Sunday, 29 July 2012

How Healthy am I ... Really?

All this reading I've been doing on diet and nutrition and it's role in managing MS, got me thinking about my diet.  I've always thought of myself as a healthy sort of person, but when I really looked at what I was eating, maybe I wasn't as healthy as I thought.

Am I one of those skinny 'fat' people?

According to the research conducted by Roy Swank, my MS disability may be greatly reduced if I follow a low saturated fat diet.  That is less than 15 grams of saturated fat a day, less than 5g of saturated fat per meal.  Many people dismiss the Swank diet as 'not proven', but if you look at the Australian Heart Foundation Diet, they are almost the same.  The Heart Foundation says your saturated fat should be no more that 7% of your daily kilojoule intake.  So if the average adult consumes 8,700kj per day, no more than 609kj should come from saturated fat.  That equates to 16g of saturated fat per day. 

I grabbed The Australian Women's Weekly Cooking School Cook Book and looked at the fat content of some common dishes that we eat.

Dish – per serve
Total Fat (g)
Saturated Fat (g)
Spaghetti Carbonara
Quiche Lorraine
Butter Chicken (homemade)
Macaroni Cheese
Steak with Pepper sauce (includes cream)
Cream of Chicken Soup
Beef Stroganoff
Eggs Benedict

Beef lasagne
Roast Chicken with herb stuffing
Lemon Tart – 1 slice
Meat pie (homemade)
Spaghetti Bolognese
Butter Cake – 1 slice
Mushroom Risotto
Standing Rib Roast with roast vegetables
Combination Fried Rice
Mashed potato

Steak Sandwich
Pad Thai (noodles)
Chilli Con Carne
Sweet & sour pork
Chilli Prawn linguine
Pork & vegetable stir fry
Chicken & vegetable soup
Singapore Chilli Crab
Poached egg

All the dishes at the top of the list have more saturated fat in them than your whole daily allowance.  All the dishes at the bottom of the list have less than 5 grams of saturated fat.  The dishes in the middle in theory are too high in fat for me, but if I modified them, I could make them work.

Ways to reduce Saturated Fat

Dairy - The first thing I noticed when I looked at the ingredients in these dishes was that the ones high in saturated fat generally contained a lot of dairy - butter, cream and cheese in particular.  The easiest way to reduce saturated fat then, was to cut out the dairy. I cut it out for other MS reasons too, I'm not saying you have to.

Meat - Meat is not completely the enemy when it comes to saturated fat.  There are some lean meats that will work.  I just control the portion size, and I prefer to eat my meat with chopsticks (in a stir fry), or with a spoon (such as in chicken soup).  Processed meats are a problem - sausages, salami's etc... as they are generally very high in saturated fat.  My preferred 'meat' now is seafood - fish, prawns, scallops, crab, Moreton Bay Bugs, as these have very low levels of saturated fat in them, and taste delicious.

 Fresh seafood at the Sydney Fishmarket in Glebe

By eliminating dairy and choosing my 'meats' carefully, I have been able to easily reduce the saturated fat in my diet without being worried about counting grams of fat.

Here are some of the modifications I've made so I can enjoy my food in a healthier way:
  • I love risotto, but cooking it with butter and adding all the parmesan cheese at the end makes it too high in fat for me.  To get around this, I saute the onion in extra-virgin olive oil, and leave out the parmesan.  My kids are happy to grate a small amount of parmesan on top of their risotto rather than having it all through the rice. 
  • For my mashed potato, I mash it with olive oil, instead of milk/cream and butter, and it's delicious. 
  • For the fried rice, I leave out the bacon and just make it with seafood and vegetables.
  • For roast chicken I leave out the stuffing, sit the bird on a can of beer and roast it vertically in the BBQ.  The beer helps to steam the chicken keeping it moist, and being vertical (yes the beer can is up the chicken's you know what), the chicken doesn't cook in it's own fat.  I have a small amount of chicken breast and I don't eat the skin.
Interestingly, many low saturated fat dishes I have found are either Asian (not big dairy eaters), or Mediterranean.  As I get used to my new way of eating, I am finding it easier.  There are so many tasty foods to eat, it's just about making the right choices and a few adjustments.

I would love to hear from you, if you have found other ways to make food healthier.

A Footnote on Fat - Swank states in his book, The Multiple Sclerosis Diet, that the estimated fat intake of our Western ancestors 200 years ago was probably around 60 grams per day.  That's total fat, not just saturated fat.  The first recorded fat consumption figures in the United States was 125 grams per person per day in 1909.  By 1948 it was 141 grams.  In comparison China was 38 grams, India 27 grams, and Japan 14 grams.  Dietary fat intake in Australia has risen from 129 grams per person per day in 1990-92, to 143 grams in 2005-07.(source)

Thursday, 26 July 2012


My Living Well program isn't all about food and diet.  I'm trying to completely overhaul my lifestyle so I lead a healthy, balanced life.  For the past few weeks I've been attending a yoga class at my local health club.

I've never really been a fan of yoga.  I once went to a yoga class in London.  The instructor had this really deep, slow voice.  She made us lie on our yoga mats and pretend we were a fish out of water, flapping around and gasping for air.  I seriously had to stop myself from laughing aloud during the class!  The yoga class I've been going to here in Brisbane is really good.  I really like the instructor's style - no dead fish!

I can't take photos of my class because the yoga room is dark and there's a privacy issue, but we do lots of downward dog, Plank pose - this one is really good for upper body strength, and child's pose

My instructor is really good.  I get such a good workout during the class which I never thought I'd get from yoga.  It's not all sitting cross-legged with your fingers on your knees. The poses improve strength and flexibility, and the meditation at the beginning and end of the class help to calm my mind and body.

You don't need any fancy equipment to do yoga, but I bought my own pink Gaiam mat with pretty white flowers on it, and some Lorna Jane yoga gear.  Well if you're going to do something, do it with style I say, and the mat's so much nicer than the smelly blue ones at the gym!

Have you tried yoga?  Do you have a favourite type or pose?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Interiors Photo Challenge - First 10 Days

Cas from Peaches & Maple told us about The Interiors Addict's Instagram Challenge.  It's the same concept as Fat Mum Slim's photo a day challenge but focuses on interiors.  Being addicted to instagram, I decided to give it a go.  Here are the first 10 days of photos.

Day 1 - Coffee Table - I cleaned it for the photo! 

Day 2 - Vignette  The growing collection of fake birds in my house

Day 3 - Bargain - $5 silver tray from the op shop

Day 4- Nature - Rustic wicker basket and twigs

Day 5 - Couch - My pretty French sofa in the hallway with Cabbages & Roses fabric

Day 5 - Bling - A photo of me and my Mum circa 1970

Day 7 - Candle - Tea lights by the mini-piano

Day 8 - Pattern - Tumbled marble tiles where we took out a wall

Day 9 - Light - Blue & White china lamp on the kitchen bench

and Day 10 - Book - No pretty styling here.  Just keeping it real

That's the first 10 days.  I've never done a photo challenge before and it has been fun thinking what to take a picture of each day, and I've enjoyed seeing other people's photos.  If you're on instagram, come and play.

The reason I am proud of this post is that I managed to take a photo each day, and it was fun.
Also sharing at French Country Cottage

Monday, 23 July 2012

Banana & Walnut Loaf

After reading the Swank and Jelinek (OMS) diet, I made the decision to go dairy-free.  I was talking to my mum about it, saying that so many cakes use butter and milk.  Coming to my rescue, as she always does, mum made up this recipe for me.  I took it to a little get together with some friends.  They all loved it and asked for the recipe, so here is my mum's dairy-free banana and walnut loaf.

2 ripe bananas
2 tbsp (40ml) golden syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 egg or 2 egg whites (see notes if you don't eat eggs)
1 cup self-raising flour
pinch salt
100g (approx 1 cup) walnut halves, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C
Lightly grease a loaf tin (mine is 20cm x 10cm approx) with oil - I use extra-virgin olive oil or macadamia oil.

This is a really easy one bowl, hand-mix recipe.  Gather all your ingredients together.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with the back of a fork.

Add the golden syrup, stir
Add the sugar, stir
Add the egg/egg replacer, stir

Now before you add the flour - make sure your walnuts are chopped, your loaf tin is greased and your oven is hot.  As soon as the raising agents in the flour come into contact with the liquid ingredients, they will start to activate and need to go in the oven straight away.  You do not want the mixture sitting around while you wait for the oven to get hot.

Add the flour and pinch of salt, stir
Add the walnuts, stir through
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin.

Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes.
Cool slightly.  This loaf can be cut into 10, 2cm slices.

Look at those lovely walnuts. (Enjoy - Helen x)

    Notes & Variations:  If you don't eat eggs, you can replace the egg with either 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or macadamia oil. You will find a list of egg substitutes/replacers here.  I freeze slices of this loaf in small snap-lock bags, then I can defrost one piece at a time to have when I'm craving some morning tea.  I don't eat this everyday as there is a lot of sugar in the recipe.

    Seasonal:  Bananas are grown all year round.  As many of our bananas come from tropical Queensland, supply is affected by cyclones. 

    Nutrition: Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and folate (self nutrition data).  100grams of walnuts has about 4.5g of saturated fat.

    Interesting Facts:  The Big Banana is in Coffs Harbour, NSW.  There are hundreds of varieties of bananas but in Australia we mostly have Cavendish and lady finger bananas.  Bananas are picked when they are green, as they continue to ripen after they are picked.  Small brown spots on the banana indicate that the fruit is ripe and sweet.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Love Home Cushions

Last week I met some friends for lunch at Hawkins Nursery.  After lunch, I had a stickybeak through the gift shop and found these lovely cushions.

I originally intended to put them on the leather sofas in our back room.

The problem is, that a very cheeky schnoodle called Gus seems to think he's allowed to sleep there during the day.

As he has a habit of doing this ...

I have decided that I might be better putting the cushions on my French sofa in the hallway.

Much safer option.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Foxy Drop

I want to share a little story that happened on the weekend.  It was Lucy's 40th birthday party on Saturday night.  She decided to have the party at The Pink Piano in Spring Hill.  It's a bar with a hot pink grand piano.  A guy sits at the piano bashing out songs, and everybody joins in with the singing and fun.  Well the night before Lucy's party, the patrons must have had a bit too much fun, and the council was called because it was too noisy (hello - it's Spring Hill, hardly quiet anyway).  The council banned the music and said it could only be background music.  That's not the kind of party Lucy was hoping for.

Lucy was devastated, but The Foxy Drop saved the night!

The Foxy Drop is the wine bar extension to The Foxy Bean coffee shop on Stanley Street East, Woolloongabba (next to The Green Papaya).  The owners have only just renovated the building and the wine bar side was not 'officially' open yet, but agreed the host the party with only a few hours notice.

The renovation is amazing.  I was in wine bar heaven.  Subway tiles, rustic timber beams and pressed metal.  What more do  you need?

Well a fox of course.  This is one of my instagram photos.  The other photos are from The Foxy Bean facebook page.

Love these old leather lounges and the timber walls.

And this is the garden out the back where you can have breakfast.  For the party they filled paper bags with coffee beans and put tea lights in them.  The food was delicious.  Cooked in their brand new kitchen.  All this with only a couple of hours notice!

So if you find yourself at Woolloongabba, why not drop into The Foxy Bean for a coffee (look out for the coffee beans set in the concrete floor) or call in for a wine at The Foxy Drop before a game at the Gabba.

This was me before the party - the theme was a touch of pink because it was supposed to be at the Pink Piano, but The Foxy Drop is the new place to be!

You can find the Foxy Bean website here.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Roast Pumpkin and Olive Salad

Do you have a 'go to' salad?  You know the salad you can make with your eyes shut.  The one that when someone says "Just bring a salad", that's the one you bring.  Yes?  Well my 'go to' salad was a spicy roast pumpkin, feta and olive salad from Bill Granger's book 'bill's food'.  I love it.  Problem is a low fat dairy-free diet means no feta.  I know feta is made from sheep and/or goat's milk but it's still out for me.

How could I give the salad some creaminess without using feta?  Answer - Pine nuts.  So here's my 'go to' salad without feta.

800g pumpkin cut into 2cm cubes (I used butternut)
100g baby spinach leaves
20 kalamata olives, pitted
pine nuts, lightly dry roasted (I use a small handful)
Pumpkin seasoning
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt flakes & freshly ground pepper
Salad dressing
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
60ml (3tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil (I often only use 2 tbsp)

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
Combine the pumpkin and seasoning mix.  Make sure the pumpkin pieces are well coated with oil and seasoning.  Bake in a roasting tin or pyrex dish for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and slightly caramelised.  Cool. You can adjust the cumin & cayenne pepper to your liking.

Place the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, screw the lid on and shake to combine.

Remove the seeds from the olives.  I use whole kalamata olives and pit them using a special cherry/olive pitter. I like the taste of fresh olives better than the pitted olives in jars.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying plan until you they are lightly toasted and release their aroma.

Assemble the salad. Start with the spinach leaves, then scatter over the pumpkin, olives, and pine nuts. Drizzle the salad with dressing just before serving.

I took this salad to my in-laws place for lunch.  Look at the view from their balcony.  Pretty nice huh?

Notes & Variations:  You could also use chick peas instead of pine nuts. 
Seasonal:  Pumpkins are know as a winter squash but are available all year round in Australia.
Nutrition:  Being an orange coloured vegetable, pumpkin is very high in vitamin A.  It is mildly anti-inflammatory.  (source - self nutrition data)
Interesting Facts:  Pumpkins are grown throughout Australia, but mainly in NSW and Queensland (source).  Whole pumpkins should still have the stem attached, and will keep for months.  Cut pumpkin will deteriorate and should be used quickly.  Common pumpkin varieties include, butternut, Jap (short for Japanese, also known as Kent), and Queensland Blue  (source).

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Social Media with Natasha From Oz

The lovely Natasha, from Natasha in Oz blog wants us to share what social media we use.

I love instagram.  It's like Twitter but with pictures which suits me better.  I like that you can easily interact with the people you follow on a personal level.  The photos vary from beautifully styled pictures to simple and funny snap shots.  I have also joined Cas from Peaches & Maple in doing the interiors photo month challenge.  You will find details at The Interiors Addict here.

Theme - Bling

Theme - Light

Calling all Downtown Abbey Fans

Lou Lou from Here I am Lou Lou even challenged a couple of us to make her delicious smoothie.  I quickly responded to the challenge and learnt a whole new way to make smoothies taste great.

My other favourite social media is pinning.  Again because it uses pictures it stimulates my visual senses.  I love collecting pictures of pretty decorating ideas, things to make one day and even hair styles to try.  I have a feed of my pinterest photos down my side bar.  If you want to included one of these in your blog, you'll find the instructions here.  Here are some of my latest pins.

I have set up a basic facebook page here, but I still have a lot to learn with that.  I need to add a cover picture, change my profile picture, learn how to like other pages and set up apps.  Oh well, at least when you're learning, you're exercising the brain.  While I'm at it, I'll have to figure out what Goggle Plus is all about?

I also have a twitter account which I don't use very much as I prefer instagram.  I don't like the way I have to limit my messages to a certain number of characters, but I do share tweets from time to time.

So that's social media for me.  I'll be sharing this with Natasha's Social Media Link Party on Saturday.  For details of the party visit Natasha here.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Organic Dish Cloths

You're excited about a dish cloth?  Yes - Tragically I am.

When my mum came to visit recently, she introduced me to Rhonda Hetzels blog and her beautiful book of the same name Down to Earth.  I poured over the book until she left (taking it with her).

Book Cover:  Down to Earth

The book and blog are about Rhonda and her husband Hanno living a simple and fulfilling life in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  In the book, Rhonda talks about knitted dish cloths.  You can see the blog post here.  About two weeks ago, I received a parcel from my mum containing 3 hand-knitted organic cotton and bamboo dish cloths.

I rang mum to thank her, and she said to me make sure you use them -They're really good and they don't smell.  Given that my mum hand knitted something that I would use to wipe down my benches, really touched me, so I gave them a try.

You know what?  They're really good and they don't smell.  No I mean it - they really don't smell.  You know those cheap blue wipes you buy in the supermarket. You hold them up to your nose, take a whiff, and nearly pass out before throwing it into the bin and scrubbing your hands because they now stink too?  Well hand knitted organic cloths don't smell, and because they're stronger than the cheap blue ones, you can wash them over and over again.  I found the bamboo one (brown in the picture) is slightly better than the cotton one (pale blue).

I'm not much of a knitter.  Drop one, pick up 5 kinda girl, so I have asked my mum that whenever she feels like sitting beside the fire to knit, that I would be very grateful for any bamboo or cotton dish cloths that make their way north to Brisbane.  If you're a knitter, why don't you give them a go?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sweet Potato and Curry Soup

It's winter.  It's cold (well for Brisbane), and it's soup weather.  This recipe is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe from his book The Ministry of Food.  He makes his with a whole chorizo sausage in it, which was delicious, but it doesn't fit with my new Living Well program, so I've adapted it.

2 carrots
2 sticks celery
2 medium brown onions
2 cloves garlic
1.2kg sweet potato (kumera)
bunch of fresh parsley
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1.8 litres water or stock (can be chicken or for vegetarian use vegetable stock)
1 heaped teaspoon curry powder (or to taste)
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh red chilli (optional)


Gather together all your ingredients.

Prepare all your vegetables - Peel and roughly slice the carrots, Slice the celery, Peel and roughly chop the onions, Peel and slice the garlic, Peel and chop the sweet potato, Finely chop the parsley leaves and stalks.

Put a large pan on medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of EVOO.  Add all your chopped vegetables and curry powder, and mix together with a wooden spoon.  Cook for 10-15 minutes with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened but are still holding their shape, and the onion is lightly golden.

Add the stock to the pot, give it a good stir and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through.

Using a hand blender, pulse or blend until the soup is a consistency to your liking.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. 

The soup's now ready to serve.  It should make about 6 bowls.  You can garnish it with chopped chilli or herbs.  Serve it with good crusty toasted bread.  This is a must.  I try and buy a good quality sourdough loaf or baguette.

Notes & Variations:   A variation would be to add some fresh red chilli or chilli powder if you like some heat.  You can increase or decrease the amount of sweet potato depending on how thick you like your soup.  I ladle the left over soup into take-away food containers and freeze them, then I can just defrost and re-heat for a quick healthy lunch.

Seasonal:  Sweet potato is in season in autumn and winter.

Nutrition:  Sweet potato is low in sodium, and is  a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium.  It is low GI and is anti-inflammatory.  (source - self nutrition data)

Interesting Facts:  Most sweet potato in Australia is grown in Queensland - in Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Mareeba (source) China is the world's largest producer of sweet potato and the Japanese consume an estimated one million tonnes of sweet potato per year (source). 

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