The Eleventh Day Of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…..Eleven emus kicking, ten wombats sleeping, nine crocs a weeping, eight flies a feasting, seven possums playing, six sharks a swimming, five kan-ga-roos, four cuddling koalas, three little penguins, two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra up a gum tree.

Emus worry me, they really do and I hope I don’t see any on this eleventh day of Christmas.

Beady little eyes and a lonnnnnnggg neck that looks like it might reach out at any moment and give you a little peck followed up by a quick kick.  An iconic Australian product that features this native animal is the good old Swan Brewery Emu Export beer.  It is still around but not considered to be in vogue now.  

Emu Export beer was and still is a full-strength beer unlike the low carb beers which are gaining popularity in Australia.  The question is, are they the real deal?

Low carb beers are low in carbohydrates but they still contain alcohol and therefore kilojoules.  Choosing a low carb beer over a full strength beer will save you about 100 kilojoules.  In a 375ml can or stubby of full strength beer there will be approximately 13 grams of carbohydrate compared to 0-3 grams in the low carb version, so this could be useful for diabetics but there is still the alcohol content to consider.  

Low carb beers are not the same as ‘light’ beers, which are lower in alcohol and based on this it is a good idea to watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers.

If you are concerned about your weight (and Christmas Day is definitely not the day to be concerned), consider choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking less of it.

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents on the eleventh day of Christmas, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack – my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  Pick up only now with just a couple of sleeps to go.

Click here for all details.

The Second Day Of Christmas – With A Healthy Twist

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me….. two pink galahs aaaaand a kookaburra in a gum tree

If the illustrations are anything to go by in the ‘The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas,’ on the second day of Christmas the pink galahs are throwing back a couple of cocktails and teasing the kookaburra.  I had a quick word to Santa today at the shops and he did indeed confirm that the galahs do like to imbibe in a few beverages around Christmas and revel in being the life of the party.

How To Pick Your Drink

Just in case you do too, there are some things that might be handy to take on board.  What you choose to drink is a key factor.  Red and white wine and champagne are pretty similar with a 100ml glass containing between 270-295 kilojoules.  Beer seems like at a winner at 149kJ per 100ml. Lets think about that 100ml in a general sense – have you checked the size of the drink you are pouring lately? Get ready for a shock.

Who drinks only 100ml beer? Can you imagine cracking open a stubbie and then having to give it away after drinking only just under a quarter? The funny thing is, whilst I was studying at university, I was a barmaid at a local pub and one of the favourite drinks in the Sportsman Bar for the regulars was a pony of beer – 140ml.  Pouring such a tiny amount of beer is one of the most difficult things I have done in my life and it never got any easier!

If we move a little higher onto the spirit shelf, alcohol like vodka, whisky, bourbon and similar attracts around 270 kilojoules per 30ml shot .The elite spirits like Malibu (calling anyone who still drinks that?), Baileys or Sambuca contain 420 kilojoules per 30ml.

Oh but watch out for the stealthy plus one  – the mixer.  A glass of mixer like coke or lemonade contains 420 kilojoules, which can be just as much as the alcohol.  Would you sit down and eat 8-10 teaspoons sugar?  I didn’t think so.

 

What About The Snacks?

The second day of Christmas might Then there are the nuts, chips, dips and their friends that make you drink more. It’s not your fault, they are very addictive and persuasive aren’t they?  Fat and alcohol are friends too and togetherness promotes fat storage.  Of course, I would not suggest that you should drink alcohol and not eat, that would be irresponsible BUT think about eating a healthy snack or meal before you hit the party.  One of my favourite snacks right now is Cobs Naked Corn Chips and you can check them out here.

This will eliminate the need to pounce on platters of finger food as they sail by and most importantly less excess baggage in January.

If you are still trudging the shops for Christmas presents, don’t forget about my Christmas Giftpack, my book ‘truth, lies and chocolate’ combined with a delicious WineBar Espresso Martini chocolate – all beautifully wrapped and ready to go!  

Click here for all details.

Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Raw Bliss Balls

Roll up, roll up, these bliss balls are super delicious and the perfect treat or post training recovery snack. All you need is 10 minutes and a blender.

 

Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

1 cup pistachios

1 cup almond or hazelnut meal

2 heaped tbsp cacao

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

1 tbsp chia seeds

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture is not sticky enough to form balls, add a very small amount of water and process again.

Using a heaped tablespoon of the mixture form into balls and place into an airtight container and refrigerate until firm.

How to Make Healthy Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

The truth is, its hard to avoid all the Easter chocolate isn’t it? Despite the deliciousness, I do know that Easter eggs are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one, especially the little teeny tiny ones.

Enter the Easter Chocolate Bliss Ball. The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe. The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called ‘healthy and natural’ treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories and are not actually healthy.

Todays recipe is my own for Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls and a modification on my Festive Chocolate Balls (which may contain a little alcohol…). These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Easter chocolate gift. If there are any left of course. These balls are high in fibre and a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants too.

Easter Chocolate Bliss Balls

Ingredients
10 Medjool dates + 8 dried apricots
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 cup raw hazelnuts or mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) or
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Method
Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined and sticky. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls, roll in extra shredded coconut and enjoy.

Wishing you all a safe and hoppy Easter!

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!

Festive Chocolate Balls

One of my favourite treats at Christmas time is the good old Rum Ball.  Despite their deliciousness, I do know that they are jam packed with calories and it is very hard to stop at just one.  The concept of ‘balls’ have become very popular over the last few years and it is very common to see them adorning the glass display cabinets of many a cafe.  The thing is, although the ingredients in these so called healthy and natural treats, may look good on paper they still contain a bunch of calories. Let’s face it. It’s hard to stop at one isn’t it? This is my take on the traditional Rum Ball – except that I prefer Marsala. These guys are so quick and easy and make the perfect Festive gift.

Festive Chocolate Balls

Ingredients

9 Medjool dates 3 tablespoons Marsala

2 tablespoons cacao powder

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

handful raw hazelnuts

1 tablespoon chia seeds

 

Method

Throw ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined. Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls and enjoy.

Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding Recipe

chia puddingIt might seem like I am a little obsessed with chia seeds lately as it’s not long ago that I was whipping up a batch of Blueberry Chia Jam. The thing is, I can’t help it.  These little seeds are just so good for our health with their bundle of healthy omega-3 fats, fibre and protein.  Chia seeds can be added to so many dishes, including puddings which are pretty hot right now.  I have tried a few of these, but none that I really loved.  In my search for recipe idea’s I came across a handful that promised the taste and texture of cake batter and given that I was a helicopter kid waiting for that hotly contested mixing spoon, I was quite keen on the idea.  The problem with some of these recipes though, is that although promoted as ‘healthy’ they sometimes contain way too much fat and sugar even if they do originate from a ‘natural’ source. So, I created my own version of the Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding, which I made for breakfast this morning and then launched on the Morning Show on 6PR 882Am radio.  It is very delicious and I think that you might like to try it.

Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding

Ingredients: (Serves 6) 6 tablespoons chia seeds 6 Medjool dates, seeded and chopped 1 x 400 ml can evaporated light milk with coconut 1/4 cup rolled oats 1 tablespoon of nut butter (whichever takes your fancy) 1 x 400 ml can light coconut milk Method: Mix all ingredients together except the coconut milk and place in the refrigerator for one hour.  Place mixture into a blender and add 2 x tablespoons of cacao powder, 1 x teaspoon vanilla extract and a splash of milk if more liquid is required.  Pour into six small bowls, jars or cups and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning: Open the tin of coconut milk and carefully scoop out the solids at the top of the can, placing in a mixing bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and using electric beaters, beat until smooth and soft peaks form. Spoon a little onto the top of each pudding and finish these cute little bundles with a sprinkling of finely grated dark chocolate. Nutrition per serve = 230 calories, 8.5 g fat, 23.5 g carbohydrates, 11 g protein and 250 mg calcium

 

Orange, Chocolate and Sweat – Three Tops Tips to Fuel your Football Game

Chocolate and Oranges - how they can change your game

I so love the start of the footy season. The anticipation of a new beginning and a clean slate, the sound of the siren cutting through the slight crispness in the air and the whack of a boot connecting with the ball.

This past Easter weekend has marked season kick-off for Australian Rules Football.  One eyed supporters all over the country have breathed a collective sigh of relief that finally, their beloved game is back.

Having worked as the Sports Dietitian for the Fremantle Dockers for six years means that my favourite colours on the paddock are simple and easy to remember. Purple and white.  That is all.

This time of the year gets me thinking about what the players will be doing before, during and after the game because I know they have quite a routine to follow. Fortunately, professional football players are blessed with fantastic support and access to sports nutrition expertise.

But the thing is, this does not apply to the almost half a million junior and senior players who run out onto the field every weekend between March and September. As a result, many of these players and their families have lots of questions about how to fuel themselves or their kids and there are three questions that I often get asked.  The answers to each of them can easily be applied to any sport.

1.  Should I eat a chocolate bar prior to playing a game of football?

A 50g plain chocolate bar has a medium Glycemic Index (GI) of 49 and contains 15 grams of fat. Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach and therefore digestion and these factors combined mean that chocolate is best enjoyed at a time not associated with exercise.

Some of you will remember the television advertisement that was aired in the 1980s for Mars Bars®. The theme song contained lyrics suggesting that Mars Bars® helped you ‘work, rest and play’. There was definitely a sports theme to the advertisement and over time, this has led to the belief that chocolate is a good pre-game snack. Great advertising – but not so great for your body!

Any pre-exercise snack or meal should provide you with sustained energy to perform the activity to the best of your ability, and be easily digested. The food should be mostly carbohydrate with a small amount of protein and minimal fat. Ideally the food should be of low to medium Glycemic Index and consumed 1 ½ to 2 hours prior to the game or event.

Some healthy low-fat pre-game snacks include: cereal and milk, toast with baked beans or spaghetti, bread or toast with low-fat spread, Up and Go® drink or Sustagen Sport®, creamed rice and fruit and low-fat muesli bars.

2.  Does eating an orange assist performance during sport?

In Australian sporting culture the orange (neatly cut into quarters of course) has long been a part of weekend sport and something to look forward to at half-time. Eating an orange will provide you with some fluid, Vitamin C, and a small amount of carbohydrate (an average orange contains approximately 110 mL of water and 10 grams carbohydrate) so go ahead and enjoy one!

3.  Can athletes drink more alcohol than the average person because they will ‘sweat it off’ the next day?

In short – no. On average your body can process one standard drink of alcohol per hour through your liver. This does depend on quite a few factors including age, gender, body mass, drinking experience and food eaten and may be more or less accurate, accordingly. This is true of athletes and non-athletes alike.

It is true that after a heavy drinking session you can often smell alcohol on one’s body, but it is generally bad breath, not alcohol being excreted through sweat. In the mid 1980s, two sports medicine experts made an interesting assessment on the nutritional knowledge of a group of elite athletes in Australia. Twenty-six percent of the athletes believed that alcohol contained no kilojoules, reduced inhibition and actually improved their performance. Wrong! Drinking alcohol before a game or any exercise increases the risk of dehydration and injury, and more than likely very ordinary performance on the day.

It would be interesting to see how much that perception has changed but given that the sports culture in Australia still encourages alcohol consumption in the name of team spirit and friendship, perhaps the change has not been significant.

You can find more practical and expert advice plus free downloadable fact sheets from Sports Dietitian’s Australia.

On the fourth day…

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me….Four cuddling koalas…three little penguins, two pink galahs and a kookaburra up a gum tree. Ahhh, Caramello Koalas.  They are so cute and tasty. I mean the the chocolate variety not the fluffy ones. Just in case you are wondering how they fare in the world of treats, one regular sized koala contains 99 calories and this includes around 1 teaspoon of fat and just over 2 teaspoons of sugar.  If you get sucked into a fundraising vortex and decide to go the Giant version, this effectively doubles the dose.  Well, maybe a bit more if you get guilted into buying the whole box. So should you eat them?  They are quite delectable and can help you experience a moment of bliss, so they are perfectly designed as an occasional treat. But when I know that one little koala is 1/12th of my total calorie intake, I do what I did today.  Go check them out at the zoo…. zero calories, fat and sugar but still the moment of bliss.