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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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Diet Secrets – TV appearance clip Jan 2018.

When I was asked if I would take part in a documentary style show that was about myth busting and presenting the science behind dieting  I knew this was something I needed to get involved in. 

The show was of course a little controversial (or it wouldn’t make good TV) and I hadn’t realised celebs would be put on diets as part of it… but it made interesting viewing and had a great team of experts speaking. I love the fact that more and more times there are fully qualified, sensible talking actual experts talking about nutrition in the media.  More please! In fact I was working on a shoot recently and the food stylist was telling me about her time working with Gillian McKeith a few years ago and how times have changed so much since then.  A lot more credibility is now needed for most media outlets.

So here are some snippets of my on camera parts for the show, I hope you like it! A great facial expression to start 😉

 

 

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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Food trends 2018 I’d be pleased to see.

January always brings the weird, the wonderful and the wahey of food. I’ve highlighted a few trends that I predict are on the rise for 2018 and ones that I would be happy to see more of. You can check out my 2017 trends post here and see how I did! 

Plant Power

I think we’ve all seen the rise of the vegan diet with veganuary in full swing. Whilst being vegan is perfectly great way to live life and eat I don’t think it is something to take lightly or do for a month. Being a vegan is a lifestyle choice and not a fad. Rant over. I do think that eating more plants and less meat will be high on the 2018 agenda which is fabulous. Foods like tofu, tempeh and quinoa are growing in popularity as are meat free days. Check out Meatfreemonday for great recipes and inspiration.

Sustainable eating

This ties in with eating a plants based diet but goes further. Consumers are becoming more conscious and choosy about where their food comes from. Choosing foods that are not just heathy but are obtained in a way that does not damage the ecosystem or deplete a food source is important and coming higher up the agenda for people.

Fermented foods, probiotics and gut health

The chatter on these has been increasing in 2017 with people starting to think and talk about making them at home. As research on the microbiome grows this is a natural area to grow alongside it. Gut health and how your feed those bacteria is likely to become popular. Personally I love this idea and it’s certainly something I will be getting on board with. Making your own kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt , sourdough are all things you can make yourself.
Less diets more body signals. This could just be the circle I am in or my own hopefulness but could 2018 be the rise of intuitive eating? Listening to the bodies hunger and fullness signals, guilt free eating and take the labels of good and bad away from food. It’s a journey and no quick fix but boy it would be fabulous to see and I think it’s on the way up.

Recycling food

Using up leftovers can seem hard work to some and second nature to others. Chefs are coming on the scene who are pushing this as a trend. Not only will it reduce food waste but also your food bill. A great place to go for inspiration on how to use your leftovers is Love Food Hate Waste.

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What makes it easier to recover from an eating disorder?

“Recovery is like riding a wild stallion. It is unpredictable, you will likely fall off many times. You will go through emotions ranging from fear to excitement, feeling out of control at times and clinging on to anything you can. Keep getting back on the horse, keep holding tight, sit up tall and go with the ride.”

There are many times in my working life that I just wish I had a magic wand to make recovery easier. The fact is, recovery is hard, damn hard and it takes a lot of guts, determination and hard work to even make a start on it. Once you start it can feel like it just gets harder at points, so you really need to plan and have support in place to help guide you and keep you going. Here are some things that can help the ride.

Have a social support structure in place

Deciding to make changes to your eating may sound simple, but once you plan it and then actually have to put it into place, it really gets harder. Having people around you who you are accountable to, people who will sit with you in the hard moments, challenge you to keep going and celebrate with you too. True friends and family who love you for you but want to see you healed up and able to live life to the full.

Have professional support

Yes you can do it on your own. However an eating disorder is an isolating illness, it can be a long and lonely path. So having a professional or a team of professionals who you trust is a good idea. People you can get the right information from and trust it, people who will challenge your thoughts, assumptions and beliefs and believe that you can do this. 

Being in the right place at the right point 

There is a cycle of change that I often use with people to talk through how you need to be in the right mindset and the right point of your life to begin recovery. This is especially key if you are in the community, recovering at home. In a eating disorders unit things are a little different and you have more support and encouragement. Take a look at the  phases below and see if you can identify where you are. Recovery can be a cyclical process where you move forward 5 spaces and then back 2 spaces, but do not give up, this is normal. 

Stages of ED recovery 

  1. I don’t think I have a problem
  2. I might have a problem but I’m ignoring it or I don’t care
  3. I don’t know how to change but I  want to
  4. I tried to change but it didn’t work
  5. I can stop some of the behaviours but not all of them
  6. I can stop the behaviours but not the thoughts
  7. I can be free from my eatind disorder some, but not all the time
  8. I am free from behaviours and thoughts = recovered

Have goals in mind

You need something to aim for. Why do you want to get better? What will life be like when you are free from your eating disorder? What do you want to do with your life that you cannot currently do. I recommend writing out or creating a vision board showing where you want to get to. Write out your dreams and dream big. Then use this as a motivational tool, put it up where you can see it. 

Surround yourself with the positive things

Part of recovery is about changing your mindset and the way you view life. It can be so easy to see the negatives about your life and yourself, then use food as a way to help with this. Or to get drawn into the negatives about weight gain. I challenge you to instead see the positives. Why is weight gain good? What does it mean for your body and your life? Grab hold of those negatives and turn them upside down. Having motivational phrases and images around you can be really helpful on those days that thinking is too tricky.

Go do it. I believe you can.

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Make your own healthy “graze” snack boxes

So snacking, it’s one of those things I definitely do. I tend to eat my 3 meals and at least 2 snacks a day. Which means my snacks need to be healthy, well most of them! Currently I am breastfeeding which makes me quite hungry at times. It is those moments when I have children clamouring for me, a baby wanting to feed and I know I need to eat that I need a ready to grab and go snack. That moment when it could be biscuits. Although I do eat my share of those too, I’ve recently discovered a wheat free dark chocolate and stem ginger cookie… dangerously nice. So to keep me on the straight and narrow I’ve started making snack boxes. This is something I often recommed to clients and many find them so useful. You can literally make a pile up for the week and take one to work each day, keep them in your bag or just on the worktop if you are at home.

Here are some of my favourite combos:

Cranberry.almond.choc
15g Dried cranberries, 15 almonds and 10g dark chocolate

 

Pecan,apple.edam
15g pecans, 15g dried apple, 1 tbsp dried edamame beans

 

Cashew.mango
15g cashews, 15g dried mango, 1 tsp mixed seeds

 

Brazil.apricot
5 brazil nuts, 3 dried apricots, 1 tsp mixed seeds

Here is me trying out Facebook Live and showing off my not so great phone video skills:

Love to hear your healthy snack box combos. Leave me a message/comment so I can steal your ideas too 😉

I tend to buy my nuts and dried fruit in bulk online (it is cheaper per kg but costs a bit up front) and I store a supply in the cupboard and a supply in glass jars on my shelf. Which looks pretty and also means we all see them and are more likely to eat them instead of reaching into the biscuit tin. 

“Keep healthy food – In plain sight so it is in your mind to eat it”

A good example of this is my toddler boy who often asks for “prawns” and points at the jars… he means prunes! 

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Priya stars on BBC1’s Food Truth or Scare.

So if you weren’t watching BBC1 on Thurs 25th Feb at 9.15am then where were you? 

Oh yes, probably at work or out living life 😉

Well you missed watching me talking about red meat with Chris Bavin on the TV…. but don’t worry because if you are in the UK you can watch it back for the next 28 days or so. So get on over to BBC iplayer and check it out.

Dietitian UK : Food truth or scare 2

 

Dietitian UK: Food truth or scare 1

I would love to know your thoughts so please do leave me a comment.

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When did healthy eating become so complicated?

Healthy Eating is meant to be straightforward and a common sense approach to eating. Right? However when you look on Pinterest, blog sites and the internet you are suddenly confronted with complicated recipes using all kinds of specialist expensive ingredients and equipment – agave, coconut oil, himalyan sea salt, seaweed, the latest berries, spiralizers etc. Now I quite like a bit of faffing around in the kitchen and I’m all for experimenting with new foods…. but this isn’t something you can do everyday and I wonder how many people think this is how you have to cook to eat a healthily?

Dry tomatoes

Recently at a lecture I was reminded by the speaker how in the war, rationing meant that people had no choice but to eat less fat and sugar, grow their own vegetables, could afford less meat and had to make the most of the food they had. When rationing stopped there was a sudden binge on foods like sugar and butter, biscuits and cake!

Dietitan UK: War rationing

When I went to University I started out with minimal equipment, a small budget and I pretty much cooked all my own meals from scratch as it was the cheapest way to do things. Lots of vegetable and bean stir frys, pasta dishes, jacket potatoes and anything I could cook with a pack of minced beef! Chopped tomatoes, tins of pulses and beans and the local green grocer were my friend. It was a simple and enjoyable way of cooking with no real pressure, especially as I was mainly cooking for just myself.

Now I have to cater for a growing family. Fancy meals really do not work. We have our basic staple meals that work every time. Pasta with roasted veggies. Lentil bolognaise. Risotto done in many ways. Salmon Parcels

So what do you need in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet?

1. Fancy equipment is often nice to have but not needed! A good knife, peeler, spoons to stir with, a grater and a tin opener is enough to start with. 

2. A store cupboad with the basics in: chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, baked beans, tinned pulses, dried mixed herbs, tuna, pasta, rice, curry powder, olive oil are all things I have in mine right now.

3. A menu plan. Look for some simple recipes on sites like BBC Good Food and the supermarkets websites. Get hold of a cookery book that doesn’t have hundreds of ingredients per recipe and the meals can be cooked in 30 minutes. Make up a folder or use pinterest to save the ideas you like and use to build your weekly plan and shopping list. Think about foods you really like and the time you have on each night.

4. There is no need to be fancy on a daily basis! Save that for a weekend 😉

5. Cooking from scratch may seem like hard work at first but it really is worth it. Base your meals around your vegetables, add some meat and some carbohydrates on the side. Job done.

In the words of the great saying. 

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

 

 

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Priya talks about heart health on Sky News.

The other week I had a lot of fun taking part in a media interview day for a fruit juice  called Sirco. These guys have made a drink that contains tomato extracts with a health claim of it helping aid blood circulation and so it could reduce the risk of heart disease.

I love media work. You have to be on your toes, ready to answer the unknown questions and able to adapt your thinking and words. I find it exciting, full of energy and a great way to get health messages out to a large audience.

So if you missed my moment of fame, here is the clip. I’m talking with TV presenter Anna Williamson (who is lovely). The 2 of us spent the day hanging out, chatting a lot and doing media interviews in a tag-team style.

Then I got to chill for an hour on the train and eat a yummy lunch…. in peace. What more could I want from a days work?

 

Disclaimer: this interview was part of paid work conducted for SIRCO, a fruit juice drink with an EFSA health claim for heart health.