Preventing Christmas weight gain


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The diet hacks you need to prevent Christmas weight gain.

Chances are if you have spent the last few weeks indulging with plenty of Christmas cheer the clothes are starting to feel a little tight. The issue with gaining a couple of extra kilos at Christmas is that research suggests we rarely lose it which offers even more incentive to actively prevent weight gain this Christmas. And these are the simple diet and lifestyle hacks that will help you do it.

Stop giving yourself permission to overeat

Whether it is several trips to the ‘all you can eat’ buffet; twenty five high fat canapés or binge eating on foods you never usually would simply because it is holiday time, a crucial behaviour associated with weight control, even during holiday times is to maintain as much regular diet structure as you can. Let’s be honest, no one comes into your house and makes you eat far more food than you need or even really want. There is nothing wrong with enjoying good quality food with family and friends but binge eating foods that you never usually would simply because it is ‘Christmas’ makes no sense. So, rather than writing off the next month and giving yourself to eat whatever crosses your path commit to making good choices. This does not mean going without, rather not eating rubbish for no other reason than it is Christmas.

Don’t waste your calories

You may love chips, or chocolates or nuts or really good cheese but chances are you could take or leave some of the high calorie treats that will be on offer over the coming weeks. So, rather than eating whatever crosses your path mindlessly, make a concerted effort to only use your calories with foods that you actually really love. This means no more cheap lollies or fried foods being passed around at an event, instead making a decision of what to eat based on what you really feel like eating and then enjoying it properly. It may also help to keep a record through the day of exactly what you have consumed to help identify times when you may be more vulnerable to making poor food choices mindlessly.

If you are hosting an event this Christmas season, avoid the calorie overload with my top party foods.

Learn the art of compensation

Holidays mean fun times which can also mean extra treats and more down time. A key skill when it comes to achieving the right balance between good food, regular social occasions and weight control is learning to compensate when we have overdone things. Whether this means factoring in extra exercise, or an alcohol free period, a couple of days of light eating following several days of higher calorie eating or extra walks, learning to compensate when we have eaten more than usual is a useful strategy that will help you learn to control your weight for life. Most simply, next time you have a heavy meal or big day of eating, simply follow it with a light day of salad, vegetables, soup and grilled fish and you will feel back in control in no time.

Exercise, no excuses

For many of us, the holidays mean that we have a little more time rather than less. This means that considering the extra calories we will be consuming it makes sense to factor in more exercise. Daily morning and afternoon walks, an extra gym session and active family activities such as beach trips, bike rides and bush walks are all ways to include exercise as an integral part of the holiday season. The best way to commit to regular exercise even during the holidays is to plan ahead, schedule it and where possible commit to it first thing in the morning before other distractions pop up during the day.

Monitor your weight

It may sound harsh, but the simple act of checking your weight once or twice a week during the holiday season may be all you need to do to stop your weight creeping upwards. In fact, research into the habits of those who have lost weight and kept it off show that no matter what, they regularly monitor your weight. This way, as soon as you see the scales start to creep up, you can cut back rather than gaining 3-5kg and then having to do the hard yards to work them off. And remember, it is far easier to prevent weight gain than it is to get it off once it is there. . If you find weighing yourself regularly daunting, start with just once a week first thing in the morning. Tuesdays and Fridays (after the weekend and before the weekend) are good days to check your weight on a weekly basis.

Take some supplies with you

It does not matter if you are flying, going on a car trip, for a picnic or just to a friend’s BBQ, if you want to commit to eating well and controlling your weight for life, it is time to get into the habit of taking food supplies with you. Once you have some salad/vegetables and protein options always on hand, you are far less likely to over eat non nutritious, high carbohydrate snack foods that are readily available. This is not to say that you cannot enjoy treats when you are out and about, but it means that you never become a victim to your food environment and find yourself forced to eat high calorie, non-filling foods simply because you found yourself hungry and had no other choice but to eat what was there. Offer to take the salad; carry a protein bar in your bag and never arrive at an event hungry in an attempt to keep focused and your nutrition on track no matter what the event or occasion.

Here are my top Christmas party hacks to ensure you don’t leave the party having completely overloaded.

My top party foods


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One of the biggest issues when it comes to pre-Christmas parties and events is the snack food – the high fat pastries, chips, dips, choc coated snacks and canapés that can equate to hundreds of extra calories when they are freely consumed over many hours. So if you are hosting a soiree this festive season, here are my top party foods that will stop the calorie overload.

ChobaniChobani Meze Dip

With fewer calories than regular dips, and a whole lot of protein, these tasty wonders are a great choice especially when served with vegetable sticks as opposed to carb rich rice crackers and biscuits.

Roasted Broadbeans

Who needs high fat potato and corn chips when you can have a protein rich bean? And now they come in flavoured varieties you will not go wrong with these tasty morsels which are far more difficult to overeat than chips thanks to their high natural fibre and protein contents.

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 1.24.18 PMMUNCH snacks

The pumpkin seed variety in particular is packed full of omega 3 fats and these tasty morsels can take the place of both sweet and savoury bite sized snacks on any platter.

Grissini Sticks

With significantly fewer carbs than both bread and biscuits, grissini make a perfect dipping stick or stand-alone munchie.

Take the time to prepare for the Christmas season with my Shape Me intensive 14 day Christmas Kickstart plan, packed full of delicious Summer recipes as well as more tips to keep you on track through the party and Summer season. Sign up today for just $15.00 here.

Bounce Bites

A gluten free alternative to choc coated Christmas treats, the good news is that these protein rich bite sized snacks actually taste pretty good.

WoolworthsBaby Carrots & Cucumbers

A cute baby version of anything is always appealing and the same can be said for our favourite vegetables which can be found in hand snack sizes to enjoy with dips

Jarlsberg Cheese

With significantly less fat than regular cheddar cheese, rolled up Jarlsberg is a protein rich and tasty addition to any savoury platter

Recipe: Fig, Feta & Hazelnut salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 fresh figs, cut into quarters
1 cup baby spinach and rocket mix (~50g)
40g reduced fat feta
20g hazelnuts
1/2 Tbsp. pepitas
1/4 cup canned brown lentils
1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Method

1. Gently toss together all ingredients and season with cracked pepper

Make it through the party season without feeling like you have overindulged with these easy Christmas party tips.

Christmas party hacks


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Chances are you have already overdone things a little this party season so in an attempt to prevent a full pre-Christmas blow out, here are the best Christmas party hacks to avoid a complete calorie overload.

1. Never arrive hungry

If you arrive at an event ravenous you will demolish everything and anything that is in sight. Take the edge of by simply grabbing a protein rich snack an hour or two before you head out such as some cheese and crackers, a protein or nut bar or some Greek yoghurt. This way you will be much more in control of your food choices throughout the event.

2. Stand away from the food

Did you know we will double the amount of food when we can see it?! For this reason standing well away from any buffets and smorgasbords will naturally help to control your calorie intake. Instinct tells us to say yes to food when it is offered, which means the less we are offered, the less we will eat.

Social Image 2Take the time to prepare for the Christmas season with my Shape Me intensive 14 day Christmas Kickstart plan, packed full of delicious Summer recipes as well as more tips to keep you on track through the party and Summer season. Sign up today for just $15.00 here.

3. Stick to a canapé limit

With the average canapé containing 200 calories, you can see how easy it can be to be victim of a complete calorie overload at parties. Limit yourself to just 3 canapés at any one function and ensure that you eat a soup or salad at some point during the day to compensate for the extra party calories that are found in chips, dip and pastries.

4. Avoid the high fat traps

While pastry based treats, cheese and dips can be exceptionally high in fat and kilojoules, the good news is that there is also a range of many lower kilojoules snacks that still taste fantastic. Look for popcorn, breadsticks, low fat dips and crackers and seafood based snacks.

5. Keep a close eye on the drinks

As is the case with activity, the festive season should not be seen as an excuse to forget your personal limits with your alcohol intake. Try and have two alcohol-free days each week to give your liver a break, drink plenty of water and be aware of high calorie mixers such as juice, and soft drink. When it comes to making the best choices, as a general rule of thumb, vodka, lime and soda and champagne contain the fewest calories.

For tips on how to get more vegetables into your day, click here or for a list of the fresh foods to keep on hand to help you support weight control, click here.

Foods you did not realise are ridiculously high in salt


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With nutrition discussion so often focused on carbs, proteins, fat and sugars, it can be easy to forget that far too many of us are consuming excessive amounts of salt on a daily basis. In fact, despite recommendations for us to limit our sodium intake to less than 2000mg each day, many of us are consuming 2-3 x this amount on a daily basis thanks to a diet heavy in processed foods. Here are a few of the foods you probably do not consider to be unhealthy choices, yet foods which can be ridiculously high in salt.

Noodle Bowls

A seemingly simple quick and easy meal on the run, packet noodles and in particular noodle bowls can contain more than 2000mg of sodium in a single bowl, thanks to the little seasoning sachet which can contain a number of different types of salts and flavours.

Turkish Bread

Popular in recent years, not only is a single serve of Turkish bread equivalent to 4-5 slices of regular bread in carb terms but it is packed full of added salt with a single serve offering more than 1000mg of sodium, or more than 1/2 the recommended upper daily limit.

Wraps

While wraps are often considered a healthier choice, a recent report commissioned by Helga’s* has found that some wraps can contain more than 500-600mg of sodium in a single wrap. For this reason to make a healthy wrap choice look for brands that contain less than 600mg of sodium per 100g.

Soy Sauce

With a single tablespoon of soy sauce containing more than 1200mg of sodium, if you consider that popular Asian dishes may contain several high salt sauces including fish, oyster and hoisin sauce, a slat overload is the reason you may feel particularly thirsty and bloated after your favourite Asian feast.

Packet Soups

Often a single packet food sachet can contain very few calories and as such are interpreted as a healthy, low calorie diet food but to give the mix flavour packet soups are often packed with salts and can contain 600-800mg of sodium in a single packet.

Prosciutto

All processed meats contain added salt to help preserve them and add flavour but prosciutto is one of the saltiest with 2 thin slices containing more than 500mg of sodium.

Curry Paste

Another sauce we would not think twice before adding to a favourite meal, a single 50g serve of curry paste contains more than 1000mg of sodium and that is before you consider the other ingredients used to make an entire curry.

Tinned Spaghetti

Any food found in a tin will generally contain some added salt to help preserve the food but tomato based spaghetti options are particularly high with up to 600mg in a ½ cup serve.

*Susie is currently working as a consultant Dietitian and spokesperson for Helga’s and provided commentary for this report. To read more about the report and it’s results, click here

5 ways to stay hydrated through the party season


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*This is a sponsored post*

For many of us the party season starts around Melbourne Cup, quickly followed by the early end of year get-togethers then Christmas parties and of course Summer holidays. Generally speaking these social events also mean plenty of eating and drinking and unfortunately dehydration especially if your drinking tends to mean a lot more beer, wine and celebratory drinks than your usual water. So before the party season is in full swing, here are some simple ways to ensure that keeping well-hydrated is just as big a focus as is having a good time.

While it can be easy to get into good drinking habits when we are in our usual routine, often when we find ourselves in different environments, eating and drinking different things is when our hydration suffers. Instead of keeping our water bottle within easy reach, or having our Zip HydroTap handy for regular refills, someone is constantly filling up our wine glass and before we know it, dehydration and a hangover are inevitable. Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of dehydration for several physiological reasons. Firstly, alcohol reduces the production of a hormone in the body that helps the body to reabsorb water. While the levels of this hormone are reduced in the body more fluid is lost due to increased urination. In addition, naturally you tend to drink less water when you are drinking alcohol, which means if you are out drinking over a number of hours can leave you with significantly less fluid than you are used to consuming. Then, if you drink excessively and become sick, again you may lose more fluid via vomiting or sleeping and again not drinking for long periods of time.

For this reason if your goal is to enjoy the party season and the spoils it offers minus the headaches, dizziness, dry mouth and fatigue that are all signs of dehydration you need a party hydration strategy that ultimately becomes a habit when you do decide to indulge with a few drinks.

Screen Shot 2016-11-24 at 9.30.06 AM1. Always turn up hydrated

As soon as you know that you have a social engagement, party, function or long lunch, that is your reminder to load up with some filtered sparking or still water in the few hours preceding the event. While we do not ‘load fluid’, that means we will simply excrete extra via increased trips to the bathroom, drinking an extra glass or two in the hours before your engagement will ensure that you arrive hydrated.

Could drinking more water be the easiest way to lose weight? Read more here.

2. Think one drink wine, one drink water

The simple act of alternating alcoholic drinks with a sparking or still water is a great habit as it will help to counteract the dehydrating effects of the alcohol itself. If you find it difficult to count the number of drinks you are having, try and finish one glass before having your glass refilled.

3. Have a drink rule

It may be one an hour, or two the first hour and then one each hour after that or a total of three or four in any one sitting – when it comes to self-regulating our intake of alcohol or even food for that matter, making a decision about how much you will have prior to

the engagement will make it easier to stick to your predefined limits. As a general rule of thumb then allow an extra 200-250ml of water for each alcoholic drink you have consumed in any one sitting.

4. Go for hydrating mixers

Forget cola drinks that also add caffeine to the mix, fruit juice or tonic water – where possible choose drinks that can have soda or sparking water added. In the case of punches, spirits with mixers or even sparkling wines, a little water can go a long way in drawing out the drink and adding to your positive fluid balance

5. Drink up before bed

You may not feel like it, but one of the most powerful things you can do to lessen the likelihood of waking up to a nasty headache thanks to severe dehydration after a big night out is to consume a good amount of water before you hit the sack. At a minimum aim for a bottle or 500-600ml and if you can take extra to bed with you in case you do wake up and can manage to drink a little more fluid through the night. Basically if you are feeling thirsty you are likely to be still dehydrated so aim to keep drinking until your urine is clear again and you no longer feel thirsty. Generally speaking you will need an extra 1-1.5L to rehydrate after an occasion in which you drank a significant number of alcoholic drinks.

Hydration plays a major role on how you perform through the day, both at home and at work. Read more here.

Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here.

Snacks for kids


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

Any busy parent is well aware of the challenges that can present when trying to find healthy, nutritious and appealing snacks for kids. Not only can it be a juggling act to track down tasty and nutritious snacks but what kids will or will not eat on any given day can differ widely. There is also the question of how much our kids should snack in general, so to help busy mums and dads here is your guide on how to snack right for kids.

A snack should be considered a ‘mini meal’ and as such have the right nutritional balance to keep both kids and adults full for at least a couple of hours. For this reason, processed bars, twists, bites and biscuits rarely do the trick. Not only do they rarely contain the key nutrients growing kids need but they are often digested quickly leaving kids hungry quickly after eating them.

Are bananas a good choice for breakfast? Yes! See more on why, here.

As a general rule of thumb, a nutritious snack for kids should contain some good quality carbs for energy and some other positive nutritional properties whether this be protein, fibre, wholegrains and/or nutrients such as calcium found in a banana, cheese stick or wholegrain crackers. This way a snack is not only giving growing children the carbs they need for energy but also contributing some other key nutrients that will support optimal growth and development.

As you would expect, a good snack choice will also be as natural and unprocessed as possible. For this reason, fruits such as bananas and dairy based snacks such as cheese, a glass of milk or some Greek yoghurt come up trumps when it comes to ticking the box for both health and nutrition.

Finally but perhaps most importantly, snacks for kids need to, where possible be child friendly. Less processed snacks including home baked, fruit and dairy are competing with highly processed, often sweet and brightly packaged snack foods that children will automatically be drawn to. Don’t be afraid to dress up your nutritious kids snacks to help make them as appealing as possible.

Top snacks for kids

Homemade treats such as fruit muffins or banana bread

Crackers with cheese

Smoothie with milk and fruit

Snack plate with dips, veges and cheese

Popcorn

Roasted broadbeans

Homemade pizzas or wraps

Frozen yoghurt ice-blocks

Greek yoghurt

Yoghurt or choc dipped bananas!

Recipe: Australian Banana Pops

Makes about 12 pops

Ingredients

2 x 170g tubs of Chobani Greek or Coconut Yoghurt

24 dark chocolate bits

6 small Australian Bananas cut in halves

Method

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

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

Place in the freezer to set for around 1 hour.

What type of eater are you?


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While each and every one of us will have a different eating style which has developed during the course of our lives depending on what we were taught as children, who we spend our time with and our individual food preferences, there are a few common patterns of eating that can be actually preventing us moving forward when it comes to our diet and exercise goals. The good news is that once such patterns have been identified, they can generally be managed with a few basic behavioural strategies.

Eating style – restrictive

Restrictive eaters base their food choices around what they think they should be eating as opposed to what they feel like eating. They tend to have very strict food rules such as, “I never eat carbs at night”, and can be prone to overeating when a situation has resulting in their self imposed food rules being broken. Restrictive eaters are often on a diet, may avoid social situations for fear hey will not have access to the foods they think they should be eating and tend to spend far too much time mentally calculating the fat and kilojoule content of their diets.

Strategy

In the case of restrictive eating, a good starting point is to start asking yourself, “What do I really feel like eating?” before each of your meals try to gauge your natural hunger and appetite signals. Always remember that there are no rules about what we should and should not be eating – instead there are balanced meals with everyday foods and foods that we eat sometimes in controlled amounts. Removing the cognitive programming which has become entrenched in your mind that has been telling you that there are foods you should not be eating, is the most important thing to practice if you are a restrictive eater. Once you have started to challenge these thoughts, it will gradually become easier to start to eat foods you would have avoided previously and not feel out of control if you do try a dessert or eat a controlled portion of carbohydrates at dinner.

Do you place enough emphasis on your lunch and ensuring your lunch has the right nutritional balance to set you up for the rest of the day? Here are 5 ways in which you could be getting your lunch totally wrong!

Eating style – emotional

Some of us stop eating when we are sad, stressed, lonely or distressed while some of us eat more. Emotional eating is frequently reported as a behavioural side effect of emotional distress, and if not identified and managed early can result in many kilograms of extra body weight courtesy of chocolates, ice creams and biscuits – the most common foods sought out by emotional eaters.

Strategy

There are a number of proven behavioural steps which have been shown to help manage emotional eating. The first thing to do is to identify the key times when you find yourself eating high kilojoule food after certain emotional triggers. Once you have done this, you can practice having a “time out” in between the trigger and the eating – try calling a friend, getting out of the house ( a change in environment works very effectively) or writing down he pros and cons of eating. This space makes it much easier to think rationally about eating rather than rushing to the fridge and downing a tub of ice cream. Most importantly, if you know you are prone to emotional overeating, never keep your comfort foods in the house, at least if you have to go and buy there will be some time in between the event and when the food is available which may help you to make a rational decision not to binge.

Eating style – serial dieter

You name it; the serial dieter has tried it! Low carb, high protein, fruit only, cabbage only; to no real avail as a serial dieter never appears to lose weight as too much energy is being spent on trying out weird and wonderful diets instead of concentrating on developing long term healthy eating behaviours.

Strategy

If you are a serial dieter, it is time to stop. Think about all the precious time and energy (and not to mention money) you have wasted on these programs for no real outcome. If there was an easy way to lose weight, we would all be 5kgs lighter, but basically sustainable fat loss is hard work. If you are serious about getting healthy, book yourself into a dietitian and get your own personalised food plan to deal with your own personal weight issues once and for all.

Eating style – night binging

Night bingers eat next to nothing all day, only to arrive home famished and eat everything in sight. Consuming a disproportionate number of kilojoules during the second half of the day not only means that energy is often lacking during the day but weight gain can result as high kilojoule foods such as pasta, rice, alcohol and treats are foods frequently chosen at this time of day.

Strategy

If you are a night binger, you too need to get organised and start to support your metabolism rather than sabotage it. Practice planning ahead each day so you can ensure that you have all the food supplies you need to eat at least eat 3 meals each day and try having a protein rich snack such as a nut bar, milk based drink or protein bar on the way home from work so you do not walk in the door ravenous. Like emotional eaters, you may find it helps if you do not keep too much “easy to eat” snack foods such as biscuits, crackers, dips, chocolates and potato chips at home as these are foods which are too easy to grab and over eat when we are starving.

Eating style – Health Nazi

Health Nazis may look fabulous from a distance but a closer look can reveal dry skin, fatigue and low mood as the obsession with all things natural and healthy has resulted in a life without much pleasure. While eating nutritionally balanced food should be a goal for every one of us, taking it to an extreme in which one will not eat out or eat any type of food unless it is organic, natural and unprocessed can become mentally draining and may be a sign that things have gotten a little extreme.

Strategy

If you cannot remember the last time you ate out or even enjoyed your food, you need to loosen the food rules a little. There is nothing wrong with choosing to eat healthy but if it is limiting you socially, there is a problem. To break free of this health obsessed pattern, spend some time thinking about what foods you really enjoy eating and make sure you have those included in your meal plan. Practice eating out at new places and making decisions on regular menu items. And most importantly, remember that food is meant to nourish your body and eating is meant to be a pleasurable experience. If you do not find this is the case, you may need to speak to a professional on issues relating to control in your life.

These are the foods to keep on hand to help support your weight control. Ensure they are on the shopping list every week!

Be wary of office feeders


Look familiar?

Look familiar?

We become like the people we spend our time with. This means that if you spend 8+ hours at work 5 or 6 days a week with colleagues who have less than ideal lifestyle habits, chances are over time that it is going to affect you too.

A couple of years back a landmark finding from a long term study published in the New England Journal of Medicine alarmingly found a powerful link between peoples weight and the weight of those close to them. The Framingham Heart Study, which has followed more than 15 000 Framingham residents since 1948 has not only provided huge amounts of data relating to heart disease risk factors but the data has also been used to track social connections and health variables of the participants. When researchers looked at these social connections in terms of participants who gained or lost weight, it was clear that individuals did not become obese randomly, rather groups of people would become obese together over even lose weight together. So significant were these findings that the study showed that when a Framingham resident became obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese too.

Coffee. We all love it but which coffee order is better for you? Find out here.

If we translate these findings into useful recommendations and tips to move forward with our own health and fitness, basically we all need to be exceptionally mindful of how powerful the influence of those around us actually is – the work colleague who likes to bake; the boss who funds pizza Fridays or the receptionist who is always selling fund raising chocolates. As an occasional treat or occurrence no harm is done but when such tendencies become the ‘norm’, within a workplace habits form and it is these habits that in turn ultimately determine our weight and health long term.

Unfortunately when it comes to people and human nature, it is rarely the ‘good’ habits that dominate. Overeating is far more common than under eating; drinking too much alcohol tends to override abstaining and dieting is frowned upon by those who know they too need to lose weight but are currently making the choice not to. In each of these daily scenarios that confront us, to say ‘no’ and be strong to continue with your own goals and focus is challenging, as challenging as it was to say no to a smoke in the playground with the ‘cool kids’.

Could you be getting your lunch wrong? Here are 5 ways you might be missing the mark with your lunch and how to fix it! 

In particular the workplace environment is perhaps one of the most challenging environments in which to engineer if one is to avoid weight gain and stay on track with their health and fitness goals. Not only is long periods of inactivity encouraged but is considered the norm; lunch breaks are nothing short of a privilege and then there are the office feeders – those office mates who love nothing more than to feed everyone high fat, high calorie foods.

So knowing this, what can you do to help your quest for weight control, health and fitness? One option is to seek out those within a workplace who are committed to healthier lifestyle habits or be the role model within an organisation to encourage others to make healthy choices the default option at work. Most importantly, when it comes to those around us who continually sabotage our efforts and actively throw our lifestyle choice off track it may be time to be a little more honest in your approach. It may be time to say that you find it difficult to keep on track with your diet when they continually offer you cakes and ask if they could stop. It may not seem that nice or socially acceptable but the calories you save will be worth it.

For some easy to prepare breakfast and lunch options, try our free Shape Me recipes here.

Sugar and kids; is your child eating too much sugar?


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*This is a sponsored post*

Your child is eating way too much sugar

For some time there has been much discussion in the media about the amounts of sugar the average adult eats on a daily basis. Unfortunately we have heard far less about the enormous amounts of sugar our children are consuming and the huge impact this can have on their weight, metabolism and dental health long term. So how much sugar is your child eating? You may be surprised where it is slipping into their diets.

The funny thing about sugar is that it is naturally occurring in a number of foods. For example, fruits contain the natural sugar fructose while dairy contains the natural sugar lactose. Indeed small amounts (20-30g) of natural sugars consumed each day as part of a healthy diet poses no health issues.

The issue in modern diets is that we are very good at concentrating these sugars – turning fresh fruit into juice with 2-3x the amount of sugars you would get from a piece of fruit, or consuming milk in a smoothie that also has honey and fruit added which gives you another 20-30g of sugars without us realizing it. It is these concentrated sources of sugar, as well as the huge amounts of added sugars found in many processed foods that tips our, and our kids intake of added sugars over the edge.

When it comes to kids diets it is actually quite challenging to keep their daily sugar intake low, simply because so many of the popular kid’s foods contain added sugars. Over the past 5-10 years, food manufacturers have been working to significantly reduce the sugar content of popular kid’s foods including muesli bars, breakfast cereals and snack foods. While this is a step in the right direction, there are still plenty of fruit snacks, drinks, flavoured yoghurts and biscuits that are packed full of added sugars.

High sugar foods increase blood glucose levels over time, increase the desire we have for sweet foods and leave our teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. For this reason, the less of these sugars we expose our kids to on a daily basis, the better.

While there is no set amount of sugar we need, the less added sugar we consume in our diet the better. As a general rule of thumb, choosing packaged foods that do not list sugar on the ingredient list is a step in the right direction, and looking for products that contain less than 10g of sugars per 100g, or less than 5g per serve. When it comes to added sugars, the less we consume the better, and less than 20-30g of added sugars per day for children is ideal.

Typical Kids Diet v Low Sugar Diet

Sugars (g)

Breakfast

Weetbix + Sugar 10g v Eggs on toast 0g

School

Muesli Bar 5g v Roasted Broadbeans 0g

Fruit Juice 20g v Water 0g

Sandwich 0g v Sandwich 0g

Fruit 10g v Fruit 10g

After School

Muffin or Banana Bread 25g v Sushi Roll 5g

Milkshake or smoothie 30g v Small flavoured milk 20g

Dinner

Meat + tomato sauce 5g v Meat and low sugar sauce 2g

Potato 0g v Potato 0g

Peas 0g v Peas 0g

Dessert

Ice Cream 20g v Greek Yoghurt and berries 10g

Total = 125g v Total = 47g

Please note this includes natural and added sugars. 

Susie is currently working as a spokesperson for the Philips Sonicare For Kids range. All thoughts and opinions included in this article her own.

Philips Sonicare For Kids is an electric power toothbrush for kids aged 4 or older. It offers maximum plaque removal, sonic technology, customisable stickers and educational tools to help make proper brushing fun for a lifetime. To read more about the benefits and to purchase a Sonicare For Kids today, click here.

5 ways you are getting your lunch wrong


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For some time breakfast has been considered the most important meal of the day. While there is no doubt that starting the day with something nutritious is a great way to give your metabolism the kick start it needs after the overnight fast, there are plenty of reasons why lunch could also claim the honours. Not only does what we choose for lunch dictate how we eat for the remainder of the afternoon, but a nutritionally balanced lunch is the key to optimal mental performance and energy regulation for the remainder of the day. So here are the most common reasons your lunch is failing you and the easy ways you can alter your lunch to help you be your best productive self all afternoon. 

1. You are eating lunch too late

In busy lives, lunch is often pushed or forgotten until 2 or 3pm each day. If you consider that for many of us breakfast was before 8am, it is likely you need to refuel by 1pm at the latest to ensure your blood glucose levels are restored and you are at your best cognitively. For both the metabolic benefits and the performance edge, aim to eat lunch as early as possible. In fact it is better to enjoy an early lunch at 11am than it is to resist the hunger, snack and then eat your next substantial meal late in the afternoon.

2. It does not contain enough vegetables

A sandwich, stir fry, leftovers or soup will only fill you for a couple of hours unless you have the 2-3 cups of salad or vegetable bulk that will also offer the fibre to help keep you full for several hours after lunch. Remember you can add a low calorie soup, salad or serve of vegetable to virtually any lunch choice without worrying about calories.

See my top 5 tips for avoiding office weight gain here.

3. It has far more calories than you think it does

Cafe and food court lunches can have double the calories of a similar lunch you have prepared at home thanks to the extra sauces, fats and extras that comes with prepared and fried lunch choices. Even popular salads can contain more than 800 calories and 40-60g of fat per serve. To keep your lunchtime calories controlled and between 350-500 calories, where possible bring your lunch from home or check nutrition information that is available at popular outlets 

4. It has no carbs

Often we think that cutting the carbs is the way to go when it comes to fat loss and weight control but too few carbs in the day can leave you feeling tired and craving sugars late in the day. Even if your goal is weight loss including a serve (1/2 cup) or two of good quality carbs such as legumes, sweet potato, wholegrain bread or brown rice will help to keep you full and satisfied throughout the afternoon.

Have you considered buying your groceries online? Here are 5 reasons why buying groceries online may help your weight control.

5. You eat it at your desk

Inactivity as well as mindlessness are both linked to weight gain. In fact, a study found that individuals who ate their lunch in front of the TV ate more calories at afternoon tea. Even if you can only manage a 20 minute lunch break, use the time to get some sunlight and steps and some much needed time away from a screen to mindfully enjoy eating your lunch. 

How to get enough vegetables in your day


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While we know that we need to eat more veggies and that a minimum of 5 serves each day is what we need for good health, far fewer of us know that when it comes to optimal health and well-being we need a lot more than the minimum of 5 serves of vegies a day that is recommended by public health agencies. In fact, when we look at the data from countries who have the healthiest diets, they are on average consuming 7-10 serves of fresh fruit and veggies every single day. So how can possibly eat this many veggies each day? Follow these simple steps and you will hit your veggie target with ease, every single day.

Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 4.06.41 PM1. Include them at breakfast

Veggies are no longer a dinner food – get into the habit of adding either some sort of salad to your eggs or toast such as mushies or tomato or simply add them to your favourite smoothies are juices. Vegetable juices are much lower in sugars than fruit based juices and will easy give you at least 1-2 serves of nutrient rich vegetables. And if you are not a juice fan, green veggies including spinach, kale and cucumber will easily mix into your favourite breakfast smoothie.

2. Take at least 1 vegetable to snack on a day

Our default is often a piece of fruit which is naturally a great choice but in addition start to consider veggies as nutrient dense, low calorie snacks. A punnet of baby tomatoes; a cucumber; carrot; handful of snow peas or cut up capsicum are not only tasty snacks especially teamed with cottage cheese, hommus or nut spreads but surprisingly convenient. Many supermarkets are not also stocking snack style veggies so you don’t even need to cut them up yourself.

Read about the foods to have on hand to help support your weight control here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 4.19.55 PM3. Add a lunch side

The great thing about veggies is that you can literally add them to any dish or meal as a low calorie side. At lunchtime think side salad, soup or leftover vegetables from dinner that can bulk up your regular sandwich, sushi or leftovers. Not only will you notice feeling more satisfied all afternoon but you will then be well on your way to your 7-10 serves of veggies each day.

4. Eat them while you prepare dinner

Chances are you snack on crackers, dip and chips before dinner but simply adding some cut up vegetables to the mix when you are tired, bored and hungry means you will not only eat significantly fewer calories at dinner but will easily eat at least a serve of vegetables before the meal itself.

Hungry all the time? Susie shares the top reasons that your hunger may be getting the better of you and how to overcome it here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 4.30.57 PM5. Aim for ½ a plate at dinner

The mistake we make in Australia is loading our dinner plates up with extra protein at the expense of our veggies. Ideally we need at least 2 cups of vegetables or salad at dinner time or at least ½ of the plate. Using a spiralizer to make zucchini or pumpkin noodles; or cauliflower rice are two easy ways to replace out some carbs for extra vegetables in stir fries and pastas (see Woolworths new Simply Steam Zucchini Spaghetti and Cauliflower Rice for those times you need a quick option on hand), while a side salad or roasted vegetables go a long way in complimenting many different meals. Most importantly, don’t be scared to make your vegetables taste good – feel free to use oils, sauces and cheese to flavour them up as you will eat a lot more when your veggies and salads taste good. 

5 things to know about toddler milk


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For many parents, the toddler years can prove challenging when it comes to dietary patterns and food preferences. Small children are notoriously fussy and often parents relent and feed them whatever they will eat, which is not always ideal nutritionally. Busy parents need convenient yet nutritious and child friendly options to help strike a balance between nutrition and the reality of what small children will eat.

Toddler milk is a product that has become increasingly popular in recent years as a supplement or alternative to cow’s milk. And although toddler milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals, they have been openly criticised by health professionals, with many arguing it is simply not necessary to use a special milk for toddlers. Many say toddlers can get all the nutrients they require in a normal healthy diet, which includes regular cow’s milk.

Yet — the market for toddler milk continues to grow. So, do you need toddler milk? And, should you choose to use toddler milk with your family, how should it be incorporated?

While a balanced diet will give toddlers the nutrients they require, it can be argued that very few toddlers are actually eating the range of foods needed to obtain the optimal intake of essential nutrients.

Sure, they may be getting plenty of calories via carbohydrate-rich meals and snacks like bread, rice crackers, snack bars, fruit, sweet yogurt and milk. But the data shows toddlers are rarely consuming the amounts of lean meat, fish and vegetables they require to get the optimal amount of iron, zinc, iodine, fibre and Omega 3 required.

When you consider the ideal toddler food intake compared to what the average toddler actually eats, there is a place for toddler milk as part of a balanced dietary pattern.

I am not saying toddler milk is a necessity. But in the diets of toddlers, it can be a nutrient rich addition — especially for toddlers who are particularly fussy and likely to be missing out on key nutrients. Other benefits of including a serve of toddler milk each day in the diet of your toddler include:

1. Toddler milk ticks the box of a number of key vitamins and minerals

Unlike cow’s milk, toddler milk offers a significant proportion of a number of essential vitamins and minerals toddlers need for growth and development including iron, zinc, calcium and iodine. For poor meat and vegetable eaters, this means toddlers still get the nutrients they would ideally be getting via fresh foods.

2. Toddler milk contains iodine

Iodine is a key nutrient that is notoriously low in the diets of Australians. Iodine is essential for brain development and metabolism — and low levels in pregnancy and early childhood are linked to reduced cognitive function. Toddler milk offers the added benefit of iodine, which is found in few other foods.

3. Toddler milk contains Omega 3 fats

It can be really hard to get toddlers and small children to eat the amounts of fresh fish they require to get an optimal amount of omega 3 fat. Toddler milks offer the added benefit of long chain omega 3 fats.

4. Toddler milk may contain added extras such as prebiotics

As we learn more about nutrition, we learn more about the importance of gut health. Prebiotics are important in helping feed the good bacteria in the gut, as well as helping to reduce constipation.

5. Toddler milk is a back-up meal option

When toddlers are tired, reluctant to eat a typical meal, or simply off their food, toddler milk is a convenient meal replacement option that can give you peace of mind that your little one has received the nutrients they require.

Susie is a consultant to Bellamy’s Organic. Bellamy’s do manufacture toddler milk. These are though her own views on the use of toddler milk as both a paediatric dietitian and as a mum. After working with Bellamy’s and through her own research, she has come to appreciate the benefits of toddler milk drinks and the role they can play in a toddler’s diet, particularly toddlers who are fussy eaters. This is not to say that toddler milk is for everyone, it is simply one nutrient rich options that can play a role in the diets of toddlers.

Kids and treats


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Do you remember what it was like to have a treat when you were a kid? It may have been a chocolate bar from the petrol station on a road trip, or donut at the shopping centre on the weekends or a trip to the local fast food outlet on a Friday or Saturday night. Whatever was your family’s treat of choice, chances are it was occasional; based on behavioural reward and portion controlled. Fast forward 20 years and our kids basically live on treats. There are the after school treats at the local shops; the daily hot chocolates or smoothies as well as the regular chocolates, sweets, cakes and fast food rewarded for anything from getting a good mark at school to scoring a goal at soccer or netball. The concept of delayed gratification is not existent, as is the concept of having to wait or really earn anything. And unfortunately, it is making our kids a rather unhealthy and entitled bunch.

There is nothing wrong with kids (or adults) having a treat, especially to celebrate special occasions or events, such as Trick or Treating on Halloween. The issue comes when the treats have no real value as they are offered so frequently and when treats become adult serves  of high calorie, high sugar foods which are less than ideal for young children for both their dental health and for their weight.

Evidence suggests that up to 30% of our kids calories on a daily basis are coming from ‘extra’ foods – the muffins, cakes, biscuits, confectionery and juices and sugary drinks they really should not be having at all. This means that when treats are offered in addition to these foods, our kid’s diets are high in sugars on a daily basis.

Ideally a treat should be offered at reasonably set intervals – say once or twice each week at most and be offered for a specific reason. For example, for doing particularly well at school, or after a party or other special occasion. Most importantly, they need to be portion controlled. There is nothing wrong with a small Freddo Frog, but if your 8 year is working their way through an adult size block of chocolate there is an issue.

At a time like Halloween, portion control is incredibly important. There is a big difference between kids door knock a few local houses for a few bits of chocolate and lollies and filling up bags and bags of chocolates and lollies that are then consumed without guidance or limits from parents. Feel confident in limiting how long your primary school aged children trick or treat for, and then helping them to ration out their takings. This helps to teach small children that over consuming foods for the sake of it is not a healthy habit long term, and you can still get pleasure and enjoyment from 1-2 chocolate bars without needing to eat as much as you can for the sake of it.

Even better is a shift towards slightly healthier treats – small individual muffins or chocolate flavoured treats; dipped fruits or protein balls and snacks that still contain some chocolates or sweet flavours without the lashings of calories and sugar found in commercial lollies, snacks and chocolates.

Try my healthy Halloween recipes such as my Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes, Scary Spiders or Banana Ghosts for a treat the kids will love making just as much as eating!

Susie is currently working as a spokesperson for the Philips Sonicare For Kids range. All thoughts and opinions included in this article her own.

Philips Sonicare For Kids is an electric power toothbrush for kids aged 4 or older. It offers maximum plaque removal, sonic technology, customisable stickers and educational tools to help make proper brushing fun for a lifetime. To read more about the benefits and to purchase a Sonicare For Kids today, click here.

Healthy Halloween Recipes: Eyeballs


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With Halloween just a few days away there are many children very excited at the thought of trick or treating and dressing up to celebrate this event which is gaining more interest in Australia. Naturally for parents this poses the question of how many ‘treats’ are too many, and should we encourage Halloween indulgences? My perspective is that like any special occasion there is nothing wrong with enjoying Halloween in moderation but this does not mean small children need to eat bucket loads of sugar for the sake of it. Rather a small amount of treat style food on Halloween itself will be more than enough of a treat. And if you are looking for an even better alternative, I have partnered with Philips Electronics to develop these healthy Halloween recipes for you to make at home. Not only do they look the part but they actually taste great too and can let you and the family enjoy Halloween without worrying about the kids eating too much sugar. Happy Halloween! 

Eyeballs

Serves 12

Photo by: damianshaw.comIngredients

12 Light Baby Bel Cheese rounds

4 black olives, sliced into thin pieces,

1 tbsp. tomato sauce

1 tsp. natural red food colouring

Method

1. Place piece of black olive in the centre of the cheese.

2. Fill middle with a little tomato sauce.

3. Use red food colouring to draw blood vessels onto eye using a very thin paint brush, fine eye line pen or toothpick.

Philips Sonicare For Kids is an electric power toothbrush for kids aged 4 or older. It offers maximum plaque removal, sonic technology, customisable stickers and educational tools to help make proper brushing fun for a lifetime. To read more about the benefits and to purchase a Sonicare For Kids today, click here.

How many of us suffer from dehydration?


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If there was one simple step you could take to improve you and your family’s health and well-being, why would you not take it? Well one of the easiest, simplest and cost effective ways to improve our health on a daily basis is to drink more water. Yep, the clear stuff. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Yet how much have you had today?

Indeed it seems that very few of us are getting the message when it comes to the benefits associated with keeping well-hydrated, especially in a hot climate like Australia with 75% of Aussies suffering from dehydration at any one point in time. Think about it – fatigue, headaches, joint pain, perceived effort – all signs and symptoms that we are just not drinking enough water. And our kids are no better – juices, soft drinks and flavoured liquids often taking the place of water on a daily basis.

So what can you do about it? Forget trying to remember your water bottle or fighting with the kids about drinking more water instead of juice. The answer may be a little simpler than you even imagined. There was no complicated reasons or calculations to explain why this was the case. Rather it appears that when it comes to drinking more water, taste, convenience, readily available bubbly water as is offered in the new HydroTap models and environmental considerations were all powerful motivators when it comes to reaching for more water on a daily basis.
It makes sense. Human beings do what is easy, and they do what they like. In the case of having a Zip HydroTap installed at home, not only is it the easy option to reach for some chilled, still or sparking water but most importantly the water tastes amazing. Time and time again the great fresh taste of Zip filtered water has been proven. For the kids this means reaching for a glass or bottle of chilled water is fun and easy; for the men it encourages water consumption in general and for mum it means no more bottles clogging up the fridge and the garbage bin.

Known as ‘The Zip Effect’, drinking more water, means feeling more ‘Woohoo’ as keeping well-hydrated is linked to improved energy and concentration, improved digestive function; toxin and fluid elimination as well as appetite and weight control. Most importantly, drinking more water on a daily basis also becomes a deeply entrenched habit when a Zip HydroTap is installed at home.

And I can vow for this benefit since I had a Zip HydroTap installed in my own home 12 months ago. Suddenly there were no more soda water bottles filling my fridge or arguments with teenagers about not drinking soft drink. The whole family now fills their water bottles from the HydroTap on a daily basis; I constantly use the boiling water feature to heat bottles for my 8 month old twins and my husband, who rarely drank any water before drinks much more water on a daily basis. Everyone has benefited and best of all, without them even realising it.

Most importantly for me as a health care professional, is knowing that thanks to the unique technology of Zip HydroTap that the water my family drinks is safe and clean. Zip’s micron-filtration system removes and dirt and contaminants as small as 1/5000th of a millimetre, giving me utmost peace of mind that the water we drink is of the highest quality.

So as we move into the warm Summer months, and if you know you and your family need to make water the fluid of choice at home to help everyone be at their best on a daily basis, consider investing in a Zip HydroTap. It will be one the most powerful things you can do for your health and well-being long term.

More information on Zip’s HydroTap and how to purchase yours can be found here.

Read more on how hydration can affect your performance at home, at work and at play, here.

*Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here.

Are your wraps as healthy as you think?


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Chances are if I held up a slice of bread and a wrap, you would say that the wrap was a healthier choice. And indeed, like bread, wraps can be an exceptionally healthy choice, especially when they are packed with wholegrains, fibre and key nutrients. Wraps are also becoming increasing popular with a 35% increase in the number of wraps being sold in the last four years. It may surprise you though to hear that not all wraps are created equal and in fact some of the most popular wraps are packed full of salt and artificial preservatives, perhaps not making them the best choice for you, or for your family.

Steak&OnionWrap 03v2A recent report commissioned by the people who make Helga’s and conducted independently by the University of Newcastle has found that of the 22 bestselling wraps on the market, some contain up to six times the recommended amount of salt of others per serve and 17 of the top 22 wraps contained artificial preservatives.

In particular, the report showed that leading wrap brand Mission contains the highest salt levels of all the wraps studied. One serve of these wraps (49-71g) on average contains 561mg of sodium, which is over one third the recommended amount of sodium in the Australian Suggested Dietary Target for chronic disease prevention, which is 1,600mg of sodium or 4g of salt per day. And that is before considering what fillings are added!

Flavoured wraps in particular had higher amounts of salt and simply swapping a higher salt wrap for a lower one (like Helga’s Traditional White Wraps) can reduce your daily sodium intake by as much as 40% or up to 90 less teaspoons of salt in your diet each year (based on the average daily intake of 1.5 wraps).

From a nutritional perspective high intakes of salt are linked to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease long term and can cause bloating and fluid retention on a daily basis.

Perhaps even more concerning was the finding that so many popular varieties of wraps, even those that appeared to be healthy choices contained artificial preservatives. The artificial preservatives most commonly used included 200 (potassium sorbate), 282 (calcium propionate) and 281 (sodium propionate). These molecules naturally occur in small amounts in foods and are produced in the gut as part of the digestive process but the concern is that these molecules do accumulate in the body, making it difficult to identify any potential detrimental symptoms for children and adults. So if you want your diet to be as free from additives as possible, check the nutrition labels of the wraps you are purchasing for the family.

Helgas Traditional Wrap_ClaimAs a general rule of thumb, look for products that contain less than 600mg of sodium per 100g and check ingredient lists to avoid artificial preservatives so you can enjoy healthy wraps without the unwanted additives. Wraps like any food can be a regular part of a healthy diet, it is just about choosing the right ones. My top picks are Helga’s Tradition White Wraps, Mixed Grain and Lower Carb Wraps along with Wattle Valley Grain Wraps.

Perhaps even more concerning was the finding that so many popular varieties of wraps, even those that appeared to be healthy choices contained artificial preservatives. The artificial preservatives most commonly used included 200 (potassium sorbate), 282 (calcium propionate) and 281 (sodium propionate). These molecules naturally occur in small amounts in foods and are produced in the gut as part of the digestive process but the concern is that these molecules do accumulate in the body, making it difficult to identify any potential detrimental symptoms for children and adults. So if you want your diet to be as free from additives as possible, check the nutrition labels of the wraps you are purchasing for the family.

As a general rule of thumb, look for products that contain less than 600mg of sodium per 100g and check ingredient lists to avoid artificial preservatives so you can enjoy healthy wraps without the unwanted additives. Wraps like any food can be a regular part of a healthy diet, it is just about choosing the right ones. My top picks are Helga’s Tradition White Wraps, Mixed Grain and Lower Carb Wraps along with Wattle Valley Grain Wraps.

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Susie is currently working as a Consultant Dietitian and spokesperson for Helga’s. All thoughts and opinions included in this article her own.

Healthy Halloween Recipes: Scary Spiders


Photo by: damianshaw.com

With Halloween just a few days away there are many children very excited at the thought of trick or treating and dressing up to celebrate this event which is gaining more interest in Australia. Naturally for parents this poses the question of how many ‘treats’ are too many, and should we encourage Halloween indulgences? My perspective is that like any special occasion there is nothing wrong with enjoying Halloween in moderation but this does not mean small children need to eat bucket loads of sugar for the sake of it. Rather a small amount of treat style food on Halloween itself will be more than enough of a treat. And if you are looking for an even better alternative, I have partnered with Philips Electronics to develop these healthy Halloween recipes for you to make at home. Not only do they look the part but they actually taste great too and can let you and the family enjoy Halloween without worrying about the kids eating too much sugar. Happy Halloween! 

Scary 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.

Philips Sonicare For Kids is an electric power toothbrush for kids aged 4 or older. It offers maximum plaque removal, sonic technology, customisable stickers and educational tools to help make proper brushing fun for a lifetime. To read more about the benefits and to purchase a Sonicare For Kids today, click here.

Top tips for building a healthy liver


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A surprisingly high number of people have got a fatty liver. Closely associated with Type 2 diabetes and overweight and obesity, while left unmanaged  fatty liver can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure, the good news is that a number of lifestyle risk factors can be modified to help halt the progression of fatty liver and ensure that the largest organ in the body retains its functioning.

The liver has a lot of important roles in the human body. It helps to break down carbs, proteins and fats to be used as energy; it stores a number of vitamins and minerals and most importantly it helps to metabolise toxins including alcohol.

As we age, drink too much alcohol, eat too much fat and gain too much weight, fat can accumulate in the liver causing its cells to store fat and lose their functioning, which is why measures of our liver health on blood tests can show abnormal results several years before significant and irreversible damage is done to the liver. These abnormal tests though are signs that our livers are not coping and steps need to be taken to change the underlying factors causing fat to accumulate in the liver.

So if you have signs of early liver damage or are already managing fatty liver, here are the key changes to your diet to make now to help stop the progression of liver disease and look after your liver.

1. Get strict with your carbs

While a high intake of sugar is linked to fatty liver, so too is insulin resistance, the condition in which the hormone insulin is not working well in the body. High levels of insulin in the bloodstream over time will eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes and is also closely related to weight gain around the abdomen. While medication is sometimes warranted is help manage insulin levels and prevent the progression to Type 2 diabetes, controlling our intake of carbohydrate is important to help control the amount of insulin being secreted. While you do not need to cut out your carbs entirely, limiting the total volume to 30-40% of total calorie intake or roughly 100-140g in total per day. In food terms this translates into some carbs at breakfast and lunch before tapering off during the second half of the day.

2. Watching saturated fat

One of the oldest dietary recommendations yet one which few of us adhere too. Aussies still get significant amounts of saturated fat in their diets courtesy of fatty meats, fried foods and pastry and it is this type of fat that accumulates around the central organs in the body including the liver. Get strict with your intake of saturated fat by choosing only lean cuts of meat (this means ditching the fatty sausages, mince, chicken thighs and chops), minimize your intake of fried food to just once a month at most and avoid pastry entirely.

3. Focus on good fats

Of the limited evidence available to show what the best type of diet is for individuals managing fatty liver, there is growing evidence to show the omega 3 fats may help to reduce inflammation in the body. As fatty liver is an inflammatory condition, bumping up our intake of these fats to 4-6 grams each day should reap the benefits. Good food sources of omega 3 fats include oily fish, grain bread, walnuts and omega 3 enriched eggs while a daily fish oil supplement is a must.

Read more about my top supplements here.

4. Load up on coloured vegetables

It does not matter if it is beetroot, kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli – all you need to know is the brighter the colour of the fresh vegetable, the higher the antioxidant content and the better it is for your liver. Aim for at least 7-10 serves (3-5 cups) of brightly coloured vegetables or salad every single day to naturally boost your antioxidant intake. Individuals with fatty liver disease have been shown to have lower blood levels of key antioxidants. This means the more antioxidant rich foods we can include in the diet, the better.

5. Get rid of the alcohol

When it comes to the health of our liver, the less alcohol we consume, the better. For individuals who already have a fatty liver, the liver is already working overtime to maintain its basic function. Drinking alcohol regularly will in turn put more pressure on this organ so if you can say goodbye to the grog completely. 

D&X have a supplementary formulation to help promote liver health. For more information, click here.

*Susie is currently a brand ambassador for D&X. To learn more about the partnership, click here.

Green bananas for a healthy gut?


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Of all the dietary research available, one of the most interesting new areas of understanding is how powerful our gut health is in determining our overall health and immune function. It appears that modern life and the stress associated with it, along with more refined, processed food based diets have played havoc with the bacteria naturally found in the digestive system. In turn this means more tummy issues, reduced immune function, an increased risk of a number of disease states and even weight gain.

As we learn more about the importance of keeping our guts healthy, the good news is that pre and probiotics, active components found in foods and various supplements may offer some relief. Known as the “good bacteria,” probiotics are microorganisms naturally found in the human digestive tract improve the balance of healthy bacteria. Probiotics have to been shown to;

- help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating

- help restore gut flora after consuming a course of antibiotics which can kill the good bacteria naturally found in the gut 

-  help rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorption 

Probiotics can be found in various food sources, including fermented drinks and yoghurts. It’s been shown just 1-2 serves a day of these foods can reduce bloating in sensitive stomachs. For those individuals opposed to yoghurts or milk-based drinks, probiotics are also available in supplement form, which can be an effective way to get your daily dose of “good gut health”. 

Read how bananas are great breakfast choice here.

Probiotics are active living microorganisms, and often need to be kept cold in the fridge and consumed within the used by dates. Some newer forms of probiotic supplements however do not require refrigeration, making them suitable for travel. To be sure always check the label or ask your health practitioner. 

Found in various food ingredients, prebiotics 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. 

There are a wide range of foods that naturally contain prebiotics, in particular aromatic vegetables including onions, leeks and celery. As well as wheat bran, soy beans, rye based breads and green bananas. While ripe bananas offer the health benefits of 3-5 grams of dietary fibre per serve, which is still important for gut health, green bananas in particular offer a significant dose of the powerful pre-biotic, resistant starch linked to a number of positive health outcomes. So if you are looking to feed more of the good bacteria in your gut perhaps it is time to try your bananas green and support immune function long term. 

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

Healthy Halloween Recipes: Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes


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With Halloween just a few days away there are many children very excited at the thought of trick or treating and dressing up to celebrate this event which is gaining more interest in Australia. Naturally for parents this poses the question of how many ‘treats’ are too many, and should we encourage Halloween indulgences? My perspective is that like any special occasion there is nothing wrong with enjoying Halloween in moderation but this does not mean small children need to eat bucket loads of sugar for the sake of it. Rather a small amount of treat style food on Halloween itself will be more than enough of a treat. And if you are looking for an even better alternative, I have partnered with Philips Electronics to develop these healthy Halloween recipes for you to make at home. Not only do they look the part but they actually taste great too and can let you and the family enjoy Halloween without worrying about the kids eating too much sugar. Happy Halloween! 

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes

Makes 24 mini cupcakes

Photo by: damianshaw.comIngredients

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

Salt

2 cups wholemeal plain flour

Icing

60g light creamed cheese

20g butter, softened

Orange food colouring

12 Pretzel twigs

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 24 mini muffin tray with butter.

2. In a medium bowl, beat together the olive oil and maple syrup with a whisk, then beat in the eggs. Mix in the pumpkin puree, milk, baking soda, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and a pinch of salt.

3. Add the flour and stir through until just mixed, don’t over mix.

4. Distribute the mixture between 24 mini muffin holes. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden and when a bamboo skewer inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

5. Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely.

6. To make the icing, beat together creamed cheese, butter. Add a few drops of food colour and mix, continue to add drops of colour and mixing until you have a pumpkin orange colour.

7. Smear a heaped tablespoon of icing onto cooled cupcake with a butter knife and smooth out. Use the back edge of the knife to create 6 grooves from the middle of the cupcake to make the pumpkin look. Stick a pretzel twig into the middle of each cupcake to make the stalk of the pumpkin.

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