Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

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.

Canada ditches dairy. Maybe you should too

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

It took over ten years, but Canada has finally updated it food guide. Canadians have used the guide since the 1940s as a source of nutritional advice on optimal health. Like other countries around the world, Canada’s major revisions do away with its pyramid of ‘food groups.’ Instead, Canada offers up an appetising plate to illustrate what we should eat.

So what does a healthy plate look like?

We should fill:

  • Half our plate with fruit and vegetables
  • A quarter with starches or grains, and
  • A quarter with protein.

Easy enough to do with Green Dinner Table on the menu!

The mounting case for a dairy-free diet

Many assume that dairy is essential for bone health, however clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones in children, in teenage girls and even in post-menopausal women. One of the best ways to protect our bones from osteoporosis is to exercise and eat calcium-rich foods. Some examples include kale, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables and beans.

Dairy products like cheese, ice cream, milk, butter and yoghurt are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Consuming dairy products has also been linked to higher risk of various cancers, especially prostate, ovarian, lung and breast cancers. One American study found that women who had consumed more than one glass of milk per day had a 73% greater chance of developing ovarian cancer than women who drank less than one glass per day.

People who drink dairy milk have poorer brain health. Researchers found that those who consumed more than one glass of milk per day were 10% more likely to experience cognitive decline, compared to those who consumed less or no milk.

Dairy products have also been linked to health risks for children and can encourage the development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Experts recommend that infants not consume dairy. In addition to concerns about causing colic (both when consumed by the infant directly or through the breastmilk of a mother who consumes dairy), dairy is also linked to type-1 diabetes.

New Guidelines, Not So New Advice

With research like this, it’s no wonder that there were such sweeping changes. The new guide looks at evidence – and not evidence funded by industry. And while the meat and dairy industries might be feeling sour over the changes; people on a plant-based diet have been praising it for recognising something they’ve known for years.

Want to eat more plants but don’t know where to start? Green Dinner Table can help! Sign up to one of our weekly plans and get everything you need to eat delicious, plant-based meals you and your family will love!

Save your money. Subscribe to Green Dinner Table

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

To understand more about how our food purchases affect our financial health, we sat down with customer George Bayley, General Manager of enableMe Canterbury. Bayley shared his thoughts on why a service like Green Dinner Table can help families save money.

George Bayley

“For families that want to stay on track financially, meal planning is a necessity,” said George Bayley. “That’s because all the little ‘emergency’ trips to the supermarket and takeaways really add up. You’re less tempted when you know what’s for dinner.”

He challenged us to crunch the numbers. So we did.

We compared how much it would cost to buy all the ingredients to make the meals in our Five Night Family Plan at the supermarket.


Supermarket Price Green Dinner Table’s Five Night Family Plan
Organic beetroot, tabouleh and orange with fresh turmeric tahini and dukkah $33.40
GDT bibimbap $33.66
Roast ratatouille with preserved lemon and organic quinoa $45.40
Tempeh bánh mì with sriracha pâté and pickled vegetables $43.80
Cauliflower steaks with garlic lentils, baby kale and herb yoghurt $29.20
TOTAL $185.46 $159

* Items were predominantly priced using Countdown’s online store. For ingredients, that are larger than the amount supplied by Green Dinner Table (like yoghurt), we used the 100g price. Keep in mind if you bought these items from a supermarket, you would have to purchase the full item.

Other ways you save

It’s not just the price-per-price comparison that saves you money. Once you factor in leftovers for lunches and the reduced temptation to get takeaways, your savings can increase exponentially.

The cost of groceries for a two parent household with two children is on average over $330+ per week. And this doesn’t account for money spent at restaurants, cafes or bars. In fact, Kiwis are spending more of their food budget on takeaways and fast food.

In New Zealand, we spend more than a quarter of our food-spending on restaurant and ready-to-eat foods. So, if you’re earning the average wage of $49,000, you could be spending $140 a week on takeaways or other restaurant meals. Lunches alone could run you between $30 to $50 a week.

“We love that we can help people stay on track financially,” said Cole Stacey, co-director. “It just goes to show that you don’t need to break the piggy bank to eat well.”

Spend more time doing what matters

In New Zealand, we spend nearly five and a half hours a week doing the household shopping (according to OECD figures). Then we need to add in the time it takes to plan what to eat and the time it takes to make it.

Research shows that the more time you spend preparing food, the better your diet (i.e., you eat more vegetables, salads, and fruits). Whereas spending less than an hour a day on food prep was associated with more money wasted on takeaways and fast food.

Sure you can get meal plans online and they can help save time, but they can be upwards of $100 per week and only get part of the job done. With Green Dinner Table, you get everything you need, so you can spend less time planning and prepping meals, and more time doing what you love – without compromising your health.

Think about all the things you’d have time for if you weren’t spending the time on planning healthy meals or stressing about them. An extra hour for the gym, to play with your kids in the park, to join friends for drinks … whatever you love to do, you’ll have more time for it.

Make meal times less stressful

Imagine never having to face the dreaded, ‘What’s for dinner?’ conversation again. After a long day of work or watching the children, the last thing most of us want to do is come up with a healthy, delicious meal.

“My favourite thing is that I come home, look at the fridge, and I know what we’re having for dinner,” said Tom Riley, co-director. “Plus, we have everything we need to make it.”

The clear, step-by-step instructions are designed to make it easy for anyone to get out the chopping board and get started. A few of our clients have told us that thanks to Green Dinner Table’s recipes, they (or their partner – and in some cases, even their children) are more comfortable in the kitchen. This can mean that more people are helping with dinnertime.

Don’t forget the yum factor

It’s easy to build confidence in the kitchen when your meals are delicious!

“We never expect you to compromise on taste for a plant-based meal,” said Tom. “Can you afford not to? Give us a try and see for yourself.”

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 …