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).

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Social Media Roundup - What's in season, healthy portions and self care!

Welcoming Amber Sewell-Green

This month, we welcome a new face to the Newtown Nutrition team...Amber! 

We sat down with Amber for a Q + A to learn more about our lovely, new Dietitian.  

What education and experience do you have in the nutrition and wellness profession?

I am an APD (Accredited Practicing Dietitian) and AN (accredited nutritionist). I completed a combined Bachelor and Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle, studying under academics such as Dr Clare Collins, and Dr Tracy Burrows. In this time I was also awarded first class honours for my thesis on food addiction, which is an area that I am passionate about. I believe that you cannot treat the body without the mind. I have written numerous recipes and short articles for nutrition blogs and newsletters. I also have clinical experience working at Blacktown and Mt. Druitt hospitals, including working in Stroke and Cardiovascular, Geriatric, Orthopaedic and Surgical wards to name a few. I have always enjoyed volunteering in nutritional spaces, having spent the past three years facilitating the Cancer Council Eat It To Beat It program: that assists parents and their children to eat more fruit and veggies each day. I have also spent time abroad studying public health in Mexico to gain understanding of what health and nutrition means in third world cultures.

What made you want to become a Dietitian?

Since I was a child I have always enjoyed food. I developed a full set of teeth by the age of ten months old, so from then on it was go time! I still have a fond memory of being four years old and my friends mum asking me what I wanted for dinner, myself replying, “beef and red wine please” so you can say I was enthusiastic about my grub. I have also always been surrounded by foodies. In fact, to my knowledge my great (or perhaps great great) grandfather actually opened the first health food store in Australia, so it all feels natural to me. As I grew up I started noticing how food affected me. Some foods would make me slump and feel fatigued or sluggish while others made my skin glow, my hair shine and gave me the energy to perform my daily tasks in a phenomenal way. Food was my medicine and my connection, and still is. I then decided that it would be my career. Finally in my later years I began questioning the impact of my food choices. Was I really eating the most nourishing foods as nature intended? And what affect did my eating have on the environment and the beings around me? This is what has led me to where I am today. Where I now live and breathe my passion and hope to pass it on to others.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like to keep active, so in my spare time you’ll often find me hiking, bike riding, salsa dancing or practicing yoga. Being active to me is the other side of wellness. I also love to cook. I enjoy experimenting with the colour, flavour and aromas of food. I find cooking grounds me and is a way for me to share love with the people I care about.

What nutritional areas are you interested in?

I am a whole food plant based practitioner, meaning that I help people achieve nutritionally balanced vegan and vegetarian diets for a range of conditions and ailments. I work on debunking myths and helping people feel confident that they are getting all the nutrients and nourishment they need to thrive. This involves helping clients with mindful eating, vegan and vegetarian lifespan nutrition, weight management (gain or loss), diabetes, diverticulitis, arthritis and inflammatory disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, as well as other chronic conditions.  I work from a STRENGTHS based approach to build positive body-food relationships. I also have a passion for what is called nutritional cognitive neurology: a holistic, evidence based, mind-body approach to health and wellbeing. This includes the way the brain, psychology and neurology affect our gut, digestion and health and visa versa. Conditions that may involve gut-brain disorders include the role of nutrients related to hormone systems and regulating hunger hormone, methylation processes (involved in how we make energy and other bodily processed), food addiction and the gut microbiome. These are just a few of the areas I am intrigued with.

What skills do you believe are essential to work in this industry?

I believe key skills for any health professional are the ability to listen and not just instruct, to be STRENGTHS based (that is focusing on empowering and not degrading), to provide practical or meaningful advice and to offer individualised consults; no generic cookie cutter approach to health and wellbeing. I’m also a big believer in the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. Food is not meant to give you a headache or rule over your life. Food is meant to be enjoyed, to give you nourishment and energy. Likewise it need not be overcomplicated or morphed with additives, processing and toxins to the point that it barely resembles food anymore. Natural, whole foods without an ingredients list is where it’s at. Because health is a natural state and so is real food.

What are you looking forward to most working at NN?

I think the biggest thing I that am looking forward to is the opportunity to share my knowledge on plant based nutrition, offer practical advice from a place of experience and help people shift into a glowing, healthy and vibrant version of themselves. To help simply their lives, get back to basics and reconnect with natural, whole foods in a form that nature intended. Because I believe that food is the lynch pin connecting people with the earth, each other and to health. I’m also excited to be part of the Newtown community. It’s really great to be working in such a melting pot of different cultures and ideas.

What is your favourite healthy snack?

 I have a sweet tooth. So it’s a close tie between fresh medjool dates or nicecream. Fresh dates are on another level compared to dried ones; they taste like chewy caramel and offer a great natural energy burst during the afternoon slump. I also take great delight buying a whole box of super spotty organic bananas, peeling them and freezing them to turn into niceceam whenever I feel. The flavour depends on my mood at the time: mango weis, gooey fudge, matcha green tea, raspberry ripple, choc mint…just about anything you can think of can be made with natural whole foods.

When will you be available for clients to see you?

I will be available Thursdays (4pm-7:30pm), Fridays (9am-5pm) and alternating Saturdays (9am-3pm). I will also be doing some community nutrition talks at local venues and markets soon, so keep a look out for future events.