Thursday, 29 November 2012

Top of the podge

Please excuse yet another link this evening but this one just had to be shared.

It comes from Here is the City my source of daily banking gossip, sadly these days mainly redundancy news and leaked depressing internal memos.

So I was very surprised to find something health related on there today. I'll let the article do the talking (it's mainly pictures so easy reading for friday morning), but the key question coming out of it is why are South East Asians so much less likely to be obese than we are.

The answer is a simple one and is also the answer to lower cancer rates, less heart disease and general longevity:

Eat a diet that is virtually gluten free, virtually dairy free and high in vegetable content, including veggies with your breakfast. Protein sources are mainly eggs, fish and sea food and food is steamed, poached, grilled or shallow fried with lots of fresh spices and herbs added for flavour.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Grave grapefruit

I was interested in this article that appeared on the bbc website this week about the dangers of mixing grapefruits and medication. My interest wasn't because this was news to me - it's a standard part of our training to learn about drug food interactions - what was interesting about it is that doctors have warned of a "lack of knowledge" around this.

Surely where there's a danger around mixing the two doctors should be warning patients about this, so there's no unpleasant surprise if they mix the two.

And the surprise my indeed be unpleasant. Grapefruit can cause overdoses of some drugs by stopping the medicines being broken down in the intestines and the liver. According to the article some drugs became five to ten times more potent when taken with one glass of grapefruit!

There are 43 drugs where grapefruit may have this effect including drugs for blood pressure, cancer, statins and drugs taken to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant. If you're concerned about such an interaction with your medication check with your GP.

But there's no need to worry excessively - there's some good news in that part of their effect means that grapefruit can be used to upregulate the first part of the detoxification pathway, so can be used as part of a detox regime for anyone not on medication.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sensible Scales

Whoever came up with the idea of making scales big enough to weigh a person has a lot to answer for. Getting on the scales can make you feel great when they read a loss, but more than likely will make you feel lousy.

This is especially the case if you weigh yourself everyday, being a weight you're happy with one day and three pounds heavier the next.

New york nutritionist Martha McKittrick
and author of city girl bites has done a great job of explaining why your weight fluctuate so much and therefore why you shouldn't take the scales so seriously. Definitely worth a read:

Monday, 26 November 2012

Time to get strict

With my recent desire to cosy up on the sofa in the evening with some comfort food I've fallen back into a couple of bad habits. Firstly eating in front of the tv, particularly because hot doc has been away so I have a tendency to just put on the tv for some background noise whilst I'm cooking and then eating. The second is eating on the sofa, not main meals but definitely snacks of pudding have been eaten on the sofa in front of the tv .. oh dear.

This might not seem like a bad thing to everyone but health wise it isn't good. Eating in front of the tv means you nervous system has sensory overload, this stops you being able to tell when you are full meaning you'll always over-eat in front of the tv, and it also means your body isn't fully relaxed and so your digestive system may not work as well as it should.

Worse still if you are eating on the sofa, rather than at a table, your abs will probably be engaged to some degree whilst you're eating and this crunching action will also impair your digestion.

The end result of both is usually over-eating and poor digestion of your evening meal which can lead to bloating and disrupted sleep, and in the longer term digestive issues.

As with all bad habits it's best to nip it in the bud as soon as you notice it creeping in, so from tomorrow I'm imposing a ban on myself of no eating infront of the television. If I'm eating I have to be sat down at a table, and if I'm watching tv I can't be eating.  If this is something you also do regularly I invite you to join me for a week in not mixing the two and hopefully you'll see some benefits by the end of the week.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Losing your sweet tooth

I think that most people are their own harshest critics and, whilst by average standards I eat extremely healthily, I still regularly reprimand myself for not eating or living as healthily as is possible.

But it's important to remind myself how different my diet is from 10 years ago and I got such a reminder on Friday when I accidentally bought some flavoured vanilla soya yoghurt on the way home instead of the plain unsweetened variety I usually have. At the first mouthful I was surprised how sweet it was and after eating a portion realised that taste wase I'd rather have had the unsweetened variety, which I usually have with fruit.

It just reminded me how much my tastes have changed through changing my diet. I used to eat refined sugar every day, now I avoid it as much as possible and naturally lean towards healthier foods.

This is why, whilst sugar can be one of the hardest foods to give up, it is worth persevering and gradually weaning yourself off it. As you eat less and less artificially sweetened foods your taste buds will become more sensitive to the natural sweetness in food. Consequently you'll start to appreciate more subtle natural flavours and find your sweet tooth easily satisfied with a piece of fruit, whilst some milk chocolate or sugary dessert may end up tasting too sweet and so not be so appealing.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thank goodness for the gym

As I write this the wind is howling outside and I feel like I just want to stay indoors for the next few months until spring arrives!  Of course we will have some nice clear sunny days between now and then,  but I have to admit that whilst I love the great outdoors I also really like to be warm so it takes alot of motivation for me to get outside over the winter.

Thankfully the gym is still nice and warm, so whilst I don't feel like doing any running or cycling outside I still have somewhere I can go and work out without wearing loads of layers. Whilst it's dark and cold outside I can take refuge in the gym and watch trashy tv whilst I burn off a few mince pies, infact it's actually one of the few activities that I can still enjoy whilst the weather is miserable.  Even if you're not a gym person, give it a go, you might find that watching E4 makes the time go quicker, or discover the joys of a nice warm sauna at the end of the session.

Exercising through the winter keeps your metabolism up, keeps you feeling warm and helps your immune system work properly.  If you give up on exercise altogether you'll feel colder and more tired and be more likely to catch some bugs. If work is quieter over December try and fit in a half hour lunchtime workout, or even if you've got evening drinks, join them an hour later and go for an indoor run first.  It may be tempting to hibernate over a winter like a doormouse but a couple of gym sessions a week will do you alot of good and give you a free pass to then come home and crash out on the sofa.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Healthy bribery

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season in the US and I feel like it's also getting started here, certainly in the food department. The shops are full of advent calendars and mince pies and I'm having my first Christmas lunch this Sunday.

Whilst it's somewhat cheering to start to feel festive this early, it's also important to stay vigilant on the diet front to keep you healthy through to the new year.

Waistlines aside, we're into cold and flu season and you don't want your festivities ruined by being laid low. This is why you need to make an extra effort to fit in your fruit and vegetables inbetween all the naughty stuff.

Unfortunately the more wintery veg tend to be the least popular - suede and cabbage are never going to be favourites. This is where a bit of flavour enhancing can play it's part.

Personally I find that pretty much any veg is palatable when served with some nice hot gravy. Now really is the weather for roast dinners so load your plate up with veg and gravy and tuck in. If you eat your veg first you'll also be less likely to binge on the roast potatoes. Avoid the oxo when possible and use either homemade or an MSG and maltodextrin free variety.

Curries are another nice warming winter meal and easy to sneak some more veg into. Add some okra, french beans, cubed sweet potato or mange tout in with your meat/fish, curry paste and coconut milk.

Mashed potato is a winter favourite for me, but it's easy to add some carrot or suede whilst you're cooking to make it a mult-veg mash. Alternatively fry some leek and onions or winter greens and add these at the mashing stage.

When it comes to pudding make sure you pick something fruity, think apple crumble or fruit cake rather than chocolate brownie and ice cream.

However bad you've been the night before try and keep breakfast as healthy as possible, even if you're feeling lazy grab a ready made smoothie or fruit salad on the way into work.

Even when it comes to treats you can choose those with a healthy ingredient, for example dark chocolate covered nuts or dried fruit are much better for you than quality streets.

If necessary resort to some healthy bribery - you can have a minced pie but only if you eat a clemintine first!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Comfort cocoa

I have to admit I'm struggling to stick to my usual healthy habits at the moment. The cold weather and it being dark when I leave work just makes me want to skip the gym and rush home to cosy up on the sofa with some naughty comfort food.

Having had chocolate cravings all day I decided that rather than raid the sweet cupboard this evening I'd satisfy my desire for comfort food with a healthy version of hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is usually a sugar and dairy laden calorie bomb, but this dairy free recipe sweetened with agave still feels like a treat without sending you off on a blood sugar rollercoaster. Plain cocoa is also a good source of antioxidants and it's only really when it gets mixed with milk and sugar to make chocolate that it becomes bad for us.

So if you're also need of something comforting try this out:

Emilie's home comforts hot chocolate:

In a saucepan heat 1 cup of Kara Coconut milk.

As it heats up whisk in 1 heaped tsp of pure cocoa powder (I like bourneville), 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence (I use Ndali) and 2 teaspoons of agave syrup.

Bring to simmering point and serve.

Zen dog also informs me that you can make a great latte with coconut milk. Again heat up in a pan, or microwave if you're at work, and then stir in a shot of fresh espresso (decaf or regular). Yummo!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Am I mad?

No you don't need to answer that ... but I have to ask myself the question having just spent £250 on supplements.

Ok so it was for three months worth, but still this is a fair chunk of cash and to put it in my usual currency, would buy me a pretty fabulous pair of shoes.

So why would I prioritize forking out for supplements rather than spending the money shopping, or treating myself in some other way?

Well for me supplements are a key investment in my health pension. Not only do they keep me healthy and well when my lifestyle can't always be as healthy as I'd like, but these are also a way of protecting myself from the development of symptoms and diseases that might not materialise for several years.

As an illustration, a heart attack generally occurs 10 years after narrowing of the arteries has begun. Unfortunately the NHS isn't able to provide systematic testing at a level to detect this, so if your doctor picks up that you have heart disease you have probably already clocked up at least five years of heart disease.

At a much shallower level this is also an investment in anti-ageing and will hopefully pay for itself in delaying the age at which I feel compelled to start having botox!

The key point is that you don't want to look back in ten years and wish that you'd invested paid more attention to your health, it's much harder to undo the damage than it is to prevent it.

I know I'm pretty extreme in my supplement taking, but you don't have to be to make a difference. A good quality multivitamin like Biocare's One a Day Plus will set you back less than £100 a year, a small but worthwhile investment.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Time for gratitude

This evening I watched the movie 'The Blind Side'. I've seen it a couple of times before but it's so good I was happy to watch it again.  For anyone who hasn't seen it, I recommend you watch it, but to summarise without giving the whole thing away the plot it's essentially about a disadvantaged child who gets adopted by a rich family and the changes to his life that result.

What always sticks with me when I watch this film is how fortunate most people are without realising it.   We don't have to worry about where we're going to have to sleep at night or where our next meal is coming form - our day to day worries are usually about nothing that fundamental that puts our lives at risk.

So the next time you're worrying about to eat for dinner, or stressing over having just over-indulged, take a moment to remember that this is a luxury that not everyone has and we should all be grateful for the fact that we can always put food on our tables.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Power porridge

There are some people who eat the same breakfast all year round but my tastes change with the season and as it gets colder my desire for hot and easily digestible food increases with porridge top of the bill.

A comforting breakfast that warms you up after a cold commute, it also contains a lot of fibre and liquid so has the ability to keep you full til lunch.
Oats are also a good source of energy giving B vitamins and have been found to have cholesterol lowering properties.

For those of you who can eat oats this is also a readily available breakfast in the city, either at work, at pret, eat or crussh and you can often get dairy free versions.

For anyone gluten free, missing out on porridge is a sad necessity, however oats aren't the only grain you can use to make it.

I buy organic rice and quinoa flakes in my local healthfood store and use these in a mix, cooked up with some rice milk or kara coconut milk which I then heat up the next morning at work. Alternatively I cook up organic brown or basmati rice or quinoa grains again with dairy free milk to make a kind of rice pudding. Adding a teaspoon of Ndali sugar-free vanilla essence to any of these helps make them a bit creamier.

Once you've got your basic porridge you then might want to spruce it up a bit.

Firstly if you've got a sweet tooth try and skip the brown sugar. Honey isn't too bad, but healthier sweeteners are agave syrup, chopped dried fruit such as dates or figs or some sugar-free st dalfour jam.

Adding some fruit is another great way to sweeten porridge and get one of your five a day. Berries are my favourite and the most antioxidant rich fruits, but I use frozen ones this time of year when they aren't in season. Just stir them into hot porridge and they'll defrost. Chopped pears or apples are also lovely as is some chopped banana.

Next up you might want to add some crunch with some healthy fats at the same time. Flaked almonds, chopped hazelnuts or even pumpkin and sunflower seeds all add a nice bit of texture whilst the extra essential fats will keep you feeling full for longer.

Finally it's time for some spice. Allspice and cinnamon both add a lovely wintery warmth with some antimicrobial action to boot, whilst turmeric is also nice and anti-inflammatory so good for any stiff joints.

The blame game

Hot doc is a masterchef addict and thoroughly enjoys watching the highly stressed competitors stress over creating a perfect lobster bisque. Personally it's not my bag - I find watching people mess-up on television pretty stressful which is why you also won't catch me watching The Apprentice and other similar shows.

But something that I do notice when I'm subjected to this viewing (our kitchen, lounge and dining room is all one room so it's hard to avoid), is that everyone always makes excuses for their poor performance or blames someone else for their failure rather than taking responsibility.

Anyone who's worked in the city will at some point have been on the end of some buck passing. When things go wrong everyone jumps to blame someone else rather than put their hands up and admit their failings.

I fear that this culture of making excuses rather than taking action has become fairly insidious and seems to be a fairly common reaction to anything negative that happens to us.

When it comes to health, taking responsibility for our own actions is essential in keeping us on the right path. We all continually make choices about what to eat or not eat, what to do or not do.

Whilst there are some things we can't control health wise, when faced with ill health we can choose to take action or choose not to take responsibility and just wallow.

So next time you find yourself complaining about your health or weight or blaming something or someone else ask yourself what action you can take? Should you make yourself a doctors appointment to check out your symptoms, do you need to change your diet, can you get some help to quit smoking, should you put down the chocolate bar and get down the gym?

Once you start thinking this way you'll find you're taking healthy steps all over the place, and ultimately might find you no longer have anything to complain about!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Skin deep

All too often diets and nutrition get associated with superficial goals such as being slim or keeping wrinkles at bay rather than the more long term and significant benefits of keeping your organs healthy and preventing disease and ill health.

However, as far as I'm concerned anything that motivates people to eat more healthily is a good thing and if that means tapping into more superficial motives then so be it.

Keeping wrinkles at bay and maintaining a red-carpet worthy glowing complexion are two such motives, but even just keeping your skin clear is a strong motivation to make dietary changes - having a breakout is bad enough as a teenager but will make you even more self-concious as an adult.

Here are my top tips for a clear and glowing complexion, with more general health benefits

1, Eat more fruit and veg - ok I know this is pretty much on every list I write but it's true, the antioxidants in the skin of fruit and vegetables that protect them from their environment can help protect our skin from our environment, whilst also protecting all our other cells.
Red and orange fruit and veg are particularly key as these are rich in beta carotene which the liver converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is very important in skin health and encourages skill turnover and replacement - keeping skin youthful and avoiding blocked pores.

2. Avoid sugar and minimize eating high GI carbs - this is because high circulating sugar levels in the blood can lead to a kind of crystalization of your cell walls, this hardening shows up as wrinkles, but is also a major course of hardening arteries so important for cardiovascular health.

3. Your skin cell walls are primarily constructed of polyunsaturated fats so you want plenty of these healthy fats to keep your skin cells plump and youthful, whilst cutting down on unhealthy saturated fats. This is why salmon is such a great skin superfood as are nuts and seeds, but the benefits don't end there - the healthy omega fats reduce inflammation in the body and encourage fat burning, whilst saturated fats from meat and dairy can encourage inflammation and inhibit the body's ability to make use of any good fats you're eating.

4. Cut the caffeine and alcohol - both dehydrate you and therefore dehydrate your skin making it look lined and dull. They also encourage excretion of B vitamins (basically you pee them out) which are important vitamins for skin health, but also key for energy production and your stress reaction, so basically they ultimately make you more tired and more stressed!

5. The flip side of rule 4 is to make sure you drink plenty of water. It's so often said that it's the secret to good skin, as well as being fundamental to every process in the body, but something I think we often forget, maybe because it's such low effort. A big glass 10 minutes before each meal and snack, plus one before bed is an easy way to remember this.

6. Lack of sleep really shows in your face and can be really ageing. There's also no cheat or easy substitute and over time lack of sleep will take an overall toll on your body through accumulated stress and insufficient time to detox and repair. Try for 8 hours a night but if the work week is a nightmare then at least try and have an afternoon nap and/or massive lie in on the weekend.

7. Eliminate allergens/intolerances. Dairy is a really major culprit in all skin conditions and not just acne. I have had a long term issue with lactose that affected my digestion, but it wasn't until I cut out all dairy including lactose free hard cheese and butter that my skin totally cleaned up. Bear in mind, as I said yesterday, not all trigger foods will come up in allergy tests - chocolate is guaranteed to give me a breakout, even if it's delicious diary free 85% cocoa lindt chocolate :-( , and yet cocoa has never come up on my allergy tests, so a certain amount of detective work and elimination may be needed to work this out. Also if it's affecting your skin then that food is also probably having other negative health effects within your body so take it as a sign that you should cut it out.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Testing, testing 1, 2, 3...

I read a number of nutrition related columns, blogs and magazines but these are always tailored to nutrition professionals and so are generally pretty pro nutritional therapy. On the flipside I find mainstream press can be often dismissive and biased against nutritional therapy. However I find it interesting to read about nutrition when it's written about for the general public as a gauge of where public perception is and progress in terms of attitudes.

Today's lovefood newsletter, which is very much pitched at foodies, rather than health obsessives, had a brief article today on food intolerance testing which may be a sign of the general public's increasing awareness around food intolerances and the benefits of avoiding certain foods.

I have to say I personally have mixed feelings around the tests - they certainly do pick up food reactions and so can help you avoid problem foods, but there are several different types of immune reactions to foods so just because a food doesn't come up on the test doesn't mean it definitely isn't a problem for you. For example these tests don't pick up if you have coeliacs disease, but also it has recently been suggested that other types of gluten intolerances can also be missed. I can vouch for this as I have a very clear gluten intolerance that has never been picked up in testing, on the flipside testing has made me aware of some other foods I needed to avoid that I hadn't worked out on my own.

As first principles I think it's worth everyone following a basic elimination diet for 3 weeks to check for reactions to the obvious culprits. Three weeks off gluten, dairy, eggs and soy is a good place to start, then reintroduce each one separately for three days. You're looking for changing symptoms both when you give up the food and when you reintroduce it. If you can't face giving them all up simultaneously just try one at a time for two weeks at a time, or if you're feeling particularly motivated combine it with a detox diet (I usually do the Carol Vorderman detox), which will naturally exclude most allergens and give you a good diet overhaul at the same time.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Today I enjoyed a day as close as possible I imagine to a day on the island of Ikaria that I blogged on last week. Without any appointments in the diary or any particular things to get done I enjoyed a lie in, ate whenever I was hungry, which was some fairly random times, enjoyed a leisurely trip to the gym, some reading in the sunshine, took some time to cook a proper dinner and had a nap on the sofa!

Without looking at my watch or trying to meet any deadlines the day actually felt much longer than usual and somehow I'm now ready for bed much earlier than usual and am going to bed when I feel tired, rather than when I think I should.  I appreciate, I'm lucky in being able to take a full day off like this, but even for those of you with kids it should be possible to at least have one sunday a month where you don't let the clock determine what you're doing.

Without clock watching you are more likely to listen to your bodies natural rhythms and energy levels and behave in a much more natural way. Whilst this isn't something we can do during the week, it's definitely worth taking the opportunity on the weekend as a way to totally unwind and either rest or work out, depending on what your body is asking for.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

No free lunch

At a recent seminar I attended on auto-immune conditions, the lecturer spoke briefly about endotoxicity associated with eating.

Endotoxins are toxic byproducts produced within the body and eating and digesting is one source of these toxins. These toxins can damage and age cells in the same way as exotoxins - toxins from external sources such as pollution, drugs, alcohol etc.

Whilst we need to eat to live, food can also be detrimental to health, invoking an insulin response, some allergic responses, inflammation and this endotixicity.

You've probably felt this affect anytime you've eaten a particularly large meal or a meal that was particularly unhealthy. Feeling foggy headed, tired, headachy, almost as if you're hungover are classic symptoms. Even healthy foods can have an endotoxic effect, just on a much smaller scale.

The answer obviously isn't to stop eating but it's worth bearing in mind that over-eating and eating when you're not hungry is creating unnecessary endotoxins in your body.

This is also a reason not to constantly graze as this will produce a continous stream of these endotoxins without giving your body a break - whilst rushing your meals isn't desirable it can also be harmful to drag them out too long. Eating a meal should generally start and finish within an hour and main meals should be 4-5 hours apart to give your body at least 18 hours in 24 when you're not eating and preferably just drinking water to help detoxify.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Land lubbers

Last weekend I went to visit the Cutty Sark which has been beautifully restored following the terrible that gutted it.

It's definitely worth a visit, particularly as you can walk all round the boat, even underneath it. The exhibit is more interactive than usual without lots of cabinets to look in and boards to read. One thing that caught my eye wandering around was a keg of lime juice that the sailors drank to stave off scurvy during the 90+days they were spending at sea.

Having had scurvy myself as a child (seriously!) I know why that keg of lime juice was vital for the trip. Easily absorbed, lemon and lime juices are a super easy way to top up your vitamin C. This is a particularly good idea as we enter the winter months with more infections around for us to fight off and less inclination to eat raw fruit and veg.

I usually mix lime juice with some cherry active as a pre-breakfast drink, but you can add lemon or lime juice to any fruit or veg juice. Lemon juice can also be squeezed over salads, casseroles, fish or rice dishes.

Leon helpfully provide a wedge of lemon with a lot of their hot dishes and their lemonade is a delicious and lazy way to get a vitamin C shot.

For a nice warming breakfast drink add the juice of half a lemon to hot water with a teaspoon of manuka honey to sweeten it up and add some extra antimicrobial power.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The place to live

Lately I've been so busy that I haven't had much time for reading and have pretty much skim read any articles I've looked at.

So when a friend of mine sent me this new york times article as soon as I clocked it was seven pages long I parked it in my 'to read' folder for when I'd actually have time to read it properly.

Fortunately I didn't then forget about it, and took the time to read it. It is an enjoyable read and transported me into a pleasant daydream about an idyllic life where I only did what was good for me, ate what was healthy and chilled out with my friends, sadly far removed from my frenetic city life.

The article is titled 'The island where people forget to die' but really I think it should be titled 'The place to live'.

The subject is the Greek Island of Ikaria whose residents live unusually long lives. This is attributed to their super healthy diets comprised of lots of organically homegrown vegetables, fruit and legumes (beans and pulses), olive oil, red wine, fish twice a week, meat only a few times a month, natural yoghurt and nothing processed or unnatural, combined with a relaxed lifestyle of lie ins, naps and socialising.

The Mediterranean diet has long been known to extend life, although I think a lot of people interpret this with a much higher meat content than is healthy and is the case on Ikaria, however I don't think the Mediterranean lifestyle is considered enough when studying the benefits. If we all had the same relaxed unhurried approach to life combined with a sense of community and making time for each other we would all I'm sure have much lower stress levels, a much higher sense of well being and live longer and happier lives.

I hope you all take time to read the article in full, but incase you don't let me leave you with this small section that captured the attitude of the islanders, and made me realise how much stress I have create for myself just by rushing and worrying about the time:

'"People stay up late here," Leriadis said. "We wake up late and always take naps. I don't even open my office until 11 a.m. because no one comes before then." He took a sip of his wine. "Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here? No clock is working correctly. When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don't care about the clock here."'

Monday, 5 November 2012

Breakfast of champions

I love answering reader questions and here's a great one on breakfasts:

'I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me and need a really substantial breakfast to help me make it through the day. Can you make some suggestions that I can pick up from my local supermarket or buy from my very traditional work canteen.'

Firstly gold star for recognizing the importance of breakfast, particularly when you know you're going to be facing a busy day ahead. A good breakfast can set you up for the day on an even keel whilst skipping breakfast or having a sugary option can set you off on a blood sugar rollercoaster that will leave you feeling stressed and grouchy.

As it happens nutritionist and personal trainer, Alex Ravenscroft, has done a good job of answering this question in an article for sheerluxe this week: 

It's worth a read, but I'm not going to be lazy and will still answer this myself:

The key to any meal being filling and keeping you sustained is the PFF combo. This isn't some government financing vehicle or some text speak, no it's the winning combo of Protein, Fats and Fibre.

All three slow down digestion, releasing energy slowly and keeping you feeling full for longer so you don't need to waste precious time hunting for snacks.

These should be the building blocks of your breakfast. Carbs aren't a definite pre-requisite in this formula, but I'd suggest some fruit as a minimum.

1. Protein:
Any protein will keep you feeling full but to keep this healthy you should avoid fatty cuts of meat - no sausages or bacon I'm afraid.
Good options are:
Natural yoghurt - soy if you're dairy free
Fish - depending on how traditional it is your canteen may sell kippers, but if not smoked salmon, salmon flakes and smoked mackeral are available in most city supermarkets
Eggs - preferably poached - most canteens will poach your eggs if you ask nicely (smiling helps!)
Nuts and seeds, don't underestimate the protein power of nuts and seeds. For breakfast today I had a rice homemade powerbar made mainly of almond flour and it kept me going til lunch.
Pulses - but not baked beans, a popular breakfast food but they are sadly full of added sugar. You can make your own sugar free baked beans at home but that is not very practical, so hummous or a ready made bean salad (check in the lunch chiller cabinet) are the best bean options.
Protein powder - I keep a pot at work and if all else fails shake it into a fruit smoothie, go for unflavoured whey or rice protein

2. Fats
Fats slow stomach emptying so are the secret to feeling full and the absence of them is why diet food can be so unsatisfying.
However unhealthy saturated or heat damaged fats are all bad for you, so this isn't an excuse for some bacon fried in butter. Instead you want some healthy plant fats or fish oils, top breakfast fats are. Nuts, seeds, oily fish as well as avocados and olives are all good breakfast fats.

3. Fibre
Fibre is key in reducing the glycemic index of any food and also in regulating your digestion and helping detoxification so an all round winner.
Luckily adding fibre in your breakfast is easy:
- choose wholegrains, oats, rye, wholewheat are all naturally rich in fibre. Muesli, wholegrain toast, rye bread, oatcakes are all good options.
- fruit and veg are rich in fibre, just add an apple and you're set for fibre content
- nuts and seeds score the triple being rich in protein, fats and fibre. Keep a pot of mixed seeds and another of chopped nuts in your desk and add liberally to your breakfast.

There are infinite combinations but here's some examples of PFF power breakfasts:

Rolled oat muesli with extra chopped nuts to boost the protein content and some fresh berries.

Wholemeal sourdough bread or rye bread (bring into work if the canteen doesn't stock it) toasted and topped with poached eggs or smoked mackerel and grilled tomatoes.

Hummous and oatcakes, with an apple and a palmful of almonds.

Fresh fruit salad topped with natural yoghurt and chopped hazelnuts.

Mushroom and pepper omelette with smoked salmon strips and an apple, buy the smoked salmon on the way in if it's not available at work.

Avocado and salmon wholemeal sandwich with a piece of fruit - a packed brekkie to make at home and take in with you.

High fibre low-sugar cereal, such as shredded wheat, topped with a chopped banana and a generous serving of seed mix (a mix of sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds in available in most supermarkets).

Fruit smoothie (bought on way in) with 1 tbsp added protein powder shaken in and a small bag of mixed nuts.

Oatcakes topped with smoked salmon flakes and a fresh fruit salad.

If you're feeling organised make some Paleo bread (recipe from, which is rich in fibre, protein and essential fats, freeze it in pairs of slices, take to work, toast and serve with your favourite low-sugar toppings (natural nut butter, st dalfour jam, sliced banana etc).

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Spy snacking

I can't remember the last time I queued to get into a cinema, I think because I usually catch a movie weeks after it comes out or maybe because I'm not a buyer of the big block busters, but tonight I queued to see Skyfall for the full cinema James Bond experience including rustling from the people next to me as they munched their way through a huge bag of popcorn.

I do love popcorn but eating infront of a movie just distracts me from what I'm watching. That being said eating infront of the tv is an easy bad habit to fall into and one I'm not immune to myself.

Eating and watching tv together involves all your five senses at the same time, taste, smell, touch, hearing and vision. You can't fully appreciate one single sense when all the others are being stimulated - you won't be so engaged in what you're watching and you won't be fully enjoying the taste of your food.

Distracted from your taste buds and the sensation of being full you can mindlessly eat your way through a lot of unhealthy snack food during a two hour movie, without necessarily even enjoying it that much.

This is one of the reasons why whenever possible you should eat without the tv or radio on in the background. Enjoy your meal first and then put on your entertainment afterwards.

Besides James Bond deserves your full attention!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Getting your daily d

This week is national vitamin D awareness week. Admittedly not the most exciting week in your calendar but an important one as we enter winter proper and all become sunlight-deprived vampires.

Vitamin D is a vital vitamin for immunity (particularly prevention of organ cancers), bone strength (deficiency is a common cause of osteoperosis) and mental health (a possible cause of SAD) and has undoubtedly many other undiscovered health benefits.

However unlike a lot of other micronutrients, we only get a very small amount of our required vitamin D intake from our food. Instead our bodies are cleverly designed to manufacture it in our skin when exposed to sunlight and if we're making too much we are also able to store vitamin D during the summertime to use over the winter months - all in all a pretty clever system.

Well at least it was a great system for our ancestors who didn't have to spend all day in the office. A combination of being indoors most of the time, wearing clothes (thankfully!), increased use of sunscreen and living in the cloudiest country in the industrialized world (depressing I know) means we don't stand a chance of producing the optimal amounts.

As a result the incidence of rickets, a bone deformity in children due to insufficient vitamin D, has risen 400% in the UK since 1996 and cases of premature bone weakening are also on the rise.

Under 5s, the elderly and pregnant women are most at risk but due to the fact we can't get enough from vitamin D from our foods, and that a lot of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can go undetected for along time, I think everyone should take a good vitamin D supplement over winter.

I always take Biocare vitasorb vitamin D drops daily from late september to May and that way I don't need to show any skin until spring!