Snacks and the environment – what do they have in common?

Long before I met Barb de Corti, she was in my life. She didn’t know it but every time I cleaned my house, this passionate advocate for the environment was right there next to me. Of course, Barb (aka ENJO) was in my home and many others around Australia, in a virtual rather than a physical sense. 

Born in a small Austrian village with a population of just 1000 people and the eldest in a family of eight, Barb moved to Australia with her husband and young son in the mid 80’s without fluent English. A former bleach queen, her liberal use of bleach and other chemically based products were taking their toll on her young son, Mark. He suffered debilitating asthma attacks, the cause of which turned out to be the chemical cleaners. An accountant by trade, though working as a fitness instructor at the time, Barb discovered a unique range of Austrian cleaning products using microfibre technology and just water. Using these mitts and cloths and ditching the chemicals, proved to be a lifesaver for her son as his health improved dramatically. Barb’s belief in this product was such that she decided to take a leap and invest her family’s life savings of $40,000 to import the ENJO products into Australia.

Like many businesses, ENJO has endured some really tough times, which have come close to destroying the company but Barb’s passion for helping people has never wavered. Barb explains that the main purpose of ENJO is to be planet friendly and it is this passion and purpose that has pushed her on through the speed bumps. In perfect alignment with the ENJO purpose, in 2007 Barb was chosen to become part of the Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate project and was trained by Al Gore to deliver cultural change around the area of climate change. If just 10% of Australian households possessed ENJO cleaning products, this equates to around $2.3 million people potentially having a smaller environmental footprint. This goal is quite real and a work in progress.

ENJO is not available in supermarkets but instead based on a party plan structure with a community of consultants known as ENJOpreneurs. Although initially sceptical of this method of selling, Barb knows that the face-to-face nature of their business has been a cornerstone of their success.  ENJO is also available online to enable customers 24/7 access. Over the past few years, several competitors have emerged in the microfibre cleaning arena in retail outlets but Barb believes there are none like ENJO. “Our products are designed to last a long time and they come with exceptional customer service,” she explains. “At the end of their lifespan the products are recycled into felt in carpet underlay used in homes and cars.

Life is not just about running a hugely successful company for Barb. For some years now, she has dedicated much time and effort in raising money for a charity very close to her heart, Youth Focus. She has been totally committed to raising the awareness of depression and youth suicide through taking part in the 5 day Hawaiian Ride for Youth, a 700km bike ride between Albany and Perth. This ride had its beginnings in 2003 when a small group of recreational cyclists in Western Australia decided to combine their resources with the aim of raising money to assist in the prevention of youth suicide. Since then, more than $17, 000,000 have been raised, which is truly remarkable. Barb has completed three Ride for Youth events with Team ENJO with her trademark enthusiasm and today the team continues to be part of the event. Not one to rest on her laurels, she is a very keen endurance runner and has completed the London Marathon. 

Just like her renowned cleaning products, Barb has a unique way of approaching her exercise routine. It is easy to see that this woman is highly motivated in all areas of her life and clearly dedicated to her physical well-being. However, her exercise goals and routines are all driven by something much deeper, the desire to help others.

Barb and I first met when she needed assistance with managing fatigue, which is not surprising when she packs so much action into her life, while immersed in the day to day running of a large company! Like so many others, Barb was continually under time pressures while juggling competing priorities and ensuring a regular food intake often took a back seat. Through trial and error, she has learnt that eating regularly is not just a luxury but also a necessity. This not only enables her to put 100% effort into her physical training but also to be present and engaged whilst running an international company. This way she is a role model for her team and the thousands of people that she speaks to each year.

 

Avoid the energy speed bumps with regular snacks

For some of us, snacking is an essential part of keeping energy levels high, whilst 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) than are required. Larger portions have more kilojoules and more kilojoules can 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 and low in fibre and are certainly not good for your health.

Snacker, snacker, snacker

To be a healthy snacker, organisation is a key ingredient. 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 snacks purchased from vending machines and convenience stores are often priced at a premium. Regardless of whether you are at work, at school or university or at home, planning and packing your food intake the night before is a strategy employed by many to ensure healthy snacks. The routine of packing a lunch bag for school works just as well when heading off to work although your containers and boxes may not be quite as colourful as they used to be!

A problem area for many people is the third quarter of the day, which kicks off just after lunch and finishes around one of the least energetic parts of the day at 3pm. This is often when your body sends you a signal to do something to ward off the desire to lie down on the desk or carpet. Snacks are often required to boost blood sugar levels but they can be a nutrition trap. It is so tempting to grab something quick and easy, none of which will give you the long-lasting energy that you need for the rest of the day.

Watch out for Snacccidents

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

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

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

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

 

Quick and easy snacks 

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

What about you – do you try and avoid the energy speed bumps like Barb?

Take a look outside

Fiona Wood

Dr Fiona Wood is a woman of many talents and maximises every possible opportunity to put them to good use. She became instantly known worldwide when the tragic events of the 2002 Bali bombings unfolded, with her team working day and night to care for badly burned victims.  It was during this time that the “spray on skin” cell technology pioneered by Dr Wood was used extensively and, in recognition of this work with the Bali bombing victims, Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003. Understandably, she describes this time in her life as brutal, with the workload, emotional toll and the travel hours extreme. For Fiona, in her line of work, the external environment of care could vary widely from a bombsite to a hospital bed to the scene of an accident at the side of the road.

When contemplating making changes to your own health behaviour, assessing your own external environment is crucial to success. Although your environment may not be as extreme as those that Fiona Wood finds herself in, it can change many times over a day or week and being aware of each scenario means that you can adapt and plan accordingly. Take a look at what is going on around you and think about the things that impact on your ability to lead a healthy lifestyle such as:

Do you work too much or do you need to change the way you work?

Identifying the ‘stuff’ that stresses you out and figuring out a way to reduce or eliminate it.

Do you get rave reviews when you cook or do your skills need a little fine-tuning?

Do you have food in the pantry or is the cupboard bare? Being organised with a shopping routine makes it easier to eat well. If you don’t have time to get to the shops (or even if you do), spend a fraction of the time doing it online and avoid all the temptations that are costly to your wallet and your body.

Have you got somewhere to exercise? Access to facilities, clothing and equipment to enable exercise are going to be pretty important for a successful fitness bid.

Are you racking up enough zzzz’s? The quality and quantity of your sleep routine can dictate the outcome of whether you exercise, what and how much you eat and how productive you are during the day.

Financial health – your income and budget can impact some aspects of leading a healthy life but sometimes its more about prioritising  how we spend our money.

The weather – we all know that rain is plain old water but factoring it into your exercise plans removes another barrier.  Perhaps you don’t want to get onto your bike in the pelting rain but Plan B might be the gym or weights at home for some strength training. Conversely, it is usually too hot to run during the day in summer (in Australia at least) but early mornings are too good to miss.

Skill power – are you aware of the skills required to steer your health in the right direction? How will you find out what skills you need? If you don’t possess these skills, how can you get them?

Looking after the environment in this case means your own patch of well-being.  Does it mean engaging a personal trainer or finding an exercise buddy, seeking out help from health professionals such as your GP, Dietitian or Psychologist? Upskilling of self by learning meditation, taking cooking classes, shopping online, doing a short course or further studies? Information is only a click away and it is yours to access.

Improving the quality of your life and reducing your risk factors for chronic disease or having enough energy to play with the kids after a hard days work are all worthy outcomes.   Of course, let’s not forget feeling good about yourself, being happy with your body and feeling fit and strong. These are great results not only for yourself but also for your loved ones.  Take a look around and see what you find.

 

Food Care Factor

Fresh off the vine
Fresh off the vine

One look inside a shopping trolley will show you how varied our food tastes are.  One trolley might be full of fruit and vegetables and another might be groaning under the weight of processed items such as snack foods, confectionery and the like. There are a number of factors at play when we choose food, most of which we are completely unaware.

Income – people of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to choose processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt and are at greater risk of being overweight. Age – younger age groups choose more processed and junk food, whereas older age groups purchase less processed food and tend to make healthier choices. Education – as your level of education increases so does the likelihood of choosing healthy food. Lower levels of education affect food choice negatively across all food groups. Time – in today’s fast paced world, we are all impacted by time crunch, which can often negatively affect food choice.  With more working parents than ever, convenience foods are playing a significant role in our diets and our fat, sugar and salt intakes increase accordingly. History – what did your parents do? If you were raised on a healthy diet, it is more likely that you will continue to do this as an adult.

I recently interviewed Maggie Beer, Cook, Author and Gourmet Food Producer and she is a passionate advocate of choosing and preparing food that is fresh, healthy, sustainable and home grown where possible. The beauty of this philosophy is that these types of foods are usually whole foods. Whole foods are those that are minimally processed and include wholegrain cereals and breads, vegetables, legumes and soy foods, nuts and seeds, fruit, dairy and lean meat, chicken and fish.

Protecting your health

Highly processed foods usually bring a couple of friends with them in the form of refined sugar, fat and salt which are not naturally present in the ingredients before they are processed. A regular and excess intake of these leads to weight gain and increases the risk of every lifestyle disease.

Grow your own

Whether you have as little space as a balcony in an apartment, a suburban backyard or acreage, the principles and basic needs of growing vegetables remain the same with only minor variations. Planting tomatoes in a pot, growing herbs on a windowsill or integrating silver beet amongst a flowerbed are just a few ideas to get you started. The taste of homegrown food is sensational and is a great way to educate kids on where real food comes from and how it grows.

Make it yourself

Wherever possible, use fresh produce and cook it from scratch. For example, homemade tomato pasta sauce can be made with much less salt and more taste than commercial varieties. It might seem convenient to buy prepared custard but making your own is significantly less expensive, contains less sugar and takes only three minutes to prepare in the microwave. If you have children make sure you involve them in the cooking to develop essential skills for their well-being as an adult.

Save your wallet

Whole foods are generally associated with plainer packaging and minimal intervention whereas the opposite is true of processed foods.  Looking at supermarket shelves, it often seems like a competition to see who can have the biggest, brightest packaging with the most persuasive marketing – all of which you pay a premium for.

Road Miles

While we are fortunate that many foods are now available year round, this is only possible because the food is imported. There is a distinct disadvantage in purchasing out-of-season produce, as it is usually more expensive due to storage and transportation across long distances. Buying produce locally is cheaper, in-season and more likely to be fresher and of higher quality.

Helping the environment

Being less processed, the production of whole foods requires less energy. Packaging is often minimal (think fruit and vegetables) and contributes less to landfill. In-season produce grown locally has travelled less distance, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions.  Check out your local weekend growers market for a fantastic range of fresh food that hasn’t travelled far to get there at affordable prices.