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The Pounamu Prophecy - birth of a book Two women, two cultures and an ancient Maori prophecy that will change their lives. That's the tag line for The Pounamu Prophecy - my first novel. It has been a slow process, interrupted by moving...


Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...


Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...


Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....


My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 1 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...


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10 Most Pervasive Food Pyramid Myths

Posted on : 17-04-2011 | By : Cindy | In : graphics


A picture tells a thousand words, so the saying goes. Over the years dietitians and nutritionists have designed a number of graphics to help explain the healthy eating message. Perhaps the most well known is the Healthy Food Pyramid.  Most versions have the ‘Eat Most’ food at the base, the “Eat Sometimes’ food in the middle and the ‘Eat Least’ food at the top.  But which foods should be in each section – that is the question.

We all agree that fruit and vegetables go in the ‘Eat Most’ area but what about bread? Because it’s in the ‘Eat Most’ section does it mean we can eat as many hot cross buns as we like this Easter? Sometimes the pyramid needs words to explain just how to interpret the pictures. Or, in the case of the USA, a complete re-design of the graphic.

Follow this link to read about the ten most pervasive food pyramid myths.

Can a healthy snack contain sugar?

Posted on : 27-02-2011 | By : Cindy | In : Kids nutrition, Super-healthy...er...stuff


My son brought a mini-assignment home last week. It was all about how much sugar is added to various foods. Then it asked the kids to say whether they thought sugar should be added to foods. After reading that a can of soft drink has nine teaspoons of added sugar, I guess their answer will be no. And yet sugar can be really helpful in getting people to eat healthy food. What’s more important to ask than ‘How much sugar’ is ‘What is it added to?’ If it’s added to some water, colour, flavour and carbonated fizz, it’s not that great. If it’s added to milk, yoghurt or rolled oats it’s helping you to eat a whole lot of extra nutrients.

Also last week I received a brochure on snacks through my dietitian connections. Funny thing – their criteria for a healthy snack didn’t mention sugar at all. Rather than vilifying sugar, they rated the nutritional value of snacks based on the following criteria: low kilojoule, low glycemic index, low saturated fat, plenty of protein, plenty of fibre and containing calcium. It’s not necessary to meet all the criteria, in fact none of the snacks listed did, but the more a snack meets the better. What’s great about using this criteria is that it’s positive – looking for the good things about a food rather than avoiding something. It gives you more control over your choices and reduces the guilt of eating something that everyone has told you is ‘bad’.

I’m not saying that eating lots of sugar is a good thing – we all eat more than we need. I just think it’s unhelpful to focus on it when there are so many other aspects of nutrition to consider. So here are some great after-school snacks that meet some or most of the healthy criteria.

Carton of reduced fat yoghurt

A 200 gram carton of most fruit yoghurt contains two or three teaspoons of added sugar. Although natural yoghurt is ideal, the added sugar encourages many more people to eat this high protein, high calcium, low GI snack.

Rice Pudding

If you have left-over cooked rice, add some reduced fat milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar. (Apologies to my lovely Indian sister-in-law who would never ruin rice by serving it as a dessert!)

Roasted chickpeas

I have discovered these amazing snacks since moving to Australia. They are high in protein and fibre, and have a low glycemic index, making them a filling, lasting snack. And they taste good.

Wholegrain crackers spread with hummus or peanut butter.

I like Vita Wheat 9 grains as they are low in saturated fat and salt, and high in fibre. Make sure the peanut butter has no added salt or sugar.

Dates and a glass of reduced fat milk.

This was my standard after school snack as a teenager. Like all dried fruit, dates provide a concentrated source of energy – that means a lot of sugar in a small amount. But for active, growing bodies, this is fine. The milk provides protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine and some B vitamins.

Fresh fruit – of course

Chop the fruit up; it’s more likely to be eaten. Or blend it into a drink. lately I’ve been making a delicious after school drink of watermelon, banana and frozen berries blended with a little iced water and low fat yoghurt. The colour is fantastic and it hits plenty of good nutriton buttons: high fibre and low fat with protein and calcium from the yoghurt. Try it!!

Food companies reduce salt by stealth

Posted on : 11-06-2010 | By : Cindy | In : Super-healthy...er...stuff


Want to cut the amount of salt your family shakes on their food? Stick clear tape over half the holes in the salt shaker. Who knows? It might just work. It certainly did for one study where they found that people shook the salt shaker for a certain time regardless of how much was coming out. When they taped over half the holes, the study subjects unknowingly ended up eating half the amount of salt.

This ‘stealth’ method of reducing salt is exactly what many nutritionally responsible food manufacturers

High fat or low fat – which fills you up more?

Posted on : 28-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Fast foods, Research


buffet mealLast week I attended an interesting talk by Dr Sally Poppitt on appetite regulation. She works at the Nutrition Unit in Mt Eden, Auckland – a ten-bed live-in unit where she studies what and how much people eat. “For some of our studies we ask people to eat a test meal and then six to eight hours later eat an ‘ad lib’ lunch. That means they eat as much as they like, of whatever they like, from the free buffet – and we calculate what they have eaten,” she explained. “During those 6-8 hours we ask them to rate how hungry or full they feel”. Just as I was imagining the queue of volunteers attracted by the prospect of a free feed, she mentioned the blood tests. A plastic tube stuck into your arm so the researchers can take blood every hour would certainly stop me from volunteering!

I learned that it’s harder to regulate how many kilojoules you are consuming with liquids compared with solids. This explains why slurping on calorie laden thick-shakes, juices and fizzy drinks are so fattening – you don’t really cut back on the solid food to compensate. There is a similar effect from eating fatty foods – it confuses appetite regulation. Dr Poppitt described one of their studies where they gave overweight women a low fat meal (25% fat) and asked them to eat until they were full. A week later the women came back to the unit to eat exactly the same foods but this time, unknown to the women, the meal was high fat (50%fat). Dr Poppitt commented, “It’s really easy to pack fat into foods without noticing any difference”. On the low fat meal the women felt full and stopped eating at 3000kJ less than when they ate the high fat meal!

I unintentionally did a similar experiment this weekend. On Friday we ate out at our local Italian restaurant. The service is friendly and the food is delicious – just like being in an Italian kitchen with Mama cooking while the four of us enjoyed pizza, veal marsala, veal involtini, chicken parmigiana and a bottle of chianti. I chose the veal marsala which came with perfectly cooked vegetables. It was pretty low in fat and not a huge meal but I was full.

Two nights later came the second part of the experiment. Some of our family had booked us into the restaurant equivalent of the high fat all-you-can-eat buffet. Creamy soups, deep fried vegetables, garlic butter soaked bread, cheese laden pasta, chips, salads with rich creamy dressings and the desserts – rice pudding made with cream, whipped cream slapped onto commercial pavlova and stuffed into commercial brandy snaps, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, buttery biscuits and slices. My son gleefully filled his dessert bowl with jelly beans, topped with serve-yourself-ice-cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and sprinkles on top – twice!

It’s not really the place a dietitian gets excited about but we didn’t go for the food, we went to spend time with our family – and that was great. But I had to eat and, just as in Dr Poppitt’s study, after two or three visits to the buffet, despite fussily searching for the healthiest food, I’m sure I had eaten way more kilojoules than the veal marsala meal. Actually, I think it was the pavlova and brandy snaps that did it! Have you ever been in that situation where you don’t really like a food but you just keep on eating it? It’s the fat or sugar that does it, I’m sure!

So it’s back to proper food this week – rolled oats, organic sour dough grain bread, home-made hummus, salmon and rice, stir fried beef and vegetables, and apples and mandarins for dessert. My son will thank me one day!


Veal marsala recipe

Not healthy at all, but a New Zealand favourite, so here it is: Pavlova recipe