Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The games we play....

Written by Sophie McGough APD CDE

When I was at university playing drinking games (yes even dietetic students are human!) never in my wildest dreams did I ever think they were ever going to be applicable to my future parenting!

But as I sat there with my 'I'm going through my fussy phase' 1 year old son (CB) trying to convince him to just try one piece of mandarin - suddenly those vague (?) memories came flooding back.  I quickly enlisted the help of my 3 year old daughter and we both grabbed a piece of mandarin.  Then to the tune of 'Macarena' we danced the piece of mandarin in front of us as we sang:

'Da, Dada Da, Dada Da, Dada Dada'
'Da, Dada Da, Dada Da, Dada Dada'
'Da, Dada Da, Dada Da, Dada Dada'
Hey Mandarin!

At which point we then both shoved the mandarin into our mouths, gobbled it up and cracked up laughing! (yes a little different to the 'B52s' it used to be!).

Well - I have to say little CB thought it was the funniest thing ever and couldn't wait to join in the game and gobble up his mandarin!  It always amazes me how kids can go from complete refusal of food to gobbling it up in a second if you can somehow make it fun (the good old 'what's in it for me' principle!).  With both my children I have found that if you can get them to just try one bite, it can sometimes get them over the line and they are happy to keep eating.

I have to say I have also had some success with this game and avocado - doesn't work for those one or two syllable foods though....'Hey Meat' or 'Hey Apple' don't quite have the same ring to them LOL!  Other successes have been 'who can crunch the loudest' games, 'giving silly names to food' before eating it (e.g. juicy lucy tomatoes) and of course pretending I'm a 'disney character' while serving up their food - the most requested being 'Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, with a very bad rendition of 'Be our Guest'.

I would love to hear of other silly impromptu games that parents have played to try to get around the fussiness!

On a more serious note, I have been seeing quite a few fussy eaters in my private practice recently, some of which could have been prevented with some basic strategies being implemented in that 'magic window' between 6 months to 1 year and looking at how solids and new foods have been introduced.  If you need help with how to reduce or prevent fussy eating, see an accredited practising dietitian (APD) for support - you can access our APDs through our Dietitian Online services and you won't even have to leave home to get help. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Irish Diet

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

How about we start the week with a joke? This was sent to me by a friend today as she knew I would get a giggle out of it. And laughing is always good!

An Irishman was terribly overweight, so his doctor put him on a diet.
'I want you to eat regularly for two days, then skip a day,then eat regularly again for two days then skip a day. Repeat this procedure for two weeks.
The next time I see you, you should have lost at least 2 kilograms.'
When the Irishman returned, he shocked the doctor by having lost nearly 25 kilograms!
'Why, that's amazing!' the doctor said, 'Did you follow my instructions?'
The Irishman nodded.
'I'll tell you though, by jaesuz, I t'aut I were going to drop dead on dat third day.'
'From the hunger, you mean?' asked the doctor.
'No, from the bloody skippin'

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cardiovascular disease

Written by Kate Bullen, APD

Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in Australia. This includes heart attack, strokes and other blood vessel diseases. Someone in Australia dies from cardiovascular disease every 11 minutes. Not so nice. This range of diseases affects 2 out of 3 families. So chances are you know many people who have died from, or have a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
As a dietitian, I know that diet and lifestyle play a big part in reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease. I thought it might be timely to look at some of the latest evidence about diet – because this is something that everyone can improve on.

Traditionally advice about cardiovascular disease and diet has been to reduce fat, in particular saturated fat – or the ‘bad’ fat that we largely get from animal products such as meat, chicken, butter and dairy products. I recently read a few journal articles that analysed numerous research studies that have been conducted and it appears that saturated fat might not be the consistent problem that we have always thought it was. Yes – saturated fat does increase our LDL cholesterol (which is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol). But the bigger problem seems to be that people are taking fat, including saturated fat, out of their diet and replacing it with processed and refined carbohydrate sources, such as bread, pasta, refined crackers etc. What is the problem with these types of carbohydrates? Well it would appear that people are just eating way too much of them – possibly thinking they are doing the right thing – and the result can be an increase in triglycerides (the ‘ugly’ cholesterol) and reduced HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). And often an increase in body weight. All of which increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Just to clarify – this is not an opportunity to go out and start slathering butter all over your toast! Or frying your food. Or eating the skin on your chicken. As a general rule we are just eating too many kilojoules. Which is making many of us are overweight and obese.

And the good news? We probably need to look at increasing omega 3 fats in our diet, as these seem to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega 3 fats can be broken down into 2 categories:

  • Plant sources of omega 3 such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, rocket, broccoli, bokchoy), soy beans, nuts and seeds, canola oil, chia
  • Marine sources of omega 3 including fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovy), fish oil capsules, foods that have omega 3 added to them.

And a greater focus on wholefood carbohydrates will help as well. What do I mean by this? I mean look for grainy types of bread where you can see wholegrains. This way your body is getting access to a lot more antioxidants and phytochemicals which may have a protective effect. They also take a bit more effort for your body to digest them – which should keep you full for longer. Think about the types of carbohydrate food you are eating (most people eat bread, breakfast cereal, crackers) and think if you can choose a better option that might be more grainy, wholesome and lower in glycemic index (GI).

My advice?

  1. Speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian who can assess your diet. This is important as everyone eats differently so it is important that advice is tailored to your needs. You can get some fantastic advice from Accredited Practising Dietitians here!
  2. If you are overweight, then lose weight. This is hugely important. Being overweight is a massive risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Again if you want some expert advice, then pop over here and sign up!
  3. Try and include at least 2-3 fish meals each week to provide you with some omega 3 fats.
  4. Look at other omega 3 sources and increase these in your diet. Green leafy vegetables, soy beans, nuts and seeds are fantastic options.
  5. Reduce processed foods in your diet. Often these are high in refined carbohydrates AND saturated fat. Bad combination! Stick with whole foods with less processing.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Product Review - La Zuppa Soup

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD
    I know that Spring is upon us, but soups can still be enjoyed on the odd cooler day that we have. This  soup is by La Zuppa and the flavour is moroccan pumpkin with chickpea.  I tried this soup after being recommended it by a friend. I bought it a few months ago and it just sat in my pantry – until last week when I had nothing of any great interest to take for my lunch to work. So this got a guernsey. And can I just say that I was pleasantly surprised. I am not a big fan of packaged soups – usually they just taste a bit average and bland and salty and boring. But this was really enjoyable! It was tasty and a bit chunky (in a good way!) with the chickpeas and quite hearty. It was enough to keep me going until late in the afternoon.

    One of the huge advantages of this soup was that I could easily understand each of the ingredients: water, pumpkin, lentil, chickpea, potato, onion, sweet potato, cabbage, carrot, white bean, tomato paste, salt, green pea, ginger, herbs and spices.  Yep it has a bit of salt (256mg/100g) but you can’t really expect a packaged product to be without any preservatives, so I think this amount of salt is ok every now and then.

    And if you are looking for any other reasons to try the soup – it is gluten free and vegetarian. And reheats very well in the microwave.

    Has anyone else tried the La Zuppa range of soups?

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    The French Way of Eating

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD
    An article appeared in our Sunday paper last weekend about the reasons that French women don’t get fat. France is such an amazing country and their women are known for being uber stylish and pretty damn trim. So I thought I would borrow some of the concepts that were outlined:

    The French drink black coffee instead of a milky latte or milk based cappuccino.  Now this has to be a big one. A black coffee gives you absolutely zero calories/kilojoules but a medium latte (300ml) will give you 705kj (or around 10% of an average persons daily kilojoule needs).

    The French keep active. So whether they are walking to get their local coffee or taking their stairs in their apartment building, or walking their dogs a couple of times a day they keep active during the day. I think most of us could take tips from this!

    The French eat 3 meals a day.  There does seem to be a general belief that 5 small meals can help with appetite control and weight loss. This is not always the case. If you are not hungry – then don’t eat! Otherwise you are just getting unnecessary kilojoules.

    The French eat chocolate and cake. Now this is my personal favourite! We shouldn’t have any ‘bad’ foods that we tell ourselves we can’t eat. As soon as we do this typically we just want the food more. The French are quite clever – they only have small portions of these tasty foods. I have fond memories of walking through Parisian streets and laneways admiring the gorgeous treats in Patisseries. I also remember that most of these pastries were quite small in size. Compare this to some of the super sized biscuits, muffins or pastries that I see at our coffee shops and bakeries and the difference is quite obvious!  I think quality is the key here. Buy the best quality chocolate you can – and enjoy it. Same for sweet treats – don’t deny yourself that  piece of chocolate cake that you want. But if you are worried – then share it with a friend. But most importantly – enjoy it.

    The French shop for groceries every day. There are local fruit and vegetables and bread shops on every corner in France, and markets are dotted around the big cities. Making it very easy to stock up on fresh produce each day – only buying what is needed and buying what is in season. And getting a bit of extra exercise at the same time by walking to and from and carrying the groceries home. I don’t know about you, but my weekly grocery shop consists of me putting 2 kid in the car, driving to my shopping centre, getting out of the car, walking into the supermarket, buying what is on my list for the week, and then heading home. Not much in the way of physical activity there!

    The French eat cheese. Again portion control and quality of cheese is the key message. The French enjoy amazing cheese – but only in small amounts.  A great lesson to be learnt here as we are just a few months out from the festive season.

    I would love to hear what your take away message is from how the French eat? I know I have been reminded of a few ways that I can improve my eating and habits based on the French way of eating. I think I will try and walk to my local shop a few times during the week to get the basics of milk and bread, instead of doing the big supermarket shop once a week.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Recipe - Teriyaki Salmon

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD

    Last Friday was one of those unorganised days. I had to take my daughter to the GP in the afternoon and we got home at 4.55pm. I was super pleased that I had dinner on the table by 5.12pm – making it from scratch! This was a new recipe for the kids, but based on my daughter’s favourite chicken and rice that I have written about before – except this time I made it with salmon.

    I try to include a couple of fish meals each week to make sure that we get plenty of great omega-3 fats. Why are these fats important? Our body can’t make these fats so we need to get them from our diet to help with the normal development of our brain, eyes and nerves. This is particularly important for growing kids. There is also good evidence to show that eating these fats can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease.  All good things!

    If you are looking for a new way to include salmon in your diet, then try this recipe – I was very impressed – as was the rest of the family!  I usually have pre-packaged salmon fillets in my freezer. They will defrost on a metal tray at room temperature within 30-60 minutes (or in your fridge for half a day) so great to grab out of the freezer as a last minute meal.

    Serves 2-4 people (ie: 2 adults & 2 kids!)

    1 cup rice
    1 kettle of boiling water
    500g salmon fillets
    1-2 tablespoons potato flour
    1 tablespoon oil
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 tablespoon sake
    ½ tablespoon mirin
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    Steamed vegetables or salad to serve


    1. Put rice on to cook.
    2. Chop salmon into 2cm cubes and dust with potato flour.
    3. Heat oil in non stick pan over medium heat. Add salmon and cook each side for 2 minutes.
    4. Add boiling water to salmon and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Drain water from pan and return salmon to same fry pan.
    5. Mix together soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. Pour over salmon in frypan. Allow to cook for a few minutes, gently turning salmon until coated in sauce.
    6. Serve with rice and vegetables.

    As you can see from the above 'after' photo - it was a successful meal! Fish can sometimes have a bit of an overpowering taste for children, but the teriyaki sauce in this recipe meant the fish was happily eaten.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Recipe - Quinoa Salad

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD

    I made this salad for Fathers day and was very impressed – as were a few other people who got to consume it! This salad, or variations of it, will be a regular over the coming months. Great for leftovers for lunches the next day too J

    The added beauty of this salad is that you could add whatever you had on hand – capsicum would be tasty, as would cherry tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli or roast sweet potato. This recipe makes quite a bit of salad so feel free to halve the amount of quinoa if you are only making for two.


    1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
    2 cups water
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    ½ teaspoon ground cumin
    ½ teaspoon ground coriander
    300g pumpkin, chopped into bite size pieces
    2 handfuls of green beans, trimmed and chopped
    ¼ cup sunflower seeds (or any other nuts or seeds you have)
    ¼ chopped sun dried tomatoes
    4 spring onions, chopped
    2 cups rocket
    ¼ cup feta, crumbled
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 teaspoons honey
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 tsp paprika


    1. Preheat oven to 180C. Toss chopped pumpkin with olive oil, cumin and coriander. Place on lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked. Allow to cool.
    2. Place quinoa and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is cooked and water is absorbed. Place quinoa in a large bowl and allow to cool.
    3. Steam chopped green beans for 4-5 minutes. Add to quinoa.
    4. Place all other salad ingredients with quinoa.
    5. Whisk dressing ingredients together and add to quinoa salad. Serve.

    I have written before about the goodness that you can get from quinoa, but just quickly it is a great grain to use instead of say cous cous, pasta or rice and has a low glycemic index. You can easily get it from the supermarket or health food stores. And it is tasty!

    Would love to know if you try this recipe.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Traffic Light Food Tracker – free app

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD
    An article online this morning caught my attention with the title ‘Nutrition app to separate fat from fiction’. My dietitian fingers couldn’t click quickly enough on the article link! This new, free app - Traffic Light Food Tracker - was released today by the Obesity Polity Coalition to offer a simplified way of assessing foods. Fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium are assessed per 100g and are then given a red, amber or green traffic light to show if they are good choices, or whether you could make a healthier food choice.

    Research undertaken by the Obesity Policy Coalition has found that 87% of Australian shoppers want clearer nutrition labelling on their food. I think this is a fair point. So many foods have nutrition claims plastered across them such as ‘fat-free’ (usually on lollies!), ‘no added sugar’ but what does this really mean. Many packaged foods have very enticing pictures of fresh fruit on the packages, yet when you really look closely at the product, there is in fact very little amount of fruit, or even fruit juice or extract used in the product. These claims and very attractive packaging can make food shopping a minefield. Add a few kids in a shopping trolley to the equation and chances are you will be walking out of the supermarket with a headache!

    My advice to clients (and friends!) when making food choices is to look at the nutrition information panel and the ingredient list to make your choice. But of course not all of us have the time to leisurely shop in the supermarket, and many of our food choices are made by habit or in a rush as we just try to get out of the shop quickly. This Traffic Light app uses the information on a foods nutrition panel to advise you if the food is a good choice. All you have to do is get the amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium per 100g, input it into the app and voila – you will get a red, amber or green traffic light.

    I like the simplicity of this app, but of course the downside is that the user has to input the data for each and every food. I tried a couple of foods that I had handy and got the responses that I expected! For example I checked my La Zuppa soup that I had in my bag and got green lights for fat, saturated fat, sugar and an amber for sodium. No surprise there – the soup has salt as one of its ingredients.

    I would encourage everyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to download this free app and have a play. Use it to check out some of the products that you have sitting around at home.

    The Obesity Policy Coalition are hoping that the Federal Government will go ahead with recommending traffic light labels appear on all our processed food, with the hope that people will then limit the number of ‘red’ foods that they purchase and ultimately assist in reducing the level of overweight and obesity that we now have in our community.

    Here are the criteria that the app uses to assess foods:

    Saturated fat
    More than 20g/100g
    More than 5g/100g
    More than 15g/100g
    More than 600mg/100g
    Less than 3g/100g
    Less than 1.5g/100g
    Less than 5g/100g
    Less than 100mg/100g

    If you are wondering why fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium have been chosen – the reason is that these are the nutrients which most of us could reduce to improve our weight and our health.

    I think this app is a great way to give a quick guide on choosing healthy foods and the traffic light approach is easy for users to understand. Of course it isn’t always this simple! Sometimes these criteria wont work. For example the raisin toast that I regularly give my children as snacks has 17.7g of sugar/100g which would give it a red traffic light.  But as per the ingredient list of this food, I know that the sugar is largely coming from dried fruit as this is the 3rd ingredient, so I am happy this food is a good choice as a snack food. I guess my point is that sometimes you need to compare between foods and check ingredient lists to make your food purchases. But nonetheless I still like the concept of a traffic light approach.

    What do you think? Are you finding it confusing or easy to choose food products? Would this app help you?

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Swap It Don't Stop It

    Written by Kate Bullen, APD

    You may have seen a new Australian Government campaign called ‘Swap It Don’t Stop It’.  This national campaign is appearing across TV ads, billboards, radio, online and newspapers.  It first caught my attention at my local shopping centre on a billboard.

    The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to swap some of their less healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviours for healthier choices. Why are they running this campaign? Quite simply we have 61% of Australian adults who are overweight or obese. Take a look around you – count 10 people – likelihood is that 6 of them will be overweight or obese. For anyone who is overweight or obese, the risk of some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease is increased.

    The Swap It campaign offers advice on some simple changes that can improve our health.  Some of the key messages are:

    • Swap big for small. This is about portion control. Suggestions include:
      • Swap full cream yoghurt for low fat natural yoghurt and add your own fruit
      • Swap a high sugar, low fibre breakfast cereal for one that’s high in grains and fibre
      • Swap a side of chips for a salad
      • Swap white bread for wholegrain varieties
    • Swap sitting for moving. This is all about physical activity. A few tips here:
      • Swap the car for the bike
      • Swap driving for walking part of the way
      • Swap the lift or escalator for stairs
      • Swap the carpark closest to the entrance for one further away.

    • Swap fried for fresh. This is about the quality of the food you choose when eating out:
      • Swap fried fast food for fresh fast food.
      • Swap fried chips for a baked potato with salad
      • Swap a main size portion for an entrĂ©e size with extra vegetables
      • Swap a toasted ham and cheese sandwich for a multigrain toasted lean ham and tomato sandwich – hold the butter

    There are plenty more suggestions – some I like – some not so much! Like most big campaigns it can be quite hard to get the key messages across.  If you want any more info on the campaign you can find it all here.

    For me personally, I like the ‘swap big for small’ as I think we live in a supersize me environment where everything seems to be getting upsized. Or the buy 2 get 1 free deals which have never sat very well with me when it comes to food. I recently wrote about buying a smaller sized bowl for my husband and I to eat most of our meals from – simple, inexpensive change that has already reduced portion size.

    Another portion control strategy that I use is packaging up dried fruit and nuts into small containers or zip lock bags at night for snacks the following day. I am not hungry when I do it so it means I don’t pick at the nuts and then they are in self contained packs for my snacks meaning that I don’t overeat! Nuts are sooooo moreish so overeating is damn easy to do!

    What swap it strategies have worked for you?

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