Natalie Brady is a Registered Clinical Nutritionist based in Auckland.
LG: Nat, tell us a bit about yourself and your philosophy to health and well-being
I have a holistic approach to health, which means when working with clients I address health goals and concerns by looking at all aspects in their life with nutrition as well as lifestyle factors (such as sleep, stress levels, exercise habits). I help women and men create a healthy, balanced and sustainable lifestyle one step at a time through simple diet and lifestyle changes. My approach isn’t about delivering a quick-fix, I want my clients to make lifelong habits and empower them to take their health into their own hands. When it comes to eating, I like to encourage people to focus on whole foods, which are as close to their natural state as possible and remove/limit processed and packaged foods.
I’ve been through my own health challenges and understand how difficult it is to break old habits, resist temptation and make lasting changes. I’ve suffered with asthma, eczema, sugar addiction, IBS, leaky gut, hormonal imbalance (PCO), low immune system, food allergies and intolerances, restrictive diets, fad diets, over-exercising as punishment from binge eating. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. This is the reason why I became a nutritionist, and the reason I started my blog. I want to share my experiences and knowledge with others to empower women and men to take control of their own life so they can feel like their happiest, healthiest, best self!
LG: As a new mum, I know I struggle to find time to have a hot cup of tea, let alone really focus on my well-being. What’s your advice for us time-poor people? Any tips to ensuring we’re still getting adequate nutrition?
- Keep meals simple! Simplicity is key, this is my motto! Choose just a few healthy ingredients to create a simple meal. For example, smoothies or overnight oats for breakfast are a quick and nutritious option. One pan meals such as a roast chicken with roast vegetables, stir-fry with vegetables chicken/fish/prawns/tempeh/beans.
- Meal prep.Spend one hour in the kitchen on the weekend to prep 1-2 healthy snacks as well as some meals or prep some ingredients for your week ahead instead. This will save you lots of time and reduce stress during the week. This could be a pot of soup, bolognese, freezing smoothie ingredients in packs, cooking and freezing quinoa in portion sizes ready to add to meals or making some snacks for the freezer. A pot of mashed kumara makes a great base for a lot of meals too.
- Batch cook.Cook recipes that you can make in bulk so you can freeze portions (see LG’s blog here on this too!). Cook once, eat twice. This is a personal fave! Make extra serves when cooking for the next day’s lunch, dinner or freeze for another night. You can also make meals where you can serve it two ways, such as cook a big batch of soup or stew in a crock pot, or a bolognese sauce and serve with zucchini noodles one night and the other night serve it on top of baked sweet potato chips for ‘nachos’.
- Have breakfast for dinner – try my super green omelette, or simple toss chopped tomatoes, capsicum, mushroom in a pan with eggs and top with sliced avocado or pesto.
- Be kind to yourself and take care of YOU! When you take care of yourself it is much easier to take care of someone else.
- Do your best, that’s all that counts. Take pressure off yourself and do what you can within your means. Give yourself permission to not have to be perfect.
LG: Sometimes it’s a struggle to get one meal on the table, not many have time to cook different versions to suit everyone! How might we incorporate healthy changes in to a family situation?
Get the kids involved. Give them a few dinner options to choose from each week and let them pick their favourites out of your healthy list. Encouraging your kids to be more involved in home meal preparation could be an effective health promotion strategy. Kids who help prepare healthy foods are more willing to give them a try.
LG: What’s your “go-to” weeknight dinner if you have to rustle something up very quickly?
Salmon and greens one-pan-meal, or a quick prawn stir-fry (I always have frozen prawns in the freezer) with whatever vegetables are in the fridge, and cooked quinoa drizzled in sesame oil. It’s ready in 15 minutes!
LG: We’re often told iron is important for babies from about 6 months old. But, what about us adults? I’ve heard it combats fatigue, what are some good sources of iron and how much is enough?
Iron is important as it’s vital for oxygen transport along with energy production. When red blood cells are deprived of iron they become contracted and smaller. Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen, the consequence of not having enough oxygen in the body is constant fatigue. It can take up to 3 months to increase depleted iron stores as each red blood cell that carries iron has a life of 120 days.
There are two dietary forms of iron, heme (found in animal products) and non-heme (present in plant foods). The type of iron that’s found in grains and vegetables is not absorbed by the body as well as the iron found in meat. This means that even though a vegetarian might be eating decent amounts of iron, the body can’t process it as effectively, therefore, you’ll require more non-heme iron to maintain a normal iron store in your body. If this is the case then consider safe supplementation through your doctor or health practitioner.
Best sources of iron: red meat, dark leafy green vegetables, spirulina, legumes, lentils, dried fruit such as medjool dates, black strap molasses. When you’re looking at portion sizes, try and incorporate a few of the above, almost every day and then you know you’re doing your best in this regard. Also remember; caffeine reduces the absorption of iron!
Check out our iron boost recipe for your little one.
LG: “Good fats.” Something I read so often, but what are they and why are they important?
Good fats are vital for great health and wellbeing and are important for bone structure and fuel. Fats plays a large role in keeping you satiated and help improve brain function, while also playing a key role the absorption of fab soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). They’re also great for keeping those sugar cravings at bay!
Good fats help to reduce inflammation in the body, support healthy cholesterol levels, make hormones, help to manage moods, keep you alert, protect organs, help to maintain healthy skin, provide structure for cells.
LG: What are some examples?
The best sources of fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut cream/milk, coconut yoghurt, coconut flakes, nut and seed butters, pesto, hummus, dairy products such as butter, greek yoghurt, cheese.
LG: Sugar, sugar, sugar! They say it’s as addictive as cocaine… why is it so important to ensure you’re not eating too much? What IS too much? How can we begin to reduce our intake and what/how might we keep those cravings in check?
Sugar increases inflammation in the body, inhibits the immune system, feeds the bad bacteria in our gut, increases the risk of diabetes, cancer, obesity, mood swings, anxiety and sends our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. The World Health Organisation suggests keeping our daily sugar intake to roughly 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men for optimum health. If you really look at what you’re eating, you will probably find it’s a LOT more than that!
To reduce sugar intake make simple food swaps, such as swapping fruit juice, energy drinks and fizzy drinks for water, or soda with slices of lemon. Swap white sugar for brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, pure maple syrup or raw honey. Swap cereal with rolled oats, chopped nuts and seeds and a piece of fruit. Swap simple carbs (white bread/pasta/muffins/bagels) with wholegrain options such as wholegrain breads, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potato, pumpkin.
To reduce cravings ensure you’re including fats and protein with every meal and snack, this will help to balance blood sugar levels. We have a great recipe for sugar-free bliss balls here!
LG: Some people might think eating healthy is expensive? What would you say to them?
Being sick is expensive too! Yes, snacks with nuts in them can be expensive. But have some rice cakes with pesto or vege sticks with hummus instead. A lot of people buy a coffee a day. Have one at home and you’ve got about $25 extra week to add to your grocery bill. Buy your veges at the local store rather than the supermarket, buy seasonal. You’re investing in your long term health and preventing serious illness later on.
I do advocate for organic where you can. The “clean 15 and dirty dozen” is a great way to focus your spending – you don’t have to buy organic for everything!
LG: Lastly, what are some snacks that we are easy to make and can be eaten on the go, suitable for everyone in the family?
- Bliss balls are super easy to make and are a great nutrient rich satiating snack. You can make a large batch in under 10 minutes and keep them in the freezer. Check out Little Grub’s sugar free bliss ball recipe here!
- Portioning out nuts/seeds into a zip lock bag, ¼ cup per serving.
- Homemade protein bar – the nuts, seeds, coconut oil, tahini make it nutrient rich, higher in protein and healthy fats to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Boiled eggs, these make great finger food for babies.
- Fruit smeared with nut butter or a handful of nuts.
- Brown rice cakes with hummus/pesto/avocado and sliced tomato.