Saturday, 30 May 2015

It's not all about the kilojoules!

I love cooking. And I love nutrition. So naturally I tend to adapt the recipes I cook to make them more nutritious. But let me let you in on a little secret: it's not all about the kilojoules! Whilst many of my typical adaptations (e.g. adding more veg) tend to reduce the overall kilojoule (or calorie) content of the meal, this is more of a by-product than the aim.

I think there has been a shift in the nutrition world recently toward adding more healthy fats, protein and fibre into 'healthy' meals, rather than taking things away (like carbs or fat). And this is often something I focused on when I worked in private practice- telling people what they could eat more of, not what they should eat less of. Because when you add those good things in there's less room for the other stuff (like stodgy carbs, fried meats and salty sauces).

I hope the days of kilojoule (or calorie) counting are long gone, because, while I agree that it's important to have an understanding of how some foods provide you with more energy than others on a basic level, I think it can often turn into an obsession which completely misses the point. The point being that food is there to provide nourishment, to fuel your body but also provide satisfaction and enjoyment. 

I know I certainly wouldn't enjoy a low-cal meal such as plain lettuce and grilled chicken! I'd need to add more veg for flavour, marinate the chicken or rub it with garlic or spices, add a grain like brown rice or quinoa and dress it with an extra virgin olive oil based dressing and maybe some avocado or roasted nuts. Yes, it wouldn't exactly be low-cal anymore, but it would be tasty, filling and provide me with a large range of vitamins and minerals that comes from having a varied diet. Plus, I don't know about you, but if I restricted myself to plain lettuce and chicken for dinner I'd be raiding the cupboards for something else and it would likely end up blowing that one (unenjoyable) low-cal meal right out anyway!

So, be aware of what kilojoules are, but don't get bogged down in the numbers. Instead, focus on providing your body with the nutrients it needs. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Healthy fried rice

Ahh fried rice. The dish everyone gets Chinese takeaway for, right? Well, despite the 'fried' in the title, it doesn't have to be unhealthy and can certainly make for a balanced mid-week meal. How you ask? Well, by a few simple swaps:
  • White rice for brown rice (using the microwave version makes it even faster)
  • Bacon for lean ham
  • Regular soy sauce for reduced salt soy sauce
  • Excess vegetable oil for a smaller amount of olive oil
  • Extra veg!

Quick and healthy fried rice

2 C cooked brown rice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
8 thin slices lean ham, diced
2 Tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 brown onion, finely diced (or 1/2 bunch spring onions, white parts sautéed at start and green parts added to garnish at the end)
4 C finely chopped vegetables (I used beans, carrots and mushrooms, but you could also add peas, broccoli, zucchini, capsicum, etc)

  1. Pour beaten egg into a large frypan sprayed with a little olive oil and spread out to form a thin omelette. Cook over a medium heat until cooked through, flipping once. Remove from pan and cover with foil to keep warm.
  2. Saute onion in the same pan with another spray of olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, ginger and ham and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add vegetables and cook over medium heat until just soft.
  3. Add cooked rice and soy sauce to pan, stirring until mixed well. Divide among 4 bowls. 
  4. Meanwhile, roll omelette and slice into 1cm thick scrolls. Place 1/4 of the egg scrolls onto each bowl of fried rice.
Serves 4

Monday, 4 May 2015

How 3 popular protein bars stack up

Protein bars. The food alternative to protein shakes designed to help you gain muscle post resistance exercise. They aren't new, but they have cemented themselves into the health food aisle of supermarkets and chemists, not to mention gyms and health food stores. I decided it was high time I reviewed them, considering the ongoing popularity of my post 'lifting the lid on protein powder' last year.

Here I've picked three popular protein bars and compared them based on taste and nutrition.

What's actually in protein bars?

Protein bars come in many flavours but it's usually based around chocolate. The first ingredient in all three bars I looked at is protein blend at 30-40%. This is basically the protein 'powder' you can buy to turn into shakes. This is then followed by a long list of ingredients, many of which are long and difficult to pronounce (like polyglycerol esters of interesterified ricinoleic acid- um, what?). Chiefly, it's a mix of sugar (in it's many forms), chocolate, vegetable oil and additives like emulsifiers and flavours.

Unfortunately they are quite low in carbohydrates, which are needed in combination with protein to help provide energy before a workout and repair and rebuild muscles after a workout. You can read more on this here.

Protein comparison

Aussie Bodies Protein FX Lo Carb Mini Protein Bar (Choc Honeycomb)
9g protein/30g serve or 29.9g/100g

Swisse Low Carb Protein Bar (Choc/Caramel Flavour)
9.5g protein/25g serve or 37.9g/100g

Horleys Carb Less Deluxe (Chocolate Peanut Flavour)
10.1g protein/35g serve or 28.9g/100g

So, despite the Swisse bar coming out on top for protein per 100g, they are all roughly the same per serve. The bar sizes do vary, but lets face it: you're going to eat the amount that's in the packet, not leave a bite.

How do protein bars stack up against other protein containing foods?

  • 1 chicken breast= 53.4g protein or 31g/100g
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs= 11g protein or 12.4g/100g
  • 250mL glass reduced fat milk= 10g protein or 4g/100mL
  • 30g (small handful) mixed dry roasted nuts= 5.2g or 17.3g/100g
That means you could get the same amount of protein from a glass on milk, 2 hard-boiled eggs or 2 small handfuls of nuts. And meat is just off the scale…

Taste comparison

Aussie Bodies Protein FX Lo Carb Mini Protein Bar (Choc Honeycomb)
A nice sweet flavour and very chewy. But still quite dry and with a powdery aftertaste.

Swisse Low Carb Protein Bar (Choc/Caramel Flavour)
Hard, dry and powdery plus a lack of flavour. Choc caramel: who knew? Definitely the worst.

Horleys Carb Less Deluxe (Chocolate Peanut Flavour)
A chewy centre, made softer by a layer of caramel. Nice flavour without the powdery texture of the other three. Could be mistaken for a chocolate bar but the clear winner in taste.

The verdict

Protein bars can be a convenient snack post work out, but they're also highly processed and expensive. With many everyday foods providing the same (if not more) protein per serve, like milk, eggs and nuts, I think there are much more nutritious options than these chocolate bars marketed under the guise of health. If you do choose a protein bar, I'd recommend combining it with a carbohydrate containing snack for the right muscle-building fuel. And choose well as some certainly taste better than others!