Megan Chircop says she has always been very sporty. The medical scientist and nutritionist is the founder of Body Sculptors Australia, a business with a mission to help everyday Aussies develop a healthier relationship with food. She tells Kochie’s Business Builders an active childhood contributed to her love of healthy food and exercise.
“I have always been very sporty, playing representative netball, baseball softball. My dad was often the coach and played himself. Today my parents are active at yoga, ballroom dancing. And I too am still very active…salsa dancing, touch footy, netball, cycling…and of course I get my daughter outside to run around with her as much as possible.” she smiles.
Despite this fondness for a healthy lifestyle, Chircop says a career in the industry wasn’t necessarily on the cards. She says her true passion lied in biology and medicine.
“Hence, I studied a Bachelor of Science with Honours and then went on to do a PhD in cancer biology. This taught me so much about how the human body works,” Chircop says.
This knowledge has put her in good stead when it came to set up her business which uses science as the basis for nutritional consulting.
“I have always been interested in pursuing a healthy lifestyle for myself because it made me feel good and enabled me to be driven and achieve goals that I set for myself. Alongside that, coming from an Italian background, my love of food, and enjoying eating with family and friends has always been a big part of my life. However, I wanted this to be in a healthy way.
“So, my love of cooking and food, quickly turned in to recipe creation…. turning my favourite meals in to healthy versions that still tasted great. I often got complimented on my food when family and friends visited. I wanted to eventually share this with the wider community so they too could return to that traditional idea of enjoying food with family and friends and not being scared of food, which is what currently exists in the community. We have developed an unhealthy relationship with food and specifically that particularly foods/food groups are not good for us, i.e. eliminating carbohydrates. This makes no sense when fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates.
Chircop says every Australian should place health and nutrition high on their list of importance.
“We seemingly know more about health and nutrition than ever before BUT chronic disease often caused by lifestyle choice, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, is expected to increase by 57 per cent by the year 2020 (according to the World Health Organization). Australians need to be educated (science-based evidence NOT fads) about how to make sustainable lifestyle changes. The right nutrition can have a bigger impact than we give it credit for and can prevent disease, speed up recovery from injury/illness, boost energy/concentration, overall health and much more.”
According to Chircop good eating habits start young, however, she says it’s vital that kids be given a choice in the matter.
“If kids feel like they are in control of their choices they will be more inclined to go with it. E.g. offer healthy choices as snacks such as fruit, yoghurt, boiled eggs, vegetable sticks and hummus. They can choose from these rather than you (parents) telling them they must eat this. Also, kids often need to be exposed to new foods at least 15 times before they will even try it, so consistency is the key.”
With the cost of living rising, many families are being tempted by the cheapness and convenience of junk food. Chircop suggests there are ways families can avoid the traps.
“Fast food does not have to be a take-away pizza, burger or Chinese food. Healthy food can be made very quickly. For example a great fast food option is to buy a barbecued chicken from the supermarket on your way home from work. Buy some salad or vegetables. And dinner can be assembled in less than 5 minutes when you get home. Not-to-mention the leftover chicken can be used to make lunches (wraps/salads) during the week to take to work or pack in school lunch boxes,” she says.
She suggests if you can only change one bad eating habit – tackling the afternoon munchies is a good place to start.
“When the afternoon hunger pangs hit and you crave something sweet, swap the sweet options for a snack that is high in protein, fibre and healthy fats that won’t spike your blood sugar levels and instead will give you sustained energy till dinner. Examples include vegetable sticks plus hummus, boiled egg on a wholegrain cracker, Greek yoghurt and berries, kebabs made of baby bocconcini cheese and cherry tomatoes.”
You can get more of Chircop’s great tips when she appears at the free personal finance expo, Your Money & Your Life, at The ICC Darling Harbour on November 9 & 10. Get your free ticket here