Help: I'm RAVENOUS after work in the afternoon!

Many of my clients tend to tell me that their problematic time with their eating comes in the afternoon. Although some of my other clients are just generally hungry, often they also arrive home from work stressed, tired or wanting to switch off from a busy day.  So what do they do? They reach for some food (sometimes wine!) to make themselves feel better and fill that void. This grazing can often lead to a lot of extra calories. It is also often mindless or a bad habit or association that has been gradually engrained into their busy lifestyle.

My top tips:

*Do not eat in the kitchen, standing up and browsing through the cupboards or fridge like a mouse smelling out cheese.

*Never eat out of open packets. Time and time again studies have proven that we are more likely to eat MORE out of big packets, containers or even from bigger plates, bowls and cups.

*Remove all temptation from the kitchen. If you have delicious looking pastry treats sitting on your bench you may as well give up to begin. Don’t make it hard for yourself at a time you are vulnerable!

*Eat a small piece of fruit upon leaving work so you don’t arrive home ravenous and ready to gulp down the first food that you see.

*Ask yourself as your moving onto that third biscuit, “Am I really hungry?” Or am I eating just because…

*Find an outlet for your tiredness or stress. Don’t justify overeating because of these reasons.

Smart snacks to fill the void

Snacks that are of a high nutritional content, particularly high in protein and fibre are going to be a great choice. Protein with fibre has proven to be one of the most satiating combinations.


Healthy fruit smoothie: e.g 1 cup low fat milk, 1 tbsp. low fat yoghurt, 2/3 cup raspberries, tsp. honey, 2 tsp. LSA mix, ice

1 mountain bread wrap with 50g ham/roast beef/turkey/egg with baby spinach and grated carrot/tomato

30g unsalted nuts & a piece of fruit

40g of cottage cheese on 2 multigrain corn thins with tomato and cracked pepper and a big cup of tea

200g low fat yoghurt with a piece of fruit & sprinkle of seeds (chia/sunflower/flax)

**Make sure you are hydrated. Often dehydration can be mistaken for hunger!**

There. Problem addressed!


Eating During The "Silly Season"

So it comes January 1st and you’re trying hard to make your body look nice and fit into that sexy new summer bikini or squeeze into those stylish shorts which seem to have mysteriously “shrunk in the wash”. 

Want to prevent this happening to you during the silly season? 

With the end of the year quickly approaching, school, university or work begins to wrap up before the holidays with everyone preparing and beginning to celebrate the festive season. During this busy time the number of social events begins to double or triple (as do the glasses of wine!) and we quickly find our selves prioritising a catch-up with friends and family. Often our exercise routine and healthy eating habits go straight out the chimney and we’re left with a bit of a Santa belly come January.

Why is this a hard time to eat well?

We often mindlessly eat whilst having a yarn
We feel socially obliged to eat particular foods and drink
We simply eat and drink too much
We justify Christmas as an excuse to eat whatever we like!

Smart solutions

Be organised: Take a healthy plate of something to your Christmas party. Have a snack before you go so that you don’t turn up ravenously hungry and devour a plate of mince pies as soon as you arrive. Research restaurant menu options and make your healthy choice before you go, stick to this choice once there. Plan your exercise at the beginning of the week around social events and grab a friend to make it fun and keep you committed.

Be mindful: Put what is on your plate and don’t go back for seconds because your stomach is terrible at remembering how much food it has eaten. Eat slowly and savor your food. Focus on the wonderful flavours and texture.

You don’t have to people please: Don’t feel pressured, have as much as you want. After a couple of drinks no one will care (or realise). It only takes 2-3 mouthfuls to taste something so have a sliver of dessert or unhealthy options rather than a huge slice/amount.

Go easy on the alcohol: Alcohol is energy dense and contains a huge amount of calories. Start with a big glass of mineral water to hydrate and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or mineral water/soda. Don’t let someone refill your glass, as you will find it hard to count how many you have had. Offer to drive!



Brain Food

You would be surprised to discover how greatly mood motivation and mental performance are influenced by diet. And what if I was to tell you that the right food could produce neurotransmitters that aid in concentration, maintaining motivation, magnify memory, sharpen attention, reduce stress and improve sleep? 

Your brain although only accounting for 2% of body weight, consumes a greedy 20% of your daily energy intake. And with this required quantity of energy, it also demands quality.

Being a fussy eater, the brain demands a constant supply of glucose (sugar) to function. When glucose levels drop, thinking deteriorates so it is important when you are studying or working to snack throughout the day to maintain blood glucose levels. 

I want to be careful with the message I am conveying here. Glucose/Sugar is important but this doesn’t mean I recommend high sugar snacks like soft drinks, lollies and chocolates. In fact studies have proven that high blood sugar combined with a cognitive task is associated with elevated cortisol, which in high doses can impair memory. So what is your solution? Go for foods with a low glycaemic index!

Foods of a low glycaemic index (GI) take longer to be broken down in the body and create a slower rise in blood sugar levels. These foods will sustain energy and concentration levels and satiate your hunger preventing overeating and naughty food binges. Some examples of foods with a low GI are dairy products, grainy breads, cereals and crackers, most fruits, beans, nuts and lentils.

Different intakes of fat can also influence brain cognition. Saturated fats found in take away and fried foods, biscuits, cakes, butter, full cream dairy and in regular mince or chicken skin are prime offenders. But the news isn’t all terrible when it comes to fat.,. after all it is an essential nutrient to for body function. 

Unsaturated fats such as Omega 3’s are an important fat found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines as well as walnuts, soy, linseed, canola oil or spread. As well as being viable nutrients that provide positive effects in relation reducing the risk of heart disease, treating depression and joint pain, omega 3’s have also proven to increase brain volume, reduce aging and improve cognition. 

Other foods such as avocado containing unsaturated fats are also of benefit to brain function. These fats help to maximise brain blood flow (oxygen and nutrient delivery) by keeping blood vessels clear of plaques. Avocados also contain folate. Studies have proven folic acid to help maintain sharp brain function and memory.

Another brain booster that has recently spotlighted in the media is a B-Vitamin called choline, a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Choline supplementation has been shown both enhance memory as well as minimize fatigue and can be found in soybeans, egg yolk, lentils, oats butter, peanuts, potatoes, cauliflower, sesame seeds and flax seeds.

Water is another valuable consideration. With nearly ¾ of the brain being water when we are dehydrated the brain releases a hormone called cortisol, which shrinks dendrites in the brain. Dendrites are branched projections of neurons in the brain that transmit information to other neural cells.  Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your brain circuits sharp.

Seems like we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of diet to influence brain function. And we haven’t even touched on super foods yet! But I will give you a snippet. Research from the United States published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that blueberry extract can improve short-term memory loss. 

About time you went to see your Dietitian for more information? Do it!

BBC, 10 Foods To Boost Brain Power, accessed online (8/5/12) via BBC Good Food, 

Nixon, Robin, Brain Food: How To Eat Smart, accessed online (8/5/12) via Live Science, (Updated 2009)

Marano, Hara. What Is Good Brain Food?, accessed online (10/5/12) via Psychology Today, (Updated 2003)


The Paleo Diet

What is the Paleolithic Diet?

This diet is a modern version of the traditional hunter-gatherer diet containing wild animals and plants which evolved during the Paleolithic era. The typical contemporary diet includes vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, insects, eggs, grass fed pasture raised meat (including offal), seafood, herbs and spices. Food can be eaten either raw or cooked. It excludes cereals and grains, legumes, dairy and salt as well as processed and refined sugars and fats. Alcohol is also prohibited on this diet. 

Macronutrient Composition

The Paleolithic diet is high in protein and usually low in carbohydrate (~23% of total energy intake). However sometimes versions of the diet which include root vegetables such as potatoes will result in a higher carbohydrate intake. This diet also has a lower energy density than the typical Western Diet. This means it contains less energy per gram of food.
The theory behind the diet

The key justification for the diet is that our genetics are adapted to this Palaeolithic diet and that there has been no change in human genetics since the dawn of agricultural development and the industrial revolution. It puts forward the argument that these two factors have greatly influenced the food supply and negatively impacted dietary intake and consequently health.

The Supporting Argument

· Compared to the Paleolithic diet, today’s energy dense diets with many processed and refined sugars and fats can lead to overeating, weight gain and the development of chronic disease. 

· Studies have demonstrated that carbohydrate restriction may help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaques in blood vessels). Being a mainly low GI diet, many of the included foods place less stress upon the pancreas to produce insulin, preventing gradual insulin insensitivity.

· The diet is high in fibre. Pre-agricultural diets were thought to exceed 100g/day (In Australia we recommend 25-30g/day and quite often the average person does not consume this much). Fibre is essential for optimal bowel health and keeps us fuller for longer, often preventing over consumption or quick sugar fixes.

· The diet is low in sodium, a key factor which can contribute to the decline of cardiovascular health. 

· For those with intolerances such as gluten or lactose intolerance this diet is appropriate to avoid symptoms and prevent future damage to organs within the body. For example for those with gluten intolerance this will cause small bowel damage and mal-absorption of nutrients.

The Argument Against

· The modern day version of the diet is unlikely to mirror the original Paleolithic diet as food for consumption today is not the same or as commonly available as wild animals and plants existing more than 10 000 years ago.

· There is evidence that Paleolithic societies used cereals as early as 23 000 years ago and potentially even as early as 200 000 years ago.

· Being so restrictive in its features, duplicating such a regimen is difficult and makes the diet potentially unsustainable in the long term.

· Banning particular foods can result in an inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Cutting out dairy can lead to an inadequate intake of calcium. Calcium is essential for maintaining bone strength. Breads and cereals are leading contributors to fibre, folate, niacin, thiamine, iron, zinc, magnesium and carbohydrate intake. These nutrients play vital roles in growth, immunity, brain function and energy levels. Vitamin D is another vitamin at risk whilst adhering to this diet.

· Greater intake of environmental toxins from a high intake of fish

· Our genetics have adapted to our modern day diet to some degree. For example alleles conferring lactose tolerance (lactose is a sugar found in dairy) increased dramatically in Europe a few years after animal husbandry. 

The Hard Evidence (Documented Studies)

· In a randomized crossover study a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a diabetes diet in a cohort of patients with type two diabetes. However it is to be noted that the study was of a small sample size (less valid) and terminated early due to low participation rates.

· Another 2009 study comparing a normal western diet to a Paleolithic diet found compared with the usual diet subjects receiving the intervention diet experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, improved arterial dispensability, improved insulin sensitivity and significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides. This study also only had 9 participants (small sample size, again less validity).

· In Kitava, Trobriand Islands a study was conducted and noted the absence of cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors among 2,300 inhabitants (6% of which were 60–95 years old) as well as among the remaining 23,000 people in the Trobriand Islands. Yam, sweet potato, taro, and fruit were staple foods while grains, dairy, refined fats, and sugar were absent. The study supports the notion that a high-carbohydrate intake is not a problem in itself but perhaps today’s modern processed foods play a defining role.

· Studies have also found evidence that when trialed a ‘‘Paleolithic" diet was more satiating, such that the meals gave a feeling of fullness at a lower level of energy intake

 My opinion

I do have some concerns about this diet, although conversely I also appreciate some of its underlying principles. There is a strong evidence base that cutting out essential nutrients such as calcium most commonly found in dairy foods can lead to diseases such as osteoporosis later in life. Grains and cereals contribute to achieving recommended vitamin and mineral intakes, with their fibre content influential in maintaining optimal bowel and gastrointestinal function. Such a strict diet and one which truly reflects a genuine hunter gatherer diet is also going to be hard to maintain. Getting back to basics it’s not rocket science, cut out products containing sodium, refined sugar and processed fat (particularly saturated and trans fats) and most definitely your health with benefit. Follow a varied diet with 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. A low carbohydrate diet is not recommended. Carbohydrates are an essential fuel for our body, as long as they are of the right quality (of a low glycaemic index) and quantity (provide 45-65% of our energy requirements). 


David C. Klonoff, M.D., FACP (2009), The Beneficial Effects of a Paleolithic Diet on Type 2 Diabetes and Other Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, J Diabetes Sci Technol. 3(6): 1229–1232

Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947–955

Lindeburge Staffan (2012) Paleolithic Diets as a Model for Prevention and Treatment of Western Disease, AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN BIOLOGY 24:110–111