounds disgusting! (Actually I made up that example, but it’s not so far from the reality)

I am not sure what the answer to this is. CRON should be international. I know there is a feeling that the American terminology ought to be the standard one, and I can see why, but maybe the Wiki ought to have a table of ingredients with alternative names and suggestions as to what one might use if unable to get the item specified. At any rate, since we are an international organisation we should be sharing information with each other much better than we are. What do other people think?

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Sixth Boy

It was hot in London today, and as I walked along High Holborn I remembered that I was approaching a shop selling good ice cream. Temptation reared its ugly head. I was hot and the ice cream was cold. It seemed like karma. Somehow I could picture the ice cream cone in my hand – I could feel the waffled texture on my fingers - I could sense the anticipation of the first taste – then I could taste it (it was chocolate flavour by the way) but somehow at the back of my mind there was a little nag of guilt. I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, I knew it wasn’t healthy. Not only that, but it was sweeter and gooier than anything I usually eat, in fact it wasn’t really as great as it should have been. Eventually it began to cloy and with nowhere to dispose of the blessed thing I had to go on eating it to the bitter/sweet end. Even the cone which I didn’t like at all. And then all I was left with was a sense that I had let myself down in a moment of weakness. It reminded me of the old fashioned Fry’s Five Boys advert. There is a series of five pictures of a boy going from stages of unhappiness, to expectation of a treat, to being pacified with chocolate to joy at the realisation it was Fry’s. I was the sixth boy, the stage that was negative, the realisation that I shouldn’t have given in to a whim and that all I had was regret and a lot of calories fat and sugar in my body that shouldn’t have been there. Now I didn’t actually buy or eat any ice cream! All those feelings were explored in my mind as I walked along. By the time I had reached that last stage in my mind, I didn’t want the ice cream. I think that most people eating just whatever they fancy actually never get to the sixth stage, or if they do, they get there after they have eaten the thing that tempts them. We have all heard people say ‘I shouldn’t really have eaten that – I’m on a diet/allergic/it upsets me etc etc’. The trick, of course, is to get to the negative stage of regret before and not after eating. And it is a trick. I have no idea if I can pull it off again, but I know I am going to try. I went home and ate some delicious cooling fresh fruit.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Spice Girl

I have always loved spicy foods. I remember when I was about 5, someone gave me something spicy to eat as a joke thinking I would spit it out and was astonished when I thought it was yummy. I recall sampling some salsa made with scotch bonnet chillies at a food show, and a grinning man said 'too late' as I spooned it into my mouth. 'Mmmm' I said. 'It's quite tangy. Do you want to try some?' He went pale and backed away.
My special favourite is ginger. I have tried a number of ginger tisanes, but lately have been experimenting with making my own by steeping fresh root ginger. The real revelation was when I bought a microplane grater. Not the cheapest of kitchen tools but well worth it - it easily reduces the ginger to a soft pulp. I add hot water and some sweetener and that's it. Ginger heaven.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Other Woman

The other woman is 5ft 4 inches tall as compared with my 4 ft 10.5 inches. She weighs about 135 pounds as opposed to my 90, and eats 2000 calories a day compared to my 1200. I don’t know her name but I call her Mrs Average and she has haunted me all my adult life. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t want to be her, but I am well aware that the world is designed for her requirements and dimensions and I just have to try and fit in as best I can. She is of course the reference person for whom the DRI tables have been calculated. I wrote to the Food and Nutrition Information Center who produce the tables, and asked what the requirements were for little me. I am pretty much the same size as their reference 9-13 year old, but apart from telling me I couldn’t use those values for obvious developmental reasons, the only advice they could give me was to consult a nutritionist. Oh, thanks a bunch. It’s not impossible to get all Mrs Average’s DRIs in 1200 calories just from food, but should I be trying to? Are her DRIs really the same as mine? I don’t know, but I shall keep on banging away at this question until I have an answer.

On a more positive front, this retirement and being 60 years old stuff is pretty damn good. The only niggle at the back of my mind is that I might wake up one morning and find it was all a lovely dream, and I have to get up and go to work. Ugh! But this is a hell of an incentive to keep healthy and live long. If you are in your 20s and 30s retirement is about the last thing you think about, but this is just the time to start a pension scheme, put away whatever you can afford, and take care of your health, so that all those years later you can take full advantage of what life has to offer.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sweet little 60

It seems so long since I wrote, but life has been incredibly busy just recently and I always like to give my blogs some real thought before I write. The reason for my hectic activity is that I am now officially a lady of leisure - retired - and this, as far as I can see means that I am catching up on all the stuff I didn't have time for before, and am now busier than ever! Hopefully CRON will keep me fit and active as long as possible to enjoy all the time I have left. Will write more later. Must dash!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Response from the manufacturers about V8 ' . . . we received your message and appreciate your taking the time to contact Campbell Soup Company about our V8 Vegetable Juice.

Unfortunately, Campbell Soup Company does not analyze the Potassium and/or Vitamin E content in our products if we do not add them. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you for visiting the V8 Juice website.

V8 Juice Web Team

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


I thought I would do some guesswork on the 100% natural unfortified V8 using Cron-o-meter. I know from the pack it is 87% tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients are always listed on packs in order of amount so I have assumed that the carrots are 5%, celery and beetroot 2% each and the rest 1% each.

This gives a calorie content per 100ml serving of 19.7 which is not far off what the pack suggests – about 20 cals.

120 calories worth of this product supply 32% of my RDA of potassium, 14% zinc, and 22% vitamin E, and impressive amounts of B vitamins. Not a superstar but still pretty good. As well as a drink (and its very good in hot weather with lots of ice) it is a good base for sauces and soups.


I want to retract the figures I just posted for V8 - the vitamin content I used which I saw on the internet, related to a variety which I didn't even know existed - probably not available in the UK, and which is fortified. (Thanks, Artemis for pointing this out) I wouldn't use a vitamin E fortified product. To the manufacturers Vitamin E = alpha tocopherol only while real food contains mixed tocopherols. So I am going to write to the manufacturers as I am keen to find out the natural vitamin E and potassium content of the 100% unfortified juice. I still think it is a handy product to have - plenty of lycopene, 8mg per 100ml and only 19 calories. The juices are tomato (87%) carrot celery, beetroot, parsley, lettuce, watercress and spinach. Pretty good and one way of getting more veg when my little tum can't cope with a huge plateful.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The big E

I spent Easter weekend at a hotel event with all the possible dietary pitfalls that ensue. It wasn’t in the end, too bad. A good breakfast buffet will usually supply natural yogurt and fruit, and there was a buffet dinner which always included mounds of vegetables. I took emergency supplies of canned salmon, canned asparagus and almonds just in case! On my return I was convinced I had eaten too much over the weekend, and stepped on the scales in some trepidation this morning to find I had lost a few ounces. Not sure how I managed that.

Here is my champion Vitamin E list – values as before are the % of my RDA supplied per 120 calories which is 10% of my daily intake. V8 vegetable juice, 99, swiss chard 80, spinach 71, sunflower seeds 45, red peppers 41, almonds and broccoli 37, pumpkin 33, butternut squash 26 tomatoes 24. Almost in the super range are kiwi and hazelnuts 19, avocado 18. Scoring well, green peppers and lettuce 15, celery and apricots 14, aubergine (eggplant) 10.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Whoo hoo!

Today was my last ever day in the office job (whoo hoo!) and from now on I can (whoo hoo!) get up each morning and (whoo hoo!) do whatever I want - which may (whoo hoo!) be work, but it will be work I want to (whoo hoo!) do, so it is not surprising that (whoo hoo!, whoo hoo! whoo hoo!) - sorry will get back to you when (whoo hoo!) I feel a bit more (whoo hoo! etc etc ) yippeee!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Pots of Potassium

I often find at the end of the day that even after eating a big salad and an amount of steamed veg that would terrify the causal onlooker, I am finding it hard to make my RDA of potassium. I have a low salt condiment that helps a bit, but have to go carefully with it, as potassium chloride has a rather sickly taste to me. To make sure I get my RDA I find I have to focus on specific foods. So here are my champion potassium foods. Again, this is the percentage of my RDA per 120 calories (10% daily intake) worth. It is not an exhaustive list, only what I have tested so far, and if anyone can suggest other foods I have neglected, do let me know. Spinach 62, courgettes (zucchini) 56, pak-choi 49, V8 vegetable juice 45, celery 41, Chinese leaves 38, mushrooms 37, tomatoes 34, lettuce 33, cauliflower 31, asparagus 26, cucumber 25, aubergine (eggplant) 24, kale 23, Brussels sprouts 23, green peppers 22, broccoli 22, melons 20. Soya milk and cabbage are both 17, and in the 10 to 13 range are bean sprouts, kiwi fruit, skim milk, apricots strawberries and pomegranate juice. Nice to see a few fruits make the list. I’m sure you will have spotted that some of the foods on this list are also on the zinc list. I shall publish my Vitamin E list soon, and again there will be an overlap. Ultimately I will nominate my super-champion foods, the ones that double or treble up on those hard-to-get nutrients, and make those targets so much easier to achieve when on mini-me calories but the same RDAs as everyone else!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Buckets of zinc

In my ongoing analysis of foods (by 120 cals worth, i.e. one tenth of my daily intake) my search has been to find good sources of those vitamins and minerals in which I can end up deficient if I take my eye off the ball. One of those is zinc. Now I know all about oysters. A few oysters contain enough zinc to make a bucket, the only problem being I find them repellent. I might experiment with a few canned ones, but I don’t want to get my nutrition from something I dislike if there are yummy alternatives. So far my results on zinc are as follows – and the figures I give here are the percentages of my RDA of zinc as provided by 120 calories worth of a food. So 10% plus is good and I rate 20% plus as very good.

Courgettes (zucchini) 59, asparagus 41, mushrooms 35, spinach 35, low fat feta cheese, 26, Chinese leaves, 22, mung bean sprouts 21, cucumber 20. (Fat free mozzarella is 29 but I can’t get it in the UK) Now I probably wouldn’t be able to eat 120 calories worth of cucumber (mind you, I ate 113 calories worth of cabbage today, and jolly nice it was, too) – these figures are a measure of how hard the food is working for me. Broccoli, lettuce, pumpkin, skim milk, cauliflower, chicken, Brussels sprouts, tofu, low fat mozzarella are all in the range 15-18, and in the 10-14 range we have oats, tomatoes, chickpeas, kale, quinoa, sunflower seeds, celery, red and green peppers, aubergines (eggplant), sardines in tomato sauce, tuna and cabbage. All these foods also supply good to excellent values of other essentials. I’m sure there are others I may have missed but this is a good start, and the best thing is, these are all foods I like a lot!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Wet, wet, wet

As anticipated the mixture was too damp. The pancake idea worked well, we had it with soup for lunch, but the bread was too puddingy. However I have a few new ideas for the next iteration and will report back when I have perfected the recipe. Umm - vegetable pudding anyone? It's yummy - no honest, it is - (sigh).

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Alien Bread

This is my first experiment in making something vaguely like bread but with a better nutritional profile. So far the ingredients include wholemeal flour, grated courgettes (zucchini), skim milk powder and V8 vegetable juice. I’m using the dough-only cycle in my bread machine to mix it up. At the time of writing it has another 30 minutes to go and I have something that looks like off-green slurry. My other half says it reminds him of something out of Quatermass and the Pit. I am still wondering how to cook it and am toying with the idea of pouring the sludge into a pan and baking it on a very low temperature with foil on top so it doesn’t brown. On the other hand it does remind me of some of those fermented batters used for Asian flatbread and pancakes, so I could try some of it in a covered pan on the stove where it will steam. Wish me luck. If I write no more, the evil green-flecked slime will have got me.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

There was an old woman who

I was reminded the other day of a song that used to amuse me when I was a child – There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly – sung by Burl Ives. It ends up with her swallowing a horse with fatal consequences. I was thinking about this recently because I ate a whole cabbage. Now it wasn’t a real big huge cabbage but it was a cabbage, and I shredded it up and braised it in vegetable broth with mushrooms and garlic and ginger. I didn’t start with the intention of eating the whole thing but it was so delicious, and I loved the way the fine shreds wound around my fork like pasta. Amazing how, when you don’t add sugar to things their lovely natural sweetness comes through.

So I could do a variant of the old song.

‘There was a small woman who swallowed a cabbage.

She doesn’t eat garbage

She just swallowed a cabbage’

And the song ends

‘There was a small woman who just ate one course.

She’s CRON, of course’

Obviously a project to work on in my spare moments!

And now I’m off to bathe my face to stop me from blushing red ‘cos April says I’m cute!

Monday, 18 February 2008


Funny how this CRON business grows on you. Following my New Year resolution to monitor my nutrition better and identify the foods that work best for me, my meals, at least the ones I make for myself alone, have become odder but I have been getting to really like them. I call them my freaky-deaky CRON meals. Even the ones I make for myself and the other half are good healthful CR friendly meals but they look more normal! Yesterday, as I went to work with my boxed salad, tuna, almonds, yogurt and blueberries, I was thinking only of the meal I was going to cook that evening. Lots of steamed kale as a base – then lots of pumpkin on top – what next? One the way home I mentally added cherry tomatoes, and by the time I thought of hot sauce I was drooling with anticipation. Not hunger – anticipation of the delight that was to come. At home, a quick rummage in the vegetable drawer produced an organic leek, and that went into the tower too. Dessert was my fortified skim milk yogurt and strawberries.

I know a lot of people in the CR society don’t approve of juicing or smoothies, on the grounds that whole fruit and veg are better and I do understand this point of view, but for those of us with little tums, especially if gas is an issue, vegetable smoothies, as Kay rightly pointed out, are a good way of adding nutrients without exploding. My liquidiser is currently on the blink and needs replacing, but in the meantime I am glugging V8 vegetable juice which has an impressive nutrient profile and really helps me get my minerals and vits from food rather than rely on supplements.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Egg whites

I have just spotted - and forgive me if I am giving old news - that the website gives details of where to get their product in the UK and also some tips on using it, including how to hardboil in the microwave. Not that I am recommending anyone to make the meringues . . . .

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Against the grain

After a lot more work with CRON-o-Meter I can see why little people are often advised not to eat grains. If you are a big person on 1800-2000 calories a day you can fit in some wholegrains pretty easily, but on 1200 calories a day there isn’t really much room for something that doesn’t provide serious nutrition, and grains, as are legumes, are pretty borderline. Yes they do provide some decent values of vitamins and minerals but not in the starry, ‘every calorie works hard for you’ way that vegetables do. Everything you can get from grains and legumes you can get from other stuff in better amounts per calorie. That doesn’t mean I am going to avoid them completely. As long as the overall daily nutrition is good, I can fit in a small amount of oats with other things for breakfast, some beans as part of a main dish, or the occasional half slice of wholewheat bread, though I wouldn’t do all of those things on the same day! I make my own bread and am experimenting with ways of fortifying it to give it more oomph nutritionally.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Cottage industry

I had always imagined cottage cheese to be a good source of calcium, as is skim milk, but when I checked this on CRON-o-meter I found this wasn’t the case, so I did some checking. Apparently hard cheeses such as cheddar which are coagulated with an enzyme retain the calcium in the curd, whereas cottage cheese which is coagulated by a different process does so to a lesser extent. Also, as Sara rightly pointed out it is high in salt. So 120 calories worth of cottage cheese, or 167g (10% of my daily calories) provides only 8% of my RDA of calcium and a massive 52% of my sodium whereas the same calorie value of cheddar gives me 18% of my calcium and only 14% sodium plus 12% zinc. Of course most of the cottage cheese calories are protein, (20g per 120 cals) whereas the cheddar is mainly saturated fat and the cottage cheese is a better source of some B vitamins, but all the same it wouldn’t do to rely on it for calcium. I have experimented with the idea of fortifying the cottage cheese. 10g skim milk powder, (this can be whizzed in a food mill to make it finer) can be stirred into a 250g carton of cottage cheese making what I call ‘fortified cottage cheese’. 120 calories worth of this – 145g – gives 13% of my daily calcium, but still 44% sodium. The powder thickens the cottage cheese – no very bad thing, and of course the end product tastes milkier which may not suit everyone. But I am thinking of abandoning the whole cottage cheese thing for a better prospect – drained yogurt.

I make my own fortified low fat yogurt with a product called Easiyo, which is amazingly easy to do. I use their probiotic low fat mix (it’s 98% skim milk solids, plus lecithin and cultures) and add 25g skim milk powder to bump up the protein and calcium. I prefer a thick yogurt so instead of making it up to 1 litre with water I make it up to 900ml, but that’s just my personal taste. I have inputted the recipe into CRON-o-meter, using the detailed vitamin and mineral values for skim milk since the pack only gives basic nutritional data. 120 calories worth of this yogurt gives a fantastic 36% of my calcium RDA, 12% of my zinc, 85% of my B12, 12g protein, and hardly any sodium. If I drain some of it in a sieve for a few hours I get a soft spreadable cheese. I also incorporate the yogurt into frozen desserts. This is still possible without an ice cream maker – just whiz up the yogurt with some frozen berry fruits such as raspberries and serve at once. Mmm – mmm!

Saturday, 2 February 2008


First the good news – it is possible to get all your RDAs of nutrients on 1200 calories a day. The not quite so good news is that it takes a lot of effort. First of all it involves eating very large amounts of vegetables, which for little people with little tums can be a bit of a strain, and then of course it is not just any old veg. The only way of achieving this is to concentrate on those foods which supply particularly high values of a wide range of nutrients, particularly the ones in which it is easy to be deficient. Forget about eating one foodstuff per nutrient, you will end up eating 2000 calories a day like – er – oh yes, like the CRd menfolk. In the last few weeks I have in such spare moments as I have, painstakingly been creating a chart of star foods, based not on values per 100g or per cup or per tablespoon, but per 120 calories worth. It is only by comparing them with a fixed percentage of my daily intake that I can really judge how hard they are working for me. I have also been looking at how available the nutrients are, since I did remember – and then checked up – that not all the huge amounts of iron and calcium in spinach are actually absorbable, though it does provide lots of other good stuff. In practice I am finding that I need to concentrate only on those nutrients in which there is any danger of being deficient if I take my eye off the ball. These are for me – potassium, zinc and Vitamin E. Once I have those locked down, I tend to find that I have made my RDAs of all the others. I also like to ensure that I have good values of calcium, and protein. The chart is far from finished, and I am sure there are many very wonderful foods which don’t yet appear as I haven’t checked them out yet. However, these are my preliminary results. The top star foods to date are Swiss chard, spinach, red peppers, lettuce, broccoli, butternut squash, courgettes, pak-choi, Chinese leaves, mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, celery and low fat milk products, (but cottage cheese doesn’t make the grade on the calcium front). For additional top quality protein I add eggwhites, chicken and fish, especially salmon. Now I am not advocating that anyone should confine their intake solely to these starry foods- rather that by allocating a lot of your calories to these, the other good but less starry foods will easily provide the rest of what you need, and you will still be able to get some variety into your diet.

The whole thing is much easier if you are cooking only for yourself or your best beloved is also CRd, but if not, as is my case, I have to balance the freaky CR meals I do on those occasions when I do cook for just me, with the less freaky but still very healthy meals I do when the other half and I dine together.

Lots of other veg are also very good - this means in my book that they provide between 10 and 19% of nutrients per 120 calories. The best fruits so far are kiwi strawberries and melon. However it is interesting that 120 calories worth of dried apricots (not something usually thought of as CR friendly) provides really useful amounts of potassium iron and Vitamin E. I don’t see why they can’t be used soaked overnight to add bulk, and they have the advantage over fresh of being available all year round. OK I’m off to make lunch now, which will be a big plateful of steamed asparagus, mushrooms and Chinese leaves topped with an eggwhite and skim milk omelette, and some organic tomato chilli sauce. (Yep, my poor darling has had to work today)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


I usually only eat out at places I have chosen, but last Wednesday I was one of a party of 20 meeting up at a London pub to celebrate a friend’s birthday. And it was a lovely pub – historical, very well preserved, with an interior like an atmospheric film set (except it was all real) and a great view. Unfortunately the food was horrible. I had tried but been unable to get a menu in advance, and when I saw it, what was my astonishment when I found there wasn’t even a salad. Everything was pretty much deep fried, slathered in mayonnaise (they must have got though buckets of the stuff) or topped with full fat cheese. Not so much food to die for as food to die from. Not wanting to be a party-pooper I thought I had better order something so chose the chicken curry which I thought was the most innocuous thing on the menu. We will gloss over the way it managed to not even have any culinary aspirations let alone fail to meet the most basic. The food that I saw being served to others was similarly uninspiring. Ordering the curry was my first innocent error. My second (woe is me) was to eat it. The best thing I can say about it is that there wasn’t a great deal of it. The worst is that I was very very ill the following day. I have little leeway in the weight loss stakes, and managed over the next few days to plunge down to under 87lb. I am now a great deal better but wondering what is so very wrong with what the public demands of pub food. Still, if anyone would like me to recommend a place to relax in a historical atmosphere, with a lovely view, let me know. Just eat before you go.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Me, me, me

Being a bloody-minded little b**** I have now returned to my pre-Xmas weight of 89.5lb (no, don’t throw things, please!). Fascinating how right now the media is full of stuff about how people must feel ghastly not to mention guilty after the excesses of the holiday period. This means that the magazines are crammed full of healthy recipes, which is good, but a healthy lifestyle is not just for January. I managed to be quite restrained over the holidays - didn’t eat junk or high fat and sugar foods, which in no way prevented me from having a pleasurable time - and have never felt better in a January. Last year I was just starting CRON and feeling my way, making lots of mistakes. This year I think I am enjoying the results of the effort I have put into it. Also I have not had my usual bout of winter colds, in fact I have not had a full-blown cold since I started CRON.

In line with my New Year resolution, I am working harder at using Cron-O-Meter, and in particular have been trying to use it as a tool to sculpt what I am eating to my own personal requirements. No point in looking at the books, as they all seem to assume I am an average sized man living in California, and the guys who guzzle their 1800-1900 calories a day find the specific problems of mini-me a little bewildering. No-one is going to tailor my nutrition to me except me. So this sister has to do it for herself.

Getting RDAs on 1200 calories a day is bloody hard, so I have to skew what I eat to foods which provide nutrients out of all proportion to the amount of calories. With CoM calibrated to my calories, I have been entering in quantities of foodstuffs which give 10% of my daily calories, (figure chosen for ease of computation) and then looking at what percentage of vital nutrients that amount provides. I am focusing especially on those nutrients which I am finding it most of a struggle to get from food alone. Not a lot of point for example in bothering to chase vitamin C or A of which I get stacks from the amount of greenstuff I munch my way through. I am making up a spreadsheet for easy reference. Very much a work in progress right now.

There are three main categories of foods on my sheet. One is what I call the star foods, things like mushrooms and spinach, packed with nutrients and very low cal. Then there are ‘good but not starry’ providing more than 10% of nutrients per 10% of calories but not spectacularly so. Oats, for example, and many fruits. Then there are foods I would say were OK – still good fresh foods such as apples and pears, but they underperform compared with the others. I include those to add variety, but don’t emphasise them. Some of the results have been real eye-openers. So the idea is that when I am considering what to have for dinner I can look at my results for the day, see where there are low scores and quickly look up what I need to bump up the values.

All this is a counsel of perfection and of course I fall way short of that. I eat out once a week, and have to be careful what I choose and do my best to estimate what I have eaten. One thing in which I am very fortunate – I have no cravings whatsoever for junk food, so the chances of going on a Mars Bar bender are pretty much nil.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Choc shock

Now we all know that small amounts of ultra dark chocolate can find a place in a CRON regime. If you go to the right shops you can find 100% cocoa solids bars. Recently – and I don’t know how prevalent this is in the US – there has been a fashion in the UK for the chocolate fountain to appear at parties. It began with the big commercial ones, but soon smaller cheaper ones appeared in the shops and now everyone can have a chocolate fountain whirring away on the buffet table. I was at a party which featured one recently, and this did give me an opportunity to look at the instructions and find out exactly what is in the tempting looking dark gloop. I found that ordinary chocolate is too thick to run through the fountain, and it is recommended either that a special high fat variety of chocolate is used or – and this is what the home user is more likely to go for – ordinary chocolate can be melted in a pan with extra oil. Funny how the chocolate didn’t look so tempting any more. Good news, however - the chocolate fountain is always accompanied with things to dip in it, which should include fresh fruit. Ignore the exhortations of fellow diners to dip the fruit in the chocolate, and wear your most figure-hugging outfit. You can always nibble a square of the 100% when you get home.