Ditch Dairy the Healthy Way

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When I became a mumma to my baby boy, Jasper earlier this year, we discovered he had some digestive trouble and I found myself needing to take the advice I had given to so many others. I experimented with going dairy free, and it occurred to me that it's not that easy if you're doing it for the first time. I've reduced and completely eliminated dairy many times over the past five years, to address different health issues such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth) so I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help make it more manageable... and delicious!

 

So whatever your reasons for ditching dairy, be it a lactose intolerance, severe allergy or simply a preference, there will no doubt be foods you’ll miss eating, or that you struggle to find replacements for.

 

Don't get me wrong, there are dairy free, or vegan alternatives for just about anything these days. But have you ever looked at what’s in these so-called healthy options? They’re usually soy based, or filled with fake, inflammatory ingredients that simply won’t make you feel that well in the long run.

 

So, here I share the 6 dairy based foods I used to love the most, and what I swapped them for…

 

1. Butter

Oh my goodness. Butter was a tough one for me. I never used just a little bit of butter. No, I’d go all out, slathering it on nice and thick. So depending on what I’m making I’ve found a few alternatives but I’ll be honest, nothing’s ever quite replaced butter for me.

When making sandwiches, try smashed avocado, hummus or nut butter to keep the bread moist.

When making things like scrambled eggs or risotto, use a splash of bone broth to replace the richness of butter.

Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil replaces butter for all other frying.

In roasting, use duck fat or extra virgin olive oil.

When baking, you can swap butter for coconut oil in some recipes. But be warned, it doesn’t always work! Believe me, Anzac cookies without butter are just no good. I’d stick to recipes that are already dairy free while you’re starting out so that you’re not disheartened by a failed recipe.

 

2. Milk

There are so many dairy free milk options available in stores now, but some are just full of rubbish or simply don’t taste nice.

Almond milk is great in chocolate or nutty smoothies, but can be quite bitter on cereal or in coffee. The nicest tasting brand I’ve used in Australia is called Nutty Bruce, which can be found in the fridge with other fresh milks.

Rice milk is the most neutral tasting non-dairy milk and therefore can replace dairy in most things without the flavour being too different. It is much thinner in consistency though. Choose an organic brand which has the least amount of additives and preservatives.

Coconut milk is my favourite alternative to dairy in hot drinks and smoothies. It is also delicious used in custard, porridge and chia puddings. The tastiest and healthiest brand I’ve come across in Australia is called Coco Quench and can be found with the UHT milks.

 

3. Cheese

Personally, I don’t think there’s any true substitute for a good cheddar and you certainly won’t find a decent dairy free triple cream brie! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You can get vegan cheeses, but they’re often coloured and plastic-like in texture. I don’t know about you, but the idea of fake cheese just grosses me out and the ingredients used to make them are often questionable.

However, all is not lost! If you’re giving up on dairy because you have trouble digesting lactose, you may like to try some options that are at least lower in lactose, if not completely free of it. Goats cheese is fabulous on pizzas and in salads. Parmesan is great in quiches and risottos.

However, if it must be 100% dairy and lactose free, then there are three options:

First, nutritional yeast flakes. These can be sprinkled in and on top of dishes to provide a cheesy flavour, but of course will not substitute the texture of cheese and cannot be eaten with crackers and wine!

Or, you could try nut cheeses which are available at most health food stores.

As for spreadable cheese, I absolutely love Kehoe’s Kitchen cream cheese dips. The pesto one is fabulous mixed through pasta or dolloped on pizza. Peace, Love & Vegetables also do a great cashew cheese if you like dill. Both brands are available at health food stores in Australia.

 

4. Chocolate

Store bought chocolate that’s labelled dairy free, is usually filled with soy, oils, flavours and additional sugar.

Instead, look for dark chocolate that naturally has no milk solids in it. Lindt 85% and Green & Blacks 70% are both without dairy, just be sure to read the label as brands do change their ingredients from time to time.

Alternatively, you can find plenty of delicious options at the health food store. Some of my favourite Australian brands include Loving Earth, Pana and Vego.

Or whip up your own! Try this recipe.

 

5. Ice cream

My all-time favourite store bought ice cream brand is Zebra Dream. It’s made with coconut milk instead of soy and contains only real, wholefood ingredients. And you really can’t tell it’s not dairy! You can pick this one up in most health food stores within Australia. I have yet to find a dairy free ice cream I’m happy with at the supermarket.

The other option is to make your own using frozen bananas. Yep, it may sound strange, but it’s honestly so good! Simply peel and freeze your bananas once they get spotty. Then blitz them in a food processor until they start to soften and resemble ice cream. You can add nut butter, cacao, coconut, chocolate chips, anything you like really!

 

6. Yoghurt

The best alternative to dairy yoghurt is coconut yoghurt. It’s still thick and creamy and can be used as a substitute in most recipes.

The best brands available at supermarkets in Australia that I’ve found are Nudie, Cocobella and Nakula.

I also like Born Cultured and Coyo which are available in most health food stores here.

You could of course ditch yoghurt all together, and try chia puddings at breakfast time. If you use yoghurt to thicken your smoothies, try frozen bananas or ice instead.

 

 

So there you have it, plenty of healthy dairy free options to help you ditch the moo juice without feeling like you’re missing out.

You’ll also find heaps of dairy free recipes here.

 

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10 Steps to Rocking a Wholefood Lifestyle (and Ditching Diets Forever!)

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I first began changing my diet by default really. 6 years ago I found myself without a job, battling with depression and really struggling with my health. My husband and I were both out of work and it's fair to say I wasn't coping.

 

We'd pretty much eaten all the food left in our cupboards and simply didn't have the funds to replace it. Thankfully, months earlier we'd decided to have a go at our first veggie patch. And it was flourishing! For the next few months we literally lived off the tomatoes, zucchini and butternut squash that had been growing in our garden. It's amazing how inventive you can be with just a few ingredients when it's all you have! And despite the stress I was under, I began to notice I felt amazing.

 

Up until I lost my job I was an obsessive calorie counter. I had an app on my phone and I tracked EVERYTHING. I'd even justified that a diet coke would be a better choice than a salmon fillet or avocado on toast, because the calories were less. Never mind the nutritional value! I'd been driving myself crazy, and it was only once I ditched the diet microwave meals and obsessive counting that I finally made the connection between food and how I felt. 

 

It was a shift in my mindset that I noticed first, and then I realised I'd lost weight and for the first time since I could remember, I felt really good in my body. It was then that I decided I HAD to share what I had learnt so I trained as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. And that was the start of Vitality Kitchen, and my journey towards true health and happiness.

 

You see, eating well isn't about signing up to the latest detox program, 30 day challenge or weight watchers group. It isn't about depriving yourself so much that you then binge eat Nutella straight out of the jar (I've been there!). It's about creating a lifestyle that's sustainable, finding foods that you actually love and want to eat on an ongoing basis. It's about nourishing your body and being kind.

 

So, I'm here to tell you it IS possible to ditch dieting and calorie counting forever. And you do it by adopting what I call a "Wholefood Lifestyle". And here are my 10 steps on how to ROCK it...

 

1. Begin by “detoxing” your kitchen.

Yep, a wholefood lifestyle starts here. It’s time to begin replacing your fridge, freezer and pantry foods with healthier options. It’s up to you whether you decide to clear everything out and start fresh. Or whether you prefer to eat what you already have and replace things slowly. But if it’s in a colourful packet, chances are it’s not all that healthy. Read the ingredients label and decide for yourself whether it provides any nourishment, and is it a food you want to keep?

 

2. Plan for success.

They key to this lifestyle being sustainable is preparation. Meal planning will keep you on track and avoid food waste. First take stock of the food you already have, and plan your meals for the week ahead taking those ingredients into account. Consider what can be made with those tinned tomatoes, half a packet of pasta and the random veggies in the bottom of your fridge. Think of your meal plan as a guide – you don’t have to be rigid with it. If Wednesday rolls around and you don’t feel like the Spag Bol you’d planned then just pick one of the other meals. 

 

3. Shop wisely, read your ingredient labels.

Based on the meals you’ve planned you can list the ingredients you’ll need to pull it all together. Shopping with a list will ultimately save you time and money too, but only if you stick to it! Don’t shop on any empty stomach – this is when you’re likely to buy packaged crap that doesn’t actually make you feel good.

 

4. Get real.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my apples to be coated in wax, perfectly polished or identical in size. Real food doesn’t actually look “perfect”, whatever that is. I’ve seen carrots come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it’s just that the supermarkets often reject produce that doesn’t meet specific measurements and requirements.  So embrace the weird! I actually enjoy looking for the weirdest produce now, and often look out for the less popular cuts of meat or reduced/imperfect food. Even if you can’t cook with it right away, it can be frozen for when you’re ready to use it… hello brown spotty bananas!

 

5. Batch cook as you go.

There’s no need to slave over a hot stove every night! If you always cook more than you need, then you can portion up leftovers into meals for another night or to have at lunchtime. I always double or triple a recipe so I have an awesome stash of delicious real food meals in my freezer and no need to order takeaway if I can’t be bothered cooking.

 

6. Understand that different foods work for different bodies.

YOUR Wholefood Lifestyle, what works for YOU, should be as unique as you are. Fermented foods and Amazonian super berries might be great for your friend, but not so great for you. Notice how you feel after eating certain foods. Keeping a food diary really helps in training you to listen to your body’s feedback and trust your intuition to make better food choices.

 

7. Keep it simple.

Don’t overcomplicate things with expensive superfoods, exotic ingredients and long fancy recipes. And don’t try and do everything at once as you’re likely to just end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated. The key to this being sustainable, is to make just one small change at a time. Remember, it’s not a race!

 

8. If you can’t eat it responsibly then keep it out of the house.

Seriously, don’t ever bring Nutella or Arrowroot Biscuits into my home! Just remember that every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. So stock your kitchen with foods that will make you feel alive.

 

9. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not.

Also known as eating mindfully. We’re all so busy these days that we often eat on the run or at our desks. But if you can take time to focus on your food, without the distraction of TV or scrolling through Facebook, then you’ll become better at noticing how you feel and when you’re full. As a bonus, I also found that my tastebuds woke up too as I was savouring my food more!

 

10. Focus on nourishment.

Nourishment isn’t just about food – it’s all aspects of your lifestyle. Your work, your relationships, how you move your body, how often you move it, how much sunshine you get, your spiritual connection, your mindset. It all matters. Think about the people you spend time with that nourish your soul, how great you feel when you spend time in nature, consider what makes your heart smile and go do more of that. 

 

Hey, if you liked this blog post then don't be shy... share the love! Hit like on the way through or share with a friend so we can spread the health word together. Thank you. Kirsty x

What's So Good About Chia Seeds, Anyway?

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Chia seeds may be tiny but they sure pack a punch. These little seeds are a great source of energy, nutrients and antioxidants. Grown from the Salvia Hispanica desert plant, black and white chia seeds contain the same nutritional benefits – the black ones just show up more if they get stuck in your teeth!

 

Chia seeds have become quite a buzz word in the superfood world, and rightly so as they’re incredibly high in Omega 3s for starters. In fact, chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram.

 

They’re also high in fibre, 40% by weight. This means they can absorb around 10 times their weight in water by forming into a gel and expanding in your stomach, leaving you feeling fuller for longer too. Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which is important because keeping your gut bugs well fed is absolutely crucial for your overall health.

 

The other benefit of their liquid absorption is that they prevent dehydration and provide slow releasing energy making them ideal for athletic endurance.

 

Chia seeds are also low carb and contain several nutrients that are important for bone health including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and 14% protein. The calcium content is particularly impressive. Gram for gram chia seeds contain more calcium than cow’s milk.

 

Studies have shown that chia seeds can level blood sugar. In type 2 diabetics one study showed that chia seeds can significantly lower blood pressure and inflammation.

 

So, how can we use these wonderful seeds?

 

1. As an egg replacement ( 1 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 3 tbsp water = 1 egg) 

2. To thicken soups, stews, sauces and even jams

3. To create puddings and thicken mousses

4. Add to your smoothies 

5. Sprinkled on top of your breakfast bowl

6. In place of breadcrumbs on your fish, meat or veggies

7. Added to baking and raw treats like bliss balls

 

Hey, if you liked this blog post then don't be shy... share the love! Hit like on the way through or share with a friend so we can spread the health word together. Thank you. Kirsty x

5 Steps to a Healthy Lunch

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Would you like to be whipping up nourishing lunches that give you and your kids the fuel to power through the day without afternoon slumps, hunger, cravings or loss of concentration? Sounds good, right? The thing is, too many of us fall out of love with lunch time due to lack of inspiration, busy lives or confusion about what is the “right” thing to eat.

 

The truth is, there is no one perfect meal for every adult and child. Surprised? Well you see, we’re all unique and therefore the food we eat should be as individual as we are. The important thing is to find what suits you – what do YOU and your family love to eat? Which foods make your bodies sing? And which foods make you tired, unwell or simply undernourished? When we begin to understand that food has the ability to make us feel alive (or not) we can make better choices that our bodies will love us for.

 

Start to notice how you and your family feel after eating. Do you feel tired, bloated or achy? Do the kids get irritable? For instance, gluten always zaps my energy so I avoid it, especially at lunchtime otherwise I’m likely to fall asleep at the desk!

 

Another important factor to consider is what’s really in the food we’re eating? Start reading the ingredient labels on foods before you buy them so that you can make an educated decision about what you and your family are really consuming. Eliminating processed foods containing chemicals like additives, colours, preservatives and sugar is the best place to start. Eating for nourishment is absolutely not about restriction! It’s about eating real food, as close to nature as possible so that you can receive the maximum amount of nutrition possible.

 

Enjoying a nourishing and delicious lunch needn’t be hard, or take up a lot of your time. A little planning can go a long way towards making lunch times easier to manage for you and your loved ones.

 

Start by trying to include each of these elements for a nutritionally balanced lunch box for the kids, or meal for yourself that's packed with foods for healthy brain function, energy, hydration, a happy digestive system and strong immunity:

 

1. Protein

Protein includes so much more than just meat and fish! Think about eggs, nuts (if they’re OK at your kid’s school), seeds, cheese, yoghurt, beans and peas as alternatives.

 

2. Good Fats

When it comes to fats, there are bad guys and good guys! Good fats are essential for healthy brain function and include avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, grass fed butter, fish, olives and surprisingly, green leafy vegetables which are high in Omega 3s.

 

3. Fruit

A piece of fresh fruit or a fruit salad ticks the box for unprocessed carbohydrates and a naturally sweet treat.

 

4. Vegetables

Getting veggies into the lunch box, especially of the green variety will provide kids and adults alike with a quality source of carbohydrates, full of fibre, calcium and protein for healthy digestion, energy and strong bones.

 

5. Hydration

Think still or sparkling water, coconut water, or a small smoothie. Avoid sugary drinks which will cause blood sugar levels to rise resulting in the dreaded afternoon slump.

 

And there you have it! Address each step and you’ve got yourself a balanced, nourishing meal for yourself or lunch box for the kids, resulting in energised, happy little learners at school (or for the big kids, at work!).

 

Hey, if you liked this blog post then don't be shy... share the love! Hit like on the way through or share with a friend so we can spread the health word together. Thank you. Kirsty x

11 Ways to Stop Wasting Food (and Money!)

 

Did you know that Aussies throw out $10billion of edible food per year?! With the average household wasting 14 percent of their weekly groceries. That’s the equivalent of $1000 in food waste per household each and every year. Just think what you could do with that money instead! Think about the time, energy and resources it takes our farmers to grow the food that you throw out. And what about the greenhouse gases this food produces once in landfill, and the impact that it then has on the environment? Then there’s the issue of world hunger… the United Nations estimates that one in nine people in the world do not have access to sufficient food to lead a healthy life. 

 

So yeah, food waste is a pretty big deal. But as with most things, it starts with YOU. Right here, in your own household. One simple change at a time. But you won’t just reduce your food waste you’ll also save money. And who doesn’t want that?! Here are 11 tips to get you started…

 

1. Take stock of what you already have

Before shopping for more food, check out what you’ve already got. You’d be surprised what you can find lurking at the back of your pantry!

 

2. Plan your meals

Once you know the food you already have, you can plan your meals for the week ahead taking those ingredients into account. Consider what can be made with those tinned tomatoes, half a packet of pasta and the random veggies in the bottom of your fridge. Think of your meal plan as a guide – you don’t have to be rigid with it. If Wednesday rolls around and you don’t feel like the Spag Bol you’d planned then just pick one of the other meals.

 

3. Write a shopping list

Based on the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks you’ve planned for the week, now you can list the ingredients you’ll need to pull it all together. Shopping with a list will ultimately save you time and money too, but only if you stick to it!

 

4. Buy only what you need

Using a shopping list certainly helps you avoid those impulse purchases, but you also need to consider how much of an ingredient you need. It’s great to have a well-stocked pantry, but how many uses will you really have for that obscure ingredient you once bought for a recipe? Shopping online will also help you to keep on track. Plus you won’t have the hassle of finding a parking spot, traipsing through the shops and then loading it all in your car. Surely that’s worth the delivery fee, right?!

 

5. Support local growers

Keep your money local by supporting small businesses in your area. Buying from places like The Organic Butler means you’re getting produce straight from the farm, as nature intended, without all the waxes and sprays and over the-top packaging. And even though it looks appetising and is perfectly edible, it’s often the stuff that the big supermarkets would otherwise reject. You’d be amazed how much produce Aussie farmers are forced to waste if the supermarkets reject it when it doesn’t meet their strict guidelines for colour, weight and size!

 

6. Buy the “odd” or reduced produce

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my apples to be coated in wax, perfectly polished or identical in size. I enjoy looking for the weirdest produce now, because I’d hate to see it go to waste for not being “perfect” enough. Juicing carrots for instance, are just as nutritious as regular ones – they’re just all different shapes and sizes. I pretty much always snap up reduced produce too. Even if you can’t cook with it right away, it can be frozen for when you’re ready to use it… hello brown spotty bananas!

 

7. Sort your food in order of what needs using first

When unpacking your grocery shopping at home make sure the stuff that needs using first in your fridge is brought to the front. Or keep a special shelf in your fridge for all the produce that needs to be eaten first.

 

8. Embrace your freezer

There’s no reason for food to go to waste if you have a freezer. Bananas can be peeled and frozen for smoothies, herbs can be blended with olive oil or coconut water and frozen in ice cube trays, veggies can be turned into soups, meat can be portioned up into containers in the freezer until you’re ready to cook with it… you get the idea.

 

9. Store your food well

Investing in glass jars and containers will help keep the food in your pantry fresher for longer, and you’ll also be able to see what you have more easily. Learning which conditions are best for certain ingredients will help prolong their life too. For example, some nuts and seeds can go rancid in the pantry and are actually better stored in the fridge.

 

10. Use the whole plant or animal

Those celery leaves are perfectly fine thrown into a stock or soup, and the leftover bones from a roast chicken are ideal for making broth with. Once you’re more conscious about avoiding waste, you’ll find all sorts of uses for the food you may have thrown out in the past.

 

11. Love your leftovers

There’s no need to force ourselves to finish what’s on our plates anymore. We can be far kinder to ourselves than that by simply eating until we feel satisfied. Whatever we don’t finish can be saved for lunch the next day or re-purposed into another night’s meal. For instance, leftover roast veggies can be used as another side dish or turned into a casserole, hash or soup.

 

So there you have it… a few simple changes that can make a whole lotta difference to your food waste, and your budget. Just remember this simple mantra: “love food NOT waste”.

 

Hey, if you liked this blog post then don't be shy... share the love! Hit like on the way through or share with a friend so we can spread the health word together. Thank you. Kirsty x

 

10 Things I Know About Anxiety

  With Sarah Wilson at the Melbourne launch of her book First We Make The Beast Beautiful. 

With Sarah Wilson at the Melbourne launch of her book First We Make The Beast Beautiful. 

After meeting Sarah Wilson recently and hearing her speak about anxiety (and it’s many flavours) I realised just how much this affects so many of us. Mental illness has been very present in my life either through my own experience, or seeing members of my family suffer through it as well as rise above it. So here are my ten biggest takeaways from what I heard today and also what I know from my own journey with anxiety and depression. I hope they help, empower and inspire you like they have for me...

1) Anxiety and it’s many related disorders actually fulfil a purpose. What you’re doing and feeling in the difficult times is important. We need our journeys and experiences to create the richness of life. The trick is to learn how to nutrure it and live with it so that it serves us, rather than controls us. Anxiety and those that experience it can be celebrated, instead of feared. 

2) Excitement and anxiety produce the same hormones. So, in moments of anxiety we can actually practice choosing excitement instead. We have the power to choose our emotions and how we interpret them.

3) When experiencing panic attacks, the best thing to do is sit through it and experience the emotions as they run through you. Being anxious about your anxiety quickly causes your state of being to spiral out of control.

4) There is no "cure" or quick fix for anxiety. There’s no proven medication. There’s no end point. But we don’t need to be fixed, we just need to be understood. By ourselves and others.

5) Anxious people can often appear to be controlling. However, those things that are being managed and controlled are usually a coping mechanism. For myself, when I’m in control of the things I CAN be, I’m preventing unnecessary things from causing me anxiety. Having an anxious meltdown or panic attack would actually be much worse for those around me to experience than my controlling nature! It’s just one of the many ways I manage my emotional wellbeing, and certainly isn’t meant to be a reflection on anyone else.

6) Every action an anxious person (or anyone for that matter) takes is a coping mechanism for something going on beneath the surface. Rather than fixing the person, or the thing that’s happening and trying to stop it, understanding WHY it’s happening and the deep rooted issue is more important. Seeing examples of people who’ve experienced anxiety and are thriving is always reassuring for us too.

7) Attempting to be happy ALL the time isn’t actually possible. Happiness is not a destination, a place to get to. In fact, happy is just ONE emotion of thousands and life is for experiencing them all. Putting pressure on ourselves to be just one emotion can in fact cause anxiety.

8) A daily routine helps to take the thinking out of an already over-active anxious mind. Take away the need to make unnecessary decisions wherever possible. Doing the same activities upon waking each day like doing the same exercise, eating the same breakfast, choosing the same or similar clothes can all help. 

9) Walking turns on all the hormones that shutdown anxiety!

10) To embrace anxiety I think we need to embrace ALL the parts of ourselves. The “good” and the “not so good”. To breathe through it all, to experience it all and to not label it as right or wrong. We need to be OK with WHO, and HOW we are. To celebrate the gifts that anxiety offers and to dance with the ups and downs. To sit in the discomfort, to be with ourselves and to look inwardly. Rather than looking outside of ourselves for permission, acceptance, validation or fulfilment. 

In the words of Sarah Wilson… first we make the beast beautiful.

Kirsty xx.