Category Archives: My (Almost) Meat Free Challenge

A snapshot of my week without meat

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So just to give you an idea of how to eat a healthy balanced diet with the exclusion of white and red meat I thought I would give you a quick snap shot of my diet over the past 7 days as a “pescetarian (vegetarian who eats seafood).

Monday: Breakky – small serve of homemade muesli with fat free natural yoghurt and mixed berries

Lunch – garden salad with mixed beans and a tin of tuna

Afternoon snack – 1 ricecake with a scraping of vegetmite and low fat cottage cheese

Dinner – pan fried spiced salmon fillet with quinoa salad and mint yoghurt

Exercise – 1 hr jog (outdoors)

Tuesday:

Breakky – same as above

Morning tea – small cappaccino on skim milk

Lunch – left over salmon and quinoa salad

Snack- Apple

Dinner – Thai fish cakes with crunchy noodle salad

Exercise: 25mins of hill sprints + 30 minute run

Wednesday:

Breaky – Same as above

Lunch – left over thai fish cakes and crunchy noodle salad

Snack – Apple

Dinner – TVP chilli con carne with crunchy potato skins

1 hr walk

Thursday:

Breakky – slice of multigrain toast with avocado and slices of fresh tomato + small cappaccino on skim milk

Lunch – Garden Salad with cannolini beans and a tin of tuna

Dinner – Pan fried snapper with roasted sweet potato, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

1 hr walk + 50min stand up paddle board + 30 min run

Friday:

Breakky – 2 rice cakes with cottage cheese and slices of fresh tomato + small cappaccino on skim milk

Snack – Apple

Lunch – Garden salad with tuna

Dinner – (went out for Thai) ordered a prawn sad see yew (vegetarian options also available)

Exercise: 45min walk + 30 min run

Saturday:

Breakky – Apple + handful of mixed nuts + sm skim cappaccino

Lunch – 2 rice cakes with avocado +  smoked salmon + fresh sliced tomato

Snack – row of seaweed rice crackers and cottage cheese

Dinner – (went out to dinner) Pan fried barramundi with roasted artichokes, tomatoes, asparagus and fetta cheese

Dessert – serve of cheese and crackers

Exercise: 1hr walk

Sunday:

Brunch – smoked salmon, roasted mushrooms, avocado and tomato salsa and slice of turkish + small skim cappaccino

Snack – row of rice crackers with guacamole

Dinner – salmon and avocado tartare + prawn and scallop lettuce cups

Dessert – serve of low fat, homemade apple crumble and ice cream (YUMMM!)

Exercise – 45min run (interval training- eg slow to med to fast running intervals)

And there you have a pretty good idea of what I have eaten over the past 7 days as a “pescetarian” and what exercise I have managed to fit in to keep that metabolism ticking over! Not only are most of the meals I have eaten very low in fat, they have all contained adequate amounts of fibre, protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, due to my diet being very high in seafood consumption this week, I have consumed more than adequate amounts of omega 3 fats to help improve my blood lipid profile through achieving a more balanced omega 3 to omega 6 fat ratio in my diet that essentially leads to a myraid of health benefits when omega 3’s are consumed on a regular basis!

(NOTE: for newcomers – the recipes for all my dinners this week have already been posted! Just look under the category of “My (Almost) Meat Free Challenge”). Not

However, now that is Monday and the start of a NEW week I think it is time for a NEW challenge and this week I think I am going to become a Coeliac for the week (ie someone who is unable to foods containing gluten) and am going to follow a strict gluten free diet for the next 7 days! So for those of you who are interested in discovering some new tastey GLUTEN FREE recipes… stay tuned!

A

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My Views on Vegetarianism

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So I made it! 7 days with no red or white meat!! and to be honest I probably shouldn’t really have called it a challenge, as I was able to fill myself (and Mark) up on an assortment of healthy, nutritious and balanced meals without too much trouble! Though I do not advocate for vegetarianism, I certainly do NOT not condone it either as I feel everyone has the right to make their own food choices. My concern however, is that if one chooses not to eat red and white meat (and seafood for many) that they understand the importance of eating meals that are well balanced and include bioavailable sources of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly easily absorbable sources of iron and vitaminB12, both of which are primarily found in animal sources.

Firstly I will look at vitamin B12 which is an essential vitamin that cannot be synthesised in the body. Vitamin B12 is primarily only produced by bacteria and fungi particularly in the gastrointestinal tracts of ruminant animals (so sheep and cattle). The major food sources of B12 are therefore: Beef and lamb, liver (highest source), egg yolks, muscles and oysters and mushrooms (however the B12 in mushrooms is questionable as it is not a biologically active form and is from soil contamination not in the actual mushrooms themselves).

Vegan sources of VitaminB12 include:

– Seaweed and the root nodules of some legumes.

There are also a select handful of fortified food products including:

Some breakfast cereals, some plant milks and a few soy products.

If you are vegetarian or even more so, if you are vegan, it is therefore really important that you do one of the following to ensure that you consume adequate amounts of VitaminB12….

1. That you consume at least 3 serves of the natural sources and fortified products just mentioned above to reach a total of 2.4 micrograms of B12 everyday. OR

2. Take an oral supplement which you can buy at your local chemist.

Getting enough VitaminB12 is essential for a number of important bodily functions including DNA synthesis and cell division, the conversion of Folate into its bioactive form, normal nerve function. A deficiency in VitaminB12 can therefore lead to anaemia, elevated plasma homocysteine levels (which is implicated in premature heart disease), peripheral neuropathy (nervous system damage) and degeneration of brain matter causing confusion, depression and psychosis.

Ok now for IRON! This is a pretty obvious one..if you don’t eat meat, you are far less likely to meet your daily iron needs without careful planning and dietary management. This is because the type of iron found in red meats in particular but also white meats (known as haem iron) is much more bioavailable or in other words is easily absorbed by the body. It is really important therefore, that those who choose not to eat meat include food combinations throughout the day that provide them with adequate amounts of all of the 20 essential amino acids required for protein synthesis. This means eating plenty of the following nonhaem iron sources:

Fortified breakfast cereals, fortified drinks and protein bars/supplements, wholegrains, legumes,  soybeans, gluten based vegetarian meat alternatives, textured vegetable protein (TVP), nuts and green leafy vegetables.

It is also a good idea to consume plenty of foods high in vitamin C, which aids the absorption of iron from foods. This means including plenty of the following sources:

guava (highest source), kiwi fruit, paw paw, lychees, citrus fruits, chili, parsley, broccoli, spinach, capsicum and liver. And remember there are significant losses in Vitamin C content of foods after preparation processing methods such as freezing, cutting, heating etc. So eat whole and with as little preparation and processing as possible if you can!

And if this all seems to hard or you don’t like to eat many of these types of foods, PLEASE at least think about taking an iron supplement, especially if you are a woman or are very physically active!

Calcium is obviously another essential nutrient that vegans must be mindful of in avoiding all sources of animal products including dairy. It is possible to obtain your daily calcium needs by including 2-3 serves of the following foods:

Soy and other dairy alternative milks (rice/almond milks etc) that are fortified with calcium. (note: soy milks etc need to contain greater than 100mg of calcium per 100ml).

If soy/other milk alternatives are not an option it’s important that you include as many non-dairy calcium rich alternatives as possible such as set tofu, soy yoghurts/cheeses/ custards etc. Tinned salmon (mainly the bones), breakfast cereals, almonds and green leafy vegetables including spinach,broccoli and bok choy) also all contain calcium but obtaining adequate amounts from these foods is essential and can be difficult to measure!

So as you can see, being a vegetarian or vegan does not mean you are doomed to become deficient in all sorts of essential vitamins and minerals….it just requires a little bit of careful planning and being mindful of the types of foods you need to ensure you include in your diet everyday! Or at least take oral supplements if you are worried you are not obtaining the nutrients you need from your usual dietary patterns!

Day 7: Asian inspired tapas

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Tonight is the LAST night of my “meat free” week challenge and I have to say this week has been no where near as hard as I thought! I have actually really enjoyed trialling new recipe ideas with different types of seafood and Mark and I have managed to come up with some crackers if I may say so myself.. with tonight being no exception! After another trip to the Noosa Seafood Market we came home with a mixed bag of a fresh salmon fillet, some big juicy tiger prawns and a handful of scallops…then it was just a matter of deciding what to do with it!

As a true lover of Asian cooking and having a slight obsession with the concept of “share plates” and “tapas” I thought..why not combine the two! And this is what I came up with..

Salmon and avocado Tartare and Prawn and Scallop Lettuce Cups. Originally I thought of making scallop and prawn dumplings but I had some trouble locating wanton wrappers so figured lettuce cups were the next best thing! Both of these dishes were super fresh and tastey and really simple to prepare so the perfect combination for a lazy Sunday night feast!

For the Salmon Tartare..salmon tartare

What you need –

1 large salmon fillet (skinned and deboned)

1 tsp minced ginger

1 lime

3 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp sesame seeds

large handful coriander

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp capers

1 eschallot

1/2 avocado

What to do…

Chop up your salmon into small cubes (approx 1cm pieces) and do the same with half an avocado and add them both to a mixing bowl. Grate about 1 tsp of rind from the lime then grab a small mix master/ hand blender and add in your sesame oil, coriander, fish sauce, lime rind, eshallot, capers, ginger and the juice of half of the lime. Whiz up these ingredients until smooth and then add in your sesame seeds. Pour this dressing over your salmon and avocado and mix until combined. Transfer your mixture into a serving bowl and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Next for your Prawn and Scallop Lettuce Cups:lettuce cups

What you need..

150g scallops

4 large green tiger prawns

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

1 large red chilli

4 med size button mushrooms (chopped)

handful of bean sprouts

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 zucchini (diced)

1/2 red onion (diced)

2 tbs chopped water chestnuts

handful of chopped coriander

1 tsp light soy sauce (or Tamari for a GF version!)

olive oil

What to do..

Heat some olive oil in a fry pan and add your onions, cooking til translucent then add in the garlic, ginger and fresh chilli. Once nice and fragrant add in the chopped mushies and zuchhini. Chop up your scallops and prawns into large chunks and add to the mixture cooking for 4-5mins (or until prawns are cooked through). Add your fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander, chopped water chestnuts, bean sprouts and the sesame seeds and stir through over medium heat for 1-2 mins. Peel off some fresh lettuce leaves and you are just about ready to serve! You could serve up the mixture on ready prepared lettuce cups but I like the concept of placing everything in the middle of the table and letting everyone fend for themselves! It’s much more fun making your own and probably helps everyone to eat slower too! Like most seafood dishes both of these Asian inspired tapas plates are super fresh, healthy and will be sure to curb any seafood craving!

salmon tartare 3   lettuce cups2 day 7

Day 6: Pan Fried Barramundi with artichokes and asparagus salad

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gustos barramundiIn being invited out to dinner with some friends again last night, I managed to score another evening out of the kitchen and was lucky enough to try some tastey local seafood at one of my favourite restaurants in Noosa, Gusto! Being the second last day of my “meat free” challenge I was a little limited than usual in my meal choices but lucky for me there were plenty of tastey fish and other seafood options on the menu!

In all honesty I was a little jealous at first as the 3 very tender, juicey looking steaks were placed in front of my fellow diners but those feelings dissipated very quickly once the first mouthful of my meal hit my lips! A beautifully prepared dish of fresh pan fried barramundi sitting on a bed of roasted artichokes and local Noosa red tomatoes, grilled asparagus and good dollop of Merrideth Fetta Cheese..YUM!! Who knew being a pescetarian could be this awesome!

I walked away from Gusto’s totally satisfied with a belly full of delicious food yet perhaps not quite as uncomfortably full as the rest of the table seemed to be after their very rich, heavy meals of steaks and creamy potatoes! Gusto is a fantastic little restaurant on Gympie Tce in Noosaville that we have a habit of visiting on a fairly regular basis! Although they don’t seem to change the menu all that regularly this quaint little BYO restaurant prides itself on serving only the freshest of produce and I can vouch with all honesty that I have never been disappointed by the food or the service!

Day 5: Time for some Thai

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My love Affair for Pad See Yew reignited….pad see yew

Being Friday night I decided it was time to step out of the kitchen and have a night off! So while Mark stayed home, glued to the TV watching football I caught up with some friends and indulged in some Thai food! Probably not the healthiest of choices but figured they at least have plenty of vegetarian and seafood dishes to cater for vegetarians/pescetarians like myself (for another 2 days anyway)!!  Sticking with my “meat free” rule I chose a prawn pad see yew dish and dammmnnn was it tastey! Definitely not the wisest choice with the dish ringing true to the saying of “a moment on the lips..a life time on the hips” but I fell in love with this dish whilst travelling through Thailand a couple of years ago and now every now and then I have no choice but to succumb to my cravings!! But at least I stuck to my no red/white meat rule right?? Trust me, if you like noodle dishes, you wont be disappointed with this one! It’s delicious and usually has a heap more veggies in it than your usual pad thai! Like most Thai curries and stir fries though its pretty high in fat so maybe save this one for special occasions! Perhaps a wiser choice than some of your favourite coconut based curries though which are higher in saturated fats due to the copious amounts of coconut milk and cream they use to make them! If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying pad see yew before and you’re thinking about indulging in one I have one word of warning..this dish is HIGHLY addictive so proceed with caution!

A

Day 4: Pan fried snapper with sweet potato chips and other veggo delights!

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snapper3So we’re up to day 4 everyone..and I have to say it certainly hasn’t been as hard as i thought! Seeing as we’ve headed up the coast for a few days I decided fish was definitely going to be back on the menu tonight! Lucky for us Noosa is home to one of the best fish mongers I know, (called Noosa Junction Seafood for those of you who are yet to share in this seafood wonderland) so there were clearly no second thoughts on this one!

After a “hard days work” of water sports and walking/running through the national park we managed to work up a pretty serious appetite! Which somehow lead to Mark and I managing to devour a tantalising feast of fresh pan fried snapper, sweet potato chips, stuffed mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus and a delicious dollop of basil pesto just to finish things off! and yes trust me… it tasted as good as it sounds!

What you need: (for 2 people)

250g snapper fillets

1 small sweet potato (cut into chips)

2 large field mushrooms

1 tbs low fat fetta or ricotta cheese

1 clove garlic (crushed)

sm bunch asparagus

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes

Paprika

olive oil

1 tbs store bought pesto

(yep you caught me..we ended up just buying our pesto this time around, as we didn’t have the ingredients to hand make it but normally I am all for the homemade pesto!! BUT if you are wanting to make yours from scratch just add a big bunch of basil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, a handful of pine nuts, a small handful of grated parmesan cheese, a good splash of olive oil and the juice of a lemon into a blender/mix master, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth! Its easy as and tastes way better than the bought varieties, not to mention you will have enough pesto to keep you going for weeks!

What to do…

Place your cut up sweet potato on a lined baking tray, sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and lightly spray with olive oil before placing in a moderately hot oven for approximately 25mins. While your chips are baking away mix together your low fat feta or ricotta cheese with a clove of crushed garlic and smear around the underside of the large field mushies. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before adding to a baking tray with the mushies. Place the tray in the oven with the chips and leave them in there til ready to serve! For the snapper, add some olive oil to a very hot pan and cook your fish for 3-4mins each side (depending on thickness of the fish). (Note: we slightly dusted our fish in rice flour and pepper first to help crisp up the outside of the fish!) When your fish is nearly done steam your asparagus in a bowl of boiling water or in the microwave for 1-2 mins and then its time to serve!

And this is what you get to sit down to after all your hard work….

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Day 3: Meat Free Chilli Con Carne.. huh?

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chilli con carne 3Ok so I decided it was time to leave the seafood alone and try my culinary skills in making true vegetarian food! So yesterday I went and visited my local health food shop and came home with a bag of TVP (or textured vegetable protein) which is essentially just hyrdolised soy flour. Once I got home I then had to decide what the hell I was going to do with it and this is what I came up with…TVP chilli con “carne”!

Sounds interesting right? So basically TVP can me used a vegetarian replacement for just about any meal containing mince (beef, chicken or pork). The trick with using TVP however, is to make sure you use it in conjunction with plenty of other strong flavours, as it is pretty bland on its own! I think this product is fantastic as it allows veggos to enjoy some of the same tasty dishes of their meat loving counterparts but without the meat! oh and did i mention a huge bag which would last you for weeks only costs $6!!!! When comparing this to the amount I would spend on meat and seafood each week…well there really is no comparison from a financial perspective! TVP is also almost fat free so is a great, healthy alternative to meat every now and then if you are looking for ways to cut down on your calorie intake!

So how did my invention turn out you ask? Well I am proud to say that this dish won approval from two of my male roommates who just so happen to be very strong meat advocates and were extremely skeptical of my “meat free” invention! That is until they tried it of course! So here it is..one delicious meat free meal that can be whipped up in minutes!

TVP chilli con carne with crunchy potato skins: (Serves 4 people)

Ingredients:

1 cup dry TVP

1 cup vegetable stock

1 brown onion (diced)

3 large cloves garlic (crushed)

1 red chilli (diced)chilli con carne1

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp mexican chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 red capsicum (chopped)

1 large carrot (diced)

1 tin crushed tomatoes

1 tin kidney beans (rinsed and drained)

1 fresh tomato (chopped)

1/4 cup tomato paste (salt reduced)

1/2 cup tinned/fresh corn

2 spring onions (sliced)

To serve:

4 large washed nadine potatoes (or any large variety you like)

salt and pepper

olive oil

dried mixed herbs

1/4 cup fat free natural yoghurt

1/4 cup grated low fat cheese

What to do….

Boil your vegetable stock then add to a bowl containing the TVP, cover and set aside to rehydrate.

For the potato skins, cut the potatoes in half and cook in the microwave for approx 8mins, or until soft. Set aside to cool until you can handle them. Once they have cooled down grab a spoon and scoop out the centre of the potatoes, leaving about 0.5cm around the edges. Place the skins on a lined baking tray and then sprinkle them with olive oil, the mixed herbs and salt and pepper. Put them in a moderately high oven (180 – 200 degrees) for 10-15mins or until slightly crisp and golden on the outside. You may want to turn them over about half way through so they become crispy and delicious all over!

Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the chopped onion, chilli and garlic until onion is translucent. (HINT: add your garlic last and don’t have the heat up too high or it will burn and become bitter!). Next add your carrots and capsicum, then once they are cooked, add your your spices and cook for 1-2 mins. Then add the tinned/fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and corn.

Drain the TVP and squeeze out any excess fluid before adding to the frypan with all the other ingredients and allow it to simmer over medium heat for 5 or so mins.

Grate your cheese and then you are ready to assemble this veggo masterpiece to your liking! Enjoy!

A

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