The Easiest Brilliant Breaky Bikkies

I’ve done my fair share of naming and shaming “Breakfast Biscuits”. In short, apart from the spelling and pronounciation of their name, they are too similar in all other aspects to an old fashioned Teddy Bear biscuit to justify being a meal replacement. High in sugar and with no guarantee of any added nutrients, it's best to save them for a snack, at best. It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally concocted a home made, SIMPLE alternative to these. I’ve called it a Breaky Bikkie so I can put my money where my mouth is and provide an alternative to these supermarket options, but it makes a great biscuit option for any time of day! Also, it is probably the easiest biscuit recipe you will ever find.

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How to spot a good or bad food: A beginners guide

When we’re trying to live a better day, we’ve got to look at our diet. Sure exercise is vital- one of the only ways to increase our metabolism is to build lean muscle (sorry, detox teas). And we’ve got to sleep well- poor sleep wreaks havoc with the hormones that regulate our appetite. But, quite simply you 1. Can’t outrun bad diet and 2. Need a bucket load of nutrients to effectively run your body- way more than any amount of SkinnyMe Tea can give you.

Nutrition celebrities like Pete Evans (AKA Paleo Pete) and Sarah Wilson (AKA Ms. I Quit Sugar) have done a fantastic job at raising our awareness of the importance of knowing and caring about what we’re putting into our mouths, which is a great thing. They’ve taught us lots, like cavemen didn’t eat Maccas so we too shouldn’t eat it (regularly), but they’ve also confused the majority of us at the same time- they didn’t eat Protein Balls either, yet we’re supposed to?

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Chewing the Fat on Fat. And Coconut Cocoa-Nut Scrolls.

Fat makes you fat. Sugar makes you fat. Carbs make you fat — or is that just refined carbs? But protein — that makes you muscly, yeah? Eating after 7pm makes you fat. Dairy foods — better avoid them, they’re full of fat. Detox teas — they burn fat. Right?

In a country where more than half of us are carrying excess body weight, we are awfully obsessed with the thing — and in particular, with avoiding fat. As a society, we’re constantly thinking and obsessing over what we eat. What’s more, we’re thinking about foods in terms of “macros” or nutrients such as fat and carbs, rather than thinking about foods as a whole. And it’s not working for us. So, pour yourself a (detox free) tea, add some milk (soy, skim, low fat or full fat — whichever you most enjoy), and let’s chew the fat…on fat.

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Navigating The Supermarket: Aisle 2

Recently, I took a wander down the supermarket aisle to explore four jazzed up foods that most of us, myself included, have been left scratching our heads about. Are they worth their hype and did they live up to their nutrition claims? If you came down aisle 1 with me, hopefully you can now see straight through the marketers attempts to make us buy these products, but unfortunately those four products are not the only foods that have left the majority of us confused or misled. Hence, here we are, round two, with four more foods to unwrap metaphorically before we do so literally. 

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Cheese: the International Food of Happiness. And a Healthy Banoffee Pie with Homemade Ricotta

Put a group of people in a room together and there’s not a whole heap that the majority will agree on. Crunchy or soft tacos? Toilet paper scrunched or folded? Star Wars prequels – amazing or abysmal? However, through my thorough research of spending day in, day out, asking people what they do and don’t like to eat, I’ve come to a very scientific conclusion: Cheese makes the majority of people smile. Melt it on top of something, anything- delicious. It completes a salad, and is one of a few foods that effortlessly spans from entrée , to main, to dessert. Heck, Tim Minchin, one of a small selection of red haired/dreadlocked men I’d sell my firstborn for, wrote a song about it (my favourite line is “I cannot camen-bear it anymore, E-damm you, mon amour”). Yep, we go crazy for this high fat delight.

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Navigating the Supermarket: Understanding Four Foods on the Shelf

The supermarket aisles can be a scary place. Unless you have five spare hours up your sleeve, Google plus plenty of data on your phone, and an encyclopaedia, you can be forgiven for being confused by the continuous revolving door of food products being created, reformulated, relabelled and discontinued. Whilst only making a small dint in this knowledge, let’s explore four relatively new foods that may currently have you scratching your head about… 

Ancient Grain oats

There’s been an interesting evolution over the decades- over the past couple of generations we’ve seen a move from mum’s home cooked meat and three veg to the expansion of supermarket shelves with countless brightly coloured packages with even more claims- claims that they will improve all aspects our health. Sugar-free, dairy free, wheat free- why are food products now making us fear foods? With their long lists of additives, preservatives, and ingredients you’d need a chemistry degree to understand, I consider many foods on supermarket shelves to be food-like products- distant relatives of the foods that once filled grandma's pantry. Recently, though, with the explosion of social media, the internet and (rightly or wrongly) celebrity nutrition gurus, there has been a movement back to “clean eating”- avoiding very processed, unnatural foods. 

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Quinoa: Ancient grain, modern problem

Food fads come and go. Fondue, cupcakes, heck even gelatin salads- at some point these were the flavour of the month (pun intended). And food fads are great- they bring a new food or recipe into our repertoire, giving us something to get excited over and try. Isn’t that what’s so great about food? These days, where there is more and more pressure to have our meals plated up to be “Instagram worthy” (and until Masterchef, who even said “plated up”?), in an age where every second person’s day on a plate is posted online, food fads are magnified. No longer is it enough to go over to Sally’s on Friday night to try out her new fondue set. These days, we’ll go to three cafes over a weekend and post our meals online to share either a. how healthy we’re being (hello, acai bowls), or b. prove we’re up with the latest trend (mmmm, cronuts. Or is it now cruffins?). Food fads have continued to come and go over the decades, but how we embrace these has slowly evolved. And this is not all bad- how lucky are we that we can discover new foods, recipes and a cafe’s latest menu at the click of a button? But there’s a side to food fads that we’re not so well informed on. 

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“Why won’t you let me love you???”- Coconut, Chocolate and Zucchini Brownies

Bless my dad, but he, along with my grandmothers, are the reason I was a chubby kid. In my family, to show love, one fed others. Feeling sad? Let me make you a snack. Already had lunch? Well you’re at my house now so surely you’re ready for a second lunch. Too full to finish the meal I lovingly prepared? You may as well have stabbed me through the heart with your fork. Like in many cultures, in my house feeding people showed you cared. 

In my grandparents case at least, this stemed from growing up in a war-torn country where a chicken dinner was a twice a year event and menus were dictated by what grew in the backyard. Sharing their limited food with others and giving people elaborate foods when they were so rare was a far greater sign of love than any Tiffany’s ring or rose bouquet. So the tradition continues today, when Easter presents are tubs of bocconcini and leaving Nonna’s house without at least four types of homemade/ homegrown produce is impossible. The only difference now is that our food supply is abundant, never ending, and we have access to any thing, any time. So the practice of using special or rare foods to welcome, love and care for others is a bit lost. Hot cross buns aren’t special when they’re available year round, dessert isn’t as cherished when it becomes the norm, and the concept of eating a big meal when there is an abundance of food becomes a daily occurrence- not one that helped humans adapt to the “famine or feast” periods throughout history.

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Food lessons from around the world

This blog has been neglected of late. Blame it on a combination of work stress, learning how to live in a foreign city, and quite simply, a lack of ideas of what to blog on. Cue 2016, and apart from the stress of remembering to write “16” instead of “15” for the date, reflections on the who’s, what, when what’s and why of life filled my mind. 

I realised it’s time to get back to what this blog is about. For me, it’s a celebration of cultures, of food, and of how people all over the world nourish themselves. So as new years reflections take place in between artistically turing the ‘5’ into a ‘6’, is there something you can learn from one of our sexily-accented neighbours?

Teachings from the French

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Halloween, Pumpkin and Pie: A historical and nutritional crash course

Growing up, mum had some pretty strong beliefs, which, in the beauty of adult retrospect, have had their benefits. I now value the importance of breakfast before leaving the house and dirty shoes are instinctively removed before standing on carpet. However, one thing I refuse to agree with her on is Halloween. For a woman who decorates every nook and cranny of the house with Christmas decorations, Halloween is banned. Children who knock on doors are turned away and pumpkin decorations in shops are sternly frowned at. Something about refusing to honour a completely Unaustralian tradition that is American and should remain in America. But I love dress ups and chocolate and free things so for those three reasons we will agree to disagree. 

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They're the rise in your bread, they make you well fed, they put the ‘Pro’ in Probiotics. They're the fizz in your beer, for them we will cheer, they put the ‘Pro’ in Probiotics.

 

(Hopefully my Simpsons pun wasn’t wasted in the title). My boyfriend has many redeeming qualities: his ability to bring a Friends quote into any conversation or the way he greets anyone he passes on his morning walk.  But his up-to-date nutrition knowledge and interest in related topics definitely isn’t one of them. Ask him about carbs after 5 or Acai bowls and his knowledge extends to what he’s absorbed on one of my rants. 

Little does he know, he’s into one of the most popular of the latest “superfood” fads going around in a big way- fermented foods. Being of Indian background there is often yoghurt on the dinner table to cool the spicy curries. But for Josh, the yoghurt forms a good half of the meal. For Josh, the yoghurt will also go on lasagne. Or pie. He’s addicted. Lucky for him, this means he will avoid most illnesses under the sun – according to the internet.

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Breakfast: A Beginners Guide

Most of us have been doing it for years – for the most part of our lives. Some of us do it religiously, some do it every now and then. Some of us do it when we feel like it; others when we have the time. Yes, the humble tradition of breakfast. As it’s number one fan, it gets me out of bed in the morning, long before my body is ready to.

Breakfast is almost as old as civilisation itself. Whilst one would be forgiven for thinking it’s evolved significantly alongside our evolving societies, the peasants responsible for building Egypt’s pyramids are reported to have started the day with beer and bread, not dissimilar to the breakfast of some uni students today.

This post is not going to tell you that most breakfast cereals have high amounts of sugar in them (up to 30%), nor that study after study points to a magnitude of reasons why we should eat breakfast, because I’m trusting that you’ve heard it all before. Instead, I’d like to share four breakfast-related thoughts/fun facts, which may debust a myth or make you reconsider your current breakfast choice.

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Welcome-to-Sydney Dumplings

Little bundles of love. For some, it’s their newborn bub. For others, it’s a puppy in their lap. For me, it’s little bundles of stuffed pastry.

I’m not too sure how or when or why, but some time ago, I kind of butchered the traditional wonton and created something (in my unbiased eyes), equally delicious. Sure, the humble wonton has survived around 14 centuries on this planet since it’s beginnings in China, but surely that means it’s time for a revamp. Reinventing a centuries old classic is not to be taken lightly, which is why I have saved it for a special occasion.

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P is the letter of Winter: Patsara, Polenta, Pie. Perfect.

You don’t need to bring out the thermometer to know it’s winter (Northern Hemisphere peeps, go back to enjoying your sunshine)- if the abundance of beanies and scarfs haven’t hinted the weather’s turned, the lack of salad lunches in your work fridge will.

Dietitian hat off- winter is the perfect excuse for pilled-high dishes of creamy pastas and snuggling on the couch with a hot chocolate. This makes perfect sense: the temperature of the environment affects the body’s basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy needed to keep the body working in a way that allows all systems to run normally, whilst resting). If the temperature is very low or very high, the body has to work harder to maintain it’s normal temperature. When it’s very hot, we tend to laze about and do less physical activity to preserve energy stores to feed these increased requirements. When it’s very cold, we tend to look for more food to feed this requirement, so to speak. But in a world where we have thermostats in our home, our office, our car, it does go a little beyond this.

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Why you should eat (this) cake

This blog really requires no introduction. You came here because you were expecting reasons to eat cake. Not that you ever need a reason. But say you did, let’s start with the fact it’s generally delish and this cake in particular was invented by a dietitian. Surely that’s enough? Yes? Ok, head over to the Whole Orange Jaffa Cake recipe and start baking. No? Ok, read on.

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Four Food Lessons From My Mum

Mum doesn’t believe in social media (though for someone who doesn’t believe in it, she is very quick to ask “Elisa, show me what such-and-such is up to on Facebook”). Therefore, this Mother’s Day, whilst friends were all over social media singing praises to their mums, grandmas and others significant women in their lives, I was in the kitchen showing mum how much I love her by whipping up her favourite breaky. It’s one of my favourite ways of showing her how much I love her, partly because it’s not something people do for her often, partly because she is responsible for so much of my love for food, and partly because I get to share in eating the meal with her (and she always lets me have the last bit). Almost every day of the year she has homemade muesli; she is partial to a sweet breakfast over a savoury. She loves her fruit and she loves creamy cheese, so I invented Blueberry and Ricotta Hotcakes with Vanilla Marscapone to celebrate another year of her feeding my stomach at every opportunity she gets, giving me advice (whether I ask for it or not), and proving to me that yes, I may be and adult, but I still need my mum. Whilst whipping up the hotcakes, I reflected on how much my relationship with food has been shaped by her, and I am so grateful that she’s passed along some invaluable life lessons. Here are four of them:

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Goodbye boyfriend, hello glycaemic index. And creamy salmon lasagne

The relationship Gods must hate me. My boyfriend and I did a “medium distance” relationship for for the first couple of years we dated, driving 100km or so on the round trip to visit each other. After this stage couples often move in together, but no, life had other plans and I was an extra 900km or so away, living the outback dream. “Long distance”, on the other hand, was not much of a dream.  But we lasted through this and two years later were back doing the 100km round trip like it was a drive to the local corner store. But then the Gods yelled “tricked ya!” and played swapsies, relocating Josh to NSW to chase his dream job. So here we are again, planning Skype dates instead of dinner dates. 

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An A-Z of Nutrition for my Beautician. And a Fig, Almond, and Ricotta Honey Cake

The other day I was laying on a treatment bed whilst the beautician worked her magic and made my one eyebrow into two eyebrows. Like usual, the small talk went a little something like this: Beautician: So, what do you do for work? Me: I’m a dietitian at a community health centre. Beautician: Oh, how wonderful! Nutrition is very important to me, I always take multivitamins as my body doesn't get all the nutrition it needs from foods- foods these days are lacking in nutrition compared to the way the used to be. Me: Oh, ok.  

Yep, I bit tongue. I often get told ‘nutrition facts’ and unless people ask for advice, I try to respect their opinions and not preach with passion (unless you’re a family member or my boyfriend- they usually get an uncensored rant whether they’ve asked for it or not). Nutritional talk is so common amongst us, with so many sources of information out there. We feel comfortable throwing around words like “metabolism” and “vitamins” and “antioxidants”, but how much do we really know or understand? Are they just words that we know mean something along the lines of healthy? This thought brought me to compline this list- an A-Z of nutrition. It may debunk a myth or two, clarify something you once vaguely heard about, or help you out at the next trivia night. Being such a long list, I had a baking break (the best kind of break), an created a cake I’d long been dreaming about: Fig, Almond, and Ricotta Honey Cake. It is dense and moist and not overly sweet and full of nutrient dense ingredients. Enjoy, and happy reading…

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Have an open heart, think with your head, and do: A Balinese Feast

Have an open heart. And forgive. It’s been over a month since I last posted and that was not the plan, but really, life gets in the way of plans. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve just returned from gallivanting around Billy. Bali. Billy Bali. It´s a suburb of Bali proper. Bali! The island nation of Bali. True Never Been Kissed fans would appreciate that sentence that made very little sense. In between hour long massages and bartering on Bintang singlets, I did my best to learn about the Balinese culture, which involved studying menus, dining frequently, and entering deep conversations with taxi drivers. Yep, it was hard work, but someone had to do it. My favourite lesson learnt was not food related; it came from one particularly flamboyant taxi driver, a man with beautifully painted nails and an even more beautiful outlook on life. Working for his boss and only getting a portion of the taxi fair, we casually suggested to fudge how much our trip cost, so that he could keep a little extra. Not for a few extra beers at knockoff, but so that knockoff could be slightly earlier than his usual 15 hour shift- because if you don't drive, you don't eat. But no, because karma is a wonderful thing that means honesty is, and always will be, the best policy. It means that the boss needn’t rigorously check when, where, what- because the thought of reincarnation into a life worse than the current one is enough of a deterrent to lying. I’m going to hold out on the lesson learnt from him for now and share the second lesson I learnt.

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HOW TO HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO: SALTED CARAMEL AND COOKIE DOUGH CHEESECAKE

The world is a confusing place; there are many things which confuse me. The laws of cricket, the stock market, and religious wars are a small few. As a dietitian, every day I see people confused about what to eat, what is “good” or “bad”, what is a “superfood” or is “toxic”, what quantities are “too much” or “not enough”. And I don’t blame them. It is a confusing world out there, as you navigate your way up and down the supermarket aisles. 

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