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

Diets

By | Food for thought, Media Responses | No Comments

In the last 10 days the media have saturated us with a few main headlines relating to food and diets. The first being ultra-processed foods and cancer and the second relating to low fat or low carb diets being better for weight loss and the third focussing on millennials and body weight. I just want to clarify a few things:

The thing is, there is no perfect way to eat. There are no good foods and no bad foods. What works for one, won’t for someone else, that’s why it takes time to get it right, for you. We are creatures of habit, we stick to what we know which is why often people struggle to try new things and change habits that have perhaps been there since they were first born. We like our comfort zone and that’s ok. We live in an environment where whatever we want, we can have, almost instantly and that will have detrimental effects in the long term.

ULTRA-PROCESSED, a word, as a nutrition professional that never really entered my vocabulary until last week. In this day and age we’d be hard pressed to find something that’s not ultra-processed and be able to live the lives we do without using them. From coffee, to bread and hummus to tinned tomatoes, these are all processed. We are busy, and often we don’t have time to prep, chop, cut, steam, bake, fry and serve up a dinner for 6, so buy the pre-cooked rice that you can cook in the microwave and if you have the time to cook a roast dinner from scratch on a Sunday then do that too. There is no doubt that many of us do consume too many processed food, some which is ultra-processed, normally from the less nutritionally dense category. When we examine diet and the link between disease there are so many other factors that come into play, physical activity, smoking, stress and alcohol consumption to name a few. So don’t demonise one thing, I thought we were done with that, just try to get it right most of the time, because that’s real life and pretty normal for most. Oh and ultra-processed, I don’t think we need to contend with another word in the food industry, processed is surely enough.

LOW CARB OR LOW FAT – there is no right answer. If weight loss is a goal for you then it’s a consistent calorie deficit and diet quality that’s important. It’s about taking time to assess your diet as a whole and make small and sustainable changes that you can maintain forever. If you want to measure weight loss then you are going to need to measure what you are eating and when you are moving. Every single short term diet you have ever been on will have reduced your calorie intake in some way, more than likely through the companies own clever marketing, however in a way that isn’t sustainable so keeps you returning time and time again. It takes time to work out what a consistent calorie deficit will be for you, enough to keep you feeling satisfied and not so low that you feel hungry and can’t maintain it whilst ensuring you till enjoy food. And you know what, most of the time it’s hard to do this alone, so get professional advice, you might pay an accountant to deal with your finances so why not do the same for your food intake. Even if its just to take a look at your overall diet to make some positive changes.

MILLENIALS – scaremongering was perhaps not the best way to promote this article to the general public, that also included fat shaming which is something I detest. There is no doubt that carrying excess weight can be detrimental to your health and is linked to many health conditions, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. But using overweight or obese as a general terms isn’t helpful. All we need to do is look at the environment we are surrounded with and it’s no wonder we are where we are. Education is pivotal, awareness is vital but no matter how educated we are if all we have is what’s right in front of us that’s generally what we’ll end up having. We do need more regulation, we need help from the government and we need more businesses supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees and students.

CONSISTENT THEME – eat a bit of everything, keep it balanced, you know your own limits and do not under any circumstance demonise food. EVER.

 

Store cupboard essentials

By | Food for thought | No Comments

A few people have asked me recently about what I keep in my cupboards to whip up quick meals or lunchboxes when inspiration and energy is lacking. Luckily I’m quite creative when it comes to cooking, I can usually rustle something up with whatever I can find in the cupboards, fridge or freezer, but baking, well that’s another story, never been my strong point, even when I follow recipes! So, here’s a quick list of some of my essentials, with some recommendations of quick dishes you can whip up when you simply aren’t feeling it. This is just a base list, it’s not exhaustive by any means, but ensures you will always find something to satisfy your taste buds and your hunger.

Dry cupboard
Rice (either brown or white)
Quinoa
Couscous
Spaghetti
Jumbo oats
Chickpeas
Sweetcorn
Tinned tuna
Tinned tomatoes or passata
Veggie stock cubes
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Balsamic vinegar
Rapeseed oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil
Malt vinegar
Honey
Peanut butter
Tahini
Marmite
Mixed seeds
Almonds
Raisins
Plain flour
Baking powder
Rye flour
Self-raising flour
Desiccated coconut
Chia seeds
Ground almonds
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Free range eggs

Herbs & Spices
Oregano
Paprika (smoked as well as normal)
Turmeric
Cinnamon
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Sumac
Dried chilli flakes
Sea salt
Pepper

Freezer – do underestimate the power of freezing as much as possible, it’s a lifesaver
Peas
Sliced bread and/or tortilla wraps
Mince (beef, lamb, pork, chicken or turkey)

Fridge
Jam
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Chutney of some sort (at the moment I have Waterhouse Fayre Devon Ale chutney and a beetroot relish)
Pickle
Mustard
Harissa
Sweet chilli sauce
Minced garlic
Onions
Spinach
Milk
Mushrooms
Tomatoes
Feta
Lemons/Limes

I haven’t really included any meat or fish and fruit or veg here as I believe that shopping for personal taste and trying to buy I season is always best. A colourful fruit bowl will tell you that you have a multitude of vitamins and minerals. In terms of meat and fish it just really depends, I’ll usually have chicken thighs, mince and smoked salmon, and more recently, tofu.

When cooking grains, always cook extra as they’ll keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. That way if you are stuck you can literally mix them with anything for a quick bowl of goodness, hot or cold.

For an easy dressing, 1 tsp tahini and olive oil, lemon juice, S&P in an old jam jar – put the lid on and shake. Any extra will also keep in the fridge for 5 days.

And here’s a few things I’d make using the ingredients above:

  • Sweet potato jacket with tuna and spinach
  • Spicy tomato spaghetti – use the tinned toms, garlic, onion, mushrooms, oregano, and spinach to make the sauce. Mix with the spaghetti and add feta to serve
  • Baked eggs – tinned tomatoes, dried chilli flakes, garlic, oregano – crack the eggs into the mix and bake in the oven. Serve with a slice of bread
  • Mix & match bowl – boiled eggs, cooked grains from the fridge or a tortilla from the freezer warmed in the oven, spinach, feta, fresh tomatoes diced, mixed seeds.

Be creative, and so what if it goes wrong? I can however assure you that if you build a plate with lots of food you love, it won’t go wrong. It just won’t.

The Deal With Vitamin D

By | Food for thought, Guidelines, Vitamins | No Comments

Personally and professionally, I’m not one for supplements and an believe that an adequate balanced diet incorporating all the major food groups with lots of fruit and veg should do it. That being said, it’s come to that point in time, when for the general population in the UK, it just isn’t enough. (1)

So listen up, I’m aiming to keep these blog posts short and sweet, with ample levels of evidence, but that you can get through in max 5 minutes, because quite frankly everyone is so busy they don’t have time to read lengthy full on posts. And want to know what they need to know, straight up, from a reliable and trustworthy source!

Vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 and D3. We obtain D2 from plant food sources and D3 from animal sources such as red meat, oily fish, egg yolks as well as sunlight. But D3, well that’s where it’s a bit more complicated. As the majority of it comes from being synthesized in the skin with the presence of sunlight with the addition from our diet. (4) However in the UK, from October to March the sun just isn’t strong enough to work with the skin and generate vitamin D3. (1)

So we need to supplement. What’s the deal? It’s a minefield I know…

Most of the general population only requires a vitamin D supplement of 10micrograms. This applies to all over the age of 5, my tips are:

  • I find health food stores tend to have good deals on supplement tablets but be careful on which tablets they are promoting, online might be more suitable just make sure it’s a credible store.
  • You only need 10micrograms, not 20, not 25, not 50, so only buy a tablet that contains 10micrograms, your bank account will thank you and your body won’t use the extra vitamin D as it simply doesn’t need it.
  • It shouldn’t cost you more than £4.00 for a bottle of 100 tablets – if it does shop elsewhere or check to make sure you are buying the right dose.
  • Read the label – make sure it’s D3, make sure it’s only 10mcg and that you aren’t getting ripped off.
  • You can also get vitamin D supplements through the Healthy Start programme (3)

The likelihood of having too much vitamin D in your system is low and generally the risk only builds up with an intake of more than 100mcg per day so you are generally pretty safe. (5) And why do we need it? It promotes calcium absorption in the gut, it’s needed for bone growth as well as healthy teeth, it’s really important in immune health and for cell growth and metabolism. (2)

If you have a medical condition which is affected by vitamin D, speak to your GP before taking any supplements, however for the majority a daily dose is absolutely good for your health.

So go now, on your way home from work, on your way to the shops or jump online. Make it a habit, your body will thankyou until the sun consistency brightens up our days from April onwards!

References:

  1. Public Health England, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-new-advice-on-vitamin-d
  2. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) Vitamin D and health report, 21st July 2016
  3. Healthy Start – https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/ 2017
  4. Tripkovic, L. et al. Health benefits of vitamin D dependent on type taken. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, May 2012
  5. NHS choices, vitamins and minerals. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ March 2017

 

 

Is Meat So Mighty After All?

By | Food for thought | No Comments

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll know that meat has been making headlines on both the health, animal welfare and sustainability fronts. With new research being released weekly, apps available for download encouraging plant based eating and documentaries being aired on Netflix claiming meat to be a group one carcinogen – are we in danger of meat the general public being left completely confused?

The Evidence

There’s truckloads of research on the benefits of reducing meat consumption for human health. One of the main nutrients likely to the rise with a reduction in meat and increase in plants is fibre. This means your digestive system reaps the benefits and your body loads up on essential vitamins and minerals.

There are also potential environmental benefits, with beef and lamb topping the UK list of food related greenhouse gas emissions. Beef comes in at 35kg of CO2 per kilo, versus vegetables at 2.5kg (1). In 2012, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) reported that categorised by cost, meat and fish is the largest group of avoidable food waste, totalling to a whopping £2.1billion (2). These are numbers that we can clearly improve on.

Technology may pose some answers to the above, helping us gather statistics to ensure we know exactly what’s going on, but sadly that is not always enough. Knowledge is one thing, but it is not always sufficient to create real behaviour change. At a recent nutrition conference Professor James Stubbs drew me into his thought provoking conversation about the psychological barriers of decreasing our meat consumption. I was intrigued, mainly because it was so true.

Global meat consumption has almost doubled in the last 50 years from 63g per person per day in 1961 to 115g per person per day in 2009 (3). Even today, meat is still linked with wealth, status and luxury and a massive cultural shift is needed before we will witness large scale reduction. For us, changing non-food related behaviours is preferred, more acceptable and seen as a greater priority for climate change (4). We’d rather recycle and use eco-friendly plastic forks than sacrifice our Sunday roast. Behaviour change is complicated and takes long term investment to see a real difference, but the rewards can be hugely positive, especially when it comes to food.

Within the UK, 60% of men and 40% of women exceed government advice to consume no more than 70g red & processed meat per day (5). 70 grams is the equivalent of 2 slices of roast beef or 1 large lamb chop daily, and yet we are over consuming. At the same time, we have other important nutrients such as fibre, where we are way off the mark. If we could only decrease consumption of some of the food groups we have a little too much of and replace them with those that we struggle to get enough, we may just be on the way to achieving a more rounded picture of health.

The argument should not be about a few of us completely cutting meat out – I would never advocate removing food groups from the human diet – but about everyone making a few small changes. After all, if we don’t start making some soon, there won’t be a planet left for the generations after us to enjoy.

So maybe swap the beef burger for a veggie pattie occasionally, enjoy the parmigiana with aubergine now and again and perhaps try a lentil dahl instead of your chicken tikka.

And on a side note, for all those ‘High Fat Low Carb’ advocates out there, I believe the contribution to our planet may be something that’s not been heavily discussed yet? Might be worth adding to the agenda at Ketofest….

References:

  1. Green R, Milner J, Dangour A, et al. The potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK through healthy and realistic dietary change. Climatic change. 2015; 129:253-265
  2. WRAP, Household food and drink waste in the United Kingdom, 2012
  3. FAOSTAT, 2013
  4. Macdiarmid J, Douglas F, Campbell J. Eating like there’s no tomorrow: Public awareness of the environmental impact of food and reluctance to eat less meat as part of a sustainable diet. Appetite. 2016; 96:487-93
  5. Westland & Crawley, Healthy & Sustainable Diets in the Early Years 2012