Get the Whole (Grain) Story

wholegrains for breakfast

The word ‘refined’ is a compliment when it comes to your sense of style, but for your diet it’s another thing entirely. Here’s everything you need to know about whole foods, especially why wholegrains are super good for you.

The Whole Truth

As the name suggests, whole grains contain the ‘whole’ grain, including the nutrient-rich germ, the energy-providing endosperm and the fibre-rich bran layer. Coming in different shapes and sizes, whole grains are an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals and contain many protective components, such as antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Refined grains, on the other hand, have been processed, which removes the bran and germ.  The refinement process gives these foods a finer texture and also removes important nutrients, such as B vitamins and fibre.

Common Types of Whole Grains

  • Whole wheat
  • Spelt
  • Oat
  • Barley
  • Maize (corn – including popcorn)
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Triticle

Common Types of Refined Grains

  • White rice
  • White flour
  • White bread
  • Pasta (non-wholewheat varieties)

What does the research say?

Research published in the American Journal of Dieteticsrandomly assigned 144 obese people into two groups. Over the 12-week study period all participants received the same dietary advice on weight loss and were encouraged to participate in daily physical activity at a moderate intensity. One group was instructed to eat an oat-based wholegrain cereal for breakfast, while the other group ate refined cereal, with equal amounts of calories. What did they find?Results from the study showed that weight loss in the abdominal region was greater in the whole grain group. Participants in the whole grain group also lowered their cholesterol levels due to the beta gluten (a type of soluble fibre) found in oats, proven to have many health benefits including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels.

What about weight loss?

“Due to the high fibre content, a single serving of whole grains will fill you up quicker and stay in your stomach longer compared to low-fibre foods,” says Fernwood’s consulting dietitian Kylie Andrew.“Refined grains like white rice and those used to make white bread and sugary breakfast cereals have had most of their fibre and nutrients stripped away, causing a huge spike in insulin levels. High insulin levels tell our bodies that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it.” Adds Kylie.

How much do I need to eat each day?

According to the Grains and Legumes Council, a good habit is to make at least half your grain (cereal) food choices wholegrains, otherwise it is recommended to eat 2- 3 serves (about 48 grams) of whole grains per day.

What is a ‘serve’?
One ‘serve’ of grain-based food:
= 2 slices of wholemeal bread
= 1 medium whole grain bread roll
= 4 whole grain crispbreads
= 1 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta or brown rice
= 1 cup of cooked porridge
= 1 1/3 cups of breakfast cereal flakes
= 2 wheat-flake or oat-flake breakfast biscuits
= ½ cup of muesli

Problems Down There?

 “The fibre in whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes cleanses and keeps your digestive tract in good working order, helps prevent constipation and maintains regularity (keeps the bowels moving),” explains Sydney-based gastroenterologist Professor Bolin and President of the Gut Foundation. What about those embarrassing gas moments? “Adding too much fibre, too quickly can cause bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence) and other digestive discomforts,” says Bolin. Instead, Bolin recommends gradually introducing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains by starting off eating one or two fruits and vegetables a day for a week, then up your fibre intake to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day over the next week or so. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day helps too, advises Bolin.

Sample Meal Plan

Reaching your wholegrain daily target may be easier than you think! Combine your grains with an assortment of fruits, vegetables and a protein (lean meats, nuts, or beans), and you’ll have tasty and nutritious meals in no time.

Breakfast 1 cup of wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk. 28 g
Lunch Wholemeal wrap + 1 small can of tuna + 2 cups of salad. 25 g
Dinner Brown rice pilaf (1 cup cooked rice). 66 g
Total Whole Grain 119 g

* This meal solution, when included as part of a varied and balanced diet, will help you reach 48 grams per day.

Label Watch

Scan the bread aisle and virtually every package touts some kind of nutritional whole grain goodness. But sorting out the healthy from the merely can be tricky. It’s important to take a closer look at the food labels as you may find there’s not a single whole grain in sight. When in doubt, look for the word “whole” in the ingredients list and choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fibre per serving.

Health Benefits of Wholegrain

  • Promote better bowel function, regularity, less belly bloat
  • Keep you fuller for longer – means you eat less
  • Stabilise sugar levels, which help burn fat faster
  • Protect against heart disease, cholesterol and lower the risk of bowel cancer.

Quick Tips

  • Substitute barley for white rice in risotto recipes
  • Replace white bread and rice with wholegrain varieties.
  • Substitute white flour with whole wheat flour in recipes for baking
  • Add brown rice, wild rice or barley in your vegetable soup
  • Snack on popcorn instead of chips on movie nights
  • Choose wholegrain, wholemeal and mixed grain breads, crackers, muffins, pita, crumpets and crsipbread
  • Choose wholegrain, high fibre breakfast cereals, porridge and muesli
  • Choose brown rice and wholemeal pasta
  • Use wholemeal flour to thicken sauces, gravies and stews
  • Use wholemeal breadcrumbs or oats to coat foods


  1. Journal of American dietetic Association (2010) Whole-Grain Ready-to-Eat Oat Cereal, as Partof a Dietary Program for Weight Loss, ReducesLow-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Adults withOverweight and Obesity More than a DietaryProgram Including Low-Fibre Control Foods. Kevin C. Maki
  1. Journal of Cereal Science (2007) Whole grain phytochemicals and health. Rui Hai Liu.􏰀



Fitness on the Fly

fitness on the fly

Almost missing your flight shouldn’t be the only time you break a sweat. Here’s how you can stay in shape while you jet-set.


Flight delayed? Rather than sitting in the airport lounge munching on stale crackers, cheese and a glass of vino, take a brisk walk around the airport. Bonus. Another excuse to go shopping.


Searching for a hotel with a gym or swimming pool really helps make training on holiday or business trip a breeze. The great thing about staying in a hotel with a gym is that you can workout first thing in the morning. This maximises your chances of getting your workout in before the days starts tempting you to do all things touristy.

fitness while you travel


Obviously you can skip the dumbbells, but there’s plenty of light equipment you can bring with you. A jump rope or resistance bands are handy portable fitness equipment that take up less room than a pair of Christian Louboutins, so you can squeeze in a great workout in the comfort of your hotel room.


Even if you don’t pack a single fitness tool, you can work up a sweat with simple bodyweight exercises. For a simple circuit suggestion try 3 sets of 25 star jumps, 60 seconds of pushups, 30 seconds of lunges each leg, 60 seconds of sit ups, 60 seconds of squats, 30 seconds holding the plank pose, then repeat this circuit 3 times.


From airline and hotel reservations to itineraries, every detail of the trip is planned well in advance. So why not schedule your workout like you do a meeting? Plotting out when you’ll actually fit in your workout (and what you’ll do) ahead of time is the key to making sure it happens. So, when you’re on the plane, take a few minutes to review your schedule and find time for your workout each day.


If you are on a beach holiday (lucky you!), head to the water for your workouts. Try surfing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), snorkelling, windsurfing or kite surfing for a more adventurous twist. If you’re in an urban setting, walking is the best way to find hidden gems in the destination you are visiting. So swap heels for trainers and see the sites and explore the shops before they open to know your way around.

yoga on the beach


When you travel it’s way too easy to break from the usual routine and eat foods you usually avoid, such as fast food. While you can’t plan ahead for every meal, you can pack healthy snacks, such as nuts, fruit or make your own trail mix that you can enjoy on the plane or in your hotel room. It will help you avoid the hotel mini bar or an afternoon jaunt to the coffee shop for a pastry.

Bon Voyage – stay well, stay active!

This post was originally published in Viva magazine Dubai.

Get Appy. My Top 5 Fitness Apps


When it comes to fitness you want an app that’s easy to use and gives you a kick of motivation to get moving. Here are the 5 best free fitness apps to help you tone up and torch calories:

  1. FitStar Personal Trainer

Having a personal trainer is a worthwhile investment, but the price can really add up! Enter Fitstar – an app that gives you tailored workouts but doesn’t drain your wallet. The freestyle sessions are short, require little space, and don’t use any equipment, which means you can do the workouts anytime, anywhere. At the end of each workout you give feedback about how long you lasted and how hard you found the workout. This lets the app adjust the intensity for your next session to keep pushing you along at the right level. This is the feature I love because it means each workout is challenging but achievable, whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned athlete.

  1. Instant Heart Rate

Want to know if you’re in the right training zone? Then take your pulse. This app uses the camera on your smart phone to accurately assess your heart, and can be used at rest or while exercising. The app also comes with a target heart rate calculator to help you figure out your optimal training zone for longer runs or high intensity bursts of interval training.

  1. The Johnson & Johnson Official 7-minute workout

Squeezing in a quick workout between meetings or while your little ones have a nap is now easier than ever. This app workouts are categorized into different fitness levels and range from seven to 21 minutes each. Just click on your preferred workout, clear a little bit of space and go! There is also a feature which let’s you design your own custom workouts – just in case you want to throw in some extra burpees for fun.

  1. Daily Yoga

I love yoga and find it completely relaxing – especially when I’m doing it from the comfort of my own home in pj’s. Daily Yoga let’s me perform sun salutations at whatever hour I like with over 50 follow along exercise classes and over 400 poses. Whatever your circumstances, this app has a session suitable for you, from prenatal yoga right through to yoga for weight loss. Go on, zen out a little.

  1. Couch to 5k

This oldie but goodie will have you running in no time. The app has an eight-week program is designed for those who are just taking up running, with three sessions per week that alternate between walking and running to gradually build up your endurance fitness. With so many different feature to choose from, including an audio coach while you run, distance and calorie tracking, as well as an in-app music player. The app that proves anyone can be a runner!

Image credit: ThinkFit

The Real Reason To Give Fad Diets The Flick

diets dont work

I often hear how fed up people are with giving up the foods they love because they’re following the latest diet trends. Cringe! Here’s why denying yourself is not doing you any favours, plus what to do instead.

Deprivation equals binge

Imagine you tell yourself that you’re not allowed to eat any chocolate, bread or pasta. Ever!

These kinds of ‘diet rules’ are never sustainable long-term. And when you inevitably cave in and have one piece, ‘failure’ sets in. Then, what the heck, you’ve devoured the entire block.

For many, ‘diet’ means a set amount of time during which you exercise superhuman willpower to resist temptation. After enduring this overwhelming hunger period, you reward yourself with a junk food splurge. Not only does this ‘restrict-binge cycle’ have a negative effect on your relationship with food, it also means you end up achieving the exact opposite of a what you set out to do in the first place – a balanced approach to eating with the occasional treat thrown in.

Try this: Focus on ‘substitution’ instead of ‘elimination’. It might mean switching your crisps for nuts, soft drink for water, or adding one more colourful veg to every meal. Small tweaks have big payoffs long-term, not to mention they’re less taxing on your willpower. Once you master one, try another.

You’re always grumpy

Labelling foods “good”, “bad”, “clean” or “dirty” is placing judgment on to eating, which you should never feel guilty about. Food is not the enemy and shouldn’t be thought of in terms of calories and macros. Not only is it tiring, it’s also mentally exhausting. As you know, being hangry is never a good state of mind.

Try this:Call a truce and stop the food fight! Make food choices that honor your health, tastebuds and leave you satisfied. A recent scientific review showed that mindful eating works because it strengthens the weakest link in most diets: the compliance problem. The researchers conclude that increased mindful eating help participants gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to hunger and satiety and decrease reward-driven eating.

Hunger is off the charts

If you’ve ditched an entire food group and find yourself battling an insatiable hunger, then it’s time to re-asses. Hunger is a primal physiological function that signals you’re not eating enough, so it shouldn’t be ignored. In fact a large percentage of dieters regain all the weight they lose within just one year. Why? Weight regain is partially due to your body’s appetite. In fact, the influence of hunger on weight regain is three-times stronger than a slowing metabolism. In other words, the more weight you lose, the more you eventually compensate by eating more.

Try this:The more you focus on nutrition and building better habits, the more you’ll improve your whole-body wellness, staving off weight regain later. Eating nutrient-rich foods extends into your sleep patterns, energy, vitality and ability to fight off illness. So, stop being hungry and start eating happy.

It’s impossible to stick to

Sure, diets can help you drop weight pronto; but results ate generally short-lived. If your eyes are on the short-term prize, what happens once to stop obeying the rules? Chances are, once you’ve hit your goal, you’re likely to return to your old habits, which [really] never die – they just remain dormant.

Try this:It’s okay to track meals or keep a food diary; but be careful not to go overboard. Eating healthily should be about making positive changes – not changes that you begrudge. And the best way to approach this is to focus on  health, not kilos. In other words, enjoy the process at your own individual pace and makes sure it stems from a place of body respect and acceptance.

This article was originally published in

Tea: Drink to Your Health

rabbit hole

While i’m not about to give up coffee anytime soon, I’ve come to appreciate the world of tea. There’s something completely wholesome about brewing and pouring yourself a cup, whether it be traditional English breakfast, antioxidant rich green, or delicate white tea. However, this humble drink, which has been around for centuries, does more than tantalise your tastebuds.

Here are 5 reasons get brewing.

1. Sip your way to lower stroke risk. Turns out drinking three cups of green or black tea per day can reduce your risk of stroke by 21%, according to a 2009 meta-analysis study. Cheers to that!

2. Keep your cool. Taking time for tea also means taking a moment for yourself, which can be a welcome break in our hectic lives. However, the benefits of black tea can beat stress at a chemical level, according to research. A 2006 study found that cortisol, a stress hormone, dropped back down to normal levels faster in those who drank the black brew. Too much cortisol can contribute to abdominal fat, which increases the risk of many diseases, so keeping your waistline in check with a cuppa and a healthy diet is key to success.

3. Anti ageing. If you want to slow down the ageing of your skin, then go for white tea, says a Kingston University study. It’s high antioxidant content prevents the activation of enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, helping to slow down the appearance of age-related wrinkles.

4. Fights allergies. Green tea, in particular, contains a compound called – wait for it – methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which blocks one pathway involved in an allergic response. Additionally, another compound, quercetin can alleviate the histamine response, making green tea a knockout during hayfever season.

5. Burn fat. Drinking the equivalent of four cups of green tea per day can increase the body’s ability to use fat as fuel and boost muscle endurance by up to 24% due to the teas high catechins levels – another potent antioxidant found in green tea. While you still need to put the hours in at the gym, a few cups of this green goodness can lend a helping hand.

Why not check out:

Ovio Organic Tea by renowned naturopath and herbalist Anthia Koullouros

Little Wildling Tea hand blended by Lee Sutherland

The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar in Sydney