The Tao of Pooh

I’ve been reading a book called the Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. It’s a relatively old one (published back in 1983), but a good one. It explains the Taoist way of thinking by using the characters from Winnie the Pooh, making it a pretty amusing read. In fact, Taoism in general seems to have a slightly cheeky side. The translation of the classic Chinese text can be found here, and is called the Tao Te Ching. But for now I want to share some things I liked from the book, and naturally some that also relate to nutrition.

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The book talks about Inner Nature, which is what makes everybody different. No two bodies are the same, inside or out – no two minds are the same. Here are three ideas about Inner Nature.

1. Things are as they are – just accept this. The more you try to be something you’re not, the less real you will actually be. Do you know where you belong? Are you at home in your job, your marriage, your life? Don’t think too much – trust your feelings and respect them.

2. Know your own limitations; recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to necessarily accept them, but acknowledge them and work with them. Overconfidence is not a good thing. Accept yourself and find ways to turn negatives into positives.

3. Instinct is a powerful force. Sometimes it’s more powerful than science. Go with what you feel to be right, don’t label or over-analyse, it’s not necessary.We don’t need to know everything. We can work with things as they are, by being attuned to nature – ourselves and our surroundings.

All of these build up to a theory known as the Wu Wei. It means not going against the nature of things and instead, you could say, going with the flow. When we interfere with the natural flow of things, mistakes are made and are not easy to un-make. Instead we should give up fighting against our own inner nature and instead operate on a principle of minimal effort. So stop trying too hard! How good does that sound?

How can we apply this to nutrition? First of all – know yourself. What is great for one person may not be so good for another, because their bodies have different needs. An example – I was drinking green smoothies for breakfast in winter and was wondering why I was always so cold. I naturally run cold – so the foods that are the best for me are warming ones, especially in winter. Someone who runs warm could probably happily drink green smoothies all year round. Your body will often tell you what it needs – but beware of your brain which will interfere! What I mean by this is that it is the brain that is receiving and interpreting messages from the outside – perhaps delicious smells, or images on a cooking program etc. Can you block these out so that you can perceive the messages from the inside?

For today’s recipe – what is my body telling me it needs right now?

Ice cream of course! No seriously, I have had a nasty toothache for a couple of days now and solid foods are off the menu so I came up with this quick, healthy and delicious treat to ease my pain.

Blueberry Blender Ice Cream – Serves 2

2 cups frozen blueberries

1 avocado, peeled and deseeded

1/2 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons maple syrup

 

Place all ingredients into your high speed blender and blend until creamy. Eat it before it melts!

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Free Fitness

There are so many excuses that are a barrier to eating healthy food or exercising regularly. The one that has caused me some problems in past is not the I’m-too-lazy, or the I-don’t-have-time, it was actually the I-can’t-afford-it. Having just spent my savings on buying a city apartment, and all the bills that come with owning a property, I felt like there was no money left for personal training, a gym membership or workout clothes. Do you really need money to exercise and eat properly? No! There’s all the beautiful outdoor parks, paths and equipment our local councils have provided, plenty of sunshine, and no that it’s nearing summer, longer daylight hours to get out and be active. These are all good things. But it gets better. Recently I discovered that there are so many FREE classes going on (at least in the city) that anyone can join. This is awesome – organised classes run by fitness professionals are incredibly motivating. I signed up for a whole bunch of them! Love freebies ; )

So this is what I’ve found:

1. HBF outdoor fitness – free for members, 3 times a week for an hour each session, 3 levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), lots of locations across Perth.

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2. City of Perth – free weekly Tai Chi, Yoga and Zumba.

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3. Lululemon community events – Yoga and fitness training.

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4. Parkrun – a group of volunteers who put on an event once a week that involves a timed but non-competitive 5km run followed by a cafe recovery!

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A Day at the Show

Today Kath and I headed over to the Fitness Show which was on at the convention centre. As well as a whole bunch of stalls showcasing various products like training equipment, protein supplements, workout clothing and so on, there were some cool events going on across the various stages. The video above shows one of them – the CrossFit women’s competition. Those ladies were fit! I admit it, it’s a dream of mine to be that fit…

We also enjoyed listening to Michelle Bridges‘ motivational talk. She emphasised the importance of planning – nothing just ‘happens’ – and once the plan is in place it’s time for JFDI (Just Flippin’ Do it!). Her biggest tip of the day was… CONSISTENCY. Some days you will feel like following your plan, and other days you won’t, but just do it anyway. That works better for some activities than others… more on that below.

We also listened to the entertaining and knowledgeable Healthy Chef Teresa Cutter. She cooked up about 6 dishes in the space of 30 minutes and we got to try the protein balls and her pumpkin bread which were both super easy to make and the recipes are on her website.

So, the plan! My fitness plan is constantly changing and evolving because I get bored quickly, but I’m pretty much always doing something active. At the moment during the week I do a couple of group fitness classes, a 5km run and a yoga class as well as some home practice. Definitely the activities that are easiest to do are the ones with other people – an organised class or meet-up where someone is expecting me to be there. The activities that are the hardest to do are the ones where it’s just me trying to motivate myself – that’s the yoga home practice. Even though it’s the most convenient and the easiest of the activities it’s still the hardest for me to do consistently. I also treat myself to two massages during the week which I really look forward to!

Today’s recipe is one that I make variations of all the time. I love to snack on these raw energy balls after a workout, to get me through a long lecture at college or just to satisfy a chocolate craving! They are a fun treat to share with friends too, I’ve never met anyone that didn’t love them.

Raw Chocolate Energy Balls

1 cup unsalted cashews

7 medjool dates

½ cup dessicated coconut

¼ cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup raw cacao powder

½ tsp vanilla essence

1 tablespoon of maple syrup/honey/coconut nectar

1 pinch of sea salt

Put all ingredients in your food processor and process for a couple of minutes or until the mixture comes together enough so that you can roll it into balls easily. Roll into balls of whatever size you like. To make them pretty you can roll the balls in coconut, chia seeds, crushed nuts, hemp seeds or sesame seeds. It is best to store them in the fridge, where they will firm up a bit. Enjoy!

So does processed meat cause bowel cancer?

The latest Health Check article from The Conversation has once again caused a storm in the comments section with meat lovers arguing against vegetarians, famous names wading into the debate, and tempers flaring on all sides. The thing that really strikes me is how much more convincing the comments that are backed up with evidence are. The original article was very well written I thought, with the aim of making the public aware of evidence backing up the theory that processed meat is correlated with higher incidence of bowel cancer. So interesting to see the irrelevant arguments of those not willing to give it up – they tend to see it as just another ‘naughty but nice’ indulgence that may or may not end up having negative health consequences. Kind of like a reverse lottery – there’s a fair chance that you won’t end up with cancer, but also a chance that you will. So difficult for many people to find meaning in that connection between behaviour (e.g. eating processed meat) and health consequences down the track (increased risk of getting bowel cancer). This is the human psychology…

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No, there won’t be a processed meat recipe! Now, for something completely different…

Hot Quinoa Porridge on a Rainy Sunday in Spring

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quinoaI went to visit Kath at work at the cafe today and they created this for my breakfast – quinoa porridge! My goodness, it was delicious and nutritious… More please!

Here’s my top 5 things to know about quinoa.

1. The quinoa seed contains a great bunch of nutrients, including protein, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, and zinc.

2. Quinoa’s high fibre content keeps you feeling full, it contains all eight essential amino acids, and contains no gluten, making it a great choice for those with gluten intolerance.

3. You can buy it in seed, flake or flour form, and the seeds can be bought (in Australia) in white, red or black!

4. It can be used to make an incredible variety of dishes, from breakfast porridge to flatbread, in salads and in stews, for sweet or savoury dishes. Versatile!

5. Quinoa is quick and easy to cook. Just put 1 cup of rinsed quinoa into 1.5 cups of cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add a lid and let it simmer gently for 13 minutes without removing the lid. After 13 minutes, turn off the heat but still don’t remove the lid. Let it sit for 5 minutes then remove the lid and fluff with a fork. YUM! It’s interesting to experiment with other flavours – cook it in stock, add spices, garlic & rosemary…

A cool website that has all the in-depth nutritional information you could ever want about quinoa (with references!), can be found here: Quinoa nutritional information.

Here’s something I learned about quinoa today. It has been a staple food in South America since 3000BC by some estimates, and until recently was regarded as ‘food for the Indians’ who couldn’t afford to buy more expensive rice. But in the early 1990s it was identified by NASA researchers as a high protein food for potential space-colony dwellers, and after that its popularity grew exponentially. In Bolivia, where around 50% of global production occurs, farmers got rich. There is a downside though, as reported by Time magazine in 2012. Quinoa has brought prosperity to Bolivian farmers, but their problems have also started to increase… Food for thought.

Now time for a recipe! Of course it’s a quinoa one. Enjoy!

Banana Bread Quinoa Porridge  – Serves 3-4

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup milk of your choice

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

1 roughly chopped very ripe banana

3 finely sliced dates

1 tsp sweetener or more to taste (coconut sugar/maple syrup/honey etc.)

1 pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans/walnuts

Put all ingredients except nuts into a saucepan and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes until it almost reaches the desired thickness (it will thicken a bit more on standing). Top with nuts, banana slices and whatever else you desire!

A conversation about juicing, smoothies and whole fruit

This week a new page called Health Check was launched on the incredibly popular The Conversation site. What I like about the articles there is the emphasis on evidence and research. These journalists check their facts and all bias is declared at the beginning of the articles. This week’s article compared appetite levels and amounts eaten after consuming whole fruit compared to juiced fruit (made in a juicer). The most interesting finding was that participants who had the juice ate a lot more than those who had the whole pieces of fruit before their meal. The author of the Health Check article, Tim Crowe, made some comments about how juicing basically took much of the fibre and nutrients out of the fruit, so wasn’t as healthy as eating the whole fruit, and additionally didn’t lessen the appetite. I would have liked to see the topic broaden to include the now very common (and delicious!) SMOOTHIE. How does it compare to eating the whole fruit and to drinking juice?

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Pretty well, as it turns out. An article published in Nutrition Bulletin, titled Smoothies: One Portion or Two? looked at all three – whole fruit, juice, and smoothies. The concerns raised about juice – that it leads to higher sugar consumption, containes less fibre that fruit, isn’t good for your teeth, and isn’t satiating – do not hold true for smoothies. They contain more energy, carbohydrates, fibre and vitamin C than juice, and the sugar content is exactly the same as if you’d eaten the whole fruit. They do no more harm to your teeth than fruit does, and because they are high in fibre (especially pectin) they are more satiating than juice. Pack in a few extras (think chia seeds, maca powder, cinnamon, LSA, flax seed oil…) and you’ve got breakfast ready! This morning I had this simple but delightful blend…

Goji Citrus Twist

2 teaspoons of dried Goji berries

2 mandarins

1 banana cut into chunks and frozen

1 teaspoon of chia seeds

3/4 of a cup of water

Blend all thoroughly in a high speed blender.

And just to finish today’s post, I’ve got some fabulous links to share. Another way to get your whole fruit in a sneaky and delicious way is raw treats. Tried them? Tried making them? I’ve had two huge successes this week with these beauties. They are both from Lorna Jane’s MoveNourishBelieve website. One can be found tucked into the Move Over Sugar free ebook, it’s the Peanut Butter Choc Fudge on page 36. YUM! The other is the Raw Choc Jelly Cake – this contains a banana and 400 grams of strawberries and still manages to taste like the naughtiest cake you’ve ever had (without a single naughty ingredient!).

Enjoy!

 

No Rules Nutrition competes in green smoothie competition

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Smoothies – in a variety of colours – are something I know a thing or two about. They are a staple on the cafe menu and we drink them at home on a regular basis. There is no end to how creative you can get with putting together a smoothie, which was why I was so excited to enter the Green Smoothie Competition being run by Kitchen Warehouse. They were looking for someone to give a Vitamix to, so of course I put my hand up – those machines with their powerful V6 engine 2 horse power motors can pulverise anything to a fabulously smooth consistency. Just one catch – if I made it to the final I would have to make my smoothie in front of a crowd and 3 critical judges.

Well, you can see from the photos that I made it to the finals – phew! They liked my recipe! I tried to make sure the crowd was made up as much as possible from members of my own family – thanks support crew! Unfortunately the crowd wasn’t involved in the judging, but they did get to taste all of the smoothies made, lucky them! No, we were being judged by the lovely Heath and Emma from Raw Food Kitchen, who also know a thing or two about smoothies, having grown their business from a two Vitamix, smoothie-making market stall, to a very successful cafe in Fremantle. They were judging our smoothies on taste, healthiness and creativity. I hoped I was in with a chance…

I was a little nervous, but I’d practiced so many times that I was turning green from the taste-testing and so was my boyfriend. Let’s get this done, I was thinking, but still wasn’t prepared to be called up as the very first contestant, with a spot right under the judges noses! I went into autopilot, and had created a gorgeous smoothie in under a minute, taste-tested it and passed a cup each along to the judges before I could think twice. What lovely things they said about my entry – ‘a perfectly blended classic green smoothie’, ‘great use of protein-packed chia and hemp seeds, with the pineapple bringing a gorgeous hint of the tropical’ and so on. I was feeling pretty confident but of course he had wonderful things to say about every contestant’s smoothie…

As they worked through each one, I also had the chance to taste a few of them and the standard was pretty high with a wide range of ingredients being used. At the end, and I have to hand it to him, the guy who won really did display the most creativity and the judges were convinced that the health and taste elements were right up there too. I can’t remember exactly what went into the winning smoothie but there was definitely a free-range duck egg in there, as well as rain water, protein powder, an olive, chili and who knows what else!

When I think about my ideal green smoothie, it has to have balanced flavours, easy-to-find ingredients, and of course pack a great health punch with all nutrition bases covered. So without further pre-amble, here’s my green smoothie recipe! Let me know what you think if you try it.

Minty Muscle Maker Green Smoothie – Serves 2

2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves

16 large mint leaves

½ cup fresh pineapple chunks, frozen

1 banana cut into chunks and frozen

1 tablespoon of hulled hemp seeds (from health food shop)

1 teaspoon of chia seeds

1½ cups coconut water

Place the ingredients into a high powered blender in the order listed and blend until deliciously smooth. Enjoy!