Pasta Cooking TIp

When your pasta is just cooked, throw a cup of cold water into the pasta pot to bring the temperature down - it will stop your pasta from over-cooking. Drain the pasta and use immediately.

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How to diet and eat great food

Why does starting a healthy regime mean missing out on treats? There's wisdom in the adage 'A little of everything does you good'.

Dieting is a frame of mind. When you cut down, it doesn't mean you shouldn't eat well. Quite the opposite – now you have the time to market and cook and to savour every bite.

Buy the best of everything
You're going to have more money if you're not drinking and forgoeing takeaways. If you are reducing your food intake then you need to enjoy what you eat and drink even more. Organic vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, the best coffee, eat a square or two of Valrhona chocolate instead of a bar of dairy milk, cook a piece of organic chicken – prepare it with care on the days when you have time and have it with a salad made of rocket leaves, rather than a flabby green lettuce. Take this time to re-educate the way you cook and how you view food, rather than to resort to some colourless pink powder that passes for food.

Eat lots of salads and vegetables

Eat a green salad salad before your dinner. Don't skimp on the dressing – you need to taste something! Make it with organic leaves and balsamic vinegar which has more flavour, and add herbs like coriander, basil or thyme. Good strong flavours so you don't feel that you have lost out. Alternatively, eat a portion of vegetables with dressing: steamed mange toute, green beans or spinach. Or eat them raw, spinach salad is delightful, as is grated carrot with a light sprinkling of nuts and a sprinking of lemon juice.

Skip the bread
The minute the bread comes onto the table in a restaurant, ask them to take it away (politely of course!).  Don't buy bread, don't have it in the house or anywhere near you. If you do want to eat bread, buy spelt or another wholegrain wholewheat bread. It's much heavier in your system, and it doesn't have the 'loveability' factory that soft white bread has, so you will eat less of it.

Eat soup
– Research by a UK university showed that if you blend your food with water (eg make a soup), then eat it, it will keep you fuller for longer than if you had eaten the food on its own with a glass of water. This is because the stomach swells out to accommodate the larger volume of blended fluid and solid and you feel less hungry for longer.
– When you come home from work, heat up a tin of low calorie soup and drink it. It will fill you up and you won't be tempted to eat a bag of crisps or call the takeaway. If you have time, make a chunky soup with meat and pulses and beans the day before and have it ready in the fridge to reheat. This will curb your hunger pangs and you will eat less dinner.
– Add tinned cannellini or butter beans to turn it into a meal in itself (but don't eat bread with it).

Drink lots
... of water. Drink 2 glasses of water about half an hour before you eat. It will fill you up and stop the cravings.
– Don't bring wine or alcohol into the house – if you have to go out in the cold to get it, you're more likely not to bother. Whatever you save goes towards an extra special bottle to drink at the weekend.
– Drink half litres of water during the day, straight from the bottle, and refill it when you have finished. Before you know it, you will be able to drink three in no time and you will be thirsty if you don't. You will also feel very full most of the time.

Throw away the takeaway menus
You can always get more. Buy tins of soups, beans and stock up on low-fat meals that you can cook quickly when you get home. This is the danger time for ordering a takeaway. And it's not quick – it takes less time to cook pasta than it does to order a takeaway. If you do treat yourself, order boiled rice, a starter and a side order of bean sprouts (but no main course). Or just get rice and curry sauce and bean sprouts.

Last but not least...
– When you are cooking, steam, boil, poach or grill your food.
– Don't fry – put the frying pan in a plastic bag and hide it under the bed.
– Skin chicken, cut the fat off meat, leave out the sauces and when you are eating out, ask that the sauce be omitted in restaurants.
– Replace chips with a baked potato or salad.
– Use chopsticks when you can – it delays the amount of food you can get into your mouth, and you have to think about every bite. It also means you can eat and enjoy low-calorie rice dishes which lend themselves to chopsticks.

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