Tag Archives: i tried it

I Tried It: Whole30

springtime at kew gardens

I haven’t felt like writing much about food and nutrition recently. There’s been a lot going on, personally and professionally. New job, a heavier course load at school and loads of political distraction (every morning, I wake up and think, ‘what now?’. Don’t you?). It’s times like these when it’s tempting to throw everything to the wind and drink and eat whatever I want.

After some reflection, it truly feels like an act of subversion to take care of what you put in your body, to nourish yourself with intention. Small acts of subversion matter, more than ever.

To me, it feels subversive now to give a shit about the things I put in my body, to take care not to treat it like a garbage can. To eat organic, to be mindful about the type of meat and fish I buy, to really think about the amount of sugar my family consumes.

There are so many (things) trying to grab me away from eating well; from working long hours, cartoon branded food grabbing my son’s attention while shopping, my own yearnings and desires.

I have been doing the Whole 30 this month, in an attempt to get myself back on the right food path. Not that I was eating particularly badly. I just found that I was eating without thought or intention and letting my cravings drive my nourishment. And I tend to crave things like sourdough pizzas, greasy, salty fries and sharp, cold ice cream. All washed down with lots of red wine and gin and tonics.

So I embarked on a Whole 30 as a bit of a reset. 30 days, lots of vegetables, high quality meat, nuts, seeds, fish and fruit. This is my fifth time and it’s like riding a bike. I’ve internalised the rules and know what works and what doesn’t work for me.

And this time, I’ve really enjoyed it. My cooking has improved, so I’ve enjoyed being creative within the parameters of the regimen. And I’ve enjoyed having to be a bit more intentional with my food. The health benefits are there too: I can think more clearly, I don’t get as tired, my anxiety has improved.  Being alcohol-free has made my mornings easier too.

Have you tried a Whole 30? What was your experience?

I Tried It: Making Ghee

Have you ever used ghee? Ghee, a clarified butter, is known as ‘liquid gold’ in some South Asian cultures because it comes from the revered cow. The process of making ghee removes the milk solids and water and leaves you with lovely golden liquid that solidifies as it goes to room temperature.

I started using ghee a few years ago when I started eating paleo. It’s a very versatile fat with an exceptionally high smoke point, which means that it’s great for high temperature cooking – frying, grilling, searing, etc.

My bug bear with ghee is that organic, grass-fed versions can be very expensive. Last week, I was chatting with my mother and she mentioned that she wanted to try making it herself, and I thought, hmmm, why don’t I try it as well. And what do you know, it was so easy that I’ll be making my own from now on!

What you need:

2 blocks of unsalted grass-fed butter

A cast iron pan

A ladle

A ceramic bowl

Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

A large glass jar to store the ghee

How to make it:

1. Place your cast iron pan onto the stove and put the burner on medium heat.

2. Place the two blocks of unsalted butter into the pan.

3. As the blocks melt, the milk solids will rise to the top. When the blocks have completely melted and the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat off. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

4. Use your ladle to pass the liquid through the strainer, with the ceramic bowl underneath to catch the ghee. If you end up using a fine mesh strainer rather than a cheesecloth, you may need to strain the mixture twice to completely remove all of the milk solids. Once this step is complete, you should be left with beautiful golden ghee.

5. Let the ghee cool for a few minutes before pouring into your glass container. Stored in the fridge, where the ghee will solidify, it should last for at least a month, if you use clean utensils when cooking with it.

freshly-made-ghee

P.S. When I was making this, I wondered what I should do with the leftover milk solids. I did some quick Googling and found that some people save them and crumble them onto their morning porridge, brown them to add a lovely buttery taste to stewed fruit, pancakes or anything else you would normally use butter in. Some people even spread the milk solids onto toast!

I Tried It: Going To Bed Early

bed

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for at least seven months now, trying to fit everything in. Being a good mother, being a good wife, cooking, studying for my nutrition degree, doing coursework, working four days a week and trying to fit in some form of regular exercise. I’m exhausted just typing this out.

I’ve been cutting corners on my sleep for too long. Going to bed at 11pm, but lying in bed until midnight, on my phone, then expecting to get up at 6:15 the next morning feeling refreshed. It really is no wonder that the past two weeks have seen me going to bed between 9:30 and 10:30pm most nights, absolutely exhausted. Like fast asleep as soon as I hit the pillow exhausted.

I’m a big advocate of listening to what my body tells me, but in the case of sleep, I’ve been completely disregarding it. I’ve been acting like I’m 25 again and trying to get by on little sleep, with no consequences. Well, there are consequences – dark circles under my eyes, spots and over reliance on coffee, to name a few.

There’s also the little fact that at nearly 3, my son still doesn’t consistently sleep through the night. So going to bed late just compounds the effect of a broken night’s sleep.

It’s hard to overstate the healing powers of sleep and how much the body uses the time to repair and heal itself. Looking at the Chinese medicine clock, your gallbladder (11pm – 1am), liver (1 – 3am), lungs (3 – 5am) and small intestine (5 – 7am) are all active at night and use this time to refresh and regenerate.

Sleep also has a huge effect on weight loss and maintenance, cognitive ability, body repair and regeneration and insulin sensitivity. It’s fascinating to see studies that show that interventions that reduce sleep time by as little as 2 hours daily can induce a state of insulin resistance in otherwise healthy persons within a week, and halving sleep time to 4 hours or less is able to induce insulin resistance after a single night!

So what were the benefits to me of getting some extra sleep? Unsurprisingly, I woke up feeling a little more refreshed than normal, my energy levels were higher, so I could just bounce out of bed, without my usual sluggishness and I was in a far better mood throughout the day.

I can’t say that I’m going to continue going to bed so early every night, because I truly need that time in the evening after my son goes to bed to relax and unwind, but I plan to go to bed earlier at least three nights every week. Here’s to positive habit forming!

Photo by Quin Stevenson

I Tried It: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

stew

As I go further into my Nutrition degree, we’ve been learning more nutrition theory and practical elements, like clinical practice with patients and specific dietary models. The third assignment this year is to trial one of the dietary models we could potentially recommend to a patient. Anything from paleo to raw vegan to GAPS to 5:2. The idea is that we won’t truly understand how our clients feel until we walk a mile in their shoes.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

With that in mind, I’ve just completed  a week and a half on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). This aim of this dietary model is to help heal the intestinal wall and rebalance the good and bad bacteria within the gut. More specifically, it is aimed at those with severe intestinal difficulties, such as those with Celiac, Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. To quote the definitive SCD book / website, Breaking The Vicious Cycle:

The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow, producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.

On the diet, only monosaccharide carbohydrates are allowed to be eaten as all others require extra digestion steps to break the chemical bonds down to monosaccharide carbohydrates. In a nutshell, ‘no food should be ingested that contains carbohydrates other than those found in fruits, honey, properly-prepared yogurt, and those vegetables and nuts listed here.’

There is quite a lot of evidence supporting the efficacy of this dietary model, however because it is so intense, it can be considered a ‘last resort’.

How It Works

The diet is split into two parts; a 2-5 day introductory period to reduce severe intestinal complaints, such as pain, cramping and diarrhoea and then a reintroductory period to slowly introduce foods back into the diet to see how the body reacts. The 2 – 5 day introductory period focuses on plain foods that are known to help heal the intestinal lining, reduce bloating, gas, diarrhoea and pain and rebalance gut flora. Quite frankly, it is the blandest food known to man – foodies look away now!- which is why this dietary model is described as a last resort. Sample foods include dry cottage cheese, eggs (boiled, poached or scrambled), apple cider, homemade gelatine, homemade chicken soup including broth, chicken and pureed carrots, broiled plain beef patty, broiled fish, homemade cheesecake. All food must be homemade so you know exactly what ingredients are in each meal.

Once the intestinal complaints subside, cooked fruit, banana and additional vegetables may be tried. After this, the rest of the food in the dietary model may be introduced.

My Experience on the Diet 

I did one day on the introductory diet, so I could experience what a client might feel on this  part of the dietary model. I intentionally chose a day where I was at work, so I wouldn’t be tempted by anything on offer in my local cafes and restaurants. I’ve laid out my food and drinks throughout the day below.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

I am a coffee addict, so by 3pm, I was frantically Googling ‘herbal teas allowed on scd introductory diet’. Happily, nettle tea is allowed so I had a few cups to tide me through the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted and went to bed at 8pm – no joke!

Day 2 – 9 were easier in some respects because I could have a wider variety of foods that weren’t too far off the paleo template that I normally choose.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

Day 2

Smoothie (almond milk, almond butter, kale, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 handful blueberries, 2 tbsp collagen hydrolysate, 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 handful kale), rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Red lentil and beef curry

1 cup of coffee, 2 L water, 1 cup ginger tea

Day 3

Smoothie 

Mixed salad with crab, tuna, string beans, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, rocket, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Courgetti bolognaise, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 4

Smoothie 

Leftover beef and red lentil curry, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Steak with sautéed mushrooms and kale, 3 strawberries

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 5

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

n/a

Beef ragu with spiralised carrots

Lemon water, 1 cup of coffee, 1 L water

Day 6

Smoothie 

n/a

Red pepper, green pepper and double Gloucester frittata

Lemon water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup of Dr. Stuart’s Skin Tonic, 1L water

Day 7

Smoothie 

Small wedge of double Gloucester cheese

Beef patty with mixed leaves

1L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

Day 8

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon, small piece of leftover frittata, 1 scrambled egg

Chicken burrito bowl with guacamole

Apple, two pieces of blue cheese

2L water, 1 large glass of red wine, 1 nettle tea

Day 9

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Chicken cacciatore with spinach

2L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

There were two slightly tricky points.

From days 5-7, I had terrible intestinal discomfort, including stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, gurgling, nausea and general fatigue and headaches. On the various SCD websites, there is much discussion of ‘bacterial die-off’ (also called herxheimer reactions), where the fuel for the harmful bacteria (polysaccharides and disaccharides) has been removed from the diet, leading to ‘die-off’ of the harmful bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine in large numbers and the release of too many toxins for the liver to be able to process and dispose of at one time.

To put it simply, I was in a bad place for three days, with no appetite, no energy and a lot of discomfort. Interestingly (from a scientific, not a personal perspective), both my husband and son became ill one after the other, with the same symptoms that I experienced, so what I originally thought was bacterial die-off, may have been stomach flu. I’m still not sure.

The other tricky point was eating enough to have enough energy for exercise. After I recovered from the bacterial ‘die-off’, I found that I had to be quite conscious of making sure I was eating enough food throughout the day and in particular, before any workouts. I struggled with a spin class towards the end of my time on SCD, getting through on sheer grit and endorphins.

Final Thoughts

After I recovered from the die-off, I felt great. Full of energy, with far less intestinal discomfort, bloating and gas. I’ve actually continued a modified version of this dietary model for the last two weeks, excluding potatoes and sweet potatoes from my meals.

I’ve lost 3 kgs, my skin is much clearer and I’m enjoying spending more time in the kitchen and taking time over the meals I prepare. The other benefit is the amount of money I’ve saved from eating out less – so many wins!

Photo by Yvonne Lee Harijanto

I Tried It: The Mooncup

blood moon

Have you ever tried a menstrual cup? I hadn’t, until recently.

This goop article got me thinking about the implications of the cotton, chemicals and bleach in mainstream tampons. How many tampons do you think the average woman uses in a lifetime? Apparently it’s almost 11,000! That’s nearly 22 every menstrual cycle.

And what are the implications of all that non-organic cotton going into one of the most absorbent parts of your body? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

There are also the effects on the environment to consider. Many women still flush their used tampons down the loo, which puts a lot of pressure on water treatment plants, as tampons do not break down very easily.

After a particularly painful period recently that included a few too many tampon mishaps, I decided to search for alternatives.

Enter the Mooncup.

This is a medical grade silicone cup that gets inserted into the vagina, instead of tampons and is meant to be much cleaner than using pads.

When my Mooncup arrived, I looked at it and I figured, I’ve had a baby come out of there, how hard can this little cup be to manoeuvre?

Well. It does take a bit of practice to get it in, just like it did when I first started using tampons, a long, long time ago. 🙂 And after a while, it becomes natural and effortless. Once you get the hang of inserting and removing it, the Mooncup can be kept in for up to 8 hours at a time, holding up to 15 mL of fluid at a time.

You absolutely need to be comfortable with blood and with emptying and cleaning the cup throughout the day. And that means that menstrual cups just may not be right for some women. Here’s a great primer on how to easily insert and remove menstrual cups (link totally safe for work!).

As for me, I love using the Mooncup and plan to continue using it indefinitely.

And it seems that I’m not the only one looking at alternatives to tampons and pads. The THINX ‘period underwear’ have been getting a lot of coverage recently.

Would you ever try an alternative to tampons and pads?

P.S. If you’re not convinced, here’s a great natural tampon alternative.

Photo by Anders Jilden

 

I Tried It: Juicing

I’ll start this blog post by admitting that I have never really been a fan of juicing. I hate the hype and near-religious devotion to it. I hate the waste – seriously, what do juice bars do with all the leftover pulp? I hate that people were replacing meals with giant bottles of green juice. I’ve seen both of Joe Cross’ films, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and its sequel and left both sceptical about how people would go from juicing 100% of the time to eating real food, without any real nutrition education.

After the last few weeks, I like juicing a little more than before. Why, you may be asking?

It all started three weeks ago when my husband reminded me that our Magimix has a juicing attachment. Curiosity struck and the next thing I knew, I was cutting up some vegetables and we had a fun time letting our son feed the chopped veg into the machine and push it down with the plunger. And it was a good result too, for my first try 😄.

Here’s what I put in it:

1 celery stalk

1 fennel stalk

2 small apples

1 medium carrot

1 knob of ginger

After a good tasting session, we decided to lay off the fennel the next time, because it overwhelmed the rest of the flavours.

Then on Wednesday, I was at home with my little guy. He had just finished his post-nap snack and turned to me and said, “Mama, I want to make juice.” I chuckled, gave a little internal hurray for building good nutrition habits, grabbed all of the juice attachments for the Magimix and we set to work.

img_0237

img_0236

This time, we mixed it up and put a bit more veg in:

1 beetroot

1 golden beetroot

1 celery stalk

2 medium carrots

2 small apples

1 knob ginger

1 knob tumeric

1/2 small cucumber

I ended up with enough for two full glasses and a bottle to put in the fridge for later.

homemade carrot, apple and beetroot juice

Here are my top tips for juicing:

1. Always drink juice with a meal. 

Because the juicing process removes the fibre from the fruit and veg, it gets digested VERY quickly and you get hungry again an hour later. Chewing starts the first part of the digestive process (which happens in the mouth!) and just drinking juice bypasses this, which is not a good thing.

If you drink your juice with a nutritious meal, the protein and fat from the food will slow digestion down and you won’t get hungry again as quickly.

2. Vegetables should form the bulk of the juice. 

The fructose in fruit juices can cause insulin spikes, which can lead to energy crashes. Vegetables modulate this process and keep blood sugars steadier.

3. Use the pulp! 

Apparently, the pulp can be used in broths, smoothies, muffins and omelettes. I’m going to figure this out, because it feels almost criminal to throw out all of this goodness!

Do you juice? What are your top tips?

I Tried It: Making Bone Broth

Bone broth preparation with ginger

2015 has been the year of bone broth or stock, as your grandmother would call it. From Brodo to #boilyourbones, the Hemsley sisters’ catchphrase, it seemed like everyone was getting into the long simmer.

Real talk: I made a half hearted attempt at making bone broth towards the end of last year, but it didn’t turn out very well, so I didn’t bother trying again until recently. Meanwhile, lots of beef bones and chicken carcasses have been thrown out, giving me a regretful, wasteful feeling.

No more. I’ve since realised bone broth is the one of the easiest things to make, especially if you have a slow cooker. Even easier if you have a pressure cooker as it only takes 2 hours.

My chicken broth recipe is really simple and you can easily substitute chicken for turkey (how seasonal!), beef or lamb bones or whack all the bones in together:

  1. Strip any excess meat off the chicken carcass and place the carcass into the slow cooker.
  2. Add 3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This helps release the collagen from the bones.
  3. Add 3-4 garlic cloves, an onion, chopped in half, 3-4 carrots and a leek, chopped in half.
  4. If you want a deeper flavour, add 3-4 circular pieces of ginger, 3 cm in diameter.
  5. Season to taste with himalayan sea salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary.
  6. Cover with water.
  7. Set your slow cooker to low, cover and leave for at least 24 hours, stirring it occasionally and topping up the water as necessary.
  8. When you’re satisfied with the taste, or the bones have crumbled, remove the broth from the heat and pour the mixture through a strainer.
  9. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Bonus tip: if you don’t have enough bones to make broth, stockpile them from individual meals in a big Ziploc bag in the freezer. After a while, you should have enough to make at least 2 litres of broth.

What can you do with your freshly made bone broth?

1. Sip it. It’s great for helping to repair a leaky gut and as a nutrient source in illness, as it’s full of collagen and protein.

2. Make soup! Knowing the soup has homemade broth in it is such a rewarding feeling.

3. Risottos are even lovelier with a homemade broth.

4.  I like to add a little zing to little J’s rice by adding a little broth to it for flavour and nutrients.

What do you do with your broth?