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15/Jul/2021

We’re halfway through winter, and lovely, summery days are months away. Brrr, it’s cold!

But it’s the perfect time to create delicious meals – hearty casseroles, pasta and soups – to warm you from the inside out. With bread fresh from the bakery (or fresh from the oven if you perfected your sourdough during 2020!). Yum…I’m drooling just thinking about it ?.

However, we need to be careful with our food choices in winter, when we’re generally less active and comfort meals are calling our name. We may begin to put on some weight, which is no good for our joints, pain levels and health in general.

The good news is we can enjoy these foods as part of a balanced diet by making some healthy food swaps and choices.

Here are our top tips:

Watch your portion size

It’s easy to overeat when you use large plates and bowls as we tend to fill them to the edges or brims. So swap your large crockery for smaller dishes when plating up your meals.

Choose wholegrain foods over those that use refined or processed grain

They have more nutrients and fibre and are much better for you. Swap white bread or rolls for wholemeal or wholegrain, white rice for brown rice/quinoa/wild rice. And limit your intake of foods made using refined grains like white flour, such as cakes, biscuits, muffins. Treat them as a ‘sometimes’ food, not an everyday food. Read this article from the Better Health Channel to find out more about the benefits of cereals and whole grains.

Enjoy lean protein

Select lean cuts of meat and trim off any fat. Remove the skin from your chicken. Choose to buy sustainable seafood. And give tofu a go. Then bake, steam, grill or stir-fry your protein with lots of vegies.

Be adventurous!

    • Try swapping cream in soups for silken tofu. You’ll get a protein hit, a creamy soup, and it’s much lower in fat. If you need convincing, give this pumpkin and tofu recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly a go. It’s so easy and sooooo good!
    • Use sweet potatoes (also known as kumara) instead of white potatoes – for chips, mash, casseroles and stews, on the BBQ or with your Sunday roast. They’re full of nutrients and very tasty.
    • Instead of traditional pasta, use a spiraliser to make zucchini or carrot noodles. They’re light, healthy and add more vegies to your meal. If you don’t have a spiraliser, you can buy them ready-made from the supermarket. And don’t stop at pasta – you can use spiralised vegies in so many meals.
    • Swap white rice for cauliflower ‘rice’. It’s lower in carbs and super easy to make. As with spiralised vegies, you can also buy cauliflower rice at your supermarket. And it’s sure to become the base of so many favourite new recipes.
    • Swap salt for herbs and spices. We tend to have too much salt in our diet – from what we add ourselves to the salts already in the foods we eat. We know this is bad for our blood pressure, but it’s also not great for our bone health as it causes calcium loss. So when you’re cooking, try using fresh or dried herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, chilli or black pepper instead of salt.

Be wary of your sugar intake

Too much sugar in your diet can increase muscle and joint inflammation, as well as cause weight gain, tooth decay and a whole host of other health issues. Reduce the number of sugary drinks you consume (including fruit juices, soft drinks and alcohol), use sugar alternatives when you cook or bake, and read the nutrition panel on foods to see how much sugar is in them before buying them. This article from Choice lists some of the many names for sugar. Also, check out this article from Weight Watchers for more ideas on how you can reduce your sugar intake.

Fake it!

Instead of your usual Saturday night takeaway, try making your own ‘fakeaway’. There are many websites with recipes and inspiration to make healthier versions of your favourite takeaway meals. Check out these recipes from KidSpot, the CSIRO and our wonderful volunteer Melissa, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Seek help

Talk with your doctor and/or an Accredited Practising Dietitian for information and advice. Visit Dietitians Australia to find an APD near you.

Other tips for keeping healthy and well during winter:

Take your time

Eat slowly, and savour your meal. Notice the tastes and textures and how it makes you feel – after all, food is more than just fuel. Also, as you eat, take the time to assess whether you’re still hungry or if you’re just eating because there’s food on your plate. If it’s the latter, stop eating.

Stay active

We need to exercise and be physically active for our musculoskeletal health, pain levels and overall good health. But it can be tough to fit regular exercise in our days when it’s so dark and cold on these wintery days. And it can take some firm resolve to slide out of bed on a chilly morning to walk before work. Find out how you can stay active in the cooler months.

Drink water

It lubricates and cushions our joints, aids digestion, prevents constipation, keeps our temperature normal and helps maintain blood pressure. It carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, flushes out toxins, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It can also help prevent gout attacks, boost energy levels and fight fatigue. It also makes us feel full, which in turn helps us maintain or lose weight. It’s practically magic ✨. But if you, like many others, find it difficult to drink enough water, read our blog for tips to help.

Batch cook

When you’re feeling great, and have a lazy few hours to prep meals for the coming week, do it. You’ll have healthy, hearty food to go in your fridge or freezer that you can pull out when you need a quick meal – no muss, no fuss. Check out our recent blog on cooking hacks for more info.

Make your meals colourful

Fruit and veggies fall into five different colour categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown. And each one has unique disease-fighting chemicals (phytochemicals). So when you’re making a meal, try and include as many colours as you can. It’s good for you, it looks appealing and tastes delicious!

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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24/Jun/2021

Tips for preparing meals with less stress

There are some days when the thought of preparing and cooking a meal is so overwhelming. You’re tired, you’re in pain, and it seems like too much effort. Curling up on the couch and ordering a pizza delivery seems like a much better option! However, one of the best things you can do to look after yourself when you have a chronic condition is to eat healthfully. Sadly (for me at least), that means having the local pizza joint ? on speed dial isn’t ideal.

But there are things you can do to make cooking easier and less hassle when you’re not feeling your best. Here are our top tips:

Plan your weekly meals

It’s not a particularly exciting thing to do, but making a plan for your coming week is really helpful. It ensures that you have all the ingredients you need, and it stops you from wasting money on the things you don’t. And if a case of brain fog hits when you’re standing in front of the fridge, your meal plan will sort you out. Check out The Spruce Eats top meal planning apps for 2021.

Shop online

This pandemic has really made online shopping easier and more efficient (hello new shoes ?). But as far as groceries go, it’s never been easier to order online and get exactly what you need delivered to your door. Or you can organise to click and collect, without having to leave your car. Perfect on a chilly winter’s day.

Give yourself a break

Not every meal has to be Masterchef worthy, using exotic ingredients and involving many steps. It just has to be tasty and healthy. Have a few recipes up your sleeve that you know you can cook with minimal effort or fuss and with the ingredients you have at home.

Organise your kitchen

Ensure the things you use regularly are within easy reach – that goes for ingredients and cooking utensils. And move the things you only use occasionally out of your way (e.g. lower cabinets, cupboard in the garage, sideboard). Don’t place heavy items on high shelves – it’s very easy to drop these things – especially if you’re tired. Use a kitchen trolley on wheels to move heavy pots from the bench to the cooktop or move meals from the kitchen to the dining area or lounge.

Take a load off

Keep a stool nearby so you can sit while you prepare your meals.

Clean as you go…or get others to do it for you

There’s nothing worse than cooking a lovely meal, relaxing while you eat it, then looking over to see a stack of dishes taunting you. So clean up the bulk of the mess as you go. Load the dishwasher, soak the stubborn pots and pans, and wipe down the benches. Or better still – rope in your partner/kids/housemates to help you. And it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up with each other.

Frozen fruit and vegies are great time savers, packed with nutrients

You can buy them at the supermarket, or prepare your own. Find out how you can freeze fruit, vegies, bread and herbs in this article by Good Food.

Get prepped!

Food prepping has taken over the internet, and there are endless articles, apps, videos and blogs to help you. You can prep your meals days in advance, then all you need to do is pull the pre-chopped, washed and/or cooked ingredients out of the fridge or freezer to throw together a meal in no time. Frugal and Thriving has a great guide to meal prepping.

Batch cook

When you’re feeling inspired and you have the time and energy, put on some music or a podcast, and cook batches of food to freeze. Then it’s just a matter of reheating and eating. Perfect! Check out My Foodbook for some practical tips to help you when it comes to batch cooking.

One pot wonders

Save yourself lots of mess and dirty dishes by cooking your meal in one pot. There are many books and websites with tasty recipes you can try that only require one pot (or pan). Borrow some cookbooks from your local library or fall down the rabbit hole of Pinterest for lots of inspiration. Here’s Taste’s 21 healthier one pot recipes. They all look delicious and very hearty, but I think I’m going to have to try the pumpkin, silverbeet and mushroom bake this weekend! Yum.

Go, go gadget!

Use kitchen gadgets and other aids to save energy, protect your joints and make things much easier when cooking. Things like electric can openers, jar openers, tap turners and thick-handled knives can be lifesavers. We have a small range of products available from our online shop.

Make it a social occasion

Cooking doesn’t have to be a solitary event if you have other people in the house. So get them involved. It’s an excellent way for kids to learn about cooking and becoming self-sufficient. But it’s also an opportunity to spend time together and share the load.

Slow it down with a slow cooker

Prepare your evening meal earlier in the day when you have more energy. Pop all your ingredients in a slow cooker and let it do its thing while you work, rest, read a book or put your feet up. Hours later, you’ll have a flavoursome pot of goodness to enjoy. Check out these slow cooker recipes from The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Take breaks

Sometimes we push ourselves just so we can get a task or chore done, but we can end up pushing ourselves past our limits. Sigh – we’ve all been there and paid the price. So whether you’re making the evening meal or you’re prepping for the week ahead, take a break (or two) to stretch, get some air, drink some water, and just move around. Standing in one place for a long period is not conducive to happy, pain-free joints. So take a break.

Drink water

When we’re in the middle of a task and focused, we often forget to drink enough water. Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated – have a glass of water nearby and drink regularly.

Cleaning up

We’ve already mentioned cleaning as you go and using only one pot, but there are other things you can do to make cleaning easier, such as:

  • use non-stick foil or baking paper to line your trays, as well as roasting bags; they’ll lessen the mess on your trays – which means less scrubbing
  • if you have a dishwasher, load it as you finish with dishes and cooking utensils
  • soak dirty pots and pans before you start scrubbing to loosen any baked-on gunk
  • clean up spills immediately
  • put ingredients away as soon as you’re done with them
  • keep a bowl nearby for scraps and rubbish, or bring the kitchen bin closer to where you’re working.

Call the pizza joint ?

Sometimes take away food is the option that’s best for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as it isn’t a regular thing. Takeaway foods are generally high in salt, sugar and/or fats and don’t give us all the nutrients we need in a balanced diet. Read the Dietitians Association of Australia’s takeaway food tips for more info.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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13/May/2021

You can’t pick up a magazine or scroll through socials without seeing a celebrity or influencer touting the latest probiotic, prebiotic, wonder food or tips to enhance your gut microbiome. When did the gut become big business? And what’s it all about?

Let’s take a deep dive into the gut microbiome (sorry – that sounds a little gross ?) and find out.

But first, some definitions:

  • microbes are tiny living things that exist all around us – in the air, soil, water, our food, and our bodies. They’re so small you can’t see them with the naked eye. They include bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea.
  • microbiota refers to the entire community of microbes that inhabit a specific place. In this article we’re referring to the human microbiota – or the community of microbes that lives in and on your body, with a specific focus on the bacteria in the gut.
  • microbiome is what we call the genetic material of all of the cells in the microbiota. So this is not just the microbes themselves, but all of the genes in all the microbes.

We’re all unique

We’ve known for many years that there are trillions of microbes living inside and on our bodies. But did you know there are almost as many microbial cells as human cells that call our bodies home?! (1)

The majority of these microbes are found along the digestive tract (or gut), especially in the large intestine.

Microbes are extremely important for our health. We exist with them in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship. That means that we both gain benefit from living in such close proximity with each other.

We provide them with a cosy place to live and an abundant supply of food to feed on. They help us digest food, absorb nutrients and fight off harmful bacteria. They also have an effect on our metabolism, weight, mood, and most importantly, they help develop, modify and control our immune system.

We’ve evolved with these microbes over thousands of years, passing them on from generation to generation. However your microbiome is completely unique to you.

It started to develop when you were a newborn and was shaped by your mother’s health, how you were born (vaginally or via caesarean) and how you were fed as an infant (breastmilk, formula or combination). Then a multitude of other factors contributed to your microbiome, including where you live (e.g. rural/urban), your diet, the medications you use, if you’re a smoker, and your stress levels.

The link between our microbiome and disease

Even though we live in a symbiotic relationship with our gut microbiota, that doesn’t mean that all of the bacteria present in our gut are beneficial. It simply means that in a healthy person the gut microbiome is relatively stable, and the ‘good’ bacteria keep in check the numbers of ‘bad’ bacteria that could become harmful to us.

For a healthy gut microbiome, we need sufficient levels and a diverse range of good bacteria. Poor diet, smoking, chronic stress and antibiotics can all affect the quantity and types of bacteria we have in our gut.

Many studies have shown that it’s disturbances or imbalances with the gut microbiota that may contribute to the onset and/or severity of a long list of diseases. And that people who develop these conditions have too little or too much of certain types of bacteria, or lack some types of bacteria completely.

For many autoimmune conditions, the cause is unknown. A genetic predisposition, coupled with an unknown trigger is often the closest we have to a cause.

This has led some researchers investigating whether imbalances in the gut microbiome may be the a potential trigger that could result in some people developing:

  • inflammatory bowel disease (9) (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
  • diabetes (8)
  • musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (2, 3), ankylosing spondylitis (4), and psoriatic arthritis (5).

Scientists are researching whether improving the diversity and health of gut microbiota in people with these diseases will also decrease their symptoms.

Probiotics and prebiotics

Some of the treatments being researched include probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are similar to those living in our digestive tract. They’re found in cultured and fermented foods including yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha tea.

Probiotics help to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria in the gut and support our immune defences. They also help to break down foods we find difficult to digest, or foods that aren’t broken down by stomach acids.

One meta-analysis investigated whether probiotic supplements provided any benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Researchers concluded that there’s a potential role for probiotics in relieving inflammation for people with RA; however more research is needed before we can know if probiotics can relieve the disease progression (6).

Safety note – if you have a weakened immune system due to your condition and/or medications, you should talk with your doctor before taking a probiotic, as they contain live bacteria, and may not be safe for you to take.

Prebiotics are a form of dietary fibre that we can’t digest. But our good bacteria love them, and they’re a great food source to help them grow and multiply in your gut. They’re found in foods such as beans, asparagus, garlic, brown rice, bananas and sweet potatoes.

Scientists are investigating whether prebiotics can be used to treat or manage a range of health issues.

Looking after your gut microbiome

While there’s a lot of research being carried out investigating how our gut microbiome affects our health, we still have a long way to go before we have any definitive answers, especially when it comes to our musculoskeletal health. Our microbiomes are all so diverse and unique, which makes this research complex. And this research is also still quite new. So ‘watch this space’! We’ll bring you more information, especially as it relates to musculoskeletal conditions, as it emerges.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to look after, and even improve your gut microbiome. And the good news is that these things are also good for managing your musculoskeletal condition/s and health in general.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet with a wide range of foods. The microbes in our gut are attracted to different nutrients. So providing a diverse range of healthy foods – fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, fermented foods – means that you’ll be making a diverse group of microbes happy and healthy.
  • Eat a wide variety of fibre. The CSIRO says we can “feed our gut bacteria or microbiome by eating foods rich in resistant starch; for example, lentils, peas and beans, cooked and cooled potato, cold pasta salad, firm bananas, and certain wholegrain products” (7).
  • Avoid foods high in saturated fat and sugar as they have a negative impact on your microbiome.
  • Exercise – you didn’t think I’d get through an article without promoting exercise did you ?? Apart from all the amazing things regular exercise can do to help us manage our musculoskeletal conditions, our weight, mood, and sleep…studies have shown that exercise can improve the quantity and quality of the microbes in our gut. To find out more, check out this article from The Conversation.
  • Manage your stress. Studies have shown that stress – including psychological and emotional stress, lack of sleep, and stress caused by our environment such as noise, or extremes in temperature – can negatively affect the microbes in our gut. To manage stress, you can try to manage any environmental causes, get good, quality sleep, and use stress management techniques such as distraction, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation and deep breathing.
  • Avoid antibiotics when they’re not needed, They should only be used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics can’t kill viruses, so they shouldn’t be used for illnesses like the common cold. But they do kill bacteria – including the good ones we need in our gut. So discuss the risks and benefits of using antibiotics with your doctor. Read this information from the National Prescribing Service about antibiotics.
  • Get outdoors and interact with your environment. Whether it’s a walk in the park or digging in your garden, exposing yourself to external microbes is good for your microbiome.
  • Stop smoking – it affects your overall health, including the microbes that call you home. Quitting is hard, but there are people and organisations who can help you.
  • Talk with your doctor and/or dietitian about how you can improve your diet, for better gut health.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore

References

  1. Sender R, et al. 2016. Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. PLoS Biology.
  2. Wells, P. M., et al. 2020. Associations between gut microbiota and genetic risk for rheumatoid arthritis in the absence of disease: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet. Rheumatology.
  3. Taneja, V. 2014, Arthritis susceptibility and the gut microbiome. FEBS Letters.
  4. Fletcher, J. 2021.Expert perspectives: Ankylosing spondylitis and the gut microbiome. Medical News Today.
  5. Fletcher, J. 2020. Psoriatic arthritis and the microbiome: Is there a link? Medical News Today.
  6. Mohammed, A.T, et al. 2017. The therapeutic effect of probiotics on rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials. Clinical Rheumatology.
  7. CSIRO, 2021, Resistant starch.
  8. Branca, M (2021). Plant-based diet may feed key gut microbes. The Harvard Gazette.
  9. Knights, D.et al (2014). Complex host genetics influence the microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease. Genome Med 6, 107 (2014).

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24/Sep/2020

A healthy diet doesn’t have to break the bank

Hands up if, like me, you’ve developed some ‘not so great’ eating habits during iso and lockdown? Snacking more often, larger serves and comfort eating? Combined with being less active than usual, this can lead to weight gain. Not great for our joints and overall wellbeing.

And with tight budgets – and tighter waistbands (hello COVID kilos) – it’s timely to look at how well we’re eating and how we can eat well for less.
Here are our top tips for enjoying tasty, healthy meals and snacks that won’t break the bank.

  • Plan your meals/snacks and write a list of the ingredients you need before you hit the shops. This is a must, because it’s easy to forget things, buy the wrong quantities or buy items you don’t need in the heat of the moment (step away from the Tim Tams Lisa). Check out this information from eatforhealth.gov.au for tips on meal planning. There are also a lot of meal planner apps you can download from Google Play or App Store. They give you the convenience of your meal plan and shopping list on your phone. No more forgotten shopping lists!
  • Choose generic products. They’re generally cheaper and are often the same product as the name brand, just with less fancy packaging. So check out the generic, home brand and no-name versions of your staples, such as flour, tinned tomatoes, legumes and oats.
  • Read the nutrition panel. It’s a good habit to get into so that you can track the amount of energy (kilojoules), fat, salt, sugar etc in your foods. It’s also useful when you’re comparing different brands of the same product.
  • Replace some meat dishes for vegetarian meals. Research has found that a vegetarian diet costs less than a diet that includes meat. You don’t have to go all out vego, but simply swap a few of your meat dishes for plant-based meals. They’re tasty, healthy and cheap. Just make sure you do your research to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Healthy vegetarian protein sources include tofu, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, lentils, eggs and nuts. If you need help, there are a lot of great websites with interesting and tasty vegetarian recipes – from simple to more complex recipes. Something for everyone!
  • Prepare meals in advance. When you’ve got some free time, make extra meals that you can freeze and use when necessary. That way when you’re exhausted, or having a flare, or just can’t be bothered cooking, you’ll have some meals you know are healthy. And you won’t have to resort to takeaway foods or store-bought frozen meals, which can be costly and are often high in fat, salt and/or sugar.
  • Buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are local and in season. It’s cheaper, fresher and supports our local farmers. And goodness knows they need all the support they can get! The Foodwise website can help you find what’s in season. They even have a seasonal meal planner. Very handy!
  • Grow your own. Many of us have discovered the joy of gardening this year. So why not grow some of your own produce? Whether it’s small scale with a few pots of herbs on your balcony or larger scale vegie patch and fruit trees in your backyard, you can experience the pleasure, and reap the rewards of growing some of your own foods. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve nurtured, grown and picked yourself.
  • Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables can often be used in place of fresh. They’re still healthy and they’re often cheaper. They’ll also keep longer. Just make sure to check the nutrition panel. Canned foods may have added salt or sugar. So for vegies, look for ‘no added salt’ on the label, and choose fruits in natural juice and with no added sugar, rather than canned in syrup.
  • Read the unit price when comparing products. This will enable you to see the difference in price regardless of brand or quantity, and you can work out which provides the best value for money. Unit pricing works by using a standard measurement across all products of the same type.
    So for example, if you compared yoghurt X with yoghurt Y:
    * yoghurt X costs $6.40 for 1kg, so its unit price is $0.64 per 100g;
    * yoghurt Y costs $2.30 for 200g, so its unit price is $1.15 per 100g.
    That makes yoghurt X cheaper per 100g.
    Luckily, you don’t have to tie yourself up in knots doing this math when you’re shopping – the unit price is provided on the shelf label and online. Thank goodness! Shopping is hard enough!
  • Shop around. Just because you’ve always shopped at a certain shop doesn’t mean you always have to shop there. Visit the local farmers markets, keep an eye on catalogues and join online groups with other savvy shoppers. That way you’ll always be in the know about who’s providing the best value for money for your groceries. Times are tough, and there are less than 100 days until Christmas – so doing a little research before you go shopping is worth it!
  • For items that last, and that you use regularly, buy in bulk. This includes things like rice, dried/canned legumes and pasta. But please don’t go crazy and start hoarding. Buying in bulk to save money is different to the panic buying we saw earlier this year. If we all shop for only the things we need, there’ll be plenty to go around for everyone.
  • Reduce your kitchen waste. Shopping with a list will help here, and also only buying what you need. Take note of the foods that you often throw out because they’ve become a mysterious, furry blob in your fridge. Avoid buying that item, or buy less of it when you shop. Or look for ways to use food that’s becoming slightly less than fresh, but is still good. Soups are a great way to use the last of the vegies in your fridge crisper. Also check out the Foodwise website. It has lots of tips to help you reduce waste, as well as recipes, meal plans, info on what’s in season and loads more.
  • Takeaway tips. Let’s face it there’ll be times when we really, really want takeaway food. As long as it’s an occasional thing and we eat it in moderation, it shouldn’t have too great an impact on our health or wallet. Here are some tips from Health and Wellbeing Queensland to help you make the healthiest choices when it comes to takeaway food.
  • Finally, don’t shop when you’re hungry. It’s a really easy way to find lots of tasty, but unhealthy things in your trolley that weren’t on your shopping list. It’ll blow your budget and your plans for healthy eating right out of the water. So shop after you’ve eaten, or munch on an apple or banana or handful of nuts before you even consider walking into the bright lights and air-conditioned aisles of your local shopping centre. Your budget will thank you for it.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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26/May/2018

Do you feel like your diet has gotten away from you? Have you spent winter eating yummy, warm and kilojoule dense foods, and now your clothes fit a little more snugly than you’d like? Or do you just feel like it’s time to get serious and make sure you’re eating as well as you can – to improve your health, energy levels and mood?

Here are some handy hints to help you get started.

Seek advice. If you need help planning well-balanced meals, managing your weight, or finding simple and easy ways to prepare nutritious meals, talk with a dietitian for information and advice.

Make your meals colourful. Fruit and veggies fall into five different colour categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown. And each one has unique disease fighting chemicals (phytochemicals). So when you’re making a meal, try and include as many colours as you can. It’s good for you, it looks appealing and tastes delicious!

Be cautious with food labels – light, lite, fat-free, reduced-fat, baked not fried…what’s it all mean? For a start it doesn’t necessarily mean the food is a healthier option. Lite and light may refer to the colour or taste – not the kilojoules. Low fat (less than 3% fat) or no fat (less than 1% fat) may have high levels of sugar. So take these claims with a grain of salt, and…

Read the nutrition panel. Understand the servings per package, and how big that serving size is. Check the number of kilojoules per serve, how much salt, sugar, fat is in each serve. And don’t forget to check out the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order from the largest quantity to the smallest. Be aware that fats, sugars and salt may be called something else – e.g. sugar may also be sucrose, glucose, fructose, honey, lactose, maltose, molasses, dextrose, golden syrup etc. Understanding the nutrition panel can be a little tricky when you first start, but it’ll soon become second nature. Check out the Eat for Health website for more information.

Be sceptical of the latest fad or celebrity diet. There seems to be a new one each week! If you need to lose or gain weight, talk with your doctor and get safe, practical advice and support. Don’t follow the latest diet you’ve seen online or in magazines. If it sounds too good to be true – I lost 20 kilos in just 2 weeks, you can too! – it probably is.

Prepare meals in advance. When your pain is under control, take some time to make extra meals that you can freeze and use when necessary. This way you’ll be eating meals you know are healthy, and not resorting to quick and easy takeaway foods or store-bought frozen meals – which are often high in fat, salt and/or sugar.

Talk with your doctor about supplements. If you think your diet is lacking some essential nutrients (e.g. calcium) talk with your doctor. Some people may need to take supplements if their diet is inadequate.

Join a group – if you need to lose weight and need information and support, think about joining a weight loss group. Sharing the journey with others who understand how you feel and the setbacks you may encounter can be extremely helpful.

Check out our recipes – they’ve been created by Melissa Jones, an Accredited Practising Dietitian who works in the aged care and disability sector. Melissa has kindly volunteered her expertise and knowledge to help us bring healthy and nutritious recipes to people with musculoskeletal conditions.

These are just a few tips to help you eat well and have a healthy diet. If you have some suggestions or want to share what you do, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.




Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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