Category Archives: General Nutrition

10 Things That Could Be Hindering Your Weight Loss Journey

Are you struggling to lose weight and keep it off? Perhaps you’re not addressing the root cause of the problem? It’s worth digging deeper to discover what’s holding you back. Once you know this, you’re immediately in a stronger position to be able to move forward and achieve your weight loss goals.

PrioritiesHow high on your priority list is weight loss?  Have you just started a new job or do you have a new-born in the house?  We all so often embark on a weight loss journey at the same time as other life-changing events.  If you try and take on everything all at once, you’re likely to fail.  Perhaps make one or two small dietary changes but don’t try and become superwomen or superman overnight.  Once you’ve settled into your new job/family life, introduce some additional dietary changes and build on it from there.
PhysiologyWe know that genes play a role when it comes to body shape and metabolism but if you’re struggling to shift excess weight, there might be more at play.  Unbalanced hormone levels or uncontrolled blood sugar levels can seriously hinder your weight loss efforts and sorting out these imbalances and/or conditions first will pave the way to more effective and long-lasting weight loss.
PatienceRome wasn’t built in a day!  Don’t try and lose too much weight too quickly.  Invariably you’ll end up losing muscle mass rather than the desired fat mass and you’ll end up slowing down your metabolism which will make it difficult to lose weight in the future.  A well- balanced diet is far more sustainable and will help you reach your weight loss and body composition goals over time.
ProcrastinationThis applies to most things in life that require a bit of hard work and focus.  By setting realistic goals and drawing up an action plan, the task at hand won’t feel as daunting and you’re more likely to get started and stick to it.
Friends and FamilyFriends can ‘make or break’ a weight loss journey.  Make sure you surround yourself with friends who support your new lifestyle.  Ideally find a ‘buddy’ with similar goals and commit to helping each other along the way.  Rope in family members too so that your meals are aligned, rather than having to prepare multiple dishes come supper time.
Poor quality dietsDon’t be fooled by quick fix diets that seem too good to be true.  Follow an eating plan that is enjoyable, not too restrictive and one that fits with your lifestyle. Remember that the secret to any weight loss journey is sustainability.  If you don’t think you can follow that way of eating forever, it’s not worth embarking on it.
Lack of sleepResearch suggests that sufficient good-quality sleep may be an important factor when it comes to an effective weight loss strategy.  Work on improving your sleeping habits if this applies to you.
MedicationChat to your doctor if you suspect that a medication that you’re on is resulting in unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight.  There might be a more suitable alternative that gives the desired results without the unwanted side-effects.
MicrobiomeMore and more research is showing that your gut microbes (bacteria, viruses and fungi) play a very significant role when it comes to weight management and overall health.  Keeping them happy by feeding them a diet rich in fibre and phyto-nutrients is of paramount importance.  Too many processed and refined foods can interfere with the microbiome balance and promote growth of the ‘not-so-healthy’ microbes.
StressChronic levels of stress have been associated with weight gain and difficulties losing weight.  Some possible reasons may be due to chronically increased cortisol and insulin levels which in turn can increase your appetite and promote storage of fat in the abdominal area.  Comfort eating is as the name implies – a quick, albeit temporary, ‘fix’ to a stressful situation.  As such, it’s used as a coping mechanism by many.   Try and work out what your stressors are and then come up with strategies to keep them at bay – whether it’s going for a walk, meeting up with a friend, listening to your favourite song or meditating in a quiet place.

We’re all different and faced with our own unique set of challenges every day.  By investing in ourselves and finding out what makes us tick and what holds us back, we’re in a much stronger position to fight whatever comes our way and achieve our health and wellness goals.

Eat your way to a healthy heart

When it comes to heart health, the main focus should be on maintaining a healthy weight and being selective when it comes to the types of carbohydrate and fat you eat.    Weight loss of as little as five to ten percent of body weight is, on its own, associated with significant improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, all risk factors for heart disease.

By following these basic guidelines, you’ll lay down a strong foundation for a healthy heart:

  • Eat less refined carbohydrate/added sugar (this includes all the highly processed foods, confectionary items and those foods with ‘sugar’ listed in their top three ingredients).
  • Avoid trans-fatty acids (think deep friend and baked foods). These fats raise LDL cholesterol (the not so good one) levels and reduce HDL cholesterol levels (the good one).
  • Eat more of the healthy fats, examples being raw nuts, seeds, avocado pear, olives, olive oil, flaxseed oil and fatty fish (sardines, tuna, salmon).
  • Limit red meat and processed meats to no more than twice per week.
  • Limit the amount of salt you add to your food during cooking and at the table – rather add herbs and spices to the mix to enhance the flavor.
  • Eat more whole, unprocessed food (the type that doesn’t last forever – think fresh fruit, vegetables and whole-grains). By doing this, you’ll ensure a good intake of fibre and heart-protecting vitamins and minerals.
  • Focus on foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, including berries, oranges, tomatoes, leafy greens (kale, spinach), nuts (almonds, walnuts) and fatty fish.

No one likes the feeling of a broken heart, so look after yours the way you would your most treasured possession.

Getting back on track in the New Year

So, for most of us, the holiday season is over and we’ve returned to our normal routine, with kids back at school and our day jobs as busy as ever.

What better time than now to get back on track with healthy eating and exercise.

Below are some tips to help you get going and make sure you stay on track.

  • Plan ahead – this will ensure that you have all the right ingredients on-hand and you’ll be less likely to resort to take-aways and not-so-healthy alternatives.
  • Introduce one change at a time – once you’ve mastered one new habit, start on the next one. This way you’ll stand a much better chance of sticking to your new habits and reaching your long-term goal(s).
  • Find a buddy with a similar goal – it just makes sense that things will be easier and more fun!
  • Exercise in a group, whether in-doors in a studio or by joining a sports club.
  • Avoid getting into a situation where your blood sugar levels drop too low.  Once your blood sugar levels are too low, you invariably lose the ability to make sensible choices when it comes to food.
  • We all have our vices. Make sure you know which one is yours and if it’s related to food, the best way to ensure that you don’t over-indulge is to avoid stocking that particular item at home (whether its chocolate, crisps or cool-drink) – it’s usually a big deterrent if you have to get in your car and go to the shops to fulfill a craving!
  • Don’t starve yourself if trying to lose weight – talk about putting yourself at a disadvantage – without fuel, you won’t be able to exercise optimally and without exercise, you won’t be able to burn the extra calories. Starving yourself can also lower your metabolism over time, which will again put you at a disadvantage when it comes to reaching your weight loss goal.
  • Include a cheat day occasionally – remember that you want to make long-term changes to your diet and so you need to be realistic and practical.
  • Speak about your goals to others – the more people that know, the more people you’ll have to support you along the way.

Let’s make 2020  a year to remember!

Festive season tips

Is it only me or does it seem like just the other day we were raising our glasses and sharing our New Year’s resolutions?  We’re almost at the end of another year and with it comes the well-deserved holiday season where it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep to a routine, especially when it comes to eating.

All so often we just give up and say ‘I’ll pick up the pieces again in the New Year’.  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  With a bit of planning, you’ll glide through the festive season as strong and healthy as you were when you entered it.  You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so don’t give it all up now.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy the occasional treat.  It just means that you should still have the upper hand and be in control of what you eat and the best way to do this is to plan ahead.

Whether you’re going to be travelling to an exotic location; relaxing on a cruise ship; staying with family and/or friends or simply chilling at home, the same basic principles apply.

6 tips to keep you on track

  • Continue to eat regular meals/snacks throughout the day rather than suddenly skipping meals and/or eating only one or two large meals per day. As soon as your blood sugar levels drop too low, you lose the ability to make good decisions and your portion sizes suddenly become ‘supersized’.  You may think you’re doing the right thing by eating fewer meals, but you’re in fact just making it a whole lot more difficult for yourself, especially when it comes to managing your portions.
  • Don’t try and get your money’s worth when it comes to ‘all you can eat’ buffets. Rather stick to your usual portion sizes and where possible sneak out some extra snacks (fruit, small yoghurts etc) for later.
  • If you’re going to be attending lots of functions and/or parties, remember to eat something small before-hand so that you’re not standing in front of a buffet table or the ‘chips and dip section’ with a growling stomach.
  • Don’t stock the ‘treats cupboard’ with a month’s worth of treats – they’re likely to last one week max (if you’re lucky) and then the cupboard will need to be stocked again. Rather don’t keep a supply of treats in the house – having to put your shoes on and get into the car to go to the shops to buy the treat is usually quite a good deterrent!
  • When it comes to alcohol, remember to always have water with you, so that you’re not drinking alcohol to quench your thirst. Also add lots of ice to your wine and where possible opt for a white wine spritzer (wine and soda water) instead of straight wine and a light cider or beer instead of a regular one.
  • Enjoy the occasional treat – you deserve it!

Below are some quick, easy and healthy meal/snack ideas for you and your family to try this festive season.

Healthy meal/snack ideas

  • Crustless quiche – oh so simple – chop up and lightly stir-fry 2 cups of chopped vegetables including mixed peppers, onion, spinach, mushrooms (if you’re after a bit of sweetness add some butternut) in a non-stick pan. Add the vegetables to the egg/milk mixture (9 large eggs whisked with ½ cup low-fat milk) and crumble in 1 round of feta cheese.  Place in an oven proof dish and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 25-30 minutes.  Serve with a fresh salad and some whole-grain/low-GI bread e.g. rye bread or seed loaf (optional).
  • Roasted chick-pea and quinoa salad (add plenty of greens, some colourful peppers, extra virgin olive oil and some crumbled feta on top). Buy the canned chickpeas for greater ease and simply rinse them before using.
  • Root vegetable crisps and/or some carrot sticks with a variety of dips including hummus (chickpea dip), tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber based dip) and guacamole (avocado dip).
  • Pre-packed snack pack including raw nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) and raisins – good healthy snack for those long road-trips. Because nuts and raisins are both calorie dense foods, never eat more than a small handful at one time.
  • Whole-grain wrap with plenty of greens, some chopped up pineapple and finely sliced chicken pieces (you could use leftover braai chicken from the day before).
  • Smoothies made from frozen banana, fresh berries and fat-free or low -fat plain yoghurt.
  • Peeled, sliced bananas dipped in melted dark chocolate and then frozen (a delightful treat that’s also a favourite amongst kids). Place the sliced bananas in the ice tray section of the freezer on some wax paper.

The ball is in your court

So rather than simply resorting to fast-foods and over-sized portions, make this summer a summer to remember by making more of an effort when it comes to your nutrition.  Your body and mind will thank you for it and you’ll start the new year fresh, alert and ready for just about anything that might come your way!

Changing your eating habits

Changing your eating habits

Building a good habit doesn’t happen overnight and it’s especially difficult in the beginning stages.  It requires the right knowledge and a good routine.  Start slowly and build one good habit at a time.  Once you’re comfortable with your eating habits, you will have the confidence to add some flexibility and spontaneity to the mix.

Don’t deprive yourself

Depriving yourself entirely of certain foods is likely to result in over-indulgence in the long-term.  The key is moderation.  Enjoy certain ‘treat’ items occasionally rather than removing them from your diet altogether. That said, if you have an intolerance to a particular food or an ingredient in food, it’s important that you consult with a registered Dietitian to ensure that you are knowledgeable about which foods to avoid and when.   In some cases, it’s related to the quantity of a particular ingredient and not necessarily the specific food itself.  A Dietitian will be able to advise you accordingly, ensuring that you acquire all the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Steps to health 

Often simply removing refined foods (those typically high in added sugar like confectionary items, sweets and cooldrinks) from one’s diet will result in significant benefits in the short-term, including weight loss and improved energy levels.  Do a re-con of your existing eating habits and highlight just one significant change that you could make, such as reducing the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis.  The better you start feeling, the easier it will become to make other changes to your diet.  If you’re not sure what changes you should or need to make, consult with a Dietitian, who will be able to advise you on the best approach.

Eating out 

Eating out is often the number one challenge when trying to eat healthier.  The first step is to make sure that you don’t arrive at the restaurant with a growling stomach!  It is unlikely that you will be able to make the right choices when you’re ravenous.  Perhaps have a fruit before you leave.  Plan ahead and where possible, decide beforehand what you’re going to eat.  Remember to drink plenty of water during the course of the evening and if the portions are super-sized, ask for a doggy-bag and eat the rest for dinner or lunch the next day.  Go for the grilled options where possible and consider sharing a meal with a friend.

Time of day 

Research shows that eating a good breakfast in the morning is likely to prevent you from over-indulging later on in the day and your total calorie intake for the day is likely to be less.  By skipping meals you end up being ravenous when you do finally sit down to eat, resulting in large portion sizes and spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels which, in turn could increase your risk of developing diabetes and other conditions down the line.  The key is to prevent excessive spikes and dips in blood sugar levels by eating small, regular meals, with the right combination of unrefined carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats.  Eating at night isn’t a problem, as long as you stick to the game plan.


Most people experience a craving in response to low blood sugar levels and if put in a situation where there’s a quick fix available, it takes tremendous will-power to fight off the temptation to indulge.

It’s a well-known fact that shopping on an empty tank is a recipe for disaster – the same applies when you’re at home and have a well-stocked treats cupboard in the kitchen – our will-power is almost non-existent when we’re experiencing a dip in blood sugar levels and by stocking your cupboards with all kinds of delectable treats, you’ll only make the situation worse – when you’re ravenous, who  would stop and make themselves a healthy snack when there’s chocolates and chips beckoning in the cupboard?

So the message is simple – avoid getting into a situation where your blood sugar levels drop too low and if you do, don’t make it easier for yourself to succumb to the craving by stocking ‘treat’ foods at home or going to the shops or out for a meal on an empty tank.