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Hi <<First Name>>,
In our newsletters we share tips and tricks to help you strive for your best health. In this issue:
  • What you need to know about ‘plant-based’ commercial products
  • How to get on our priority list for the next cookshop
  • Vitamin C and the common cold
  • Staying hydrated this Winter
  • Comfort food: Home-made popcorn with olive oil
  • Product review – What is Mingle?

When Could Plant-based Products Be Unhealthy?

With compelling evidence that plant-based eating is better for our health and that of the planet, we have seen the rise, and rise, of new plant-based food products. But before you reach for one of these packets, it’s important to recognise that just because something is labelled ‘plant-based’ does not automatically mean it’s super healthy. The degree of processing should always be considered. Dietitian Aimee Van Der Veer, explores.
What are plant-based foods and diets?

When we hear the word ‘plant’, we typically think of fruits and vegetables. However, ‘plant’ can also refer to any grain, legume, nut and seed - and to all foods or ingredients made from these. So pretzels, 2-minute noodles and vegan burgers would all qualify.

In general, plant-based diets are richer in fibre, phytonutrients (including those with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) and unsaturated fats as compared to modern meat laden diets. They also tend to be lower in salt, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and refined carbohydrates. This nutrient profile enables people who follow plant-based diets to be protected against many chronic diseases and premature death.

Multiple studies now show that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other major illnesses.

But not all plant foods (and therefore plant-based diets) are equally healthy. In the more traditional past, when studies such as The China Study were conducted, the plant foods cooked and eaten were whole foods, meaning they were obtained from the garden rather than being highly processed (or ultraprocessed) and bought at the supermarket or a fast food outlet.

Modern plant-based diets are not necessarily founded on many vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. In fact, they can frequently contain many ultraprocessed plant-based products and ingredients. Have you seen the ingredients list of some vegan cheeses lately? They are rarely made of ground up nuts, as we like to create them at the Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic cookshops. Often, they are based on ingredients like coconut oil with thickeners and other additives added in.

This is an important issue to consider as recent research from Harvard University and other prestigious centres around the world has shown that while high quality plant foods promote better health, highly processed plant products are not neutral – they actually cause harm.
When plant-based foods aren’t healthy

Most commercially produced snack foods (which just happen to be plant-based) are highly processed and therefore unhealthy - whether you are trying to go more plant-based or not.

In addition, the term ‘plant-based’, is commonly used interchangeably on foods that are ‘free from animal products’. But swapping one less healthy food such as meat, with any meat-free or ‘plant-based’ product will not necessarily help you achieve your best health. This is because some plant-based products can also be ultraprocessed - far removed from their natural state. Note – a certain degree of processing is usually required but we like to aim for minimally processed foods rather than those ultraprocessed ones.

Ultraprocessed foods are surprisingly rich in calories (for a given portion size), they tend to be high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars, and lack dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals found in greater abundance in minimally processed or natural plant foods.

Alarmingly, scientists have now shown in multiple studies from different countries that frequent consumption of ultraprocessed foods may lead to negative health impacts, including an increased risk of unhealthy weight, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and early death.

Most recently, a study has linked the high intake of ultraprocessed foods by mums-to-be with impaired growth of the embryo (immature baby) using state-of-the-art virtual reality techniques. The negative effect of such foods was comparable to that from smoking!

This situation is worrying since many people have come to believe that any plant-based products will do and are somehow automatically good for you.
The bottom line

A plant-based diet made up of predominantly whole, minimally processed, plant foods is promoted by dietary guidelines because it supports your health and reduces the risk of chronic disease. On the otherhand, ultraprocessed plant foods (whether they be organic vegan snacks or faux meats) can harm your health and should therefore be avoided or minimised. Ask your dietitian about delicious ways you can incorporate more healthy whole plant foods like legumes and wholegrains into your diet.

“When we eat plain fruits and vegetables, we can be sure that they are good for our health. But when we buy ready-made foods that are marketed as healthy, we need to pay more attention to what they are made of.” - Dr Afton Halloran

What’s Cooking – How to Get on the Priority List for our Cookshops
Have you heard? We had an amazing cookshop event about a week ago on the Mediterranean Diet.
As soon as we announced it to clients coming through the door at our clinic, it booked out within two weeks! We didn’t even get a chance to mention it to you, our valued e-newsletter reader.
If you would like to be among the first to hear about our next cookshop event date, please email our reception at 
and ask us to put you on the Priority List. Or, simply call our clinic when we are open (Wednesdays or Thursdays) on (02) 9899 5208.
Please provide your name, best phone number and at least one email address so we can be sure to reach you. Our cookshops are super popular and since COVID we have needed to reduce the number of events we run during the year.
The cookshops are held at our demo kitchen at the Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic, Suite 10, 80 Cecil Ave, Castle Hill (Sydney, Australia). 


Food Matters – Vitamin C and the Common Cold

With widespread respiratory illnesses lurking, is it time you checked that you are getting enough vitamin C? Getting plenty of fruit and vegies is vital but a supplement can also help if your eating habits are irregular.
Food InFocus – Stay Hydrated in Winter!

Many people forget to drink water in the Winter. But there are important reasons why you should stay well hydrated. Are you drinking enough? Watch this short video with Dr Sue Radd for some great fluid tips:

Recipe - Home-made Popcorn with Olive Oil

With the nights getting really cold you might be looking for some healthy comfort food. Have you tried our popcorn made with extra virgin olive oil? Unlike the microwave popcorn from supermarkets, which is an ultraprocessed food, our home-made popcorn contains no additives, is still quick n' easy to make and very delicious.

Product Review – Mingle

What is it?

You’ve likely heard of, or used, classic spice blends such as garam masala or Arabic seven spices. They can be pretty handy in the kitchen.

Now there’s an Australian brand called Mingle that also does such blending for you but in many more and varied flavour combinations. Mingle blends and packs their products in Australia from imported ingredients.

There are savoury herb and/or spice blends and sweet toppers that you can use on your food or to flavour up dishes when cooking.

For example, shakers that you can sprinkle on your food include Garlic & Herb, BBQ Lovers or Spicy Mexican. We’ve tried them on smashed avo and they taste good!

Sachets for flavouring an entire meal when cooking (where you add your choice of protein and vegies) feature Taco Mexican Fiesta, Green Curry in a Hurry and more.

Mingle even make pouches with ready to squeeze sauces like Tangy Tomato Sauce or Sweet Chilli Sauce. We think we might even prefer the taste of their tomato sauce compared to more common brands!

Why you might like Mingle

To save time in the kitchen. We like using some blends of herbs and spices at our cookshops as they save opening up multiple bottles or sachets! But we also like to make our own.

Mingle prides itself on having products with:
  • No added sugar or that are low in sugar
  • No fillers (like “unnecessary flours”)
  • All natural ingredients
  • Preservative free
  • Vegan
While it claims to be lower in sodium than many common brands (true story), some Mingle blends can still contain significant amounts of salt that could be problematic for certain people. If you need to be on a low sodium diet you should check the nutrition information on their website and select blends or products containing 120 mg sodium or less per 100 g of product.

Here are a few examples with their sodium content:




Sodium per 100 g product


Garlic & Herb Seasoning

1610 mg


BBQ Lovers

2740 mg


Caramel Apple Pie

159 mg


Choc Berry Crunch

34 mg


Green Curry in a Hurry

2720 mg


Moroccan Tagine

2300 mg


Tangy Tomato Sauce

592 mg


Tangy BBQ Sauce

598 mg

Where can you buy it?

You can buy single shakers, sachets or pouches at supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths.

Bundles of various products can be purchased directly from the Mingle website:

Our rating

4/5 for creativity in blends and removing many unnecessary additives commonly added to seasonings.


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