Top Tips for a Healthier Easter

It's that time of year again. The supermarkets are stocked with mountains of golden alluring bunnies, the easter hat parade was a great success and the you've had a Mexican stand off with that hot cross bun sitting on the middle of the staff table for about the last 2 hours.

Here are some tips from our expert dietitian's to help your healthy behaviours around Easter:

1. Don’t fight your cravings:

Studies have proven that if you go out of your way to deny your cravings there is a good chance you will overindulge. There is no point being in denial, it is Easter! Accept that you will be having a small amount of chocolate or an occasional hot cross bun and that is OK. 

2. Choose quality over quantity (less is more!):

Your food experience should be one of pure pleasure. Smell, observe, hear and taste your chocolate. Is there a scent of vanilla? Does it sound crunchy when you bite into it? Do you notice the taste and flavour vanish after you swallow?

Why are you popping mediocre Easter chocolate into your mouth if you could be slowly and mindfully enjoying a small Lindt bunny? So not worth it!

Make sure you are paying attention whilst you are eating! Gobbling down easter eggs mindlessly isn’t satisfactory, especially if you can’t remember it. 

Too much chocolate on a regular bases can be detrimental to health as it is high in saturated fat and energy. For example a 200g Lindt bunny = 1086 calories, where are the average adult would need about 1500-2000 calories/day to maintain their body weight.

3. Out of sight, out of mind: 

Be honest with yourself: If it’s in your house you are going to eat it. Try to minimise how much you bring home from work or give to family members as a gift. After all, “Sharing is caring". Some of our clients find it useful to freeze their chocolate so they are not tempted to eat it or to put it completely out of sight.

4. Don’t skip meals: 

Only chocolate for breakfast or any other meal is a horrible idea. Chocolate is high GI as it contains much simple processed sugar and spikes your insulin. This does not fill you up for long, which could result in many other consequent binges later on. Remember to eat 5 small healthily spaced meals (this includes small snacks morning and afternoon) with plenty of grains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy omega-3 fats throughout the day. 

5. Find healthy alternatives to celebrate Easter: 

We need to remember what Easter is about. 100% it has religious connotations but for most people religious or not it also symbolises family. For my example my friend Steph is Greek and she explained their Christmas involves all attending late night mass, having a homemade 12am feast in the kitchen with family and cracking eggs against eachothers heads! (Sounds fun to me). You can check Steph out on instagram @steph.zervos, she's a sprinter training for the Commonwealth Games and an awesome PT.

Just remember:

  • You don’t have to eat 20 bunnies to feel closer to your family or friends
  • A healthy BBQ, dinner out or another non food based activity with friends or family to celebrate can be just as special

Here are some other healthy ideas

  • Painting eggs with children.
  • Making healthy food into easter bunnies and chicks, get the kids involved here. The more hands on, the better! (See below photos)
  • Making healthy chocolate alternatives: Check Kat's previous blog out for a yummy example: http://bodyfusion.com.au/blog/2016/3/21/choc-almond-easte
  • Home made hot cross buns made with wholemeal, rye or spelt flour. We love Teresa Cutter's recipe. Check her out!
  • Choosing dark chocolate varieties of chocolate, higher in cacao which in small amounts does has positive links to reducing blood pressure and preventing cancer due to polyphenol conten

6.    Adapt a positive attitude: The world isn’t going to ever run out of chocolate

Why do we need to go crazy in one weekend? Reality is, you can still eat chocolate as a part of a healthy diet! Daily in fact. If you do indulge, well tomorrow is another day. Let it go! Get back on the horse or of course check in with a Dietitian if you need some support and direction.

Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy. 

Ash and Kat :)

Nutting out nutrition nonsense

There are studies being thrown at us left right and centre, one day we are eating too many carbs so you cut the toast at breakfast, the next we are avoiding skim milk because it is too high in sugar or maybe you have heard that cooking your food in copious amounts of coconut oil is fine because saturated fat isn’t a problem. All the while we continue to wonder, will this help us lose weight? Is this healthy?

STOPPPP right there, if you’re starting to get confused about what to actually believe then it is time we nut it out once and for all. Let’s start off by getting a few simple, common things straight.  

1.    You can’t believe everything you read.

2.    If it sounds a little to obscure then it probably is.

3.    No single food/ nutrient is the cause of any major chronic disease, it is ALWAYS a combination of factors.

Now that we have that out of the way, how do we begin to understand what is being printed in the newspaper, magazines, on TV and wherever else we are fed information? You need to get a little bit suspicious!

Let’s take an article and have a bit of a closer look. This study was published in the American Journal of Nutrition and appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald the other week1. It highlighted that people who ate a diet with a high glycaemic load (GL), heavy with refined grains, starches and sugars, gained more weight. Here your first questions should be:

1.    How many people?

2.    What type of people?

3.    In comparison to who else?

Whenever you read the phrase ‘a recent article published by …’ you need to put your critical thinking hat on. Ask yourself what are these scientists trying to test? In what type of people are they testing it? Is the test fair and accurate?

In this study for instance they were actually trying to test the effect of protein on weight. This article did a pretty good job of listing all the key findings, which you should keep your eyes out for. Then you need to put the findings into CONTEXT! I would say this is the most important part because if we can’t apply the evidence to real life then what is the point? When findings are taken out of context this is when we get begin doing all sorts of crazy things like avoiding entire food groups, not eating noodles after 5.34pm and telling others that gluten is an enemy.

Here are a couple of key findings of this article and the explanation of what they actually mean (or don’t mean) in reality:

Increasing intakes of red and processed meat were most strongly associated with weight gain.

What this means:

Amongst the people who gained the most weight, they also happened to eat larger amounts of red and processed meat. So, people who ate more red/processed meat were more likely to gain weight.

What this does not mean:

That red/processed meat directly causes weight gain. A whole host of factors influence weight gain, but one of the factors that those people who gained weight had in common was that they had higher intakes of red/processed meat.

Take home message: If you are struggling to lose weight and eat red/processed meat more than 2 – 3 times per week than some of the following suggestions may help you:

·      Swapping processed meat (salami, sausages etc) over to leaner options (chicken, turkey, fish, tuna)

·      Reducing your portion size of meat (no more than palm size at one time)

·      Eating more vegetarian based meals

Increasing other dairy products, including full-fat cheese, whole milk, and low-fat milk, did not significantly relate to either weight gain or weight loss.

What this means:

The types of dairy products that people were eating didn’t seem to affect any weight gain or weight loss.

What this does NOT mean:

That low fat or full fat dairy products are good or bad.

It doesn’t matter how much cheese or milk you eat, neither will affect your weight.

Full fat dairy is not a significant contributor of saturated fat to many peoples diets or that you should swap all dairy products to full fat varieties without making educated decisions about other things you may need to compensate for in your diet.

Take home message:

·      Think about dairy in the context of your diet. Full fat dairy products are still sources of saturated fat, so for those aiming to reduce their total energy intake then swapping to low fat varieties will save you energy, better spent on eating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

·      If you are a consumer of low fat dairy be mindful about the added sugar or artificial sweeteners, which can bump up the carbohydrate total of that product.

·      Stick to the recommended 3 serves of dairy per day; 1 glass of milk, 2 slices of cheese and 200g yoghurt.

My last piece of advice is to look up the jargon or words you don’t understand. This article talks about GL – glycemic load. But what is that? Basically it is a number that estimates how much a food will raise a person’s blood glucose level. Don’t let the scientific language trick you! If you want to know what is best for you to eat then come and talk to a dietitian aka nutrition professional – yes we have spent time examining articles with a thin toothcomb, so we can give you the low down. 

 The scientist from this study summed up what they thought was the main point pretty well saying that ‘this study encourages people to focus more on eating a nutritious diet than just filling up on nutrient – poor, highly processed ‘diet products’. So if all of the above is too much for you, skip to the conclusion and remember that the more whole, fresh foods you eat in moderation the better! The end.

 1. Link to article 

Sunday Runs, Markets and Muesli (Recipe Included!)

Imagine this:

On the horizon sits the sun, a bright yellow beginning, slowly climbing its ladder up the coloured sky. A light breeze pushes you into a rhythmic run, right along the sleepy beach and up to a grassy green headland. You stop to catch you breath, your heart hammering gratitude as you drink in the 360-degree view.

A couple of more minutes. A couple of more colours… Time to go.

Following the seagulls down the sandy path, past the receding aqua wash and waving to the local surfers, you finally reach the end of your journey. With the salty ocean breeze brushing your face, you turn like a magnet to the sparkling ocean. With a start, you run in to meet your old friend with a joyful laugh, still fully clothed. There you float. Free. Happy. Alive.

With exhilarated rosy cheeks and slight regret, you drag yourself away from the caring hands of the ocean… time for the markets!

 And this is just the way my Sunday began.

_____________________________________________________________

I am a big fan of local markets in Sydney. They offer fresh produce, you can meet and support local farmers and taste before you buy. It’s such a sensory experience. They smell of warm crusty bread, cinnamon sticks and freshly blended citrus juices all of which mingle in with a sea of interesting people as you weave your way in and out. My fresh produce lasts about twice as long and tastes about twice as good!

This Sunday I was on a mission. A client had given me a delicious muesli recipe and brought some in as a gift (thank you, you know who you are). It tasted phenomenal and I was committed to making my own variety.

As I wondered amongst the bustling stores I bartered over buckwheat and nutted out the best place to buy my pecans. Half an hour later I was content with a bag full of goodies. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so excited.

Experimentation took the good part of my Sunday afternoon but this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 300g sprouted buckwheat
  • 1 cup of oats (you could use quinoa flakes if you want gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup of amaranth
  • 200g pecans or walnuts
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 2 long (10-12cm) cinnamon quills
  • 2 tsp. dried nutmeg
  • 120g medjool dates (deseeded and cut into small pieces)
  • 300g dried apple (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 80g Canadian Maple Syrup

Optional (makes it a little higher in energy but a lot more crunchy!)

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 100g shredded coconut

Method:

1.     Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2.     With mortar and pestle or end of rolling pin bash/grind cinnamon to break up sticks. With your hands then break/rip up cinnamon into small bits (as small as you can!).

3.     Add all other ingredients into a big mixing bowl, melting coconut oil if necessary. Mix well to coat with oil and maple syrup.

4.     Put into 1 or 2 large baking trays lined with baking paper.

5.     Periodically check muesli over next 30-40minutes, using a wooden spoon to slowly turn over the muesli when it looks brown.

6.     Leave to cool for 20 mins.

Nutrition:

  • Amaranth is a great source of iron (~5mg/cup).
  • Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Apples contain polyphenols and flavonoids, which prevent oxidation in the body, preventing  disease and ageing.
  • Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium, a micronutrient responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including enzymes required for maintaining stable blood glucose levels.
  • All the grains, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of fibre, which makes you feel full and aids digestion.
  • This mix is also high in healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, which promote clear cognition, boost HDL (healthy) cholesterol, maintain hormone production and lubricate joints.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, vital for promoting immunity, clear skin, strong hair and nails.
  • Sesame are incredibly rich sources of many essential minerals including Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc and selenium.

How to eat this delicious mix:

  • Portion out ½ a cup (trust me doesn’t look like a lot but its so filling!). Add some milk, yoghurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Wouldn’t be surprised if you are content until lunch ;)
  • Nibble on as a snack during your work day.
  • Add over the top of some ice cream as a treat.

Nutrition to get you to your Nineties!

Do you want to live a long life? Do you want to live a comfortable life? (Minimised stressful life events like heart attacks, falls and injuries or even bothering stomach upsets or sickness) If you like me, I'd like to think I was still skydiving at age 85 ;)

I was very honoured today to have a visit from a beautiful client who is just about to turn 93. This is the second time within a couple of years I have been graced with the presence of someone who can sit in front of me and talk about living through the second world war!

The longer our consult went on, the more I began to admire her sense of health and positive daily habits. It soon became apparent to me WHY she had lived so long. Ok yes, genetics have some say in your risk of disease pathways but this woman was living proof of dietary choices impacting profoundly upon longevity.

Some simple things I observed (and from which we can all learn from):

- She grew her own vegetables in her own garden. Every day she would pick only as much as she needed for her meals (No food wastage, she gets food sustainability points too!). These were seasonal vegetables free of pesticides and full of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

- She ate regular meals and included afternoon and morning snacks of fresh fruit, yoghurt or nuts. High quality nutrients to maintain bone integrity and immunity

- She ate fresh fish 4-5x/week for lunch with her garden vegetables and a couple of potatoes. Fish has always been regarded as a phenomenally nourishing choice due to is Omega 3's which support cognition, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and support healthy joints. Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate, B6 which supports the nervous system and vitamin C, an antioxidant which reduces cellular damage.

- She didn't drink any coffee but mostly tea and a glass of water every meal

- She was in bed by 830pm every night and slept a solid 8 hours

- Although 93, she still participated in bowls 2x/week and gardened most days out in the sun (Our primary source of vitamin D!)

This client and I had a fantastic education session. She is now implementing some of my advice to tweak her diet further. I just love that she is so open to this even at her age.

So, I ask you. How do you want you health to be and what do you want to be doing with your life at age 93? Why not act now?

Dry July – How to regenerate a healthy liver

You might be familiar with one of the following scenarios below:

1)   You’ve woken up for work with a ringing headache and are feeling about as average as Spain did in the World Cup soccer. How did the end of financial year work drinks cascade into a shower of champagne or a steady flowing abundance of delicious beer?

2)   The weather in Sydney had become so bitingly cold that it justifies a good hearty glass of red by the fire – every night. For every degree colder this fosters furthur justification of a) A cheeky glass of port or desert wine to top the night off or b) Some/a block of chocolate to accompany the red wine

Your lovely liver: An under valued vital organ that regulates many processes in your body. However, at this time of the year it’s starting to complain. Battered and bruised its been fighting a little too hard.

The liver has various functions within the body the main one being DETOXIFICATION. That’s right! The liver helps to purify the blood by removing toxins such as alcohol and drugs from the body. But did you know it also helps regulate hormone levels? Can you imagine what happens when it can perform this duty well? Hormones regulate everything from sleep to mood, metabolism, reproduction and immunity - to mention a few!

The liver also works to DIGEST all your food. Fats are digested by bile in the stomach, which is a product secreted by your happy hepatic (liver) cells and transported to the gall bladder. Carbohydrates and proteins are broken down so that these nutrients can eventually be converted to energy for use within the body. 

Also wondering why when your liver has been under the pump you are more likely to come down with some mysterious flu? Well the liver is also responsible for your IMMUNITY.  It plays an important role in capturing and digesting nasties such as bacteria, parasites, worn out blood cells and fungi.

So lets focus on some liver regeneration.

Number 1: Reduce your alcohol intake. Limit alcohol to weekends only or if you can, commit to a month off. Lets face it, a hot milo in front of the fire is going to be lot more nutritious; alcohol is empty calories anyway (contains basically no nutrients). Focus on average 2L of water daily which can include herbal teas such as chamomile to rehydrate and filter the blood.

Number 2: Reduce highly processed foods particularly ones that are not only high in saturated fat but also salt and sugar. For example: processed and fatty meats (sausages, salami, bacon), deep fried take out and fast foods, cakes and biscuits, pastries and chocolate.

Number 3: Increase your intake of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat. This will aid in reducing liver inflammation. Include nuts, seeds (flaxseed particularly) and oils (e.g extra virgin olive oil) as a part of your daily diet.

Number 4: Be smart with your selection of fruits.  Berries, pomegranate and grapes (I know you are already thinking wine again but the alcohol content outweighs the benefits here!) contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which can help to regenerate liver cells. The bitter in lemon and limes can also break down stagnant material.

After following this for a good month you liver should start to improve all its functions. Hopefully a lot of what I have recommended also becomes habitual!

Also why not actually sign up for Dry July though and contribute some money towards a good cause like cancer prevention? Think of all the money you are saving not consuming alcohol anyway!

Stay happy, healthy and warm.

Ash xx

Chili Con Carne

Winter is upon us and suddenly we are craving warming and filling foods. Better make them healthy! I made this one the other weekend in my slow cooker. But you can do it just as easily on the stove. If you are vegetarian this one can also be for you! Why not add some extra beans and veggies and omit the lean beef. Feel free to also experiment with your extras. I added some jalapeños to mine and next time I will definitely consider some salsa or avocado.

High in FIBRE with brown rice and many veggies. High in VITAMIN C with tomatoes to maintain a strong immunity. LOW GI to fill you up. And also this more than provides enough leftovers to save you time when things get busy. This recipe also tastes better with every passing day as the flavours mix and mingle more and more. DELICIOUS! :)

Ingredients (serves 8 - Plenty of leftovers!)

3 cloves garlic (minced or finely chopped)

1 brown onion (chopped)

1 red capsicum (chopped into small pieces)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cumin powder

1 red chill

Black cracked pepper

750g lean mince

1 can kidney beans

400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bunch fresh basil (finely chopped)

Brown rice

4xsmall wholemeal pita bread

Light sour cream (small tub)

Reduced fat cheese (25% Bega)

Method:

1. Add olive oil, garlic, onion and capsicum to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until brown

2. Add in lean beef mince and cook until brown

3. Add tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, cumin and chili. Keep on a medium heat until completely mixed and food is warm.

4. Leave to simmer and steam with the lid on for 30mins with reduced heat

5. Whilst this is simmering add a cup of brown rice with 2.5 cups of water to a rice cooker or saucepan. Cook until almost all water is gone and then steam with the saucepan of the heat.

5. Add basil and pepper to season to the chill con carne mix

6. Cut up wholemeal pitas into 6 pieces per pita and place in the grill for 5-10 minutes. WATCH THIS CAREFULLY they seem to go from brown to black quite quickly from experience!

7. Serve: A good large spoon of brown rice, a good couple of large spoon of the chill con carne mixture onto a plate. Garnish with sour cream on top and a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Add pitas around the plate.

8. Enjoy and feel nourished!!