Chilli tuna with buckwheat pasta – gluten free

We are having chilli tuna pasta tonight for dinner, using one of our favourite pastas – buckwheat (recipe is bottom of page).

Buckwheat pasta has a slightly nutty taste and has a great texture – doesn’t go soggy when cooked.

I love it that we now have access to some really interesting non-wheat pastas – including ones made from lentils, mixed pulses and of course buckwheat. This is great for me as I have coeliac disease and until recently gluten free meant rice and corn based pastas.

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The lowdown on functional foods

I just got back from a visit to my local supermarket to buy ingredients for tonight’s dinner. I don’t buy a lot of processed foods and I find it interesting checking out what’s on the shelves claiming to have one health benefit or another.

I wandered up and down the aisles (much to my husband’s annoyance) checking out the claims of cholesterol lowering, low fat, high protein etc on food labels.

Foods that claim to have health benefits or reduce the risk of disease are classified as functional foods.

So what are some examples of functional foods? Are functional foods a different species to natural foods?

Well – yes and no.

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Parsley – my desert island vegetable.

Ok, I know that parsley is classified as a herb and not a vegetable but today I’m going to put it into the vegetable category.

If you knew you were going to be stuck on a desert island with only one vegetable which one would you take? You can take any form of the vegetable with you – seeds, dried or live plant.

My choice is parsley. I love parsley whether it’s the Italian or curly variety, it’s all good. Why is parsley on my list?

Well, there’s many reasons why parsley is called a superfood. Lets explore some of these:

  • contains loads of vitamins including vitamins K, C, A and folate. Good source of minerals too – iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
  • even a sprinkle will provide health benefits, but a couple of teaspoons of chopped parsley is best
  • contains flavonoid antioxidants that help our protect our bodies against free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • boosts the immune system and protects our DNA due to the volatile oil components. These oils are also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Parsley can be used in salads, as a garnish or just chewed by itself (its a great breath freshener as well).

Its great to grow some in your garden or planter box and a couple of sprigs will provide loads of beneficial nutrients. Lucky for me its easy to grow and will thrive on my desert island.

What would be your desert island vegetable and why?

Herb and spinach salad with figs and green apple. Parsley is one of the herbs I used in this salad.

Eat your greens!

Salad with kale slaw, some added sprouts, nuts and seeds. A small can of tuna and dressed with lime juice and olive oil

Dietary guidelines world-wide recommend that we should include at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 of fruit in our daily diets. As a nutritionist, even I find this difficult sometimes. A serving is generally regarded as:

  • 1 serving of vegetables is 1 cup of loose leaf uncooked or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. Include different types of coloured vegetables to cover the colour spectrum and ensure that we get lots of different vitamins, minerals and phytochemical.
  • 1 serving of fruit is 1 piece of fruit, small fruit like apricots count for 1/2 serving. 1/2 cup of cooked fruit is 1 serving.

There are many organisations world-wide that provide fact sheets that aim to help us eat well and stay healthy. I’ve included two links from Nutrition Australia website. This website has some really helpful resources and I have included two links to their facts sheets you may find useful:

A link to fact sheets for fruit and vegetables suggestions:

Another link to their general fact sheets, some really great healthy eating tips:

Lettuce, sliced radish, carrot, tomato, cucumber, spinach, grated beetroot, feta cheese, sprouts and topped with black sesame seeds

I have included some tips that make it a little easier to cover the intake of vitamins and minerals and help you achieve the daily vegetable/fruit targets:

  • spread your intake throughout the day, try to include vegetables at every meal e.g. Breakfast 1/2 avocado on toast with a handful of spinach leaves on top and 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries with some yoghurt. Lunch 1 1/2 cups of salad vegetables with a protein (e.g. fish, chicken, beans, pulses) topped with some seeds. Dinner steamed broccoli 1/2 cup, sweet potato 1/2 cup and sugar snap peas 1/2 cup and protein of choice. Afternoon snack can be some carrot and celery sticks with hummus or dip of choice.
  • Legumes and beans count within your vegetable intake – try to include 1/2 cup of these(1 serving) 2-3 times per week, this will add to your fibre intake and provide a good protein source.
  • It’s ok to buy packaged salads from supermarkets, I do. I’m addicted to packaged kale slaw at the moment. Its a very convenient way to get a variety of vegetables already prepared to eat. 1 1/2 cups of chopped salad (like kale slaw) with dressing (I don’t use the dressings they provide in the pack and instead use lime juice and a splash of olive oil). Top with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds and a protein source, I use a small can of tuna but you can use corn, pulses (lentils or beans) and canned is ok too.
  • Use lots of different types of herbs in your cooking – they are great in salads e.g. mint, basil, tarragon, dill. Herbs are really good for you and will make your salad taste like a professional one from a restaurant.
  • Don’t feel too guilty if you don’t reach your daily targets for fruit and vegetables remember our nutritional intake isn’t just what we eat on a day, its how we eat over a period of days and we can balance out our vitamins and minerals over time. This doesn’t mean that you can eat NO vegetables or fruit for 2 days then try and catch up on the 3rd – your tummy won’t like this and I for one, couldn’t eat this much food.
Lots of chopped tomatoes and a variety of lettuce leaves topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
A gorgeous salad with variety of leaves including spinach, rocket and lettuce. Herbs including dill, tarragon and basil. Add some sliced green apple, avocado, a few chopped dried figs and a simple French dressing.

Lets eat the rainbow! Starting with Purple.

I bought some gorgeous purple carrots at the fruit market today and got to thinking about all the different types of purple fruits and vegetables that are available.

We are told to include all different coloured fruit and vegetables in our diet, all colours are equal however I love the colour purple and try to include purple fruits and vegetables in my daily diet.

So what’s in purple fruits and vegetables? Why are they good for us? All fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, including the purple ones.

The colour purple indicates that a particular fruit or vegetable is high in antioxidants, including anthocyanins which gives them their purple colour (includes red and blue as well). 

Anthocyanins are a powerful antioxidant that support our well-being and help the body eliminate toxins.

Strawberries have anthocyanins. This rather large specimen next to my sunglasses was in Puglia, Italy. It was very tasty.

Purple carrots taste a little different to the orange ones you may be used to. I used them in a soup once and not only did the soup turn purple but the final product was not that great.

I bake them in the oven, first give them a good scrub or lightly peel (top and tail them as well) depending on their size and if larger cut in half from top to bottom. Season with some salt and pepper and a little olive oil and bake in moderate (350 F or 190 C) oven for around 20 minutes or until cooked (test with a fork). Serve the purple carrots with some roasted capsicum, steamed broccolini and some orange sweet potato and you have yourself a lovely rainbow for dinner.

Strawberries with a splash of balsamic vinegar and some almond biscotti, very delicious.

My monster passionfruit

I’ve been growing some red Panama passionfruit and this one is amongst the first of my crop for 2019. The Panama passionfruit mature a little later than the black ones and ready for picking from March to September in Australia.

I love passionfruit, they are full of fibre, vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals. They are so good for you and as an added bonus they taste delicious.

I planted 3 vines in 2018 along my side and front fence, they provide a great privacy screen with the added bonus of gorgeous flowers and loads of yummy fruit.

They don’t like frosts so will grow in areas that are a bit more temperate. Check out your local plant shop or nursery, or order one on-line from a local grower.

Flowers are lovely

Did you know that there were different types of fibre?

Before I started my nutrition degree I though that fibre was just fibre. Well, over the course of my studies I discovered that there are different types of fibre – soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fibre – sources include fruit, some grains like oats and barley and legumes for example chickpeas, lentils etc. Soluble fibre moves more slowly through the bowel, absorbing water along the way. Think of jam setters like pectin (which is a soluble fibre) they bulk up the stool. Soluble fibres help to reduce cholesterol and lower glucose absorption within the bowel.
  • Insoluble fibre – sources include vegetables, cereals (like wheat-bran, wholegrain). Insoluble fibre does not absorb water as it moves through the bowel. Transit time through the bowel is faster than soluble fibre and helps to prevent constipation and bulks up the stool as well.

This is only a brief explanation of what fibre does and the sources within our foods. Both fibres are very beneficial and some fruits and vegetables contain both types of fibre e.g. the skin of an apple is insoluble whereas inside the apple is soluble. Therefore if your stools are looser it might be beneficial to include more soluble fibre in your diet.

Did you know what the recommended intake of fibre is per day? Its at least 30grams per day and most of us do not have nearly enough fibre. Most packaged foods contain dietary labelling, its great to check out the fibre content to get an idea of how much you are having.

The old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on