Healthy

How fitness trackers can help you EARN

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fitness tracker

Health insurance is a major Australian industry, and when you can get cheaper car insurance for driving safely, it only makes sense that Australians could earn or save thousands a year just by walking—and your fitness trackers can help you do it.

Many insurers already offer members benefits for walking a certain amount of steps per day. AIA offers $5 weekly vouchers for iTunes, Hoyts, Woolworths and Boost Juice for completing 12,500 steps per day, while others offer discounted premiums for staying active.

Medibank’s partnership with Coles offers 10 Fly buys points for every day customers reach 10,000 steps on their fitness trackers, which equates to about five cents. Similarly, Qantas gives frequent flyers the ability to earn points by cycling through the Qantas Assure Wellness Rewards program—although to earn 100 points, participants would need to ride 100km a week.

One US health insurer even will deposit actual cash into an account for members who complete a certain amount of steps a day.

Amy McDonough, senior vice president of strategy and operations for Fitbit Health Solutions, said the scheme can have a big impact on adding value for life—and these types of schemes are resonating with people.

“It’s heading in the right direction, and we’re really excited about that.”

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Guide on cruelty-free transitioning

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vegan

So maybe you don’t want animals to die. Maybe you feel bad about the suffering some of them go through. Maybe you really wish you could live a life that’s as sustainable and caring as possible. But how? How can you even think about limiting or discontinuing your consumption of animal products? It’s such an ingrained part of society. It’s everywhere. We’re taught that it’s natural, that it’s normal, that we as human beings have superiority over non-human animals. That it’s our right to consume them. But is it our right to allow them to suffer? To be the cause of their suffering? No.

Do you think as I do? Does it sadden you when you see those horrific videos of pigs in cages too small to move? Where farmed animals may never see the sun or fell the grass under their feet, where their lives are taken advantage of purely for our purposes of consumption? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider at least limiting your impact—and here’s my little handy guide of how.

Milk:

This is probably one of the easiest things to change, because of the variety you have in what you choose to drink. There’s so many choices! You’ve got multiple types of soy milks, each creamier than the next, or almond milk, sweet rice milk, coconut milk, macadamia milk and hazelnut milk. Whether its cooking or coffee, these things work just as well. Personally, I think the cheap soy milk is great—and bonus, it contains lots of protein and nutrients to fill you up.

Cheese:

This is often the most difficult thing I hear people say. In fact, I used to be one of those people. Having been vegetarian for 7 years before becoming vegan about 10 months ago, I would always respond with yes, I’m vegetarian! But I could never go vegan. I love cheese. Dairy is my favourite food group. And it really was. But after researching what a lot of dairy cows go through—that they’re (often) artificially inseminated and kept pregnant their entire lives to produce dairy, with their babies taken away to become veal or future dairy cows—I decided no food could ever be worth their cries.

whyvegan
Image via Just The Food.

Even so, replacing cheese was really difficult for me. Some vegans avoid substitutes all together, by using other ingredients—like avocado or tomato paste—for that “melty” effect. However, as a former dairy lover, I do enjoy cheese—but fear not! There is plenty of choice for cruelty-free dairy! Biocheese happens to be a favourite of mine, and for around $7-9, it’s certainly worth it. The texture is a little different to your usual cheese, but it’s super creamy and to die for when melted—even better than actual cheese, I’d argue. There’s also Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream, both of which are super creamy, tasty and useful in cooking. Any health food store will sell plenty of these kinds of things—and even Coles and Woolworths. Furthermore, I’ve recently discovered you can make your own cheese, using things like cashews, and nutritional yeast flakes, which have together create a creamy, cheesy flavour. Google is your best friend—explore, experiment and have some fun eating some tasty creations.

Meat:

Meat is probably the easiest thing to replace, give up or reduce. We really do not need it to survive—you can get all your nutrients and more from plants. But if you do long for meat, there are vegan alternatives. Firstly, you have things like grilled mushrooms, or other veggies—using the right flavouring, they can be quite similar. Tofu is also a great substitute when cooked well. A personal favourite of mine is to thinly slice tofu and coat with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic, before searing it and making a delicious dipping sauce to go with it—healthy and super easy for lazy people like me. There’s also plenty of fake meats. The frozen section of supermarkets normally have a great choice of burgers, sausages, pies, schnitzels, and so on. Textured soy protein is a new personal favourite of mine—it’s super cheap at around $3 for a big bag; just add water and heat. It can be used for the same kind of thing mince is used for.

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Image via Pura Botanica.

There’s also plenty of online shops where you can find all sorts of goodies! Lam Yong has a physical and online store, and they sell everything. I am crazy excited to try vegan prawns, soy duck and vegan drumsticks.

There’s really plenty of options. I’m not here to force you—I’m just expressing my experiences in attaining a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle. Going vegan has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and my life, as well as the lives of the animals who are slowly being saved by this movement, is better for it.

Vegan lasagna recipe

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veggie-lasagna
Note: this image isn’t actually my cooking. I always eat my cooking before taking photos. That’s how delicious it is. Mmmmmmmm…

I was vegetarian for seven years before becoming a vegan about six months ago—and I’ve never felt better. But after seven years of perfecting an amazing vegetarian lasagna recipe, I pretty much have to start all over again as a vegan! And there’s a couple of ways to do it—this is just my personal favourite. And it’s loaded with veggie goodness! Warning: reading this will probably make you really, really hungry!

Ingredients:

Use whatever veggies you have in the fridge. But in case you want some guidance, this is what I normally use:

  • Zucchini
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Mushroom
  • Capsicum
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomato
  • Vegan butter (I use Nuttlex).
  • Wraps (I use Mountain Bread so it’s not as heavy as pasta sheets—use whatever you like, though!)
  • Garlic
  • Soy milk—or some other kind of non-dairy milk
  • Flour
  • Tomato pasta sauce (or you can make your own—just blend tomatoes and herbs together. Delicious.)
  • Vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti).
  • Optional: vegan mince.

Method:

  • Chop up/grate all your veggies; you choose what you do to what. For the sweet potato, you’ll want to chop them into the smallest pieces you possibly can. I cook these before the lasagna so it doesn’t take as long. Simply put the chopped sweet potato into a microwave-safe container for steaming, fill with a little hot/boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Do this first, and then chop the rest of your veggies.
  • Use a medium-to-large sized pot (depending on how much you’re making!) and begin by sautéing the onions with some garlic, pepper, and whatever herbs you feel like adding (BASIL IS AMAZING, JUST SAYING). You can also add mushrooms and zucchini here if you wish.
  • Add your vegan mince (if you’re using it), and most of your other veggies (except for the sweet potato) into the pot. I like to leave some carrot and tomato slices for the creamy layers of the lasagne, but do whatever you like. Add the tomato pasta sauce and adjust to taste.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.
  • Make your creamy sauce: add butter, and slowly stir in the flour to make a nice consistency. Remember: this will thicken as time goes on. Add some garlic, Tofutti, and a little bit of soy milk if you don’t want to use butter. You could also use nutritional yeast flakes here. Alter to taste, and make sure to stir: this mixture burns easily. Take it off the heat when done.
  • The sweet potato should now be cooked. I like to mash it up with a fork, some vegan butter, Tofutti, garlic, salt and pepper at this point to make mashed sweet potato.
  • Spray a large oven-safe dish with canola oil (or something similar). Line the base with your first layer of Mountain Bread (or whatever you’re using. Note: I’ve never cooked with pasta sheets before, so if you’re using those, read the instructions).
  • Spoon tomato mix onto this first layer, enough to nicely cover the wrap.
  • Add another layer of wraps on top of the mince mixture. Then spread your sweet potato mix on this layer, before adding about half of the creamy sauce.
  • Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all mixture has been used. The final layer will be the creamy sauce. Feel free to add some vegan cheese or basil here—depending on what you’ve got, and what you like.
  • Place lasagna in the oven and cook until the top layer is crispy. Since we’re vegan (yay) we don’t have to worry about under-cooking meat, and since I’ve used wraps, you don’t have to worry about the pasta sheets being under cooked.

And there you have it, folks! Delicious vegan lasagne. If anyone has any tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Love, the poor and lazy uni student vegan.

6 tips to inspire yourself to hit the gym

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Going to the gym is hard.

I find I often start off with the best of intentions, only to find myself falling into a pile of procrastination and excuses. If it’s in the morning, I groan as I put my alarm clock to snooze for the seventh time (I am not kidding, I need this to even consider waking up in the morning). Then I think to myself, I work hard at uni. I have such long days. I deserve a sleep in, yay me. Night time is quite similar—I think, well, it will probably be crowded now it’s after 5pm. Honestly, I just want to go home and make some kind of delicious elaborate food. Maybe I’ll study. Maybe I’ll even have a bubble bath. Do I do any of these things? Absolutely not. My routine normally consists of lazy (yet still somewhat healthy) vegan meals and a lot of time procrastinating either gaming, watching movies, or binge-watching TV shows and anime.

So, how do you make yourself change? I asked personal trainer Melanie Hawksley for her best tips—along with some probably embarrassing anecdotes on my part.

  • Find your motivation

What do you want out of exercise and healthy eating? Is it for the right reasons? As women, we’re so often bombarded with a relentless stream of people telling us how we should and shouldn’t look. Maybe, sometimes we just want to feel sexy and confident. I’ll admit, I often feel the need to work out because I am unhappy with my body. However, this can become a bit obsessive. Instead, I like to repeat Jennifer Lawerence’s ideas of body image.  When training for her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games, she famously argued:

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part . . . I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner . . . I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”

Instead of thinking of working out as a way to get sexy, think of it as a way to nourish and strengthen your body. After all, it will carry you for life.

  • Find like-minded people

Specifically, people who will keep you motivated. People who have similar goals.

“You need to find someone (or a group of people) who will push you to the gym, and you to them, even when you may not feel interested,” Melanie Hawksley said.

This is difficult for me. I’ve recently moved to a new area, so I know pretty much no one. I briefly considered posting in random Facebook pages (but they could possibly turn out to be total psycopaths). My solution: I started a Facebook chat group with my friends who have similar goals. We motivate each other (mostly) and try to keep ourselves accountable. We even have friendly competitions to spur each other on—like who can run the most in 20 minutes, or improve the most in a week. Any and all achievements are celebrated.

  • Set specific goals

“If your goals are not important enough, then it is likely you won’t follow them through.”

Are you training for a certain marathon? Is there an occasion you’re working towards? A holiday where you want to feel confident and sexy in formalwear and swimwear?

For me, I want to be happy with my body. I want it to be strong. After all, it will support me in all of life’s ups and downs. And honestly, I really like eating food.

“So many people do [it] just to look better but it is often not a powerful enough reason to keep you going back month after month. There needs to be a very powerful driver to keep up the motivation as you go,” Mel added.

This is why a more wholesome approach to health is far better—if your goals are to be healthy and nourish your body, you’re more likely to stick to it than if it was just to look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

  • Keep a diary

I don’t mean some kind of obsessive calorie-counting record. Buy a cute diary, fill it with motivational quotes and pictures (Jennifer Lawerence for me), as well as your goals and progress. I also wrote a note to myself: never give up.  Any time I felt like giving up, I’d read this and usually get a sense of motivation enough for me to change into gym clothes.

  • Find a form of fitness you love

Try joining a local sporting team, take a yoga class, go for a walk on the beach, try pole dancing, or even random every day exercises at the home or gym. Find something you genuinely enjoy, and it won’t feel like a burden to you.

Personally, I’d love to either learn pole dancing or self-defence. But then I remember I’m poor, and stick to my cheap gym membership.

  • Don’t feel like you have to conform to societal standards of beauty

All my life, I have struggled intensively with my own body image. I remember sitting in Kindergarten, and having a fellow classmate whisper to me: “you know you’re fat, right?” to which my five-year-old self nodded. Since then, I’ve struggled with eating disorders and fad diets. Honestly? They’re not worth it. Seriously. Don’t waste your money on Isagenix or any other tea tox. Yeah, you might lose weight, but that is because you are not eating. It’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable. But time and time again, I try these things because I felt I needed to be skinny to feel happy. Wrong.

My dear reader, if you ever feel like this, I encourage you to metaphorically (or literally) yell: “fuck that!”. Because you are beautiful. Because you are powerful. Because you are strong. Because you’ve overcome every single challenge you’ve come across. Because you know true beauty is in the person you are, and how you treat those around you. Make a change for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

And most importantly?

Love yourself. Know that what you look like does not decide your worth as a human being. Screw society’s beauty standards.

It’s a Vegetarian Wonderland! An Au Lac Review

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It’s hard to be a vegetarian sometimes—especially in a society dominated by the meat industry. I would certainly be very rich if I had a dollar for every time I’ve gone to a restaurant only to find no vegetarian options, other than a bowl of chips or boring garden salad. Fellow vegetarians, we know this feeling well. But fret no more: we have Au Lac’s Royal Vegetarian Cuisine!

I cannot express how amazing it is for a vegetarian to find a restaurant where you don’t have to worry about being stuck with a boring meal. A restaurant where you don’t have to worry that the cooks will accidently slip in some form of animal product. Where you know they didn’t cook your vegetarian meals with the same pans as they cooked meat in. A place where you feel at home—only with tastier food, fantastic and fast service, as well as a stunning, elegant atmosphere, complete with forest-inspired wall art and crystal chandeliers.

I stumbled across this place a few weeks ago, and was instantly greeted like an old friend. Despite the fact that I accidently entered the store half an hour before opening, the workers insisted it was okay—they were happy to serve me, despite not yet being open. All this was delivered with a smile. Of course, I declined and insisted I would come back when they were open—and I did. Even when I paid for my meal with dollar coins and asked for a tax invoice, they smiled (I’m an annoying customer, I know).

Au Lac is 100% vegetarian, with vegan and gluten and nut free options available upon request, and are dedicated to bringing customers the finest, healthiest meals from only the freshest producers. Because I know you’re probably wondering, the meat-free alternatives are made from a variety of products, including soy protein, wheat flour, mushrooms, and an extremely healthy Asian plant called konnyaku. Quality and health has been a part of Au Lac’s philosophy since it first opened in 2000 with two store locations: one in Dickson, Canberra, and the other right here in Wollongong—2/166 Kiera Street. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday, from a convenient and handy 11.30am to 2.30pm, and 5.30pm to 10.30pm.

So let’s get to the important stuff: the food. Honey soy chicken. Soy chicken nuggets. Soy chicken satay sticks. Satay soy beef. Soy chicken in plum sauce. Fried soy fish in a savoury ginger sauce. Fried soy squid with spicy salt and chilli. Braised tofu with vegetables and cashew nuts.  And let’s not forget dessert: banana cake, sundaes and deep fried ice cream. Okay, my mouth is now watering. But best of all about Au Lac? They’re affordable—affordable enough for even a poor university student, with prices ranging from $5-$18. The average main meal is around $15.90, with boiled rice a shockingly cheap $2.50 per person.

It’s the little things that really make a place special, and Au Lac is one of those places. Trip Adviser Australia rates Au Lac a 4.5 out of 5 stars—and I’m going to do the same. On a side note, I’m now starving and desperate for some vegetarian goodness. Try it—and thank me later!