Sunday, July 29, 2018

What’s all the hype about seitan?

With flexitarian and vegan diets booming in 2018, there’s no shortage of plant-based proteins on offer, but have you heard of seitan? Read on to discover more about this devilish-sounding plant-based alternative, and decide whether you should give it a go…

Seitain: what actually is it?
Seitan (pronounced ‘say-tan’), is a product made of the protein found in breads and cereals, called gluten. It’s produced by washing a wheat flour dough with water until the starch is removed, leaving only the elastic, meaty-textured gluten, which has led to other names like wheat meat, wheat protein or wheat gluten. Although it’s been gaining more attention recently, seitan has actually been around for centuries, dating back as early as the 6th Century in Asian countries like China. It’s been adopted as a plant-based form of protein for people who follow meat-free diets, and is similar to tofu and tempeh – although these soy-based proteins lack the meat-like texture that seitan has.

Per 100g serving
Firm Tofu
Kilojoule (kJ)
Protein (G)
FAt (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Fibre (g)

Sodium (mg)

Jenny Sugar (2011), Meat Alternatives Explained: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan.

What are the pros?
·        High in protein, low in kilojoules
·        Plant-based source of protein which can mimic the taste of meat
·        Soy-free meat substitute for those with soy allergies

What are the cons?
·        Not suitable for those with gluten-sensitivities or coeliac disease
·        Doesn’t absorb much flavour
·        High amounts of sodium (salt) in the packaged product
·        Seitan is hard to source unlike other vegetarian protein alternatives meaning you may have to venture to a specialty vegetarian “butcher”

Where does it fit in the Australian Dietary Guidelines?
Seitan is protein-rich, so falls into the ‘meat and alternatives’ group of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines suggest including between 1 – 3 serves of this food group per day, where 1 serve is equal to 2 large eggs, 1 cup cooked or canned legumes/beans, palm sized lean beef, one small can of fish or about 1/3 cup of seitan.

But if it’s a plant-based meat alternative you’re after, seitan just doesn’t stack up when compared with grains and legumes. They may not be the first foods that comes to mind for protein, but GLNC’s 2017 bread audit found 1 in 5 wholemeal sliced breads were a ‘good source’ of protein (at least 10g per serve), and legumes are known for being one of the most cost-effective protein choices available. And while seitan packs a punch when it comes to protein, it lacks other goodies like vitamins and minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients that are found naturally in grains and legumes. On top of that, legumes double as a serve of vegetables, so it’s a win-win!

Back to Seitan… What’s the bottom line?
If you have a committed meat eater in your family, seitan may be the way to convince them to eat more plant-based foods with a taste, texture and appearance similar to animal based protein. But nutritionally boasting little other than protein, seitan falls behind other meat-free choices, so choosing options like tofu, tempeh, legumes and whole grains may be a better bet to boost your health. After some recipe inspiration? Take a look at our recipe page, featuring plenty of grain and legume options!

Terri Maister is a student Dietitian and began her final year of study at GLNC on a placement program in January 2018. She has experience in multiple areas of Dietetics including clinical paediatrics, food service management and community public health. Terri is determined to explore the diverse role of a Dietitian and help make important changes in the population and is due to graduate with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours) in November 2018.

Connect with Terri through:
Instagram: @Terri Maister
Twitter: @TerriMaister
LinkedIn: Terri Maister

1. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines. 2013.
2. Go Grains Health & Nutrition. The Grains and Legumes Health Report. Go Grains Health & Nutrition Ltd. 2010.
3. NHMRC. Eat for Health Serve Sizes. 2015
4. Dr Axe – Food is Medicine. Is Seitan Healthy? The Pro’s, Cons + Alternatives. 2017
5. Pop Sugar. Meat Alternatives Explained: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan. Jenny Sugar. 2011.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

3 reasons you should be making homemade soup this winter

As the weather starts to cool down, there are few things more nourishing than warming up with delicious comfort food, like a big bowl of homemade soup. Not only is soup a quick, easy and healthy dinner solution, it's easily reheated for a wholesome lunch the next day - often tasting even better! Or simply freeze your leftovers for up to a few months - it’s the ultimate cheap and nutritious frozen meal.

Here are 3 reasons why you should make soup part of your weekly routine this winter:

1. Homemade soup can be a balanced ‘one-pot’ meal

Gone are the days of having a one or two veg soup as an entrĂ©e to the main course. These days, exciting and balanced soup recipes are the main course, one that will ensure you're getting a variety of food groups and nutrients in one meal! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different whole grains and legumes to mix things up – quinoa, barley, rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas – these all add important nutrients to your soup, add variety and help keep you full. Several studies also show that eating soup is associated with higher diet quality and lower body weight (1).

2. Soup is cheap, quick and easy to make

Most soup recipes make 4-6 serves, and are easily stored in the fridge or freezer. Additionally, when you compare the cost of ingredients against the number of meals you get out of the pot, soup works out to be an extremely economical option! Most soups are also low on prep and cooking time – just chop up your veggies, throw in a mix of herbs, spices, grains, legumes or lean meats, then leave to simmer.

3. Soup is the ultimate staple for meal-prepping

Homemade soup is an obvious choice when meal-prepping for the week, due to its versatility with storage and reheating. You’ll be the envy of your co-workers when you have a chicken, barley and vegetable soup to pop in the microwave at lunchtime. Coming home from a long day in the office, with hungry kids in tow, there’s nothing better than having a freezer full of rich tomato and cannellini bean soup to throw on the stove and reheat. You know you’re consuming a healthy, nutritious and warming meal in the time it takes to come to the boil – just toast a few slices of wholemeal or whole grain bread and you’re set.

Get creative, experiment, and mix and match to get the most out of your soup this winter!

Quick tips on making your soup super healthy:

-        Choose low salt/sodium stock
-        Experiment with plant-based sources of protein such as tofu, beans, eggs or lentils
-        Skip the cream – thicken with milk, yoghurt, sweet potato, pureed white beans or beaten eggs 
-      Add flavour with fresh herbs and spices
-        Cook with lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish or seafood

Take a look at our recipe collection here for more great soup inspiration!

(1) Zhu Y and Hollis JH, Soup consumption is associated with a lower dietary energy density and a better diet quality in US adults. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1474-80