Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where do you eat your dinner?

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
In our home we try to eat as many meals as possible together at the dining table. Of course it doesn’t always happen with the kids sometimes eating dinner earlier than us, but I try to make an effort and sit down with the kids to eat breakfast, lunch and an early dinner wherever possible. This is a great opportunity for us to chat about what has happened during the day, and also for me to role model appropriate eating (manners, eating my vegies, understanding the 5 food groups etc).
The benefits of eating together as a family should not be under-estimated. Role modelling is a hugely powerful tool, and the habits and behaviours that children learn will stay with them through to adulthood.  I often hear of children not liking certain vegetables, and if I probe a bit further there is often at least 1 parent that doesnt like the vegetable in question. Case in point - my 4yo daughter does not like potatoes. And nor do I. I spent 5 years at boarding school eating potatoes most nights (although I suspect a lot of the mashed potato wasn't real potato after spotting a few deb potato packets in the bin. Bless your cotton socks Cookie!). So I have inadvertently passed that food dislike onto my daughter. I might discuss role modelling in more detail in another blog post.
Anyway, getting back to my point for this blog post. I have been reading a few journal articles over the last few days on the importance of eating together as a family (I know – how exciting am I reading journal articles. In truth there was no interesting looking mags at the newsagent). One of the journal articles found that 25% of children ate their breakfast in front of the TV, 46% ate their afternoon snack in front of the tv and 41% ate their dinner sitting in front of the TV (almost 1000 European children aged 9-11 years participated in this study). So, 2 out of 5 children ate their dinner with the TV. This concerns me.  
There is some thought that eating in front of the TV can increase the risk of overweight and obesity. This is partly because children become mesmerised by the TV and pay little attention to whether they are truly hungry or not. Typically children will eat when they are sitting in front of the TV. But they are not developing the social interaction or learning about their true hunger. In WA around 23% of school aged children are considered overweight or obese – that is nearly 1 in 4 children. Again -another concerning statistic.  If there is any link between eating as a family and overweight and obesity then I am keen to do something about it for my family.
Don’t get me wrong – my 4yo daughter has her ‘tv time’ each afternoon (she no longer has a day sleep... sigh) when she can choose to watch Play School, Angelina Ballerina or the ubiquitous Wiggles. But she doesn’t eat in front of the TV.
We also will try to eat a few meals outside as a picnic – particularly over summer. It is amazing how the change of scenery often results in new foods being tried and liked!
If you are starting to think about New Years Resolutions then eating together as a family could be one of them.
Oh and only 2 sleeps till Santa arrives – yippee!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Great Cordial Science Experiment

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
·         Cottee’s raspberry flavoured concentrate cordial (1L)
·         Golden Circle standard raspberry cordial (2L)
·         Scales for measuring exactly how much cordial was used
·         Drinking glass
·         Water
·         Calculator for working out how many kilojoules were in each cordial drink

1.       Invite 3 unsuspecting nieces/nephews/partners over and ask if they will be willing subjects. Thankfully they agree.
2.       Whilst subjects are staring at me thinking ‘why has Aunty Kate bought cordial? That is one item I have NEVER seen at her house’ quickly move onto step 3.
3.       Explain that Cottee’s have now brought out a concentrated cordial, which is now in 1L bottles instead of 2L bottles. Cottee’s say that you only need to use half the amount of cordial to make your drink.
4.       Show 2nd bottle of cordial – Golden Circle – and explain that this is the traditional style cordial.
5.       Ask each subject to make up 2 drinks of cordial using both the concentrated and standard cordial. Measure exactly how much cordial is added.
6.       Calculate whether half the amount of cordial has been used with the Cottee’s cordial compared to the Golden Circle
7.       Explain that cordial is NOT an item that should be purchased from the supermarket due to empty kilojoules that are contained in it.
That the new Cottee’s concentrated cordial will provide more kilojoules per serve as people have a tendency to add more cordial as a result of habit, or simply because it is easy to over pour.
Each participant firstly poured the concentrated Cottee’s cordial to suit their taste. Then they poured the standard style Golden Circle cordial using the same method. The results are outlined below:

Golden Circle

Volume used
Volume used
Participant 1 (May*)
Participant 2 (Christina*)
Participant 3 (Robin*)

On average each participant consumed 20% more kilojoules when using the concentrated Cottee’s cordial.  Participant 3 consumed a whopping 29% more kilojoules with the concentrated cordial. 

Cottee’s claim that the concentrated cordial, compared to the standard 2L cordial, is easy to carry, store and pour, has less packaging, and is great value. I agree that the concentrated version is easier to carry, and has less packaging, but based on the above results I am not sure I agree with the great value. The price for the 1L concentrated cordial is $4.62. The Golden Circle cordial was $4.29 for 2L – but the concentrated cordial was used in higher quantities, making it less value for money. There is some food for thought!
If you are someone who purchases cordial, then I have a couple of tips:
1.       The concentrated cordial may result in you consuming more kilojoules (20% more according to my science experiment)!
2.       Choose a diet cordial which has less kilojoules.
3.       Choose water – readily available and absolutely no kilojoules!
Now for any science experiment gurus out there, I would like to quickly point out that there were a few parameters that I wasn’t able to control. It would have been great to have used the Cottee’s non-concentrated cordial as the comparison... but I don’t think it exists anymore – at least I couldn’t find it. So Golden Circle was the next choice. Participants were instructed to add water to suit their taste, so the amount of water wasn’t equal in every glass... but for me the whole point was to work out how much cordial was added. 

What did I do with the leftover cordial? My 15yo niece was very excited about taking it home.....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Food Labels: Part Two (Nutrition Information Panel)

In part one of food labeling I introduced the concept of the label and the ingredients list. That was the basics – now we get into the fun stuff (well for a dietitian anyway!)

The nutrition information panel is your guide to knowing how true some of those marketing claims are that you read on the front of the packet. It is a legal requirement of all food packaging contains a nutrition information panel. It must give this nutrition breakdown in both an average serving size and per 100 g of the product.

Serving Size

First let us address the ‘average serving size’. This has a number of uses if you are going to actually eat the serving size given, I find it particularly useful if people are trying to count kJ/cals or for my clients with diabetes who need to count grams of carbohydrate (particularly those on insulin). You do need to be careful that you don’t get caught out with what the company lists as an average serving size. A classic one that my husband hates is a certain 600 ml chocolate milk that lists the serving size as only 300 ml….I mean how many blokes do you know that buy a 600ml chocolate milk and only drink half of it! Another I’ve noticed is a small 200 g tub of yoghurt that lists the serving size as 100 g!

Oh and one more thing to point out – the serving size the company lists is not necessarily the amount you should eat. Remember that the serving size has no basis in nutrition – it’s just what the company has randomly decided is the serving size they would like you to eat.

Assessing a Product

The best way to assess a product for it’s nutrition quality is by using the per 100g column. For those of you in the USA/Canada this doesn’t exist so you would need to do some math to convert your product to 100 g in order to follow the advice I am going to give. By using the ‘per 100 g’ column you can both assess in individual product AND compare products because you are then comparing ‘apples with apples’ by comparing 100 g of each product. It also allows you to quickly make an assessment of any ‘%’ claims e.g. 97% fat free should only have 3 g of fat per 100 g.

So let us now go through different nutrients and I’ll give you the guidelines as to what you should be looking for. It does vary a bit depending on which food group you are looking at but bare with me and feel free to comment and ask questions if anything isn’t clear. For the purpose of this blog I am going to use the following nutrition information panel taken directly from ‘Kellogg’s Sultana Bran Buds’ – one that I just looked at this week to assess whether or not I would give it to my daughter for breakfast. So when I'm referring to the nutrition information panel, this is what I mean:

Sultana Bran Buds

Nutrition Information Panel

Quantity per


(45 g/ 1 cup)

Quantity per











640 kJ

3.8 g

0.7 g

0.2 g

29.7 g

11.3 g

5.9 g

60 mg

171 mg

1430 kJ

8.5 g

1.5 g

0.4 g

65.9 g

25.1 g

13.2 g

135 mg

380 mg

Let me start out by saying that none of the recommendations below should be taken as black and white rules. They should be seen as a guide and need to be mixed with a good measure of commonsense. They represent my own recommendations but are heavily based on those from Diabetes Australia, the Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council combined with my 15 years of experience putting them into practice.


The first thing to look at on most products is TOTAL FAT. For a product to be considered low fat it should contain no more than 3 g of TOTAL fat per 100 g. This is fine for those products that are naturally low in fat (fruit, vegetables, some breads and cereals) but for those that need modifying it can be more challenging. Obviously, the lower the fat the better but you also need to consider the kJ/cal content which I'll cover later.

Rule of Thumb:

Look for less than 3 g of fat per 100 g


Cheese: Less than 15 g of fat per 100 g

Meat, Chicken, Fish, Eggs, Nuts: Less than 10 g of fat per 100 g

Some breakfast cereals may be higher in total fat but low in saturated fat because they have nuts, seeds or oats. If this is the case, allow up to 10 g fat per 100 g IF it meets the saturated fat guideline below.

Commonsense note:

Every single food that you eat does NOT need to have <3 style="mso-spacerun: yes"> This just means that when you eat a food that is higher in fat you need to be extra careful with your portion size. The most important message with fat is to make sure the saturated fat content is low – so let’s look at that next.


The saturated fat content is particularly important for cardiovascular health and diabetes. If you have either of these conditions or are at risk of developing them, then looking at the saturated fat content of a product is important. Even if the total fat is higher than 3 g in a product, if the saturated fat is low, it’s not such a big deal – so long as the kilojoule content is reasonable.

Rule of Thumb:

Look for less than 1.5g per 100 g


Cheese: Look for less than 10 g per 100g but watch your portion size!

Meat, Chicken Fish, Eggs, Nuts: Less than 3 g per 100 g

So you can see that 'Sultana Bran Buds' meets the recommendations for both total fat and saturated fat. You'll need to wait until my next post after Christmas to find out if it meets the recommendations for fibre, carbohydrate (including sugar) and sodium.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Summer Pasta

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

I love new recipes. I love it even more when my husband likes them and they become part of our regular menu rotation! This is a new recipe that I tried 2 weeks ago, and made for the second time this week. It is a great summer dish – fresh, light, simple and tasty. What more could you ask for? I got the recipe from the last issue of Real Living magazine, but I have adapted it by adding extra vegies, and making it smaller to serve 2 people, so here is the recipe that I have done.

Summer Pasta

Serves: 2

Prep time: 8 min

Cooking time: 13 min


Pasta to serve 2

1 cup frozen peas

Half broccoli, cut into small florets

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 zucchini, grated

3 tsp finely grated lime (or lemon) zest

1 tablespoon lime (or lemon) juice

Large handful of fresh herbs (basil, or mint, or chives, or parsley), chopped

80g Danish fetta, crumbled

Cracked black peper

Shaved parmesan, to serve (1 teaspoon per person)

1. Cook pasta. Bring saucepan of water to boil. Cook pasta for 13 mins until al dente, or according to packet instructions. Add peas and broccoli 2 mins before pasta is ready. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in pan over high heat. Add garlic, zucchini and lime zest. Cook for 3 mins. Remove pan from heat.

3. Finish and Serve. Add pasta, lime juice, herbs and fetta to pan. Toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Serve with small amount parmesan.

You might notice that this is a vegetarian dish. My husband doesn’t ‘do’ vegetarian, so I quickly cooked up some chicken for him. Everyone was happy! The leftovers were also delicious for lunch the next day.

This dish could be adapted to include vegies that you had in the fridge. Cherry tomatoes would be delicious, as would some cauliflower, or rocket/spinach leaves added towards the end.

Nutritionally it has only a small amount of fetta, which is high in fat. By keeping it to only 40g per person you still get the delicious creaminess of fetta, with only about 400kj (90cal). Similarly, parmesan is high in fat, so if you stick to just 1 tsp on your pasta you will eat 100kj (24cal). You can still enjoy the flavour of these high fat foods with less quantity.

Let me know if you give it a go.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making food fun for Christmas

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
With Christmas just around the corner, I found this great idea for adding a fun element to kid’s food.

So for my 4yo daughter’s afternoon tea I quickly whipped together a few toothpicks, some green circle cutouts, a white star, some glitter and voila – an easy, decoration to jazz up a snack. I made a peanut paste sandwich with fresh wholemeal bread, used my tree cookie cutter, and then added some grapes as well. How cute is it? And how much did I feel like Martha? Most importantly my daughter absolutely loved it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Subway - mostly a healthy choice

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

Once upon a time there was a strapping lad... let’s call him Nigel*. Nigel thought he had a pretty healthy diet and while he was now ticking the mid-30 age bracket box, he had never worried about his weight. He tried to do a couple of high intensity exercise sessions each week, and was pretty good at eating foods from all the right food groups. 
Recently he just wasn’t feeling brilliant and noticed a bit of a ‘beer gut’. What could it be?  Luckily he knew of a brilliant dietitian who analysed his diet. 
We have recently commented on how easy it is to knock back drinks (coffee, juice) and consume excess calories.  This wasn’t Nigels problem – he didn’t drink coffee and juice was never consumed.  It wasn’t even alcohol, which was only consumed a couple days of the week in moderation. Turns out it was his lunch. 
Four days a week Nigel would hot foot it to his closest Subway shop and choose his foot long sub with meatballs, mozzarella cheese and south west chipotle sauce on white bread. He thought Subway was a good healthy choice as it was all freshly made with the standard sub including lettuce, tomato, onion, capsicum and cucumber.  All vegies – so they must make it a good choice? Nigel also had the Subway jingle ‘eat fresh’ ringing in his ears!
His trusty dietitian calculated that his daily energy requirements were around 10,700kJ.  His lunch choice of meatballs was providing him around 50% of his energy needs – not leaving much left over for breakfast, dinner and any snacks. Luckily the rest of his meal choices were good. 
Of even more concern was the fact that his meatball sub was giving him 80% of his daily fat requirements (keep in mind that we all need some fat in our diet – to not only insulate our body, but help the absorption of some vitamins, and fat is also a part of every single cell in our body to make sure our body can function). Turns out that there was 39.8g of fat in the meatball sub, and most shockingly – 20g fat in the south west chipotle sauce.  Maybe I should just emphasise that point again – 39.8g in the meatball footlong sub – and another 20g of fat in the sauce. That is one heavy handed sauce!  Note to everyone – sauces can be full of fat!
And to go one level deeper – Nigel’s meatball sub was giving him 94% of his daily saturated fat intake. Saturated fat is the ‘bad fat’ found typically in animal foods (meat, dairy, butter), coconut milk and processed foods such as cakes, pastries and pies.  Saturated fat is known to increase our cholesterol levels and lead to increased risk of heart disease. 
So, you can see why Nigel was gaining a few kilograms.
Nigel’s dietitian recommended changing his lunch. He now chooses a sweet onion chicken teriyaki foot long sub, with sweet chilli sauce, and the changes are remarkable, as outlined in the table below:

Meatball Sub
Chicken Teriyaki Sub
Saturated Fat

Amazing difference! In the short term this single change has meant Nigel has lost the extra kilograms that were annoying him, and more importantly has hugely reduced his risk of heart disease.  Well done Nigel!
Take home message – if you are buying your lunch watch out for the sauces and added extras. Ask to see the nutrition information, or check with a dietitian!
*name changed to protect identity

Image via

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Diabetes Friendly Christmas Dessert

Written by Sophie McGough APD/CDE

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.....oh how I love this time of year!  I've just ordered the turkey and am starting to plan out what I'm going to do for Christmas lunch, as I am sure many of you are as well.

Before I left full time work to have my two little cherubs I used to work at Diabetes WA (or Diabetes Australia, Western Australia as it used to be known).  One of my tasks was providing education and advice on DIAL (Diabetes Information Advice Line ph:1300 136 588).  At this time of year the most popular question people would phone up with was 'How can I make the Christmas dinner diabetes friendly?'  The immediate response would be 'It's just one day and people with diabetes don't need to eat perfectly every day of their lives - so just cook what you normally would' but I understand that many people and their loved ones would still like to provide a healthy option if they can.  You may also be looking for a healthier dessert to have over the festive season which can go on for weeks!

Last night I had some girlfriends around for a Christmas catch up (including Kate I might add!) so I thought I would road test a dessert from the Low GI Cookbook by Dr Jenny Brand-Miller and her colleagues at the GI Foundation.  We used to demonstrate it at our 'Cook Smart' sessions at Diabetes WA and it was always a winner in the taste testing, so I knew I was on a pretty safe bet with the 'Berry and Vanilla Creme Dessert.'

This dessert has a low glycemic index and is much lower in fat than your traditional Christmas trifle, so people with diabetes can enjoy it without worrying if their blood glucose levels are going to go through the roof!  It is designed to be served individually, but you could easily double or triple the recipe and present it like you would a traditional trifle.  Also, one of the girls last night has to have gluten free foods so I omitted the sponge fingers and she still said she enjoyed it.  All dishes were empty last night so I think we can say the others enjoyed it too.  Check out my very creative picture (I tried very hard to take this one!) and the recipe below.  Let me know if you give it a go.

Berry and Vanilla Creme Dessert

Juice of 1 orange
1 T brown sugar
1 T of sweet wine (well I used champagne)
250g (1 1/4 cups) of mixed or frozen berries
8 sponge finger biscuits (I used the Unibic brand if you can't find them)

Vanilla Creme:
100g low fat cream cheese (comes in an 'extra light' version - bring it to room temperature to make it easier to use)
4 Tbsp low fat sour cream (Pura and Weight Watchers both do an ultra light version)
4 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence


  1. Combine the orange juice, sugar and wine in a bowl, then add the berries and leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
  2. To make the vanilla crème, put the cream cheese and sour cream in a mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the icing sugar, add the vanilla essence and stir well to combine.
  3. Choose four 250ml (1 cup) glasses with a wide base. Cut a sponge finger biscuit to cover the base of each glass. Add a spoonful of berries and a drizzle of marinade over the biscuit base, then top with a spoonful of vanilla crème. Top with another layer of sponge finger, the berries, a little more marinade, and finish with the vanilla crème. Chill until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Baking

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
Christmas is fast creeping up on us, and this morning we had a great morning tea with some of our close friends. I thought this would be a good opportunity to show that you can have some tasty baked treats, with a few modifications to make them a bit healthier.
I made some white chocolate cupcakes, but instead of using the usual cupcake pans, I used the mini cupcake tray (24 in a tray) – much better for portion control.  I also only made half of the recipe to save having too many leftovers around the house and being tempted to eat them! Don't the candy cane's add a festive touch?

I also made a plate of fairy bread. In our house fairy bread really only comes out at birthday parties, but my daughter loves it, and by using wholemeal bread it really isn’t that bad!  Guaranteed that the kids love it – without it being laden with saturated fat, like many other party food can be. In the photo below, my 4yo daughter is point to the ‘2 prettiest pieces of fairy bread’!

There were also 2 platters of fruit – delicious at this time of year.
So there are a couple of ideas for your Christmas get togethers!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Product Review - A2 Milk

Written by Kate Bullen, APD
My 13 month old son was having minor vomits every time he had cow’s milk, and often after yoghurt. It didn’t seem to bother him but it did bother me. I started to write down the frequency of his vomits – tried having milk with food, after food, before food, without food etc... Still he vomited. So I decided to investigate a bit further. I wasn’t keen to change him to soy milk as his reactions were not that bad. I had noticed the A2 milks in the supermarket and started doing some reading up.
A quick science lesson – cow’s milk contains protein. About 30% of the protein in cow’s milk is A1 and A2 beta casein protein.  The A2 milk that is now available comes from cows that have been chosen because of their ability to produce milk high in A2 protein – I believe we even have A2 cows here in WA!   Apart from the milk being high in A2 protein (compared to A1 protein) the milk is identical in every other way to normal cow’s milk.  The literature that I have read claims that many, many years ago cows only produced A2 milk – it was as a result of breeding that cows now produce milk that has both A1 and A2 protein in it. Nutritionally normal cows milk and A2 milk are the same.
As a dietitian my background has been quite science based. My nutrition advice is usually in line with what has been proven by science. Sometimes new things evolve and have not had time to be tested by science.  If you happen to be doing your own research on A2 milk you might come across some statements linking the consumption of milk containing A2 protein to better controlling diabetes, autism and coronary heart disease, to name a few. The research is not conclusive and further studies are required. My recommendation would be that this milk should be consumed for more minor digestive issues that you or your children may be experiencing. It might not be the answer, but in our case it seems to have helped. Of course you wont be doing any harm by consuming A2 milk (unless you have a milk protein or dairy intolerance/allergy) as it is still a great dairy product. I just like to try and give a balanced view J
A2 milk is more expensive. Pricing usually reflects supply and demand – and this being a relatively new product that is not produced in huge volumes means that the cost is higher.  I have tried 2 types of A2 milk and they have both been fine for my son.  I am going to continue using the A2 milk for the short term, and then will trial him on normal cows milk and see how he goes. A2 yogurt is also available, and the milk is available in full cream or reduced fat. The 2 types of A2 milk that I have found and used are:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deciphering Food Labels: Part One

Written by Sophie McGough APD/CDE

We’ve had a few requests to help people decipher food labels. …so here goes!  I have to say that (from a nutrition perspective) this is one of the most valuable skills you can empower a person with.  Many people complain to me that they want to eat better but have no idea what to look for on the label.  It is quite a big area to cover so to save putting you all to sleep I’ll do it in a few parts!

1. Getting to Know the Label

Food labels and what can appear on them is regulated by FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand).  The front of the packet is pretty much a big advertisement for the product.  Companies put all sorts of claims on the front to encourage you to buy the product.  You’ll be familiar with claims like ‘97% fat free,’ ‘high fibre’, ‘low in fat’, ‘cholesterol free’, heart ticks and GI symbols.  The problem is the marketing on a food label can pretty much say anything, so long as it doesn’t make a claim about a medical condition e.g. ‘Rice for Diabetes’.   Now some of these claims are accurate and others are stretching the boundaries of truth….so how do you know what to believe?  Answer: By using a combination of the Ingredients List and the Nutrition Information Panel to check the claims.

2. Ingredients List

Fact One: The ingredients list must contain all the ingredients used to make the product, including additives and preservatives.

Fact Two: The ingredients are listed in order of weight, meaning the largest amount used in the product down to the smallest amount in the product.  This excludes ‘water’ which can just be added at the end of the list.

Knowing this, you can use ingredients list as a guide to look for ingredients that you would like to avoid or have less of.   As a general rule of thumb, if an ingredient appears in the first couple of ingredients, you’ll know that it is contained in large quantities in the product (obviously, commonsense applies if the product only has three or four ingredients!)

The most common thing people are trying to reduce is fat, particularly saturated fat, so let's use this as a starting point.  To begin with let’s just look at the common names you can start to look for on an ingredients list that are sources of saturated fat. 



I’ve put a star next to vegetable oil because it could well be a mono or polyunsaturated oil but the saturated oils such as palm oil and hydrogenated versions are much cheaper to use. So if the food manufacturer has paid $$$ to use the healthier fat you can guarantee they’ll let you know about it.  Often they put vegetable oil (soy) to let you know it isn’t from a saturated fat source.

Check out the two labels below showing the first with high saturated fat and the second with low saturated fat (apologies for the quality of the photos!)

For the next week check out some food labels and see if any of these words appear in the first couple of ingredients.  It doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t eat the product but you now know it has saturated fat in it…the next step is to check the nutrition information panel to know exactly how much!  Stay tuned for another post…….  

If you would like notifications of new posts, feel free to "like" us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter