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As a dietitian

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5 Ways to Gain a Healthier Gut

Our gut holds over 500 million neurons which connects to the brain and 95% of the serotonin (also known as the key hormone of happiness) is found in our gut.

The gut seems to be a hot nutrition topic these days. There is a lot of new research happening which is showing that gut is related to our mood, mental focus, immune system and even conditions like depression.

Given the importance of a healthier gut, it may be worthwhile to incorporate a few changes in our diet. Here are some simple ways to gain yourself a healthier gut:

  1. Go high on wholefoods

If there is one message you are taking away from reading this article, it should be this. Eat wholefoods when you can and give refined carbohydrates or processed foods a break. Eating wholefoods will reward your body with the goodness of fibre and other essential nutrients our body needs for regulation of gut health.

  1. Go slow on the sugar

While we have known for some time that too much sugar is not good for our body, recent research is revealing that it may also be changing our gut flora. Having lots of sugar in your diet will promote the growth of sugar-loving bacteria in our gut and can result in cravings for more sugar. Depriving them of sugar often produces bacterial toxins which can leave you feeling poorly.

  1. Swap to better fats

A diet which is high in saturated and trans fat (also known as bad fats) has been linked to many chronic diseases, including gastrointestinal disorders. Polyunsaturated fats (which includes omega 3 and 6) help promote the growth of a healthy gut microbiota.

  1. Drink water

Water is our lifeline as it flushes out toxins and maintains fluid balance in our body. As a rule of thumb, an average adult needs about 8 glasses of water per day. If you are struggling to get enough in your day, you could try squeezing in more by adding citrus flavours such as lemons.

  1. Don’t expect changes overnight

Recognise that this will be a long term process. Think of it as planting seeds in your garden today and expecting fruits in a couple of years. Much like a garden, your gut needs to be nurtured and looked after before you see the fruit.

5 tips for a healthier winter

Getting through winter is no easy task because the shorter, darker days often leave us with gloom and makes us want to hibernate.

We all know that feeling when your wake up on a cold winter morning and something doesn’t feel quite right. It starts off with a sore throat and you just know you’re coming down with something. You start wondering who you caught it from and whether you could have taken any precautions! Here are 5 tips to keep your wellness game strong this winter:

  1. Keep colours on your plate

Fruit and vegetables are a source of antioxidant and nutrients that protect us against cell damage and infection. Try baking some seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, beetroot etc. You could also include them in casseroles or soups, perfect for some winter warmth!

  1. Keep up with your fluid intake

Water is needed in lymph fluid which is part of your immune system and can help fight off illness. However, most of us struggle to drink enough water due to the cold. This is where hot drinks like tea can come in handy. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and can also provide comfort and warmth in the cold. You can also try drinking warm water with a slice of lemon or citrus fruit for added flavour.

  1. Boost up your immune system

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) have a key role in keeping our immune system going strong. Vitamin A is found in orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes pumpkin while vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin can also help support the immune system. Sources of vitamin D include sun exposure, oily fish such as mackerels, salmon and sardines, as well as fortified margarines. Zinc is a mineral that can help with healing and is found in lean meat, poultry and seafood and smaller amounts in pepitas, sesame seeds and baked beans.

  1. Keep exercising

Statistics suggests that 45% of Australians are expected to put on 1-2kg this winter. Winter weight gain commonly occurs from exercising less, eating more snack and takeaway foods. While exercising in the cold can be challenging, it can also boost your mood and reduce your stress levels. Stress can have a negative impact on our body as it sets up chronic inflammation in our body. Producing excess amounts of cortisol (due to stress) can weaken the immune system.

  1. Keep your hygiene game strong

This may sound simple but washing hands frequently is the number one way to stop the spread of germs. Experts recommend washing hands every few hours, especially after using the toilet and before eating. It’s also a good idea to wash them after touching someone else’s phone or keyboard at work.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Feel free to share other tips with me 🙂

Food trends in 2018?

In today’s age of feeling good and eating better, annual food trends have become a real thing. You don’t always know what is coming up ahead but it is often possible to make predictions based on current popularity of particular foods. Here are five expected food trends that 2018 may bring out for us:

More plant-based/ vegan diets

Veganism has been incredibly popular diet in 2017 and it is thought that it will only increase in popularity through 2018. While there are other ways to decrease your carbon footprint, vegan diets have been regarded as environmentally sustainable by many. However, we cannot say that eating a certain type of diet (i.e. vegan) is any better for the environment. This is because it depends on several other factors which take production systems and waste amount into consideration.

Gut friendly food

Because let’s face it, gut health is the new thing and it’s on everyone’s mind! People usually think of fermented products or pickled veggies but it can include so much more. Eating adequate vegetables, fibre, prebiotic-rich, probiotic-rich foods and fluid intake can influence gut health. So, we expect restaurants and catering places to incorporate more gut friendly options this year.

Making food more accessible with tech

With technological advancements, we may see more apps like UberEats or apps that can filter restaurants to some of the popular diets we have seen (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan). There are speculations that drones may be taking up tasks such as coffee making or even delivery!

Single serve packs

There has been some in the market already but it is expected that this will increase further to provide convenient snacks for busy working individuals. It could include portion controlled snacks (i.e. chips) and options providing portable protein on the go.

New superfoods?

In the previous years, we have seen foods like kale, quinoa, acai, goji berries take over the market so definitely know there will be some new superfoods coming in the spotlight. As hemp seed foods has been recently legalised in Australia, it is expected that this will become a trend with hemp being included in smoothies, ice cream and other desserts. Other super foods may include nut oils, maqui berries, tiger nuts and mushroom powders/ supplements.

 

How to eat well when you’re time poor?

Have you ever told yourself that you’d follow a healthier diet if you had more time? We are all so busy these days, studying, working, looking after family/ kids, and everything in between; it can be difficult to make time to focus on your health. Many of us seem to be using the excuse to convince ourselves that we are ‘too busy’ to make health a priority at this point in time. We are often stuck in a vicious cycle where we hope that there will come a time when the situation will improve.

But, the truth is that things are not going to change on its own unless you initiate them. Your tomorrow needs to start today, and right now. So, here are five simple ways to kick start your healthy habits.

1. Meal planning

Perhaps, the most important factor in healthy eating is meal planning because it simply gives you more control of what goes in your mouth. By planning your meals, you won’t have to purchase take-away meals from the corner shop. If you find it overwhelming to plan for the entire week, start by planning one or two days at a time (i.e. plan what you are going to eat tomorrow and so forth). Make sure to account for meals and snacks at work too.

2. Write it down

By writing a shopping list, you will be equipped with all the right ingredients which will assist with your meal planning. At the beginning, you may find it easier to write down the meals you intend to cook, as well as the ingredients required to prepare this meal. If you are old fashioned and prefer to write it down, there are plenty of templates available online to stick on your fridge which look similar to this. If you are tech savvy and prefer to record it on your smartphone, there are lots of great apps to help you do this. You could also consider shopping online and opting for home delivery or pick-up at the store which may potentially save you some time, depending on your location. All of the major food retailers nowadays offer this service. If you are not into online shopping and prefer to buy your foods in person, that’s perfectly okay. Writing yourself a list and planning ahead will speed up the time you spend in the store.

3. Meal prep

There are a few different ways you can do this. Some may prefer to cook in bulk over the weekend or assemble the ingredients (i.e. chopping) so it is easier to throw something together on a weeknight (i.e. one pot meals). While some may argue that meal prep results in a loss of nutrients if it is reheated throughout the week, it is still beneficial to meal prep as most nutrients are unaffected except for vitamin C, folate and thiamine. It is important to remember that a nutrient value of a food will always change to some extend once it is cooked. Adding less water and cooking over lower temperatures can help retain nutrients, as well as careful storage of food.

4. Make the freezer your best friend

Freezing your meals is not only convenient on a busy day, but also helps to reduce food wastage and staving off the monotony that you might otherwise have with eating the same meals for the whole week. Moreover, your freezer can also accommodate for frozen vegetables that can be used for convenience.

5. Finally, keep it simple!

Recognise that learning a new habit will always be hard at the beginning, so start with what you already know. As you build up your skills, you can slowly start experimenting with new recipes. Also, remember that you don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. There are plenty of ways you can save time. Frozen fruit and vegetables, as well as canned vegetables/lentils are very similar in nutrients to fresh varieties and can be cheaper too.

 

How to start the year on the right foot?

Happy February!

Have you made your New Year Resolutions yet for 2018? Perhaps, you are still contemplating on them; or maybe you’ve come up with a few and realised that it isn’t going to work for you.

New Year Resolutions are great; but let’s be honest, we always tend to come up with goals that are overly ambitious or vague (i.e. I’m going to start eating healthier). Most of the time these goals don’t stick with us because we make them too hard for us and we don’t define it clearly in our mind. For example, eating healthy will mean different things to different people.

Here are some ways you could be more specific about your goals to lead a healthier lifestyle-

1) Losing weight

The most common goal people may have might be to lose weight. If this is you, don’t just say “I am going to lose weight this year.” Ask yourself, “how much is it that I want to lose?” If you have a very large number in mind, remember that you can realistically only lose 0.5-1 kg per week. If you are losing any more than this, it’s not likely to be sustainable. Australian statistics suggest that the most conscious group are 25-34 years, with the most common weight loss goal being 10kg.

2) Saying yes to brekkie

Most people already know that breakfast is a very important meal as it fuels us with energy for the day. However, many struggle with having a proper breakfast due to reasons such as time constraints. But it is possible to step up your breakfast game by prepping it the night before (i.e. portable-breakfast options) or keeping breakfast at your workplace.

3) Eating vegetables

Ask yourself, “When are the times I want to eat more veggies?” Adults need around 5-6 serves of vegetables, and it is not practical to be consuming it all in the one meal. It is best to spread it out during main meals and snacks.

4) Snacking healthier

Many of us don’t plan our snacks and often end up reaching for a bar of chocolate or something from the corner store when they get ‘hangry’. If this is you, it may be helpful to invest in snacks so you can keep it in your bag or at work. Examples of healthier snacks can include a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, carrot sticks with hummus.

5) Being more active: a lot of people tend to set exercise goals as it closely aligns with losing weight. Statistics show that a higher number of gym memberships are purchased in January, compared to other months. However, gym membership sales drop by March as autumn hits. Before rushing to join a gym you may never use, ask yourself what kind of exercise you’d like to do and how long you’d like to commit each day.

Remember to start slow and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that it takes time to build good habits!

5 ways to keep the kilos off during Christmas

The average Australian gains 0.8-1.5 kg over the Christmas period. While this may not seem like a lot, research has shown that the weight gained during this period is rarely lost. Unfortunately, this means this weight gain often accumulate over the years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy all the Christmas festivities without having to worry about the extra kilos? Well, the good news is you sort of can! Here are 5 possible ways you can make the most of Christmas this summer without worrying about the bulge:

  1. Portion control

There is so much food everywhere, whether it is the family gatherings or the work parties. The abundance of food often makes us crave things simply because it is sitting there in front of us. It is important to remind yourself that you are allowed to eat anything and everything you want. So, do not deprive yourself from any of your favourite foods, but remember to keep your portion small.

  1. Pace yourself

At large gatherings and work parties, food often tends to arrive slowly and you often don’t know what’s on the menu. Go slow on the starters because mains and desserts may get even better. If you know you are going to be feasting all day, be selective with your choice. You don’t have to try absolutely everything that’s in front of you. Say yes to your favourite foods and give yourself permission to enjoy those foods slowly.

  1. Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is about being fully present in your surrounding and eating in a way that allows you to experience food with all your senses (i.e. seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling). We often tend to eat more when we are with people as we don’t pay as much attention to what we are eating. To save yourself from this situation, take the time to chat to the other guests to slow down your pace.

  1. Plan ahead

Think about what you will be doing during the course of the day and plan your meals accordingly. If you know you will be feasting at a dinner party, make sure to eat a lighter lunch. Most of us feel the need to spoil our guests when are hosting a party. It’s important to remember that all of us are susceptible to sensory-specific satiety which means we are attracted to variety foods that are different in shapes and colours. Remember, to fill your menu with lots of salad and vegetables and consider making smaller sized dessert treats.

  1. Physical activity can do wonders

Fortunately, we have a warmer Christmas in Australia which makes it much easier to go outdoors and be active. We all know the concept of energy in, energy out so, being more physically active during this time will help you burn off the excess energy. Christmas parties tend to be overly well catered so make sure to get in lots of walking throughout the day and some extra workouts, where possible.

Finally, remind yourself that it is okay to indulge a little during the holiday season. Happy holidays!

 

Five things I love about being a dietitian

 

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while now but thought I’d leave it for something special like Dietitian’s Day (which is today)

And here we go 🙂

1.    You are legally allowed to spend more time thinking about food. 
The normal, acceptable amount for a person is 10% (according to experts), with exceptions for people if their profession involves dealing with food. If you’re thinking more or less than this, your dietary habits may not be considered so normal. But as dietitians, you’re allowed to obsess about food, and it’s totally okay! 😉

2.    You always have something to strike up a conversation.
Have you ever been in an awkward situation where you’re trying to carry out a conversion, but not sure what topic to pick? It can be a struggle when you’re connecting with new people. Talking about food is a good starting point because it’s something we all eat; each and every one of us has something to share about food (likes/dislikes).

2.    You can treat both healthy and not healthy people.
You have the opportunity to work with people providing medical nutrition therapy or a healthy, balanced diet. You can be seeing a dietitian no matter what age or what your health status is. I appreciate the ability to be able to do both as most health professionals or clinicians don’t do this.

4.    People model you; you have to be more conscious?
A lot of my people I know have mentioned this to me as a negative thing. But I personally don’t see it that way. I think it’s great if people are modelling you because they’re a) giving you attention b) learning something from you and c) interested in getting healthier. People giving me attention during meal times makes me conscious and keeps me in check. It allows me to demonstrate healthy eating habits (without saying it aloud all the time). If I wanted to go out and be unhealthy for a meal, I could always eat a burger too; demonstrating the ‘everything in moderation’ principle 😛

5.    You can be looking at recipes or food pictures and still be ‘technically working.’
No matter what setting you’re working in (clinical, community, public health, and research), there is always a potential need to be looking up a recipe whether it be for a patient/client, research or recipe development purposes. I remember taking full advantage of this when I did my placement at Heart Foundation (we were supposed to come up with recipes incorporating seasonal produce). It’s great having a ‘recipe looking up’ break when you’re working on a ‘dry’ project.

Australia’s Healthy Weight Week

This week is all about encouraging people to eat healthy, home cooked meals and making small changes towards a healthy lifestyle. It is also about telling people what we do as dietitians (hence I am writing)
The pictures are from the morning tea we hosted (colleagues and myself) for staff on our floor at work. 
As you can tell from the photos, we tried to include something from all the food groups. We wanted to make it colourful and include healthier options, where possible. 
Fruits: apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, figs, passionfruit, nectarines and peaches
Vegetables: carrots, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and beetroot dip
Dairy: low fat yoghurt and low fat ricotta (fritatata)
Lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts and legumes: variety of nuts, hommus
Cereals: wholemeal pita bread
If you’d like to read more information on the AHWW, head over to http://healthyweightweek.com.au/ 🙂

Zucchini, pea and mint frittata (made by a friend)

#eattherainbow

Holiday cooking (Part 2)

This part of my holidays was spent a bit differently. I went away to Asia to spend some quality time with my mum.

I didn’t have to cook as often as I normally would (mum and others pretty much took care of everything)

The food supply was also a bit different, some of the things I use back home wasn’t readily available here. 
Not having access to some things was difficult, but at the same time, I got to try other things I don’t eat as often in Sydney (like guavas, they’re my favourite!)

Recipe up for oatmeal omelette 🙂

Orange pancakes with spicy chicken
Sweet potato, guava and orange salad

Guava, pineapple and mandarin salad

Yoghurt pancakes

Sea of green!
Pineapple and chicken pasta
Chicken, carrot and pea dumpling

Chicken, carrot and capsicum skewers

Green papaya and broccoli ribbon pasta

Oatmeal omelette

Holiday cooking (Part 1)

After completion of my thesis, I had the best time doing some cooking experiments. I spent a part of it overseas (see part 2)
I’ve posted the recipe for kale chips and wholemeal date and walnut loaf.
Veggie mess of zucchini, broccoli, beans, carrots and bean sprouts
Rainbow trout cutlets with potatoes, zucchini, tomato and bean sprouts
Sesame sprinkled salmon with tomatoes, peas and wilted spinach
Wholemeal date and walnut loaf
Kale chips with tzatziki

Chicken spinach parcel with sweet potato mash
Chocolate banana ice cream with flaked almonds (vegan)
Oats, coconut and sultana cookies
Poached salmon, sweet potato and walnut salad
Asparagus and prawn curry
Sweet potato, chicken and capsicum skewers

Lemon herb salmon with sweet potato mash and zucchini

Crumbed chicken on a stick

Wholemeal fettuccine with lamb, zucchini and asparagus

Finally a dietitian!



It seems like not too long ago when I was in third year and was trying to decide what I wanted to do. Some of my friends wanted to continue studying in the field for an honours or masters, while some wanted to do medicine or pharmacy and some just wanted to get out there and find jobs. 

I remember thinking, what do I do? Where do I fit in? 
I was doing a mini neuroscience research project at the time that I had really enjoyed so I was considering honours. But at the same time, I realised I had a passion for food.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved working in the lab and doing things I did like molecular biology, haematology, anatomical pathology, etc. But I kind of started realising my love for food and I wanted to do something that would allow me to make a difference in people’s health. That was the initial vision that drove me to explore. 

Up until this point, I had never done a nutrition subject so it was rather strange. The closest thing I did to nutrition was probably metabolic biochemistry. It seemed crazy and weird but I just had this strong gut feeling that dietitian was what I wanted to be. 

I did some initial reading to see if I would meet the prerequisites. I knew the course would be highly competitive, with most people having a nutrition major in their undergraduate who may be given higher priority. But of course, I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I applied anyway. I just told myself, if this doesn’t work out, it’s not meant to be. 

About a month later, I was checking my email just after my final exams and I distinctly remember getting the happiest shock of my life as I saw the offer. 

Soon enough, it was time to tell everyone else. It was quite funny to see everyone’s reactions because most people had never thought this was something I would study. I guess it was because I never did anything food or cooking related so they did not see my interest. 

But now that I think about it, I did do a fair bit of cooking, growing up with a single parent. However, it wasn’t something that was discussed with someone else because, as a teenager, there were better things to talk about, like what happened on msn (shush, it was cool back then). I did used to take pictures of food though and I quite enjoyed this but I just didn’t realise I could make a career out of something I loved, until that ‘light bulb moment’ in third year 😛

It was this time, two years ago, I took a risk and decided to pursue dietetics. I knew what I was about to do would be quite unusual from what I was doing at the time and but it’s a risk I was willing to take. To be honest, it seemed like the craziest thing I had ever done because it was a decision I made on my own. 

It has been a very challenging and difficult journey but I’m so glad I took up this path because the experience I got out of it was absolutely incredible! I have learnt so much and made even more mistakes at the same time (just as you do with anything new) but it has allowed me to grow as a stronger person. 

Today I had my presentation where I presented the findings of my research. That was my last assessment which 
officially makes me dietitian now (yay!)

To celebrate this, we went out to get some hot chocolate afterwards as it had been raining all day but ended up eating churros (just as you would at San Churros!)



Now looking forward to doing all the thing I have been putting off, like socialising with humans 😉

x

(Un) Organised October

This month has gone by way too quick! (Okay, I know I said that last month too but this month went even quicker)

It started off with me madly writing my results, then doing discussion. Discussion took me about a week :/ I was rushing to finish my draft because I had to send it to my supervisor and leave enough time for feedback.

I allowed myself two weeks time (which I thought was too much, at the time!) But I was so glad I did this later because it can take a couple of days to get feedback as supervisors are too busy to read it in one go.

Anyway, now let me move onto the other fun things I did. Starting off with the most important highlight of the month: I WENT TO CENTRAL PERK!!!!

I was so bogged down with writing, I almost didn’t realise it was finishing and made it in the last weekday after handing in my draft.

I had to wait for about an hour but I would say the wait was worth it because I’m such a ‘friends’ obsessed freak. Getting my butt on that couch was just phenomenal!

I’ve never been much of a coffee person but you simply don’t say no to coffee at Central Perk haha! As you can see, I tried as a hand model 😛

Oh, and speaking of which, I did modelling for an old friend. I wasn’t sure if it was the best idea to be doing this at a time when my thesis was due just around the corner after but sometimes you just gotta take risks haha.
I felt like I needed to take a break from writing because it does get intense sometimes. Besides, it was only for two weekends so it motivated me to work harder on the other days. 

It was a great experience and doing something different helped me clear my head. Plus, I got to eat yummy treats like these so that was an added bonus 😛

Too pretty to eat right?

Matchy matchy 

The next thing I had coming up was dad’s birthday, this was right before my thesis was due so I made sure I allocated myself enough time to bake a cake and get organised. See recipe here because daddy’s birthday deserves a post of its own! 🙂

Soon after, it was time to hand in my thesis. The last few days wasn’t as hectic as I thought it would be (thankfully!) but it was still somewhat hectic. See post-thesis blog to see what I did after I finished 😉

I realise I haven’t taken a lot of photos this month. This was because I didn’t get a lot of time to make anything fancy or experiment anything new. Most of the times, I stuck to simple wholesome meals like these- 

Chicken, avo and leafy salad

Herb chicken and asparagus

Huge veggie mess (I just threw in whatever I had!)

Simple September

Spring time!

Gosh, this month has gone by too quick! I have been quite busy with research (currently finishing up data extraction) so haven’t been able to write up proper recipes.

Also, my mum came to visit (for her birthday) so she has been taking care of most of the chores now and I have been doing minimal cooking.

Here are some shots from our mini party and other simple eats this month-

Woke up early to make brekkie for mumma- capsicum, kale and feta frittata
Chocolate raspberry slice

Red quinoa, chicken and potato balls

Sweet potato and pecan brownies

Coconut cupcakes
Carrot energy balls (mum)- I call them ‘high energy balls’ because of the amount of sugar she puts in them!

Chicken buns (mum)- not the healthiest as these are fried but they make good party treats!

Green tea cupcakes with orange icing
I tried being artsy 😛

That’s all for now 🙂
x