5 reasons Mums can’t lose the weight

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

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

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

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

    Better get cracking on this lot (7200kcal)!

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

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

10 Things to do with Peppers

Today I picked up a massive haul of lovely yellow and red peppers from my local market for £1.

16 peppers for a £1!

16 peppers for a £1!

16 of the lovely things! I love a bargain, but how can I use them all before they need relagated to the compost bin?!

Here’s 10 things to do with a pepper:

(for some of these I could easily use two peppers – use lots as they are highly nutritious and very low calorie!):

  1. Eaten as they are, as you would eat an apple (my 2 year old Conor does this in his buggy, we get some odd looks!)
  2. Sliced up and dunked in to humus or salsa
  3. Use large chunks to scoop up cottage cheese as a low fat, high protein snack
  4. Diced and added to bolognaise or chilli
  5. Strips in stir fry
  6. Roasted in the oven at 180c for about 20minutes
  7. Diced in an omlette
  8. Diced in mini pastry-less quiches: beat 3 eggs, add pepper, grated cheese and tuna/ham. Pour in to silicone muffin cases, bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes at 180c.
  9. Stuffed with other ingredients.
  10. Smoothie – red pepper in a smoothie??!! I haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks interesting!

KIDS – Health by Stealth!

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

Strawberry milk

Strawberry milk

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

Hide the veg

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

Meatballs with multi veg tomato sauce

Meatballs with multi veg tomato sauce

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

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

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

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

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

    Banana ‘Cake’ (definitely not Banana Bread!)

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

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

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

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

Omega 3 supplement

Omega 3 supplement

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

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

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

Iron: are you getting enough?


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


Anaemia can cause:

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

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

People at risk of anaemia:

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


How much iron do I need?

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


Food sources of iron

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

 Meat sources:

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

 Other sources (less well absorbed):

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

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

Iron Supplements

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

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

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

Gluten Free – emerging evidence of intolerance

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. A gluten free diet is the treatment for Coeliac Disease, however in recent years, gluten free diets have become popular with people who do not have Coeliac Disease. Celebrities such as Andy Murray, Bill Clinton and Gwyneth Paltrow give endorsement to the gluten free way of eating.

There is emerging medical evidence and a growing number of clinicians acknowledging that up to 10% of the population may have a gluten intolerance despite testing negative for coeliac disease. Allergy tests will also be negative (as it is an intolerance, not an allergy), negative in gut biopsies (where a sample of the gut is looked at under a microscope), and negative in endoscopies (tiny camera looks at your gut).

The medical term is Non-Coeliac Gluten Intolerance – here is an interesting article from the British Medical Journal, with the personal experience of a biochemist with gluten intolerance, followed by the opinion of a clinician.

Despite symptoms seriously affecting quality of life, a medical diagnosis of non-coeliac gluten intolerance can be difficult as although prevalent, it is under-recognised by doctors.

Gluten intolerance can manifest in many ways:

  • digestive system
  • skin
  • nervous system
  • muscles and joints
  • sleep
  • mood

During my practice, I have seen many patients with a variety of these gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms, in which coeliac disease has been tested for and excluded, but symptoms only respond to a gluten free diet.

Improvement in quality of life can be profound: the 7 year old autistic boy, who could stop wearing nappies as his ‘intractable’ diarrhoea resolved; the 74 year old almost housebound lady with chronic abdominal pain who can now happily get out and about; the 5 year old girl whose mother described her as being, not just emotional, but depressed, who within days emerged a ‘happy child’.

My story – why I have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon

I have suffered with spots since I was 15 years old. I’m now 36. Not just a few zits, but sometimes so many that I couldn’t even count them. Over the years, GPs and dermatologists have prescribed every pill and potion from the long list in their BNF (the medical profession’s prescribing manual, look for it on your GP’s desk). From the basic benzyl peroxide cream to Roaccutane. Side effects of Roaccutane include peeling lips, nose bleeds, liver damage (you have to have regular blood tests to monitor liver function), and deformed foetus if you become pregnant. The Roaccutane worked for about a year, but the spots returned.

Every medic told me diet and acne were not related. This outdated opinion comes from a 1969 study looking at the effect of chocolate on acne, in which the inappropriate conclusion was drawn that as chocolate did not appear to affect acne, neither did any dietary factor. However, there is a growing evidence of recent studies supporting the relationship between diet and acne, although there are none as yet specifically on gluten.

To cut a long story short, two years ago, aged 33, I jumped on the gluten free bandwagon. Why did it take me so long? Because there is no evidence of a relationship between gluten and acne, and I experience zero gastrointestinal symptoms, so I didn’t make the link.

The theory is that for intolerant individuals, gluten can affect hormone levels and provoke an inflammatory response, both triggers for acne. I was by no means confident that it would make any difference, in fact I was extremely skeptical, and it’s certainly not something I broadcasted to dietetic colleagues. However, after a few months, I was spot free. After about 8 months, I tested the gluten exclusion on holiday in Morocco, with the bread-tastic breakfasts. About 5 days later I had a major outbreak which took a couple of months to clear up. In June this year, on holiday in Ireland, each day I had the odd bit of scone and pastry (it would have been rude to turn down my husband’s Nan’s food!). Once again, I had a flair up a week later that took many weeks to clear. Surprisingly, a food challenge is the ‘gold standard’ for confirming diagnosis of food allergies and intolerances, rather than reliance on laboratory testing.

Thankfully, gluten free is much easier to do these days, than even five years ago. Most supermarkets have a great range of gluten free foods that are getting better and better when compared to standard products. That is why I am more at ease in suggesting clients trial a period of gluten free if more serious conditions eg. coeliac disease have been excluded by their GP. Some people see major improvements on eliminating the major sources of gluten eg. pasta, bread, cakes, biscuits, pastry. Some may need to be more vigilant about gluten containing foods by examining food labels.

If you are considering a gluten free diet because you may be suffering from any of the above symptoms, please get the all clear to do so by your GP. Serious health conditions should be eliminated first. A gluten free diet may not help you lose weight (especially when using gluten free products), and there is no need for those who do not have Coeliac Disease or Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity to limit their diet unnecessarily.

The F word

My gut reaction when my 3 year old used the F word was one of horror. I couldn’t believe my ears, but I guess this sort of thing is inevitable when they start going to nursery school.

“I was playing mummies and babies with x and y in the home corner, and x was making lunch, and we couldn’t have too much or it would make us FAT!”

My first response: my Mummy Poker Face. In my head I was tearing my hair out shouting “nooooooooo!”.  Second response: a light and breezy 1 minute chat about food making you strong.

My second reason for the horror was the thought that the teacher may assume that, as a dietitian, I was teaching my children this nonsense. Following 12 years as a dietitian, I have seen hundreds of people (children and adults) for advice on obesity. Issues around food commonly appear to come from childhood experiences, a parent’s relationship with food and how they relate this to their children. During my time as a paediatric dietitian in the NHS, one particular little girl sticks in my mind. She was about 5 years old and referred to me as she was overweight. The first thing she did when she came in to the clinic room, was to show me her Barbie. She asked if she would ever look like her. I told her nobody looks like Barbie.

Of course, every parent wants their child to eat well, have a diet of good nutritious foods, and be healthy in the long term. We come in all shapes and sizes, skinny does not necessarily mean healthy. Feeding yourself and your child wholesome food, not using food as an emotional crutch, and not feeling GUILTY about nourishing yourself are all crucial in achieving a balanced state of mind. But how do we convey this to our children, particularly our daughters? Is it appropriate to use the F word?  Here is what I have learnt from my time practising as a paediatric dietitian, and as a mum to 3 children:

  • Do not discuss your weight or ‘going on a diet’ within earshot of your children.  Do not discuss any body part that you dislike. Keep any food, body and weight insecurities to yourself.
  • Do not discuss their weight, shape or size in a negative way, even if you are trying to turn it in to a positive eg. “it’s ok if you’re chunky/have baby fat”.
  • Don’t ban any food. It’s ok to have crisps, chocolate, cake etc. as an occasional addition to a regular intake of the ‘healthier’ foods
  • Do not discuss calories, and burning off with exercise. This leads to negative associations between the two. Food should be enjoyed. And exercise should be enjoyed, not a chore or a punishment to ‘work off’ a ‘bad’ food choice.

What should you say?

  • Food provides nutrition to make our bodies strong, fit and healthy
  • Some foods have much more vitamins and minerals than others, it is important that we eat lots of these to give our bodies energy and to keep us well.
  • Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta give us lots of energy for running around, climbing, bouncing, having fun!
  • Veggies and fruit help us to stop getting sick, give us sparkly eyes, shiny hair, and help cuts and grazes to get better
  • Fat is not ‘bad’, some fat is important for our bodies to use the vitamins properly and to help our brains to work
  • Eating a mixture of food gives all the different things our body needs

Tell your children that our bodies are amazing………..talk about all the awesome things that they can do if they want to: climb a mountain, run a race, do a cartwheel, touch the sky with their feet on a swing.  Help them to love moving, because that is what we are designed for.  “We’ve got to go for a walk because we’ve eaten to much chocolate” is in no way healthy, helpful or positive.

Teach your child how to love fresh air

Teach your child to love movement and exploring new things

Teach your child how to bake a cake using butter, sugar and flour

Teach your child how to chop and cook veggies.

Tell them they are strong, tell them they look happy, tell them they are GLOWING!

Paleo Diet – a bad fad?

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

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

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

What is the Paleo Diet?

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


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


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

What about for athletes?

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

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

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

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

My opinion:

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

include wholesome grains and dairy

include wholesome grains and dairy

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

Your thoughts?

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