Tag Archives: nutrition

Health Hangout: Early Life Programming, watch it here.

On Thursday evening I took part in another Health Hangout, you may remember the one I took part in on Vitamin D? Well this one was on Early Life Programming. Scratching your head wondering that means… I was too! It’s all about how what you eat/do when you are pregnant and in early infancy affects things later in life. So what and how you wean your child can affect the risk of diseases later in lift. As a mum and someone who is pregnant it is all pretty scary stuff!

We also covered breastfeeding and weaning so please have a watch to get some top tips and hear from the experts.

If you are a health professional then why not watch and reflect on it afterwards as part of your CPD?


How to Eat to Keep Warm!

It’s that time of year when the weather is getting decidedly more chilly and the light is fading earlier. All of a sudden it’s time to switch from the summery salads to winter stews. The kettle is on more and the biscuit tin beckons. But how do you eat healthily yet still enjoy those winter foods?

Porridge is a great start to the day. Try adding different fruit, a sprinkle of seeds or some chopped nuts for variety. Alternatively try scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes with toast.

Include something warming and satisfying at lunch, try a vegetable based soup, baked beans on toast or an omelette.

Although tea and coffee can warm you up it should be limited to 4 cups a day. Try hot squash, herbal or fruit tea or even hot water with a slice of lemon instead.

Winter stews and casseroles are delicious. Try using a slow cooker, pop it on in the morning and dinner will be ready by tea time. Include plenty of vegetables and add a couple of handfuls of lentils or beans/pulses to reduce the amount of meat you use. Bean and pulses are low in fat, have a low glycaemic index and contain plenty of fibre, so are a great weight loss aid.

Keep Active. Getting up and moving around more will get the blood pumping around the body and so warm you up. Plan some activity into your day and keep moving whenever you can.

Jelly babies, Mars Bars and Crisps (aka a Wellness Event).

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to take part in a Wellness event. A local business (Trimline Interiors) wanted to invest in their staff providing healthy taster session and information for them.

Having a healthy, happy workforce can mean having a more productive, proactive and efficient workforce. It also means less sick days so as an employee more money saved. The “Working for a Healthier Tomorrow” report found costs of sickness associated with working age ill-healthy to be over £100 billion a year. As most people spend up to 60% of waking hours at work it’s the ideal place to discuss health.

My role was to provide healthy eating advice. At the start of the day I was opened the event by giving a short talk to all the staff, my topic was “Healthy Snacking”. Personally I love visual aids so I had taken along a selection of snacks and weighed out the sugar content in them. The Mars bar and the Jelly Babies got the best reaction 😉

Dietitian UK: Sugar in 1 Mars Bar
Dietitian UK: Sugar in 1 Mars Bar
Dietitian UK: Sugar in 1 portion (7) Jelly Babies
Dietitian UK: Sugar in 1 portion (7) Jelly Babies








One of the rooms was turned into my consultation room and staff were able to book on for 15 minute consultations with me. These were a lot of fun. I asked people to come armed with a food diary showing what they had eaten the day before. Seeing as there had been a few who had been on a night out the previous evening I had some interesting alcohol and food intakes to discuss! I was able to give some hopefully really useful and helpful advice to the people who came along.

Every event like this need freebies and leaflets doesn’t it! So I had taken a range of leaflets and even some free healthy snacks, courtesy of the lovely people at Popchips. Who doesn’t like free food?

Dietitian UK: Leaflets and freebies for Staff
Dietitian UK: Leaflets and freebies for Staff
Dietitian UK: Healthy Snacks
Dietitian UK: Healthy Snacks








The company themselves had also provided a range of healthy snacks to be munched on throughout the day: carrots and hummous, fruit, rice cakes, breadsticks, sugar snap peas. It certainly went down a storm.

Other people were there doing massages, Nordic Walking and discussing giving up smoking. I didn’t get a free massage but it certainly caught my eye.

I think it is commendable to find a business so forward thinking and who really care about their staff. Thanks Trimline Interiors for having me.

If your business would like a similar event run please get in touch. Other services we could offer include health checks, Pilates tasters and weight loss support groups.


Nutrition in the Under 5’s: an overview.


Here’s an overview of nutrition in the Under 5’s, over the next few weeks I shall be delving in and looking at nutrients in more details including Iron and Vitamin D, so follow my blog or keep and eye on twitter and facebook for more!


Children are not mini adults. Not only do they need good nutrition to stay healthy and well but unlike adults, they are growing and developing too so have different requirements.


By 12 months children should be joining in family meals, this doesn’t mean cooking two meals but some modifications like cutting out salt in cooking. Meals should be based on the Eat Well Plate with 1/3 of the plate being starchy foods, 1/3 veggies, some protein foods and some dairy.



Variety – no one food contains all the nutrients children need so therefore they need to eat range of different foods. Try to plan ahead for the week so a variety of starchy foods and protein foods plus fruit and veggies are eaten. This is good for the whole family.


Portions – The amount of food a child needs varies with age, body size and physical activity. Appetite can vary from day to day, let them guide you. Generally if your child is growing and developing normally  and happy then they are ok! A healthy meal pattern is small regular meals with one or two healthy snacks and drinks in between.


Protein – needed for growth, repair and renewal. Found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Babies and children have higher requirements as they are busy creating lots of new cells as they grow. Protein is made up of amino acids and not every food contains all amino acids so eating a variety is key to getting them all.


Carbohydrates – provides energy and fibre. Found in cereals, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, fruit, vegetables, lactose in milk. Base meals on these foods. Children have small stomachs so do not give too much fibre, gradually build this up as they grow to keep their digestive system healthy and help prevent constipation. There is a balance between fibre and fluid that keeps the digestive system happy. So if constipation is an issue reduce fibre slightly and check how much your child is drinking.


Fat– needed for energy for children as they grow, also for storing vitamins A,D,E and K and for providing essential fatty acids. It’s important to choose unsaturated fats (good fats) found in vegetable oils like olive, rapeseed, sunflower, seeds, nuts and oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel). Saturated fat and trans fats (bad fats) are found in cakes, pies, pastries, biscuits, fatty meat and meat products, butter, cream, whole milk, coconut and palm oil. Limit these bad fats and swap for ‘good’ fats. Eat oily fish once a week.


Salt– Babies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diet. Salt is ‘hidden’ in many ready-made foods, such as bread, baked beans, and even biscuits; it can be easy to have too much. Do not add salt to the foods that you give to your baby because their kidneys cannot cope with it. Avoid giving your baby ready-made foods that are not made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals, because they can also be high in salt. Check food labels. The salt content is usually given as figures for sodium. To convert sodium to salt multiply by 2.5. Food that contains 0.6g of sodium, or more, in a 100g is a lot, and foods with 0.1g, or less, in a 100g, is a little.


Fruit and vegetables – Aim for at least 5 a day. Have a variety (eat a rainbow – children find this fun to do). Peel and chop so easy to eat and readily available e.g. carrot sticks. Keep the fruit bowl full and biscuit tin empty! Portion size is roughly what would fit into the palm of their hand. Fruit on cereal+ fruit snack + veg at lunch or in lunch box + veg with evening meal + fruit for dessert = 5 a day

Get planning and get healthy 🙂


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!