My Healthy Spin on Lasagna (that the kids and family will love – I promise!)



My bolognaise sauce is a my secret weapon – easy to make, veggie packed, seriously delicious and a meal the whole family loves (and can survive off for a couple of days so it makes me one happy mama!). I use this as a bolognaise sauce and in my lasagna.


I’m going to show you the healthier way to enjoy a favourite comfort meal, lasagna; and yes it isn’t “classic” but I promise it’s better for you (and the kids) and it’s still delicious.


What you will need:

  1. 500 grams of lean lamb mince (I use lamb not beef, I prefer the taste of lamb for this)
  2. 1 medium sized onion
  3. 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic (jar or fresh)
  4. 800 gram can of diced tomatos (and maybe an additional small can of tomatoes OR a dash of passata) – it is to keep the sauce runny and tomato-ey (not a word I am aware, stay with me though)
  5. Wholemeal lasagne sheets (you can buy this from the supermarket)
  6. Shredded cheddar (however much you like)
  7. Some olive oil
  8. Some pepper
  9. Herbs of your choice – I use whatever is in the garden; parsley, basil and spring onion usually
  10. Veggies – now this is where I give you free reign. I will always put in an entire grated zucchini, 2 medium sized carrots grated and chopped spinach (silverbeet or baby spinach – I use what’s in the garden but will aim for 2 cups of raw spinach). I sometimes add mushrooms as well. Use what you have in the garden or the fridge – trust me I cook this sauce for 4 hours so whatever you have will usually work as it all softens. Oh I also always add all the soft tomatoes I have in the house so they don’t get wasted – just chop them up and chuck them in if you have them lying around!
  11. Possible addition and up to you: Pumpkin such as half a butter nut. Sometimes I add a layer of pumpkin into the lasagna.


For the sauce:

  1. Chop that onion up however the hell you want and chuck it into a pot with olive oil, chuck the garlic in too and cook until brown and soft
  2. Chuck in the mince and brown this – usually takes 6-8 minutes.
  3. Next add your tomato cans –I often throw in a large can and a small one (I like a heavy tomato flavour) but you can use a large can and a passata jar if you have it open in the fridge. Doesn’t matter what you use as long as you have enough fluid for all the veggie you are about to add.
  4. Let this simmer for 10 minutes and use a wooden spoon to break the bits of meat down.
  5. All the veg you grated and chopped and loved – chuck it in! And season with some pepper (sometimes I also chuck in basil flakes or paprika – season away with whatever you like!). I don’t add salt – this is a meal Miss S loves so my rule is no added salt (kids in particular should avoid salt) and adults can add to their own meal as needed. (Just a quick health point – salt addition to meals quickly adds up and excessive salt intake is a contributor to high blood pressure!!).
  6. Now this is key – check the fluid status after you’ve added all those vegetables! If it looks too thick and the veg is poking out and not drowned in fluid you need to add more either in the form of another tomato can, a dash of red wine (it will cook off) or passata. Sometimes I do add a dash of red wine (no more than a 1/4 cup) and after 4 hours of cooking you can be rest assured it has burned off!
  7. Let that sauce simmer for 3-4 hours on low heat and stir occasionally.
  8. Towards the end of the cooking time throw in the herbs.


For the lasagna construction:


  1. I do layers of meat and lasagna sheets. I RARELY use béchamel – 99% of the time my lasagna doesn’t have it (it’s way healthier without it) but if it’s a special occasion I’ll throw it in. Truth is my lasagna is delicious without the high calorie white sauce and the adults and kids just don’t need it.
  2. I layer meat sauce first then lasagna sheet then meat sauce and lasagna sheet usually aiming for 3-4 layers. Always end on a meat sauce thin layer with some cheddar on top.
  3. KEY TIPS: Always ensure you have enough moisture – sometimes I will wet my hands and sprinkle some excess water to keep the lasagna juicy if the sauce is a bit too thick.
  4. POSSIBLE OPTION: Mashed pumpkin in a layer. If you want some extra veg (and kids will love this too) chop up half a butter nut pumpkin into roughly 2x2cm cubes. Boil for 10 mins approximately (until soft) and then drain the water and mash it all up. Don’t add any seasoning. Simply spread this out in a layer of the lasagna above the meat – I usually only do 1 pumpkin later somewhere in the middle of the lasagna.
  5. Once constructed and sprinkled with love and cheese bake on 180 degrees for roughly 30 – 35 mins (or until golden on top). If you’re worried the top is getting too crispy put some foil on it to protect it but to still allow the lasagna sheets to cook.


I love my lasagna because it’s a meal that lasts the family for a couple of days, everyone loves it and I know it’s healthy given how much veggie I pack in there.


As a hot tip – this is the sauce I use on pasta as bolognaise sauce. If you’re feeling like superman or woman then make a big batch and freeze it in containers. You can defrost it on busy days for pasta or chuck in on top of a baked potato (I prefer sweet potato as it’s low GI). I will often layer baked sweet potato, the sauce and then add some green peas/corn/lettuce/fresh tomato/greek yoghurt/fresh mushrooms/whatever the hell you want on top–it’s one of our favourite family go to meals on busy days!


I hope you enjoy this recipe – and if you try it, post it, and tag me so I can see your work! As usual there are no fixed rules here – use whatever veg you like, mix it up each time, and I can almost guarantee you that it will be delicious, and veggie packed and amazing!!!





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The Truth About Iron



A lot of my patients take a daily iron supplement because they “feel tired” and a friend suggested they try it. I’ve sat on the toilet at the supermarket pondering at the sign on the back of the door, “tired? fatigued? irritable? Maybe you’re iron deficient?” – insert product placement here. Every time I see the ad I answer yes to all questions (don’t you? Who isn’t tired and irritable?) but it doesn’t necessarily mean I need iron replacement. The truth is the medication can have annoying side effects like nausea, constipation and abdominal pain – so you want to be sure you need it before you start taking it. What you need to know is, are you at risk of iron deficiency and are you getting enough iron from your diet?


Iron is vital. It plays an integral role in your red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout the body and is also required for enzyme function and energy production. Patients who are deficient in iron can therefore experience symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath when they exercise (because they cannot carry the oxygen around as effectively). It doesn’t mean though if you’re tired you are definitely iron deficient. What we know is that fatigue is USUALLY going to be due to lifestyle factors (poor sleep quality, not enough sleep) or stress – the studies tell us this. And IF it is something medical causing your fatigue then LOADS of other conditions from a simple virus to hypothyroidism to pregnancy to malignancy can be the cause – we can’t blame iron every time.


Having said all that – it’s worth knowing if you are at risk of iron deficiency (because maybe then you do need a blood test and replacement) and if you are getting enough in your diet.


Iron is in more than steak. If you’re vegetarian eggs are a great source – you can also get some iron from nuts (like almonds and walnuts) and legumes- but the truth is it’s better absorbed from meat. Meat (ideally lean) is the main source – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, seafood. Lots of patients are not aware but vitamin C improves the absorption of iron – so a glass of orange juice with your steak may just help your gut get more of the good stuff!! The amount of iron you need varies according to your gender and your age – for a women under 50 generally 18 mg per day of iron is recommended whereas males require 8mg per day. Want me to break that down for you? (Because let’s be honest who knows how to count the number of mg of iron you are eating!) The general recommendation is to eat 1-3 foods from iron rich groups per day. I get my iron intake from poultry (mainly chicken), fish, nuts (mainly almonds), lentils and chickpeas.


As you can imagine there are some groups of people who are at higher risk of iron deficiency due to diet factors (vegetarians, vegans), gut absorption issues (inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease for instance) or issues with increased demand such pregnant and breast feeding women. Mensturating women (especially those with heavy periods) are also at higher risk given they are losing blood and iron with every period.


My point is only that not everyone needs to take iron supplements and it certainly isn’t a medication I would just start taking because I feel tired (like I find lots of my patients do). Perhaps your fatigue and irritability is due to motherhood or exams or balancing work and a social life. Perhaps you’re feeling off due to a virus that is lingering. Perhaps you’re tired because you don’t get enough sleep and the sleep you do get isn’t of the best quality. Or perhaps you are deficient in iron – but there is only one way to find out – a chat with your doctor and a blood test if it is needed.



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A Healthy Spin on a Comfort Meal Version 1 – Tuna Mornay



Tuna mornay is a love of mine – it holds a special place in my heart… alongside twiggy sticks (I know I know!), smoked salmon and goats cheese. It’s a meal I yearn for when I’m celebrating something or when I’m devastated and need a pick-me-up. But MY tuna monray isn’t like yours- I can assure you. It’s one of the healthiest and easiest meals I make and lasts in the fridge for 2-3 days feeding the entire family – Miss S included.


If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen it in my posts – I make it often – so I thought it was time to share how I do it. So here it is – the Preeya twist on tuna mornay.


Firstly, tuna mornay (or my version of it sans white sauce and other fancy bits) is a very healthy vegetable packed meal that only needs one pot. Tuna is so good for you – rich in omega 3 hence, great for the heart and the brain of little ones especially. If you’re attempting to adopt the Mediterranean diet, because of all its wonderful evidence-based health benefits including reduced risks of cancers and heart disease, then it’s a wonderful meal for you because it contains seafood, is loaded with vegetables and uses olive oil as the cooking base.


What you will need:

Step 1 – Pick 2 425g cans of tuna (this makes a mammoth quanitity to last for 2-3 days, if you don’t need this much only use 1 can). It doesn’t matter what type of tuna you pick – either spring water or olive oil will do but ensure you don’t pick a flavoured one – we can add that ourselves! You will also need 1 or 2 cans of creamed corn (you can get this from the canned vegetable area at the supermarket) – 1 can for a small batch, 2 for large. In the recipe you might find some other bits I add sometimes.


Step 2 – Look in your fridge, veggie patch and pantry – what veggies do you have? I always use what I have – the half chewed broccoli sitting in the crisper is perfect, so are the tomatoes in the garden! Sometimes I’ll use cauliflower I have sitting around and other times I’ll use some celery, mushrooms and tomatoes. Grated zucchini is always easy and fabulous. Use what you have but make sure you add at least 3 types of veggies and one that adds some crunch like celery. I hear the critics already – “tomato in a tuna mornay??” – it’s a great addition – adds some additional moisture and sweetness!


Be creative with the veggies especially if you have kids. I tend to blitz my broccoli and cauliflower (if I’m using it) in the thermomix before I add it to the pot – it makes it like a cous cous and makes the mornay thick and creamy!


Step 3 – Always add peas and corn – it’s just how I roll.


Step 4 – Be creative with your grain! Doesn’t HAVE to be pasta. I sometimes add brown rice (cooked before I throw it in to the mix) but more often than not add quinoa which is just lovely and adds a nice texture! You can use wholegrain pasta or even chickpeas. Sometimes I don’t add a carbohydrate at all – usually because I’ve put in so many veggies there is no room. It’s always just as delicious!


The actual steps I follow:


  1. I heat olive oil in a fry pan and fry off onions (brown or red) until browned – about 5 mins
  2. I add the tuna (with the olive oil or spring water drained beforehand) and just brown it slightly for another 4 mins
  3. In go ALL the veggies I have – the spinach, tomatoes, peas and corn, cauliflower – whatever it is I chuck it in now. Stir it all in and give in another 2-3 mins.
  4. Add your binder of the dish (some fluid!) – the creamed corn! If you have a load of veggies you might need 2 cans – but 1 is usually enough. Once the binder is in – chuck you grain in now – whatever it is: pasta, quinoa – this is its moment to join the party!
  5. SOMETIMES I add a soup packet (cream of chicken or celery) to bind it further but I rarely need this. If you do choose to add a cream of chicken soup pick one with low salt (especially if your child is going to eat this).
  6. Add your herbs – I normally add parsley and spring onion from the garden but play around –there are no fixed rules – try what you have!! Parsley goes beautifully in this though as does basil.
  7. Pepper – of course!!! Be careful with salt ESPECIALLY if your child is going to eat this. I don’t add any if Miss S is going to have this for dinner – which is always given she loves the stuff!!
  8. Once it’s all bound, shove it in an oven dish – 2 cans of tuna gives you lots of food so you will need a big tray – sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top and pop it in the oven on 180 degrees for 20 mins until the cheese is golden on top! Don’t freak out – I know there isn’t any white sauce nor bread crumbs but trust me this is delicious! People don’t realise that adding something like white sauce to a meal is adding extra calories you don’t need.


And that’s it – you have a healthy tuna mornay!! You may be skeptical – is this even delicious? Hell yes it is – the veggies give it texture and sweetness, the cheese gives it the edge and the tuna is the hero as it should be!

If you have a serve for dinner this meal will give you at least 2 serves of veggies easily. Imagine how good it is for kids! I can hear you saying “Preeya this isn’t really a strict recipe with steps to follow” – I know but this is how I cook – it changes every time and you have a framework now to work off.


The wonderful thing about my mornay, like all my cooking, is there are no set rules – play around, try things out, chuck in as many good tasty things as you can! Try a comfort meal without the naughty things like white sauce – it can be just as delicious and good for you!


If you like this – I’ll pop up some of my other healthy versions of comfort food – lasagne, pasta sauce, shepard’s pie, enchiladas!! The possibilities are endless!!! Check out my Instagram feed for other healthy food ideas!!







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Why I Don’t Believe in Diets

Oh I’ve heard and seen them all.


The Atkins diet – no carbohydrates – EVER.


The Dukan Diet – high in protein; eat so much meat you nearly cark it from constipation.


The Raw Food Diet – if it’s cooked it’s deadly and could kill you.


If you come in for a consult and ask me my opinion on certain diets you will get the same response– “I just don’t believe in them”. And I can’t advocate for a diet if has no medical evidence supporting it.


I don’t believe in you making a huge investment of time, energy and money into a ‘program’ or structured eating plan because I know that 1. you can’t be on this diet forever (it’s not humanely possible) and 2. WHEN you come off the diet you will likely rebound and gain the weight again.


That’s the reason most of the weight loss companies make millions of dollars– they feed you these beautifully packaged meals for 6 or 12 weeks – you lose the weight, you feel great, then you stop – and boom, hello rebound weight. And then in 6 months you join again to kick start the weight loss and the same thing happens. Explains why the companies are rolling in money doesn’t it?


The problem – they don’t teach you the fundamental building blocks. They don’t explain WHY you will lose weight on their plan, how to manage portion sizes yourself and measure your intake. They don’t tell you the sneaky swaps they do – replacing white potato with sweet potato as it has a lower glycemic index and will keep you fuller for longer.


And these restriction diets where you don’t eat carbohydrates or protein or whatever else they choose is the devil – are not sustainable and like I keep saying everything is OK – in moderation.


So there you have it – I don’t believe in diets.


I believe in lifestyle change- in slow sustainable weight loss that comes through rigorous work over months. I believe in building exercise into your every day life – I don’t expect you to start with 4 hours of running per week. 30 minutes a week is just fine to start with and we can build it up from there. I have reasonable expectations I promise!


I believe in seriously reviewing your diet, your pantry, your fridge and food shopping habits and overhauling them so that fruit and vegetables are the crux and everything else is just filler. I believe in a lifestyle overhaul – not a temporary diet.


A 6 or 12 week change is not going to change your life. But a serious look at your life – your exercise patterns, how you shop, how you cook, what you cook and how much you eat – well hey, that’s sustainable and the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A lifetime is certainly better than 12 weeks – wouldn’t you agree?




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You Can Make Friends with Salad

Ahhh the 2 fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day – it causes so much discussion – “how could I possibly fit this in my day” and “why do I need so much?”


I’ve asked the same questions but the truth is – it makes a difference and as a Doctor I harp on about this every single day to my patients. Eating more fruit and vegetables helps to maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity. It also protects against chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and can help the prevention of diabetes. When I tell a patient “look if you bump up the fruit and veggies you can lower your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and bowel cancer” – I anticipate excitement “oh yes, tell me how I can change my life please!!” but I am so often met with resistance “its so hard” or “I don’t have the time.”


The numbers sound big – 2 and 5 but really they are achievable I promise.


A serve of fruit is equivalent to an apple or banana or a cup of canned fruit. A serve of vegetables is equal to 1 cup of raw veggies or half a cup of cooked green veggies like spinach or broccoli. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies count (thank goodness).


So how do I do it? I whip up a soup most weeks for lunches and easy on the run dinners – canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, carrots and celery whipped together – easily my 3 serves of vegetables at lunch time. Tuna salad for lunch with 2 handfuls of baby spinach and a medium tomato and a tuna can chucked in at work – and done – another 3 serves of vegetables easily. A tub of no sugar added fruit as a snack or fruit and yogurt and I easily fit in the 2 serves of fruit.


The point I’m making is its possible – when your packing the lunch box (for you or your kids) chuck in a piece of fruit or do a massive soup batch on your free night of the week and let that fill you with you veggie intake. Don’t forget lentils and legumes are vegetables too – whip up a hommus or chuck in some beans when you next do a meat dish…


The way I do it is to plan ahead and to put all the veggie requirements into a meal and THEN think about the other stuff like the piece of baked chicken or cous cous on the side. Let the veggies be your first thought – not the steak! It’s a mind set change – but its one that we as a country have been very poor at doing!


The benefits are amazing and when you think of all the benefits I mentioned before- 2 and 5 doesn’t seem like much at all!

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