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.

 

 

What To Eat For the Best Exam Results

What to eat for the best exam results is vital information if you have a Year 11, Year 12 or even a uni student in your household or family about to start prepping for exams.

All exams are important but the Year 12 journey is certainly at another level with all the expectations (real and perceived) that travel alongside the actual assessment.

This time of year auspiciously marks the beginning of mock exams for Year 12 students. The mocks are then followed by the real deal and they can be a true test of grit and determination in so many ways.

The thing is, studying and preparing for exams is SO similar to athletes preparing and training for an event or game.  If you are an adult with ever ‘useful’ hindsight, you know from experience that it takes discipline, tests of endurance, endless concentration and skill. 

That’s why the fuel going in needs to be full of the good stuff at the right time.

You may have done the prep and the studying to get you to the exam but have you considered what to eat for the best exam results?

Consider your day as a football game or any game you love. 

This means breaking your day into four quarters and the first quarter bounce down starts when you wake up.

First Quarter

Breakfast is key to exam success and your brain working at its best.

In fact there is good evidence to suggest that eating breakfast improves memory.   It is true that some people do not feel like eating in the morning but once again, it is can be a matter of training your stomach to take food.  When considering what to eat for the best exam results, good choices for breakfast include:

  • High fibre cereal (Weet-bix, porridge, natural muesli, Sultana Bran, Mini-Wheats) with milk and fresh fruit
  • Wholegrain toast with baked beans, spaghetti, tomato, egg or avocado
  • Pancakes with fresh fruit
  • Fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and yoghurt

Anxiety and stress may mean your stomach is doing gymnastics on exam mornings so if you can’t deal with any other breakfast options try a banana with an Up and Go or Sustagen drink. Avoid arriving at an exam with an empty petrol tank.

Second Quarter

The second quarter of your game starts at around the mid-morning break and this is an ideal time to take a physical and mental break. Your lifestyle will determine whether you are a three meal per day person or a ‘grazer.’ The term ‘grazing’ is so called because cows like to do the same thing.  You may not like to think of yourself out in the field chomping down on grass but ‘grazing’ here means snacking or having 5-6 ‘meals’ spread out over the day. There could be some perfect recipes for you right here.

Five tasty snacks to keep you alert and awake

Snacks can be a nutrition trap to students as it is so tempting to grab something quick and easy like chocolate, lollies, muesli bars, biscuits and cake, none of which will give you the long-lasting energy that you need to study for the rest of the day. 

Instead you could try:

  1. 200g tub of yoghurt (ideally no added sugar)
  2. Fruit bread with jam, honey or a little butter
  3. Toast or crumpet with a light spread of peanut butter or vegemite
  4. Fruit Smoothie with milk, fruit and yoghurt and a handful of oats
  5. Crackers with cheese.

Third Quarter

As every decent coach will tell you, what happens in the third quarter of a game will determine whether the final quarter is grand final material. Wondering what to eat for the best exam results in the afternoon?

Does caffeine give you a buzz?

Late afternoons can be tough in the energy department but try and avoid relying on caffeine to keep you alert and awake. 

Caffeine stimulates every organ in your body and in small doses can be a useful study tool but too much can mean over-stimulation of your nervous system, increased heart rate and erratic sleep patterns. 

Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea (to a lesser extent), cola drinks and energy drinks eg.  Red Bull, V, Lift Plus etc.  Energy drinks contain a mix of caffeine and sugar, which gives you an extra hit but they are equivalent to drinking a cappuccino, flat white or latte. 

Boost brainpower

Omega-3 fats are known to boost brainpower and should be an essential part of every students diet. Fish, shellfish and fish oils are good dietary sources of these fats and are found in particularly ‘oily’ fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon.  Canned, fresh or frozen fish are all good sources of omega-3 fats.  Try and include them 2-3 times per week.

Bugs

Probiotic’s are foods or supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria (bugs) that keep your gut healthy. Exam stress is one thing that can upset intestinal balance and probiotic’s may be especially useful during this time.  There are a number of sources of probiotic’s including liquids, yoghurts, capsules and powders.

Pump the Iron

Iron is essential for getting enough oxygen around your body and this is obviously important during study and exam time! 

The best sources are liver (there are very few lovers of this one but you could try reduced fat pate if you are not keen on the actual liver), lean red meat, breakfast cereals and legumes (baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans etc) and to a much lesser extent chicken, fish and leafy green vegetables.  Include some fruit or vegetables, which contain Vitamin C with your iron-rich food and this will assist with absorption.

Liquid refreshment

Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids while studying to avoid brain drain.  There are no rules that say you have to drink eight glasses of water every day but regular intake is the key.  Water will always be the best choice but you could mix this up with some coffee, tea or Milo (but not mostly Milo with milk) for a change in pace.  Avoid getting stuck into sugary drinks like soft drinks, cordials and energy drinks. Yes, they increase blood sugar levels but oh so briefly and are a sure fire way of getting tired quickly. 

The Final Quarter

If you know what to eat for the best exam results,  you will arrive at the 3pm time spot in the day feeling energised and ready to tackle the final quarter or evening segment of your study game. 

If not, your brain and body might want to have a rest or start looking for the lolly jar.

A successful nutrition game plan will mean your body and brain will perform at their best not just for studying but also for the grand final, your exams.

Good luck and go get ’em!

 

Grain Fed vs. Grass Fed Animals – Does It Make a Difference?

You are currently looking at a fluffy coo (as the Scottish say so well) or cow as the rest of us know them.  You can see that he or she is standing in pasture and it is highly likely that the moment after this image was taken, fluffy coo bent down to have a nibble on the grass.

So What?

Over recent years, you may have noted that some of the meat and dairy products we buy are labelled as grass fed. There has certainly been media coverage about grass fed and grain fed animals and the positive benefits of one and the negative impact of the other.

Despite this, for the wider population the differences between grass fed and grain fed animals are most likely not at the top of the list of priorities when it comes to purchasing and choosing food.

To be honest, delving into the world of grass fed and grain fed animals has been relatively recent for me too. Let’s not forget that what we don’t know, we don’t know.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

In the world today, the vast majority of animals bred for food are not feeding on the land at all but are kept segregated and fed on subsidised grain, manure and industrial food waste. Of course, this has a significant impact on the nutritional quality of the animal.

Both herbivores such as cattle and sheep and omnivores including pigs, turkeys, ducks and chicken are natural grazers too and thrive when grass fed.

Grass Fed Nutrition

Just like humans, how animals are raised and whether they are grass fed or grain fed directly impacts the nutritional quality of that food.

In comparison to foods from grain fed animals, those from grass fed animals are known to provide the following benefits:

  • Lower levels of total fat (including saturated fat) and as a result fewer calories
  • Healthier levels of omega 3 fatty acids (the ones your heart loves)
  • Healthier ratios of omega 6 (the balance of these with omega 3 is important to your heart health)
  • Rich in caretenoid’s including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene (those antioxidants that mop up those damaging free radicals in your body)
  • Higher levels of Vitamin E (handy helper for our immunity and heart health)
  • Higher levels of the fatty acid Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Regenerative Farming

Aside from the nutritional superiority of grass fed foods, grazing animals and grasses have an important place in regenerative farming too. The environmental impact of growing crops to feed grain to animals is huge and directly affects our land, our resources and our ability to feed the human population too. 

Regenerative farming systems, which utilise animals to graze on grasses can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. This means a return to the soil where it belongs, potentially reversing the impacts of climate change. This is just the beginning.

Once you start looking – there is just SO much to learn about grass fed vs. grain fed animals.  If like me, you are keen to learn more just click here for an enlightening read.

Buying Grass Fed

I am always on the look out for producers that are growing food that is sustainable, nutritious and environmentally friendly.  

In Western Australia, Wide Open Agriculture is one of them. They are doing marvellous things including selling regeneratively raised grass fed beef and lamb through their food brand Dirty Clean Food

These guys are all about nurturing soil and regenerating our land and I like that.  A lot.

Animal welfare and minimising stress is at the forefront of how they rear their beef and lamb too. Tick.

Dirty Clean Food is currently producing grass fed beef and lamb for the West Australian market and are available online (a big sorry to those who are not residing in the Sandgroper state). Watch this space.

It Is Your Choice

I know that some of you reading this are either vegetarian or vegan and I respect your choice.  I love eating plant based food too.

There are many things we can all do to improve our world, including what we choose to eat and how it is produced.  

Choosing a way of eating that includes both animal and plant based food or solely plant based food is your choice. Let’s respect each others choices and acknowledge that there is more than one way of nourishing our bodies.

Being mindful and curious about where our food comes from and choosing wisely as a result is one thing we can all do regardless of what that food is.

 

Performance Podcast 22 August 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from  22 August on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.

If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here 

Being a Vegan in Sport and A Side of Intermittent Fasting

There are so many hot topics in the world of sport and nutrition and two of them right now are the vegan diet and intermittent fasting.

Recently Mark Arnot over at the Train Smarter with Science podcast series, interviewed me on both of these topics and today I am sharing our chat with you all.

Sit back relax, have a listen and if you have any questions on either the vegan way of eating or intermittent fasting – I’m ready.

 

 

9 Reasons Why You NEED to Take Holidays

What! Holidays? 

Holidays beckon me and it is time for me to say ‘ciao for now’ and head off to Italy to run my annual Yoga and Wellness Retreat.  Although I am going there to work (yes, yes I know that it doesn’t sound like it), I will squeeze in a hike across 120km of the Via Francigena and a week off to eat all that lovely Italian food.

I usually take holidays around this time of the year and although it can seem super tricky to get these locked in and organised, I am well aware that I am not indispensable. It suits our ego’s to think that we are. We are not.

All of us need to take well-deserved breaks from our day-to-day lives.  Sometimes the hardest thing about taking a holiday and unplugging is not in the planning or execution but in the decision that it is ok to leave behind commitments and people that need you. Holidays don’t need to be expensive, lavish affairs and some of the best feature a tent, a swag and the stars. The benefits flow through your business and personal lives, improving relationships and revving up your productivity, something that may have been lying dormant for a while.

1. Stimulate your mind with a new culture

If you are taking your holidays out of your own country, there is no doubt you will get to experience the world in a different way. New customs and cultures are fascinating and all add to good old life experience. It is so easy to have a narrow focus in our day-to-day lives and travelling to a different country is a great way to widen our lens. My cultural experiences do in fact include a Naked Cowgirl standing on a median strip in the middle of New York. I sure learn’t a ton of things about marketing services I was completely unaware of all at the same time.

2. Improve your physical fitness

Sightseeing is a fabulous way of walking miles without really noticing and holidays often provide an opportunity to try new or different ways of exercising. This might be cycling around a medieval walled city in Italy under the canopy of ancient leafy trees, yoga by a azure pool in a tropical climate, hiking in majestic mountains, skiing in fluffy white powder snow or a bracing bush walk whilst admiring stunning wildflower displays and dodging the wildlife. The beauty is, none of these feel like exercise, yet your body reaps the benefits.

3. Physical and emotional well-being

It goes without saying that taking that step away from daily reality can only be good for your physical and emotional well-being. Everyone needs a pattern interrupt in their lives.

4. Get some sun 

Isn’t it lovely it is to feel the warmth of the sun when you are escaping cold weather back home? Of course, protecting your skin is important even when on holidays but relaxing in a warm climate is an ideal opportunity to get some Vitamin D. Even in countries that see plenty of harsh sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect one third of the population, resulting in some major health consequences. For many European countries, there is Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression to consider, which affects more and more people during the winter months due to a lack of sunshiny goodness.

5. Sleep my pretty one 

One of the best things about holidays is the complete lack of need for an alarm clock, no agenda, no schedule and no commitments (unless you count eating, having a good time and catching planes on schedule). This means that you can totally relax, get enough sleep and discover the deep kind of rest that your body truly needs to recharge the batteries. Sleep strengthens your immune system and relieves stress allowing your body to rejuvenate.

6. Unplug the technology

The joy of not having to answer a phone, deal with messages or read email should not be underestimated. Our lives revolve around technology and the expectation that we are ‘on the grid’ 24/7 can be truly exhausting. Unplugging on holiday means that you can truly relax and be fully present and connected with those around you. Don’t forget, although you are special and unique, you are not indispensable.

7. Get some happiness

Removing yourself from everyday worries gives you the space to appreciate the good things in life. You don’t need to go looking for happiness when it often finds you in the moment.

8. Reconnect with family, friends or your self

In our fast paced go get ‘em world it is too easy to go weeks and months without truly connecting with your family, your friends and most especially yourself. Breaks and holidays are perfect opportunities to reconnect and have those meaningful conversations that go beyond the standard ‘how are you?’

9. Inspiration

I get some of my best and exciting ideas when on holidays, simply because I have the time and the space in my head to let them in. When we are locked into our daily routines, creativity and inspiration can be flowing at a mere trickle but when in holiday mode, space and opportunity abounds.

Whilst on these said holidays, I will be taking a break from writing and chatting to you all BUT I will return with fresh ideas and a zing in my step in early August.

Arrivederci and ci vediamo a tutti!

 

Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Performance Podcast 26 June 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from 26 June on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.

If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/performance-podcast-with-julie-meek/id863710606?mt=2

Pesto Power – How to Make Pesto the Italian Way

Pesto is one of those delicious combinations that you can almost taste just thinking about it. Think pungent garlic, pine nuts, fresh aromatic basil, parmesan cheese and olive oil. This combination can be combined to create a pesto that can be added to pasta, gnocchi, soups or slow cooked delights.  I’m not sure whether the Italians add pesto to the same things that I do but it just adds so much flavour!

I am about to head over to Italy in a few weeks to run my annual Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, so pesto has been on my mind. To be honest, food is often on my mind but that is a career hazard I’m afraid!

My favourite recipe for pesto is straight from the “Food for Thought’ cookbook (which is only available when you come to Italy with me) by Yoga in Italy

This recipe uses basil as most pesto recipes do but at the moment, my garden has been completely overtaken by Italian parsley. I try to throw it into anything and everything but I just can’t use it all.  This got me thinking about whether parsley would work as a substitute for basil.  It does.

Parsley is full of fibre, Vitamin C and has a handy knack of freshening ones breath.  However, once you add the garlic into the mix, scratch that benefit!

Traditionally, pesto is made using a pestle and mortar, which avoids bruising of the herb leaves but if you don’t have time to do that, use a stick blender instead.

Ingredients

50g fresh parsley (or basil)

90g parmesan cheese

30g pine nuts

1 fresh garlic clove

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Rinse and dry and fresh parsley gently. Remove the larger bottom part of the stalks if you don’t want to be blending the pesto for 10 years.
  2. Put all ingredients except the oil into a large mixing bowl and at low speed start blending, stopping often to avoid overheating the ingredients.  Slowly add a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  3. Spoon mixture into an airtight jar and cover with a thin layer of oil before sealing with a lid and storing in the refrigerator.
  4. Pesto is best eaten fresh but can it can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for use later.