Recipe Development, Food Styling & Photography
I love nothing more than developing nourishing and delicious recipes to help people live healthier, happier lives.
Whether you’re needing recipes for a website, cookbook, health program or you want to showcase your brand’s products in their best light, I can help. I also provide food styling and photography services.
Here are some of my recent projects
Whether you’re needing recipes for a website, cookbook, health program or you want to showcase your brand’s products in their best light, I can create delicious recipes and provide food styling and photography, so you get everything you need in one place.
A much as I love Christmas time, the one down side is that there’s always just far too much to do. Aside from all the Christmas parties and catch ups, there’s the shopping, wrapping presents, writing cards – and on top of all of that then there’s the cooking!
While some very organised people are making their plum puddings a year in advance, if you’re anything like me you’ll be wrapping your presents on Christmas Eve and trying to throw together your contribution to the Christmas spread on Christmas morning.
If you need to pull together a few sides or you’ve been asked to bring a salad or dessert and are wondering how you’re possibly going to find the time, don’t panic! These recipes are incredibly quick to make but look impressive enough to be worthy of Christmas day (and no one needs to know that they’re healthy too!).
Every year at this time we’re bombarded with endless ‘How to avoid Christmas weight gain’ articles that pop up on the internet and in various magazines and newspapers. While I’m all for healthy eating, this always make me a little bit sad. It seems that instead of focusing on the opportunity to kick back and relax, spend time with our families and enjoy delicious food that we don’t normally eat, Christmas is being portrayed as a battleground of overindulgence, guilt and stress about weight gain.
In my opinion Christmas just isn’t the time for advice about packing your own healthy snacks, going for the salad instead of the roast potatoes and having fruit instead of dessert. Instead, it should be a time to loosen up a bit on our usual restraint and restriction and enjoy a little indulgence.
However, on the other hand, we can fall into the trap of overindulging just because it’s Christmas – and spending the rest of the day groaning on the couch wishing we hadn’t eaten so much.
So how can you enjoy a bit of indulgence at Christmas without going overboard? [Read more…]
Despite going to the effort of having a healthy breakfast, many people find that, frustratingly, they’re ravenous again two hours later. Unfortunately for most, the staple breakfast of cereal and milk just isn’t that satisfying. So how can you improve the staying power of your breakfast and avoid raiding the office biscuit tin every morning? [Read more…]
When it comes to healthy morning habits, I’m not one to preach the virtues of drinking a litre of warm lemon water, performing 17 sun salutations and meditating for an hour before starting your day. I love my morning coffee as much as the next person, and a morning workout for me generally consists of hitting the snooze button repeatedly for 20 minutes. But there is one morning ritual I will preach the merits of, and that’s breakfast.
I know this advice is nothing new. We all get told we should eat breakfast, in fact the health and fitness industry sounds like one giant broken record when it comes to this topic. But it’s for good reason; although perhaps not the reasons you might think…. [Read more…]
Unless you’re replacing your morning coffee with kale juice, dragging yourself out of bed at 5am for another punishing workout and spending your entire Sunday afternoon preparing food for the week, these days it can feel like you’re just not trying hard enough. It seems that being healthy has become a full time job, with overtime.
We can mostly blame social media for this, with ‘healthy lifestyles’ now paraded all over Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and basically anywhere you look. Impressive as these displays of dedication are, I don’t really blame people for feeling like they just can’t quite be bothered with it all. Witnessing the endless stream of health and fitness routines is exhausting enough, let alone actually trying to do any of this stuff yourself.
But rest assured, looking after yourself doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of abstinence and self flagellation. Here are just a few of the many things you don’t actually need to do to be healthy: [Read more…]
I’m lucky to be a natural born veggie lover. But if being a dietitian has taught me anything, it’s that not everyone shares this love! We all know we need to eat our veggies though, and in fact, they should really make up the bulk of what we eat. So what to do if you just don’t like them? Don’t despair, here are a few little tricks I like to use to jazz them up a bit.
1.Add a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt
This is almost too simple to mention, but you just can’t underestimate the transformative powers of adding a little fat and salt to your veggies, particularly the green ones. Plain, steamed broccoli, beans or Brussels sprouts don’t get many people excited, and are likely to be totally shunned by non-veggie lovers, but add a drizzle of olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt and suddenly they take on a whole new dimension. I do this while they’re still in the pan so that you can give them a good toss around and get them nice and evenly coated. Plus, a little bit of fat helps our bodies to absorb many of the vitamins from the veggies too. [Read more…]
Swearing off sugar has become almost a religion in the last few years, as sugar has started copping the blame for everything from obesity to autoimmune disease.
There’s no doubt that, in general, we’re eating (and drinking) far too much sugar. But sugar is nothing new, humans have been eating it for as long as we’ve existed as a species, on the whole with no major issues. That’s because sugar, in it’s natural state, is not the problem – it comes with other nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals and is generally found in fairly small amounts. The problem is that somewhere along the line we figured out how to extract the sugar from the plants it is naturally present in. This meant that we could enjoy just the delicious sweet stuff without having to worry about dealing with other nutrients getting in the way. And because we also figured out how to have food available to us 24/7, we can now indulge our sweet tooths anytime we like. In fact, thanks to the invention of soft drink, we don’t even have to chew anymore, we can literally just pour sugar straight down our throats!
But is demonising sugar really necessary? Is swearing off it entirely really the best solution or could this actually leave us worse of in the long run? Here are 5 reasons why I don’t recommend quitting sugar: [Read more…]
Last week I met a guy who proudly told me he was spending $70 a day on a 3 day ‘juice cleanse’. While I had to admire his dedication to improving his health, I couldn’t help but think about what a waste of time and money this was. And unfortunately, this is something I hear on an almost weekly basis.
It’s human nature to look for a quick fix to a problem, and there’s no doubt that for the majority of us, our health and weight is a major problem (or at least we think it is). So juice cleanses appear to offer a perfect solution, in the prescribed 3-7 days you can supposedly lose weight and do a total 180 in terms of your health – who wouldn’t sign up for that! Except that’s not what really happens… [Read more…]
Busting a few of my favourite nutrition myths in Huffington Post Australia:
Click here to check out the article
Making you own salad dressing might seem like one more thing you just don’t have time for, but it can literally be done in about 30 seconds. Plus, it’s so much better than the stuff you buy at the supermarket which is generally full of artificial ingredients and added sugar.
Most salad dressings boil down to a very simple combination of ingredients – the secret is having the right combination of oil, acidity and sweetness. If you can learn the simple formula for this combination you’ll be able to whip up your own delicious and super healthy salad dressing without so much as a glance at a recipe book.
So, here is the magic formula: [Read more…]
If you’ve been searching for the perfect diet, check out my guest post for Foodwatch, you might just find the answer!
Click here to read the article
Packing your child’s lunchbox can be a daunting experience, especially for new school parents. In fact, I’ve heard of corporate executives who admit to having more anxiety about what they’re putting in their child’s lunchbox than they do about big presentations!
And it’s no wonder. Not only is there nutrition to think about, there are also food safety issues, school packaging and allergy policies, and most importantly what your child will actually eat! And then there is of course the pressure to send your child off to school with Pinterest inspired lunch boxes complete with sandwiches shaped as Disney characters, homebaked ‘sugar free’ muffins and origami handwritten notes which, lovely as they are, almost no one actually has time to make.
But packing a nutritionally balanced, safe, school rule abiding lunch that kids will actually eat doesn’t have to be another source of stress in your day. I’ve broken it down into five basic steps to try and make it a bit easier. [Read more…]
Muesli is one of the best breakfasts going around. Its got plenty of low GI carbohydrates and fibre thanks to the oats and dried fruit, plus protein and healthy fats from the nuts and seeds – everything you want in a super healthy breakfast.
But while muesli tastes great, there’s something about the crunchiness of toasted muesli which is even better. Unfortunately, commercially made toasted muesli is usually full of added sugar, fat and salt – not exactly the basis of a healthy breakfast. But this doesn’t mean you have to go back to the raw stuff.
Making your own toasted muesli is not only amazingly satisfying, it also means you can add in all your favourite ingredients and you know exactly what’s in it. Plus, you can make up a big batch to last you a few weeks – an activity guaranteed to leave you feeling virtuous on a Sunday afternoon. [Read more…]
If you work full time, in 2015 you would have consumed almost 240 work lunches. That’s a lot of lunches, and a decent chunk of your overall diet, – which means that the choices you’ve made and the foods you’ve eaten have likely had a big influence on your health.
The healthiest lunches are generally the ones you make yourself. Unfortunately, most of us are just not that organised and instead have to navigate the minefield of food courts and cafes with their overwhelming array of choice.
But despite all this choice, identifying a healthy option can still be a battle and it’s tempting just to stick with your favourite chicken schnitzel roll, convincing yourself that it contains chicken, lettuce and tomato and therefore must be healthy, right?
So, how to pick a healthy option? Let’s break it down. [Read more…]
Most of us know the basics of nutrition and how to eat well – after all, it’s not rocket science. So why do so many people struggle to maintain a healthy weight, wage a constant war with their bodies and go from one diet to the next, convincing themselves that this time it will be different?
The truth is that basically any ‘diet’ will work, if you stick to it. The problem is that we can’t stick to them, they’re just not sustainable. Restriction always leads to overcompensation.
If you’ve ever tried going on a diet, you probably experienced some initial weight loss before inevitably ‘falling off the wagon’ when you got bored, felt deprived and decided it was all just too hard. Then came the guilt, despair and resolve to start another diet, (one that you would definitely stick to this time!). But first you would eat all those ‘bad foods’ because who knows when you’ll have another opportunity – maybe never! And so the cycle continued…. [Read more…]
As a dietitian, I spend a lot of time debunking nutrition myths, which range from the partly true to the completely ridiculous. While some of these can admittedly be entertaining, it’s also frustrating that so many people are being given inaccurate nutrition information which they believe, and even follow, for years to come. I hate to think how much time and effort is wasted because of some of these myths. So I’m busting a few of my favourites once and for all: [Read more…]
The link between red meat and cancer, and particularly processed meat and cancer has been a controversial topic for a while now. But what’s the real story – and do you need to step away from the steak? [Read more…]
As a dietitian, it’s embarrassing to admit that I’m not at all organised when it comes to meal planning. I break all the rules about efficient shopping and my trips to the supermarket are generally sporadic and poorly planned.
But one thing I am organised about is making sure that there are always a handful of staple items in my pantry. This habit, along with a very handy fruit shop across the road and a few eggs in the fridge, means that I can basically always whip up a pretty decent meal without the need for a highly inconvenient dash to the supermarket. [Read more…]
Nutrition has become such a complicated, controversial and overwhelming topic, I really don’t blame anyone for wanting to just give up on it. Except that we all need to eat, and most of us want to eat well – so unfortunately that’s not really an option. So here are my top 10 tips to help cut through the confusion about nutrition and make eating well a bit easier. [Read more…]
Here’s the age old, proven method as demonstrated by an unlikely marketing genius:
Step 1: Take a fairly ordinary but nutritious food
In Russia in 1774, potatoes were fed to pigs, and even peasants refused to eat them. The Russian Orthodox Church even declared them unfit for human consumption due to the fact that they weren’t mentioned in the Bible. [Read more…]
The ‘drink more water’ message has been drilled into most of us since we were kids, and it’s a widely held belief that you need to drink 2 litres/8 glasses of water per day to prevent you from becoming dehydrated. But is this actually the case?
Actually no, not exactly. Yes, humans need water (it’s essential for basically all of the things our body does including digestion, absorption of nutrients and even keeping us at the right temperature), and it’s true that we need roughly about 2-2.5 litres per day, but there’s a bit more to it than that. [Read more…]
Learning to read food labels can be one of the best ways to make sure you’re choosing the healthiest foods possible. But they can seem like a mess of confusing words, dubious claims and intimidating tables, and let’s be honest, we generally want to get out of the supermarket as quickly as possible, not spend hours standing in the aisles reading labels!
So I’m going to break it down into 5 steps you can follow so that you can quickly decode all the information and ultimately work out if this is a food you want to be eating or not. Here they are: [Read more…]
Poor, misunderstood carbs. If there’s one piece of weight loss advice that seems to have brainwashed the world, it would have to be that ‘carbs make you fat’. Carbohydrate has become a dirty word with low carb diets promoted as being the easiest way to lose weight, fast.
But the truth is there is nothing magically ‘fattening’ about carbs. [Read more…]
When it comes to sticking to a healthy diet and staying on top of cravings and overeating and avoiding the dreaded ‘hanger’, snacking can be your best friend. As someone who suffers from extreme hanger, I can’t live without snacks!
Snacking gets a bad rap due to its association with high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods (aka junk food). But having two or three snacks in between meals can be really helpful in keeping your energy levels up and preventing you from getting so hungry that you devour the first thing in sight as soon as you walk in the door at night. And if you choose healthy options, it can be a great chance to get in some extra nutrients too. [Read more…]
Most people assume that their inability to stick to a healthy diet or exercise regularly is simply down to a lack of willpower. I often hear people say “I just have no willpower” as if it’s something we either have or we don’t. But willpower isn’t as simple as that.
We all have some willpower, but it’s a finite amount. It’s like a muscle, it can only be flexed so many times before it starts to fatigue. [Read more…]
As predictable as it may be, I love a good salad. They are definitely one of my favourite things to ‘cook’ – and not just because they are quick and healthy but because you can be really creative and basically just make them up as you go along. Plus, I love all the different textures and flavours you get from a salad. But as much as I like to freestyle when it comes to salad making, I find that following this formula always leads to great results.
1. Choose a bulking ingredient. This will make up the majority of the salad volume-wise but will likely be the least exciting bit. For example:
Kidney, cannellini beans, lentils or chickpeas
2. Choose a protein
This is the backbone of the salad, where you can take it from a side to a meal in itself. If you do just want a side salad, feel free to leave this out. Otherwise, try one of these:
Chicken – pan fry a chicken breast and slice or shred
Beef – as above
Salmon – bake or pan fry and flake
Bacon – sliced and fried until crispy
Egg – hard boiled and sliced or poached
Beans or chickpeas
3.Choose a highlight ingredient – this is the fun bit. I always try to use at least one really interesting ingredient a salad which can take it from everyday to a bit gourmet. The highlight ingredient is the star of the show, the salad’s selling point, so make it a good one!
Ideally it should be something either a bit exotic or with a texture that contrasts the rest of the salad. Some of my favourite highlight ingredients are:
4. Choose a colourful ingredient.
The best looking salads are colourful ones. So make sure you choose something that will stand out and make the salad look beautiful. Some great colourful additions are:
NB: The highlight and colourful ingredients can be the same thing!
5. Choose a dressing
I tend to use the same dressing for most of my salads which is really quick and easy to make:
1/3 cup olive oil + 1/4 cup lemon juice or balsamic/white/red wine vinegar + 1 teaspoon mustard and 1 teaspoon honey
For something a bit fancier I might use pomegranate molasses or a flavoured vinegar and olive oil.
Or if its an Asian style salad I’ll use a combination of lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, sweet chilli sauce and maybe a bit of soy sauce.
Ultimately, the secret to a great salad is to have contrasting colours, flavours and textures so it looks and tastes great. And remember, the best thing about salads is that there are no rules. You’re unlikely to completely stuff it up so be creative!
Want some salad recipes? Here you go
On one hand, there’s a billion dollar industry convincing anyone who sets foot in a gym that they might as well not even both unless they’re going to have a protein shake afterwards.
On the other hand, with our dependence on carbohydrates (breakfast cereal, bread, rice, pasta, fruit), often protein gets forgotten. Including protein at each meal is one of the most common pieces of advice I give to clients who are struggling with overeating, cravings and low energy levels.
Tell me why?
Protein is used by the body to repair and build muscle, which is happening to all of us, all the time (not just body builders). It also plays an important role in filling us up and keeping our blood sugar levels more stable and appetite in check. Most of us eat plenty of protein, but often we have most of it at night or for just one meal of the day. If your diet during the day is mostly made up of breakfast cereal, bread, fruit and vegetables, followed by a big steak or chicken breast at dinner, chances are you could benefit from spacing out your protein a bit more evenly.
Protein = satisfaction
Per calorie, protein is more satiating (filling) than both carbohydrate and fat. It also requires more energy (calories) to digest, so its a win/win for those looking to reduce their overall calorie intake. So by adding protein to each of your meals, you’re basically getting more bang for your buck from that meal and reducing the likelihood you’ll want to reach for a snack 1.5 hours after finishing your cornflakes.
OK, sold – where do I sign up?
The best sources of protein are meat, poultry and fish. Other good sources include eggs and dairy foods, beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils), nuts and seeds and soy products such as tofu, tempeh.
How much do I actually need?
Not that much actually. As a general guide, you need around 0.8-1.0g per kg or body weight if you’re fairly sedentary (office job + small amounts of exercise). If you’re exercising regularly, this will increase to around 1.2-1.7g/kg, depending on gender, what kind of exercise you’re doing at what intensity and how long you’ve been training for.
Enough numbers, what does that actually look like?
70kg female office worker, light exercise = 56-70g/day
The following foods contain around 10g protein each:
Not all proteins are equal
Often certain foods are marketed as being a ‘complete’ source of protein. This basically means that they contain all of the ‘essential’ amino acids our body cannot produce on its own.
Sorry, amino what?
Without getting too sciency – amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids, of these, 9 are considered ‘essential’ because our body can’t produce them itself so needs to get them from our diet. Most animal sources of protein contain all 20 amino acids, however, most plant proteins lack at least one, so it’s a good idea to consume a range of different plant proteins. Some examples of ‘complete’ plant proteins are quinoa and soy.
Protein supplements 101
The best sources of protein are whole, minimally processed foods in as natural a state as possible – meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds and legumes, as we’ve covered. But that’s not to say there’s no place at all for protein shakes and other protein supplements.
If you’re doing a lot of resistance training and lifting heavy weights your protein requirements will be elevated. Insufficient protein or overall energy = minimal muscle growth. It’s best to get this extra protein from food, but it’s not always convenient to tuck into a steak right after the gym. So, in some cases, protein supplements can be a good option from a convenience perspective, just don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re a ‘health food’. At the end of the day its another highly processed food that wouldn’t recognise its original food source (milk? soy beans? rice?) if it smacked it in the face. They also often have a lot of artificial ingredients added which our bodies don’t need (although it is possible to make your own ‘protein shake’ without protein powder).
And remember, simply taking protein powder or eating protein bars won’t magically make you build muscle or tone up – you need to be giving your body a reason to change first through good old fashioned exercise.
What happens if I eat more protein than I need?
Your body can’t store excess protein – but if it’s not needed for muscle building and repair, it can be used as fuel instead. If you’re just getting protein from food and not supplementing, the risk of eating too much is low in a healthy person. If you’re downing protein shakes and bars on top of a normal diet, you might be overdoing it.
So what should I eat?
Aim to include some protein in each of your meals, for example:
Cereal? Add some yoghurt (Greek yoghurt is higher in protein than other yoghurt) and have it with milk
Toast? Have it with peanut butter or top it with an egg
Smoothie? Add some milk or soy milk, yoghurt and chia seeds
Meat and veg? You’re sorted
Pasta? Add some meat or fish
Salad? Add some beans, egg, tofu, meat or fish
P.S – despite its bad rap as the most evil of the carbohydrates, bread can contain a decent amount of protein if you go for the right kind. Two slices of multigrain bread can have up to 12g protein!
So, take home message? Protein is your friend, so try to include some in the majority of your meals. And finally, eat real food when you can, supplement if you must – easy!
If you want individualised advice about your protein needs, or you have any other nutrition concerns, we would love to help.
We all know that take away food generally isn’t the healthiest. But sometimes at the end of the day, when we’re tired and starving and can’t be bothered going to the supermarket, let alone cooking a meal, it can seem like the only option. While having take away and fast food is fine once in a while, having it on a regular basis can make it difficult to maintain a healthy diet (not to mention your bank balance!).
Here are 4 super healthy and quick recipes which take less than 15 minutes to make and don’t involve any fancy ingredients or complicated cooking techniques. In fact, most of them can probably be made from ingredients sitting in your pantry or freezer – so there’s really no reason to resort to take away!
Ingredients (Serves 2):
250g pre-cooked steamed rice (brown or white)
1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup frozen vegetable medley (peas, corn and carrots)
100g ham or cooked chicken, diced
1/4 cup cabbage, finely sliced (optional)
1 tbsp soy sauce
- Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat. Add rice, vegetables and ham or chicken and stir fry until vegetables are heated through, breaking rice up with a spoon.
- Add soy sauce, mix well and transfer to serving bowls
- Spray frying pan with oil. Whisk egg well and pour into frypan. Once cooked through, remove from frypan and slice finely
- Top fried rice with egg and serve
Ingredients (Serves 1):
1 large potato or small sweet potato, washed but not peeled
1 small tin baked beans, salt reduced
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Prick potato skin all over and cook in microwave on high for 5 minutes
- Slice in half, place on a plate and top with baked beans and cheese
- Cover with an upturned bowl and return to microwave for further 1 minute
Ingredients (Serves 2):
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
100g ham or smoked salmon
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red capsicum, finely sliced
1 handful baby spinach
50g goats cheese or feta
1 /2 cup potato, boiled and cut into chunks (or use leftover roast potatoes)
- Beat eggs and cream together with a fork.
- Stir in all other ingredients
- Spray a medium sized fry pan with oil and heat over medium heat.
- Pour in egg mixture and cook for around 5 minutes until bottom is set
- Place under grill for about 5 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
2 cups bowtie or penne pasta (wholemeal if you prefer)
2 small tins chilli tuna
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful baby spinach or rocket
1 small handful pitted black olives, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- Cook pasta in boiling water and drain.
- In a large saucepan, mix the pasta together with all other ingredients and heat through.
- Divide into serving bowls and top with parmesan
This weekend an impressive 80,000 people will take on ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and compete in the 14km City to Surf fun run. If you’re one of them, don’t let all that hard work training go to waste by not getting your pre-race nutrition right. What you eat and drink leading up to the race can really make or break your performance, and more importantly your enjoyment of the day. Here are some tips to help you out on the big day:
- Carbs are key! Carbohydrates provide energy to our muscles and can make a huge difference to your performance. Make sure you are eating plenty of carbohydrates from now until race day to ensure your energy stores are maximised. Try to include some good quality carbohydrates in each of your meals, for example:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Milk and yoghurt
- Have a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before the race. This should be something rich in high GI carbohydrates (i.e. not the ones we’re usually told to eat!), moderate protein and low fat so that it is digested quickly and not hanging around in your stomach during the race and making you uncomfortable. Here are some good options:
- White toast with jam
- Cereal with milk
- Fruit and yoghurt
- Vegemite, jam or honey sandwich with white bread
- Small flavoured milk
- Small fruit smoothie
- You probably don’t need energy gels, bars etc during the race. Our carbohydrate stores last around 60-90 minutes during exercise, so as long as you’ve got plenty of carbs on board before the race, that should be enough to get you through without having to waste time and energy wrestling with an energy gel during the run. Small amounts of fluid may be beneficial.
- Make sure you’re well hydrated before the race to prevent dehydration. Water is the best choice but all fluids will count. However, be careful not to drink too much as this may make you uncomfortable during the race. Ideally, urine should be a pale yellow colour.
- Don’t forget to have a good recovery meal after the race to replace what you’ve lost and allow your muscles to repair. Your body is most responsive 1-2 hours after exercise, so use this window if you can. Your recovery meal should include some good quality carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, oats, rice, pasta or fruit and some protein such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans and legumes. And don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids to replace what you’ve lost through sweat.
- And most importantly, don’t try anything on race day that you haven’t tried before! Everyone is different and what works for someone else might not work for you so make sure you test it out in advance!
Good luck and have fun!
Chocolate cravings are savage beasts. Generally emerging between the hours of 2 and 4pm every day, they attack suddenly and without warning, causing sudden extreme sleepiness, lethargy and the kind of overwhelming cravings that make even a block of Vegemite chocolate an actual viable option.
They will not be ignored and refuse to let you get anything productive done until they get what they want (or you fall asleep, whichever comes first). They assure you that you’ll be far more productive if you just have a little bit (and you’ll only eat half that chocolate bar anyway right?) until you eventually give in and raid the office kitchen/vending machine/your colleagues lolly jar.
But why do they keep picking on you? And more importantly, how can you get rid of them?
There are several reasons for the afternoon emergence of chocolate cravings (or less specific sugar cravings). One reason may be that you’re not sleeping enough – fatigue and stress can increase cravings for sweet foods as our body is telling us we need more energy (translation: sugar). Another reason could be that by repeatedly having something sweet after meals, you’ve accidentally trained your body to expect it. Or maybe its just because chocolate tastes so damn good (and we get a nice little buzz after eating it which is quite addictive). But the most likely culprit is pretty simple – you’re not giving your body what it needs in the first half of the day
This is particularly the case for people who don’t eat breakfast or those who are overly restrictive in their diets. Our bodies are hard wired for survival, and starvation, believe it or not, is a big threat as far as your body is concerned. When we’re hungry our blood sugar levels drop, and low blood sugar levels are perceived as dangerous territory. Your body’s clever way of fixing this problem? Trigger a craving for high sugar foods which will produce the most rapid response in getting blood sugar levels back up into a ‘safe’ range and in doing so keep your survival in check.
But get your blood sugar balance right in the first place and you won’t have to ride the rollercoaster your body sets up later in the day to try and correct them (and you’ll will waste less brain power wondering if anyone would notice if you had a nap under your desk).
Here’s how to do it:
- Eat breakfast! Even if its just a handful of nuts, a glass of milk, a banana – something small is far better than nothing at all
- Include some protein in your lunch – eggs, tuna, chicken, lean meat, beans, chickpeas – take your pick
- Include some low GI carbs in your breakfast and lunch such as oats or other wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread, rice, pasta or quinoa.
- Have a healthy snack in between your meals. Fruit, yoghurt or wholegrain crackers with cheese/peanut butter/hummus are all good options
- Make sure you get enough sleep – sleep deprivation can contribute to cravings and increased snacking so get your 7-8 hours!
- When cravings strike, instead of panicking, try adopting a curious approach and ask yourself where they might have come from: Are you hungry? Are you bored? Are you trying to put off a task you don’t want to do? Are you tired? Being more aware of why the craving is occurring can be the first step in reducing their impact. If you find you’re not genuinely hungry, try getting up and going for a walk, making a cup of tea, going to chat to a colleague or calling someone and see if this sorts is out
- And finally, if after all of this you still want something sweet, there’s no reason you can’t have it. But try to think about what you really want and savour it, eating slowly and stopping when it doesn’t take as good anymore. A couple of dates, some dark chocolate, a yoghurt or a piece of fruit could be enough to do the trick.
For more on this topic, read my post on ‘How to win the 3pm vending machine stand off’
Do you know what this is?
For those of you who studied science, welcome back to second year biochemistry. For those of you who didn’t, this is the Kreb’s cycle – a series of chemical reactions used to generate energy through the oxidation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Or in more simple terms (for those who are still awake) – how our bodies create energy from food.
Anyway, the point of the picture is not to give you a science lesson. It’s to demonstrate that our bodies are extremely complex, and they’re smarter than we’ll ever be. Plus, they’re hardwired for survival – they’ll literally do anything to keep us alive – that’s their job. So when we restrict our deprive them of the nutrients they need, they fight back, and they fight dirty.
Would you take on an opponent who is not only smarter than you but is also more complex, has millions of years experience and is prepared to fight to the death?
So, thinking we can outsmart them through a low carb/detox/intermittent fasting diet is well…a bit ambitious, and will most likely turn out to be a painful waste of time. Your body will work its absolute hardest to maintain the status quo by leaving you so hungry you feel like you could literally eat a horse, craving sugar like it’s an illicit drug and feeling like you could sleep forever. I have no doubt that these diets (or ‘lifestyle changes’) can work amazingly to start with, but sooner or later your body is going to pull rank….and you’re going to lose.
So what can you do instead?
Like taking on any big opponent, identify your common goals and work towards them together – giving your body what it wants: energy – enough to be comfortable and not at risk of starvation but not too much, nutrients – plenty of fruit and veg, wholegrains, protein, some healthy fats and not too much junk, exercise – enough to keep your heart, joints and mind healthy but not too much, and rest – plenty of it) but also getting what you want (a body that can work hard and play hard but also looks pretty good).
Take home message?
Accept that you can’t outsmart your body. Work against it and eventually you’ll lose. Work with it and you can both win.
I’m the last person to tell you that you need to drink a green smoothie everyday to be healthy….I’m all for moderation and eating foods you love BUT, you do need to eat your veggies.
Yep, your mum was right, vegetables are good for you…like, really good for you. We know this – and we know we’re meant to eat five serves a day….but how do we fit them all in??
As a dietitian, I’m pretty much a straight A student when it comes to getting my five a day – but my boyfriend is a different story. He spends most of the day in a meeting or running to the next one and barely gets time to eat at all, so whatever he does get time for is not exactly ideal – a ham and cheese sandwich isn’t doing much for the five-a-day tally.
So instead of nagging him to take a salad to work (never going to happen), snack on carrot and celery sticks all day (errr, no) or eat five serves of vegetables for dinner (again, not very likely), we’ve come to a compromise – a smoothie.
A fruit and veg packed smoothie in the morning means you can get half your daily fruit and veg needs before you even leave the house. This of course means you’ll not only be healthier but you’ll also feel all virtuous and high achieving for the rest of the day – win:win!
The best part is, you can basically add whatever you like… and make up a few days worth at a time for super efficiency. And because smoothies contain the whole fruit/veg, they’re a much healthier option than juices (and they don’t have to be green!).
So here’s a recipe to get you started (makes 2 serves)
1 apple or pear
2 sticks celery
Handful spinach or kale
1cm slice ginger
½ lemon or lime, squeezed
Add enough water to cover everything, add some ice if you like and blend it up!
A team of German scientists has fooled millions of people into thinking that eating chocolate results in more rapid weight loss – and managed to get their sham study reported on the front page of Europe’s biggest newspaper.
Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. conducted a study which supposedly proved that people lost weight 10% faster if they ate chocolate. But turns out Johannes is actually John, a journalist. And while he does indeed have a Ph.D., it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria. Meanwhile the ‘Institute of Diet and Health’ where the study was supposedly carried out is actually just a website.
Bohannon and his team set out to prove just how easy it is to turn “bad science into big headlines”. And they succeeded. The study was not only reported in newspapers and magazines around the world, with the media going crazy about this ‘proof’ that chocolate causes weight loss, it was also accepted into supposedly reputable scientific journals.
So, in a time of nutrition information overload, a lesson that we really need to question everything we read, even if it is written by someone with a Ph.D. People are desperate for nutrition information but often leave themselves at mercy of the media which, at the end of the day, makes its money from a good story. As Bohannon points out “Journalists need to feed the daily news beast and diet science is their horn of plenty”.
Read the article here
The Blue Zones
The ‘Blue Zones’ are five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. which have the highest concentrations of centenarians (that’s people who live to 100+) in the world.
Not surprisingly, the amazingly good health of these people has largely been attributed to their diets. While looking at the different foods they eat, one in particular stood out as being common to four of the five regions: beans (or more accurately, legumes).
Praise the humble legume
Yep, apparently the humble legume (i.e. chickpeas, lentils, butter beans, kidney beans, black beans etc) is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. And no wonder. There aren’t many foods around which give you such an the impressive combination of protein, low GI carbohydrates, iron and fibre.
Not only that – they are also one of the easiest and most versatile (not to mention cheapest) foods to cook with. They can be added to salad, soup, stew to add extra protein and texture or even mashed as an alternative to mashed potatoes. Plus they make an awesome breakfast dish – homemade baked beans are an absolute favourite of mine and so much better than the tinned variety it seems wrong to even compare them!
So forget the latest Amazonian “superfood” – go for some good old beans instead.
Four bean salad with pesto recipe here
The Healthy Eating Pyramid is designed to provide a simple, visual guide to the types and proportions of foods we should eat every day for good health.
There are a few changes in particular from the 2007 version that are worth noting:
1. The bottom of the pyramid is now made up of just vegetables, legumes and fruit, showing that the majority of our diet should be made up of these foods.
2. Added sugar has joined salt outside the pyramid (with a cross next to it) to indicate that intake should be limited
3. The top section of the pyramid now features only healthy fats rather than all fats. This demonstrates that healthy fats (e.g. olive oil) are a necessary part of our diet, whereas saturated fats (e.g. butter) should be limited
Dietary guidelines in Australia are often criticised as being unhelpful or ineffective. However, the statistics show that an average of 35% of our daily kilojoules come from foods which aren’t even on this pyramid (i.e. junk food) which raises the question, how many people are actually following them? We can’t genuinely claim something is ineffective if we haven’t actually tried it….
If you would like more information about the Healthy Eating Pyramid, you can read it here
Instead, it’s generally something along the lines of ‘Well, it depends….’ followed by a lengthy explanation of the importance of balance, moderation and context when assessing the health attributes of individual foods.
The word healthy seems to have become one of the most overused and abused words in our vocabulary. If the definition of a healthy food is one that is ‘good for one’s health’, any food could be considered healthy depending on the context. Eating a Mars Bar if you were starving in the desert (for argument’s sake) would surely be the more ‘healthy’ option than eating nothing at all. But does that make Mars Bars healthy?
The classification of foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ encourages us to see food as black or white, something that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and in turn we consider ourselves ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on what food choices we make. But instead of relying on this arbitrary description to dictate what foods you eat (or think you should eat), try thinking about the following:
- Is the majority of what you’re eating whole, minimally processed plant foods (vegetables, legumes, fruit and grains)?*
- Are you including a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats?*
- Are you listening to your hunger and fullness signals and taking them into account when you decide what, how much and when you eat?*
- Are you enjoying food without obsessing about it, listening to your body and not eliminating any food groups?
Remember that all food can be part of a ‘healthy’ diet.
*If you’re not sure about any of these points, our dietitians and nutritionists can help.
The daily grind is hard enough without having to deal with low energy levels and the dreaded afternoon slump. We can all relate to the daily battle of the 3pm caffeine and chocolate cravings. But what and when you eat at work can make a huge difference to your day, helping you to feel more energised and focused so that you can concentrate on work instead of the contents of the vending machine!
Here are some tips to help make the working day a bit easier:
- Regular meals: Keep your energy and concentrations levels high by eating regularly throughout the day, i.e. a meal or snack every 3-4 hours
- Balance: Aim to have a good balance of protein and carbohydrates in your breakfast and lunch. Protein (e.g. lean meat, eggs, reduced fat dairy, beans/legumes) helps to keep you full while carbohydrates (e.g. bread, rice, pasta) provide energy to get you through the day.
- Keep it low: Opt for low GI carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and crackers, rice, pasta, chickpeas and beans – this will help avoid the 3pm chocolate cravings!
- Hydrate: Make sure you drink plenty of water – try filling up a large bottle at the start of the day and make sure its finished by the time you go home.
- DIY: If possible, take your own lunch and snacks to work – this way you can ensure your meals and snacks are as healthy as possible and you’ll also save money
- Time Out: Make sure you take time out for lunch and take a break from your desk – a quick walk can work wonders!
Protein is huge right now and there is barely a gym goer in sight without a protein shake in hand. Having a meal or snack containing a decent amount of protein after exercise is important in maximising the benefits, however, highly processed and expensive protein powders are far from essential. You can get the same benefits (and more) from real food, without all of the additional unnecessary ingredients, not to mention expense!
This recipe contains around the same amount of protein as your average commercial protein shake. Not only that, this one also contains plenty of low GI carbohydrates to help you recover from your workout so you’ll be in great shape for the next one!
High Protein Choc Banana Smoothie
Ingredients (makes 1):
½ cup reduced fat Greek yoghurt
1 cup reduced fat milk
1 teaspoon cocoa
3 tablespoons rolled oats OR 2 tablespoons skim milk powder
2 teaspoons honey (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender, pour into a glass and serve.
Peanut Banana Smoothie – instead of cocoa, use 1 tablespoon peanut butter – delicious!