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How to keep it clean when dining out

Socialising over food is a part of life, and shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. There are times when you want to indulge and the rules go out the window (that is fine), and there are times where you would like to stick to the rules a little more closely. I eat out once or twice a week for a main meal, and whilst I usually find it relatively easy as I seek out health-oriented cafe’s and restaurants, there is the occasion where I have no control over where we go, or end up somewhere I wouldn’t usually choose. That is often the case when traveling or dining with larger groups! But these occasions don’t need to be avoided entirely, nor do they need to be stressed over. Embrace them and enjoy them for the company and experience, and keep these tips in mind, or in your phone, to gently guide you toward more healthful options.

1. Skip the bread basket, order crudités if on the menu, a veggie based starter to share, or simply olives, if you feel tempted to snack whilst you wait for your meal.

2. Avoid words like creamy, crumbed, crispy, or deep-fried on the menu, it is likely loaded with nasty oils and saturated/trans fats.

3. Let them know you are dairy-intolerant – vegan or not, there is no need for milk, milk powders/solids in your sauces and mains. This also means steering clear of creamy based dressings and sauces which often contain other undesirables like preservatives, thickeners and unhealthy fats etc. Find out why I choose to avoid dairy here.

4. Ask if they can cook in less oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil/coconut oil instead of butter (for vegans/dairy-free) or other vegetable oils.

5. Request dressings and even sauces on the side. Ask for a lemon, balsamic vinegar, tahini or avocado to compensate.

6. Order a bunch of side vegetables as a main – a balanced meal can often be created from a side of sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, steamed greens, grains, side salad etc. Alternatively, see what produce ingredients they use in their other dishes and single out one or two you would like e.g. avocado, quinoa or beans, to add to your sides. This is also a great tip if you are vegan and there is no suitable plant-based option.

7. Ask if they have a vegetarian / vegan menu – these often exist, and are often healthier as veggies are the star of the show! They also tend to be grouped together with other diet-specific requirements i.e. gluten-free, refined sugar-free too.

8. Skip the fries and double the veggies or see if they will steam you some rice or sweet potato instead, if craving something more starch-based. NB: sometimes I do have the fries, moderation 😉

9. At Asian restaurants, see if they have gluten-free Tamari sauce available in place of soy sauce for a happier tummy. Be wary of the sugar used in some sushi-rice, ask if they would be open to swapping for steamed rice, however this might not always be possible.

Enjoy your food, but mostly the dining experience and the company you keep! There is no perfect, and your body can tolerate less-than-ideal choices from time to time 🙂

Healthy Snacks Available at the Supermarket

I thought I would do something a little different for you – I took 20 mins to browse the health food aisle at Woolworths & sourced the best on-the-go snacks on offer I give my tick of approval ✔️ Decent, affordable and accessible snacks that you can reach for when out & about with little time!

 
I tell my clients to find a few favourites – 1-2 sweet, 1-2 savoury, that they can pick up & pop in their bag for later, so that office snacks don’t become tempting These are all around $2-4, gluten-free, vegan, refined-sugar-free & most importantly artificial flavour/preservative and vegetable oil free (which is soo difficult to find! Particularly with dips)… Just FYI the Well Naturally chocolate bar has a little sugar alcohol in it, but total sugar is only 0.6/100g. If you have difficulty digesting sugar alcohols, i.e. follow FODMAPS, avoid, but this is definitely one of the best treat options available, in my opinion.

 
Craving crunch or something salty? Choose the crackers or carrot + dip. A mars bar? Try the sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate. Cake? The Emma & Toms life bar or Soma Bite! Ice cream or a milk shake? Chia pudding w blueberries. Fizzy drinks? Kombucha! Something light? A piece of fruit or cold-pressed green juice. Easy, good-for-you swaps!
I’ll do the same for Coles shortly!!

Healthy Replacements for all your favourites

ELIMINATE: red meat, eggs, dairy, gluten/wheat, refined sugar and caffeine…

For some, these words are absurd. Others, are subtly aware (deep within them) that they were a long time coming. For most, it is completely overwhelming.

When I tell my clients to eliminate certain foods from their diet, it is my priority to replace those foods with healthy alternatives. My goal is to not only offer a more nutritious option, but an item/s that taste similar and/or better, making the transition far easier and less daunting than initially thought.

The truth is, we all love to have our unhealthy habits or choices confirmed – we like to be told that a glass or two of red wine each night is good for us, that “butter is back”, that we need to eat cheese and ice cream because… well, calcium! But the second you start to question that, the overwhelm sets in and cutting out these staples, that so many of us have grown up on, seems unbearable. Impossible. Cruel! Well, I am here to tell you, it isn’t so bad. Here are some suggestions I put forward in my plight to have my clients and readers, not only looking better, but feeling a whole lot more lighter, energetic and clear-headed…

Instead of coffee:

Order an almond or coconut milk chai tea, hold the sugar – ask if they have Natvia instead or carry some in your purse. Extra cinnamon please!

Most cafe’s these days have alternatives like matcha, turmeric, or chai lattes. Swap your regular milk for a plant-based option, and be sure to ask what it is sweetened with. Again, if it is sugar, ask for it unsweetened and add your own BYO Natvia. 

At home, try making my hot cacao, or your own turmeric latte.

Instead of dairy:

Swap dairy milk with plant-based options – almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, soy milk (definitely organic and non-GMO). *A note on soy… we are all so quick to dismiss it as having “too much oestrogen”, but may I remind you the biological and often synthetic oestrogen in cows milk, as it comes from a pregnant cow obviously producing her own hormones however additionally often injected with hormones… compared to the natural, weak phytoestrogens found in the soy bean. Just think about that for a moment. Read here for more on soy and oestrogen.*

Cheese – nut-based cheeses, for creamy pasta sauces add coconut milk, pumpkin puree or soaked cashews with nutritional yeast (tastes like cheese and is AMAZING for you), sprinkle nutritional yeast on a salad, instead of adding fetta or goats cheese, add avocado for the same creamy, “fatty” addition, cheese cake can be made with soaked cashews as a base.

Yoghurt – Coconut yoghurt, almond yoghurt – check ingredients for added sugar, cashew or coconut cream.

Also check out my post on going dairy-free, here.

Instead of gluten/wheat:

Grains – Brown, basmati or wild rice, Quinoa, Millet, Amaranth, Teff, Buckwheat;

Bread – Sprouted bread varieties, DIY your own bread, or choose a gluten-free option (check ingredients for eggs if avoiding, sugar, and additives you can’t pronounce);

Crackers – flax crackers, rice crackers, corn or rice thins, buckwheat crackers, seed crackers;

Pasta – Quinoa pasta, rice pasta, Konjac noodles, Zucchini pasta, kelp noodles, 100% buckwheat soba noodles;

Flours – Almond meal, Buckwheat flour, Coconut flour, Teff flour, Chia flour, Banana flour.

Instead of red meat:

Tempeh, lentils, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, rice, portobello mushrooms, stuffed veggies… some meal ideas:

Tempeh stir-fry with or without brown rice; Mixed Bean salad with roast veg + avo; Stuffed sweet potatoes with beans, cashew cheese, guacamole; Quinoa salad with roast veg and roast tamari pumpkin seeds; Stuffed capsicums with rice/teff and lentils; Stuffed mushrooms with quinoa, capsicum and capers, Zucchini pasta with lentil bolognese, Cauliflower rice with chickpeas, almonds and greens, Mushroom and lentil san choy bow, Cauliflower mash with peas and mushroom gravy….

Instead of eggs:

Breakfast options – smoothies, chia pudding, bircher muesli, oat porridge, quinoa porridge, pea protein powders (I like Nuzest), Avocado smash or hummus and mushrooms on gluten-free toast, breakfast salad of quinoa, sauteed greens and mushrooms, roast tomatoes, avocado and pumpkin/sweet potato and pepita’s;

Cooking – flax egg, arrowroot, tapioca flour, chia, chia flour, mashed banana, water or almond milk

Order out – if there is a big vegetarian brekky with eggs, ask for it without eggs but add extra veggies, avocado or sweet potato to bulk it up or opt for the porridge options (there is always is one!) with a dairy-free milk.

Instead of sugary snacks or treats:

All homemade or health-food store bought treats made with stevia/xylitol OR coconut nectar, maple syrup, dates

Bliss balls, DIY muesli bars, DIY granola, Cacao/turmeric lattes (as above), Raw chocolate (In Aus, Pana chocolate is a good brand, Well naturally from Woolies, or see if you can get your hands on BSKT vegan chocolate), or make your own raw choc, Cacao smoothie, Berry smoothie, Chocolate or coconut/berry based chia pudding, Vegan pancakes, Strawberry Chia Jam, Avocado chocolate mousse.

DIY: KOMBUCHA

Hi guys!

I thought I would share with you how I make my Kombucha at home. I’m always snap-chatting it away as I brew a new batch (showing you my many SCOBY’s), and have received a few questions regarding my process. What’s interesting about my DIY Buch is that I actually grew my SCOBY myself 🙂 But let’s backtrack for a min, because I am sure some of you are looking at me through the screen like “SCOBY?” “KOMBUCHA?!”…. so first things first….

Kombucha is made from sweetened fermented tea and has a well-known and impressive list of health benefits. Most of these are centered around it’s probiotic effect on gut health. Probiotics (meaning “for life”) promote the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut, critical for good digestion, nutrient absorption, disease prevention and even mood stability. You can take actual probiotic capsules daily, however it is also of benefit to consume probiotic-rich foods. These are generally fermented e.g. kombucha, kefir, saurkraut, kim chi, miso etc.

Ok, so now let’s clear up some misconceptions about Kombucha that might have people red-flagging it:

THE SUGAR:

If you have followed me for a while now, you know that I’m virtually sugar-free, particularly I avoid refined sugar. However the sugar that kombucha calls for is actually consumed by the SCOBY during fermentation. Yes… it needs food too! Unfortunately, there is no sugar-free way around this, so save your stevia/xylitol for baking and just accept that you are not actually consuming 1 cup of pure sugar! I have found that raw sugar tastes the best, but white, brown, cane and apparently coconut sugar also work. The taste will vary.

THE CAFFEINE:

You do need to use a tea that contains some caffeine, hence why herbal teas won’t work. But don’t worry, as with the sugar, the caffeine is, for the most part, transformed during the fermentation process.

THE SCOBY: (look at the tea-toweled covered jar in my pic- See that thing floating toward the middle? There it is!)

I get it, a “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” sounds and looks less than desirable, but you need to understand that this is where all the goodness comes from. I’m not asking you to slice it all up and toss it in a salad, which some people do by the way, but just know that it serves a purpose and don’t let it scare you off the good stuff. The SCOBY also multiplies pretty much every time you brew a new batch! So you will have a clean new one each week or so, and you can either let it layer upon layer, or throw out a few of the old ones as you go.

THE ALCOHOL:

Kombucha does contain a little alcohol, due to the fermentation process, it is uslaly less than 1%.

THE FIZZ:

During fermentation, kombucha becomes naturally carbonated, giving it a little fizz. You can take this a step further with a second ferment, which I explain below. Note, it is unlikely going to taste as fizzy as the store-bought varieties, as some of them actually do carbonate their bottles of ‘buch.

THE FLOATIES:

It’s OK to consume the “floaties” in your brew!! These are little bits of the SCOBY floating around, offering you the healthful benefits that comes with Kombucha. I admit, big ones are a bit of a shock, but for the most part, you don’t even notice the little guys 🙂

 

I first fell in love with Kombucha in the USA, where they had a fabulous, low-sugar brand called GT’ Kombucha. It proved really hard for me to find a brand I liked back home in Australia, which motivated me to start researching how to DIY it.

I first tried using the SCOBY from a friend, which was a baby one from the original SCOBY she received from another friend. You see, SCOBY’s are either passed down between kombucha lovers, or sold online (BUT! I have a better way, see below). Anyway, that first batch wasn’t my cup of tea 😉 so I almost gave up. When I finally found a brand in Sydney that I liked (Tonicka, for all you Sydney-siders wondering), I decided to try to grow my own from it. Let me explain how!

What you’ll need:

Step 1 – Create the SCOBY

Tools & Ingredients:

  • 1 cup store-bought ORIGINAL Kombucha (best if organic, best if you have tried it and liked the taste, and will not work if flavoured);
  • 1 medium jar
  • 1 tea towel
  • 1 elastic band

Method:

Simply consume the kombucha, leaving just 1 cup liquid. Place that cup of liquid into a jar, cover it with a tea towel and secure with elastic band, and leave in a shaded part of your kitchen for approximately one month.

By the one month mark, the “floaties” all band together, feed off the kombucha and form a unified thin “film” at the top of the jar. This is your SCOBY!

Step 2 – Brew

Tools & Ingredients:

  • Your SCOBY
  • Kettle
  • 1 LARGE bowl
  • 1 LARGE jar (3-4L)
  • Plastic (not metal) tongs, the SCOBY doesn’t like metal
  • Tea towel
  • Elastic band
  • 8 organic tea bags – I prefer Green Tea
  • 1 cup organic sugar – I prefer raw sugar
  • 1 cup store-bought ORIGINAL Kombucha 

Method:

Boil the kettle with around 3-3.5L of water, depending on how much your kettle holds. I do two batches of 1.7L, making the total 3.4L.

Place the sugar and tea bags in your large bowl.

Pour boiling water over the tea and sugar and allow the bowl to stand overnight or for at least several hours, until cooled to room temperature.

Remove tea bags.

Pour sweetened tea into your large jar.

Use tongs to place your newly formed SCOBY into the jar, and 1 cup of store-bought kombucha.

Cover with a tea towel, secure with an elastic band, and let it sit on you kitchen bench out of direct sunlight for 7-10 days (I taste-test to determine this length, for me I like the 8-9 day mark).

Step 3 – Second ferment:

Tools & Ingredients:

  • Plastic (not metal) tongs, the SCOBY doesn’t like metal
  • 3 Glass “milk” bottles
  • Funnel
  • Flavour additions – lemon, ginger, turmeric, berries, mint

Method:

Remove the SCOBY with the plastic tongs and place it into a ceramic bowl (note, NO metal).

Place the funnel into one of the milk bottles, and pour the brew into the milk bottle until about 3/4 full. Seal with the milk bottle lid, and set aside.

Repeat process until almost all the brew is gone and your bottles are ¾ full each. Note, leave at least 1 cup of brew for your next batch.

This is the step you could add some flavour, and then strain/remove the flavours before putting in the fridge.

Repeat Step 2 and brew a second batch with 1 cup from previous batch, tea and sugar, allowing to cool before transferring to the SCOBY jar, where it ferments for the next week etc. etc.

Keep your milk bottles on the kitchen batch for a further 2-3 days for the second ferment.

Place in the fridge when ready, and consume as you like.

I hope this was helpful and it has inspired you to make your own buch! If your SCOBY starts to look a little funky, it might mean the environment around it has changed. Bare in mind that changes can often be fine, so I would just google it and see if someone has experienced a similar situation. Also, if you are new, I would start slow- no need to go drinking a full bottle daily! I like to have it in my fridge regularly for a sweet alternative to soda and a refreshing alternative to tea. I have a few sips here and there, and go through phases of having 1 cup every other day.

Brew & enjoy!

Sami xx

 

 

The Skinny on Stevia

This topic is an important one to me because 1) stevia is my no.1 clean treat cooking tool and 2) a lot of people seem to be cautious of it or not like the idea of it. I’m hoping to clear up any confusion you may have! Here is why I love this particular “white stuff”…

It’s sugar-free…

Other than natural fruits, I am completely sugar-free, very rarely even using things like maple syrup or dates. First things first, let me just say that these natural sweeteners are nutritious in their own right, however, from a sugar perspective, they are still sugar, which is why I prefer stevia – a natural, healthy and sugar-free alternative.

It’s natural…

To me, stevia is a superfood because it allows us to have something sweet without the sugar rush. Let me be very clear, Stevia is natural, it is NOT an artificial sweetener!

You use less…

It is said to have sweetening power 100+ times that of refined sugar, meaning not only is it better for you, but you use less.

It’s extremely beneficial, particularly for blood sugar stabilisation…

It has antifungal, antimicrobial, digestive, diuretic and of course, sweetening properties. Studies have shown a beneficial relationship between stevia and the regulation of blood sugar levels in 24 cases of hypoglycemia.

It’s nutritious…

Stevia is a good source of potassium – a major mineral for healing, muscular function, digestion, brainpower, nerve conductivity, fluid balance and the elimination of toxic wastes. It is also rich in manganese (glandular system, hormone production, transmission of impulses between nerves and muscles) and chromium (assists metabolism and efficient insulin function).

It’s safe…

It has been used in Asia since the 80s and there have been no documented cases of the sweetener having any detrimental effects. It has been used for thousands of years in South America as a healing and health promoting flavour enhancer and/or herbal tea.

 

Uses: I use it in teas, smoothies, baking, raw desserts… anywhere you would use sugar. If you scroll through my dessert and baking recipes, you will see that I use it extensively. It comes in powder and liquid drops. Lately I have been opting for liquid drops, particularly in my tea or smoothies, as you use even less.

Brands I like: Please note, at the end of the day, stevia in the forms listed below are the most palatable, however that does come at a cost. To make them white / liquid, they are processed. They look nothing like their green leaf. The same goes for other sugar substitutes (see below). This is something to consider, and if this bothers you, green powdered stevia can be purchased. I sometimes use this, but rarely, as most people do not agree with the taste. It is a choice you make – I choose stevia regardless of the processing because I believe it is the best choice for my health, my insulin levels, hormones, weight, and overall wellbeing. It gives me no digestive upset whatsoever. Find what works for you.

For stevia drops I use the vanilla crème sweet drops, however all flavours by this brand are a good option. Otherwise I choose Natvia, which blends stevia with erythritol (see below).

 

Brief overview of other sugar substitutes:

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, however there is no ethanol in erythritol and so it is not the same as an alcoholic beverage. This merely refers to its chemistry. It comes from plants like melon, has no calories, does not raise blood sugar, is well digested and does not have any carcinogenic properties. These characteristics are akin to Xylitol, another sugar alcohol and one that I have in my kitchen and use frequently in cooking.

Cautions:

If you experience bloating or digestive upset, stop use. Ensure you chose a brand that is 100% stevia/xylitol unless it is mixed with erythritol or another natural sugar substitute. Always do your research.

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