I’m painfully aware of the amount of salt and sugar in processed food. Where possible, I cook from scratch. But some days, I just need something quick and easy. Tesco challenged me to cook a family favourite dish using their reduced salt and reduced sugar products. I wasn’t allowed to tell the family that anything was different until they had eaten it.
One dish that the girls always love is vegetarian meatballs with spaghetti. I know, vegetarian meatballs is such a contradiction. But nevertheless, I thought I’d try it with reduced salt and sugar.
We don’t usually have a starter with a family meal. But the girls can never quite make it from lunch to dinner without a snack of some description. Salad sticks and dips are always a favourite, so we decided to go for a healthier version of this. It’s easy to assume that salad is the healthy option, but it all depends on what you serve it with.
This was a really simple swap. Instead of buying dips, I just went for a light mayonnaise. This is a little lower in calories than our usual dips or mayonnaise. I cut up some carrot and cucumber sticks and put them into a glass. I put the mayonnaise into a little pot so that the girls could use it as a dip.
We usually drink water at mealtimes, but as a treat the girls like to have juice, squash or a smoothie. I don’t like the fact that there is so much sugar in children’s drinks. So we swapped to the Tesco pomegranate juice drink. This has less sugar than other juice drinks and Lia has been a bit hit and miss with pomegranate juice in the past so I wasn’t sure what she’d think.
The main meal
While our wholewheat spaghetti was cooking, I used a little bit of coconut oil to fry up some diced onions and peppers along with the vegetarian meatballs. I then added Tesco tomato and chilli pasta sauce, which is lower in salt than our usual pasta sauce. Then it was time for the taste test, would anyone notice the difference?
I cooked this meal on a day when everyone had gone out for the afternoon. So when they arrived home, it was ready and I just put it on the table. As soon as they walked into the house, my husband said how good dinner smelt. The salad and mayonnaise dip was a hit with the girls. They didn’t question what the dip was at all, just had a bit of a fight over who was going to get the pot closest to them, and they clearly enjoyed it.
The pomegranate juice was surprisingly successful. Libby always loves pomegranate juice but Lia doesn’t like it. However this lower sugar version was a real hit with both girls. I’ll definitely buy it again when we’ve got people coming round for dinner.
As for the main meal, this was a resounding success too. Nobody noticed the fact that it was reduced salt, and everyone commented on how tasty it was. I worried a little bit that the chilli might be too spicy for the girls but there were no complaints at all.