Roasted vegetable and mozzarella pasta.

Tonight I needed a quick, easy meal that could be thrown together with ease. You know those days when you wake up feeling tired, then spend the day running around, get to the evening and suddenly uh oh, it’s almost dinner time and you’ve not made any, you need something healthy and filling….well that was my day today. Pilates class, washing, cleaning, baking, baby party, and a teething, clingy baby but hungry mouths to feed.

So 5pm came and I raided the fridge. Finding a pack of peppers and some mozzarella I felt inspired. Cue the oven warming up to gas mark 6. Peppers thickly sliced onto a baking tray, chunky onions join them along with some halved large mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil along with a splash of water and in they go to roast for about 40 minutes. Remember olive oil may be a healthier fat but it is still a fat, so a small drizzle, the water does the rest.

Meanwhile the baby partially ate her dinner and partially painted it in her hair and around her highchair 😉

Towards the end of the roasting the pasta went on (wheat free for me). Once cooked all that needed to be done was mix the pasta with the roasted veggies, mix in some chunks of creamy mozzarella and a teaspoon of pesto. After a busy day, this was simple, quick, easy, healthy, tasty family food.

Vitamin D, do you get enough?

Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that we often forget about yet is very important. Suddenly, it’s having a come back and becoming a hot topic.

So what’s the fuss about?

Hands up if you know what vitamin D is even needed for? Those of you who said bone health get a gold star. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, specifically your gut. It helps you maintain the levels of calcium and phosphate in the body so that you have enough for bone mineralisation and bone growth. It also plays a role in cell growth, immune function and reducing inflammation in the body.

Too little vitamin D affects your bones, they can become thin and brittle. Rickets in children and osteomalacia/osteoporosis in adults are due to too low vitamin D levels. Worryingly rickets is on the rise in the UK, as is osteoporosis. So we really need to be thinking about looking after our bones.

Children 1-7 months need 8.5μg/d and those aged 7months-3 years 7μg/d, pregnant and breastfeeding women 10μg/d. There are no set levels for those 3-64 years but it is now recommeded all adults take a 10mcg supplement daily or at least in winter months.

Why? Most people know we make vitamin D when we step into the sunshine, however there are numerous issues with this. To get enough of the right type of sun’s rays all year round you need to live in the right area of the world. In the UK we unsuprisingly don’t fall into that category. Having pale skin means you accrue vitamin D 10 times faster than darker skinned people, but we are now out in the sun less and less, plus when we are out there is usually sun cream on the skin preventing the UVB rays getting through and so stopping vitamin D being made. Somewhere we need a balance.

After World War II the NHS was born (1947) and vitamin drops were given to all children under 5 for free, these included vitamin D. This is not standard practice now and many little ones are not getting enough of the D love in their life. In fact my little one wasn’t until recently.

But what about vitamin D in foods I hear you all cry…well that’s the main problem, it’s not found in that many foods. Here’s a few – oily fish, some canned fish, shitake mushrooms, eggs and fortified cereals and margarine. In America milk, orange juice and cheese is all fortified too. There’s a debate over whether more foods in the UK should be fortified at the moment. What do you think? 


Parsnip Soup for 10p a head.

I love a bargain, shoes, clothes, bags, they’re all good, but I must admit one of the bargain that excites me the most is food. I love rooting round the reduced food section of the shops and pulling out random items then concocting a hopefully delicious meal based around my beautiful bargains.

But what can you do if all that’s in the reduced section is a pile of worse for wear veggies? Do you pass those slightly sad specimens and ignore them? They may not be in their prime but if you take them home and use them quickly (on the day preferably) then you can knock up a scrummy meal for a cost saving price.

This week I picked up a couple of large bags of parsnips, reduced right down, so today we have made parsnip soup. Here’s what I did:

Parsnips peeled and chopped, put into a pan and cover with some stock (either a stock cube and water or homemade stock), simmer until parsnips are soft (10-15 mins). Then blitz with a blender until it’s smooth and creamy. I then added in come curry powder, black pepper and milk plus some grated nutmeg. And that’s it! I made enough soup for 6 people for about 60p.

10 Minute Minestrone Soup

It’s officially winter in our house, which means the jumpers are out, the heating on and soup is being made. We love soup. What’s not to love…it can be packed with veggies, warms you up and is easy to make.

Yesterday was a rush around day and I knew we were out over lunch so would come back home starving, wanting an instant late munch. So whilst baby had her lunch I threw together this 10 minute Minestrone number. The added bonus being it was made from store cupboard ingredients and our version was wheat/gluten free, plus baby friendly 🙂

Here’s what I did…

Put 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in a pan with 1 litre hot water and a salt stock cube (gluten free and low salt in our case), of course you could use fresh stock if you are clever enough to have some. As this all comes up to simmer add in some broken up thin noodles or spaghetti. We used rice vermicelli which cooks almost as soon as it hits the water. Whilst that is simmering for a couple of minutes, dash to your freezer and pull out a bag of frozen veggies, add about 300g. Let the whole thing simmer for a few minutes, season well and there it is. Soup in 10 minutes. Enjoy.

What’s your favourite soup? I’d love to hear your recipes.

The Food Hospital.

The latest food programme to hit our screens is The Food Hospital. We have a GP, a consultant and excitingly a dietitian aiming to treat conditions with food alone. It’s been in a prime time slot, Tuesday evenings on Channel 4 and seems to be attracting quite a lot of attention. I know in “dietitian-land” there has been a lot of support for Lucy Jones, the dietitian who is bravely in the limelight and there has also been a lot of chatter after the show about the conditions covered. See here for an exclusive interview with Lucy Jones: 

The show has been promoting the use of evidence-based scientific research when treating conditions, rather than a faddy diet or an unresearched food. Because of the pace of the show and the type of show it is there hasn’t always been time to explain each condition and treatment in great depth, however the show does seem to have sparked a big interest in nutrition as a form of treatment.

Last night we saw Rianna being treated for Alopecia, it was her IBS that was targeted, the hypothesis being her IBS was causing her body extra stress which could be contributing to her Alopecia. A special probiotic supplement was prescribed (not the same as buying a probiotic yoghurt drink) and this seemed to have remarkable effects and it was exciting to see some hair regrowth occurring.

The previous week Chris, a man with Type 2 diabetes was put onto an 800kcal diet plan. Unsurprisingly he lost weight, a total of 2.5 stone in 6 weeks. Although usually as dietitian’s we would be advising people to lose weight slowly and to stick to a healthy eating plan that contains a lot more calories than this, this was all done under medical supervision. The evidence for this type of diet is new and experimental still, further research is needed. A small study on 11 people was carried out in Newcastle using a 600kcal diet plan showed pancreatic cells function went back to normal and a possibly reversal of diabetes.

I’d love to see this show follow some of these people up later down the line and compare their symptoms then. What I think I’d like to highlight is the fact that some of the research used is new and still in preliminary stages. The show could encourage people to go off and try some of these dietary regimes out for themselves, which would be potentially dangerous. If you feel you have a condition that could be treated by diet then please do get in contact me. I’d love to chat. I’d also love to hear your views on The Food Hospital, leave me a comment below or tweet me 🙂

Baby Lunch Ideas

Keeping the variety going for babies is so important yet can be quite a demanding thing to do amidst juggling the piles of washing, the milk feeds and all that mummy-hood brings. So here are a few ideas to help you out….

All meals need to be well-balanced, so based on starchy carbohydrates such as bread, rice, potatoes, crackers, rice-cakes, pasta, cous cous. There should be some protein – meat, fish, cheese, eggs, lentil, beans or pulses. I always try to include 1 portion of veggies and 1 portion of fruit. Below I’ve just outlined the carbohydrate and protein element of the meal, they can of course all be mixed and matched 🙂

We tend to keep lunch as a snack meal, and dinner is our cooked meal but it doesn’t matter which way round you do things, whatever works best! We are often out and about at lunchtime so it’s easier to take cold food that doesn’t need heating and isn’t too messy to eat. I have a baby who likes to share my lunch so we often eat the same.

  • Rice-cakes with cottage cheese or cream cheese and grapes.
  • Cream cheese and grated apple sandwich.
  • Pitta bread with avocardo and grated carrot.
  • Rye bread with avocardo and tomato.
  • Bagel with hummous, try different flavours.
  • Scrambled egg cooked with peppers on toast.
  • Brioche roll with ham.
  • Sardines/pilchards on toast.
  • Jacket potato with cheese/beans.
  • Cous cous with chicken, sultanas, peas and sweetcorn.
  • Tuna rice salad – mix cooked rice with tuna in spring water, chopped cooked. peppers, grated carrot and cucumber, dress with red wine vinegar and olive oil.Our favourite this week is a spiced cauliflower hummous. Yum yum. Here’s my little one enjoying it!

Small Potato Rock

I’ve been working with the Potato Council recently doing parent and toddler roadshows with the Small Potatoes. For those of you up on Cbeebies you’ll know all about the “Small Potatoes”.  These potatoes like to sing and dance…. so that’s exactly what I have been doing too! Songs include “Small Potato Rock”, “Potato Love” and the “Potato Train”. No laughing now, this is serious stuff.

It’s been a lot of fun watching excited toddlers hug the potato characters, judging colouring competitions and talking to mums about healthy eating and family meals. It’s also shown me how needed this type of thing is, the mums had loads of great questions and were dying to get recipes, meal planners and tips.

My little one meets the "Small Potatoes" who are rather larger than her!

So here are a few potato inspired recipes for you:


  • 500g new potatoes halved
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds, tumeric, cumin and coriander
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bag spinach

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds, let them pop for a couple of minutes then add the onion and garlic, saute. Add the tumeric, cumin and coriander plus a little chilli if wanted, cook 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and potatoes, plus spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes.


  • 2 tsp paprika, cumin
  • 600g potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions in large chunks
  • 3 carrots, in wedges
  • 1 red pepper, thickly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, in wedges
  • 1 star anise
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 handfuls dried apricots

I sometimes do this one in the slow cooker – throw it all in, press the button, walk away and come back several hours later to eat it 🙂

Alternatively….cook the spices in the oil, and add the potatoes, after a couple of minutes add the rest of the vegetables, plus the chopped tomatoes and half a tin of water. Stir and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, star anise chick peas and dried apricots and simmer for 10 minutes.

So what are your favourite potato recipes? Let me know by commenting below.

Risotto Love.

We love risotto in our house. It’s just so versatile. You can dress it up all fancy and swish for a dinner party or keep it simple for an everyday family meal. Plus, its wheat and gluten free, can easily be vegetarian and it’s easy, peasey to make….even my husband who isn’t into cooking can make a risotto 😉

Our favourites at the moment are mushroom and blue cheese and a creamy leek and lemon version with salmon. Butternut squash with a grating of nutmeg works well as does chicken and pea.

Risotto’s take a bit of love and time, you can’t really walk away and leave them to cook themselves, unless you like crunchy rice…so stay by the cooker and let it cook slowly, simmering not boiling.

Using a home made stock is tasty and lower in salt. We make stock using the chicken bones after a roast and freeze it down for later.

Swap cream for low fat creme fraiche or natural yoghurt and low fat creme cheese. Keeps the creamy taste but cuts the fat.

Add a splash of wine and some fresh herbs for extra flavour. You can go fairly bold in a risotto so try some different flavour combos.

You can make it in advance, then finish off with the last bit of stock or a swirl of milk/wine when heating up. It also makes great leftovers for lunches.

If feeding a baby it’s perfect sticky finger food, my baby adores risotto.


Nutrition in the Under 5’s: an overview.


Here’s an overview of nutrition in the Under 5’s, over the next few weeks I shall be delving in and looking at nutrients in more details including Iron and Vitamin D, so follow my blog or keep and eye on twitter and facebook for more!


Children are not mini adults. Not only do they need good nutrition to stay healthy and well but unlike adults, they are growing and developing too so have different requirements.


By 12 months children should be joining in family meals, this doesn’t mean cooking two meals but some modifications like cutting out salt in cooking. Meals should be based on the Eat Well Plate with 1/3 of the plate being starchy foods, 1/3 veggies, some protein foods and some dairy.



Variety – no one food contains all the nutrients children need so therefore they need to eat range of different foods. Try to plan ahead for the week so a variety of starchy foods and protein foods plus fruit and veggies are eaten. This is good for the whole family.


Portions – The amount of food a child needs varies with age, body size and physical activity. Appetite can vary from day to day, let them guide you. Generally if your child is growing and developing normally  and happy then they are ok! A healthy meal pattern is small regular meals with one or two healthy snacks and drinks in between.


Protein – needed for growth, repair and renewal. Found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Babies and children have higher requirements as they are busy creating lots of new cells as they grow. Protein is made up of amino acids and not every food contains all amino acids so eating a variety is key to getting them all.


Carbohydrates – provides energy and fibre. Found in cereals, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, fruit, vegetables, lactose in milk. Base meals on these foods. Children have small stomachs so do not give too much fibre, gradually build this up as they grow to keep their digestive system healthy and help prevent constipation. There is a balance between fibre and fluid that keeps the digestive system happy. So if constipation is an issue reduce fibre slightly and check how much your child is drinking.


Fat– needed for energy for children as they grow, also for storing vitamins A,D,E and K and for providing essential fatty acids. It’s important to choose unsaturated fats (good fats) found in vegetable oils like olive, rapeseed, sunflower, seeds, nuts and oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel). Saturated fat and trans fats (bad fats) are found in cakes, pies, pastries, biscuits, fatty meat and meat products, butter, cream, whole milk, coconut and palm oil. Limit these bad fats and swap for ‘good’ fats. Eat oily fish once a week.


Salt– Babies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diet. Salt is ‘hidden’ in many ready-made foods, such as bread, baked beans, and even biscuits; it can be easy to have too much. Do not add salt to the foods that you give to your baby because their kidneys cannot cope with it. Avoid giving your baby ready-made foods that are not made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals, because they can also be high in salt. Check food labels. The salt content is usually given as figures for sodium. To convert sodium to salt multiply by 2.5. Food that contains 0.6g of sodium, or more, in a 100g is a lot, and foods with 0.1g, or less, in a 100g, is a little.


Fruit and vegetables – Aim for at least 5 a day. Have a variety (eat a rainbow – children find this fun to do). Peel and chop so easy to eat and readily available e.g. carrot sticks. Keep the fruit bowl full and biscuit tin empty! Portion size is roughly what would fit into the palm of their hand. Fruit on cereal+ fruit snack + veg at lunch or in lunch box + veg with evening meal + fruit for dessert = 5 a day

Get planning and get healthy 🙂


Tips to reduce food waste.

Mouldy carrots, liquid cucumber, out of date yoghurts…we’ve all had it. In this time of us all trying to be more eco-friendly not only should we be trying to shop more locally and reduce petrol, buy local produce and reduce food miles, grow more food ourselves…but also not overbuying food that we don’t need and making sure food doesn’t get wasted.

The Food Waste Report says we throw away 1/3 of the food we buy, 6.7 tonnes a year. The main foods wasted being potatoes, bread and fruit and veggies. According to statistics if we stopped wasting food it would be the equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads! I found this figure pretty alarming. Reducing the amount of food waste is key if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Being a dietitian I must admit I do watch what others do in their homes. I’m not judging but just interested. What I tend to see is a lot of wasted food. Leftovers from meals being thrown away, things in the fridge not being used in time, fruit half eaten and then chucked in the bin. None of that is allowed in my house. If a banana is left in the car and is by the husband and is past its best it either gets used straightaway in my banana flapjack recipe or frozen for use later on. Leftovers are fought over for lunches! In fact I now just cook extra so the baby and I can have leftovers for lunch in the week, and the freezer can be fed.

I’d like to inspire you to be a little less wasteful so here are some tips:

Top Tips:

1. Plan, Plan, Plan. At some point in the week plan out what you are going to do for meals. In our house this is a flexible plan as I’m guided also by what is on offer in the shops. So I may decide to do a risotto, but leave the type of risotto flexible until I shop. Planning helps me buy the right things, saves me time and money and keeps me organised! It also ensures that most of  the time we don’t get caught out on a busy day with no time to cook…as I think about what we are all doing and try to plan in when I will have time to cook dinners.

2. You don’t need to throw away food just because it is past the best before date. There are 2 types of dates on foods…the use by date is important, food can be eaten up to the end of the ‘use by’ date, but not after even if it looks and smells fine. The best before date is different. This refers to quality rather than food safety. When the date is passed, the food won’t be unsafe but it might begin to lose its flavour or texture.

3. Keep leftovers. Leftovers are amazing. Use them for lunches, add them into the next days meal, add them to a whole new meal – use as the base of an omelette, a frittata, soups and stews… Or freeze them.

4. Be aware of what is in your fridge and veggie rack. Think about what needs using up first before you start to cook. Is the spinach wilting? Are the peaches going off? Then use them up quick! Stir fries are great for using most veggies, fruit can be lightly stewed and turned into a dessert or a compote for breakfast. Use the internet to find a quick recipe.

5. Make soups…if we have a glut of veggies it becomes soup time.  Homemade soups are so quick and easy to make. Soften a little onion, ad your veggies, cover with stock and simmer till the veggies are soft. Whiz in the blender, add seasoning and hey presto…fresh soup. It’s cheap, easy and full of nutrition.

6. Get composting 🙂 Scraps, peelings, apple cores, teabags, torn up paper and tissue, toilet rolls etc… can all be composted. Get a compost collecter in your kitchen and start a compost heap in the garden. Then use the compost to grow some yummy veggies!

7. Try to buy food that has less packaging or biodegradable packaging. Fruit and veggies can be bought loose, from the green grocer or have a box delivered from the farm. Recycle as much packaging as possible or compost some of it.


WRAP. Food Waste Report. The food we waste.  April 2008.

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