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Monday, July 30, 2007

Foods to rid your diet of forever

1) Meat in a can - this is not the way meat was supposed to be eaten. Generally extremely high in fat and salt. You will carry an extra few kilos after a meal that includes canned meat.
2) Rice crackers - 10 rice crackers = ~ 2 slices of bread in high GI carbohydrates and how easy is it to eat the entire packet?!
3) Cordial - Libby Lenton may recommend it but she is a swimmer after all so we cannot completely trust her nutrition knowledge
4) 2 minute noodles - up to 3 slices of bread per packet with little other nutrition
5) Roll ups - stick sugar straps that rot the teeth with no other positive nutritional properties
6) 97% fat free snack bars - 2 breads worth of highly refined sugar which leaves you hungry for more
7) Chicken nuggets - unless you make your own these little favourites are more crap and far less chicken for my liking
8) Devon - whoever defined this product as meat was clearly mistaken
9) White bread - we eat it everyday but plain white bread is high GI and low bulk. Go for wholegrain or at least sour dough if you must have it white
10) Cheese and dip packets - high fat sloppy cheese with high fat crackers = a high calorie, dodgy snack

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Jersey number or life role

For some time now I have been trying to find some meaning in the work I do with football teams. Working with large numbers of ego driven sportsmen and their entourage may sound appealing but the work is tough at the best of times. The best way I can think to describe it is using the words of the Cold Play song, Talk, "And I feel like they are talking in a language I don't speak, and they are talking it to me".

And now, some 7 years after I was told by the coach of the first team I ever worked with at the innocent age of just 22, "Why the fuck do you want to do this, the boys will have a field day with you, they will hit on you, want to sleep with you and treat you like shit?", as I contemplate my future as a sports dietitian, all of a sudden things have become crystal clear for me. Male team sport is simple a metaphor for the way men work and behave in life, all you need to know is what position they played. The information I have gathered from hundreds of players, coaches and support staff has actually given me all the information on men I will need for the rest of my life.

See if any of these descriptions sounds familiar to you-

Fullbacks (1 or 15) - often a humble type. Has the opportunity to display pure athletic brilliance but also fucks it up completely on occasions which tends to keep him nice and grounded.

Wingers (2,5, 13, 11) - spends plenty of time on another planet. Often not part of the core "male team" as visiting another world. Born quick so has not needed to spend any time developing other core skills and hence fairly non committal at the best of times.

Centres (12,14, 3,4) - has the rare opportunity to be both big and buffed and for this reason, rule the roost, particularly with younger players. Have successfully managed to do as little as they may like on the field while still scoring plenty of tries. Popular with the ladies and frequently spotted shirtless. Parade around the club and in life in general, always getting what they want. Suit self employment or modelling.

5/8 (10, 6) - a unique individual. Success depends on his halfback and hence is often a shy type, with amazing skills that are only fully exposed once you know them. The quiet achiever and extremely trustworthy. Makes a good captain, team leader or boss.

Half (9,7) - a self absorbed type. Never makes a good captain as too worried about how his own game will fare. Often become coaches in his other life to achieve the goals he never made in rugby himself. Intense, absent and focused. Works best alone.

Flanker (6/7) - likes to think he is different from the pack, especially as his position does not even exist in league. A nice match between brains and brawn although this should never be mentioned as this type is confident enough without compliments.

Lock (8) - any man who chooses to go it alone at the back rather than stick it out with the boys is a cult leader. His confidence demands respect from both men and swooning women which can be sickening if left unman aged. Best for coaches to tone this one down before you lose control of him forever

2nd row (4,5, 12, 11) - the shy insecure type, which is surprising given their size. They prefer to stick together with their mates rather than go it alone so never try and rely on this one in an emergency, they will always let you down. The gentle giants

Hooker (2,9) - the clown of the group and always up for a laugh. Nothing is taken seriously but a true team man. Anyone who is going to put their head where he does is surely a brave man and the one we would all pick if a war was looming- yes?

Front row (1,3, 8, 10) -these boys like it kept extremely simple-"go hard and straight" is their motto. Are disinterested in complex situations that require thinking and much prefer instant gratification to any long term investments. Are prepared to risk everything for the boys and this is their mantra for life in general.

So next time you are with a rugby player; ex or current, the only thing you need to ask him is; "What position did you play?", because it will tell you everything you need to know.

And to the coach who told me, after I had spent a season of my own time helping his team reach the highest level it could condescendingly emailed me to say; "You are doing a pretty good job. Keep improving and you will eventually get results" , I think I just got them.

Please note, any likeness to real players is coincidental only!

Best of a bad lot

Being a dietitian can be hard - many people expect you to be a diet purist. It is not uncommon for grown men to expose their belly to you in shame, for people to be almost disgusted to see you eating cake or chocolates and comments such as “you are well covered for a dietitian” are not uncommon.

The dietitians can be a tough bunch also. Choosing to recommend packaged foods in any context to patients or the average consumer is regularly questioned.

What is important to remember though, is that, like any behaviour or decision if life, there is what is ideal, and then there is reality. While fruit, nuts and unprocessed dairy may be the ideal choice of a snack for example, the reality is that people do eat packaged foods – in extremely large quantities.

So, is it better for dietitians to recommended the “best of a bad lot” in relation to packaged snack foods that are available on the market or pretend that people do not eat them and continue to rehash the same old nutrition messages which have thus far been fairly ineffective in preventing or managing the obesity issues in Australia?

I know which kind of dietitian I am, and find to be much more effective in realistically helping people to lose weight and keep it off, while recommending a combination of good quality food enjoyed on controlled amounts of both aerobic and resistance training. There just needs to be more of us in we are ever going to make a significant impact on the health of a nation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Are we feeding our babies the right thing?

For some years now, rice cereal has been the recommended first choice of food for babies ready to start eating solids. Rice cereal has been historically chosen as a baby's first food for several reasons. Texture wise, it is extremely smooth and hence associated with literally no risk of choking. Rice cereal is fortified with iron, one of the key nutrients babies need after they reach the age of 6 months, as it is at this time that their iron stores begin to deplete and rice cereal is associated with an extremely low allergy risk.

I ask you though, how appropriate is it for babies from a European background to have rice as their first food? Rice cereal has a high glycaemic index, meaning eating it results in a relatively high secretion of insulin, the hormone we know to play a significant role in regulating fat cell development and size. I am unsure as to why, given that rice is not naturally high in iron that that would be our choice of first food for our precious babies? Would we not be a better option nutritionally to offer babies pureed vegetables or even oats; which are much higher in iron than rice cereal and then get the babies onto pureed meat ASAP?

While global manufactuers of rice cereal would strongly argue against this idea, I know what I will be giving my baby.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the footy boys

I have to be honest, in the five years I have worked with professional footballers, the boys have not taught me a whole lot; BUT the one thing they have taught me may be a pretty powerful message in itself. For those of you out there who have managed to avoid the craze of league and union, let me enlighten you.......

The life of a footballer generally revolves around three things:
1) Footy
2) Spending time with the “Boys” AND
3) Their next feed

Footballers spend an inordinate amount of time eating, planning to eat, planning where they are going to eat, planning who they are going to eat with and recovering after they have eaten too much. Come 7am, 12pm and 6pm footballers are already eating, usually at a place that is cheap, serves a lot of meat and they are enjoying themselves doing it.

Maybe if we all dedicated a little more time to planning, socializing and simply enjoying our meals we would not eat as much rubbish, and be in much better control of our weight and our health.

So go the Dragons, the Eels and the Wicks and thanks for the lesson

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Restaurant or royal palace?

What is it about "in vogue" restaurants in Sydney? While they may have chef hats, appear in all the latest magazines and have visiting celebrities dining at every second table, at the end of the day, they do just serve food to customers who are paying very good money for it, as well as for good service. Somewhere along the way, it seems that the service part has been forgotten, particularly in Sydney, with attendees behaving as if they are doing you a favour by letting you dine at their restaurant.

Just this afternoon, at the current Italian flavour of the past twelve months or so, North Bondi Italian, the Maitre d' almost laughed when my friend and I asked for a table to enjoy a mid afternoon red and cheese plate; being told that it would be at least a 45 minute wait. When we then asked if there was somewhere we could have a drink, she halfheartedly waved us in the direction of the overcrowded bar with no mention of the fact that we could actually eat there.

Where is the , "Please have a seat, hopefully it will not be too long. Grab a wine while you wait, the time will pass in no time"? Where was the smile, the courtesy, the manners? Where is the service?

Yes, the food is good at North Bondi Italian, but not that good. No wonder people go to Melbourne; the service to SO much better down there. And yes George, we will be back to Salon Blanc next Sunday. You always take good care of us.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Omega 3's in food

While the health benefits of omega 3 fats are well known - anti-inflamatory's, healthy skin, hair and arteries, improved concentration, the list goes on; I remain far less convinced of the need to add omega 3's to our food. To date there are omega 3 eggs, bread and most recently oven baked chips, usually which contain relatively small amounts of the crucial EPA/DHA which are the long chain fats we really need. So, while food industry may preach the importance of getting more n-3's in the food supply I think I still prefer the idea of nuturing our waters to support the intake of more fresh fish and oil and less processed food in total as then our n-6 fat (largely from processed food) and n-3(omega 3) fat ratios will then be much improved anyway

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes

Every week as I schlep out to The Children's Hospital at Westmead at 6o'clock in the morning I think to myself, "Why am I putting myself through this?", but when I get there and start to see the kids and the family's who are struggling with weight issues I remember how important it is for me as a clinician to keep in close contact with what is happening for the "average family" in terms of their food and nutrition so I can accurately portray this in my writing.

One of my gorgeous 9 year olds reminded me of this just this wee, after her dad had told me that she had convinced him to purchase the Munchable's packs; you know the ones with the four little sections in the pack where the kids get a mix of crackers, cheese, meat and lollies? Now, the issue was not the Munchables, more so that I wanted my patient to eat the milk protein bars but it made me think, what is it about those little packs that the kids love so much? They are tiny, you barely get enough food for a snack let alone a meal and yet the kids will happily give up their full lunchbox for a Munchables pack. Maybe that is the answer to the obesity issue. Simply give the kids a tiny lunchbox packed with a few fun foods and the kids will be happy. It could be as simple as that!