Yogurt Hack: one simple way to half the sugar

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:

  1. pot of flavoured yogurt 
  2. 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

9 of the Healthiest Supermarket Ready Meals

Microwavable Ready Made Meals: the antithesis of healthy eating. In an ideal world we’d spend the morning tending our vegetable patch/chickens in the back yard, then the afternoon pootling about  in the kitchen performing alchemy with our produce.

Historically, ready meals have been relegated by chefs th-2.jpegand dietitians to the bottom of the culinary and nutrition pile. Little boxes of mush, hidden from view in cardboard boxes, often providing your full daily requirement for unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar.

I took a detour down the ready made food aisle at my local Sainsbury’s the other day (that loon taking photos of the food was me). Things have changed. We appear to have had a quiet food revolution.

Aware of the growing market for health foods, supermarkets have used dieticians, nutritionists and chefs to develop a new generation of microwavable ready meals. Can you now ping yourself to health (on full power) in 3 minutes? Is a healthy microwavable meal a contradiction in terms? I’m prepared to eat my words and cautiously say, yes, maybe……

What to look for in a healthy ready meal:

  • you want to see what you are going to eat, so a clear container
  • an ingredients list that only has the names of actual food, like carrots, beans, chicken and rice. Not modified maize starch, stabilisers, di-, tri- and polyphosphates, citric acid, firming agents and maltodextrin
  • aim for 300-400kcal
  • how much veg can you see? Look for meals with about 1/3-1/2 colourful veggies
  • a good protein portion: 20-30g: the label on the back will tell you this, make sure you look per portion
  • Not too much carbohydrate – about 1/4 of the meal. Extra points for wholegrain rice, baby potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils
  • Below about 1g salt per portion: Colour-coded nutritional information on the front  tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low (red means high, amber means medium, green means low)


Here are some of the best of the supermarkets’ own ranges:

306923270862Sainsbury’s My Goodness range: (£3.25, currently on offer £2.50) typically 300-400kcal per pack, plenty of lean protein, a lovely mix of colourful veg, with a controlled portion of carbs. Look for the ones with a green circle stating ‘high protein’.


M&S Balanced For You range: high protein, moderate carbohydrate meals. All meals provide slow release carbohydrate from various sources such as beans, puls20150617_084623es and vegetables. 20150617_084525

Miso Chicken Noodles; Aromatic CHicken Skewers; Spiced Cauliflower Rice and Chargrilled Tikka Chicken



Tesco Healthy Living: £2.00 Some of the Healthy Living range meals can be high in salt, lacking veg or a bit low on protein. Here are two of the better ones: Chicken Noodle Laksa, South Individual Indian Curry With Pilaf.

IDShot_225x225.jpg        IDShot_225x225-1.jpg


Waitrose Love Life range: (£3.30, currently 3 for 2) fresh ingredients, 300-400kcal, high in protein (typically 27g per pack), lots of veg.295655

Chicken Madeira; Green Thai Chicken Curry231596-1

8 reasons you’re exercising more and not losing weight

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

Here are 8 top reasons:

  1. You are ‘good’ all day with your eating and are distracted enough to avoid eating too much. But by the evening you are hungry and attack the bread, cheese, breakfast cereal, biscuits, ice-cream etc. This is the most common mistake I see my clients making. You need to eat more during the day to stop the evening over eating.
  2. Exercising can result in an increase in your appetite, so you eat more. If you are genuinely more hungry, ensure you are eating protein at each meal (eggs, fish, chicken, cottage cheese are great choices), lots of fruit/veg, a high protein yoghurt, milky coffee or tea, water. Consider bringing a meal forward by an hour if you are ravenous.
  3. You eat more before and/or after your session to fuel the exercise. One of the most common mistakes I see is someone having a milkshake drink after 40 minutes in the gym to aid recovery, often followed with in a few hours of a normal meal. A typical bottle of milkshake will provide 300-400kcal, essentially replacing the calories you’ve just burned off. If you are exercising to lose weight, then you need a calorie deficit ie. burning more than you eat/drink.

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

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

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

  4. You are trying to be too healthy – yes really! You’re think you’re doing all the right things – snacking on nuts or rice cakes with peanut butter; lots of avocado in salads; extra pumpkin seeds and flaxseed in your porridge. Thing is, even healthy fats are high in calories: a tablespoon of most nutty things  have about 120 kcal. Half an avocado has about 150 kcal. They all add up.
  5. You think you can eat what you want because you exercise – if only! A 3 mile run will burn approximately 300 kcal. Not an excuse to have 6 biscuits or a whole pizza. Rewarding yourself with high fat/calorie ‘treat’ food can cancel out the good work done. Even professional athletes who have multiple training sessions each day have to be careful with their diets.
  6. You need to change your workout – you run for 40 minutes three times a week, or sit on a exercise bike and do some crunches. Your body adapts to what you do day in day out. You need to challenge your body. If you want to change, you need to change what you are doing!
  7. You sit down for the rest of the day – You have an intensive workout for an hour, so you don’t feel so bad about taking the car for journeys that you could walk. You need to stay as active as you can, humans are born to move. If you feel too exhausted to do anything but sit down for the rest of the day, you are probably over doing the exercise.
  8. Finally, if you feel that you really are exercising more and not over eating, you should visit your GP as you may have an underlying health condition e.g. Polycyctic Ovary Syndrome or under active thyroid. Signs of PCOS include irregular periods, acne, hairiness, anxiety/depression. Under active thyroid symptoms include feeling cold, tired, dry skin, constipation and depression. If you suspect

Just Juicy

It’s the frantic run up to Christmas and stress levels can be running high. I’m a great believer in keeping things as simple as possible. Back to basics.

When we are bombarded by the 1000s of supermarket products to feed ourselves and our children, it easy to get caught up in the idea that food

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has to come from a packet. From an early age, many parents think that to nourish their kids, they have to buy the pouches and packets of fruit and veg off a supermarket shelf. Food is a multi billion pound business and there are profits to be made.

Buying and preparing food in it’s natural form is a basic life skill and fundamental to healthy living.

Just peel a juicy satsuma for goodness sake 🙂

Real delicious simple




4 Foods to Boost Gut Bacteria

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

Gut bacteria fast facts:

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

    Processed food – encourage the ‘bad’ bacteria

    Whole foods good!

    Whole foods encourage the ‘good’ bacteria


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


How improving good gut bacteria can affect health:

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

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


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

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

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


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


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



Unpasteurised Sauerkraut

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


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



Tummy trouble?

It’s known that about 1 in 6 people suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, pain and wind. These are things that you may just put up with, but can be distressing and have an effect on your quality of life. You may have some vague ideas to connections with some foods, and maybe stress, but it can be very hard to pinpoint particular causes.

shutterstock_52604065For those who have been diagnosed with IBS, until now, NHS treatment has been vague, with only a 30% success rate. Advice has been to increase fibre (often making things worse!), cut out alcohol, high fat foods, and to eat regular meals.


There is now a new dietary treatment called the ‘low FODMAP diet’ which results in an impressive reduction in symptoms. FODMAP is an acronym for a group of carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented in the gut causing the symptoms. High FODMAP foods are varied and range from wheat & dairy, to apples, onions and garlic, some sweeteners, and lentils to name a few.

Not everyone with IBS has an intolerance to all of the high FODMAP foods, which is why it is very helpful to have the input of a dietitian to guide you through the elimination and reintroduction of FODMAP foods.

The success rate is impressive, with up to 86% of people having a significant improvement of their symptoms. For some, the improvement in quality of life is staggering.

Sasha Watkins, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, explains: ‘Treatment for IBS sufferers is often limited, which is why the emerging success of the low-FODMAP diet – an approach that helps patients discover the precise foods that trigger their symptoms – is excellent news.’

Peter Irving, consultant gastroenterologist at Guys and St Thomas’, says: ‘I can now refer IBS patients for dietetic advice with a greater degree of confidence that their quality of life will improve.’

As a dietitian experienced in the low FODMAP diet, I have seen wonderful improvements in my IBS patients. Most don’t have to restrict their diet of all FODMAP foods in the long term, as together, we have identified their particular problem FODMAP foods.

For more information or a low FODMAP diet consultation, contact me with the form below.

Mud, Muscles and vitamin D

The days are closing in as autumn and winter approach. For many athletes, this means moving workouts and training sessions indoors. Even when training outside during the colder months, the low sun, cloud cover, and wearing clothes prevent our bodies from converting sunlight to vitamin D.


Fran was unlikely to get his vitamin D dose from the sunshine today

At the London Irish training ground in Sunbury, rain or shine, rugby and fitness training takes place out on the pitches. Muddy, wet, and cold may not be pleasant, but it prepares everyone for real game day conditions. I’m all for a bit of mess, until I get a muddy mountain of washing dumped in the laundry basket at the end of the day. In winter it’s not just shorts, T-shirts and socks, but tracksuit bottoms, tops, Skins and jackets. Would it be unreasonable for me to politely suggest a laundry room at the new training ground at Hazelwood?! So to my point…..when covered with clothes (and mud!) any small amount of vitamin D provided by the sun in winter, won’t reach the skin.

For those training near the equator, sunlight and vitaminD aren't such a problem

For those training near the equator, sunlight and vitamin D aren’t such a problem

The importance of sunlight and sports performance has been known for centuries, but it is only recently that the science behind the physical benefits have been investigated. We are still in the early days of discovering the tiny details of how vitamin D affects muscles. Other benefits of vitamin D have already been established e.g. for the prevention of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Scientific studies are slowly piecing together how vitamin D affects muscle. This is what we know so far about vitamin D and involvement with muscle:

  • muscle contraction – calcium and phosphate are essential for the muscle fibres to move, and vitamin D may help this mechanism to work. Vitamin D may also be important for the actual parts of the muscle that make the contraction work (actin and myosin)
  • muscle repair – after exercise, there will be damage to the tiny muscle fibres. Vitamin D may help to repair this damage
  • muscle building – vitamin D stimulates new muscle, and the blood vessels feeding the muscles

In real life?

Although studied at a cellular level, there aren’t many studies yet on vitamin D and how levels in young, healthy athletes affects performance. However, in elderly people, low vitamin D has been shown to result in poorer muscle function and muscle loss.

Should I supplement?


Vitamin D spray

There are very few good food sources of vitamin D, it comes mostly from the sun. Some foods, like breakfast cereals have vitamin D added, and if you take a multivitamin it may contain some vitamin D.

I advise to take a daily supplement of vitamin D during the winter months (October – May). Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, up to 1000IU per day is safe for adults. It comes in tablet, drops or spray form.

If you aren’t sure how much vitamin D you are getting, I can perform a nutritional analysis of your current diet and the supplements you are taking, and advise you on improving your diet. You can get in touch using the contact form.

Information from Nutri-facts