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!


Running and Nutrition

Running is one of the best ways to help maintain your body’s physical well-being. It is as natural as walking and if you have ever tried a regular running programme you will know how good it is for your stamina. With proper cautions in place, a running programme is a great cardiovascular exercise that gets the blood pumping to maintain good circulation and a healthy heart.

Everybody needs proper nutrition and a healthy diet. This requirement becomes more vital for people who are into health activities like running. This is amplified further for runners who are also into competitions or have special dietary needs.

Normal diet

A normal healthy diet typically consists of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fats. The diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein and heart healthy fats which ensure a balanced source of micro-nutrients in addition to the macro-nutrients.

The daily calorie consumption of runners can be modified, depending on the individual’s needs – whether he is maintaining his weight, losing some or gaining some.
Combinations can be tweaked accordingly to suit the individual’s needs.

Runner’s diets

For instance, a distance runner preparing for a marathon may wish to increase the percentage of carbohydrates in his diet. This is during those periods of intense training where he covers long and grueling distances every week. The carbohydrates are a potent energy source used to deliver sustained fuel for the required muscle activity.

On the other hand, a sprinter who is working to improve her muscle mass by way of weight training and other equally intense exercises must include additional amounts of protein into her diet. This is helpful because proteins can help stimulate muscle growth. Sprinters need powerful muscles which can quickly exert massive force for a short duration, the emphasis being power over stamina.


The next factor to consider with regards to people who are into running are calories. There are basic guidelines on the amount of calories an individual should consume regularly. These are based on the person’s current weight and activity level. For runners who are into intense training, it is important that a medical professional be consulted prior to and during training programmes.

An example would be a runner regularly consuming 2,500 calories a day and running around 14 to 16 kilometers daily. If he still feels tired, he may have to increase his calorie intake.

If the runner is already at an ideal weight, he should strive to consume enough calories to maintain his weight.

Lastly, the quality of the calories consumed should also be carefully considered. They have to come from quality sources such as whole grains carbohydrates, lean protein sources, and heart-healthy fats. The runner could always obtain his calorie requirements from foods rich in sugar and fat. But these food groups are not quality calorie sources. More likely, the runner will get his same amount of calories but he will feel sluggish and may not be able to perform well. This is because ‘empty’ calorie foods such as typical fast foods are low in micro-nutrient content such as essential vitamins and trace minerals, which are required for muscle, nervous system, and circulatory system health.

A case in point is a piece of cake that has an equal amount of calories as a steak sandwich on multi-grain bread. Eating the cake will give him enough calories to run the distance. However, the high sugar content in the cake will trigger an insulin response from his body, which can make him sluggish and less energized.

Nutrition is a very important component in such an activity as running. It is not just a question of energy but also of health.


Can You Lose Hair by Eating Badly?

Yes, you can. You can suffer distressing hair loss if you do not maintain a healthy diet rich in the essential nutrients that your hair needs. The good news is that, if you do happen to suffer hair loss because of poor nutrition, most of it may re-grow if you make the switch to a sensible, balanced diet.

The average adult has 135,000 hairs on the scalp at any given time. Hairs naturally fall off (shed) at the rate of about 75 per day, only to be replaced by new hairs. However, if your body does not receive enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals by way of a nutritious diet, the balance will be upset and you will shed many more hairs than are replaced on a daily basis.

Hair, like toe and finger-nails, is made from protein fibres. Your body makes these protein fibres by converting the protein you consume in food through a complex chemical process. The process requires iron, zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, copper, selenium, magnesium and other trace minerals which are often absent from highly-processed carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods.

There is no doubt that poor nutrition and hectic lifestyles can contribute to hair loss. Some modern diets are characterised by a number of nutritional deficiencies that are thought to contribute to hair loss:

  • The refining of whole grains reduces the B vitamin content. Unprocessed whole grains contain Biotin, which is the key B vitamin used to strengthen hair and reduce breakage and hair loss.
  • Over-cooking vegetables destroys B vitamins, so it is not a great idea to re-heat and re-cook vegetables in the microwave or stove-top.
  • Raw leafy greens such as spinach are a good source of vitamins and iron, but they are absent from many diets of convenience.
  • When vitamins and minerals are ingested, the body prioritises them to be used to facilitate the digestion of pure carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. This means that you should take in an abundance of them to ensure that there are enough for all of your body’s needs. One lettuce leaf on a double cheeseburger will not usually contain enough vitamins to meet the average person’s daily vitamin needs.
  • Stimulants and depressants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol strip the body of vital nutrients.
  • Excessive salt intake can encourage hair loss because of its tendency to accumulate in tissue.
  • Low fibre intake inhibits digestion thus reducing the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the blood stream.

If you do happen to notice hair loss, how can you tell it is being caused by poor nutrition? Of course the best approach is to seek professional advice from a doctor, but here is a list of signals which might indicate that your diet is to blame:

  • Dry skin
  • Constant tiredness, fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Slow recovery from injuries
  • Brittle hair

Clearly, poor nutrition can cause hair loss because the body will ration nutrients in a hierarchy of vital organs first and hair last. If you decide to go on one of those rapid weight-loss diets which severely restrict food intake (hardly ever a good idea!) and want to maintain your hair health, make sure that you supplement it with a multi-vitamin/mineral and do not skimp on your protein.


“Eating for Two”: How to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy

You have just found out you are pregnant, so there has never been a more critical time to eat well. The health risks to both yourself and your unborn child are magnified if you do not eat a good balance of nutritious foods before, during, and after your pregnancy. Fortunately, eating well has never been easier during pregnancy than it is now.

More Calories

First, remember that once you hit the second trimester, you should be eating about 300 more calories a day than you normally would, assuming that you are the proverbial average person in terms of physical dimensions and activities level. Calories provide you with the extra energy that your body needs to grow your baby. Now, these extra calories do not give you a valid excuse to chow down on every foodstuff in your line of site! Remember that it is only an additional 300 calories, so a glass of milk plus one banana will get you two-thirds of the way through your extra calorie requirements. For comparison, check out how much more you will get if you opt for a glazed doughnut instead!


Remember that you need at least three servings of protein each day. Protein contains essential amino acids which are one probably the most important building blocks of your baby’s body tissue. Protein is very easy to come by and your options are endless. A reasonable daily serving of dairy protein could be three glasses of milk, two cups of yogurt along with 3 slices of hard cheese. Remember to mix it up along the way, so that you are balancing dairy with red meat, white fish, well-cooked chicken, cooked eggs, and beans. It is a good idea to shy away from soft cheeses, long-lived carnivorous fish, sushi and sashimi, raw eggs, and shellfish.


Next, you need at least four servings of calcium every day. Calcium is going to help grow your baby’s bones and help protect yours. Milk is the best way to get your fill of calcium, but you can also get your fill of calcium from hard cheeses, yogurt and even ice cream. Some expectant mothers relish bowl after bowl of heart-warming bone broth, or pop calcium pills to supplement their daily intake from food.

Vitamin C

Aim for at least three servings of Vitamin C. Your body does not store Vitamin C so you need a fresh supply of it every day. You can eat fruit or almost any vegetable to get your Vitamin C intake up to healthy levels. You also want to make sure you get three to four servings of green leafy and yellow vegetables and fruits. Most of these veggies and fruits will also count toward your Vitamin C intake, so go ahead and enjoy those stuffed capsicums for dinner.

Fruit and Veg

You should get in one to two servings of all other fruit and vegetables that are not known for their Vitamin A and C value, but are still good for you all the same. Apples, banana, and onions are just a few that are in this category. Eat six or more servings of whole grains and legumes. These are filled with vitamins E and B and they help you battle constipation. Try eating brown rice, whole wheat breads and even air popped corn to get your servings of whole grains and legumes in.


Perhaps one of the most important nutrients you and your body need is iron. Your body’s demand for iron will never be greater than it is while you are pregnant. You want to make sure you are able to keep up with it. Not enough iron could lead to anemia so you want to make sure you are getting enough iron. If you feel that you are not, talk to your doctor and he might be able to prescribe you an iron supplement. Iron supplements can make constipation worse so remember those fibre-rich grains and drink lots of water!

Do Not Stress Out over Food

This article is just a tiny addition to the vast wealth of information available to expectant mothers out there. The sheer amount of information (some of it contradictory!) available online and in books can be overwhelming, however we encourage you to relax and follow your natural instincts when it comes to ‘eating for two’. If it smells funny, don’t eat it. If you crave a melon and bacon feast at midnight, go ahead. Don’t stuff yourself and don’t starve yourself. Enjoy the ride, there is a tiny new person growing inside of you!


5 Ways to Deal with Obesity

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost a third of all the adults in our country are clinically obese. That means, when you step into a lift with eleven other people in Sydney and look around, four of you could be cast as the “Before” person in one of those dieting club videos you are forced to see before you get to click “Skip Ad” on YouTube. We are told that obesity is a serious and fast-growing problem. The Department of Health has a definition for what obesity is:
“Overweight and obesity is measured at the population level for adults using the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. For example, a woman 1.67m in height and weighing 65kg would have a BMI of 23.3 which falls within the healthy weight range. Overweight is measured at a BMI of 25 or more with obesity determined at a BMI of 30 or more. These cut-off points are based on associations between and chronic disease and mortality and have been adopted for use internationally by the World Health Organisation.”
You probably skipped over that definition because it is hard to relate it to anything but don’t worry, we will dissect
The Sad Fat Person
Imagine that you are having lunch with Joe from the office, and he tells you (in-between mouthfuls of Food Court sushi) that his cousin Mary is on a diet because she is obese. You imagine Mary and what imagery flashes through your mind? Do you think about where she sits in the spectrum of Body Mass Index, her waist-hip ratio, her body fat percentage?
Probably not, instead automatic images of Mary the Sad Fat Person are popping into your mind. You are forming an opinion of Mary, imagining her in your mind’s eye. You see her sitting in the lounge-room watching TV, sipping a low-calorie shake whilst secretly longing for a custard-filled Krispy Kreme. Maybe she is peeking through the window at passers-by, or leaving a needy message on her husband’s phone. Mary is not happy. Mary is quiet in public. Mary wants to be thin. She wants to be someone else. This is the meaning of obesity for you and most other people, it has little connection to the official definition. The pictures of Mary come to mind in an instant because obesity is emotive.
It is everywhere you look and everyone you know has an opinion about it and no-one seems to want it for themselves and you read about it on the internet but what is obesity, really?
Doctors don’t like fat people
We have all heard about the health risks but for most of us, obesity is not really just a measure of relative health or an indicator of longevity. Even scientists can’t seem to agree about whether or not a high body-fat ratio will reduce your lifespan, it seems that perhaps people who are overweight might live longer than people regarded as having a ‘normal’ body weight. “Unattractive” and “ugly” are words that more than half of a group of 620 doctors used to describe their obese patients in a survey carried out by the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.
The doctors did not like the way the obese people looked, but they also took their obesity as indicators of a negative character. More than 200 of the doctors surveyed used “lazy”, “weak-willed” and “sloppy” as words to describe those same patients’ personalities and attitudes. These doctors do not think of obesity in the clean, clinical way it is defined by the Department of Health. If this is what doctors think of obese people, what might we suppose the opinion of the average person is?
Has obesity always been a negative thing?
Perhaps we are biologically hard-wired to find obesity distasteful. It seems that just about anything we do or think in a behavioural sense can be explained by our pre-historic past, before fire, farming and Facebook. Anthropologists have used evolutionary pressure to explain everything we generally like and dislike, from lipstick to tidy houses. In prehistory, a large man with lots of body to carry around might not be good at catching rabbits or escaping from the claws of a Sabre-tooth tiger. Perhaps we could not depend on a big woman with irregular hormonal cycles to make babies when the going was good. Or maybe obese people were reviled as selfish hoarders who ate more food than anyone else, so no upstanding tribe members would want to be seen with them. Sounds reasonable?
Well, the logic does not hold because there simply were not enough obese people (or animals) around for any sort of evolutionary bias to take hold. Studies of primitive societies and examinations of cave paintings show that it was very rare for anyone living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to become obese. If anything, obesity was seen as an indicator of abundance and a paradigm of attractiveness, if the oldest statue in the world is anything to go by. An obese person would be a marvel to behold, probably a leader of a prosperous tribe or an extraordinary person who was able to hunt and gather far more food than anyone else.
So here’s what obesity really is
Remember that the official definition of obesity includes the statement: “…These cut-off points are based on associations between and chronic disease and mortality …”. This means that, officially at least, we call people obese when a group of doctors agree that the person will probably die before his or her thin twin will. Be that as it may, remember that when you thought about Joe’s cousin Mary, you did not see her thin twin crying over her deathbed, you did not feel a pang of pity for her impending doom. Instead, like the doctors in the University of Pennsylvania survey, you are likely to have made a quick judgement about what sort of person she must be to have been called obese by her cousin. You formed an instant negative opinion of her lifestyle, just as you would have formed an instant positive opinion of her life choices if Joe had said that her diet was necessary because she had given all of her food away to a soup kitchen for the homeless.
We began this post with the question “What is obesity, really?”. Perhaps the answer is that obesity is the feeling you get when people look at you as though you are fat. It is the feeling you get when you imagine how people will judge you when you leave the house in a tight shirt that was not tight a couple of years ago when you bought it. It is also the feeling of superiority that a thin person gets when he tells other people about his cousin’s latest diet.
How to live with obesity
For whatever reasons, our society has come to associate obesity with uncontrollable greediness, laziness, and social awkwardness. It is a stigma which does not look as though it will go away any time soon. So here’s our advice about how to deal with it:
  1. Understand that there is a stigma, and it is not a good or fair thing.
  2. Understand the health and personal perception benefits of maintaining a “normal” weight, and work steadily towards achieving and maintaining it for yourself and others
  3. Do not call yourself or others “obese”, because the word has lost its true meaning. It has become a word used to describe social outcasts. If you think of yourself as obese, you might start to behave as a social outcast, and be treated accordingly. If you think of someone you know as being obese, you will start to look down on them from a great height, to the detriment of your relationship.
  4. Do not wear clothes that make you feel fat. Do not eat foods that make you feel like a fat person. Do not avoid crowds and conversations. If anyone makes negative comments about your weight, find some aspect of their appearance to return the favour because no one is perfect. Go about your daily business as You, instead of being that Sad Fat Person.
  5. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The classical painters like Rubens lovingly immortalised large women, and most people look up to those huge Olympic weightlifters with their massive bellies.

Wibble, Wobble… Vibrate yourself Fit!

If you have been down to your local shopping centre recently, you might have seen a kiosk with vibration machines on display. They look like big bathroom scales shaking in an earthquake, their rapid see-saw motion just begging the four-year-old in you to hop on for a ride. In this article, we ask why they have become so popular, what they do, and whether or not they are worth the $400 to $17,000 price tag.
History of Vibration Machines
One of the first proponents for the health benefits of vibration was Dr. John Kellogg, the famous inventor of Corn Flakes breakfast cereal. He started to use vibrating platforms to treat people who visited his sanitarium in Michigan, USA in the late nineteenth century. However, it was not until the 1960s that serious research and experimentation into vibration training took place, first in the former East Germany (work of W. Biermann), then in Soviet Russia when Vladimir Nazarov developed vibration machines for elite athletes competing in Olympic sports. That work soon caught the attention of space agencies in the USA, USSR, and Europe concerned with keeping astronauts and cosmonauts healthy in zero-gravity environments. Since then, numerous studies into their effects have been published and multiple companies have manufactured and marketed vibration machines for home and gym use. The popularity of vibration machines exploded in the mid and late 2000s when celebrities such as Madonna, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and the Collingwood Football Club were reported to use them extensively. At that time, vibration machines were expensive and relatively bulky, but in the last few years prices have come down as the technology has matured.
How Vibration Machines Work
Your muscle fibres contract when you make a conscious effort to move them, for example when you move your leg in order to walk. They also contract without your conscious effort when your body feels as though it is falling. We have all experienced how fast our hands shoot out to block a fall when we step on the soap in the shower. Scientists have found that many more muscle fibres are activated during these involuntary contractions when compared to normal conscious contractions. Vibration machines trick your body into thinking that it is falling. When the vibrating platform drops down suddenly, for an instant your nerves sense a fall and cause an involuntary muscle contraction in your legs, torso and arms before your thinking brain can react. This repeats again and again at the rate of about 20 to 50 times per second. Muscle contraction is exercise, so the rationale of a vibration machine is that you can get an exercise workout which may be more efficient and more convenient than alternatives like jogging in the park. More efficient because more of your muscle fibres are being activated, and more convenient because you can do it in a small space.
The reported Benefits of Vibration Machines
Much has been written about the reported benefits of vibration machines, and from our review it seems pretty clear from published research that regular vibration training delivers the following benefits:
  • Efficient expenditure of energy due to sustained muscle use
  • Growth in muscle mass and strength due to supercompensation effect
  • Improved circulation due to short-term vasodilation (widening of blood vessels)
  • Improved explosive power in muscle tissue due to rapid contraction training
  • Comparatively less strain on bones, ligaments and joints than weight-based exercise, so ideal for people with excessive weight or age-related frailty
  • Increased activity in osteoblasts (bone building cells) due to compression and remodelling of bone tissue
Although the above benefits have been confirmed in reputable studies, it must be noted that some claims put out by manufacturers and marketers have been exaggerated and in some cases downright false. False claims include reports that vibration machines can “re-align” twisted spines and “break up” fatty deposits in the hips and belly. Vibration machines can be of significant benefit to your health and wellness, but they cannot cause significant weight-loss by themselves. For that you need to control calories and enjoy an active lifestyle which could include 20-30 minutes of shake, rattle and roll when you watch TV every day.

Australian Food is Good

With an abundance of natural resources and almost 27,000 businesses in our food industry, Australia is a tremendous producer of food. According to the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the food and grocery sector turned over almost $119 billion in 2013-14, which means that it accounts for about a third of total manufacturing in Australia. It is a massive industry dominated by some enormous food growing, processing, and retailing companies who list shares on Australian and international stock exchanges. The sector has a very bright future as growing populations in Asia are expected to demand ever greater amounts of the meat, milk, sugar, rice, fruit and vegetables that we produce. This epic prospect has attracted the interest of companies and capital from all over the world, and led to more and more consolidation as companies try to grow in scale to keep up with demand.
Smaller is better?
But what does growth and consolidation mean for the average consumer? By and large, it means that ever greater amounts of acceptable quality food is produced, so that export earnings rise and more and more people around the world get to enjoy Australia’s bounty. On balance it is a positive mega-trend which seems unstoppable, but we can think of a few reasons that it does not fully benefit local consumers:
  • It means that the contents of our shopping baskets are determined by export markets. Why is it more and more common to find Gold Kiwifruit in the supermarket, where before there was only Green Kiwifruit? It is because Gold Kiwifruit is smoother and sweeter than Green, and much more favoured in China. The producers in New Zealand now grow much more Gold and comparatively less Green, so we end up with a different mix of choices. The new choice is not itself a bad thing, until producers stop growing Green Kiwifruit altogether and our grandchildren never get to experience their unique tang.
  • Lack of diversity for commercial reasons. When international markets are targeted, producers and investors look for sure things rather than experimental products. It makes more commercial sense to grow massive amounts of Fuji apples in your orchard if you know that there is a steady and growing demand for it from a consolidated buyer, rather than growing a mix of Fuji, Green Dragon, Pink Pearl and Pink Lady, even if you know that you could sell a few hundred kilos of Pink Pearl at your local farmers’ market. When was the last time you saw Pink Pearl apples at your local supermarket?
  • The push for ever greater productivity to meet high demand means that large producers are always looking for efficiencies. It now takes just over 40 days from the time a chicken is hatched to the time it ends up in the Meat Section of your local supermarket – quite a feat considering that chickens ‘in the wild’ have a lifespan of 10+ years and 30 years ago it used to take farmers almost 80 days to get chickens ready for market. Chicken produced in the new rapid way (let’s call it ‘fast’ chicken) is much cheaper than chicken grown in a slower-paced environment, but some consumers might still want the alternative ‘slow’ chicken. This is because some consumers might feel better about buying a meat product that has experienced some degree of dignity during its life. As industry consolidation continues and producers get bigger and more automated, it is possible that there will be so few ‘slow chicken’ producers left that it will be far too expensive for the average family to eat anything but the ‘fast’ chicken.
  • Food mileage has become a real issue for some consumers. Some studies have shown that the average total distance travelled by the contents of the average Australian food basket is over 70,000km, which is almost twice the circumference of the earth! This is important because such long transport distances must be enabled by energy-hungry freight methods like refrigerated trucks, trains, ships, and planes. The food itself must often be treated with preservative chemicals and subjected to unusual temperatures and packaging so that it can survive the journey to arrive looking freshly picked. Ever wonder why some bananas come wrapped in airtight wraps with red paper covering the stalks? Have you ever tried to breathe the gas trapped in the wrapper just as you rip it?
  • Profit sharing is a consideration for some consumers. According to local farmer advocates, only 18 cents out of every dollar spent at local Australian supermarkets go to the food grower. Some consumers would prefer to see more of the money they spend go directly to the farmer, rather than the supply chain which supports him or her.
The alternative to Big Producers
Considering the shortcomings of large food producers and distributors, there is a growing trend which has seen some consumers actively seek out smaller producer products. Their rationale for doing so rests on the assumption that if supported, enough of them will survive so that a degree of diversity and choice will remain into the future. If you wanted to spread your food spend beyond the Big Producers, there are several alternatives open to you:
  1. Grow some of your own food in your back yard. Get the kids involved with planting and maintaining a seasonal vegetable patch.
  2. Visit local farmers’ markets whenever you can. Unfortunately, some marketeers in these gatherings exploit the good intentions of their customers by overcharging, but you can often find high quality, reasonably priced produce.
  3. Shop at your local independent grocer if you notice that they stock slightly unorthodox products. Products sourced from major food distributors have a certain uniformity which is quite difficult to disguise. A sure sign that your local is using independent producers is when there are major price differences between their leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, cabbage, bok-choy) compared to the major supermarkets.
  4. Buy some of your food from smaller distributors who purposefully avoid Big Producers. They make a point to source produce directly from small-scale producers and deliver it directly to consumers, thereby cutting out several links of the modern supply-chain.

Winter Roast Chicken Recipe

Winter is the perfect season for glorious, soul-warming, tummy stuffing, melt-in-the-mouth roast chicken. Nothing quite says welcome home on a cold evening like the smell of a fresh chicken in the oven, and we’re not talking about the machine-basted, plastic-infused rotisserie chickens you pick up at the supermarket!
Roast chicken is the ancient family-classic centrepiece of millions of Sunday lunches and week-day dinners up and down the country. You could probably find a thousand variations on the recipe using all manner of fancy ingredients, but in our humble opinion, when it comes to warming the cockles of a family’s heart, nothing comes close to the simplest traditional stuffed bird. This is a quick and straightforward recipe for roast chicken which anyone can make. When gravy is added, it contains 220 calories per 100g.
1 chicken, preferably free-range, about 1.8 kg
3 Tablespoons oil
60g Butter
For the Stuffing:
2 Cups Soft Breadcrumbs
1 Shallot or small Onion, chopped
60 g Butter
2 Tablespoons of chopped Celery
1 Tablespoon of chopped Walnuts
4 Tablespoons of chopped Bacon
1 small Egg, beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chicken preparation:
Pre-heat the oven on to 190°C, then wash and pat-dry the chicken. Mix the oil and butter together, then rub the mixture onto the skin of the chicken. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a pan, then add the shallot/onion and bacon to fry until soft. Once soft, remove and place in a small bowl and mix with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.
Add enough of the beaten egg to just bind the mixture together (do not use too much egg or your stuffing will look something like an omelette!). Stuff the body cavity with the stuffing mixture. This means, push it in deep and tight so that it is really squeezed in there!
Place the stuffed chicken on a roasting pan in the pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour and a half, or until the juices run clear when the bird is pierced with a skewer. Occasionally baste with seasoned oil whilst it is roasting, if it looks as though it is getting a bit dry. When you open the oven to check and baste, a wall of delicious aroma will rush into the kitchen, filling your house with warmth and cheer.
Serve with roast potatoes and vegetables of your choice.

Winter Minestrone Soup Recipe

What is it about soup that makes it so well-suited to winter? We have two theories about why it is difficult to go past a good soup this season:

1.    Soup has a uniformly warm temperature, unlike, say fish and chips. This means that every part of your mouth and stomach that it touches will feel warm and comfortable when you eat it.

2.    Most people have fond childhood memories of Mum serving a steaming bowl or mug of soup on a cold winter’s day. These warm and fuzzy memories are re-kindled every time we breathe in the aroma of freshly-made soup, especially when a chill is in the air.

Soup for the Ages

Our favourite winter warmer is traditional Minestrone Soup, made with fresh ingredients and eaten on the same day it is made. The name “Minestrone” is Old Italian meaning “that which is served”. The actual origin of Minestrone Soup is lost in time, but some historians trace it to the people who lived in the region of modern-day Italy even before the Roman Republic was established. The recipe changed constantly as new vegetables and meats were introduced, most notably tomatoes in the 16th century. Just about the only thing that remained constant through the thousands of years that people made the soup was its name!

Even today, there is no clear agreement as to what exactly should be used to make Minestrone Soup, or how to cook it. You will find people who swear that it should not contain any meat, and others who insist that it is not Minestrone if you don’t see chunks of beef on your spoon. And let’s not even get started on the beans…

These days, people seem to agree that Minestrone is a thick, chunky vegetable soup which has been richly-flavoured with tomatoes. It is usually served in hearty portions intended as a meal on its own, often complemented with fresh bread or grated cheese. Our recipe is one of the more traditional variations made in modern-day Rome, it serves 8 hungry people and contains 53 calories per 100g.


2 tablespoons olive oil
⅔ cup diced onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced leek, white & light green parts only
1½ cup diced carrots
1 cup finely chopped red cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 cup chopped green beans
1 cup chopped baby marrow or zucchini
⅔ cup sliced red capsicum
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 can whole tomatoes
½ cup small pasta, e.g. macaroni
4 – 5 cups chicken stock
1 can cannellini or butter beans
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 cup spinach, chopped

How to cook:

Using a large pot, combine the olive oil, onion, celery, leek, carrots and cabbage. Cook for 15 minutes over medium low heat, occasionally stirring the vegetables.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except the spinach and pasta) and 4 cups of stock. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired.  Add the spinach and pasta and cook for another 10 minutes. Check seasoning again. If too thick, add more chicken stock.

Congratulations, you have just made Minestrone Soup! Think about all of the millions of people over the ages who have sat down to enjoy the meal you are about to serve, and take your place in soup history.


Impulse Eating: a Solution

What is an impulse? The dictionary defines it as a “… sudden, involuntary inclination prompting action…”. When we act under impulse, we make snap decisions to do things that we had not planned to do before we set out. How many times have you stopped to find yourself doing something crazy in the afternoon and reflecting that you had no inkling about doing it when you woke up that morning?
Blame the Brain
Our brains are hard-wired to make impulsive decisions, because it is often necessary to change our plans when new information presents itself. The area of the brain responsible for acting quickly on choices is called the Right Orbitfrontal Cortex. Some studies show that people with a relatively small Right Orbitfrontal Cortex are more prone to act on impulse. When we discover a new option with a possible reward for making a fast new decision, this part of our brain goes into overdrive, quickly weighing up the pros and cons of changing the original plan.
If the impulse wins, “Poof!” goes the plan. Without impulsive decision-making, we would undoubtedly miss out on opportunities that don’t last. If you went out to look for berries deep in the woods, you will quickly change plans and return home laden with fruit if along the way you discover a tree full of ripe apples at arm’s length. If you resist the impulse to pick apples and instead push on for the berries, you might return with thorn scratches and nothing to show for the trip if the possums have eaten all of the berries.
The Dark Side
Some of life’s best decisions are made on impulse, like asking a girl out on a date and finding yourself happily married 20 years later. Acting on impulse is exciting for you and those around you, it gives us joy in spontaneity and makes us eager to see what the next minute brings.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to impulsive acts. Sometimes our impulses are unhealthy, as in the case of binge eating and poor food choices. It can be very difficult to resist the impulse to buy a large tub of Chocolate Ice Cream when it is displayed in front of you at the supermarket. Then, it is very difficult to resist the impulse to dive into it with a big scoop spoon when you watch Game of Thrones.
Now, there is nothing wrong with an ice-cream bender once in a while, but what often follows is regret, self-loathing, shame, and a feeling of not being in control. Even though bingeing on a tub of ice-cream will not immediately cause a noticeable weight-gain, you might feel as though the outside world can see your shame when you venture out the next day. This negative feeling can lead to a cycle of unhealthy behaviour, which can self-perpetuate and cause an ongoing problem.
A Solution
One solution to managing impulsive acts is to remove or add the conditions or temptations which have caused bad or good impulsive decisions in the past. If you have blown a pay check on the Pokies before, then stop going to hotels which have them, instead find a nice café or upscale bar. If you previously found joy in supporting an unusual street busker, then stroll across a busy city square on a summer afternoon.
When it comes to choosing the contents of your shopping trolley at the supermarket, an option is to avoid the trip altogether.
Follow these steps:
  1. Eat one of your regular meals so that you are not hungry or thirsty.
  2. Write down a list of groceries you need for the next week.
  3. Visit an online store and order exactly what is on your list. Junk food is much less tempting when it is just a small picture arranged in a category with everything else.