Friday, 27 March 2015

Sugar: the missing (label) link

I have this pet peeve about sugar and it's drawn attention to every time I look at the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) on the back of a food label (which is relatively often considering I'm a Dietitian and like knowing what's in my food). And it's not what's there that bothers me, but rather what ISN'T there: a row under total sugars labelled 'added sugar'.

Why does this bother me so much? Maybe because there's a big difference between sugars naturally occurring in the food to those added by man to sweeten a product. And yes, this problem could be solved by simply avoiding all packaged and processed foods, which is certainly a good aim to have, but isn't all that realistic for the average person.

Consider the amount of sugar in a bowl of natural muesli (21%) versus a chocolate chip muesli bar (also 21%). While they may have the same amount of sugars (total) they certainly aren't comparable nutritionally. And that's because the sweetness in the muesli is coming from sugars naturally occurring in the dried fruit, while the muesli bar contains added sugar in both the choc chips and the bar itself

Similarly, plain Greek yoghurt (with no added sugar) still has 4.8% sugars and that's because dairy products contain lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. Whereas, a low fat strawberry flavoured yoghurt which has 12.6% sugars contains a mix of natural and added sugars (but mostly sugar added for sweetness).

So be mindful when looking at labels that you make a mental note to differentiate between natural and added sugars by looking at the ingredients list. If the product contains a large proportion of fruit, milk or yoghurt then those products may have a higher content of sugars due to those naturally occurring in the fruit or dairy. But if sugar (or brown rice or malt syrup, honey, agave, molasses, dextran, glucose or invert sugar, or any other of sugars aliases) is listed on the label, particularly in the first few ingredients as they are listed in order of amount, then it's safe to say that product contains too much (added) sugar.

To find out more about reading labels, check out my post Nutrition Information Panels: Decoded.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Chickpea Blondies with White Choc Chips & Macadamias

I recently discovered the wonders of chickpeas in baking. They're an unlikely substitute for flour but somehow they just work! And the benefits? Well they instantly increase the fibre and protein content of any recipe, not to mention adding in some sneaky vegetable serves! This recipe isn't new, you will find variations floating all over the internet, mostly using normal choc chips and nothing else. But I wanted to go more down the traditional route: blondies are meant to contain white chocolate. And macadamias and white chocolate are just a match made in heaven. 

These blondies are crispy and crumbly on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. The recipe is flour less, full of healthy fats (thanks to the nut and seed butter) and can be made gluten free by choosing gluten free baking powder. And they passed my boyfriend's taste test (who is usually anti-healthifying recipes)! Which, trust me, says it all. So go ahead and try these, I will certainly be making them again (and doing some more experimenting with legumes in baking)!

Chickpea blondies with white choc chips and macadamias

400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry with paper towel
1/2 C nut butter (I used Mayver's Original Super Spread but your favourite nut &/or seed spread will work fine)
1/4 C brown sugar (can be substituted for honey)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 C white choc chips
1/3 C macadamias, chopped
Splash of water (~3 Tbsp)

1. Preheat oven to 175°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
2. Blend all ingredients, except the white choc chips and macadamias, in a food processor until smooth. It should make a thick hummus-like consistency.
3. Stir in the choc chips and 3/4 of the macadamias and pour into the loaf tin. Smooth top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with remaining macadamias.
4. Bake for ~50mins or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges begin to brown. Cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Cafe review: Mint Organics

So I've got this list  of restaurants and cafes I want to try (on my phone of course, so I can add to it wherever). All my friends know about it. It's becoming quite large and now spans both Sydney and Melbourne (after a recent trip and many recommendations from a local Melbournian) so I figured it was time to start spreading the love and reviewing some of these places on my blog. Anyway, so last weekend I dragged and a girl friend of mine to one of the latest: Mint Organics. It's a small cafe in Cronulla (a beach-side suburb in Sydney, for those of you not familiar with the area) that prides itself on healthy organic whole foods (you can read my thoughts on organic food here). 

We went for lunch on a Saturday which I expected to be really busy as they don't take bookings, but despite being quite a small cafe we were able to easily find a table. Mint Organics are open 7 days a week from 7am-3pm so are definitely a breakfast/brunch/lunch/afternoon tea kind of place.

Location- 5/5

Close to Cronulla train station, it was tucked away from the rest of Cronulla's cafe scene, a lone shop opposite the beautiful Gunnamatta Bay. This had a two-fold effect of being quiet (and possibly unknown by many) and having many more parking options than the main streets! The cafe was small but cosy, with plenty of wood, metal and greenery.

Service- 2/5

Sadly, the service left a lot to be desired. While the waiters/waitresses were friendly, we waited too long for our table to be cleared (from the people who left just before us) and to be given menus. In fact, we got sick of waiting for the menus so grabbed them from the counter ourselves.

Menu Variety- 4/5

There was a good variety of choices- from mueslis with various alternative milks to bacon and egg rolls, wraps and salads to brown rice sushi. There were certainly a lot of vegetarian options, and opportunities for add-on's and alterations and the cabinet was lined with raw, vegan, sugar-free and paleo treats like raw (bliss) balls, brownies, muffins and cakes. So this really is more of a health-conscious person's mecca (i.e. don't bring your Dad, or the blokes from the footy team- unless they're into that kind of thing!). 

Taste- 5/5

I chose the seeded sourdough topped with avocado, fetta, basil pesto, rocket, toasted pepitas and a poached egg which was delicious and the perfect size! My friend and I also shared a coffee cacao raw ball which was tasty and my takeaway vegan chocolate brownie was yummy too (but I'm afraid there was no hiding the fact that it was still very much a treat).

Price- 4/5

Organic food doesn't come cheap. And this was evident in some of the prices (such as $10 for a smoothie) but other food items were quite reasonable and comparable to other cafes ($5.50 for sushi, $10 for muesli or $13.50 for a panini).

OVERALL- 20/25

The walls were adorned with interesting 'health' foods, like veggie chips, raw bars and organic grains which seemed in contrast to the highly processed protein powders, but Mint Organics did provide an array of basic, tasty and healthy options. I'd go there again!

Check out their website here for more details.