Why Weight Watchers for Teenagers is not a good plan.

On the surface this may seem like a good idea. We know the UK population is getting larger and we need multiple ways to help teach people about how to eat for their health… is a diet really the best way? Almost everything in me shouted out “NO” when I read about WW opening it’s doors to teenagers. Part of that may be because I work with lots of teenagers with eating disorders/disordered eating and I know that many of them have gotten to the stage where they need specialist support because of “dieting gone too far”. They started on a diet to lose a little weight and then either liked the knowledge of being lighter, maybe they were complimented or felt they looked better so they lost a bit more and then even more until it spiralled out of control. 

Diet that are focused on weight loss and controlled your food intake via calories do not work for the majority of people longterm. They instead set you up for yet more dieting or for a lifetime of being confined to the same dietplan. Do we want these teenagers to be controlling their intake all the time or bouncing from one diet to the next whilst their weight increases? Or should we instead move away from the focus on weight and to a focus on health related behaviours instead? 

Running Feet

We know that weight can increase the risks of certain chronic disease and that weight loss helps reduce these. However, this does not mean that you cannot be healthy at a larger size or that you are healthier because you are slimmer. Your size does not define your health.

I would love to see an approach where we counter the negative diet messages with positive changes to make for overall health. Encouraging teenagers to eat more plant based foods, to be active daily in fun ways and to choose wholegrain lower sugar options could make a difference without the intense focus on dieting. Education around hunger is something I try to do with anyone I work with at any age – for example, what is it, what does it feel like and when to respond to it. It needs to be about equipping and empowering the person.

Looking at the bigger picture is also key and something that a diet alone will not do. For example:

Why is the person overweight? Are they overeating for a reason or is it that the whole family is overweight?

What is happening in family and social circumstances?

What is their weight history?

How are they coping with life right now? Stress, anxiety, loneliness, tiredness and low mood are all factors that can affect weight and it may be that the weight gain is a symptom rather than a cause.

I do not have the answers but I do know that encouraging teens to diet is not it.

You can see my quote in the Daily Telegraph for this topic. 

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Nutty Granola – a lower sugar version.

My children love granola as a topping for their yoghurt, but often the shop bought versions are super sweet and the lower sugar options are pricey. In my mind making my own sounded like a faff, hence it’s not something I’ve investigated… until I started making a new flapjack recipe and didn’t get the consistency quite right. You know when you know it isn’t right but you keep going regardless. Silly me. As an experienced flapjack maker (and eater) I should have know better. Flapjack intuition.

So when Miss K tried to pick up and eat said flapjack and it crumbled to smithereens we needed a quick rescue as I’m not one to throw away food. Turns out it makes an amazing granola. Sweet enough but not super sweet. I’ve worked  out the nutritional info as about a 30g serving. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutty Granola, a lower sugar version.
Serves 20
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226 calories
19 g
0 g
15 g
7 g
2 g
45 g
22 g
4 g
0 g
12 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
45g
Servings
20
Amount Per Serving
Calories 226
Calories from Fat 127
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
23%
Saturated Fat 2g
11%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 22mg
1%
Total Carbohydrates 19g
6%
Dietary Fiber 3g
12%
Sugars 4g
Protein 7g
Vitamin A
9%
Vitamin C
1%
Calcium
4%
Iron
10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 250g oats
  2. 150g almonds and cashews chopped
  3. 75g sunflower seeds
  4. 50g dried apricots, chopped
  5. 75g honey
  6. 75g margarine
  7. 75g peanut butter
Instructions
  1. Grease and line a baking tray.
  2. Heat the honey, margarine and peanut butter (I used the microwave) until it is melted.
  3. Mix in the oats, nuts and sunflower seeds.
  4. Press into the tin and bake at Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir and break it up, bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Cool and store in an airtight container such as a kilner jar.
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calories
226
fat
15g
protein
7g
carbs
19g
more
Dietitian UK http://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/
This is one of those foods to watch your portions and to eat with enjoyment. I’m a huge believer in having some sweetness if you fancy  and not depriving yourself. I’m trying to model this and teach the children. My boy has a sweet tooth so this granola enables him to have the sweetness but also get a good balance of nutrition in.

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Is eating gluten free healthier?

Gluten free eating has been bang on trend recently. Why? There is a thought that gluten affects weight, causes bloating and is commonly poorly digested. However, often it is not actually gluten that is the issue. There can be several other explanations, for example: large portions of carbohydrate foods can cause bloating, just because of the amount of food in one sitting. In those suffering from IBS, the issue is unlikely to be gluten, but that of FODMAPS, which include wheat, lactose, beans, pulses, plus certain fruits and vegetables. Another key reason can be the overall diet. Eating a diet that is high in packaged, processed foods can cause symptoms that then disappear when you remove gluten. Why? Because why gluten is removed, your whole diet changes. It is not gluten that is always the culprit, take a look at this clip from Food Truth or Scare for more.

Gluten free foods can be: 👉 lower in fibre. 👉 higher in fat. 👉higher in sugars 👉higher in calories. 👉lower in B vitamins. 👉lower in iron 👉often they are not wholegrain.

Therefore gluten free foods are not healthier!  Of course if you are gluten free for medical reasons you may need to have these foods but you can also use grains such as buckwheat and quinoa to provide your wholegrains. So it also doesn’t mean you can’t have a great healthy diet and be gluten free, it just require more planning and thought. Top advice: only go gluten-free if you absolutely need to.

 

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Gut Health on Air

I love media work and am of the opinion that dietitians and registered nutritionists need to be shouting the right nutrition messages out on the air waves and in the press. Not only so the public hear good nutrition advice, but also so the public know who to turn to for that advice. Google can bring up all kinds of wierd, wacky and dodgy advice. Social media is full of everyone and anyone shouting their nutrition messages out. Working with the media can be a way to push the experts to view. 

So therefore I was more than happy to pop in and chat to Sasha Twinings at BBC Radio Solent about nutrition and to answer some of her listeners questions live.

Here is a little snippet of our chat. We cover IBS and fermented foods.

 

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Teaching intuitive eating in family life

It seems a lot of you out there are interested in teaching your children about intuitive eating. Which is absolutely amazing! I’m over the moon. Absolutely loving the little experiments people are doing at home too. 

After a few comments and questions about the last blog post I thought I’d do a post on how we talk about nutrition at home. Again this is not a perfect method and I don’t know it all but I am seeing the benefits in my children. 

For example this week at lunch my boy aged 4

“Mummy why are we having grapes for lunch”

Me: “Because Miss E wanted them” (she is a grape-a-holic, though she hasn’t tried wine yet!). 

J-boy: “We had grapes yesterday and the day before”

Me: “I know, is there a problem with that?”

J-boy: “Well we shouldn’t just eat the same foods we should have different colours and types”. 

Me: in a flabbergasted tone “Ummmm yes exactly” 

Is it just me who is amazed when their children actually listen and take on board what you say?

So here we go, how we chat about nutrition at home:

Take the relaxed road. Several people asked me how can I be sure the kids won’t over eat the food like sweets and biscuits? I guess I can’t ever be sure, but I also cannot be in control of their food intake for ever. I want them to listen to their inner signals and to have a good grasp of nutrition. The more I trust them and let go, the more they surprise me.  So we talk about how sugary foods are absolutely delicious and all foods are great to eat but too many lollipops, cakes, biscuits, dried fruit can lead to tooth decay and tummy ache. On those occasions when the children do over-eat sweeter foods it is a great chance to talk about how that feels.  

A recent example being Eton Mess, my girl had a serving, then came back to ask me if she could have more. I suggested she think about her tummy and decide herself. After another serving she felt a bit sickly and later on reflected on this being due to the sweet, creamy dessert.

Now if I had told her not to have another serving she would have just felt a bit disgruntled, whereas now she understands more about listening to her body. 

Fullness and Hunger Cues. We talk about how it feels to be full and hungry. In the words of my children:

Fullness = my tummy has had enough, it feels uncomfortable, my mouth has eaten enough, I’m not empty. Hungry = rumbles and my tummy aches. Sometimes when I’m hungry I don’t have my energy.

Miss K has always been good at stopping when she is full. the J-boy is another kettle of fish. He will happily keep munching on foods such as biscuits unless you remind him to tune into his tummy. Distraction for him is a biggie. Yesterday in the car he had been given a pack of biscuits, he asked how many to have and I asked him to ask his tummy and see after 1 if he should have another or keep it for later. He happily munched his way through 2 and stopped. Now I’m pretty sure it would have been 3 or 4 biscuits if he had been watching TV whilst snacking or distracted.

 

Nutrition Facts. Now I’m not organised enough to sit down with them and give planned nutrition lessons, I find relaxed or undercover stealth like approach works best.  So don’t feel you need to become a teacher to teach nutrition. When we eat a meal we tend to have a few facts about the food we are eating and talk about the meal. It could be where the meat comes from, how something is grown, the colours on the plate or why something is good for your body. My kids love a handy fact and they will then repeat things back at a later meal. This can prove amusing when someone else is eating a food that they know about.

Your language matters. How you talk about food is so important. Labelling foods as good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, treats or special foods put those foods up on a pedestal. If there are foods that you disapprove of your children will soon pick up on it. I feel like it is a daily occurance that I am having to challenge my own thinking on this and change my words/tone. It seems I am not alone, phew.

Eat using the Senses. Talk about how food tastes, smells and the texture. This can help them to zone in on what they are eating and to not eat it without noticing. One way we have done this recently is to talk about taste buds, where they are in the mouth and what you are tasting when you eat certain foods. My boy enjoys the noises that foods make and how they feel when he eats them with his fingers. Yes it may be not be good table manners but it is a way to get him to connect with his food and think about what he is eating. Later in life people spend lots of time getting back to mindful eating… our children can teach us alot about enjoying our food.

I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you talk about food at home? 

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Food trends 2018 I’d be pleased to see.

January always brings the weird, the wonderful and the wahey of food. I’ve highlighted a few trends that I predict are on the rise for 2018 and ones that I would be happy to see more of. You can check out my 2017 trends post here and see how I did! 

Plant Power

I think we’ve all seen the rise of the vegan diet with veganuary in full swing. Whilst being vegan is perfectly great way to live life and eat I don’t think it is something to take lightly or do for a month. Being a vegan is a lifestyle choice and not a fad. Rant over. I do think that eating more plants and less meat will be high on the 2018 agenda which is fabulous. Foods like tofu, tempeh and quinoa are growing in popularity as are meat free days. Check out Meatfreemonday for great recipes and inspiration.

Sustainable eating

This ties in with eating a plants based diet but goes further. Consumers are becoming more conscious and choosy about where their food comes from. Choosing foods that are not just heathy but are obtained in a way that does not damage the ecosystem or deplete a food source is important and coming higher up the agenda for people.

Fermented foods, probiotics and gut health

The chatter on these has been increasing in 2017 with people starting to think and talk about making them at home. As research on the microbiome grows this is a natural area to grow alongside it. Gut health and how your feed those bacteria is likely to become popular. Personally I love this idea and it’s certainly something I will be getting on board with. Making your own kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt , sourdough are all things you can make yourself.
Less diets more body signals. This could just be the circle I am in or my own hopefulness but could 2018 be the rise of intuitive eating? Listening to the bodies hunger and fullness signals, guilt free eating and take the labels of good and bad away from food. It’s a journey and no quick fix but boy it would be fabulous to see and I think it’s on the way up.

Recycling food

Using up leftovers can seem hard work to some and second nature to others. Chefs are coming on the scene who are pushing this as a trend. Not only will it reduce food waste but also your food bill. A great place to go for inspiration on how to use your leftovers is Love Food Hate Waste.

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Simple Chicken and Butternut Curry.

Comfort food for me is curry. Being half Sri-lankan it’s in my roots that curry is delicious, nutritious and part of life. For me a good curry must include fragrant spice, vegetables and lentils. Or at least have those as side dishes. I’m not about the greasy, ultra spiced up meals with lots of sauce and no veg. Curry can be a great way to be creative with vegetables and give them a twist. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated but it does have to be tasty.

Chicken and Butternut Curry
Serves 4
Family friendly curry
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
504 calories
64 g
55 g
7 g
46 g
1 g
233 g
87 g
5 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
233g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 504
Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
11%
Saturated Fat 1g
5%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 55mg
18%
Sodium 87mg
4%
Total Carbohydrates 64g
21%
Dietary Fiber 31g
124%
Sugars 5g
Protein 46g
Vitamin A
154%
Vitamin C
13%
Calcium
8%
Iron
47%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 large butternut squash
  2. 3 medium carrots
  3. 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  4. 3 chicken breasts
  5. 1/2 tin coconut milk
  6. 2 cups lentils
  7. 1 tsp tumeric, coriander, cumin
  8. 1/4 inch grated ginger
  9. 2 cloves garlic
  10. 80g mushrooms
Instructions
  1. Peel and chop the butternut squash (or use frozen chunks) and the carrots.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the butternut and carrots for 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the chicken into bite sized chunks and set aside.
  4. Add the tumeric, coriander and cumin, it will smell fragrant and delicious. Stir around to coat everything. Next add the chicken and stir to coat.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and add lentils. Top tip: if you use the smallest lentils they cook extra fast.
  6. Whilst this comes up to a simmer prepare the garlic cloves, I like to smash and chop mine. Grate the ginger and add the ginger and garlic to the pan.
  7. Finally add the chunks of mushrooms and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  8. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of coriander if you have it and your family will eat it (mine moan at the green stuff).
Notes
  1. I use frozen ginger and grate it with the skin still on, you could also use it fresh and peel it first.
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calories
504
fat
7g
protein
46g
carbs
64g
more
Dietitian UK http://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/
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Raising Intuitive Eaters

Being a dietitian is the easy part. Being a mum, now that’s a much harder job. Currently I have 3 children, Miss K aged 7, J-boy aged 4 and Miss E, 18 months. Teaching them how to eat a balanced intake, how to listen to their hunger and fullness signals and helping each child on their journey with this in different ways is hard. I find myself having to change my language, change my mindset and be flexible a lot. My children do not eat like I do. They are their own individuals and have their own signals to listen and respond to. Too often I try to parent their eating and actually I’m not in their bodies. They are.

Here are some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. A dietitan who makes mistakes, with her own kids, ummmm yes. All the time. I’m sharing these so hopefully it will help someone else and to show that we all make mistakes.

  1. Don’t be the Food Police.  This is all too easy a trap to fall into.  Oh so easy. As a parent boundaries are important and you don’t want your child to be eating all the biscuits all day, everyday. I’ve certainly had a child who will ask for a biscuit continually until they get one. No matter how often you offer another snack it just comes back to that biscuit. For ages I would say No to the biscuit, I’ve had a lot of biscuit tantrums. It’s now with great relief I can say I now say yes to the biscuit in the context of a balanced snack. After pre/school snacks are often a biscuit with apple and crackers, or toast with peanut butter and something from the sweet tin.
  2. Keep the sweetie tin open.  Ours used to be on the top shelf of the cupboard. Visible but out of reach. However all this actually did was make the sweetie tin special and lusted after which is the opposite of what I was trying to achieve. When you restrict a food it can make it more desirable, we want the things we cannot have. It also sets those foods apart from the rest, but why are sweets anymore special than say an apple? So the sweet tin is now lower down and we have sweets at the end of a meal or as part of a snack. I talk about having less of the sweet foods so we don’t get tummy ache and to keep our teeth healthy in the same way we talk about this with dried fruit. 
  3. No foods are less healthy. Much like I would not recommend you call foods good or bad, try not to call some foods healthy and some less healthy. Why? Well it is often the way nutrition and healthy eating is taught in school but it actually doesn’t make sense. What makes a food bad? Thinking about foods as good/bad or healthy/less healthy can lead to guilt when you eat them. In actual fact it is not a problem to eat any food as long as you are enjoying it and eating it guilt free. We focus on all foods being good foods, it is just some you eat less of as they make you feel sick or damage your teeth. I encourage the children to think about how their tummies feel when they are eating and to stop when they have had enough as there will be another day to finish it. If my children choose to overeat sweeter foods it can be quite useful, as later we can reflect on why they feel a bit queasy! This happened recently after too much Eton Mess, resulting in a mess on the floor. 
  4. Eat your vegetables but don’t force them to. Oh boy, this is one I struggle with. I want my children to eat their veggies so much. Yet the more I push this, the less likely they are to enjoy them and just eat them under pressure. This could then lead to them not liking veggies at all. I had a boy who was not into his veg at all, but by keeping things pressure free, ignoring him and just putting the veg on his plate each day he eventually just started to eat it. Role modeling is so important here, showing how much you like vegetables and talking about why they are needed by the body can have more impact than you expect. 
  5. Pudding is not on a pedestal. It is so easy to use pudding as a way to encourage your children to eat their main course. I know, as I’ve done it. Guilty. By using pudding as the carrot, it makes it seem like the prize and if we are saying all foods are equal then the pudding is the same as the main course. Tricky hey. So let your children leave some of their main course if they want to. Perhaps talk to them about how full they are feeling. If they are really full then they may not have any space for pudding anyway! It makes for an interesting conversation at the table. We sometimes rank our fullness from 1-5. It you are at 5 then you don’t need pudding. 

Some examples from my family in the past couple of weeks:

We bought some large cookies, I gave the older 2 kids free range to eat as much as they wanted and to stop when they had enough. I fully expected my boy to eat the whole thing and yet he only ate half and handed it back. I don’t think he would have done this if we hadn’t have chatted about fullness beforehand.

When visiting Santa they were given sweets/chocolate and again I suggested they ate what they wanted and then stopped and kept the rest for another day. What fascinated me with this was the constant chatter about “hmmm I think I will have one more and then that it enough for my tummy” and the lovely sharing that went on.

I’m certainly still on the journey with intuitive eating and I have a feeling I will be for many years. However it is a journey I am enjoying and such a priviledge to be able to encourage and watch my children as they do this too. They often teach me more than I teach them.

The risk of social media.

Social media for me is essential. It brings me work, it brings me a virtual team and it enables me to stay up to date. I love it for personal and business reasons. It has connected me to a community of other nutrition professionals who I would probably never had met otherwise. I have daily chats with people about the current research, I can ask questions and support others, I can share resources and collaborate with them.

But at the same time social media can be a tough place to be. The nutrition world has become a crazy place. There are people with no training in nutrition publishing books and becoming the got-to for advice. There are highly qualified and respected experts getting caught up in social media wars.  I can completely understand why some people stay away from it altogether. 

Here are some things I am thankful for on social media:

Dietitian’s and registered nutritionists are trained to read the research and interpret it. That may sound simple but there can be many ways to interpret one piece of research. I’m thankful for people who share research, those who give an unbiased view, those who answer questions and help when others need a clearer answer or more research to back up a view. 

A virtual community who are supportive, forward thinking and inspire me. Working as a freelancer I don’t actually see other dietitian’s that often. To all those who are on the cutting edge with popdcasts, videos, infographics – thankyou. 

People who get in contact to just say nice things. Those who notice and say hi, those who comment on a blog post or a recipe. It is appreciated. 

Things that I wish I could change on social media:

The sniping and fighting that goes on. There is not one perfect answer, or one perfect diet. So maybe sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

Promoting of books and money making schemes over the science. It can be all too easy to think that just because someone has a book contract it makes them an expert. There are too many arguments about who is the expert. Personally I would say look at someone’s qualifications. If they are talking about nutrition have they actually studied nutrition? 

Black and white thinking. Social media only provides you with a small number of characters or a snapshot moment to present your point. This can mean that things become black or white, you end up having to take a side. Nutrition is a fairly new science and we are learning so much all of the time, with new research coming out tat is adding to our evidence. Therefore we do not have absolutes, what we do have is a base of science that we build upon. 

If you are a nutrition professional I do think you need to be on social media, sharing accurate messages, supporting your profession and keeping up with the world on there. How we group together and fight these battles that go on is not something I can answer but I do know it needs to be co-ordinated and professional.

Dear new food brands, please be responsible.

We are living in a time of innovation in food. There has been a literal explosion of new products using a range of different ingredients, with new techniques and with all kinds of claims.

Now I totally love trying new foods and am always on the look out for brands and products that I can recommend. When companies approach me and ask me to try something or review it my answer is usually yes. Going to a food show is always a time of huge excitement, it’s like Christmas and Easter all at once. What new goodies will I find? What novel products will there be to taste?

Food Matters Live is one of those events that fuses seminars on the evidence base with talks on food manufacture and then has a huge arena for brands to showcase their products. It can be a great place to network, get your brand in front of people who purchase, recommend and know about foods and a place to learn.

As a dietitian I am literally learning everyday. Nutrition is an evolving science, we have new studies being conducted everyday. we are very much still finding new nutrients and discovering the effects of nutrients. It is an exciting time and I am always grateful to those who continue to bring us new, high quality research. I’m also grateful to those who continue to think of new ways to add foods to a product or come up with new food ideas. We need this. However there is a way to do it.

The food exhibition at Food Matters Live caused my dietitian soul to cry out. It left me with a sour taste and very skeptical, which for me is not the norm. Talk to my husband and he will tell you I’m a very positive, upbeat person who dreams big.

I met some fabulous people and brands.

I got to taste some delicious new products.

I tasted some foods I’ve wanted to try for a while.

I definitely discovered some new things to recommend.

So why so sad?

There was a sea of health claims being made that I just couldn’t see were true, proven or even allowed. Some of the products were frankly laughable. The science did not stack up. In fact at the show I bumped into a lady from trading standards who was blown away by the number of claims that needed to be looked into. The whole thing has led to quite a debate chat on twitter in the nutrition community. Registered nutritionists and dietitians being united in their views on how unhelpful and wrong it is to be advertising products with claims such as “boosts metabolism” and “calming” “anti-inflammatory” or “makes you feel energised”. I don’t think that all these brands are trying to dupe us or to lie, I just think they are confused about the science. That could totally be me being naive of course! Also, I don’t want to single these out by any means but what I do want to point out is:

  1. In order to make a health claim a nutrient needs to have the science to back it up and health claim has to be EFSA approved.

2.  There needs to be enough of a nutrient in a product for it to have an effect. Sometimes there is some science but the amount of the nutrient needed is just not palatable to have in a single serving.

3. By making wild claims a product may look good but consumers are becoming savvy and some will definitely start avoiding these types of food items.

4. What is the science? Is it good quality or a one off study on 10 people?

5. If you  are a brand and have used a different technique or added extras to a food product then be prepared to explain why. I chatted to multiple food brands who couldn’t tell me the role of an ingredient or how a product had been made.

6. Is there a need for your product or for the claim you are making? High protein water for example, why is that needed?

If you are a food brand or new starter to the market and you want your product/brand to be credible then it is not just a case of having a few studies to back it up. Ideally you want an approved health claim. If that isn’t possible then are still ways to word things. Working with a registered nutritionist or dietitian to get the wording, science and understanding of right is so important. We want to have the right messages going out into the public domain so that great brands flourish and the consumer knows they can trust labelling and advertising. Isn’t it better to make less claims and have a trusted product? Yes working with someone like myself will cost you some pennies, but in the long run you will end up with a much better product.

Freelance Dietitian specialising in helping those with Eating Disorders and a Media Spokesperson for the profession.