The top Spring foods for weight loss


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Weight loss foods for Spring

Spring has finally arrived and for many of us the warmer weather is a stark reminder of the need to bare flesh very soon. So if you have gained a few kilos over the last few months, here are the key foods to base your diet around to get rid of those kilos ASAP. 

Greek yoghurt

Greek yoghurt not only contains much less sugar than the average serve of store bought yoghurt but it is much higher in protein which helps to keep your blood glucose levels regulated throughout the day. An added benefit will come if you choose a variety of Greek yoghurt which also contains probiotics, the live bacteria that will help to feed the good bacteria in the gut. Enjoy with some oats for breakfast, as a filling snack, as a light dessert option, add to smoothies and protein shakes or even as a dressing option with vegetables for a daily calcium boost. .

Cottage cheese

Often forgotten, humble cottage cheese is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can enjoy, with minimal calories especially on a low calorie weight loss eating regime. With a serve giving more than 16g of protein per ½ cup along with calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B12, adding a serve of cottage cheese into your day is a great way to bump your intake of essential nutrients for very few calories. Add to sandwiches or crackers for a protein rich filling, serve with cereal and fruit for breakfast or even use to help add flavour to salads and vegetables.

Prawns

Prawns are an extremely nutritious type of seafood, packed full of protein, calcium, iodine and zinc with little fat and particularly low in calories. The biggest issue with prawns is what we eat them with. Served grilled or marinated and with salad is fine, but if they are deep fried, or served with creamy sauces and dressings, the fat content will be significantly increased, so try and enjoy these tasty treats in as natural a state as possible to reap all the health benefits without extra calories.

Lemons

Not only are lemons a rich source of Vitamin C, but they are a handy addition to juices and smoothies to help neutralize the earthy taste of green vegetables such as kale and spinach. Lemon juice is also a low calorie salad dressing; it helps to lower the GI of carb based meals and for some it can be a great ritual when teamed with a glass of water to start the day by rehydrating. 

Blueberries

Any berries are fab but blueberries in particular are packed full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, fibre whilst also being relatively low in calories and carbohydrates. Enjoy as a light snack in between meals; as a fibre boost to smoothies and juices or as a sweet treat after dinner with a little Greek yoghurt and seeds or nuts. 

Apples

An apple a day (or two) keeps the calories at bay it seems with research growing to show that the polyphenol content of apple skin plays a role in fat metabolism, and that a fibre rich, low calorie apple is one of the most filling foods out there, especially when enjoyed whole. All fruit is good for us, but apples in particular are one of the best fruits we can choose when it comes to weight control. 

Spinach

One of most versatile leaves, fresh baby spinach leaves make a delicious salad base; can be added to green juices and is delicious stir fried with a little olive oil and nutrient rich garlic and teamed with light fish meals or as a vege base for omelettes. The dark green leaves of spinach gives some insight into its rich nutrient content; spinach leaves are a rich source of Vitamin C, E, K beta carotene and folate and cooking spinach in a little olive oil will help to enhance nutrient absorption. 

White fish

If weight loss is your goal, white fish is your superfood. Exceptionally high in protein, low in fat and calories, any type of white fish ranging from dory, perch, barramundi, sole, flounder and whiting is a superfood when it comes to weight loss. Served grilled, BBQ’d or even fried in a little olive oil, fish is a perfect base to light meals served with plenty of brightly coloured, nutrient rich veges. 

Cucumber

Consisting of more than 96% water, an entire cucumber contains just 60 calories and is good source of fibre and potassium, which helps to rid the body of extra fluid. Simply munching on a cucumber a day and adding it to green juices and smoothies gives you the benefit of one of nature’s most powerful diuretics, especially if you feel bloated and heavy. 

Eggs

Nutritionally eggs are among the most nutrient dense foods available not only offering high biological value protein but also more than 20 other essential nutrients including iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, Vitamin A, folate, the brain boosting nutrient choline. Perhaps the greatest benefit associated with eating eggs, in particular eggs for breakfast is the direct and indirect impact they have been shown to have on weight control. A couple of eggs contains close to 20g of protein, the amount of animal based protein which provides the body with plenty of leucine, the amino acid directly involved in regulating insulin levels in the body. The more tightly we control our insulin levels, the better it is for weight control and appetite regulation.

Green tea

If you are looking for a fat burning boost, adding in a couple of cups of green tea to your day is the way to go. Not only is green tea a rich source of powerful antioxidants that help to prevent cell related damage but there is also some evidence to show that green tea may increase fat metabolism. Any variety is a good choice, matcha even better and a great addition after meals to help neutralise sugar cravings. 

My brand new 2 week Shape Me Spring Kickstart meal plan is designed to get your diet back on track this Spring; to help you drop a few extra kilos the right way and to help you to take control of your nutrition. So if you have been feeling less than your best and know your diet needs some work, this Kickstart is for you! Join and get your meal plan here

Drink more water to reset your diet this Spring.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Zip Water.

Drink more water to reset your diet this Spring

The long cold Winter is over and it is time to get out, get active and get our diet back on track after a number of weeks spent indoors, watching Netflix and indulging in comfort food. Resetting your diet does not have to be labour intensive or difficult, rather it is about reminding ourselves how much better we feel when we are eating well, focusing on our hydration an taking time out each week to preparing healthy nourishing foods for our body. So if your body is in need of a Spring clean out, here are the easy steps to take towards a healthier, lighter Spring!

1. Focus on hydration

If your skin is dry and lifeless it is time for some water therapy – giving the cells the fluid they need each day is imperative for optimising metabolism; controlling appetite; helping the digestive system to operate efficiently and to keep our eyes and skin clear and bright. At a minimum we need 1.5-2L of fluid each day and that is not taking into account the fact we will need more fluid if we are also training regularly. So make sure you take your water bottles everywhere filled with some still or sparking water and sip throughout the day to keep on top of your hydration.

2. Go for bucketloads of fresh produce

Forget 2 & 5 if we really want to take control of our nutrition we need at least 7-10 serves of fresh fruit and vegetables every single day to get the nutrients we need such as fibre for optimal health and well-being. This means fruit or veges at breakfast; salads and vegetables for both lunch and dinner, veg juices, cut up veges as snacks and a sweet hit from fresh fruit. The added benefit of eating this volume of fresh fruit and veg is that you will also increase your overall water intake considerably which will in turn aid in keeping you well-hydrated. 

3. Get your timing right

Shifting our first intake to the first half of the day plus allowing 10-14 hours overnight without food goes a long way in keeping our food intake on track. This means eating an earlier breakfast along with an early dinner, or adopting a fasting regime in which you limit your eating to just 8 hours each day. As soon as you restrict the number of hours each day that you eat, you automatically limit calorie intake without any strict diets or calorie counting. 

4. Plan for 3-4pm

3-4pm is the time that things often go downhill with our diets. A relatively strict day of eating is followed by extreme hunger and cravings late afternoon which inevitably leads to binge eating and sugar cravings if not well managed. Avoid this scenario after an early lunch by planning for a substantial filling snack between 3-4pm. Options that have a good balance of carbs and protein include a Mountain Bread Wrap with cheese, nut spread or lean meat; Wholegrain crackers with cottage or goats cheese and some cucumber or tomato or a meal replacement or protein shake with fruit and seed mix. 

5. Build new habits

When it comes to our health one of the most powerful things we can do is to focus on building positive habits so drinking enough water and eating well become second nature. Simple positive health habits that will help to build your own positive nutrition platform this Spring include starting each day with some boiled filtered water and lemon; packing your healthy lunch the night before; always carrying a bottle of still or sparking water from your Zip Hydrotap and keeping a supply of healthy snacks on hand. When eating and drinking the right thing is the easiest choice, our health improves without us even noticing. 

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here OR read how a Zip HydroTap® changed Susie’s life, here.

Can you eat as much fruit as you like?


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How much fruit is too much?

Mixed messages about sugar in recent years has caused some confusion about where fruit fits as part of a healthy diet. Some diets ban it altogether, while others remind us that naturally occurring sugars such as fructose (found naturally in fruit) and lactose (found naturally in dairy foods) are very different to the added refined sugars found in processed foods. So can you eat as much fruit as you like, and how much is too much?

Fruit, depending on the type provides a wide range of different nutrients including Vitamin C, beta carotene, Vitamin K as well as carbohydrates for energy and dietary fibre. The average piece of fruit contains 80-120 calories which is equivalent to a slice of bread. Some varieties of fruit have slighter higher amounts of sugars than others, but overall the differences are relatively small. For example a large banana may have 5-10g more natural sugar than a small peach or apple but in the diet overall these differences are not significant. 

The same can be said for the glycaemic index of different types of fruit. While some types of fruit including watermelon and bananas have a higher glycaemic index than others, meaning they release their sugar more quickly into the bloodstream than fruit that has a lower GI, the calorie content of all types of fruit is relatively low. This means that all fruit is a good choice, whether it has a high GI or not. 

The two exceptions to this rule are dried fruit and fruit juice. Both of these forms of fruit result in the energy content of the fruit being concentrated. For example, an average box of sultanas contains as much carbohydrate or sugar as two pieces of regular fruit. While juicing fruit, again results in you getting a much more concentrated source of energy, without the fibre and bulk that actually eating the fruit provides. For this reason, fresh fruit is always much better than any processed varieties. 

From a weight control perspective, if you model different diets to determine how much of each food group we need to not only satisfy our nutrient requirements but to avoid taking in too many calories, the average Australian adult needs at most two to three pieces of fruit each day. Naturally this quantity can be increased for extremely active people, but if you consider that up to 60% of Australian adults are overweight, many of us need less food and two to three pieces of fruit is more than enough.

When it comes to choosing better different types of fruit, generally speaking all types of fresh fruit are good choices. Eat the types you enjoy and perhaps target different types of fruit for different reasons as part of your overall healthy diet. For example choosing a banana when you need an energy boost, and a daily serve of berries for an antioxidant hit. Fruit is one of nature’s superfoods, and two to three pieces each day forms part of a balanced, healthy diet so you can feel free to enjoy its natural sweetness minus the food guilt. 

Fruit | Total cal | Total carbohydrate (g) 

Banana | 100 | 20

Mango | 120 | 25

2 peaches | 100 | 18

Cup of grapes | 115 | 25

1 cup strawberries | 35 | 5

Box of sultanas | 75 | 17

6 dried apricots | 100 | 19

250mls fruit juice | 120 | 19

The most common dietary mistakes to avoid this Spring


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How to keep your weight loss on track this Spring

When you see clients for weight loss on a regular basis there are a number of common dietary habits and patterns that arise time and time again. Here are the most common dietary mistakes many of us make on a daily basis, and mistakes that are preventing us from reaching the weight and health related goals we have set for ourselves. 

Overdoing the coffee

It does not matter if it is a flat white, latte or cappuccino, any coffee that contains a significant amount of milk, is also likely to contain a significant number of kilojoules, especially if it is ordered in a large or Grande size. There are several issues with large, milk based coffee. First of all humans do not tend to compensate for liquid calories, which means we do not eat less simply because we have drunk an extra liquid kilojoules. Coffee can also mean that we have a few small breakfasts, especially when we begin the day with a coffee, add to that some extra toast or cereal and then have another coffee on arrival at work an hour or two later. And then for some of us, breakfast has become coffee which can interfere with our natural hunger and fullness signals through the morning. 

Solution – if you enjoy a coffee, enjoy a small sized serve with your breakfast and then wait at least 2-3 hours before you eat again. You can enjoy black tea or coffee without worry.

Eating too much, too late

A typical dietary pattern sees busy people grabbing a quick breakfast or coffee on the run, followed by a light, late lunch and then a series of afternoon snacks and relatively heavy dinner. Unfortunately this eating pattern is linked to weight gain simply as we tend to move much less during the second half of the day and are also less likely to wake up hungry for a good breakfast the next day. For many of us a shift to this schedule is unlikely to happen anytime soon which means some subtle shifts to our food intake patterns will help to reverse the daily cycle of higher calorie eating towards the second half of the day.

Solution – commit to making both breakfast and a good lunch a priority and if dinner will be enjoyed after 8pm each night, keep your portions small and choose lighter options such as salad, grilled fish and vegetables. For some, enjoying a heavier meal at lunchtime is great solution.  

Mindless munching

You know what I am talking about here – picking at the kids leftovers; the slice of cake a colleague offers you at work or the few handful of nuts you munch on throughout the day. Eating you may not necessarily remember doing but the high kilojoule extras that seem to slip in most days. Mindless munching is a habit that tends to gradually creep up on us over time, is often situation dependent and a habit many of us are in complete denial about. If you wonder why you are not losing weight despite eating relatively well simply keep a track of every morsel you put into your mouth over a 24 hour period. You may be surprised how many extras slip in. 

Solution – aim to eat just 4-5 times each day with 2-3 hours in between meals and only water, herbal or black tea or coffee in between. 

Adopting an ‘all or nothing’ diet mindset

Chances are at some point you have started an incredibly strict diet one Monday only to run out of steam by Wednesday afternoon as the hunger pangs and feelings of restriction got the better of you. As soon as any diet feels restrictive, whether it is or not, the brain will respond by focusing on what you are psychologically missing out on. If you are overly restrictive with calories, hunger and cravings will make it very difficult to maintain the restriction for a prolonged period of time. These are just some of the reasons strict diets do not work.

Solution – make positive dietary changes gradually, one at a time. For example, one week focus on eating more vegetables. The next on reducing portions. Here the focus is not on what you can’t do, rather what you can to get results.

Not checking labels

Just because a particular product looks healthy, does not mean that it is and an abundance of food labels telling us about the benefits of packaged foods rather than the cons means we often get sucked into buying foods that are not particularly healthy. 

Solution – a quick scan of an ingredient list will tell you much of what you need to know what processed and packaged foods. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed a food is and as soon as you see extra fats, sugars and additives it is a sign to leave the product on the shelf.

5 reasons I love bananas for myself and for my clients!


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

As the world’s most popular fruit, there are plenty of things to love about bananas, especially in relation to the key nutritional benefits that they offer. So if you need one more reason to love bananas, here are the five reasons I love them so much, for myself and my clients!

1. Bananas are a natural energy food

Forget special bars, gels, drinks and supplements, when you are fit and active and need an energy boost to help you power on through your day or fuel your workout, a banana has all the natural fuel you need. With 25-30g of carbs in a single serve, bananas are the most convenient energy food you can grab when you are on the run.

2. They are ready to go

No need for knives, cutting, chopping or finding a container they fit into, bananas come with their own packaging which mean they can be taken anywhere at any time making them the most convenient snack of choice.  And just as important, bananas are available all year round so you always have easy access to them at affordable prices.

3. They are the best healthy baking ingredient

Whenever there is the desire to make healthy snack foods at home, one of the biggest issues is what to use in place of added sugar when baking bars, bites and fruit breads. When you keep a couple of frozen bananas in the freezer you can add to baked goods to give the sweetness fruit breads, muffins and bites need minus the added sugars found in many bars and bites. 

4. Frozen banana is like ice-cream

Of course bananas are yummy fresh, but you never have to throw bananas out because even soft bananas can be put in the freezer and then used in baking (see Number 3) but if you want to freeze your fresh banana you will find that eating it is literally like eating ice-cream, minus the fat and calories. Blended into a smoothie, added to smoothie bowls or yoghurt or blended whole will literally give you 100% banana ice-cream which the whole family will love.

5. They can help to heal your gut

We hear a lot about foods that are good for our gut, including prebiotics but before you rush out and spend a fortune on kombucha did you know that un-ripened green bananas are one of the richest natural sources of resistant starch, which is a super nutrient for our gut. So if your tummy is giving you troubles, add a little unripe banana into your yoghurt or smoothie for a natural dose of prebiotics. 

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

Is sushi really healthy?


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Is sushi really healthy?

One of the most common lunches my clients enjoy is sushi – now the description of ‘sushi’ can mean anything from a few California rolls to a full sashimi plate or even a Bento box. Just as all these foods are different so too is their nutritional profiles and while some types of sushi can be exceptionally healthy, others are simply a mix of rice, soy sauce and fried fillings. So if sushi is your go to lunch, here are the best options, and a run down on how often you can enjoy your favourite sushi without fear of taking in too much mercury.

Mercury is a heavy metal that can be found in small amounts in some types of fish, namely larger fish that have spent some time eating small varieties of fish such as swordfish, tuna and sea bass. As mercury is unable to be removed from the body, ingesting too much over time can cause mercury poisoning which can lead to headaches, development delays and long term brain damage and organ failure. It is for this reason that if sashimi is your number one choice of sushi you do need to be mindful of how often you are consuming it. For this reason it is suggested that sashimi not be consumed more than a couple of times each week. 

When it comes to California rolls which are generally made with sushi rice, fillings ranging from avocado, to fish to fried chicken and some seaweed. As the rice used to make sushi often contains added sugars to help it stick, the combination of rice and high fat fillings such as avocado, fried meat and mayonnaise can mean that a single hand roll can contain as much as 170 calories and as much carbohydrate as 2 slices of bread. Or a small lunch pack of 6 rolls, up to 300 calories and 50g of carbohydrates. For this reason, sticking to a small number of rolls, and brown rice options will help to improve the nutritional profile of the average sushi roll. 

On the other hand, when it comes to other popular Japanese foods including Edamame, miso and fermented veges, you cannot go wrong. Specifically edamame is one of the best options on a Japanese menu, edamame is a protein and fibre rich option which adds much bulk to your favourite Japanese meal, minus the calories. With just 60 calories per pot of beans, adding a serve to your meal will significantly improve its nutritional profile. Seaweed salad is another nutrient rich addition, seaweed is a superfood in the world of nutrition as it added much needed iodine into our diet which is crucial to help our thyroid function optimally. It also contains next to no calories with a ½ cup serve adding just 20 calories to your meal. And miso soup, a Japanese staple is especially rich in nutrients, offering a range of vitamins and minerals as well as probiotics known to be particularly important for gut health. While miso is relatively high in sodium, containing up to 1000mg per serve, it is also low in calories with less than 100 calories per serve, and the health benefits associated with consuming it as part of a balanced Japanese meal outweigh any of the negatives. 

While we do need to be aware of the volume of sushi and sashimi we are eating, we also need to be aware of the less than healthy options too. Tempura for example, the Americanised version of Japanese, is relatively high in fat compared to traditional Japanese cuisine. In the case of a California roll, the addition of tempura will almost double the calories, while a single serve of tempura prawns and vegetables will contain at least 20g of fat, most likely coming via a blended vegetable oil. Noodle dishes too can be a calorie bomb in disguise. For example, a small cup sized serve of noodles will contain at least the same amount of carbohydrates as two slices of bread and in many cases they will be cooked using extra oil so go easy on your portions. 

Menu Item | kJ | Carbs (g) | Fat (g)

Tuna Sushi Roll | 240 | 7 |  1.5          

California Roll | 170 | 7 | <1

Miso Soup | 150 | 5 | 1

Sushi Pack (12) | 1100 | 45 | 3

Teriyaki Chicken | 1100 | 7 | 9

Edamame Beans | 670 | 12 | 7

Sushi Hand Roll | 490 | 18 | 2

Udon Noodles & Beef  | 2340 | 20 | <1

Sashimi Piece | 500 | 1 | <1

5 easy ways to stick to your diet


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The easy ways to stick to your diet

While many of us may have the goal of weight loss, far fewer of us are successful when it comes to losing a few kilos and keeping them off. The reasons for this are varied and complex – often life gets in the way; we are stressed, bored and tired and some of us simply do not like being told what to do and tend to rebel at the mere thought of restricting our food intake. 

So if you are constantly trying to diet without success, here are some easy steps to take to try and increase your chances of success.

1. Choose the diet that is right for you

You may like to fast each week; or buy calorie controlled meals or Paleo might be your thing but the key to achieving success with any diet is simply sticking to it. This means the more you like your diet and they easier you find sticking to it, the more likely you are to get results. 

2. Give yourself time

All of us want instant results but even the strictest diet is likely to only see a 2-3kg weight loss over the course of a week and that is if you have plenty of kilos to lose. This means that you need to allow at least 1 month to lose 5kg. Committing this time will in turn allow you to lose weight slowly and sustainably. 

3. Factor in meals off

Life will inevitably see you engage in social occasions in which high calorie foods and alcohol are served. This means that dietary success needs to allow for a couple of eating occasions each week in which you do not have to be strict. 

4. Do it with someone

Support during the diet process is crucial which means if you are committing to a new regime with someone else – a friend, partner, sibling you will be much more likely to stay on track.

5. Get rid of the food

Often we buy tempting foods and keep them in the house and expect not to eat it. Human beings will eat whatever food is readily available to them which means keeping your environment free from tempting foods is a crucial part of success.

How to be healthier at work


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Zip Water.

How to be healthier at work

With many of us spending at least 10 hours at work each day, and with much of that spent sitting, is it any wonder that many of us are feeling a little tired, lethargic and run down? So if you are feeling less than your best and know your workday health routines could do with a little Spring clean, here are some easy ways to be healthier while you are at work. 

1. Have set meal and snack times

Mindless munching brings many of us undone when it comes to excessive calorie consumption, especially when we get into bad habits of eating in front of the computer. Keep your food intake limited to set meal and snack times which will not only help to control your total calorie intake but also ensure you take breaks from the screen every 2-3 hours.

2. Prioritise your hydration

Considering that at least 70% of us are chronically dehydrated at any one time is it any wonder many of us are feeling mentally fatigued while we are at work? If you do not have a water bottle within easy reach, it is highly likely you are not drinking enough. While we can count the fluid we get from cups of tea, in reality this means we still need at least a litre of extra water each day to keep moderately hydrated. So get into the habit of always keeping cold water close by and aim to get through at least 1200mls during the working day – which looks like two full servings of your reusable water bottle – one through the morning and one throughout the afternoon. 

3. Take your food to work with you

The foods we routinely purchase from a food court contain double the calories of the meal we prepare at home. For this reason not only is taking a sandwich, salad or leftovers for lunch smart from a calorie perspective but it will also save you plenty of cash a week. 

4. Take your lunch break

It could be argued that as part of a long working day, lunch is actually the most important meal of the day. Failing to take your lunch break is likely to leave you craving carbs and sugars come 4pm, and the wrong choice at the food court will leave you with a lunch choice that contains double the calories you need. The simple act of prioritizing a 400-500 calorie lunch that includes lean proteins and vegetables by 1pm each day is one of the key things you can do to keep your nutrition on track. Good options include a large salad with some wholegrain crackers; leftovers or a plain stir fry with vegetables. Most importantly including 500-600ml of still or sparking water with your lunch will keep your hydration on track. 

5. Make your workplace healthier

Healthy workplaces have healthier employees. This means putting the biscuit tin and fundraising chocolates away. Having the option of stand up desks to increase the amount of activity in the office and having a clean kitchen and fridge with healthy appliances such as a Zip HydroTap to encourage water consumption throughout the day. It is well documented in the literature that we become like the people we spend our time when it comes to our weight and our health. This means if you are in a healthy office environment it is going to be much easier to control your weight compared to an unhealthy environment of little activity and overeating. 

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here OR read how a Zip HydroTap® changed Susie’s life, here.

What are macros and what do I need to know about them?


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What are macros and what do I need to know about them?

In dieting circles, the word ‘macros’ comes up reasonably frequently. So what on earth are macros and what do you need to know about them?

The word macronutrients refers to the 4 energy giving nutrients, carbs, proteins, fats and alcohol – each of these macronutrients combine to give us the profile of our overall calorie intake. Most foods are a mixture of macros, for example bread contains most carbs but also a small amount of protein and fat, which is why all of these are listed on the nutritional panel. Other foods may contain just one nutrient, for example fruit which only contains carbohydrate. Each of these nutrients contains a different amount of calories per gram. Carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram, protein also 4 calories per gram while alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and fat 9 calories per gram. 

The different proportion of macros in your diet determines your overall macronutrient profile. A typical diet that contains a few serves of breads, cereals and fruit will contain 50-60% carbohydrates while a low carb or ketogenic diet can contain as little as 10% carbohydrates as protein and fat rich foods take up most of the diet. The different proportions of macronutrients will also largely determine if you are likely to burn extra body fat. Diets that are relatively high in carbohydrates or 50-60% of overall intake are unlikely to see fat stores being burnt unless coupled with a number of hours of physical activity each day. On the other hand, a moderate carbohydrate diet or 30-40% of total energy coming from carbohydrates will generally see a 1-2kg loss of fat each month. On the other hand extremely low carb diets where 10-20% of calories are coming from fat are likely to induce ketosis, in which fat stores are preferentially burnt. While these diets are an effective way to drop kilos quickly they can be difficult to sustain. 

So if you are unsure of your macros, all you need to do is to enter a day or two worth of food into a calorie monitoring package such as ‘myfitnesspal’. Often we are consuming far more carbohydrate then we realise and this is the reason we are not getting the weight loss results we are expecting.

The most common foods we overeat


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The foods we overeat

Over many years of talking to clients and discussing their daily food habits it becomes apparent that there are is a small group of foods that many of us overeat regularly. While we may enjoy pizza or hot chips or a pasta meal occasionally these are not the foods we overeat on a daily basis. Rather it is the chocolate, cheese, biscuits and cake that tend to dominate the diet histories of those wanting to shift a few kilos, even though their diets are relatively healthy. So if you fall victim to these foods too often as well, here is how to take control.

Cheese

Cheese is a tough one simply because there are so many different types and ways we can consume it on a daily basis. Cheese is a nutritious food – it contains protein, calcium and magnesium and while it does contain some fat a serve or two of cheese each day, or 30g (size of a matchbox) is no issue. On the other hand if you down 1/2 a block of Mersey Valley with a few wines before dinner, add feta to your salad and snack on cheese throughout the day you may be overdoing it. In general white cheese including cottage cheese, goats cheese and feta are lower in fat than cheddar cheese while haloumi, Brie and Camembert are high in fat. If you aim for 1-2 cheese serves each day, cut your portions in advance so you don’t eat an entire block and use grated or shaved where possible you will keep your portions under control. And perhaps leave the Brie and haloumi for occasional treats.

Chocolate

The high fat and high sugar vice of many, it is the portions of chocolate we consume regularly that get us into trouble when it comes to our weight. A 20-30g serve of chocolate equates to an extra 100-120 calories and is a reasonable portion if you enjoy chocolate regularly. Dark chocolate is slightly better but it is still relatively high in fat and calories. The biggest issue with chocolate is that we tend to buy it in blocks, which means we also tend to eat blocks so if you do like to treat yourself, the smaller the portions you buy the better. And watch the little extras like the fundraising chocolates or a few individual Favourites that can slip into our day, especially if you work in an office environment.

Biscuits

Plain sweet biscuits are made with white flour, sugar and vegetable oil and offer few if no positive nutritional properties. The issue with regular biscuit consumption, especially if they are served at work is that we consume them mindlessly and before you know it you are eating 3-4 plain biscuits a day and adding a couple of hundred extra calories into your day. The best advice for regular biscuit munchers is to go cold turkey and instead enjoy a good quality homemade biscuit occasionally because once you start with the biscuit tin it is hard to stop. If you must indulge, keep in mind that biscotti is a better choice if you can find it at the local cafe.

Cake

Your daily cake may mean banana bread, muffins or the treats others offer you are work but with the average serve of cake containing close to 300 calories and 10g of fat, cake really is a special occasion food. You know deep down that banana bread and muffins are also just cake which means once you ditch your weekly banana bread habit you will rid your diet of a significant amount of fat and calories. A much better sweet option is a macaroon or friand, both much lower in fat and calories or if you must have a muffin or banana bread occasionally, at least try and share with a friend. And when it comes to the weekly work birthday cake, aim to taste not eat the treat to again keep in control of your overall calorie intake.

A guide to healthy school lunch boxes


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A guide to healthy school lunch boxes

As a busy parent you can be forgiven for running short of ideas of what to pack each day to give your kids a healthy yet appealing lunchbox. Ideally, a healthy lunchbox will be a mix of nutritious fibre and protein rich foods so young growing bodies get all the energy they need for the busy school day, as well as child friendly options that you will not find at the bottom of their school bag. So if you are in need of some lunchbox inspiration here is an easy guide  that will help you achieve lunchbox success with foods they will look forward to eating!

1. Wholegrain sandwich or wrap 

Where possible, choose grain or brown bread or you may find that wraps are a preferred option as they are easier to eat and less likely to go soggy. Always try and add a protein rich filling to your child’s sandwich – egg, lean meat or cheese are some good options. Protein rich fillings offer a number of important nutrients including iron, zinc and Vitamin B12. Light salads such as lettuce can also be added, or alternatively try packing some carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes in small containers to be munched on throughout the day. If you are worried about the freshness, pack an ice block or make the sandwiches fresh the night before. 

2. Fruit & at least one vegetable

Fresh fruit is always preferable to dried, fruit sticks or juice, as it contains fewer kilojoules, more fibre and teaches children the importance of eating fresh food. While fruit does contain natural sugars, the overall lunchbox balance will ensure that this amount is kept controlled. Good options include; bananas since they have their own natural packaging, small apples, pears or mandarins, or some berries in a small container. Adding a vegetable in addition to a piece of fruit helps to get children used to eating lower sugar, nutrient rich vegetables so always add some cut up carrot, cucumber, baby tomatoes, snow peas or red capsicum to your child’s lunch, whether they eat it or not. 

3. Protein snack

Protein is the nutrient that tends to be missed in school lunchboxes and is often replaced with extra fruit, juice or more snacks. Protein rich foods including milk and cheese offer calcium and a number of other key nutrients including magnesium and phosphorous, which all growing children need daily. Great protein rich lunchbox fillers include cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, milk protein based snack bars, and milk poppers! These options are popular with children and are also low GI, which helps to keep kids fuller for longer. Cheese in particular is a great lunchbox snack for kids as consuming it after eating carbohydrate rich foods, such as bread and fruit, will help to prevent tooth decay by helping to neutralize the acid in the mouth that can come from juice drinks and refined sugars. 

4. Nutritious Snack

Busy, growing bodies do need energy, but they need good quality energy, and many processed snack and muesli bars available do not contain a lot of nutrition for many kilojoules. While children do not necessarily need packaged snack foods, not providing them may see kids swapping their lunchbox contents for other, more appealing options! Aim to provide just one packaged muesli or snack bar in your child’s lunchbox each day and try and choose options that have < 400kJ (100 calories). An even better option (if you can find time) is to bake a batch of healthy banana muffins or banana bread each weekend so you have a yummy, healthy, homemade lunchbox filler for the week ahead. 

5. Fluid

Water should always be the drink of choice for children. Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks, and cordials are high in sugar and are not appropriate everyday drinks for children. 

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 1.26.51 pmBanana Bread

Ingredients 

2 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 cup low fat milk

2 eggs

1 tablespoon light olive oil

2 bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence

Method 

1. Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar in a bowl with mashed banana, vanilla essence, eggs, milk and oil.

2. Spoon mixture into loaf tin 

3. Bake at 180°C for ~50-60 minutes, or until cooked through

Oaty Carrot & Banana Muffins

Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups oats

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour

1/2 cup raw sugar

1 cup carrot, grated

1/2 cup zucchini, grated

1 egg, beaten

2 bananas, mashed

1/3 cup olive oil or butter

1 cup milk

Method 

1. Mix muesli, flour, sugar, carrot, and zucchini into a bowl

2. Combine egg, oil and milk and add to dry ingredients

3. Spoon mixture into muffin tins

4. Bake at 190°C for 20 minutes, or until cooked through

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

Have you tried Halo Top?


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This is a sponsored post.

Have you tried Halo Top, the new ice-cream on the market?

Who doesn’t love a sweet treat after dinner? Ice-cream would be close if not the winner when it comes to our choice of favourite after dinner treats, and let’s be honest, we have all demolished a lot more of the 1L tub than we had planned to at some point. Unfortunately a tub of our favourite ice-cream is likely to set us back more than 1000 calories, 70g of fat and 80g or 16 plus teaspoons of sugar which makes our after dinner treat look a whole lot more like an after dinner binge. So when Halo Top came to Australia more than 2 years ago, so many of our ice-cream issues were solved. Not only did we have a great tasting dessert treat that clocked in at 360 calories or less for an entire tub, but it came in great tasting flavours like Birthday Cake………..life is pretty good when this happens hey?

Now generally speaking ice-cream is made from cream and sugar, which makes it relatively high in both fat and sugar which is why that tub of Cookies and Cream tastes so amazing, and why you can eat an entire tub in one sitting – it is the combination of fat and sugars that stimulate a number of brain centres which in turn encourages us to eat more and more. Unfortunately for our waistline this is not such a good thing. When we take a closer look at Halo Top on the other hand, the unique recipe that combines organic stevia with egg white, prebiotic fibres and skim milk result in a great tasting dairy based dessert with a ¼ of the calories, fat and sugars. Is it any wonder that Halo Top is the number one dessert brand in the US and fast on its way to making this kind of mark in Australia?

DAIRY-FREE+CARAMAEL+MACCHIATOAnd for those dairy sensitive among us, the new Halo Top Dairy free range including caramel macchiato, sea salt caramel and peanut butter cup mean that a great tasting dessert can suit those following a plant based lifestyle or those who struggle with dairy. And if you needed further convincing, here is how Halo Top stacks up compared to other popular ice-cream varieties in Australia.

Halo Top Chocolate | Sara Lee  Chocolate | Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy

Per 100g | Per 100g | Per 100g

125cal (523kJ) | 233cal (937kJ) | 254cal (1062cal)

8g protein | 3.8g protein | 4.3g protein

4g fat | 14.4g fat | 14g fat

9g sugars | 21.2g sugars | 23.7g sugars

Susie has officially partnered with Halo Top to help share the Halo Top message

What we can learn from the Italians


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What we can learn from the Italians

A week spent in Italy recently was a stark reminder of how much we can still learn from the Italian when it comes to food and nutrition. No, I am not talking about the amazing pasta, gelato and pizza which we already do pretty well but rather the way they enjoy their food and the way food fits into their everyday lives. Here were my key take home messages. 

1. Time to eat and time not too

Forget the potato chips, chocolate bars and cakes and muffins paraded at every café, corner store and coffee shop. Italians focus on their main meals. They sit down to eat them and they are proper meals, rather than quick snacks of wraps and sushi on the run. When you sit down and enjoy real meals at the table you naturally have a more nutritious diet. 

2. Coffee is simple

Forget a double shot almond milk caramel Latte, coffee is consumed in small cups, at the café (not slurped walking to work) and it is basic – espresso, cappuccino and even their Lattes have a lot less milk. The less milk we consume, the less of the natural sugar lactose we consume which adds up for many of us when we down a couple of large milky lattes each day. 

3. Forget the snacks

Unlike us who take every single opportunity to eat each day, snacking in Italy plays a much smaller role. There is less snack food available in generally, no banana bread or muffins in sight and the snack food aisle in supermarkets is half the size of ours. Overall this means less eating in generally and a much bigger focus on the main meals. 

4. Shop daily

In a number of the cities we visited we actually struggled to find a supermarket. Forget a block size shop filled with processed foods, rather most towns had small stores for life’s necessities and rather the market stalls played a much bigger role when it came to buying the daily bread, fish and fruits and vegetables needed for that night’s meal. The smaller the shops, the less we buy and the less we eat. It is very simple. 

5. Portion control

We may serve ourselves massive plates of pasta and risotto but traditional serves in Italy are small. A thin pizza with a couple of toppings or an entrée sized pasta is all that is serves so while they do eat their carbs, they do it in the right quantities.

How to enjoy your Winter comfort foods


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It is the time of year when food thoughts turn to pies, pastry, pasta and puddings – warm, tempting treats that we give ourselves permission to eat simple because it is Winter. Unfortunately the kilo creep that tends to accompany these high calorie, high fat foods is not all that appealing so here are some ways to enjoy your favourite Winter comfort foods minus the fat and calories. 

Hearty pies

The biggest issue nutritionally with pies and pasties is the massive wad of pastry that accompanies them which can add 20-30g of fat to any meal. A much healthier alternative that still offers plenty of bulk and taste is to switch to making pies with filo pastry which contains just 5-10g of fat per 5-10 sheets compared to puff pastry which can contain three times this amount. Or, simply mashing your favourite vegetables including pumpkin, potato, zucchini and sweet potato and adding a little cheese creates a tasty, filling, fibre rich vegetable topping for any pie or baked mince dish.

Pasta

We all know there are few things as tasty as a fresh bowl of pasta with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan but for those keen to keep their carb intake controlled pasta can be taboo on many a Paleo or low carb diet. Like any one food, enjoying an entrée sized bowl of good quality pasta every so often is no issue but many people who have swapped their traditional pasta for a spiralizer to make zucchini pasta have not looked back. With next to no calories, and full of nutrients and fibre, zucchini pasta can be freely enjoyed with your favourite pasta sauce.

Burgers minus the bread

It may surprise you to hear that a burger can actually be a relatively good option when dining out, or when preparing a tasty treat style meal at home. The trick is to choose lean beef or chicken breast as your burger base along with plenty of salad. Ditch the extras such as cheese, mayo, bacon and egg and if you can, say no to the chips. If you are super keen you can also opt for a low carb burger, using a mushroom or lettuce leaves as your bun for a tasty, filling meal with significantly fewer carbs. 

Spicy curries

The biggest issue nutritionally with a curry is a large load of both fat from coconut cream and heavy carbs thanks to the rice and potato base many popular curries are served with. The good news is that it is relatively easy to lighten the calorie load of your curry by choosing vegetarian options; ditching the rice in favour of extra vegetables and if you are making curry at home, use a light evaporated milk with a little coconut essence as a lower fat alternative to coconut milk and cream. 

Sunday roasts

When it comes to enjoying a hearty Winter roast; the more vegetables you can add the better. With a roast the extra fat and calories generally come from fatty serves of meat and the gravy so if preparing your roast at home, choose the leaner cuts of meat; load up with plenty of the lighter, nutrient rich vegetables including pumpkin, carrots and greens and ask for your gravy to be served on the side so you can control your portions. 

Mexican

Whilst nachos, burritos and quesadillas can be packed with fat and calories from rice, flat bread, corn chips and cheese the humble taco can be a relatively good choice. With a single taco shell containing just 6g of carbs and 2g of fat, a couple of tacos filled with lean meat and plenty of salad can be a great choice nutritionally. Just watch the portion sizes of avocado, cheese and sour cream which can bump up the fat content of your Mexican significantly.  

Desserts

Winter is synonymous with puddings, pastries and pies seeing us eat desserts and treats we never usually would. The key thing to remember is that a single cream or pastry based dessert will contain more calories than a meal so sharing or tasting is always the key. Baked fruit, small individual puddings with just a spoon or two per serving or a hot drink made with a little milk and cacao can be just as satisfying, with significantly fewer calories. Another option is to limit the number of times you indulge in dessert to just once every week or two, this way you can enjoying whichever dessert you like and the occasional nature in which you are having it means that you do not need to be overly worried about fat or calories. 

How much plastic are you drinking?


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Zip Water.

How much plastic are you drinking?

Do you have a re-usable water bottle that you carry with you everywhere you go? Or do you often find yourself resorting to buying bottled water when you are out and about to help keep you hydrated throughout the day? You are not alone, in fact Australians buy more than 118,000 tones of plastic drink bottles a year. Alarming new research suggests that there is much more to worry about than just the environmental impact of human beings using so many plastic bottles considering that we actually ingest at least some of the plastic we are drinking from. 

A recent study undertaken by The University of New York in collaboration with Orb Media, US-based non-profit organization has recently identified that there is widespread micro plastics contamination in more than 90% of bottled water. This means that we end up actually drinking plastic. These alarming results has already seen the World Health Organisation announce a review into the potential risks associated with drinking water bottled in plastic. 

The study analysed 259 bottled water samples from nine countries across 11 different water brands. An average of 10.4 micro plastic particles about the width of a human hair per litre was found in bottled water, almost twice the level of contamination discovered in a previous study of plastic in tap water. Red dyes were used to identify trace particles of plastics in the bottled waters and the plastic particles found included nylon, polythene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene, used to make bottle caps.

One of the reasons why WHO have acted so quickly in response to these findings is that the science relating to the ingestion of micro plastics is only in its early stages, meaning we really do not know a lot about the health consequences of ingesting micro plastics and as such more research is urgently required. 

For frequent bottled water consumers, these findings are a major cause for concern. Frequently ingesting plastic is likely to be identified as a significant health issue and these new findings are another strong reminder for many of us of the need to minimise our use of bottled water wherever we can. And the solution is simple. Use reusable water bottles – at the gym; at work and at home, if not for the environment, for you and your family’s health. We now know that tap water has much lower levels of micro plastics than bottled water, and better yet the best type of tap water is filtered tap water. The coveted Zip HydroTap for example, has advanced filtration with their very own Micropurity system which combines activated carbon and a 0.2 micron sediment removal system. This not only removes taste, odour and dirt – it also removes contaminants and heavy metals such as lead. In addition to this, it removes up to 97% of chlorine and 99.9% of microbiological cysts (if present in the water). The HydroTap is one of the most simple, yet powerful investments you can make for your family’s health. 

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here OR read how a Zip HydroTap® changed Susie’s life, here.

Why am I not losing body fat?


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Why am I not losing body fat?

For any regular exerciser, the balance of exercise and diet required to support weight loss is generally well understood – eat fewer carbs and calories, get enough movement and cardio and add in some weights to change body composition and increase metabolic rate. An interesting scenario arises when it seems that no matter how many workouts you do, nor how few carbs or calories you consume, nothing seems to budge. And we are not talking about a couple of kilos here. We are talking about 10 or more kilos which could clearly be lost but which do not seem to budge. Whenever I see a client who is carrying 10-20 extra kilos, despite eating relatively well and exercising regularly, I question whether their insulin levels may be out of whack. Insulin is the hormone that controls both glucose and fat metabolism in the body, and high levels of insulin over time can make weight loss very difficult. 

Insulin resistance (IR) is a clinical condition in which insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels in the body is no longer working as efficiently as it should. Over time, numerous factors including a diet high in processed carbohydrates, a relatively inactive lifestyle and often genetics insulin becomes less and less efficient at processing the glucose we consume in carbohydrate based foods such as bread, cereals, fruit and sugars. When insulin is not working properly, the body is forced to produce more and more insulin to process the same amount of glucose that we consume in food to fuel the muscles and the brain. The unfortunate thing when it comes to weight control is that the higher the amount of insulin that you have circulating in the body, the harder it becomes to burn body fat. This means that if you have insulin resistance, you can be eating an extremely healthy diet, exercising as recommended and actually physically unable to lose weight. In fact, as insulin is the central regulator of both glucose and fat metabolism in the body, when it is not working, the basic energy balance equation when it comes to weight loss, calories in versus calories out simply does not hold true.

The body may show signs of insulin resistance in a number of ways. As resistance builds up over many months if not years, these signs and symptoms can be subtle before become more noticeable over time. Fatigue is common as glucose is not being taken to the cells as efficiently as it should be. Sugar cravings are too common, as insulin and glucose levels fluctuate widely during the day. Perhaps the most powerful sign that a degree of insulin resistance may be present is in the way that fat is deposited on the body. Insulin likes to deposit fat around the abdominal area, which is why women (and men) with severe insulin resistance have a large belly, and the reason that a waist measurement greater than 80cm for a female too may be a sign that insulin resistance is present. 

What about the diet?

From a lifestyle perspective, the irony of insulin resistance is that the standard low fat, high carbohydrate diet filled with wholegrains, fruit and low fat snacks may actually exacerbate insulin resistance and may even act to prevent weight loss. While a high carb diet is ‘healthy’, highly processed carbohydrate rich foods result in a relatively high release of insulin. The more insulin we have circulating at any one time, the less likely it is we will burn body fat. For this reason, those with insulin resistance require a high protein, moderate carbohydrate diet which eliminates as much processed carbohydrate from the diet as possible. This does not mean eliminating all carbs, rather working to combine both small amounts of carbohydrates with protein rich foods such as eggs, fish, meat, dairy or nuts at each meal and snack. This ensures that the body has small amounts of carbohydrate at any one time, which in turn helps to regulate the release of insulin, while the proteins help to, keep you full and provide essential nutrients including the good fats, calcium and iron. 

And exercise?

Getting the right mix of movement and high intensity training is a crucial component of managing IR long term, as the right types of exercise can actually teach the muscle to burn carbohydrates efficiently again. Ideally a mix of plenty of movement via 10 000 or more steps a day, coupled with 4-5, 30-40 minute high intensity cardio training sessions such as running, aerobics classes or even Zumba are ideal. While weights training is often prescribed, as insulin resistant individuals tend to have plenty of muscle mass (up to 25% more than a non-insulin resistant person), focusing on cardio training and plenty of movement at least initially is a better option that embarking on heavy weights training, as while insulin levels are high, the body will remain in store and build mode, often working to prevent weight loss. This is often seen when individuals who are insulin resistance start with a weights program and lose body size but not weight on the scales. 

What to do if you think you may have IR

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of insulin resistance and find that you are constantly struggling with your weight, the best thing you can do is visit your GP or endocrinologist and have a glucose tolerance test to identify if IR is present. IR is a clinical condition and does need to be managed accordingly, with good dietary and exercise advice and often medication. Once though you do have IR under control not only are your likely to prevent getting diabetes, but you are also likely to be able to get your weight under control, and nothing is more empowering than that. 

Signs you may have IR:

Family history of Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes

Distinct abdominal obesity

Inability to lose weight

Bloating

Fatigue

Sugar cravings

When you have insulin resistance things are changed dramatically with insulin resistance requiring a specific macro nutrient balance to successfully achieve fat loss. Shape Me has developed this 14 day Kickstart to help those dealing with insulin resistance.

The best breakfast for weight loss


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What is the best breakfast for weight loss?

The benefits of eating breakfast are well documented – improved concentration, fewer cravings and fewer calories consumed for the remainder of the day. Which is the best breakfast options has not been so clear. For some time we have known that a protein rich breakfast helps to keep us full and now work published by Tel Aviv University has shed further light on what is the best breakfast mix for weight loss.

Researchers compared 3 different breakfast options – a high protein breakfast in which the protein was predominately from dairy foods; a second high protein option with protein via soy, tuna or eggs and a traditional carb breakfast option. Over the 12 week study period which also included a larger breakfast and lunch followed by a smaller calorie controlled dinner, dieters who consumed a dairy based breakfast lost 7.6kg compared to 6.1kg for dieters in the other proteins group and just 3.1kg for dieters in the high carb group. This basically means that dieters who enjoyed a whey based protein shake have shown superior weight loss results compared to traditional high carb breakfast options.

This study supports previous research results which have found that a protein rich, egg based breakfast, which is particularly high in the amino acid leucine, was of particular benefit for weight loss as leucine helps to regulate insulin levels. Tightly controlled insulin levels are linked to weight control long term. In this study, whey protein specifically found in dairy rich breakfast options including Greek yoghurt, milk and concentrated in protein powder appeared to offer the added benefit of helping to suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin. The group eating a breakfast with whey protein had fewer spikes in their blood sugar levels after meals when compared to the other two diets. Fluctuating blood glucose levels can result in sugar cravings, feelings of fatigue and flagging energy and concentration levels. 

Traditional carb rich breakfast options – breakfast cereal, toast, bagels, juice and muesli can be easy to overconsume and can contain 2-3 x the carbohydrate load of protein rich breakfasts. For example, a large bowl of muesli or single bagel can contain as much as 60g of total carbohydrate and just 5g of protein. This is compared to just 20-30g of total carbohydrate and 10-20g of protein for eggs on wholegrain toast or a breakfast shake made with dairy milk and fruit. This study supports the hypothesis that high carbohydrate load breakfasts leave us prone to fluctuating blood glucose levels and weight gain over time compared to higher protein options. 

This does not mean that do need to ditch the toast and cereal completely. Rather looking for ways to boost your protein intake via dairy or eggs offer positive benefits when it comes to weight control. For example teaming a little muesli with a serve of low sugar high protein Greek yoghurt; eggs with your breakfast bagel or toast or skip the juice in favour of a whey protein smoothie. All of these options offer 20g of high quality protein, and will help to keep you full and satisfied throughout the morning.

5 things to know about your diet if you are vegetarian


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Going vegetarian the right way.

With a growing number of people following both a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, there is more and more discussion focused on the health benefits of a plant based diet. While the way you eat is a personal choice, there is extremely strong scientific evidence to show that those who follow a largely plant based lifestyle live longer; have lower body weights and a reduced risk of developing a number of lifestyle diseases including some types of cancer and diabetes. Pretty convincing stuff. So if you have been dabbling with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, or even a vegan here are some of the key aspects of your diet to consider to ensure you achieve the right nutritional balance.

1. You will need to focus on iron rich foods

When you suddenly eliminate meat from your diet, you also eliminate the key source of well absorbed iron. It is not that the body is unable to absorb the iron found in plants, rather it will take time for it to get used to using non haem iron as its primary source of iron. Good vegetarian sources of iron include eggs, wholegrains and legumes so aiming to include at least one of these foods in your diet each day will help to ensure you have iron available for absorption.

2. You can overdo the healthy fats

Cheese, avocado, nuts and seeds are all vegetarian friendly foods but when you eliminate meat, chicken and fish is does not mean you can eat unlimited amounts of fat. In fact a vegetarian diet that is based around cheese, fries and pizza can be far less healthy than a diet that contains lean meat. A vegetarian will still only need 60-80g of fat each day which translates into a serve of cheese, nuts and avocado ( 1/3) once each day. 

3. Watch your milk choice

Coconut oil, almond and rice milks may sound like they are user friendly options for vegans and vegetarians but they can be packed full of extra sugars and little else. If you are swapping your milk to a plant based milk, make sure you are choosing once that contains added calcium and Vitamin B12. 

4. Focus on protein at lunch

Protein can be a nutrient that suffers when you shift to a vegetarian eating pattern, especially at lunch. While we often get some protein from dairy or eggs at breakfast, we are far less likely to get it at lunchtime when we pick up sandwiches and sushi on the go. Protein rich lunch options when you are following a vegetarian diet include bean salads or burritos; leftover stir fries with tofu, sandwiches with cottage cheese and edamame beans with your favourite sushi order.

5. Be careful when eating out

It can be extremely difficult to find non carby vegetarian meal options when you are eating out and you can find yourself eating a whole lot of pizza, pasta and risotto. For this reason particularly good options when you are eating vegetarian including Mexican, Japanese and other Asian cuisines where you can find tofu and legume based options relatively easily. 

With nutrient rich, calorie controlled meal and snack choices, our brand new 14 day Vegetarian Kickstart meal plan will not only tick the box for all your nutritional requirements but will leave you feeling lighter and more energised after 2 weeks of enjoying a plant based lifestyle. To get your meal plan, click here.

The foods that help you sleep and those that don’t!


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

What to eat when you want to sleep

Sleep is something few of us get enough of and we are often looking for ways in which we can help ourselves sleep better when we do manage to get some shut eye. There is no doubt that there are both foods that help and hinder our sleep, consuming a massive meal close to bedtime is sure to disrupt things, while high fat foods are known to leave us feeling tired and lethargic. So if you are looking to optimise the quality of your sleep day in, day out, here are some of the foods to focus on, and the ones to avoid!

Foods that help

Milk 

It is not just an old wives tale that a little warm milk before bed will help us achieve a restful slumber, milk is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan which is involved in the production of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that naturally calms the body and helps to naturally induce sleep.

Bananas

Bananas are especially rich in the nutrients potassium and magnesium, nutrients which are directly involved in muscle relaxation. In addition, the natural carbohydrates found in bananas will gradually see a reduction in blood glucose levels which will help to induce sleep 60 minutes or so after consumption.

Handful of nuts

All nuts and seeds are nutrient rich choices, but it is the essential fats and amino acids including tryptophan which link the consumption of nuts close to bedtime and sleep.

Herbal Tea

There are a number of herbal teas linked to improved sleep quality, but it is chamomile tea in particular that shows particular promising results in the sleep department. Specifically, it is the antioxidant apigenin found in chamomile tea that helps to bind brain receptors that promote sleep. There is also some early research to show that consuming chamomile extract is linked to falling asleep faster and waking up less during the night, so watch this space! 

Foods that hinder

Dark chocolate

Whilst dark chocolate is generally considered the healthier choice of chocolate, we often forget that dark chocolate also contains more caffeine than regular chocolate. This means that enjoying your dark chocolate after dinner is not the best idea if you have difficulty falling asleep. 

Ice-Cream

It is the mix of sugar and fat found in ice-cream, particularly ice-cream filled with lollies and other sugary treats, that acts as a major brain stimulator rather than relaxant. 

Alcohol

A glass of red each night may not seem like that big a deal, but all alcohol no matter which type, is linked to poorer sleep. Not only is alcohol dehydrating, but as alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, often causing snoring and poorer quality sleep, drinkers tend to wake up multiple times each night. For this reason, aiming for some nights without any alcohol consumption is one of the best things you can do for your sleep.

Salty food

Whether it is a pizza, Asian food or a curry, the high salt and fat content of these meals can impact our sleep. Not only do we often have issues with ingestion, but dehydration is also common which can result in you waking regularly during the night desperate for water. Another common issue that we consider less frequently, is the MSG content of these meals, which can again leave us feeling agitated and stimulated at a time when we should be relaxing and calming down. 

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

The best foods to beat the bloat and those that add to it.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Zip Water.

Beat the bloat

Bloating – that uncomfortable feeling that seems to worsen as the day goes on yet you cannot necessarily link it to one particular type of food or drink. Not only is it uncomfortable, but a range of abdominal symptoms ranging from gas to pain to distention can be distracting, aesthetically irritating and frustrating. So if you are regularly suffering of bloating, here are the key foods that may help to relieve your symptoms and the key foods to avoid. 

Foods to beat the bloat

Yoghurt

Not only is natural or Greek low sugar yoghurt extremely nutritious, yoghurts that contain added ‘good bacteria’ known as probiotics help to naturally regenerate the good bacteria found in the gut which helps to reduce gas, bloating and digestive discomfort quickly. In addition, a daily serve of a probiotic supplement or yoghurt will help to keep the gut in optimal health, eliminating wastes and gases quickly, which can further act to prevent gastric discomfort on a daily basis. 

Peppermint tea

A number of herbal teas including green, licorice and dandelion tea all have powerful diuretic properties which means they draw fluid from the body, reduce water retention and keep the tummy relatively flat. Peppermint tea in particular is known to help reduce stomach discomfort and aid digestion. You can easily prepare a range of herbal teas in an instant when you have a Zip HydroTap at home or work that offers ready to go boiling water whenever you need a hot drink.

Sparkling Water

Contrary to popular belief, drinking sparkling water appears to help gut discomfort. It is hypothesised that the gas found in sparkling water helps to move food through the digestive system, helping to alleviate abdominal discomfort. One study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology examined the effects of sparkling versus still water on digestive symptoms. The study found that in female subjects just 250ml of sparking water released significant amounts of gas which related to the woman’s perception of fullness minus any gastrointestinal discomfort. This means that your daily water of choice can be still or sparkling from your Zip HydroTap with no negative tummy trouble. 

Cucumber, celery and radishes

While all salad vegetables are good for us, the high water content salad vegetables contain few calories but are packed with nutrition, including the nutrients which help to eliminate fluid and waste from the body. Snack on vegetables throughout the day and aim for at least one serve of salad a day to maximize the flat belly effect of these foods. 

Watermelon and berries

While some fruits have a relatively high sugar content, most melons and berries are relatively low in sugar whilst having an extremely high proportion of water. High water content foods move quickly through the digestive tract, helping to keep bellies empty and flat. 

Then the ones to stay clear of

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are extremely nutritious with a number of anti-cancer properties but they can also produce relatively high volumes of gas thanks to a type of carbohydrate, raffinose, which can remain partly undigested in the intestine contributing to gas production. For roughly 5% of the population who are sensitive to the FODMAPS in foods, excessive gas production in the intestine can also cause more extreme symptoms. For these groups, these vegetables are best consumed in small volumes only. 

Chewing gum

Sugar free gums may not only contain alcohol sugars mannitol and sorbitol which can lead to bloating, but the chewing action will result in you taking in much more air which can become trapped in the digestive system and contribute to bloating.

Stir fries, noodles and soups

Stir fries; noodles and Asian soups are packed full of sodium with a simple Laksa or Pho containing as much as 2000mg of sodium or our entire upper daily recommended intake in just one meal thanks to the addition of soy, fish and oyster sauce. Even a simple stir fry can contain as much as 1000-1500mg sodium in single serve. The more sodium we consume the more fluid we will retain and hence the bloating feeling we can experience after a big Asian feed. 

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