Jenelle Croatto APD
Despite our disbelief…Christmas is almost here! While there still may be a few weeks before we officially go on holiday leave, the opportunity to indulge in gastronomic delights is just around the corner – and I can’t wait to tuck in!
Now before you think this dietitian has gone a little mad, I want you to ponder the concept that the food and lifestyle choices you make between New Years and Christmas, far out weigh those choices you make between Christmas and New Years.
Christmas, and indeed any festive occasion, is certainly a time when we can simply enjoy food for no other reason than pure joy – (isn’t that refreshing to hear!). That said, this is no excuse for an all out food frenzy.
This ‘silly season’, embrace the festivities with a healthy amount of holiday cheer, and a game-plan that won’t see you derail your health goals – here are my 5 Top Tips!
Make a Commitment
Rather than surrendering to all manner of seasonal treats, selectively choose a few occasions to relax the way you eat – and then outside of these times, reel it back in. Whether it be an extra bevvie at your office party or a generous helping of pudding with Christmas lunch… make a plan and stick to it.
Don’t Go Hungry
“Saving your appetite” never works. Never. Forgoing brekkie and lunch, only to arrive at your Christmas party with the appetite of grizzly bear emerging from hibernation, will quickly see you dodge the small talk pleasantries and make a beeline for the buffet. Your best bet is to eat balanced meals throughout the day and sensibly enjoy the food or nibblies on offer.
Go for Quality
Rather than grazing on Cheezels, just because they’re there… make a solid choice to only eat food that brings you joy. You have nothing to gain from mindlessly eating food that makes you feel like blah - AND robs your appetite of what you truly desire. Food is delicious! So make it worth your while and tune into the full experience of eating.
No to ‘Top-ups’
While you watch what you eat, don’t forget about the booze. Did you know that the average bar serve of wine or full strength beer contains as much energy found in a tablespoon of butter! Yikes! Saying “yes” to top-ups can quickly see those pesky kilos creep on, so make it a rule to finish your glass before accepting another.
The Opportunity to Move!
What if, instead of seeing the holidays as a time to indulge, we viewed it as a time to focus on our wellbeing and to move more! One of the reasons we struggle with growing waistlines is because we’re busy, run down and can’t always find the time to move. With a simple change in perspective, the holidays can actually be the perfect time to make your life more active. Whether it be a game of backyard cricket, a swim at the pool or a balmy evening walk – it all counts.
Jenelle Croatto APD
It’s a question I’m sure you’ve pondered! Just flick through any glossy health magazine or social media news feed, and I’m sure you’ll come across different theories on how often you should eat. From six-meals-a-day, to the latest dietary craze of ‘intermittent fasting’ (more on this another time), it’s no wonder we’ve all become a little bamboozled over something as simple as eating food.
The six-meals-a-day approach may work for some, but in practice it means you’ll need some pretty impressive organization skills – and let’s face it, sometimes just getting dinner on the table in a timely fashion is a win for the day! Perhaps the greatest difficultly I see in this approach lies in the need to reduce meal size. While the intent may be to have six small meals, what I usually see is people eating three regular sized meals, plus the three snacks! So, unless you’re an elite athlete or are actively trying to gain weight, this approach certainly has its challenges when it comes to weight loss or maintenance.
Whilst there are no hard and fast rules as to when we should eat, I am a fan of sticking to the time-honored tradition of three meals a day. This style of eating is deeply entrenched in our culture, and for the most part I think it works well - particularly if you attend school or spend your day at work.
While children certainly need snacks in between meals to support growth and meet nutritional needs, most adults will do just fine with three main meals, spread throughout day. By eating wholesome balanced meals, the aim is to comfortably fill you up and get your mind off food – which is just what we need in todays world of growing waistlines. I typically find it’s those who graze all day, are the ones who constantly think about what and when they’ll next eat. Current research also shows, that ‘grazers’ usually end up eating more by the days end, than those who focus on eating three balanced meals.
What about snacks? …
If you feel like eating in-between your meals, just do a quick body-scan before snacking to see if you’re truly hungry or are perhaps eating for others reasons such as boredom, procrastination or even thirst. Try also assess how hungry you really are as I often see people reach for a snack at the first pang of hunger, to then only eat their next meal shortly after. Keep in mind that a little bit of hunger is not a bad thing – it actually means your body will turn to using stored energy, rather than utilising the energy coming in from that snack you had at close reach.
If your day requires you to have long gaps between meals, a snack may just help see you through to your next meal. The aim is to start your meal feeling hungry, not ravenous – as only leads to overconsumption and you feeling sluggish, rather than refueled.
The bottom line is to be smart with your snacks. Have healthy wholefood options such as yoghurt, fruit, nuts or wholegrain muesli bar on hand, to eat if you have more than 2 hours before your next meal, and have real, rather than perceived hunger.
Lisa Donaldson APD
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and you are like an untamed animal, sniffing around for something sweet to eat. Despite your best efforts to prepare a healthy snack box, those vege sticks and hummus are not going to tame that inner niggle and you are starting to feel irritated… WHY?
This might seem like a lack of self control, but what you are battling with during these times are some very powerful hormones and not enough SLEEP.
HUNGER HORMONES - We have two hormones in our body that control our appetite, they are called leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is a bit of a gremlin - he’s our appetite INCREASER. Ghrelin levels go up in times of hunger and stays down for about 3 hours after a meal. Leptin however, is our hormonal ‘appetite suppressor’ and researchers state that leptin can help keep the ‘ghrelin’ under control. The problem is, the power of leptin is hindered when we are sleep deprived… So, if you have a rotten night of sleep, be prepared for your appetite and hunger to be elevated.
GIVE ME SUGAR NOW!!!! - A lack of sleep can disrupt our adrenal glands and make us feel very exhausted. When this happens we tend to look for energy to pick us up, and that energy is often the sugary kind! It is true that sugar gives us a fast boost, but it is shortly followed by a fast crash… So be prepared and instead of reaching for the jelly beans, opt for a protein based snack like nuts or yoghurt.
WARM UP WITH CAFFEINE & COOL DOWN WITH WINE? If you have a daily affair with both caffeine and wine, be prepared for a rocky night in bed. According to the Sleep Health Foundation the effects of caffeine can last from four to six hours, but your body needs about 24 hours to completely eliminate it. Many people who consume a lot of caffeine think that it no longer stops them from being able to go to sleep, because they have become immune to this effect. However, research shows that, even if they think otherwise, sleep is impaired and they would sleep much better if they abstained from it in the afternoons. As for alcohol, it may help you nod off quickly but that means you can bypass the first stage of REM sleep. As the alcohol wears off, you’ll go back into REM sleep and you’ll be more likely to have a disrupted sleep overall.
So, if you are battling with cravings, it may be because your sleep isn’t quite right. So, try and set up some sleep routines so you can start to normalise your sleep patterns and rein in those hangry feelings.
LISA DONALDSON APD
Making change is not easy. There is literature, scientific studies and research around the complexities and mental challenges involved in making change. Many find that they embrace a new goal or a shift in their life with determination and gusto for about 2 weeks… and then, ‘road blocks’, excuses and ‘relaxing the reins’ starts to slow people down. I have put together some hot tips for staying on track and sticking with your plan.
Without question, being organised and diarising your exercise, shopping, cooking and prepping is the number one step towards success. There is no way you can succeed without a plan. So grab your calendar and focus on penciling in everything from meal prep to training sessions. Make a plan and watch it happen!
All meals are important, but for most people lunches can be the most challenging because you are away from home and surrounded by temptation. Packing a lunch every single day will ensure you will have nourishing food with you throughout the work day and this will minimise the allure of the charity chocolate box down the hallway.
Find people who are interested in health and wellbeing. Perhaps someone at work, a neighbour, a family member or an old friend who lives and breathes a healthy lifestyle. These supporters will become motivators and will promote consistency and perhaps some friendly competition.
Join an exercise group/team
Committing to a team or meeting a friend for a run on a regular basis will help you stay on track. Companionship and/or team mates will be there for you, even when you don’t feel like moving! Plus, they will rely on you too and you don’t want to let anyone down, right?
Make water your friend
This may seem a little odd, but having a bottle of water with you at all times can be hugely beneficial. Keeping hydrated has a number of benefits, but it will also ensure that thirst and hunger are not confused. Keep a bottle on your desk and in your bag.
Master some 15 min meals
You will have days where you feel exhausted and cannot be bothered cooking. Nailing a few 15 min meals will ensure that you can pull together a decent meal fast, without dialling up for pizza. My go to is a vege packed omelette - makes for a nourishing meal in no time.
Have an emergency stash at work
There will be times where you are extra hungry or (heavens forbid) you leave your lunchbox on the kitchen bench. Foods like tinned legumes, tuna and corn, packets of rice cakes and grainy crackers, nuts and dried fruits can be kept in a desk draw without turning bad. Non perishable items may save you from getting hangry in times of need!
Make excuses to move
Learn to take the stairs, park further away and be the person who runs errands at work. Find ways to make exercise part of your every day and reap the ‘incidental’ rewards.
Lisa Donaldson APD
If fresh job aspirations and work goals are at the forefront of your mind, what you eat could become a defining factor between getting there or not. The fuel we consume not only sparks our vitality but also drives our mental capacity. Without adequate nutrition it’s not possible to be firing on all cylinders or achieving our best!
It’s important to realize that what you have for breakfast and pack for lunch may contribute to how well you manage to stay ‘switched on’ throughout a long day at work. ‘Brain powering’ fuel won’t suddenly make you a genius, but by consuming an appropriate diet you will remain alert and satisfied throughout the day. There is nothing worse than feeling hungry or sleepy whilst trying to focus on learning something new or write a complex paper.
Carbs = Brain Fuel
The preferred source of fuel for our brain is carbohydrates. When the body consumes wholegrain breads and cereals the body breaks these down to glucose for the body and brain to use. Packed with fibre, wholegrains and carb rich vegetables are the way to go as they are absorbed slowly and ensure a steady stream of energy is provided across the course of the day. Enjoy oats for breakfast, a wholegrain sandwich for lunch and perhaps some sweet potato mash for dinner and you are on the right track.
Eggs = Memory Boosting
Eggs contain choline, a nutrient beneficial for brain development and memory. They are also a really satisfying breakfast choice that will keep you fuller for longer. A great source of protein and packed full of nutrition, eggs are a great choice any time of the day. Served softly boiled at breakfast with some wholegrain toast and grilled tomato, or hard-boiled for a snack or sandwich; eggs are a definite pleaser. For those unable to eat eggs, yoghurt, tofu and buckwheat are also great sources of choline for brain development.
Omega 3s = Brain Development
Omega 3 fatty acids go to the top of the class for brain and eye development, as well as stabilizing mood. Found in foods like walnuts, linseeds, eggs and salmon, there are loads of different ways to maximize your intake of these high performing fatty acids. Tuck some salmon and salad into a soy & linseed pita pocket for lunch or create a ‘brain-power’ trail mix of dried fruit, walnuts, blueberries and yoghurt bites for a delicious desk snack.
Along with these suggestions, consume loads of fresh fruit and vegetables so your brain will be switched on and powered up for the day. Think minimally processed foods when you are preparing all meals.
A ‘clever’ day on a plate:
Breakfast: 2 soft boiled eggs with a slice of soy & linseed bread and some grilled tomato/baby spinach/mushrooms
Morning Tea: a small yoghurt with ¼ cup blueberries
Lunch: a wholegrain pita pocket with salmon and salad
Afternoon Tea: Fresh and dried fruit with walnuts and yoghurt bites
Dinner: Grilled steak with sweet potato mash and mixed greens
Eating well not only keeps you in great shape but helps keep your brain sharp! So power up your brain the right way… and as always, eat close to nature!
Lisa Donaldson APD
Ever get home, look in your fridge and pantry and think… ‘there’s nothing to eat?!?’ This is a common occurrence in households who have given no time to planning meals for the week. Meal Planning might sound time consuming and/or a hassle, but it doesn’t need to be. Let me help you get on top of your week some simple tips!
BREAKFAST - Choose two options and alternate:
If you are not too bright in the morning, keep things simple so you can cruise through your morning without getting frazzled. My hot tip – choose one option that can be prepped ahead of time. CHOICE 1: a breakfast like a bircher muesli, berry and oat smoothie or a chia pudding can be in the fridge ready to go ahead of time. Pack into a transportable container and breakfast can be consumed at work or after morning gym workout. CHOICE 2: a warm breakfast like scrambled eggs with some spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes, or some hot oats can be enjoyed on days when you have a little extra time.
WORK LUNCH – Soup or leftovers:
In the winter months I love trading salad for soup. I recommend doing a soup cook-up and freezing individual portions for lunch at work. I can grab one out of the freezer and dash with little fuss in the morning. I also recommend cooking a double batch of dinner in the evenings to ensure a balanced lunch is on hand for the next day.
DINNERS – Introduce routine and 1 new recipe each week
Think about meals you can cook without too much stress, those auto pilot meals that you can do without following a recipe. These meals should take up the majority of the week. Next, think about choosing one meal each week that is new. If you like it, cook it again the following week and build it into your repertoire. If you are completely clueless in the kitchen, perhaps try a cooking class and get some meals under the belt that can be part of your weekly routine. Here are some ideas:
Lisa’s Top Auto-Pilot Meals
Don’t forget to try a new recipe each week, but those ideas should get you started on a more organised week. Plan and prep and you will feel like there is ALWAYS something to eat.
Jenelle Croatto APD
You’ve got the sandwich, wrap, leftovers or lunch order sorted – now to think of snacks!
Finding a suitable lunch box snack can be a struggle, particularly when you’re trying to weigh up taste, cost, nutrition and whether it will actually come home eaten.
While there are many wholefoods snacks available (and as both a parent and dietitian I certainly recommend children eat fewer processed foods) I, like most people feel that packaged food can be a saving grace for time strapped parents. Therefore, I wish to take the approach of teaching you which are the better pre-packaged lunch box snacks.
My number one tip is to remember that kids love exercising choice! So get them involved in packing their lunch from a few healthy options that you have selected. In doing so you may just discover that their lunch box comes home empty.
MUESLI & SNACK BARS
Fresh fruit is ideal here, so my advice is to make fruit easy to eat. Small plastic tubs can be used to hold grapes, berries, dried and diced fruit, and zip lock bags are excellent for cut up fruit such as apple. Another top apple tip is to cut a whole apple into segments and secure it with a rubber band (stops it going brown). Soft fruits (e.g. plums and apricots) can also be kept in small containers and keep an eye out for banana holders, which will help avoid a squishy bag mess at the end of the day. Of course, an easy-peel-fruit like a mandarin is always a simple go-to choice.
Should you be fresh out of fruit, a couple of back up options I like are:
Jenelle Croatto APD
The answer is a resounding YES!
To make sense of it all, I need to give you a little lesson in science.
Oils are made of fat molecules (triglycerides), which consist of a glycerol molecule linked to three fatty acids. Fatty acids may be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated - which are terms used to describe the number of ‘double bonds’ present in the chemical structure. Saturated fats have no double bonds, monounsaturated have one, and as implied by the name, polyunsaturated fats contain many.
What’s important to know, is that double bonds become unstable when exposed to heat, oxygen and light – which is why you should always store your oil away in a cool, dark place.
Saturated fats contain no double bonds, which makes them extremely resistant to damage. Monounsaturated fats are also highly resistant as they contain only one double bond, whereas polyunsaturated fats are the most fragile, containing numerous double bonds.
Also found in oils, are free fatty acids - those that aren’t buddied-up with glycerol. The amount of free fatty acids in oil varies between oil type and quality. Olive oil is low in free fatty acids, which is good news, as they tend to be more prone to oxidative damage.
Not only is olive oil rich in stable monounsaturated fats and low in free fatty acids, it also contains an abundance of protective antioxidants, which resist oxidative damage.
The third aspect which makes olive oil a superior cooking oil, is its high smoke point.
The smoke point is defined as the temperature at which you see bluish smoke rising from the oil. It’s at this point that the oil is more likely to break down and form harmful compounds. Despite common misconception, olive oil actually has a high smoke point of around 200-215°C. To help put this in perspective, stovetop cooking is around 120°C, deep-frying is 160-180°C and baking in the oven may be up to 200°C.
What likely perpetuated the myth that you shouldn’t cook with olive oil, is that olive oil contains a small portion of water. As such, some steam (not smoke) will appear upon heating olive oil long before it even reaches its smoking point.
So there you have it! Not only is olive oil exceedingly good for your health (more on this another time), it is perfectly safe to cook with.
Image credit: Medical News Today
Morgan Higgins APD
In today’s fast moving society everyone feels short of time and it can be very easy to skip or miss breakfast. As well as this some people may believe that skipping breakfast will mean that you are eating less or are able to eat more later in the day, or that it is a good weight loss technique, but unfortunately this is not the case. The old wives tale of breakfast being the most important meal of the day is actually very true and for more reasons than ‘because mum said’.
Breaking the Fast! When we look at the word ‘breakfast’ it literally means to ‘break the fast’. Our bodies are accustomed to eating or being fueled every few hours. When we are sleeping our bodies can go as long as ten hours without food, essentially going into a fasting state. That is one of the many reasons it is so important to re-fuel when you wake. So without going into nitty gritty details, having breakfast will provide your body with essential energy which has been used up while you have been sleeping and prepare you to take on the day.
Glucose! It’s what our bodies get from food and use for energy. Glucose gets broken down and stored in your muscles and tissues as glycogen and while you sleep the glycogen is released from these stores to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. This means that when we wake up our glycogen and glucose stores are low. One of the major reasons breakfast is so important is that it helps to restore these glycogen levels. Restoring the glycogen that we have used during the night will help your body to regulate its blood sugar throughout the day. It will also help with concentration and focus.
But I don’t feel hungry in the morning and then I’m starving! Yes this may be the truth but that is because the first meal of the day will kick start your metabolism into gear. If you start with a solid balanced meal early in the morning you will not be starving and will be able to better control your portions, cravings and snacking as the day progresses.
Start strong!! It is well known that we are most in control of cravings and inhibitions when we first wake up. Have you ever found that your healthy eating tends to be great and on-track early in the day but can fall off the wagon as the day goes on? For this reason having a balanced and healthy breakfast will not only fuel you but it will keep you feeling fuller for longer and lower the chance of you making less healthy, knee jerk food choices which are driven by your hunger and not mindful. It has also been discovered that people who skip breakfast tend to snack more, this snacking usually results in less nutritious options (quick sugar hits). Most importantly, eating breakfast leads to healthier food choices at other meals. It will also get your body into a regular eating pattern, and we all know we do better with routine.
Vitamins, Minerals and essential Nutrients: Just in case you weren’t convinced yet, Breakfast is also a quick and easy way to get a lot of essential vitamins and minerals into your diet. If you make sure you are getting all the necessary nutrients first thing when you wake, you already start ahead by setting yourself up to do the same throughout the day. By skipping breakfast, you may also have a difficult time consuming the essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy such as iron, folate, fiber and vitamin C and D. The negative of missing these nutrients at breakfast time is that even when eating larger meals later in the day to ‘compensate’ for missing breakfast these essential nutrients can rarely be replenished or made up.
Breakfast is easy to get right! Breakfast meals are very easy to make healthy and nutritious they usual consist of low GI grains, lean protein, dairy products, fruit and often vegetables whish are all essential sources of iron, folate, fiber and vitamin C and D. So by skipping breakfast you are missing an easy opportunity to include all of these goodies in your diet.
Don’t be scared! You do not have to sit down to a gourmet hot breakfast each and every morning. As long as you have a lean protein source, some low GI carbohydrates and plenty of plant foods you will be putting your best foot forward each and every morning.
Pic Credit: Well-Being Secrets
Why did you choose to be a dietitian?
I often tell people that dietetics found me! I was happily working as a school teacher when I was diagnosed with a kidney condition, coeliac disease and lactose intolerance. Although a healthy eater, all of a sudden I didn’t know what was left for me to eat. I became a nutrition book worm and loved reading about food. My body recovered and I felt incredible! I wanted to help others like me. So, despite loving my career as a school teacher, I decided this was my calling and that I was meant to teach people about food.
Could you tell us a little about FEEDinc - who you work with, what clients you see and what do you find most rewarding?
FEEDinc stands for FITNESS – EDUCATION – ENERGY - DIET. I was also a fitness instructor when I opened my practice, so I wanted to name my practice something that encompassed all that I could offer my clients. FEEDinc is now a team of 3 dietitians – I am very lucky to have Jenelle Croatto and Morgan Higgins working alongside me. The majority of clients we see have gastrointestinal issues or weightloss needs, but we also work with athletes as Jenelle and I are both trained Sports Dietitians. We love going into schools, gyms and workplaces and present group seminars and interactive workshops.
Can you tell us about The Food Detective? - Where did you get the idea?
The Food Detective has actually been a work in progress for many years. As someone who loved teaching school children for a decade, I wanted to be able to reach children again, but this time as a dietitian. I used to go into schools dressed in a lab coat with my magnifying glass to do ‘food investigations’ with little ones. It was always great fun but I wanted to extend this idea further. So, I contacted my musical friend ‘Mr Tim’ and we created an album of music (Takes Ten Tastes) and a stage show for kids (Mr Tim and the Food Detective) all about healthy eating. Thanks to ACT Health’s Fresh Tastes Program, we’ve just finished a pilot program of ten shows around the ACT performing to thousands of children here in Canberra. My ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ is to get The Food Detective on television!
Who do you most admire as a leader and why?
For 2.5 years I had the privilege of working with Dr Joanna McMillan in Sydney. I would travel from Canberra to Sydney each week and to this day, I think about that experience as being the most wonderful time in my dietetic career. Not only did we have a lot of fun, but I was able to see her magic in front of the camera. I learnt how to deliver complex scientific messages in a simple way for the general public – I am grateful for those experiences as I am now the DAA Spokesperson here in the ACT. During that time, I also started working for Michelle Bridges who is a powerhouse with a huge heart and boundless gratitude. I admire both of these ladies enormously. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with two incredible leaders in health and fitness who genuinely want to help others be their best.
- Favourite / most inspirational quote: “Make life happen” – everything I have ever achieved is because I have put myself out there and taken a chance.
- In my work life I cannot live without: My iPhone – it feels like my little Personal Assistant. Away from my desk I can email people, take photos, take notes and set reminders. I love my iPhone. Away from work, I try and turn it OFF!
- Highest priority on your to-do-list: I juggle so many different things every day… but my son always comes first. I always work ahead of schedules and timeframes in case he is unwell or needs me. As soon as something crosses my desk, I try and turn it around quickly and never leave anything to the last minute.
Fitness, Energy, Education & Diet