What’s for dinner? Save time with meal planning

One of the hardest things to deal with every night is what’s for dinner? Its worse if you are getting home after work and don’t have everything to ready to prepare. Each week I usually prepare a list for weekday meals and then make sure when I order online or shop that I have the basics for those meals – it reduces stress dramatically as whoever gets home first can start cooking.

curry

My usual meal plan for a week looks something like this;

Monday : Gluten and Dairy Free turkey and eggplant lasagne with Cos salad (often make the lasagne Sunday afternoon when I have more time)

Tuesday: Roast Lamb and Vegetables with steamed snow peas OR Easy Roast Chicken and vegetables

Wednesday: Sausages (usually organic gluten free chicken and leek) and Potato Curry

Thursday :Honey Soy Chicken Drumsticks and Wombok salad

Friday : Leftovers with some cold meats, humuus, olives and crudites.

Saturday :Cauliflower and Chicken Curry with rice.

I really like doing a roast early in the week as the leftovers are great for school lunches or even a lamb salad (cos, lebanese cucumber and olives with lamb and aoili mayonnaise). The easy roast chicken is basically the same as roasting a chicken except you use thigh cutlets and roast two per person on top of your choice of roast vegetables and just sprinkle the chicken with rosemary and rock salt plus the juice of a lemon and some olive oil. The vegetables that work well include parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin. Usually takes about 50 minutes at 180c for the chicken which I then take out and keep warm and just crisp off the vegetables. Best part is that it all cooks together in one roasting dish.

The recipes for the Wombok salad, cauliflower and chicken curry and potato curry can be found under my page gluten and diary free dinners on my blog and the recipes for the lasagne and chicken drumsticks I will detail below as they are really quite easy.

Honey and Soy Chicken Drumsticks
Mix half cup each of caster sugar and soy sauce (Fountain for gluten free soy sauce) and pour over chicken drumsticks which have been scored (cut in two places) to help absorb the marinade. Cook for 40-50 minutes at 180C and then serve with Wombok salad. Always make up extras allowing 2-3 drumsticks per adult as they are a favourite in the lunchbox.

Lasagne – Turkey and Eggplant

Orgran Lasagne (or similar gluten free lasagne)
2 jars of tomato sauce or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
One onion and one carrot diced
2 cloves of crushed garlic
600g turkey mince (chicken, pork or beef all work well too)
1 large or 2 small eggplant

Pierce eggplant with a fork in several places and roast in oven at 180c for 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool and then remove skin and add soft eggplant chopped in small pieces to simmering lasagne sauce. Once eggplant is soft you can often just spoon it out of the skin.

Saute onion in carrot in olive oil until onion is soft. Add turkey mince and brown and then add crushed garlic and tomato sauce. Simmer on low for a further 20 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Layer lasagne sheets and mince in a large casserole dish. Start with a thin layer of the sauce and then place a layer of lasagne sheets,cover the lasagne sheets with the sauce and then add another layer – you usually have three or four layers.

Cook in a warm oven at 180C for 40 minutes with the lid on – then serve with a cos salad.

Healthy Food in a Hurry

Last weekend I was invited to attend a Thermomix demonstration. Who could say no when they offer to cook you lunch? And lunch was good – it started with strawberry sorbet, obviously to cleanse the palate (so to speak) and then we had a herbed dip, a beetroot salad, a vegetable soup and chicken veloute with freshly made bread rolls and to finish an amazing custard. All cooked in about 2 hours.

Thermomix

What impressed me most with the demonstration is that the machine can replace several gadgets as well as being a big timesaver in the kitchen and can help you saving money by using fresh unprocessed food wherever possible. It was also very simple to clean.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Thermomix you can actually grind your own flours with it, use it as a juicer, make sorbets and icecream as well as easily chopping up vegetables. It also cooks at several different temperatures and can even stir ingredients on a couple of different settings to allow you to make a stew, stir fry or a risotto. If you want more information have a look at their website or hop on to the youtube channel and actually see it in action.

The benefit that really appealed to me as someone who spends a lot of time cooking from scratch is the speed with which you can produce a healthy meal. Now finally someone is focussing on some better options for time poor people in a busy world. Even more so when you are catering for children with allergies and intolerances where the food becomes more expensive. A gluten free loaf of bread for example is often around $7, even just making your own gluten free flours as you need them could be a great cost saving.

If you decide to follow up on a Thermomix there are lots of people around who sell them through party plan so just do it quietly or risk being inundated with offers!!

How do I save time in the kitchen? One way is to prepare batches of meals and freeze them – I particularly like the site Once a Month Freezer Meals as I think its a great resource and they even have gluten free and dairy free meal plans. My best timesaver however was teaching my husband to cook a few simple meals – although the children got annoyed when he added chilli to my gluten and dairy free lasagne but it tasted great!! And my proudest moment was when I came home and found him teaching my daughter to make the lasagne. The best timesaver of all – sharing the load.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health, St Ives. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals

First up why the focus on brassica vegetables? Well every diet that I have been looking at for chronic disease recommends daily inclusion of these vegetables – generally at least one cup a day.

Indian vegetable curry with spinach, cauliflower and potato

The brassica vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale , kohlrabi, collard greens and broccoli. These vegetables support effective detoxification which can also help minimise your risk of serious diseases.

One of my favourite ways to cook cauliflower and broccoli is roasting. Cut the vegetables into florets and sprinkle with lemon, garlic, celtic sea salt and olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes until soft. This brings out the sweetness of these veggies and I find that the cauliflower can then be pureed with chicken stock to make a tasty soup as well.

Brassica veg

Red cabbage shredded can also be added to salads, either a mixed green salad or recently I had it in a chicken waldorf and it was a great addition. The waldorf salad had tarragon poached chicken with red cabbage, celery, walnuts and witlof. Personally I was keener on the red cabbage than the witlof which has a very sharp taste.

Red cabbage with apple makes a great side dish specially with pork or lamb chops. The apple brings some sweetness to the cabbage and most children will give it a try. Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook, The Cook’s Companion, has a really easy version of this recipe. Frankly every house needs this cookbook as you can find recipes by ingredients so if you have lots of cabbage look up that chapter for five ways to prepare it. Better still there is now an app with all of her recipes on it plus lots of other information about storage and seasonal use of produce. http://www.stephaniealexander.com.au/cook-companion-app/

Let me know if you have any other good ways to add more brassica vegetables to your menu.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College. One of her focuses in clinic is the use of comprehensive detoxification to help clients to return to good health as quickly as possible.

How to ensure your child gets the best gut flora.

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing on grass
Most people think that a baby gets its gut flora during delivery and that C section means they don’t acquire the same beneficial flora. Actually a baby can develop gut flora up to about age four and there are a number of factors that can affect it.

First up it seems that the uterus is not sterile and there is already some gut flora distributed in utero. So if you already have a child with allergies, or you have them, make sure during your pregnancy that you supplement with a good range of probiotics or consume fermented foods regularly but at a minimum for at least two months prior to the delivery.

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Breast feeding also passes useful flora to the baby and you don’t really need to breastfeed for that long to see a significant benefit. Solely breast feeding to 4 months was shown by a large scale South Australia study to reduce allergies by at least 25%. I know its often challenging breast feeding and if you have difficulties its really worth speaking with either the nurses at the Early Childhood Centres or the Nursing Mother’s Association, both sources of invaluable support.

If you end up having intervention like a C section or you can’t breastfeed , it may be useful to add a specific probiotic for children, as well.

Minimising antibiotic use during the first few years is also an important way to ensure a stable and resilient gut flora. Homeopathic medicines can make a great alternative treatment for children during the early stages of illness. I often use a combination called ABC mix for parents to assist with fevers and ear infections. ABC mix is three homeopathic medicines known as Aconite, Belladonna and Chamomila and can be a good combination to use with mild fevers or ear pain.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at St Ives at Elemental Health. She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards. She runs regular workshops on health related topics at her practice and her next workshop is on “Managing Stress” on July 15 with Coach, Cheryl Alderman .

Are probiotics worth the money?

Spoon Of Yogurt With Blueberries On Top

Probiotics seem to one area where even doctors and pharamacists seem to be comfortable recommending that patients take a probiotic with or after an antibiotic. However regular probiotics can help you avoid the need for the antibiotics in the first place.

The Cochrane Collection, which is the gold standard of scientific research, has reviewed 14 clinical trials on probiotics involving over 3454 people. Overall they concluded that probiotics reduced the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections and reduced the need for antibiotics. Nice to have the scientific evidence however I know from my own practice that a good general preventative through winter is a daily probiotic plus Vitamin C, particularly if your children are in daycare.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Probiotics for the whole family may be an expensive option (although getting sick is often more expensive) and some other great ways to include a good range of gut bacteria are to introduce fermented foods. This can be through a good quality yoghurt without a lot of sugar and additives or through regular consumption of fermented vegetables such as kim chi and sauerkraut. If you are interested in making your own fermented foods there are a number of people running workshops – have a look at Georgia at Stirring Change on facebook or Pinkfarm. The ladies at Pinkfarm even provide lists of people with starter cultures who are happy to share.

There are quite a few different strains of probiotics and we are just beginning to understand all the different roles that they can play in terms of keeping our immune system strong as well as in supporting effective digestion. The advantage in using foods is that often there are up to 50 strains or good bacteria in keffir whereas a commercial probiotic will only have a few strains.

There are several strains that we know are useful in the gut and often because they help crowd out problematic strains, such as candida. Some strains are known to be anti-inflammatory such as the lactobacillus plantarum which is often recommended to people with IBS. The predominant strain researched in the Cochrane collection was lactobacillus rhamnosus. If you do have more specialised health problems you may need advice on tailoring the strains to suit your particular needs.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. She can be contacted on (02) 8084 0081. If you are looking for practitioners in other areas of Australia have a look at the metagenics website which lists practitioners who are experienced at working with probiotics and natural medicine.

How to avoid the medicare $7 co-payment.

Health food ingredients in white porcelain bowls over papyrus ba

The Federal Budget had a few surprises in it however overall for many families your cost of living will increase. Whether its the 2% debt levy, loss of the Family Tax Benefit or the $7 co-payment that will be introduced if they get it through the senate

One of the best things you can do to reduce your cost of living is to look after your health. Fewer visits to the GP means fewer co-payments and also fewer hours you spend waiting and waiting!
I always remember as a new mum panicking when my children were sick. One of the things I try to get mum’s confident about when I run my homeopathic first aid course is when they can treat something themselves and when they should get straight to the GP. For example in a small child if the temperature is over 39.5c and they are floppy or disorientated seek medical attention as soon as possible.

There are some simple ways to improve your health and making these changes could help reduce the number of times you have to shell out for the co-payment. These include;

1) Eat well – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (still not GST on those) and small amounts of lean protein.

2) Add good sources of probiotics – it could be a supplement or fermented foods such as yoghurt, kim chi, sauerkraut or keffir (much cheaper options). Good gut bacteria are your first line of defence for your immune system.

3) Exercise – you don’t need to join a gym just put the baby in the stroller or take the kids to the park and walk for half an hour a day – your stress levels will reduce and you will be less prone to infections.

4) Learn more about first aid through St John’s or do my Homeopathic First Aid Course. Its much easier to make a decision about health if you know when you should panic!

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also head of nutrition at Nature Care College where she supervises nutrition clinic and lectures in Homeopathy. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

Research – can we research natural medicine?

A recent blog talked about how easy it was to poke holes in research so with this one I will look at some of the challenges when you are researching natural medicine interventions, such as homeopathy.

First up most clinical trials are set up on the basis of giving a patient one treatment and seeing how it compares to another or to placebo. Most of the time in natural medicine we don’t just give one thing so that does make it difficult to see how a more complex treatment works.

bigstock_Herb_Leaf_Selection_10402466

 

The first part of a consultation is really listening to your client for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long that initial consultation takes. Think about the value of really being heard for up to an hour. This process gives the practitioner time to think about how the whole person is affected by what is happening to them and what may need treatment. Sometimes I find in that time the solutions become clear to the patient and just that process alone can be invaluable in helping them heal.

How do we measure this?  There are tools in which natural medicines such as homeopathy perform quite well .  Valid forms of evidence  including case studies, patient reports of satisfaction , quality of life and observational studies. Here, homeopathy does much better than in Randomised Controlled Trials.

One of the largest observational studies was undertaken by the National Health Service in the UK. It involved a total of 6544 consecutive follow-up patients who were given outcome scores. The patients were all using homeopathic treatment for chronic diseases. Of the patients 70.7% reported positive health changes, with 50.7% recording their improvement as better or much better (1). A similar study undertaken at an Italian hospital in Lucca also showed 74% of patients reporting improvement with the most common conditions being respiratory, dermatological and gastrointestinal.

Isn’t this a better way to assess the value of a treatment like homeopathy?  A research tool which looks at the outcomes for the patient in terms of quality of life and improvement in their health.

 

 

(1) Spence DS1, Thompson EA, Barron SJ., J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Oct;11(5):793-8., Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease : a 6 year University- Hospital  outpatient observational study.

What the hell is bioimpendence analysis??

What the hell is bioimpendence analysis??

In the last blog I mentioned that I was at a seminar where everyone else had these amazing bioimpedence analysis results and mine were to put it nicely very average!

So what is bioimpedence analysis and how is it useful to you in finding out about your health?

Bioimpedence analysis was originally developed to monitor patients who were recovering from surgery in hospitals. Bioimpedence analysis measures fat mass, muscle mass and inflammation. It does this by running a low level electric current through two points on the feet and hands and assessing how long it takes for the current to reach the points and return. The test itself only takes a few minutes however you also need a persons height, weight, wrist circumference and waist measurement to flesh out the parameters.

By measuring these parameters you can start with a baseline of where someone’s health is at and also measure changes over time. Its really useful with weight loss as people often get frustrated saying well I only lost a kilo and I was doing all this exercise. You can actually see with bioimpedence analysis that they have actually lost 2kg of fat and gained a kilo of muscle – which really helps with motivation. Also muscle burns more energy so often I start by getting people to work on building more muscle to really help them burn kilojoules.

VLA2

 

One of the areas I really focus on in practice however is ATM and ATM energy. ATM is active tissue mass or muscle mass in the body. ATM energy is how much energy your muscle mass is producing and this can be really variable. In the picture above the client is showing as having about 4kg less muscle than is adequate for their frame.  If you think of this as being the size of their battery then the battery is too small so even with a good level of energy they may feel more fatigued.

There are several changes you can make which really help improve energy levels. Start with a healthy well balanced diet high in vegetables and good quality protein. If that doesn’t make enough of a difference then you can look at various supplements including a good quality multi vitamin and magnesium or CoQ10.

If you would like to find out what your bioimpedence analysis results look like I am happy to do a free report for you in my clinic on a Tuesday or Wednesday during May and June, 2014. You just need to book in with reception on 8084 0081 and book in a short nutrition consult for a bioimpedence analysis  (VLA) for 15 minutes.  Ideally you will also make sure you know your height as I can do all the other measurements in clinic.

Is wheat a problem for me (or even worse gluten)?

Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of WheatYears ago at a seminar I got some really good health advice. It was information that I knew but I really didn’t want to hear. Don’t you hate that?

We were doing bioimpedence analsysis which looks at energy quality, muscle mass, fat mass and inflammation. I was sitting in a group of what seemed like really amazingly healthy naturopaths and chiropractors who were all happily showing off their high energy quality and low fat mass percentages and looking at my own numbers which were not that impressive (and the fat mass percentage is still not great).

What the presenter said was basically “Christine I have never seen anyone with thyroid problems who isn’t better, off gluten.” Now I knew that and I also knew there was coeliac in our family history but this finally motivated me to change my eating habits and it was the best thing I could have done.

First up I stopped feeling like I needed an afternoon nap if I had a sandwhich at lunch time. Secondly I felt like my brain was clearer and better still initially I lost a few kilos which had been hard to shift.

Now I can’t promise the same sort of results if you come off wheat or gluten but it does give you a good picture of the type of problems that wheat or gluten could be creating for you. Fatigue, fuzzy thinking and difficulty losing weight.  What other types of symptoms suggest a problem with wheat? Bloating after eating – the so called wheat belly!

Gluten Free Grains Food - Brown Rice, Millet, Lsa, Buckwheat Fla

 

What alternatives are there to wheat? Do you have to give up your cereal for breakfast, sandwhich for lunch and pasta for dinner?  I hope so because its really way too much grain anyway and it is generally not a good source of nutrition. Alternatives to wheat are many and varied but include quinoa, rice, buckwheat and flours made from almond, tapioca and coconut. Many of these alternatives provide much broader nutrition but again focus on variety and make sure you are eating at least six serves of vegetables a day as well.

Christine Pope is a nutritionist and homeopath based at Elemental Health , St Ives.  She is also Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College at St Leonards.  If you need help with identifying food intolerances make an appointment with her on 8084 0081.

Help – my child can’t have dairy!

 


So I thought after all my blogs on research it was time to get back to food again.

I frequently get people tested for food intolerances and whilst its good to know what the child is reacting to its not always easy to change the diet.

The most common issues I am seeing in clinic at the moment are wheat, dairy and surprisingly egg. So what do you do when you need to cut these foods out and how do you find easy replacements?

In this blog I want to look at dairy. The first thing people freak out about is that cutting out dairy means that the child won’t get enough calcium. Actually they haven’t been getting enough calcium because they couldn’t digest the milk so it probably is better that they remove a food which was affecting them and start having foods then can actually digest.

old wooden typesetter box with 16 samples of assorted legumes: gThere are lots of food sources of calcium – nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils – you know all those things that kids really love to eat (ok well they might when you cut out the stuff that’s been making them feel average).

Many processed foods use milk or dairy as cheap fill and flavouring , often when you don’t expect it. My children both went down an entire aisle of biscuits trying to find one they could have.  They found just one brand – this was a few years ago and now there are a few more options . Often food that is vegan is quite dairy free friendly since they don’t include anything from animals. Just watch out for words in processed foods like casein, whey and rennet – these are all dairy based.

Usually when I see someone who has to cut our dairy I spend a bit of time focussing on alternatives.  Easily available are soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Each of these has particular uses and almond and rice milk can also contribute to calcium intake (rice milk 110mg of calcium per glass).  I am not keen to replace a significant intake of dairy a day with a direct substitute as variety in food is really important. However I do find it handy in cooking to always have the substitutes easily available.

Soy milk works better in savoury dishes – so if you need a little milk for scrambled eggs or a quiche. Rice milk is sweeter and I find substitutes easily into baking muffins or cakes.  Either works well as a substitute for milk on the morning cereal as well.

Coconut milk is a great way to add a creamy flavour to a curry or stew. One of my favourite breakfast dishes is easy chia pudding – which basically is 1 cup of coconut milk to 1/3 cup of chia seeds and half a cup of frozen berries. Stir and leave overnight and top with flaked almonds to serve. Filling and delicious. The chia absorb most of the liquid but still have a nice little crunch to them as well.

Coconut oil and fresh coconutDepending on how intolerant your child is you may need to stop using butter as well – again use some good oils in its place. Olive oil is great to dip bread in or drizzle over vegies and coconut oil has a higher melting point and is good for longer slower cooking. With coconut oil just make sure you use the extra virgin one or it can have quite a strong odour.  Remember fats are important as they help us take up minerals such as calcium so adding a little fat to your steamed vegetables will help with absorbing as many nutrients as possible (and make it taste a lot better).

 

Christine Pope is a practising homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives, Sydney. She is also the Head of Nutrition at Nature Care College where she lectures in Homeopathy and supervises Nutrition clinic.