Take control of your sugar cravings the right way.


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

Take control of your sugar cravings the right way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 foods that will drain your energy


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Energy depleting foods

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

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

Coffee

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

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

Diet soft drink

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

Fast food

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

Biscuits

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

Energy drinks and vitamin water

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

Bagels

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

2 minute noodles

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

Jelly lollies

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

How to control overeating at these key times in the day


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Eating danger times.

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

The 11am hunger 

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

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

The afternoon munchies

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

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

The 9:30pm hit

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

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

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

Your snack comparison chart.


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Your snack comparison chart.

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

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

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

Fresh Banana vs. Dried Fruit (30g)

100 calories vs. 100 calories

0g fat vs. 0g fat

22g carbs vs. 28g carbs

19g sugars (natural) vs. 28g sugars

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

30g Mixed Nuts / Nut Spread vs. Nut Bar

215 calories vs. 220 calories

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

2g carbs vs. 11g carbs

0g sugars vs. 4g sugars

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

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

88 calories vs. 97 calories

5g fat vs. 4g fat

5g carbs vs. 12g carbs

5g sugars vs. 12g sugars

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

Small Apple vs. Small Fruit Smoothie

45 calories vs. 233 calories

0g fat vs. 3g fat

11g carbs vs. 44g carbs

11g sugars vs. 37g sugars

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

Packet of Popcorn vs. Packet of Rice Snacks

35 calories vs. 105 calories

2g fat vs. 3g

5g carbs vs. 18g carbs

3g fibre vs. 0g fibre

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

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

5 unhealthy cooking mistakes you may be making.


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

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

1. Not measuring added fat

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

2. Using too many sauces

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

3. Too much protein

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

4. Cooking in oil or butter

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

5. The added extras

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

5 ways to be healthier in the evening.


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Have a healthier night in front of the TV.

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

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

1. Create a get home habit

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

2. Know your go to meals

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

3. Have a food cut off

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

4. Go for the mints

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

5. Move around

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

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


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

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

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

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

Oysters

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

Egg Yolk

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

Salmon

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

Maca Powder

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

Peanuts

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

Red Meat

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

4 tips for healthier baking


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

How to bake healthier treats at home.

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

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

1. Go for a wholemeal base

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

2. Watch the sugars

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

3. Choose your fat

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

4. Bump up the nutrition

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

Recipe: Peanut Butter Oat Balls

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Serves 12

Ingredients

1 tbsp. butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup Mayver’s Peanut Butter 

1 cup oats

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

¼ cup dried cranberries

Method

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

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

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

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


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Why we need to cook more at home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most common foods we overeat at work.


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The most common foods we overeat at work.

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

Biscuits

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

Milky coffee

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

Cake

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

Chocolate bars

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

Dried fruit and nuts

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

Susie’s best and worst snacks.


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

The best snacks

Greek yoghurt and berries

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

Roasted broadbeans or chickpeas

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

Nut based snack bars

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

Cheese and crackers

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

And the snacks to avoid

Rice Crackers

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

Banana bread

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

Biscuits

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

Fruit Juice

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

How to meal prep your way into 2020.


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

How to meal prep your way into 2020.

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

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

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

1. Keep your key staples on hand

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

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

2. Cook less

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

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

3. Do what you can the night before

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

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

Recipe: Banana & Berry Mini Muffins

Makes 24

Ingredients

2 cups wholemeal self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup chopped fresh berries

2 eggs

50g butter

1/2 cup milk

A few drops of vanilla essence

Dark choc bits (as desired) 

Method

1. Combine wet ingredients with sifted flour and sugar.

2. Bake at 160deg for 20-25min. 

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

Lunches for weight loss.


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Lunches for weight loss.

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

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

Soup and a sandwich

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

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

A substantial salad

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

Japanese

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

Leftovers

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

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

Stuffed Potato

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

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

A perfect school food day.


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

A perfect school food day.

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

Breakfast

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

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

During School

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

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

After School

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

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

Dinner

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

Dessert

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

Recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 small banana

2 tbsp. Mayver’s Peanut Butter

½ cup Greek yoghurt

Handful spinach leaves

A few drops vanilla essence

½ cup ice

Method

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

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.

Select an area to co

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.