Protein powders and how to chose the right one for you …



There are so many protein powders on the market making all sorts of claims.
Weight loss. Muscle gains. Improved stamina. The list goes on. So how do you know which is the best product for you ?

What’s important is to know how much protein you need, how much you can safely digest and what form of protein powder works best for your body.

When choosing a protein powder consider the following :

Look for a quality product. You usually do get what you pay for. Those super cheap supermarket powders are often filled with artificial sweeteners, flavours, additives and colours. All of which reduce the amount of quality protein in your powder and are things we all should be generally trying to avoid in our foods.

Look for a complete protein. There is a misconception that plant based proteins are not complete and therefore not usable to the body. Good quality protein powders, whether they are plant or dairy based, should have a balanced profile meaning that the necessary amino acids for them to be usable by the body are present.

Many people find that whey based proteins can cause digestive upset – bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea or cramping. Plant based proteins can be a better option for those who find dairy based proteins difficult to digest. Good quality plant based proteins often contain amino acids making them even more efficiently digested and far less likely to cause digestive issues.

Take care with the amount of protein per serve when choosing your protein source. For most people 20-30mg of protein per serve is enough and all that the body is able to digest and use at any given time. Products with more than this amount per serve can be a waste of money as anything over this amount can tax kidney function and usually gets flushed through your system quickly without actually providing any extra benefit.

My preferred protein powder is Prana Protein and this is the only protein product I stock. It is plant based, has amino acids included and there is a wide range of products depending on what you are trying to achieve. As an added bonus they taste delicious and work well in other recipes like protein balls. Recipes below …

How to eat protein balls and still be able to pay your mortgage….

Lemon Coconut Protein Balls … a variation on a well loved theme …

Darcy’s excellent dinner … power bowl magic

Is there anything better than when you’re sitting around reading the Saturday paper in front of the fire and your utterly lovely daughter says “I’ve made a bit of dinner, want some ?’

The answer, hell yes please.

This is what came my way two minutes later ….


Super yummy, healthy, nourishing.  The beauty of this kind of meal is that you can use whatever you have at hand and zing it up with her crazy good dressing.

In this version we had brown jasmine rice, steamed sweet potato rounds and spinach, fresh julienned carrots, seared tofu and thinly sliced nori. The nori really makes a difference so make sure you include it !

Darcy’s Power Bowl Sauce

2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini (we used black tahini but white is fine too)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

Mix it all together with a whisk and pour over your choice of yummy things.



Blood tests come back normal but you still feel bad ….


Does this scenario sound familiar to you ? You don’t feel well. Something doesn’t feel right in your body.  You go to the GP, get some blood tests done and they all come back within the ‘normal range’. The GP tells you everything is fine and that’s that. You go home feeling like it must be in your head. No one has taken how you feel seriously. You still feel crappy, tired, down, sore or sick but there’s no ‘evidence’ so nothing gets done about it. You are within the ‘acceptable level of health’ but is it acceptable to you ?

If I had a dollar for each time I looked at a set of blood results and saw that things were not, in fact, all ok, I would be a lot wealthier than I am. It is rare for me to see a completely normal, unremarkable set of bloods. There is almost always something out of kilter or at least off the mark enough to indicate where there may be a problem.

The ‘normal ranges’ set for most pathology tests are not accurate for everyone.  They are based on averages of a wildly diverse group of people. For instance, your iron results might look normal on paper but would you still feel they were accurate if I told you that they were based on a reference range sourced from a group of men or women ranging in age from 18 – 69 years with little consideration given to factors such as disease, hormone status, level of activity or specific diets which all impact on peoples ability to use and store iron ?

Same goes for thyroid function. Natural health practitioners estimate that 10% of adult women are in the sub-optimal or low functioning range yet the stated ‘normal range’ doesn’t back this up. Standard testing accepts a thyroid stimulating hormone range of    0.5 – 4.0 mIU/L.  Anything below 1.0 or above 2.0 rings alarm bells for me. People may have many, many signs of thyroid dysfunction but if the tests are ‘in range’ you go home without any support for what can be a very difficult health issue.

So if you are feeling below par and want to know why book your appointment, bring in your paperwork and lets find some answers and solutions.



No time for breakfast…

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal

Are mornings a stress filled rush hour for you ??? Getting ready for work, school or uni, making lunches, feeding children, finding sports uniforms, feeding pets, hanging out washing … Things can feel pretty frantic. Not the best way to start the day.Your cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the mornings so adding in a frantic schedule can cause a skyrocket of stress hormones.

You have two choices – streamline what you need to do or get up earlier. Either way you need to make time for breakfast. When you skip breakfast your body is literally running on empty and the effects can be hard and wide reaching.

As I said, cortisol levels are highest around 7am. When you eat breakfast your levels decrease and you can avoid that jittery, anxious, nervous feeling that often comes mid morning when you’ve not eaten.

You also need to eat to restore glycogen and level out blood sugars. This has a positive effect on your mood, hunger and helps avoid that ‘hangry’ feeling where your body is crying out for sustenance and making you irritable and cranky.

Regularly missing breakfast is also associated with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure and increases your risk of weight gain/obesity.

When you skip meals, especially breakfast, your body can go into famine mode and start trying to store energy. Eating breakfast helps you to avoid this and increases your metabolism throughout the day making weight management easier.

The best breakfasts include some protein, healthy carb and  fats e.g. eggs, avocado, oats, nut butters. If that all sounds like an impossible dream why not give a smoothie a go. Its ready in minutes, you can take it with you, it suits those people who don’t really feel all that hungry in the morning and, when made well, has all the things you need to power you through till lunch.

My current obsession is with Prana protein powders which are plant based and taste fantastic. For a super smoothie which provides you with fibre, carbs, good fats, hormone balancing effects, blood sugar modulation, antioxidant rich berries and is completely delicious give this one a go ….I sometimes can’t wait till morning so will have it for dinner too but that’s another story….

Ripe organic blueberry. prana

My favourite breakfast smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
lots of ice
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water, add more as necessary to get the consistency you like
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon of vanilla creme or coconut Prana protein powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maca and cacao powder

Place all of this in your blender, whiz it up and you’re good to go.

You can play around with the fruits and milks to find what you like best.

The weather is warming up ….. Smoothie Time

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal. the toning. selective focus

Whether you are trying to get some extra nutrients into your diet, lose some weight or change up your breakfast routine you need to make smoothies your new best friend.

Quick to pull together, nutrient dense and so many variations that you’ll never be bored.
I swear by smoothies and have one almost every day. Lately I have been adding in some Just Greens or Just Reds powder for an extra boost and I am really noticing the difference. ( I don’t get paid to endorse these products – I just really like them )

MPVJR200G vital-just-greens-200gm-vpjg

For even more oomph try adding some omega 3 sources like a teaspoon of flax, walnut or chia oil. Spirulina is a great source of amino acids and iodine. Probiotics found in live yoghurts or available in powder form is great for gut health. Protein powders can also be a huge help, especially when recovering from exercise. Use a clean powder like rice, pea or pure whey powder.

Whenever I speak to people who tell me they are too busy to eat well I steer them towards smoothies. If you have some frozen fruit and a blender you are off and racing. You can easily adjust the calorie level to suit your health goals and its easy to add in ingredients that you may be needing at specific times. 

To make things even easier and more time efficient you could try making up some freezer smoothie bags. Put the ingredients in the blender with some water or milk and you have breakfast ready in under a minute.


Here’s a few of my favourites …. Use frozen fruit where you can or add lots of ice. Add enough water and ice to these recipes to get the consistency you like. Mix it up – there’s no hard and fast rules here. Add what you like and get blending.

My favourite smoothie
1/3 cup each of frozen mango and berries
1/2 small frozen banana
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons Just Reds powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 big handfuls of greens – spinach, celery, parsley, kale

Chocolate almond smoothie – for when you feel like something a bit sweet
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons chocolate protein powder
3 medjool dates
Lots of ice

Creaky joints smoothie – great for arthritis or any type of joint pain
1 stick celery with leaves
Small handful of parsley
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 peeled orange
1 cup cubed pineapple ( frozen is good)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Liver Boosting Smoothie – great of you have been exercising a lot, taking medications, using alcohol, eating processed foods or too much fat
1 small beetroot
juice of a lemon
big handful of kale
1/2 cucumber
1 orange

Digestive Help Smoothie – for IBS type symptoms
1 cup honeydew melon
1/2 cucumber
1/2 cup plain yoghurt with live cultures
1 teaspoon psyllium husks
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons honey

Stomach Settler – for an upset tummy
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 avocado
1 teaspoon chia seed
2 teaspoons honey
fresh mint

Lean muscle building smoothie – great for after the gym
1 orange
1 frozen banana
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons spiralling or Just Greens powder
1 cup water or coconut water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder

Recovery smoothie – replenishes after exercising and promotes recovery and muscle repair
1 banana
1 cup almond or rice milk
1/2 coconut water or water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder
1 teaspoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and LSA
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nut butter

Mega Green smoothie – so many minerals, anti-oxidants, immune boosters and liver supporters to keep you feeling great
1½ cups water
10 spinach leaves
5 kale leaves, stalk removed
3 celery stalks with leaves
1  apple, cored and chopped
1  pear, cored and chopped
1  banana frozen
Juice of ½  lemon
1/2 avocado
big handful of parsley

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table

Motivation. What I’ve learned…..


People come to see me for lots of different reasons –  to lose weight, get their health on track, manage their stress, quit smoking or just to talk about what is happening in their lives. The common question no matter what they are hoping to change or achieve is “How do I stay motivated? ”

I hear lots of stories about ‘failed’ attempts, lack of self control and the million and one reasons why its too hard, takes up too much time, costs too much …… All it takes to turn this around is for you to actually make a strong and determined decision to do so. I know this because I have lived it from both sides .

Motivation is a slippery thing. You don’t have it until you decide you do. You don’t keep it until you keep going. You don’t find it until the situation you are in becomes unacceptable to you and things have to change. Even then, it sometimes slips away.

Finding the thing that will keep you going in the difficult moments is essential to success. For me, keeping on top of my weight and staying healthy all comes down to my gorgeous kids. My mother died of cancer many years ago, my father has had a stroke, heart attack and cancer. I don’t want my kids to have to watch me go through these illnesses especially if it’s avoidable. I don’t want them to feel the heartbreak of their Mum leaving them way before she wants to. I also really like my husband and I’m keen to have as long as I possibly can with him.

The other thing that keeps me on track is that I like to be able to pull on some jeans and feel good about it. I like feeling confident and unapologetic in my body. I like feeling like myself again. I remember not feeling this way and how it wore me down and I don’t plan on going back to that. I may not look like a supermodel but I am healthy and happy with where I am at and that’s a good place to be.

It hasn’t always been this way.

A couple of years ago I found myself overweight and overwhelmed. I had a lot of crazy stressful stuff happening in my life and my Dad was really unwell after a stroke left him not even recognising his own daughter or wife. Sometimes life presents you with opportunities to sink or swim. I decided that it was time to get my health and weight under control even if the rest of my life felt like a bit of a rollercoaster. The difference this time was that I felt determined !


Getting a bit ‘bloody minded’  about what you want to change can get you going. Try to break your goals down into bite sized chunks. I decided to aim for 6 weeks of low carb, portion controlled eating with no specified amount of weight to lose. I just decided to go with it and see what would happen if I stuck to my guns. I did not deviate for the whole six weeks. No excuses. No slip ups. Just focused attention to get through that six weeks.

At the end of that time I had lost five kilos and suddenly motivation wasn’t a problem. I was on my way. Things were working and I wasn’t going to let my hard work slide away. I kept going, with a little treat here and there, for the next nine months until I got to the weight I felt happy with.

There is nothing like progress to keep you motivated and on track. Be accountable somehow to someone. Find ways to prevent self sabotage. Ask for support. Tell people what you are doing so that they don’t accidentally tempt you with things you don’t want or need. Be prepared to miss out sometimes. We are all so geared to FOMO (fear of missing out) that we can start feeling sorry for ourselves when we don’t have the ice cream after dinner. Try to change your thinking so that you see your choice as a thing to be proud of, a show of strength, a sense of control.

There are lots of great tools to help identify your goals and motivators. I’m a big fan of the “What if ?” exercise. Ask yourself a series of questions – What if I woke up tomorrow and I had achieved my goal ? What would my life look like ? How would it be different ? What would I feel like ? What would my friends and family say to me ?

If you need help sorting through the mental and physical obstacles which are stopping you from reaching your goals ask for some help. Getting clarity about what you want and how to achieve it is the first step towards a healthier, happier, more confident you.

Trying to lose some weight ? Read on ….


Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago I found myself in the all too familiar situation of having put on some extra weight. There were lots of contributing factors, as there always is – stress, lack of time, thyroid issues. You can read about it here

Since then I have lost the the weight and kept it off and I continue to feel more healthy, confident and in control. Hooray.

I am often asked by clients the best way to lose weight. I think what they really want is the easiest way ( don’t we all !) and I am afraid that just doesn’t exist. It doesn’t have to be a case of constant hunger and hours and hours of exercise but you do need to get real about what you are eating and what you are doing. There are lots of things which contribute to weight loss/gain – liver function, hormonal balance, energy in and out, thyroid function, exercise, stress, gut health and allergies/intolerances. Once you get these factors right it certainly makes things a whole lot easier and you will feel a lot healthier too.

I have recently created a hand out for clients who are ready to start losing the extra weight and thought I’d post it here for you to read when you are ready or pass on to someone needing some guidance or support.

I hope you find it helpful.



Getting real means being honest with yourself about what you want and what you are able or willing to do.

Keep a food diary – you will get a real picture of the what, when, how and why of your eating habits. Most people are surprised by the amount of unconscious eating we do. Be specific – write down everything you eat and drink, how you were feeling, what was happening at the time etc to see any patterns you may have that are impeding you.

Emotional Eating – have a good look at the times when you are eating unhealthily. What is going on ? Are you stressed/tired/upset ? Do you have habits like getting coffee and cake that don’t support your health or weight goals ?

Work out what works for you – Everyone is different. We all have unique approaches that work for us. Think about a time when you were able to achieve a goal – how did that happen ? Do you need accountability, education, help removing obstacles or setting up new habits ?

We all have factors like children, work or illness which impact on our lives and how much time, money or energy we have at our disposal. Work out a list of priorities – are you going to be the parent, worker or partner you want to be if you are sad, overweight or unhealthy ? By prioritising our health and wellbeing other parts of our lives become more positive too.


Learn about your body and how it works. Understand what your body needs to run efficiently and stay well. Be informed about any health concerns you may have. Learn how excess weight affects our wellbeing and our risks for serious disease.

When we know better we do better.

Learn what to eat to support your health and goals

Get real about portions and find simple ways to measure your food

Know the basics about kilojoules/calories

Get an action plan for surviving the supermarket

Have some failsafe meal recipes ready to go

Learn about your own health – get some benchmark blood tests, understand any health conditions you may have, know your family medical history

If you have been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully consider factors like hormones, gut health, thyroid function which may be slowing your progress.


Fail to plan – Plan to fail.

Once you are clear about your goals and understand more about your health and what you need to do to achieve your goals you need to get organised.

Clean out your pantry – if the junk and processed food isn’t there you cant eat it

Make a grocery list and stick to it

Plan your meals – at least until you feel confident about how to cook meals that are healthy and within your kilojoule range

Prepare for obstacles – know that you are going to come up against some difficult times and plan for ways to deal with them– eating out, cravings, snacking, eating while your driving.




My beef with the paleo diet ….


I get asked often about various diets – Paleo, Atkins, Low Carb, High Protein, High Fat, Dukkan, Sugar Free – the list is endless.

My go to answer is that I’m not a fan of any of these ways of eating. They all have their redeeming features but I cannot endorse any of them in good faith. Boring as it may seem moderation is key. Sure there are some ‘foods’ that no-one needs to eat ever – think McDonalds, primary coloured lollies, deep fried Mars Bars.

By far the most common diet I am asked about is the Paleo Diet. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last couple of years The Paleo Diet advocates eating like our ancestors supposedly did. Lots of meat, fish, eggs, non starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Whilst I agree that eating less processed foods and refined sugar is laudable I have real objections to any diet which rules out whole food groups.

Healthy, wholegrain carbohydrates are NOT your enemy. Carbohydrates are our bodies go to source for energy, they are necessary for good gut flora health, are an essential requirement of many cellular functions of our bodies and are necessary for regulation of mood.

Too much carbohydrate can lead to weight gain and spikes in insulin but this generally occurs when we are eating too much carbohydrate (or anything) of the wrong kind. The simple rule is avoid eating white carbs. No magic tricks, no need to get too complicated – just steer clear of white bread, rice, flour, potato etc.

The thing that drives me crazy about the Paleo Diet is that there is very little evidence that our ancestors ever actually ate this way. Sure, they may have killed a beast and eaten it but this didn’t happen every day. There are also the many studies by anthropologists (people who actually know what they are talking about and not those trying to make a buck out of fad diets) who have proven that a varied diet of meat, seeds, grasses, fruits and grains was closer to the truth. Wild meat was thought to have been much lower in fat and the plant component of ancient diets would have been around three times higher in fibre. The lack of cancers and heart disease that Paleo proponents attribute to this diet is more likely a result of the high fibre diet and lack of artificial ingredients and the fact that our ancestors simply didn’t live long enough to develop these types of diseases.

I can fully appreciate the benefits of eating less processed foods and I applaud the move away from chemicals, excess salt and sugar but lets not give this diet kudos for things it doesn’t deserve.

On an environmental level I can’t help but feel that this type of diet is a nightmare for the animals involved, the greenhouse gasses produced and the high costs of water and grain that meat production requires.

My other problem with Paleo eating is the well known increased risk of bowel cancers associated with meat consumption and lack of dietary fibre. Eating a plant based diet as vegans and vegetarians do provides much higher levels of fibre (about 60 grams per day). The Paleo diet is far lower at an estimated 25 grams. Some particular health conditions do better on grain free diets – mostly auto-immune disorders – but this is a specialised situation which requires monitoring by health professionals who know what they are taking about to ensure adequate micro and macro nutrients.

There is plenty of evidence that healthy carbohydrates like wholegrains and legumes are a great source of nutrients and fibre and there is absolutely no reason why they should be excluded from a healthy diet.

There is no doubt that reducing refined carbs, eating lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits leads to healthier weight management. I used this method myself recently to lose quite a bit of weight. I reduced my carbohydrate intake quite markedly for a short period of time then reintroduced healthy carbs in reasonable quantities to maintain my weight and look after my health.

My motto has always been ‘If you can’t pronounce it don’t eat it’. Eat like your grandmother is another good idea – simple meals of reasonable size. Lean proteins in small amounts, lots of veg and salad, some healthy carbs like beans and pulses and the occasional treat.

If only we spent our money on growing food, eating local seasonal produce, demanding healthier options and the regulation of chemicals and preservatives instead of fad diets and diet cook books I think we would be a whole lot healthier in body and soul and our planet would thank us for it.


Feel like something sweet ? Don’t want to eat biscuits ? …. read on

blue dish


Since losing a bit of weight and running a wellness/weight loss course I have found I am asked time and again about ways to top up between meals that aren’t going to take you off track from your goals – it may be weight loss or just finding a healthier way to eat.  If weight loss is your aim then snacking is not going to help you but some days you are using more energy or are simply more hungry than others and you might just need something to get you through. That’s ok, just go with it. I can honestly say that I have had this for every meal at some stage … it keeps you full and feels like you are eating pudding at any time of the day !

This recipe for apple and oat slice ticks all the boxes. You can have it for breakfast with some fruit or yoghurt, on it’s own for a mid morning or afternoon snack or for a little bit of something sweet after dinner. Kids will love it in lunch boxes and it is the perfect thing to grab to eat on the go when time is at a premium and you don’t want to fall prey to the temptations of nasty fast food.

Filled with oats, fruit and spices you are going to want to have this time and again. This recipe is vegan, gluten free (if you are coeliac or gluten intolerant make sure your oats are gluten free), contains no oil but has lots of good fatty acids from the nuts and flax seeds, very little sugar and lots of fibre and flavour.

This recipe is very adaptable so use what you like – try different nuts or fruits. Add some cranberries or other spices. Use what’s in season and what tastes good to you.  If you don’t have flax seeds in your fridge ( and you should !) you can substitute in an egg.

Baked Apple Walnut Oatmeal


Oat and Apple Slice

3 tablespoons of flax seeds
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 teaspoons each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 apples, diced – you can also use pear, I like a mix of both – I have used a grated carrot with good results too
2 cups of almond milk (or any other milk you like)
1/2 cup of apple sauce
1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey to taste – if your fruit is sweet you won’t even need this
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nuts – almonds, walnuts or pecans work best


Place flax seeds in a small bowl with 1/3 cup of warm water and allow to stand for a few minutes.

In a large bowl mix together oats, spices, baking powder and sugar. Make a well and  pour in the milk, apple sauce, flax seeds, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Fold in your diced fruit and pour into a baking tray. The mixture should be quite wet. Smooth the mixture in the pan and sprinkle over the nuts.

Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for about an hour until the middle is cooked.

Voila !



How to eat protein balls and still be able to pay your mortgage….

p ball

I have been working at a women’s health centre for a couple of years now and I love it. I love the women I get to meet and treat, their inspiring stories and strength and the opportunity to spread the joy about how eating well is not about denial or living on brussell sprouts and goji berries.

I have recently started running a 10 week course on our relationship with food. We’re covering all sorts of things like emotional eating, eating well on a budget, making better choices for ourselves and our children.

A couple of weeks ago I made some hippy lamingtons to share. One lovely woman I have had the pleasure of working with promptly went home, whipped up a batch and got her young family hooked on a snack that is doing them good.

In honour of her incredible dedication and willingness to embrace new things I have been dabbling in the kitchen coming up with some variations on this theme of healthy snacks.

I was recently sent a few samples of some Bounce Protein Balls from a company I deal with and I gave them a go. They were yummy but at around $3.60 per ball it isn’t really a sustainable option for feeding growing kids.



Here’s my take. These ones are full of nuts, healthy oils, fruit, protein and other yummy stuff. I made about 45 balls and this costs out at 26 cents a ball. Not a bad saving and certainly cheaper and healthier than muesli bars and bags of chips.


The basic mixture 

4 tablespoons of coconut oil
4 tablespoons of nut butter – I used almond but any nut butter will work
3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoons of vanilla
2 heaped tablespoons of vanilla protein powder
6 tablespoons of desiccated coconut

Flavour options

option 1

10 dates
3/4 cup raw almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

option 2

20 dried apricots
3/4 cup of pecans
1 tablespoon of LSA mix (linseed, soy and almond mix)
1 tablespoon chia seeds

option 3

10 dried figs
3/4 cup raw cashews
3-4 pieces of crystallised ginger or 1 teaspoon of dried ginger

For all variations whiz up nuts in a food processor until they are a fine crumble. Add all other ingredients in the option you have chosen and whiz together. Add all ingredients from your basic mixture and process till combined. If the mixture feels too dry you can add more honey or vanilla or even a splash of soy milk.

Roll heaped teaspoons full of mixture into balls and refrigerate. If you like you can coat them with coconut, cocoa powder or nuts.