7 real food ideas that’ll make your week

This post has been updated.
Photo by Amanda Niehaus

I’ve always loved cooking, but now that I’m on a mission to eat only real food (no processed foods) I’m cooking a WHOLE lot more. I’m paying more attention to the kinds of food I eat - trying my best to eat a sustainable, low-impact diet – and preparing more from scratch. I’ve become interested in how to properly prepare foods. Did you know you’re meant to soak nuts before eating them? Seriously. I had no idea. Here’s some real food tips I’ve picked up that are enlightening my culinary world.

1. Why you should always soak nuts (and grains and seeds)
They’re termed activated nuts. There are two reasons why you should soak nuts prior to eating them. The first is because nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that put a huge strain on your system because your body is forced to use its own supply of enzymes to digest the nuts. Using your body’s own enzymes is a big no no and speedens the ageing process. Soaking nuts before you eat them neutralises the inhibitors and activates their own digestive enzymes, making it easier for you to digest and increasing the amount of vitamins available to you.

The second is that nuts (in fact all grains and seeds) contain the poisonous phytic acid that when eaten can combine with minerals such as calcium and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This can cause all sorts of problems like mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

You can buy activated nuts from health food stores. They're expensive (I’m talking double the price of raw nuts) but given the health benefits, worth it. I tried activating some almonds myself (soaking overnight in water and salt then dehydrating in the oven) but even the lowest setting was too hot (ideal temp is 60-65 C) so they ended up roasting, which destroys all the vitamins, not what you want. You're meant to use a dehydrator, so if you happen to have one then I'd recommend trying it out yourself. Soak overnight with a tablespoon of salt, drain and rinse, then place in dehydrator for 12-24 hours.

I soaked another bunch of almonds yesterday and tasted them just like that, not dehydrated. Actually I really liked them. Really liked them! They have a lovely smooth texture (if you've ever had an almond tree, the texture is akin to young almonds). You need to store them in the fridge if you're not going to dehydrate, so they don't go mouldy. Or freeze them.

Photo by  Kumiko Mitarai

2. I sprout legumes and pulses
I’ve done away with canned foods. It’s really a waste of resources (all that processing and packaging, not to mention the toxic BPA lining the cans). I’m happy to prepare lentils etc myself. And I’m glad, because I’ve found out you’re WAY better off nutritionally if you sprout legumes and pulses before eating them anyway. Sprouting actually increases the vitamins 8-fold. Again legumes and pulses contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid so soaking and sprouting neutralises these. I usually react quite badly to lentils. I sprouted some the other day and had no problems at all. Very easy to do, just soak in water over night, then rinse, sit covered on the bench for 2-3 days rinsing twice a day (more often if it’s hot) until a white sprout about 1/2 cm long appears.

3. I replace beef with goat meat
Goat is revered for having a far smaller impact than beef on land and the environment. That's because goats are browsers, choosing to eat weedy plants over lush grasses. When grazed with other livestock, goats improve the quality of the pasture. Goat meat is also very healthy, being lower in fat and cholesterol than chicken, pork, beef or lamb. It’s actually the most popular meat worldwide. So I’ve been swapping beef for goat every other week. I’ve got to say, it’s won me over (so sweet and flavoursome). I cooked up a delicious goat shank casserole the other week. I’ll post the recipe next week.

4. Homemade tomato passata
Again, in my effort to eat a lower-impact diet I’ve said bye bye to store-bought passata. My mum taught me an easy way to make my own, without a food mill. Firstly, blanch a kilo of over-ripe tomatoes and remove the skin. Dice and squeeze all the liquid out using a muslin cloth (keep the liquid for use in soups or other recipes). Cook the tomato pulp with a little salt until nice n' thick. Bottle and freeze any excess.

Photo by Rebecca Bent

5. I make my own yoghurt
Yoghurt is a top health food. Being massive yoghurt fans meant my husband and I were going through two tubs of yoghurt a week. That’s 104 plastic tubs every year just because we like yoghurt. Crazy. So I’m making my own. It’s easy and the product is incredible. I use this recipe by Matthew Evans.

6. Replacing sugar with sweet pumpkin
I’ve quit sugar. For many reasons. I was riding a dangerous roller coaster of sugar highs and lows every day. Also I learnt that mass farming of cane sugar in particular has devastating effects on the environment (more on this another time). I discovered, by accident, that sweet varieties of pumpkin (like jarrahdale) are in fact so sweet they make a great sugar-free sweet treat. Just mix sauteed pumpkin with almond meal, beaten egg, some natural yoghurt and a pinch of cinammon and freshly grated nutmeg, bake in a muffin tray in a moderate oven until set and there you have it. Sweet pumpkiny cinammony goodness.

7. Never buy powdered turmeric again
Turmeric is so so healthy. It’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and can boost mood. So I’ve been using it a lot lately. Instead of buying the packaged powdered version I’ve been buying fresh turmeric (looks like orange ginger) from the market and grating it fresh. Tastes amazing and gives incredible colour to a dish. And it’s cheaper.

Got any real food tips you want to share?


  1. or another alternative to goat is Kangaroo. Kangaroos have an almost negligable impact on the environment and roo meat is extremely healthy.

    Also, with the activated nuts, I simply soak a days worth of nuts overnight and then eat them the following day, without dehydrating.

  2. True, the dehydrating is only necessary if you want a crunch to them, or to store them. How did I not know about this soaking business before? Amazing!

  3. Yes, Yes, Yes to Roo.....
    If you live in Australia and eat meat, kangaroo is the best choice you can make. Negligible fat, high in iron and protein, native, no hooves and more enviro friendly farming practices... plus widely available.

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