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Healthy food is easy to make
Sweet potato and cheese muffins from the LiveLighter recipe book.

It doesn't take much to start the day well.

Porridge can be prepared in a few minutes. Add a freshly grated apple, a couple of tablespoons of sultanas, a pinch of cinnamon and some orange zest and you'll wonder why you didn't do it before.

Who said good food was boring? Or expensive? Bet it costs less than a sticky bun and flat white on the run.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that more than 4.3 million people (roughly one in four) are obese. And WA doesn't shape up too well - we have the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in Australia. Two-thirds of us need to lose weight.

That's the message from the Heart Foundation WA and Cancer Council WA in a new State Government-backed, three-year, $9 million LiveLighter campaign that targets toxic visceral fat - the type that accumulates in the abdomen around vital organs - with medical images taken during operations on West Australians who are carrying extra kilos but are not yet obese.

Anyone with a big belly is at risk. So are people who eat junk food and don't exercise.

"In what we believe to be a world first, this public campaign will graphically portray the effects of being an unhealthy weight," Maurice Swanson, CEO of the Heart Foundation WA says.

One look at the images is enough to put you off your fries. Seriously.

"Every time I went to eat something, that vision stayed with me more than anything," says school teacher Sue Edge, who is one of the faces of the campaign.

"My daughter and I went on a cruise through the Malacca Straits, I had already planned it before I committed to this. And instead of going to the buffet, we had sit-down meals and exercised every day. She was determined to stick by me - and that made it so much easier.

"Everything was provided - breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus morning and afternoon teas - but we ate salads and had cereal, fruit and an egg for breakfast and never touched the morning and afternoon teas.

"It's been a big step but I feel so much better for it."

Ms Edge aims to lose 30kg - she's 185cm and should be about 86kg, but weighs 120kg and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease last year. She's lost 3kg in three weeks and her clothes are already loose around the waist.

"It's always been too hard to work out what I could and couldn't eat," she says.

"I've tried all sorts of diets but always gave up. Following the recipes on this campaign makes it easy. The warm vegetable salad is to die for and there's a thing called tropical fruit delight with sponge fingers that looks indulgent but it's not because it's made with ricotta.

"Once you've got all the ingredients, it's easy to make sandwiches, toasties and wraps. And it's a lot cheaper than takeaway.

"I've thrown everything out of my pantry and fridge. The grandchildren were a bit miffed there were no Tiny Teddies and muesli bars in the cupboard but they're now happy to have the date and muesli slice, or an apple and a banana instead."

That's the message the campaign is trying to get across with a series of easy recipes in a free book - LiveLighter Winter Recipes - that can be downloaded or ordered via its website. Hundreds of other recipes can be accessed online and more books are in the pipeline.

"We're trying to get across the sense of urgency that being overweight is not OK," says dietitian Emma Groves, who is manager of public health nutrition with the Heart Foundation WA.

"Reducing the amount of sugar and saturated fats we're having is a good start. It is easy to make simple swaps and little changes to make a difference."

Start with dairy. Make sure it's low-fat because it is a source of saturated fat and a few grams a day can add up over a year.

Eat breakfast, even if you're not hungry, because you will end up craving food later in the day. "Choose a reduced-sugar cereal like wheat biscuits or porridge or home-made baked beans on toast," Ms Groves says.

"For lunch, you can have a really nice roast beef and salad or tuna and salad sandwich; otherwise, leftovers are a great standby, especially soups.

"With dinner, the big thing is to get in as many vegies as possible, rather than fill up the plate with pasta or rice. Instead of frying, try baking or grilling.

"If you want to snack make sure it's healthy - some wholegrain reduced-salt crackers with avocado, or nuts and seeds, or fruit."

To download LiveLighter Winter Recipes, go to livelighter.com.au. For Twitter and Facebook, search for Live_Lighter.