LIZANNE MARR

Wholefood Dietitian & Nutritionist │ Personal Trainer

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The Bountiful Lunch Plate

The Bountiful Lunch Plate - raw, vegan, delicious lunch by 'Not Your Typical Dietitian' We all want our lunch to be delicious and we want to look forward to what is in our lunch box! We might be tempted to have the toasted ham and cheese sandwich from the corner cafe, but we really just want something that's going to taste good, fill us up, and keep us energised for the rest of our busy day. Ahhh wouldn't it be nice to have a personal chef to whip up such whimsical-sounding morsels!? Yes yes it would.

Let's pretend for one moment your personal chef created this for you, ok?

The Bountiful Lunch Plate - raw, vegan, delicious lunch by 'Not Your Typical Dietitian'

Thrown together with the extra sweet potato "chips" he made for you last night that was accompanied with a perfectly cooked fillet of salmon and a crisp seasonal salad. Well yes please!

The Bountiful Lunch Plate - raw, vegan, delicious lunch by 'Not Your Typical Dietitian'

But let's say in case you didn't have a personal chef, you could indeed "throw" this together in just a few minutes, by simply making extra sweet potato the night before and having only a few other fresh ingredients on hand. Easy. 

The Bountiful Lunch Plate - raw, vegan, delicious lunch by 'Not Your Typical Dietitian'

Here's why it's good for you!

Kale: The mother of all leafy greens and packed full of potassium, beta carotene and Vitamin C. Kale also contains isothiocyanates which have powerful anti-cancer effects in our cells.

Cashews: Cashews are slightly lower in fat than most other nuts and contain predominately oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, shown to reduce triglyceride levels. This nut is also rich in copper, important for healthy hair and skin.

Sweet potato: This veggie is filled to the brim with antioxidants, including Vitamins A, E and C. All of these vitamins are excellent for beautiful hair and skin, and help us to fight the free radicals associated with ageing and diseases such as cancer. It really is a "beauty food"!

Avocado: Want to lose weight? Eat avocado! Even though avocado has lots of fat, it is mostly comprised of the healthy monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that these fats are more likely to be used as slow burning energy rather than being stored as body fat. It also helps us to keep full and satisfied for longer. AND it is RIDICULOUSLY TASTY especially when you add salt, pepper and lime!

Here's how!

Ingredients:

Leftover sweet potato chips from last night's dinner Big handful finely chopped kale leaves Half a fresh beetroot (roughly grated) ¼ avocaso Handful cherry tomatoes (halved) Small handful cashews (untoasted & unsalted) Juice of 1 lime Chili powder Salt & Pepper

Method:

1. Warm up the sweet potato chips in the oven until warm an crispy 2. Mash the avocado and season with salt, pepper and lime juice 3. In a cup, mix together the cashews, a sprinkle of chili powder and lime juice 4. Arrange ingredients onto a plate and dress with the remaining lime juice

The Bountiful Lunch Plate - raw, vegan, delicious lunch by 'Not Your Typical Dietitian'

Lime & Sage Cashew "Blue Cheese"

photo apetizer I absolutely love entertaining at home and serving up new food and drink creations to friends and family  (using them as my guinea pigs). They don't seem to mind most of the time. Sometimes my creations don't always come out looking and/or tasting very glamorous, but at least it lends itself to some interesting dinner conversations. This one (thankfully) did turn out to be a success and a wonderful substitute for blue cheese if you struggle with the thought of mould in your cheese (me). If you're stuck for an appetizer at your next dinner party, this cheese compliments any kind of seasonal fruit and is heavenly on a fresh piece of sourdough.

photo fig

Ingredients:

2 cups cashew nuts 1 handful fresh sage Juice of 1 lime

Method:

Add cashew nuts to a high speed blender and blend until a fine powder. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a soft "cheese" consistency. Spread on freshly baked sourdough with fresh fig slices.

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Ricotta Fritters with Mango & Beetroot Marinated Zoodles

I don't know about you but my appetite is hugely affected by the temperature outside. When it's hot I love light, fresh meals that don't take too long to prepare and that can be enjoyed outside under a tree on a blanket or on the side of the pool, or even at the beach. I take any opportunity to include summery flavours like mango, coconut, pineapple, watermelon, basil, coconut...oh wait I already said coconut. Yep I love coconut. I sneakily incorporated it into this dish, along with mango and a few other unusual ingredients. The combination might sound a bit strange, but this one is a winner! We had this on a balmy summers evening last month when there was no breeze when I quite frankly would've been quite happy to eat a bowl of watermelon (if I lived by myself). This was the next best thing... Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ingredients (makes 2 to 3 large serves):

2 zucchinis 1 fresh ripe mango 1 fresh whole beetroot 3 tablespoons shredded coconut 1 bunch fresh basil (roughly chopped) 400g form ricotta (IMPORTANT: ricotta must be firm otherwise the fritters won't hold shape) 1 egg Half a cup of flour (I used oat flour) 40g grated parmesan cheese Zest from one lemon

Method:

Marinated Zoodles - Using a julienne vegetable peeler, make "noodles" or "pasta" from the zucchini. If you are unsure of how to do this, here is a helpful video to help you and link of where you can buy the vegetable peeler:

Video - how to make zucchini noodles

Buy the vegetable peeler here

Combine fresh mango, whole beetroot, and coconut in a high speed blender until smooth. Cover the zoodles in the marinade, stir through half the basil and set aside.

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Fritters - Combine the ricotta, egg, flour, parmesan, lemon zest, and the rest of the basil in a mixing bowl. Form into tablespoon sizes fritters and roll in extra flour if desired. Heat non-stick pan on medium heat and add a small amount of oil. Add the fritters to the pan and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp.

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Arrange the marinated zoodles in the centre of a pasta bowl and top with the ricotta fritters. Enjoy!

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Going nuts for nuts!

Nuts,  the perennial of life for any vegetarian, has now been proven above its other feats to have life prolonging capacity.

Having long been known as nutritious (and by many health conscious as a “superfood”) these little guys were previously known to lower cholesterol and diminish insulin resistance.

Most of these claims were met with scepticism, with the most common question being – ‘how does lowering cholesterol or improving insulin function really even help me?’.

Published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, was  the largest prospective study to date on nut consumption. With 76 464 women and 42 498 men, the authors concluded that those who ate nuts less than once per week had a 7% decrease in mortality and those who ate nuts up to 7 times per week had a 20% reduction!! And that goes for any type of nut too.

Good news right? Great news you say ……especially for those of you aiming to push past 95 and spend every last waking hour squeezing a bit more out of life. But what about those who are more stuck in the reality of the next few years rather than the twilight of time? Maybe you hate the though of living out your life in a hospital bed or rattling with pills into old age? There's more good news!

The study also showed associations with lower rates of cancer, respiratory ailments and heart disease.  And possibly the best part …increased nut intake was associated with less weight gain (contrary to popular belief). LESS weight gain! Yes you did read that right. Reduced waist circumference, and reduced risk of obesity.

So ready set go. To your pantry scrabbling for that packet of almonds bought last year and inhale your 28 grams for the day. Alternatively you could always click on the links below and creatively consume your portion.

Pear & Ginger Loaf

There is a beautiful café that recently opened near the suburb where I grew up. I went there with my mum and sisters and we had a lovely morning chatting over breakfast and coffee. I ordered the pear and ginger loaf with caramelised banana and Greek yoghurt - wow, I was impressed! This one of course was made with processed flour and white sugar. I simply had to healthify this one (I know that is not really a word).

What is good about it? The psyllium husk, pears, and buckwheat boost the fibre content. The almond meal, nuts, and seeds provide healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. It is also a protein packed loaf to help keep you full and curb any sugar cravings. It is gluten-free as buckwheat has no gluten and is actually not derived from wheat in any way. This recipe can also be sugar-free if you use stevia instead of honey or maple syrup.

Ingredients:

½ cup almond meal 1½ cup buckwheat flour ¼ cup ground flaxseed/chia 2 tablespoons psyllium husk 3 ripe juicy pears 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon baking soda ¼ cup milk of choice 3 eggs 1 tablespoon oil (coconut/olive) 2 tablespoons sweetener (honey/maple syrup/stevia) 2-3cm piece of ginger ¼ cup chopped walnuts 3 chopped medjool dates

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a bread tin or silicon loaf pan (22cm x 9cm x 6cm) with baking paper. Sift almond meal, buckwheat flour, flaxseed/chia, and psyllium husk into a bowl. Wash and deseed one pear and combine with vanilla, baking soda, milk, eggs, oil sweetener, and ginger in a blender. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the walnuts and dates and fold through. Cut the remaining two pears into 8 wedges each. Fill bread tin with half the batter and spread evenly. Top with half the pear wedges. Cover with the rest of the batter and top with the remaining pear wedges. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover it with some baking paper if it starts to brown too much. Let cool in tin. Slice and enjoy with caramelised banana, yoghurt, and a drizzle of honey. It is also divine with some fresh ricotta and honey or a smear of almond butter. Enjoy!

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Vietnamese Noodles

Do you also have a hard time making a tasty stir-fry without using some kind of condiment/sauce/paste that contains copious amounts of sugar, oil, or salt? If you're a food label reader, you probably know that it is really hard find a product in the supermarket isle dedicated to Asian food without one of these featuring as one of the first 3 ingredients. Unless you want to pay $10+ for a jar labelled organic or gourmet that actually contains REAL flavours, spices, and herbs then this recipe is for you! It is flavourful and delicious without any of the nasties.

Ingredients: makes 5 - 6 large portions

1 pack rice noodles 1.5 litres boiling water 500g free-range chicken breast (cubed) 500g bean shoots 1 large carrot (julienned) 1 large bunch fresh mint (roughly chopped) 1 large bunch fresh coriander (finely chopped stalks & roots, roughly chopped leaves) 4 cm piece fresh ginger (grated or finely chopped) 2 cloves of fresh garlic (grated or finely chopped) 1 large stick of lemongrass (finely chopped) 1 large chilli (finely chopped) 2 tablespoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 large lemons or 3 limes

Method: Add rice noodles to boiling water in a large bowl and drain after 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat pan on high and add sesame oil, stalks and roots of coriander, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. Add the bean shoots and half the carrots. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, and the juice of 1 large lemon and mix through. Take off heat and stir through half the mint and half the coriander leaves. Divide the rice noodles into bowls and spoon over the juice from the bottom of the pan. Cover noodles with stir-fry mix and top with fresh carrots, mint, coriander, and lemon/lime wedge.

Nutritional Information per serve: 1500 kJ (360 kcal) 43g protein 31g carbohydrate 6g fat (1g sat fat)

Easy Homemade Almond Butter

I can't believe I have only just discovered the wonderful world of making my own nut butter. I didn't realise it is so easy to do! If you're a nut butter lover like me, you probably go through a jar per week - which can work out to be an expensive addiction in the long run. I like to slather it on most things - oats in the morning, smoothies, fruit, dates - the possibilities are endless! By making your own nut butter you're saving at least 50%. If you live in Australia a jar of nut butter bought at Woolworths costs anything from $7 up, but only costs around $4 if you make the equivalent amount at home. Yippee!!

Why bother you ask? Well.......

Nuts are a really good source of "healthy fats" which has been shown to be beneficial for your heart and also your brain (if they're the omega-3 type of oils). Nuts are also high in protein and high in fibre - which is perfect for keeping you full and curbing cravings for sugary snacks. By grinding your nuts into a nut butter you've just opened up a whole new world of possibilities...no more boring trail mix for snacks! You can use it as a spread on this bread with some banana and honey. You can add into smoothies like this one. You can spread on fruit for a snack or fill a medjool date - my favourite!! You can even add it to ice-cream - yum!! Endless fun to be had. Best of all, it is really easy to make.

Ingredients (makes one small jar of nut butter)

2 cups of almonds (or add in a mix of nuts like brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia etc.) Optional additions: 2 tablespoons of oil (coconut or macadamia), maple syrup

Method

Add nuts to a blender and blend on high to form a "flour" consistency. Then blend on medium speed until creamy and buttery. It is that simple! Really! All you need is a little patience. The process usually takes between 10 to 15 minutes for 2 cups of nuts. If you don't have a high power blender the process may take up to 20 to 25 minutes. You may need to stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the blender every now and then. The main thing is to be patient. At first the consistency will become floury, then crumbly with some moisture, and then finally the buttery silky consistency will start to appear. If you want a deeper toasted and creamy texture you can roast your nuts for 5 to 10 minutes in the oven before blending. However, I like to have raw nut butter. It is really up to you.

Now go spread that nut butter on something...

What I Ate Wednesday {2nd edition}

Back by popular demand...I'm bringing you another edition of What I Ate Wednesday!! It seems you lot are VERY interested and nosy about what a Dietititan eats. Well, here you go, you can have another sticky beak at my food from yesterday :) Breakfast:

This was a protein eggwhite crepe inspired by Jessica Sepel. It consists of the following: half small mashed banana, 1 tbsp. psyllium husk, tbsp. ground linseeds, 1/4 cup yoghurt, 1/4 cup frozen berries, half a scoop sunwarrior protein powder. I mixed this together, cooked for 3 to 4 minutes in coconut oil and flipped either side into crepe style! I then topped with a dollop of yoghurt, warmed berries, and a drizzle of maple syrup. So delicious!

Next, I went for a walk with this one...her name is Macy.

Along the way, I stopped for one of these...

My lunch was constructed from bits and bops I found in my fridge, and it turned into a colourful and tasty lunch plate! It featured the following:

- 1 slice of cinnamon and honey roasted pumpkin with goats cheese - Raw zucchini pasta with homemade kale pesto and chopped capsicum - 1 cup of fresh baby beetroot leaves dressed with lemon juice - 1 slice of the life changing bread spread with kale pesto - A few cherry tomatoes

For a snack, I had a big mug of rooibos tea and 2 fresh medjool dates filled with almond butter. This is probably my favourite snack at the moment.

Dinner was almost around the corner, but my husband was still at work and I was getting hungry. This is when I take the opportunity to eat a piece of fruit. It prevents me from getting ravenously hungry at dinner time so that I don't overeat and gobble up the food in 5 minutes. So I had a fresh persimmon (not pictured). This was dinner...

- Roasted pumpkin with kale pesto - Broccoli and sugar snap peas sautéed with kimchi - Carrot and beetroot "rice" with a hearty side of avocado

To finish the day off, my husband made me a cup of rooibos tea with a side of apple slices dipped in peanut butter. He also cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes. Pretty awesome guy - I think he deserves to be in the running for the "husband of the year" award.

Supercharged Protein Oats

This breakfast truly is supercharged with nutrients to fuel your muscles, maximise energy levels, and skyrocket your metabolism. It is a bowl of goodness that is packed with protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and other good fats to keep you full and satisfied for a good 4 hours - which means that you're less likely to reach for that refined sugar-laden biscuit at morning tea and more likely to go for the healthy choice at lunch time.

This recipe is so quick to make - it literally takes only 5 minutes to throw together and is very portable and easy to eat on the run (if you are one of those people who have to eat their breakfast in the car).

Oh, and it also tastes amazing.

Ingredients:

1/3 of a cup rolled oats 2/3 of a cup milk (almond//soy/cow's) 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed 1 egg white Half a mashed banana (small) 3 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice) 1/2 a tsp. vanilla extract 1 tsp. almond butter 1 tbsp. chopped walnuts 1 tsp. maple syrup Cinnamon & Vanilla Baked Pears for topping (or any other baked or fresh fruit)

Method: Combine the oats and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until creamy. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the egg white. Stir to combine thoroughly until the egg white is cooked through. Then add the mashed banana, ground flaxseed, stevia, and vanilla. Pour into a breakfast bowl and top with almond butter, walnuts, pears, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Divine!

Question of the day: What is your favourite way of eating oats?

Link of the day: Breakfast Crepe with Protein Berry Filling

Breakfast Crepe with Protein Berry Filling

Ohhh yes...

This is too good to be true. Surely you can't eat something that looks this good for breakfast, can you? Yes you can, and you should!

Another addition to my dessert-like breakfast recipes. Think of it as the sister of this one, the cousin of this one, and the obscure relative of this one.

Nutrition Perfection: - Loaded with protein and fibre - Sugar-free - Gluten free - Great for blood sugar stabilisation - Provides sustained energy release

Ingredients:

- 3 medium egg whites - 1 tbsp greek yoghurt - 1 tbsp ground chia seeds - 1 tsp cinnamon - 1/2 a tsp vanilla

Filling

- 1/2 cup frozen berries - 1 tbsp protein powder - 1 tbsp greek yoghurt

Method: Combine egg whites, yoghurt, chia, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl and mix well. Spray a non stick pan and cook on a medium heat for 2-3 mins with the lid on or until mixture is no longer runny on top. Slide it onto a plate.

For filling: Blend the berries in a blender to form a berry "paste". Add the protein powder and yoghurt and blend well until it forms a nice and creamy texture.

Fill the crepe and flip it on both sides so that it looks like a crepe. Top with berries and if you feel like some extra indulgence - pour a little agave or maple syrup!

Question of the day: What is your favourite dessert-like breakfast food?

Link of the day: Creamy Almond Milkshake Creamy Almond Milkshake

A Few Questions

Working in a country with over 110 separately registered NGOs you begin to ask a few questions. Working in a hospital you begin to ask a few more.Gambia has a population of approximately 1.8million people. Clinging to a wide expansive river the country is split in two. Predominantly, the south is made up of patches of dense thick jungle and high grassland. The mango trees form pockets of shade away from the jungle and protect from the hot tropical sun. In the flatter grassed areas these conglomeration of mango trees signal a village forming and provide ample shade for the small 3mx3m houses.

Such villages of mud brick can be seen as you speed away from the capital Banjul towards the much quieter country side. Dodging goats and chickens on the road you are greeted by the smiling children yelling ‘TOOBAB’ as they realise they see a white elbow out the window on the car.

With each mud bricked village getting further and further apart there begins a certain trend. With each rusty tin roof there are more and more holes, punched out as if to intentionally let rain in. There are more collapsing mud brick walls and many, many more sickly looking children, no longer as excited to see you.

It is in this continent of contrasts Gambia certainly stands out. This is no better seen than at this small rural hospital in Sibanor. Some 1.5 hours from Banjul, Sibanor is prototypical for rural life here. Many people from the village own units of land on which to grow a sparse array of peanuts, or maize to try and feed their family. Fenced by sticks they attempt to protect the crops from the goats roaming aimlessly about.

Our job here in Sibanor is, for a small fee, to check over children, adults and the elderly. To look, listen and take on board some of the dilemmas playing out in Africa’s smallest country. But living and working in a hospital where you have 3 blood tests to decide upon an illness is not ideal.

For a doctor there is clinical intuition and then just plain guessing. Much of what we do is basic and a lot of it helps, but nothing is as shocking and profoundly unnecessary as the death of many Gambian children. Most are starving amid plenty. With the jungle trees lusciously expanding children are starving. Again and again and again.

We are here to help. We feed. We treat and sometimes we win. But others we don’t and neither do some of 110 different organisations here in Gambia. I don’t know the statistics but 110 per 1.8 million people would have to be close to the most impressive ratio yet.

But why are they here and more importantly why aren’t they working? We provide the basic of health care and the basic of life to those on the brink, but why? Why are they now, after 40 years of attempting to improve the situation, not winning?

Bandaid

Six weeks have already gone by since we first arrived in The Gambia. So much has happened and time seems to have flown by. We’ve already made so many friendships, settled into the Gambian culture and our work at the clinic, and we’ve acquired a small vocabulary of the Mandinka language – well at least the greetings. Something that hits you right away when you come to know the Gambians is that they are extremely friendly, warm and generous people. They will always take time to greet and talk with you. If you walk around in the village you will get several invites to join families for a meal or to take part in an afternoon of drinking their favourite brew “ataya” – a very strong sweet tea that has a very particular way it is brewed, poured and frothed. They will give you their best (and often only) chair to sit on while the rest of the family with make do with tree stumps or empty oil cans for seats. They will always show you respect and ask about your family.

The people here care about each other – their family is their support system, their offspring is their security for the future. It is refreshing to see that people don’t invest all their time and energy into acquiring “stuff” but instead invest into relationships and family. Families spend time laughing, chatting and eating together. It is a picture so far away from that which we have become used to in Australia. We like to spend our time on facebook, eating our meals in front of the TV or watching comedies. We work long hours to pay for more “stuff” to keep us happy. These people don’t have much, yet they seem happier than most Australians even if they are faced with the reality of death around them almost every day.

The burden of most diseases that could easily be cured, eradicated, or prevented in the west weighs heavily upon the African people. You often feel that you’re only placing a band aid on the deep wound that is the real problem. HIV, TB, malaria, and severe malnutrition form the bulk of what we see in the clinic. It is heartbreaking to see so many children on the ward that so closely resemble that image we so often see on the world vision ads – and only because their mother could not afford to feed her baby the right food. Some children weigh only 3 or 4 kg at the age of 18 months. Their hair fall out and their skin peel off because they don’t meet their vitamin and mineral requirements. Their bellies and feet are puffy from a lack of protein in their diet. They now have a very stark reality of knocking at death’s door – debatably a better destiny than the life they might lead if they recover from this.

Sibanor

The journey up-country to Sibanor Village was one I’d never forget – mango tree after mango tree dripping with golden ripe mangoes ready to be picked. Green rice fields, palm trees, chickens, goats, cows, donkeys, horses, cats, dogs, exotic birds, old tin corner shops that sell anything imaginable. Children with rags for clothes walking on the side of the road playing with each other or minding 2 or 3 goats. Broken down trucks overloaded with freight. “Gally-Gally” or taxies packed full of people like sardines and with double the load on the roof with items such as sofa lounges, wood, luggage, goats and chickens. Women dressed in colourful material with babies on their back carrying pales of water or bags of food on their heads. Groups of men sleeping or chatting under mango trees playing cards. Village life seemed peaceful and stress free.We arrived at the Sibanor Health Clinic compound where we were shown to the house where we would be staying in for the rest of our time here in The Gambia. From all accounts before our arrival we had the impression that we would be without electricity – so we were prepared for no luxuries! Needless to say, we were surprised and thankful to be shown to the largest house in the compound with air conditioning in the main bedroom (and probably the only air conditioned room in the whole of Sibanor), lights, running water (only cold), a fridge and a working oven with gas stove! I wanted to jump up and down with excitement but then felt almost guilty and shameful to have such luxuries while there are people getting by without these only 50 metres from us. We are so fragile compared to the strong people of Africa who get by with smiles on their faces without the luxuries of electricity, running water or their own room with a mattress to sleep on. The first night was interesting. The power was cut for the night so our rechargeable batteries, torches and lamps came in handy! There was a big storm with thunder and lightning that sounded like it was about 1 metre from our house. The bats made screeching sounds all night and the birds, goats, donkeys and roosters started their morning calls well before 5am. Although we did not get much sleep that night I didn’t matter because we felt like it was Sibanor’s way of giving us a warm welcome. It was so nice to finally be where we knew God wanted us for the next couple of months.

Green pastures of The Gambia

“Salaam maleekum” – the local greeting meaning “peace be with you” is the mantra of the Gambian people. They value peace above all things and maybe that is why it is one of very few African countries that has been untouched by war.From the moment we flew over The Gambian river dividing the fields into dense green pockets of land – we felt like God gave us a peace of his promise in Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters”. And the Lord knew we needed it after our unplanned whirlwind tour of West Africa that took us through South Africa, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and finally The Gambia. Thankfully also we got out of Nigeria just in time before the bus explosions took place in the main city. After being treated like criminals on our journey to get here – it was a breath of fresh air to be welcomed by a friendly Scottish couple that runs the guesthouse at the WEC headquarters in Banjul. They helped us navigate our way around and find our feet for the first week. This was not such an easy task as replacements for our lost luggage had to be found. Most girls would be excited if they had $1000 of insurance allowance to spend on essentials – more of a chore in a developing country. Life lesson learnt: ALWAYS pack at least 2 sets of underwear on your carry-on and split your clothes between you and your travel mate! During our first week of orientation in Banjul we slowly got used to the frequent prayer calls from the mosque next door, the hot (and humid) weather, and the reality of the struggle to make a living. Like most African countries, the people are desperate to make a buck out of anyone that seems better off than them. Children will often wave and run after you shouting – Tubab!! Tubab!! (meaning white person) – and ask for a ‘minty’ (lolly) or some dalasi (local currency). The Gambians see “tubabs” as an opportunity for a better life, a way out – yet when you stop to chat with them they seem content, friendly, at peace. Most of them practice Islam (98%) as a religion which includes the 30-day fast known as Ramadan. Our arrival here was right in the middle of Ramadan – so we had many sleepless nights from continuous 3-hourly prayer calls. They are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, dance, listen to music or swallow their own saliva during the hours of daylight. It was clear the locals were struggling in this heat without a drop of water during the day. Without energy and continuing hunger pains they drag their feet walking to the nearest vendor to line up for fresh bread and dates for the break of the fast at 7:30pm. Each sunset awaiting a night of feasting, drinking and praying to Allah. We were only at the preliminary stage of discovering the cover of the book that is The Gambian way of life…so much more to uncover, learn and experience about the people of The Gambia and how we can help them in the next 2 months of our time here.

The West African introduction

The cackles from immigration was the first warning shot. In retrospect there were a number of other warnings that any usual traveller in these parts should take head of. Making the arrival into Nigeria from Johannesburg for a 2 hour stopover in ‘transit’ to The Gambia, we thought we were ready for the next 48 hours. We would arrive shortly into The Gambia and then to the rural village of Sibanor to start work. Instead lost/stolen luggage, confiscated passports, shower/toothbrush deprivation, carpet sleeping, food stealing and arguments with airport staff would be the mainstay of what became a classic introduction to Nigerian dysfunction at its highest.Reading our departure card her head flicked up. Where are you going? We paused not knowing if this was a real question with all the intonation in her voice. “Nigeria” we said, with hesitation not knowing what was ahead. With that she rocked her head back and started laughing loudly - catching her breath to bring herself together and form a complete sentence she finally states in a much more serious tone “ well good luck”. Clement our immigration officer smartly dressed in a khaki officer uniform, complete with a beret and stripes, first met us at the end of our first of a number of long lines. Shaking his head he kept stating – ‘I don’t know who booked this for you. How did they book this?” He unfortunately was referring to the connecting flights to The Gambia – taking our passports to “check”, we were not to lay hands on these again for almost 2 days. Confirming that Virgin Nigeria has been grounded by the government for safety concerns we started to wonder when the next flight to The Gambia would be. Using the passports as a trump card Clement stated he needs us to ‘wait here’ while he finds out what to do next. He will give them back when he knows. This classic misdirection which we will later learn is used to soften us up he goes and starts collecting other peoples’ passports and asking then to wait also. Congregating together we learn they also have connecting flights and no entry visa to Nigeria. This typical scenario is any airport from KL to Perth of having passengers have to wait for connecting flights is managed somewhat uniquely in Nigeria. A transit officer is assigned to collect all these connecting passengers’ passports and not give them back until (he) the transit officer has booked them into their next flight personally. Assured this was necessary to stop people illegally running off finding their way through custom departure (past the same 20 guards guarding this area) and then through immigration to illegally reside in his country. We were not even allowed to see where they were being kept. In fact, you are to stay in a room 4x5m with 3 couches, 2 glass coffee tables and 6 other passengers of the same fate. Being inquisitive as to where our luggage was being stored during all of this we were saddened to hear that all of Lizanne’s clothes, toiletries etc. in fact everything but her camera, laptop and the clothes she had on had “gone missing”, but no one else’s luggage had reached this same fate. Now with half our luggage, no passport, no flight out and a more and more distant immigration officer leading us around behind him like 2 prisoners in cuffs we started to pray for a way out. Approaching midnight Clement finds the time to attempt to resolve our ticket problem. Finding one ticketing official who is eagerly able to tell us there are no other airlines but his that are going to The Gambia. Over 24 hours later we left the place which made us sure that returning to Nigeria is not something that anyone should ever do. Many, many more events occurred but these events will have to be left for our face to face on return – we cannot give you the best now!

Hello Blog World!

I'm so excited to finally call this blog my own! I've wanted to share my ideas and knowledge about health, nutrition and creative inspiration with you all...but couldn't come up with a good idea of how to do this. A few searches in google...and it occured to me...BLOGGING ofcourse!

Get excited! Because this isn't just any blog...it is a the blog of a dietitian that is not-so-typical. I say this because you won't hear me telling you what you CAN'T eat, instead I'll give you ways you can have your cake and eat it too (the healthy way offcourse)!

What you'll find on this blog: - healthy versions of your FAVOURITE recipes - Up-to-date tips, info and advice on health and nutrition - Creative inspiration for your kitchen, home and life!

Be sure to check back daily for exciting new recipes and tips on how to be a healthier you!

 

 

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