Less fat, more fat

By Larissa Nicholson

Two cookbooks have vastly different ideas on how to eat well, Larissa Nicholson writes

Two recently released Australian cookbooks present very different views on how to eat well. In one corner appears that bestselling superstar CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet series, Fast and Fresh Recipes, which encourages readers to lower their intake of fat and carbohydrates, and eat lots of meat and fresh vegetables. It is a high-protein diet, for which it has been criticised. It is also a highly regulated way of eating.

This latest title focuses on meals that are quick to throw together, and features a new section, ”blokey favourites”, with recipes for steak sandwiches and piri piri chicken.

On the other side of the ring, chef Walter Trupp and his nutritionist wife Dorota come out fighting for all-natural, old-world eating, of a kind that would not be totally unfamiliar to those who grew up pre-1950s. Trupp’s Wholefood Kitchen is full of rustic loaves of bread, hearty broths, and, perhaps most controversially, lashings of butter. But more on that later.

The success of the CSIRO’s Total Wellbeing Diet in reaching the Australian public is clear in figures provided by the national science agency suggesting that 65 per cent of Australians have heard of the diet, and 10 per cent live in a household where it has been used in some way.

The diet divides food up into units. It recommends one unit of lean protein for lunch and two for dinner every day, with a unit equal to 100g of red meat, chicken or fish, or two eggs. So basically that is up to 300g of meat or its equivalent in other protein a day. There is plenty of dairy in there, too, three units a day on top of the protein group, with a unit equal to 250ml of reduced fat milk, 200g of diet yoghurt or 25g of full fat cheese.

It suggests two units, or two slices, of wholegrain bread each day (or eight tablespoons of cooked rice, lentils or beans, or a cup of cooked pasta), one unit of high-fibre cereal, two units of fruit and at least two-and-a-half of approved vegetables.

The CSIRO keeps fats and oils to a minimum, really just enough to cook in, with three units, each equal to one teaspoon of oil, each day. This is considered equal to three teaspoons of soft margarine, 20g of nuts or seeds, or a few other options of very small portions of fatty foods.

One of the strengths of the CSIRO recipes is the ease with which the dishes can be put together. There are no tricky techniques, and there are instructions for absolute beginners in the ”basics” section, where readers can learn how to make a green salad, and stirfry, roast or oven steam vegetables.

The recipes seem tasty enough, if a little on the plain side, and some of the most standard sources of carbohydrates are conspicuously absent. There’s some bread, but don’t expect to come across a big bowl of pasta. There are, however, several nice looking soups, salads and lots and lots of meat. That has been the main criticism of the Total Wellbeing Diet since it was launched in 2005.

At that time, high profile nutritionist Rosemary Stanton spoke against the diet, arguing high intakes of red meat was bad for long-term health. She said the research behind the the diet had been partially funded by Meat and Livestock Australia, and therefore its independence had been compromised. But Dr Manny Noakes, the leader of the research team that developed the diet, says a high-protein intake can be very helpful for people looking to lose weight.

Each year, more and more international research confirms that a diet higher in protein has benefits, the book says, including controlling hunger, providing rich concentrations of nutrients and preventing muscle loss during weight loss.

But all that protein is no magic bullet. Noakes still urges those looking to lose pounds to cut back on sugary snacks.

”I think we eat indulgence foods in larger serving sizes and more regularly than is ideal, cutting back on that is important,” she says.

The CSIRO’s statistics show the average amount of weight lost by people who follow the diet is 6.1 kilograms.

But as a cookbook, there’s not much to drool over here. It all comes across rather measured and a bit, well, science-y.

The CSIRO low-fat approach is quite different in many ways to the diet Walter and Dorota Trupp advocate in their book Trupps’ Wholefood Kitchen, although they are no less intent on improving their readers’ health. Wholefood Kitchen is part recipe book and part manifesto on eating natural, unprocessed food.

”We have written this book to present you with the truth about modern food processing and to give you innovative tips on nutrition and changing your diet for the better. We also offer you some of the wholesome recipes that we have used over the many years of our own journey to better health. It is our hope that this book will convince you to make good food choices that benefit your long-term health and that of your family,” they write.

The emphasis, of course, is on wholefoods, so you will not find any Nigella-style shortcuts. Everything is made from scratch, and from ingredients as unrefined as possible. So it’s not just about making your own bread, it is about using wholegrain flour.

The Trupps also target how we use fats, and in particular cooking oils. Dorota Trupp is a supporter of the Weston A. Price Foundation approach. The homepage of the foundation’s website speaks volumes. Above the photograph of a smiling family is written ”They’re happy because they eat butter!”

Dorota Trupp stands firmly against low-fat diets, insisting fat should form quite a large and important portion of the food we eat. ”Saturated fat does not cause heart disease, it’s essential for people and for children to grow,” she says.

The issue is what kind of fat you use. Olive oil is good as a salad dressing, but should not be heated, as it destroys its nutrients. Instead, the Trupps say butter, ghee, palm fruit (although watch the source, and make sure it’s sustainable) or coconut oil are the first port of call for cooking.

”People who have been on low-fat diets for a number of years are depressed,” she says.

And these recipes are not particularly difficult to achieve.



One serve gives ½ a unit protein; 2½ units dairy, 1 unit fruit, ½ a unit fat.

1kg reduced-fat ricotta

1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (or lime or orange)

2½ tbsp lemon juice (or lime or orange)

½ cup caster sugar or powdered sweetener

5 eggs

¼ cup (35g) plain flour

½ cup (40g) flaked almonds (optional)

300g blueberries

icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease, then flour a 24 centimetre springform cake tin. Line the base with baking paper.

Place the ricotta, lemon zest and juice, sugar or sweetener and eggs in a food processor. Process the mixture until very smooth, stopping to scrape the mixture down with a spatula as necessary. Add the flour, then pulse just until the flour is combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Sprinkle over the almonds, if using. Bake for 50 minutes or until light golden and just set in the middle. Turn off the oven, then leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven with the door ajar. To serve, top with blueberries and dust with icing sugar (if using).

Recipe from the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet: Fast and Fresh Recipes, introduction by Dr Manny Noakes (Penguin, May 2012, $35).


One serve gives 2 units protein; 1½ units fruit; 2½ units vegetables; 1 unit fat.

1 tbsp olive oil

about ⅔ red cabbage, finely shredded

120 g dried cranberries

1½ cups cranberry juice

1 sprig rosemary

olive oil spray

4 × 200 g skinless chicken breast fillets, butterflied

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the cabbage, cover and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until wilted. Add the cranberries, juice and rosemary and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until the cabbage is tender and the liquid has reduced. Discard the rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Spray a baking dish with olive oil, place the chicken in and cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for eight minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to stand, covered, for five minutes; the chicken should be cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper and cut into thick slices. Serve the cabbage and chicken with a mash of parsnip, carrot and orange.

Recipe from the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet: Fast and Fresh Recipes, introduction by Dr Manny Noakes (Penguin, May 2012, $35).


Serves 4 as a side dish

1 cup millet

2 cups water

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 red capsicum

1 medium carrot

1 small zucchini (or 1 stalk celery or ¼ fennel bulb)

2 tbsp palm fruit oil (or ghee or coconut oil)

1 tsp chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano etc)

2-3 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

salt and pepper

Cooked millet can be added to salads or as a side dish, in the same way as brown rice, quinoa or kasha. If you sprout the millet overnight, reduce the cooking water by half a cup. Simmer millet on a very low heat, as overheating will cause it to cook unevenly, resulting in an unpleasantly crunchy texture. Never stir millet during cooking – just leave until all of the water is absorbed.

Rinse the millet thoroughly under running water. Place it in a stockpot with the water. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

Finely chop the vegetables. Add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan on a medium heat. Cook the garlic, onion and carrot for three to four minutes. Add the capsicum and zucchini and cook for another minute. Add the vegetables, herbs, parsley and paprika to the stockpot. Season and mix well with a wooden spoon for two to three minutes.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, mould into 12 patties (moisten your hands with water when the mix becomes too sticky). Cook the patties in the remaining oil in a frying pan for three to four minutes on each side, until golden brown. (Or bake for 12-15 minutes at 200C.)

Recipe from Trupps’ Wholefoods Kitchen, by Walter and Dorota Trupp (Victory Books, Melbourne University Press, March 2012, $35).


You can omit the biscuit base and serve the chocolate mix in cups and serve as a mousse.

100g dry digestive wholegrain biscuits

6-7 tbsp organic raspberry jam

350g dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent)

500g silken tofu

3-4 tbsp brandy (or use orange juice)

cocoa powder

Place a cake ring on a flat plate or tray. Blend the biscuits to a fine powder. Add two to three tablespoons of jam and knead to a dense dough (add more jam if needed). Press firmly into the cake mould.

Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over boiling water, stirring occasionally. Blend the tofu, remaining jam and brandy to a fine puree. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat, add the tofu mix and quickly whisk together. Pour the chocolate cream on to the cake base and chill for two to three hours.

Sieve cocoa powder over the surface of the cake. To remove the cake from the mould, heat a kitchen towel in very hot water, wring it out and fold it around the mould for a few seconds.

Recipe from Trupps’ Wholefoods Kitchen, by Walter and Dorota Trupp (Victory Books, Melbourne University Press, March 2012, $35).

Larissa Nicholson is a staff feature writer.

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