Making The Right Drink Choice For You.


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Making The Right Drink Choice For You.

This is a sponsored post, brought to you by BWS. 

At this time of year there are plenty of social occasions and celebrations to attend – New Year’s parties, holiday BBQ’s and long, lazy lunches to enjoy before the year really kicks off. Lots of these events and occasions will see alcohol being served and for those of us with personal dietary preferences or food intolerances, it can be challenging to navigate the alcohol selections to ensure your dietary requirements are satisfied. In fact, in general it can be really difficult to find specific drink options that are gluten free, low in alcohol, low in sugars and low in calories so you can still enjoy a couple of your favourite drinks without completely disrupting your diet. And this is the exact reason that BWS has made a commitment to ensure that Aussies have access to the types of drinks they are looking for, no matter what their dietary preferences are. 

Untitled2If you are looking for gluten free beer. 

Gluten is a protein found in plant based foods, and can pose an issue for the estimated 1 in 100 Aussies who suffer from coeliac disease or a complete intolerance to the protein gluten. With an increasing number of people who are also ‘gluten intolerant’ the demand for gluten free foods and drinks continues to rise. When it comes to various types of alcohol and their gluten content, while wines and spirits are gluten free, as many beers are made from a barley or wheat base, it can be difficult to find beer that is gluten free. For those who love nothing more than an icy cold beer during the steaming Summer months, look out for Hahn Ultra Crisp which is not only one of the few gluten free beers out there, but is also lower in carbs and preservative free. 

If you are looking for low sugar options. 

One of the biggest issues with alcoholic drinks and our health is that some drinks can be packed full of sugar and calories, especially sweet drinks that contain sugary mixers such as juice, cola and lemon flavoured options. So if your goal is to minimise your overall calorie and sugar intake whilst still enjoying your favourite spirit, you cannot go past the new Vodka Soda & and Gin Soda & pre mixers which contain nothing other than spirit, soda and fresh lime, helping to keep your alcohol and sugar intake to an absolute minimum. 

UntitledIf you are looking to minimise your alcohol intake. 

Enjoying a drink or two with friends does not have to translate into consuming large amounts of alcohol. In fact there are more and more wine and beer options that have significantly less alcohol per serve, or even no alcohol at all with all the taste and flavour of your preferred drink. If you love a beer but want to keep the alcohol, check out Heineken Zero or Carlton Zero. Great Northern Super Crisp or Asahi Soukai are mid strength options. If a crisp glass of Pinot Gris or Sav Blanc is more your thing, Crafter Union offer lower alcohol varies of Rose, Sav Blanc and Pinot Gris, while Brown Brothers Refreshing Pinot Gris and Sav Blanc contain 9% alcohol compared to the 12% of regular wine. 

If you want a heath boost. 

Health in 2020 is all about positive nutrition, the good stuff we can add in to help us be at our best and expect to see more and more food and drinks that have added nutrients to help supercharge the foods nutritional profile. Our favourite drinks are no different, and a couple of new products to the market are kombuchas or fermented teas now come in low sugar, alcoholic varieties including Dirty Bucha of Byron and Bootleg Buch. Here you can still get the gut health benefits from kombucha even when you are enjoying an alcoholic drink with minimal added sugars and additives.

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The real secret to weight loss success


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The real secret to weight loss success.

At this time of year there is always plenty of info talking about diets – what is the best diet to follow? Why are diets bad for us? And of course plenty of diets and weight loss aids available for purchase. Far less frequently mentioned are the factors that determine whether or not a diet will be successful and it may come as a surprise to hear that it is just one key factor that will determine if literally all diets will work – how consistently you follow that diet.

A typical New Year’s diet scenario will see someone with relatively high amounts of motivation decide to start one Monday in the new year with a new and relatively strict diet. Here large volumes of healthy food will be purchased, several hours will be spent in the kitchen blending protein smoothies and baking protein balls and one will start the week with the best of intentions and at least 2-3 days of low calorie, healthy eating. And indeed, if this continued for a week or two, a couple of kilos would likely be lost on the scales and the new diet would be deemed successful. 

Unfortunately this is rarely the way the story goes.

Rather a day or two of strict dieting is followed with a meal enjoyed out with friends, along with a few glasses of wine. Then a resolution to instantly correct this with a day of fasting but of course this does not evolve because life gets in the way and you end up eating a few chocolate biscuits, and blow out your calories the next weekend before again resolving to get back on track the next Monday. And so the story goes. 

It is not that the diet does not work rather most of us find it hard to stick to a diet for any consistent period of time, and the time that is required to see sustainable weight loss. 

So this year, if your ultimate goal is to lean up a little, the best advice I can give you is to be consistent. Whatever diet you choose to follow, or dietary change you choose to make, do it consistently for at least 2-3 weeks. Here your body will have the time it takes to successfully burn extra body fat and you will help to avoid the dreaded diet cycle that plagues so many of our lives each and every Monday.

Some examples of consistent changes that are conductive to sustainable weight loss include skipping your morning coffee or getting rid of the milk in your coffee; only eating in an 8 hour period each day, leaving 12-14 hours overnight without food and keeping your dinner small and light at just 300 calories. None of these strategies are strict, nor advocating a diet mentality rather sustainable strategies that will support weight control long term.

The fad diets that do work.


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The fad diets that do work.

Another day, another diet or so it seems in a world in which diet headlines are guaranteed to draw the interest of plenty of eager readers.

Fad diets, or those which are enormously popular for relatively short periods of time come and go, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Israeli Army Diet and the Lemon Detox Diet are just a few which have held the limelight albeit briefly over the past few years. What may surprise you is that a number of these diets do actually work, even long term if they are followed the right way. So of the popular diets of the moment, here is the lowdown on some of the more effective options. 

Keto

Ketogenic diets are not new. Rather they have been utilised in medical settings to manage a range of clinical conditions for many years.

A keto approach requires followers to reduce their carbohydrate intake to an extremely low level so that ketosis or fat burning is induced as the body breaks down fat stores directly to be utilised as fuel. A keto approach requires followers to replace carbohydrate intake with fat, so the overall diet profile features <10% of energy from carbs, up to 70-80% energy from fats and just 15-20% of energy from protein. This is why you see a lot of avocado, butter, eggs and cream utilised in keto diets.

The reality is that most diets that claim to be ‘keto’ are actually just low in carbohydrates as opposed to achieving these ratios of fat, protein and carbohydrate. In real life, achieving these ratios in your diet is somewhat challenging but if you can, and do follow it, it will work very effectively. 

Paleo

Unlike the keto approach which requires strict carbohydrate restriction, the inclusion of fruit and some starchy vegetables including sweet potato see the macronutrient ratios of Paleo shift to a reduced carbohydrate rather than the low levels seen in keto, or between 20-30% of total energy coming from carbohydrates. The focus on fresh, unprocessed food naturally supports weight loss, as does the complete avoidance of processed carbohydrates.

The only down side tends to be an especially low intake of dietary calcium and while fibre intake from vegetables and fruit may be adequate, a number of followers find the lack of insoluble fibre intake from grains and legumes can result in constipation. 

VLCD

Very Low Calorie Diets that generally utilise meal replacement products and diet shakes to achieve an extremely low calorie intake of just 800 calories per day have again been used for many years in clinical settings to achieve weight loss. Now commonly utilised by weight loss surgeons prior to surgery, VLCDs are extremely effective in reducing fat stores in the liver whilst also inducing ketosis as overall calorie and carbohydrate intake is extremely restrictive.

VLCD’s work extremely effectively but the issue is that once they are ceased most if not all weight tends to be regained unless underlying eating habits are significantly altered long term. 

5:2

Fasting diets, or specifically the fasting regime that requires followers to commit to two very low calorie (<500cal) per days each week have been shown to be effective in supporting relatively slow (1-2kg a month) weight losses. It appears that significantly restricting calorie intake for brief periods has a number of metabolic benefits in the body which in turn support fat metabolism. The biggest issue is that you will not lose weight as quickly as many desire. 

Low Carb

The main difference between a low carb diet and keto diet is the proportion of protein the diet contains with low carbohydrate diets still requiring <10-20% of calories from carbohydrates but with more room for dietary protein that strict keto does.

Low carbohydrate diets, or diets that require followers to eliminate virtually all bread, rice, cereal, pasta, fruit and starchy vegetables are extremely effective in achieving fat metabolism, at least in the short term. The issue for most is that as soon as any of these high carb foods are reintroduced weight tends to be rapidly regained and becomes more and more difficult to lose in subsequent attempts.

Easy ways to avoid dieting in 2020.


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Easy ways to avoid dieting in 2020.

Imagine if you were able to drop a few kilos minus the extra tough workouts and strict diet in 2020? When it comes to weight loss it is well documented that extreme diets rarely keep the kilos at bay long term and as such if your New Year’s goal is to do something about your weight, approaching things from a fresh perspective may offer an alternate solution. So here are some general approaches to your diet and nutrition which may support weight loss, without you having to work too hard at all.

1. Focus on time of day eating

A growing body of research shows that when we limit our eating to just 8-10 hours each day, or not eating for 14 to 16 hours of each day is a strategy that appears to support weight control minus any specific calorie counting or dietary rules.

Committing to longer periods of time minus any calories appears to help reset some of the hormones that regulate fat metabolism in the body. In real life terms this translates into having an early dinner, or having your first meal later in the day as to support a longer overnight fast. Here the only thing you need to pay attention to is what time you are eating each day, as limiting the number of total hours we eat naturally controls calorie intake. 

2. Choose whole foods

It has been shown that consuming whole foods – such as a steak as opposed to mincemeat; or wholegrain bread rather than white results in a higher calorie burn than the more processed food alternatives. This means that the more natural the state of the food you eat, the better it is for metabolism. This means enjoying vegetables and fruit whole, with the skin intact; fillets of fish, meat and chicken and whole food snacks such as nuts, fruit and yoghurt rather than processed biscuits, bars and cakes. Choosing whole foods also tends to reduce calorie intake overall and we reduce our intake of processed foods that tend to have added sugars and fats. 

3. Focus on vegetables

Diets are often focused around what we should not be eating; need to cut back on and depending on the diet the food groups to avoid. Focusing on what we should not be doing can often work in reverse, resulting in an increased focus on the tempting, higher calorie foods we ideally need to cut back on to control calorie intake.

When we focus on boosting our overall vegetable intake, the focus is on eating more, not less and the more salad and vegetables we eat, the lower our overall calorie intake tends to be, supporting weight control. Think about adding vegetable sides or a juice to your breakfast, salads and soups for lunches and at least 2-3 cups of mixed salad and vegetables with your evening meal to significantly boost your vegetable intake.

4. Include foods you like and want to eat

Diets often fail because we are lured by our favourite sweet treat, glass of wine or fail to factor in eating out as part of our regular dietary regime. When we factor these foods into our regular meal plan, in controlled volumes, you are less likely to experience the feelings of deprivation that can be associated with stricter diets and more likely to be able to stick to your healthy eating plan the rest of the time. This translates into enjoying a meal out regularly, factoring in a portion controlled sweet treat after dinner, or giving yourself permission to enjoy a glass or two of wine a couple of nights each week depending on your preferred style of indulgence. 

5. Take your food

Whenever we buy a meal away from home – a café lunch; food court sandwich or a home delivered meal it is likely you will be consuming at least 1/3 more calories and fat than the equivalent meal you would prepare for yourself at home. When it comes to weight control this meals that more you are in control of your calorie intake, the lower your calorie intake is likely to be. This means packing more lunches, ordering less dinners at home and eating breakfast at home rather than indulging in a café treat more than occasionally as a general strategy that supports weight control.

The health habits to focus on in 2020!


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The health habits to focus on in 2020

It may come as a surprise to hear that it is not the one off treats and extras that undermine your diet. Rather building a strong diet platform comes down to establishing a strong set of food habits that become part of your day to day life without you even noticing.

Here are some of the key health habits to commit to in 2020 to help you not only keep your weight under control, but to give yourself a strong nutrition platform. 

Plan your dinners

Planning is the key to dietary success – it comes down to having the foods on hand you need to eat well most of the time. It is when we find ourselves busy, and without healthy foods on hand that we revert to takeaway and fast foods that contain significantly more calories than foods we prepare at home.

The simple habit of scheduling time to plan your evening meal for at least a couple of nights each week ensures that no matter what happens in your day, you know what you will be eating that night. Even better, commit to preparing an extra meal or two each week to freeze and have later in the week. Other options include ordering a few meals online to keep in the fridge or freezer; having a big cook up once each week to prepare all the meals for the week ahead and cooking a batch of soup each week to add to chicken or grilled fish for a quick and easy dinner that takes just a few minutes to prepare. 

Pack your lunch the night before

When we purchase our lunch away from home – at a food court, café or fast food outlet we are going to consume double the number of calories than we would consume if we prepared our lunch at home. A nutritionally balanced lunch that contains some wholegrain carbohydrates for energy; lean protein for fullness and plenty of salad and vegetables will also help to keep you full throughout the afternoon and less likely to be tempted by sugary treats late in the day.

The great thing about packing your lunch the night before it that naturally aligns with using leftovers with dinner as a healthy, filling lunch option for next day. Not only are you likely to eat less at dinner this way, but you will also have a healthy lunch to look forward to without spending any more money on lunch. 

Ordering veges online

We all need to eat more salad and vegetables but it can be a chore keeping a stock of fresh foods on hand when you find yourself in and out of the house regularly. The quality and availability of fresh produce can also vary depending on when and where you shop each day. To avoid this hassle one of the easiest things you can do is get into the habit of having fresh produce regularly delivered to your home or workplace. This not only means that you do not need to worry about getting to the shops but it supports meal planning as you work to incorporate the fresh produce into your meals each week. 

Be strict for some of the week

Enjoying good food is one of life’s most simple pleasures which at times will mean eating foods that aren’t necessarily healthy or good for us. At times it will also mean that we end up eating too much, especially as it is much easier to overeat than it is to undereat.

The easiest way to achieve dietary balance when it comes to calories in versus calories out is to keep your diet relatively strict and structured for some days of the week so you can have a little more freedom on others. For some people this may mean keeping things strict during the weekdays before relaxing a little on weekends, while for others it may mean being strict during the day and then loosening up a little at night. Every person will be different but finding the balance that works for you will allow you to still enjoy your favourite foods at times, while still remaining in control of you weight. 

Focus on movement

In an ideal world we would all exercise regularly but the truth is many of us are struggling to even get a minimum amount of exercise into our already frantic schedules. Primarily the issue for most of us is that we spend much of our lives sitting down, which has dire consequences for our metabolism long term. To help counteract this, one of the simplest things we can do each and every day is just move more – make a concerted effort to get our steps up every single day as part of our regular routine.

Monitoring the number of steps we take is the easiest way to remind ourselves that we do need to walk more; to get out at lunchtime or go for a short walk when time permits. In the absence of exercise, regular movement is the next best thing.

What overeating at Christmas does to your body.


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What overeating at Christmas does to your body.

No matter how strict you are with your diet during the week, or even on weekends, chances are that all bets are off when it comes to what you eat on Christmas Day. Turkey with all the trimmings – bring it on. Pudding? Of course! A mandatory cheese plate, plenty of chocolates and your favourite wine are just a few of the extras that are likely to be served this holiday period. Unfortunately these tasty holiday foods also come with plenty of kilojoules, kilojoules that can leave you feeling pretty sick and sorry for yourself if you are not careful. So this is what is really in your Christmas feast and the key ways to avoid a complete food coma after you have enjoyed it all.

To give some perspective, the average meal of meat, chicken or fish, a potato, some vegetables and a glass of wine that we consume at night will contain between 2000-3000kJ (the average adult burns between 5500-8700 per day). If you compared this to a holiday feast of a few canapes, 4-5 glasses of wine, a roast dinner with all the trimmings, dessert, cheese and a few Christmas chocolates you are looking at more like 8000+ kilojoules or more than a small female would usually consume in an entire day. Now while these are estimates only, it does give you an idea of while you may feel a little ill by the end of Christmas Day. And of course cutting back is easier said than done when you are exposed to much tasty food.

One of the first symptoms of blatant overeating is feeling short of breath as your overfull stomach (remember your stomach is only a little larger than a fist) pushes up into your diaphragm limiting your lung capacity. It is for this reason that sitting down after a big meal is the worst thing you can do – stand up and even go for a walk if you can. 

Next, actually feeling ill may be the result of eating too quickly but also exposing your digestive system to much more fat than it is used too. Indeed many a case of gall stones has been triggered after an extremely high fat meal has been consumed, with sharp abdominal pains being one of the first signs of gall stones. The bulk of food in the stomach, a mix of both fats and carbs will also send your insulin into overdrive, which in turn can leave you feeling tired and drowsy for a couple of hours after a big meal. Unfortunately your heart does not like overeating much at all either with higher levels of fat in the blood found after high fat meals are consumed partly explained by smaller volumes of blood circulating as blood flow is redirected to the digestive system. 

Once the initial stages of digestion are completed over an hour or two, next you are likely to be greeted with some abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating as food and waste is shifted through the digestive tract. And some of the heaviness will translate onto the scales even in the short term. It is not uncommon to gain a kilo or two after a big meal thanks to the bulk of food in itself but also a higher intake of salt which will further act to retain extra fluid. While this weight gain is short term only, once your kilojoule intake reaches a certain levels you will store more fat and research suggested individuals do gain a couple of kilos over big holiday periods, weight which they rarely tend to lose. 

So how can you enjoy your Christmas feasting and avoid some of these nasty consequences? The easiest thing you can do is keep as active as possible even though it may be a holiday day. A short, high intensity training session on Christmas morning of just 20-30 minutes will significantly increase insulin sensitivity in the body which will in turn mean you are less likely to store fat after your massive feed. Next, keep active on the day. Rather than retreating for a sleep straight after lunch, make a concerted effort to go for a walk to help the digestive process and move food through the digestive tract. 

Where possible have a break in between courses so that your 8000+kJ is spread over the day not just 2-3 hours and importantly remember that there is a big difference between enjoying Christmas treats and binge eating them simply because they are in front of you. This means enjoying a slice of pudding not three! The benefit of this approach is that you can enjoy all the tempting treats on offer without overdoing anything and feeling much better as a result.

Keeping Kids Healthy Over The Holidays.


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

Keeping Kids Healthy Over The Holidays.

School holidays are near and for busy parents this means that there are many hours of kids entertainment required. With an abundance of food around, it can also be a time when our kids are not so healthy, munching on extra high calorie foods and spending a lot more time on screens than we would ideally like them too. 

So if you are a little worried about the health of your kids over the long holiday break, here are some ideas on helping the entire family as healthy as possible over the holidays.

1. Keep only healthy snacks on hand

Parents are often surprised when kids eat all of the chips, biscuits and snack bars they buy but the reality is that kids (and adults) will eat whatever food is available so if you do not want your kids eating so much processed food, stop buying it. Rather keep only an array of healthy snacks – fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheese and wholegrain crackers on hand, and commit to spending some time each week making some homemade banana bread or muffins so there is always healthy snacks on hand. Or even better, get the kids to help you, or bake their own healthy snacks to enjoy over Summer.

2. Get the kids in the kitchen

The holiday period is a great time to start to involved the kids, especially older kids in some family food preparation. Start with a little home baking, or snack preparation before moving to easy child friendly meals such as tacos, homemade pizza or pancakes (see below for my favourite Banana Nut Pancake recipe!). One of my favourite options that the kids love making are yoghurt or choc dipped banana pops. Simply chop bananas in 1/2, add a stick, dip in yoghurt or chocolate and freeze. An instant homemade ice-cream. 

3. Eat in more often

The more we eat out, the more calories we will consume and the more likely it is that we will be tempted by extras – the ice-creams, snacks and fast food that are advertised and picked up easily at holiday locations and shopping centres. Avoid this mindless extra consumption by eating at home more often, or at least packing healthy snacks such as bananas, or protein bites before you leave. Then a small treat will be more appreciated and every ones nutrition will be improved overall. 

4. Limit screen time

The only way you can control small children’s screen time is to actively limit the number of hours they are allowed to tune in. As a rule of thumb, primary school aged children and younger should watch no more than 2 hours of screens per day. Once the screens are off your kids will naturally be a lot more active than when they are glued for hours in front of an iPad or TV.

5. Make activity a daily occurrence

In the holidays activity should be the default not an occasional thing. A trip to the park or beach, scheduled play dates and inexpensive adventures to local museums, pools and national parks mean that everyone is out of the house and outdoors which will always be a whole lot healthier than anything that involves shopping centres, the movies or even being bored at home stuck in front of a screen. 

Recipe: Banana Nut Pancakes

 

Banana Ricotta Pancakes2

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup cooked quinoa

4 egg whites

½ cup low fat milk

½ tsp. vanilla essence

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 banana, sliced

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup Greek yoghurt

1 tsp. maple syrup

Method

1. Whisk quinoa with egg whites, milk, brown sugar, vanilla and ¼ banana.

2. Spray fry pan with canola spray and divide batter into 3 pancakes. Cook each pancake for 3 minutes each side.

3. Serve with ¼ cup Greek yoghurt, a sprinkle of walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.

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

How to make your salad healthier.


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Where your salad is going wrong.

Chances are, if you are making a ‘healthy’ salad lunch choice today you are already feeling virtuous. How could there be anything wrong with the container of leaves, tuna and dressing? The interesting thing is that both the physiological impact of eating a salad, and the psychology of doing so may not be impacting your diet in the positive way you think it is. 

Salads isn’t always healthy.

A salad technically refers to small pieces of cut up food served with a sauce. In real life terms this means that a salad can include anything from a varied mix of salad vegetables, leaves and olive oil to pasta with a few chopped vegetables served with pesto. The calorie and nutritional loads of these differ widely and mean a salad can range from an exceptionally low calorie meal choice to a complete calorie overload packed with fat, sugars and salt. This is especially the case in a food court scenario where the majority of salad options are significantly higher in calories than would be suggested for a nutritionally balanced meal choice. 

Ideally a salad that is consumed as a meal will contain 2-3 cups of salad vegetables, a serve of lean protein such as chicken, tuna, egg or legumes, a serve of wholegrain carbs such as quinoa, sweet potato, corn or brown rice and a serve of fat via olive oil, avocado, cheese, nuts or seeds. Chances are unless you are ordering your salad in this specific way, or making it yourself your macronutrient targets and total calorie intake is way off track. 

Salad vegetables are not as nutritious as we think.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 3.27.04 PMThe irony about traditional salad vegetables – leaves, tomato, cucumber, carrots, capsicum, is that while they are low in calories and contain some key nutrients including Vitamin C, folate and fibre, the truth is that salad vegetables are mostly water and the amounts of these key micronutrients are relatively small. This does not make them a poor choice, rather a meal addition unless they have carbs and proteins added for nutritional balance. Utilising cooked vegetables – pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms will help to boost the nutritional content of any salad, as well including a source of fat such as olive oil, avocado which will help with the absorption of a number of key nutrients from the vegetables themselves. 

The psychology of eating salad.

We have all done it, ordered a boring salad only to finish the meal with a high calorie dessert that contains more calories than a regular meal would have. When we order a ‘salad’, two scenarios commonly evolve, one where we feel virtuous and then give ourselves permission to eat other high calorie foods as a meal addition or we feel deprived and end up eating more regardless. In both cases, some cognitive reframing is required to shift our beliefs about eating salad from that as a special weight loss meal to that of a nutrient dense but standard meal choice.

Firstly when a salad is well balanced, it is not overly low in calories, rather a nutritious meal choice. Once we understand this, a plain, dressing free salad loses its appeal.

Secondly, avoiding feelings of deprivation is dependent on ensuring that the salads we consume as meals are meals, not a pile of leaves with a few tomatoes. Remember a well-balanced salad requires carbs, proteins, fats as well as salad vegetables. 

The carb balance tends to be all wrong.

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 12.18.04 PMThe standard salad we order or prepare either contains too few carbs or too many – pasta salad, brown rice salad, quinoa salad versus plain tuna salad, Caesar salad or sashimi salad. In each of these examples the salad is either all carb, or contains literally none. Too much carbohydrate will not support weight or appetite control throughout the day, while too few will leave you hungry and cravings carbohydrates an hour or so after finishing your salad.

The key to salad success, particularly when salads are being consumed as a meal is to get the carb balance right. As a general rule of thumb a meal salad will require ½ – 1 cup total carbs – sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, pasta to strike a balance between calorie control, satiety and blood glucose control.

On the other hand when the salad is being consumed as a side, plain leaves, salad vegetables and dressing will be a relatively low calorie addition to any meal.

Just because it is vegan doesn’t make it healthy!


Smoked Salmon

It’s not the same thing…..the truth about plant based foods

If you have not tuned in yourself, chances are you have come across someone in recent weeks who has an opinion on the latest Netflix food special, Game Changers – a documentary detailing the health and environmental benefits associated with a 100% plant based, vegan diet. Indeed the rapid growth of the plant based meal section in supermarkets offering every meat alternative possible from chicken pieces to vegan smoked salmon is indicative of the public’s growing interest in plant based eating.

Now this is not a piece debating whether or not you should be eating a plant based diet. Dietary preferences in my mind are somewhat like the religious preferences we choose – personal, formed for a number of reasons and not open to debate. Indeed plant based eating offers a number of benefits and in general Australians do need to eat a lot more plant based foods – veges, legumes, nuts & seeds and their health will benefit as a result. But going 100% plant based that is a significant decision with a number of nutritional consequences to consider and one that is ultimately up to you to make.

Rather what I wanted to discuss was that if going plant based is a current priority for you, it is very, very important to know that plant based varieties of specific foods are not the same thing as the non-plant alternatives and this has significant implications for our nutrition and ultimately our health long term.

The first thing to know is that animal based protein – eggs, meat, fish, chicken and dairy food contains high biological value protein – this means it is very similar in structure to proteins in the human body and as such is easily processed and assimilated. Protein rich foods are also rich sources of a number of key micro nutrients – nutrients that are essential for health but needed in relatively small amounts. Calcium, iron and zinc are a few well known of these, while iodine, choline and Vitamin B12 are less well known but also very important.

Now it is not impossible to get these nutrients in a 100% plant based diet BUT it will require some careful food selection, the addition of fortified foods such as nut based milks and even supplementation in some cases.

Vegan FishPlant based varieties of quasi meats and sausages have been around for some time but more recently a growing range of plant forms of shellfish, salmon and chicken have become readily available in mainstream supermarkets. Made from a range of vegetable proteins, powders, flavour enhancers and colours, the plant versions of prawns, smoked salmon among other proteins is a cause for concern. Likening a plant based food, made from a vegetable or protein powder does not create a food anything like the original, nor does it mimic the nutritional profile of these foods in any way.

Take prawns for example. A single serve of prawns offers 15-20g of high quality protein, and a number of micronutrients including iodine, zinc and selenium. If you compare this to a plant version of prawns, per serve you will add little to no protein into your diet, with your ‘prawns’ containing potato, konjac power, pea starch agave and little else. Calling it a prawn in any way shape or form is deeply misleading for the general public who do not have in depth understanding of what actually is in various foods and the importance of maintaining an optimal nutrient intake, whether your dietary preference is to include animal foods in your diet or not.

Vegan smoked salmon is another pertinent example. Fresh or even smoked salmon is known for its rich natural omega 3 contents but it is also rich in protein, iodine, selenium and antioxidants – a vegan version of smoked salmon contains little other than oil, root vegetables, salt and flavours for just 100 calories per serve. Nothing like what a nutritionally balanced meal should offer.

Plant based eating does have its benefits, when it is done the right way, but simply swapping out all your animal foods for vegan alternatives without the appropriate research and nutritional balancing will leave you with a diet that is vastly inadequate in protein and essential nutrients. Plant based alternatives to protein rich foods are not substitutes and they should not be permitted to masquerade as them. So please get the appropriate dietary advice before you plant out your own diet.

How to entertain in a healthy way this Christmas.


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

How to entertain in a healthy way this Christmas.

Party season has well and truly arrived and with it plenty of parties and celebrations to mark the end of another year. While indulging in party food and drinks it extremely enjoyable, it can also result in a complete calorie blow out if we are not careful so if you are wanting some tips on balancing good health with great celebrating this Christmas here are some simple steps to take.

1. Focus on nutrient rich foods

While our default tends to be focusing on the foods we should not be eating, when we make a simple shift and focus on packing our diets full of nutrient rich foods, our dietary balance naturally tips in the right direction. This remains the case when we are entertaining. Sure we are likely to indulge in some high calorie treats and extras, but if we give our diet a foundation of healthy, whole foods, our diet will remain balanced and calorie controlled. This means when you are entertaining, base your foods around fresh vegetables and salads, nuts, lean protein and treats made with a healthy base – think cut up veges and Mayver’s Goodness to Go Peanut Butter, slices of smoked salmon, oysters and prawns and bites and treats made with dates and mixed nut spreads dressed with a Christmas flavour. 

2. Go for portion control

Things get out of hand from a calorie perspective at this time of year when we load up on handfuls of high calories foods mindlessly- chips, dips, cheese, crackers and even nuts – all high calorie foods that can add to equate to more calories than a meal without us even realising it. For this reason portion control goes a long way at this time of year. Think individual portions of dips and spreads, avoid grabbing extra handfuls of snacks mindlessly and load up your plates with lower calorie options such as vege sticks, popcorn and shellfish. 

3. Avoid the pastry and fried foods

As soon as you see pastry or fried foods such as pies, sausage rolls, arancini balls and fried seafood, run like the plague. With a single fried or pastry based canapé containing at least 100 calories and 5g of fat, you can save yourself a seriously number of calories by banning these foods, which contain very few positive nutritional properties entirely.

4. Make some healthy treats

It is Christmas time so it is natural to want to enjoy a few tasty treats at this time of year and it is really not that difficult to make some healthier versions of your favourite sweet treats. Healthy biscuits are easy when you use a base of wholemeal flour and oats; while truffles, balls and bites are just as yummy when they have a nut spread or peanut butter base and can be decorated in your favourite Christmas colours. If you need some inspiration check out some of our ideas below.

Recipe: Christmas Truffles

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Makes 15 truffles

Ingredients

3/4 Cup Mayver’s Peanut & Cacao Spread

10 Medjool Dates, pitted

1 Tablespoon Water

1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

1 Cup Quick Oats

1⁄2 Cup Desiccated coconut, plus extra to coat

Method

1. Place cacao spread, dates and water in a food processor. Blitz to combine. Add oats and blitz until mixture comes together.

2. Transfer mixture to a medium mixing bowl and stir in coconut.

3. Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Roll in coconut to coat and then refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Recipe: Reindeer Cookies

Makes 10 cookies

IMG_2606Ingredients

3/4 Cup Mayvers Smooth Peanut Butter

8 Medjool Dates, pitted

2 Eggs, whisked

2 Tablespoons Milk

1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

1 Cup Self-raising Flour

20 Pretzels

20 White Chocolate Bits

10 Peanut M&Ms (Brown and Red for Rudolph)

Black Icing Pen

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and line two baking trays with baking paper.

2. Place the peanut butter, dates, eggs and milk in a food processor or blender and blitz until well combined. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

3. Stir in cocoa powder and flour. If the mixture looks too dry, add a dash of milk until everything comes together.

4. Roll a heaped tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on the baking tray. Flatten dough with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from the oven and immediately press two pretzels into each cookie for the antlers. Allow to cool for a minute before pressing in two white chocolate drops for the eyes and a M&M nose. Place one small dot of black icing on each eye for the pupil.

Easy ways to supercharge your nutrition.


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Sunbeam

Easy ways to supercharge your nutrition.

Busy lives can mean lots of stress, and maximising our nutrition in an attempt to give our bodies the best chance of managing the pressure of daily life is a no brainer. While we often hear about superfoods, in reality it is the overall balance of our diets that ultimately has the greatest impact over our health and immune function. So if you know your diet could use some supercharging, here are the daily steps to take to maximise your overall nutrient intake.

Go raw and cooked.

In our quest to eat well we often seek raw, whole foods – salads, raw veges and juices designed to consume our food in as natural a state as possible. While raw good is good for you, cooked vegetables too are important as the cooking process itself can make some nutrients more bio-available. This means including both raw salads and juices along with cooked vegetables into your diet daily is one of the easiest ways to boost your intake of fibre, vitamin c and beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.

Add in a super smoothie.

Busy lives mean that we can find ourselves needing to grab quick and easy meals and snacks in the run which can compromise our nutrition. An easy way to make sure we get a daily nutrient hit is to add a fruit and vegetable rich smoothie or juice at the start of each day. A mix of a piece of fruit, 2-3 vegetables, a little avocado, Greek yoghurt or milk offers a low calorie nutrient rich breakie drink that ticks the box on a number of essential vitamins and minerals before you have even started the day. And if you invest in a blender such as the new Sunbeam NutriSeal Blender you can even make your juice or smoothie the night before and it will retain up to 40% more Vitamin C the next day!

Boost your daily zinc and iodine.

In Australia we eat far less seafood and shellfish than we need to give us the optimal amounts of both zinc and iodine. Iodine is required for optimal thyroid function while zinc helps to keep our immune system in tip top shape. This means include fish or shellfish in your diet 2-3 times each week will significantly increase your intake if these essential nutrients. Think prawns for salads and stir fries, indulge in mussels or oysters when you are our and about and aim for fish for dinner at least once each week.

Commit to prep.

Surprisingly getting super organised and prepping your food for the day is a sure fire way you can boost your daily nutritional intake. Foods we pick up away from the home are generally higher in fats and calories and lower in vegetables, fibre and vitamins and minerals than fresh foods we bring from home. Throwing together a salad, packing up some leftovers & grabbing some fresh nuts, fruit and veges for snacks will boost your overall nutrient intake without you even noticing.

Get your copy of my 7 Day Smoothie Planner for Sunbeam, here.

Drinking for gut health


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This is a sponsored post, brought to you by BellyUp.

Drinking for gut health.

In the world of nutrition, gut health is where it is at – foods, supplements and diets that can help to build a healthier gut and keep it there with gut health being associated with disease prevention, weight control and everything in between. Central to this conversation is the role of pro and prebiotics in maintaining gut health and in this discussion are the products such as kombucha and probiotic drinks which are said to offer specific health benefits when it comes to keeping our gut in tip top shape long term. So what exactly do these products do and should we all be drinking our probiotics a lot more often?

The human gut naturally contains a mix of different bacteria which help to keep it working optimally. Probiotics are the ‘good bugs’ found naturally in the digestive tract and adding probiotic rich foods into our diet has been shown to help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating, help to restore gut flora after consuming a course of antibiotics and to help rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorption. Probiotics are found in a range of foods but most commonly fermented drinks such as kefir, miso and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Prebiotics on the other hand are types of fibre we get from the food we eat that feed probiotics and as such promote the growth and function of different types of good bacteria in the gut. Recent research has emerged that prebiotics may also play a significant role in immune function. Prebiotics found in various fibrous foods move through the digestive tract undigested and then act to feed the good bacteria promoting their growth and optimising gut balance.  As a result the gut is healthier and better able to absorb nutrients as they pass through the digestive tract. 

The interest in probiotics has grown exponentially in recent years as there are very few foods which offer these very specific health benefits for the gut, minus the other sugars and calories we can typically find in the drinks we choose. Adding a daily dose of probiotics via bio-fermented drinks such as BellyUp, can be an easy way to add a regular serve of fermented food and the good bacteria it contains into your diet. There is little research to specifically show ways in which we can boost gut health, but of the research that is available, consuming probiotics regularly via fermented foods appears to be a positive first step towards nourishing your gut from the inside out. 

The key thing to look for is fermented drinks that contain minimal added sugars and have an active source of probiotic – here you can get your daily gut dose of the good bacteria whilst keeping the amount of added sugars in your diet as low as possible.  So if you are on the lookout for a tasty, nutritious, low calorie source of probiotics, look no further than BellyUp.

Why you should eat more banana skins.


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Why you should eat more banana skins.

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

At a time in which minimising food waste is the top of mind for many it seems that there is no better time to talk about the skins of bananas and all the things you can do with them.

Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in Australia with us tucking into upwards of 5 million bananas every single day. If you then consider that this translates into many millions of tonnes of banana peels that we simply throw away when we could actually be eating them, it is a no brainer to utilise the entire banana whenever we can.

And not only are the peels an economical way to boost the bulk of any smoothie, baked good or even curry that you are making you will also boost your nutritional intake significantly when you add banana peels to your favourite banana based recipes.

Specifically you will increase your overall fibre content by at least 10% as a lot of dietary fibre can be found in the skin of the banana. You will get almost 20% more Vitamin B6 and almost 20% more Vitamin C and you will boost both your potassium and magnesium intake.

Now when we are talking about eating the skin of the banana we are not talking about chomping down the bright yellow banana skin along with the banana. Rather cooking the skin to soften it will help to break down some of the cell walls within the skin helping to make the nutrients easily to absorb. Next blending the skin into recipes or smoothies is the most practical way to use them. Here you will increase the volume and nutritional content of recipes with minimal change to taste and texture of the cooking. For example if you make your smoothie with a whole banana chop the ends of the skin, chop into small pieces and simply blend with the rest of the smoothie. For recipes such as muffins or banana bread, cooking the skin first before mixing it into the recipe is an easy way to incorporate them.

Specifically bananas with bright yellow skins have a higher proportion of antioxidants associated with anti-cancer effects while green skins (less ripe bananas) are particularly rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is associated with good sleep quality. Green banana skins are also rich in resistance starch, the special type of fibre known to benefit gut health. As these skins are much tougher, they are definitely best consumed after boiling to soften the skins.

On top of their positive nutritional benefits banana skins also have several other practical uses in day to day life. Cooking meat on top of them will help to boost the moisture content of any meal while they also make a great vinegar but without a doubt my favourite way to use the skins is within recipes I already make, but can boost the fibre by using the skins.

Give it a go yourself and let me know how you find it.

Recipe: Banana Bread

Ingredients

2 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 cup low fat milk

2 eggs

50g butter, melted

2 whole bananas, ends cut off and blended

1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence

Method

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

2. Spoon into loaf tin and bake at 180°C for ~50-60 minutes until cooked through.

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

Let’s talk about resetting, not detoxing.


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How to reset your diet the right way.

While we regularly hear about diet ‘detoxes’ and a growing range of fasts, cleanses, juices and detox programs, it is important that we do not get too caught up in the hype, simply because few if any of the claims made by such programs are proven, realistic or even true. 

The human body does not need to be ‘detoxed’ – the kidneys, liver and immune system generally do a very good job of getting rid of the nasties on a daily basis. There is not one product or nutrient that holds the answer to any health issues that may develop and the human body is made up of a complex, intricate system of cellular metabolic functions and processes that we are unlikely to ever understand 100%.

In saying that, what we do know about weight loss and diets in general is that when individuals get immediate results they are more likely to continue with a new regime, and a relatively strict period of healthy eating can result in a quick drop on the scales. For this reason, adopting a brief period of time in which natural, whole foods are consumed with the goal of ‘cleaning out’ your diet while helping us to drop a few kilos is not a bad thing. In fact, anything that reminds you how much better you feel when you are eating well can only be considered a good outcome. The key is to know how to kick start your diet the right way.

1. Commit for a brief period of time

Generally speaking, there is no issue with eating only fresh fruits and vegetables for a short period of time, say 3-5 days. After this period of time, the nutrients the body requires to function optimally including protein, iron, zinc and calcium should be reincorporated in the diet. Extreme diets that encourage fasting or eliminating a number of food groups for long period of time are associated with a number of issues including reduced metabolic rate and for this reason are not advisable for the vast majority of active, busy people. For this reason committing to a diet detox for a week or less, a time in which you have no social engagements and can keep 100% focused on your nutrition is the key to success.

2. Base your meals around fresh fruits and vegetables

A diet detox does not need to be complicated, it can simply be a few days of eating only fresh unprocessed foods. The simple goal of basing all of your meals for this time around fresh fruit and vegetables – soups, salads, stir fries, smoothies and juices will seriously load your body full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, help to eliminate the body of excess fluid and help you drop a kilo or two without skipping meals or drinking only juice. 

3. Drop the snacks

Generally speaking we eat far too much, far too often, rarely feeling hungry in between our meals. Shifting our dietary pattern away from eating every couple of hours to leaving 4-5 hours in between meals so we get really hungry is an easy way to kick start our metabolism and get into the habits of eating balanced, filling meals 3-4 times each day. Stopping snacking also automatically eliminates a number of processed, high carb foods from our daily diets including crackers, muffins, milk coffees, biscuits and snack bars.

4. Drink only water

Another simple way to reset your diet is to focus on drinking a couple of litres of water each day along with herbal teas in place of your regular caffeine rich drinks and high sugar juices and smoothies. Not only is this an easy way to significantly reduce your calorie intake, but focusing on optimal hydration is an easy way to get your digestive system working efficiently and looking and feeling at your best each day. 

5. Limit your eating hours

Modern life not only means that we eat all the time, but we eat across a particularly large portion of the day, sometimes eating breakfast as early as 5 or 6am and dinner not until 8 or 9pm at night. The issue with consuming food over an extended number of hours each day is that the body is programmed to have a number of hours without food to control the hormones that control fat metabolism in the body. Ideally we need at least 10-12 hours overnight without food, yet some of us have as little as 6-8 each day. The result is that we tend to store more fat than we should be and rarely feel particularly hungry, rather eating when others are eating, or when we can.

Limiting the number of hours we eat food each day has not only been shown to help optimise the hormones that control fat metabolism and also supports a controlled calorie intake and supports weight loss. All you need to do is consume your final meal by 6 or 7pm each night and then not eat breakfast until 8 or 9am to create the overnight fasting effect in the body.

How to make a balanced breakfast.


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

Getting your breakfast balance right.

For those people who love to start the day with a tasty, nutritious breakfast, getting the right balance can be confusing. On one hand we are told that carbs are important, then on the other protein is the way to go. So if you are looking for a breakie that will fuel you for several hours through the morning whilst also ticking the right nutritional boxes, here is a simple guide on how to make a balanced breakfast.

1. Start with good quality carbs

Unless you are specifically following a low carb or keto program, adding some wholegrain low GI carbs to your breakfast mix is the best way to help replenish your body after the overnight fast, and ensure your brain and muscles have all the energy they need to be at their best. If cereal is your thing look out for low sugar granola options or oats, fresh fruit is a great option and there is a growing number of lower carb breads in supermarkets that combine wholegrain goodness with fewer carbs than white breads and wraps.

2. Focus on protein

One the most powerful things you can do to ensure you breakfast keeps you full for several hours is make sure you include 20g of good quality protein in your breakfast mix. A couple of eggs, a serve of Greek protein yoghurt, smoked salmon or high protein breads are all easy ways to boost the protein content of your breakfast. 

3. Add some veges

Few of us get the recommended number of vegetable serves each day and don’t forget that breakfast is a meal in which we can easily add some extra vegetable serves. Think sliced tomato on toast, grated veges added to egg dishes or veges blended into juices and smoothies for an extra fibre and vitamin boost.

4. Don’t forget the good fats

Goods fats that come from a range of foods including olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and peanut butter not only offer a range of key nutrients but adding some good fat to a meal helps to ensure that you will be kept fuller for longer after eating. Avocado works well with toast and smoothies, as do nuts and seeds. In particular 100% nut spreads such as Mayver’s Peanut Butter add good fats and protein to toast, smoothies and breakfast baking whilst adding plenty of taste and flavour. Aim to add at least 1 serve of good fats to your favourite go to breakfast of choice. 

Recipe: Peanut Butter & Coconut Breakfast Balls 

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Serves: 6

Ingredients

1 scoop protein powder (Use vegan protein powder if needed.)

½ cup wholegrain rolled oats

¼ cup shredded coconut plus extra for rolling

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

½ cup Mayver’s peanut butter

2 tbsp. honey 

Method

1. Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl 

2. Roll heaped tablespoons of the mixture into balls. 

3. Roll in the extra coconut. 

4. Chill in the fridge for an hour until firm. 

How to create the perfect healthy party platter


Tassal Platter

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

How to build a healthy entertaining platter.

If you spend any time on Insta chances are you would have noticed the growing interest in beautiful entertaining platters – not only are these platters choc full of tasty morsels but a visual feast for their eyes with their bright colours and amazing arrangements. Whilst tasting platers are beautiful to look at, they can also be packed full of fat and calories with dips, biscuits, chips and oily ingredients meaning that you can consume a whole lot of calories in a very short period of time. So if you love nothing more than designing an amazing food platter, here are the steps to take to get the right dietary balance.

1. Add bucket loads of vegetables

Forget packing your platter with biscuits and crackers, adding in chopped up celery, capsicum, carrots, baby cucumbers and tomatoes will not only add plenty of colour to your platter but low carb alternatives to high fat biscuits and chips. Much of the munching that goes on when grazing is mindless, which means we do not eat because we are hungry rather because food is in front of us. This means that lower calorie foods go a long way in keeping our total calories under control.

2. Seek out lighter crackers

While some flavoured chips and crackers can contain as much as 30% fat, extra thin crackers such as Waferthins are low calorie low carb options. Even better are the growing range of lower carb options such as the Olina’s Bakehouse range from Woolies which cost a little more but are much better options nutritionally. Grissini sticks too can work well, as can vegetable based chips.

3. Add nutrient rich proteins

Protein rich foods including Tassal smoked salmon, smoked oysters and prawns are rich sources of essential nutrients including iodine, zinc and omega 3 fats and are a great way to ensure that any snacking that does take place will also help to fill you up.

4. Check out the new style chips

There is a growing range of legume based chips and snacks that generally have a lower fat content that traditional corn chips and crisps but with a lot more protein and fibre. A couple of my favourites are the sugar snap peas from Harvest and the tasty roasted broadbeans and chic peas from The Happy Snack Food Company.

5. Be fussy with your dips

There are more and more dips available in supermarkets but be careful, just because they are made with vegetables does not mean that they are healthy. In fact, dips can have a fat content as high as 30-40% especially if they are based on nuts or cream cheese. Always check the fat content of your favourite dips and seek out ones with <10% total fat. Some of my favourites include Chris’s Egyptian Beetroot and any reduced fat hommus.

What happens when you take whole food groups out of your diet.


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What happens when you take whole food groups out of your diet.

In this day and age it is not a diet until you have eliminated something – carbs, or dairy or wheat or gluten, or even all of the above. A question rarely addressed in these circumstances is what are the nutritional consequences of eliminating entire food groups from your regular diet? And as such what we need to replace the banned foods with to ensure we are not missing out on something the body really needs to keep it healthy long term.

1. Dairy

The first thing we generally think when we think of milk and other dairy foods is their calcium content, but dairy foods are also a rich natural source of magnesium, Vitamin B12, phosphorus, protein, Vitamin D and Vitamin A, all which can be impacted over time when dairy foods are completely eliminated from the diet. As dairy is such a rich natural source of calcium, it is very difficult for adults to get the 800-1000mg of calcium they need each day for healthy bones without any dairy in the diet. While nut milks and soy products may be fortified with calcium, it is rarely in the amounts found in the equivalent to three serves of dairy each day. There are also a number of popular plant based milk alternatives that contain little to no added calcium which means you may be still be consuming what you think is ‘’milk’ with very few of the nutritional benefits real milk offers. 

The issue with a low intake of calcium is that the potential side effects including brittle bones may not be seen for a number of years, by which time it is too late to do much about it. For this reason if you want to ditch dairy completely from your diet, make sure you are choosing nut or grain based milks that are fortified with calcium or take a calcium supplement regularly so you get the 800-1000mg of calcium you need every day. 

2. Red meat

You may choose to not include red meat in your diet for a number of different reasons but nutritionally the key issue is that you also eliminate one of the richest natural sources of iron from the diet. While white meat, eggs, wholegrains and leafy greens do contain some iron, the reality is that this iron is relatively poorly absorbed compared to that found in red meat. Low iron levels are common, with up to 25% of Australian women battling low iron levels which can leave you feeling fatigued, breathless and dealing with low immunity.

While vegetarians adapt over time and become more efficient at absorbing their iron from plant foods, it tends to be those who consume red meat occasionally, or still include fish or chicken in their diet who are at higher risk of developing iron deficiency, as their body is used to absorbing iron from animal sources. To get adequate dietary iron without including red meat in the diet particular attention needs to be paid to include iron rich foods at each meal and snack to get even close to getting the 18mg of iron adult females require each day. 

3. Poultry

White meat including chicken and turkey, whilst relatively lean and protein rich does not contain the nutrient density of that in lean red meat. You get some Vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium and Vitamin B12 in chicken and turkey and the only concern for intake of these key nutrients was if your diet was vegan. If you still including eggs and / or dairy you would be getting enough of these vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind though that lean chicken and turkey meat are protein rich and extremely lean meats and can be a valuble addition to the diet. 

4. Eggs

Eggs are an extremely nutritious food containing more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals include good quality protein, good fats, Vitamins A and E and as such make a nutrient rich addition to any diet. While the nutrients in eggs are all important for our health, with the exception of a couple of micronutrients most of what we do get from eggs we can get from other foods. One exception is selenium, a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role in cell health and that is found in very few foods including eggs and Brazil nuts. A single egg offers at least ¼ of your daily selenium requirement. Eggs are also a good source of Vitamin D, another nutrient that can be low in our diet overall, so again pay a little more attention to the good fats in your diet if eggs are off the menu.  

5. Fish & seafood

Seafood, including all fish as well as shellfish is extremely good for us. High in protein and relatively low in calories it is a nutrient rich addition to any diet. The two key nutrients that are specifically found in fish that you stand to miss out on are the omega 3 fats and zinc from shellfish. While omega 3’s are only in a small number of oily fish including salmon, sardines and fresh tuna, oily fish are one of the very few natural foods which offer this important nutrient. This means that skipping oily fish altogether will make it almost impossible to get the amount if omega 3 you ideally need in your diet without supplementation. Zinc is another nutrient we do not get a lot of but shellfish, in particular oysters and mussels are packed full of zinc which is crucial for hormone production, immune function and good skin. The other less frequently mentioned nutrient Aussies get from our seafood is iodine – notoriously low in Australian soil, low iodine is linked to impaired thyroid functioning long term. This means if fish and shellfish are not your thing, a dietary supplement may be warranted.

Can coffee help you lose weight?


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The truth about coffee and weight loss.

Another day, another diet study but one particular study published last week in Scientific Reports grabbed our attention when it mentioned coffee and fat loss in the same sentence. Could it be true that our favourite way to kick start the day could also be helping us to get slimmer and if so, what should you coffee order look like to reap any of the potential weight related benefits?

We have known for some time that coffee has some benefits when it comes to fat metabolism. Specifically it is the caffeine content of coffee that has been shown to increase fat metabolism slightly for an hour or so after drinking it and subsequently those burning extra calories by exercising after enjoying a coffee will also burn a higher proportion of fat if they have no other fuel from food available. 

This latest research has furthered our understanding of this by finding that when both lab rats and humans where given a dose of caffeine in coffee that brown fat stores were activated. Now brown fat is an exciting potential weight loss target as it is the brown fat in the human body which produces heat by burning both sugars and fats. This is compared to white fat which simply stores fat in the body. Researchers believe that by increasing the activity of brown fat it will in turn help to control blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels as well as help to burn more calories overall hence aiding fat loss. Excitingly this was the first known study that was able to show increases in the activity of this type of fat. 

Now while this is a one-off study on a small number of rats and humans overall, the results are positive and suggest that the caffeine that we get from our morning coffee potentially has a number of metabolic benefits. What is important to know is that it was not the coffee per se that was specifically related to these benefits but the caffeine content of the drinks. In this study granulated coffee with hot water was served to study participants or via a caffeine solution in the rat study not a large milky Latte. 

While coffee is one of the primary deliverers of caffeine in Australia, the reality is that many of us enjoy our daily coffee with plenty of extra milk, extra sugars and added flavours. Now what we do not know is whether the potential fat burning benefits shown in this study after caffeine consumption are negated when our coffee is consumed with these extra calories. Nor do we know if there is a synergistic effect of the caffeine and coffee that causes this physiological response to caffeine or whether caffeine supplements alone will be enough. All of these questions remain to be answered in future research.

So what does this mean for your morning coffee? If your primary goal is to maximise your fat burning potential, black coffee, especially first thing in the morning is going to be your best bet whether you enjoy a long black or espresso. Adding even plain milk to your morning coffee order adds 60-80 calories and 8-15g of sugars to your coffee which is likely to impact your overall calorie intake and the potential fat burning benefits coffee appears to offer. But the good news is that if a double shot is your thing your brown fat appears much more likely to be getting a morning workout and that is a good thing for our health and weight overall.

5 tips to have a healthier Halloween.


Photo by: damianshaw.com

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

Surviving Halloween

The cobwebs are starting to reappear; pumpkins are being carved and the spiders are being arranged……it is almost Halloween!

While Halloween has not been a holiday we have traditionally celebrated here in Australia, if you are a parent of small children you will have noticed that Halloween celebrations are becoming more and more common in residential communities.

So if you are trying to keep your kids sugar intake as low as possible, how can you tackle Halloween and the treats it brings in bucket loads?

1. Remember it is one night only

While dietary purism is coveted by many, the reality is that an occasional treat will cause no long term harm even for a small child and in many cases the excitement of Halloween will be of more interest to little ones, as will be collecting the treats, as opposed to eating them. If you are participating in Halloween (and no one has too) it is unreasonable to expect the kids to not want to enjoy the loot they have scored but imparting some limits can go a long way. 

2. Limits are the key

Like all behavioural management strategies, limits are the key to balance. As a parent if you impose overly restrictive food rules, especially for kids older than 8 – 10 years it is likely to back fire and rather ignite their interest in eating more of the banned foods.

Taking a more reasonable approach and agreeing to a certain number of treats that can be consumed the night of Halloween before putting them away for a later date allows for some enjoyment minus a complete sugar blow out. Distribute supplies throughout the evening so they do not get too attached to the total amount of candy and encourage them to share with friends and family. Then put what they have collected out of sight the night of Halloween and after a day or two many will even forget they had it at all. 

3. Keep portions small

The smaller the child, the smaller the treats should be – think individual lollies rather than packets; small lollipops that take longer to eat and mini chocolates. Linking the number of treats to age too can work well – ie 4 year old, 4 treats in total max and share the rest with others. 

4. Avoid the lollies

If we are getting technical about it, small chocolate bars are slightly better than lollies and can be slightly more difficult to overeat (maybe). 

5. Make some healthy options

Filling the kids up with a meal before they head out trick or treating will help to limit the amounts of sweet foods they can tolerate and having a few healthier fun foods on hand such as Mummy Pizzas, Banana Ghosts and Halloween Spiders (recipes below) are Halloween friendly options that do offer some nutrition.

Recipes

Mummy Pizzas

Makes 8 mini pizzas.

Photo by: damianshaw.comIngredients

Packet of 8 mini wholemeal pita pockets

140g tub of Leggo’s pizza sauce (1.5g sugar per tablespoon)

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

16 thin slices of unprocessed ham

8 slices of light tasty cheese

1 jar of sliced kalamata olives

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

2. Distribute the pita pockets on the baking trays. Top each with 1 tbsp of pizza sauce and smear out with the back of a spoon. Then top each pizza with 2-3 slices of tomato, sliced mushroom and 1-2 slices of ham so it covers the whole pizza.

3. Slice cheese slices long ways in half centimetre strips to make the Mummy bandages. Place the cheese strips along the pita pockets to look like wrapped bandages. Tuck two pieces of sliced olives into the cheese bandages as eyes.

4. Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes or until the cheese has begun to melt and the edges are beginning to brown and crisp.

Photo by: damianshaw.com

Banana Ghosts

Makes 12 ghosts

Ingredients

2 x 170g tubs of Greek or Coconut Yoghurt

24 dark chocolate bits

6 small bananas cut in halves

Method

1. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Dip each banana in yoghurt and add 2 eyes and a mouth using dark chocolate bits.

3. Place in the freezer to set for around 1 hour.

Photo by: damianshaw.comScary Spiders

Makes 16 spiders

Ingredients

1 cup roasted almonds

1 cup macadamias

3/4 cup 100% nut spread (peanut butter or mixed nut spread as preferred)

1 cup chopped dates

2 tablespoons cacao

Coconut for coating

Method

1. In a food processor, place macadamias, almonds, nut spread and cacao powder and process. Add dates and process until the mixture comes together. If the mixture is too dry, you can add a few drops of water and process again.

2. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of cacao onto a plate. Roll the mixture into 16 balls, then roll into the cacao powder. Press 2 white chocolate buttons into the spiders as eyes. Use the dark chocolate icing pen to dot eyeballs in the middle of the white chocolate buttons.

3. Break pretzels to make curved spider legs. Press 3 pretzel legs into the side of every spider so they curve downwards.

4. Allow the spiders to set in the fridge for an hour.

The secret to weight control – keep your dinner light!


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Keeping dinner light – the secret to weight control

For most of us, dinner is the largest meal of the day. Not only does it tend to be the time of day when we are most hungry, but when we combine the snacks we munch on before dinner, any alcohol we indulge in, the dinner itself and then the sweet treats we tend to enjoy after dinner, it is not uncommon to see clients who are consuming more than 1000 calories after 6pm each day. It is no wonder so many of us find it hard to fend off the kilos.

While not always practical, one of the most powerful steps you can take towards losing weight, or at least keeping your weight under control is to keep your final meal of the day as light as possible. Not only does a light evening meal mean that you are more likely to wake up the next day and feel hungry for a breakfast meal, but eating light at night will help you to sleep better and support weight loss, if that is your goal. 

The trick to eating light at night is to focus your meal around a lot more vegetables and salad and much smaller serves of protein – just a palm size piece of meat, chicken or fish. And if you do like to indulge in some wine or dessert, make a choice between a small serve of carbs, a couple of small glasses of wine or something sweet – not all three. Most importantly give yourself an eating cut off time – ideally we need at least 12 hours without food overnight which means switching off the kitchen lights at 8pm at the latest. If you must snack after this time, low calorie, low carb options such as popcorn, berries or low calorie hot drinks such as herbal tea or low sugar hot chocolates drinks are the better options.

And if you are in need of some 300-400 calorie light meal options, look no further.

Naked burgers

Extra lean beef burgers which you can find at supermarkets contain as little as 80-100 calories per serve which means you can enjoy 2-3 naked burgers with plenty of salad for a light yet satisfying meal. 

Prawn stir fry

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Prawns are often overlooked for both their protein and low calorie content and an entire 200g of raw prawns contains fewer than 200 calories. This means that you can enjoy a prawn stir fry with a little soy sauce, veges and cauliflower rice for a low carb, low calorie meal. 

Turkey meatballs

A lean, high protein meat, turkey can be made into a tasty meatball or spaghetti sauce with zucchini noodles and extra vegetables and still clock in at less than 300 calories.

Grilled fish and roasted vegetables

 

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While tuna and salmon are on the higher calorie side thanks to their rich omega 3 contents, if you stick to white fish and team it with a bucket load of low carb veges such as zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, onion and pumpkin, you will strike a perfect balance between low cal and low carb. 

Salmon or tuna cakes

While a large fresh piece of salmon or tuna can bump up calorie intake, mixing a small can of tinned fish with some cottage cheese, grated vegetables, eggs, cheese and a light seasoning of breadcrumbs keeps the carbs and calories low for a great tasting quick and easy dinner.

Vege frittata

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Who said that eggs should be limited to breakfast? In fact a frittata pie made with eggs, grated vegetables and a little cheese equates to 240-300 calories in a relatively large slice and can be enjoyed with salad for a filling, nutrient rich lunch or dinner meal.