Women’s Health

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Like most dietitians I don’t like the word “diet”. It makes me think of a whole lot of “rules” that need to be followed and adhered to, and for the most part take the fun out of eating. Now of course for some people, needing a “diet” is a necessary part of life. As a dietitian, I’ve helped many people with low FODMAP, gluten free, low potassium, high energy etc diets, and when required these diets can deliver huge health benefits. Because my job involves advising people on “diets” many people often question me as to my own diet. Do I follow something in particular? People often assume I’m highly restrictive with my choices, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love food and (mostly) enjoy cooking. I also enjoy looking for new ways to make healthy foods tasty and easy to prepare. 

I strongly believe in the concept of mindful or intuitive eating and definitely have a “non diet’ approach to health. I do believe that our bodies are equipped with everything we need to maintain a healthy weight, this is our appetite. For some people this might be slightly heavier and for others slightly lighter, there’s no denying that we all come in different shapes and sizes. In our fast paced society many of us have lost the ability to tune into our appetite. We eat because the food is there, because it’s 12noon and that ’s when we take our lunch break (whether we’re hungry or not), we eat too fast, we eat because we are tired/stressed/emotional or even happy. Over time we stop listening to our bodies. 

What I do try to follow is our Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating and my diet is probably most closely aligned to the Mediterranean way of eating. I also try to focus on what I should be eating not on what I shouldn’t be. This means I’ve always got some sort of plan for how I’m going to get my 5 serves of veggies and 2 serves of fruit in each day. I also try to tick off my 3 serves of dairy and will look for opportunities to add nuts and seeds (for the heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids they deliver) to my meals and snacks, as well as other quality proteins. When I choose grains with my meals, I make sure they’re wholegrain and low GI as much as possible. I find that by focussing on eating all the foods my body needs for health each day, I actually have little appetite left for snack foods or more indulgent choices. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my chocolate, cakes ice cream and a glass of wine as much as the next person, and if a truly feel like having them I do. I don’t restrict any food but I listen to my body and I set aside the time to eat. Eating when you’re distracted scrolling through Facebook, driving in the car or even reading a magazine can often mean your not tuning into your natural appetite. In fact if you’re eating like this you can often get to the end of the meal and not really feel like you’ve eaten because you haven’t stopped to enjoy the flavours and textures of the food. 

So here’s what a dietitian eats in a day!

Breakfast: I’m very seasonal with my breakfast, when the weather is cold I always start the day by making a huge pot of porridge (rolled oats) for my whole family. For myself I top it with brown sugar, chia seeds, cinnamon and walnuts. Most days I have 1/2 glass of unsweetened orange juice and a small (piccolo size) white coffee. In warmer weather bircher muesli or toasted muesli with Jalna sweet and creamy yoghurt and fruit does the trick.

Mid morning: Often I find a coffee is  enough for my morning snack. It’s always a skinny latte but this time it’s a larger size (medium if I’m out and about) and about 200ml if I’m home. On this particular day I was hungry for a snack as well so I had some multigrain crackers and hummus. Other choices would be one of my coco cranberry bliss balls. 

Lunch:

I’m always looking to get a lot of vegetables in at lunch so I don’t have to fit them all in at dinner. It also helps keep me full all day. This week I made a huge batch of these spiralised sweet potato noodles sautéed in chilli, olive oil and lemon zest and teamed it with crunchy oven baked kale and a sprinkling of pine nuts. 

I usually team my lunch with a green smoothie or I have a fruit salad with Jalna sweet and creamy yoghurt and a sprinkling of toasted muesli. 

Mid afternoon: I’m not usually hungry, sometimes I have a peppermint tea. Occasionally I join my kids in their after school snack, but the key here is I listen to my body and eat if I’m hungry.

D; My dinners are planned for the whole week to minimise the stress of having to come up with things on the fly (and then not having the right ingredients). I divide the week up between meals I know my kids like, meals I like to eat and new things we want to try. I always aim to have at least 1 vegetarian meal and 1 fish meal (I should really be eating more fish, 2 would be ideal) and 2-3 red meat meals. Lots of our meals are served family style where everyone can help themselves to what they like. This helps give the kids some control and choice at the dinner table, and has been shown to help minimise fussy eating in the the long run. Our meal tonight was chicken drumsticks cooked in the oven, salad, kale chips and bread. No matter what type of meal I’m cooking, I aways make sure that there are plenty of vegetables (even if my kids don’t always chose them!). 

D: Now as I said earlier I don’t believe in restricting any food. Research has shown that the more we try and restrict foods that we think are “bad for us” the more we crave them and can often end up overeating them. With that in mind, if I feel like having a “treat” I go for it. This particular night I had a chocolate covered ice cream on a stick (connoisseur).

With regards to alcohol I really try to minimise my intake. New research published in the Lancet this year has suggested that our current guidelines advocate for too much alcohol. It’s been suggested that men and women should have no more than 100g of alcohol per week, or 6 standard drinks (a standard drink being just 100ml of wine). Our Australian guidelines are currently under review and will be released next year. Given the association between alcohol intake and some types of cancer, (and because I come from a family with a high risk of breast cancer), I try to restrict my intake to a standard glass of wine and I make sure I have at least 2 alcohol free days a week. 

So there you go I follow a diet that is flexible, nourishing and above all enjoyable. Whilst i eat for health I also eat for enjoyment and that’s something I truly want to teach my children. I believe that that teaching your children about healthy eating starts with respecting that your child has their own programmed appetite and they intuitively know how much they need to eat each day. 

Fascinating research has been conducted on infants that shows how beautifully programmed an child’s appetite can be. Very young infants were fed baby formula  made up to different calorie strengths. Guess what happened? When the babies were fed the energy dense formula they drank less, and when they were fed the more dilute formula they drank more! In other words their appetite kicked in and they ate (drank) according to their needs. How amazing is that? 

Other research has shown however, that by age 4yrs many children are learning to ignore their natural appetite and already display signs of what we call “non hungry” eating. 

So how can be help our children become intuitive eaters?

My top tips are:

  1. Recognise that your child has their own appetite and respect that. Don’t ask them to clear their plate or eat a certain number of mouthfuls
  2. Don’t rush your children to eat. Set aside the time to sit down at a table and enjoy your meal in peace without distractions (ie tv, books toys etc..)
  3. Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad” – this starts to attach feelings of guilt to food. Teach your children that there are foods that we need to eat all the time and some foods that we don’t need to eat as regularly
  4. Don’t be overly restrictive with food – As parents we want the best for our children and it can be tempting to remove all chocolate, lollies, cake, etc.. from their diets. But do you know what? This approach doesn’t teach your child how to manage these foods or where they fit in a healthy diet. Research has shown that overly restrictive behaviour around food leads to “cravings” for these foods, which ultimately can lead us to over consuming them. I would prefer my children grow up knowing they can enjoy some chocolate but also being able to stop when they’ve had enough of it. It’s important to recognise that food has non nutritional benefits, sometimes we just want to eat something that tastes utterly delicious. I believe children should have this experience. 
  5. Review the messages you send your children about body image and food – What do your children hear you say about your own body? If you are constantly talking about needing to loose weight or what foods you are avoiding, your children will get the message that food is something that they need to be conscious of controlling with external measures rather than something that should be entirely intuitive.

Julia @ Bloom

 

( ps if you want to read more on my thoughts about how I feed my children and teach them about food you might like this blog post)


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Life as a Mum is BUSY.

With the average young child interrupting you every 2.5 mins (yes that’s a true fact!) it’s not surprising that you might be finding it difficult to eat properly.

Perhaps you’re a new Mum and between the sleep deprivation and the overwhelming sense that every hour in day is being used, your surviving on not much more than coffee and take away? Or maybe your children are at the toddler stage, and you feel like your life is an endless merry-go round of preparing meals and snacks and then cleaning up said meals and snacks, that the thought of making something for yourself is just too hard. Hello crusts off your child’s discarded vegemite sandwich!

Or maybe your kids are a bit bigger and you’re madly preparing lunch boxes in the morning to get everyone off to school and work but don’t prepare anything for yourself?

We’ve heard it before, you can’t pour from any empty cup, and part of looking after yourself is making sure your body is getting the nutrition that it needs.

If you’re currently breastfeeding your body is working extra hard to supply your baby with all the milk he or she needs. Breastfeeding Mum’s need around 500 extra calories every day. On top of that you also have greater needs for protein, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and a variety of B vitamins.

Don’t panic though if you feel your diet has been poor. Your body will draw from it’s own stores to make sure that you are producing breastmilk that contains all the right nutrients. There’s plenty of good evidence to show that even women who are poorly nourished, are still able to produce sufficient breastmilk.

That said, you need to eat well to look after yourself. Poor nutrition is only going to make you more tired and lethargic, and have you wondering how you are going to get through the day.

Another thing that is certain to cross your mind from time to time as a parent, is your own longevity. It’s only natural that we want to be around for them as long as possible. When we look at “Blue Zones” (those areas of the world where people are living the longest) diet -along with physical activity, maintaining a health weight and limiting alcohol intake- is one of the biggest predictors of longevity.

The one thing I know for sure after having 4 kids in 7 years, is that eating well comes down to one thing PLANNING. I also know that the easiest way to make sure you are getting your 5 serves of veggies each day is to plan to have a salad or soup at lunch. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that if you’re not, then you’re unlikely to reach your target. Not that there is anything wrong with a sandwich, you just need to make sure its LOADED with veggies/salad, remembering that 1 cup of salad greens equals 1 serve of veges.

I’m going to share with you my formula for making sure I eat well at lunch EVERY day.

In the warmer months a salad is definitely my go to option for lunch. If you’re thinking a salad is not going to fill you up, think again! One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen women make when they start trying to eat well, is to eat a salad consisting of not much more than lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Such low calorie options are only going to leave you hungry and looking for the nearest snack. Not only does your salad need to include veges, but also fats, proteins and long lasting carbohydrates to ensure you’re well fuelled until your next meal.

Now there’s no way I’ve got time prepare food everyday, so my trick is to prepare what I like to call a salad base once or twice a week, and then quickly add items to this at the time of eating that will wilt or brown if prepared ahead of time.

It always includes a wholegrain long lasting carbohydrate such quinoa, brown rice, wholemeal cous cous or israeli cous cous.

Don’t even have time to cook some rice or quinoa? Never fear those little pots from SunRice cook in the microwave in 40 seconds and are an absolute time saver.

Add a variety of vegetables.

If I’ve got time I like to add some roasted pumpkin, but I also use tinned beetroot segments, red onion, tinned chickpeas, tinned sweetcorn kernels or tinned lentils. Did you know that tinned vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh? That’s because they are picked and packed at their peak, so the nutritional content remains high. They’re a good choice for time poor mums!

I also like to dress my salad base (my favourite is a white balsamic dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic, dijon mustard and seasoned with salt and pepper). You could also make your dressing ahead of time and dress at the time of eating if you prefer.

When I’m ready to eat the salad I add a base of greens such as rocket, baby spinach or kale, and little avocado.

My salads are usually meat free, occasionally I add tuna, but I always add some protein and fat with a variety of cheese, usually feta or grilled haloumi (hint: use your sandwich press to grill it super quickly) or boiled eggs.
Lastly I like to top my salads with pepitas, walnuts or pine nuts for a good dose of healthy fats and little extra protein.

 

When the weather is cooler, a soup is my preferred lunch option. Now here is where the art of planning comes in. I”ll make a large batch of soup on a Monday and serve this up for our family’s dinner. Then I’ll have the rest of the soup for my lunch across the week. Winning!

One of my favourite soups is a minestrone made with chorizo rather than bacon. It’s packed full of veggies and legumes and you can get the recipe here at Bloom. I won’t lie, my kids are fairly fussy when it comes to this soup, but the one thing they all do is pull out the chorizo to eat. I’m not fussed that they do this. Using their hands and utensils to explore the soup and pull out what they like, helps improve familiarity with the food ,and eventually they’ll learn to eat it. I also try to help them by playing games like “How many balls (chickpeas) can you find in your soup”? We always serve it with crusty bread, so no one goes hungry.

Finally, I usually follow my lunch with either a smoothie (banana, maple syrup and cinnamon made with cow’s milk is a favourite) or a fruit salad topped with greek yoghurt. This will get me right through to dinner, without the need for a snack in between.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get busy in the kitchen!

Julia @ Bloom 🌿