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Food for thought

Have we been overplaying hydration?

By | Food for thought, Hydration, Rants | No Comments

Something I’ve recently learnt more about is one of the most basic things that we tend to over complicate. Our bodies are over 70% water, that means it’s important to keep your levels topped up but we spend far too much time worrying about it than is truly necessary.

An awful lot of people mention hydration to me and it’s always a requirement for corporate wellbeing workshops. “I know I don’t drink enough water”, “Is 3 litres too much?” “Yeah but tea and coffee doesn’t count, does it?”

Let’s just hold up for a minute while I simplify this for you:

  • Rather than worry about what counts and what doesn’t ask your self if you are thirsty. If you are then you probably need to have a drink.
  • The next time you go to the toilet, check your pee. Is it dark yellow? Is it smelly? If so then you need to drink more fluid. Or eat, because fruit and veg contain lots of water.
  • Are consuming mostly caffeinated, added sugar or artificially sweetened drinks? Then yes you should aim to get some water in throughout the day but you don’t have to cut them out completely. Water does not have to be your sole drink, forever.
  • If you are getting a headache and your concentration is starting to dip then it could be the onset of dehydration.
  • A hangover is severe dehydration.

What about for exercise?

It really only becomes slightly more technical for elite or endurance athletes as hydration levels can impact their performance. For athletes and those training for endurance events it may be beneficial to calculate your own sweat rate as that will assist you in knowing how much to drink, over what time frame and to ensure you don’t drink too much. This requires a short calculation and some measurements so ask for help with this one.

After intense or endurance exercise pure water is not the most rehydrating of drinks. Skimmed, whole milk or dissolvable electrolyte tablets are great as they also replace the minerals your body has lost through sweating. Try not to include sugary sweetened rehydration drinks as they are likely to add extra calories to your diet which really aren’t needed. You don’t need a Lucozade (other brands are available) after a 30 minute game of squash, you may if you’ve just run a marathon.

If you are generally into exercising it will help to start your session already hydrated. So, if you are one who likes to work out first thing in the morning, then get some fluid into you as soon as you wake up. If you are out for a leisurely Sunday jog or on your way home from Crossfit stick to the above tips and you’ll be ok.

Moral of the story. Unless you are an elite athlete, or completing in an endurance event, hydration is really, quite straightforward. There is no magic number, no formula, no ideal amount. It’s purely down to you to know yourself, I’m hopeful we can all manage that?

The Planetary Health Diet

By | Food for thought, Guidelines, Tips | No Comments
Overview

Late last month a report was launched by the EAT Lancet Commission about the dire state of the global food system and what we need to do to fix it. Many of you won’t have seen this. Or will have brushed over it and put it in the “too hard” basket. I get it. And I want to simplify it for you, so take a read, it won’t take long, and decide on what you are going to do to help. To help you. Your family. And others. Please.

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill health worldwide. Just take a moment to process that. Eating food which doesn’t provide us with the right nutrition is making us sick.

  • 800 million people are hungry, they do not have enough food
  • 2 billion people are malnourished
  • 2 billion people are overweight or obese

Our diet is also the largest contributor to environmental damage in the world. The production, processing, transport, storage and waste of our food account for a quarter of the human contribution to climate change. So when I post tips on cutting your bananas up and freezing them I actually mean it.

Apparently if we just follow these guidelines, it’s a win win. If only we were all educated about food hey? Just that minor detail. Add into that the fact that many of us simply cannot afford to eat in this way and we are left at a cross roads with no way to turn.

What does the study say?

It suggests some pretty major changes for the average Joe:

  • Red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half (globally). This would mean for each person, around one beef burger per week. Other protein would come from two servings of fish and unlimited pulses and lentils.
  • Vegetables, fruit, pulses and nut intake must double. Considering most of the UK population don’t even consume 5 a day and that message has been running for 15 years, this isn’t going to change quickly. We need to make this shift by 2050, it’s not long.
  • A glass of milk a day, or some cheese or butter, fits within the guidelines, as does an egg or two a week. (Personally, I would be screwed with cutting out eggs).
  • Half of each plate of food under the diet is vegetables and fruit, and a third is wholegrain cereals.

The photographs alone that accompany this report are pretty. That’s all. I mean I don’t even know what some of these foods are and I work in the industry, so for those struggling to feed their family, I do wonder how they are supposed to feel when they look at these. I’d imagine inspired, but the truth is it will probably make them feel quite down. Please remember, your food does not need to be instagrammable, just edible.

What can you do?

I just wanted to pull out five easy to digest points about the study and some tips on how to implement them, one at a time within your family.

  • How much red meat do you consume and how often? Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, bacon, ham. If you consume red meat more than twice a week it’s time to make some changes. For multiple times a day try going down to once a day. And if it’s a daily occurrence start by trying to only have it every other day.
  • Make note of how many pieces of fruit and veg you consume in a day (excluding potatoes). If it’s less than 5, then your goal is to get to 5 per day. Once you are there, consistently there for a few months try to include one more.
  • Legumes, nuts, lentils, pulses, if you don’t know where to find these in the supermarket that’s a good place to start. Go to world food aisle and put a pack or tin of any type of bean or lentil of pulse in your basket. You can also find them where the tinned vegetables are or in the dried food section. If you aren’t used to using them I’d opt for tinned versions first.
  • It is not more expensive to eat well. You just need to pay more attention to what you are buying. It doesn’t need to be organic. You don’t need fancy food. Tinned and dried foods are cheap and nutritious. Frozen veg is a lifesaver and often better for you and easier to cook with less prep.
  • Food Waste – do not throw food away. Every time you think of throwing food away challenge yourself not to. What else can you do with it? Buy a compost bin. Take it to a food bank. Freeze it. Take it work the next day.

I really hope that helps because if it doesn’t we may just be in danger of a red meat tax? I’m serious.

Singapore

By | Food for thought | No Comments

3 nights, 2 days, probably the perfect amount of time for us to spend in what can only be described as the hub of continental Asia.

As it was technically the start of our honeymoon we lashed out and stayed at The Marina Bay Sands, I’d heard so much about it and it lived up to expectations. I mean it’s not just a hotel but an entire complex which overlooks Marina Bay and the gardens. Hotel, restaurants, cafes, shopping mall, casino, exhibition centre, it’s all there. And yes the million dollar infinity pool shot was taken, but I preferred admiring all those trying to get the perfect photo, there are photographers employed by the hotel who swim around a take your photo a bit like a theme park ride. Oh, and the wind, no one tells you about that.

But let’s get to the food. Me and my hubby both love Asia, and living in the UK it’s not somewhere (like Europe) you can get to quickly and cheaply, so when we are there we try to experience as much as possible. Saying that, we arrived early evening on our first night after an eight hour flight from Melbourne, so got room service and planned the next two days adventures. Fried rice, mixed dumplings, ginger chicken and two coke zeros – such rock and rollers we are! Singaporean cuisine is a mix of many different cultures so there is plenty of choice.

Day 1

Breakfast was included at Marina Bay Sands, with three restaurants to choose from we started at Rise, aptly named since it opened at 630am and we were there shortly after. Literally everything you can imagine. Eggs, omelettes, fruit, pastries, toast, noodles, soups, dim sum, juices, cereal, yoghurts, coffee, fish, cheese, continental meats I could have sat there all day and continued to eat. But I didn’t. My tactic at these kinds of buffets is to get very small amount of everything I feel like so I don’t feel too full but satisfy the fact I want to try it all! I know noodles at breakfast might seem weird, but not for me. In fact, on the plane to Singapore we both said “now we get to have noodles and rice for breakfast”. Cringe but true.

We planned to skip lunch as we weren’t hungry, until we stumbled across China Town. Food stalls everywhere, as well as jewellery, beauty and travel agents. The food stalls are filled with lots of variety. Bao buns and dumplings as far as the eye can see. Pigs heads, intestines and trotters also on display, which for many of us may seem slightly odd, but it’s great this culture eats the entire animal, something we in the western world should do more of. We throw too much away. Food standards are pretty much non existent but just embrace it, use your head and your gut that’s what its there for, common sense. For lunch we dined on dim sums, a pork and chive bao and beef noodle soup accompanied by two Tiger beers.

  

My sister in laws friend lived in Singapore for a few years so we had some hot tips from her so headed to Lau pa Sat that evening. A food market in downtown Singapore with an entire street dedicated to satay. All the stalls are in a line and numbered, you just sit outside the one you like best, they bring you a menu and you order. The beer is poured by the Tiger ladies, they come around and you pay them separately. We just went for the basic satay package, chicken, mutton and prawns. Basic but so flavoursome, the prawns are whole so get ready to peel. Useful tip, they don’t give you napkins, but there are ladies walking around and selling them, clever! Be prepared to leave with your clothes smelling of the wonderful barbecues which go all night. It’s totally worth it. And number 7 & 8 are the best satay – and that’s also the name of their stall.

  

Day 2

Breakfast at Adrift, similar to the day before but a little more, posh shall we say. We again opted for noodles, and an omelette and I also had a poached egg with smoked salmon on half an English muffin. Fruit consumption at breakfast has almost been a daily occurrence and today I tried longans just like lychees with some dragon fruit and watermelon. Eat the rainbow, done.

Lunch was a shared banh mi by the pool, hotel food. Mediocre but better than we both thought.

Our final night we visited Little India. The Tekka Centre there is the food market and we would have eaten here except for the fact we walked into the raw meat and fish entrance and it turned us both off, we just couldn’t get past it. Not to worry though we took a short walk stopped for a beer and discussed our options. We ended up at RW Selmor. Good choice. We started with veggie samosas, I also had a masala tea as the locals were drinking it and I wanted to sample the sweet goodness. We then ordered a plethora of different things, both agreeing the mixed veg curry as the winner. The mutton came in a close second and the cheese prata which came with accompanying dhal was tasty too. That being said, the dishes came out with plastic spoons and it just made me sad. The fact is that whilst we in the UK are doing so much on the single use plastic front, this part of the world isn’t there yet.

Tips for eating on the street: get it out of your head you’ll get sick. Choose places that are busy, that also have locals there too. The level of cleanliness is never going to be what you are used to so don’t compare it. We also took before and during our trip a probiotic, whether or not that helped I don’t know but emerging research suggests it can help. Boots do a pack of 30 for £8.99, do yourself a favour and get some.

Top sights

Gardens by the Bay – you can pay to enter the conservatories but even just wandering round the gardens themselves is truly beautiful.

1Altitude Bar for the view only. It’s the tallest bar in the world, and FYI it’s free entry for women on Wednesdays which as the day we went! The amenities and drinks leave a bit to be desired.

Sentosa is Singapore’s theme park on its own island, aimed at families you can climb to the top of the Merlion and walk to the southernmost point of continental Asia. Get the cable car over and then if you get the monorail back you don’t have to pay. Well I think you are supposed to, but we just sneaked out! The cable car also goes over to Mount Faber Park which is lovely to walk around.

Marina Bay Sands – if you aren’t staying there then still visit, and go to the top for a drink. Only guests can swim.

Hawker food centres are great if you are into food, find one and just wander round. You’ll get bowls of noodles for a couple of quid.

Have a Singapore Sling at Raffles, it was closed for refurb when we were there so I ended up having mine in Malaysia so no recommendations there.

Also be prepared for just how many oil tankers there are on the sea and horizon and the humidity to hit you like a brick. Permanent sweaty clothes.

 

Low calorie sweeteners

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It’s something I hear all the time, “yeah but they are just as bad as sugar aren’t they?” Not entirely no. There is usually a point made about them being artificial, or full of chemicals or that they can cause you to gain weight. Lots of things are artificial, everything is made up of chemicals and in most cases there are many other factors that impact our weight before sweeteners, however we are pretty hung up on how apparently harmful they actually are.

Low calorie sweeteners come in many forms, aspartame, saccharin and stevia are probably the ones most people have heard before. All are around 200 -300 times sweeter than sugar itself, aspartame and saccharin are artificially produced and stevia comes from a plant originating from South America (it still does undergo a small amount of processing though). These and many others are used to sweeten products, namely soft drinks but also cakes and often protein bars which we see becoming more mainstream in individual diets. They are a calorie free solution to food and drinks which are usually very low in physical nutritional quality. Not only that, low calorie sweeteners don’t have the detrimental effect on our teeth that sugar does.

Like most things in life, nothing is straightforward so here goes, keeping it short and sweet (excuse the terrible pun).

Harmful to human health? The research currently says no. If that’s all you needed to know you can stop reading now, but I’ve broken down the science a little bit further for those avid readers.

Without a doubt there have been many studies on low calorie sweeteners with the majority of them, in animals. And there’s the first point to reference, animal studies can’t be applied to humans, we are different species. The studies which started the concern were published in the 1970s and linked the high doses fed to rats with the development of bladder cancer(2). This has since shown to be incorrect as rats have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer due to their physiology. What is also important to note here is studies in animals are usually conducted where the sweeteners are given at an almost toxic level, far higher than we would ever consume. Only very small quantities of sweeteners are consumed in human diets, as an example around 1/10g is used in place of 35 grams of sugar, which is roughly the amount you’d find in a can of CocaCola(1).

For any items to enter the food chain, they have to be certified as safe by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) – which might I add could potentially change in March 2019 due to Brexit so an update will follow then if it’s needed. They must be safe for human consumption and have maximum limits set for products and ingredients based on average consumption.

There is however, emerging research on low calorie sweeteners in the area of gut health and their potential role in altering our gut microbiota (that’s all the bacteria that make up our gut and help us to stay healthy). Again, the research has been completed in mice and shows that low calorie sweeteners can disrupt the gut microbiota and result in impaired glucose tolerance – which means the body’s ability to regulate glucose (sugar) (3). But until this can be show in humans, we just need to keep an eye on this one.

They can help those trying to lose weight reduce their calorie consumption. However, this only works if the individual is educated in their food choices. It doesn’t mean it can be replaced with something else high in calories at another point during the day.

There is no evidence to suggest they impact dental health. Sugar sweetened drinks and other items such as cakes and biscuits high in refined sugar in the UK are contributing to the 45,000 multiple teeth extractions in under 18-year olds which were carried out in England and Wales in the last year (4). No further comment needed there.

All of the above taken into account we are still a way off the public perception of artificial sweeteners changing. There is still very much a body of thought out there which deems them to be socially unacceptable. When in reality for almost a third of adults who significantly need to reduce their energy intake to lose weight they shouldn’t be.

So in short, as part of a balanced food and beverage intake then I have no issue with my clients consuming products which contain them. If it helps support their long term goal of losing weight then that’s a positive step. If consumption is in excess then this could pose health risks, (but too much kale would also do that) by excess this would mean litres and litres of diet fizzy drinks per day, sweeteners in tea and coffee and a couple of protein bars too. And finally it’s very important not to get into the reward mindset of “well that had no calories so I can have something else instead”. If you are hungry eat, if you aren’t try not to.

And on the horizon for the UK food industry – with calorie reduction being implemented by the UK government are we likely to see more artificial sweeteners in our food products?

References:

  1. Evaluating research by understanding the metabolic fate of difference low calorie sweeteners – Dr Berna Magnuson (Canada) – International Sweeteners Association Conference 2018
  2. MD Reuber. Carcinogenicity of saccharin. 1978 Environmental Health Perspectives Aug; 25: 173–200.
  3. Nettleton JE, Reimer RA, Shearer J. Reshaping the gut microbiota: Impact of low calorie sweeteners and the link to insulin resistance? 2016. Physiology & Behavior. Oct 1;164(Pt B):488-493.
  4. Local Government Association, December 2018. https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/180-operations-day-remove-rotten-teeth-children,

Fat shaming and the normalisation of plus sized bodies

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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

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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

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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.