Healthy Foods and Christmas Fun

December 2012

By Annette Sym

Food Shopping Over the Holidays

I know Christmas only comes once a year, but how many people give up on their healthy regime at this time of year and then have trouble starting it up again?

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing food into our homes that wouldn’t normally be there and the best way to avoid overeating at Christmas time is to start where it all begins, our food shopping trolleys.

You’ll find a number of my healthy treats in the AGFG Recipe section.  This year fill your cart with ingredients for thematically coloured and totally tasty Mexican Dip as an appetiser and Christmas Cake for dessert. 

I believe that you can’t do much damage in one day, but if you have leftovers they are there to taunt you the next day… and the next.  Let’s be honest, how strong can you be?  This is often where the real damage can be done. A little of everything is good for you, and there is no need to be deprived, just don't overindulge. 

Those packets of sweets and Christmas delights are put into your trolley, transferred to the pantry or fridge, and remain there hard to resist.  If you make good food choices in the first place, you won't be tempted to blow all the hard work you’ve put in all year round.

My suggestion is to only buy one bag (preferably small) of the treats that are a must for Christmas day. Don’t buy the bulk packs, as you want to avoid leftovers at all cost. Small bags of treats means that you may not get the opportunity to go back time and time again as everyone else will beat you to it.

Remember also that all the Christmas food on offer such as chocolate, nuts, cashews, fruit cake and puddings, etcetera are readily available 365 days of the year.  If you want you can eat 'treat foods' all year round so don’t use the Christmas excuse that you 'don’t want to miss out on this once a year experience'.

Here are the fat counts of some Christmas foods

so you can now make the right choices:


100g TURKEY BREAST baked lean - 3.0g

100g PORK leg, roasted with fat - 14.0g

100g PORK leg, roasted lean - 3.5g

30g CRACKLING - 8.5g

50g LEG HAM - 3.5g

100g CHICKEN boneless with no skin - 2.0g




1 MINCE PIE homemade - 10.0g




Moving More Than Your Fork

on the 25th

Being active on Christmas day is easy if you have the right Christmas presents to get you motivated. Be it a brand new bike, gym equipment or pool toys, everyone can enjoy some form of activity in the afternoon and work off all that Christmas fare.

These activities are fun for the whole family: 

•If bikes are under your tree then taking the kids out for a bike ride will be at the top of the list of activities. Teaching your child to ride a bike is not only a great bonding exercise but it is a great way for them to have fun and get fit at the same time. Who says that bikes are just for the kids?  If you don’t already have one, put your order in for a bike if you want to get fit in 2013.

•Grab the new cricket set and have a game after lunch to burn off all that Christmas pudding.  This is a fun group activity and a great way to spend time together, for young and old.

•Throwing the frizbee or new ball in the backyard will get your heart rate up and is a fabulous way to teach children hand-eye coordination.

•If the big pressie is a trampoline then you will have no excuse not to have a bounce around and burn some calories on the 25th.  Just jumping up and down may not seem like much but do that for 15 minutes and you will realise that it is a great workout. I would suggest that you have safety rules such as how many can be on at one time as well.

•Wii activity games are a great way to do a workout without even realising it. Do a session on boxing and you’ll quickly discover that you can have a great workout while having a lot of fun.

•Badminton, tennis or squash rackets can also be a great incentive to include more exercise into your life.  Set up a net in the backyard and get everyone involved.

•I remember buying my daughter a table tennis table one year and we played it all day long. We had round robins and loads of laughter but we also were moving our bodies, which is what being active is all about.  Every generation loves table tennis so put this on your Christmas list.

•If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean or have a pool, get the pool toys out and enjoy the outdoors.

•Instead of having a nap in the afternoon go for a walk and get some fresh air - burn off a few calories. 

A Gourmet Greens Diet

September 2012

Spring Up with Veggies

Spring means loads of great vegetables coming into season. We all know that vegetables are really healthy and good for us but did you know that some of the most ordinary vegetables have extraordinary benefits?



Good Fresh Food Offers Gourmet Possibilities

If you have a farmers market nearby then I recommend you visit them regularly. I believe the vegetables sold at these types of markets seem to be fresher, more colourful and cheaper, all factors in preparing a gourmet meal.

I also recommend that you buy what’s in season as you not only get the vegetables at their peak, but you also buy them cheaper as well.  When it comes to taking plain Jane vegetables and turning them into gourmet goodies, the key is to buy the ones you need (considering vitamin content), then prepare and cook them while they’re still crisp and fresh.  If you allow veggies to wilt and age, those healthy minerals will begin to deplete. 


Fashioning Spring Foods – Mixing Greens with Colour

Here’s an example of fashioning your spring diet around your health needs; if you have been taking fluid tablets for some time you will need to add some potassium into your diet.  The best way to do this naturally is with vegetables high in potassium such as beetroot, cauliflower, white onions, pumpkin and spinach.

Spinach really is the wonder food with loads of vitamin C, A, folate, some fibre, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, hence it’s healthy reputation.  However, do you know the properties of other great greens and their colourful contemporaries? 

• Asparagus is a good source of folate, vitamin C, E and dietary fibre

• Broccoli provides an excellent source of vitamin A, C and folate

• Cabbage has loads of vitamin C and fibre

• Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre, some folate and potassium

• Leeks which are in season right now provide vitamin C and A

• The humble lettuce offers folate, vitamin C, A and fibre

• Mushrooms boost our health with riboflavin, niacin, fibre and some B12

• Pumpkin, a popular vegetable has vitamin A, C, folate and potassium

• Tomatoes are a bonus with vitamin C, A, folate and fibre

• Finally, the good old zucchini which has vitamin C, folate and fibre

Gourmet Framework for Spring Cooking Vegetables

Okay, we know they are good for us but I have a couple of ways for you to add flavour and also make vegetables more interesting. Begin by chopping up some carrots, broccoli, onion, and crushed garlic then cook them in a wok; add some spices or fresh herbs that you like, such as Moroccan or Cajun seasoning and serve this as a side dish.  It’s much more interesting than boiled veg, and hence they become gourmet greens.

Alternatively, top your veggies with low fat white sauce then sprinkle light grated cheese over the top and place under the grill until browned – YUM!

The more vegetables you eat the healthier and less hungry you will feel so “veg up” your diet and reap the benefits of delicious, gourmet greens. Don’t forget to fashion your food by mixing in the coloured ones as well, also full of vitamins and minerals that will lighten you up from the inside out.

Start by trying Annette's gourmet Chicken Basil Stir Fry recipe and seek out many more in our AGFG Recipes section.

The Take Away Way

August 2012 

Food-to-Go a Bit Healthier

With everyone either working longer hours or tending to the children, when we’ve had a busy day and nothing is in the pantry, sometimes it seems the only option is to grab some takeaways. 


In most cases these are not healthy choices so below are some tips in trying to make your food choices are little bit healthier. 


Take away food can be healthy, so don't hestitate to ask for delicious options based on the tips below.  Let the AGFG be your Restaurant Guide when you need to eat-on-the-go.

Chinese and Thai

Avoid anything battered and deep fried, have plain rice instead of fried and avoid coconut cream based dishes.

Fish and Chips

Ask for grilled fish instead of fried and eat large chips as these are lower in fat than thin chips.


Don’t get the drive-through version, choose a more traditional Aussie burger with lots of salad and forget bacon, egg, and cheese as extras.


Always choose the thin base, avoid the fatty meat options such as Meat Lovers, and ask for less cheese.  You can always ask for more vegetables on the pizza.


Lastly, Indian is probably the worst of all in terms of takeaway, so be careful; they use ghee, which is butter, lots of cream, and crushed cashews. These dishes tend to be very high in salt, with fatty meat and very little vegetables, as well as fried breads.  These are the kinds of dishes I advise to avoid as much as possible when it comes to healthy takeaway.


When you do dine in at your favourite local Indian restaurant, keep your health consciousness about you when ordering with the basic considerations mentioned above.  Or rather, cook creative Indian cuisine at home...


Incentive to fill your pantry, try Annette Sym's sumptuous Indian Tikka Chicken recipe.  Served with basmati rice and side salad, it is one of her top 10 favourite meals.



Eat Dessert and Enjoy Weightloss

July 2012 

How to Lose Weight Eating Dessert


I am going to make a statement that will make many jump for joy when they hear it.  I believe that including desserts in your diet can help you lose weight.
Yes, that’s right if you have a sweet tooth you will definitely benefit in your weightloss/weight maintenance journey if you include dessert. There is no need to torture yourself with a diet full of restrictions if you just make some simple adjustments.
Having a healthy enjoyable diet that you can commit yourself to for the rest of your life is definitely the way to go!  So if you want to know how then read on. 

In our AGFG Recipe section you'll find guilt free desserts by Annette Sym and many others. 


The Dish on Enjoying Dessert

1.  Desserts make us feel happier and contented. It’s a proven fact that when feeling upset, lonely or depressed smooth creamy textured food can lift your spirit. Feeling happy and content will motivate you to lose extra weight and you may also feel more confident so you are able to continue longer than a day if you know you can have sweets regularly.
2.  I have always found it uplifting to know that I can eat fabulously delicious desserts, all I have to do is open any of my six cookbooks and go to the ‘guilt free’ dessert section and I instantly feel satisfied, content and happy. 
3.  We use desserts to spoil or reward us every now and then, to celebrate a special event or occasion, and to have because we can. Desserts don’t need to be something you choose every day but if you have a liking for dessert then including it in your eating regime on a regular basis is essential for long term success on any weight loss program.
4.  The secret is to make sure you eat a moderate serving and don’t go back for seconds. Desserts can be healthy and easily included in anyone’s eating plan, just remember portion control and good choices are the keys to losing weight with desserts.
5.  I doubt if desserts have caused you to fail on any of your previous diets, there is much more to it than just that. Was your eating plan too restricted, were you always hungry, bored with the food you were eating and lacked the motivation to continue? If you answered yes to any of these questions then try some of my fabulous dessert recipes.

In AGFG Recipes you'll find my Fruit & Nut Cobbler and Lemon Meringue Pie, just a few samples to give you a taster. Discover many more great dessert recipes on the AGFG website and in my cookbooks.  


Winter Survival Guide

June 2012 

Healthy Eating & Action Plan

Feeling extra hungry in winter? I have a few thoughts on this; firstly our metabolism does have to work faster to keep us warm in winter so this could explain why most people say they feel hungrier in winter.  Since it's too cold and dark to walk in the morning, exercise becomes a thing of the past.

Who wants salads and fruit in winter?  So grabbing high fat stodgy food is tempting in the cold weather. Being stuck at home getting bored and lonely can also turn us to food for comfort which wreaks havoc with our weight.

A non-stodgy recipe option by Annette Sym, Asian Lamb Potato Curry.

As I just mentioned, boredom is one of the main culprits of overeating; when you’re bored and stuck at home in rainy weather, it’s easy to eat out of boredom which can be dangerous to anyone's weight loss efforts.


This in turn can lead to negative thoughts and feelings of guilt and before you know it, you're off track and out of control and have given up. The best thing you can do this winter is to avoid being bored at all costs. The cold weather has just started and will be with us for a few more months so it is vital to remain stimulated if we want to avoid the winter woes.

Don’t be fooled by the false security baggy jumpers and tracksuits can give. Maybe you could hang your swimming costume somewhere where it can be seen, a reminder of warmer days to come.

How can you find the motivation to exercise in winter? Your body needs to keep active even if it is cold outside! If it is raining then why not play music and do a workout at home, hire a walking machine over winter. Change your routine to the afternoons if it is too cold in the morning or why not join a gym. Remember your body was designed to move so keep active and your body will thank you for it.

The cold weather has just started so now is the time to find ways to keep positive and motivated during winter. Maybe it's time to set new goals and challenges. Let's make this winter the best winter ever and when summer arrives you will be so proud of what you have achieved. 

Want to alleviate boredom this winter?  Why not draft your own winter bucketlist... 


Feeding the Mind, Body & Spirit

Annette’s Advice to All Mums Out There

Mother's Day is a special day when hopefully all mums get spoilt and enjoy a day with their family. I have three girls and remember when my first daughter was born. Like most first time mums, I had little idea of what was ahead - did any one of us new mums ever know how many hats we would have to wear in this role? 

A mum needs to be a counsellor, chef, taxi driver, entertainment manager, nurse and teacher, to name but a few responsibilities. Most women run households, raise kids and some hold down a job but what I worry about is that so many mums look after everyone but themselves.  So here are some tips for all the busy mums out there and anyone else who never has a spare moment in their day. 


One of Annette’s personal favourites, surprise Mum with a freshly baked Rasperry, Oat and White Chocolate Loaf. You'll find this recipe and many more to choose from in our recipe section.


Health Tips for Busy Mothers 

The first and most important tip is to without a doubt honour yourself by taking charge of your health. Your body is like a machine and needs to be maintained properly in mind, body and spirit. 

Eating poorly will make you feel sluggish and tired, leaving you with no energy.  Eating the right way will give you vitality and a feeling of wellness. Getting interested in low-fat cooking and being smart about what you put into that gorgeous mouth of yours is a good start. Ask yourself next time you eat - will this food nurture or hinder my energy levels?

My next tip is to exercise at least 4 times a week. Exercising gives a better quality of life now and as you age and is a great stress releaser. If you’re saying you don't have time for exercise, well I say can you afford not to make time for exercise?  When you're healthy and fit, life seems so much easier and you also set a good example for your children.

Take Care of NUMBER 1 - That's You! 

Next, please prioritise yourself and be number 1 because if you aren't looking after yourself properly how can you look after others. If you feel resentment often then it could be because you are giving to everyone but yourself. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish but more that you are being smart, as you’re no good to yourself or others if you have no energy and are continually feeling unwell. 

My final tip is to learn the word 'NO' and use it often. Women are meant to be the nurturers, but this doesn't mean we are slaves; so learn to delegate and make everyone, no matter what age, responsible for jobs around the house. Sharing household chores means you will have more time to exercise and cook healthy meals, and more importantly, you may even find some extra time for yourself.

Try your hand at this Rasperry, Oat and White Chocolate Loaf.  One of Annette’s personal favourites, it's her gift to you - Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Healthy Easter

Chocoholics Motivation for Moderation

Temptation for chocolate and sweets is everywhere in the lead up to Easter, with chock-a-block displays of Easter Eggs of all shapes, sizes and flavours piled high along every aisle of your local supermarket.  More people fall off the weight-loss wagon at Easter than any other time of the year except for Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you take control.

This Rich Chocolate Squares recipe is an Easter treat to try.


Happy & Healthy Easter

At Easter time, a chocoholic’s willpower can go out the window but with a little motivation, you can resist temptation and continue on your healthy eating regime. One of the keys is to remember that you are not missing out on anything as funnily enough Easter isn’t the only time you can eat chocolate. It is sold 365 days of the year and yet more people quit their diets over Easter, often after making a great start to the year. If you don’t want this to happen then having a plan of attack will help.

Easter Treat Time in Perspective

For children too, Easter can be like a free-ticket to eat as much chocolate as they want.  However, while it's fine to enjoy some Easter treats, the key here is moderation, and to have a treat occasionally rather than all the time. Remember that eating habits are learnt early on and your children will follow your example - so it's up to you to set some healthy guidelines.

With a little planning now, you and your family can sail through Easter without weight gain and all that can lead to. Decide right now how much chocolate you will allow at Easter and then stick to it. Just remember the more sweet food they eat the more they may crave. If your children are given chocolate eggs by well meaning family and friends, then encourage them to share the treats around and only have a few at a time.

The other treat enjoyed over Easter are hot cross buns, which have around 2-5g of fat, but when you add lashings of butter it's just like chocolate and needs to be eaten in moderation. Try to balance any additional treats with healthy family meals and put an emphasis on outdoor activities, walks and exercise to counter balance the treats.

Here's the fat count of some popular chocolate Easter treats: 

DOZEN CRATE EGGS, 1 egg 5.0g – eat 1 dozen and it’s now 60g fat!
CARAMEL CENTRE EGG, 1 egg       3.0g
MILK CHOCOLATE PLAIN, 50g         15.0g
CAROB, 50g       15.0g
LINDT GOLD BUNNY, 100g   32.0g

Find other Easter chocolate recipes in AGFG Recipes and read more on seasonal foods in the AGFG Autumn Fare blog.


Healthy Eating - Chicken

Unbeatable Lean White Meat 

When I was a young girl, many, many years ago, how I looked forward to Sundays. It was roast day. Chicken was a real treat in those days yet now-a-days most families will have chicken once or twice a week. You can bake, grill, BBQ, stirfy, or stew it; you name it, chicken is very versatile.

Try my Stuffed Apricot Chicken in the AGFG Recipe section.


In the past there has been controversy over what they feed and give chickens. Well I have done my research and they say that the chicken we get now is fine to eat on a regular basis. I was told that they don’t have hormones in them anymore but I am still not completely convinced. Farmers raise a full grown chicken for eating so quickly these days, it makes me wonder.

A Low Saturated Fat Dietary Option 

Chicken is a fairly lean white meat so it is a good choice for slimmers or for those wanting a low saturated fat diet. I think it is best to avoid the dark meat on the chicken such as thigh and leg as these parts are higher in fat than the breast. The fatty part of the chicken is the skin, it has heaps of fat, and it’s saturated so you shouldn’t have much of this in your diet at all.

Yes, I am telling you to remove the skin. I know that you may say that the best part of the chicken is that golden crunchy skin but not if you are on a healthy regime. For example a chicken breast with no skin has about 5g of fat but if you leave the skin on it changes to 13g of fat. When cooking the breast make sure you don’t over cook it as it can be dry when overcooked. One BBQ chicken with skin and stuffing will cost around 80g of fat, but there is a simple solution to this, removing all the skin and stuffing and the fat count drops to around 21g of fat, a huge difference.

Chicken is an excellent source of protein, rich in most B vitamins. If you like a sausage it is good to know that pork and beef sausages are higher in fat than chicken. When buying chicken mince make sure it has a pink look to it, if there are lots of white pieces in it the butcher has processed the skin into the mince, which makes it very high in fat.

Discover delicious chicken dishes in AGFG Recipes, keeping an eye out for my healthy Apricot Chicken with mango substitution options.

Love Month - Heartfelt & Healthy

15 February 2012

Valentine’s Day & Romantic Eats

February being love month, with Valentine’s Day falling right in the middle, here are some health conscious tips pertaining to romantic eats that particularly apply to this special day but also to the other 364 days of the year (365 on a leap year, like this one). 

As one of my male colleagues likes to say about his marriage, “everyday is Valentine’s Day”; granted, that’s because he didn’t exactly besot his wife this year because he was tied up with work.  Pertaining to men and women, if you can put some romantic emphasis on this special day or at least celebrate your love sometime throughout the month of February, your sweetheart will appreciate the effort. 

While Valentine’s Day is really popular in America, what is considered to be a “Hallmark holiday”, many Australians do make some sort of effort to tell their loved one that they are special on the 14th February.  Last night being Valentine’s Day, my husband surprised me with a table for two at my favourite restaurant and low and behold, one of the other diners proposed to his girlfriend that night - it was so lovely. Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest nights for restaurants, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in it all. 

However, many people prefer to make & bake a romantic meal concluding with a delicious dessert favourite.  Cooking at home allows you to avoid the crowds and that inevitable eternal wait for food, saving the evening out for a night when it’s less busy.  Whether you’re planning to wine and dine someone special at a restaurant, in the comforts of home, or basking in the moonlight, surrounded by candles on a blanket at the beach, here are a few tips to remember if you want to celebrate in a healthy way.

February being love month, you can take health conscious ideas about food and romance and apply them to everyday. 


Love Food in a Healthy Way


1. If you overload yourself with heavy creamy fatty food all you'll want to do at the end of the meal is sleep, which is not ideal if you have a big night planned.

2. Garlic needs to be eaten by you both, rather than by one of you!

3. Don’t overdo the alcohol as this can turn a great night into a nothing night, so go light on the alcohol and not only will you have your wits about you but you will feel good in the morning too.

4. Everyone loves flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day but if your sweetheart is trying to lose weight or is a health nut, can I suggest that a very small box of chocolates is fine, but then include something such as a bottle of their favourite fragrance as well.

5. They say the most romantic foods to eat are oysters, asparagus, and bananas which contain chelating minerals and the bromelain enzyme, said to enhance the male libido. Also the aroma of almonds is supposedly great to arouse passion in females. Who would have thought?

6. Eating chocolate on a special night is a surefire way to feel more joy and happiness. It's a chemical thing. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulating alkaloid similar to caffeine. Chocolate also helps the brain produce feel-good serotonin. The best choice is dark chocolate as it contains incredible amounts of antioxidants, whereas milk chocolate is just that: milk and sugar with trace amounts of cocoa.

Try my delicious Chocolate Mousse Pie recipe for a romantic treat at home.  If you make it in a heart shaped pie plate, even better and don’t forget the ambiance – romantize your dining space with candles, soft music and dim lights.


Salads Are a Summer Fave

Being Cool, Crisp & Creative With Produce

For anyone wishing to lose weight or go on a healthy diet, salads are normally an important part of meal times. Salads are not eaten as much in the colder months but with summer here, they are more in demand.

Salad ingredients have little if any fat and are low in kilojoules which means they can be eaten as often and as much as you like. It is recommended that we have five serves of vegetables a day so having a large salad at lunch or with dinner will easily help you to reach those daily requirements. To keep salads healthy and low in fat, some ingredients may need to be used in smaller amounts or be avoided altogether.

Keep Salads Light & healthy by Limiting High-fat Ingredients

1. HIGH FAT MAYONNAISES & DRESSINGS - Instead use 97% fat free mayonnaises and dressings without oil.

2. NUTS - Use sparingly on salads. Even though nuts are good for you they are high in fat and need to be eaten in small amounts. Dry roast raw nuts as this gives them more flavour, meaning you’ll need less to achieve that amazing taste.

3. AVOCADO - Just like nuts, avocado is a healthy addition to a salad though you must be careful as avocados are high in fat. 

4. CHEESE & EGGS – Both high in saturated fat and need to be used sparingly; reduced fat cheeses are recommended.

5. OIL - Most salad dressings use oil as their base ingredient so either choose the low or no oil dressings that are available and use dressings sparingly. Virgin olive oil is the healthiest of all oils to use on salads. For cooking, use sunflower oil.

6. FRIED CROUTONS – A popular addition to a salad, especially Caesar, my best tip here is to make your own croutons.  Normally store bought croutons are fried and high in fat. The way you can do it is by toasting bread slices then cutting them into squares. Bake these tid-bits in the oven until dried and you have a much lower fat option.

Low-fat Salad Ingredients You’ll Love

Sliced fresh mushrooms go well in a salad bowl and there are several types of sprouts now available.  Other fresh ingredients to consider include: Salad onions or shallots, corn kernels, mung beans, washed kidney beans (from the can for convenience), slices of carrot and celery sticks, capsicum, diced apple and sultanas. Pick your own combination of favourites.

There are also several types of lettuces that can give a salad a different look and try slicing some green or red cabbage through the mix. I like using English spinach instead of lettuce, just for a change every now and then. 

Salads aren't always green.  Try this delicious Asian Salad 
recipe that will fill the spot. 

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