Don’t Diet and Be Healthier and Happier!

Restrictive eating, whether it be a diet such as the 5:2 diet, paleo, sugar free, raw food diet,the Atkins diet or simply limiting what and how much you eat is NOT HEALTHY!  Restrictive eating labels food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and dieters feel guilty eating the ‘bad’ food. People restrict the food they eat for a number of reasons, mostly to lose weight but sometimes it’s because they think its healthier; to eat less and not eat sugar or carbs or fat. Well guess what, it’s not! All food has is morally equal and you can achieve the same goals without the diet!

I am an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) but I was not always healthy.

This is what I looked like 3 years ago                              And me today….
(when I was still at uni)…


The difference is 15kg and a healthier, happier mindset! What’s funny is that I now eat far more food and far more liberally, and exercise less than I did back then.

I used to run on the treadmill almost everyday and feel guilty if I didn’t. I excluded all ‘bad’ food from my diet and when I ate that food I felt guilty. I felt guilty when I ate too much, and always tried to eat as little as possible. I hated myself and my body more when the scales didn’t change.

For me the step that initiated my journey to health was choosing to love and accept my body exactly the way it was then. I stopped trying to lose weight, I stopped weighing myself. Instead I chose to nourish my body with good food. I chose to exercise to improve my fitness and only when I felt like it. For the first time I set fitness related goals; (the first was running 5km outside without stopping). I ate more mindfully and took pleasure from my food again. I ate chocolate and ice cream and enjoyed every mouthful without guilt. I learned to listen to my body cues eating when I felt hungry and stopping when I was full.  In taking the focus away from my weight I managed to lose more weight than I ever thought possible and better yet I have kept it off!

So why does this approach work? How is it possible to eat more, exercise less and still lose weight? Here’s why…

Dieting or restrictive eating:

  • slows the rate at which your body burns calories
  • Increases your body’s efficiency at using every possible calorie from the food you eat so you digest food faster and get hungrier quicker
  • causes craving for high fat foods
  • increases your appetite
  • reduces your energy levels
  • lowers your body temperature so you use less energy
  • reduces your ability to feel “hungry” or “full”
  • reduces total amount of muscle tissue
  • increases fat storage enzymes and decreases fat releasing enzymes.

So ditch the diet and trust your body to know how to eat. Easier said than done right? Well here are few concepts to get you started.

The first concept is to accept that you can be healthy at any size. It is a common misconception that you have to be slim to be healthy or that you are unhealthy if you are overweight or obese. This is simply NOT true. Thin people can develop diabetes, CVD, cancer and hypertension too. It’s what’s going on INSIDE the body not its shape that matters!

A slim figure is portrayed as desirable by the media, but imagine if we were all thin – how boring would that be! Everyone has a different shape, that is unique and beautiful in different ways. So forget being slim, there is nothing sexier than confidence and taking pride in the way you look. Put away the scales and just accept the skin your in! Learn to love your body – after all it’s the only one you’ve got!

The non diet approach means that all food is morally equal. There is no good or bad. An apple and a bowl of ice cream both provide energy and nourish the body but in different ways. I’m not saying you should eat ice cream everyday, what I am saying is that all food can be enjoyed healthily. Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of food coming mostly from unprocessed sources and plant foods AND being able to enjoy some chocolate or a cheesy pizza when you feel like it.

Eat mindfully. This means following hunger and satiety cues, and eating more slowly. Think about the taste and texture of the food. The temperature, the smell…. take pleasure in the experience. Be grateful for the meal, appreciate the journey the food has made to be on your table. Thank yourself or the person who prepared the meal for you. In doing this and listening to your body you will be less likely to overeat or if you do you won’t feel guilty because you enjoyed every single mouthful of that meal and you deserved to!

The next concept is embracing and enjoying movement. The benefits of physical activity are well established. Just light-moderate activity (such as a walk) of 30 minutes five times a week has been shown to improve mental wellbeing, blood sugar levels, increase the good cholesterol and lower the bad, improve blood lipid profile, decrease blood pressure and improve metabolism and fat mobilisation. What’s more these health markers improve in obese and slim individuals alike!

Finding the right movement for you can be difficult. There are so many great ways to move our body such as dancing, sports, running, walking, cycling, martial arts, yoga and swimming.  First take the focus away from burning calories when you engage in physical activity, it should be fun and maybe challenge yourself in someway.  Pick an activity or a try a few that fit in with your busy schedule. Take it easy, start slow and remember you are moving your body because you want to not because you have to! There is no need to feel guilty when you don’t. Moving your body with a friend or family member can be a lot more fun and a great way to start.

The non diet approach is not sexy, it does not promise fast weight loss or any weight loss. We aren’t all meant to be slim and it is possible that you are already at a healthy size for you. This approach is not celebrity endorsed however it is backed by research and numerous qualified health professionals. It offers flexibility and long term, sustainable results. Choosing to put away the scales, to stop counting calories and restricting your diet will improve not just your physical health but also your social and emotional wellbeing.

I will leave you with this quote from Dr Linda Bacon,  who has done a lot of work in this area:

“Losing weight is not about finding the perfect proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and fat or tricking yourself into feeling satisfied. Rather, maintaining the right weight for you is about respecting your hunger and trusting your body to guide you doing what is best.”

This post was based on information sourced from a webinar presented by APD Fiona Willer on the Non-diet Approach to Weight Management as well as from the amazing Facebook page run by 2 brilliant APDs: Zoe Nicholson and Jodie Arnot: and journal article: Bacon L, Aphramor L. Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutr J 2011; 10:9.

I highly recommend checking out the links below for more information and inspiration:

And definitely get your hands on this book: 

If not dieting, then what? By Rick Kausman, an Australian medical doctor

Sugar free Pavlova!

IMG_5047 Pavlova is a family favourite recipe that both Australians and New Zealanders try to claim as their own. It’s a light fluffy meringue with a creamy top, usually enjoyed in summer.

Here I have taken the traditional recipe and made it sugar free, lower in fat and less calorie dense. This recipe uses stevia in place of sugar. Stevia is a sweetener with no calories and originates from the Stevia plant.

The refined extract of the leaves is called Steviosides and is 250-300 times sweeter than table sugar. Therefore only a very small amount is needed. Stevia comes in both powder and liquid form. Sweetness varies between products so be sure to read the packet for how much you should add. In general the liquids are more concentrated and so only a few drops is needed.

Stevia, is advertised as a more natural sweetener as it comes from a plant and has been used for centuries by tribes in Brazil.  Following rigorous testing it’s use has been approved in Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Canada, Japan, China and many more countries.

It’s use can provide more flexibility in the diet. By replacing added sugar it reduces the calorie content of some foods and thus can be used for weight management and in managing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. If you are looking for a way to reduce your calorie intake and cut back on the added sugar while still enjoying the sweet stuff Stevia may be a good option for you. IMG_5057 Ingredients: For 2 serves Base: 2 egg whites stevia syrup 2 drops 1/2 tsp white vinegar 1 tbs arrowroot powder 1 tsp vanilla essence Topping 2/3c plain greek yoghurt or quark 1/2 vanilla bean scraped or 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tsp stevia syrup Blueberries Strawberries diced Kiwi fruit diced Fresh mint Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 100 degrees  celsius and prepare baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine Stevia and egg whites in a bowl and beat until very stiff. Sprinkle over vinegar and cornstarch, fold in very gently with a spatula. Spread meringue onto baking paper to around the size of a small plate.
  3. Bake on the centre shelf for 30-40 minutes or until a very pale colour and firm. Turn off oven and let cool completely in the oven with door slightly ajar (about an hour).
  4. Whisk yoghurt with scraped vanilla bean or vanilla essence and Stevia and spread over meringue.
  5. Top with diced strawberries, kiwi, berries and garnish with fresh mint.

Chickpea Pizza Crust

IMG_8861This pizza crust is gluten free, really high in protein and fibre, is ready in just 30mins and taste delicious!

Growing up the only pizzas I actually liked were homemade. My Mum made the bases from scratch and I loved being able to pile on all my favourites toppings. Making everything from scratch can be time consuming but this crust provides the solution.


For 1 big pizza (serves 2)

  • 1 can chickpeas (400g)
  • ½ cup almond meal (buckwheat meal and coconut flour also work well)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 2 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • pinch of oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius.
  2. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend till smooth.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread out mixture into desired shape.
  4. Bake at 220 degrees celsius for 15-20mins till crisp. You can prepare your toppings now.
  5. Flip pizza over – carefully not to break it and top with whatever you like.
  6. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes

It is also very versatile. I have also made crusts from cannelini beans, black-eyed beans and black beans all of which turned out equally delicious.

Nourishing Chocolate Cake!

This cake is not only addictively delicious its also gluten free, refined sugar free, high in protein, fibre, anti-oxidants and even prebiotics!


The base for the cake is cannelloni or white beans. These legumes are naturally gluten free, high in fibre, low GI and contain anti-oxidants and are a source of prebiotics (essential for a healthy gut).

There is nothing wrong with a bit of sugar however too much refined sugar or fructose has been linked to inducing metabolic syndrome (promoting fat storage, high blood sugar levels and abnormal cholesterol levels leading to Type 2 diabetes, CVD and obesity). This cake uses only bananas and dates to provide natural, unrefined sugary goodness. Yes these fruits do contain sugar but they also contain fibre and the sugar is released more slowly into the blood stream than refined sugar. I have talked about some of the health benefits of bananas in my Coconut Banana Bread Recipe, so I will not bore you with that again. Dates are not just deliciously sweet but are also really really good sources of fibre which actually helps to lower the LDL, or bad cholesterol (reducing or reversing metabolic syndrome). They are good sources of antioxidants, iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium. All of which are essential vitamins and minerals for good health.

The icing for the cake uses cashew nuts. These nuts are high in monounsaturated fat and soluble dietary fibre which lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and increases the good HDL cholesterol. They are also great sources of numerous vitamins and minerals including Selenium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.

Finally Cocao, the raw, refined sugar free one, is a great source of anti-oxidants.

So combine all these healthy ingredients and you get one delicious yet healthy chocolate cake!

Cake Ingredients

1 can white beans rinsed or 1.5 cups cooked

2 very ripe bananas mashed

6 pitted dates soaked in hot water

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2cup flour eg: coconut flour, almond meel, buckwheat flour or finely ground oats

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

4 eggs or sub with flax eggs.

1 tsp cinnamon


Add all ingredients to the blender and blend till smooth.

Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 50 minutes. Allow to cool before icing.

Icing Ingredients:

8 pitted dates soaked in coffee (made from instant or machine)

1/2 cup soaked cashews (soaked for at least 2 hours in water)

4 tb greek yoghurt/quark or coconut cream

2 tb raw cacao

2 tb coffee


Blend all ingredients. Spread icing over cake and top with fresh/frozen berries. Store in fridge and enjoy! IMG_8701

Chocolate Quinoa Porridge

IMG_8641 Feel like dessert for breakfast? Well when it taste this good and is this healthy you can!

This recipe is gluten free, vegan and insanely delicious. It’s super high in protein and fibre, and low GI to give you that longer lasting energy for those busy mornings.

I’ve added a few veggies to this porridge which you can leave it out if you find that too weird however I assure you they have absolutely no affect on the flavour or texture of the dish and of course boost the fibre content and nutritional profile!

There is nothing wrong with good old fashioned oats, however quinoa porridge makes a great gluten free alternative. It’s also a really good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans as it contains all 20 essential amino acids. On top of this it is a good source of iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Additionally it has been found to contain large amounts of flavonoids which act as anti-oxidants. It’s high fibre content (5.2g/1 cup cook) makes this gluten free grain a real winner! The recipe…

For 1 Serve
⅓ cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp chia seeds or flaxseeds
1 small ripe banana
½ cup almond milk
1 heaped TB tahini
2 tb raw cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3TB pumpkin puree
¼-½ zucchini grated
fresh or frozen berries, pumpkin kernels, goji berries to serve


  1. Cook quinoa as per normal. I cook up a big batch and use it during the week in place of rice (adding to sales or having it with curries etc). Its cooked like rice. Rinse it with water before cooking. Cook on a 1:2 ratio e.g.: 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Cooks in about 20 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan mash banana with a fork; adding cocoa, chia seeds, cinnamon and tahini.
  3. Add cooked quinoa and pumpkin puree, then stir in almond milk and grated zucchini.
  4. Turn on stove to low heat and stir porridge constantly until thick and warm.
  5. Add more cinnamon, cacao or whatever you like to flavour it.
  6. Serve with fresh or frozen berries, goji berries, pumpkin kernels or whatever you fancy and enjoy.


Better Than Beef Black Bean Burgers!


This is my absolute favourite go-to-dish when I’m hungry, time poor or just craving a dam good burger. They are made from ingredients found in the cupboard and take less than 15 minutes to cook. They are vegan, gluten free and dairy free but even my meat-munching-man can’t get enough of them.

Black beans, like all legumes and pulses, are a good source of protein, fibre and low GI carbohydrate with less than 1 gram of fat per ½ cup serve.  Additionally these beans are high in folic acid and magnesium and a good source of potassium and iron, all of which are important for good health.
All legumes including black beans contain prebiotics which are the fibrous, undigested compounds found in food. Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria. Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria has been shown to benefit digestion, absorption and improve immune function. A healthy balance of gut bacteria has even been found to aid in the prevention and management of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammatory diseases! All this from beans!


For 6 burgers

⅓ cup ground buckwheat (can substitute with oats – both are delicious)
1 small red onion or ½ a large one, roughly chopped
400g tinned black beans, rinsed (can substitute with kidney beans if you can’t get your hands on those black beans)
3 tb fresh parsley or pinch of dried
2 tb natural, unsalted peanut butter
1 tb nutritional yeast
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of coriander
Cracked black pepper


1. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until just combined. Some bean chunks are fine.
2. Shape into 6 flat, round patties.
3. If you have a bit more time bake them in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 mins (10 mins for each side) No oil is required here.
4. Alternatively you can fry them up using olive oil.
5. Enjoy any way you like

Here are some ideas….

IMG_8621 IMG_8623 IMG_8230IMG_8550IMG_8177

Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta Bake


Whether you’re lactose or dairy intolerant, vegan or simply looking for a lighter, healthier meal this recipe is for you! This dish is packed with cheesy flavour without any actual cheese or dairy!  The base for the sauce is cauliflower; an extremely versatile vegetable that is not only low in kilojoules but also rich in all the good stuff! Its got those B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folic acid) all essential for numerous bodily functions such as producing energy and for making red blood cells. It’s also a good source of omega -3 fatty acid, vitamin K, protein, phosphorous and potassium. But that’s not all, this humble vegetable is super rich in antioxidants which aid in the prevention of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. With the omega 3 and vitamin K it also helps prevent against inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

So treat yourself and your loved ones to this comforting, healthy dish that will leave you felling good inside and out!



For 4 serves

1 small cauliflower roughly chopped
1 large carrot roughly chopped
1 yellow onion roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves crushed
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tb olive oil
½ cup almond milk
⅓ cup nutritional yeast flakes
¼ cup cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
Black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika
300g pasta of choice

Optional extras
5 large mushrooms diced
250g spinach thawed
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup broccoli florets

¼ cup chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Steam cauliflower and carrot till soft.
  3. Cook pasta as per packet instructions.
  4. Saute onion, garlic and mustard seeds in olive oil till onion is soft and mustard seeds start to pop.
  5. In a blender combine onion mixture, cauliflower, carrot, cashews, almond milk, nutritional yeast, paprika, cayenne pepper. Blend all ingredients. Then taste and season, adding black pepper and more spices if you like.
  6. Now you have the option to add a few more veggies to your sauce if you like. I have listed my favourites; peas, spinach and mushrooms If you are adding mushrooms cook this in the same pot as you cooked the onion, adding more olive oil if needed.
  7. Combine pasta, sauce and extra veggies. Pour into baking dish and top with broccoli florets and chopped almonds. The almonds and broccoli both add a delicious crunch to the dish. Lastly sprinkle a bit more nutritional yeast over the whole thing and pop it in the oven.
  8. Bake for 15-20minutes until broccoli and almonds are toasted.
  9. Enjoy!

I have made this dish so many times and every time I make it a little bit differently depending on what veggies I have. Pumpkin instead of the carrot works really well and topping the whole dish with kale also adds a tasty crunch.

IMG_8616 IMG_8618