All posts by Priya

Confessions of a dietitian. My kids eat doughnuts.

My children surprise me time and time again with their eating and their ability to hone in on their own needs and internal cues… if only I give them a chance. 

With my oldest turning 8 this week she is exposed to different foods in places outside our home. Sweets at youth club, biscuits for sale at school (yes really in the playground), cake at groups. Totally a time for her to put into practise all her intuitive eating skills and experiement away from me. 

With Miss K being my first child, she is also the one that I weaned first and did all the things wrong with first! Parenting is the hardest job for sure and there is no manual. So I was clear on limiting her biscuit intake and on keeping the sweets up high and on a pedestal. The sweet issue I had to totally back track on, explain I had dealt with this badly and it was time to try a new approach. The result is my kids eat sweets, regularly but they savour them and we have small amounts after a meal or as part of a snack. Today they have both had half an iced doughnut.  I don’t see restriction as the answer, I don’t want my children to grow up sugar-free or feeling cake is only for special occasions, but to appreciate all foods and know some things we eat less of.  I certainly don’t dish out cakes and sweets daily but I do have them around and part of life, Children need to learn how to eat and how to be around foods at home. Home is the training ground, the place to experiment, get things wrong and then try again. 

This weekend I was on a course and my parents looked after my kids. They all did a fabulous job at looking after each other. One thing I noticed was how well the mealtimes went. My mum was worried the smallest one especially had not eaten well and recounted the day to me, she had eaten well just not in what we would percieve to be a normal meal pattern. That’s toddlers! The kids had also convinced my mum to buy them doughnuts (grandparents prerogative) and where I would have cut these in half they had a whole one each…. my boy ate part of it and then gave it back when he had enough. Now this is the boy who I think could pretty much eat a whole chocolate cake – turns out I am wrong, again 😉 and very happy to be. 

So why am I writing all of this?  To show other parents that there is hope. That your children can be trusted around food, that they have an intuitive sense of what to have and how much. It may be that like me, you haven’t been perfect in your approach to food, well it’s not too late to change that and have a conversation with your children.

Here are 3 of my top tips:

  1. No foods are off limits or restricted. However as a parent you decide when to offer a food and what to offer. Your child decides what to eat from that selection and how much. If you have a cupboard of snacks like we do, then it is totally going to happen than you get asked for specific foods items from there, which could be totally fine but it’s working with your child to work out their hunger and what to put with their snack.
  2. Involve your children in the shopping and let them choose some of the foods, even if they are high sugar options you would prefer them not to have. It’s about learning how to have those foods safely, at home. 
  3. Let your children choose what to eat from a selection of food, without judgement. This is HARD. If you have provided a range of food then it is up to them to choose what to have and not up to you to tell them. Sometimes stepping back can allow your child to shine and show their independance off.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and problems. Do get in touch via social media, a blog comment or email.

The sugar summit and processed foods

Recently I was asked to speak on a panel at the Sugar Summit. This is a yearly meeting in Westminster aimed that brings together different stakeholders, from government, to charities, manufacturers, retailers, to talk about improving the the choices, policy and food environment around foods low in free sugars. This was an event organised by Sugar Wise who have a certification in place on processed foods. If you see this label on a food it is low in free sugars:

 

Being surrounded by food manufacturers one of the topics we discussed was processed foods.

1. Are all processed foods the same?

There seems to be a common misconception that processed foods are all bad and should all be avoided. Yet actually I don’t see that as true. Processed foods include frozen vegetables, fruit, tinned fish, cheese and bread. Food processing includes canning, freezing, baking and drying. So we really can’t get away from eating processed foods and we don’t actually need to. Food processing is something that has gone on since the start of the human race. There has always been a way of preserving foods. The issue now has become that some processed foods have become high fat, high sugar foods, foods to be eaten in smaller quantities and in moderation.

2. Should all processed foods be avoided?

Whilst the media/social media may give out the impression that processed foods are to be avoided at all costs, this is a very sweeping statement and pretty impossible to do. Tinned tomatoes, bread products, yoghurt and milk are all foods we eat regularly. Are they foods we need to avoid? Instead of avoiding processed foods, how about we see the processing of foods as essential and helpful. It makes food accessible and affordable. Suddenly vegetables can be kept in the freezer, out of season fruit is available all year round and a meal can be prepped in minutes out of the store cupboard. There are certainly some improvements that need to be made to some types of processed foods and this is where our focys needs to be. Working with food manufacturers, encouraging reformulation of sauces, biscuits, cereals and sweet foods is a great move.

3. Can processed foods actually be healthier?

Some processed foods are fortified with micronutrients that can improve their nutritional profile. Think breakfast cereals and plant based milks, margarines and flour. These foods can provide an important source of nutrients for people who may otherwise end up deficient. Frozen foods such as vegetables, fruit, beans and fish are processed and frozen fast, which means they can be better than the fresh versions which  may have travelling large distances and be stored for some time. 

All in all I think there is no way we can avoid all processed foods. Instead it is about being selective with the ones that we eat regularly. Check the label to see what has been added and compare to alternative brands. There are often reduced salt and sugar options that are better choices. 

I’d love to hear your views.

 

 

 

 

Mackerel Carbonara

Now this recipe, it’s not a combination that instantly springs to mind, in fact I remember Gregg being dubious when we cooked this on Eat Well for less. … however it works. This is a great way to get oily fish back on the menu for family meals.

Oily fish is such a important food to try and incorporate into your weekly meal planning due to the omega 3 content. Omega 3’s are a essential fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory effects, can help with brain health, cognitive function, heart health and even asthma.

I hope you enjoy the recipe – do make sure to turn off the heat before adding in the sauce of the yoghurt will curdle. 

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SMOKED MACKEREL CARBONARA

Ingredients

  • 450 g spaghetti
  • 2 tsp horseradish sauce
  • 400 g greek yoghurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 60 g parmesan cheese finely grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 medium courgettes grated
  • 350 g boneless smoked mackerel skin removed and flaked
  • 240 g baby spinach
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and stir well.  Simmer for 12-15 minutes until cooked.

  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Whisk together the horseradish sauce, yoghurt, eggs and parmesan. Season with black pepper.

  3. Heat a large pan until medium hot, add the oil and stir fry the courgette for 2 minutes until it has started to soften.

  4. Add the smoked mackerel, mix well then cook for another minute. Stir in the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted down.

  5. Turn the heat off (to prevent curdling), add the horseradish and yoghurt mixture into the pan. Stir really quickly until mixed throughout the courgettes and mackerel. 

  6. Drain the pasta and tip straight into the pan, with about 100ml of the cooking water, then stir until totally covered in the sauce.

  7. Serve straight away with the parsley scattered over the top.

Veggie Croquettes

After making these I was named the Empress of Veggies by the one and only Gregg Wallace, so I felt I had to share this recipe! It is a little messy to make (make sure you squeeze the fluid out of the veggies) but those dips combined with the croquettes = heaven. 

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Veggie Croquettes

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Author Eat Well for Less

Ingredients

  • 200 g cauliflower coarsely grated
  • 200 g sweet potato peeled and coarsely grated
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and coarsely grated (200g)
  • 1 medium courgette coarsely grated (200g)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley picked and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp onion granules
  • 100 g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Line a large shallow baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the grated vegetables into a large bowl and mix together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix really well, squishing it all together until evenly mixed. Set aside to soften for 15 minutes.
  3. Mix once more then divide into 8 in the bowl, then take each portion and form into two little sausages. Place onto the lined baking tray then repeat with the remaining mixture to form 16 sausages.
  4. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the croquette golden brown on the outside, .
  5. While the croquettes bake, prepare the dips.

 

 

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Pea guacamole

Author Eat Well for Less

Ingredients

  • 240 g frozen peas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli seeded and very roughly chopped
  • 1 lime zested and juiced
  • ½ small bunch coriander very roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the pea guacamole into a large food processor and pulse until just broken down, then scrape the sides of the processor down. Blitz until just beginning to get smooth - you want a little texture left. Tip into a serving bowl and taste
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Sweetcorn Salsa

Ingredients

  • 240 g tinned sweetcorn
  • 4 tomatoes chopped
  • 4 spring onions chopped
  • ½ small bunch coriander chopped
  • ½ lime juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the sweetcorn salsa into bowl and mix well then tip into a serving bowl.

I hope you enjoy making these and it gets you eating more veggies! 

Diet and Depression

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for ages and a media quote has spurred me on. I think we all know someone suffering from depression and the incidence seems to be on the rise. Depression is a multi-factorial disorder, something that was highlighted to me in a conversation to a journalist this week. I don’t believe that just changing one thing will be the cure. You can have the perfect diet but could still suffer, so instead it’s seeing diet as part of the picture and combining this with medication, therapy, sleep patterns, exercise and all round lifestyle.

Looking through some of the recent evidence on diet and depression an instant pattern emerges. Eating a balanced diet that relies less on processed convenience foods and more on eating from scratch is the answer. More fruit and veggies, wholegrains, olive oil, fish, low fat dairy is associated with a decreased risk of depression. 

An antidepressant food score was worked out by researchers, looking at the nutrient density of foods that have clinical evidence for helping in depression. The top foods were oyster, seafood, organ meats, leafy greens, lettuce, peppers and cruciferous vegetables. 

Top antidepressant nutrients (in no particular order):

Folate

Iron

Omega 3’s 

Magnesium

Potassium

Selenium

Thiamine

Vitamin A

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B12

Vitamin C

Zinc

Tryptophan

Fluid

Now it’s usually more helpful to think about nutrients in terms of foods, so here are some top ways you can boost your antidepressant nutrient intake.

  1. Eat regular meals – the brain needs glucose as fuel and eating regularly helps prevent blood sugars dropping too low which can give symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, lethargy.
  2. Include healthy fats in the diet  to nourish the brain. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil are all good ones. Aim for 2 portions of oily fish a week.
  3. Wholegrain foods are good sources of zinc, and B vitamins. Think wholegrain bread products, brown rice, brown pasta, grains.
  4. Ensure you eat protein regularly for tryptophan, iron and zinc. Tryptophan is thought to play a key role as it is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Wholegrains, fish, poultry, eggs and seeds can help with this.
  5. Green leafy veggies contain folate, iron, potassium and magnesium plus vitamin C. Another reason to get crunching your veggies.
  6. Orange veggies such as sweet potatoes, orange peppers, carrots and apricots plus green leafy veggies are sources of vitamin A.
  7. Even slight dehydration can affect your mood. The brain is 78% water. Reducing caffeine and replacing with non caffeinated drinks, mainly water will help. Moderate intake of alcohol can be ok but watch the interactions with medications and too much alcohol can increase anxiety/depression.

Following a Mediterranean style of eating with a focus on fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, protein, oily fish and healthy fats is a great way to help combat depression. It may not be the cure but it is definitely a large part of the puzzle. 

Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, July 2017

Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, January 15, 2018

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 20;8(3):97-104 

 

There is no perfect way to eat

There is no perfect way to eat. The more I learn about nutrition the more I am convinced of this. The science of nutrition is continually evolving, growing and being researched. We are learning all the time and it’s a lot more complex than it looks on the surface, but also there are simple steps we can take to eat well.
 
Things are not always in your control. Our tastebuds, culture, finances and social circumstances are just somethings that can affect how we eat. The good news is there is no perfect way to eat. There are many, many ways to eat a nutritious diet. It’s not about striving to be perfect or have the best meals. It’s about eating as well as you can with what you have. No guilt. No shame. No judgment.
 
 
Our bodies change and need different things at different stages of life, often our bodies are able to adapt and help with this. As a baby, a mums breastmilk will change depending on what the baby needs.  Teenage bodies are able to absorb more calcium than at any other time of life. In pregnancy our bodies adapt and will absorb more of certain nutrients such as iron to provide for the baby and changes in the body. Isn’t the body amazing, it knows what we need better than we do. So one of my top tips is to focus on trusting your body, listening to your body and learning what your internal cues feel like. What does hunger feel like to you when you are very hungry, a little hungry and not hungry at all? What cues does your body give you about the foods it needs? Do you get cravings or suddenly feel you are drawn to certain foods? Sometimes this can be due to the nutrients in these. For example craving vegetables after a trip away when you have eaten differently, or craving salty foods when you haven’t had any salt for some time. 
 
My favoured approach in my eating disorder work is to focus on reaching a healthy state and not a healthy weight. On reconnecting with your body and not ignoring it’s signals. This can be very hard to do and a long journey. It’s not all about the numbers on the scales. Sometimes shifting the focus away from weight can make a huge difference.  There is no perfect way to eat or perfect way to recover from an eating disorder, but we do have amazing bodies that can help us discover the right way for us. 

If you need any help with this then do get in touch. 

Bacon, Chard and Rosemary Pasta

Swiss chard is such an easy veggie to grow and it gives you back time after time. Plant a few seeds, water and care for a few plants lovingly and you will find you always have bountiful supply. 

Some interesting chard facts.

  • Swiss chard was discovered by a Swiss botanist – hence it’s name.  
  • It is a member of the goosefoot family, called this due to the leaves looking like a goose foot.
  • Chard is packed with nutrition including vitamins A,C, K plus magnesium, potassium, iron and fibre.

So the question is what to do with it? The great news is it goes in virtually everything. I’ve added baby leaves to smoothies, savoury muffins and scones. Then use it like you would spinach in dhal, stir fry and omelette. Or wash it and freeze, I’m totally up for an easy life and don’t cook it before freezing. I find it works fine to add to casseroles and other meals where you add as it cooks.

One of the easy summer recipes I sometimes pull out the back of my mind when the chard patch and my mind are overflowing, and I need to cook but also need a break – this chard and pasta dish. It works so well. The rosemary gives it a warm lift and the bacon adds the saltiness, plus it means my children eat it. Now my boy isn’t a fan of his greens, but will eat this meal all up. It goes to show sometimes it is what a food is paired with that matters.

I let my children decide their own portions of this meal and eat according to appetite. My eldest girl after a busy day at school had seconds, my boy cleared his plate and was satisfied. My toddler ate off my plate too! 

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Bacon, Chard and Rosemary Pasta

Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 150 g bacon chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200 g chard leave it whole
  • 150 g mushrooms chopped
  • seasoning
  • 300 g pasta

Instructions

  1. Chop up the bacon, remove the fat and heat a non stick pan. Then cook the bacon for a few minutes.

  2. Add the rosemary and garlic, stir round to release the the flavours.

  3. Next add the chopped tomatoes and allow to come to a simmer.

  4. Cook the pasta.

  5. Wash the chard, chop any huge leaves. Place into the pan and allow it to wilt down.

  6. Chop the mushrooms and add these to the pan, allow the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and put the lid on. 

  7. When the pasta is ready mix the sauce in and serve.

Gingerbread energy balls

One of the questions I get asked a lot is for healthy snack ideas. Walking around the shops there is a plethora of snack items but so many of them are expensive items that you can make yourself in batches with a little knowhow and patience. Energy balls are one such item. Often sold for £1.50-£1 a portion, these can be made a lot cheaper at home. See my analysis below.  Whilst there are a lot of energy ball recipes out there on the internet this one is so delicious that I had to share it. I love having snacks  like these to hand for instant snacking and even better, these freeze well. My boy also loves making these with me.

Perfect mid morning snack for me between clients and an afternoon snack for the kids at a much better cost than buying from the shops.

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Gingernut Energy Balls

Ingredients

  • 100 g unsalted cashew nuts
  • 100 g dates
  • 25 5 oats
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

Recipe Notes

Blitz up the cashews, oats and dates in a food processor or grinder. I do this in batches as my grinder is smalll. You may need to stop grinding and stir it around a bit from time to time.

Put the mixture into a bowl, add in the ginger and stir.

Now roll into balls and roll in the sesame seeds (if wanted).

Store in a tin, the fridge or freeze.

 

Costing = £2.20 for 10 balls (5 portions for an adult)

100g cashews £1.10

100g dates 66p

25g oats 27p

1 tbsp sesame seeds 9p

1 tsp ginger 8p

 

Low Carb Diets

Today has been all about carbohydrates as a new study was published in the Lancet. I’ve spoken on ITV new  and Wave 105 radio about it and  video/audio clips are at the end.

So what’s the low down?  This is a controversial topic as low carb diets have become popular. I’m not against this, but I do think it needs to be properly thought through and planned out. Low carb diets are used by some dietitians clinically for diabetes control, weight loss and for some metabolic disorders. However there is a way to do it right. Let’s break the latest study down:

👉 This was an observational study and it used food frequency questionnaires, so not the best data as this is self reported after the event. It is easy to forget what you eat or under/over-estimate. However the study  was followed over 25 yrs  with over 15,000 people taking part.

👉 A U-shaped relationship was found with increased mortality on a high carb or low carb diet. Low carb being <30% calories coming from carbohydrates. High carb being >60% calories coming from carbohydrates.

👉Eating moderate carbs (50-55% of total calories) was shown to be best. This is what our UK guidlines are based on so we already advise this. 

👉 Swapping carbs for plant based fats and proteins has better outcomes compared to animal products. So if you reduce your carbs it does matter what you replace them with.

👉 This study didn’t look at the type of carbs eaten. We want to be eating #wholegrains and reducing refined carbs (unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fibre diet).

👉 Eating lower carb may help weight loss and with diabetic control but it’s all about balance. Not overdoing it and taking all carbs out. Choose sensible sized portions of wholegrain carbs with meals.

👉 Everyone is individual. If you are more active you may need more carbs. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you may need more carbs. If you on a special diet you may need less carbs. If any of that applies to you then seek advice from a #Dietitan or #registerednutritionist.

One big issue that comes out of all of this is we keep on focusing on individual nutrients. It is not helpful to break food down and count the grams you are eating or the calories from each nutrient and could be triggering for an eating disorder. Food is complex, it is made up of many nutrients some of which we can’t even give a precise measure of. So once again we come back to common sense nutrition, eating sensible portions of balanced meals and listening to your internal cues of hunger/fullness.

 

Book a Consultation

Priya provides one to one consultations from her home consultation rooms in Southampton or online using video calls or phone consultations. See below for the types of issues Priya can help with. Skype/Zoom video calls provide a more flexible way to see Priya face to face but from the comfort of your own home. The software for this is free to use. The majority of Priya’s work is done this way as she works with clients all over the country and internationally too. She also offers dietary analysis via email where a thorough analysis is conducted on your food diary and a report emailed back to you.

As everyone is different and needs differing levels of support Priya does not have a set way of working. However she does work from a non-diet and intuitive eating background. This is based on the concepts that diets do not lead to long term change and that it is better to focus on changing health behaviours rather than just diet and a weight focus.  Retuning your body to listen to its hunger and fullness cues, learning to respect your body and listen to its needs can be a longer route but leads to lasting changes for life.

A initial consultation lasts up to 1 hour and includes an in-depth review of your current and previous diet and food related problems plus your weight and medical history. From this information Priya will give education, advice and help you set goals that are realistic and achievable. All advice is individualised and tailor-made for you. You will receive an email summarising the agreed goals set  along with any agreed information. This may include a meal plan, worksheets or educational literature.

Follow-up sessions can be booked and last for up to 30 minutes. The number of sessions you will need will totally depend on your needs. 

Prices: £95 for an initial consultation and £65 for follow ups.

Package: £260 for 1 x initial consultation and 3 x follow up sessions.

Email dietary analysis with report £65

Eating Disorders:

Priya is renown for her expertise in this subject and the majority of her clients will have an eating disorder. She takes a holistic approach, not just looking at nutrition in isolation but helps clients to look at the wider issues too. Many of Priya’s clients have worked with the NHS and need further support or have not met the criteria for NHS input. If you do not think you have an eating disorder but know your approach to food is not as it should be, then get in touch. Working as part of a team of specialists Priya can recommend a therapist for you to work with or can liase and work with your current therapy team as well as your GP. She works with the Wings Eating Disorders Unit in Romsey and also as part of the Marchwood Priory team. If you need help getting your eating back on track Priya is here to help with education, meal planning, practical help, support and an understanding ear.

Weaning Consultations

One of Priya’s specialist and much loved areas – book a weaning consultation for advice, recipes, top tips and support to help you get your baby off to a wonderful start with food. Having weaned 3 children herself Priya has first hand experience as well as the evidence case and the research to support her advice. If you are struggling with fussy eating Priya can also help with this. Family meal planning and suppoprt can also be supported.

IBS:

Priya can help with advice and support for those with IBS, this includes the low FODMAP diet which is a specialist diet that should be followed under dietetic supervision.

Other consultations topics Priya can help with include:  Chronic Fatigue, Learning Disabilities, Family Meals,  Anaemia, Osteoporosis, brain injury and achieving a healthy balanced diet. If you have another dietary issues please do contact Priya to discuss. If Priya is not able to help she can help point you to someone who can.

Some private medical insurance companies cover dietetic consultations, please check with your insurer. Priya is registered with AXA, AVIVA, WPA, BUPA, Exeter Family, Allianz and Pru Health.

Testimonial:

“The support Priya provided to help me gain weight and overcome an eating disorder was above and beyond what I would expect from a dietician. We met regularly and she never failed to surprise me with creative and interesting ideas to introduce variety into my diet and ensure that the weight gain process was as exciting and smooth as it could be. She encouraged me to face my eating disorder head on and used her incredibly extensive and detailed knowledge on nutrition to challenge disordered thinking. Her holistic approach has been so integral to my recovery that I cannot thank her more! I’d recommend working with Priya to anyone, as her caring, enthusiastic and creative approach is something you don’t find easily.”