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

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

 

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 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 posts.

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, and that’s where it’s a bit more complicated as in addition to the diet, the majority of it comes from being synthesized in the skin with the presence of sunlight. (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 require a vitamin D supplement of 10micrograms. This applies to all over the age of one, my tips are:

  • 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 from a higher dose 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)
  • Babies under the age of one consuming infant formula are fine as it already contains adequate vitamin D levels. Those over the age of one should have the same supplement level as adults however vitamin D drops may be more palatable.
  • Those with dark skin should consume a vitmain D supplement all year round.

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