Bigger, Faster and Stronger – with 5 no nonsense tips

Athletes who are serious about achieving their full potential, need to provide their bodies with the best fuel. When I first meet with clients, many make the mistake of focusing on  protein and carbohydrate intake, misunderstanding why a multitude of other nutrients are fundamental to reaching peak fitness. 90% of the time my brief from a coach or from the athlete is, “just to get bigger, faster, stronger and leaner”.  For a performance nutritionist, this usually translates to:

  • more muscle = stronger
  • weight gain = heavier and more powerful
  • less body fat = more efficient around the pitch

Telling an athlete to “eat more” or “have an extra protein shake” is not good enough. The nutritional quality of the food (the ‘micronutrients’: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants etc.), as well as the ‘macronutrients’ (protein, carbohydrate and fats) are Unknown-1pivotal to reaching these ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ goals.

Here are factors that are directly affected by high quality nutrition. Each one of the following points is backed by scientific research:

  • Strengthening the immune system – 70% immunity is in the gut, treat it well with good nutrition and sickness from flu and stomach bugs are less likely. Individual players, and teams, cannot afford to be unnecessarily sick. The right food protects you from illness. It is the players with poor diets who are frequently sick.
  • Faster recovery – any training session, whether on the pitch or in the gym provokes muscle damage. What you eat before and after has a significant impact on how fast and how well recovery happens.
  • Feeling ‘better’ and more energetic – heavy training volumes will inevitably cause tiredness, but this will be made worse if the best fuel is not being made available. Carbohydrates are often overlooked in favour of protein, but are essential to prevent fatigue.
  • Promoting better sleep – a happy ‘side effect’ of improvements in diet
  • Improved brain function – for faster mental processing and split second decisions on the pitch – the brain is made up of healthy fats which come from the diet

5 simple tips to get bigger, faster and stronger:

  1. Eat more: to increase weight and muscle, you need to eat more calories than are being used up in training. For elite athletes it is not unusual to need 4000kcal+. These need to be ‘good quality’ calories, not junk food.
  2. A good protein intake is needed for muscle growth: daily lean protein from chicken, turkey, pork, fish, eggs, yogurt, milk, nuts, seeds, peanut butter etc., rather than sausages, bacon and ham. How much is needed depends on the individual.

    Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

    Meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

  3. Good quality carbohydrates are also necessary for muscle growth and recovery: Wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, granola, muesli, oats at each meal and snack
  4. Your mother was right. Eat vegetables at each meal. Frozen, fresh, raw, boiled, microwaved, stir fried, in a smoothie, vegetable soup, tomato pasta sauce; it doesn’t matter in what form. Just eat more.
  5. Eat salmon, sardines, mackerel or fresh tuna twice a week – these are potent anti inflammatories, so essential for muscle recovery and reducing soreness

Other considerations: omega 3 supplements if you don’t like fish; possibly creatine for bulking up muscle and increasing strength, protein powder supplements and probiotics (seek advice on dosage protocols)

More than Macros

4 no effort meals

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Anti-inflammatory Shopping List

You would think that a wisdom tooth extraction on Thursday, followed by a painful knee injury during a 9 mile run on Sunday, would have left me reaching for the ibuprofen and  paracetamol. But there was no pain from the tooth after the anaesthetic wore off (I promise you, none!), and the knee was completely better with in days.

Can what you eat reduce inflammation and pain, allowing you to recover more quickly than expected? Food can have a surprising impact on injury recovery, as well as on the development of long term health conditions………..

Inflammation can be acute or chronic.

Acute inflammation is a normal and short-lived response (lasting minutes to days) to injury, irritation, or infection, and leads to redness, swelling, heat, and pain at the affected site.

Chronic inflammation is a long-term response (lasting weeks, months, or years) to factors such as poor nutrition, stress, and processes related to ageing. It is a contributing factor in heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as numerous cancers eg. colorectal, gastric, esophageal, pancreatic, breast, endometrial, ovarian.

Athletes & Inflammation Increased muscle stress and inflammatory responses among athletes have been reportedDeclan+Danaher consistently in research. Athletes are also more susceptible to longer term injuries often requiring surgery. In order to train and compete without pain, it is not unusual to take anti inflammatory medication daily. The problem with taking this medication long term is that it can cause harm to the digestive system e.g. stomach bleeding, kidney problems and potentially the development of allergies.

Is it possible that a high intake of anti inflammatory foods, coupled with a low intake of inflammation provoking foods, can reduce tissue inflammation? Before my wisdom tooth extraction and after the knee injury, I made sure that I increased my intake of anti inflammatory food (sardines, salmon, flaxseed, ginger, veg and omega 3 supplements). Is it possible that this food reduced the inflammation and pain?

Nutrition and Inflammation – the evidence
Nutrients play a key role in both promoting and reducing inflammatory processes. There is a wealth of scientific studies linking nutrients with inflammatory processes coming from laboratory, clinical, and epidemiologic studies.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists found that diets high in refined starches, sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats appear to turn on the inflammatory response. But a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids along with regular exercise and not smoking, seems to cool down inflammation.

Evidence links traditional dietary patterns such as the Japanese and Mediterranean diets with lower disease rates. Both diets have characteristics linked with lower inflammation levels. The traditional Japanese diet is low in fat, sugar, flour, and dairy and high in fish, vegetables, sea vegetables, rice, green tea, fruit, and soy foods, while the Mediterranean diet is low in meat and sugar and high in fish, whole grains, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables.

Causes of inflammation:

  1. Too many calories – eating too much and being over weight

    Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

    High Glycaemic Index carbohydrates

  2. Excess high glycaemic index carbohydrates – sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta, cakes, biscuits
  3. Trans and omega 6 fats – processed foods, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower oil
  4. High ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats – too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fats

Anti inflammatory shopping list 

Oily fish (omega 3): salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna

images-2Fruits – any!

 – Brown rice, 
Bulgur, Oats, 

Quinoa, Whole grain stone-ground breadsimages-6 copy

Spices – tumeric, ginger, garlic,

Legumes and Seeds 
- Chickpeas,
 Beans, Flaxseed,
Lentils, Pumpkin seeds, 
Sesame seeds,
 Sunflower seeds, 

Oils – olive oil, 
Vegetable (rapeseed) oil, 
Flaxseed oil, Walnut oil


Vegetables – any!image

Miscellaneous Items
 Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
 Red wine (in moderation)
 Tea (green, white, or black)

Anti inflammatory Menu:

Breakfast: Seriously Healthy Pancakes or Summer Oatspancakes-with-berries-and-cream

Lunch: Tomato & Lentil Soup or Burgen Bread with smoked salmon & avocado

Dinner: SuperFood Salad or Jacket Potato with Beans & Coleslaw

Buyken A, Goletzke J, Joslowski G, Felbick A, Cheng G, Herder C, Brand-Miller J. (2014) Am J Clin Nutr 99(4):813-33 Association between carbohydrate quality and inflammatory markers: systematic review of observational and interventional studies.

Calder P.C. (2012) Proc Nutr Soc. 71 (2):284-9 Long-chain fatty acids and inflammation.

Giugliano D, Ceriello A, Esposito K. (2006) The Effects of Diet on Inflammation: Emphasis on the Metabolic Syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiology 48(4):677-685.

Kim W, Lee H. (2013) Nutrients (11):4305-15 Advances in nutritional research on regulatory T-cells.

Kim J, Lee J. (2014) J Exerc Rehabil 31;10 (6):349-56. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness.

Palaska I, Papathanasiou E, Theoharides TC. (2013) Eur J Pharmacol. 15;720 (1-3):77-83
Use of polyphenols in periodontal inflammation.

Salas-Salvadó J, Garcia-Arellano A, Estruch R, Marquez-Sandoval F, Corella D, Fiol M, Gómez-Gracia E, Viñoles E, Arós F, Herrera C, Lahoz C, Lapetra J, Perona JS, Muñoz-Aguado D, Martínez-González MA, Ros E (2008) Components of the Mediterranean-type food pattern and serum inflammatory markers among patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease.Eur J Clin Nutr ;62  (5):651-9.

Salas-Salvadó J, Casas-Agustench P, Murphy MM, López-Uriarte P, Bulló M. (2008) The effect of nuts on inflammation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr;17 Suppl 1:333-6.

Simopoulos, A. P. (2008) Exp Biol Med 233(6):674-88. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

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4 no effort meals

Most of my sports clients struggle to put the theory of macronutrients, calories, protein and carb grams in to practical day to day meals and snacks. Unless they have a special interest in nutrition, the last thing any player or athlete in training wants to do is to analyse food labels for carbs/protein/fat, or search for the hottest ‘superfood’ ingredient. Passing out on the sofa is mostly what is needed!

So here are four easy, no effort meals using food you can get from any supermarket. All are balanced for protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats, not forgetting important vitamins and minerals from veg. (Quantities depend on the individual, your S & C coach/nutritionist or I can help with that).

Meal 1

4002359642685_LMeatballs, tomato sauce, pasta, broccoli. Cook the meatballs in a frying pan with some olive oil until brown on the outside, add the Dolmio, simmer for 10 minutes. Cook pasta, broccoli: boil/steam in microwave. 600kcal meal: 6 meatballs in the sauce provides 30g protein, a mug of cooked pasta 50g carbohydrate.

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Meal 2

Ready cooked rice, roasted chicken/grilled or stir fried chicken breasts, mixed veg, humous/chilli sauce to dip. Frozen veg can be defrosted/heated in the microwave or boiled in water for a few minutes.

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Meal 3

Rice noodles, baby veg stir fried (add olive oil, soy sauce, ginger puree, garlic puree), chop up 1-2 salmon fillets add to stir fried veg. Salmon can be tinned/fresh/ready cooked.

already cooked, just add to stir fried veg

rice noodles – already cooked, just add to stir fried veg

ready cooked salmon

ready cooked salmon



Meal 4

1 or 2 jacket potatoes or tortilla wraps, tin of tuna, tablespoon mayonnaise/natural yogurt, 1 whole chopped up red pepper and 2 chopped spring onions mixed in.


Microwave in 5 minutes

Tuna wrap

Tuna mayo wraps with pepper & spring onion



Just mix the tuna, chopped pepper, spring onion, mayo and natural yogurt together, and fill the potatoes/wraps.

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Seriously Healthy Pancakes (2 ingredients)

Do you love pancakes but just have them once a year on Shrove Tuesday? Do they seem like a chore to make? Are you struggling to find a more exciting but healthy breakfast for yourself or your kids?

This pancake recipe takes about 1 minute to prepare using a banana and 2 eggs. It’s ready to cook immediately!

Ripe bananas

1 Ripe banana

2 Eggs

2 Eggs – high protein

Mash the banana, crack in two eggs and mix with a fork. You can also do this in a blender. I sometimes add in a handful of oats to increase the carbohydrate and fibre for sustained energy.

Pour some mixture in to a lightly greased frying pan (ideally a non-stick one), allow to cook on a medium heat for a minute or two.  You’ll see little bubbles appearing, take a peak underneath to see if it turning brown. Flip over and cook the other side.

Extras: a simple drizzle of honey/maple syrup, or for something extra delicious that is also super healthy a dollop of greek yogurt topped with berries.


Take to work or school (pic courtesy of my sis!)


Tip: if you are trying to lose weight, studies show eating eggs for breakfast can help. Eggs seem to help you to feel full up for longer and keep your blood sugar levels steady.


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Superfood Sunday: how to build your box

If you can get yourself organised and prepared on a Sunday for the week ahead, you are on the road ad276d4936a977f71240e28b808992ee b423515bb46da8de0f1db5d919a3595e fe0b2420125add7efdf9a7002a5b7261to fabulous lunchtime food. Set a side an hour to prepare a few basic ingredients, and you will reduce time and stress for the week ahead. You can definitely increase feelings of afternoon oomph as you delve in to a  technicolour dream box of the healthy stuff, leaving the tedious sandwiches in their plastic wrappers. There are infinite combinations and variations to play with.

Step by step guide:

  1. Box: Get yourself a large one with a lid. That’s right a BIG one. About the size of a brick (not a Lego brick).
  2. Real Food: on Sunday, take 1 hour to prepare the following, then put in the fridge.
    • LOTS of colourful veg – chopped peppers, grated carrots, wash spinach, shred lettuce….make a batch of Superfood Salad and Happy Carrots. Fill at least half of the box with these, the more colourful, the better.
    • protein: boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, mackerel, cottage cheese, salmon, chopped up pork/beef
    • healthy fats: olive/flaxseed/avocado oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
    • optional wholegrain carbs: boil rice, quinoa, pasta etc. You just need a couple of tablespoons of these if you are sitting down all day. If you are very active or working out, then add some more!

Build your box of deliciousness each night before work. If you’re not going to work you will have a sumptuous supply in the fridge to fill a bowl throughout the day.

Here’s what I’ve just thrown together in less than 5 minutes for work tomorrow: stir fried kale, red cabbage, grated carrots, chopped peppers, a tin of tuna and some toasted pumpkin seeds. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled on. I’ll add in some frozen peas in the morning which will keep the box cool as they will have defrost towards lunch time. Lovely!

Photo on 08-06-2015 at 22.17 #2

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5 ‘unhealthy’ foods you should eat

Whether you are trying to lose weight, increase energy, reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, improve fertility or just ‘feel better’, here are five foods that you may have been avoiding unnecessarily:

Peanut Butter – Frowned upon as a guilty indulgence, peanut butter can bring you many health benefits. Keep portions sensible at about two tablespoons a day i.e. don’t attack the jar with a spoon!

  • low glycaemic index, helping to keep blood sugar levels from fluctuating
  • good fat – peanuts are high in heart healthy monounsaturated fat
  • protein from nuts are fabulous for helping to make you feel full up for longer and maintaining or building muscle mass
  • High in fibre for healthy digestion and appetite control
  • Have on a piece of wholemeal toast, on an oatcake, mixed in to some chunky oat porridge, or in homemade flapjacks

Eggs – these little powerhouses of nutrition have had bad press over the years due to the cholesterol levels. Research shows that the cholesterol in food is not absorbed well in to the body and does not affect levels of cholesterol in the blood.

  • Full of choline for brain development (essential for pregnant women!)
  • Curbs your appetite – people eating eggs for breakfast consume fewer calories throughout the day
  • High in protein – important for keeping your muscle, and helping to build more to stay lean
  • Easy and cheap – boiled, scrambled, dry fried, poached, microwaved in a minute………..they are so easy to incorporate

Dark chocolate – 80% cocoa chocolate may be an acquired taste, but it is worth it! A small amount will satisfy, as well as having numerous health benefits.images-4

  • low glycaemic index so keeps blood sugar levels steady (good for diabetics, overweight, PCOS, curbing cravings)
  • high in antioxidants which may be protective against cancer, heart disease and ageing
  • lower in caffeine than milk chocolate

Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt all have health benefits. Unless you have a dairy allergy or intolerance, there really is no reason to remove from your diet.Unknown-13

  • controls appetite: dairy products are digested slowly therefore help you to feel full up for longerUnknown-7
  • a great source of amino acids – essential for maintaing and building muscle
  • calcium – essential for bone formation and muscle function
  • yogurt has probiotic bacteria which are essential for healthy gut function. Keep it natural to lower the sugar content……add your own fruit for some sweetness

Avocados – traditionally,  avocados were relegated to the ‘foods to avoid’ list due to the high fat and calorie content. In fact, eaten in moderation, they actually provide immense health benefits.

  • Healthy fats – lower cholesterol and reduce appetite
  • Avocado eaters more likely to have lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference
  • high in vitamins and fibre
  • rich in phytochemicals which may protect against cancer
  • the fat content helps the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) from vegetables
  • try half an avocado sliced on toast, mashed as a replacement for mayonnaise or butter, or whizzed up in a smoothie

As with most things in life, “everything in moderation”! Including these nutrient dense foods everyday as part of an all round healthy diet can help your body to function at it’s best.

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2 minute Healthy Ice cream


Here is a recipe for a very quick and healthy dessert. Plain yogurt has Lactobacillus bacteria which is important for a healthy digestive system, calcium for bones, and no added sugar. Frozen berries add the vitamins, fibre and phytochemicals; a powerful combination that simply can’t be bottled in a multi vitamin pill. For sweetness I add a ripe frozen banana and honey if it needs it. It doesn’t have the normal ice cream consistency (more thick smoothie), but call it ice cream and kids love it. If they moan that it’s not ice cream, just eat it yourself. Win, win!image


300ml natural yogurt

mugful of frozen berries

one ripe banana (frozen if possible)

1-2 teaspoons honey image


Whizz the lot up in a blender, spoon in to bowls.

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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. There is more to optimising nutrition than reaching the target ‘macros’.

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 supplement powder or pill. Food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t discovered yet.

Sports drinks, supplement shakes and bars 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 food alone. 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:

  • 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 maintain 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!
  • 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. 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. 10 ways with oats
  • 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 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. Omelettes, poached, scrambled, fried or to make egg fried rice. You can even mix one in to hot porridge (just don’t put in the microwave with the oats or you’ll get scrambled oat-eggs, yak)
  • Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise, for recovery, and for the immunity. 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!
  • 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, tinned tuna and tortilla wraps.

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

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Athletes – how to stop getting sick

For the professional sports person or amateur athlete, feeling unwell can reduce the ability to perform during training and competition, and can lead to poor recovery and poor performance. Ultimately, feeling chronically below par can affect the long term career.

There are numerous reasons for lowered immunity during training:

  • repeated cycles of heavy exertion
  • exposure to germs and bugs
  • mental stress
  • lack of sleep
  • poor nutrition
  • weight loss

Nutritional immunology is a rapidly growing area, and four key principles have emerged:

1. Almost all nutrients in the diet play a crucial role in immunity. Eating a wide variety of foods in your diet provides all these nutrients in most healthy adults, and mega doses of vitamin/mineral supplements do not “boost” immunity above normal levels. There may be one exception…..current research suggests that vitamin C when unwell can shorten the duration of the common cold.

2. Poor energy and nutrient intake can reduce the immunity and susceptibility to germs and bugs. Poor protein intake reduces immune function and strongly increases risk of various types of infections.

3. Some nutrients (glutamine, arginine, fatty acids, vitamin E) provide additional benefits to immunocompromised persons (e.g. the frail elderly) or patients who suffer from various infections. Currently there is a lack of evidence to support the use of these in preventing exercise-induced immune suppression and protection from infection.

4. Some supplements may prove useful in countering immune suppression for healthy adults during unusual mental and physical stress e.g. omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils reduce inflammatory responses.


Of the various nutritional countermeasures that have been evaluated so far, ingestion of carbohydrate before, during, and after prolonged or intense exertion has emerged as the most effective way to ensure less of a negative effect on the immune system. Athletes intent on reducing body fat by avoiding carbohydrates should be aware that this may impact on their immunity.

shutterstock_85815004Strategies to ensure good carbohydrate stores to optimise immunity:

  • Have a carbohydrate-based snack before you start high intensity training, particularly hard morning training.  If you are unable to tolerate something before you start exercise, have a source of carbohydrate during the session such as a sports drink (6-8% carbohydrate)
  • Have a carbohydrate & protein based snack shortly after training to start the recovery process.  This is of particular importance for athletes training more than once a day with limited time to recover for the next session.
  • Base meals around nutrient-rich carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids.  Rice, pasta, bread, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables and low-fat milk and yoghurt are nutrient-packed carbohydrate-containing choices. The aim is to match daily carbohydrate needs with an appropriate amount of carbohydrate-containing foods and fluids throughout the day.


Probiotics may benefit athletic performance indirectly by maintaining gut function and health, preventing the immunosuppressive effects of intense exercise, and reducing susceptibility to illness. Substantial evidence exists indicating that probiotics can reduce susceptibility to acute infectious diarrhoea (athletes may be particularly susceptible during foreign travel). Lactobacillus probiotics may also reduce coughs and cold incidence.



  • Wash hands regularly, before meals, and after direct contact with potentially contagious people, public places and bathrooms.
  • Use disposable paper towels and limit hand to mouth/nose contact when suffering from respiratory or gastrointestinal infection symptoms. Use alcohol-based hand-washing gel.
  • Do not share drinking bottles, cups, towels, etc with other people.


A balanced and nutrient rich diet is fundamental to avoiding illness for those undergoing intense physical exercise. Current opinion is that athletes should invest in nutrient-rich foods and fluids that provide sufficient energy and a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other important chemicals, such as phytochemicals, found naturally in foods. When this is not possible the use of supplements such as multi vitamins, omega-3 fish oils, and probiotics may be advised.

A dietitian with experience in sports nutrition is ideally placed to advise on the specifics of food, fluid and supplements, taking in to account variables such as type, intensity, duration of exercise, time available for recovery between sessions and body composition goals during training and competition.

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Exercising more and not losing weight?

So you’ve started walking more, going to the gym, or you’re training for a 5km race. Brilliant! You expected the weight to drop off, so why aren’t you seeing RESULTS?

Here are 5 top reasons:

  1. Exercising can result in an increase in your appetite, so you eat more. If you are genuinely more hungry, fill up on low calorie foods, fruit/veg, low fat yoghurt, milky coffee or tea, water. Consider bringing a meal forward by an hour if you are ravenous.
  2. You eat more before and/or after your session to fuel the exercise. One of the most common mistakes I see is someone having a milkshake drink after 40 minutes in the gym to aid recovery, often followed with in a few hours of a normal meal. A typical bottle of milkshake will provide 300-400kcal, essentially replacing the calories you’ve just burned off. If you are exercising to lose weight, then you need a calorie deficit ie. burning more than you eat/drink.
    Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!

    Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!

    Although extra food/drinks may be necessary for long and strenuous workouts, for shorter workouts less than an hour, the need isn’t as significant. Normal meal and snacks around exercise should be enough eg. snack of an apple or banana 1-2 hours before a workout, fruit yoghurt after.

  3. You think you can eat what you want because you exercise – if only! A 3 mile run will burn approximately 300 kcal. Not an excuse to have 6 biscuits or a whole pizza. Rewarding yourself with high fat/calorie ‘treat’ food can cancel out the good work done. Even professional athletes who have multiple training sessions each day have to be careful with their diets.
  4. You need to change your workout – you run for 40 minutes three times a week, or sit on a exercise bike and do some crunches. Your body adapts to what you do day in day out. You need to challenge your body. If you want to change, you need to change what you are doing!
  5. You sit down for the rest of the day – You have an intensive workout for an hour, so you don’t feel so bad about taking the car for journeys that you could walk. You need to stay as active as you can, humans are born to move. If you feel too exhausted to do anything but sit down for the rest of the day, you are probably over doing the exercise.
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Super Simple Smoothie

Here’s a super healthy smoothie using REAL food……a complete breakfast containing protein, antioxidants, calcium, vitamin C and soluble fibre. Nutritionally, this is an incredible combination of ingredients. It’s also an easy way to get fruit in to kids!

Unknown-2IDShot_90x90-2Shop bought smoothies tend to be very high in fruit juice, and therefore high sugar.

150ml milk (normal cow’s/Lactofree/almond/rice milk etc.)

1 tablespoons natural yogurt e.g. Total is high in protein

1 banana/handful of oats

Low fat, high protein yogurt

Low fat, high protein yogurt

handful frozen berries

dollop of honey

Whizz the lot up and serve!

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Dressing Up – 5 ways to add oomph to veg

A good dressing can transform a plate of salad or vegetables in to something quite spectacular. We all know that we should eat more veg as they have been shown beyond doubt that they are very, very good for us. Why vegetables are fab:

  1. Add amazing colours and textures to your plate
  2. Prevention of chronic health conditions  (heart, diabetes, strokes, obesity, cancer)
  3. Low in calories, you can eat LOADS
  4. Fibre prevents constipation
  5. Encourage the good bacteria in your gut
  6. Vitamins & minerals are needed by your body’s millions of metabolic processes
  7. There is a huge variety so you never need to get bored
  8. Vegetables can taste really good…………….

If you feel that veg can get a little dull, or need some extra oomph, here are 5 very simple dressings to turn a plate of the good stuff in to something pleasurable and delicious.

A big benefit of adding a dressing is that the oil helps with the absorption of vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, therefore need fat for our bodies to absorb them. As for most things in life, don’t over do it with the dressing, use it to complement the salad or veg rather than drowning your plate in it. Unknown-1  

You don’t need any special equipment. Inspired by Jamie Oliver, I use an old jam jar……just put all the ingredients in the jar and shake well.

Extra virgin olive oils are a bit like wine as they can vary dramatically in taste, depending upon the type and quality of the fruit that is pressed, the time of harvest, the weather during the growing season, and the region from which the olives were produced. If you are feeling adventurous and budget allows, experiment! If you find the taste of extra virgin oil too strong, you can use olive oil instead. I prefer a ‘tangy’ dressing, so usually add more vinegar/lemon juice.  

Classic 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons of white or red wine vinegarimages-4 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil pinch of salt, pepper  

Lemon 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil juice of 1 lemontumblr_nb0yhi3gkn1tpkb57o1_500 pinch of salt, pepper  

Balsamic 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Pinch of salt, pepper  

Creamy 6 tablespoons natural yogurtimages 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil pinch of salt, pepper  

Thai 4 tablespoons lime juice 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon soy sauceimages-1 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated/finely chopped 1/2 clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped

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5 reasons Mums can’t lose the weight

In the past week, I’ve had at least 5 conversations with other mums about their weight, and how to lose it.  It’s one of those things that just seems to happen…….after each child you don’t quite manage to get to your pre pregnancy weight, then over the years the weight creeps up even more. You feel that you’re not over eating, in fact sometimes you can go most of the day without a meal. And you’re on your feet all day so you must be burning up loads of calories.

So why are the scales not going down? What is going on? In a nutshell, you are eating more calories than you are burning. This can be for a number of reasons:

Here a the top 5 reasons why you can’t lose the weight:

  1. Skipping meals: you wake up and are met with the insane and constant demands of your children. Not only do you have to get yourself ready for the day, but all of the children too. If I include myself, I’ve 4 sets of teeth to clean, 4 hairs to brush, 4 bodies to dress, and 4 mouths to feed. It’s easy to miss breakfast! Before you know it’s 10am and you are starving, so you grab a muffin in Starbucks (a skinny one, must be Unknownhealthy right?), or a croissant, and a latte.  At lunchtime, you’re not that hungry, so a biscuit or two or a a packet of crisps is fine, and so the inconsistent grazing continues through the day. By not eating regular meals, you snack on less than nutritious, high calorie food. This is ‘mindless’ eating. Not only are you depriving yourself of nutritious food, you are stacking up the calories. Take 2 minutes in the morning to tell yourself that today, you are going to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  2. ‘Tasting’ while cooking: I am certainly guilty of this. I love cooking and baking, and Unknown-1can easily spend a few hours each day in the kitchen. I like to taste the food, so I’ll have a munch here and there, a taste of this and that to gauge the flavour, and the final product of course.
  3. Finishing the kid’s food: Kids eat until they’ve had enough, so more often than not there will be left over food on their plate. Half a sausage down your hatch with out even thinking about it – that can be nearly 100kcal. Some yoghurt left in the pot (hey, it’s healthy and we can’t let that go to waste can we, and it there’s less mess to clean up!). Half a banana on the walk home from school because daughter didn’t want it, in it goes! All these add up to 100s of calories per day. You are not a human dust bin!
  4. Over eating/drinking in the evening: I understand the immense relief that comes with the children finally being in bed. The peace is something to behold. It’s ‘me’ time, time for a lovely meal and a glass of wine to wind down. You need it, and you deserve it. It is what has been keeping you sane all day. Just be aware that this is a form of
    Better get cracking on this lot!

    Better get cracking on this lot (7200kcal)!

    emotional eating and drinking, and often is a major contributor to weight gain. Look at your portion size of pasta or rice – does it fill the plate? 1/4 plate of pasta, or a fist size amount provides about 250kcal. Fill your plate with salad and veggies. I’m not going to lecture about the health dangers of regular alcohol intake, but one bottle of wine has about 600kcal, the equivalent to a meal.

  5. Reduced metabolism – as we age, our metabolism slows, probably due to loss of muscle. As well as reduced metabolic rate, although you may be active all day, the calories you are using up through exercise is not enough. You need to boost your metabolism by getting some strenuous exercise that gets you sweating! Just pootling up and down the swimming pool or sitting on the exercise bike for twenty minutes isn’t enough. HIIT training is fabulous for those who don’t have much time. Building some muscle by doing weight bearing exercise will also help.
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10 ‘all you can eat’ foods

Are you trying to eat healthily, but sometimes feel deprived and hungry? Bored with your food? Struggling to think of healthy meals and snacks?

If you want to lose weight, aid recovery from exercise, sleep better, have more energy, look fabulous, and most importantly FEEL FABULOUS eat these 10 foods in abundance, and then have some more! They are amazing power houses of nutrition with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, and low in calories. If there is one thing you do today (and for the rest of your life), eat these at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between!

  1. Mushrooms – 1 large: 3kcal. Yes, you read correctly. Only 3 calories in one big mushroom! Choc a block with B vitamins and selenium, which are important for the digestion, hormones, skin, nervous system and red blood cells.
  2. Red Onions – 1 whole big onion: 60kcal. The humble onion, is without question one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. High in compounds such as quercertin, onions are good for muscle repair, skin health, and prevention of heart disease, cancer & diabetes.
  3. Broccoli – 1 cup: 30 kcal. Full of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K. One serving has 150% of your daily vitamin C requirement (helping to absorb the iron), 270% of your vitamin K and surprisingly, nearly 5g of protein!
  4. Red Pepper – 1 medium: 30 kcal. The deep, vivid colour gives a clue to the impressive nutrition credentials of the red pepper. With more vitamin C than an orange and one third of the calories, eaten raw or cooked, this is an easy addition to jazz up any dish.
  5. Spinach – a whole bag (100g): 23 kcal. Spinach is a true superfood of the vegetable world with more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. Vitamin K, calcium and magnesium work synergistically for bone health.
  6. Kale – half a bag (100g): 50 kcal – Kale provides a powerhouse of goodness that can be enhanced by steaming for 5 minutes. Kale is outstanding for antioxidants, anti inflammatory compounds and cancer preventing nutrients. Wonderful with garlic and a sprinkle of soy sauce.
  7. Red cabbage – 1 cup: 30 kcal The rich color of red cabbage reflects it concentration of anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory. Emerging evidence suggests that anthocyanins may provide cancer protection, improve brain function and promote heart health.
  8. Carrots – 1 large: 40 kcal. Carrots are a staple British veg. Carotenoids, essential for good vision, can be made more bioavailable by lightly steaming the carrots. Many people prefer the sweeter taste and texture of lightly steamed or boiled.
  9. Beetroot – 1 medium sized: 35 kcal – Both the bitter leaves (exceptional for calcium, vitamins A & C, and folate) and the sweet beetroot can be eaten. Betacyanin provides the intense deep purple colour, glutamine is essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract, while nitrate has been found to lower blood pressure and enables athletes to exercise for up to 16% longer.
  10. Tomatoes – a punnet of cherry tomatoes: 70 kcal (4 kcal each). It does not matter how you eat tomatoes, as all forms are low in carbohydrates and packed with vital nutrients such as lycopene (more easily absorbed if tomato is cooked), vitamin C and E, iron, potassium and fiber. Eat tomatoes as often as you wish!

So you treat yourself to a MASSIVE plate of food, safe in the knowledge that your indulgence is providing very few calories AND an awesome amount of nutrients. Have with some lean protein e.g. chicken, salmon, lentils, eggs, and healthy fats to make a superfood meal. If you’ve been exercising or will be working out in the next few hours, add in some wholesome carbohydrate. Preparing these doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some snack/recipe ideas that can be ready in minutes:

  • green smoothie: did you know that you can adding leafy green veg to smoothies is possible? For a breakfast veg hit, in a blender whizz up 200ml water/milk, a ripe banana, tablespoon peanut butter and a large handful of spinach.
  • snack on red peppers – keep it simple, chop and eat raw and crunchy with a tablespoon of humus
  • lightly steam carrots in the microwave to keep essential nutrients (put in a bowl or mug with a little hot water and cover). Benefits of cooking veg in the microwave
  • For breakfast: an omelette made with stir fried sliced red onion and spinach with 3 beaten eggs
  • stir fry kale, red peppers, red onions and mushrooms with a little olive oil, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
  • For a healthier coleslaw, finely chop or grate cabbage, a carrot, slice some radishes, spring onion and a half handful of coriander, add bit of lime juice and half a squeezed orange. The orange and carrots give it sweetness.
  • Super Boost Carrot & Red Cabbage Salad
  • Tomato & Lentil Soup
  • Happy Carrots
  • Superfood Salad
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Best Anti Ageing Foods

Photoshopping - works wonders for the skin

Photoshopping – works wonders for the skin

When a lady gets to a certain age, we start to sit up and take notice of tubs of expensive face creams. The word anti-ageing is banded about the beauty industry with aplomb, and the pseudo science convinces us of the latest miracle product will make us look ten years younger.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some good stuff out there. According to London skin guru Caroline Hirons there are only a few ingredients that have scientific backing for effectiveness (in true dietitian style, evidence is everything). Specific ingredients to look out for include an SPF, vitamin A/retinol, glycolic/lactic/salicylic acid, vitamins C, E and niacinamide.


me in my student digs

As a teenager, I would devour hand me down magazines from my very glamourous Auntie Ann.  Magazines are mostly a lot of nonsense, but I did pick up one tip: using sun protection everyday. I’ve been doing this since I was 16……..although I blame 3 kids and 8 years of chronic sleep deprivation for still managing to look utterly dreadful most days. But how much worse would I look without this long term use of SPF? (as well as the ageing effect of children, I could also blame my ‘social’ smoking habit as a student which won’t have done me any favours).

So what are the real baddies for your skin? Mrs Hiron agrees that these are the top 3…….

    1. Smoking – if you do this, and you don’t want to have skin like an old bag. Stop. Simple as.
    2. Sun – don’t stick your face in the sun everyday with baby oil on it. Be sensible. A little sun is important. You don’t necessarily need a suncream everyday as a lot of moisturisers and foundations have an SPF.
    3. Sugar – there had to be a dietary contribution to this post! If you want to reduce the wrinkles, step away from the sugar. In a nutshell, skin damage from the inside is caused by a reaction called ‘glycation’. This is a process in which sugars cause collagen fibres (the scaffolding of your face) to lose elasticity by creating cross links between the fibres, leading to wrinkles and lines. Sugar also promotes inflammation in the body, not good for the skin.

Anti ageing diet:


  • sugars – I’m not saying ‘never’, but be aware that sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup etc. will be chipping away at that lovely collagen.
  • high glycaemic index foods – These are refined carbohydrates which are digested quickly (high GI) – bread, white rice, pasta, cakes, biscuits, fruit juice, sweet fizzy drinks, energy drinks etc. They are broken down in to sugar by the body, essentially having the same effect.


    • healthy fats – these are anti inflammatory and help to keep blood sugar levels lower – salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, cashews, olive oil, coconut oil. Here’s a guide to healthy fats. Get over the outdated mantra that fat makes you fat, and should be eliminated. Healthy fats in sensible amounts are good.
    • whole grains – replace refined carbs (generally anything made with white flour or sugar) with wholesome alternatives as these have a lower glycaemic index so keeping blood sugar levels down. Beans, lentils, oats particularly good.
    • antioxidants – sunlight and smoking cause oxidative damage by generating ‘reactive oxygen
      Eat it, don't lie in it

      Eat it, don’t lie in it

      species’. Antioxidants can reduce this oxidative damage. So lots of vegetables, the more variety in colour the better… cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, beetroot, kale, carrots, peppers, and spinach. Fruit is good too (not fruit juice), with top marks for deeply coloured strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, apples. Green tea.

So in a nutshell, here’s yet another reason fill your boots with loads of colourful veg, some fruit, oily fish, nuts, lentils, beans, wholegrain rice. If you need recipe ideas, here you go: recipes.



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4 Foods to Boost Gut Bacteria

Just when we thought we knew everything about our digestive system, the complex universe of gut bacteria is slowly being unveiled by scientific research. Experts agree that what we currently know is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is the story so far!

Gut bacteria fast facts:

  • there are 100 trillion bacteria in your gut made up of at least 500 different types
  • during the natural delivery of a baby (not cesarean section), and breastfeeding, a baby’s digestive system is populated with the beneficial bacteria
  • there is a mix of good and bad bacteria in your gut, the balance of these can significantly affect your health
  • antibiotics kill the bad AND good bacteria in your body, disturbing the balance.
  • a diet high in processed foods encourages the bad bacteria
    Processed food - not good for the good bacteria!

    Processed food – encourage the ‘bad’ bacteria

    Whole foods good!

    Whole foods encourage the ‘good’ bacteria


  • whole grains, fruit and vegetables ‘feed’ the good bacteria
  • some foods (see below) actively contain good bacteria. You can encourage good bacteria in your gut by including these foods in your diet.


How improving good gut bacteria can affect health:

There is a huge amount of scientific interest in the role that gut bacteria has on health. Watch the headlines over the next few years for how they can make big positive impacts on your waistline, brain and immune system. Here is what the science is starting to show:

  • helps gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas
  • reduces inflammatory conditions such as some cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • obesity – overweight people have a different balance of gut bacteria
  • immune system – there is good evidence that our guts provide much of the body’s immunity
  • better absorption of nutrients


Natural sources of probiotics (good bacteria) you can include everyday:

As well as eating lots of prebiotic foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains which feed the good bacteria, here is a list of foods which actually contain the good bacteria to boost the levels in your system.

Yogurt – The easiest and most popular source. Choose any yogurt that has ‘bio’, ‘bio live’ or the specific strain of bacteria on the label. Sometimes you need to look very carefully, as it
can be in small print on the back. e.g. Yeo Valley, Activia, Rachel’s, Onken. If you have lactose intolerance, yogurt should be easier to digest than milk as the fermentation process reduces the amount of lactose. People sometimes worry that dairy products are fattening or will raise cholesterol. Eaten in moderation this is not the case, and can in fact help with weight loss.


Kefir This can be harder to find in the shops and is not as popular as yogurt. Kefir is a Turkish word meaning ‘long life’ or ‘good life’. With billions of friendly bacteria, Kefir is a drink made from Unknown-8milk and kefir cultures. It has the consistency of a drinkable yogurt but is much more tart and has a slight fizz (I found this very odd!). Drink it plain (an acquired taste) or add it to a smoothie. It can be bought in Tesco’s in the Polish section, Wholefoods or in some independent health food shops. The culturing process reduces the amount of lactose, therefore may be suitable for people with lactose intolerance.


UnknownMiso A staple seasoning in Japanese kitchens, also may contain probiotics. While it’s most often used in miso soup there are other ways to incorporate this protein-rich seasoning into meals. For an easy between meal snack, mix the Miso paste with warm water as a drink. If you have high blood pressure you probably should avoid as it is high in salt.



Unpasteurised Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut – pickled cabbage in a jar. The pickling process produces the live probiotics. To get the benefit from Saurkraut, it is important to buy it unpasteurised as the heating process kills the probiotics. Unpasteurised jars can be found in the fridge in health food shops. If it is in a jar on the supermarket shelf it is likely to be pasteurised. Some people eat it straight from the jar, or add to salads, stew or soup. I’ve been told by a client that it is easy to make, so here’s a recipe (it’s one of the next things on my list to try!)


Probiotic supplements – there are a vast array of probiotic supplements available and it can be confusing to know which one to choose. Here is a good article as guidance on the specific strains of bacteria to look for for different health issues. Most people have heard of Yakult or Actimel which can be bought in most supermarkets. I usually recommend more potent forms such as Unknown-2Symprove, Biokult and VSL 3 (click on pictures for more info).41cytGYzHHL._AA160_images-3



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Beetroot & Carrot Super Bowl

Here’s a humdinger of a veggie dish which will pack in the nutrients and can give measurable health benefits. Beetroot is one of the latest trendy foods to hit the headlines….research imageshows that it contains nitrate (a good thing!) which reduces blood pressure and may increase athletic endurance. Carrots provide beta carotene, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are optional, but add a fabulous texture to the recipe, not to mention healthy fats and protein. Drizzle with some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit of zing!

Ingredients list: 3 raw beetroots, 3 raw carrots, handful of pumpkin/sunflower seeds, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 lemon.

  1. Peel and grate the carrots and beetroot.image
  2. Mix together
  3. Add pumpkins sunflower seeds, a few tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of a lemon.

Don’t be alarmed if your wee has a red tinge, this happens to about 10% of people! The colour pigment called betalaine is absorbed by your intestine and excreted in your urine.

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Supplements in Sport – which ones work?

Unknown-1The use of supplements by athletes is almost universal, and used correctly and appropriately, can help to achieve optimum performance.

However, clever marketing by supplement companies often exaggerates or invents nutrition claims. The use of pseudo science is common, using seemingly impressive words and phrases.

Unfortunately, many professional and recreational athletes rely on information from unreliable websites, or are advised by unqualified and inexperienced nutritionists (there are some fabulous nutritionists out there, however, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as it is an unregulated title). Without the correct training, it is easy to misinterpret and misquote published scientific evidence and come to the wrong conclusions.

It is common for athletes to be motivated by celebrity endorsements, a big selling point for a product, “If x uses it it then it must work!”. Additionally, there is the fear that colleagues or competitors are taking a supplement, and if they do not, then they will be losing out on having ‘the edge’.

All this results in money being wasted on products that simply do not work, and at worst can cause physical harm. Importantly, supplements are a distraction from the factors that can really enhance health, recovery and performance.

It may not seem exciting or cutting edge, but the sound foundations of good nutrition need to be

Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

Real food with protein, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains

firmly in place (focusing on real food and getting quality nutrients from carbs, protein and healthy fats). These, coupled with optimum timings of nutrient intake is the basis for ultimately achieving the best performance in training and competition.

There are a select few supplements, however, that have a good amount of evidence behind their effectiveness:

  • Recovery shakes – Carbohydrate & Protein powders for use after exercise. Carbs allow glycogen replenishment of the muscles and help to shuttle protein in to the muscle for repair and growth. Although carbs and protein can be sourced from food or milk, sometimes it is more convenient to take as a supplement (20-30g protein, approx 60-90g carbs). For higher protein needs of resistance training, whey protein is quickly absorbed and can be a more convenient and often cheaper way to achieve requirements than from solely high protein food (up to a total of 1.7g/kg/day of protein from food and supplements)
  • Caffeine – Sound evidence exists that caffeine enhances endurance and provides a small but worthwhile enhancement of performance over a range of exercise protocols. Caffeine also improves mental sharpness. Avoid if it gives you the jitters, and for many people it acts as a gut stimulant causing diarrhoea (70-200mg taken before and during exercise. A cup of instant coffee has approx 70mg, one ProPlus tablet 50mg)
  • Creatine – for about 80% of people, creatine can increase muscle mass, strength and high intensity exercise performance. Effective for sports involving short periods of maximal intensity and repeated bouts with intermittent rest periods. The quickest way to “creatine load” is to take large doses (20-30 g per day) for around 5-7 days. Typically, these doses are split over the day e.g. 5g, four to five times each day. Eating a large amount of carbohydrate (about 70-100 g) with each dose increases creatine uptake via the stimulatory effects of insulin.
  • Nitrates –  Dietary nitrate has become increasingly popular as an ergogeimages-3nic aid, with a $T2eC16dHJGoFFvPOJJ3UBR0ZfTsjj!~~60_35number of recent studies finding benefits to sports performance. Nitrates increase blood flow by causing blood vessels to dilate. High nitrate foods include beetroot, beetroot juice, celery, spinach, lettuce, rocket, leeks and parsley (preferably non-organic).
  • Vitamin D – there is a direct relationship between vitamin D levels in the body and muscle power, force and velocity. Vitamin D deficiency increases risk of muscle injury. In a recent study (2014) one third of American college athletes were deficient in vitamin D. There aren’t many good food sources of vitamin D, therefore for those who are deficient, supplementing with 1000IU is advisable. Severely deficiencies may require higher doses.

    A selection of supplements.......

    A selection of supplements…….

  • Omega 3s – anti-inflammatory, also protects against heart attacks and strokes, may also benefit memory and general mental performance. If no oily fish is eaten, then 500-1000mg daily of EPA & DHA is a good amount to take.
  • Probiotics – maintains gut function and health, preventing the immunosuppressive effects of intense exercise, and reducing susceptibility to illness. Also appropriate to take if travelling abroad for competition to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea. The specific strain of probiotic supplement needs to be carefully selected.
  • Multivitamins – when you can’t guarantee that your diet is always a healthy and balanced one.

A dietitian can carry out an assessment and advise on the most appropriate supplements to take (if any), dose and timings*. Advice is tailored to take in to account factors such as specific sport, training goals and food intake.

*Dietitians do not sell nutritional supplements and do not have a commercial interest in promoting them.


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Low Carb bread….yes really!

If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, or simply want a highly nutritious healthy bread, then I highly recommend this recipe. For anyone who has tried Irish wheaten bread, this has a very similar texture, without the wheat/gluten and carbs.

Flaxseeds for dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA or omega-3. Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high quality protein, fiber, and phytosterols. Eggs are a very good source of high quality protein, vitamin B2, selenium, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Filling, super nutritious and best of all, it’s easy! There is about 1000 kcal, 54g protein, 5g carbs in the whole loaf. So if you cut 6 slices, that’s about 170kcal per slice.

Try with some eggs for breakfast, or mashed avocado and tomatoes for lunch……yum!

1) Beat together wet ingredients: 4 eggs & 3 tablespoons of water

2) Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl:

measuring cups

measuring cups – very handy

1 cup ground flaxseedUnknown copy 9

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon salt

3) Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix well. Put in a loaf tin, cook for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.


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Veggie Spaghetti – with £3.29 gadget!

Julieene Peeler, £3.99 Lakeland

Julieene Peeler, £3.29 Lakeland

Do you struggle to eat more vegetables?

Need fresh and inspiring ideas?

Are you watching your weight, or need to lose a few pounds?


Spiraliser (£30 Amazon)

I very rarely recommend a gadget, but yesterday I was inspired by an article and recipe in this month’s Red Magazine, which used a gadget called a ‘spiraliser’ (£30 from Amazon).  It allows you to transform a healthy, low-calorie, low-carb vegetable into a giant bowl of pasta! Nutritious, filling and very, very easy. After a bit of online research, I was able to come up with a cheaper alternative to the Amazon Spiriliser…….a julienne peeler (£3.29 from Lakeland). We are lucky enough to have a Lakeland store here in Kingston, so after dropping the eldest two children at school this morning, the Little Man and I high tailed it to purchase the peeler.

Courgette, carrot and garlic

Courgette, carrot and garlic

Lunchtime saw a quick experiment with the new gadget. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical that the veggies would taste any different to simply chopping or grating. Just a few minutes of ‘julienning’ a carrot and a courgette, tossed in a pan with olive oil, some garlic and a tin of tuna produced a most awesomely delicious lunch for the two of us (I added some left over rice to Little Man’s to bump up the carbs and cals for him). The carrot and courgette had the most fabulous texture, a little al dente and juicy!

Result! in just 5 minutes

Result! in just 5 minutes

For anyone in to calorie counting, here is a comparison. One courgette julienned producing a big bowl of courgette noodles: 30 kcal. One bowl of spaghetti: 220kcal! And I can honestly say that, to me, it tastes miles better than standard pasta or noodles.

I’ll be testing the new spaghetti veg on the girls this evening. I predict it will be a big hit with them too!

A big hit with Little Man

Slurping up the courgette spaghetti!








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After School Snacks for Kids


Our posh tent – with real beds & sofa

It’s the first day back to school after the half term holidays, so I can breathe a sigh of relief that the teachers can entertain my children for a few hours each day! Over the holidays we spent 4 days camping on the Isle of Wight (not ‘real’ camping, we were Glamping/posh camping).

Four. Long. Rainy. Muddy. Days. I grew up spending summer holidays camping in France, Spain and Portugal, and being Irish, I’m used to wet weather. However, the combination of camping and terrible weather, with 3 small children and a husband thrown in, proved somewhat ‘tricky’. ‘Nuff said.

So back to school today! Yay! I’ve had a few Mums at school asking about healthy things they can feed their kids after school. I think the issue these days is that there is so much ‘children’s food’ available from the supermarkets, and often it’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. So what can you bring to fill up the tummies, reinstate emotional calmness, and provide them with something tasty and nutritious?

Here’s a list of healthy kid friendly snacks that can be eaten on the go:

  • fruit: keeping it simple……apple, banana, grapes etc. If necessary, tell them to eat the really good stuff first, then they can have a biscuit.
  • smoothie: before you leave for the school pick up, blend 150ml milk, a handful of frozen berries and a ripe banana. Add a dollop of honey for extra sweetness. Put in a children’s drinking bottle. The blended frozen berries will keep it cool until you get to school.


    DIY popcorn

  • Homemade popcorn: buy the corn kernels, they take about 5 minutes to make in to popcorn (just heat some butter or oil in a saucepan, add the corn kernels, allow to pop, sprinkle with cinnamon/some teaspoon of caster sugar). Put in to bags for the kids (and yourself!)
  • Cocoa Bars: these homemade ones are really chocolately, and my kids feel like they are getting a special nakd-raw-chocolate-1chocolate treat. They don’t know that they are made with ground almonds, chopped dates, chopped raisins and cocoa powder. If they new this they wouldn’t touch them! The recipe is based on the Nakd Bars, so these are an alternative if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own.
  • Banana Bread – call it ‘cake’ and they will be delighted.
  • Rice cakes sandwiched with peanut butter & jam
  • Yo Yo – these are basically fruit. Expensive for what they are (cheapest I have found is 50p Unknown-1Unknownfor a packet), but convenient and healthy.
  • Nairn’s Oat Biscuits – I discovered these recently discovery in Waitrose. They are oatcakes that come in a variety of flavours e.g. fruit & spice, berry. Some sugar has been added, so they are sweet enough to be a biscuit rather than a blander oatcake (1.9g sugar per biscuit, which is less than half a teaspoon, limit to a couple of biscuits).
  • A sandwich: wholemeal bread/pitta/wrap filled with tuna mayo/ham/cheese & carrot

If you are concerned about filling their tummies up too much before dinner, try choosing less filling options e.g. rice or corn cakes, apples, pears, popcorn and water. Today I’m bringing some grapes and the Nairn’s Oat Biscuits…….I’ve been sitting here typing for too long so haven’t had time to make the banana bread that I had planned!

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Banana Bread Recipe

“What have you got for me to eat, Mum?” or “I’m starrrrrrrrving!”

That is how I am greeted by Evie, 4, when she comes out of school. The wee girl is always ravenous (no matter how much I provide in the packed lunch). I sometimes struggle to come up with healthy things for after school. It needs to be something filling, but not too filling because then Evie and her little brother, Conor, will struggle to eat their dinner at 5pm. Beth, 7, has a fabulous appetite, and a penchant for pleasing her mum, so will eat most of her dinner without any nonsense. The other two are a different matter! Here’s an article in a local magazine called Families Upon Thames on strategies to get your kids to eat their meals Table wars!

I digress. Snacks for after school: fruit (not popular), homemade flapjacksoaty biscuitscocoa Unknown-1bars. Anything that comes out of a packet is met with glee and great excitement. Yoyo Fruit Bars are popular, or anything remotely sweetie or chocolate.

Today I am trying a something new, here’s the recipe. Make with gluten free self raising mix for a  FODMAP friendly version!

Banana Bread

2oz butter/margarine

5oz caster sugar

2 eggs lightly beaten

Unknown-27oz self raising flour (or I use gluten free Dove’s Farm self raising flour blend)

2 ripe bananas mashed

Optional extras: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, handful of raisins.

Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly mix in the beaten eggs. Add the sifted flour, gently mix in. Add the mashed bananas and mix. Pour into a greased loaf tin. Bake at 170c for about 40 minutes, you can check to see if it ready with a knife – it should come out clean if you stick it in to the middle.

Photo on 17-03-2014 at 12.36

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Awesome Granola

I’ve been making this everyday for about 6 months now, and it is still a massive hit with me, my husband, and our two year old boy (the girls, 4 and 7, are stuck on Rice Krispies). I’ve passed the recipe on to countless friends and relatives who are equally smitten.

It’s so easy to make……..5 minutes to mix the ingredients together, and 30 minutes in the oven. It smells AMAZING when it starts to brown in the oven (a sign that it is ready if you forget to time it, like I always do)

Dietitian bit – why it’s good for you:

  • high fibre carbohydrate from oats – chunky oats are filling and full of soluble fibre, energy
  • protein – from the milk, seeds and and a little bit from the oats, muscle maintenance & building
  • fruit – raisins, chocca block with antioxidants and fibre
  • healthy fats – vegetable oil and seeds, help to keep you full up, good fats are essential, but in moderation. If you are watching your weight, then please keep the portions of granola small (about 1/3 to 1/2 a mugful).

And here’s something I’ll tell you for free, from my MSc research on antioxidants in oats: toasting oats produces something called the Maillard Reaction which increases the ‘antioxidant capacity’ (antioxidants are good for you). During the summer of 2001 I spent unhealthy lengths of time in a lab at the University of Ulster with a lot of oats, an oven, a blender and a large expensive machine to come up with that gem!

Granola Recipe:

300g oats (or about 6 handfuls) – I mix 200g chunky with 100g finer oats

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (you can use melted coconut oil, but it doesn’t produce the same ‘crunch’)


Just out of the oven

3 tablespoons honey

1-2 handfuls pumpkin/sunflower seeds

handful raisins or sultanas

generous sprinkle of cinnamon (about a 2 teaspoons)


chunky oats


finer oats

Method: mix the oil and honey together in a bowl. Add the oats, cinnamon and seeds, stir throughly ensuring the oats are coated. Spread on to baking sheet and put in the oven at 150c for 30 minutes. Half way through cooking time (after 15 minutes), add the raisins/sultanas. Remove from oven and allow to cool.


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Oats: 10 ways to add oomph!

Oats are a staple in this house with 4 out of five of us having them for breakfast, and daily batches of Seriously Healthy Flapjacks and Oaty Biscuits.

What’s so good about oats?

Oats are very filling, high in soluble fibre, provide slow release energy, keep the blood sugar levels steady for concentration at school/work, calcium and protein from the milk, and fibre and antioxidants from the raisins/berries/banana. And for those of us getting on a bit, oats contain ‘beta glucan’ which is clinically proven to be one of the great cholesterol lowering foods. If you want a low Glycaemic Index oat, go for the chunky ones, as the finely ground ‘instant’ oats e.g. Oats So Simple are actually digested quite quickly, giving you less of the longer term sustained energy release.

Jazzing it up!


Please sir can I’ve some more? Yak, no thanks!!

Porridge can be a bit, well, dull and have a bit of a ‘gruel’ image. My clients sometimes pull a yuck face if I suggest oats for breakfast. But keep an open mind and try something new! There are a million and one ways to jazz up your breakfast oats to make them tasty and delicious…..

It’s an alchemy of three parts:

  1. the oats: There is a wide variety of oat chunkiness. Finely ground e.g. Ready Brek for ultra IDShot_90x90-1smooth, to jumbo and chewy like Flahavins. Slow cook them in a saucepan on the stove, zapp in the microwave in 90 seconds, or just add a smidge of hot water to the chunkies (how I like it).
  2. Water or milk? The debate is on among porridge devotees on the perfect ratio of milk to water. Each to their own………I’m a water only fan, my husband is 50:50 milk to water, youngest daughter Evie likes the oats cooked in water only, with cold milk added (?!) You don’t have to stick to cow’s milk, try almond, rice, oat, soy, or Koko for a change. All of these have added calcium and vitamin D, so you’re not missing out on these essential vitamins!
  3. The Fun Part: jazz your bowl up with a menagerie of ingredients which can be combined to provide endless possibilities! Peanut or cashew nut butter, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, banana puree, honey, maple syrup, grated apple, toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, berries, yogurt. The list is endless……….

10 ways to add OOOMPH to oats:

  1. Power Smoothie – blend a handful of oats, 200ml milk, dollop of yogurt*, frozen berries and honey



  2. Puree banana – roughly mash a ripe banana, put in a cup with enough water to almost cover the banana, microwave for 90 seconds, and voila, a lovely smooth puree to add to you porridge. The more ripe the banana the smoother and sweeter!
  3. Berries – fresh berries can be expensive, so I use supermarket frozen basics range (£1.20for a bag that lasts about a week). Quickly defrost a cup full in the microwave and add to chunky oats with a big dollop of Total yogurt.
  4. Summer Oats – this is soooo good and a refreshing alternative to hot oats. Prepare the night before so that all the lovely flavours develop and are soaked up by the oats. Good for taking to work if you’ve no time first thing in the morning to eat breakfast.
  5. add a dollop of high protein yogurt* to bump up the protein, keeping you full up for longer, and to make it really creamy!
  6. Homemade Flapjacks – eat them as the are, or one of my clients takes two to work, Photo on 01-02-2014 at 07.15 #4crumbles them in a cup with hot milk for a warming breakfast at her desk.
  7. smooth (Ready Brek) – for the non-chunky lovers out there, Ready Brek can be good as it is made from oats, and has the added benefit of vitamins and mineral e.g. lots of iron
  8. Vary the milk – there is such a wide variety these days…..almond, rice, Koko. All have added calcium and vitamin D, so you’re not losing out!
  9. Honey/maple syrup/agave nectar – there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of sweetness, especially if it means kids gobbling up a bowl of oats.
  10. Dollop of peanut butter – adding good fats and protein, add a tablespoon before cooking so that it melts and you can stir it through.
Homemade muesli

Summer Oats

Benefits of greek yogurt! – double the protein of other yogurts (10g/100g) e.g. Total, Danone, Liberte (not greek ‘style’)

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6 tips for portion control

I have written a lot about the types of foods to include for improving health and well being, but if you are watching your weight, how much you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Even if you have eat the healthiest foods ever, over do portion sizes, and you may see this in an inability to lose weight, and even weight gain. Below is a diagram of ideal proportions, but this could be a tiny or a massive plate!

Ideal proportions, but how much is a 'portion'?

Ideal proportions, but how much is a ‘portion’?

So what does a portion actually look like?

Fish or meat: size of the palm of your hand, or about 5-6 meatballs

pasta, rice, potato: a clenched fist

bread: one slice

cheese: a small matchbox

vegetables: about a cup

nuts: a small handful, or about 8 almonds

Some foods come ready prepared in their portion size eg. 2 eggs, a banana, an apple, or 2 satsumas

6 tips for portion control:

  1. Don’t cook more than you need of carbohydrate and protein foods. Even if you have been controlled with your first portion, if there are leftovers, you will be tempted by seconds. By all means, cook extra vegetables. If you are still hungry, have more veg!


    Cook lots of veg!

  2. Use whole grain carbohydrates eg. brown rice, oats, whole meal pasta – these are higher in fibre which should help you to feel full up for longer, so you will feel more satisfied with a smaller portion. They also keep your blood sugar levels steady, so a) preventing cravings for sugary snacks later on, and b) blunting insulin release (insulin promotes fat storage).
  3. Make sure that you have a portion of protein with each meal eg. tuna, chicken, salmon, beef, eggs, lentils – protein induces a feeling of fullness, so making you less likely to feel the need to snack later on. Your body also uses up more energy processing protein foods.

    Protein with each meal

    Protein with each meal

  4. Use a smaller plate – this will make the amount of food you are having appear to be more
  5. Don’t eat straight out of a carton or packet – this makes it almost impossible to keep to one portion. Take a handful of nuts from a bag and then put the bag out of sight.
  6. Focus on what you are eating – try not to eat in front of your computer or television. This can result in you unconsciously eating more than you intend to.

For those without weight worries, or with high calorie needs, you can stick to the same principles of proportions (1/4 carbs, 1/4 protein, 1/2 veg) but in larger portions sizes…..

For high calorie needs, bigger portions.

For high calorie needs, bigger portions.

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Spotty? Is there a food connection?

Something I see occasionally in my clinic is clients with spots. And it’s not usually teenagers, it’s more likely to be women in their 30s and 40s. I’ve even had one lady in her 60s who suffered from cystic acne on her chin, not bad enough for a dermatology referral, but none the less, unpleasant to put up with. My clients have usually been suffering for years, and while their GP or dermatologist may be sympathetic, the prescribed treatments offered have not provided a long term solution.

As an acne suffer myself from the age of 14, I spent 20 years wondering when I’d Roaccutane - a last resort‘grow out’ of it. Every medication in the BNF (the doctor’s prescribing bible) has been given to me, from benzyl peroxide cream to the liver toxic Roaccutane. Each would help for a while, but the spots always returned. It was evident that the root cause was not being treated. I was always told by GPs, dermatologists and even dietitian colleagues that there was no relationship between acne and diet.

What does the research show? The outdated opinion that acne is not related to diet comes from a 1969 study looking at the effect of chocolate on acne, in which the inappropriate conclusion was drawn that, as chocolate did not appear to affect acne, neither did any dietary factor. However, there is growing evidence from more recent studies supporting the relationship between diet and acne. In particular a high glycaemic index diet and dairy have been implicated. There is also emerging medical evidence and a growing number of clinicians acknowledging that up to 10% of the population may have a gluten intolerance, despite testing negative for coeliac disease. Gluten intolerance can manifest in skin conditions. There is also interesting new research looking at gut bacteria, and it’s role in inflammation and immunity.

What causes acne? Acne is caused by a combination of hormones and inflammation. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are particularly susceptible. A diet high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white rice, biscuits, sweets, pastries etc.), low in fruit and vegetables, and low in essential fatty acids may have a negative effect on hormones, and may also contribute to inflammation. This is where the role of good/bad bacteria in the gut becomes interesting. A poor diet affects the complex flora in the digestive tract resulting in an overgrowth of the bad, which may ultimately have many effects outside of the gut, including spotty skin.

For years, I have followed a very healthy diet including lots of veg, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, low sugar etc. however, still suffered with acne. In desperation, 2 years ago I thought I would have nothing to lose by trying a gluten free diet. With in a few weeks the spots had cleared. The ‘gold standard’ way togenius46_460 challenge the intolerance is to reintroduce the food. I have done this twice, once on holiday in Morocco where breakfast was almost completely bread products, and in Ireland where I wasn’t going to offend my husband’s Granny by turning down her scones! The result? With in about 3 days I had horrible spots which took about a month each time to clear up.

Everyone is different and there is no magical ‘one diet fits all’. For me, gluten is my trigger, however, this will not be the case for all. For some of my clients, just cutting out the refined carbs and increasing the good fats is enough to see 100608182647-largeimprovements. A change in diet can take time to show in the skin. Some people see a difference in a few days, for some it may take a few months.

My recommendations:

  • avoid refined carbohydrates, change to wholegrains
  • have a good intake of vegetables and fruit (at least 5 portions a day)
  • take a daily fish oil supplement containing 500mg DHA & EPA
  • include healthy fats e.g. nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados
  • consider a trial exclusion of dairy
  • consider a trial exclusion of gluten
  • consider a probiotic supplement

If you don’t feel confident with changing your diet or choosing a probiotic, seek the advice of a dietitian to guide you. Cutting out food groups such as dairy, can leave you lacking in important nutrients. A dietitian can also help you with the practical aspects of applying the recommendations to your current diet and lifestyle. For example, what to buy in Pret a Manger or Starbucks, how to incorporate more veg, how to go gluten free.

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Top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol

The risks from high cholesterol aren’t immediate. The damage accumulates over years — even decades. High cholesterol in your 20s and 30s can take its toll in your 50s and 60s. Because the effects take time, you may not feel the urgency to treat it. You may think you can deal with it later – but you may wait too long before heart disease has taken it’s hold.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 80% of heart disease may be preventable. The good news is that simple changes can really improve your heart health, like lowering cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, giving up smoking and avoiding stress.

Here are 5 cholesterol lowering foods:

  1. oily fish – salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines all contain very healthy omega 3 fats
    Salmon - omega 3 oils

    Salmon – omega 3 oils

    called DHA & EPA that lower cholesterol. Aim to eat oily fish twice a week, if you find that difficult, take a daily fish oil supplement that contains 500mg EPA & DHA.

  2. oats – contain beta glucan, which is a soluble fibre that lowers cholesterol. It also has the added benefit of steadying blood sugar levels, helping in the treatment of diabetes and weight loss. Oat breakfast and Oaty Flapjacks2013-09-11 11.50.38
  3. Olive oil – high in monounsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol. Also in rapeseed oil (vegetable oil). Be careful with how much you use if you are watching your weight, one tablespoon has 125kcal.
  4. Nuts – high in vitamins, minerals, and good monounsaturated fat, which can lower cholesterol. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, and pistachios. Basically, all nuts are good. Avoid salted or dry roasted, the plainer the better. As with olive oil, if you’re watching you weight, just have a handful, not the whole bag!
  5. Plant Stanols – these are probably not a term you have come across. Plant stanols are ingredients in products such as Flora Proactive and Benecol. Three servings of these can reduce cholesterol by up to 10%. Plant seterols are also found in fruit and veg, but in much smaller amounts.
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5 Feel Fabulous Breakfast Foods

Reasons to eat breakfast:

It doesn’t have to be a soon as you get up, but try to have something within an hour or two of waking. Here’s why……

  1. breakfast eaters tend to be a healthier weight
  2. breakfasts tend to be nutritionally dense with, fruit, dairy, whole grains, setting you up with a healthy start to the day
  3. breakfast will stabilise blood sugar levels resulting in enhanced memory, improved cognitive ability, and increased attention span
  4. children who eat breakfast perform better in school and in sport. They have better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination

Here are 5 of top breakfast foods:

Oats – filling, high fibre, low glycaemic index, cholesterol lowering. Make trashutterstock_81803002ditional porridge, summer oats, or homemade muesli. Play around with the various oat textures. If you like very smooth porridge, go for Ready Brek; or if you like chunky, nutty and a bit chewy sprinkle some jumbo oats on to some yogurt.

Berries – these are low in calories but pack a mighty nutrition punch. High in antioxidants and anti inflammatory anthocyanins, they fight chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Add to oats,porridge, greek yogurt, or in a super shake

Eggs – eggs have received a bad press over the years due to the cholesterol content of the egg yolk. We now know that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a significant effect on blood cholesterol, in fact recent studies show that 2 eggs a day may improve cholesterol levels. They are 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: regulate blood sugar, anti inflammatory, heart, brain, hormone, eye and skin health. Have 2 scrambled, dry fried, poached eggs on a piece of wholemeal toast, or try a sweet breakfast omelette.

Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax/linseed, all provide essential fats that benefit the heart, brain, skin and are anti inflammatory. Sprinkle on to yogurt or into porridge to bump up the protein and good fat content.

Toasted pumpkin & sunflower seeds

Toasted pumpkin & sunflower seeds

Greek yogurt – this type of yogurt has been strained resulting in a concentration of the protein. Normal natural yogurt has 4g protein/100g. Greek yogurt has double this, making it high in protein therefore more filling. Being dairy, it is also high in calcium. Try to buy greek or ‘high protein’ yogurt, as greek ‘style’ doesn’t have the same high level of protein (greek style & normal natural yogurt not a bad choice though, just not as high in protein).

Total Greek yogurt

Total Greek yogurt

High protein yogurt

Danio high protein yogurt

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Cocoa Bar recipe


nakd-raw-chocolate-1Being a dietitian, I can’t help myself but to study food labels.

The popular Nakd bars are pleasantly short on the list of ingredients. Cocoa Delight is  made from 48% dates, 29% cashew nuts, 17% raisins and 6% cocoa powder.

On the face of it an ideal healthy snack, especially for hungry kids after school, with no added sugar, oils, butter, additives, preservatives etc. (more after school snack inspiration). So I’d limit to one a day, mainly because the dates and raisins make it very sweet, albeit with natural sugar. There is the equivalent to a tablespoon per bar (that’s almost 50% sugar). A ‘high sugar’ food has more than about 20g/100g sugar. These bars have 43g/100g. On a positive note, the almonds make it low GI (digested slowly), high in vitamin E and the cocoa powder, dates and raisins are high in antioxidants.

Homemade Cocoa Bars

Homemade Cocoa Bars

So, as a ‘treat’ food, I thought I’d experiment with my own version…..I just took the %s from the ingredients list and equated that to the weight (and doubled to make more). I also substituted the cashews for ground almonds. These can be bought already ground up, making it a bit easier.

Here are the ingredients and quantities (makes 6 bars):

ground almonds

ground almonds

100g dates, blended or very finely chopped



60g ground almonds/cashews

30g raisins, blended (or finely chopped)

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa Powder

10g cocoa powder

Mix all the ingredients together either in a small blender/food processor or by rubbing in with your fingers, it takes a few minutes, and it will be quite dry and crumbly.

Press in to a tin, taking time to pack the mixture in so it is well compressed. Put in to the freezer to cool. The will be ready to chop in to bars after about an hour.

Nutrition info for each bar: 123kcal, 3g protein, 14g (natural) sugar

Lots more healthy snacks

5 reasons Mums can’t lose weight


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Iron: are you getting enough?


Recent statistics show that 40% of women under the age of 34 have seriously low intakes of iron and are at risk of anaemia as a result. Up to 15% of children don’t get enough iron, and 1 in 8 children between 1 1/2 and 2 years are anaemic.


Anaemia can cause:

  • tiredness and weakness
  • decreased work and school performance
  • slow cognitive and social development during childhood
  • difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection
  • glossitis (an inflamed tongue)
  • palpatations
  • restless leg syndrome

Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia could be caused by many different things. A blood test is needed to confirm the presence of iron deficiency anaemia.

People at risk of anaemia:

  • Infants over 6 months
  • Toddlers
  • Adolescents
  • Pregnant women
  • Pre menopausal women


How much iron do I need?

Gender Age Group Recommended intake (mg/day), number of
Children 1-3 years 7
Children 4-6 years 6
Children 7-10 years 9
Teenage boys 11-18 years 11
Teenage girls 11-18 years 15
Men 19-50 years 9
Women 19-50 years 15
Men 50+ years 9
Women 50+ years 9


Food sources of iron

  • Iron from animal sources is much better absorbed by the body than plant sources
  • Vitamin C helps with absorption. High vitamin C foods include: red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi fruit & oranges.
  • Tea and coffee reduce the absorption of iron, so don’t drink a cup too close to a meal

 Meat sources:

Food Average portion Stars
Liver 40g, thick slice ★★★
Liver pate 1 tbsp
Beef steak 150g, medium size ★★★
Sausage 2
Beef mince 125g, 4 tbsp cooked ★★★
Chicken 100g cooked
Pork chop 120g, 1 average
Sardines/salmon/mackerel 50g
Tuna 100g (1/2 tin)

 Other sources (less well absorbed):

Food Average portion Stars
Ready Brek 20g dry (1 small ptn) ★★★★★★
Branflakes 25g (4 tbsp) ★★★★
Weetabix 2 biscuits ★★★
Rice Krispies 30g (4 tbsp) ★★
Chickpeas 100g (4 tbsp) ★★
Lentils green/brown 75g (1/2 cup cooked) ★★
Lentils red 75g (1/2 cup cooked) ★★
Baked beans 120g (3 tbsp) ★★
Humus 50g (1 tbsp)
Eggs 1
Sunflower seeds 30g (1/4 cup) ★★
Sesame seeds 12g (1 tbsp)
Dried Apricots 8 ★★
Dried figs 4 ★★★
Raisins 35g (1 tbsp)
Spinach 120g (3 tbsp) boiled ★★
Avocado ½
Peas 75g (2.5 tbsp)
Broccoli 4 spears (200g)
Ovaltine 25g serving (4 tsp) ★★★
Milo (chocolate malt) 20g serving (4 tsp) ★★★★★★
Sainsburys: £3.99

Sainsburys: £3.99Tesco: £2.99  Tesco: £2.99

Iron Supplements

If you have iron deficiency anaemia, your doctor may prescribe you iron supplements, as even a diet rich in iron will not be enough to correct the deficiency.

If you experience a stomach upset with iron tablets, try taking a liquid form instead.

For further information on iron or for a dietary assessment to assess the amount of nutrients in your diet, use the contact form to get in touch.

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Coconut Oil – is it really that AMAZING!?

You may have noticed that over the last few years coconut oil has made an appearance on supermarket shelves, in health food shops and is sold by sports nutrition companies. It first arrived in our house 2 years ago, when my husband returned from rugby training with a tub of this magical stuff, with the instructions that we should use it to cook with.

UnknownAt the time, I recall having a toddler and a new baby to look after, so it didn’t get much more than a raised eyebrow from me. Over the years London Irish rugby nutritionists have promoted a range of dubious products. I have learnt that, if it is not going to do any actual harm, then the route to a happy marriage is to just say “yes dear, that’s nice”, and wait for the next fad to come along.

But Coconut Oil doesn’t seem to be a passing fad. Is there any truth behind the health claims of weight loss, reduced heart disease, and improved athletic performance?

In a (coco) nut shell, maybe.

How is coconut oil different to other fats?

Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat, which is traditionally vilified for it’s artery clogging effects. However, 60% of the saturated fats in coconut oil are MCTs (medium chain triglycerides)

Why are MCTs different?:

  • May have a neutral (or positive) effect on blood cholesterol
  • Can be used by the body as a quick fuel source – MCTs are transported directly to the liver, where they are more likely to be burned as fuel, as opposed to other types of oils, which typically get stored as fat in the body.
  • May raise metabolism slightly and make you feel more full up
  • High concentration of lauric acid, which may have antiviral and antifungal properties.

What the studies show:


Weight loss

An overall consensus has not yet been reached regarding MCTs and weight loss.

There are studies showing that pharmaceutical grade 100% MCT oil may reduce body fat by increasing metabolic rate. Coconut oil is only about 60% MCT, so it’s not good science to say that coconut oil will have the same results. To get any small weight loss benefit, large amounts of the oil were used. Unfortunately, large amounts of coconut oil can cause stomach upsets and nausea, so in real life, it is unlikely that people could comply with this.


Heart Disease

The research on MCT saturated fats is constantly evolving, years ago all saturated fats were thought to be bad for our hearts. However, we now know that there are different types of saturated fats that affect our bodies in different ways. Some studies suggest that MCT saturated fat might lower risk factors for heart disease by increasing levels of good cholesterol.

There is a study looking at Polynesians, which found that this population of islanders have a very high consumption of coconuts and a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Hence, the claims that coconut oil is very beneficial for the heart. However, Polynesians have many other lifestyle factors which improve heart health (low intake of sugar and salt, good intake of fiber, plant sterols, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish). They also had an active lifestyle and used little tobacco.



The evidence for using MCTs as an ‘ergogenic’ supplement, to prolong endurance or improve performance, is pretty much non-existent. Because MCTs in coconut oil are metabolised by the liver to produce energy, it seems reasonable to assume that this is good for providing energy for exercise. However, in real-life research on athletes, there does not seem to be this positive effect. In fact, in a study of cyclists, after taking coconut oil their performance was actually reduced, probably due to the stomach cramps they experienced.


Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “a few people have reported that coconut oil helped with Alzheimer’s, but there’s never been any clinical testing of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s, and there’s no scientific evidence that it helps.”  The same is true of 100% MCT oil.


My advice:

On balance, coconut oil can be included as part of your healthy diet. If you like the flavour that coconut oil provides in cooking, go ahead and use it—but in moderation. Use Virgin Coconut Oil, as it has not been chemically bleached and retains nutrients that are lost during the refining process.

There may be some truth in the weight loss claims, however, it’s worth stressing that coconut oil is very high in calories, so substitute it in your diet for other things. Unless you are aiming to gain weight, don’t simply add large amounts to your current intake.

As ever, ensure that you have a balanced, healthy diet with vegetables, whole grains, protein foods, essential fats etc. before depending on coconut oil to provide you with an answer for your health issues.

Here are a selection available in the UK and online:

Sainsbury’s – £6.00/300ml

Tesco – £6.00/260ml

Holland & Barrett – £16.55/500ml

MyProtein – £9.99/460g


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Healthy Fat guide

Fourteen years ago as a basic grade dietitian working with cardiac and overweight patients at St George’s Hospital in south London, the message was loud and clear. Low fat was the healthy way to eat and fat in the diet should be reduced.  Since then, studies have shown that certain fats actually have a multitude of health benefits. It’s perhaps frustrating that nutrition advice seems to be constantly changing, but, to think more positively, what we know about food and nutrition is constantly evolving.

Are you confused about which oils/fats to choose when you are shopping? Butter, Flora, sunflower oil, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, sesame oil etc. etc. I will keep this brief:

Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

STOP HAVING: Trans fats – these increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol. You can’t buy these in a bottle, they are found in some processed foods (often labelled as hydrogenated fat or oil).  This is a good reason to reduce processed foods, and to make your meals/snacks from scratch eg. bake these instead of buying biscuits.

Have LESS of:

Swap sunflower oil for olive or vegetable (rapeseed oil)

Sunflower oil – use less

  1. Saturated fats: increase bad cholesterol – found in meat, butter and animal products (ok to eat these in moderation as these foods provide some health benefits)
  2. Omega 6 PUFAs: corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower oil – generally we have too much of these, stopping the fabulous omega 3s from doing their job (see below)


  1. Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids: olive oil, rapeseed oil (usually labelled Vegetable Oil), avocados, nuts & seeds. These decrease bad cholesterol. If you’re watching your weight, don’t go overboard with the oils as these have 125 kcal per tablespoon.
    Vegetable oil good (rapeseed oil)

    Vegetable oil good (rapeseed oil)

    2013-09-11 11.50.38

    Olive oil good

  2. Omega 3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids: fish & fish oil supplements. Other sources: flaxseed/linseed, chia, hemp, walnut (the body cannot use these as well as the omega3 from the fish). Benefits for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, musculoskeletal pain, cholesterol (lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol), blood pressure, blood clotting, brain growth & development, inflammation conditions.



Salmon - omega 3 oils

Salmon – omega 3 oils

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Frightening Calcium Facts


Wow!……..50% of women, and 25% of men over 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis!

Until recently, doctors and dietitians have recommended calcium supplements for those not getting enough from their diet. Recent research is emerging to show that calcium from supplements may not be effective at improving bone health, and may even increase risk of heart disease. The research is suggesting that dietary sources trump the supplements.

Rickets (child)

Rickets (child)

Hip fracture

Hip fracture (adult)

Why is calcium important?

  • bone health – 99% of calcium is in the bones , it is needed to prevent osteoporosis (softening of bones), resulting in fractures and to prevent rickets in children.
  • 1% of calcium found outside the bones is essential for: muscle contraction, blood clotting, stabilising blood pressure, normal brain function, communicating essential information among cells.

How much calcium do I need?

Age Calcium/day Stars (1 star = 60mg)
Babies <1 525mg 9
1-3 350mg 6
4-6 450mg 7.5
7-10 550mg 9
11-18 Girls 800mg/Boys 1000mg 13/16
19+ 700mg 11
Breastfeeding mums 1250mg 25
Post menopausal women 1200mg 20
Coeliac disease Adults 1500mgChildren 750mg 2512

Sources of calcium:

Food Amount Calcium stars
Milk 200ml ★★★★
Cheese Matchbox size (30g) ★★★★
Cheese triangle 15g ★★
Yoghurt 1 pot (150g) ★★★★
Rice pudding ½ tin (200g) ★★★
Custard 120ml ★★
Ovaltine original 25g (with milk) ★★★★★★★
Calcium enriched soya/rice/oat/almond milk 200ml ★★★★
Sardines ½ tin ★★★★
Prawns 3 tablespoons ★★
Salmon, tinned ½ tin ★★
Baked beans Small tin (220g) ★★
Hummus 150g
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon
Brazil nuts 9
Almonds 12
Broccoli 1 cup ★★★
Spring greens 75g
Kale 1 cup
Soya beans (edamame) 1 cup ★★★
Orange 1
Figs, dried 4 ★★★
Apricots 8
Bread 2 slices
Pitta/chapatti 1
ReadyBrek 1 serving ★★★★

Vitamin D – It essential for bone health to have good levels of vitamin D, as it is needed for the gut to absorb calcium, and for bone formation. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, and during winter months from sunlight, which is why I recommend a vitamin D supplement. Here’s more info on vitamin D

Anything else?

Other dietary factors are important for bone health include:

  • protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy

    Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

    Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

  • magnesium – dairy, fruit, veg, whole grains
  • phosphorous – excessive intake harmful (fizzy drinks)
  • potassium – fruit and veg
  • vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A – fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs
So as you can see, a balanced diet including calcium rich foods, fruit, vegetables, with some meat, fish and eggs are all important for the health of your bones.
If you are not getting enough calcium from your diet, then it is worth consulting with a dietitian who can help you redesign your diet and give easy and practical suggestions for upping your intake.
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2 minute Melted Cheese & Carrot on toast

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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.

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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


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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.

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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…….

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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!
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Nutrition Basics

Whether you want to be the best at your gym, or reach for national selection, getting the foundations of a good diet is paramount to maximising your potential.

If you want to become outstanding, you have no option but to give attention to every aspect of factors that affect your body, training, recovery and competition. What you eat, everyday, affects all of these.

To be the best, and to give yourself the best chance of success, you must take nutrition seriously. ALL of the most successful athletes do. ALL have nutrition as a priority.

Saracens Strength & Conditioning coach Andy Edwards when asked What’s the most common thing people neglect when training? “Nutrition. If it’s not at least as important as your training programme then you’re approaching it the wrong way.”

Making wholesome and nutritious food choices for most of your meals and snacks can have a profound effect on performance, recovery, body fat and muscle. All too often we are bombarded with confusing and complex messages about diets and nutrition products, from the internet, colleagues and coaches.

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.

(If you are in heavy training you will have very high calories needs and will need much more than this, possibly double!)

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.

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Seriously Healthy Flapjacks – no butter or sugar

It can be frustratingly difficult to find a flapjack recipe that isn’t loaded with butter, sugar or syrup. If you would rather not load up on these ingredients, here is an alternative recipe to try.

More healthy snack ideas

More healthy snack ideas

I whip up a batch of these most days. It’s an easy way to get fibre, fruit and healthy fats. Here’s why they are so great:

  • Very quick to prepare the mixture
  • No sugar, syrup or butter.
  • Ripe bananas and honey/raisins 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
  • Seeds/peanut butter are full of protein and good fats.
  • For extra protein e.g. as post exercise snack, you can add a scoop of protein powder

Top tip! For a seriously healthy breakfast, keep a few of tablespoons of the uncooked mixture in a bowl for breakfast/snack. Add more milk or some yogurt.

If you like these, you’ll also LOVE Seriously Healthy Pancakes (2 ingredients)


2 mashed bananas – the riper the better as sweeter and easier to mashUnknown-3 IDShot_90x90-2

150g porridge oats (about 2 handfuls)

150ml milk

Optional extras: image

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

chopped raisins

2 tablespoons dessicated coconut

1 cup frozen berries (defrosted) Unknown-4

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon peanut butter

image 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed with a little extra milk (very good for constipation!)

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 the lovely aroma……..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.

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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).

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Healthy meal – what does it LOOK like?

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 health, feeling well, high energy levels and long term health.

All too often we are bombarded with confusing and complex messages about diets and nutrition products. The diet industry is a lucrative one, and the media need to sell magazines, papers and advertising space. Diet fads come and go.

A healthy diet (and by ‘diet’ I simply mean a what you eat) you don’t need lots of fancy or exotic ingredients, restrictions of certain foods or food groups, or the feeling of being deprived. Think long term, make small changes, that over a long period of time will make a big difference.

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. By all means have things such as biscuits, chocolate, wine and beer, but don’t make it an everyday thing. If you fill up on the good stuff, there’s less room for the food that isn’t doing you any favours.

What does a healthy meal look like?


  • 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 of pasta, and too little veg. Many athletes have too little starchy food fearing that carbohydrates will make them fat, too much protein and too little veg. How does this translate to real life? Here are some examples…..


  • Seriously Healthy Pancakespancakes-with-berries-and-cream
  • 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


  • For work packed lunch: Build a Box
  • Spaghetti bolognaise: 1/4 plate spaghetti, add extra veg to bolognaise (grated carrot, extra tin tomatoes). Serve with side salad or Deidre’s coleslawfe0b2420125add7efdf9a7002a5b7261
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce with extra veg & pasta
  • Salmon with Happy Carrots
  • 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
  • Fiery Noodlesimages-2
  • 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
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More Than Macros

Have you ever noticed that some people get sick less often, have much far more energy, and just have more zip? For a professional athlete, being tired affects performance, recovery and injury which ultimately can result in career success or failure.

On the face of it, one of my most recent clients had the perfect diet. As a young front row professional in rugby, weight needs to be at least 100 kg. His weight is stable at 100kg indicating that calories from food is balanced with the calories the body is using up. He has a respectable balance of carbohydrate (45%), protein (25%) and fat (30%), which he diligently records on the nutrition app myfitnesspal.  Permission to polish the halo?

The problem: his body fat is too high (16%), and he needs to build muscle mass, while maintaining the 100kg weight.

Essentially, we need to reduce calories to drop body fat, yet increase calories to build muscle (with a strength training programme in place to stimulate muscle growth). A physiological conundrum. This is a tricky scenario, and one that needs to be managed over the long term rather than in the few weeks before pre season training starts.


During our hour long consultation, I gathered detailed info on food & fluid intake, training schedule and body fat (using skin fold callipers). Even before the a detailed computer analysis of nutrition quality, I could see that his diet was high in refined carbohydrates (sugary breakfast cereals, chocolate, sweets, bread, rolls), and low in vegetables and healthy fats.

The solution: quality and timing of food is as important as quantities of calories, carbs, protein and fat. Regular meals and snacks through out the day, with specific nutrient timing around training sessions, can make the difference between food used for fat storage  or muscle building. Using foods which not only meet the macronutrient targets, but also add extra punch nutritionally can manage the body’s mind bogglingly complex metabolism to meet these targets.

My client’s detailed nutrient analysis showed: Very low: vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, folic acid and omega 3 fats. High in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. This backs up my observation that he eats a lot of processed food (mainly bread and sugary breakfast cereals, chocolate and sweets), not enough veg/fruit or wholegrain carbs, and no fish.

So what? Why does this matter??

Here’s a table showing what these nutrients do in the body:

Nutrient Function Source
A Antioxidant: scavenges free radicals produced by exercise. Skin healing Fish, liver, green vegetables, carrots, yellow and orange fruit
E Antioxidant: scavenges free radicals produced by exercise Vegetable oils, nuts
K Formation of bone proteins, blood clotting Leafy green vegetables
C Wound healing, bone & blood vessel health Citrus fruit, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, peppers
Folic Acid Making red blood cells Green vegetables, fruit
Omega 3 fats Anti inflammatory, muscle and wound healing, reduces muscle soreness after exercise Salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed

What happens when you lack these nutrients?

  1. more tired and lethargic – less zip
  2. more likely to get sick
  3. sorer muscles after weights and rugby sessions
  4. take longer to recover, having an impact on following training sessions and games
  5. injuries and niggles can take longer to heal

The bottom line:

If you think it’s ok to exist on white bread, pizza, biscuits etc, you need to realise that this will impact your every aspect of your performance. Fuelling is a fundamental contributing factor to how well you train. Man up – eat your veg. No excuses. Shopping List





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