Archive for the ‘Healthy eating’ Category

So, where do you get your protein?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

If you’re vegan, no doubt you’ve been asked that question more than once. Our protein-obsessed culture prides itself on eating tons of animals just to make sure we’re getting enough of it. But the truth is most of us are already eating way too much protein. And you don’t need meat to get it anyway! From healthy fats to calcium, plants have it all!

 Just about every food contains some protein. As long as you eat a mixture of plants regularly, you’ll get plenty!

Here are the best sources of protein:

  • Soy beans, tofu
  • Soy milk

Great sources:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Asparagus
  • Bok choy

Okay, but what about iron?

We’re glad you asked! Did you know iron deficiency is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population? In fact, vegans can get enough iron by commonly eating foods that are high in iron.

You can increase your iron absorption by eating the following iron rich foods with vitamin C. This is why we put a special emphasis on cooking foods like broccoli, bok choy and tomatoes together. Also, you’ll need to keep your tea and coffee consumption away from meal times by several hours because the tannins in these drinks can make it harder to absorb iron.

Here are the best sources of iron:

  • Tofu, soy milk
  • Dark chocolate (+70%)
  • Lentils
  • Spinach, Swiss chard
  • Broccoli
  • Tahini/sesame seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans (navy, kidney, lima)
  • Olives
  • Cumin, parsley, turmeric

Other great sources:

  • Bok choy
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks
  • Chili peppers
  • Cos lettuce

What’s the deal with heme vs. non-heme iron?

While some research shows that heme (animal-based) iron is more readily absorbed by the body, other research has shown that heme iron is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, fatal coronary heart disease and cancer. Research suggests that this may be because heme iron promotes oxidative damage and inflammation in the organs. Adding a vitamin C source to a meal increases non-heme iron absorption, making it as good as, or better than, heme iron.

Let’s talk about B12…

It can be hard to get enough vitamin B12, whatever your diet. That’s because vitamin B12 is produced by a bacteria that is removed when we wash our foods. The good news is lots of foods are fortified with B12 and you can easily get what you need by taking a supplement. If you’re concerned about your B12 intake, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a supplement.

Good sources*:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Marmite
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Mushrooms

*If you are following a strictly plant-based diet the only reliable source of B12 is supplementation.

Healthy fats come from fish, right?

Fish are frequently cited as a good source of essential fatty acids, but the high amounts of other fats, cholesterol and toxins (like mercury) mean fish are a bad catch. Plant sources have all the benefits without putting our health on the line.

Best sources:

  • Flax seeds/linseeds*
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu, soy milk
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Great sources:

  • Broccoli
  • Cos lettuce
  • Spinach, kale
  • Green beans
  • Strawberries, raspberries
  • Bok choy, leeks, basil

*A quick note on flax seeds/linseeds – they need to be ground for your body to absorb the nutrients. Ground flax seeds can be added to a smoothie, sprinkled on cereal or on a salad.

Calcium for strong bones

The healthiest source of calcium is green leafy vegetables and legumes. People assume that milk does a body good, but research paints a different picture.

Not sure where to find plant based calcium, here are some of the best sources:

  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, bok choy)
  • Tofu
  • Tahini/sesame seeds

Great sources:

  • Swiss chard
  • Kale
  • Cinnamon

Aune, D. (2017). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality- a systematic review and dose response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology. 0(0), 1-27.

Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). The National Academies Press, Washington.

Berk, L.S., Haddad, E.H., Hubbard, R.W, Kettering, J.D, & Peters, W.R. (1999). Dietary intake and biochemical, hematologic, and immune status of vegans compared with nonvegetarians. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,70(suppl), 586S-93S.

Geisel, J., Herrmann, W., Hübner, U., Obeid, R., Schorr, H. (2002). The impact of vegetarianism on some haematological parameters. European Journal of Haematology, 69, 275-9.

Gleerup, A., Gramatkovski E., Rossander Hulthen, L., et al. (1995). Iron absorption from the whole diet: comparison of the effect of two different distributions of daily calcium intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61, 97-104.

Abnet, C., Dawsey, S., Etemadi, A., Inoue-Choi, M., Graubard, B., Sinha, R., Ward, M. (2017). Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. British Medical Journal, 357, 1957.

Halliwell, B., Gutteridge, J.M. (1990). Role of free radicals and catalytic metal ions in human disease: An overview. Methods Enzymology, 357, 1-85.

Hallberg, L. (1981) Bioavailability of dietary iron in man. Annual Review of Nutrition, 1, 123-147.

Smith, M.V. (1988). Development of a quick reference guide to accommodate vegetarianism in diet therapy for multiple disease conditions. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,48, 906-909.

Kwak, S.M., Lee, J., Myung, S.K. (2012). Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplements (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Archives of Internal Medicine; 172, 986-994.

Khaw, K.T., Lentjes, M.A.H., Shakya-Shrestha, S., Wareham, N.J., & Welch, A.A. (2010) Dietary intake and status of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a population of fish-eating and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans and the precursor-product ratio of a-linolenic acid to long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: results from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92, 1040-1051.

Barnard, N.D., Berkow, S.E., Lanou, A.J. (1988) Calcium, dairy products and bone health in children and young adults: a re-evaluation of evidence. Pediatrics, Mar; 115(3), 736-43.

Gordon, C.M., Kocher, M.S., Sonneville, K.R. (2012). Vitamin D, calcium and dairy intakes and stress fractures among female adolescents. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, Jul 1; 166(7), 595-600.

Feskanich, D. (2003). Calcium, Vitamin D, milk consumption and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Feb; 77(2), 504-11.

Holick, M. (2005). The Vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences. Journal of Nutrition, Nov; 135(11), 2739S-2748S.

Why Cooking is Good for Us

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Benefits of cooking at home

Cooking has been described as a form of ‘self-care.’ The simple task of taking ingredients and transforming them into something delicious helps us get in touch with our physical selves. It also helps us connect the outer world (what we feel with our senses) and our inner world (our bodies).

Prepared meals and takeaways can be high in fat, salt and sugar. When you prepare your own food, you know exactly what is going into it. At Green Dinner Table, we make our sauces fresh each week, they have less preservatives than store bought ones.

And, it’s not just about ingredients. A study published in Health Education Behaviour found that cooking benefits extended beyond nutrition. Cooking as therapy can positively influence psychosocial outcomes. Formal cooking therapy also had positive impacts on socialisation, self-esteem and quality of life.


Therapeutic cooking

Psychologists reported that the simple act of cooking can bring meaning to what you are doing because you get a tangible result for your efforts (i.e., a tasty dinner). This reward for doing a task demonstrates that your actions were worthwhile and have resulted in something real.


According to Counselor Nicole Lambert of Movement Counseling Services, “Cooking helps mental health in that it can be a creative outlet. It’s a way to channel energy, and can be used as a distraction, help build mastery in a skill, and a way to express emotions through a different medium.”


Caring for others


Yes, creating something delicious for ourselves can be motivating, but it is even more motivating when you are cooking for others. That’s why food has such strong cultural and social ties. It is how we celebrate, how we show concern in times of crisis – food is one of the main ways we show we care.


And, when you see how much someone else enjoys, appreciates and values something you created, it can help rebuild your sense of worth and value.


Easy does it


Easier recipes have been shown to be better for improving mental health because the process doesn’t create anxiety, but instead fosters focus, and encourages creativity and happiness. Green Dinner Table recipes are designed with this in mind. We want to make it easy for you to create delicious meals. And, having everything on hand means that you don’t have to sweat the prep.


In an earlier blog post, we talked about the benefits of eating as a family. Those benefits can extend into prep time too. You can ask your children to read the recipe aloud, mix the ingredients, or help tidy up. Making meal time a family event helps make it less of a chore.


Finding your zen


Cooking can bring calm, like meditation practice or mindfulness, because it helps you get into ‘the zone’. This is a feeling in which you lose track of time and focus in on the task at hand. If you battle negative thoughts or are nagged by constant worries, cooking can be a healthy way to bring peace of mind. All those relaxing feelings can help your physical body too, by easing the tension we feel when we are anxious or depressed.


Save money


Eating homemade meals is usually much cheaper than eating out or buying pre-made meals. Money can also exacerbate mental health conditions and put pressure on our relationships. Planning meals or subscribing to a service like Green Dinner Table can help you save money as we covered in an earlier blog post.


It’s fun!


That’s what originally attracted Tom to the chef life. It looked so darn fun. That surge of adrenaline after service, the comradery between cooks… You can get a bit of that in your own home when you cook – especially if you can recruit a sous chef or dishwasher to help tidy up!


Trying new foods you’ve never heard of before can add adventure and variety to your day-to-day. This is one of the reasons Green Dinner Table’s menus are full of interesting dishes and new ingredients. Just check out our upcoming dishes. We want you to love plant-based meals as much as we do!


So instead of collapsing on the couch after work, why not roll up your sleeves and jump into the kitchen? Green Dinner Table makes it easy by doing the planning and delivering everything you need to cook meals everyone will enjoy. Our weekly plans are designed to make dinner time something to look forward to.

Healthy Eating from Day One

Thursday, August 30th, 2018


With Baby # 2 approaching 6 months old, Tom can’t wait to start introducing food. When his daughter Violet (Baby # 1) started weaning, we enthusiastically started puréeing kumaras, pumpkins, lentils, apples, but quickly gave up.

It wasn’t our style. And more importantly, it wasn’t our daughter’s style either. She always wanted to feed herself. Thinking back to how important family mealtimes were growing up, we wanted our children to think of food as fun, which is why we eventually looked into baby-led weaning.

What is baby-led weaning?

Central to baby-led weaning is the idea that babies share family food and mealtimes. Parents introduce hand-held foods and encourage your baby to feed themselves instead of being spoon-fed. Food is given as a complement to breast milk (or formula) which is offered on demand, until they self-wean. There’s no need to worry about underfeeding, because baby eats what it wants, and has breast milk as its main food source (until weaned, of course!).

Just by tweaking the way food is served, it was easy for us to offer things that were already part of the family meal. Violet was so proficient at munching hard foods and her fine motor skills developed really quickly. She could even pick up a piece of rice between her wee fingers! Before we knew it, she was eating a typical Kiwi breakfast of Marmite toast soldiers (thin strips) or Wheat-bix and feijoas. Now (if she’s hungry and with a bit of encouragement), she dives right into her Green Dinner Table meals.

Easy Modifications

It’s easy to make adjustments. If you’re serving up the Thai Pumpkin Soup, hold back some butternut squash pieces once it’s roasted so baby can munch on that. Here are some ideas of how to slightly modify food so that it’s baby-friendly:


  • Instead of puréed or mashed, serve it as a floret-sized piece, large enough for the infant to hold with some protruding from the fist. Steamed to a soft consistency.


  • Instead of puréed or mashed, peel the top section and serve it with the skin left on the bottom section of the banana (this gives baby something to grip).


  • Instead of puréed with vegetables, serve large pieces such as fusilli (spirals) or penne.

Choking vs. Gagging

Even though we enjoyed the experience with our daughter Violet, some of our family members expressed concern about the risk of choking, including Tom’s Mum who (like many Mums of that generation) were told that purées were the way to go.

Back then, weaning often happened earlier (at about 4 months) and babies weren’t as physically capable as they are at 6 months. It’s key to wait for baby to be able to:

  • Sit up
  • Scoop, hold and bring food to the mouth, and
  • Show an interest in eating.

Keep in mind too that the gag reflex moves down from mid-mouth to the throat over time (and this is protective). So it’s normal for your child to gag, and gagging is not choking. It’s important to know the difference.

Iron Intake

From a nutritional point of view, one of the main other concerns for all infants is adequate iron intake. That’s because for the first 6 months exclusively breastfed babies do not get iron from their diet. This is why groups like Plunket do not recommend feeding infants milk until after 1 year of age. Dairy makes it difficult for the body to absorb iron. We found it easy to add iron rich foods to Violet’s diet. We offered:

  • whole grain bread
  • rice
  • pulses like peas (still a favourite)
  • beans and lentils
  • nut butters and seeds
  • green leafy vegetables (still working on that!)
  • tofu and tempeh (which Violet calls ‘tempey’).

Add a food rich in vitamin C (like tomatoes), to make it even more likely that the iron will be absorbed.


Weaning your baby should be fun!

Our relationship with food is so important, and while it can be a challenge at times, setting up a healthy relationship with food from the very beginning sets us up for a healthy future. It won’t be long until we get little Oscar (Baby # 2) eating Green Dinner Table with us. And on that note, we’re off to set up the high chair!

For more great ideas about what to serve and everything you need to know about vegan weaning (it’s 140 pages!), check out the Eating Well: Vegan Infants and Under 5s Guide published by the First Steps Nutrition Trust.

Vegan Snacks: Healthy Options for Eating on the Go

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Healthy snacking can be a struggle regardless of your diet

Hence the booming market in chips, chocolate and ‘healthier’ alternatives, like muesli bars. When hunger strikes or your energy wains and you’re far from your kitchen, it’s incredibly tempting to reach for the nearest snack – and for those cutting out or cutting back on animal products, that makes this the hardest time to avoid the temptation, whether it’s healthy or not!

A quick search of the internet reveals lots of ‘accidentally vegan’ products (mainstream products that just happen to be vegan). If they’re highly processed and/or contain a heap of sugar or salt, however, they’re certainly not healthy. So, rather than stocking up on Oreos (which, yes are technically vegan), here are some healthy snack choices.

Fresh fruit

Yes, we’re starting with the obvious. When it comes to portability and convenience, it doesn’t get any easier than nature’s own pre-wrapped snack: a banana, or an orange, berries, or whatever is in season.

  • Pro tip: Top fruit with nut butter – up the ante on fresh fruit by adding nut butter and you’ll also be getting a dose of protein with your fibre. Haven’t tried it? You’re missing out. Slice up an apple and spread with peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter). Go wild and try it with veggies like celery!

Raw veggies and hummus

Also known as crudités, pieces of raw vegetables dipped in a sauce are a traditional French appetizer. Try carrot, celery or cucumber sticks, or get creative with slices of capsicum, radish, cauliflower or broccoli. Also try switching out hummus with guacamole.

Vegan yoghurt

With so many varieties of coconut and soy yoghurt available, this is a great option for satisfying those cravings for sweetness. Fruit flavours and even cacao (chocolate) blends are on offer or mix things up by adding a few nuts for a bit of crunch.

  • Pro tip: Mix it up by adding granola or Wheatbix to your yoghurt. You can top with roasted nuts or seeds and fresh or dried fruit.

Protein or bliss balls

Increasingly popular, you’ll often find a version of these in café cabinets or pre-packaged at supermarkets or health-food shops, or you can make your own. Check that they are vegan, of course, but most use some combination of dates, nuts and coconut for plant-based energy.


Combining plant-based milk and even plant-based yoghurt with various combinations of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, the possibilities are almost endless! Just look to Instagram for inspiration.

Chia pudding

Like overnight oats, simply soak chia seeds with any plant-based milk overnight in the fridge. You can also add a sweetener like maple syrup if you’re so inclined. In the morning add fresh fruit and voilà! A quick, easy and super filling snack.


A super-easy option for snacking on the run, they’re also packed with protein and, depending on the variety, other essential vitamins, minerals and beneficial fatty acids too. They’re also filling, so just a few will keep you going. For maximum health benefits, skip the salted varieties and go for raw nuts instead.


(Yes, you read that correctly) several varieties in NZ supermarkets are vegan. Ingredient lists do change, so check before you buy, but Ryvita, Vitawheat Original, Original Meal Mates and Huntley & Palmers Sesameal are options to try. Top with tomato, avocado or nut butter for a flavour boost.


Surprisingly, even ‘butter’ flavours of pre-packaged popcorn are often without dairy! Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make them healthy, so popping your own is best – but Serious Popcorn or New Zealand Kettle Korn are good options if you need it NOW!

Roasted chickpeas

Did you know that when roasted, these magical little legumes turn into a crunchy savoury snack? Make your own at home, adding the flavour of your choice (there are lots of ideas on the internet), and store in an airtight container for on-the-go snacking. P.S. Kids love them!

  • Pro tip: Keep the liquid from the can of chickpeas for baking. Google “aquafaba.” You’ll thank us later …

Keeping your vegan resolution: 6 tips for going (and staying) vegan

Friday, January 19th, 2018

But, how do you go vegan and stick to it?

As we all know, making a resolution and keeping it can be two very different things! Whether you’re quitting smoking, aiming to hit the gym or trying to cut back on meat, resolutions are easier said than done. It’s not that you aren’t committed, it’s just that old habits do die hard. And, when the demands of everyday life get in the way, new resolutions (no matter how positive) can fall by the wayside. The trick is to anticipate the challenges that are sure to come sooner or later. Have a strategy in place for how to deal with them when they do.

Go vegan your way

  • Some will go ‘cold turkey’ (sorry!). Others might start by cutting out meat, before reducing dairy and eggs. For some it might mean going vegan for ‘x’ number of days each week and gradually increasing the number of ‘vegan days’. There is no right or wrong answer. The point is that you’ve changed your intention and now you need to find the right way for you to change your habits.

Meal planning is key in making the switch to plant-based eating.

  • Arriving home from work at 6pm, tired, hungry and wondering what to make for dinner will have you reaching for your old meat-based staples. Take time on the weekend to plan your vegan meals for the week, stock up on all the groceries you’re going to need, stick the menu on your fridge, and you’re set. Subscribing to a plant-based delivery service like Green Dinner Table makes it even easier. You’ll get a menu for the week, recipes and all the ingredients you need delivered to your door. You won’t even need to step inside the supermarket.

Dining out

  • Now that you’ve got your meal plan down and your pantry is stocked with plant-based goodies, what are you going to do when your friends suggest heading out for dinner? Fortunately, restaurants are catching on to the popularity of vegan eating and it’s a lot easier to eat out than it used to be.
  • There is still the occasional hospitality dinosaur out there, where the only vegan thing on the menu is chips, but most restaurants will happily accommodate your needs, if you ask nicely.
  • A good trick is to call ahead and ask about vegan options – then you can show up knowing there’ll be something you can eat, and you might even strike it lucky and have the chef whip you up something special!
  • Remember that Indian restaurants are often a good bet – plant-based eating is widespread in this part of the world – but southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian and Mexican restaurants often have good options too – though you may need to ask them to hold the cheese, sour cream, yoghurt or fish sauce.

Be prepared

  • As the ad for a certain chocolate bar goes, ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry!’ Making good decisions is infinitely harder on an empty stomach. Make sure your pantry and fridge are well-stocked with (healthy) vegan snacks and get into the habit of carrying a few with you so you won’t be caught short and find yourself reaching for a non-vegan option because it’s the closest treat to hand (and mouth!). Try nuts, fruit and vegan protein balls, for a start.

Variety is the spice of life

  • Many people who switch to a plant-based diet find that food suddenly gets more exciting, not less. A lifetime rotation of the same-old meat-based dinners is replaced by a brand-new playing field where the options are all fresh and exciting. But, if you do find yourself replacing your old set of meals with a new set that is equally limiting, it’s time to get creative!
  • There are plenty of ideas online, as well as an ever-increasing number of vegan cookbooks.
  • Using a plant-based delivery service like Green Dinner Table is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new – with a professional chef coming up with the menu each week, there’s no way you’ll get bored!
  • Cooking for non-vegans can rattle even the most committed plant-eater. After all, nobody wants to serve up a meal that goes uneaten. But this is your time to shine – who knows, you might just open their eyes to a new way of eating. There are some dishes that offer an easy transition from meat-based diets – familiar foods that can be given a vegan twist while still packing a flavour punch. Curries, stir-fries, pastas and, of course, tacos are all hugely popular, easy to make vegan, and offer so much flavour that no one will miss the meat.  

Put these tips into practice and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the benefits of plant-based eating in 2018! And remember it takes time to create new habits. So, if you do have an off day, don’t beat yourself up over one individual meal. Focus on the bigger picture: the new, healthier and kinder vegan habits you’re putting into place.