Healthy choices

Plantie curious

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THE SCENIC ROUTE
My journey towards whole food plant based definitely didn’t happen overnight like it does for some people. It might have had something to do with the fact that, as a mum of three, what I cook has to be right for more than just me. I’ve never been a big meat eater, but about eight years ago I started to get more curious about the idea of your whole plate being just plants when I read Hugh Fernley Whittingstalls book Veg Everyday. At that stage I had a four year old and a two year old, so I was still cooking meat for them, but I started to eat mainly plant based myself. Dairy was a more gradual process of reduction over the course of the last few years. When I’m asked about food choices I say I’m 'whole food plant based', although I’m probably Vegan I rather the all encompassing more welcoming term of plant based. We’ve gotten a bit obsessed with boxing everyone into categories and we all eat plants to some degree!

I was much slower to introduce the kids to this way of eating. I haven’t taken the step lightly. I have read an enormous amount about kids on plant based, and watched documentaries like What the Health and Forks over Knives. Happy that this is the best way for them too, we’ve all started to mainly eat the same way over the course of the last year. On special family occasions, and diners out, I encourage them to make their own choices. I feel helping them to embrace this way of eating as their own decision is an important part of their journey. And if it’s not part of the journey they choose there is no judgement.

STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
What does meat and dairy add to your diet? The obvious answer being protein and calcium. Protein builds and repairs muscles, and calcium gives us strong bones. I’m not disputing that they are definitely essential nutrients, but animals don’t make these nutrients, so where do they get the protein and calcium? They eat it in their plant based diets. Why not cut out the ‘middle man’, so to speak, and go straight to source – eat plants! Not only is it a purer form of protein and calcium but it is more readily absorbed by our bodies. If you are eating a whole food plant based diet – full of a variety of veg, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains – you’ll meet your daily requirement of protein, calcium and all your nutritional requirements everyday, whether you lead a sedentary life or you’re training for a ultra marathon. It’s actually quite easy to over consume protein, leading to increased fat stores and unnecessary strain on the heart and the kidneys.

QUESTION THE NORM
Meat causes inflammation in the system and is much harder for the body to digest. True carnivores have much shorter intestines to ensure the meat moves out of their system before it rots. Our intestine are more like herbivores and our canines are nothing like a carnivores, or in fact other omnivores. The function of cows milk is to create rapid grown in a small calf. When the calf is eating well it naturally weens – it no longer needs rapid cell growth. So why do humans (not even cows) feel we need rapid cell growth throughout our whole lives? This rapid cell growth, which all dairy causes, is what potentially causes problems with cancer patients who consume dairy.

THE WESTERN DIET
We are living longer, but we are sicker and more medicated than ever before, and from an earlier age. We have made great leaps in prevention of death from infections, but through the way we live our lives we have created new health concerns. Our current four main risks, called ‘lifestyle diseases’, are heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. A plant based diet has been proven to prevent and reverse heart disease, diabetes and obesity, prevent and reduce cell growth in cancer. There are many mixed messages from marketing campaigns created by the agriculture industry to cause confusion. In the hope that they will cause enough doubt to make the public stick with what they’ve been told is right, rather than question it.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE
I have to admit my springboard into plant based was about wanting to feel and look well in myself. As I go along on this exploration I’m learning more about the effects animal agriculture has on our environment – from deforestation to grow grain for livestock; water pollution from livestock; and that 51% of our gas emissions comes from livestock. 40% of the world’s surface is used for agriculture and of that 30% is used to rear animals. We can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and think ‘how can one person make a difference’. One burger takes 460 gallons of water, 1.5 acres of land, and the equivalent gas emissions of driving a car twenty miles. An average person on a western diet consumes 7,000 animals in their lifetime – that’s a lot of animals, water, deforestation and gas emissions per person!

WHERE TO NOW
So where do you start if you want to find out more information. Check out the Veganuary website to answer all your questions and get some plantie recipe to get you started. I’ve been doing the plantie thing for a few years now but I still feel I have so much to learn, and as a mum it’s my responsibility to keep delving. So I’ve just signed up to The Happy Pear online Happy Heart Course and look forward to lots more recipe ideas and some inspirational online talks with the Flynn twins. It’s about being well and feeling more inline with nature. Building a sustainable future for the next generation and being healthy and happy.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Merry plantie Christmas recipes

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WHOLEFOOD PLANT BASED CHRISTMAS
Christmas day is a day for traditions. These traditions are so ground into the expectations of the day, that to change them dramatically would be risking mutiny! We follow a plant based diet, but I encourage the kids to follow what feels right for them. No surprises that what feels right for them on Christmas Day, is the full on turkey and ham with all the trimmings!

This year I wanted to show them you can have just as much of a Christmas feast following our plantie way of life. So last Sunday we had a ‘Mini Christmas Plantie Feast’. We started with vegan eggnog using oat milk, followed by beet wellington using a recipe based on my veggie burgers, with the earthy flavour of beetroot and lots of festive herbs. Every plate was licked clean after second helpings, and they were asking is this a new Christmas tradition!

EGGNOG
1 ltr oat milk
6 dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch salt

Soak the dates in boiling water for 10mins. Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth. Sore in the fridge and heat gently in a saucepan to serve warm with a pinch of cinnamon on top.

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BEET WELLINGTON
1 leek
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 packet of mushrooms
4 small steamed beetroots
1 tin of black beans
handful of nuts
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp tamari
bunch of fresh parsley & thyme chopped
2 sticks of rosemary chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
generous handful of oats
salt and pepper to taste
1 packet of vegan puff pastry

Saute the leeks, onions and garlic. When they start to soften add the mushrooms and continue to gently sautee or about 10mins. Add the paprika, cumin, tamari, ground flax and lemon juice. Blend the nuts in a food processor into small nuggets. Add the beetroot and blend till the beetroot is liquid but not completely broken down. Add the sauteed vegetables mix and black beans. Add a enough oats to help the mixture come together into a pliable texture. Blend to mix, leaving some texture. Mix in your herbs and season. You will probably have lots more mixture than you need.

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Lay your pastry out and spoon the mixture down the centre of the pastry. Use as much filling as will fit when you pull the sides up to seal it along the centre of the roll of filling. Brush the pastry with a bit of oat milk to help it seal together. Seal and end too and place on a baking tray. Bake for 30mins or until nicely browned. Store any remainder mixture in the freezer ready to defrost and make another beet wellington or some veggie burgers.

 

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ROAST PARSNIP & CARROT
4 parsnips
10 carrots
2 tsp rosemary
polenta to sprinkle
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180oC. Chop the veg into batton shaped chunks. Place on an oiled baking tray and sprinkle with polenta, rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast for 40mins.

ROAST BRUSSEL SPROUTS
1 bag of brussel sprouts
1 handful of pine nuts
½ tbsp maple syrup
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180oC. Take the outer layers of the brussel sprouts and chop in half. Place on an oiled baking tray, drizzle over the maple syrup and sprinkle with the pine nuts and salt and pepper. Roast for 30mins.

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POLENTA CHIPS
700ml water
2 tsp bouillon veg stock
150g polenta + 2 tbsp to spinkle the chips
2 tsp mixed herbs
salt & pepper to taste

If you’ve time make the mixture the night before and allow to set fully in the fridge overnight. Boil the water, add the stock, polenta, mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Cook to a gentle bubble until it thickens. Line a 20cm square tin. Poor the polenta mixture into the tin and allow to set for at least 1hr or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Tip the mixture out onto a chopping board. Chop into chunky chip pieces. Place on an oiled baking tray and sprinkle with the remainder polenta. Bake for 30mins till nice and crunchy.

BRAISED RED CABBAGE
1 head of red cabbage
1 onion finely chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 grated apples
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper

Saute the onions and fennel seeds. Add the grated apples and cabbage and cook on a low heat till the cabbage is softened. Add the apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.

A lot of the veg can be prepped the day before and stored in the fridge in IKEA bags. The polenta mixture and the beet wellington mixture can be prepped the day before too.

Merry Plantie Christmas!

Enjoy
Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Sugar, supersweet supervillain

The more we learn about sugar, the more we see what a devastating effect it has on our systems. It’s incredibly addictive - actually more addictive than cocaine!  It strips the minerals from your body and is a very acidic food. It also increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes; it causes anxiety, depression, inflammation; it weakens the immune system, reduces concentration, prematurely ages the skin, creates fat on the midriff and, more importantly, causes ‘hidden fat’ around the organs. Ever heard the phrase ‘skinny fat’? This refers to people who have a high-sugar diet but are quite slim as a result of the fat being stored around their organs, instead of the midriff.

The unfortunate truth is, even if you don't think you consume much sugar in cakes, buns or sweet treats, it’s hidden in most processed and packaged foods. The food industry has given us an unnaturally sweet tooth by adding sugar to processed foods, fuelling a sugar addiction and making you buy more, which is exactly what they are hoping for! Dressings, sauces, soups, low fat foods, jam, cereal, granola, cereal bars, fruit juice, fizzy drinks and even most breads contain added sugar. If you check the ingredients of something as simple as a tomato pasta sauce, you’ll be surprised at how high up the list of ingredients sugar is. The higher up the list, the more there is. Not only does the food industry add vast quantities of sugar, it also tries to disguise it by using a long list of names that we may not be familiar with. Anything ending in ‘ose’ is a form of sugar - glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose. Other sugars are honey, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup and rice syrup. The best way to avoid all these hidden sugars is to eat an unprocessed, wholefood diet as much as possible. It would be unrealistic to think that we can control every mouthful, but if you eat well the most of the time, your body will be better able to deal with the odd dinner out or family celebrations.

No matter what form it takes, sugar is sugar and it has the same harmful effect on the body. When more than 2 teaspoons are consumed, the body releases insulin, which transports the surplus sugar out of the bloodstream to be stored in the cells as fat. It also sends a signal telling the brain that you are still hungry, and blocking the natural message telling you when you are full.

Supposedly 'healthy' juices are, unfortunately, predominantly made of fruit rather than veg and even a green juice can dump up to 11tsp of sugar into your system from one small bottle. That’s 9tsps more than your body is expecting! We all know fruit is good for you but we have to remember, it’s still a source of natural sugar. A good rule of thumb is, if it tastes sweet, it contains sugar and should be consumed mindfully. The daily recommended allowance of added sugar is 5-6tsp for women and 7-8tsp for men (World Health Organisation). Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruit, veg, dairy and grains. ‘Added sugar’ is any sugar consumed in addition to these naturally occurring sugars, and are mainly found in processed foods.

Children should limit their added sugar intake to 3tsp a day. There seems to be a misconception that children need energy from sugar. But, without the fibre naturally occurring in wholefood, the energy they get from this source is released too quickly into the system and causes low blood sugar - tiredness, irritability and a craving for more sugar. We are all too aware of the negative effects of sugar on our waistlines, and it affects children in the same way, as well as causing tooth decay, behavioural problems, and increased rates of obesity, which leads to health problems later in life. It also teaches young tastebuds to develop a sweet tooth and starts a sugar addiction from an early age. Of course they will be exposed to vast quantities of sugar at parties, but I find children are more sensitive to sugar and reach their sugar limit much sooner when they have a low-sugar diet.

Sugar gives what we call, ‘empty calories’. Meaning it has no health benefits and causes plenty of health problems! Cane sugar, the most common form of sugar, is highly processed, to the point that it has zero health benefits. Some alternative sugars or sweeteners do have some health benefits and when indulging in a little treat, it’s best to use these to add some value to your snack and compensate the effects of the sugar. Nutritional Therapist Amelia Freer, champions a low sugar way of eating and has a comprehensive list of sugar alternatives on her website. She has also published a No.1 bestseller book called 'Eat. Nourish. Glow', which outlines 10 principles of healthy eating. A book which I frequently revisit, to remind myself of her 10 simple, easy to follow steps to better health. When altering a recipe, I pull back on the sugar, as most recipes are much sweeter than they need to be. Start by reducing the amount by ¼ and as your palate gets used to it, you can reduce it further. Bear in mind that baking is a science, and some recipes work better than others with this method. Gradually reduce your tolerance to sugar until all your old favourites become too sugary for your palate.

So how do you start reducing your sugar consumption? The best place to start is by doing a kitchen clear-out of all the main culprits in your kitchen. Check the ingredient list of all bottles, packets and processed foods. There can be a period of adjustment, where you have to restock your kitchen with healthier choices, but the long term health of you and your family is worth it. Replace low fat yogurt for natural yogurt, chutney for mustard, ketchup for tomato puree, sweet chilli sauce for tamari and balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar. Make a big batch of tomato sauce and freeze it in 400g portions. Invest a bit of time on Sunday night, making homemade soup and a batch of granola bars, for a week of lunches and snacks. Homemade dressings, pestos and hummus are always good to have at hand to throw together tasty and fast dinners.

Your sugar addiction will try to find ways to keep itself going. Next time you reach into the cupboard for a little pick-me-up, think for a minute what is driving you? Tune in to how you feel with and without added sugar in your system. When you do have a well earned treat pick one that offers you something more than just a sugar hit. Savour the moment and make sure these savoured moments are not too frequent!

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Food choices

It seems recently, with the advances in science, we are re-looking at all we thought we knew about healthy eating, and it can be quite confusing! How do we know what’s right and wrong? I will look at food trends and try to make sense of all the mixed messages we get about healthy eating. I will share tried and tested ways of eating and give tips and ideas on how to nourish your body and find foods that work for you. Finding ways to fuel your system with food that balances and makes you feel and look your best.

I predominantly eat a plant based diet as much as possible. Eating whole food in its most natural unprocessed form. Vegetables are the most nutritionally dense food and should be the main component of all your meals. Eat all the colours of the rainbow, each colour vegetable has a variety of different health benefits. For example green veg help detox your system and promote healthy skin; orange veg build your immune system and have cancer fighting properties; red veg support a healthy heart and eyes. Even though most fruit and veg are available all year round I try to eat with the season to get them at their peak. Even if you’re not too sure what’s in season you’ll notice in the supermarket certain veg are in abundance and looking bigger and better than they usually do! Board Bia do a great chart that show you all the veg in season.

Before I started taking an interest in nutrition I would have considered myself a very healthy eater. But when I actually looked at what I was eating I realised that even though I wasn’t eating much bread I was still relying too much on grains. We rely too much on cereal for breakfast, bread at lunchtime and pasta or rice for dinner. When you reduce the grain portions in meals and increase the vegetable portions you are increasing the nutritional content of every meal. Gram for gram grains just don’t pack the same punch as vegetables when it comes to health benefits. You’ll also find you feel more satisfied for longer when grains don’t take centre stage on you plate.

I find I work better without too much meat. It can be harder to digest and slows my system down. There are tons of plant based proteins that you can mix into your diet, which will reduce your dependency on meat as a source of protein. It’s better to eat good quality meat once or twice a week and experiment with other sources of protein to encourage variety into your diet. Quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, hemp seed, seeds, nuts, legumes, lentils, leafy greens, eggs and even avocado are all great sources of protein. Try swapping rice with quinoa or buckwheat, adding chia or hemp seed into your porridge, sprinkling nuts onto salads and even on roast veg, make some hummus or a big pot of bean hotpot, throw some lentils into your homemade soup.

Although some people have no problem with dairy it is one of the most common food allergens. Our main reason for over consuming dairy is the need for calcium in our diets. It is often considered the only source of calcium but there are lots of other options like nuts, seeds, white beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, seaweed, and again avocado! Half a glass of milk has 100mg of calcium, an orange has 75mg of calcium and one cup of white beans has 150g of calcium. Similar to the approach to meat, try look at broadening your spectrum on how you get your calcium requirements and mix it up with some other sources.

Every meal should have a balance of plants, protein and fat. Put very simply, plants supply a powerhouse of different vitamins and minerals, protein builds cells and promotes healing and fat is the misunderstood food group that is imperative for your body to absorb all the nutrition it takes in. You can flood your system with all the good food in the world but if it is missing the transporter it will simply travel through your system without much absorption. Along with protein, it also fills you up and keep you satisfied until your next meal.

When you start to listen to your system and become more conscious of the messages it sends (happy, balanced, comfortable, tired, bloated, constipated), it becomes easier and more logical to eat in a clean and unprocessed way. Eating nourishes your body and has the ability to make you feel and look your best. Mindfully take pleasure in the journey the food took to get onto your fork. Slow down and savour each mouthful. Explore the senses; sight, smell, texture and taste. It’s about building a sustainable lifestyle that makes you more aware of how your system reacts to what you eat and avoiding the ones that don’t suit you.

But most of all enjoying the experience of food, and building a healthy relationship with it.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru