Movies and Popcorn anyone?

It is school holiday time here in Australia and in my house, that can also mean lights, camera, action aka the movies.

I do love the whole process of going to the movies but one thing I just don’t get is the side serve of literally everything from the candy bar. While waiting to pick up my tickets I stand and watch in fascination as queues of people run out of the candy bar and snake through the foyer.

I never got to the movies much as a kid, so the whole eating at the movies thing just didn’t exist for me. Mum and Dad were great fans of the drive-ins and of course with four kids, this was the affordable option, especially if a few of them were hidden in the back seat! Mum would make a picnic and for an extra special treat, we got to walk up to the kiosk between movies to get a drink to share between the four of us.

I sound like a nanna writing this but things have most certainly changed. The food available at the movies now is a mammoth smorgasbord of lollies, chocolate, fizzy drinks, ice-cream and buttered popcorn. The question is, when did the food become the feature rather than the movie?

If you love going to the movies and swinging by the candy bar – it might be time to reassess your choices. Lets start with good old popcorn.  Popcorn usually comes in three sizes at the movies – small, medium and large, although I consider the small version to be huge! If we consider 100g of the movie variety (the small box) alongside air popped and microwave popcorn, the numbers are interesting.

                                     Calories                               Fat                           Sodium

Movie                           464                                       24                            980

Air Popped                343                                       4.5                            8

Microwave                 390                                       12                             699

As you can see, there is a massive difference in salt and fat content between the different varieties. Air popped refers to any plain popcorn that has been cooked without fat, such as in a saucepan, air-popper or microwave.  My childhood memory of popcorn is standing by the stove while mum cooked it in the saucepan.  Instead of cooking in a saucepan, try whipping some up in the microwave in a microwave safe container, its quicker and it doesn’t burn.  Having said that, don’t walk away and leave it either!

Movies aside, the beauty of popcorn is that it is classified as a wholegrain, is high in fibre at 14.5 grams per 100g and it takes a while to eat. The glycemic index (GI) of popcorn will differ depending on the brand but is around 55, making it a moderate GI carbohydrate food and therefore providing you with a longer lasting energy source than many other carbohydrate rich snacks.

And what about popcorn’s friends and their calorie count?

Choc Top – 348

Maltesers (40g) – 201

Twisties (200g) – 448

Peanut M&M’s (200g) – 1024

Coke (600ml) – 258

Snakes Alive (200g) – 680

Ouch!

I promise that I am not the fun police but really? These pack sizes are the common varieties found at most movie candy bars. Do we need to buy a 200g bag of Peanut M&M’s? No, but when those brightly coloured packages are beckoning us, it is inevitable.

My kids get great pleasure out of making up their own goodie bags to take to the movies and if you are a regular at both the movies and the candy bar – it might be worth doing the same. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the movie!

Calorie Burn: Could Your Exercise Equipment be Telling you Lies?

calorie burn

My gym has recently installed a vast array of shiny new treadmills, stationery cycles and elliptical, all with impressive screen displays and access to a wealth of information about your workout.

So much information is available on the exercise equipment that it often takes me more time to work out how to get the thing started than do the actual workout. I admit to being an eavesdropper in the gym because the conversations floating around the barbells and leg press provide me with a wealth of material.

My eavesdropping tells me that its good to know how fast and hard you are working out but there is no doubt that in my gym and probably in most others everywhere, the calorie counter on the cardio machines is the proverbial gold nugget. It’s not just the satisfaction of knowing how much you have burned off but also an unofficial license defining the boundaries of how much you can eat as soon as you leap off that machine.

Sadly but not really surprisingly, some recent studies have shown that cardio machines and fitness trackers are not entirely accurate and in some cases, not even remotely reflecting reality.

Researchers have found that exercise equipment like cardio machines overestimated calorie burn by 19% on average. The elliptical was the biggest fibber, overestimating calories burned by a substantial 42%, the treadmill by 13% and the stair climber by 12%. The stationary bike told the most truth but still overestimated calorie burn by 7%.

It has been shown that newer machines are more accurate which means happy days in my gym but usually most of us just have to deal with whatever exercise equipment is available at our gyms. None of this should be a huge surprise though, as most machines only account for age and weight without considering heart rate, body temperature, body fat, fatigue and hormones which fluctuate often.

Outside of the gym, you will see fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone and now the Apple watch gracing the wrists of many people who might not step a foot in a gym. Various studies have shown that these devices also have a margin of error but do give a more accurate assessment of calorie burn plus they can be worn all day to measure overall energy expenditure. The downside is that many of them can’t track stairs or cycling as they don’t contain an altimeter but they can track basic steps, calories and the length of exercise.

I love that fitness trackers help motivate people to maximize their daily step tally and improve fitness levels making them a very useful tool in managing health and well-being. I love the conversations and comparisons in workplaces that drive those extra steps and encourage us to do a couple of laps of the office to reach our target for the day.

Accept that the numbers flashing results while you are striding out on exercise equipment or the tally on your wristband as benchmarks and not scientifically written in stone. Don’t base your calorie intake or consume extra calories based on the number provided but do use them as a push towards being more active and increasing your fitness levels. Calories are a bit like money in the bank, it’s good to know you have some extra up your sleeve for when you really need them.

Sausages do Sizzle

For the first time in about 10 years I went camping last weekend.  It looked good on paper but in my mind, camping equipment when camping is not just desirable but quite essential and given that we have none, I had a few reservations about the weekend. BC (before children) I used to camp often and even spent 6 months travelling around Australia in a tent. Lake Leschenaultia in the hills of Perth was our destination this time and my concerns upon arrival about what we didn’t have was replaced with the undeniable fact that it didn’t matter.  Whats not to like about spending time with friends in the bush relaxing, toasting marshmallows in the fire and listening to the wildlife (and hoping that your children don’t get bitten by a snake while crashing around in said bush)? Of course, one of the cornerstones of camping is the bush BBQ and naturally sausages do find their way onto the plate.  They smell SO good.   Continue reading “Sausages do Sizzle”