Sunday, 26 August 2012

Paleo Diet Plan

A typical day of Paleo/Primal foods

Example 1
2 eggs fried in olive oil with mushroom, zucchini, baby spinach leaves and avocado
Morning Snack
15 raw almonds, handful of organic sultanas (check ingredients for additives)
Almond Milk Flat White (yes, I bought almond milk and the cafe at work now keeps it handy for my daily coffee* :D)

Baby spinach leaf, strawberry, avocado, tomato salad with sliced beef scotch fillet

Afternoon Snack
Apple OR Fruit and Vegetable juice (try and limit to one fruit and include as many vegetables as possible. I recommend: Pineapple (or apple), spinach, beetroot and carrot juice. - Many juice bars make these fresh.

Oven roasted atlantic salmon fillet with oven roasted asparagus, cherry tomato and lime salsa served with a side of sweet potato, cocoa and walnut mash (courtesy of my gorgeous boyfriend after a long day at work early this week!)

VERY dark organic chocolate (75-80% cocoa or more preferrably - to limit sugar as much as possible while recieving the benefits of cocoa)
A delicious paleo creation such as a dark chocolate berry pie on an almond meal base like the one my boyfriend made last week (a version of which will be posted soon). Check back for new paleo posts in the coming weeks.

*Coffee is sometimes avoided on a paleo diet, as with chocolate and alcohol. I believe that it is up to the individual to decide exactly what they will include and exclude. At this stage, having a morning coffee at work (simply, for the habitual and social aspect - not the stimulant effect) is helping me to stay on  track. Using organic almond milk keeps it as paleo as possible and really... coffee does come from nature.

Example 2
2 boiled eggs with leftover diced chicken breast from last nights lunch prep + stir fried zucchini and leftover sweet potato, cocoa and walnut mash

Morning snack
Almond milk flat white
Coconut date slice (recipe coming soon)

Oven roasted vegetables cooked in olive oil with herbs + lean beef scotch fillet OR tinned tuna/salmon OR Stir fried chicken breast pieces

Afternoon Snack
Apple OR one of Emma and Tom's "life bars" - a new find: easy to grab (found in woolworths health section) all natural, raw bars.

Nori rolls - Nori (seaweed) sheets filled with canned pink salmon and avocado or roasted beef/chicken with roasted vegetables. YUM

My Paleo Diet - Week one

The verdict:

It has been almost a week since I took on my new eating plan which is the Paleo Diet! Quickly increasing in populatiry, in a nutshell, the Paleo diet focus' on consuming only foods that are naturally produced from the earth and nothing refined or produced by humans. Often referred to as "primal" foods or the "hunter-gatherer" diet, it involves reverting back to the time of our primal ancestors and eating only foods that would have been available to them.

General guidelines of the Paleo diet include;
Lots of Meat, Fish, vegetables and eggs
Some fruit
Some nuts and seeds
No refined sugar, salt grains or legumes

Following this eating plan would be easier for some than others. Depending on your current diet, opting to follow the paleo diet plan could either be a big change or making small alterations.

Preparing to be Paleo

I decided that after reading a lot about the Paelo Diet, I was interested in the idea and was keen to see how my body reacted and how I felt while following such a plan. My diet already consisted of high levels of vegetables, though I did not eat a lot of meat and regularly enjoyed grains such as quinoa, cous cous, lentils, chickpeas and oats. Other things that I would consume that are not included in a Paleo diet plan are light cows milk or (more recently) soy milk, the occasional multigrain or wholegrain foccacia or wrap and my beloved Acai bowl!

There are also some foods that are included in the Paleo Diet plan that until now, I would have seriously avoided eating. Aside from the increases to meat that would inevitably occur, many Paleo dishes use coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut milk or coconut cream. Up until recently, these products have been on the "DEFINITELY NOT" list, because of their high saturated fat content. I have done my reasearch on this one and much to my surprise (and upon thinking about it logically, it really isnt all that surprising) based on trusted literature, the saturated fats in coconut products are not dangerous to our health like the saturated fats from animal products.

The length of the chains in the structure of saturatred fatty acids (SFA's) coming from coconut products differs to the structure of animal products SFA's. For this reason, SFA's from coconut products do not store in our bodies; instead they promote the use of fats as our bodies primary energy source which as pro-paleo foodies claim is the way our bodies were originally designed to function. It is only through continuous consumption of grains and legumes such as those listed above, that our bodies have converted from fat burning machines to carbohydrate burners. Essentially, it appears that we need to consume fat in order to efficiently burn fat!

It just makes sense doesnt it? Eat foods that the earth provides. Foods that have never seen the inside of a lab and do not come in packaging, but wholesome natural foods that mother nature designed and provides for us to eat. If coconuts were so bad for us, would they really grow in nature? -This idea suits me perfectly as I am TOTALLY looking forward to making a nice clean, natural home

I want to point out that I do not, by any means reject the claims that foods such as oats and quinoa are wonderful sources of nutrition. Up until now they have commonly appeared on my plate and one day I will return to eating them. I am interested however, to see how I do feel while following a diet purely containing natural, unadulterated foods.

So, how do I feel after week one?

Well, somewhat unexpectedly and completely unintentionally, after eating more meat than I have in years and incorporating coconut milk and coconut into my diet (along with the occasional feast on 85% dark chocolate) I managed to lose 1 kg in 4/5 days. I feel leaner around the middle and I feel... clean! Id like to note that while a 1kg loss for a larger person would not be a big deal, I do not have much weight to lose.. and to lose it with very little effort is a big deal.

I did notice on a few mornings over the last week that after my breakfast and then after my almond and sultana snack, I have felt a little sick in the stomach. Nothing major, but at this stage im attributing this to the increased fat content of my daily intake. While previously my breakfast might have been a low fat concoction of either oats or egg whites + fruit, it has now more likely to consist of whole eggs with vegetables and even sometimes meat. Having a snack of roughly 15 almonds with a handful of sultanas approximately an hour or 2 after breakfast is what left me feeling a little off. The combined (good) fat from the egg yolks and the almonds is something that I have not previously consumed. I was aware before beginning my paleo plan that it is normal to feel different and sometimes even a little sick in the early stages, but for the most part, I feel lean and healthy. I am also confident that my body is loving me as I have put nothing but good wholesome food inside it for a whole week.

For a summary of what a typical day in the life of Mel on the Paleo diet, see my diet plan here.

I will hopefully be posting some yummy paleo recipes in the near future, but I hope that this might inspire some of you to explore your options when it comes to what you're putting in your bodies. My adoption of the paleo diet began as an experiement to see how my body would react. So far so good, with the occasional difficulty of what to eat on the weekend - ended up in a food court where all food options were either wrapped in bread or coated in dressing - went hungry for a little while. The end of my Paleo month seems so far away and honestly I would love a tub of yoghurt right now.. but I think I can do it : ).


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake - SUCCESS!!

I have to say... this is the most decieving dessert I have ever eaten. For something that tastes so incredibly sinful - I cant believe how nutritious it is, not to mention easy to make. Probably even good enough to have for breakfast, dare I say! :O

In the last few months, I have been on this constant mission to either find a recipe for or develop a dessert dish that resembles a tart or a cheesecake – mainly for the texture. In my mind the dessert iv been looking for is something that would be served chilled (or frozen) and would have a crust with a creamy yet firm filling. I visited a wonderful raw cafĂ© in Sydney a month or so ago for breakfast and when we were leaving I noticed the range of raw desserts they had in the window. Mum and I got some to take home for later and they were among the most delicious desserts I have ever tasted – not a surprise to me but that could be a surprise to others who are resistant to or unaware of the benefits of (and the incredible satisfaction that can come from enjoying) a raw food diet. I think it might be safe to say that this is where my mission began.

During my 'research' I found that many raw desserts that fit the description of my perfect dessert contain either coconut oil, coconut butter or both. Since then, I have extensively researched and found many benefits of coconut, coconut oil and coconut butter despite the high saturated fat content. The alleged nutritional benefits are extremely extensive and I have to say that all of the scientific information I read regarding the benefits makes total sense. Coconut does contain high levels of saturated fat which is commonly known to be very bad for us, however it is believed that due to variations in the chemical structure of the saturated fatty acids in coconut compared to animal products, coconut saturated fat is neither detrimental to heart health nor weight management*. Unfortunately, it is taking me a while to adjust to the idea of filling a dessert dish with oil or something reffered to as "butter" and calling it healthy even while being aware of the favourable evidence. One day I am sure that I will use both coconut butter and coconut oil, but in the meantime, I was determined to develop a recipe that used something that would give a similar texture without the high fat content. Ricotta Cheese! I have mostly used Ricotta Cheese in savoury dishes in the past - maybe to top a vegetable lasagne or to add creaminess to a vegetable stack, but the mild flavour of the ricotta was easily masked by the other ingredients and acted as the perfect base for my Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake.

Chocolate Ricotta no-bake Cheesecake

What makes this decadent Chocolate dessert so good for you?

I put this together feeling that there was a biiiig chance it would be only mediocre. Thinking about the ingredients I was using compared to what would typically be used in a cheesecake dessert recipe made me a little bit doubtful that it could be as amazing as I was hoping. This means that I was SO pleasantly surprised when it came out SO much better than I expected and after calculating the nutritional breakdown (which can be found below), I was all smiles.

Ricotta Cheese which is actually defined more as a cheese by-product (made from the whey that is drained off during the production of mozarella and provalone cheese) than an actual cheese, is a good source of calcium to the diet which has a known link to the health of our bones and teeth. Whey (mentioned above) is a great source of protein, making ricotta cheese a wonderful addition to the daily diet when increased protein is the goal. High protein foods are known to maintain fullness for longer and also aid in muscle groth and repair. Alongside Cottage Cheese, Ricotta Cheese is lower in fat than many other cheeses and has a fairly mild flavour which is handy when pairing with both sweet and savoury foods!
Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) is actually fairly low in energy (63kilojoules/15 calories per tablespoon) so without being accompanied by the typical ingredients that are mixed into many chocolately desserts (eg butter, cream, sugar), cocoa doesnt have to be the enemy - especially if a dessert like this ^ curbs your chocolate cravings and saves you from eating something that doesnt fit with your healthy eating plan. Cocoa is also known to contain antioxidants which fight free radicals and consequently can be linked to a reduction in heart disease incidence. Unfortunately this does not mean that 'chocolate' is not of potential detriment to heart health as the additives to the cocoa to create chocolate can sometimes override the benefits of the cocoa in its natural form - worst news ever.
Natural Sweeteners. The natural sweeteners used in this recipe are dates, apple sauce, natvia, vanilla essence and honey. There is no denying that these each contain some amoung of 'sugar' however one of the most important things to note when using natural sweeteners is that each of the above mentioned provides significant nutritional benefit while sweetening our food. In contrast to using refined sugars, our bodies have something to gain from using natural sweeteners, whether it is the high vitamin, potassium and fiber content of dates while they manage to be completely fat and sodium free or its the alleged natural medicinal benefits of honey (antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties). I know personally that I would much rather get my daily sugars from something naturally grown in nature that not only adds sweetness but a wonderful flavour to whatever it is that you're creating.

Ingredients (Serves roughly 8 slices depending on size)

1.5 cups (115g) Wholegrain rolled oats (ground into a "flour")
1tsp cinnamon
1tbs cocoa
3 fresh medjool dates (remove seeds)
2 tbs apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla essence

250 low fat ricotta cheese
2 tbs cocoa
1tsp cinnamon
1 tsp natvia (brand of stevia - natural sweetener)
1tsp chia seeds
1 tsp apple sauce
2 fresh medjool dates (seeds removed)
1tsp honey
1tsp vanilla essence


Place oats in a food processor and process into a fine flour and add dates to process together until dates are broken up (if small pieces of date are still visible, that's ok)
Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until combined. As can be seen below, the mixture should not be smooth - it should simply be wet enough to press together into a firm crust.

Once combined, thinly spread mixture into a pie dish and aim to spread it as evenly as possible. The crust should be fairly thin and it should be spread as far up the sides of the dish as possible.

Place pie dish in the fridge to begin chilling the crust.

Now for the filling!

Once seeds have been removed from the dates, simply place all filling ingredients in the food processor to combine! Remove pie dish from the fridge and evenly spread the filling into the crust! As the ricotta might be a little soft due to processing and the little heat that might have been produced, I would suggest placing the cheesecake back in the fridge to chill before serving, however you could probably serve immediately if you're extra desperate : ). 

I actually made mine a day in advance as I was making it for mine and my boyfriends 9 month anniversary the following day : ) - it was very difficult to wait, I can assure you. I was worried that the cheese would separate and become watery on top but thankfully this didnt happen and it was still in perfect condition two days after it was made - im sure it was okay for longer but there was none left to test that theory : ).

Now for the specifics!

Nutrition information (per slice - based on a yield of 8 slices)
Energy:            583.8 kilojoules/139 calories
Total Fat:         3g
Saturated Fat:  1g
Protein:           7g
Carbohydrates: 20g
Sugars:             7g
Potassium:        7g
Dietary Fiber:   3g
Sodium:           40mg

*Based on my reading (and im happy to be corrected);
Coconut Butter - A blend of both the meat of the coconut and the coconut water (the liquid within the coconut)
Coconut Oil - Extracted from the meat of the coconut meat.

At the end of the day, I must say that the purity and simplicity of the production of these two products has me confident that the benefits of coconut and everything that comes from it are legitimate. For me, converting from using ZERO oil and ZERO butter in recipes to using the above coconut products liberally might never happen. I do believe that the "everything in moderation" rule still applies, even with natural products such as this, but I daresay, I will look at using coconut products in the future for the many nutritional benefits they do seem to provide. More information about coconut products and the scientific reasons why the saturated fat contained within them is not dangerous like the saturated fats in unhealthy, processed foods and many animal products, can be found here.

"Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food." -Coconut Research Centre

I really hope that some of you have the chance to make this and realise how unexpectedly wonderful these ingredients are together. This result gives me so much confidence in healthy food and its ability to replace the things that contribute to the terrible health issues surrounding obesity and related comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease - which are often partly traced back to food consumption. If you like it, please spread it around : ) - I would love to encourage as many people as possible to feel motivated and equipped to enjoy delicious food while enjoying a long and healthy life.

One recipe at a time : )

- Mel

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Curried Salmon Patties with Oven Roasted Sweet Potato "fries"

So, every night I come home and (sometimes more enthusiastically than others) put something together to take to work for lunch the next day. The last few days have been fairly basic with me not having much more than vegetables to play around with. It was during this time that I realised how much I rely on baby spinach leaves to make up the bulk of my lunch. They're so amazingly versatile and I find that I use them in almost any savoury dish - salads, stir fries, soups, scrambled eggs, smoothies and so on. This post isn't about baby spinach leaves though, even though they do feature in tomorrows lunch - it is in-fact about my spontaneous decision to make Curried Salmon Patties and Sweet Potato "Fries"! I say "Fries" because they are really oven roasted sweet potato pieces but.. we all know how yummy oven roasted vegetables are.

Curried Salmon patties

I put these together on the spot with no real direction but they came out really good! After working out the nutritional breakdown of them, I realised how wonderful they actually are!

Salmon contains Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (healthy unsaturated fats) which is something that many people don't eat enough of. These fatty acids are mostly found in fish (salmon and tuna), flaxseeds which are often used in bread and other baked goods and walnuts among some other things. Salmon is said to have contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, improved brain function, lowered risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's) and improved bone strength (plus some).

Salmon is also exceptionally high in Protein (as can be seen below) which is great for muscle growth and repair - for this reason is it commonly consumed by people adopting a high protein diet to compliment a strength training regimen. Since protein is a complex molecule and takes longer to break down that Carbohydrates, it supplies a longer lasting source of energy and keeps us fuller for longer - often aiding in weight loss programs.

Salmon is also a source of Calcium which is essential for healthy bones and teeth and when combined with impact exercise can contribute to the prevention of Osteporosis and other related conditions. 


57g tin of Salmon in Springwater (I used the John West brand)
10g low fat ricotta cheese (I used Perfect Italiano light Ricotta)
1 tsp buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp mixed dried herbs


-Drain the Salmon and combine thoroughly with all other ingredients in a bowl - I used my hands : )
-Shape mixture into a small ball and flatten slightly before putting in a pre heated pan that has been sprayed with a small amount of olive oil
-Cook on each side for 3 or 4 minutes and they're done!

Coming in at only 336 kilojoules/80 calories per patty, these provide an amazing amount of goodness and would be a wonderful inclusion into a low calorie diet. For those of us not on a low calorie diet - eat many : ). See details nutrition values below:

Sweet Potato "fries"

Sweet Potatoes are a great source of Vitamin C and just a 1 cup serving of the vegetable contains 65% of the minimum necessary daily amount. Sweet Potato also contains great amounts of Calcium, folate, potassium, dietary fibre, antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals. Sweet Potatoes are a low Glycemic Index food (lower than white potatoes) which means that they cause a slow release of energy into the body preventing the rapid spike in blood sugar that is seen when consuming sugary and processed foods. This also means that this vegetable is likely to keep you full for a significant length of time.

How did I make them? SO simple.

For one serving of sweet potato fries, you will need:

1/2 sweet potato
spray olive oil
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
Peel the sweet potato and cut into pieces in the shape as seen in the above photos
Place in a large bowl and toss with the oil and herbs to coat
Place on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until softened.


Now that my meal has been transferred into the not-so-glamorous container that I will take to work tomorrow, im ready for a good nights sleep : ).

Goodnight everybody!