A “handy” portion guide.

Portion Sizes can be tricky to get right and yet they are key to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Here is a little video I did with BBC Food a few months ago, shot in the most gorgeous kitchen (it’s not mine!).

Using your hand as a general guide can be a great way of judging portions and it also means it works well for children and adults.

I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you judge your portions? Other great way to do this are to create your own measuring cup. Using a mug weigh out the standard serving and then place it in a mug, mark a line for that food (rice, pasta, cereals). Or for carbohydrates there is a lovely carb spoon that I actually use myself at home.

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You can still eat a jacket potato, here’s how.

So the news on the street is a jacket potato contains 19 sugar cubes. More than a can of coke. Now whilst this may be true on the one level there is a lot more going on here than just the sugar and it is not to say you cannot eat a baked spud.
 
Photo taken from the Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/6452643/potatoes-obesity-crisis-sugar-baked-potato/
Sugar in food is modified by several factors it is not something that can just be measured by sugar lumps alone. That potato has fibre, potassium (more than a banana), B6 and Vitamin C for starters. The can of coke – well I don’t think we can claim that has much else.
 
There is a system that ranks the effects that feeds have on blood sugars. This is the glycaemic index (GI), it looks at how rapidly a carbohydrate is digested and released as glucose into the blood stream. A food  with a high GI food is one that increases the blood sugars faster, leading to a potential blood sugar spike. Using this ranking  a jacket potato would be high (85) and something like chickpeas would be low (28). This is a really useful system but it has it flaws. If you use it alone you could live off chocolate and ice-cream as these are low GI!  Also this system does not account for the carbohydrate in food and it uses 100 g of food, rather than looking at portion sizes. However it is still a useful way to compare foods and I’d highly recommend you focus on eating more low GI foods. But remember we do  not eat these foods in 100g servings or in isolation. Read on to hear more about this.
 
 
Another good ranking system for those concerned about blood sugar control is glycaemic load. This looks at the effect of food per portion and it does take into account carbohydrates. So for example foods that have a glycaemic index of less than 10 have a low or little impact on bloodsugars, GL of 10 to 20 is moderate and 20+ is high. Again another useful system to keep in mind, but it has it’s flaws (doesn’t everything!). We don’t eat these foods in isolation, so other factors come into play.
 
So let’s think about the nutrients and factors that affect glycaemic index and glycaemic load…
 
These are general rules, there are always exceptions:
 
1. Fibre is something that slows the rate of digestion and therefore stops blood sugars from increasing as fast.
 
2. Protein also has this effect on the body a food that is higher in protein will be a food that doesn’t increase your blood sugar as fast.
 
3. Fat also slows down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream, that is why something like chocolate may seem like it will be a food that will increase your bloodsugars fast, but actually that’s not always the case as the fat slows down the digestion.
 
4. Cooking method and processing also affect food, as does the variety of the food. For example, the impact on bloodsugars from a ripe banana will be much higher than in unripe one and it’s the same with a potato. With our baked potato the impact on bloodsugars is higher than when you eat new boiled potato or sweet potato.
 
Now this is where it gets complicated because we can’t just rank certain foods as good and others as bad! So where to go from here? Well these systems of GI/GL give us really good principles that we can use when planning a healthy balanced diet. However that doesn’t mean that we need to be living our lives by a set of tables and numbers (see tables in the links below). Who wants to be doing that? It does mean you could look at the foods you eat regularly and think about making some swaps or improving meals by adding protein, fibre or plant foods.  It doesn’t mean you only have to eat foods that are low in GI or low in GL. What it does mean is it is helpful for blood sugar control to eat more of these foods and to adapt some of your meals that include higher GI/GL items. So for example let’s take the humble baked potato. Now yes it is high in GI (50) and GL (33) but by adding tuna to your jacket potato it will change this from a meal that had a large impact on your blood sugar levels to a more moderate one. Add a bean salad and some veggies in and it gets even lower.
 
Here is my dinner from the other night. A potato the size of my fist, with tuna and sweetcorn (protein), salad and cheese (fat). 
 
 
It’s once again, all about the balance.

Links:

Glycaemic Load Table.

Glycaemic Index Table.

 

 

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Priya gives top nutrition tips on Rachel’s podcast

So a complete pleasure to take part in this podcast with Rachel Holmes. Take a listen for super nutrition tips, it’s an action packed podcast, no chitter-chatter but just full on content and at just over 30 minutes it’s a great length too.

Totally love to hear your thoughts!

We cover:

Is there a best diet to be on?

Hunger/fullness signals.

Feeding your kids – what to do and what not to do.

Tips to take away and use today.

Weight loss advice.

Should we be going gluten/dairy free?

Emotional messages.

Feeding your toddlers!

My struggle with feeding my kids.

Rachel is a fitness entrepreneur, a presenter and a trainer. She is inspiration in her energy levels and all she achieves. I’ve followed her and been to her course as a fitness instructor for many years.

 

 

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The truth about what dietitians do

Being a dietitian is for me an amazing job, however it is also a very misunderstood job. With the rise of nutrition bloggers, wellness experts and a range of questionable nutrition courses springing up,  I guess the new kid on the block is always the most exciting. 

With it being Dietitians Week this week I thought it was a good time to remember what the heck dietitian’s actually do!

1.  Dietitians are evidenced based and have a legally protected title. So any old Joe Bloggs can’t set themselves up as a dietitian. They have to keep up to date in their specialist areas and do so many hours of continuing professional development every month. This is assessed by the HCPC (Health care professions council) and we can be struck off the register for malpractice. You can check if your dietitian is registered here.

2. It is a minimum of 3 years of training to be a dietitian, this includes biochemistry, physiology, nutrition, research skills and so much more. There are clinical placements where you work in a hospital/dietitian setting to really put things into practise. This means by the time a dietitian is qualified they have already been working and know their stuff. The way this differs to a registered nutritionist (also the good guys, I started out in nutrition myself!) is by the clinical work, the knowledge of disease states. 

3. Yes some dietitians work in hospitals or within the NHS, however many also work in other areas. This could be with the food industry, with councils, with food brands, in the media or in private practice.

4. It’s very much a food first approach and not all about supplements and selling products. You won’t find many dietitians pushing you to buy from them in a clinic setting.  In fact most of us are not that business savvy but are focused on the people/area we work for.

5. People focused is how most dietitians are. It is a very caring profession, a profession who really wants to help others, to get the right information out there and who work hard. All the ones I have met are always a lovely bunch of people who you actually want to spend time with. 

Look out for my post later this week on great dietitians to follow! 

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Colour up kids restaurant menus

Let’s talk childrens menus when eating out. This can be a topic of division in my mind and in general amongst parents. I doubt many people choose where they eat out based soley on the kids menu but when you are eating out with small ones it is hugely important. 

Often childrens menus are high on beige foods and low on colours. I’m talking fishfingers, nuggets, burgers,  chips, potato waffles with maybe beans or peas but not much else. I totally get why, as a restaurant you want children to enjoy their meal and hey, it’s only one meal. So does it really matter?

 I think it does. Children are little adults, as an adult I want choice, flavour, foods that I don’t usually eat at home, foods that make me think and that my tastebuds explore. Beige food menus are devoid of a variety of  tastes, textures, fibre and colours. All things we want kids to be eating.

Now for my kids eating out is a complete treat. We don’t do it that often. I also don’t tend to offer “beige meals” often at home, unless they are requested. Not that I am against those foods, they have a place. However, I  prefer to go for plenty of veggies and variety, aiming for homemade foods when I can. So we may have fishfingers from the freezer but I’d serve them with a mixture of veggies, potato wedges, with the skin on and thus provide a range of nutrients, fibre and tastes.  Nuggets and fishcakes can totally be offered as part of a balanced diet but do they need to make up the majority of children’s menus when eating out? I think not. Let’s get some balance on the menu please. 

Miss K totally loving her ramen bowl.

If we start to offer variety and treat children as little foodies maybe they will start eating in this way? Having had a boy who was anti-vegetables I’ve had first hand experience of how consistency, being non-judgemental and continual exposure works. So if we only offer beige foods they will only eat beige foods! This is part of the basis behind raising intuitive eaters, as parents we offer a range of foods and let them choose how much and what to have.

My crazy kids actually get a bit excited about a kids menu but at times I get “why is my food not as nice as yours”.  Which has led to us ordering an adults meal for the kids to share or of course sharing our own meals. I do remember at a wedding the sausage and chips being shunned in favour of the delicious buffet. When travelling I encourage the children to try cultural foods and things they have not had before – with varying results but it’s all about continuing to promote these values and ideas.

 Eating out is about pleasure and enjoying meals different to those at home. My 7 yr old especially loves eating “adult meals”. So I love places who make small versions of the adult menu. In my mind this is how it should be. Yesterday we ate out at a restaurant that did an amazing menu with kid friendly versions of their dishes – no chilli, smaller portions and some meals where all the foods were separate for those, like my boy, who would have wanted to pick bits out. They were also happy to make changes to the kids meals. My children were VERY happy. 

This boy, so happy with his meal and he demolished it.

It’s all about enjoyment, choice, variety and #empoweringkids to do this. I see it as part of intuitive eating, letting them choose what to have and how much to eat. My kids are very different in their eating and how they eat but all loved their lunch out today. 

 

 

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How do we know when we are hungry/full?

In a completely perfect world we would eat when hungry, stop when full and eat the foods our body tells us to eat. However few of us are that tuned into our bodies signals. We are bombarded with outside signals for example the media, advertising, other people, shops, restaurants – food is all around us.

You walk down the road and pass someone eating a burger, “hmmm I fancy one of those now”. Then you pass a billboard advertising ice-cream, “oh I could eat an ice-cream later”. Then someone in the office has a birthday so you have a slice of cake. Later on the radio is advertising a meal deal which makes you think of buying one for your lunch. In the shop you are standing waiting to pay and see a cereal bar so pick it up to nibble on. All those extra signals that are overriding your actual body signals. It’s all so easy to be overwhelmed by the external and takes a lot of quietening ourselves to hear the internal cues. 

Many people I work with cannot actually initially  pinpoint what hunger feels like. I ask how hungry they are and am met with a confused look. Hunger on the one hand is quite a simple idea, your body is hungry, it tells you, you eat. Other the other hand it is complex, so complex. There is head hunger, body hunger, stomach hunger, emotional hunger.

Here is my 7 year olds take on how she knows she is hungry. I think this is such an important conversation to have with children AND adults. So have a think this week, how do you feel hunger and how hungry are you before you eat? 

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Family friendly “not a chicken curry”

Usually my children are not so keen on curry, however being half Sri-lankan this is not an option for me! My oldest girl used to eat a lot of spice, in fact at 22 months in Sri-Lanka she was eating curry off my plate. She went off spice and is now age 7 working back onto it. My boy has never been into anything spicy and so he is definitely a work in progress.

So this time I went at it from another angle. A fragrant but mild curry served with rice and optional naan on the side. However I sold it as “it’s not a curry, it’s chicken with naan”.  It worked. WIN.

The beauty of this meal is it can either be made in the slow cooker/crock pot or on the hob.

Here is the recipe:

Family Friendly Chicken and Naan
Serves 4
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504 calories
39 g
115 g
17 g
48 g
7 g
454 g
363 g
14 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
454g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 504
Calories from Fat 147
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g
26%
Saturated Fat 7g
33%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 115mg
38%
Sodium 363mg
15%
Total Carbohydrates 39g
13%
Dietary Fiber 12g
49%
Sugars 14g
Protein 48g
Vitamin A
192%
Vitamin C
141%
Calcium
7%
Iron
25%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  2. 500g chicken on the bone, skinless
  3. 2 onions
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 2 peppers
  6. 3 carrots
  7. 500ml chicken stock (mine was homemade)
  8. 50g sachet creamed coconut
  9. 1 tsp tumeric
  10. 1 tsp cumin
  11. 1 tsp coriander
  12. 1/4 inch fresh/frozen ginger, grated
  13. 1/2 cup dried lentils
Instructions
  1. Brown the chicken in a pan. Add the onions and garlic to soften them.
  2. Then either place all ingredients in a slow cooker/crock pot and place on high for 8 hrs.
  3. Or cook in a large pan on a medium heat for 40 minutes.
  4. Serve with rice and naan if wanted.
beta
calories
504
fat
17g
protein
48g
carbs
39g
more
Dietitian UK https://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/
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The non-diet approach for children.

In a time when there is a focus on reducing sugar, countering obesity and improving the long term health of the nation, it can be hard to know how to approach these topics with your family. On the one hand we want children to be aware of what is in food but we don’t want them to be obsessing over it or feeling they need to go on a diet.

Personally I think that teaching children about nutrition, food preparation, healthy behaviours and their bodies early on is really important and can be part of the solution that our society needs. So as a mum I do my best to educate my children on a daily basis.  Simple messages that we use are “There are no good of bad foods but some foods we eat less of as too much of them are helpful for our bodies”. We also talk about what is in a food and why it is good for us – often using “Funky Facts” such as the fibre in bread or the vitamin C in a kiwi. Top facts like this are things I find they store up and remember.  

We may talk about dental health or how out tummy feels if you eat too much of certain foods.  Both my older children (age 4 and 7 yrs) can associate with a time they have eaten sweet foods and felt unwell from it! I love talking to them about how their tummy feels and what do they feel it needs as well as what does it want!

I prefer to focus on these messages rather than focusing on weight/size/shape.  Being a dietitian who works in the eating disorder field I am well aware of the issues that can occur when there is too much of a focus on weight, shape, size and how your body looks.  Instead I like to focus on the enjoyment of food and on healthy behaviours such as being active, getting fresh sunlight, being outside and taking care of our teeth, hair, nails. 

Here is a little video of my 7 year old explaining her thoughts on food:

I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

 

The least sexy but vitally important nutrient

Facebook likes too ask “what’s on my mind” well actually right now it is fibre. An overlooked and neglected nutrient, maybe because bowel health just isn’t sexy. However to my mind, neither is constipation or piles. 
 
When the recommendations for fibre increased to 30g per day there were lots of posts out there about how hard it would be to achieve it and how to meet your fibre needs. At the time I remember thinking how hard this would be for many people to achieve. It’s all about making small changes one at a time and then building on these. In my clinic I see the extremes. Sometimes underweight people who are eating too much of the fibre rich foods (and I have to ask them to decrease these) but then also plenty of people who are just not having enough fibre which is causing some of their symptoms. 
 
(Disclaimer: this advice is not for those who are weight restoring from an eating disorder, too much fibre can be very filling and stop you from eating enough energy).
 
So why is fibre important? 
 
  • Bowels, bowels, bowels. As a student dietitian on the wards I remember having to swallow my embarrassment and loudly say to people “how are your bowels today”. These days I’m older, a lot harder to embarrass, mum to small kids and used to talking about bowels a lot… whether it be a clients, a child’s or a worms. Yes this week my girl wanted to chat about worms poo. Having enough insoluble fibre is important for bulking your stool. 

 

  • Soluble fibre forms a gel that slows digestion. This also means it helps stabilise blood sugars, lowers cholesterol and aids satiety, keeping you fuller for longer. Soluble fibre is found in oats, barley, psyllium, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits/vegetables. 

 

  • The microbiome is a fascinating area. Research has shown that the largest influence on the gut microbiome comes from diet. Fibre feeds the gut bacteria so by eating your fibre you are helping ensure your gut stays happy and healthy.

So how much fibre is in your foods? Although I wouldn’t promote you analyse labels all the time it can be interesting to compare the fibre content of some of the foods you eat.

Some fibre rich foods that can help boost your intake are:

Lentils, Spilt peas, beans,  garden peas, nuts, seeds, wholegrain versions of pasta, rice, bread products, wholegrain cereals, grains such as oats, quinoa, cous cous, popcorn, fruit and veggies, potato skins.

Top tips to increase the fibre content of your meals: 

  • Add lentils, beans and pulses to your meals. A couple of handfuls of lentils goes well in casseroles, soups, salads, even stir fries. 
  • When possible opt for wholegrain versions of foods.
  • Add nuts and seeds into meals. I love them sprinkled on breakfast or my yoghurt, you could add to a salad or on top of a stirfry. Sprinkle some in your sandwich or add to baking.
  • Increase your portions of fruit and vegetables if you are not meeting the 5 a day target. 
  • Eating more plant based meals in your week. We aim to eat plant based meals 4-5 times a week in our house. 

Here are some meals where I’ve pimped the fibre:

Oats with fruit, seeds and nuts – 15g fibre. Plus the oats here are soluble fibre. 

  

2 x Rye bread with 1/2 avocado – 10-15g fibre, this particular bread is very high fibre, 10g for 2 slices.

If you used a different rye bread it would be lower, using my normal rye bread plus the avocado it would be 10g fibre.

Risotto made with pearl barley and broccoli – 12-15g fibre per portion. Pearl barley has a high fibre content and is a great grain to cook with. It takes slightly longer to cook than rice but can be used instead of rice, or added to soups and stews. 

Vegetable fajitas with chickpeas, peppers and sesame seeds, smashed avocado and seeded wraps – 10g fibre.

I totally encourage you to try increasing your fibre intake and help your gut bacteria, blood sugars and bowel health. Remember to also drink plenty of fluids to help that fibre move through your system.

 

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Constant thoughts of food? It could be linked to your diet.

One statement I hear regularly in my eating disorder clinics is “I feel like I’m going mad, all I think about is food”. Now whilst an eating disorder is a mental health illness it is not a sign of madness. However you can feel so consumed by your thoughts of food that it feel that way. Why? Well let’s have a look at some of the symptoms of being underweight….

Back in 1941 there was a landmark study conducted by Ancel Keys called the Minnesota experiment. The aim of this study was to get information on how to refeed those starving from famine conditions. 32 men completed the study, 12 of these were studied for 8 weeks to assess their baseline intake before the trial began. Then they were all starved for 24 weeks, with their intake reduced from 3,200kcals to just 1,600kcals/day served in 2 meals. which led to a 25% loss of body weight.  Now take a note of the number of calories, yes these men would have been more active and lived a different lifestyle but 1,600kcals led to them being starved. Many of the diets that are advertised today are much lower in calories that this, so are they really healthy for our bodies? 

Fascinatingly the men showed a lot of the symptoms we see in people suffered from an eating disorder. They become obsessed with food. Some read cookery book and stared at pictures of food. Cheating become a huge issue with them trying to find extra snacks. One man became psychotic, having vivid dreams of eating flesh and threatened to kill Keys, he was dismissed and after a few days these dreams and thoughts went away. This to me highlights the affect being a low weight can have on your thoughts and mental health. If you have an eating disorder and are a low weight that pre-occupation you have with food can totally be related to your body being undernourished. It is not you going loopy, it is the impact of being malnourished.

These men displayed a biological drive to eat, their hunger was increased and felt out of control. Keys ended up having to have each men chaperoned to stop them eating other snacks when not in the hospital. Our bodies are built to live and to live we need food. So they will do all they can to get us to eat. When you restrict your intake it makes perfect sense you will hungrier than before, stronger signals are being sent out and the body is going into amber alert. So that pre-occupation with food is actually a normal, biological sign that your body is working and doing it’s job.

The good news is, upon being re-fed, for most men, these symptoms disappeared. They were refer back to their usual weight and felt a lot better. Their thoughts, mood and emotional state improved alongside their physical healthy. Some of these men were interviewed in 2003 and they reported being glad they took part in the study, but there being some lingering after-effects. Some were worried about food deprivation for years afterwards. This can also be seen sometimes in recovery from an eating disorder, which is why  it is important to focus on recovery happening in stages and being a continual work in progress. 

If any of this has hit home to you and you feel like you need some support, do get in contact with me, see your GP for advice  or check out the B-eat website who have a helping and a list of eating disorder specialists. Taking that first step can be the hardest but with good support around you, recovery really is possible.

 

 

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