For dinner last night I decided try one of Jamie Oliver's '15 minute meals' recipes. Excited about going all 'My Kitchen Rules' I picked a recipe that looked relatively easy, went down to the supermarket, bought the listed ingredients ($70 - yikes!), and on returning home, I assured Brett that dinner would be ready in '15 minutes'.
35 minutes later, I was still going.
I won't lie, I'm no chef. I do love good, nutritious food and enjoy cooking healthy food for loved ones, but I'm far from 'Master Chef' material. So, what should have taken me 15 minutes to make, took me almost 50 minutes (Margaret's 50 minute meals anyone?)
Here's what happened.
'Blackened Chicken San Fran Quinoa Salad' (p 46-47), serves 4, total calories 617
1 fresh red chilli
100g baby spinach
3-4 spring onions
1 bunch fresh coriander*
1 bunch fresh mint*
1 ripe mango**
1 ripe avocado
50g feta cheese
1 bunch cress*
Extra virgin olive oil
2x 200g skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
A sprinkle of chilli flakes***
A sprinkle of smoked paprika
2 mixed-colour capsicums
A dollop of natural Greek yoghurt, to serve.
The steps - how I did it
Place quinoa in to a medium sized saucepan add water (think 1 part quoinoa, 3 parts water), place on the stove on high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, drain the quinoa and rinse under cold tap water and place in a serving bowl and set aside.
Rinse the green leafy's (spinach, coriander, spring onions, fresh mint) and the red chilli under cold tap water, chop roughly and, according to Jamie, place in to a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Good in theory. I improvised here, and placed the ingredients in to a blender, thinking this would surely work. No such luck. We (Brett stepped in to help here!) decided, blending/blitzing wasn't working so well, so we took the ingredients out, placed them on to a chopping board, and manually chopped until fine. Once done, the chopped ingredients were placed in to a bowl and set aside.
On a large sheet of greaseproof paper, toss the chicken with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and paprika. Fold over the paper, then bash and flatten the chicken to 1.5cm thick with a rolling pin. This was probably the funnest part of the cooking comedy that unfolded in our kitchen last night :)
Put chicken in to a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turning after 3-4 minutes, until blackened and cooked through. De seed the capsicums, cut in to strips, and add to the frying pan, tossing regularly.
Peel and cut the (not in season, not so ripe) mango in to chunks and set aside. Halve and de-stone the avocado, cut in to small chunks and again, set aside.
Toss the quinoa with the green leafy mixture, squeeze over the lime juice, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste. Sprinkle the mango and avocado chunks, and cooked capsicums, over the quinoa-green leafy mixture.
Transfer the chicken to a plate or chopping board, slice it up and add to the salad. Crumble over the feta and the cress. Serve with a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt.
So, after about 50 minutes dinner was served. It was delicious, nutritious and well-worth the wait. And even though it took me longer then the claimed 15 minutes to make this meal (that's simply because I'm no master chef), I'll be making it again! Fresh is best and there's something to be said about creating a meal from scratch, using fresh ingredients.
And let's be honest - the competitor in me wants to see if next time I can beat the clock! 15 minutes, hey?! Game on Jamie! :)
_____________________ *I ended up using about a handful **Mangoes are no longer in season - wanting to stick to the recipe as per Jamie's instruction, I paid a ridiculous amount for a not so ripe mango. I'll leave this out next time! ***I didn't have any allspice at home
I read an article recently in the lifestyle section of one of the big city news publications on the gluten-free diet, titled 'Is going Gluten Free (GF) Healthy?' and it got me thinking about all the people I know who have "gone GF" because they think it's the healthier option or they think it makes them "feel better". While I don't disagree that going GF can make some people feel generally healthier and maybe less bloated and even constipated, what are the ramifications of going GF without actually getting tested for possible coeliac disease first, if you suspect gluten intolerance?
It's no secret, a few months ago, in the lead up to IM Melbourne, I myself went GF. I did so without getting tested first because I was time poor (IM Melbourne was around the corner) and full of unwanted symptoms like bad, bad eczema (possible dermatitis herpetiformis), which was getting completely out of control, I was bloated (think 6-month pregnant), I was suffering irregular bowel motions, I had sore joints, I was falling asleep at the drop of a hat; you name it I had it. And once I went strict GF the symptoms disappeared; the eczema cleared up and I was able to continue training towards the IM without needing a constant caffeine drip injected in to my veins.
However, my aim was always to get back on the gluten-train once the IM was over, so that I could get properly tested to rule out the possibility of coeliac disease, first and foremost.
Now, I've been having a gluten party for the last 2 or 3 weeks and as much as I've really enjoyed lazy Sunday French toast, full of gluteny goodness, my skin has erupted, I'm bloated, constipated and a little tired and grumpy - I'm also 1 day out from starting the rigmarole of getting tested for coeliac disease (blood tests tomorrow, followed by a trip to the Gastroenterologist and a possible gastroscope). As much as I'm super excited about going back to being GF (for some relief if nothing else) - I also know how important it is, to rule out the nasties first, if an intolerance is suspected.
The issue is - if I'm found to be coeliac, it will mean lifelong, 100% compliance with GF. And we're not just talking about avoiding gluten most of the time and allowing it occasionally, we're talking about using different chopping boards or using a separate toaster to avoid even the slightest gluten containing crumb. Pretty hardcore if you ask me. So what are the consequences of gluten for someone who is coeliac? The answer - "chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression
and dental enamel defects. There is also a small, but real, increased
risk of certain forms of cancer such as lymphoma of the small bowel" (for more on coeliac disease click here).
And if I'm not coeliac? Well, happy days! I'll continue to avoid gluten because, for me, it makes me feel better. It clears my eczema, I have more energy, I don't look 6-months pregnant and hallelujah, my bowels work regularly. But it'll mean that I won't have to be as strict with being GF as someone with diagnosed coeliac disease.
So, my point here is - what are your reasons for going GF? If it's weight loss you're after, well, bad news, gluten-free products aren't necessarily healthier; they often contain more calories, sugar and fat and some may even lack in nutrition. But if you're experimenting with a GF diet because you genuinely suffer gastrointestinal symptoms after eating gluten, my advice - get properly tested first. And once the nasties have been ruled out, if you want to, go ahead and live a life of GF, just make sure it's balanced and you're not restricting any of the food groups.
For more on all things coeliac and gluten click here.
If you suspect an intolerance or are wanting some guidance around a GF diet, contact me at email@example.com, for an appointment today.
These days entries in to long course triathlon events (Ironman and half Ironman alike) sell out in minutes. It would seem, every one from the iron pumping machine at the local gym to the little old lady down the street - every one is jumping on the endurance band wagon.
I think it's fantastic! The number of people thinking about their health, doing things to improve themselves to live a long, happy and fulfilled life seems to be on the rise and maybe, just maybe, if this trend keeps going, we might have the potential to reverse the obesity epidemic? As a health professional I'm definitely all for this; the more people that get off the couch and get moving the better!
But what I've noticed in the short time that I've been doing long course triathlon (OK - it's only been 12months! I'm still an long course triathlon baby) is the rise of, what I'm calling, 'the long course diet'.
It's no secret - I'm a big proponent of 'eat to train, don't train to eat'. But is not 'eat to live, don't live to eat' just as important?
As a Sports Dietitian, with a vested interest in long course triathlon, one thing I have noticed when training for my first Ironman was the number of triathletes who went on a training diet in the lead up to the big race, which then basically ended in glorious, celebratory food and drink binges once the race was over.
And yes, of course, nutrition is vital for success in triathlon. But isn't maintaining healthy eating in the off-season just as important - for long term health - to prevent future chronic disease?
While I definitely agree that we're all allowed some down time, we're all allowed the occasional treat, I think it's just as important to maintain a healthy, balanced eating plan (I hate the word "diet") when you're in the off-season, just as when you're training or racing.
So, here are some tips to help you eat healthy, for health and to prevent a weight blow out too, during the off-season.
1. To maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs (bearing in mind that your energy needs in the off-season will most likely be less compared to when you were peaking before the race).
2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from each of the five food groups, every day:
- Eat plenty of vegetables of different types and colours. Aim to fill up half of your plate at meals with low starch vegetables like carrots, broccoli, capsicums, green leafy veg etc.
- Aim for 2 serves of fruit per day. Two serves is plenty! You don't need more then two.
- Enjoy a wide variety of grain (cereal ) foods, choosing mostly wholegrains and high fibre varieties like brown rice, quinoa, high fibre cereals, wholegrain breads. Important thing to remember here is portion control. At meals, there's no need to gorge on carb's. Only a quarter of your plate should be carbohydrates - and this also includes starchy veg like potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn.
- Aim for about 2-3 serves of protein rich foods daily. Choose lean meats, skinless chicken (the breast is the best), fish, eggs, nuts, legumes. Avoid processed, fatty meats as much as possible. Portion control is key with this group too. At meals only a quarter of your plate should be protein and if snacking on unsalted nuts, I recommend almonds or walnuts and aim to have no more than 1 small handful 2-3 times per week.
- Aim for about 2-3 serves of low fat or reduced fat dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, dairy alternatives) each day. We recommend reduced fat varieties as full fat varieties contain too much saturated fats (fats that are known to contribute to raised cholesterol levels). Word of caution here though - most reduced fat yoghurts are packed with excess sugar. Read those labels and choose low fat, low sugar varieties. I recommend Chobani Greek yoghurt here as it's low in fat, low in sugar and higher in protein. Also, if you're going to eat full fat cheeses, limit to 2-3 serves per week and choose types which a lower in salt.
3. Choose water as your main drink. Limit your intake of sugary drinks like fruit juice, cordial, soft drink, sports drinks. With fruit juice remember to choose juice not fruit drink and to choose the 'no added sugar' varieties as these will be lower in added sugars. Also, 1 small glass of fruit juice is equivalent to 1 serve of fruit for the day. In the off-season you probably don't need the sports drinks - water will more then likely do the trick.
4. Eat clean! Limit processed foods and foods and drinks containing added sugar and food high in fat, particularly saturated fat and added salt.
5. In the off-season, go easy on the gels and bars etc. Sports food is designed for a purpose - to fuel long, hard training days. When training volume is reduced you probably don't need to take 5 gels for that 70km coffee ride.
6. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit your intake and don't drink every day.
7. Start your day with a healthy breakfast!
8. Listen to your body - stop eating when your full. Snack on healthy snacks only if you're hungry.
9. Watch your intake of fats and oils. Not all fats are equal. It is recommended to opt for unsaturated fats where possible, but whether you choose butter or margarine, the key is - use in small amounts.
10. Don't go food shopping hungry, shop the perimeter and become a label reader! Know what's in your food and what's going in to your mouth.
11. Write it down. Keep a track of what you're eating by keep a food diary (apps like My Fitness Pal are great for keeping a track of how much you're eating).
Most importantly, enjoy the food you're eating.
For more on the new guidelines to Healthy Eating click here.
After a big Easter weekend full of too much chocolate and wine, I was craving something super healthy for dinner tonight, full of omega-3 goodness, something anti-inflammatory to restore equilibrium. And ta-daaa... Quinoa, Kale and Cannellini beans served with baked Salmon happened for dinner tonight. Brett's initial reaction - "oh, YUM!"... Success!
Here it is. Enjoy xx
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups water
4 cups chopped Kale
2 capsicums, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons basil pesto
Parmesan cheese, grated, as desired
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
2 pieces of Salmon, scaled and de-boned
Ground corriander, as desired, to taste
2-3 springs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon drained baby capers
2 medium lemons, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 200degress Celsius.
Place baking paper on to a rectangular baking tray. Place salmon on to baking paper and rub all over with olive oil, salt, pepper, coriander, fresh rosemary and dill sprigs. Top each with lemon slices, capers and lemon juice. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place a another sheet of baking paper to enclosing the salmon. Fold in the edges to seal.
Place in the oven and bake for about 12minutes or until salmon is cooked through.
Meanwhile, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pour 1/2 cup of water into a large saucepan. Layer with kale, capsicum and cannellini beans in the pan - do not stir. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 4-5minutes or until the capsicum is tender and the beans are hot (don't let the water completely cook away). Remove from the heat and drain away any remaining water.
Stir pesto in to the quinoa. Add the quinoa and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese to the kale mixture; toss well.
Spoon the kale, quinoa mixture on to a serving plate and serve with the baked salmon. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to taste and drizzle with lemon juice.
I love Quinoa. It's so versatile and goes in just about everything, and tastes great! Quinoa is the SUPERMAN of food - it's a well known superfood.
Quinoa is full of goodness - it boasts a pretty stellar nutrition profile.
It's a great source of vitamins and minerals (iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin E and the list goes on) and protein. In fact it's considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need (it should really be a staple, particularly if your vegetarian). Quinoa is gluten-free (perfect for those who with Coeliac disease or those who are gluten intolerant); it's a complex carbohydrate, and it contains a good amount of fiber. Winner!
With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, today I kicked off my day with some left over Quinoa porridge, heated slightly and topped with Chobani yoghurt. Yum!