Wholicious living

Branching out: resetting our screen time addiction with nature banner
Branching out: resetting our screen time addiction with nature banner

Branching out: resetting our screen time addiction with nature

New Zealand teenagers are spending more than six hours a day in front of screens – that’s more time than some of us spend sleeping!

For many of us, screens are not only an essential part of our work, but an essential part of our lives. Often, we simply don’t have the option to put ourselves on a total screen time ban. But it is worth keeping an eye on the amount of time your screen is taking up in a day as too much screen time has been linked to anxiety, depression and reduced sleep quality.
 

Is nature the solution?

Whether it’s outdoor daily exercise, a weekly walk through the bush or along the beach, or simply spending time in the garden, research consistently shows that spending time in nature can reduce anxiety, improve mood and strengthen your relationships. Just 30 minutes a week can make a difference.

So if too much screen time increases anxiety and getting into nature reduces it, why not try a direct swap? Find some time – whether it’s an hour a day or an hour a week – to put your phone down and get outside.
 

Swapping screens for nature: tips to inspire you

Start small: Is your phone the first thing you reach for when you wake up? Before you go to bed, pop it in a drawer or leave it charging in the kitchen. When you wake up, head outside for those first 10 minutes you’d normally spend mindlessly scrolling and spend that time doing some outside stretching, meditating, or just appreciating the new day. Then you can grab your phone!

Meet you for a walk: Consider inviting your colleagues to take part in the swap, and invite them on a ‘walking meeting’. This gets everyone up and out of the office, with the added benefit of getting you moving and using nature to inspire fresh thinking.

Bring nature inside: We can’t be outside all the time, so why not bring a bit of nature inside? Plants on your desk at work and throughout your home will not only give you a sense of nature and improve the air quality, they also look great.

Screentime addict? There’s an app for that. Here are some of our favourite apps that can help you unplug and recharge:
 
  • Moment (iOS) – track how much you and your family use your phone and tablet each day, with the option to set daily limits.
  • Headspace (Android and iOS): Turn your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and switch on a guided meditation with one of the most soothing voices online.
  • AppDetox (Android): If apps are your vice, AppDetox can help you put down the Candy Crush and pick up your running shoes. Set your own parameters and be reminded when you need to put down your phone.
Small diet choices change lifetime habits banner
Small diet choices change lifetime habits banner

Small diet choices change lifetime habits

When we think of weight gain, a few different things most commonly come to mind. For many, it's the obvious physical changes such as whether your clothes still fit or that you're finding it harder to do day-to-day activities.

Thinking long-term, you might consider the increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes that comes from being overweight or obese. But we often overlook the risk of cancer.

British scientists have recently looked at data from 300,000 Americans, monitored for more than 15 years. They found that both men and women whose body mass index rose from a healthy level to an overweight or obese level over those years had a significantly increased risk of various cancers, including breast and bowel, compared to those who remained at a healthy weight.

This kind of finding is not surprising: there's a lot of research linking excess body weight to an increased risk of cancer. It doesn't show that simply being overweight causes cancer - it may well be that certain lifestyle choices that lead to a gradual 15-year weight gain are the cause. What it does indicate though is that, for most of us, losing and gaining health is a gradual process.

While the "six-week body transformations" and "five-day juice fasts" make for great headlines, they don't address the true basis of health: small, simple choices made daily add up to lifelong healthy habits.

So begin looking for simple ways you can pack more plant foods into each meal, as well as ideas to incorporate activity and adequate sleep into your daily life, to start your sustainable journey to health.

- Originally published in the Adventist Record

Mood food banner
Mood food banner

Mood food

If you have days when you feel down and blue, you’re not alone. Our fastpaced, modern lifestyle can easily zap energy levels.

A recent report, ”Changing Diets, Changing Minds”,  from the UK highlights the growing problem in the area of mind, mood, and well-being, which industrialised countries face. It reports a 20-fold increase in depression since 1945.

Apart from a breakdown in traditional social networks and relationships, financial stresses, and increased work hours, our diets have changed over the last 50 years. We eat less fresh, local produce and more refined and processed foods that hide unwanted sugars, fats, and additives. And yet, what we feed ourselves can make a world of difference to how our brain functions and how we feel.

5 ways to lift your mood

1. Have a good breakfast every day

It will refuel your brain, lift your mood, and lower stress levels. Breakfast is brain food!

2. Include foods rich in B vitamins

These include wholegrain breads and high-fibre breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and other legumes, sunflower seeds, and low-fat dairy or B12-fortified soy milk. Vitamin B12, and folate in particular, can assist with low mood and depression.

3. Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to make you happy

Although a vegetarian diet is always desirable, try salmon (if personally acceptable), linseeds, walnuts, or omega-3 enriched eggs.

The type of fats you eat can have a profound effect on your brain function since 50 percent of the brain is made up of fat! The cells that transmit signals in the brain are unusually rich in omega-3 fats, meaning this fat is really important. Yet depressed people have low levels in the body.

4. Drink plenty of water

Aim for at least 8 glasses daily. Dehydration causes fatigue and is sometimes mistaken for hunger. Adequate water is needed to keep brain cells functioning optimally.

5. Activate yourself

Walk daily to boost your self-esteem, distract yourself from negative thought processes, and help you sleep better.

If you have days when you feel down and blue, you’re not alone. Our fastpaced, modern lifestyle can easily zap energy levels.

Reprinted, with permission, from Signs of the Times. 

For information about depression:
Lifeline New Zealand
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
Depression Helpline
The Low Down

Moderation: how to celebrate and stay healthy banner
Moderation: how to celebrate and stay healthy banner

Moderation: how to celebrate and stay healthy

There’s nothing like a good celebration, bringing friends and family together to enjoy all we’re thankful for. And more often than not, we celebrate over food.

It’s enjoyable and rewarding to prepare a meal for those we care about, and we relish the sights, smells and tastes that come with it. Just a whiff of a certain spice can take us right back to childhood, and while our memory of the events themselves might become less reliable over time, we’ll never forget the taste of a delicious family meal.

Part of the reason these meals stand out in our memories is that they’re so different from our everyday food routine. We indulge ourselves with friends and family, which is fine as long as this is an exception to a generally healthy diet. It’s when these indulgent food choices become the norm that we can run into trouble. So how do we ensure we enjoy the celebrations, but keep them in proportion to a balanced lifestyle?

Moderation

We hear the dreaded word “moderation” all the time, but there are a lot of misconceptions about exactly what moderation is for healthy bodies, hearts and minds.

Most importantly, it isn’t about deprivation, it’s about balance – finding that place where we enjoy our food without allowing the choices we’ve made affect our longterm health.

However, “everything in moderation” is also not a free pass to eat anything and everything. It’s about understanding the role certain foods can play in a healthy diet and not beating ourselves up for choosing to indulge every now and again.

Let’s look at some practical tips to stick with moderation when celebrating with family and friends.

1. Save yourself for the main event

We’ve all been to a party where we’ve filled up on the delicious finger foods that come around before dinner. Then we still eat a hearty dinner … and then there’s dessert. So try to stick with the plant-based finger foods like veggie sticks and hummus, and avoid the deep-fried or pastry-heavy options. Use the time before the main meal to catch up on some conversation over a drink. Speaking of drinks …

2. Don’t drink a meal’s worth of kilojoules

Soft drinks and alcohol pack a wallop of empty kilojoules that don’t fill you up, so it’s easy to overdrink. Grab some sparkling water instead with a wedge of your favourite citrus fruit or berries crushed into the glass, or go for a low-kilojoule option you can drink all night long.

3. Plant yourself in front of the plants

If the dinner table has all the food spread out to share, try to sit by the vegetables and take a good helping of them first. Then you’ll usually find that you don’t have to try so hard to eat less of the poorer choices.

4. Enjoy your dessert

Indulging yourself at the end of a meal should be enjoyable, but you don’t have to eat a huge helping. Also, if you’ve got a choice of desserts, be sure the one you pick is the one you really want.

Think about it first. Do you want a smooth or crunchy texture? Do you feel like a hot or cold treat? Would you prefer something light and fresh or rich and creamy? That way, you’re more likely to end up satisfied, and less likely to eat your way through the dessert table until you find one that hits the spot.

5. Don't be hard on yourself

The way we look back afterwards on what we’ve eaten is just as important as thinking about it while we’re making our choices. Don’t be hard on yourself. Tomorrow is another day when it comes to food choices – you’ll have another chance at your next meal, even!

Building good eating habits, by prioritising core food groups such as vegetables, legumes, fruit and wholegrains, will help you to enjoy a healthy relationship with those tempting treats.

 

Can chocolate be healthy? banner
Can chocolate be healthy? banner

Can chocolate be healthy?

Chocolate is a food most of us enjoy, although the belief that it’s unhealthy can take the edge off its delicious taste. But don’t let guilt spoil your pleasure, because good-quality dark chocolate actually has many health benefits.

Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, is an even richer source of antioxidants than healthy foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. Antioxidant compounds protect us against the damaging free radicals generated by refined sugars and over-cooked foods. Antioxidants also slow the digestion of sugars, giving dark chocolate a low glycemic index (GI).

The cocoa in chocolate is also an excellent source of important minerals such as iron, magnesium and chromium. In fact, cocoa is one of the best vegetarian sources of iron and can help maintain healthy levels in our blood. The magnesium in cocoa helps our body produce dopamine, which enables us to better cope with stress. And chromium is an important trace element that helps protect against the onset of diabetes.

Recently scientists have discovered that compounds in cocoa “switch off” genes in our DNA that encode for fat synthesis and fat transport. This means that cocoa partly blocks the mechanism for storing excess calories as fat.

But what about the fat in chocolate – isn’t it saturated? Actually, one third of it is similar to that in olive oil; another third is a saturated fat that our body converts to an olive oil-like fat; and the last third is a saturated fat that helps strengthen our cell membranes. A number of studies have shown that the fat in dark chocolate does not increase cholesterol levels, as other saturated fats do.

So the health message is – choose dark chocolate, and enjoy in moderation!

Treat yourself the healthy way for Mothers Day banner
Treat yourself the healthy way for Mothers Day banner

Treat yourself the healthy way for Mothers Day

On Mother’s Day, mums across New Zealand will be feeling the love in the shape of cards, flowers and special treats. That’s great, but how much love are we mums showing ourselves?

What about you?

In the rush to get the kids out of the door, who among us can truly say she's never skipped breakfast, grabbed a coffee to stay alert, eaten a snatched lunch or just ignored her body’s hungry signals? Then the lolly jar gets raided mid-afternoon, and we overeat in the evening to compensate.

How a busy mum can eat well throughout the day

Mornings

A great way to avoid this scenario is to eat smaller, evenly spaced meals throughout the day. This will give your body enough slow-release fuel to keep you going, and help keep those hunger pains at bay.

It doesn’t mean rearranging your meal routine. You could start the day with some wholemeal toast spread with avocado instead of butter, or a bowl of wholegrain cereal. If you’re tempted mid-morning by mouth-watering muffins, pick an alternative like wholegrain rice cakes with reduced-fat cheese or hummus, or a mix of natural popcorn, nuts and dried fruit. Or a piece of fresh fruit - it's one of the most convenient snacks you can have!

Afternoons

At lunchtime, go for a combination of carbohydrate and protein rich foods like this cheese and pecan wrap, to help thwart that mid-afternoon energy slump. Carbohydrates give you glucose for energy, and protein helps keep your mind alert. So shun the post-lunch lollies and try pairing an apple with nut butter, low-fat yoghurt with a swirl of honey, or chopped grapes with a little dark chocolate. That way, you’re less likely to want a supersized evening meal.

So when your kids spoil you on Mother’s Day, it’ll be an even happier and healthier mum they’re showering with love!

 
 
 
7 day men's health menu plan banner
7 day men's health menu plan banner

7 day men's health menu plan

Too many of the men in our lives are overweight, tired, stressed, and just not getting the best out of life. Here are some ideas for nutritious meals to help keep them healthy. Make them yourself, encourage him to make them, or make them together!

Each day of the plan includes nutritious plant proteins with at least 5 servings of vegetables and legumes/beans and at least 2 servings of fruit. The plan is best served with 8 glasses of water each day, limited alcohol and daily exercise.

Download a pdf copy to print for your fridge!

Monday

 

Breakfast

Dan Churchill’s super start smoothie

Morning snack

2 slices of mixed grain fruit bread
1 piece of fruit

Lunch

Wholemeal falafel salad wrap:
Fill wholemeal wrap bread with baby spinach, falafel, capsicum, grated carrot, cottage cheese and avocado

Afternoon snack

1 nut muesli bar
Carrot sticks dipped in hummus or cottage cheese

Dinner

Vegetarian pad thai

Tuesday

 

Breakfast

1 cup cooked porridge, make with reduced fat milk or milk alternative
1 apple, sliced
150g plain unsweetened yoghurt
1 small handful of seeds/nuts of choice

Morning snack

4-6 wholegrain crackers.
Topping option: hummus, low-fat feta cheese, rocket and cucumber

Lunch

Leftover Vegetarian pad thai

Afternoon snack

Banana smoothie:
1 banana, 1 cup soy milk, 2 tsp honey, 1 tsp vanilla essence

Dinner

Zucchini and corn frittata  
Serve with steamed vegetables - try peas, beans, carrots and broccoli

Wednesday

 

Breakfast

2-3 Weet-Bix wheat biscuits
1 cup reduced fat milk or milk alternative
½ cup canned fruit (in juice)
1 small handful of seeds/nuts of choice

Morning snack

Toasted cheese and mushroom sandwich:
2 slices wholegrain bread, add baby spinach, mushroom and cheese, and toast

Lunch

Greek salad:
Combine mixed lettuce, cucumber, red onion, olives, low fat feta cheese and four-bean mix. Serve with a toasted wholemeal pita bread

Afternoon snack

1 piece of fresh fruit
2 rice cakes
Topping option: avocado, baby spinach and capsicum

Dinner

Creamy garlic and leek risotto

Thursday

 
Breakfast

½ cup natural muesli
½ cup reduced fat milk or milk alternative
½ cup stewed fruit
150g plain unsweetened yoghurt

Morning snack

Celery sticks dipped in hummus or cottage cheese

Lunch

Wholegrain sweet chilli sandwich:
2 slices wholegrain bread, fill with rocket, cucumber, mung beans, tomato, cottage cheese and sweet chilli sauce

Afternoon snack

Peanut Butter and banana wholegrain bread sandwich

Dinner

Rocket and macadamia pesto pasta 
Serve with roasted vegetables like sweet potato (kumara), capsicum and red onion

Friday

 

Breakfast

Weet-Bix and peanut butter power combo

Morning snack

Berry oat smoothie:
250g mixed frozen berries, 1 banana, 2 ½ cups almond coconut milk, ¼ cup rolled oats, 1 tbs linseed meal

Lunch

Salad, lentil and hummus pita pocket:
wholemeal pita bread filled with baby spinach, canned lentils (drained), grated carrot, cucumber, red onion, semi-dried tomato and hummus

Afternoon snack

Hawaiian pizza muffins

Dinner

Chickpea pilaf with spinach

Saturday

 

Breakfast

2 slices of wholegrain toast
½ cup baked beans
1 poached egg
½ cup spinach leaves
½ fresh tomato, sliced

Morning snack

Fruit and nut loaf
1 piece of fresh fruit

Lunch

Roast vegetable salad:
baby spinach leaves, baked kumara (sliced), baked pumpkin (sliced), baked beetroot (sliced), low fat feta cheese and walnuts

Afternoon snack

½ cup frozen fruit
150g plain unsweetened yoghurt

Dinner

Roast tomato soup, serve with wholegrain bread/bun

Sunday

 

Breakfast

2 wholemeal English muffins
1 poached egg
½ cup sauteed mushrooms
½ cup spinach leaves
½ fresh tomato, sliced

Morning snack

Date bran muffin
1 piece of fresh fruit

Lunch

Leftover Roast tomato soup served with wholegrain bread/bun

Afternoon snack

Apple almond crumble
serve with plain unsweetened yoghurt

Dinner Homemade Burger [serve on a toasted wholegrain bun with Lentil patties, lettuce, red onion, semi-dried tomato, beetroot, low-fat feta cheese and fruit chutney]
10 eating habits to ditch or keep banner
10 eating habits to ditch or keep banner

10 eating habits to ditch or keep

When it comes to healthy eating, we’re a big fan of getting the most bang for your buck. While we can agonise over every little thing we put in our mouths every day, the truth is that some behaviours have a much bigger effect on our health than others.

A great example of this is recent research out of the US which looked at over 700,000 subjects who died as a result of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. They found almost half of these deaths could be attributed to just 10 eating habits.

10 eating habits

These top 10 eating habits fell into one of two categories.

They were eating too much:

  • Salt – 9.5% of deaths

  • Processed meats – 8.2% of deaths

  • Sugary drinks – 7.4% of deaths

  • Unprocessed red meats – 0.4% of deaths

or too little:

  • Nuts and seeds – 8.5% of deaths

  • Omega-3 fats – 7.8% of deaths

  • Vegetables – 7.6% of deaths

  • Fruit – 7.5% of deaths

  • Wholegrains – 5.9% of deaths

  • Polyunsaturated fats – 2.3% of deaths.

How to get the most bang for your buck to protect your heart

The simplest way is to choose to fill your diet with minimally processed plant foods. By doing this you’ll find yourself eating plenty of the foods many of us eat too little of and eating less of those that harm our health, but feature too prominently in modern diets. Big benefits don’t have to come from complicated changes so start prioritising those plant foods today!

3 ways to get nuts and seeds in your daily diet

Nuts are often mentioned as being high in fat, but did you know they’re also a source of fibre, protein and vitamin E, as well as other vital nutrients? And while high in fat, it’s the heart healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that they’re rich in.

1. The 3pm hunger buster

A good goal to aim for is 30g of nuts at least 5 days a week. 30g is roughly a small handful, so why not grab that small handful when your stomach’s growling mid-afternoon.

2. Power up that smoothie

Did you know that chia seeds form a gel like texture mixed with water? Try a tablespoon in your next smoothie to add a satisfying texture, a shot of healthy fibre and plant based omega-3 fats.

3. Make your own nut butter

Natural nut butters are simply ground up nuts without anything else added. Try making your own by grinding your favourite nuts to a paste in a food processor and spreading on a tasty wholegrain bread.

Challenge

Eat less of ...

  • Remove at least one "serve" of these this week.

  • Remove at least one "serve" of these next week.

  • Keep doing this for 1 month.

Eat more of...

  • Add at least one "serve" of these this week.

  • Add at least one "serve" of these next week.

  • Keep doing this for 1 month.

Reflection

  • How many Eat less of "serves" have I removed this month? How do I feel?

  • How many Eat more of "serves" have I added this month? How do I feel?

Try doing this for 1 more month, so it becomes a good habit, then increase/decrease each month until the end of the year. 

It's a great challenge to review when you welcome in the new year in 2018!

First published in The Record