Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Something for a rainy day

Once again we've had a false start to spring and are back into wintery weather, the kind of weather that makes you want to stay at home in your tracky bottoms and veg out on the sofa!

This is usually accompanied by some serious grazing and it's easy to snack your way through a hideous amount of calories in one afternoon on the sofa! Here are some healthy substitutes to keep you company:

Chips - swap for sweet potato wedges - cut the sweet potatoes into wedges, toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and cook at 230C for 20mins. Eat alone or serve with dips (see below).
Popcorn - switch butter or toffee popcorn for a low fat, low sugar variety such as pret salted popcorn or even better swap for corn caked.
Toast - definitely my favourite sofa food - use wholemeal, granary or rye bread or wholemeal gluten free (such as Village Bakery or Genius bread). Spread with no added sugar jam (such as St Dalfour) and/or no sugar nut butter (such as Whole-earth peanut butter or Meridian cashew nut butter).
Dips - instead of creamy dips go for hummus, guacamole, low fat cottage cheese with chives or the first two of these Delia recipes. Serve with vegetable crudites, oatcakes, rice cakes or wholewheat pita bread, rather than crisps, and swap doritos for blue corn chips which are lower GI than regular corn chips.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The caffeine free pick me up

I love sleep .. It's immensely good for you and I wish I could get more of it. Unfortunately having too much to do and too little time, which is probably the case for most Londoners, I rarely get as much as I'd like.

This means I'm not immune to the odd mid afternoon energy slump, which leaves most people reaching for tea or coffee.

Unfortunately, whilst caffeine provides an energy boost in the short-term, in the long-run caffeine is likely to make you more tired, partly because it robs the body of many of the nutrients needed for energy production and is also a diuretic.

Here are my top caffeine free energy boosters:
* Water - dehydration is a common source of fatigue, so I'll often drink 500mls water and usually perk up within 15mins
* Antioxidants - fresh vegetable juices, fruit smoothies or a shot of cherry active all give me a boost if I'm flagging
* Taking a break - if you're busy at work it's easy to go a few hours without a proper break from the screen - I find 10 minutes outside in some natural light helps beat screen fatigue
* Having a stretch - our posture can significantly affect our energy, try slouching in your chair ... you won't feel very energetic ... now have a good stretch and sit tall ... I certainly feel a difference.

If the situation is really dire and caffeine is needed I go for green or white tea, or even a couple of squares of dark chocolate, which have less caffeine than tea and coffee, but enough to perk me up, with the added benefit of containing antioxidants.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Good manners and good health

I long lament the demise of good manners ... holding doors open for each other, 'good mornings'/'good evenings', guys walking on the kerb side of the pavements and the like. I think table manners should also be resurrected and not just for the benefit of your dinner companions.

Eating properly is very important for proper digestion, which is a must for good health. Yet so many people (myself included) wolf down their food, especially lunch, on the run or whilst multi-tasking. Not only does this inhibit proper digestion, which can lead to deficiences and digestive issues, it can also lead to over-eating as yoy've finished your meal before your appetite cues had a chance to kick in to tell you to stop.

Making suggestions on how to eat may seem patronising/pointless but look down the list and see how much of this you don't do! Bon apetit!

- before you start eating take time to notice the taste and smell of your food. Enjoy and savour each mouthful and you'll feel satisfied sooner
- put your fork down between mouthfuls, slowing your pace of eating, allowing your appetite cues to tell you when you're full
- chew your food to a paste before swallowing
- don't multi-task whilst eating - avoid watching tv, reading or working whilst you eat
- eat sat down with good posture so your stomach muscles aren't tensed whilst you eat
- give yourself 15 minutes to relax after eating to allow your digestion to progress before you start rushing about


Friday, 26 March 2010

When is a 'probiotic' not a probiotic?

Yakult has long been onto a good thing selling it's sweetened probiotic drinks as a health product, but now there's a new probiotic drink on the market ... "Galaxy probiotic' ... as in galaxy chocolate ... no joke!

Unsurprisingly their marketing makes no health claims whatsoever, the Advertising Standards Agency would have something to say about it, but I'm sure there'll be some consumers fooled into thinking this will be doing them some good! If you are in any doubt about this read the list of ingredients at the end of this post.

The fact is that sugar encourages the growth of bad gut bacteria whilst probiotics encourage the growth of the good bacteria, so mixing probiotics with sugar somewhat mitigates their benefit! For genuine benefits take a good quality probiotic capsule or eat some natural probiotic yoghurt, both at the end of your meals. And if you fancy some chocolate a bit of organic dark chocolate would be a much better idea!

Skimmed milk (65%), water, sugar, chocolate (3%)(sugar, cocoa butter, skimmed milk powder, cocoa mass, lactose, vegetable fat, whey powder, milk fat, Emulsifiers: Soya lecithin, E476, water, flavouring), cocoa powder, stabilisers: modified tapioca starch, E460, E466, E415, E407, whey powder, malt extract, glucose syrup, skimmed milk powder, emulsifier: E471, wheat flour. (Heat treated)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

How to stay fuller for longer

Helping people lose weight is big business and all the main supermarkets have their own weight loss lines of varying qualities. M&S's new 'Fuller for Longer' range of sandwiches, salads and ready meals is one of the better ones.

The range is based on the idea that eating more protein with your meal will keep you fuller for longer. This is because protein is slower to digest than carbohydrates and so the stomach will empty more slowly after a higher protein meal. In addition the energy will be released more slowly avoiding the sudden blood sugar drop (and post lunch sleepiness) you can get after a high carb meal.

The good news is that you don't have to shop at M&S to benefit ... When purchasing pre-prepared food look on the label for food with as close to 1:1 protein to carbohydrate as possible. When preparing food yourself add an equal volume of carbohydrates and protein plus the same volume in non-starchy vegetables. This should keep you feeling fuller for longer and help avoid post-meal energy slumps.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cherry good

As the weather warms up I've noticed a lot more runners pounding the streets, a fair few of whom will be training for next months London marathon, so it seems like a good time to mention one of my favourite new health products - Cherry Active.

Cherry Active is a cordial made of super-concentrated cherry juice which makes it super-high in antioxidants. One glass (30mls mixed with water) is apparently equivalent in anti-oxidant levels to 23 portions of fruit and veg. This doesn't mean you shouldn't also have your five a day but it's an excellent way of adding extra anti-oxidants into your diet.

Anti-oxidants are usually promoted for their anti-ageing properties, however oxidative damage is also what causes muscles to hurt after strenuous training and so Cherry Active can be used to reduce muscle ache and fatigue allowing more training. I like to mix it with some glutamine, magnesium (Nutri Ultramuscleze) and protein powder for the ultimate post-exercise recovery drink and rarely have sore muscles even after a big weights session.

Cherry active is stocked in some branches of waitrose or can be bought online at

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Dine out and lose weight

'Dine out and lose weight' was the first diet book from the french author Michel Montignac which, if for nothing else, should be loved for the fact it has a whole chapter on wine.

Michel was one of the first to advocate a low-glycemic index (GI) diet and was way ahead of his peers, publishing his first book on the subject in 1986 when most slimming diets were very high carbohydrate and very low in fat. Being french his diet includes way more cheese and red meat than I would recommend, but his method is helpful to apply when eating out.

The Montignac approach is that if you are going to eat a meal high in saturated fats (red or fatty cuts of meat, butter, cream or cheese), which is pretty likely in most non-Asian restaurants, then you should only eat carbohydrates with a GI of less than 35 with the meal (which basically limits you to non-starchy vegetables, pulses and wild rice). The idea behind this is that higher GI carbohydrates stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin which in turn makes your body store more of the fat you are eating so by eating very low GI carbohydrates you limit the damage of the meal to your waistline. Conversely if you want to eat a meal with high GI carbs such as rice or potatoes you should make sure it is low in fat.

Mr Montignac is still going strong and brought out an updated book on his method 'The Montignac diet' which is worth a read for anyone who wants to lose weight whilst still eating cheese and chocolate!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Save money, time and calories.

Doing your supermarket shop online can be a great time saver as well as a much more pleasant experience than trapsing up and down the aisles.

Now there's a way to make sure you're getting the best value for money when shopping online - I've just recently discovered which is a comparison site for online food shopping. You put in your shopping list and then it compares prices across Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Ocado showing you the price of your shop at all four supermarkets. You then choose which one to shop with and it sends your order details to their website ... pretty nifty.

Interestingly my shop, mainly organic wholefoods, came out cheapest at Tescos. Although I like to shop around for particular products. For example my favourite gluten free pasta is Asda's ownbrand whilst only Sainsburys and Tesco stock the excellent Meridian dairy free pesto. has another clever trick up it's sleeve - when you've added your shopping list it shows you possible substitue
products that are lower in calories. I'm not generally a fan of calorie counting as a way of choosing your food, but when it's a direct comparison for something you're already going to buy then it's definitely worth checking before you checkout!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Want to lose weight? ... Put your feet up!

It's no secret that fatloss requires a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise, however the effects of stress and the importance of relaxation as part of an effective weightloss programme are usually overlooked.

Working in the city can be pretty stressful, and adding in a strenuous exercise regime puts the body under more stress. Our clever bodies cope by producing stress hormones which encourage fat storage as a protective measure, particularly round our vital organs leading to weight gain round the middle .. the dreaded 'muffin top'.

So if you're trying to lose weight don't forget to schedule some relaxation into your routine ... when you get home put your feet up for 10mins and have some quiet (no tv or music) time, and whilst your less healthy colleagues take a cigarette break or pop out for coffee get away from your desk and have a few minutes not thinking about work - get some daylight and take a few deep breaths. Taking a weekly yoga class is also a great way to destress if you find it hard to 'switch off'.

For more information on how to avoid central weight gain and the link between weight gain and stress I'd recommend reading Marilyn Glenvilles 'Fat around the middle'.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Welcome to my nutrition blog!

I have started this blog in order to share my passion for nutrition with a wider audience.

My interest in nutrition started through my own experience of ill health, and subsequent recovery through changing my diet under the advice of a nutritional therapist.  It was then that I realised the powerful effects that food can have on the body, both positive and negative, and was inspired to study nutrition myself.

Through this blog I hope to inspire this same enthusiasm for the subject amongst others as well as sharing useful information on food and health and tips and tricks for getting and staying healthy.

There is so much conflicting information on nutrition in the press that it can be hard to know what you should be eating, so I will also share my thoughts on the latest developments in nutrition.

I welcome any comments and feedback, especially on how I can improve my blog and make it more useful to its readers.