Archive for the ‘New Year’ Category

Ask Marilyn: Kids lunch meals?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Q: How bad, nutritionally, are pre-packed kid’s lunch meals with mini pizzas, tacos, etc? And is apple juice the healthiest drink to give them?


A: It’s no surprise that many of the pre-packed lunches are relatively high in fat and sodium but as teens and children need a lot of energy the biggest problem may not be the pre-packed lunch but what goes with the lunch. Rounding out a meal with extra sweets and sugar-laden drinks containing little or no juice leaves a meal nutritionally lacking, whether it’s pre-packaged or one you’ve packed yourself. If you prefer pre-packaged meals, look for those with very little of the less nutritious fillers and supplement them with your own nutrient rich fresh fruits, raw vegetables, or both. On the other hand, packing a healthy lunch with wholegrain sandwiches, salad and boiled eggs takes only a few minutes (and less money) if you add the ingredients to your weekly shopping list. You might question whether it’s worth paying more for a nutritionally incomplete, pre-packed meal.


Apple juice is a nutritious drink that can supply some of the health-promoting phytochemicals found in apples. But there’s no reason to use it as the main beverage every lunch or snack time the way many parents do. The idea that apple juice is somehow easier than citrus juice on children’s stomachs is quite untrue.  Regardless of what juice is used, child nutrition experts warn that doling out multiple glasses of juice between meals can leave a toddler too full to get adequate nutrition at meals. Water is the often forgotten drink and would be good to get our children used to drinking just plain water.  Some snack-time or lunchtime juice is fine, but getting children in the habit of drinking water, or perhaps diluted fruit juice, to satisfy thirst between meals will bring them many short- and long-term benefits.

20 Healthy Living Tips for the New Year

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Tired of hard-to-keep resolutions? Try some of these, they're easy and good for youHave you noticed that New Year’s resolutions often have to do with improving your diet and your health?

You’ve probably also noticed how hard they can be to stick to after the first few weeks. But here are 20 realistic and fun healthy living tips you can turn into resolutions. Chances are you’ll see them through; not just for January but for the whole of 2007!

  1. Eat Breakfast: Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast regularly are more easily able to control their weight than those who skip breakfast.
  2. Make four breakfasts each week exclusively fruit and nuts: Your skin will glow, your spare tyre will get a welcome puncture, your bowels will work like clockwork and you will feel more energetic than you have for a long time. Use more apples, pears and berries than tropical fruits like bananas, mangos, etc. and you can even have a warm fruit compote on cold morning
  3. Fill your plate with Vegetables: Vegetables, especially the bright coloured and dark green leafy ones, are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. They are also high in fibre and hence very filling. In addition, they are low in calories – good to help trim and maintain your waistline.
  4. Drink Water instead: Drinking water instead of ‘pop’, juice, coffee or other drinks saves calories. Even the zero-calorie diet drinks offer no nutritional values – it’s just water added with artificial sweeteners and caffeine. Carrying a bottle of water around with you will encourage you to sip it instead of reaching for sweetened beverages.
  5. Switch to non-meat alternatives: Instead of reaching for a steak, try other high protein alternatives such as fish, seafood, tofu, quinoa and legumes. These protein alternatives are usually low in saturated fat – legumes are high in fibre, soya is loaded with beneficial phytoestrogens and fish contains omega 3 fatty acids – they all are much more heart-health friendly.
  6. Park further away from your destinationPark further away from your destination: Park your car as far away as you can from the entrance to the office, supermarket or shopping mall. Not only will you be getting some extra exercise but you will find a parking space far more easily, saving your sanity in the process.
  7. Learn to meditate: Meditation is a technique of practicing awareness, quieting the mind and focussing on the here and now. The stress reducing benefits are enormous and the less stressed you are the happier and healthier you’ll be.
  8. Exercise together: Try a new fitness pursuit you know you will enjoy like dancing, ice skating or swimming. Better still try it with a partner, family member or friend as studies show people who exercise together are more likely to stick to a new fitness regime.
  9. Always sit when eating: Even if you have to eat just a quick snack, put aside anything else you are doing and sit down. Not only will you avoid splotches on your papers and clothes, but you will eat less and your body’s metabolic processes will not have to divide their energies between the two important functions of work and nutrition.
  10. Book a monthly aromatherapy or reflexology session: And do it for a year in advance, so that you really get around to going. Investing in yourself like that is taking care of your most valuable resource – your well-being.
  11. Turn off the TV and listen to music instead: Sometimes it can be in the background but at other times just relax and listen to it. Good music is medicine for your mind, body and soul.
  12. Always wanted to try pottery? Learning new skills keeps your mind activeLearn something new each week: This could be a recreational skill like pottery, painting or sewing or simply looking something up in an encyclopaedia or on the net. It is ‘use it or lose it’ with your mind so keep it active.
  13. Visit nature every weekend: This might be a walk in a local park or through the woods. The main thing is that you are away from the shops and traffic and you can tune into the sounds and sights of Mother Nature.
  14. Become a food label reader: Become aware of what you are actually eating. Avoid those foods and drinks that have a long list of chemical-looking ingredients. Watch out for sugar on the label as in order to make the sugar content of a product seem lower, manufactures list all the different types of sugar separately (look for words ending in –ose, such as fructose, glucose and sucrose). Don’t be fooled, they all have relatively the same negative effects on your body.
  15. Eat early: Try not to eat two hours before you go to sleep. You don’t need to stock up on calories late at night; your body needs to rest and restore when you are asleep, not digest and energise.
  16. Save on the midnight oil: Aim to be in bed before midnight as research shows that people who retire before 12 wake more refreshed than those who stay up into the small hours.
  17. Stay cool: Resist the urge to crank up the thermostat to tropical levels during a chilly winter’s eve. To ensure good sleep, keep your bedroom temperature at 65-70°F (18-21°C). And don’t overload the blankets. Lower temperatures are more conducive to good-quality sleep and good quality sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing.
  18. Floss your teeth: Oral hygiene is more important for your health and well-being than you would think as studies show that people with gum disease have an increased risk of poor health and heart disease. It isn’t enough to brush your teeth you need to floss as well.
  19. Go sweet: Ready to do just one thing this winter to spruce up your diet? Incorporate sweet potatoes, which are very much in-season. A medium-sized sweet potato has about 100 calories and 4 grams of fibre, along with vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. And it’s loaded with beta-carotene, a powerful immune boosting antioxidant.
  20. Smile more: Recent research proves what you’ve probably always known. Happy and optimistic people are less prone to colds and flu and tend to recover faster than people with a less upbeat approach to life. So try to think and act positive; you can’t be unhappy if you are singing and smiling.

Your ‘No Effort’ New Year Detox

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Detox doesn't have to mean diet: let your body do it for youChristmas is a time of Good Cheer, plenty of socialising, high alcohol intake, lots of cake, mince pies, chocolate, sugar and not much exercise. It is no wonder that after Christmas we feel bloated, fat, run down and generally very sluggish.

The New Year brings a new start with many new resolutions to lose weight and to get fit. But how can you make sure it really works this time?

Your body is very clever and given the right tools it can detox efficiently on its own. Your gut stops bacteria and lots of other toxins from entering your body and if anything nasty does get through your liver will combine it with its own special chemicals to make a water soluble compound that your kidneys can flush away in your urine or through your skin as sweat.

But putting yourself on a strict fast or juice-only diet for a whole day to flush things out will cause your blood sugars to sink really low which means you crave stodgy foods and feel extra tired and sluggish. Plus you’ll be missing out on essential energy boosting nutrients like B vitamins and proteins. It’s much better to eat cleansing natural foods and just cut out the bad stuff.

The key is to load up on foods that support your body’s natural detox system. You need to be eating foods packed with antioxidant nutrients and sulphur to boost your liver function and to eliminate foods and drinks that tax it, such as alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods and sugar. There really is no need to follow a strict detox if you don’t want to – these simple solutions are dead easy (and the results will speak for themselves!).

  • Hydrate your body: The first and most important rule is to drink more water. Start each day with a cup of hot water and a squeeze of lemon. It cleanses and helps rehydrate your liver. Then make sure you drink at least two litres of water throughout the day. If you think you might forget, try having a glass of water on the hour, every hour. A herbal tea counts towards your water intake but regular tea and coffee don’t as they are dehydrating.
  • Go organic if you can: it contains more nutrients and helps give your liver a restEat fresh: Choose fresh, natural, cleansing foods and avoid nutrient scarce ready meals, sugary and fatty foods and refined products like white bread which can all bombard your liver with chemicals, additives and lots of dehydrating salt. Have green vegetables with every meal and avoid snacking from anything that hasn’t been plucked off a tree or raised from the soil. If you can go organic it will really help as organic produce usually contains more of the most valuable nutrients. It’s also grown and reared without pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals so your liver won’t get bogged down. (See also the detox superfoods article).
  • Swap your fats: Your no effort detox plan is about giving your body what it needs but only if it tastes great. This means stocking up on hormone balancing essential fats (the ones that keep your skin and joints healthy and protect your heart) and cutting down on liver clogging saturated fats. So use olive or sunflower oil instead of butter, or mashed avocado on rye or wholemeal bread – instead of margarine on white. Use oils like flax or hemp for salads instead of dressings.
  • Cook light: You don’t have to eat raw food all the time as you may find it hard to digest and it can cause bloating. So just steam, stir fry or grill instead. The shorter time you cook your vegetables the more vital detoxing nutrients they retain.
  • Go herbal: herbal teas are great liver-cleansersGo herbal: Fennel, nettle and ginger tea are all great cleansers and unlike tea and coffee don’t contain chemicals that make extra work for your liver. If you don’t want to quit your daily cuppa at least cut down your intake of caffeine by a few cups a day or try green tea which is lower in caffeine or redbush tea. And take a break from alcohol too as it’s one of the most poisonous chemicals you can put into your body. Avoid it completely for a few days to give your body a chance to recover and then no more than one or two drinks a day.
  • Sweat it out: Like the liver and lungs, your skin excretes great amounts of metabolic wastes and pollutants making it one of the body’s best waste disposal organs. Encouraging perspiration with regular aerobic exercise is therefore an excellent way of removing nasty toxins and pollutants.
  • Do it with herbs: Many herbs can help you detox but one that is known to have particular detoxifying properties is milk thistle. Also known as wild artichoke it has been used for centuries to protect the liver against damaging disease and toxins. And more recent research shows that it contains flavoligans that protect the liver from damage due to toxic substances such as pesticides and herbicides.