My day on a plate – National Nutrition Week

It’s that time of the year again – National Nutrition Week is running all week from 16-22 October 2016. People who have been following my blog over the years know that I always get involved with this event! This year’s theme is ‘Try for 5’…. 5 serves of vegetables, that is.

  • The average Australian only eats around half of the recommended 5 daily serves of vegetables.
  • Less than 4% of Aussies actually eat enough vegetable serves each day.

So this year’s National Nutrition Week will focus on improving that statistic!

I was recently asked to write an article for work showing a typical mid-week work day and what I tend to eat. See the article I wrote below and notice some easy ways I snuck in serves of vegetables while still keeping my meals interesting, tasty and filling!

My day on a plate

Breakfast, 0645hrs

I like to change up my breakfast options to keep things interesting as it is my favourite meal of the day! Today I am enjoying rolled oats porridge cooked with low fat milk and topped with sliced banana and crushed nuts. This meal contains a good portion of fibre and warms me up while Melbourne mornings are still a bit too chilly for my liking.

On the way to work, 0745hrs

Most mornings I walk the 40 odd minutes from Flinders Street Station to work. Today is one of those mornings I need a coffee to wake me up (and warm my hands on the walk). I choose a skinny latte – the low fat milk provides me with a serve of protein and calcium, and it helps to fill my stomach so that I can concentrate throughout my morning.

Lunch, 1230hrs

Leftovers!

I like to spend a few dollars every day on a coffee. And it’s public knowledge that I love to indulge on overpriced sweet brunch options most weekends. So during the week I try to save my money at lunchtime and instead bring food from home. Leftovers are my favourite because I feel like I am filling up on a hot meal but don’t go to any additional effort to get this.

Today is leftovers from last night’s vegetarian pesto pasta. I made high fibre fettuccine pasta with pesto paste and also mixed in some zucchini noodles, green peas, garlic, pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese.

While I am not vegetarian I think it’s important to get protein from non-animal sources every now and then (e.g beans, legumes, nuts, tofu, eggs or dairy products) as they can provide you with a range of nutrients that you may not necessarily get from animal proteins.

I also find this dish to be an easy one to sneak in a couple serves of vegetables. I am a big fan of enjoying my carbohydrates (i.e. pasta) but not at the expensive of missing out on my veggies. Here I can still eat the same sized meal as always, but now I am having half the amount of pasta I would usually eat as the other half is replaced with zucchini and green peas.

Afternoon tea, 1630hrs

It is 4:30 and I need something to stop me from getting home at 6:30 and invading the pantry. So while I sit at my desk and do my daily admin, I enjoy a tub of low fat yoghurt. Other days I may have a piece of seasonal fresh fruit.

Dinner, 1930hrs

By the time I get home I am starving! So I listen to some music to distract me as I prepare dinner for two (well, three if you include the serve of leftovers I will prepare for lunch tomorrow).

Dinner tonight is Moroccan fish fillets with an orange and greens salad. The salad contains cooked wholemeal couscous, a range of greens (rocket, steam asparagus and green beans), sliced fresh oranges, slivered almonds, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of remaining fresh juice from the orange. The white fish fillets are coated in Moroccan seasoning and a small amount of olive oil before grilled on a non-stick frying pan.

This recipe was adapted from the 2012 Healthy Food Guide recipe Moroccan fish fillets with orange and date salad.

Eating a combination of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables at main meals provides the perfect proportion of macronutrients and micronutrients. Try to aim for half of your dinner plate to contain vegetables or salad, a quarter to contain lean protein, and the last quarter to be a carbohydrate option such as my wholemeal couscous.

On the couch, 2100hrs

As I unwind on the couch while watching the latest episode of Australian Survivor, I enjoy a teddy bear biscuit with a cup of herbal tea. The herbal tea is caramel flavoured – so while I feel like I am having something sweet, the low-calorie drink curbs the craving without all of the added sugar a sweetened beverage or dessert would give me.

Bedtime, 2230hrs

I am already looking forward to my leftover Moroccan fish and salad in my lunch break tomorrow…

 

– Jenna

An update on my winter – talking travels, the Olympics and a broken hand

Spring is here! Although the winter weather is still lingering in Melbourne at the moment.

As I mentioned recently I was featured in MiINDFOOD magazine talking about lung health and nutrition. But other than that and the wintery dishes I have made in the kitchen that I updated you on in June I haven’t really posted about what I have been up to all winter.

In July I spent most of the month in North America. Some time on the west coast in the Pacific North West and the other portion of the trip on the east coast in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

A good chunk of the holiday included venturing around Twilight territory and completely nerding out when visiting the small town of Forks, Port Angeles and the amazing beaches that made up La Push. We then spent many days exploring the green, dense, and overgrown Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, and also hiked some of the most beautiful treelined mountains in both Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.  It was the start of the wildflower season – maybe a little too early into the Summer – but the flowers began to bloom and it was so gorgeous.

Words really can’t describe how much I enjoyed Washington state.

August was all about getting back into the swing of things and suffering through the last month of Melbourne Winter.

Luckily the Olympics got me through. I found myself up at 3am most nights for a good week and half watching the live stream of the women’s artistic gymnastics. As expected, the USA women dominated the team and individual events. But there were some pleasant surprises with individual medals from The Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany and Switzerland. And a very sassy floor routine from Rebecca Andrade of Brazil. Here is a video of her routine to her not exactly classical choice in gymnastics floor music –  Beyonce. Unfortunately yet to get footage on YouTube of her actual routine in Rio.

From gymnastics to cheerleading.

My cheerleading comeback was finally happening as I was preparing for my first competition back in almost 2 years. Well it was finally happening until I broke my hand mid-way through August when a stunt came down pretty hard in the final minutes of training. It has now been 6 weeks since I broke it and I am just out of a splint and slowly getting back into life with a weak right hand. Yes, I am right handed. 

So while I wait for my hand to heal completely, I keep busy with frequent visits to my favourite cafes around Melbourne and try their Spring inspired brunch specials.

See my blog post from last year about my Spring brunch essentials.

– Jenna

Time flies when you’re in your mid-twenties

Last week I had my 26th birthday – which means it has been a whole year since I moved back to Melbourne. I just can’t believe how time flies.

These days I have been busy but still very much enjoying life (with the exception of a cold that just hung around way too long).

A year on in my current job and I am loving it. There are so many areas of dietetics to dabble in and learn about – I just can’t see myself getting sick of clinical dietetics.

My weekends since an adventurous April with James have been less about adventuring outside of the city and more about staying in. A lot of that has to do with the weather which has cooled down dramatically in Melbourne. But we have been busy in the inner suburbs checking out some new brunch scenes around Melbourne amongst other things.

Little Henri cafe – Thornbury

Reading about cronuts while looking across the room at said cronuts at Rustica – Fitzroy

At home I have been making quite a few cream-based sauces to accompany my dishes. It must be the winter blues kicking in and I must admit, I have indulged on the creamy sauces a little too often (weekly) at home. I think it’s time to hold back now.

The sauce I make is the good old butter, flour and (skim) milk trick. Creamy pesto pasta with green beans and peas has been a favourite. And I have finally found a packaged pesto paste that I like from Terra Madre, Northcote. I previously disliked all packaged pesto and would only get my fix by slaving over the food processor to make my own. I am a little relieved to know that now I can have a jar in the pantry if needed.

I’m also enjoying warm roasted vegetable salads as I do every winter.

A recipe that I have made this chilly season, much like last year, is the Moroccan fish with orange salad by Healthy Food Guide. It would have to be one of my favourite autumn/winter recipes. I enjoy changing it up with the green veggie options, as well as the grain (works well with couscous, quinoa, brown rice etc).

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See my article in the Medibank Be magazine from last year on fresh produce that I love during the winter months.

Fitness-wise I have finally returned to cheerleading after a long 14 month break and a dragged out injury. The comeback is proving harder than I thought at the ripe old age of 26. I now know why the elite gymnasts are in their peak at 16 years – a pulled hamstring every two weeks at 26 doesn’t make for a productive training schedule.

I can also say I am a regular swimmer now. I love the low impact sport (especially when battling with niggling muscle pains) and the feel of the water as I swim at a fast past on a keen day or a slow and steady pace on those days I just don’t feel like doing all that much. It is such an easy way to stay fit and a good excuse to wash my hair.

The colder weather has seen less of the hiking but I look forward to doing some small hikes on my upcoming trip to Washington state in the USA next month. I’ll blog about it the first chance I get.

Catch you all a little later in the season.

– Jenna

Lighthouse adventure at Wilson’s Prom

I recently mentioned on Dietitians Day (Friday 11th March) I would be hiking around the southern point of mainland Australia.

On our 6th visit to Wilson’s Promontory National Park, James and I decided to finally make our hike to the lighthouse happen. We hiked a total of 46km over 2 days and I clocked up 66,000 steps on my FitBit. It was tiring carrying large packs on our backs but so rewarding with the amazing views we saw.

The day started at 5am on day 1 with a nutritious breakfast and then we drove into Wilson’s Prom having stayed the night before in Leongatha. We were greeted by deer at the entrance of the park and then on our drive towards our hike starting point we saw wombats, wallabies and the amazing sunrise.

The hike started at 8:30am after a second (easier to digest) breakfast from Telegraph Saddle.

Clean and fresh at the start of the hike

The trek to the lighthouse was peaceful and quiet as we didn’t see a single other hiker the whole day. There were three main legs to the hike. The first part was mainly downhill, so we were still quite energetic once we arrived at Telegraph Junction. We then trekked predominantly uphill through Halfway Hut towards Roaring Meg. The walk uphill was tough because there was a lot of fog and no views to help our motivation levels! The only motivation I had was our snacks and the knowledge that we had an amazing destination at the end of this.

"We are walking towards there!" Jokes, we couldn't see a thing.

“We are walking towards there!”
Jokes, we couldn’t see a thing.

Hummus and Bakers Delight mixed seed sourdough

13km to go. This calls for hummus and Bakers Delight mixed seed sourdough

The last leg to the lighthouse wasn’t too bad as we knew we were getting close. The final paved track up to the lighthouse, however, was the worst part of the whole hike to the destination.

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Giving our shoulders a break with 3.1km to go.

When the lightouse comes into view. So close yet so far!

When the lightouse comes into view. So close yet so far!

The hardest struggle at the very end. So steep.

The hardest struggle at the very end. So steep.

Once at our destination we were greeted by a wombat out front of our accommodation and the Wilson’s Prom lighthouse keeper (so to speak). We were lucky enough to be the only ones who hiked to the south-east point that day, so we received a personal tour of the lighthouse and learned about how the technology of lighting up the sea and sky over the years has now turned to being completely self managed.

Our cottage was definitely the best part. Self contained with a bed that felt like sleeping on clouds, a clean shower with hot water, and a fully equipped kitchen. A telescope and comfy couch were also great to appreciate the views outside our living room window.

We experienced the sunset, an early sleep, and sunrise the next morning before leaving heaven and hiking back.

With sore and stiff muscles we took a different route to get home, via Waterloo Bay. This was a much more scenic way to walk, but overall about an hour and a half longer than the way there (also more difficult).

We again broke up our walk into three parts, with the first part being the most difficult.

My not so favourite part of the walk was the leech infested stretch. On the track from the lighthouse to Waterloo Bay, James and I had to remove a fair few leeches from our shoes and even some that had made their way up our legs. Eager to get out of the damp track and into a dryer and more open section, we finally started to feel a sea breeze and hear the waves of the beach. We were then rewarded with the most amazing views of Waterloo Bay and Little Waterloo Bay. The view looking back on the lighthouse where we had come from was also a nice spot to take photos and have an early lunch.

Lunch time. Resting the legs.

Waterloo Bay

Waterloo Bay

From Waterloo Bay we walked inland towards Telegraph Junction on a relatively easy leg of the trip – a lot of this part was on a boardwalk or flat sand track. Because this day was the start of the long weekend, we passed many hikers who were beginning their camping trip.

Once we got to Telegraph Junction we needed to walk back the way we came on day 1 – to Telegraph Saddle. We remembered this part of the hike on day 1 was easy and downhill. Therefore it would be hard and uphill on day 2. And that it was.

The final push back to the carpark at Telegraph Saddle was exhausting and tough to say the least. But knowing there was a bottle of Gatorade and snacks in the car waiting for our return was the final bit of incentive I had to keep pushing. Well, that and my supportive other half encouraging me.

A sweaty kiss and hug at the end of our loop marked the end of our beautiful adventure.

We did it.

Highly recommend this hike for those interested in seeing the south-east point of Victoria.

Already looking forward to our next visit back to the Prom.

– Jenna

October update on life, adventures and food

October has been a pretty busy month, hence the lack of blog posts. So I thought I would share some photos and updates of what I have been up to.

  • My best friend had a baby! She lives in Sydney so I have to wait another whole month to meet baby Braxton.
  • Last week I presented at the ‘How To Get That Job (or promotion)’ workshop that was run by Dietitian Connection. The two that ran the show were Maree Ferguson AdvAPD and Rhiannon Barnes APD and I was lucky enough to present on my experience as a new grad in this tough job market.
  • I recently went camping to Wilson’s Prom (like we do every year) and it was a great weekend of hiking, cooking with the camping stovetop and playing cards while the wombats walk around us. Here are a couple of photos:

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In other news, I have tried a couple of other things for the first time recently too…

  1. A matcha latte (from Organica Cafe & Foodstore in Prahran). It was an interesting experience. It was like a creamy, potent green tea with milk (and added honey). It gave me a caffeine hit and everytime I had a sip I was surprised with it’s flavour. I’m not sure how regularly I will be ordering a matcha latte, but if you haven’t tried one yet I recommend you do it at least once!

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2. A Chatime iced tea. I can’t really call myself a Melbournian without sipping on one of these in the heart of the city while smelling the La Petite Crêperie stall on Swanston St and listening to buskers.

3. The third thing I tried recently was the food trucks at Welcome To Thornbury. I went for the first time last night and it was a great atmosphere being a warm and still Friday evening in Melbourne’s inner north. A must-go this Summer and one visit isn’t enough as they rotate their food trucks quite regularly. So chances are if you go a couple of times, you will have different food and desserts to choose from.

Well that’s what I’ve been up to this month! Hope everyone is well x

– Jenna

A professional trip up north + food and fun

This past week and a bit I have been up to Queensland for the Australasian Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition annual conference. This year the event was part of the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) and the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) International Congress.

So my brain has been filled with knowledge on diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and when to provide nutrition through a food source, a tube or straight into the bloodstream.

I also had the opportunity to undertake two postgraduate courses through the Life Long Learning Program in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism – and thankfully passed the tests!

But this week hasn’t been all study and learning…

I made sure to head up to Queensland a couple of days before the conference so that I could soak up some sun and experience a mini holiday before putting my professional cap back on. I also brought my other half because it wouldn’t be an adventure without him. We headed up further north to the Sunshine Coast and Noosa for a day, and then by Sunday morning we were back in Brisbane for the Red Hill Farmers’ Market. But rather than me just rehashing it all through words, I thought I would just explain it all through the photos I took.

Aeroplane reading with a 4/5 Health Star Rated snack thanks to Qantas.

Aeroplane reading with a 4/5 Health Star Rated snack thanks to Qantas.

Corn fritters from Raw Energy in Peregian Beach.

Corn fritters from Raw Energy in Peregian Beach.

Noosa Main Beach

Tropical fruit and ginger juice, plus some sliced fruit at the Red Hill Market.

Putting my professional cap on at the conference - but still keeping my blogging cap on! Dont forget to check out Storehouse for your latest credible nutrition blog posts).

Representing the dietitian bloggers at the conference! (Be sure to check out Storehouse for the latest credible nutrition blog posts).

Donut Boys

Gingerbread Man doughnut from Donut Boyz – a shipping container doughnut shop in Brisbane’s West End. Reminded me a little too much of Melbourne so I couldn’t resist.

Amazing French Toast from The Bakery Cafe in South Brisbane.

French Toast from The Roastery Cafe in South Brisbane.

After the conference and some great social outings in Brisbane, James and I headed down to the Gold Coast for a couple of days to see my close friend Jessie. We checked out some great eateries, one of which was Greenhouse Factory in Coolangatta, which was a vegan restaurants with loads of greens in their dishes. We also hung out on the sunny beaches of the Gold Coast and reminisced about our World-class cheerleading days together. We even played late night card games that were part of our childhoods. It was a good couple of days to say the least.

Great breakfast on some pretty amazing bread - pumpkin bread with 5 seeds and perfectly poached eggs. At Vivre A Vie in Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast

Breakfast on the Gold Coast: house-baked 5 seed pumpkin bread and perfectly poached eggs. At Vivre A Vie in Mermaid Beach

Burleigh Heads Farmers Markets - organic chai from one of the stalls.

Burleigh Heads Farmers Markets – organic chai from one of the stalls.

Reminiscing on this moment - 3rd place at Worlds in 2012.

Reminiscing on this moment – 3rd place at Worlds in 2012.

Cheers to all that made this week a great one. Especially Jessie who was our personal tour guide for all food and beach related adventures on the Gold Coast. And also to Ash from Off Duty Dietitian who took me out for a mega pho in Brisbane – nearly on par with the pho from Lam Lam in High Street, Northcote.

Now it’s back to Melbourne and back to work so I can apply all the knowledge I learnt earlier on in the week!

– Jenna

 

Tassie Winter Getaway

It seems like quite a while ago now but two weekends ago I snuck down to Tasmania for a weekend away with the birthday boy by my side.

Lucky enough to score a three day weekend, we spent three amazing days in the sun, snow and crispy Tassie air making the most of our surroundings.

While the weekend was less about food (it was less about me and more about the birthday boy), I found myself enjoying the adventures we went on in our jam-packed weekend away.

We spent many hours at Salamanca Market and also MONA. But here are some snaps from our time in the great outdoors…

At the top of Mt Wellington

At the top of Mt Wellington

Clifton Surf Beach

Clifton Surf Beach

Hike out to Cape Raoul

Hike out to Cape Raoul

Roaring Beach

Roaring Beach

Hashtag no filter

– Jenna

Castlemaine brunch scene

Well my time in Castlemaine seems like it was so long ago. As I begin my 6th week in my new job back in Melbourne, I take some time to reminisce on the amazing brunch that is found in Castlemaine, Victoria.

The town in central Victoria has quite a few cafes with top quality breakfast menus, lovely coffee and good vibes. I think I managed to suss them all out in my short time there.

Here is a quick guide to some of my favourite cafe’s in this gorgeous town…

The Governor’s Cafe

When I first moved to Castlemaine, I posted about this great cafe on the hill with a gorgeous views of the quirky town that is Castlemaine.

The second time I visited it, instead of it being a hot sunny Summer day, I experienced the crisp Winter air while still seeing a lovely view of the town. Highly recommend this cafe if it is a clear and calm day!

Quinoa porridge with toasted coconut and stewed rhubarb

Cafe re-PUBLIC

Gorgeous place to hang out in the sun on a warm day. Warm inside for those cold days also. I cannot recommend this cafe enough! Every dish I have tasted has been presented wonderfully and tasted equally as great. And to top it off, the coffee is so good. (Although the cup used for a capp is too small of a serve in my opinion.. Call me picky).

The small space set aside for the cafe is part of the old Castlemaine Fire Brigade. It is decked out really well inside and as for the outside, the distressed white painted brick makes the building one of my favourites in Castlemaine.

The coffee window is open on weekdays from 7am with the kitchen ready to roll from 8am, so it is definitely possible (I speak from experience) to sneak in a morning coffee and quick breakky before work.

New menu item: Pancakes with stewed rhubarb

Pancakes with stewed rhubarb

Run Rabbit Run

Located in the heart of town, right next to the Theatre Royale, this cozy cafe has a killer coffee, breakfast and lunch menu! While their waffles with spiced apples are my favouriet sweet option, you just can’t go past their large serves of eggs and great sides! Their spiced latte made with amazing sweet spices is a lovely addition to any meal.

Run Rabbit Run might just have to be my favourite cafe in Castlemaine. I even bought one of their cute bags as a memento for the time spent in this great town.

Waffles wit....

Waffles with spiced apples and maple

 

Apple Annie’s Bakery & Cafe

I first truly fell in love with this place around Easter time – their fruit filled hot cross buns became a regular part of my Autumn days in Castlemaine. But I soon discovered their kitchen and cafe is as good as their baked goods.

If you’re after a bakery with sweet and savoury options coming out of your ears, look no further then Apple Annie’s! No photo will do their cakes and pastries justice.

Daily baked goods

Daily baked goods

Chocolate and caramel tart

Chocolate and caramel tart

Scrambled eggs with a side of wilted spinach and fresh rocket on Sprout grainy toast.

Scrambled eggs with a side of wilted spinach and fresh rocket on Sprout grainy toast.

Jess enjoying her coffee while also being my hand model. The secret life of a Speech Pathologist...

Jess enjoying her coffee while also being my hand model. The secret life of a Speech Pathologist…

Saffs Cafe

Picture this: It’s 7:30am on a frosty and foggy morning in Castlemaine. There’s a little boy playing a harmonica while waiting for his usual hot chocolate with a marshmallow.

That’s what I always think of when hearing the word “Saffs”.

Simple menu yet lots of variety in an absolutely gorgeous space (plus a cool outdoor seating strip out the front).


 

This guide to Castlemaine cafe’s only just scratches the surface of the brunch available within this small town! There are still many more places to mention such as Cured Cafe, Togs, and of course the must-try Bell’s Belles Vintage!

Be sure to check any or all of them out if you are venturing through central Victoria any time soon.

Thanks to all of the people (and cafes/restaurants) that made my time in Castlemaine one of the best experiences to date.

– Jenna

Long weekend + a quarter century birthday celebration

So last weekend was the Queen’s birthday long weekend. It was also the weekend I finished my time in the gorgeous town of Castlemaine. It was also the weekend I went to the Mornington Peninsula for a relaxing yet adventurous weekend away. It was also the weekend I celebrated my 25th birthday.

It was an eventful weekend to say the least.

The weekend started off with a big bowl of Goodness Superfoods Traditional Barley + Oats Porridge topped with cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts and sultanas.

Next was to leave the city (thanks to the boy for his solid organisation skills). We hit up the peninsula for a lovely soak at the Peninsula Hot Springs. The sun was shining and the air wasn’t too chilly so it was a perfect day to absorb the views (and minerals).

Following our soak, we went to A Mini Kitchen in Rye for afternoon tea. I heard about this cafe from close friend Mardi – whenever I visit the peninsula I make sure to sit down for a tea and piece of cake at this dreamy cafe.

Hummingbird cake with an English Breakfast tea. And off to the side we have the pecan cinnamon sticky bun that luckily was shared.

Then it was off to check into our Bed & Breakfast – highly recommend Harmony B&B in Fingal for gorgeous views, a warm and comfy stay, a super comfortable bed and one of the cutest scruffy dogs to greet you. Our evening was spent walking, checking out Cape Schanck and enjoying dinner at the local Thai restaurant.

An apple a day keeps the Dr away (at Cape Schanck Lighthouse)

Day 2 on our weekend away was a little more adventurous than Day 1. Tree surfing was fun, scary, and a hell of an upper body workout. Enchanted Adventure Garden kept us busy for a few hours (tree surfing, zip lines, tubing, and finding our way through the hedge maze!). I definitely felt like a kid again – although it seemed my fear levels were higher than all the kids around us.

Cool wall art in Rye

Cool wall art in Rye

By Sunday evening we were back in Melbourne and ready for the Queen’s birthday public holiday celebrations.

Which leads me to my Quarter of a Century Queen’s Birthday Brunch…..

Set brunch menu for my birthday brunch thanks to the amazing folks at The Left-Handed Chef

Set brunch menu to celebrate my birthday thanks to the amazing folks at The Left-Handed Chef

Picture this: A warm and cozy cafe in South Melbourne with friends and French Toast. It was exactly how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. Selfie sticks were encouraged and a hashtag was formed with only the few eager instagrammers making proper use of it.

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What happens when you order French Toast with the sauce on the side!

What happens when you order French Toast with the sauce on the side!

Some of the boys enjoying a lunch option - pulled pork tacos

Some of the boys enjoying a lunch option – pulled pork tacos

Monday night saw more food – Vietnamese with my family.

I still remember my 7th birthday when my mum stuck 7 x $1 coins to a card in the shape of a number 7. Now at 25 I'm feeling slightly richer.

I still remember my 7th birthday when my mum stuck 7 x $1 coins to a card in the shape of a number 7. Now at 25 I’m feeling slightly richer.

On Tuesday 9th of June 2015 I woke up a 25 year old and just as excited with life as when I woke up on my 7th birthday in 1997 at 6am to no alarm (you see, 7 was my favourite number growing up and I got a Barbie magazine subscription that came with a fold-out Spice Girls poster in it!).

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Young Jenna. 20 years later hats still don’t suit my head.

But yes, in 2015 I also woke up excited with life. Again I woke up at 6am (although this time to an alarm). But this birthday I was excited for other reasons. This birthday was my first day in a new job at a Melbourne-based hospital – a job that I have been hoping to land for a while now. I’m currently feeling pretty lucky. I am also pretty lucky to be surrounded by absolutely amazing people. So thanks to anyone who is reading this who has contributed to my life in some way 🙂

It’s taken a quarter of a century, but I am now exactly where I want to be.

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– Jenna

Studying the effects of technology on health behaviours

It feels weird to say that I am still a student. This year I have finally been working as a health professional after two university degrees yet I have somehow found motivation to pursue study in an area of great interest to me.

This university semester I have been completing a single online unit with the University of Tasmania. The study has involved looking at the use of different forms of technology to measure levels of health.

In my five and a half years of study, I tended to mainly look at the role of nutrition and food on the outcome of health and disease states. But it was great to take a step back from nutrition and look at other behaviours (i.e. physical activity) on the risk of developing chronic diseases. Examining this is important for me as in many cases when working with clients, both food and exercise play a role in achieving health goals.

A day of great physical activity hiking up, down and through the desert in Moab, Utah.

A day of great physical activity hiking up, down and through the desert in Moab, Utah (USA).

WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAYS

  • 6-10% of all non-communicable disease (i.e. chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes) deaths can be attributed to physical inactivity (study link).
  • Physical activity lowers the rate of heart disease (including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke), metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and falls.
  • Being physically active leads to greater cardio and muscular fitness levels, healthier body weight and composition, healthier bone mineral density and many more benefits.
  • Even if someone is physically active (e.g. trains regularly or performs any type of planned exercise on a regular basis), if you spend most of your day sitting down at a desk/computer, your all-cause mortality risk increases (study link).
One of the many gorgeous nature walks in the Dandenongs (Victoria)

One of the many gorgeous nature walks in the Dandenongs (Victoria)

THE DIRECTION OF THE FUTURE

With quantified self technologies emerging such as FitBits, Jawbones, smartphone apps and more, society is definitely becoming more aware of health, how to measure healthy behaviours and relying on these technologies to in some cases see results.

But before all you health professionals get worried you may lose your job to an electronic device, we all need to consider the fact that many people may engage in monitoring their health levels however the devices could very well do nothing about changing their actual behaviours and motivation levels.

There have been many days where I look at my FitBit data; the number of steps I have completed and the number of ‘active minutes’ I have achieved in any given day and have seen a very low number on the screen. But some days when I am not motivated, I don’t exactly run outside to increase the figures to see better results.

Weight training with friends is always fun - especially when you use people as weights.

Weight training with friends is always fun – especially when you use people as weights.

While devices, apps and other forms of health monitoring technologies are a great way to keep an eye on activity levels, there are still many cases where people need to increase their motivation and receive individualised health advice from university qualified experts to actually experience that healthy lifestyle change.

As health professionals we should use these new forms of technology to help encourage physical activity! A big message I have learnt throughout my study is that rather than expecting people to respond to public health messages or campaigns (which often show to be ineffective in changing health behaviours), let’s get clients/family/friends to respond to fun and readily available methods for improving health. For example we can now make outdoor activities more meaningful as we can quantify exercise levels through activity trackers. Or for those young kids (or old kids!) who rely on sedentary video games for entertainment – how about we encourage games or consoles that require whole body movements (e.g. Wii Fit and motion capture technologies).

I think it is important for health professionals to work with these new apps and devices. I know when I work with clients and community members I always take note of those who use FitBits and I like to develop daily goals that can be measured with these devices to better engage my clients and to keep them motivated in between appointments.

I could go on all day about health motivation and using technology for motivating and then measuring change. But I will end by saying that overall the unit was a fantastic way to see how in some cases technology can be an effective tool. While in other cases, it may not be an effective tool for improving health and it may not be suitable to all people. Those such as the elderly, the severely ill or even those who are unable to afford such technologies will find it difficult to benefit from their use. If you are interested in using these technologies for measuring health or even to see if it will improve your motivation levels, I highly recommend you give something like a FitBit or a smartphone app a try.

However, if you are unsure and would like tailored advice, talk to a professional. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help with advice regarding physical activity and an Accredited Practising Dietitian can assist you with healthy behaviours surrounding food and nutrition.

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Having a stretch at Pyramid Rock in Phillip Island (Victoria)

Thanks to the University of Tasmania for a very stimulating unit. I’m off to charge my new FitBit Charge (with built in heart rate monitoring technology) – an upgrade from my FitBit Flex which has been measuring my fitness for the past year and a bit.

– Jenna