Helen is 41 and lives in Woking with her husband and two sons. Her weight has always fluctuated but, as she has got older she has found it more difficult to keep under control. She said,
‘My weight has fluctuated over the years and I think that’s probably like most mums having children and busy lives with work etcetera.’
But it’s the tea breaks that are Helen’s first downfall. She does have a bit of a sweet tooth with biscuits topping the charts as her favourite snack. She loves custard creams and bourbons. Mmmmmmm yum! She said,
‘I do have a very sweet tooth. When you get home from work and you’re feeling a bit tired, the first thing you go for is the biscuits, a mug of tea and a quick sit down in the front room in front of the telly for half an hour. But I also have a bit of a savoury tooth as well. Crisps, you know, nibbly bits if we have people round, if they nip in for a drink or something like that, you know, they’ll come out of the cupboard.’
She is 5’6” and weighs in at 13 stone.
Helen cooks pasta couple of times a week which she then turns into a chicken and pasta bake with pre-bought tomato sauces and cheese. She also cooks a homemade sausage casserole and uses the cheapest supermarket sausages in it because that’s what her boys like. Definitely some fuel there for Gizzi’s fire! Helen said,
‘My downfall is using jars and packet sauces. By the time I get in from work I’m tired, I’ve lost the interest to cook by that time and it’s easy.’
But the problem with processed sauces is that they are packed with sugar and salt! So bad news for the figure and the ticker! Gizzi said,
‘Nowadays so many of us think that we’re cooking from scratch when we throw together some fresh ingredients with a cook-in sauce or a sachet of this. The fact is guys, if you cook from scratch you will save calories.’
Gizzi Meets Helen
Gizzi arrived at Helen’s house to get to the bottom of her eating and cooking habits. Gizzi asked Helen to tell her a bit about her weight and how she had got to the position she’s in. Helen said,
‘I’ve hit, sort of, my forties and it’s been even more difficult to lose the weight and there is that old saying that once you hit forty it gets harder and, I’ve found it has really. My eating habits are quite bad and it’s all very quick and easy food and I tend to pick quite a bit in between as well, which doesn’t help.’
Gizzi said she really wanted to have a look in Helen’s kitchen because I want to see if there was any evidence that they needed to have a chat about.
What’s in Your Fridge?
So, they went off to the kitchen for Gizzi to have a rummage. In the first cupboard, Gizzi found a whole load of cook-in sauce jars and packets. Gizzi said,
‘Basically, every cook-in sauce known to man! And, oh my God, a packet of pasta. Cheese powder, delicious!’
The next stop was the fridge where Gizzi found some leftover sausage casserole. Where it was cold, there was really appetising fat all congealed over the top of it! Helen said,
‘It looks awful now you’ve opened it!’
Normally, Gizzi would try some at this stage but, she decided she wasn’t going to! The rest of the fridge was stocked with a variety of processed food and ready meals. There were lots of pizzas, each with 48 grams of fat! There were ready made quiches – 66 grams of fat in those! Sausage rolls – 16 grams of fat in one of those! Gizzi said,
Then they went on to what Helen described as the naughty cupboard. That was where Helen stashed all the biscuits and, when she eats four of the bourbons, she is consuming 12 grams of fat! Obviously, a good downfall dish for Gizzi to take on first. Gizzi said,
‘Helen is a typical working mum. She’s really busy, she doesn’t have that much time on her hands. I just want to show her how easy it is to be able to cook something from scratch. I know that will help her knock calories off.’
So under the Gizzi microscope first were Helen’s biccies. Gizzi asked Helen if she had ever heard of the Beacon Hill Cookie. Helen said she hadn’t. Gizzi went on to explain that they were an American invention and were made in the same way as a meringue. With the melted chocolate, hazelnuts and meringue, the whole thing looked lovely and it wasn’t even cooked yet.
The finished article looked very chocolately and shiny. The hazelnuts are full of protein so will help to keep you fuller for linger and, because Gizzi used dark chocolate, they give you a real chocolate hit that should keep you satisfied for a bit longer too.
Helen’s four bourbon fix comes in at 280 calories per portion.
Gizzi’s nutty, chocolatey Beacon Hill Cookies come in at 81 calories per cookie! And Helen reckoned one would be enough.
Helen got stuck in and said they were lovely. Success number one! Gizzi said she liked the fact that they are gooey in the middle. She said it makes them the ultimate in chocolate indulgence. Helen, between mouthfuls, agreed. Gizzi went on to say,
‘Because they’re so rich, could you handle more than one or two?’
‘I think one’s probably enough actually! They’re really rich.’
Move It . . . Just a Little Bit
In her younger days, Helen worked as Cabin Crew and so managed to keep her weight under control because she was always on the go. But since her feet have been back on the ground and she’s had children, she’s seen her weight creep up. Helen said,
‘I would like to get it down to 11, that was when I was at a nice equal weight. I wasn’t too skinny and I wasn’t too big and I felt really confident in my own skin.’
Helen’s friend Lisa said,
‘I think Helen’s happiest when she’s slimmer. I think, you know, going shopping, trying on clothes, I think, especially as you get slightly older and people look younger than you, that kind of affects you confidence as well so, I think you wanna look good. When you put on a bit of weight it’s harder.’
What hasn’t helped Helen is that she has recently gone back to a full time desk job so doesn’t get moving much during the day. Helen said,
‘I work really long days and by the time I get home I don’t feel like doing anything, I don’t feel like going out. I do walk the dog but, if I can avoid it, sometimes I’m a bit naughty and cry out of even doing that!’
Helen’s exercise option is right on her doorstep though. Where she works is just 25 minutes away through the leafy, Surrey countryside if she gets on her bike. Cycling is fab for the legs and thighs and it can increase cardio fitness by up to 25%. If she cycles to work and back, she could burn 400 calories, lose two stone in a year and it could fit into her daily routine. Perfect!
The Fat Buster
The dish that Gizzi wanted to look at next was Helen’s sausage casserole.
‘I’m not a very experimental cook. It’s more hearty food in a way. You know, the pasta dish, the rice dish, the potato dish. Problem is the same menu appears the next week as well.’
‘Her favourite sausage casserole. You know I just saw how covered in fat it was. I think she falls back on the old British traditions that little bit too comfortably. So my main concerns with her are to make her expand her culinary mind and experiment with different types of food, cos I know that way she’ll get out of her rut that she’s sort of stuck in. She is a traditionalist, will she like it?’
First though, there was a shock in store for Helen when Gizzi revealed the fat content of her sausage casserole. Helen said,
‘You’re going to really frighten me now aren’t you? Occasionally I look at the back of the sausages and then quickly take it from my mind!’
In one portion of Helen’s sausage casserole there is the same amount of fat as there is in 41 pieces of fudge! 41.2 grams of fat! That’s too much fatty fudge, even for Mrs Fudge!
Gizzi told Helen she was going to show her how to make one of her own favourite dishes - a Venison sausage casserole with lentils.
Venison sausages are a great low fat alternative to pork sausages and are readily available in most supermarkets. Tasty tip there.
While Gizzi was cooking all of the ingredients for the sausage casserole, she added in the lentils dry. Helen said,
‘I thought you had to soak lentils?’
‘Do you know, it’s kind of a common misconception. There are certain lentils you do need to soak. Puy lentils are awesome, you just don’t need to bother.’
You can also use green lentils as well, like Puy, they are a fat free alternative to Helen’s usual mash and can go straight into the pan too. With the stock, Gizzi doesn’t use stock cubes because they are high in salt but, shop bought stock is fine. And a couple of tips there! Gizzi said,
‘Most importantly, lentils and salt don’t go together. They do at the end, they need salt but at the cooking stage, if we put salt in they won’t cook and they stay hard.’ Good tip there too.
Helen’s fatty sausage casserole comes in at a massive 41.2 grams of fat per portion.
Gizzi’s low fat, Venison sausage and lentil casserole comes in at just 10.9 grams of fat per portion. Nearly four times less fat!
Helen was still a little dubious about the dish, mainly because of the lentils. But, then she sampled some and, success, she said the sausages were really good and the whole dish was really nice!
The final recipe for Gizzi to have a go at was Helen’s Chicken Pasta Bake. Helen said,
‘Pop it in the oven and it’s done. Half an hour and it’s on the table. I can’t imagine there’s anything in it that’s healthy but, unfortunately, it’s very convenient and that’s the route I go down.’
‘I want to show her just how easy it is to make a pasta dish from start to finish in, maybe, ten minutes flat! Literally, as long as it takes to cook that pasta she can have a dish on the table.’
First, Gizzi told Helen there were 783 calories per portion in her pasta bake. Helen was shocked. Gizzi told Helen she was going to show her a linguine dish from scratch that would take a maximum of fifteen minutes from start to finish and would be lower in calories.
Gizzi started cooking the pasta but didn’t add oil to the boiling water. Helen said she always did to stop it sticking but, Gizzi said it was a bit of an old wives tale and it wasn’t necessary. Good oil busting tip there and, another one coming up next.
Gizzi said that when you cook mushrooms they always seem to take a lot of oil but, if you cook them in a really hot pan, you don’t need as much. Out came the trusty oil pump and she spritzed the bottom of the pan. Gizzi also used courgettes in the recipe – they add bulk and moisture.
Gizzi said that she wasn’t going to be making a bake like Helen normally has because to cook a bake you need a lot of cheese and she wanted the dish to be low fat as well as low calorie. She asked Helen if she thought the family would be let down by that. Helen didn’t think they would.
The recipe did have crème fraiche and zero fat Greek yoghurt in the sauce to make it nice and creamy. Once mixed with the chicken and the mushrooms, it looked amazing!
Helen’s Chicken Pasta Bake from a jar comes in at a massive 783 calories per portion.
Gizzi’s Chicken, Courgette and Lemon Pasta Bake comes in at a deLITEful 596 calories per portion. That will save Helen 187 each time she has it!
Helen got stuck into the linguine dish and said it was really good. And it was cooked so quickly! She said,
‘That lemon in it makes it so fresh. A good summer dish.’
‘I hope I’ve showed you today how easy it is to make something from scratch, to not feel like you need the cook-in sauce or a packet mix or something to make flavour and, in fact, if you do things properly you’re gonna get ten times more flavour and save calories.’
‘And it’s quick and easy.’
Gizzi told Helen she had a couple of gifts for her. She gave her an oil pump of her own and a very fine grater so Helen can get more fresh flavours into her cooking.
Gizzi asked Helen if she had managed to stop her being a fan of cook-in sauces and packet mixes. Helen said she had. She said she was definitely going to steer clear of them from now on. Yay!
If Helen swaps her calorie and fat laden dishes for Gizzi’s new recipes and cycles to work and back every day, she could lose two stone in just six months!
Start cooking yourself thin today! Join from as little as £7.95 a month