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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making 2012 healthier and happier

If you are one of the many who are all too ready to bid 2011 goodbye, it is the perfect time to reflect and consider what may help you to build a happier and healthier 2012.

Sitting with clients for many hours each day, discussing health, diets, weight loss, mood and wellbeing gives me great insight into what makes some of us happy, fulfilled and satisfied, and others not. So, as we move into a bright and shiny New Year, here are my best tips on how to make 2012 a happy and healthier one.

1) Be strict with your time
While we all have 24 hours a day, some of us use this time much more constructively than do others. Time is our most precious resource, and yet too often we fritter away time on pointless meetings, unfulfilling social engagements and doing mindless tasks. If you can, set aside at least 30 minutes each day where you can simply be; free from demands, technology and stimulus. More importantly, be strict with your time in general and if the engagement is not important, be brave enough to say no – as you time may be best used elsewhere.

2) Take a break from technology
This may mean switching off your phone after hours, or having a cut off time from the computer. It may mean no television in the bedroom, or it may mean walking to work minus the music. Whatever ‘a break’ means for you, your brain needs a break. It needs a break to think, reflect, ponder and dream. Constant stimulation can distract from important thought processes and disrupt sleep and crucial relaxation time. Even if it is just an hour a day, ‘a technological break’ will benefit both your cognitive functioning and your health.

3) Seek out nature
For those of us who live in busy cities, the rushing, the traffic and the intensity is enough to send anyone crazy – aggression, anger and frustration becoming a ‘normal’ part of the day. One of the most powerful things we can all do to help get some balance within busy lives is to regularly seek out nature. Whether it be a beach walk each morning, a trip to the bush once a month or a regular weekend away, spending time in nature is proven to improve well-being.

4) Prioritise activity
There comes a point where keeping fit and healthy is less about aesthetics and more about being able to do the things we want to do. Incorporating daily exercise or even movement poses only benefits when it comes to health, movement, mood and well-being. The truth is that knowing this is not enough, activity needs to be scheduled or it will never get done. Aim for 30 minutes a day as a rule.

5) Get some sunlight
Low levels of Vitamin D are becoming increasingly common as we spend hours of our day indoors and cover up aggressively when in the sun. The issue is that low Vitamin D can make you feel as if you have been hit by a bus – with low energy, constant fatigue and low mood - knowing this, make a real effort this year to get some sunlight every single day.

6) Drink less alcohol
While there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks, every single day is a bad habit not a positive life addition. Drinking too much, too regular is bad for your health, your weight and ultimately your motivation as time spent in an alcohol haze prevents you from doing the things you know you should be doing. Develop your own alcohol rules, in which you actively control your intake and aim for at least two alcohol free days each week.

7) Eat less sugar
It may surprise you but the truth is that you do not need to aggressively diet to control your weight. All you need to do is develop some strong dietary habits and one of the most powerful habits is to cut back on your sugar intake. Whether it is via added sugar, sweet treats, juices or white bread or processed breakfast cereals, the less sugar and sweet foods you have, the less you will want and that is good for the hormones that regulate your weight, long term.

8) Go for quality time
It may be your husband, your best friend or your soul mate but spending quality time, at least once each week with someone very important to you is a crucial aspect part of your day to day well-being. We all need someone we can talk to, share our most intimate thoughts with, someone who is ‘on our side’, unconditionally. Once you are lucky enough to have this person, make regular time to spend with them.

9) Avoid shopping centres and school driving zones at all costs
We all know that stress is a natural part of day to day life, but actually putting ourselves in situations in which we are bound to experience much stress from other people’s children, traffic, other people rushing and mass consumerism are best avoided. Shop out of hours, drive the long way around and spend less, trust me, this is the one you will be most grateful for.

10) Look after yourself
So many of spend each day just trying to ‘make it through’ that we forget how important it is to ‘self-care’. In fact, the better we are at ‘self-care’, the better space we are in to be better partners, carers, friends, parents and workers. Schedule time each and every week for your own self-care – a massage, pedicure, trip to the movies, counseling session, trip the gym or a coffee at the local shop – simply time to relax and enjoy. You can find 30 minutes but you need to prioritise it and everyone around you will also benefit.

Wishing you all a fabulous and fulfilling 2012!

Susie – December 29th 2012

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A letter to my clients this Christmas

You know I love you all dearly – many of you I have seen for many months if not years and feel as if I know you as well as I do my own friends. I also often know your family as well as your friends who you have also sent to see me over the years so they too can learn to take control of their food, their body and their lives. I even feel great affection for those of you who skip your weigh in’s, who forget to text me your weight each week and even those who seem to come down with a cold every time the weekend eating and drinking became a little too much. I have seen you at your worst, often when you are most vulnerable and in general I feel privileged that you trust me to look after your weight and your diet.

But, I do have one request a mere few days before Christmas – please, please, please can you remember how hard we have worked together, how great our gains have been and not let it all go to waste?

Please don’t take this the wrong way; of course I want you to enjoy Christmas with your friends and family and indulge a little. Of course you are going to eat a little more than you should be eating and you are also likely to skip some of your training due to other commitments or family holidays.

You know what though? Such changes to your food and training schedules do not have to mean weight gain, at worst they should only result in no weight loss over the next couple of weeks.

If though you are viewing the holidays as an opportunity to throw all your hard work out the window, binge eat every morsel of food that crosses your path, opt to move your body as little as possible and see Christmas as a 4 week break rather than a special day or two, things are not looking great. Not only are you likely to regain significant amounts of weight as your body becomes overwhelmed by carbs, sugars and calories that it has been learning to live without but you are also likely to find it extremely difficult to lose this what all over again as your body’s cells start to tell you that they are sick and tired of these food games.

You know how good you feel when you are on track with your food and training, and you know how much better the start of a new year will be if you also start it feeling amazing. I promise I will be there for you all in January, helping to direct and motivate you for the year ahead but I need you to consider my needs to – and I need you to remember the foundations of what we have built together and give them the respect they deserve.

With Much Love and Kind Thoughts at Christmas

Your Devoted Dietitian

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alcohol management

It is likely that you have already noticed an increase in your alcohol intake as we head towards the warmer months and whether this is a few extra beers over the weekend, or a couple of cocktails as you catch up with friends at the end of the day it does mean more calories, and ultimately more calories = weight gain. So here is how you manage your alcohol intake over the party season and prevent unwanted weight gain in the process.

1) Be firm and do not look as Christmas as an excuse to drink too much. Remember that 1 alcoholic drink = 1 slice of bread in calories so count your drinks and know your limits.

2) Know that spirits served in a tall glass, with lots of ice and a low calorie mixer such as soda or diet soft drinks are your lowest calorie option with 80 calories per glass. This is compared with a large glass of wine or beer which contain between 120-140 calories.

3) Eat something an hour before you head out and drink 500mls of water as you will drink far less if you are not hungry and hydrated.

4) Differentiate special parties from everyday drinks and catch ups after work and indulge for special occasions but be strict with day to day catch ups.

5) Remember that for every “big” night you are looking at 2hr the gym to burn the calories off and do extras where you can to compensate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Christmas rules

It may seem a little early but the reality is that many of us will start the Christmas party season very soon, and hence we need to be on top of things if we are going to prevent weight gain over the next 5-6 weeks. So, here are the rules, guaranteed to keep your weight under control if you want it to be.

1) No mince pies until Christmas Eve. With more than 250 calories and at least 10g of fat per pie, these Christmas treats need to be consumed sparingly.

2) Under no circumstances are you to skip training – in fact, if you can afford to you should be doing extras to compensate for the extra calories you will be consuming.

3) Eat light if you are going out – this means soup or salad for the other meal of the day.

4) Always eat a snack before you go – a Body for Women protein shake or bar, nut bar + 1 vegetable will ensure you do not arrive at any function starving.

5) The 5 canapé rule – 5 canapés equates to a meal worth of calories so make sure you are counting.

6) An alcohol limit – it may be just on weekends or for the very special Christmas parties but create your own rule and stick to it.

7) Christmas foods at Christmas only – this means all the extra chocolates, nuts and other Christmas foods be kept until…..Christmas.

8) Quality over quantity – commit to enjoying it if it is very good quality but don’t waste calories on poor quality party snacks, chocolates and lollies.

9) The extra walk – for any big parties, commit to an extra walk the next day to compensate.

10) the 2 vegetable rule – this is not just a Christmas rule but munching on 2 vegetables a day will help to keep you full so you are less likely to overindulge in rubbish.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why adding salad is futile

Whenever I am woken by the telephone at 6am usually it is the radio calling for an early morning interview, inevitably because one of the fast food chains has promoted a new initiative and yesterday it was McDonalds starting to offer salad as well as fries when you order a burger.

There are so many things that run through my dietitian’s brain as I contemplate this to decide if it is indeed a good idea. Surely any promotion or initiative that encourages the consumption of more salad and / or vegetables is a good thing, ultimately giving consumers the option to make a healthier choice should they want to? Hmmmm, maybe but offering one small good thing as part of a much bigger bad thing ie eating a fast food meal, does not make the fast food meal any better. In fact, it could actually make people feel better about eating the fast food meal, which is not a good thing.

Then, while having the option available to choose salad instead of fries may result in some people ditching the fries in favour of salad, I would be more inclined to think that the majority of people who are going to a fast food chain are not looking to swap their order of fries for a salad. If in real terms this means that McDonalds sell 1 salad for every 50 serves of fries, it would suggest that such a tactic from McDonalds is merely ticking a box of ‘looking like” they are trying to do go by the health of all Australians as opposed to actually doing any good at all – there is a big difference.

And then we have the issue of quality. If you have seen a healthy choice at a fast food chain recently, you may have noticed they do not tend to be the most desirable looking menu options. A minuscule serve of soggy lettuce and chopped tomato costing more than $3 hardly appetizing compared to sizzling meat patties, melt in your mouth burger buns, sugar twists of fat known as a McFlurry and the far more affordable $2 lunch deals. I am a dietitian and I would not pay the money for the salads that are served in McDonalds.

So while another marketing executive is likely to be patting themselves on the back this afternoon as McDonalds has again grabbed the headlines with its “salad offering”, here are some things to consider next time they really want to grab a health headline properly. McDonalds sell 1 million meals a day in Australia. All that would be needed to improve the nutritional quality of the current McDonalds menu items and indirectly the health of all Australians would be to add more salad to all the burgers on the current menu, improve the quality of the bread the burgers are served on and for the fifteen year old servers to stop asking everyone to upsize their order and buy more the high fat, high carbohydrate foods they do not need. It is not rocket science McDonalds and you are also likely to save a whole lot of salad that no one is going to eat in the process.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why am I not losing weight?

Why am I not losing weight? - Perhaps the most common question from clients who appear to be doing everything they can to support weight loss. They are going to the gym, cutting back on carbs and not drinking during the week and yet the kg won’t seem to budge. Here are the most common reasons that you may not be losing weight with the good news is that all of these factors are very easy to adjust and get things moving the right way on the scales.

You are eating breakfast too late in the day
One of the most important things you can remember when it comes to weight loss is “the earlier you eat breakfast, the better”. Waiting until you get to the office to enjoy the first meal of the day is a little late when you consider that breakfast fires up the metabolism for the day ahead. So if you are waiting until 8 or 9 to enjoy your eggs, oats or shake, shift it forward an hour or two and get that metabolism firing.

You are training inefficiently
It may sound harsh but the longer you have trained, the more you are going to have to push yourself in order to achieve the same calorie burn you did initially. Change things around with your training as much as you can and focus on working out intensely for just 20-30 minutes burning 200-300 calories in this time. Change the settings on the machines, swap the order in which you do your cardio and/or weights and swap between different machines and classes. When you have trained for many years, sometimes all you need to do is change the type of training and intensity to get things moving again.

You are having too many extras
An extra coffee or two here, a biscuit there and there you have the difference between losing weight and not. If you doubt what is really going in your mouth spend a day keeping a record of everything you eat or drink. Sometimes the simple act of becoming more mindful is the difference between a few extra hundred calories a day or not.

You are sitting down too much
While it is great to commit to regular training, if you then spend the remaining 14 hours of your day sitting, you are completely negating the benefits of training completely. Start to wear a pedometer and become more aware of how much (or how little) you really are moving. Try and avoid hours sent lying in front of the television at night and get outside at lunchtime and move around because the more you move, the more you burn.

You are overdoing the coffee.
There is nothing wrong with a coffee or two each day but if you find yourself constantly sipping on a latte for most of the day, therein lies the problem. Not only are liquid calories a nightmare when it comes to insulin release and weight gain, but we rarely compensate for them, which means they become extras that many of us do not need. Enjoy your milk based coffee with your meals or as a snack and drink only water or herbal tea inbetween.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I prefer people eat vegetables instead of fruit

It may surprise you to hear that I, even though I am a dietitian,hate apples. I am not sure if I hate them because my mum sent me with one for recess on my first day of school when everyone else had potato chips, or because I find them sickly sweet, but whenever I see a dietitian’s logo featuring an apple, I feel slightly nauseous. In fact, whether it is an apple, an orange or even a mango, give me a vegetable in its place any day. It is not that I do not like all fruit, I simply prefer vegetables.

Now, you do not need a science degree to work out that fruit is very healthy. Packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals as well as being low in calories, fruit is a great snack choice. But the truth be known, if it came to choosing between fruit and vegetables, I would go for veges any day.

Before you get outraged that a dietitian would dare not talk about apples in anything but glowing terms I want you to consider this. Fruit, whilst being healthy contains far more calories and sugars than vegetables, with fewer health benefits. It is much easier to eat numerous pieces of fruit each day than it is to eat too many vegetables, and most clients I see for weight loss are eating far too much fruit, and far too few vegetables.

Vegetables make the perfect snack. They are generally not sweet, so you are not tempted to eat more and more of them. They are bulky, so they fill you up. They have virtually no calories but are so rich in nutrients that they are one of the few types of food that are actually linked to a reduced risk of developing some types of cancer long term.

So next time you go to grab a piece of fruit as you try to be “healthy”, grab a vegetable instead and your health, your weight and your tummy will benefit long term.

Vegetable/Salad (per cup, raw) Total Carbs (g) Total Cal
Broccoli <1 20
Pumpkin 1 70
Carrot 7 45
Tomato 4 30
Red capsicum 4 30
Cucumber 3 16
Peas 10 100
Green beans 3 30
Beetroot 10 60
Celery 1 15

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why it is irresponsible to sell Cheezels for 95c

We all love them, and if you are as old as I am you are likely to have grown up with the brightly coloured, extruded party snacks affectionately known in this country as “Cheezels”. I love these tasty little treats as much as you do, memories of childhood birthday parties and all things 80”s triggered at the mere thought of these little morsels, but my 7 year science degree still tells me that there are few foods as nutritionally nasty as the humble Cheezel. Packed with colours, flavours and a hearty dose of saturated fat, Cheezels are usually featured on my “worst supermarket foods” list which is why I was horrified to see them on sale at Woolworth stores last week for just 95c a box.

Now, before you tune out under the heading of “diet Nazi” I am the first to agree that there are times when we all eat foods that are not the best for us nutritionally and there is nothing wrong with this. At the end of the day we are all in control of our own destiny when it comes to our body weight and our health long term and the food decisions we make on a daily basis are no one’s business but our own. The issue I have with this situation is that there is a big difference between choosing to take home a packet of potato chips each week and one of our biggest supermarket chains actively encouraging their customers to buy a food that is of extremely poor nutritional quality by selling it at an exceptionally cheap price as well as giving such a product enormous exposure by placing it on eye catching stands at the front of the store. And it was not just one Woolworth’s store, from my research I am led to believe that Cheezels were on sale last week for 95c in numerous city stores throughout the state.

Whether the government will admit it or not, our two largest supermarkets have enormous power when it comes to influencing the health and nutritional intake of the country. If Woolworths sell Cheezels for 75% less than the cost of a punnet of blueberries, which do you think people buy? Similarly, supermarkets do not advertise 2 for 1 deals on chocolates, chips and biscuits because sales do not increase, what our supermarkets choose to discount, advertise and locate in prime store position absolutely influences what we buy when we visit the stores.

Given that 60% of Australian adults and up to 30% of Australian children are overweight or obese, aggressively marketing high fat, low nutritionally quality foods in such an overt fashion are completely irresponsible. It is ignoring the health battles of Australians, it is putting parents in the challenging situation of having to deal with the kids demands for these foods and it is leading us to eat much greater amounts of bad fat and calories than we would have if the foods where not placed directly under our noses, costing next to nothing.

Wollies, it is not the Australian peoples fault you bought too many Cheezels and now you have to get rid of them so please think about the health of your customers and stop trying to pass the crap onto us. Oh, and lift your game altogether when it comes to your 2 for 1 deals which encourage your customers to buy more soft drink, biscuits, confectionery and chocolate and your advertising campaigns that portray you as holier than thou, ignoring these other blatant opportunistic tendencies. You know you could use your power to really help improve the health of the Australian people, so why not give that a go, and leave the Cheezels out of it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Should we have a fat tax?

As our very own PM knows all too well, nothing can alter public opinion as quickly as talk of another tax can, and as expected after the relatively fit and health Danes announced this weekend that they would be adopting a “fat tax”, it seems that many thin and fat Aussies are more than happy to share their thoughts on the subject.

A “fat tax” is not a simple concept, it involves closely examining the nutritional profiles of all foods that are relatively high in fat, whether it is full cream milk, processed snack foods or fried fast foods to determine what is the best and fairest way to isolate those that are contributing significant amounts of “bad fat” into our diets. The tax has to consider natural sources of saturated fat such as those found in dairy foods and meats, as opposed to those simply used to process and make high fat foods as well as considering foods that may be high in fat but which may be made using “better” types of fat. What has resulted is a tax that targets foods which contain >2.4% saturated fat, and only the saturated fats that result from processing the food, as opposed to that which naturally occurs. This means that in the case of a burger, the saturated fat of the meat is not taxed, only the oil used in making the burger.

At this point in time, bureaucratic groups step in and argue that such a tax is unfair to those from lower socioeconomic groups, as they are the ones who end up paying relatively more for foods high in fat. It is the point in which consumer advocates hop on their high horse and argue that we should not be making unhealthy food more expensive rather healthy food cheaper. It is also the time where anyone in general starts to complain about all of our taxes including the more than 10 year old GST and of course, the carbon tax.

So here is the newsflash. Australia is one of the fattest countries in the world and high fat, fast food is cheap and readily accessible. Despite slightly increased government spending which has targeted obesity in this country, we are no thinner. Public health messaging is not working, we need more drastic action and we need it now, and most importantly, we need some $ to pay for the health costs associated with obesity long term.

In case you have not heard, it is almost impossible to make healthy food cheaper, if you want that food to come from Australia. Our farmers are already doing it tough and with two major supermarket chains monopolizing the food market, there is little room to move in terms of the cost of fresh and healthy food for the bulk of the population. On the other hand, increasing the price of high fat, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods including fast food, pastry, snack food and full cream dairy is a viable option. It makes unhealthy foods less accessible as well as creating an income stream to pay for the enormous long term health costs of a diet high in saturated fat. Indirectly, it also encourages our major manufacturers and ultimately food controllers of processed and fast foods to consider the quality of the ingredients they are using to make our food, and ultimately shift towards ingredient options that are lower in saturated fat.

We could talk forever about how unfair it is, how a fat tax ignores the health effects of sugar, and how disadvantaged groups are being unfairly targeted but at the end of the day, life is not fair and perhaps it is worth remembering that you are only taxed if you buy the crap food, simple as that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Dukan or not to Dukan?

Any bestselling diet whether it be Atkins, South Beach or the Dukan will create headline news, as the millions and millions of overweight adults around the world search for the elusive answer to their long term weight issues.

In turn, any heavily marketed diet will also warrant much criticism, from both health professionals who revert to their standard line of, “you need to eat healthy, low fat food and exercise if you want to lose weight long term”, as well as from unsuccessful losers who love nothing more than to blame yet another program for their failed attempts at weight loss.

The Dukan Diet has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, which would suggest there may be something we can learn from the program when it comes to weight loss. A closer look at the 4 phase regime reveals that it is simply a high protein plan initially followed by the gradual reintroduction of a small amount of wholegrain carbs and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – basically a French style of eating with a couple of cheat meals in which you can enjoy your wine, pastries and dessert. The novel factor is of course the weekly return to a protein only day, very similar to following a day of low calorie eating. So if it is so basic, why has the program gained such popularity?

I have worked in the area of weight loss for both children and adults for more than 10 years, and all that weight loss talk has taught me a few key things about human beings and their approach to weight loss. The first thing being that even though you and I both know that weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out, this message does not sell. To be able to win the attention and adherence of our clients we have to be able to sell a quirky “product” which is exactly what Dukan does. Next, the diet must get results immediately or our fast based, instant gratification fuelled clientele will nto be back – again Dukan uses the protein only approach to kick start weight loss. And finally, for anyone who works in weight loss, you will know that in a number of cases the calories in versus calories out approach to dieting does not always work. In fact, for a large number of metabolically challenged clients, those with insulin resistance, PCOS and pre diabetes, if anything a high carb, low fat traditional diet approach is perhaps the worst thing we can offer. A diet such as Dukan does give you an opportunity to significantly alter the profiles of carbs, protein and fat and often induce weight loss in individuals who thus far have been unsuccessful in losing weight using a more traditional approach.

So, what do I think as a nutritionist about the Dukan approach? Personally, I could think of nothing worse than eating only protein for a day and would rather carry a few extra kg than put myself through this deprivation. For my client though, it is a different story. I have used more extreme diets including Dukan in my practice, particularly for clients who have severe metabolic issues after years of dieting with good results. It is not the only answer but can be an option for those who have tried a range of other approaches with no results. They do not necessarily do it forever, but compared to some of the diets and detoxes out there, Dukan is a viable option, at least in the short term to shift weight initially.

Whenever a new program comes out and health professionals step onto their soapbox whining about the issues with the latest diet craze, without proposing any other viable options for those people who need to lose weight quickly, I always keep in mind that it is not my job to tell them how to lose weight but to help them lose it and if Dukan can help in times, so be it. It is a diet, not a political empire and as long as it does not cause undue damage what is the big issue?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Should vending machines be banned?

Last week I consulted a female professional for weight loss. My client works 12+ hour days, largely desk bound in a role she studied for more than 5 years at university to be able to do at an international firm. Since beginning work in this industry more than ten years ago, my client has gained more than 20kg. Daily life consists of dragging herself out of bed in order to get to work as early as she can, hour after hour spent at a desk or in meetings, grabbing food on the run. She is lucky to leave the office by 8pm, and dinner is generally a takeout meal before she collapses into bed 6 or so hours before she does it all again. My client makes great money but she eats poorly, feels dreadful, has little time to exercise and has not seen the sun for some time.

Unfortunately this story is not so uncommon – for men and women alike trying to make it in the corporate world, lives like these are becoming the norm and health as a result is suffering long term. The suggestions in today’s media to ban vending machines from workplaces in order to help to solve the obesity crisis amongst Australian adults simplify a much larger issue - a larger issue that has seen our work taking precedence over health, welling and ultimately our lives.

If workplaces continue to expect and demand long working hours, there is a reciprocal requirement that they in turn provide support for the health of their staff members. Healthy food must be provided in house, exercise classes, walking groups and an on site gyms mandatory and health checks freely available in order for staff members to monitor their weight, blood pressure and heart disease risk factors routinely as to protect their health long term. Most importantly, middle level management who deal with the staff on a daily basis must be supportive of these initiatives. Leaving the office for fresh air, flexible working hours and taking time out to eat a nutritionally balanced lunch should be encouraged, not looked upon with disdain and judgment.

One of the biggest issues we face in attempting to enforce such positive health initiatives in private industry is that employees have been overworked with few benefits for such a long time, that such conditions are considered the norm. Few large companies can honestly say that they provide a “healthy” work environment, instead doing the bare minimum to tick an OH&S box that they are doing “something”, no matter how insufficient the “something” may be. A lecture once a year on eating healthy is nothing compared to an on site café that actually proves the food at cost.

Is it an employer’s job to look after the health of their staff? Absolutely, if the employer is demanding extreme work hours which place unreasonable time demands on their staff. It is a cop out to claim that large companies are struggling – a brief look at the profit margins of some of our largest employers of Australians around the country record billion dollar profits year after year, so surely a little more investment in the staff is not an unreasonable request? Healthy staff means happy staff which in turn means productive staff; it is as simple as that and the vending machine is just the beginning

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To muesli or not to muesli?

For many, it comes as a surprise that muesli may not be the best breakfast choice, particularly if you are wanting to lose weight. CHOICE today released a report in which more than 100 different types of muesli were reviewed, and reported that a large number of mueslis commonly marketed as "healthy", "low in sugar", "wholegrain" and "nutritious" are actually packed full of carbs, fat, sugar and ultimately calories.

The issue with muesli is that while it is "healthy" built on grains, nuts and fruit, it is the culmination of high calorie, high fat ingredeints that result in a product that is exceptionally healthy but so full of calories that you could run to Perth and back. The reality is that most of us spend the bulk of our day sitting down, which means our favourite muesli is simply too high in calories to be enjoyed every day.

One of the biggest issues is that an ideal serve of muesli is just 1/3- 1/2 cup, yes, that little but most of us polish off at least double that amount as well as yoghurt, milk and fruit to top it all off. If you do love your muesli, to choose one that is not so high in calories, aim for varieties that contain just 20g of total carbohydrates per serve, and <3g of saturated fat per 100g. Skip the varieties that contain dried fruit, which are packed full of sugar and remember that if you choose one with nuts, you do not also need nuts during the day, as nuts are high in fat and you CAN eat too many.

My personal favourite is definitely the Carman's Fruit Free, primarily because the brand uses a lot of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which are expensive but which increase the polyunsaturated fat content of the muesli. Most mueslis are packed full of monos, which we get plenty of from avocado, olive oil and almonds, but the polys are rare. Then if you need a gluten free muesli, you cannot go past the Brookfarm.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

24hr before the City2Surf-What should you be eating?

With less than 24hrs to go until the big race, preparation thoughts can now turn to getting your nutrition right so you are optimally fuelled for a 14km run or walk. While ensuring that your muscles stores of glycogen are at their best, for the more recreational athletes, this does not mean you have to carb load as if you are a marathon runner to prepare. All you need is a couple of light, carbohydrate rich options later today as well as a good pre run breakfast to get the most out of your City2Surf.

While events that are longer than 90 minutes of high intensity such as marathon running or triathlon do warrant a carb load, shorter events simply need a good meal the night before and morning of an event.

Today choose carb rich options for both your lunch and dinner to ensure you top your muscle fuel stores up tonight. Good options include some pasta or noodles with a little lean chicken or fish, a few vegetables with a large glass of 100% juice to go with.

Next but most importantly it is imperative that you do eat something before the run, and high GI carbs such as bananas, sports drinks and lollies will not cut it, as their energy peak will last just 30-60 minutes, and it is likely to be several hours before you actually start your event.

Light but carb rich breakie options that will not sit on your tummy include a plain breakfast cereal such as Weetbix and skim milk, some peanut butter or eggs on toast or a liquid meal drink such as an Up and Go. If you find that you really struggle to eat before a run, try a small amount of an energy bar or even a skim milk coffee. Ideally we will eat something 90-120 minutes before a run to get us through the hour or so of running/walking. If though you do need to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to make it into the city, you may need a top up snack an hour or so before you run. Good options include 1 slice of white bread with peanut butter, small skim milk coffee, protein/carb energy bar or a liquid drink such as Up &b Go.

Most importantly is the need to keep well hydrated. Drink plenty of water today and if you are prone to cramping, add some Hydralyte to your water bottle to help prevent cramps as well as aid hydration. Remember, for the vast majority of us, sports drinks are not necessary and are simply giving you extra calories that you are likely to actually wanting to burn during the big race. Stick to water, take a bottle with you to sip on before the run and enjoy every minute of the race you have worked so hard to prepare for.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Are you a food addict?

Food addiction is a topic that comes up rather frequently in weight loss chat rooms and diet blogs as individuals struggling with their weight will describe a state in which they feel completely out of control with their food and their eating. Descriptions of this out of control behaviour include eating frenzies in which entire cakes, packets of biscuits and large blocks of chocolate are eaten to pre-planned binges with large amounts of food purchased for the sole purpose of eating for comfort and a sense of extreme fullness that accompanies it. So, is food addiction real and if so, what causes it, but most importantly, how can we manage it?

A component of a perceived “food addiction” will be behavioural, while other parts psychological as well as physiological. For example, the complex taste mix of fat and sugar found in cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fast foods will over time prime the brain to crave more and more of these foods if they are regularly consumed. For individuals who are psychologically vulnerable e.g. those who are lonely, depressed or just bored, who then may start to self-medicate with food, a potential link may be formed in the brain between the tastes of these foods and symptom i.e. feeling better. Then, in addition to these variables we may also have the powerful early programming which taught us as children that we will never be thin, or that you eat to self soothe. Such early teachings exist in the subconscious, driving us towards these behaviours when we are most vulnerable.

So, the real cure to food addiction is threefold. Firstly you need to eliminate the craving response from the brain by going cold turkey. Secondly, you need to keep psychologically engaged and thirdly but most importantly, you need to identify when you are most vulnerable and repeatedly practice not indulging yourself that will take nothing but patience, practice and time. Just as an AA member may state, “I have not had a drink for so many days”, so too becomes the mantra for those with “food addiction” - “I have not had a binge for …… days”. A rather harsh intervention perhaps but one that will ultimately free you from the addictive foods, the guilt and give you your life back.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The smart way to eat out

The smart way to eat out

Increasingly busy lifestyles, long working hours and numerous daily commitments mean that eating out has become a routine part of modern life. Unfortunately for those who enjoy a restaurant meal, it is likely to mean extra kilojoules thanks to the mix of larger portion sizes, the heavy use of oil, butter and heavy sauces as well as numerous courses. Here are my top tips for eating out without weight gain.

Choose your cuisines carefully
Indian, Chinese and Thai foods in particular tend to be extremely high in fat, due to their overt use of high fat sauces such as coconut milk and batters, as well as the large volumes of oil used for frying a range of menu options. When high fat curries and fried foods are then eaten in conjunction with large amounts of white rice, noodles and breads, it is easy to see how a kilo joule overload can result. Ideally such high fat cuisines need to be consumed sparingly, just once or twice a month.

Look for the light options
Japanese, Greek and even Modern Australian cuisines as these options tend to have a much wider range of menu items that will allow you to make healthier choices. Any sort of raw fish, grilled meat or seafood will be a great choice, especially when teamed with a large portion of vegetables or salad.

Size is everything
The truth be known, if we simply ate smaller portions of everything, far fewer of us would have a weight problems. Few of us really need both an entrée as well as a main course and for most of us an entrée sized portion of heavier foods such as pasta or risotto will be more than sufficient. If the serves of pasta, rice or meat are far larger than you need, before you start your meal, visualize how much of the portion you have been served you will eat and then take the excess off your plate and share with your fellow diners.

When it comes to desserts, no one is saying that you have to avoid them completely, but remember that the most pleasure of a dessert is gained in the first few mouthfuls, so if you really spot something you love on the menu, share with as many people as possible.

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables
One the biggest issues with meals consumed away from the home is that they rarely contain the amounts of vegetables or salad that we need for good health and to help us feel full and satisfied. Even though they can be expensive when ordered as sides, it is worth ordering extras to help bulk up your meal so you are not tempted by extra chips or bread.

Top Tips for Eating Out
Never go to a restaurant starving; have a small snack 1-2 hours to take the edge off your hunger

Be directive with friends when they are making restaurant choices – remember that both Indian and Thai foods are exceptionally high in fat.

If you love eating bread, try doing what the Italians do and take the middle out and just enjoy the crust.

Order as much extra salad and vegetables as you can afford to bulk your plate up

Aim to be the last diner to finish your meal, eating slowly, placing your knife and fork down in between each mouthful and chewing everything well.

Be mindful that restaurant foods are likely to be very salty, so drink at least 3 glasses of water throughout the course of the meal to help flush

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to have your cake and eat it too!

At times, most of us will indulge and eat something that has far more calories than we need. A sweet treat with a cup of coffee and a chat with a favourite friend can be one of life’s simple pleasures but also one of life’s calorie overloads if we are not careful. Here are the best and worst sweet treats to enjoy with your coffee, so you can keep the calories as controlled as you need to.
Sweet Treat Fat per serve Carbs per serve Calories per serve
Banana bread 25g 70g 580
Choc Brownie 22g 25g 300
Muffin 34g 90g 700
Cheesecake 25g 30g 400
Friand 10g 17g 160
Subway Cookie 10g 30g 210
Small Cupcake 6g 20g 150
Large Cupcake 20g 40g 350
Biscotti 1g 5g 30
2 Paradise VIVES 2g 17g 90

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting your recovery right for City to Surf

Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to be an elite athlete to benefit from recovering with the right fuel mix after training. In fact, if you are training several times each week as you prepare for the City to Surf, in addition to balancing work and family commitments, a good recovery program is exactly what you need to ensure you have enough energy to maintain your hectic schedule over the next few weeks.

The benefits of optimal recovery practices for elite athletes are well documented; improved recovery times, reduced muscle soreness, improved follow up sessions and lower levels of fatigue which can be demonstrated in the investment most elite sporting clubs give to optimal hydration, nutritional and supplementation strategies post training and competition. The physiology of recreational athletes is no different and hence optimal nutritional practices to promote muscle recovery are also likely to benefit any athlete who is running training for an hour or more on most days of the week.

Societal trends towards a lower carbohydrate style of eating, especially throughout the second half of the day, can represent a high risk situation for any runner who is clocking up the kilometres. While you may feel that you are burning few calories at work in front of the computer, or watching television later in the day, if your schedule also includes an hour or two of training on most days of the week, you will still be depleting your muscles of glycogen. Failing to then replenish these stores, particularly overnight after late afternoon or early evening after a late afternoon run or treadmill session, means that not only are you likely to be starting the next day with inadequate muscle stores of fuel but you are leaving the body in an energy depleted state hence potentially compromising both immune function and athletic performance.

Research has repeatedly shown that there is a key window of opportunity when it comes to muscle recovery. It is known that muscle glycogen restoration is significantly enhanced when a mixture of both carbohydrates and a small amount of protein is consumed within 30 minutes of finishing a session. From a practical perspective this means that waiting until you return home to a carb free dinner of meat and vegetables may not be the best thing to do by your body. Instead, taking a compact, nutritionally balanced snack that contains both carbohydrates and proteins such as dairy snacks or bread with a protein rich filling such as peanut butter, tuna or cheese and consuming it immediately after your session will not only ensure that your muscles have the best opportunity to recover prior to your next session but allow you to keep your dinner light if you choose.

Recreational athletes wanting to shift body fat but who have cutting carbohydrates at been night may also find that including a controlled portion of low GI carbs such as pasta or sweet potato may actually enhance fat burning – remember, active people do need some carbohydrate to promote optimal fat metabolism.

While high GI supplementary sports products including get shots, sports drinks and bars are regularly promoted to be the best choice when it comes to recovery, for recreational athletes, the high carbohydrate loads of these products, without the extra recovery benefit of protein mean that although you get a bit of sugar, you get a whole lot of extra kilojoules that you may not need. For example, a bottle of sports drink contains 30+ grams of carbohydrates per bottle without protein and >1000kJ as opposed to a liquid meal drink which contains a similar amount of carbohydrates with the added benefit of protein for far fewer kilojoules. So, choose such concentrated gels and sports drinks for long, endurance events such as the marathon and leave the more nutritious options as your daily recovery food options of choice.

The second important component of optimal recovery is ensuring you drink enough fluid once your session is finished to fully re-hydrate. While many of us are in the good habit of drinking plenty of fluid when training, the importance of hydrating for a number of hours after finishing training is often overlooked. Get into the habit of weighing yourself before and after long sessions to determine how much fluid you are losing. Remember, you will then need to drink 1 ½ times the amount of weight you have lost to fully replace your fluid losses and optimally re-hydrate to be ready for your next session.

Top recovery snacks
½ Peanut butter sandwich on grain bread
Low fat chocolate milk
Tub of yoghurt
Eggs on wholegrain toast
Protein/Carbohydrate snack bar
Skim milk coffee
Liquid meal drink such as Sustagen or Up & Go
Dried fruit and nut mix
Fruit salad and yoghurt
Sushi Roll

Recovery Shake
Recovery shake
250mls skim milk
3 teaspoons Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
1 cup frozen berries

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The best oil?

A few years back we were all told to cook with vegetable oil, then we switched to olive oil and now there is an entire range of oils to choose from including rice bran, avocado and macadamia oils all reported to have various health benefits. So, which oil should you use, when should you use it and most importantly, how much should you be having for good health long term?

If you model different diets, and are aiming to include just 40-60g of good fat in your diet a day, with equal amounts coming from saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats it becomes easy to choose the right oil. Generally speaking, if we eat avocado, nuts and olive oil already, we tend to get more than enough of the monounsaturated fat. We tend though to be a little low on the polys – and the polys have numerous benefits for the health of our cells. For this reason, only using olive oil means that unless you are eating walnuts every day, you are unlikely to be getting enough polyunsaturated fat. As you can see from the counter below, simply using sunflower, rice bran or canola oil occasionally will help to bump up your intake of these fats, and give you a better fat intake profile for your health long term.

Oil (per 20g serve) Sat Fat (g) Mono Fat (g) Poly fat (g)

Olive Oil 1.8 10 1.2

Canola Oil 0.9 8.2 4.1

Sunflower Oil 1.4 2.7 8.9

Peanut Oil 2.3 6.3 4.3

Rice Bran Oil 3.0 9.0 7.0

Avocado Oil 3.0 12 1.5

Monday, July 11, 2011

What do dietitians eat?

I am often asked what I eat and as much as I would love to be a diet purist I do really like to eat, especially savoury sancks like cheese and pate. On a daily basis though, I do try and make sure I eat as many vegetables as I can, and also support good Australian companies where I can by buying products that contain as few additives as possible, and which give superior nutritional properites than products that tend to come from larger multinationals.

So, here are the products you will always find in my cupboard

1) Lipton jasmine green tea bags

Green tea can be a little harsh but these Jasmine tea bags are my favourite – I drink a cup of green tea after each meal and while I am up at night writing.

2) Rye Cruskits

One of the lightest crackers available in terms of both carbohydrate and calories and a lighter alternative to bread when I am seeing clients all day.

3) Burgen Soy & Linseed bread –

The best bread on the market and eaten daily with an egg for breakfast

4) Go Natural Nut Delight Bars

The best nuts bars on the market with a perfect mix of carbs, protein and good fat.

5) Body for Women Protein Powder

I helped formulate this product and am very proud of it – a great way to bump up your protein intake throughout the day

6) Light Jarlsberg Cheese

The tastiest cheese, with the lowest fat content, eaten with Vegemite on toast regularly.

7) Partner Foods Roasted Broadbeans

I love these tasty snacks and try and et them instead of Grain Waves when drinking wine.

8) Maggie Beer Pate

I have loved pate since I was a little girl and this is as close to my mums as I can find and rich in iron (let’s not talk about the fat).

9) John West Smoked Oysters

Another love since childhood, rich in zinc and we snack on them before we go dancing.

10) South Cape Marinated Feta

Another love with sliced cucumber on Rye Cruskits

11) Multigrain Weetbix

High in soluble fibre which keeps you feeling amazing inside, I always take a box when I go travelling.

12) Jalna Natural Yoghurt

The best yoghurt on the market and best teamed with berries and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

13) Wafterthin Crackers

The best thin cracker for cheese with the lowest calorie and carb levels.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Getting your diet right for the City to Surf

Despite the Winter gloom, it has been great to hear that many people have committed to training for the upcoming running events around Australia. Not only is running one of the biggest calorie burners, there are also fantastic benefits associated with getting out and about, having a regular schedule and eating well to support your training regime.

Naturally, the more you train, the hungrier you are also likely to get and hence getting your diet right is imperative if you are to shift a couple of kg whilst ensuring you have enough energy for your increased training load. Here are my top tips to keep you on track with your diet as you prepare for the upcoming running festival.

1) Try not to cut out too many carbs
You need a little more carb if you are training more than an hour each day or you will find yourself craving sugar. Try recovering with 10-20g of carbs along with protein within 30 min of every run. Good options include yoghurt, a skim milk coffee or protein/carb bar.

2) If you train before breakfast you need carbs at night
Many runners prefer to run on an empty stomach which is fine unless you have not eaten any carbs since lunchtime the day before. Add just 20-30g with 1 potato, ½ cup pasta or rice or some sweet potato and notice how much better you feel during your morning run.

3) Manage the cravings
We get sugar cravings when we have not eaten the right mix of carbs and protein. Manage your post run appetite with a meal replacement shake, protein shake made with skim milk or crackers and cheese with a vegetable – the bulk will keep you full while the mix of carbs and protein will help to regulate your blood glucose levels.

4) Try to not use your running as an excuse to eat more
Sure, running or any exercise can make you a little hungrier but in more cases than not, women in particular use their running as an excuse to eat more. “I went for a run this morning so I deserve a treat” among the common justifications for the extra dessert, cake or sweet treat. Limit your sweet treats to just once or twice a week to gain maximal benefit from your running commitment and tame your appetite with protein rich meal and snack options.

5) Watch the drinks
Vitamin water, sports drinks and juices are a recipe for disaster when it comes to weight control, and very few athletes really NEED them on a daily basis. Stick to water and if you cramp, try adding some salts such as Hydralyte to your water bottle for the anti-cramping effects minus the calories.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When are you coming to Hawaii?

In life, for us to truly embrace the “joie de vibre” or the “joy of life” we need to have great loves and one of my great loves is an annual trip to Hawaii.

Some people love to chill in a Balinese shack, others to ski in Japan or Aspen and then there are the campers who are happy on the Gold Coast but I have never felt such affinity to a place as I do to Hawaii. I am not sure whether it is the crystal clear water of the pristine island paradise, the unbelievably friendly locals, the truly spectacular scenery or the overall serenity that has me hooked but there is nothing in my life I look forward to more than spending a number of weeks there each year. It is as if all the toil, stress and intensity of a jam packed career are worth it, if just for a few work free weeks amidst this tropical oasis.

If you have not visited Hawaii before, a quick glance of a picture taken of the well snapped shoreline will immediately take you back to a scene from the 1970’s - unsightly steel and concrete buildings shooting out of the ground next to an overpopulated beachfront as seen in any popular holiday destination around the world. A closer look though reveals a truly spectacular natural landscape enveloping this space - mystical volcanic parks, perfectly clear aqua coloured water and the balmy steam of the tropics against a shadowy backdrop which has remained virtually untouched for hundreds of years.

My first trip to Hawaii was far from an ideal initial encounter, riddled with the reality of a rapidly crumbling friendship. The second was too markedly damaged as I dealt with the acute pain of a badly broken heart but the soulful landscape has repeatedly acted as a natural therapist, the island’s breathtaking beauty rendering the intricacies of an ego driven world irrelevant within such an intense display of nature, ultimately helping to ground, calm, soothe.

So much visual stimulus can only be described as a feast for the senses with pink and orange skies slowly disappearing at the end of each glorious day, the elegant palms swaying in the breeze, lush greenery and blooming tropical flowers alongside charcoal mountains. At night the light disappears behind the volcanic hills, leaving only a sapphire sky and full moon blasting light across the calm shoreline; a scene from an expensive Hollywood movie set which is now your reality for as long as you are able to stay in this island paradise, removed, protected, alive. Such visual intensity quickly puts our modern life attachments into perspective, reminding us that we are merely a small spot in a vast universe forever vulnerable to the true force of nature.

Hawaii has something for everyone – there are volcanoes to climb, crystal clear waters to explore, flame lit streets to wander late into the evening, fine white sand to squelch through your toes and the shopping; shopping some would argue is the best in the world. So you can relax, consume, explore or reflect to your heart’s content. Hawaii has no expectations; it is there to nourish you no matter what your appetite.

Perhaps the thing I love more than anything, and actually miss when home is the eclectic mix of people – the sun kissed island natives, hardworking migrants and the whites who have escaped to the island wonder to live and work. Their lives are blessed and they know it, able to share their carefree spirit and hospitality with those visitors who are momentarily touched by the island spirit every time they visit.

I have now been to Hawaii on three trips, and there is no sign of my love abating. I can imagine being married here, in a quiet ocean front ceremony with a few close friends and family and bringing my children here for family holidays for many years to come. And most of all, I can imagine writing here, in many, many years from now, when my heart is filled with much more joy, experience and wisdom.

In a life that can be too much – too busy, too exciting, too overwhelming, Hawaii is my refuge, a place to regroup, refocus and reignite my energy, even when things are tough. I have now recruited a group of friends who also share my love for this annual pilgrimage and they too are drawn by this mecca of intense energy and spirit. We are already on the countdown for our return to paradise, and we hope to see you there sometime soon too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Should you be counting carbs?

If you constantly struggle with getting the right balance in your diet and cannot give any more energy to counting calories, sometimes the simple act of checking how many carbs you are eating per meal and snack is enough to keep you on the right track. Ideally we are aiming for 20-30g of total carbs per meal (including the sugars) and just 15-20g per snack. To monitor your carbs regularly, grab a carbohydrate counter from the newsagent and pop it in your bag for a quick check whenever you need. Here are some popular carb based foods and the most common areas people can overdo the carbs in their diet.

Food Serving Size Carb Content (grams)
White rice 1 cup 45
Turkish bread 2 toast slices 80
Yoghurt 200g 30
Lebanese Bread 1 slice 80
Banana bread 1 thick slice 60
Grapes Large bunch 60
Tin corn soup 500g 35
Chocolate brownie Small 30
Vita Weat Crackers 8 40
Caramel Coffee Large 30

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Ultimate Guide to Preventing Winter Weight Gain

With 8 weeks left of Winter, we actually have a great opportunity to get organized, get fit and get ready to take on the second half of 2011. So of you have been struggling over the past few weeks, here are the steps you need to take to get back on track, today.

1) Shift your mindset
If you have been whining about the cold since Easter, it is time to stop. The truth be known, it is not overly cold in Australia and most of us are surviving with a light jacket and scarf. Start to view the Winter months as a time to get organized and fit rather than a period of self-imposed hibernation and excuses.

2) Make a list
You have 8 good weeks to get on track with your life. What needs to be done at home? What projects have been sitting around unfinished for weeks if not months? What exercise should you be doing? If you consider that we often gain weight simply because we eat more when are at home not doing anything, it makes sense to get busy and stop eating.

3) Get out
Sitting at home feeling sorry for your self is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you likely to eat more as mentioned above, you are also more likely to sleep more and suffer low mood. Make regular contact out of the house with friends and family so you are busier, happier and less likely to be focused on the short days and chilly days of Winter.

4) Commit to a training program
Like many things in life, we are simply more likely to do them once we have a plan. With the Sydney Marathon, City to Surf and a number of other big events on the horizon, it makes perfect sense to start a regular training program that ties in with an upcoming event to give you direction and motivate you to make it to 3-4 training sessions every single week.

5) Get some sunlight
I cannot tell you how many clients I see who are low in Vitamin D simply because they NEVER leave the office during the day. Make it a priority to get out during the day, every day and especially on weekends. Not only will you burn more calories by being active, the sunlight will do wonders for your skin and mood.

6) Concentrate on nutrient rich eating
If you are struggling with coughs and runny noses, quite simply you probably have not been eating that well. Fried foods, high fat snacks and plenty of alcohol at this time of year often take the place of brightly coloured vegetables, warming soups and fresh fruit so make it a priority to cook a couple of healthy meals each week and include oily fish, lean red meat and nuts and oils in your diet on a daily basis.

7) Check your fluids
If coffee, hot chocolate and chai lattes have taken place of your regular water and fresh juice; remember that it is just as important you keep well hydrated in Winter as it is in Summer. Swap coffee for warm water with lemon or herbal tea and still aim for at least a litre of water every single day.

8) Walk, walk, walk
No, you will not die if you take a walk in the cold. Walking early in the morning or after dinner even though it may seem a little chilly is one of the best things you can do to control your weight over Winter.

9) Choose 1 light meal each dayIf dropping a few kg is your Winter ideal, simply replacing one meal with a light alternative whether it be a meal replacement drink, soup or salad, you will find that this drops the kg without too much effort at all.

10) Go heavy once a week
We all like to eat out and we all like to eat chocolate, dessert, pastry, cakes…we are human. Eating them too regularly though, for the average inactive individual with only lead to weight gain, or be preventing weight loss so make sure you enjoy heavy options just once a week and you will find you stay on top of your weight without feeling too deprived at all.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is the weekend ruining your diet?

Week after week I check my client’s food diaries to see a week of well balanced, calorie controlled eating, followed by a weekend of binging, overeating and overindulging – it then comes as no surprise that in most cases these clients are not losing weight.

Whether it is programming imprinted in our brain when we are small, or that we are overly restrictive with our diets in the week and feel that we need to “reward” ourselves on weekends, straying too far from our calorie controlled meal plans simply because it is the weekend is a recipe for disaster – research has proven this.

People who control their weight keep their food intake stable MOST of the time – this means they may have a meal off over the weekend but it does not equate to an addition two coffees a day, three glasses of wine, cakes on both days as well as dessert simply because it is “the weekend”.

To get your own weekend under control, aim to have as routine a breakfast as possible and if you do have breakfast or lunch out, you are likely to need to skip a meal to compensate. Follow up any large, heavy meals with a soup or salad and most importantly you need to exercise, probably more than usual because if you are organized you will have more time. We live in a world of constant calorie overloading and minimal activity and for this reason we cannot wipe out two entire days of the week if we want to maintain let alone lose weight, so identify your food rules and stick to them, even on the weekends.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Make your life more interesting than food

"Make your life more interesting than food" -

I love this quote, which came from respected psychologist Dr Tim Sharp as he discussed the psychology of weight loss at a recent event. The reason I like it so much is that for me, after working in weight loss for more than 10 years, it really sums up the reason I see many of my clients struggling with weight issues – they love food more than they love other parts of their lives at a particular point in time.

Think about it….if you are in an amazing relationship, busy socially, deeply stimulated by the work you are doing and personally fulfilled with hobbies and interests there is very simply far less time to think about food in general. In more cases though, we are annoyed with our partners so we eat, we are bored at work so we eat, our friends are also unfulfilled so we eat with them and in our spare time we have nothing much to do so we eat.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, the best thing you can do to break free from your constant eating cycle is to get busy and most importantly, start to consider what it really is that makes you happy. Does your relationship or career need an overhaul; do you need a new hobby or even new friends? Once life revolves around life rather than food, only then will you be in a better place to gain control of your eating, once and for all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why your muscles hold the key to your weight issues

A few weeks ago I gave a seminar on the management of insulin resistance to health professionals. Now a significant aspect of managing and even correcting this hormonal issue is improving the muscles ability to utilize glucose via resistance training. For this reason, when I speak on the subject, I will generally ask my audience if they weight train, given the more they themselves understand weight training, the more likely they are to be able to impart practical and strategic therapeutic advice to their clients and achieve the results they are looking for. Now, when I asked this question, not one of the 50-60 strong audience put up their hand.

The reason I was so horrified, and what prompted me to write this blog is that the truth is that resistance training, not food changes ultimately holds the answer to successfully managing and preventing weight gain long term. The right type, intensity and frequency of weight training actually improve the body’s ability to burn fuel. While you can easily get a 3-5kg weight loss with diet restrictions, you will ultimately get the 10-20kg losses and significant changes to your body shape and size via weight training. Functionally you will be able to lift heavier objects, you will not look as flabby instead fitter, stronger and leaner – healthier.

In a life where most of us spend most of our time sitting down, walking and basic cardio training is simply not enough if we are to stay on top of our weight long term. The same can be said if you are exercising regularly but not getting the changes in body shape in size you would be expecting given your compliance. The answer to you apparent inability to lose weight is that you now need to teach your body to burn its food better at a cellular level – you need to life some weights.

So, how do you start? Small but regularly is the key. BodyPump classes are great as is investing in a personal trainer if you can afford it but if even that seems to scary, try a few light hand weights that you lift during commercial breaks – simple routines can be found in fitness magazines such as Shape and Oxygen or look at the huge range of fitness DVD’s that you can also follow at home.

Ultimately looking after your muscles is the most powerful thing you can do to preserve metabolism long term, or if you need a more simple reason to start lifting weights, it will also ultimately mean that you get to eat more, something most of us are very happy to do, so get lifting!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The top low calorie snacks

Sometimes we know that we are not really that hungry but still want to nibble on something. Here are the top low kilo joule snacks to choose when you have one of these times.

Celery + salsa 100kJ
6 Waferthins + low fat dip 200kJ
1 slice watermelon 100kJ
Diet dessert tub 270kJ
100g Diet yoghurt 170kJ
Mini Ice Cream 120kJ
6 Strawberries 120kJ
2 corn thins + vegemite 200kJ
Skim cappuccino 200kJ
3 small pieces sushi 200kJ

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to choose the best snacks

When I recommend nuts bars, the most common feedback I get is that they are high in fat – so what should you be looking for when choosing a snack food?

Calories – 150-200cal = 600-800kJ
Carbs – 20g per serve
Protein – 5-10g per serve
Saturated fat - <3g per serve

Top Snacks Total Calories
Light cheese and wholegrain crackers 150
Small skim latte 150
Sushi 100
Small hommus and vegetables 150
Thick yoghurt 150
Peanut butter on 2 corn cakes 150
Low fat ice cream on a stick such as Paddle Pop 120
Nut based snack bars 200
Homemade protein balls or mini muffins 150
Mountain bread wrap with tuna, 97% fat free ham 150

Monday, June 6, 2011

The importance of optimal glucose control

If there was just one nutrition tip I could give you that would benefit your health for the rest of your life it would be to aim for optimal blood glucose control, each and every time you eat. Contrary to popular opinion, one off food indulgences do not make you fat, or significantly increase your risk of heart disease or diabetes but constant higher than ideal blood glucose levels from regular consumption of highly processed, carbohydrate rich foods does; the extra piece of fruit you eat in between your meals, a tea with sugar after dinner, a couple of lollies during a meeting or an order of fruit juice when you meet someone for a drink.

Each of these occasions represents a disruption to blood glucose levels and a subsequent release of insulin. High insulin levels over time is what will make you hungry, gaining weight and at higher risk of developing diabetes. So, what can you so to prevent this scenario as much as you can on a day to day basis?

1) Do not snack in between meals or mid meals.
2) Cut out the sugar in your tea and coffee.
3) Resolve to not eat lollies, at all.
4) Eat fruit as part of a meal or mid meal with protein but not in isolation as an extra.
5) Avoid juice, soft drink and cordial like the plague.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are your thoughts halting your weight loss efforts?

“As a man thinketh so he is”

It is true for life and it is true for our diet and exercise behaviours, the way you think will significantly impact your chances of achieving your goals. Common examples I hear on a weekly basis sitting with clients include; “I do not think I will ever lose this weight”, “I can never stay on track over the weekend”, “I always gain weight on holidays”, “I always lose a few kg then nothing happens”.

Such strong statements cement your patterns of behaviour in the old rather than embracing the new that will take you to the next level with your weight loss goals. If any of these beliefs sound familiar, a much more proactive position is to shift your thoughts towards active thought processes’ “I will do whatever I need to do to keep my weight under control these holidays”, “This time I will break through the plateau that has held me back before”, “I will lose weight this time no matter what” - a simple shift but a crucial one when it comes to weight loss and thought processes.

Are your thoughts halting your weight loss efforts?

“As a man thinketh so he is”

It is true for life and it is true for our diet and exercise behaviours, the way you think will significantly impact your chances of achieving your goals. Common examples I hear on a weekly basis sitting with clients include; “I do not think I will ever lose this weight”, “I can never stay on track over the weekend”, “I always gain weight on holidays”, “I always lose a few kg then nothing happens”.

Such strong statements cement your patterns of behaviour in the old rather than embracing the new that will take you to the next level with your weight loss goals. If any of these beliefs sound familiar, a much more proactive position is to shift your thoughts towards active thought processes’ “I will do whatever I need to do to keep my weight under control these holidays”, “This time I will break through the plateau that has held me back before”, “I will lose weight this time no matter what” - a simple shift but a crucial one when it comes to weight loss and thought processes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Should you eat before you train?

I have been asked this question at least 5 times in the past week alone; “Should you eat before you train in the morning?” For many, the belief is that if you do not eat, you will have no readily available fuel in the form of carbohydrate, and as a result you will burn a greater proportion of fat. Unfortunately things are not so clear-cut when it comes to physiology and fat metabolism.

If no carbohydrate is available to the muscle when it is being trained, while you will burn a higher percentage of fat overall, but of a likely smaller amount of total energy, as the body will reduce metabolism to adapt to the perceived fuel shortage. For this reason, if you complete a light training session of <30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, before 730-8am, you do not need to eat before you train. But, if you train for >45-60 minutes, have cut out carbs the night before and/or will not eat your breakfast until after 8am you are likely to train more efficiently and burn more fat if you do eat a small portion of carbohydrate before your session. Please note, small, just 10-20g, which will top up your blood glucose level and let you access your fat stores more efficiently. Good choices include 1 slice of toast with peanut butter or cheese, a couple of Vita Weat crackers and ½ glass of milk.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One coffee a day and lose weight.......

Do you wake up in the morning; grab a coffee, then follow it with a cappuccino on the way to work, another instant coffee mid morning and even a third or fourth if you are tired during the afternoon. If any of these daily patterns sounds familiar you are drinking too much coffee. Sure, there is some reported health benefits associated with drinking coffee but we also need to remember that coffee is a stimulant which means it can drive appetite and influence blood glucose levels. Funnily enough, ditching coffee or two each day also tends to result in weight loss, as we identify that we do need the extra calories at that time especially if choose more nutritionally balanced better meals and snacks and find that we are not as prone to sugar highs and lows and associated drops in energy. Aim for just one coffee a day, with your breakfast or mid morning and notice the difference in energy and appetite control and remember to replace with tea an extra water to avoid caffeine withdrawal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Feeling down?

In the past week I have spent far more time chatting to clients about their mood and wellbeing than I ever have before. Why is this? Why are we so blessed in so many ways yet struggle to find that elusive sense of control, calm and happiness?

There are a few reasons that spring to mind. As an overriding factor, we basically live a very comfortable life. We generally have enough food and a home without the crime, filth and disease of other more basic cultures. What this relatively easy lifestyle then creates is a general feeling of dissatisfaction. Of wanting more – more money, more time, better relationships, more fulfilling jobs – just more. Unfortunately though, in many cases, rather than wanting something or someone to come along and complete us, ultimately it is us who need to do the inner work and make our lives more fulfilling.

In many cases this means that we need to find small but significant pleasures in the blessings we do have present, on a daily basis. It sounds so cliché but the truth is that a good book, a beautiful home, dinner with someone special or a day trip out if often the difference between living each day and existing.

So, at this time of year, if you are struggling to find much pleasure in the day to day grind it is time to take control and look at the next few weeks as time to reflect and rebuild. To seek out some great books, to start to move your body, to schedule in regular outings with energizing people, to find more simple pleasures. And if you need an even bigger dose of inspiration, the Sarah Ban Breathnach series of “Simple Abundance” and “Something More” are 2 great reads that will work to redirect your energy, alter your underlying thought patterns and help you to feel better instantly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to stop overeating

It is safe to say, with very few exceptions that most of us overeat on a daily basis – we grab a coffee when we are not hungry to be polite, or finish the meal we are served even though we would have been satisfied with ½ as much or we nibble and snack simply because food is in front of us.

The thing about overeating is that once we are doing it, we get so used to being “overfull” that we start to lose our ability to differentiate when we really are hungry and when we are eating for comfort or out of boredom. Alternatively, we drink so much tea and coffee that we do not feel hungry until the late afternoon when we then binge on sugar and energy dense foods before eating large serves of dinner along with the dessert, chocolate and various other snacks as we relax in the front of the TV.

The simplest way to stop your tendency to overeat is to basically under eat for a period of time to start to identify your natural hunger signals. Have 1 slice of toast instead of 2, skip your mid-morning coffee and swap a couple of dinners for soup. Once you have felt really hungry, you can start to eat until you are just full as opposed to stuffed. Simply cutting back 10-20% of what you usually eat is all you need to drop a couple of kg, without even noticing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Are you watching too much reality TV?

Too much reality?

For the past few weeks, one of the main headlining media stories on a daily basis has been about one of the high rating reality TV shows. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this kind of television just as much as you do. The drama, the excitement, the life changing stores but my question to you today is; “are you avoiding your own life by watching a little too much reality TV?”

Consider that watching the top reality TV shows every day will take at least 2 hours out of your day, a significant amount of time to be dedicated to supporting other people’s lives. Now, one of the main concerns my clients present with, which is at some level preventing them from achieving their health and fitness goals as well as not allowing them to dedicate time to other interests is “not having enough time”. While reality shows may be entertaining, they are rarely acting to motivate or support you in achieving your goals, goals that will ultimately lead to an increased sense of satisfaction and well-being in your own life.

So, before you give the best hours of your day to watching someone else life, perhaps it is worth considering what else you would like to be doing with your life and dedicating some more time to that because sure as day, the reality shows will be back tomorrow, the next day, the week after that and yes, again next season.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Choosing the best soup

As the temperatures have shifted, there have been a number of questions forwarded to me about ready to eat soups, particularly in relation to which of the store bought varieties are best. The truth be known, as even the soups with the lowest sodium content contain at least 600mg of sodium per serve or ¼ of your entire daily recommended intake, an amount of sodium per meal that is likely to bloat you like a whale, few are great options. For this reason, if you can, always prepare your own soup and add as little salt as possible.

If you must buy your soups, here are the best and worst options, even though a number of these do have a Heart Foundation Tick. Generally speaking, the pre mixed liquid soups are better and generally you also need lean protein and extra salad or vegetables with your soup, especially if you are enjoying it for lunch.

Soup / Total Sodium(mg) / Carbs(g) / Protein(g)

Country Ladle Minestrone / 726 / 15.4 / 4.9
Country Ladle Lunch Pumpkin / 866 / 25.4 / 6.0
Country Ladle Chicken & Corn / 736 / 17.1 / 6.1
Heinz Garden Pea / 1600 / 25.4 / 13.3
Country Ladle Rustic Vegetable / 613 / 20.3 / 2.9
La Zuppa Minestrone / 1382 / 33.2 / 6.7
La Zuppa Pumpkin / 890 / 27.7 / 3.8
Continental Cup a Soup Mushroom / 695 / 21.0 / 0.9
Ainsley Harriot Minestrone / 520 / 18.1 / 0.7
Pitango Pumpkin / 794 / 16.0 / 3.6
Pitango Chicken Noodle / 750 / 19.8 / 11.1
Woolworths Chicken & Corn / 638 / 16.2 / 5.8
Woolworths Minestrone / 612 / 20.0 / 4.0
Woolworths Spring Vegetable / 540 / 15.0 / 2.1
Woolworths Tomato & Capsicum / 630 / 36.9 / 2.4
Woolworths Red Thai Chicken / 840 / 15.9 / 6.0

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do we choose the products we do for TV?

As I get older, not much surprises me, but today after filming a 3 minute segment for SUNRISE at 6am this morning, I have been surprised at how much interest the segment has generated.

Companies whose products were included have been excited, consumers and weight conscious individuals are grateful for clear advice on which cereal they should spend their hard earned dollars on, while companies whose products were perhaps not looked on as favourably are indignant; "while we agree with your comments nutritionally we are 'disappointed' our products were placed in the "avoid" group".

Such interest and debate raises the question, and rightfully so, how do the products featured on a live TV segment get selected?

First of all, I would like to say that as a nutritionist who is regularly asked to comment in the media on specific brands and food products, I take this role very seriously. I can honestly say that I know each and every product I recommend back to front nutritionally and I recommend each and every one for very specific reasons. I actually work in clinical practice and see hundreds of clients each year, primarily for weight control and hence can draw on this knowledge to direct people towards which products work best and why.

It also needs to be remembered that in the background, scientific research is published on a daily basis in which certain nutrient criteria eg low fat, low GI, high protein dietary profiles are linked to various disease states and weight control - such information is also then used to mould various dietary models with specific food brands in clinical practice.

When it comes to breakfast cereals there are a few things that instantly spring to mind. First of all, of all the scientific evidence available, low glycaemic load diets are powerfully linked to weight control long term. In order to achieve a low GL diet, if breakfast cereal is included it HAS to be a small serve of low GI cereal.

Next, as so many of us eat too much, and are hence battling weight issues, every single one of our calories needs to count, which means that we do not have room for empty calories coming from sugary, nutrient poor foods, even if they are low in fat, or high in protein. Based on this, when I am considering the best breakfast cereal options, my number 2 question is, "what does it offer nutritionally?". For me to feel comfortable naming it and recommending it to my clients the cereal has to offer a number of positive qualities, and for breakfast cereals this means being low GI, wholegrain, source of fibre a controlled carbohydrate load per serve.

So, when we then take this information and look at the breakfast cereals readily available, it does not make it difficult to choose the good ones. Oats of course are there, as is plain bran and wholegrain breakfast biscuits. Naturally, sugary, chocolate breakfast cereals are never going to be good, no matter how much "good stuff" manufacturers claim to put back into it, nor are highly refined varieties of rice and corn which are high GI, the number 1 criteria I am looking for when it comes to breakfast cereals.

So, as you can see, quite a lot of thought goes into selecting these products, it is not based on personal preference or sponsorship, it comes down to basic science and dietary modelling. And this means that sometimes I do have to be the one to say that a certain food should be avoided, even though when it comes to chocolate breakfast cereal, I am sure that you didnt really need a nutritionist to tell you that it was not the best choice, deep down, you probably knew it already :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lose weight like a man

Many women would like to think that it is more likely they are teaching the men in their life a thing or two on a daily basis, but when it comes to weight loss, for many of us it would not hurt to pay a little more attention the way men eat, as well as the way they approach weight loss.

For men, weight loss is simple. They need to eat certain things at certain times. They need to cut certain things out and make dietary changes that they follow for a set period of time. There is no, “oh, but I have been good” mental debates, or justifications of, “just one and I will make up for it tomorrow”. They approach weight loss much the same way as they approach their life in general- with one eyed focus on what they are doing, no exceptions. And, then, they lose weight.

Here are the top tips we can take from men when working on our own weight loss.

1) Don’t think, just do.
No rationalizations, no excuses. Get a plan and stick to it.

2) Ignore the influence of others.
Don’t worry what your friend is doing just concentrate on what you need to do.

3) Get a plan that suits you and stick to it.
Whether it is CSIRO, Biggest Loser, your PT, whatever suits you and follow it.

4) No excuses.
See only ways to achieve what you want, not excuses as to why you have not done it.

5) Keep focused on the end target.
By focusing on your long term goal weight it will be easier on a daily basis to make the decisions you need to stay on track.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Getting your oats and soup right for Winter

The cool change means that we start to shift our focus from salads and cereal to soups and oats which are both great choices nutritionally. The key things to remember when it comes to these foods are:

1.Instant oats are nowhere near as good as course natural oats.
2.You need to make your oats with milk to get enough protein with your breakfast.
3.Add cinnamon to your oats to sweeten it without sugar.
4.You can add a teaspoon of protein powder to increase the protein content of the oats.
5.Tinned soups have far too much salt.
6.The best soups are vegetable, pumpkin, chicken broth or tomato.
7.Adding 100g lean protein to your soup will make it dinner.
8.If you must buy prepared soups get Country Ladle Winter Vegetable or Pitago Pumpkin.
9.You do not need bread with your soup.
10.You will eat at least 100 calories less with your meal if you eat soup before it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Does fructose make us fat? Really?

After yet another inaccurate description of fructose and its role in the body appeared in the Sunday papers this weekend, I thought it timely to provide a slightly more scientific view of the role of fructose in the diet and its proposed link to weight gain and obesity.

Fructose is one of the simple sugars, found primarily in fruit and vegetables – fructose is also one of the two simple sugars that combine to give sucrose or table sugar. It is argued that as fructose is metabolized by the liver, excessive consumption promotes insulin resistance and weight gain more readily than other types of carbohydrates.

This simplistic view of metabolism and food unfortunately barely touches the surface when it comes to understanding the complexities of food intake, digestion and metabolism. It also must be remembered that much of this hypothesis stems from the USA’s use of high fructose corn syrup, particularly in soda drinks – an ingredient rarely used here in Australia – and yet we remain, like the US very fat. (

Perhaps the argument would hold if we only ate fructose, but we do not. We eat complex mixes of carbohydrates in the diet which makes it extremely difficult to isolate the specific role of fructose as a potential promoter of obesity. In fact, food intake analysis suggests that fructose intake in Australia has not increased yet obesity rates continue to.

A more likely explanation in the increase in processed high GI foods including white breads, breakfast cereals, snack foods, juices and soft drinks which are all high GI – high GI foods as a whole result in an increased insulin response, which over time is linked to obesity.

Fructose of course is found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which have a low GI and are all foods which have the highest nutrient density and lowest energy density of most of the foods we routinely consume. Based on this, it could be argued that it is somewhat irresponsible to declare them as foods that contribute directly to the obesity crisis. You do not need a nutrition degree to work to work out that sugary, processed foods are not good for us, but to blame fructose is jumping on a band wagon of something you know nothing about.

So, to end, a couple of comments from a dietitian mate who actually specializes in this area after she responded to an initial article published in a Sunday paper a few months back that blamed high fructose corn syrup for Australia’s weight issues:

Dear Editor,

I read the piece "Not so sweet" with disbelief at the incorrect information stated.
As a dietitian who works with gastroenterology and liver disease, I was amazed to hear that the "poor old liver" can't cope with fructose, or the caffeine, alcohol and medications our "toxic" modern lifestyle provides it. The liver, despite common perception, does not require "cleansing", rather, it has specific metabolic mechanisms to cope with cleansing itself.

I think some misleading points need to be clarified:

1. Fructose is NOT used in artificially sweetened beverages. Fructose contributes to total calories so cannot be used in "diet" products that usually contain aspartame or phenylalanine as sweeteners.
2. High fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose and does not significantly increase blood glucose or insulin levels when compared to sucrose (table sugar, which is 50% fructose and 50% glucose) [Melanson, K.; et al. (2006). "Eating Rate and Satiation.". Obesity Society (NAASO) 2006 Annual Meeting, October 20–24,Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts]

I am not in any way advocating a high fructose diet, or a high sugar diet, but I think nutrition experts would agree that a diet containing large amounts of added sugar (whether this be sucrose, glucose, fructose or any others) is a contributor to excess calories, which is essentially what causes weight gain when coupled with the sedentary lifestyle we lead. This could be said of any component of food when consumed in excess - too much protein, fat, alcohol or complex carbohydrates can do the same. Personally, I think sugar has a place in the diet (however, most of us would easily eat enough sugar without adding extras to our coffees, eating sweet treats after dinner, or curing our 3:30-itis!), and many foods that are high in fructose are perfectly safe to include in a nutritionally balanced diet.

Scientific aspects of nutrition and metabolism took several semesters of university level biochemistry for me to gain even a partial understanding. Pathways are complex and intertwined, and it is rarely such a two-dimensional process that was presented in this article

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are you consuming too much hidden sugar?

Are you eating hidden sugars?
Just a regular Saturday morning clinic marking client’s food diaries and pointing out where they are eating hidden (or, not so hidden) calories. Without a doubt the most common dietary pattern I see is the tendency to add energy dense sugars into the daily eating plan without even realizing it. Here are the most common offenders and the calories they offer each and every time we indulge in them.
Food Total Sugar Content Teaspoons of sugar
Hot chocolate 26.8g 5
Vanilla Latte 37.3g 7.5
Small fruit juice 20g 4
Lemon lime bitters 33.3g 6
2 teaspoons Jam 10g 2
1 tablespoon Milo 12.9g 2 ½
Frozen Chinese dinner 20g 4
Ice block 13.6g 2 ½
5 All Natural Confectionery 21.6g 4
Fruit muesli 15g 3

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wine Tonight?

One of the most frequently asked nutrition questions is about alcohol. How much? How often? What type should you drink to achieve a balance between the social aspects of drinking without any detrimental effects on your health? As is the case with many areas of nutrition, there are no hard and fast answers to these questions - every person is different, particularly in relation to health risk factors that play a key role in determining the recommendations on alcohol consumption for individuals.

From a physiological perspective, alcohol, the fourth energy supplying nutrient contains 27 kilojoules per gram (almost as much as fat which contains 37 kilojoules per gram) and is considered a toxin by the liver. For this reason, once alcohol is consumed the liver sets to work to eliminate it from the body as quickly as possible. Public health recommendations suggest adults aim for at least two alcohol free days a week, and a maximum of two standard drinks on days after that.

There has been much press about the health benefits of drinking alcohol regularly, and while there is some evidence to show that drinking a small amount of alcohol regularly can help to increase the amount of good cholesterol in the bloodstream. It is important to note that this finding is based on just one or two standard drinks a night; not drinking binges or alcohol consumed with high kilojoule mixers added.

The high kilojoule load of alcohol, particularly when it is mixed with juices, colas and energy drinks means that regular and high intakes of alcohol can easily result in weight gain. While a small glass of wine contains the same amount of kilojoules as a row of chocolate, the jumbo sized glasses that wine is frequently served in can contain three times this amount and it is not uncommon for a single female to polish off an entire bottle of wine by herself in a single setting. For most people, one or two standard drinks a night will not cause weight gain per say but drinking this much alcohol regularly does mean that the foods we commonly enjoy with a glass of wine or over a beer such as cheese, dips, potato chips and crackers are less likely to be used for energy as the body is too busy digesting the alcohol.

Low carbohydrate and reduced alcohol varieties of mixed drinks and beer can be slightly better options, containing fewer kilojoules than regular varieties of beer and wine but naturally such a benefit is quickly lost when three or four times the recommended number of drinks is consumed.

While drinking can be a part of social culture in Australia, finding a balance between health; weight control and socializing may be as simple as limiting drinking occasions to the weekends, as regular, nightly drinking quickly becomes a habit – a habit that can be extremely challenging to break. For the same reason, attempts at weight loss are best supported when an alcohol free period is followed, for at least a couple of weeks. And finally, if there is nothing you enjoy more than unwinding with a glass of red at the end of the day, as long as you choose small glasses, there does not seem to be any pressing reason to stop, nutritionally or otherwise.

Kilojoules in commonly consumed alcoholic drinks – remember we need 6000-8000kJ on average a day
Small glass of wine: 375 kJ
Small glass champagne: 355kJ
Glass low alcohol wine: 320kJ
Large (typical glass of wine): 650kJ
2 Crown Lagers: 1200kJ
Toohey’s Extra Dry: 600kJ
Low carbohydrate beer: 450kJ
Breezer: 700kJ
Bourbon & Coke: 500kJ
Bourbon & Diet Coke: 290kJ