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With the overwhelming threat of Corona Virus and self-isolation, most of us have a lot of time on our hands to think about ‘stuff’. In the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of clients anxiously contacting me to ask about what food they should be eating and what supplements they need to take to boost their immune system.
It is generally agreed in scientific and medical spheres that you have a better chance against Corona if your immune system is functioning well.
Rather than feeling like a sitting duck waiting for Corona to get you, here is a cheerily impressive collection of things that you can do for yourself and your family……
Social distancing and hand hygiene. Not my area of expertise, but these are the most important ones Government guidance
There are many, many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system. There is no one super food or super vitamin that you need to max out on. I know it may be boring, but I maintain my consistent message that a healthy balanced diet is fundamental for your immune system to function well. Here’s a link to the Eat Well Guide. You will be doing very well if you can get these foundations of good, solid nutrition consistently in place.
There are some nutrients that you can make sure you are including that are specifically important for the immune system. I sympathise that supermarket and shop shelves can be sparse at the minute, so it doesn’t matter if these come from fresh, frozen, tinned or dried.
• Vitamin C – citrus fruit (lemons, oranges, grapefruit), kiwi, red pepper, broccoli, potatoes.
• Zinc – meat, fish, nuts and seeds, lentils, eggs, dairy
• Vitamin D – the main source is sunlight, with smaller amounts coming from food. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified foods (breakfast cereals, milk & dairy). If you can’t get outside, then I recommend a vitamin D supplement 1000IU per day.
• Beta-carotene/vitamin A – carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, red and orange peppers
• Folate – broccoli, spinach, breakfast cereal, frozen peas
• Iron – breakfast cereal, red meat, dried fruit
Other important points:
• Taking mega doses in the form of supplements doesn’t provide extra benefits, and in some case can be detrimental. If you are worried that you aren’t able to get these nutrients from food then you could take a Complete Multivitamin – I will elaborate on this in a future post.
• Try not to become hyper focused, obsessive or overly worried about nutrition. Anxiety increases stress hormones in the body which negatively impact the immune system.
• Under-eating or over-eating can negatively impact the immunity (aka being underweight or overweight). Try to keep within a healthy BMI weight range check your BMI
Microbiome – our gut bacteria are essential for a healthy immune system. The healthy gut bacteria are found in the last part of the digestive system (the colon). To feed your gut flora eat a varied diet with lots of high-fibre foods. The more plant foods you consume, the better, it really likes fruit, vegetables, oats, wholemeal bread, beans, lentils and yogurt.
Alcohol – I know, I know, I’ll try not to get all preachy about this – I enjoy a drink as much as the next person. The fact is that boozing through the coronavirus crisis isn’t a great idea, because drinking depletes our immune cells. Daily drinking can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes, so if Corona virus gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at fighting it off. Alcohol also has a negative impact on your sleep (see point 6)
Move – exercise mobilises the white cells of the immune system by increasing your blood flow. The NHS says adults should be physically active in some way every day. If you are lucky enough to be in a country that is not in complete lock down (yet!) aim for about an hour outside – this has the added benefit of getting vitamin D from daylight. Exercise also releases happy hormones.
Be careful not to over exercise, I regularly see elite athletes who over train and become very susceptible to coughs and colds. This is because too much intense exercise can produce stress hormones which are bad for your immune system. If your exercise leaves you feeling energised, then you’ve probably got it right, but if your exhausted and worn out, then you may be over doing it.
Sleep – Exercising and eating well will have the likely knock-on effect of helping you sleep better, which is a bonus because a tired body is more susceptible to bugs. Lack of sleep impaired the disease-fighting ability of lymphocytes.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll elaborate on a lot of the points above. If there are any specific topics that you would like me to write about, leave me a comment below!
Thanks for reading xxxxxx
The veggie chilli is immense. The original recipe comes from Jamie Oliver which I have adapted………you may notice that there are no actual chillis in the recipe. The cayenne pepper adds a mild spiciness, which is just this side of conservative and perfect for not blowing small children’s heads off. Cinnamon adds a wonderful depth of flavour and just makes it taste a bit different (without it actually tasting of cinnamon).
In these Corona days – it’s absolutely fine to use fresh, frozen or tinned ingredients. Adapt where you can!
Sweet potatoes provide vitamin A, onions and garlic are rich in fermentable carbohydrates (which help the healthy bacteria in our digestive system to flourish,) peppers are rich in vitamin C, and tomatoes are chocca block with lycopene. The beans are high in fibre and great for protein – keeping the blood sugar levels steady and hunger at bay.
For anyone requiring the chilli kick, I put a bottle of chilli sauce on the table for those in need of the extra rocket fuel.
2 sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
big handful of fresh coriander
2 x 400 g tins of mixed beans
2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas 6.
- Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks, then place onto a baking tray.
- Sprinkle with a pinch each of cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, drizzle with oil then toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes, or until golden.
- Peel and chop the onion. Chop the peppers, then peel and finely chop the garlic.
- Pick the coriander leaves, finely chopping the stalks.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the onion, peppers and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the coriander stalks and spices, and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Drain and add the beans. Tip in the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a spoon, then stir well.
- Stir the roasted sweet potato through the chilli with most of the coriander leaves.
- Serve with boiled rice, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, grated cheese. And remember to put the bottle of chilli sauce on the table!
When I’m asking my patients about what they eat and drink through the day, they often shamefully ‘confess’ that they are coffee drinkers. The good news is that coffee in reasonable amounts might be one of the healthiest things you can do.
Scientific research shows that in the short term, caffeine increases alertness, concentration, vigilance, improves mood, reduces perception of pain and increases time to fatigue when exercising.
For long term health benefits, coffee has anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
New research shines some light on the mechanisms behind these health benefits – it seems that there are links between coffee and the health of the gut microbiota. Higher coffee consumption is associated with increased richness and evenness of the gut microbiota in the lining of the digestive system, and higher relative abundance of anti-inflammatory bacteria.
8 fascinating coffee and caffeine facts:
- Caffeine is absorbed rapidly and totally in the small intestine in less than 1 hour
- Caffeine is broken down in the liver by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 oxidase. Depending on your genetics, some people have more of this enzyme than others, therefore this affects sensitivity.
- It can help the bowel to contract – helpful for constipation, not so helpful if you are prone to diarrhoea!
- In women, the metabolism of caffeine is slower during pregnancy, as well as when taking oral contraceptives. This means that the effects of caffeine isn’t broken down by the liver as quickly, so the effects are felt for longer.
- Cigarette smoking doubles the rate of caffeine clearance by increasing the liver enzyme activity. This means that the effects of caffeine wear off more quickly. This may be one of the explanations for the higher rate of caffeine consumption among smokers.
- Coffee reduces the absorption of Levothyroxine – this is a common medication for hypothyroidism which should ideally be taken on an empty stomach
- Excessive caffeine intake may increase ‘unstable’ bladder in women i.e. suddenly being desperate for a wee
- The belief that coffee is dehydrating is not true for habitual coffee drinkers. If your body is used to drinking coffee the effect on urine output should be minimal (unless your bladder is sensitive to caffeine – see previous point). Obviously if you drink a lot of any fluid you are going to wee more).
Any negatives of caffeine to be aware of?
- Increased anxiety – many people with depression/anxiety/stress find that coffee can make it much worse
- Insomnia – if you are sensitive to caffeine, you may need to to keep coffee for the morning
- Abdominal cramping and diarrhoea – common in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
So, it’s best to know your own body and how much caffeine you can tolerate. If you have a good tolerance, limit yourself to 4-6 cups per day (maximum of 2 cups if pregnant). If you suffer with diarrhoea, anxiety or insomnia, then try cutting coffee out for a few days to see if this helps!
Right, time for a cuppa!!!!!
Well it looks like summer may finally be here! After 6 months of grim winter weather, the sun is making an appearance. OK, ‘summer’ may be pushing it………..but when living on the Irish coast, if the thermometer reads anything above 15 degrees C then the summer dresses and flip flops will be out. So quick! Before the sun disappears! I’ll be cookin a new suitably sunny Greek inspired wee recipe! (NB the word ‘wee’ in Northern Ireland is an affectionate term used for pretty much anything, for example a shop assistant may say: “Uck that is a lovely wee top, would you like a wee bag for it? Just pop your wee card in the wee machine there. OK you can put your wee PIN number in now. Would you like me to put your wee receipt in your wee bag?”)
Here’s the wee recipe for flatttened lamb koftas……seriously, you’ll be totally scundered at how good these are 🙂
How to make them healthier:
- Lamb is a high fat red meat, so try to buy the lean mince which has a reduced fat
- Grill rather than fry
- Add loads of crunchy salad in a pitta, tomatoes, humous etc
- 400g lean lamb mince
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 cloves garlic crushed/finely chopped
- pitta bread
- lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, greek yogurt or hummus
- In a bowl, mix the mince, cinnamon, cumin and garlic. Get stuck in and use your hands!
- Grab a handful, and mould in to a patty shape, about the same shape as a pitta bread but a bit smaller
- Place on some kitchen foil and grill for a few minutes on each side
- Put in a pitta (toast the pitta if you prefer), with some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and greek yogurt/hummus
Eli is 19 and came to me in September desperately seeking help with her anorexia. Despite years of hospital stays and outpatient treatment Eli has struggled to recover. I am working with Eli, her psychologist and her family to slowly her move towards a more normal and contented life. Thank you Eli for your hard work, courage and determination.
I’m a bit slow to join the Chia Seed Party. Any health foodie worth their Instagram followings is raving about virtues of this little seed, with beautifully styled photos to match. Food bloggers and writers are telling us that they are “the most nutrient dense food in the natural world”, “high in protein”, “an omega-3 superfood”, “high fibre”. Are these claims too good to be true?
There will always be little alarm bells ringing in my head with the claim of a particular food being ‘super’. All health professionals, including dietitians, need to be cynical about sensationalist headlines for any food. It is our job to question everything we read – from published scientific research to online food blogger articles.
There are hundreds of potential ‘super foods’ – mostly fruit, vegetables, whlolegrains, fish, nuts, seeds…….and the more variety of these you can get, the better. Focusing on any one food as having specific effects on long term health is usually not supported by good enough scientific evidence. I’m thinking chia seeds, goji berries, acai, wheatgrass etc. As well as some outlandish health claims, there is often the price tag to match. Their popularity is usually more to do with great marketing & PR, magazine and newspaper editors looking for ‘the next big thing’ to grab readers’ interest, and of course, celebrity endorsements.
Chia Seeds – worth the hype?
Here are some of the health claims:
Gluten free – true, so good for people with Coeliac Disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.
High in Omega-3 fats – true, but not the ‘best’ kind. Chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in plants. This is not the same as the very beneficial omega-3 fats that are found in oily fish. Our bodies cannot use the chia seed version of the omega-3 very well, so won’t have the same health benefits.
High in Protein – false. Chia seeds are 16% protein and do have a good range of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). However, they are not high in protein per se. To obtain a decent amount of protein from chia seeds, you would need to eat a lot of them. One portion of chia, about 30g dry weight, only has about 5g of protein. To get a decent 20g of protein, you would need to eat 4 portions which would give you over 500kcal.
High in Fibre – true, there’s no disputing the excellent fibre content. A whopping 13g per portion. The seeds absorb a high volume of liquid, and become quite gelatinous (just like flaxseeds), so fabulous for helping with constipation, and they are low FODMAP so shouldn’t cause bloating.
High in calcium – true, however.…………the vitamin and mineral content of chia seeds may be misleading, because of the seed’s indigestible hull that likely prevents the absorption of many of these micronutrients. Ground chia seeds may overcome this limitation, but no studies have investigated the bioavailability of chia seed nutrients.
So although many of the health claims are sensationalised, chia seeds can benefit health and are great to be included in a healthy diet.
So what do they taste like? I tried them out for the first time in a popular recipe which has nine thousand likes on social media (see below). I asked my friend Aileen what she thought: “Chia seeds? Never heard of them” she said. “They look like frog spawn”. To me, they tasted like it too. But loads of people seem to love them!!!!
You can also use them like flaxseeds: sprinkle them over muesli, add in to porridge, or blend in to smoothies, yogurt or soup.
Chia Seed Banana Breakfast
- 300ml vanilla soya milk
- 1 banana, ripe
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 cup Chia Seeds
- In a medium size bowl mash or slice the banana.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir until combined.
- Cover and put in the fridge overnight – or at least 2 hours
- (Try to) enjoy!
Call it a mid life crisis, but I’ve recently started stoking up the social life with a night out every fortnight or so. With only weeks to go until my 39 turns to in to forty, and with significantly more childcare on hand (thank you parents, sister and cousins!) it would be silly not to.
Usually a conversation in the pub eventually gets to “what do you do?”, or hilariously (well, it seemed the funniest thing I’d ever heard after a few Bushmill Mojitos): “What is your role in life?”
When I tell people that I am a dietitian, a lot of people ask the ‘Which Is Better’ question e.g. “gin with slimline or fat tonic?”, “Guinness or beer?” or “what’s the least bad thing to have from the take-away”.
So takeaways: can fast food be fit food?
Purely for research purposes, today, I attended one of the best fast food joints Bangor Ring Road has to offer: KFC@Balloo.
What was the healthiest/least ‘bad’ thing on offer?
I had been slightly terrified that I was going to have to get one of those great big buckets that used to be advertised on TV in the 80’s. How things have changed! It felt like a chorus of angels had descended when I spotted the KFC Rice Box. It looked remarkably similar to the boxes you can get in Leon – a healthy fast fast food mecca in snazzy London.
Original Recipe Rice Box: in a box, there was a large portion of rice, a crispy chicken fillet, some salad (lettuce and tomatoes), a dollop of tomato chutney on the rice, and a splash of creamy dressing on the lettuce.
|KFC Rice Box||Adult Recommended Intake per day|
- Taste: It was quite tasty indeed. The chicken wasn’t at all dry, the rice was flavoursome, the lettuce was crispy and the tomatoes great too (I am clearly not a food critic with extensive foody vocabulary!)
- the rice provides a good source of carbs (although there was a bit too much for me so I left about half).
- great amount of protein from the chicken
- the chicken has been deep fried so higher in fat than a grilled fillet, unfortunately KFC doesn’t have this option. I guess that’s reasonable as the joint is has ‘fried chicken’ in it’s name.
- the salad provides about one of your five a day of fruit/veg
- Horribly high in salt, giving you almost half of your recommended daily salt intake. The salt is probably what makes the rice so tasty.
How to ‘health it up’:
- add a bottle of water
- add a side of corn on the cob to double your veg intake
- only eat half the rice, unless you’re very hungry or have just been working out
- remove the crispy skin from the chicken
- DO NOT add any more salt
- DO NOT add chips or Coke
As a post sport/exercise/workout recovery meal, this is pretty good. It provides a decent amount of carbs, protein, and veg. The salt can be a good thing if you are a heavy sweater.
So how does it compare to healthy restaurant Leon’s box? Well, Leon has lots of different versions, but typically, there isn’t a massive amount of difference when comparing calories and overall fats. The KFC one is higher in salt and carbs (probably due to the big portion of rice), but as a positive KFC is higher in protein. Leon’s usually also contain healthy fats from avocado, olive oil and seeds.
Would I get this again from KFC? Yes, sure I would. Thumbs up 🙂
Five years ago, not long after my youngest was born, I sat in the cafe at Virgin gym in Kingston chatting to one of the personal trainers about coming along to their Triathlon Club. But with three young kids, and later on two jobs, there was no way I could ever commit to the training.
One year ago, my circumstances changed massively. A move to my home town of Bangor, Northern Ireland in July 2016, somehow gave me the drive to focus on this ambition that had only grown since that initial conversation. I bought a road bike in August, and in September a turbo trainer was delivered to my door (a surprise present from my awesome sister!). This made it possible for me train on the bike every morning at 5am before the kids woke up. Running and swimming were fitted in around the school drop offs/pick ups and work, with longer weekend sessions made possible by my Mum and Dad (and their never ending patience with me and my looney 3!).
June 2017: I had no excuse for not entering the Peninsula Sprint Triathlon. Especially as it was from beach at the end of my road. My sis flew over to look after the children – thank you, and thank you for having them the night before so I could get my ‘race head’ on.
Here is an account of some of the things that were going through my head during the race. It is a VERY cleaned up version. If you can imagine in real life, every other word was very sweary. Very, very sweary.
The 750m Sea Swim “Booooof, aiooooo, elbow in my face…..I’m seeing stars! I’m fine, keep going, no problem.
Mmmmm, I can’t move my jaw, it hurts. Keep going you’re fine. All part of the experience! Just try not to get kicked in the head……that could be worse. What are all these people doing here??? Move out of my way! Not far now. Where’s the next buoy. Yellow, yellow, yellow, look for the yellow buoy. Over there, FFS it’s that way!”
Transition 1: Exiting the water to get on the bike. “Wwwwaooooo, the world is spinning. Waaaaooooo, don’t fall over. Smile at my 3 little people. High five, Mummy’s
feeling great, amazing!!! Waaoooo………focus, don’t fall over. Ok, you’ve got this! Oh jeez, I should be running to the bike!……..pick up your legs…….one two three four five six seven eight. Bike. Where’s my bike? Here you are! Ok, legs out of wetsuit. Why is everything still spinning…….find something to hold on to. You know how to peel a wetsuit off, you’ve done this a million times! Ok bike shoes on, good well done. I really shouldn’t be cycling in this state, I feel like I’m totally drunk. It will be fine. Helmet and glasses on. Run with the bike to the line, don’t slip over…….. clip shoes in, don’t fall off, for goodness sake don’t fall off!!!! High five Me, you didn’t fall off! Ahhhh my lovely bike and a smooth road. Sea swims are for nutters.
The 20 km Cycle: This is funnnnnnnn, hey there are police holding up the cars! Thank you! I love you!!! Oh s***, that guy’s come off his bike. He’s lying on the road. What am I doing?!!! Why am I here? Never mind, I sure he’ll be fine. This is fun again! Legs are feeling good, I’m catching that bike in front. What do I do?? Seems a bit rude to overtake. **** it, I’m going to it anyway. Next!! Oh there’s a girl to over take, BOOOOOM, go legs……..is it a girl? Top half looks like a bloke………….suspiciously smooth legs though. It’s a bloke! Ha ha, lovely hair free legs, must get some tips, tee heee!
Marshalls in your yellow vests. I love you, you make me so happy when you clap and say I’m doing really well. I think we should be best friends, you are soooo lovely. You tell me I can do this and it’s not far now. Thank you!! They said it’s not far now! Hang on, that was 2 minutes ago, I’m still not at the end of the bike leg……you lied to me!! Waaaaaaaah! I’m dying here! Waaaaaaah!
Transition 2: Bike to 5 km run: Yellow line!! Off the bike, run to the bike rack. DO NOT skite on your arse in these slippy shoes. Bike in to rack. Yikes!! How do I hook the bike on to the rack. Focus concentrate, quickly QUICKLY, you’ve rehersed this. There we go back of saddle over the bar. Nooooo!! *$!*!% The bike’s fallen off and taken the next one with it! I’m going to pass out, my eyes are all weird and my hands won’t work because. I’ve spent 37 minutes gripping the handle bars for dear life! Ok, focus. Front of saddle on the bar. Fix the other bike. Good, well done, you’ve got this. Shoe change, work hands work!! Mouth swill of Lucozade. Ha ha! The advantages of being a sports dietitan and knowing the carb mouth swill secret! Don’t swallow any, you know it will make you want to puke. Swill it around, spit it out. Ok where can a spit this gob full out. S***, there’s a photographer…………I can’t spit out now, that would be so disgusting to have that on camera! Abandon nutrition strategy! Swallow the Lucozade. Hope I don’t vom. Jesus my legs.
Final stretch of the 5km run to the finish. “Nearly done, just a few steps on the beach then
through the finish line. Hang on a minute, I’ve got to go to the end of the beach and back again? Jesus no.
I am actually going to puke. Walk 10 steps. Thank you marshall for cheering me on, I’m so sorry for not running, but I’m going to puke. Run again, toughen up, do not walk, it’s like the Marathon Des Sable, if those guys can run 250km over Sahara sand, I can do 500m of Ballyholme Beach! I can see the finish line!! OMG the sand has turned all soft and fluffy, this is cruel! The race briefing said this is a flat course, not a fluffy sandy flat course! Just look at the ground, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, focus on the ground, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Up the ramp………I’m there! Finished! Sit down, heave, deep breaths, don’t throw up on your children.
10 minutes later: I could SO do that all over again. Olympic distance NO PROBLEM!!
24 hours later: my body feels like a sack of potatoes and my mind is somewhat catatonic. But in a good way 🙂
Thank you to http://bradleyquinn.com for the photos.
This is something I make in seconds for my kids as a very healthy pudding. They love it. It’s somewhere between ice-cream and a smoothie. For me, I sometimes have it as a breakfast. I add a handful of oats, and if I’ve just had a bike or run, a scoop of protein powder.
Why it’s great:
Yogurt: calcium, protein, good bacteria for the digestion Berries: antioxidants,
phytonutrients and fibre. Oats: for slow release energy, soluble fibre, B-glucan cholesterol lowering, carbs for replacing muscle glycogen stores post workout. Protein powder: 20g extra protein post workout for muscle recovery and maintenance, also keeps you feeling full up for longer.
- frozen berries: 1 big handful per person
- Oats: 1 small handful per person (about 30g)
- Natural yogurt: 3 tablespoons per person
- Honey: 1/2-1 teaspoon per person
Method: whizz up in a blender, in my blender I’ve to give it a shake every few seconds to get all the ingredients down to the bottom.
Eat with a spoon!
If you use a flavoured yogurt, there’s no need to add honey as it should be sweet enough already.
Here’s what I used this evening……
Tales of sinister goings on inside pasta sauce jars are rife. If you are to believe the Daily Mail, they are full of sugar and they may, basically, kill you. I say “Really???” In true dietitian style I’m going to challenge that. To be fair, most tomato based pasta sauces are a good choice, but if you are concerned about levels of sugar and salt, some are better than others.
So what should you look for when buying a pasta sauce?
- tomato based, rather than creamy or with mascarpone
- low sugar: less than 5g per 100g
- low salt: less than 0.3g per 100g
The Sugar Issue: yes, most tomato pasta sauces have some sugar added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. The tricky thing here is that even a whole tomato, straight from the plant, has naturally occurring sugars. So on the jar label if it says 5g of sugar, this does not mean that there is 5g (about a teaspoon) of white sugar added. About 3g of this will be natural sugar from the tomato. The remaining 2g may be from added sugar.
The Salt Issue: it is very hard to find a tomato pasta sauce than is low in salt (the ones marketed for kids usually are). Most of the jars that I have suggested below are ‘medium’ for salt.
You can of course make your own pasta sauce from scratch with tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, and some herbs, but sometimes that feels like a bit too much effort. One good tip to add more nutrition oomph and to reduce the concentration of salt is to open an extra tin of chopped tomatoes and add it to the jarred sauce.
Here are 5 great choices:
All figures are per 100g (roughly a portion)
Loyd Grossman Pasta Sauce – Tomato & Basil. 61 calories, 4.8g sugar, 0.8g salt Sugar is pretty low, the salt is a bit high but not terrible. There are no strange sounding ingredients – it’s all proper food. Ingredients: Tomato (61%), Tomato Purée, Garlic, Basil (2.6%), Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Ground Black Pepper.
Dolmio Low Fat. 33 calories, 4.2g sugar, 0.8g salt. Don’t let the name of this Dolmio sauce put you off. To be honest, I’m perplexed that it’s called ‘low fat’ as the Dolmio Original is also low in fat. The difference is that the ‘Dolmio Low Fat’ is a bit lower in sugar.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (81%), Tomato Paste (10%), Onion, Cornflour, Lemon Juice, Salt, Basil (0.3%), Sugar, Garlic, Parsley, Herb, Spices.
Tesco Goodness For Kids Pasta Sauce 51 calories, 3.6g sugar, 0.2g salt. Ohhh I’m loving this one. It has lots of different extra vegetables. It’s marketed for kids, but grown ups don’t let this put you off. Great ingredients, low in sugar and salt.
Ingredients: Tomato Purée, Carrot (20%), Red Pepper (10%), Lemon Juice From Concentrate, Yellow Pepper (5%), Onion (4%), Cornflour, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Garlic Purée, Sea Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Pepper
Sainsbury’s Light Tomato & Herb Pasta Sauce 28 calories, 4g sugar, 0.6g salt This ‘light’ version of Sainsbury’s own brand sauce is much lower in sugar than the standard ones.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (80%), Tomato Purée (13%), Water, Onions (1%), Onion Purée (1%), Maize Starch, Salt, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Sugar, Basil, Oregano, Garlic Purée, Olive Oil, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid, Ground Black Pepper.
ASDA Good & Counted Bolognese Pasta Sauce 27 calories, 4.1g sugar, 0.6g salt This ‘light’ version of Asda’s own brand sauce is much also much lower in sugar than the standard ones.
Ingredients: Tomatoes (80%), Concentrated Tomato Purée (14%), Lemon Juice from Concentrate, Water, Concentrated Apple Juice, Salt, Dried Onions, Basil Leaf, Garlic Purée, Oregano Leaf, Rapeseed Oil, Ground Black Pepper
This isn’t an exclusive list and there are many many other good ones out there. My aim is to take the confusion and indecision away when trying to choose.
I’m always being asked about fats…….”which fats are good” or “which fats are bad”. While it is clear that we all need to include some fat in our diets to remain healthy, not all fats are equal.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are the baddies, the grizzly little gremlins of the food world. They are:
- Artificially produced as an ingredient for biscuits, pies, cakes and fried food
- Produced when vegetable fats are subjected to a very high temperature e.g. takeaway foods
- Naturally occurring in small amounts in dairy e.g. cheese and cream
Health concerns about these fats has recently led to many UK manufacturers reducing the amounts of trans fats in foods. In 2006 United Biscuits, who produce McVities, KP and Jacobs ranges, removed trans fats from their products. Marks & Spencer, as well as many other supermarket chains, also banned the use of trans fats in own brand products.
Why are trans fats bad for me?
Trans fats raise levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and reduce the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Trans fats also increase levels of another form of blood fat called triglycerides. All of these effects of trans fats can raise your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Trans fats appear to increase risk of CHD more than saturated fats, and so are potentially worse for our health.
How do I know if a food is high in trans fats?
You need to check ingredients lists for partially hydrogenated fats.
A ‘hydrogenated fat’ does not contain trans fat, only ‘partially hydrogenated fats’ contain trans fats. If a food product contains partially hydrogenated fats or oils, it will almost certainly contain trans fats too, and the higher up the list the fat or oil appears, the more trans fats the product is likely to contain.
Many manufacturers now avoid using hydrogenated fats or have reduced the amount of trans fats in their products to very low levels.
Take home message……
The good news is that in the UK intakes of trans fats are on average lower than the guidelines. In the last 20 years, levels of trans fat in food have reduced considerably.
However as part of a healthy diet, you should aim to keep the amount of trans fats to a minimum. In general trans fats may be found in takeaways, cakes, biscuits, hard margarines, pastry, pies and fried foods, all of which are the types of foods to limit when choosing a healthy, balanced diet.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.
Poached eggs should be one of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest meals. But it can be hard to not end up with a watery pile of mush. There is a lot of advice out there on how to achieve the perfectly poached egg: the freshest eggs possible, adding vinegar to the water (am I the only one to end up with vinegary eggs?!) or the ‘swirling the water’ method.
For the first time in my 39 years, I came across this genius method for the perfect poached egg. Or for 10 poached eggs if you need that many!! It’s idiot proof, which is a stroke of luck for me.
Location: a big family brunch at my cousin Wendy’s house in Holywood – that’s Holywood in N. Ireland; rather than Hollywood, California :). There were 13 of us so that’s a lot of eggs to poach! I was a bit skeptical as this clingfilm escapade unfolded in the kitchen, but trust me…..
Here’s what you need:
any cooking oil
Ramekin, or small bowl
- Boil some water in a small sauce pan. Once boiling reduce to a simmer
- Tear some cling film, about double the width of the ramekin
- Oil the cling film by dribbling in a few drops of the oil. Spread around with your fingers or a pastry brush
- Break the egg in to the cling film
- Gather up the edges of the cling wrap and twist, making sure that you have the egg enclosed well. You can secure it with a little elastic band or something similar.
- Place in the simmering water until the egg white has set. Put as many of these little parcels in the water as needed (use an appropriately sized saucepan to fit them in obvs)
- Lift the egg out of the water using a spoon and cut away the cling film
For professional, elite 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 nutrient empty junk food, and swapping for food and drinks that will fuel the training and recovery. 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. Real food provides phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and possibly, many other beneficial constituents that science hasn’t identified 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 allowing your body to train, perform and recover to it’s maximum potential:
- 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. Vegetables also ‘feed’ the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Easy staples include broccoli, onions, spring onions, peppers, and carrots – not very adventurous, but that is fine! Fresh, frozen, boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir fried, raw…….just get. them. in!
- Oats – for breakfast, you can’t go far wrong with oats. They are high carbohydrate, so idea to have before or after training. Oats 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
- Milk – protein, carbohydrate, low fat, calcium for bones and muscle function. Added to tea, coffee, porridge and breakfast cereals. Research shows that milk post-exercise is just as effective and recovery and rehydration, if not more so, than commercially-available sports drinks
- Coffee – because it’s one of life’s pleasures, but also when taken before/during exercise, caffeine has been proven to enhance athletic performance. A recent study showed that two cups of coffee improved endurance performance by 4%.
- Peanut butter – good for protein, energy and good fats. If you are trying to drop body fat/weight then go easy as it’s very high in calories – too much is often one of the biggest mistakes for my weight loss clients! Mix a tablespoon in to porridge or spread on oatcakes/rice cakes.
- Eggs – one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat: high in protein, omega 3 fats, lutein, choline, all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron. Omelettes, poached, scrambled, fried or to make egg fried rice. You can even mix one in to hot porridge (just don’t put in the microwave with the oats or you’ll get scrambled oat-eggs……yak!)
- Rice – carbohydrates are very important for fuelling exercise,
for recovery, and for the immunity. White rice can be particularly useful when there is only an hour or two between training sessions and fast release carbs are needed. Whole grain rice is higher in fibre, digested more slowly, and is more filling.
- Chicken – high protein, low fat, and very versatile. There are endless ways to use chicken: plain grilled, a whole chicken roasted, 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.
- Yogurt – the high protein ones can be particularly beneficial for athletes eg. Total greek yogurt, Danio, Liberte etc 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 beneficial for the digestion and immunity.
- Salmon – or any oily fish (mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). Oily fish is the best food source of anti inflammatory omega 3 fats which is essential in every athlete’s diet to reduce muscle inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness. Aim to take at least 2-3 times a week. If you don’t like any of these fish, then I advise taking daily fish oil supplements.
For loads of recipes using all of the above ingredients click…….here!
Nutrition Nuts, Food Evangilisim, Nutritionally Holiness. These are all good descriptions for people who are absolutely convinced (and will try to convince you too) that their way of eating is the only way to health and happiness. Unprocessed whole foods may be the ideal, but in reality, life can get in the way.
A few weeks ago I was working on the cancer wards at Belfast City Hospital, filling a gap in the staff shortage for a couple of months. At the same time I was single parenting three ‘lively’ children, shopping, cooking, cleaning, refereeing sibling rivalries, homeworks etc. etc. blah blah
Sometimes we need food that we can just throw together in minutes, pulling stuff from the cupboard and not requiring a recipe book. This pasta meal is one of my saviours.
Tin of tomato soup
Tin of tuna
Grated carrot, onion and cheese
In a frying pan with oil, soften the grated carrot and onion (and what ever extra veg you would like to chuck in). Add the tin of tuna, and the tin of soup. Stir in to the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
If I was a nutrition nut, I’d say that tinned tomato soup is loaded with salt and sugar. In reality, I use the reduced salt version, and the tin is divided between 4 of us. A wee bit of the ‘bad’ stuff can help the really good stuff go down more easily 🙂
We all know that flavoured yogurts can be laden with sugar. In an ideal world we’d choose natural or plain yogurt which will have none of the added sweetness. But flavoured yogurts taste goooood! So if you find being nutritionally holy with the unadulterated natural stuff tough, here’s a simple tip for taking things in the right direction……
You will need:
- pot of flavoured yogurt
- pot of natural yogurt
Simply pour or scoop out half of the flavoured yogurt and replace with the natural yogurt. Give it a good stir.
You will still have plenty of flavour, but much less sweetness.
For more info, here’s another post on Choosing a Healthy Yogurt
It’s Shrove Tuesday, yay for pancakes! But do they seem like a chore to make? Would you like a super speedy, easy AND healthy pancake recipe??
This pancake mix takes about 1 minute to prepare using a banana and 2 eggs. It’s ready to cook immediately! They are awesome with a big dollop of greek yogurt and some warm berries……I use frozen berries that have been blasted in the microwave to defrost 🙂
The pancakes mix is easier to make with a blender – just blast all the ingredients together, but it can also be done with a fork.
- Mash the banana very well – the more ripe the banana the easier this is
- Crack in two eggs and mix with a fork. (You can also do this in a blender).
- Optional: 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 greek yogurt topped with berries.
Tip: if you are watching your 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.
I’ve been astonished by the amount of bacon, sausages and ham that my Northern Irish clients eat everyday. One 19 year old, who has recently been diagnosed with a bowel condition called Ulcerative Colitis, seemed to be eating bacon or sausages at breakfast, lunch and dinner!
So what’s wrong with sausages and ham?
Research has shown that processed meats like these increase your risk of bowel, stomach and pancreatic cancer.
One of the reasons may be that chemicals called nitrites are often used to preserve processed meat. In the bowel nitrites can be converted into cancer-causing chemicals called N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). The presence of these chemicals may explain why many studies have found that processed meat increases the risk of cancer to a greater extent than red meat.
Can I buy sausages and ham that don’t contain nitrites? YES!
My children LOVE sausages and ham. For years, I have borne the ‘Mummy Guilt’ of giving them food that could potentially be carcinogenic, so I tried to limit the amount they were having. It has taken me this long to find my personal Holy Grail of reasonably priced nitrite free versions (I am still on the hunt for nitrite free bacon!)
The Good Little Company – Good Little Sausages, Great Big Sausages and Teeny Weeny Sausages
Established in 2011, The Good Little Company is a Northern Ireland based sausage brand which gives 50% of its profits away to three charity partners in Africa- Christian Aid, Mulanje Mission and Samburu Trust.
Where To Buy: Waitrose, Ocado, Tesco (NI) and Dunnes Stores (NI)
So what’s the verdict of the family taste test? They were definitely a big hit with my 3 kids (and their friend Charlie who joined us for dinner after school on Tuesday night!)
Other nitrite free sausage options: look out for organic sausages as these should be nitrite free
Denny 100% Natural Ham
Denny is the only ham available in supermarkets that has 100% natural ingredients. The Traditional Style Ham has just Pork with Sea Salt, Demerara Sugar and Natural Flavouring (celery and rosemary). Perfect for quick ham sandwiches in the packed lunches!
Where to Buy: As far as I am aware, unfortunately this ham isn’t available outside of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Available in NI at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda.
Although nitrite free, it is still important not to go crazy on these sausages and ham, as there is also an association between red meat and some cancers. I try to mix meal times up with fish, chicken, turkey and eggs for other good protein sources. And of course plenty of veggies, fruit and wholegrain foods.
Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “We already know that not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, getting plenty of fruit and veg and staying active can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Keeping a healthy weight will help to reduce your risk of cancer, so try and be physically active and eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg and fibre, and cut back on red or processed meat, saturated fat, and salt.”
Here’s a helpful and simple infographic from Cancer Research UK on how to reduce your risk of food related cancers:
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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 has 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’
- 500g pot of natural yogurt
- 2 frozen ripe bananas (peel before freezing)
- handful of frozen berries/any frozen fruit
- Chuck the ingredients in to a blender and whizz up until smooth.
- 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.
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!
- 2 tortilla wraps
- tablespoon of pesto or ready made tomato sauce e.g. Dolmio
- Fillings of your choice (optional)
- grated cheese
- Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan, allow to heat up on a fairly high heat.
- Add one tortilla wrap to the pan, spread on the pesto/tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle on the cheese and other fillings.
- Add the top tortilla.
- When the bottom tortilla is browning and a bit crispy, carefully flip the tortilla sandwich over with a spatula
- 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.
Who likes mess and lots of washing up? Not me!
Who likes tasty food? Me!
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.
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
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or casserole dish with a lid. Brown the chicken for a few mins.
- Tip in the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft.
- Add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and smoked paprika. Cook for 5 mins more.
- Add the uncooked rice.
- Add the tomatoes and stock.
- 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.
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 dates
¼ cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups of oats
small handful raisins or dark
- In a food processor, put the bananas, dates, coconut oil, cinnamon and baking powder and whizz up until smooth.
- Mix in the oats and raisins/dark choc chips with a spoon.
- Spoon generous dollops (about 2 tablespoons) on to a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Gentle press down so thy splodge out a bit.
- Bake for about 20 minutes at 170c.
- Remove from the hot baking tray and let cool on a cooling rack (no one likes a soggy bottom!)
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 retains 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 serve 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 beef
- 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
- In a pan, heat the oil, add the onions and cook over a medium heat until soft
- Add the garlic, red pepper, chilli powder, paprika and cumin. Cook on low for a few minutes.
- Turn up the heat and add the minced beef, stirring and prodding for about 5 minutes to break up the mince.
- Pour in the beef stock
- Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sugar
- Squirt in the tomato purée and stir well.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to stop the chilli ‘catching on the bottom.
- Turn off the heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop and to cool down.
For a easy, quick comforting pudding………
50g butter (room temperature)
50g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
mixed berries (I defrost some frozen ones in the microwave and add a sprinkle of sugar)
- Beat together the butter and sugar
- Add the egg and mix in
- Fold in the flour
- Mix in the milk
- In the bottom of a microwavable bowl, put the berries.
- Pour on the sponge mixture
- Microwave for 3 minutes
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
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Cook noodles according to package direction. Rinse and set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium heat and add some oil.
- Add chopped chicken breast, spring onions and red pepper. Cook until chicken has browned and cooked through.
- 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.
- Add the noodles to the pan and then pour the sauce over the noodles.
- Reduce the heat a little and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. The noodles soak up the sauce and it will thicken.
- 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)
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 […]
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 garlic
2 Chicken breasts
4 spring onions
1 red pepper
1 Knorr Curry Flavour Pot
Tablespoon of peanut butter
- In some olive or vegetable oil stir fry the cubed chicken breasts with chopped spring onion and chopped red pepper.
- Add the curry flavour pot, a tin of coconut milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter and some chilli flakes if desired.
- 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.
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 were 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.
The Low FODMAP Diet has been published in international medical journals and is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for IBS 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.
An astonishing 1 in 5 people suffer with digestion issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, 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 reduction 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
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. When
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.
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:
So what’s the difference between them all. How do you choose a good one? What is the difference 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 (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. 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.
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.
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 yogurts, due to the high protein, low sugar and extra bacteria probiotic bacteria added (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 place, 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|
|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!
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.
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:
- fluid – having enough fluid in your bowel helps a lot! It doesn’t matter what you drink (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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
High 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.
Flaxseed can be bought in most of the big supermarkets or health food shops (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.
- Add 1 egg and 1 tsp. of oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Microwave the mug for 45 to 60 seconds.
- 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
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.
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.
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:
- chop up a large onion, fry on a medium heat in a tablespoon on vegetable or coconut oil for a few minutes until soft.
- add the 1 tablespoon of the spice paste (more if you like a stronger flavour)
- add the diced chicken breasts/chopped up roast chicken – coat in the spice paste, cook for a few minutes
- add the chopped tomatoes – allow about half a tin or carton per person
- 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 rice
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
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 the 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.
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.
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
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 cheese 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.
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 pivotal to reaching these ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ goals.
Here are 5 essentials for getting bigger and stronger:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 reported 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:
- Too many calories – eating too much and being over weight
- Excess high glycaemic index carbohydrates – sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta, cakes, biscuits
- Trans and omega 6 fats – processed foods, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower oil
- High ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats – too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fats
So what can you eat to help to reduce inflammation? Here’s an excellent list!
Anti inflammatory shopping list
Oily fish (omega 3): absolutely top of my list: salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna. If you don’t like oily fish, then take omega 3 supplements (1000mg EPA/DHA per day)
Spices – tumeric, ginger, garlic,
Legumes and Seeds - Chickpeas, Beans, Flaxseed, Lentils, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Soybeans/edamame, Sunflower seeds, Tofu, Walnuts
Oils – olive oil, Vegetable (rapeseed) oil, Flaxseed oil, Walnut oil
Miscellaneous Items Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) Red wine (in moderation) Tea (green, white, or black)
Anti inflammatory Menu:
Lunch: Tomato & Lentil Soup or Burgen Bread with smoked salmon & avocado
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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.
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.
Set 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:
- 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).
- 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!
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!
300ml natural yogurt
mugful of frozen berries
one ripe banana (frozen if possible)
Whizz the lot up in a blender, spoon in to bowls.
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.
- 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.
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!
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
handful frozen berries
dollop of honey
Whizz the lot up and serve!
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:
- Add amazing colours and textures to your plate
- Prevention of chronic health conditions (heart, diabetes, strokes, obesity, cancer)
- Low in calories, you can eat LOADS
- Fibre prevents constipation
- Encourage the good bacteria in your gut
- Vitamins & minerals are needed by your body’s millions of metabolic processes
- There is a huge variety so you never need to get bored
- 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.
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.
Balsamic 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Pinch of salt, pepper
Thai 4 tablespoons lime juice 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated/finely chopped 1/2 clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped
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:
- 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 healthy 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.
- ‘Tasting’ while cooking: I am certainly guilty of this. I love cooking and baking, and can 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.
- 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!
- 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
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.
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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)
- 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
- Pregnant women
- Pre menopausal women
How much iron do I need?
|Gender||Age Group||Recommended intake (mg/day), number of ★|
|Teenage boys||11-18 years||11|
|Teenage girls||11-18 years||15|
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
|Liver||40g, thick slice||★★★|
|Liver pate||1 tbsp||★|
|Beef steak||150g, medium size||★★★|
|Beef mince||125g, 4 tbsp cooked||★★★|
|Pork chop||120g, 1 average||★|
|Tuna||100g (1/2 tin)||★|
Other sources (less well absorbed):
|Ready Brek||20g dry (1 small ptn)||★★★★★★|
|Branflakes||25g (4 tbsp)||★★★★|
|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)||★|
|Sunflower seeds||30g (1/4 cup)||★★|
|Sesame seeds||12g (1 tbsp)||★|
|Raisins||35g (1 tbsp)||★|
|Spinach||120g (3 tbsp) boiled||★★|
|Peas||75g (2.5 tbsp)||★|
|Broccoli||4 spears (200g)||★|
|Ovaltine||25g serving (4 tsp)||★★★|
|Milo (chocolate malt)||20g serving (4 tsp)||★★★★★★|
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.
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.
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)|
|11-18||Girls 800mg/Boys 1000mg||13/16|
|Post menopausal women||1200mg||20|
|Coeliac disease||Adults 1500mgChildren 750mg||2512|
Sources of calcium:
|Cheese||Matchbox size (30g)||★★★★|
|Yoghurt||1 pot (150g)||★★★★|
|Rice pudding||½ tin (200g)||★★★|
|Ovaltine original||25g (with milk)||★★★★★★★|
|Calcium enriched soya/rice/oat/almond milk||200ml||★★★★|
|Salmon, tinned||½ tin||★★|
|Baked beans||Small tin (220g)||★★|
|Sesame seeds||1 tablespoon||★|
|Soya beans (edamame)||1 cup||★★★|
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
Other dietary factors are important for bone health include:
- protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy
- 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