Saturday, August 31, 2013

My week in pictures

Life is busy. My brain may be too tired to make words, but there's always time to snap a quick photo with my here's the week that was.

The definition of happy: waking up to this on the last day of winter...

No, not the friday night clutter; the magnificent sunshine!
The definition of thoughtful: a bright bunch of flowers, bought for me by Bike Boy for no particular reason.

The definition of delicious: paella.

The definition of procrastination: Getting your holiday photos printed into a hardcover book - two weeks before the first anniversary of your trip.

54 pages - just the highlights. 
The definition of scary: sitting in the passenger seat of your car, with your teenager in control of the vehicle.
A view that strikes fear into the heart of every parent. 
The definition of "Are we there yet?" - university open days.

The brand new and funky molecular science building at La Trobe Uni. Kind of stands out amongst
the boring beige brick buildings from back in my day...

Spring arrives tomorrow, the days are getting longer and we've been having 20ยบ+ temperatures. The federal election is a week away, which means this painfully irritating campaign bollocks will be all over. It's two weeks till the end of school term, for which we're all extremely grateful. This final year for the final child has been a killer. Then there's only three or four weeks of fourth term before they're into final exams. Phew. It'll be November before we know it and I have Melbourne Cup week off, as usual.

I'm hoping my brain comes back to life after that. We'll see.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

When healthy foods attack

An apple a day keeps the doctor away 
- Proverb

We all know the difference between healthy foods and unhealthy foods, right? That's Nutrition 101 - bananas are good, donuts are not. Broccoli: good. Jelly snakes: nuh-uh. Meat is good. Unless you're vegetarian, in which case it's bad. Agave syrup or honey are good, cane sugar is unspeakably bad.

Mmm, nope. I only wish it was as simple as eating from a list of everyone knows they're healthy foods to achieve optimum health. I know I've said this before, but the problem with prescribing precise rules around what everyone should and shouldn't eat is that we're all individuals. We have different genetics, different lifestyles and exposure to different environmental factors, which can have an impact on how foods affect us.

As I'm fast discovering, food intolerances can turn "the rules" upside down. I've begun the reintroduction phase of my FODMAPs testing and one week in, let's just say I'm not particularly happy so far.

Back up a few days to last Friday. First FODMAPs cab off the rank for testing was polyols, which are a group of sugar alcohols including sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol, mostly found in fruits and some veggies. You might recognise some of those words from food packaging too, because they're regularly used as sweeteners in place of sugar. You know those warnings you see on the labels of sugar-free gum and lollies, warning that over-consumption can cause gastro-intestinal upsets? That's a well-known effect of sugar alcohols, which are poorly absorbed in the gut - which is partly why they work so well in "diet" foods. Sweetness with no calories? Awesome. Well, awesome unless you're intolerant to fricken polyols anyway...

So my mission was to eat half a cup of mushrooms and four dried apricots  on Friday, but to otherwise stick to my low-FODMAPs diet.* I was so excited - I've really missed mushrooms in my omelettes. I ate the prescribed foods and waited to see what would happen. Nothing. I was fine on Friday (as I expected) and still fine on Saturday. OK, then. On Sunday I had to repeat the dose. On Monday morning I had some tummy grumbles and was slightly uncomfortable all day. Hmm. Tuesday saw my third and final dose of mushrooms and apricots, and by late afternoon: Oh, HELLO! My familiar old IBS symptoms were back and reasonably severe. On a scale of one to ten, I'd rank that episode at around a 6 or 7.

I spent Tuesday night sulking because the list of foods high in polyols includes:

Snow peas
Sweet potato

Luckily there's nothing I like on THAT list. #sarcasm :(

No apples or pears in MY fruit bowl.

I'm (mostly) over the sulking phase now. It's likely that I have a level of tolerance for some of these foods, which means I'll have to do some further careful testing down the track. I might be able to tolerate a couple of apples a week if I space them out, for example. Or a small quantity of mushrooms once a week. And sweet potato isn't as high in polyols as some of the other foods, so that may be fine if I stick to half a cup or less at a time. And don't eat it every day.

Meanwhile, polyols are off the menu again, as I need to move onto the next FODMAPs group for testing - lactose. I'm pretty sure this one will have a negative result, but in scientific experiments, one should never assume the outcome. I guess I'm about to find out.

Looks like that old saying about apples and doctors was wrong, eh? All these years of replacing sugar in recipes with apple sauce...getting my sweet hit via fresh or dried fruit...upping my veggie serves to replace a lot of starchy carbs. Turns out I was making my gut problems worse. And sweeteners? Xylitol? Out. Sugar is actually better for my poor dysfunctional body than most sweeteners. Luckily I still have erythritol and stevia as an option, so my big (expensive) box of Natvia won't go to waste.

So remember, just because a food is known to be healthy, doesn't mean it's healthy for YOU.

*I know I don't usually use the word "diet" when talking about what I eat, but this IS a diet in the true sense of the word. I am So. Over. It.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The best diet ever!!

Sponsored Series by Nuffnang Australia

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks.  HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

I don't know about you, but I find social media endlessly entertaining. I don't just mean the amusing conversations I have with my friends, the funny cat pictures that we all LOL about, or the latest faux pas by a celebrity or politician that has Twitter all a-twitter. My favourite kind of entertainment is when somebody expresses an OPINION, which results in a whole bunch of other people who also have OPINIONS homing in on any such comment to have their self-righteous say because, hey: THEY KNOW BETTER.

There are few more contentious subjects than "diets". Whenever I see a post on Facebook or Twitter about how awesome the Clean Raw Caveman diet is, and how wrong everyone else's approach to eating is, I have to admit that I get a little excited. I sit back, rub my hands together and wait for the inevitable sledging to begin. I never have to wait long. ;)

If you know me at all, you'd know that over the years, I've tried a number of dietary approaches, and have always ended up making my own modifications to whatever the rules may be. Because I'm not an idiot - I know that it's not necessary to be extreme to achieve optimum health. In the end, I've always come back to the same old basics, which are not that far removed from the rules my parents set down when I was a kid. They went something like this:

Eat your veggies or you'll sit at that table all night.
If you want a snack, the fruit bowl's over there.
You're thirsty? There's water in the tap.
Finish your meat; it'll put hair on your chest. (I think my Dad may have made that bit up)
Fat isn't fattening.
Potatoes aren't fattening. (repeat for whatever food is currently out of fashion with diet ninnies)
Yes, you can have ice cream. And a small bag of lollies. But not too often, OK? 
If you eat too much, of course you're going to have a sore tummy. (Also interchangeable with "Your eyes are bigger than your belly")

There appears to be a world shortage of common sense when it comes to food. Seriously, when did eating become so complicated? Don't get me started on the "food is fuel" thing, either. That's a whole other blog post.

Of course there are some folks who do need to pay extra attention to what they eat. If you have high cholesterol for instance, or are at risk of cardio-vascular disease, you need to add a few extra guidelines. Following a low cholesterol diet isn't at all difficult. As well as the standard nutrition advice for the general population, you should be sure to add some foods that lower cholesterol levels. They include*:

- High fibre foods... so fruits, veggies and whole grains. Oats and oat bran are especially helpful as well as apples, pears, prunes, kidney beans; all high in soluble fibre.
- Oily fish and/or an Omega-3 supplement.
- Walnuts, almonds and other nuts, which contain polyunsaturated fats, great for helping to keep blood vessels healthy.
- Olive oil, which has a mix of antioxidants that can help lower LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL cholesterol.
- Foods with added plant sterols, such as Heart Active milk.

If you have high cholesterol, you really should keep your consumption of saturated fat to a minimum as well. And trans fats? Ugh. Avoid those suckers if you can. Low cholesterol diets: not that hard.

P.S. If you need some inspiration for healthy meals and snacks, you could do worse than to check out the recipes on the Heart Active site.

These bread and butter puddings look really good...


HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks. HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

*Source: The Mayo Clinic

Friday, August 23, 2013

Recipe Alert

Still no blogging going on over here. know how it is. But look: here's a recipe!

It has banana and caramel...and some protein. What more could you want?

Right. Now I'm going back to pinning awesome stuff I'll probably never do/buy or see....


Friday, August 16, 2013

Paris, Pinterest and Dr Patrick

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a mixed bag at Chez Kek. I've been sick, Bike Boy's been sick, everyone's grumpy and I've had a bad case of can't-be-arsed when it comes to most things. There have been numerous early nights, some reading, a fair bit of pinning and not a lot of anything getting done around here.

It hasn't been all bad though. Here are a few things I've discovered you can do, even when you have almost zero energy or inclination:

1. Interrogate your well-travelled friends and colleagues for all the hot tips on how-to, where-to and so on. I've made some good progress on the Europe trip 2014 research front. I've also picked the brains of all the travel agents near my office and raided their stocks of glossy brochures, plus trawled every travel Pin, website and forum for extra advice, so the plan is beginning to solidify. Although it does keep changing on an almost hourly basis.

Ah, Paris..... [source]

2. Use all those pretty pictures you spend hours obsessively pinning for inspiration to actually DO stuff. I have a few projects on the go, among them organising my jewellery - it drives me NUTS when I'm running late in the morning and can't find the pair of earrings I want to go with my outfit... Plus, if things aren't in plain sight, I forget I even have them. I like things tidy, but if it's stuffed in a drawer, chances are it's not going to get worn.

This is an ongoing project, but look what you can do with a few cut glass things from $2 Shops and an empty mineral water bottle that was such a pretty turquoise, you had to save it. I knew that would come in handy one day:

For less than $10 - no more tangled chains. Buddha approves.

3. When you see a competition pop up in your Facebook news feed, ENTER IT. You never know what might happen. Wait. I'll back up a bit....

For those folks outside Australia (or anyone who's been living under a rock), last week's episode of the TV show Offspring caused an uproar amongst fans when the writers killed off the hunky male lead, Dr Patrick Reid, played by Matt Le Nevez. OMG. Who are we going to ogle on Wednesday nights NOW?

The final episode of the season, which included Patrick's funeral *sob* was scheduled to air on Wednesday this week. The day after the tragic demise of Dr Hunky, I spotted radio station Mix FM's contest offering a private screening of the show before it went to air on TV. I quickly banged out an entry and promptly forgot all about it.

So on Wednesday morning, I'm halfway through breakfast when my phone rings at 6:45am. I answer, and it's Chrissie Swan. Eeeeeee! She asks how I'm coping after the death of Dr Patrick and I mumble something stupid and then she says: Hang on, there's someone here who wants to talk to you and SHE PUTS MATT LE NEVEZ ON THE PHONE. Cue awkward star-struck incoherence. 

People have asked me: What did he say? and you know what? I have no freaking idea. He could have recited the alphabet and I would still have acted like a giggling schoolgirl. *face plant*

Anyhoo, I got to go along to the posh Cullen Hotel after work on Wednesday evening and watch the final episode (MINUS ad breaks!) before it actually aired, with Chrissie and Jane and about forty-odd die-hard Offspring fans, all dressed in black. There was fancy finger food, plenty of tissues supplied, it was a bit of fun, and I was home in time to watch it all over again on TV. :)

*sniff* Never forgotten...

Today, sadly, there have been no phone calls from sexy TV stars; only grocery shopping, piles of washing, some work to complete and a decision to be made on what to cook for dinner. Hmm, maybe Pinterest has the answer to that last one...