Tag Archives: healthy choice

My take on the traditional Nicoise Salad

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salmon niscoiseHi everyone! Has been awhile but I’m back and man do I have something for you! Now that the weather is warming up again I am happy to say the soups are just about out and the salads are coming back in avengeance! With a hankering for salmon I decided to combine the two and create my own take on the traditional salmon (or more traditionally tuna) Nicoise Salad! Tried and tested on my other half earlier this evening this dish is a winner all round. Packed full of flavour, complementing textures, healthy fats and a tonne of fresh, crunchy salad veggies to up your vitamin and mineral intake there is really nothing not to like about this dish!

As a bit of an experimenter in the kitchen, I decided to mix things up a  bit and swapped the traditional steamed spuds for roasted sweet potato, swapped the boiled eggs for poached and added a sprinkling of lightly toasted almonds for an extra crunch!

Not only did the sweet potato add a tonne of flavour to the dish but from a nutritional perspective, using this lovely starchy vege instead of plain old potatoes helped to lower the overall GI (glycemic index) of the dish ever so slightly! Sweet potato also contains betacarotene which is a precursor for vitamin A (a vitamin essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, skin integrity and eyes). Furthermore, not only did adding the crunchy almonds create a textural party in your mouth but they are also a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats…Great for your general health AND lowering your cholesterol! As are the omega 3 fats found in the salmon… Winning!! The boiled eggs on the other hand were really just there for show, but I have to say, they were delicious, as they just oozed over the salad to create a lovely creamy textured sauce for the dish!

To recreate this dish here is what you will need for 2 people:

For the salad:

x2 Salmon fillets

olive oil

paprika

handful of green beans, halved

small handful of kalamata olives

1/2 bag of mixed leaves

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes

1 small sweet potato, chopped into bite sized chunks

2 tbsp toasted slivered almonds

2 eggs

For the dressing:

1 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp seeded mustard

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 tsp minced garlic

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees fan forced.

Place the chopped sweet potato on a lined baking tray, spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of paprika. Cook in a moderate oven for 20-25mins or until soft and slightly browned around the edges.

Begin constructing the salad by adding the mixed leaves, olives and the chopped cherry tomatoes. Then steam the green beans and once cool add them to the salad.

For the dressing, add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and mix well. Set aside until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, boil some water in a saucepan and allow to simmer on low heat until you are ready to poach your eggs.
While your water is simmering away, place a non-stick frypan over moderate heat on the stove and spray with oil. Pat dry your salmon fillet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place your salmon to the pan skin down and leave for 4-5mins before turning. Leave facedown for a further 2 mins (or until cooked to your liking) before removing from the heat.

Leave the salmon to rest while you quickly poach your eggs which should only take 2-3 mins. (Make sure the water is only simmering when you drop your eggs in otherwise the whites will go everywhere! ) Once cooked to your liking remove the eggs from the water and set aside while you assemble the rest of the salad.

To finish off the salad, gently break the salmon into large chunky flakes or pieces and scatter over the salad along with the roasted sweet potato before dividing the salad amongst your serving bowls.

Finally top each salad bowl with a poached egg, a sprinkling of toasted almonds and a drizzle of the homemade salad dressing!

Delish!

And a point to note, if you wanted to jazz up this salad a little further you could always add in some avocado or a sprinkling of marianted fetta cheese for a little extra indulgence!

Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

A

xx

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Butter or Margarine?

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fn_butterWith all the recent noise and confusion surrounding fats and oils and their effects on the body, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to spread the word on spreads and decipher the mors code of current research surrounding the use of butter vs margarine!

Firstly a bit of background on fats so we’re all up to speed..

So basically everything we eat can be broken down into 3 major building blocks, being Fat, Carbohydrates and Protein (and fibre of course) but for now we will just stick to the major macro-nutrients in our diets!

And if we narrow it down to just fats we have a variety of different types, some that are good for us and others that are not so good! The “bad” fats as they are commonly referred to are the saturated and trans fats in our diets. And why are they bad? Well basically these fats are responsible for increasing the bad type of cholesterol in our blood (known as LDL-Cholesterol). This type of cholesterol essentially causes a build up of fatty plaque in our arteries, causing restricted blood through through our blood vessels. This build up is very dangerous as it then obviously leads to cardiovascular problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure) and eventually heart attacks and strokes due to not enough blood being able to be pumped around the body!

Our good fats on the other hand, are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as they help to lower our bad cholesterol levels and raise our “good” cholesterol levels (known as HDL-Cholesterol). Our good cholesterol has a role in mopping up the bad cholesterol in our blood and taking it back to the liver for processing, see we want to keep our levels of good cholesterol as high as possible.

So where do we find all these types of fats in our diets?

So firstly our saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature and consist mainly of fats from animal products, namely those found in red and white meat and dairy products (butter, milk, cream etc). Trans fat on the other hand is basically a type of unsaturated fat that behaves like a saturated fat because of its chemical structure. Though there are minimal amounts of natural trans fats in dairy products, beef, lamb and veal, majority are of an artificial or synthetic nature. These manufactured trans fats are caused by the way some fats and oils are processed. Basically they are the end result of the hydrogenation process of poly and monounsaturated fats (such as vegetable oils) and are found primarily in your highly processed products such as cakes, biscuits, fried foods etc.

And the good fats?

Well as I said there are two main types, the monounsaturated and the polyunsaturated fats. The former are those found from plant based products such as nuts and seeds, vegetable and seed oils (such as sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils) and avocados.

Polyunsaturated fats can be broken down further into what are commonly known as omega 3 and omega 6 fats. As I’m sure most of you would have come across at some stage, omega 3 fats are those found in things like oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel,  as well as walnuts and linseeds.

Our omega 6 fats are those primarily found in plant based products such as tahini (sesame seed spread), margarine, linseed (flaxseed), sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and brazil nuts but are also found in some types of fish.

Alright so lets get down to business.. are we better off using butter or margarine?

As a Dietitian I am very much an advocate for providing nutrition advice that is evidence based, meaning my recommendations are always based on the cold hard facts, not the latest fad or trend or some small scale study that has just been released.

So basically in weighing up all the pros and cons of butter vs marg my general consensus is, that Margarine is a good substitute for butter, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease or are already actually experiencing similar problems with your health. And here is a quick summary of a few reasons why I think this…

1. Margarine spreads contain 65% less saturated fat than butter
Each 10 gram serving of a typical margarine spread (enough for two slices of bread) contains 1.7g of saturated fat compared to 5.0g of saturated fat in butter.

2. Most margarine spreads contain only a trace amount of trans fats whereas butter contains 3-4% trans fats
Unfortunately, margarine has long been thought to be bad for our health, as once upon a time margarine spreads did infact contain much higher levels of trans fats due to the way in which they were processed. Today however, most margarine spreads contain less than 1% of trans fatty acids, which is a very low level. It is actually now a strict regulation that all margarine spreads must contain no more than 1% trans fat to be able to be sold in country!

3. Margarine spreads contain more ‘good’ unsaturated oils than butter
Standard margarine spreads are made up of around 65% ‘good’ oils and therefore retain all the benefits of these oils. As I explained earlier, it is important that we include plenty of these types of good fats in our diets for better heart health!

4. Canola margarine spreads contain omega-3 whereas butter does not contain any omega-3
Margarine spreads made with canola oil, are a natural source of omega-3. Omega-3 fats are valuable nutrients in a healthy diet as scientific evidence shows that these fats are beneficial to health throughout all stages of life and are essential not only for improving and maintaining good cardiovascular health but also for healthy development and function of the brain and eye.

In saying all this, at the end of the day it is your choice which you choose, but at least now you are equipped with the real facts and can make your own informed decisions about what you choose to spread on you bread tomorrow!

Alternatively, why not ditch the spreads altogether and smash some fresh avo on your toast or sandwiches instead! Not only are avos healthy and natural, but they are packed full monounsaturated fats (to help further reduce your bad cholesterol levels) and also contain essential vitamins and minerals that will help keep you fighting fit and healthy!

Feel free to Spread the word!

A