Easy changes – step 4

The next step in my Easy Changes series is all getting the most out of the food you eat –  the most nutrients and benefits that is. The beneficial nutrients in fresh produce starts to diminish as soon as it’s harvested, even more so when processed.  A huge percentage of food eaten in the Western world is highly refined and processed and many people are missing out vital nutrients. So this step is about asking yourself if you are eating ‘whole food’ or ‘hole food’.

The world of health and nutrition can seem rather overwhelming and contradictory at times. There’s a lot of confusion, much of which is made worse by the food and diet industry as well as the media reporting sensational headlines. The reductionist approach to food – looking at the component parts rather than the whole thing – is useful for discovering what is actually in it, but focusing only on the component parts has created a seemingly never-ending debate about whether we need to eat more protein or fats or carbs. I talk about this in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie if you want to delve into this discussion more.

Outside of this reductionist view point, eating whole foods gives so much more than just its large component parts. And in a balance that’s natural and works for our bodies. When you look at what whole foods contain, it can be surprising just what is in there! For example, rice is defined as a carbohydrate, and as we saw in my last post, is pretty nutrient deficient. But when eaten as a whole-grain, it contains a good amount of protein and even some essential fatty acids, along with a range of minerals, vitamins and even phytonutrients.

Processing and refining means that food loses a lot of the nutritional benefits. The big losers are:

  1. Fibre. Essential for gut health, removal of waste products and feeding the microbiome, much of it is lost once refined.
  2. Vitamins. Particularly water-soluble ones like vitamins B and C.
  3. Minerals. Many essential minerals like magnesium and zinc are bound up in the fibre. Potassium, essential for blood pressure control, is a big loser too.
  4. Omega fatty acids. Locked up in the oily germ of whole-grains but also in a whole host of fresh produce, this delicate but essential oil gets easily lost.
  5. Phytonutrients. The magical chemicals found within all plant foods that work together as a team and support metabolic processes are delicate and lost once the produce is refined.

Even eating whole foods does include some element of processing, as even cutting and cooking fresh produce can lead to some form of nutrient loss. But it’s much less. And it’s real – ultra-processed foods are increasingly massively but have a real negative nutrient effect on our bodies. This is particularly important if you have food intolerances and are therefore a sensitive eater, or are using food to manage a health problem.

So how do you maximise your intake of whole foods and avoid the hole food? Here’s a few simple things to help:

  1. Eat real food as near to its original form as possible. This is one of the key principles of eating a whole-food plant-based diet. Look at the product in your hand and ask yourself “Is this whole or hole?”. The author Micheal Pollan as some good advice on real versus processed food – “If it’s made from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.”
  2. Eat food lowest in the food chain (ie plants!). That way you get all the nutrients first hand rather than second, third or more and less of the toxins (think big fish like tuna accumulating mercury).
  3. Eat food that is as fresh as possible. That means seasonal with lower food miles. It’s also cheaper too.
  4. Go for brown (as per last post) and for whole. So eat an orange rather than drink orange juice. Or eat seeds whole instead of having it as an oil.
  5. Buy products with minimal ingredients. Once you start reading labels you soon realise just how much has been added in as well as taken out, particularly with ‘free from’ items, which seems somewhat ironic!

Once you start thinking ‘whole’ it does get easier to make positive changes to the way you eat which your body will love. But give yourself time to do it in the way that works for you – remember going at your own pace is just as important as making the change in the first place.

There’s one more easy step to come. And also some exciting news that will give you support for making your own positive changes for the New Year. So keep an eye out for the last instalment, and don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

 

Yule log

I hope you’ve found my Sensitive Foodie guide to Christmas helpful and you are all ready for the big day. There’s a huge range of recipes in it to help you enjoy your whole-food plant-based Christmas eating, but there is one key thing we make every year that’s not on that list yet. So as my present to you, here’s the recipe for my daughters favourite seasonal treat – yule log.

To be honest, this is one of my more complicated recipes, but if you are used to baking then hopefully you won’t find it too difficult. And if you’re not a free-from baking aficionado, then do still give this a go as to be honest, if I can do it, anyone can!

This yule log uses aquafaba, the brine left over from cooked chickpeas. Make sure you choose an unsalted version; for this recipes you will need two 400g tins. There’s lots of recipes you can make with chickpeas though so they won’t go to waste. When whisked, aquafaba reacts in the same way as egg white and so works well for the soft pliable sponge needed for yule log,  perfect if you are vegan or intolerant to egg.

You can use gluten free flour for this recipe, but make sure it has xanthum gum in the mix. This helps to stop the cake from falling apart, although to be honest with you, it is extremely difficult to stop this sponge from breaking when made gluten free. But never fear, as it’s going to be covered in lovely frosting, and unless you’re entering it into a baking competition, no-one will be too worried if it doesn’t have a perfect curl inside (and if they do, they can go and find their own yule log to eat!).

My chocolate frosting is perfect for anyone following special programmes like Overcoming MS which omit saturated fats and dairy. Admittedly it’s not as sweet as most chocolate frostings, but still taste delicious and complements the super sweet sponge. And it allows yule log to be back on the menu, which in my book is a really good thing!

Finally, if you want to go all out with the Christmas flavours, add a layer of chestnut puree on the inside of your yule log along with a layer of the chocolate frosting. But if you don’t happen to have any to hand, then don’t worry as it tastes fabulous with or without.

I hope you get a chance to make this lovely yule log. If you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on. I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

 

Yule log

A delicious yule log recipe that is plant-based, lower in refined oils and sugar and can be made gluten-free if needed. Tastes so good that everyone will love it!
Course: Dessert
Keyword: Christmas, gluten free, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons soya milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 240 ml aquafaba (the brine from a tin of chickpeas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 150 grams coconut sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 170 grams whole-wheat self-raising flour or gluten-free self-raising flour mix
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (ensure GF if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Sweet potato or avocado chocolate frosting

  • 1 medium sweet potato baked in its skin, cooled and peeled
  • or
  • 1 medium ripe avocado peeled and destoned
  • 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa or raw cacao powder

To finish

  • 185 grams pack chestnut puree optional
  • 2 tablespoons soya milk
  • icing sugar to dust for decoration

Instructions

  • Lightly grease a swiss roll tin and cover with baking paper.
  • Add a little lemon juice to the soya milk and leave to thicken and curdle
  • Pour the aquafaba into a large bowl and whisk until thick and stiff. Add the cream of tartar and whisk again, then gradually pour in the coconut sugar whisking all the time. Finally add the vanilla essence and soured soya milk, whisk again to keep thick and light.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a separate bowl. Mix well to ensure everything is combined
  • Carefully pour the flour mix into the aquafaba mix, quickly and lightly folding it in. Try to keep as much of the air present as possible. It will become thick.
  • Quickly spoon out onto the prepared baking tray and lightly spread out to evenly cover – don’t press it down though. Tap on the work top a couple of times.
  • Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. 
  • Place a clean tea towel on the work top and cover it with a clean piece of baking paper. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the paper. 
  • Check the cake -if the sponge is firm but springy, it’s ready. If it’s still a little wet, return to the oven for another couple of minutes but do not overbake.
  • Remove the tin from the oven. Carefully turn the cake out onto the prepared baking paper. Peel away the paper from the top, then roll up in the new baking paper lengthways. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool. 
  • Make the chocolate frosting by placing the prepared sweet potato or avocado, maple syrup and cocoa/cacao powder into the bowl of a small food processor. Whizz until the mix is well combined and smooth. Taste and add more maple syrup or cocoa as needed for taste and/or texture.
  • Place the chestnut puree in a bowl and loosen slightly with the soya milk so it is spreadable.
  • Once fully cool, unroll. It may crack and break a little, but don’t worry!
  • Spread 1/3 of the sweet potato icing over the cake and the chestnut puree if using. Carefully roll up lengthways. 
  • Cover the outside with the remaining sweet potato cream, creating a wood effect with a fork. 
  • Transfer to a serving plate or board. Sprinkle icing sugar over the top if using and leave to set in the fridge before serving

The Sensitive Foodie Guide to Christmas Cooking

It's December, and I now feel it's ok to start talking about Christmas. I always love this time of year; I'm particularly fond of all the seasonal treats! However, when you're a sensitive eater, whether because of food intolerances or health problems, it can be difficult to fully indulge.

That's why last year I ran my Countdown to Christmas, an advent calendar of delicious seasonal recipes; all whole-food, plant-based and adaptable to be gluten-free and nut-free (except for the nut loaf - sorry!). It covered soups and salads, mains and sides. And of course lots of sweet treats!

As these recipes are scattered over the blog, I've collated them into this guide so you can easily find the one (or two) you're looking for. And to make life even easier, I'm pinning this to the top of the blog until 26th December so you don't have to go rummaging for it. Christmas sensitive eating made easy!

Oh, and if there's something you love to eat at Christmas that's not included, do let me know so I can include them in the future.

Christmas biscotti
Christmas biscotti
Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts
Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts
Mince pies
Mince pies
Stuffed nut loaf
Stuffed nut loaf
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