Reading Food Labels - how do you spot nutrition fact from fiction? Part 1

Reading Food Labels - how do you spot nutrition fact from fiction? Part 1

It's time to unlock the secrets of food labelling and on-pack claims and make it easy! Food labels can be extremely confusing so we’ve put together a simple guide explaining the key things to look at when comparing and purchasing products. Find out what nutritional information to look for, in part 1 of our two part series….

8 tips to support your immunity this winter

8 tips to support your immunity this winter

Along with chilly temperatures winter brings a variety of bugs, often leaving us feeling run down or completely knocked over by colds and flu. Although there are no quick fixes to prevent colds and flu from striking, here are 8 simple steps you can take to ensure your immune system is functioning at peak performance. 


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 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:

  • 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.