Saturday, 25 January 2014

Makeover: Lemon Yoghurt Cake

With just a quarter of the kilojoules and fat of the original version,
without compromising on taste, I think my simple swaps make
this recipe one to try!

I love Donna Hay. Her cake recipes are always delicious (if not so great on the waistline). So I decided to have a go at altering her recipe so I didn't feel quite so guilty when I ate it. The result, with just a few small changes, was equally scrumptious but the numbers were staggering. This new version had just a quarter of the kilojoules and a quarter of the fat of the original version (plus a sizeable sugar reduction)!

Simple changes I made to the recipe:
  • Swapped regular-fat Greek-style yoghurt for Yoplait Forme Greek No Added Fat or Sugar plain yoghurt
  • Replaced 3/4 C vegetable oil with 1/4 C macadamia oil (for healthy monounsaturated fats), 1/4 C skim milk and an extra 1/4 C yoghurt (which rounded it out to a nice even 2 tubs!)
  • Reduced 1 and 3/4 C castor sugar to 1/3 C castor sugar (believe me, with a yoghurt that already has some sweetness, you don't need all the extra sugar)
  • Cut the icing out altogether
  • Increased the number of serves you get out of the cake from 11 to 16 which reduced the portion size of each slice

Nutritional Information of Donna Hay's Lemon Yoghurt Cake (per slice):
Energy= 1952kJ
Total Fat= 18.1g
Saturated Fat= 3.0g
Carbohydrates (including sugars)= 69.7g

Nutritional Information of my Lemon Yoghurt Cake (per slice):
Energy= 557
Total Fat= 4.5g
Saturated Fat= 0.8g
Carbohydrates (including sugars)= 18.1g

The combination of sour citrus and sweet yoghurt makes for a
perfect afternoon tea cake. It's especially good straight out of
the oven!

My Lemon Yoghurt Cake

¼ C oil (e.g. macadamia)
¼ C skim milk
2 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
~1/4 C lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
300g (1 ¼ C) Yoplait Forme Greek plain yoghurt (or other reduced fat & sugar Greek style yoghurt)
1/3 C castor sugar
2 C self-raising flour

      1.     Preheat oven to 160°C.
      2.     Place oil, milk, eggs, lemon zest and juice, yoghurt and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
      3.     Sift in flour and stir until smooth. Pour into a greased 24cm bundt tin.
      4.     Bake for 50-55mins or until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean.

      TIP: Still fill like you're missing out without the icing? Serve with a dollop of extra yoghurt mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice for that extra sweet and creamy taste.

Have a go at altering your favourite cake recipe, it may take a bit of trial and error, but you'll be surprised how much of a difference you can make to the nutritional content with such little change in taste! For more ideas on simple swaps to make in the kitchen, click here.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

What reality cooking shows are really teaching us

It's nearly that time of year again: back to the TV ratings period. And you know what that means? Our screens will once again be bombarded with reality shows. As a Dietitian I welcomed the rise of food-based reality shows such as Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules- anything to get people more interested in learning the skill of cooking... But are these shows really teaching people the best way to eat wholesome food at home?
"Food-based reality shows such as Masterchef ... are these shows really teaching people?" 
Eating healthily becomes a lot more difficult (and expensive!) if you don't have that basic cooking knowledge. Many of us were lucky, we learnt our cooking know-how from our mothers (or fathers, or aunts and uncles, or grandparents) just by watching them in the kitchen and getting to do some stirring or chopping occasionally, then eventually testing out our own flavour creations. But many more were brought up in households where the closest thing to cooking was whacking some frozen chips in the oven. These days, far too many meals are eaten outside the home- some at fancy restaurants (thanks to the rise of self-proclaimed Masterchef connoisseurs) but most at takeaway chains.
"Eating healthily becomes a lot more difficult (and expensive!) if you don't have that basic cooking knowledge."
If these shows teach you a little of the skill you lack and give you inspiration to get in the kitchen then that's a great thing! The problem comes when people start adding Gary Mehigan amounts of butter, cream and salt to cooking, using fatty cuts of meat (because the fat apparently melts in your mouth) and topping their 'dish' with multiple sauces and lashings of oil. Social media hasn't helped in this regard, with Instagram meaning people now feel the need to whip out their smart phones and get a filtered shot of their amazing looking meal. Our news feeds are flooded with pictures of stuffed chicken roulades with potato tuiles, micro herbs and tomato foam. Is it really necessary?

Healthy food doesn't have to be fancy. It's about eating a variety of WHOLE FOODS: Steak with a jacket potato, roast tomato and steamed veggies; chicken breast, rice and greens stir-fried with a little garlic, ginger and chilli; good ol' spag bol with hidden veg and a fresh garden salad on the side.
"Australians need to learn how to cook before they learn to become chefs!"
I'd love to see a new format of Masterchef hit our screens- healthy Masterchef- where a Dietitian joins the panel and you get judged on the health of dish as well as its taste. You're with me right? I'm sure it will catch on. Come on reality TV, do some good with that huge audience of yours and influence our nation for the better- Australians need to learn how to cook before they learn to become chefs!

The bottom line: By all means experiment with herbs and spices to flavour your foods, and adopt a top restaurant approach to portion sizes (smaller, not larger), but do away with the extravagant extras and get back to basics.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Back to school (or back to work!): Lunchbox Inspiration Guide

Wholemeal egg and lettuce sandwich, apple, reduced fat
yoghurt, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, reduced fat cheese
cubes and water make a healthy lunchbox.
It's that time of year again! Back to school or work means back to packed lunches. Did you end the school year in 2013 with half eaten soggy sandwiches and bruised fruit making their way back home? Does it seem like your child will only eat things in packages (I'm talking packets of chips, biscuits, fruit straps, juice poppers)? Or maybe you got so sick of boring lunches yourself that you ended the work year with a few too many bought lunches? I've put together what I like to call a 'lunchbox inspiration guide' to give you a few ideas on what a healthy lunchbox should look like, but also to remind you that packed lunches don't have to be boring!

First, for the healthy part...

Every lunchbox should contain:
  • 2 serve wholegrain (cereal) foods for energy and fibre e.g. bread, wrap, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, cous cous, bread roll, crumpet, breakfast cereal
  • 1 serve lean meats or alternatives for protein e.g. chicken breast, tinned tuna, egg, four bean mix, nuts, tofu, leftover dinner meats
  • 1 serve reduced fat dairy for calcium e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt
  • 1 serve fruit for vitamins and minerals e.g. fresh whole fruit, fruit salad, dried fruit, tinned fruit, fruit juice only very occasionally
  • 2 serves vegetables for vitamins and minerals e.g. raw vegetables in a salad or on a sandwich, stirfry or steamed vegetables from dinner leftovers, raw vegetable sticks, four bean mix
  • At least 500mL water to keep well hydrated     

'Sushi rolls' made with wholemeal bread, vita-weats with reduced fat
cheese slices, grape tomatoes, dried apricots and apple, a whole
apple and of course, water, make another healthy lunchbox.
     Now for a quick lesson in food safety...
      It’s important that the food in the lunchbox stays cool, especially on hot Summer days. Not only will kids (and you) be more likely to eat and drink foods tha are nice and cold, but it will prevent bacteria growing that could cause food poisoning.

      Foods that must be kept cold:
      - meat, eggs or meals containing these
milk, yoghurt, cheese
        dips such as hommus or tzatziki
      Tips to keep food cold:
         Fill the drink bottle half way with water and freeze overnight. Fill completely in the morning and store next to the lunchbox (don’t freeze the entire drink bottle or it may not melt in time to drink from it!)
- Use an insulated lunch box or freezable lunch box
      - Add small freezer blocks to the lunch box
- Freeze items like yoghurt or grapes, they'll stay cool and keep everything else cool in the process

      Ready for some lunch ideas?

      Mix it up with wholegrain or sourdough bread, a wholemeal pita pocket, rye mountain bread or a grainy roll. Try fillings such as;
      - egg mashed with a little reduced fat mayo, grated carrot and lettuce 
      - avocado, chicken breast, tomato and rocket 
      - roast beef, wholegrain mustard, tomato and lettuce 
      - reduced fat ricotta cheese and banana (mashed or sliced)
      - can flavoured tuna, carrot, sprouts and lettuce 
      - leftover falafel or rissole, reduced fat hommus, and tabbouleh 
      Tip: Help prevent the sandwich from going soggy by patting washed salad items dry with paper towel before putting them on the sandwiches

      Make sure there is a carbohydrate base such as pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, chickpeas or other beans and a protein source, such as cheese, egg, lean meat or tofu and of course plenty of salad veg! 
      Tip: Experiment with herbs and spices and olive-oil based dressings for plenty of flavour.

      Some great next-day lunch ideas that work well hot or cold are frittata, quiche, fritters, rissoles, meatballs, kebabs, rice paper rolls, sushi and homemade pizza.
Wholegrain chicken and salad wrap, plain popcorn,
strawberries, a banana, reduced fat milk drink and
water- just another good lunchbox idea.

     And some snack ideas...

      - Cut up fruit salad in a small container- often more interesting than whole fruit and won’t get squashed in a hard container
      - Yoghurt tub
      - Plain popcorn in a snap lock bag
- Cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks and a small tub of reduced fat hommus, tzatziki or cream cheese to dip into
Trail mix of dried fruit such as sultanas, raw unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds and pepitas
- Homemade fruit muffin made with wholemeal flour
- Wholegrain crackers (such as vita-weats or ryvitas) with slices of reduced fat cheese, peanut butter or vegemite
Muesli bar (such as my recipe here)
Dry wholegrain breakfast cereal in a snap lock bag, e.g. special K, sultana bran buds
- Berry pikelets (such as my recipe here)
- Homemade pita bread ‘chips’ (sprinkle with herbs, garlic or parmesan and bake in the oven)
- Hard-boiled egg
- Slice raisin bread- try Burgen fruit and muesli bread
- Small carton of reduced fat plain milk with a couple of teaspoons of milo, or a Sippah straw to make it flavoured
      For more snack ideas see another one of my posts on healthy snacks here.

Double decker salad sandwich, plain popcorn, blueberries,
dry cereal, yoghurt, a pear and water make a healthy

      Time-saver tips:

      - Make lunch the night before so it’s not such a rush in the morning.
      - Use the weekend to ‘prepare’ for the week by putting portions of popcorn, wholegrain crackers, cereal and trail mix in small snap lock bags and store in the cupboard so they’re easy to grab.
- Make a large batch of grainy fruit or savoury muffins, peel off the muffin cases, wrap in cling wrap and freeze individually. They will last for months and you can just pull them out the night before to defrost in the fridge.
- Make use of leftovers. For those with a microwave and/or sandwich press at work- the lunch world is your oyster! (so to speak). Any dinner leftovers will work- make extra so you’re covered for lunch the next day, or make double matches of meals, freeze in individual portions and pull out of the freezer the night before.
      Some of my favourite lunch boxes to start the new year with!

Nude Food Movers- stop food package rubbish (see
here for details)

ScrunchBox- never waste space with an empty
lunchbox again! (see here for details)

PackIt- pop in the freezer the night
before for the perfect cooler bag
(see here for details)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Wholegrain berry pancakes

I love pancakes as much as anyone, but smothered in maple syrup and ice cream and made with white flour and plenty of butter they aren't such a healthy choice. But pancakes can be healthy! Make them with wholemeal flour and skim milk, add plenty of fruit and top with reduced fat, low sugar natural yoghurt and extra seeds, my version makes a healthy and filling breakfast sure to keep you going. (They make a great snack in pikelet form too!)

Wholegrain berry pancakes

1C SR wholemeal flour
1C skim milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 heaped Tbsp honey
1C frozen berries

To serve:
Extra berries
Sliced banana
Dollop plain reduced fat, low sugar yoghurt
Sprinkle sunflower, pepita and linseeds

1. Combine flour, milk, egg and chia seeds in a bowl until just combined.
2. Cook one at a time in a small frypan over medium heat with a teaspoon of margarine or spray oil.
3. Immediately press berries onto the surface of the pancake.
4. When the pancake starts to bubble and holes appear, flip.
5. Repeat to make the remaining pancakes
6. Serve 1-2 pancakes per person topped with extra berries, sliced banana, a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of seeds.

Makes 4 large pancakes or ~8-10 pikelets.

This recipe is also great as pikelets! Have them plain,
topped with yoghurt and extra fruit like the pancakes
or reduced fat ricotta and a drizzle of honey.