I’m a frequent contributor and collaborator with many others and purely love writing. Quarterly I write for EP Insights, a platform for insights from leading hospitality consultants and operators. You can find my most recent article on the millennial generation and obesity, here https://www.epinsights.co.uk/what-do-we-make-of-millennials-being-the-most-overweight-generation-and-moreso-how-can-we-help-to-fix-it/

Other articles:

The risk of unregulated nutrition

Fuelling for optimum performance

Fat shaming and the normalisation of plus sized bodies

By | Food for thought | No Comments

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. And before anyone reading this gets their back up, please read on first! I’ve been pondering on how I pitch it and what to say predominantly because it’s a sensitive subject. It would be hard not to upset anyone. But that’s the point right, someone will be upset because you can never please everyone. I get it. Fat shaming. Being fat phobic. And generally not appreciating those in bigger bodies is not right, it never was, and never will be. I’ve been a victim of it, my friends have and my family too. Diet culture is damaging to self esteem as well as our body in the physical form. But after all that I still feel we may be in danger of normalising plus sized bodies. I’m not talking about generally carrying a bit of excess fat, this is common and something that isn’t generally anything to be concerned about. I’m talking about being significantly overweight or obese. Are we in danger of making it so ok to be carrying large amounts of excess fat that we lose sight of the health implications. And those implications are that 63% of UK adults are either overweight or obese and with that comes metabolic disease, type II diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and back problems to name just a few. Let’s also not forget our NHS is in crisis. When is enough, enough and how do we make people understand that whilst there is no ideal body, no universal standard for anyone, carrying significant excess weight can reduce your quality and length of life. Yes, some people will naturally be bigger and some smaller, depending on their genetics and lifestyle.

The very recent study by Mattarak published in June this year (2018) does raise some alarm bells. Whilst it’s not overly new in terms of thinking the physical statistics on people underestimating their weight and therefore underestimating their risk of disease is staggering.

  • Underestimating body weight was more common in men and those (of both genders) in a lower socio-economic group.
  • Men were also less likely to be trying to lose weight
  • And those who did underestimate their overweight or obesity were 85% less likely to try and lose weight than those who accurately knew how much they weighed. 85%!!

We need to find a way for everyone to be comfortable talking about weight. No, it doesn’t define us, who we are or what we think. But it can impact how we live.

We need to not make weight the main driver. Of course, it will be part of many peoples journey, but there needs to be other goals, other priorities. Cooking, moving, improved mental health, learning to build new habits. In my private consultations I always encourage my clients to have other goals, than just being weight focussed.

Those promoting nutritional brands, supplements or methods offering a short term fix with no scientific backing need to continue to be called out. So, us as health professionals can keep promoting the right stuff whilst not being bogged down in one stop solutions that don’t work. It’s not ok.

People need to be patient, something we seemed to have lost since social media appeared and technology ruled our lives. Change takes time.

We as health professionals need to be honest with our patients and clients about a subject which is always the elephant in the room yet is causing so much pain to them and to others. We need to be compassionate and help them understand positive changes that can and will help them in the long term. And collectively we need to find a solution which can positively impact those in lower socio economic groups, these are the group of people who need this education the most. #foodforthought

Omega 3: supplement or not to supplement? That is the question.

By | Food for thought, Guidelines, Media Responses | No Comments

Last week we saw the media share their views on the recent Cochrane review, omega 3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

In the UK it’s recommended we consume two portions of fish per week, one which should be oily (mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, herring, sardines to name a few) to enable us to obtain decent levels of omega 3 fats important for cardiovascular health, brain function and reducing inflammation. Omega 3 fats are essential which means our bodies cannot make them, we must obtain them from our diet. There is no UK dietary guideline for consumption levels of these fats however research suggests one portion of oily fish per week provides adequate amounts. But what if you don’t eat fish, for personal or health reasons? Well, you can either choose other sources, such as rapeseed oil, walnuts and soya products, or take a supplement. Or can you?

Once again we are hit by a headline, not wholly representative of the actual study in question. So here’s a short overview:

This study in question was a meta analysis, where a search criteria is provided and many already published studies are collected based on them meeting or not meeting the criteria. In total there were twenty five studies which made the cut.

In this case the criteria included both genders, across many different continents both healthy and some with pre-existing medical conditions. This is a major limitation of this study (but more on that later). Participants were given a supplement rather than obtaining omega 3’s from the diet.

The review claims to compare the effect of omega 3 supplementation on heart disease risk and death as well as mortality from all causes.

The conclusion was supplementation shows no change in mortality from any cause. But don’t stop taking your supplements yet. Whilst supplementation wasn’t successful in these individuals, it may be because they already have cardiovascular disease. There was no sole comparison of what supplementation can do for a healthy individual. In addition, there was no reference made to the impact of omega 3’s coming from your diet either.

Let’s revert back to the title – Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. But it’s not really examining that is it? Because first up it only measures supplementation and secondly prevention would generally mean those without the disease already? Wouldn’t it? It’s quite difficult to claim omega 3 supplements don’t prevent cardiovascular disease if the participants already have it? Perhaps something like “the impact of omega 3 supplementation on cardiovascular risk and all cause mortality in those with pre-existing medical conditions” might be better. Anyway I’m getting a bit sciency now….so moving on!

As always, if you can obtain your omega 3 fats from foods, please do, because you get so many other benefits from them too!

Sources of omega 3

Oily fish: salmon, tuna steak, sardine, herring, mackerel, oysters, anchovies,

Other sources: rapeseed or canola oil, chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, soya beans or soybean products

Only resort to a fish oil supplement if you don’t (and can’t) have any of the above in your diet throughout the week. And if you think you may need a supplement make sure you check with your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist for the best one for you. This will depend on your own personal circumstances including things like if you take other medication or think you might be pregnant.

References:

Abdelhamid. A, Brown. T, et al. Cochrane Database of of systematic reviews. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. 18th July 2018.

Food in Morocco part 1 – Marrakech

By | Food for thought | No Comments

We’ve been getting itchy feet about going on holiday as it’s been quite a while. I’m such an avid traveller that having such a big break between trips actually made me extra excited about this one. I took full advantage of a week away from social media, only responding to messages from friends and family. It really helped. We all know the accounts that are filled with sunny beaches and feet by the pool whilst we are hitting the daily grind, no one needs that in their life. So instead, here’s just a quick summary of our trip with all the foodie highlights.

Lamb tagine with prunes and walnuts

We arrived to the longest immigration queue I’ve ever seen, about an hour and twenty minutes to get through but once we finally got out of the airport the sun was setting which was stunning. A short cab ride later we arrived at the beautiful Riad Nashira, where we were staying for three nights. We were tired but instead of chilling at the riad we opted for their restaurant recommendation and went to a cute little Italian/Moroccan fusion restaurant. When you arrive in Marrakech most hotels recommend a guide take you for your first few trips as the medina of Marrakech can be quite daunting, and very easy to get lost in. We arrived at what looked like a door in the wall but once inside it opened up into the beautiful space with trees and mismatched furniture. We both opted for tagines, one lamb, one chicken. The couscous that arrived with it, I simply cannot even explain how good it was. Pretty sure it had butter added to it as it a rich yellow colour and the flavour was absolutely divine. The lamb was soft and fell apart as I ate it, and the dried fruit gave an added depth of sweetness.

Sunday. Breakfast at Riad Nashira was brilliant. So much to choose from, I didn’t know where to start. Fresh fruit, eggs, bread, quiche, salad, coffee, tea and juice, basically everything, a little bit like a buffet. Weirdly the Moroccans love cake at breakfast time, we didn’t add that into our feast. We then went out exploring, the hotel guide showed us how to get to the medina. All the little alleyways and streets look exactly the same so it’s easy to see how people get lost. We sampled our first mint tea in the Kasbah district. The sugar is insane and was unexpected. In Morocco they also pour mint tea from a height so that it forms a foam on the surface. Note: ask for it without any sugar, we also skipped lunch. We then visited the secret gardens of Marrakech. We were pretty tired on our return so headed to Café Arabe which is perfect for drinks with a view but the food was average. We fancied going for a glass of wine which is why we opted for this location, reviews were mixed but sometimes you’ve just gotta go with it. Being a Muslim country alcohol isn’t routinely served, many restaurants and hotels do have a licence though.

Food delivery truck in the Kasbah district of Marrakech

Tagines cooking our lunch at Ouzoud Falls

Monday. An all day trip to Ouzoud Falls, three hours each way, took up most of the day. This is a trip I would recommend to anyone, we also ate more tagines, couscous and Khobz (this is the handmade bread which is sold by street vendors and in restaurant they supply by the bucketload to your table). It has a crisp crust but is soft in the middle, it can be made with any type of flour. Dinner was at Nomad. We had tried to get in here for lunch the day before but it was fully booked. Despite it being freezing, even though they had patio heaters, the sunset was gorgeous and the food very tasty. I opted for the Moroccan spiced lamb burger, we had a side of green beans which were crunchy, garlicky and I finished the entire bowl! Nomad is just around the corner form the spice quarter, and that’s one thing about Morocco that is inspiring, their use of spices gives so much flavour.

 

 

Moroccan spiced lamb burger at Nomad 

Tuesday: a 3 hour bike tour around the city with an orange juice stop in the square while we watched the henna ladies and snake charmers, followed by shopping in the souks. Bartered and got a gorgeous Moroccan rug. We lunched at Le Jardin, (by the same owner as Nomad). The kefta tagine had been on my list of foods to try, minced beef with eggs, a bit like shakshouka but with meat instead of veggies, also with couscous.

What’s very prevalent is fruit juice. There are markets stall selling it everywhere, its automatically poured at breakfast and is on every restaurant menu. It’s no surprise with alcohol not being served, but I couldn’t help to think about all the sugar. And also meat, there is lots of meat, be very prepared for that. And for for everyone trying to sell you everything, takes a few days to get used to.

Foodie highlights

  • Mint tea, lamb tagine, lamb burger at Nomad, kefta tagine, and bike tour with a pit stop for juice!

Non-foodie highlights

  • Bargaining in the souks, Ouzoud Falls, beautiful Riad Nashira

More to come on our next stop in the beach side haven of Essauira soon…..

Protein water, two words which should never be paired

By | Food for thought, Rants | No Comments

I know……it’s not new and in the last twelve months we’ve seen protein added to a plethora of products. Some for good reason and others not so much. In the snacking market there are now tasty bars with added protein, not to mention the quark/yoghurt combo on chilled supermarket shelves to name a few. We are almost in the realms of protein fortification. Although generally in nutrition we refer to food fortification in reference to micronutrients such as vitamin D or B and minerals iodine and calcium.

Protein water. So firstly, there’s nothing really wrong with water in general, it doesn’t need to be changed, perfectly fine how it is. We use it to hydrate our bodies which are made up of around 50-60% of it (1). We’ve already got sparkling and several sugar free flavoured varieties as well as coconut water. And then this turns up. There are several brands on the market and I honestly commend anyone who is trying to start up their own business in a market which is saturated with new products. But please, if I can ask just one thing – food and drink has to actually taste nice. Forget the claims, forget how good it supposedly is for you or what it’s going to do because if you don’t like it you won’t go back for more. And if you do then perhaps rethink your priorities.

I thought, why not, and gave it a try. I was excited, I’d seen this product and wanted to try it, I opened the lid, slowly, carefully and took one sip. Then almost spat it out. The taste was so strong of something artificial, even though it contains no artificial colours of flavours? It went in the bin. 20 grams of protein, no thanks. You see you can get that (and many other nutrients might I add) from food.

½ a medium chicken breast

150g of cottage cheese

3 whole eggs,

200g of Greek yoghurt

to name a few.

Taste is key, it’s what keeps us loyal to certain foods. So, use water for its sole purpose – hydration and food for its purposes – a few which include providing us with protein and micronutrients too. Let’s not mess with the things which are already doing ok. Please.

References:

  1. Royal College of Nursing, DIY Health Check Point. https://matrix.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/519630/DIY_Information_Sheet_Total_Body_Water_Percentage.pdf