Tag Archives: dietitian

Plant Waters – are they all goodness?

One of the trends for 2017 drinks is apparently going to be plant waters. Hyped to be full of goodness and said to be packed with health busting effects, I took a little look into them. 

Plant Waters - are they all goodness?

Birch water is one that has been around for a little while, making headlines in 2016 and is available in some supermarkets. It is meant to cleanse and detoxify the body, a claim that instantly makes me pull a face. How can a water possibly do a better job than the bodies own built in detoxification system – the liver and the kidneys do a pretty awesome job all by themselves. Even more maddening is the fact that this water is often flavoured and can have sugar added to it, but is then marketed as being a lower sugar alternative to coconut water. I’d reply that tap water is even lower in sugar content and a lot cheaper!  It contains 7.5kcals per 250ml serving and the nutrients manganese, potassium, zinc and xylitol. 

Maple Water comes from the sap that is usually boiled and made into Maple syrup. As you can imagine it is pretty sweet at 3-4 g sugar per 250ml serving. It does contain a large amount of phytochemicals and antioxidants, but the amount of these you will actually consume through a serving of the water is likely to be low. You would get more from the maple syrup itself as it is a concentrated form, but obviously your dentist and I would say it’s not a good idea to be having too much of that on a regular basis. There are a pile of interesting claims on maple water, based around it helping with exercise and being anti-inflammatory but these are just not substantiated.  

Dietitian UK: Plant Waters

Cactus Water is an intriguing one as it is not actually water. It is made from prickly pear concentrate, preickly pear extract and then water is added in. Not quite what I was expecting. The claim here is that is helps with hangovers! However this is based on a one-off small study. Catcus pulp contains betalains, an antioxidant  which has been shown to stop LDL oxidation involved in cholesterol levels, but no studies have been carried out on the water itself, so who knows how much of it you would need to drink to get an effect and how much that would cost. I would suggest  eating a good range of fruit and veggies is a better option.

Aloe Vera Water is another cheeky one as it  is sweetened with agave and a standard serving is 60-70kcals. There has always been a lot of chatter about aloe vera and it’s healing properties so I imagine this could become a popular one. However there is  no real research conducted on the water currently. 

Artichoke water is a yellow-green water made by squelching up whole artichokes! I’m not convinced it will taste good without sugar and flavouring added in. In does contains some vitamin A, B and C, magnesium and antioxidants and claims are that is can help lower cholesterol but we have no proof of this.

Watermelon Water is one I would like to try out and it would be great to see more studies conducted on it. It is made from the pulp of the watermelon and contains beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, lycopene and the amino acid L-Citrulline. In a few small  studies, watermelon extract has been found to reduce blood pressure, could the same be true for watermelon water? 

Coconut Water has been popular in the UK for some time now. It contains B and C vitamins, calcium, magnesium and potassium. If you like the taste then that is great but it does contain calories and sugar so when drunk regularly that can add up.  It doesn’t provide much more benefit to exercisers over water and a banana but it also won’t do any harm for those who prefer it. 

Photo by Max Lakutin
Photo by Max Lakutin

These waters all sound like a bit of a con to me, they have a hefty price tag and don’t deliver enough on the nutritional front. However if they help people to drink a bit more water and are an alternative to a soft drink then that is a good thing. Personally I will stick to filtered water.

Family Mealtime Mayhem.

Family meal times are in my house a whirlwind. In my mind we are all going to sit down, enjoy a tasty, hot meal, with some lovely conversation and in relative calmness. The reality is very different. At the time of writing this I have a 6 year old girl, a 3 year old boy and an 8 month old baby. You can probably imagine how an average mealtime goes, but I will give you a snapshot in the hope it nomalises the chaos that may also be in your home.

Dietitian UK: Family MealtimeMayhemTop Tips.

Mummy manages to find time to cook up a nutritious dinner, that in itself is no mean feat. Cooking at actual teatime  in our house is like navigating through a very choppy sea, on a pirate ship, with cannon balls being thrown at you. So when possible I try to cook straight after school or at lunchtime. I plan meals at least a day in advance otherwise my stress levels spiral upwards!

Mummy calls for someone to lay the table, usually meaning can my husband please come and do it. The reality is the 3 year old comes, upon prompting the 6 year old may join him. The table is quickly cleared by mummy (by cleared read – swept to one side or everything moved to the nearest worktop) and an assortment of cutlery is laid out. Certain people must have certain cutlery of course. Do not dare to give the 6 year old anything but a fork with a flower design on it!

Finally food gets to the table, some people sit down whilst it is hot, others straggle along later. Now comes the “How many times can we get mummy to get up from her seat” game. 

  1. There are no drinks.
  2. The table was laid with only forks and no knifes.
  3. The boy wants a different coloured plate.
  4. The baby has no bib.
  5. Someone wants pepper.
  6. A spillage needs a cloth.
  7. The cat needs putting out as he is trying to steal the babies meal.

 And so on…

The 6 year old refuses to sit with her legs round the front of her chair and sort of hangs off the side. The 3 year old refuses to eat with cutlery most of the time. Someone starts a song which leads to a both children singing different songs at increasing volumes until mummy shouts “No singing at the table”. The conversation darts all over the place from Daddy trying to pass on some business information, to what happened at school and what the boy’s dinosaur wants to do tomorrow. Throughout it all the baby sits there and cracks on with her meal, watching it all. 

 

Towards the end of his meal, my boy tends to need some encouragement with eating his vegetables, along with some feeding. Then he will find a free adult lap to climb into. The 6 year old takes her time, leaving her favourite bit of dinner until the end. After a while the baby will want a cuddle and feed so mummy can end up feeding whilst eating her dinner. By the end of the meal there are content children, a food covered baby and a lot of clearing up to be done.

So, even if you are a dietitian, mealtimes can be a negotiation process and far from perfect. That is family life. Family mealtimes are such an important time in our house though. A place where the family is all together, a time for sharing news, for role modelling manners, healthy eating, portion sizes, taking it in turns speaking and a time for fun as well. 

Here are my top tips for family mealtimes:

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. I do a rough plan for the week at the weekend but leave it flexible as life happens. My children get a bit of input into this, so I canvas opinions and try to cook things everyone likes.
  2. Set aside some food prep time. Chopping all the veggies in one hit for 3 meals can save you time on other days. I find it easier to chop a pile of carrots, butternut squash, peppers and pop them in a ziplock bag in the fridge to keep fresh.
  3. Getting the kids involved can feel like it takes more time and effort, but see it as a learning time for them. I have a boy who loves to help me cook and my girl is getting quite good at laying the table now. Find the jobs that they enjoy.
  4. Don’t expect perfect table manners. Do have some family rules. One of ours is “No phones at the table” (well you can take a quick instagram shot and that’s it).
  5. Role model healthy eating and portion control to your children, they will thank you for it later in life.
  6. Offer a range of different foods throughout the week. We sometimes talk about the food we are eating, where it came from, what it is made from and what it tastes like.
  7. Don’t force anyone to eat anything they don’t want to eat. 
  8. You may have to eat super early in order to fit with the children but I still think it is important to do this and it leaves you time for fruit and yoghurt later on.
  9. Enjoy the time you have together. It is precious. 
  10. Laugh in the face of chaos 😉

2017 Food Trends: the hot, the not and the ones to spot.

According to those in the know these are some of the food trends coming our way in 2017. In my cynical mind this usually means things to be wary of or foods that will become super expensive.  However there are also some interesting new foods on the horizon which I’m looking forward to trying.

Wellness Tonics 

Meaning any drink, juice, potion, shot or magical elixir that can boost your health. This year the money is on using alternative medicine’s roots, shoots and leaves. Products such as maca, holy basil, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms and kava are tipped to be added into the mix. 

Photo by Milo McDowell
Photo by Milo McDowell

Priya says: These alternative medicines are alternative as we don’t have enough research and evidence to prove their benefits. A lot of these drinks are unlikely to contain enough of these ingredients to have a benefit on the body and are likely to be a marketing ploy. There may be some good ones out there, but remember that water is always the best drink to be having, follow that up with plenty of fruit and veggies to pack yourself a wellness punch.

Using up the byproducts 

The waste from making products will be turned into new products. For example using the leftover water from chickpeas as an egg replacement or the left over whey from making Greek yoghurt to create a probiotic drink.

Priya says: I like this. We need to cut down on our food waste, using all the leftovers is a brilliant idea. It is what I try to do in my kitchen and we are all encouraged to do it, so why shouldn’t food manufacturers try too?

Coconut 

Yes the humble coconut is still hot to trot in 2017 with novel products continuing to come out. Tortilla wraps, butter, ice-creams, coconut flour and sugar are all set to be popular. I just hope there are enough coconuts being grown to support this craze.

Photo by Max Lakutin
Photo by Max Lakutin

Priya says: Whilst there is nothing wrong with coconut, in fact it is very nutritious, I do have an issue with it being over-used. We do not need to be having coconut versions of everything and adding coconut oil to foods when it is not needed. Coconut products such as sugar and flour do have some good features such as their low glycaemic index, however the coconut is high in saturated fat and so with all foods it is best to consume it in moderation and wisely.

All things Japanese 

Sushi has been popular for a while (it’s one of my children’s fav meals). Now in 2017 Japanese condiments, pickles and different types of seaweed are coming our way. Mirin, Miso, sesame oil and plum vinegar may not be unheard of in your kitchen but are set to be more popular in our store cupboards.

Photo by Leio Ohshima McLaren
Photo by Leio Ohshima McLaren

Nori is already available in the supermarkets, but more seaweeds such as kelp, wake and dulse are set to follow suit. I personally would love it if there was more of a trend for foraging these for ourselves. Now who wants to show me which seaweed I can pick up off the beach and how to use it?

Priya says: Savoury Japanese flavours such a matcha tea, green tea, azuki bean and mochi are likely to be popping up in recipes for cakes, desserts and breakfasts. All in all I’m excited about this one and look forward to trying new combinations out. 

Condiment Heaven 

Condiments look like they will be big news in 2017. With rare, traditional and new flavours of sauces and dips coming out. Apparently we have pomegranate molasses, beet salsa, mexican hot chocolate spread, plum jam with chia seeds and habanero jam. 

Photo by Ashim de Silva
Photo by Ashim de Silva

Priya says: These all sound exciting but may not fit with the current thinking on reducing sugar intake as many condiments are high in sugar content. Again it is all about how much of these products you have and how often you use them. They can certainly bring flavour and interest to a meal, just remember that a little can go a long way.

Alternative grain pasta 

Ancient and different grains have been increasing in popularity. Partially fuelled by the clean eating brigade, plant based eaters and the gluten free movement.  Quinoa, lentils, chickpeas flour are making popular noodles. Also spiralized veggies will continue to rise and seaweed noodles are set to make headlines. 

Priya says: It is great to have all this variety.  Using different grains is great at it brings more variety into the diet and with that, a broader way to get good quality nutrition into the diet. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with wheat based pasta, using these other forms of noodles opens up things for people on vegetarian, gluten free and specialist diets plus it makes it more interesting when making meals. 

Purple Foods 

If you like purple then you are in for a treat as purple cauliflower,  black rice, asparagus, carrots, elderberries, beetroot, corn and potatoes are the foods to watch in 2017. 

 

Photot by Peter Hershey
Photo by Peter Hershey

Why purple? The colour indicates higher antioxidant content, it comes from anthocyanins which are action packed nutrients aiding in fighting ageing, cancer and chronic diseases. For example, purple potatoes are high in iron and antioxidants. 

Priya says: Purple foods are an interesting trend and very nutritious so I would certainly recommend eating them. Hopefully this trend may helps make fruit and vegetables more appealing to some people and increase their intake of these foods. Remember that we need to eat a range of fruit and vegetables so focus on eating a rainbow and not just purple foods.

 

What are your fav food trends?

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How to prepare yourself for weaning.

I love the adventure of weaning. The excitement of seeing your baby try something for the first time. Their facial expressions when they taste. The determination they have in picking up a food. The mess they make as they feel the texture. Taking photos of them, it’s all rewarding and funny in my eyes. 

Dietitian UK: How to start weaning

However there can be a level of stress in it too. What do I feed them? How do I start them off? How do I minimise the mess? What do I do when out and about? Which foods are best to give them?

So here are my “mum of 3” tips of what you need to get started. 

What you need to start with:

Bibs: I like to have the ones that cover as much of their bodies as possible! Long sleeved as great. It saves a clothing change after eating. You need at least 5 if you can. 1 per meal and 1 in the wash plus 1 in the change bag. It saves hassle to have more bibs around. Although a muslin folded into a triangle can be tied around your little ones neck as a make shift bib. Be warned the food stains may not come out! 

A high chair with a table: I’ve started 2 of mine off in a Bumbo with the tray attached. I like it as they have sat on the table and there is less chance of throwing food onto the floor. However it didn’t work for my boy as he wasn’t safe in the Bumbo. 

Dietitian UK: How to prepare for weaning 2

I don’t think that is any need for an expensive high chair. The Ikea Antilop white one is our fav. Wipe clean with hardly any nooks or crannies for food to get stuck in it is also portable in the car as the legs come off. This highchair fits out table well, however I like it away from the table for the start of weaning so I can prevent baby throwing food in my dinner! It is also found in lots of cafe’s so when you eat out baby feels like it’s a home from home.

A mat: having a plastic sheet, shower curtain or washable mat under the highchair saves a whole heap of clearing up. You can then pick it up, shake the bits of food off outside and put the mat in the washing machine when wanted. I have this one which I take to people’s houses as well (saves apologising constantly about their cream carpets!).

Plastic Spoons: These can be picked up cheaply from any supermarket. These are specifically designed for fit a babies mouth and are shallower than other teaspoons. Metal spoons are not suitable as if baby bites on them or pushes them further into the back of their mouths they could harm themselves. 

Plastic Bowls: Again easily picked up in a supermarket or online. Safe in a dishwasher, microwave and unbreakable as they will get dropped on the floor.  Having some with lids is useful for storing and transporting foods.

weaning-bits

Cups: If you can use an open beaker then that is the best way to encourage baby to drink. It is messy however as they can pour it everywhere! I like to use a combination of different cups. My favourite open cup is the baby cup as it is so small it is easy to hold and there is not much liquid to be thrown around!  Safe, easy to clean and approved by dentists. I also like doidy cups.

 Wipes: We use washable wipes, they just get thrown in with the normal washing. I have a tub that sits on my table with damp wipes in it. Everyone ends up using them for messy hands and faces. I’ve found cheeky wipes really good as they trap all the bits and wash well. 

Patience: baby may not be that interested and eat that much initially, which can be stressful. It is almost best to ignore them and let them get on with it, whilst keeping a quiet eye out for safety. Let them play, let them eat with the family, let them make mess, let them try and feed themselves. 

A plan: Not necessarily a spreadsheet of foods to try out, but some vague plan of what you are cooking and how you can therefore adapt it for baby. I often find it easiest to save leftover from the day before and give that to baby for lunch the following day. You don’t need to cook different meals for baby, but it can also be useful to have bits of food saved up to offer them or spare meals in the freezer.

Good books: If you want to do some reading up then the Baby led weaning book and cookbook by Gill Rapley are good and for some great evidence based information try ”Easy Weaning” by Sara Patience.

Foods to have ready: As babies are used to sweetness in milk I find it good to start with a mixture of a few sweeter foods such as fruit but also plenty of vegetables and starchy foods. 

Examples:

Breakfast : 

Porridge fingers (porridge cooked and left to go hard! I often some to last several days. It is sticky but easy for little fingers to pick up.

Toast fingers with butter, scrambled egg or hummus.

Eggy bread with vegetable sticks.

Weetabix with mashed banana.

Lunch:

Pitta bread in fingers with cream cheese and avocado.

Large Pasta shapes with roasted carrot and courgette strips.

Savoury muffins with cheese and cucumber.

Pancakes with steamed green beans, mushrooms and trips of chicken.

Tea

Risotto with a no/low salt stock

Roast dinner with no gravy

Potato wedges with broccoli florets steamed, sweetcorn and fingers of fish.

 

If you want to stock up online here is a little list of my recommendations:

 

Should we label a food as good or bad?

The label of good and bad foods annoys me. It is one of those labels that I find hard to get away from when I am talking to people as it comes up constantly. I spend a lot of time trying to break that idea down in people’s minds. Google it and there are over 71,800,000 links talking about what foods are good/bad, what bad foods are really good, the best good foods to eat and so on. But do good and bad foods really exist?

Bad foods seem to be ones that are high in sugar, fats and calories. Foods that are “not healthy” and that exert a “bad” affect on the body. They can range from fast food, processed food and high fat/high calorie snack items to carbohydrates and dried fruit.

Dietitian UK: Should we label foods as good and bad?

We have a complex relationship with food. Trying to make it fit into just one camp is tricky. Look at the major food groups – carbohydrates, protein, fat, dairy, fruit and veggies. Then look at lentils. They are put in the protein group but they contain carbs and are a portion of veggies too. 

Let’s take it to a more philosophical level. Can a person be labelled as good or bad? Take an object like a razor blade. Is it good or bad? One the one hand it can be used to shave and on the other hand it could be used as a weapon. 

So by trying to label foods as good or bad we are over-simplifying it. Foods are really neutral. Labelling them automatically places them into one category. Let’s take chocolate as an example. On the one hand this is a high calorie, high fat food that is often laden with sugar, so could be classed as a “bad food”. However dark chocolate contains iron, magnesium and fibre. It has antioxidants including polyphenols, catchins and flavanols and may help lower blood pressure plus reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Some research suggests it may help with cognitive function too making it sound like a pretty amazing food to be eating. Even fruit and vegetables can have their negatives, too many carrots can turn the skin orange due to excessive beta carotene!

No single food is to my knowledge nutritionally complete. We need a combination of foods in order to provide the body with all the nutrients it needs. This includes the full range of essential fatty acids and some sugar too.

The old phrase “All things in moderation” is actually very true. Instead of looking at a food in isolation we need to think about how often we eat a food, how much or it we eat, combined with what else we are eating and adding to a food. Limiting or not allowing yourself to eat certain foods can actually lead to you craving them more and then over-eating them. Food is something to be enjoyed rather than denied, so a small amount of the things you like really can be good. 

So instead of labelling foods as good and bad, or healthy and not healthy, how about we change the way we view it. I let my children eat all foods, including cake, sweets and chocolate. However they know that some foods are best to eat in small amounts as they can lead to their bodies getting sick. A good example of this is a weekend recently where we had multiple parties, leading to a lot of party food being consumed. Both children had tummy aches and were slightly constipated! An excellent time to highlight that they had eaten more biscuits and cakes, less fruit and veggies and their bodies were complaining. We talked about how these foods are delicious (the words of my toddler boy) but if you eat too much of them they can make you feel unwell. 

How do you label food in your mind? 

Healthy Butternut and spinach lasagne

Vegetable lasagne is one of my all time fav dishes. Super comfort food, I was looking for a way to make it healthier, not too long in the making and pack it full of veggies. I may have done it 🙂 Cooking around a baby, a toddler and a chatty, needing attention school girl means cooking needs to be simple and quick for school night meals, I managed to do this one in stages. Butternut squash was prepped at lunchtime and left. Tomato sauce was prepped after school. It was all assembled during the afterschool ballet class then popped in the oven. WIN.

Butternut squash and bean lasagne 2

Plates were literally licked clean (mental note to work on table manners in our house) and everyone had seconds. There were, of course, fights over the cheese topping. It was one of those meals for me that I just wanted to keep eating. However I listened to my stomach. Sigh. Sometimes intuitive eating is not that much fun 😉

A great meal for upping the veggie content of your meals for the week, a meat free feast. 

Butternut squash and bean lasagne 1

Butternut and spinach lasagne
Serves 4
A not-so-complicated, delicious vegetable lasagne recipe
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
764 calories
137 g
19 g
9 g
38 g
4 g
868 g
519 g
19 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
868g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 764
Calories from Fat 76
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
14%
Saturated Fat 4g
19%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 19mg
6%
Sodium 519mg
22%
Total Carbohydrates 137g
46%
Dietary Fiber 21g
86%
Sugars 19g
Protein 38g
Vitamin A
59%
Vitamin C
50%
Calcium
33%
Iron
33%
* 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 medium butternut squash
  2. 1 medium onion
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 1/2 aubergine, chopped
  5. handful of chopped chives
  6. 400g chopped tomatoes
  7. 1 tbsp tomato puree
  8. black pepper
  9. 2 large handfuls of greens or spinach
  10. 400g tinned beans
  11. 8 lasagne sheets
  12. 100g half fat creme fraiche
  13. 150g cottage cheese
  14. 50g cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Peel, chop and boil/steam the squash until it is soft. Now blend in a food processor and set aside.
  2. Chop the onion and saute in a pan. Add the crushed garlic. Add the aubergine and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Stir in chopped tomatoes and herbs, tomato puree and black pepper.
  4. Now slice the greens/spinach and add those to the sauce.
  5. Add the beans and stir well.
  6. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  7. Mix creme fraiche with cottage cheese.
Now layer it all up
  1. Butternut squash
  2. Tomato sauce
  3. Lasagne sheets
  4. Butternut squash
  5. Tomato sauce
  6. Lasagne sheets
  7. Creme fraiche and cottage cheese topping
  8. Top with grated cheese.
  9. Cook at Gas Mark 5 for 40 minutes.
beta
calories
764
fat
9g
protein
38g
carbs
137g
more
Dietitian UK http://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/

Dear health bloggers, please be responsible.

Ok so a bit of a rant. However I am getting increasingly annoyed and saddened in my line of work  by the impact that so-called health bloggers are having. I am seeing a definite impact upon young girls who are either following these social media gurus or are hearing about their nutritional messages through other channels.  Sadly there is no regulation for these new nutrition types and yet with thousands of followers, their advice is wide reaching.

Restricting your dietary intake under hear-say or because someone else tried it out and it worked, or due to social media advising it really isn’t the way to go. 

Firstly it can lead to your diet becoming overly restricted and make it hard to find enough foods to eat.

Secondly it can leave you lacking essential nutrients. 

Thirdly this can spiral downwards leading to weight loss and disordered eating.

Some phrases I often hear are: 

“Carbohydrates are not good to be eating”

“Gluten is toxic”

“Dairy is full of fat and hormones”

“I only want to eat healthy fats”

So I spend a fair amount of my time with these clients, dispelling the myths and explaining the science. Some of these clients  I manage to catch early on, before things have gotten too far. For others though the damage has already started. What started as healthy eating has spiralled downwards into overly restricted eating. They are too scared to eat certain food groups and have continued to lose weight, taking their bodies into an unsafe area. Many of these clients then realise what has happened and actually become quite angry. Angry at the incorrect advice they have believed and the influence of the health instagrammers. Angry that they have been drawn into this culture. Angry that they now have many months of hard work ahead of them to turn things around. Angry at the impact on their minds and bodies.

Now I’m not saying that health bloggers are the reason for eating disorders. But I am saying that for some, the instagram health blogging world shows a world they want to be part of. The perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect workout, the perfect food pictures. In my mind there is no perfect. At least not in this world. Instead we aim for balance with a healthy does of reality. However I am a 3o something year old, wife with 3 children. In my teens I too had issues with body image, I know I would have been easily influenced by the perfect diet and have followed the clean eating trend. Now with 2 daughters, I want to ensure they, and many others do not fall under this spell. 

health-bloggers-please-be-responsible

So, if you give nutrition advice, please spare a thought for how it could affect people. How it could be miscontrued. Think about whether it is correct, evidence based and sound.

How about we have the rise of the evidence based, trustable health bloggers? 

Please.

Make your own healthy “graze” snack boxes

So snacking, it’s one of those things I definitely do. I tend to eat my 3 meals and at least 2 snacks a day. Which means my snacks need to be healthy, well most of them! Currently I am breastfeeding which makes me quite hungry at times. It is those moments when I have children clamouring for me, a baby wanting to feed and I know I need to eat that I need a ready to grab and go snack. That moment when it could be biscuits. Although I do eat my share of those too, I’ve recently discovered a wheat free dark chocolate and stem ginger cookie… dangerously nice. So to keep me on the straight and narrow I’ve started making snack boxes. This is something I often recommed to clients and many find them so useful. You can literally make a pile up for the week and take one to work each day, keep them in your bag or just on the worktop if you are at home.

Here are some of my favourite combos:

Cranberry.almond.choc
15g Dried cranberries, 15 almonds and 10g dark chocolate

 

Pecan,apple.edam
15g pecans, 15g dried apple, 1 tbsp dried edamame beans

 

Cashew.mango
15g cashews, 15g dried mango, 1 tsp mixed seeds

 

Brazil.apricot
5 brazil nuts, 3 dried apricots, 1 tsp mixed seeds

Here is me trying out Facebook Live and showing off my not so great phone video skills:

Love to hear your healthy snack box combos. Leave me a message/comment so I can steal your ideas too 😉

I tend to buy my nuts and dried fruit in bulk online (it is cheaper per kg but costs a bit up front) and I store a supply in the cupboard and a supply in glass jars on my shelf. Which looks pretty and also means we all see them and are more likely to eat them instead of reaching into the biscuit tin. 

“Keep healthy food – In plain sight so it is in your mind to eat it”

A good example of this is my toddler boy who often asks for “prawns” and points at the jars… he means prunes! 

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Eating fat does not make you fat?!

“Eating fat does not make you fat,” argues a new report by the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration, as they demanded a major overhaul of official dietary guidelines.”

Sounds confusing? It is. And potentially dangerous as it will lead to no-one knowing what to actually eat. Or people eating a high fat diet and thinking that they will not end up overweight. Which is utter madness! Fat is high in calories, making it much easier to gain weight when eating a high fat diet. The report specifically recommends eating more saturated fats saying these will help with obesity and type 2 diabetes. However there is a proven link between saturated fat and heart disease, so we want people to eat less saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fats instead. This reduces the risk of heart disease. 

The report is based on the message that the long standing advice of eating a low fat diet is wrong. However looking at the report, it was actually not based on the best evidence and a lot of it is opinion rather than fact. When you look at the studies they included and (64 studies) there are some that are very much in the grey area and have limitations that are not taken into account. Not all research is good research and it needs to be interpreted carefully looking at the methodology and the limitations. This was not a comprehensive review of the evidence either so some studies have been left out.

The report states that eating a low fat diet has led to an increase in eating low fat junk food, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated vegetables oils. However I’m not sure what low fat junk food is? Current recommendations are that 1/3 of your energy comes from carbohydrates, preferably wholegrains, not refined ones or “junk food”. Wholegrains and carbs such as rice, quinoa, potaotes, sweet potatoes, wholegrain cereals, brown pasta and bread all fill you up for less calories, provide fibre, B vitamins and are the body’s preferred energy source. 

It is about the overall balance of calories that will make you put on weight. Fat is a lot more energy dense and so it can be difficult to have a high fat diet and not put weight on. At the end of the day fat has more calories than carbohydrates. The body also finds it easier to store excess fat as fat, it has to covert carbohydrate into fat to then store it. All that takes energy and effort. 

Another odd feature of the report is the part on activity. Apparently “regular physical activity will not help with weight loss”. Ummm what? I agree that we don’t want people exercising off their dietary intake, but we do know that exercises helps with weight loss. Fact. A lot of research suggests that exercise is actually the key to weight loss more so than diet. I say we need a combination of the 2 and a look at the whole lifestyle too. Lets not forget that you can over-eat still on a good diet and gain weight eating an excess of healthy foods.

Apparently snacking is bad for us and eating 6 times a day will not result in weight loss. Well that can be true, but surely that depends on what you are snacking on and what your diet as a whole looks like? Everyone is individual and no one diet will suit every person. So this kind of statement makes no sense. 

So what should we be eating?

The Mediterranean Diet:

  1. Wholegrains – base your meals on starchy carbohydrates and include them at each meal.
  2. Eat plenty of fruit and veggies (7-9 portions), pulses and legumes.
  3. Reduce your red meat intake, eat more fish, poultry, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  4. Swap saturated fats (butter, lard, white fat on meat) for monounsaturated fats: olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado.
  5. Reduce processed foods, junk food and ready meals. Cook more meals from scratch using fresh ingredients.
  6. Include dairy foods in your diet regularly.
  7. Keep salt to a minimum, add herbs and spices to your meals instead.
  8. Drink red wine in moderation.

See more on the Mediterranean Diet here.

Common sense needs to prevail here. Think about what is in the food you put into your body. Get back to cooking more meals from fresh, whole foods. Reduce the processed foods and naturally the composition of your diet will become healthier. There is no need to avoid food groups (unless you have an actual allergy/intolerance) just stick to the “all things in moderation rule”. There is no one diet that fits all but in general if you aim for 1/3 carbohydrate, 1/3 fruit and veggies and 1/3 protein/dairy you will be getting things somewhere close to the right proportions. 

If you want a general planner to follow with recipes then you can download mine here and here. 

 

Good articles to read:

expert reaction to new report on diet as published by the National Obesity Forum

https://www.bda.uk.com/improvinghealth/healthprofessionals/policy_statement_diabetes

https://www.bda.uk.com/news/view?id=121&x%5B0%5D=news/list

Why eating nuts can aid weight control.

A few things you may not know about almonds

The nutrition basics:

  • Almonds have a proven heart health claim. This is due to being high in monounsaturated fat and their vitamin E content. They are the tree nut with the highest amount of vitamin E. Proven to lower total and LDL cholesterol.
  • 1 handful of almonds contain a similar amount of polyphenols to 1 cup of green tea. 
  • They are low in glycaemic index and when eaten together they can lower the impact on blood sugars of other carbohydrate foods. 
  • 1 serving (1 oz) contains 12 vitamins and minerals (including folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and potassium) and 6 g protein. This protein helps provide a powerful satiating effect, so they keep you fuller for longer.
  • They are the nuts with the longest shelf life.
  • You need 2 types of almond trees present for pollination, as the bees need to carry pollen from 1 type of almond tree to another.

Heart Health:

2 large studies show the heart health benfits of nuts:

1. Nurses’ Health Study (over 86,000 nurses followed over 14 years)

2. the Adventist Health Study (followed over 27,000 men)

Dietitian UK: Why almonds are so good for you

In total these studies assessed the diets of over 110,000 men and women and after adjusting for other risk factors they linked the intake of five or more servings of nuts per week to a 35 – 50 percent reduction in risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death.

If nuts are high in fat, won’t eating them make me fat?

It sounds like common sense doesn’t it. However the evidence begs to differ. Nut eaters tend to come out at a lower body weight than non-nut eaters. Here is one example for you:

A 24 week weight loss interventional study on obese women compared:

Group A who ate 84g of almonds per day, equivalent to 3 portions of almonds per day. 

A low calorie diet 

39% total fat, 25% MUFA and 32% carbohydrate

Group B on a low calorie, complex carbohydrate diet. 

(18% total fat, 5% MUFA and 53% carbohydrate)

Both diets were equivalent calories and protein. The results showed a 62% greater reduction in weight/BMI, 50% greater reduction in waist circumference and 56% greater reduction in Fat mass in the almond-group.

Int J Obesity Related Metabolic Disease (2003): 27: 1365.

The Reasoning:

Firstly….You don’t absorb all the calories from nuts. That fact blew me away the first time I heard it and understood it. In fact I know now that we absorb different amounts calories from different nuts. The research is ongoing on this and some of it so new it is yet to be published. for the same nuts there is then a difference in the amount of energy we absorb for different nut products – whole, chopped, nut butters.

Secondly…. the calorie content of foods is not that accurate. It is calculated using conversion factors rather than being measured.  Digestibility is not taken into account. If we measured the urinary and fecal energy after eating almonds we would get a more accurate figure, but just getting someone to eat only almonds so we can so this is an extreme task. Some new research has looked at another way of doing this using a base diet with and without almonds. This highlighted that there is a definite difference between the food label calorie content and the measured calorie content of nuts.

The real calorie content of nuts is 5-21% lower than the labels tell us. It varies depending on the type of nut and the processing of the nut. 

Take Home Message:

Nuts are good, no, GREAT for you when eaten in sensible portion sizes. Obviously overeating them can lead to excess calorie intake and weight gain. However,  when eaten daily, in portion controlled amounts, they can help with weight control, satiety and provide a good heart health benefit too.

I personally love the portion tins you can get. 

Portion:

A portion is described as: 1 oz, 2 tbsp, a small handful, 30g.

In actual numbers of nuts this is:

23 almonds, 18 cashews, 12 hazelnuts, 8 brazil nuts ,35 peanuts, 15 pecan halves or 14 walnut halves.

Dietitian UK: Nuts portion guide

 

 

Disclaimer: I recently attended a Round Table event for the Almond B0ard of California. Some of the information in this post has come from that day. This post was not paid for, nor was I asked to write it, it just interests me!