Let’s shine a light on sleep.
No doubt many of us have woken up feeling a few z’s short of a picnic – that is how you use that idiom, right?
Not really but sleep deprivation can easily interrupt your ability to accurately process information, so it probably makes sense to some. It can also influence your cravings, food choices and your ability to change your body composition.
And no doubt some new parents, shift-workers, or sufferers of chronic can provide a few real-life examples.
Because we want to be our best, getting enough sleep is important.
Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone and is primarily produced by the pineal gland in our brain. Melatonin production increases when it is dark and can be supressed when it is light.
This means we are naturally wired to wake in the morning, grow sleepy towards the
afternoon and sleep throughout the night.
A precursor to melatonin production is tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in certain foods like some dairy products, tart cherries/tart cherry juice, kiwifruit, and walnuts. The amino acid profiles of these foods are impressive and the consumption of one, or a combination in the evening may encourage your brain to produce the stuff dreams are made of – Melatonin.
Foods naturally high in magnesium may help too. Foods like brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, minimally processed carbohydrates and thank me later, dark chocolate.
While this may be pleasing to hear, the cocoa bean also contains caffeine which we know as a stimulant.
Eating dark chocolate or drinking coffee, cocoa, black or green tea before bed likely gives you a bit a caffeine which tells your body to do the opposite of what you are trying to achieve – sleep.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, assess your intake and modify as needed.
Pain and the coinciding raised inflammatory markers might also be contributing to poor sleep. If you are sore or injured and it is impacting your sleep, go to your physio. To support a reduction in inflammatory markers, think about your oily fish intake.
Oily fish is an omega-3 powerhouse, and unlike a lot of plant sources of omega-3, contains Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which may help to decrease inflammatory markers.
I generally recommend people eat 3 oily fish meals a week, or to look for a supplement containing DHA. Note, there are vegan friendly supplements around.
I will always be biased towards nutrition; I am a Dietitian. But realistically nutrition is one piece of the puzzle and in a lot of cases, other lifestyle factors need to be addressed on order to wake up feeling fresh.
Eat and hydrate well, move your body and manage your stress levels. Once you are confident you are doing this check to see how you are sleeping. Hopefully a bit better.
My role within Taranaki Rugby, and now ‘The Chiefs’, is a ‘Performance Nutritionist’.
The word ‘performance’ covers many bases.
I like the idea of using food and nutrition to improve performance. Given I am a physical being myself, I understand when ‘performance’, and wanting to improve it, is related to sport and exercise.
A lot of people want to maximise their performance on game day, or for a specific event. Although this makes sense, it’s like getting advice on completing an Iron Man when you’re running 5-kilometres through the park.
What you do on the day of the event is certainly important, but your training and nutrition leading up to it, in my opinion, should be your initial priority. If you don’t train or refuel smart then you’re dancing with the chance of injury, getting sick or psyching yourself and missing the event. If you prioritise training and refueling like a machine, hello to the potential of a personal best sporting performance.
The way to fuel a training program depends on black and white, but also the grey areas.
To me, the black and white areas are things like – type of exercise, current body composition, the duration and frequency of training sessions and estimated requirements to complete the performance. This is textbook information.
If you know the role of macro-nutrients in your sport you can fuel the black and white. Carbohydrates are an easy fuel for the body and brain to utilise, protein helps our muscles, fat is a concentrated source of energy that may help hormone production and the decrease of inflammatory markers. The amount, and timing of macro-nutrients is what changes.
The grey areas are things like - understanding of nutrition principles, desire to change body composition, relationship with food, current eating behaviours, appetite, triggers to eat, ability to cook, budget, hormones, physical demands and commitments outside the sport. This is not textbook information but it’s what makes us human. Although harder to factor into a training program, the ‘grey’ needs to be.
Once you have identified the event that gets your wheels spinning, think about the training required to get you there. If you know how active you are going to be, have identified and factored in your grey areas then start thinking about fueling your training.
The importance of food and nutrition is overlooked by many, but you try driving a car with the wrong fuel.
If the chance of death isn’t enough, know that water may help our skin glow, aid weight loss by helping us feel ‘full’, help us hit a 6 instead of a 4, or stay out in the surf longer.
Whatever the selling point, water and hydration is our friend.
Most people aim for around 8 glasses of water a day, and although this may be enough for some, a lot of us need more.
You can estimate fluid requirements and monitor hydration status. But for the everyday person the colour of your urine is an easy indicator of hydration. A transparent ‘honey’ yellow is considered normal. But regularly passing a concentrated ‘Amber’ yellow is not. Also, if you tend to get constipated or suffer from headaches, drinking more water may help.
The sun seems to be sticking around longer and hotter and hopefully you’ll be getting out and about - going to the beach, surfing, playing cricket and catching up with friends. Physical exertion, especially in hotter temperatures is likely to increase how much you sweat. Water lost in sweat should be replaced.
Catching up with friends sometimes means a beer, wine or cider.
A ‘diuretic’ is a term chucked around in reference to food and drink components that make you pee more. Alcohol is a diuretic. Not drinking enough fluids alongside alcoholic drinks may be a part of the reason you wake up with a headache after a few too many.
These activities are a part of what makes our lives fun.
But without accounting for hydration, enjoyment can be taken from them.
Easy - It’s hot, you’re active, you will sweat - Fill up a drink bottle before you leave for your adventures.
Or - You have planned a get together - Have some water in between alcoholic drinks, before you go to bed; Or, dare I say It, don’t drink so much.
Just, drink water, It’s so simple.
Treats – what are they, can I have them and if so, how often?
The answer to the above is - it depends; yes, and you’re an adult so as much as you want.
More time at home may mean more time at the pantry thinking about food.
The result of this could be trialing new recipes, experimenting with new flavours and having quality interaction within your bubble.
Or it could be grazing on whatever is around, increased cravings or eating as a result of everything but your hunger cues.
Whatever changes you have noticed throughout the lockdown - it’s okay there will be a reason for them and good news, you can probably identify the reason, if you want to.
Any food you love should be a part of your life. And understanding the inclusion of these foods is the icing on the healthy lifestyle cake. But if you are eating foods out of habit or craving as a result of restrictive or unstructured eating patterns, then some changes may serve you well.
Maybe you’re craving sweets. This is extremely common and especially around 3pm, in the evenings or dare I say it; before us girls get our periods.
Reflect on your previous meals and see if anything is missing, especially quality carbohydrates i.e. oats, quinoa, lentils, grainy bread etc. If there are little to no quality carbohydrates, try adding a little the following day and assess your cravings at the same time – maybe there’s a link?
And ladies, track your cycle, it may provide insight to why and when you want to eat 3kg of chocolate.
If it’s salty or fatty foods you want, think about your hydration and how much water you have had. If you are notoriously bad at drinking water, aim to add an extra 500ml/day and then assess cravings.
Our bodies want to be nourished well so they can look after us. Out of respect for our bodies, I will always encourage putting good fuel in.
But sometimes our soul needs to be nourished too. Out of respect for this, I encourage the inclusion of foods you love; being present when you eat the food and stopping when you are satisfied.
The past few weeks have been an unforeseen curve ball which no doubt has derailed some well-oiled machines. These machines may need to park up for a bit of maintenance to identify the changes in their eating and find the reason why. This will help get the machine chugging again and maybe even faster than before
Or, I guess it needs to be said - if your biggest complaint is you ate too much banana bread during lockdown, you’re pretty lucky.
Most workplaces are stitching their employees up.
The expectation is that your work well, don’t need sick days, meet targets and be the best well-oiled machine ever paid.
These are high expectations considering a lot of workplaces either provide no food or junk food. But yes, thank you for the sausage rolls and cake for morning tea, I’ll get back to my emails now.
At the risk of sounding like I don’t appreciate treats please know that I do, especially chocolatey treats, there just seems to be a disconnect.
Improving productivity is going to be an objective in any business, this makes sense. Expecting this and encouraging the consumption of food that doesn’t support optimum energy levels does not.
If you’re working a 40 hour week and banking 7 hours of sleep a night then over 30% of your waking hours are spent at work. It’s likely you’ll have around 1-3 eating experiences per day at work and more when you count the meals and drinks outside of your paid work hours i.e. work functions, Friday night wines, travel to conferences and food choices as a result of emotions or stress.
Long story short, you eat a lot at work or, because of work.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of businesses recognise the relationship nutrition can have on productivity, mental health and even injury prevention. I also understand that food is often provided as a ‘Thank You’, which is positive. But I would also argue that eating food at a morning tea shout because it’s there or because everyone else is, probably isn’t a decision based on hunger; or even desire. And if this is the case, it would be nice to have food options available that help get you through the 3pm slump, not exacerbate it.
Instead of pastries have a quiche; veggie sticks and hummus.
Instead of cakes have some fruit; dark chocolate, bliss balls or nuts.
And if you’re trying to make lifestyle changes and you know there are usually no healthy options available, make sure you pack enough lunch and stay hydrated. This will help get you through your day.
A lot of people have the best intentions to eat well at work. And I’m sure a lot of business owners want their employees to be well. These intentions are worth being actioned on both accounts.
Employees – Treat yourself with food and company that feeds your soul, not with party pies every Wednesday during a staff meeting.
Workplaces – Stop stitching your employees up, set them up for success by providing them with foods that promote health and wellbeing, or at least provide them the choice.
I imagine those with children are looking for ideas to keep them occupied so they can work from home and hopefully stay sane.
This could mean reading, puzzles, board games, art etc. It could also mean teaching your children to cook or to help you in the veggie garden.
It might be a hard sell, especially to some older children. But no doubt rewarding to grow your own food; to see an improvement in their cooking skills, to spark an interest in nutrition, to introduce new flavours and textures to family meals and perhaps making breakthroughs with picky eaters.
The tasks delegated to children will differ and be determined by a few factors i.e. age, food preference and the child’s overall interest in food.
Try giving younger children tasks like cracking and whisking eggs, measuring ingredients, mixing dressing, using scissors (safe ones) to chop ingredients i.e. fresh herbs.
Slightly older children might have more involvement. They may even get to choose the food you create or champion the main meal one night a week on a regular basis. This is fantastic, try to encourage them to pick a recipe that the whole family can eat and enjoy.
It’s also a great time to experiment with new flavours and cooking techniques. Try to add spices, ingredients and textures you normally wouldn’t cook with. This may feel impossible or you may have tried this before. Just remember, it can take a few times (i.e. 12-20) before a child will accept, or even try certain foods. So maybe not impossible, just an endurance event that requires training, patience and mental strength.
The sooner children know about where food comes from the better.
If you have an existing vegetable garden encourage your children, especially if they are young, to help you collect and wash the veggies.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden, could you? If a child is involved from digging the garden to dishing up, you would hope two things.
One, they’re encouraged to eat the food grown, especially as they have been a part of the process.
And two, realise that vegetables don’t start their life looking supermarket chic - imperfect and covered in dirt more like.
It all sounds very textbook; clean, green and easy and I hope it is.
But I understand that it may not be. If any of these suggestions are simply not an option for your family, no drama.
Do your best to eat well during this time and hopefully have genuine connection over meals together – there’s a lot to be said for that
This is where I make a reference to winter and the colder months.
It feels like Christmas was only last week, it wasn’t. And just like it hit us hard last year, we are dealing with more darkness and sometimes, miserable weather.
There are positives to the colder months. I’m thinking winter sports, how the mountain looks, warm duvets, hot drinks, crockpots and snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie. This is all good stuff. If you can capitalise on these factors you’re doing well. Unfortunately for some, winter may mean a sore throat, lots of snot, and collapsing on the couch; not to watch movies but because you’re sick. Also, on a serious note, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may rear it’s sleepless and depressive head.
Food only counts as nutrition when you actually eat it. When you eat well the chances are you feel well. In winter you may not feel well, so a lack appetite or your normal drive to prioritise healthy eating may not be present.
We need to make sure our immunity is bullet proof before the winter bugs threaten to invade. Well, as bullet proof as we can make it anyway. This is to help prevent the onset of sickness so we don’t have to rebuild back to baseline, so we have the energy to try new crock pot recipes, or the energy to go snowboarding.
When you talk about immunity and how nutrition can help, people automatically think of Vitamin C. And on some level, they are correct to do so. However, it is one piece of the immunity puzzle. And of all the pieces, it is potentially the easiest to place. Don’t disregard Vitamin C or B-Vitamins, but If you focus on finding the right spot for harder pieces of the puzzle it can speed up the completion of the whole puzzle. And we all should all want to be the master of our immunity puzzle.
New positive to winter, puzzles? Definitely.
I’m thinking along the lines of Zinc and Vitamin D. Zinc plays a powerful role in our immune system. The best source of zinc is oysters. But let’s be real, people don’t eat oysters on the regular. The next best dietary source is meat, like red meats; poultry and seafood. After that it is beans, legumes and dairy products. Vegetarian sources of zinc have compounds in them that may prevent maximum zinc absorption. So, while vegetarian diets have their benefits, a downside may be lower zinc levels in comparison to meat eaters.
Vitamin D as we know, comes from the sun. Our skin then converts it into a currency we can spend on helping our bones, mental health and immune system. When the sun goes away, so does our Vitamin-D provider and our skins income source. So over the winter months, our options are to make a conscious effort to get some sunlight on our skin or start taking a supplement. The amount of sunlight and dosage that is right for you is dependent on several factors. Ask your dietitian for specifics regarding dosage of supplements and once the sun comes out again, stop the supplement.
The ultimate recipe for success is eating oysters and plenty of fruit and vegetables in the sun. If this doesn’t sound like a good time then think along the lines of a chicken or salmon salad, followed by some fruit. A Vitamin-D Supplement may be required and If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, maybe a zinc supplement too. Do you best to stay well this winter, cue the puzzles and crockpots.
Maggie Radich – Owner of New Plymouth Nutrition
There is a good chance you have heard of “Arthritis”. You likely know someone that has it,
or even have it yourself.
“Osteo”, “Rheumatoid” or “Gout” are the common-all-garden varieties or perhaps just plain old sore knees.
The term arthritis loosely translates to ‘inflammation of the joints’. Generally, this means pain. Dietitians can help people who live with the pain associated with arthritis.
Prioritising nutrition and even enjoying food when you have been living with pain for a long time can be difficult; particularly when the type of arthritis, medication, the person’s age, sex and activity level will affect their nutritional requirements.
If you suspect you may have an arthritic condition, a blood test organised through your Doctor will be a good place to start. Your iron profile, folate and vitamin D status would provide useful information, as would asking questions around bone mineral density.
Medications prescribed by your Doctor and physical rehabilitation prescribed by your Physiotherapist are important starting points for treatment. But knowing how amazing food is, it would be nice to think that certain types could help reduce pain too.
Sardines are one of the most underrated foods of all time, as are salmon and tuna.
Calcium and vitamin D are both important for maintaining strong bones. Considering those with arthritis may have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones) it makes sense to think about calcium and vitamin D. The best sources of calcium are dairy products and fish that are eaten with the bones e.g. tinned sardines or salmon. Greek yogurt also gets a special shout out because of the protein content and probiotics (healthy bacteria).
Many New Zealanders don’t get enough vitamin D, particularly during our winter months. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. If you don’t see the sun much, have dark skin, avoid dairy products and other calcium-rich foods, then a supplement may help. Consult a Dietitian for recommended doses as the saying “too much of a good thing” applies to both calcium and vitamin D.
From a mechanical perspective, reducing pressure on joints can help people move more freely. This means decreasing your body weight, which may be a valid consideration for some. Certain medications and some secondary symptoms associated with long term pain can make weight loss hard, consulting a Dietitian to support your weight loss journey may help.
Blanket recommendations are not particularly useful as every person responds differently to medication, exercise and food. Being aware of your own response to treatments is critical. Eating nutritious food helps fuel your mind and body. Moving your body as suggested by your physiotherapist will improve your mobility. The combination of good food and movement will support weight maintenance, which will reduce pressure on your joints, and therefore improve pain.
Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, eating minimally processed carbohydrates, including healthy oils and moving your body in the sun will surely improve your general health and likely your arthritic condition as well.
Baked Salmon and Rainbow salad
Preheat oven to 220°C and line your oven tray with baking paper.
Place salmon fillets (skin-side-down) on prepared tray. Add crushed garlic, ginger and lemon slices to salmon. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until salmon is cooked to your liking.
Add salad ingredients together. Add dressing and toss.
Dish up - Serves 2
I generally steer clear from the muesli bar aisle at the supermarket, but I went down it for the sake of comparing the following muesli bars:
1.‘Tasti’ Salted Caramel Protein Bar
2.‘Mother Earth’ Raspberry White Chocolate Baked Oaty Slices
3. ‘Nice and Natural’ Protein Nut Bars with 3 Super Seeds
To compare the three bars you go straight to the 100g column on the nutrition label. I am interested in dietary fibre, added sugar, fat and of course, protein.
Dietary fibre is important to help keep us full and to promote good bowel health. Of the three bars the Nice and Natural bar has the most dietary fibre. The Salted Caramel Protein don’t even list it, I’m going to take this as a sign of it containing next to none.
The ‘Nice and Natural’ bar also has the least added sugar (different from total carbohydrate). The ‘Mother Earth’ bar has the most, with more than 25% of the bar being sugar.
If a food contains nuts and seeds, then you can expect it to contain fat. This is not a bad thing as these are unsaturated “good” fats. Focusing, therefore, on the saturated fat, Nice and Natural has the least amount of saturated fat and the ‘Mother Earth’ Baked Oaty Slice has the most.
Sexy protein - which bar is going to have the most? The ‘Tasti’ Salted Caramel bar only just comes out on top with 25.1g/100g and the Nice and Natural being a close second with 24.8g/100g. The Mother Earth bar has a mere 7.1g/100g. The increased protein content comes from ‘soy protein crispies’ which are added readily to cereals and muesli bars in order to increase the protein content without needing to categorise the food item as a ‘supplement’.
If I was to choose between the three bars, without a doubt I would regard the ‘Nice and Natural’ Protein Nut Bars with 3 super seeds as the better choice. I do, however, encourage all clients to prioritise meal preparation and organisation to help reduce a dependence upon processed convenience foods.
A snack is a mini meal that should sustain us between meals.
The key word in that sentence is ‘sustain’. To help sustain energy, team a protein source with some fruit or vegetables, or some quality carbohydrates.
I recommend foods like Greek yogurt and berries, cottage cheese and vege sticks, raw nuts and a piece of fruit, a boiled egg and a piece of toast over process convenience foods.
In other words,
It would claim to transform people to their desired shape.
I’m interested in learning more about the science behind intermittent fasting and if it is sustainable in the long term.
What is intermittent fasting?
Basically, it means changing the timing of your meals and snacks so there is a prolonged period that you are not eating or drinking.
This is thought to help your body switch from a ‘fed’ to a ‘fasted’ state. This fasted state is thought to tell your body to utilise your fat stores rather than your glucose stores (glycogen) to fuel your body.
There are many variations of fasting, a simple google search will prove this. ‘The 5:2 diet’ involves restricting calorie intake to 500-600 for two days of the week. The 16:8 fasting method involves a 16 hour fast and 8 hour eating window. The list goes on.
Let’s talk Science
Carbohydrate, or glucose, is the bodies preferred fuel source and one of the main objectives is to keep our blood sugar levels within a ‘normal’ range.
Our carbohydrate (glycogen) stores are depleted during exercise or if no food is consumed in 18-24 hours. Once this happens our body needs to find a way to produce glucose. Our bodies are so smart that they can break down our muscles to produce glucose, this is called gluconeogenesis. Our bodies can also utilise our fat stores in a process called beta-oxidation. Our fat stores are not converted to glucose but to ketones which can fuel our brain and muscle cells in the absence of glucose.
This happens when we are in the fasting state or “starvation” mode. So, if we starve or fast, our bodies will use muscles and/or fat stores to keep us alive.
So, in theory, fasting may help utilise your fat stores, but in order to recommend fasting I need some scientific support that has been conducted on humans.
Unfortunately, much of the literature I have reviewed on this topic is based on anecdotal personal accounts, or laboratory studies on mice rather than human subjects.
The anecdotal evidence has presented individual accounts of people having had short-term success meeting certain weight management goals, but I have concerns about some secondary aspects of intermittent fasting.
The issues I have with fasting:
Diets don’t work, we need to be able to continue the changes we make for the rest of our lives. This means fuelling our bodies and our minds.
I would argue that the psychological aspects of fasting (that is food deprivation/starvation) are not suitable or realistic in the long-term. They’re almost like a punishment.
We have different triggers to eat - environmental cues (like a morning tea shout), emotional cues (like sadness), stress, hormonal fluctuations, social events, exercise and our actual hunger cues.
I encourage people to identify what is triggering them to eat or overeat, understand why and then address that.
I also work with a lot of athletes. A sustained calorie restriction in athletes can not only impair performance and recovery, it can result in a condition called Relative Energy Deficiency in sport (RED-S) which can negatively affect bone health, hormonal balance, immunity, mental health and heart health.
So, is Intermittent Fasting a Superhero? At this point I’m going to say no. That applies especially to those wanting to create a healthy lifestyle for themselves or their families or to meet nutritional requirements for exercise.
Reducing our intakes of processed foods, eating plenty of vegetables, oily fish, wholegrains and legumes are a way to fuel our minds and bodies. Actual food is the real Superhero.
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