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?


Nutrition in the News

In the early part of the year, it shouldn’t be surprising that nutrition and well-being is at the top of the list in the media. Many of us may have been lured into making those rash New Years Resolutions, which lasted for a couple of days at the most and yet, we are still looking for ways in which we can boost our health and well-being. Thats a good thing. I have been doing some writing and contributing for various publications over February and some of the nutrition in the news below might just contain the tip that can help prepare you to do amazing things. This year is the International Year of Pulses and we are not talking about whether your heart is beating, but those little nutritious treasures such as baked beans, lentils, chickpeas and their friends. You can see what I had to say about them as a Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador here. You might also like to check out the resources of Pulse Australia and grab some recipes here too. The school year took off with a bang a couple of weeks ago in Western Australia and ‘Today Tonight’ ran a story on an innovative concept called BakeSw@p – initiated by a group of women and mum’s at a West Australian primary school.  Each parent registered with BakeSw@p brings a plate of their own healthy snacks for school, meets at the designated meet-up spot and swaps their own kids snacks with other parents. Each family then takes home a variety of healthy school snacks for the week.  The story than ran on Channel 7 a couple of weeks ago, generated huge interest – I always love hearing about people being engaged in improving the health of their children by home cooking and limiting the use of prepackaged foods.  You can check out the segment here and what BakeSw@p are all about here. Lastly, lets not forget the annual issue of getting back to work after taking a festive break – this one can most certainly be a tough gig. Getting traction and enthusiasm can be all too elusive at the beginning of the year but never fear, there are ways and means to enhance our focus and concentration while at work. My article over on WatchFit runs through some strategies to do just that – you can take a look here. Not all news is bad right?    

Five Breakfast Idea’s to start your engine

Five Idea's for Breakfast We often hear about breakfast being awarded holy grail status in the race of ‘who is the most important meal in the day’ competition.  Of course, all meals we eat are important but breakfast is right up there don’t you think? I know for a fact that bad things will happen to me and to others if I don’t tick that box in the morning. Not everyone feels the same way as me.  There will be some of you reading this while your stomach is currently doing flip-flops at the thought of eating first thing and there will be others who don’t experience even the tiniest twinge of appetite or hunger upon rolling out of bed. And then for some, the nice idea of breakfast gets trampled in the rush to get out of the door and into work or school. I do love a bit of scientific evidence and thankfully research shows that:

  • People who skip breakfast are significantly heavier than those who do eat it
  • Missing breakfast may diminish mental performance (that’s me right there) and eating breakfast can aid learning (important for kids and adults)
  • Those who set sail without breakfast are more likely to make poor food choices for the rest of the day and in the long-term too
  • We can lose two-thirds of our energy stores overnight while sleeping, which means we can wake up needing to get to the petrol station, stat.

If you are a work in progress in the breakfast department or even if you have it nailed, you might like one of my Five Breakfast Ideas to start your engine.

1. Overnight Oats When you are making dinner, surprise yourself with your efficiency and get breakfast organised at the same time.  In a bowl with a secure lid for easy transport if needed the next day, add 1/3 cup rolled or quick oats + 1/4 cup natural or greek yoghurt + 1/2 cup water + 1 teaspoon chia seeds + 1 tablespoon sultanas + a sprinkle of shredded coconut (optional) + 1/2 grated apple.  Mix the lot and store in the fridge overnight.  The next morning you can add a spoonful of your favourite yoghurt and this bowl of deliciousness can be eaten at home or taken anywhere you need to go. The perfect breakfast on the run. 2. High fibre cereal Some of my favourite and healthy cereals include Weet-Bix, oats made into porridge or natural muesli, Mini-wheats, Shredded wheat, Sultana Bran, All Bran Flakes and Special K Wholegrain Clusters with Protein.  All you need to do is add some reduced fat milk and some sliced fresh fruit or a handful of berries and you have a healthy dose of fibre, calcium and vitamin C to kick-start your day.  If time is short, pack your cereal and fruit and add milk when you get to the office. 3. Whole grain toast or sandwich with power protein 1-2 slices of your favourite whole grain bread, toasted (check the label for a fibre content greater than 8g per 100g serve), topped with 1/4 of an avocado, a handful of baby spinach leaves, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, 1-2 poached or sliced boiled eggs and a dusting of cracked pepper.  Other great protein sources include a small tin of baked beans, 50g smoked salmon or 1/2 cup fresh ricotta. If time says no to eating this combo at home, simply sandwich all ingredients between the bread, brown bag it and take to work to eat as is or pop it in the sandwich press. 4. Super Smoothie Blenders and bullets are one of the most popular appliances in the kitchen these days and for those crazy whirlwind mornings, they can be the answer to your one minute breakfast dilemma. For the basic mixture, throw together 250ml milk of choice + 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2 tablespoons natural or Greek yogurt + 2 tablespoons skim milk powder or non dairy protein powder (for a protein boost). To this base you could add 1 banana + 2 teaspoons of honey + sprinkle of nutmeg OR 1/2 cup frozen raspberries + 1 tablespoon cacao powder or 1/2 cup frozen blueberries + 1/2 banana + a large handful baby spinach. These super smoothies can be taken with you or enjoyed at home. 5. Chocolate Chia Pudding I love the idea of chia puddings for breakfast but sometimes the flavour (or lack of) leaves me less than inspired.  Last week I shared my recipe for Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding because it is super tasty.  It is also ideal for preparation the night before and the perfect on the go meal (or snack too). If you don’t have time to finish it off with coconut whip like I did, try topping with frozen thawed raspberries or blueberries and a little bit of grated dark chocolate.  D E L I C I O U S

Mincing Words

Growing up, I knew that Thursday nights were Savoury Mince on toast nights. Not my favourite at the time but I just didn’t understand the simplicity of the dish and how much my Mum would have loved it.  Although she has now moved on from making this dish every Thursday night, this is THE recipe and I just had to share it with you.  In the words of Luigi, it’s not fancy but it’s cheap. All good things must come to an end though, this is the last of the $2 meals. Hope you have enjoyed them and revelled in the fact that you have only spent $10 in the past 5 weeks by spending time with me. Savoury Mince 150g lean minced beef 1/4 onion, diced 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped 1 stick of celery, finely diced 100g frozen peas and corn 2 teaspoons gravox powder combined with 1 cup water 1 slice grainy bread Spray a non stick frypan with cooking spray and cook onion until softened and slightly browned. Add mince and a cook until well browned and then the remaining vegetables. Stir fry until vegetables are softened. Add the combined gravox and water and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Serve with a slice of grainy toast. Serves 1 Cost = $1.95

Waste Not, Want Not

Last year when I was away for six weeks, some unwanted guests moved in. They invited all their friends and took up residence in my pantry. There were no apologies for gate crashing and every time I opened up the door I was assailed by a flock of moths, if there is such a thing. So began my hand to hand combat with these devious winged creatures which continued for 6 months . I would tally up the body count each day with glee, but they are very stealthy and I knew they were hiding in all the dark recesses of the cupboard and burrowing into the food.  I have since discovered the secret weapon, Hovex Pantry Moth Trap, which for now has solved the problem. The amount of food that I have had to dispose of makes me really cross because these moths are already in our food when we buy it.  I admit they are very clever but not so clever that they can burrow through sealed Tupperware containers. It has really got me thinking about the growing issue of food wastage in Australia and globally. In Australia alone we kick 4 million tonnes of wasted food to the kerb every year, which equates to 178kg per person every 12 months. Or put another way we waste $7.8 million in food each year. Of course on top of that there is the greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions during manufacture and in landfill.  There  is also huge water and other resource wastage in producing food that is not eaten. When I was growing up I remember my parents encouraging myself and my siblings to eat all of our food as there were many people in the people in the world who were not quite as lucky as we were.  I know now as an adult that although that is very true, the solution to the global hunger crisis is not quite as simplistic as donating food to those who need it. But I do know that the impact of wasting food is far reaching and so much bigger than physically throwing food in the bin. I don’t usually do New Years resolutions but this year I decided to start the year with a different food challenge. I am not an impulse buyer but I often buy extra food when doing my grocery shopping ‘just in case’ I might need it. Sound familiar? Most of this food is tinned or of the long life variety but the end result is an overflowing pantry and freezer. So…. In the first week of January I started the challenge of only preparing meals based on the staple items that I already had, just like the Country Women’s Association tells you to. has been a good friend to me too and with thousands of recipes to choose from, all you need is what is already in your cupboard. Of course I still need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and dairy but six weeks later I am still going strong. Plus we invested in a worm farm to recycle our fruit and vegetable scraps, paper and teabags and our food wastage has dramatically reduced. Have you considered how to reduce your own or your households food wastage? Maybe you could try: 1. Doing a pantry challenge – start using all the food items you already have and you will be surprised at what you can whiz up even when you think the cupboard is bare 2. Investing in a worm farm – they don’t take up much room, are very low maintenance and very kindly recycle all sorts of scraps. Many local councils conduct educational workshops and subsidize the purchase of worm farms. 3. Devising a weekly menu with your housemates or family and shop to it – this prevents excess buying and saves you money. Try online shopping too, it eliminates impulse buying because there are no visuals to tempt you and saves you money.  All the major supermarkets have it available now and deliver from 6am to 9pm seven days per week. 4. Buying smaller sizes of products to avoid waste. It might be cheaper to buy the three litre milk on special but it’s not cost or environmentally effective when you have to throw out the remaining 2 litres that you can’t get through. 5. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables twice every week instead of one big shop – this will ensure you get the freshest produce possible without throwing out the rotting leftovers at the end of the week.  Try frozen fruit and vegetables too for no waste, they are picked at their best and this eliminates wilting and bruising resulting in a product that ticks all the boxes nutritionally. If there is only one or two of you in the house, look out for the ‘baby’ varieties of vegetables as they are much smaller and suited for smaller portions. 6. Investing in a decent sized freezer so that you can freeze extra portions of meals for lunches or for those nights when cooking feels akin to climbing Mt Everest. 7. When buying a loaf of bread, freeze what you don’t use for sandwiches that taste just as fresh when thawed, use for toast, bread and butter custard (try jam instead of butter) or throw it in the food processor for breadcrumbs. 8. Serving smaller portions – research shows that eating less than we require increases our longevity and improves our health outcomes. With 61% of Australians being overweight or obese, measuring and our decreasing portion sizes is essential. 9.  Considering whether you need the bread plus the whole three courses when eating out? How about ordering an entree size meal instead a main – eyes are often much bigger than stomachs. 10. And last but certainly not least, store packaged or loose dry food in sealed containers to avoid the invasion of the dreaded pantry moth. Keep an eye on your dark chocolate and teabags because these bugs love getting high on antioxidants. Have you got a great tip to assist in reducing the global issue of food wastage?