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Food for thought

Nutrition as we age

By Food for thought, Guidelines, Hydration, Tips No Comments

A topic I don’t spend enough time talking about, however it’s only after recent discussions with my parents, in laws and my husband’s 92 year old nan that I’ve realised it’s a particularly niche area that not many people know much about. I actually spoke at a retirement home on this topic in late 2019 and shared some easy tips the residents could implement themselves or with the help of their own families.

This is especially important at a time when loneliness and being isolated can impact your nutrition status too.

Nutritional requirements change as we hit our late 30’s, into our 40’s and onwards from there. It’s never too late to start but by building these habits early it means you’ll be setting yourself up for when you are just that little bit older. Without trying to over complicate things, and in no particular order, here are just a few science backed tips that can help.

Protein.

As we age, we actually need more protein, yet we tend to consume much less. Think about your grandparents, would they consume a good source of protein at every meal. Probably not. If we could get every care and retirement home to provide a protein-based drink per day imagine the difference that could make to the elderly population. An increase in protein consumption can assist with the reduction of muscle wastage and even improve rates of new muscle being built. Less muscle to support our frame means we are more likely to fall. Less people falling means less pressure on the NHS and more people living with a better quality of life. Obviously, encouraging protein consumption through consuming protein rich foods would be far more beneficial from a nutritional standpoint but for convenience a drink may be more suitable. Perhaps framing it like a milkshake might get more individuals onboard?

Hydration.

Of all the topics we covered at the retirement home, hydration definitely had the most interest and questions, which in all honesty is great because it means a lot of these residents weren’t hydrated enough. I sent a post workshop follow up with the urine colour chart for them to use. Last year I bought dad a water bottle, he was never drinking enough (water that is). Now every time we Facetime he has it with him, like he’s proving a point. Being dehydrated can lead you to feel less energised, tired and generally flat. It’s a big easy win. Make sure you use a reusable bottle if you can too.

Vitamin D supplementation.

In the UK everyone over the age of one is currently required to take a supplement of 10ug (micrograms) of vitamin D3 per day. This has now been extended to cover not only winter months but also the summer months too due to us being in lock down because of Covid-19. Those with darker skin should also take a vitamin D supplement all year round as they aren’t able to absorb as much vitamin D3 from sunlight due to their skin pigmentation. This also applies to the older population group too, coupled with the fact this group of people spend a fairly large amount of time indoors. Vitamin D is involved in many things, namely, the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, supporting our immune system and has positive associations with mood. It comes in tablets or sprays which may be suitable for those who have trouble swallowing.

Fish oil supplementation, AKA Omega 3.

The research on fish oil intake and supplementation is only growing. Fish oil is comprised of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies show it positively effects the bodies reduced ability to build muscle in the elderly (anabolic resistance). As well as helping to facilitate weight loss and assist in improvements with depression. Yet the majority of the adult population fail to consume the recommendation of one portion of oily fish per week which is our main source of omega 3. One average portion is thought to contain around 450mg (milligrams) of EPA & DHA combined. Recommendation wise if you consume no oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines, pilchards) you are looking at anywhere between 300-1800 milligrams per day.

If you are taking any blood thinning medication (such as Warfarin) then you should consult your GP before taking a fish oil supplement due to it having similar effects on the blood. You can obtain omega 3 from other food sources however the dose is very low. These include linseeds, rapeseed oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. For those with allergies to fish or on a vegetarian/vegan diet there are algae sourced supplements available.

Resistance training.

This was another really good tip for the retirement home in particular as the warden mentioned that they offer chair workouts but don’t usually get a lot of uptake. Your body weight is enough, no expensive equipment is needed. So many people still just focus on cardiovascular exercise in a bid to burn more calories, however by doing resistance/strength training once or twice a week you are in fact strengthening your muscles so when you do go for that run, walk or cycle you’ll perform better and recover faster. As we age, continuing to strength train helps reduce muscle wastage and maintains our bone strength.

In summary….

As always my motto is if every attendee takes just one thing away from every workshop, blog post or social media caption that helps them, then my job is done. And quote of the day goes to one gentleman who was walking outside when I left. In his words “when I heard a nutritionist was coming in, I thought it was going to be really boring, but I actually learnt so much, thankyou!” And that’s what this job is all about.

I’m also pleased to say, mum and dad are now delving into the world of protein shakes and taking regular fish oil supplements, if they can, you can.

Pregnancy post #5 – second hand stuff and recycling

By Food for thought, Personal, Pregnancy, Tips No Comments

Big fans…

Being big fans of reusing and recycling when we found out about the new addition to our family we were adamant to do as much as we could not to buy new things. We just didn’t want to add more items into a system that was already flooded with products. I cannot say a big enough thanks to all my friends and family who gave us so much, their generosity was next level. The baby had almost a full wardrobe of clothes from newborn to nine months before he was even born. I must say this was probably helped by the fact I was one of the last in my group of friends to have children, just as some of them had completed their own families.

What we got

I used Facebook marketplace all the time, because you can filter it to search local to you. My buggy (and all the bits to go with it), baby carrier, newborn insert, cot and rocking chair all came from there. Some of these had not even been used, or only used once. Some brand new but for half the price.

The cot (£30, retailed brand new for over £300) and rocking chair (£20) we just sanded down and re-painted, with low VOC paint to ensure it wasn’t toxic. Both as good as new. And yes, you have to have the time to do this, it’s about making it a priority. We spent a few hours on each item together. The shelves for Kit’s books are also made from reclaimed scaffold boards.

Provided they remain in good condition we will also sell on, or at the very least give to a charity shop who can benefit from it long after we have.

Brand new is not always best

More of us need to move away from the thought process that new is best. Yes, in some cases new items are essential, for hygiene reasons and if you have a personal reason which you feel strongly about. But for babies, it’s really not necessary and as adults we need to apply those principals to us too. Probably half of my very small maternity wardrobe came from the second hand clothes app, Depop. If you don’t have an account, set one up here. Again, lots of clothes which have barely been worn and even more which are brand new. Considering maternity clothes are worn for such a short period of time it just makes sense. There is also loads of baby stuff on here too, however I am yet to use it for that.

Nappies and wipes

Now, it comes to nappies and wipes. What a minefield. That’s all I can say. We both researched a lot. And I think it then turned into information overload. We had always said from the start that using solely washable nappies and wipes wasn’t going to work and we didn’t want to put ourselves under that much pressure with a newborn. So, we’d said we’d use washable nappies at home and disposable when we were out and about. Or the other option was we’d use washable for one day a week and disposable for the remainder of the time. Something as better than nothing. At the moment we are using disposable but I’m thinking once Kit is around 2 months old to move to the above. I have everything ready.

The wipes are just as confusing. I have a set from Cheeky Wipes which we do use already. And I also invested in bamboo and compostable varieties too. But none of them fully breakdown, and whilst it seems like a good idea, if the product doesn’t fully breakdown then I question if it’s worth the effort, because you are back at square one.

Remember

No one is doing everything. It’s impossible. But if you are doing one thing here and there to be more eco friendly then you are doing your bit. So I challenge you, what’s next on your list?

Pregnancy post #4 – food

By Food for thought, Personal, Pregnancy No Comments

Eating habits

My eating habits were all over the place. In the first 6 months I literally ate so many carbs and sugar it was unbelievable. I used to consume quite a lean high protein diet with lots of veggies and wholegrains. That was gone, and surprisingly I was ok with it. I had a new-found love of cereal. I would never have eaten cereal before and now I was having it every day. Sometimes twice a day. Other than that, anything cold was a good thing. Fruit, fruit juice, milk, ice and then carb wise, cereal, bread, potatoes, pasta and rice and not much else. I wasn’t that good with raw meat for a while either, the smell just made my stomach turn. My meals were very bland.

Blood tests

This change of diet was actually reflected in my blood test results which I just find fascinating. I’ve never had a problem with my haemoglobin levels. As I regularly donate blood they check your levels every time so I was pretty aware of how normal they were. However, at my booking in appointment around 11 weeks they take your bloods and mine had dropped from a regular 144 to 125. And the likelihood of this is due to the fact I wasn’t eating very well, barely any foods rich in iron and baby was taking a lot of nutrients from me. I’m pleased to say when my next blood tests were done in November they had gone up to 129 (not massive but still a slight improvement), chances are as my diet had improved by then. All of these figures are still in the normal range, just a bit more on the low side.

Third trimester onwards

At the start of the third trimester it just started becoming unpleasant to eat in the evening, I was really full and there was just no room left. I would tend to eat most of my meals before about 3pm and then have half of what I’d normally eat in the evening.

I was scared my appetite and love of food wouldn’t return. Being an absolute food lover and with it forming a large part of my life it worried me that I’d just never get that spark back. Cooking wasn’t as exciting when you couldn’t eat it or didn’t fancy it.

From about week 30 I noticed my nausea returning on certain mornings for just a few hours. It was different this time, not hunger related, it was just there, like an annoying little niggle. It wasn’t everyday and nothing in particular triggered it. However, compared to the beginning it was really nothing.

Then, at week 37 my spark for eating how I used to just returned randomly one day. I was still a cereal fiend but I was back eating higher protein meals, more veggies and salads and it helped. I started to get excited about after baby was born and getting back to eating well and looking after myself, my way, again.

Post birth

Now our little baby has arrived I can honestly say most of my eating has returned to normal although I have been indulging in things I fancy when I want them. I don’t believe in snapping back or getting your body back. Our bodies are amazing, I am in awe that I grew a human being and I am also excited to be eating relatively healthy again. This will support me in getting to where I want to be and support bubs too as I’m breastfeeding him.

Pregnancy post #3 – exercise

By Food for thought, Movement, Personal, Pregnancy No Comments

It’s beneficial

Continuing to exercise once you’ve found out you are pregnant still gets a bad wrap, even though it’s 2020. There is countless research which tells us its safe. If you understand your own body, it’s actually good for you and for baby, both physically and mentally. And it can also reduce the amount of time spent in labour, and personally I was all for that.

My exercise routine

Being quite a fit individual, I carried on with most of my normal exercise routine, just dropping the intensity as I progressed. I continued to train weights once a week with my PT and run 3 to 4 times a week. I’d also walk twice a week with a friend and do body weight circuits or resistance training at home. Even though I was so tired and felt awful at the beginning this would always make me feel better. I had to stop running at 19 weeks. I’d always said to myself if I could run until I was halfway I’d be happy and I nearly made it. It was a Saturday afternoon and the pressure on my lower abdomen and discomfort in my pelvis just wasn’t worth it. 90 seconds in I stopped and walked and knew that was it. Inside I was gutted. I remember coming home and being in such a bad mood, but the next day that mood was gone. It’s hard, but I think you just have tell yourself that it’s not forever and as long as you can do something it’s better than nothing. So that was how I approached things from then on. It was such a different mindset training for something other than a time, to lift heavier or to beat a previous personal best. I was now training just because I could. Because it made me feel good. And it was refreshing. I’d urge you all to try it once every now and again.

At 26 weeks I took up pregnancy yoga. To be honest I have never been a true yogi, it’s super slow and I struggle with it despite it being challenging for the body. But I completed the course as I know the benefits in terms of stretching and opening up the pelvis is good for birth. I don’t think I’ll do it again though as it’s just not for me.

I continued to stay as active as possible throughout my entire pregnancy. We had some kettlebells at home (which are so old but did the trick) so I’d use those for body weight and circuit training exercises 2 to 3 times per week. I found Bumps and Burpees a really good source of safe exercise routines and with the workouts being between 15 and 20 minutes it means you can absolutely find the time. I’d either do a 5km walk which would take around an hour, or a 30-minute walk and then a circuit session aiming for 5 days a week with 2 rest days.

The breathlessness crept in from about 30 weeks onwards and I really had to slow the pace, but the important thing was to keep doing it. I was simply astounded at how quickly I now became out of breath. I used to run for hours at a time and now, walking up a hill was tough. By week 36 my pelvis and hips were starting to feel slightly uncomfortable purely because of the extra weight so I dropped the intensity again but still kept moving. Exercise or simply being active is a way of life for me, so whilst I was constantly advised to “rest” or “take it easy” walking and doing things like this made me feel at ease. They are things which relax my mind and make me feel good.

Starting again

I can’t wait until I can get back into some high intensity stuff but equally, I won’t be rushing it and plan on seeing a women’s health physio to get everything checked before attempting anything too high impact.

Pregnancy post #2 – being sick

By Food for thought, Pregnancy No Comments

The nausea

From when we found out about baby bean (as he was known from then on) the nausea continued. I was only physically sick once but had nausea pretty much all day every day until around 17 weeks. We had a weeks holiday booked in Portugal when I was 9 weeks pregnant so I was hoping some R&R would be welcomed. It was, however with a little bit of drama, some could say I’m my fathers daughter (for those who know dad, you’ll understand what I mean and laugh).

Portugal

We were sitting down to lunch beside the pool and I didn’t feel right, thought I was going to be sick so tried to make it to the toilets, fainted and woke up on the ground with an audience staring at me and blood coming from my chin. It could have been so much worse and now I have a lovely scar and a chipped back tooth to always remind me of this little bean. After a ride to the hospital, glue and steri-strips, a scan to confirm everything was ok and a few stiff brandy’s for my hubby we were back at the hotel and I was subject to many inquisitive guests for the rest of the trip.

I was then also under the constant watch of my hubby and told to rest more than usual. Which I struggled with. I don’t really do rest that well and neither does he. The day we returned to the UK we were supposed to be going to see P!NK in concert at Wembley Stadium. It was one of the hottest days of the summer in the high 30’s so needless to say we bailed on that, which was totally the right decision. When you know, you know and don’t ever be afraid to trust your instincts. Not just in motherhood but in general. (When it comes to my birth story, I’ll talk more about trusting your instincts).

I got a cold at 28 weeks. It really took its toll on me, moreso than a cold normally would. One of the benefits of being your own boss is working from the sofa. Also, at this time was when I started to get uncomfortable. My sleeping really took a knock and I was waking every few hours not only for a wee but also because it was just awkward. I started to feel a stretching type sensation in the sides of my tummy, which I assumed was totally normal. My lower back also ached pretty permanently which I learnt to get used to. I tried not to let it stop me. I’m a big believer in not moping around because quite frankly it’s not going to help your mental state of mind. Sure, rest is important, but there is a difference between rest and simply not doing anything which can often make you feel worse. This was the only time I got sick throughout my entire pregnancy. Which is probably less than how often I get sick normally.

The final weeks

The nausea came back intermittently in the remaining few weeks but nothing compared to what it was like at the start. It was usually in the first few hours of waking up and then it would go. Being uncomfortable got worse. And getting up in the night also got worse although it depends where baby bean was lying. He must have moved occasionally as I had some nights that were just worse than others.

And that was it. There wasn’t anymore sickness (oh until labour where I vomited twice, the first time I had my head so close to the bowl it splattered back in my face, lucky I’ve got a good sense of humour). I firmly believe because you know there is an end in sight, you can mentally process it and get through it.

Australia, my home land, my heart breaks for you

By Food for thought, Rants, Travel One Comment

I’m so sad. I’m actually crying right now.

But I had to sit and write this in the hope that it will help you all make change. Help you to meaningfully look at your life habits and think about the future. I talk about this stuff all the time, but this time it’s more serious.

Why so serious?

Maybe it’s because I’m about to have a baby that it’s hit me harder than normal? Is it wrong that I feel guilty already about the world I’ll be leaving behind for him? I hope he’ll be ok?

Or is it because the place I call home, Australia, is literally on fire. The state I was born in is burning. The mountains that are snow topped in the winter are now filled with flames. Smoke has reached New Zealand. The size of the burnt area is half the size of England, can you imagine if half of England was engulfed? Half a billion animals have perished and perhaps entire species lost. The only way these fires will be put out is by mother nature. It needs to rain. Yet it won’t. And what if it doesn’t, how long will they burn for? And the smoke. The long term health implications of this will be absolutely terrible.

What most people outside of Australia don’t realise is that our rural fire firefighters are largely volunteers and these are the people who are on the front line.

Feeling helpless

It’s awful feeling helpless isn’t it? We all know the feeling. We will have all experienced it at some point in our lives. As I watch videos of koalas fur smouldering as they are pulled off trees to be rescued, of a burnt, dead kangaroo stuck to a fence because it couldn’t get out, of families being separated and of a country that is now so divided by politics, I just feel lost. It hurts. I did wake today feeling slightly more optimistic. It’s refreshing to hear that the country is pulling together and the support I’ve seen is outstanding. It does make it a little easier. Just a little.

Is there anything we can do? We can start by not ignoring it. We can start by educating ourselves on how to help and stop being ignorant. We can start by making it our problem.

Change for the environment

So, when I speak to people or put out tips on making change for the environment I am actually serious. It’s not just some little thing I do because I have time. It’s because I want to make a difference and I want others to as well. It’s because it angers me every time I see people not thinking about their actions before they do them. If we don’t actively consider what we do now, there will not be a next time. No seriously there won’t.

I am not an environmental scientist. I studied human nutrition. Very different, yet both are sciences and both inter-related, probably moreso now than ever before. And don’t get me wrong this is not solely attributed to climate change, not at all. However, over the last 12 to 18 months I’ve done a lot of research (as has my husband) on this ever-changing world we live in and perhaps how we can be better. There is no perfect way to start, it’s just important that you do.

We are by no means perfect. No one is. We still travel. We buy products in plastic. We own a car. But we have made so many changes that will help our world.

  • Look after what you have. Don’t be wasteful. Repair clothes. Repair toys. Repair home furnishings. Look after your home. Stop throwing things away when they can be fixed.
  • Don’t buy a bottle of water. If you are thirsty and you forgot your reusable one, tough shit. Wait. Or ask a café or shop for a glass of water as you pass by. It’s not rude if you ask in the right manner.
  • Can you walk? Transport currently has the biggest impact on the environment, the biggest emissions. So yes walk, especially if it’s a short distance because by the time you get in the car, drive, park and get out you may have been able to walk there anyway. Stop moaning. We have legs for a reason. Re-arrange meetings and use technology for the purpose we have it. Video call. Phone call. Don’t feel like you have to be there in person. Think about how much time you’ve wasted in traffic not even moving. Right, only you can change that.
  • Challenge other people’s decisions and behaviour. Be brave and ask them why they are or aren’t doing any of the above.

There is so much more we can do, this is just a start. And this won’t stop Australia burning. Think about every decision you make because collectively that’s the best chance we have at making a difference.

Even if it’s one thing. Tell me a good reason why you shouldn’t give it a go. What’s the worst that might happen? Your legs get tired or you feel really thirsty. Someone talks back to you. Wow. Seriously.

And on that note (while I’m feeling overly passionate), don’t be a dick. Be nice to people. Smile. That also won’t help our environment, but it might just inspire someone else to do something good. Or at least feel good.

So please, don’t turn away. It’s not someone else’s problem. You have a personal responsibility because you live here, on earth.

How you can help

And finally, here’s how you can help those in Australia. At this stage monetary donations are the best way to help. The time will come for clothing, food and shelter but at this very point in time it cannot actually reach those who need it due to geographical restrictions and evacuations.

Mycause.com.au – Has a multitude of links to support those who have suffered in the Victoria bushfires, wildlife, humans and the volunteer fire service and emergency services.

Wires.org.au – This is the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.

Koalasincare.org.au – Not for profit organisation run by volunteers who receive no government funding, they’ll be inundated with rescue koalas at the moment.

MyGC.com.au – has a full list of charities including The Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul and The Salvation Army.

Adopt a Koala

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

By Food for thought No Comments

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,