Avoid the Christmas kilo creep

Write Way to Health healthy holidaysWith the festive party season in full swing and holidays just around the corner, the nation’s peak nutrition body is urging Australians to avoid the kilo creep by making wise food and drink choices.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Lauren McGuckin said: ‘Christmas is just one day a year, but celebrations often stretch over a month or longer. So weight wise, this is a difficult time of year for many Australians.’

Ms McGuckin said recent research has shown that weight gain over the festive season is a major contributor to excess yearly weight gain, especially for people who are already carrying more weight than they would like1.

She said another study involving 82 people showed a significant increase in body fat percentage and total fat mass over the festive season2.

‘Most Australians would agree that Christmas is not the best time to be trying to shed excess kilos. The goal over the festive season should instead be around keeping weight stable by making smart food and drink choices.

‘Even an extra 600 kilojoules a day – the amount in a small slice of Christmas cake or a can of full-strength beer – can add up over time and result in a couple of extra kilos come January. Those extra kilos are so much harder to get off than they are to put on, so the trick is to avoid gaining weight in the first place,’ said Ms McGuckin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Some tips to help keep weight gain at bay over the festive season include:

  • Eat lighter. Snack on seasonal fruit (such as cherries and watermelon), a small handful of nuts, or low-fat crackers and a salsa dip. Eating a handful of cherries instead of a handful of lollies will save you around 330kJ and 16g of added sugar.
  • Plan plan plan. Take a healthy platter to parties or functions. Include lots of bright, colourful vegetable sticks such as carrot, red and green capsicum, green beans and snow peas. Serve with an avocado dip, beetroot dip or yoghurt-based dip.
  • Drink smarter. If you drink, aim for two glasses of low joule non-alcoholic drinks to every alcoholic drink. Try soda with a squeeze of lime or lemon, or a jug of cold water with cucumber or strawberries and lots of ice for a refreshing change. If you swap a glass of sparkling wine for sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon you will save 470kJ.
  • Eat mindfully. Try to eat slowly, savour every mouthful and enjoy your food over the festive period. You don’t need to eat everything on offer – be selective and enjoy a small amount. Stop eating once you are comfortably full.
  • Move more. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, wash the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, ride your bike to the local shops instead of taking the car.
  • Get the right support. An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is your diet coach – providing you with individual, expert advice to help you achieve your goals. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au to find an APD in your area.

References:
1. Schoeller DA, 2014, ‘The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight’, Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 134, pp. 66-9
2. Hull HR, Hester CN & Fields DA, 2006, ‘The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students’, Nutrition & Metabolism, Vol. 3, No. 44. Accessed 28 November 2014. Available from: www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/3/1/44

Write Way to Health healthy holidayBased upon a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia, 2/12/14

Further information

Dietitians Association of Australia

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Top tips for healthy eyes

Top tips for healthy eyesYour eyes are only small, but they are a very important part of your body. Imagine if you suddenly lost the ability to see. Unfortunately, for many Australians, failing sight is a reality.

However, you can take steps to protect the health of your eyes.

Regular eye checks

This is one of the most important (yet neglected) things you should do. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80 per cent of visual impairment can be treated or prevented. For people with no eye diseases or risk factors, two-yearly check-ups are recommended. If it’s been a while since your last check, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Protect eyes from UV light

Just as UV light can damage our skin, it can also damage our eyes contributing to cataracts, ptergium (a corneal growth) and age-related macular degeneration.  This condition occurs when the centre of the retina (the ‘macula’) is physically disturbed. You should wear sunglasses with good UV protection, as well as a broad-brimmed hat.

Don’t smoke

The dangers of smoking are well documented, but what you may not know is that smoking is linked to macular degeneration. It also contributes to cardiovascular disease which may have an impact upon your eyes and your vision. So if you smoke, take steps to quit.

Use eye protection

It may sound obvious but you should wear appropriate eye protection when engaging in activities that pose risk to your eyes. Tasks such as cleaning with chemicals, mowing the lawn, using power tools and cooking over a naked flame can all contribute to eye injuries. Using safety glasses will reduce the risk of injury.

Eat well

Eating good food does indeed nourish the body, including the eyes. Eating foods high in antioxidants (e.g. green leafy veggies), omega-3 fats, vitamins E and C and minerals like zinc and selenium can help prevent or slow down the development of macular degeneration.

Manage your diabetes

Taking steps to reduce your risk of diabetes, or managing your diabetes if you already have it, will go a long way to protecting your eyes. People with diabetes are at increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. This condition is characterised by damaged blood vessels in the retina, which leads to vision loss or blindness.

It’s important to remember that some eye diseases are hereditary (run in the family). Examples of these include glaucoma (excessive pressure in the eyeball) and macular degeneration. If members of your family have suffered these, speak to your optometrist as you may need more regular tests.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your eye health, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Further information:

Vision Australia

World Health Organisation

Top tips to beat the germs

Top tips to beat germsWe know germs are around, but because we can’t see them, it’s very easy to be complacent — until we get sick!

Did you know that germs are actually animals? Germs are microscopic beings that can cause all kinds of diseases and illnesses in humans. The two main types of germs are viruses and bacteria. It’s important to note however, that not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, some of them help the body to work properly.

Germs are found in most places and can be spread in a number of different ways:

  • through the air (via coughing and sneezing)
  • person to person (via touch, sharing personal items or through bodily fluids)
  • via contaminated food or objects (germs can be transmitted by other people or animals to the food we eat and the things we touch).

While we cannot always prevent the spread of germs, there are positive steps we can take to beat the spread of germs.

  1. The most important way to halt germs in their tracks is to wash your hands using liquid soap and water. When washing, ensure you wash the front and back of your hands. Rinse in warm water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel, or hand dryer. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a good option when soap and water is not available.
    You should always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a nappy, coughing into your hands or blowing your nose. You should also wash them before, during and after preparing food and before you eat.
  2. It’s important that you cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing to prevent germs becoming airborne and being passed onto others. Always sneeze and cough into a tissue, rather than your hands, and wash your hands after using tissues.
  3. If you are unwell, avoid contact with others and stay at home when you are sick. When you are sick, you should avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing other people and avoid preparing food for others. And don’t be a martyr and go into work. Not only will you slow your recovery, but you will spread your germs further afield.
  4. You must always take care when preparing food because the spread of germs from the kitchen is quite common. A few key points include washing your hands before preparing food, avoiding food past its use-by-date, keeping raw and cooked meat separate, cooking food thoroughly and storing food at the correct temperatures.
  5. Don’t forget your home may be harbouring all kinds of nasty germs, so make sure you practice good hygiene in your home. Clean and disinfect bathrooms and toilets at least once a week, wash towels and sheets in hot water, wipe up any spills immediately, throw out sponges and dishcloths regularly and never use the same one for floor spills and washing the dishes! You should also clean your rubbish bin and refrigerator once a week to prevent the spread of germs.

So don’t be complacent when it comes to germs. Do your bit to stop them in their tracks.

Further information

The Department of Health 

Fruit and veggies for life

fruit and vegMost of us don’t have any trouble eating carbohydrates such as bread, cereal and pasta. In fact some of us can actually afford to eliminate some of the carbs we eat (e.g. cake, biscuits, pastries). And for most of us, getting enough protein isn’t too much trouble either.

However, when it comes to fruits and veggies, research suggests that most of us only eat half of what is recommended for good health.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies every day.

Fruits and veggies have a range of health benefits. The contain dietary fibre which aids digestion, keeps you regular, helps keep you full and may help protect you from a range of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some gastrointestinal diseases

They also contain many vitamins and nutrients that our body needs to function properly. The best strategy is to eat a wide range of differently coloured fruits and vegetables, to ensure your intake of important vitamins and minerals is sufficient.

So how can you increase your intake?

If you haven’t been eating the recommended amount, then you should probably gradually increase your intake, along with lots of water. It’s important that you drink water to help your body digest the extra fibre that you are consuming. Some tips on adding extra fruits and veggies to your daily menu include:

  • Breakfast: cereal with fruit; or eggs with spinach, tomato and mushrooms
  • Snack: fruit and/or vegetable smoothie; try adding cucumber or spinach to boost your veggie intake
  • Lunch: grilled chicken with a large salad; or vegetable soup and a multigrain roll
  • Snack: veggie sticks with hummus or cottage cheese
  • Dinner: stir-fry with lots of coloured veggies and protein of your choice; finish with some yoghurt and fresh fruit.

To make it a family affair, get the kids involved by offering them a choice in which veggies they would like to eat for dinner. Why not ask them for ideas on how to prepare them. Better yet, get them to choose one fruit and one vegetable for the week, and ask them to find a recipe using the food of their choice.

If your children are a little young to be actively involved, why not make their fruits and veggies fun by using cookie cutters to cut shapes, or cut it up and serve it with yoghurt and honey.

With a little bit of creative thinking, you’ll be daily quota of fruits and five vegetables in no time.

Don’t fall for fad diets and gimmicks

When you want to lose weight quickly, or you know you have overdone the eating (think Easter and Christmas), it can be very tempting to go on a ‘diet’ to lose the flab.dear diet

While these may have immediate effects (e.g. you lose ‘weight’), most of this weight is water, not fat. Following fad diets may cause a whole host of other programs such as:

  • Muscle loss
  • Slower metabolism (which leads to long-term weight gain)
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and light-headedness
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Statistics show that most people who embark on a ‘weight-loss’ program regain everything they lose, plus more, within two years.

So here are some tips on recognising a ‘diet’ that may do more harm than good.

Yo-yo dieting and skipping meals

When you engage in yo-yo dieting (losing weight and gaining it back and losing it again, etc.) — often through reducing your kilojoule intake or skipping meals — your body responds to these periods of semi-starvation by lowering its metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns up energy. When you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle. You don’t want to lose muscle as it burns kilojoules, whereas fat doesn’t.

This is why, when you come off the ‘diet’ and eat normally again, your body burns fewer kilojoules than before because your metabolic rate is slower. This can lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which does not lead to long-term weight loss.

Restriction diets

Any diet that advises excluding whole food groups or foods is not healthy. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat a balanced diet, consuming foods from each of the five major food groups each day — fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy. You should avoid any diet that prohibits one or more food groups.

Low-carb or no carb diets

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our body. While it’s not recommended that you eat carbohydrates high in fat and sugar (e.g. cakes, biscuits and pastries), there are some carbs that are good for you — whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa, etc. It’s also important to realise that fruits and veggies are also good sources of carbs.

Diet pills and creams

There is no scientific evidence that proves diet pills work. Diet pills are full of artificial ingredients, which are not likely to be good for you long term. Similarly, there is no ‘magic’ cream or lotion to help you lose weight.

Meal replacements

While there may be a place for these (under the medical supervision of your doctor), meal replacements overall, are not a good choice. While a few are formulated by government guidelines, with appropriate levels of vitamins, minerals, fibre, omega-3s and more, others are lacking in key nutrients and are not nutritionally complete. Using these does not teach you the importance of making your own healthy food choices, learning to prepare healthy meals, and developing an active lifestyle. Usually, once you stop using meal-replacements, weight regain occurs.

Exercise machines

Our bodies are designed to move, and moving them through regular exercise is the healthy way to lose fat. Simply targeting muscle areas, particularly through machines (also called ‘spot reducing’) will not lead to real fat loss.

Pre-made meals

A program of pre-made meals is not necessarily a gimmick, but you do run the risk of gaining back any lost weight, as you have not learnt to control portion sizes, nor learn to cook your own healthy meals. While it may be convenient, these programs are likely to be more expensive than making your own food. They also do not help you change your lifestyle, which led to the weight gain in the first place.

How can you lose fat?

The secret to losing fat is to make lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that lead to healthy, long-term and sustainable weight loss include:

  • Eating a balanced diet which includes all food groups (carbohydrate, protein, dairy, wholegrain, fruit and vegetables)
  • Limiting highly processed foods, and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Limiting portion sizes
  • Drinking 6-8 glasses (1 ½ – 2 litres of water) each day
  • Reducing your alcohol consumption
  • Increasing your movement (i.e. exercise), to 30 minutes on most, if not every day.

If you feel you need to lose some weight, forget about the quick and easy fix, as there is no such thing. Instead, speak to your doctor, or visit a qualified dietitian for some expert advice on getting started.

 

Further information:

Dietitians Association of Australia

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

 

Look after your skin this winter

hands skinThe colder months are upon us. And while some of us may be happily waving goodbye to the hot weather, others of us are not so pleased — particularly those who suffer from dry and itchy skin.

Dry and itchy skin (also known as dermatitis) can happen all year-round, but it may be worse during the cooler months.

There are two common types of dermatitis (contact dermatitis) and eczema (atopic dermatitis).

Symptoms usually include red, swollen or blistered skin, which can be intensely itchy. Sufferers usually find that certain substances or conditions can make the condition worse. Skin may also be inflamed and scaly in appearance. If the skin has been scratched, then there may be areas where blisters are weeping.

Dermatitis generally occurs when the skin is in contact with chemicals or substances that cause an allergic or irritant response. Eczema on the other hand, is a more chronic (persistent or recurrent) condition that usually presents itself in childhood and is often associated with a family history.

Either way, both conditions can be painful.

Treatment for dermatitis and eczema involve reducing the inflammation and the itching and preventing future flare ups. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your condition.

Other tips to reduce or avoid itchy skin this winter include:

  • Use soap-free products (e.g. such as hand-wash and shower gel)
  • Wash in lukewarm water
  • Use bath oils to lock in moisture
  • Avoid long-hot baths and showers which can dry out your skin further
  • Pat skin dry, rather than rub it
  • Moisturise while skin is wet to retain further moisture.

If you continue to suffer from dry, itchy skin, visit your doctor.

Further informationAustralasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy