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The AdminFebruary 3, 2017


They may be labelled as ‘lean’ or ‘lite’, but when it comes to choosing a healthy frozen meal, what should you look for? Nutritionist Liz Munn investigates.

Healthy-style frozen meals are a quick, easy alternative to takeaways or fossicking in a near-empty fridge after a long day at work. They fill a large section of most supermarket freezers, and if you choose carefully, they can be a healthy option.

While cooking from scratch is the best way to know exactly what you’re eating – you can use plenty of veges and wholegrains, and control the amount of fat and salt you add – there’s nothing wrong with frozen rather than fresh. In fact, frozen vegetables can have more vitamins and minerals than fresh, especially if the fresh vege has been stored for a long time or not treated kindly on its journey to your table.

Healthy-style frozen meals are generally kilojoule-controlled and low-fat, but to make the healthiest choices, you need to look for meals that also keep the sodium down and the fibre and vegetable contents up.

Show us the veg

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We know we need three plus serves of vegetables a day, and even if you manage one to two serves of veges during the day, you need another two or three at dinner.

Note: Products with the Heart Tick have 3g or more fibre per serve. Increase fibre content by adding vegetables.

Unfortunately, many frozen healthy-style meals don’t stack up well in the vege stakes. There are a few meals that contain two or three serves of veges, but most offer only one serve – or less.

The good news is you can easily boost the vegetable content by also keeping some frozen vegetables on hand. Tossing together a quick salad or fresh vegetables are great options, too.

Watch the salt

A low-sodium HFG meal has less than 500mg sodium per serve. While we did find one frozen meal with sodium levels this low, we also discovered some with around 600-700mg sodium. By choosing the lower sodium option and adding more veges yourself, you can keep the sodium down while still enjoying the convenience of a ready meal.

An everyday meal?

You could eat frozen meals every day but you may risk missing out on a variety of foods and a balance of all the food groups, which is an essential part of a healthy diet. So while these meals can be part of a healthy diet, it is important to make sure you are getting all the foods you need each day. Choose wholegrain breads and cereals, reduced-fat dairy, lean protein foods and at least five serves of vegetables and fruit over the day.

Frozen meal safety

It’s important to handle frozen foods safely:

  • When shopping avoid any packages that look soggy or as if they’ve melted and then been refrozen.
  • Buy frozen food last and get it home quickly – an insulated shopping bag is a good idea, especially in warm weather.
  • Place frozen foods in the freezer as soon as you get home – and make sure your freezer is the correct temperature (-18°C) and isn’t overloaded.
  • Heat carefully following the packet directions and ensure the food is piping hot right through.


The AdminFebruary 3, 2017


HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr surveys oat product options for the perfect winter breakfast.

What’s available?

Hot winter cereals are about porridge oats, but that doesn’t mean a lack of choice. We can buy traditional wholegrain oats or quick cook oats, one kilo bags or single-serve sachets, oats flavoured with spices or added fruit, or just plain oats.

Nutritionally there is little difference between any of the plain oats: instant or quick-cook oats are processed slightly differently, but nothing is removed. Being rolled and sliced into smaller pieces means these oats have a different texture and will cook quicker.


Oats are a source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre passes through the intestine largely intact and helps promote regular bowel movements. Soluble fibre, such as beta-glucan found in oats, may help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. A number of studies have shown that eating around two-thirds of a cup of oats each day can lower cholesterol in people previously diagnosed with risk factors for cardiovascular disease in as little as four weeks. It seems the beta-glucan acts like a sponge in the small intestine, binding cholesterol so it can’t be re-absorbed and instead passes through the intestine as waste.

Uncle Tobys Weight Wise Original is particularly high in fibre as it has added inulin. Found naturally in onions, bananas and other foods, inulin is a carbohydrate that we are seeing more of in manufactured foods. Inulin acts as a dietary fibre and as a prebiotic, which means it feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Hubbards Traditional Fruitful Porridge is also higher in fibre with added fruit and oatmeal.


Did you know? Oats are the seeds from the cereal grain plant Avena sativa. The hard outer hull is removed from the oat grains to leave what is known as ‘oat groats’, which are used to make rolled oats.

Flavoured oats may have fruit, sugar, skimmed milk powder and flavours added: it is worth reading the ingredients list.

While fruit and skimmed milk powder will naturally add to the amount of sugar in the cereal, it is the added white, brown or raw sugar that can make the total amount of sugar in oat products very high. For example, Pams Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Instant Oats contain 22 per cent brown sugar. At 9.7g in a 40g sachet, that is the same as adding three teaspoons of brown sugar (or if you used white sugar, which is finer, a little over two teaspoons). We realise some people add sugar to their cereals but it’s important to be aware of how much sugar is in a product in the same way as we are when adding sugar ourselves.

For products without added fruit we recommend choosing oat products with 15g or less sugar per 100g, and if they contain fruit look for 25g sugar or less per 100g.

Saturated fat and sodium

We are pleased to say we didn’t find any oat products that were high in either. As a guide when choosing, look for products with 400mg or less sodium per 100g and 3g or less saturated fat per 100g.

A low-energy breakfast

A half-cup serve of oats with a three-quarter cup of trim milk provides around 850-900kJ. Add some fruit for sweetness and extra fibre and you still have a low-energy filling breakfast.

For those who need more energy, have a bigger serve of oats or add toast and maybe some juice.


The AdminFebruary 3, 2017


Senior nutritionist Rose Carr ventures beyond canned tuna to find a huge range of seafood choices.

What is available?

We had already investigated canned tuna, and we wanted to see what other canned seafood was available.

There is a lot to choose from: salmon, sardines, mackerel, smoked oysters, crab meat, anchovies, smoked mussels, smoked fish fillets and shrimps – and that’s before looking at any flavoured salmon variants.

There is a lot to like about canned seafood, including its versatility. Use canned seafood in a quiche, omelette, frittata, sandwich, on toast, or in pasta, rice or potato salads.


Some canned seafood is a good source of calcium because they are eaten with their bones. Unfortunately, none of the products we found listed the amount of calcium on their nutrition information panel so we have used food composition tables to compare different fish. While the amount of calcium in different brands may vary, sardines are the calcium star. A small can of drained sardines (around 90g fish) provides around 500mg calcium: that’s almost as much as a glass of calcium-fortified milk and around half of most adults’ daily calcium requirements. The same amount of pink, sockeye and chum salmon, or mackerel, provides around 220mg calcium. Canned shrimp and red salmon also contain a smaller amount of calcium.


Long-chain omega-3 fats

Salmon, sardines, mussels, herring and some mackerel are all good sources of the essential long-chain omega-3 fats. We prefer products that state the omega-3 content and show the amount of DHA and EPA, which are the important long-chain omega-3s from fish. When comparing like products, choose canned seafood with more DHA and EPA stated on-pack.


Canned seafood is a good source of relatively affordable, portable protein. It’s much easier to keep a can of sardines in your office lunch kit than meat or cheese that needs refrigerating. Salmon, sardines and mackerel tend to be the cheaper varieties.


Seafood, including these canned products, is a good source of iodine. Because many of us don’t get enough of this important mineral in our diets, all bread, except for organic bread, is now fortified with iodine.

Look out for sodium and oil

If it’s a choice between seafood canned in brine or spring water, we recommend spring water as the sodium content will be higher when it’s in brine. When comparing like products, we prefer canned seafood varieties with 400mg or less sodium per 100g. Anchovies are super-high in sodium but we only need a little to add flavour. If you are partial to anchovies on crackers, we recommend them as an irregular treat.

In general, we also prefer products in spring water to those canned in oil. We prefer the fat in the fish rather than added oil. This also keeps the amount of fat and energy down; even when drained those canned in oil will be higher in fat. Trident Smoked Mussels, at nearly one-third fat, highlight this point: smoked mussel flesh is usually around 11 per cent fat.


The AdminFebruary 3, 2017


While water is our pick for drinks to reach for to quench a thirst, HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr takes us through the range of low-kilojoule bottled drinks on offer.

The evidence is growing that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is linked to the development of chronic disease including type 2 diabetes. So what are some alternatives?

Low-kJ sweeteners

If we want a sweet drink without the kilojoules from sugar, the alternative is to replace it with one or more of the intense sweeteners that have few or no kilojoules. An added benefit is that using these alternatives can reduce tooth decay that is caused by sugars.

The most commonly used sweeteners in drinks are aspartame (code number 951) and acesulphame potassium, (950) also called ace-K. Sucralose (955) is also used and the new kid on the block is stevia (960).

Despite what you may have read about aspartame, all of the approved sweeteners for use in our food and drinks have been rigidly tested and shown to be safe. However, many people prefer a natural sweetener, and stevia, a naturally occurring sweetener from a plant in the sunflower family, is gaining in popularity. Stevia can have a slightly bitter aftertaste, although the new drinks available seem to have largely overcome this.

What’s available in low(er)-kJ drinks?

We’ve used a 250ml (one cup) serve for comparisons but remember, most cans and bottles are larger than this.


If you’re going to drink sweetened sodas, we recommend choosing those using alternative sweeteners to sugar: this makes a big difference to the kilojoules, especially if you drink sodas regularly. Diet Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero both contain about 4kJ in 250ml compared to standard Coca-Cola at 450kJ. Most sodas are fairly similar, for example Schweppes Diet Dry Ginger Ale has 14kJ versus Schweppes standard Dry Ginger Ale at 423kJ in 250ml. A little higher in energy, Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer has 85kJ, as it still has a little sugar in it (along with ace-K, aspartame and sucralose), compared to Bundaberg’s standard Ginger Beer with 460kJ in 250ml.


Pump flavoured-water (Lime Rush) sweetened with sugar has 98kJ in 250ml, while h2go Zero (with zero sugar and sweetened with stevia) has 50-103kJ — depending on the flavour. Plain water, whether it’s from a tap or in a branded bottle, has zero kilojoules.

Reduced-sugar juice

Both Just Juice and Charlie’s offer stevia-sweetened fruit juices with 50 per cent less sugar than standard juice. But stop and think what that really means, given their standard juices have no added sugar. The product is actually a water/juice blend with added sweetness. Just Juice with 50 per cent less sugar (orange) contains 45 per cent orange juice and 2 per cent orange pulp, plus water (the main ingredient), flavouring, colour, stevia and other ingredients. (Charlie’s product is similar with 50 per cent orange juice.) You might expect Just Juice with 50 per cent less sugar to have half the kilojoules — but it actually has more than you might expect, with three-quarters the kilojoules (322kJ per cup).

We think a better option is to prepare a drink with half juice and half water, so you get a 50 per cent reduction in kilojoules (220kJ per 250ml) — it’s cheaper, too. Remember, though, this still delivers 12.5g sugars (three teaspoons), so one glass a day is probably enough.



Keeping our fluids up, especially over summer months when we dehydrate more readily, is really important to our well-being. But plain water should be our first option rather than a sweetened drink, even when it’s a fewer-kilojoules option. Plain water is cheap, readily available and guaranteed not to harm our teeth. Sometimes it’s good to have variety, and a sweetened drink can be part of that. But it’s also important that we don’t get into the habit of having sweet drinks and sweet foods all of the time. It’s especially important for our children not to develop a ‘sweet everything’ habit, as our taste buds can adjust to this and continue to demand it.

Drinks and dental health

While we all understand sugary drinks including fruit juice are not good for our teeth, it may be a surprise to learn carbonated drinks are more acidic than non-carbonated drinks. Whether it’s a sugar-sweetened drink, a stevia-sweetened drink or pure water, carbonating a drink makes it more acidic and the more acidic a drink is, the worse it is for our teeth.

The AdminFebruary 3, 2017


In season May: Passionfruit


Look for deep-purple coloured skins as these are most ripe and choose the fruit that feels heavy for its size.


Passionfruit can be kept in the fruit basket for up to two weeks or up to one month in the fridge. They are sweetest when the skin starts wrinkling. The pulp and even the whole fruit freeze well.


Did you know?

  • Passionfruit juice is often added to other juices to enhance the aroma.
  • Passionfruit can have a slight sedative effect: eat before bed for a restful sleep.

Passionfruit contain small amounts of many nutrients and are a source of fibre.


Passionfruit seeds are usually eaten but can be removed. To remove seeds place fresh fruit pulp in a sieve and rub with the back of a spoon to catch seed-free pulp below. Save seeds and wash them if you wish to grow your own passionfruit vine.

Try these

  • Drink: Blend passionfruit pulp with honey and ice for a refreshing smoothie. Add low-fat yoghurt for a creamier option.
  • Bake: Try passionfruit pulp in place of crushed pineapple in carrot cake or in fruit muffins.
  • Lunchbox: Pop the whole fresh fruit in the lunchbox and pack a knife and spoon.
  • Dinner: Mix fresh passionfruit pulp with a squeeze of lime juice and finely sliced chilli — great alongside pan-fried fish or thinly sliced roast pork.
  • Desserts: Try low-fat Greek yoghurt topped with fresh passionfruit pulp, a drizzle of honey and a few raw almonds. Or stew passionfruit pulp, sliced Granny Smith apple and 1 teaspoon sugar then top with an oaty crumble and bake.

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The AdminFebruary 1, 2017

Serves: 4
Time to make: 15 mins
Total cost: $17.48 / $4.37 per serve
(at time of publication)Tandoori-chicken-with-cumin-flavoured-rice

250g pouch microwavable medium-grain brown rice
2 tablespoons Japanese rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
210g can red salmon, drained
1 sheet nori (seaweed sheet), crushed in small flakes
2 tablespoons sesame seeds


4 cups baby kale
1 small avocado, diced
1 large carrot, peeled in ribbons
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled in ribbons


1 tablespoon Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt-reduced soy sauce
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon rice bran oil


Step 1Microwave rice following packet directions. Remove pouch from microwave, open and pour rice vinegar over rice. Leave rice to absorb vinegar.

Step 2Combine wasabi and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl. Stir well. Add salmon and crushed nori with vinegar rice. Stir to combine.

Step 3Wet hands and roll each tablespoon of mixture into about 16 small balls. Roll sushi balls lightly in sesame seeds. Set aside.

Step 4To make salad, combine ingredients in a large salad bowl. Toss well.

Step 5To make dressing, combine ingredients in a small jar. Seal jar and shake to combine well.

Step 6Divide kale and avocado salad among serving plates and top with reserved sushi balls. Drizzle with dressing and serve.


  • Make it gluten free: Check mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce are gluten free and use gluten-free soy sauce.
  • Make it low FODMAP: Use half an avocado only.


The AdminFebruary 1, 2017

Serves: 4
Time to make: 30 mins
Total cost: $17.76 / $4.44 per serve
(at time of publication)Spicy-tofu-rice-with-fried-egg

oil spray
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, cut in thin matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chilli sauce or sambal oelek
1 cup frozen green baby peas
150g green beans, trimmed, sliced
1 red capsicum, deseeded, diced
2 cups trimmed bean sprouts
3 cups cooked brown rice
250g ginger and honey marinated tofu, sliced
2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce
4 eggs
fresh coriander, to garnish


Step 1Spray a large wok with oil and place over a high heat. Stir-fry onion and carrot for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sambal and stir-fry for 1 more minute.

Step 2Add peas, beans and capsicum. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Add bean sprouts and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Add rice and tofu and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until heated through. Stir in soy sauce.

Step 3Meanwhile, place a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry eggs to your liking.

Step 4Divide rice among serving plates, top each with an egg and serve sprinkled with coriander.


Make it gluten free: Use gluten-free soy sauce and check tofu and chilli sauce are gluten free.


The AdminJanuary 28, 2017


Everything you need to know about that nutritional powerhouse, the humble legume.

Dried beans – also known as pulses or legumes – got a bad rap in the ’70s and ’80s, when they were consigned to the kitchens of hippies, greenies and student flats. They were feared by meat lovers and dreaded by small children.

Even now, many Kiwi families have still never ventured much beyond baked beans on toast, usually because they simply aren’t sure where to start.

In our house, when money was very tight and meat very expensive, I found I could extend mince dishes such as bolognese, chilli and meatballs by adding cooked red lentils to the mixture. Gradually the lentils replaced the meat altogether.

I also teamed beans with spicy sausage, lamb shanks or fish, making robust, peasant-style food that was tasty, nourishing and didn’t cost much.


I was sooo ahead of my time! Now every restaurant around is serving puy lentils or white bean mash. And why wouldn’t they? The profit margins from beans are excellent.

If your household runs screaming from the room at the merest mention of beans, take my advice and don’t tell them.

Instead, select dishes that are familiar or fashionable: the cuisines of Mexico, India and the Mediterranean all use beans with or without meat.

Offer dips and snacks and build up to full meals; add cooked pulses to soups, sauces and salads and include sprouted beans in sandwiches and stir-fries.

One or two bean dishes a week is a good choice both nutritionally and financially. They are low in fat, provide protein, iron and fibre and are very inexpensive.

If you’ve never cooked with beans before then you may be wondering: “Don’t beans need soaking? How do I cook them? Do they take ages? Will we have greenhouse gasses? And will the household actually eat them?”

If so, check out the beginner’s guide to beans below.

Where to buy them

HFG tips:

  • Make sure your beans are thoroughly cooked before serving; under-cooked beans can cause tummy upsets.
  • A dash of oil in the water will help prevent foaming.
  • Do not salt the cooking water when cooking beans; it will make the beans tough, not tender.
  • A pressure cooker will substantially reduce cooking times. If you have one, use it.

Dried beans (pulses or legumes), are readily available in health food shops, Indian grocery suppliers, supermarkets and organic or wholefood specialists, both bagged or in bulk.

How to store them

Dried: Store them in an airtight container and throw out any beans that are wrinkled, mouldy or that you have had longer than a year. Old beans take longer to cook.

Cooked: Beans freeze well, so when preparing them from scratch do loads and freeze them in 1 cup quantities or pre-measured for specific recipes.

How to cook them

Dried beans and lentils will approximately treble in volume as they cook.

Lentils require no pre-soaking. Red lentils cook in around 10 minutes; brown and green lentils in 30-40 minutes in boiling liquid such as water, stock, soup or sauce.

Beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans and black-eyed beans need to be softened and then cooked. The softening or ‘soaking’ can be done overnight in cold water if you are very organised.

The beans will still need up to 1 1/2 hours of cooking, or you can use the ‘quick-cook’ method below to prepare beans.

  • To soak and cook beans: Most beans will treble in volume when cooked. The length of time varies depending on the type, age and size of the bean, so cooking times are approximate. Since beans require long cooking which uses electricity, cook several cups at a time and freeze them. You can add a frozen chunk directly into boiling soups and stews.
  • Overnight method: Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The beans will soften but they still need to be cooked. Replace the soaking water with fresh water and simmer the beans for 1-3 hours. Cooked beans should be tender but not mushy.
  • Quick-cook method: Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Bring to the boil for 2 minutes, then leave to stand for one hour. Now they are ready to cook. Return the pan to the heat and simmer the beans until till soft; 1- 3 hours.
  • Vary the time depending on the bean.
    Kidney beans and other similar sized beans– simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Kidney beans in particular can cause tummy upsets if not properly cooked, so a 15-minute period of rapid boiling is recommended. See Soy beans – 3-4 hours. Chickpeas – 1-2 hours (yum, fresh hummus – see How to cook: Hummus).

Canned beans

These are very convenient but work out at nearly three times the price of home-soaked beans. However, they are super convenient and extremely versatile. I usually keep a can of kidney beans and a can of chickpeas in stock to back up my freezer supplies. One 440g can contains around 1 1/2 cups of beans. Try a few of the following types next time you shop:

  • Red kidney beans: great for Mexican dishes; mix with mince for a tasty chilli; make into bean burgers – try my Easy bean burgers recipe.
  • Chickpeas: make your own hummus by mashing or blending; mix into stews and salads.
  • Cannellini and butter beans: use as a base for salads; mash with oil and herbs and use instead of potatoes; add to soups.
  • Five bean mix: make your own bean salad; mash and use as filling for tacos; blend to make a dip; add a can of tomatoes and serve with tortillas.
  • Lentils: add to curries and soups; use as a base for salads; combine with bacon, onion, stock and a dash of wine for a tasty side dish with meat.


The AdminJanuary 28, 2017


When money’s tight, it pays to look back to learn how others managed through tough times. Niki Bezzant takes a look at what we can learn from our grandparents about shopping, cooking and keeping house – and how we can apply their tried and true strategies to our modern lives to help us spend less and stay healthy.

How to make basic ingredients tasty

Fifty or 60 years ago, Grandma had a very basic range of ingredients to choose from. Things like olive oil, pasta, soy sauce, different cheeses, even garlic were exotic and uncommon. But she knew how to work with what she had, and base her dishes on simple, inexpensive ingredients like mince, smoked fish, eggs and potatoes.


To do this Grandma also used a fair amount of butter, cream, cheese and lots of fatty meat, all of which (we now know) are not so good for us!

What we can learn

It’s time to rethink our meal bases and take a new look at old favourite ingredients and recipes cooked in healthy ways.

Money-saving tips

  • A can of smoked fish: Around $4 for 310g can. Add a white sauce, lots of vegetables and mashed potato, and you have a classic smoked fish pie for less than $6 for 4-6 people.
  • Eggs: Between $0.20 and $0.50 each. 4 eggs, some leftover cooked vegetables, and a sliced chorizo sausage ($1) makes a tasty frittata to feed 4 for around $4.
  • Lean beef mince: Around $5 for 500g. Add breadcrumbs, rolled oats, herbs, spices and an egg, and make meatballs or a meat loaf to serve with potatoes and a salad for around $10 for 4 (with leftovers).

How to make the most of every bit of food

That meant making what we’d consider one meal’s worth of something last over two or three nights.


Grandma didn’t have the wide repertoire of recipes, nor the access to the range of meats we have today, so the week’s dinners could get a bit boring!

What we can learn

Clever ways to stretch more pricey ingredients such as meat and cheese to help us keep our budget under control (and make us feel really clever!). We can look at old favourite ingredients and recipes, cooked in healthy ways.

Money-saving tips

  • A $9 packet of mince can stretch to two quick meals (and get a health boost) by adding a bit of padding! Brown onion, garlic and carrots. Add mince and brown. Set half the cooked mince aside. Add a can of flavoured tomatoes and chopped or grated vegetables, then simmer to make pasta sauce. The next night, use the other portion of mince and add a can of chilli beans, a can of tomatoes and Mexican spices to make a chilli. Serve with rice and a salad. Or take it in a different direction and make a stir-fry by adding lots of thinly sliced vegetables, soy sauce, chilli sauce and noodles.
  • Instead of chicken breasts for one meal, buy a whole chicken on special (we’ve seen them for under $10) and spread it over several meals. Serve chicken roasted with lots of vegetables on the first night. Then use leftover cooked chicken to make a chicken and corn soup the next night: bring stock to the boil, add chilli, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and a can of corn kernels. Add chicken, fresh coriander and mint. Use the remaining chicken carcass to make stock (it’s not as hard as it sounds – see How to cook stock).

How to use cheap cuts of meat

In Grandma’s day, even though meat was abundant, it wasn’t all cheap. Grandma understood how to cook cheaper cuts to make them tender, tasty and delicious.


Cheaper cuts can be higher in fat, so Grandma’s cooking methods need an update to make them healthier.

What we can learn

If we get to know the cheaper cuts, we can save money on meat and make tasty, hearty dishes that go a long way.

Beef brisket, thick flank or silverside (unsalted) $10/kg Trim fat. Simmer gently in one piece, in water flavoured with onions, carrots, celery and herbs. Cook for 50 minutes per 1kg, plus an extra 25 minutes. Serve sliced with vegetables.
Blade steak, chuck steak, gravy beef, stewing steak $12/kg Use for stews and casseroles. Remove visible fat. Cut in cubes. Brown in pan, then add vegetables and cover with water, stock, tomatoes or other liquid. Simmer gently, covered, for at least 1 1/2 hours, until tender.
Skirt steak $14/kg Score, marinate and cook quickly (6-8 minutes only) in a hot pan. Slice across the grain and add to stir-fries, or eat with sauce and a salad.
Beef shin $10/kg Braise whole in beef stock, wine and herbs. Cook, covered, for 2 or more hours, until tender. Remove from bone and use in casseroles, curries or chilli.
Lamb knuckles (shanks) $10/kg Gently simmer, covered, in liquid for 2 hours. Serve on the bone, or remove from the bone and add back to sauce. Leave to cool and skim fat from top of stew.
Lamb shoulder, thick shank $12/kg Use for stews or casseroles. Remove visible fat. Cut in cubes. Brown in pan, then add vegetables and cover with water, stock, tomatoes or other liquid. Cover, and simmer gently, for at least 1 1/2 hours until tender. Serve with vegetables and mashed potato or pasta.

Recipe ideas

Try these healthy, hearty recipes using cheap cuts of meat:

Beef and lentil casserole
Lamb shank, capsicum and lentil casserole
Lamb ragu for pasta
Beef and thyme casserole

How to make things from scratch

Grandma didn’t have supermarket convenience foods. Actually, there weren’t many supermarkets around when she first started cooking for her family – the first one opened in the late ’50s. This meant if she needed a marinade or a simmer sauce, she made it herself.


Grandma didn’t have the busy working lifestyle we now have, so she had more time to do all that cooking! However, some things can be made from scratch without taking hours.

What we can learn

Buying fewer pre-made items will significantly cut our food bills.

  • Basic Asian ingredients: If you have a stock of basic Asian ingredients on hand you can do away with the need for stir-fry sauces and flavour sachets, save money and make tastier meals.
  • Canned tomatoes and herbs: A can of tomatoes and some fresh or dried herbs are really all you need to make pasta sauce. Stock up when they’re on special and you’ll never need a jar of ready-made sauce again.
  • Do you make Thai or Indian curries often? Making your own fresh curry paste takes no time and it packs more flavour than bought curry paste.
  • Biscuits and cakes: Grandma hardly ever bought biscuits or cakes. Treats like these aren’t everyday foods, but if you’re going to spoil yourself and your family, why not give homemade sweet treats a go?
  • If you love pasta, think about investing in a pasta machine: They cost about $80, but you’ll make that back quickly. Making a batch of fresh pasta costs less than $1, and once you’ve eaten your own handmade pasta, you’ll never want to buy the packaged variety again.

Replace pre-made with homemade! Try these make-your-own versions of stir-fry sauces and dressings:

Pasta sauce
Honey, soy and ginger marinade / stir-fry sauce
Satay sauce
Sweet and sour sauce
Thai curry paste
Balsamic dressing

How to use leftovers

Having grown up in the depression, Grandma hated waste. She knew how to make the most of any leftovers – and some of them were really yummy!


Some of us remember the awful feeling of déjà vu that descended with the arrival of the mutton roast on the table for the third day in a row! Nowadays, thankfully, we have interesting additions to perk up tired leftovers.

What we can learn

Minimising waste by using up leftovers in creative ways makes us feel good, be green, and helps us spend less.

  • Leftover pasta or noodles can be made into a yummy frittata: Just as potatoes or other vegetables are used to make a frittata, combine pasta/noodles with eggs in a pan. Add herbs and leftover meat. Serve with tasty relish and a big salad.
  • To revive a stale loaf of bread, sprinkle it with water or milk and wrap it in foil. Bake bread at 180ºC for about 8 minutes, or a few minutes longer for French bread. Leave the foil open for the last few minutes.
  • Use up hard cheese and stale bread: Whiz together in the blender or processor to make cheesy crumbs. These make a delicious topping for bakes or coating for fish.
  • Jazz up leftover cooked potatoes by making modern bubble ‘n’ squeak: Fry onion and garlic in a pan, add leftover sausages or a little bacon, add chopped or mashed potatoes and any other leftover vegetables you have, and fresh spinach or silver beet. Cook until it forms a golden crust on the bottom, then slice into wedges and serve with barbecue or chilli sauce.
  • Make leftover rice into rice cakes: Combine with an egg to bind, add fresh basil and parsley or other herbs, and a little grated cheese. Shape into cakes and cook in a moderate pan, or in the oven. Serve with meat or on their own.

How to keep it simple

Grandma lived simply because there was no other way. She wasn’t afraid to cook and serve plain food to her family and friends, and didn’t feel pressure to buy expensive ingredients to impress.


Grandma didn’t travel much and didn’t eat out often, either, so her palate wasn’t exposed to the wide variety of flavours and cuisines we like to eat today.

What we can learn

Embracing a ‘keep it simple’ mantra while still incorporating tasty modern flavours can offer us the best of both worlds: less stress in the kitchen and significant savings.

  • Grandma didn’t drink bought soft-drinks: Follow that example and make water the family’s main beverage. You’ll save money ($8 a week or more), and everyone will be healthier.
  • Wine didn’t regularly feature on her shopping list: Cut out one bottle a week from your shopping and you will save $10 or more – you may even lose weight!
  • Entertain at home more, and don’t be scared to serve simple dishes: Who doesn’t love a beautifully made fish pie, lasagne or Sunday roast? Entertaining doesn’t have to be an expensive, fancy production.
  • It’s time to revive the pot luck dinner: Plan it out so you don’t end up with lots of mismatched food. Keep the dishes simple and get everyone to bring something. It takes any preparation pressure off the host(ess) and it’s fun!
  • Grandma mostly ate in season: This is a money-saver for us, too. Keep in touch with what’s growing now and base most of your meals on seasonal produce, adapting as you go for what’s available.


The AdminJanuary 28, 2017


A recent New Zealand survey of 1000 New Zealanders revealed 86 per cent of us buy food only to throw it away — and about half of this food wastage is fresh fruit and vegetables.



Apples love the cold and will last much longer in the fridge compared to at room temperature.


Store in the fridge in a paper bag to absorb excess water.

Potatoes and onions

These two veges don’t get along: store them separately as they both produce gases that spoil each other.


Being sensitive to cold temperatures, prolonged storage below 10°C can damage them. In a fridge, cucumbers will have a storage life of about three days before showing signs of chill damage such as water-soaked areas, pitting and decay.


Best stored with the pointed end facing downwards, and under the right conditions can keep for about three weeks from purchase.


Correct storage is important to prevent wastage of what can be an expensive food item, and to ensure food safety:

  • Store raw meat on the bottom shelf, and cooked or ready-to-eat meat on the top shelves so any possible leaks from the raw meat won’t drip on and contaminate other foods.
  • Always marinate meat in the fridge and make sure it is covered or sealed.
  • Keep an eye on use-by dates and freeze any meats you know you won’t use before their expiry date.
  • Rotate frozen items when unloading shopping so older items are at the top.


The AdminJanuary 28, 2017


You might already know my story of losing 60kg. If you know a little more about that story, you’ll know that I only have one regret: not strength training. I lost nearly 40kg before I started any kind of strength-based exercise and, in that time, I simply became a smaller but still flabby version of my former self.

If you want to lose weight, what you eat will dictate the bulk of your success but if your goals go beyond weight loss and include better overall health, strength-based exercise is going to go a long way to help you achieve those goals.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Weights are for gym junkies’; ‘I’m too old to lift weights’ or ‘I want to be slim, I don’t want to look bulky’.

These are all common myths but you know what’s actually true? When you pick up heavy things your muscles get stronger. When you pick up heavy things and maintain good eating habits, your muscles get stronger and denser AND you burn the fat sitting on top of your muscle.

Strength training isn’t just for gym junkies

We’ve all seen the images: beautiful people in tiny clothes lifting weights in the gym. The media often sells beauty as the benefit of exercise.

The reality is that improved health is the real benefit of exercise and strength-based exercise can help correct all sorts health-related issues. Research suggests, lifting weights can have a significant effect on cholesterol and blood pressure – major contributors to heart disease.

Also, increased muscle mass helps you burn glucose which can prevent, control, or even reverse type-2 diabetes. Put simply, the health benefits of strength training are huge!

You’re never too old

Think you’re too old to lift weights? Think again. The sad reality of getting older is that we actually lose muscle. It’s called Sarcopenia, it happens to all of us and it generally sets in by the time we turn 40. By the time you’re 50 you’re losing 1-2% of muscle mass every year.

Lifting weights has been shown to halt and even reverse the effects of sarcopenia. If you think you’re too old, then you could probably benefit the most from taking up some strength-based exercise. The truth is, lifting weights may very well keep you out of a rest home.

Think lean and strong, not big and bulky

Perhaps the biggest myth that surrounds strength training is that it makes you big and bulky.

It can, but achieving the muscle-bound hulk look is very intentional. It requires huge weight, huge amounts of food, a range of supplements and years of dedication. If that’s your thing, then that’s cool but, typically, people that strength train while maintaining a healthy, balanced diet get lean and strong, not big and bulky.

If you’re still not convinced, think about this: strength-based exercises have a much higher rate of exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC) than other exercise. So, unlike running and walking, your body actually keeps working after you stop exercising. Studies have shown this can boost your metabolism for up to 36 hours after you finish your workout. What’s not to love about that?!

Whether you’re 127kg or you’re just looking to lose those last few pesky kilograms, strength training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and build muscle.


The AdminJanuary 28, 2017


We look at a tricky issue: when family and friends, purposefully or not, get in the way of your weight-loss plans.

Just as your skirt starts to swing rather than stretch across your hips and your jeans no longer feel like a tourniquet, the weight-loss ‘saboteurs’ step into action. Amazingly, it’s those closest to you – your family and friends – who are most likely to thwart your weight-loss attempts.

Do any of these situations seem familiar?

  • Your mother says, “Darling, you’re fading away. Have another piece of cake.”
  • Your husband brings home ice cream when he knows you’re trying to lose weight.
  • You are at a friend’s for dinner and they serve you an enormous slice of your favourite dessert with cream.
  • Your mates cajole you, “Come on, have another beer.”
  • You meet friends for coffee and they all order cake.
  • “Come on, a small piece won’t hurt you. You deserve a treat.”
  • Your children give you chocolates for your birthday.
  • You buy treats for the children and then eat them yourself.
  • Your children want to bake biscuits. Guess who eats the most?
  • You nibble while feeding the children, finish their leftovers, then eat dinner with your husband.
  • You’ve just put the kids to bed and slump into the lounge chair. Your husband brings out a cup of tea – with the biscuit tin.
  • You serve up one of your healthy low-fat meals and the teenagers complain, “Yuk, I’m not eating that rabbit food.”

Sabotage situations


Family routine

When I was single, my flatmate and I were obsessed with keeping our weights down so we lived on a spartan diet of tuna, spinach, pasta, low-fat smoothies and GSTs – gin with slimline tonic!

When I became a DINK (double income, no kids) my diet and waistline expanded to accommodate another’s tastes – more meat, more sweets, more wine before and during dinner. But we could still eat breakfast cereal and fruit for dinner if we felt like it.

Once children arrive the routine changes again. Now it’s breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and a ‘proper’ dinner. Full cream milk sits next to skim and it sure tastes better than the watery stuff. Kindy and school lunches, friends for morning tea – they all need something to nibble – usually made with sugar and butter. Then the leftovers sit around tempting you at your weakest moments – usually the evening. As your grocery bill sky-rockets with hungry teenagers, so do the temptations. They are constantly eating – and you are constantly shopping and cooking to keep up. It’s hard not to snack when you are surrounded by food!

Children don’t intentionally sabotage your weight-loss. But they do try to get more sweet stuff into the house any way they can. When your children ask if they can make biscuits or fudge, it’s so they can eat it. When your children give you chocolates, they are expecting you to share.

“You look fine to me”

Observations on how men and women perceive the ideal body shape note that women are a lot harder on themselves – and each other – than men. Men generally prefer a considerably curvier female shape than women think is ideal. It seems that the very bulges we hate may be the curves he loves! So while you are desperately trying to slim down your hips and thighs, he may be thinking you look fine. Subconsciously deciding that you are needlessly restricting your diet (and his) he brings home a special treat – gourmet ice cream!

“Don’t go changing”

Not many of us like change. We get comfortable where we are and with the people around us. When someone decides to change, it can be threatening. Will he or she be the same person if they lose all that weight? Will they succumb to the inevitable admiring glances and advances that their newly-svelte figure will attract?

Friends also often resist someone in their circle changing – they feel uncomfortable, the routine isn’t the same. It’s a sort of pack mentality. To make themselves feel better they try to pull back into conformity anyone trying to break out of the pack rules.

35 expert tips: Turn saboteurs into supporters

  1. Diet is a four-letter word: don’t go on a diet. Don’t tell anyone that you are on a diet. You’ll only get caught in the DIG cycle – deprivation, indulgence, guilt. If you think you can’t have something, you will want it more. Allow yourself to eat everything, but less of it and less often.
  2. Give reasons that your friends will accept. Instead of saying “no” to cake because it’s fattening try, “No thanks, I’m full.” Instead of refusing that last beer because you are trying to lose weight, say “I’ve got to be up at 6am for a run/cycle/triathlon/ marathon” – whatever will impress them, and preferably is the truth!”
  3. Wear jeans a size too small and mislead your friends into thinking you’ve recently put on weight.
  4. Get to know your body and listen to it before listening to someone else. If you feel tired, have a headache or black rings round your eyes, perhaps your body is pleading for water – not that extra glass of wine or coffee. When you reach for that biscuit to go with tea or coffee, stop for a moment and check if it is really what your body feels like at that moment. Sometimes it is but other times you may only be eating out of habit, to be social or to treat sadness, tiredness, boredom or depression.
  5. Find a support person – someone to be accountable to. Changing any habit is easier with support than going it alone.
  6. Reassure your mum that you are being sensible, that you are eating from the five food groups and have never felt better. Tell her that you would prefer fruit to cake because it has so many health benefits (not because it has fewer kilojoules). She surely can’t argue with her precious child wanting to be healthy!
  7. When your birthday or other anniversary is imminent, announce that instead of chocolates you would like flowers, books, a massage, a beauty voucher or perhaps a holiday!
  8. Become known as the person who ‘loves fruit’. Instead of serving decadent sugar-laden desserts, serve fruit. Try a platter of sliced fruit (with chocolate on the side for others to indulge in); fruit salad with sorbet; or a fruit crumble (try our delicious Light summer crumble). Tell them you serve fruit because you love it and you love serving healthy foods to your friends and family that taste great too. (Don’t mention the lower kilojoules.)
  9. Before going out to a work shout or party with high-fat nibbles, have a filling snack and a glass of water to make sure you are not hungry.
  10. Don’t be afraid to share at cafés, too. The portions in a lot of cafés are way too big for many people. It’s most noticeable in muffins and cakes, but can include the paninis and sandwiches as well. You might be tempted by someone saying “Let’s do it, it’s a treat”, but if you’re buying food at cafés quite often it’s not a treat – it’s food – and you don’t want to overdo it.
  11. When you get to the party, stand well away from the snack buffet and do more talking: less eating!
  12. At dinner, drink lots of water, eat slowly, put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, chat lots so there is less time for eating. If your plate or glass is still quite full, they are less likely to persuade you to have seconds.
  13. Use the five bite rule: if someone insists you try a food, take five bites – enough to enjoy it – then put it down.
  14. At home, brush your teeth after dinner. It won’t stop you eating but it helps.
  15. Learn to share. Instead of having a whole dessert at a restaurant, say “I don’t think I could squeeze that in – but it is tempting. Will you share one with me?” You friend/partner may not even notice that they eat most of it themselves.
  16. Instead of a dinner date, try a romantic walk along the beach or through the park, or meet for a game of tennis or at the ten-pin bowling ally.
  17. If someone offers to buy you an ice cream, choose the fruity, ice-based ones rather than the triple decker chocolate-covered super cone.
  18. Make salads your signature dish. Learn to make a variety of interesting salads that you and others can enjoy. We’re talking low-energy high-vegetable dishes here – not your standard Caesar salad.
  19. Be helpful. Offer to pass around the food at a friend’s party. It’s hard to eat with your hands full, and it’s a great way to meet people too.
  20. At the barbecue or smorgasbord, start with the salads and (non-starchy) veges and fill most of your plate with these lower kilojoule foods. Then go to the meat and carbs and select smaller portions of something really tasty. You don’t have to try everything.
  21. Don’t let others serve your food. People like to be generous and will often unconsciously give you too much. Serve your own food so you control the portion size.
  22. If you have friends who always overdo the ‘nibbles’ before dinner, or you find it hard to say no, or they don’t accept your polite refusals, more desperate measures may be called for. So if all else fails: arrive really late! So what if you’ve messed up their timings for dinner? Hopefully you’ve avoided the starters, which could have been a whole meal in themselves.
  23. If someone comments that your plate isn’t very full, reply as heartily as you can manage “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be back for seconds”. Hopefully you can then avoid that person or your scintillating conversation will distract them enough not to notice you don’t do seconds.
  24. Learn to cook with herbs and spices that add flavour to dishes, so your family are not yearning for foods that are flavoursome solely because of their high fat or sugar content.
  25. Make a game of eating slowly. Pick on someone as your target and see if you can have one mouthful of food for every two (or even three) they take. You’ll probably enjoy your food more as well.
  26. Pack a small healthy snack such as unsalted nuts and seeds as an emergency snack during a busy day.
  27. Take advantage of small or large changes of any sort to make a dietary change. People are less likely to notice or question it, eg. your GP gives you a new prescription: “Since I’ve been on that I find ice cream doesn’t taste the same.”  Or you move house and start shopping at a new store. This gives you the opportunity to change many of the regular items that come into the household (see The secrets of shopping smarter).
  28. Suggest you cook (a healthy) brunch for yourself and your loved one/s on Sunday morning, instead of going out for eggs benedict. Better still, make it a joint effort: send someone out to get take-out coffees and newspapers for a nice slow start to the day.
  29. Complement your friends about their ability to stay the same weight while mentioning you find it a struggle. Your aim is to make them feel good about themselves and sorry for you, so they’ll stop trying to force feed you. Flattery can be a useful strategy for male partners as well.
  30. Look good: dress with care; get a nice haircut; put on some slap. If you look good as you are, they’ll be less afraid that if you lose weight you will suddenly become more attractive to others. You are attractive! You’re just interested in being healthier.
  31. Be attentive to your friends, family or partner. Don’t let them feel you’re drifting away from them and becoming a different person.
  32. Tell people you’re trying to improve your fertility by eating a healthier diet. They might be more understanding. (Who cares if you’re still taking precautions?! You may want to get pregnant one day.)
  33. Make sure others in the household are not feeling like they are on a diet. If dessert is normal, keep serving it in the meantime. Your portions can be smaller; they are probably more concerned about their own plates than yours. Over time you could change the regularity of it and what it is, but small steps make it easier to keep everyone on side.
  34. If all else fails, it might be time to have a serious conversation with your friends or family about why they are undermining your efforts to eat more healthily. They may just need reassurance: that you are happy with them the way they are; that you are not going to change as a person; that you won’t expect them to eat the same foods you do… Some of these may not be true for you, so it is important to think it through and be honest with yourself and others.
  35. Complement your mother on her cooking. Make sure the amount you eat is not the only way she has to measure your enjoyment.


The AdminJanuary 26, 2017

Serves: 1 (makes 1 litre)
Time to make: 2 hrs 20 mins
Total cost: $2.17 / $2.17 per serve
(at time of publication)download (7)
  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh herb sprigs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme
  • 6 peppercorns


Step 1Break carcass into smaller pieces and place in a large pan. Add 2 litres cold water and bring to the boil. With a slotted spoon, remove any scum from surface of stock.

Step 2Add vegetables and flavourings. Half cover pan, reduce heat to very low, and simmer gently for 2 hours until stock is reduced by half.

Step 3Remove pan from heat and strain stock, discarding bones and vegetables. Leave stock to cool before skimming off any fat which rises to the surface.


  • Beef stock: For a meat stock, use chopped raw beef bones. Avoid lamb bones as these give an unpleasant flavour.
  • Vegetable stock: To make 1 litre vegetable stock, place 750g chopped fresh vegetables (such as onion, carrot, leek and celery) in a large pan with a selection of fresh herbs tied together with string. Add 1.5 litres cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cover for 1 1/2 hours until reduced by half. Remove pan from heat, strain stock, and discard vegetables. Leave to cool. Store in the fridge for up to four days.

HFG tip

  • You will get the best flavour if you use a raw chicken carcass plus the giblets, but a recently cooked roast chicken carcass works well, too.
  • If using parsley in your stock, use the stalks as well as the heads (the stalks have more flavour in them).
  • Take your time – chicken stock needs long, slow cooking in order to extract as much flavour as possible from the bones. The same goes for meat stock, too.
  • Vegetable stocks can be made more quickly. For extra flavour you can add a bouquet garni – a bunch of herbs such as rosemary, thyme and parsley tied together.
  • Stock can be frozen for up to three months – save in 1-cup quantities in ziplock bags. It is best to reduce the stock (rapid-boil stock once bones and vegetables have beern removed) to get a concentrated stock for freezing. Frozen stock can be defrosted or reheated straight from frozen, but should be simmered for at least 10 minutes.

The AdminJanuary 26, 2017


Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Southern Cross Wellbeing Now event.

download (5)

This was a gathering of around 250 corporates, with the aim of sharing ideas and information about workplace wellness.

What is workplace wellness? This is the commitment being made by more and more Kiwi companies, to help their employees get well, and to keep them well. It includes a wide variety of initiatives, from team Fitbit challenges to free health seminars to subsidies on healthy food in the cafeteria. Southern Cross itself has a comprehensive programme for its staff, which encompasses all aspects of wellness from financial to physical to mental. There are cooking classes and yoga sessions and knitting groups. They recently ran a workshop for staff on compassion.

Is this making you want to go and work at Southern Cross? I’ll admit the thought crossed my mind! And of course, there is a big benefit to companies who have wellness programmes in place, which is that the people who work in them feel valued and cared for, and in return they feel committed and loyal. The other benefit is that when people are healthy and well, they feel better, have more energy and work better. They’re more engaged and take fewer sick days. It’s a win-win.

It’s interesting that the motivation for companies to do this is not, primarily, financial. In the US – where workplace wellness has been around longer as a concept than here – experts admit that saving money has been the prime motivation for many businesses. This has had mixed results; people feel they’re being judged or even punished if they’re not taking part in ‘get healthy’ programmes. But here in New Zealand, the motivation seems to truly be that workplace wellness is worth doing simply because it is the right thing to do.

We spend most of our lives at work. We spend longer at work than we do at home with our families. It is logical that what we do at work has an impact on our health – often a big impact. We know, for example, that if we spend most of our time sitting down at work, we could spend hours exercising outside work but it probably won’t make us any healthier. We know that our environment impacts in a big way on our food choices – and that environments full of unhealthy vending machine food make it much more likely that people will eat more of that food. We know that shift work can have a significant negative impact on many areas of health, including weight and mental health. So it is logical that employers should shoulder some of the responsibility for looking after people when they’re at work, beyond simple health and safety measures to make sure they’re not injured.

My talk at Wellbeing Now focused on the idea that health is like wealth: worth investing in; worth spending time on; worth thinking long-term about. I could have added: worth working on as a team, a team which includes our family, our friends, our workmates and our employers.


The AdminJanuary 26, 2017


Nutritionist Caitlin Reid identifies the classic weight-gain traps to be found in any workplace, on the road, or for stay-at-home mums… and shows you simple steps to avoid them.

Skipping breakfast

When your alarm sounds each morning, it can be very tempting to roll over and hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes of sleep. But if that extra nap comes at the expense of a healthy breakfast, you could be making your first mistake of the day.

Not only does skipping breakfast slow your metabolism, but many studies report that people who skip breakfast are heavier than people who get their morning munch.

The simple fact is that skipping breakfast increases the likelihood of reaching for sugary and fatty mid-morning snacks such as mega-sized muffins and banana bread, in a bid to boost low blood-sugar levels. This sets you up for a day of fluctuating energy levels and bad eating habits – hardly conducive to maintaining a healthy weight, let alone being productive at work.


How to beat it

Make breakfast a must every day. It will increase alertness and concentration, and help you manage your body shape. Get up 10 minutes earlier each morning or pack something healthy the night before to take to eat at work.

Alternatively, keep healthy breakfast supplies at work. If you can’t stomach a proper breakfast, try a liquid breakfast (such as an Up & Go) or a banana, and then eat something more substantial mid-morning.


Studies have established the link between working overtime and weight gain – as much as 15kg over 10 years. Weight gain is even more likely for women who are dissatisfied with combining paid work and family life.

The first big problem with overtime is those long hours usually lead to irregular eating patterns with skipped dinners, vending machine binges, and last minute drive-thru dashes.

While fast-food options are convenient when you’re exhausted, they are generally laden with unnecessary kilojoules, fat, sugar and salt. Studies have also found the more fast-food outlets in your neighbourhood, the greater your weight gain is likely to be.

Then, there’s the lost sleep: a review of 26 studies linked a lack of sleep to weight gain, as it disrupts the body’s internal clock. Research shows sleeping for only four hours for two consecutive nights decreases leptin levels and increases ghrelin levels, increasing hunger and food intake. Inadequate sleep for even just one night may have the same effect.

How to beat it

If you’re working back late, make sure you stop for dinner at a reasonable hour. Grab your dinner early – when healthy food outlets are still open.

Or take leftovers or even frozen meals to work to ensure healthy dinner options are available.

Aim for seven to eight hours’ sleep every night, and if that’s not possible, recharge on Saturday morning with a sleep-in.


There are two big lunch pitfalls. One is skipping lunch altogether when you’re busy. Not only does this reduce productivity for the rest of the afternoon, but it almost always leads to an afternoon biscuit binge or unhealthy choices before (or for) dinner.

The other major trap is what you eat. One study found that 54%of workers purchase lunch two or more times a week.

This wouldn’t be a problem if we were all buying whole grain salad rolls, but most bought lunches come from fast-food outlets or sandwich shops which pile on far more butter, cheese or mayonnaise than we ever would at home. Not to mention workers trying to be healthy by buying salads which are highly likely to be drenched in a fatty (and salty) dressing – they may as well eat a hamburger and fries!

How to beat it

Allow yourself one day a week to buy your lunch but bring it from home on other days. If you don’t have enough time to make it, bring supplies to work: bread, tinned tuna, tomato, cucumber, lettuce and cheese can be kept in the work fridge and easily turned into lunches throughout the week. Even better, form a lunch club with a few work colleagues. Share the lunch duty and each day a different person in the group brings lunch for everyone else.


Work stress can lead to weight gain in a number of ways. First of all, biologically: when we sense danger, our bodies go into ‘fight or flight’ mode and release a flood of stress hormones into the bloodstream – including cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine.

Chronically high levels of these hormones then elevate blood glucose and insulin levels, which in turn promotes fat storage.

Stress also leads to weight gain by promoting comfort eating and poorer food choices. How many times have you reached for a kilojoule-dense chocolate bar or packet of chips when stressed?

Finally, the stress of job advancement can lead to weight gain. Recent research from the UK found that a promotion produces 10% more mental strain, which has been linked with higher levels of abdominal obesity.

How to beat it

The way to escape the effects of stress is to learn how to manage it, increase your tolerance levels, and develop coping strategies to make situations less stressful.

Allocate ‘me’ time to de-stress. If you’re an emotional eater, don’t keep unhealthy foods in your desk or at home – by the time you go to buy them you may have calmed down. Instead, keep healthy snacks at hand for all occasions.


Technology saves us time, right? In some ways, yes, but in others ways technology actually makes us less productive. It can lead to longer hours, interruptions throughout the evening, and then less sleep at night. Workers are interrupted by an email, phone call or colleague every 11 minutes, on average. It then takes 25 minutes to re-focus on the job at hand. These interruptions account for 28% of the average nine-to-five day, which reduces productivity and leads to overtime – which means less time for exercise and making healthy meals. What’s worse is all those emails and messages which arrive via mobile phones and Blackberries throughout the night. This activity keeps stress levels escalated and interferes with quality sleep. Interrupted sleep inhibits the release of the growth hormone which tells your body to break-down fat for fuel. Instead, our bodies hold on to extra kilojoules instead of burning them.

How to beat it

To avoid being ‘on call’ 24/7, set specific times to check emails, speak with colleagues and return calls. Switch off all technology before going to bed and write a list of jobs which need to be finished the next day. If you wake up during the night, jot down the thought – deal with it the next morning when you’re more alert.


Friday night after-work drinks, birthdays, farewells, corporate lunches and conference cuisine all lead to unnecessary kilojoules from cakes, alcohol, three-course meals and endless supplies of unhealthy finger food.

We may not even be hungry, but the combination of tasty food (and drinks), and spending time with friendly or familiar people makes the meal more enjoyable and can reduce our ability or motivation to monitor food consumption. These occasions are often a trap, especially for those people who usually limit their intake of cakes, biscuits and sweets. By categorising them as ‘forbidden’ food in your everyday life, you may end up eating more when you are exposed to them. This is fine if special occasions are just that – special – but if there is a weekly cake or sweet treat in the office, it can lead to weight gain.

How to beat it

Before diving into ‘function’ food, rate your hunger level. Only eat when you are hungry and watch portion sizes. Have a plan when you are eating out at corporate lunches or conferences – choose what you are going to eat before it is on your plate. As for ‘treat’ foods, ask yourself: “Do I really want it?” If you do, enjoy it. If you don’t, save it for another time.

Shift work

Shift work has become commonplace. It’s a fact of life for many of us, but it can also wreak havoc with our health. Shift work has been associated with increased body mass index (BMI), obesity and other health problems. According to a study published in the journal Obesity, even alternating shift work increases BMI. The studies show while shift workers may not actually eat more, the timing works against them. Secretion of digestive juices reduces during the night, slowing digestion, and increasing the risk of stomach ulcers. This, combined with the unavailability of preferred foods in the workplace, reduces the desire to eat and increases the likelihood of poor food choices.

Shift workers also have less opportunity to exercise. Even if they do manage to fit in some exercise, unusual times or exercising in a sleep-deprived state can alter biological and subjective responses, reducing the beneficial effects of exercise. These all make weight-loss and weight maintenance difficult.

How to beat it

Getting into a regular pattern is the most important thing.

Make the first meal of the day the biggest. When at work, eat small, frequent meals containing low-GI carbohydrates and protein, but low in fat. This helps control blood sugar levels and maintain alertness. Drink plenty of water to prevent headaches and fatigue, and limit caffeine intake to early in your shift. And regular exercise will help you sleep.


The AdminJanuary 26, 2017


No time’ is no excuse! Exercise physiologist Kathleen Alleaume reveals how to squeeze a highly effective workout into just 20 minutes a day.

When you’re pressed for time, it can seem almost impossible to fit regular exercise into an already crammed schedule. However, the good news is that you don’t need to spend hours working out to maintain good health.

This mini-circuit is the perfect daily routine to help you burn extra kilojoules and strengthen some of your major muscle groups. The goal is to keep your heart rate elevated by moving from one exercise to the next without a break in between.

NOTE: As always, consult your doctor first if you haven’t exercised in a while.


You know the drill. A warm-up should slightly increase the heart rate, but not to the level experienced during your workout. Warming up is essential to any workout – try a simple walk or jog on the spot for five minutes to get your muscles loosened up.

The workout

Perform one set of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. After completing all five exercises once, repeat the circuit two more times.

If you are a beginner, you may need to stop after just one set. But as you get stronger, you will likely be able to continue the circuit a second time, and eventually a third time.

If you follow this routine at least five days a week, you will see results. Remember, the idea is to be fatigued. It doesn’t matter exactly how many repetitions you do, as long as your muscles feel fatigued when you are done.

Cool down

Don’t forget to stretch afterwards to prevent your muscles from getting sore.

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Mountain climbers

Begin in a push-up position (arms in line with the chest, legs extended out). Make sure to keep your head in line with your body and your stomach muscles contracted throughout the entire range of motion. Start the movement by bringing your right knee to your chest and then back to starting position. Then alternate to your left leg and continue this movement. Repeat 10-15 times for each leg.

Muscles worked: Increases core strength and endurance.

Lunge jumps

Stand in a lunge position, with your right foot forward and your hands on your hips. Jump up and switch the position of your feet in mid-air, landing in a lunge position, with your left foot forward. Keep your hands on your hips for balance and support. Repeat 10-15 times for each leg.

Muscles worked: Effectively firms, shapes, tones and increases muscular endurance of the legs.

Hip bridges

Lie on your back with your arms straight by your side with your palms on the floor. Bend your knees but keep your heels on the floor, hip-width apart. Lift your hips to form a straight line from the shoulders to the knee. Your legs should be almost vertical from the foot to the knee. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Squeeze your butt muscles and then lower yourself to the ground. Repeat 10-15 times.

Muscles worked: Lower back, hamstrings and buttocks.

Close grip push-ups

Get into a standard push-up position on your knees (legs together, fingers forward). Move your hands closer to each other so that they are only about 15-20cm apart. Slowly lower yourself until you are about to touch the ground then push back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.

Muscles worked: Chest, triceps and shoulders.


Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head with elbows pointing outwards to support your neck. Keep your neck in a straight line with your spine. Flex your waist and contract your stomach muscles to raise the upper part of your torso from the floor (exhale). Lower yourself until the back of your shoulders touch the floor (inhale). Repeat 15 times for one set. Build up to three sets of 15 crunches (with a 15-second rest between sets).

Muscles worked: Abdominals.

Got five?

If you’re super-busy and can only find time to exercise in five-minute bursts, then it’s better than nothing at all. The key is to not make excuses for why you don’t have time to exercise. Come up with interesting ways to squeeze it in. A few minutes here and there adds up. Here are a few examples:

At home

  • Sit-ups or lunges during TV commercials.
  • Heel-raises while you’re cleaning your teeth.

In the office

  • Marching in place or lunges while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  • Walk up or down the stairs to use the toilets on another floor.


The AdminJanuary 26, 2017


Working shifts can be demanding on the body and mind. One thing which is often compromised is healthy eating — it can be just too hard! HFG nutritionist Claire Turnbull and sleep specialist Dr Alex Bartle have tips on how to cope when you’re working odd hours.

What does shift work do to our bodies?

Whether you work in health care, transportation, emergency services, hospitality or manufacturing, if you’re a shift worker you’ll know that it is tough on your body and mind.

Working irregular hours can undoubtedly have a negative impact on the way you eat, sleep and exercise. From a health and wellness perspective, fatigue and tiredness are big issues for shift workers. Fatigue and tiredness can lead to safety issues in the workplace, making mistakes at work and can have an impact on your home life, too.

There’s also a raft of health issues which can stem from being tired and run down, including lowered immunity, depression and anxiety.

Gastrointestinal (gut) disorders and digestion issues are other common complaints of those who work shifts. The human body naturally has what is called a circadian rhythm; this is a 24-hour cycle which regulates sleeping, waking, digestion, hormones, body temperatures, blood pressure and many other important body functions. When you work shifts, this rhythm is disturbed and issues with digestion such as indigestion, heartburn or stomach pains can result.

Shift workers may have an increased risk of heart disease, some cancers and having accidents as a result of reduced alertness and tiredness.

How shift work can sabotage healthy eating

Working shifts can mean that your eating patterns are irregular. It can be hard to establish a good eating routine when your hours are all over the place.

Sleep disruption and tiredness can also have an impact on the production of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which can affect your appetite and sometimes make you feel hungrier. What’s more, it has been shown that fatigue reduces your motivation to exercise. These factors, combined with limited access to healthy food, can be a recipe for disaster.

Make an eating plan

Regardless of your pattern, the best thing you can possibly do is to make time each week to look at how to organise your food around your shifts. Use this to help plan your meals and shopping list. If you work irregular shifts this will be even more important as without a plan, you may end up missing meals and snacks or grabbing unhealthy food on the go.

What to eat when

Think about what meals and snacks your body needs in a 24-hour period. Then you can figure out what you’ll need to take to work, and how to eat in the order that works best for you and your shifts.

In a 24-hour period, your body needs:

  • ONE breakfast-style meal such as porridge, cereal or eggs or beans with wholegrain toast.
  • ONE light meal, including some veges, healthy carbohydrate and lean protein, such as a wholegrain bread sandwich with lean meat, fish or egg and salad.
  • ONE main meal such as grilled fish or chicken with roasted kumara and salad.
  • ONE OR TWO small snacks such as fruit and low-fat yoghurt or a banana and glass of low-fat milk.

You can choose the order to eat these in. If you are working night shifts you may find it helpful to have your main, most substantial meal of the day before you go to work. Throughout the night it can be helpful to have light meals and snacks which have a combination of slowly absorbed (low GI) carbohydrate-rich foods and protein. These will help supply your body the fuel it needs throughout the night without overloading your digestive system. Avoiding foods high in sugar and fat through the night is advisable too, as they can also upset your gut.

When you have finished your night shift, a small, light snack can be helpful before you go to sleep so you don’t wake up halfway through your daytime sleep because you are hungry.

Shift work, food and sleep

Going to bed on a full stomach is not a great idea, as your digestive system slows down when you are sleeping, which can interfere with the quality of your sleep and increase the likelihood of constipation. Try having your normal evening meal a little earlier or if you do need to eat closer to your bedtime, keep to a lighter, smaller meal.

Stimulants such as caffeine also have an impact on your sleep. Caffeine takes a long time to break down and be cleared from your body. If you have a cup of coffee at 8am, roughly six hours later around 25 per cent of the caffeine will still be in your system.

So what does this mean for shift workers? If you do choose to have caffeinated drinks, try to have them earlier on in your shift. This is likely to have the desired effect of increasing your concentration and alertness, while also allowing the caffeine to start clearing from your system while you work. If you have too much caffeine too close to your bedtime, even though you may fall asleep, the quality of your sleep will be affected and you may not feel properly rested. If you work night shifts, the quality of your sleep maybe already be compromised because you have to sleep during the day.



Great sleep tips for shift workers

  • Sleep as soon as possible after you have finished your shift.
  • If you have worked a night shift, avoid exposing your eyes to the morning light on the way home — you can wear sunglasses.
  • Try to have one block of sleep only after working a long shift. If you do need an extra nap later in the day, keep it to around 20 minutes.
  • Use black-out curtaining, eye shades and ear plugs to reduce the likelihood of any disturbance when you are sleeping.
  • Disconnect your landline or change the settings so that you don’t hear it ring. Turn your mobile to silent.
  • If possible, avoid overdoing caffeinated drinks at work.
  • You may find you need sedatives or sleeping tablets to help you sleep. This is best discussed with your GP.
  • Talk to your family or the people you live with about your need for sleep and explain how your sleep patterns will work so they can support you.
  • After you have finished a shift and had a sleep, try to spend some time outside and expose your skin and eyes to sunlight. Exposing your skin to light is important to help your body to make vitamin D and exposing your eyes to light helps regulate the hormones serotonin and melatonin which have an impact on your mood and how well you sleep.


The AdminJanuary 9, 2017


Eat Right

Research continues to show that eating certain foods can cause headaches and migraines. Foods that cause headaches including cheese, coffee, chocolate, and teas that have vasoactive amines. Amines cause headaches by affecting the flow of blood around and inside your brain. If you find you have a lot of headaches then keep a diary of the foods you eat and pay special attention to the foods that seem to cause headaches. Avoid the foods in the future and see if it makes a difference.

Manage Stress Levels

A great way to reduce stress levels is to plan your days in advance and organise them. You should also set aside time to relax. Don’t be afraid to step back from a stressful situation and stay out of it.

It also helps to go hot or cold. Apply either heat or ice to a sore muscle to help relieve a tension headache. A heating pad set to low, a hot water bottle, a warm compress or just a hot towel, bath, or shower, are great options for going with heat. If you’re going for cold then use an ice warp or pack or even just frozen vegetables wrapped in cloth to keep your skin safe.

The following home remedies have been shown to be effective at treating headhaches:

Get Rid Of Headache - Naturally_DailyHealthyFoodTips



  • Ginger

Ginger is great for reducing inflammation of blood vessels in your head. This can provide headache relief. Mix equal parts ginger and lemon juice and drink it once or twice a day.

You can also make a paste by combining one teaspoon of dry ginger powder (sonth) with two tablespoons of water. Apply it to your forehead for a few minutes for relief.

Finally you can also boil ginger powder or raw ginger in water and inhale the vapor or chew on some ginger candy.


  • Mint Juice

Menthol and menthone are the main components of mint and both are great for alleviating headaches.

Extract the mint juice from some mint leaves and apply it straight to your forehead and temples to relieve a headache.

You can also put some mint tea compresses on to your forehead to help relieve discomfort. Coriander juice has also been shown to be effective at treating headaches.


  • Peppermint Oil

Peppermint is a great source of menthol that can open up your blood vessels and relieve a headache. It also helps keep you calm and soothes you.

Mix together three drops of peppermint essential oil in a tablespoon of almond oil or olive oil (or just water) and use the mixture to massage your forehead and temples. Or you could just apply crushed fresh peppermint directly to your forehead.

You could also use peppermint essential oil to create a steam treatment by mixing it with a pot of boiling water. Inhale the steam for a few minutes for headache relief.


  • Basil

Basil works to relax your muscles which makes it an effective treatment for tension headaches caused by tense muscles. It also works to keep you calm and has analgesic effects.

Get started by putting three or four fresh basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes and then sip the brew. Add honey for taste.

You could also boil a tablespoon of basil leaves or add a few drops of basil oil to boiling water and inhale the steam.

Finally you can chew basil leaves or massage your forehead with a combination of basil oil and a base oil.

The AdminJanuary 9, 2017


If you’re suffering from insomnia then there are some things you can do to get your life back on track and sleeping properly again. Here are some great tips for beating insomnia.

10 Tips to Beat Insomnia_dailyhealthyfoodtips

1.Wake Up at The Same Time Each and Every Day

While you might be tempted to sleep in one weekends, especially if you have a bad sleep cycle during the week, it can send your body out of whack. If you have sleeping problems like insomnia then waking up at the same time trains your body to wake up at the same time every time.

2. Get Rid of Alcohol and Other Stimulants

Caffeine lass a lot longer than most people realise and it can take up to 24 hours to completely eliminate it from the body. This means it has a bigger effect on sleep than you realise. It can make it difficult for you to get to sleep and then stay asleep. While alcohol might sedate you for a few hours it ultimately leaves you with sleeping problems.

3. Stop Napping

While napping definitely seems like a good way to catch up on your sleep this isn’t the case. Maintaining a proper sleeping schedule means making your body associate sleep with certain cues such as darkness and having a set bedtime. A nap might sound like a good idea but it heavily disrupts your ability to sleep at night.

4. Regular Exercise

Getting regular exercise can improve the length and quality of your sleep. You should avoid exercising before bedtime though as exercise stimulates the body and makes it difficult to sleep. You shouldn’t exercise for three hours leading up to bedtime.

5. The Bed is For Sleeping (And Sex)

You should only ever use your bed for sleeping and sex. If you’ve got sleeping problems then don’t do work or study from your bed. Avoid doing it in the bedroom entirely if you can. Also avoid watching TV and listening to the radio in bed. All of this sends your body out of whack.

6. No Eating and Drinking Before Bedtime

Having a late dinner or a late night snack stimulates your digestive system and keeps you awake. If you’ve got gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or heartburn then you should definitely avoid eating and drinking before bed because it just makes things even worse. Drinking too much before bedtime can also overstimulate your bladder and leave you waking up through the night to visit the bathroom.

7. Get Comfy

You should control the temperature, lighting and noise levels in your bedroom to make it the perfect environment for sleeping. You should have a comfortable bed and, if you sleep with a pet, consider getting the pet to sleep somewhere else if they make a lot of noise.

8. Let go of Your Worries

If you’re stuck in bed worrying about what’s coming up then put some time aside during your day, such as after dinner, to come to terms with the day and plan tomorrow in advance. You should also consider making a list of work-related tasks before leaving your work. So that way you’ve got one less thing to stress about.

9. Let go of Stress

There are many different ways to relax and reduce your stress levels so you can relax your mind and body enough to embrace sleep. You should consider things like muscle relaxation, deep breathing, imagery, meditation and biofeedback for example.

10. Consider Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is great for people with insomnia. It helps them identify and correct the thoughts and beliefs that are leaving them with insomnia. It can also give you the right information you need about how to sleep properly, any age-related sleeping changes you need to make, and help you set reasonable goals for sleep among other things.

The AdminJanuary 9, 2017


Oxidation is when our bodies process oxygen and our cells use it to create energy. It’s a process that results in the production of free radicals. These cells interact with other cells and can damage them. There is no harm in a low level of free radicals as they also stimulate repair. Problems arise when you have too many. The following are signs of oxidative stress and how you can stop it.

Signs of Oxidative Stress and how You Can Stop It_dailyhealthyfoodtips

Signs of Oxidative Stress

There are seven main signs of oxidative stress that you should look out for. The problem is that many of them feel like natural things that you might not pay much attention to anyway. They are still problems however and, if they are related to oxidation, they can even be mitigated or removed through proper care. The seven signs of oxidation are:

  • Fatigue
  • Cloudy brain or actual memory loss
  • Pain in the joints and muscles
  • Wrinkles and grey hair
  • Weakened eyesight
  • Headaches and sensitivity to noise
  • A compromised immune system/susceptibility to infections

How You can Stop It

There are a few things you can do to reduce oxidative stress. Generally they boil down to one of two things; reducing your exposure to oxidation and using antioxidants to remove it. One of the simplest ways to reduce oxidative stress is to avoid sugar and keeping your blood sugar balanced. Oxidation occurs when the body processes sugar so it only makes sense that avoiding sugar and processed foods can help reduce oxidation levels.

Another great way to reduce oxidative stress is to just reduce stress in general. It sounds simple but taking some time out of your day to de-stress is a great way to keep your body happy and healthy. Find time in your day to do a little exercise, meditate, have fun and spend time with your friends and family.

When it comes to antioxidants one of the most powerful ones is called glutathione. The body produces this using three amino acids – glycine, glutamate and cysteine. The reason that it’s so effective is because it contains sulfur. There are foods you can eat to increase your natural levels of glutathione including peaches, walnuts, spinach and tomatoes.

You can supplement your body’s natural antioxidant levels by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants themselves. There are a lot of foods that are great for you. The list of foods that are rich in antioxidants includes beetroot, kale, berries (with blueberries being the most effective), tomatoes, nuts, and green tea. Some herbs such as cinnamon and ginger are also packed with antioxidants.

There are lots of great uses to eating antioxidant foods like this. Antioxidant foods are believed to be one of the keys to weight loss. Swapping out your processed and sugary foods for antioxidant foods will cause those pounds to melt away. They also keep you healthy and, of course, reduce oxidative stress. So the next time you go to the store pick up some of these superfoods.

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