Thursday, April 28, 2011

Balingup Bronze Cafe - 100% Gluten Free

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
We have just returned from a week down south – right down south in the heart of the big trees. It was a great week away with friends to celebrate Easter.

On the drive down I completely craned my neck as we drove through Balingup and I spotted the Balingup Bronze Cafe – 100% gluten free food. That was a definite earmarked stop on the way home.   I had read about the Balingup Bronze Cafe being completely gluten free, and friends had also mentioned it to me – so it seemed fitting to stop and try a few of their home cooked meals.  For anyone who has ever had a dietary restriction - I am sure you will understand the excitement of being able to choose ANYTHING I wanted from the menu! 
If you are gluten free, then I would thoroughly recommend the Balingup Bronze Cafe – the food selection was huge, and all the food I tasted was delicious!
We ordered some gluten free toast for the kids, my husband chose the lamb curry and I had the Cajun chicken. All hearty, delicious and gluten free. I also grabbed a takeaway sticky date pudding – because it was gluten free after all.

This was a huge amount of food – so definitely not recommending this as serve sizes! And you will be pleased to know we didn’t finish it all.  On a gluten free diet this was an amazing treat!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Product Review - Coconut Milk

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

Coconut milk does have a bit of a bad health rap – because it is high in saturated fat. We have written previously about why saturated fat is a problem in our diet, here and here, and why we should try to limit it.  In our house we quite like curries – Indian, Thai – any curry really. We love the freshness of a fantastic Thai curry, and we love the depth of an Indian curry.  A lot of curries require coconut milk.

Over the years I have adapted a number of my recipes to use low fat cuts of meat, and have reduced the amount of added fat. I have also increased the volume of vegetables to increase fibre.  Coconut milk does provide a unique flavour to many curries and this is something that I haven’t been able to replace. So instead, I have endeavoured to find the best option for coconut milk.  This isn’t something that I use everyday – it might be once a week – or even once a fortnight. But I thought it was worth sharing!

This coconut milk you can get from any supermarket - I get it from Woolworths. It is labelled as 'lite' but you always need to check the nutrition panel and compare against other products. This coconut milk is 6% fat, and 4.2% saturated fat. So, not a product I would recommend every day - but occasionally it is ok as part of a healthy diet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How NOT TO gain 25 kilos this year!

Written by Sophie McGough APD CDE

I know this is a really nasty post to write just after Easter!  I figured though, that we can put all that chocolate behind us now and get back on track with our healthy eating.

The purpose of this post is really just a quick reality check to show how easy it is to gain weight if you are not thinking about your kilojoules/calories intake.  We all have a specific number of kilojoules/calories that we need to eat per day to maintain our weight.  This is based on our age, height, physical activity level and other things such as underlying diseases.  One visit to a dietitian and you can find out 'your kilojoule number' very easily.  

Like I said, this is to maintain your current weight. Let's have a look at what happens if you eat more kilojoules than your body needs.  If you ate an extra 120 kilojoules (28 calories) on top of what your kilojoule requirements are per day, every day, for a whole year, you would put on around 1.5 kg that year.....not much you say.  BUT if you ate an extra 2000 kJ (500 cals) per day, every day, for one year (drum roll please) would put on 25 kg in one year!!!!

Now you are probably sitting there thinking, 'there is no way I would be able to eat an extra 2000 kJ every day' but people do - and that is why we have such a problem with weight in Australia.  Let's just check out what an extra 2000 kJ/500 cal could look like:

Example 1:

  • You choose a flat white instead of your morning cup of tea = an extra 500 kJ (120 cal)
  • Your sandwich comes with 6 wedges on the side instead of salad = an extra 1000 kJ (240 cal)
  • You choose a greek style yoghurt instead of your usual no fat yoghurt = an extra 500 kJ (120 cal)

Example 2:

  • You spread your morning toast thickly rather than thinly with marg/butter = an extra 600 kJ (144 cal)
  • You eat the skin on the chicken leg instead of taking it off = an extra 400 kJ (96 cal)
  • You grab just a small handful of lollies (only 10) to break the boredom = an extra 600 kJ (144 cal)
  • You add some cordial to your water bottle = an extra 600 kJ (144 cal)

OK, so the second example is 2200 kJ but you can see how easily it could happen without really trying. If you really tried hard you could do it in one meal (or drink!):

  • 1 McDonalds 'Big Mac' = 2060 kJ (493 cal)
  • 1 piece of KFC original recipe chicken breast = 1945 kJ (465 cal)
  • 3 slices of Dominos Supreme Pizza (thin crust) = 1964 kJ (470 cal)
  • 1 red rooster chicken roll = 2440 kJ (584 cal)
  • 4 cans full strength beer = 2280 kJ (545 cal)
  • 1 bottle (750ml) of red wine = 2138 kJ (511 cal)
  • 1 low fat 'Banana Buzz' smoothie from Boost Juice = 1905 kJ (455 cal)

I'm sure there are some of you sitting there thinking 'but it doesn't matter, I can just walk it off'.  Yes, physical activity does help to increase the number of kilojoules you need per day but not as dramatically as most people would believe.  To walk off 600 kJ a 70kg person would need to walk briskly (at moderately intense heart rate) for ~30 minutes.  So to walk off an extra 2000 kJ you'd need to be finding a lot more than the thirty minutes recommended.  Having said that, physical activity is still very important in the weight loss process, but that's a whole other post!    

I find that this subtle weight gain starts to hit people in their mid to late thirties when their kilojoule needs start to reduce and physical activity levels often reduce too.  So if you want to avoid those extra kilos slowly creeping on and turning into that 'middle age spread' - keep an eye on those extra kilojoules!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Eggs Downsized

Written by Sophie McGough APD CDE

With it being Easter Sunday today, I had to make some comment on the large amount of chocolate I have consumed!  I confess, I had chocolate for breakfast and loved it!!  As promised, Easter Bunny (or EB as he is known in our household after seeing HOP the movie) delivered lots of yummy hunting eggs in and around our garden this morning.

I have to say though, I have been impressed at the range of children's Easter Eggs available this year that were smaller and less chocolate focused.  I was able to buy a small Barbie egg for my niece that came with a clock and Toy Story eggs for my nephews that included a toy.  Of course there are still the gigantic eggs available but at least this year, there was choice.

Along with their hunting eggs, EB left my two kids these disney princess and thomas tank engine eggs in egg cups.  The 3 year old princess loved hers and ended up having a 'real' egg in it later in the day and the 9 month old, well he got to try his first tiny bit of chocolate but had much more fun bashing the spoon on his table!

Oh and I forgot to tell you the really good news - if you eat an easter egg while reading this post, it's officially kilojoule and guilt free!

Happy Easter Everyone xx

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Written by Kate Bullen, APD

I have mentioned before that I have a gluten free diet. I love the challenges that this sometimes provides. I love porridge, but with rolled oats not considered gluten free, I have struggled with an alternative.

I read this article on another dietitian’s website, Julie Meek, which include a discussion on quinoa (you might have heard it pronounced ‘keeen-waaa’), which included this recipe for quinoa porridge.

Quinoa is considered to be a ‘pseudocereal’ rather than a true grain or cereal, because it is not a member of the grass family (thank you Wikipedia for that info!).  Quinoa is gluten free, has a low glycemic index (which is a good thing), and is a great source of protein.  I keep quinoa in the cupboard and use it in place of couscous or rice. Great in salads. Variety is important in our diets to provide our bodies with adequate nutrition – so grab yourself some quinoa (whether you are gluten free or not!) and try something new. You can easily get it at the supermarket - which is where I picked up the following 2 packs of quinoa:

I tried this recipe last week and it was tasty!  This recipe provided enough for 4 breakfasts for me – so keep that in mind when you are making it up. I just kept it in the fridge. I added some chopped mint into my bowl of porridge – gave it an extra edge.

Quinoa Porridge

¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
500ml water
375ml low fat milk
1/3 cup dried cranberries (could easily use other dried fruit)
¼ chopped nuts (I used almonds)

  1. Combine the quinoa and water in saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, covered for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of milk and the cranberries and nuts. Cook, covered for another 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining milk.
  3. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recipe: Linguine with Salmon and Peas

Written by Sophie McGough APD CDE

For the recipe this week I need your help.  I have cooked this twice and both times my hubby really liked it but I wasn't so sure.  I thought it was nice but was missing something from a flavour perspective.  The second time I cooked it, I added some garlic and used prawns as well as the salmon but I still can't put my finger on what it is missing.  Those budding chefs out there may have some ideas, so let me know!  Maybe some chilli???

It is from the Low GI Diet Cookbook so it is low GI, 2185 kJ per serve, 13g of Fat (sat 2g), 34g of protein, 66g of carbohydrate, 8g of fibre and 240mg of sodium.  For those of you with diabetes or trying to lose weight I would make this recipe serve 6 and it would be more suitable.  Adding some extra vegetables or having a salad on the side would also enhance the nutritional quality of this recipe.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

350g (12 oz) linguine
2 x 200g (7 oz) salmon fillets, skinned
1 tablespoon olive oil
300 g (10 ½ oz/2 cups) fresh or frozen peas
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) fish or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, or to taste


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, check the salmon for any bones, then cut into bite sized pieces.  Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan until the oil is shimmering, then add the salmon and cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until the salmon changes colour and is cooked through, being careful not to brown it.  Add the peas, stock and parsley and cook for 1 -2 minutes.  Season with plenty of pepper, then add lemon juice and zest, to taste, stirring gently to combine all the ingredients.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain well and add to the sauce, tossing lightly to coat in the sauce.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Was I wearing my 'food goggles' when I ate that?

Written by Sophie McGough APD CDE

This is a short blog but just had to share with you a conversation I had with my family today.  My sister, Mum and I were sitting in the family area when my hubby walked in from his study and did the classic 'stare into the fridge and pantry' looking for something to take the boredom out of doing his bookwork!  Unfortunately, the poor thing is married to a dietitian and he closed the fridge with such a look of disappointment on his face, us girls just couldn't help but have a laugh at his expense.

This led to us all discussing our boredom eating habits and what we are actually hoping will 'magically appear' as we stare endlessly into the fridge.  The conversation took a hilarious turn when my hubby likened his boredom eating experience to wearing 'beer goggles'.  When he first looks in the fridge, nothing takes his fancy and only something high fat, high sugar is going to cut it.  But as the day wears on and boredom ensues he goes back to the fridge with the 'food goggles' on and suddenly the low fat yoghurt is very appealing.  Give it another hour or so and his standards have dropped so low that even carrot and celery sticks are staring back at him looking as sexy as chocolate!

Needless to say, his comments were met with a resounding 'OMG that is exactly the same for me!' and from now on whenever anyone in the family is caught doing the fridge or pantry stare you can be rest assured that someone will pipe up with 'have you got your food goggles on yet?'   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recipe - Almond Ricotta Cake

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
On the weekend I had a couple of my girlfriends over for an easy lunch – we enjoyed a delicious and healthy lunch including a mushroom and leek frittata, a very basic salad made by myself (with balsamic dressing), and some tasty sushi made by my friend. 

I had wanted to try this new cake recipe that I cut out of the paper a few weeks ago. Of course I couldn’t quite stick to the recipe – I reduced the sugar and it still tasted delicious. So if you are looking for a gluten free, delicious cake – then this is for you. Actually – you would have no idea that it is gluten free – but it is delicious! I liked that this cake didn’t have any butter/margarine – it was a nice change.
250g ricotta cheese
4 eggs, separated
140g caster sugar
250g almond meal
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
¼ cup flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dust

1.       Preheat the oven to 150C.
2.       Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottom cake tin
3.       Beat together the ricotta, egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in the almond meal and lime zest.
4.       Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form.
5.       Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture to loosen, then fold in the remaining.
6.       Spread into the tin and bake for 35 minutes.
7.       Sprinkle with the almonds and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
8.       Cool slightly, then turn onto a wire rack. Cool completely then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Traditions

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
Easter seems to be creeping up on us very, very fast! Just under a week away and the Easter bunny will be here to visit us all.  The supermarket shelves have been stocked with enormous quantities of Easter eggs for many months now. My Easter eggs have been purchased and hidden away to avoid any temptation from people big or small!
In addition to buying the chocolate variety of Easter eggs, I have also purchased a few non food Easter items as activities for my daughter. I have no problem with my children enjoying chocolate at any time of the year (in moderation!) but I also like to take the emphasis off food where I can. So here are a few of the activities that I have found around the place over the last month or so – all reasonably priced and I have picked them up from Woolworths and Big W.

I have been asking a few friends what they give their kids as Easter presents and I really liked the approach of one of my good friends. She buys a small Lindt bunny for each of her kids and there may be some small Easter eggs as part of an egg hunt. Her philosophy was buy good quality chocolate and less of it. I like that approach!
And here is a few Easter bundles for family that my daughter lovingly put together this morning. Note emphasis on pretty wrapping, including some coloured in and cut up egg cartons, and less on quantity.

Growing up we never received those absolutely ginormous Easter eggs – and I am eternally grateful to my parents for never overdoing it.
What Easter traditions do you have in your family?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Product Review - Maggi 2 minute noodles

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
A friend recently asked my opinion on Maggi 2 minute noodles. Her 4yo son enjoys the 99% fat free 2 minute noodles (I didn’t even know they did 99% fat free!) and my friend wondered if these were an ok substitute for pasta. My friend doesn’t use the salty flavouring sachet that comes with the 2 minute noodles and instead flavours them with her own sauces.

So during my last visit to the supermarket I found the Maggi 2 minute noodles and took a quick pic on my iphone. When I got home I had quick look at the nutrition panel. Then I looked again. Then I got confused. I like to use the per 100g column on the nutrition panel because then it is easy to compare between products (each nutrition panel will always have a per 100g column for this exact reason).  However – the Maggi 2 minute noodles states ‘per 100g as prepared**’ and the ** refers to ‘when made up according to the directions with the addition of 375ml of water and consumed as a soup.’  Why does it do this? Every other dried pasta product in my cupboard (normal wheat pasta, gluten free pasta, rice noodles) all refers to 100g of the DRIED product. Makes sense to me – and means it is nice and easy to compare between products. Not so easy when you need to compare 100g of the Maggi 2 minute noodles. So – I got my calculator out. A single serve of Maggi 2 minute noodles is 76g – I just converted this to 100g.  But gee – not something that is easy to do in the aisle of the supermarket. Maggi – if you are reading this – take note!
A quick assessment (using my calculator!) of 98% fat free 2 minute noodles and the standard pasta that was in my cupboard:

98% fat free 2 minute noodles per 100g (using my calculations)
Standard pasta per 100g
Fat – total
Fat – saturated
Dietary fibre

And the ingredient list for Maggi 2 minute noodle cake: wheat flour, tapioca starch, vegetable oil (antioxidant 320), mineral salts, iodised salt, vegetable gum, colour (riboflavin).
The ingredient list on the standard pasta in my cupboard: 100% Australian Durum wheat semolina.
What does all this mean? From a kilojoule perspective, there isn’t any real different between the 2 minute noodles or the standard pasta. The amount of fat in the Maggi 2 minute noodles is 2.6 times the amount in standard pasta. This is probably my first big concern.  Also – vegetable oil is listed as the 3rd ingredient in the 2 minute noodles. AND an even bigger concern – Maggi advertise these 2 minute noodles as being 99% fat free. By my calculations they are 97.5% fat free. Not the same. If you go by the prepared nutrition analysis (ie: when water is added and the noodles become a soup) – then yes they are 99% fat free – but not by 100g of their dried weight.
Secondly, standard wheat pasta provides a source of fibre – this is a good thing! Maggi 2 minute noodles don’t even list fibre on the nutrition panel – so I assume there is no fibre.
Thirdly the sodium is through the roof in the 2 minute noodles. Of course this is including the flavouring sachet, but the ingredient list for the 2 minute noodle cake does include iodised salt on the ingredient list.

Maggi 2 minute noodles are a highly processed product, therefore requiring more additives to stabilise it. I would recommend choosing standard pasta over this product.
So – what advice did I give to my friend? Well I outlined the above, and I suggested a couple of strategies to reduce the intake of Maggi 2 minute noodles:
·         Negotiating with her 4yo son to reduce the number of times per week that 2 minute noodles are allowed, and on the other occasions to have standard pasta
·         Taking her son shopping in the supermarket to choose his own pasta. There are many different shapes that are appealing to kids and providing him some ownership may assist.
In summary, this assessment has opened my eyes – check the nutrition panel – and make sure you are reviewing 100g of the product that you are buying. I can’t recall seeing any other product that provides nutrition information on the rehydrated weight of a product. Interesting marketing strategy when it means the product can be advertised as 99% fat free at the rehydrated weight!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A biscuit baking tip!

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
I love baking – I don’t do it too often as we really don’t need the end products of baking hanging around the house – otherwise I just eat them! It is an activity that my 4yo daughter loves helping with. She loves measuring, stirring and of course licking the bowl!

Today I thought I would share a tip that I found online ages ago for baking biscuits. I prepare the biscuit mix and then place the biscuits on lined trays. Then I only bake as much as I need for that occasion – the remaining biscuit mix (uncooked) goes in the freezer on the trays.
After about an hour I take the frozen, uncooked, biscuit mix out of the freezer and put them into zip lock bags. Then put the zip lock bags back in the freezer. And the next time I want some biscuits, I take them out of the zip lock bags, put them on a tray and into a pre-heated oven. Easy!
And what did I bake? Orange and Poppy Seed Biscuits – gluten free, pretty easy and not too sweet!
This recipe is from Sue Shepherd, a dietitian who has published a number of gluten free cookbooks and undertaken extensive research in the area of irritable bowl syndrome.
1 ½ cups almond meal
½ cup castor sugar
1/3 cup fine rice flour
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 eggs, separated

1.       Preheat oven to 140C. Line baking trays with baking paper.
2.       Place almond meal, sugar, rice flour, orange zest and poppy seeds in a medium bowl and mix until well combined.
3.       In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold gently into the almond mixture. Fold the egg yolks into the mixture.
4.       Place rounded teaspoons of the mixture on the baking trays about 2cm apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Recipe - lamb curry

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
This is a firm family favourite that I whip up every month or so. With cooler weather approaching, curries and casseroles are going to be appearing on our dinner table a lot more often. One of the benefits of curries and casseroles is that you can throw in a heap of veges and they absorb the delicious curry flavours.  In this curry I use some finely chopped/processed veges as a base and to help thicken the curry, along with some chunkier veges to add colour and interest.
Serves: 4 adults
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60-90 minutes

1 ½ tablespoon coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
3 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
1 tsp dried cloves
2cm piece of fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 onions, chopped
300g pumpkin, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup plain yoghurt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground turmeric
400g tin diced tomatoes
500g diced lamb
1 red capsicum, chopped
1 small potato (skin on), chopped
2 cups frozen beans
¼ cup coriander, chopped
Steamed basmati rice to serve

1.       If using whole spices, roast coridander, cumin and cloves, and then grind until fine.
2.       Place ginger, garlic, onion, pumpkin and celery into a food processor and give it a quick pulse until finely chopped.
3.       Heat olive oil in a thick based pan. Add ginger/garlic mix to pan. Heat over medium heat until warmed through. Add freshly ground spices and ground cardamom and turmeric.
4.       Add all remaining ingredients, except coriander.  Bring curry mixture to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for around 90 minutes with lid on.
5.       Stir coriander through curry just before serving with rice.

Leftovers are even better the next day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Food Additives

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

I have just finished reading the book “Additive Alert” written by Julie Eady. I have had many friends ask me about the book, so I thought best I have a read! 

At the outset I would firstly like to say that my nutrition mantra is to eat a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruit, wholegrain cereals, along with meat and meat alternatives, and some tasty dairy products (aka the 5 food groups!!)  Treat foods in our house are usually chocolate and ice cream. I buy cracker biscuits, don’t buy sweet biscuits (occasionally I will bake my own), don’t buy cakes and rarely buy lollies. We don’t buy muesli bars, cordial, juice or cordial (unless for a science experiment!).  We do buy bread, cheese, peanut paste, vegemite and a number of other packaged foods that I consider staples (eg: pasta sauces, tinned vegetables). In summary – treats are ok in moderation, but otherwise our diet is made up of the 5 food groups.

Secondly, allergies and intolerances in children are being diagnosed more and more every week. There is no known reason why kids are now more sensitive to certain substances, such as nuts, dairy, gluten, or even amines, glutamates or salicylates.  But if you or a member of your family is sensitive to any food compound – then yes – of course you will want to be extra careful in choosing your food products – and you will probably know more about products and ingredient lists than I do!

I think I might have read the first edition of Additive Alert from 2004, so not sure if anything has changed in more recent editions.

Anything that makes people more aware of what they are eating is great. I am often struck by the vast array of heavily processed foods that line our supermarket shelves – many directly marketed at kids with cute little pictures on the packaging. As mentioned above, I rarely buy these foods, as they don’t provide any real nutrition, and are just empty kilojoules.

Additive Alert discusses the functions of food additives, and how we would have a lot more food spoilage without additives. However, some additives are just added to make foods look more appealing. Colours are a good example. Red cordial anyone? Without the colouring in cordial I don’t think it would be such a marketable product.

I have a couple of concerns about some of the information outlined in Additive Alert. There are many occasions where the book talks about a number of Australian approved additives being suspected carcinogens – however no evidence is provided in the book of why they are suspected carcinogens. Coming from a science background I always like to review the literature to make an informed decision. Statements such as food additives being carcinogenic are emotive and can easily scare people – in this case I think unnecessarily.  Personally for me this doesn’t affect the diet of me or my family because we typically don’t purchase foods that have many of these additives.

The author of Additive Alert talks about Food Standards Australia News Zealand (FSANZ) as being our regulatory body. However, it is implied that FSANZ are not following through on banning suspected carcinogenic food additives. I disagree with this. Just because a chemical compound causes cancer in a rat/mouse does not simply translate to humans. Hugely emotive? Yes! Scientifically based? Not always. Tricky isn’t it! The FSANZ website has a heap of great information if you want to take a look.

It is also important to remember that many chemical compounds occur naturally in foods. Mushrooms, tomatoes and grapes, for example are very high in food chemicals – and contain no artificial additives or preservatives (imagine that as a sticker on tomatoes!).

The author of Additive Alert makes very valid points about children sometimes reacting to food additives. I agree. However, this does not occur in ALL kids – and generalising these kind of statements across the population causes me some concern. A recent study from the UK, called the Southampton study, reviewed a number of food additives and their impact on children aged 3yrs and 8/9years. The Additive Alert website refers to this Southampton study and makes statements the following statement
“Did you know that many everyday food products contain additives that are proven to cause hyperactivity in children?”

However, having just read the Southampton study, the results are not this straight forward. In fact, statements such as this can be quite misleading – as only some of the children from the study were affected by the food additives – not all the children. As is the case in real life – some kids are affected by red cordial – some are not.

Over the last few weeks I have been gathering a heap of information on food additives. I like to be informed! One more comment on the Additive Alert website got me thinking it says:

“As a result of this research, these 6 colours are now being removed from ALL foods in the UK by the end of 2009. Why aren't Australian kids being given the same level of protection?”

However, I understand that the in the UK it is voluntary, not mandatory, to reduce the use of these colours.

What is my view on additives?

I am all for avoiding food additives. Limiting your intake of foods such as soft drink, cordial, jam, sweet biscuits, packaged cakes sounds like a great idea to me! But not only to avoid food additives – also to avoid the excess kilojoules that are contained in these products – which usually goes hand in hand with plenty of processed sugar. And if you have family member who is sensitive to certain food additives, or are concerned about the behaviour of your child and think it might be food related – then please speak to your GP and contact a dietitian.

There are usually 2 food aisles that I almost completely avoid in the supermarket – the juice/soft drink/cordial aisle (unless I need to get diet dry ginger for my husband to have with his Canadian Club) and the biscuits/muesli bar aisle (sometimes I quickly grab some wholemeal crackers). So that is a whole lot of food additives – and just as importantly – a whole lot of processed crap food eliminated.

In summary, I liked the beginning of the Additive Alert where the author clearly laid out the purpose of additives and preservatives in food, and how we can go about making choices to reduce our additive intake.

I didn’t like some of the comparisons made in the book. At the beginning of the book the author talks about choosing between 2 packets of potato crisps and suggests choosing the packet that contain the 'perfectly safe, beneficial additives' as being the better choice. My advice – ditch the crisps and try a healthier snack, such as cheese and crackers, popcorn, or fruit.  For anyone who might be thinking – gee – Kate has really got on her high horse. Yes – I understand potato crisps may be consumed at parties/special occasions – no problem. I might have been known to sneak a few crisps myself – but I don’t think it is valid to stand in the crisps aisle of the supermarket pondering which brand to buy. I think that time and energy can be better spent looking at healthier, whole food choices!

Friends who have attended Additive Alert presentations have asked me why I use vegemite in my 4yo’s sandwiches? I have always looked a bit bewildered in response to this question, and then quickly scurried to my pantry to check what could possibly be wrong with vegemite. I had a bit of a lightbulb moment when reading this book. MSG. The author refers to MSG and recommends avoiding it. The first ingredient in vegemite is yeast extract. A quick google tells me that yeast extract does indeed contain MSG. What does this mean? It means that vegemite is high in salt (of course now you have the option to buy the new slightly reduced salt version). Yes – high in salt – but I only use about 1/6 teaspoon per sandwich! Which equates to about 1g of vegemite according to my super scientific scales – or about 34.6mg of sodium. To put this in perspective – the 2 slices of light rye bread that the vegemite went on have 304mg of sodium. So vegemite is not really a concern unless you are eating the entire jar. Anyone like some bread with their vegemite?!

I would be happy to go on, and on, and on. Don’t tempt me – I could! If anyone has any burning questions on food additives in particular foods, then please let me know and I would be happy to investigate.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recipe: Pork with Honey Glazed Apples and Red Lentil Mash

My Mum has just moved in with us for a couple of months, so with an extra pair of hands around I thought I'd give a new recipe a go.  It is from the Low GI Diet Cook Book.  This recipe serves 2 but I just multiplied it by 1.5 and bought enough pork to allow for my Mum and my daughter.  There was plenty and even some red lentil mash left over for my 8 month old today.

I have always loved red lentil mash when I've had it at restaurants and I was surprised how yummy it turned out with me making it!  Such a great way to get some legumes in - they are one of those 'superfoods', especially for people with diabetes - low GI, high fibre, low fat and a source of protein.  If you do have diabetes though, please note that per serve this recipe has 59 g of carbohydrate so make sure you're sticking to the allocated serving size in the recipe and don't add more lentil mash to your plate :-)  The great news is that each serve provides 15 g of fibre - that's half your daily fibre needs (over half for women!).  If you are trying to lose weight maybe choose a smaller pork steak (~ 120 g) and a little less lentil mash.  More steamed vegetables could also be added.

It got the thumbs up from all the family (a great compliment from my Mum who is an awesome cook!). The red lentil mash was something my daughter hadn't tried before.  Being a new food I held my breath, but she ate it all up!

Ingredients: (serves 2)

Olive oil spray
2 x 200 g (7 oz) pork loin steaks, butterfly steaks or medallions
2 teaspoons of margarine
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 green apples, cored and cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
200 g (7 oz) steamed green beans, to serve

Red Lentil Mash:
160 g (5 ½ oz/2/3 cup) split red lentils
1 bay leaf
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) vegetable stock

To make the red lentil mash, put the lentils and bay leaf in a saucepan and add the stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 -25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (You will need to ad extra water if the mixture becomes too dry – I had to add almost another cup).  Cook until the lentils are soft and mushy.

Spray a non-stick frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Add the pork to the pan and cook for 4 – 5 minutes each side, or until lightly browned and cooked to your liking.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the margarine and oil to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the apple slices and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally, until the apples begin to brown.  Add the honey and lemon juice and stir to coat the apples.  Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Serve a scoop of the lentil mash on individual plates, top with the pork and apples and drizzle over the pan juices.  Serve with steamed green beans.

Nutrition Information:
Per Serve
2520 kJ (600 Cal)
14 g fat (3 g sat fat)
63 g protein
57 g carbohydrate
15 g fibre

Sunday, April 10, 2011

School lunches - Do they stay cold?

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
I have written a few times before about school lunches here, here and here. On the last post I asked if anyone has fridges at school for children’s lunches. One friend made me laugh when she told me that on her daughter’s first day of kindy she put her daughters lunchbox into the teachers fridge – just assuming that fridges would be provided! After speaking to a number of friends, the resounding response seems to be ‘NO’ – fridges are not provided for children’s lunches. This doesn’t sit very well with me. If you take your lunch to work as adult, you typically have a fridge to put it in. Even tradesmen are pretty well set up with eskies. So why don’t our kids have a chilled environment for their lunch?  I have been pondering this for a while now, and yesterday I decided to conduct my own experiment.
About 6 weeks ago with the summer heat beating down on us here in Perth, day after day, I finally caved and purchased an ice pack for my daughter’s lunchbox. This meant I had to re-jig her lunchbox arrangement (with her ok!) to fit the ice pack in. So for this experiment, I have used the old style of lunchbox – without an ice pack, and the current style of lunchbox, which includes an ice pack.
Why am I so worried about keeping lunches cool? Well there are a few reasons:
·         Food safety. It probably isn’t a high priority topic because we just assume our food is safe from bugs – and most of the time that is correct. I have no problem sending my daughter to school with a vegemite sandwich, dried fruit and chopped vegetables (although the latter is probably my bigger concern) because they can be eaten at room temperature without too much risk of them growing nasty bacteria. Not forgetting that food safety is not just about the type of food you provide – bugs can be transferred to food from unsafe food handling practices eg: not washing hands, inadequate cleaning of utensils etc. Food safe guidelines suggest keeping perishable food below 5C or above 60C for hot food.
·         Nutrition. Children eat approximately one-third of their dietary intake at school. I would dearly love to send some dairy products (cheese, yoghurt) – but have you tried eating these when they have been sitting in a lunchbox for 4 hours? The hard cheese usually sweats and the yoghurt is not so pleasant when warm! I would also like to send pasta, but my understanding is that pre-cooked pasta can quickly grow bacteria at room temperature. So for now we stick with the standard lunch. I am starting to understand why parents choose to send pre-packed processed foods such as muesli bars to school – as it is hard to offer good variety when food can’t be chilled.
·         Enjoyment. Food should be enjoyed. I think the temperature of food helps in making food enjoyable!
First up, I will point out that the methodology for this experiment is rather rudimentary. I simply served up the standard frozen vegemite sandwich in the 2 different lunchboxes and added a super dooper temperature gadget (my husband is known for his gadgets – these are just some of his arsenal), placed the 2 lunchboxes side by side in our alfresco (to mimic where her lunchbox stays at school) and let the computer measure the temperature over a 4 hour period (which is the time period that my daughters lunch leaves home and sits in her school bag, and is then eaten at lunch).

I started my experiment at 10.30am (I know, I know – I should have started it at 8am when my daughter’s lunchbox is usually put in her school bag – but I forgot!), so that is the start time on the graph below. You can see that the blue line is the lunchbox with the ice pack, the red line is without the ice pack.

Keep in mind that both sandwiches are frozen – the key difference is the ice pack. The temperature gauge immediately recognises a reduced temperature in the lunchbox with an ice pack – dropping to 2C. However without an ice pack – the temperature does not drop below 10C.
Over the next 4 hours the temperate in both lunchboxes rises rapidly – with the ice pack always showing a lower temperature.
Within approximately 1 hour, the lunchbox with icepack increases above 5C (the ‘safe’ temperature), and then continues to steadily increase up to about 17C by the time my daughter would eat her lunch (4 hours).
The lunchbox without an icepack reached 27C by the time my daughter would eat her lunch.
I acknowledge that the methodology for this experiment could have been a bit more science based – but for me I was curious to know what the temperate was in my daughter’s lunchbox – when I did and didn’t use an ice pack. I was surprised at how quickly the temperate increased in the lunchboxes – particularly since I typically send frozen sandwiches. Imagine if the food wasn’t frozen – the temperature would surely increase at a quicker rate. 
I will always be using an icepack from now on in my daughter’s lunchbox – and would suggest this to everyone. Until a fridge is available, I will be cautious in sending anything that is perishable. This is unfortunate as I would like to increase the variety for my daughter. She loves boiled eggs and I would like to include those – but I won’t given the results from this experiment. 
Along with another mum, we are going to start lobbying each of our schools to suggest fridges be considered for children’s lunches.  I strongly feel that healthier lunch options (that are nutritious and food safe) could be provided if fridges were available.
Would love to hear your thoughts!

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