How to Make Raspberry Rough Bliss Balls – they are the bomb

 

There is something so cute about a raspberry with it’s unique scrunched up shape in such a vivid colour.  It is hard not to love them simply for their looks but when we start talking about what they can do for our bodies, they reach star status.

The Nutrition Goods

Nutritionally speaking, a raspberry has all the goods. This little fruit is super low in calories with very little sugar, high in fibre and good to our gut plus a bunch of vitamins and minerals including copper and manganese.  There is Vitamin C all round with these guys too – 1 cup of raspberries dishes up almost half of our daily allowance for this vital vitamin.

It is true that eating a raspberry or two is not cheap, even when in season but they are certainly juicy little morsels when you do. The good news is that you can also purchase them frozen, store them in the freezer and grab them out whenever you need them.

So, we know that popping a raspberry or several into our diets will make our bodies happy.  We also know that they are super versatile and can be used simply as they are or in desserts, baking and even in savoury dishes.

Recipe + Raspberry

Which leads me to recipes. Is anybody with me when I say that I do love to look at recipes, mix and match ingredients and come up with my own variation? This favourite pastime lead to the recipe that I am sharing with you day.  Bliss Balls have been on the popular list for many people for a few years now but lots of them feature nuts and dried fruit (which I also love) but sometimes it is good to have a change right?

The Raspberry Combo

My Raspberry Rough Bliss Balls are a delicious combination of frozen raspberries, rolled oats, coconut and skim milk powder.  Super easy to make and a sweet way to get a dose of fibre, beta-glucan, protein, vitamins and minerals.  Oats are a rich source of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre which can assist with reducing LDL cholesterol that can accumulate in the arteries and can also lower blood glucose levels.

Raspberry Rough Bliss Balls

Ingredients (makes approx 18-20 balls)

2 cups slightly defrosted frozen raspberries

2 cups rolled oats

1.5 cups shredded coconut

2 tablespoons coconut oil

4 tablespoons water 

4 tablespoons skim milk powder

Method

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture is not sticky enough, add a little more water. Using a tablespoon, roll the mixture into balls. Refrigerate until set.

 

 

The Perfect Pair – Food Nutrient Combo’s that Really Work for Your Body

It seems that there are so many nutrients that our body needs to function at its best. Think vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, carotenoids, trace elements……you get the picture right? The list is long and sometimes it feels like a mammoth task to get the whole bunch of them in our diets regularly.

The good news is, the nutrients in some foods love to pair up with nutrients in other foods, because together they are a perfect nutrition match. A single nutrient (Hans Solo) will work by itself but two and sometimes three nutrients (a bunch of battle troopers) can work even better.

The magic word is ‘bioavailability’ and when we talk about this in relation to food, it means that the nutrients are ready for the body to absorb and use effectively. This is why teaming up particular foods means a win for our bodies. On the flip side, sometimes we make decisions about food combo’s that actually interfere with the body’s ability to maximise the good nutrients, so for your best health and well-being it is good to know which foods are the team players.

My top food combo’s include:

Iron + Vitamin C

Iron deficiency is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their capacity to carry oxygen is limited. The end result of this is tiredness and fatigue, breathlessness, repeat infections and failure to grow in kids. The thing is, dietary iron can be difficult to obtain and is found in two different forms – ‘haem’ iron which is found in animal foods and ‘non-haem’ which is found in plant-based non-animal food.
‘Haem’ foods usually contain more iron, which is well absorbed compared to non-haem iron, which is not.
Help is at hand though, as Vitamin C boosts the absorption of non-haem iron, if eaten in the same meal. The best sources of Vitamin C are fruit and vegetables, preferably in their whole form.

Top Food Combo’s = wholegrain breakfast cereal and sliced banana, baked beans on toast with fresh tomato or chickpea curry with fresh lime

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is essential for strong bones and effective working muscles but without Vitamin D, its absorption within our body is greatly reduced.
Calcium can be found in the largest amounts in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and although it is found in other foods, they often contain much less calcium which is also inefficiently absorbed.

Vitamin D is also crucial to our well-being and is synthesised under the skin in the presence of sunlight. Of course, this can be hard to come by in some countries on a regular basis!

Regardless, it is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone and most dietary Vitamin D comes from table margarine, canned fish and eggs.

Top Food Combo’s = Berry smoothie + a short stint in the sunlight each day

Antioxidants and Healthy Fats

The scientific explanation of how antioxidants exert their protective effect is that they prevent damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen.

The less technical and easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim is to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible. Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. For those too young to have played this 80’s game, go check out the 2015 movie ‘Pixels’ starring Adam Sandler and you will be all over it!

One of the most powerful antioxidants in food available to us is lycopene, found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and its best friends include the healthy fats found in oils, avocado and nuts.

Top Food Combo’s = Fresh tomato and bocconcini salad with sliced avocado or tomato pasta sauce cooked with a drizzle of olive oil.

Carbohydrates + Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Carbohydrate foods are classified according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose and this is known as the Glycemic Index (GI). Low GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly and high GI foods more quickly. If we choose mostly lower to medium glycemic index carbohydrates, our energy levels are more stable, meaning we have greater endurance and less spikes and dips in our day which is always a good thing.

Many aspects of a meal can affect the overall GI including fat, fibre, protein, cooking methods and processing of the food.

But, there is something you can add to a meal containing carbohydrate that lowers the glycemic index and is just so simple – lemon juice or vinegar! The acidity of either of these combined with carbohydrate means longer lasting energy for you.

Top Food Combo’s = Baked sweet potato and a side of spinach and strawberry salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or Linguine topped with lemon juice, capers and salmon.

What are your top food combo’s for the perfect partnership? Share away – I would love to hear about them.

12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season – make a list and check it twice

There are just two sleeps until the jolly man arrives to spread festive cheer and joy! For most of us the festive cheer and joy has been gathering momentum for a while and very often involves things to eat, things to drink, things to eat, things to drink……

Here are my 12 Tips for a Healthy Festive Season to assist your body over the break. Don’t forget to check it twice.

I like to move it, move it

We all know that the festive season means party, party, party. It’s just like managing a bank account and if you are budgeting for big ticket items (like parties or events), this means doing some saving. Choose an exercise that you enjoy and buddy up with a friend.

Choose your drop

We all know that Santa likes the odd drink or two to go with his midnight snacks. The thing is, the nuts, chips, dips and their friends make you drink more. It’s not your fault, they are addictive and persuasive. Fat and alcohol are mates too and togetherness promotes fat storage. Think about eating a healthy snack or meal before you hit the party. This will eliminate the need to pounce on platters of finger food as they sail by and most importantly, less excess baggage in January.

Cold as ice

Summer is hot right? Instead of grabbing a sugary icy pole, try blending some watermelon, fresh lime and ice for a refreshing and healthy treat. Perfect for summer. Simple too. Just remember not to get your tongue stuck on them, it’s awkward.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains a bunch of powerful antioxidants that can do good works in our bodies. Don’t go crazy though – two squares of good quality dark chocolate will do the trick, you don’t need the whole box that you were given!

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

Don’t eat too late at night – this is when your body is least active and not burning a lot of fuel. Eating foods loaded with sugar and fat can mean disturbed sleep and tired eyes the next morning.

Zing

Let’s face it, the festive season can be tiring. Aside from endless festivities – ongoing tiredness and fatigue can be caused by iron deficiency. Iron is essential as it helps oxygen sail around your blood stream and everyone’s after more oxygen aren’t they? Lean red meat is one of the high scorers in the iron department and is a great source of protein and zinc too. Breakfast cereal and legumes are decent sources of plant based iron but need a friend in the form of Vitamin C to assist absorption. Pump that iron people.

Gone fishing

It seems that Western Australia is the favourite place for sharks to hang out. Sharks are multi-skilled, as the finned hunters are not only scary but nutritious too, being low in fat and high in protein. Shark, fish and other seafood (fresh and tinned) are the perfect summer protein full of omega-3 fats which promote healthy hearts and brain function. We can all do with those.

Carb down

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. Low carb beer are not the same as ‘light’ beers which are lower in alcohol, so watch out for the false promises of beer advertisers. If you are concerned about your weight try choosing a beer that you enjoy and drinking a bit less of it.

Safety in numbers

With all the mountains of food that we are preparing and eating during the festive season it is easy to get busy and forget about storing our food correctly. To avoid an unhappy stomach and poisoning all of your guests in the process, don’t leave food uncovered on the bench or table, put it straight into the fridge.

It’s all in the eyes

With the year coming to a close, it is no wonder that our eyes can get weary and sore and this can be especially so at night when we are behind the wheel. Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene which is a form of Vitamin A, known as the ‘vision vitamin’ because it helps prevent night blindness. You never know when you need your night vision goggles on whilst out socialising over summer, so get crunching on a carrot every day.

Mindfulness

Before you eat – be selective, gather only what you need, roll it around a few times and savour it, chew slowly and enjoy. Being mindful means everything tastes so much better and can prevent you from overeating.

Relax, don’t do it

We made it to the end of 2016! Refreshing and regrouping is essential for your well-being and we all need rest and relaxation for a healthy brain and body. Make sure you carve some out for yourself.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy festive season and break! Well done on what you have achieved this year and here’s to next year being your best yet. Thanks so much for being part of my community and I look forward to speaking to you all in 2017.

Scoop it up! How to whip up Banana and Peanut Butter Ice-cream

Along with many others around the world, Australian’s really love ice cream.

In fact, we hold the bronze medal position in the Top 5 ice cream consuming countries in the world. Ice cream eating prowess is not included in the Olympic games but if it ever makes an appearance we are ready to go!

The deliciousness of this cold creamy treat presents itself in many flavours and combinations with the classic vanilla being the favourite flavour in most countries. It’s mine too.

Yet despite how much I love ice cream, there is the downside of eating too much of it. As much as we might try, we can’t completely ignore the fat, sugar, cream, emulsifiers and gums that accompany this cool dessert.

With summer almost (maybe) upon us, it seems like the perfect time to whip up something cold and creamy. One of my all time favourite flavour combo’s is Banana and Peanut Butter, so for me this was the natural place to start.

Bananas are naturally sweet and are a fabulous source of carbohydrate, potassium and Vitamin B6 making them the go-to fruit for a burst of energy. They also freeze and blend really well, which means they are the ideal base for ice cream.

Peanut butter provides the goods in the protein and healthy fats department and provides just the right savoury flavour to put with banana for a yummy ice cream.

The best thing is – making Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream is SO simple and takes approximately 10 seconds to make.

Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

1. Break up two frozen banana’s into pieces and place in a Vitamix or blender with 1 ½ tablespoons natural crunchy peanut (or other nut) butter.

2. Blitz until smooth and creamy. If the mixture is a bit stiff, just add a teensy dash of milk.

3. Serve with with fresh slices of banana. Serves 2.

Check out How to Make this Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream in action here.

This ice cream is an ideal snack or dessert that is low in fat and sugar.

All you need to do now is enjoy and congratulate yourself on your ice-cream making skills without any added nasties!

Looking for a quick dinner?

Growing up, one of my staple after school snacks was the good old 2-minute noodle pack. If you were on the same page, you will understand the attraction of something that is so quick and simple and requires virtually no cooking skills whatsoever. Never mind a snack – what about the night’s where time is short and all you want is a quick dinner?

The thing is, while the noodles themselves provide a source of carbohydrate, they are very limited in their nutritional value and that little foil flavour sachet is high in salt. Too much salt is associated with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. The average Australian eats around three times more salt than we need for good health so we certainly don’t need to be adding more. Historically, the noodles were fried but now we have access to the 99% fat free versions that are vastly improved in the fat department.

With all of these things in mind, I gave some thought about how to utilise some 2-minute noodles hiding in the pantry, whilst adding some protein reducing the salt and the 2-minute noodle omelette was born.

Layers of freshly sliced onion, tomato and zucchini provide a ton of natural tastiness eliminating the need for adding the flavour sachet to the noodles. Eggs and melted cheese bring all the ingredients together for a super tasty dinner (or even a snack or lunch).

The 2-minute noodle omelette dishes up at least three serves of vegetables, quality protein, carbohydrate and a serve of calcium all in one super easy meal that everyone will love. This omelette is a quick dinner and a great alternative to cruising past and picking up a take-away meal. It’s super- easy on the pocket too. For the video on how it’s all put together you can check it out here.

A quick dinner – Two Minute Noodle Omelette

1 packet of 99% fat free 2 minute noodles, cooked according to directions but without flavour sachet
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
40g grated reduced fat cheese
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 whole tomato, thinly sliced

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with cooking spray and arrange onion, zucchini and tomato in layers in the pan. Top with cooked noodles, distributed evenly over the vegetables and pour over egg. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook over low heat until egg starts to set at the side of the pan and then place fry pan under grill to finish the top of the omelette and brown the cheese.

Cut into quarters and serve.

Serves 1 adult or 2-3 kids under 12

Cost = $1.94

Five Breakfast Idea’s to start your engine

Five Idea's for Breakfast We often hear about breakfast being awarded holy grail status in the race of ‘who is the most important meal in the day’ competition.  Of course, all meals we eat are important but breakfast is right up there don’t you think? I know for a fact that bad things will happen to me and to others if I don’t tick that box in the morning. Not everyone feels the same way as me.  There will be some of you reading this while your stomach is currently doing flip-flops at the thought of eating first thing and there will be others who don’t experience even the tiniest twinge of appetite or hunger upon rolling out of bed. And then for some, the nice idea of breakfast gets trampled in the rush to get out of the door and into work or school. I do love a bit of scientific evidence and thankfully research shows that:

  • People who skip breakfast are significantly heavier than those who do eat it
  • Missing breakfast may diminish mental performance (that’s me right there) and eating breakfast can aid learning (important for kids and adults)
  • Those who set sail without breakfast are more likely to make poor food choices for the rest of the day and in the long-term too
  • We can lose two-thirds of our energy stores overnight while sleeping, which means we can wake up needing to get to the petrol station, stat.

If you are a work in progress in the breakfast department or even if you have it nailed, you might like one of my Five Breakfast Ideas to start your engine.

1. Overnight Oats When you are making dinner, surprise yourself with your efficiency and get breakfast organised at the same time.  In a bowl with a secure lid for easy transport if needed the next day, add 1/3 cup rolled or quick oats + 1/4 cup natural or greek yoghurt + 1/2 cup water + 1 teaspoon chia seeds + 1 tablespoon sultanas + a sprinkle of shredded coconut (optional) + 1/2 grated apple.  Mix the lot and store in the fridge overnight.  The next morning you can add a spoonful of your favourite yoghurt and this bowl of deliciousness can be eaten at home or taken anywhere you need to go. The perfect breakfast on the run. 2. High fibre cereal Some of my favourite and healthy cereals include Weet-Bix, oats made into porridge or natural muesli, Mini-wheats, Shredded wheat, Sultana Bran, All Bran Flakes and Special K Wholegrain Clusters with Protein.  All you need to do is add some reduced fat milk and some sliced fresh fruit or a handful of berries and you have a healthy dose of fibre, calcium and vitamin C to kick-start your day.  If time is short, pack your cereal and fruit and add milk when you get to the office. 3. Whole grain toast or sandwich with power protein 1-2 slices of your favourite whole grain bread, toasted (check the label for a fibre content greater than 8g per 100g serve), topped with 1/4 of an avocado, a handful of baby spinach leaves, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, 1-2 poached or sliced boiled eggs and a dusting of cracked pepper.  Other great protein sources include a small tin of baked beans, 50g smoked salmon or 1/2 cup fresh ricotta. If time says no to eating this combo at home, simply sandwich all ingredients between the bread, brown bag it and take to work to eat as is or pop it in the sandwich press. 4. Super Smoothie Blenders and bullets are one of the most popular appliances in the kitchen these days and for those crazy whirlwind mornings, they can be the answer to your one minute breakfast dilemma. For the basic mixture, throw together 250ml milk of choice + 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2 tablespoons natural or Greek yogurt + 2 tablespoons skim milk powder or non dairy protein powder (for a protein boost). To this base you could add 1 banana + 2 teaspoons of honey + sprinkle of nutmeg OR 1/2 cup frozen raspberries + 1 tablespoon cacao powder or 1/2 cup frozen blueberries + 1/2 banana + a large handful baby spinach. These super smoothies can be taken with you or enjoyed at home. 5. Chocolate Chia Pudding I love the idea of chia puddings for breakfast but sometimes the flavour (or lack of) leaves me less than inspired.  Last week I shared my recipe for Chocolate Cake Batter Chia Pudding because it is super tasty.  It is also ideal for preparation the night before and the perfect on the go meal (or snack too). If you don’t have time to finish it off with coconut whip like I did, try topping with frozen thawed raspberries or blueberries and a little bit of grated dark chocolate.  D E L I C I O U S

Get Packed – how to organise your healthy lunch

Regardless of how old you are, it only takes a moment to remember what it was like to go through the routine of getting ready for school. A big part of that process was packing your lunchbox because if you accidently forgot that (which I did on occasion) then your day was definitely below par. As a kid it was pretty tough to maintain those energy levels on little or no food and it’s really no different as an adult. Quite often when I am educating workplaces and their teams on how to choose healthy food and give them tips on managing their energy levels, organisation and thinking ahead are some of the key components. For this to happen like a well-oiled machine, there are a couple of logistical steps to take the night before.

  • Have one or several containers that you can use to store your lunch and snacks. You will also need a bag that is big enough to carry your food to work. It doesn’t need to be huge.
  • When you are choosing a meal to cook for dinner, double the recipe and instantly you have lunch for the next day plus some extra to store in the freezer for later. Everyone loves leftovers!
  • When you are preparing your salad or vegetables for your evening meal, have a container at the ready and just make an extra serve for the next day.
  • Pack your workbag before you go to bed leaving minimal preparation for the morning when you are rushing around getting ready and dramatically reduce your stress levels. The same thing you used to do for school right?

Simple Lunch Ideas to Bring to Work

  1. The Simple Sandwich – No-one likes a soggy sandwich! To avoid an unappetising lunch, simply store the sandwich ingredients in a separate container to the bread and assemble when you are ready.Use a mixture of breads such as sliced, rolls or wraps and choose wholegrain, wholemeal or chia seed enriched for a boost of fibre. No need to spread with butter or margarine. Tasty healthy fillings include: lean ham, sliced tomato and reduced fat cheese, smoked salmon and low fat cream cheese, sliced chicken with salad leaves and a light spread of low fat mayonnaise, grated reduced fat cheese topped with baby spinach leaves, sliced turkey breast topped with avocado, tuna mixed with low fat mayonnaise, finely diced red onion and flat leaf parsley.
  1. If a sandwich doesn’t appeal, try a big colourful salad with leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, crunchy sprouts and sliced red capsicum topped with an egg or a small tin of tuna or tin of 4 bean mix and a slice of grainy bread. Make the salad the night before and add the protein and bread at lunchtime.
  2. Anything left? – If you loved your dinner the night before there is nothing better than enjoying it again the next day. Just make sure that you have some protein in the form of meat, chicken or fish, some carbohydrate like rice or pasta and some vegetables or salad. Cooking an extra portion the night before is an easy and cost effective way of ensuring your lunch is organised.
  3. Something hot – Enjoy soup or a hot lunch that can be quickly whipped up in the office kitchen. Why not try:
  • Home-made or prepared soups (without added cream or salt) plus a wholegrain roll
  • A small tin of baked beans (or any other tinned legume) or small tin of tuna combined with a single serve pouch of brown rice or noodles (90 seconds in the microwave) and your favourite frozen vegetable.
  • A couple of slices of wholegrain toast topped with a handful of baby spinach leaves and a small tin of baked beans

If you start to think about getting ready for your workday just like a school day way back when, your food and energy levels will be on track for the day and you save money and precious time.

This blog was first published for Healthier Workplace WA

Meetings Matter

Businessman asleep at his desk on white backgroundAt the very mention of a meeting, any meeting at all, I can feel myself getting twitchy and anxious.  The thought of sitting and using up precious time that I will never, ever get back fills me with dread. And, I know I am not alone as there are many cynics out there who describe meetings as ‘the most frustrating exercises in pointlessness ever invented.’ Amen to them. These meetings frequent both our work calendars and our home lives through all kinds of places like P and C and sporting associations.  The time wasting nature of these gatherings do not discriminate. The good news is, there are ways in which we can make any type of meeting productive and worthwhile.  Both David Price and Sean Blanda who writes for 99U suggests there are three critical factors that can make meetings matter:

  1. All meetings must have a stated purpose or agenda – if not, the meeting is just an aimless gathering or opportunity for a social chit-chat
  2. Attendees should walk away with concrete next steps or action items
  3. The meeting should have an end time so that attendees don’t go rambling off topic and get diverted into useless conversation

These three points are integral but not the only things that dictate a productive meeting.  How often have you spent your day rushing from one meeting to the next with barely a moment to dash into the restrooms?  Managing energy and engagement should go hand in hand with the logistical structure of meetings and some useful strategies include:

  • Give me a break! – Any meeting that extends longer than 90 minutes should have a scheduled physical break.  Research on the way we manage our physical and mental energy shows that we work best when we cycle between using and renewing energy. Asking attendees to sit for longer than 90 minutes means that it is much more likely they are thinking about other things or switched off and thinking about nothing at all. Taking a 5 minute stretch or refreshment break increases blood circulation to the brain and body and acts as a pattern interrupt allowing you to refocus and re-engage.
  • Can everyone please stand-up? – With prolonged sitting being a major risk factor for all kinds of lifestyle diseases, why not make your next meeting a stand-up.  It’s a bit like a pop-up shop, you don’t need to have all your meetings like this but it is good to mix it up and spend some time away from the chair, plus it does shift the energy in the group.
  • Don’t do distraction – How often do you attend a meeting where everyone is busy looking at a device?  Now sure, sometimes the presentation is being streamed through laptops and tablets but would bringing the presentation back to a main screen enhance the engagement of your group? This could eliminate device distraction.  Your minute taker should be recording all action items for each attendee anyway.
  • Mint mentality – There are few meetings that do not feature the ubiquitous bowl of mints in the centre of the table.  These little sugary distractions disappear in the blink of an eye simply because  they are there and often more exciting than the meeting.  Every time you mindlessly eat one, visualise 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sugar entering your blood stream. They can really add up can’t they? If you are the meeting organiser ask for the bowl to be removed and don’t forget  to have water, tea, coffee and fresh fruit on hand instead.

Sprint Finish

running sprint vs marathonA few nights ago I came to the end of my first month back at interval run training.  I say back, because prior to this, the last time I graced the springy grass track was over 10 years ago before I had kids.  It has hurt me big time, because for many years I have just been running. Training for 10, 21 and 42km events that have seen my pace pretty much stay the same.  Flatline. This year, I wanted to shake it up a bit and see if my legs could turn over a little faster. It seems they can. Going to intervals makes me anxious. I know its going to be hard and competitive. My heart and lungs will feel like they are about to jump out and run their own race.  But what gets me to the end of each gritty set, is the finish line and a short breather. These days we run our lives like a marathon event with no rest and no finish line in sight.  We just keep going without regularly stopping to recover and regroup, which dramatically impacts our quality of life and ability to stay at the top of our game. Research shows that our bodies work best with 90 minute cycles of work, followed by a brief break.  This means focusing on whatever your task may be for 90 minutes, reaching the finish line and then taking a 5 minute breather.  Your focus will be hugely improved, your energy levels will be stable and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.  It cuts down on distraction when you know there is a finish line just around the corner. Start thinking about your life as a sprint event not a marathon.  Sprinters give 100% because they can see the finish line.    

Warning: Energy Speed Bump Ahead

making biscuits

In Italy, the snack or Il spuntino is reserved solely for children.  Adults simply do not snack here, unless one is enjoying an aperitif and a few morsels of potato chips fall into ones mouth. In stark opposition, the Australian snack movement is alive and kicking and research revealed this week by Roy Morgan Research shows that the potato chip is still the most popular snack in the land down under. In the year up to March 2013,  over a third of Australians 14+ years had purchased the product in an average four week period.  Sweet biscuits slid into second place and nuts rounded out the Top Three! From a nutritionists perspective this news is somewhat gloomy, although not surprising. However, this data is somewhat misleading as basic foods such as fruit, dairy products and bread are not considered to be in the snack food category for these types of surveys but are very often used as everyday snacks.

For some of us, snacking is an essential part of keeping energy levels high, while for others, it doesn’t even rate a mention. Snacking can be great for keeping hunger pangs at bay, controlling weight, satisfying small appetites and providing important nutrients. However, in our current climate of upsizing, snacks can contribute significantly more kilojoules (calories) to our diets than are required. Larger portions have more kilojoules and more kilojoules mean weight gain.

Your lifestyle and routine will probably dictate whether you are a three-meal-per-day person or a “grazer.” The term grazing is so called because cows like to do the same thing. You may not like to think of yourself out in the field chomping down on grass but grazing usually means snacking or having five to six smaller meals spread out over the day. It doesn’t matter if you have three large meals or three smaller meals and three snacks each day. Weight maintenance is achieved when your food intake matches your expenditure (exercise), regardless of when you consume them.

Snacking can be a great way of keeping your blood sugar and energy levels stable but keep a check on what and how much you are actually eating over the day. It can be easy to exceed your daily energy requirements through regular snacking, so make sure that you don’t fill up on biscuits, cakes, lollies, chocolate and chips or whatever is handy from the vending machine. These types of foods are high in sugar, fat and salt but low in fibre and are certainly not good for your health.

To be a healthy snacker, planning is important. Shopping regularly and having healthy snacks on hand makes it less likely that you will reach for fatty and sugary foods containing massive amounts of kilojoules. It will also save you money as items purchased from vending machines and convenience stores are often priced at a premium. Regardless of whether you are at work, school, university or at home, planning and packing your food intake the night before is a strategy employed by many healthy snackers. The routine of packing a lunch bag for school works just as well when heading off to work although your lunchbox may not be quite as colourful as it used to be!

A problem time for many people is the third quarter of the day, kicking off after lunch and finishing around 3 p.m. This is often when you feel least energetic – and you try to ward off the desire to lie down on the desk or carpet. A snack is often required to boost blood sugar levels but can be a nutrition trap. It is tempting to grab something quick and easy, but pre-packaged convenience snacks will not give you the long-lasting energy you need to get through the day.

When choosing snacks, the following guide may be useful. Look at their size and energy value to ensure snacks don’t totally eclipse your daily food intake:

For Weight Loss                      Choose 420 kJ/100 calories at each snack

For Weight Maintenance   Choose 840 kJ/200 calories at each snack

For Weight Gain                      Choose 1260 kJ/300 calories or more at each snack

 

Some quick and easy snacks include:

  •   1 slice of fruit or raisin toast with thinly spread jam
  •   Wholegrain toast or crumpet with a light spread of peanut butter or vegemite
  •   Small fruit smoothie
  •   Handful of wholegrain crackers with cheese
  •   1 punnet of strawberries
  •   1 piece of fruit such as an apple, banana or pear
  •   Low fat, regular-sized coffee (latte, cappuccino, flat white)
  •   200 g low fat yoghurt
  •   20 almonds, cashews or pistachios
  •   1 boiled egg
  •   100 g tin tuna in brine or spring water
  •   1 small tin of fruit in natural juice