10 top foods for refuelling after exercise (and why it matters!)

You may feel that you have worked out to the max during your sessions burning 100s of calories, so it does it really matter if you have some crisps, chocolate, a danish pastry or chips? Time and time again, research shows that the answer is “yes”. Replacing calories isn’t the only objective of recovery.

Between each workout, game or race the body needs to adapt to the physiological stress that has just been applied, so that it can recover and become fitter, stronger and faster. Whether you are a triathlete, a gym addict, or your child is playing in a weekend rugby tournament, optimum recovery nutrition can help you to perform better in the short and long term.

What’s happening during recovery?

  • refuelling of muscle and carbohydrate stores
  • replacing fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat
  • manufacturing new muscle protein and blood cells
  • allowing immune system to manage damage caused by exercise


What are the recovery ‘rules’?

  • multiple daily exercise sessions – if less than 8 hours until next session e.g. professional athletes, weekend rugby tournament, compulsive gym exercisers: recovery nutrition after your session ASAP, ideally within an hour. If next session starts within an hour, recovery drinks or anything low fibre and fat to help with faster digestion (lasagne not a good option!)
  • more than 8 hours between exercise sessions – generally no need to eat soon after exercise, try to have your next usual meal. If trying to gain muscle, then you can add a recovery snack to fuel this catabolic process. If trying to lose weight and hungry after training, be careful not to increase overall daily calorie intake. Have something light to eat e.g. yogurt.


Why carbs & protein are important

Immediately post exercise, good recovery nutrition will consist of protein & carbohydrate. Aim for 1g carbohydrate per kg of body weight, and 20g protein.

Carbs and protein work together: carbs help to shuttle protein in to the muscles, and protein helps to stimulate faster muscle glycogen replacement. Low fat helps the food to be absorbed more quickly, as does low fibre (so don’t be too concerned about choosing ‘healthy’ whole grain carbs like whole wheat bread). Fruit & veg can be included in the next meal to provide antioxidants.

If you don’t feel like eating food or don’t have the time or facilities, then recovery drinks or shop bought milkshakes can be useful. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the most popular commercial recovery drinks. If you are trying to lose weight, then watch the calories……..don’t increase overall calories through the day.


8 top foods for fast recovery:

330ml Milkshake – e.g. Yazoo, Frijj

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

Large skinny latte & handful of nutsUnknown-12

Bagel with peanut butter

Milk: perfect recovery protein & carbs

Breakfast cereal with milk e.g Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios

2 Eggs on 2 white toast

Sandwich/roll/wrap/pitta: filled with chicken, fish or eggs

Jacket potato with cottage cheese/tin of tuna/Baked Beans

Banana or yogurt

Yogurt & Banana

5 ‘unhealthy’ foods you should eat – food myths busted

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! Unknown-12

  • 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.

Bloated? Tummy pain? – how low FODMAP can help you

Since starting my practice as a private dietitian, the most rewarding thing I have done is advising people with a new dietary treatment for IBS. For many of my patients seriously affected by IBS, it has been life changing. Have you heard of the low FODMAP diet?

What is IBS?


Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder where the bowel looks normal, but it doesn’t function properly. It is incredibly common, affecting about 1 in 5 people in the UK. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea. The diagnosis of IBS is usually made when other conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, have been ruled out.

Causes of IBS:

The causes of IBS are not fully understood, however, it is believed to be due to a number of complex factors:

  • genetic – tummy problems run in the family
  • gastroenteritis – alters the gut bacteria
  • antibiotics – alter the gut bacteria
  • stress
  • a highly sensitive gut that is more sensitive to gas forming foods
  • food intolerances e.g. lactose intolerance

Until recently, dietary advice given by health professionals for IBS has been, at best, vague and unsatisfactory. For many people the NICE guidelines, used in the NHS by GPs for treatment of IBS, aren’t very successful. Current advice from your GP may include: reduce stress, adjust fibre intake, regular meals, restrict caffeine, fruit juice, fruit and sorbitol, exercise and probiotics. Medications such as laxatives, anti-diarrheals, anti-spasmodics and anti-depressants are often prescribed. Unfortunately, IBS patients can be left frustrated because these medications in conjunction with the dietary and lifestyle changes are unsatisfactory solutions.

New low FODMAP diet: 75% success

The low FODMAP diet has been published in international medical journals and is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for IBS. The low FODMAP diet significantly reduces symptoms in 75% of people. FODMAPs are indigestible sugars which ferment in the gut causing bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and gut pain. By reducing the amount of FODMAP foods in your diet, IBS symptoms can be dramatically reduced or resolved.shutterstock_52604065

Some common high FODMAP foods include wheat (so in bread, pasta, biscuits etc), apples, pears, garlic, onions, lentils, beans, some vegetables, milk, and some artificial sweeteners. The low FODMAP diet involves many dietary changes that are best described to you in consultation with a dietitian. Additionally, not everyone reacts to the same FODMAPs, which is why it is important to have the advice of an experienced dietitian to help you negotiate the various phases of the diet.

Where do I start?

The low FODMAP diet is carried out in two stages. The aim is to identify the FODMAP foods causing problems that are specific to YOU. Every person reacts differently to each food category, and can tolerate certain amounts.

Phase 1 –  all high FODMAP foods are eliminated for 2-4 weeks. Symptom relief can be experienced with in days.

Phase 2 – a sequential reintroduction of FODMAP food categories over a few weeks. This allows you to identify the foods causing you problems.

A dietitian with experience in the low FODMAP diet can guide you through the phases of the diet, providing practical advice, menu ideas that suit your lifestyle and food preferences, advice on reading food labels etc. Appointment information

KIDS – Health by Stealth!

Unknown-9In an ideal world, our children would sit politely at the table and eat what was put in front of them. Some children do, but there are many that don’t! 99% of the time, fussy eating is just stage, never the less, parents get immensely stressed out about it. Here are some ways to Health by Stealth!

Strawberry milk

Strawberry milk

Strawberry Milk Whizz up some milk (calcium and protein), natural yogurt (calcium, protein and probiotics), frozen berries (vitamins and antioxidants) and honey (sweetness).

Hide the veg

By making your own Tomato Sauce, it is possible to hide mountains of veg and even lentils in it. By blending it before serving, it’s nice and smooth. Grate onions, carrots, add tomato puree to bolster the veg count. You can even slip some lentils in without anyone noticing!

Meatballs with multi veg tomato sauce

Meatballs with multi veg tomato sauce

Another tip came from a mum of a very selective eating child with autism: add grated apple to mince to make burgers. I tried this and it’s fab!

Tell them it’s just for the big children/grown ups/they probably wouldn’t like it This works  brilliantly when preparing vegetables e.g chopping pepper/carrots/grated cheese. Say “no touching!” in a playful way. This can turn it in to a game where they try to ‘steal’ the food from the chopping board.

Distract with a book It’s not ideal, and in a perfect world our children would sit politely at a table. If you are desperate to shovel some good food in, distraction can work well. Look at a book together, while you spoon feed (I resort to doing this on occasions with my 2 year old). 

It’s all in the name for children (and adults!) what you call a dish can affect how they think about it. “Barbeque chickeny rice” will be eaten, but if I called it my it’s real name “Chicken Jambalaya” it would be met with great suspicion and clamped shut mouths.

  • Sausage Surprise – I cook the sausages, chop them up and put them in to pasta with
    Banana 'Cake' (definitely not Banana Bread!)

    Banana ‘Cake’ (definitely not Banana Bread!)

    tomato sauce (with hidden veg, see above). They have a treasure hunt to find the sausages.

  • Banana Cake – ever so much more appealing to have ‘cake’ than Banana ‘bread’
  • Chocolate Cocoa Bars are made with ground up nuts, raisins, dates and cocoa powder. They are deliciously chocolatey!

Probiotics many children can suffer from ‘tummy trouble’ after taking antibiotics or after a tummy bug. Probiotics can help replace the good bacteria in the gut which are essential for the immunity and digestion. Many probiotics that are in capsule can be broken apart and added to food (not hot food, it destroys the good bacteria!)

Fish oil essential for health and brain function, many children dislike the taste of oily fish so it is advisable to take a supplement. Liquid omega 3s can be added to yogurt or even Ready Brek or porridge.

Omega 3 supplement

Omega 3 supplement

A final essentil tip for fussy eaters is for parents. Back off, chill out, and, even if it takes an Oscar winning performance, pretend you are not too bothered.

When to be concerned:
If your child has weight loss, is lethargic, irritable or weak, see your GP to rule out underlying problem e.g anaemia or coeliac disease

If issues continue consider seeing a dietitian with experience in children with eating and digestive issues.

Banana Bread

“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


Not one to deviate from routine, you can imagine my disbelief when my husband suggested a change from porridge might be good. To a granola perhaps! Wouzers!!!!!!!!

I love food, and I love shopping for it and preparing it and making it. So my excitement at the prospect of changing from porridge (which I do love) filled me with disproportionate glee!

I did some research online, and came up with my own basic recipe. Prerequisites for anything I make include that is is quick, easy and I can get all the ingredients at my local supermarket.

The first batch was quite delicious if I do say so myself. Him Indoors had it with natural yoghurt, ignoring my expert opinion that milk was the way to go. But Dec being Dec, chose to Photo on 17-03-2014 at 12.34ignore my expertise on all things food (actually, I am an expert on ALL THINGS). His verdict was that it was a bit “mehhhh”. Of course it was a bit “mehhhh” if you have it with yoghurt and no milk. That is just plain wrong, and I suspect something he learnt from some trendy suburban London breakfast joint. So with gentle persuasion, my granola with milk went down a treat. It’s now the new favourite, with it being had at breakfast AND as an evening snack. I’m delighted it is the hit that it deserves. We are getting through vast quantities so it’s good that it is so easy to make. ……5 minutes to mix it all together, and 30 minutes in the oven.

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 in moderation

And here’s something I’ll tell you for free. This is 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). I spent many long hours in a lab at University of Ulster to come up with that.


300g oats – I mix chunky with finer oats

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Just out of the oven

4 tablespoons honey

1-2 handfuls pumpkin/sunflower seeds

handful raisins or sultanas

sprinkle of cinnamon (about a teaspoon)


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, add the raisins/sultanas. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

4 x Avocado-tastic!

I had the pleasure and luxury of pootling through Kingston Market this morning by myself. I don’t usually take the time to slow down and browse, so was delighted to come across 4 avocados, lovely and ripe, for £1.

Although very high in calories, avocados are little nutrition bombs with a multitude of health benefits:

  • monounsaturated fats which have heart health credentials (lower the bad blood cholesterol, raise the good)
  • Fats enhance absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
  • Fats and fibre good for appetite control
  • High in vitamin E, A and B vits
  • Twice the potassium of a banana
  • Anti inflammatory compounds – may be protective against cancer
  • Very low in sugar
  • people who regularly eat avocado are more likely to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference

So what the heck will I do with 4 ripe avocados?

  1. Green Smoothie Breakfast – blend 200ml water, 1/2 avocado, a kiwi, a handful of greens e.g. spinach or watercress, juice of half a lime, some ginger, and a tablespoon of Total greek yogurt (high in protein).
  2. Simply sliced and piled on wholemeal toast with some salt and pepper
  3. In Superfood Salad
  4. Mashed as a substitute for mayonnaise
  5. Freeze the rest! Best results if they are pureed with some lemon or lime juice and stored in an air tight container.

Apparently, avocados are also good for the wrinkles…….definitely something I need then (I think I have aged about 10 years in the last two). In fact, scrap the recipes I’ll be slapping this stuff straight on to my face!