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.

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?

Soup – a simple way to warm up this winter

In my mind, chilly days signal the start of soup season. It’s time to get the soup pot out and fill it to the brim with winter vegetables, tasty stock and other goodies that make soup so delicious and warming. Once you have made this magical soup – it is a super easy and quick lunch, dinner and sometimes a snack too.

As additional benefit – the beauty of soup is that it can be a truly effective way of getting a ton of vitamins, minerals, fluid and fibre into your daily intake.

The thing is, although soup is an easy meal to prepare, the fact is that time does not always allow us to make a batch every week.  Enter the ready to eat options.

Have you been down the soup aisle of the supermarket lately??  It has most certainly grown over the past few years.  No longer is this section stacked with can after can of reheat and eat.  The packaging is now rather glossy and sleek and although packets and cans of soups still adorn the shelves, the newest kid on the block is the soup pouch.

During my most recent supermarket tour (ask me for more information on these if you are interested in the next one), I was actually really surprised at the sheer volume of variety.  Given all this choice, it seemed incumbent upon me to review some of these soups because lets face it – ‘ready to go’ can be vital on some days, especially if no-one wants to get hurt in the process.

All of the soups I tested are available on the shelf and do not require refrigeration – hence the perfect meal to store in the pantry or desk drawer at work. Heating time was on average 2.5 minutes, so they are definitely classed as fast food – in a good kind of way.

Nutrition 

When looking at food products in general, it is important to check the fat, sugar, salt and fibre content of the food.  Try and choose food that includes the following:

Fat – less than 8g per 100g serve

Sugar – less than 10g per 100g serve

Sodium (salt) – less than 400mg per 100g serve

Fibre more than – 5g per 100g serve

As you can see from the summary below, the four varieties that I tasted all fit the criteria for fat, sugar and salt but all are lowish in fibre.  The soup that you prepare at home is likely to be much higher in fibre due to the quantity of vegetables that you are most likely to add but you could bump up the fibre of these sou

p pouches by adding a slice of grainy toast or bread.

La Zuppa is particularly low in calories for a meal – it is more of a clear soup, so in this case adding some bread would round things out a little.

Taste

My favourite was the Split Pea, Carrot and Kale soup by the Australian Organic Co. – it was super tasty and filling and the texture was pleasant. I thought the Heinz soup had an overwhelmingly tomato flavour, although the La Zuppa was very tasty and did actually contain chicken. The Coconut and Pumpkin soup by Hart and Soul had a lovely flavour but sligh

tly bizarre long stringy pieces of coconut and (and perhaps onion) throughout the soup.

Cost

Of course, the one I enjoyed the most was the most expensive!  A bit like clothes really.

I have noticed that many of these soups are discounted on a regular basis across most supermarkets and are often available at around the $2 – $2.50 mark per pouch. This means that packaged soup in pouches can be a super cheap meal, especially in comparison to buying lunch.

And what about you – have you tried some of these or is there a packaged soup that you enjoy and would like me to take a look at?

 

 

Get Behind It – Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

I have been a Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador for a few years now and some of you will already know that this is a cause close to my heart. The whole month of June is dedicated to Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

It’s close to my heart because on April 17th 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart. My Dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within one week he underwent surgery to remove 40cm of his bowel and was told that there were traces in his lymph nodes also. Within two weeks he had started a 6-month course of chemotherapy.

Each year in Australia, 15, 253 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. This disease claims the lives of 84 people each week and I don’t want you or your loved ones to be one of those statistics.

For me, having a direct genetic link means that I need to be vigilant with check-ups including a colonoscopy every five years, not exactly what I would call a fun day out but knowing that it can save my life gets me there every time. Plus the preparation one has to do beforehand is very cleansing to say the least! I also love the chat with my fellow colonoscopers, the warm blanket, triangle sandwiches and a cup of tea at the end – but then I’m pretty easy to please.

If you are not currently requiring regular colonoscopies, a quicker and simpler way of checking is through a stool sample. Both women and men are advised to start screening for bowel cancer from 50 years of age but despite this, surveys in 2014 showed that less than half of the people who were sent the free kit actually used it. The perception that bowel cancer screening is messy and embarrassing, as well as a fear of receiving bad news are among the top reasons many put off screening for the disease. It might sound icky but the ickiness factor is really non-existent compared to the reality of enduring cancer and all that it brings.

A speaking colleague of mine Warwick Merry writes a weekly blog post and this week he made me laugh about a serious subject – it was all about bowel cancer. Or poo. Actually a bit of both. As a Dietitian this is something I talk about every five seconds so I am well used to the intricacies of this conversation but if you are not, hold onto your hat. Or pants – whichever is more appropriate. Here is Warwick’s take on it.

“Here is my theory. The first kit arrives when you turn 50. No one likes to be reminded they are getting older. A female friend of mine had her kit arrive on her actual 50th birthday. She was annoyed so put the kit in the cupboard – out of sight, out of mind.

People don’t like talking about poo. It is ok if you are travelling, as you can go on endlessly about the different toilets, plumbing set ups and gastro which meant you are not getting off the toilet for a few days. But people don’t want to talk about their own poo, whether they call it poo, poop, faeces or doody.

So you know who is the best person to encourage the poo conversation? A five year old!

They will play with it, bathe with it, run with it, show it to you, take pictures of it … you name it, they will do it.

So let me be serious for a second, if you are older than 50 or know someone that is, can I encourage you to Put Your Poo in the Post?

Get a test kit from Bowel Cancer Australia, go to the toilet, channel your inner 5 year old, poke your poo with a stick, and then put your poo in the post. You could very well save your own life.

You are too important to those around you to postpone this because you are too embarrassed, too busy (it takes less time than it takes to make a coffee) or too scared to poke your poo with a stick. 

At the very least you get to send your poo to someone. Haven’t you always wanted to Put Your Poo in the Post?”

For this month and of course beyond, the message is simple,  ‘Get Behind It’.  

So what can we do to reduce our risk of bowel cancer?

  • Be physically active as part of everyday life
  • Eat whole grains and naturally high fibre foods
  • Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference
  • Limit intake of processed meats and red meat
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount
  • Quit smoking

Opera singer, Beverley Sills once suggested to “Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.” I often remind myself of these words because at times I find myself making the simple things complicated.  Don’t we all do just that with our health and well-being sometimes?

The one thing we all need to do is be aware and be proactive. Don’t throw that kit in the bin – it could indeed save your life.

 

 

 

Don’t get the sits! Celebrating Heart Week 2018

Don’t get the sits! This week, 29th April to 6 May is a celebration of Heart Week and 2018 is all about the importance of physical activity in reducing the prevalence and impact of risk factors for heart disease. 

The campaign this year is focusing on ‘Don’t get the sits’ and is encouraging us all to get moving and keep your heart strong, because like any other muscle your heart needs exercise.

Did you know that:

  • over half of Australians (52%) are not active enough
  • almost two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese
  • one in four children are overweight or obese
  • 5,000 Australians die per year from physical activity

A few years ago, I wrote a book called ‘Ready, Set…Go’ which is a treasure trove of inspiring stories of high performers both in Australia and internationally. One of the people I interviewed and featured was celebrity chef, Rick Stein. He is a lovely man, he really is.

It was a chance encounter that enabled me to interview Rick Stein, celebrity English chef, restauranteur, author of 19 cookbooks and television presenter of 15 cookery shows. I was about to present on radio and unbeknown to me Rick was already on air. When he emerged, in one fell swoop I quickly introduced myself and asked him for a chat on the spot, which he graciously accepted. It is this relaxed and friendly attitude that I associate with the Rick Stein I have watched for many years presenting on TV. He’s a man who clearly has passion for food, and fresh seafood in particular. It is this love for seafood that launched his name in the ‘90s with his earliest books and television series based on his life as chef and owner of The Seafood Restaurant in the fishing port of Padstow, on the north coast of Cornwall, U.K. 

about Rick 

Since then, his cooking journeys in search of great dishes have been widespread throughout the world, including Spain, France, South East Asia and the Mediterranean. A little closer to home is Rick and wife Sarah’s restaurant,“Rick Stein at Bannisters,” on the southern coast of NSW, Australia. The restaurant is in a seaside town called Mollymook, a tiny picturesque fishing village, and the location of one of my first postings as a dietitian. Rick lives in Padstow for five months of the year but it is no secret that he loves Australia and spends four months of the year living in Sydney, with the remainder of his time travelling the world for work. This father of three grown children rubs shoulders with some fairly well known people and has cooked for the Queen and Prince Phillip, former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and French President Jacques Chirac. 

RICK’S PERFORMANCE TIP 

Jump in, every day 

Although it may sound glamorous, travelling the world searching for and cooking great food is not always an easy job. As a chef, Rick is constantly surrounded by food and there is an ongoing need for him to test what he produces. For most of us this probably sounds like a dream but the reality for Rick is that it does present a constant challenge to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. 

Rick is quick to point out that maintaining a healthy body is important to him. He has a daily ritual of swimming as soon as he wakes up, and in Sydney this means getting down to the local pool and following the black line for 1 km. In his home-town of Padstow, on the north coast of Cornwall, he swims the sub-arctic temperatures of the Celtic Sea, where Rick’s love of the ocean becomes evident. In spite of the extreme chill factor, he spends 15 minutes in there each morning when in the U.K. Rick maintains that his daily swim, regardless of where he is in the world, keeps him mentally and physically focused. For him this daily ritual is non-negotiable. 

what rick has learnt 

Sleep is also integral to this celebrity chef and Rick aims for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Despite the daily food challenges that Rick faces, he never misses his breakfast of fresh fruit and yoghurt, and during the day he keeps his energy levels up by snacking on fruit. Rick employs a no- alcohol strategy when travelling, as well as constantly drinking water to maintain hydration. Having said that, at other times Rick does enjoy an occasional beer and white wine, and likes to drink several cups of coffee each day. 

For Rick, “Jump in, every day,” means a dip in the ocean to quickly focus his mental and physical energy for the day ahead. For you, this could mean any physical activity that gets you in the zone for a productive day ahead. 

“Can assist in the prevention and management of heart problems, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and lung problems including asthma. It can also aid in keeping the joints and muscles mobile, increase strength and balance and is a great way of building bone mass. You will be more productive in the two hours after you exercise, with a 24-hour improvement, and if you exercise for 20 minutes every second day, it will halve the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And last but not least, it makes you look and feel like a million dollars.”

If this were a description of a drug, everyone would be falling over each other to get it. The benefits are obvious, impressive in their magnitude and wide-reaching. Although backed by irrefutable clinical evidence, little or no cost and a glowing rap sheet, so many of Australians are not getting enough of it for optimal health. 

This multi-faceted performance enhancer is exercise. In the world of health promotion, exercise is continually on the agenda and yet in many first world countries the rates are well below ideal with dramatic negative impact on almost all major diseases. 

Regular exercisers know the feeling of endorphin release during exercise and many people report this as being a major factor in their motivation for wanting to do more. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain medication and are neurotransmitters found in the pituitary gland and around the nervous system. Endorphins interact with human opiate receptors, which reduce your perception of pain. 

Serotonin, an endorphin associated with depression, is usually produced in response to pain and stress but there is evidence that this also occurs during exercise. The good news is that the amount of exercise does not need to be excessive and 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity can cause endorphin release. Exercising to exhaustion can cause endorphin levels to drop significantly, but, on the upside, new exercisers may experience stronger effects of endorphins than someone who has been exercising regularly. 

The Australian Government has some practical advice for those contemplating an exercise routine: 

  • 􏰸  Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience – opportunities to improve    your health include walking the kids to school or parking your car further away from your destination. 
  • 􏰸  Be active every day in as many ways as you can. 
  •   Buddy up

􏰸30 minutes of exercise each day is fabulous and you can accumulate this in short blocks as the opportunity arises. 

Your heart just loves it.

Many top performers across the globe exercise daily to enhance their physical and mental performance. Chef Rick Stein has woven his into the fabric of his life and can’t start his day without it.  

How are you weaving in yours for Heart Week 2018?