Peppers stuffed with Quinoa (Wheat free, GF, DF)

I love vegetarian food, though I’m not actually a vegetarian. I love the colours, flavours and creativeness of it. We tend to have meatless meals 3-4 days a week and use lentils, beans and pulses a lot.

Last week I really fancied having a go with Quinoa, its not something we eat that often but being wheat free I can’t eat cous cous and had had an urge for making stuffed peppers, plus the baby hadn’t given Quinoa a go yet.

These came our really well, even if my husband had to take his in a plastic tub back to work to eat as his on-call phone rang! His comments were that it was difficult to eat without a knife but the Quinoa was delicious and nutty. The baby managed to eat hers all without a knife 😉 fingers sufficed and the whole lot went quite quickly, so I’m taking that as a compliment.


Remove the stalk and seeds from the pepper and then halve them, roast in the oven for about 30 mins at Gas Mark 5.

Saute a mix of veggies (I used mushrooms and courgettes), cook the Quinoa using stock and then add to the veggies with a little stock and plenty of fresh herbs.

Stuff it all in the pepper and top with grated cheese, bake until the cheese bubbles (Use Cheezly if you are dairy free as it melts best). Yum yum.

Wheat Free Flour Tips.

Due to the fact I have Crohn’s disease I’m on a wheat free diet. I’m not allergic to wheat, but definitely intolerant to it and I know quite soon after eating something that contains wheat. Wheat free food and all specialist food can be quite expensive so my way around that is to shop around and to make as much of my own wheat free food as possible. This means my cupboards are full of weird and wonderful things like Xanthum gum (one of my fav things, it has made my bread so much better) and many flours. I typically like to use rice flour, rye flour, potato flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, cornflour and tapioca flour. Buying all these flours can certainly add up, but there are a few tips and tricks I can pass on….

  • Don’t expect these specialist flours to be a good price at your local supermarket, but do keep checking as they sometimes have offers on.
  • Look online at the specialist health food stores, again they often have offers on.
  • Try health food shops and farm shops. One of my farm shops has the most fantastic range of wheat free foods and often has deals on.
  • Ethnic shops can be great. I get my rice flour, tapioca flour and potato flour plus rice noodles from the Chinese shop and my chickpea flour from the Indian shop. Much cheaper than anywhere else.
  • Although the premixed flours you can buy are easy they are not always the best, try mixing your own blends. I find rice flour with cornmeal and rye flour is good for bread.
  • Making your own bread is cheaper and usually better for you as you can control what you put in and add extra bits….I like a selection of seeds in my bread.
  • Most bought bread has a high salt content, when I make mine I put a tiny amount in or none at all.
  • Other wheat free goodies I regularly make are crumpets, pancakes and scones. Yum.
Here is a selection of the goodies I bought today from my local Chinese shop, now to get baking 🙂

Does Personality affect your ability to lose weight?

This week I was interviewed and quoted by a newspaper about a book written on personality and dieting. Daniel Amen thinks that there are 5 types of overeater – compulsive, impulsive, compulsive-impulsive, emotional and anxious overeaters. He suggests that each group of person should avoid certain foods and eat more of others in order to lose weight. This is all based on brain patterns as Daniel is a neuroscientist.

Here is the link…

Personally I agree that there are different types of overeaters and personality does definitely affect the way people eat. We all know people who eat more when they are anxious and others who just have to eat food if its in the house but can resist if its not there. It would be right to say that different personalities respond to different approaches. For example some people work well with tackling their body image first, others want practical goals and some need a focus on activity. However I don’t agree with the food advice that Mr Amen gives. Whatever type of person you are a healthy balanced diet is key to weight loss combined with activity. The key ingredient is to have a personalised plan that suits your lifestyle and your food likes/dislikes. If your eating plan and activity plan are not based on things that you enjoy you are not likely to stick to them! Cutting out food groups like carbohydrate is never a good idea no matter what your personality.

My other thought is that some people may use this concept as an excuse… “well I can’t lose weight easily due to my personality. ” In admit it is really not easy to lose weight, it takes time, dedication and lots of hard work, sweat plus some tears, but the health benefits are amazing. Losing 10% of your body weight if you are overweight reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, it can help improve your overall sense of well being and your ability to go about everyday life.

Don’t put your health on hold, get your nutrition and activity sorted out as a matter of priority, it really will change your life.

My breastfeeding journey…

An article out recently about the rats of breastfeeding stirred a discussion amongst a few fellow dietitians and mums. The research states that the numbers of mums starting out breastfeeding have increased from 6/10 in 1990 to over 8/10. Great. But at 6-8 weeks only 45% of mums are still feeding and these numbers aren’t increasing.  So why is this?

Breastmilk is pretty amazing stuff, over the course of a feed it changes from watery thirst quenching foremilk to creamy, hunger satisfying hindmilk. It also changes with your babies growth. Initially after birth there is Colostrum, high in protein, antibodies and sugar, lower in fat than mature milk. This helps baby fight off any bugs and start building cells. After a few days the phrase used is “your milk comes through” this is the Transitional milk, more watery and fatty. Finally you get the Mature milk which is a lot more watery and contains approx 55% carbohydrate, 37% fat, 8% protein and then all the minerals, vitamins, antibodies and other goodies! The composition of the mature milk changes as your baby grows which I think is so extremely clever. New mums will al have heard the message “Breast is Best” and are told the benefits of breastfeeding but what I have found as a new mum is no-one really tells you how HARD it can be.

My baby was fairly small at 6lbs 1oz and 10 days early. Before birth I was uncertain about breastfeeding, not having seen it done much and not wanting to put pressure on myself but also feeling as a dietitian I needed to give it a good go. Interestingly the more my story unfolded the more determined I came to breastfeed and I even had quite an adverse reaction to bottle feeding my baby. Probably just my stubborness!

Like all mums I was told to feed my baby soon after birth, however I wasn’t given any help with this, so we muddled through 🙂 The contractions I felt when doing that first feed and subsequent ones were a real suprise, some warning on that would have been good. I was then left to it for the first day. Upon transfer to a birthing centre I was given lots of support with latching my baby on and was watching feeding several times.  The midwifes here were FANTASTIC, I would highly recommend going to a birthing centre for aftercare if you can. My first night home was just so, so hard…baby had me up literally all night just wanting to feed, feed, feed. I was convinced this meant I just didn’t have any milk. Thankfully the midwifes at the birthing centre were on the end of the phone to reassure me and tell me to keep going. Harder said than done. After a couple of days my baby was losing weight, she lost more than the 10% that the midwifes are comfortable with. So I had my breastfeeding assessed by what felt like several hundred people in several places. We ended up being admitted to hospital by neo-natal as babies weight was still falling. So many tests were done, this was just horrid seeing blood being taken and baby girl so sad 🙁 I was the only mum on the ward breast feeding. That was a shock! It also meant I was the only mum up in the night feeding as the nurses were bottle feeding the other babies. My feeds at this point were taking about an hour add on half an hour for winding, nappies then half and hour for expressing, I was feeding every 3 hours so little else was being done. I was expressing milk 8 times a day and it was torturous.  Finally baby girl gained 25g, yes you read that right! It was a tiny amount but we were discharged. Phew.

But back home her weight went down again. I refused to go back into hospital and we started adding in larger top ups from the bottle. I would express most of this milk but sometimes it was formula. After a few weeks I developed mastitis but my symptoms weren’t picked up until it was quite bad, so antibiotics and the most painful feeds ever. I was crying through every feed, it was like being stabbed by a knife with every suck. My wonderful husband just didn’t know what to do and said several times “It’s ok to stop and use formula, we don’t have to carry on like this” but I was just too determined. I ended up using nipple shields as baby girl couldn’t seem to open her mouth wide enough to latch on properly and I won’t tell you what that was doing to my nipples!

I’d like to say that it got better but to be honest, it was flipping hard work until 7 months. My feeds were taking 1.5-2 hours and when you feed every 3 hours once you do a nappy, a wind and got to the loo its time to start again. Daddy was helping by cooking and bringing me drinks when he was at home, he also did a late night feed from a bottle if I had expressed enough. I managed to cut down my expressing to just twice a day which really helped. My baby was a fan of cluster feeding too so would have a point in the day where she would feed for England and just go for 4 hours plus. I had lots of people say are you sure she is feeding and not sleeping, but she was feeding, proven by the breastfeeding counsellors. It was still painful quite a lot of the time but we had started solids so I wasn’t giving up just yet!

Now at 9 months I’m pleased to say it has become a joy. Our feeds are 10-20 minutes, we came off the nipple shields a few weeks ago. Its only occasionally painful. Baby girl loves her milk and her food. This week I went off to work for 5 hours over a feed. She hardly touched the expressed milk I’d left her and waited for a breastfeed. Without Daddy I’m not sure I’d have kept going so long. He has been very for me breastfeeding and although its been frustrating with such long feeds he has supported us both.

So why have I shared all this?

I think there is so much great information about why we should breastfeed, but not enough saying how hard it can be. If I’d know a bit more about the possible pain some mums get, how long feeds can be and the struggles of others I’d have been more mentally prepared. I’ve met some mums who have just given up because they thought they weren’t making enough milk as baby wanted to feed for so long and so often. Baby wasn’t following the schedule in the book. More realistic advice out there may mean less mums start of f breastfeeding as I’m aware it may put them off, but it could mean more mums actually continue breastfeeding and have support built in to help them.

My top tips:

  • Get out and about. I used to go to groups to sit and feed so others could bring me a drink and I could see different scenery and chat.
  • Meet other more experienced mums. Other mums have been a Godsend to me, encouraging me and helping me.
  • Get support from breastfeeding counsellors and groups.
  • Its ok to stop breastfeeding it its just too much or to use formula as a top up/standby. Mums health needs to come first. Combination feeding can work well too.
  • Don’t beat yourself up, you are a great mum however you choose to feed your baby!
  • Eat well and drink well, keep snacks and drinks to hand.
  • Get help at home, people to cook you dinner, to clean up for you etc…
  • Talk about how you feel with others.
I hope this story may help someone else with their feeding journey. Many mums told me that it would get easier, at the time I wasn’t convinced but now I echo their words!


Sweets linked to less overweight children.

So here is a link to a recent article I was quoted in… it got me thinking. The article was about a study that followed a more than 11,000 children from 2-18 years over 5 years. They found children who ate sweets were 22% less prone to be overweight or obese compared to those who did not eat sweets.

I think it’s a good example of how media spin can confuse people, the headline suggests we should be feeding our children more sweets. Surely not helpful in a society that is struggling with obesity and diabetes. What is not mentioned is how often sweets were consumed by these children or how active they are, and the rest of their diet is also a huge factor. This study was not a case of letting children overindulge in “treat” foods but showed that children who regularly ate sweets learnt how to eat sensible portions and balance their food intake.

Having small children this is a topical area for me. I want my children to grow up appreciating how to have a healthy balanced diet and that includes how to eat sweets and chocolate on a semi-regular basis in sensible amounts. Therefore I need to firstly model this myself and secondly let my children  eat these foods so they learn how to moderate their intake.

Fatty and sugary foods are included in the EatWell plate (see below image) that we use to demonstrate balanced eating  so remember its ok to eat these foods its just how often and how much of them you eat 🙂 I’m off for a couple of squares of dark chocolate mmmmm.

Healthy Eating on a Plate.


Fresh, Fresh, Frittata.

I love summer. Firstly because I am so not built to enjoy a cold climate, the first sign of chillier days and the jumpers, fur lined boots and gloves come out. I end up wearing gloves inside and out when it’s properly cold. But I also love summer produce. Especially anything that I can get to grow in my garden. Having had a baby this year I’ve not managed to be as green fingered as I’d like, but we’ve still done quite well with white and red currants, plums coming out of our ears, greengages, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, kale, onions and courgettes. A post to come on the courgettes as they deserve it, I have a bountiful harvest of them.

Last night after a tiring day with a teething baby I set about thinking up a quick, easy, healthy dinner that required minimal thought and energy. Here’s what I came up with….

A fresh frittata using eggs laid that morning by our resident chickens, kale, courgettes and herbs from the garden and all the leftovers I could find in the fridge. Frittata’s are great for using up leftovers. Served it up with a salad using some home grown lettuce and a quickly made coleslaw. Yum and super healthy.

Visualisation leads to better dietary change

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.





Supplements – do we need them?

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.

Tips for Breastfeeding Mums

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:  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!


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