Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Eating Well While Eating Out


Everyone enjoys eating out, and just because you are trying to be healthy does not mean that you shouldn't be eating out at all. For those who eat out quite frequently, whether it is due to a lack of time, for convenience reasons, or just socially with friends, I have outlined a few helpful tips in this post - which have been promoted by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) - to assist you in making smarter and healthier choices.

  1. Choose meal options that includes fruits and vegetables - the more variety, the better!

  2. Try to avoid sugary soft drinks, juices or alcohol. Choose water instead - it's not only light in calories but it is also much lighter on the pocket ;) Otherwise, choose a small size diet soft drink or fresh glass of juice.

  3. Choose lean meats rather than battered or fried meats

  4. Choose meals with terms such as grilled, roasted, boiled, baked or steamed. Avoid those that say creamy or fried - especially deep fried.

  5. Share a dessert with a friend! This will save you half the calories if you were to eat it on your own. Plus sharing is caring right?

  6. Choose meals with complex carbs such as bread, pasta or rice, instead of choosing hot chips

  7. Listen to your own body cues - eat slow and stop when you are feeling full. If you can't finish your meal and don't want to waste food, most places are happy for you to take-away. This leads me to my next tip...

  8. Choose a small serving size if available. Some restaurants have the option of choosing an entree or a main size for their meals. Another example is when ordering coffee, choose the small rather than the regular or large size.

  9. Plan ahead - choose a restaurant that you know have healthy options, or look at their menu before hand to scope out what they have. If you have in your mind before hand what you would like to have, it will save you from making last minute ordering decisions - which may not always be the healthiest option when you have a growling stomach.

  10. Last, but not least, always remember that it is all about moderation. While you can still make healthier, smart choices most of the time, there is also no harm in indulging yourself once or twice a month. Enjoy yourself and count it as a treat :)

Until next time,
- Fitria.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Healthy Ramadan Tips

And so the ninth month of the Islamic calendar has fallen upon us again... It is the month of Ramadan. A blessed month where Muslims all around the world are obliged to fast (refrain from eating and drinking) from dawn to dusk. 

"Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed upon those before you so that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious)" - Qur'an (02:183) 

Fasting, however, is not merely a physical act but is also a spiritual act of worship where one should refrain from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character.All obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are also to be avoided. Fasting is highly rewarded by God (Allah s.w.t) as it was narrated by Abu Salamah that Abu Hurayrah said: 

The prophet (s.a.w) said: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven" (Bukhari). 

It is advisable that a person who is fasting should still be mindful of what they eat during the non-fasting period. Fill your stomach with correct portions as taught by the Prophet (s.a.w) himself. 

"The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it, then one-third is for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air." (Tirmidhi, 2380; Ibn Maajah, 3349). 

From this, we can learn the lesson that Islam even teaches us to observe moderation when we eat and drink. During Ramadan, your daily intake is limited to 2 main meals a day - at suhoor (before dawn) and iftaar (after dusk). Therefore, it is important to try and incorporate all of the five major food groups into your meals (breads and cereals; vegetables and legumes; fruits; dairy; meats and poultry), in order to acquire adequate energy and nutrition  

The Five Food Groups

Suhoor (Pre-dawn meal)

This meal should be a healthy and balanced meal that can fill you for longer and provide long lasting energy for the day. Include complex carbohydrates during this meal as they are absorbed and digested slower in your body and have a longer satiety effect. (Refer back to my post "For the Love of Carbs" if you need to refresh your memory on carbs). Technically, this meal should be like a big breakfast - so also try to include a source of dairy (like milk, yoghurt, or cheese), a protein source such as lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes/beans, chickpeas or tofu and a piece of fruit. I know some people do not have a big appetite this early in the morning, so perhaps have smaller portions but try to include most of these food groups. Having a pre-dawn meal is highly recommended as it will provide you with the required energy to sustain you throughout the day as well as to help provide your body with adequate nutrients. It is also a practice of the beloved Prophet (s.a.w). 

Reported by Anas (RA): The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said, "Eat Suhur (predawn meal) for verily there is a blessing in it'' (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Iftaar (Breaking of Fast)

Upon breaking the fast, it is the Prophet's (s.a.w) tradition to break his fast with dates. If dates is not available, then break with a glass of water. This practice of breaking the fast with a couple of dates and water can provide you with the much needed hydration and quick source of energy. 

Dinner: This is usually consumed after the maghrib salah. For this meal, again try to incorporate the foods from the five major food groups. It might be easier to try and follow the healthy plate meal which consists of one-quarter from the breads and cereals group, one-quarter from the meats and poultry group and one-half vegetables. You can end your meal with a piece of fruit and if you are experiences cravings for sweets, then have 1 small serve of a sweet of your choice.  Remember that  night time doe not mean and should not be a time of feast; over-eating at iftaar can make you feel heavy and tired which will make it harder to perform acts of worship at night. 

What to Do

What Not to Do

Other healthy tips

  • Try to avoid or limit foods which are high in saturated fats - such as junk/processed foods and fried foods (yes, this also means limiting those samosas at iftaar).
  • Try to limit the consumption of high sugar-containing foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolates at suhoor. These simple carbs are rapidly absorbed and only give a short-lasting burst of energy,and you are more likely to feel fatigue and dehydrated later in the day
  • Drink plenty of water during the non-fasting period to keep your body hydrated.
  • Avoid having too much tea, coffee or energy drinks - these are diuretics which means that it increases your water loss through urination.
  • Try not to sleep immediately after a meal, wait at least half an hour or an hour to help your body digest your food first. Remember, Ramadan should be a time for less sleep and more worship.
  • Eat your food in moderation - remember the rule (your stomach should be 1/3 for food, 1/3 for water, and 1/3 for air). 
  • If you are feeling snack-ish, try and opt for healthier snack alternatives (You can re-read my last blog post "Snacking: is it good or bad?" for snack ideas)

Last words

Most importantly, your intention for fasting should not be mixed with the intention to lose weight. It is an act of worship, therefore, our intention to fast should be to fulfil our Islamic obligation and please our creator Allah s.w.t. If you do lose weight unintentionally, then Alhamdulillah - thank Allah s.w.t for the added benefit, but that should not be your mere intention. Fasting should help to increase our awareness/consciousness of Allah, and help bring us closer towards Him. It should increase our appreciation for food as we experience the feeling of those less fortunate who has no food or drink every other day of the year. It should help us to realise the value of the food we have been blessed with, thus increasing our appreciation of Allah's blessings upon us. 

Ramadan Mubarak to all my muslim brothers and sisters. May Allah s.w.t keep us on the right path and may He accept our ibadah and duas in this blessed month, inshaAllah.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Snacking: Is it good or bad?

Snacking can be a part of a healthy and balanced diet, if you choose the right type of foods. Eating snacks in between your meals can actually help to reduce the amount you eat at your next meal, so you are less likely to over-eat, and it can also reduce your cravings for sweets and other junk foods.

When we are hungry, we tend to eat whatever is easy and available to us.. So if your pantry is full of sweets and high calorie processed foods, then you are more likely to snack on these in between your meals. Therefore, it is important that you have healthy alternatives available at home. Also, when out and about, it is usually difficult to find cheap and healthy snack foods around; so try to pack your own snacks and carry it in your bag wherever you go. 

Here are a few of my favourite snacks: 

  • A handful of nuts and seeds

Some people might question and say "But nuts are full of fat??". Well, yes, nuts do have a high energy content, which is why eating in moderation is important - about a handful is a good portion size. And although nuts do contain fat, it is healthy unsaturated fats which helps to lower your bad cholesterol levels. 

Nutritional differences between nuts and chips

  • A piece of fruit. Fruits are like nature's own convenience food - it's simple, easy and doesn't require preparation.

  • Yoghurt - either by itself, or topped with fruits and/or muesli

  • Muesli bar, or a nut bar. Although be aware, that some brands do have a high sugar content, so try to opt for the natural/original flavours

  • Rice cakes/corn thins. This is a highly versatile snack food as you can eat it with almost anything really. I usually would have about two pieces with a thin spread of peanut butter and chopped banana on top. You can also have it with avocado or a slice of cheese and some sliced tomatoes

Of course, there are many other healthy snack alternatives which I have not mentioned in this post.. So feel free to ask me any questions or leave me a comment with your feedback.

- Fitria.

N.B. I do not own any of these pictures. Most are taken from Google images. Feel free to source.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Swap it, Don't stop it

So I haven't been writing a post in a long time because I have been super busy with uni. I'm in the third year of my degree now and it is full on! So this is just going to be a brief post.

Many of you have probably seen the advertising campaign on TV called "Swap it, Don't Stop It" which was run by the Australian Government to promote healthier habits. The main point of this campaign was to show that to make healthier lifestyle changes, you don't have to stop everything that you are currently doing! You simply just have to swap things for a healthier or better alternative.
This is just going to be a break down on the key messages:

Swap Big for Small 

This is talking about portion sizes. When you are eating a meal, try to decrease your portion size; don't overcrowd your plate and think twice before getting up to get that second serving! This table below is a helpful guidance to show you what constitutes a serving size, as you can see it varies depending on the food group.

Swap Often for Sometimes

This is referring to the "unhealthy" foods that many people may consume regularly such as fried foods, take away and soft drinks. Ask yourself, do you really need to have that chocolate bar every day? Should you really drink that fizzy drink when you're feeling thirsty? Why not opt for water instead? Also, perhaps try bring your lunch from home when you are heading to work, school or uni, rather than choosing take-away or canteen foods that are usually high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. You can have a treat every now and then, but remember to only have it sometimes, not often. It's all about moderation!

Water > Soft drinks

Nuts > Hot Chips

Swap sitting for moving

Whenever you're not doing much, try to move around rather than sitting down. For example, when you're waiting for a friend in a shopping centre, stand up or walk rather than sit down. If you live near a bus stop or train station, walk rather than drive. Use the stairs, rather than the lifts or escalators. By making these small changes, you can burn more calories in a day. Although it may not seem like a lot, it all adds up! 

Swap watching for playing

Use your spare time to go outside and get active! These days with so much technology advances, most people use their leisure time to just sit in front of a TV or a computer for long periods of time. So, next time you find yourself watching 'Judge Judy' in the afternoon, why not go out for a stroll instead. Head out to the park, take your brothers or sisters and make it a family activity. Perhaps go for a bike ride around the neighbourhood? I know these days everyone is always busy, but if you can make a regular habit every few days or every weekend, then it's one step forward towards a healthier lifestyle.

If you want to know more about the "Swap it, Don't stop it" campaign, here is the link: http://swapit.gov.au/
They have listed many wonderful ideas on more ways to swap. 

Feel free to leave a comment with any questions or feedback :)

Until next time,
Fitria :)

Friday, 8 March 2013

For the Love of Carbs

With so many deceiving and misleading nutrition messages nowadays, I wanted to write a post specifically about carbohydrates because there are so many controversial messages surrounding this. It is a popular and common belief that carbs are fattening and, often, I find that the first thing most people (who are attempting to lose weight) tend to do is cut out carbs almost, if not, completely, out of their diet. By carbs, I am referring mainly to breads, rice, pasta and cereals as these are the main food sources which we receive our carbohydrates from. However, what most people DON'T know is that carbs is actually present in a LOT of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains with the exception of dairy being animal-based.

So is carbs good or bad for you?

Well, that depends on the TYPE of carbohydrate you are having. Having a diet which consist of carbs does NOT necessarily cause weight gain, but, eating too much of the wrong type can. There are two different types: simple and complex, and this is based on their chemical structure.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbohydrates are made up of smaller molecules of sugar which is broken down and digested quickly and easily in our body. So our body does not have to work hard to break these down and they can cause a rapid increase in our blood sugar levels. This is usually in a lot of JUNK foods like confectionery, chips and soft drinks.

Fruits are an exception in regards to the simple carbs, because although they contain fructose (which is a simple sugar), it is GOOD for you and worthy to eat because they contain many vitamins, minerals and fibre. Whereas processed foods are basically empty calories that do not have much nutritional value. However, as with everything, moderation is key hence the Australian Dietary Guidelines have recommended that Australians should eat 2 serves of fruit a day.

Source: Australian Dietary Guidelines

Complex Carbs

On the other hand, complex carbs are made up of many simple sugars joined together and because of their more complex structure, they take longer to digest and our body has to work harder to break these down. Foods that contain complex carbs include wholegrain bread, pasta, oats, green leafy vegetables, corn and legumes. Basically, these foods have undergone less processing so they still contain most of their natural nutrient contents which is why they are 'good' carbs and should be included as part of our everyday diet.

WHITE bread and NON-wholegrain cereals also fit under the complex carbs category. BUT, these carbs have undergone processing which removes the bran and germ - which is where all the healthy fats and most of the vitamins and minerals are stored (refer to diagram on the right). After processing, we are left with the endosperm which lacks those great nutrients. So it is best to avoid or at least minimise your intake of processed white breads and sugary cereals because they are like empty calories and have less nutritional value.

Overall, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body and thus, cutting it out of our diet completely can lead to a lack of energy and fatigue. Our body can derive some energy from fats and protein as a back-up source, but carbs is the preferred source of energy especially for the brain. Our brain receives its energy only from carbohydrates which is why it is important to include carbs in our diet in order for our brain to function properly. The Australian Dietary Guidelines suggests that men and women between the ages 19-50 should have 5 servings of breads and cereals per day and most of this should be mainly from wholegrain sources.

Source: Australian Dietary Guidelines

I know this is a LOT of information to take in, but, my main point is that not all carbs are bad. Don't believe everything you hear and read on the internet and jump on the carb-hating bandwagon. Because, in the end, the key is to eat the right type in the right amounts! And, as I've mentioned before, balance and moderation is everything.

If there is anything unclear or if you have any questions, feel free to comment :)
Until next time..
- Fitria

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

80% Diet 20% exercise

I would like to proudly announce that my lovely friend Fitria Sari and I Sarah Sevidal decided to combine forces! in tackling the importance of healthy & active living for everyone.

As you can read from the title 80%diet 20%  exercise is a very common general statistic on how you will be able to achieve that healthy goal, whether it is to get lean or to just improve your overall health, this is the way to go! 

Now, me being the fitness student & Fitria being Miss Nutritionist , we would like to start and write blogs that combine the two , so you can benefit more from these weekly blogs , she will cover all you need to know about what foods to stay away from and what foods you should stock up on!
I'll be here to share some extra tips and additional exercise moves to add to your daily routine & much more!

Let's talk about this quote 80/20... what does it mean? 

You may have heard the term ''Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym'' , well that is basically a short description of the 80/20 concept! you just can't crunch your way to a six pack! you will need to go back to basics! your eating habits,drinking habits!,and daily habits.

I will briefly go over the (diet) part of it:

Not necessarily start counting your calories, or mls of juice or water you drink, nothing complicated like that! not unless you are a diabetic or have a medical issue that needs to follow a strict diet.

Keep your meals clean!
Eating clean is based on the fundamental principles of eating healthy and nutritious whole foods that have been unprocessed, unrefined & contain none of the artificial chemicals that slow down our bodies’ natural functions,remember the longer the shelf life the more preservatives,additives and all those nasty unhealthy chemicals that won't do any good for your body at all! 

I'll add a couple of useful tips:

• Aim to drink 3L of water per day, no less. Add one more litres on top of that for every hour you exercise. If you struggle to drink plain water, try adding freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice to add flavour. This will keep you hydrated, aid in clear beautiful skin and help to gush out toxins and nasties in our bodies.

• Eating is GOOD for you, it just has to be the right foods (clean whole foods) and the right amount of foods.

• Breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day. Stay right away from cereals as they are almost all full of processed sugar, despite clever marketing slogans such as “full of protein” trying to convince us otherwise. Read the label on the back and you will see the truth about their ingredients. Oats are your best
option otherwise I encourage you to refer back to Fitria's breakfast options for further ideas.

• Make sure you eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism going throughout the day. If you do not eat, your body will go into starvation mode & will store fat. Ensure you are sticking to clean, healthy selections throughout the week.

• Before a high intensity workout you should always have something in your tummy. I suggest a banana or scoop of protein.

Hopefully you understand the concept of the 80% diet ... now to talk about the more exciting part! exercise!

So, how long should you workout for? how many times a week? what types of workouts should you do? WHY should I EVEN get out of my cozy bed at 6:00am in the morning!?

I know these questions are most likely popping into your mind , i'm here to hopefully help you with my opinions from personal experience and from what I've studied within my course.

Once you've began eating clean you should notice yourself feeling more energized! and this is a great ''side-effect'' of eating healthy your body is getting so many nutrients that it has helped it gain energy! so don't waste it! GET moving!

Lets get this clear being active doesn't have to be ONLY when you are at the gym or on your treadmill, for example when you pick something up squat! yes you may look ridiculous but its a great booty work-out! and believe me, if you start squatting every time you need to pick something up, in a couple of weeks, you should see your lower body tone up!

 Speaking of,  squats work practically every single muscle in your body.  Okay that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth.  If you’re looking to burn fat, you want to do exercises that trigger as much of your body as possible so it’s all getting worked and exercised.  On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking to build muscle, your legs and back can put on the most muscle in the shortest amount of time.
If you are serious about getting in shape and losing weight, or if you’re a beanpole and looking to gain muscle, you absolutely need to include squats in your routine.

''Pee-squats?'' well, yes funny name but, very effective so after every trip to the loo, do 10-20 squats! make it a habit and you will surely see changes! anyway, back to the point... apart from squatting , walk to wherever you need to go instead of driving or stand when you're waiting. See? being active can be done anywhere and everywhere you don't need a gym membership to get fit!

This will conclude my blog for tonight, I will answer those fitness questions soon in depth in my next blog so keep on following! hopefully this blog has motivated you to change some unhealthy habits and start squatting! 

Please refer to the following link to learn how to squat properly! form is everything!:


Monday, 18 February 2013

Have You Had Your Breakfast Today?

I hope your answer to that is a YES.

Breakfast is the MOST important meal of the day and I can not stress enough of how important it is because there are so many health benefits you can get by eating breakfast everyday. The term 'breakfast' itself means to break the fast, literally. At night time when you are asleep, your body is under a fasting state because for 8 hours or more, you are not consuming any foods or drink. During this fasting state, your metabolism slows down so your food is being digested at a slower rate and your body is conserving energy rather than burning it off. So when you eat breakfast, you are breaking this fasting period which will help to kick start your metabolism again.

If that's not enough to convince you... the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has confirmed that eating breakfast can have all these awesome benefits:
  • It can assist you in maintaining a healthy weight - breakfast skippers are more likely to binge at lunch and, as most of us are aware, a habit of binge eating can lead to an unhealthy weight gain over time. So, eat breakfast if you want to keep at a healthy weight.
  • It improves your alertness, concentration, mental performance and memory - definitely useful for all you school kids and uni students!
  • It provides energy and important nutrients so you won't feel so tired and lethargic in the morning
  • Reduces your tendency to snack on unhealthy food during the day
  • Improves your mood - for those of you who are not a 'morning person' like myself, eating breakfast can help us to feel less irritated and grumpy in the mornings (which I'm sure our family will appreciate... haha)
  • Leads to a higher intake of nutrients for our body such as carbohydrate, calcium, fibre and some vitamins and minerals - of course, this is only if you choose a nutritious and healthy breakfast.

So... What is considered as a healthy breakfast?

Well, DAA has defined it as one which is low in saturated fats, high in fibre and packed with lots of vitamins and minerals. Saturated fats are 'bad' fats which increase your 'bad' cholesterol levels and these are usually found in animals or animal-made products such as milk, cheese, butter etc. So if you are having milk or other dairy products with your breakfast, try to choose the low fat variety. Fibre can be found in some fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrain foods. It is beneficial for your digestive health and research has shown that it lowers your risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. Therefore, choose breakfast cereals with a high fibre content or choose wholegrain foods (e.g. wholemeal bread, oats, muesli) which are naturally rich in fibre.

Here are some suggestions of easy, quick and healthy breakfast ideas:

A fresh fruit smoothie made with skim milk and yoghurt - sometimes I would add a tablespoon of wheat germ to make it more filling
My Blueberry and Green Apple Smoothie  :)

A bowl of wholegrain cereal with low fat milk and fruit

Muesli with a variety of fruits and nuts - can be topped with low fat yoghurt
This is me trying to be creative with my food (muesli, yoghurt & kiwi fruit)

Pancakes with fruit and yoghurt - not cream (maybe only on occasions and try to minimise the portion)

Scrambled eggs with wholegrain toast - my personal favourite is having it with fresh baby spinach and mushrooms (Yumm!!)

Excuse my half eaten food, but you get the idea...

Just looking at these pictures makes me want to eat breakfast... :)

Personally, my usual breakfast is a bowl of cereal consisting of 2 weet-bix with a cup of skim milk, and a piece of fruit. Usually, I would have one nectarine or a banana or a handful of grapes - it just depends on what we have available at home. I know it is common for a lot of people to be rushing for time in the mornings, so some tips would be to always have good, wholegrain cereals in your pantry (this is a quick and easy option). You can also prepare something the night before (this works well for smoothies or pancake batter which you can cover and keep in the fridge overnight) or buy small snack-size cereal boxes to take to work or uni. I always make sure that I eat breakfast even when I am short of time - for me, when I'm in a hurry, I would grab a banana, or a breakfast drink (like Up&Go) and something small like a muesli bar to eat on the go. If you wake up not feeling hungry, you can delay the time of eating breakfast for another half hour or so, but the most important thing is to not skip the meal completely.

Make a habit to ensure that you always start your day off with a healthy breakfast :)

Until next time...
- Fitria