Thursday, August 30, 2012

The low down on low GI

What is the GI?

All carbohydrate foods break down into glucose in the body. The GI, or glycaemic index, is a measure of how quickly or slowly a carbohydrate food breaks down into glucose in the body. Foods with a high GI (70 or more) are rapidly digested and absorbed into the blood stream, producing large rises in blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI (55 or less) are slowly digested and absorbed, producing steady rises in blood sugar levels over a longer period.

What's all the fuss about low GI?

  • Improves blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Helps control appetite and delay hunger
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Reduces insulin levels and insulin resistance (by reducing insulin you make fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored)
  • Reduces risk of high blood sugar levels in you and your baby during pregnancy

How do I lower the GI of my diet?

  1. Replace higher GI foods with lower GI foods
  2. Look for foods with the GI symbol when selecting carbohydrate foods

Examples of low GI foods

  • Breakfast - wholegrain bread, fruit bread, rolled oats, Guardian or Sustain cereal or low fat yoghurt
  • Lunch - wholegrain bread, chickpeas, 3-bean mix or pasta
  • Dinner - sweet potato, corn on the cob, wholegrain bread roll or Carisma potatoes
  • Snacks - fruit, low fat yoghurt, Vita Weats, Ryvitas, Belvita biscuits

Foods which carry the low GI symbol

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's making news in nutrition?

Trying to lose weight? Keep a food diary

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found women who kept a food journal lost more weight over a year long period. The study participants were given the following tips for keeping a food journal:
  • Be honest - record everything you eat
  • Be accurate - measure portions
  • Be complete - include details of food peparation, addition of condiments etc
My favourite online food diary is 'My Fitness Pal'. This is also available as a phone app for logging your meals on-the-go.

Are all calories equal?

You have probably heard this before... calories in = calories out. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that not all calories are equal.
In this study, participants were put on either a low fat diet, a low carbohydrate diet or a low glycaemic index diet with moderate fat and carbohydrate. Participants on the low glycaemic index diet developed a higher metabolism than those on the low fat diet and low carbohydrate diet. The low fat diet and low carbohydrate diet also had a worse effect on heart disease risk factors such as cholesterol and inflammatory markers.
What's the take home message? For the best long term weight management, avoid diets that severely restrict any major nutrient such as fat or carbohydrate. Instead focus on reducing high glycaemic index carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and processed, high-sugar foods.

Eggs for Breakfast

A recent study shows eating eggs for breakfast can reduce the number of calories you eat at the next meal. In the study, half of the participants were given eggs for breakfast while the others were given cereal. It was found those who had eaten eggs for breakfast ate less at the next meal. They had increased leves of  the hormone PYY (our 'fullness' hormone) and reduced levels of ghrelin (our 'hunger' hormone).  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spring Clean your Diet

With Spring just around the corner, it's time to ask yourself... Does my diet need a spring clean? After indulging on winter comfort food, the answer for many is 'yes'! With the start of a new season comes the perfect opportunity to 'spring into action' and give your body a spring clean from the inside out.

1. Start by "healthifying" your fridge:
Aim to fill your fridge with plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs and low fat dairy products. Avoid putting unhealthy food and drinks in your fridge, such as chocolate (except dark chocolate which contains at least 70% cocoa), cakes, energy drinks, fruit juices and alcohol.

2. Give your pantry a makeover:
The kitchen pantry is often where unhealthy foods hide... think biscuits, cereals, crackers, chips, 2-minute noodles, white rice, white flour, sugar and creamy jar pasta sauces. Many of these foods are highly processed, have a high glycaemic index and are high in saturated/ trans (unhealthy) fats and sugars.

Aim to fill your pantry with higher fibre, lower glycaemic index foods such as;
  • Ryvita crackers
  • Vita Weat crackers
  • Tinned tomatoes (reduced salt)
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • 4-bean mix
  • Rolled oats
  • Wholemeal pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Pearl couscous
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Wholemeal flour
  • CSR smart sugar
  • Tomato based pasta sauces
3. Planning and preparation:
So, now that you have healthy food in your fridge and pantry, you are  as ready as ever to eat healthy! Eating healthy takes planning and preparation. Spend a few minutes before you do the groceries to think about what dinners you will cook for the week, which helps create your shopping list. Save both money and calories by making lunch to take to work the night before. Some healthy lunch ideas include 4-bean mix with salad, boiled eggs on low GI crackers, tinned tuna/ salmon on wholegrain/ rye wrap with salad or leftover lean meat with salad.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Which cereal is best?

Choosing a healthy breakfast cereal can be an overwhelming task. Nowadays at least one whole aisle of the supermarket is dedicated to breakfast cereals. Many of them flaunt nutrition claims and jargon across their packages. It often seems impossible to find a cereal that's high in all the good stuff (fibre, low GI energy) but low in all the bad stuff (fat, sugar and salt).  


What to look for on a label?

All food packages have Nutrition Information Panels which list essential criteria (energy, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars, protein, fibre and sodium) per serve and per 100g. The 'serve' size varies anywhere from 30g to 50g serve in cereals so when comparing two products it is always best to use the per 100g column. 

Try choosing a breakfast cereal with:
  • Total fat <12g/100g
  • Saturated fat <2g/100g
  • Sugar <20g/100g
  • Fibre >6g/100g
  • Sodium <400mg/100g
Ingredients list:
  • Look for cereals with the shortest ingredients list. This goes for all packaged foods as the shorter the ingredients list, the less processed the food
  • If cereals have >12g total fat/100g, check the ingredients list to see if the source of fat is healthy (e.g. nuts) or unhealthy (e.g. vegetable oil)
  • If cereals have >20g sugar/100g, check the ingredients list to see if the source of sugar is natural (e.g. honey) or added (e.g. molasses) 

Examples of muesli's which meet these criteria:

Brookfarm, Coles, Just Organic, Lowan, Monster Muesli, Morning Sun, Uncle Toby's


Examples of cereal's which meet these criteria:

Goodness Superfoods Protein 1st/ Digestive 1st/ Heart 1st, Sanitarium Weet-bix, Sanitarium Light n Tasty, Kellogg's All Bran/ All Bran Apple flavoured crunch, Kellogg's Guardian, Vogel's Ultra Bran, Be Natural Wholegrain Flakes Cereal/ Manuka Honey, Spice Clusters & Flakes Cereal  

*Image from Brookfarm website

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gains from Grains

The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council recently released a guide called "Lifting the lid on legumes". The full pdf is available from the link at the end of this post.

What are legumes?
Legumes (also known as pulses) include all forms of beans and peas, such as cannellini beans, kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, split peas, butter beans and chickpeas.

The latest draft review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends Australians increase their intake of alternatives to meat, such as legumes.

What's to gain from grains?
  • Improved heart health
    • Studies show people who eat legumes are less likely to develop heart disease
    • Legumes have been shown to manage cholesterol
    • Their protective effects are likely from the soluble and insoluble fibre and phytosterols which block cholesterol absorpotion in the gut
    • They are low in sodium (salt)
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
    • Legumes have been shown to improve short term blood glucose control
    • They improve HbA1c (3 month reading of blood glucose levels) in diabetics
    • They are low glycaemic index (GI)
Ways to beat the bloat
Legumes contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), unabsorbed carbohydrates that move through to the large intestine where they are food for gut bacteria. The old schoolyard saying "beans beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot" is actually true. Studies have shown people generally manage 1/2 a cup everyday, and gradually introducing them into the diet helps avoid bloating.

You can also remove alot of the 'wind-producing' components by rinsing them well before using them (if canned), and soaking them in a few different batches of fresh water (if dried).

How much do I need?
Aim for at least 2 serves of legumes a week (1 serve = 75g/ 1/2 cup cooked legumes)

Think outside the square
The possibilities for using legumes are endless... add to soups, salads, casseroles, spaghetti, cous cous and rice dishes.
Breakfast: Baked beans
Lunch: Tuna and lentil salad
Dinner: Chilli con carne with kidney beans
Chickpea and pumpkin burger patties
Lentil spaghetti bolognaise
Snacks: Soy milk coffee
Edamamme beans

How do they measure up against meats?
A serve of legumes as a meat alternative = 170g/ 1 cup cooked legumes. A 170g serve of baked beans provides about 9g protein, 9g fibre and 1.7mg iron. A 170g serve of lentils provides about 12g protein, 6g fibre and 3.5mg iron.
A standard serve of chicken or meat is about 100g. This provides about 30g protein, no fibre and 0.5-3mg iron (higher in red meat).
The legumes also provide these nutrients for fewer calories, which is great if you're watching your waistline.
Although the protein intake is lower per serve, you can still easily meet your protein requirements of 0.75 - 1g protein per kg, whilst incorporating legumes into your diet.

Lifting the Lid on Legumes

*Image from Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council website

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Winter Warmer Recipe Collections: Fish Burgers

Why fish?
Fish is a rich source of healthy omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. These fats have many health benefits including reducing bad cholesterol, lowering triglycerides and reducing inflammatory conditions such as athritis. It is recommended we consume at least 2 serves of 150g fish each week. In addition to these 'marine' omega-3 fats, 'plant' based omega-3 fats called ALA are found in linseeds, walnuts, canola and soybean oils.

2 x 150g basa fillets
Wholegrain bread rolls
Cherry tomatoes
Sweet potato
Reduced fat crumbled fetta

Slice sweet potato into circular chips and place on baking tray in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Slice roll in half; sprinkle crumbled fetta on one side and halved cherry tomatoes on the other side. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Heat fry pan and lightly spray with olive oil. Cook fillets over medium heat, for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Place fish on roll and top with avocado and spinach. Serve with sweet potato chips.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Which bread is best?

Wholemeal, wholegrain, white, low GI... with so many different types of bread on the shelves, it can be difficult to know which bread is best?

The Choices

White bread is made from wheat that has had the bran and germ removed; the rich outer layer and nutrient-dense core. This is a low fibre, nutrient-poor option. White high-fibre bread has fibre added, usually in the form of inulin or Hi-Maize.

Wholemeal bread is made by milling wholegrains to produce a finer textured bread. Wholemeal bread made from 100% wholemeal flour may still retain the nutritious vitamins and minerals, however the processing means the GI is higher than wholegrain bread.

Wholegrain bread has the bran, endosperm and germ intact thus retaining all of the vitamins and minerals and having the highest fibre. Wholegrain breads are low GI. Multigrain bread is often made from refined white flour, but has grains and seeds added after the processing, to make it appear healthy.

Rye bread is made from flour from rye grain and is classed as a wholegrain bread. Sourdough bread is made by mixing flour and water with yeast and bacteria. The acidity lowers the GI.

What to look for?

  • Look for the words 'wholegrain' on the package
  • Look for varieties with >6g fibre per 100g
  • The low GI symbol is a useful tool when it comes to choosing healthy breads

Healthy Choices

B├╝rgen® - Rye, Wholemeal & Seeds
Helga's - Seed Sensations Wholegrain
Abbott's - Grains and Seeds
Molenberg - Soy & Linseed
Tip Top - 9 Grain Wholemeal
Coles - Soy & Linseed

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Love to snack?

The good news is... snacks can be included as part of a healthy diet, if they are portion controlled. A good number to remember is 1200kJ, or 300 calories (if you are more familiar with calories). This equates to either 3 x 400kJ (100 calorie) snacks or 2 x 600kJ (150 calorie) snacks. Stuck for healthy snack ideas? Below are a handful of healthy snacks ideas.

Under 100 calorie snacks

Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese 40g mini tubs
A convenient and healthy snack, which can be served with vegetables such as carrots and celery for a nutritious munch. Extra light varieties available as well as original 'chive & onion' and 'sweet chilly philly' which still fall under 100 calories.

      100g Tamar Valley No Added Sugar yoghurt
       These delicious 100g yoghurts provide a source of calcium. There are many varieties of yoghurts in the supermarket. Always check the label and aim for a yoghurt which is low in fat and has no added sugar.  My favourite brands are Tamar Valley, Chobani Greek Yoghurt, Jalna low-fat and Vaalia.  

                  2 mandarins
Juicy mandarins are a great snack, packed full of vitamin C to ward off colds, Vitamin A for healthy eyes and fibre. Aim for 2 serves of fruit a day. 1 serve of fruit = 2 mandarins, 2 kiwifruits, 1 medium piece of fruit e.g. apple, banana

 150 calorie snacks

           30g Nuts - Almonds
A 30g serve of almonds is the "perfect handful". It can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and has proven useful for weight management. Be sure to choose unsalted nuts.

30g Nuts - Mixed Nuts
           Whatever your favourite... cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans - all are packed full of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Again, just choose unsalted nuts.  

                                       1 slice Burgen Fruit & Muesli Bread
Burgen breads are my choice if you're after low glycaemic index, delicious breads. Their fruit & muesli bread is a lovely sweet snack for winter afternoons. I suggest spreading with extra light ricotta. Other alternatives are 4 Vita Weats with 1/8th avocado and tomato. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Break-the-fast: Homemade Muesli

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast tend to eat less calories across the day and are more likely to be a healthier BMI than those who skip breakfast.

So, break-the-fast and have a high fibre, high protein breakfast to start your day. Good options include wholegrain cereals with yoghurt or skim milk, fresh fruit and yoghurt, poached eggs on wholegrain toast or a breakfast smoothie with berries, LSA, yoghurt and skim milk.  

My favourite way to start the day is with my Homemade Muesli. Oats, pepitas, linseeds, cashews, sultanas, manuka honey, served with organic natural yoghurt and topped with berries.

Winter Warmer Recipe Collections: Vegetarian Nachos

Why beans?

Legumes and lentils are rich in protein, fibre, low GI carbohydrates and a range of vitamins and minerals. Growing evidence shows regular consumption can reduce your risk of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The Heart Foundation recommends including legumes in at least two meals per week.

200g red kidney beans
100g brown lentils
400g tin diced tomatoes
2 carrots diced
1 zucchini diced
1 capsicum diced
Original corn chips
Reduced fat grated cheddar

Heat fry pan and saute' vegetables in olive oil. Drain and rinse kidney beans and lentils. Add to fry pan. Add tomatoes and allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Arrange corn chips on baking tray. Spoon mixtue onto corn chips and top with grated cheddar. Bake in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes. Top mixture with avocado.