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M (and m and m and m and m...)

In case you haven't guess we're all things M this week; meat, milk, mango and mint - a solid combo of talking points for our blog. So let's get started.

Meat

It seems you're either a lover or a hater. There doesn't seem to be much in between these days.

In one camp, there are those who have cut it out completely - for health or environmental reasons or simply because of not liking the thought of what happens to an animal and then those who sit in another camp who can't even fathom the thought of a meat-free Monday once a week. The classic meat and two-veg stereotype we've come to know.


Should I be eating meat?

It can be a sensitive subject but I don't think it should be - we've eaten meat for thousands of years - and there are huge benefits to eating so - so I'll share those with you below.


In aid of a balanced diet, meat can play an important role when it comes to offering protein. Chicken, pork, beef, lamb are all good sources of meat protein.


Red meat provides us with a good source of iron and also meat is a main source of vitamin B12. Eating too much red meat however has been known to be linked to an increase in your potential risk of bowel cancer.


What is the daily recommended intake of meat?

The recommended intake of meat is 70g (cooked weight) per day. It is important to ensure the meat you consume isn't highly processed or high in saturated fat. To help reduce the risk of heart disease, The British Heart Foundation recommend to eat leaner meat as meat can be a major source of saturated fat which is linked to bad-cholesterol. Meat's high in saturated fat tend to be red meats such as beef, lamb, whereas white meats like turkey and chicken tend to be lower in fat.


It's important when eating meat to ensure you have enough space on your plate for other foods that have huge health benefits like fruits and veggies, beans, pluses etc. To lower your saturated fat intake you can swap some of your meat in your diet for veggie alternatives which will help benefit by adding extra dietary fibre and other benefits.


Quick eats: Fridge raid bolognaise

When it comes to bolognaise, I always think there is nothing quite as comforting as that rich tomatoey sauce, delicately encasing veggies, and meat and anything else you seem fit to pile in to the pan.

It can be used in a classic spag bol, spiced up to give it an extra kick and turned in to a warming chilli to pile onto a crispy jacket potato, used in the middle of enchiladas, lasagne, or simply eaten out of the bowl as it is!!


When it comes to making a bolognaise - I genuinely don't think it can go wrong.

I also think it is a great dish to use up all of those measly bits of left-over veggies or veggies which look like they're wilted and almost past their best - added to a bolognaise can give them a whole new lease of life! Celery, carrots, courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, aubergine, fresh tomatoes that are looking more wrinkly than a shar pei puppy! Anything you've got - you can throw it in - especially if it would otherwise go in the bin!


Ingredients: Make this classic recipe - and make it yours by adding the additions your fridge has hiding.

Start with minced beef, onions, garlic, carrots, chopped tomatoes, stock, fresh or dried herbs and go from there.

You can always substitute the beef for pork or even turkey mince too.


When it comes to the sauce try adding some red wine, Worcestershire sauce, marmite, tomato paste - all rich flavours that will pump up that mouth appeal of your bolognaise.

My advice is always to add a little and then see how it tastes, and add more if necessary.


Use this simple method from BBC Food - and pimp it with anything you have in your fridge.



Milk

Following on from last weeks post which included lactose intolerance, this week we'll talk about milk.

Milk in it's true sense in terms of the stuff we in the milk section at the supermarket, mainly comes from cows and there is a small goat milk market too.


But in recent years there has been a huge growth in milk-alternatives such as oat milk, soya milk, almond milk, coconut milk - the list goes on.


There are many benefits to keeping cows milk in your diet and it has certainly been in diets for thousands of years - but of course if you chose to eliminate it, for ethical or environmental reasons there are many alternatives which can make delicious substitutes so you can still have your coffee or tea fix!


Benefits of drinking or including milk in your diet

Cows milk is important for young children as the fat in milk provides calories and also essential vitamins.


Milk is a good source of protein - and if you are after a quick, well-balanced, nutrient dense snack, a glass of milk can be a good option, even post workout.


Strong bones and teeth

Calcium is an important mineral, essential for development of strong bones and teeth - therefore it forms an important part of our daily diet. It is especially important in early years and adolescence when children do a lot of their growing.


It also becomes hugely important as you age and as bone density decreases. Milk is often recommended as a great way to help prevent osteoporosis.


Daily consumption of milk has shown to have reduced the progression of osteoarthritis or joint inflammation in the knees of women.


However the fat content can vary a lot in products and a lot of the fat found in milk is saturated fat. For older children and adults who are not overly active, the excess energy intake has the potential to lead to becoming overweight. So as you get older it might be worth swapping to lower fat versions like semi-skimmed or skimmed milk to help lower the saturated fat consumption.


Dairy when pregnant

There are benefits to eating diary products when pregnant as dairy products are good sources of calcium which is important to help your unborn baby's bones develop properly.


However there are some dairy products which you should avoid when pregnant as they may make you ill or harm your baby. Be sure to understand what these are and take the relevant precautions if you are pregnant.


To find out more you can head to the NHS website and read about milk and dairy consumption here.


Milk alternatives


There are an infinite variety of milk alternatives available on the market - and just to say you can drink milk doesn't mean you can't also every now and again enjoy a milk-free alternative.


Those who drink dairy-free alternatives tend to do it either as a result of lactose intolerance or for environmental reasons.

However - for those who are lactose intolerant there are not lactose-free dairy alternatives.


Here is a list of the most common dairy-free alternatives and what they bring to the glass.


In general, they tend to have fewer calories and be lower in fat (except for coconut-based milk).

They tend to have a higher water content and be lower in protein. Some also come with added minerals and vitamins.

They each tend to have a different taste and texture and come on the whole from plant-based sources like nuts, seeds and grains.


You can get oat, soya, coconut, hemp, hazelnut, cashew nut, almond to name just a few. It's also important to look at the ingredient list when purchasing - as a lot of dairy-free alternatives contain stabilisers and thickeners in additional to the main ingredients.


An article by the BBC looked at the difference between both dairy and dairy-free alternatives and suggested it's important to note that dairy milk has a huge number of nutritional benefits which are gained from consuming it - so it is important to note that any alternative needs research to make sure that you are not missing out on the nutritional benefits that would otherwise be gained from drinking it as they are not direct replacements.


Are dairy-free milk alternatives suitable for children?

For young children - the NHS recommends that children between the ages of one and three consume 350mgs of calcium a day. This can be obtained from drinking just over half a pint of milk and is recommended for healthy bone development.

The NHS states that both milk and dairy products are important to include in a young child's diet as they offer such a good source of energy and protein as well as many vitamins and minerals which all work to keep children's bones and teeth healthy.



Mango

This delicious, bright yellow, sweet, tropical nectar of a fruit is one of the most widely consumed fruits across the world and is known as 'king of fruits'.


As well as being delicious they have the benefit of being very nutritious but with them being a fruit and containing a lot of sugar eating it in moderation is also important.


They make a great substitute when you are craving something sweet as they are a much healthier alternative to junk food or an unhealthy snack. And generally whole foods are much more satisfying with a whole host more health benefits.


Nutritional benefits of eating mango

Mangoes are a great source of Vitamin A.


Quick Hacks: How to easily cut a mango

These are two of the easiest and simplest ways to easily peel and cut a mango.

Just make sure you always watch your fingers!

Watch the video on how to cut and peel a mango here.



Mint

I certainly think mint is an incredibly useful and underrated herb! A bunch of fresh mint has the most heady scent and can be added to so many dishes and even drinks to give an added dimension.

It has very soothing properties and can be great for aiding digestion; whether soothing an upset tummy or relieving indigestions.


Below are a couple of my favourite mint 'additions'


Quick Eats: Fresh mint tea

This is one of the most delicious and thirst quenching drinks. Delicious last thing at night or to wake-up your morning.

Boil the kettle - get a sprig of fresh mint - place it in the palm of your hand then clap your hands together (crushing the mint in between your hands - this helps to release the oils).

Place the mint in a mug and pour over the boiling water.

Leave to brew for 3-5 mins before drinking.


Quick Eats: Watermelon, mint and feta salad

This is one of my favourite salads and is perfect as we come in to the warmer months!


Depending on how many people you want to feed - take half a watermelon and cut it up in to rough pieces (cube-ish shaped)


Put in a serving dish, and take half a lime and squeeze over the watermelon.


Then break up some feta cheese, scatter over the top and tear up some fresh mint leaves, again scattering over the dish.


Sprinkle with some salt, pepper, maybe a touch of honey and serve...

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