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!

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.