My Healthy Spin on Lasagna (that the kids and family will love – I promise!)

 

 

My bolognaise sauce is a my secret weapon – easy to make, veggie packed, seriously delicious and a meal the whole family loves (and can survive off for a couple of days so it makes me one happy mama!). I use this as a bolognaise sauce and in my lasagna.

 

I’m going to show you the healthier way to enjoy a favourite comfort meal, lasagna; and yes it isn’t “classic” but I promise it’s better for you (and the kids) and it’s still delicious.

 

What you will need:

  1. 500 grams of lean lamb mince (I use lamb not beef, I prefer the taste of lamb for this)
  2. 1 medium sized onion
  3. 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic (jar or fresh)
  4. 800 gram can of diced tomatos (and maybe an additional small can of tomatoes OR a dash of passata) – it is to keep the sauce runny and tomato-ey (not a word I am aware, stay with me though)
  5. Wholemeal lasagne sheets (you can buy this from the supermarket)
  6. Shredded cheddar (however much you like)
  7. Some olive oil
  8. Some pepper
  9. Herbs of your choice – I use whatever is in the garden; parsley, basil and spring onion usually
  10. Veggies – now this is where I give you free reign. I will always put in an entire grated zucchini, 2 medium sized carrots grated and chopped spinach (silverbeet or baby spinach – I use what’s in the garden but will aim for 2 cups of raw spinach). I sometimes add mushrooms as well. Use what you have in the garden or the fridge – trust me I cook this sauce for 4 hours so whatever you have will usually work as it all softens. Oh I also always add all the soft tomatoes I have in the house so they don’t get wasted – just chop them up and chuck them in if you have them lying around!
  11. Possible addition and up to you: Pumpkin such as half a butter nut. Sometimes I add a layer of pumpkin into the lasagna.

 

For the sauce:

  1. Chop that onion up however the hell you want and chuck it into a pot with olive oil, chuck the garlic in too and cook until brown and soft
  2. Chuck in the mince and brown this – usually takes 6-8 minutes.
  3. Next add your tomato cans –I often throw in a large can and a small one (I like a heavy tomato flavour) but you can use a large can and a passata jar if you have it open in the fridge. Doesn’t matter what you use as long as you have enough fluid for all the veggie you are about to add.
  4. Let this simmer for 10 minutes and use a wooden spoon to break the bits of meat down.
  5. All the veg you grated and chopped and loved – chuck it in! And season with some pepper (sometimes I also chuck in basil flakes or paprika – season away with whatever you like!). I don’t add salt – this is a meal Miss S loves so my rule is no added salt (kids in particular should avoid salt) and adults can add to their own meal as needed. (Just a quick health point – salt addition to meals quickly adds up and excessive salt intake is a contributor to high blood pressure!!).
  6. Now this is key – check the fluid status after you’ve added all those vegetables! If it looks too thick and the veg is poking out and not drowned in fluid you need to add more either in the form of another tomato can, a dash of red wine (it will cook off) or passata. Sometimes I do add a dash of red wine (no more than a 1/4 cup) and after 4 hours of cooking you can be rest assured it has burned off!
  7. Let that sauce simmer for 3-4 hours on low heat and stir occasionally.
  8. Towards the end of the cooking time throw in the herbs.

 

For the lasagna construction:

 

  1. I do layers of meat and lasagna sheets. I RARELY use béchamel – 99% of the time my lasagna doesn’t have it (it’s way healthier without it) but if it’s a special occasion I’ll throw it in. Truth is my lasagna is delicious without the high calorie white sauce and the adults and kids just don’t need it.
  2. I layer meat sauce first then lasagna sheet then meat sauce and lasagna sheet usually aiming for 3-4 layers. Always end on a meat sauce thin layer with some cheddar on top.
  3. KEY TIPS: Always ensure you have enough moisture – sometimes I will wet my hands and sprinkle some excess water to keep the lasagna juicy if the sauce is a bit too thick.
  4. POSSIBLE OPTION: Mashed pumpkin in a layer. If you want some extra veg (and kids will love this too) chop up half a butter nut pumpkin into roughly 2x2cm cubes. Boil for 10 mins approximately (until soft) and then drain the water and mash it all up. Don’t add any seasoning. Simply spread this out in a layer of the lasagna above the meat – I usually only do 1 pumpkin later somewhere in the middle of the lasagna.
  5. Once constructed and sprinkled with love and cheese bake on 180 degrees for roughly 30 – 35 mins (or until golden on top). If you’re worried the top is getting too crispy put some foil on it to protect it but to still allow the lasagna sheets to cook.

 

I love my lasagna because it’s a meal that lasts the family for a couple of days, everyone loves it and I know it’s healthy given how much veggie I pack in there.

 

As a hot tip – this is the sauce I use on pasta as bolognaise sauce. If you’re feeling like superman or woman then make a big batch and freeze it in containers. You can defrost it on busy days for pasta or chuck in on top of a baked potato (I prefer sweet potato as it’s low GI). I will often layer baked sweet potato, the sauce and then add some green peas/corn/lettuce/fresh tomato/greek yoghurt/fresh mushrooms/whatever the hell you want on top–it’s one of our favourite family go to meals on busy days!

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe – and if you try it, post it, and tag me so I can see your work! As usual there are no fixed rules here – use whatever veg you like, mix it up each time, and I can almost guarantee you that it will be delicious, and veggie packed and amazing!!!

 

 

 

 

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“Grey’s Anatomy” Dissected

 

Myth 1: The hospital corridors are filled with Doctor McDreamy and McSteamy

 

Firstly, Dr McDreamy doesn’t exist (except for my husband of course – can we please ensure he sees this?). Secondly, if this doctor does exist he is usually over worked, exhausted and prematurely balding. In reality, the doctors roaming the hospital are more like Dr Webber – an ageing man who looks like he’s worked 20 hours every day for the past 16 years. And usually, he has done exactly that.

 

If there does happen to be the Unicorn (as I refer to them) he is usually aware of his effect on those with a beating heart, which dulls the shiny appeal. McDreamy, as true fans will know, was an all-round decent kind guy (skip the part where he had an affair whilst married to the super-hot Dr Montgomery which let’s be honest, I would have picked over Meredith- just saying). He was charmingly attractive with flecks of grey hair that gradually became more and more prominent as the seasons wore on; and somehow, he only got more attractive – the first thing that is strikingly different to real life. The other reality; the Unicorn is usually physically attractive but with serious personality flaws, or he’s just not that good at his job. This all round decent bloke who looks like George Clooney and cuts out brain tumours without breaking a sweat just isn’t how it is – sorry guys. So, before you purposely fall over to get into a hospital and snag the McSteamy, think again – you’re more likely to get a prematurely ageing moderately nice guy; but if you’re not picky, go for it!

 

Myth 2: Being a hospital doctor is glamorous

 

If only the hospital life were as glamorous as Grey’s Anatomy. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I saw a doctor in a clean pair of scrubs –there’s usually blood, urine, faeces or a portion of their lunch on there. Usually the bodily fluids are not their own; the key word being usually – after 20 hours straight in the hospital it’s hard to know sometimes. Honestly, (please don’t get upset) I don’t like Meredith Grey – I find her irritating and the notion that she is destined for greatness because her mother was a great surgeon is preposterous. I have, however, always enjoyed the producers attempts to make Meredith look slightly dishevelled but still glamorous– they chuck her hair in a low pony tail (that is somehow still perfectly wispy) like she’s just rocked up to work like any normal on-call doctor. Mate – I can tell you she looks better on her worst day then most of us in the hospital look like on our best. The lighting is the main issue – yes, I am going to blame the lights and not the ridiculous hours you work and subsequent fatigue. You could be Miranda Kerr but those hospital lights all day every day start making you look grey. I’m brown, and even I started to look grey when I worked in the hospital.

 

Christina and Meredith used to have some pretty cracking lunches in the cafeteria- they would debrief over fancy salads and smoothies. To be honest I survived on Bega cheese during my internship – the fridge in the doctor’s lounge was loaded with the stuff so constipation and reflux were a normal part of my life back then. A smoothie was unheard of – firstly, where the hell do you get it from? And secondly, if you are THINKING of leaving the hospital to get 1 you’re either on a cruisy psychiatry rotation or not doing your job properly.

 

Myth 3: These doctors can do it all – literally; have a love life, operate on the entire body and do tequila shots!

 

Perhaps the most unrealistic part of the show is the wide scope in which each doctor practises. It seems Maggie Pierce (you know Meredith’s long-lost half-sister?) can fix a fractured ankle, drill a hole in the skull, put a chest drain in and intubate the patient – all whilst whinging about the fact that the guy she likes actually likes her sister who is still in love with the ghost of her dead husband (this is not an exaggeration, this is the story line I have watched play out on my television screen). Let me tell you, in reality we doctors are all so subspecialised and constrained by bureaucracy (and medical indemnity) that no one would dare step into anyone else’s area. If Dr Hunt put a hole in someone’s skull to drain a bleed around the brain I can assure you Dr Shepherd would have strangled him – crossing territories DOES NOT happen. If you’re the orthopod fixing the leg you stay down there. They would never dare cross the threshold of the waist and fix the nerve laceration that the plastic surgeon is working on (and honesty, you don’t want them to – you want each doctor staying in their small territory of practice!). Oh and no one can intubate the patient but the anaesthetist (in between Sudoku and crosswords of course) – Dr Hunt and Dr Shepherd and every doctor in Seattle Grace throwing tubes down throats is hilarious. This multi-talented “I can operate on any part of the body” doctor simply doesn’t exist.

 

The other thing I have to mention given we often don’t talk about this as a profession (and if we do it’s on 60 minutes and generates a flicker of discussion before we go back to our old ways) –there is no way that you would ever have these numbers of women in surgical training. Grey, Torres, Robbins, Bailey, Wilson, Kepner, Grey (the little one), Shepard (the neurosurgeon sister of McDreamy– what a talented family just quietly), Edwards, Montgomery, Pearce, Teddy (the only one I’ll refer to by her first name because it’s just such a goodie – remember Christina’s mentor there for a while?) – you will never ever find this many women in surgery in the real world. Blunt Preeya for a moment – firstly, it’s a seriously hard life and part-timing with a family is nearly impossible – the women who have done it are the true Unicorns and I take my hat off to them! Secondly, it’s an incredibly hard battle in a male dominated field – do these women not get into training because they are women? Once they get in (if they ever do) do they have a very high-powered microscope on them because they are in fact a “woman”? I know that as a profession we desperately want to believe that it is all equal – but I think if we are honest we know that women in surgery cop it much much more than their male counterparts. Unfortunately, if you’re looking at the show thinking “wow women are right in there cutting shit up” – it isn’t the truth – sure there are women but they’re not flooding the air time like you might think (but then again, perhaps this is just a microcosm of a much broader issue in society).

 

Myth 4: Love is in the air in the hospital; its thick and steamy and foggy with love right?

 

Remember Izzy and Denny? He was the heart transplant patient she fell in love with. Sorry to burst the Izzy-Denny bubble (because I know how much everyone loved that story line), in reality you would be reported to the medical board for crossing the boundary with a patient. So as opposed to flash-backs and love scenes you would get a letter stating you were under investigation and there may also be hand cuffs involved (and not the good kind). Falling in love with a patient is a big no-no in the real world.

 

The best part of Grey’s for me was the social banter; the scenes at the house (when the gang all lived together back in the day) and the pub. They would get drunk and debrief on their patients and love lives. Truth be told, we used to do this – so perhaps the show is indeed based on fact! We did get drunk on most Friday nights the minute the pager stopped beeping. In hindsight (because I’m now older and wiser) it was self-medication – it was an attempt to numb the fatigue and anxiety (did I somehow contribute to that patient’s downfall? Should I have prescribed the potassium? Should I have given that patient some stronger pain relief?). The hospital I did my internship at had a doctors’ bar on the top level – I say the word “bar” loosely – it was a room with a fridge full of beer and ‘wine’, a pool table and some seriously unhygienic couches (which you would inevitably nap on during night shift waking with an itchy face from where your bare skin had touched it). My goodness the interns and residents would relish the Friday night drinks – sometimes a training physician (Alex Karev like) would join us and roam between the mere interns like a God. You would rarely see a surgical registrar in there – usually they were still actually working at 8PM on a Friday!

 

In fact, reality is the complete opposite to Grey’s Anatomy – where the show is focussed around training surgeons and their work and love life; reality is that the training surgeons don’t have one – a life that is. And for me, that’s the funniest part of this whole thing! The notion that McDreamy and Meredith would lie in bed talking and debating their marriage is preposterous. Don’t even get me started on Avery and Kepner, Owen and Christina or Owen and little Sherpard being items – this many surgeon + surgeon couples is unheard of and unsustainable (which is probably why only a quarter of them actually stayed together). If a surgeon is married to a surgeon in real life the chances of them sharing a bed and discussing anything at all is remote, trust me. One is usually going to be on call, interstate, operating, writing a paper or just making a junior doctor’s life hell – and one will be in bed thinking about all the stuff they need to do tomorrow.

 

Myth 5: CPR is easy-peasy and when a code is called smoking hot doctors run from cupboards, stairwells and cafeterias to save you

 

Will and I love watching the scenes on any show where they do CPR effortlessly – talking to each other and bouncing around the chest like Emma Wiggle on steroids (yes our family is in the Rock a Bye Bear phase – if you don’t know this reference you’re just not a true Wiggle fan and I won’t be humouring you). CPR is hard work. I can do a maximum 3-4 minutes and when I collapse next to the body I’m usually panting and sweaty – I don’t look like Kepner with her flowing hair and glistening cheeks and I’m not certainly not wearing a white coat (um no one really does I hate to tell you; and if you do most of the hospital are pissing themselves laughing at you behind your back). You can’t carry out a conversation whilst doing CPR. And you certainly don’t go as fast as they show you on the TV show – you don’t give the blood enough time to exit the heart and perfuse the brain if you’re too quick! (Let’s be serious for one moment. The compressions alone are unlikely to start the heart – the drugs we give, the shocks we deliver – that’s what gets the heart pumping again. The compressions are to keep the brain and heart muscle somewhat perfused with blood so that if we succeed with the resuscitation these organs are viable. OK, that’s the serious part over.)

 

 

There you have it – the show deconstructed for you, by someone who has worked in the system. I’m sorry to burst the bubble but Grey’s Anatomy certainly isn’t reality, it’s not even close, but truth be told I love the show, I still sometimes tune in to season 109 to see Meredith talk with her high-pitched whispery voice and Karev still act like the bad boy despite being 45 years old. A part of me, despite having worked in the system, still thinks maybe there are places where it’s like that – smoking hot doctors running around sleeping with each other and operating on the brain and ankle at the same time. Sometimes I wonder if I bombed out with the hospital I did my internship at, should I have applied to Seattle Grace instead? But deep deep down my soul who has worn scrubs flecked with urine (let’s not get into whose it was) and nursed an anxious stomach for 12 hours as I roamed from bedside to bedside as an intern knows, it just isn’t the case.

 

And I know what you’re all desperate to know, “Preeya, who would you have been on Grey’s?” – it’s a tough question and I can feel the pressure and scrutiny you will place on my answer. But if I had to choose – Dr Addison Montgomery. Nothing to do with being an obstetrician because I quite like having a life and delivering babies is seriously stressful, but because she was cool, had a kick arse name (and hair), loads of attitude and I would really like my own spin off show. Her next show Private Practice was MUCH more realistic –smoking hot doctors working in private practice together in a beachy town, sleeping with each other and still maintaining professional relationships whilst also maintain stunning hair and makeup. That show was far more realistic!

 

 

 

 

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The Truth About Iron

 

 

A lot of my patients take a daily iron supplement because they “feel tired” and a friend suggested they try it. I’ve sat on the toilet at the supermarket pondering at the sign on the back of the door, “tired? fatigued? irritable? Maybe you’re iron deficient?” – insert product placement here. Every time I see the ad I answer yes to all questions (don’t you? Who isn’t tired and irritable?) but it doesn’t necessarily mean I need iron replacement. The truth is the medication can have annoying side effects like nausea, constipation and abdominal pain – so you want to be sure you need it before you start taking it. What you need to know is, are you at risk of iron deficiency and are you getting enough iron from your diet?

 

Iron is vital. It plays an integral role in your red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout the body and is also required for enzyme function and energy production. Patients who are deficient in iron can therefore experience symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath when they exercise (because they cannot carry the oxygen around as effectively). It doesn’t mean though if you’re tired you are definitely iron deficient. What we know is that fatigue is USUALLY going to be due to lifestyle factors (poor sleep quality, not enough sleep) or stress – the studies tell us this. And IF it is something medical causing your fatigue then LOADS of other conditions from a simple virus to hypothyroidism to pregnancy to malignancy can be the cause – we can’t blame iron every time.

 

Having said all that – it’s worth knowing if you are at risk of iron deficiency (because maybe then you do need a blood test and replacement) and if you are getting enough in your diet.

 

Iron is in more than steak. If you’re vegetarian eggs are a great source – you can also get some iron from nuts (like almonds and walnuts) and legumes- but the truth is it’s better absorbed from meat. Meat (ideally lean) is the main source – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, seafood. Lots of patients are not aware but vitamin C improves the absorption of iron – so a glass of orange juice with your steak may just help your gut get more of the good stuff!! The amount of iron you need varies according to your gender and your age – for a women under 50 generally 18 mg per day of iron is recommended whereas males require 8mg per day. Want me to break that down for you? (Because let’s be honest who knows how to count the number of mg of iron you are eating!) The general recommendation is to eat 1-3 foods from iron rich groups per day. I get my iron intake from poultry (mainly chicken), fish, nuts (mainly almonds), lentils and chickpeas.

 

As you can imagine there are some groups of people who are at higher risk of iron deficiency due to diet factors (vegetarians, vegans), gut absorption issues (inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease for instance) or issues with increased demand such pregnant and breast feeding women. Mensturating women (especially those with heavy periods) are also at higher risk given they are losing blood and iron with every period.

 

My point is only that not everyone needs to take iron supplements and it certainly isn’t a medication I would just start taking because I feel tired (like I find lots of my patients do). Perhaps your fatigue and irritability is due to motherhood or exams or balancing work and a social life. Perhaps you’re feeling off due to a virus that is lingering. Perhaps you’re tired because you don’t get enough sleep and the sleep you do get isn’t of the best quality. Or perhaps you are deficient in iron – but there is only one way to find out – a chat with your doctor and a blood test if it is needed.

 

 

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My 5 Key Tips for Flying with Kids

 

 

Will and I have always loved travelling and have continued to trek around since Miss S joined the family. Sure, it’s different with a child (and it should be – we would never risk taking her to malaria ridden areas for instance) but you can still do it.

 

Whilst travelling with Miss S is wonderful – the actual flight in itself can generate a lot of anxiety – and I mean a lot. I spend up to a week planning for the long flights – snacks, toys, naps, clothes – I am not kidding – this is a military grade operation. But let me tell you – my planning and type A personality has made all our flights much easier (Will has actually said this out loud) and after flying to Greece, India, Bali I can share my top 5 tips for flying with kids:

 

 

  1. Pack a “go to bag”

 

The nature of this bag changes depending on the age of the child. But I am referring to the small bag of essentials (in addition to your “in case of disaster” big carry on) that stays with you for take-off, landing, turbulence. It never goes in the overhead – it’s the bag of essentials you could need at any point in the war zone of flying with kids – consider it your armory. When we went to Greece with Miss S at 8 weeks the armory had 2 nappies, wipes, nappy bags, a spew rag and a dummy. It was a large sandwich bag that we clutched onto for dear life. A new born is constantly passing motions so there were regular nappy changes – and if any clean ups were needed it was easy – take the sandwich bag and make the magic happen. Now at 14 months the go to bag is a small sack with small toys, 1 book, water bottle, 3-4 snacks, Flopsy (Miss S’ soother that she ONLY gets in the cot unless we are flying – because we will use anything and everything people!!) and wipes. This is the essential stuff. If the aircrew try and take this off me for take-off or landing I will fight to the death – this is the stuff we NEED to survive when she is locked on our lap – the bag holds the key to distraction and bargaining. And it works! Try a small bag with the essentials – ONLY the essentials in here; keep it compact!

 

 

  1. Use your weapons

 

On the spectrum, I’m probably on the stricter side as a parent – my mother reminds me of this a lot! Miss S does not watch TV or play with screens and eats very healthily – as you would have seen on my Instagram. BUT – anything goes in the air. I have toddler games on the iPAD in case, Will has weird games on his phone to distract her if needed (though I suspect he actually normally plays these and uses her as the scapegoat!). I pack all her favourite snacks – wholemeal apple and sultana bars, frittata, broccoli nuggets, cheese, yoghurt – it’s all in there. If she wanted a Big Mac on that plane I would probably give it to her – it won’t kill her, but an unhappy kid for 6 hours might kill us. Eat what you want little girl – let’s just get to that beach!!

 

 

 

  1. Pick the time carefully

 

Will and I used to fly for 5 hours longer through 7 different countries if we could save a couple of hundred dollars when we were younger. You just can’t put kids through that though. You know your child best so pick the flight time when you know they are easiest – even if you have to pay a bit more. We know Miss S sleeps in her cot through the night and isn’t a good night flyer so we pick day flights and it works for us. Some would say “you’re wasting a day flying” – and trust me they have, but we retain sanity (so does Miss S) and we all get there a lot happier so it’s worth it for us!

 

 

 

  1. Keep them comfy

 

Kids are more susceptible to ear troubles when the plane ascends and descends. The reason is that they have smaller eustachian tubes – this is the tube that connects the nose and middle ear so essentially ensures the middle air has air in it. Middle ear pressure equalisation is harder for kids which is why they are more prone to ear pain. It doesn’t matter what it takes, children should ideally be sucking or chewing when the plane changes altitude. When Miss S was little I would chuck her on the breast ASAP so that she would swallow and help equalise the pressure. Later it was the dummy. Now we give her a favourite snack so she chews – do whatever you can to save them the distress. Most of us have experienced painful ears in a plane – imagine being a little one with no explanation as to why it’s happening – prevention is key here!! On our way over to Bali Miss S was having huge top molars rip through her gum and had been an irritable and grumpy bear – so a dose of Ibuprofen pre- flight was a pre-emptive tactic we used which helped I suspect – you will never really know if you’re pre-emptive battle plans work but if they’re happy, and no harm is done, who cares!

 

 

 

  1. Go in with the right mind set

 

A long flight with kids isn’t easy so Will and I board that plane in battle mode- I’m fairly sure I resemble Xena as I walk onto the aircraft. I will do whatever it takes to keep Miss S happy and healthy on that flight. On the recent Bali flights we walked up and down the plane at least 10 times each – we picked spots we could stand near exit rows and let her walk around. Little tips like 2 parents not eating at the same time makes life easier – we always ask the hostess to drop the second meal later so that we are not both struggling with a baby and tray tables. Finally, it’s worth reassuring yourself that you’re taking a baby not a bomb on the plane – I remember Mum telling me this before we flew to Greece with an 8-week-old. I was worried about upsetting people with a crying baby. I distinctly remember Mum telling me Miss S was a child and despite peoples stares if she cried she wasn’t a weapon, she was a child and we had all been a child at some point. FYI my mum gives excellent pep talks! My biggest tip would be do not worry about everyone else on that flight – there are other children and parents in your position and its a finite period of time. Just do what you have to do and if your child cries no one will implode – these are exactly the words I tell myself when Miss S chucks a wobbly.

 

When you feel the sand beneath your toes and see the huge smile on your little one’s face in the pool you realise it was all worth it – I promise you!

 

 

After our long-haul flights, these are our go to tips. This doesn’t even broach the topic of preparing for travel with kids from a health point of view – medical kits, vaccinations etc – that’s a blog all on its own. I hope you can find 1 or 2 survival tips in here to make your next journey that little bit easier! Happy travelling!

 

 

 

 

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My Go- To Healthy Toddler Recipes

 

  1. Broccoli Nuggets

Miss S loves these and so do I; they are hand held so perfect for on-the-go meals (and the patches where she flat out refuses to accept a spoon!!). I use the thermo-mix to make mine (though they could easily be made without one but as a heads up you would need a blender or stick mixer). I work off this recipe (https://www.recipecommunity.co.uk/baby-food-recipes/broccoli-nuggets/3filth5r-5e853-726950-cfcd2-wdltafsv) but as usual make a few alterations to make it even healthier. I usually use 2 small broccolis or 1 and a half larger ones – the more broccoli the better!! I also reduce the amount of cheese just a touch and add copious amounts of chia seeds (they can help with constipation in kids and Miss S has been battling this for a while). If you follow the recipe word for word it’s delicious but more broccoli and chia seeds makes it even more awesome in my opinion.

 

 

  1. Frittata

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that Miss S and I are frittata fiends. I originally followed a recipe a friend gave me but honestly you can chuck anything into egg and it’s delicious. My rules – I always add a whole grated zucchini, 2 whipped eggs and some form of cheese (either a cheddar or ricotta). Anything goes from there – sometimes I add thawed peas, corn or the mixed vegetables – it depends on what I have in the freezer at the time but trust me all combinations are delicious. Sometimes I also add grated carrot; recently I added grated broccoli and it was also delicious. For some extra protein I add a can of tuna – seriously scrumptious (I have to stop myself from stealing my child’s food!). Frittata is another excellent hand-held food you can chuck loads of veggies into. It’s easy to make and very healthy– I can whip these up in 20 minutes. As a tip use a mini muffin tray so that they snugly fit into your little one’s paw.

 

 

  1. Anything with pumpkin

My child loves pumpkin so when I’m whipping something up for her pumpkin is a safe go to base. I will often boil pumpkin (sometimes with spinach, potato or broccoli) and then mash it. It’s a perfect veggie loaded base for quinoa, cous cous or pasta – I will sometimes add tuna to the sauce and mix it with wholemeal pasta – she loves it! Anything with pumpkin is a serious win – roast pumpkin, pumpkin soup, pumpkin frittata… anything pumpkin related you can think of is a win with my kid!

 

 

  1. Meat balls

Another fabulous hand-held food – high in protein and easy to sneak veggies into! I often use lamb, pork or turkey mince (turkey is really lean!). You can sneak ANYTHING into a meat ball and it remains delicious. I always put grated zucchini and carrot and will often sneak spinach or kale in as well. Egg is always my binder and I often put a sprinkle of cheese. I sometimes make these without bread crumbs BUT I’ve found that they are often moister if I do use some to help bind the mixture. A clever girlfriend once told me to blitz a slice of bread in the thermo-mix to make fresh bread crumbs, so that’s what I do – it allows me to use wholemeal bread. Sometimes I pan fry meat balls for Miss S, but I predominantly just bake them which is obviously even healthier.

 

 

 

  1. Stewed fruit

I make all of Miss S’ meals from scratch and this one is by far the easiest. Again, you would have seen it on my Instagram – rhubarb is always in there (we grow it in the garden and it’s very high in B complexes). I always stew rhubarb with either apple, sultanas or both. I throw all the ingredients in a pot with water (make sure you peel the apple and dice it if you use it) and boil it until it’s soft – it usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. I never add extra sugar or honey – the fruit sweetness is enough I promise you. Miss S loves this for morning or afternoon tea, on her porridge or with yoghurt. Will and I also love it for brekkie with our museli! High in fibre, no added sweetness and homemade – winning!

 

 

 

  1. Anything we eat

Luckily Miss S will eat most things we do- it just means when we cook we are extremely careful with salt– the rule is no salt to the meal, add it to your own plate. I make batches of baked chicken drum sticks (with honey, soy and ginger) and she loves it! Often she will eat the chicken drumsticks with cherry tomatoes, avocado or whatever other veggies we have lying around. She also eats curry – it just has to be mild or we add lots of rice with the gravy so it dilutes the heat a bit. Pasta, roast meals, tuna mornay, soups and stews- she eats it all. It’s mainly the hand-held stuff I end up making separately for her now. It’s such a win when they eat what you do– far less work and planning!!

 

 

I hope you enjoy some of our favourite go-to meals! If you need specific steps for any of these I would be happy to post the “recipe” – I use the term recipe lightly, if you look at my tuna mornay one it is more like a set of guidelines. My big tip with kids’ food – the more veggies you can sneak into their food the better, and you combine nearly anything so be creative!

 

Happy cooking and veggie sneaking!

 

 

 

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Your Pre-Pregnancy Checklist

It is an incredibly exciting time when you decide that you’re ready to “try” for a baby whether it be naturally or through IVF. You start envisioning life differently – which room will become the nursey? What will the colour scheme be? Will you have a feeding chair that is stationary or rocks? Which pram will you decide to go with? These are all mammoth decisions; I’ve been there – the planning and dreaming starts early!!

 

Women often get so excited with the idea of the baby (and that’s very understandable!) that they forget about the health checklist that should be ticked off before they even conceive! We call it preconception care and we know that seeing a doctor (and getting as healthy as possible) before you try to conceive leads to better pregnancy outcomes for mum and bub. Preconception consults are 1 of my favourites– I’m passionate about this stuff; to think we can improve the trajectory of a baby’s health both inside and outside the womb is amazing. You can really see my inner nerd shining through now can’t you?

 

Here is my checklist – if you’re thinking about pregnancy (even kind of) then this is for you. It’s not exhaustive; what every woman needs pre-pregnancy is different according to her medical and family history (particularly of genetic conditions).

 

  1. Are you as healthy as you can be?

I cover loads in preconception consults with my patients. Blood pressure, weight and BMI are a start– are you overweight or obese and do you need to try and lose some weight before you conceive? Even just 5-10% of your body weight? We know obesity can be dangerous in pregnancy and that if an obese woman can lose weight before she conceives she can reduce risk of complications for herself and her child. Having said that, being underweight also carries risks – actually getting pregnant can be harder. If you are underweight and not having regular menstrual cycles then discussing some weight gain pre-pregnancy to regulate the menstrual cycle might be a factor.

 

Do you have asthma, thyroid disease, diabetes or any medical condition that needs to be controlled carefully before you conceive to improve baby’s chances of a normal development? Common conditions like asthma can go haywire in pregnancy. It is worth making sure firstly, you are on safe medications for your asthma in case you get pregnant and secondly, that you are well controlled. Poorly controlled asthma (I’m talking lots of symptoms and Ventolin use) can have any negative impacts such as affecting the growth of the baby. Talking about medical conditions – mental well-being is equally important. If you suffer from depression or anxiety is it as well controlled as it can be? And if you are on medication is it safe in case you do get pregnant?

 

Are you using over the counter medications that should be avoided when pregnant? You won’t know unless you check! Lots of non-pregnancy supplements contain Vitamin A which can be harmful. I often discuss with patients stopping some supplements or changing some of their regular prescribed medications so that everything they are on is deemed safe for pregnancy. By the time you get pregnant and come in to the doctor cells have already started rapidly dividing in the embryo and unsafe medications may have had an impact – this is why we try to make the changes before conception.

 

There are now also genetic carrier tests we can offer for women and their partners pre-pregnancy (as a warning – these do cost money and are not currently government funded) – are you a carrier of cystic fibrosis or fragile X syndrome? Is your partner? We can now test to see if you or your partner are carriers for certain genetic conditions which means you can assess what the baby’s risk might be if you were to conceive. Ideally tests like this should be done before pregnancy so you can plan if you and your partner are carriers for a condition (it means the baby is more likely to be affected).

 

So that’s just the generic health stuff – I can assure you in a preconception consult I will calculate your BMI, take your blood pressure and arrange for you to have bloods…if you’re thinking “wow this is a lot” – bear with me, we’re just getting started.

 

  1. Are your vaccinations up to date?

If you come in and tell me you are planning a pregnancy I will always order blood tests. There are certain standard tests every woman gets like rubella antibodies, syphilis antibodies and HIV antibodies to name a few. We test everyone for these things – it is routine. The rubella test is an important one – rubella infection in pregnancy can have devastating consequences for the baby if they are also infected – vision and hearing problems as well as serious development issues. Most women are immune thanks to vaccination BUT if you’re not we ideally vaccinate you before you conceive to make sure you and your baby are protected. The rubella vaccine (MMR) is a live vaccine so pregnancy needs to be avoided for 28 days after  – see this stuff takes planning! We also check you’re up to date with things like Tetanus, hepatitis B and the flu vaccine.

 

  1. Are you taking the right supplements?

The recommendation in Australia is that every woman take 400mcg of folic acid and 150mcg of iodine 4 weeks prior to conceiving and ideally for the first trimester (at least). Folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida and iodine is crucial for baby’s brain development. Some women need higher doses of folic acid (obese women and diabetic patients are 2 examples) and you won’t know if you fall into that group unless you see your doctor beforehand! Iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D – not all women planning pregnancy need these, but some do – it’s worth finding out!

 

  1. Are you covered?

 

This might sound boring but worth thinking about trust me. If you have a baby where would you have it? Which public hospital’s catchment area do you fall into and are you happy to go there? If not, do you have private health insurance so you can choose your obstetrician and hospital? If you decide to get private health insurance – are you immediately covered for pregnancy or is there a waiting time? These are the types of things you want to ideally have sorted before you get pregnant!

 

  1. Are you ACTUALLY ready for this?

Again, no one really wants to talk about this stuff. I raise with women the nitty gritty stuff that we know is important but no one wants to talk about. Family violence is common – far more common that what you realise I suspect. Women exposed to family violence in pregnancy have higher rates of miscarriage. So this is why I try to ask women BEFORE they conceive “do you feel safe at home?”

 

Having a child is hard – alone or with a partner – so planning for the life and financial changes is actually very smart – can you afford a child? If you go down to 1 income can you still pay your rent or mortgage and live? Are you or your partner going to take time off? If neither of you can afford to take time off then who have you got around to help with the baby?

 

 

 

 

So there you have it – the general checklist; like I said not exhaustive because it depends on every woman’s personal history. I know my health check list isn’t as exciting as deciding on wallpaper in the nursery or names – but I can assure you it is vital. Plan ahead, get as healthy as you can- the aim is to do everything you can to improve your (and your future baby’s) chances of a healthy successful pregnancy!

 

 

 

 

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The Anxious Doctor

 

 

I wrote the majority of this blog a few months ago, and have only now built up the courage to release it. I figure that it’s all well and good for me to carry on week in, week out about de-stigmatising mental illness BUT if I choose not to publish this blog then I’m only perpetuating the problem.

 

 

1 in 4 Australians suffer with anxiety.

 

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia.

 

Panic attacks – the tight chest, the sudden rapid onset of breathing and the foggy head – are more common than one might expect.

 

Children, adolescents, mothers, CEOs, millionaires – no one is immune.

 

I tell my patients with anxiety that there is a light at the end of the very dark and muggy tunnel. Eventually things can get better – the panic attacks die down and the negative loud voice that dominates your brain with its ruminating monologue can gradually become softer.

 

I know, as a GP, that there are different options that can help (psychology, relaxation strategies, mindfulness, medication to name a few). I know, as a GP, that by practicing good sleep hygiene sleep can come easier. I know all this because I’m a GP. But I also know this because I’ve lived through it.

 

Many times in my consulting room I have looked into the eyes of an anxious patient and said the words, “you are not alone” and “it can get a lot better.” But what I really want to say is “I 100% understand what you are talking about because I have been trapped in that foggy dark tunnel before, but I made it through and so can you.”

 

I have suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder. 8 years ago as a medical student trying to juggle an intense degree, relationship, social life and normal personal issues, I found myself in the dead center of a cyclone – panic attacks, inability to sleep, constant ruminating thoughts about everything that could possibly go wrong – was today the day I was going to die in the car on the way to uni? Was tonight the night I would fall asleep and not wake up? Did I have cancer that I didn’t know about? And if I did have cancer where was it?

 

It was bad. Really bad.

 

I would have panic attacks multiple times a day. Anything could trigger them. My friends and family would know how to settle them with some gentle counting to slow my breathing down. But boy did I feel like a failure – I was meant to be a high achieving successful student and here I was crumbling. It is only now I realize I was crumbling beneath my own expectations and anxiety’s hold on me.

 

I have painful memories of this time in my life. I remember driving to a friend’s house (I had been there 100 times) but being so caught up in my ruminating thoughts I got completely lost and went 20 minutes further than I should have. I arrived at her house distraught, it was the distinct moment I realised my brain had changed. I had a panic attack on her kitchen floor. I recall not sleeping a wink for nights in a row – I would lie there analysing anything I possibly could and breath a sigh of relief when, finally, the sun came up – I could now get out of bed. I will always remember the moment I walked into the GP’s room ready to address the problem – her door shut and I couldn’t utter a single word for 10 minutes because I was crying so heavily. I remember it all.

 

8 years ago I saw a health professional. I took medication. I practiced mindfulness. I kept a diary. I took up yoga. And 10 months later suddenly I started seeing the old Preeya again. I noticed the negative thoughts had dulled. The panic attacks went from daily to weekly to never. I was “me” again.

 

I often have patients walk into my room and as the door shuts I notice them clutching their hands, head hung low and the story comes pouring out. I have heard the words “I’m just not me anymore” more times than I can count. And that’s the line I connect with most – I remember when I was in my dark moments I would think “where has the fun-loving Preeya gone? How do I get her back? I’m NOT ME.” I get it. I really really get it.

 

So when something like anxiety is so common why don’t we talk about it more? Why DON’T I say to patients “hey, I know first hand what you’re going through.” Is it pride? Is it weak to admit I too have suffered from this common mental condition? As doctors we refrain from sharing too much about our personal life with our patients so as not to blur the professional therapeutic relationship – but does me sharing my own battle and normalizing a horrible experience for you hinder, or does it help?

 

When I say I know how it feels, I do. When I look back on that patch of my life I shudder but I also pull my shoulders back with a sense of accomplishment because hey, I survived it and it has definitely made me a more empathetic friend and GP.

 

So why have I shared this with you? And why now? Because after so many of you privately contacted me with your own experiences I felt it could only be of help for you to know that no one is immune. That I, the person who now treats patients with anxiety, have been there too and it certainly doesn’t make me immune to it in the future. When I sit across from you and say “this is a really difficult time” – trust me, I know what I’m talking about. But also know, that I’ve come good now, and maybe with the right help you can too. Whilst you may be stuck in a long dark tunnel I promise you there are people standing by the light who will do anything to drag you through to the other side.

 

 

 

 

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from anxiety or depression please speak to your GP. Lifeline 13 11 14 is a 24 hour counseling service available in Australia.

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The Flu Vaccine – Worth a Shot?

 

Our clinic just received its supply of Government funded flu vaccines (insert hands up emoji here). It got me thinking – how many people know who is eligible to receive the free Govenmernment funded flu vaccine ? And why might you still want to get the jab even if you have to pay for it?

 

Lots of patients will say that they don’t get the vaccine anymore because they “had it once and got the flu straight after.” I swear I say this a thousand times in flu season – “the vaccine CANNOT give you the flu.” It is not a live vaccine – we do not inject any of the live virus into your body. It dose make your body mount an immune response (that’s how all vaccines work) so you may experience some muscle aches (but most likely you will just have a sore arm). What is MORE than likely (if you do get sick a few days after it) is that you were incubating some sort of virus before you got jabbed, and the illness declared itself coincidentally in the few days after and you blamed the poor vaccine, when it fact you should be blaming the snotty guy at work who doesn’t wash his hands – ever! A reminder also that like any vaccine, the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective and covers 3 or 4 strains of the flu virus (depending on which vaccine you get) when there are in fact many other strains in the community. Despite the fact it isn’t the magic bullet the vaccine does reduce the risk of flu by about 50 to 60% in the general population – and trust me if you’ve been in bed for 2 weeks with aching muscles and fevers you’ll take anything you can get to reduce your risk of getting it again.

 

There are certain people who get the flu vaccination for free in Australia- anyone over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander people, pregnant women and patients with chronic medical conditions such as asthma (where the flu can trigger severe flares) or diabetes (where the immune system is suppressed). There are many other conditions that qualify for the Government funded vaccine so it is worth checking with your GP if you have a chronic medical illness. If you are fit and healthy then you can still get the vaccine- you just have to pay for it (between 15 to 20 dollars). I get it every year – I would be stupid not to in my line of work. I couldn’t tell you how many people I see in the flu season with the classic fevers and aches who look like they’ve walked straight from a steam room into my office – I’m talking sweaty, clammy, “death warmed up” kind of look. If you’ve had the flu before you will do anything to get the vaccine. And before you say “I’ve had the flu and it wasn’t that bad”– the flu is NOT a cold- they are caused by completely different viruses. A cold is often something like rhinovirus or human metapneumovirus whereas the flu is caused by viruses like Influenza A, B or H1N1 (also known as swine flu) – completely different nasties. The flu is debilitating – muscle aches, high fevers, runny nose, headaches, low appetite for up to 4 weeks – you are house if not bed bound. It can lead to pneumonia and even death in the vulnerable (infants, elderly, immunocomporomised to name a few). The flu isn’t the sore throat and headache you had for 5 days last week – it’s much much more than that, trust me.

 

I’m terrified of needles (yes, no joke!). Happy to jab my patients but if you come near me with a needle I will hyperventilate a little (and try very hard to hide it) which sometimes makes me  bit woozy and faint (I know, could it be any more dramatic?!). But guess what I’m doing this week? Yep, getting a flu shot because for me, a young mum, I can’t afford 4 weeks off and I certainly can’t be bringing the flu home to my little girl. A quick jab in the arm versus 4 weeks in bed – up to you!

 

If you would like to read more about the Influenza vaccine, including vaccination of children, check out http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-influenza

 

 

 

 

 

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A Healthy Spin on a Comfort Meal Version 1 – Tuna Mornay

 

 

Tuna mornay is a love of mine – it holds a special place in my heart… alongside twiggy sticks (I know I know!), smoked salmon and goats cheese. It’s a meal I yearn for when I’m celebrating something or when I’m devastated and need a pick-me-up. But MY tuna monray isn’t like yours- I can assure you. It’s one of the healthiest and easiest meals I make and lasts in the fridge for 2-3 days feeding the entire family – Miss S included.

 

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen it in my posts – I make it often – so I thought it was time to share how I do it. So here it is – the Preeya twist on tuna mornay.

 

Firstly, tuna mornay (or my version of it sans white sauce and other fancy bits) is a very healthy vegetable packed meal that only needs one pot. Tuna is so good for you – rich in omega 3 hence, great for the heart and the brain of little ones especially. If you’re attempting to adopt the Mediterranean diet, because of all its wonderful evidence-based health benefits including reduced risks of cancers and heart disease, then it’s a wonderful meal for you because it contains seafood, is loaded with vegetables and uses olive oil as the cooking base.

 

What you will need:

Step 1 – Pick 2 425g cans of tuna (this makes a mammoth quanitity to last for 2-3 days, if you don’t need this much only use 1 can). It doesn’t matter what type of tuna you pick – either spring water or olive oil will do but ensure you don’t pick a flavoured one – we can add that ourselves! You will also need 1 or 2 cans of creamed corn (you can get this from the canned vegetable area at the supermarket) – 1 can for a small batch, 2 for large. In the recipe you might find some other bits I add sometimes.

 

Step 2 – Look in your fridge, veggie patch and pantry – what veggies do you have? I always use what I have – the half chewed broccoli sitting in the crisper is perfect, so are the tomatoes in the garden! Sometimes I’ll use cauliflower I have sitting around and other times I’ll use some celery, mushrooms and tomatoes. Grated zucchini is always easy and fabulous. Use what you have but make sure you add at least 3 types of veggies and one that adds some crunch like celery. I hear the critics already – “tomato in a tuna mornay??” – it’s a great addition – adds some additional moisture and sweetness!

 

Be creative with the veggies especially if you have kids. I tend to blitz my broccoli and cauliflower (if I’m using it) in the thermomix before I add it to the pot – it makes it like a cous cous and makes the mornay thick and creamy!

 

Step 3 – Always add peas and corn – it’s just how I roll.

 

Step 4 – Be creative with your grain! Doesn’t HAVE to be pasta. I sometimes add brown rice (cooked before I throw it in to the mix) but more often than not add quinoa which is just lovely and adds a nice texture! You can use wholegrain pasta or even chickpeas. Sometimes I don’t add a carbohydrate at all – usually because I’ve put in so many veggies there is no room. It’s always just as delicious!

 

The actual steps I follow:

 

  1. I heat olive oil in a fry pan and fry off onions (brown or red) until browned – about 5 mins
  2. I add the tuna (with the olive oil or spring water drained beforehand) and just brown it slightly for another 4 mins
  3. In go ALL the veggies I have – the spinach, tomatoes, peas and corn, cauliflower – whatever it is I chuck it in now. Stir it all in and give in another 2-3 mins.
  4. Add your binder of the dish (some fluid!) – the creamed corn! If you have a load of veggies you might need 2 cans – but 1 is usually enough. Once the binder is in – chuck you grain in now – whatever it is: pasta, quinoa – this is its moment to join the party!
  5. SOMETIMES I add a soup packet (cream of chicken or celery) to bind it further but I rarely need this. If you do choose to add a cream of chicken soup pick one with low salt (especially if your child is going to eat this).
  6. Add your herbs – I normally add parsley and spring onion from the garden but play around –there are no fixed rules – try what you have!! Parsley goes beautifully in this though as does basil.
  7. Pepper – of course!!! Be careful with salt ESPECIALLY if your child is going to eat this. I don’t add any if Miss S is going to have this for dinner – which is always given she loves the stuff!!
  8. Once it’s all bound, shove it in an oven dish – 2 cans of tuna gives you lots of food so you will need a big tray – sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top and pop it in the oven on 180 degrees for 20 mins until the cheese is golden on top! Don’t freak out – I know there isn’t any white sauce nor bread crumbs but trust me this is delicious! People don’t realise that adding something like white sauce to a meal is adding extra calories you don’t need.

 

And that’s it – you have a healthy tuna mornay!! You may be skeptical – is this even delicious? Hell yes it is – the veggies give it texture and sweetness, the cheese gives it the edge and the tuna is the hero as it should be!

If you have a serve for dinner this meal will give you at least 2 serves of veggies easily. Imagine how good it is for kids! I can hear you saying “Preeya this isn’t really a strict recipe with steps to follow” – I know but this is how I cook – it changes every time and you have a framework now to work off.

 

The wonderful thing about my mornay, like all my cooking, is there are no set rules – play around, try things out, chuck in as many good tasty things as you can! Try a comfort meal without the naughty things like white sauce – it can be just as delicious and good for you!

 

If you like this – I’ll pop up some of my other healthy versions of comfort food – lasagne, pasta sauce, shepard’s pie, enchiladas!! The possibilities are endless!!! Check out my Instagram feed for other healthy food ideas!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Peek Inside Our Medical Kit for India

 

I’m a type A packer – I’m talking lists, repeated cross checking with the lists, caressing of the lists – I love the lists!! My type A personality flourishes when it comes to holiday packing.

 

I tell all my patients that if they are going to travel overseas they need to pack a medical kit and if travelling to the developing world then the medical kit needs to be more extensive.

 

So here is a look in our travel kit for India – I use the term “kit” very loosely – it’s a plastic bag filled with an abundance of ammunition in case we get unlucky. In addition to the medications I’ve packed Milton’s tablets for sterilising Miss S’s utensils and bottles (seriously handy for travel!) and water purification tablets just in case.

 

 

  1. The Basics

 

These are the things people sadly tend to forget (and you will kick yourself trust me!) – the every day items that you take for granted at home. Paracetamol when you have a headache, a fresh bandaid when your child falls over and grazes their knee. The basics should go on every holiday with you!

 

What I packed – Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (both for Miss S and ourselves), antihistamine tablets for adults (to stop my allergic husband from ruining the entire trip with his sneezing), bandaids.

 

 

  1. Traveller’s Diarrhea Essentials – incase it hits (insert worried face here)

 

Traveller’s diarrhea is common and affects up to 50% of international travellers. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are horrendous but it’s the dehydration as a result that is the big killer. Hydration solutions are essential- we have effervescent tablets and jelly in our medical kit this time in case Miss S gets hit. Food and water safety is key when it comes to avoiding traveler’s diarrhea (I can’t emphasise this enough!!!) but if you get unlucky anti-diarrhoea tablets (NEVER use these in children as they can have severe bowel complications) and an anti spasmodic agent like Buscopan, for that awful crampy belly pain, can help. You should always see your GP before you travel to countries where traveller’s diarrhea are likely to hit (South East Asia, India, Africa etc) for antibiotics you might be able to take with you in case – antibiotics can help as more than half of traveller’s diarrhea cases are bacterial in nature.

 

What I packed – Ciprofloxacin and Azithromycin for traveller’s diarrhea (for the adults), Azithromycin (for Miss S), antispasmodic agent, Loperamide, hydration solutions (both tablet and jelly), Weetbix – if something super simple is needed for Miss S (yes it is going in the medical kit area!!)

 

  1. Sun and mosquito safety

 

Another big one people tend to forget! Sun cream (make sure it’s water resistant and OK for children if you have them!) and mosquito repellant are VITAL. For some reason people don’t consider these as vital components of the medical kit – to me they are perhaps more important than some of the antibiotics you can take. Severe sunburn on a holiday is dangerous and malaria can be lethal – so put your insect repellant and sun cream purchase high on the agenda!

 

DEET repellant is the tropical strength stuff you can buy from the chemist. For Miss S we have the cream version to apply (not to the hands as they put these in their mouth), a mosquito net to place over her cot (Kathmandu sells these) and 50+ suncream for her (and a version for us). We have tailored our trip for Miss S (and are not travelling to high risk malaria areas) because there are no antimalarial drugs for her and having seen malaria as doctors we were not willing to take the risk so our itinerary sticks to low risk areas only. Again a visit to the GP before you travel is a great way to find out if you are going to high risk malaria areas, in which case you might need preventative medication.

 

What I packed – 50+ suncream for the entire family, DEET insect repellant, mosquito net, citronella candles, hats and sunglasses for the 3 of us.

 

  1. The “Just In Case”

 

You don’t know when a cold will hit so I take things for the dreaded “in case we get a cold on holiday” scenario. For adults that’s some form of decongestant tablets lest it strikes before we have to fly. For Miss S that means a bit more – the FESS nasal suction, eye wipes and Vicks are also coming along. A thermometer takes minimal room and you won’t regret packing it if someone gets sick and whilst I really want to take my stethoscope and entire diagnostic kit (did I mention I’m type A haha) I’m refraining (and I think my husband would secretly unpack it even if I tried). BUT we do have comprehensive travel insurance (please don’t go anywhere without it!!) and we have checked the English speaking hospitals that will see children in each place we are visiting – it pays to be prepared.

 

 

 

So I know what you’re thinking – how do you have room for all this? A few less dresses packed (I know the sacrifices we make!!) – but I won’t miss the dresses if I’m bent over the toilet bowl! And whilst I have fingers and toes crossed we won’t need anything from the medical kit – it’s ALL there if we do!!

 

 

 

 

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