Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to eat well and fit into your skinny jeans!

On the menu this week: we answer our final two top questions. Enjoy!

1. What should I be eating?

This is an interesting one. There is no ‘one diet fits all’ solution. In fact, one man (or woman)’s food is often another man (or woman)’s poison! The concept I am referring to is that of ‘bio-individuality’. We are all unique individuals with our own individual dietary requirements and our own responses to particular foods.

What we should eat also varies according to location and season. There’s a reason everyone is talking about eating locally-sourced, seasonal produce. It’s good for the environment but it’s also better for us. Put simply, it’s more natural to be eating what is readily available to us in our surroundings.

Finally, the word ‘should’ when combined with ‘eating’ rings alarm bells to me. Eat what you want to eat, when you want to eat it (within reason) and you will often find you eat far more healthily (and far less) than if you impose restrictions on your diet (and end up reaching for the nearest pack of Tim Tams).

2. How do I lose those last five kilos?

Most of us have a normal weight and a ‘skinny jeans’ weight. I think the issue of losing the ‘last five kilos’ is really about something entirely different: letting go. Obviously I don’t mean renouncing all willpower and reaching for the nearest pack of chips. What I mean is letting go of our OCD calorie counting, treadmill pounding and habitual self-loathing. We are officially a nation of ‘orthorexics’ – people unhealthily obsessed with being healthy. Sounds ironic, doesn’t it?!

Now, I’m not saying that you can get fat by just worrying about it or look at a slice of cake and turn into one. But you can definitely shed the kilos if you stop agonising over your weight and just let go! If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you are relaxed and happy, you sleep better and make the right food choices. You get outside more and laugh more. You lower your stress hormones and boost your mood!

So next time you catch yourself obsessing over what to eat for dinner, take a step back, breathe and remember to live a little. You might even make a more sensible decision...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to lose the bloat and end the war against carbs!

This week we're dishing up answers to two of our top four questions.

1. Are carbs bad for you? 

This is something we get asked a lot. The simple answer: no. The slightly more complicated truth: all carbs are not created equal.

White, starchy, refined carbs (think flour, sandwich bread, pastry, cakes and other naughty things) are not going to win you a healthy eating award – they often come with added nasties (sweeteners, preservatives, additives and the like). The carbs in whole grains, fruit and vegetables on the other hand should form a large part of a healthy diet.

Some people – such as diabetics and candida sufferers – should monitor their carb intake closely. As for the rest of us, we should ease up on the war against carbs and focus instead on choosing whole, natural foods.

2. How do I lose the bloat?

Possibly our favourite question. As someone who suffered from bloating in the past, I know just how hard it is to get rid of!

If you have been to see your GP and gone through all the routine tests (such as celiac disease), then you may need to look at it more naturopathically. The most common causes of bloating are dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria such as candida in the gut) and food intolerances. Milk and wheat are the common culprits when it comes to intolerance-related bloating but yeast and sugar can also trigger the dreaded bloat for candida sufferers.

All fellow bloatees should make sure they get on top of the bacteria levels in their gut. Sometimes a probiotic is not enough and a more potent anti-bacterial/fungal supplement may be required to kill off the bad bacteria: garlic, pau d’arco, black walnut, oregano oil, thyme oil and caprylic acid to name a few. Probiotics and prebiotics would be the next step in the equation.

Naturopathically, this is known as the ‘weed, seed and feed’ approach:
weed: wage war on bad bacteria
seed: plant lovely good bacteria in your tummy
feed: nourish the good bacteria with their favourite food – prebiotics

Stay tuned for two more top questions next week!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Goodbye wobbly bits, hello PowerPlate!

This week, we put PowerPlate to the test. Buckle up, we’re in for a ride!

The experiment:
5 x 40-minute PowerPlate sessions over two weeks

So what is PowerPlate?

It’s the latest celebrity craze of vibration training that blasts your jiggly bits and gets you fit and toned in 2-3 short sessions per week. It was in fact used (long before celebrities) by Russian cosmonauts to fight the effects of zero gravity, improving muscle strength and bone density.

Classes are in groups of 2-4. I went with my (extremely brave) partner.

You stand on a vibrating platform in regular gym gear (no space suit, alas) and do a series of exercises including squats, lunges, push ups, the plank (could we be any more 2011?) and tricep dips. The vibrations stimulate the muscle-pump effect and increase blood flow (is it me or does that sound a bit rude?), which in turn improves the body’s ability to transport oxygen, assimilate nutrients and disperse toxins.

Studies have shown that adding a PowerPlate to your workout increases its effectiveness by 57%. Yes please.

The guinea pig: 
Me, exercise-phobe extraordinaire

I’m super healthy and I walk a lot but let’s get one thing straight – I’m no gym bunny. I used to dance ten hours a week when I was younger (and run and play tennis), and… like all good things in large doses… I got sick of it. The mere thought of exercising makes me want to whip out a box set of Gossip Girl and climb under the doona.

The verdict:

I have to say, after the initial excitement of free exercise, I started to wonder if my not-so-gymtastic body would be up for the challenge. I struggled in the first two sessions but found myself improving so quickly and so noticeably that I stayed motivated and didn’t feel disheartened by my lack of fitness.  My partner and I both felt like we had improved leaps and bounds by session 3, and were tricep-dipping and push-upping like pros in the last session ;)... you should see my plank now!!

I loved the fact that you could feel every muscle working, and that you could target particular muscles with such precision. The instructors at the studio in Bondi Junction were amazing. They definitely knew their stuff and checked in on us regularly, asking if there were areas we wanted to target (aka jiggly bits) and making sure we were activating each muscle correctly (read: working hard enough).

After the workout, you also get to look forward to a mini cellulite-banishing massage. A way to kiss goodbye to wobbly bits and cellulite in 40 minutes? Definitely a man (or woman)'s best friend.

Given my hate-hate relationship with exercise, I didn’t expect to fall in love with PowerPlate but (it’s official) I most certainly have. And so have my new found abs. Now all I have to do is convince them to stay there.

Less Gossip Girl, more PowerPlate? Who am I kidding, a girl can multi-task.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A super yummy recipe for ‘curry in a hurry’

This easy peasy recipe is bound to get your tastebuds sizzling. I’m addicted and make it almost every week in winter (it’s my get-back-on-track ‘curry in a hurry’ – perfect if you have been overindulging in chocolate and pinot gris… not that you would ever do that, of course!).

1 can of light coconut milk
2 heaped tsp of green curry paste
A splash of umeboshi plum vinegar (for flat tummies)
1 can of organic mixed beans
A large handful of green beans
¼ of a winter squash
A small handful of raw cashews
Instant brown rice

Preparation: 5 mins
Peel and roughly chop winter squash into fat chunks
Top and tail green (runner) beans and chop in half
Open cans and drain mixed beans
Prepare instant brown rice

Cooking: 15 mins
Place a wok or large pan on medium heat
Mix the curry paste with a dash of coconut milk in the wok
Add in the veggies, cashews and beans
Throw in the rest of the coconut milk
Add a splash of umeboshi vinegar (for that touch of MasterChef)
Add rock salt and pepper to taste
Simmer for 15 minutes, maybe 20
Check that the squash and beans are cooked
Serve on a bed of brown rice
Add a sprinkle of gomasio if you’re feeling fancy
Et voilĂ !

4 people OR
2 people twice (almost tastes better the next day!) OR
2 hungry people

Notes to the chef:
You can use red or yellow curry paste if you prefer
If you’re lazy like me, just use whichever veggies are left in your fridge. Sweet potato, baby corn and capsicum taste great in curries too.
 If you’re not feeling the ‘veggie’ part, you can add organic chicken, organic beef, salmon fillets, or prawns.
For those of you who like it hot (read: mouth on fire, eyes watering and sexy sweat beads trickling down your face) you can use up to four heaped teaspoons of green curry paste. I actually used five the other day! This is not for the faint hearted though. I grew up in Asia and I like a kick to my curry.

And there you go. A 20-minute, mouth-watering, tastebud-tingling thai veggie curry. If it’s Friday and you’re feeling naughty, it tastes beautiful with a glass of chilled pinot gris (and followed by a square of dark chocolate). Yum.

Enjoy xx

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are you full of beans?

Last week, we looked at the health (and environmental) benefits of cutting out meat and dairy for just one day per week. The facts are pretty astonishing. 

But if you do decide to give them up and have a Meatless Monday or a meatless any-other-day, where should you get your protein from instead?

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Free-range, organic eggs: 
Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids.

Milk alternatives:
- Nut milks
- Soy milk

High protein grains: 
- Amaranth
- Buckwheat
- Kamut
- Quinoa
- Seitan
- Soba noodles
- Spelt
- Whole oats
- Wild rice

Legumes and beans: 
- Adzuki beans
- Black beans
- Broad beans
- Butter beans
- Chickpeas
- Green beans
- Kidney beans
- Lentils
Click here for a full list of beans.

Tofu and tempeh

Nuts and seeds

Nut butters:
Our favourite is ABC spread.
Almonds + Brazil nuts + Cashews = complete protein

Seed butters:
- Sunflower seed spread
- Tahini

Green veggies:
- Asparagus
- Broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
- Kale
- Spinach
- Watercress

Next week, we’ve got some super healthy, meat-free, high protein and carbon-friendly recipes for you. Stay tuned…