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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cheese anyone?

Who doesn’t like cheese? Cheese is one of those foods, like eggs, which has been completely banned on many a weight loss diet. We are happy to plug ourselves full of artificial sweetener and low fat snacks made with heaps of sugar but we get rid of the cheese? It doesn't really make any sense.

Like eggs, cheese is a food staple across a number of cultures, consumed by many in vast quantities without any apparent health consequences. The Italians like it aged and dry, the Greeks white and salty and the Scandinavian’s light but creamy. So is cheese really that bad for us?

For some foods, high fat does not necessarily mean a “bad” food. In fact, I find that the so called “low fat” cheeses are far less satisfying (as well as tasting like rubber), which leads people to actually eating more food in total! Cheese is a rich food, and yes high in fat but studies have shown that cheese does not increase blood cholesterol levels, which is quite possibly due to the fact that cheese is also a rich source of calcium, which may be acting to prevent that negative physiological response from dairy fat.

So which cheese should you choose? Generally, light (25% reduced fat) cheddar varieties taste as good as the full fat versions, with a little less fat but if you love nothing more than some Double Brie or Camembert, enjoy ~30g with some light wafer thin crackers a couple of times each week. My pick for day to day varieties is either Bega Vintage So Light (2 slices each day) OR Jarlsberg Light (Up to 4 slices each day) which act as a filling, protein rich addition to sandwiches, wraps and crackers.

The best cookbooks

A trip to any good bookshop in search of the latest cookbook will take you into the world of master chefs; Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Bill Granger, Donna Hay just to name a few; their colourful, visually appealing portrayals of modern day cooking must haves for any contemporary home cook. Put your hand up though, if you have one or all of these stunning cookbooks but have only cooked two, maybe three recipes out of them before they resumed their resting place in a kitchen cupboard or high shelf - where many good recipe books go?

Don’t get me wrong, I love these books just as much as the rest of you, and have the utmost appreciation for both fine dining and the success of these food artists but when I leaf through them to find a light meal I can whip up quickly after a long day at work I either do not have ALL the ingredients, or know it is too heavy for the average Tuesday night dinner.

While the modern chef continues to gain celebrity status in the UK, Australia and more recently US, many of them forget one significant factor; the majority of people cannot eat like this every day without gaining weight. The cream, butter, oil and carbohydrate loads of these recipes are way too high for the average mother of three living in the suburbs. This could not be truer in Australia, as we tend to need even lighter food than both the US and UK as most of our cities do not get the climatic shifts which include really cold temperatures each year (think-what did the aborigines eat to stay slim – protein and vegetables!).

And this is the reason that the CSIRO book has sold over a million copies in Australia. The CSIRO Well Being plan featured easy, visually appealing, contemporary recipes that families could eat every day. Once one of our chefs realize this, again we will have a best seller, that sits on the bench top, as opposed to gathering dusts on the high shelves that are hard to reach.