How to stop those sugar cravings

It is not uncommon to hear people complaining about their uncontrollable sugar cravings and insatiable appetite. Today’s food supply is dominated by those that are high in carbohydrates and refined sugars, which tend to be cheap, readily available and make us feel happy and full… initially!

Although sugar (glucose) is our bodies’ preferred fuel source, it acts like a drug. The more we eat, the more we crave. Most people consume way more sugar than what they actually need, particularly as our lives become more sedentary.

If you’ve been struggling and want to take the control back, you will likely need to reassess your food choices and behaviours. Weaning your body off these high refined sugar foods is one of the most effective ways to do so.  However, like any kind of ‘detox’, you may find it difficult at first.

If you know you currently consume too many sweets, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks, you may need to allow yourself a couple of weeks to adjust. During this time, it’s helpful to be proactive, seek professional advice and map out a plan of attack.

When we eat sugar, this stimulates an insulin response that causes a rise in our blood sugar levels. This initial spike in blood sugar gives us quick energy boost and sense of happiness… and who doesn’t love that?! However, with every rapid rise comes a dramatic fall and we are left feeling just as hungry as we did initially, craving that same sense of satisfaction.

In order to prevent peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels, it may help to adopt a slightly lower carbohydrate intake, particularly from simple sugars. This includes reducing intake of foods and drinks including biscuits, cakes, lollies, soft drink, sports drinks, energy drinks, ice-cream, chocolate, cordials (to name but a few).

When choosing carbohydrate foods, reach for low GI (glycaemic index) sources where possible as this will help slow digestion, prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar levels and create a greater sense of fullness for longer. Stick to fresh foods such as wholegrains, high fibre breads and cereals, legumes and lentils, fresh fruit, vegetables and low fat dairy products.

If you can adopt this way of eating as a long term lifestyle approach, you will likely notice a reduction in your sugar cravings, better weight management and improved appetite control throughout the day!

If this sounds like you, come in and see one of our experienced PPN dietitians to help you take back  control of your cravings.

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Hydration: How much fluid/water should you drink in a day?

We always get told that we need to drink more water, but how much should we really be having each day? Depending on who you talk to, you will probably get a different answer. It may even differ as widely as 2-4L per day.

Water accounts for 50-80% of body weight depending on lean body mass. It is an essential nutrient required for digestion, absorption, elimination of waste products as well as regulating body temperature.

Since everybody is different, there is no single level of water intake that would ensure adequate hydration and optimal health. When talking about hydration, we estimate total fluid intake and not just water alone.

To calculate fluid, aim for 35-45ml/kg/weight. For example, a person who weighs 60kg would need between 2.1-2.7L fluid per day. This fluid is not just water – any milk, coffee, tea, flavoured drinks, etc, all fall under this category.

Water will always be a better source of hydration as it contains no calories. Generally, if we aim for half of our total fluid intake per day to come from water the rest of our fluids can be made up with other drinks (of course, limiting sugar sweetened beverages where possible).

Use your judgement on how much water/hydration you may need depending on level of activity/sweat loss and weather conditions in order to prevent dehydration.

Australian Government: National Health Medical Research Council. 2014. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand: Water <>
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How to stay on track with your goals over Christmas

The ‘silly season’ is upon us and while it can be tricky to stick to your health-related goals during this time, if you make a plan and stick to it (as well as enjoy yourself), then you can enter the new year without suffering too much damage.

Set yourself realistic goals

If you have a current weight-loss goal, rather than pressuring yourself to meet it before Christmas so you can ‘pig out’ on Christmas day, why not extend the goal until the middle of January and enjoy Christmas with a balanced approach. Christmas is a time of year that always revolves around food, drink and family, so enjoying these things for what they are – without any guilt – will make this time of year stress and guilt free.

Aim for balance

If your normal Christmas style is to overeat and drink at Christmas lunch and then have an afternoon siesta, take a different approach this year. Rather than grazing, grab yourself a plate and portion out a small amount of each dish that you wish to eat, eat it slowly and stick to that one plate. Allow some room for some Christmas pudding as well! By taking this approach, you’ll not only feel better for it mentally and physically, you also will have enjoyed the food you’re eating.

Stay hydrated

Hydration is really important, especially if mother nature throws us a 30°C+ day on 25 December. If you are drinking alcohol, alternate each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water or mineral water to not only keep you hydrated, but also to space out the alcoholic drinks.

Portion control

Christmas parties in the lead up to Christmas can often be as extravagant as the day itself. If this is the case, make sure that the portion you eat at these parties, be it lunch or dinner, are similar to those you would normally have at these times of days. And if you do happen to over eat, don’t then skip a meal to compensate as this does no favours to your metabolism. Instead, have a light meal. Alternatively, if you know you’re having a big dinner, don’t skip lunch as you’ll end up at the dinner ravenous, leading to overeating.

Stay active

Even though they say you can’t ‘out exercise’ a bad diet, staying active is key to sticking to your goals over the Christmas period. With more daylight and warmer weather, there’s much more time in the day to fit in an exercise session. With the busy-ness that December brings, it’s easier to get up half an hour earlier and fit in a quick walk. This way, it’s done for the day and there are no excuses after work.

If you’re unsure about how to stay on track this holiday season, come and see one of our PPN dietitians to help you to achieve your goals.

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A healthy fruit mince pie recipe

Nothing screams ‘Christmas’ like a nice warm batch of home-made mince pies.

While commercially-made mince pies brought from your local cafe/bakery are convenient, they usually contain vast amounts of energy-dense ingredients and lack any real nutritional value. This Christmas, our team of PPN dietitians have been on the hunt to find a recipe that was not only nutritious, but super simple and delicious. And we think we’ve found one!

Check out the recipe below and if you happen to make a batch yourself, don’t forget to share pictures with us on social media by tagging @ppndietitian. We love seeing your creations.



– 500g Apple
– 250g Sultanas
– 100g Cranberries
– 1 tsp Cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
– Juice of 1 orange
– Zest of 1/2 an orange
– 500ml water
– 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste


– 175g rolled oats
– 50g desiccated coconut
-70g almond meal or LSA (linseeds/sunflower seeds/almonds)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp honey
– 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
– 2 tsp water


1) To make the mince pie filling, combine all fruit, spices and vanilla extract with water. Bring the mixture to the boil and allow it to simmer until the fruit softens and the mixture thickens. You can always add additional water if you feel the mixture is too thick. Once you are happy with the consistency, set the mixture aside to cool while you prepare the bases.

2) Pre-heat oven to 180ºC.

3) Line a muffin tray (10-12 portions) with baking paper or lightly spray with olive oil.

4) Start making the casings by combining the dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor (oats, coconut, almond meal/LSA). Once combined, add the wet ingredients and mix until sticky and smooth. Again, feel free to add more water if your casings appear too dry.

5) Once you are happy with the consistency of the casings, squeeze out any additional water. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes.

6) Roll the chilled mixture between two sheets of baking paper. Cut the mixture with a round cookie cutter so your pastry fits nicely into the muffin tray. Choose a cutter that is slightly larger so your pastry forms a rounded cup to hold the fruit mince.

7) Once you have placed the pastry into your muffin tray, fill each one with the fruit mixture you prepared earlier. Top with small off-cuts of the oat-mixture. If you have additional cutters, you may wish to make stars, hearts etc. to place on top.

8) Bake in the oven until golden brown. Allow pies to cool for 5 minutes.

9) Serve warm with your choice of sides… A thickened Greek yoghurt is always a refreshing and delicious option.

10) Enjoy!

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Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Despite popular myths, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is actually a fantastic oil for all types of cooking at home. EVOO has been shown to be the safest and healthiest oil to cook with.

EVOO has a smoke point between 200ºC and 215ºC which is above the temperature required for conventional home cooking. For example, sautéing is best around 160ºC, oven cooking is usually below 200ºC and frying and deep frying are around 180ºC. While some oils have higher smoke points, it is only necessary to use an oil with a smoke point above the temperature which you are cooking at.

In addition, smoke point is not the best indicator of oil stability. Rather, factors such as anti-oxidant content, PUFA and saturated fat content (the lower the better) and level of refining all influence the amount of harmful compounds such as trans fats and polar compounds produced

In addition, the high antioxidant content of EVOO makes it a very stable oil during the cooking process. Not to mention that added benefits of this high antioxidant content such as reducing inflammation, slowing down the ageing process and improving heart health.

  1. Preliminary results from the Evaluation of chemical and physical changes in different commercial oils during heating; Authors: De Alzaa, F.; Guillaume, C.; and Ravetti, L.; Modern Olives (2017)
  2. Berbert A, Rosa C, Kondo M, Alemandra C, Matsuo T, Dichi I. (2005). Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition, 21, 131–6.
  3. Ramírez Anaya, J. P., Samaniego-Sánchez, C., Castañeda-Saucedo, M. C., Villalón-Mir, M., López-García de la Serrana, H. (2015). Phenols and the antioxidant capacity of Mediterranean vegetables prepared with extra virgin olive oil using different domestic cooking techniques. Food Chemistry, 188, 43-438
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Metabolism changes in the context of ketosis

For an individual following a pattern of eating that contains an intake of more than 70g of carbohydrates per day, the body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose and uses them as an energy source. Glucose is the bodies preferred source of energy, so if enough is available in the blood, it will be used as the primary fuel source to support metabolic functions.

When we significantly reduce our daily intake of carbohydrates between 50-70g, the body must find an alternative nutrient to use for energy. As we know, the body LOVES carbohydrates and will burn whatever it can find, so not only will it burn the glucose that is found in the blood, but it looks for stored glucose (also called glycogen) that is prominent in the muscles and the liver.

Once we have used up all of our carbohydrate stores, the body will start to break down fat. When the body breaks down fat, ketone bodies are produced which are then used as our primary energy source. The body is now in a state of ketosis. When the body goes from a fed to fasted state, the liver swaps from utilizing carbohydrates to producing ketones, which promotes a complete shift in metabolism. What we call the ‘FAT-ADAPT’!

Traditionally, ketogenic states occur when the body is starved or fasted. When our metabolism experiences a shift in fuel sources, we reap a range of benefits for our total health and well-being as a result of a complete ‘reset’. A lot of problems with our metabolism are related to a fat-storage hormone we call ‘Insulin’, which is secreted from the pancreas to move glucose from the blood into the cells for energy.

Lowering our daily intake of carbohydrates allows us to avoid constant spikes of insulin which may reduce our risk of a range of metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver and high cholesterol.

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What is the low FODMAP diet?

You have probably heard the term FODMAP thrown around recently, but many people don’t know exactly what it means.

FODMAPs (aka Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) which are not properly absorbed in the gut. This can trigger symptoms in people with IBS or food intolerances. FODMAPs are found naturally in numerous foods and food additives.

The low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University and involves limiting the foods that contain FODMAPs that aggravate the gut and cause symptoms like bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

The low FODMAP diet is to be followed for 2-6 weeks until symptoms improve, followed by re-introduction challenges to determine which foods an individual is sensitive to. The ultimate goal is to have a wide and varied diet that only has to exclude or limit the foods that aggravate symptoms.

It is important to proceed through the re-introduction phase of the diet as such as restrictive diet in the long term can actually be worse for gut health as many high FODMAP foods are a great source of prebiotics. Long term restriction can worsen gut symptoms over time.

In addition, despite being named a ‘diet,’ the FODMAP diet is not a weight loss diet.

If you are suffering from IBS or any of the above gut symptoms and you think you’d benefit from trying a low FODMAP diet, it is best done under the guidance of an Accredited Practising Dietitian or health professional for optimal long term outcomes and symptoms relief.

Gibson P.R.1, Shepherd S.J. (2010). Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach, J Gastroenterol Hepatol ,25, 2, 252-8
Shepherd S.J., Parker F.C., Muir J.G., Gibson P.R. (2008). Dietary triggers of abdominal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: randomized placebo-controlled evidence, Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 6, 7, 765-71.
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Hemp: super food or unsafe?

Hemp products as food and supplements have exploded onto the market recently. In April 2017, the sale of low-THC Hemp products in Australia was approved. Until then, hemp has a bit of a bad reputation for its association with marijuana.

Hemp comes from the stem and the leaves of the marijuana plant which are generally low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component. To be considered a food and safe to be sold in Australia, products need to be less than 0.5% THC.

Hemp is a good protein source, good fats and fibre. Although it is not a complete protein as it lacks lysine and leucine, it can contain up to 35% protein. It also has a high fat content with an optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 3:1, making hemp a great source of unsaturated, heart healthy fats. Hemp is sold as hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp protein supplements and is added to other food products.

However there is currently not very strict regulations for testing the THC content of products and while most producers are careful, not all are testing their crop which could potentially results in a higher THC product being sold. For this reason, athletes that are undergoing drug testing by WADA or ASADA need to be careful when considering using these supplements. There is no need for the everyday consumer to be alarmed, the hemp products sold in Australia do not contain anywhere near the amount of THC known to alter one’s state of mind.

Hemp seeds can be used in a variety of ways. They are delicious sprinkled on top of yoghurt or muesli, soups and salads. Their texture makes for a creamy, nutty addition to a meal. While these products are no magic bullet for health or weight loss, they can make a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet.

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What on earth are prebiotics?

Confused about PREbiotics and PRObiotics? Not sure if they are the same thing of different?

PREbiotics are in fact completely different to PRObiotics.

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. In simpler terms…. they are the roughage in the gut that cannot be broken down and digested, so our gut bacteria thrives off it and grows, this is a good thing!

It is the healthy food for our good gut bugs, helping them to flourish and multiply. Having a good balance of good gut bacteria can improve IBS symptoms, reduce bloating and gas, improve bowel health, improve mood and immunity. Research is constantly showing us that there is a link between our gut microbiota and our health and disease status, so it’s important we feed our gut bugs with prebiotics to help them evolve.

So where do I find PREbiotics?

  • Vegetables
    • Garlic, onion, beetroot, fennel, Jerusalem artichoke, corn, cabbage
  • Legumes
    • Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans
  • Fruit
    • Nectarines, peaches, watermelon, grapefruit, persimmon, fried fruits
  • Bread/cereals
    • Barley, rye, pasta, couscous, wheat bran, oats
  • Nuts/seeds
    • Cashews, pistachios

If you have IBS you may be looking at the above list and be thinking they are the foods you purposely avoid. A dietitian can provide guidance on how to manage your IBS, in the short term they may suggest you eliminate these foods, then with guidance, slowly re-introduce a range of prebiotics into your diet, to grow certain bacteria to help reduce your IBS symptoms in the long term.

Reference: Monash Uni Department of Gastroenterology
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The effect of exercise on gut health

Most of us are well aware that exercising regularly is beneficial for weight management, can increase our feelings of happiness, strengthens our muscles and bones, enhances our energy levels and can motivate us in achieving our nutrition goals. Interestingly, recent evidence has emerged that suggests exercise can alter the bacterial composition of our gut microbiome.

Our gut microbiome contains over 100 trillion different bacterial species, and can be influenced by our diet, weight, medical history and the use of antibiotics. There is emerging research to suggest that the composition of gut is largely responsible for our overall health and wellbeing. Exercise has recently been proven to have a positive effect and increase the diversity of bacterial cells within the digestive system.

A recent study which looked at the effect of exercise on gut bacteria in rodents, found that regardless of their weight there was an altered bacterial state. Additionally, evidence also confirmed that irrespective of whether the mice was following a low-fat/high-fat diet, their gut bacteria was reformed after running (the degree of alteration was distance dependant).

Research is also proving results in humans, as well as rodents. A study recently looked at the bacterial composition of professional rugby players found that the variety of species was more diverse in these athletes, compared to non-athletes. It is important to recogniser that elite athletes are also likely to have greater metabolic and inflammatory markers, which may also effect their gut microbiome.

Aside from exercise and all the additional benefits we reap from keeping physically active, there are a range of other lifestyle practise that can be done to ensure maximal variety of bacterial cells within the gut microbiome:

  • Eat a wide variety of fibrous, plant-based foods
  • Include resistant starch and prebiotic containing foods daily (banana’s, potatoes, lentils, legumes, onion, garlic, asparagus)
  • Consider a probiotic supplement
  • Try a range of fermented foods (yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha and tempeh)
  • Include adequate wholegrains in your diet
  • Be mindful of antibiotic use
  • Control your stress levels: try meditation, yoga, going for a walk or catching up with a friend
  • Think about your fluids. Aim for water as your sole source of hydration, and remember that alcohol can have a negative effect on your gut health
  • Control your intake of processed and packaged foods
  • See an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individualised advice.
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