Peas Pilau

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I’m still here, guys! Just took a mini half week hiatus to get some study done and catch up with some friends. Tonight I have a night in to do some reading and thought I would cook myself up a little vegetarian dish with some of the leftover bits and bobs I had in my freezer and pantry.

This recipe comes from the Kuruksheta region of India and I adapted it from the Fair Trade Cookbook. You can find the recipe here. I did find the dish to be a little bland but I resisted on adding salt because I’m trying to wean my tastebuds off it! *Daydreams of salted nuts* Oh, and for those who are interested, I have relaxed on my gluten-free diet. I’m eating gluten free 80% of the time and that’s enough to stop me from eating too many naughty biscuits and cakes πŸ˜›

To Juice or not to Juice?

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I know I’m a little late to get on this bandwagon but, how good is juicing?! A couple days ago, I was introduced to a juicer and I’ve been going mad pulverizing every kind of fruit and vegetable I can find. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how I can turn a whole apple, 3 carrots and a bunch of spinach into a small container of colourful liquid goodness, just like that! I feel like David Copperfield!

In my internet travels, I’ve read a whole lot of “don’ts” for juicing. Since when is making juice so complicated? I didn’t know there was any more to think about than throwing the food in the machine and drinking whatever comes out! But if you want to get the most out of your juice, there are apparently a few things you need to consider. Let’s see if we can separate some fact from fiction first.

1. Don’t drink juice with food – TRUE

When you take a tablet with food, the absorption of that drug is reduced as the tablet passes more slowly through the stomach and the surrounding acids destroy some of its effects. The same goes for drinking juice with food. So if you want to absorb all the nutrients from your juice, the best idea is to drink it separately from your meals, like first thing in the morning!

2. Don’t throw away the pulp – THIS DEPENDS!

When you juice fruit, the solid of the fruit becomes separated from the liquid. The solid is made up of fibres which are the undigestable components of food that pass through your bowel, keeping you “regular”. Fibre also keeps you full for longer. Anti-juicers would say juicing is not beneficial because you are throwing away the fibre, however, all the nutrients are contained in the juice and being in liquid form, are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Obviously it’s great to have fibre AND nutrients, but it’s still beneficial to drink only the juice if you want a quick vitamin/mineral hit. My advice is that juicing should not be a total substitute for eating whole fruits and vegetables, it should be a supplement to your current intake.

3. Don’t mix fruit with vegetables – FALSE

Well, in my opinion, this guideline lacks evidence. The reasoning behind not mixing fruit with vegetables seems to stem from the idea that whole fruit and vegetables are digested by different enzymes. Consequently, when you eat them at the same time, your gut goes a little crazy and has problems trying to digest both, leading to gas and bloating. Whether or not this actually occurs, it doesn’t seem relevant to juicing because juice does not require digestion. As explained above, juice is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and therefore that whole digestion process is removed. In my own experience, I have never had any gut issues drinking fruit and vegetable juice, even when drinking two glasses of juice day. But everyone is different – listen to your body and if something doesn’t make you feel good, experiment with different food combinations! I usually juice 1 fruit to 3 vegetables as a general ratio.

4. Don’t drink juice later – TRUE

When juice comes into contact with air, the nutrients and enzymes within the juice are gradually destroyed. Therefore it’s best to drink your juice immediately or pop it into an air-tight container to freeze. Nothing beats freshly squeezed juice though!

So there you have it! Whether you make juice, drink smoothies or simply eat the whole fruit or vegetable, they are all practical and delicious ways to incorporate more nutrition into your diet.

What’s the deal with sugar?

Well, hello Lover!(Chocolate Brownie by Kosal)

Well, hello Lover!(Chocolate Brownie by Kosal)

I truly admire those who have committed themselves to a sugar-free lifestyle, but for the rest of us who have taste buds that are still functioning like ordinary people, a bit of sweetness is a necessity. Just jokes guys, you sugar-free people are ordinary too…but maybe more like, EXTRAordinary!

Sugar has got a pretty bad rap, and for good reason. It’s nutritionally equivalent to eating a cardboard box. It provides no nutrients. But when it comes down to choosing between a cardboard box and a teaspoon of sugar for lunch, I’m pretty sure the sugar is going to win, and not just because it is an actual food source. LOL.

Sugar makes your mouth say “yay!”. It’s the difference between throwing your cereal in the bin and being so addicted to it that you eat it from the box without any milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner (guilty!). So yes, it can be a little dangerous. Especially because, unlike cardboard, it contains calories which, in excess, lead to weight gain and a variety of related health problems. Don’t even get me started on what it can do to your teeth! There’s a reason it’s “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and not a teaspoon of sugar. Yep, Mary Poppins knows her stuff. The value of sugar lies in its ability to increase the palatability of not just medicine, but anything!

While I do like to eat food that tastes good, I, like the rest of you, are probably interested in how we can reduce the negative health effects of sugar. Years ago, the variety of sugars on the market were pretty standard (white, brown, artificial sweeteners like Equal), however today there is much more on offer and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is the best to use. Let’s take a brief look at what sugars are currently on the market and if there really is any difference health-wise between the different types.

First of all, we can sort the sugars into three major categories: processed, artificial, natural.

Processed sugars are the refined sugars you see sold in bags or paper parcels such as white sugar, caster sugar or brown sugar. They have undergone some kind of chemical processing or refining and will have a medium GI rating (65), i.e. these sugars will cause a moderate rise in blood sugar levels and are quickly digested. The exception is with the sugar alcohols which have almost no effect on blood sugar, therefore have GI ratings of 12 or less.

Other types: Demerara or Turbinado sugar (partially refined), Sucanat (sugar cane), Stevia, “raw” sugar, Xylitol & Sorbitol (sugar alcohols).

Artificial sweeteners are chemical compounds sold in little sachets, in boxes or tablet forms and include brands such as Equal & Splenda. The reason they are so small in volume is due to the fact that artificial sweeteners are sometimes over 100 times sweeter than regular sugar, so less of it is needed to recreate the same amount of sweetness. They have no effect on blood sugar levels and are therefore useful for diabetes sufferers, as well as very low in calories.

Other types: Sweet N Low, Nutrasweet, Sugarine.

Natural sugars are those that are derived from natural sources and have undergone no processing, such as raw honey, maple syrup or agave. They generally have a medium to low GI rating (54 or less).

Other types: Palm sugar, rapadura sugar, coconut sugar.

Now I’m not going to go into every type of sugar and tell you what it’s good for or if it’s not good at all. The general idea here is that the more processed a sugar is, the more it will cause blood sugar levels to rise (which is not cool for people with Diabetes) and also means there are greater amounts of nasty chemicals involved. Therefore, naturally (no pun intended), it would be logical to choose a sugar that is less processed.

However, before you throw all of the white sugar out of your house, keep this in mind:

  • Processed sugars have a medium GI rating, not high. In fact, wholemeal bread has a HIGHER GI than sugar. So if all you’re worried about is your blood sugar, you’d be better off worrying about how much bread you’re eating, rather than how much sugar you’re eating. Especially since the amount of bread people eat daily is much greater than the amount of sugar they consume (you would hope!).
  • Natural sugars do have nutrients, as opposed to processed sugars, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much as opposed to eating other nutrient-rich foods. It’s still a better alternative to processed sugars, but it’s not going to make a huge difference in your overall nutrition. You should make sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables if nutrients are your concern.
  • Stevia, although being touted as all-natural, IS processed. That is, unless you are using the leaves or have found a 100% natural source of it on the shelves. Always check the labels! However, I still rate it as a good sugar because it is low in GI and calories. And the Japanese have used it for centuries – you know it’s good if the Japanese use it!
  • The sugar alcohols like Xylitol can have some nasty side effects with overconsumption, such as diarrhoea. I don’t know about you, but any product which lists “laxative effect” as a warning isn’t getting my vote.

My conclusion is: as Mary Poppins so melodically recognised, “sugar helps the medicine go down” – its main use is for palatability, not nutrition. So when it comes to choosing which sugar to use, make your decision based on which flavour you prefer but also, it’s always a good idea to choose natural forms of sugar because you can avoid all the added chemicals. And look at what you are adding the sugar to – adding a couple of teaspoons of sugar to your oatmeal is very different to adding the same amount to a batch of chocolate chip muffins. If weight control is your concern, then artificial sweeteners may be a good choice in the short term. Essentially, if you are consuming sugar in limited to moderate amounts and combining it with other nutritious foods, you can avoid any health repercussions and still lead a sweet existence!

What do you all think?

Dietitian or Nutritionist: What’s the Difference?

People ask me all the time, “Are you a Dietitian or a Nutritionist?” So I’m going to explain how these terms differ and why I choose to work as a nutritionist.

In short, dietitians can work in all areas of nutrition such as private practice, the clinical setting (hospitals) or community and public health. Nutritionists are not qualified to work in a clinical setting and this is because nutrition degrees do not put students through clinical placements over a fourth year. They are generally three-year courses with a large foundation in science, some nutrition, and no placements/experience in real-life settings. Dietitians have the added benefit of more practical experience within the last half of their degree as well as more in depth education of nutrition.

Those who work within the community or public health setting will generally be called ‘nutritionists’, even if they have graduated from a dietetics course. So a dietitian can be a nutritionist, but not vice versa.

One necessity to being a dietitian in Australia, or anywhere in the world, is that you must adhere to the national guidelines. For Australia, these guidelines are called “The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating” and may be better known as the outdated “food pyramid”. Within the guide, there are suggestions for how many serves of each food group should be eaten. In general, the guide is based on a moderate to high carbohydrate, low fat diet. As a dietitian, this is the guide that is used to create food plans for the average client. Any registered dietitian who gives dietary advice that strays from these national guidelines (e.g. low carb diet, intermittent fasting, wheat-free diet) will be removed from the Dietetics Association of Australia and be shamed nation-wide on their website. This gives you an idea of how restricted dietitians are in their advice, even if the advice is nutritionally adequate and achieves results. As a nutritionist, you are not bound by the guidelines and therefore are free to explore many different kinds of holistic approaches to health.

In my case, I am originally a dietetics student who has opted out of the clinical portion of the degree to focus on public health and social aspects of nutrition. This means that up until this point, I have been taught the skills of a dietitian, including being involved in various clinical work placements and nutrition counselling, which a ‘regular’ nutrition student would not have been able to do. Β The difference is, my final year will be focussed on my own nutrition research in a topic of my interest, as a substitute for the clinical work I would have done originally.

Some people wonder why I didn’t choose to continue with the clinical year of my degree and it comes down to where I see myself working in the future. Before I applied for the dietetics degree, I admit, I didn’t know much about the job or what I would be learning. I envisioned working in my own practice, giving people advice on how to lose weight and eat right. But as I worked my way through the degree, my ideas about nutrition changed and I saw myself wanting to create a bigger difference than simply telling people how to lose weight. I didn’t know what is was called then, but I later found out that the area I saw myself working in was called “community health”. This area has a primary health care approach, that is, the nutritionists who work within this field aim to make changes on a community or large population level. Not only that, they aim to educate people to make positive changes whichΒ preventΒ disease rather than treat them after they are already obese or sick (this is referred to as secondary or tertiary health care, given by dietitians, nurses and doctors within a clinical setting).

For me, it is a goal to reduce the amount of people who need secondary or tertiary health care and focus on how we can increase awareness about good nutrition, therefore preventing sickness before it occurs. That’s why I opted out of the clinical portion of my degree; I wanted to focus on public health because I think primary care is what will make the most powerful difference in the future of our health rather than more energy (and money) into the treatment of disease. On top of that, I think as a nutritionist you have more freedom to explore various approaches to nutrition rather than adhering to one set of guidelines. I believe this is really important in order to keep abreast of new information, especially since nutrition and food research is constantly evolving and making new discoveries.

If you’re looking to study nutrition, hopefully this post has given you more of an insight into being employed as a dietitian or nutritionist! It’s all up to personal preference and once you get into a dietetics course, it will be easier to get an idea of what you enjoy.

Gluten Free Cheeseburgers & Sweet Potato Chips

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This recipe is my attempt at emulating the cheeseburgers from a local joint called Nordburger that specialise in American style fast food. Β Just because I don’t eat gluten anymore, doesn’t mean I should have to give up cheeseburgers, right? It’s true, this isn’t one of my healthiest recipes in terms of fat and salt content, but if you have the urge to eat a burger, it’s certainly better for you than what they serve at Maccas, and you can control the amount of fat and salt you use.

Gluten Free Cheeseburgers & Sweet Potato Chips (serves 2 or 3)

Ingredients for Burger

300g good quality beef mince

1/2 onion, diced

1 or 2 dill pickles (from the jar)

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp cornflour

1 tsp dried italian herbs

Salt & Pepper

1/2 tbsp olive oil & some extra for frying

Ingredients for burger toppings

2 slices of cheddar cheese

1 rasher of bacon (optional)

Ketchup

American Mustard

2 large gluten free bread rolls (or 3 small)

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Chips

1 large sweet potato

Salt & Pepper

Olive oil

Method

    1. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
    2. Prepare the chips: scrub the skin of the sweet potato thoroughly then slice thinly into rounds.
    3. Put a sheet of baking paper on a tray and spread the rounds all over until covered. It is ok if they overlap because when they cook, they will shrink and create more space.
    4. Spray or drizzle olive oil over the sweet potato rounds and season with cracked salt and pepper.
    5. Place in the oven and bake until crispy and brown on one side. Keep an eye on them and flip the chips with a spatula so the other side of the chips can brown.
    6. While the chips bake, prepare the burger patties: add oil and butter to a medium size pan on medium heat. Add onion and fry until soft.
    7. Add dijon mustard and fry for a couple more minutes. Take the onion mixture and place in a small bowl to cool.
    8. Once cooled, add the mixture to the beef mince and combine with hands. Add herbs, salt and pepper & further combine. Do not overmix or the patty will become tough.
    9. Add cornflour and combine then shape into 2 large patties or 3 small patties.
    10. Heat oil in a medium frypan, cook patties for a couple minutes on one side. Flip pattie and add a slice of cheese. Cook for a further couple of minutes. Let the burgers rest for 5 minutes while you prepare the bun and burger toppings. If you want bacon for the burgers, now is the time to cook it!
    11. Slice burger buns in half and toast in oven until golden brown.
    12. While the buns toast, slice a couple of pickles for the topping.
    13. Assemble the burgers: burger patty with cheese, pickles, sauce and ketchup, with sweet potato chips on the side. Enjoy!

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Banana Maca Maple Pancakes (more pancakes, why not!)

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So yes, I’m back on the gluten free experiment after falling off the wagon at the end of last week but I’m happy to say, I’m here to stay! I definitely feel a lot better when I’m not eating any wheat so that’s enough for me to continue. I’ve been trying out different gluten-free type foods like breads, flours and pastas but I must admit, the breads and pastas just don’t cut it for me so I think I’ll give them up altogether.

Anyhoo! Here’s a very quick and easy breakfast idea for all of us experiencing the dreaded Winter at the moment. It’s warm, filling and just downright tasty! Oh, and did I mention it’s full of Vitamin C, Potassium, good fats, protein, carbs…pretty much everything you ever needed in a nutritious meal!

Banana Maca Maple Pancakes (serves a hungry 1)

Ingredients

1 small banana

1/2 cup gluten free flour

1 tbsp maca powder

1/2 cup dairy free milk (I used almond)

1 small egg

2 tbsp organic vanilla yoghurt (I used five:am yoghurt in Vanilla Bean)

Ground almonds (not the flour, just ground up coarsely)

Maple Syrup

 

Method

  1. Place flour, maca powder, egg and milk into a bowl and whisk for 30 secs – 1 minute until smooth.
  2. Pour all the batter into a small/medium non stick pan on medium heat and flip the pancake when light golden brown.
  3. Serve up with sliced banana, yoghurt, maple syrup and a sprinkling of ground almonds. Delish!