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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

Monday, March 21, 2011

What those Easter treats mean calorie wise?

Some harsh Easter reality - Each week I cringe as I move through the supermarket and see an enormous supply of Easter eggs and chocolate flavoured Easter buns. Remember, supermarket sales gurus know that if you can see the food, you will buy it, and hence the reason Easter eggs have been available before the Christmas tinsel was taken down. So, if you do not want to gain weight this Easter, remember the rules – no buns until Good Friday and no eggs until Easter!

Eggs Selection kJ Fat
Cadbury Easter Bunny 3740kJ 50g fat
2 Caramello Eggs 500kJ 6g fat
1 Cadbury Crème Egg 718kJ 6g fat
Lindt Gold Bunny 2270J 33g fat
3 mini eggs 560kJ 7.5g fat
Small hot cross bun (no butter) 600kJ 2 g fat
Large hot cross bun with butter 1200kJ 10g fat
Choc chip hot cross bun 1100kJ 9g fat

Friday, March 18, 2011

The most common reasons clients do not lose weight

Each and every week I see between 20-30 clients for weight loss at my practice in Sydney. Seeing clients is actually what I enjoy doing most, simply as every appointment teaches me another trick I can use to help my clients reach their goal weight. Inevitably, it also means identifying issues that are also preventing weight loss but in more cases than not the common dietary issues I see that are impeding weight loss are very common. So, here are the most common ones I see and my advice on how to get things moving again.

1) Eating breakfast too late
Yes, it is calories in versus calories out but there is also no doubt that the earlier you eat breakfast, the better it is for your metabolic rate. Ideally aim to eat your breakfast before 8am and don’t forget the importance of getting a good mix of both carbs and protein.

2) Not enough salad at lunchtime
Ideally we need at least 1-2 cups of salad or vegetables at lunchtime to get the bulk and fibre we need to keep us full throughout the afternoon. For most of us, this means we need to increase this component of us lunch, even if it means taking an extra carrot or cucumber with you to munch on through the afternoon.

3) Dinner too late
The later you have your dinner, the smaller it needs to be. If you regularly find yourself eating after 8pm at night, try having a more substantial lunch and afternoon tea and aim for just 1 small bowl of vegetables and one of meat and carbs at night.

4) Overdoing it at restaurants and parties
Eating out is a common part of busy life and for many of us is no longer an occasional treat. For this reason we still have to be careful. Make sure you eat a filling protein rich snack such as a shake, cheese and crackers or vege sticks with hommus an hour before you go out so you do not get overly hungry and overeat high fat, high calorie restaurant or party food.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Should you keep a food diary?

For a number of my nutrition consulting years I was not the biggest fan of clients keeping a food diary. I felt that it tended to make people more obsessed with eating, and more likely to be exceptionally strict with their diet before falling off the rails and feeling “bad” about it

10 years later, as my clinical dietetic experience has grown, I am now much more of a fan of the food diary. Keeping a diary during periods in which you are actively trying to lose weight can be one of the best tools you can utilize to get an idea of what you really are eating and what you are doing wrong when it comes to weight loss. All of a sudden those extra calories coming from added sauces and treats are real, as is the number of calories you are eating especially when eating out. In fact, an active diet diary that you can fill out online, which gives you all of this information is often all you need to keep your diet on track, long term.

Keeping a regular record of what you eat is likely to support weight control for several reasons. First of all it forces you to be more mindful of what you are putting into your mouth each and every day. Encouraging people to become more mindful of their food habits is a key area dietitians will often work on with clients as it is human nature to eat extra food if and when it crosses our path. As food is so readily available, it is easy to then see how easy it can be to eat small extras regularly, hence knowing that you have to write it down is also likely to make you think twice before you grab that extra biscuit with your tea or handful of lollies after dinner.

A food diary with feedback on calorie and sugar loads also helps to visually see where your calories are really coming from. All of a sudden the extra sugar in your coffee or glass of juice really starts to add up calorie wise and may not really seem worth it when these extra calories are adding up to equate to the difference between weight control or not. This is particularly useful when it comes to sauces, added sugar, dressings and oil used in cooking.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of keeping a food diary is that is also should see you starting to weigh your foods, especially meats, oils and dressings. In more cases than not we tend to serve ourselves much larger servings of foods than we think we do. For example, why we may think we are only eating 100g of meat, when we actually weigh it, it may be 120 or 130g. While this may not seen significant, an extar 20g of meat each adds up to give an entire extra serve of meat by the end of the week, which again could mean weight loss or not. Simply weighing and measuring our portions for a week can give huge amounts of information in terms of where we are eating much more than we think we are and as a result are taking in far more calories.

So, if you feel that you already eat well, but never get on top of your diet, even after seeing a dietitian, perhaps it is worth spending time recording your food intake for a week or two?

Check out, for one of the most comprehensive sites you will find to support you online if you are keen to learn more about your own diet, for minimal cost, or for a less comprehensive site that is free of charge. You will be surprised how easy it is to stay on track with your diet when you are actively monitoring it.