Tag Archives: #spotlight

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 😉 


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. 




10 portions of fruit and veggies a day?

So today we woke up to the news that 10 portions of fruit and vegetables is the new 5 a day. 

10 a day

95 studies on fruit and vegetables have been analysed by researcher at the Imperial College of London. They found that the most benefit came from eating 800g per day, as 80g is a portion this equates to a whopping 10 portions a day. 

Consuming 10 portions a day was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of cancer, and a 31% reduction in the risk of premature death. This may be due to the levels of antioxidants they contain as well as their fibre content. Eating 10 portions will also potentially mean that less processed foods are being consumed, so implies an overal healthier diet and lifestyle. 

This isn’t to say that eating less is not worth doing however as there are still significant health benefits from eating any amounts of fruit and veggies. For example helping to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Specifically apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, lettuce), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) may help protect against heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death. Eating green vegetables, yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables could help protect against cancer risks.

Is it Achievable?

The problem is that in the UK many people are not even meeting the 5 a day target. Suddenly asking them to eat 10 portions a day is unrealistic and laughable for some. I myself currently eat 7-8 portions a day, having increased this from 5 a day. I could increase this further but I have a gut issue and personally I think I am on my limit. 

For some people this level of fibre intake is not going to be a good plan. Those with digestive disorders such as diverticulitis, some people with IBS or Crohns disease or an inflamed gut.

So it is all about small increases and working towards eating more.


I’ve already heard the words “too much sugar” mentioned. Do not panic people. Put your sugar finger pointing fingers down. The sugar in fruit is not a “free sugar”. It is contained within a fibrous matrix and so it is not released into your blood stream as quickly as eating pure sugar or honey. 

Having said this, I would still recommend you focus on eating more vegetables and not too much fruit. Remember dried fruit is a more concentrated form of sugar so watch your portion sizes of this. Juices and smoothies should be limited to maximum one  a day. So really we are looking at upping the whole fruit and veg.

10 portions a day:

So what could it look like?

Breakfast: Cereal with 80g berries and 1 tbsp raisins. 2 portions

Snack: Banana and nuts. 1 portion

Lunch: 1/2 avocado on toast topped with tuna served with a side salad. 2 portions

Snack: 1 chopped carrot with 1 tbsp hummus. 1 portion

Dinner: Chicken casserole and rice with 2 portions of vegetables. 1 glass of fruit juice. 3 portions

Snack: Chopped apple and yoghurt 1 portion

My take home message:


Focus on increasing it gradually.  As with anything this is a habit that needs to be formed and it doesn’t happen overnight. Set yourself small goals like adding fruit to your breakfast or having a vegetable based snack each day and build on it.

I’d love to hear how many portions of fruit and veg you currently eat and how you plan to increase it.


5 tips for recovery from an eating disorder.

1. Make recovery a priority:
This may mean taking a break from normal life. A year out. Recovery takes a lot more energy and effort than you may originally think. It needs to be right up your priority list. Time off work, school, certain friendships, travelling, exercise. Whatever it takes, this is important for this season.

Dietitian UK: Make recovery a priority

2. Find yourself again:
What do you like to do? It’s often hard to know what things make you, you. The busyness of life gets in the way of our identity. 
Book out some time to find you again. Try some activities you used to enjoy. Often creative projects can be a useful part of recovery. Maybe photography, baking, sewing, painting, collage, scrap booking, gardening,  I love the phrase “Find what makes you come alive, then go and do it”.

3. Mindfulness:
Sitting in silence and paying your full attention to your breath and body can help you bring an awareness of your thoughts and feelings. This practise helps you let go of the unhelpful thoughts and be more compassionate to yourself. Practising letting thoughts go in your mindfulness practice will enable you to take this into everyday life so when an unhelpful thought comes along you are in a better place to acknowledge it, but not to act on it.  


4. Value yourself :
Take time to look after your body: nutritionally and physically. Some self care time in your week can make a real difference and can remind you that you are important and worth looking after. For some people an eating disorder can be a form of self neglect and may have some punishment aspects to it. Creating the emphasis on it being good to care for yourself and give yourself pamper occasions helps build self esteem and love for your body. 

Some ideas: A long bath, a manicure, pedicure, haircut, moisturising your body, shaving. Taking time to tidy your home, buy yourself flowers or something nice to look at each day, light candles in the evenings. 


5. Fuel your body:
The right fuel at the right times of the day is vital. This may mean going against your feelings and thoughts, but with repetition a routine will evolve and habits will form. 
It is likely your have no idea what normal eating should be for you now. Plan out 3 meals and 3 snacks a day with general timings to stick to if you can. There will always be days things don’t fit into your plan, that is also part of normal eating! For more advice take a look at my healthy eating in Anorexia post.
Go for as much variety as you can. There is no perfect meal plan, it’s all about making small steps and challenging yourself as often as you can. 


What you CAN eat in pregnancy.

Pregnancy can feel like a time when you CAN’T do things. The food, the drinks, exercise, sleeping positions,  long haul flights…. this being my third pregnancy I wanted to focus on what you CAN do.

Pregnancy is an important time to focus on yourself and also on the new baby. The affects of eating well in pregnancy are not shortlived. Research suggests that how you eat can affect your child’s long term health including mental health, risk of type 2 diabetes, cancers, obesity and cardiovascular disease. This is known as the fetal origins of adult disease. A cohort of mums form the Dutch Hunger Famine of 1944-5 have been followed and the research has shown how their diet had affects on the children. Changes in nutrition at different stages of pregnancy can have long term affects on health.

Metabolic programming is the term used for this concept that nutrition and lifestyle choices early on in life can impact on later health. For example it has been shown that obese mums and mums that gain more weight in pregnancy are more likely to have obese children. The EarlyNutrition Project is a large scale research project looking into this further. 

The short version is, that what you eat in pregnancy can have long lasting effects. 

So I have put together a short video clip of what you CAN eat in pregnancy, the good parts to focus on. 

Look out for more posts on healthy snacks for pregnancy and see my post on healthy eating in pregnancy.

Should I still be eating Bacon and Sausages?

Red meat and processed meat has been in the headlines a lot this week. There is likely to be more to come on this topic too.

For those of you not in the know, the WHO released a report saying that processed meat is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This has been wildly stretched by some to suggest that we shouldn’t eat meat at all.

Let’s unpack it a bit.

What is processed meat?

“Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste and the main methods are smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives.” WHO quote.

This includes salami, bacon, corned beef, jerky, tinned meat, sausages, ham, hot dogs.

It is the chemical released in the processing that are the issue here. So it is not actually the meat that is the problem but the processing of it.

The figures:

50g processed meat a day (3 rashers bacon or 2 slices of ham) can increase your risk of colorectal cancer to 72 in 100,000.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

Or your risk of bowel cancer could be increased by 18% compared to someone who doesn’t eat meat. That may sound high but the absolute risk of bowel cancer is 6%, so by eating processed meat it may increase to 7%.

The evidence:

The evidence is pretty weak. There is no direct cause and effect here as there are multiple factors coming into play. People with an increased risk may also be overweight, smoking and eating less fruit and veggies – all of which will also have an effect. 

The EPIC study found that vegetarians had the same risk for colorectal cancer as meat eaters. That says a lot to me.

The bottom line:

Recommended red meat intake for an adult is 70g per day. 

In the UK our average intake is 71g per day. So most of us are absolutely fine.

Red meat provides a good source of iron, zinc, selenium and B vitamins. It can be an important source of iron for teenage girls and pregnant ladies.

Red meat is significantly lower in fat than in was 30 years ago. I was surprised at the lowered level of fat in beef and lamb at a recent event I attended.

There are lots of things that can increase your risk of cancers. It’s all about perspective and moderation. 

I will still be eating sausages. 

Lentil and Date Chocolate Brownies. A revelation!

It’s not often I get inspired to make brownies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a brownie, but they generally aren’t the healthiest thing you can bake and once you make a batch you have to eat them, right? So it’s usually flapjack in my cake tin.

However this week Miss K brought home a lentil brownie recipe in her bag from school and it intrigued me. Lentil in a brownie? Surely not. 

Dietitian UK: Lentil and Date Brownies 1

I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to lower the sugar and next time I would definitely add in pecans. You can’t beat a pecan in a brownie.

These were  a hands down winner. Easy to make (as long as you have lentils already cooked or cook them earlier in the day) and they baked whilst we ate dinner. I gave one to my hubby, he looked at me suspiciously and took a bite, then with a surprised voice told me they were really good. My poor family have to try a lot of dud baking as well as the good bits!

None of my children or husband even noticed the lentils. I had a faint taste of them, but I had made them so was probably a bit sensitive to the taste. A great way to lower the glycaemic index and make a higher protein version of a chocolate brownie.

Dietitian UK: Lentil and Date Brownies 2

Lentil and Date Brownies
Serves 10
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
83 calories
11 g
27 g
4 g
2 g
2 g
24 g
8 g
8 g
0 g
1 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 83
Calories from Fat 34
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 27mg
Sodium 8mg
Total Carbohydrates 11g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 45g cooked red lentils
  2. 1 egg
  3. 30g cacao powder
  4. 40g cacao butter or marg
  5. 40g sugar
  6. 60g dates chopped
  1. Cook the lentils or use tinned.
  2. Chop the dates into small pieces.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Line a baking tray and spread the mixture in, you want it fairly thick.
  5. Bake at Gask Mark 5 for 20 minutes until it feels gently set.
  6. Leave to cool, cut and eat!
Dietitian UK https://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Quinoa (GF, WF)

I recently went to a conference where we were served the most delicious lunch. I’m always a bit dubious about lunches at these types of affairs, being wheat free means I get served all kinds of random thing. I now always travel with emergency oat cakes in my bag!

Anyway, this conference had amazing, nutritious, delicious food. The chicken and quinoa salad totally inspired me to get my quinoa out of the back of the cupboard and use it. I’m totally happy with the result, this is one delicious dinner and it would also make a perfect packed lunch.

Plus all my family enjoyed this. Major brownie points were earnt. YAY. 

Miss K “Is there any more and can I have your avocado”

Dietitian UK: Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Quinoa (gluten free)
Serves 4
A nutritious, delicious quinoa salad, packed with antioxidants and supercharged with vegetables. It will tantalise your tastebuds and leave you feeling like you have eaten health on a plate!
Write a review
Cook Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
384 calories
44 g
32 g
15 g
21 g
2 g
483 g
74 g
7 g
0 g
12 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 384
Calories from Fat 132
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 32mg
Sodium 74mg
Total Carbohydrates 44g
Dietary Fiber 10g
Sugars 7g
Protein 21g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 2 cups of water
  3. 2 courgettes
  4. 2 carrots
  5. 1 pepper
  6. 1 tbsp olive oil
  7. 200g greens (kale, chard, spinach - I used beetroot leaves!)
  8. 1 avocado chopped
  9. 150g cooked shredded chicken breast
  10. Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  11. Thyme
  12. Oregano
  13. Black Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5.
  2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling the carrots and then chopping carrots, courgettes and pepper into small chunks.
  3. Place into a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Place into the oven for 30 minutes, shaking or turning hafway through.
  4. Meanwhilst, cook the quinoa, place 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Switch off and leave the lid on so it steams for another 10 minutes.
  5. Chop the greens and shred the cooked chicken into bitesized pieces.
  6. Now mix everything together. Add the vegetables and chicken to the quinoa, along with the greens and avocado, Stir well to combine. Dress with the lemon juice and herbs and place the lid back on the saucepan.
  7. Leave it for 10 minutes to infuse and then serve either warm or cold.
Dietitian UK https://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/

Boosting your nutritional intake – the healthy way to weight gain.

I work in the topsy turvy world that is eating disorders. Most of the media focus, food manufacturers, shops and nutrition business is on how to lose weight. whilst I work with people on how to gain or maintain their weight. Gaining weight may sound like it is easy to do but it often isn’t. You need to increase your dietary intake by 350-500kcals per day to start gaining weight. Now if you don’t have an eating disorder that may seem like no hard thing. A latte and slice of cake will easily hit the mark. However often the clients I work with are keen to increase the energy density of their diet in healthy ways. Now I’m all for eating plenty of veggies but you will have to eat a whopping amount if you are going to gain weight on extra veggies alone As I had to explain to one client recently – 350kcals extra in salad alone would mean you would be eating salad all day long. However there are options, if you can keep an open mind. 

Foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, dried fruit, nut butters, hummus, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, olive or rapeseed oils and fruit juices, will provide a nutrient dense way to increase the calories of your diet.

Dietitian UK: Why almonds are so good for you


Some of these foods may be on the scary side but they all provide nutrients that the body needs.

Dietitian UK: Gaining weight the healthy way for eating disorders

Here are some of my top suggestions of ways to boost up your intake by around 350kcals:
Add 1 tbsp seeds and 1 tbsp dried fruit to your normal cereal then top with your usual milk plus 2 tbsp yoghurt and add a glass of fruit juice.
Make your own snack boxes with nuts, dried fruit and small crackers (e.g: 15 almonds, 5 dried apricots, 7 rice crackers).
Homemade smoothies with yoghurt, chia seeds and fruit (e.g. 1 banana, 100g yoghurt, 100ml milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds and 1 handful blueberries).
1 serving Granola with 1 serving of Greek yoghurt.
1/2 avocado on 1 slice toast with a glass of fruit juice.
2 tbsp almond butter on 3 oatcakes with 1 banana sliced on top.
3 peanut butter cookies with a portion of fruit.
To read my healthy eating tips for Eating Disorders go here.


Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

I’ve worked in the field of eating disorders for about 10 years. It’s an area that both frustrates me and brings me to life. I find it challenging work, emotional at times and I have to constantly remember to celebrate every small thing. Yet I absolutely LOVE this work.

In a world where obesity is on the increase, healthy eating and low fat eating predominates. The Eat Well plate has been developed as a way to demonstrate healthy balanced eating. I use this visual guide as a talking point but with the emphasis that this is aimed at a healthy population trying to maintain weight or at overweight people trying to lose a little weight. Therefore the proportions may not be correct if you are trying to gain weight.


Here is my walk through the Eat Well Plate for Anorexia Nervosa:

 Fruit and Vegetables:

Most people with anorexia nervosa I come across have no problems in meeting the 5 a day target, in fact they can have the reverse issue and be eating too many portions!

  • These foods should make up about 1/3 of your plate at each meal and no more.
  • It’s important to eat a range of colours and types so you get the full range of nutrients.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating in Anorexia Nervosa, Fruit and Veg


Starchy Foods/Carbohydrates:

These foods are often thought to be the villains. Yes over-eating these will lead to weight gain, but not eating them will mean your body does not have enough energy. Carbohydrate foods (bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes etc..) are the bodies preferred energy source so that means it will choose to burn them off as fuel over anything else.

  • Include them at every meal.
  • Go for wholemeal, whole grain versions where possible.
  • The more active you are the more you will need.


Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

Dairy Products:

Dairy foods are important as they provide the body with calcium, protein and in some cases Vitamin D. Super important for your bones. When you are a low weight and not eating enough the kidneys remove calcium from your bones to supply the body with needed calcium, leaving your bones weakened. This needs replacing!


  • Eat 3-4 portions per day (e.g. 1 glass milk, 1 small yoghurt, 30g cheese).
  • If you are weight gaining steer away from the low fat options, often these just have more sugar and additives in them anyway.
  • Think about the long term impact of having weak bones, it’s a great motivator.


Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

Meat, Fish and Other Proteins:

This includes eggs, tofu, soya, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds. Include these foods twice a day in your meal plan either as a main meal or a snack.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa


Fats and Sugars:

These are included as part of healthy eating. Your body needs fat and sugar in order to function. There is a layer of fat around your internal organs acting as insulation and protection, there are essential fatty acids that your brain needs to function well and monounsaturated fats are good for your heart – so fat is not all bad.


  • Work up to including healthy fats in your diet – avocado, olives, oily fish, rapeseed oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Build in a challenge each week to eat a “scary” food.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Fats