Variety is the spice of life!!

Variety is the spice of life!!

“Am I getting enough variety? Do I need to eat more vegetables and fruit?”

Well as long as you’re not eating the same thing for all your meals you’re  probably ok, but there are many things that you can do to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for good health.

“How much variety is enough?”

Nutrition Australia encourages Australians to eat around 30 different foods each day. This isn’t referring to the different food groups just the variety of foods.

Eating nutrient dense foods give you the most nutrients for the fewest amount of calories. In other words, nutrient dense foods give you the “biggest bang for your buck.” You get lots of nutrients, and it doesn’t cost you much in terms of calories and leaves you room for more different foods.

Having a range of food from the different food groups (vegetables, fruit, cereals, meat, fish and dairy products) is the best way to ensure you are getting a range of different nutrients. My advice to most people is to choose different foods every shopping trip. I go to the market each Saturday to buy my vegetables, fruit and nuts, to ensure that I am getting a good variety of food I will then buy different foods on my next shop. This is one of the easiest ways of getting in different foods, no recording or planning throughout the week, just ensure you are not buying the same foods over and over again.

Looking at individual meals, try to have a mix of different foods in the one meal. For example; meat and 2 veg equates to just 3 different foods as where if you have a casserole, minestrone soup or a mixed salad with meat you could get up to 6-7 depending on all the ingredients.

I have been asked many times by different people “should I have a multi vitamin?” This is something that should only be thought about if you have a deficiency or if you are unable to eat certain foods due to an allergy or other medical reason. You are able to get everything you need out of food for general health, keeping in mind you eat a variety of different foods.

What our bodies need from food changes as we move through different life stages. Babies, children, teenagers, adults, older adults, pregnant and breastfeeding women all have different needs. By aiming to eat well for our life stage, we can help keep happy and healthy. This also includes changes in our activity levels; if you are exercising more you need to eat more.

This is where consulting a Dietarian or General practitioner would be a good idea. If you have any concerns it is always best to be safe than sorry.

Tips for increasing food variety

  • Choose a variety of foods from the Healthy Living Pyramid.
  • Eat a range of different breakfast cereals and breads.
  • Jazz up dishes with herbs and spices – these can transform a meal for little cost without adding salt or fat.
  • Experiment with the different vegetables, fruits, grains and meats available.

Ask for tips on how to prepare and eat exotic produce.

  • Remember, just because you haven’t tried it, doesn’t mean you won’t like it.
  • Give yourself time to get used to a new food – experts say that it can take humans up to nine tries of a new food to adjust to its flavour.

So enjoy different foods, increasing your variety. Who knows you may find some wonderful new tastes that you weren’t aware of before.

food plate

Thank you for reading.

Mrs Jessica Gray

Div1 RN (Specialising in Diet Related Disease and Nutrition)

MS Australia Ambassador

Australian Para Athlete


Nutrition Australia; (2015)

South Australia Health;

Is it true?! Is dessert really BAD for me?

Is it true?! Is dessert really BAD for me?

dessert picture chocolate cake

This is one thing that I am asked on a regular basis.

Can I still eat dessert when I am trying to loose weight?

Well the answer is YES and NO.

If you are someone who eats sweets every night then I would highly suggest to restrict to every second night and to limit desserts that contain the three main ‘BAD’ ingredients ; sugar, white flour and butter. This would include all the nice things that mum use to bake; puddings, cakes, ice-cream, cookies. Studies have linked these ingredients to obesity and increased rates of type 2 Diabetes. So if you’re eating dessert, most nights, with these ingredients, you’re asking for trouble. The kind of trouble that isn’t just causing problems for your waistline but your entire body.

If you were talking about foods like fruit, yoghurt, dark chocolate, nuts or any combination of those ingredients would be a great thing to have in small amounts after your dinner. Adding more variety into your diet is one of the key ways to ensure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals we need. Using this opportunity to have more fruits and dairy products could be a great thing.

You can also make it a family activity, for those of you who will be making dessert for more than one. I like to involve my son in choosing foods for dessert so that hopefully, over time, I am able to teach him that healthy foods can be awesome too.

One great tactic for weight loss is to serve yourself out an amount of food you would like to have. Then put away half of it for tomorrow or for the next night you want to have dessert. This cuts down your portion sizes dramatically and in turn the amount of calories consumed over the day. It means you can still have the food you wanted, but without being greedy.

Also be sure not to leave it too late at night. If you follow my advice ‘you don’t need energy to sleep’ then you will do well.

Try to finish eating at least 3 hours before going to the land of nod. Then you can be sure that your food will be well into the digestion process before lying still for 6-8 hours (more on the 8 hours side I hope).

Everything in moderation is the key. Don’t always have ‘extras’ at night, especially at a time when you will not be needing the extra energy. Use little tricks so that you can have it all whilst still looking great.

So remember you can have dessert, as long as you are sensible and choose foods that are good for you and that give you some bang for your buck. Do not eat empty calorie foods (foods that are nutrient poor).

Thanks for reading

Mrs Jessica Gray

Div1 RN (Specialising in Diet Related Disease and Nutrition)

MS Australia Ambassador

Australian Para Athlete

What is Para Bench Press?

The Amazing Para Bench Press

The basic break down;

The Para Bench press technique is in essence the same as standard bench press; accept you are only using your upper body strength as you are laying down on a 2.1 metre long bench.

The athlete starts from a locked out elbow position.

As the bar is motionless in this position the head referee makes the ‘Start’ call.

The athlete then descends the bar to their chest – it then must come to a complete stop before the press motion begins (there is no press call- this is all left up to the athlete to judge for them self).

Then at the top of the press motion as the elbows lock out the ‘Rack’ call is given.

 “How much ya bench???”

Bench press is one of those things close to the heart of many gym-go’ers.

It is the only powerlifting movement that is embraced by both the casual “beach weights” dude with twiggy legs (no offence if that’s you – we all have our own goals at the gym!), and the seasoned powerlifter who agonises over planning their next three-lift training block.

It is also an avenue for athletes with lower body impairment to get on the world stage and compete at the Commonwealth Games and Paralympics – something that hopefully will be a reality for able-bodied powerlifters in the future.

In Australia it seems to be a little-known fact that Paralympic Powerlifting actually exists, so this article is here to shine some light on a sport that could bring opportunities to strength athletes who may not be able to compete in sports that require their lower body.

The most significant and obvious difference between Para-Bench and standard bench is the position of the legs – the feet must be up on the bench in Para lifting. To allow for this, a longer bench is used, which is also wider from the waist area to provide enough room to comfortably place the legs.


That’s right – legs up on the bench = no leg drive, no stability coming from the feet.

Para bench is truly the ultimate test of upper body strength and precision.

During the lift, your feet are not allowed to lift from the bench.

To assist with this, you may have a strap across your knees or ankles – you can opt for both, or neither.

The strap can help make up for some lack of stability that normally comes from leg drive.

In Para Powerlifting, the required technique for a clean lift is extremely strict.

Once the bar descends to the chest, it must come to a complete stop – any wobble or bounce will disqualify the lift.

When pushing the bar back up, the elbows must lock out simultaneously.

One other major difference with Para Powerlifting – there is no “Press” call. The athletes must judge themselves that they have paused for long enough to score a clean lift.

Next time you’re at the gym, watch people’s form as they bench press.

Do they lower the bar all the way to the chest?

Does it pause on the chest?

Does it wobble or do they bounce it off the chest to help get the weight back up?

Do they lift off the bench from their hips?

Does the bar travel straight up or does it pause or dip during the movement?

Do their elbows lock out (straighten) simultaneously or is there a delay between left/right?

The fact is that 99.9% of bench pressing that occurs in gyms would not result in a passable lift in Para Powerlifting. That is not to say that everyone is doing it wrong – it is just to highlight the standard required to compete in the sport.

Have a look at Ali Jawad (Great Britain) benching 170Kg, raw, at under 59kg body weight. Note how precise the movement is:

Ali Jawad 170kg press in the under 59kg bwt

When I got the opportunity to join the Australian Para Powerlifting team in 2012, it was incredibly exciting. I had already competed in able-body powerlifting and my PB for the bench was about 72kg…

However, changing to the Para bench and stricter rules, my bench dropped down below 60kg. I realised I had a long way to go! Now 2015 I feel like I am only just starting to consistently hit clean lifts.

I was lucky enough to join the Australian team while there was still funding for the sport.

Since then I have traveled interstate and overseas to compete in Malaysia, Dubai, Scotland (Commonwealth Games – a highlight!), and Mexico.

In November, a team of us will be traveling to Hungary to represent Australia at the European Open Championships – also a qualifier event for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. It will be my 5th International level competition. Competing Internationally, the enormity of the events can be overwhelming, but each competition my confidence increases.

I am obviously saddened that over time I have lost some day to day skills and ability due to having MS but without my condition I would not have had this opportunity.

I have met so many wonderful people through this sport – it really pushes you to raise funds and train hard for the next competition.

It gives me direction for my exercise even when I’m very sick.

I believe that without the commitment I have to powerlifting there would be some days I would have just stayed in bed.

Athletes competing in Para Powerlifting come from all walks of life and circumstance.

Some were born with a condition like Cerebral Palsy, some have a condition that degenerates the muscles in their legs, and some have acquired injury through accidents or even injuries sustained in military duties.

Some of these athletes have gone through horrific injuries or lived with incredibly difficult circumstances their entire lives – yet they are still competing on another level compared to able body.

Some current World Records from IPC Para Powerlifting – keep in mind these guys compete raw and are drug tested:

Mens up to 59kg: Sherif Othman – 210.5kg

Mens over 107kg: Siamand Rahman – 295kg

Womens up to 61kg: Fatma Omar – 141kg

Womens over 86kg: Precious Orji – 164kg

Para Powerlifting uses the AH (Haleczko) formula to determine the score an athlete receives for their lift – athletes with amputations receive a penalty to their weight according to the amount of limb missing. It is actually an advantage in Para Powerlifting to be missing part of your leg!!!

I hope you found this little article informative – I’d love to get your feedback!

For more info check out – the official site for IPC Powerlifting.

Thank you for reading

Mrs Jessica Gray

MS Ambassador

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Australian Para Bench Press Athlete


22-8 Glasgow Photographer

“Top 10 Fat loss tips for those who care about health”

Jessica’s Top 10 fat loss Tips


  1. Increase your fibre intake- eat at least another 200-300 grams of fibrous vegetables per day on top of what your already eating and you will see great results.
  2. Drink more water with added minerals- 2.5-3 litres per day with a sprinkle of ancient sea salt to enhance absorption. (Do not turn to sport drinks because they contain too much sugar and salt)
  3. Limit any processed foods- if your food doesn’t look like its natural form be careful of added chemicals, salt, sugar, and saturated fat.
  4. Take all ‘extras’ out- meaning; salad dressing, butter on toast, sauces, sugar in coffee.
  5. Eat more often but smaller amounts eg; turn 3 meals a day into 5 or 6 by adding more vegetables and eating a bread pate sized meals instead of a dinner plate sized meals.
  6. When you prepare your meals do not use butter or oil if you can help it. Even just substituting olive oil instead of butter will cut your calories down considerably. Also steaming vegetables is a great way to cook delicious food without the added butter and oil needed in pan cooking.
  7. Eat small and regular amounts of protein rich foods to help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Helping to prevent ‘bad’ snacking.
  8. Don’t eat too late at night; allow your food to digest better before going to bed. Also limit your carbohydrate intake at night. ‘You don’t need energy to sleep’
  9. Lower your calorie intake not your food intake- eat nutrient rich foods that are lower in calories therefore giving you more bang for your buck. Also increasing your vegetable intake, will increase the volume of food you are eating without the extra calories.
  10. BREAKFAST is the most important meal of the day. It increases your metabolism and energises you for your daily needs ahead. 

In an ideal world where time is not an issue, we would prepare all our meals with fresh produce and a wide variety of vegetables, grains and protein…

In reality, most of us have a plethora of other commitments taking up our time – kids, jobs and activities, leaving us without much time to prepare meals in advance.

Therefore, supplementing our diet with things such as bars and shakes can be quite useful but please do your research! It is important to get a quality product. Ensure that you get enough vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein per serve, with as little calories as possible – the less sugar content the better. Natural sweeteners such as Stevia and Xylitol are good options.

Food is always the best option but missing a meal is more detrimental, as one key to losing weight is consistently having frequent meals through the day.

Bars and shakes cut out preparation time and can be kept on you, in the car, at the office, perfect for that emergency “in-between-meals” meal!

Most important when considering a change for the better in regards to your eating is that it’s realistic for your lifestyle. This will ensure that you will be able to commit to the change for a long period of time to get the results you desire.

I look forward to writing more about these topics and sharing my thoughts with you. I would love to hear your comments and feedback!! If you have a topic you would like to discuss I look forward to hearing from you.

Americas Open Championships- Mexico

We arrived in Mexico feeling like we would never get here! Our flight was canceled on the 20th after some apparent engine problems and United Airways said to me that they didn’t have another flight available for another 3 days!!!! Ahhhhhhh

But with much stern persuasion they change us to Qantas the next day. Then as we finally flew into LA they stuffed up our flight again by booking us a connecting flight to close to the arrival time, therefor after collecting our bags and checking in again (which is what all connecting passengers must do in LA) we missed our flight. Trying not to get too angry with much difficulty managed to be booked into a flight to Mexico after a 3 hour delay. What a Night mare. After 27 hours we managed to arrive in Mexico, Hooray.

The first 2 days the training room wasn’t setup yet at the hotel unfortunately, there for our training was set back a day. 😦

We were frantically trying to find a gym close that had a Para Bench, but we didn’t have much luck, no worries we just had another rest day. There also weren’t any scales around to use so I just had to be really careful what I ate for the first few days.

But our first training session went really well, I felt strong and recovered from our flight ordeal with minimal MS exacerbation. The training room looked great, the weight plates were still in their wrapped plastic, brand new Eliko equipment and great benches, also a nice view. Also once the scales were set up I weighed in 2 kilos under my weight class, so that was a relief.

The People in Mexico have been really friendly and Harley and i Have been trying to learn Spanish to make things easier.

our competition schedule was up, the under 67kg class was set to be held on the Tuesday here, the 28th the second day of competition at 11am. equipment check at 9:15 am and weigh in at 9:30. which is great, I prefer to compete in the morning first up.

The atmosphere gets better here every day as the other countries arrive. One or my Friends Ali Jawad  (from Great Brittan) has also offered to help us with technique tips and support, Which is fantastic, its not often get some one who is the best in the world at Para Bench offer to help coach you. My heartfelt thanks goes out to him.

so we have a training session here again today at 7pm at night, with Harley and Ali by my side I feel it will be a great one.

4 days left to the competition, I’m very excited and nervous.

Thank you again to all my supporters and family, I wouldn’t be here without your Generosity.

IMG_3289 IMG_3267

Thank You to Sunrise Medical

With much help from MS Australia, Inner East Community Health and Sunrise Medical, I was lucky enough to receive the most awesome, fantastic, comfortable and easy to use Quickie Q7 wheelchair in green to match my Australian uniform.

I have been putting off purchasing my own wheelchair for some time now due to the cost that our family has been unfortunately been unable to afford, therefore when I’ve been sick, we would usually just hire a chair. With the help and generosity of Sunrise Medical I now have my own chair, which has made things a lot easier for myself day to day, and when I need to travel for competitions… like this coming Monday in Mexico!!

I am extremely looking forward to competing in Mexico in style, showing off my new custom made wheels =)

Having this condition, I admit I had some dread about whether people would see me differently being in a chair. I’m excited to say that zipping around in the Quickie is totally liberating and I literally get pumped up about using it.

We took it for a spin around Camberwell tonight and Jimmy loved it, wanting to go fast… then getting scared and yelling “Mummy SLOW DOWN!!!!” – he even had a turn in it and was able to push himself around a little bit – and he’s only 3!!!

So thank you again Sunrise Medical, I can’t thank you enough, and I look forward to sharing my adventures around the world in the Quickie – only 4 sleeps ’til I head out to Mexico!!

#onesunrise #livewithoutlimits #quickiewheelchairs #MS #MSAwareness

My New awesome Quickie wheel chair

My New awesome Quickie wheel chair

My New awesome Quickie wheel chair

My New awesome Quickie wheel chair

Ambassador for Sunrise Medical and Quickie wheelchairs

I am extremely pleased to announce I am now an Ambassador for Sunrise Medical and Quickie wheelchairs.

Recently my need to have my own wheel chair (not hiring one) has increased leaving me, some days unable to get out because I am unable to walk or take my scooter. I have been on the waiting list for funding through SWEP (state wide equipment program), which everyone knows that you can be waiting a long time to get any assistance in Victoria. For about 8months to a year I have been waiting but am now desperate to get a chair of my own, without having the money to pay for one that suited my needs (that I can also travel with).

Thankfully after the recommendation of my Disability consultant at Inner East Community Health Center I contacted Sunrise Medical who are a supplier of Quickie Wheel Chairs. After discussions with them they kindly offered to fund the majority of the cost of my new green (to match the Australian colours J) Quickie Q7 NextGEN wheel chair in exchange for becoming an Ambassador for their company.

I couldn’t be happier now looking forward to the expected delivery after Easter. The ‘Easter bunny’ really delivered this year.

At Sunrise Medical Australia their daily goal is to improve the lives of the people by creating innovative, high quality products designed to promote independent and involved lifestyles.

They have helped me achieve my future goals by supplying me with their assistance and I am very thankful.


Q7-009-1– Q7 NextGEN chair (mine will be green)

#OneSunrise   #QuickieWheelchairs

Road to Rio 2016

It’s been some time since my last international appearance on the stage, but the wait is almost over.

This April I’ll be travelling to Mexico City to compete in the Americas Open IPC Championships (26-29th April) with the goal of improving my world ranking. I need to make the top 6 to qualify for Rio.

IPC has a website up at with more updates sure to come closer to the competition. Hopefully there will be a live video feed to tune in to.

Since the sport is no longer funded in Australia I face increased challenges. Obviously I must fund-raise to attend these Paralympic Qualifying events, currently I am running a campaign you can check out here:

Another challenge – in Mexico I will be the only Australian representative.

No funding for athletes = obviously no funding for support/volunteers.

I am not about to travel solo and compete by myself though – I am enlisting my husband to come and fill the role of … well, everything… except lift the bar on stage 😉 Hope he likes carrying stuff, providing food and giving massages!

The flights and accommodation are all booked, and I’m feeling super pumped up about everything. My training is on track and I’m feeling strong.

I’ve learned some tough lessons about how strict IPC Powerlifting is judged. I’ve made it a point every single damn time I get on the bench to refine my technique – I hope it pays off! I only have a few chances to qualify for the Paralympics – Mexico, Hungary (November), and possibly Malaysia in early 2016.

I will have to make huge improvements to qualify for Rio. It is certainly possible, but failing that, my next goal will be to medal at the next Commonwealth Games on home soil at the Gold Coast in 2018

I know I will achieve great success in the future and having international competition experience is critical.


A final word – I couldn’t possibly hope to travel this path without the help and encouragement of a lot of people – family, friends, and my sponsors.

Dineamic is my major sponsor – they have been so supportive and helped me before I had even competed internationally. The look on peoples faces at the gym when I’m eating this delicious food is priceless – jealousy is wonderful 🙂

Loaded Lifting have been fantastic satisfying all my equipment needs with their top quality products.

Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and MSAC Institute of Training have sponsored me financially this year and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the departure of government funding.

A big thank you to my newest sponsor Next Generation Supplements who have welcomed me with open arms – arms full of delicious protein.

Also thank you to Ulms Hair in Camberwell (for making me look fantastic) and Melbourne Aesthetic and Laser Centre (for helping ease my crippling shingles pain which was interfering with my training).


Lastly, my acquired family’s gym Body World, for without them I would not have started. Mind you I would probably be financially better off but… that’s love for you.

Look out Mexico here we come!!!


Radio Interview SEN Sports 1116 AM

Turn to SEN Sports 1116 AM for the Run Home segment on Monday the 16th where I will be on at 6:25 pm talking about my journey as a Para Bench Press athlete suffering with MS, as well as heath and fitness as a part of the Dineamic health promotion month.

— at Dineamic.

Turn to SEN 1116 for the Run Home segment on Monday the 16th where I will be on at 6:25 pm talking about my journey as a Para Bench Press athlete suffering with MS, as well as heath and fitness as a part of the  Dineamic health promotion month.

Welcome to my new sponsor Next Generation Supplements

I am Very happy to announce that I am now a part of the Next Generation Supplement family.

I have been persistent in establishing a relationship with them because their product works and tastes great. Now I have met a few members of the Next Gen Team I am very excited for they are very friendly and welcoming, and they really believe in their product which you can see in their enthusiasm when they talk about it. Due to my MS I have been suffering from stomach problems and irritable bowel syndrome, due to the top quality of this product I can now have supplements in my diet with out suffering later.

They are also Australian owned and made which is very important, representing and supporting Australia is very important to me and I want my supporters to do so also.

I am looking forward to great things with Next gen 2