Monday, 1 May 2017

School lunches

Why use the Australian Dietary Guidelines

By Ines Astudillo, Paediatric Dietitian APD

Did you know that the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) retrieved over 55,000 scientific journal articles for the development of the Australian Dietary Guidelines to ensure advice is based on the best available evidence? These guidelines take into account nutrient reference values, public consultation, expert opinion and scientific literature (including extensive infant literature reviews) which essentially gives Australians best practice, gold standard nutrition and health information. You can read more here on how the Australian Dietary Guidelines were developed.


Guideline 2 of the Australian Dietary Guidelines states to 'Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups everyday'. 


The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating forms the ‘Five Food Groups’, a model that can be a simple and useful tool to ensure an adequate intake of nutrients, necessary for the normal functioning of our bodies. Foods are grouped based on their nutrient profile. And so if for any reason a person does not eat a food group, the model can be used to look for alternative food sources of these important nutrients. Omitting whole food groups may lead nutrient deficiencies and health problems. Variety is key as it ensures a wide range of essential nutrients and reduces the chance of one food overpowering the diet.


Using the five food groups helps you create lunch boxes that are simple yet interesting. Instead of running out of lunch ideas, you will have a fantastic range of nutritious foods all year!



What are the Five Food Groups?




  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
  • Milk, yoghurt cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced 


  • Pack at least 5 different foods from each of the five food groups. 


    For example:






  • Vegetables: Carrot, snow peas, cucumber, lentils, hummus 
  • Fruit: Mango, apple
  • Grain: Wholegrain crackers 
  • Lean protein: Tuna, lentils hummus
  • Dairy: Cheese

  • This sample  lunch box was sent to school for my 4.5yo and 6yo boys. You may be wondering 'did they really eat all of that?'. My message to them is to eat what their tummies want and until their tummies are happy. This lunch box is catered to my boys. I can assist you with developing lunch boxes that cater to your child and your family, even if your child is fussy, picky or particular about their foods. I invite you to connect with me to get started.

    Friday, 21 April 2017

    School lunches


    Approaching School Lunches, Keeping it Real 


    By Ines Astudillo, Paediatric Dietitian APD

    Dear parents, with school holidays over and school lunches back on the to-do-list, I’d like to share with you my 5 tips for how to approach school lunches:


    1.      Variety: Guideline 2 of the Australian Dietary Guidelines states to 'Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups everyday'. The ‘Five Food Groups’ model can be a simple and useful tool to ensure an adequate intake of nutrients that are necessary for the normal functioning of our bodies. Foods are grouped based on their nutrient profile. And so if for any reason a person does not eat a food group, the model can be used to look for alternative food sources of these important nutrients! Omitting whole food groups may lead nutrient deficiencies and health problems. Variety is key as it ensures that no one food is overpowering the diet and less likely to cause any problems arising from excessive intake. My suggestion is to pack at least one food from each food group.


    2.      Do it your way: Keep it as simple or as complicated as you like. It really only needs to suit you and your child. There are so many ways to make this work for you, whether it be to cook fresh or use leftovers, work from a carefully planned menu or whatever is in the fridge. I'd be happy to sit with you to work out what approach suits you best whilst ensuring adequate nutrition.


    3.      Packaging: Pack it in a way that will transport the food safely, retain its form so that is still edible and that your child can open! Include a cold ice block to keep cold foods that need refrigeration. Use a thermos to keep hot foods hot. 


    4.      Exercising your child’s choice: Get your child involved in preparing lunches and/or making choices from nutritious options that you offer. The more they practice making choices, the better they will get at it. And they are much more likely to eat the foods they are taking to school. When I suggest to get them involved, this does not mean the impossible task of trying to get their cooperation to make school lunches in the morning every day! Yikes! It might mean trialing making a lunch on a Sunday or helping you put the lids on the containers of a lunch they chose.


    5.      Keep it positive and evaluate: this one is about creating an opportunity to gently discuss how the lunch meal went so that you don't get stuck in a situation that isn't working. A few days a week, encourage your child to help you sort through any uneaten food for disposal either in the rubbish, recycle or compost. You can ask what they think worked well or what might need to change to make it work well for them within healthy principles.

    If you love doing this task of making school lunches, I'd love to hear about how you do it! If you dread this task, I'd love to see how I can support you to make it a little less painful.  

    Here's a peek at what I send to school for my 4.5 yo and 6yo boys' lunches: 

     Strawberries, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, black olives, cucumber, carrot, cheese. Avocado sandwich 


    Left: Kiwi fruit, pot set Greek yoghurt with honey
    Right: snow peas, grape tomatoes, beef and lentils rissoles, pickles, tomato sauce


    Left: cut up apple, carrot, snow peas, homemade hummus, cheese, mango
    Right: tuna, brown lentils and cucumber salad with lemon juice olive oil and pepper dressing

    Tuesday, 28 March 2017

    When it comes to the crunch! Why you should tune in to food textures

    by Claire Marnane

    When was the last time you noticed the texture of the foods you eat?  Are you aware of what sort of textures you enjoy, or is this something that passes unnoticed as you eat your food?  Do you pay much attention at all to what you eat… or do you multi-task while eating?  Maybe you do the odd social media check, answer a few quick emails, or watch some TV while the food goes down largely untasted and unnoticed?

    Texture is often unfairly overlooked in the face its brighter, bolder sibling: Flavour.  Yet tuning in to both the taste and texture of foods is a key aspect of eating mindfully. 

    Mindful eating is rightly getting more attention these days as being a practise which:
    ·      helps people stop overeating
    ·      helps people distinguish between food choices driven by emotional eating versus true taste preferences, and
    ·      for those with a long history of dieting, it’s an important tool to help you re-learn what foods you actually like to eat, if you want to stop dieting and learn to eat intuitively

    The other day I was talking to a colleague about how I am a huge hot cross bun fan.  (Yes, dietitians can eat hot cross buns, and I personally have a real love for these aromatically spiced delights.)

    It turned out she also enjoyed hot cross buns, and we avidly embarked on a discussion of how best to prepare them.  Certainly, we both said, they must be served hot to enhance the smells and flavours of the cinnamon and nutmeg… but here’s where she said something shocking to me: she only ever microwaves the buns to keep the 'ideal chewy texture'. 

    What?!  Eat a chewy hot cross bun?!  NEVER!  I go to great lengths to achieve maximum CRUNCH, and frankly find any alternative to be completely unappetising.  It got me thinking about food textures; here I am saying I wouldn’t like the same food prepared in a way that would make it chewy.  The change in texture alone determines whether I love it, or dislike it!  Now I stop and think about it, I infinitely prefer well-toasted bread over untoasted, raw carrot sticks over cooked, and I love to sprinkle nuts and bean sprouts over a laksa to give pops of satisfying crunch when I eat it.

    Yet, how many people pay attention to food textures while eating?  Chefs do, they structure their meals around textural items, but does the person eating it notice this?  Well, they would if they ate mindfully, making the meal more satisfying and enjoyable!

    Why not take the time now to give food textures the spotlight?  It’s a good opportunity to practise your mindful eating skills.  Here are some suggestions:

    ·      raw carrot sticks vs steamed carrots
    ·      smooth peanut butter (or any nut paste of your preference) vs crunchy
    ·      yoghurt with stewed fruit vs yoghurt with diced raw fruit
    ·      … and of course, feel free to try hot cross buns (or fruit loaf) toasted vs microwaved, or even just room temperature.

    It only takes a few minutes out of your day, but make sure you have no other distractions and can give the food your full attention as you do this.  Before you take a bite, observe the food and notice the texture of it upon your hands.  Now smell the food.  Now - and this is where I’m veering away from some other mindful eating practises - take a little bite and munch slowly and mindfully.  (Usually the advice is to leave the food in your mouth without chewing, all the better to observe the taste.  Here, we want the texture to shine, and that means you need to chew straight away because a crunchy hot cross bun will simply turn to mush left unchewed in your mouth!)

    Here are some questions to ask yourself as you try these foods:
    ·      Does one texture appeal to you more than another?
    ·      Does the taste of the food alter between the two options?
    o   If so, how does it change?  What word would you use to describe the difference? 
    ·      Does one option have a more intense aroma?
    ·      Have you ever noticed these changes in foods before? 


    Reflecting back on what you’ve just done, do you think you regularly eat in a mindful, or a mindless way?  Remember, mindful eating and really experiencing the foods you eat is an important step in developing a healthy relationship with food and appetite.

    Saturday, 25 March 2017

    Healthy Shopping Tips

    One of the pitfalls of eating healthy is actually getting prepped to have the right food at your disposal. Cue…the supermarket! A place full of wonder and possibility, but if you're not careful, it can be the biggest saboteur of your healthy habits.

    The strategies you put into place when you do your grocery shop can make or break what you do for the rest of the week. Here’s our top tips to help making healthier choices that bit easier.

    Don’t go to the supermarket hungry. You’ll be drawn to buying energy dense, nutrient poor foods that can give you a quick boost of energy and not much else! Aim to go straight after a meal so your less inclined to make rogue choices.

    • Have a shopping plan BEFORE you go. Sit down on the weekend and get some recipes together for lunches and dinners, or plan out some batch-cooked items that you can use in multiple ways throughout the week. If you go without a plan, you’ll be more likely to forget key items or need to go back multiple times during the week and research has shown that you’ll save money doing one big shop a week rather than multiple small shops. 
    • Shop the perimeter. Stock up on vegetables and fruit first (these should make up at least 1/2-1/3 of your shopping trolley), meats, breads, dairy and eggs. You will find that the perimeter has less processed foods and these are what we want to avoid consuming if we are aiming to improve our health. Only go up the aisles you need to for the non-negotiable things like toiletries, cleaning goods, legumes, wholegrain rices and pastas, tinned and frozen goods. 
    • Buy in bulk to get better deals.  It might be a larger cost to outlay, but buying perishables or freezable items in large amounts will end up saving you big. Think meats and dried legumes/rices/pastas/cereals. If you’re money conscious - go for the generic brands. They are often the similar quality for only a fraction of the price
    • Buying from farmers markets and co-ops  takes out the middle man that can lead to price hikes at supermarkets. They are more likely to stock seasonal, local produce, meats, eggs and dairy and are more likely to be better quality. 


    Meet Claire - another new Dietitian!

    We are so lucky right now! We have not one, but two new Dietitians joining us. 

    Last month we met Amber, our passionate, plant based dietitian. This month, we meet Claire. 


    Claire specialises in disordered eating patterns and is looking forward to being the dolphin at Newtown Nutrition. Say what! Read on to understand what we mean!


    How would you describe the work that you focus on as a dietitian?
    At its most basic level, I work with people who have a difficult relationship with food.  I have worked for six years as a specialist eating disorders dietitian at Wesley Hospital Eating Disorders Unit on the inpatient and day program settings.  People coming through this clinic will usually be working to recover from a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.  This area definitely forms the bulk of my dietetic background, however I’ve also seen many patients in general hospital settings who don’t have eating disorders, yet who I still find to benefit from the skillset I use in my eating disorders work.
    I came up with the term 'mind-body dietitian' to cover my approach to working with this other range of patients: the people I’ve worked with who don’t actually have an eating disorder, yet they have a negative relationship with food which impacts upon their lives and wellbeing.  Sometimes these people identify themselves as being 'emotional eaters', sometimes as 'yo-yo dieters'; sometimes it’s simply that they’re aware that the negative emotions they experience around eating or thinking about food, or weight, are too strong to be normal.  Anxiety, fear, anger, distress – all of these emotions in response to thoughts of food or body shape are indicators that something is not right with a person’s relationship with food.  Sadly, I find that many people haven’t ever questioned whether this situation could actually change – but the first step is talking about it with someone who has experience in this specialised area.
    What qualifications do you have?
    A have a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Psychology, and I have a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics.

    What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
    Well, I have young children, so… resting?  That’s more of a dream to aspire to, I guess…

    What skills do you believe are essential for working with people who have an eating disorder, or a difficult relationship with food?
    Open-mindedness, patience, compassion, knowledge.  
    I think a lot of people have had invalidating experiences talking to health-care professionals about their eating disorder, or eating difficulties, where they’ve felt they weren’t listened to, that the health professional just didn’t understand them, or that their experiences and fears were minimised.  This is definitely an area where it really is best to stick with people who have a genuine passion and experience in working in this field.  
    My favourite analogy for how eating disorder practitioners should strive to work is to be a 'dolphin'.  Specifically, those mythical dolphins who guide stranded sailors into shore: they swim alongside the sailors to show them the way, but they don’t push the sailors along, and they can’t swim for the sailors.    

    What do you see as some of the issues that can have a negative influence on people’s relationship with food?
    There are lots of influences, but if I had to choose one for brevity, I’d say the media, certainly.  Most people are aware of the influence of media on body dissatisfaction, but I think it’s sneakier these days with social media being so pervasive and non-stop.  I’m also noticing a lot more males being drawn into having worries about their bodies, which I think is partly driven by the fitness industry images everywhere. 

    What are you looking forward to most about working at NN?
    Being a dolphin!

    What is your favourite snack?
    It varies depending on my mood, how hungry I am, where I am, who I’m with and what we’re doing… maybe a handful of toasted nuts… maybe a slice of birthday cake… maybe fruit salad with yoghurt….

    When will you be available for clients to see you? 

    I will be available Mondays (8am-2pm), Tuesdays (1pm-7pm), alternating Fridays (8am-12 noon), and alternating Saturdays (9am-1pm).