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Meal Planning to Stay Healthy During Winter

Meal Planning to Stay Healthy During Winter

If you’re juggling a busy schedule, it is easy to get tired, run down and susceptible to every cold or flu going around.  When you don’t have time to get sick there are a few strategies you can use to keep your health on track.

1) Embrace cook ahead meals

Winter is a great time of year to add curries, casseroles, oven bakes and stews to your repertoire.  Make a list of your favourites and each week make a batch big enough to give you extra portions to freeze and to eat the next night.

One of my all time favourite meals to make in bulk and keep in the freezer is this yellow split pea dahl curry.  It is cheap, cheerful and delicious!

2) Revamp your meals

Statistics show we waste 2.8 billion dollars every year by tossing out leftovers.  One of the most common reasons for this is not knowing what to do with the leftovers.  The Revamp principle helps you to work out how to convert leftovers from a boring rerun into an exciting sequel.  Ask yourself if you can use one or more of the four principles to making a great revamp:  Flavour, texture, ingredients, cooking method.

To help you on your way look for ways you can turn curries, casseroles and stews into:

  • Pie (with pastry) –  ingredients (pastry)
  • Shepherd’s pie – ingredients (potatoes)
  • Topping for pizzas – ingredients + texture (pizza base)
  • Enchiladas – flavour (mexican), ingredients (wraps)
  • Soup – cooking method
  • Mix with pasta for a pasta bake – ingredients (pasta)

3) Dust off your slow cooker

Give your budget a break with cheap cuts of meat, which are perfect for the slow cooker.  Don’t forget the humble lamb roast also works brilliantly in the slow cooker. 

‚ÄčUse winter as a time to get creative with your food and test out a few easy strategies that will help you keep your body filled with all the nutrients you need to.

Submitted by Louise D’Allura Meal Planning Your Way



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Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease, affecting approximately 1 percent of the global population. In Australia 1 in 100 people have CD with about 80 % (200,000) being undiagnosed.  It is believed that there are three factors that underlie the development of CD.  These include an environmental trigger (gluten), a genetic susceptibility (genes for HLA DQ-2 and HLA DQ-8 proteins) and an unusually permeable gut.

The environmental trigger of CD is gluten, which is the major protein in wheat, or of related proteins found in other grains, including rye, oats, barley and triticale.  Gluten is the composite of two proteins, gliadin and gluten in and makes up 80% of the protein in wheat.  Gluten has the physical properties of elasticity and extensibility which provide the qualities we see in wheat based breads and cakes.

In people with CD, 95% have a genetic susceptibility possessing the gene for either HLA-DQ2 or for HLA-DQ8, or both, whereas 30 40 % of the general population have one of those versions.  It is these genes doctors test for when exploring an individual’s risk of developing CD. Only one in 30 people who carry the gene will develop CD.


The common symptoms of CD are abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, weight loss, nausea and vomiting.  However the presentation of the disease may be less dramatic or atypical.  The disease may produce symptoms such as osteoporosis, joint pain, chronic fatigue, short stature, skin lesions, epilepsy, dementia, schizophrenia and seizure.


In digestion, partly processed food from the stomach enters the small intestine, which is lined with finger like projections called villi.  Enzymes from the pancreas and on the surface of the villi break down most of the partly digested food into its smallest components which are then absorbed into the blood stream and travel to the tissues throughout the body.  Glutens structure and properties make it difficult for the gut to break down all parts of this protein, resulting in small indigestible protein fragments being left in the gut which are then excreted.  Normally any gluten that may cross the gut lining is too minimal to excite a significant immune response in a normally functioning immune system.  However in individuals with CD, they have a heightened sensitivity to gluten.  In this case the gluten fragment induces the release of a protein called Zonulin, which causes a leaky gut. The gluten then leaks through the lining of the gut and arouses immune system cells which trigger the release of the enzyme Tissue Transglutaminase (TTG).  The TTG attempts to heal the damaged cells.  The TTG enzyme modifies the gluten which then binds to a HLA molecule, resulting in the production of other immune cells which result in damage to the cells of the villi of the small intestine.  Hence, it is the repeated exposure of gluten to the small intestine which causes damage to its architecture, resulting in the chronic inflammation and damage of the villi, the finger like projection in the small intestine.    The repeated damage results in an increase in TTG antibody levels in the blood stream.  It is these antibodies which are measured via a blood test to determine whether you have Coeliac Disease.  The diagnosis is then confirmed with a small bowel biopsy.


Diagnosis requires a blood test and a gastroscopy of the small intestine.  The blood test measures the TTG

Antibodies.  The gastroscopy (passing a tube from the mouth into the gut) is a microscopic examination where five biopsies of the wall of the small intestine are taken to determine whether the villi are damaged.  It is important to have the biopsy before commencing a gluten free diet to ensure a definite diagnosis. To confirm a diagnosis, the biopsy should be repeated after 6-12 months of commencing a gluten free diet, to demonstrate improvement to the villi.


The only treatment for Coeliac Disease is the lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. When gluten is removed from the diet, the villi in the small intestine will start to heal and overall health improves. Even small amounts of gluten can cause some damage to the lining of the small intestine without any obvious symptoms. There is no agreement amongst doctors, scientists and dieticians as to what (if any) is a safe level of gluten in the diet for someone with Coeliac Disease, The Coeliac Society of Australia Inc. believes that gluten should be entirely removed, but individual should consult their dietician or doctor.


The long term risks of undiagnosed Coeliac Disease or non-adherence to the gluten-free diet include:-

  • chronic poor health
  • miscarriages
  • osteoporosis due to calcium malabsorption
  • depression
  • infertility
  • dental enamel defects
  • lymphoma
  • risk of gastrointestinal & oesophageal carcinoma

It is sensible to have your blood checked annually for iron and folic acid levels, and to have a bone mineral density test performed.

Coeliac Disease can also be associated with other autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, pernicious anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and lupus. It has not been shown that there is a causative link, but having one genetic autoimmune disease increases your risk of having another.


It is important to avoid wheat, spelt, rye, oats, barley and triticale and foods manufactured using these ingredients.

Food Labels

  • The Australian Food Standards Code requires that food labelled as gluten free must not contain any detectable gluten and no oats or malt
  • New food labelling laws state that any ingredient derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats must be declared on the label

Modified Starches (thickeners 1400-1450)

  • If these are made from wheat they are contain residual starch and therefore are not gluten-free. If the starch is from wheat, it will be specified as such. For example wheat starch, modified starch (wheat)? or thickener 14xx (wheat)
  • If these thickeners are modified maize starch, modified potato starch or modified tapioca starch, they do not contain any gluten


  • Maltodextrin is made from wheat or from maize (corn).
  • If Maltodextrin is sourced from wheat it is not gluten free.  It will be listed as wheat Maltodextrin or Maltodextrin from wheat
  • If Maltodextrin is sourced from maize or potato it is gluten free. It will be listed as Maltodextrin

Medications and Vitamin Supplements

  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers and producers of vitamin and mineral supplements sometimes use wheat starch or gluten as a filler within capsules and tablets.
  • However, unlike food labelling requirements, drug labelling requirements do not require for gluten or gluten derivatives to be declared on the label.
  • You should check with your doctor or pharmacist about whether a drug or supplement contains gluten. If either the doctor or pharmacist is in doubt about whether a product contains gluten, it is best to contact the manufacturer directly.

Avoiding Hidden Gluten

It is possible to inadvertently eat gluten unless you are particularly careful. Because even small amounts of gluten can cause intestinal damage, it is important to consider the following tips with preparation:

  • Making gluten-free meals for the whole family, where practical.
  • Clearly label all foods in your pantry/refrigerator/freezer.
  • Use different utensils when preparing gluten-free and gluten-containing foods at the same time.
  • Prepare gluten-free foods first.
  • Use separate working areas for gluten-free and gluten containing foods.
  • Have your own margarine spread to avoid contamination with breadcrumbs.
  • Wash utensils thoroughly to remove all traces of gluten.
  • Utensils with small crevices i.e. chopping boards/sifters may contain trace amounts of gluten containing particles. You may want to consider having separate utensils.
  • Ensure sandwich makers, toaster are thoroughly cleaned before using them for gluten-free foods.

Other possible sources of hidden gluten

  • BBQ chicken (seasoning/spices, stuffing)
  • Salted hot chips may have been fried in same oil as battered and crumbed foods. Chicken salt may be added, this is not gluten free
  • Potato wedges breadcrumbs, chicken salt
  • Soy Sauce
  • Flavoured potato/corn chips
  • Unspecified cornflour
  • Manufactured deli meats
  • Confectionary lollies, chocolates
  • Processing aids wheat starch on boiled lollies etc.
  • Gluten-free bread from baker via ordinary breadcrumbs being on the bread slicer
  • Gluten free sausages from the butcher, unless all sausages made on the premises are gluten free.
  • Icing sugar mixture instead of pure icing sugar
  • Communion wafers maize wafers are available.

Eating Out

  • This should still be enjoyable. Waiting staff and chefs/cooks are usually happy to tell you how they prepared the foods and what ingredients were used once you explain the importance of gluten-free diet.
  • Remember to check each time you go to a restaurant, even if you are ordering the same meal as staff and recipes can change.
  • When ordering a meal, pay particular attention to sauces, dressings and soups. Check menu items for:
    – Flour even grilled foods such as fish can be coated with flour.
    – Breadcrumbs
    – Stock powder/booster. Can be used in items such as risotto.
    – Soy sauce
    – Cornflour a lot of Chinese restaurants use wheaten cornflour to thicken sauces, custards and other desserts.
    – Malt vinegar dressings, marinades.
    – Mayonnaise may contain thickeners, malt vinegar.
    – Icing sugar check whether it’s pure.

Gluten- Free Baking

It is important to realise that gluten-free flours do not behave the same as gluten-containing flours. Be prepared to experiment with your recipes. Directly swapping gluten-free flours for wheat flours works well for biscuit recipes, however some cake recipes work better than others!

Here are some tips for you:

  • Measure ingredients carefully.
  • Ensure your oven temperature is correct- over baking will dry the cake/bread out.
  • Grease all baking tins even non-stick ones- or line, to prevent sticking
  • Plain flour substitute: equal parts soy flour, rice flour and potato/maize flour.
  • Gluten-free baking powder two parts cream of tartar with one part of bicarbonate soda. Use 2 teaspoons of this mixture with every cup of gluten free flour.
  • Extra egg, xanthan gum can aid rising and results in a better texture. 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum should be added to biscuits/slices; 1-2 teaspoons to cakes/pastries; and, 1 tablespoon to breads. Commercial bread mixes already contain a gum.
  • Roll gluten-free pastry onto non-stick baking paper it’s easier to lift.
  • Cake and bread batters will always be thinner than the wheat counterparts.
  • Cakes will cook better in a ring tin.
  • Cornflakes and rolled rice flakes are good alternatives to rolled oats.
  • Freeze bread immediately and use from the freezer.
  • Set the timer for gluten-free pasta as it can become quickly over-cooked.
  • Packaged gluten-free breadcrumbs or crushed gluten-free cornflakes are useful for crumbing foods.



  • Australian Coeliac Society.
    o Queensland branch.
    o Victorian Branch (This site has better general information than previous sites)
  • online shop for many gluten free products, specialising in products for people with multiple food allergies or intolerances. (Website to be launched September October 2009)
  • online shop for many gluten free products however many products are available in supermarkets as well. Good site for getting an idea of what products are available to Coeliacs.
  • another site giving examples of available gluten free products.


  •  U.S. site. Very comprehensive and informative about Coeliac Disease, gluten free foods and recipes. Click on site index for website contents. Also contains link to message board where you can post questions and read other’s experiences.
  • ? UK site. Another very informative site and very easy to navigate as well.

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What is coffee doing to your health?

What is coffee doing to your health?

For many busy Australian mothers, coffee has become more of a survival tool than the backdrop to a blissful retreat and gossip session with friends. To get a good coffee a few years ago would require you to stop by your local café and stand in line to order, but with the invention of pod machines these days a good coffee can be speedily extracted in the kitchen of most residential homes.

Few of those who drink coffee would consider themselves drug addicts, but under strict definition, coffee is indeed a drug. In fact, caffeine is the most popular and commonly used drug in the world today. More people are more addicted to caffeine than any other substance. Caffeine addiction is felt in the form of withdrawal symptoms when coffee is removed from the diet. These symptoms can include headaches, dizziness and nausea. Research suggests that 3-4 cups of coffee regularly can be enough to form a reliance on caffeine. 

What are the health consequences of coffee?

If coffee is a drug, then surely it’s bad for you, right? Well, don’t throw out your coffee bean just yet…

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, recent studies have been surprisingly positive when testing the health of regular coffee drinkers. A large study recently conducted in Finland,  that included 60,000 men and women, showed that moderate and regular coffee consumption had zero adverse health effects and no increase in heart-disease risk. Similar studies in Sweden and Japan have even shown that consumption of up to 3 cups of coffee per day can REDUCE the risk of heart disease. Now that’s reason enough to celebrate with a coffee! Other health benefits may include reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, reduced risk of Dementia later in life and less risk of stroke and gout.

Most of the negative health issues associated with drinking coffee are for NON- REGULAR drinkers. These are generally short-term symptoms that may include increased heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, shaking and disturbance to sleep. The good news is that when coffee intake becomes regular, the short- term health effects seem to subside.

How much is too much?

The positive health effects of coffee are evident when consumed at up to 3-4 cups per day. Early research indicates that drinking any more than this may be detrimental to your short and long-term health and can lead to dependence. Don’t forget, by definition, caffeine is a drug, and therefore, it is wise to treat it with caution and moderation.

For those coffee lovers, my advice would be to enjoy 1-2 cups of good coffee daily. Drinking at this level will avoid dependence and at the same time may result in some long- term health benefits. Enjoy!

Article submitted by Accredited Practising Dietitian David Finn




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Keep It Moving To Keep Off The Kilos

Keep It Moving To Keep Off The Kilos

Christmas can be a dreaded time of year if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy body shape.  I’m often asked for advice on how to get through Christmas without piling on the kilos. My favourite tip? You can’t always control everything you’re going to eat during this period, but you can control how much you burn off. Here’s some tips for fitting in regular exercise during the festive season.

Get it out of the way early.

Exercising at the start of the day works for 2 reasons. Firstly, you can get it done and dusted before your day gets hijacked with extra shopping trips, traffic delays, and those Christmas gatherings where you swore you weren’t going to drink (honest!). Secondly, it’s summer, and it’s often more comfortable to exercise before the day gets too hot, especially if you’re doing it outside.

Keep it short and sweet

Find effective workouts you can do in a short amount of time.

Tabata training is so hot right now! This is a type of high intensity interval training that gets serious results from super short workouts. Look for personal trainers in your area which include Tabata as part of their programs.

Most gyms do quick spin classes, serious calorie burners which usually go for 30-45 minutes. Also based on interval training principles, short spin classes will leave you feeling like you’ve burned off more than your Christmas cake.

Work out from home

Most people spend at least 15 minutes getting to and from their gym (and often more if you have to deal with Christmas traffic or car parking in a busy area!). In order to sneak in a daily workout, make a list of things you can do from home, so that you can cut out travel time:

Running – you can do this right from your front door! Need help getting started? Get yourself a “Couch to 5km” app for your smartphone – aimed to have you running longer distances in no time at all.

Yoga – there are some fantastic websites where you can download or stream online yoga tutorials, which you can do anytime from the comfort of your own living room. Yogaglo is a fantastic one, or search on YouTube for yoga classes.

So there’s no need to pile on extra kilos over Christmas. Keep your body moving and there will be no need for those dreaded new years resolutions!

Submitted by Jules Galloway



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Use your freezer for a stress-free Christmas!

Use your freezer for a stress-free Christmas!

Coming up to Christmas, your freezer can be your best friend. Start NOW.

Clean out your freezer so there’s plenty of room and let’s get cooking. You can make sure you enjoy a stress-free Christmas season by preparing and freezing ahead of time, leaving you free to enjoy the festivities.

Here’s a few Christmas freezer tips for you:

  • Traditional Christmas cakes/puddings/mince pies freeze very well and for a long time, so get those in now.
  • Very popular for the hot Aussie Christmas, ice-cream pudding’s & roulades are obvious winners for the freezer!
  • Make all your cookie dough now and roll it in glad wrap and freeze. Thaw the day before you’re ready to make cookies and then it’s just roll and bake.
  • As well as stocking up for yourself, use your freezer for presents. Home-made truffles, fudge’s & chocolates are beautiful gifts. You can make and package now and just pull out when you need (and how great to have a few “just-in-case” presents in your freezer)
  • Finger foods like quiche, frittata, pies, sausage rolls and fish cakes are fantastic to have on hand for quick dinners and impromptu visitors too. These all have long freezer lives.
  • Raw desserts are not only healthy, but quick to make and very freezer friendly. Make up a few bases now and get them in the freezer, ready to pull out and top with a nice healthy filling in a few minutes flat
  • Don’t forget your stuffing and even gravy can be made ahead of time and frozen as well! Even if you don’t do the stuffing right now, start using your stale bread to make breadcrumbs and freeze those to save yourself time and money for when you need them at Christmas time.

As you fill up your freezer, package and label, everything carefully and remember to make sure you allow sufficient time for things to defrost so that you can truly have your freezer working for you this festive season.

Happy Christmas!

Submitted By Kris Barrett – Nourish Me




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Revamp your Leftovers!

Revamp your Leftovers!

Research shows Australian’s toss out $2.18 billion dollars worth of leftovers every year.  The biggest reason for this? “We don’t know how to use leftovers.”

“Revamps” as we like to call it (rather than leftovers), is a brilliant way to get on top of your weekly menu, cut down the waste in terms of food, time and money!  Growing up it was the way my parents taught us about creativity and the value of food.

Quite simply the “Revamps” philosophy is all about transforming ‘leftovers’ from a boring re-run to an exciting sequel!

When you aren’t sure what to do with leftovers you can apply one or more of these four “Revamp” principles.  To see this in action let’s take a look at something simple like Chicken Fajitas.  If you cook extra quantities of the chicken, you could:

  • Vary the INGREDIENTS to make it interesting and different e.g. a Indian inspired pizza drizzled with rocket and yoghurt, or for an Asian Style Salad you can add the extra added ingredients of cellophane noodles, cucumber, lettuce and basil
  • Add a new FLAVOUR to make it different e.g. Mexican to Asian Style Salad using fish sauce lime juice to the chicken
  • Adjust your COOKING METHOD so it is different e.g. bake, stew, soup, stir fry
  • Adjust your TEXTURE to make things interesting e.g. crunchy noodles, soften the meat by cooking in coconut milk and making a Laksa

The goal is to introduce new elements so your “Revamp” will be different enough from last night’s dinner for the family to love!

Where do you start?

  1. Write down your stock standard favourite recipes. 
  2. Next to each brainstorm at least one or two new “Revamps” using one or all of the revamp principles.
  3. Think also about the meals your family love. Get them involved in coming up with these ideas to build their creativity and food knowledge!

Giving your leftovers a revamp makeover will help you convert your leftovers into an exciting sequel and get you cooking weeknight meals in no time at all!

Article submitted by Louise D’Allura – Meal Planning Your Way




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