Saving my sanity by meal planning – simple family meals.

One of the things I am passionate about is making food simple. If you have time and can afford to be fancy with your meals then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Go for it. Normal life for my family in the week involves basic range ingredients, plenty of fresh and frozen veggies and quick meals.  So that is what I am sharing with you today.  Trust me, as a working single mum to 3 wonderfully active, inquisitive, helpful kids (you could read that as noisy, full of questions and chatter, like to stick their fingers where I don’t want them to) I need fast food. However I am wheat intolerant (the proper kind where eating wheat upsets my digestive system for several days) and my boy is lactose intolerance – which quite frankly sucks for him. So we have to cook from scratch. 

I aim to plan at the weekend. This sometimes involves a bit of “get ahead cooking” where I cook a few meals for Monday and Tuesday in advance, or it just comes down to a vague plan. Either way without a rough plan my head gets super stressed.

Family meal ideas for busy parents from a dietitian

“What am I cooking today? How will I fit it into my day? Do I have the ingredients?  Do I have time to get to the shop?”  These are questions that will float around my head taking up valuable time and energy. With a plan I’m part way there and will prep a bit throughout my day. That could mean I prep the veggies or even just get the ingredients out on the worktop so I can cook after the school run. It all helps.

So here is an example of our weeks meals and some of the recipes I cook. Simple things my children eat and that work with our dietary needs. I hope it gives you some inspiration.

 

One Pot Pepper Pasta:

This is one of those meals which I love to make as it is so easy, there is minimal washing up and my kids love it. WINNER.

It’s also a vegetarian, plant based and vegan recipe. So if you are looking for simple ways to increase your vegetable intake here you go. Of course you can totally make this your own and add in any veggies you like.

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One Pot Red Pepper Pasta

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red peppers Thickly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium courgette grated
  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch dried mixed herbs
  • 300g dried pasta
  • 750ml boiling water
  • 50g grated cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in the pan, add the garlic and gently cook.

  2. Add in the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes

  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and spices. Bring to a simmer. 

  4. Add the pasta and water, stir well and bring to a simmer.

  5. Lid on and simmer 12-15 minutes until the pasta is cooked.

  6. Season and serve with grated cheese. 

Fish Pesto Parcels:

These are so simple that I like to get my kids to make their own. That way they can’t moan about the veggies I’ve put in! 

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Fish Pesto Parcels

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 400 g white fish (can be frozen and defrosted)
  • 2 carrots, chunkily sliced
  • 1/2 broccoli cut into florets
  • 1 courgette, chunkily sliced
  • 1 red pepper, thick slices
  • 4 tsp pesto
  • 12 small potatoes (if they are too large they will not cook in time so slice up using large potato)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7

  2. Lay out a square of foil big enough to pop everything in and seal up. About 1.5 times your dinner plate. 

  3. Place a selection of veggies and potatoes on the foil, top with the fish and spread 1 tsp pesto on top.

  4. Fold the foil parcel up so everything is covered and pop onto a baking tray.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes

Lentil Bolognaise:

A regular favourite for us and so versatile. You can use up your odds and ends of veggies, and make this into lasagne, cottage pie of as a bolognaise. It freezes super well too.

Recipe here.

Salmon and Broccoli Risotto:

Perfect weaning food and a great meal to get veggies into! I usually grate a courgette in to boost the veggies up.

Recipe here.

Pizza Wraps:

Literally the easiest thing on a Friday after school. I give the kids a wrap, squirt tomato puree on, they pile on toppings from a selection on a chopping board and we cook them for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 5. Do keep a close eye on them as they cook very quickly! 

Chicken Satay Stir Fry:

You can’t beat a stir fry for ease. My kids love peanut butter so satay is usually a winner. Totally use a frozen veg mix or a stir fry pack for ease if you want to. Serve with noodles or rice.

Recipe here

Sausages and wedges:

As much as I like to have some plant based meals in our week my kids are firm fans of sausages. I’ve been using some meat free variations out and they have been largely successful, plus easy to cook straight from frozen – so do think about the meat free range. No recipe as I literally cook the sausages in the oven, along with potatoes cut into wedges with olive oil and garlic on them. Serve with veggies! 

I hope these are helpful and give you some ideas on how to keep meals simple in your week. I’d love to hear your ideas too as I always need inspiration.

How much salt should I eat?

Salt Awareness Week is the  4th-10th March making there no better time to discuss salt! Why do we need salt, why are we consuming too much, what are the dangers of this, and how can we go about reducing our intake?  Huge thanks to Hannah Collins AfN for this guest post. 

Top tips on salt and how to eat lesss

What is salt, how much do we need & why?

Salt is another name for sodium and you may see either term used on food packaging.  We need a certain amount of salt in our diet to regulate the amount of water in our bodies – when this water balance is disrupted by too much salt it can have negative consequences on our bodies.  It is recommended that we consume maximum daily salt intakes of:

  • 6g for adults and children aged 11+ years which is about 1 teaspoon (2.4g sodium) 
  • 5g for children aged 7-10 years  (2g sodium)                         
  • 3g for children aged 4-6 years  (1.2g sodium)
  • 2g for children aged 1-3 years  (0.8g sodium)

We need to be careful when reading food packaging to check whether the salt is labelled as salt or sodium to avoid confusion. It is very hard in a western diet to consume insufficient salt for our needs.

How much are we actually consuming?

The average adult in the UK consumes about 8g of salt per day.  This is much reduced vs 10 years ago but this 8g is still about one third more than we need.

Why does too much salt cause us problems?

  1. High Blood Pressure

Consuming more than 6g of salt per day can cause many health problems, the greatest of which is high blood pressure, also known as ‘hypertension’.  When we eat too much salt, this salt holds on to water in our bodies and disrupts the all-important water balance I mentioned earlier.  As blood is mainly water, this extra water in our blood puts greater pressure on our blood vessels to open up and let the blood through – resulting in high blood pressure!  

High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease – it puts extra strain on your heart to pump your blood around the body and may result in a heart attack or stroke if the pressure is very high.

The government states that if we were to reduce our salt intake to the recommended 6g per day, there could be up to 20,000 fewer deaths from heart attack and stroke each year! 

Salt reduction combined with a diet:

  • High in fruit & veg, wholegrains, low fat dairy and pulses
  • With small daily amounts of lean poultry & fish

has been proven to be the best way to reduce high blood pressure. This diet is known as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)

  1. Kidney Problems

If salt holds on to water in your body, the kidneys do the opposite job – they have to try and get rid of this excess water to keep a nice water balance for us.  

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More salt in the blood means the kidneys have to work a lot harder to try and remove the water, as the water likes to stay with the salt!  Over time this can put a lot of strain on our kidneys and can lead to kidney failure where the kidneys slowly stop working properly.

Once kidney failure is established it cannot be reversed and patients must consume even less salt at this stage to avoid total failure or dialysis.

Too much salt can also make us dehydrated and affect our day to day performance.  It can also cause painful kidney stones and stomach ulcers.

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Tips to consume less salt

Most of us won’t have the time or the inclination to calculate how much salt we are eating every day!  To keep it simple:

  • Don’t add salt to food when cooking; replace with herbs & spices (dry or fresh), lemon, lime or garlic
  • 75% of the salt we eat comes from ready meals/soups/sauces/breads – i.e. processed foods.  Quickly scan the packaging of processed foods when buying and opt for foods that have the ‘green’ traffic light for salt. Foods that carry the red light should be consumed sparingly.
  • For foods that have no traffic lights, you can use the FoodSwitch app which is free to download.  By scanning the barcode it will tell you if the food is high or low in salt!
  • For those who do have more time, be careful when reading food labels and check the amount of salt ‘per serving’ not per 100g as some may be displayed
  • Don’t be fooled by ‘special’ salts which claim to be better for us such as Himalayan salt – salt is salt!

Guest post by Hannah Collins AfN:

Twitter @AllotNutrition

Instagram Theallotmentnutritionist

Webpage www.theallotmentnutritionist.com

What is Orthorexia Nervosa and what can I do?

Orthorexia Nervosa is the newest eating disorder phrase on the block. It was devised by Steven Bratman in 1996, after he noticed a trend in his patients. Ortho means rich or correct.

Orthorexia = an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It can have elements of anxiety disorders and OCD with it.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Whilst there is an overlap here with anorexia nervosa and people with orthorexia may end up developing anorexia, there is also a big difference. Orthorexia is taking healthy eating to the extreme, it has an aspirational, wellness culture ideal associated with it. This means it is less about weight and more about purity and an ideal lifestyle. Social media has certainly heightened this and fuelled it. With role models who life perfect pure lifestyles of food, exercise and spirituality, it can seem as if that ideal is achievable and realistic. Striving to achieve it leads to feelings of failure and guilt.

The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test

This is a test devised by Steven Bratman to help identify if you are at risk of orthorexia. If you answer YES to ANY of these questions you may be at risk.  I think it is useful test to read through and think to how much you identify with the statements.

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.

(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.

If you identify with anything in this post then I highly recommend that you reach out to your medical team, GP, a friend, a parent, a dietitian who works in this field like myself. You can also contact B-Eat.

Top tips for Orthorexia:

Here are some steps you can take to help combat Orthorexia, I suggest these are done with the support of a therapist and dietitian.

  1. Unfollow anyone on social media who fuels the thoughts of having to eat a pure diet/lifestyle. Or try a social media detox for a week.
  2. Focus on eating a variety diet. There are no wrong or right foods it is all about the balance and variety that you eat. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is wrong to eat. 
  3. Work with someone qualified in this area to redefine healthy for you. This may include food, movement, quiet space, social time, family time.
  4. Develop alternative coping skills. Can you see how food helps you feel in control and also makes you anxious? Using distraction after a meal and journalling your thoughts can be a good initial step.
  5. Write out a list of your food rules/beliefs. These need to be challenged.
  6. Only allow yourself to get your nutrition knowledge from someone with a minimum of a degree in nutrition    a registered nutritionist or dietitian.
  7. Stop tracking your nutrition. This may take time to do so start with doing it at one meal at a time. 

Should I count calories?

With all these calorie counting apps that are around and the pressure is better on us to look a certain way calorie counting can be an easy trap to fall into. Whilst it can be useful in some clinical instances I don’t think it is helpful for the general purposes of dieting.
 
Formally, a Calorie is a measure of the amount of energy required to heat one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. It was first used in engineering and physics, but eventually found its way into nutrition, we have Wilbur Atwater to thank for that.
 
Whilst it may make sense that tracking your calories, macros and nutritional intake will help you with your weight, overall health or dietary intake in fact it can have the opposite affect. It can lead to you becoming obsessed with counting everything you eat and feeling you have to stick within a certain number of calories per day. This will stop you enjoying your food and impact your socialising too.  What if you are out with friends in a cafe, a once a week occurance and the cake you is 450kcals plus a coffee 150kcals but you are only allowing yourself to eat 1500kcals a day? That cake is 1/5th of your calorie intake for the day, so is it worth eating it? Do you choose to eat it knowing you will be over your calorie limit for the day but that you have enjoyed your cake and time with friends, do you choose to eat the coffee and cake but then restrict your calories the next day to make up for it or do you decline the cake and feel deprived and as if you cannot join in?
 
Dietitian UK: Why I don't like calorie counting
 
I’d suggest that calorie counting can be a useful guide and tool for one off occasions but over the long term it has the potential to become obsessive.  Following a calorie restrictive diet does not make it a balanced diet. You could be getting all your calories from just fruit and veggies or be skipping a whole food group out.
 
There is also the question of is it even accurate? There is no way to accurately know the exact calories of the food apart from using a calorimeter in a laboratory. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to burn my food up each time! Yes this is worked out for us on food labels but that is a guide. A slightly different portion size, a different way of cooking, a slight change to a recipe and it will have a small affect. Does that matter? No not really as the calories are just a guide. 
 
Delving deeper,  your body will also not necessarily absorb all the calories that you eat. For some foods such as nuts for example, a proportion of the calories are excreted. So even know you may be eating  X  amount of calories you are not necessarily going to be absorbing all of those. Other foods can make your metabolism work harder, again showing calorie counting to not be a 100% accurate tool.
 
Personally I do not think counting calories on a daily basis is helpful and it can be a negative trap that you fall into. Instead look at the balance of your diet. Think about getting a range of nutrients in to your day and a wide variety of foodstuffs. Ensure you cook from scratch as much as possible, eating wholegrains and starchy foods, fruit and veggies, protein and healthy fats regularly. Enjoy what you eat, stop when you are full, eat when you’re hungry and be mindful of the food that you consume but not consumed by it.
 
 

Slow cooker chicken casserole

The temperature is set to drop. For me that means it’s time to bring out the slow cooker. What I love is how such little effort brings such great rewards. This chicken casserole took minutes to prepare, hours to cook and then was devoured. Plus the house smells amazing when you get home. 

So here is the recipe for you. This is totally something to make your own, use whatever you have in your store cupboards remembering to add a little liquid but not too much!

I served ours with extra veggies on the side (I have a broccoli addict of a child) and rice. My children love a slow cooker meal as it’s always so soft, easy to cut and chew.

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Slow cooker chicken casserole

Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 adults

Ingredients

  • 400 g chicken thigh fillets
  • 4 carrots chopped chunky
  • 2 green peppers chopped chunky
  • 2 onions chopped chunky
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 reduced salt stock cube
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150 ml water

Instructions

  1. Prepare the veggies.



  2. Pop into the slow cooker with the chicken and all other ingredients.


  3. Cook on high for 5 hours.

 

How to eat for Brain Health

We all want a healthy, functioning brain for as along as possible. How we eat and drink really does impact it.
 
Studies on cognitive function and brain health show that overall a wholefood plant-based diet with a limited intake of animal and high saturated fat foods is the way forward. A big piece of research on this is call the MIND diet. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago created the MIND diet –  this identified food groups and nutrients from the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet that had been linked to lower risk of dementia.  Over 900 older men and women’s diets were analyzed and  people who stuck closely to a MIND diet were 53% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over the 4.5-year study period, compared with people who adhered least to the diet.
 
10 brain healthy foods identified by the MIND diet:
Green leafy vegetables
Vegetables
Nuts
Berries
Beans/lentils/soybeans
Wholegrains
Seafood
Poultry
Olive Oil
Wine (in moderation).
 
5 foods identified to not be good for brain health by the MIND diet:
Red meat
Butter and margarine
Cheese
Pastries and sweets
Fried or fast food
 
See you can see that a brain healthy diet really does go along the lines of a Mediterranean diet and general healthy eating. Other research on 447 adults showed that they performed better in cognitive tests after four years on a Mediterranean diet compare to a control diet.
 
Here is my meal plan published in the Daily Mail as part of Twinstitute for BBC2.
 
Let’s dig a bit deeper….there are some specific nutrients that have been highlighted as improving cognitive function.
 
B vitamins and folate :  shown to have a link to improved cognitive function, possibly by decreasing homocysteine levels. The evidence is not robust but suggestive. For example a study on elderly people with an increased risk of dementia showed that high doses of B vitamins slight brain shrinkage over 2 yrs.
Specifically looking at vitamin B12, cohort studies have suggested that dementia rates are highest in those with a lower B12 status.
 
Omega 3’s: the brain comprises 60% fat and is one of the fattest organs in the body. With such a high percentage of fat in the brain it’s no surprise that fatty acid’s are important nutrient. Specifically we need to know which fatty acids are important. The research we have suggests that it is the omega three fatty acid‘s to focus on. These have the potential to slow cognitive decline. Fit to focus on therefore our fish, shellfish, algae and the plant foods walnuts, linseeds and chia seeds.
 
Antioxidants including Vits A,C and E: Oxidative stress is one of the primary reasons are brain function declines. Therefore antioxidants are of upmost importance. This brings us back to the good old fruit and vegetables once again proving that we just need to be eating more of them. There has been some research looking specifically at berries and berry juice linking this to increasing memory scores, also the famous avocado for its vitamin E content. Similarly flavonoids found in red wine, dark chocolate, green tea can also help fight oxidative stress. There are some small scale, low power studies that look at blueberries, green tea and red wine that suggest these can be helpful. We have some limited research suggesting that nut intake (specifically walnuts) is associated with better brain function. This fits in with the Mediterranean diet, they contain antioxidants including vitamin E and so it makes sense.
 
Water: about 75% of the brain is made up of water therefore dehydration even in small amounts can have a big affect. Therefore staying hydrated is key.
 
So top foods to eat more of?
Oily fish
Green tea
Plenty of fruit and veggies
Green veggies
Colourful berries
Nuts, seeds including walnuts
Avocado
Wholegrains
Drink water
 
And then a little of the red wine plus dark choc makes a perfect combination.

 

 

The next new super-nutrient we should all be eating.

Fibre is one of the lesser talked about nutrients and yet so vitally important for our bodies. A recent summary of the scientific literature on fibre has shown just how key It is to eat a high-fibre diet. Learn more about what fibre is here.
 
The research:
 
185 studies and 58 clinical trials were reviewed, this was a total of 4635 people! So we are talking big numbers and not a one off study. This means we can put more trust in this research and it is significant.
 
So what is this compelling evidence of fibre on health?
 
The research shows us that eating at 25g to 29 g of fibre day can lead to a 15-30%  decrease in all cause death. Eaitng more fibre led to13 fewer deaths per 1000 people and 6 fewer cases of heart disease per 1000 people.
 
Overall there was a 16 to 24% reduction of heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and colorectal cancer. So we’re talking about up to a quarter reduction in your risk of these diseases just by eating more fibre.
 
Eating 8 g more of fibre per day had significant reductions in the incidence of these diseases and in the number of total deaths.
 
 
What are we eating now?
When we look at what the current UK population is eating only 9% of us are meeting the fibre recommendations of 30 g a day. Average fibre intake for UK adults is 19g/day according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2018).
 
So why are we not meeting the recommedations?  Is is even achievable to eat 30 g of fibre a day.
 
The advent of clean eating, low carb diets and dieting means carbohydrates have been given a bad name. However the wholegrain versions of these foods provide us with plenty of fibre.  There are other foods that provide fibre too – nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and of course fruits and veggies.
 
I think it is achievable to meet the 30g a day, here is an example day for you:
 
Porridge with berries and almonds for breakfast.
A baked potato including the skin with salad and an apple.
Baked salmon with whole-grain rice and two portions of vegetables.
A banana with yoghurt and some seeds.
 
 
Of course some people may struggle with eating a high fibre diet and with all of these things it is not a one-size fits all approach and a balance is key. For medical conditions, the general nutrition advice may need to be tailored to your needs and that is absolutely ok. So if you cannot eat a high fibre diet do not panic, just focus on eating the foods you know nourish your body. If you need help with this do seek out a registered dietitian/nutritionist who knows their stuff!
 

Back to school lunches

Back to School. It’s that time again. My girl loves having packed lunch is and actually I quite like knowing what she’s having. But it can become repetitive, so one of our aims is to get inspiration and vary each of the food groups. We always go for a carbohydrate option, some protein, raw veggies and fruit as the basics. Then we add in a few extras such a yoghurt, a muesli bar or some cake. Of course one of the biggest factors is what your child actually likes! It’s no good giving them beautiful looking nutritious food if the won’t eat it.
 
I’d love to say that we spend time each weekend baking for lunches or that we whip up spectacular salads each week. Truth be told, packed lunches are made quickly after dinner whilst I tidy up the kitchen, usually before I teach Pilates and while the kids run around the house like crazies. It’s doesn’t have to be complicated, but balance and variety are 2 of the keys 🔑.
 
Carbohydrates: Bagels, wraps, pitta, bread, baguette, crackers, rice, pasta, couscous.
 
Protein: tuna, cheese, ham, salami, peanut butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, eggs, turkey, chicken, hummus.
 
Raw veggies: cucumber, 1/2 avocado (with a spoon), tomatoes, peppers, carrots, gherkins, olives, sweet corn, peas, mange tout, sugar snap peas, mushrooms.
 
Fruit: melon, apple, berries, satsumas, pear, grapes.
 
Extras: malt loaf, yoghurt, cheese portion, popcorn, cheesy biscuits, cereal bar, dried fruit bar, homemade flapjack.
 
 
 
 
 
Sandwich Filling Ideas:
Cheese and pickle 
Hummus and ham 
Egg and hummus
Salami and cream cheese
Avocado and cream cheese
Avocado and egg salad
Tuna and mayo
Mashed chickpeas, avocado and mayo
Peanut butter
Nut butter and banana
Cheese and marmite
 
Alternatives to Sandwiches:
Sushi (make a batch and use it for 3 days)
Pasta, rice or couscous  salads
Pizza Whirls – use your choice of toppings
Picky Box – crackers, cheese, veggies and let them make their own lunch at school
 
I’d love to hear your ideas! I share packed lunches regularly on my inst-stories so do give me a follow
 

Should I eat more plant based diet?

What are the benefits?

Plant based diets (PBD’s) are better for the environment and provide a more sustainable way of eating. There are also health benefits due to eating more plants altering the nutritional profile of your body. 

PBD’s tend to be lower in saturated fat due to less meat. They usually contain higher amounts of fruit and vegetables which means higher fibre content for digestive health (those bowels) and a greater range of antioxidant plus phytochemicals. 

The inclusion of wholegrains provides B vitamins and fibre, beans/pulses for soluble fibre and these help with blood sugar control, soy products provide phytoestrogens that can be helpful in the menopause plus nuts and and seeds that are packed with antioxidants and micronutrients.

Some specific health benefits:

Research shows us that PBDs can lead to lower levels of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This is going to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 Also improvements can be seen in serum glucose levels which helps in overall health and in type 2 diabetes control. 

There has been shown to be a lower level of overall inflammation in the body. These factors combines are thought to contribute to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. 

Does this mean we should all go vegetarian/vegan? Well not necessarily. What I do think it means is that having a greater emphasis on eating plants sources of food is helpful and healthful. As with all ways of eating there are many ways to do it, so the benefits you see on paper will depend on how you actually approach this way of life. This in my mind is about adding in plant foods more than taking things away. 

Will I be missing out nutrients?

It is perfectly possible to meet your nutritional needs on a PBD. However you will need to be more intentional about it. Planning and being thoughtful about some key nutrients plus a couple of supplements will ensure you get all your body needs.

Protein : It can be easier to get protein from animal sources. However this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be eating plant proteins! Most people in the UK are exceeding their protein needs, especially with the focus on protein in so many snack foods right now.  When calorie needs are met it is more than possible to meet your protein requirements on a PBD. However it is a good idea to vary your protein sources through the week so that cover all those essential amino acids the body needs.

  • Mycoprotein, soya protein and pea protein 
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Tofu
  • Eggs and dairy (if these are eaten)

Iron : The recommended daily amount of iron for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher that for non-vegetarians, as iron which comes from plant sources (non-haem iron) is less efficiently utilised in our body than iron which comes from animal sources. Eat iron rich foods daily and all should be well. 

  • Iron fortified breakfast cereals
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Wholegrains 
  • Dried fruit 
  • Green leafy vegetables 
  • Yeast extract 
  • Eggs, fish and poultry (if these are eaten)
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Calcium: one of my hobby horses, as I like to look after my bones. Calcium can be lower on a plant based diet but there are plant foods that will help those bones stay strong. Check your plant based milk is supplemented and get on those leafy greens. Some studies show a lower bone mineral density in those not eating dairy, so this is definitely a nutrient to think about. 

  • Fortified dairy alternatives (like: soya or nut milks and yoghurts)
  • Fortified juice drinks
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Tofu
  • Beans, lentils and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bread
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

Vitamin B12: as this is mainly found in animal products it is one of the nutrients you may end up lacking. It is found in yeast extract and most multivitamins/minerals.

Omega 3 : mainly talked about as being in oily fish but also found in seaweed, linseeds and walnuts. If you know you won’t take in many of these foods you could take a supplement.

  • Seaweed (not recommended more than once per week) 
  • Chia seeds, linseeds/flaxseeds, hemp seeds 
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Walnuts and walnut oil
  • Soybeans and soybean oil
  • Tofu
  • Spreads and breads which are fortified with omega 3
  • Oily fish (if this are eaten)
  • Eggs and dairy which are fortified with omega 3 (if these are eaten)
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Iodine: highlighted in some studies as a nutrient that can be low on a PBD, but also on a meat eaters diet too!

  • Iodised salt
  • A limited amount of fortified dairy alternatives (e.g. specific brands of oat milk) 
  • Seaweed (but this is not recommended more than once per week) 
  • Dairy products and seafood (if these are eaten)

Selenium: mainly found in Brazil nuts so not necessarily a problem on  PBD but a good one to be aware of.

  • Brazil nuts 
  • Eggs and fish (if these are eaten)

Improve your Diet for 2019

 
Whilst diets are flying everywhere and detoxes around every corner here is how to make long-term change your diet that will give you lasting health benefits for life.
 
How are you eat impacts your gut health and your long-term risk of diseases. So here are my top 5 food goals, which I’m taking onboard for myself too.
 
 
Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption by one portion.
It may not seem like much but if you manage to do this every day then it’s going to make a long-term change over the year.
 
Plan your meals.
Plan out what you’re going to eat incorporating a variety of foods across the week. Different colour vegetables for the different antioxidants and phytochemicals. Different grains, different protein sources (e.g chicken one day, red meat another, fish and lentils other times.
 
Eat more gut friendly foods.
This can be simply more fibre from whole grains and fruit/veggies and more probiotics from live yoghurt, sourdough bread, pickles or kefir.
 
Go plantbased where possible
Note this this does not mean you need to go vegan. Incorporating plantbased proteins is going to be an ever increasing trend. It’s definitely one to follow. Plant based meals are better in terms of sustainability and environmental impact plus they deliver a range of nutrients you may not get through a meat meal. More on this to come in my next blog posts.
 
Cook from scratch more.
This doesn’t have to mean every day but go for it if you can! Everyone is busy so try planning in times when you can bulk cook and stocking up the freezer. Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated or take that much time. I will be posting regular recipes on my social media to show what we eat. Trust me, I don’t have hours to cook.
 
However you start your new year try and keep your goals simple, achievable and remember that food is to be enjoyed! 
 
 
 
 

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