Category Archives: Nutrition

How to keep cut apple fresh

I understand the lure of convenience foods, I truly do. I try not to be all judgey on parents food choices, especially when I can see they are trying their best. One product that really irks me though are sliced apples in a packet. I feel angry at companies like this, who prey on our concerns for providing good food that kids will not bin. No one likes a soggy sandwich, and the companies that make these packaged apple slices would like you to think the brown apples are inevitable. That’s just not true.

The trick to keeping apples looking fresh and perky is stopping the oxidation process. Sounds technical? So totally not. All it takes is a squeeze of lemon, and voila! Crisp apple slices that last all day.

The method

Simply slice up your apple, and place in a bowl. Add enough water to just cover them. Then get half a lemon and give it a good squeeze. I leave them in the bowl for about 2-3 minutes. Enough time to rummage through the tupperware drawer basically. Pop them straight from the bowl into their container, and you are done. You can’t taste the lemon either. I promise.

The slices in the picture below come from 3 small apples, and I used most, but not all, of the juice from my half lemon.

It truly is that easy, and you don’t need to waste money or packaging on buying them pre-made. The other benefit is avoiding the 3 additives these companies use to keep them from going brown. Hooray for home chopped!

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These sliced apples are safe from the horror of going brown.

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Filed under Nutrition, Recipes, Snacks for Children, Toddler snacks

Going sugar free

Today I started to give up sugar. Hooray!

You might be thinking that a naturopath giving up sugar is not exactly blog worthy news, but I have a dirty little secret. I am a closet sugar abuser. Note that I didn’t say addict. I actually don’t think I am an addict per se (is that something an addict would say?), but I do have a sweet tooth and I use sugar as an emotional crutch. Being currently sleep deprived and having PND means I am using that crutch A LOT at the moment. I don’t feel my healthy best any more and as much as I have excuses for why that is, valid excuses in some cases, my diet is a big contributor. So it’s time to kick the habit.

What really spurred me on was this fantastic plan I found for quitting sugar. The steps are basically as follows:

  1. Replace all refined sugars with natural sweeteners
  2. Increase good fats in your diet
  3. Stop buying any pre-made foods with natural sugars, but you can make your own
  4. Reduce daily sugar load (from natural forms) to 36grams or less

Now this is a plan I can follow! The idea of going instantly sugar free is just too traumatic to me, and unrealistic given my current situation. The tradie is also a terrible sugar junkie, so I feel this plan is workable for me given that temptation lurks in our fridge and cupboard.

So today is the big day, and so far I already have two tips to share.

  1. This one comes from my very good friend, who has advised me to eat, eat, eat! Making a diet change requires lots of will power at any time, but try it on an empty tummy or on ‘diet’ sized portions and you are asking for trouble. This little tip has already paid off me today. At morning tea we attended a kids party. The sight of all the cupcakes and treats almost had me changing the start day to tomorrow! However I filled up on the healthy sandwiches and the sugar cravings came under control.
  2. Prepare your house. Learn from my mistake; clear ALL the temptation out of your house before you start. Not only do I have all the tradie’s treats staring at me when I open the fridge, there is 2 types of juice, home made gingerbread, and an amazing rhubarb compote all begging to be eaten. If I had any sense I would got rid of all this stuff. I’ll be honest, I’m probably going to eat the compote (it’s rhubarb compote people!), but the juice and gingerbread have to go. If, like me, you have a sugar addict in the house who is not quitting with you, then ask them not to buy your favourite treats in the early stages.

So what natural sweeteners?

I have chosen three to start with. I might write a post comparing some of the natural sweeteners another time if people are interested. For now I’ll keep it basic.

  • Honey: raw unprocessed honey is such a super food and a favourite with my kids. When not heated it has antimicrobial and healing effects on the body.
  • Maple syrup: most maple syrup is organic and wild crafted. It goes through minimal processing: basically just extracted from the tree through a tap, filtered and warmed slightly.
  • Jaggery (also known as palm sugar, which is not to be compared to coconut palm sugar): jaggery is another unrefined sweetener normally extracted as a juice from palm trees and evaporated to make a crystalline solid. I grew up eating palm sugar, so I really wanted this one instead of similar alternatives like rapadura or coconut sugar. Another reason it that it is so much cheaper. You buy it in a block, and just grate it or buzz it in a processor to get a fine sugar.

I’ll be blogging a lot on this topic, as I feel there is so much I am going to learn and be able to pass on. I hope you might even join me!

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Nutrition, Sugar free

Taking quinoa off the table

We’ve quit quinoa in our house.

Without doubt you’ve adopted a look of horror, and are wondering if that’s a misprint. But no, dear reader, it’s true; quinoa is no longer on the menu.

After picking yourself back up off the floor, you may start to wonder WHY ON EARTH would I do such a thing. Don’t I know that quinoa is a SUPER food. All the celebrities eat it, and it’s an awesome source of protein. What am I thinking?!?!?!

A recent article in The Guardian kick started this change. The author wrote about the impact of global demand on the prices of quinoa in Bolivia and Peru, and the flow on effect this has on affordability of this staple grain in the region. Simply put, the price is so high now that those communities can no longer afford it. Once a cornerstone of nutrition for peasants in the region, quinoa is now sent for export to wealthy western nations leaving a major gap in the food source of the nations poor. To me, this is an unacceptable cost.

Further reading also revealed that the mad scramble to farm this ‘new’ wonder crop, is leading to the abandonment of traditional farming methods and poor environmental practices. Of concern is the reduction of llama farming, a key component in maintaining soil fertility in the highlands. Ironically by abandoning llamas, the soil loses its main fertilizer that gives quinoa its amazing nutritional value: manure.

I am so fortunate to live in a country that gives me access to a wide range of affordable, high quality foodstuffs. I don’t feel that quinoa offers me any nutritional value that I couldn’t easily obtain elsewhere. And when you factor in the cost of further impoverishing a nations poor and contributing to environmental damage, well frankly the cost becomes too high.

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Filed under Green living, Interesting reading, Nutrition

Give that baby a drink

I have many pet hates. I have a metaphorical menagerie of things that greatly peeve me. However, few get me as worked up as the following well intentioned, but completely misinformed statement: ‘geez it’s hot today, you better give that baby some water’. Grrrr.

Exclusively breastfed babies under the age of 6mths, do NOT need supplementary water. Not even on ridiculously hot days. Clever mother nature provides us with both a watery foremilk to hydrate baby, and a rich creamy hindmilk to fill baby up. On hot days, bubs tend to like short, frequent drinks which gives them plenty of foremilk, and therefore plenty of hydration. Giving young babies water actually gives them a false sense of fullness, and reduces the amount of breast milk they take in for the day.

One of the best pieces of advice I got prior to leaving the hospital was to ignore the advice of people who birthed 30 years ago. I am constantly surprised by how much I agree with this. All mothers can offer advice and support that is useful. However this advice does need to be scrutinized in light of modern research. Many of the parenting strategies of our parents have been shown to be counterproductive and in some cases detrimental. Breastfeeding advice certainly falls in that category.

For practical, research based advice on breastfeeding babies in hot water, see this link

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Filed under Breast feeding, Nutrition

A rainy day in the kitchen (and a 2nd birthday cake)

Today is one of those perfect grey and rainy home days. I love rainy days; when the skies seem close and moody, and the house is a cozy, safe retreat. This one is particularly nice as its Australia Day, and that means triple J’s hottest 100 is playing on the radio.

My toddler, Boo, turns two tomorrow. I’m really struggling with this birthday as I know my baby is growing up, and soon those giggling fits and mispronunciated words will be gone, replaced with new challenges and milestones. I’m proud of my ‘big girl’ though. Everyday she surprises me with something new, and she is a curious and loving child. I am very blessed to be her Mum.

Naturally another birthday means another cake. I’m using the same cake as her first birthday. You can find the recipe here. This is a beautiful cake, and the smell of coconut and maple syrup had added another lovely layer to my blissful rainy day. This time the icing is not so child friendly though. I have done a vanilla butter cream, and used puréed blueberries as a colourant. Sadly this was much more pink then I expected, giving us a pink shark instead of blue like I was hoping for. I also used fondant (shock horror!) for the features of the shark’s face. I have never used fondant before, and I found it really challenging. I have also learned that it cannot be dyed with raspberry juice. I ended up using the juice as a paint, by applying it on top of the fondant once applied to cake. I’m not happy with the sugar based icings, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. I can’t wait for her to see her special shark cake tomorrow. She’s going to love it!

While baking Boo’s birthday cake, I decided I also felt like comfort food and a quick raid of the fridge turned up some quark close to its use-by date. Perfect for blueberry and quark pancakes. Quark is a European fresh cheese similiar to cottage cheese. Traditionally it is made without rennet. The one I get is from Barambah Organics, and is a thick creamy delicious treat.

Blueberry and Quark pancakes

1 1/3 cups quark (or ricotta)
3/4 cup of milk
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup blueberries (frozen is fine)

Combine these wet ingredients in a mixing bowl. Only add the egg yolks for now, the whites get folded through later. Add the blueberries last.

In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of sea salt

Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta mix, and stir until combined. Do not over mix.

Beat the egg whites, until nice and firm. Gently fold through the pancake mix in two batches.

Fry spoonfuls of the batter over a low heat, with some butter or ghee.

I had never cooked quark or ricotta pancakes before, and found it difficult to get the temperature just right. As you can see in the picture, mine were more than golden. You need a fairly low heat, not too much batter for each pancake, and to keep a close eye on them.

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Adding quark to the pancakes gives this dish some decent protein, and makes them more filling. They also taste delicious.

Enjoying a rainy day at home with my family, and baking some yummy treats is pretty much a perfect day in my book.

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Filed under Nutrition, Recipes, Snacks for Children, Sugar free, Toddler snacks

What makes a treat?

A couple of weeks ago I had to take the car to the mechanics. The required new brakes, and the mechanic we love several suburbs away, conspired to mean I had to sit and wait hours for the car to be ready. With a toddler and a new born. Oh what fresh hell would this be?

The night before I packed a bag of toys, downloaded a Justine Clarke DVD onto the iPad, made toddler snacks and braced myself for the long day ahead (it was actually only going in for a service, but it was pretty obvious the brakes were in a bad way).

The only shops and entertainment nearby were a Bunnings, a fruit store, a service station and a park. We broke the day up by starting at Bunnings. My toddler helped me chose and carry seedlings. I must write about how awesome the Bunnings staff were. Baby decided she needed a feed while there. I asked a garden centre staff member if there was somewhere I could sit and feed. She not only told me to use the comfy outdoor setting displays, but came and checked I was okay. All the staff who passed me smiled warmly and a few asked if I needed anything. What a wonderful experience breast feeding in a store. Thanks Bunnings. After feeding, changing nappies and chasing the errant toddler, we purchased our herbs and returned to the mechanics.

The next trip out was around lunch. I wanted to get some fresh food and yoghurt and head to the park. I let Boo guide me on which fruit to buy, and she chose cherries, red grapes and a mandarin. We walked over to the park and opened our bounty.

Watching the pure enjoyment on Boo’s face as she tucked into juicy mandarins, then devoured those fresh seasonal cherries was just bliss. It brings up the question: what makes a treat? Why do we associate treats with junk food? To my toddler that day, running round a park while enjoying fresh fruit was every bit as delightful as eating a chocolate bar. Maybe more, as the energy and nutrients from the fruit provided her with lasting energy, instead of the crash from the processed sugars. One of my favourite treats is a bag full of lychees. I love peeling those little fruits and feeling the burst of juice and natural sweetness. So, so good.

Maybe what we need is to redefine the idea of a treat. And fresh, seasonal fruits are the perfect place to start.

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Filed under Nutrition, Seasonal eating, Snacks for Children, Toddler snacks

Yummy, yummy, goodie balls

Now bub is 11 weeks old, I’m starting to think about shedding the extra weight I put on while pregnant. This is not easy for me, as while I’m breastfeeding I find I’m starving. Unfortunately when I’m feeling tired and busy with my two girls, I often find myself reaching for rubbishy sugary foods.

So, it’s time to hit the kitchen and whip up some super easy goodie balls. I pack mine full of good fats to provide the calories I’m craving in a vitamin and mineral dense little package. The fats are also good for my little baby’s developing brain. Fresh dates provide me with B vitamins and the sweetness my body desires. They really are an awesome treat.

Ingredients
2 cups fresh dates, seeds removed (approx. 16 dates)
2tbs coconut oil
2tbs tahini
1tbs chia seeds (optional, as they are a bit like bird seed)
1 capful vanilla
1tbs almond meal
1tbs ground flaxseed

Throw all ingredients into the food processor, and process well. Roll into little balls, then roll in coconut to coat.

I recommend storing these in a glass container to avoid the fats allowing chemicals from plastics to leach into your treats.

I’m enjoying a couple of these sweet treats with a cup of ginger tea right now. Yummy!

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Filed under Mummy health and wellbeing, Nutrition, Recipes, Weight loss