Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes

Is diabetes during pregnancy caused by eating sweets? We explore the causes behind gestational diabetes and how it can be managed.
Gestational diabetes (GD) is the medical term given for diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy. For many women it can be an upsetting diagnosis, but despite what many people think, it isn’t caused by eating sweets.

Who is at risk?

GD occurs in about five per cent of pregnancies but the incidence is increasing. In Pacific Island, Indian and Asian women the incidence may be as high as 10 per cent.
A woman is more likely to develop GD if she has certain risk factors, but it can develop in a woman who has no risk factors.
Risk factors for GD
A family history of diabetes
Being overweight
Over 25 years of age
Multiple pregnancy, ie. twins or more
A history of gestational diabetes or complicated pregnancy

Why does it happen?

During pregnancy, hormonal changes occur in a woman’s body to ensure a steady supply of glucose, as fuel, to the growing baby. One of the changes in the mother is the development of ‘insulin resistance’ which means her body doesn’t take up glucose as readily as usual. This is thought to help channel glucose to the baby in preference to the mother.
Women with GD have a greater severity of insulin resistance than that seen in normal pregnancies and are unable to produce enough insulin to control their own blood glucose levels. Consequently, their blood glucose levels rise above the normal range for pregnancy.

Why is it a problem?

Gestational Diabetes 2Gestational diabetes has health implications for a mother and her baby. One of the most widely recognised health implications is the risk of the baby growing too fat during pregnancy which can lead to complications in delivery. Untreated GD puts the baby at risk of growing disproportionately fat while in utero and suffering breathing difficulty, jaundice and low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) at birth. It also puts the mother at increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.
The good news is, control of the mother’s blood glucose levels during pregnancy can prevent these complications.
After pregnancy, women who have had GD have a very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. There is also increasing evidence that GD influences the future health prospects of the child, with children of mothers who had GD found to be at higher risk of obesity and diabetes in later life.

How do I know if I have it?

General symptoms such as thirst, lethargy, increased hunger, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginal thrush – which are often put down to simply being pregnant – can also be signs of GD.
It is recommended all pregnant women should consider being tested for GD at 26-28 weeks gestation, especially those with risks factors. Testing involves measuring the woman’s blood glucose response to a glucose drink (a glucose challenge test). If this test reads high, the woman will then do a fasting test over two hours.

How is it managed?

Gestational diabetes is managed with healthy eating, exercise and regular blood glucose monitoring. Some women will need to have more tailored carbohydrate portions for their meals, and some may need to have insulin injections as well. The insulin won’t harm the baby – it is a copy of what the woman’s body normally makes.
Tips to help control your blood glucose levels
Eat regularly – little and often is far better than large and irregular meals.
Choose low-GI carbohydrate – whole grain breads, cereals such as low-GI mueslis, rolled oats and All-Bran, legumes, fruit and low-fat dairy products.
Moderate the amount of carbohydrate you eat – avoid eating large meals of pasta, rice, bread or potato. Include these carbohydrate foods at different meals across the day in combination with vegetables, salads and lean protein foods.
Minimise foods high in saturated fat – this includes crisps, pastries, takeaways, butter and cream, biscuits and cakes.
Limit sugary foods and drinks – including soft drinks, cordials, confectionery and desserts.

Common questions

Will I be able to breastfeed?
Having GD does not affect your ability to breastfeed. Breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for a baby and recommended as the sole food until the baby is around six months old. Breastfeeding may lower a child’s future risk of diabetes and a recent study suggested that it may even reduce a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Will I get GD in my next pregnancy?
The rate of recurrence of GD varies but most women who have had GD in one pregnancy will develop it again in future pregnancies. In fact, blood glucose levels should be checked earlier in subsequent pregnancies because of the risk of undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes between pregnancies.
Gestational DiabetesHow can I reduce my risk of diabetes in the future?
If you have had GD, it is important to try to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and a good level of physical fitness after pregnancy. Eat a healthy diet which is low in saturated fat, rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish and whole grains, and include regular physical activity.

The good news

  • If blood glucose levels are controlled, a woman can safely expect a full-term pregnancy and a normal delivery.
  • The baby will have no greater risk of being born with diabetes.
  • Chances are your diabetes will go away as soon as the baby is born. There is, however, an increased risk of diabetes in the future, so it is important to have your blood glucose checked six to 12 weeks after delivery and annually after that.

HFG goes global!

HFG goes global!

by Pip Mehrtens last modified Dec 07, 2011 04:28 PM
Media release: NZ-owned magazine goes global
Magazine readers in the UK and Ireland are to get a food magazine that has been invented and cooked up in New Zealand.
Award-winning Auckland-based Healthy Food Guide magazine has been picked up internationally and will be published in the UK and Ireland.
It is believed to be one of the first ever New Zealand-created magazines to get international editions.
The independently-run New Zealand-owned magazine, which won the New Zealand magazine industry’s prestigious MPA Magazine of the Year award this year, is to be published under license by experienced publishers Eye to Eye Media, which also publish the UK version of upmarket food magazine, delicious.
“To be recognized internationally and launched under license is the ultimate stamp of approval for any publisher,” says the magazine’s managing director, Phil Ryan.
“They love this title and know the timing is right for the UK market.”
The magazine was launched in 2005 as a monthly consumer guide as to what foods are healthiest and how to prepare them in a healthy way.
It has been one of the country’s consistently fastest growing publications, with the latest official circulation figures showing a monthly readership of over 330,000.  Phil Ryan said it was “a great thrill to see all our hard work pay off.”
The UK edition will be launched on March 3rd 2011. There will be no change to the New Zealand or Australian editions, which will still be written and published in New Zealand and Australia respectively.
Phil Ryan said that Eye To Eye Media were established publishers, who turned out an impressive magazine of their own with delicious and would do a “brilliant job” with his title. He is looking forward to working with them as they develop the title in the UK.
For interviews, or further information:
Phil Ryan
09 304 0920

Eye to Eye Media website is
Seamus Geoghegan
+44 20 7775 7777

Boosting folic acid

Boosting folic acidFolic acid fortification in food is a bid to reduce the risk of pregnancies affected by Neural Tube Defect (NTD).
Spina bifida is the most common type of NTD causing lifelong walking, bladder and bowel problems. More than half of the babies with NTDs are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. While mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid is now scheduled for 31 May 2012, the Ministry of Health recommends the following folic acid tablet intake for at least four weeks before and 12 weeks after becoming pregnant, or when you find you are pregnant:
  • Women at low risk of an NTD pregnancy – 0.8 mg (800 microgram) folic acid tablet daily.
  • Women at high risk of an NTD pregnancy (including women who have previously had a NTD pregnancy, have a family history of NTD or whose partner had a family history of NTD) – 5 mg folic acid tablet daily.
The folic acid tablets are available subsidised on prescription or can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies.
Source: Ministry of Health

Ask the experts: Mould cheeses

Ask the experts: Mould cheesesIs there penicillin in mould cheeses like camembert and brie?
Question icon"Would the mould on camembert and brie cheeses affect an allergy to penicillin? My hubby loves his different cheeses but has not been game enough to try these two cheeses due to the mould. Are they both unsafe to eat or do they have different moulds on them?"
Answer iconWe asked the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) to respond:
“Many types of cheese are made using moulds from the Penicillium group, including surface-ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert as well as blue vein cheeses. The species of Penicillium that are used to make cheese do not produce the antibiotic penicillin.
While it is unlikely your husband will become ill, allergies are very serious and he should talk to his doctor about what he can safely eat with his penicillin allergy.”

HFG guide to: Milk

HFG guide to: Milk

We investigate the varieties of milk on offer and their nutritional value.


The most recent National Nutrition Survey (in 1997) found the majority of adults still chose standard milk over trim milk. Hopefully, the survey being done now will tell us this has changed. Dairy fat is high in saturated fat, so the less fat, the better for our heart health.
As an added bonus, trim milk also has fewer kilojoules. We advise using milk with around 1.5% fat or less. The exception is for young children (see table below).


In New Zealand, milk and bone health are strongly linked: in 1997, dairy products supplied on average over half of our calcium, and milk made up the bulk of that, providing 37% of our total calcium intake.
But many people still don’t get the calcium they need to keep their bones strong over their lifetime. Choosing higher-calcium milk can be a good way to boost calcium intake.

What’s available

We love all stock-standard reduced-fat, trim or extra-trim milk. If price is important, just find the cheapest milk with the lowest fat content that you like the taste of. These all supply a good amount of calcium at 120mg per 100ml or more. For those less price-conscious, there are many choices and while we think there are better ways to get your omega-3 than from fortified milk, getting some omega-3 from milk won’t do you any harm. Two types of milk we like are the ultra-filtered milks and the new milk with added prebiotic.
Ultra-filtered milk such as Anchor Xtra, Meadow Fresh Calci-Trim and Sun Latte have some of the water, lactose and fat filtered out, so the amount of protein and calcium is higher in the finished product and the fat content is lower. These milks have more body, and the extra protein helps you feel full longer, so they are good as part of a meal or snack. They’re also good for anyone wanting to boost calcium intake.
New to the market prebiotic milk, is milk which has added inulin – a prebiotic naturally found in garlic, asparagus, onions, leeks and artichokes. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the colon, so they are good for gut health. There’s also a lot of emerging research around other benefits of prebiotics and a number of studies have found inulin improves the absorption of calcium.

Milk for kids

It’s important to remember these guidelines for young children as their dietary needs are different.
  • Cow’s milk should not be given to infants under 12 months of age.
  • Before two years old, a higher-fat milk (dark blue) is recommended.
  • After two years, gradually introduce lower-fat milk.
  • Rice milk is not suitable as a sole milk replacement for children under five.
Type of cow's milk Usual label colour Fat %* Sat. fat %* Energy in 250ml glass*
Extra/Super trim Light green 0.1 0.1 375kJ
Trim Green 0.5 0.4 420kJ
Reduced fat/Lite Light blue 1.5 1.0 500kJ
Standard Dark blue 3.3 2.2 650kJ
*Approximate values. May vary across brands.

Milk price wars

Milk price warsHow does the price of milk affect you?
I was in Australia last week, where there’s a price war going on in the supermarkets. The focus is milk, which Aussies can buy now for as little as $1 a litre (NZ$1.35). Consumers are loving it – a staple food is available at a great price, meaning they can afford to buy more.
Contrast that with the situation here in New Zealand. Today when I checked, milk prices ranged from $2.19 to $3.60 per litre. (Interesting to note that it’s possible to buy 1.25 litres of sugary soft drink for 97 cents. Not the same, I know, but depressing nevertheless.)
The Commerce Commission has announced it is now ‘investigating’ whether it needs to carry out a formal probe of the retail prices charged for milk. Complaints have been made that we are paying more for our milk because of a lack of competition to Fonterra; the main milk producer. Farmers say they are not making huge profits on milk, and that forcing prices down would be bad for them. It’s thought the Australian supermarkets are using milk as a ‘loss leader’ and artificially reducing the prices to attract shoppers from the competition. It will be interesting to see what comes of all this, on both sides of the Tasman.
In the meantime though, for those of us who do the food shopping, we just have to make the most of what’s available, since milk is good food, a true versatile staple that provides valuable calcium and vitamins we all need.
I’m interested in what you’re doing – have your shopping habits changed with the price of milk going up; do you just buy it anyway and grit your teeth; and what do you do to make the most of the milk and other dairy products you use? Any great tips?

Your clever milk solutions

Your clever milk solutionsAfter six years, I’m still surprised and inspired by you, our Healthy Food Guide readers.
Two weeks ago, when I asked how the price of milk was affecting you, I expected you to complain that milk was outrageously priced; that it was a conspiracy on the part of Fonterra; the government should do something about it, etc etc.
I should have learned by now not to pre-judge!
Because instead of complaints, I received some wonderful stories about the creative, practical ways you're getting on with it; making it work even though milk is expensive; figuring out how to get that essential dairy into your families' diets. In general, you're simply not prepared to compromise on this.
Many readers echoed Elizabeth: “I buy milk – and cheese – anyway, regardless of price. I think the calcium and protein is important. I just reduce spending on something else like, for example, biscuits. I try to bake these instead. Don’t mean to sound like a ‘goody two-shoes’ but I never buy carbonated soft drinks. These are just a waste of money, having no nutritional value whatsoever.”
I loved this too, from Debbe, which perfectly sums up a healthy attitude: “I personally don't know how the dollar value for milk is made up but I do know that with four children still in the house, milk is a big part of our diet. I believe we need it and I'm not about to change our habits when it comes to something so important.
“We are on a low income. We do have the odd soft drinks in the house but I still always make sure that we have milk, yoghurt, fruit and veges. We don't go out, don't smoke, don't drink (well, not often) and we have no social life. But we made the choice to have children and they are our life, and as such we do what we feel is best for them. Yes, it’s hard sometimes, I'd love to be able to go out for dinner sometimes or see a movie, but it's all about priorities.”
Quite a few of you told me you use milk powder now, which sounds like it has come a long way since the last time I tried it! Mel says: “If you make it up with cold water, it’s ready to drink instantly. More importantly, there isn't any powdery taste or gritty residue – I guess the technology has changed over the years. The most important thing for us is that it is $11.15 per 1 kg bag. So milk works out at $1.11 per litre – less than half the price of fresh.”
We’ll be featuring more of your clever tips in upcoming issues of Healthy Food Guide magazine. In the meantime, give yourselves a big pat on the back; you’re doing great.

Watermelon has a high glycaemic index (GI)

Watermelon has a high glycaemic index (GI)
If you're making a conscious effort to eat low GI foods, does this mean you shouldn't eat watermelon?
Watermelon has a high GI, but compared to other foods you might eat, it doesn’t have as much carbohydrate because it is mainly water.
The small amount of carbohydrate in watermelon is absorbed very quickly making it a high-GI food, but because there is so little it won’t have much effect on your blood glucose levels, so in terms of impact, it is very low. This is termed ‘glycaemic Load’.

Glycaemic load

Although a food may have a low GI it’s also important to consider how much carbohydrate it has. Glycaemic load considers the amount of carbohydrate in a food as well as its GI. Both of these together determine the blood glucose response.
To work out glycaemic load (GL), multiply the GI x the grams of carbohydrate, then divide by 100.
For example:
  • 1 cup of watermelon: (GI of 72 x 9 grams carb) / 100 = 6.5. 
  • 1 cup of sweetcorn (GI of 37 x 32 grams carb) / 100 = 11.8. 
The differing amount of carbohydrate affects the glycaemic load and therefore the blood glucose response in your body.
Portion size also affects glycaemic load. For example, one cup of sweetcorn has a GL of 11.8 but half a cup only has a GL of 5.9.

What this demonstrates is that using GI in isolation does not give you the full story. You need to consider the amount of carbohydrate in the food you are eating.  For this reason, GI is most useful when choosing between foods with a high percentage of carbohydrate and is fairly irrelevant when foods contain a low percentage of carbohydrate. 

It also highlights that when a food has a low GI it does not mean you can eat huge volumes of it.

In short

When considering a low- or high-GI food we need to consider how much carbohydrate a food contains.
Bread, rice, pasta and cereals are mainly carbohydrate so choosing low-GI varieties makes a difference. But with foods that have little or no carbohydrate such as pumpkin, nuts, meat, fish, chicken, avocado and eggs, the glycaemic index doesn’t really matter.
In fact, some of these foods do not even have a GI value because there’s not enough carbohydrate to be bothered with.
All fruit and vegetables are fantastic for health because they are packed full of antioxidants and nutrients.

What is the glycaemic index (GI)?

What is the glycaemic index (GI)?
GI can be a useful tool in your armoury of healthy eating and including more low-GI carbohydrates in your diet can be beneficial to your health.
But the GI needs to be kept in perspective: it should not be used in isolation and we can’t use it to justify eating more chocolate!

What is the glycaemic index?

The glycaemic index measures how carbohydrate foods act when they are digested. It’s a bit like the story of the hare and the tortoise. They are having a race and the hare races ahead but burns out, exhausted, along the way. Meanwhile, the tortoise moves slowly but steadily along and ends up winning the race.
Foods with a high GI are like the hare: the carbohydrate quickly breaks down to glucose and is absorbed into the blood. This sends your blood glucose (sometimes called blood sugar) zooming up and makes your pancreas work harder, producing more insulin to get it back down to normal.
On the other hand, low-GI foods act like the tortoise. They are slowly digested so the glucose trickles into your blood at a far more sedate rate, allowing a more gradual rise in blood glucose, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
There can be times when we need a quick burst of energy, but for long-term health and a steady supply of energy all day long, we are better to follow the example of the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. That means, when it comes to eating carbohydrate foods, it is sensible to choose ones with a low glycaemic index more often.

Glycaemic index range

Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56-69
High GI = 70 or more
The most useful way to use the GI is to think in terms of substituting high-GI carbohydrates with low-GI carbohydrates. GI is less useful when foods contain a low percentage of carbohydrate, for example peanuts have only 8% carbohydrate.
The GI value is not fixed. GI values indicate the average glycaemic response to a food when measured in scientific studies: your response could be very different. The GI of fruit and vegetables varies between varieties, countries and how they are prepared.
Bread is an example of a food with a wide range of GI values. White and wholemeal bread typically have a high GI, whereas whole grain bread is low-GI. With so many different varieties on the market, and if its GI value is not stated on the label, how do you know whether your bread is low-GI bread? Professor Jim Mann recommends a simple procedure that he calls ‘the flap test’. Pick up a thick slice of bread and shake it. If it ‘flaps’ then it is probably high-GI as true whole grain (and hence low-GI) bread should be too dense to flap.
To find out the GI of a particular food, go to The Official Website of the Glycemic Index and click on 'GI Database'.

Low GI impact on health

Choosing low-GI carbohydrates may help if you identify with any of the following:
  • I want to lose weight
  • I often feel hungry and can’t help snacking on naughty stuff
  • I’m always tired
  • I have diabetes and need to improve my glucose and lipid levels
  • I am at risk of heart disease
  • I have high cholesterol
  • I exercise a lot
Regularly choosing low-GI instead of high-GI carbohydrates can help reduce your risk of developing obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Using the glycaemic index (GI) in everyday life

Using the glycaemic index (GI) in everyday life Tips for integrating low-GI foods into your diet. Low GI foods are classified as 55 or less.

Some low-GI foods

  • Barley - 25
  • Chickpeas - 28
  • Kidney beans - 28
  • Lentils - 30
  • Yams - 30
  • Low-fat milk - 31
  • Apples - 32
  • Pears - 34
  • Sweetcorn - 37
  • Plums - 39
  • All bran - 42
  • Grapes - 46
  • Kiwifruit - 47
  • Carrots - 47
  • Baked beans - 48

10 healthy low-GI snacks

  1. Sushi
  2. Fruit salad with reduced-fat yoghurt
  3. Apple or berry muffin – but beware cake masquerading as muffin! Try this Light and tasty Weet-Bix muffin recipe for a healthier option
  4. Baked beans on whole grain toast
  5. Avocado and salmon on rye sourdough bread
  6. Banana or berry smoothie with added oats for a nutty texture
  7. Small handful of dried fruit and nuts
  8. Swiss-style muesli (with whole grains)
  9. Carrot sticks with hummus dip
  10. Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread

Low-GI meal ideas

  • Dhal on basmati rice
  • Minestrone soup
  • Split pea soup
  • Chilli con carne – add a can of red kidney beans and chilli to your usual mince mixture and serve on brown rice.
  • Lasagne – add red lentils, canned tomatoes, carrot and silver beet to your usual mince mixture and layer with cottage cheese and lasagne; top with grated cheese and bake.
  • Stir-fry beef and vegetables with noodles

5 quick and easy low-GI desserts for summer eating

  1. Berries and ice cream: Mix strawberries or raspberries with a tablespoon of castor sugar in a small pan. Stir over a medium heat for about five minutes until the strawberries soften and syrup forms. Serve over lite vanilla ice cream.
  2. Fruit crumble: Make a crumble by topping cooked fruit with a crumble mixture of toasted muesli, wheat flakes, a little melted margarine and honey.
  3. Banana split: Cut a firm banana in half lengthways and top with two scoops of low-fat ice cream. Spoon fresh passion fruit pulp over the top and sprinkle with roasted almonds.
  4. Fruit and dip: Arrange a selection of fresh fruit such as watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, kiwifruit, mango, rock melon on a platter and serve with a 200g bowl of natural yoghurt combined with a tablespoon of honey.
  5. Cinnamon peaches: Top canned peach halves with a combination of shredded coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon. Drizzle with a little juice from the can then bake for 10 minutes.

Tips for integrating low-GI foods into a healthy diet

  • Include one low-GI carbohydrate at each meal: it will make it more filling and lasting.
  • Look at the carbohydrates you eat and simply swap some of the high-GI ones for low-GI alternatives; for example eat yam, sweetcorn or barley instead of potato.
  • Add dried beans, split peas, chickpeas, lentils, hummus to meals
  • Try potato salad instead of hot potatoes: as cooked potato cools, the carbohydrate structure changes to a more slowly digested form.
  • Eat dense whole grain bread or pumpernickel instead of white or wholemeal; dense breads are lower-GI.
  • Eat breakfast dishes based on oats, barley and bran, eg porridge, toasted muesli, oatmeal pancakes.
  • Choose whole grain rice instead of white rice.
  • Add vinaigrette dressing to salads: the acid in lemon juice or vinegar slows down stomach emptying.
  • Use reduced-fat milk and yoghurt.
The most important point to remember is that the glycaemic index is most relevant when comparing foods that contain a high percentage of carbohydrate, where substituting a high-GI for low-GI food will have a bigger impact on your body’s blood glucose response.
GI is a great help to healthy eating but it can’t be used on its own. It’s like the icing on the cake of an already healthy diet.

Fact or fiction: Don't eat protein and carbs together Fact or fiction: Don't eat protein and carbs together

Fact or fiction: Don't eat protein and carbs togetherWe've heard that you shouldn’t eat protein and carbs together and fruit must be eaten by itself, or the body becomes too acidic. Do they really fight with each other?
The concept of ‘food combining’ – eating certain foods in certain combinations and not at the same time – has been around for ages.
In 1911, Dr William Hay came up with the theory that different foods, when combined, produce an overly-acidic condition in the body, which is unhealthy. He classified foods into three groups, and advocated not eating foods that ‘fight’ with each other (like protein and starchy foods) together in the same meal. Since 1911, science has moved on quite a lot.
Nutritionist Jeni Pearce explains why keeping protein and carbs apart is pretty hard to do:

There are very few foods that are made up entirely from only one nutrient: sugar is pure carbohydrate, oils are pure fat and egg white is mostly protein and water. All other foods are a combination of carbohydrate, protein and fats in differing ratios.
"Bread, although typically thought of as a ‘carbohydrate food’, contains some protein and a small amount of fat; an average cheese is 1/3 water, ¹1/3 protein and 1/3 fat; rice and potatoes both contain small amounts of protein.
"Therefore food combining is impossible to achieve in reality.
"The body’s digestive system works 24 hours a day, and is on ‘automatic pilot’, which means it secretes enzymes for digestion based on the composition of the meal eaten – not the other way around. The digestive system is capable of managing any composition of food you send it.
"In exceptional cases, where enzymes are absent some foods may need to be avoided, such as gluten in Coeliac disease and some rare pancreatic disorders.”
The body has a range of mechanisms specifically to regulate the pH level (or acid/alkaline balance) in various organs.

The bottom line: Myth

There is no scientific basis for food combining. As with many diets, if you lose weight eating this way, it’s most likely because you’re taking in less kilojoules. Eating meals that contain a range of nutrient sources is the best option.

Eat well, spend less: Stock up on carbohydrates

Eat well, spend less: Stock up on carbohydrates A serving of carbs is great value for money and can be very comforting.
There is no doubt that a fist-size serving of carbohydrates helps us feel full and provides energy for an active body. It is also often the least expensive part of the meal. So keeping a selection of carbs in stock will ensure you always have the basis for some of the cheapest and tastiest meals known to man.
Most carbohydrate foods are long-keeping and easy to prepare and if you follow some of my serving suggestions, not only will you eat well, you’ll spend less.

Basic costs

  • 1 cup basmati rice = 54c
  • 1 cup dry pasta = 52c
  • 1 cup couscous = $1.78
  • 1 cup of basmati rice = 56c
  • 1 slice toast bread = 10c
  • 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice = 79c
  • 1 medium potato = 39c
  • 1 cup red lentils = 46c

Size matters

If you're struggling with getting the serving size right, use a measuring cup when serving on to dinner plates. Or try serving rice in a separate dish on the plate; the plate then looks very full and appealing.
Cooked rice, risotto and couscous can all be firmly packed into small cups or pottles then turned out onto the plate to form a 'timbale'.

Quality not quantity

Tasty, well-seasoned food is much more satisfying. Use a well-flavoured side dish if the main event is a little dull: spicy lentil dhal with a plain roasted chicken thigh, or spiced potatoes with cold meats and chutney.

Recipe ideas

Jacket potatoes: Use a floury variety of potato – Agria is my favourite. Select smaller ones when you shop, then allow 1 per person according to the size of their fist.
Scrub off all the dirt (a green plastic souring pad is ideal for this). Cut a cross in the top, spray the skin lightly with cooking spray and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour or microwave on high power for 6 minutes. Then place in the oven and finish cooking in the oven – the skin will go crispy and the flesh fluffy.
To serve, remove from the oven and using a tea towel to protect your fingers, squeeze the cross on top to break open the potato. This forces the flesh up and results in a delicious fluffy spud.
Couscous: This is incredibly quick to prepare. Pour 1 cup of hot stock into a bowl containing 1 cup of couscous and stand for a few minutes, then fluff up with a fork. Include seasonings, vegetables, beans and herbs as desired.
Bread: A roll, burger bun or pita can be an excellent side kick, or try bruschetta: a slice of good bread, rubbed with a garlic clove, brushed very lightly with oil then toasted till crispy.
Beans: Try a bean mash as an alternative to mashed spuds. It's great with sausages and braised dishes. Use cooked or canned white beans such as cannellini or butter beans. Place a spoonful in the centre of the plate, add vegetables, then arrange the meat  / sausage / casserole portion of the dish on top in an informal stack.

What is carb loading?

What is carb loading?Carb loading is a common term amongst endurance athletes. So what is it exactly?
Carb loading involves consuming a large volume of carbohydrates three to four days before an endurance competition.
This approach, coupled with a period of rest or lower-intensity training, maximises muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. The more glycogen you have stored, the longer you are able to exercise without fatigue.
Carb loading is particularly common in marathon runners and triathletes.
Athletes used to go through a carb depletion phase before carb loading. It has now been shown that this depletion phase is not necessary.
If you would like individualised advice on carb loading, contact a sports dietitian or nutritionist.

Fat-free or low-carb: Which helps weight loss?

Fat-free or low-carb: Which helps weight loss? When we're trying to lose weight, we want it to happen quickly. Will having a fat-free diet help? What about reducing carbohydrates?

Fat-free diet

A small amount of fat in your diet is essential for good health. Fat provides essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, and is required for the production of many hormones.
All fat is high in energy (kJ) but some fats are harmful to health, while others are beneficial.
The harmful fats are saturated and trans fats. These include animal fats (the white fat on meat), chicken skin and coconut as well confectionery and many processed foods.
The beneficial fats are the unsaturated ones (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) found in olive, canola and rice bran oils, as well as nuts, seeds and avocadoes.
For weight loss, include only a small amount of fat from healthy sources.

Cutting down on carbohydrates

Carbohydrate is an essential fuel that your body needs when you are resting. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereals also provide valuable fibre, vitamins and minerals.
A low-carbohydrate diet is not healthy for your body in the long term. Without carbohydrate for fuel, your body ends up turning on itself and using up your own body protein (that is, your muscles) for fuel.
The best way to get your weight down is to focus on being more active and reducing portion sizes, alcohol and high-fat foods and eating lower-GI carbohydrates for sustained energy.

The glycaemic index (GI) and weight loss

Can choosing low-GI foods help with weight loss?
Choosing low-GI carbohydrates may help if you identify with any of the following:
    The glycaemic index (GI) and weight loss
  • I want to lose weight
  • I often feel hungry and can’t help snacking on naughty stuff
  • I’m always tired
  • I have diabetes and need to improve my glucose and lipid levels
  • I am at risk of heart disease
  • I have high cholesterol
  • I exercise a lot
Regularly choosing low-GI instead of high-GI carbohydrates can help reduce your risk of developing obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

GI and weight loss

Every spring, many of us set out to trim off a few fatty centimeters before squeezing into that swimsuit and exposing parts of our body that have been comfortably covered all winter. We cut back on chockies, bikkies, chippies and drinkies (the alcoholic kind)! We try to exercise more and eat less.
We lose a little weight, but for some of us it’s not enough to make those hunger pangs worth it and we lapse back into bad habits.
This is where the GI can help. By simply swapping some of the high-GI carbohydrates for low-GI alternatives, we can get through our busy days with more energy, less hunger pangs and still lose weight.
A study from the University of Sydney published a few months ago looked at different types of healthy diets with either high- or low-GI foods to see which was best for weight loss and heart health.
They found that the people on the high-carbohydrate, low-GI diet (plenty of grainy bread, pasta and rolled oats) lost the most fat and lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol the most.

Should we cut out carbs altogether?

Some people think that by cutting carbs out altogether (“I’ll just eat lots of tuna and salad, and cut out bread and pasta”) is a surefire way to lose weight.
You're on the right track by eating tuna and salad but you would feel as though you was on a deprivation diet if you completely cut out energy-giving carbohydrates.
The key to sustainablw weight loss is to eat less overall and to include low-GI carbohydrates.


Naughty or nice? Carbs

Depending on who you ask, carbs can make you fat and hinder your weight loss attempts. Should you really believe everything you've heard about pasta and potatoes?

Is pasta fattening and will it make me bloated?

Naughty or nice? CarbsPasta is often regarded with suspicion because it’s made from highly processed white flour, which is blamed for bloating and weight-gain. But we need carbohydrates – they’re our main source of energy. Whole grain pasta is better than white pasta because it has two-and-a-half times more fibre and is higher in a number of vitamins and minerals. But don’t feel guilty when you use white pasta – it’s a filling, satisfying food.
Remember, however, pasta is only the carbohydrate portion of your meal, so it should only fill a quarter of your dinner plate.
Our verdict: Pasta is an ideal ‘carrier’ for a vegetable-laden meal, whether it’s a tomato-based sauce or as a pasta salad. There’s no need to avoid pasta unless you’ve been diagnosed with a wheat allergy or coeliac disease. We recommend you include whole grain pasta in your diet but avoid high-fat, creamy pasta sauces.

Will potatoes make me fat?

Potatoes are said to be fattening and have a high GI (glycaemic index), making them unhealthy. But the potato doesn’t deserve such bad press. A decent-sized potato (150g) contains less than 0.3g of fat. The only way it gets a higher fat amount is when it’s added. Don’t fry potatoes or serve them with lashings of butter to have a low-fat food. Potatoes do have a relatively high GI, but have a small portion and then you don’t need to worry about their glycaemic impact.
Our verdict: Potatoes are good food, so include them in your 5+ a day of fruit and vegetables. Try red or yellow varieties for more antioxidants, and never waste the peel – that’s where lots of nutrients are. Small potatoes are even better as they have more peel by weight. Serve a fist-size portion for moderate glycaemic impact. If you need a topping to add interest, try a dollop of low-fat plain yoghurt or a spicy salsa.


The whole(some) story: Get the nutrients you need every day

Calcium, iron, fibre, healthy fat – just how do we get it all in a day without being attached to a nose bag?

The whole(some) story: Get the nutrients you need every day


Why: Aids absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; supplies essential fatty acids (EPA, DPA, DHA); a concentrated energy source; improves food flavour and texture.
Food sources: Olive, canola and peanut oils are rich in monounsaturated fats; sunflower, safflower and corn oils are rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats; canola oils and margarines, legumes, walnuts, some green leafy vegetables provide some omega-3 polyunsaturated fats; oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines are rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. Red meat, the fat in poultry, coconut and palm oils, dairy products like milk, butter, cheese and cream contain less healthy saturated fats.
How: 2-3 serves of fish each week provides your entire week’s omega-3 fat requirements; 2 teaspoons of reduced-fat spread provides 5-9% of your daily fat needs; 10 almonds provide 8-15% of your fat needs.
Surprising fact: Canola and sunflower oils are more effective at lowering LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels than olive oil and they’re generally cheaper.


Why: A key fuel source.
Food sources: Whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, beans and vegetables.
How: A sliced banana on 1/2 cup of muesli or two pieces of whole grain toast provides 25% of daily needs; one cup of cooked brown rice provides 25%.
Surprising fact: Our brains live strictly on a diet of glucose, a form of carbohydrate. Studies show that low blood glucose levels make it harder for us to think and concentrate.


Why: Important structural and functional roles in body cells; an energy source.
Food sources: Meat, fish, poultry and beans. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, other dairy products, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruit also contribute.
How: Baked beans on two pieces of wholegrain toast and a pottle of yoghurt provides 50% of protein needs; one beef/lamb steak plus a glass of milk will give you 80%.
Surprising fact: Every protein in our body is made from the same set of 20 or so amino acids. In nature, milk and eggs have an amino acid compo­sition most similar to our bodies.

Vitamin A and carotenoids

Why: For immunity, reproduction and vision.
Food sources: Preformed vitamin A is found in milk, cheese, eggs, liver and oily fish. Pro-vitamin A compounds (which our body converts to vitamin A) are found in red, orange, yellow and green vegetables and fruit like capsicums, carrots, and plums.
How: Eating 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables each day provides 50% or more of your vitamin A needs – one serving is 1/2 cup of cooked/salad vegetables or stewed fruit; 1 medium apple or orange; 2 small apricots or plums. Margarine and dairy products also contribute.
Surprising fact: One carrot provides over 100% of your daily vitamin A requirements; a tablespoon of that cod liver oil your granny raved about contains three times your daily vitamin A needs.

Vitamin E

Why: Antioxidant that protects our cell walls and LDL cholesterol from free radical damage; involved in anti-inflammatory and immune systems, and making DNA.
Food sources: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy beans, vegetable oils, avocado, kiwifruit, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables and peas.
How: One tablespoon of sunflower oil provides nearly 100% of your vitamin E, and a small handful of nuts provides 50%. Other good sources are kiwifruit (one kiwifruit gives you 25% of needs), avocado and reduced-fat spread.
Surprising fact: If we don’t have enough vitamin E to protect our cells, the walls can become damaged by free radicals and they literally start leaking!

Vitamin C

Why: Needed for collagen synthesis, transport of fatty acids into our cells and as an antioxidant.
Food sources: Fruits, vegetables and tubers. Rich sources include kiwifruit, blackcurrants, citrus fruit, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicums, cauliflower, tomatoes, spinach and watercress. Kumara and potatoes contain smaller amounts, especially in and right under the skins.
How: 1/2 cup of stir-fried veges provides over 80% of needs; one kiwifruit provides double our vitamin C needs and 1.5 times more vitamin C than an orange.
Surprising fact: Between the years 1500 and 1800, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) was the leading cause of naval death, killing more sailors than all other diseases, disasters and battles combined.


Why: Assists building of amino acids (for protein) and nucleic acids (for DNA). Low levels during pregnancy increase foetal neural tube defect risk.
Food sources: Green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, salad greens, citrus fruits, whole grain breads and breakfast cereals. Chickpeas, nuts, dried beans and peas are good sources, too.
How: Check the nutrition labels on breads and breakfast cereals: a slice of grainy bread or cup of fortified breakfast cereal provides 25% of folate needs; 1/2 cup of spinach provides over 25%.
Surprising fact: Mandatory folate fortification of our breads in late 2009 will increase New Zealand women’s folate intake to around 30% of our daily needs.


Why: Essential to kick-start important chemical reactions in over 100 of the body’s enzymes; important structural role in some proteins and cell membranes; involved in controlling how information from our genes is used.
Food sources: Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and some seafood, peanuts, cashew nuts and sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables.
How: A beef sirloin steak provides over 100% of needs; a lamb/pork steak 80%; a small handful of peanuts provides 20%.
Surprising fact: Absorption of zinc from the diet can be impeded by high intakes of iron from dietary supplements.


Why: Inside body cells, it works with sodium to create the electrochemical environment needed for transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and heart function.
Food sources: Bananas, citrus fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, yoghurt.
How: A fruit smoothie containing a banana, berries, yoghurt, milk and rolled oats will give you 50% of your potassium needs.
Surprising fact: A diet low in potassium may increase the risk of high blood pressure as much as a diet high in sodium!

Vitamin K

Why: Essential component of blood clotting process; and has an important role in bone health.
Food sources: Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage; fermented foods like cheese and yoghurt.
How: 1/2 cup of cabbage provides over 100% of daily needs; 1/2 cup of spinach provides 8 x our daily requirements.
Surprising fact: Vitamin K doesn’t cross the placenta between mother and developing baby, and babies’ guts don’t have bacteria to produce vitamin K, so when they’re born babies have very little vitamin K – hence the routine jab of vitamin K at birth.


Why: Stored in skeletons and teeth, contributing to their hardness; needed for conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and blood clotting.
Food sources: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, nuts, legumes, breakfast cereals, small fish and tinned fish with bones.
How: A glass of trim milk and a pottle of yoghurt provides 75% of calcium needs, or 40g of cheese and two scoops of ice cream! Add a calcium-fortified breakfast cereal and you’re done.
Surprising facts: Every 2300mg of sodium excreted by our kidneys takes 40mg of calcium with it. If sodium is consumed excessively our precious calcium stores will be excreted with it.

B vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin)

Why: All three work with enzymes to convert food into fuel our body cells can use.
Food sources: B1 is found in grainy breads, unrefined cereals, potatoes, kumara, nuts, seeds, legumes; B2 in milk, yoghurt, ice cream, red meat, poultry, fish; B3 in meat and some cereals.
How: One sirloin steak provides 25% of thiamin and riboflavin, plus 100% of niacin needs. One glass of trim milk provides over 60% of riboflavin and 30% of niacin needs. Two Weet-bix and 1/2 cup trim milk provide 50% of thiamine, 70% of riboflavin, 25% of niacin needs.
Surprising fact: Marmite really is mighty! One teaspoon of Marmite provides 70% of your B1 and 50% of B2 and 25% of B3 daily requirements.
Diagnosing deficiency
If you’re concerned you might have a deficiency, the best thing to do is to see your doctor and have blood tests done. Iridology, reflexology and hair analysis are not proven or accurate methods of finding out if you have a deficiency.

We don't know enough about healthy bones

We don't know enough about healthy bonesA recent survey found only 5% of Kiwis were aware of the significance of vitamin D to bone health.
Vitamin D is crucial to healthy bones as it enhances the absorption of calcium. Few foods contain vitamin D, but our skin produces it when exposed to sunlight. Over one-third of people questioned knew that increasing calcium intake was important to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and around a quarter knew that weight-bearing exercise was important. Over 800 people took part in the survey carried out by AC Nielsen for Osteoporosis New Zealand.

Eat your 5+ a day for bone health

Eat your 5+ a day for bone healthOsteoporosis, which increases risk of bone fracture and disability, is a public health concern in most Western countries.
Adequate dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D status have been recognised as important factors in maintaining bone health for many years.
There is now growing evidence that higher intakes of vegetables and fruit also have a positive effect on bone health. Recent research in the UK studied three age groups – 16-18 year olds, 23-37 year olds, and 60-83 years old – to assess the relationship between their fruit and vegetable consumption and measures of bone health.
Higher intakes of vegetables and fruit appeared to have a positive effect on the bone mineral status of both adolescents and older women.
How the association works is not known; the researchers stated that vitamin C, other fruit-specific antioxidants, and lifestyle factors associated with higher intakes may play a role.

Foods to fight osteoporosis

Foods to fight osteoporosisDietitian Sarah Ley has help for all of us on 
 osteoporosis, which affects half of women over 60.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones deteriorate and become thin and brittle. This can be caused by poor bone development, poor maintenance of bone quality throughout life, or both.
It is a progressive disease, but often it’s not noticed until a major problem occurs in older people. This might be a hip or wrist fracture or weakness in the spine, pelvis or upper arm.
Osteoporosis is a major health issue in New Zealand as it affects more than half of women and nearly a third of men over the age of 60. It’s not just an older person’s problem though; bone loss can start in women from their mid-twenties.

Who does it affect – and what causes it?

Middle-aged or older people are at higher risk of osteoporosis although it can affect younger people too.
Certain medications taken long-term, such as corticosteroids, can reduce bone density. It is detected by a simple bone density scan of the areas most susceptible to fracture (hip and lumbar spine), which is compared to the average for a young woman or man who has achieved peak bone mass.
Bone mineral density progressively reduces with age; the denser our bones are the less risk of fractures we have.
If you’re worried about osteoporosis or have been diagnosed with the disease, discuss your results and your risk factors with your GP who can, if necessary, prescribe medications or supplements to slow bone loss. It’s important to remember that calcium in food is better absorbed than calcium taken in supplements.

Signs of osteoporosis

There are usually no recognisable outward symptoms of osteoporosis until the disease is well established. This is why it’s often called ‘the silent epidemic’.

The major risk factors for osteoporosis are:

  • A diet lacking in calcium
  • Lack of regular exposure to sunlight for vitamin D
  • Poor intestinal absorption of dietary calcium
  • Unnatural thinning of bones from medications
  • Lack of regular, weight-bearing exercise, eg walking
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of osteoporosis

What do we need to eat for prevention?

Eating enough calcium-rich foods is vitally important for everyone. Almost all our body calcium is stored in our bones and teeth, where it helps to provide rigidity.
It is also important to get enough vitamin D as this helps our bodies absorb and use calcium. Here in New Zealand we get almost all of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. We also get a little vitamin D from oily foods.
If we eat a healthy, well-balanced diet we should get the protein and other nutrients essential for bone health.

How much calcium do we need?

Recommended dietary intakes (RDIs) of calcium are dependent on our age, growth patterns and likely requirements for keeping bones healthy. Here are the examples (Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand 2006). Note that Adequate Intakes (AIs) are used where there is not enough information to determine a RDI.

Life stage Age Calcium recommendation
Infants 0-6 months
7-12 months
210mg (AI)
270mg (AI)
Children 1-3 years
4-8 years
Older children and teenagers 9-11 years
12-13 years
14-18 years
Adults Men and women 19-50 years 1,000mg
  Men 51-70 years 1000mg
  Women over 50 1300mg
  Men over 70 1300mg

Different life stages

Babies and children

Calcium for babies is supplied by breast milk or formula. Once babies reach 8-9 months old, some of their calcium needs can be supplied by other foods such as yoghurt, cheese or smooth peanut butter. Rapidly growing bones need good supplies of calcium every day. After 1 year, plain milk drinks or flavoured milks, custard, ice cream, flavoured milk jelly, yoghurt and cheese make good choices.


As teenagers experience growth spurts, calcium-rich foods as part of a healthy diet are vital for supplying the material for growing good strong bones. Young girls dieting to lose weight are at particular risk of having insufficient calcium intake if they choose low-calorie soft drinks in place of milk-based drinks. Easy ways to have calcium-rich snacks are in smoothies, low-fat ice cream, yoghurt, milk desserts, cereal and milk or cheese on toast.

Pregnancy and childbearing

Recommendations for calcium intake don’t change but pregnancy and breastfeeding do make extra demands on a woman’s body. The 1,000-1,300mg should be sufficient to meet those demands if mothers make sure they meet their recommended intakes daily. Ready-made liquid breakfasts, milk-based drinks, cheese and crackers and porridge made in the microwave with milk and added skim milk powder are just a few easy, fast ideas for busy mums.

Older age

Recent evidence suggests women need more calcium to reduce bone loss through the menopause and both older women and men also need more than was previously thought necessary. As a result, recommendations have increased for women from middle age and for men from 70 years old. Popular choices for older people are milk puddings (bread and butter pudding, rice pudding, creamed tapioca, custard), hot milk and Milo for supper, ice cream and custard for dessert, salmon or sardine sandwiches and cheese sauce with vegetables.

Where we get calcium in food

Dairy products or alternatives such as soy are our main source of calcium.
Tinned fish with bones, shellfish, nuts, dried beans, whole grains, eggs and some vegetables and fruit (particularly rhubarb, figs, broccoli, spinach and silver beet) also contribute worthwhile amounts of calcium to our diet.
Another way to increase calcium is to regularly add skim milk powder to foods such as mashed vegetables or in baking, puddings and soups.

How to get your daily calcium

Two to three serves of low-fat dairy products or replacement products such as soy, included as part of a balanced diet, can supply your daily calcium needs.
Here are some examples:
  • Breakfast: 200ml calcium-fortified milk with a calcium-fortified breakfast cereal = 600mg
  • Lunch: salmon and cheese sandwiches using whole grain bread = 450mg
  • Supper: 200ml soy milk with Milo powder = 325mg
  • For a tasty way to get your calcium, make this delicious Berry Smoothie.

Preserving bone health

There are things we can do in our daily lives to help preserve our bone health. These are:
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes good sources of calcium and choose low-fat dairy products or soy products.
  • Limit consumption of coffee, caffeinated beverages, salty snacks and alcohol as these cause more calcium to be taken from the bones and lost in urine.
  • Stop smoking as nicotine increases your body’s requirements for calcium and other nutrients. It also changes hormone levels that regulate bone remodelling.
  • Exercise regularly and in particular choose weight-bearing exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Walking is the easiest for most people. Other good forms of weight-bearing exercise are lifting weights, running, dancing, golf, tennis, low-impact aerobics and rowing.
  • Spend a little time outside (15-30 minutes) in the open air most days to get regular supplies of vitamin D from sunlight. Exposure to ultraviolet light on hands and face, even on cloudy days, is usually all you need.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to provide other important nutrients; protein, magnesium and zinc for bone health.

Why you should drink: Milk

Why you should drink: Milk We know milk is good for us; but just how good is it?

Milk nutrition

Milk and dairy products are so important they are one of the four major food groups. It’s recommended that we try to get at least two serves of dairy each day (or substitute with a high-calcium soy alternative). Examples of one serve are: a glass of milk; a pottle of yoghurt; or two slices of cheese.
Calcium intake is essential to developing the strongest bones we can when they are growing (up to our mid-twenties) and also to maintaining their strength throughout our lifetime. Calcium is stored in bones, so if we don’t get enough calcium these stores are used for other essential functions, and your bones can be weakened.
Osteoporosis is a condition where parts of the bones become quite porous and are prone to fracture easily and one of the main risk factors is a lack of calcium in the diet. Osteoporosis affects more than 50% of women and nearly a third of men over 60. (See Food to fight osteoporosis article for more information.)
A 250ml glass of whole milk provides around 290mg of calcium; reduced-fat and super-trim milks around 350-375mg; and calcium-fortified milks range from 400-500mg. Check the label of your favourite milk to see how much calcium it has.
How much calcium do you need each day?
  • Children 1-3 years: 500mg
  • 4-8 years: 700mg
  • Girls and boys 9-13 years: 1,000-1,300mg
  • 14-18 years: 1,300mg
  • Women 19-50 and men 19-70 years: 1,000mg
  • Women over 50 and men over 70 years: 1,300mg

Types of milk

Full-fat milks contain around 4% fat, more than half of which is saturated fat. Given that we need to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets, we should all be drinking reduced-fat milks with around 1.5% fat or the trim and super-trim milks with 0.1-0.5% fat. You’ll also be reducing your kilojoule intake while still getting the benefits of milk. A 250ml glass of whole milk has around 700kJ; reduced-fat milk around 500kJ; and super-trim can be as low as 360kJ.
Milk contains protein, riboflavin and vitamin B12. But the most important thing about milk is that it is very high in calcium compared to other foods, so milk is the easiest way to get the calcium your body needs. There are also a range of milks with added vitamins and minerals aimed at people at different life stages.
Flavoured milks can be a useful way of getting kids to drink milk, but be aware they do have added sugar and therefore extra energy – around 765-800kJ for a 250ml glass of Anchor Mega or Meadow Fresh Calci Kids flavoured milks. Primo, which seems to be aimed at an older age group, has less added sugar and around 660kJ in a glass, so it’s not a bad snack choice for a growing teen.

Milk for infants and toddlers

Cows' milk should not be given to infants under 12 months of age; their digestive system is still developing and stomach bleeding can occur if fed cows' milk. There is also a risk of developing allergy, especially in families with a history of allergy.
Milk is a good source of nutrients and energy for toddlers, but they shouldn’t have too much or they won’t have capacity in their small stomachs for other foods they need to balance their diet. 500-600mls a day of whole milk is recommended for one to two year olds. Reduced-fat milks should not be used until after age two.

Adding milk to your day

Think of milk as a food rather than ‘just a drink’. Unlike other high-energy drinks, it provides a range of vitamins and minerals and it’s filling. People who drink sweetened carbonated drinks often add extra kilojoules to their diet without realising it because these drinks don’t make you feel full. The moral of the story: if you’re hungry drink milk, if you’re thirsty drink water.
  • Use milk on your cereal.
  • Drink milk as a between-meal snack.
  • Make a smoothie with milk and fruit like banana, kiwifruit, apricots, strawberries.
  • Add yoghurt, oats and a few nuts to your smoothie and call it breakfast.
  • Drink cafĂ© lattĂ© or milky tea.

Dairy not just good for bones

Dairy not just good for bonesResearchers from Hawaiian and Californian Universities studied the diets of over 190,000 people in the US and found that higher intakes of calcium were associated with lower rates of colorectal cancer.
For men, higher intakes of vitamin D were also associated with lower rates.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in New Zealand for both men and women in terms of both incidence and mortality.
The main source of calcium in our diets is milk and dairy products, although soy milk, tofu and canned sardines are also good sources.
Vitamin D is made by our skin if we have sun exposure; if not it must be consumed in foods like fatty fish and eggs; some milk is also fortified with vitamin D.