Seven ways to make sure Christmas is as much fun as when you were a kid!

Do you remember the excitement of Christmas when you were a kid ? Trying to figure out where Mum and Dad had hidden the presents ? Looking forward to eating three different types of desserts or just pudding and custard? Better still if the weather was fine enjoying weeks of school holidays with a gang of friends moving from house to house.

When you get older it gets harder to enjoy the day as so often the run up to Christmas day can be exhausting. It’s often a busy time with a combination of end of year events, extra shopping and cooking plus organising a range of presents. All this whilst trying to hold down a job as well as possibly wrangling children as well. So how do we find the magic of the day again?

  1. Start by only accepting invitations to events you really want to attend. Things that sound like fun or at a restaurant you really like or with people you really want to catchup with in person. Also look at your diary and make sure there aren’t too many events in the same week. If the invitation involves standing around at a pub drinking and you would rather be soaking in a hot bath then give it a miss.
  2. Make sure you are looking after yourself in the weeks leading up to Christmas – prioritise exercise by scheduling it in first. Book in appointments that are important for you whether its massage, acupuncture, beautician or hairdresser. You will enjoy the day more if you are in top physical form and not jump limping to the end of the year.
  3. Make gift giving easier by suggesting Secret Santa, even if its just for the adults. Buying one gift instead of six or eight reduces the load for shopping and also usually means that you get one gift that you really like. Other options could be doing a charitable donation instead of giving presents. It really depends on what will make your family happiest and reduce the stress associated with gift buying.
  4. On the day ensure the food preparation is shared with all the adults attending. Splitting responsiblity (and costs) for the celebration make it easier. Whether its prawns or ham, salads or desserts, sharing the work makes a big difference. If you are dealing with a variety of food intolerances then have a look at my blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas .
  5. Break out the board games for entertainment, having some at an appropriate level for the group can really provide good entertainment for a few hours. Current favourites in my house are Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Katan but don’t forget old favourites like Monopoly and Scrabble. We also have a tradition of finding the silliest games possible like Hungry Hippos and Peanut Elephant.
  6. Make sure your Christmas menu includes something you really enjoy. The most recent addition to our Christmas menu is Donna hay’s wonderful stuffing cup recipe. It’s not hard to make and ensures there is enough stuffing for everyone.
  7. Start a new tradition such as watching classic Christmas movies as a family (options rang from Die Hard to Love Actually or The Holidays) or enjoy opening one gift each on Christmas Eve. Bake a favourite cookie, pudding or mince pie. The blog A Gluten and Dairy Free Christmas has my recipes for both pudding and mince pies, well they are modified versions of my mother’ recipes and are gluten free with a dairy free option.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist and has an online program called Ageing Outrageously. She is in practice at Elemental Health, St Ives and appointments are available on (02) 8084 0081 or by booking online at elementalhealth.net.au .

Six ways to easily add six serves of vegetables to your day

Broccolini mushrooms and halloumi

Some days in clinic vegetables are my main point of focus. For so many people they tend to eat a lot of grains, toast, cereal and pasta but they are consistently light on vegetables. Fundamentally diet is 70% of the battle in maintaining good health and one of the best strategies long term is to have three cups of vegetables in your diet daily (1/2 cup = one serve of vegetables). Many people find it difficult to design a menu that enables them to meet the three cups so in this blog I am sharing some of my best suggestions for increasing the vegetables in your diet.

  • Start with veggies at breakfast. Add a side to your scrambled eggs of mushrooms, sauteed spinach or tomato. Make up a frittata with a range of vegetables and increase your count for a few days quickly and easily. Vary up the breakfast options with mushrooms and humuus on toast or smashed avocado with a corn salsa.
  • Add a smoothie that is based on vegetables during the day. Many people will add spinach or greens but have you ever thought about adding frozen cauliflower or pureed pumpkin ? One of my favourite sites for recipe ideas is Simple Green Smoothies which share lots of recipe ideas with their mission to help people fall in love with Kale. A recent option was an Orange Immunity Smoothie which had a protein powder, pureed pumpkin, banana and oranges plus cinnamon, tumeric and ginger.
  • Snack on vegetables when the mid afternoon slump hits try having carrot and celery sticks with humuus or guacamole dip as a snack.
  • Bulk up with veggies in a stew. casserole or bolognaise. My bolognese recipe uses some slow roasted eggplant in addition to the usual carrot, celery and onion. Basically put the whole eggplant in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 180C , after piercing it with a fork a few times. Student Budget Friendly Meals has the bolognaise recipe as well as a few other ideas for adding more vegetables.
  • Swap out half the meat in a recipe for lentils or chickpeas. Two of my favourite options are adding lentils to a bolognaise sauce or adding chickpeas to a casserole. Have a look at this easy tagine recipe from Taste.com .
  • Make sides the star! Grill your protein and then add roasted brussel sprouts with pomegrante and tahini, honey mustard cabbage wedges, charred broccolini with lemon and garlic or maple roasted beetroot and pear.Looking for more ideas have a look at some more recipe ideas in Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals .

My Healthy Holiday Options ebook has eight delicious sides, a range of healthy salad options with legumes and some fun smoothie recipes, including a mango mint smoothie as well as banana cherry. It has some great inspiration whether its for a Christmas in July function or just a great way to add more colour and variety to your meals.

Easy eggplant salad

There are so many reasons to include more vegetables in your diet. The fibre in vegetables acts like a broom and helps keep you regular and the insoluble fibre feeds your beneficial gut bacteria which helps support your digestion and your immune system. In my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ? you can find all the information on the best type of vegetables to include to improve your gut health.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritonist based at Elemental Health St Ives. She is passionate about including more vegetables in the diet and encouraging her local cafes to provide more tasty breakfast options. Appointments are available online at www.elementalhealth.net.au or on (02) 8084 0081.

Too busy to shop and cook healthy meals ? Have you considered a meal delivery service?

Cooking at home is often the best way to improve your underlying health, however for many people it can be a challenge particularly when they are time poor. Food companies have identified this gap in the market and there are now a number of companies providing ingredients and recipes for meals that can be prepared quickly and easily. Meal planning services such as HelloFresh, Marley Spoon and Dinnerly provide delicious recipes with all the ingredients you need to prepare them. All you have to do is follow the instructions – easy!

Dinnerly is considered very cost effective per serve, however Marley Spoon servings are more generous. Hello Fresh has a wide range of meal options and seems to work out around $10 per meal, which is better priced than most takeaway. The meal planning services send only enough for the individual meals which also reduces waste. Most of the meals in these services are designed to be prepared in under half an hour.

What do you do when you don’t have time for cooking but still don’t really want to be ordering takeaway every night ? Add food intolerances or allergies and it can be harder still .

My top list of options which is a little Sydney centric is as follows;

  1. Nourish’d offers vegetarian and gluten free options and has the added advantage of having meals designed by a nutritionist. The range offers keto friendly, nut free and dairy free. There is a reasonable range of options which include beef cheek ragu with cauliflower mash, beef brisket and a sweet potato spaghetti.Sides to increase the vegetables include roasted broccoli, cauliflower mash and potato mash. Meals have a nutritional breakdown and are generally a good level of protein. The menu’s change weekly and upcoming options include a beef stroganoff with beetroot salad and sweet potato mash and a chicken masala, which shows some good variety. Nourish’d also appears have NDIS approval.
  2. Chefgood offers a range of no added gluten or dairy meals. Whilst not offering a gluten free kitchen this option may be suitable for those with intolerances but is not recommended for those who are celiac. The meal plans offer a number of meals between 5 to 14 meals a week with options which include low carb, high protein, vegan and vegetarian as well as a range of weight loss optins. Chefgood also has a range of add-ons which include additional sides and juices. The sides are not particularly inspired and include soup, mashed potato, greek salad and an avocado salad. Reviews on google are generally positive although there appear to be recent complaints about delivery issues. The company delivers to the eastern states and South Australia.
  3. Dinner ladies deliver frozen meals which have been cooked from scratch. There is a wide range of options although they do not seem to cover food intolerances particularly well they do provide a statement of allergens. The major issue seems to be the possiblity of cross contamination risk. The menu includes some good main course options including burgers, fritters, snitzels, stir frys, casseroles and pastas. This is a popular option with families.

For those who are looking for meal inspiration there are a number of blogs that may be helpful with recipes and meal plans. Have a look at Meal Plan Week One , Meal Plan Week Two , Four easy ways to add brassica vegetables to your meals and Spring Reset Meal Plan .

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Supplements

Many people over fifty are on a range of medications to manage chronic health problems. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 47% of the population is managing chronic health conditions which include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, mental health conditions and osteoporosis. Whilst these medications are often essential the side effects of some of these common medications can have negative impacts on your overall health.

What can you do to manage these risks? First up make sure that your GP is aware of all the medications you are taking and that they are still appropriate. Secondly if you are having noticeable side effects with a medication see if your GP can recommend an alternative. The next step, if the medication is creating side effects, is then to consider looking at supporting yourself nutritionally to minimise the impact. Below are five common medications that may have side effects that impact your brain or physical health (1) and some strategies for managing them.

  1. Statins. A common problem for people on statins (cholesterol lowering medication) is that they start feeling less energetic as the statins deplete the levels of Co Q 10. Some people can also suffer from muscle aches and pains and develop memory problems. CoQ10 is important for energy production within the cell. Dosage is a little dependent on weight however generally 150-300 mcg is useful and its recommended that you start at a lower dose and build up slowly.
  2. Metformin which is often given for Diabetes can reduce levels of both B6 and B12. Low B12 may lead to peripheral neuropathy which can cause loss of sensation in the feet or tingling or burning sensations. Again a Multi vitamin with adequate B12 is essential . Depending on your other medications and any possible interactions you may need to use individual supplements rather than a multi-vitamin. Balancing your blood sugar is also essential when you are on these medications so have a look at the dietary recommendations in my blog Are you missing out on ways that you can start ageing outrageously well ?
  3. Anti-depressants need B vitamins for optimal effect and whilst they may not reduce levels specifically they may be less effective if you are not taking a multi vitamin at the same time. In addition your mood may be helped by considering an anti-inflammatory diet and according to the Mayo clinic, walking at least 30 minutes daily (2).
  4. Antibiotics Antibiotics can disrupt the natural bacteria flora in the digestive system, reducing beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum , this may result in symptoms like persistent diarrhoea or constipation. Use a good quality brand of probiotics such as Inner Health with at least 5 billion live organisms for effective management. Nutritionally make sure you are having at least 3 cups of vegetables a day to feed beneficial bacteria and consider a range of prebiotic fibres as well. There is a lot more information on the best options in my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy impacts on folic acid (B9), B6 and B12 as well as magnesium levels. A good multi vitamin plus between 400-800mg of magnesium can be useful in managing the side effects. HRT can be useful to manage significant symptoms post menopause and it is adviseable to ensure that if you are using it long term you look at liver support, such as St Mary’s Thistle, to minimise adverse effects longer term.

Food sources for some of these key nutrients such as Co Q10 can be a little challenging. CoQ10 is found in organ meats like kidney, heart and liver. Whilst you could look at including a nice pate on a regular basis, to include liver for example, it is hard to get sufficient levels without a supplement if you are vegetarian or can’t stomach organ meats. There are some organ supplements on the market which could be a good option, just make sure they are organic wherever possible.

Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods, but inadequate intake is common and is associated with a greater risk of osteoporosis. Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, legumes, quinoa, dark chocolate, brown rice and other unrefined whole grains (3). People who benefit from a magnesium supplement are prone to headaches and cramping and have difficulty staying asleep. They usually find that magnesium reduces cramping with supplementation. Ideally look for a form of magnesium that is combined with a citrate or an amino acid chelate as magnesium combined with oxide is usually only helpful for constipation as it has laxative qualities.

For more information on maintaining or improving Brain Health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, appropriate movement, gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Key sources

(1) https://www.drugs.com/drug_information.html

(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

(3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318595

Confused by Zucchini? 5 simple ways to use it in meals.

One of the best ways to keep your food budget under control is to eat seasonally. At the moment Zucchini is in season and Harris Farm is offering the imperfect picks known as unruly Zucchini at good prices. So how do you make the best use of Zucchini? One of my favourites is a stir fry with ginger and orange but its also lovely in ratatouille, grated in fritters or chargrilled in salads.

Zucchini is a low carb vegetable with one cup of zucchini providing 3g of carbohydate, 40% of your daily Vitamin A requirements and is a good source of carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and vision.

A few other options for zucchini recipes from some favourite sites and a few recipes for inspiration;

Gratin with Potato and Zucchini

  • 500g potato sliced thinly
  • 4 small zucchini cut into small rounds
  • 2 red capsicum finely sliced
  • Thyme

In a casserole dish layer zucchini, capsicum and potato. Start with zucchini on the bottom and finish with potato on the top and sprinkle with 2 tsps dried thyme. Cover with lid and cook in over an 180C for up to an hour. Serve as a side with grilled meats or fish.

Stir fried zucchini with ginger and orange

  • 600 g zucchini
  • Small knob of ginger
  • peel of half an orange grated
  • 2 Tblsp Soy Sauce

Cut zucchini into batons. Grate ginger finely and saute lightly for 30 seconds in a wok. Add zucchini and stir fry until soft and a little blackened. Stir through the grated peel and add the soy sauce, stir through for 30 seconds and then serve.

Simple Potato Curry

One tablespoon curry paste,
1 tsp each cumin, mustard, ginger and garlic
One onion
2 potatoes
1 piece sweet potato or pumpkin or 2 carrots
2 red capsicum
1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk


Add a little oil to the pan and a chopped onion plus the spices. Fry the onion in the spices. Add two potatoes, a quarter pumpkin, two red capsicum (scrub potatoes, don’t peel – less work and better for you). Cut all the vegetables about the same size – for instance, in quarters.

Chop and slice salted eggplant and two zucchini. (Before you use eggplant – slice it, pour salt on it and then after 10 minutes wash it off). Stir this through, add a can of chopped tomatoes, cover for 20 minutes, cook on low heat. Check that the potatoes are getting soft. Add a small can of coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins before serving.

Variations: add a bunch of spinach (chopped) or Chinese cabbage a few minutes before it is finished cooking. Leftovers will make another meal with a tin of legumes or chickpeas added.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081 or elementalhealth.net.au .

Balancing Blood Sugar

Did you join me for my Natural Medicine Week Webinar? If you missed it or want a review of the highlights then click through to the youtube recording or scroll through the powerpoint which is attached below.

In the webinar we cover the following topics;

  • Blood Glucose and insulin how does this work and what does this mean for you?
  • What are the risks from a health perspective of poorly managed blood sugar?
  • Which diet is best able to assist you to manage blood sugar
  • A simple meal plan to help you put it altogether

The webinar recording is linked below.

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If you have any other queries please pop them in the comments below or book in with Christine on 02 8084 0081. Christine Pope is an accredited naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is offering both in person and online consultations.