Raspberry, Coconut and Macadamia Chia Pudding

organic raspberry, coconut and macadamia chia pudding

 

Quickest, easiest and yummiest chia pudding!

Talking with a client on the phone tonight about quick, easy and nutritious snacks I was reminded about the deliciously beautiful and totally scrumptious magic that happens when you mix chia seeds, vanilla, coconut milk and freeze dried organic raspberries together. It is seriously like having pudding.  I also think of it as a raw paleo Bircher muesli.

This fibre and protein rich little snack is the real deal when it comes to sugar free claims.  I don’t use ANY sweetener in it.  None.

No

  • Agave nectar
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Dates
  • Palm or coconut sugar
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Pear or apple concentrate
  • Aspartame, Splenda or other artificial sweetener

It really doesn’t need any extra sweetener.

The coconut cream makes it so smooth and dreamy creamy.  Pieces of raspberry, shredded coconut and vanilla essence complement the creaminess of the coconut milk and impart real sweetness.  Macadamia nuts add some extra texture and crunch. 

The texture and consistency actually reminds me a little of rice pudding, a comfort food of mine.  But it’s the freeze dried organic raspberries that really make this chia pudding.  We buy our berries online.  They’re a bit on the expensive side but they’re so versatile and taste so amazing that they always seem to survive budget cuts to the grocery bill.  I ALWAYS have freeze dried organic cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and more recently peaches in my cupboard.  I can guarantee that if you called in and looked in my pantry you will see that it’s stuffed full of green packets of freeze dried fruit.

Who says healthy foods have to be slow and time consuming to prepare?

Freeze dried organic berries in the pantry means I ALWAYS have super healthy, low sugar, organic berries and fruit on hand.  I never seem to get tired of that sharp sweet zing of organic raspberries.  Throw a handful into some organic yoghurt and you have an instant and really really really delicious snack or light meal.  They are also a m a z i n g in chia pudding.

The advantage of freeze dried fruit over regular dried fruit is that no preservatives or vegetable oil is needed to preserve the colour, taste and texture.

So here is the recipe for my easy peasy 5 minute chia pudding. Use it as a breakfast on the run, snack or as an actual pudding.

Organic Raspberry, Coconut and Vanilla Chia Pudding

  • Sugar AND sweetener free
  • Dairy free
  • Gluten and wheat free

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of ‘milk’ (I’m lovin’ Pure Harvest CocoQuench at the moment. An organic combo of a small amount of brown rice and mostly coconut milk)
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out or 1 teaspoon high quality vanilla extract
  • ¼ – 1/2 cup Just Tomatoes’ freeze dried organic raspberries
  • ¼ -1/2 cup organic Macadamia nuts
  • Organic shredded coconut
Ingredients for chia pudding
Coconut milk, chia seeds, shredded coconut, freeze dried raspberries and macadamia nuts. All ingredients are organic.

Instructions

In a glass container, mix together the chia seeds, ‘milk’ and vanilla. Keep shaking or stirring well until the chia seeds start to swell and the mixture thickens.  Stir through the raspberries, shredded coconut and macadamia nuts.  Place in the fridge and leave overnight until firm and set.  On serving, sprinkle with a little extra shredded coconut.

thickenend mixture of chia seeds and coconut milk
Stir the chia seeds, coconut milk and vanilla essence until the chia seeds start to thicken and the mixture gels. This prevents pockets of dry chia seeds – which are horrible and get stuck in your teeth while you’re eating!
Chia pudding ingredients
Next add all of your other ingredients and mix until well combined. Pop in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
Finished chia pudding
Finished chia pudding has a similar consistency to rice pudding.

Chia pudding rates high on the list of quick, easy, yummy and healthy foods in our house. We eat this chia pudding for breakfast, snack and occasional after dinner treat.  It’ll last 3 days in the fridge so you can make it up in advance.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do

Sarah

 

 

Keen to order some freeze dried organic berries to make amazingly delicious and sugar free chia pudding in just a few minutes? 

Check out the Just Tomatoes range on iherb.com. 

Shameless affiliate plug ahead – use the code XID001 and received a $5 discount off your order!

 

In Defence of Fruit

What’s the deal with fructose, fruit and sugar?

Anyone who cuts sugar out of their diet is truly and utterly awesome. Anyone who advocates, motivates and inspires other people to give up sugar, or at least reduce it, is equally awesome.

But please stop with the fruit bashing.

Chances are pretty high that if you’ve recently jumped on the sugar free bandwagon then fruit has probably become a dirty word and a vile and loathsome food that will hasten your demise to an early grave, make you fat, rot your teeth, damage your liver and fester away in your intestines feeding up colonies of fungal invaders.

So I am here to defend fruit.

Why has fruit been demonised so much?

Fruit has been at the receiving end of a really negative PR campaign in recent years as we’ve discovered that fructose can be just as health damaging as its sweet little cousin glucose. Fructose is the predominant form of sugar in most fruits.

For many years fructose was seen as a healthy sweetener because it doesn’t raise insulin like glucose does. This is because fructose is nearly all metabolised in your liver, who works very hard to convert fructose into glucose, lactate and glycogen. Every cell in your body can utilise glucose straight from food due to the influence of insulin, but your liver is pretty much the only organ that can deal with fructose (there are a few exceptions to this).

This is one of the reasons that a diet high in fructose can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Yep that’s right, fructose can cause the very same damage to your liver that a few decades on the booze can do.  In the words of fructose researcher and campaigner, Dr Robert Lustig, fructose is ethanol without the buzz.

The damaging effects of too much fructose in your diet

  • Non alcoholic fatty liver
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and gout due to increased uric acid
  • Elevated triglycerides (a particularly nasty fat found in your blood that is made from sugar) and ‘bad’ cholesterol LDL and VLDL
  • Insulin and leptin resistance which throws your whole metabolism and appetite regulation out of kilter leading to weight gain (amongst other things)

Some pretty powerful reasons not to eat too much fructose right there.

I cringe inside when I think of all the deserts and sweet treats I used to eat and make from pure fructose powder when I was a student and under the misguided belief that fructose was healthy because it was ‘diabetic friendly’.

If fructose is so bad why am I defending fruit?Three peaces (w clipping path)

You may not be aware that the biggest source of fructose in your diet is not found in a fruit salad but in that evil white stuff called sugar. Yep, sugar contains fructose.  In fact, table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.

If you’re an avid health researcher you’re probably aware of a cane sugar alternative used widely throughout North America by junk food manufactures called HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) which is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Cane sugar is cheaper to use in Australia which is why we don’t see it used so much here, but there’s not a huge difference in the fructose content between HFCS and cane sugar.

So let’s put it into perspective – an apple is going to give you about 9.5 grams of fructose vs. a can of fizzy soft drink with about 20 grams of fructose.

Now I’m not saying that you have to eat fruit in order to be healthy. You don’t.  I hardly eat any fruit from week to week but I don’t limit my 3.5 year old son’s fruit intake.  If we want something sweet then we’ll have a piece of fruit.  I’d much rather fork out $6ish dollars for a punnet of raspberries than a block of chocolate or a muffin from a cafe – or delude myself that a protein bar or other ‘health’ bar sweetened with glucose syrup, honey or agave is better for me.

Just eat real food

If you really want to be healthy then there are no bones about it, you need to cut sugar out of your diet or at least reduce it substantially. By eliminating pre-packaged convenience foods and processed junk food you’ll not only be getting rid of a whole heap of sugar and therefore a major source of excess fructose but you’ll also eliminating trans fats, damaged fats, artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives and a whole heap of other chemicals that should never, ever be called food.

Just. Eat. Real. Food.

It’s as simple as that. If you want a piece of fruit at 3pm because you’re bored or hungry or brain dead or just need an excuse to get up and stretch your legs and not stare at a computer screen for a bit, then have a piece of fruit for goodness sake.  A slice of cake or a biscuit sweetened with fructose free rice malt syrup is not any healthier.  We need to lose our obsession with healthy sweeteners ‘cause there’s no such thing as a sweetener that you can eat every day without some sort of negative consequence biting you on the bum somewhere down the track.

There is no such thing as a completely ‘safe’ sugar

Believe me when I tell you that I have tried to find a ‘healthy’ sugar substitute. I’ve spent a fortune on various sugars and sugar substitutes over the years and in the end finally realised that what I was really looking for was a way to make something sweet that could be eaten without impunity on an everyday basis and this just isn’t going to happen in our current reality with our current biology.

Whether you’re using Stevia, xylitol or Lakanta – stimulating the sweet taste receptors on your tongue with a sweet sugar substitute multiple times a day has biological repercussions that we’re only just starting to understand. There’s even recent research emerging linking soft drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners such aspartame with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Rice malt syrup is currently promoted as a healthy fructose free sweetener. It may be fructose free but it will elevate your blood sugar levels nearly as high and as fast as pure glucose or a handful of jelly beans will.  Sky high blood sugar levels means elevated insulin.  And if you haven’t yet heard about the dangers of high insulin and insulin resistance, well, that is a story for another day.

Sweet and sugary foods are traditionally celebratory foods wheeled out on special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, wakes and religious celebrations. These days we look for ways to have our cake and eat it every single day, often multiple times a day and wonder why the diet and fat loss industry is booming.

Three Raspberries IsolatedSafe fruit consumption

You can easily have a few pieces of fruit per day without even running close to consuming excess fructose – unless you suffer from fructose malabsorption. Here are a few useful guidelines that may be helpful:

 

 

  • Don’t replace meals with fruit alone – fructose and fruit does not have a particularly effective satiety promoting effect so you’ll be hungry again far too soon.
  • Don’t drink fruit juice – eat a piece of fruit instead. It’s really quite difficult to eat 12 oranges in a few minutes.
  • Avoid dried fruit unless you’re hiking up a mountain – its sugars are too concentrated and it’s too easy to over eat fruit when it’s dehydrated.
  • Eat seasonal fruit, it’s better for your body. Fruits and vegetables communicate information to your body cells about the environment in ways that the world of science is just starting to understand. If you’re not sure what’s in season, try shopping at your local farmers markets rather than the supermarket for fruit and vegetables.
  • Check out the Environmental Working Groups Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen for guidance on what fruit you should be buying organic (or growing, or finding someone local who grows it). http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
  • Enjoy your fruit and practice mindful eating!

 

 

 

 

 

This information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians and other qualified health care providers.

10 of the most sneaky places you’ll find plastic chemicals lurking

Xenoestrogens and endocrine disruptors in plastic are found in some surprising places.  And they’re every bit as scary as they sound.

If you want to impress people with your knowledge of big words, try dropping xenoestrogen (zeen-o-estrogen) or endocrine disruptor into casual conversation.  If you care about yours and your family’s health try dropping these far too common chemicals from your food, drink and, well, just about everywhere really.  These chemicals sure do get around.

Xenoestrogen literally means ‘foreign oestrogen’.  They’re a diverse group of chemicals that have the ability to mimic oestrogen in your body.  BPA and phthalates in plastic are examples of xenoestrogens, as are many pesticides and herbicides.  Endocrine disruption is what xenoestrogens do once inside your body.  Your endocrine system is basically your body’s hormonal system and chemicals that mimic oestrogen are pretty good at buggering it up.  They’ve been implicated in a range of health problems linked to high levels of oestrogen including:

  • Sperm abnormalities
  • Low sperm count
  • Abnormal ovulation
  • Effects upon normal ovary development
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Alterations to normal menstrual cycles
  • Increased risk of oestrogen dependant cancers
  • Endometriosis
  • Early onset of puberty

While BPA may not be around in water bottles, baby bottles or plastic food storage containers any longer, this potentially hormone mimicking chemical is still around and you’re probably exposed on a daily basis without being aware of it.  Phthalates are another group of chemicals commonly used in plastics and much much more.

10 places you’ll find oestrogen mimicking BPA and phthalates

Water pipes

Whilst BPA has been banished from water bottles, it’s still commonly used in the plastic that lines water pipes – another compelling reason to invest in a good water filter.  Phthalates are also found in water pipes.

Baked beans and tinned tomatoes

Every can of food is lined with a plastic coating to prevent food having direct contact with the aluminium can.  Some companies are now producing tinned foods that have a BPA free plastic lining.  Highly acidic and oily foods increase the movement of chemicals from plastic to food which makes tinned tomatoes and fish in oil particularly problematic.

Beer

Like tinned foods, beer cans are also lined with a plastic layer that contains BPA.  Switch to bottles and avoid this testosterone lowering chemical.

Soft drink

Your can of Coke or Pepsi are both really good sources of BPA from the plastic lining used in the aluminium can.  Both companies continue to downplay the health effects of BPA.

Receipts

Thermally printed receipts (the type that turn black and illegible when left in sunlight) have a layer of BPA containing plastic over the paper.  People who handle these receipts a lot, such as cash register workers, show higher levels of BPA in their urine.

Plastic toys

You know your baby’s favourite rubber ducky?  The one that they’re always chewing on whenever they’re teething?  Bad news, it’s probably full of phthalates.  Avoid plastic toys that toddlers and babies can chew on as most will contain phthalates unless stated otherwise.  Cheap Chinese plastic toys seem are frequently in the news due to being contaminated with both lead and high levels of phthalates.

Air fresheners

Many air fresheners contain phthalates, along with a host of other chemical nasties.  The phthalates help that artificial scent of Scandinavian pine forests or grandma’s potpourri linger longer in the air.

Nail polish

Phthalates are a common ingredient in nail polish as both a solvent for the dye and as a plasticiser to help stop the polish becoming brittle.  Unless specifically stated as being phthalate free, assume that they’re in there.  Always choose phthalate free nail polish for use with children.

Perfume

As with air fresheners, phthalates are a common additive to perfumes, from cheap knockoffs through to the high end real deal.  Don’t expect to see them on the label, like nail polish, unless specifically stated as being phthalate free, assume that they’re in your favourite perfume.  This also includes the perfumes and fragrances used to scent other personal care products such as moisturisers, shampoos, conditioners and makeup.

Sex toys

Yep, plastic toys for big girls and boys can also be a source of hormone altering phthalates.

 

Knowledge is power, so you can now take steps to reduce your exposure to BPA and phthalates, both xenoestrogens commonly found in plastic and other often surprising items around your home.

Further reading

Had enough of toxic water bottles? Here are the best and safest alternatives

Plastic aint fantastic – how to use affordable glass jars in the kitchen

Are BPA free plastic food storage containers really safe? What you need to know

 

 

Had enough of toxic water bottles? Here are my favourite and some of the safest alternatives

plastic water bottles - not the safest water bottle choiceNon-toxic, plastic free water bottles for the car, home, school and work.

Since I quit plastic many years ago I’ve road, life and office tested many different non plastic water bottles in my effort to find the most practical and safest water bottle for myself and family.

I will admit that I do have a slight bias when it comes to choosing water bottles. Firstly, I prefer a glass water bottle over stainless steel, I simply find that my water tastes better when it’s been stored in glass.  Secondly, cost is way down on the list of considerations when choosing a water bottle.  Well, within reason, I’m not likely to purchase an Armani branded water bottle any time soon but I don’t mind paying for a high quality, safe water bottle.  I use my water bottle every single day and it comes with me wherever I go.

What about PBA free plastic water bottles?

There is emerging research that many of the chemicals used to replace BPA are just as bad for your health as BPA. The main concern with BPA and other plastic chemicals is that they mimic the effects of oestrogen in your body and upset the delicate hormonal balance that controls every aspect of your health – from brain function through to cancer susceptibility.  The term for these plastic chemicals is ‘endocrine disruptors’.  Read more about why you should be avoiding even BPA free plastic here.

Aside from any detrimental health effects, water in plastic bottles always tastes like plastic by the end of the day.

Plastic water bottles, even the re-usable ones are also not the best choice for our environment. Sure they’re better than buying a new plastic bottle every single day and increasing the profits of Coca Cola, but they still take at least a few hundred years to breakdown.

Contrary to what you may believe when you throw your plastic water bottle in the recycle bin, plastic bottles, or any plastic for that matter, cannot be recycled, it can only be down-cycled. Glass on the other hand can be recycled endlessly and maintains its integrity indefinitely.  Every plastic water bottle, reusable, BPA free or not is made from brand new resources.

Reusable glass water bottles

This is my favourite type of reusable bottle and as far as I’m concerned, the safest water bottle. Glass is highly stable and chemically inert – there’s nothing nasty that’s going to leach into your drinking water from a glass water bottle.

There are three potential drawbacks to using glass water bottles though – expense, weight and breakability.

Voss water bottlesYou can go for the cheapest option and pick up a swing top glass bottle from a $2 shop or grab a glass bottle of VOSS for a few bucks from the supermarket and reuse this. This solves the expense issue but not the weight or potential to break when dropped.  So if you’re concerned about broken glass then use these options to keep your water in at work.  Don’t forget to wash them regularly if you swig straight from the bottle though.

Lifefactory glass water bottleLifefactory

When it comes to avoiding broken glass then you can’t go past Lifefactory glass water bottles. They’re made from a tough, heavy duty glass and covered with a silicone sleeve to protect the bottle from breakages.  The silicone sleeve is sort of an open weave effect and at first I was highly sceptical that it was anything other than a colourful fashion accessory.  After seeing a bottle roll off the roof of my car and quite literally bounce on the road I am now a true believer.  They don’t come cheap though, expect to pay between $40 and $55 for the large 470ml size – but we have had ours for coming up to 4 years now and they’re as good as the day we bought them.

Aside from the cost, they’re big and bulky for the amount of water they hold and they’re heavy. I’ve simply learned to accept this and if it’s any consolation, the extra wide mouth means that you can add slices of lemon, cucumber or sprigs of mint to your water bottle and they’re easy to remove and clean afterwards.

We also used Lifefactory Weego glass baby bottles when Yagga-Yagga was a baby. You can purchase separate sippy lids to convert them to sippy drink bottles once they move on from bottles, making them more economical.  Like the Lifefactory adult sized bottles they are covered with a protective silicone sleeve.  I’ve seen them roll from a pram onto the pavement many times over without a chip, crack or break to be seen.

Camelbak Eddy glass bottleCamelbak Eddy glass water bottle

Camelbak have recently released a glass water bottle in their popular Eddy range. As with Lifefactory glass water bottles, they’re protected with a coloured silicone sleeve.  These are great for the car or sports such as cycling as they have a fold down silicone straw that allows you to drink one handed.  You sort of need to nip the bite valve with your teeth in order to suck the water up which prevents water leaking from the straw.  We have several of the Eddy bottles in the stainless steel version (which we love) and purchased the glass version as gifts for family members at Christmas.

They hold quite a bit more water than the largest volume of Lifefactory at a piddling 470ml vs 700ml. Expect to pay around $35 to $40 for a 700ml bottle.  Replacement silicone bite valves and straws are available.

Call me a water bottle snob but I find the glass version of the Camelbak Eddy a bit on the ugly side. They look fine in stainless steel but the glass just doesn’t seem to match the lid making it look a bit clunky.

Stainless steel water bottles

Stainless steel makes a safer water bottle than plastic or aluminium but can still taint the taste of your water – if this is the case, it means that you need to give it a good wash with something to remove any manufacturing contaminants from the inside surface.  A few rinses with boiling water and vinegar will usually do the trick.  If your water still tastes metallic, keep cleaning, or, try dropping in a denture cleaning tablet.  Make sure you sterilise regularly using boiling water or denture cleaning tablets as this also prevents a funky taste and smell from building up.  Also make sure you rinse your bottle well after washing as any residual dishwashing liquid can make your water taste a bit funny.

Make sure you buy a high quality stainless steel bottle and don’t be fooled by aluminium lookalikes.  Look for 304L or 316L grade stainless steel when buying your water bottle.  Cheap stainless steel will start to corrode, especially if cleaned in the dishwasher and this is not good for your water or your health.

Klean Kanteen and Cheeki

You really can’t go past Klean Kanteen and Cheeki for stainless steel water bottles. We have several of each sitting around in the back of the cupboard that we keep for visitors to use.  They’re light, leak-proof and fairly hard wearing – each of ours does sport a dent or two.

They come in a range of colours and prints but beware – the colourful exteriors don’t last long if you put them in the dishwasher.

The other problem I have with both of these stainless steel bottles is the tendency of the bottom to bulge out when they’re dropped, making it impossible to stand them up on a flat surface forever afterwards.

Camelbak Eddy water bottleCamelbak Eddy stainless steel water bottle

We purchased the stainless steel version of the Camelbak Eddy for Yagga-Yagga when he was around 2 years old and we transitioned from the Lifefactory Weego glass water bottles which only held a teensy 150mls. I wanted a water bottle that he could drink from without having to tip it up so I didn’t have to cry and lose my cool over spilled water, several thousand times a day!  At 700mls it’s a great size, maybe a little heavy when full at this age but it didn’t seem to be a problem.  He still uses the very same water bottle after nearly 2 years of hard-core, daily use.  It’s been thrown and dropped a multitude of times and has sustained a few minor dents – but nothing compared to the dings in our Kleen Kanteen or Cheeki bottles.  We’ve changed the bite valve sippy thing that you drink from and the straw once.  It all pulls apart so that you can give it a thorough clean and sterilise in boiling water from time to time.

They’re now available as a 500ml insulated version and 600ml version with an inbuilt filter so that you can fill it with tap water. They retail for between $36 and $50.

Aluminium water bottles

I don’t rate aluminium as a particularly safe choice for water bottles as they must contain a protective plastic layer inside the bottle – the same as with tinned food. This layer is easily damaged if the water bottle is dropped and sustains any dents and dings.  They’re significantly cheaper than stainless steel and at first glance it can be difficult to tell the difference as they can look quite similar.

The safest water bottles: glass vs stainless steel

None of these water bottles are either affiliate links or products I’ve been paid to endorse or review.  These are simply my experiences and recommendations after over 10 years of taking my own non-plastic water bottle with me where ever I go.  If they can help take some of the angst out of deciding which is the most practical, economical and safest water bottle to invest in for yourself and your family then my job is done (I would NEVER have believed that a scrawny little bit of silicone would stop a glass bottle smashing on the road  as it rolled off the top of a car until I saw it with my very own eyes).

Further reading

Plastic aint fantastic – how to use affordable glass jars in the kitchen

Are BPA free plastic food storage containers really safe? What you need to know

10 of the most sneaky places you’ll find plastic chemicals lurking

 

 

Plastic aint fantastic – how to use affordable glass jars in the kitchen

glass container, the original BPA free food storage container

Tried and tested ways to reduce your reliance upon plastic without breaking the budget.

So you’ve been reading about why plastic is bad for your health, including BPA free plastic and have decided to chuck out your collection of plastic containers and replace them with affordable glass jars. Maybe you’ve done an online search to see what’s available or dropped into the kitchen section of your local department store to check out your options and how much of your hard earned money you’ll need to part with. Ouch, is plastic REALLY all that bad?

Don’t despair. I’ve had a pretty much plastic free kitchen for well over a decade now.  There are a few odd bod bits plastic here and there but all of my food storage containers are either glass, Pyrex or stainless steel.  So I’ll share with you what I’ve found is most affordable and practical over the years.  I don’t even use plastic for pet bowls and water containers and we never used plastic cups or plates when our lives revolved around introducing solids to a toddler.  So when it comes to practical alternatives to plastic I’ve got you covered.

Recycled glass jars and containers

By far the cheapest and best option for your bank balance, family’s health and our environment is to use recycled glass jars and containers. It can take between 450 and 1000 years for a plastic container to break down and those nasty plastic chemicals, the very ones that are motivating you to switch from plastic to glass jars and containers are also persistent and build up in the environment affecting all life on our planet.

If glass is recycled properly it can be used over and over without ever losing its integrity. Plastic containers on the other hand can only be down cycled and every plastic container on the shelf is manufactured from brand new resources.

Pasata jars – I haven’t used tinned tomatoes for a long time due to the BPA that’s still found in the plastic that lines the can. The acidity of tomatoes will increase the leaching of BPA and other chemicals from this plastic liner.  Instead I switched over to pasata which comes in glass bottles.  The tall, wide mouthed bottles are extremely useful and I use them for:

  • Storing liquids in the fridge and freezer such as nut milks, stocks and broth, home made sauces, kefir and even keeping cold water on hand in the fridge
  • Storing dry goods that I buy in bulk and use on a regular basis such as chia seeds, coconut flour, desiccated coconut, red lentils etc.

glass jars  4 (005)Moccona instant coffee jars – these are probably my favourite cheap recycled glass jar option. If you don’t drink instant coffee or know someone who does, start scouring second hand stores and you can easily pick them up for a few dollars each.  I use these for storing mostly dry goods such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, rice, etc.  I also use Moccona glass jars to store honey and coconut oil which I buy in bulk.

Glass jars – I keep any useful sized glass jars from things like mayonnaise, mustard, pesto, jam, olives etc as these are handy sizes for storing small amounts of leftover food, homemade nut butters and sauces in the fridge.

Pyrex containers

Pyrex containers are invaluable as they can go straight from the fridge to the oven or microwave (if you use one – and there are no judgements from me if you do, BUT, never ever use plastic containers for heating food in your microwave). Being heat proof, you don’t need to let food cool down before filling up Pyrex with hot leftovers.

They come as either round or rectangular shaped containers. The round shape can be a bit of a nuisance as it seems to waste a lot of space if you’re using them in the freezer and also for storage but these have been my go to for many years.   I use the rectangular Pyrex containers for freezing extra meals such as shepherd’s pie, moussaka and vegetable lasagne.  Once they’re defrosted the whole container can go straight into the oven to be reheated.

The down side with Pyrex containers is that they are expensive so keep an eye out for sales and you can pick them up for quite reasonable prices. The kitchen section of David Jones has them on sale for 30% off fairly regularly and recently I’ve discovered that Big W frequently has Pyrex on sale for 30-50% off.  Every time I saw them on sale I would pick up another one or two and it’s surprising how quickly your collection builds.

The lids are plastic and do tend to degrade slightly over time. I’s helpful to either hand wash the lids or always remember to put them on the top shelf only of your dishwasher.

Décor glass matchups

Decor glass match up storage containerIn the last couple of years I’ve discovered the Décor range of glass match up containers. Their rectangular shape makes them easy to stack in the cupboard, fridge and freezer and they’ve slowly taken over from Pyrex for storing left over food.

They come in a range of really handy sizes and the lids have a slightly better seal than Pyrex. These glass containers are my first choice for packing lunch and snacks as they stack well in our cooler bag when we’re out and about.

The downside is that they can’t be used in the oven – but they are microwave safe. I’m also careful to allow hot food and liquids to cool before pouring them in.

Big W is the best place I’ve found for buying these and they seem to frequently be on sale for 50% off so don’t buy them at full price, wait for a sale.

The downside of glass jars and containers

There is no doubt that glass jars and containers are heavier than their plastic counterparts. I haven’t used plastic containers in so long and have become accustomed to the extra weight when I use them to take lunch and snacks out with me – so you will adjust to the extra weight, think of it as a little bit of functional weight training.

Glass is also breakable, but in all the years I’ve been using glass jars and containers I’ve probably had less than half a dozen breakages – and I am a clumsy person by nature. I’m prepared to wear the odd breakage for the peace of mind in not using plastic.

Stainless steel food containers

stainless steel food storage tinsGlass jars and containers are not the most kid friendly containers for school lunches, at least for younger kids. If you’re really keen to eliminate plastic then you’ll need to look at stainless containers and jars for lunches.  They’re not cheap but they’re light and pretty much indestructible.  Unfortunately I have no solution for the other common problem that seems to plague kids’ lunch boxes – being lost and going missing on a regular basis.

I picked up some extremely handy little stainless steel tins with lids many years ago from an Indian grocery store so keep your eyes peeled and you can find alternatives to plastic containers in all sorts of unlikely places. These little stainless steel tubs have tight fitting lids making them ideal for yoghurts and dips.

Lunchbots stainless lunch boxLunchbots make a range of leak-proof stainless steel containers and bento style lunch boxes with varying compartment sizes  We have a few sets of Lunchbots stainless steel lunch boxes with lids that we use for packing dried fruit and vegetable sticks to take on the road with us that were once used for day-care lunches.

Freezing glass containers

I know conventional wisdom says not to freeze glass containers but I’ve been doing it for nearly 10 years and have never had a single glass jar break on me. I freeze left over meals in Pyrex containers and soups and stocks in recycled glass jars such as pasata jars.

Just be sure to leave at least an inch at the top to allow for the liquid to expand as it freezes and this will ensure that your glass jar won’t break.

Freezing speeds the breakdown of the plastic in food containers so that it degrades faster, leading to an increased likelihood of plastic chemicals ending up in your food, making glass jars a much smarter choice for the freezer.

Freezing legumes and beans

Aside from English recipe baked beans, which are a comfort food for Phil-the-fussy-Englishman, I’ve pretty much stopped buying tinned foods which means no more handy tins of kidney beans, chickpeas or butter beans. I’m just not organised enough to pre plan my meals around soaking and cooking these foods so instead I cook them in large batches then freeze in zip lock bags.  Don’t forget to soak your beans and legumes properly before cooking though.

These plastic zip lock bags are one of the few exceptions to my unofficial ‘no plastic in the kitchen’ rule. Cooked beans and legumes do not contain any fats or oils and are not acidic – both increase the movement of chemicals from plastic to your food. The plastic bags are used once and then thrown out – freezing speeds the degradation of plastic which worsens with repeated freezing and use.

Say goodbye to plastic containers

Replacing your plastic collection with glass jars and containers is affordable and easy.  They also stack up neater in the cupboard.  I remember what my storage cupboard for plastic containers used to look like – a perpetual mess of containers just shoved in and thrown about.   And you can never find the right container and matching lid when you need it!  So chuck out your plastic and go forth and stock up on glass jars and containers for peace of mind when it comes to your health and the environment.

Further reading

Are BPA free plastic food storage containers really safe? What you need to know

Had enough of toxic water bottles? Here are the best and safest alternatives

 

Glass jars and containers for food storage
Part of my collection of glass jars and storage containers (there are many, many more in the fridge and freezer)

Are BPA free plastic food storage containers really safe? What you need to know

The hidden health hazards of plastic storage containers – even if they’re BPA free

Set of colourful BPA free plastic food storage containers

Is there such a thing as safe food grade plastic?

According to the growing piles of research by toxicologists the answer is probably no. Or at least not yet.

A brief history of the demise of BPA

BPA was publically singled out as a bad guy around 2009 when research started to suggest that everything wasn’t peachy keen with this ubiquitous chemical found in everything from baby’s bottles, drink bottles, plastic food storage containers, plastic liners in tinned food and even water pipes.

Its chemical structure allows BPA to act like a hormone in the mammals upsetting the delicate balance of the endocrine system with its oestrogen mimicking activity. This ability to act like oestrogen was of particular concern for babies, small children and foetuses.  FYI, you and I are classed as mammals.

Animal studies since the early to mid-90’s were showing that exposure to low dose BPA was producing effects such as:

  • Permanent changes to the genital tract
  • Neurological problems
  • Increased predisposition to cancer in breast and prostate cells
  • Effects on ovarian development
  • Early puberty
  • Alterations in normal sexual behaviour
  • Detrimental effects on thyroid function

The evidence continued to mount that this chemical was bad news for us and the environment but despite the growing piles of research papers, governments around the world refused to ban BPA. Just like the tobacco industry (and mobile phones) the plastic manufacturing industry was busy producing its own research proclaiming BPA’s safety and putting pressure in the right places politically.  Organisations like the FDA and WHO refused to budge on their stance that BPA was safe and here to stay.

Finally bowing to public and scientific pressure, governments around the world began to pass legislation banning BPA from baby bottles and in many cases also banning it’s use in plastics designed and marketed for use in children under 3 years of age. In an unusual display of ‘doing the right thing’, certain chemical manufacturers in the US stopped supplying BPA to manufacturing companies planning to use it in food and water containers for young kids.

Finally the reputation of BPA was so tarnished with consumers that manufacturers had no choice but to start producing plastic food storage containers and water bottles that loudly and proudly proclaimed their BPA free status.

The removal of BPA from plastics is testimony to the power of public pressure on manufacturers, in spite of government and industry proclamations of safety.

Concerns about the health effects of BPA free plastic

Just as with BPA, there are now growing piles of research papers and mounting evidence that the chemicals used to replace BPA plastic and other chemicals commonly found in plastic food storage and water containers carry the same risks as BPA.

Animal and in vitro studies (test tube studies on specific cell lines) are pretty conclusive that BPA free plastic food storage and drink bottles leach chemicals that mimic oestrogen in mammals and carry the very same concerns listed above for BPA. This is of particular concern for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and small children who tend to be more sensitive to any potential hormone disrupting effects, even in very small doses.  Just type the search terms “BPA free plastic oestrogenic activity” into Google Scholars search bar to view some of this research.

There’s still a lot of hoo-ing and ha-ing amongst scientists, researchers and toxicologists about whether these hormone disrupting effects will translate from the lab and survive your liver’s metabolism.  There is no doubt that chemicals from BPA free plastic have an oestrogen mimicking effect.  However, anything absorbed from your digestive system goes straight to your body’s own chemical processing plant – your liver – where chemicals are metabolised and altered, often quite significantly.  Liver metabolism can be a big game changer when it comes to the toxic effects of drugs and chemicals.

So the yet unanswered question is whether these plastic chemicals are still toxic once they’ve been processed by your liver and enter your bloodstream…  Some scientists say yes and others say no.

What you can do NOW

I for one am not going to wait for ‘conclusive’ research to tell me whether chemicals from BPA free plastic food storage containers leaching into mine and my child’s food is safe ‘at current exposure levels’ or not. Unfortunately there are too many vested interests at stake for anything conclusive to emerge any time soon.

But please don’t panic and start feeling anxious about plastic use in your house. We do the best we can with the information we have available at the time.

Below are some key recommendations that you can start adopting straight away to reduce your exposure to chemicals found in BPA free plastic storage containers and water bottles.  You can slowly start to replace your family’s plastic storage containers with safe, non-toxic and non-plastic alternatives.

How to use BPA free plastic food storage containers safely and when you should avoid them

Heat, fats and oils in food and freezing all speed the degradation and breakdown of plastic, increasing the movement of chemicals from plastic to your food. You may have already noticed that your water takes on a distinct plastic taste if you leave your plastic water bottle sitting in your hot car for even just a few hours.  Acidic foods and liquids also increase the leaching of plastic chemicals – tomato based sauces, lemon juice and wine.  So don’t marinate your favourite meat or tofu in a plastic container.

Avoid using any plastic container for:

  • Heating food – NEVER use plastic containers in the microwave
  • Storing liquid or soft foods that are hot
  • Storing liquids or foods that contain fat or oil
  • Storing liquids or foods that are highly acidic
  • Freezing foods or liquid – especially any that contain fat or oil

Plastic food storage containers are safe for:

  • Storing dry foods such as rice, lentils, pasta etc
  • Storing of foods that are not acidic or contain fats and oils eg salads and sandwiches are OK but not bolognaise sauce
  • Short term storage of drinking water

 Start replacing all of your BPA free plastic containers

So now you know that BPA free plastic storage containers probably aren’t any safer than their BPA containing counterparts so it’s time to start divesting yourself of your kitchen plastic ware collection and replacing them with non-plastic alternatives. You don’t need to spend a fortune to do this – How to Use Affordable Glass Jars in the Kitchen will give you some great and inexpensive tips on how to replace your plastic food storage containers without going broke in the process.

Further reading

Had enough of toxic water bottles?  Here are the best and safest alternatives

10 of the most sneaky places you’ll find plastic chemicals lurking

Plastic aint fantastic – how to use affordable glass jars in the kitchen

Chia Seeds: Super Food or Hype?

Chia SeedsChia seeds are high in protein

Well sort of but you’ve got to eat a LOT to benefit.  100 grams of chia seeds contain 16 grams of protein, this is slightly more than the protein you’ll get from eating 2 large eggs.  But have you seen what 100grams of chia looks like? It’s about 3/4 cup.  I certainly couldn’t eat that in a single serving, I’m sure there are people about who could but most people would struggle.  28 grams which is about 2.5 tablespoons will give you 4 grams of protein but again this is a lot to consume in one serving.  Also, in order to benefit from the protein you’ll need to grind the chia seeds up into a meal otherwise you’ll simply poop them out as fibre.  Same deal with the minerals in chia, gotta grind those seeds up first.  One of my kitchen essentials is a cheap coffee grinder that is never used for coffee beans but instead does a fabulous job of quickly grinding chia, linseeds and all sorts of herbs and spices into a fine meal.  Food processors, even high-speed blenders don’t do a good job of grinding chia seeds.

Chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids

Yes they are but not necessarily the best version of omega 3 for most people.  It’s helpful to think of omega 3 fatty acids as a family.  There’s a total of 8 members in the omega 3 family.  When you hear about how omega 3’s are great for depression, reducing inflammation, maintaining a healthy cardiovascular disease and essential for brain development in babies and children what is being referred to are two specific omega 3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA.  Chia seeds contain zero DHA and EPA and instead are a great source of ALA (alpha linolenic acid).  ALA is not bad, it’s still essential and a small percentage will be converted into EPA (provided you’re not deficient in zinc, B6 or magnesium and the necessary enzymes aren’t genetically impaired).  The point is that you cannot make the claim that Chia will give the same health benefits as fish oil just because it’s high in omega 3 fatty acids.

Chia seeds are high in calcium

Yes they are high in calcium.  100grams of chia contains around 630mg of calcium.  Before you get too excited, remember that 100mg of chia is about 3/4 of a cup.  28grams which is around 2.5 tablespoons will give you 170-180mg calcium.  Chia also contains phytic acid which will bind to some of the calcium so you won’t absorb all of that, plus, you’ll need to grind the chia seeds up before you can hope to absorb any at all.

Chia seeds are high in fibre

Yes they are.  But is fibre good or bad?  A quick chat with Doctor Google about fibre brings up a wealth of articles and blog posts on the dangers

Extruded Bran Pellets
Mmmmmm. Thanks Dr Kellogg, these extruded bran pellets are as delicious as they are healthy. I’ll get my fibre from real foods like Chia Seeds thanks.

of fibre.  The truth, as always is somewhere in the middle.

There are a lot of junk fibres on the market and all of those processed “high fibre” foods are all enriched with junk fibres.  Our current obsession with fibre stems from John Harvey Kellogg, the man behind Kellogg’s breakfast cereals (one of the ultimate junk fibre foods).  A quick historical side note: John Harvey Kellogg was a bit of an interesting character who besides an obsession about consuming copious amounts of fibre and mineral oil laxatives was obsessed with curing the world of masturbation and was an outspoken advocate of abstinence.  Some of his ‘remedies’ included applying carbolic acid to the clitoris and stitching the foreskin of the penis closed with silver sutures to prevent erection.   He even went as far as recommending the removal of the clitoris from young girls.  Something to ponder the next time you wander down the breakfast cereal aisle.  Thankfully, only his passionate views on fibre consumption really caught on with medical doctors and today we have a whole industry build around fibre supplements thanks to Dr Kellogg.

Wheat bran (those horrible fibre pellets), psyllium husks (Metamucil) and the like are junk fibres and typically worsen constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas.  There is no nutrition for human beings in fibre, so starting the day with a big bowl of fibre pellets makes no sense at all.

Pretty much the only reason we need fibre is to keep our gut bacteria well fed.  There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble.  Insoluble fibres include wheat bran, pysillium etc while soluble fibre is found in large amounts in the outside skin of fruits and vegetables (think pears and apples), nuts, seeds, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans.  Soluble fibre is what our gut bacteria crave.  They love the stuff and ferment it into short chain fatty acids such as butyric acid  which is the main fuel source for cells in your colon.  Butyric acid, not fibre is what keeps your colon healthy.

Chia seeds contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre, around 75% insoluble and 25% soluble.  Kidney beans are around 85% insoluble and 15% soluble.  So chia seeds are a pretty good high fibre food that you can easily include in your diet to power up those colon cells, they’re especially useful for anyone following a very low carb diet which is typically low in fibre and results in starving bacteria in your gut.

If you’re using chia to help with constipation, I find it works best when soaked overnight in water and taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  Start with 1 heaped teaspoon in 1/4 cup of water.

Chia seeds also have several other benefits, more culinary than nutritional:

  • They are a wonderful binding agent and you can use them to replace eggs in many recipes.  Very useful if you or a family member are allergic to eggs.
  • Being a member of the mint family, they are a wonderful addition to a Paleo or grain free diet as they can be used to thicken soups, stews and casseroles in place of flour and also make a great base for grain free crackers and ‘whole grain’ crisps breads.
  • They have almost no taste and can be added to just about any recipe to increase fibre and add a smidge more protein.

So like most so-called super foods chia seeds are a mixed bag.  They’re not bad or unhealthy but if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only have one food, it certainly wouldn’t be chia (although I would miss my chia and coconut pudding).  They are certainly a nutritional addition to a healthy diet but I wouldn’t go so far as calling them a super food.