The art of indulgence

When it comes to eating out, as a nutritionist, I am often observed during meal times. People like to know exactly what I’m eating, because apparently anything that goes into my mouth must be healthy! Little do they know that eating out is a time when I choose to eat the foods I love, whether they are healthy or not. Learning to indulge once in a while is a useful skill that will not only allow you to enjoy delightful food, but also help with weight management. Psychologically, if we choose to ban certain foods (e.g. chocolate, cheese, wine etc) then as soon as we’ve had a small bite or sip, we’ve blown the diet and feel as though we may as well eat the whole block or drink the entire bottle. Instead of banning foods, you should consider restricting some foods by only having a little treat every now and then. This means eating healthy foods 90% of the time such as fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish, low fat dairy and whole grains, while allowing yourself small portions of your favourite foods 10% of the time. For example, I may eat a variety of healthy foods throughout the day but then choose to have dessert or a glass of wine with dinner.
Another way to indulge healthily is to compensate with exercise. Try doing an extra hard workout or longer run if you know that you’re dining out in the evening in order to balance out a potential calorie overload. This doesn’t mean you can go wild with your treats; it is important to restrict the portion sizes of these unhealthy foods, as no amount of exercise will undo the damage of an entire pizza!
After just returning from a short stay in Melbourne with my boyfriend, it was apparent that the entire trip consisted of amazing food and intermittent bursts of fantastic shopping! The thing is, knowing that I was going to be indulging in treats in advance meant that I was more eager to stick to a healthy diet during the week prior. Not worrying about the hollandaise sauce on my breakfast or the copious amounts of pasta consumed on Lygon Street was a delight in itself, and now that I am back in Sydney and back to my usual routine, I have faith knowing that my weekend getaway is not hindering the body results that I work hard for on an average day.
To indulge sensibly is a useful tool to prevent yourself from bingeing or over eating foods that you have ‘banned’ in order to maintain a healthy diet. However, consuming your favourite foods in restricted portions can satisfy your cravings so that, you too, can master the art of indulgence.

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Nutrition Myths

With so much information on nutrition available, it leads many people to be confused about what’s healthy and what’s not. I was lucky enough to attend the Egg Nutrition Council breakfast to discuss nutrition myths and unravel the maze of information that is out to confuse everyone!
The first myth discussed was “Are carbohydrates bad for you?” This is a topic that comes up regularly due to the bad rap that carbs have been given in the past when it seemed like everyone wanting to lose weight was cutting carbs! It is important to consume low GI and high fibre complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and legumes rather than simple carbohydrtaes such as sugar as they provide nutrients for gastrointestinal health and bowel problems and can help to reduce risk of colon cancer. Refined simple sugars like those in cakes, biscuits, white bread and many other processed foods are of little nutritional value, however fruits should still be included as they contain vitamins and minerals important optimum body functioning. However, this does not mean that we are to consume carbohyfrates as much as we like. Moderate consumption of high fibre complex carbohydrates is recommended to provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Those who exercise regularly will make better use of good quality carbs during their workout over those with low levels of physical activity. This does not mean that if you exercise you can eat what you like. Instead it is best to use food as fuel for your body to exercise. If you put in bad fuel (unhealthy food) you will put out bad performance (less gains in sports performance). Supplementation in sports nutrition can also be used for convenience, however it is always best to get your adequate nutrient intake from whole foods, according to Exercise Scientist and Personal Trainer, Damien Kelly. Protein supplements are to be used as a back up only, and preparation is the key to adequate nutrition.
Another myth that was discussed is whether eating eggs is bad for your cholesterol. Eggs are actually very high in omega-3 oils and are Heart Foundation Tick approved. This means that they are actually a helpful food source in lowering risk of heart disease. Instead, it is saturated fat that we must consume with caution. Fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy and many processed foods contain saturated fat that can increase blood cholesterol levels and eventually block arteries, leading to heart disease. Eggs are a good source of nutrition and can be introduced early to infants in their cooked form to lower the risk of egg allergies. Whether eggs are from free range, organic or cage hens, the nutrient content is very similar, therefore it simply comes down to ethical choices. 6 eggs per week is recommended by the Heart Foundation for optimal health.
So are eggs perhaps the new ‘superfood’? The word ‘superfood’ is perhaps an overused term which describes a very nutritious food source, however, according to Dr Grant from the Egg Nutrition Council “there will always be a new trending superfood as long as there is money to be made.” It is important to eat a combination of wholesome healthy foods to give you all the nutrients your body needs, rather than relying on a new ‘superfood’!
Another question addressed was “is eating organic food more nutritious than non-organic food?” The nature of organic food means that it is often seasonal, where the vitamin and mineral content is at its optimum level. Homegrown fruit and veges are possibly the most organic you can get, however purchasing non-organic foods when they are in season provides similar nutrient levels, therefore it mainly comes down to cost and availability to you. As most Australians do not consume the optimum serving of fruit and vegetables, more important than choosing organic foods is simply aiming for 2 serves of fruit an 5 serves of vegetables daily.
Supplements are available everywhere now, but are vitamins and mineral supplements better than whole foods? A healthy, balanced diet should contain all of the nutrients you need, however if you take part in lots of physical activity, aren’t getting enough rest or are feeling fatigued, then a good quality multivitamin can help. Of course, a healthy diet is the first and foremost aspect, however supplements can be used as a great back up. More specific supplements may be required such as folate and Vitamin D during pregnancy, but nutrients from your diet are always best.
Another myth discussed was “should sugar be avoided?” Refined sugars such as biscuits, white bread and confectionary are of little nutritional value, however natural sugar from fruits containing vitamins and fibre should still be included in your diet. When cutting back on refined sugar, take care not to compensate with artificial sweeteners or salty foods.
Accordng to Damien Kelly, many individuals need a structured diet plan and exercise regime with shopping lists and further follow up for success. It is important to make healthy eating easy and a health priority to get the best possible results.

Boost your metabolism

Metabolism refers to the physical and chemical processes that occur in the body which keep us functioning normally in order to stay alive, such as breathing, blood circulation and nerve function. To carry out these processes, our body converts energy from the food we eat. Chemicals in our digestive system break down food into fuel, which is either used immediately or stored in the body’s tissues.
In other words, metabolism refers to the all of the processes in our body that occurs to keep us alive, and determines how much energy we use throughout the day. Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) determines the amount of energy we use without accounting for any physical activity. Our BMR is largely determined by genetics, gender and age however there are definitely a few things we can do to increase it. What is the benefit of increasing our BMR? Overall you will burn more calories throughout the course of the day aiding in weight management and energy levels.
The best way to boost your metabolism is by creating a body that burns more fuel just to exist. Muscle tissue is an active tissue that requires energy to contract, while fat tissue is inactive tissue and is simply a store of excess calories that does not require energy to exist. Building lean muscle tissue will enable you to burn more energy even when you’re not exercising making fat loss much easier as your body will use our fat stores as fuel to meet this higher demand. The best kind of exercise to build muscle is resistance training by using weights or your body to strengthen each muscle group, creating a larger proportion of muscle mass in the body. Hard-working muscles need plenty of energy to burn. Regular exercise increases muscle mass and teaches the body to burn kilojoules at a faster rate, even when at rest.
Crash dieting, starving or fasting means you will be eating too few kilojoules which misleads your body into starvation mode and causes the body to slow the metabolism to conserve energy which can drop your BMR by up to 15 per cent. Ensuring that you eat every 3 hours will get your body used to the constant intake of food and speed up your metabolic rate as it starts to expect the extra fuel. It is important to limit portions though by sticking to 5-6 small meals per day. The thermogenic effect of food can also play a role in boosting metabolism as food requires energy to digest and breakdown. Protein requires more energy than other kinds of food to breakdown and is therefore a great inclusion in each small meal to increase your rate of burning calories. At first including more food into your diet may be a little strange, as many are used to restricting their diet to very minimal amounts when trying to lose fat. You may actually feel quite full for a change, but after a few days your body should start to adjust to the increased consumption and you’ll begin to feel hungry around the 3 hour mark – a sign your metabolism is increasing!
So how is all of this relevant to you? If you’re looking to tone up, lose a bit of fat or simply sick of a sluggish system, drag yourself to the weights section, eat more mini meals, increase protein in your diet and enjoy your well deserved energy boost!

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Pre-workout, post-workout

Lately I’ve been concentrating on the idea of fuelling your body to get the results you want in your workouts. Nutrition pre- and post-workout is super important in order to achieve gains in muscle, loss in fat and boost in metabolism, and I’m going to tell you why.
When you workout you use energy to contract and relax your muscle fibres. In order to make the most of your workout, this energy needs to be readily available for your muscles to generate contractile force to fully exert your muscles to their full potential. During this process, muscle fibres tear slightly due to the excessive force placed on them during a workout. It is during the repair process after you workout that the muscle fibres are rebuilt with amino acids that are floating around in your bloodstream. In order to carry these amino acids to your muscles, you need some glucose to provide the energy for transportation throughout your body.
Enough of the scientific jargon. What this means is, pre-workout you need some food in your body to fuel your workout to prevent energy depletion so that you can make the right gains in results during your workout. We’ve established that your muscles require energy to contract and relax, so this energy can best come in the form of a light snack containing carbohydrates and a bit of protein. An example could be a dairy food such as yoghurt or a smoothie which contain a good mix of easily digested carbs and small amounts of protein. This snack about 1-2hrs before a workout is ideal as it gives enough time for it to digest and be utilised by the muscles.
Post-workout it is important to refuel your body and provide it with the nutrients it needs to repair and replenish your muscle tissue. We have established that we need amino acids in the bloodstream to send straight to your muscles for repair, but what are they and how do we get them? Amino acids are the building blocks of life (basically every living tissue is made up of amino acids in some combination) and they provide the molecules that make up protein. So in order for us to get some amino acids to our muscles we must eat some protein after a workout. Examples of protein include meat, chicken fish, eggs, tofu or the more convenient protein shakes or bars. My preference is whey protein as it is easily absorbed into the body and enters the bloodstream quickly to fuel your muscles with a plentiful supply of amino acids. However, you also need the glucose to transport the amino acids to where they are needed, which means that you need to have some carbohydrates post workout too to provide the glucose for energy. An example of this post workout concoction containing both protein and carbohydrates could include a whey protein shake mixed with low fat milk, a slice of toast topped with low fat cottage cheese or eggs or a fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder added. Of course you can come up with your own combinations based on carbs and protein foods, however these are just my examples that I eat on a regular basis.

So what does this look like in an average meal plan?

Breakfast:
Yoghurt with banana

Workout

Post workout:
Whey protein shake and an apple

Lunch:
Tuna salad with chickpeas

Snack:
Handful of almonds and skim cappuccino

Dinner:
Steak, salad and boiled potato

Dessert:
Homemade apple crumble topped with yoghurt

As you can see, the breakfast acts as a pre-workout meal in this scenario and mid morning snack is actually your post-workout. Eating surrounding your workouts is very important in ensuring you get the results you wants whether its weight loss, muscle gain or performance improvement.
Let me know what you do pre and post workout!

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Fueling your body

For the first time in my life I am not trying to lose weight. For years, the obsession with diets, exercise and the scales has caused me stress that was doing more harm than good!
A few months ago I made a goal for myself in a bid to lose 2kg: I called it ‘FitFeb’ where I devised a nutrition and exercise training plan that I promised myself I would follow to the tee and not break at all. After 28 days I hopped on the scales and to my dismay I had only lost 500g! This upset me greatly, especially after all of the hard work I had put in for the full month. I could tell that my fitness had improved, my strength had increased and I felt much better internally, however that number on the scales had meant the world to me! I guess this was a bit of a wake up call to realise that the number on the scales does not mean a thing. Sure, if you’re obese then losing a few kilos will definitely be beneficial to your health, however for someone within the healthy weight range it is best to ignore the scales and focus on another measure instead. This is something I tell my clients all the time, however when it came to my own body, I was completely shocked! This is when I started looking at a different approach.
I thoroughly enjoyed my new exercise regime; exercise to make gains in strength and fitness rather than focusing on the calorie burn. Since FitFeb didn’t exactly meet the goals I’d had in mind, I thought I’d focus on the weight training and maintaining my weight. I increased my calorie intake to a whopping 2000 calories (much more than my usual 1500) and realised that not only did I have a lot more food to eat and enjoy, but I actually had so much more energy, was able to train harder, I was constantly hungry indicating an increased metabolism, but I also weighed in at my lightest weight in a long time! Losing an extra 500g from eating way more than usual sounded absurd, however I was eating wholesome food, healthy fats, lots of fibre, more carbs and enjoying my meals so much more. My mind was in a healthy place, learning to use food to nourish my body and provide me with energy to train and get results.
It’s been these past couple of months that I have actually been complimented on my results, people asking if I’ve lost weight (answer? not really!) and that I have felt stronger than ever before. Using food to fuel your body is an art, and can be a little scary! Increasing your calorie intake, not worrying about your weight and focusing on weight training can be hard to get used to, especially if you’ve been like me and restricted your food intake and been a cardio queen for the majority of your life.
I am loving the results that I’m getting through this method and will be continuing on this path to meet my long term goals – a healthy, fit body throughout the entire year!

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Life gets in the way

Recently I have been bombarded with a string of social events that can sometimes lead my healthy choices astray. This is all too familiar with most people, many complaining that they can’t stay on track when they have birthdays, weddings, dinners, work functions – you name it, I’ve heard it! But if I’m being I honest with you, I believe it’s true. Being socially active can take its toll on your diet which can also affect your ability to ‘get back on track’ for the next meal.
My recent social outings have included a trip to Bali lasting ten days, coming home to my boyfriend’s birthday celebrations with his family, followed by my brother’s birthday dinner, then my boyfriend’s night out for his birthday, followed by a Chinese banquet the next night for a date, and lastly my boyfriend’s birthday dinner with my family where he requested a cake of the full fat variety! (Spoilt? I think so). As you can clearly see, I practically ate my weight in food over this busy social week, so yes, I would agree that life does get in the way of your healthy choices. However, usually I do not have this many events jam packed together so this is a slight exaggeration, but it is important to realise that having a cheat meal/day/week is not going to ruin the hard work you have already put in. So long as you jump straight back to it after the deed is done you can get back to feeling in tip top shape in no time at all. You see, the foods that you have probably indulged in are mostly processed foods which can impact your body by making you feel bloated and lethargic so you feel the need to claim a ‘fat day’. Once you return to your usual healthy eating routine your body will flush out the added toxins and you will started to feel like you’re back to your pre-indulgence figure. Now this is not a case of yo-yo dieting, where one minute you’re eating no carbs, the next you’re scoffing pizza, it is committing to a healthy lifestyle everyday of the year and allowing for little slips which keep us sane! As a self-confessed foodie, there is nothing I love more than indulging in fine foods (dessert especially), however it’s about balance and moderation.
The way to do this is to be satisfied with the treat that you’ve had, and not give in after a few chocolates. Many people have an all-or-nothing approach where everything is black and white, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. It helps to realise that just because you’ve had a schnitzel and chips for dinner, does not mean you may as well have the mud cake for dessert! Take one indulgence and leave it at that. You can have the dessert another time.
If you have chosen to have both, it’s usually the morning after a big meal when you’ll feel the full effect, however ensuring that you drink plenty of water and get straight back to your usual fibre-rich breaky will have you feeling amazing in no time at all!
Do a workout; this will help your conscience and burn off many of the extra calories consumed. Exercising affects the hormones floating around in your body, particularly cortisol (the hormone which promotes belly fat) so a workout can prevent the extra calories being stored around your mid section. The endorphins you release whilst exercising will also put you in a better mood!
So after realising that life does in fact get in the way, this week I have been ensuring that I’m eating all of my veggies, fuelling my body for exercise, and erasing the evidence of full fat birthday cake.
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Nurturing your inner self

As a nutritionist I have recently learnt what I truly value in my job, and why I love what I do. I was asked recently to do a workshop for girls 8-15years old on nutrition, cooking and healthy eating at a school holiday workshop titled “Nurture your Inner Self”. Girls fashion boutique Juliet’s Closet at Peakhurst in Sydney hosted this day which included learning about exercise, particpating in a workout at the park, eating some yummy food for lunch, learning about nutrition and healthy eating, as well as a fabulous afternoon of beauty and pampering! To me, this sounded fantastic as I am very passionate about this cause as this kind of information and guidance would have been helpful to myself and many others in our early teens to prevent yo-yo dieting and and unhealthy relationship with food. It is these years where peer pressure, media and independence can either help or hinder our dietary choices, and I believe that learning healthy habits from a young age is essential to prevent obesity, body image issues and ensures a healthy, happy adolescence.
It is clear that I am passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle for young girls, however this truly did leave me inspired to do more for this cause. The workshops that I did at Juliet’s Closet have inspired me to continue in this path and dedicate more time to health promotion in the local community, especially teenage girls who I feel I can truly relate to. Learning to enjoy a healthy life is a challenge, but if I can spread this message to at least a few young girls then I’m happy 🙂