Intuitive Eating + Sports Nutrition- Can it Work?

Eating Intuitively | Sports Nutrition

So, I have run a few half marathons, done a triathlon or two, competed in a few CrossFit comps, rowed a few flat water races, sprinted in surf boat carnivals, competed in two 200km rowing endurance races, done a couple of novice power lifting events, competed in a national level bodybuilding competition, love strongman as a sport and also really like walking as my meditation. 

I also really enjoy looking after my body in the most positive way possible, feeling good in my skin and love eating really good food.

Did I mentioned that I am a fully accredited sports dietitian and accredited practicing dietitian? I get to talk about sport and food all day and it's my job- ripper. 

Now there is a reason I am talking about my experiences as a sports person and my professional credentials. And it's not to let you know how great I am- my mum does that for me already. 

It is because I want to talk about positive body image and intuitive eating, through the lens of sports nutrition. 

And I want to talk about this, because there is a time and place for discipline, and there is the rest of the time, when you can fuel your body for a great performance, without getting down on yourself for not looking the way you think you should for any particular sport.

I often get people coming and asking me for exactly how many grams of protein they should be consuming, if there is any benefit in front loading or back loading carbs, or exactly how many meals they should have in a day. 

They might even commence to try and tell me how low carb in sport leads to optimal performance and how cutting gluten will 100% cure IBS for everyone. 

Well firstly, and personally, I think that food neuroticism is more likely to cause IBS than any piece of bread I have ever consumed. 

Let me re-phrase that. 

Getting that caught up on the grams, timing and bro-science is at best fun, in a geeky way, but socially isolating and anxiety-inducing at worst. 

Sure, there is plenty of worth in finding out more information on how to boost your performance via nutrition. In fact, I have worked with many athletes in order to do so, starting with a plan, and tweaking it, according to their observations, recovery, and feelings through trial and error. All the while ensuring that they understand that what I prescribe is an estimate and a guide based on what research shows us, and by no means gospel. 

For two of the sports I have competed in, I had a strict nutrition plan. These were either an aesthetic based sports or a weight classed sports. I had a plan that required me to be compliant in order to reach the end goal of competing. 

Where bodybuilding is concerned, I have seen very few come out of this sport without at least a little damage to their relationship with food and their body, largely because it is all but aesthetically focused. 

For weight class sports, the focus is still very much on performance, which is why I feel a lot more comfortable with the 'why' behind the dietary focus  required. 

 For the rest of my sportd, I have applied key sports nutrition principals, did some trial made some errors, and listened to my body. 

It is very possible to learn and  use sports nutrition principals without getting caught up on food rules. 

The focus should always be on performance, not on how your body looks. I know all too well, from experience personally and with clients, that the popular lean physique we are faced with daily via social media does not always bring with it corresponding performance improvements. 

There is a point of diminishing returns for sports performance and leanness Certainly, and more specifically for a professional sportsperson, reduction in body fat can improve performance outputs. But then comes the 'too far' point, when illness, injury, overreaching and burn-out comes. 

No one ever got a personal best by adhering to societal ideals. 

Personal bests come from hard work, self-respect and listening to and respecting your body. 

My tips for eating intuitively for sport: 

1. Get the basics right first. Eat a quality source of protein at each meal for muscle recovery and growth. Then add in a healthy wholefood carbs from fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains to replenish muscle glycogen and then garnish with filling, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting fats from sources such as avocado, dairy, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

2. Review the colour in your diet. Colour coming from fruits and vegetables will give you the antioxidants you need to soak up the damage done in training. 

3. Note how your body is feeling during and after your exercise session. If you felt tired before you event started, review your pre-training nutrition. If you flag half way through the session, again, reveiw your pre-training nutrition. If you wake up starving the morning after a night time session, you might need to give yourself a bit more food at dinner to assist with recovery. A little hungry is ok, starving is never a good sign. 

4. Hydrate. Your pee should be pale yellow, not clear, as an easy way of assessing if you are fully hydrated or not. Dehydration of as little as 2% can decrease performance and cognitive function. 

5. Avoid rewarding yourself with 'treats' because you worked out.  You don't need to be an angel, but after you have trained your body has been stretched and needs fuel and antioxidants from good food to make the most of the session. Feed your body what it needs for good health and recovery and save the treats for when you are with family and friends. 

6. Use supplements as your 2%, once you have the basics down. No supplement is going to recover you faster, or grow muscles better than hard training, good food and a full nights sleep. 

I believe that 90% of the time, if you listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs- all you have to do is learn to listen.

Chia Protein Puddings

So, well... yum. 

That is all I can muster up to say because I am in a chia-type nirvana state, that I am unwilling to come out of. 

OK. I  am with you (wipes drool from mouth).

I love flavour pairings and this once is a doozy...Some may say it's too much, but I say yeehaa to all of the flavours! 

So without further ado, here we have this fibrous and omega-3 packed, immune-boosting ginger-spiked, tummy tightening protein punch of a snack. 

 

You Need: 

CHIA PUDDING

  • 1/4 cup chia
  • 2 1/4  cups of coconut milk, or water/almond milk for a lighter version 
  • 1.5 scoops vanilla whey protein 

STRAWBERRY ORANGE SALSA 

  • 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 1 punnet strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped roughly

SYRUP

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cm fresh ginger, grated 

METHOD

Soak the chia seeds in liquid of choice (water, milk) over night, or at least a few hours, until gelled. 

Grate ginger and mix into maple- allow to infuse for a few hours. 

Stir the chia seeds to break up, and separate into 4 small cups or jars. 

Mix chopped strawberries, oranges and almonds and top the chia cups. 

Drizzle maple ginger syrup on top to sevre! 

 

 

Spring Time Soba Noodle Salad

Cue birds tweeting and light-hearted flute music- Spring is here!! 

And what better way to celebrate than with a super delicious take on a favourite- Soba Noodle Salad. 

Ingredients
4 serves

600g chicken breast

Teriyaki Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tbs water

2 tbs sweet rice wine

2 tbs brown sugar

2 Tbs honey

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp ginger, peeled and minced

Salad dressing

1 tbs peanut oil

 2 tbs sesame oil

1/2 tsp mild chilli

1/4 cup honey

3 tbs cup soy sauce

 

Salad vegetables

1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced finely

1 carrot, grated or sliced finely

1/2 cup snow peas (slice half, leave half whole)

1/4 cup kale, finely chopped

1 bunch asparagus, spears sliced in half

1 capsicum, finely sliced

1 spring onion, sliced on diagonal

Pickled Ginger

 

METHOD

  •  Mix Teriyaki ingredients together in a small saucepan and simmer until the sauce reduces by half. Allow to cool

  • Slice chicken breast into strips and marinate  in teriyaki for 1-2 hours

  • Cook chicken on griddle pan for approx. 7 min each side, or until cooked through

  • Bring large pot of water to the boil and add in soba noodles

  • Cook noodles for approximately 8 minutes or until al dente. Strain off water and leave to cool

  • Mix salad ingredients together. Add in soba noodles.

  • Mix together dressing ingredients and pour over soba salad

  • In a hot, non-stick pan, lightly toast the sesame seeds.

  • Top each salad serves with teriyaki chicken slices and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top- Yum!

6 Non-food-related Ways to Maximise Your Diet Plan

I like to jump into the middle of things. Puddles, trampolines, bed, cakes and major life-altering projects.

The positive side of this is that, really, the only choice is to swim. As a volunteer surf lifeguard, it would be suuuuuper embarrassing if I drowned. The problem is, this way of learning is a bit inefficient, because there tends to be a lot of too-ing an fro-ing, going back to the start and retrofitting knowledge.  

Luckily, through my own learnings, and by working with a hundred or so others in their health journeys I have made a note of the important bits you wish you knew before you jumped into the middle of a diet, training program or lifestyle shift. So grab your pens and paper, because this one is interactive.  

Positive Visualisation

Draw a picture of how your life looks once you meet your goal. The fact is, it’s hard to picture how you are going are going to look and feel once you meet your goal if it’s been a while since you have been a healthy weight, or if you have never really lead a healthy lifestyle.  Drawing a picture and referring to it regularly can help build the picture in your mind to move towards. Visualisation has been used in a number of domains to increase the chances of success. Personally, I have used it when working on training technique or learning a new skill. I do it just in my head, but have also played around with drawing a picture of what success looks like, in very vivid detail, if it’s something I actually can’t imagine!  I have also used visualisation to get myself through a busy day. If I know I have a lot to get through and remember the next day, I will run through the steps in my head before bed the night before, a mental rehearsal if you like! It is actually quite amazing what you can get done in a day if you have a clear picture in your mind. So you might visualise getting out of bed, putting on your runners and hot-footing it to the gym, or you might draw a picture of what your life looks like once you have reached your weight loss goals.

Negative Visualisation

There is another part to this visualisation gig which I think is highly useful to, and that is negative visualisation. This is rooted in stoic philosophy (my favourite school of thought) and helps us to keep it real. We imagine life if we don’t make the change, and what could go wrong. It’s not the most uplifting exercise to do, but since when has life ever given us the most ideal set of circumstances to reach our goals in? Last I checked it was never! Anticipating what adversities you are going to face, and coming up with solutions in advance can help us be on the front foot when life throws us a few lemons. With a bit of negative visualisation, you won’t just make lemonade, you will have the jars sterilised, and salt ready to go for preserves. My favourite is the conversation you have with the office morning tea enthusiast who tries to twist your arm into having a wedge of cheap Woolworths mud cake. ‘No Doris, thank you for the offer, but I don’t eat cake during the week’. Think of it as pessimistic optimism- trust me- worth a go.

 

Change your environment.

Me: “I want to stop eating the from the Nutella tub, so I will just ignore that it is there. I am going to just use my self-control and newly acquired positive visualisation skills to get over my Nutella addiction”.

Meanwhile, it is burning holes in the back of your head with tiny Nutella laser beams to remind you of its existence while you go about your daily tasks. While positive visualisation is good, it’s not that good- this was never going to work.

If we want to really set ourselves up for success, we need to get real. Get rid of the foods that you eat when you are bored, emotional or stressed. Your home is probably the easiest environment to change. The obstacles usually lie around sharing a house and workplace with other people. If it’s your home, call the shots. I’ll be honest and say that kids don’t need the treats in the house either (a common excuse). It may be a harsh call, but really, everyone is going to benefit if you remove junk from the house- even the reluctant spouse. If they are on you team, they will deal with the absence of junk. And really, you can always go and get something if you are dying for it, at least you have a 5 minute buffer between getting in the car and getting to the shops to decide if that is what you really want. Workplaces are hard, but again, I will stand by the fact that most workplaces could do with a snack spring clean too. Be that person. Or at least request the jar be moved out of eye sight. And if you dislike you job that badly that you need to eat to make yourself feel better- make a plan to leave ASAP- it’s never worth it.

Deal or no Deal

What are you willing to give up, and what is no-deal. You don’t have to live a Spartan lifestyle to get results, in fact I encourage people to have a bit of what you fancy, regularly. But for every food that you just love to bits, there will be a whole lot that you are indifferent to, but ate because it was there. Me? I have tried to give up a few things close to my heart, but got quite sad. So I include these on a semi-regular basis, and low-and-behold? I don’t feel deprived and am more likely to say to the foods that I don’t really care about, because I am in control! It’s not magic, it’s just human behaviour.

Get real with timeframes and expectations

How long have you ‘let your self go’ for? Well, you are going to need to give yourself at least half that time to start really seeing changes- the lifestyle ones that mean the results stick. Or at the very least a good 6 months with a solid plan. For sure, one 6 week challenge will get the ball rolling, and if that helps, do it- but what is your plan once that is done? Remembering our brains are a bit slower on the uptake of change, but are the most important piece of the puzzle. We need timeframes that allow us to adjust our lifestyle to accommodate new ‘ways of being’ that sustain the healthy changes in your body. Sometimes just knowing its going to take a while, and being cool with that is helpful.

 

Make time

We have a lot to get through in the day- fact. We are expected to jam more into our days than ever before. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for habit, I probably wouldn’t go to the gym anywhere near as often as I do, left to my own devices. However, I will make one suggestion. Log how long you spend binge watching television, compulsively scroll through your social media feeds in the car after you pulled up home, and how many ‘18 signs you are an introverted-extravert’-esque articles and then review how time poor you actually are. (Noting that I am guilty of the last 2, and that this is an article of a similar structure, but I would counter with the fact that I am providing actual useful information, and not trying to get you to accidently click on ads to buy stuff you don’t need, because the screen shifted a bit to make you click it). The next step is to set times.

We need to create time blocks when we have to go to exercise, or have to prepare food. And stick to it. It may be uncomfortable to start, but practice makes habits, so push through and get going. Buddies always help, so drag someone along for the ride!

 

To summarise, the meal plan, gym program or other tool you have to make change is really the middle bit. Jump in too deep here and the risk of failing is high. In most cases, this stuff is actually more critical to success than what foods you decide to include in your diet. A bit of honest reflection is seldom a waste of time. Before you ask for a meal plan, to get an appreciation of the non-food related reasons you may not be the healthiest version of yourself, and then enjoy the process of practicing until you reach your version of perfect. 

Warming Winter Vegetable Salad Plus A Bit About Why It's Good For You

 

Chances are 8 out of 10 people have seen the movie, the Princess Bride. If you haven't, stop reading now, go watch it and come back to read this. 

I make this request because it helps explain why the damage is in the dose, and why we need constant small exposures to things with good perception and bad perception (i.e broccoli = good perception, stress = bad perception), so stay healthy for the long haul. 

When Wesley from the Princess Bride is not killed by ingesting the cup laced with poison, he says 'They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder."  This is kind of what general healthy eating does. If we eat a variety of foods, namely whole unprocessed foods, we get exposed to small doses of health boosting food chemicals, which keep us in good nick for longer! 

Simply put, nothing is either good nor bad, because the damage is in the dose, unless, of course, you have a known allergy or intolerance, in which case, best to follow your health professionals advice and guidance. By way of example, there has been a recorded case of an elderly women comping through close to 1 kg of raw boy choy, a seemingly healthy food, because she thought it was going to be good for her health, and subsequently went into a hypothyroid induced coma. A smaller dose, or is she had cooked the vegetables, this situation may have been avoided (she was fine after hospitalisation, for the record). 

In the opposite direction, we have research to indicate that stress in and of itself is not actually bad for us. In small doses, it's actually really good for us! However it's the duration and perception of stress, which is of concern. Chronic stress plays havoc with our bodies and mental health, and how we perceive stress (if we think it's good for us or bad for us in combination with actual amount) actually plays a part in its impact too! 

The caveat is, because there is always one smarty pants in the room, this concept should not be stretch to justify regular consumption of the 'sometimes' foods like cakes, lollies, fried foods, and highly processed goods. Keep these to one-ish serve a week and we will all be fine.

"So what has this got to do with salad Harriet". I hear you say, which is a totally valid question. In short if I can lure you in with a salad recipe and inject a bit of learning in the as a dressing I will, because that's how I do. 

So learning from this salad is such: 

  • Cooking food can actually assist in the absorption of nutrient and make them easier for us to take in. 
  • Cumin has some really great health benefits including antioxidant properties, and you only need small amounts regularly.  
  • Large doses of good things, it appears, are not necessarily any better than the total absence of them, so the 'slowly slowly' approach of regular doses is likely the most beneficial approach. 
  • Herbs and spices are a great way to boost health and increase flavor an an au naturale way. If you want to read some interesting bits on this head here
  • Warm foods are great in winter and totally hit that comfort food spot, without having to resort to the not-so-good comfort foods too often. 
  • Fill your plate and your stomach with veggies first and you will likely be better off on the waist line. 

Now to the bit you actually came for (ha ha- sorry): 

Ingredients

(serves about 4 large serves or 6 sides)

4 carrots, cut into sticks

500g butter nut pumpkin, skin removed and cubed

1.5 tbs olive oil

1 tbs cumin

1 bag of Kalettes (could use Brussels sprouts instead)

1 clove crushed garlic

Sea Salt to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 160C.

In a bowl toss the carrots and pumpkin in 1 tbs olive oil and cumin to coat.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour, tossing the carrots and pumpkin a few times to get even colour. Cook for longer if required- until the pumpkin is soft all the way through.

In a pan, add 0.5 tbs olive oil, and heat. Add in garlic and kalettes. If there are bigger kalettes, cut them in half like you would with Brussel sprouts.

Lightly cook kalettes until they soften slightly and lightly browned.

Add carrots, pumpkin and kalettes together into a bowl and toss together. Season with salt to taste.

Per 6 serves:

475 kj/115 kcal

3g protein

5g fat

>1g saturate fat

11g carbohydrates

6g fibr 

If you know what FODMAPS are, you might be interested in this...

Where do dietitians go to meet? To a specialist tea house for have Matcha lattes- obviously! If you can get more antioxidants into one room, I'd like to know where this place is. We dietitians just can't resist the lure of Epigallocatechin gallate...We're funny right? 

Dietitians stereotypes aside, over the weekend, I had the pleasure of chatting to FODMAP specialist dietitian Chloe McCleod about her upcoming venture- The FODMAP Challenge

 

By way of background, I met Chloe 2 years ago, bonding over pinching fat at the ISAK level 1 anthropometry course in Brisbane. I'll tell you, there is nothing like being pinched in a partial state of undress when laying the foundations of a lasting friendship- right? (just say yes...)

Fast forward 2 years and we were sitting in an uber trendy cafe in a unassuming cafe the Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar, deliberating whether to have the the Green Apple Sencha Sour, or the Berry Bomb Latte. For the record, decisional fatigue got the better of me and I went for what I was familiar with- a Matcha latte (my first one-would try again). 

The purpose of our chat was for me to find out all about an online challenge I have been seeing pop up everywhere, including a recent feature in Sports Luxe. 

The long story short- Chloe is the brain and expertise behind an online diet challenge which is unlike the one that has probably sprung to your mind. The FODMAP Challenge is a 12 week guided elimination diet designed for anyone experiencing IBS symptoms, to help identify the trigger foods, through the removal and re-introduction of the groups of carbohydrates called FODMAPs. 

The concept is genius, as for anyone who has ever had to try this process, it can be confusing, arduous and requires a lot of hand holding from a dietitian who is very familiar in the process which may get costly. Enter The FODMAP CHALLENGE! 

The program runs for 13 weeks, with week 1-4 as the elimination phase, recipes and all! Then week 5-13 are all about adding in groups one at a time, to hone in one which ones give you symptoms. And Chloe was really excited to be offering a wide range of meals and snacks, to ensure variety and maximum deliciousness (that is a word- surely).

Short story long? FODMAP's (Fermentable Oligosaccharise, Disacharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a cluster of carbohydrates found in a variety of foods we eat, which are poorly digested by some people, and cause Irritable Bowel Symptoms which include bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas, to name a few. The symptoms are not life threatening...well if you are left in the room with someone who has them you might beg to differ... but they can really get in the way of life, so finding out which foods in particular, because it won't necessarily be all of the, are the culprit, so they can be avoided or eaten in a reduced portion size. 

Do you need to be low FODMAP for ever? Here's what the website has to say: 

Research indicates that most people do not react to all the high FODMAP groups of foods. Identifying these means that we can re-introduce the groups of foods you didn’t react to, then determine how much of those you did react to you are able to tolerate. Long term, your life will be easier for the following reasons:

Most people with IBS are able to re-introduce high FODMAP foods and maintain good symptom control. This means it is easier to make informed choices when not in control of food choices, and better management of symptoms on a daily basis.
Avoidance of unnecessary restrictions and to help ensure that your diet meets your nutritional needs.
Many high FODMAP foods are also high in prebiotics; compounds which provide food for the healthy bacteria that are found in your gut. Research indicates that long term avoidance of these may affect the health of your bacteria, and your gut.

Chloe has a really solid background working with her clients one-on-one in nutrition treatment for conditions such as arthritis, food intolerance's and sports nutrition. This new project will see her skills broadcasted to a much larger audience, which is great news! 

I was very curious what lead Chloe to undertake such a big task. Antone who has embarked on an online project will know the time and attention to detail required to get off the ground, not to mention the IT nous! 

“I was inspired to create The FODMAP Challenge to help individuals determine the triggers of their IBS after recognising just how many people are suffering from IBS, and require better support in this; many people don’t have time/desire to go in to a clinic and see a dietitian, especially with so much information readily available online. However, I noticed lots of people wanting to try the diet, but not actually determining which FODMAPs they might be reacting to. Research indicates that most people do not react to all the high FODMAP groups of foods. Identifying these means that we can re-introduce the groups of foods you didn’t react to, then determine how much of those you did react to you are able to tolerate. Hence, the purpose of The FODMAP Challenge!

Throughout the 13 weeks, we take you through elimination, challenge and reintroduction phases, and help make the process as easy as possible through meal plans, recipes, videos, Q&As and a bunch of other things!

 

Brilliant! A short term, expert lead program that can assist in reducing symptoms and restriction on your diet- where do I sign up? 

Good question! If you have struggled with IBS and are interested in taking part, the next Challenge starts on July 27th for only $149. That to me sounds like a dream. To sign up head to the website here, which also houses some really good information to help out if you are just curious. 

Meanwhile I will be over here placing bets on which antioxidant rich food will be next to hit the big time, drinking a matcha latte. 

 

 

5 Effective Techniques For Getting Out of Bed In Winter

I am not one to brag, but credit where credit is due. I am exceptionally good at getting out of bed.

I have done it over 10,402 times in my life, and as much as 3/4 of these were done without assistance. I practice every day, and have kept intricate notes on how and why I do it. And here they are for all to share! 

But before we start the list, take a look at what your current thought process is on winter. If it's 'winter is miserable, I'll start again in Spring' or similar, we need to re-check, before we even get to other tips.

Winter is cold- true. But cold can be invigorating and energising. If you are in a winter rut kinda of space, we need to re-check our approach to Winter and list out some of the best parts about it, like crisp blue skies, and fresh mornings. Sounds horrendously lame, but it's worth the check in!

1. Have a REALLY good reason to get out of bed. 

I can count on 1 hand the times I have hit snooze and have been outside at 5 am in minus degree weather with success, a number of times. How is this possible? Because I had a good reason! I wouldn't do it otherwise. I am human. If the alarm goes off, it's cold and I am not ready to get out of bed, and have nothing pressing to get me out, I won't. Simple. I have no other special motivation or inspiration other than that. Either someone is waiting for me (training buddy, a client, my coach) or that I want the results which come from getting out of bed MORE than the comfort I get from being warm and snug. 

2. Have a Winter goal

This point speaks to the previous point. If you have a really good goal that requires you to get to gym or to training, then you will go. It's not always possible to have a training buddy, so you need to set yourself up for success by being clear on what you want. If it's not important or meaningful enough, you won't go. Think 5km race, undertaking an 8 week strength program, aiming not to put on weight during Winter, improving your flexibility, creating a new habit to see you into spring. All good places to start!

3. Prepare the night before & reduce decisions

This is important, as many a morning minute been lost to looking for a second sock or ummm-ing over the days outfit. Before you go to bed, pack you bag, lunch, or anything else you need to take for the next day and leave it near the front door, so your trip over it and won't forget. 

Reducing the number of decisions also is a biggie. The less decisions you have to make the better, especially first thing in the day. 'Decisional fatigue' is when you have so many options, you make no decision, and end up where you started. Know what your first 3 moves for the day will be the night before, and then all you have to do is execute. Know what exercise you are doing, what you are having for breakfast and which way you are going to do to work. The less decisions we have to make last minute, the better the outcome!

4. Start small

If you are not a morning person, or just not a winter morning person, and need to get up a bit earlier to get activity in, start by getting up just 20 minutes earlier to walk or prepare for the day, and add in another 20 minutes every few days. You may need to do this on the weekends too, until it becomes habit. You will also need to look at getting to bed earlier, as getting enough sleep total is important to getting through the day and having a sustainable habit.

That said, you don't have to get up in the morning if evenings suit you better. If you can get straight from work, or go in your lunch hour to do some activity, do it! 

5. If you don't want to go, compromise. 

Being active in Winter is a mind game, know this and play it to your advantage. My usual go to compromise is, 'you only have to go for 20 minutes'. It's short enough not to be daunting, but long enough to get into a groove and end up staying. If after 20 minutes you are done, then you have at least done something towards your daily movement needs! 

These are just 5 ways, there are certainly more. A personal foot heater that followed me everywhere would be one other if I knew they existed. The key point is, that Winter is cold and a bit uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as you will feel if you take the path of inaction and have extra kilos hanging around come Spring. Just a few small changes and a 'cold is fine OK' attitude will keep you out of the woods and generating your own warmth all winter! 

 

Lemon Honey Glazed Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients 
4 150g salmon portions

2 tbs honey

2 tbs dark soy

2 lemons, juiced

1 cm grated ginger

100g quinoa

1 1/2- 1 3/4 Cups water

250 g sweet potato

2 spring onions

200g broccoli (about 1 head)

100g pine nuts

1 tbs olive oil

Salt

Method

Pre-heat over to 180C.

Chop sweet potato into 1cm cubes, lightly coat in olive oil and bake for 25-30 minuted until soft.

In a small pan, heat and mix lemon juice, honey and soy into a glazes and paint the individual salmon fillet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through- cooking time will depend on fillet thickness.

Add water and quinoa to a pan with a pinch of salt and simmer until cooked for approximately 15 minutes.

Boil a pan of water and blanch broccoli for 2 min until just soft, remove from water and refresh in cold water.

Chop broccoli into small florets.

Finely slice spring onion.

In a hot pan, dry cook pine nuts for 1 minute, stir continuously until lightly browned.

Add quinoa, sweet potato cubes, broccoli, and pine nuts into a bowl. Mix through 2 tbs olive oil and a pinch of salt.

 

 

Slow cooked protein oats with honey nut milk

 

Winter is cold. 

Cold weather calls for warming food.

Warming food doesn’t have to mean junk.

This is all you need to know to get you through winter without the associated weight gain that we hear about all too commonly. Sure, we are more inclined to hit snooze and stay in bed, but winter is actually a great time to challenge yourself to get fitter and healthier ahead of the warmer months, when you can show off your hard work! This recipe is warming and has a good hit of protein to keep you satisfied and full until lunch. If you are time poor in the morning, this is a great weekend concoction, or get up a bit earlier and start the day slowly so you can enjoy this breakfast.

Serves 2, cooking time 15-20 minutes.

Slow oats

1 cup traditional oats

1 cup milk

1 scoop whey protein

Add oats and milk to a pan and simmer, stirring regularly for 10 minutes. Once the oats are slightly cooled, stir through they whey protein. I used Vanilla, but I think chocolate could be a very good option too!

Honey nut milk

1 cup milk

1 tbs almond butter

2 tsp honey

In a pan, heat the milk to a simmer, lower heat and stir in the almond butter and honey until combined. Pour half over each bowl of the slow cooked protein oats.

Grilled banana

Cut banana in half-length ways and place face down on a lightly oiled griddle pan, and heat until light brown lines form on the banana. Top each bowl of oats with half a banana. 

Can you actually shrink your stomach? (The fresh Prince of Bel-Air version)

So this is a story all about how your food gets churned, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how your stomach works and why you should care.

(forgive me, it was a bucket list item to wave the Fresh Prince of Bellaire into s blog post √√ )

No but really, this piece of equipment is super important so to start, let’s take a squiz at what the stomach is and what it does!

Digestion is the breakdown of food to get the goodies (energy/nutreints). We actually start preparing for food before it hits out mouth! Just the thought or sight of food gets us gearing up for it. Our mouth marks the start of our digestive system, and our… ummm…. bottom, to be polite, is the end (#bumpun). But let’s look at our stomach, as it is not only the way to my heart, but is an important thing to get, if you want to know about how our food looks after us.

The stomach, our eyes are bigger than it, but not really.

To start, I’d like to ask you to think of a red J shaped  balloon which has been hanging around for a few days, and is a bit wrinkly. This is your stomach. It’s gross already!

Dead Balloon, by Chris Pegg 

Dead Balloon, by Chris Pegg 

 

Our stomach is where are large amount of the breakdown of food occurs, in order for us to access the energy and nutrients locked inside. Empty, the stomach is around 250 ml in volume and full volume is about 1.7 L depending on the individual, and I dare say we pull off some magnificent feats at Christmas!

Food is digested chemically and mechanically. i.e it gets mushed by enzymes which chop it up, acids which break it down and churned by smooth muscle which passes it though a small passage or sphincter (and what a cool word that is!).

The muscle helps to propel and churn food to make it easier to access the nutrients. These muscles also undulate to pass food through the stomach to the next stop, which is the small intestine. If you picture what happens when you take the four corners of a sheet and shake it when you are making your bed, (because we all still play parachute with our sheets don’t we…? Guys?), that’s kind of like the little muscular motions that mush and push our food.

We have these folds called rugae (roo-gay). They increase the surface area of the stomach so we can get more done in a smaller space (pretty much Danish design) and as we eat, these folds stretch out so we can accommodate more volume in the stomach. When we start eating the body sends signals to relax the stomach lining in preparation for food like ‘hey guys, get your eating pants on! It’s time for dinner!’

There are lots of different types of cells within the stomach which release a whole bunch of hormones that drive or slow down digestion and also feed-back information (another pun, sorry, it’s a real problem for me) to the brain about how much and what we have eaten and whether we need to continue, or ease up.

Then we need to layer this with the Enteric Nervous system which is driven by our Vagus nerve which is our key messenger between ut and brain. It sends messages from the stomach to the brain and provides feedback on how things are going down there. And the brain is able to override a few of the vagus instruction too. Our brain brain is the chief but mostly lets the Vagus nerve do its think without micromanaging. 

From there, food passes as a liquidy goop called Chyme into the small intestine, where we do more digesting and absorption of nutrients, moving to the large intestine or colon, where water is reabsorbed and the final touches are made before we, well, poop out what is not required. Necessary to talk about, yet highly un-glamourous, not dissimilar to pap smears.

And on that awkward note,  I have satisfied my need to provide background information to set the gloriously poopy scene and now can answer a question that has the diet industry has had us hanging on for years. Can you shrink you stomach?

Well, having looked at the very engineering of our gut, then we can see how this might be the case, but it’s also a dynamic thing. Some positive research has shown that a reduction in volume of food leads to early feelings of fullness. Also, reducing intake can also lead to a slowing of gastric emptying- ie your food takes longer to move out of your stomach into your intestines, so you feel fuller for longer.

But then we need introduce into the mix, the fact that changes are likely not permanent, and the other aspect of dietary intake that we don’t always listen to our stomach when it tells us it is full, now do we? (Guilty).

Behaviour modification also plays a big role in reducing intake, more specifically, reducing intake of the more junky food. Filling up with fibre rich veggies, and nutrient dense foods means we are less likely to have the over-eating problem, and will be supplying ourselves with what we need to function, while maintaining a happy weight.

So while it may be bigger than my eyes literally, there are many times when my eyes challenge my stomach’s size and this is triggered by sheer determination to get through whatever delicious food is in front of me.

The stomach is crux of many metaphors, showcasing its importance to our general health, but to our well-being, as a common indicator that something might be amiss upstairs. This is thanks to that Vagus nerve messenger system linking the brain and the stomach/digestive system. But id you want to go the extra mile to look after yourself, my top tips for keeping your stomach happy include:

  • Chew well
  • Eat slowly and in a relaxed state
  • Feed it with unprocessed food
  • Eat your veggies 
  • Be good to your mother (it helps everything)

Just a few small things to keep this important piece of machinery ticking and you in a prime nutritional state. 

4 'health foods' that have more sugar than good stuff (and how to work around this)

Everyone loves a good dose of anti-oxidants don't they? Well, you would think so given the amount of death dodging, life elongating, super foods wrapped up in nice brown paper packing and string that are on the market. 

But what happens when the health foods, have more sugar than the trace elements of the ancient grain quinoa protein fraction that they use to reel us in with? 

Well, and this is really awkward to say, but I really don't think they are healthy any more. 

The irony riddled truth is that that product you have spend pretty pennies on, is probably more likely to lead you down the path of inflammation, insulin resistance and diabetes than a piece of devilishly good white bread. 

As a quick reminder, a diet with a high gylemic load, aka a diet high in refined carbohydrates, aka eating lots of packaged crap, is highly conducive to inflammation which is the hypothesised starting point for disease such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. And we are talking about what we call 'free sugars', which encompasses monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods in the food manufacturing process AND the sugars which are 'natural' like honey, fruit juices, syrups etc. Pointing out that just because a sugar is a 'natural source', doesn't mean that if you are downing  8 date based 'protein' balls, you aren't getting a huge whack of sugar and only a small amount of the advertised 'trace vitamins and minerals' that are supposed to make it ok to have. (If you are sensing a bit of frustration, you would be correct). 

So here we go, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but perhaps the most SHOCKING (and because no one wants to be disappointed more that 4 times in one sitting): 

Matcha Latte

The first three ingredients on most of these matcha latte products, which are widely available in cafes and supermarkets now and espouse saintly  anti-oxidant properties, can be up to 3 different sugar types. There is lots of great research to say that this green tea type drink can be really good for you, but when bound up with sugar, I dare say the benefits are negated. To get around this, if you are dying for a green latte, you can buy your own matcha tea powder (checked the label for added ingredients) and try making your own at home and only using a small amount of honey for sweetness.

Sugar has met its Matcha  

Sugar has met its Matcha  

 

Flavoured 'quick' oats

Oats a to'oat'ally good for you. They are high in soluble fibre, and are warming on a cold winter day. However, when we move up the aisle from the big bags of whole rolled or steel cut oats, we losing health benefits and entering sugar-ville. The un-flavoured ones can be ok as a last ditched attempt at getting breakfast in if you are running out the door, but the fruit/honey flavoured ones usually contain another holy trinity of sugar- honey powder, glucose, regular sugar- and are likely to land you starving by 9.45am. The GI of slow cooked whole oats is around 41, which give us slow burning energy, however, because quick oats are processed further so they cook in under a minute, there GI goes up to 81, which means you are getting a big spike in blood sugar. 

Go for the rolled and steel cut versions, or at the very least, have only is case of emergency and add some nuts and whole milk to keep you feeling fuller for longer. 

OMG (Oat My Gosh!) how good does this look! 

OMG (Oat My Gosh!) how good does this look! 

Acai Bowls

I am almost 100% positive that every fitspo out there has filled at least 1/2 the Insta feed with pictures of bright purple bowls with neatly lined up bit of fruit, chia, goji and, I don't know, tumeric or something. And while this Amazonian berry does pack an anti-oxidant punch when its flying solo, it's the large amount of fruit and juice that is can be tied up with, which means that you are cuing an insulin surge post consumption! Many recipes have it mixed with 200ml of fruit juice, plus a banana and topped with more fruit! Fruit is not bad, juice is not bad, Acai is not bad, but all in one sitting its a glycemic mess. Pretty yes, but just eat the berries and you'll be right. 

Acai of relief that there is no added sugar!

Acai of relief that there is no added sugar!

 

And last and least healthy 

'Green' Juices

Where do I start with these? There are legitimate green juices with a good amount of actual green stuff and that are low in sugar/kilojoules and then there are supermarket frauds which are fruit juice dressed up as super foods. The price tag is usually a good indicator of just how much green there is compared to the apple/pear juice filler. The more expensive ones (think around teh $10 mark) are likely to have a heath inducing amount of greens, anything drastically less than that, RUN. Some are up to 90% apple juice with a bit of some slightly more expensive veg, like beetroot, and then declare just decimal point amounts of the green goddess kale and watercress that made you want to give it a go. I am going to guess that downing 500ml of juice, containing about 10-12 tsp sugar, is probably not what you were looking to do. It's not fair that the misleading language and packing used is leading people to believe they are doing the right thing, and it's deception that unfortunately almost always comes with a big price tag! eat the greens in their whole form or go for a 3 part veg 1 part fruit ratio as a rule of thumb. 

Juicetice shall be done!

Juicetice shall be done!

 

A little bit of these products every now and then, if you want to give it a go, is not going to do you harm. Give them a try, take the pic, add it to your Instagram account (#nourish). But take a second look at labels if you are thinking about making them a central feature in your diet, and be on the look out for super foods baring more added sugar than mysterious super food. 

 

Harriet walker is a Dietitian based in Canberra who loves a good nutrition myth bust on a Sunday evening and lifting heavy objects. 

 

 

Move More. It doesn't have to be fancy, you just need to start.

 

This is a very quick blog. It's a public reminder that moving more doesn't have to involve large costs, fancy shoes, hyper-coloured lycra or extreme feats. We are born to move. It feels good and it's a way of expressing ourselves. It also just so happens to be one of the most accessible preventative health measures getting around. If the 'I can't do that' thought process is getting in the way of getting started, you just need to remember that no one was good at anything when they first started. Just move. Sedentary lifestyle is quickly becoming one of our biggest killers, and yet it is one of the easily combated with direct action. Today. Right now.

Walking, running, skipping, dancing, Jedi knight fighting, Frisbee, hiking, lifting heavy things, lifting light things, catching up with friends up a mountain, swimming, rowing, kayaking, dragon boating, caving, skating, parking your car at the other end of the car park, pushing, pulling, jumping, kicking, throwing, stretching.

If it's been a while since you have done regular exercise, try something new. Don't like it? Try something else. There is a feeling you get after doing something you thought you could not do.  The more you do it, the more you search out opportunities to feel it again. This is a sign you have found something you love. It doesn't have to be hard core. It just has to be enough that you grow that confidence in yourself that you can do it. I don't believe we are born with this confidence, and I don't think there are enough opportunities to grow it unless you make a point of seeking it out. But to get going all you need to do is start, the rest will fall into place.

Movement is free. It feels good. What more do you need? Let's go!

 


 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's Back Women in Sport, and Beyond

What a night. Where to start...Well let's put it this way, I am writing that at close to midnight for fear of losing my thoughts, so you know it sparked something in me. 

Yes, I talk about nutrition...a lot....And then there is fitness....I talk about that too. But then there are all of the other things that you encounter day-to-day, that, usually unbeknownst to you at the time, shape that text book knowledge into something a lot more prolific. And it appears this is one of those 'ping!' moments. 

Tonight was the season end to the Canberra Capitals Basketball team, for whom I have been working with as their Dietitian for 2 seasons now. An opportunity which has been a safe space to learn and progress, but one that also scared the pants off me most of the time. Being in contact with national treasures does that. But it has also revealed a bit of a chronic problem with self doubt too...but we will come back to that. 

The night was a cozy and yet expansive. A cross section of players past and present all brought together by a single ball and the love of its game.  We heard stories of woe from the season, but above all that were more important stories. 

Most importantly, there was the story of 'The Dream'. A dream put forth by one of Australia's leading coaches, Carrie Graf. A Canberra legend who happens to double as a walking reminder to everyone who comes in her way of what more you could be doing- the kind of person that keep us all accountable. Graffy could sell ice to eskimoes, but her 'sell' is one of building up to equality and in womens sport. 

Then there was the story of 'guns Mcgee' Jess Bibby. This lady, recently crowned with title of most games played in the WNBL (394 in total, I believe), has not only earned her right to Canebrra's basketball hall of fame, but has worked her way to lead radio DJ at a gorgeous local grocer, making killer coffee's when she was not playing, is a small business owner and a top shelf legend. 

Tonight was a farewell and a chance to reflect on the achievements of these two leaders in womens sport. 

Where am I going with this? Well I was one of a few people privileged enough to hear these stories during the night. I walked away tonight firstly lamenting on all the things I could be doing better, but then turning over and promising to myself that next time I find myself not giving 100% or questioning my ability, that I would just pretend to be one of the handful of excellent women in the room. I am a big believer of 'fake it til you make it'. 

The problem is, that not enough of these legendary female sport-peoples stories are being broadcasted around to share and the is not where it could be. The room needs to be bigger and not done just when bidding adieu. There has been a great start in other sports, with the introduction of the Big Bash League, equal pay in womens tennis in some competitions. But then there is the cuts to broadcasting of womens basket ball- one very large step backwards. But the thing is these women are less likely to have their stories heard if their sports are not given the support to grow and become self sufficient and inform and inspire the next wave of female athletes. 

I hear the argument that womens sport does not get the same numbers to the game, that their abilities will never match males due to physical traits, that they are not as interesting to watch. But this is the small minded thinking that put the brakes on progress, and not just in the sporting realm, but across the board.  It's the thinking that is easily done, but means that progress and potential is missed. How do we know that these sports women would never reach the same physical ability to males, when a fair share of the time, they are not granted the same amount of time to dedicate to training, because they have to work a full time or 3/4 time job in order compete.

And do we need to compare apples with oranges? Tennis is a sport that sticks out as one where women have proven they draw a crowd, can be competitive and match ratings when able to dedicate the hours needed to excel at a sport. 10,000 hours (the purported time frame needed to obtain mastery) when working a full time job is a hard feat for anyone to achieve.

And yes, yes it is a different game to the mens, but when did different become a bad thing? Every athlete is going to approach their game differently, this is not a gender specific thing, so how about a switch from comparing to highlighting of unique skills?

To clarify, this is not a piece intended to rhapsodise on the inequities women experience. It's not exclusively females who experience set backs, its a universal theme across any kind of minorities, many of which apply to men too.  And I don't believe that anyone should be handed an opportunity because they stamp their feet. I believe that merit should be the key decider, but there need to be a period of bringing up to speed and a unanimous shift in what the prototype of a leaders looks like in order for real competition to occur. 

And to add, I have been lucky enough to have landed some of the best female role models in the land. I grew up with them, I have shared my harebrained schemes with them, I work with them, I sit on boards with them, I live with them, I do business with them and they are my best friends. I have also had the upmost support in every way from the males in my life, and I cannot imagine it any other way. 

BUT! There are gaps, suitably big ones, because eons of time has passed with the equality I take for granted, not being available across the board. 

So here I go, holding my breath and faltering somewhat as I write this. (And to be totally honest, I wrote the preceding line as a safety blanket in case I am that lucky that this get read widely enough to receive my first trolling) 

There needs to be an amount of structure in the creation of more opportunities for us ladies to get up on, before there is a chance of meritocracy becoming the default decision making tool of choice. Yes, it has started but faaaaaar out it feels pretty slow to me. 

I have too-ed and Fro-ed on this for a while, and this may not be my final resting point. 'bitch' needs to cease to be a term thrown out when a female is getting a job done, so too does bossy. If we want to get the other 50% of the population sitting up at the table, or lining up at the start line, we need more shoes in doors. And by this I mean, for more women to compete as professional athletes FULL TIME, for more women to sit on boards, and for a shift in the assumptions of what the characteristics of leaders are.

And I am going to throw it out there,  for this to be achieved, there needs to be a time where quotas are used, that pay is equaled, to offer up opportunities to get to the truly competitive stage. To allow for the luxury of time to build up the necessary soft and hard skills needed to lead. 

To be clear, I like merit. I like standards. You should be able to work hard and let the outcomes speak for themselves. However, I often find myself sitting across the table for stellar women who appear cut off at the knee because there has been no offering of that initial help. Or they worry that they wont be liked because of making any kind of progressive move or statement. 

I would like to think of this initial 'quota' type of period as seed funding really. The person is the enterprise, new, fresh and full of ideas and potential for growth. Put them in front of the right people, and have them backed, believed in, and you have yourself a winner. The ROI would be so compelling that investors would be flocking to jump on board. And we don't just need to apply this to women- this is an important strategic plan which could be rolled out to many, but just for today that's where I am pointing to. 

And yes, leadership is not everyone glass jar of cold brew, but can we just make sure that if it is, that all pathways a open to those who want to pursue it? 

What about that self doubt thing? Well that's as real as ever, but that is the part which needs to be over come by them individual and one which only can be over come with practice. But you know the fastest way to over come it? It's done by surrounding yourself with people who see your potential, even when you can't and who an provide safe opportunities to push the boundaries without fearing failure. By having good mentors. One with whom you can related and look up to. 

After tonight, I am more excited than ever to wake up and get cracking on achieving boss-lady status and even more grateful to have be able to drink in the excellence in that small space tonight. But it's now early morning, and I don't get out of bed for anything less than 7 hours sleep. But hey everyone one- here's to bringing more people into the room next time hey?! 

 

 

Endurance sport- Why you need to give it a go

I actually laughed out loud when I read the definition of endurance. I mean, if I had known that that was what it was, surely I would have never have touched the thing! And yet there is a whole section of sport dedicated to it.

I suppose, as in many cases, hindsight is a beautiful thing. Having recently finished one mother of an endurance event, consisting of 2-3.5 hour ocean rowing races across 7 days, I did take to wondering why on earth I do these things, on a fairly regular basis.

Endurance as a standalone word, means the ability to withstand an unpleasant, potentially painful and trying episode and recover to tell the tail, without succumbing half way, or any of the way really. When it comes to sport, it really is a relative term. In my eyes it can be anything over say 15 minutes of continuous high intensity work, more or less depending on the sport modality. But when we think to ultra-marathons and events done over many days, this can go upwards of a few hours very quickly.

But for people starting out, endurance really can be as little as 1 minute- and that’s ok! You have to start somewhere, and this really is where the basis of endurance appeal starts- the staying power you learn from chipping away at a large task.

I haven’t always been an endurance kind of lady, however the more I do it, the more I see it’s benefits, and not exclusively from a physical perspective. In fact, I think it is the physical aspect of endurance sport which is the easy part, dare I say it!

There is an internal dialogue which happens when undertaking a long physical task which goes something along the lines of:

‘Yeah 5 minutes down, I’m killing it. Hmmm, I still have a fair bit to go, I am sure I can keep at this pace for a bit longer.’

To…

‘I could just say I have an injury. Do I have asthma? I swear I this is what asthma feels like. WHY DO I DO THIS SPORT! WHYYYYYYYYYYYY!’

And so on……

By the end it feel like there is some serious split personality business going on upstairs. But the finished result is where the magic happens.

Not only has your body completed a long arduous physical feat, but you managed to find your happy place and give the mental rude finger to that voice.

Two things have happened here. Firstly, you gained a confidence from finishing a difficult task. We all know life happens and sometimes we don’t finish what we started. But there is nothing like a stop watch to keep you accountable to your results. And a crowd watching usually helps too…And the promise of a cool Facebook post too, who are we trying to kid.

Secondly, you have overcome your pain-adverse monkey brain, which was telling you to give up and go home.

Just Magic.

They always say that you are the only thing standing in the way of true success. But when you listen to that voice, you can actually see how this is the case, because it has been nattering at you for the past hour plus. The training it takes to let that voice run over you and keep going is tough, but once you realise that it is just that, a thought, you are on the road to the top.

You only have to ignore it once to see just how little power it has. I mean it will always be there, however, the more you challenge yourself, there more quiet that negative Nancy becomes! And you won’t be surprised when you start seeing the same principals transfer across to everyday tasks. Endurance may be a sporting term, but is a skill which will get you a long way when achieving life goals. The long term perspective and appreciation of the time you have to put in to train for an endurance event, build mental toughness in training and in life, do you need any more convincing?

So now…I dare you! Jump online and find yourself something to train for, and I promise you, even if you are not the fastest, the good old journey, as they always say, is the best bit. 

If you are in Canberra...I am just going to leave this here... :) 

https://www.runningcalendar.com.au/event/australian-running-festival/

Milk under the microscope- permeate, lactose- should we worry?

Milk seems to be a pretty contentious issues among some, and is the breeding ground for a lot of confusion! Love it or hate it, or even be ambivalent towards it, I don't mind, but let's have a look at some key facts about milk so we can be well informed consumers! 

Milk is made up of: 

87.6% water
 4.7% Carbohydrates (lactose) 
3.8% fat
3.3% protein
0.6% Vitamins and minerals

The sugar in milk is lactose, is a disaccharide from one molecule of galactose and one molecule of glucose, which can cause tummy troubles for those with intolerance's. This is caused by a lack of, or complete absence, of the stomach enzyme lactase, which breaks down the sugar in the stomach. The two proteins in milk are casein and whey. Milk also contains calcium, as most are familiar with, but also contains  vitamin A, vitamin B12, iodine, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

So that is what milk is made of, when it's fresh from the cow, but what about the processing of it? Milk can be simply squeezed from the cow and drunk as it- I am told this is pretty excellent! However there are some food safety issues when looking at milk production on a grand scale, and to reduce risk as much as possible, there are some steps milk producers take to make sure that we can drink milk with no worries of bacterial contamination- they only happen on occasion, but the outcomes can be pretty nasty so risk vs reward says take the precaution. 

So what can happen to my milk? 

Dairy manufacturers standardise the fat content of milk and some may standardise protein levels of the milk. Lactose and vitamin/mineral content can also be standardised. These levels vary across the season, due to nutrition status of cow/the season. In a bid to keep products consistent all year round, standardising practices are how farmers can ensure product consistency. Milk processors can pretty much separate all the parts of milk and put it together again, and in doing so are able to engineer a product that will be the same all year.

So what’s the G-O with permeate…?

Oh the dreaded permeate! You will see the 'permeate free' tag on a lot of milk products of late and I have to say, it does sound ominous but let’s all cool our jets for a moment. Permeate, while it does sound like a chemical or something, is a by-product of the milk processing…process. ‘Ultra-filtration’ is a process used my some manufacturers to separate the lactose and other minerals from the rest of the fluid- water and protein components.  Permeate is the term given to the lactose/vitamin/mineral fluid separated during ultrafiltration. Adding permeate back into milk in essence is not adding anything that wasn’t already there. It does not increase the lactose content, as the whole point of its use it to keep lactose levels consistent year round. In a nut shell, It is done to keep products consistent. Not all companies do it, and it would depend on the time of year as to whether it’s a technique they adopt.

Under Australian food standards law, milk needs to meet specific levels to be sold. Full cream milk requires at least 3.2% of fat and 3.0% of protein, which is why such processes, as outlined above are used.

The minimum process that milk MUST go through to be sold in Australia is pasteurisation. This is a heat treatment, developed by Luis Pasteur in France a while back, that ensure any harmful bacteria is removed before consumption. In this process, milk is heated to 72°C for no less than 15 seconds and cooled immediately.

Homogenisation is commonly used to evenly distribute fat globules in milk. Most will have experience milk where the fat has floated to the top in a glorious fashion to be gulped by the first with their hands to it! Homogenisation passes the milk under pressure through very fine nozzles, evenly dispersing the fat globules giving a consistent mouth feel and taste.

When making the different types of milk- full fat, reduced fat, skim/no fat milk, the skim milk and cream are first separated in a centrifuge- think giant washing machine that spins all the fat to the sides, leaving the skimmed milk in the centre. The skim milk and cream are then mixed in different proportions to provide flexibility in adjusting the fat and protein levels required for each product.

So that’s what you need to know to make an informed choice about the milk you choose. As long as you are not drinking gallons of the stuff, full cream is fine. And if you don’t like the idea of your food being fiddled with, hit up the smaller local producers and go have a chat- they can tell you what they do to their products. Personally I am a BIG fan of Tilba milk from the South coast sold at the Farmers Markets in Canberra. Bonus is there are lots of other independent dairy’s breaking out and milking it for all it’s worth. But for Pete’s sake, let’s not demonise milk. It’s pretty much just water, if it upsets your stomach, go seek professional advice as to whether you need to reduce or remove it from your diet, and how to do so in a healthy manner. All you need to ask, and you can find out lots of useful and constructive information about food without assigning devil status and then make your own informed decision. Moo.