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

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National Nutrition Week 2015

Well it’s coming up to that time of the year again. Nutrition Australia’s National Nutrition Week is on from 11-17 October 2015.

I’ve always taken part in the festivities of National Nutrition Week so I am very excited to join in on it all once again next week. See what I’ve done in the past for National Nutrition Week here, here, here and here.

So what is the theme of this year’s Nutrition Week?

We are so fortunate to have an abundance of healthy, natural fresh produce available in Australia and New Zealand. By simply choosing fresh fruit and vegetables over processed foods, we can increase healthy eating and reduce our risk of chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. For the benefit of every generation, it’s time to ‘Pick Right’ and ‘Feel Bright!’


 

If you are ever unsure, just follow the recommendations as per the newly revised Healthy Eating Pyramid. To read up on all you need to know about the new pyramid, see my blog post.

I look forward to seeing everyones minimally processed and fresh food choices all over social media next week!

– 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

 

Melbourne Spring brunch essentials

Spring in Melbourne is a sniffly beautiful thing! The sun stays out for longer and the air is warmer. But most importantly, all the cafes release their Spring/Summer menus and the outdoor seating suddenly seems way more appealing.

So I’ve compiled a Melbourne Spring brunch essentials list so that you can always leave the house on a Saturday at 10am prepared.

1. Sunnies

The essential outdoor eating accessory. Also a perfect addition to any stylish brunch photo 😉

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2. An active form of transport. 

Good weather brings out the inner triathlete in all of us. So instead of sitting down in your car only to then sit down all morning at brunch, why not walk, jog or ride a bike there.

Melbourne has “great biking infrastructure” says my main man. So I’m sure Spring is the perfect time to pump up your tyres and cycle to the nearest cafe. Head over to the Gram magazine website for a guide to Melbourne’s bike friendly cafes. A great one is Green Park Dining (formally St Ali North) which is right on the Capital City Trail…

Outdoor seating along the Capital City Trail at Green Park Dining in Carlton North

Riding along the Merri Creek trail to The Farm Cafe at Collingwood Children's Farm.

Riding along the Merri Creek trail to The Farm Cafe at Collingwood Children’s Farm.

Unfortunately I’ve recently injured my knee and I’m taking it a little easy on the exercise for now. So because of this I am trying to stick to cafes closer to home and go for short leisurely strolls to get to brunch…

Loving the flowers on this tree! Seeing them quite a bit around my new neighbourhood.

3. A light jacket

It wouldn’t be Melbourne if the weather didn’t change between sips of coffee. While that sun may be shining when you leave the house, chances are you’ll be seated in the shade or the sun will creep away behind a cloud at some point while you’re out.

Outdoor courtyards can tend to get quite chilly when the sun isnt directly on top!

Outdoor courtyard: good when the sun is directly over the top. Cold at all other times. 

4. An open mind towards the new menu

Spring usually means a change in menu options due to seasonality of produce. While I tend to find it hard dealing with change (especially when you have your favourite brunch dish that suddenly gets removed from a menu!), it is important to try new flavour combinations.

Just like BARRY in Northcote changed their mega hotcake from a strawberry one to a citrus inspired dish earlier this year in preparation for Winter, we will now see the change back to Summer-friendly fruits.

So excite your taste buds with summer flavours such as breakfast salads, bircher mueslis and dishes with cherries and watermelon as the feature!

Some cafes, however don’t change their menu until the end of Spring / start of Summer, so now is your last chance to get your winter breakfast favourites….

Cinnamon porridge with a golden syrup poached pear, honey yoghurt, rhubarb jam, seeds + nuts

Cinnamon porridge with a golden syrup poached pear, honey yoghurt, rhubarb jam, seeds + nuts from Mixed Business Cafe in Clifton Hill.

Spring time in Melbourne is a beautiful thing. Especially for us breakfast enthusiasts. Make the most of the weather. Socialise with friends on a lazy weekend morning over a filling breakfast dish. Walk or bike ride to the cafe.  Pack your sunnies. Look forward to seasonal menu changes. And lastly, ingest copious amounts of caffeine all the while soaking up some vitamin D.

Spring brunch essentials: chai, sunnies and a flower snatched on the walk over to the local cafe.

My brunch essentials on the first weekend of Spring: chai, sunnies and a flower snatched on the walk over to the local cafe.

– 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

Healthy actions now for a strong and durable future

This week has been Healthy Bones Action Week – a legendairy initiative driven by Dairy Australia.

Healthy Bones Action Week encourages Australians of all ages to take the three actions to build up and also maintain healthy bones. These three actions are:

1. Bump up your calcium intake through milk, cheese, yoghurt and other high calcium foods;

2. Stay actice through regular exercise to maintain bone strength; and

3. Spend time outdoors to get more vitamin D.

As everyone who reads my blog is aware, I love dairy products. Whether I am enjoying a Chobani yoghurt + oats tube on the way to work, having the most amazing skinny hot chocolate from Barry in Northcote, or using feta, haloumi, ricotta and goats cheese in a range of my dinner meals, I always tend to sneak in my three serves of dairy each day.

But if you’re not a fan of dairy products (or want a bit of diet variety in your life), there are plenty other calcium containing foods out there. Regular intake of salmon, soy products and calcium-fortified milk alternatives are perfect ways to ensure you are reaching your calcium goal of 1,000 -1,300mg per day.

Some bone-healthy actions I’ve been enjoying lately:

That skinny hot chocolate from Barry in Northcote.

That skinny hot chocolate from Barry in Northcote.

Decadent porridge made with milk

Decadent porridge made with milk (I swear there is porridge under there!)

Chai from Crompton Coffee in Richmond

Chai from Crompton Coffee in Richmond (the new toast cafe).

Veggie pho with tofu.

Veggie pho with tofu.

Building strong bones exercising with friends and soaking up the vitamin D.

Building strong bones exercising with friends and soaking up the vitamin D.

New Chobani flavours make it very easy to meet my daily dairy serves..

New Chobani flavours make it very easy to meet my daily dairy serves..

Oven baked lemon-butter-dill salmon

Oven baked lemon-butter-dill salmon

Oh heres another Barry hot choc.

Oh here’s another Barry hot choc pic.

Osteoporosis:

“Osteoporosis affects more than 1 in 5 women over the age of 65 years, compared with around 1 in 20 men. Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid drop in the hormone oestrogen during menopause” as reported by Dairy Australia.

So particularly all the women out there, it’s important at all stages of life to start building strong, durable and non-brittle bones.

The only brittleness I want in my life is the peanut kind.

– 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

All about the newly released Healthy Eating Pyramid

I am a cheerleader. Therefore I love pyramids. In cheerleading we stack people on top of people when we make pyramids. Although when it comes to nutrition pyramids we stack food groups on top of food groups. Still cool.

Today is a very exciting day for the nutrition world as the updated Healthy Eating Pyramid has finally been released!

In 2013 we saw the release of the revised Australian Dietary Guidelines which provided us nutrition professionals with the recommendations for healthy eating based on the broad range of scientific research that had been conducted over time. However much of the Australian public found it difficult to apply the guidelines to their everyday life without the assistance from qualified nutrition experts such as dietitians.

But today, Nutrition Australia has released their new Healthy Eating Pyramid which is an easy visual and practical way to apply the abundance of nutrition research findings to our everyday eating habits.

What does the new pyramid recommend and how is it different from before?

The pyramid still promotes a diet rich in plant-based foods, for example, fruits, vegetables and grains. The pyramid also emphasises the importance of dairy products (or calcium-rich alternatives) and protein-rich food sources (such as meat and meat alternatives), although in smaller amounts than plant-based ingredients.

One difference I see, is that instead of grains AND fruit/vegetables being the largest component of the pyramid, we now see vegetables and fruit taking home the award for biggest and most important component of a healthy diet, with grains coming in a close second. Note that both grains and fruit/vegetables make up the foundation layer of our diet, but be aware that we really do need to ensure we up the ante with our fruit/vegetable intake. We can also see that vegetables should be more dominant in our diet than fruit. Fruits and vegetables can help us to achieve our fibre requirements while also providing us with a vast range of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Most fruits and vegetables also provide us with a large percentage of water, which can help to hydrate us throughout the day.

The Australian Health Survey (2011-2012) results showed that less than 7% of the Australian population is meeting the recommended intake of vegetables. This is a ridiculous finding in my opinion! So let’s listen to what is recommended and increase our vegetable intake.

The NEW pyramid

The NEW pyramid

 

The OLD pyramid

The OLD pyramid

Grains is the second largest component of the pyramid. They also provide us with fibre, although the type of fibre differs from that provided from fruit and veggies. Grains which are whole and minimally processed also provide us with healthy fats, micronutrients and in some cases a decent amount of protein. Therefore grains are also a crucial component of a healthy diet.

Due to emerging research in the area of dietary fats, we now see that healthy fats are at the top of the pyramid, therefore encouraging them in small amounts. Healthy fats are those that are non-saturated (for example monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and can predominantly be found in many plant-based oils with the exception of coconut oil. (See my blog post Coconut oil vs. Olive oil for more info on this).

In regards to fats, it is a common understanding that excessive intake of trans fats can lead to increased risk of detrimental health outcomes. But more recently we are measuring the difference between saturated fats versus mono and poly unsaturated fats.

What does the research say? Well when looking at the energy intake of any form of fat, if eaten in large amounts this can help contribute to weight gain which can then lead to a whole host of health concerns. However, in small amounts the addition of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into the diet can provide us with healthy benefits, for example beneficial effects on our cardiovascular (heart) health. Saturated fats, however, have yet to be shown to provide us with these same benefits that non-saturated fats do.

So now at the top of the pyramid we see healthy fats (e.g. olive oil) to be included in small amounts into our everyday diet. Previously, at the top of the pyramid we saw discretionary foods such as cakes, lollies, chocolates, butter, soft drinks and more. It is great to see that the pyramid no longer includes these very high sugar or high animal fat products. Australians are currently receiving more than 1/3 of our daily energy from discretionary foods (those foods previously found at the top of the pyramid). These foods should be occasional extras in our diet and should not be included within our core day-to-day food intake. So it’s great to see them excluded from the pyramid.

Why does this pyramid matter?

I have always been a fan of the organisation Nutrition Australia. When I was a nutrition student I spent many hours volunteering my time to help support what they promote and work for.

Nutrition Australia is a non-government, non-profit, community organisation that focus on the scientific research that has been conducted and base their healthy eating recommendations on evidence (which in my opinion is the most solid way to do it!). They are promoting their health messages for one reason and one reason only; to improve the health of Australians.

The new Pyramid cuts through the misleading information and fad diets that are getting so much attention, and provides Australians with a credible, flexible and realistic guide to eating well,”
– Nutrition Australia Vic Division, Executive Officer Lucinda Hancock  

As a nutrition professional, scientist and critical thinker, it is very important for me to promote the right message. Following a diet that is full of plant-based foods, whole foods, minimal added sugar, minimal animal fats yet small amounts of some plant oils is the right message to promote to the general public. The new Healthy Eating Pyramid takes into account the research findings and encourages affordable foods commonly found in the Australian food supply.

– 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