Archive for the ‘Winter Health’ Category

Portion control secrets for weight control

Friday, February 1st, 2008

There’s so much talk nowadays about what you should and should not eat if you want to lose weight but rather less emphasis on the importance of eating sensible food portions.


Portion control is essential to weight loss as well as to maintaining a healthy weight. A report published in Science magazine states that cutting 100 calories a day would be enough to prevent, and reverse, the 2lbs weight gain that the average person makes every year. That’s right. No miracle weight loss pills, no starvation detox and no fad diet plans. Just downsize your portion size and you can prevent weight becoming a big problem for you! Research has also clearly shown that overweight people who control the portion size of what they eat are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for good. Although increasing planned exercise also helps people shed pounds, researchers found portion control efforts seem to offer the biggest payoff.


The concept is easy: if you eat less, you consume fewer calories. But in a world where big is better and restaurants serve enormous plates of food, it’s tough to figure out what a “normal” portion size is. It is very easy to overeat when oversized portions and all-you-can eat buffets surround us. Studies estimate that most of us under estimate the amount we eat by a staggering 25 per cent.


While most of us know the basics about nutrition, we also need to take some time to rethink how much we eat because it really is just as important as what we eat. With portion sizes and waist lines growing bigger every day the following simple portion control secrets that are can make a huge difference.


Cut it in half.

Just decrease your portion sizes by half and substitute the other half with vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit. For example, if you are used to eating a sandwich at lunch, just eat half and supplement the rest with raw veggies, nuts, seeds and fruit. If you are eating out ask for an extra plate and share your portion with a friend.


Nice and slow

Take your time when you are eating a meal and when you are finished pause and allow yourself at least 20 minutes before eating any thing else like a dessert. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive messages from your stomach that you are full so you may well find that you don’t actually want to eat any more.


Pass on the pasta

The recommended serving size for pasta is 2 ozs or 50g of uncooked pasta. The typical restaurant portion is easily four times this size, so leave the extra (your portion should be about the size of a tennis ball) and cut 100 calories!


Re-size your cereal and bread

The amount of cereal eaten is often twice the recommended serving size. So weigh out the 30 or 40g serving of cereal and get to know what the correct portion looks like in the bowl you normally use. Cutting out just one slice of bread a day will save around 100 calories – try an open sandwich so you only have one slice of wholemeal bread.


Avoid the oil-slick!

Use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon to measure your butter, spread or oil portion. Spread just a thin layer of butter on your bread. When dining out, ask for the dressing on the side so you can control how much you use.


Ask for a doggie bag.

Taking a doggie bag with leftovers when you dine out in a restaurant is common place in America but not something we tend to do here but it really is a good idea. Restaurant portions are unbelievable — nearly twice the size they were 15 years ago. If you don’t trust yourself ask your waiter for a take away container as soon as he serves the food. You can always take some back out to eat at the restaurant if you’re still hungry, but chances are you won’t want to. Heat the leftovers up tomorrow for lunch.


Forget meal deals

Ideally, you should be avoiding fast food anyway.  But if you are having fast food, bear in mind that any fast food is going to be over sized anyway so don’t make things worse by super sizing because it seems like a better deal. In fact, steering clear of meal deals altogether is very wise and don’t let the server convince you that it’s much more cost effective for you to buy medium or large instead of a small portion. Better still order a children’s size meal; kid’s meals are actually much closer to the correct portion size than the adult versions.


Go for small packages

When your will power is overpowered by a sudden urge to eat crisps or chocolate don’t buy the large bags or boxes of multi packs whatever their bargain price may be. Buy individual bags or products one at a time. Or, keep a single serving snack bag handy so you can use that as you get them home.


Super size your salads

Eating a salad or soup before lunch or dinner is a great way to keep from overeating. It will help curb your appetite and give you a sense of satiety sooner. To reap full portion control benefits load up your salad with veggies and a handful of nuts and seeds. The fibre in the veggies will help you feel fuller and the nut protein will help to slow the rate of digestion.


Mini meals

Instead of eating three meals a day; eat five. Keep your blood sugar (and your appetite) at an even keel all day long by not going any longer than 3 hours without having something to eat. Eat multiple, healthy mini meals throughout the day rather than a few large ones. Start with a healthy breakfast, followed by a mid morning snack, followed by lunch, a mid afternoon snack and a light supper.


Make grains, legumes, fish and vegetables your main dish

By loading up on veggies, legumes, fish and healthy grains as the bulk of your meal instead of using them as side portions, you’ll feel full sooner and get extra vitamins, omega 3 and fibre. Experiment with new vegetables and preparation methods to keep things interesting.


Size up servings.

Just how many biscuits or your other favourite snacks) are in a serving? Do you even know? Check the label on the box and see — you may be surprised at how many servings you are actually consuming. Learn what a controlled portion of your favourite snacks look like by measuring them out the next time you eat them. Then, once you see how much a serving really looks like, you’ll be able to visualise it from then on and know how much is too much.


Indulge yourself

Eat healthily 80 per cent of the time and you can afford the occasional treat. Completely avoiding your favourite food can lead to a sense of deprivation and quite possibly overeating as a result. Stop a binge before it starts by indulging yourself every now and then or by allowing yourself a couple of bites so you don’t feel deprived. More often than not a couple of bites are more than enough to satisfy your taste buds.

Eating for Immunity

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

You are most likely familiar with the phrase ‘You are what you eat,’ and nowhere is this more true than with regard to protecting your body’s immune defences this winter season. When you eat healthily and consistently you give your body the basic building blocks it needs for renewal, repair and defence against illness.


Food is used to make every part of your immune system, so its strength will depend on the quality of your food. If you’re eating a healthy diet you’ll already be eating foods packed with these immune boosting nutrients but to make sure you really are eating for immunity here are the key nutrients which help to build immunity and protect you against disease and allergies.


  • Antioxidants:

An antioxidant is a nutrient that protects the cells from oxidative damage. Oxidation occurs when a substance reacts with oxygen, for example when an apple is cut and exposed to air it turns brown. An antioxidant can prevent or slow down this process. Your cells use oxygen all the time for the process of combustion: to burn food for energy production, and to get rid of germs and foreign chemicals such as pesticides. During this process substances called free radicals are formed which can cause cellular damage and trigger disease.


Free radicals are produced by all kinds of combustion. Environmental pollution, smoking, radiation, fried foods (high levels of heat damages the oil) but fortunately nature supplies us with rich sources of antioxidant nutrients to disarm the free radicals and come to our rescue.


Your diet needs to be rich in the following antioxidants: vitamin A including beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium. Vitamin C is the king of immune boosting nutrients. It is antibacterial as well as antiviral and is a natural antihistamine which helps with the body’s response to allergens. Vitamin A is a powerful antiviral vitamin because its inclusion in cells walls makes them stronger and more resistant to attack. It is also important for areas with high risk of infection as it is involved in maintaining the mucous membranes of the respiratory, urinary and digestive systems. Vitamin E and selenium are needed for antibody response to infection. Zinc promotes the growth of white blood cells, especially the lymphocytes.


    • Food sources of antioxidants
      • Vitamin A: eggs, fish oil, dairy products
      • Beta carotene: pumpkin, melon, carrot, sweet potatoes, apricots, green leafy vegetables
      • Vitamin C: broccoli, parsley, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit, berries, peepers, blackcurrants, papaya, mangos
      • Vitamin E: avocados, nuts, seeds, unrefined oils, oatmeal
      • Zinc: fish, pulses, seeds, nuts, whole grains
      • Selenium: nuts, seeds, whole grains, seafood.

Preparing foods that are rich in natural colours red, orange, green, yellow, purple and blue will ensure a good supply of antioxidants. Enjoy a rainbow of fruit and vegetables every day for an optimal mix of beneficial antioxidants, including carotenoids – found in red, orange and green fruit and vegetables such as carrots, mango, watercress, broccoli and peppers. Carotenoids protect and support immune system cells.

  • B complex: The B vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid work together and are important for immune health. B6 and B3 help essential fats convert into prostaglandins. B6 and B5 are required for antibody production as well as making sure the immune army of white cells do their job properly. Good food sources include whole grains. 
  •  Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones.  The immune system suffers if bones are unhealthy as you cannot move freely and therefore cannot push lymph around the body as effectively. Vitamin D is also required to deactivate the immune system after an infection which is important. In the summer months we get plenty of vitamin D from sunlight but in the winter it might be a good idea to make sure you eat foods rich in vitamin D such as eggs and oily fish.

  • Iron:

Iron is needed for the production of white blood cells and antibodies and without sufficient iron you are more likely to suffer from frequent colds and infection. Eating vitamin C foods at the same time as iron rich foods will boost absorption of the iron. Good food sources include: eggs, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts and seeds.

  • Calcium:

Although best known for its effect on bones and teeth, calcium is also important for efficient functioning of the immune system. Good food sources include: dairy products, seeds, tinned fish with bones and dark green vegetables like broccoli and kale.

  • Magnesium:

Magnesium is required for antibody body production and low levels increase the risk of allergic reactions. This is because a deficiency of magnesium can cause histamine levels to rise. Good food sources include nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, egg yolks, whole grains and dried fruit.

  • Immune system super foods:
    • Avocado provides vitamins E and B6, which both contribute to the production of antibodies and also to the responsiveness of specialist white blood cells. This delicious fruit also provides lots of skin-enhancing antioxidants, including vitamin C. Slice some and slip it into salads and sandwiches to top up your nutritional intake.
    • Blackcurrants and blue berries are rich in vitamin C and help to strengthen the immune system.
    • Broccoli is packed with antioxidant power as well as being a rich source of fatigue beating iron, indoles and chlorophyll which are powerful anti-cancer compounds.
    • Chillis contain vitamin C and other antioxidants. The heat of chilli is thanks to a phytochemical called ‘capsicain’, which amongst other things can make your nose run. But this can actually help relieve nasal congestion by thinning down mucus in the sinuses.
    • Cinnamon: This culinary spice has wonderful antibacterial and antifungal properties. It warms the whole system and acts as a tonic, combating weakness during viral infections. To make a warm toddy fill a mug with hot water and 2 teaspoons of honey, the juice of a lemon and a quarter of cinnamon stick. Allow to seep for ten minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick and enjoy.
    • Citrus fruits: All citrus fruits are great providers of vitamin C, and other beneficial antioxidants. Low vitamin C levels are linked to reduced immunity. Vitamin C also promotes wound healing and helps to keep the skin healthy, so supporting a vital first-line defence against infections.
    • Fish and shellfish provide zinc and vitamin B6 which are needed for efficient infection-fighting white blood cells. Seafood is also a good source of selenium, which is an antioxidant, and aids the effective function of many parts of the immune system.
    • Garlic has been used for centuries as a natural antibiotic, antifungal and anti-viral remedy. Its pungent sulphur compounds are thought to be what makes it so beneficial. Garlic also contains antioxidants. Crush it into sauces and stews, roast it with soya and mash it with avocado and lemon juice to make a mean, immune system-friendly guacamole.
    • Nuts and seeds pack in protein, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, magnesium and essential fats. Also pumpkin seeds are an especially good source of zinc (needed for healthy skin, and proper function of the thymus and white blood cells), and Brazil nuts are a particularly good source of selenium. Almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are best for vitamin E. Flax seeds are great for omega 3 and sunflower seeds for omega 6, protein and B vitamins.
    • Parsley is rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C as well as iron, magnesium and cancer fighting chlorophyll. It is a must for every healthy fridge, back garden or window box.
    • Seaweed: A wealth of natural trace minerals, vitamins and amino acids can be found in seaweeds. There are many different types the most popular being nori. Try adding a little to your soups or mix with mashed sweet potato.
    • Shiitake mushrooms are superb immune boosters that posses antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic properties and are a natural source of interferon which provides protection against viruses. They are also a good source of germanium an element that enhances immunity. Shiitake mushroom are great in stews, soups and stir fries.

Beat the Boxing Day Bloat

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Feeling gassy, puffy, and just plain bloated after Christmas? To help you feel better fast check out these smart ways to beat Boxing Day bloat:

  • Drink up: Boosting your water intake can work wonders. Skip the soft fizzy drinks and aim for 6 to 8 glasses on Boxing Day. Water flushes waste out of your system and helps get things moving if you’re constipated—a frequent cause of bloating.
  • Eat more fibre: Fibre prevents constipation and bloating by adding bulk, which helps everything move through the intestines more quickly. To fix the fibre shortage, start your boxing day with an oat cereal like porridge. Throughout the day, snack on other high-fibre foods like strawberries, blueberries, dried apricots, and dried plums. Take it easy though and don’t overload on fibre like bran or you’ll feel even more bloated than before.
  • Cut back on gassy foods: Seasonal beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and cabbage can sometimes be hard to digest and because of this they can trigger bloating and smelly flatulence. But you don’t have to give them up entirely on Boxing Day, as they are full of good nutrients for you. Instead, eat just a smaller amount of these foods for the next few days. Once your body adjusts to them, you can gradually increase the serving size over the course of a few weeks.
  • Get moving: Even a quick ten-minute walk can relieve bloating so get some much needed fresh air after all that time spent indoors partying. Exercise helps gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly, so you feel better faster. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. One big cause of bloating is swallowing too much air when you eat. For example, you might gulp air if you snack on the run and eat too quickly, talk while eating, drink from a straw, or have a lot of fizzy drinks. You’ve probably done a lot of talking and eating over the last few days, but for today force yourself to take more time for meals, skip carbonated drinks, and eat smaller amounts of food at each sitting. One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of air you swallow: Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Olive oil: If you feel constipated today, another cause of bloating, take two tablespoons of olive oil, preferably first thing Boxing Day morning on an empty stomach. Olive oil can help reduce constipation and bloating because it is very well tolerated by the stomach due to its high oleic acid content.
  • Cut out salt, alcohol and caffeine completely for a day: Salty food, such as processed and ready meals, causes you to retain water which often concentrates around your mid-section. Caffeine hinders the secretion of excess salt and toxins from the body. And alcohol unsettles your blood sugar which can trigger bloating and abdominal weight gain. Cut out all three today and eat fresh, natural foods instead.
  • Keep your digestion healthy: It’s tempting to skip food altogether on Boxing Day because you feel so stuffed, but this is last thing you should be doing. It will just make you feel worse. If you leave your stomach empty for long periods of time the secretion of digestive enzymes slows down which triggers, you guessed it, bloating.
  • Herbal teas: Peppermint tea may help your digestion if you have problems. You might also want to settle down with the odd cup of fennel tea. Just brew a tablespoon or so of fennel in a tea strainer and drink several cups a day. Fennel tastes like liquorice and has anti-gas as well as anti-spasmodic properties, making it especially helpful for bloating. If you haven’t stocked up on herbal tea over Christmas try a cup of warm water with lemon instead.