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

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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 …

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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 ….

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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.

 

 

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.

My new favourite salad… beetroot, pumpkin and walnut

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We are heading towards warmer weather so what could be better than a new salad to try. Quick to pull together, satisfying, healthy – Nothing beats a big healthy salad for nutrients, taste, weight management and freshness. This one is my new favourite .. I hope you like it too.

Beetroot, walnut and pumpkin salad

3 cups diced pumpkin
3 beetroot – peeled and diced
2 cups walnuts
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of paprika or chilli
Small block of feta cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar ( I used a balsamic glaze because I like the sticky sweetness of it )
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Lots of salad leaves – whatever you have in the garden or fridge is fine.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place pumpkin and beetroot on a lined oven tray and bake until tender – around 30 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.
Melt butter in frypan and add walnuts tossing to coat. Add in salt, brown sugar and chill or paprika and stir until sugar is melted and nuts are coated well. Place walnuts on a baking tray and bake in oven for 8 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make dressing mix together balsamic, honey, lemon juice and olive oil. I put them all in a jar and give them a good shake.

Place salad leaves on a large platter.Drizzle over dressing, toss through to coat leaves. Add pumpkin and beetroot. Crumble feta over the top. Add walnuts. Serve.

You could vary this by adding some orange or tangelo segments, blue cheese, avocado or pine nuts instead of walnuts. Mix it up to find the version you like best. Make sure you send me your winning variations in the comments section.

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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 )

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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.

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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

Trying to lose some weight ? Read on ….

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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   https://naturocath.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/losing-the-weight-and-gaining-the-cookbook/.

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.

 NATUROCATH’S GUIDE TO HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS

1. GET REAL

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.

2. GET EDUCATED

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.

3. GET ORGANISED

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.

GET RESULTS       FEEL GOOD       LOSE THE WEIGHT   

 

                             

My beef with the paleo diet ….

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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.

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