Health foods have come a long way since I first went into a dedicated store in my teens. From the emergence of smoothie and salad bars alongside fast food at shopping malls to the explosion of alternative flours and milks, there has truly been a nutrition revolution. As someone who still remembers their first glass of watery, bitter soy milk and trying carob chocolate – these are good times.
I love finding new health products to add variety to my mostly vegan diet. Buckwheat and quinoa are a lovely alternative to oats and I’ve recently been making the Italian flatbread farinata, which uses chickpea flour, for weekend brunches. I’ve also been trying to boost my protein intake from 70 grams a day to 110g/day. It’s been challenging but achievable, partly thanks to lupin flakes.
What is Lupin?
I first spotted lupin at one of my favourite health food spots The Clean Food Store and soon after I received them in a health foods subscription box. Lupin (also called lupini beans) is a legume that’s been used as animal feed for decades, but it’s only recently been widely marketed for human consumption. My home state, Western Australia, produces 85% of the world’s supply! The nutritional profile of lupin what impresses me most – it’s very high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, and relatively low in calories.
Specifically, one 40g (4 tablespoons) serve of lupin flakes contains:
It’s also gluten-free and has a low glycemic index (GI)
If that’s not attractive enough, lupin flakes are also quick cooking, fairly easy to find in Australia and only around AU$9 for a 400g bag (or about 90 cents a serve!). So how exactly do you use them? Read on.
I received my first bag of lupin flakes about the same time I had an ageing orange in my fruit bowl. I grabbed a jar, some oats and had this delicious, high protein breakfast the next morning!
Lupin Bircher muesli (serves one)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp lupin flakes
1 orange, juice only
1 tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc) + extra for the morning
METHOD: Combine all ingredients except toppings in a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add extra milk for a thinner consistency if desired. Otherwise, add toppings and enjoy!
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I’ve been sprinkling 1-2 tbsp of lupin flakes on my Greek soy yogurt and fresh fruit most afternoons. It’s so filling! There’s something about the nutty flavour of lupin with the sharp taste of natural yogurt that I’m hooked on too. This combination packs 10g of protein with the probiotic goodness of yogurt for just 130 calories – and still under 200 cals with berries or a slices of fresh peach. You could also add a tablespoon as a salad topper, although I’m yet to try this.
If you like Middle Eastern foods, you will love lupin! I tried substituting lupin flakes for quinoa in several dishes, but I find it works best as a replacement for cous cous. To quickly cook in the microwave, mix 4 tbsp of lupin flakes with 1/2 a cup of water on HIGH for three minutes. Cover for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork to enjoy as a side dish with a Moroccan tajine or stuffed capsciums. I want to try lupin in this way with a spicy Indial dal too!
4. Just Add
In the same way I like to add flaxmeal to my breakfast and general baking, the neutral flavour of lupins means you can simply add it to a dish for a protein boost. One tablespoon in a bowl of oatmeal almost doubles the protein content, and you could similarly add a few tablespoons and lower the flour when making muffins or bread. It does have a slightly bitter, nutty taste so I find just one tablespoon in a single bowl of oats is a good balance. For other cooking, start small and increase over time until you find the right balance. Or check out my lupin cake recipe below!
When I got home late last week and hadn’t reached my protein target for the day, I had to get creative. I experimented with a lupin chocolate mug cake with surprisingly good results! This is not a rich, sweet mud cake. Rather, it has a denser texture more like polenta but it’s wholesome, chocolately and still a satisfying high-protein snack or dessert!
My Lupin Chocolate Mug Cake (vegan)
2 tbsp lupin flakes
1 tbsp spelt flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/8 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc)
1 tsp coconut oil
Optional: 1 tsp maple syrup
METHOD: Combine all ingredients in a mug and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Check and microwave for another minute if needed. Eat with a spoon straight away or top with berries, peanut butter or coconut yogurt.
I’m in the process of testing some high protein, vegan lupin cookies and plan to do a fruit crumble with lupin topping too. Like almond meal, you could also use lupin flakes to crumb meat, tofu or vegetables. When winter approaches, I’m going to try topping cauliflower cheese with lupin for a delicious crunch!
I did attempt a lupin porridge but I found there wasn’t enough starch to make it very creamy, even when cooked with grated apple, soy milk and vanilla. I also added cooked lupin flakes to a bean salad but they soaked up moisture from the beans and tomatoes, resulting in a soggy lunch. Both meals were edible, but I prefer the recipes above.
I visit my local farmers’ market most weeks and I love wandering between the tables of fresh produce. I buy staples like leafy greens, tomatoes and apples and then choose a few seasonal items to inspire my meals for the week. It might be a bunch of beetroot for salads or Tuscan cabbage to put in a stew. I can fill a box for around AU$20 and love the sense of community on a Saturday morning.
A few weeks ago the rhubarb at looked irresistible but it’s hardly a fruit you bring to the office. Instead, I created this basic compote to add to breakfasts or sprinkle with granola for an instant rhubarb crumble. It was such a hit with my boyfriend, he asked me to make it again the following week.
I like the simplicity of this recipe which can be easily prepared while cooking something else. Rather than refined sugar, this compote uses cinnamon and vanilla to mimic sweetness. It’s a great, low-calorie treat that’s good enough to enjoy anytime of the day! It’s also gluten-free and vegan.
600g rhubarb, chopped into 1.5cm (half-inch) pieces ½ cup water 1.5 tbsp pure maple syrup 1 tsp vanilla extract ½ tsp cinnamon 1 tbsp sultanas
1. Put all ingredients except sultanas in a medium sized pot. 2. Bring to a boil (about 5 minutes), then turn heat to medium-low. 3. Add the sultanas. 4. Cook for a further 10 minutes or until rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally. 5. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate.
This keeps in the fridge for at least a few (3-4) days. Add an extra tablespoon of maple syrup if needed, for sweetness. Serve compote warm with oatmeal, homemade custard or on top of pancakes. Or enjoy it cold with yogurt, granola, or scones. I like to mix mine with vanilla protein powder for an instant smoothie bowl – then just sprinkle with nuts, seeds and fresh fruit. Delicious!
I’ve always had a reluctant relationship with muesli. Unlike its sweet, roasted cousin granola, muesli has mild flavours and goes soggy far too quickly for my liking. And as opposed to oatmeal, a serve of muesli is over just a few mouthfuls after it begins.
However when I returned from China last month, I was craving something fresh and light. After three weeks away, my cupboard was bare and it was too warm for porridge. I had some frozen bananas but didn’t feel like a smoothie. I stared at my pantry, summoned the scant ingredients on hand and created this recipe in 60 seconds.
The rolled oats provide a high-fibre, low GI and low-calorie base while the walnuts add a rich, caramel-like flavour with the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. The cocoa nibs are like nature’s chocolate chips and a good source of iron and antioxidants. They won’t get soggy either! The sultanas add a little sweetness and bulk while the coconut flakes are just plain YUM.
1/3 cup (30g) rolled oats (*use gluten-free oats if needed) 1 tbsp (40g) walnut pieces 1 tbsp cocoa nibs 1 tbsp sultanas (raisins) 1 tbsp coconut flakes (optional but delicious) Fresh fruit to serve (blueberries, banana, or strawberries)
1. Combine all ingredients in a cereal bowl 2. Add fresh fruit and serve with your choice of milk (soy, almond, dairy) 3. Enjoy!
You can easily scale the recipe up by multiplying ingredients by 10 and storing in a large container to have during the week. I enjoyed my muesli with fresh blueberries and soy milk – there’s something about the combination of fruit, cocoa nibs and coconut that makes this taste luscious! Check out my post Perth’s Top Health Food Stores for where to buy ingredients in bulk.
When you think of a family vacation, what jumps to mind? A camping trip or a week away in Bali, Florida or Spain? In my family, we can barely meet for dinner without a month’s notice. It was therefore a rare and special treat when my family and I stayed at the brand new Crown Towers in Perth, Western Australia. Granted, it was only for one night in the middle of winter. But we were going on a family holiday!
The 500-room hotel opened in November 2016 at a cost of $650 million. It’s reportedly the most expensive hotel ever built in Australia and is the largest in Perth. It’s strategically located in Burswood alongside the greater Crown complex, about 10 minutes drive from Perth’s CBD and 15 minutes from Perth Airport.
Our stay at Crown was devised months in advance by my youngest sister (a travel agent) and her boyfriend. We sat around the Christmas tree last year and they gave us mysterious gift wrapped packages with our names on them. We took it in turn to open our gifts, revealing cardboard clues with images of keys, some numbers and a crown. After 15 minutes or so, we solved the puzzle. We were having a night at Crown Towers in July 2017! A week before our booking, my sister and her man sent an an elaborate email detailing room inclusions, dinner reservations and breakfast. My first staycation was looking exceptional!
arrival & check-in
My boyfriend and I caught an Uber from our city apartment and arrived at Crown Towers within 15 minutes. Like most West Australians, we’d been to Crown complex before but driving up to Crown Towers’ entrance was distinctly different. Perth’s humble skyline looked world class alongside the sweeping Swan River views. Equally as striking was the Crown Towers’ building itself. It was tall, glistening and commanded your attention. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in my own city.
We arrived at 2.30pm for a 3pm check in but it wasn’t exactly smooth. Reception were confused as my sister had booked four rooms but we’d arrived separately (albeit within an hour or so of each other). I didn’t think this would be an uncommon situation but the issue was resolved within a few minutes. I was surprised when we were told our room wasn’t ready. It may have been because of our request for adjacent rooms but it was only 30 minutes before the official check-in time. Staff told us they would call or text when the room. Again, confusion arose about whether to call me or my sister who’d made the booking (and already had her room). I was beginning to doubt whether Crown could live up to world class standards.
The delay provided a perfect chance to head to the The Waiting Room for a cocktail. It was a beautiful, art deco style space adjacent to the lobby that would’ve fit neatly in The Great Gatsby. Tables of mostly women were enjoying afternoon drinks, and I spotted a few people enjoying the bar’s signature “High Coffee” which consists of a coffee-based cocktail and four matching desserts for $35. I’m not a coffee drinker but I made a note to take friends.
I ordered a spiced winter cocktail ($18) while my boyfriend had an expresso martini ($20). His drink looked and smelt wonderful, but the presentation of my drink was underwhelming. It tasted fine though. A moment of redemption came when I inquired about one of the ingredients in my drink, Lillet. The waiter explained it was a French aperitif, mostly made from white wine and some citrus. I was happy with the information but then he returned with the bottle a few minutes later so I could see the label. My afternoon cocktail had become a liquor lesson! I was very grateful (and I’ll be buying some Lillet for my liquor cabinet too). We got a text that our room was ready at 3.15pm. As we left, I noticed one of the television screens was showing live football. The 1920s ambience was suddenly very 2017.
Memories of the awkward check-in and my average cocktail were washed away the instant we walked into our room. The Perth skyline and river views filled the floor to ceiling windows. I felt as far from home as you could with a 15 minute drive. My boyfriend and I spent at least 10 minutes staring out the window. A family holiday had never looked so good! It was time to crack the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, which was included with our booking. Except it wasn’t there. I made a quick call to the front desk and it arrived 10 minutes later. It was another slip in customer service, but the view was so good I didn’t care.
It turns out we’d been upgraded to a Premier King room (hence the view) although we only discovered this later when speaking with family. I explored our abode for the night, which featureda huge bathroom (with a television by the bath), an iPad to control room settings, and thick, luxurious bathrobes. The mini-bar was excellent and showcased local goods, including Hippocampus gin and a wide range of Koko Black chocolates. There was time for a quick soak in the tub and if it wasn’t for our dinner reservations, I wouldn’t have left the room!
Crown Tower’s outdoor pool is as much about striking aesthetics as it is about leisure. However, it was a cloudy 17 °C (62 °F) during our winter stay so I didn’t make it out there. The fee for renting a pool-side lounge started at $65, and rose to $375 for a luxury cabana on weekends. The pool is strictly for guests only, so no chance of making a day visit in warmer months. It was taunting us from our room!
I didn’t have time to check out Crown Towers’ gym, despite it being open 24 hours. I didn’t visit the day spa on this occasion either, although I’d previously been for some birthday pampering over summer. I used the Aqua Retreat area for about 20 minutes before my treatments, which consisted of a Wild Kashmir Purifying Facial ($200, 1 hour) with turmeric and lavender and a firm relaxation massage ($180, 1 hour). The facial was soothing yet detoxifying while the massage was calming but also addressed tight spots. I felt liked I’d had a full night’s sleep when I left! While hotel spas can be known to take advantage of their captive market, Crown Spa truly stands on its own.
Our family had booked a table at Crown’s premium Chinese restaurant Silks. I’d dined here a few years earlier with my boyfriend, but we’d both agreed it was a venue better suited to groups so you can try more of the menu. Silks was about 10 minutes walk from our hotel room and it was much more ornate than I’d remembered. Our party of seven included chilli lovers and chilli haters, a vegetarian, some serious carnivores and my mostly vegan self. We were promptly seated at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle – my favourite setup for group dining.
We ordered white wine (Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc $65) and some beers while we looked over the menu. We decided on a few small dishes to share and each chose a main, making sure there were no duplications. The feast that ensued was incredible. The Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt ($18) was devoured by all. My Sweet & Sour Gluten Dumplings ($28) were a delicious, chewy main that had all the flavours of childhood takeaway elevated in mock meat. My vegetarian mother declared it her favourite dish. The carnivores were seriously impressed with the tofu, and also said the Signature Dim Sum ($25 for three pieces) was a highlight. The Fried Egg Noodles with Barbecue Pork ($28) and Peking Duck ($11) received praise too, while the Stir-fried Chicken with XO Sauce & Cognac ($48) was reportedly satisfying but not sensational. There was a second bottle of wine (Plantagenet Riesling $55) and some spirits and cider as our chatter and chopsticks continued. There was no room for dessert.
The bill came to $625 for the seven of us ($90 a head), although the final total was closer to $550 once we used our Entertainment Card discount. Would I return to Silks a third time? I find it hard to separate Chinese food from memories of plastic takeout containers and pyjamas, but I’m yet to find anywhere in Perth that can rival Silks’ crispy tofu. Combined with the lure of sweet & sour dumplings, I’ll likely revisit with my mum in another year or so and truly tackle that wine list.
Half my family went back to Crown Towers to enjoy their rooms while the rest of continued our night at the casino. Crown’s gaming area is much like any casino in the world (I’ve been to several in Las Vegas and oddly enough one in Zimbabwe). It’s a labyrinth of bright lights, felt-covered tables and slot machines without a clock in sight. I quickly lost $20 in Blackjack and my boyfriend had a few wins before losing at the same table. My sister and her partner were on a winning streak but lost shortly after. It was an expensive hour but a novelty. By now, we were full of food and alcohol, and some of us had work the next day. It was time to say goodnight.
My boyfriend and I returned to our room to discover two boxes of Koko Black chocolates and breakfast menus on the bed. A pair of slippers had been placed on a small mat each side of the bed too. It’s the most attentive turndown service I’ve ever seen. We took some time to enjoy the night time views before sinking into the luxurious bedding. I slept until our alarm at 8am, a reluctant but necessary measure to ensure we made it to breakfast.
Our family met at 8.30am in Crown Towers’ buffet restaurant Epicurean. This venue has been on my list of places to try since the first photos from its opening day flooded Instagram. The space itself is at ground-level and it’s light, bright and airy. The combination of marble and rose-gold features is fun and classic. It wasn’t very busy but it was also a Monday morning. I was excited.
I’ve had buffet breakfasts at five star hotels across Asia and Europe, and Epicurean is up there with the best of them. Even at breakfast time, you could choose from antipasti, cheeses and an extensive salad bar to fresh pretzels, tortilla chips and guacamole. The continental section included sweet and savoury breads, bagels, crumpets, cereals, yogurts, four types of poached fruits and even healthy bliss balls worth several dollars at any cafe.
Epicurean’s hot section boasted multiple Indian curries and breads, noodles, and Western options such as Tuscan potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans. There was a dedicated meat section too, with delicate individual pieces lined up in a window. Then there was desserts! The standout was a chocolate fondue tower (both milk and dark varieties) with bowls of churros and an entire cabinet of fresh fruit. You’ll also find trays of croissants, cakes, pastries, donuts, pancakes and muffins.
I chose Indian dahl and paratha for starters, plus hummus, guacamole and crispy wafers. My second bowl was poached figs and granola, which were both packed with cinnamon and spices. I was tempted to have a fresh pretzel but my buffet strategy told me no. Instead, I rounded out breakfast with a churro, dark chocolate and fresh pineapple for good measure. I was impressed by not only the extraordinary range of food, but also the quality. My sisters adored the jaffa cake, while my mum said the super fluffy scrambled eggs were an unexpected highlight.
My sister had pre-paid breakfast when booking our room for $36 (it’s usually $42 Monday to Saturday). Given this includes endless cups of coffee and tea, it’s exceptional value. I left for work very full, but very happy. I will absolutely be returning to Epicurean for lunch and dinner.
We delayed check out as long as I could, but by 10am I had to get to work. One night wasn’t enough to feel fully refreshed or appreciate all the services at Crown Towers but it was a luxurious way to hit ‘pause’ on life and make some lovely family memories. I’m already dreaming of my next staycation! If Crown Towers can raise all guest experiences to the heights we saw, this hotel will be strong a drawcard for international tourists and locals alike.
Cost: A Deluxe King starts from AU$268 per night on Sunday and Monday nights, but I’d highly recommend the Premier King room for the dramatic city views (from $322). Access to Crown’s Crystal Club with breakfast and evening drinks and canapés starts from $448 in a Deluxe King room or $508 for a Premier King. Prices climb mid-week and hit a peak for Friday and Saturday nights.
Hands up if you’ve succumbed to $7 Pringles on a plane? Or spent $28 on room service after a late night arrival, only to realise your body just needed a few mouthfuls? Whether you’re flying a low-cost airline or want to avoid 2am jet lag hunger, I’ve found some creative ways to eat well in transit. These ideas are particularly useful if you have food allergies that limit your on-board menu options, if you have unusual arrival times, or you simply want to avoid overpriced airport food. Some of these will work for bus travel too!
My Top Travel-Friendly Foods
1. Herbal & green teas
I first spotted this idea when flying to Queenstown, New Zealand. A woman asked the flight attendant for a cup of hot water, and then brewed a fruity tea right on her tray table. I’ve done the same ever since. It’s especially nice on long haul flights when you want to stay hydrated or try induce sleep. Yes, I feel a bit a pretentious asking for hot water on a flight. But my request is yet to be refused and it’s absolutely worth it!
My favourite: Grab a box of T2 All Sorts (AU$10) for 10 assorted, individually packaged teabags. You’ll find one for whatever mood you’re in!
2. A granola/energy bar
It’s an obvious snack choice but for good reason. Granola bars are portable, filling and tasty. With a cup of tea or coffee, it almost feels like breakfast. When choosing a bar, look beyond marketing buzzwords like ‘natural,’ ‘superfoods’ or ‘low-fat’ and read the ingredient and nutrition labels. The healthiest options will have ingredients you recognise and not too much sugar. I prefer my granola and energy bars to have 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar or less, but I allow a little more if they contain dried fruit as these will have naturally occurring sugars. A sickly sweet bar is the last thing I want before an adventure!
My favourite: I love Larabars (AU$8 for box of 5), as they contain just dates, nuts and a little sea salt. They’re gluten-free, vegan and packed with fibre. I’ll often eat half a Larabar at my hotel before a morning run if I need. For long-lasting energy, I like Clif Builders Bar with 20g protein (AU$33 for 12 pack) although it breaks my self-imposed sugar limit.
3. Instant oatmeal
If you’re a regular High Rise Hayley reader, you’ll know how much I love my oatmeal! A sachet of quick oats is ideal for travelling as it requires little more than hot water and a mug. Just pour and cover with a saucer, wait a few minutes and voila! Oats are exceptionally good for you and budget-friendly too. If your hotel room has milk in the mini-bar, even better. I’ve also raided fruit & nut mixes for toppings. For some serious hotel room creativity, soak your oats overnight with mini-bar orange juice for a refreshing Bircher muesli. If you have food allergies though, be sure to check your oatmeal packet for potential milk powder, nuts or sulphites (often in dried fruit).
My favourite: I like Macro Organic Quick Oats (AU$4 for 10x34g sachets) as they’re 100% rolled oats, without any sweeteners or flavourings. If you must have a flavoured variety, check the sugar content. Some brands contain up to 15g of sugar in a 35g serve – that’s 3 teaspoons, or more than one-third sugar!
4. Cup of soup
It’s midnight, you’ve checked into your hotel room and you’re a little hungry but not enough for a meal. If your room has a kettle, make soup! A cup of vegetable broth is both comforting and hydrating, and the water content can help you feel full without consuming lots of calories before bed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of sodium in most commercially available soups. But it’s better than a bowl of room service fries, right?
My favourites: La Zuppa’s lentil soup (just 26 calories). I also like instant miso soup, even though it doesn’t have the probiotic benefits when making it yourself from miso paste.
5. Nut butter
Being lactose-intolerant, my plane meals usually include just half of the cheese and crackers course. Some flights I’ve been given butter with my bread roll too, which isn’t going to happen. Solution? Nut butter! Nuts are a delicious source of protein, fibre and minerals including magnesium, zinc and calcium. I bring a small sachet when travelling as a substitute for cheese or butter, or to boost my protein intake at a hotel continental breakfast. Be mindful that nut butters are calorie dense and you won’t be using much energy sitting in the sky. Luckily, I bring sachets, not a jar.
My favourite: Justin’s Classic Almond Butter (AU$17 for 10x34g serves). I’m always on the prowl for mini peanut butter packets at cafes or buffets too.
6. A banana
Nature’s breakfast on the run, no packaging required! Bananas are the original energy snack, with a nutritious combination of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6. I often eat a banana for breakfast in transit with a cup of tea, which gives me enough energy for the day ahead without feeling weighed down. Just make sure your banana is the last thing you place in your carry-on luggage, or you’ll find yourself with an unintended banana smoothie.
For early flights: Cut up fruit salad and put it in a take-away container. You’ll be the envy of every other passenger and you won’t land full of starch and fat from toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. You could even freeze some yogurt to eat with it, or top your fruit salad with mixed nuts.
Day time flying: The night before, put 1/2 cup hummus in a tall container and freeze. Before leaving for the airport, put some carrot sticks on top. The hummus should be defrosted yet chilled when your seatbelt sign goes off.
Night time flights: I frequently BYO sushi onto planes. Being vegetarian, I’m fine with avocado rolls being out the fridge for a few hours. Bite-sized food is a total win too.
You can take liquids on domestic flights but more than 100mL (3 oz.) of liquids is a no-no when flying internationally. Coconut water is a refreshing and healthy way to keep hydrated.
Keep all your food in its original packaging and before going through customs, toss any food that’s opened. I make sure all ingredients are listed too, in case quarantine or other authorities want to inspect.
Lastly, don’t forget utensils and storage. I put all my travel snacks in a zip lock bag with a ‘spork’ (a hybrid spoon and fork, available at most camping stores) and an extra zip lock bag inside to store any half-finished foods. Sound like a lot of work? Maybe. But it’s better than a soggy $10 sandwich!
I have a new love in my life. It’s putting a spring in my step every morning and I’m glowing for hours when I get to work. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt so satisfied! It’s enough to start rumours. Who exactly is my newfound love affair?
STEEL CUT OATS.
I was already an oatmeal addict. An effortless and comforting breakfast, it’s full of whole grain goodness and fibre for only 120 calories a bowl. Irresistible! So when my naturopath suggested I try the steel cut variety, I was keen. Also known as Irish or Scottish oats, steel cut oats are oat kernels which have been coarsely cut by a metal blade. Because of this, they have a lower glycemic index (GI) than their rolled counterparts (which are steamed oat kernels rolled into flakes). Why is low GI good? The carbohydrate in the food breaks down slower, therefore having a slower response on your blood sugar levels and helping you feel full longer.
I ordered a kilo of steel cut oats from my favourite bulk food store 2 Brothers Foods and a few days later, my future love arrived. First surprise – steel cut oats look like RICE. Second surprise (or shock) – they take 25 minutes to cook. It was nearly a deal breaker! That was NEVER going to happen before work. But then I discovered some magic…
Steel cut oats actually improve with time, becoming thicker and creamier unlike rolled oats, which turn to glue. I’ve been making steel cut oats on a Sunday using this recipe from The Healthy Chef, dividing it into bowls and then enjoying heavenly, slow-cooked breakfasts throughout the week by simply reheating in the microwave. Steel cut oats have a nutty taste and chewy texture almost like brown rice, but in a thick, oat cream. They’re so satisfying and nutritious, I feel like I’m in a Swiss alpine retreat with every spoonful.
An overripe orange inspired me to use steel cut oats to make Bircher Muesli, by soaking 1/2 cup overnight with orange juice and soy milk. It was delicious, filling and refreshing thanks to the citrus. However, I don’t think my relationship with steel cut oats is going to be exclusive. For one, you can’t make granola with them or you’ll snap a tooth. Also, the hot, creamy texture isn’t suited to all fruits and for me, cooked oats lose their magic eaten cold.
So today, I’m sharing my weekday breakfast repertoire and a few favourite recipes. Why isn’t there any boxed cereal on this list? See my explainer at the end.
A 30 gram (1/3 cup) serve of rolled oats packs so much nutrition! Whole grain goodness, 4 grams of protein, a type of fibre called beta-glucan which helps with cholesterol levels, and minerals like manganese which is vital for bone formation and phosphorus for basic cell function and bone support. At $3 a kilo and 120 calories a bowl, oats are bang for your buck and bite!
I cook rolled oats almost daily in the microwave. It takes just three minutes and I add nothing more than a splash of soy milk, cinnamon and a sprinkle of nuts and raisins. Quick oats have a similar nutrition profile but watch for out for the individual sachets. They’re often packed with sugar, contain milk powder and have dubious flavourings. There’s a lot of controversy about whether oats are gluten-free but as I’m not a doctor or scientist, it’s best to consider this issue yourself if it’s a concern.
Best for: time poor, budget-friendly, low calorie, cooking at work. Downside? Leftovers turn glue-like.
Don’t be fooled! Buckwheat doesn’t contain any wheat. It’s a seed more closely related to rhubarb than the cereals it resembles, so it’s gluten-free and paleo. A 45 gram (1/4 cup) serve has 5 grams of protein and is a source of iron (about 6% daily needs for women 19-50 years, 12% for men 19+ years) along with manganese, magnesium and copper. It’s about $4 a kilo.
You can eat roasted buckwheat groats (“kasha”) like granola, or cook groats with milk and water to make porridge, where they become something like pearl couscous. I love making mine on the stovetop with vanilla, slices of ginger, cinnamon and cloves, topped with raisins. It’s a recipe inspired by The Healthy Chef (yep, again!) and takes about 20 minutes, but you can reheat and eat during the week. Bonus? Buckwheat is a great savoury ingredient too, and can be used for pilafs, salads or sprinkled on roasted vegetables or soups for crunch!
Best for: gluten-free, reheat-friendly, versatile, source of iron, freezer-friendly. Downside? Longer cooking time and bland on its own. It’s the only dish on this list I sweeten with a little raw honey.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH) is amazing. A 45 gram serve (1/4 cup) is 160 calories, contains 6 grams of protein, 10% of daily iron needs for women and 20% for men along with manganese, phosphorus and folate which our bodies need to make DNA. Quinoa is gluten-free, with a delicious but unusual nutty texture. For breakfast, I cook white quinoa as it softens much more than the red or black variety with grated apple, cinnamon and vanilla.
I also cook large quantities in my rice cooker and then freeze it in single serves, so I can make a quick breakfast by adding hot water, milk and spices or mix it with roast vegetables and leafy greens for an easy lunch. Quinoa flakes are becoming popular as a quick-cooking option but I prefer the chewier texture of whole quinoa. One kilo costs about $16, making quinoa the most expensive option on this list.
Best for: gluten-free, high in iron, eating cold, versatility, freezer friendly. Downside? Price, cooking time.
Click below for recipes:
WHY I DON’T EAT PACKAGED CEREAL
With all these wholesome options, I rarely buy boxed cereal. A quick scan of nutrition panels and ingredient lists is frightening! Yes, packaged cereal is quick and convenient but you lose so much nutrition from the processing. Discarding the obvious sugar-laden products like Cocoa Pops and Fruit Loops, even those marketed as ‘healthier’ don’t cut it for me:
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain: It’s 25% sugar! One cup (40 grams) has 10 grams.
Kellogg’s Sultana Bran: 3/4 cup (45 grams) contains 12 grams of sugar. Some of is naturally occurring from the sultanas, but there’s still added sugar.
Uncle Toby’s Cheerios: Lower sugar, but do you want to start your day with food colourings?
The only commercial cereal I’d consider is Sanitarium’s Weet-Bix, with only a few simple ingredients and one gram of sugar in a 30 gram serve (2 biscuits), or a good quality natural muesli.
If cereal is 100% your thing, have a go at making your own granola. I make a batch fortnightly based on a recipe from The Healthy Chef, using 3 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of flaked almonds and 1 cup of seeds (sunflower or pumpkin). Combine with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon and roast in thin layer at 120 degrees (fan-forced) for 60 minutes. Add a handful of dried fruit once cooled. It’s so easy, you’ll never get the boxed kind again! It’s a lot cheaper too.
And of course, my breakfasts aren’t complete without a big cup of Earl Grey!
My mum was a health freak way before #rawfood #crossfit and #paleo were trending. She was one of the original lycra leotard, aerobics devotees of the 1990s and had the perm to prove it. As a teenager, my jaw dropped when mum announced she’d made a cake. It turns out this “cake” was zucchini, yogurt and wholemeal flour. There was no icing and it certainly didn’t resemble the cookies and cakes the other kids at school had. I wasn’t impressed.
In hindsight, my mum was actually about 15 years ahead of the food scene. If Instagram was around in 2000, we could have had a booming franchise across Australia and parts of Asia by now. Instead, she had four ungrateful children telling her what a weirdo she was. I’m sorry Mum.
Putting those teenage years aside, I’m delighted my family, friends and my boyfriend all enjoy the healthy side of life nowadays. And there’s never been more venues catering for the health conscious or people with specific dietary needs. If the thought of zucchini cake makes you salivate, here are my favourite healthy Perth cafes:
1.nood cafe, leederville
It’s hard to beat this Leederville spot – from the first bite, you know you’re nourishing your body with wholesome food. Everything on the menu is gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free and each meal is designed to be nutritionally balanced. The liberal use of citrus, nuts and makes already delicious dishes shine. There’s no table service but the grab and go boxes can be heated and brought out to you on a plate. The array of smaller goods on display is perfect for snacking or an extra treat to go. Bonus? The take away boxes have full nutritional info on them.
I recommend: Vegan Breakfast Bowl ($12) for post-workout brunch or Cauliflower Nasi Goreng with Satay Chicken or Tofu ($15) for a healthy, pre-movie dinner.
My oh my. There’s health food porn and then there’s Stimulatte. This Subiaco café has become so popular, it’s started Sunday trading at a time other businesses are shutting their doors (*). The menu centres around ethical, sustainable produce and the quality of ingredients is sublime. I’ve had herbs and mushrooms so fresh it was like I’d poked my fork in a garden. Where Stimulatte really shines is in their creativity and presentation – the latest winter menu included fried king oyster mushroom “chicken” pancakes (vegan). There are plenty of baked goods and various boxes you can have to dine in or to go, with paleo, gluten-free and vegan choices too.
I recommend: Anything with mushrooms. The vegan croissant with cashew cheese ($9) is delightful for those whose allergies/ethics prevent pastries.
*Unfortunately Stimulatte has closed since this post was first published. But you can visit its sister cafe Someday Coffee Co. in Floreat!
3. health freak cafe, various locations
I visited this franchise for the first time in October at their Applecross location. I was nervous when I entered. The café almost resembled a day care centre – not so much children everywhere, but a lot of toys and tables. But my apprehension eased as soon as the smell of cinnamon wafted my way and a stack of warm pumpkin spice pancakes was placed before me. It was at least 20 centimetres tall, with caramel sauce, berries and stewed fruits dancing around the plate. But I knew this indulgent breakfast was only 380 calories and included a whopping 20 grams of protein! Everything Health Freak Cafe sells is gluten and refined sugar free, and nutritional information is listed for most menu items. You can’t get more health conscious than that! I’m not surprised this concept has boomed, with locations in Subiaco, Jacob’s Ladder, Mt Lawley, Joondalup, Halls Head and more.
I recommend: The protein pancakes ($18.20), hands down! I’ll buy a paleo dish for my boyfriend next time and let you know his verdict.
My first visit to this Mt Hawthorn store was on a glorious spring day – a perfect pairing with Jujuberry’s casual outdoor seating. Inside, the long, narrow space made me instantly feel like I was in New York. I had to pinch myself when I saw a Pumpkin Spice Latte on the menu! Everything here is gluten free and vegan although they do offer cow’s milk for coffees. Curried sweet potato frittata, breakfast wraps, assorted salads and plenty of baked goods abound. The vibe is homemade and hearty rather than gourmet. It’s refreshing to find a venue that’s so down to earth.
I recommend: The menu changes frequently but if you’re in luck, there’ll be a crispy-edged curried sweet potato frittata with your name on it ($10.50).
It’s important to remember there are plenty of buzz words around health food, but their use isn’t well regulated. Something may be labelled paleo, gluten free or vegan but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. For example, sugar, oil and plain potato chips are vegan and gluten free. Bacon and eggs is paleo. A typical raw slice can pack in 500 calories and 30 grams of fat compared to a 200 calorie handful of almonds. Your bliss ball is better than a donut, but be wary of eating four in a day!