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November was Diabetes awareness month so I thought I’d share myths people have about diabetes I’m going to share a few of those. This includes type 1 and 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

Myth 1: all types of diabetes are the same

This is not true. There are different types of diabetes. The most common are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes Other forms of diabetes are less common (such as steroid-induced diabetes). The management plan will be different depending on the type of diabetes. Type 1 and 2 diabetes will require chronic treatment and management while gestational diabetes involves management for the shortest time as it usually goes away after the birth of the baby. However, it does significantly increase someone’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Myth #2: it’s not a big deal if your blood glucose levels are consistently high

This is not true. If your elevated blood glucose levels are left untreated, it can start to affect your major organs and blood vessels. You may not notice any differences in the early stage. So, it’s really important to follow up if you notice that your blood glucose levels are out of the target range.

In regards to gestational diabetes, researchers have found that problems associated with gestational diabetes can occur even in some of the fairly “mild” cases (such as having a baby with a large birth weight). A recent study found a significantly higher risk of congenital heart defects in babies born to women with mildly elevated blood sugar which is below the diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes.

Myth #3: I’m thin and my weight is within a healthy weight range. Therefore, I’m not at risk for developing diabetes.

This is not true. We tend to associate being overweight with diabetes. However, you don’t always have to be overweight or obese to develop diabetes. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes but some people who are overweight may not develop type 2 diabetes. On the flip side, some people who are within a healthy weight range will develop type 2 diabetes.

For example, type 1 diabetes is not preventable and not associated with weight, physical inactivity or any other lifestyle factors. Studies have shown up to 50% of women with gestational diabetes don’t have any of the classic risk factors (such as being overweight prior to becoming pregnant or family history). So, it’s important to screen for gestational diabetes even if you are within a healthy weight range.

Myth 4: people with diabetes cannot eat dessert like sweets or chocolate

This is not true. A lot of people think that they need to avoid sugars and foods containing sugar because having diabetes affects your blood glucose levels. However, desserts can be eaten in moderation, as part of a healthy diet. The key to desserts is to keep your portions small and save them for special occasions. Working with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian will provide you with tailored advice that takes your goals, as well as your likes and dislikes into account.

Myth #5: if you have diabetes, you will need to be on insulin soon

Yes for type 1 diabetes. This is not true for type 2 and gestational diabetes. In the first instance, dietary and lifestyle modifications are key to managing your diabetes. This is often made in conjunction with oral medications.

However, some people may need to go on insulin over time when if their body is producing less insulin. As type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, oral medications alone may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range after some time. Having said that, it is possible to delay a person’s requirement of insulin if their diabetes is managed well.

Now that we are officially in spring season, it’s time to get back to doing the things you promised yourself you would do! You may have noticed that your weight has crept up during the winter. Most of us tend to gain weight during this time and it is mostly because it is hard to keep up with our exercise with the shorter days. The cold weather makes it very difficult to keep up with our physical activity because you’d rather be curled up in bed, perhaps drinking a hot chocolate. We tend to eat a lot of comfort foods to keep us warm which includes soup, stews and crumbles. Research suggests that people have a natural tendency to eat more in winter. We have gained a survival mechanism from our ancestors as historically; less food was available in winter. This genetic trait has primed our body to eat more during this time as it thinks foods are in scarcity.

There is nothing wrong with putting on a little bit of weight. But the problem is, many don’t realise it until it starts to accumulate over the years. The change in our food habits and drop in our physical activity level results in weight gain. The lack of sunlight in winter can have a profound effect on our hormones, and it will affect some of us more than others. Some may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression with onset during the winter months. The symptoms include sadness, irritability, increase in appetite and can result in weight gain. While it is true that Australia experiences a milder winter compared to other parts of the world, many are still affected by SAD or ‘winter blues’. The good news is that these conditions will subside as the weather gets warmer during spring. But it may hang around for some longer than others. It is important to seek professional help if symptoms don’t improve. Mental health issues are just as important as any other health problem; one in five Australians will experience a mental illness every year. It affects more people than we think so make sure to seek help from a health professional. You can reach out to Lifeline or Beyond Blue for support.

If you have managed to overcome the blues, it’s time to transition back to our old habits. Gardening is a great way to do this because it will ensure you have fresh produce available. You should aim to begin incorporating more physical activity in your day. Aim to spend more time outdoors and do whatever it is that used to do whether it was used to a morning run or a walk after dinner. Exercise helps us fight depression because it produces endorphins (also known as happy hormones).

This is also the perfect season to ‘spring clean’ your kitchen. We get used to eating heavy foods in winter, so take out some of the heavy foods in our diet (just like how you would swap out the heavy clothes at the end of spring). There is a lot of fresh produce available in spring, create more colours on your plate with salads and veggie-based meals. Click here to see the local produce in your area.

Additionally, there are foods that have been scientifically proven to have an effect on mood. Here are five mood boosting foods you could try:

  1. High quality protein such as red meat and Atlantic salmon are building blocks for a mood boosting diet. These foods help fight off depression.
  2. Wholegrains such as grainy bread or legumes are a low GI food which means they keep your blood sugar stable by helping brain neurotransmitter reactions which in turn affects our mood.
  3. Aim to eat lots of fruits and vegetables as recent research shows that consumption may be inversely associated with risk of depression. The fibre content in fruits and vegetables also has a role in improving mood and protecting against depression.
  4. Ever ate a chocolate and felt happier? Research suggests cocoa may have a role in enhancing positive due to the polyphenols present (highest in dark chocolate). Remember to keep your portions small- a little chocolate goes a long way!
  5. Caffeine containing beverages such as coffee and tea may help the lower risk of depression. According to recent research, the most protection comes with about 2 cups of coffee.

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. It has been a hard year for all of us with COVID-19. We have all had it pretty rough so don’t be so hard on yourself. Please reach out to a health professional if you require support.

September is PCOS Awareness Month which was created to increase awareness and education about PCOS in the general population and healthcare professionals. The aim of PCOS Awareness Month is to help improve the lives of those affected by PCOS and help them to overcome their symptoms, as well as prevent/ reduce their risks of other chronic diseases.

PCOS is a genetic, hormone, metabolic and reproductive disorder and is the leading cause of female infertility. Some clinical features include reproductive issues (such as reduced frequency of ovulation) and irregular menstrual cycles, reduced fertility, polycystic ovaries on ultrasound and high levels of male hormones such as testosterone, which can cause unwanted facial or body hair growth and acne. It is also associated with metabolic features, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (risk factors including insulin resistance and abnormal cholesterol levels).

There are a lot of misconceptions out there so thought I’d bust some common myths related to PCOS:

Myth #1: PCOS is a rare condition

This is not true. It is estimated that around 8 to 13% of females are affected by this condition. It affects 1 in 6 women are affected in Australia. A study from 2018 reported the prevalence to be 12% among Australian women aged 16-29 years. It’s also important to note that there are many women who are potentially unaware of their condition and are yet to be correctly diagnosed.

Myth #2: you did something that caused PCOS.

This is not true. PCOS is caused by genetics and several other factors. Women whose mothers and sisters have PCOS are more likely to be affected by this condition. While it can often run in families, it is also related to hormone levels (including insulin production). We don’t know why some women develop it and others don’t. Any woman can be affected by the condition. You’re not at any kind of fault if you are diagnosed with PCOS.

Myth #3: you have PCOS if your menstrual cycle is irregular

This is not true. No single symptom is enough to provide you with a diagnosis of PCOS. PCOS stands for Polycystic ovary syndrome. The definition of a ‘syndrome’ means that a group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or it is a condition that is characterised by a set of associated symptoms. As PCOS is a syndrome, one sign or symptom (such as irregular periods) is not enough for a diagnosis. To meet the diagnostic criteria of PCOS, women need to have two of the following three criteria: 

  • irregular periods
  • signs of increased levels of androgens (hormones that give “male” characteristics) such as excess hair growth, acne or hair loss  
  • enlarged ovaries with lots of small follicles containing immature eggs (known as polycystic ovaries)

Research with clinicians has shown that many women are self-diagnosing or incorrectly diagnosing their PCOS based on irregular cycles alone or on an ultrasound showing polycystic ovaries. It’s important to note that not all women with polycystic ovaries will have PCOS. The facial and body hair of women can vary based on different ethnicities. Acne is another symptom that is often linked with PCOS; however, research shows that acne is common in women (~25%) and prevalent across different age groups.

Additionally, there may be other factors/ conditions that can mimic symptoms of PCOS. Some of these include stress, hormonal contraceptives (such as the pill), obesity, thyroid issues (which can affect metabolism), over-exercising, disordered eating and hypothalamic amenorrhea (when periods stop because of stress, excessive weight loss or physical exercise).

Myth #4: you cannot fall pregnant if you have PCOS

This is not true. All women produce small amounts of androgens (male hormones), but those with PCOS have more androgens than normal. This is what prevents ovulation and makes it difficult to have regular menstrual cycles. However, a number of medications can be used stimulate ovulation if women have trouble conceiving naturally.

Myth #5: you should be following a gluten/ soy/ dairy free diet if you have PCOS

This is not true. While a lot of women with PCOS cut out gluten, dairy, soy or sugar out completely, these restrictions are often not necessary (unless they have Coeliac disease, lactose intolerance or other intolerances). Cutting out these food groups will compromise your nutrient intakes such as B vitamins, fibre and calcium. Always speak to your dietitian for advice that’s right for you and tailored to your lifestyle.

Myth #6: PCOS causes you to gain weight or prevents weight loss 

This is not true. PCOS can affect women of all shapes and sizes. Many women with PCOS report difficulty losing weight but studies have shown that diet and weight management interventions have resulted in a similar amount of weight loss in women with and without PCOS (Kataoka et al 2017). However, what we do know is that being overweight worsens all clinical features of PCOS. This is why lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) are really important and is the first line management for PCOS.

Myth #7: All women with PCOS are at risk of ‘metabolic complications’

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance (this is when the body doesn’t respond properly to the hormone insulin which is released by our pancreas), type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a collection of factors such as high blood pressure and poor cholesterol levels).

It is also associated with metabolic features, with risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease including high levels of insulin or insulin resistance and abnormal cholesterol levels. A recent study suggests similar cardiovascular health and 10-year CVD risk in women with and without PCOS.

As a result, some women with PCOS have reported anxiety about their long-term health. However, it’s important to note that the potential consequences are not the same for all women who are diagnosed with PCOS. For those women who have been diagnosed due to irregular menstrual cycles and polycystic ovaries (and do not show any signs of excess androgen), they don’t have the same metabolic risks as women with excess androgen. 

Women with PCOS are often wrongly labelled as high risk which can cause unnecessary anxiety. This can affect their quality of life and can worsen anxiety and depression.

Did any of these myths surprise you? Do you have any others to share?


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In Australia, we are in winter which means most of us are cocooned indoors and some are still working from home. We are going through some unprecedented times. This isolation period has left people feeling anxious and overwhelmed. A lot of us are now thinking about our health more than ever. We all know healthy eating is important for wellness. So, this presents us with a window of opportunity to set up healthier habits for better health. Here are 7 ways to prioritise your wellbeing in quarantine:

  1. Focus on whole foods

While there is no single food or nutrient that can boost your immunity or prevent you from contracting a virus, it’s still important to continue eating foods that are wholesome and rich in nutrients. However, research has shown that improving your diet can help with supporting optimal immune function as there is an array of nutrients which can support our immune systems. Some examples include protein, which helps with repair and recovery, vitamin A, C and E, and minerals such as zinc and iron.

To make our meals nutritious, we should be eating from the different food groups. This includes eating the rainbow (fruit and vegetables), wholegrains, proteins, healthy fats, gut friendly foods and staying hydrated. Fresh produce may be hard to source so make use of canned and frozen foods– look for no added or reduced salt options.

2. Cook meals at home

We all know that it’s a cheaper option. Research shows that cooking meals at home is associated with better diet quality. We can’t control the outside situation or circumstances we are in but we do have control of what goes on our plate. You can use this time to try a new ingredient or learn a new recipe. Stay curious and experiment a little. Allow yourself to feel empowered in the kitchen and focus on the things you can do.  This is an opportunity to improve your cooking skills.

Having said that, it’s totally okay to take a break from cooking if you need it. Ordering takeaway can also support your local business. If you are looking for healthier options, stick to stir-fried, grilled or baked options (rather than deep-fried) and order at least one veggie dish or salad to share.

3. Listen to your body

When you are feeling hungry, ask yourself if you are feeling physical hunger or emotional hunger. The latter is when we feel hungry as a result of feeling other emotions. For some of us, we tend to eat less when we are feeling stressed but some of us tend to eat more. We may be overeating due to boredom or sadness.  Snacking is an issue sometimes when we work from home – we snack because we are bored or in need of a break or simply because we have it near us.

We tend to resort to comfort foods during stressful times so it is important to be mindful of your actual hunger levels. If you are finding yourself getting hungry during the day, try to change up your tasks. Take a break or go out for a walk. Distract yourself for 20 mins with another activity. If you are still hungry after this period, have a wholesome snack. Some great options include a piece of fruit, yoghurt, cheese and crackers etc. It’s totally okay to eat those ‘sometimes’ food like chocolate, biscuits and cake but try to limit the purchase and don’t stockpile them in the pantry. Enjoy these foods mindfully and without guilt.

4. Set up a routine

Without a routine, your meals and snacks could merge into one and you could find yourself grazing all day. Having a routine will give you a sense of control and provide structure to your day.

Set aside some time on the weekends to do some meal prep. Try to plan at least one or two main meals so you are better organised on weekdays. Plan your groceries (write a shopping list which includes some pantry staples, frozen foods for convenience) and keep a few healthy snacks at hand so you have something to treat that afternoon slump. This is also a great time to take a break from work and get your steps up!

Most of us tend to work longer hours when working from home but try to clock off after a certain time. This will help you maintain work-life balance, boost productivity and also allow time for cooking, resting and exercising.

5. Stay hydrated

Make water your choice of drink. Hydration is important as it helps is to get rid of waste and toxins. Make sure to keep a bottle filled up at your work station. You can add flavour using mint, lemon, cucumber, citrus fruit etc.

It is quite common to mistake thirst for hunger. This is because some of the symptoms of mild dehydration (i.e. headache, fatigue, lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating) can resemble symptoms of hunger. A 2016 study showed that poor hydration was associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in adults which was the first study to show this relationship at a population level.

6. Try something new

As most of us are spending more time at home, it gives us an opportunity to ramp up or learn new skills. Pull out favourite your cookbooks or look up new recipes on the internet/ social media. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved and it’s a very affordable activity to do.

Cooking at home is more economical. A 2014 study has shown that cooking frequently was associated with healthier eating patterns and was found to have a positive influence (such as increased knowledge and confidence). We are more likely to eat higher amounts of fruits/veggies and meals with lower energy intake. Check out recipes from Australian Healthy Food Guide and Dietitians Australia if you need some inspo.

7. Incorporate movement

Aim to get around 30 mins of exercise on most days of the week. You can also set up a workout area at home by purchasing a yoga mat and dumbbells. Adding movement in your day will boost your endorphins (happy hormones) and help you get in some vitamin D if you are out during sunny hours (most Aussies don’t get enough in winter.) Go out for a walk during your breaks and call up a friend or listen to a podcast to make this activity more enjoyable.

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself and let go of the guilt for any recent slip ups. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are struggling or have gained weight recently, know that you are not alone in this. It’s okay to get support and ask for help. Reach out to your family and friends. You can also some help from a professional. See an Accredited Practising Dietitian – they can give you tailored dietary advice, help you with weight loss goals and manage or prevent chronic disease.

It was National Diabetes Week in Australia earlier this month. This year’s campaign was focused on the mental and emotional health impact of living with diabetes. I shared an Instagram post on it and was asked the question- how can I reduce my risk of type 2 diabetes if I have a strong family history?

People from South Asian communities are up to 6 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than the general population (compared to Europeans). This is for South Asians in their home countries and those living abroad.

Unfortunately, people from certain ethic groups have a much higher risk of diabetes. Some high risk groups include African American, Hispanic, Asian or Indian sub-continent backgrounds. The good news is you can do something about the risks – type 2 diabetes is largely preventable if you make the right sort of lifestyle modifications. The conditions that generally increase your risk of developing diabetes are being overweight, having a family history, being over 45 or older, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gestational diabetes. You can calculate your risk for type 2 diabetes by taking this quiz.

You may think your risks are low right now but it’s never too early to take action. Here are 5 ways you can reduce your risk:

1. Add some wholegrains
Wholegrain foods are a good source of fibre and having 2-3 serves in your diet everyday can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 20-30%. Some examples of wholegrain foods include brown rice, wholemeal flour, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, oats and corn. Check out Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council for recipes.

2. Add some nuts
Research has shown that a handful of nuts (30g) consumed regularly can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes between 13% and 27%. This is due to the nuts being low GI and containing healthy (good) fats, fibre and magnesium. While people tend to associate nuts with weight gain, eating nuts regularly can reduce your chances of being overweight and reduce the risk of heart disease by about 30%. The other thing people want to know is what type of nuts are healthy are best: all nuts are good for you but it’s best to stick to unsalted varieties (raw and roasted are fine).

3. Watch your weight
Check your weight to see if you fall in the healthy weight range. Being overweight can increase your risk of developing diabetes. You can use this link to check your BMI if you know your height and weight. Please note that Asians have a lower cut off for BMI (18.5-22.9) as they have more body fat compared to Caucasians at any given BMI. If you are not within a healthy weight range, the next step would be to lose weight. This is something a dietitian can help you with.

4. Increase your movement
Regular physical activity has an important role in preventing and managing diabetes. Studies have shown that physical activity improves your blood glucose control and can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. If you are not someone who is used to exercising regularly, the best way to start is to start small. Even a slight increase in activity will make a difference to your health and wellbeing. You can start with 5 or 10 minutes and build your way up.

The other factor to consider is your sitting period. The research on sedentary behaviour (too much sitting) is fairly new and it tells us prolonged sitting is associated with an increasing risk of type 2 diabetes. Break up your sitting periods and minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting, where possible.

5. Do a regular check up
Check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels regularly. This is especially important if you have a strong family risk of type 2 diabetes. There’s a condition called pre-diabetes where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People with pre-diabetes don’t show any signs or symptoms on the outside so the only way to find out is by doing a blood test and checking your blood glucose levels. Pre-diabetes will progress into diabetes. The good news is that pre-diabetes is reversible if you take immediate action and make lifestyle changes (diet modifications, increasing exercise and losing weight).

References

Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016;353:i2716. Published 2016 Jun 14. doi:10.1136/bmj.i2716

Afshin A, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Mozaffarian D. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(1):278-288. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.076901

Jiang R, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Liu S, Willett WC, Hu FB. Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. JAMA. 2002;288(20):2554-2560. doi:10.1001/jama.288.20.2554

Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med. 2016;14(1):207. Published 2016 Dec 5. doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0730-3

Nikodijevic CJ, Probst YC, Batterham MJ, Tapsell LC, Neale EP. Nut consumption in a representative survey of Australians: a secondary analysis of the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 10]. Public Health Nutr. 2020;1-11. doi:10.1017/S1368980019004117

Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Fernhall, B., Regensteiner, J. G., Blissmer, B. J., Rubin, R. R., Chasan-Taber, L., Albright, A. L., Braun, B., American College of Sports Medicine, & American Diabetes Association (2010). Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes care, 33(12), e147–e167. doi:10.2337/dc10-9990

Dempsey PC, Owen N, Yates TE, Kingwell BA, Dunstan DW. Sitting Less and Moving More: Improved Glycaemic Control for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention and Management. Curr Diab Rep. 2016;16(11):114. doi:10.1007/s11892-016-0797-4

In today’s highly-connected, social-media driven society, it would be hard not to notice an increased vegan presence across many aspects of our lives- from diets and cleaning products, to clothing and furniture. What was once a fringe movement, veganism is now a lifestyle cultivated in response to several sociological concerns; primarily health, environmental impact and animal welfare. Young adults are arguably the greatest users of social media. As such, they are no strangers to the momentum of popular culture, be it veganism or otherwise. So although the driving principles behind veganism are commendable, is adopting their dietary choices in particular safe for young adults? We’ll explore this in the article below.

What exactly is veganism?

Before we continue, let’s clarify what the term ‘veganism’ actually refers to. In its native sense, veganism describes a lifestyle that seeks to exclude the exploitation of animals for the benefit of humans. Nowadays, veganism broadly describes the avoidance of use or consumption of animal or animal by-products. In terms of dietary choices, this translates to the avoidance of consumption of meat and animal by-products- for instance honey, dairy and eggs.

Why are young adults adopting a vegan diet?

The global climate crisis we are facing today has left young adults fearful of the impending state of our planet. Australia’s recent Climate of the Nation Report estimated that 83% of Australians aged 18-34 years old were concerned about climate change. We needn’t look further than the recent Global Climate Strike or at Greta Thunberg’s emotive address at the UN Climate Action Summit to see these statistics. Fortunately, the young adults of today- particularly in the developed world- are equipped with the communication skills, autonomy and passion to respond to issues that matter to them. As such, for many of these young adults, adopting a vegan diet has been one of the more direct and tangible responses to an issue that extends far beyond them. Earlier this year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing ways in which climate change could be mitigated by 2050; one of these was eating a plant-based diet.

Nonetheless, there are a myriad of other reasons why young people may adopt a vegan diet. These reasons range from religious adherence and pop culture to food intolerances. Among the most common reasons, however, are environmental impact, perceived health benefits and animal rights/welfare. A growing awareness of these driving factors has encouraged the food and hospitality industries to cater to vegan diets. This has enabled the diet to become accessible to many young adults, despite family and peers following omnivorous diets.  Australia is in fact the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, behind the UAE and China.

Source: Pixabay

Are there any nutritional benefits to the individual?

On average, only 5% of Australian adults reach the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables each day. So you would think that the inherent increase in plant foods on a vegan diet would be beneficial? However, as with any ‘diet’, nutritional benefits depend on what an individual actually eats. Studies have found that people who adopt a vegan diet for ethical (i.e. animal welfare) reasons, tend to consume higher amounts of processed vegan foods than those who adopt the diet for health. Regularly consuming processed foods high in sugar, fat and salt- whether vegan or not- are undoubtedly detrimental for health.

Nonetheless, a vegan diet can be just as nutritious as any balanced, plant-based diet with a variety of food sources. A recent, small-scale Finnish study on young adults found that vegans tended to have better cholesterol and fatty acid profiles than their meat-eating counterparts; that is, they had lower levels of LDL (also known as ‘bad’) cholesterol and saturated fat. They also had greater concentrations of protective phytochemicals in their blood, likely a result of the increased consumption of high antioxidant-containing plant foods. This was also compounded by a pilot study that found total cholesterol, and cholesterol and fatty acid profiles, could be improved in just 4 weeks by following a vegan diet.

Source: Pixabay

Are there any nutritional risks with following a vegan diet at a young age?

Meat, seafood and animal by-products are powerhouses of various macro and micronutrients. There is evidence to suggest that individuals on vegan diets are commonly at risk of deficiency in four key nutrients- iron, B12, calcium and omega-3. Additionally, recent studies have found that vegans tend to have lower Vitamin D and iodine levels than their meat-eating counterparts. Without adequate planning, some individuals may also not be meeting their recommended daily intakes of protein. Such deficiencies can have negative long-term consequences on an individual’s health.

Red meat and poultry, for instance, contain the highest sources of protein. At its most basic level, protein is essential for the building, repair and maintenance of cells, tissues and muscles. Meat also contains haem-iron, which is more easily absorbed than the non-haem iron found in plant foods. Young women in particular need to maintain iron levels as menstruation puts some of them at risk of iron deficiency. For both men and women, meat and eggs are the only source of natural B12- a vitamin essential for nerve function and red blood cell production. Additionally, seafood provides the best source of omega-3-fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat essential for the structure of cell membranes.  Dairy products are potent sources of bioavailable calcium, and as such those on a vegan diet may be at risk of calcium deficiency. Calcium is a crucial mineral at any stage in life, but it is more pertinent for those under the age of 25 years old. This is because calcium is essential for the building and maintenance of bone, and adolescence is a period of rapid development that requires optimal nutrition. Peak bone strength is achieved around 25 years old; after that if calcium intake is inadequate, then the body draws on the bones’ calcium reserves.

Source: Pixabay

Can these risks be minimized?

A vegan diet can absolutely be healthful with mindful planning and professional advice. If someone is considering becoming vegan, it is a good idea for them to take a full blood test to establish their individual baseline nutrient status with a GP and APD.

In terms of the common nutrient deficiencies mentioned above, there are several dietary practices that an individual can adopt to minimise deficiency risks. Adequate protein, for instance, can be achieved by aiming to include a serve of plant-based protein at each main meal. This could be having 30 g of peanut butter on toast at breakfast, 170 g of tofu at lunch and 150 g of cooked lentils at dinner. Sufficient vitamin B12 and calcium intake can easily be reached by choosing fortified cereals or plant milks, while iron absorption can be boosted by pairing its consumption with high vitamin C foods. Additionally, adequate intake of omega-3 fats may be reached by regularly consuming nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Finally, supplementation for any nutrient deficiencies can be considered in conjunction with the advice of an APD.

The bottom line

Vegan diets can be made healthy but it is important to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian to ensure you are not missing out on any nutrients. As with any diet, it carries both nutritional benefits and risks. However, with careful consideration and professional dietetic planning, it can be a highly nutritious diet with low environmental and animal impact.

This article was written by Nadia Mazari. Nadia is a student dietitian at the University of Sydney. Her passion for dietetics, health and wellbeing began as a young foodie with a love for helping people in need, and grew into a dream to become a dietitian. As an aspiring health professional, Nadia’s long-term goal is to gain a wealth of experience in all aspects of dietetics- from fertility and gut disorders to mental health. This is reflected in the range of topics she has addressed in her writing for Ideal Nutrition. In her spare time, Nadia can be found dining out with friends and family, binge-watching watching chick flicks with her mum and sisters, burying herself in a good book or soaking up the Aussie sun. You can follow her on Instagram here.




Ingredients

2 X 400g can of Chickpeas (drained)

1 X 400g can of red kidney beans (drained)

2 medium sized potatoes, chopped

2 tomatoes, finely diced

2 red capsicum, finely diced

2 green capsicum, finely diced

1 onion

1 tablespoon of EVOO

4 garlic cloves

Small knob of ginger

1 teaspoon of Shan Chaat Masala

Fresh chillies

Fresh coriander

Method

  1. Heat EVOO on a large frypan
  2. Cut up onion, garlic and ginger, chilli and coriander (I use a chopper). Add to pan once oil is hot
  3. Add potatoes and close the lid
  4. Drain and rinse lentils. Once potatoes are soft, add chickpeas and red kidney beans in one go.
  5. Add chopped capsicum and tomatoes
  6. Add Shaan Chaat Masala and mix thoroughly. Cook with lid closed for about 10 mins on low heat.
  7. Garnish with coriander. Can also be served in lettuce cups!

1.Hydration is a must

While you are fasting, your body will experience mild dehydration so it is important to replenish your body with plenty of fluids after breaking your fast. If you are struggling to drink enough, you could try having fluids in other forms such as in smoothies, shakes, infused water or herbal teas. Soup is another great choice but make sure to go low on the salt (salt stimulates thirst).

2. Wake up for suhoor

It certainly is no easy task to wake up before dawn but it will help you cope better with the fast. Suhoor is highly recommended as it will help you fuel your body for the day (you wouldn’t get in a racing a car without petrol; same concept goes with fasting). To make things easier, prepare your meal before you go to sleep. Include sources of protein (such as eggs, lentils, yoghurt, nuts fish, chicken and lean meat) and have carbohydrates that are wholegrain or low GI (such as basmati rice, oats, wholegrain bread or flatbread). These will keep you fuller for longer as they are digested slowly.

Suhoor inspo: overnight oats with bananas, berries and chia

3. Incorporate fruit and veggies in your meals

These foods typically require a lot of chewing so it’ll help you eat slowly. This is particularly important at iftar as you may be tempted to overeat and overfill your plates because you haven’t eaten all day! If you are living in summer countries, opt for fruits that have greater water content such as watermelon or strawberries.

Fruit platter inspo for iftar
Veggie platter inspo for iftar

4. Stay fairly active

It is likely that your workout habits would be affected as it is difficult to exercise in the hours you are fasting. If you are struggling to keep up with your usual routine, it is completely okay to take a break from doing intense workouts. As an alternative, you could switch to lighter activities such as some brisk walking or yoga.

5. Enjoy small indulgences of your choice

You don’t have to completely abandon the foods that you love. It is okay to incorporate some sweet treats and fried items (the latter is particularly common in South Asian cultures). The key is to consume in moderation or making a healthier alternative, if possible.

Final tip: if you are feeling extra peckish even after eating large quantities of food, ask yourself if you have drunk enough water. We often tend to mistake thirst for hunger because some of the symptoms of mild dehydration (i.e. headache, fatigue, light-headedness and difficulty concentrating) can resemble symptoms of hunger!

Chickpea Chaat (get the recipe from here)

This time of the year is all about celebration which often involves numerous sweet treats. Some of us tend to overindulge while some may feel overly conscious or guilty about eating certain foods. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fortunately, there are plenty of fine-looking fruits in season this time of the year and you can use these to fuel your body with energy and nutrients, help cool you down and stay hydrated. Here are some ways to incorporate summer stone fruits:

  1. Mangoes are a great source of fibre, vitamins A and C and contain potassium, folate, B6, iron and vitamin E. Despite containing lots of vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytochemicals and antioxidants, this fruit often gets a bad name for being ‘too sweet’. Many will avoid it for this reason or think that they are cheating on their diet if they eat one. Yes, mangoes are higher in sugar compared to most fruits but this is natural sugar. There is no need to be scared of mangoes because the sugar naturally occurring in fruits are perfectly okay. As the sugars are present with other nutrients (such as fibre for mangoes), it changes the way our body digests and absorbs the natural sugars. In this case, the sugar (fructose) in mangoes are encased in fibre which helps slow down the absorption and affects the way it metabolises in our bodies. This means that it doesn’t get fast, direct access to the liver like it does when it the sugar is ‘free’ (i.e. added sugar).

Some healthy ways to eat mangoes include using them in moderation in your milkshakes or smoothies and smoothie bowls. You could also make them part of a main course by tossing them into a green salad, adding them in veggie skewers, grilling on the barbeque or adding into your curries. Click here to read about other sweet and savoury ways to get more mango in your life. Some Christmas recipe ideas include a mango tiramisu AKA mangomisu, Christmas trifle using mangos and mango chia pudding. 

  1. Apricots are packed with vitamin A and rich in fibre. They are a good source of vitamin C, copper, and potassium. You could chop apricots and add them to your morning cereal or yoghurt, add them to your batter when making pancakes and in your salads. Apricot goes well with green leaves, feta, and almonds.

Apricot also has a great potential to shine at the Xmas table by including them in cakes, tarts or pies. You could also use them to make a gluten-free stuffing or in a chutney that can be served with bread.

  1. Some other stone fruits in summer include peaches, plums and nectarines. These are rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as dietary fibre, potassium and antioxidants. One cup of sliced plums or apricots can provide you with a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs. Two small peaches have the same amount of potassium as a medium banana. Plums are good sources of vitamin K; two of these purple fruits can give you around 10% of your daily vitamin K needs.

You could add these in your salads or desserts or include them as a Christmas fruit platter. Click here to find some more inspo using stone fruits.

The holiday season is upon us, so I thought I’d share some of my holiday favourites. All of these photos were taken last year during Xmas season, except for the custard.

Veggie platter- for those that know me well would know how much I love colours and eating the rainbow. I am still a newbie at putting together platters but I have so much fun every time I do one. It’s such a great starter to serve as your guests are coming in. It’s relatively easy to put together and keeps your guests busy!

Garlic, butter and chilli prawns – I’m a big lover of all things seafood. Chilli and garlic are two of my favourite ingredients in cooking. And cherry tomatoes marry well with just about everything. I’m not a big user of butter in savoury dishes but you need to be a little on special occasions like these!

Roast chicken and veggies- although I’m a big fan of plant-based diet, some occasions are celebrated better with meat. And I truly feel that Xmas is one of these. I have a small family but feel free to upgrade to a turkey if that’s what you prefer. I also added baby chat potatoes and pumpkin here. It’s super easy because it gets cooked in the same bag.

Quinoa pilaf with veggies – this is a great dish for any vegetarians you might have to cater for and wholegrains are something we should be eating more of. Quinoa is one of these. It is technically a pseudograin but has the properties to classify as a wholegrain. I love the touch of seafood flavours in this dish. Quinoa is very versatile, so free to add any other seafood if you like.

Stir-fry veggies- I have used fresh cauliflower, broccolini, mushrooms and zucchini here but you can go with frozen veggies for convenience. I have added a small amount of chicken but you can leave this out if you prefer a vegetarian dish.

Fruit custard- this one is probably one of the easiest desserts to whip up. The best thing is that you can prepare this ahead of time. All you literally need is milk, custard powder, sugar and fresh fruits. I chose to use a sugar substitute which were sent to me from Nuvia. It is a natural sweetner made from the Stevia plant.

Yoghurt barks-this is another relatively easy dessert to make and you get to pick what toppings you like. The original recipe I had looked up had used rose petals and pomegranates but I did not have these at home. So, I chose to use some stone fruit (apricot and nectarine), pistachio and white chocolate chips.

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.

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 🙂

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.

 

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.

 

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!

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!

 

 

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.

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

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

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


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

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!)

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