Recipe - Broccoli and blue cheese soup

Broccoli and blue cheese soup

There has been a chill in the air during the last few weeks. What better way to deal with it but to curl up inside with a bowl of soup! This one is packed with nutrients and is bursting with flavour. The beauty of blue cheese, is that it packs a whole lot of punch with flavour - meaning you don't need that much!

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 cups salt-reduced chicken stock 
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 400g orange fleshed kumara or sweet potato
  • Handful of spinach leaves (optional)
  • 100g blue cheese 
  • Cracked pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté onion in olive oil until soft and clear.
  2. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil
  3. While stock is heating wash and chop broccoli and kumara into small pieces.
  4. Add broccoli and kumara to the stock and bring back to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes, or until veges are tender. Remove saucepan from heat.
  6. Add the fresh spinach and blend soup to a smooth consistency using a hand-held blender or large food processor.
  7. Crumble the cheese and add to the saucepan. Blend again.
  8. Garnish with lashings of cracked pepper. 
  9. Serve with toasted whole grain bread.
Tip: Blue cheese is quite salty so you probably won't need to season with any salt.

Nutrition and exercise

Nutrition and exercise

Exercise is an essential part of any well balanced healthy lifestyle.  To ensure you get the full benefit of your workout it is important to have a healthy balanced diet - eating the right foods and fluids to meet your training requirements.  Good nutrition before, during and after exercise will help you to achieve your physical goals as well as making sure you enjoy the experience to the fullest.

What are the healthier takeaway options?

What are the healthier takeaway options?

Given most takeaway options are high in fat and sugar, and therefore in energy, regular consumption of these foods can lead to weight gain.

So, in an era where we tend to be time poor and often turn to takeaways and junk food out of convenience, what are the healthier options?

Alcohol

Where is that drink taking you?

We all know that a healthy lifestyle involves drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all. However, many are unaware of the effect that alcohol can have on your weight. 

Are you getting frustrated with eating healthily and exercising but still not seeing the weight come off? Your alcohol intake may be what’s weighing you down- literally. Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you must cut out all alcohol- That would be plain cruel. What we are going to do is dispel some of the myths around alcohol and allow you to make informed choices about how much alcohol you drink.

"Empty Energy"

Dietitians refer to alcohol as providing “empty” kilojoules or energy. This is because alcohol is high in kilojoules (energy) but extremely low in other nutrients. The high kilojoule content is not helped by the fact that kilojoules in drink-form are less filling than foods, so you don't feel full, even if you may have had almost half a days calorie intake over a 'drinking session'!

So how many kilojoules are in alcohol? For you calorie counters out there is 29 kilojoules per gram of alcohol. And in easy-to-understand terms;

How much energy is in that drink? 

One glass of standard beer (250ml) = 380kJ

One glass of soft drink (230ml) = 345 - 450kJ

One glass of white wine (100ml) = 345 - 395kJ

One glass of red wine (100ml) = 340 - 365kJ

One nip of spirits (70 proof, 20 ml)= 175kJ

One glass low alcohol beer (250ml)= 100kJ

One glass “diet” soft drink mixer (230ml)5

How big is that glass?

The scary thing is that these are typical bar measures, which are often a lot less than we would consider a serve to be. Spirits are generally served as a double (two nips). A 100ml glass of wine would mean that out of every bottle 7 1/2 glasses would be poured. And if you are a spirit drinker it is likely that your double nip is mixed with a high-kilojoule mixer.

Alcohol and your weight

Lets paint a picture…After a long day of work you take off your shoes, feeling very proud that you managed to get up early in the morning to go for a walk and also chose a salad for lunch, and then decide to relax with a couple of wines. Most New Zealanders pour around 150ml glasses of wine. Say you have just two of these over dinner and throughout the evening. You have consumed around 1084 kilojoules, which is the same as;

  • One chocolate-coated ice cream
  • One slice of pizza
  • One McDonald’s hamburger

My guess is that many of you are making healthy food choices and are unlikely to follow your dinner and/or desert with one of these options.

Tips to help manage your weight if you drink alcohol: 

  1. If drinking spirits choose water or soda water as mixer.
  2. Alternate your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water. This will slow you down and also help with the hangover.
  3. When pouring wine aim to get at least 5 glasses out of a bottle.
  4. When drinking beer choose low-alcohol varieties.
  5. Consume no more than two “standard” drinks a day, or 14 a week for women or no more than three a day, or 21 a week for men.
  6. Relax with a refreshing non-alcohol beverage instead. This also saves you money!

A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. Alcohol is ok to enjoy in moderation- just don’t forget that drinking too much of it may be what’s weighing you down.

 

 

Eating for two

What to eat during pregnancy.

pregnancy-nutrition

Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding times in a woman’s life. During pregnancy a woman’s body changes dramatically and she needs to support the growth and development of her baby. It is important that during pregnancy, you get all nutrients you need to support the growth of your baby and the maintenance of your own body. By continuing to eat a balanced diet, with foods from all of the main food groups, you will be helping to ensure the optimal growth and development of your baby. During pregnancy your needs for certain nutrients are increased to ensure that you meet the nutrients required for the development of your baby and to meet your own requirements. If you do not get enough of a nutrient to support the development of your baby, you will begin to draw upon your body’s stores.

However, while you may be ‘eating for two’, this does not mean you get to literally eat enough for two people; so hold the chips and chocolate! In reality a pregnant woman will require an additional 1400kJ during her second trimester. In the 3rd trimester, energy requirements increase by a further 500kJ. A woman of a healthy weight pre-pregnancy is expected to put on about 11.5kg – 16kg during the pregnancy, to support the optimal growth of her baby.


What you need more of:

  • Folate: Low folate levels are linked to birth defects, such as spina bifida. Folate is a B-group vitamin that plays an important role in cell division – so it is a vital nutrient during pregnancy to help your baby to develop properly. Folate is of key importance during the 1st trimester of pregnancy, when some women may not realise they are pregnant.Therefore, if you are planning to become pregnant it is recommended that you should take 600μg of folate every day. Good sources of folate include green vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and folate fortified products.
  • Iron: Your requirements for iron increase greatly during pregnancy. This is because your blood volume increases and it is needed to support the growth of your baby. Iron is important for building red blood cells and for carrying oxygen around your body and your baby’s. It is also important for the development of your baby’s brain. Iron deficiency anaemia can occur during pregnancy so it is important that you have a good iron intake to help prevent this from occurring. Iron from meat (haem iron) is absorbed better than iron from plant sources (non-haem iron). However, eating foods rich in vitamin C, can improve absorption of non-haem iron. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, chicken seafood, fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes and dried fruit.
  • Iodine: Iodine is another nutrient, which is needed for your babies brain development. Unfortunately since our NZ soils are low in iodine, our fruit and vegetables aren’t particularly good sources of this nutrient. Good sources of iodine include iodised salt, fish, seafood, dairy products and eggs.
  • Fibre: Fibre, a form of carbohydrate, provides bulk, which helps to keep the digestive tract functioning effectively and relieves constipation. Constipation can be a problem during pregnancy, because the digestive system slows down. Good sources of fibre include wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Other important nutrients:

  • Calcium: Calcium is essential for the development of healthy bones and teeth of your baby. Your baby gets the calcium it needs from your diet or from your body, where it is stored in your bones and teeth. While your calcium requirements do not change from before you were pregnant, it is now crucial to ensure that you are getting enough. Pregnant women should take in 1000mg of calcium every day. This equates to about 3 serves of dairy (i.e. 1 pottle or yoghurt, 1 200ml glass of milk or 2 slices (40g) cheese). 
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium. It occurs in two forms. One is made in the body by the action of sunlight on skin and the other is found naturally in a limited range of foods.
  • DHA: Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid. It is needed to support the overall mental and visual development of baby. Good sources of DHA include oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring or sardines. However, do not eat raw varieties of these fish and limit consumption of fresh fish to no more than 3 times per week.

What to avoid:

During pregnancy it is important to avoid eating certain foods to reduce your risk of listeria. Listeria is a food borne bacteria, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Foods to avoid include:

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  • Ham or chilled meats,
  • Raw, smoked fish or seafood
  • Stored salads or coleslaws
  • Sushi that contains raw fish or is not made fresh
  • Unpasteurized milk products
  • Surface ripened cheese
  • Marinated mussels
  • Raw eggs

It is also important to limit/avoid the consumption of:

  • Alcohol: It is not recommended you drink alcohol while you are pregnant; when you drink, the baby does too. The full effects on your baby are unknown but alcohol could affect brain development.
  • School shark, swordfish, marlin and trout in geothermal regions: These types of fish are best avoided during pregnancy due to their high mercury content. High mercury intakes are unsafe for your baby.
  • Liver: While liver is an excellent source of iron; it is recommended that it not be eaten any more than once per week, to avoid vitamin A toxicity.

Tips to help combat morning sickness:

  • Avoid strong-flavoured foods
  • Keep a package of dry crackers at your bedside and have some before you get out of bed
  • Space your meals throughout the day and drink plenty of water between meals
  • Limit high-fat foods
  • Have a small snack before bed that’s high in protein, such as peanut butter and crackers
  • Have a ginger herbal tea. Ginger helps alleviate nausea.

 

How to combat cravings

How to combat cravings

We eat food for a number of reasons but surprisingly hunger is usually well down the list. People need food to survive. It provides the fuel for our bodies so that we can undertake physical activity and stay healthy. However, food can provide much more than fuel or energy for the body. It can also provide us with emotional comfort or a way of interacting with others.

Hunger is our basic ‘need’ for food whereas appetite is our ‘want’ for food. The feeling of hunger comes about through the body sending messages to the brain which in turn stimulate appetite. This results in us initiating the process of eating. The opposite of hunger and appetite are “satiation” and “satiety”. Satiation is the feeling of fullness during a meal which brings eating to an end. Satiety on the other hand, is the feeling of fullness we experience in-between meals, which influences when you eat your next meal. 

Appetite is controlled by the balance between hunger and satiety and also many external environmental factors such as our moods, physical surroundings or the need for social interaction. Because of this, the ‘hunger’ message can often become confused and the sweet tooth craving takes over. How many times have we been out for coffee with friends and ordered a cake or muffin even though we weren’t physically hungry? I know I have!

With a bit of thought we can all begin to win the battle over those 3pm cravings. It’s time to start listening to our bodies and realising why it is that we are craving that piece of chocolate or other sweet treat.

Simple tips for winning the battle

Here a few practical ideas to help you combat those cravings:

    • Listen to your body. Are you physically hungry or are you craving something sweet because you are stressed or in need of comfort?

    • Look at other ways of fulfilling that need such as, taking some time out.

  • Try having a glass of water first. Sometimes we can confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. The time taken out to fill your glass, can also be a good distraction.

  • Choose nutrient dense foods, rather than a candy bar. These not only provide energy but are also packed with other nutrients which our bodies need. Examples of nutrient dense foods to help satisfy a sweet tooth include: low fat flavoured milk, yoghurt, fresh, frozen or dried fruit or even some muesli bars (less than 600kJ per serve).

  • Choose sweet foods which help us to feel full. Foods with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) or high protein content have a high satiety. This helps you feel fuller for longer. Have some of these foods within easy reach. Maybe keep a bag of dried fruit in your desk drawer or a nut bar in your handbag.

  • Ensure that you eat regularly during the day – and that includes starting the day with breakfast. By eating regularly you are less likely to cave into your emotional and environmental appetite cues (such as stress or comfort) due to feelings of satiety.

  • Try reaching for a piece of chewing gum, instead of a piece of chocolate.

  •  If you really must have some lollies, try the sugar-free hard boiled kind. These last longer if you suck on them, by which time the sweet tooth craving may have passed.

  • If your cravings can not be tamed, allow yourself a small bit first. There is no point telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate as chances are you will end up pigging out on a few other foods before finally caving in and eating some chocolate as well! Try treast which are portion controlled so that you don’t eandup eating a large amount eg a mini size chocolate bar.

  • Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to your cravings as this may lead to a viscous cycle where you then end up craving even more, due to feelings of depression.


Smart Snacking

Snacking can play an important part of our diet. It can help to ensure we get all the energy and nutrients we need for the day and prevent us from becoming too hungry. The number of snacks a person may need in a day depends on their energy requirements. Some of us may need 2 -3 snacks while those who are less active, may not need snacks at all.

 

When we choose snacks it's important to avoid the ones which are energy dense and nutrient poor. This means they are usually high in sugar or fat and do not provide us with much in the way of other nutrients. Think of your packet items that are highly processed, examples include: fizzy drinks, chippies, chocolate, biscuits and muffins. 

A snack is a mini meal, so if you wouldn't add it to your dinner plate, why have it as a snack? The best snacks to choose are ones, which are going to help fill us up and provide us with some nutrition. This means choosing mostly whole-food snacks, which contain carbohydrates, protein or healthy fats and are packed full of vitamins and minerals. That's not to say there's no allowance for eating chocolate or cake, if you feel like eating something sweet, or savoury, then do! Watch your portion size and eat it mindfully

Smart snack options include:

  • Plain unsweetened yoghurt and fresh fruit
  • A small handful of raw nuts
  • A piece of fruit 
  • Vegetable sticks and hummus
  • Rice crackers with tuna or salmon
  • Wholegrain toast with peanut butter or vegemite
  • 
Fruit or vegetable smoothie
  • A boiled egg
  • Half an avocado

However, like with any food, it is important to watch the portions of the food you are eating.

A healthy portion size for a snack is:

  • 
1 pottle of yoghurt
  • 1 small handful of nuts (approx 10 almonds or 3 brazil nuts)
  • 1 piece of fruit (fits into the palm of your hand)

How to handle 3pm cravings

If you find that you reach 3pm and you are craving sugar or chocolate, try these useful tips:

  • Ensure your lunch contains some fibre, healthy fats and protein. This will keep you feeling fuller for longer.                                       
  • Listen to your body. Are you physically hungry or are you craving something sweet because you are stressed or in need of comfort? Look at other ways of fulfilling that need such as, taking some time out, listening to music or practicing meditation.

  • Try having a glass of water first. Sometimes we can confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger.

  • Don’t have foods around you that you find hard to resist.

  • Allow yourself all foods, for when you want them. Foods that aren't allowed are suddenly way more appealing. If you find yourself craving chocolate, allow yourself that chocolate. Sit down and enjoy it. There is no point telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate as chances are you will end up snacking on something else before finally caving in and eating some chocolate as well.

    
 

Coping with 'non-supporters'

Are your friends and family making you fat?

That question was a bit harsh but it got your attention. Often those close to you can actually make it very difficult to stick to healthy eating habits. This is often unintentional, but regardless of intention it poses a tough challenge. This blog post is about how to enjoy these relationships, without throwing your good habits going out the window.

Often it is those who are closest to you that make it the hardest for you to lose weight or eat healthily. They may make comments that knock your confidence or question your ability to make the lifestyle changes you want to. They may create tempting situations that make it impossible for you to be well behaved. Or they might simply show their love for you by showering you with decadent treats. 

Who are “Non-supporters”?

These are people in your life who intentionally or unintentionally do or say things that make it hard for you to continue your healthy lifestyle choices.

Examples of Non-Supporters

Non-supporters can act in a variety of ways. Many forms of non-supporting are extremely subtle. These are just a few examples. If you rack your brain I am sure you can come up with a few of your own.

  • Certain living situations can make healthy eating very hard. E.g. You serve your family a healthy meal “Yuck! There is no way we are eating this rabbit food”

  •  Some people will make direct weight-related comments. E.g. “C’mon honey, I like your curvy bits”

  •  Others can make comments that make you fear for your health or question what you are trying to achieve. E.g. “Careful you don’t waste away. Are you sure you aren’t losing too much?”

  • Some relationships revolve around food-related activities. Unfortunately this can mean you may be excluded from events because of your ‘diet’.

  • Often people can act personally insulted that you don’t eat what they are offering. E.g. “Are you too good for my cheesecake now?”

  •  A work colleague will always bring in baking and leave it around to tempt you.

  •  Some people directly disregard what you are trying to do. E.g. “Just take it, you can start the diet on Monday”

  •  Your partner likes to treat you by bringing home ice-cream or chocolate after work.

The first step to dealing with Non-supporters is to think about why they may be acting this way. There can be a number of reasons why people don’t want you to lose weight. If you can identify why someone may be feeling this way it can help you respond in the most appropriate way.

Reasons for non-supporting

  • Those who are overweight themselves may feel threatened. Are you the larger one of your friends, which makes the others feel better about their own weight?

  • Partners may be insecure that if you lose weight you may find them less desirable or even find someone else

  •  Co-workers or friends can be competitive

  • Others that are also trying to lose weight may be jealous that you are making changes and they aren’t

  • Loved ones often feel it is their role to make you accept your size as it is

Once you have identified what you think the reasons for non-supporting are think of what you can say or do to ease their concerns. For example, if you believe your partner is feeling insecure you could make an extra effort to communicate how much you love him/her or start planning a future trip or night out together for when you have achieved some of your goals.

How to respond to Non-supporters

There are a number of ways to deal with Non-supporters, on a wide spectrum of bravery. 

  • Least Brave: Tell a simple white lie or defer the situation. E.g. “No thanks, I just ate before I came” or “Not right now thanks”

  • Most Brave: Assertively explain why you are saying No. E.g. “None for me thanks. I’m trying to lose weight and I’ve been doing really well so far”

The most helpful thing is to have a generic response you can give automatically if you are faced with a non-supporting situation off-guard. Come up with a statement that you feel comfortable saying and practice saying it a few times.

How Non-Supporters can help

The last step in dealing with Non-supporters is to find ways to allow them to help you on your journey. It will help you to have more support and it will make them feel better for being a part of your changes. Here are some suggestions for how they can help:

  • Get on board with healthy eating too

  • Try not to eat unhealthy foods in front of you

  • Plan a fun activity/treat for when your goals are achieved

  • Offer to join in with physical activity

  • Give flowers, not food

  • Try not to plan social events around food (instead go to a concert or the beach, get pedicures or enrol in an evening course together)

  • Store tempting foods out of sight (or agree not to buy them at all)

  • Experiment with new healthy recipes

We hope that this has made you think about how the people who you spend time with affect your lifestyle. If you can think of particular people that fit into the Non-supporter category come up with a plan for how to respond to non-supporting situations and ideas for how they can help you in your journey. Most people are happy to help when they know how. And if you have any that continue to be challenging despite your best efforts, some space may be required.

Breakfast - the most important meal of the day

Yes - what you have heard for years is right. Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day! It helps to kick-start your metabolism and sets you up well for the rest of the day. The word breakfast literally means “to break the fast” and it is recommended to eat within two hours of waking in the morning.

The ideal breakfast would be a combination of protein from low fat dairy, beans, eggs or meat options, a wholegrain cereal or bread and fruit. High fibre protein choices help you for feel satisfied for longer and prevent the mid-morning munchies. In general who miss out on breakfast are likely to be heavier than those who do not. Those who skip breakfast have actually been shown to eat more throughout the day than those who have breakfast. If you miss breakfast it can be much harder to get all of your nutrients you require for the day. Foods eaten at breakfast usually provide good sources of carbohydrate, calcium, protein and fibre as well as essential vitamins and minerals which are often not made up for later in the day.

Having breakfast helps to improve your performance throughout the day. If you regularly skip breakfast it has been shown to reduce memory, concentration and productivity through the day.

 Often the morning is a very busy time for people getting off to work and organising the day ahead. If you find that you are rushed and unable to sit down to a bowl of cereal or toast, another option could be to have a low fat yogurt and fruit, cereal bar, smoothie or a ready-made breakfast drink.

Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are an excellent source of carbohydrate and fibre. It is best to look for breakfast cereals that are made from wholegrain or high fibre cereals. When reading the label look for the following:

Nutrient                   Amount per 100g

Total fat                     <10g (ideally <5g)

- Saturated fat        <2g

Total sugar               <15g (without fruit)

                                    <25g (with fruit)

Fibre                         >6g (preferably >10g)

Sodium                    <600mg

Some healthy options to look for are untoasted or natural muesli, rolled oats, weetbix and sultana bran. There are now so many options to choose from that it is important to compare labels and choose the healthiest option that best meets your needs.

Breads

Wholegrain breads are made from whole cereal grains whereas wholemeal bread is made by grinding whole grains to make wholegrain flour. A general rule of thumb would be the least processed the bread the better. Again look at the fibre content of the bread to ensure it is meeting the recommendation of greater than 5gm per 100gm and greater than 7gm per 100gm is even better.
 

Breakfast spreads

Breakfast spreads are all very different, some are high in fat, some are high in salt and some are high in sugar. It is important to use any breakfast spread only in small amounts. When choosing a spread for your bread in most cases it is recommend to opt for a margarine rather than butter due to the high levels of saturated fat found in butter. When considering a margarine look for one that is less than 55gm per 100gm total fat, low in saturated fat (15% or less) and low in trans fatty acid (less than 1%). Another option in place of margarine or butter would be to use avocado or hummus instead.

Some healthier options for table spreads include, vegemite or marmite (although need to be careful for those people with high blood pressure), reduced sugar jams and a lite smooth peanut butter.

 
Healthy breakfast ideas

  • Poached or boiled egg on wholegrain toast
  • Natural muesli, low fat milk and fruit
  • Baked beans on wholegrain toast
  • Omelette with low fat cheese, tomato and ham
  • Avocado and tomato on wholegrain bread
  • Porridge, fruit and low fat milk
  • Banana on English muffin or crumpet
  • Weetbix or bran flakes with low fat yoghurt and fruit
  • Fruit smoothie made with low fat milk, yoghurt and fruit.

Don’t forget to include a drink of water, herbal tea, low fat milk, tea or coffee with your breakfast meal.