The iodine status of New Zealanders is declining...why is this happening, and what does this mean for our health? Are you at risk of iodine deficiency? Read below for more info and for our ridiculously simple Nori Roll recipe to give you an iodine hit :)
Iodine deficiency was on the increase in New Zealand in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the numbers of goitres (enlarged thyroid glands protruding from the neck due to iodine deficiency) increasing. As a public health initiative, table salt was iodised in the early 1900s to help reverse this. This helped for a time but then the anti-salt message got out there and low iodine status was once again a problem in NZ. So, another public health initiative started in 2009 - all commercial bread was fortified with iodine. Now, many people are avoiding bread due to their perceptions of gluten, carbs etc being unhealthy so we find ourselves once again with low iodine status!
Why does this matter? Iodine is an essential nutrient (meaning we have to consume it as our body can't produce it itself) and plays an important role in thyroid health. Our thyroid gland and hormones help with our metabolic state and support normal growth and development in children. Iodine is essential for normal brain development of infants (during gestation and in young children) therefore pregnant women are currently advised to take an iodine supplement.
What can we do to improve our own iodine status?
If you don't use salt, don't eat commercial bread and aren't fond of seafood...definitely get in touch with a dietitian or your GP to discuss your requirements as you may have a low iodine status. Taking a seaweed or kelp supplement may not be a good option...the margin between too much and too little iodine is very narrow and as the iodine content of some supplements can be quite variable, it's possible that supplements will push you beyond the safe upper limit of intake for iodine..
For a quick and tasty iodine hit, try our Nori Roll recipe. Spread hummus over half a nori seaweed sheet and lay vegetables sticks along it, then roll up and cut into 2. Easy, cheats sushi that is great as a snack or to pop in a lunchbox.
Sometimes, we just need a little sweet treat right? These decadent little morsels are loaded with nuts and fibre...and the little portion sizes deliver just the right amount of sweet treatness!
Cashew Caramel Cups – makes 12
8 dates, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes then drained
¼ cup desiccated coconut
6 dates, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes then drained
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
To make the base layer, process base ingredients in a processor until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and holds together when squished. Depending on the size of your dates, you may need to add a little more cashews/coconut or an additional date or 2. Divide the mixture among 12 mini-muffin tins and pack down with a teaspoon. Pop in the freezer to firm up.
Hint: I used thin strips of baking paper like tabs to line each muffin hole for easy lift out!
To make the caramel layer, process all the ingredients in a processor until it’s of a smooth consistency. Dollop evenly on top of the base layer and place back in the freezer.
Hint: if you like it really “caramelly”, you could double the caramel quantities!
To "make" the chocolate layer, either melt the chocolate (and drizzle over the caramel) or grate it using a fine grater (and sprinkle over the caramel). Place back in the freezer for a couple of hours (if you can wait!). I keep mine in the freezer until they’re all gone…
For a super quick and extra decadent Caramel Cup, instead of making the caramel layer above just dollop Highlander Caramel Condensed Milk onto the base before grating chocolate over the top. Heaven!
How many serves of fruits and veggies do you manage to get in each day?
The New Zealand healthy eating guidelines encourage 5+ serves a day - 2 serves of fruit and 3 of vegetables. A serve is generally what fits into the palm of your hand, and weighs ~80g. Sounds pretty easy but only 40% of New Zealanders are reaching this guideline so as a nation we're clearly not eating nearly enough fruit and veggies..
So what about other countries around the world? Our Australian neighbours aim to eat 7 serves each day while Japan encourages its population to aim for 9 servings a day, as does Greece. Canada has different recommendations depending on if you're male or female but in general suggests 7-10 serves each day.
Perhaps we're aiming the bar a little too low in NZ and a more ambitious goal may motivate us to do better? Well designed scientific studies have shown increased fruit and veggie intakes have loads of health benefits - reduced rates of heart disease, stroke, cancers, depression and overall rates of premature death. Various studies have shown that an intake of 10+ serves of fruit and veggies helps protects us from a range of lifestyle diseases, and could be a great goal for us to work towards.
So what does 10 serves of fruit and veggies look like? You can use your palm to measure it out, or get out your scales from the back of the kitchen cupboard...800g is equivalent to 10 serves. As you can see from the photo above (which is roughly equivalent to 10 serves by the time you deduct the weight of orange peel, apple core, onion skin etc) it actually isn't a massive amount. We can do this!
For those that think it will increase their grocery bill...to manage costs you can eat seasonally, forage for feijoas/mandarins/apples, have a veggie garden and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Also remember that frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables all count towards your daily intake too.
The message may not be uber trendy or glamorous, but upping our fruit and veggie intake is one of the most positive things we can do nutritionally. So who will join us in aiming for 10+ a day - perhaps you can even get your friends, family and workmates on board? Let us know how you get on :)
If you're feeling stuck in a rut with school lunch boxes or want to up your veggie intake, these pizzadillas with hidden veggie sauce could be a great addition to your lunch (or dinner!) offerings. Add in whatever toppings you and your family like - the one here is a salami and feta style pizza, although roasted pumpkin with caramelised onions, or smoked chicken with apricot and brie are good too.
Pizzadilla with hidden veggie sauce - makes 2 pizzadillas
4 tortilla wraps
1 teaspoon oil
2/3 cup hidden veggie sauce (recipe below)
Your choice of "toppings" - we used salami, feta, olives, spring onion, cheddar cheese but we've listed some other yummy flavour combinations below
Spread 1/2 of the hidden vege sauce on one tortilla wrap, spreading close to the edge, and repeat with another wrap (leaving 2 tortillas without sauce). Sprinkle your toppings over the sauce, then place a plain wrap on top like a sandwich, pushing down to help the topping ingredients stick. Once the cheese inside the pizzadilla melts when you are frying the wrap, it becomes like glue and helps hold onto the other wrap!
Heat a large frypan over medium heat and add the oil. Put the wraps into the frypan and cook until browned and a little crispy, then carefully flip it over and repeat on the other side. Done!! Pizzadillas can be served hot or as cold leftovers in a lunchbox. Serve with a salad or slaw for even more veggie goodness :)
Hidden veggie sauce has lots of uses in your cooking - use it as a sauce for pasta, a base for homemade tomato soup, in mince dishes (eg spaghetti Bol) or instead of tomato sauce!
Hidden veggie sauce - makes 2 cups
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup prepared veggies - eg grated carrot, grated zucchini, diced red pepper, cook pumpkin, thinly sliced leek, baby spinach leaves
1 tin tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Heat the oil in a frypan over medium heat, add in the onion and cook until softened but not browned (~5 minutes). Add in garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant. Add in the other prepared vegetables, and cook stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes (you may want to add a dash of water if the veggies start to stick on the bottom of the pan). Add in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning, simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree with a stick blender or food processor. Can be stored in the fridge for 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Other Pizzadilla "topping" combos you might like to try
When it comes to nutrition, and good health in general, balance is key.
We need the right balance of macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat - to support our wellbeing and energise us. But what is the right balance? Is there a perfect formula?
There is no cookie cutter approach to nutrition as different people have different requirements depending on their age, weight, lifestyle, genetics, medical history, medications, exercise levels and so on. When it comes to protein, in my clinical practice I often see people eating large amounts of protein foods at their dinner meal (think meat and 3 vege) but not much in the way of quality protein earlier in the day. They may have toast or cereal for breakfast, and a sandwich and fruit for lunch…even though they are choosing wholegrain carbs, their protein (and often healthy fat) intake is lower than ideal in the earlier part of the day.
Why does this matter?
Protein is a macronutrient that has lots of essential roles in the body. It provides us with amino acids which are the building blocks to help with muscle mass and cell regeneration. It has an added benefit of helping us feel fuller for longer, satisfying us after eating so we don’t go searching for more food straight away! It also helps to even out our blood glucose levels, instead of spikes and crashes which can leave us feeling hangry! And protein foods often naturally have other important nutrients in them – calcium in dairy products, iron in meat, zinc in seafood, and magnesium in seeds.
Excellent you may say…...the more protein the merrier! And when you look at a lot of popular current diets that promote lots of protein as a way of losing weight or building muscle, it’s not surprising that protein can be put on a pedestal. But research has actually shown that too much protein can be harmful to us – it can reduce our health and our lifespan.
In a recent study published in the scientific journal Current Biology, too much dietary protein was shown to increase the speed of body protein synthesis. (1) This may sound good in theory but much like doing anything in a hurry (for example typing unless you are a star typist) mistakes are often made. So, when the synthesis of body protein was sped up, more mistakes were made. These mistakes in our cells can actually increase the risk of various degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One limitation of the study was that it was not done in humans so further research is required.
Other studies have also shown that the source of protein is important. Excess animal protein causes our healthy gut bacteria to produce metabolites that are precursors for a range of diseases such as heart disease. On the other hand, if we eat extra plant protein our gut bacteria produce beneficial metabolites (such as short chain fatty acids) which enhance our health.
So, as you can see, it can be tricky getting the balance right. Too little protein and we may get hangry or gain extra weight…..too much protein and we may shorten our lifespan. Hmmm.
What can you do to ensure your protein intake in your diet is balanced and nourishing?
Just because a little or moderate amount of something is good for us, it doesn’t mean large amounts are better. Like life, balance is key when it comes to nutrition.
To find out more about an individualized nutrition consult at Tea, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a registered dietitian I have seen hundreds, of people over my career wanting or needing to improve their nutrition in order to enhance their health. I don’t have a one-off plan when it comes to nutrition and food as not one size fits all, instead I review many aspects of my client’s health and lifestyle to create a personalised plan to help them. Everybody is different – we may have different lifestyles, different food likes, different food budgets and different body requirements (depending on our age, weight, genetics) than our friends, neighbours and colleagues so our needs and nutritional goals can be different too. My focus on nutrition is positive, rather than focusing on what to take out of a diet…I look at what we can put in to make it more nourishing, energizing and sustainable.
Sarah Percy – Registered Dietitian
The link between the health of our gut and our overall mental and physical wellbeing is a hot topic right now. The trillions of bacteria in our gut have been shown to influence our
*Immune system - auto immune diseases are on the rise
*Weight and metabolism - overweight people tend to have a different gut microbiota composition compared to lean people
*Gut wall integrity - beneficial bacterial help reduce the incidence of leaky gut (otherwise known as intestinal hyperpermeability)
*Vitamin production - the good bacteria can help synthesise B vitamins and vitamin K
*Mood - people with depression tend to have a reduced gut biome diversity compared to those without depression
Our modern living appears to be playing havoc with the good guys (our beneficial gut bacteria). What can we do to help, other than live like the Hadza tribe in Tanzania (they happen to have the best gut bacteria diversity on the planet)?
Having a big variety of plant foods has been shown to be super important in managing our gut health, so these delish macro bowls can help balance our gut...and they taste devine!
You choose what you want to pop in your bowl, but aim to include some prebiotic foods (these are in italics) and probiotic foods (these are in bold) to have the best effect. Start slowly with these pre/probiotics though, as they can cause some bloating, wind and other bowel issues if you have a sensitive gut or aren't used to eating them.
Nurture your Gut Macro Bowls - choose from each of the following groups and build your own individualised bowl:
Green leafy veggies - dandelion greens, spinach, rocket, mesclun, kale, micro greens
Raw/cooked veggies - onion, roasted garlic, leeks, asparagus, beetroot, carrot, capsicum, zucchini
Grains - pearl barley, brown rice, quinoa, rice noodles, couscous
Protein - egg, salmon, chicken, legumes (chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans)
Fermented foods - kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir yoghurt (mixed with garlic and mint for a tangy sauce)
Fats - avocado, olives, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds
If you would like to learn more about Gut Health at one of our workshops, or have a one-on-one nutrition consultation to meet your personal health needs, do get in touch email@example.com...we'd love to help!
Photo credit:Julia Mueller
These juicy little poppers make an easy summer meal, or a perfect protein addition to the lunchbox. Filled with summer zucchini, chicken mince, garlic and seasoning, they can be modified as you wish to be used in a wrap or Turkish pita pocket, an Asian and noodle broth or with an Italian inspired tomato sauce and pasta. Here, they are served with loads of colourful vegetables, avocado and a plain wrap for an easy and light dinner.
500g chicken mince
2 medium zucchini, grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
Place the grated zucchini in a clean tea-towel or paper towel and squeeze out the liquid. Pop the drained zucchini into a bowl with the chicken mince, spring onions, garlic, cumin and seasoning. Mix well until all combined. Roll tablespoons of the mixture and fry on each side in a moderately heated and oiled fry pan until golden brown on each side and cooked through (4-5 minutes each side). You may need to cook in 3-4 batches depending on the size of your frypan.
Feel free to add extra flavourings depending on how you plan to serve the poppers.
Italian - add in basil
Asian - add in coriander, lemon zest, chilli
Turkish - add in crumbled feta
If you are sending them off in a lunchbox, be sure to add in a slicker pad to keep the chicken cool until lunchtime!
Are you confused about the best oil to cook with? There are so many options out there to choose from: coconut, olive, canola, avocado and sunflower oil to name a few…how do we know which oils are the best for our health?
When oils are heated during cooking, they react with oxygen in the air and break down (oxidation), which is not good for our health. Potentially harmful by-products, called polar compounds, are produced during oxidation. These include aldehydes and lipid peroxidases and have been linked to various chronic diseases.
Ideally, we want to choose an oil that resists oxidation (as much as possible) and that produces the least amount of polar compounds. Also, choosing an oil that is high in antioxidants helps a lot as these fight against oxidation and protect the beneficial nutrients naturally found in the oil.
A recent study done in Australia tested 10 different oils for oxidative stability, production of polar compounds and antioxidant content. They found that the best oil was extra virgin olive oil, followed by coconut oil. Seed oils such as canola, grapeseed, sunflower and rice bran tended to perform the poorest in the tests.
Extra virgin olive oil performed well in oxidative stability tests (although coconut oil did even better) but the extra virgin olive oil had the richest source of antioxidants compared to all the other oils which secured its top spot in the lineup. Virgin olive oil and standard olive oil also performed pretty well so if extra virgin olive oil doesn’t fit into your food budget, these are also suitable choices.
There were some limitations to the study, including the fact that the researchers only heated the oil without cooking food as well (which may affect how much the oil is oxidised) and they heated the oils to very high temperatures for prolonged periods which may not mimic home cooking exactly, so further studies are required. For more information about the study, or to book your own personalized nutrition consult, get in touch via our Contact page.
If you’re a fan of Butter Chicken from your local Indian takeaway, chances are you’ll love this easy option to make at home. It’s hard to beat this flavoursome and more-ish curry and because you’re making it from scratch you’ll be in complete control of what goes in it – no nasty additives or preservatives – and you can be extra generous with the spice if you like! Choose between the addition of cream, Greek yoghurt or ground nuts depending on your dietary needs and taste preferences. Delicious served with fluffy rice, naan and cucumber raita. Serves 4.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
500g boneless and skinless chicken thigh, cut into ~2cm chunks
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground chilli
1 whole red chilli, sliced (optional)
1 tin of tomatoes or passata
¼ cup cream, Greek yoghurt or ground cashew nuts
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Lemon or lime juice, coriander leaves to garnish
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frypan over moderate heat. Season the chicken well then fry in the butter and oil until golden brown (it does not have to be cooked all the way through as it will be cooked in the sauce later). Set aside.
Heat the remaining butter and oil in the same saucepan (with all the chicken bits stuck on the bottom) and add the onion, cooking until softened for ~5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices stirring to combine. Cook for 1 minute until the spices become more fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes stirring well to lift off the sticky chicken bits! Process the sauce using a stick blender or food processor until smooth if you like a smooth sauce. Otherwise you can leave it chunky.
Return the sauce and chicken to the pan and heat over gentle heat until the chicken is cooked through, 10 minutes should be just right. Add in the cream/yoghurt/nuts and the brown sugar and check the flavours, adding in more seasoning if required.
Serve with fluffy rice and the lemon/lime and coriander. Delish!
2 sheets of pre-rolled puffed pastry (or use a pastry block but easy dinners are meant to be easy!)
500g pork mince
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups spinach, finely chopped
3/4 cup carrot or zucchini, grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup cooked quinoa*
Zest of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
*Cook some extra quinoa to use in a fresh salad for tomorrow’s lunch – add in roasted pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, feta, capsicum, chickpeas, craisins and dressing. Easy peasy!