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Minestrone soup

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 parsley sprigs, chopped
1 basil sprig, torn
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can tomato diced
400g can drained beans e.g. kidney, butter, cannellini beans
400g chopped vegetable (any type like mushrooms, capsicum, eggplant, zucchini)
500ml water or stock (add extra if needed)
50g pasta or rice

Parmesan cheese to taste
Pepper to taste

Method

  1. Sauté diced onion and garlic in a large stove pot with olive oil
  2. Add all other ingredients to the pot
  3. Bring to boil
  4. Simmer for 1/2 hr out until vegetables and pasta tender
  5. Serve topped with parsley, grated cheese and pepper

Boost your immunity through good health

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is key to helping your immune system function properly. Whilst we can’t guarantee that a perfect diet can warn off all coughs, colds and viruses, one thing we can do is support our immune system to work at it’s best through good nutrition.


An immune supportive diet is one that is packed with vitamins, minerals, good fibres and plenty of phytochemicals like antioxidants. The more unprocessed foods and plant based foods you have in your diet the better. And variety is key!
To have a really strong immune system the nutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.


So where to find these nutrients? The best way is to include at least 5 serves of bright coloured veggies every day, get 2 serves of fruit, and include a variety of grains, nuts and seeds daily, along with good quality proteins. Here are a few tips to get those specific immune supportive nutrients:

  1. Vitamin A: oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
  2. B vitamins: legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
  3. Vitamins C: oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
  4. Vitamin E: nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetables oils.
  5. Vitamin D: food sources including eggs, fish and some milks and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D (meaning extra has been added). But most people need just a few minutes outdoors most days.
  6. Iron: meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian sources include legumes, whole grains and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
  7. Zinc and Selenium: found in oysters and other seafood, meat, chicken, dried beans and nuts.

Putting it all together
To optimise your immune system, choose a good variety of bright coloured plant based foods, and keep those energy dense, nutrient poor processed foods to a minimum.


Beyond diet, there are other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible like not smoking, keeping alcohol to a minimum, getting enough sleep and of course exercising regularly.


Stay healthy this winter with this delicious and veggie filled minestrone soup.

Can you boost your metabolic rate?

Fast, slow, average metabolism? Regardless of body size and composition there are a number of factors that impact a person’s rate of burning energy – that is fundamentally your metabolic rate.

Some people have a slower metabolism meaning they burn fewer calories, storing more as fat in the body; that’s why some people have difficulty losing weight by just cutting calories. Whereas those with a fast metabolism tend to burn calories faster – explaining why some people can eat a lot and not gain extra body weight!

Factors that affect your metabolism

Despite gimmicks out there promising to boost metabolism, there are a number of biological factors that impact your rate of burning calories:

  • Age – metabolism often slows with age,
  • Genetics – it’s in your DNA literally!
  • Health conditions and hormonal changes.

Ways to rev up your metabolism

Whilst there are some factors you can’t change, a sluggish metabolism may possibly be sped up naturally by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle. Looking at what you’re eating and what types (and intensities) of activity you’re doing can make a difference.

  1. Eat more protein and eat it regularly over the day – a couple of reasons for this is that protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer so you don’t go snacking on energy dense, nutrient poor foods all the time. Secondly, protein tends to have a higher “thermic effect” compared to fats and carbs – this means your metabolism is revved up more whenever you eat and digest this food.
  2. Add in more strength training – resistance training is known to help boost muscle mass, and more muscle mass means a speedier metabolism.
  3. Pick up the pace – HIIT training can help keep your metabolism firing for as much as a full day!
  4. Enjoy sleep and manage stress levels.

There are other foods like green tea, caffeine and chilli that have been said to boost metabolism. However, the key to success really is consistency with food and exercise routines, paying attention to intensity and details of macro nutrients like protein.

Whilst plenty of marketers out there will make magic promises to speed up your metabolism, your aim should be to prevent your metabolic engine from slowing down by keeping up your muscle mass and fueling your body with good nutrition.

Check out this recipe for a delicious high protein, low GI meal Mexican bowl.

Easy Mexican Bowl

This quick and easy Mexican bowl can be made for lunch or dinner, and is packed with veggies, protein and low GI grains.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 small onion, chopped
300g extra lean beef mince
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground chilli (or to taste)
1 x 125g can 4 bean mix, drained and rinsed
1 cup brown rice & quinoa
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 carrot, grated
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup baby spinach
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
1  lime, quartered for garnish and dressing

Method

  • Prepare brown rice & quinoa according to package instructions, or for convenience use a pre-cooked pack of brown rice and quinoa.
  • Chop onion finely.
  • Brown onion and beef mince in a frying pan on a medium to high heat.
  • Add the spices (cumin, ground coriander and chilli) and stir well. When mince is browned, add the 4 bean mix.
  • Chop, grate and prepare the salad vegetables (avocado, carrot, tomatoes, spinach and coriander leaves).
  • Divide the cook mince and bean mixture into two bowls, add the rice & quinoa and salad veggies. Garnish with coriander and serve with two quarters of lime for dressing.

Beef mince can be swapped for tofu to make a vegetarian version.

How to handle those pesky cravings

Ever find yourself constantly feeling the need to satisfy cravings? Cravings are one of the number one reasons to derail people from meeting their nutrition goals. Cravings can hit at unexpected times and have you reaching for the sweet, salty or savoury indulgent choice, often leaving you feeling dissatisfied once you’ve finished. Rather than relying on willpower to beat the battle of the craving, outsmart them by understanding the what, the why and the how to overcome them.

The What ..

Food cravings are an intense desire for a specific food. These are often highly sensory foods either sweet, salty, crunchy or smooth, which are packed with excess calories and not much nutrition!  And the desire can seem uncontrollable, that feeling of not being satisfied until you get that particular food! The one thing to remember is that cravings are most often short lived and transient.

The Why …

There are a number of reasons why cravings can occur and often they are triggered by seeing, smelling or hearing about a specific food. They can be related to learned experiences for example your parents giving you a chocolate to make you feel better when you were a child. As an adult you associate chocolate with comforting you from a sad emotion.

Other reasons for why cravings hit include:

  • under eating or overly restrictive
  • stress levels
  • fatigue
  • nutrition deficiencies
  • depriving your self of satisfying your taste preferences
  • emotional triggers
  • visual cues like food advertising

The How to handle cravings …

There are a variety of ways to reduce unwanted food cravings. By following a few steps you can prepare yourself for even the most unexpected craving.

  • Understand your triggers: recognise the when and why of your cravings. Are you leaning on a glass of wine every evening after work, or reaching for the 3pm sweet treat? Be mindful of where that craving is coming from and why, so you can more strategically understand how to fuel your body, without having to sacrifice completely
  • Manage your stress levels: use techniques other that food rewards to support stress levels. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need include more exercise either upbeat or downtime stretching?
  • Nourish yourself: Stay hydrated and ensure your meal plan has enough food to support your bodies nutritional needs especially protein
  • Be prepared: keep foods that you know you crave out of sight (and hopefully out of mind). Also create yourself a list of healthier alternatives to your craving. For example if you love salty chips as your craving weakness, why not swap out for some airpopped popcorn or a handful of crunchy roasted almonds. And make sure you have a little emergency craving kit that has healthier options.

Example healthy options to handle cravings:

  • For potato chips try air popped popcorn
  • For chocolate opt for dark chocolate with a handful of raspberries – this reduces the amount and adds extra nutrition
  • For sweets/lollies try natures sweets like berries or fruit like pear/apple with yoghurt to add some protein

Other ideas include:

  • Grainy crackers and your favourite cheese (40g is a dairy serve and you need to hit 3 serves a day for most adults)
  • Some dry roasted nuts (30g is a serve)
  • Tomato salsa or a dollop of hummus or tzatziki dip with veggie sticks like carrots, celery, capsicum or tomatoes (unlimited amount – you can never have enough)!

Why not try making these delicious peanut butter bliss balls that are packed with protein, sweetness and goodness to combat any craving!

Peanut Butter Bliss Balls

This delicious and easy snack is simple to make and will satisfy any craving.

Ingredients

  1. 8 tbsp mixed seeds (example 2 tbsp each of chia, sesame, buckwheat, pepitas)
  2. 2 heaped tbsp shredded coconut
  3. 2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  4. 9 medjool dates
  5. 2 tbsp coconut oil

Method

Blitz all the seeds together, add the peanut butter, dates and oil and blend. If too dry just add a tsp of water.

Roll together into small balls and pop in the fridge. Makes about 12.

Quick and Easy Frittata

Having the freedom to mix whatever vegetables and herbs you’d like to add along with the ingredients listed below, this easy-peasy recipe is high in protein and fibre. Ideal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Preparation Time: 10-15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Serving: ~4

Ingredients:

  • 800g chopped vegetables e.g. pumpkin, zucchini, onion, capsicum, cherry tomatoes
  • Olive oil 1-2 teaspoons
  • Optional –a handful of olives or sun-dried tomatoes or 2-3 slices chopped bacon
  • 100g feta cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Pepper
  • Handful grated cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C (fan forced).
  2. Meanwhile, pan fry the vegetables in olive oil for 5 minutes or until slightly browned. If using bacon, brown slightly in a pan for a few minutes before stirring in the vegies. Add the cooked vegetables, feta, and olives (or bacon) to a lined baking dish (around 20cm in size).
  3. In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and pepper together. Add the mixture in the baking dish and top with a handful of grated cheese if desired.
  4. Cook in oven for about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Healthy habits for disease prevention

Preventative chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia, are on the rise in Australia and account for up to 64% of deaths in Australia each year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Precursors to these diseases are abdominal obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar and elevated triglycerides, all of which are mostly preventable through good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. By choosing to create healthy habits around our diet and lifestyle, we can live longer and lessen the burden on Australia’s healthcare system (1, 2, 3).

Cardiovascular Disease is an umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, there a number of subcategories, but common conditions include coronary heart disease and stroke. Studies strongly suggest that over 80% of cases of CVD could be prevented through lifestyle intervention (4).

Cancer is a group of several hundreds of diseases, and it is estimated that on average, 380 people are diagnosed with cancer in Australia each day (4). Whilst genetics may play a role in the development, there are lifestyle behaviours that are known to contribute to the burden of cancer. Studies suggest the major risk factors to cancer incidence include; physical inactivity, obesity, poor dietary choices, tobacco use and alcohol use (5).

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of similar conditions that gradually impair brain function (6). The number of people with dementia is steadily increasing each year, and the impact of the condition is widespread, deeply impacting many families and society. More research is supporting the idea that this is a mostly preventable disease, and by creating healthy habits in early life, we can mitigate our risk of developing dementia as we age (7).

The data shows us that we need to address our lifestyles, in order to lessen the impact of these three leading causes of death and hospitalisation. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that healthy habits such as good nutrition, participating in regular physical activity and stress management can play a significant role in avoiding obesity and other associated precursors to disease states.

We have the capacity to impact our own futures and quality of life. Investing in healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating, sleep and stress management, is great insurance against disease, and can slow the progression of existing illness.

Take home message

  • Chronic lifestyle diseases are often preventable
  • Regular exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep and stress management help prevent disease states
  • You have the power to impact the health of your future by choosing healthy habits

Eat well for a better future

Nutrition is a key lifestyle habit that affects longevity, and plays an important role in the prevention of diseases (1, 2) such as dementia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, some of the leading causes of death in Australia. The foods you eat can significantly impact your physical and mental health, making the right dietary choices, gives you the potential to increase your lifespan (3) and improve your quality of life.

The modern western diet can significantly, and detrimentally impact the human body. It is typically high in refined foods containing sugar, salt, refined grains, processed meats and unhealthy fats/oils. For the most part, these foods are convenient and available in large amounts. Overconsumption of highly calorific, processed foods contributes to the obesity epidemic facing Australia and many other parts of the world. The latest National Health Survey (2018) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that 67% of Australian adults were either overweight or obese. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, not only reduces quality of life in most individuals, but is commonly correlated with high blood pressure (greater than 130/85mmHG), high fasting blood sugar (insulin resistance), elevated triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol (4). This group of biomarkers are known as metabolic risk factors, and are associated with the aforementioned diseases dementia, CVD and cancer, but also other chronic diseases such as diabetes and stroke.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. For most of us, lifestyle-related diseases can be prevented, or slowed, by making wholesome choices and creating healthy habits each day around the foods we eat. A micronutrient dense, wholefoods, Mediterranean-style diet (5) packed with colourful fruits and vegetables, rich in healthy fats, quality proteins and high in fibre, can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight. Reducing your risk of developing the unhealthy biomarkers for disease.

Whilst many people find making dietary changes challenging and boring, eating well can be tasty, and is all about creating habits. In order to be consistent, it is essential you understand the importance of why you should choose good-quality foods to fuel your body. When you choose to eat well, you are actively choosing to let go of unhealthy habits from the past, and minimise your risk of disease in the future. And once you make the switch, you will feel so good, you won’t want to go back!

Take home messages

  • Good nutrition can help prevent diseases such dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancer
  • Choose a colourful wholefoods diet packed with plant foods, healthy fats and quality proteins
  • Healthy eating is habitual and doesn’t need to be boring

3 High Protein Breakfasts for Productivity

What you eat for breakfast can really impact your performance at work, home and in the gym. Breakfast is a meal that can make or break your day, and choosing the right foods can improve clarity, focus and productivity at work. People report they are able to concentrate better at work, train harder in the gym, and better engage in meaningful conversations in their personal life when they have proteins, and healthy fats, for breakfast.

Processed carbohydrates for breakfast can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels (and hormones), leaving you feeling tired, foggy and reaching for sugary foods later in the day. Increasing the fat and protein content of your breakfast, and choosing unrefined carbohydrates, can leave you feeling fresh and clear throughout the day. Fat and protein also have a more satiating effect, meaning they will leave you feeling fuller for longer, so ultimately you will likely eat less later in the day. As an added bonus, a high protein and fat breakfast can help you to lose unwanted body fat and maintain lean muscle mass. For best results, carbohydrates should not form the bulk of the meal, and should certainly not come in the form processed breakfast cereal. Adding proteins and fats to carbohydrate foods can lower the glycemic load of that meal, meaning that the sugars from the carbohydrates are released more slowly into your bloodstream, helping to keep energy levels stable.

Whilst we are all familiar with eggs and smashed avo on toast, check out these 3 simple High Protein Breakfast Suggestions for something different:

Vegetable Frittata
Great to make ahead of time and can be re-heated at work, or when you’re in a hurry. Essentially it’s your own recipe creation, but the basics are to layer roasted vegetables in a baking tray, scramble and season some eggs pour over the top so it doesn’t quite cover the vegetables (they will expand), add a little of your favourite cheese and bake until done.

Green Protein Shake
In your blender, blend the following:

  • ½ frozen banana
  • a handful of frozen spinach (yes pre-freezing fresh spinach works great!)
  • ½ avocado
  • 1-2 scoops of plain or vanilla whey protein, or your favourite non-dairy alternative
  • 1 teaspoon of flaxseeds (optional)
  • preferred liquid to blend (oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut water)

Yoghurt Parfait
Into your favourite glass or bowl, layer the following ingredients, and make sure you make it look nice!

  • Unsweetened Greek or natural yoghurt
  • Fresh or frozen berries, or your favourite seasonal fruit
  • Crushed nuts, seeds and shredded coconut
  • A sprinkle of granola or muesli (preferably low sugar! Less 10g sugar/100g)
  • Hint: gently heating some frozen blueberries in a pan can make a delicious sauce to pour over the top.

Breakfast Foods to Avoid

  • White toast with jam or honey
  • Pastries
  • Processed breakfast cereals
  • Milk shakes and fruit juices
  • Processed granola/breakfast bars
  • Sweetened yoghurt
  • Processed meats

Take Home Message
A high protein and fat breakfast, supplemented by wholefoods, unrefined carbohydrates may help stabilise blood sugar levels and leave you feeling fuller for longer. It may help you to focus, and be more productive throughout the day, both at work and in the gym!