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October 4, 2017

Dinner Inspiration – One Pan Chicken and Vegetables

It’s day three of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Each day I’ve promised to bring you a recipe focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).

I love food and I love cooking but I’m also a busy mum with a couple of jobs, and a husband,  two children and a dog to look after! So most meals I prepare are simple. I love dishes I can make in one pan or one pot or the slow cooker.

The third meal I’m sharing is the one of the easiest I make – Chicken and Vegetables roasted  in one oven dish! It takes a few minutes to prepare and then while it’s cooking you can relax, help with homework or go for a walk!

I’ve suggested vegetables but again you can use whatever vegetables you love or are in season.

One Pan Chicken and Vegetables

8 free range/grass fed chicken drumsticks (you could also use Marylands or thighs)

4 potatoes, washed and cut in half or quarters

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into quarters

2 carrots, washed and chopped into quarters

2 zucchinis, washed and chopped into quarters

2 red onions, peeled and chopped into quarters

¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh or dried thyme

Salt and pepper
Salad or greens (eg beans, asparagus) to steam

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Combine chopped vegetables, chicken, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in large bowl and toss to combine. Line an oven dish with baking paper and then add chicken and veggies. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and place in oven for 45 min to 60 mins until cooked. Serve with a salad or steamed greens of your choice.

SERVES 4 Gluten free|Dairy free

October 3, 2017

Dinner Inspiration – Spicy Potato, Vegetable and Chickpea Hash

It’s day two of of my seven day dinner inspiration to help you get back into the routine of cooking for the family after the school holidays. Each day I’ve promised to bring you a recipe focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).

The second recipe is my version of Spicy Potatoes, Vegetable and Chickpea Hash, which is a common meal in the Mediterranean cuisines. It’s cheap, nutrient dense and a great way to boost your vegetable intake.

This is a one pot dish and will take you 10 mins to prepare and 20 to 30 mins to cook. Chickpeas provide protein and fibre, vegetables provide carbohydrates (and loads of vitamins and minerals) and olive oil provides the healthy fats. I’ve suggested vegetables here but really you can add any vegetables, just choose the ones you and your family love.

Spicy Potatoes, Vegetable and Chickpea Hash

¼ cup olive oil

4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly

1 red onion or 5 shallots

1 tbs of grated fresh ginger

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp salt

1 can of organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 zucchini, washed and diced

500 grams cauliflower, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces

2 cups of chopped greens (eg spinach, kale, parsley, coriander, bok choy)

4 eggs (optional, if you want to boost protein)

Heat half olive oil in large frying pan/skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions and saute for a couple of minutes. Add ginger, spices, salt, zucchini and cauliflower, and stir occasionally. You may need to add more of the olive oil now to prevent sticking to pan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas and chopped greens and cook for another 5 minutes. The dish is ready when potatoes are crisp and cooked. If you want to boost the protein add eggs now or fry eggs in separate pan.

SERVES 4 Gluten free|Vegetarian|Dairy free

October 2, 2017

Back-to-school dinner inspiration

So the school holidays are over (in Queensland anyway) which, for many of us, means getting back into the routines of preparing and cooking school lunches and dinners for the whole family.  I was inspired by my friend Emma to share some dinner recipes to make it easier to get back into routine. I’m going to share a recipe each day for the next 7 days focusing on simplicity, taste and nutrition (of course!).

The first recipe is what I’m calling Coconut Chicken Meatballs with Brown Rice Noodles and Salad. This will take you less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. It’s perfectly balanced with chicken providing the protein, brown rice noodles and salad providing carbohydrates and avocado providing healthy fats.

Coconut Chicken Meatballs with Brown Rice Noodles and Salad

Ingredients

Salad

Your choice of lettuce, washed and chopped

1 punnet cherry tomatoes, washed

1 cucumber, washed and sliced

100 grams snow peas, washed and sliced

1 avocado sliced
Brown rice noodles (200g packet, eg Nutritionist Choice brand)

Meatballs

coconut oil, butter or ghee, for frying

500 g organic free range chicken mince

1 carrot, grated

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1 egg

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

handful coriander or flat leaf parsley leaves, to taste

For meat balls, put all ingredients (except the oil) in the food processor and blend until smooth. Using your hands, form small balls (smaller balls cook quicker). Heat several tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot enough that a meatball sizzles as soon as it hits the pan, put the meatballs in. Cook for 2 minutes, then roll the meatballs over and cook 5 minutes more. Put a lid on the pan and cooking for another 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare salad and and cook brown rice noodles per instructions (usually only for a couple of minutes). Serve meatballs with noodles, salad and a wedge of lime and soy sauce for dressing. SERVES 4

September 27, 2017

Calcium: an essential nutrient for all stages of life

I’m putting the spotlight on calcium in my blog today for a couple of reasons. Calcium is an essential nutrient in all stages of life, and while it is essential for bone health it is also very important for our heart, nervous system and muscles to function properly.

However, many people are not getting enough calcium on a daily basis mostly because they have removed or restricted dairy, and/or are not eating a varied diet. Reasons for removing or restricting dairy include medical and health reasons (eg lactose intolerance, FODMAPs issues, IBS) as well as ethical reasons. Dairy has been the major source of calcium in the Western diet so when dairy is removed from the diet calcium intake will be significantly reduced.

Our bodies don’t make calcium so we need to consume it through our food on a daily basis to make sure our bodies have adequate supply. For example, if you don’t have an adequate supply your body starts to remove calcium from your bone stores, and if you don’t replenish these stores bone health is at risk with bones becoming weak and brittle.

The good news is that dairy is just one source of calcium and there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods available to most people. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, like collard greens and kale, beans, nuts and seeds, dried fruit and fish with edible bones.

Knowing how much calcium you need is also important. The amount required varies based on your age, gender and life stage. For example adult men and women (18+ years) require 1000 mg calcium per day; while women over 50 years and men over 70 years require 1300 mg calcium per day. Teenagers also need 1300 mg calcium per day and children require less calcium than adults but still require daily intake.

With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to make sure you get enough calcium each day.

Here’s a nourishing and nutritious smoothie recipe to boost your intake. The tahini, almonds and dates in this recipe provide approximately 400 mg of calcium in just one glass!

Banana, tahini and date smoothie

3 medjool dates (50g), pitted

½ cup boiling water

40 g tahini (generous 2 tbs)

500 ml of unsweetened almond milk

1 banana

¼ cup of almonds (preferably soaked for a few hours)

5 ice cubes

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract
Place dates in heatproof bowl and pour in boiling water to soften (about 15 minutes). Place dates, soaking water, tahini, almonds, almond milk, banana, maple syrup, vanilla and ice cubes in a blender and blend until smooth. Put into two tall glasses and enjoy! SERVES 2.

August 29, 2017

A tablespoon of raw honey a day may just keep the doctor away

Recently I was driving and listening to ABC Radio (which happens to be my main source of news, current affairs and popular culture these days) when I heard an interview with Science broadcaster Robyn Williams and Australian researcher Nural Cokcetin about her research into the benefits of Australian raw honey on gut health.

I was so excited – an interview on a topic combining two of my passions – gut health and food as medicine.

Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and more recently there has been a lot of research identifying why honey is thought to be medicinal and what makes it so. New Zealand’s Manuka Honey has been well researched for its unique benefits and now we are starting to see research on the properties of Australian honey as well as clinical trials delving more into some of the potential medical uses.

In Nural Cokcetin’s research she tested 25 Australian honeys to see if there was any science behind the popular theory that honey could help digestive issues.

She wanted to see if the complex sugars in honey acted like other prebiotics in the gut so she tested honeys first in an artificial gut she built, and then in a clinical study with 50 volunteers. She found that all the honeys boosted populations of beneficial bacteria and altered harmful bacteria to produce protective compounds.

These changes were achieved with just 20 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of honey consumed daily.

This is great news as many people are suffering from conditions directly or indirectly related to gut health. A simple food as medicine intervention like this could help to make a difference.

This research builds on other clinical studies showing that honey can help heal intestinal inflammation, be effective against resistant Staph infections, and improve wound healing, sore throats, gingivitis and periodontal disease to name a few.

When buying honey to supplement your diet as a health food, you need to look for a quality honey, preferably local and one that is raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. Many honeys today are processed which means they have been heated and filtered since being gathered from the hive. Raw honey retains it nutritional value and medicinal properties whereas a processed honey loses all of those benefits.

A raw unfiltered and unpasteurized honey is generally a rich source of: amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

Some honeys, like Manuka honey from New Zealand, have been studied for their medicinal properties. Manuka, for instance, has significantly higher levels of enzymes than regular honey and it is these enzymes that give Manuka honey it’s potent antibacterial effects. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is the global standard for identifying and measuring the antibacterial strength of Manuka honey which means the UMF identifies the honey as being genuine and of medicinal quality. Look for a minimum UMF of 10+  if you are looking for antibacterial activity.

Your local farmers’ markets are likely to sell local raw honey for sale, as will health stores or you could cultivate and harvest your own! This gorgeous photo is from my friend Shannon Garson’s first harvest from her backyard beehive!

Don’t forget that honey is essentially a sugar so while eating it in moderation for health benefits gets a big tick, eating large quantities will be pushing up your daily sugar intake.

If you need help addressing your health concerns with a tailored, holistic approach or would like some advice on how to eat for health,  please give me a call to book a consultation soon.

May 30, 2017

Food wisdom, stewed apple and gut health

Using food as medicine is something I am passionate about and I was reminded this week by a friend just how many of our food traditions are “medicinal foods” and how intuitive our ancestors were with food.

Before the industrialisation or commercialisation of food became the norm, our society was a lot more connected to food through practices of storing and prolonging the life of the food, or passing down accumulated wisdom about foods and health or healing.

To stop foods from spoiling and give them a longer “shelf life”, milk (from cows, goats and sheep) was cultured into yoghurt or buttermilk while vegetables and fruits were fermented or preserved in different ways. These food practices created natural probiotics (or live bacteria) and by consuming them regularly people were looking after their gut health without understanding the health benefits and science behind the practice.

My friend mentioned she’d made stewed apple and I remembered how this was offered to me by my mother and grandmother at times when I was unwell or recovering from illness. This is another example of food wisdom passed down through generations and is a fantastic example of how our ancestors used food as medicine.

Apples have some extraordinary health benefits and when you look into what we know about the nutrients and medicinal compounds contained in apples, it makes perfect sense that we would use this food in times of illness and digestive upset.

Apples are high in fibre – over 4 grams in one apple – and a diet high in fibre helps to decreases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. Fibre plays a role in helping our gastrointestinal environment stay healthy by providing food for our friendly gut bacteria, helping modulate the different species and keeping a healthy balance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria, and improving our stools.

Pectin, the soluble fibre found in apples, regulates the body’s use of sugars, helps keep you regular and also helps with the elimination of toxins and cholesterol.

Apples also contain compounds called antioxidants, like quercetin and catechin, that help to prevent oxidative stress in the body which can over time damage cells and DNA. Apples also provide anti-inflammatory benefits with the polyphenols they contain protecting our gastrointestinal wall from inflammatory damage.

Raw and fresh is an excellent way to consume apples but you can also make delicious stewed apple and enjoy it as part of your diet or as a “medicinal food”. Have a couple of tablespoons daily if you need to boost your immune system, relieve digestive symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain and bloating or if you’d like to keep your gut health in top shape!

(Please note some people are allergic to apples, or may be sensitive to the fermentable sugars – FODMAPs – contained in apples and some other fruits and vegetables. It’s important to seek help from a qualified practitioner if you think you have food sensitivities and get some help working out the cause of your symptoms.)

Stewed Apple Recipe

Ingredients

6 cooking apples (Choose organic apples such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious. I buy organic juicing apples as they are cheaper.)
1/2 cup water (or more)
2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

Wash, peel and core the apples.  Take two of the peels, chop into pieces and add to saucepan (the peel is high in soluble fibre pectin). Chop the apples into small evenly sized pieces. Add the apple, water and cinnamon to heavy-bottomed pan, put the lid on and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add a little bit more water if pan becomes dry. Cook until soft and the colour should be a golden brown.For more just double the quantities. The stewed apple will  store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Eat two large dessert-spoons daily as a medicinal food.

April 16, 2017

Boost your immune health this winter

As the cooler days roll in, so too do those bacteria and viruses that cause the common cold, the flu and other winter ailments. It’s almost impossible to avoid exposure to these bugs, which makes it really important to ensure your immune system is in top shape going into winter.

There are, of course, many things you can do to keep your immune system healthy and choosing fresh, whole foods is the foundation. I’ve listed below my top five food and lifestyle recommendations to embrace this winter.

1. Protein is needed for building cells including immune cells so make sure you are getting enough quality protein each day. Protein is not stored so while you are down with a bug make sure you include a small amount of easily digestible protein in each main meal. Homemade chicken soup or bone broth provides easily digestible protein and loads of minerals needed for recovery from ill health.

2. Immune supportive foods like ginger, citrus, garlic, shiitake mushrooms and turmeric boost your immunity as they provide nutrients and compounds with amazing medicinal properties. For example Shiitake mushrooms contain beta-glucans which are known for their immune enhancing properties while garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.

3. Gut health is critical in maintaining a strong immune system. Your gastrointestinal tract contains approximately 70% of your immune system, so ensuring your gut is populated with plenty of beneficial micro-organisms (‘good bugs’) is central to maintaining optimal immune function. You can boost your gut health by including fermented or cultured foods like natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and kimchi (that contain friendly live bacteria or probiotics) in your diet each day.

4. Sleep and rest is so important for preventing illness and helping the body to heal when sick. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep and when the first signs of a cold or ailment appear give your body time to heal by resting.

5. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables that contain key nutrients like vitamin C and zinc will ensure you have the nutrients essential for a strong immune system.  Nutrients like vitamin C and zinc provide the  foundation to help reduce the incidence and severity of colds and infections. Vitamin C plays a key role in the mobilisation of your immune system defences and foods like citrus fruits, capsicum, broccoli, strawberries and kiwifruit are rich in vitamin C. Zinc helps infection-fighting white blood cells to be deployed at the first sign of a disease-causing invader, such as a virus or bacteria. Zinc containing foods include meat, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds.

January 3, 2017

Make eating REAL FOOD your New Year’s Resolution this year!

For many people the New Year means a time to start afresh or make goals and plans for the year. Some people make resolutions to spend more time with family or help others out while others make plans for holidays or learning something new.

Getting healthy and fit or losing weight are often high up on the list but many struggle to stay on track. Making goals and action plans are important to stay on track but if you find that hard than I suggest you embrace one concept. If you embrace this concept your health will improve and you will find it much easier to manage your weight.

That concept is to EAT REAL FOOD as much as possible! Real food is food in its most natural state. It is unprocessed or with very little processing. Real food is whole food.

A real food way of eating is full of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs to function and stay healthy. It has NO added fat, sugar, salt or additives.  You will also be more likely to consume the recommended 5 servings of vegetables each day.

Real food is found in your own garden, farmers markets, your local fruit and vegetable shop, your butcher or fish monger, and mostly around the edge of the supermarket.

Real food includes: vegetables; fruits; fresh herbs; whole grains with no or minimal processing like oats, brown rice and buckwheat; unprocessed meats; fish; nuts and seeds; eggs; minimally processed dairy; beans and legumes.

If health is a priority for you this year, I encourage you to eat Real Food! Keep an eye on my facebook page this year for lots of tips and recipes to stay on track with real food.

December 9, 2016

Are you getting enough Vitamin Sunshine?

It’s summer again in Australia and that means time at the beach, in the surf and in the pool for many. With such a great sunny climate and beautiful outdoor activities on the doorstep of most Australians, you would assume that Australians would have adequate levels of vitamin D and yet many people are deficient in this important vitamin. An estimated 73% of adults suffer from inadequate vitamin D levels, with almost 60% of women living in southern areas being completely deficient during the winter/spring months.

Why is this? There are many factors influencing our ability to produce vitamin D but the key one is that we spend less time outdoors due to the way we live and work, and when we do go outside we are covering up with clothes, hats and sunscreen to avoid the risks of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that your body makes naturally from UVB waves from the sun. There is some vitamin D in foods (eg oily fish and egg yolks) but it is not enough. Vitamin D is well known for its role in maintaining the health of bones and improving calcium absorption but it also plays a critical role in our immune health helping to reduce the frequency of colds and flus, and managing more serious autoimmune conditions. Vitamin D also improves muscle strength and can reduce fractures in the elderly. Research shows that low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers and other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In our climate being mindful of sun exposure is important as skin cancer is also a big risk. So what can we do to ensure we are getting adequate vitamin D?  During the colder months, you may need to spend more time outdoors to obtain vitamin D, compared to summertime when several minutes of sun exposure daily may be sufficient.

You don’t need to tan or to burn your skin in order to get the vitamin D you need and exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day. Exposing a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms will help to produce the optimal amount. Factors like your age, the time of year and time of day, where you live in the world and the type of skin you have will all affect how much vitamin D your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight.

A few simple steps

Here are a few simple steps to help achieve and maintain optimal D levels. If getting sun exposure check out the UV Index for your location, find out what time the UV will be below 3 for safest exposure. Generally this will be before mid-morning or post mid-afternoon in the warmer months and you should aim for 6 to 7 minutes. In the cooler months, aim for 7 to 40 minutes at noon during winter with arms and shoulders visible, and without sunscreen. Be aware that UV levels are generally highest between 11am and 3pm so be cautious going out uncovered for longer than this. The SunSmart website has loads of great information about the UV Index, and when and how to protect yourself from the sun.

For some people with sensitive skin, family history of skin cancer or other reasons, getting the sun exposure required for optimal vitamin D synthesis may present risks to skin health. In this situation, supplementation with vitamin D may be a safer option and should be discussed with a qualified health practitioner. Being a fat soluble vitamin, vitamin D is prone to oxidisation and deterioration, so it is important to use a high quality vitamin D supplement with proven stability, and to take an amount suitable to your situation.

With vitamin D deficiency having such negative effects on health and increasing the risk of chronic disease, it may also be advisable to talk to your health practitioner about having your vitamin D levels checked.

October 11, 2016

Why do we have more children with chronic disease than ever before?

This has been a burning question for me ever since I started studying nutrition. I was aware of the growing numbers of children with chronic conditions but I’m now experiencing this in my clinic. Most have been unwell for 6 months or more and are struggling with conditions like weight gain, allergies, fatigue, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioural and learning difficulties, and digestive problems.  For some, their illness has prevented them from going to school, and they have mostly been offered band-aid solutions like pain killers, antidepressants, laxatives, appetite suppressing medications and other serious medications.

In May this year, I decided I needed to gain a deeper understanding to help me treat the health conditions affecting our children. I attended a 3-day Mindd Foundation and MAPS (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs) training course with other qualified health practitioners including doctors, paediatricians, naturopaths, osteopaths, nurses and chiropractors . The training focused on immunology (or the immune system) and best practice biomedical approaches to treating these conditions affecting our children.

Many of these chronic health conditions our children are experiencing have their roots in immune dysfunction. Our immune system is designed to respond to the environment, protect us against pathogens we encounter daily, and react against foreign substances and even cancer cells.

Let’s take allergies and asthma as an example. One in three young Australians have allergies and one in four have asthma.  These conditions are driven by inflammation and inappropriate response by the immune system to the environment. Genetic factors influence susceptibility but do not explain the huge rise in these conditions. A cleaner environment, declining exposure to infectious diseases, unhealthy diet patterns and chemical exposure are being examined as likely contributors. According to paediatrician Professor Susan Prescott, these factors start to influence a child’s immune system while in the womb. She writes that the transfer of a mother’s microbiota begins during pregnancy. This provides the baby with the beginning of its own microbiota and paves the way for the immune system to develop. Research shows that microbiota is influenced negatively by high fat, low fibre diets, obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Smoking, environmental chemicals, stress, medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and method of delivery have all been shown to have an impact on the health of a mother’s microbiome and her child. This rich interaction between mother and child shows how important the mother’s health is to a child’s future health and can be a predictor of immune health.

Through my university training and now MAPS training and Mindd certification, I focus on uncovering the factors that have influenced a person’s health and determine any biochemical imbalances preventing healing and recovery. Blood, urine, stool and other tests are often used to identify individual deficiencies and abnormal pathology, and treatment recommendation such as dietary changes, lifestyle changes and therapeutic doses of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and essential fats may be prescribed.

If you are pregnant, planning pregnancy or have a child with allergies, asthma, behavioural or gut issues, and you would like to find out more about the importance of immune health and gut health I’d love to help you.

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