The Everyday Kitchen

A blog about food, healthy eating, seasonal ingredients and how to eat well in a busy life.

Tiredness OR hunger - what causes your mid afternoon energy slump?

 If you experience an energy slump mid afternoon have you considered that you may actually be hungry? 

Hunger doesn't always show itself as a rumbling stomach, instead for some people tiredness and feeling irritable are their version of hunger. For me, hunger manifests as light-headedness and an inability to concentrate - when I'm hungry I struggle to think clearly enough to make even the simplest of decisions.

If you're not eating dinner until after 6.00pm, there can be more than six hours between lunch and dinner, which is a long stretch. Without an afternoon snack you may be trying to last too long without refueling.
 
On the other hand, if you've eaten lunch and a good afternoon snack, then your energy slump is probably down to tiredness. When people have an early start or are not getting enough sleep, it's common to feel tired in the afternoon. In which case, no amount of sugary foods are going to pick you up.

If your energy slumps mid afternoon, Instead of looking for a quick sugary fix or a caffeine pick-up, organise a good snack for yourself. A yoghurt and some fruit, wholegrain crackers and hummous, some nuts and sultanas, or even a small bowl of muesli will fill you up and keep you going until dinner. And if it's tiredness you're feeling then try to leave work a bit early, have a quiet night at home and get to bed on time. When you're tired sleep and rest are the only answers.
 

Do you experience a mid afternoon energy slump?

Learning to love Brussels sprouts

When I was little I hated Brussels sprouts. They always seemed to be boiled, a method of cooking which brings out all their smelly, horrible tasting qualities. As an adult however I've come to love Brussels and actually get excited when they come into season. Here's how I buy and use them:
 
 
 
 
  • I always look for small, tightly closed sprouts that are heavy for their size, as these little nuggets have a sweeter, milder flavour.
     
  • Brussels love cold weather, so I would never, never, never buy them in summer. While you can get them in Autumn, they're at their best in the depths of winter.
     
  • Before cooking trim a small amount off the base of the sprout. Remove a couple of outer leaves, until you reach the slightly lighter coloured leaves underneath.
     
  • The most important thing to remember with Brussels is don't over cook them. Over cooking brings out all the sulfur compounds, leading to a smelly, bitter tasting meal. They are much better slightly under-cooked.
     
  • While sprouts are lovely when lightly steamed, don't boil them.

3 recipes for the timid fish eater

 In my latest Reader's Digest column I've written a piece called Tips for the Timid Fish Eater.
 
There are many, many reasons to include more fish in your weekly meals, however I find a lot of people are uncertain about how to cook fish or find the flavour and smell too strong. If this is you, then my column gives advice on where to start when you want to eat more fish.

Does it matter if you eat the same breakfast every day?

 If you're rushing to get ready in the morning, it can be tempting to stick with the same, no-fuss breakfast every day. However you may be doing your health a disservice. Eating a variety of foods is a fundamental part of having a good, healthy diet. To put it simply, a variety of foods means you are consuming a variety of nutrients and this is the best way to ensure you are getting everything you need. 

If you are already consuming a range of different foods throughout the rest of the day, then having the same breakfast each morning is not a major problem. However if you're eating tends to be more limited, then your health will suffer. 

There are some easy ways you can mix up your breakfast, without adding to the morning rush. Sprinkle fresh or frozen fruit, and different nuts and seeds over your breakfast cereal. Instead of having vegemite on toast each day, mix up your toppings. Try peanut butter, or hummous and tomato. Choose a different type of bread, or have ryvitas with cottage cheese and cucumber for a change. Mix up your foods and make your breakfast just a little bit different each day. It'll stop you from getting bored and ensure you're getting the best nutrition possible.
 
 

Which is better for you - red meat or chicken?

 While chicken is known as the low fat meat, I'm not sure that title is still relevant.
 
Red meat can be higher in saturated fat, however lean cuts of lamb and beef are now widely available and many of these rival the low fat levels found in chicken. Moreover while chicken is low-ish in fat and contains a good amount of protein, it doesn't have a lot else going for it. In contrast red meat, as well as being full of protein is also high in the important minerals iron and zinc.

3 tips for healthier eating when travelling

 It's often hard to eat well when you're on the road, particularly if you're travelling for business and have little time or opportunity to seek out good food. Here are some ideas for healthier eating when travelling.
 
 

1. Self cater where possible

 
No matter where you're staying it's often possible to do some kind of self-catering and the more you organise your own food, the more healthy it's likely to be.
 
  • Take a bag of muesli with you and store some milk and yoghurt in the hotel fridge, to ensure a healthy breakfast. 
     
  • Rather than eating dinner in a restaurant every night, try picking up a bag of mixed leaves, a tub of cherry tomatoes, an avocado, a small tin of fish, and a lemon. From this you can make a simple salad, which you can then pair with a crispy bread roll and some fresh fruit for a light, instant meal. 

What is tahini?

 Tahini is a paste made from grinding up sesame seeds. These seeds are full of nutrients, including protein, antioxidants, fibre, minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamin E. While you can eat whole sesame seeds, unless you’re super-diligent with your chewing, making sure to break up each seed, they’ll pass straight through you, as will most of their nutritional goodness. 

Whereas with tahini you get all the goodness of the sesame seeds without the teeth-grinding.
 
 


Tahini is available from most supermarkets, as well as health food shops and Middle Eastern grocers. It comes in two forms – hulled and unhulled. The hull is a fibrous coating around the outside of the seed. Most of the tahini you buy is made from seeds which have had this outer layer removed and this is called hulled tahini.

Some health food shops also stock unhulled tahini, which includes this outer fibrous layer. Unhulled tahini is darker and has a more intense flavour; hulled tahini is much lighter in colour and taste. 

Sesame seed hulls contain extra minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and zinc. While the hulled stuff doesn't contain as many of these nutrients there is a question mark over how much of the calcium and iron in the hull can be effectively absorbed by the body.

Should you eat vegetables raw or cooked?

 While you might think raw vegetables are the best, packing the greatest nutritional punch, this is not necessarily the case.
 
Eating raw vegetables is certainly very good for you. Water soluble vitamins like C and many of the Bs start to degrade when heated, so raw vegetables will naturally contain more of these nutrients.

However, that's not the whole story, because other nutrients become more available to us when vegetables are cooked. Cooking actually helps our bodies absorb these nutrients. This is true of many of the carotenoid antioxidants, like lycopene, found in tomatoes.  Raw tomatoes are high in vitamin C and while they contain lycopene, the antioxidant is bound up with fibre cells and locked away from us – we simply can't access a lot of it. However, once tomatoes are cooked, while the vitamin C is mostly destroyed, the lycopenebecomes up to four times more absorbable.

Moreoever some raw vegetables naturally contain a group of compounds, called anti-nutrients, which inhibit the absorption of key nutrients. Cooking breaks down these anti-nutrients. 

Boosting a smoothie

 Smoothies can be a healthy meal, that works as a nutritious breakfast, snack or post-exercise boost. However they can also be a nutritional disaster. One of my local juice bars sells smoothies which sound healthy but on closer inspection are super-sized cups chockablock full of kilojoules, sugar and even sodium - not such a healthy breakfast.


Making smoothies at home is the best way to ensure your smoothie is a healthy meal, as you'll know exactly how it's made. While it takes a little more effort, I'd suggest the effort is worth it. 

I use a stick blender for making a smoothie, simply because it's less hassle than getting the full food processor and blender out the cupboard. Plus it's easier to wash up afterwards, especially as I make my smoothies in the same cup I drink from.
 
  • Use a low fat milk or yoghurt as the base
     
  • Use real fruit, instead of fruit juice
     
  • Try to be restrained with sweeteners like honey, use 1 – 2 teaspoons rather than tablespoons
     
  • Add a healthy boost by including some flax or chia seeds
     
  • If you want to make your smoothie more filling try blending in some rolled oats or walnuts

Some tips for being more mindful when you eat

 If you’re not really conscious of what you’re eating, it’s easy to end up eating more; more than you need and more than is good for the waistline.
 
Research has shown that people who practice mind-ful eating – being aware of what they’ve eaten and registering when they’re full – are less likely to be obese than mind-less eaters. 
 

 
Mindful eating is difficult at first. If you’ve ever tried to meditate then you'll know how easy it is for the mind to wander and this also happens when you eat. It’s like learning anything new, you’re going to blow it now and then, get distracted or sometimes just flop on the couch feeling too tired to even try. And that's okay, because you don't have to be perfect at this. Instead the more you practice mindfulness, the better you’ll get at it and over the long term it will become a habit.

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The Everyday Kitchen
Food advice for a busy life
A blog about food, healthy eating, seasonal ingredients and how to eat well in a busy life.

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