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Bess

Nowadays, we see everywhere food is served: ‘the alternative option’. There are so many different ingredients finding their way into our lives- for health reasons, intolerance reasons and hey, mixing it up for the sake of some new flavour flave.

There are blue algae + beetroot lattes, GF brownies using avocado, kumara + coconut flour, vegan eggs and about 50 different non-diary milk. Your grandmother would feel like a foreigner in most city cafes.

Let’s go through some simple alternatives that you might see around or better yet, can try at home. Whether for healthy or creative reasons, there are some fantastic ways to change up your ingredients. Maybe you’ve tried some and maybe I just made some up – you judge… after you have tried them 😉

GLUTEN FREE IDEAS

Black Bean flour: drain, rinse + puree to create 1 cup black beans and swap out 1 cup wheat flour. They make the densest, richest GF chocolate brownie without an expense. Plus you get the added bonus of fibre, protein + vitamin B1. I used to make GF chocolate brownies with black beans in the café I ran in Thailand – met my husband the same week I started making them. Magic beans? I think so.

Nut + seed loaf: many of us love some fresh beautiful bread and to be honest most commercial gluten-free bread just don’t cut it for me. And while Nut + Seed Loaf is a dense and different ‘toast’ experience. It definitely fills the gap that cardboard gluten free bread does not. Try the Midnight Baker, a beautiful boutique Auckland company or attempt your own with this recipe.

Zoodles + Squash: Heard of spaghetti squash? God bless the New World produce buyer who decided to start stocking it in NZ. I LOVE spaghetti squash, a melon-shaped pumpkin that as you roast, its flesh becomes similar to… well… spaghetti! Oh it’s fabulous- works well in place of Hokkien noodles in a stir fry too. Lower carbohydrate, no gluten, low calorie, high potassium, folic acid AND vitamin A! What a superstar! As for spiralized courgette – same awesome concept replacing those big pasta dish bowls. Handles perfectly (much better than carrot or parsnip spiralized!). Try with a creamy avocado dressing for a beautiful fresh feast.

Lasagne: See my gluten free lasagne idea in the LOWER CARB SECTION.

SALT FREE SAVOURY OPTIONS

Nutritional yeast: Yeast never sounds that appetising right? Bu hello, this inactive yeast grows on molasses + gives a beautiful savoury kick to so many meals. You can totally omit additional salt. Good Vitamin B12 (get on it my vegetarian + vegan pals!), zinc and selenium. There’s no added nasties or sugar. It goes well as a seasoning, as a hot cup in the morning (like a soup/broth!) or sprinkle it on popcorn with paprika.

Seaweed: okay so technically there is sodium going on, but compared to salt? 1g salt is 380mg sodium while seaweed is about 4mg sodium. Enough said. The flavour takes some getting used but is a great snack or sprinkled over Asian dishes, veggies or salad and you’ll be the coolest neighbour at the BBQ. High iodine, potassium and iron this darling of the ocean is worth giving a go.

LOWER CARB IDEAS

Rice: No doubt you have heard of the cauliflower rice craze – well it’s awesome! How about you try with a purple head of cauliflower or broccoli? Maybe mix with one-third portion of wild rice to really create a beautiful looking dish. You lower the GI (Glycemic Index) of the dish dramatically, plus the carbohydrate + calorie content.

Lasange: Your grandma makes a classic lasagne doesn’t she? Well, want to make it a modern + lower carb hit? Try using rice paper roll sheets and seaweed nori sheets between the layers of your meat or meat alternative sections. You still get that delicious, comfort meal inside your belly but with added nutrition of the seaweed and it’s gluten free too!

DAIRY ALTERNATIVE IDEAS

Once you stop picturing almonds having nipples, you will open your mind up to many different dairy alternatives that satisfy + are wholesome.

Nut cheese: A good friend showed me how to make a soft cashew cheese with nutritional yeast and it was mind blowing. That decadent savoury desire we have for cheese is well satiated with this alternative which has lower salt, low saturated fats and no dairy. Let all the lactose intolerant people rejoice. I have a recipe. You’re welcome.

Almond milk (pretty much every nut milk): Okay, I know it’s an obvious one – BUT MAKE YOUR OWN! If you look at the ingredients on the back of most commercial UHT almond milk – you will see between 2-8% almond content. Ahem, that is NOT almond milk, but water that some almonds fell into. All you do is blanch almonds, remove their skin and whizz them up with water (at a much better ratio!) a pinch of cinnamon and you have a creamy beautiful ‘milk’ please note that whilst dairy + soy milk give a good dose of calcium, almond milk does NOT. It is wise to ensure children and women are getting good doses of calcium per day so do not use this as the only dairy alternative.

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN IDEAS

Yes, there are tofu, lentils and chickpeas. There is also seiten, tempeh + edamame – all soybean-based products. Soy is awesome when it’s delivered to you un-GM-ed. Great vegetarian protein source + can be fabulous for hormone balance…

Mushrooms make great burgers OR even ‘buns’ they are so rich in flavour + health properties that you hardly feel like you’re missing a meat.

BINDING/BAKING IDEAS

Can’t do eggs? Try Psyllium Husk, Chia seeds, avocado or banana for binding. Psyllium + Chia expand/congeal with liquid – they set brilliantly. Avocado + banana? Well you can put these nutritious powerhouses in literally hundreds of baking + cooking dishes. You can make cakes, mousses, ice creams, breads… yeah… just do it.

SIMPLE SWEET IDEAS

Date Puree: Sure there’s sugar in dates. But they also contain fibre, iron, potassium + calcium so a much more nutritious option in your baking.

Dates + grapes: How about you just freeze them and eat them as a sweet treat/dessert? We all need some sweetness time to time right? If you are a long distance runner, a frozen date/grape in your zip up top is the perfect glucose hit at the 60minute mark.

Dessert: The easiest dessert EVER is a frozen banana, cinnamon, peanut butter whizzed together to make banana ‘nice’ cream. Three ingredients, no added sugar, tastes amazing.

Got any other alternatives? I would love to hear them!

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Bess

My fingers are fumbling over the keyboard after some golden holiday time off in Aotearoa. I’m sure I hear “Amen” all over the place. We are back! I am, however, happy to push through the fumbles to write to you about a trip late last year that took me back ‘home’ to Northern Thailand. On a personal level – I met my husband there in 2013 so hey, it’s got its sentiments. But I also spent quite some time there before that, working with teenage girls who had been rescued out of the sex slave trade which you can read about here. We went back there to visit some wonderful familiar faces, to stuff our faces (with absolute decorum of course) with the best cuisine in the world + to re-open ours hearts to a world greater than our own. To unpack our every moment there would be too generous of me but the few things I want to touch on are: 1) The Little Farm Thailand, 2) Thai charm that we can learn from and 3) I finally found the ultimate secret ingredient to Thai Cooking and I am stoked about it.

THE LITTLE FARM THAILAND
The Little Farm Thailand, in a nutshell, is all my dreams come true. A small jungle-like farm property owned by my awesome Aussie friend, Heidi, her hilarious Thai husband, John and a little piece of stardust, called Charlotte – their adopted daughter. They are working hard to restore an old farm property from okay-ish to absolutely fantastic. They are aiming for organic status and sustainability over the next few years, they are already educating other local farmers to get on board + to farm in the same organic manner AND on top of that, they house + love upon 6+ Thai teenage boys and girls rescued from sex-trafficking, poverty + abusive backgrounds. Needless to say – unreal people? Heidi is a humble, crazy + confident soul who alongside John has helped in the making of traditional bamboo huts for housing (oh yeah, did I mention there’s no electricity?), making her own woodfire pizza oven, earth huts for visitors + volunteer workers, harvests rice, planted 10,000 pineapple plants (yes, you read that correctly) and created a beautiful + encouraging safe space for her ‘kids’ to work, live and be loved. Whilst Olly and I were there we found the most gorgeous passionfruit vine – the fruits were the size and pinkness of pomegranates with about 1 cup of flesh inside! #notbeingdramatic #tropicaldreams Papaya, herbs, chillis and all of your freshly grown Thai ingredient desires are there. Plus there are goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys + pigs roaming the valley. Did I mention Heidi makes her own Passionfruit kombucha? Sigh. Whilst I make it sound like a magical dream. There’s the reality too – there is minimal money, hundreds of failures + drawbacks, monsoonal rains, down days, spiders (my main concern), long days + issues with teenagers. But my point for sharing about The Little Farm Thailand is this: Heidi and John didn’t start out with all the resources, money and plans mapped out – but they have actively walked forward in what they believe in through the hard bits and just kept going… and they keep going. I have been re-inspired to care beyond my current life/selfish desires + dare to do things that may not be the easiest route. I dare you to as well.

THE THAI NATURE

I’m bringing this to the table because I think it’s worth you reading. I live amongst busy, stressed out, anxious, 5-year planning, angry + depressed humans. And that’s just the nice people. I mean bless us, we all have our bad days. But as a general truth, we in the western world either are this way or know many this way. Yes, we do get things done, we have some good success + achievements to our name; there are many fabulous positives to the way we culturally do life, work + everything in-between.

But what I have noticed about Thais, as a general rule that I consider is they smile and laugh a lot. It’s a great confidence boost as they think I’m hilarious, but beyond that, joy and smiles are lavish. They take the time to have a laugh and to give a big smile to a friend or respectful stranger. Generous hospitality is a common theme in Northern Thailand. It’s reminded me how wonderful it is to be welcomed, to be smiled at and we just don’t need to be so gosh-darn serious and formal all the time!

They live in community. Grandma looks after baby; aunties + uncles are all about. There’s always one hundred children running around giggling and having a blast. Even the titles of respect are played out by young Thais I haven’t seen for 3-4 years: “Pi Bess”. Grandparents don’t live in retirement homes. Eating together is essential and helping with people older and younger than you is a given. We can be very isolated, solo + lack spontaneity. Attributing to our climbing statistics of depression, broken relationships + anxiety perhaps. Life is meant to be done with a community of real, flawed, wonderful humans. Introvert, extrovert, whoever – you need it.

SECRET TO THAI COOKING
It is my great honour to share this with you. Please let me have my highlight moment, even if you know what I am to share. I have made okay + good curries for years. I understand flavours, chilli, hot pans, fresh ingredients and I lived there for 18 months running a café for goodness’ sake – you would think I would have it down…
But it was a revelation to taste again and realise my kitchen hadn’t quite got it perfect back here. The three key ingredients and in this order are: Thai Basil, Kaffir Lime + chicken stock powder! There it is. Now let me explain – a curry that literally explodes in your mouth with spectacular wonder has loads of Thai Basil and thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaves. The chicken stock part comes in for most stir fries and quick hot meals. Thai Basil is anise-like – both spicy and sweet compliments the Thai perfect flavours of spicy, sour, sweet, salty. You can buy it here in NZ, in fact, I just planted a few pots that were $3.99 each (cheers Palmers) + it’s growing like wildfire. Overjoyed is how I would describe my heart right now. Kaffir lime leaves are an elegant citrus almost a combo of lime-lemon but the aroma is to die for. If I was a perfumer or wordsmith I would expound superlative words to get your nostrils tingling! Also available here. Chicken stock powder – straight up flavour-flave which may not meet all your organic and preservative free standards, but heaven forbid it tastes good with fried pumpkin, oyster sauce, chilli, garlic + of course Thai Basil. Thank you for hearing me. Thailand had a piece of my heart + I just love sharing it with others. Now either get over there and not just to those top ten beach party spots. Go where Thai people live their lives with colour, smiles, culture + phenomenal food. Or go get Thai basil, Kaffir lime, make a killer Penang curry to share with your neighbours and grandparents, whilst on the computer donating to the Little Farm Thailand. Cheers!

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Bess
Our Western world is brilliant and bustling. Full of colour, convenience, creativity and, just to continue my alliterations, consumerism.

We consume, we hoard, we overeat and we do it all VERY quickly. Now don’t be offended, I might not be talking to you, so read on, as far removed as you need to be of course!

Across the board: from clothing and shoes to homewares and houses. From newest season products to latest restaurants. And yes there is great pleasure and beauty in change + experiencing the food/clothing that people have made for us to enjoy. But take care of how it affects you + your body. That body you only have one of.

The Blue Zones is a concept by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain who collected data regarding the lives of centenarians (people who live over 100 years) in certain geographical areas of the world. Furthering the studies, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic discoverer, named these Blue Zones to be in Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Coast Rica) and a seventh-day Adventists community (Loma Linda, California).

japanEach Blue Zone area showed us a moderate energy intake diet or a non-indulgent food culture. The Okinawa of Japan know it as Hara Hachi bu, (Hara hachi bun me 腹八分目/はらはちぶんめ). This comes from a Confucian teaching that tells people to eat until they are 80% full. This translates to “eat until you are 8 parts out of ten full.”

The Bible instructs us to not be gluttons, to be mindful of ‘too much.’ There are accounts of young prophets becoming the strongest of the kings’ men only eating fruit and vegetables and not excessive meats/wine as the other young men did.

It seems Ancient traditions through many cultures tell their people to eat less, to not over-indulge or over-consume. Whereas ‘more, excess, consume, surplus’ are words we are drawn to more often in the West.

Many traditional diets, such as the Okinawa focus on vegetables, fruits, legumes, soy foods, whole grains, fish and limited red meats and believe these to be a basis for health + healthy ageing.

These simple diets were found to reduce cardiovascular disease, heart disease and minimise free radical production (cell-damaging molecules that are created via our bodies metabolising energy we get from food).

What does that mean? High antioxidant diets are essential for longevity and found in plant-rich diets. Simple. They also experience lower stroke rates, healthy cholesterol levels and optimal blood pressure levels. Cancer rates? You guessed it, lower. 50-80% lower in fact, across breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate. These Okinawa Japanese are fighting fit! Hip fractures and dementia cases: rare.

Now, eating until you are 80% full decreases the risks of obesity. It teaches you to appreciate your food + not indulge in a way that constantly consumes.  The strategy itself is a discipline that teaches the stomach to tell you how full it really is. 20 minutes after stopping is when you feel the fullness. How many of us stop, rest and wait? (In any area of life?!)

When younger generations from the Okinawa people embraced the Western style of eating (lots and processed), their heart disease risks rose to match those in the United States and their life expectancy decreased by 17 years.

I believe it’s important to take a leaf out of these older cultures. Sure, we have amazing technology + convenience. Plus our world is becoming so ‘in reach’ ; we from south pacific island countries can enjoy Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, we can buy Alaskan Salmon through to Italian vintage wines. Everything is available to us. It’s both beautiful and a lesson in being a bit thoughtful of how we consume.

You might wonder then, how do we enjoy the options that we have here yet take the disciplines on that these cultures have perfected. The practice of Hara Hachi Bu is exciting to me – that I could train myself to need less. I want to take the time to embrace this way of eating and I think it will take habit breaking to make it happen, so join me!

Start with mindfulness – how do you know when you’re full?? Well, we never give ourselves time to ask the question. We have usually crossed the line way back.

Fullness being the opposite of emptiness happens as you eat and drink. The human stomach can grow from 50ml to 4L!!! Surely, we should stop before reaching that capacity? As you become fuller, the empty feelings are replaced with a gentle pressure or a lack of a hollow feeling. As you feel this pressure, stop eating. Makes perfect sense right?

The following are more ways to help you retrain your head and stomach. It might take time to Hara Hachi Bu my friends. It’s worth it.


TIPS FOR EATING LESS BUT ENOUGH TO FILL YOUR NEEDS
1. Serve yourself less. The easiest way to start this change: instead of leaving a bit on your plate each meal (which I find is wasteful and requires more discipline), try serving a little bit less than you usually would. Then before going back for seconds. Think am I hungry? Sit, have a sip of water + chat and see if you are actually satiated. If you need to serve more, try the veggie/salad part of the dish. instead of round two of the meat and carbohydrates.
2. Ask for small or medium portion size – not large. This goes without saying particularly with fast food options as they don’t satiate no matter the size!
3. When shopping for meats + pre-portioned foods, think do you NEED the bigger sizes or are they just a want?
4. Buy new plates that are smaller. If you look at glass + plate sizes now compared to 50yrs ago, the difference is massive. Literally.
5. When at functions and events, can you avoid the starter dishes? You can end up eating the equivalent energy of 2 meals just in 5-6 canapes + 2 glasses alcohol. Try one only + wait to enjoy your main.
6. Order entrees. You might find you keep nice and full.
7. When cooking, serve the portions up and then place leftovers straight into fridge containers so that you don’t pick later.
8. Think back to when you had packed or homemade lunches. They were generally a good portion. Now we have big lunches with all the trimmings and then do it all again at dinner time. Our normal is bigger. Eat big breakfasts, medium lunches and conservative sizes dinners.
9. Always have a snack after dinner? Do you actually need it?
10. Put your knife and fork down each time you take a bite of your meal. You’ll find you take longer and noticeably don’t over eat. Even better – try eating with chopsticks.
11. How often are you eating out at indulgent eateries? Save your pocket and waistlines by limiting to occasions not weekly (daily?!) activities. Your body will thank you.

As always, if you’d like to find out more about Hara Hachi Bu or if you have any nutrition questions, you can email Bess, or you can read more about Blue Zones and Okinawa.
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Bess

I purposely did not entitle this piece “Gut Health” because literally every nutrition article I see on social media surrounds this topic at the moment and shows you where to buy probiotics + overpriced kimchi. Cool. Okay. What is this gut health thing? Sounds popular and on trend in the health world. And it sounds better than ‘bowel health’ that is for sure.

There 101 reasons why you might struggle with bloating, gas, sore stomach, heartburn, IBS type symptoms, constipation, diarrhoea and other glamourous GIT (gastrointestinal tract)-related issues. It could be stress, too much-processed food, high fat/protein diets, intolerances, full-blown allergies, excessive or restricted eating, coffee, alcohol, the list goes on!

We are going to focus on just one wonderful factor that may be the answer to many of your life problems… Well, the gut related ones. 
That is not enough roughage or dietary fibre. We have all heard that fibre helps us ‘frequent the bathroom facilities’, but oh it does so much more than that- what exactly IS fibre? Well firstly, fibre is ONLY found in plants, not animal products. So that means vegetables, grains, fruits, seeds, nuts, sea plants, legumes, pulses etc. And there are two types of fibre that are pretty simple to remember: Soluble Fibre: this acts like a sponge + absorbs fluids making ‘excretal’ contents softer and therefore easier to move. Insoluble Fibre: this one acts like a ‘filler or bulking agent’ which also helps in keeping us regular.

Easy? Well, another word to bring to the party is Prebiotic. You have heard of probiotics, right? (If not – these introduce good bacteria to your gut). Well, prebiotics promote the growth of BENEFICIAL intestinal microorganisms that the probiotics introduced. Fibre is PREBIOTIC, acting like a fertiliser for good bacteria that already exists. Keep that in mind if you don’t remember anything else from this! We (male + female adults) need between 28-35g per day. Many clients that I see are barely reaching 18g per day. They are wondering why they are struggling with gut related bloating, pain, ‘IBS’ symptoms. I believe some of the answers lie right here.

We do not ONLY need fibre so that we have happy regular toilet visits. I mean, sure, this is tremendously important + relieving. BUT going a little deeper into the wonderful world of your microbiota (all those communities of little organisms that are sharing your personal space very closely – inside you) is much more beneficial long term for your internal health. 


A study done last year by the American Journal of Physiology found that a diet missing or severely lacking soluble fibre promotes inflammation in the intestines + poor gut health, with leads to weight gain. There is also speculation that inflammation caused by altered gut microbiome (from low fibre intake) may be linked to obesity-related diseases + diabetes.
Another study has found that bad bacterial changes to a person’s gut microbiome are linked to IBS, gastrointestinal disease + metabolic disease (not mention all those symptoms I mentioned at the beginning). The intestines of dietary fibre-deficient guts are found to be thinner and in some cases, over stretch due to hard waste just not moving through. Ouch.

Please don’t be too alarmed – the GREAT thing is that introducing more soluble fibre to a lacking diet CAN restore gut health. Feed the good guys battling for you! Prebiotics + a great balance of the right bacteria benefits not only your guts + the glamour of bowel regularity, but also the positive health impact on other physiological functions could be huge. We have already mentioned lower incidences of diabetes, obesity related illness and gastrointestinal diseases (such as diverticular disease or haemorrhoids) with high prebiotic diets. We also find better control of blood glucose levels, strong immune systems, increase calcium + magnesium absorption and lower blood cholesterol levels. Even mental health!  We see fewer issues of anxiety, depression + stress in individuals who consume high fibre daily + have a strong, healthy gut microbiota. In saliva testing in such individuals shows lower levels of cortisol. For those who don’t know: high levels of this hormone contribute to many stress + anxiety related health issues.

What am I saying here? Fibre might not cure all your ailments, I certainly see lots of true allergies + issues that aren’t magically going to disappear by eating some extra prunes, HOWEVER, a high fibre diet MAY truly have an amazing impact on the vitality, energy + chronic health of many people who currently struggle with any gut problems.

Feed on these Fabulous + Fibrous Foods: 

– Soluble: oats, legumes (lentils, beans, etc), vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, potato, kumara + fruits such as apples, pears, citrus, stone fruits + berries.
– Insoluble: the most unprocessed + whole grain bread you can get, brown rice, wild rice, grains, corn, polenta. Most fruit + vegetables have insoluble fibre too.
– Water! It’s not fibre of course, but essentially for fibrous foods transportation + in helping to get rid of waste from your body.

If you currently have a very low fibre diet, I encourage you to slowly introduce fibrous foods to the diet, your body might take a little while to figure it out. There is so much to learn + so many interesting studies being done on this big topic of gut health. It’s worth getting right and it feels so much better too.

*Please note – I would love to talk to you further about fibre and your diet so please feel free to email me to find out more. Or you can find more information here, here + here.

For more info on pro-biotic foods have a read of this great article from our friends at Health Ambition… click here to read!

oats

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Bess

Winter means gentle snowfall, roasting chestnuts around the fireplace + children laughing with their little sleds in pompoms and mittens… right? Maybe somewhere that happens, but right here it is feeling a bit more like cold + damp feet, sniffing noses + a bit too much red wine on Friday (or every!?) night… I have always found winter tough and I would preferably hibernate the whole season through. My health, desire to move + food choices can deteriorate during the colder months. I definitely thrive in the summertime and maybe you are the same. I have had to learn for myself (and also as a health professional) ways to get through winter with glowing health, not just surviving until the first sign of the Pohutukawa. Here are some quick nutrition + health tips to help you stay on top of your health this winter:

Plan your attack.
It’s pretty difficult to stick to a plan when you don’t have one. There are enough distractions in life to throw you off: chocolate around the office, last minute 5pm drinks, Saturday brunch. Why not plan your meals and at the same time, plan your exercise for the week? Sounds simple, but if you plan 100% + achieve 80% then you’ve just taken a big step towards a healthier you. I would suggest that is a pretty darn good reason to take the time to plan, purchase + make food ahead for the week.

Tighten up home + snacks.
I try to make sure that 80% of my food is as homemade, fresh + plant-based as I can. When I say that, I’m not trying to be pretentious. I just look in the fridge, figure out when I can get to the grocery store, start my meals with vegetables and build in protein, fat + flavour from there. This way, when I do go out for social food or drinks, it’s more of a treat because I haven’t allowed constant high energy foods + alcohol to become my norm. Be mindful where it matters.

Bulk up on Vitamin C, typical.
We think Vitamin C when we think ‘winter health.’ Well, Vitamin C is a powerful superhero. It can protect against immune system deficiencies (very important against attacking colds + viruses), at the same time Vitamin C can help heal wounds: we need this vitamin for growth and repair. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, hence the ongoing need for it in our diet. A powerful antioxidant that can protect your cells from ongoing damage. Vitamin C can support adrenal function by increasing your metabolic energy AND decrease elevated stress hormones. Not bad hey? Whilst eating those zesty little orange pills tastes awesome + reminds me of my childhood, one can EASILY get enough Vitamin C from the diet… Citrus fruit, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kiwifruit, capsicum. Smash these daily to get your kick.

GARLIC.
garlicFirst factor: you won’t be getting many kisses if you follow this, meaning you won’t receive any of those nasty germs floating around. Not sure if that is a win or a loss actually. Second factor: allicin is a compound found in garlic that is found to have antiviral + antibacterial properties. Allicin also increases natural killer cells in the body that go around destroying pathogens. Garlic is a great defense to attacks on your immune system, especially when eaten raw. So that first factor might come into play even more so now…

Challenge yourself + also high five yourself.
The health you desire will not come overnight if you haven’t kept on top of it. And that’s okay. Start now. Have a goal or two. Maybe it’s a 4-8 week goal or one simple regime you will stick to. Maybe removal of a certain food for the addition of a healthful one. Applaud your achievements + get a supportive person to get alongside you. We have pretty full lives these days – busy is the new cool. But really, you will likely do so much better physically, financially, emotionally + socially if you take care of your body. Not selfishly, but so your wellness + strength is a tool.

Have a selection of HEALTHY comfort foods.
tomyumsoupThis is my favourite, probably because I just love food. I have a few comfort foods that I turn to that are nourishing, warm, tasty + filling. And they don’t drip with cheese, oil or sugar icing. Write your own list – here’s one of my winter favourites Tom Yum Soup, to get you started.

Alcohol – DARE TO TAKE ON DRY JULY.
Don’t skip over this one! Even I am hesitant to write it because I do not want to be a hypocrite. Your liver does so much overtime work when you constantly pour alcohol through it. It draws water from other body systems to do so. Alcohol leaves you sluggish, tired + saps your vitality. I find this especially noticeable in winter when a few too many red wines by the heater take place. Nice temporarily, but I challenge you to take up the challenge of Dry July. You might find an upsurge in energy, an easier weight loss + more dollars left at the end of the month too.

I’ll do it if you do it.

Find movement you LOVE.
DR danceIn summer I love to swim, run, paddle board + frolic in the fields, but in winter I am more similar to a slothful bear. What happened? Outside becomes a lot less pleasant to be out in + our bodies are colder – they need more motivation to move (don’t insert the logical “but your body will warm up” answer here please). Nights come quicker, mornings brighten later. So for all these excuses, find a movement you love. I love dancing – an indoor activity! Barre, yoga, pilates, gyms, exercise classes + dance classes are EVERYWHERE. You can often just do a 3-month membership at many health clubs. Maybe you are still keen to run, but need the motivation: grab a friend to exercise with (there’s a cafe on every corner if you need a hot drink afterwards) or sign up for Run Squad with Stu Ross (no, I am not being paid to mention this!). We always think “let’s get fit for summer”, but why not stay fit all year round? Your mind + body will thank you. Dopamine + serotonin levels are increased with blood pumping exercise; don’t let winter depression beat you. I just did a 60min barre cardio workout. I wanted to die, my face was so red, but gosh I feel like I can sucker punch this day with a smile on my face.

These are just simple tips, but when you put them together they become a solid resource kit for you to keep well over the winter.

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Bess, Recipes

Beautiful pungent soup! Healthy and delicious.

tomyumsoupServes 4

Ingredients:

8 oz (250 g) shrimp/prawns, shelled and deveined, with shells reserved (or swap out for chicken)

3 cups (750 ml) water

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 kaffir lime leaves

3 thin slices fresh or dried galangal  (or use ginger)

1/4 cup (60 ml) fish sauce

2 stalks lemon grass, lower 1/3 portion only, cut into 1-in (2.5-cm) lengths

2 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup sliced straw mushrooms

5 red or green Thai chilli peppers, optional

1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice

1 teaspoon chilli paste (or any Thai style chilli sauce)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro/coriander leaves

Method

1. Rinse the prawn shells and place them in a large pot with the water. Heat to boiling, strain the broth and discard the shells.

2. Add the garlic, lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce, lemon grass and shallots to the stock, then the mushrooms and chilli peppers, if using. Cook gently for 2 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp to the soup, and reheat to boiling. When the shrimp are cooked, place the lime juice and chilli paste in a serving bowl. Pour the soup into the bowl, stir, garnish with the cilantro leaves, and serve with a small portion of rice.

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Bess
It hits me around 10:36am + 3:39pm. I look up from my screen or my eyes glaze over when I am talking with a client. A snack. Something. Anything. If I am not prepared I will usually end up dreaming of things my body thinks it needs: chocolate, crisps, doughnuts, highly fatty, salty, sugary + sweet things. Is snacking okay? Well firstly, even if it wasn’t, we would do it ANYWAY right?! So here are a few snippets of advice regarding snacking and how to do it so that it enhances, not depletes or overloads, your body.

doughnutWHY WE SNACK Our bodies are actually very well created to regulate and tell us when we are hungry and also tell us when we can stop because we are full. The brain reads the changes in levels of hormones and also nutrient levels in the blood. However, things that get in the way of eating what we actually need are habits, cravings, emotions, visuals (doughnuts are so shiny), stress, anxiety + convenience. I bet you nodded to each of these. Most of us need a bit of a snack between our general three meals and this may not be a problem. Snacking is useful. Actually, it can be great if it adds to nutrients into our body, stabilises our blood sugar levels and keeps us focused. It can control appetite, increase your metabolism + control body weight (NOTE: if it’s wholesome). If you are getting hungry and let it continue “hanger” (or “starvaguing” as I like to say) decision making surrounding food might be compromised + the temptation to grab anything highly salted/sweetened is much higher.   Snacking is less useful if it’s fuelling our cravings or filling our sedentary desk job bodies with unneeded sugar, fat or additives galore. These kinds of snacks spike your blood sugar + often bring the blood sugar plummeting down again afterwards, leaving you wanting more very soon. They also pack a lot of energy into your body. If you are not moving, then all that extra energy gets stored, aka FAT (not beating around the bush am I?).

WHOLESOME FOOD VS JUNK FOOD Simply this: If you want your body to run well, work awesome for you and give you energy – why would you put junk in it? Junk means “articles that are considered useless or of little value”. Maybe it is time start putting some things of value into our bodies. Don’t you agree?

CHOICES TO MAKE, PLANS TO CREATE The honest truth is that we choose those high fat/sugar/salt options because we know they taste nice and will make us feel good for 10, 20 or even 30 minutes. We justify it because we are busy, stressed and think there is no time for a ‘better’ option. It takes time to get it right when it comes to training yourself to FUEL so you can keep going, have energy + focus. But I believe the benefits will influence your vitality, mood, performance and weight.

almondsCOMBINING Macronutrients are fat, carbohydrate and protein. We need ALL of these in various quantities for optimal body function and weight.  Carbohydrates give us energy, proteins satiate us + build us, fats help with cravings + decrease hunger. They work better as a team. You may notice that if you grab for an apple, you’re quite hungry 30 minutes later. Combining an apple (a great carbohydrate) with a small handful of nuts or in a bowl of good yoghurt will sustain you much longer. Not only as it is more food but the fat + protein of the yoghurt layered with the carbohydrate of the apple help to satiate your appetite, give energy balance your blood sugar levels + can stop cravings. You also get a better nutrient density in a variety of macronutrients. I could eat chocolate all day every day, but I don’t crave it when I plan my meals + snacks well. When I am ill-planned or figure ‘I’ll just wait until dinner’, that is when I have no guilty conscience in slamming a chocolate bar (ahem, block)… Until after that is. Then everyone around hears my whining of how unhealthy + guilty I feel. Honestly. When will we learn? Junk is junk. Our bodies run well with REAL FOOD. They are designed to consume REAL FOOD. Our bodies malfunction with excess and processed junk. The essential key to being able to snack well is PLANNING! Yep, boring and not trendy. I might be speaking for myself, but I rarely make a wise food choice when I’m busy, stressed + on the run. However, if I planned my food prior, I’m awesome! It takes the pressure off me. Take the pressure off yourself + have a look at the following suggestions:

SNACK IDEAS
popcornDelicious snacks that are easily transportable.

1. Fresh pear/apple sliced with a few teaspoons of your favourite nut butter + why not sprinkle cinnamon or cocoa on top? (Carbohydrate + Protein + Fat).

2. Edamame beans, steamed with a sprinkle of salt or chilli. Can buy these powerful vegetarian protein plants frozen in most supermarkets (Protein + Trace Minerals).

3. Persimmons, kiwifruit + citrus are all in season (Carbohydrate, Fibre and Vitamin C). Grab 1-2 + 1 small handful of MIXED nuts – you get a greater variety of trace vitamins + minerals. Nuts are fabulous but you don’t need cupfuls. High good fat is still high fat. I would say a small handful is around 15 nuts.

4. Bowl mixed berries or cherries with a tsp of cocoa + a big glob of yoghurt is a perfect dessert.

5. Homemade rice paper rolls: fill ’em up with veggies, herbs, tofu or a favourite protein + a small pinch of noodles. Make a whole batch + they last in the fridge for a few days.

6. When you just need to stuff lots of savoury bites into your mouth but know buying crisps won’t make you feel awesome, why not make popcorn? Cheap + simple to do at home and stores well for days in a sealed container. I add 1 splash of sesame oil, a sprinkle of paprika, chilli, cumin + coriander. A few cups worth in my work bag are perfection when I need a moreish kick. And it’s a health-filled whole grain, instead of a trans fat-filled chippie. 

7. Grab a jar, put 2 spoonfuls of hummus, a sprinkle of sesame seeds + pre-cut veggie sticks sticking out. Twist the lid and off you go.

8. “Cup of Soup” not from Continentals but if you’ve made a pumpkin soup or veggie broth – why don’t you take thermos to work or reheat at 3pm? Much tastier than hot salty powdered mixes.

9. If you have access to a blender or Nutri-Bullet: 1 handful of spinach, ½ banana, some coconut water, ice + 1 small spoon of your choice of seeds is a beautiful smoothie option without excessive sugars (Iron, Potassium, Fibre, Fat and Totally Delicious).

10. An easy one for work: crack 2 eggs into a mug + microwave with some chilli + a few spinach leaves for a protein hit. So easy, cheap + tastes fab.

11. If you want my recipe for peanut butter truffles – contact me. Sweet salty kick.

12. Try a milk-based hot drink from spices, cocoa or turmeric. Comforting + warming.


For more information, snack ideas or recipes: please contact Bess at Tailored Nutrition.
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Bess
So is a carrot “worth” the same cooked as it is raw? Is an apple picked in the United States as nutritious as one picked in Warkworth?  Hmmm, no I am not posing deep philosophical questions- I am talking about Bioavailability. What? Bioavailability – is simply, how easily a nutrient you ingest is absorbed into your body and used. After you take your beautiful picture of a brunch meal with friends and take that first bite, the magic begins. Well, the science… Let’s chat about the factors surrounding different nutrients + how well they are absorbed. Bearing in mind that if I mention that a certain cooking choice for a certain vegetable decreases the nutrients absorbed in your body – don’t be alarmed. 60% of absorption is better than 0% absorption. A microwaved broccoli will likely have more nutritional benefit to you than a large cheese pizza. Some foods are better cooked. Some are better raw. Some are better soaked or crushed or chopped. Some foods are better with a glass of wine (this has nothing to do with bioavailability whatsoever, but the enjoyment factor).

Food Preparation: Chopping, crushing, soaking produce
garlicThis can release nutrients available for your body to absorb by breaking down plant walls and releasing different enzymes that help to form other nutrients. Here’s an example: crushing garlic releases alliinase – this enzyme helps to create allicin, a compound that can protect against disease in our bodies. Soaking grains, pulses + legumes (dried) can reduce phytic acid – phytic acid can block zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium absorption. It’s favourable that many cooking techniques we know or that were told to us from our mummas actually had nutritional value, whether they knew that or not!

Timing of preparation
If you cut up a vegetable or fruit, it’s ideal to consume as soon as you can, particularly if the food has been finely chopped- this is so not to allow too much oxygen to have an effect on the nutrients. Lemon juice or a similar acid squeezed on foods like potatoes or apples that discolour quite quickly can slow this factor down.

Local Love: ASAP (As Soon After Picked!)
Local produce is not just for the hippy-hearted amongst us, it’s actually the best option for maximised nutrients in a food. The main plant is the life source for a food, once plucked from the life source, it makes sense that nutrient flow is decreased in that food right? To maximise vitamin + mineral content (and taste!), eat local where you can: maybe plant a small herb garden? I may live in the smallest flat in the whole of Auckland, but there’s a few little pots of edibles happening for me. I encourage you to have a go! Radishes are easy, herbs, lettuces, spinach + chards are all best to plant around this time of year. A farmers market kg of ugly apples may be more nutrient dense than a kg of organic apples from Spain.

Cooked versus Raw
brussels-sproutsSimply, both- depending on the actual food. Heat breaks down B vitamins, folate + vitamin C in foods so that suggests that they should be eaten raw for less nutrient loss. For example, sunflower seeds, peas, brussels sprouts (I admit, this one might be a tad hard for me to enjoy!), broccoli, avocado, cauliflower, kale, capsicum and spinach. There is 3 times MORE vitamin C present in raw spinach then there is found on cooked spinach. You will tend to lose these water-soluble vitamins with rapid boiling + extreme heat. So slow and low is a better way to keep them better intact. Sautéing, roasting, steaming, even microwaving (technically) are good ways to keep higher nutrient density when you choose to cook. That old style of boiling is the best way to lose those nutrients friends! Time to teach Nana an updated cooking method for her green veggies. Though you know what? You can KEEP the water from the boiling veg process and use as a stock or broth in other cooking, there you go! Recycled nutrients? I’m going to copyright that. Cooking can give the best nutrient content in many cases though. For example, your yummy tomatoes have lycopene (an awesome antioxidant) inside them. When they are boiled, research shows that lycopene is increased by 25%. Cooking your vegetables that have beta-carotene significantly increases the absorption ability. For your carrots, sweet potato + tomatoes (think of those colours – red, yellows + oranges – as generally contain beta-carotene) cooking breaks down the tough plant cell walls, so go for it! Cooking can make meats + eggs more absorbable by denaturing the protein (don’t worry, you can still get ‘them gains’), it is definitely a better option for your digestive health. 

One last thing
I’d like to quickly mention that coupling certain foods can increase the bioavailability of nutrients. Many of us know the classic “Vitamin C + Iron pairing” and it works naturally in many dishes thankfully! Oats + mixed berries are a staple for me and getting lemon squeezed onto your eye fillet + kale side is an absorption dream.

Bioavailability is a fascinating topic and worth delving further into. However, I will say don’t stress too much if you boiled, ate raw, chopped sideways or forgot to squeeze your citrus. Nutrients are still present. As we said at the beginning, 60% absorption is better than none. If you are eating beautiful colours from plants, healthy happy meat, variety in whole grains then I can safely say, you are getting some good nutrients flowing through your body. For further questions or references for the above articles please contact Bess Kilpatrick Mason.
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Bess

IMG_0243When I read a health article or a recipe blog, I want to know something about the writer. That maybe they don’t always live this blissful, perfect, food-focused life; that there is more to them than mountain top experiences. I am sure there is… but sometimes I think, “Far out, I cannot even manage my time and make a piece of toast for breakfast let alone photograph, post + scribe poetry about my gluten free kale granola with vegan activated buckwheat milk from Panama.” So I thought it was worthwhile sharing a little about myself so that I seem like a real person that has a past, present and hopefully exciting future. And by the way, I do like buckwheat and would probably love Panama.

I’m an Australian born and bred Nutritionist who loves her home in Melbourne and the people that make it just that: home. I’m also very happy with my Kiwi husband working in a private health clinic on the North Shore in Auckland. I grew up dancing which influenced my mindset for food/nutrition quite negatively before it became positive. The industry mostly calls for skinny and if this is not your natural physique, don’t eat until you get there! It was actually when I stopped a full on dance regime and finished University that the unhealthy mindset became action, as opposed to just the negative thoughts. A few health complications took hold and I realised skinny did not equal healthy. Thankfully love and good, patient people jumped in. Mum taught me to cook and to love experimenting with food, which turned me into a foodie before I stop myself. I adore being in the kitchen with a killer recipe and delicious ingredients.

thai foodThis was pre-New Zealand. I studied both an exercise science degree and postgraduate nutrition studies in Melbourne, I danced a whole bunch, worked at numerous cafes/organic stores, taught food education in primary schools and wondered, what does one do with all this? Well, one from my generation goes abroad, don’t they? Yes. And sometimes, it is insanely life-changing. I had the opportunity to go to Northern Thailand and work for Destiny Rescue, a Christian NGO who rescue children from sex- trafficking. I started up a café for this organisation + trained young rescued girls in hospitality skills, confident customer service, both English and Thai cooking as well as language while running a full six day a week, 7am-11pm operation with them. I taught some dancing on the side as well.  It was so much more than I could have ever expected. I was challenged out of my boots, not just over there to use some skills and help some cute kids. These girls became my life whether I had wanted them to or not. I became the big sister, boss, youth worker and gave my all trying to help these kids on their journey forwards from pretty dire + traumatic situations. Tiny girls with huge pasts + presents. You kind of get over yourself when you spend time with amazing people who have not known the education, comfort, security, wealth, opportunity, love and health that you have. It is remarkably humbling. The only thing more humbling is how quickly you revert back into a Western mindset “I can’t believe the organic store no longer stocks my favourite almond butter”. We can be so ridiculous sometimes, can’t we? There is nothing wrong with almond butter, but maybe we need to get some perspective sometimes. Thailand is a stunning backdrop for all its harsh undercurrents. The vibrant food markets, the chillis, the food! The girls taught me a thing or two in the kitchen and I taught them a thing or two in return. I realised the therapy in cooking + being able to create. I think it was pretty big healing for these tiny Thais and for small-to-medium Bess too.

limesthaimarketFast forward about 2-3 years and here I am. Living on the North Shore, I miss many things in other parts of the world but adore the ocean so close to my front door, the freshness of the fish my husband has been catching off his paddleboard and the hike-able hills all around. I enjoy working as a Nutritionist as I get to see people from all walks of life with all sorts of needs! Nutrition is one part of the whole deal. A perfect diet will fail if your body never moves or your mind never stops. You are much more useful if all of you is working optimally. I am passionate about food education: from primary aged kids learning to enjoy broccoli, to adults who want to prioritise cooking a meal for the family. It’s awesome. In an age of immediate and convenience, learning to take time with our food makes it taste better and feel better.

As a Nutritionist, I guess I should give some advice?! My wellness advice is, don’t be pretentious about your health + food, be real about it. Embrace it, look after it and enjoy it. But remember that there is more to life than the latest trainers + food trend. There’s a big wide world out there that might just be better off if you add to it with your time, heart, healthy choices and your blessed circumstances. Until next time, here’s a yummy and simple Thai dish for you to make.

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Bess, Recipes
The name in Thai is actually pronounced Pad Fuktong which means fried pumpkin. Don’t say it out loud to your children.

Serves 2, about 20 minutes to prepare + cook.

Ipumpkinngredients:

2 red chillis, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic
2 cups of pumpkin
1 egg, beaten
1T oil
1t of coconut / raw sugar
1T light soy sauce/oyster sauce
½ cup of water
A big bunch of fresh coriander, mint or Thai basil to serve!

Method:

1. Cut the outer skin off of the pumpkin and remove the seeds from the inside.

2. Cut the flesh into cubes.

3. Chop up the garlic and chillies.

4. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant.

5. Then add the chillies, spring onion and cook for a further minute.

6. Add the water and pumpkin into the pan and cover with a lid.

7. Cook for around 5-10 minutes until the pumpkin is softer, but still slight firmness (nicer when they are soft but hold their shape).  Then take off the lid and allow the remaining water to dry up.

8. Once the water is gone add the sugar and stir.

9. Make a small space to the side of the pan and pour in the egg, let it cook a bit in the pan first then coat the pumpkin with the egg.

10. Finally, add the soy sauce and stir quickly- serve hot with fresh herbs on top! Great with lean meat, rice + Asian greens.
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