Dessert Grazing Platter

Most dessert platters are heavy on high calorie food such as chocolate, cakes and sweet biscuits and candy. It can add a massive amount of calories to your intake, especially if it’s at the end of a large meal and alcohol. This is a healthier version that will appeal to most of your guests.

  • Plenty of fresh fruit like grapes, melons, strawberries and mango cheeks
  • unsalted nuts like almonds and cashews
  • dark chocolate is healthier than milk or white chocolate. I included cranberries dipped in dark chocolate by Angas Park. They contain antioxidants and have no added artificial colours or flavours, or preservatives.
  • Greek yogurt
  • dried fruit such as apricots or figs

If you plan to have just one grazing platter, you can combine the above with the savoury grazing platter – cheese, fruit and olives go very well together. At Christmas time, cut the melon with a star or Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter to add a festive touch.

http://dessert grazing platter

Savoury Grazing Platter

Everybody loves a cheese board! They can turn a buffet into something special, and look amazing. This is how to make a savoury grazing platter that is healthy and appealing to most people.

Most grazing platters are heavy on processed meat, cheese and crackers. While tasty, they are high in calories and saturated fat. Instead, try using these healthier versions:

  • low fat ham or roast beef, thinly sliced
  • chicken breast, grilled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • carrot, capsicum, celery sticks
  • one or two cheeses – I usually use Brie for the soft cheese and a hard tasty cheese. The one shown in the photo is a vintage cheddar cheese I picked up from the Good Food and Wine show. Because it’s a tasty cheese, a small amount packs the flavour in which means you’ll eat less of it
  • cherry tomatoes
  • low carb crackers like these Tribe Organics rice crackers and baked pea crisps from Harvest Snaps
  • Dips and spreads such as hummous and salsa which are healthier than a lot of other dips such as french onion.
  • olives, sundried tomatoes or pickles

You can increase the size to cater for the number of guests you’ll have. You can also put some sweet flavours in like dried apricots, grapes and honey. Nuts such as cashews and almonds go well too. Alternatively, you can make a separate platter for dessert, like my dessert grazing platter.

Experiment with different combinations of flavours, adding in food that you enjoy.

https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/26/dessert-grazing-platter/

13 plus ways to get more colour in your diet

Eating more vegetables every day is a sure way to improve your health by filling you up (more fibre) and providing essential vitamins to aid your body in maintaining vital functions. We should all be eating 5 – 6 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. A serve of vegetables is about 75g or

1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables, e.g. broccoli, spinach, carrots

1/2 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils

1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables

1/2 cup sweet corn

1/2 medium potato, sweet potato, taro or other starchy vegetable

1 medium tomato

Depending on the vegetable and the cooking method, a standard serve of vegetables is only 100 – 350kJ (24 – 84kCal). Compared to a small ham sandwich (approx. 271kCal), a meat pie (445kCal) or a Big Mac from McDonalds (520kCal), a large salad will only set you back 50 – 200 kCal depending on the ingredients.

Here are some ways to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet:

  • A large salad for lunch
  • A smoothie with vegetables e.g. spinach, kale, carrot, zucchini, beetroot
  • Load other meals such as stews, bolognese, and pasta bakes with vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, carrots etc. If you have fussy eaters in the family, try grating carrots, zucchini etc. so that they’re barely visible
  • A large stir-fry
  • Soup loaded with vegetables, like my recipe https://midlifestylist.com/2019/11/13/easy-vegetable-soup/
  • Sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumber etc. and meat or cheese.
  • Mexican food like tacos, burritos, nachos can be loaded with legumes such as kidney beans. We have grated carrots, shredded lettuce, corn, tomatoes and guacamole on ours as well
  • Try having a meatless day at least once a week. There are so many options for vegetarian recipes online these days that it’s not difficult to think up ideas for meatless days
  • Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
  • Add spinach or grilled tomato or mushrooms to your breakfast, e.g. in an omelette
  • Potato or sweet potato wedges with tomato salsa
  • Potato salad or bake
  • Make or buy zucchini noodles to use instead of pasta.

Vegetables don’t necessarily have to be fresh. Frozen, canned and dried (legumes like beans or lentils) are all an option. In our supermarkets we can buy vegetables pre-cut and ready to cook which is an option if you are lacking in time. I prefer to steam most of my vegetables in the microwave for a couple of minutes, or stir fry them. This retains the crispness and flavour.

These are just some of the ways you can incorporate vegetables into your diet. I’d love to hear from you some other ideas because I’m always interested in healthy options!

My weekly haul from the Markets includes a variety of fruit and vegetables

Main Image from Amroon Ra, Unsplash

What’s with the Middle Aged Spread?

We’ve all heard about the middle aged spread. Many of us in our 40’s and 50’s start to put on weight which seems to cling to our abdomen, hips and thighs. But why is that, and what can we do about it?

I’ve always put weight straight on to my tummy. Looking at photos of my family, we all have a “pot gut” which we inherited from our father! So it is sometimes from hereditary factors, and sometimes from just learning about food from our families. We’re all foodies in my family – we love our food, we talk about food in detail, and love to experiment with cooking. Being good cooks means we enjoy it just a little too much at times and all our social occasions are based on lavish feasts. All well and good when you’re young and fit and can keep your weight down with exercise and eating well the rest of the week.

But after the age of 40, the reduction in sex hormones in both men and women (yes there is a “manopause”!) can lead to excess body fat being stored around the stomach for men and the buttocks and thighs of women. Women and men store fat differently and it can change due to aging.

I went into a sudden and severe menopause when I was about 46 where my ovaries switched off overnight. I suffered hot flushes every 5 to 10 minutes, severe anxiety and insomnia. For me, going on to hormone replacement therapy was vital for my health. I started to put on weight at the same age, but put it down to lifestyle factors. It wasn’t until this year, at the age of 53, that I managed to slowly wean myself off HRT over the course of about 6 months. It’s only been since then that I’ve been able to lose weight more easily than before. Scientific studies dispute the link between weight gain and HRT, but for me, I believe HRT made it harder for me to control my weight.

Because weight gain in middle age is so common, it is important to look at what we can control, especially our diet. I genuinely did not know that the recommended number of servings of protein and grains is lower after the age of 50. Here was I, eating the same amount of food as my sons who are in their 20’s, and wondering why I was putting on weight! It wasn’t until the dietician told me this that I had a light-bulb moment and realised that I needed to change not only how many servings I was eating, but the amount of food per serving as well.

Once I did this, the weight actually came off easily. I could no longer eat 3 stalks of broccoli and call it a serving, and 200g of red meat and think that that was a reasonable amount for dinner. Here are the recommended amounts of servings per age group:

Recommended number of Servings per Day

You can see from this table, the number of servings drops after the age of 50, so it’s important to adjust our eating habits accordingly. I had assumed that my diet was full of healthy fruit and vegetables, but when I looked more closely at it, I realised that I really wasn’t eating many vegetables at all. It was easy to fix – I just started eating a large salad or some homemade vegetable soup for lunch, and loaded extra vegetables into my night time meals. My serve of meat is now much smaller, and I’ve started incorporating legumes with my meals. My son went vegetarian at the beginning of this year and we’ve really enjoyed cooking sessions where we experiment with different recipes. He’s becoming a good cook as well. His meals look far nicer than our carnivorous ones!

There are some great resources on the internet about serving numbers and sizes. The one I use is an Australian Government website:

https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/

It really is as simple as that: keep to the recommended guidelines for your age and sex, and you will begin to lose weight. Add in exercise, and you’ll not only lose weight, you’ll feel so much better too.

Why Waist Measurement Matters

One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (inches) when I started on my journey. This put me at a much higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less.

All the extra weight I was carrying was fat, which was surrounding all my vital organs like my heart, liver and pancreas. I had been taking tablets for high blood pressure for a couple of years, and for my cholesterol for at least 6 years, so my body was already showing signs of issues caused by this excess fat around my abdomen.

Along with wanting to lose weight, I was desperate to reduce the size of my waist to prevent any other health issues. So I started measuring my waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms along with weighing myself 2 – 3 times a week. I used a Body Fat Calculator to assess this. My body fat percentage a year ago was 43.3% which is very high, and now it is around 28% and in the healthy range for my age.

I have found that taking those measurements is more incentive to lose weight than just weighing on the scales alone is. I can also see that some days I’m quite bloated with my waist ranging between 84cm on a good day to 88cm on a bad day! The “bad day” is usually from working night shifts or having a day or two of eating and drinking unhealthy food – but we all need a day or two like that occasionally.

If you are interested in starting to do the same measurements, there’s a great website called Calculator.net that has a number of health and fitness calculators that are easy to use. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, try writing down your waist measurement and weight once or twice a week. The way your clothes fit will also be a good way to gauge whether you’re losing weight off your waist.

I’ve had to totally replace my whole wardrobe twice in the last year, down to my underwear! It’s so rewarding to be able to see the results, and know that I’ve done a lot to improve my health by reducing my waist size.

Here are my measurements:

October 2018 / October 2019

Weight 83.5kg / 66.1kg

Waist 105cm / 84cm

Hips 109cm / 95cm

Bust 104cm / 90cm

Thighs 69cm / 59cm

Upper arm 30cm / 27cm

I’d love to hear about your own weight loss journey. Keep up the good work!

Before 83.5kg October 2018. After 66.1kg October 2019

Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I lost 17kg without setting foot in a gym or running. Due to my chronic back pain I am limited by what exercise I can do. I had to give up running and going to the gym about 10 years ago because of health issues caused by a congenital heart condition. But those limitations have not stopped me from exercising regularly. Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I focus on what I can do.

I can walk! I walk my border collies nearly every day, approximately 3 – 3.5km. My son and I usually walk them together, and we use that time to talk. The bond we have developed from our daily walks is incredible. We really miss that when one of us is away. The obvious other benefit is seeing how much our dogs love their daily walk. We’re really lucky to have fabulous parks and beaches nearby that are dog friendly.

Regular exercise is the key. It doesn’t need to be high impact or energetic to have health benefits. Even a low impact exercise like walking, swimming or yoga has multiple benefits. Starting with a short walk and slowly building up over time, you will see benefits to your health and well being such as weight loss, improved stamina, and better mood. I also increased my incidental exercise by parking further away and climbing the stairs at work instead of taking the lift.

I use a Fitbit tracker to keep track of my steps, and aim to walk 10500 steps a day. Some days I walk more, some less, but at the end of the week it averages 8 – 10,000 steps per day. I find it is a good incentive, and being in Fitbit challenges spurs me on to walk more.

The key to develop a healthy exercise schedule is to do something you like, do it regularly, and set yourself goals such as walking further, climbing 4 flights of stairs a day, or walking for 10 minutes every hour. Over time you will see the benefits

Don’t try and Do It Alone

When starting out on your journey of self improvement, whether it is for weight loss, improving fitness, learning to cook or whatever, reach out for the support of others. The reason why I was able to succeed in losing 17kg this time as apposed to all the other times I’ve tried, is because I had support. Firstly, I was part of a program that matched me up with a coach. I was able to choose out of a dietician or an exercise coach, and I chose a dietician. Secondly, my brother was also on a journey to lose weight and we have supported each other through this. So many times I felt like giving up, but I felt accountable to my coach. She would phone me every three weeks and was so positive and encouraging that I felt I couldn’t let her down. I’d hear her voice in my head urging me to walk up those flights of stairs even when my feet were aching and I was breathing like a steam train! Every time my brother and I spoke on the phone it was the same kind of encouragement. We gave each other advice and praised each other’s achievements. I wouldn’t have stuck to it if it weren’t for those two people.

I also had encouragement from a few of my work colleagues which was really lovely. Only a few people at work knew I was trying to lose weight. It actually took months for anyone to notice – I had already lost 10kg before people really noticed the weight loss! I thought it was funny how unobservant a lot of people are. So my message today is, get support, even if you have to pay a professional or join a program. Lack of money or time? Find a Facebook group or online community that is based on weight loss, exercise, or whatever your area of self improvement is. It’ll make a huge difference.