Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chicken and Sesame Cakes

So we're about halfway through the fit24 challenge at work and, I have to say, it's not as easy as I thought it would be. Just to recap, this is a well-being challenge my work has put out to all employees to complete the following tasks for 24 days this month:

1. At least 7 hours sleep
2. At least 10,000 steps
3. No sugar

As I expected, the sleeping was the easiest challenge for me as I rarely get less than 8 hours but was quite surprising to see that many of my co-workers struggled to get the required hours at the beginning! This challenge has forced them (well, some of them) to make small steps towards shaking the bad habit of working into the night and making sleep a priority in their lives.

Pictured: most of the ingredients
Getting 10,000 steps while working in the office was a little harder. Most of us were aware that office based jobs offer little in the way of physical activity, but never realised how inactive we were at work. 

Research shows that completing 10,000 steps a day dramatically reduces the risk of developing lifestyle illnesses such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

During our trials with our pedometers, a group of us measured less than 3,000 steps each during work hours and I only managed 6,500 when I took an hour long site visit. On average, about 10 minutes of physical activity equates to 1,000 steps so fulfilling this challenge was great motivation to get out off our butts! I've also used this as an opportunity to explore cycle ways around Auckland with Jason.

At the office, we've been having lunches away from the office (which is a nice incentive to try new places), trialing walking meetings and using the stairs instead of the elevators. I'm also more keen to get up to change the channel instead of asking Jason to pass me the remote (yes.. I'm very lazy sometimes).

By far the hardest challenge for everyone is the sugar ban. We were given a list of foods that needed to go, which includes the obvious things like sugar, honey, desserts but also dried fruit, certain sauces and dressings, fruit juice and "low-fat" products which contain a surprising amount of sugar when you check out the nutritional information. Any item with more than 10g sugar per 100g must go.

Most people have had to rethink their workplace snacks as museli bars and chocolate biscuits are no longer viable. Instead, I have seen them replaced with mixed nuts, rice crackers and, my favourite, cheese and crackers. I've been eating mandarins and grapes when I feel like a sweet hit.

This, so far, has been working for me but I would be lying if I said I hadn't used any of the 6 cheat days we are allowed (I allow myself dessert once a week when we visit Jason's parents). One of my poor Japanese co-workers can no longer make teriyaki chicken at home because of the amount of sugar contained in the sauce :(

My favourite part about this challenge, so far, is how much great discussion it creates around the workplace. I love hearing new ways people have managed to complete their 10,000 steps and the woes of no longer being able to have dessert after dinner.

Coming at a close second, is cooking without sugar at home. This recipe is something I actually made at the beginning of this year and have only just gotten around to posting. These Chicken and Sesame Cakes make for an incredibly easy and light lunch or a very yummy party snack.

Has anyone else tried to go sugar free? What about taking on a difficult challenge?

Chicken and Sesame Cakes (makes 16 patties)


500g chicken mince
1/2 cup fresh coriander (have some extra as garnish)
2 Tbs sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 zucchini
1 red chili
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/2 Tbs white pepper (I used black pepper because I couldn't find white pepper..)
Oil for frying


1. Grate your zucchini and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Discard the liquid.
2. Put grated zucchini into a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix together with your hands. If the mixture is a too wet, add some breadcrumbs.
3. Divide the mixture into 16 balls and flatten them slightly to get a disc shape.
4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the shape.
5. Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the patties, frying for about 5 minutes on each side until they are golden on the outside and completely cooked through.
6. Serve with rice and a cool salad.

Note: the mixture can be divided up into smaller balls as a party snack with sweet chili sauce for dipping


  1. These patties look delicious! And I think that the steps and sleep are a great idea but I wouldn't even attempt to go sugar free :)

    1. Sugar free is definitely the hardest one and I had to take a cheat day a week ago because I didn't even realise I had started eating dessert! I'm lucky that all this great summer fruit is starting to become available now so I've been having strawberries instead of sugar :)

  2. I admire your dedication to being sugar free. Good luck on your challenge. Totally loving the use of sesame seeds in this chicken patty

  3. I bought a pedometer last month too and love that it keeps me motivated. Good luck with the challenge- I have given up sugar before and it's harder than I expected- I don't even like sweet stuff!
    Your recipe sounds great, and the sesame seeds would be a lovely nutty touch, yummo :)

    1. I love having my pedometer around and being able to compare steps with my co-workers makes it real fun too! It's easier to get my steps up in the summer, with the longer day time hours and all -I just don't know how I'd keep it up in winter!

  4. What a great challenge! I think #1 and 3 are the hardest for me... I sleep 4-5 hrs everyday (because I work for blog when kids are not around) and it seems like it's impossible to change, but with my age, I think I'm damaging my body and maybe health and I need this kind of strict challenge to make my lifestyle change. I carry a fitbit now, so I'm aware of how many steps I work and also joined the gym. Your post was very inspiring. I'm working on less carb diet...hopefully I can do less sugar diet too. I still need to taste the recipes I create. Haha.

  5. these sound so delicious! i love the color you got on them. :)