Saturday, May 31, 2014

Recipe - chicken cacciatore

This is a favourite of ours and another great recipe full of fresh vegetables. If you don't eat meat it would be tasty with tofu or lentils for protein instead. You can cook it in around 45 minutes but this is a meal that's very hard to overcook- leave it bubbling for an hour to really intensify the flavours if you wish. 

What you'll need:
500g chicken thigh or breast fillets (or equivalent in tofu or lentils for veggie option)
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsps minced garlic
2 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1/2 red capsicum (bell pepper)
4 large flat mushrooms
2 large fresh tomatoes
1 400g can diced tomatoes
a jar of good quality pasta sauce or if you wish to make your own, more tomatoes & tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever you choose)
a handful of pitted kalamata olives
a slop of red wine
some fresh basil or parsley for serving
cooked penne pasta (preferably whole wheat or low GI pasta)

Dice your chicken and brown in a large heavy based pot along with your onion, garlic, a sprinkle of dried herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.  As its cooking, dice the carrots, capsicum and celery finely. Throw it all in the pot and cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and the chicken no longer pink.

Add a slop of red wine to deglaze the base of the pan and then add diced mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes and a jar of pasta sauce (alternatively add 2 cans of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce and about a cup of chicken stock). 

If all of your family eats olives then add them now. If you are like my family where not everyone is a fan, save them for serving :)

Add the bay leaves, the rest of the dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, season with black pepper and simmer for 30 minutes or so until sauce is thickened.

In the meantime cook your pasta - choose low GI varieties like wholemal pasta, and remember to keep serving sizes small. If pasta is not on your menu (it isn't for me) then consider eating yours over a plate of fresh green baby spinach leaves or even by itself with a spoon!

To serve top with shaved fresh parmesan and fresh torn basil leaves.
Serves 4-6

Bon appetit !

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Health news from the net - 31 May, 2014

Health news 31 May, 2014.
Do you enjoy reading about health as much as I do?
Here are links to a few health and nutrition related articles I was reading today. Click on the links for the full article and to read them from the source. Hope you find them interesting.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Hunter gatherer clue to obesity
This article was originally published at BBC news

The idea that exercise is more important than diet in the fight against obesity has been contradicted by new research.  A study of the Hadza tribe, who still exist as hunter gatherers, suggests the amount of calories we need is a fixed human characteristic.

This suggests Westerners are growing obese through over-eating rather than having inactive lifestyles, say scientists.

Read more:
Secrets of Keeping Off the Weight You Lose
This article was originally published at Tufts University

Despite the talk of “yo-yo dieting,” it is possible to lose weight and keep most of it off, according to new research on 3,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry. Investigators led by J. Graham Thomas, PhD, of Brown University evaluated questionnaires completed by people who had been in the registry, which tracks successful dieters, for at least 10 years. About three-quarters were women and most were college educated. The goal was to understand how some people are able to keep off the pounds they shed.

Read more:
Biggest food myths
This article was originally published at Sydney Morning Herald

As we learn more and more about nutrition, and the greater the number of "experts" out there publishing diet books inevitably leads to the propagation of new diet beliefs and trends, whether or not there is evidence to support them. Here are a few doing the rounds at the moment and the conclusion the nutritional science really leads us to.
Is coconut oil really that good for you?
Coconut oil, like all fats contains 5g of total fat per teaspoon, 90 per cent of which is saturated. The main reason that coconut oil is touted for its health benefits is that a significant proportion o

Read more:
Eating at a meeting
This article was originally published at Fooducate

Many people have a job that requires participating in meetings. Some folks spend their entire day in one meeting after another. Some of the dangers of the conference room, besides falling asleep and not getting any real work done, are the food and drinks that are often laid out for participants.

These seemingly harmless snacks add needless calories to your daily tally. Often they are low in nutritional value, whether soft drinks, cookies, potato chips, or other sweets. Some offices offer water and fruit as well, but it’s hard to compete with a moist chocolate chip cookie…

Read more:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Health news from the net - 30 May 2014

Health news 30 May, 2014.
Do you enjoy reading about health as much as I do?
Here are links to a few health and nutrition related articles I was reading today. Click on the links for the full article and to read them from the source. Hope you find them interesting.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

An end to fat shaming
This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald

The TV series Game of Thrones has its share of people who meet the usual criteria for on-screen hotness - curvy women with long flowing hair and lean men with determined jaws.  But it may also go down in history for turning some stereotypes on their heads. Along with a leading man who has achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, there’s a hero who’s overweight. For anyone not glued to this program each Monday night, this is Sam, a soldier of the Night’s Watch who doesn’t let extra kilos get in the way of rescuing a woman and child from a terrifying predator, a White Walker.  
But this plays out on the mythical continent of Westeros.  Here in the real world people who are Sam-sized are more likely to be stereotyped as lazy and lacking self-discipline. For anyone who thinks this is a terrific incentive to lose weight, it seems the opposite is true.....

Read more:
The top 5 misleading nutrition labels
This article was originally published on The Nutrition Guru and the Chef

Avoid being mislead in the supermarket, or when looking for recipes online. Being aware of these five popular terms will make sure you make healthy choices when it comes to food.
A clever marketing strategy used by food manufacturers to lure buyers into believing their packaged product is healthy, organic does not automatically mean it is packed full of nutritious ingredients. For example an organic muesli bar may use organic oats, but is also packed with added sugar, oil and covered in chocolate....  

Read more:
Is sugar really the big bad wolf of food?
This article was originally published on Bitewize Nutrition

It was fat’s turn a few decades ago when it was blamed for a myriad of health problems, but if you have been following the fat debate recently, it seems that sugar is now the culprit of all of our health woes.
So should you avoid sugar at all costs?  Or should you choose organic coconut sugar as your sweetener? What about a nice agave syrup or whatever else seems to be en trend at the moment? Is there really any difference? If you saw this infographic that has been doing the rounds in the Huffington Post  then you might think that sugar, no matter where it originated is sugar and that it all amounts to the same thing.....

Read more:
The Australian national health survey - what is it and what did it find?
This article was originally published on Catherine Saxelby's Foodwatch

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just released The Australian Health Survey which analysed data from over 12,000 Australians from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS). The ABS website states that “It presents results from a 24-hour dietary recall of food, beverages and dietary supplements, as well as some general information on dietary behaviours.” So just what does it tell us about our eating habits and general nutrition?

Read more:

"Food is fuel" or is it more complex than that?

I have seen mottoes written on the internet such as "Eat to live, don't live to eat" and they always make me feel uncomfortable. These one-liners just don't sit right with me. That concept that "food is fuel" and nothing more is I think simplistic and unrealistic and certainly doesn't reflect the way I live. Sure, some people see it that way, but for the vast majority of us, food is more than just fuel. 

Food can be a source of nourishment and pleasure, a social activity, a celebration, a tradition, a reinforcement of culture, a religious ceremony, a creative outlet, an expression of love, giving and sharing.....  and for some of us also a reward and a punishment. For many people who are overweight or obese, or who have an eating disorder, their relationship with food is one of the fundamental problems hampering their eventual recovery. 

I believe it's perfectly fine to enjoy your food, to love your fuel and take pleasure from your nourishment. But make your relationship with food a positive one.  If food makes you sad, angry, guilty, stressed, anxious, obsessed, depressed or hateful then this is not good for you, your health or your weight.  If you reward yourself with food, or punish yourself with food, perhaps you need to look at alternatives.  If your relationship with food is less than positive its time to examine it, and consider doing so with the help of a qualified professional such as a psychologist, a dietitian or a doctor. Like any bad relationship, don't be afraid to seek help and improve it, for your own health and happiness.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Health news from the net 29 May 2014

Health news 29 May, 2014.
Do you enjoy reading about health as much as I do?
Here are links to a few health and nutrition related articles I was reading today. Click on the links for the full article and to read them from the source. Hope you find them interesting.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

More than two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese
This article was originally published in The Conversation Australia.
An new analysis of world population data shows the number of people across the world who are overweight or obese has grown by 28% in adults and 47% in children in the last 33 years.
Among high-income countries, Australia and New Zealand have seen the greatest increases in obesity. It shows the highest increase in the prevalence of adult obesity has been in the United States (33%), Australia (28% of men and 30% of women) and the United Kingdom (25%).
To read the full article and view the interactive map click -> read full article


Couch potato Australia: only 19% of children get enough exercise each day
This article was originally published in The Guardian Australia.
Australia is raising a generation of couch potatoes, according to a new study which has found that only 19% of children get the recommended amount of exercise each day.
The study by Active Healthy Kids also found that despite Australia’s love of sport, the level of participation among kids in organised sport is not enough, with children still spending too much time in front of screens.
The study used a Canadian-developed international ranking tool to match Australian school children against those from 14 other countries and released the results in the first of an intended annual report card.
To read the full article click and find out more -> read full article 

Reduce wasting food by managing it better every day
This article was originally published on
Many cultures place huge importance on the rituals of food and entertaining, which can lead to over-catering as we display our generosity to guests. Accurate catering for large events and even our households is always difficult, but you can try to hone your estimating skills to limit waste, and if you are using professional caterers talk to them about preventing wastage or reusing leftovers (for example, is there a charitable group they deliver food to after events).
To read the full article click and find out more -> read full article 

Eating lunch away from your desk could be the best thing you do for your health today
This article was originally published in The Daily Telegraph 
“Who has a lunch hour anymore?” lamented a friend recently, confessing she regularly wolfs down a sandwich while sitting in front of her computer.
A quick look around the office confirms many of us eat at our desk because we are too busy to stop work.
Macquarie University’s Yvette Blount, research co-ordinator of the Australian Anywhere Working Research Network says because technology is keeping us connected 24/7, most people are suffering “work intensification”.
“You have more work than you can physically get through in the hours allocated,” she explains.
A survey last year by The Australian Institute and beyondblue found 3.8 million Aussies routinely don’t break for lunch.
To read the full article click and find out more -> read full article 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To snack or not to snack - that is the question!

There seems to lots of conflicting evidence out there on the internet about whether we should snacking between meals or not snacking. Are six small meals better than three big ones?  Will it helps me lose weight or not?  Well I guess the answer is "it depends". Just like there is no one simple diet rule that suits everyone, there is no one simple answer about snacks that suits everyone. Lets explore it in a bit more detail.

What are the benefits of having snacks?

  • Research has shown that people who eat small healthy meals regularly have less spikes of blood sugar and therefore less corresponding insulin rise, which leads to less insulin resistance and better control of (or prevention of) diabetes. This is more noticeable if the snacks are a combination of low GI carbohydrate and protein.
  • People who have healthy snacks regularly have improved blood cholesterol and decreased risk of heart disease as the smaller meals do not stimulate liver production of cholesterol to such an extent as larger meals.
  • People who eat healthy snacks when they feel hungry, will overall eat almost 30% less at their next main meal. Over time, regularly eating smaller meals trains us to want and be satisfied with smaller meals.
But what are the downsides of eating snacks?
  • Very few processed and commercially available snacks are healthy. There are a plethora of snack foods on the market that are high calorie junk foods pretending to be healthy. The snack food industry is worth over $60 billion a year. Snacks are an opportunity for people to add unnecessary processed food to their diet without realising it.
  • The evidence of snacks preventing overeating at the next meal only applies if a person is truly hungry when they have the snack. If they are snacking "because  its afternoon tea time" or because they are bored, they will not eat less at the next meal and are simply adding extra calories. 
  • If people are adding snacks that are not hungry for and do not need, they can feel lethargic and sluggish and be less likely to exercise.
  • The metabolic advantage of eating snacks (lower cholesterol and better blood glucose levels) only applies if the person is not gaining weight from their snacking. Obviously if the snacking makes you fatter, then those benefits are no longer clear.
The bottom line...
Firstly, you should avoid overeating at your main meal times - eating until you are uncomfortably full not only spikes blood sugar but will over time cause you to habitually eat bigger meals and obviously more calories. You should avoid skipping meals - eating large infrequent meals dramatically increases the risk of overweight and obesity and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The cycle of "starving and stuffing" is detrimental to health as it increases the craving for high calorie foods at your next meal and makes good choices more difficult. You should be focusing your efforts on eating three balanced meals a day, and making those meals as nutritious as possible with healthy unprocessed food, lean protein, good fats and lots of low calorie high fibre vegetables to give you energy,  slow digestion and fill you up. With this as your basis you probably won't need snacks on a regular basis... but some days you will feel like it, and some people burn faster than others so you might just need a snack!

Am I really hungry?
But if it is a few hours until your next meal and you are feeling hungry, what should you do? Well the obvious thing is to go grab a healthy snack. But first you need to ask yourself some of the principles of mindful eating:
  • Am I just thirsty? I usually grab a glass of water or make a cup of tea and see if that makes the feeling go away
  • Am I just bored?  going for a walk, or simply getting up to make that cup of tea usually solves that
Tips for healthy snacking
If I'm still hungry after my cup of green tea, then I know I'm genuinely hungry and I should definitely have a snack to keep my blood sugar stable and avoid overeating at the next meal. Here's some points to remember:
  • Treat your snack as you would a meal - plan it, put it on a plate, remember your portion sizes, balance is key
  • Balance low GI carbohydrates and fibre with good fats and proteins - eg some fruit with cheese, vegetables with hummus, fruit with unsalted nuts or nut butters. Have ingredients handy so you avoid grabbing a less healthy option. if you are away from home its a good idea to have these on hand just in case - I try to never leave the house without an apple, some almonds and a bottle of water in my purse- my healthy food emergency kit! 
  • Avoid junk food - unless its a special treat, there is no point in eating high calorie low nutrient foods like chips, sweets, biscuits, cake, or "snack bars" - they won't fill you up and you'll be just as hungry when your next meal is due but with a whole lot more calories on board. These are treat foods, have them when you wish to have a special treat and enjoy every mouthful, but they should not be in your everyday diet.
  • Don't fall victim to the "open bag syndrome" - whether you're eating a healthy snack like nuts or having a treat like chips, portion sizes are important. Whatever you are eating, put it on a plate and get out of the kitchen - picking at an open pack is an easy way to lose track of just how much you have eaten.
  • If you have snack foods that you can't resist and are your personal dietary "kryptonite" (shortbread anyone?) then it may be easier for you not to keep them in the house at all! If your choices are all healthy unprocessed foods, then of course you will make healthy choices!
  • Add lots of vegetables to every meal and you will decrease your hunger in between meals.
So I hope that's helpful. You can be a "snacker" or a "non-snacker" and still be healthy and lose weight if you need to, providing you consider these principles. I snack most days, with lots of green tea, fruit vegetables, nuts and occasionally cheese between meals, and it certainly hasn't hampered my weight loss as I take it all into account. 

In summary? 
Eat when you're hungry, don't skip meals, and stop before you're too full. 
Eat healthy foods, mostly plants. 
And just eat real food. 

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Any more tips for healthy snacking?  Tell me in the comments below.

Create healthy habits, not restrictions.

Making healthy choices should not be negative or miserable Changing your life to be more healthy shouldn't make you feel deprived. If you focus on the things you "can't" or "shouldn't" be eating, this will not be a positive experience.  

Instead, try to focus on the everyday positive habits you can ADD to make your life healthier. Focus on the powerful choices you are making. Be positive and proud.
Here's some ideas.... 

Today I will go for a walk.
Today I will drink a glass of water every time I pass the kitchen.
Today I will eat two pieces of fruit.
Today I will add a serve of vegetables to every meal.
Today I will start drinking green tea.
Today I will look at myself in the mirror, smile, and think something positive about myself.
Today I will start getting healthier.

Create healthy habits, not restrictions. 

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Weight loss cures and snake oil salesmen.

Well this morning I had a run in with a fellow on the internet over his promotion of supplements for weight loss. He was posting in a group and his advertisement for his magical product encouraged people to lose weight by mixing his potion with milk, peanut butter and butterscotch pudding mix!  His other recipe included Oreo cookies and Jello flavoured pudding mix. Mmm sounds like a balanced nutritional meal to me! (not!) Not surprisingly I got a little hot under the collar about this latest dietary scam and decided it was time to talk about weight loss supplements. 

Every man and his dog seem to be selling a weight loss "cure" these days. With the rates of overweight and obesity rising, people who are not overweight have become the minority and manufacturers have the biggest potential profit margin EVER. If only there were a safe, reliable, effective weight loss supplement on the market, they would be millionaires. Sad truth is, that there isn't one. 

Some meal-replacement programs are effective for short term weight loss under medical supervision, and if you are very obese your doctor may wish to try you with those. I am not personally a fan, because while you may lose weight short term, unless major changes are made most patients regain the weight when they return to eating "real" food. But they can be used effectively, particularly with multidisciplinary support, so I thought it best to mention them. But otherwise there are currently no diet supplements on the market with solid scientific research that are helpful for long term weight loss. Many weight loss supplements (particularly on the internet) are sold in extensive Multi-Level Marketing schemes so the poor people selling them need to push more sales of their product to recoup the money they have spent personally just to get the product themselves. To buy more product they must sell more product and recruit more people to sell more product. The people at the top get rich and the people at the bottom don't get slim! Most are ineffective. Worse, some of those that are on the market are unregulated, unproven or unsafe. 

Overweight and obesity is the most rapidly growing health problem in the world and costs governments millions in health costs. More premature death and illness in Australia is now caused by excess body fat than by tobacco smoking or high blood pressure. If you are considering taking a weight loss supplement think about this - if there was a safe, reliable, and effective supplement that would help you lose weight, don't you think your doctor or another health professional would have given it to you by now? We wouldn't need to buy it off the internet, hell, we'd be putting it in the water supply!

The most effective way to lose weight is by sustainable lifestyle change. Eating healthy, balanced nutritious meals in the appropriate amounts for your body and exercising more to get fitter and healthier. Slow, steady and effective. There is no magic and there are no quick fixes. 

And one final point: in my previous post on "diet gurus" and "the "one true diet" (read it here) I mentioned that if a diet is going to work, if you are going to lose weight and keep it off, then you need to consider if you could keep doing this forever. Any plan that you undertake short term will have short term results and when you reach your goal weight (or get sick of it) and go back to your previous life, the weight comes right back on (and then some). Unless you are planning to take this supplement (with its cost, hassle and unknown health risks) for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, then don't start now. 

Don't waste your money. Just eat real food.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

I'm going to hand the final word on this issue to Dr Yoni Freedhoff, who I have quoted before. He is a fellow physician and health blogger whose views I highly respect:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Time for tea? Why you should be having a cuppa!

There seems to be two types of people in this world - dog people or cat people, folders or scrunchers, coffee drinkers or tea drinkers. So which one are you?  I'm both a coffee drinker AND a tea drinker. And if you don't currently drink tea, its time to start considering doing so for your health. Why?

Tea has been drunk for thousands of years in many forms across the worlds as a drink, a social activity, a ceremony and a medicine. Science is now proving what ancient cultures have known for years about how a brew is good for you, and have identified some significant health benefits in the literature. 

Some of the benefits:

  • Antioxidants: Black tea and green tea are both high in antioxidants (actually with little difference between the two) and these antioxidants are implicated in the protection against various cancers and heart disease.  The research evidence for widespread risk reduction is equivocal, the study sizes are too small to make major conclusions, but it is likely that antioxidants at this dose could well be protective against high cholesterol, cancers and possibly heart disease.
  • Weight loss and diabetes: Animal studies have shown increases in metabolic rate in mice fed green tea extract, and there is evidence in human studies of people drinking more than 3 cups a day having increased fat oxidation and weight loss. Most weight loss teas for sale are complete scams, any green or black tea will have this effect. Now the effect is small, and you will not lose appreciable amounts of weight drinking tea alone, but in combination with dietary change and exercise it may well increase your weight loss rate and help keep it off. (and sorry, if you are adding milk and sugar to your tea you will probably negate this effect!) Due to this effect on weight, metabolic rate and fat oxidation there has been some published studies suggesting caffeinated tea may also have a role in reducing abdominal obesity, preventing diabetes and improving insulin resistance.
  • Stress and blood pressure: There is clear evidence linking black tea intake to reduced systolic blood pressure over a six month period and also decreased circulating stress hormones. So it's not imaginary, a nice cuppa really does make you feel calm and less stressed! 
  • Fluid intake : Many people have difficulty drinking enough water - as tea is mainly just that, it makes increasing your hydration rate easy! And tea is negligible in calories :)
Things to be aware of:

  • Chemicals: The camellia plants that tea leaves are picked from are very sensitive to environmental pollutants and can absorb aluminium, fluoride and other chemicals in their manufacture. While these are low levels, if it concerns you, make sure you buy organic tea.
  • Caffeine: Tea contains caffeine and theophylline which are stimulants and provide some of the health benefits of tea and coffee. The levels of caffeine in a prepared cup of tea are much lower than in coffee, but still can affect sleep for some people. If you are sensitive to caffeine stick to herbal or caffeine free tea, especially in the afternoon.
  • Human rights: Globally, perhaps as many as 50 million people are involved in the tea industry in many of the world’s least developed countries. Just like in the coffee and chocolate industries, the rights of farm workers in the tea industry has been eroded as large corporations have industrialised tea production. To avoid exploitation look for the Fairtrade symbol on your tea when you can. Click this link to read more. 
  • Brew fresh tea for each cup with boiled clean water and let the tea leaves / bag steep for 3-5 minutes depending on the variety. Drink your tea without milk and sugar or if you need a little sweetness, consider honey or a slice of lemon.
  • For maximum flavour buy the best quality tea you can afford and consider tea leaves with an infuser or small teapot rather than teabags. Teabags are convenient, but the extra movement of leaves in a pot does give you superior flavour.
  • Take the time to relax and make the most of the experience.

Now put the kettle on and ENJOY !!

What's your favourite tea? Tell me in the comments below.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Monday, May 26, 2014

Be kind to yourself

Be proud of what you achieved so far, even if what you have achieved is making the decision to start! Your body is amazing and is capable of so much. Don't hate it, or shame yourself, or feel guilty. You will achieve much more by confidence, by loving and nurturing yourself and treating yourself well. You deserve it. 
Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Eat real food.

Less packets. 
Less numbers. 
Less additives. 
Less preservatives. 
Less salt. 
Less chemicals. 
Less stuff made in factories. 
Less take away. 
Less drive through. 
Less eating at the television, at the desk or in the car. 
Less shipped from the other side of the planet. 
Less out of season. 
And maybe just less.

Eat real food.

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

Want to go for a walk? The LG&H guide to getting started.

Today, I want to encourage you all to think about doing more walking. Its a terrific form of exercise and something that more of us should be doing more of. Walking is free, its enjoyable, its relatively easy on the joints, it suits all fitness levels (you can go at your own pace) it can be a solitary or group activity however you choose, and with the use of gyms, treadmills, shopping centres and the like, it can be done in all weather. More importantly, walking will decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes (and improve it if you already have it) and even reduce your risk of developing many cancers. Pretty incredible results just for putting one foot in front of the other, huh? I guess there's a bit more to it than that. So lets cover some of the basics.

Why should I walk?
Some of the benefits include: 
  • Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
  • Stronger bones and improved balance
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Reduced body fat.

What gear do I need?
I guess the one most important piece of equipment you need are a good pair of shoes.Walking is gentler on your joints than many other sports, but if you are going to clock up some miles you should look at investing in appropriate footwear. See a specialist shoe shop and get fitted for some good quality walking shoes. Other than that some comfortable clothes, a water bottle and if you are planning on walking at or near dark, some safety equipment (lights or high vis gear) are worth considering.  Some people use a pedometer when they walk - you certainly don't need to, but they can be fun and quite motivating. A pedometer measures the number of steps you take. You can use it to measure your movement throughout a day and compare it to other days or to recommended amounts. This may motivate you to move more. The recommended number of steps accumulated per day to achieve health benefits is 10,000 steps or more.

How long should I walk for? 
To quote directly from Australia's physical activity guidelines:
"Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount. Be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours per week) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours per week) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week."

So in relation to walking we are aiming to get to a point where you are walking an hour a day at least 5 days a week or so. But clearly, you may not be able to just step out the door and walk for an hour, you'll need to work up to that. The Mayo Clinic has written an excellent 12 week walking plan to get someone from a standing start up to a walking pace. The basic details are as follows:

  • Try to walk at least five times each week. Always start with a five-minute, slower paced walk to warm up and end with a five-minute, slower paced walk to cool down.
  • Start at a pace that's comfortable for you. Then gradually pick up speed until you're walking briskly — the equivalent of 3.5 miles an hour. You should be breathing hard, but still able to carry on a conversation. Each week, add two minutes to your walking time.

WeekWarm-upBrisk walkingCool-down
15 minutes5 minutes5 minutes
25 minutes7 minutes5 minutes
35 minutes9 minutes5 minutes
45 minutes11 minutes5 minutes
55 minutes13 minutes5 minutes
65 minutes15 minutes5 minutes
75 minutes18 minutes5 minutes
85 minutes20 minutes5 minutes
95 minutes23 minutes5 minutes
105 minutes26 minutes5 minutes
115 minutes28 minutes5 minutes
125 minutes30 minutes5 minutes
Do I need to get a check up before I start?
Walking at this level should be manageable for most people, but its always recommended that you talk with your doctor if you've been sedentary for a long time or you have serious health issues.

How do I keep it interesting and fun?
Some suggestions to help make regular walking a pleasurable form of physical activity include varying where you walk, walking the dog, walking with friends and joining a walking club.  If you want to stick close to home and limit your walking to neighbourhood streets, pick different routes so you don’t get tired of seeing the same sights.  If you feel unsafe walking alone, find one or more friends or family members to walk with.
Walk at various times of the day. The sights to see first thing in the morning are bound to be different from those of the afternoon or early evening.  Drive to different reserves, park the car and enjoy the views while you walk.  Use music to keep you occupied (but always remember your personal safety when using headphones)

Will I lose weight?
An interesting question, and the answer depends on a few factors. Walking has known health benefits that are well established and any increased activity will improve your health, no matter what the scales say. If you are walking without making any changes to your nutrition, then you may not lose much weight at all. Our lifestyles are generally so sedentary these days that for most people walking an hour a day just serves to counteract all the sitting we do, but doesn't necessarily counteract a poor diet. To give you some perspective - while caloric burn varies according to a person's age, body size and fitness, it could take something like 3 hours of walking to counteract the calories from one take away hamburger. I've said it before and I'll repeat it here: you can't outrun (our outwalk) a bad diet. BUT if you are making changes to your eating habits as well, then walking can make a big difference to your waist line as well as your fitness. That extra few hundred calories a day will speed up the process for you and as you get fitter and stronger you'll be more motivated. But be patient and be realistic.  Remember that this is all about making healthy lifestyle changes- focus on the journey, focus on making healthy habits every day, eating well, sleeping well, walking daily, and let the pounds and kilograms take care of themselves. 

Can I just keep doing this?
Our body tends to get used to physical activity, so continue to increase your intensity as you are able to improve your fitness levels. You can increase the intensity of your walks by: 
  • Walking up hills
  • Walking with hand weights
  • Increasing your walking speed gradually by including some quick walking (walk as fast as you can to the next lamp post and then relax until the next one and so forth)
  • Increasing the distance you walk quickly before returning to a moderate walking pace
  • Walking for longer
  • Add lunges, squats, pushups or other muscle strengthening exercises to your routine
Is walking enough?
If you sit for much of the day for work or leisure, there are significant risks for your health. Some have even called sitting "the new smoking". Apart from doing obvious things to break up your sitting, any increased incidental exercise is good for you. Here's some more ideas: 
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift (for at least part of the way).
  • Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk to work or home.
  • Do housework like vacuuming (turn the music up and work up a sweat)
  • Walk (don’t drive) to the local shops.
  • Walk the dog (or your neighbour’s dog).
If you need help with any of this information, see your doctor or an exercise physiologist for more guidance.


Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy

For more information:
Better Health Channel Victoria: Walking for Good Health
Mayo Clinic 12 week walking schedule
Sydney Morning Herald: A smarter weight loss workout
US News; Why 10,000 steps a day won't make you thin
Australia's physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines

Recipe - Grilled vegetable and ricotta stack

After making the beautiful eggplant parmigiana two days ago I had grilled a little too much eggplant and had three slices left over - cooked and sitting in the fridge. I also had half a tub of ricotta cheese opened from that recipe. I hate throwing away perfectly good food so last night decided to put my thinking cap on and do something with it. 

Nutritional experts recommend we should be eating at least 5 servings of vegetables a day, yet less than 10% of Australians actually do (and the figures are similar for most Western countries). Increasing your intake of fresh vegetables is a simple thing you can do to decrease your weight, increase your health, reduce your risk for many chronic diseases and look and feel better. You will also find that if you fill up on vegetables you will be less hungry and less likely to snack on not so nutritious options! This is a very quick and easy 15 minute tasty meal and best of all, it's full of vegetables!

You will need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A range of fresh vegetables such as eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, capsicum (bell pepper) tomatoes, mushrooms, squash or whatever else you can find in the fridge
Fresh spinach, rocket or other salad greens to form salad base
Ricotta cheese or if you prefer a sharper flavour, marinated feta or goat's cheese would be even tastier
Balsamic glaze (this can be bought in most supermarkets. It is sweet, so a little bit goes a long way. Otherwise just use regular balsamic vinegar)
Fresh herbs

Slice your vegetables in slices around 1cm thick for thick vegetables like large mushrooms, eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini, capsicum. I steamed the sweet potato for about 2 minutes to soften it a little, but be careful not too cook too much or it will fall apart. Cut the woody ends off asparagus and top and tail beans. Cut whole tomatoes into quarters. 

Heat a griddle pan and brush your vetables with olive oil. Sprinkle with black pepper and a little sea salt if you wish.

Quickly grill your vegetables, watching and turning them carefully so they don't burn. Vegetables cook fast! This won't take long. Set them aside on a plate with kitchen paper until your batches are done.

When your grilling is complete, simply make a stack with salad greens at the bottom, larger sliced vegetables such as zucchini, sweet potato and eggplant first, topped with smaller vegetables. Remember to put some nice dollops of your ricotta, feta or goats cheese in the middle. When you are done drizzle with a little balsamic glaze, black pepper, top with fresh herbs and enjoy!! 

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy