Category Archives: Nutrition Education

Childrens Yoghurts – how to choose a good one

Yoghurt is one of those confusing foods. You want your children to be eating it and getting in their calcium, but so often yoghurts can be laden with sugar. Personally I encourage my children to eat yoghurt daily, it is our go-to dessert after our evening meal. To help you, I’ve come up with a ranking of children’s yoghurts and give my verdict on those to have in the fridge everyday and those to leave for occasional consumption.

Why the confusion? Well firstly the choice is overwhelming. Walk down the yoghurt aisle and you are bombarded with brands, health claims, cartoon characters, pots, tubs, pouches. What should you choose and how do you know?

Let’s talk about sugar. Yoghurt contains lactose which is a naturally occuring sugar and not one children need to cut down on. However you cannot easily differentiate between these sugars and the added free sugars. A general rule of thumb is the first 5g per 100g of total sugars is lactose. The sugars to keep an eye on are the free sugars. These are any sugars added to food/drink. These could be written as sugar, honey, syrup, agave, fruit juice for example. If you look at a yoghurt label and it is 8.5g total sugars then you can estimate about 5g is lactose and so 3.5g is added sugars.

In this blog we are focusing on children. Children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g free sugars a day and 7-10yrs no more than 24g free sugars a day. For children under 4 yrs there is no guideline figure, it’s just keeping added sugar low and avoiding it where possible.

Labelling reading:

You can rank a food as high/low in total sugar using this guide:

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So in the instance of Full Fat Greek Yoghurt you can see that there are actually no added sugars in this. The sugar in it is all coming from the lactose and there is no sugar mentioned in the ingredients list confirming our thoughts. 

Compared it to this children’s yoghurt which definitely has added sugar. The label shows it as 13.2g total sugars per 100g, so thats around 8.2g added sugars (almost half the recommended amount for a child aged 4-7yrs). The label confirms this showing is has added sugar and the raspberry juice is also added sugar.

So it definitely pays to look at the label when buying yoghurts. If you are comparing several yoghurts it is best to compare them per 100g, Scroll down to see a table with a range of common children’s yoghurt in that have the sugar content per 100g with a quick ranking  done for you.

My Top Picks:

  1. Greek Style Yoghurts or Greek Yoghurt. For growing children I would always pick a full fat option, I eat the full fat version myself in fact. It may seem boring compared to other choices but you can add your own toppings at home – low sugar granola, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, frozen berries,
  2. Natural Yoghurt is also a winner.
  3. Skyr is a low sugar yoghurt due to the way it is made, even the flavoured ones are low in sugar so these are good options if you want a flavoured yoghurt.

The Worst Offenders:

 Anything with chocolate, added crunch, pureed fruit and most of the squeezy pouches. This of course does not meant you cannot ever give these to your children but it is about the balance. I’m not in favour of cutting foods out or saying a blanket no. However I would recommend keeping these yoghurts as occasional choices. Think about where else they get added sugars from in their diet? Also check the portion size as some of these products are very large portions and you could halve them, thus halving the sugar too. In our house we keep diferent yoghurts as an occasional change or we mix our yoghurt and add something sweeter to the Greek yoghurt. 

Name Portion Size in grams (g) Sugarsper 100g in grams (g) Ranking 1(best)-5(worst)
Greek Yoghurt

100

5.4

1

Yeo Valley Natural Yoghurt

150

5.6

1

Arla Natural Skyr Yoghurt

150

4

1

Petits Filous My First Vanilla Fromage Frais

47

4.8

1

Arla Raspberry Skyr Yoghurt

150

8.3

2

Petits Filous Organic Variety Fromage Frais

50

8.8

2

Tesco Strawberry Yogurt Drink

100

9.1

2

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Fromage Frais

85

9.9g

2

Peppa Pig Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

10

2

Paw Patrol Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

9.9

2

Petits Filous Magic Squares Raspberry Vanilla Yogurt

80

10.8

2

Frubes Variety Yogurt Pack

40

10.9

2

Munch Bunch Fruit Fromage Frais

42

12.7

3

Wildlife Choobs Strawberry Raspberry And Apricot Yogurt

40

12.8

3

Munch Bunch Squashums Limited Edition

60

12.1

3

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Squashum Strawberry Yogurt Drink

90

12.7

3

Actimel Multifruit Yogurt Drink

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Double Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Munch Bunch Double Up Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Frubes Strawberry And Raspberry Yogurt Pouches

70

13.2

4

Star Wars Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt Pouch

70

13.2

4

Smarties Split Pot Yogurt

120

15

4

Muller Corner Banana Yogurt Crunch Yogurt

135

16.7

5

Muller Corner Strawberry Crunch Yogurt

135

17.1

5

Muller Corner Vanilla Chocolate Balls Yogurt

135

17.7

5

Muller Corner Toffee Chocolate Hoops Yogurt

135

18.4

5

Milkybar Little Treats

60

21.1

5

Nestle Rolo Dessert

70

25.4

5

Cadbury Dairy Milk Pots Of Joy Caramel Dessert

70

26

5

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Breastfeeding and the Microbiome

Breastfeeding is something I am quite passionate about, partially because I’ve breastfed 3 children, for a total of 4.5 years. That’s a lot of feeds and little sleep 😉 however totally worth it in terms of the impact on their long term health. 

Now this is totally not meant to be a dig at anyone who cannot breastfed or who chooses not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is blimming hard work. I’ve been through mastitis, blocked ducts, nursing strikes, bleeding nipples, tongue ties x 3, nursing strikes, expressing (such a faff!) and babies who just want to feed forever. So I totally get that how you feed your baby is your choice and for many combination feeding or formula feeding is the way forward. I planned to only breastfeed my first for 6 weeks, then 3 months, then till weaning. Small goals and steps helped me. However I also have ladies in my postnatal pilates classes who just cannot get on with breastfeeding and for them using formula saves their sanity. 

Ultimately we all know breastmilk is amazing stuff, so if you can breastfeed I heartily recommend you do it. Here I’m sharing an article I wrote for Network Health Digest on how breastmilk affects the microbiome of the infant. Fascinating stuff. 

Issue 135 breastfeeding and the microbiome

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Eating to boost your brain.

There is a huge connection between diet and brain function, how we eat can literally improve our cognitive function, our thinking, our mood, our memory. Which is fantastic news, as it doesn’t have to be expensive or too complicated. 

Here I review some of the evidence on the diets that improve our brain health and give some simple top tips of foods to eat more.

© Andrey KiselevID 7721961 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Brain Positive Diets:

  1. Mediterannean diet – this is known to be a good way to eat for heart health, but did you know that eating for your heart health will also help your brain function? A study on 447 adults over 4 years looked at mediterranean diet (fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and lean protein with moderate red wine) plus 1 litre a week of olive oil and 30g mixed nuts per day. When compared to a control group there was better performance in cognitive tests. 
  2. Mind Diet – this is a tweaked version on the Med diet, with a greater emphasis on berries and leafy greens. Following the diet has been linked to a reduction in cognitive age of 7.5yrs and a reduction in Alzhiemers risk.

The Brain Positive Foods:

Oily Fish – those all important omega-3’s are key for cognitive function. Studies have shown a link between eat  fish slowing cognitve decline.  Yes you can get some of these from plant based foods but the conversion rate is not as good so if you do eat fish, this is the better option. Other foods that contain omega 3’s are shellfish, algae and caviar.

Nuts – at least 5 servings of 30g per week seems to be the key. Some research suggests a positive affect with mixed nuts and other research focuses on walnuts.

Wholegrains  – these usually have a more beneficial effect on blood sugars giving more consitent glucose levels for the brain. They also contain B vitamins which may help slow brain shrinkage and improve cognitive function. 

Beans, pulses and meat – these contain good levels of the B vitamins which are thought to help brain function. Organ meats contain a good level of Vitamin B12 which has been shown to be correlated to a reduced dementia risk.

Fruit and Veggies – oxidative stress is one of the primary mechanisms of age related brain decline. The brain is vulnerable to free radical damage and so eating food with a good mix and level of antioxidants will help. There are numerous studies looking at the correlation between eating more fruit and veg and brain function. Folate is another key nutrient for brain health and is found in those leafy greens. Vitamin E in seeds, nuts and avocado is a key antioxidant.

Berries – Some small scale but interesting studies suggest a link where having berry juice or more berries in the diet may improve your memory.  It’s definitely worth a try!

Flavanoids – these powerful micronutrients are found in red wine, green and berries. There is an indication that maybe flavanoids could help reduce dementia and cognitive decline.

Green Tea – again these are small scale studies but 2 cups a day may help your brain function.

Top 10 brain foods to eat:

  1. Leafy Green and fruit and veg in general.
  2. Nuts, especially walnuts.
  3. Berries.
  4. Beans and Pulses.
  5. Wholegrains.
  6. Oily fish, seafood, caviar and seaweed.
  7. Lean meat, poulty and organ meat.
  8. Seeds and avocado
  9. Moderate Red wine and Green Tea.
  10. Dark chocolate in small amounts.

So you can see that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, with wholegrains plus some oily fish and lean meat is a positive way to eat for your brain. Add in regular nuts, seeds, beans and pulses then smaller amounts of red wine, green tea and dark chocolate and you are onto a winner. It’s a no-brainer 😉 

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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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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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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! 

 

Let the children lead the way

Ever get the feeling that the children in the house are in charge? Oh my days, I know I sometimes feel like I just run from child to child doing things for them! 

Letting them be in charge of some things can be empowering and really positive. When you think about it there isn’t that much that they are actually in charge of. That can be hard as these little people want a chance to grow their independence and show their preferences. Eating is one of the ways that they can do this. So from a very early age they can show which foods they like/dislike and how much they want to eat. As parents it is whether we take note of these signs or think we now better! I’m trying to raise my children as intuitive eaters but it is hard as often I think I know their tummies better than they do. I then have to sit back, breathe and let them lead. When you are in a rush or have other children to also look after it can be frustrating to do this but we are setting our children up for life. I want mine to know how to pause, think about how their bodies feel and then respond accordingly and not be rushed because I have a schedule.

I find toddlers fascinating as they are so in tune with their bodies. My 22 month old will literally refuse to eat when she doesn’t want to, there is no way I can force her. She now chooses what she wants to eat from a selection of foods and she tell me when she is hungry with “Eaaaaaa” or “Snaaaaa”.  A funny example this week was when I made a cake for Mothers Day and then we had some for pudding. However the toddler shunned it and ate a bowl of peas instead! 

As we grow up eating becomes more complicated. Foods plays more of a social role, there is an enjoyment factor and just seeing things that you fancy. Advertising, being around food, media and other peoples food choices also influence us. This is why I think it is SO important to encourage our children to build great relationships with food whilst they are young and to continually reinforce these principles:

 

  1. Listen to Hunger – eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. Think about your hunger at the start, middle and end of mealtimes. I sometimes talk about hunger being a butterfly in your tummy that grows to a dinosaur. Where are you on that scale?
  2. Listen to Fullness – this can be fun with kids. My 4 yr old boy pokes his tummy and that can help him connect with how full he is. My 7 yr old girl just knows and will leave her food for later.
  3. Eat a balance –  I teach my kids that all foods are great but that our bodies need balance for energy, protein for building, fat to keep us warm and protect our organs and all the vitamins/minerals to keep it working properly. 
  4. There are no good/bad foods. I love this conversation with my children. We’ve used plastic foods to group them into food groups and then talked about what all the foods contain that is great for our bodies. Instead of foods being good/bad for us I talk about how we need to moderate foods that are higher in sugar due to our teeth and balance our snacks as biscuits don’t keep us full for long. 

I’d totally encourage you to let your children lead a bit more with food. If you want more tips on how we do this at home then do let me know. 

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Why Weight Watchers for Teenagers is not a good plan.

On the surface this may seem like a good idea. We know the UK population is getting larger and we need multiple ways to help teach people about how to eat for their health… is a diet really the best way? Almost everything in me shouted out “NO” when I read about WW opening it’s doors to teenagers. Part of that may be because I work with lots of teenagers with eating disorders/disordered eating and I know that many of them have gotten to the stage where they need specialist support because of “dieting gone too far”. They started on a diet to lose a little weight and then either liked the knowledge of being lighter, maybe they were complimented or felt they looked better so they lost a bit more and then even more until it spiralled out of control. 

Diet that are focused on weight loss and controlled your food intake via calories do not work for the majority of people longterm. They instead set you up for yet more dieting or for a lifetime of being confined to the same dietplan. Do we want these teenagers to be controlling their intake all the time or bouncing from one diet to the next whilst their weight increases? Or should we instead move away from the focus on weight and to a focus on health related behaviours instead? 

Running Feet

We know that weight can increase the risks of certain chronic disease and that weight loss helps reduce these. However, this does not mean that you cannot be healthy at a larger size or that you are healthier because you are slimmer. Your size does not define your health.

I would love to see an approach where we counter the negative diet messages with positive changes to make for overall health. Encouraging teenagers to eat more plant based foods, to be active daily in fun ways and to choose wholegrain lower sugar options could make a difference without the intense focus on dieting. Education around hunger is something I try to do with anyone I work with at any age – for example, what is it, what does it feel like and when to respond to it. It needs to be about equipping and empowering the person.

Looking at the bigger picture is also key and something that a diet alone will not do. For example:

Why is the person overweight? Are they overeating for a reason or is it that the whole family is overweight?

What is happening in family and social circumstances?

What is their weight history?

How are they coping with life right now? Stress, anxiety, loneliness, tiredness and low mood are all factors that can affect weight and it may be that the weight gain is a symptom rather than a cause.

I do not have the answers but I do know that encouraging teens to diet is not it.

You can see my quote in the Daily Telegraph for this topic. 

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