Why being a dietitian is hard work. And a ‘raw’ cheesecake

Not all that long ago, I came across a survey that listed Dietitian as the seventh least stressful job out there. Well, I beg to differ. If you bear with me as I have a bit of a rant, I promise by the end you will be rewarded with a delicious, nutritious cheesecake recipe. Everyone’s a winner!

After many a discussions with fellow dietitians, I have come to the conclusion that there was a study design error in that survey (remember that word- I will come back to it later). It is not that dietitians have the most cruisey jobs, it’s that as a species we are generally quite good at managing stress. When days are filled with teaching people how to manage emotional eating and set goals to exercise more, we aim to practice what we preach. So when the day presents frustrations, we will make time to do a little huff and puff to sweat it out. We will eat a slice of cake and (most times) know when to stop and that no, one slice of cake can not kill you and yes, you still need to make sure there are plenty of veggies on your plate. And like most people we love food. And we get to talk about food all day. So when these factors all add up, it makes us a generally happy species; one that can handle stress quite well.

But we do get stressed. And I would like to propose that stress levels are on the higher side of average because, for some reason, we are in a small handful of occupations where quite often, others think our degree counts for less than their opinion. Examples range from my lovely father who will use the line “but it’s healthy” to justify having 1kg of porridge at breakfast, to chef Pete Evans. Poor Pete will have a lot of explaining to do once everybody has hopped on his anti-grain bandwagon and are feeling the effects of beriberi, caused by thiamin deficiency. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that people are discussing foods and nutrients and how to live healthy. But we need to ensure it’s coming from the right sources. 

When a lawyer tell us the World Health Organisation has it wrong and that vegetable oil is the root of all evil, or, that for the small price of $150 one journalist can leave you never dreaming of a sugary cupcake again, a dietitian’s blood starts to boil. Probably in the same way the lawyer’s blood would boil if I began to give out legal advice and heck, even wrote a book about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love love LOVE that people from all walks of life are embracing and promoting healthy lifestyles. But often, they leave their audience members feeling more confused, fearing groups of foods (which we should never do), and like a failure when the money they forked out fails to deliver long term changes. Remember the words “study design”? Keep that in mind when the latest nutrition guru shocks you with the results of the latest study. Such as Dr Oz and his Garcinia Cambogia. Taken to court due to his false claims “it may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good”, he lacked to tell you that the small studies conducted on it showed no benefit unless combined with diet and exercise. Or, when we’re hearing that sugar is the culprit of our obesity epidemic, consider that actually in Australia, the UK and USA, per capita consumption of refined sucrose decreased by 23%, 10% and 20% respectively from 1980 to 2003 whilst obesity rates went up. So maybe there is more going on? 

The “Raw Desserts” fad that is filling up my Instagram feed at the moment is creating similar frustrations. Honestly, I don’t really get the whole “raw” movement. Tim Tam cheesecakes aren’t cooked, nor are rum balls or hedgehog slices. Baking these won’t make them any less healthy. Yet putting the word “raw” in front is just another way we are becoming more confused, more misled. Analysing one raw cheesecake recipe on the I Quit Sugar website, a slice has over 2000kJ (a meals worth) of energy in it. Yes, it delivers wonderful nutrients in the cashews and pecans it is filled with, but at the end of the day no matter where your excess kilojoules come from, they will cause weight gain. Raw or cooked.

But if you can’t beat them, join them. I caved and figured that just like some baked desserts can be a healthy choice, so too can some unbaked ones. So I set about creating a cheesecake that ticks the boxes in terms of taste and nutrition. And I’ve found a winner. It doesn’t rely on fancy ingredients like rice malt syrup or cacao powder. Instead my Frozen Honey Ricotta, Banana and Oat Cheesecake favours wholesome simplicity. Oats. Banana. Honey. Ricotta. Ricotta. Ricotta. I don’t think I’ve publicly declared how much I love this ingredient. It’s a cheese- big tick already, but has around one third the kilojoules and one quarter the fat than the regular cream cheese you’d use in a cheesecake, with the same protein and calcium goodness. This recipe does work if you set it in the fridge, but is much easier to cut when frozen, making it a great summer's day dessert. I’ll be honest, this recipe doesn’t look as sexy as some you’d find online. And the top slightly discolours due to the banana. But it is tasty and nutritious and easy and without gimmicks and with all things nutrition in the internet world at the moment, I feel this honesty is a welcome change!