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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Overfed and Undernourished Premiere Screenings

In our society today, we seem to have lost the art of nourishing our body and listening to its innate need for real food, movement and mindful interaction with the world around us.

Overfed and Undernourished is a powerful new film that looks at how we ended up here, following the journey of a young boy from Queensland who, at age 11, was well on the path to the lifestyle diseases so prolific today; obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, asthma and ASD. Sadly, his story is not unique. The Center for Disease Prevention in the USA is predicting that this generation may be the only generation in modern history where the kids may not outlive their parents. Dr. David Katz from Yale University predicts that if this trend continues, there will be more premature deaths from poor eating, obesity and lack of activity among our youth than from smoking, drugs and alcohol combined. It's pretty scary stuff. 

But there is hope - the simple changes we can make as parents, grandparents, relatives and friends will shape our children's health in the future. The village that raises a child can also empower the child to see beyond food marketing, to understand what truly fuels their body; to get off the computer and enjoying the outdoors; and to have fun learning about growing and cooking real food. 

Please join me for special Melbourne screenings of the film, with Dr Damian Kristof, co-founder of thewellnesscouch.com, and a Naturopath and Chiropractor, as MC. 

Mornington, Wednesday 22 October, 7.30pm
Tickets: www.overfedmornington.eventbrite.com.au

Brighton, Wednesday 29 October, 7pm
Tickets: www.overfedbrighton.eventbrite.com.au 

Brunswick, Wednesday 10 December, details TBC
Tickets: Email me at bridget@suburbansandcastles.com 

All proceeds raised from the Mornington and Brighton events will be donated to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation to support the great work they do on food education in primary schools.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Gluten-free: everyone's doing it

It's been one month since we cut gluten from our diet, and I can't believe I'm saying this - I don't miss it at all. Not even a tiny bit. And I really, really, love bread.  

So what gives? I think the trick is to make the alternative so delicious that it doesn't feel like deprivation. But let me back-track a bit to the why, because based on the shelf-space and marketing claims devoted to gluten-free products these days, it seems like everyone's doing it.

The deal with gluten 
Consumption of gluten grains wheat (in particular), barley, rye and spelt (and oats) increase the production of zonulin, a protein that opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal wall. This allows nutrients and other molecules to enter the intestines, however if someone has a 'leaky gut' the spaces open up too much and this allows larger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream where an immunologic reaction can take place. Basically, gluten is strongly linked to poor gut health and autoimmune conditions. I have PCOS which is autoimmune in nature, and gut issues, so cutting out gluten is a no-brainer. Gut flora is passed onto babies via the birth canal, so the odds are good that Hugo's gut health isn't fantastic either, so he's on board too. And my husband? He's along for the ride, but still has bread here and there. 

So what are we eating?
Real food, much to the disappointment of food marketers keen for our gluten-free dollar. Nothing much has changed, we've just had to be a bit more organised and creative in the kitchen. For many of us, coming up with different breakfast options is a challenge when toast or cereal is just so easy, so here's a roundup of what's been on the menu instead.

(From left to right)

1. Bone broth -  As I'm working on healing my gut, this is becoming a staple in my diet (the gelatin helps to restore the lining of the digestive tract for better nutrient absorption). Served here with poached eggs, parsley and Pink salt.

2. Buckwheat Bircher muesli - buckwheat is a great substitute for oats if you're looking for breakfast cereal of sorts. I buy this one in bulk which also includes goji berries and sultanas. It's made with activated (soaked) buckwheat which is easier on the digestive system because the phytic acid in the grain has been broken down. I serve it with organic natural yoghurt, but if dairy doesn't sit well with you, coconut yoghurt/milk or almond milk (with no added sugar) are good alternatives.

3. Coconut apple crunch -This quick recipe is from an ebook called 'Rise and Shine' written by Georgia, a naturopath and blogger at Well Nourished. The book is my regular go-to, so many delicious recipes with lots of tips for substitutes for intolerances (and incidentally, empty cupboards!). This brekky features apple, almonds, shredded coconut, cinnamon and carrot. Served with natural yogurt and a choc-coconut granola also from the ebook. 

4. Kale and mushroom omelette - an omelette is a brilliant way to get some veggies in at breakfast time and provide sustained energy throughout the morning. I chop up onion and garlic and fry in coconut oil before adding some chopped kale, steamed pumpkin or sweet potato and/or sliced mushrooms. About five eggs whisked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and poured onto the veggies that are simmering away and it's nearly done. I serve with some sauerkraut, fermented cucumber or fermented carrot.

5. Breakfast salsa - This one is a twist on a recipe from the Well Nourished 'Rise and Shine' ebook that involved pulling together what was in the fridge; eggs, coriander, tomatoes, pecans, mushrooms and fermented cucumber. Have fun and experiment!  
6. Asparagus and chicken with poached eggs - it's dishes like this that remind me why I married a chef. He might not cook much anymore, but when he does it's a taste sensation! The chicken breast was sliced thinly and the asparagus lightly blanched before being added to to chicken and coated in coconut oil and chicken-y goodness.  

7. Quinoa and chia porridge - this light and warming porridge made in the Thermomix is so good. As is everything created by the amazing Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking fame. Recipe here.

8. Poached eggs with mushroom, avocado and sauerkraut - pretty self explanatory, really

9. Green (purple) smoothie - we've recently started boosting the goodness of our standard green smoothie (kale or spinach, banana, blueberries, maca powder, ice, water) by adding almonds and The Healthy Chef's organic super food and whey protein. It's a richer, smoother taste and keeps us full for ages, making it a good breakfast option, especially if you need to run out the door. 

Have you considered giving up gluten and if so, what are the biggest challenges for you?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

5 tips for living slow as a parent (or not)

If I’m not being mindful, I so easily feel the pull of more; of moving hurriedly from one moment to the next, to do more, acquire more, be more. Surrendering and accepting where I am right now in these intensive early years of parenting, as well as working on goals for the future is a constant balance. Do you feel that too?

We live in a society that constantly tells us we’re not enough, but we could be if we buy XYZ product.  And of course there’s the lure of the quick fix; “Don’t let pain or discomfort interfere with your busy life; take a pill or polish off this tub of ice cream; you deserve it”. 

It’s a world where busy-ness is almost a badge of honour; because busy = success. But the pace we move means that many of us are hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them.

In his books ‘In Praise of Slow’ and ‘Under Pressure’, Carl Honore examines how the world got stuck in fast-forward, and the rise of the Slow Movement in response.

“Slow” in this context does not mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. It means doing everything at the right speed. That implies quality over quantity; real and meaningful human connections; being present and in the moment. The Slow creed can be applied to everything we do: work, sports, medicine, food, sex, design…and, of course, child-rearing”

It’s no secret that childhood has become the latest casualty of the quick-fix, consumer society. The seemingly endless hours of unstructured, free play that characterised our parents’ childhoods is a mere blip in the average childhood of today that is governed by schedules, TV and extra-curricular activities. Cultured by the world of advertising, we want the best for our children, which usually translates into more ‘stuff’, not more meaningful time with their parents which is really what most children yearn for.

Here are 5 things that work to bring slowness into my day:

Get out of your head and bring awareness into what you're doing in the moment - It's pretty normal as a mum (and a woman!) to have fifteen things going through your head at once. Mindfulness techniques such as consciously observing yourself in what you're actually doing in the moment and how it feels in your body, are powerful ways to invite a sense of calm into a busy mind. When washing the dishes, pay attention of the feeling of the suds on your skin, and the rhythm of cleaning and stacking plates, for example. 

Look at your world through the eyes of your child, and move at their pace - When we have somewhere to be, it can be frustrating waiting for a toddler or young child who wants to explore. But if we can make the time, it's a perfect invitation to slow down and be mindful. To look at the tiny flower or piece of bark with the same sense of wonder and intrigue that they must feel in discovering something they've never seen before. 

Scale back the to-do list - It's a running joke in our house how much I think i'm going to get done in a day. It's great to have a goals and plans, but not if they're a source of anxiety. Look at what you really value getting done, and is realistic with the time you have, and ditch the rest. Most of the time, what we 'have' to do isn't really as important as we think it is. 

Brooke at Slow your home reckons that 'finding balance' every day is unrealistic and instead we should 'tilt' towards activities and commitments we find meaningful while being aware of the changing pressures of life and being flexible. I wholeheartedly agree. There's freedom in tilting.

Breathe properly - when your mind is going at a crazy pace or sending you down the rabbit hole of worry or anger or fear, do you ever notice how this affects your breath? It's probably quick and shallow and may not feel like you're breathing at all. Bringing your awareness to the breath through conscious, deep breathing, gives you focus, calms the nervous system and lowers the body's stress response. 

Play outside - fresh air and nature are the perfect antidote to feeling anxious or in a funk. Whenever I notice my patience level is waning, or i'm too caught up in my thoughts, I saddle up the dog, Hugo hops in the pram and we head out for a brisk walk. If there's no time for a walk, we play some laughter games in the backyard. Laughter and sunlight are like soul food.

I'd love to hear what works for you?