Why You Should Eat Fermented Foods

What are they?

Fermenting food is a metabolic process of converting the sugars into lactic acid (or alcohol or gas – but we’re not talking about that here). Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits bad bacteria. It has been used by cultures around the world forever, as a way of preserving food before fridges or cans existed and enhancing its flavour and nutrient content.

Common fermented foods you may have heard of include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, yoghurt, kefir, pickles, tempeh… You can basically ferment any fruit or vegetable and other things too such as dairy and soy. Most of them can be bought from your local supermarket or health food store.

Why eat them?

• The lactobacilli (bacteria) in fermented foods boosts their vitamin levels and improves their ability to be digested. More vitamins and better nutrient absorption means more bang for your buck when it comes to the amount of food you need to intake to satisfy your bodies needs. Less food needed = less calories = easier to manage weight.

• These bacteria help other good bacteria to grow in our intestines, promoting good gut health, which helps you absorb the nutrients from other (non-fermented) foods better too!

• Loads of enzymes, antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances are also produced in the fermentation process. These help you to function better, remove toxins from the body, fight diseases and stay healthy.

• When you ferment foods, sugar content is largely reduced.  

I have been adding sauerkraut to everything lately, and today I came up with my favourite salad so far! It almost tasted like fast food… but yet so healthy!!  

Chicken and sauerkraut (warmed up), with baby spinach leaves, avocado, cherry tomatoes and fresh rosemary, coriander and parsley. Try it and let me know what you think!!!

How I learned to Cook

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I remember when I first started cooking (proper meals – not vegemite on toast) regularly, and I thought it was so hard and time consuming that I hated it. So I find it really funny that now I actually prefer to cook at home most of the time! Its not that I enjoy it any more now than back then, and I still refuse to cook anything that takes longer than 15 minutes to make haha, but now that I have a bit of an idea for what to do and know what I like, it’s actually really easy, and I can make it exactly the way I want it. Here are a few tips that I wish someone shared with me when I was starting out…

Experiment to find your favourite healthy combos, and then use this as the “sauce” to every meal. For example, some of my favourites are eggs and sweet potato, tomato and avocado, avocado and fetta, fish and lemon juice, lamb and peas, lamb and greek yoghurt, salad and olive oil, salmon and beetroot, Dukkah spice and olive oil, pumpkin and nutmeg, buckwheat noodles and lemon juice, eggs and fetta, eggs and chives, beetroot and fetta, sweet potato and fetta, sweet potato and anything, any cooked vegetable and fetta, haha…

So then almost everything I eat would contain one of these combos. All the other ingredients in the meal are just “filler” ingredients depending on what else I need to eat for my bodies’ nutritional requirements (eg. other veggies/salad, protein, etc). Once you find a few key flavour combos that you really love, it’s pretty easy to come up with something quick and nutritious you know you are going to enjoy!

Get to know your herbs and spices. It can be a daunting process at first because there are so many of them, but if say every time you make an omelette (or whatever recipe) with the same ingredients, use a different herb/spice in it. You’ll soon get to know what they taste like and your favourites and will start to get an idea for what would taste good with what! Herbs and many spices contain almost no calories but a lot of flavour and nutritional value, so are a far better option to enrich your food than sugary or salty, high calorie sauces/marinades/dressings from a jar.

Read the “serving suggestion” on food packets, and find inspiration from your favourite restaurants. Some of the best recipes I’ve come up with started with a recipe on the back of a noodle packet, and then I added a few things (or one of my favourite healthy combos above) to make it amazing.

But above all…

Keep it simple. Even just reading recipes that contain loads of ingredients can make anyone’s head spin and dread the thought of what’s to come, plus you know you’ll never remember it for next time. And anyway, too many different ingredients can sometimes make a meal taste bland as there is just too much going on and no distinct flavour. If you’re like me, the fewer ingredients and faster cooking/prep time, the more encouraged you are going to be to cook more often!

Like anything new, it can take a little time to learn and become good at cooking. But it doesn’t have to be hard and is something that’s worth sticking with if you want to be healthy! In just a few weeks, I will be releasing BodyBAM (my online fitness program) that contains 100’s of my favourite super easy, healthy recipes for you… I can’t wait!!! If you subscribe to my blog you’ll be the first to know when its available. But for now, I hope my tips have helped, or even just reinvigorated some desire in you to have another crack in the kitchen! Enjoy 😉

What to Wear to the Polo

What to wear to the Polo? About month ago, I was asking myself the same question! So I contacted my friends at The Birdcage Stylist help who were kind enough to save my ass and help me out!

From what I saw the general etiquette seems to be similar to that of the races, minus the fascinators. There were many hats, though this is the current trend and not a requirement.

I could generalise most women into two types of outfits; beautiful designer dresses, or something that would resemble a ridiculously stylish, sexy riding outfit, the latter of which won the Fashions on the Field. Regardless of which was worn, I feel like the general style was a lot edgier and more hipster that a regular racing outfit… Which I loved! I felt perfectly dressed in my Camilla and Marc dress, which you can actually rent for a smidgeon of the price tag from The Birdcage Stylist… and lets be honest, its not like you can wear a dress like this again.

I teamed it with nude accessories, and just a note… wedges are a MUST on the grass! 😉

(And please excuse the hideous state of my hair, the rain destroyed it! Haha)

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Check out more amazing outfits The Birdcage Stylist has on offer here:

http://www.thebirdcagestylist.com.au

Instagram: @thebirdcagestylist

Eat Clean, Stay Lean: How to make healthy food taste good

I have been doing quite a bit of experimenting in the kitchen the last few weeks with my BodyBAM online fitness program in its final stages of creation! I’m one of those types of people who have rare bursts of creativity and once I find something I like, I’ll happily eat it day in day out for months on end. And having maintained a very healthy diet for many years now, my preferred taste has become what some may even describe as quite bland. But BodyBAM needs to cater to more than just myself, so I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone a little to experiment to find that balance between healthy and flavoursome… And I’m happy to say I’ve successfully turned some amazing traditional dishes into much leaner, healthier versions.

A few weeks ago I discovered the range of Mingle seasonings, which has definitely made creating clean meals that are full of flavour really easy! Unfortunately I can’t give away all my secrets just yet (BodyBAM is due out late August), but I will share with you a few of my favourites that are super simple and easy to make… and best of all will eliminate the need for any nasty sauces!  

Pumpkin chips

You will need about 300g of your favourite pumpkin (I use butternut because I can get it from the supermarket already chopped up and I’m lazy haha). If its not already cut up for you, you will need to cut your pumpkin into chip shape/size.

Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on the SAMMY (all-purpose) seasoning. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes on 180 degrees Celsius (350 F) until lightly browned and eat! Perfect for a filling snack that will keep you lean!

Mexican Chicken

Cut up your chicken and put it in a plastic bag with some of the SOFIA (spicy) seasoning. Shake it around to coat the chicken well. You can leave it in the fridge for a few hours (or all day) to marinate, or just cook it up right away either in the oven or frypan with some lemon juice – this stops it from drying out. Serve it with a salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion and avocado, and a little creamed cottage cheese (instead of sour cream) and cheese on the side. Or throw your salad into a high-fibre, wholegrain wrap and eat it like a burrito!

Baked Fish

Probably the easiest one of the lot! Just squeeze some lemon juice and the SIENA (herb and garlic) seasoning onto the fish and cook it in the oven (best) or frypan (you’ll need a little spray of olive oil). No tartare sauce needed… WINNING!

Chicken and Egg Ranch Salad

You will need some cooked chicken, a boiled egg (I like mine soft-boiled so it’s a little bit runny in the salad), chopped up baby spinach (if you chop it up you can fit more in the bowl 😉 ), a slice of ham cut into shreds, ¼ avocado cut into small pieces, and ½ a tomato diced. Then, sprinkle on the SALLY (ranch) seasoning and toss it all together. Easily my favourite.

Smoky BBQ chicken

Cut the chicken into strips, or butterfly it, and then in the same way as the Mexican chicken, put it in a plastic bag with some SASS (smoky) seasoning and shake it up to coat evenly. Whack it on the BBQ with a bit of lemon juice to stop it going dry until it’s completely cooked through. If you liked steak (I don’t) then I imagine SASS would also go really well on a BBQ steak. Saves on the BBQ sauce… Did you know BBQ sauce is 55% sugar? 

Anyway, I was so impressed with the Mingle range that I got in touch with the owners and they’ve agreed to give all my followers 10% off when you purchase the 5 pack… Just put in my code “AVRIL10” at checkout. You can thank me later. When you’re a dress size smaller 😉

Happy Mingling!!

Avril

My Sunday Style - May 31, 2015

Sunday is often the only day of the week I get to get out of my gym gear, so lately I’ve been making the most of it! Today’s Sunday style consisted of shimmery black, high-waisted tights and a crocheted crop, both from one of my favourite online stores, Sabo Skirt. Winter has hit here on the Gold Coast, but we’re pretty lucky – it’s hardly what the rest of the world may call a “winter”. The pants were quite a thin material, so they was the perfect amount of cold protection without being too hot. Even though the top looks woollen and wintery (as much as a crop can I guess haha), it’s made from acrylic, so it doesn’t have that uncomfortable scratchy feel that wool does or shrink in the wash! 

I wore it with flat tanned boots that had grey embellishment to match the top, and had a hooded back leather jacket for if I got really cold – though it never did. Could easily be dressed up with gold jewellery, heels and a blazer or jacket to wear out at night.

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Get them here:

Pants – http://saboskirt.com/shop/product/stretch-pants

Top – http://saboskirt.com/shop/product/tuscany-crochet-crop—grey

 

Xx

Avril

Macadamia Coconut Peanut Butter

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Since posting about my homemade MCP butter on Instagram a few months ago, I received loads of emails asking for the recipe. Peanut butter is one of my favourite things, but having even just a regular serving of it doesn’t sit well with my body; I get very bloated and, well… “gassy” is probably the nicest way to put it. Haha

So when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago and discovered macadamia coconut peanut butter I was just a little excited. Not only was it even yummier than plain PB, but it appeared to digest much better in my system. Even though I brought about 4 jars home with me, I soon ran out. The postage from Hawaii is quite expensive, and I had just bought myself a Thermomix (best investment if you ask me!), so I thought I’d experiment to try and make my own. A thermomix is basically a very high powered food processor with a little more functionality. Although they are very expensive, I’ve been told you can get similar things now for up to a quarter of the price that will probably do what you need it to.

My version doesn’t taste exactly like the Hawaiian version, but it’s still frickin amazing, and you could change the taste to suit your liking by adjusting the ratio of peanut, macadamia and coconut, and/or adding honey/maple syrup or even a bit of coconut water concentrate or coconut sugar (using regular coconut water will make it too runny).

Ingredients:

300g desiccated coconut
300g unsalted roasted peanuts
300g unsalted macadamia nuts
Optional: 2 tbs organic honey or maple syrup (I usually use honey)

Method:

– Put the coconut into the thermomix and whiz on 9 (fastest speed) on 37 degrees Celcius for 3 mins scraping down the sides every minute or so. I got this part of the recipe from here. You can also get coconut butter (Copha) from the supermarket already made, just make sure you melt it before using in this recipe.
– Add the peanuts, macadamias and any honey/maple syrup/coconut sugar to the coconut butter and whiz on 9 for another 2-3 minutes, still scraping down the sides approx every minute.

Voila, you have some amazing yummy coconut peanut butter. As you can see, I like to have mine with some sliced banana

.TIP: If you want it to be a more solid consistency, store it in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Avril xx

Eating to "Fill Your Macros" vs Eating Whole Foods

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I just received this message from a past client, and thought it was worth sharing:

“I just starting training with a lady at [overseas gym] and she is suggesting I do “if it fits your macros” aka flexible dieting. I’ve always kind of gone off the basis that the more whole foods the better, and limit packaged/processed/sugars and excess carbs but here she is saying she eats Oreos everyday because they “fit her macros”… just wanted to get your opinion on this whether it’s legit or bullshit!!!”

For anyone who doesn’t know, “macros” refers to your macronutrient breakdown of the foods you eat, i.e. the amount of protein, carbs, fats, sugars, fibre, etc.

My reply:

Ok so technically she’s correct and so are you. She’s probably not trying to lose weight and exercises hard most days or multiple times daily, which might be why she can eat Oreos and not get fat. That’s if you want to look at it from a weight/loss gain perspective only. If you want to look at it from an “overall heathy lifestyle and developing good habits” perspective, then instead of Oreos you might fill those carb/sugar macros with whole foods like fruit or even greek yoghurt instead. Maybe what she is trying to point out is that even if you eat whole foods, you can still get fat. You can gain fat if you eat too much of anything. For example if you only need “x” amount of fats per day (different to every individual) and you go and eat 12 eggs, 3 avocados, and 5 handfuls of nuts in 1 day, then you will more than likely eat way beyond the amount of fat your body requires and the rest is basically “a waste of calories”. You could have been putting those calories to better use by eating different vegetables or meat or whole foods as you like to get a wider variety of nutrients and your body will function better! When you function better you feel better and get faster results!

So yes she’s right, but take it with a grain of salt. Don’t go eating Oreos every day and understand that her goals are different to yours. Stick to your whole foods, but maybe just adjust the types of foods you are eating and quantities of each to “fit your macros”. 

How I Stay Motivated

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90% of getting the body you want is not diet, or exercise. It’s mental. It’s motivating yourself to get to the gym, to push yourself through a workout and convincing yourself that no, you actually don’t want to eat that chocolate right now. You can have the best training and diet plans in the world, but if you’re not willing to stick to them then they can’t help you. It’s now just over a month into 2015, and about that time that many people start to forget about their New Year’s Resolution to be in the best shape of their lives. But this doesn’t have to be you! I have been training consistently for 6 years now, and often get asked how I continue to find the motivation. So here it is, this is what keeps me going:

Always have a goal. Whether its something related to the way you look, or something more related to athletic ability, or entering in a race/competition… if you don’t have a reason to do it, you wont.

Set clear, specific goals and write them down. Rather than just saying “I’d like to tone up a little”, each goal must be specific, quantifiable and with a time limit. A better example would be “I want to fit into my old jeans by Easter” or “I want to run be able to 1km in under 5 minutes by April”. If your goal is looks-related, find a picture of someone with a similar body shape to yours that represents your ideal result and stick it on your goals board. If your goal is significant, you may even want to break it down into smaller short term goals so it feels more achievable and you can be more confident of getting there.

 

Training

Write it down. Before you even get into the gym, be prepared with a training program ready to go.

Train with a timer. You’ll be surprised at how effective having something beep at you is to stop you slacking off! Depending on the type of program I’m doing, I usually like to exercise for between 1 to 2 minute rounds, and then give myself 15 to 30 seconds rest between exercises. There is a simple but awesome little iPhone app for this called “Interval Timer”… and it’s free!

Make it a competition:

– Use a heart rate monitor and keep it up! Most good heart rate monitors will also tell you how many calories you burn. On the program that you have written out, write down how many calories you burned in each timed round and try and beat it each time you do that same exercise.

– Write down your reps/speed/distances etc and try and beat them every round. Compare again when you do the same exercises weeks later! Seeing improvement is a huge motivator!

Learn a new skill or set yourself a challenge, for example boxing, mastering a new plyometric exercise, or entering in a fun run. If you have something to work towards, training is so much more fun!

Train with a friend or personal trainer. Consistency is the key to getting results, and this is far more achievable when you are accountable to someone.

 

Diet

Dedicate time each week to prepare your food for the week. It doesn’t have to be all day, I spend less than an hour in the kitchen every Sunday afternoon steaming up some veggies that I keep in the fridge ready to throw into salads, omelettes or just heat and eat. Which means that making a healthy, nutritious meal when I’m busy during the week takes 2-10 minutes rather than 30… which I definitely don’t have time for! Remember, failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

Plan your cheat meals. Every Sunday I like to have a banana and ice-cream sundae, drowned in melted chocolate. It’s my favourite thing ever. But I will only have it if I’ve eaten well all week. So on Tuesday, when one of our gym members brings in some delicious looking home-made raw desserts, I think to myself “is this going to be better than my ice-cream sundae?” 99 times out of 100 the answer is no and I just remind myself how good my sundae will taste on Sunday. If I choose the raw dessert right then and there, there will be no ice-cream sundae. This way I’m not depriving myself, but just staying in control and maintaining healthy eating habits.

If I’m on holidays I want to let my hair down a little and enjoy lots of yummy food. So similarly, I don’t deny myself, but just allow myself one “bad” thing per day, and I exercise daily. If I find two “bad” things I want in one day most of the time the second one will still be there the next day and if not, then by only allowing myself 1 treat I already subconciously forced myself to choose the better one 😉 If you’re still eating 90% healthy, it wont be too hard to work off any extra kilos when you get home.

Making the right choices is not always easy, but it can be a lot easier if you’re excited about doing it. I hope these tips can help you too stay motivated and achieving your goals! And make sure you share with your family and friends, because when you’re having a day on Struggle Street, the people around you doing it right will be a big source of your inspiration!

Avril xx

A Fit Girls Guide to Vietnam

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I think when travelling, we are all tempted to splurge and over eat, but I know after a few days of that I always feel like crap, have no energy am avoiding bikini photos. So if I’m wanting to really enjoy and make the most of my holiday, being able to maintain some kind of healthy diet and exercise routine is essential. So how do you stay lean and still “relax and enjoy the trip” in a place where the national cuisine is noodles?

Food

One of the best parts of visiting a foreign country is experiencing the local cuisine. And one of the best things about Vietnam is the bread. At first I was hesitant, as bread is something I usually try to avoid, especially in Asia. In my experience throughout Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China and Hong Kong it’s more like eating stale fairy bread. Until my tour guide convinced me that they make it here like in France; light and fluffy and sugar free! Apparently back in the wartime days the French taught the Vietnamese how to make amazing bread… and she was right! Even the stuff I had off the street carts was as good as the best in France.

Another thing the Vietnamese do really well is eat their veggies. Almost every Vietnamese dish I tried had some kind of yummy salad of veggies with it. They use herbs and spices very well to make even the most bland of raw veggies taste good. And if “gluten free”, “wheat free” or “dairy free” is your thing (its not mine but each to their own), you’ll be in heaven here, as almost all the local dishes are made from rice or coconut milk. And even though they do seem to eat a lot of carbs, their portion sizes are small but filling which is perfect in my opinion.

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And one of my favourite traditional desserts that you absolutely must try – Che Chuoi – is basically just stewed banana and coconut cream. So yummy, and actually pretty healthy! Ill post a recipe for this one later once I get home to experiment 😉

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While I tried a lot of local food while I was out and about during the day, I mostly ate at hotel buffets for breakfast and dinner, as it was cheap (sometimes included) and had a lot of variety, which made it really easy to eat healthily.

 

Saigon

The first day I was there I put on my running shoes and used the Google Maps app on my iPhone to take me for a stop-start running tour around the city. This is my favourite way to explore and get my bearings in a new place, and the main areas of Saigon are relatively close together so it was easy! I wouldn’t have run more than about 10-15km in the 2 ½ hours I was out for. Either not too many people run around outdoors in Saigon or the locals are just very friendly, but I received many words of broken-English encouragement from street vendors and shopkeepers that I ran past! I figured I was going to be sweating anyway, and it would give me an excuse to rehydrate with the fresh fruit shakes offered by the many street vendors. My favourite one was orange, kiwi, milk and ice… highly recommended.

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The capital city is almost always warm (I went in “winter” and it was 37 degrees Celsius the night I arrived… normally 25-32 though), so having somewhere indoors and air-conditioned to train is nice. My first hotel didn’t have a gym and the rooms were small, however at the end of my trip I stayed at the Pullman Saigon Centre and the gym there was awesome! It’s a little more on the expensive side as far as Vietnam goes, but definitely worth the extra few $ (I think we only paid about $150/night anyway, as we got a great deal with the Accor Advantage Plus membership cards). The hotel itself is in a great spot, close to the market (you can get absolutely everything here, including yummy street food). It’s also close to California Fitness and Yoga that offers many classes daily including all different types of yoga.

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Da Nang

Basically you have two options when staying in Da Nang – on the beach and out of the hustle and bustle in one of the luxury hotels, or in the city centre in the middle of all the action.

Da Nang is very flat, so awesome for running and bike riding (though also very spread out, so take a bike if you’re not prepared to run a half marathon). If you stay at one of the hotels along the beach, there is a great ride up the beach path from there to the Lady Buddha which is kind of like Da Nang’s version of “Christ the Redeemer”.

I stayed at the Pullman, which is a beautiful resort on the beach that offers water sports like surfing, SUP and ocean kayaking and there is goal posts set up for beach soccer (the picture at the top is also from this hotel). They also have a gym there – small, but has everything… weights and cardio machines, free weights, boxing bag, yoga mats and even TRX. They also have a big long grassy area between the main building and the pool that’s awesome for doing sprints and outdoor workouts. And the pool is big enough to swim laps.

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The Pullman’s buffet/restaurant had many healthy options and were willing to accommodate any special requests… and the quality/freshness of food was incredible. Even more incredible when we worked out that it only cost us around $10 each for breakfast and around $15-20 for a 3 course dinner using our Accor Advantage Plus card (these are so worth looking into… It’s only about $250 for the basic membership and the 50% off food that you get pays itself off in just one trip!)

If you wanted to stay somewhere in the city, the Novotel was in a great riverside location, close to restaurants, markets and day spas. It has a 3-level rooftop bar here (Sky36) that has beautiful views of the city. And it had one of the biggest and nicest gyms that I went to! No boxing set up though, but they did have 4 daily yoga classes of all different types at about $15 per class (even for hotel guests). You don’t actually even need to be staying here to use the gym or do the classes, you can just come and pay to use it (it is free for hotel guests). They also have an indoor lap pool and you can use your Accor card for 50% off food here too!

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Hoi An

Hoi An is world heritage listed, and probably the least commercialised city I think I’ve ever been to… I didn’t even see a McDonald’s, let alone any kind of retail chain or gym. We stayed at the Grand Royal, which was a Wotif.com bargain about half way between the beach and the town (5 mins drive or 30 mins walk to either). It was nothing flash, but one of the best things about this hotel was the free push-bikes that you could take out for the day. We rode in a big loop out to the beach, then along the coastline, back to the city centre and then back to the hotel which was a 80-90 min slow cruise.

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There was also a little gym about 500m up the road… Going there was an experience in itself! Ill paint a picture for you… A 5 x 10m “pen” with rusted old weights machines, plates, benches, dumbells and a few shirtless young local guys, covering almost every inch of its unevenly concreted floor. You can imagine the funny looks we got walking in as 2 white girls in brightly coloured gym gear. But it only cost $2.50 for a day pass and did the job.

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As far as food goes, there are sooo many authentic yummy Vietnamese restaurants to choose from. Our favourite was “Morning Glory”; both the eggplant and pumpkin side dishes are a MUST! For a main I had the BBQ’d chicken leg and my girlfriend had the ginger chicken; perfect examples of herbs and spices making food taste better than unhealthy fatty sauce ever could. I wish we had more time to do the cooking class here! The breakfast buffet at the hotel was pretty good too, and free   I loved their yoghurt – it was like a natural non-sugary one that came in cute little glass jars that I topped with banana.

 

Other

I only had the chance to visit Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Danang and Hoi An. When I booked the trip, I didn’t really know where to go or what there was to do in different places. But as it goes with travelling, you often find out about all the best spots to go just through talking to other travellers while there. Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and Hanoi are three of those, so I will write a little about what others told me to do there.

Nha Trang is one of the most popular beach spots with islands off of it apparently also with a visit. Phu Quoc is an island over the other side of the Vietnamese peninsular, closer to Koh Samui, that is also supposed to be beautiful, and almost always perfect weather (so we were told). Hanoi is the “northern capital” way up the top, supposed to be very cultural and beautiful.

If you have been to any of the places I missed, I’d love to hear your feedback and tips, as I’ll definitely be returning some day soon! And I hope this helps for anyone planning a trip!