Zucchini Slice

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Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • black pepper
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and/or corn
  • 2-3 tsp dried italian herbs mix
  • salt to tase
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 25g parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Method

  1. Grease a large baking tray or two medium tart trays. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Whisk eggs in a small bowl, season with black pepper, set aside.
  3. Grate zucchini and carrots, skin on. Squeeze out all excess liquid and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients and combine. Pour into baking tray/s and bake for 40mins or until slightly browned on top.  Allow to cool slightly in tray before removing. Cut into slices and refrigerate once cooled completely.

Chocolate Maca Bliss Balls

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 16 dates (soaked or medjool)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 2 tsp maca powder
  • coconut to coat

Method

  1. Process nuts in food processor to a fine powder.  Add dates and process.
  2. Add some of the water if the dates were soaked (I usually use about half of the water that the dates were soaked in)
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and process. You can add some desiccated coconut to the mixture if required for texture/if mixture if too wet and sticky.
  4. Roll mixture into balls using a teaspoon, and roll in desiccated coconut to coat.

Apricot Balls

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp hulled tahini
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp water
  • desiccated coconut, to coat

Method

  1. Place almonds and oats in food processor and process to smaller pieces.
  2. Add all other ingredients except water and process to a thick mixture.
  3. Add water as required/if at all. I usually use around 2 tbsp water but moisture can vary.  You don’t want it too wet and sticky.
  4. Roll mixture into balls, using a teaspoon, and roll in desiccated coconut to coat.

Homemade chewy muesli bars

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Ingredients

  • 5 cup dried dates
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup flaxseeds
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp maca (optional)
  • 1 tsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp honey/sweetener of your choice (you can add more or less depending on how sweet you want them!)

Method

  1. Cover dates with water and soak for 15-30 mins. Preheat oven to 160C.  Meanwhile, place flaxseeds in food processor and grind to a fine powder.
  2. Add almonds and pepitas to food processor and pulse a few times to create a coarse texture (not too fine). Place the processed mixture into a large bowl with the remaining ingredients (except dates).
  3. Place dates and the water they are soaked in, in a liquid blender and blend to a smooth paste. Add date paste to the bowl of other ingredients and mix together with a spoon, or clean hands!
  4. Press mixture into a greased and floured tin (or use baking paper) and place in the preheated oven. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.
  5. Once cooked, allow to cool, remove from tray and slice into muesli-bar sized portions.

Raw Chocolate Brownies

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups cashews (or almonds, pecans, walnuts, or a combination)
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 10 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 8 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 4 tbsp sweet coconut nectar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt/himalayan salt
  • 2 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • raw buckwheat kernels or cacao nibs to top (optional)

Method

  1. Place nuts in food processor and process until small and crumbly. Add dates and process until mixture starts to form.
  2. Add all other ingredients to food processor and process to mix thoroughly. Don’t overprocess! 
  3. Put mixture into a thin tray/pan and press down using your hands.
  4. Optional – top with buckwheat kernels and/or cacao nibs, press them into the mixture before setting.
  5. Set in fridge for at least 3 hours before serving. Can also be set in the freezer for 1.5 hours if you are short on time.

Top 6 Ways to Overcome Food Cravings

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Food cravings are something many of us struggle with.  Whether you crave a certain food daily, or you’ve tried dieting and given up because of food cravings, you know what it’s like to give in to your cravings.. and that’s usually followed by feelings of guilt, regret, shame, failure, the list goes on..

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to IGNORE food cravings.  You don’t have to fight against them, or rely on your willpower to get through them, or distract yourself from them.  You can actually reduce or even eliminate food cravings simply by understanding why you have them, and making a few small changes throughout the day so that you don’t have that 3pm sugar craving or midnight chocolate feast.

1. Eat more protein

Protein is known for many things, but few people know this: eating protein slows down your absorption of sugar, which means more balanced blood glucose levels, which means less sugar cravings.  It can also help you lose weight because your insulin production is often reduced when you’re eating quality protein at every meal and snack.

Protein-rich foods include meats and seafood, beans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, tofu and tempeh.  Avoid processed meats like salami and luncheon.

2. Get more sleep, or better quality sleep

Research has shown that sleep deprivation causes increased food cravings.  Part of this is because you begin to rely on food for energy, so when you’re feeling tired you’re more likely to reach for a high-sugar food to give you that short-term energy boost.  The other reason sleep impacts your food choices and cravings is because it impacts your hunger and satiety hormones, so you’re less able to determine when you’re actually hungry and also when you’re full.  You’ll see below why hunger can cause cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods.

3. Increase your vegetable intake

Certain nutrient deficiencies have been linked to particular food cravings.  You’ve probably heard that a craving for chocolate, particularly pre-menstrual, may be due to the magnesium content in cacao beans.  The bad news is, processed milk chocolate from the confectionery aisle in your supermarket has little to no magnesium content, so your craving won’t actually be satisfied.  There are lots of other nutrient deficiencies that can cause specific food cravings – too many to list here.  I’ll do another blog post on it soon!

My advice to you is to increase your vegetable intake, and a wide variety of different vegetables in order to improve your nutritional intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

P.S.  Potatoes don’t count as vegetables – sorry!

4. Don’t focus on restriction

Close your eyes, right now, and DON’T think about penguins.

It’s hard right?  As soon as you’re told NOT to think about something, that’s where your mind wanders.  It’s the same with diets and restriction.  If you’re focusing on what you CAN’T eat, that’s what you’ll be thinking about.  And I don’t know about you, but if I sat down and thought about chocolate cake for a few minutes I would probably start craving it.

Focus on the foods you want to eat, the foods that are healthy for you and provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function and thrive.  Shift your attention away from deprivation and towards abundance – there are so many delicious foods you can enjoy that don’t contain refined sugars and trans fats.

And you know I hate the word CAN’T.  Get it out of your vocabulary when it comes to food choices.  You can eat whatever you want!  You’re just choosing healthier options, and enjoying a balanced lifestyle without guilt.

5. Snack between meals

Ever felt ‘hangry’? You’re not likely to reach for a healthy snack in these instances.  When your blood sugar levels drop low due to hunger, your brain will send out a strong craving for carbs – because the brain needs glucose to function, and carbs and sugar turn into glucose in the body.  So cravings for foods like hot chips, muffins/cakes, lollies, bread and biscuits could be a sign that your blood sugar has dropped too low.

How do you keep your blood sugar levels stable, and avoid getting hangry?  Eating regular meals and snacks that contain adequate protein can help to stabilise blood sugar.

My clients are sometimes surprised when I recommend snacking even if they’re not hungry.  The reason for this is that in today’s society, so many of us have dysfunction in the production and signalling of our ‘hunger’ hormones, and we miss the hunger cues until we are absolutely starving.  So eating small amounts even when you’re not hungry can be helpful in re-training your body to produce and stimulate a healthy hunger response.

5. Establish healthy ways to cope with stress

Stress is a HUGE factor in food cravings.  Any kind of emotion or feeling that you are ignoring can lead to ‘comfort eating’ or ‘emotional eating’.  Finding healthy ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, relaxation practices and eating healthily will reduce the impact stress has on your body, and therefore reduce the impact of stress on your food cravings and eating habits.

Of course, avoiding the source of stress is ideal, but we can’t always control that in the short-term (i.e. a stressful month at work, or a difficult time within your relationship).  Looking after your body with food and exercise, allowing yourself time to relax and being present with your emotions and feelings instead of ignoring them is a great way to reduce the impact stress has on your whole body, as well as reducing food cravings and the need for emotional comfort from food.

Most of my clients think I’m strange when I don’t ask them to give up the foods they are craving.  But when we start from the very cause of the craving and correct that, then the craving is either not there at all, or it’s turned into more of a habit.  And believe me, habits are a lot easier to change than full-blown, intense cravings!  I’d suggest picking just one of the above that you feel applies to your food cravings most, and make a few small changes.  Watch how your cravings reduce or even disappear, and you’ll begin to understand why battling with your willpower isn’t a solution for food cravings.

Is Stress Making You Gain Weight?

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The more research is conducted on stress, the more we’re realising just how bad it is for our health.  Heart disease, digestive issues, poor mental health and so much more has been linked to living a high-stress lifestyle.  But if you’re not suffering from any of those problems, it can be really easy to ignore the effect that stress is having on you.  What you may not have considered is the impact your stress level is having on your weight.

Unfortunately for our waistlines, our physical stress response as humans is a little bit outdated – it hasn’t exactly caught up to our current lifestyles.  Today, our stress mostly comes from balancing and juggling the myriad of things going on in our life at any one time – work deadlines, family responsibilities, finding time to prepare nutritious food and exercise regularly, all whilst maintaining a healthy social life and looking after our finances and spending quality time with our partner… it’s a lot, and it’s fairly constant!  For our ancestors, stress was usually a threat of some kind, like being chased by a bear or struggling through a drought and not knowing when your next meal would be.  Short and quick bursts of stress in response to stressful situations – after which their bodies could recoup and recover from said stressor.

But in today/s world?  Rest is rare.  Our stress is ongoing, it’s always there, it’s chronic stress.  And how the heck does this all relate to weight loss, I hear you ask!  I’m going to explain it the simplest way I can – ignore the big words, they’re not important anyway.

When you are faced with stress, your body prepares for fight or flight.  You probably remember this term from your year 10 biology class.  What this means is that your body is gearing up to either fight the stressor (e.g. fight the bear that’s chasing you) or flight from the stressor (e.g. run away from the bear that’s chasing you.. a much smarter choice in my opinion, if it truly is a bear that you’re facing!).  Whether you are going to fight or flight, your body needs energy to do so.

So, your body will start to free up any stored glycogen (the storage form of glucose, from carbs and sugar) and convert it back into glucose, transport it to your muscles and around your body so that you have this quick hit of energy, from glucose (sugar), when you’re ready to face your stressor.  In the bear scenario, you would use up all that glucose as energy when you’re running away from the bear – that’s what your stress response is there for!  But what happens when the stress you’re facing is actually a work deadline and you’re sitting at your computer using little energy apart from your fingers frantically typing away at the keyboard?  Well, your body is still going to prepare for a fight or flight response.  And the glycogen and glucose is still going to be released.  And then when you don’t actually use up that energy, the glucose molecules can be turned into triglycerides (fats) and stored as body fat.  Are you starting to understand how stress can cause weight gain?

Stress = glucose released from liver + lack of energy output = glucose converted into fat = increased body fat

So how do you reduce the impact that stress has on your weight?  Well that’s a whole separate blog post.  But for now, try to become aware of the impact that stress is having on you and your health, including your weight, and try to find a middle ground between ‘busy’ and rest.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Energy Levels

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women's wellness Adelaide

Energy!  That elusive ‘thing’ we all wish we had more of.  Do you ever see a child running around for no reason and think to yourself, “I wish I had that kind of energy”?  I’m here to share with you five very simple ways that you can look after and improve your energy levels.  And when you have more energy, everything is easier.

Hydration

It’s amazing that something as simple as drinking water can help to improve your energy levels.  When you are dehydrated, fatigue can quickly set in, so it’s important to avoid dehydration and stay hydrated throughout the day.  A general rule is that you should be drinking 500ml water per 25kg of body weight, so for example if you weight 75kg you should be drinking 1.5L water per day.  Add an extra 500ml water (at least) onto this on days you exercise, or if you’re in a particularly warm climate.

Perhaps an easier way to monitor your hydration is to make sure your urine is light in colour – the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.

Quality Sleep

Obviously, sleep affects your energy levels.  The good news is – there is plenty you can do to improve your sleep quality!  Going to bed at a reasonable time and trying to get eight hours of sleep each night is a good start.  Avoiding screen time (computers, phones, tv, etc) for 30-60 minutes before bed is also going to make a big difference.  The artificial light from screens messes with your sleep-wake rhythm and is very confusing to your body, and can not only make it harder to fall asleep but also impact the quality of that sleep, thereby leaving you feeling unrefreshed in the morning.

Another thing that has a big effect on sleep quality is alcohol (sorry, I know you didn’t want to hear this!).  Alcohol can often put you to sleep faster, so you might think that it is good for sleep – but it actually reduces your sleep quality and depth.  Throughout the night, you cycle through different stages of sleep, some are a deeper sleep and some are lighter.  Alcohol consumption can actually prevent you from reaching or staying in the deeper stages of sleep.  This ultimately means less restorative sleep and you wake up feeling less refreshed.  So minimise your alcohol intake to improve your sleep quality and increase your energy levels the following day.

Iron – The Fatigue Fighter

You might already know that iron is super important for energy production and if you are low in iron, you’ll often feel quite fatigued and low in energy.  You might also feel irritable, suffer from dizziness or light-headedness, breathlessness, heart palpitations, or look more pale than usual.  If you think you might have iron deficiency, speak to your doctor about getting a blood test.  The “normal” range for iron can be as low as 5-30umol/L, but the optimal range is 25-30umol/L.  So if you have a blood test and your doctor says there’s no issue with your iron levels, ask what the value is and make sure it’s closer to optimal, because there’s a wide scope between 5-25 where you might be classed as having “normal” iron levels but it’s still affecting your energy levels because it’s not at optimal levels.

Dietary sources of iron include:  lean meats (esp. red meats), liver, eggs, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), wheat germ, whole grain breads and cereals, raisins and molasses.

Stress & Caffeine

I guess I talk about stress a lot, but the truth is it has such a huge impact on our health it is impossible to ignore.  When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands work really hard to produce cortisol (stress hormone) to help you cope with the stress.  After long periods of stress, your adrenal glands can get over-worked, and this constant production of cortisol is exhausting in it’s own right.  Sometimes your adrenal glands might struggle to continue producing cortisol, and so low cortisol starts to contribute to your low energy levels.  The important thing here is that you start managing your stress in healthy ways, take time out for relaxation and rest, and look after your adrenal glands so that they can keep functioning the way they need to.

Caffeine stimulates production of cortisol (stress hormone).  If you’re using caffeine to wake up or stay away during the day, your cortisol levels and adrenal gland health is definitely contributing to your low energy – it’s a never-ending cycle.  If you’re also using alcohol to relax of an evening, you’re just adding more stress to your adrenals and stress response.  Take care of your adrenal glands first, by managing your stress in a healthy way.  You will find that your energy levels naturally improve by doing so, and your reliance on coffee and alcohol will greatly reduce.

Exercise!

Yes, I know, when your energy levels are at zero it can be really hard to get up and exercise.  But I’m not asking you to go for a run, simply moving your body is enough to improve your energy.  Some ideas of low-intensity, low-effort exercises:

  • walk around the block for 5 minutes
  • dance around the house to one of your favourite songs (bonus points if you sing along too)
  • practice a few simple yoga postures
  • lie down and stretch your muscles (yes, this counts! Try it, you’ll feel better afterwards)

It’s not necessary, but doing any of the exercises outside is a faster way to increase your energy levels than inside – and being outside will also help to reduce stress and balance cortisol levels (discussed above).  It doesn’t take a long time, and it doesn’t have to be a full ‘workout’, but moving your body and preferably getting outside while you do it is a great, immediate way to increase your energy levels.  Make it part of your daily routine and notice how much of a difference it makes to the rest of your day.

So as you can see, healthy energy levels don’t have to be something you ‘wished you had’!  These five simple tips will have you running around in circles in no time at all (though it’s probably not as socially acceptable for adults as it is for kids).  Drink more water, improve your sleep quality, eat iron-rich foods, reduce your stress levels and move your beautiful body – you’ll thank yourself for it!