My top ideas for a more nutritious Easter, whilst still being delicious!


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Celebrating Easter with nutritious meals packed with super nutrients.

This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Tassal Salmon.

After the rather intense past few weeks’ chances are you like me are counting down until the Easter break arrives. Although many of us will be socially isolated during this time, many of us will still be lucky enough to enjoy Easter celebrations with our immediate family. And special family meals should be savoured and celebrated. It is not about diets or deprivation, rather enjoying good quality food and special treats while creating precious memories for both young and old (er).

With an abundance of good quality fresh food available to us, it is also a time to indulge the senses with beautiful homemade dishes rich in flavour and nutrition. So if you are in need of a little food inspiration this Easter, here are some ideas on ways you too can serve your family some delicious and nutritious Easter dishes. 

Breakfast

Whether it is a lazy breakie on Good Friday or a more elaborate affair come Easter Sunday, there is something particularly appealing about long lazy April brunches and there are plenty of nutritious additions that will translate your breakfast spread into a café style affair.

Eggs along with a good quality Sourdough or homemade loaf are the obvious options, but don’t forget other nutrient rich additions like Tassal Smoked Tassie Salmon with a hint of lemon or Tassal Smoked Salmon Bacon to give your breakfast spread an omega 3 hit. With your entire daily requirement of omega 3 fats in a single serve, along with more than 20g of good quality protein, adding salmon to your Easter breakfast makes perfect sense from a taste and nutrition perspective.

My Good Friday breakie this year will be Tassal Smoked Salmon Bacon and Egg Wraps, and I have my eye on the Sweet Potato Fritters with Smoked Salmon (recipe below) for Easter Sunday. 

Platters for entertaining

Is there anything better than a platter that is filled with brightly coloured, fresh, delicious foods when you are celebrating or entertaining?

While platters filled with dips, cheese and high fat snacks are not overly good for us, especially when we munch and nibble over many hours, if you instead focus your platters around low calorie snacks and nutrient rich high protein foods, you will strike a perfect balance.

So to build a healthy platter start by loading it with plenty of fresh veges – think carrot, celery and capsicum along with wholegrain crackers and low calorie dips such as tzatziki. Then don’t forget your healthy crunchy snacks such as popcorn, roasted chic peas and broad beans and edamame. Finally you need some protein – Tassal Hot Smoked Tassie Salmon, oysters, prawns or marinated tofu all work well here.

Easter Lunch

Whether you sit down to a hearty meal on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, the options of endless when it comes to giving your Easter celebratory meal a nutrient boost. Seafood is the go to for many and you will not go wrong with a salmon roast, fresh prawns and oysters or a baked option.

This year I will be making a delicious salmon pie for my family for Sunday lunch. Loaded with fresh seafood, tasty leeks and a creamy sauce, you can choose to top a fish pie with pastry or a healthier option is to swap this for a pumpkin /potato mash with a sprinkle of cheese. Not only is a fish pie scrumptious, but it is a another chance to load you Easter meal with extra veges and omega 3 rich fish as you celebrate the good things in life with those closest to you.  Look out for my Salmon Pie recipe which I will post early next week. 

Recipe: Sweet Potato & Carrot Fritters w/ Smoked Salmon

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Serves 1

Ingredients

1 small sweet potato (150g), grated

70g Tassal Smoked Tassie Salmon

1 carrot, grated

3 tbsp. flour or almond meal

1 egg 

1 tsp. parsley

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup kale

Method

1. Combine sweet potato, carrot, almond meal, egg, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper together and mix well.

2. Heat oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat and drop tablespoonfuls of mixture into pan to cook. Cook for approximately 3 minutes each side, or until golden.

3. When fritters are cooked, add kale to pan to warm and wilt slightly. Top fritters with kale and smoked salmon.

Take control of mindless eating.


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With many of us working from home and the fridge within easily reach, it seems like a great time to talk about how we can take control of mindless eating.

Ever since the term “mindless eating” was coined by eating behaviour researcher Brian Wansink there has been more attention paid to not only what we eat but the way we do it. It seems that busy lifestyles have given way to busy eating and unfortunately busy eating often means eating too much, too often. 

Mindless eating refers to the type of eating that occurs when we are not really paying attention.

A handful of jelly beans from the office lolly jar, a couple of bites of the kids leftovers, the pre dinner snack of cheese and crackers while you chop the vegetables. Extra food, extra calories that we not only do not need, but that we also fail to compensate for.

It seems that when we are not paying 100% attention to what we are putting in our mouths, we are not only more likely to eat far more than we need but we do not register that we have eaten it, so fail to eat less at our next meal to compensate. Although such a behavioural matrix is complicated, and influenced by many factors, basically it means that simply being more mindful about the way we eat is crucial to avoid extra calories slipping into our day, which will end up being extra weight long term. 

Mindless eating is more likely to occur when you are distracted – eating while simultaneously doing something else. 

Eating when driving, eating when watching TV, getting dinner ready, eating when you are not really hungry. Eating mindlessly can easily become a habit that develops when we naturally link a certain situation to eating – always grabbing a chocolate bar when filling the car with petrol, nibbling while watching TV late at night or saying yes to coffee and cake when you are out meeting friends. 

The first step towards gaining control of your mindless eating habits is to keep a record of the times when food is entering your mouth and then simply asking yourself; “Am I hungry or is eating that food, at that time just a bad habit?” Once you are more aware when you are eating out of habit, the easier it will be to stop yourself.

The second step in controlling mindless eating is to make sure you control the amount of food stimulus you have around you. Studies have repeatedly shown that basically we eat when food is in front of us. You are not weak, or a pig, you are just human and basically we are taught from a very early age that if food is in front of us, we should eat it. So, now that you know this, it is time to rid your home, office and social environment of as much visible food stimulus as you can. It is time to clear the desk and bench of lollies and snacks, the office kitchen of the visible biscuit jar and the car of hidden snacks. Not having food in front of you all the time means that you are less likely to think about it outside of meal times, and start to relate your feelings of hunger to food rather than simply because it is in front of you.

Finally, eating mindfully requires you to concentrate on eating and eating alone when you are supposed to be doing it. This means concentrating fully when you are enjoying a meal or snack, savouring each mouthful and chewing it properly. Focusing solely on the eating experience not only means that you are likely to enjoy your meal more but as you are more aware of how much you have actually eaten, over time you are in a better position to regulate your energy intake appropriately.

Managing your late night munchies.


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Managing the late night munchies.

Long days and nights spent indoors at the moment can mean plenty of late night lounge snacking. The issue with this is that eating too much late at night will predispose us to weight gain over time. So if you do find yourself looking for snacks come 9 or 10pm, here are some of the better options.

The trick when it comes to late night snacking is to keep well clear of the sugary, high fat treats such as ice cream, biscuits and lollies which will do nothing to enhance your sleep later on. Chocolate too is a no, no as the caffeine content of chocolate, especially dark chocolate will most likely keep you awake and alert for another few hours. Rather we are looking for calorie controlled options that contain a mix of good quality carbs to help curb your hunger, and a little protein or fibre to boost the snacks nutrient value. 

Cheese and wholegrain crackers

The carbohydrates found in the wholegrain crackers will help to satisfy your hunger, while the protein and in particular the amino acid tryptophan found in cheese will help to relax you and help induce sleep. 

Fruit and nuts

High water fruits including melon and berries are a good choice late at night as they contain relatively few calories and teamed with a small handful (20) of mixed nuts creates a perfect carb, protein snack balance.

Nut Spread with an apple or celery

There are a wide range of 100% nut spreads available in supermarkets now that team beautifully with some chopped celery or cut up apple slices. 

Corn Crackers and cottage or goats cheese

If you like cottage cheese it is a low calorie, high protein option while goats cheese contains just 18% fat compared to regular cheeses and both work well with some wholegrain corn crackers (that taste like popcorn) and a few slices of cucumber or tomato.

Frozen banana dipped in yoghurt

Once you have enjoyed a frozen banana you will never need to seek out high fat ice-cream to satisfy your cravings again. A frozen banana, for just 100 calories tastes like a delicious banana ice-cream and if you wanted to be particularly adventurous you could also dip it in Greek yoghurt and nuts and then freeze it for an extra delicious snack. 

Greek yoghurt and berries

Plain Greek yoghurt unlike many fruit yoghurts is extremely high in protein and also relatively low in sugar. To make it a little tastier all you need to do is add some fresh berries along with some cinnamon or vanilla essence and you have a sweet tasty snack with minimal calories.

Avocado on toast

Unlike a number of toast toppings avocado offers the benefit of not adding any sugar to a snack and a thin spread on a small slice of Sourdough or grain toast is a filling, portion controlled snack.

Turkey on Mountain Bread

As an alternative to a late night sandwich, some tryptophan rich turkey breast served on a thin wrap such as a Mountain bread will satisfy your craving for carbs minus the calories.

Popcorn

2 cups of plain popcorn contains just 55 calories, 2g of protein and 2g of fibre – the key is to avoid adding any extra butter.

Pumpkin seeds

It may sound like a rather odd snack recommendation but not only are pumpkin seeds incredibly rich sources of protein, zinc and essential fats, but the fact they take a while to shell will slow down your eating. If you stick to 1/3 cup you will not go around with this nutrient rich snack. 

Making healthy breakfasts at home.


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Making healthy breakfasts at home.

This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Australian Bananas.

With the recent changes to day to day life, for those of us who would usually pick up brekkie on the way to work, routines have been altered significantly, with our daily muffin and coffee swapped to at home options.

The good news is that when we do pick up our breakfast on the run, we miss out on a number of key nutrients a well-balanced brekkie should have. So, if you are finding yourself suddenly making your own breakfast each morning here are some of the reasons that eating brekkie at home is a much better option and some easy ways you can maximise your nutrition. 

1. You will get more fibre

Breakfast foods are one the key sources of dietary and B-group vitamins in the diet. Wholegrain breads, breakfast cereals and fresh fruits such as bananas and berries are all high-fibre, nutrient rich foods which are rarely served as the default on breakfast menus. For example, a breakfast of high-fibre cereal served with fresh banana will offer up to 10g of dietary fibre, or 1/3 of an adult’s recommended intake. On the other hand, a serve of Turkish toast and avo amounts to just 2-3g of dietary fibre.

An adequate intake of dietary fibre is essential for a healthy gut, and the more we learn about the gut the more we understand the key role it plays in keeping the immune system working optimally. So basically, when you eat breakfast at home you go a long way in supporting your overall health and well-being.

2. You can target fresh foods

To ensure we get plenty of key vitamins and minerals we need to commit to eating fresh, natural whole foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

When we purchase foods away from home, rarely do the meals or snacks contain significant volumes of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, preparing your breakfast cereal, toast, eggs or smoothies at home means you can easily add in extra fresh food to boost your overall nutrient intake. Think chopped banana or berries on your cereal, fresh vegetables with your eggs and a range of toppings for your toast such as peanut butter and banana, tomato and Vegemite or avocado and banana smash on protein bread.

3. You will save on calories

On average, meals we pick up on the go contain double the calories of a meal we prepare for ourselves at home. For example, a standard serve of sourdough with avocado will clock in at 400-500 calories compared to toast with a topping, prepared at home, which equates to just 300 calories. Alternatively, enjoying an Acai bowl at a café can rack up between 600-800 calories, whereas oats and a banana at home consists of just 300-350 calories.

Taking this into account, when we get back to basics with our serving sizes and add much more fresh food into our breakfast choices, we literally save hundreds of calories each day.

4. You will be kept fuller for longer

One of the key aspects of a quick breakfast on the run is that they are generally made with foods that are not overly filling. Wraps, pastries, muffins and white breads are digested relatively quickly leaving you unsatisfied and looking for extra snacks come 11am.

On the other hand, protein and fibre-rich breakfast options such as eggs on wholegrain toast, oats with fresh banana, smoothies packed with fruit and yoghurt or protein toast are all fibre and protein-rich breakfast options that will keep you full and satisfied until lunchtime.

5. You will save a lot of money

Whilst eating out may be considered an ‘easier’ option, eating breakfast at home can save you money in the long run. With breakfast orders often amounting to as much as $10-$15 per serve, it is easy to see why eating at home is not only good for the waistline but also for the bank balance. Compare that to a serve of toast and fruit costing less than $2, a bowl of cereal less than $1, and a smoothie $2-$3 – the easier option isn’t always the best option!

Recipe: Banana Breakfast Loaf

Serves 10

Ingredients

1 cup self-raising flour

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups grated zucchini

50g butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup milk

Method

1. Combine sifted flours with dry ingredients. Add mashed banana and grated zucchini.

2. Mix melted butter, beaten egg & milk.

3. Bake at 180deg for 50-60min.

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.

How your nutrition can help with fighting the flu.


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Flu fighters

With current conversations completely focused on colds and flu and what we can do to help avoid them. Indeed the term ‘survival of the fittest’ can take on a whole new meaning once the temperature drops, as those susceptible to bugs and flu’s drop like flies. So, why is it that some people get sick and some do not? Is it as simple as eating some different types of food, or not getting caught out in the cold without a jumper? When it comes to keeping the common cold and flu symptoms at bay, eating nutrient rich food is of crucial importance. Then there is also the numerous herbal remedies and supplements that claim to hold the power to fend off all the Winter nasties – so what actually works?

What you eat

The immune system, like the other major systems in the body is complex. For optimal functioning in which the body naturally fights off infection, flus and bugs, it is not a matter of eating one or two specific types of food but rather making sure that you eat a number of nutrient dense foods on a daily basis to ensure that the key nutrients are available for the immune response to work optimally. It is the body’s inability to generate bug-fighting cells, from an insufficiency of energy or key nutrients that hampers this process. This can result from both a poor diet lacking key nutrients such as Vitamin C, A and E, zinc, iron and essential fats and/or a diet that is particularly low in energy; such is the case when kilojoule intake is low. For this reason, avoiding diets that are especially restrictive, while focusing your diet around key foods which offer these nutrients in high volumes is the first step towards taking control of your immune health this Winter. Key foods including lean red meat, brightly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, grains, seeds and nuts in particular may offer specific benefits thanks to their high nutrient contents. 

A common mistake people make with their diets that results in a poorly functioning immune system is eating very well some of the time, while letting it go others times. This is the reason that people often get sick not long after they change their diets; go partying for a few days, over exercise or when they lose weight. It is during these times that you are not eating the range of foods needed to give the body all of the key nutrients it needs to repair and regenerate damaged cells in the body. Of course you still have to have a life during Winter but simply being aware of the heightened nutrient needs of the body during these busy, potentially stressful times and focusing on including key nutrient rich foods in your diet most of the time will help to prevent this immune depleted state. 

Winter Superfoods

Beetroot – packed with antioxidants, the powerful molecules which help to fight against free radicals, the molecules which cause damage and aging within the cell

Lean red meat – rich source of iron and zinc

Kiwi fruit – rich source of Vitamin C

Berries – packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants

Kale – antioxidant and Vitamin C rich

Chicken soup – if made with bones may increase immune function

Green tea – antioxidant rich source of hydration

Broccoli – another vegetable choice packed with antioxidants

Seaweed – a natural source of iodine, the nutrient which helps the thyroid to function optimally

Chilli – slightly increases metabolic rate and can help to clear airways

Watch your fluids

Dehydration is one of the most common reasons we can feel tired, run down and lethargic and when it comes to dealing with colds and flus and dehydration means that bugs are more likely to stick around and continue to make you feel sick. Congestion, runny noses along with a reduced fluid intake of fluid can make headaches and fevers worse, prolonging the effects of a cold. Even if you do not feel like it, if you are suffering from any cold like symptoms, or feel as if you are about to ‘come down’ with something you need to increase your intake of fluids.

While adults require at least 1.5-2 litres of fluid each day, if you have been hit with a bug increase this to 2-3 litres of fluid a day. Vitamin C rich fruit and vegetable juices and herbal tea along with plain water are all good choices. If you do choose to juice to get a concentrated hit of nutrition, do not forget the nutritional benefits of juicing vegetables. Not only are vegetables including carrots, beetroot and celery packed full of vitamins and minerals but they also contain far less sugar than fruits. And don’t forget your skins – the skins of fruits and veges contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.

Proven remedies

Now eating well and increasing your intake of fluid can be considered pretty standard treatments to help the body fight infection but what about the myriad of supplements and herbal remedies out there? As research findings grow, there are more and more proven natural remedies out there which are definitely worth a try. 

Probiotics

A link between probiotics, the natural bacteria found in the small intestine and immune health has been known for some time and research published in The University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey found probiotics helped reduce the duration of a cold as well as the severity of symptoms. Probiotics can be found in some yoghurts and fermented drinks as well as in supplement form from the chemist. 

Garlic

Garlic has been used to treat bacteria, high blood pressure and infection for thousands of years and it is believed that the organosulfides (naturally occurring chemicals found in garlic and onions), along with Vitamin D help to stimulate the production of the immune cells, macrophages. Garlic can be taken as capsules or raw and get some sunlight each day if you can to enhance its potential benefits.

Chicken soup

Chicken soup has been a favourite remedy for colds, flus, coughs and colds for hundreds of years, with many families owning a traditional soup recipe passed through the generations. And it seems that our elders had it right as there is evidence to show that chicken soup with broth made using actual chicken bones may improve immune function. Research published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that a molecule found in chicken soup, carnosine, helped the body’s immune system to fight the early stages of flu by inhibiting the migration of infected cells around the body. 

Echinacea

One the most commonly recommended herbal remedies for colds and flu, the antiviral and antibacterial herb that originates from America actually has strong research that supports its use for reducing the likeliness and duration of the common cold. The recommended dose is currently 3g per day. 

Olive leaf extract

Olive leaf extract boasts both natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits and contains double the antioxidant content than that of green tea. While research supporting its use as a specific flu fighter is only in early cellular stages, it remains a powerful antioxidant supplement.

Medicinal mushrooms

This one may surprise you but Chinese and Japanese healers have used the powers of mushrooms for centuries to treat numerous ailments. With shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms most frequently referred to, cooked varieties of these mushrooms are known to increase immune system activity.

Why we should all be eating salmon skin.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Tassal Salmon.

Why we should all be eating the salmon skin.

If you think about the nutritional benefits of salmon, chances are that omega 3’s would quickly come to mind. The long chain, powerful anti-inflammatory fats found in very few foods in as high amounts as found in deep sea cold fish including salmon, sardines and mackerel. In fact, salmon is such a rich source of these special nutrients that a single serve of fresh salmon each day will give you your entire daily recommended intake of omega 3’s. But one thing that many of us do not consider when cooking our favourite salmon recipe is that many of us are throwing away one of the richest sources of omega 3 fats – the skin.

The primary reason that deep sea cold fish including salmon are such rich sources of omega 3 fats is that a higher amount of fat helps the fish to keep warm in cool waters. This is also the reason that the grey layer of flesh that sits right under the salmon skin, along with the skin contains roughly 1/3 of the total amount of omega 3 fat found in the fish, it is basically insulation. Unlike animal flesh and its skin which is high in saturated fat, eating the omega 3 rich salmon skin will increase your overall intake of long chain fats per serve to up to 3g, or 3x what is suggested as a minimum daily intake of these powerful fats. A high daily intake of omega 3 fats is associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body, lower blood pressure, reduced triglycerides as well as great skin and hair. 

One of the barriers to ensuring you reap the extra benefits that come from also enjoying the skin of your fresh Tassal salmon can be knowing how to cook it so that it tastes delicious. While grilling can instantly crisp up your salmon skin, it can dry out the fish so another option is to instead sear the salmon with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cook it in a pan on relatively high heat – here the skin becomes crisp very quickly and you are only adding in good quality monounsaturated fats to your food. As omega 3 fat is reasonably stable under high temperatures there is no worry about destroying its nutrition when it is cooked. Another option is to actually remove the skin from the salmon and cook it separately with olive oil to create small pieces of salmon skin crunchy chips that can be enjoyed with your fish or as a crunchy topping to salads or vegetable sides. A sprinkle of salt too goes a long way in giving the rich salmon skin plenty of flavour. 

In busy lives we are often on the lookout for quick and easy solutions to fix or nutrition – supplements, powders or formulated superfoods to give us the extra dose of nutrition we think we need. This is one of the reasons that fish oil supplements are so common – here we can get a hit of omega 3 fats minus the time and effort of cooking up salmon 2-3 times each week. What we do need to know though is that you can never replace the synergistic nutritional benefits that come from eating whole foods. This is definitely the case with fresh Tassal salmon found at Woolworths, not only do you get the range of different nutrients salmon offers, but in the case of keeping our natural omega 3 intake as high as possible, you get a huge amount when you choose salmon that still has its skin and enjoy it whole. 

Recipe: Crispy Baked Salmon with Dukkah Spinach Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 x Tassal salmon fillets, skin on

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. parsley

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup cooked quinoa

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup radishes, sliced

1 tsp. Dukkah

1 tsp. tahini

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°C degrees.

2. Rub salmon including skin with oil, salt, pepper, lemon and parsley.

3. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes and turn over and cook for another 5-7 minutes until cooked through.

4. Assemble spinach, quinoa, radish and salmon onto a plate and season with lemon juice, Dukkah and drizzle with tahini.

Take control of your sugar cravings the right way.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Mayver’s.

Take control of your sugar cravings the right way.

You know the feeling, it is a couple of hours after lunch and all you can think about is hitting the vending machine. Or watching TV at night and you are gripped by a compulsion to eat an entire tub of ice-cream – cravings.

Often sweet in nature, it is intense food cravings that can see our dietary goals fly out the window as we are completely overcome by a desire to eat foods that are high fat, calories, salt and / or sugars.

While cravings can tell us a lot about our base line nutrition, how we respond to our cravings is also important, as eating more of what you are craving can actually make the cravings worse. So if you regularly find yourself on the hunt for energy dense foods you do not really want to be eating, here some simple dietary strategies to help you take back control. 

While some people may experience cravings because of a dietary inadequacy, in more cases than not cravings are a result of programmed behaviours in which the brain has been taught to seek out a specific taste or flavour. For example, in the case of eating sweet foods after dinner, after a few days of reaching for a sweet treat after your evening meal, the brain will then seek this out by the third or fourth day. 

When eating patterns have been established for weeks, months and years, the brain will be looking for this sweet sensation whenever you revert to that same scenario and environment. 

Such cravings are largely behavioural and can easily be broken when we work to alter the neural pathways that we have previously established. An example of this would be doing something different at the time you would usually have a sweet snack or treat. A study published in the journal Appetite found that a significant number of participants lost their craving for chocolate altogether when they had to go for a walk before they could indulge.

Perhaps the most important things we can do when it comes to cravings is to avoid feeding the cravings with the food the brain is seeking as this will only act to stimulate he brain to seek out more of this food stimulus. This partially explains why you are able to eat an entire packet of Tim Tams or tub of ice-cream in one sitting, the brain will basically continue to seek out these intense flavours until your body is ready to burst from such overconsumption.

So where does this leave you when you are wanting something sweet or salty to eat but trying to not overindulge on high calorie snacks and extra food?

First and foremost avoid any large serves of intense sugars and high fat foods such as lollies, chocolates, biscuits and ice-cream as these will be virtually impossible to stop yourself from overeating. If you must, the best options are for individual portions of ice-cream or chocolate so you physically cannot overeat them.

Next, practice the art of food combining, ideally with a protein rich food such as Mayver’s Peanut Butter, cheese, hommus or Greek yoghurt with something sweet to help balance out the flavours you are exposing yourself to. Here you will avoid the frenzied feeding that can occur when you are quickly eating sugary foods, whilst still satisfying the need for something sweet. In particular the foods higher in fat – hommus, cheese and peanut butter will give you the rich mouth feel you are looking for, as well as offering protein which will also help to keep you full. Some of my favourite food combos include – apple slices or celery dipped or spread with Mayver’s Peanut Butter, Greek yoghurt with berries, chopped nuts and a spoon of honey (this can also be made into frozen yoghurt, or rice cakes or corn cakes topped with Mayver’s Peanut Butter and banana. 

Finally, when it comes to cravings behavioural management is key. If you regularly crave sweet foods at night, factor in one sweet, but healthy option to take the edge off the craving before it takes hold of you. Then aim to stop eating by a certain time, and brush your teeth to help to shift the desire for sweet food. Or if cravings take hold mid-afternoon, try and preempt them with a healthy snack and keep gum or sugar free mints or vegetable sticks on hand to take the place of sweet foods when you want to mindlessly munch. Changing habits and building new ones takes time, but eating well throughout the day can go a long way in keeping your blood glucose levels well controlled and ultimately preventing extreme cravings long term.

8 foods that will drain your energy


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Energy depleting foods

When we find ourselves tired and run down, grabbing a sugar hit or our favourite snack for a quick energy hit is a common habit. And while our favourite treats and sweet delights may seem to give us the energy we are looking for, in more cases than not we are likely to feel even worse after eating them.

Here are some of the most common ‘energy’ foods, and why they may not be so energising after all. 

Coffee

Whether it is your favourite café order or extra shot of espresso on a bad day, coffee is a favourite of many when it comes to seeking out foods for an energy hit. In general it is the caffeine hit we are looking for with the average café coffee containing 100mg of caffeine per shot of coffee.

Caffeine itself is a known performance enhancer, the benefits of which known to last for 30-60 minutes post consumption. The issue with using large amounts of coffee and caffeine to help boost our energy levels is that the effect is short term. This will be particularly evident if you enjoy your coffee with plenty of extra sugars via syrups, added sugar or honey which too will contribute to a subsequent drop in energy 60-90 minutes later. 

Diet soft drink

A popular choice that masquerades as a healthier option compared to regular soft drinks, the biggest issue with consuming diet soft when you are tired is that pretty quickly the body realises that you have not given it the sugar it is actually looking for, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic once again an hour after drinking it. 

Fast food

Fried fast foods – burgers, fries, pizza, chicken and meal deals are packed with fats, sugars and plenty of salt. The combination leaves you vulnerable to fluid retention, a shift of blood flow to the digestive system thanks to the heavy calorie load of the meal and high intake of saturated fat which results in reduced blood flow round the body. This means that there is nothing energising other than an initial sugar hit in any fast food. 

Biscuits

The mix of white flour, hydrogenated fats and sugars that are easily consumed daily with a few cups of tea or coffee but which offer little nutritionally. The refined flour and sugar sends blood glucose levels soaring which is in turn coupled with a sharp decline within the hour. Such an ingredient combination also plays havoc with our insulin levels over time. Insulin is the hormone involved in fat storage in the body and high levels over time leave us vulnerable to fatigue and low energy levels.

Energy drinks and vitamin water

While the names of these popular drinks conjures up images of all things positive the truth is that unless you are an elite athlete these drinks have very little to offer. With 30-45g or 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per bottle along with various vitamins and stimulants not only are these drinks packed full of empty calories but any energy hit is likely to only be of benefit for 30-60 minutes. 

Bagels

A popular café breakfast option a simple bagel looks pretty innocent but nutritionally there are not many positives. Packed full of refined carbs giving it a high GI, a standard bagel can contain as many carbs as 4 slices of bread. And that is before you consider any high sugar or high fat toppings. Great if you are about to run a marathon, not so good if you are sitting at your desk all morning.

2 minute noodles

Popular as a quick meal on the run or salty snack, not only do 2 minute noodles contain as much processed carbohydrate as 4-6 slices of bread but the cheeky sachet of flavouring is not only likely to contain MSG (621) but also your entire daily upper limit of sodium (salt). The effect of this is significant fluid retention leading to bloating, discomfort and fatigue an hour or two after consumption. 

Jelly lollies

With a single jelly snake containing almost 2 teaspoons of sugar, imagine the huge amount of sugar in an entire packet of any type of lolly. When the body is exposed to a large amount of sugar in a single setting, our insulin levels sky rocket followed by a subsequent drop. The other issue with regularly eating lollies is that it is virtually impossible to stop eating them which means you can consume 100+ grams of sugar in a single setting.

How to control overeating at these key times in the day


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Eating danger times.

Who would have thought that the clock would have so much to do with what we eat and when? A survey commissioned by a UK supplement company a couple of years back found that there are 3 danger times when it comes to eating, or overeating – 11:01am, 3:14pm and 9:31pm as the times we are at highest risk of consuming a complete calorie overload. Specifically the survey found that dieters consumed an extra 750 calories per day during these high risk feeding periods which were associated with a morning trip to the coffee shop, the afternoon tea run and a regular after dinner binge. So if you fall victim to coffee shop treats or sweet cravings after dinner, here is how to take control and slash your calorie intake during these times. 

The 11am hunger 

Chances are that by 11 o’clock in the morning it has been several hours since you have consumed breakfast and it is still an hour or two before lunch. Eating too few calories during the first half of the day is not only a trigger for late morning hunger and cravings but also can leave you vulnerable to overeating later in the day. Late morning hunger is also associated with a quick trip to the coffee shop when we are more likely to indulge in high calorie muffins, cakes and other high carb treats which often contain more calories than an entire meal. The closeness to lunchtime also means that if we do snack at 11am, we push lunch back to 2 or 3pm, which is not ideal either.

Take control of this high risk feeding time by scheduling a small snack 3-4 hours after breakfast and before 10:30am to avoid feeling hungry too close to lunchtime. Ideally this snack will contain just 100-200 calories and 5-10g of protein to keep the hunger pangs at bay until lunchtime. Good options include a small coffee, 100g Greek yoghurt and berries or a couple of wholegrain crackers and cheese. 

The afternoon munchies

It is normal that we will feel hungry 2-3 hours after a meal, once our blood glucose levels drop. This tends to correspond to 3-4pm each workday when the lure of the vending machine or box of office fundraising chocolates becomes too much and we seek out sweet food to boost our glucose levels. Unfortunately the types of foods we associated with snacking at this time of day again tend to be sweet, treat style foods – biscuits, chocolates, snack bars which leave us feeling unsatisfied and more likely to snack until dinner time.

The key step in taking control of overeating at this time of day is to again plan a protein rich snack 3-4 hours after lunch. Good options include portion controlled, nutrient rich nut based snack bars, crackers with a savoury topping or vegetables with cottage cheese or hommus. Scheduling a filling snack before extreme hunger hits late afternoon will also help to prevent binge eating when you arrive home from work late, tired and prone to demolishing an entire packet of rice crackers and dip before dinner.

The 9:30pm hit

You know the drill, it is a couple of hours after dinner, you are relaxing in front of the TV and the thought of a cup of tea and something sweet is just what you feel like to round out a long day. Biscuit and chocolate manufacturers are not silly, they know the evening is the time to advertise treat style foods that we routinely overeat in the evenings on a regular basis.

Eating sweet foods in front of the television is a bad habit, and a habit that can be exceptionally difficult to break, especially when you have done it for many years. A couple of strategies that can work well in controlling overeating at this time of day include planning to enjoy a single calorie controlled treat at this time of day. Good options include a small individual ice cream, a few squares of dark chocolate or a biscuit or two with a cup of tea. Having an eating cut off each day at say 8 or 9pm also can work well as can ensuring you do not keep tempting foods in the house, as if they are there, you will eat them.

If though you have difficulty in controlling yourself at this time of day, going cold turkey on all food after dinner may be the key to breaking this bad food habits which is causing you to eat a significant number of extra calories each day.

Your snack comparison chart.


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Your snack comparison chart.

This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Australian Bananas.

Chances are that when you think about a snack, you think about something in a package…a snack bar or a packet of something that has been designed to fill the space in between meals and give you the crunch and / or sweet or salty hit you are looking for. The issue with packaged snacks is that no matter how much we try and formulate them to be healthier, they are never going to be as good for us nutritionally (or for the environment) as a fresh, natural whole food.

So, if you needed a little more convincing as to why unprocessed snacks always come up trumps on the snack rating scale, here are some of the numbers to remind you.

Fresh Banana vs. Dried Fruit (30g)

100 calories vs. 100 calories

0g fat vs. 0g fat

22g carbs vs. 28g carbs

19g sugars (natural) vs. 28g sugars

Summary = While the calories are similar, you actually get a more concentrated source of sugars when you choose dried fruit over fresh. However, because bananas have zero fat and a high satiety index, they keep you feeling fuller for longer making them a great snacking option, no matter which form they are in!

30g Mixed Nuts / Nut Spread vs. Nut Bar

215 calories vs. 220 calories

20g fat (natural fats) vs. 16g fat

2g carbs vs. 11g carbs

0g sugars vs. 4g sugars

Summary = Not only do snack bars contain added sugars but they also tend to have a higher proportion of peanuts compared to other nutrient rich nuts such as walnuts and almonds. 

Natural Yoghurt (100g) vs. Fruit Yoghurt (100g)

88 calories vs. 97 calories

5g fat vs. 4g fat

5g carbs vs. 12g carbs

5g sugars vs. 12g sugars

Summary = While the sugars in many fruit yoghurts are on the decline, they will still contain significantly more sugars than natural or Greek yoghurt minus the fibre that you will get if you add fresh fruit to yoghurt. 

Small Apple vs. Small Fruit Smoothie

45 calories vs. 233 calories

0g fat vs. 3g fat

11g carbs vs. 44g carbs

11g sugars vs. 37g sugars

Summary = Smoothies can be exceptionally nutritious, but they are a much more concentrated source of energy than fresh fruit and as such are really a small meal as opposed to a snack. 

Packet of Popcorn vs. Packet of Rice Snacks

35 calories vs. 105 calories

2g fat vs. 3g

5g carbs vs. 18g carbs

3g fibre vs. 0g fibre

Summary = Popcorn as a wholegrain offers the nutritional benefits of some protein and fibre but is a much lighter option than refined rice snacks which are packed full of concentrated carbs, with minimal fibre or protein and often flavours added.

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.

5 unhealthy cooking mistakes you may be making.


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The most common unhealthy cooking mistakes that you could be making!

While home cooked food is generally more nutritious and lower in calories than take away and restaurant meals, it can also be exceptionally easy to overdo things in the kitchen without even realising it. Take oil for example, the amount we regularly see celebrity chefs use on their recipes is often adding more fat to the meal than you need in an entire day. So here are the most common cooking mistakes we make at home that pack in the fat, sugar and calories into our ‘healthy’ home cooked meals. 

1. Not measuring added fat

While some types of oil are better for us, like extra virgin olive oil, it does not mean that you can consume unlimited volumes of it. We do not need a lot of added fat in our diet, at most just 1-2 tablespoons of added oil each day, but with many of us using a free pour method we actually have no idea how much oil we are actually using. Take control of your fat intake by simply measuring your oil portions out using a tablespoon – at most use 1 tablespoon per person you are serving.

2. Using too many sauces

Certain cuisines including Asian and Mexican dishes often suggest using a myriad of sauces and seasonings to flavour up the meal. Take a standard stir fry, sometimes three or four different sauces are added, each of which adds calories, a whole lot of extra salt and even extra sugar. Again remain mindful of the portions of sauces you are using by always measuring out the recommended amounts and where possible limit any dishes to just one or two added seasonings or sauces to control you total calorie and salt intake.

3. Too much protein

A common cooking habit is to cook a little more meat or chicken or fish than you need with the goal of having leftovers. The reality is that we eat what we cook, so if you cook 750g or 1kg of protein for 4 people, you will eat this amount rather than the 500-600g you actually need. The issue with this style of eating is that we consume far more protein than we need at the expense of low calorie, nutrient rich vegetables. One of the easiest ways to slash calories from your day is to minimise your protein portions and bump up your intake of vegetables and salad. 

4. Cooking in oil or butter

Often our default when cooking quick and easy meals is to pour oil in the pan and quickly stir fry up some meat and vegetables. While oil can be used for this purpose, often there are a number of pans and grills that require no added oil in cooking. Another ingenious option is to use baking paper as a lining for the pan to cook fish and sausages without any added fat at all. In the case of mixed dishes, baking paper helps to marinade the protein in any sauce you may be using to give your protein plenty of flavour minus any added fat. 

5. The added extras

It may be some feta, or avocado, sour cream, gravy or grated cheese but when we cook at home we are often adding a number of extras to make our meals taste great but which also add literally hundreds of calories. Take control by adding only one extra to meals, and measure out your portions of high fat sauces and toppings such as cheese and sour cream. Or, even better look for lower fat and calorie options including cottage cheese, plain yoghurt or herbs and spices which add flavour with a far fewer calories.

5 ways to be healthier in the evening.


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Have a healthier night in front of the TV.

For many of us, a day of healthy eating is quickly undone when we arrive home from work, exhausted, unmotivated and with low blood glucose levels. The first thing we grab is a glass of wine or a beer, followed by crackers, dip and anything else we get our hands on, before retiring in front of the couch with our favourite food delivery order or packet of sweet treats to round out the day – sound familiar?

Our evening food routine is just as important as the routine we try and follow through the morning, if not more so. The reason is that we are more likely to be storing the calories we consume at night – a result of hormonal shifts in the second half of the day and of our tendency to sit and not do very much once we return home. So if you know your evening routine could do with some work, here are some simple steps to ensure your evenings are as conducive to weight loss as the first half of your day is.

1. Create a get home habit

We have all been there – you walk in the door so desperately hungry that you grab the first packet you see and eat the entire thing so you not only ruin your dinner but feel incredibly guilty that you have demolished an entire packet of rice crackers and French onion dip. One of the most powerful commitments you can make when it comes to your nutrition is to build some positive health habits – things we do without thinking about so they become part our daily lives. As the period before dinner is a risky time for many of us when it comes to our eating, swapping the wine, crackers and dip for a glass of sparkling water and cut up vegetables when we first arrive home is an easy way to fill your tummy with the right thing and support weight loss rather than weight gain. 

2. Know your go to meals

We get caught out with our nutrition when we arrive home and do not know what to cook for dinner. This means we often order in food, consuming many more calories than we would if we prepared something at home. Ideally busy people would prepare their meals in advance but if this fails knowing two or three quick and easy, low calorie meals is the key to weight loss success. Good options include a salad served with lamb strips, grilled chicken breast or tuna; a vegetable omelette or a BBQ chicken and some heated frozen vegetables. All 5 minute meals that are actually good for you. 

3. Have a food cut off

Much of the damage that we do to ourselves each evening has to do with the treats we indulge in whilst watching Netflix – the chocolate biscuits, tubs of ice-cream and chocolate that quickly becomes a daily habit rather than an occasional indulgence. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a small treat each night but it is when a small treat becomes an entire packet that we have an issue. One of the easiest ways you can control your calorie intake after dinner is to have a food cut off time. Set a time, 8 or 9pm when you will actually stop eating completely and this will naturally control your calorie intake.

4. Go for the mints

Changing the taste in your mouth is one of the easiest ways you can curb your cravings for sugar each night. Once you have finished your evening meal and perhaps your glass of wine or sweet treat, brush your teeth, chew some gum or enjoy a cup of herbal tea. This will again signal the end of the days eating. 

5. Move around

Sitting around for several hours after eating a relatively large meal at the end of the day is the worst thing you can do for digestion and metabolism. The more you can stand up, and move, even incidentally around your home the better it will be for weight control. This means getting up each ad break and doing a job; or actively going for a walk now the days are longer or at least standing up briefly every hour to burn a few calories and to help aid digestion.

6 foods to get you in the mood this Valentine’s Day


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Tassal Salmon.

Foods to get you in the mood this Valentine’s Day.

The red roses are out on display and the giant teddies ready to fill many a Valentine’s Day delivery – the season of all things love is in full swing. So is there any truth to the commonly held belief that certain foods can help to get you in the mood?

Indeed it is well documented that oysters, figs and even bananas are the lusty tastes and visual aids we should seek out if the goal is to feel a little more randy but is there any scientific truth to these claims? And if you are looking to spice your sexual activity, what are the key foods can you add to your diet so you are all ready to embrace true love this Valentine’s Day?

Oysters

Oysters are one of the richest natural sources of zinc, a key nutrient involved in the production of testosterone. Low levels of zinc have also been associated with erectile dysfunction whilst boosting zinc intake has been shown to increase sperm count in some studies. As a key sex hormone, testosterone plays a key role in regulating libido for both men and women. The production of testosterone is regulated by both the brain and the pituitary gland and is significantly impacted by stress levels. As testosterone production also declines as we age ensuring an adequate dietary intake of zinc is an important is optimise testosterone production and as such sex drive for both men and women. 

Egg Yolk

While egg whites are known for their high protein levels, let’s not forget the key nutrients found in egg yolk. Egg yolk is a rich source of Vitamin’s D, E which are fat soluble vitamins that play key roles in hormone production, including sex hormones. Egg yolk is also a rich source of Vitamins B5 and B6 which play key roles in energy production. 

Salmon

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 11.30.52 amIt is the special omega 3 fats found in particularly high quantities in deep sea oily fish including salmon that is associated with boosting sexual performance and drive long term. Firstly, omega 3 fats act to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow. This means that ensuring your diet has enough omega 3 fats each week, or at least 2-3 serves will help to ensure your blood can bump as freely and powerfully as possible when the need arrives. In addition it is these good fats that are also involved in hormone production, including the sex hormones which play powerful roles in regulating our sex drive. I recommend a fresh Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon, such as Tassal, which will give you a full flavour to help give you that extra boost!

Maca Powder

Maca is a root vegetable found in Peru and comes from the same group of vegetables as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. You can find maca in both root and powdered form and can be added to smoothies and baking to boost overall nutritional intake. One of the proposed benefits of maca is that it helps to boost sexual desire and there are a couple of published studies to show that supplementing with maca did increase reports of sexual desire independent of testosterone levels. There is also some evidence to show that supplementing with maca powder may improve the quality of semen. While more research is needed, adding some maca to your daily smoothie will cause no harm and may play a role in boosting our sex drive. 

Peanuts

One of the richest natural sources of the amino acid arginine, peanuts or 100% peanut butter are a must if your goal is optimising blood flow to the regions of the body that may benefit from good circulation. Specifically arginine is involved in the production of nitric oxide which is required to achieve and maintain erectile function. As such boosting intake via foods including peanuts, turkey, seeds and wholegrains is a natural alternative to more aggressive medications such as Viagra which also works by increasing the level and activity of nitric oxide in a medicinal form. 

Red Meat

When it comes to feeling in the mood, let’s not forget the importance of maintaining optimal energy levels in general, especially for busy women. With at least 1 in 4 Australian women with clinically low iron levels is it any wonder plenty of women out there are too tired for any action? The simple answer to the issue of ‘I’m too tired’? Boost your lover’s iron intake with a small serve of lean red meat, one the richest natural sources of iron, 3-4 times each week to help optimise energy and libido. And cooking her dinner (and cleaning up afterwards) will probably help too. 

4 tips for healthier baking


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Mayver’s.

How to bake healthier treats at home.

A quick scan of any social media and you are likely to see a number of scrumptious looking, home baked treats, cakes and balls. Generally these tempting delights are also referred to as ‘healthy’ – healthier alternatives to the regular baked muffins, cakes and banana bread that we typically find in cafes and food courts. And while they may look healthier, and even be made by a dietitian or nutritionist, the reality is that these treats can often be as high in fat, calories and sugars as regular treats. Now they may use healthier fats, or less white sugar, but they still lean on high calorie ingredients such as coconut, rice malt syrup, dates and honey to achieve the sweet tastes and textures regular cake does.

So if you do enjoy a little something with your tea and coffee each day, and would rather make it yourself, here are my top tips for healthier baking.

1. Go for a wholemeal base

With a myriad of flour alternatives available in supermarkets it can be easy to think they are all healthier options but you really need to pay close attention to what is on the labels. Coconut flour for example is higher in protein and fibre than regular flour but also much higher in fat. Banana flour is extremely rich in fibre but does not bake as well as traditional flour. As a general rule of thumb, substituting some flour for fruit or oats is a great way to boost the nutrition of your baking, and simply choosing wholemeal flour will instantly improve the nutritional profile of your baking. 

2. Watch the sugars

While it may not say sugar, if your recipe calls for any syrup, honey or dates it still contains plenty of sugar. I try and limit my recipes to one source of added sugar eg; honey or a little sugar, and measure at most 1/3 -1/2 cup for an entire recipe. Another option is to seek out the growing range of lower sugar baking blends which generally contain 1/2 sugar, 1/2 natural sweetener which can significantly reduce the overall sugar content of any food you are baking or blending. Low calorie, low sugar additions that also help to flavour your favourite bites and cakes include vanilla essence and cinnamon. 

3. Choose your fat

Traditionally we turned to butter, more recently coconut oil and in the last few months I have seen more and more products that utilise vegetable oil within the mix. While butter cops a bad rap for its saturated fat content, I would argue that vegetable oil, which is usually a blend of a number of heavily processed fats is far worse, even though it can improve the texture of baked cakes. Coconut oil too is less than ideal as it packs in plenty of saturated fats. My go to is a little butter for binding along with a 100% Mayver’s Nut Spread – here you still can achieve the consistency a fat offers, with the extra nutritional benefits of added nuts to your recipe.

4. Bump up the nutrition

Whether you are adding fruits, wholegrains, nuts or dairy, adding whole nutritious foods to your baking will naturally improve the nutritional profile. For example, adding natural or Greek yoghurt as a wet mixer will add protein and calcium while nuts and fruit will add plenty of fibre. A little flour can generally be replaced by soft fruits, while oils and fats by extra yoghurt and nut spreads. Here you still end up with a cake or biscuit or bite, but one with far less fat and sugar than a traditional recipe, with a whole lot more nutrition. And that is what healthy baking is, not just replacing one source of fat and sugar with another. 

Recipe: Peanut Butter Oat Balls

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Serves 12

Ingredients

1 tbsp. butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup Mayver’s Peanut Butter 

1 cup oats

1 cup alternative cereal (granola, All Bran Flakes, crushed)

¼ cup dried cranberries

Method

1. Over a medium heat, heat butter, honey and peanut butter and stir until smooth.

2. Remove from heat and add oats, cereal and dried cranberries.

3. Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto baking tray and refrigerate until set

What really happens to your body when you eat fast food.


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Why we need to cook more at home.

We have all been there – a cheeky burger and fries on the road, or a bucket of chicken for a quick Thursday night dinner or a family pizza meal deal on a Friday night – fast food. The quick, highly processed food that can be served and consumed within a 5-10 minute period. Now we have been taught that heathy balance is all about moderation and an occasional fast food meal will do no harm. When we take a closer look at what happens physiologically after eating just one fast food meal maybe it is time to be honest with ourselves about what really happens when we load up on thousands of calories via a fast food meal and why cooking at home is always a healthier option.

Despite there being some ‘healthier’ fast food meals available, on the whole these options are few and far between. In general, fast food is extremely high in fat and calories, as well as processed carbohydrates, sugars and salt. The most popular fast food meals deals contain almost as many calories as you need for an entire day, along with more sugar, salt and saturated fat than you need in almost 2 days. There is not a lot of good you can say about fast food in general. 

Now the health consequences of eating a high fat diet long term are well documented – weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer just a few of the health consequences associated with eating highly processed food on a regular basis. But what about in the short term? The reality is there are several nasty side effects even when you eat fast food only occasionally.

First and foremost overloading the stomach and the brain with an influx of fat, calories, carbs and sugars has a strong programming effect associated with wanting more and more of these ultra-processed foods. This means that even though you may have downed 1000 calories in less than 10 minutes, the body loves this density of energy so much that it craves it again very quickly. In real life terms this means you are likely to feel hungrier again more quickly, and even likely to crave more and more of this high fat, sugary food. 

Next the extremely high salt contents of the average pizza, burgers, noodles and fried chicken meals is enough to put pressure on the healthiest of arteries. Significant changes in the elasticity of blood vessels can be observed within hours of a fast food meal being consumed, as can changes in blood pressure levels – both important variables that determine our overall heart health and risk of stroke. In addition, the high salt content will generally see the retention of extra fluid as the body works overtime in trying to get rid of the huge amount of salt it has been exposed to. This is the reason you may feel tired, bloated and lethargic an hour or two after eating fast food. For our hearts it also means working harder which places more stress on the body overall. 

Then we have the issue of insulin – insulin is the primary regulator of fat and carbohydrate metabolism. When a meal that is particularly high in fat and carbs is consumed, the body is forced to release extra insulin in an attempt to keep blood glucose levels controlled. High levels of insulin over time are linked to weight gain, hunger, insulin resistance, diabetes and inflammation in the body. This means that each and every time we overeat with a large meal deal, there is increased pressure on our insulin levels, ultimately leading to slow, and insidious weight gain over time. 

So now that you are feeling pretty guilty about the last upsized meal deal you ordered, how can you still enjoy your favourite take away minus the negative health consequences? Easy – skip the deep fried meal deals and if you must indulge in a burger, just get the burger and skip the soft drink and extra large fries that generally go with it. Keep in mind that whole pizzas, deep fried chicken and fries are the worst options so when you can seek out kebabs, Mexican or Asian stir fried dishes which are generally a little lower in sugars, fats and salts. And most importantly learn to indulge a little less. Once a week for fast food is too much, once a month or less is ideal and really cooking more at home is the way to go.

The most common foods we overeat at work.


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The most common foods we overeat at work.

The office environment is notorious for weight gain. Not only does an office based job see us spending hours and hours a day sitting, but it is also an opportunity for plenty of eating, and eating foods that are particularly conducive to weight gain. Since we also know from behavioural research that we become like the people we spend our time with, when our officemates are eating, or more specifically eating high calorie foods, we are much more likely to follow their lead. So if you know your waistband is a little tighter since you have been at your workplace, here are the foods most likely to be doing the damage. 

Biscuits

The biscuits may come courtesy of the office biscuit jar, or as special treats that colleagues bring in, but those tasty morsels made from vegetable oil, sugar and white flour are a recipe for disaster when it comes to eating mindless calories and weight gain. With a single chocolate biscuit containing up to 100 calories and 3-4g of fat, and the ease at which we can eat many biscuits throughout the day without even noticing, it is no wonder that sweet biscuits are so closely linked to weight gain. If your office does offer biscuits, one of the keys to reducing your consumption is not having them in sight, so try and keep them in a cupboard or ceramic container so you are not tempted so often. Even better, create your own rule to not eat the biscuits at work in general. 

Milky coffee

Think how many cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites you routinely consume while you are at work? Chances are there is one on the way to work, another mid-morning and even a third on a particularly long day. And unlike black coffee and tea, those milky coffee calories add up, with a small cup offering at least 80-100 calories, or the equivalent of an extra meal a day if you enjoy two or three. Therein lies the association with workday coffees and weight gain. So, if you do enjoy a milk based coffee, try and limit yourself to just one each day and swap to tea or black coffee on other occasions. 

Cake

There always seem to be an abundance of cake at work – it is always someone’s birthday, or a reason to celebrate and then we have the office feeders who routinely bake treats for others who have less willpower to enjoy. With a single serve of plain cake containing 10-12g of fat and 300-400 calories, you can see that enjoying this extra sweet treat a few times each week will quickly lead to weight gain. For this reason getting into a habit of saying no more times than not when cake is offered at work is the key to success, or limit the office birthday celebrations to just once each month. 

Chocolate bars

It may be the fundraising chocolate box situated at the front desk, or the vending machine that screams your name mid afternoon, but if you are in the habit of indulging in some sweet chocolate on more afternoons than not, you have cemented a pretty strong chocolate habit at work. With a 50g bar of chocolate containing as many calories as a meal, if chocolate is your thing you will always be much better to choose a small, individual portion as opposed to an entire bar, and where possible keep daily temptations such as fundraising chocolate boxes well out of reach and sight. 

Dried fruit and nuts

Fresh fruit is healthy, as are nuts but when we demolish entire bags of high calorie trail mix simple because it is within easy reach on our desk we are mindlessly consuming hundreds of extra calories each week, often under the impression that we are being ‘healthy’. Mindless munching is an issue for a number of reasons, but specifically when we mindlessly munch on high calorie foods such as nuts and dried fruit it is a recipe for disaster when it comes to weight gain. Keep your fruit fresh and focus on one single snack of nuts each day for both good health and weight control. This means not keeping the massive bag of nuts at work, rather portion controlling them out so you cannot overeat them 

Susie’s best and worst snacks.


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You may grab something quickly with your coffee at 10 or 11am, or hang out for a sweet hit after lunch but chances are you have some sort of snack throughout the day. The question of whether we need snacks at all is highly debated with some health professionals arguing the benefits of limiting ourselves to three square meals per day, while others will support the consumption of small frequent meals to optimise metabolism and help to control appetite throughout the day. The key thing to remember when it comes to snacks is that they need to be thought of as ‘mini meals’ and as such any snack we choose should ideally keep us full for at least 2-3 hours. Immediately this eliminates a number of highly processed snacks that offer little nutritionally. So if you are in need of some snacking inspiration, here are some of the better and not so good options to choose when the munchies do hit in between meals. 

The best snacks

Greek yoghurt and berries

Teaming protein and calcium rich Greek yoghurt with antioxidant rich berries is a nutritional match made in heaven. Not only does the yoghurt have minimal sugars compared to many fruit yoghurts but it is also low GI which means it will help to keep blood glucose levels controlled for several hours after eating it. When it comes to fruit, any type of berries, fresh or frozen are relatively low in calories and packed full of fibre making them a perfect light snack choice in between meals. 

Roasted broadbeans or chickpeas

Forget potato chips, rice crackers and other salty snacks, not only are roasted broadbeans and chickpeas as tasty and crunchy as many other popular snacks but they are relatively low in calories, a good source of protein and fibre and can be purchased in portion controlled packs for a perfectly sized snack to take you through to the next meal. 

Nut based snack bars

It may surprise you to see nut bars referred to as opposed to plain nuts but one of the issues with snacking on nuts is that is can be exceptionally easy to overeat nuts, and consuming nuts in isolation means that your snack lacks carbohydrates some of which will be needed to help satisfy your appetite and restore blood glucose levels when you are hungry. All nuts are great choices nutritionally so you can either team 20 mixed nuts with a piece of fresh fruit to achieve nutritional balance with your snack or opt for one of the many nut bars on the market. There are many options available, many of which contain fewer than 10g of sugars per serve which is relatively low for a snack bar and offers a portion controlled way to enjoy your nuts with a little carbohydrate in a tasty, appealing snack. 

Cheese and crackers

Often considered a treat type food, cheese is a nutrient dense food packed with protein, calcium and magnesium and when teamed with a wholegrain or corn based cracker offers a perfect balance of protein and carbohydrate as a filling snack option. 

And the snacks to avoid

Rice Crackers

Nutritionally, rice crackers have very little to offer. They are a concentrated source processed carbohydrate and just 10 rice crackers (or a single row) is the carbohydrate equivalent of 2 slices of lower carb bread. So if you eat the entire packet you are looking at 100 plus grams of carbs, or almost your entire daily fuel requirement in a simple packet of crackers. The carbohydrate in rice crackers is also high GI carbs, meaning that they significantly increase blood glucose levels and a number of flavoured varieties also contain added MSG (621). 

Banana bread

It may sound healthier than a muffin or cake, but the truth is that banana bread is still basically made from sugar, butter and white flour, which really equates to cake. If you consider that the average muffin or slice of banana bread contains more than 60g of total carbohydrate, or the equivalent of 4 slices of bread, 20-30g of fat and at least 4 teaspoons of sugar, it is safe to say that there is nothing healthy about this popular snack choice. 

Biscuits

Many an office kitchen has one, the biscuit tin and if you consider yourself lucky enough to have an employer who does not skimp on the quality of biscuits in your office biscuit jar chances are you down a couple of your favourites at least a couple of times each week. The issue with biscuits is that they offer little nutritionally; are a potent mix of fat sugar and white flour and are so easy to eat mindlessly and add a couple of hundred calories into your day. When it comes to smart snacking try and avoid the biscuits entirely and think of them as special occasion treats rather than daily food habits. 

Fruit Juice

It is easy to get confused with this one – how could something that comes from fruit, ones of nature’s wonderfoods not be healthy? The issue with fruit juice is that it is an extremely concentrated source of calories, calories that come from simple sugars. When you consider that it can take up to 3 or 4 whole pieces of fruit to make a single glass of fruit juice, and that means the sugar and calories of each of those pieces of fruit, it starts to become clearer as to why fruit juice can quickly equate to a calorie overload. Unlike fruit itself, fruit juice does not offer the fibre or ‘full’ factor that real fruit offers. If you do love your juice, try vegetable varieties instead which have far fewer calories and make sure any juice you do have is made using a single piece of fruit.

How to meal prep your way into 2020.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Australian Bananas.

How to meal prep your way into 2020.

A New Year means a fresh new start and for many of us this translates into a number of health and fitness resolutions, including preparing more meals at home.

Taking control of your nutrition and enjoying more home cooked meals has multiple health benefits – not only do meals we prepare ourselves contain fewer calories but generally more lean protein and veges, helping to support weight control. And recent research has confirmed this with a study published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition finding that those who enjoy more meals each week that are prepared at home have a better diet overall. And while this sounds good in theory, the reality is that for busy people this can be easier said than done.

So if you too would like to eat better in 2020, here are some of the simple steps to take control of your food prep and meal planning each week.

1. Keep your key staples on hand

The key to nutrition success at home is making sure you have the healthy foods on hand you need to prepare quick and easy meals and snacks. This means shopping or ordering your food online regularly; keeping a supply of frozen options handy as well as tinned options such as beans, fish, soups and vegetables so you can prepare healthy meals quickly.

Personally I make a big effort to stock up with fresh fruits and veges each week at the local markets and also keep frozen options such as bananas, vegetables and 1-2 precooked meals on hand so I can throw together breakfast smoothies quickly, and always know that I have a backup meal on hand for nights there is literally no time to cook. 

2. Cook less

You would have thought that meal prep would mean lots of cooking but a smarter way to take control of your meal prep is to cook less frequently but in larger volumes. Here you ensure that you utilise ingredients you have purchased in bulk but are able to cook 2-3 meals at a time – think baked goods such as muffins or banana breads for healthy snacks through the week; pies and slow cooked casseroles for multiple meals and leftovers and loads of grilled and roasted vegetables in advance so your daily meal prep becomes more about throwing together rather than cooking from scratch.

You will also save much time, money and stress when you cook multiple meals at one time.

3. Do what you can the night before

While hours spent packing meals into tiny containers looks great on Instagram, the reality is that this is not practical, or even the best option for keeping meals fresh throughout the week.

As we are generally spending time each evening at home either eating, or cooking or in front of the TV before we retire, an easy habit to build is to spend a few minutes each evening planning and packing your food for the following  day. This may mean packing some leftovers for lunch; preparing your smoothie ingredients for the next day or getting your snacks together but this simple step can quickly completely transform your food intake on a daily basis. 

Recipe: Banana & Berry Mini Muffins

Makes 24

Ingredients

2 cups wholemeal self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup chopped fresh berries

2 eggs

50g butter

1/2 cup milk

A few drops of vanilla essence

Dark choc bits (as desired) 

Method

1. Combine wet ingredients with sifted flour and sugar.

2. Bake at 160deg for 20-25min. 

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.

Lunches for weight loss.


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Lunches for weight loss.

We are often told about the mistakes we are making with our diet and nutrition choices but less frequently are we given any real direction on what we should actually be eating in order to achieve the weight loss results we are looking for.

Lunch is a classic example of this – we are told what to avoid and how much fat and / or calories popular lunch choices contain, but less often the specific details on what we should be packing and ordering. So if weight loss is your goal, here are some of the best lunch time options to help guarantee success.

Soup and a sandwich

When we are wanting to lose weight we often go too hard too fast and grab a simple soup or salad and call it lunch. The issue with this is that while soup is a good choice, unless it contains a decent portion of meat, you will be hungry again an hour or two later.

A much better option is a bowl of vegetable soup as well as a small sandwich or wrap. Not only will the vegetable bulk in the soup help to keep you full but the serve of carbs and protein via some egg, tuna or chicken on a sandwich or wrap will fill you for several hours. The key is to make sure the sandwich or wrap are small, not the jumbo size serves we generally have access to in food courts. 

A substantial salad

I am not talking about a few leaves and a tin of tuna here, rather 2-3 cups of salad ingredients along with a palm sized portion of protein such as chicken breast, lean lamb, salmon or a couple of eggs and a decent serve of carbs via a slice of wholegrain bread, ½ – 1 cup brown rice, sweet potato or beans. Most importantly, a serve of good fat from some olive oil dressing or 1/3 – ½ small avocado will again help to keep you full for several hours. And remember that you are always better to make your own salad as food court options tend to be packed with extra fats and calories coming from cheese, nuts and lashings of dressing. 

Japanese

Now our go to with Japanese is generally sushi rolls and while they are relatively low in calories, they lack the protein and bulk to keep you full for 3-4 hours as a well-balanced lunch should. A much better mix is to include just 1-2 brown rice rolls, but load up with sashimi, Edamame and seaweed salad so you achieve a low calorie, high protein lunch that will satisfy you until late afternoon. 

Leftovers

The beauty with leftovers is not only that they are cost effective but you can completely control your calorie intake and as it is lunch you can also include a decent serve of carbs via rice, pasta or potato without impacting your weight loss attempts.

You may have also noticed that enjoying a hot meal at lunch is much more satisfying than a comparatively unappealing salad or sandwich that you have been used to grabbing for years if not decades. Good options include stir fry with brown rice, a serve of pasta with tuna and salad or mini frittata muffins and salad. 

Stuffed Potato

Chances are you have never thought about eating a potato for lunch let alone at work but if you consider that a single potato is a perfect portion of carbs; you can cook it in minutes in the microwave and then stuff it with your favourite protein – tuna, salmon, chicken or beans and top it with delicious sides such as avo, cheese, a little sour cream, chili or mayo and serve with salad, a stuffed potato goes down as one of the cheapest and most filling lunches there is.

Contrary to popular believe it is not a humble potato that makes us fat, rather its well-known cousin’s hot chips and buttery potato mash that are linked to weight gain.

A perfect school food day.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Mayver’s.

A perfect school food day.

With just a week or two of school holidays left, the thoughts of parents everywhere turn to what we should be feeding our kids so that they are at their best physically and mentally each day. As many of us know, this can be easier said than done when you are juggling a million different things each day. So in order to make things a little easier for busy parents, here is a fail safe guide on what a perfect school days’ worth of food looks like, with as minimal prep time as possible.

Breakfast

Breakfast can be a tough one, especially as kids get older and it is a struggle to get them out of bed. As a general rule of thumb something is better than nothing at all which means a slice of toast, piece of fruit or smoothie are all reasonable choices.

Ideally a protein rich option will help to keep busy minds and bodies sustained until recess. In food terms this translates into an eggs, a smoothie with Greek yoghurt (check out my favourite recipe below) or wholegrain toast with a protein rich spread such as Mayver’s 100% peanut butter. 

During School

One of the biggest issues with school lunchboxes is that they end up being packed with carbohydrate rich foods – fruit, snack food, white bread and wraps and lacking in the protein rich foods such as meat, fish, dairy and nuts that are nutrient rich choices that will also help to keep kids full throughout the day.

Try this lunchbox formula with your lunches to give your kids a perfect balance of protein, good quality carbs and fibre – one vegetable such as cucumber, carrot or tomatoes; one piece of fruit; a protein rich snack such as cheese and crackers, roasted broad beans or yoghurt along with a sandwich or wrap with some cheese, lean meat or tuna. Older children may also need an extra snack – homemade banana bread, or small packets of popcorn, or wholegrain snack bars can work well here. 

After School

Hungry kids need nutrient rich yet filling options for their afternoon snack or you will find them overeating and then ruining their dinner. Start with a fresh fruit or vegetable followed by a protein rich snack such as a toasted sandwich or wrap; sushi roll with brown rice; smoothie; snack plate with a tub of Goodness to Go Mayver’s Peanut Butter or homemade treats such a peanut butter balls or bites or frozen yoghurt cups.

The afternoon snack is a great time to include some nutrient and protein rich nuts or nut spreads in the afternoon snack when there are no allergies as these are nutrients kids miss out on with so many schools requiring nut free lunch boxes.

Dinner

Keeping the evening meal simple and light is the key to nutrition success for adults and children alike. While we often lean towards pasta and rice based dishes, unless your child is especially active and involved in sports for more than an hour or more each day, a nightly meal of a palm size serve of protein (fish, chicken, eggs, beans or meat) and 2-3 vegetables or salad is all they need. Think cutlets and veges, chicken pieces and salad or mince with a couple of tacos or a handful of pasta to keep dinner balanced yet time efficient and simple for the busiest of families. 

Dessert

The choice of whether to include dessert each night is one for individual families to make but if you do choose to include a small dessert after meals, aim for roughly 100 calorie snacks. Some options include a piece of fruit, a small yoghurt or a child sized ice-cream which clock in at just 60-100 calories per serve.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 small banana

2 tbsp. Mayver’s Peanut Butter

½ cup Greek yoghurt

Handful spinach leaves

A few drops vanilla essence

½ cup ice

Method

1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.