Meatless Monday: Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower and Pumpkin

Here is a dish with a fancy ingredient that most have probably never heard of. It's Quinoa (Pronounced keen-wa) and it's my new favourite seed (that is used as a grain)! This seed originated in South America thousands of years ago but is now found in many health food stores and touted as a super food.

What is so great about it?
  • If you're looking for superfoods, direct your attention to quinoa cause it's up there as one of the best! 
  • Low GI unlike white bread
  • High in fibre to keep you full for longer
  • High in protein to also keep you full for longer
  • It contains all the essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein in your body. Most cereals lack lysine while most legumes lack methionine which is why vegetarians are often advised to eat both food groups. Quinoa is a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.  
  • Good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous  
  • Gluten and wheat free for those with intolerances or coeliac disease
  • NASA wants to use it

But what does it taste like?
  • Quinoa has a very mild nutty taste 
  • It has a fluffy yet grainy texture 
  • Some say it tastes creamy too
  • It's great in sweet and savoury dishes so very versatile 
  • Have it in stews, soups, salads, curries, pilafs, desserts, puddings   
  • Have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack; Is there anything more versatile??

Where do I buy it?
I bought mine at Woolworths in the health food aisle but I'm sure other supermarkets have it as well. They are also available in most health stores.

Some places also have quinoa flour or quinoa pasta. Helgas sells wholgrain quinoa and flaxseed bread. 

Recipe: Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower and Pumpkin
Serves 4
Cost: $1.50/serve

1 cup Quinoa
300g Cauliflower florets
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
500g pumpkin

Oops forgot to take photos of rest of process
  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C
  2. Chop up pumpkins into bite sized chunks
  3. Chop up cauliflower into little tree like florets
  4. Place cauliflower and pumpkin onto roasting dish and drizzle lemon juice and olive oil on it
  5. Add the chopped garlic to roasting dish and a bit of salt and pepper to taste
  6. Cook for 20-30min until the veggies are lightly browned and a fork pierces it easily
  7. While the veggies are cooking, rinse quinoa in water and place drained quinoa in a saucepan
  8. Place 1.5cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the germ turns opaque and splits from the seed- see picture.
  9. Toss cooked quinoa with the pumpkin and cauliflower and serve!
Per Serve: Energy: 653.8kJ Fat: 5.17g Sat Fat: 1.2g Carbohydrates: 32.94g Protein: 7.5g Sodium: 26.1 
Some bigger pictures this time.

Nutritionally this is a very low calorie/kilojoule meal with little fat or sodium and high in protein. I have heard many people say that cauliflower haters can be converted if they try roasted cauliflower so give it a go! And look at how cheap it is! I bought the cauliflower and pumpkin on special so it was very cheap. See exotic grains and vegetables don't have to be unaffordable! So if you are on a budget, want to try something new, aren't good with cooking  

Other ways to enjoy quinoa
  • Add a bit of soft cheese to the dish 
  • You can also add your own mix of herbs and spices (My siblings aren't great fans of these so my dishes often do not contain them)
  • Substitute rice or cous cous in your dish for some quinoa next time
  • You can also use quionoa to stuff vegetables
  • You can also use stock instead of water
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews and pistachios also go great with quinoa
  • I hear roasted cauliflower with a bit of bread crumbs is also really great
  • Although it's meatless monday you can also add a bit of grilled meat to the mix 
  • I used some left over quinoa and added baby spinach, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, fetta cheese and roast prok with a tablespoon of the gravy from it. It was super yummy and more colourful than the other pictures =P
Extra readings:

    Guide to Eating Out

    I enjoy eating out... a lot. Maybe a little too much considering my wallet is always hungry. Eating out with friends or family can be such an joyous occasion and as conversation and alcohol flows, less and less attention is paid to the health factor of food.

    Many people are scared to eat out when on a diet because they feel ill equipped to make choices without ruling out their diet plan. Here are some easy tips to ensure you enjoy yourself while making smart healthy choices!

    Before Leaving The House
    1. If it’s your turn to pick the restaurant, make sure you pick one that has lots of healthy choices so you won’t have trouble picking what to eat.
    2. Have a snack before you go out. A high fibre snack like a piece of fruit would help curb hunger pangs.
    3. Decide what you really want and plan your meal around it. If there’s a special dessert on the menu you must try, opt for a lighter main.
    4. If the restaurant has a website, check it out! This can help you decide and plan what you might like to order before the hunger hits. If the website has nutrition information it’s an added bonus!
    5. If the restaurant is close by, why not walk?

    When Faced With The Menu
    1. Make conscious decisions about your meal. Don’t let your stomach or taste buds take over.
    2. Choose grilled, steamed, boiled, broiled or lightly stir fried meals. Steer away from battered or fried foods.
    3. There’s nothing wrong with choosing an entrée as a main! If the entrees are quite small, add a side salad
    4. When ordering salad ask for the dressing on the side or choose balsamic vinegar. Chances are you'll put less on yourself than they would put on for you.
    5. Choose meals with extra vegetables or choose vegetable sides instead of chips
    6. Share an entrée or main with a friend
    7. Choose leaner cuts of meat
    8. Instead of creamy or cheesy sauces choose stir fries or tomato base sauces
    9. It’s okay to ask for no butter or mayonnaise! 
    10. When eating: Look out for signs that you’re full. Chew slowly and stop when your stomach is satisfied.

    What About Drinks And Dessert? 
    1. Choose still or sparking water or diet soft drinks instead of sugary soft drinks or cocktails
    2. Don’t order an alcoholic drink until you’ve had something to eat. It is easier to become tipsy on an empty stomach and mindless eating can soon follow.
    3. If having alcohol choose wine or light beer & alternate between alcoholic & non alcoholic low-joule drinks
    4. If you can’t resist dessert share it with a friend or choose fruit based desserts

    Dessert is usually my weakness when it comes to eating out. I MUST have a look at the dessert menu every time. Usually I would share it or choose lighter mains to balance it out. Eating dessert when your stomach is bloated isn't very comfortable or enjoyable anyway. Remember indulging yourself a little once in a while can be part of a healthy diet. Just remember to not turn the occasional indulgence into a regular habit!

    What are your must haves when eating out? Share your tips below!

    Recipe: Chicken, Pistachio and Grapefruit Salad

    Now let me tell you a little bit about my history with salads.

    I hated them.

    My mum is a very Asian cook. She stir fries everything; even lettuce. Growing up I enjoyed nothing raw and my perception of salad was all things green and yuck (I hated my veggies then!). I didn't have salad in any shape or form until less than 2-3yrs ago! Now I am an avid searcher of different salads to try that go beyond different types of lettuce in a bowl. Salads are so refreshing in summer and great to eat when you feel like nothing at all. The following healthy salad only has 1 piece of lettuce I promise =)

    The other day my mum brought home a huge grapefruit and it sat on my computer speaker for over a week, waiting for the right time to be devoured. It made my whole room smell so citrus-y and lovely I was tempted not to eat it! Then I came across the perfect recipe at the perfect time: Chicken, pistachio and grapefruit salad.

    Mum had brought home some BBQ chicken the night before and I remember seeing some pistachio in the pantry so today I set out to make the colourful salad:

    Chicken Salad with Grapefruit and Pistachios

    Recipe adapted from: Lifestyle Foods

    Serves 2
    Cost: <$2.50 per serve (The chicken was the most expensive ingredient and price will vary depending on purchase location)

    2 shredded skinless chicken breast from last night's BBQ chicken
    30g peeled pistachio
    2 peeled grapefruit segments broken up to bite sized pieces
    1 large washed cos lettuce leaf
    1 Slice of toasted crusty bread diced

    1.5 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    Pepper to taste

    1. Lay down the Cos lettuce leaf on a plate
    2. Place the chicken, pistachio, grapefruit and bread on the lettuce
    3. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a bowl with a fork
    4. Drizzle dressing over the salad
    5. Gently toss the salad and eat!
    Now for some lovely photos!

    Energy: 1662kJ Protein: 35.4g Fat: 19.3g Saturated Fat: 3.3g Carbohydrates: 17.7g Fibre: 4g Sodium: 180.6mg

    As much as this dish seems very easy at first glance, I made a HUGE mess in the kitchen. There was breadcrumbs everywhere, pistachio shells scattered across the table and chunks of grapefruit peel all over the place but it was all worth it for this delicious dish!

    As you can see my fridge was otherwise quite empty and I didn't include half the ingredients from the original recipe... The salad was wonderful and a great mix of tangy, sweet, sour, bitter and nutty flavour. For me the pistachio was the star of the dish but if you're watching your weight go easy on them as they are high in energy.

    Nutritionally speaking the dish is high in good fats, protein and fibre with little sodium (pick unsalted pistachios). Grapefruits are in season in winter and are great sources of vitamin C and soluble fibre (the kind that lowers cholesterol). Grapefruits are also a great source of antioxidant and by picking the most vibrant pink ones the more lycopene antioxidant it has!

    Please note that grapefruits have a number of interactions with drugs, most commonly with blood cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins. Please see your doctor first if you have any concerns.

    Try out this cholesterol lowering, antioxidant rich dish as a light lunch or make smaller portions for a side salad today!

    Be Fit for Life

    Did you know that a normal weight person who is unfit is twice as likely to die in the next decade as a person who is overweight and fit?  In the latest GI News, Prof Steven Blair reveals that his studies have shown low cardio-respiratory fitness, caused by an inactive lifestyle accounts for a lot of deaths.

    Does this come as a shock? It's easy to understand why exercise is good for you and why exercising can help you lose weight and reduce the risk chronic diseases. What is hard is realising that all the normal weight people haven't escaped the risks of disease. It IS possible to be fit and active despite your size. Inactivity is a risk factor in itself for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers so even if a diet hasn't been working out, those few minutes of exercise have been making an impact.

    Why should you start now?
    • Research shows even walking can have a beneficial effect on your health regardless of your age, race, sex weight etc. Walking is a great start if you can't commit yourself to vigorous training at the gym or sign up for a marathon! 
    • Improving your fitness level has also been shown to reduce your mortality risk by 44%! 
    • Physical activity can intervene during all stages of diabetes development. It can improve insulin resistance, impaired fasting glucose and type 2 diabetes. 
    • As well as diabetes it improves stroke, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease risk, not to mention its ability to prevent weight gain. 
    • If you've reached a plateau in your weight loss despite dieting efforts, exercise could be the push needed to shed those extra kilos  
    • Exercise can be a great stress reliever 
    • Exercise can help you sleep better
    • Exercise can improve your productivity. I know many people who say they don't have time to exercise however those few minutes or hours can de-stress you, brighten your mood, and make you more alert to be more productive for the other things in life

    How much exercise do you need?
    The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians encourages at least 30minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week AND vigorous exercise should be enjoyed by those who are able (This should be around 30mins 3-4days/week.)

    Recommendations for young people (5-18yo) are at least 60mins a day and limiting electronic media for entertainment to no more than 2hours.

    Of course a few minutes of extra exercise on what you are doing now will improve your fitness even if you aren't quite meeting recommendations yet! The goal is to get started!

    How to get started 
    Check with your doctor. If you have any medical conditions that may interfere with you exercising or any aches and pains check first with a health professional so you do not end up injuring yourself. Also ensure you have the right type of clothing and shoes so doing exercise is as easy and comfortable as can be.

    Start slow.
    If exercise is walking from the couch to the fridge then suddenly over exerting yourself isn't ideal. If you think about it, over exerting yourself and needing to give your body weeks to recover from all the aches and pains just delays exercising further! It's okay to just get off the bus a stop earlier, spend time with the kids in the backyard or how about taking a walk at sunset with a loved one? If you have a pet that needs walking I'm sure they'll appreciate a longer walk or more trips to the park in a week too. These small steps are often easier to integrate into your life and thus more likely to stick.

    Increase incidental exercise.
    Incidental exercise is the unplanned physical activity that is secondary to other things you may be doing such as getting to destinations (climbing stairs) or running errands (shopping). This is often easiest to increase. Simple things such as going the long way to a destination or splitting up shopping to 2 grocery trips so you can walk it or walking to pick up kids instead of driving can all help improve your fitness.

    Do something you like
    If you've always wanted to learn how to dance then sign up for a class! There are a LOT of ways to be active in life. If you have joint pain perhaps swimming is for you. If you enjoy going to the gym there's weights, cardio machines and classes you can sign up to. Team sports such as rugby, soccer, netball etc may suit you on the weekends or catching up with a friend over tennis, squash, cycling or even rock climbing.

    Have goals.
    Having goals can be a motivating factor to continue. Think of something specific and realistic you have in mind and how and when you want to achieve it by. This can be anything from being able to walk 5km, swim 3 laps at the pool without stopping, bench press 50kg, 100 push ups, walk an extra 1000 steps a day or run 10km in less than an hour. Whatever it is, set a time frame so you have more incentive to keep going!

    Seek support.
    Some people like an exercising partner or in groups. It can be quite lonely jogging alone or working out at the gym by yourself. If signing up for classes or scheduling Fridays as running date sound like something you'll like to do, go for it! Chances are you are more likely to stick to it if not going means letting people down. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family or even a personal trainer can also motivate you to stick to the exercise plan. Getting to know other active people can also give you more ideas on how to stay fit.

    Exercising is one of the things I love to multitask. Lets face it jogging on the same track day in day out can only be exciting for so long before you get so bored you can't even think about getting up. Bring music with you. Music can really help pump you up for a workout or set the scene for the exercise. Another thing I particularly like doing is listening to podcasts or audiobooks while exercising. If you have an iPhone or iPod, free podcasts of your favourite radio or any audio/video files are available to download. You can also purchase audiobooks or listen to lectures or voicemails while running or cycling! If an exercise bike or treadmill is available set it up near the TV to watch your favourite program; I know many treadmills at the gym have TVs built in as well.  

    Track your progress
    Many people start exercising to lose weight and often weigh themselves hoping to see some results on the scale. However there are many other tools that you can use to track progress. Keeping a diary of your progress or take before and after photos. You can also measure your waist, hips, thigh and arm circumferences to measure differences or see a change in muscle tone. Use a pedometer to keep track of how many more steps you can take a day or measure your heart rate to see if it is slower. Not seeing any changes can be quite disheartening and you may want to give up but keep going at it and results will show! Anytime you have an achievement write it down! This chart by the QLD government is great for tracking food and exercise. There are also many applications on phones to track progress or you can start a fitness blog as well! 

    Remember it's one thing to say you should really exercise but another to actually get started. So take the leap and start a long term commitment to exercising regularly, no matter what size you are!

    For more information visit the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) website or an exercise physiologist. The new Australian Government campaign called "Swap it" has a great website with excellent tips on exercise and nutrition. If you'll like to know more about sport nutrition AIS has some great information or find a local APD today to have a chat.  

    Share your exercise tips and comments below!

    Exam and Stress Eating

    With the exam still looming over the heads of many students I want to focus on what to eat during this stressful time. I have just finished my last exam and I recall the countless times I've read "Just had a whole box of chocolates while studying.... oops..." on Facebook or twitter (Even from future dietitians!). It's so easy to over indulge and eating healthy is often the last thing any student thinks about! Here are my top 7 tips to stay healthy during exams:

    1. Keep healthy snacks available   

    This is my number one tip since snacking can be very rampant during this time. If there's a chocolate bar in the pantry at 2am in the morning and you're feeling hungry chances are that's what you'll have. Make sure healthy food is in plain sight by having a fruit bowl in the kitchen so when you go to the kitchen that's the first thing you see!  In line with this, don't have unhealthy food within arms reach of where you're studying, just looking at it all day can drive anyone to eat it!

    In the pantry: Put all the chips, chocolates, biscuits etc on the top or bottom shelf where it's not as readily visible. Instead have foods such as wholegrain muesli bars (preferably low fat and not too sugary!), salt reduced crackers, nuts, baked beans, cereal, Milo, air popped popcorn etc available at eye level.

    In the fridge: fresh fruits and vegetables are the way to go but not always practical! If you know dinner will be healthy cook extra so you can leave a portion in the fridge to have late at night. Dairy foods such as yoghurt, cheese and milk are also very easy to grab and eat without much preparation but make sure they're low fat if you're eating a lot throughout the day! Dip is so great to have that goes with crackers, vegetables and fruit. Try to choose dips such as hummus, tahini or vegetable based dips that is low salt and fat.

    2. Portion control 
    It's easy to eat through a whole packet of chips while studying without realising. Mindless eating occurs often in everyday life but especially so during stressful exams. Instead of bringing whole packets of food to the study table, portion out how much to eat into a separate plate or bowl and put the rest away. This applies especially to nuts as the calories can really add up.

    3. Have a balance of sweet and savoury snacks available 
    Most people tend to feel quite peckish when studying. One minute you might be thinking of a succulent burger and the next some ice cream. Having snacks such as fruit AND nuts available ensures you don't end up eating chips just because you don't feel like something sweet or eating chocolate because there was no fruit available to satisfy your sweet tooth.     

    4. Have water 
    Often students don't wander to the kitchen because of hunger but rather boredom or to have a little stretch! Have some water instead of more food. Often dehydration can cause headaches which can hinder studying so aim for 6-8 cups of water a day. A nice glass of water with a few ice cubes could be the cold wake up call you need! Skip out on the energy drinks as they are often loaded with sugar. If caffeine is essential try a nice comforting tea this winter instead.

    5. Take a break. 
    Sometimes it's therapeutic to just take a break from studying and cook up something to eat. If you like experimenting in the kitchen why not ditch the cupcake recipe for flaxseed brownies? There are many healthy recipe sites out there for you to try!

    6. Go for a walk
    Going for a walk will help clear your head, keep you alert and a little exercise won't hurt! However did you know it may also improve your immune function? Vitamin D is produced in the skin as a result of exposure to UV light from the sun. It has to be one of the most exciting vitamins lately as research is discovering more roles it has in the body. One of them is its role in immune function and Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with the flu during winter. With the current rainy season in Sydney this may be a bit difficult so save this advice for when the sun comes out ;).   

    7. Don't let your exams sabotage your diet

    Exams aren't for very long so what's the harm in forgetting the diet you say? Exam stress has been linked to decreased immune function in some small studies of students sitting exams and no one wants to get sick while studying! A healthy diet is important in making sure your body is in the best condition to fight off and clear infections. This can be achieved by having a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, healthy fats and meat and/or alternatives. This ensures all those vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are keeping you feeling the best you can during stress.  Also please remember to EAT as I know some people may get so caught up in study they forget. Schedule eating 3 meals a day into your schedule if that will remind you to eat!

    What can parents do?
    It's difficult trying to figure out how to be encouraging and supportive as a parent when students shut themselves off into their rooms. Buy healthy food to put in the fridge and prepare easy to eat foods such as soups, salads and stir fries for their meals. Prepare foods to make it easier for them to choose them! This can include cutting up fruits such as oranges and apples, making fruit salad or putting some nuts in bowls for them. Exam days can be stressful so ensure they have breakfast and something to eat before the exam.
    Let me know what are your favourite healthy snack ideas during stressful times in the comments below! Or alternatively what do you end up indulging on?

    Good luck to those still doing their exams!

    Big Hello!

    Hi I'm Wendy!

    I'm an accredited practicing dietitian in training, currently completing my honours year at  the University of Sydney in a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) course. As a final year student I am still finding my feet in the big world of nutrition, trying to discover what area I would like to work in and honing my skills as a future dietitian. 

    In this blog I hope to share with you my experiences as a dietitian and hope you can learn something valuable from here as well. There is a lot of nutrition information out there and it's hard to dissect what is based on science and what is not. Here I hope to dispel some nutrition myths, examine the newest diet book and bring you the latest in dietetics news and research.

    It's easy reading information off the Internet but really understanding it and knowing how to put advice into practice is where many people fail. I hope to also share with you recipes, restaurant ideas and tips on how to change your eating behaviour.

    I want to make nutrition FUN and EASY for everyone! Small sustainable changes are the ones that make the biggest impact in the long run and that's the kind of changes I want to inspire people to take away from this blog!


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    The information presented on this blog acts as general nutrition advice and is not tailored to meet individual needs. It should not be used as a replacement for any medical advice you have recieved from medical practitioners. Please discuss any concerns for your health with your doctor or Accredited Practicing Dietitian before starting a new dietary or exercise regime as they can give more personalised recommendations.

    I make every effort to ensure information on Nutrition with Wendy is correct and up to date however nutrition is an evolving field and discrepancies can arise. If the information here appears incorrect or out of date please let me know and I will do my best to update my posts.