The Balanced Plate

The Balanced Plate - nutrition and dietetic professionals for individuals and groups aiming to make healthy eating easy, delicious and uncomplicated.

Pieta Cedaro (APD) Nutritionist/Dietitian is passionate about eating well for optimal health and longevity. The Balanced Plate strives to help people sort evidence based nutrition science and food advice from the plethora of junk science that abounds. As a busy mum of two and passionate foodie Pieta aims to show you that healthy eating need not be complicated nor expensive but delicious and easy. Follow our health and nutrition tips, delicious food ideas and recipes, and opinions on food fashions to help you make smarter more balanced choices to live a longer and healthier life. As food and nutrition specialists The Balanced Plate provides dietetic and nutrition counselling, education, meal plans, prescription diets, supermarket tours and seminars in all areas of nutrition. Services can be provided for individuals, families or in a group setting such as schools and corporate venues. As well as face to face consultations we can provide online consulting services as we cater for clients worldwide.

Another social media trending for dieters in 2020-the Pegan

So what is it? A Pegan is what you get when you cross a Paleo with a Vegan. Sound like a bad joke? ...perhaps... While the vegan eating pattern is typically loaded with legumes and carbs from a range of grains, vegs and fruits and also good fats such as those from nuts and seeds the paleo eaters try to consume only foods they claim were only available in the Paleolithic era 2.6 million years ago-certain low carb vegetables, lower carb fruits, nuts, fish, and meat. It usually excludes dairy, most true grains, sugar, legumes, oils, salt, alcohol, and coffee and more starchy veg such as regular potatoes and fruits such as apples, pears, in favour of berries and low carb options.
In contrast veganism prescribes refraining from any animal products and byproducts — including meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and honey — and eating plant-based foods instead.
So put it together and what do you get a breakfast of scrambled eggs with greens and mushrooms sautéed in coconut oil and hold the toast or sub an almond flour and egg based pseudo low-carb high fat bread. Tuna and salad for lunch with the day finishing with a steak and low carb veg no rice or regular potato or perhaps some bolognaise sauce with zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice . Snacks might include a chia coconut pudding, handful nuts and seeds or coconut milk smoothie with a small amount of berries and rice malt syrup. Their seems to be some debate between pegans as to whether you can consume small amounts of certain grains –some argue up to ½ cup (125g) cooked per meal of oats, quinoa, teff, amaranth, black rice, millet and no more than 1 cup (75g) well cooked legumes such as pinto black beans, lentils or chick peas while purist pegans claim none of these are allowed.
Pros and Cons:
While the positives are the focus on consumption of unrefined foods such as some low carb fruit and vegetables, some healthy fats and a mixture of plant based proteins and animal proteins the Pegan diet does not have a lot going for it. It greatly limits quality wholegrains such as oats, barley, rice, polenta, rye and low fat dairy products, legumes such as chick peas and lentils and many high quality fruits and vegetables just because of their carb content. These excluded foods however are crucial for a diet rich in essential antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and a fibre rich balanced diet. Pegans also often consume too much saturated fat from plant based not so healthy oils such as coconut and palm oils and coconut products such as creams and milks and also consume much in the way of fattier cuts of meats such as liver and other offal, and pork cuts. Overall this diet is way too restrictive, unnecessarily cuts out many nutrient- rich super healthy foods and often if not followed properly results in constipation from lack of fibre and a number of B vitamin deficiencies. It also ironically often contains many hidden sugars in syrups (such as rice syrups, maple syrups, agave syrups) or coconut sugars that claim to have no ADDED sugar but contain very similar calories and carbs to the real thing. My advice - stay clear!!

So as discussed here are some of my favourite Nordic meal ideas
1. Mixed grain porridge- made with a mixture of rye flakes, brown rice flakes, oats, rolled barley and triticale or buckwheat and topped with plenty of fresh or frozen mixed berries, ground cinnamon, cardamom and thick dollops of Skyr Yoghurt- oat and almond milk are also very popular currently to use in coffee, smoothies and cereals.
2. Buckwheat or rye flour based crepes with sliced fruit and yoghurt
3. Pumpernickel or caraway rye sourdough bread toasted and topped with 1 poached egg some smoked salmon or ocean trout, sliced gherkins, capers, tzatziki, capers and grilled or blanched asparagus spears
4. Snacks such as Ryvitas or similar crispbread with cottage cheese and fresh grated beetroot or ricotta cheese and berry compote or chia berry jam or low sugar poached berries and rhubarb topped with Skyr yoghurt and sprinkle of toasted almonds or seeds, handful of nuts and unsweetened dried cranberries and blueberries or low sugar spiced cookies or gingerbread
5. Savoury spinach crepes filled with smoked fish or cottage cheese pickled vegetables and grated carrots, radish, beetroot as desired
6. Potato onion and carrot rosti topped with a poached egg or two or smoked mackerel and light salad of greens, pickled vegetables and dollop of yoghurt
7. Thick pea and root vegetables soups, lean lamb stew with potato, swede, carrots and celery and served with rye bread.
8. Lean pork mince or extra lean turkey mince meatballs and mashed mixed root vegetables (swede, parsnip potato and sweet potato), boiled peas topped with pickled vegetables such as cabbage and beetroot and baby roasted carrots with little oil and fennel or caraway seeds.
9.Lean pork fillet grilled with light salad of shaved fennel, apples, grated or roasted carrots and baby beetroot tossed through spelt or faro cooked or brown rice or buckwheat wih dill oil and vinegar or buttermilk dressing.
10. Barley or buckwheat risotto with fennel, peas or mixed mushrooms and nettle greens. This can be served just with cheese or with fish or lean pork fillet.
11 Rice pudding made on low fat milk and topped with mixed berries, or fresh cherries and drizzle of honey
12. Light almond flour or gingerbread or rye apple cakes or carrot cakes topped with Skyr and ricotta or quark style low sugar icing.
For more inspiration try these sites:
One of my favourite Nordic twists on a French classic
My Nordic Niscoise salad
• 8 baby Carisma or Spud Lite low carb potatoes potatoes
• 2 eggs (optional), boiled to your liking
• 1 cup green beans
• 1 small Lebanese cucumber
• ½ large fennel bulb, shaved
• 1 medium fresh beetroot peeled and grated
• 1 bunch baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
• 150g smoked trout, smoked salmon, smoked/cooked sardines (or sub baked/smoked tofu for a vegetarian option)
• 1 tablespoon capers
• fresh dill
• Other optional additions: gherkins, pickled onions
• Nordic Nicoise Dressing:
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil (for lower fat option replace with ¼ cup thick buttermilk or reduced fat yoghurt)
• 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or lemon juice or extra to taste
• 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon white pepper (or black)
• 1–2 teaspoons fresh grated or prepared horseradish
• pinch sugar
1. Place the unpeeled baby potatoes in a pot of water and boil, then simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Add the green beans in the same water during the last minute to quickly blanch. Drain. Rinse under cold water.
2. At the same time boil the eggs, either soft or hard – your preference. Peel and halve.
3. While the eggs are boiling, stir the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork, tasting and adjusting.
4. Prep the veggies. Using a veggie peeler, shave the cucumber into ribbons (or just slice into rounds)
5. Slice the fennel and other extra additions of your choice.
6. Assemble the salads. Lay a bed of spinach on the bottom of two bowls. Top with fresh cucumbers, beetroot, fennel, fish, eggs, pickled onions, gherkins and capers and fresh dill
7. Dress the salad right before serving.
8. Add a dollop of extra yoghurt for extra richness if desired and serve with rye crisp or pumpernickel.

With the COVID lockdown in Victoria and in many places around the world I thought it the perfect time to review some of the most common food trends and eating patterns being promoted in 2020 on social media and probably the ones I am almost always quizzed about by my clients. Let’s start with one of my personal favourites and one of the few credible eating patterns that I just love…The Nordic Diet….
So what is the Nordic Diet?
Often referred to as the major current contender for the Mediterranean diet this eating pattern instead mimics the traditional diet of those In Nordic countries (Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark) and also emphasises the importance of practicing environmental sustainability. Rich in plant foods such as wholegrains (in particular oats, barley and rye), coffee, beans, chick peas and lentils, and unrefined canola oil, moderate amounts of high calcium protein rich cultured dairy such as Skyr yoghurt and fermented cheeses like cottage cheese and fatty fish and some lean meat and eggs also included. Plenty of fruits in particular a myriad of berry varieties most Aussies have never heard of and will never taste, and vegetables such as onions, radishes, and root veg such as beetroot radishes etc , and plenty of herbs and spices also. Rich in omega 3’s, fibre and antioxidants from
Pros and Cons: Still a relatively new area of research the studies conducted on these regions consistently support the health benefits of this diet with evidence showing that it can improve weight loss and heart health, and healthy bowel function with less risk of many gastro cancers and hormone dependent cancers.
What I also love about this pattern of eating is the importance placed on the social context of eating- the sharing of foods with loved ones, and taking your time to enjoy the small things in life like the Swedish daily coffee break (“Fika-“ which is more about socialising then coffee and wholesome cakes each day) and very little unrefined processed goods. Let’s face it there is not much that the Scandinavians and the Nordics don’t do with class and style….Stay tuned for some wonderful traditional meal and snack ideas for the Nords..

How dry has your 2020 July been?
We are now a third of our way through July 2020 which is pretty scary given how fast the year has gone. July is dry July, the month where drinkers are asked to take stock- or cellar rather -of how much they are drinking and consider abstaining from alcohol or at least minimizing their drinking habits to get them within control. The aim is to establish a safer healthier relationship with alcohol. Never before have Aussies needed to be more alcohol aware with the most recent stats showing that 70% of Aussies drinkers admit to drinking more during the COVID quarantine. Whether it be financial stress, boredom, loneliness, working or schooling from home or just a sense of general uncertainty of what is to come, self -medicating with alcohol has become a real problem for many. SO perhaps it is time to consider if you regularly meet the NHMRC recommendations of no more than 10 STANDARD drinks a week with at least 2-3 alcohol free days and try some of the following tips to reduce your intake to a minimum over the next month and beyond.
Personal tips for succeeding at a Dry July:
• Try to hang out with others also committing to dry July. During lockdown or isolation during COVID this may be talking to friends on phone, Zoom or Facetime, or challenging a buddy to join you partake in the dry July challenge.
• Avoid social situations where drinks are flowing or drinking alone-the former should be easier this July but the latter is very hard for many regular drinkers during COVID with the isolation, coupled with loneliness and for many additional stressors.

• Plan activities such as exercise or watch a movie instead or do some pilates, yoga or basic meditation instead.
• Swap alcohol for another healthy ‘treat’ for many I recommend a low sugar stevia sweetened tonic water or kombucha-Nexba brand are really yum, diet cranberry juice mixed with soda water, low sugar iced tea, mineral or soda water mixed with sliced berries, mint leave and a squeeze of lime or orange juice, a Virgin mary. Or it may be as simple as chewing some sugar free gum or brushing your teeth earlier in the evening so there is less incentive to drink.
Clear the house of alcohol or at least put it up high or out of sight to avoid temptation
Occupy yourself with other activities such as painting your nails, reading a book or magazine you love, play a board game, do a crossword, sudoku or wordfind, adult colouring book, having a warm bath, clear the cupboards of old clothes, books etc, take up a craft to keep you busy such as knitting, crocheting, stamp collecting or scrapbooking.

Put the money you have save from buying less alcohol in a tin and treat yourself on completion
Remember it’s ONLY a month,not forever, to abstain and it is about re-establishing a healthy balanced relationship with alcohol in the years to come.

Immune system a priority post COVID-food industry has reported

Shoppers are seeking out more foods that have probiotics, global bioscience company Chr. Hansen says. In a commissioned study with FMCG Gurus, consumers said following the pandemic they were more concerned about supporting their immune system.
Given that eighty per cent of our immune cells reside in the gut means that consumers are increasingly seeing functional foods as a way to help maintain optimal health.

The recent study combined quantitative research of 1000 participants and qualitative focus-group questioning. The findings included:

72 per cent of participants were concerned about their immune health – mostly in relation to their own health and wellbeing;
Almost half of those surveyed indicated that current concerns related to immunity had made them more conscious of overall immune health;
More than one-quarter of the participants have turned to food more frequently to support their immune defence at this time; and
71 per cent of participants associate probiotics with helping to support their immune health.

Companies such as Vaalia have long used clinically studied, high-quality live LGG probiotics to help support the immunity in their yoghurt, while Emma & Tom juices use LC-431 in its probiotic juice. Consumer demand has also prompted The Culture Co. Yoghurt, and Kefir drinks to include BB-12 in its products.
Whatever products you choose choose wisely as many contain poor quality probiotics and/or not enough to impact your gut health. Remember you need around one billion live probiotics must be in each serve to ensure a beneficial impact.

Mediterranean style snacks:

While most of us don't NEED to eat more than 3 meals per day and while traditionally Mediterraneans do not snack much at all - if you are growing, exercising regularly or prefer to eat smaller more often then here are some healthy snack options with a traditional Mediterranean focus.

A handful of nuts especially walnuts or almonds (30g) around 1/4 cup is plenty.
A piece of fruit.
Carrots or baby carrots or celery stick with or without a little cottage or low fat ricotta or dips like hommus, tzatziki or babaganoush
A boiled egg
A handful of olives, no added sugar gherkins or pickled vegetables and small square of hard cheese
Some berries or grapes.
A few wholegrain grissini
A few dolmades
A thin slice of heavy grain or rye sourdough or ryvita style crispbread or heavy fruit and nut toast with spread of ricotta
A tub of low fat high protein Greek yogurt or Skyr style thick yoghurt
A low fat milk based or calcium enriched almond milk coffee
Apple or pear slices with thin spread of 100% almond or other nut butter (no added sugar or oil-a little salt is fine) or low fat ricotta.
A few fresh dates or dried figs
A few squares of 70% or higher cocoa dark chocolate
Handful roasted salted chick peas or corn kernels or fava beans
Corn on the cob

Here is a typical healthy Med recipe for you to try using many pantry staples...A few of my clients have requested a felafel so here is a favourite...It is super easy, high in fibre, antioxidants, plant protein, economical and delicious it is also low in total and saturated fat. It is great served with tabbouleh,roasted beetroots and carrots, roasted capsicum or eggplant, a Greek salad or a small wholemeal pita bread-Yum!! Who needs to order a fast food burger when you can save your money and life with this!!!

Simple baked felafels
These easy falafels are made with fresh herbs, garlic and spices and are baked with a small spray of olive oil to keep the calorie count down and leftovers freeze really well. If you like you can pan-fry them in a little olive oil before placing on a hot oven tray but they do keep shape better baked.

Preparation time
less than 30 mins
Cooking time
30 mins to 1 hour
Makes 18
Dietary Vegetarian high in fibre healthy low fat
• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2 small shallots or 1 medium red onion (200g), peeled and finely chopped
• 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• 3 tsp ground cumin
• 2 tsp ground coriander
• 2 tsp sea salt flakes
• 1/3 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 1/3 cup flatleaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
• 40g/1½oz plain flour or gluten free flour is desired
• freshly ground black pepper
• olive oil cooking spray
For the tzatziki
• 200ml/7oz 2% fat plain yoghurt
• 140g/5oz piece cucumber, grated
• 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
• 2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
• pinch sea salt
• pinch cumin of desired
Recipe tips
1. Preheat the oven to 230C/210C Fan/Gas 8 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Heat the olive oil in small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened and starting to brown (add a splash of water if they start to stick). Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
3. Put the onions, chickpeas, garlic, spices, salt, chopped herbs, flour and some pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth, stopping every so often to scrape down the sides with a spatula. You want to retain some texture but the paste should be able to hold together.
4. Divide the mixture into 18 equal pieces and shape into patties. (IF you have time place them in the fridge for 30 -60 mins at least before baking as this helps them hold their shape better). Place on the warmed prepared baking tray and spray the patties well with olive oil. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden-brown, turning patties over around 15 minutes into cooking.
5. For the tzatziki, put the yoghurt into a small bowl. Squeeze the grated cucumber really well
6. to remove excess liquid, then add to the yoghurt with the garlic, mint, salt and sweetener. Mix well.
7. Lower the oven setting to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 and move the tray of falafel to the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for a further 20–25 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve with the tzatziki.

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