When visiting grandparent’s as a child, dessert would either be fruit at my Italian grandparents house or on special occasions, Vienetta icecream, or at my other grandparents house we would get a traditional baked dessert (golden syrup dumplings, apple crumbles or rice pudding were common – Nan even used to leave the sultanas out to cater for my aversion to dried grapes) or – our favorite – sliced white bread slathered in jam and cream. I think this was viewed as not only a quicker, but slightly healthier dessert option. Arguably it may have been a tad healthier than some of the other baked treats, but sliced white supermarket bread smothered with generic cream and sugar-laden jam is hardly a “healthy” option. I’m guessing this view was related to the thinking of the time – something we’ll be discussing here in more detail over the coming weeks – a “healthy” diet back in the 80s included a lot of grains and cereals, and large quantities of added sugar in our diets was the norm. I’m guessing the cream and it’s high fat-content would have been the only issue back then.
Nowadays, the fat would probably be the least of my concerns (though admittedly I can’t remember the last time I ate dairy cream – coconut cream though is a whole other story!) – I try to limit my sugar and therefore traditionally made jam doesn’t feature highly – or at all – in my current diet, and at risk of sounding like a massive snob, there is no way I would eat overly-processed, nutritionally-devoid sliced white supermarket bread. Asides from the fact that there is nothing there to nourish my body, I fear it would do a lot more harm than good, and – lets be honest, it tastes pretty crap!
But let’s leave bread alone for today, and instead look at jam. Traditionally, jam is made through cooking down fruit with jam and a little lemon, however you may have noticed a much simpler and healthier way to make jam appearing throughout the internet over the past few months – chia seed jam. It is such an ingenious, and if you think about it – obvious – idea; chia seeds mixed with water create a gel-like texture, similar to jam. I am a huge chia seed fan and eat them daily – they are high in protein, fiber and loaded with antioxidants. This jam is just spices, berries and chia seeds – no added sugar, just wholesome, healthy ingredients, and loads of flavour!
Place berries, water, spices and vanilla in saucepan over low to med heat and mash with fork or potato masher as the berries start to thaw. Once completely heated and fairly smooth, stir through the chia seeds and leave to cool at least half an hour before serving - the mixture with thicken up and the seeds soften as it cools.
I don't feel this needs any additional sweetener, but you could always add a few teaspoons of coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup if you wanted it a little sweeter.
Last week I went along to a Paleo event held in Hobart, and with Paleo diets being quite topical at the moment – especially in my neck of the woods – I thought I would share my thoughts here with you.
The event was The Paleo Way tour with Pete Evans, Nora Gedgaudas and Luke Hines. Initially, when I first heard about the tour I wasn’t too keen to go along as I’m not “Paleo” myself, and my image of the Paleo diet (prepare for an onslaught of stereotypes! ;) was a meat-eating, holier-than-though Cross-Fitter. Having met and worked with a few Paleo devotees who were more than willing to share their opinions on diet and fitness at any opportunity, promoting it as not only the healthiest option but also the only option, and then see them down a whole “clean” (unrefined) sugar-laden Paleo dessert before drinking a few liters of beer at the pub on the weekend, I was a little hesitant to earn more about what I had perceived to be a somewhat cult-ish movement that was extremely rigid and narrow-minded in some respects (the high level of meat consumption and intense exercise) yet lax when it suited the paleo follower – ie when they wanted a sweet or two have a few (or a lot!) of drinks on the weekend.
However, as most of these health and wellness-related events that tour around the country don’t make it down to Tassie, I felt it was important to go along and support it, and ended up helping out the event coordinators on the night.
After attending the event, I was really glad that I went along. Asides from being able to connect with a lot of other local health and wellness advocates and enthusiasts, I was actually surprised to hear how closely my current diet aligned with the Paleo diet that was presented at the talk which focused largely on cutting out sugar and processed foods, and instead eating sustainable wholefoods. In fact, when Nora described the ideal meal, or “plate”, it sounded quite similar to my standard meal – lots of fibrous veggies, and fruit; a moderate amount of protein; and a generous amount of fats. This plate actually differed to the perceived idea I had of a paleo “plate” which was lots of meat, some (saturated) fats, a little veggies and no fruit.
I now realise that just as “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, neither does Paleo, and the Paleo I had previously witnessed was not the Paleo that Nora and the other presenters were promoting.
A large portion of the talk focused on how the overly processed and refined diet of contemporary Western societies was damaging – even killing – us, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. Nora presented a lot of facts and data – a lot of which I had already heard of through my own studies and readings – to illustrate this point, and well as demonstrating the political and economical drivers behind the food industry as it currently stands.
The other concept that was presented that I felt drawn to was the concept of eating more fats. When I stopped eating sugar, I increased my fat intake as I felt I no longer needed to worry as much about calories. I started to reintroduce previous “bad” foods that I felt would ultimately lead to weight gain such as nuts, olive oil and avocado and I found that through eating these foods I felt fuller for longer, and also noticed my skin getting clearer and my hair healthier. I have read a lot of other studies recently (including studies outside the Paleo camp) that all vouch for the moderate use of these fats in a healthy diet and I strongly agree – personally, when I eat a diet high in vegetables supplemented with healthy fats such as those mentioned above (plus full-fat coconut products), I definitely find that I feel better, I’m not as hungry through the day, and I have energy all day long. A difference here though was that Nora advocated strongly for saturated fats, whereas my fat intake comes mainly from poly- and monounsaturated fats.
I also liked the emphasis on eating organically, sustainably and locally. This is definitely something that I agree with and have been working towards myself. I did find it a little interesting that there were a lot of examples of how mass produced grains – and vegetables – can be harmful to the planets soil and unsustainable in the long run, yet no mention of what the equivalent mass-produced meat industry was also doing to our soil and greenhouse gas emissions. I think that whether you are Paleo eating mass-produced meat, or vegan/vegetarian eating mass-produced grains and vegetables, the end result is that you are consuming unsustainable produce which is likely lacking in nutrients, high in chemicals, and most likely tastes pretty average too! Rather, I feel that regardless of our personal dietary preferences, we should all be striving to eat locally sourced, fresh nutrient rich food regardless of our diet.
On the whole, whilst I felt that the Paleo diet that was presented had a lot of valid points and was very informative, however I still feel that the Paleo diet in it’s entirety is somewhat restrictive and not quite for me. Whilst I agreed with a lot of what Nora said, up until around 2 years ago, I spent the best part of the previous 16 years on a diet of some sort or other and I feel further restricting my diet I would only lead to further food-related stress and guilt that I just don’t want in my life.
I think another issue for me is that nutritional science is often contradictory, and often changing. I appreciate that there is research out there which shows that grains and legumes are detrimental to our health, however there is also other research which argues that these foods are nutritious and can form part of a healthy diet, and whilst the bulk of my diet is vegetables, I definitely feel that sometimes I need carbohydrates in the form of whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or oats to feel full – and after eating them, I don’t feel bloated, inflamed, or foggy, rather I feel satisfied and healthy.
The main thing that I took away from the conference was that we need to be eating more mindfully, locally and sustainably, and eating (a lot!) less processed foods, and I think that these factors are important for any diet, not just those following the Paleo way of eating. I think when it comes to healthy eating, Michael Pollen sums it up best -
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
I wholeheartedly agree with this and recently wrote an article about why I choose to follow a plant-based diet which is very high in plants – mostly vegetables – and supplemented by other whole foods including nuts, seeds, fats, legumes, eggs, a little fish, a little dairy, and some whole grains. My personal experience, as well as all the studies and research I have read, have lead me to believe this is the perfect diet for me, and eating this way for a while now and the positive effects it has had on my physical and mental health further supports this for me.
So – tell me, what are your thoughts? Have you changed your diet recently, and if so what has influenced your decision on how you eat?
Please note that these are my own personal beliefs and opinions and my thoughts relating to diet and health are based on my own personal experiences and studies – I am not a qualified health professional and am not advocating for one particular way of eating.
For Christmas last year (ie Christmas 2012) B bought me a Magimix food processor. I was super excited and when asked what the first thing I was going to make was, I excitedly declared it would be a pie. Fast forward 18 months and I still hadn’t even attempted a pie!
Every time the topic would come up “so when are you going to make that pie…” it was usually followed with “what type of vegetarian pies would you even make, they all have meat in them!” So I waited and waited until the day the idea for the most perfect vegetarian pie floated into my head and then I set about to making it.
As its currently winter over here, rich flavours and roasted root vegetables had to feature. I initially wanted an oaty, buttery crust, but I also toyed with the idea of a lighter cauliflower crust. I Googled a recipe and couldn’t find one. Turns out there’s probably a reason for that – cauliflower doesn’t really lend itself too well to pie crust. Don’t get me wrong – the flavour is great, but there’s none of that lovely, crisp pie shell that I love and so desperately wanted in my very first pie. I have included both crust options here however, but just be warned with the cauliflower one that while it caramelises beautiful, it doesn’t win many points in the crispiness factor, and when reheating the next day it went slightly soggy – but if you are going to be serving and eating the whole pie in the one go and are looking from a grain or gluten-free option then definitely give it a go. Otherwise, I’d definitely go with the deliciously buttery oat version, it not only tastes amazing, but the smooth buttery flavour is a lovely contrast to the sharp flavours of the satay seed dressing.
Buttery oat crust
1.5 cups oats – process until finely ground.
Add 1/3 cup almond meal and 1/2 cup mixed seeds (pepitas, sunflower, sesame)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp organic grassfed butter, melted (or coconut oil)
2 Tbsp water
Caramelised cauliflower crust
1/2 cup mixed seeds
300g cauliflower (around 1/4 large head)
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil.
1/3 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed, sesame)
Preheat oven to 190 degrees || 375 F
Vegetables: Bake 400g each chopped pumpkin and sweet potato at 190 for 45 mins Buttery oat crust: Add oats to a food processor and mix until finely ground, resmbling breadcrumbs. Add the almond meal, seeds, paprika and salt, and pulse a few times to combine and break up the seeds a little. Add the liquids and pulse again a few times to combine. The mixture should be crumbly at this point, but hold its shape when pressed together. Press into a 23cm/9″ lightly greased pie pan and bake in oven 12 – 15 minutes Caramalised cauliflower crust: Add the seeds to a food processor and pulse a few times to break up a little. Add the cauliflower, almond meal, paprika, salt and coconut oil. Process until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, but will stick together when sqeezed between two fingers. Press into pan then bake 30 – 40 mins – you want it to brown, but careful not to burn it! Remember it will cook further after you add the pie filling. Peanut glaze: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a paste To assemble pie: Reduce oven temperature to 180 C. Roughly mash the roasted veggies and place in the pie crust. Spoon the glaze over the vegetables and top with the seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes. It should be starting to brown on the top. Remove form oven once cook, cook slightly in the pan and then cut and serve.