Super Healthy Flapjacks – no butter or sugar

It can be frustratingly difficult to find a healthy flapjack recipe that isn’t loaded with butter, sugar or syrup. If you would rather not load up on these ingredients, here is an alternative recipe to try.

Here’s why they are so great:

  • Super quick to prepare the mixture
  • No sugar, syrup or butter.
  • Ripe bananas and raisins add the sweetness.
  • If you feel the need for some extra sweetness, you can some honey, but you really don’t need too much.
  • Oats provide soluble fibre to keep you feeling full up, reduce cholesterol, keep your digestive system healthy and blood sugar levels steady.
  • Berries/Raisins are choca-block full of antioxidants and fabulous phytochemicals
  • Seeds/peanut butter are full of protein and healthy fats.


Top tip 1 For a seriously healthy and delicious Bircher Muesli breakfast, keep a few tablespoons of the pre cooked mixture in a bowl overnight in the fridge. In the morning, loosen with more milk.


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


Basic Flapjack Ingredients  (makes about 9): each provides 90 calories, 1.5g fat, 15g carbohydrate, 3g protein

150ml milk – or a milk alternative e.g. soya, almond, rice milk etc.

2 mashed bananas – the riper the better as sweeter and easier to mash

150g porridge oats (about 2 handfuls)


Ideas for optional extras:

  • a handful of whole/chopped/ground up sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • a handful raisins or cranberries
  • a few tablespoons of dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup frozen berries (defrosted)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed with a little extra milk (very good for constipation!)
  • For extra protein e.g. as post exercise snack, you can add a scoop of protein powder


Mix all the ingredients together. Put in to cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, or silicone bun cases. You can also make them in to cookies by placing the mixture in cookie shaped blobs on the greaseproof paper.

It can sometimes be a bit tricky to peel the greaseproof paper off, so you can grease the paper first with some oil.

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

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

How to choose a healthy yogurt

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

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

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

What makes yogurt ‘yogurt’??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to choose a healthy yogurt

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

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



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


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

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


St Helens Goats Natural 105 3 6 7 Lactobacillus acidophilus Bifidobacterium

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

Food combos that work! New research.

avocado for healthy fats & lettuce, herbs and tomatoes for vitamins

avocado for healthy fats & lettuce, herbs and tomatoes for vitamins

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of California have recently concluded that when olive oil and vegetables are eaten together, they form nitro fatty acids that help lower blood pressure – a risk factor for heart disease. Professor Philip Eaton, describes the chemical reaction of oil and vegetable as one of “nature’s protective mechanisms”.

This study helps us to understand why The Mediterranean Diet – a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, olive oil and fish – has long been associated with improved heart health.

3 more top food combinations:

Olive oil in a stir fry – Fat is necessary for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The healthy fats from the olive oil, combined with the vitamins in veg provide is perfect for the absorption of these nutrients. If you’re confused about what oils and fats are healthy, look here. Other recipes that have these combos include granolaSuper Boost Salad and Cocoa Bars

16 peppers for a £1!

1 pepper has 300% your daily vitamin C

Red peppers in bolognaise: red peppers are high in vitamin C (as are tomatoes) helping your body to absorb the iron from beef. One pepper gives you 300% of your daily vitamin C needs!


A smoothie in the sun: Vitamin D is essential for your body to use

Strawberry milk

Strawberry milk

calcium from food to build strong bones, teeth and for muscles to work properly. The best source of vitamin D is the sun……get your arms in the suns rays for half an hour a day (with no sunscreen!), and combine with a dose of calcium from a smoothie made with milk (cow’s or a rice/almond milk fortified with calcium).

Can what you eat cure your acne?

Something I see occasionally in my clinic is clients with spots. And it’s not usually teenagers, it’s more likely to be women in their 30s and 40s. I’ve even had one lady in her 60s who suffered from cystic acne on her chin, not bad enough for a dermatology referral, but none the less, unpleasant to put up with. My clients have usually been suffering for years, and while their GP or dermatologist may be sympathetic, the prescribed treatments offered have not provided a long term solution.

As an acne suffer myself from the age of 14, I spent 20 years wondering when I’d Roaccutane - a last resort‘grow out’ of it. Every medication in the BNF (the doctor’s prescribing bible) has been given to me, from benzyl peroxide cream to the liver toxic Roaccutane. Each would help for a while, but the spots always returned. It was evident that the root cause was not being treated. I was always told by GPs, dermatologists and even dietitian colleagues that there was no relationship between acne and diet.

What does the research show? The outdated opinion that acne is not related to diet 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 growing evidence from more recent studies supporting the relationship between diet and acne. In particular a high glycaemic index diet and dairy have been implicated. There is also 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. Gluten intolerance can manifest in skin conditions. There is also interesting new research looking at gut bacteria, and it’s role in inflammation and immunity.

What causes acne? Acne is caused by a combination of hormones and inflammation. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are particularly susceptible. A diet high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white rice, biscuits, sweets, pastries etc.), low in fruit and vegetables, and low in essential fatty acids may have a negative effect on hormones, and may also contribute to inflammation. This is where the role of good/bad bacteria in the gut becomes interesting. A poor diet affects the complex flora in the digestive tract resulting in an overgrowth of the bad, which may ultimately have many effects outside of the gut, including spotty skin.

For years, I have followed a very healthy diet including lots of veg, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, low sugar etc. however, still suffered with acne. In desperation, 2 years ago I thought I would have nothing to lose by trying a gluten free diet. With in a few weeks the spots had cleared. The ‘gold standard’ way togenius46_460 challenge the intolerance is to reintroduce the food. I have done this twice, once on holiday in Morocco where breakfast was almost completely bread products, and in Ireland where I wasn’t going to offend my husband’s Granny by turning down her scones! The result? With in about 3 days I had horrible spots which took about a month each time to clear up.

Everyone is different and there is no magical ‘one diet fits all’. For me, gluten is my trigger, however, this will not be the case for all. For some of my clients, just cutting out the refined carbs and increasing the good fats is enough to see 100608182647-largeimprovements. A change in diet can take time to show in the skin. Some people see a difference in a few days, for some it may take a few months.

My recommendations:

  • avoid refined carbohydrates, change to wholegrains
  • have a good intake of vegetables and fruit (at least 5 portions a day)
  • take a daily fish oil supplement containing 500mg DHA & EPA
  • include healthy fats e.g. nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados
  • consider a trial exclusion of dairy
  • consider a trial exclusion of gluten
  • consider a probiotic supplement

If you don’t feel confident with changing your diet or choosing a probiotic, seek the advice of a dietitian to guide you. Cutting out food groups such as dairy, can leave you lacking in important nutrients. A dietitian can also help you with the practical aspects of applying the recommendations to your current diet and lifestyle. For example, what to buy in Pret a Manger or Starbucks, how to incorporate more veg, how to go gluten free.

Boosting immunity to stop getting sick

It’s an unfortunate inevitability that at some time or another, illness will descend upon any work place.

Gastroenteritis can be difficult to avoid and in environments where there is close contact, it can spread like wild fire. Washing hands is vital to avoid infection, alcohol gel can also be used, but is not as effective as thorough hand washing. Here’s what the NHS says on medical treatment.

From a food point of view, it is especially vital for athletes to try to maintain nutritional intake to prevent muscle wastage and maintain energy levels. Easier said than done when you can’t keep anything down! If possible, and even if there is no appetite, small amounts of plain food and higher calorie fluids eg. toast, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, plain biscuits, or any food that you feel you can tolerate should be eaten.

It is possible that following recovery from gastroenteritis, the gut may have become intolerant to lactose (milk sugar), causing continued diarrhoea, and possibly abdominal pain and bloating. This is because the enzyme, lactase, which breaks down the lactose has been affected. Normal milk can be replaced with Lactofree Milk, tolerance to other dairy products varies. A dietitian can advise further on lactose avoidance.

In a previous post, I discussed the numerous reasons for lowered immunity during training for athletes:

  • repeated cycles of heavy exertion
  • exposure to germs and bugs
  • mental stress
  • lack of sleep
  • poor nutrition
  • weight loss

The first two points, repeated cycles of heavy exertion, and exposure to bugs certainly apply to the London Irish squad in pre season training, hopefully less so the mental stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and weight loss.

So what can be done to reduce the possibility of becoming ill?

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. A varied, healthy diet provides all these nutrients in most healthy adults, and mega doses of vitamin/mineral supplements do not “boost” immunity above normal levels.

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, carbohydrates before, during, and after prolonged or intense exertion has emerged as the most effective way to ensure less of a negative effect on the immune system. Athletes intent on reducing body fat by avoiding carbohydrates should be aware that this may impact on their immunity.

shutterstock_85815004Strategies to ensure good carbohydrate stores to optimise immunity:

  • Have a carbohydrate-based snack before you start high intensity training, particularly hard morning training.  If you are unable to tolerate something before you start exercise, have a source of carbohydrate during the session such as a sports drink (6-8% carbohydrate)
  • Have a carbohydrate-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
    Balanced meals with carbs, protein & veg

    Balanced meals with carbs, protein & veg

    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). Probiotics come in tablet or liquid form eg. Yakult. Tablets tend to be more potent, and are available from health food shops.

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 and omega-3 fish oils.

Healthy ice cream – high protein, low fat

Here’s a recipe for ice cream made with protein powder. I used Kinetica Whey Protein Strawberry flavour. It is a much healthier version of standard ice cream, as it is low in fat, and high in protein, and has healthier carbs. Perfect as a post workout recovery snack, or just for something delicious on a hot day.


Per serving:

  • 208kcal, 18g protein, 25g carbohydrate, 4g fat
  • Normal ice cream per 100g (3/4 cup): 200kcal, 3.3g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 11g fat

Why it’s better than standard ice cream:

  • cream replaced with whey protein powder, yoghurt and milk.
  • higher in protein – for muscle repair and muscle building, makes you feel full up for longer.
  • lower in fat – 17% calories from fat, compared to 50% in standard ice cream
  • healthier carbs – banana and milk replace sugar. Carbs used for muscle repair and building (helps to shuttle protein in to muscle), replaces glycogen used up during exercise.
  • banana provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and soluble fibre.
  • you can have a larger portion size than standard ice cream as it is lower in kcal.

You can use any flavour of protein powder that you like, I used strawberry. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but I’m sure the results would be even better using one!

And the recipe…..(makes 2 servings):

30g any whey protein powder 

250ml semi skimmed milk

1 banana

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Whizz the ingredients in a blender, and pour in to a bowl. Place bowl in the freezer.

After about an hour, take out of freezer and stir using a whisk or fork. This is to break up the ice crystals. Try to get a smooth consistency.

Repeat this every 30 minutes/1 hour until the ice cream has been in the freezer for approximately 4 hours. If it is left longer than this, it can become quite solid, and will need to be left out of the freezer for a while to defrost a little before serving.



In the fridge today……

Yesterday morning, a mum at the school gates dared me to post my fridge contents (she didn’t think I’d do it, so haha Ye Of Little Faith!) I promise that I’ve not removed or added anything. From the top…..

Photo on 2013-07-02 at 07.15

  • Boots Omega 3 Children’s supplement
  • Natural Yoghurt (full fat)
  • Kinetica Omega 3s – these ones for the grown ups
  • BBQ left overs (chicken, lamb)
  • Gatorade Ultimate Hydration (6% carbs, for exercise > 1hr)
  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup – lycopene & flavour!
  • Cherry Diet Coke – errrr, 2 bottles, a glass few times a week 😉
  • Butter – a little saturated fat ok
  • Bacon – processed meat 😦
  • Cheese – calcium
  • Left over Super Food Salad
  • Eggs – amazing nutrition powerhouses (don’t raise blood cholesterol)
  • Lavazza Coffee
  • Variety of veg: spring onions, broccoli, pepper, red cabbage, lettuce
  • Alpro Almond Milk – just for variety and to use in this and this
  • Kinetica High Protein Shake – used as quick snack or to bump up protein in these
  • Semi Skimmed Milk – good for protein, carbs, calcium – great post exercise refuelling.

Not a bad selection, plenty of nutritious things, some not so good. But like I always say, everything in moderation. Any comments gratefully received!