A Picture Paints a Thousand Words


What are you thinking when you see this picture?

Is it along the lines of the Fred Flintstone has an amazing meal pattern for bariatric surgery considering meat is always on his menu? I sure did, but did you notice how wonderful Wilma’s hair is looking, or how beautiful Betty’s skin is compared to Barney’s? Take a closer look, Dino’s nails are looking nice and strong too.

That’s right, this month I’m thinking all about skin, nails, and so ‘hair’ come my questions…

Has your hair been thinning after your surgery? Are you taking anything in particular for your hair, skin and nails? If so, do you know the ingredients of that supplement, and do you know what role they have with the quality of your hair, skin and nails? Going back one step, do you know what your hair, skin and nails are actually made from, and why hair loss even happens?

The most common type of hair loss after weight-loss surgery is known as telogen effluvium. It comes from the stress of major surgery and rapid weight-loss which makes the body go into a delayed shock after about two to four months from surgery. Hair starts thinning and that can continue for about six months. New hair will regrow over that time, but good nutrition is important because your hair, skin and nails are made of a protein called keratin.

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All proteins are made up of individual units called amino acids. The amino acids are like jigsaw puzzle pieces which form a bigger picture. They get pieced together to form our hair, skin, nails, muscle and bone. Keratin can come from foods like liver, dairy products and some vegetables like broccoli. Our bodies also make it from individual amino acids, and that’s why eating top level protein foods is so important. They give us the jigsaw puzzle pieces for making keratin to keep our nails strong and our hair growing healthy. But, that’s where vitamins like biotin become the focus of attention.

Biotin is a B-group vitamin. It’s needed for helping our bodies make keratin from the amino acids we get from the top protein foods like meat, poultry, seafood and protein powder.


It’s like a crane operator in a big construction site - without the driver, the crane won’t work and the construction can’t happen. In other words, a biotin deficiency can lead to hair loss, but so too can deficiencies in other B-group vitamins like niacin, or minerals such as zinc. Think of these nutrients as the concrete truck driver or brick layer in our construction picture. A bariatric strength multivitamin will give you enough of all the nutrients to support hair regrowth when taken at the correct dose, but many people still choose additional boosters to help. That’s what leads me to the hot seat this month…

Drew’s Hot Seat –supplements for healthy hair, skin and nails


Be careful about choosing a specific supplement for your hair skin and nails. If it tastes nice, have a look at the ingredients list to see what’s inside. Some are advertised as a great source of biotin, but a closer look might explain why Pebbles and Bam Bam are quite partial to those supplements. I’ve been asked about a nice tasting one in particular lately, and I’m afraid to say the second main ingredient is sugar (otherwise known as glucose syrup). We all know what that means for those with a sweet tooth, don’t we? So, if hair loss is something that worries you, I suggest a supplement with more than just biotin for promoting hair regrowth. Go for one with a decent amount of biotin, without the slippery slope of sugar, and one that contains other key nutrients for building keratin.

The Take Home of Today

Hair loss is part of the weight loss surgery experience. It does stop, but the process can be quite distressing for many ladies and gents out there. A safety harness to ensure quality regrowth is eating enough top-level protein like meat, seafood, chicken or protein powder, while the safety net is a bariatric strength multivitamin being taken at the correct dose each day. For the safety conscious, an extra level of assurance can come from taking a specific hair, skin and nails supplement. If you are one of those people, please make sure it’s giving you everything you’re wishing for and nothing you’re not for your weight loss journey.


Merry Christmas - here’s to an excellent year that’s been, and for the same in 2019.


As Important as Protein...


Hello again and welcome. This month, I’m thinking about something completely different to protein. It’s no less as important for you though. So, if you don’t mind me asking - how have your bowels been lately?

You’ll soon see why I’m asking…

Are you going to the toilet regularly? Have you been straining and is constipation a problem for you? Is your urine quite smelly and dark, or is it pale and plentiful? How about your skin – is it in good condition, or is it a little dry? Have you been having any dizzy spells, getting headaches, or maybe feeling lethargic and tired?

Yes, you’ve got me – this month I’m thinking all about your fluid intake. With Summer right on us, it’s the perfect time for putting this on your radar for thinking about.

I’m quite sure everyone knows how important an adequate intake of fluid is. For one, it avoids confusing the brain with signals which can make you think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. I’m afraid to think that may lead to snacking between meals.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about feelings of dizziness or light-headedness, and this can be avoided in many cases by meeting the guidelines of 2l/d of fluid. That doesn’t need to be achieved with water alone, and actually Including some salty drinks will help the body hold onto the fluid easier than water alone. Rather than peeing it all out, the fluid gets into your cells keeping them nicely hydrated and looking like plums rather than dried up ol’ prunes. 

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Do you struggle with drinking straight water? You’re certainly not alone, so rest assured you can still meet your needs with a little thinking outside of the box. Adding a few drops of sugar-free ‘water drops’ does wonders for some, while adding some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice works equally as well for others. Likewise, slicing up some cucumber and resting in water can be really refreshing and again make water more drink-able.

Building on that, you can freeze your flavoured water into ice cubes, and pop them into straight water which you can ‘jazz up’ or make sparkling by adding some fizz with your soda stream machine if you own one. These are the gold-standard ideas for increasing your fluid intake, but remember there are many more ideas too…

Cups of coffee and tea can count towards your fluid intake as well. Most of you will know I’m a huge fan of fruit teas as they can be either hot or cold. A cold fruit tea with some soda stream bubble is actually right up my alley. As for coffee, that’s a daily drink for me, but please know that too much coffee (or caffeine) can actually dehydrate you and also lead to some calcium being lost in your urine. In saying that, I can almost hear you thinking– how much is too much coffee and what can I drink instead? That takes me to the ‘Hot Seat’ this month which I hope can give you an answer.

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Drew’s Hot Seat –getting enough fluid each day

Coffee (and Coke Zero) is a diuretic. That means it will make you lose fluid. There’s enough evidence out there to say that when consumed in regular amounts each day, the diuretic effect is quite small – only of course when that regular intake is kept within reason.

A safe maximum each day is about four cups, so if you’re drinking any more, it might be a good time to think about other fluids you could have, or alternating some with decaffeinated drinks. Also, remember coffee, tea and Coke Zero should never be consumed within an hour of taking iron as they will stop the body absorbing that valuable iron. That means it’s time to think about label reading for finding some more alternatives for fluid.

Have you been using your label reading skills lately? Has this helped you spot foods likely to cause dumping because they are high in fat or sugar?  If so, do you think the following is a safe choice?

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What was your answer?

If it was a food, I’d certainly say low risk because the ‘Fat, total’ and ‘sugars’ are less than 10g per 100g. But what if I say that the label is actually for a drink – does your mind change?

I hope so, as label reading guidelines for fluids are different to foods. For all fluids, it’s really important you look to the ‘Fat, total’ and ‘sugars’ per serve instead of per 100g. So, let’s have another look at this drink which is currently being advertised as a great source of protein.

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The jury is out in this case. This is a high-risk fluid for causing dumping. It’s nearly two-times above the guideline of less than 10g sugars per serving. Early dumping can happen within the first half-hour of having foods or fluids, but late-dumping can happen 2-3 hours afterwards.

Symptoms of early dumping include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, hot flushes or sweating, heart palpitations and a general desire to go and lie down. Late dumping can cause similar effects as well as weakness, confusion and even fainting. That means your label reading skills are so important – especially when trying to find options for improving your fluid intake over the coming Summer.

The Take Home of This Blogpost

Meeting your daily fluid needs might feel like a real battle. It is do-able, and that’s where your label reading skills can help you find variety while also spotting those fluids with high risk for dumping. Overall, meeting your daily fluid needs will help to avoid effects like constipation which of cause leads to nausea and not wanting to eat the hero of each meal – the protein. I couldn’t resist mentioning our hero as it’s just as important as a good fluid intake.

All the best until next month.


Little Red Riding Hood and You

Welcome back to ‘Drew’s Desk.’

Thanks very much for the great feedback I’ve had from last month’s blog. This month I’m thinking outside the square slightly - I hope by the end you’ll see my thinking. As usual, let’s begin with some questions…

What is the link between Little Red Riding Hood, proteins, and carbohydrates? 

Let me give you some clues! Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are characters I like, while I’m afraid of the wolf. Now, what if I say I’m afraid of carbohydrates just like I’m afraid of the wolf - can you see where I’m going with this?

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Let’s think back to the story. Red Riding Hood is on her way through the woods to see her grandmother. That’s like being on a journey of weight loss and then maintenance after bariatric surgery. But, Red Riding Hood strayed from the path while picking some nice-looking flowers, and she ended up getting lost. She ran into the wolf who seemed quite harmless at that stage. I’m thinking that’s like being led astray by temptation without even noticing – in other words, old habits being slowly reborn. This can cause a whole lot of distress and worry with weight regain.

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Do you remember Red Riding Hood was helped by the hunter when she was lost? She got back on the beaten path, and she arrived safely at her grandmother’s.

My point is if you find yourself feeling like you’ve slipped off track from your journey, you can find your way back with the support from your friends, family, and the entire Weight Loss Surgery team. The retreat for example is perfect for that. Righto, on with the story, and let’s think about what happens when Red Riding Hood arrives at her Grandmothers…

Red Riding Hood sensed danger. Her grandmother seemed a little different. She looked the same, but she did have bigger eyes ‘to see’ Red Riding Hood, and she did have longer ears ‘to hear’ her too. The danger of course was the wolf disguised as Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

This is where I see the wolf being like some products out there pretending to be good, but actually they may be the slippery slope to eating more carbohydrates than protein, with time. These ‘wolves’ are in the Hot Seat this month.

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Drew’s Hot Seat –the hunter or the wolf?

I’m seeing slippery slopes every time I go shopping. I see reduced-fat protein ice cream, next thing I’m seeing recipes for chocolate fudge protein balls and the like, and then I’m facing convincing marketing for low carb ‘snacks’ like an Atkins bar in the health foods aisle. I look at all of these foods and I think, yes, they may be sources of protein, but are they the wolf pretending to be the grandmother… if you get my meaning?

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Research has shown the proven path to weight loss maintenance. It involves three regular portion-controlled meals each day, and they are nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense. In other words, breakfast, lunch and dinner consist of mostly protein to manage the feelings of fullness between meals. The research also shows that weight regain happens when dietary behaviour is led astray from this path by energy-dense foods and snacking (Elfhag & Rössner, 2005).

Now let’s imagine we are at a cross-road. One road is for weight loss maintenance, while the other is for regain. If I took the mask off high protein ice cream and called it ice cream, which road would you say it belongs down? What about the chocolate fudge protein balls if I said they are energy-dense? Finally, which road does the low-carb snacks belong down if I simply said they are snacks? I know the mind can be convincing and justify these foods as okay, but these wolves risk sending you down the wrong road! So, lets look at some ways for going down the road for maintenance.

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Protein is our hero of this story. Just like the hunter helped Red Riding Hood find her way out of the woods, protein at your three main meals can help you and your appetite. I see cooking methods as a great way of boosting your intake without adding volume, so I’ve been busy in the kitchen to show you my thinking.

Milk is a great liquid for poaching top level proteins. My recipe below is a really good way for making chicken breast or tenderloins moist enough to chew thoroughly. A thickener like cornflour means a sauce can be made for boosting the protein of your meal which can be saved and enjoyed for lunch the next day.

For example, I made a walnut and rosemary crumb. I’m sorry to say I’m neither a chef nor food photographer, and I wish I’d put a nice garnish on before the photo. Anyway, I’m hoping you can see this quick and easy meal as a way of cooking your protein and getting more protein-bang for your buck by poaching in milk. Especially when fortifying your milk.

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Many of you already know I add skim milk powder to the milk I’m using each day. Ideally, adding a flavourless protein powder is better, but the table below shows how two tablespoons of milk powder alone can increase the protein and calcium content of one cup of milk. I actually add eight tablespoons to one litre of milk, and then I use that fortified milk for cooking my oats in at breakfast, or for adding into cups of tea or coffee over the day. I also use it for poaching other proteins like nice fillets of fish or making curried eggs after work on a Friday. Basically, you can add a whole range of herbs and spices and thicken the milk for a tasty sauce of your preference. 

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The Take Home of Today

Just like a fairy tale, there’s a moral to this blog. A weight loss journey is a long hard road which you know better than most. I hope I’ve helped you stop for a moment and think about the wolf you may see when making food choices each day.

Remember to ask yourself at the crossroads – am I looking at the wolf or the hunter? All the best and looking forward to next month’s blog.



Little Red Riding Hood - You Tube

1.     Elfhag, K., & Rössner, S. (2005). Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss? A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain. Obesity Reviews6(1), 67–85.

Supplements and You

Welcome back to ‘Drew’s Desk’ – this month I’m thinking about nutritional supplements. I’d like to talk about the reasons for needing a routine that’s giving your body what it requires each and every day after your surgery. Before that, let’s start with some questions…

Are you feeling tired and ready for bed more than wanting to bounce off the walls each day? Are you having problems with concentrating or thinking straight at home or work? Is your skin quite dry, or have you been noticing cracks on the edges of your mouth? If yes to any of these, are you taking supplements regularly, and are they in high enough amounts to give your body what it needs? 


Just like Bob the Bulldog and Terry the Terrier are different in strength, so too are supplements.

Over the counter brands from health shops, pharmacies and supermarkets are fine for Mr and Mrs Bloggs, but the general population can absorb the nutrients in those supplements without any issue. The picture below shows where the nutrients from food and supplements are absorbed in the intestines, and you’ll see that for bypass patients, there is a detour around the region where most of them get absorbed the easiest. They can be absorbed further down, but a higher dose is needed because the body struggles to absorb them and many will pass through the system and out the other end.

Figure 1. Nutrient absorption (National Bariatric Link, 2018)

Figure 1. Nutrient absorption (National Bariatric Link, 2018)

Gastric sleeve patients are in a similar boat. There is no detour around the nutrient absorption region, but a smaller stomach means less food being eaten, and that means low levels of nutrients are absorbed from food. Also, all bariatric surgeries (bypass and sleeve) mean less stomach acid is made, and the acid is needed for nutrients like iron and vitamin B12 to be absorbed properly.

So, bariatric patients need more than the usual amount of nutrients in general supplements to make sure they’re getting enough of what they need to prevent nutritional deficiencies causing fatigue, skin problems, or overall poor immune function not to mention brain damage. The next table shows the recommended doses of some important nutrients for bariatric patients and the roles they play. 

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All nutrients are really important for your body. Iron and B12 affect energy levels for instance. Zinc will help with fighting colds and helping with hair re-growth. Deficiencies can be detected with blood testing, and that’s why you get a blood form at each of your follow up visits.

In saying that, monitoring calcium is tricky. Calcium will generally stay normal in your blood - with or without enough calcium coming from food and supplements. That’s because your body needs a stable level in your blood for making your nerves and muscles work. It breaks down your bones for calcium if not getting enough from food and supplements and that worries me considering the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium, and that’s why you’ll hear vitamin D being talked about as important for bone health.

So, a daily routine of taking all your supplements is needed for meeting your nutritional needs – and that leads me to my ‘Hot Seat’ for this month. 

Drew’s Hot Seat – establishing a healthy habit of daily nutritional supplementation 

I can hear your frustrations as I write iron and calcium can’t be taken together. I’m not saying it to be difficult, I swear! Sadly, as you may already know, iron and calcium get absorbed in the same area in the intestine. They basically pass through the same entry gate, and just as we line up to get into a rock concert or sports event, iron and calcium need to line up for their entry into your body. At least two hours is needed between them entering, but that can make a routine that works for you quite difficult – especially if your multivitamin contains iron. On the bright side, vitamin B12 can be taken at any time, but the plot thickens with calcium.


Your body can only absorb up to 500mg at one time. Taking any more than 500mg will simply be wasted. Calcium comes as citrate or carbonate, but calcium carbonate must be taken with food for absorption while calcium citrate can be taken between meals and still get absorbed. In other words, calcium citrate makes life a lot easier for finding a routine that works for you. You’ll see below I’ve suggested some supplementation routines to show you how supplementation can work within the space of a day. I’ve used the Celebrate range (www.amsnutrition.co.nz) which is specifically formulated for bariatric patients, so beware if using any over the counter products like Centrum or Healtheries - you’ll need a higher dose than mentioned on the packaging. Over everything else, make sure to discuss your needs with a Dietitian.

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The Take Home of Today

To wrap up today, I’ll go into broken record mode. That’s my signal for saying something again and again because it’s so darn important. Your nutritional supplements are as important as taking any other medications you may have. I hope you can see my reasons for thinking so, and I really hope the example routines help you feel a daily routine is quite achievable as a habit. Wishing you all the best for another month and looking forward to next month already.



National Bariatric Link. (2018). Nutrients from Food After Gastric Bypass Surgery. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from https://www.nationalbariatriclink.org/bariatric-blog/nutrients-food-gastric-bypass-surgery/

Parrott, J., Frank, L., Rabena, R., Craggs-Dino, L., Isom, K., & Greiman, L. (2017). American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Integrated Health Nutritional Guidelines for the Surgical Weight Loss Patient 2016 Update: Micronutrients. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases13(5), 727–741.

Meeting Your Protein Needs

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What am I? I’ll give you some clues. I can be difficult to eat enough of, especially in the first few months after bariatric surgery. The hardest time of the day seems to be breakfast, although lunch can be a problem when I’m restricted to only a few options on top of a Cruskit. I’m important to eat first, and that’s because I help you feel full until your next meal, and also because I look after your muscles, hair, skin, and nails like a mechanic looks after your car.

Yes, you win the trip to Fiji, I am protein, and here I’ll talk about ways of improving your intake without necessarily having to eat more food. In other words, I’ll try to inspire you with ideas of sneaking more protein in at breakfast, lunch and dinner - only you’ll know how well I’ve done at the end of this blog.

I’m thinking you already know that breakfast and lunch can be tough times for eating enough protein. Some people say they “just don’t do breakfast” while others are saying there’s simply no time. Of course, that makes me sad for two reasons. Why? Firstly, as a creature of habit I’m a diehard breakfast fan – it really is my favourite meal of the day. Secondly, it’s one of your three regular meals each day without snacking, and that means it’s your time to achieve at least a 20g intake of protein for getting you through until lunch time. Ultimately, it’s a long-term habit we’re aiming to establish as normal, so let’s start talking about increasing protein at breakfast.

Are you a breakfast skipper? Is that because of time, habit or both? 

·      What time are you getting up? Do you think you could get up an extra half an hour earlier to make and eat your breakfast? That extra half hour can mean preparing a protein-rich breakfast and then having time to do your 20/20/20 for enjoying that meal without suffering from eating too fast.

·      If an earlier rise is out-of-the-question, can you prepare your breakfast in the evening so it’s ready to put together and eat in the morning? For example, mixing up some Calci-milk with flavourless protein powder and soaking rolled oats or Weetbix in it overnight in the fridge? Adding two tablespoons of skim milk powder to that mix will increase your protein and calcium intake without adding more volume too. In the morning, you can zap your breakfast in the microwave for a warm start to your day as these Winter days roll on.

·      Is breakfast first thing in the morning a habit you’re struggling to make fit for your lifestyle? Would you rather go to the gym or go to work first? Can you consider a time later in the morning to have your breakfast? Any time up until about 10am is fine, especially if that means you can sit down and enjoy your breakfast at home or at work.

·      Are you used to nothing except say coffee or tea for breakfast? Does chewing food of any type before midday seem really strange? If so, can you consider a protein shake or smoothie for breakfast? What about a pottle of single-serve protein yoghurt? For some texture, you can add some oats but remember the protein will be the hero of this dish. For a lovely aroma and flavour, how about sprinkling cinnamon or nutmeg on your yoghurt to get those taste buds going without adding sweeteners like fruit or honey?

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·      Are you “so over” the idea of protein shakes or eggs at breakfast? How open are you to ‘out of the box’ ideas right now? As you may know, I’ve been living in Korea and I’ve returned to NZ with my eyes opened to the world of tofu as a source of protein, calcium and iron in my cooking. As an example, I use soft tofu instead of scrambled eggs at breakfast or lunch. 

Speaking of lunch, are you eating more carbohydrates than protein at lunch because there’s just not enough protein options available? Let’s put tofu in my hot seat for opening up a whole new world of protein options at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Drew’s Hot seat – Tofu

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Tofu is a great way of increasing your protein intake. It comes in two forms - soft or firm, and it’s really affordable. Sadly, tofu seems to cop a lot of flak for being bland, but that’s what makes it a real gem in my mind. It can be added to soups or stews for taking on those flavours, or it can be eaten alone if you’re having taste changes and feel unable to tolerate cooking with any flavour. Also, tofu is perfect for adding to soups or broths that either already have or may be lacking any protein like the hearty vegetable soup you may have made for getting you through this Winter. 

The two textures of tofu are an asset. If you’re struggling with chewing some textures like steak, chicken or some fleshy fish, you may like to try firm tofu as an alternative ingredient for your evening meal. Firm tofu can be revved up with whatever herbs or spices you might like to try - and cooked in soy sauce or even fish sauce can make it a meal to remember for you and your family. Soft tofu can be used in the same way, or it can be hidden or melted into foods like cheese without adding more volume or affecting the taste. Remember, you can add other legumes like lentils or chick peas to your dishes with tofu, and that can give your meal some crunch while boosting the protein even more.  Cook enough, and you’ll have some leftovers for lunch the next day too.

Here’s a recipe you might like to try for breakfast, lunch or tea – if you’re interested in learning some more, please feel free to email me and I’ll happily guide you to some great ideas.

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Simple Scrambled Surprise

Prep & cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: Two

Ingredients: Soft tofu (1 pack), ¼ teaspoon turmeric, salt & pepper


1.    Add soft tofu (without water) to your non-stick frying pan

2.    Break large pieces with wooden spoon 

3.    Mix and add turmeric, salt and pepper

4.    Fry on high for 10 min - stirring every now and then so it doesn’t burn

5.    Serve with a garnish like parsley


·      Use a block of firm tofu instead of soft

-       Slice into 1-inch cubes & then crumble it with a fork or fingers, to your preference

·      Add other vegetables for variety & flavour while cooking

-       E.g. cherry tomatoes, spinach, green onions, capsicum, mushrooms

·      Add extra condiments for flavour

-       E.g. soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic sauce, lemon juice

·      Add flavourless protein powder for an extra hit of protein

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The Take Home of This Blog

At the end of the day, it’s the habit of three regular protein-rich meals each day you’re working towards as your normal. As a meat lover, I never thought I’d go near tofu – but daring to try it has let me see the value it has for meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. You can get it from most supermarkets, although I get mine from the local Asian grocery store which is a great place for finding neat spices too (and the tofu is much cheaper).

So, how well have I done? Are you feeling like you can increase your protein intake after reading this blog? I hope so. I’m looking forward to the next instalment from Drew’s Desk next month.  All the best until then.