5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

Aaah, the holidays. A time of indulgence, where justifying having just one more plate comes easy. There are however some very easy ways to try and celebrate in a more healthy way without sacrificing fun.

Stay hydrated:
It sounds obvious, but how many times do we start off with good intentions only to wake up the next day feeling worse for wear? Make sure you have some water on you during the day and take regular sips, even on the days you don’t have anything planned. This will make sure your body stays hydrated. If you’re having any alcoholic drinks, make sure you have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. Not only will your body thank you for it, if you’re out having drinks, your wallet will thank you too.

Choose healthy options:
If you’re making a big feast, make sure you include some healthy options. Not everything on the table has to indulgent. Include plenty of veggies and make sure you have plenty of greens as well to have along with your roast. Same goes for any festive parties if you’re somewhere where this can be done safely. If you know you’ve got a work function or catch up with friends but you’re unsure if there will be any healthy food options, make sure you eat before you arrive. That way you can have a few bites, but you won’t be so hungry that you end up eating too many unhealthy treats.

Don’t give up:
Just because you had one (ok, maybe more than one) days of unhealthy eating and little movement doesn’t mean you now have to give up trying to be a little healthier. Just accept that sometimes we might want to enjoy a special occasion with friends and family and can’t always make sure there are healthy options available. The next day get back to your usual healthy food choices and make sure to get some exercise in. Life’s all about balance.

Move your body:
Many of us tend to exercise less over the festive period due to an increase of parties. This year however we might be spending less time socialising and more time at home due to current Covid-19 restrictions. It’s tempting to limit our movements from the chair where we’re working from home to the couch where we’re watching Love Actually for the 4th time this week, but getting some movement each day will help you feel energised and during your day and a lot less guilty when you have your advent calendar chocolate each night. You don’t need a gym membership or even need to head outside to be active. Put on your favourite playlist and have a solo dance party at home, or hop onto YouTube and choose one of the many free workout or yoga classes available there. There’s also plenty local yoga teachers and fitness instructors who are offering online options for their classes.

You can’t eat it if you haven’t bought it:
How many of us buy treats with the idea that we’ll spread it out over the next few weeks and then find ourselves 20 minutes later with it all in our bellies? We’ve all been there and the current uncertainty around lockdowns and restrictions isn’t helping. The best advice someone once gave me was that if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. I make sure to make some healthier sweet treat options (recipe for my raw chocolate brownies here), but they’re usually quite filling and rich in fiber which means you can’t eat too many. There are no lollies or chips or cookies in my cupboards, mainly because I know if it’s there, I’d be snacking on unhealthy treats all day. Instead, if that 3pm sweet treat craving hits, I’ll first have a glass of water as often I’m actually thirsty, not hungry. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll have some fruit or one of my healthier sweet treats to tie me over.

While these tips are relatively easy to incorporate, the most important thing to remember is that if you do happen to overindulge, accept it and move on. There’s no point in obsessing over it or remaining negative about it. We’re all human. Instead focus on moving forward and getting back to incorporating a healthy diet and movement into your day.

Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D Breakdown

Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common. We probably know of at least one friend who has been diagnosed as deficient by their doctor but why does it occur so frequently and is it something we need to worry about?

What is Vitamin D?
Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D when we’re in the sun as our skin responds to sunlight. It’s a vital vitamin that helps our bodies regulate calcium and phosphorus uptake as well as facilitating normal immune function. This helps us maintain strong bones, muscle and overall health.

How much Vitamin D do I need?
Adults require 5 micrograms of Vitamin D until about aged 50, after which we need about 10 micrograms which then increases to 15 micrograms at 70 years and older. Children need 5 micrograms until aged 18.

What happens if I don’t have enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Rickets (soft bones) in children and Osteoporosis in adults as Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb Calcium. Studies have also linked other illnesses to Vitamin D deficiency including an increased risk of Cardio Vascular Disease, increased risk of cognitive impairment while children can experience severe asthma.

Vitamin D has also shown to have a potentially protective role. Some studies show that Vitamin D could play a role in preventing and or treating type 1 and 2 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and hypertension.

Where do I find Vitamin D?
While some foods have Vitamin D, they usually don’t have nearly enough for our daily recommended amount. Foods such as fish, eggs and margarine (with added Vitamin D) are good sources, but still don’t contain enough for us to get our daily required amount. The best way to make sure your body has enough Vitamin D is to head outside.

Of course this needs to be done being sun smart, as the same UV rays that provide our bodies with Vitamin D can also cause skin cancer. Here in Australia you only need about 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure in summer. Avoid times when the UV is at it’s highest, so early morning is best. While banned in Australia, I know some countries still allow sun beds or tanning beds. Never use these period as they increase your risk to develop skin cancer. Rather spend a few minutes outside first thing in the morning watering the plants or enjoying a cup of tea. Don’t spend extended periods in the sun as this will increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Chat to your Dr to see what they recommend first.

Supplements?
If going in the sun for a few minutes isn’t an option for you, your Dr can recommend some supplements for you to take. First consult your Dr before you start taking Vitamin D supplements as taking too much can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Most people don’t require supplementation though, so chat to your Dr to see if they think you require supplementation first.

Who’s at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency.
These include:
– Being indoors most days
– Having more melanin in your skin
– People who wear clothing that cover their whole or most of their body
– People who take medication that can affect Vitamin D metabolism
– Being obese
– People with a disease or disability that affect Vitamin D metabolism such as renal disease, end stage liver disease and fat malabsorption syndromes such as coeliac disease, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Summary:
– Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as fish, eggs and margarine and milk products to which Vitamin D has been added, but isn’t enough to meet our daily requirements.
– Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D, but be sun smart.
– Supplementation can be a great option for people who can’t go out in the sun and expose their skin to UV. Talk to your Dr about supplementation if you fall into that category.
– Several factors can put you at risk for developing Vitamin D deficiency.
– Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones, muscles and an immune system.
– If you think you’re at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency, book an appointment with your Dr so he can schedule the correct tests for you.

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

A Safe, Healthy Halloween

This year’s Halloween celebrations might be looking a little different than usual. With Covid-19 it’s important to keep everyone safe, which means going trick or treating might not be an option where you live. Parents are also worried each year about the amount of lollies (or candy if you’re not from Australia) kids consume during the night.

This year I thought I’d share some fun Halloween activities and sugary alternatives for you to try. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a new family tradition?

Activities:
Kids (and those young at heart) love to go trick or treating, but unfortunately this year going door to door might not be the best option. That doesn’t mean the kids need to miss out on the fun. Let the kids still dress up in their costumes and decorate a designated area (either inside or outside) where they can enjoy some fun activities. If you have some close friends or family in your bubble invite them around to join in the fun if rules allow, alternatively set up an online Halloween party.

One of the tradition activities for Halloween is bobbing for apples. Get a big enough plastic container for each child and fill it with water and some apples. You can even add some for the adults too.

Create a little scavenger hunt through your home or your garden and hide some treats. A good mix of healthier home made options with some of their favourite sweets is a good idea. They get to go on a little adventure, have fun in the process and get their delicious treats.

Set up a Halloween movie night. After finishing finding their treats, why not watch some of their favourite Halloween inspired movies. Popcorn is also a much healthier alternative to the bags full of lollies they’d normally bring home.

Organise socially distancing trick or treating with your neighbours or friends. Set up a little treat station with small paper bags filled with delish treats for the kids. When they pop round, you can still see and chat to each other from a safe distance and each child can take one little bag with their treats inside which is a much more hygienic option. Arrange a time so slot for each neighbour or friend so all the kids get the opportunity to go trick or treating.

Treats:
Why not make a Halloween themed dinner? There are so many creative and amazing recipes out there, but you don’t need to make it complicated. Some home made pizza with healthy toppings to make a spooky picture work just as well. I’ve made some stuffed carved capsicums before (wish I could say it was for kids, but it was for me. Grownups can love Halloween too) and I’ve also seen some a great idea for healthy, batty nachos. You can use the linked recipes as inspiration and make your own healthy creations.

Another great option is to make bliss balls and then use thin liquorice or pretzels as the legs. The Internet is filled with some amazing, creative and easy recipes on how to create both sweet and savoury Halloween meals and treats that will appeal to everyone. Prevention has a list of awesome recipes here.

Naturally the kids will be disappointed if they don’t get any sweet treats. There’s really no need to worry about a little indulgence one night of the year. Provided they eat a healthy, balanced diet most of the time, having the odd night where they get to enjoy some of their favourite treats won’t be the end of the world.

The Switch Witch:
This is a recent addition to Halloween and one I think is absolutely brilliant. Parents get their kids to swap a portion of their treats for a surprise gift. The gift is usually a book they’ve been wanting or a small stuffed animal or maybe a game. Nothing too expensive. If they don’t want to swap, then no present. Get them to leave the treats they’ve decided to swap somewhere that you can access easily and just swap it for their present before they wake up the next morning.

I hope this gives you a few ideas to start with for Halloween this year and inspires you to create a fun, safe and memorable day.

Delicious and easy to make Rajma

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s the perfect time for comfort food that warms you up. Enter my super easy super quick Rajma.

Ingredients:
Cooked brown basmati rice (or which ever rice you prefer)
1 Brown onion
2 Cloves of garlic minced
1 Can of diced tomatoes
2 Cans of red kidney beans, washed and drained
1 to 2 Heaped teaspoons of tomato paste (to your taste)
1 And a half teaspoon of Rajma spice mix (you can make your own or buy premixed spices at your local Indian grocery shop)
Handful of coriander leaves if you like the taste
Dash of olive oil

For additional heat:
4 Green chillies chopped
1 Tablespoon red chili powder

Cooking:
Cook your preferred rice to your method.
In a medium pot, add your olive oil, garlic, onion and chillies (if you opted for them) and cook until the onions are light brown.
Add in your Rajma spice, red chili powder if you opted for it, tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Add your tomato paste and mix it in thoroughly.
Now add your red kidney beans and stir it into the mix. If the mix is a little dry you can add some water. It all depends on how much juice is in your tinned tomatoes. Add water to make sure the beans are just covered by the mix.
Cook on medium to low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add a little bit more water if the mix starts to get too dry.
Remove from heat and let it sit for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add your coriander leaves to your pot and then serve with your rice.

The great thing about recipes is that you can adjust and experiment to suit your own tastes. I was inspired by a recipe I saw in my Bollywood Cookbook a friend gave me for my birthday one year (yes, I love Bollywood and delicious curries, so this is the best of both worlds!) The original is from Bollywood actress Preity Zinta but would normally take me a few hours to make. I wanted something quick, easy and adjustable based on whether I had guests who didn’t like their food too hot. This is what I came up with. Let me know how you like it and how you tweak it to make it your own.

Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites

I am a total chocoholic, but I’m also a bit of a chocolate snob. It needs to be delicious and rich. Often though, the chocolates we buy in the supermarket is filled with ingredients not so good for us. Enter my Decadent Chocolate Brownie Bites.

I was trying to find something that was healthier than your average chocolate bar, but consisted out of whole foods and would hit the spot when I crave chocolate.

The great thing about these bites are that I find I only need to eat one tiny square and my craving is gone. Because they’re made out of whole foods, they’re also very filling.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Cashew
1 Cup Almonds
1 Cup Cocoa Powder (this is what makes it so chocolaty)
1 Cup Dates
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
Water to be added to your preferred consistency.

I blitz up my almonds, cashews and dates in my food processor.
Next I add the cup of cocoa powder and vanilla essence and blitz it all together. It should be a loose, semi powdery consistency.
Now I slowly add a little bit of filtered water at a time while it’s blitzing until it all starts to stick together. You don’t want to make the “batter” too runny, it needs to be sticky.

Line a dish or rectangular pan with baking paper and spread out the mixture. I like to spread it to about 1.5cm thickness.
Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or so.
It should have hardened a bit and will be easy to take out of the container.

Remove the baking paper and cut into small, square bites (I like mine to be about 3cm). You can make them bigger if you like, but remember they’re meant to be a treat.

Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge and they should keep for about 2 weeks (they never last that long though, we eat them way before then).

If you make these, let me know how they turned out for you. If you tweak them let me know what you added. I sometimes add some chopped up pecans or walnuts and stir them in just before I spread the mixture out into the pan. Enjoy!