Wee Bytes – Ready Brek

Ready Brek – it’s such a kiddie food, surely no self respecting grown up would be eating
this for breakfast?! And isn’t it loaded with sugar?

Well you could be missing out…….this is pretty great stuff, and doesn’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as other sugary breakfast cereals.

Ready Brek is simply ground up oats with vitamins added (there is no added sugar). The ingredients are: Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour (38%), Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B6, Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12. Add some milk, and you’ve a wonderful combination of carbohydrate, protein, soluble fibre and all those lovely vits and minerals.

Two ways with Ready Brek:

In a bowl: Put a mug full of milk in a bowl, microwave for about 90 seconds, or until boiling. Sprinkle in the Ready Brek and mix until you get your desired consistency. Tasty extras to add:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • chopped banana
  • a scoop of protein powder
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • an egg – yes really, crack one in and mix well while the RB is piping hot

Add more milk if it’s too hot or you like it extra milky.

Smoothie: Blend together 200-300ml milk, 1 banana or some berries, 1/2-1 mugful of Ready Brek, drizzle of honey. Quantities of ingredients depends on how hungry you are, or how hard you training. I came up with this smoothie idea for one of my little GB gymnasts who was struggling with fatigue due to training coming up to the World Championships…… they got a Gold by the way🙂

Perfect for sport

Because the oats are ground up, Ready Brek is easily and quickly digested, therefore brilliant to have 1 hour before an intentse training session e.g. a swim, run or bike; or after for recovery refuelling.

Before a 6am run or swim, I usually have a ripe banana and milky coffee, and then have a Ready Brek Smoothie as soon as I get home. I need very quick recovery food otherwise I feel very tired later in the afternoon.




Athlete’s Top 10 Shopping List

For professional and serious amateur athletes, heavy training schedules can mean massive amounts of calories need to be eaten each day. 4500kcal for a rugby player is normal, for a tour cyclist this could be 7000kcal, while for a 45kg gymnast they may only need 1700kcal. Whatever the calorie needs, athletes need to pack in as much nutrition punch as possible. That means forgoing the nutrient empty junk food for food and drink that will fuel the training. So what are the things that regularly appear on the pro’s daily shopping list?

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 some top foods that should feature on your shopping list. These are all mostly ‘nutritionally dense’ meaning that they are choca-block full of good nutrition:

  1. 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!LN_012697_BP_9.jpg
  2. Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. They come in various textures, from the very fine in Ready Brek, to the chunky Flahavins. You can add all sorts of things to basic oats to add some oomph: milk, raisins, sliced banana, cocoa powder, cinnamon, desiccated coconut etc. You can also put them in a smoothie for breakfast or for post training recovery. 10 ways with oats
  3. Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge, breakfast cereals and to make rice pudding. Milk is one of the best recovery ‘foods’ after exercise.005045.jpg
  4. Coffee – because it’s one of life’s pleasures, and as a wake up call in the mornings. When taken before/during exercise, caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance, and there is strong scientific evidence that it reduces the risk of many chronic health conditions eg. Heart disease & Parkinson’s disease.
  5. Peanut butter – good for protein, energy and good fats. Just don’t go eating the whole jar as it’s very high in calories! Mix a tablespoon in to porridge or spread on oatcakes/rice cakes.
  6. 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 LN_039809_BP_9.jpg
    blood 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)
  7. 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).
  8. 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!
  9. Yogurt – we get the high protein ones eg. Total greek yogurt, or Danio. These
    have 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.
  10. Salmon – or any oily fish (mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). Oily fish is the best source of anti inflammatory omega 3 fats. Essential in the athlete diet to reduce muscle inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness.288543.jpg

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

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

low sugar biscuits

Low Sugar Biscuits

Here is a recipe for biscuits that are low sugar, high in fibre and very importantly: high in taste and crumbliness! The original recipe is one from my Mum’s very old and battered ‘Belfast Cookery Book’. I’ve simply replaced half the sugar for desiccated coconut. If you compare these biscuits to HobNobs (an oaty biscuit you can buy in the UK) they are 60% lower in sugar.

They are very popular with my kids, and popular with me because I don’t have the ‘mummy guilt’ about them having a biscuit with too much sugar.


4oz butter/margarine

1 oz caster sugar

1oz desiccated coconut

2oz plain flour

5oz porridge oats


  • Cream the butter and sugar together
  • Add the dry ingredients
  • Roll in to a ball. Flour a surface and your hands.
  • Roll out the dough to biscuit thickness with a rolling pin
  • Cut out biscuit shapes.
  • Put on baking tray, and put in oven (180 c) for approx 20 minutes or until starting to turn crisp and golden.




Easy Peasy Healthy Ice-cream



Like most of the recipes on this website, I use this one a lot, and it definitely lives up to the Fast Fit Food ethos. It uses 3 of the basic ingredients that I always have a stock of: natural yogurt, frozen berries and bananas. It is perfect as a pudding or as a snack, and it’s one of the recipes I give to my athletes for pre or post workout as it contains great amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Benefits: yogurt provides good bacteria for the digestion as well as calcium and protein,   the berries and banana provides fibre; potassium and healthy carbohydrates from the bananas, antioxidants from the berries…..I could go on! 

I try to use nice ripe bananas – they are sweeter and easier to digest that greener ones. If you can buy yellow ones with brown specks, or allow them to ripen in the fruit bowl, then there is no need to add any extra sweetness e.g. from honey.

The type of natural yogurt you use is up to you: I usually use full fat for my kids as it gives a thicker creamier texture. If you are watching your weight, then use a low fat natural yogurt which usually Unknown-10276994has about half the calories. Contrary to popular belief, low fat natural (plain) yogurt does not have any added sugar or sweetness. If you are trying to increase protein in your diet, then go for Total which have twice the amount of protein as standard natural yogurts. Liberte has the advantage of having some fruit added, without too much sugar. All of them have the healthy bacteria!

If you are lactose intolerant, simply swap the natural yogurt for lactose free yogurt. Vegan? then go for soya or coconut yogurt.

Healthy, easy ‘ice-cream’images-3


  • 500g pot of natural yogurt
  • 2 frozen ripe bananas (peel before freezing)
  • handful of frozen IMG_0905berries/any frozen fruit



  1. images-3Chuck the ingredients in to a blender and whizz up until smooth.
  2. To make more ice-creamy, you can put the mixture back in to the freezer for a few hours, then give it a good stir before serving.



4 minute Crispy Tortilla Pizza

Being a bit of a foodie, but short on time, I love to find something new to feed the family.

I would love to be more organised with food shopping, but am usually juggling dietetic clients, lecturing (that’s teaching actual real-life university students, not giving my own 3 children the third degree, although I also do that most of the time), looking after said children and generally running the house.

It was 2.55pm, I had been at my laptop most of the day writing patient reports, and I had to pick my the children up from school at 3.15. No snacks of any use in the house to satisfy ravenous little people’s large appetites. All I could muster was some frozen tortilla wraps, a near empty jar of pesto and some cheddar cheese.

Sometimes the best results come from these moments of desperation. Like when you have to panic buy a top to wear from the supermarket (for whatever reason), and it becomes a favourite that lasts for years.

Child and adult friendly, these tortilla pizzas are fabulous as a snack, in a lunch box or on a picnic. These are very adaptable so you can add or subtract ingredients (although keeping the wraps is kind of fundamental to the whole operation).

I find that with fewer ingredients the filling of the ‘pizza sandwich’ is less likely to fall out while walking. If we’re at home or if it’s in the lunch boxes, I might add grated carrot, ham or tuna. Experiment to your heart’s content!016417


  • 2 tortilla wraps
  • tablespoon of pesto or ready made tomato sauce e.g. Dolmio
  • Fillings of your choice (optional)
  • grated cheese



  1. Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan, allow to heat up on a fairly high heat.
  2. Add one tortilla wrap to the pan, spread on the pesto/tomato sauce.IMG_0886
  3. Sprinkle on the cheese and other fillings.
  4. Add the top tortilla.
  5. When the bottom tortilla is browning and a bit crispy, carefully flip the tortilla sandwich over with a spatula
  6. Cook for two minutes on the other side.

The cheese will have melted and the wraps should be nice and crispy. Chop in to quarters or sixths. Can be eaten hot or cold.


One Pot Chicken Chorizo Jambalaya

Who likes mess and lots of washing up? Not me!

Who likes tasty food? Me!IMG_0881

I love this meal because it has minimal faff and hassle: everything is chucked in to my lovely big Le Cruset pot that sits permanently on the stove. It has the perfect combination of carbohydrates from the rice, protein from the chicken and chorizo, with the tomatoes, onion, pepper and garlic providing super healthy phytonutrients. The original recipe used Cajun spice mix which in the words of my 3 year old is “a little bit spicy”, so I’ve adapted it to use smoked paprika, which provides a warming barbeque flavour. Unknown-1

For my wee people, I’ve renamed it ‘Barbeque Rice Treasure Hunt’. I know, I know. I don’t like pandering too much to this type of nonsense, but anything for an easier life. They’ve to find the chunks of chicken/chorizo in the rice. Also for a less stressful mealtime, I grate the onion as my eldest won’t eat chunks of the stuff. Sigh, raised eyebrow*

Did you know? One of the fabulous things about onion and garlic is that they are wonderful ‘foods’ for the healthy bacteria in your gut, helping to ensure they flourish. Healthy gut bacteria are very important for good digestion and your immune system.

Watching your weight or for extra nutrition oomph? Leave out the chorizo as it’s high in fat and usually has nitrates (not very healthy at all); add extra chicken, some prawns, extra vegetables, e.g grated carrot, red pepper, spinach, or another tin of tomatoes.



  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 onion, diced or grated
  • 1 red pepper, chopped in to cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 75g chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp smoked paprika or Cajun spice mix
  • 250g long grain rice
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 350ml chicken stock


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or casserole dish with a lid. Brown the chicken for a few mins.
  2. Tip in the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft.
  3. Add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and smoked paprika. Cook for 5 mins more.
  4. Add the uncooked rice.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stock.
  6. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender. Add more chicken stock if it gets a bit too dry.

My favourite thing is when I let it ‘catch’ on the bottom of the saucepan, allowing it to crisp up a bit/caramelise.


Oaty Banana and Date Cookies



Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle, with a lovely sweetness from the bananas and dates. These healthy no added sugar cookies are chocca block full of fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium.

Many of my dietetic clients and friends ask me about fruit being full of sugar and therefore being ‘bad for you’. Yes, fruit is sweet, but the sweetness comes from ‘intrinsic sugars’ which the body processes and responds to differently to the sugar found in biscuits, cakes, sweets and fruit juice (extrinsic sugar). Whole fruit is a wonderful source of essential vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals that are very nourishing for the body. The fibre is also important for the digestive system – not only does fruit keep things ‘moving’ along, it also maintains a healthy micro biome (the beneficial gut bacteria).



2 large ripe bananas

½ cup datesIMG_0866.JPG

¼ cup vegetable oil or coconut oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups of oats

small handful raisins or dark

chocolate chips


  1. In a food processor, put the bananas, dates, coconut oil, cinnamon and baking powder and whizz up until smooth.
  2. Mix in the oats and raisins/dark choc chips with a spoon.
  3. Spoon generous dollops (about 2 tablespoons) on to a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Gentle press down so thy splodge out a bit.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 170c.
  5. Remove from the hot baking tray and let cool on a cooling rack (no one likes a soggy bottom!)


Chilli Con Carne

This chilli recipe works really well for the whole family. Fabulous for protein and iron from the beef mince, lycopene from tomatoes, vitamin C from red peppers, fibre in all the veg…..the list of health benefits could go on.

I’ll make it without the chilli powder for the kids and call it “Children’s Chilli”. It still images-3.jpegretains the chilli flavour with cumin and paprika but without the heat form the chilli powder. When they’ve been served up, I’ll add the chilli for the adults. It’s perfect with a variety of optional extras: rice, jacket potato, tacos, coleslaw, sour cream or grated cheese.

Watching your weight?

You can swap beef mince for turkey mince, cut right back on the rice (or skip the rice altogether) and images-2serve with coleslaw, salad or any other veg you fancy. Filling a few big iceberg lettuce leaves with the chilli and coleslaw is quite delicious. Aim to fill at least half your plate with veg/salad, and about 1/4-1/3 of the plate with the chilli.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 500g lean minced beefphoto-5
  • 1 beef stock cube in 300ml boiling water
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • boiled rice or Tacos


  1. In a pan, heat the oil, add the onions and cook over a medium heat until soft
  2. Add the garlic, red pepper, chilli powder, paprika and cumin. Cook on low for a few minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef, stirring and prodding for about 5 minutes to break up the mince.
  4. Pour in the beef stock
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sugar
  6. Squirt in the tomato purée and stir well.
  7. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to stop the chilli ‘catching on the bottom.
  8. Turn off the heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop and to cool down.



3 minute microwave sponge pudding

As a kid, Sundays would usually be spent in or around a boat of some description. Either
dinghy racing in Ballyholme Bay or on the bigger boat on Strangford Lough. How very wholesome! That’s me in the yellow boat with my sister. We bickered a lot – I once ‘accidentally’ cracked her over the head with the spinnaker pole….oooops!)


When we got home on Sunday, late in the afternoon, tea had to be something quick, easy, warming and filling. Unless it was a special occasion like Easter Sunday, the menu was usually boiled egg and soldiers, followed by apple sponge and custard. The BEST!!

30 years on, and I’m re establishing this tradition for my own family. Not the tradition of sailing (we live in London!) but the homemade sponge with custard. For ease, I use this fantastic microwave recipe.

I use defrosted frozen berries in the bottom of the bowl, but you can also use stewed/softened apple (peel and slice 1-2 apples and microwave for about 4 minutes in a bowl with a splash of water). Golden syrup is also an option, but I’m conscious about keeping sugar intake down.

Microwavable sponge pudding:images-1


50g butter (room temperature)

50g sugar

1 egg

50g self raising flour

2 tablespoons milk

mixed berries (I defrost some frozen ones)


  1. Beat together the butter and sugar
  2. Add the egg and mix in
  3. Fold in the flour
  4. Mix in the milk
  5. In the bottom of a microwavable bowl, put the berries.
  6. Pour on the sponge mixture
  7. Microwave for 3 minutes

Easy Pad Thai (that beats Wagamama’s)

My (older) sis came to visit us today. It’s her birthday next week, so we took her to Japanese restaurant Wagamama’s for lunch. The three children had chicken katsu curry (loved the kiddies chop sticks!), and sis and I had pad thai.

Now I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, but this home made version of Pad Thai is better. It is an adaptation of a much more complex recipe, for my own lazy time-strapped and health conscious purposes. I reduced the peanut butter and sugar, added vegetables  – spring onions and red pepper, and some lime juice for more zing (and vitamin C!). It can also be adapted for anyone with digestive issues (see below for how)


Easy Pad Thai


2 cloves garlic crushed, 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar/white wine vinegar

2 rice noodle nests
3 chopped spring onions, 1 chopped red pepper
1 large egg, beaten
2 chicken breast, cubed

handful of bean sprouts


  1. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  2. Cook noodles according to package direction. Rinse and set aside.
  3. Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium heat and add some oil.
  4. Add chopped chicken breast, spring onions and red pepper. Cook until chicken has browned and cooked through.
  5. Push the chicken and veg over to one side of the pan and pour the beaten egg into the pan in the space you’ve created and use your cooking spatula to scramble the egg.
  6. Add the noodles to the pan and then pour the sauce over the noodles.
  7. Reduce the heat a little and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. The noodles soak up the sauce and it will thicken.
  8. Stir the bean sprouts in once everything has thickened and remove from heat.


For anyone who suffers with bloating, IBS or digestive conditions, e.g. Crohn’s or colitis, to make it Low FODMAP swap garlic for garlic infused oil (available in all supermarkets), only use he green part of the spring onions, and use Sainsbury’s own brand chicken stock (it has no garlic or onion)cee3d442a251da650bdbe6e7bacad71a.jpg

Chickpea and Avocado Salad — The Flexi Foodie

This salad is so incredibly simple to make that even with the busiest of schedules you could still whip it up for lunch for yourself every day! Gathering and preparing the ingredients will take less than five minutes and then you will be enjoying it in no time! This salad contains a delicious range of […]

via Chickpea and Avocado Salad — The Flexi Foodie


Creamy Chicken Coconut Curry


An easy, healthy, child friendly chicken coconut curry is the answer to my dinner prayers. Although I love recipe books, and I love cooking, I need quick and easy meal ideas that don’t have long lists of tedious ingredients. And if I can find a short cut product then I will be doing a merry dance in the supermarket aisle.

Here is my most recent short cut: Knorr Curry Flavout Pot for using in curries. After reading about it somewhere (I can’t remember where), I was unable to hunt it down in my local supermarket.  But lo and behold, the next week, after some serious detective work (I asked someone who worked there) I got to dance my jig in the herb and spice aisle.

The list of ingredients isn’t too scary, and it even has some top anti inflammatory spices (cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger). The ingredients are suitable for those with IBS on the Low FODMAP Diet

Ingredients: Water, Curry (Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Pepper, Aniseed, Cinnamon, Fennel Seed, Ginger, Lovage Root, Cayenne Pepper, Allspice) (18%), Salt, Spirit Vinegar, Glucose Syrup, Palm Oil, Sugar, Cayenne Pepper (1.5%), Citrus Fibre, Turmeric (0.8%), Pineapple Juice Powder, Gelling Agent (Xanthan Gum), Dextrose

Here’s a recipe for Easy Creamy Coconut Chicken Curry (this should serve 2 adults or 3 kids).


1 clove garlicUnknown-5

2 Chicken breastsUnknown-1

4 spring onions

1 red pepper

1 Knorr Curry Flavour PotUnknown-4.jpegUnknown-3

Unknown.jpegTin of
coconut milk
Tablespoon of peanut butter

  1. In some olive or vegetable oil stir fry the cubed chicken breasts with chopped spring onion and chopped red pepper.
  2. Add the curry flavour pot, a tin of coconut milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter and some chilli flakes if desired.
  3. Serve with rice or rice noodles


Tips for making it healthier:

  • If you’re watching your weight: use half the coconut milk, as there is 600kcal in a whole tin (you can add some chicken stock if this makes it too dry). You could also use light coconut milk as an alternative. Leave out the peanut butter and serve with less rice (about 1/4 of a plate). This cuts about 300kcal from a serving.
  • Add extra vegetables e.g. spinach
  • Use wholegrain rice
  • If you have IBS/Crohn’s/colitis/bloating issues: swap garlic for garlic infused oil (available in most supermarkets), just use the green part of the spring onion, and limit the coconut milk to 125ml or 1/2 a cup.
Tummy trouble

IBS? Heard of FODMAPs?

New low FODMAP diet for IBS: 75% see significant improvement

If you were to tell me 15 years ago, when I was a newly qualified dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London, that I would specialise in treating IBS, I would have thought you wereshutterstock_52604065 crazy. Back then we just didn’t have good answers for people suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

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. The diagnosis of IBS is usually made when other conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, have been ruled out. Symptoms include bloating, wind, diarrhoea, constipation, acid reflux, nausea and abdominal pain.

UnknownThe 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 and other digestive conditions. In February 2015 it was added to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence’s IBS treatment guidelines.
Elimination phase: high FODMAP foods eliminated for 2-4 weeks
Reintroduction phase: high FODMAP foods systematically reintroduced to identify your problem foods (not everyone reacts to the same FODMAPs)
It is important to have the advice of an experienced dietitian to help guide you along your low FODMAP journey

Here some great information all about the low FODMAP Diet: FODMAPs

And here is what some of my patients say:

Miss VG, IBS, marathon training (April 2016) The low FODMAPs is going very well, it has helped a lot with my symptoms. I was quite surprised how well it has worked!

Mr RD, IBS (March, 2016): Hi Sarah. Hope you’re well; I came to see you a year ago to help with IBS issues which have improved dramatically. I very rarely suffer any of the symptoms I used to – brain fog, stomach cramps etc and find I’ve been able to reintroduce a lot of foods that did give me problems previously, so thanks again!

Miss J, IBS (February, 2016): This week is my 4th week on the FODMAP diet and so far so good. I’m actually really enjoying it and have discovered some lovely new recipes. It’s made a very noticeable difference in terms of bloating, cramping and wind which is fantastic. My skin has also improved too.



Super Healthy Flapjacks – no butter or sugar

It can be frustratingly difficult to find a healthy 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.

I whip up a batch of these most days. During school holidays it’s twice a day (note to self: just make a double batch and be done with it!).  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. New oat recipes!
  • 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 1 For a seriously healthy and delicious Bircher Muesli breakfast, keep a few of tablespoons in a bowl overnight in the fridge. Add more milk or some yogurt.

Top tip 2 Did you know that the chunkier the oat the slower it is digested and will keep you full up for longer?


Basic Flapjack 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 (I usually add berries, peanut butter and raisins): image

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

tablespoon of cocoa powder for chocolate flapjacks


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. You can also make them in to cookies by placing the mixture in cookie shaped blobs on the greaseproof paper.

Bake for about 40 minutes at 170 degrees C. Or until they are browning and you can smell the lovely aroma……..this is my method to check for readiness as I usually forget to look at the time I put them in! Enjoy playing around with variations of ingredients🙂

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


IBS: Are you the 1 in 5?

An astonishing 1 in 5 people suffer with digestion issues such as bloating, abdominal pain,shutterstock_52604065 constipation or diarrhoea, excessive wind, heartburn and nausea. Usually the diagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

When a doctor or gastroenterologist has diagnosed IBS (you should not diagnose yourself) this is good news, as it means your symptoms are not due to anything more serious, such as Coeliac Disease or bowel cancer. However, coping with and managing the symptoms can be challenging. Unfortunately there is no pill or supplement that is a magic fix.

The good news? IBS CAN BE TREATED EFFECTIVELY with a low FODMAP diet. It has been so successful and popular with my clients that it has become my speciality. I have been inundated with requests for help, and even see clients via Skype if they can’t travel in person to the clinic. The vast majority have a major improvement, which make me a very, very happy dietitian!

The low FODMAP diet is relatively new. It is a rigourously scientifically tested dietary treatment that produces a significant Unknownreduction in symptoms for 75-80% of people. The FODMAP Diet was originally developed at Monash University, Australia; and recently more  research has been carried out at King’s College, London. The low FODMAP diet is increasingly being used by gastroenterologists and dieticians to successfully manage the tummy problems.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Quite a mouthful (excuse the pun)! These foods have one thing in common: they are all carbohydrates that the gut poorly absorbs and are quickly fermented by the bacteria  causing the bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation and pain. There is quite a long list of foods that are high in FODMAPs, and not everyone with IBS reacts to the same foods.

What foods are high FODMAP?

You may be surprised that many foods considered good for digestion are high FODMAP, and therefore can aggravate IBS. These include wheat, onions, garlic, apples and pears, lactose found in dairy products, beans and lentils.


Sourced from Monash University (2015)


The FODMAP diet is not a diet for life. It is a ‘learning diet’, where all high FODMAP foods are removed for approximately 2-4 weeks. Many people see improvements within a few days. After this elimination phase, foods are reintroduced in a systematic way to identify which foods you react to. This stage is extremely important so that you are not excluding foods unnecessarily.

IBS and FODMAPs can be confusing, with a lot of conflicting advice on the internet. WhenConfused
done well, the low FODMAP diet can be very effective. If you want to try see if it helps you, it is advised that you seek guidance from a Registered Dietitian with experience in the Low FODMAP Diet. Your GP can refer you within the NHS, or a list of private dietitians in your area can be found on the Freelance Dietitian’s website.

I hold clinics at Kingston Health Centre and also offer Skype appointments.

Here’s what my patients say:

Miss J, IBS (February, 2016): This week is my 4th week on the FODMAP diet and so far so good. I’m actually really enjoying it and have discovered some lovely new recipes. It’s made a very noticeable difference in terms of bloating, cramping and wind which is fantastic. My skin has also improved too.

Miss R, France, diarrhoea predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (December, 2015) Hope you’re well I just thought I would drop you an email to let you know how I am doing. I have been on fodmap for a week now. After three days I could see a big difference to the way my tum felt and my digestive symptoms I feel great!

Mrs H, ulcerative colitis. (November, 2105): Your advice has given me some hope that I can manage my health much better and, who knows, hopefully avoid an operation. I think my gut is already beginning to improve, less gurgling, bloating and twinges, so I’m very pleased so far. (January 2016): I am so happy that you have helped me to help myself, I just wish that I had done something like this before, still better late as they say.

Good sources of information on FODMAPs:

A great article all about FOMDAPs

Monash University FAQs

A great (and reliable!) FODMAP blog with recipes



How to choose a healthy yogurt

Sainsbury’s sell about 400 different yogurts, with two aisles at my local one devoted to a  technicolor of the tubs, pots and bottles.Unknown-11

So what’s the difference between them all. How do you choose a good one? What is the Confuseddifference between plain and natural, Bio and live cultured, Greek and Greek Style, are low fat yogurts always loaded with sweeteners and thickeners, why does natural yogurt have sugar on the nutrition label? I’m an avid nutrition label reader (it’s part of my job), and I have to admit to being left confused and overwhelmed.

Yogurt is big business. In 2014, 80% of us bought it – that’s almost 42 million British stocking up on the (mostly) good stuff. 57% of British adults have yogurt as a dessert. Natural yogurts are the only variety that men are more likely to buy than women.

What makes yogurt ‘yogurt’??

Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with two very specific types of harmless bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermopiles (these are the only 2 cultures required by law to be present in yogurt).

The bacteria that are added to milk convert the naturally occurring sugar in milk Unknown-2(lactose) into lactic acid, which causes the milk to thicken, giving yogurt its characterised consistency and tangy taste. People who have difficulty digesting lactose in milk are generally able to tolerate yogurt better: this is because some of the lactose in yogurt has been broken down by the harmless bacteria used to make the yogurt.

Extra bacterial cultures, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifido-bacteria may be added to yogurt as probiotic cultures. These probiotic cultures benefit human health by improving lactose digestion, gastrointestinal function, and stimulating the immune system.

In the UK, yogurt is most commonly made from cows’ milk and can be made using full-fat or lower-fat milk. New variations are also available: soy, coconut, sheep’s, goat.

  • Plain/natural: yogurt at its simplest, with no additional ingredients. Just milk and the bacteria
  • Flavoured: with added sugar, honey, fruit juice, natural flavours, sweeteners, syrups, whole or puréed fruit and/or cereals.
  • Low-fat: contains no more than 3 grams of fat per 100 grams.
  • Fat-free: contains no more than 0.5 grams of fat per 100 grams.
  • Light: contains 30% less of a specific nutrient (for example, sugar or fat) compared to a range of similar products.
  • Greek yogurt (not Greek Style yogurt): genuine Greek yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt, removing the liquid whey and resulting in 2 to 3 times higher protein content.Unknown copy 7  Greek yogurt is available in full fat, reduced fat and 0% fat. Even the 0% fat Greek yogurt is much thicker than regular yogurt. Total by Fage is a popular one.
  • Live yogurts:  The majority of yogurts sold in the UK are ‘live’ yogurts – this means that they contain live bacteria, even if not stated on the label. Some yogurts have extra beneficial bacteria added e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifido-bacteria. To identify if there are these extra biocultures added, you need to look on the ingredients label (due to EU legislation a manufacturer can not claim on the front of the pot that it contains ‘probiotics’)
  • Calcium: Yogurt made from milk is one of the best absorbed dietary sources of calcium. Calcium is needed for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and is also important for blood clotting, wound healing and maintaining normal blood pressure. Most yogurts also contain varying amount of vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium.
This unsweetened natural yogurt has 6.5g of natural milk sugar (lactose)

This unsweetened natural yogurt has 6.5g of natural milk sugar (lactose)

Sugar: This is where it can get confusing. Many people ask me about yogurts and sugar, or make the comment that all yogurts are high in sugar. Because yogurt is made from milk, it will contain some naturally occurring sugars (lactose), from 3g/100g to 7g/100g; the amount of lactose depends on how much of it the bacteria has turned in to lactic acid.  So although a plain/natural yogurt does not have added sugar, on the nutrition label you will read that there is sugar……confusing!

However, many manufacturers load their yogurts with sugar and very sweet fruit purees or juice. Unfortunately, the label does not differentiate between the naturally occurring lactose and this added sugar.

This yogurt has a 15.2g sugars. About 7g of this is naturally occurring milk sugar (lactose = good), the remainder is added sugar (not good)

This yogurt has a 15.2g sugars. About 7g of this is naturally occurring milk sugar (lactose = good), the remainder is about 2 teaspoons of added sugar (not good)

How to choose a healthy yogurt

Ideally, choose a plain/natural yogurt and if you  want flavour or sweetness, add your own e.g. fruit, puree, vanilla extract, jam, sugar or honey. That way, you have more control over the amount of added sugars. One teaspoon of honey, jam or sugar is approximately 5g of sugar.

If choosing a flavoured yogurt, look for one that has below 12g/100g of sugar. This generally indicates that there has been less than a teaspoon of sugar added.



Below is a comparison of just a few of the most popular yogurts in UK supermarkets. I’m a fan of the Total Greek Unknown-10yogurts, due to the high protein, low sugar and extra bacteria probiotic bacteria Unknown-6added (high protein yogurts have been shown to make you feel full up for longer and reduce appetite). I must give St Helen’s Goat yogurt a try, nutritionally I would award it second Unknown-9place, but I’ve never tasted it! Onken Naturally Set also has a great nutritional profile, although lower in protein than Total.


All amounts are per 100g (about half a cup)

Calories Sugars Protein Fat Extra Probiotic bacteria added
Sainsbury’s Greek Style 120 5 4 9
Yeo Valley Full Fat Plain 82 7 5 4 Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium
Onken Naturally Set 68 3 4 4 Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium
Yeo Valley Greek Style 150 14 3 8 Lactobacillus acidophilus Bifidobacterium
Total Full Fat 96 4 9 5 Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei
Total 0% 57 4 10 0 Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei
Danio flavoured 100 12 7 2
Activia Strawberry 99 13 4 3 Bifidobacterium Lactis (Bifidus ActiRegularis®)
Yeo Valley Fruity Favourites 107 13 5 4 Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Alpro Soy Cherry 73 9 4 2
Muller Crunch Corner Choc & Vanilla balls 148 18 4 5
Co Yo (coconut yogurt) 183 1 3 19
Woodland Sheep Natural 92 5 5 6 Lactobacillus acidophilus


St Helens Goats Natural 105 3 6 7 Lactobacillus acidophilus Bifidobacterium

Children’s yogurts are a WHOLE new ball game which deserve a post all of their own……watch this space!


8 Cures for Constipation

Constipation is something that most people suffer from time to time, or for the unlucky, everyday. It’s also something that most people don’t like to talk about, even to their doctor. It can make you feel horrible, lethargic and bloated. images-2

Not everyone has a bowel movement daily, but you may have constipation if you pass fewer than three stools a week, if you pass hard stools, strain more than usual or if you feel that you haven’t completely emptied your bowel. Get a check-up from your doctor just to make sure a medical condition isn’t causing the problem, especially if you’ve never been constipated before now, you have stomach pain, you’ve noticed blood in your stools or you’re losing weight without trying.

Here are the most common causes of constipation:

  • Diet: not enough fruit/veg/wholegrain food, (common with people adopting a high protein diet for weight loss/muscle gain) or eating too many refined foods e.g. white bread, pastries, pasta, biscuits, cake etc.
  • pregnancy hormones slow the contractions of the bowel, possibly to allow for more nutrient absorption from food.
  • iron supplements
  • IBS – an imbalance of gut bacteria results in an over production of methane gas when fermentable carbohydrate foods are eaten. Methane is thought to reduce bowel muscle contraction.
  • hypothyroidism – a common condition when the thyroid gland in the brain doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This causes the body’s systems to slow down, including the digestion
  • diabetes – uncontrolled diabetes with high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerve endings in the bowel
  • possible intolerance to some foods e.g. dairy or nuts
  • medical conditions e.g. where the bowel has an extra loop, or the nerve endings in the rectum become desensitised

So what can you do to get things moving? If you don’t want to resort to medication/laxatives, here are 8 cures for constipation:

    1. fluid – having enough fluid in your bowel helps a lot! It doesn’t matter what you drinkbottled-water (contrary to popular belief coffee and tea aren’t dehydrating). Aim for about 2 litres of fluid a day. Water, warm water with lemon, peppermint tea etc.
    2. fruit – particularly kiwis, apples, pears, rhubarb, prunes, figs. Fruit is very effective as it acts as a natural laxative, acting as a softener by drawing water in to the bowel. The gentle fibre encourages the bowel muscles to contract, helping to move things along. If you are prone to bloating and wind, kiwis are the best (try two a day)
    3. glass of fruit juice – fruit juice has an ‘osmotic effect’ meaning that it’s sugar draws water in to the bowel, which is a great thing for people with constipation. This is why for some people prone to IBS with diarrhoea, they are advised to avoid fruit juice as it can make things even worse
    4. coffee – caffeine has a stimulatory effect on the bowel, meaning that it causes the gut muscles to contract. Many people find that a strong cup of coffee has them heading for the toilet within minutes!image
    5. flaxseed – rich in insoluble fibre, ground flaxseed absorbs water adding bulk to help move things through the digestive tract quickly. Sprinkle a teaspoon in to porridge, a bowl of soup, or try making this easy Bread
    6. yogurt – if your gut bacteria are out of balance, this can affect how your bowel functions. Yogurts contains good bacteria and when eaten daily can encourage gut microbiome. How to choose a healthy yogurt
    7. exercise – there’s an established relationship between our activity level and our bowel habits and in cases of vigorous exercise (e.g., running) there is evidence of a significant increase in activity helping with constipation.image
    8. magnesium supplement – worth trying, some people find relief within days by taking about 300mg magnesium citrate per day (this is perfectly safe). Magnesium is important for muscle contraction, and draws water into the bowel. If you have kidney or severe heart problems ask your doctor first.

7 reasons you’re exercising more and not losing weight

So you’ve started eating better, 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 6 top reasons:

  1. You are ‘good’ all day with your eating and are distracted enough to avoid eating too much. But by the evening you are hungry and attack the bread, cheese, breakfast cereal, biscuits, ice-cream etc. This is the most common mistake I see my clients making. You need to eat more during the day to stop the evening over eating.
  2. Exercising can result in an increase in your appetite, so you eat more. If you are genuinely more hungry, ensure you are eating protein at each meal (eggs, fish, chicken, cottage cheese are great choices), lots of fruit/veg, a high protein yoghurt, milky coffee or tea, water. Consider bringing a meal forward by an hour if you are ravenous.
  3. 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, yoghurt after.

  4. You are trying to be too healthy – yes really! You’re think you’re doing all the right things – snacking on nuts or rice cakes with peanut butter; lots of avocado in salads; extra pumpkin seeds and flaxseed in your porridge. Thing is, even healthy fats are high in calories: a tablespoon of most nutty things  have about 120 kcal. Half an avocado has about 150 kcal. They all add up.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.

Seriously Healthy 1 minute muffin

UnknownHigh in healthy fats and protein, low carbs.
The main ingredient in these healthy muffins is ground flaxseed. Flaxseed is a source of healthy fat, antioxidants, and fiber; rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, as well as manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid omega-3.

imageModern research has found evidence to suggest that flaxseed can also help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. I regularly recommend it to patients especially for constipation.

Flaxseed can be bought in most of the big supermarkets or health food images-3shops (it is the same as ground linseeds – my Mum tells me they used to put linseed oil on horses tails to make them healthy and shiny)

Add a little bit of honey/maple syrup/agave nectar/sweetener/raisins if you like (they can be a little bland without any sweetness!)

Nutrition info: 320 kcal, 1g carbohydrate, 16g protein

  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon light vegetable oil, such as olive oil
  • optional sweetener of choice (1/2 teaspoon sugar/honey etc)
In a coffee mug, stir together 1/4 cup of flax meal, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, sugar/honey/sweetener if using and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Be sure to use a coffee mug, not a cup.
  2. Add 1 egg and 1 tsp. of oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Microwave the mug for 45 to 60 seconds.
  4. Pop the muffin out of the mug and enjoy.

Eat on the run, or serve with a high protein yogurt and berries.


Medical News Today article on Benefits of flaxseed


Avocado Fans – new from Tesco

A perfectly ripe avocado can be difficult to find, and in my experience they can be either rock hard (the one’s from the supermarket) or too mushy (the ones from my local vegetable market). Many people aren’t keen on the messiness that can be involved to prepare them.

Here is a fab new idea from Tesco: frozen avo’s that have been destoned and peeled. They are at a good price too: £2.50 for about 9 halves.


£2.50 – about 9 halves

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

  • monounsaturated fats which lower the bad blood cholesterol and raise the good
  • The fats enhance absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
  • Fats and fibre are slowly digested, so making you feel full up for longer
  • High in vitamin E, A and B vitamins
  • Twice the potassium of a banana – potassium lowers blood pressure
  • Very low in carbohydrate/sugar
  • people who regularly eat avocado are more likely to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference

So what can you do with a frozen bag of avocados?

Green Smoothie Breakfast – blend 200ml water, 1/2 avocado, a kiwi, a handful of greens e.g. spinach or kale, juice of half a lime, some ginger, and a tablespoon of Total greek yogurt.


Defrost and simply use sliced or mashed and piled on wholemeal toast with some salt and pepper, egg, strawberries or tomatoes.





Chicken Curry in a Hurry



A quick, easy, healthy and tasty recipe for chicken curry.


When time and energy are in short supply, but you want a super healthy dinner, this is perfect. I usually knock this up in about 20 minutes (in-between refereeing bickering children and negotiating their homework)

  • 4 ingredients: onion, tinned tomatoes, chicken breasts or roast a chicken and shred, Patak’s Korma Spice Paste
  • very quick and very easy
  • chocablock full of anti inflammatory nutrients (quecertin from onions, vitamin C and lycopene from tomatoes, and turmeric,  cumin, garlic in the spice paste)
  • High protein: from the chicken, excellent for your muscles and keeps you feeling full up
  • Not too spicy: my children will even eat it

What to do:

  1. chop up a large onion, fry on a medium heat in a tablespoon on vegetable or coconut oil for a few minutes until soft.Unknown
  2. add the 1 tablespoon of the spice paste (more if you like a stronger flavour)
  3. add the diced chicken breasts/chopped up roast chicken – coat in the spice paste, cook for a few minutes
  4. add the chopped tomatoes – allow about half a tin or carton per person
  5. simmer for about 20 minutes, longer if you prefer a drier sauce

Serve with rice or in a jacket or sweet potato……lovely to soak up the juices🙂

Short cuts for when you’re too knackered or just don’t have the time: use frozen chopped onions, ready cooked chicken and microwaveable pouches of riceUnknown-5






To add some extra nutritional oomph:

  • coriander/spinach, stir in at the end. If you cook it for too long it wilts away to nothing. Lots of antioxidants and phytochemicals
  • tomato puree – for some concentrated lycopene
  • wholegrain rice – extra fibre, more filling and more slowly  than white rice so keeps the blood sugar levels steadier

The Surprising Protein Source we’ve forgotten about!

I know, I know, cottage cheese……… it’s not very cool and seems to have been relegated to the 80’s as a diet food, aerobics workouts, lycra leotards and Ryvita. For most of us it just doesn’t feature on theimages shopping list.

We could be missing out…..cottage cheese is, in fact, the perfect healthy protein source. Not only highly nutritious, it’s also relatively cheap (65p for a 300g pot in Lidl), and incredibly convenient. Stick a pot in your fridge and you can prepare a healthy snack or meal in minutes.

Nutrition Facts: low in carbs and loaded with proteins, cottage cheese is very filling and will keep your muscles in top condition. It is also high in micronutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B2. 1 cup of cottage cheese has more protein than a scoop of protein powder, 4 eggs or chicken breast.images-2images-1

Whether you are a sitting at your desk all day and need to watch your weight, a 110kg rugby player needing to bulk up on muscle, or a 70 year old granny,  load it up on a piece of wholegrain toast, in jacket potato, or with some chopped tomato and avocado.

Easy lunch today: cottage cheese, avocado, spinach, lettuce and olive oil.

Easy lunch today: cottage cheese, avocado, spinach, lettuce and olive oil.


Here are some new ways to use it, especially good if you’re not keen on the texture.

High Protein Smoothie: (350kcal, 52g protein, 23g protein) a perfect quick breakfast, or as a snack if you are highly active or wanting to gain weight. Blend 200ml semi skimmed milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1 banana, 1 tablespoon honey

High Protein Pancakes (500kcal, 35g carbs, 40g protein):
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup oats
3 eggs
Optional ingredients for extra oomph: cinnamon, cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, raisins
In a bowl or blender, whisk/mix all the ingredients together.
Fry in a non-stick pan with a little oil or butter on medium heat.

Sweet Potato with Curry Cottage Cheese (375kcal, 57g carbs, 22g protein, vitamin K, A and C)

Simply microwave a sweet potato for about 8 minutes. Open a small pot of cottage cheeseUnknown and mix in 1 teaspoon of Patak’s Korma Spice Paste (more if you like a stronger flavour). Load in to the potato and serve with something green, like spinach, broccoli or peas. The spice paste contains turmeric and cumin, both which have potent anti-inflammatory properties.

If you are lactose intolerant, too much cottage cheese can provoke all your tummy symptoms, so don’t have anymore than 2 tablespoons.



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, for many, their aim is “just to get bigger, faster and stronger”.

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 5 essentials for getting bigger 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. Whatever you are eating now, you need to add at least 500kcal per day, and be lifting weights in the gym. A more accurate assessment of calorie needs can be made by a nutritionist/dietitian.
  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. Aim for approximately 2g/kg.
  3. Good quality carbohydrates are essential for adding calories for muscle growth and recovery: Wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, granola, muesli, oats at each meal and snack. Don’t be tempted to go low carb if you are training daily. This can result in poor muscle gain, recovery and performance.
  4. 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. Take an omega 3 supplements if you don’t like fish

Protein and Creatine monohydrate supplementation can also be considered once the above 5 points are in place.

More ways that eating well will benefit you:

  • 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


More than Macros

4 no effort meals


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.

2 Ingredient Pancakes

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.


Photo on 08-06-2015 at 22.17 #2

Packed Lunch: how to build your box

It’s 7am and you have minutes to put together your lunch for work. You look in the cupboard and fridge……….no time to cut up some veg, open a tin of tuna or cook some rice. Ham sandwich it is then.
ad276d4936a977f71240e28b808992ee b423515bb46da8de0f1db5d919a3595e fe0b2420125add7efdf9a7002a5b7261Set a side a few minutes the night before (or on a Sunday if you a super efficient) 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


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.


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.

Strawberry milk

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!


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


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.

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
Photo on 23-07-2014 at 16.54

Flaxseed Bread

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.


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.
Real Food

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

Homemade Cocoa Bars

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


Tired all the time?

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.


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


2013-09-11 11.50.38

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

Hip fracture

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.

Oaty Biscuits – my Mum’s recipe

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

4oz butter/margarine

2oz caster sugar

2oz plain flour

5oz porridge oats

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


Beetroot Juice – worth the hype?

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

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


Concentrated beetroot juice (shot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beetroot recipes



Coconut Water – worth the hype?

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


Vita Coco coconut water

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

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

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

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

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

My advice?

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

Protein with each meal

Paleo Diet – a bad fad?

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

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

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

What is the Paleo Diet?

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


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


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

What about for athletes?

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

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

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

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

My opinion:

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

include wholesome grains and dairy

include wholesome grains and dairy

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

Your thoughts?

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

Fiery Noodles

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!

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.

Tired all the time?

Coffee is good for you, hurray!

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

Photo on 2013-06-26 at 06.14 #3

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

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

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


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

Caffeine in sport….

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

Any negatives?

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

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

What about dehydration?

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

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


5 Ways to NOT look haggard

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, scientific evidence is everything). Specific ingredients to look out for include sun protection (SPF), vitamin A/retinol, and glycolic/lactic/salicylic acid.

As a teenager, I would devour hand me down magazines from my Auntie Ann. images.jpegMagazines are mostly full of nonsense, but I did pick up one tip: using sun screen everyday. I’ve been doing this since I was 16, I think it’s made a difference……..although recently there are times when I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window and think “s*** I could give Iggy Pop a run for his money”.  We all know stress, sleep deprivation and smoking are bad for our skin, and I can tick a box for all three (my ‘social’ smoking habit as a student was hopefully so short lived that no long term image was done)

Here are 4 ways to look after your skin…….

    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 to get a tan (or a ‘tawn’ as we say here in Northern Ireland). Be sensible. A little sun is important for vitamin D, but you can get this from exposing arms and legs for 20 minutes without sun cream. For your face, protect it from the sun. Apparently you don’t necessarily need to use a separate suncream everyday as a lot of moisturisers and foundations have an SPF.
    3. Sugar and refined carbohydrates – 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 may be caused by a reaction called ‘glycation’. This is a process in which collagen fibres (the scaffolding of your face) are reduced in elasticity by losing the cross links between the fibres, leading to wrinkles and lines. Sugar and reined carbohydrates also promotes inflammation in the body, which is not good for the skin.
    4. Healthy fats – Essential Fatty Acids are important for a multitude of functions in your body. If you’re not getting enough EFAs in your diet, your skin may be dry, red and more prone to spots. EFAs can improve skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Fats are also needed for your body to absorb vitamins A, C, D and K.
    5. Sleep – this seems like kind of an obvious one, but fundamental to the cause! In a study published in 2015, chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of ageing, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance. I have a number of clients who have reported that one of the happy ‘side effects’ of improving their diet has been better sleep: a very unscientific and anecdotal statement for me to make, but worth mentioning.

Anti ageing diet:


  • sugars – I’m not saying ‘never’, but keep in check sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar,  honey, agave syrup, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup etc. Yes, unfortunately even the trendy sugars are ‘sugar’.
  • high glycaemic index foods – These are refined carbohydrates which are digested quickly – white breads, white rice, cakes, biscuits, fruit juice, sweet fizzy drinks, energy drinks etc.


    • healthy fats – these are anti inflammatory and help to keep blood sugar levels lower – salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, cashews, olive oil, avocado, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Here’s a guide to healthy fats. Healthy fats in sensible amounts are good. If you are overweight then go easy on these – have a handful of nuts rather than the bag, one mackerel fillet not three.
    • 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 and oats are 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’. So lots of vegetables, the more variety in colour the better… cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, beetroot, kale, carrots, peppers, and spinach. Fruit is good too with top marks for deeply coloured strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, apples. Green tea and black tea (builder’s tea).

So in a nutshell (excuse the pun!!), here’s yet another reason fill your boots with loads of colourful veg, some fruit, oily fish, nuts, lentils, beans, and other whole grains. If you need recipe ideas, here you go: recipes.