Meat Free Week – Are You Coming On Board?

What Is This Meat Free Week You Speak Of?

Meat Free Week is right here, right now, right here, right now…..

This global movement in its 7th year, runs between the 23 – 29 September but before you start panicking about not having meat on your plate for an entire week, lets take a look at why this week exists. Meat Free Week is an international event that encourages us to start thinking about how much meat we eat and the impact eating too much has on our health, animal welfare and the environment.

It’s also about raising awareness of some worthwhile charities – including Meat Free Week health partner Bowel Cancer Australia.

I have to say straight up that I have a close affinity with bowel cancer and I am a passionate ambassador for Bowel Cancer Australia.

The Moment My World Went Wonky

Those of you who have been reading along with me for a while will know that my world was turned upside down when my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within two weeks he had 30cm removed from his large bowel and had started a gruelling regime of chemotherapy, reducing him to a shell of his former self.

That moment of diagnosis means that I and the rest of my family have an increased risk of bowel cancer. It most certainly made me have a good think about what I could do to reduce my risk in the future.

So What Can We Do To Reduce Our Risk Of Bowel Cancer?

There is convincing evidence that eating too much red meat, particularly processed meat are linked to bowel cancer. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, salami and other luncheon meats pose the greater risk. However, eating more than 350g fresh red meat every week can also be a problem.

Meat Free Week is not about pushing people into vegetarianism or veganism. The fact is, red meat provides valuable key nutrients such as iron, zinc and protein. I personally enjoy eating meat as you may remember from my thoughts on Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed beef and as someone that battles with persistent iron deficiency, I need it in my diet.

We just need to be careful about the amount, how often we eat it and the way we cook it.

Some Meaty Tips

  • Consume less than 350g of unprocessed red meat per week and avoid the processed varieties (unless you happen to find yourself in Italy for itsy bitsy amounts of time)
  • Cook meat carefully. Charred or blackened meats can damage the cells lining the bowel
  • Partly cook meat to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQ’s
  • Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning

What About The Meat Free Alternatives?

Australians rank among the top in the world when it comes to meat consumption and 95% of us don’t eat enough vegetables or wholegrains. Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer too, with 103 people dying each week from the disease. It gets you thinking doesn’t it?

As a poverty stricken uni student, I enjoyed vegetarianism for many years due to financial constraints and it very easily became a way of life (although it had to really). Over the following years, I reintroduced meat a few times each week to counteract low iron levels. Now with three kids, we do eat red meat but certainly less than 350g per week each and I am very militant about the amount of processed meat that is eaten in our household. Much to our children’s despair.

This can be especially challenging as we love all things Italian and their penchant for prosciutto, salami, ham and every processed meat other imaginable. Preparing meals without meat certainly requires a bit more thought and design simply because it not a simple matter of removing the meat and leaving the salad or vegetables to fend for themselves. It is important to include quality protein in your meal and this can be challenging if you have become accustomed to having red meat as a staple item.

The great news is that the wealth of recipes available to us all is unlimited. Some sites that you might like to take a peek at include Meat Free Mondays or  Sanitarium.

Do you have any fave recipes or ideas on how you incorporate some meat free days in your week that you would like to share?

 

Fake Chicken – The Real Deal or Fake News?

This week, fake chicken has made an appearance in my life and to be completely honest, everything about this product was quite a surprise.

Trying the fake chicken became a thing after a listener called into 6PR 882AM Morning Show a few weeks ago, asking about the nutritional value of some of the vegan/vegetarian ready to eat products.

To Be Or Not To Be Fake Chicken?

I trawled the chilled section of the supermarket on the hunt for some fake chicken and I was rewarded by finding the Chick’n Schnitzel made by the Unreal brand.

If I were to judge a book by its cover (as I keep telling my children that is not what we should be doing), it didn’t grab me. However, I was on a mission. Luckily, there was a 20% discount on the product, which lessened the pain I felt might be coming.

I was finding it hard to imagine enjoying this product, so based on this I decided to make it into a chicken parmigiana. I imagined this ‘chicken’ topped with a couple of tablespoons of pasta sauce and for a lovely finishing touch, some grated vegan cheese which I also purchased.

The ingredients were all set to get this fake chicken on the road. Mind you, wrestling the cheese out of the packet was an extreme sport and once freed from the packaging the aroma nearly overcame me. I soldiered on.

Once assembled, the fake chicken now newly reinvented as Chicken Parmigiana, baked in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.  Unfortunately one can’t use baked until ‘golden brown’ as an alternate guide to time as the cheese didn’t melt and there didn’t seem to be any colour change to my fake chicken at all. Just set your timer ok?

Taste Test 1,2 3

Once done, I rushed that Chicken Parmi straight to radio where Gareth Parker and I taste tested live on air.

Well.  We looked at each in total surprise.  This Chick’n Schnitzel made into Chicken Parmigiana was actually tasty and it had a very similar texture to chicken.

As you can see below, the nutritional breakdown of the product ticked boxes across the fat, sugar and salt categories and it has some fibre too.  This makes sense as it is a plant based product and the real Chicken Parmigiana is mostly protein with a minuscule amount of fibre in the crumb only.

For those still not convinced just yet, you can check out my meaty version of a Chicken Parmigiana  here.

So, I will admit that I was wrong (ouuuccchhh) in assuming the Chick’n Schnitzel was going to be gross.  I was correct in my assumptions about the fake cheese though.  Just no.

Meat Free Week Coming Right Up

The timing of the Chick’n Schnitzel tasting and revealing fits very nicely into Meat Free Week which runs from next the 23-29 September.

Meat Free Week encourages you to challenge yourself, your friends, your family and your colleagues to try a plant based menu and raise funds for a great cause – the prevention of bowel cancer.

I will write more about Meat Free Week next week but let’s be clear that this is not about abolishing meat from our diets – it’s about eating more plant food.

 

 

Get Behind It – Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

I have been a Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador for a few years now and some of you will already know that this is a cause close to my heart. The whole month of June is dedicated to Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

It’s close to my heart because on April 17th 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart. My Dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within one week he underwent surgery to remove 40cm of his bowel and was told that there were traces in his lymph nodes also. Within two weeks he had started a 6-month course of chemotherapy.

Each year in Australia, 15, 253 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. This disease claims the lives of 84 people each week and I don’t want you or your loved ones to be one of those statistics.

For me, having a direct genetic link means that I need to be vigilant with check-ups including a colonoscopy every five years, not exactly what I would call a fun day out but knowing that it can save my life gets me there every time. Plus the preparation one has to do beforehand is very cleansing to say the least! I also love the chat with my fellow colonoscopers, the warm blanket, triangle sandwiches and a cup of tea at the end – but then I’m pretty easy to please.

If you are not currently requiring regular colonoscopies, a quicker and simpler way of checking is through a stool sample. Both women and men are advised to start screening for bowel cancer from 50 years of age but despite this, surveys in 2014 showed that less than half of the people who were sent the free kit actually used it. The perception that bowel cancer screening is messy and embarrassing, as well as a fear of receiving bad news are among the top reasons many put off screening for the disease. It might sound icky but the ickiness factor is really non-existent compared to the reality of enduring cancer and all that it brings.

A speaking colleague of mine Warwick Merry writes a weekly blog post and this week he made me laugh about a serious subject – it was all about bowel cancer. Or poo. Actually a bit of both. As a Dietitian this is something I talk about every five seconds so I am well used to the intricacies of this conversation but if you are not, hold onto your hat. Or pants – whichever is more appropriate. Here is Warwick’s take on it.

“Here is my theory. The first kit arrives when you turn 50. No one likes to be reminded they are getting older. A female friend of mine had her kit arrive on her actual 50th birthday. She was annoyed so put the kit in the cupboard – out of sight, out of mind.

People don’t like talking about poo. It is ok if you are travelling, as you can go on endlessly about the different toilets, plumbing set ups and gastro which meant you are not getting off the toilet for a few days. But people don’t want to talk about their own poo, whether they call it poo, poop, faeces or doody.

So you know who is the best person to encourage the poo conversation? A five year old!

They will play with it, bathe with it, run with it, show it to you, take pictures of it … you name it, they will do it.

So let me be serious for a second, if you are older than 50 or know someone that is, can I encourage you to Put Your Poo in the Post?

Get a test kit from Bowel Cancer Australia, go to the toilet, channel your inner 5 year old, poke your poo with a stick, and then put your poo in the post. You could very well save your own life.

You are too important to those around you to postpone this because you are too embarrassed, too busy (it takes less time than it takes to make a coffee) or too scared to poke your poo with a stick. 

At the very least you get to send your poo to someone. Haven’t you always wanted to Put Your Poo in the Post?”

For this month and of course beyond, the message is simple,  ‘Get Behind It’.  

So what can we do to reduce our risk of bowel cancer?

  • Be physically active as part of everyday life
  • Eat whole grains and naturally high fibre foods
  • Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference
  • Limit intake of processed meats and red meat
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount
  • Quit smoking

Opera singer, Beverley Sills once suggested to “Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.” I often remind myself of these words because at times I find myself making the simple things complicated.  Don’t we all do just that with our health and well-being sometimes?

The one thing we all need to do is be aware and be proactive. Don’t throw that kit in the bin – it could indeed save your life.

 

 

 

Be Well Week

Be-Well-Week

On April 17th 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart. My Dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within one week he underwent surgery to remove 40cm of his bowel and was told that there were traces in his lymph nodes also. Within two weeks he had started a 6-month course of chemotherapy.

After the initial bouts of endless crying, I then became very angry. I was questioning why my Dad had bowel cancer when every time I looked at him he was eating fruit and vegetables, he ate whole grain bread, high fibre cereal and threw psyllium husk on anything that sat still long enough.

I then thought, what is the point of eating all this healthy food if we are going to end up with bowel cancer anyway? The thing is, although bowel cancer does have a strong genetic link, what you eat, how much you move and your general state of health affairs play a big role too.

Each year in Australia, 6,800 Australian women are diagnosed with bowel cancer and it’s the third leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. Many of us know that cancer does not discriminate and 530 of those women diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50 years old.

For me, having a direct genetic link means that I need to be vigilant with check-ups including a colonoscopy every five years, not exactly what I would call a fun day out but knowing that it can save my life gets me there every time. If you don’t have that link though, a quicker and simpler way of checking is through a stool sample. Both women and men are advised to start screening for bowel cancer from 50 years of age but despite this, surveys in 2014 showed that only just over a third of women in this age bracket had been tested in the past couple of years. The perception that bowel cancer screening is messy and embarrassing, as well as a fear of receiving bad news are among the top reasons many women put off screening for the disease. It might sound icky but the ickiness factor is really non-existent compared to the reality of enduring cancer and all that it brings.

This week marks the inaugural Bowel Cancer Australia’s Be Well Week, aimed at women.  Don’t worry, men are not being brushed under the carpet, their turn will come later in the year. For this week and of course beyond, the message is simple.  Eat Well. Move Well, Be Well.  For great resources, information and delicious recipes, go here to check them all out.

Opera singer, Beverley Sills once suggested to “Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.” I often remind myself of these words because at times I find myself making the simple things complicated.  Don’t we all do just that with our health and well-being sometimes?

What is the one thing that you can do this week to eat well, move well or be well? Is it eating breakfast to start your day with energy, grabbing a piece of fruit instead of one of those fancy shmanzy doughnuts, taking a walk at lunchtime, being mindful about reducing stress in your life or getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night?

Don’t worry about the long list you might have, just tackle one of them. Sometimes we just need to start something.

Bowel cancer kills around 80 Australians each week. Fortunately, my Dad was one of the lucky ones and survived his fight.

What are you going to do in Be Well Week to avoid getting into the fight?