Christmas Survivial Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Are you worried about how to manage all the extra food, treats, desserts, and holiday festivities while still maintaining your healthy lifestyle and weight? This time of year can get busy and even the best intended healthy eating plans can quickly fall to the way side. You may need a holiday survivial guide to help you stay on track!

Indulging may leave you a couple of kilos heavier in the New Year making it harder to get back on track. Did you know the average person gains approximately 2kg over the holiday season? But, at the same time you do want to enjoy the holidays, spending time with family and friends and even eating a few items you really like. Actually, you can do both! Enjoy the holidays and stay on track at the same time!

Want to make your holidays stress-free? Start with these few easy steps in our holiday survival guide that will help you at least maintain your weight during the season and set you up for success in 2015:


  • Stop Stressing! Did you know that excessive stress, even about food, actually causes weight gain? Stress increases our cortisol levels, a hormone that makes us hold on to extra weight. Too much stress can also cause us to reach for a treat to help soothe our anxiety or avoid the situation.The first step during the holidays is to realize you are not going to be 100% successful with any diet and let that expectation, and the stress that comes with it, go! You always want what you can’t have, so the more you restrict, the more likely you are to go overboard.


  • Give yourself permission. During the holidays, there are foods available that are not around at other times of the year, whereas many others you can eat any time. There is no need to sample everything, so try to only stick to your personal favorites and eat a reasonable portion. This way, you are able to enjoy special foods without over doing it on your calories.


  • Try the Rule of Threes. This rule, when applied at parties with a lot of available food, can help you reduce your overeating. The rule of threes is where you choose no more than 3 items such as appetizers/nibbles/cheese and biscuits, no more than 3 alcoholic drinks or no more than 3 bites of a dessert. The important point is that you still get to taste the food, but remember that the taste never gets better after the third bite! You can apply this rule up to three times per week at any holiday party you have to attend!


  • Eat First. If you are going to a holiday party where there will be a lot of food available, have a light snack before heading out so you don’t arrive ravenous. If you are overly hungry, you will generally overeat, especially when there are a ton of options.


  • Make half your plate vegetables. Whenever there is a buffet or a large amount of food available, it is easy to overeat. If you fill half your plate up with vegetables (salads or cooked veggies), this leaves you less room for the other higher calorie items. Plus, veggies are high in fiber, which fills you up, so you feel satisfied with less.


  •  Watch the alcohol. Drinking to excess during the holidays can lead to too many calories and lowered inhibitions. Avoid drinks with sugary mixers such as sodas or juice. A glass of wine or a light beer are your best choices. Drink one glass of water per alcoholic drink to slow down your consumption and prevent dehydration.


  • Exercise. Doing even just 20-30 minutes of exercise every day can help you manage stress and burn off extra calories. Maybe you don’t have time right now for a 60 minute workout, but most people have time for short bouts of 10-20 minutes at a time.  You can also get your family involved by going for walks or bike rides together as part of your holiday celebration.


Remember, Christmas is only a day, so even if you do indulge on that day, just get back on track the next day. Be sure to get rid of any leftovers so you won’t be tempted! With this easy holiday survival guide, you can make it through the holidays without overindulging. You can start 2015 feeling confident and ready to reach your goals.

Ways to Lose Weight Differently This Year


Our Brisbane dietitians have weight loss tips to help you to lose weight differently this year!

With the New Year already upon us, many of us have set resolutions to finally get the weight off.  We all have heard the old adage “eat less and move more” to achieve weight loss, which definitely still works! But, this approach can be tedious sometimes and maybe you have tried this with limited success. So, instead why not consider some of these alternative ways of tackling weight management in 2014?

  • Try eating intuitively. The principle behind intuitive eating is that our bodies send us constant signals of how much or how little to eat. The problem is that most people ignore these signals completely and either won’t eat when they are hungry or eat way past the point of being full. The key to eating intuitively is to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are hungry, eat something. Try to make it something healthy of course, with a balance of high fiber carbohydrates and some protein. Stop eating when you are satisfied, meaning no longer hungry, you should not be full or stuffed. Just no longer hungry. The more you practice this, the easier it will become, allowing your body to fall into its natural hunger patterns and get to a healthy weight.
  • Sleep! Getting adequate sleep is the most underrated weight loss tool we have. A study of over 68,000 women found that over a 16 year period, those who slept less than 5 hours a night gained 1.14kg more than those who slept more than 7 hours a night. This was true regardless of diet, exercise, or other lifestyle factors that might affect weight. Lack of sleep leaves us craving high sugar, high calorie foods to keep our energy levels up. It messes with our metabolism and hormones too, throwing off hunger and satiety signals. When you are tired, exercise is definitely out of the question. So, this year, prioritize sleep. Aim for at least 7-8 hours a night.
  • Focus on stress management. Similar to lack of sleep, stress sends all of our hormones out of control. One of the most critical hormones for weight management is cortisol.  Levels of cortisol are increased during times of psychological or physical stress. When cortisol is elevated, it will increase your appetite, insulin levels, and cause you to deposit fat in the abdominal area.  A 2001 study of 59 healthy women found that stressed women with high cortisol levels, tended to eat more calories and sugar than those who were not under stress.  Therefore, stress management is critical to reduce cortisol levels. Daily low-intensity exercise, like walking, reduces stress and cortisol.  Other ways to manage your stress include taking time out for enjoyable activities, meditation/prayer, laughing with friends, or taking a long bubble bath.

These weight loss tips and techniques may work for you, especially if you are a chronic dieter and have hit a plateau. With long-term weight management, it is important to look at a person’s entire lifestyle, as everything can have an effect on weight. So, take a look at your hunger signals, hours of sleep, and stress in 2014 and make it your year to achieve a healthy weight!

Christmas Day the Healthy Way

You can still have a fabulous Christmas Day without ending the day feeling horribly full and sluggish. With a few simple swaps you can indulge in delicious, healthy foods that won’t leave you requiring an afternoon nap.


Swap fatty meats and enjoy a seafood Christmas. The hot Queensland climate makes seafood the perfection Christmas option. Grilled fish and fresh prawns are delicious paired with fresh salads and a cool beverage.  Try out the recipe for Chermoula prawns below. You won’t even think twice about missing out on pork crackling.

Filling your plate with at least half salad is a great way of filling up on the fresh foods that don’t leave you feeling heavy and overfull. Try some interesting salads like our Quinoa Salad or our Beef, beet, lentil and walnut salad.

Swap chips for vegetable sticks. Carrot, beans, celery, snow peas and capsicum are great for dipping in yummy dips. Try our beetroot hommus or tomato salsa for a light and filling snack.

christmas tree fruit

Swap the lolly basket for a fresh fruit tree. A fruit tree makes the perfect table decoration and people of all ages like to munch on fresh fruit. Secure a large, upside down carrot into an apple as the base, before using toothpicks to secure piece of fruit to the tree. Top with a rockmelon or pineapple star.  What a perfectly delicious centre piece for your table!

Fruit doesn’t need to be the boring dessert. The amazing fruits in season at the moment like mangoes, lychees and stonefruit are delicious on their own but you could freeze them and then blend to create a fruity sorbet!  A clever idea is to freeze a yoghurt like Chobani and blend it through the fruit so it is similar to ice-cream but without the fat or sugar!

Swap cream for yoghurt. Pavlova is a common dessert option for many families at Christmas. Replace the cream with a fruity yoghurt or Frûche for a healthier treat that tastes just as delicious!

The ‘TWO BITE’ rule.  If you can’t choose your favourite desserts (or just don’t want to miss out…completely understandable as I love my desserts!) then follow my very simple  rule. Eat enough of each dessert to satisfy between two to three mouthfuls.  If you really think about it, food never tastes better after the third mouthful!  So if you want to eat the desserts because they are just so scrumptious, then go for it – but truly enjoy the taste…don’t just scoff it!

Swap your afternoon nap for a game of cricket or a swim in the pool. Get all the family involved in games so you’ll be having so much fun it won’t even feel like exercise.

Swap sugary drinks for water. Often at Christmas we have already overindulged in the sugar so opt for plain or soda water with a little lemon or lime. Cooling a fruity tea and adding soda water is a great twist on a punch.  You even like to add frozen fruit chunks as decoration and to keep drinks cool.

And here’s a BIG TIP – don’t bring leftovers home (or if you are hosting Christmas, send the leftovers home with others)! Christmas day is only one day and so a few extra nibbles really aren’t a problem.  The problem to the waistline comes from a a week of eating the desserts and rum balls that are leftover!

At the end of the day, Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones – with a treat or two in the middle.  Don’t stress about eating a little extra on the day but make sure you enjoy every moment and every mouthful.


From the team at New Life Nutrition, we wish you and your families a

Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year!

Chermoula Prawns


1 small brown onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon ground cumin

3 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5kg green prawns, peeled, deveined, tails left intact

Lemon wedges and tzatziki, to serve



  1. Combine onion, coriander, parsley, garlic, cumin, paprika and turmeric in a large bowl. Stir in oil. Add prawns. Toss until prawns are well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate.
  2. ?Preheat a barbecue plate on medium-high heat. Place half the prawns, in a single layer, on barbecue. Spoon over half the marinade. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes each side or until prawns turn pink. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining prawns and marinade.
  3. ?Serve warm prawns with lemon wedges and tzatziki.




Mindfulness and Weight Loss

Have you ever eaten a meal while at your desk during a busy day and realized you ate everything without even noticing? Have you ever eaten an entire bag of potato chips before you even knew it was gone while watching TV? You may be engaging in mindless eating.  Not actually paying attention to your food and what you are eating may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.  What if you could achieve a healthy body weight without counting calories, weighing your food, or feeling guilty when you fall off the wagon?

Many of us unfortunately started to be programmed to overeat in childhood, when our parents forced us to clean our plates. Forcing a child to eat when they are not hungry teaches them to override their own hunger and satiety signals. Most children have the natural ability to eat until they are satisfied and not stuffed, unlike many adults. In addition to conditioning in childhood, chronic dieting may have caused us to ignore hunger signals when we are “on a diet” or overeat when we are “off” the diet. If we believe that food might be scarce in the future, we tend to overeat today to make sure we don’t go hungry.

Mindfulness starts with being in the present moment. For many of us, our minds are living in either the past or the future. We are always thinking of what will happen tomorrow or maybe dwelling on painful experiences in the past. But, if we shift our attention to the present, we will see that our minds are a lot clearer, a lot less cluttered. Focusing on the present can help relieve stress and anxiety tied to ideas about the future or the past, reducing the need to eat emotionally. If we are able to be in the present moment we can notice what is happening around us and tap in to our body’s natural needs.

We have forgotten that our body actually naturally sends signals when it is hungry or satisfied. The key to long-term weight maintenance is to learn to listen to these signals by practicing mindful eating. The first step is to tap into these cues by always asking ourselves why we want to eat. Before you put something in your mouth, ask am I hungry? Am I sad? Angry? Bored? Tired? If you are NOT hungry, then you need to address the other emotional issues instead of eating. If you are sad, call a friend or watch a funny movie. If you are tired, take a nap! Eating will not resolve any of those other issues and may actually make you feel worse.

Other ways to be mindful is to limit distractions while eating. People who watch TV while eating tend to eat about 228 calories more than those who are not distracted. Make meal time special and sacred. Sit down, put on some soft music, and enjoy your meal. It takes about twenty minutes for the brain to register the feeling of fullness, so take your time while eating. Put your fork down and chew each bite well. If you are eating with others, enjoy the conversation instead of focusing on scarfing down your meal as quickly as possible. Eating too fast may even prevent us from absorbing nutrients properly to get the most out of our food.

Lastly, eat foods you enjoy and make you feel good. If you prefer fish over chicken, choose fish. Or if too much sugar in the morning gives you an energy crash later in the day, start your day with protein instead. Listening to how your body feels and reacts with certain foods can help you tailor a diet that is healthiest for you. Try keeping a journal of your food and moods to help you identify your optimal eating pattern. Of course it’s important to maintain balance by including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains into your diet, but still honor your taste preferences within those categories. Food was meant to be enjoyed, so take the time, pay attention to it, and enjoy eating mindfully for a healthy weight.

Easy food swaps to a healthier you!

To have healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be quite as complicated as you may think. There are some tasty and really simple swaps you can do to achieve it.

One very simple swap, which I use every day, is instead of having butter or margarine, swap it for a thin spread of avocado – cheaper and definitely tastier!

Snacking on a healthier option can sometimes seem impossible with all the quick and easy fixes around, especially when you’re in the office and you spy the cookie jar!  But instead of having that biscuit swap it for some fruit, a cup of tea or a handful of natural nuts which are high in essential fats and a good source of fibre.

Some other really simple swaps you can do are;

  • having wholegrain bread instead of white bread
  • swap the ice cream after dinner for a low fat yoghurt you’ve frozen yourself or a fruity sorbet – lemon tastes amazing!
  • have a natural untoasted cereal rich in wholegrains and fibre
  • having cut up celery, carrot or capsicum with a salsa instead of a dip and crackers
  • instead of getting a large coffee, get a small one – and make it on skim!
  • swap a packet of lollies for a small punnet of berries such as blueberries as they can help protect your heart and improve your cholesterol
  • swap a handful of potato chips for a small bowl of plain popcorn and season it with something like cinnamon to give it a little flavour
  • for breakfast, make a smoothie instead of having buttered toast

Here is a great recipe using blueberries that I found on the Australia Blueberry Growers’ Association,


  • 1 cup reduced fat milk
  • 125g punnet fresh blueberries
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup reduced fat plain yoghurt
  • 2 small mint leaves


1. Place milk, blueberries, mango, yoghurt and mint into a jug. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Note: Mango can be replaced with other seasonal fruits such as bananas or
peaches which complement blueberries perfectly.

It is easy to make swaps toward a healthier you!  For even more great ideas, visit the ‘Swap It’ website.  Start to make the swap today!
Recipes. (2012). Retrieved July 15, 2012, from

Swap tips. (2012). Retried July 17, 2012, from

Low Carb Spaghetti Bolognaise

Serves – 4

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garli,c chopped
2 x 120g lean mince (try kangaroo!)
1 large carrot, grated
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 x 500g jar low carb pasta sauce – Leggo’s spaghetti sauce with beef  OR  tinned tomato passata
6 green zucchini
6 yellow zucchini
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
freshly ground pepper to taste
pinch of sea salt (optional)
light spray of olive oil (optional)


  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little water until softened. Add the mince and cook, stirring constantly for 5 mins, until browned. Add carrot and celery and cook for a further 5 minuted, adding a little water if necessary.
  2. Stir through low carb pasta sauce. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 mins.
  3. While sauce is cooking, use a potato peeler on the zucchini to create spaghetti
  4. Just before serving, blanch zucchini in a pinch of sea salt (optional) and bring water to the boil for 1 min to heat through, then drain.
  5. Toss with a light spray of olive oil (optional) and a tablespoon of the parsley.  Keep warm.
  6. Season saute with pepper. Fold in the rest of the chopped parsley just before serving.
  7. Divide zucchini spaghetti into serving bowls and top with bolognaise sauce.



 ** Alternative to making spaghetti bolognaise is to make mince into a meatball mixture.  Add the below ingredients to the mince and roll to form meatballs.  Cook in a non-stick fry pan until becoming golden brown then continue at Step 2 to continue cooking meatballs in the tomato pasta sauce.

  • 1 egg
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • ¼ tsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp psyllium husk
  • pepper,
  • rosemary
  • basil
  • thyme

** Alternative to zucchini is to use carrot, cabbage (prepared in the same way) or SPAGHETTI SQUASH.  Directions for preparation of spaghetti squash as below.  (This was inspired by my client Gill who gave me her home grown spaghetti squash!)

  1. Prick the spaghetti squash all over with a skewer so it will not burst while baking.
  2. Place whole squash in a shallow baking pan.
  3. Bake in preheated 180*C oven for 1 hour.
  4. When cool enough to handle, cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise with a serrated knife.
  5. Scoop the seeds and fibrous strings from the centre of the cooked spaghetti squash
  6. Gently scrape the tines of a kitchen fork around the edge of the spaghetti squash to shred the pulp into strands.
  7. Cooked spaghetti squash is usually served with a sauce or gravy because the flesh is very bland in flavour.


Foods that make you go zzzzz….

Anybody that knows me well, knows that I’m a fabulous sleeper. You say the word ‘sleep’ (or pyjamas for that matter) and I’m in la-la land. Despite my innate ability, not being able to get a good night’s rest is an issue that I find many of my clients struggle with on a regular basis. Not only are poor sleep patterns frustrating, but they can also affect our health and weight. Most of us know the feeling of being tired, but not enough shut eye on a regular basis can negatively affect our mood making us irritable, anxious and more prone to becoming depressed. It’s also been shown that inadequate rest slows down our brain activity including our ability to learn, remember things and concentrate while also reducing how we handle stress and maintain a healthy immune system.

Another important reason to get enough sleep is the effect that a lack of sleep has on our waistlines. It seems that when it comes to body weight, it may be that if you snooze – you lose (weight that is). Not sleeping seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite and as a result putting on weight. According to a number of recent studies, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. The current research has focused on the link between sleep and the hormones that regulate appetite.

Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates hunger and leptin is the hormone that signals fullness to the brain and helps to suppress appetite. It seems that sleeping less is associated with a decrease in leptin (the satisfaction secret) and an increase in ghrelin (the hunger gremlin). Having said all this, not only does sleep loss make you hungrier, it also stimulates cravings for those ‘fatty’, ‘sugary’ foods like cakes, chocolate and biscuits to give you a boost of energy to keep you going during the day. Vicious circle.


There are a number of things to consider to help you get a restful night of shut eye and eating the right foods can certainly help you to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.


  1. Caffeine – Avoid any caffeinated beverages from 2pm, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks and coke. Also, don’t forget that chocolate also has caffeine in it (along with lots of sugar) so probably best to keep your intake of this to a limit also!
  2. Large meal close to bed time – Heavy meals high in fat and calories less than three hours before going to bed rev up active digestion and can often leave you feeling uncomfortably full or, even worse, cause heartburn or reflux. Watch out for spicy foods for the similarly  aggravating effects they can have.
  3. Processed  meats – They’re an easy choice for a quick meal but processed meats such as ham, bacon, sausages and smoked meats contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which stimulates the brain to give you a buzz.
  4. All liquids 90 minutes before going to bed – It takes about 90 minutes for the body to process liquids, so limit liquids of any kind for at least 90 minutes before bedtime if the need to urinate wakes you up in the middle of the night.
  5. Alcohol  – Do not use alcohol to help you fall asleep. Although alcohol may initially induce sleep, once it wears off, the sleep tends to be broken. Plus, alcohol generally makes you need to go to the loo through its dehydrating effect on the body which means you’ll probably be waking up to pee throughout the night.



  1. Almonds –   Almonds contain magnesium which promotes both sleep and muscle relaxation, they have the added benefit of being high in protein which can help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping
  2. Banana  – Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, which help to relax stressed muscles. They also contain tryptophan which is the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin and melatonin – the hormones that slow down the traffic in your brain and make you sleepy. (Serotonin also helps to regulate your mood and appetite).
  3. Dairy – Yogurt, milk and cheese contain tryptophan but they also contain another important nutrient – calcium. Calcium is a sleep-inducing vitamin as it relaxes muscles and nerves in the body but it also helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Makes a glass of warm milk the perfect little sleeping tablet!
  4. Cherries – This yummy summer fruit have been shown to contain a significant level of the hormone melatonin which will help you to start feeling sleepier at night.
  5. Porridge – The low-GI carbohydrates in a bowl of oats triggers the body to produce insulin which can speed up the release of serotonin leading to sleep. Plus the milk in it will have an added positive effect.
  6. Tea – Yes, avoiding all caffeine in the evening is essential, but some herbal varieties can help get you into sleep mode. Chamomile tea is well known as a helpful and safe sleep aid and green tea (must be decaf) contains theanine which helps promote sleep.



An all-carbohydrate snack, especially one high in added sugar is less likely to help you sleep. You’ll miss out on the positive effects of tryptophan and you may set your body off on the roller-coaster ride effect of plummeting blood sugar followed by the release of stress hormones that will keep you awake. The best bedtime snack is one that has both low GI (slowly released) carbohydrates, protein and some calcium.

For a good night’s sleep try:

  • a glass of warm milk
  • small bowl of traditional oats made on milk
  • almond butter on a slice of grainy toast
  • grainy cracker (like Ryvita) topped with a small slice of low-fat cheese
  • low fat natural yoghurt with fresh or frozen cherries
  • banana smoothie made on low fat milk

But keep in mind that it takes about one hour for the tryptophan in the foods to reach the brain, so don’t wait until right before bedtime to have your snack.



  1. Exercise – While exercise is good for you in many ways and can assist with relaxation, if it is done to close to bed time, it can actually stimulate your body too much to allow rest. This happens as a result of the endorphin/adrenaline rush of high intensity exercise and also because of a higher body temperature (a cooler body temperature promotes sleep). Best advice is to try to schedule your exercise in the morning or at least five hours before your scheduled bedtime (takes about that long for your body to cool down properly).
  2. Stress – If you have a lot on your mind, consider keeping a journal next to your bed so you can scribble down any thoughts that won’t let your mind settle.
  3. Tiredness – It might seem obvious but go to bed when you are tired. Don’t wait until Desperate Housewives is finished because there is a good chance that you will start to feel more awake again which will make it more difficult to get to sleep.


Let me know how you go with these tips and if anybody has any other tips that have worked for them, please feel free to comment below.

Sweet dreams!