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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 report, ”Changing Diets, Changing Minds”,  from the UK highlighted the growing problem in the area of mind, mood, and well-being, which industrialised countries face. 

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 in Australia:
Beyond Blue
White Cloud Foundation
Addressing the physical health of people with mental illness
 

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

Australians are spending more than nine 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.
Party tricks to help you eat healthy banner
Party tricks to help you eat healthy banner

Party tricks to help you eat healthy

It’s called the ‘silly season’ for a reason but Christmas doesn’t mean your health goals should veer off track!

Did you know... on average Australians gain between 0.8-1.5kg over this period? But you can navigate your way through the holiday season's parties with these easy tips to keep your body and health on track for the new year.

Navigate the party food table

The food table at any party can be a trap for even the healthiest person in the room but these are ways to navigate the healthier options: 

Eat dinner before you go

The easiest way to successfully avoid the food table at any party is to eat beforehand. Having a light, healthy dinner before heading out means you’ll be feeling full and less likely to overindulge.

Smart positioning - far from the food table

If you stand next to the food table, you're more likely to eat what you see in front of you. Avoid temptation and stand on the other side of the room.

Snack smart

Most party food tables will have healthier food options. Instead of a handful of chips, choose cut up vegetables dipped in hummus or salsa, fruit pieces, sushi or a handful of nuts.

5 healthy ways to navigate a restaurant menu

We tend to eat out more during the silly season, catching up with family and friends, which also tends to mean we eat more than we usually would. But your everyday choices during the holiday season could help your waistline fight off that Christmas creep.

When eating at a restaurant:

  1. Choose grilled or baked rather than fried or battered
  2. Swap white bread for wholegrain
  3. Swap butter for olive oil
  4. Ask for dishes based on rice or pasta and plenty of vegetables
  5. Keep track of how many treats you’ve had in a food diary. Writing down your treats will help you to not overindulge.  

Navigate holiday eating

When you’re on holiday and out of your regular environment, finding healthy options can sometimes be difficult. When waiting at the airport or driving on a road trip, a bit of planning can help you stay on track.

Plan not to skip breakfast

Breakfast is one meal in the day where it’s easy to eat light and healthy. Start the day right by making the most of healthy options provided where you're staying or step out and buy your own.

Snack attack - head to the supermarket

Don’t fall into the snacking trap of chips, chocolate and lollies. It'll leave you feeling sluggish and your hunger won’t be satisfied. Instead, head to the local supermarket and stock up on nuts, oat-based muesli bars, fruit and wholegrain crackers and cheese to keep you going when you get peckish.

Carry water

Always have a bottle of water handy. It's the best drink for you and will also help stop you from overindulging when you’re hungry.

Family fitness and fun banner
Family fitness and fun banner

Family fitness and fun

Are you looking for kids’ activities over the school holidays?

Many youngsters are spending more time than ever on screens, so inspire your kids to stay active this summer by building their strength and confidence through outdoor activity.

It’s the perfect weather to hit the pool or park for some family swimming, running or bike riding. Not only will the kids love the chance to get out and about and have some fun, but you’ll benefit by spending time with them and staying active.

Your family could even train for a real event, such as the Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon series which kicks off in late January and is the biggest under 16s kids triathlon in the world. There are events in Sydney, the Central Coast, Canberra, Bendigo, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Townsville.

If there isn’t a Kids TRYathlon event near you, plan a fun family event or invite your children’s friends to participate.

Along with your training, it’s important to keep in mind that what you and your children eat and drink before, during and after exercise can directly affect how your bodies perform. Just like a car, your body needs the best fuel for it to operate at its peak.

Tips for family training

Drink water

Our bodies are made up of 50-75% water, depending on body type, so keeping your hydration levels high before exercise is just as important as replenishing them after. Make sure you and your child are well hydrated before starting any exercise.

If you or your child are exercising for less than an hour, there is no need to drink during that time, especially if you hydrated well beforehand.

If you must drink, water or diluted juice or cordial are the best options. In a race like the Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRY-athlon, having a sip of water during transitions or on the cycling leg are the best times.

Eat the right foods

Carbohydrates are your friend! Carbohydrate is the main source of energy bodies use when exercising and carbohydrates come from energy dense foods like pasta, rice, bread and potatoes. Carbohydrate rich foods should be the main part of your diet (55%) and eating them before an exercise session, the night before or for breakfast, will help give you and your child’s bodies enough energy to get through the session.

Remember, healthy bodies also need protein and fat as well. Protein-rich foods include legumes, dairy, meat and fish and these should make up 15-20% of your diet, and fat from plant sources rather than from animal fat should make up 30% of your diet. Combining carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals will give your body the balance it needs.

When and what to eat before training

Generally, have a good, carbohydrate-rich meal 2-3 hours before exercise. A bread roll, sandwich or pasta is perfect! The night before a race, eat a filling dinner, high in carbohydrates to stock up your muscle fuel stores.

The morning of a race? Don’t skip breakfast! Try cereal, fruit juice, toast or English muffins 2-3 hours before the race. If eating in the morning makes you feel nauseous, try a liquid breakfast like an UP&GO or a smoothie.

What to eat and drink after training

Replenishing fluids is the most important thing to do after exercise, followed by eating foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Drink water or a diluted fruit juice or cordial to rehydrate your body quickly. You should drink at least two glasses of water post-race to replenish the fluid you lose from sweat, and avoid caffeinated drinks that will only dehydrate you further.

The post training meal is even more important than the pre-training meal! Not only does it replenish your body’s energy but eating the right food after exercise will help your body use its energy more efficiently.

Carbohydrate-rich meals are again the most effective to replace energy stores, repair muscles and to help maintain and protect the immune system. Try pasta, yoghurt and muesli, fruit, muesli bars, rice dishes or a sandwich.

Make training fun

Training and competing isn’t all about winning, it’s about inspiring children to develop a lifelong love of exercise and outdoor activity, which will benefit them in years to come.

Can money buy happiness? banner
Can money buy happiness? banner

Can money buy happiness?

Can money buy happiness? The answer seems to be both “yes” and “no”, depending on what you do with it. When asked, “can money buy happiness?” most people nobly say “no” but secretly wouldn’t mind giving it a try. So can it?

Sophie Tucker, one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century, once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

While it's tempting to think that more money would improve your happiness, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Studies indicate that once your basic needs are met - it's harder to be cheery when you're hungry and without shelter - increasing income doesn’t have much effect on people’s level of happiness.

What research has found

Before concluding that happiness can’t be bought, consider the findings of a fascinating study in which the researchers gave people money to spend - they had no problems finding subjects for this study!

The researchers found that spending money did actually cause a “long-term” spike in happiness, but only among those participants in the study who were instructed to spend the money on someone else. Those who were instructed to spend it on themselves reported no such lift. Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether they were given $5 or $20 to spend on someone else, the happiness return was the same.

So can money buy happiness? The answer seems to be both “yes” and “no”, depending on what you do with it.

Try this

Why not try a “happiness self-experiment” by setting aside $5 to spend on someone else. Give a small gift to a friend (or foe). Pay a strangers toll. Be creative!

Giving is a gift that can help you live more!

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

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!