An interesting piece of research caught my eye this week. A team of psychology researchers in Montreal looked into how using mental imagery techniques may increase the likelihood of people eating more fruit and vegetables. They asked 177 students to aim to eat more fruit over the next 7 days. Those who planned, wrote it down and visualised how they were going to do it (e.g. where and when they would buy, prepare and eat the fruit) were twice as likely to increase their consumption.
This was based on sports psychology. “Athletes do lots of work mentally rehearsing their performances before competing and it’s often very successful. So we thought having people mentally rehearse how they were going to buy and eat their fruit should make it more likely that they would actually do it. And this is exactly what happened,” says Bärbel Knäuper.
As a dietitian part of my job is helping people plan how they will manage to alter their eating habits so this research is further evidence that planning really is key. Talking through with someone what your long term goals are, how you can put them into place and having a short term goal to achieve are vital components of achieving dietary change.
I’ve been working with a client who literally must rattle if she walked, which is doesn’t do often. She is largely bed-bound and is trying to use supplements as a way to get her better and boost her energy levels. Now I’m not against supplements on the whole but I do think that we need to be careful with them and use them sparingly.
The nutrition world is growing at such a fast pace and there seems to be a new supplement coming onto the market every week with one for every occasion! A lot of money is spent by people trying to be healthy. But are they really needed?
Taking a multivitamin/mineral on a daily basis seems to be the most common supplement. Whilst this is not harmful and can be very helpful to people who are struggling to eat a balanced diet, it also shouldn’t be necessary for most people. A healthy person should be able to get everything they need from food. The benefits of eating a well balanced diet instead of using supplements are huge. If we think about fruit and vegetables alone there is research linking eating these colourful foods to a reduction in blood pressure, cancer risk, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Your multivitamin isn’t going to do all that. Plus lets face it food just tastes a lot better than a pill.
For some people supplements are a definate yes. Before and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy 400mcg folic acid is proven to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. People at risk of osteoporosis should take calcium and vitamin D. In fact the whole UK population is recommended to take a Vit D supplement of 10 mcg/day. Some vegetarians may need a B12 boost. If you have low iron then iron supplements can helpf ro at time. These are all specific conditions. Anyone with a deficiency may need a supplement to help out for while and there are numerous people who can’t get everything they need from food for various reasons so need a supplement. In my eating disorder job I often recommend clients take a supplement whilst they rebuild their eating.
However, if we can get all our nutrients from our diet it is so much better for us. Think natural rather than manmade. There’s also issues with overdosing on some nutrients. Some of these nutrients will just be lost from the body when it is saturated with them, others can cause tummy upsets and health problems. So be cautious with mega doses! The research is still being done on lots of these things.
Until the research comes in, if you can, try to get as much goodness as possible from your food and take a Vit D supplement, especially in those winter months.
- Over 5 portions of fruit and veggies a day (preferably over 7).
- Wholegrains including wheat, rye, barley and oats, the less processed the better.
- Starchy carbohydrate foods at each meal.
- Dairy foods 2-3 times a day.
- Low fat, low sugar options of foods.
- Lean proteins – meat, fish, pulses, beans.
Having recently had a baby, nutrition and breastfeeding has been one of those topics I’ve been keeping on top of. I didn’t have much baby weight to lose but wanted to make sure I got back to a healthy weight whilst looking after my baby and providing good quality breast milk. Here’s a round up of my research and top tips.
Make sure you drink throughout the day. It can be easy to forget when you are running round looking after a baby! My top tip is to have a drink of water every time you breastfeed and to keep bottles of water next to the chair/bed where you usually feed. The best way to tell if you are well hydrated is to look at your urine! If it looks dark or too yellow then you need to drink a bit more. Aim for 2 litres or so a day.
How much should I eat?
Although your body needs some extra calories in order to produce milk this isn’t an excuse to eat cake all of the time 😉 I know it’s tempting!
You will probably have laid down some fat stores in pregnancy and the body will use up those if you let it. Eating too many high sugar, high fat snack will not help you shed those pregnancy pounds. The best advice is to eat according to appetite. I had to snack during the nightfeeds in the early days of mummyhood but now I’m back to a normal intake of 3 meals 1-2 small healthy snacks a day with the occasional treat of course! Make sure your diet is well-balanced including:
- Plenty of fruit and veggies
- Wholegrain carbs such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, potatoes
- Lean protein including fish, chicken, beef, pork, pulses and beans
- Dairy foods a few times a day – milk, yoghurt, cheese.
If you are finding it hard to get the time to cook then sandwiches, beans or egg on toast and jacket potatoes cooked in the microwave are quick and easy choices. Another top tip is to cook and freeze meals. I always cook double when I make up things like a chilli or fish pie then I have an instant home cooked meal for later in the month.
Are there any foods to avoid?
Most foods are absolutely fine. It’s best to limit oily fish to 2 portions a week and fish such as shark, marlin and swordfish to once a week. This is due to the pollutants that can build up in them.
Take care with caffeine as this will pass into your milk to the baby. If possible stick to decaff tea and coffee or limit yourself to 2 cups of caffeine a day. The same can be said with alcohol, it will pass through to the baby. It’s advisable to drink very small amounts perhaps 1-2 units once or twice a week.
Peanuts should also be eaten with caution if there is a history of nut allergies in the family.
Exercise is absolutely fine as long as you have been cleared by your GP at your 6 week check. Take things slowly and build up your strength and fitness over time. Walking with the pram is a great way to do this and I found it wonderful for getting the baby to sleep as well! I built in a 30 minute walk every day around the time I knew my baby got sleepy. As time goes on you can start to think about increasing things and have a look for ways to exercise with other mums and babies. There may be post natal exercise classes around (for example I run a post-natal pilates class, see: www.pilateswithpriya.co.uk). I also found that I could exercise with the baby in a sling doing squats and lunges or I now have the baby playing on the floor or in her door bouncer whilst I workout. She thinks it’s great fun to watch or even join in!