Claire Turnbull's Tips for a Healthy Life

Claire Turnbull is a qualified nutritionist with over 15 years experience, who wants to help people “make healthy happen”. She’s an author, speaker, nutritionist in the media, SodaStream ambassador and a busy mum to a little boy with another one on the way! She joins us to give us her top tips on helping you to eat well, take care of yourself and live a life that you love.

If people feel overwhelmed about starting a healthier lifestyle, what’s the first small step they can take?

Definitely the most important thing is to focus on one thing at a time! A great first step could be planning your meals. In my experience, if you plan what you’ll be eating and shop accordingly, you are much more likely to end up having the right things in the house which makes it easier to make good food choices.

An alternative first step is to sort out your food environment at home. Rearrange your fridge and pantry to move any treats out of sight and reach. We are three times more likely to eat or drink the first thing that we see than the fifth, so where things are located in your kitchen can make a huge difference to what you end up eating. Easy things to start with are putting veges, fruit and unsalted nuts at the front and biscuits, chocolate or chips out of sight and out of reach. Keep sparkling water chilled in the door of your fridge so it is the first thing you see and wine and beer either out of the fridge or in a fridge in the garage or outside if you have one.

We are inherently lazy, as human beings we do the easiest thing, and most choices are subconcious – you just open the pantry and grab whatever you see. If you have to get on a chair to get something, it’s enough of a barrier to say no!

Best healthy snacks heading into the warmer weather?

I regularly enjoy wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese or avocado with sliced tomato at this time of year – escpecially with avocados coming into season. Other things I have a lot are unsweetened yoghurt with chopped fruit and nuts/seeds, healthy homemade smoothies which have veggies in them as well as fruit or sliced apple or pear with nut butter spread on top. Mixed unsalted nuts are also a nice portable snack.

Best super fast weeknight dinner?

My five minute weeknight dinner which I have at least once a week is an omelette! They are the way forward I’ve decided, you can make them for one, two or four people really easily and you can put anything in them. I put in red onion, loads of spinach (if I don’t have fresh I use frozen spinach, defrosted with the water squeezed out), tomato, a little grated cheese and then make a salad on the side with whatever I have in!  The lastest research on eggs says for the average healthy person, it is fine to include them everyday now. Only people with a high risk of heart disease need to limit the number of eggs they have to 6 a week.

How much water should we be drinking?

The amount of water you need to drink depends on your age, activity level, the time of year, if you work outside or inside etc. The best indicator is the colour of your urine – you should be passing large volumes of pale urine throughout the day (though first thing in the morning it might be more yellow!). The 8 – 10 glasses is a rough guide but it certainly doesn’t suit everybody, there are people who have a lot of foods packed with water and herbal teas say who can have less and some people need much more, particularly those who are very active and sweat a lot. A guy I worked with who played rugby would have 4 litres in a single game! If you’re a kilo lighter after a workout, you’ve lost a litre of water, and that’s an indication of how much you need to drink to rehydrate. Interestingly, a survey done by SodaStream recently showed that 80% of New Zealanders believe they should be drinking more water everyday – having a SodaStream can help make it more interesting by giving you sparkling water at your fingertips, which is a good option if you’re trying to increase your hydration. I like to sparkle the water then add fresh fruit or herbs to really jazz it up!

How do you get your little boy to eat good food?

We pretty much only have healthy options in the house, and certainly the most important thing is that anything he can see or reach are nourishing food options. As soon as kids see something, they get it in their mind that they want it so if that’s biscuits, you are likely to have a battle on your hands when they REALLY want one or three before dinner.

I put vegetables at the front of the vege drawer and fruit at the  back, because if he sees a mandarin he wants to eat those instead of dinner. It’s not that they’re unhealthy, it’s that I want him to eat his dinner! 

We have relatively structured eating patterns, and he has four medium sized meals rather than a lot of snacks. A lot of people do a lot of snacking and grazing with their kids, they don’t eat proper meals, just a cracker here and a cracker there. If it’s getting near a meal time and he’s hungry, I’ll just give him his meal early rather than giving him a snack to keep him going until his meal. For example, he might have his dinner at 4.30pm after daycare if we’re not eating with him, then he can have a snack later in the evening if he needs it. You can move meal times around depending on the age of your child to get it right.

In my house, if Zac doesn’t want to have his dinner, there’s nothing else. I don’t coax or bribe him to eat it, I’ll leave it on the bench but there’s nothing else coming.

After a week where there was a couple of days he refused what I had made, he realised there really was NOTHING else until breakfast and decided to eat up. There is no screaming, shouting, coaxing, or bribing with food in our house, something I have had to get my whole family on board with as they default to it because it is so normal to them. If he’s not hungry or doesn’t want dinner, that’s fine, but he understands there’s nothing else available.

It feels like there’s some conflicting information about how much fruit and veg we need to eat – what do you think?

One of the issues is that guidelines are based on a balance of what is healthy for people but also what is realistic. The 5+ message for example is really a bare minimum, 2 fruit and 3 PLUS serves of veggies, but the plus really means more veggies is much better - I aim for 5 or 6 serves on non starchy veggies a day and that is a great goal!

What’s your morning routine?

I get woken up by Zac anytime between 4.30 and 6am! I normally have a cup of tea and then I have breakfast with Zac at around 7.30, before I take him to daycare then start work at 8.30. Not very exciting I have to say, my life used to be very different with morning workouts, a long shower and 10 minutes of meditation.

For breakfast I normally have unsweetened yoghurt with fruit, at the moment grated apples with a tablespoon of oats, a tablespoon of nuts and seeds and a spinkle of cinnamon. It’s like an apple crumble!

Your death row meal?

I love Japanese food, so I’d have some kind of Japanese mixed starters - raw fish, beef tataki, miso eggplant, yum! Fish is my favourite main so I’d have fish and salad, and the salad must have blue cheese because blue cheese is one of THE tastiest things in life I reckon! Crème brulee for dessert and a large glass of red wine, maybe two – I am on death row, hell maybe the whole bottle!

You’re juggling a lot in your life, how do you manage to stay healthy when you’re busy?

Basically it’s planning and delegation. I have learned in the last 15 years that you cannot run two businesses by yourself, you need to have good people that work with you. Accepting that you have to do your best and that doesn’t have to be perfect everytime. I do big shop once a fortnight then a top up shop, rather than shopping every second day. Bulk cooking is essential, I literally only cook four nights a week, I always make double or triple otherwise I could easy fall into unhealthy habits! I do short, sharp, exercise – high intensity for a short time for maximum results in minimum time. I always make sure I walk, and get incidental exercise such as taking the stairs.

What do you think about takeaways?

Takeaways have their place, they’re not the root of all evil it just depends on the frequency that you have them and what you have. I probably have a takeaway once a month, sometimes it’s a family thing – my in laws will invite us round for an Indian or Thai. In that situation, it’s so infrequent that I’ll have whatever I like! If you’re having takeaways once a week or more, you need to think about making it much healthier. But usually for me an omelette is quicker than ordering and picking something up (and cheaper!).

What are three things you do everyday?

I have lots of water and herbal teas. I eat huge amounts of vegetables, five or six handfuls every day – even if I’m travelling I will chop stuff up and take it with me. I always look for the best in things, I don’t focus on the negative - if something’s gone wrong I think about what I can learn. I also have goals I’ve written for myself in the lovely diary I created, and I look at that everyday and look at where I’m going and what I’m trying to do.

Is there any food you’d never eat?

Nothing apart from liquorice which I despise! I don’t think any food should be banned, I don’t think to be healthy you need to eliminate stuff. Though to be fair, I would never eat factory farmed animals.

What’s your definition of a “healthy” person?

Someone who has lots of energy, and a positive outlook on life. Someone who manages their stress well, someone whose body can do whatever they want it to do, someone who has no lifestyle related health issues or if they do, they manage them.

Your best words of wisdom or favourite quote

Oscar Wilde – “Be yourself, everyone else is taken!”

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