The Pro Athlete’s shopping list

For professional and serious amateur athletes, heaving training schedules can mean massive amounts of calories need to be eaten each day. 4500kcal for a rugby player is normal while for a tour cyclist this could be 7000kcal. That’s a lot of food to eat! So what are the things that regularly appear on the pro’s daily shopping list?

For rugby, the aim of a player’s diet is to fuel training and games, maintain/improve body composition, optimise recovery and the maintain the immunity. All too often there is a focus on protein, carbohydrate and calorie figures, all of which could, in theory, be provided by a commercial sports shake. Sometimes it is necessary to take these if energy needs are very high, and they are much more convenient to take after a training if food isn’t available.

However…….for optimum nutrition, performance and health, there is nothing better than REAL food. The incredibly complex makeup of food simply cannot be artificially produced in a bottle or pill. Food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t discovered yet.

With 15 years of professional rugby under his belt, my husband Dec has used his fair share of sports drinks, supplement shakes and bars. These can be useful as a stop gap, when good food is not readily available, or when calorie requirements are so high that it is difficult to achieve with a balanced diet. But recently, I have seen a move towards using food as the foundations for high performance. I often use an analogy of the bricks of a house being food, and supplements being the chimney. If you don’t have the nutrition basics of food (walls and roof) in place, it is daft to think that there is any point to having a chimney (supplements).

Here are the essentials items that should feature on your shopping list. These are all mostly ‘nutritionally dense’ meaning that they are choca-block full of good nutrition:

  • Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. The chunkier the better, as these are digested slowly, resulting in a more steady blood sugar level. Oats also have beta glucan, which lowers cholesterol. Dec has porridge every shutterstock_81803002morning: oats, milk, raisins, pureed banana and some sugar provides a high energy mix of slow and fast carbohydrates and some protein from the milk. Perfect for fuelling a morning of intense training.
  • Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge, breakfast cereals and to make rice pudding
  • Coffee – because it’s lovely, and as a wake up call in the mornings. Caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance, and for reducing the risk of many chronic health conditions eg. Heart disease & Parkinson’s disease.
  • imagePeanut butter – high in protein, energy and good fats. Just don’t go eating the whole jar as it’s very high in calories, and you may turn in to the shape of a rugby ball.
  • Eggs – one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, high protein, iron.  Health benefits: regulates imageblood sugar, anti inflammatory, heart, brain, hormone, eye and skin health. Dec usually has eggs in an omelette as a snack, or to make egg fried rice.
  • Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise, for recovery, and for the immunity. He has white rice (fast release carbs, but devoid of many other nutrients) or whole grain (higher in fibre, digested more slowly, more filling).
  • Chicken – high protein, low fat, and versatile. There are endless ways to use chicken: plain grilled, stir fried, mixed with light mayo and veg in wraps, stuffed with pesto and cheddar cheese. One of the easiest ‘recipes’ is a whole chicken in a slow cooker for 6 hours. By the time I get home from work, there is a perfectly cooked dinner!
  • Vegetables – often overlooked in favour of carbohydrates and protein, and served as an after thought with just a spoonful on the plate. Vegetables are absolutely essential to securedownload-1maintain health, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals, fibre etc. all of which simply cannot be bottled or put in a pill. Dec’s staples are broccoli, onions, spring onions, peppers, and carrots – not very adventurous, but that is fine! Fresh, frozen, boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir fried, raw…….just get. them. in!
  • Yogurt – we get the high protein ones eg. Total greek yogurt, or Danio. These 2013-04-01-15-58-55have double the protein of normal yogurts (greek ‘style’ is not usually higher in protein), so good for muscle repair and maintenance. Yogurt also contains ‘probiotics’ which are good for the digestion and immunity.
  • Snack bars – e.g. Eat Natural. UnknownI’m not too keen on these as I think they are expensive for what they are (chocolate, rice krispies, nuts, dried fruit and sugar). For some reason he’d rather take these with him as a snack rather than my Seriously Healthy Flapjacks. Weirdo.

Honourable mentions to bagels, nuts, salmon, pasta, Rice Krispies, tinned tuna and tortilla wraps.

For loads of recipes using all of the above ingredients click…….here!


Oaty Biscuits – my Mum’s recipe

This recipe comes from my Mum’s very battered and very used ‘Belfast Cookery Book’. She’s been making these biscuits for as long as I can image image imageremember. I make them for my kids now. I’ve got the recipe written in the back of a Delia cookery book. If I’m feeling a bit woo, I might add some cinnamon or desiccated coconut.

4oz butter/margarine

2oz caster sugar

2oz plain flour

5oz porridge oats

Cream the butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients. Roll in to a ball, flour surface and hands. Roll out to biscuit thickness with rolling pin. Cut out biscuit shapes. Put on baking tray, put in oven (180 c) for approx 20 minutes or until starting to turn brown.


Beetroot Juice – worth the hype?

Beetroot juice has been one of the biggest stories in sports science in recent years, after researchers at the University of Exeter found it enables people to exercise for up to 16% longer.

The startling results have led to a host of athletes – from Premiership footballers to professional cyclists – looking into its potential uses.


Concentrated beetroot juice (shot)

When consumed, nitrate found in beetroot juice has two marked physiological effects.

  1. widens blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and allowing more blood flow.
  2. affects muscle tissue, reducing the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during activity.

The combined effects have a significant impact on performing physical tasks, whether it involves low-intensity or high-intensity effort.$T2eC16dHJGoFFvPOJJ3UBR0ZfTsjj!~~60_35

Professor Andrew Jones, from the University of Exeter, lead author on the research, said: “The findings show an improvement in performance that, at competition level, could make a real difference – particularly in an event like the Tour de France where winning margins can be tight.”

Beetroot juice is an easy way to quickly ingest a substantial amount of dietary nitrate. However, some may find the taste of beetroot juice unpleasant. Fortunately, beetroots are just one of many vegetables that are high in nitrate. Leafy green vegetables tend to be the top sources.

The dose of dietary nitrate used in the research to reduce the oxygen cost

of exercise, improve athletic performance, and lower blood pressure ranges from 300 to 500 mg. This is about 300-500ml of Beet It 100% Pressed drink.

This amount can also be obtained by eating the following foods:

Very high nitrate levels: celery, cress, chervil, lettuce, red beetroot, spinach, and rocket (more than 250 mg/100 g)images-3

High nitrate levels: celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, leeks, and parsley (approximately 100 to 250 mg/100 g)

Ultimately, eating beetroot, drinking beetroot juice, or eating foods high in nitrate is unlikely to increase your exercise endurance unless you are already an athlete and at the peak of fitness. Even for athletes, it is fundamental to get the basics of diet right before putting your faith in nitrates to improve performance.

For most of us, the best way to increase endurance is to exercise regularly so aim to work towards achieving the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five times a week.

Beetroot recipes



Coconut Water – worth the hype?

Since the introduction of coconut water to the UK market, sales have sky rocketed, helped by its rapid take-up among celebrities and high-profile investments from beverage companies. The UK coconut water industry was be worth £100m in 2014.


Vita Coco coconut water

Vita Coco accounts for 94% of UK coconut water sales in the UK, and is available everywhere from Selfridges to Tesco’s. So what do Vivia Coco say about their product, and does it live up to these claims?

  • all natural – true, taken from young coconuts, some added vitamin C
  • super hydrating – true, water and other sports drinks also super hydrating
  • fat free – true, water and sports drinks also fat free
  • cholesterol free – true, all fruit & vegetables are cholesterol free
  • potassium packed – true, same amount as 2-3 bananas
  • nutrient stacked – not really – has great amounts of vitamin C, very little of any other nutrients.

So as you can see, most of the claims are true. However, water and other sports drinks also carry the same benefits. The extra potassium could be of benefit for people who have a poor intake of fruit, vegetables and dairy.

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things for recreational and professional athletes. If you are exercising for under an hour, and if the taste of coconut water helps you drink plenty of fluids, it is a fine choice for most people, but water is just as good.

For those exercising strenuously and for longer than an hour, especially in hot conditions where perspiration is high, you need easily absorbed carbohydrate for quick energy and to replace lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Coconut water doesn’t have the ideal levels of carbs or sodium. For post exercise, it has neither the calories, carbohydrate or protein required for optimal recovery.

My advice?

It’s a healthy replacement for sugary fizzy drinks or fruit juice, as with 90kcal per 500ml carton, it has half the calories. However, it provides no extra hydration benefits over water for the average recreational exerciser. For strenuous and prolonged exercise it is fine, but would need to be taken with a snack for extra sodium and carbohydrate.

Protein with each meal

Paleo Diet – a bad fad?

A nice chap on Twitter challenged my thoughts and opinions on the Paleo Diet. Am I a lover or a hater?

It could be considered standard practice for a health professional to dismiss the Paleo Diet as nothing but a fad, a diet that is BAD, and just a bit mad. However, I am of the opinion that most ‘diets’ have their pros and cons, work for some people and not for others. As I always say, what works for you and what you are happy with is your business. If you feel the need to change and want to change, that’s terrific too.

Here is a bullet point overview of the paleo diet. I could witter on forever about it, but I’ll try to keep it brief!

What is the Paleo Diet?

  • short for paleolithic, also known as hunter-gatherer or caveman diet.
  • consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts
  • excludes grains (including wheat & rice), legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils
  • based on the premise that humans have not evolved to digest and metabolise the excluded foods
  • seen as a lifestyle, rather than a ‘diet’ one ‘goes on’


  • based on wholesome, unprocessed foods, high in vitamins and minerals (except calcium), antioxidants, and essential fatty acids
  • elimination of processed foods
  • no specialist ‘diet foods’
  • eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat if you’re not
  • when strictly followed, will probably result in weight loss due to a reduction in calories
  • no calorie counting required – a massive plate of veg with a portion of meat should fill you up
  • many people do have a gluten/lactose intolerance, the diet can help identify these


  • restrictive, can result in feeling deprived leading to rebellion and over eating
  • requires careful planning and a lot of will power
  • eating out and as a guest at other people’s houses can be very difficult
  • expensive to buy pasture raised meat, wild fish (£10 per salmon fillet anyone?) etc.
  • there is the opinion that the whole philosophy is based on speculation about what our ancestors ate
  • humans have not stopped evolving, an example being the evolution of lactose tolerance in Europeans

What about for athletes?

Having witnessed first hand the implementation of the Paleo Diet with professional athletes, I’m more skeptical about it’s application for sports people. The leading expert on all things Paleo, Loren Cordain, followed his original book with one on the diet for athletes. Just one of the aspects which I find tricky is the use of carbohydrate. He fully acknowledges the need for adapting the diet for very active individuals, advocating that 50% calories should come from carbohydrate, including the introduction of potato, sweet potato, dried fruits and fruit juice. In the book ‘The Paleo Diet for Athletes’ he writes:

“of course, this carbohydrate should primarily come from fruit and vegetables, so calories aren’t wasted by eating food lacking micro nutrients”.

He follows with an example diet for a 10 stone athlete training 15 hours/week requiring 3000kcal/day. I analysed the nutrients…… Dr Cordain only managed to get 30% calories carbohydrate (fruit/veg), and this seemed to be mainly from fruit juice. I therefore question how athletes requiring large calorie intakes can realistically follow his regimen.

Due to the impossible task of getting 50% of calories from fruit and veg, I have witnessed first hand the reduction in training performance (feeling weak and dizzy), constant hunger, poorer body compostition, and difficulty in socialising (as a dinner guest or in restaurants).

My opinion:

For people who have a high intake of processed food, are over weight or who want to try to improve their health, a relaxed version of the Paleo Diet may be worth a try! There is no doubt that wholesome, unprocessed

include wholesome grains and dairy

include wholesome grains and dairy

foods: fish, meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts are of benefit. Adopt a common sense approach to including grains and dairy eg. swap Frosties for oats, chips for basmati/brown rice.

Athletes, be careful not to sacrifice your performance in training and in competition for an ideological diet that is not meeting your nutritional needs. The basic principles can be adapted to meet your training goals and to achieve optimal performance.

Final thoughts:

  • “You can’t out run your fork” for optimal health, diet is paramount
  • Eat wholesome real foods, eat food that goes off before it goes off!
  • Load your plate up with vegetables, a handful of grains and a portion of protein
  • Make small changes over a period of time so that it becomes a lifestyle, not a fad diet that you follow for a few weeks

Your thoughts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions and experiences! Comments gratefully received…….


Fiery Noodles

This recipe is adapted from Jaime Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book. As you can see from the photo, this particular page is well used! This part of the recipe only takes about 10 minutes if you use the ready cooked noodles.image

 I use rice noodles instead of egg noodles (for a gluten free option), and leave out the faff of carmellising cashew nuts. If a recipe isn’t easy, or it has too many complicated ingredients or stages, then I don’t have the time or patience. Especially when our 1 year old is clutchingimage on to my leg while I’m trying to cook!

Ingredients: ready to use rice noodles, 1 red pepper, 1/2 red onion, chilli flakes, handful coriander, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 lime, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

  • Put the pepper, onion and coriander in a food processor and whizz up until chopped small. Or you can just chop everything up with a knife.
  • Make the dressing with the sesame oil, juice of the lime, soy sauce, fish sauce and chilli flakes (about 1/2 teaspoon, more or less depending on how fiery you like it!)
  • Mix dressing in to chopped pepper, onion and coriander.
  • Heat a frying pan, ideally non stick. If using a wok, add a little oil to imagestop noodles sticking.
  • Add the veg mixture to the pan.
  • Add the ready to use noodles.image
  • Heat through until noodles soft (about 3 minutes).
  • Eat immediately if you like it warm, or leave to cool for a cold salad.
  • Good served with chicken stir fried in a dash of soy sauce and honey. Or a salmon fillet flaked through it. Any other ideas welcomed!

Losing Weight – an exerciser’s guide

I have a friend who I see every morning on the school run. She has lost 6kg over the last few months, and is now lighter and feels healthier than she did before having 3 children. Following the birth of her first child, she hired a personal trainer to lose the baby weight. She swears that the regular, intense workouts made no difference to her weight or size. She assumed the exercise would mean the weight would drop off, so hadn’t changed her diet (perhaps she was even eating a bit more due to increased appetite with the exercise).

This time around, after the third kid, she felt she didn’t have the time or energy for intense PT sessions. Instead she changed what she ate, and BOOM, with in days the slow and steady weight loss started. She didn’t ‘go on a diet’, just made logical and sensible changes.

Of course, exercise is extremely beneficial to health and well being. However, it is often said that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise (my husband who is a professional rugby coach would even agree with this). How accurate these percentages are I do not know, but one thing is for sure, if you want to lose weight, or take steps towards a healthier

StarbucksVentiMintMochaChipFrappuccinolifestyle, you have to start in the kitchen. If you are trying to lose weight, be very careful about adding in extras after your exercise. The 500 kcal burned during a 5 mile run can be wiped out in minutes with a protein shake and banana, or a couple of glasses of wine in the evening.

Making wholesome and nutritious food choices for most of your meals and snacks, as well as being conscious of portion sizes can have a profound effect on weight, well being and long term health. All too often we are bombarded with confusing and complex messages about diets and nutrition products.

So the secret is to keep it simple, you don’t need a lot of fancy or exotic ingredients. Fill your fridge with vegetables, lean meat, eggs and lower fat dairy, and your cupboards with wholesome starchy food and tinned fish, tomatoes, nuts, seeds etc. Frozen vegetables are just as good, and often better nutritionally than fresh.

What does a healthy meal look like? Try this:


  • 1/2 plate: salad/vegetables/fruit
  • 1/4 plate protein: chicken, pork, beef, fish, beans, lentils
  • 1/4 plate starchy food: potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa, cous cous, wholemeal bread
  • use oils and oily dressings sparingly

Most people have far too much starchy food eg. big plate pasta, and not enough veg.

How does this translate to real life? Here are some examples…..


  • Berry Banana Breakfast Bake
  • Granola with milk
  • handful porridge oats, water, milk, berries/raisins

    Nag's muesli

    Homemade muesli

  • 1 wholemeal toast, little bit of butter, 2 boiled/poached/dry fried eggs
  • Natural yoghurt & fruit, 1 toast
  • Homemade muesli
  • Summer oats
  • Shake: milk, spoon of yoghurt, banana/berries, honey
  • 2 Weetabix, milk, banana


  • 4 no effort meals
  • Spaghetti bolognaise: 1/4 plate spaghetti, add extra veg to bolognaise (grated carrot, extra tin tomatoes). Serve with side salad or Deidre’s coleslawimage
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce with extra veg & pasta
  • Rice, salmon, carrots & broccoli
  • Wholemeal pitta, tuna mixed with natural yoghurt/light mayo, chopped pepper, spring onion & lettuce
  • 1 wholemeal toast, little bit of butter, 2 boiled/poached/dry fried eggs
  • bowl of salad leaves, grated carrot, peas, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, chopped up chicken or flaked salmon


    wholemeal bread, tuna with light mayo & yoghurt, carrot, spring onion, pepper

  • Super food salad with some chicken/fish
  • Lentil & tomato soup

Snacks (hunger often confused with thirst, so first have a glass water/cup of tea or coffee):

  • Apple & handful almonds
  • Rice cake with peanut butter/quark & small dollop of pesto
  • Homemade flapjack
  • Yoghurt & strawberries image
  • Humous and carrot sticks
  • Glass of milk and banana/raisins
  • Skinny latte & apple


  • stick to 1 portion of meals, if still hungry fill up up more veg/fruit
  • avoid creamy sauces, choose tomato/vegetable based ones
  • be aware that oils (yes, even olive oil) has 100kcal per tablespoon. Use but don’t over do it. If eating out, ask for dressing on the side.
  • Be aware that sugary drinks (including pure fruit juice) can add significant calories to your diet. Go for water, tea, coffee, herbal teas, diluted cordial, or diet drinks instead.
  • Drink a large glass of water before a meal
  • Don’t put pot of food on table, serve up in kitchen to avoid picking at extras
  • By all means have ice cream, but not everyday and just a few scoops, not half the tub. Same goes for biscuits, crisps, chocolate, wine, beer etc. Not everyday and control the amounts.
  • Be aware that ‘light’, ‘lite’ or reduced fat doesn’t mean low in fat, just that it is 25% lower than full fat version.
  • Use natural yoghurt instead of mayonnaise,  or mix half yoghurt with half reduced fat mayo
  • If you are at work with limited access to appropriate food choices, bring your own food from home.
  • more tips

I hope some of these ideas may be of use to you. If it all seems a bit too much, just pick one or two ideas each week. Gradual changes that become habit are more likely to be of long term benefit than making massive changes that can be overwhelming.

Mark Twain: Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.


Seriously Healthy Flapjacks – no butter or sugar

Photo on 13-08-2014 at 07.19 Google ‘flapjack recipe’ and most of the hits will be loaded with butter, sugar, oil or syrup. If you would rather not load up on these ingredients (I don’t like to entirely ‘black list’ any food but prefer not to over use these), then here is a recipe to try. For those of you with digestive issues (e.g. IBS), these flapjacks are ‘low FODMAP’ meaning that they shouldn’t cause bloating, constipation/diarrhoea etc. I have been throwing a batch in the oven most days over the last few years, and the ingredients are constantly evolving. My kids seem to love them (5 year old the HATES peanut butter version, and can sniff it out a mile off). Here’s why they are so great:

  • Very quick to prepare the mixture
  • No sugar, syrup or butter.
  • Ripe bananas and honey (maple syrup for low FODMAP) add the sweetness.
  • Oats provide soluble fibre to keep you feeling full up, reduce cholesterol, keep your digestive system healthy and blood sugar levels steady
  • Berries/Raisins are choca-block full of antioxidants and fabulous phytochemicals (avoid using blackberries for low FODMAP)
  • Seeds and peanut butter are full of protein and good fats.
  • For extra protein e.g. for a post exercise snack, you can add a scoop of protein powder
  • For a seriously healthy breakfast, keep a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in a bowl for breakfast/snack. Add more milk or some yogurt.


2 mashed bananas – the riper the better as sweeter and easier to mash

handful of whole/chopped/ground up seeds – I grill pumpkin and sunflower seeds then grind in a pestle and mortar

2 handful of chopped raisins (optional)

150g porridge oats

150ml liquid  e.g. milk of choice/protein shake/baby milk for extra vitamins(!)

1 tablespoon honey/maple syrup

1 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together. Put in to cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, or silicone bun cases.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 150 degrees C. Or until they are browning and you can smell them……..this is usually my method to check for readiness as I usually forget to check the time I put them in! Don’t be afraid to play around with variations of ingredients. I sometimes add berries , dessicated coconut or cinnamon.

Tired all the time?

Coffee is good for you, hurray!

Hands up all those who feel guilty about drinking coffee!
I have to confess, I love my coffee, and have usually had two cups by 6am. With 3 children to look after, 5-7am and 8-11pm are the only times I can get peace to work. Coffee wakens me up and sharpens my mind, so that I’m not sitting staring blankly at the laptop screen, and hopefully so that what I write isn’t incoherent drivel. Freshly brewed is my preference, however, instant will do. I’m not too fussy.

Photo on 2013-06-26 at 06.14 #3

So 4 cups a day. EEEK, should a dietitian admit to that?! According to a wealth of reliable studies I shouldn’t be feeling guilty, in fact I am being positively virtuous. Hurray!!

A 2012 study following 400,000 people over 14 years found a multitude of health benefits for coffee drinkers, which backed up findings from earlier studies. Here is a summary of the benefits of coffee drinking:

  • reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and infections.
  • 10% chance of living longer than non-coffee drinkers (3 cups/day)
  • less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
  • helps control symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease


Coffee is choc-a-bloc full of antioxidants. 1300 in total after roasting.

Caffeine in sport….

There is sound evidence that caffeine may enhance sports performance, specifically, endurance sports (more than 60 min), brief sustained high-intensity sports (1-60 min), and team/intermittent sports  (improved work rates, skills and concentration).

Any negatives?

The affects of caffeine in coffee is variable, depending on the sensitivity of each individual. Some people find they get jittery after a few sips, I on the other hand can guzzle a fair few cups before experiencing any side effects. Common side effects include:

  • restlessness, insomnia, irratibility, headache, gut disturbances.

What about dehydration?

A review of 10 scientific research studies, concluded that when you drink coffee, the body retains some of the fluid and that caffeine only causes mild fluid elimination from the body. There is no evidence that consumption of caffeinated beverages causes fluid abnormalities. A person who regularly consumes coffee/caffeine has a higher tolerance therefore would have to consume more coffee to have a diuretic effect compared to someone who does not drink coffee regularly.

So, it’s best to know your own body and how much caffeine you can tolerate before experiencing these side effects. Limit yourself to a maximum of 6 cups per day. Certain groups such as pregnant women and people with high blood pressure should limit this further. Pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine (approximately 2 cups of coffee).


Looking back, looking forward……crikey!


Since embarking on my career as an independent dietitian 16 months ago, it has been a slow and frustrating journey. Seeing my clients, 5am starts, 11pm finishes, with looking after the three children and a household in between. A logistical ‘challenge/nightmare’!

“How hard can it be to fill a one morning clinic each week”? Coming from the NHS, I thought this would be a cinch, where waiting lists to see the team of hospital dietitians are months long. Out in the real world of freelancing, it is a very different story.

It takes a long time to build a dietetic business. It isn’t like physiotherapy, for example, where clients return for numerous appointments. I gauge how well I am doing by clients not having to return to see me. I know I won’t make my millions this way, but when you love what you do and see the results of your work, life is pretty good.

It is a wonderful thing to see the difference in people’s lives. In the last week, a lovely lady who I saw a month ago, for digestive issues that her GP was unable to help her with (sadly, most doctors have zero training in nutrition but plenty of training in issuing prescriptions) stopped me while shopping in Kingston to give me a kiss and a hug. I’m not comfortable with blowing my own trumpet, but I want to let people know that it’s not all doom and gloom when the medics say “sorry, we can only treat you with drugs, and if the drugs don’t work, there is nothing more we can do”. Also this week, an email from a mum of an 8 year old boy with worrying behavioural issues and not a solid poo in his life. Again, unfortunately for years his GP was unable to help:

“I can’t believe what a difference I have seen in a such a short space of time! His appetite has improved greatly and he does seem to be much calmer! I have also noticed a change in his poo………….. I know we have a long way to go but I just wanted to say thank you as I have seen an improvement already! He is having school meals so that is a bit out of my control but whereas he never used to touch it he is definately trying foods now.”

So slowly, slowly, I have gone from one client a month, to 4-5 a week. There have been times when I was on the verge of Unknowngiving up and getting a ‘proper’ job, but it is my patients/clients that inspire me to persist, work hard and change things for them for the better.

It’s a wonderful thing to love what you do, and now I’m able to pass on this passion to the next generation. Two weeks ago I started a new part time lecturing post at St Mary’s University, teaching Clinical and Sports Nutrition to undergraduates and Masters students. Crikey! A massive thank you to my parents who have eased the childcare logistics while I settle in. My first lecture is next Friday. Yikes! But I’m not ditching my clinic clients. No way. That work is too important to let it go.

Photo on 13-08-2014 at 07.18

Berry Banana Breakfast Bake

My breakfast recipes are constantly evolving. This is an amalgamation of the breakfast omelette and the Seriously Healthy Flapjacks. The eggs make it high protein and filling; oats for sustained energy, cholesterol lowering and fibre; the berries and banana give your fruit fix.

It’s fabulous cold (I’ve had 2 already this morning), straight from the fridge, especially good if you are on the go to work or with kids. Experiment with the fruit and sweetness… can add a tablespoon of honey or use cinnamon instead of coconut. My youngest daughter

A hit with the Little Man

A hit with the Little Man

can’t be in the same room as a banana, so I mash them and she doesn’t notice they are in there.

Beth likes, Evie declined

Beth likes, Evie declined

The recipe makes about 9, each has about 160kcal, 10g protein, 25g carbohydrate. Two would make a good breakfast, or one for a between meal snack.


1 cup oats

2 ripe bananas mashed or chopped

measuring cups

measuring cups – very handy!

1 cup berries (I use frozen, defrosted)

2 eggs

2 cups of milk/protein milkshake

1/4 cup desiccated coconut (optional)


In a casserole dish (mines about 9 inches square), spread the berries, coconut and chopped banana

Sprinkle over the oats.

Beat the eggs and milk/protein shake (if using mashed banana add it to this liquid)

Pour liquid into the casserole dish

Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 180C


Shhhhh – 8 constipation cures

Constipation is something that most people suffer from time to time, or for the unlucky, everyday. It’s also something that most people don’t like to talk about, even to their doctor. For me, I was inflicted during my 3 pregnancies so I am well aware of the discomfort and misery it can cause!images-2

Not everyone has a bowel movement daily, but you may have constipation if you pass fewer than three stools a week, if you pass hard stools, strain more than usual or if you feel that you haven’t completely emptied your bowel.

Here are the most common causes of constipation:

  • pregnancy hormones slow the contractions of the bowel, possibly to allow for more nutrient absorption from food.
  • iron supplements – very common to experience constipation
  • IBS – an imbalance of gut bacteria results in an over production of methane gas when ferment able carbohydrate foods are eaten. Methane is thought to reduce bowel muscle contraction.
  • hypothyroidism – a common condition when the thyroid gland in the brain doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This causes the body’s systems to slow down, including the digestion
  • diabetes – uncontrolled diabetes with high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerve endings in the bowel
  • Diet: lack of fluid or fibre, too many refined foods (white bread, pastries, pasta, biscuits, cake etc.)

So if you don’t want to resort to laxatives, what can you do to get things moving? Here are 8 cures for constipation:

    1. fluid – having enough fluid in your bowel helps a lot! It doesn’t matter what you drinkbottled-water (contrary to popular belief coffee and tea aren’t dehydrating). Aim for about 2 litres of fluid a day. Until recently I struggled to drink just plain water, until a client gave me a very simple tip……put a 2 litre bottle of water in plain view, aim to finish it by the end of the day. Simple!
    2. apples, pears, rhubarb, prunes, figs, or any fruit. Fruit acts as a natural laxative, drawing water in to the bowel. The gentle fibre encourages the bowel muscles to contract, helping to move things along.
    3. glass of fruit juice – fruit juice has an ‘osmotic effect’ meaning that it’s sugar draws water in to the bowel, which is a great thing for people with constipation. This is why for some people prone to IBS with diarrhoea, they are advised to avoid fruit juice as it can make things even worse?
    4. coffee – caffeine has a stimulatory effect on the bowel, meaning that it causes the gut muscles to contract. Many people find that a strong cup of coffee has them heading for the toilet within minutes!image
    5. flaxseed – rich in insoluble fibre, ground flaxseed absorbs water adding bulk to help move things through the digestive tract quickly. Sprinkle a teaspoon in to porridge, a bowl of soup, or try making this easy Bread
    6. Yogurt – if your gut bacteria are out of balance, this can affect how your bowel functions. Activia yogurt contains good bacteria, and has scientific backing that it helps with constipation.
    7. exercise – there’s an established relationship between our activity level and our bowel habits and in cases of vigorous exercise (e.g., running) there is clearly evidence of a significant increase in activity helping with constipation.image
    8. magnesium supplement – worth trying, some people find relief within days by taking about 300mg magnesium citrate per day (this is the recommended daily amount). Magnesium is important for muscle contraction, and draws water into the bowel. If you have kidney or severe heart problems ask your doctor first.




Refuelling for Tournaments

Keeping the body fuel at it’s peak for training and matches can be challenging enough, so how do you ensure that you are reaching full throttle during events that have multiple games or rounds?

It is typical for the athletes, players, and believe it or not, coaches to turn up to events like football, rugby or swimming tournaments with no fuelling strategy in place. If peak performance is the objective, this is utterly absurd and an inexcusable oversight.

Here’s why:

  • muscle fuel stores will decrease during each game or event. Water or rehydration drinks are not enough to replace this energy so muscle fuel stores will become depleted, affecting muscle power output, speed, balance, injury risk etc.
  • carbohydrate is required for the brain cells to function optimally, essential for making quick and accurate decisions on the field

Be prepared, stock up on food supplies before the journey to the event. Don’t ‘wing it’ by hoping that there might be food available when you get there.

3-4 hours before:

Normal meal: consisting of plenty of carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, rice pasta etc.) protein (meat, fish, eggs, chicken etc.) and ideally fruit/veg. Fluid.

1-2 hours before: easily digestible food, high carbohydrate, low fat, continue to drink plenty.

  • energy bars Unknown-2Unknown-3
  • muesli bars
  • banana or any fruit
  • fruit smoothie
  • low fibre breakfast cereal with milk e.g Rice Krispies or Cornflakesimages-1
  • Scones
  • Sandwiches made with white bread
  • low fat fruit yogurt
  • Scones


    imagesbetween heats:

  • 200ml diluted fruit juice/smoothieUnknown-4
  • Energy gels
  • Carbohydrate Drinks e.g. Lucozade Sport
  • Handful of jelly sweets e.g. jelly beans/babies (Haribo are quite chewy so hard to eat enough!)
  • Scone/fruit bread
  • Ripe banana

Know what works for you, and don’t try something new on the day. For example, some people find that energy gels give them stomach cramps and feel better with a ripe banana.

If you suffer from diarrhoea before or during an event, there are a number of foods that you should avoid for 24 hours before. ‘Trigger foods’ typically include lactose (found in milk/yogurt), gluten (found in food containing wheat flour), and ‘prebiotics’ (look for inulin or oligosaccharides on food labels – often in sports energy bars and drinks). Confused? Then just ask a sports dietitian who can help you.


Diabetes – taking control


Diabetes medication

Once a month, I hold a Diabetes Clinic with a GP and Diabetes Nurse at one of the local surgeries in Kingston. There is a constant stream of patients looking for help with what they are eating to help to control their blood sugar levels or to lose weight. I hope I make a difference for them, using the most up to date scientific evidence combined with 13 years of practical experience.

Type 2 Diabetes does not have to be a disease that gets worse over time. It is possible to keep your blood sugar under control by eating the right things. It is possible to reduce diabetes medication.

Contrary to the outdated advice that many UK health professionals are giving, a diabetes diet is not the same as a healthy eating or weight loss diet. The problem for diabetics is that the body has difficulty keeping blood sugar levels down. Sugar in the blood comes from the food that we eat. The foods that turn into different types of sugar as soon as they reach the stomach are called carbohydrates. This means sugar (as in sugary drinks, fruit juice, sweets) and starch (as in bread, pasta, rice and potatoes). The science shows that avoiding these foods can improve blood sugar levels and halt the progression of diabetes.

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All carbohydrate foods will increase blood sugar levels

The more carbohydrates we eat in a meal, the more sugar is absorbed into the blood stream. The more sugar that’s absorbed into the blood stream, the higher the blood sugar will be. Here is an example of how a high carbohydrate meal (sandwich, fruit and flavoured yogurt) affects the blood sugar levels compared to a low carbohydrate meal (beef, vegetables and a creamy sauce):

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High carbohydrate meal (red) Low carbohydrate meal (green)

Outside of the UK e.g. in Sweden and America, the medical community is recognising the benefits of reducing carbohydrates. The American Diabetic Association has approved lowering carbohydrates since 2008. Unfortunately, in the UK, official dietary advice has been slow to catch up! Advice from health professionals continues to be ‘a balanced healthy diet’ including plenty of carbohydrate foods. Unfortunately, for people with diabetes, carbohydrate foods are not healthy! There are however, lots of delicious foods that you can eat Are you confused and don’t know what to think?

Try it yourself for a few weeks and monitor the effect. Here are some examples of what you can expect:

  • Improved blood sugar levels from when you reduce the carbohydrate foods
  • Increased feelings of fullness and weight loss
  • Reduced sugar cravings
  • Many people with bloating experience considerable improvements

Note for diabetics

Avoiding the carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar decreases your need for medication to lower it. Taking the same pre-low-carb diet dose of insulin might result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). You need to test your blood sugar frequently when starting this diet and adapt (lower) your medication. This should ideally be done with the assistance of your doctor or diabetes nurse. If you’re healthy or a diabetic treated either by diet alone or just with Metformin there is no risk of hypoglycemia.

If you would like some help and guidance with controlling blood sugar levels with your diet, then contact me on 07758 100727, or use a contact form.




We all know that we need to be upping our veg intake, ideally aiming for about half of the plate. If time isn’t on your side, it seems easier to grab a ready prepared ‘salad’ from the shops e.g. Coleslaw. Here’s one that is one is mostly cabbage and oil, with only 14% carrot.


Cabbage (47%), Rapeseed Oil, Carrot (14%), Water, Double Cream (Cows’ Milk) (3%), Sugar, Onion (2%), Pasteurised Barn Egg, Spirit Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Salt, Stabilisers: Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum; Acidity Regulator: Sodium Acetate; Mustard Seed.


Having grown up on my granny’s homemade coleslaw (usually served with lasagne and garlic bread!) to me, the shop bought stuff is massively inferior with an overrepresentation of cabbage. These days, I’ve adapted The Granny’s recipe to make it a bit healthier…………..the dressing is made with light mayonnaise or humous, natural yoghurt and a splash of vinegar.

When I need something incredibly quick, this is an easy way to get a super serving of veg. If I’m lazy, I’ll have it with some pumpkin/sunflower seeds (good fats) on top and maybe a couple of spoonfuls of left over chilli (protein) from the night before.

Here’s the recipe, it literally takes about 2 minutes:

about 1/4 white or red cabbage grated


Red cabbage, carrots and pumpkin seeds

2 grated carrots

1 tablespoon light mayonnaise/humus

1 tablespoon natural yogurt

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (optional)

No nonsense. Just mix it all together.