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Calorie Counter Australia best 3 fruits

Best 3 Fruits you can Eat

Wait a minute… what does that even mean? Best 3 fruits? Picking the best 3 fruits is literally trying to compare apples with oranges!

What makes a Good Fruit?

That said, it is possible to decide the best 3 fruits you can eat if we set some clear criteria:

It must have the best combination of nutrients,

By “best” we mean most balanced. In other words, a mix of a large number of different nutrients, in quantities that are big enough to have a meaningful effect on your health.

It should have the best price and availability.

If the best fruit in the world is a rare berry growing on a tree in the Himalayan foothills, it is hard to get and therefore not the best.

The best fruit must be reasonably priced and readily available from regular Australian shops. It can’t be one of those expensive “super-food” fruits that most people cannot  afford to eat regularly.

The best fruit is one that you can enjoy any time you are in the mood to eat it.

The best fruit will be relatively unique.

There is no meaningful nutritional advantage between two different fruits which deliver the same sort of nutrients to your system. If one has a bit more of some micro-nutrient or other, it won’t make a practical difference to your health.

The best fruit will be far ahead of most other fruits in some special way. Eating the best fruit will give you a specific benefit.

Taste! It must taste good!

Not only must it taste good, but it must have some unique flavour, smell or texture that makes you go hunting through the isles. This gets tricky because people have different preferences, but, we can rule out most sour, bitter, tough, rough, fiddly, or smelly types of fruit.

Relatively low calorie count.

This is Calorie Counter Australia, so of course calorie count is a key consideration. In this case, the less calorie-dense the better.

Best 3 Fruits you can eat in Australia

There are other requirements which we will gloss over for this post about the best 3 fruits you can eat, let’s just get into the list, ranked in order:

Blueberries

Okay, so they are not cheap but they are widely available and they score really high across the board. Their stand-out feature is a very high antioxidant content.

Antioxidants are a hot research topic right now. Study after study shows one thing: they are really good for you, in many different ways. Current thinking is that they are anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and a whole lot of other “anti-bad stuff”. You may have read about stilbenoids like reservatrol and pterostilbene, well blueberries are stacked with them. Eating about half a cup of blueberries will boost the average person’s daily intake of anti-oxidants by 100%!

Blueberries also have good quantities of many other micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and they have a low calorie density. The blue stuff in blueberries that give them their colour also kills bacteria!

Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit is so good for you that it might be considered a medicine by some people. Why? Because there is real peer-reviewed research which found that kiwifruit reduced some respiratory problems in children. Kiwifruit thins the blood with a similar effect to the “baby aspirin” commonly prescribed to people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Of course, we are not advocating that you stop taking your meds! Keep taking your medication and follow your doctor’s advice!

Kiwifruit is special because:

  • weight-for-weight, it has more vitamin C than oranges
  • is packed with soluble fibre
  • has one of the highest concentrations of lutein (lutein helps to prevent age-related eye degeneration)
  • contains a very high amount of anti-oxidants (yes, anti-oxidants are a big deal!)

Kiwifruit also has admirable amounts of minerals and vitamins that you really need to get into your system every day if you are going to do the best you can for yourself.

Strawberries

That’s right – more berries! Strawberries make the cut because they have high folic acid, Vitamin C levels. They are also a great choice for all-round micro-nutrient content and low-calorie goodness. Also, they taste good!

With high levels of folic acid, strawberries have high levels of other Vitamin B group compounds like niacin. B-complex vitamins have many  health benefits such as allowing cells to get the most “bang for buck” from energy sources like carbohydrates.

And yes, they are high in anti-oxidants!

Whilst this list is accurate given our stated requirements, consider that it may not be for you. Everyone will probably have a different list of the best 3 fruits for them, because we all have different lifestyles and preferences. The bottom-line is, eat lots of fruit and make the right choices!

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Christmas Food

Christmas Calories Survival Guide

This is a Christmas Calories Survival Guide for Australian Calorie Counters!

Christmas in Australia almost always includes tradition, family, friends, food, drink and binge eating. It is a tough season for the calorie-conscious, so we made this short guide to surviving each aspect of Christmas without packing on the kilos:

Tradition

Christmas traditions date back into the mists of time. Most are innocuous, but the ones to watch out for are:

Road Trips

Hours of sitting cramped in the car can lead to boredom and discomfort. For many of us, when we are bored and uncomfortable, we eat.

If you are going to take a long road trip, you are going to eat and drink something in the car. Therefore, surviving the trip without seriously attacking your daily calorie target is going to involve the fine art of substitution:

  • Swap out the lollies for carrot sticks or sugar-free chewing gum
  • Drink water instead of sugary fizzies
  • Avoid service station food like pies and doughnuts. Instead, pack your own snacks from home
  • Choose fresh fruit over dried! Remember that a small dried fig has the same calories as a big fresh fig

Parties

The best way to avoid calorie overload with party foods and drink is to think about your entire day’s intake, rather than obsessing over that extra mini sausage-roll.

If you know that you will be partying it up in the evening, try to eat low-calorie, fibre and protein-rich foods like bran for breakfast and chicken breast for lunch. Thus, you will enjoy the party food more knowing that you have been “storing up” a calorie deficit all day.

Midnight Mass

This tip goes for all late night and early morning activities: remember to include whatever you eat and drink in your daily calorie tally. In other words, everything you eat and drink counts towards your daily count.

It is easy to forget the extra meals you eat outside of the usual breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack routine, so keep track!

Family and Friends

If your immediate and extended family are all supportive and encouraging you to hold strong in your efforts to control your calories, then you can skip this section. However, if there are people in your life who enjoy putting plates of mince pies by your elbow, you may need to try:

Friendly Hints

One of the best ways to get family and friends on board with your efforts to stay on track is to drop both subtle and not-so-subtle hints before you get together. Sometimes, a well-timed Facebook post about what you aim to achieve health-wise might be all that’s needed to stop a friend from laying out sour cream and chives dip along with the chips when you come over to visit.

BYO Christmas Calories

If you have the sort of family and friends who wouldn’t be taken aback if you bring your own salad-dressing to share, why not bring your own snacks and drinks along when you go over to theirs? That way, you can enjoy their company whilst to stick to your plan.

Straight Talk

Just straight up tell people that you are watching your Christmas Calories over the festive season, so please stop offering the toasted almonds!

You might even discover that they are themselves worried about the social stigma of being weight-conscious, thus opening a new way for your relationship to deepen.

Christmas Calories: Food and Drink

Let’s face it, one of the best things about Christmas is the food. You are going to eat more than you usually do. Your stomach is going to feel full for days on end.

Since that is going to happen, try to make it happen with a good choice of food.

Be aware that there is a huge calorie difference between a belly full of caramel pecan pie and a belly full of roast beef.

Ultimately, the solution to surviving with your calorie target intact is to CHOOSE WISELY . If you do, you can come out on the other side of this season in relatively good shape.

A special note on seafood: seafood in general is a great choice for the season, but with one huge caveat. Try not to crumb, batter or sauce your ingredients. This is because, for example, the difference between steamed prawns and crumbed fried prawns is over 100 calories per 100g!

Whilst you could always hop onto Calorie Counter Australia to do some detailed checks, read this quick reference list of common Christmas food and drinks to get a sense of what you are up against (all values per 100g):

MAINS

Christmas Ham: 207 calories

Roast Beef: 172 calories

Lamb Roast: 205 calories

Roast Chicken with Stuffing and Gravy: 220 calories

Stuffed Potato: 119 calories

DESSERTS

Fruit Mince Pies: 416 calories

Christmas Pudding: 314 calories

Chocolate Mud Cake: 508 calories

Plum Pudding: 279 calories

Pavlova: 292 calories

DRINKS

Eggnog: 193 calories

Brandy: 214 calories

Sweet Sherry: 137 calories

Lemon, Lime and Bitters: 49 calories

SNACKS

Sausage roll: 255 calories

Ginger Nut Biscuits: 431 calories

Party Quiche: 257 calories

Double Cream Brie: 403 calories

Remember that traditional Christmas foods are almost always calorie-dense, so try to save them for specific feast days rather than spreading them throughout the festive season.

Christmas foods are luxuries to be long-anticipated and savoured slowly!

PS: Steaming seafood this season? Take a look at this cool pot!

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calcount antinutrients

Antinutrients are a Real Thing but Don’t Worry

Antinutrients are a real thing but don’t worry about them too much unless you suffer from some specific diseases and ailments.

What are Antinutrients?

Most people know what a nutrient is: a beneficial substance which living things use to grow, survive and reproduce. The word “antinutrient” has started to come into general usage recently. It sounds scary because it has an “anti” in front of the word “nutrient”. Most people think of “anti” as meaning something like “the opposite” of something else, for example “clockwise” and “anticlockwise”, “climax” and “anticlimax”. So, if a nutrient is something that our bodies use to survive, is an antinutrient a substance that causes our bodies to die? Is a deadly poison like arsenic an antinutrient?

In a word, no. An antinutrient is a substance that interferes with the absorption of nutrients. In other words, antinutrients stop some nutrients from being used properly.

Examples of Antinutrients

Antinutrients are found in almost all foods. You eat them every day. Here are four examples:

  • Phytate, also known as Phytic Acid. This antinutrient has a strong action on important minerals like zinc, calcium and magnesium. It prevents the minerals in food from being absorbed by the body. Phytate is one of the reasons why you may not be getting enough of these minerals even if you eats lots of food which “on paper” contains large amounts of the required minerals. For example, about 80% of the zinc in chickpeas probably does not make it into the bloodstream because it is tied up by the phytate in the chickpeas. Something to think about when you read nutrition information labels… Just because a food contains 100mg of zinc/iron/calcium etc., you are probably not going to get the benefit of the full 100mg. You might get more minerals from a food with low levels of the same minerals if it is eaten without any accompanying phytate.
  • Glucosinolates are found in high quantities in leafy plants like cabbage, kale and broccoli. They block the absorption of iodine, which is an important chemical used in the thyroid gland. People who do not get enough iodine suffer from a range of health problems which can be difficult to diagnose, including fatigue, weight gain, depression and goitre.
  • Amylase inhibitors are found in many different types of beans such as kidney beans and broad beans. These antinutrients stop the normal digestion of large carbohydrates like starch, so that they pass through without being taken up into the bloodstream. Some of these amylase inhibitors are sold as the main ingredient in weight management pills.
  • Protease inhibitors are found in very many seeds, grains and legumes including soybeans. They block several enzymes in the digestive system from working normally on protein, so that essential amino acids cannot be transferred into the bloodstream.

The list of antinutrients goes on: oxalates, phytoestrogens, saponins, flavonoids and lipase inhibitors are also classed as antinutrients.

If they are real, why not Worry?

Antinutrients are a “real thing” and many people do worry about them a lot, but these three reasons are why you should not worry about them:

  1. Unless you are eating a very limited diet of just a few select plant foods, you are very unlikely to be eating enough antinutrients to significantly damage your health. Humans have evolved to actively seek variety in their food, and in our society there is no shortage of food variety. That said, antinutrients are a good reason to be conscious about trying to eat a balanced diet. If you do not eat the same thing all the time, there is much less of a chance for antinutrients to be present in your diet in high enough quantities to negatively affect your nutrient absorption.
  2. Many antinutrients are actually good for you in important ways. Glucosinolates, for example, are the same compounds which help your body to fight cancer! Phytate (Phytic Acid) have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease.
  3. Cooking food often reduces the levels of some antinutrients like oxalates and increases the amount of available minerals to a level which greatly outstrips the antinutrients’ capacity to block their absorption. Most people cook most of the food they eat, so antinutrients are much less of a concern that they would be if most people ate raw vegetables and grains exclusively. Cook your veggies!

 

When to Worry

So, if the problem of antinutrients is not likely to significantly affect your health, why think about them at all? When, if at all, should you worry about them? We recommend that you give them serious thought when:

  1. Your doctor tells you to. Some conditions, like kidney stones, hormonal imbalances and leaky gut syndrome, can be caused by and/or exacerbated by certain antinutrients. In those cases, your doctor will tell you what to avoid.
  2. You are consuming big quantities of a small variety of plant foods to the exclusion of meat, seafood and dairy (think tofu and brown rice washed down with raw kale smoothies every day for a month). This is not a good thing to do, for many reasons including the chance that the chosen foods might have large quantities of antinutrients in them. The antinutrients will hamper nutrient absorption including any vitamin and mineral supplements you might take.
  3. You see a food advertised as being “low in antinutrients”, or read an article telling you to avoid some particular food because of its high antinutrient content, or to take something that “fights” antinutrients. Question the motives of such advice, because antinutrients are a naturally occurring feature of so many of the foods that humans have been eating for thousands of years. Anyone advising you to avoid them is probably misinformed.

 

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calcount healthier meals

Healthier Meals – 5 tips

Making better food choices is a daily challenge. It is not easy to plan and execute a perfectly healthy meal every time. Luckily, there are ways to change the way you make and eat your food so that you make healthier meals.

Here are five things you can do to make healthier meals:

  1. Drink a glass of orange juice when you eat vegetables like spinach, lettuce and broccoli. The high concentration of Vitamin C in the orange juice will help your body to extract more of the iron found in these types of vegetables. The principle works with all leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C.
  2. Add peanut butter to your pancake mix. Most pancake mixes (especially the supermarket-bought pre-mixed ones) are very low in protein and fibre. A spoonful of peanut butter will help to balance this deficiency whilst adding to the flavour.
  3. Cook your vegetables. There seems to be a trend by some misguided people to believe that raw vegetables are in some way better for you than cooked ones. Of course, vegetables should not be cooked to a point where they lose colour and all texture, but there is no doubt that cooked veggies are much better for you. Cooking breaks down the tough cell walls so that the nutrients within can be released into the meal and your body. Uncooked vegetables will release fewer nutrients on their way through your system.
  4. Combine oily fish with dairy. Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel have high quantities of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to ingest the calcium found in dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt. If a glass of milk with your sardine sandwich does not strike your fancy, try adding a yoghurt dressing to salmon fillets.
  5. Do not order the fries. When buying a burger from the fast-food place or ordering a chicken parmigiana/steak at your local pub the default side-dish choice is chips. Try to opt for the salad or vegetables instead. There is a time and place for fries, but when combined with other high-calorie, high-sodium foods in a meal which probably includes sugary or alcoholic drinks, they can tip your meal into the unhealthy range. Feel better about the meal experience by replacing them with veg.

Every meal that you eat represents a choice. Feel good about your choices by consciously choosing healthier options. Compare different ingredients by searching them in our Food Search Box This will help both your health and well-being. Healthier meals for a healthier you!

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Your Watch can be Used Against You

When you buy a smart phone, smart watch or wearable fitness tracker (like Fitbit), you are probably not thinking about what impact it might have on your insurance premiums.

Tracking your Lifestyle

But, if you think about it, devices like these are used to track important health metrics like your heart rate, the amount of exercise you do and how much you sleep. Some even allow user inputs to record the amount and variety of food consumed, the type of exercise being performed, and “goal versus actual” scenarios.

This is exactly the type of data that Health and Life Insurance companies use to calculate how risky you are to their bottom-line. Statistically, people who exercise well, sleep well and enjoy healthy heart-rate ranges are less likely to require health insurers to pay up. People who regularly set goals which are later not achieved can be statistically profiled by actuaries for longevity.

Its in the Contract

Ordinarily, insurers cannot get their hands on this sort of personal information but that might be about to change. According to some recent reports, insurance companies are starting to include data-gathering clauses in their contracts. The data is your personal health-tracking information harvested from your wearable devices.

According to a recent article published by The Telegraph, information collected from these devices is already being used by some insurers to calculate variable insurance premiums.  Four obvious concerns are:

  1. Only the healthiest customers will be offered lower premiums
  2. Customers who do not wear devices (or opt to turn the tracking function off) will be effectively penalised because the default higher premiums will apply
  3. Those customers with erratic or “non-average” sleep and exercise patterns will be negatively profiled
  4. Data privacy: when insurance application records were a few pages of paper filed in an office cabinet, the risk of data theft and abuse was very limited. However, with this sort of electronic data harvesting, the risks posed by hackers and errors increase exponentially.

At this point, you might think that this might just be a fringe idea being mulled over by a few insurers. This is certainly not the case, since it appears that multiple insurers have filed patents relating to something called Predictive Insurance Modelling (PIM). PIM is an innovative way to use data to predict the likelihood of health problems for insurance purposes. The data in question cannot all be arriving from publicly available sources or the questionnaires you get when your insurance salesman rushes you through when your policy starts!

Not Just your Phone and Watch

The data gathering and analysis is not just being used for Life and Health Insurance. According to the Telegraph article, there is a recent case where a car insurer notified a customer that he was driving after business hours too often. They knew this because they were gathering vehicle usage data from tracking systems in his car. The man had to explain that he worked night shifts, so the car was primarily being used for business as defined in the policy.

Here’s a Carrot! (Just Ignore the Stick for now)

So how do insurers entice customers to agree to have their personal lifestyle data harvested for these purposes, if the data can later be used by the insurers to wield the premiums stick? They use a carrot of course! “Show us your healthy lifestyle data and we will give you lower premiums!” is the message.

An example of this tactic can be seen with a certain large insurer in the USA, which gives customers the option to wear a fitness tracker, then rewards those with apparently “good” lifestyles. The reward appears to be an additional/higher cover threshold for those customers who have comparatively healthier lifestyles (of course, they presumably also have less likelihood to need higher cover thresholds). Note that the reward disappears if their lifestyles change.

Coming to Australia too?

We do not know if this type of data-gathering will become a trend in Australia, but be on the lookout. We are all for tracking and measuring health and lifestyle data, if it is used for the sole benefit of the individual being tracked. However, we are completely opposed to the idea of personal lifestyle data being used to the detriment of the individual being tracked.

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Calcount Almond Milk

2 Ways to make your own Almond Milk

Even if you have never tried it before, you have surely seen almond milk in your local supermarket, but what exactly is almond milk? The simple answer is that it is a plant milk made from almonds. It is usually marketed to people who are lactose intolerant or vegan, because it does not contain lactose or animal products.

How does it taste?

In its “pure” form, it has a creamy texture and full-on nutty flavour. It tastes like what it is: really finely crushed almonds mixed with water. The beauty of really finely crushed almonds is that they form super-fine powdery particles which absorb lots of water and air. This makes for a very smooth, creamy mouth-feel (in terms of texture, it is like full-cream dairy milk) and a rich, almond flavour.

Of course, if you buy the almond milk from the supermarket anything goes. Depending on the brand, you could get something that tastes very different. Since the product is usually marketed as a cow-milk or soy milk alternative, manufacturers try to get their product to taste like… cow milk and soy milk. This means that flavourings, emulsifiers, acidifiers, preservatives, sweeteners and fillers are added.

Nutrition

When people think about almond milk nutrition, they usually try to put it in perspective by comparing it to cow’s milk or soy milk. We think that this is a bit like comparing apples with oranges, because the comparison is useful only if you plan to substitute on for another. It is quite possible (even preferable) to simply add almond milk to your balanced diet, rather than making a straight swap.

That said, how does it compare to dairy and soy? Generally speaking, it is less nutritious. Almond milk contains significantly less protein, fats, carbohydrates and most micronutrients than either. On the plus side:

Unsweetened almond milk contains about half the calories of soy milk and about a quarter of the calories of full-cream milk! It also has almost double the calcium of cow’s milk!

Make your Own

Making your own almond milk is easy. There are two main ways to do it. One way is easy and the other way is easier. First, the easy way:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw almonds, soaked
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • Small pinch fine salt

Directions:

  1. Place almonds in a bowl and cover with a couple centimeters of water. Soak the almonds in water overnight (about 8 to 10 hours). For a quick-soak method, soak the almonds in boiled water for 1 hour. Rinse and drain well.
  2. Place drained almonds into a blender along with the water.
  3. Blend on the highest speed for 1 minute.
  4. Place a nut milk bag over a large bowl and slowly pour the almond milk mixture into the bag. Gently squeeze the bottom of the bag to release the milk.
  5. Rinse out blender and pour the milk back in. Whisk in the salt.
  6. Using a funnel, pour into a large glass jar and secure lid. Store in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days. Shake before drinking.

Or, you can use this easier method:

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon almond butter
  • 3 cup water

Directions

  1. Place ingredients in the blender.
  2. Blend until fully mixed.

That really is all there is to it!

Of course, you can add your own flavourings like sugar, honey, cinnamon, cocoa or vanilla to either recipe. Try adding this milk to your breakfast cereal, or heating it for a relaxing evening beverage.

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Calorie Counter Australia Burger Patty

Make Your Own Hamburger Patty

Change is the only constant, food trends happen, but the hamburger abides. From the first time that a person flattened a meatball and put it in between two pieces of bread, the hamburger has satisfied.

Quick to cook and fast to eat, the hamburger is easily portable and energy dense. It delivers a blast of pure macro-nutrient goodness with each bite. Protein, carbs, fats, boom!

Hamburger is good food when it is made with wholesome ingredients and not eaten to excess. Good, simple meat with a little salt and flavoursome herbs made into a sensible meal portion just makes sense.

Hamburger is not good food when it is made with bad ingredients and eaten in large, unnecessary quantities. Preservatives, too much sodium, too much fat, colourings, flavourings, stabilisers, modifiers and ammonium-washed over-processed meat are examples of bad ingredients.

Maybe because it is so easy and convenient to get a burger from a fast-food restaurant, most people do not make their own burgers at home. Even when we do make our own burgers, we usually buy pre-made patties from the supermarket and hope that the ingredients inside the perfectly round, plastically packed, uniformly thin patties are tasty and non-bad.

Why not take the hope and regret out of your burger-making and burger-eating experience? Go with a sure-thing by making your own patties from scratch. Here’s how to make six perfect hamburger patties:

Ingredients:

  • 450g beef mincemeat. Choose mincemeat that is about 85% red and 15% white. The white part is fat and you really do want enough of it to give your burgers the juice that keeps the punters coming back. Too much though and your patties will shrink too much whilst cooking and they will be greasy. Too little and you will have dry burgers which will need more sauce than you should eat in one meal.
  • One egg yolk. Free range eggs taste better.
  • Half an onion. Diced small, unless you like to know that you are crunching into onion when you bite down.
  • Half a cup of fresh herbs. Chop them fine or chop them coarse, your call.
  • Salt and Pepper. Use as little salt as you can get away with, because if you add anything else to your burger besides bun and patty, chances are that there will be lots of other sodium in your meal.

These are simple ingredients because burger patties just taste better when they are simple. Let your condiments and other burger components do any flavour acrobatics that you might want, but keep the patty simple juicy meat.

 

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients. For best results, use your bare, cold hands and really get into it. For some reason, the burgers will taste better if you spend some time to mix everything at a granular level. Form into 6 patties.
  2. Cover the patties and place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to cool. This chilling effect makes the patties easier to work with when you cook.
  3. Preheat your pan or barbecue or whatever you are going to use to cook your patties. Use high heat but don’t let your oil smoke.
  4. Cook the patties for 5 minutes per side on the hot grill, or until well done. Serve on buns with your favourite condiments.

 Check our database to see nutrition information for home-made burgers compared to the ones from fast-food restaurants.

 

 

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How to Change Your Bad Habit

 

In the last post, we described how hard it is to change a bad habit. We made the point that if it is particularly difficult for you to change habits, the reason is probably because your character is too strong.

Character is “who you are” and who you are is made up of a combination of genetic predispositions and conscious and subconscious choices based on personal experience and expectation.

People with strong characters find it hard to change because something deep inside them knows that change is not always a good thing. Sometimes, a refusal or an apparent inability to change is seen as being weak-willed or stubborn.

“Why is she so fat? She should stop eating those greasy pies all the time! Can’t help herself…”

“Can’t he get out of bed earlier? Why does he always have to leave everything to the last minute?”

“I keep telling her to come with me when I go running, but she is so stubborn! Always making excuses…”

Our last post explained that it is possible for people like the ones described above to use their “stubbornness”, “laziness” and “low willpower” like a judo master using an opponent’s own strength against him. After all, a person who stubbornly takes her morning run every day, come rain or shine, is hardly ever called “stubborn” for doing so. No, she is resolutely fit.

A person who is always too lazy and ambivalent to find and sample all of the different restaurants in town is never called “lazy”. That person is normal, prudent and sensible.

Nobody says that the man who just has to eat a green salad when everyone else is tucking into pasta is a helpless food fiend. That guy has strong will-power.

If you think about it, there is very little difference between the person who stubbornly keeps a good habit and the person who stubbornly keeps a bad habit. One nurtures a good habit, the other nurtures a bad habit but they are both nurturing a habit.

If it is hard for you to change a bad habit, it will be hard for you to change a good habit once you establish it. This is how you can establish it:

Choose one

Start at the beginning by zeroing in on one bad habit that needs changing. Don’t make a list of all of your bad habits then choose one. Just choose one.

It might not be your worst habit, it might not be the hardest one to break, and it might not even be all that bad. Then again, it might be the worst, most resilient sucker you have.

For whatever reason you want to give yourself, just pick one.

The process of choosing one and making a decision to break it is half the war. Making the choice is a major battle, which you win by default. You’re already off to a winning start!

For the purposes of this post, to illustrate the process, let’s propose that the habit you want to break is Snacking Between Meals. It is a common bad habit and the cause of many an overweight body.

Name your enemy

Next, you need to define the habit and give it a special name. When you make the effort of actually thinking about the habit and giving it a name in your head, you will be better able to break it. That is because a special compartment opens up in your brain (figuratively speaking) to remember the name. It is easier to think of something and all that it involves when you can name it and visualise it as an object or personality or life-form. It becomes “realer” as a problem to be solved.

Naming the habit: Let’s name the Snacking Between Meals habit the “S.B.M.” habit. Call it SBM. We are going to break SBM.

The name you choose does not have to be an acronym, but it should be distinctive enough that you would need to explain it to somebody who wanted to know what you’re on about.

Defining SBM: let’s decide that SBM means eating or drinking anything that is not water or tea or coffee (low sugar/cream) when it is not breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner time.

Okay, now that we have named and defined the bad habit to be broken, we can move on to the nitty-gritty.

 

Recognise the need when it arises.

We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. We wake up when we need to wake up. Eat when we need to eat. Play when we need to play.

Think about the last time you performed the bad habit and try to remember why you did it. With SBM, perhaps it was yesterday about an hour after dinner when you were settled in a comfortable chair watching your favourite show. It was warm and cosy, the show was excellent, the house was peaceful and everything was great until you got out of your chair to help yourself to a glass of chocolate milk and Nutella sandwich. SBM strikes again!

What was the need in that case? Perhaps it was the need to

  • Feel a sense of completeness (as in you wanted the satisfaction of a full belly in addition to the satisfaction of enjoying your entertainment and creature comforts)
  • Or maybe you were hungry
  • Or someone else was having a snack and you wanted to accompany your fellow,
  • Or maybe you felt the need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine.

Whatever the need, try to pin it down and look out for it. Why? Because when it arises you need to be ready to battle. SBM is coming at you, guns blazing, shrieking an ear-splitting war-cry.

But don’t worry, you are going to be ready and armed.

 

Act on the need quickly and forcefully.

By substituting your habitual action with an alternative action which satisfies the need. Do not just try to ignore the need and soldier on without doing anything. That’s called willpower and for reasons already explained that won’t work for you. You are probably too strong for willpower.

Thinking about the SBM example, let’s think of actions which work to deliver you from the need:

  • Get that full-belly sensation by drinking a mug of tea
  • Feeling hungry? Drink something warm and engage your brain in solving a puzzle, preferably one with bright colours and moving parts. Something like a mobile phone game works really well. The hunger sensation will subside without you having to fixate on it. If you feel hungry, do not try to Will your way out of not reaching for the cookie jar! Act on the sensation by giving your stomach sensors something to do (drinking a warm low-calorie drink) and diverting your brain to something else (an engaging puzzle, movie, book, game, conversation).
  • Want to accompany someone else who is snacking? By all means accompany them, but don’t join in them in eating. Use the time that you would ordinarily use in chewing to think up and introduce new topics of conversation. That way, you will enrich your relationship with the person by opening new avenues to share ideas and insights.
  • Feeling a need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine? Meet this need by removing the ability to keep that “normal” routine. In our example, this would mean not buying Nutella, or chocolate milk. Instead, buy some interesting teas or coffees and make those instead. Make that the new “normal” and the need to stick to a comfortable routine will be met.

Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!

Get rewarded immediately.

If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way.

If you go to bed feeling miserable because you did not SBM, it will be very hard to beat SBM tomorrow. If you go to bed feeling great because you did beat SBM, your chances of victory tomorrow are very good.

Satisfying the need might seem like a reward in itself, but remember that we want to crush the bad habit, not just evade it. By receiving a reward for winning the battle, we feel good for more than one reason at the exact time of our victory. This double-whammy is just good for you and will help to prepare you for the next onslaught.

The best reward might be a literal or mental pat on the back, given to yourself by yourself. Think of yourself as a victor, and you will reinforce the positive cycle. You will become better and better at winning the battles and hence the war.

If mental rewards are not your thing, why not try one of these 101 Ways to Reward Yourself? Or just make the rewards up as you go!

It’s a game

If all of this talk about “battles” and “wars” seems a bit over the top, just think about the process as a game. A game that can be re-started any time, is fun to play, and will help you even if you do not win all the time.

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You are Probably Too Strong to change your Bad Habit

 

We see something wrong with the way things are, so we think of ways to fix it.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is a headache or a shiver. Things like that can be fixed with a once-off solution like a pill or a doona.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is an unhealthy body weight or constant tiredness or low self-esteem. Things like that cannot usually be fixed with a once-off solution like a brisk walk or a good night’s rest or a pep-talk, so we start thinking about changing habits.

Habits are your life, because habits take up all of your time. Your sleep habits, your waking up habits, your cleaning habits, your eating habits, your traveling habits, your working habits, your family habits and all of your other lifestyle habits.

Habits are the way we do things and the way we live, because we are alive for many days and none of us can (or wants to) do things differently every day. In fact doing things differently is so unusual for us that we make special words to describe times when we don’t follow our habits – words like “holiday” and “adventure” and “party”.

Doing things differently is so unpleasant for us that we make special happy words to describe times when we don’t need to do things differently – words like “comfort” and “relax” and “familiar”.

Habits work on our health and wellbeing slowly and steadily. The first day of getting into the habit of eating a large bowl of vanilla ice-cream when you Netflix and Chill is not the day that makes you overweight. The 500th day of your habit is also not the day that makes you overweight. It is the habit that makes you overweight and the only way to stop it from making you overweight is to replace that (bad) habit with a different (better/good) habit.

Changing your habit is the same as changing your life, because life is what happens when you action your habits.

Changing your life is hard, as it should be. If it were easy to change your life, perhaps every new thought you had would send you off into a new life direction. Setting course toward an objective would become an impossibility because you would never know whether or not you would change your mind about the target just after you decide to take action. It is not good to change your life all the time, so nature makes it really uncomfortable and stressful.

That is the real reason why it is so hard to keep things like New Year’s resolutions. Without diving into the concept, theory, biological basis, and behaviourist evidence (something for another post), we can agree that it is really hard to use willpower to overcome the innate desire to keep the familiar and reject the new.

You are not weak because you were not able to break a bad habit. You probably kept the bad habit because you are too strong.

Willpower works really well for short-burst activities, but not so well for drawn-out, long-term commitments.

Willpower is made for battles, not wars.

Calorie Counter Australia likes to keep things short and to the point so here is the point of this post: habits are hard to break and in some ways the stronger-willed you are, the harder it is to change. If you have been unable to change a bad habit to this point, it is probably not because you lacked the willpower to do it. You are part of a chain of generations of people who have passed down genes that make you a survivor (winner) in this world. Your ancestors won because they did not flip-flop their lives whenever a new idea popped into their heads. You are just honouring their legacy by being resistant to change.

Does that mean that you should never change your habits? Of course not, that does not even make sense. Change is the only constant and everyone changes their habits at some point, sometimes because they are compelled to and sometimes because they choose to.

So, the question is: What is The Best Way to Change a Bad Habit?

We are going to go deep into this question in our next post, but we won’t leave you hanging. Here is a three-point summary of the Best Way to Change a Bad Habit:

  1. Recognise the need when it arises. We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. Wake up when you need to wake up. Eat when you need to eat. Play when you need to play. Note that we did not say “Recognise the want”. That’s because the difference between “want” and “need” is just a question of degree. When does a “want” become a “need”? How long is a piece of string?
  2. Act on the need quickly and forcefully, using the new habit rather than the old. Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!
  3. Get rewarded immediately. If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way. Try swapping Friday night pizza for Friday night garden salad and see how long that lasts!

In our next post, we will go into why these three points work and how to make them work.

Until then, recognise that habits are hard to change and that in some ways you are a stronger person than most if it is harder for you to change your habits. Know also that you can use your strength and resilience to your advantage when it comes to replacing bad habits with better ones.

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calcount brownie

191 Calories per Serve: Tasty, Nutritious Fig Brownies

This is a recipe for Brownies with an unusual ingredient: Figs. Moist, chewy and so easy, these Fig Brownies are made with rich dark chocolate, crunchy toasted walnuts and sweet, delicious, nutritious dried figs. Taste and health have joined together with simple directions to deliver brownies fit for every day or special occasions.

Fossilised figs have been found in the ruins of ancient villages dating back 11,000 years, proving that figs are one of the first fruits to be grown and nurtured by humans. Whilst you can find some locally grown figs on sale, most figs sold in Australia are imported from the Middle East and the USA.

Amber-colored golden figs and dark purple Mission figs star as the special secret ingredients that make these brownies so unique and so delicious. The tiny crunchy seeds and sweet, chewy flavor of the figs complement the toasted walnuts and smooth dark chocolate. Health-conscious cooks are excited to learn that dark chocolate contributes health-promoting flavonol antioxidants; dried figs offer a unique array of essential vitamins and minerals and an excellent amount of dietary fiber; and walnuts deliver essential omega-3 fatty acids and “good” monounsaturated fats.

Figs are also great for snacking because they are so portable and convenient, along with being a nutrient-dense fruit. Three to four figs provide 6 percent daily value (DV) iron, 6 percent DV calcium, 6 percent DV magnesium, 6 percent DV vitamin B6 and 8 percent DV copper.

Fig Brownies

3 large eggs

11/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

30g unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup standard flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup stemmed and chopped dried figs

1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 180°. Coat a square baking tray with nonstick spray. In medium bowl, lightly beat eggs with wire whisk. Add sugar and whisk until well-blended. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Melt chocolate in small bowl in microwave oven on 50 percent power for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Whisk chocolate into egg mixture. In small bowl, stir together flour, cocoa and salt. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture, blending until smooth; batter will be stiff. Stir in figs and walnuts. Spread batter in baking tray. Bake for 35 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into 16 brownies.

Nutrients per serving (16): Calories 191; Protein 3g; Total Fat 7g; Carbohydrate 29g; Cholesterol 40mg; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sodium 65mg.

Figs, chocolate and walnuts–nutrition and taste come together in one delicious brownie. Enjoy!