Thursday, September 8, 2011


Bacon mug filled with melted cheese. I'm simultaneously repulsed by it and insanely jealous of whoever got to eat this.

I apologise in advance for the fact that this post is probably going to be a bit of a ramble. I've been writing it in my head for weeks and there are a lot of things I want to say on this topic, so I may try to break it down into separate posts... I don't know, we'll see where this goes.

Recently I've been healthifying (and okay yes, more on that in another post - too long a story), and part of that was going to see a nutritionist. I do actually have a fairly good grasp of nutrition, because it's a topic that has always interested me in the abstract, as I sat munching on my cheezels and drinking my bucket-o-red-wine. I'm also a pretty good cook and more inclined to make something from scratch than use processed food. However, after my health suffered a set back my major issue was cutting down on salt, and I found myself struggling with finding interesting things to eat that weren't full of sodium. Because let me tell you, almost everything is full of sodium!

The daily recommendation generally is 2300mg, about a teaspoon of salt. I read somewhere that most Australians consume 8 times that amount. EIGHT TIMES. I don't know if that's true, but I can very easily see how it would be. I was trying to stick to around 1500mg, and man, it was hard.

The nutritionist was very good at fine-tuning what I was eating, which wasn't bad in itself, but I didn't have enough variety. She gave me some ideas and also what foods I should particularly try to eat in order to get the nutrients I needed (magnesium, potassium, and so on). I've found her really helpful in giving me some guidance and pointing me in the right direction. So a typical day's food for me is something like this:

Breakfast: porridge, skim milk, a banana or handful of berries, a tablespoon of chia seeds, or 2 slices of very grainy, dense bread (I like Burgen) with a poached egg and a mixture of cooked mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach.

Mid-morning: Jalna low fat vanilla yoghurt with berries or banana, sometimes a couple of spoonfuls of Carman's Bircher muesli

Lunch: salad of spinach, rocket, capsicum, cucumber, and whatever else I have (carrot, asparagus, mushrooms), with about 80g cooked chicken breast or a hard boiled egg or a small can of light tuna in springwater, and 2 slices of Burgen bread with Philly extra light or light ricotta.

Mid-afternoon: vegetable sticks with hommus, or fruit, or 4 9 Grain Vita-Weats (the small ones) with light ricotta or avocado.

Dinner: 150g fish or chicken or 100g lean beef with 1/2 cup Basmati rice and at least three different coloured vegetables - ie: sweet potato, cauliflower, asparagus.

Evening: 200ml skim milk with 2 spoons Milo (got to keep the calcium up).

I'm finding I am eating tons more food than I was before, I'm rarely hungry and I rarely go over 1500 calories a day or 1500mg sodium. The plan is based on some simple 'rules':
  • low-GI 
  • at each meal, have some protein, some starch/complex carb, and some vegetables
  • try to eat raw vegetables at least once a day
  • the plate should be half vegetable, 1/4 starch and 1/4 protein
  • do 30-60 minutes a day of some kind of exercise
That's pretty much it.  In less than 3 months I have lost 13kg (quite a way to go - there is a lot of extra me floating about), and I feel a lot better. Noodle Arms does too - she has more energy and sleeps better, and her periods are less painful (TMI!).

I have a real beef (see what I did there) about 'fake' food, which is why I can never seem to get into anything like Weight Watchers. I'm not averse to the occasional jar of spaghetti sauce or a Lean Cuisine, but on the whole, I try not to go too crazy with processed food. Which is probably why despite being a chunker, my heart is in good condition and my cholesterol is excellent.

So if you're serious about getting healthy and/or losing weight, don't make it hard. Here are my tips:
  1. Follow those points above, they really work!
  2. Walk as much as possible. I don't drive so I walk everywhere, another reason my heart is probably in such good condition. In my experience, people who drive have a really skewed idea of what "walking distance" is - it's a lot further than you think. 
  3.  If you really crave something, don't deny yourself - you'll eat 10 healthy things that will probably add up to be more calories/fat/sodium/whatever than if you'd just had a small version of whatever you really wanted in the first place, and you know you'll still end up eating that as well.
  4. Go to the library or a book shop or get online and read up on what your nutritional needs are - you will feel SO much better if you're getting the right amount of whatever minerals and vitamins you require, and they work much better if you get them from food rather than supplements.
  5. Water, water, water - if you drink soft drink STOP RIGHT NOW. It's disgusting stuff, has no nutritional value whatsoever and can only do you harm. Think of it as poison - it might as well be. I have maybe 3 Cokes a year (usually if I'm really hungover), and even then a small glass will do me and I give away or throw out the rest of the 600ml bottle.
  6. Be organised - carry little ziplock bags of healthy snacks so you're not caught short and hoovering up the charity chocolates in the office at 3pm (don't cry, we've all been there), make your lunch the night before and buy yourself one of those snazzy lunchboxes that has compartments or a little separate bit to keep your salad dressing in so you don't end up with soggy salad at 1pm.
  7. Read Sarah's excellent post on this topic - full of wisdom and commonsense.
Now none of this is new or groundbreaking. I just wanted to talk about what I've been doing and how it's helping me. I'm also going to talk about weight issues generally (a minefield of a topic, must tread carefully), and the ethics of food manufacture in upcoming posts, so if you have any interest in those things, stay tuned!

And if you have any healthy tips, please feel free to share!


  1. I am liking the fact that there's lots of bloggers doing sensible health posts right now. That food breakdown was the only food breakdown I think I've read and thought "ooer, yum" ever. It has cheese! and chicken! and milo!

    And apparently I need to get chia seeds. I wonder how I can adapt this to fit me - I need MORE salt because I have mighty low blood pressure :(

  2. Ooh, I wouldn't have thought anyone would have trouble getting more salt - I can't believe how much is in stuff!

    I am a salt fiend and I thought I'd really miss it, but it hasn't been that bad - I got used to it pretty quickly. The only thing I have had where I thought, 'Nope, without the salt this just isn't cutting it' was boiled eggs with soldiers. Won't be having those again for a while, I guess.

    Chia seeds lower blood pressure, they may not be safe for you.

  3. This is brilliant - thanks for writing it Dee. LOVE your meal ideas. I eat chia seeds every day too (with my salad)! It's true what you say about not being hungry. It's amazing how lots of the *right* kinds of food can really fill you up! I don't think my sodium intake is too bad, but I'm going to try and work out exactly how much I consume after reading this post :)

  4. I'm trying really hard to stop coke altogether, I'm a bit horrified to realise I used to drink a small can/day, sometimes more. Indian food is pretty healthy otherwise - lentils for proteins, rice for carbs and lots of veggies and yoghurt :)

  5. Great post! Have you swapped to losalt as a total salt replacement for when you have the craving to add it? I notice when I eat salty meals - I bloat up something bad thanks to fluid retention :(

  6. Great post! I've been trying to eat healthy as well. Been watching exactly what I consume and trying to get at least 30 minutes of intense exercise in everyday now. Weight is steadily dropping off. Not fast, but that's alright.

  7. Thankyou for this post Dee. I am at a stage where i need to work on my eating habits. I have noticed a lot of bloggers becoming really health focused lately which is great motivation for all of us. I like your idea of having snap lock bags with snacks for work. We have a charity chocolate box at work and i have one chocolate from that every day- because i don't prepare for work by taking snacks.
    Thanks for listing typical foods you will eat- it has given me great examples of things to try.

  8. Ki: Oh lord I would totally live on Indian.

    I'm also an advocate of Snakata rice snacks in minibags. They're awesome!

  9. Thanks, Sarah - I was really inspired to finally get around to writing this after reading your post. I keep track of my sodium on - it's free to join and you can adjust your preferences in the food diary so it counts whatever you want - calories, protein, sodium, fat, calcium, etc. It's not super exact with some of the food, but it's a good way to guage what you're consuming.

    Ki, I've never been much of a soft drink drinker (!) and I'm glad it's a habit I never picked up because it seems to be a major problem for a lot of people, and they really struggle with the sugar and caffeine withdrawals when they stop! I love Indian food, I could live on it. :-)

    Melbournite, I just threw out my salt shaker entirely and got my taste buds adjusted to life without it. I do have a salt-free garlic and herb seasoning I use on chicken, and I'm free and easy with the pepper on most things, as I usually have to have *something* sprinkled on my food.

    Celeste, good for you - slow and steady is the way to go. That's weight that's much more likely to stay off. :-)

    Tara, I think it's great so many bloggers are getting into health (as opposed to 'dieting') - I think we're all becoming more aware of what we put into our bodies and how we treat them. It must get hard having proper meals and the like when you're doing shifts too - I'm a creature of routine and I would really struggle with that!

  10. Thanks for the inspirational post :) I need to start my healthifying too. Though I'm a vegetarian (no bacon, haha), eat yoghurt everyday and walk everywhere, I'm still struggling with healthy eating because of snacking. Yes, chips, cheese, dips and the like :( I'll have to start an exercise regimen too.

    I think that bacon mug with cheese must compulsorily come with a straw, so that it can be used for an emergency mid-drink angioplasty!

  11. Su, I'm a terrible snacker. I do miss those delicious salt-laden crunchy treats!

  12. Excellent post Dee, very inspiring :) I'm trying hard to eat healthy and mindfully instead of just grazing all day on toast, I need to eat more variety especially vegies.

  13. oh my god, I totally agree about that bacon cup - disgusting... but tempting.