Monday, 29 April 2013

Motivation and Haters

Finding your fitness passion/motivation is crucial to long lasting success for a healthy lifestyle and weight. When I realised that cycling and dancing were activities that I wanted to do for fun and didn't notice that I was exercising while doing these activities, I began to do them more and in turn, began to lose weight without going to a gym and feeling like exercising was a drag. The great things about these forms of exercise is that they are made up of a variety of different forms of the one activity. Cycling is also easy to fit into a busy lifestyle - choosing to cycle somewhere versus hopping in the car is a very easy way to get in daily exercise. Cycling can also be done in various ways - mountain biking/cross country, down-hill, street, competitive and indoor (I'm sure there is even more!). Dancing is fantastic! There are so many different types of dance and it's hard not to smile when you do it. I loved the Hip hop abs exercise DVD when I was trying to lose weight before my 21st as it was high energy and made me laugh as I tried to do all the moves and the instructor is so charismatic and encouraging. 

A friend of mine who also struggled with weight, found fire spinning. It became a passion and he wanted to keep doing it to get better. Without really noticing that he was becoming more active, yet as a result (combined with a healthier diet) he began to lose weight.

Obviously, fire spinning, cycling and dancing isn't for everyone...but as you can see, once you find something active that you can incorporate into your life without it feeling like exercise then fat starts to melt away without feeling like being active is a chore.

There is another thing that one must overcome when transforming your lifestyle into a healthier one....Haters!
After duscussing this with a couple of people who have gone through weight loss journeys, i have come to realise that this is a common occurence. The closest people arround you, the people that are supposed to love and care for you unconditionally can quickly become your enemy against change. Humans hate change! Your friends and family are used to "fat (Insert name here)" and when you have made up your mind and accepted the changes you will make, those people haven't. It is hard to get used to someone changing their entire lifestyle and sometimes it can mean that you can no longer surround yourself with the same people as they become negative influences. 
Another thing i encountered is family and their struggle to accept me as someone who lived, looked and behaved so differently than the Anna they had known for years. Suddenly after months of not seeing me, they would be shocked and afraid at the change and would think the worst - does she have an eating disorder? Well let me tell you that this is likely to happen and your task is to push through this as it can seem that the very people who are supposed to be your support systems start to project negativity. If you get through this, you will only be stronger for it and even more resilient. Eventually, if you are open and positive towards these poeple and communicate freely, they will come around in the end. 

This weeks finds:

  1. When i worked full-time over the summer, I began to appreciate how hard it is for full-time office workers to stay active and healthy...This site give you great tips for building fail-safe lunches - in fact it's a great guide for building every meal:
  2. ActiveBeat - a website featuring health advice and recipes etc....
  3. Whole-grain Zucchini Bread: (Source: Clean Eating)

Serves 12


  • •Cooking spray
  • •1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour - I substituted 1/2 a cup of this for white high grade flour for a lighter texture.
  • •1/4 cup spelt flour - I swapped this for oat flour (ground rolled oats)
  • •2 tsp baking powder
  • •1/2 tsp baking soda
  • •1/2 tbsp cinnamon, ground
  • •1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • •2/3 cup of apple, grated
  • •1 cup zucchini, grated
  • •1 egg
  • •1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt - I used Bio Farms low fat acidophilus plain yogurt
  • •1/4 cup raw honey
I then added 2 Tbsp of unsweetened dutch cocoa powder, one Tbsp of Healtheries LSA with buckwheat and chia and 3 Tbsp of dark chocolate drops. All optional...but you can't say no to chocolate!


  • 1
    1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Mist an 8 x 4-inch or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • 2
    2.In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
  • 3
    3.In a separate bowl, whisk together apple, zucchini, egg, yogurt and honey.
  • 4
    4.Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold until just combined. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.


Nutrients per 3/4-inch slice (2 oz): Calories: 113, Total Fat: 1 g, Sat. Fat: 0.25 g, Carbs: 24 g, Fibre: 3 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 4 g, Sodium: 125 mg, Cholesterol: 21 mg

My version came out at the same amount of calories per serving (113) with Total fat: 2.3g, Sat. Fat: 0.8g, Carbs: 15.9g, Fibre: 2.0g, Sugars: 7.4g, Protein: 3.5g, Sodium: 168.3mg, Cholesterol: 0.2 mg.
My finished Product :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Eating Out

Eating out is hard to navigate sometimes and it can feel awkward to be the one who makes the special requests and alterations. Sometimes one can be reluctant to ask questions about how food is prepared and whether they can change things for you...then remaining assertive when/if they do not prepare things the way you requested - usually you are out with friends and family who can give you exasperated looks. But don't let that put you is crucial that you navigate restaurants with caution when you are trying to stay healthy or lose weight as chefs often have a love for cooking things in a heap of fat - of course because it tastes better that way! 

Controlling portions is important. If you wish to order an entre; share it. Set aside half of you main in a to-go box, or ask what the portion sizes are for the mains and ask for less if they are generous - like Lone Star for example. 

I research the restaurant online before going. If they have the menu available online, you can research each option to find the best choice - but one that will also satisfy you. I try to find a balance between health and my cravings. Plan what you will consume before you get there; will you have an entre, dessert, alcohol etc. I often decide to skip the entre so I can have some desert as I have a weakness for sweet things. Because I love dessert so much, I can live without that glass of wine and just stick with water - saving me approximately 120 calories with that one choice! I also have a light snack like an apple or a couple of vita-wheats with some low fat cheese before i leave home so I can last without nibbling until the main comes out which can sometimes take up to an hour. 

Tips to keep in mind when you’re dining out:

  • Fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed foods are high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. If you’re not sure about a certain dish, ask your waiter/waitress how it’s prepared. 
  • Request that your meal be prepared with vegetable oil (made from canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower) or soft margarine instead of butter.
  • Have gravy, sauces and dressings served on the side, so you can control the amount you eat or skip them completely.
  • Ask if the restaurant has fat-free or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk.
Try to order first...listening to others choices may tempt you. If I like a meal but it has an element like chips as a side or a creamy dressing, I ask for light vinaigrette on the side and to replace the fries with steamed vegetables or salad. Ask for things to be cooked in less oil and opt for less meat if you feel like a meat dish. Approximately 100g or a palm size portion is what you need; however most restaurants serve portions well over 200g - especially stone grill!

If you are more of an entre person, try to choose things like salads and soups - but be aware and ask if the soup is prepared with cream...AVOID everything with the word creamy in it!

  • Bad preparation words = buttery, breaded, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, scalloped, au gratin, a la mode.
  • Good preparation words = grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, stir-fried, roasted, blackened.
  • Marinara and tomato-based sauces are usually more flavorful and healthier than creamy sauces and gravies. As a rule of thumb, red is usually better than white or yellow.
  • Get all sauces, gravies and creams on the side so you can add to taste.
  • Even better, rely more on herbs and spices to flavor your food. Become familiar with your favourites and ask for them by name.
  • If you must order pasta with a cream sauce, ask the kitchen to go light on the sauce.
  • Know your fatty and lean meats. Pork: fairly lean except sausage, bacon, and ribs. Fish: all fairly lean or contain healthy fat. Chicken: fairly lean especially when skin and fat is removed, and white is leaner that dark meat. Ground beef products (in order of most to least fat): ground beef. Eye of round and roasts are leaner, while steaks and ribs have more fat.
  • Don’t eat the skin of chicken, turkey or duck. You can save yourself loads of fat and calories with this simple step.
  • Ask for your fish or meat to be baked, with no extra butter.
  • Vegetarian options are not always lower in calories if they’re loaded with cheese, nuts and other non-vegetable ingredients.
  • Remember, a salad and a healthy appetiser can make a great meal
  • Order as many vegetable options as possible. Steamed, stewed or boiled veggies are best, with little or no added butter or oil. Avoid butter and cheese sauces. Watch out for anything “creamed” or in casserole form.
  • Potato options are good too. Stick with baked, boiled or roasted potatoes instead of fried potatoes, such as chips, fries or hash browns.
  • The loaded baked potato can be a loaded problem. Instead of butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. Try salsa, chives, pepper, margarine, low-fat sour cream, broccoli or salad bar veggies.
  • Coleslaw is often mistaken for a healthy option, when in actuality it can be really high in calories.
  • Fruit or fruit salad can make a sweet side dish (and might subside any craving for dessert). If there is no fruit cup side listed on the menu, the kitchen may still have the ingredients.
  • Plain rice or noodles is better than anything fried or covered in creamy sauce or gravy. A tomato-based sauce can be added as well.
  • Ask for natural yogurt or to hold the cream on your dessert and order things like meringue and sorbet. If there is nothing on the menu that you simply MUST consume then don't bother.....I have some ice cream at home in the freezer that I can control the portion and this choice also saves you money.
Even though it may seem like hard work, the way you feel after making those good choices is totally worth it and it gets easier as you get more skilled at navigating menus. Don't let others eating with you influence you, often they feel guilty when they see you eating well and subconsciously want to sabotage you...stay strong!
I have things like ribs, macaroni cheese, lasagna and other 'naughty' foods at home where I can control portions, cooking oils and make ingredient substitutions. I believe in indulging in a controlled environment rather than throwing all of your diet goals out the window just because your out, or it's a special occasion...

All the best...
Anna :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Substitutions and Sacrifices

Part of my journey has involved learning how to sacrifice and substitute to make cooking and baking healthier. Using a canola spray and a good non-stick pan or baking/grilling food instead of using a heap of oil is a great way to reduce unnecessary added fat to your diet. However a small amount of good monounsaturated fats is good so don’t be completely scared of using oils, just be mindful that they have a high number of calories for such tiny amounts. I have even tried roasting vegetables in a stock...Low-fat Roasties

If you want to try baking things, but healthy, it is certainly a huge learning experience as baking is a science and if you start messing with the tried and true, then the results can be disastrous. Here are some pretty fail-safe substitutions that you can use in you cooking/baking to make things a bit better for you:

Baking and cooking subs and tips:

  1. All-purpose flour can be replaced with whole wheat flour. Since whole wheat flour is light, add only half the required amount.
  2. Substitute margarine and butter with apple sauce or prune puree. Plus it adds flavour to the dough. You can even use baby food or puree cans of pears, peaches etc. that you have lying in the back of your pantry. For best results, sometimes it works better if you only substitute about ¾ of the necessary fat.
  3. Refined sugar has absolutely no nutritional value, why not replace it with honey, stevia, xylitol, brown, raw or Demerara sugar to sweeten the goodies?
  4. Whole eggs definitely hold the dough together and cannot be replaced. But you can use egg whites instead of whole eggs.
  5. Or you can absolutely replace half the amount of eggs with nut butter, bean or fruit substitutions. You can also use a vegan flax-egg substitute which involves dissolving 1 tablespoon of freshly ground flax/linseed with 2-3 tablespoons of water – which then is the equivalent to 1 egg.
  6. Instead of using whole milk, try the low fat, fat free milk, coconut and almond milk; the benefits are fruitful. In fact there is so many low fat or reduced fat options for most things nowadays… I have even found that Meadow fresh low fat yogurt has more calcium and protein than the full fat versions and I love Mainland’s reduced fat feta – it means that I can have more!
  7. Oatmeal is a healthy ingredient for breakfast and for a healthy substitute for bread crumbs. Now you can also use oatmeal in cakes; replace half the flour with oatmeal.
  8. Everyone loves cheese cake…Now you can opt for low fat cream cheese and still have the same decadent taste.
  9. When you see cream used in soups, you can opt for skim milk plus a tablespoon or so of flour. Or some light evaporated milk.
  10. Sour cream in your stroganoff or cakes can be replaced with unsweetened natural yogurt.

Good luck with your experimentation…I would love to hear about anything you try and feel free to ask about healthy swaps on this page or on Facebook. Also you may be interested in my Pinterest recipe board which is where I pin all of the great healthier recipes that I find – the link is on the left of the blog page.

xx Anna :)

Monday, 8 April 2013

Steps for success - and BROWNIES!

Torani Syrups:
Simply syrups and Merivale mall supermarket stock these sugar free syrups. I use them to sweeten and flavour my porridge in the morning and sweeten my coffee so i don't need sugar. I have also tried them in my baking. Coffee culture all over NZ and Ad Lib deli/cafe at Canterbury university have the sugar free syrups as an option for your drinks... :)

Anna's Top Tips For a Healthier Lifestyle:

  1. Don't skip breakfast!
  2. Eat often and in small portions - this will maintain your metabolism. Starving yourself is a waste of time and will just make you fatter if you cave and then end up eating everything in sight - don't bother!
  3. Interval training
  4. Try not to eat late at night - two hours before bedtime is when the kitchen closes! (I'm still struggling with this one)
  5. Drink low calorie options - a hot lemon water or green tea first thing in the morning is a great metabolism booster and it replenishes your body fluids after sleeping. Coffee (black as often as you can - no sugar! and herbal tea are great options. I like to keep low calorie soda to a once and a while treat. No juice drinks, energy drinks or standard soda!
  6. Sleep - this has been a proven factor in people success rate in staying at a healthy weight. This one is a hard one for me, definitely a goal of mine to increase the sleep hours.
  7. Plan ahead - prepare your lunch and snacks the night before or give yourself enough time in the morning to get some healthy options for you to eat if your going to be out and about all day. I also like to spend a day in the weekend planing my dinners so I have left overs to take for meals when I'm at work. This is a great way to not only save on calories but also save money!
  8. Record - track everything you put in your mouth. This will train you to be accountable for those little snacks that you write off and say don't count...I'm telling you that they add up! 
  9. Use a programme like myfitnesspal which is what helped me and I would say was most important factor in my success. But you have to commit to this and do it religiously which can be difficult at first but it soon becomes habit. Furthermore, the great thing about this app is that if you find yourself going over your goal, you can also find out what amount of activity you would need to burn off that little extra you ate.
  10. Protein and healthy fats - lean protein like skinless chicken and fish is a great choice and snacking on natural nuts (and maybe the odd salt an vinegar almond!). 
  11. Carb-free afternoon - try to start adding a day a week that you don't have wheat products after mid-day. This is one of my goals for the next few weeks
  12. Portion control  - read the back of labels to see what the portion size is and what nutrition makes up that serve. Weight out portions as it will train you eye to be able to gauge how much you should eat. Use the per 100g/100ml e.t.c column to compare products as the serving size is often different.
  13. Pump up the spice! Spices and herbs are a great way to flavour food without using salt. Spice is a proven metabolism booster so chuck some chili, cinnamon and paprika into your diet as often as you can. Indian is a great cuisine but is often loaded with unhealthy creamy fats. I like to make indian at home so i can control the amount of saturated fat that goes into the meal. This week I'm going to try Lamb Saag - a tomato and spinach based dish topped with unsweetened natural yogurt. This dish is protein rich and contains heaps of spices! I will also try to make roti for the first time. 

My goals for this week:

  1. Sleep more
  2. Carb-less afternoon a couple days a week
  3. Try the Indian recipe - including roti 
  4. Don't snack after 8/9pm

This weeks finds:


Stripped curries are either full time s or optional.
Stripped curries are dairy free – therefore reduce fat – light and nutritious options where the only thing not stripped is the flavour!

Monday, 1 April 2013


I cannot stress the importance of breakfast enough! As an overweight person, I often skipped breakfast. As soon as I started eating healthy breakfasts, I lost weight. If you can incorporate this habit plus only drinking water, herbal tea and the occasional coffee (black no sugar if you can manage) and not change anything else, you will start to see an improvement in your daily productivity and hopefully in your weight. It is important to note that not all breakfast foods are equal. You want to aim for high protein, high fibre, low fat and low sugar. Start reading the labels on packaged foods to get the right serving sizes and nutrition content. For cereal/muesli make sure it is natural over toasted, has less than 10 grams of sugar per serve (unless there is dried fruit in it – but I like to add fresh fruit so I don’t like the ones with fruit already in them) and make sure your toast has loads of fibre and has lots of grainy goodness in it!

This link explains the importance of breakfast and the website has some great recipes too!

Oat meal (porridge) is a great low GI option that is great for keeping you full for longer. There are so many options with oatmeal, you can do just about anything! I try to use honey or sugar free sweeteners (Torani syrups) and avoid the oat singles as they are full of sugar. I love Pam's creamy oatmeal - but they are all really the same.

Here are some links to recipes that will spice up your morning oatmeal:

My favourite bread at the moment is Vogels; Toasted sesame and chia. I also love Molenburg’s balance toast. I also love Vogels All good muesli if you are not inclined to make your own.

Here is my favourite breakfast recipe, that feels like cheating but it’s so good for you! These are a great option for after a workout. This recipe is really flexible and I will link you two a couple of alternative oatmeal pancakes for you especially if you’re not so keen on the protein powder.

Oatmeal Protein Pancakes:


  •  ½ scoop (6g) Vanilla whey protein powder – visit your health store and ask the sales person to help you find the right one for you
  • 35g Oats (blended into a flour for a lighter texture if you have time)
  •  ½ Tbsp Healtheries LSA (get from Countdown and New world in the health food section)
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ tsp baking soda/powder – baking soda has practically no calories which is why I prefer it, but some don’t like the taste, change to fit your preferences.
  • Approximately 50g pureed fruit or mashed banana

1 Tbsp of flax seed meal is quite good to add as well - adds heaps of good fats, fibre and protein. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties. There is some evidence that it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes! By them whole from the bulk bins, store them in airtight container - preferably refrigerated to stop them from going rancid - then you use a grinder (coffee grinder/bullet blender or pestle and mortar) just as you want to use the flax meal as the oils begin to deteriorate after grinding.

Just mix all together and then cook like you would any other pancake – try to use a non-stick pan and a light spray of canola oil – not a dollop of butter!
I top them with Queen sugar-free maple syrup which you can usually find at Countdown or New World. Fresh berries or a dollop of unsweetened plain yogurt – my favourite is Cyclops 1%.

Links to more recipes for healthy pancakes:

This is the recipe for my latest batch of Granola/muesli:
It serves 16 (50g or 1/2cup), has less than seven grams of fat (only 0.7 grams of saturated – the rest is healthy fats), low sodium, over seven grams of dietary fibre (approx. 30% of daily requirements), only three grams of sugar and nearly seven grams of protein in every serving.

20g Sunflower seeds
15g Pumpkin seeds
½ cup sliced almonds
15g Chia seeds
1.5 tsp Cinnamon
3 Tbsp Ground flax seed
3 cups Whole grain oats
2 cups San Bran
40g Chopped raw hazelnuts
Optional: 85g Ceres super grain mix
1/8 cup Black strap molasses
1 Tbsp Honey
4 Tbsp Torani Sugar free vanilla syrup
60g Applesauce/pureed fruit (add 4 more Tbsp if you don’t have the sugar free syrup)


·         Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
·         Combine all dry ingredients (first 9 [10 if using quinoa mix] ingredients on the list).
·         Combine wet in separate bowl.
·         Stir wet into dry until all the dry ingredients are coated
·         Spread out on two baking trays lined with baking paper
·         Bake for about half an hour – until everything is dry golden and crunchy (but not burnt J)
·         Let cool then put in an air tight container

Here are some other great healthy granola/muesli recipes for you to try:

Eggs are another great option for breakfast as they are high in protein and keep you full for longer. I have an omelet with one whole egg and an egg white, to try and reduce the amount of cholesterol (even though it’s good cholesterol). Throw in bits and pieces from the fridge like mushrooms, spinach, and onion, even left over potato chopped into small chunks. A dollop of chutney or relish on top is awesome. I also make a frittata in my cast iron skillet that makes breakfast/brunch for two days -

A great idea is these muffins (gives you about 7 average sized muffins) baked on Sunday and then grab one with a cup of tea or coffee for an on-the-go breakfast for every day of that week. These are full of high fibre oats, fruit and healthy fats… I was inspired to bake these by my trip to Nelson for Easter where a managed to get a huge container of fresh berries. We also had some rhubarb (half a stalk) in the garden that I chopped finely and put in. You could swap in any chopped fruit fresh, frozen or dried in this recipe – if you are using frozen; don’t defrost before putting them in and a great tip is to coat them in a bit of flour before adding them to the mixture to stop them from all sinking to the bottom.

Berry Oat Muffins:

3/4 cup rolled oats (I used Pam’s wholegrain oats)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 cup skim milk with ½ tsp of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice - buttermilk substitute as we don't really have this in NZ
1/2 cup applesauce (I used low fat berry yogurt – about one pottle of live lite meadow fresh)
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (I used 3Tbsp of Xylitol – from Health 2000 store)
1 egg (or two egg whites if you’re watching your cholesterol)
1 tbsp grape seed/extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup fresh berries

Optional: top with a pinch of sliced almonds and a drizzle of runny honey just before putting them in the oven.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 9 paper liners or spray with canola oil. Set aside.
In a food processor add the rolled oats and pulse few times. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and pulse one more time.
Add the buttermilk (milk plus vinegar/lemon juice), applesauce, sugar, egg and oil and pulse until just combined. Do not over mix!
With a rubber spatula, fold in the fruit.
Spoon the batter in the prepared baking pan and bake for about 18 minutes or until firm to touch.
Let cool completely before serving.