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Healthy eating – 10 training tips for parents {part 1}

Posted on : 20-06-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Kids nutrition, Super-healthy...er...stuff


‘Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it’

As a young teenager I was in the local running club. Every Saturday it was between me and my best friend who would win the women’s race. A couple of times during the week we would go down to the club and Noel, a great runner himself, would spend hours training us to run faster. Looking back, I feel humbled by his dedication. We didn’t pay him and I don’t even remember saying thank-you.


Tonight I am watching the All Blacks, who are NZ’s fabulous national rugby team (as of this moment ranked No. 1 in the world by the IRB), play France. They know all about training – it’s hard work and it takes time. Let’s hope they trained extra hard this week!

So what’s running and rugby got to do with healthy eating? As parents, we need to train our kids to make healthy food choices. Training is more than telling. If the All Blacks coach just told the team what to do then headed home, how well do you think they would do? If we just tell our kids to eat more fruit and vegetables, is that enough? Training takes time, effort and often thankless dedication.

Follow these 10 healthy eating training tips to set your children up for life:

1. Be Adventurous

One of the best gifts you can give your kids is to train their taste-buds to enjoy many different flavours, not just sugar, fat and salt. Children may have to try a new food up to ten times before they start to enjoy it. So don’t give up too soon. Tell your children that when they try a new food, even one bite, it’s a sign that they are growing up. And praise them lots.

Tasting samples at the deli or supermarket is a fun food adventure. I once left my 4 year old with his grandmother at a deli sampling table of various oils, marinades and sauces. A few minutes later I returned to find my son excitedly dipping the last of the bread into onion jam and thyme infused olive oil! They had tried almost every sample and eaten all the bread. That deli doesn’t do samples now!

Let your child choose a new food at the supermarket. Serve it with foods they love and they may love it too.

2. Eat five or more colours a day

All the wonderful colours in fruit and vegetables come from natural plant chemicals that have super-health effects on our body. Different colours have different effects so it’s good to eat lots of different colours each day. If the only colour your children like is red tomato sauce, then this may be where to focus your training.

Get your kids to list their favourite fruit and vegetables and class them into colours. Chose which colours they want to eat at each meal through the day, and give them coloured stickers to match.

If you have fruit trees, a vegetable garden or even a few herbs, involve your children or grandchildren in planting, watering, weeding and most importantly, eating. A child may leave the peas and carrots on the plate and tell you they hate tomatoes but chances are they will at least take a little bite if they have pulled the carrot from the ground, prized the peas from their pod or popped a ‘moon squirter’ (baby tomato) in their mouth. Food tastes so much better with a fun name or if you have just plucked it from a tree, vine or bush.

3. Drink Water

Buy your children a cool water bottle or two and encourage them to take them whenever they go out. Give them only water with their meals. Keep juice and other sweet drinks as ‘sometimes’ food, not ‘everyday’ food. Juice has valuable nutrients and gives a concentrated energy boost for active, fast growing children who can’t seem to eat enough food. But the bigger picture is that we want our children to go for water when they are thirsty, not insist on some sugar sweetened drink.

Talk to them about how their body needs plenty of water for sport and their brain needs plenty of water to concentrate. Put a sponge in some water and compare it to a dried out sponge. If our brain and body are dried out, it’s no wonder we get headaches, muscle cramps, and feel sluggish at school and on the sports field.

Part 2 of this series here

The power of “no”

Posted on : 12-05-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Die hard habits, Kids nutrition


Picture this: you’ve spent hours preparing child friendly mini-meatballs in a naturally colourful home-made tomato sauce. You’ve served it imaginatively on the plate surrounded by a few green peas, beautifully carved carrot sticks, an artistic sprinkle of cheese. You place it on the table before your darling toddler. Her face screws up in disgust. “Yuk! I don’t want it. I’m not hungry”.

There are so many options for a response here: “Look, I’ve spent hours making this” (don’t expect sympathy from a three-year-old); “Well, what would you like instead?” (you’re not a restaurant) to bribery: “If you eat this, you can have some ice cream” (Bingo! This is how to get the sweet stuff!).

Toddlers soon learn if refusing a meal will get them what they really want. It really is a battle of control and we, the parents, need to win.

Put the meal in the fridge and re-heat it when your child gets hungry or at the next meal-time. If it means going to bed with no dinner one night, try to suppress those feelings of sympathy and guilt, and think about the long-term goal. No child ever faded away from missing a meal.

Love at first bite: First steps in healthy eating

Posted on : 07-05-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Kids nutrition


animal2“I don’t like carrots; I want animal biscuits!” My three year old nephew screamed as his grandmother and aunty unsuccessfully tried to feed him dinner. “You need to eat something healthy. Here, just try a tiny bit of this yummy mashed potato”. “No – I want pasta!”

For 20 minutes we struggled. Tears were falling, tempers were rising, time-out hadn’t worked. Then against every sense of healthy eating we gave in. “Hey, we’re not the parents. Our sanity is more important than meat and veges.” So we served plain pasta (no sauce allowed) artistically surrounded by coloured animal biscuits, poured ourselves some wine, and finally relaxed.

Every parent has moments like this – where giving in is easier than taking a stand. Sometimes we have to do it for our emotional health and sometimes for social reasons – to avoid World War III at the café!

But making the effort to teach our kids healthy eating habits is one of the best gifts we can give them for their long-term health.

Why do we feel guilty if they eat pasta & animal biscuits for dinner?

Instinctively we know that the food we feed our children has a huge effect on their growth, behaviour and health. Otherwise why would we bother goading them to eat vegetables, resorting desperately to sayings such as “Eat your carrots, they make you see in the dark” (based on the fact that they contain beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A of which a deficiency causes night blindness) and “What about the starving children in Africa?” (based on no logic at all – finishing your dinner unfortunately doesn’t help them). Why do we feel so guilty if they eat pasta and animal biscuits for dinner?

Here’s some of the science that supports our instinct:

Babies who are breast-fed have less risk of developing allergies
Toddlers who are deficient in iron can have impaired brain and intellectual development, which is permanent and irreversible
Children who have a lower saturated fat intake in childhood are less likely to develop insulin resistance – a key predictor for diabetes and heart disease
Babies who are underweight in their first two years of life and who then gain weight rapidly have a greater risk of insulin resistance and heart disease in adulthood
Around two out of every three obese children will become obese adults, especially children who are still obese after the age of 10.

How our food habits are formed

The food we grow up with is often the food we prefer as adults. Think about the foods you like to eat; many of these will be foods you ate as a child. My mother went through a health phase when we were kids. She decided we didn’t need salt but we did need wheat germ (a great source of vitamins B and E). So we all had wheat germ sprinkled on our salt-free porridge every morning. What started as taste bud torture soon became normal, and we all still eat porridge that way!

Food routines can also carry over into adulthood. If you grew up in a family where you all sat around the television enjoying fish and chips while watching the rugby, chances are that as an adult you will not sit down to watch the rugby with a bowl of carrot sticks.

Take these first two steps to encourage healthy eating habits in your children.

1. Eat together as a family

Eating together as a family is important. Even if your busy schedule doesn’t allow for eating together as a family every night, try to have at least one night a week where you all sit down together.

This is where children learn the social aspects of food: how to set the table, how to use cutlery, table manners, and how to chat over a meal rather than grunting a few syllables while mesmerised by the television. They see how you eat and what you eat.

It’s also gives you a chance to give children more control over what they eat: place the food on the table buffet-style and let them help themselves. They may be tempted to try the hated courgette when they see everyone else enjoying it.

2. Get kids involved

Life is a great adventure for young children and food can be part of it.

Let them pick herbs or vegetables out of the garden, if you have one.
Point out interesting fruit and vegetables in the supermarket and let them choose one to take home.
Let them help you pat out the scones or measure out ingredients for baking. Be prepared for some mess and the odd spill. Fruit smoothie on your clothes and egg shells in the cake mix is worth it if the children grow up viewing healthy food as fun.

Original article written by me (Cindy). Reprinted with permission Healthy Food Guide magazine.

24 tips to stop family and friends making you fat

Posted on : 05-05-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Die hard habits, Losing it - weight loss & obesity


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.”

Kids don’t intentionally sabotage your weight loss!

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.

The bulges we hate may be the curves he loves!

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.

24 expert tips: Turn saboteurs into supporters

Your Thoughts

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. 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.

Your Friends

3. 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!”

4. Wear jeans a size too small and mislead your friends into thinking you’ve recently put on weight.

5. Find a support person – someone to be accountable to. Changing any habit is easier with support than going it alone.

Your Family

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. Be attentive to your friends, family or partner. Don’t let them feel you’re drifting away from them and becoming a different person.

8. Compliment your mother on her cooking. Make sure the amount you eat is not the only way she has to measure your enjoyment.

9. 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!

Eating Out

10. Pack a small healthy snack such as unsalted nuts and seeds as an emergency snack during a busy day.

11. 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.

12. 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 panini’s 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.

13. If someone offers to buy you an ice cream, choose the fruity, ice-based ones rather than the triple decker chocolate-covered super cone.

14. 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.

Parties & Entertaining

15. When you get to the party, stand well away from the snack buffet and do more talking: less eating!

16. Use the five bite rule: if someone insists you try a food, take five bites – enough to enjoy it – then put it down.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. 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.

Eating In

22. At home, brush your teeth after dinner. It won’t stop you eating but it helps.

23. 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.

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.

Original article written by me (Cindy Williams). Reproduced with permission of Healthy Food Guide magazine www.healthyfood.co.nz