One of the joys of summer is eating al fresco. A picnic is an essential part of a summer outing.
Have you noticed that food tastes better when we eat it outside? Psychologists have found that our physical sensations and emotional responses are greatly improved by the power of our perception of our environment. Restaurants have applied this science to their décor, choosing colour, patterns and music to set the mood. The same food actually tastes different depending on the wallpaper!
We also connect enjoyment of food with family memories: a favourite outdoor spot, the smell of grass and wild flowers, the sound of trees rustling in the breeze, the feel of warm sand on bare feet. Taking Jack LaLanne’s idea from July’s quote of the month, we need to be nearer to nature to be happy. And when our brains are stimulated, our taste buds step up a notch.
So, what food to take on your picnic? On TV you’ll see images of unhealthy fizzy drinks, crisps, cheese processed almost to the point of being plastic and all manner of factory-made nibbles. When you’re getting back to the great outdoors, nature and all things real I’m sure you’ll want better than fake food.
Sandwiches are common but often dry, dull and too heavy on bread to be a good choice for lunch. Instead try boiled eggs, cheeses, salami, lettuce, tomatoes, sticks of crunchy carrot and celery, cooling cucumber, creamy avocado, peppery radishes, spicy spring onions, ham rolled round cream cheese, small bread rolls with butter. My grandmother’s special was fried chicken in herby breadcrumbs – so tasty!
Fruit is nice and juicy although it can attract wasps and invite the biting midge to suck your sweet blood. Use it to make a refreshing infusion by adding a few slices of apple, lemon and strawberry to a big bottle of water. Chill it well before you set off.
June’s post had ideas for drinks.
Share the pleasure by eating all together sitting at a picnic table or on a rug. Here’s how they do it in France where people are still healthy and slim.
Top tip – enjoy a real food picnic.
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He noticed walking down the street that people weren’t smiling. You’ll see the same thing here, even though we have everything – a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes, technology.
During the holidays this year, smile and make a note every day of something you are thankful for – or better still, three things.
And get outside – even if you just sit in your own garden or visit the local park; anywhere with trees and plants to cheer you.
With the all warm weather, you might fancy a cold drink. They say that in America, over half the calories consumed come from sugar in soft drinks. Terrifying! Outrageously, 12% of the Coca-cola is drunk at breakfast. In Britain we’re not that bad (yet) but we certainly do have a drink problem. So what’s what?
Starting with the worst things to drink:
– Fizzy drinks – very sugary leading to weight gain, blood sugar imbalances and diabetes. They’re very acidic leading to tooth decay and bone density loss.
– Low-cal fizzy drinks – the use of sweeteners has increased since the sugar tax came in. Weight loss clubs often recommend low-cal fizzy drinks but these have been proven not to help with weight loss. The sweet taste of the chemical sweeteners confuses your body’s control systems (not a good idea). Your brain thinks that sugar is coming; then it doesn’t so you go looking for food.
If you’ve been wondering how effective the sugar tax on drinks is likely to be, here are some results from those who’ve already tried it.
– Fruit Juice – seen as healthy and natural but still a sugary drink. Fruit juice can be up to a year old and have lost a lot of its nutrients. Fructose is processed via your liver to create fat. Too much fruit can cause problems with weight gain, tooth decay and in extremes, even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (first found in 1980). You wouldn’t eat 4 apples/oranges at once but they’re easy to drink. Stick to eating whole fruit.
– Smoothies – most bought ones and internet recipes are too heavy on fruit or other sweet ingredients. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of a smoothie which illustrates the problem:
“A smoothie is a thick beverage made from blended raw fruit, vegetables or ice cream and cookies with other ingredients such as water, ice, or sweeteners.”
Definitely not recommended!
– Squash – depends how strong you mix it. Contains sugar or sweeteners.
– Sports / Energy drinks – heavily marketed, unhealthy and unnecessary. High in caffeine and sugar they’re very bad, especially for children. This piece talks about them causing sudden cardiac deaths in young people. So, quite rightly, there’s been a fuss about children and energy drinks. See #notforchildren The majority of kids drink them, often having a litre at a time which is very dangerous. It’s like taking a chainsaw to their adrenal glands. Supermarkets have taken steps eg reducing promotion to kids and trying to prevent sales to children.
Here’s what Jamie Oliver’s site says about them.
On to Something Better
Well that was all a bit dismal, so what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly easy to wean yourself off sweet drinks; your palate can change in as little as two weeks. Here are some healthy alternatives:
– Vegetable juices – juice your own for a brilliant way to get lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients. Use 80% vegetables (eg celery, cucumber, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower stems, leafy greens, sprig of parsley, some ginger). Add small amounts of fruit to improve flavour (½ a lime, some lemon, a bit of pear, few cranberries, bit of tomato). Drink within an hour or freeze.
– Smoothies – use avocados and green leaves with almond / coconut milk or plain live yoghurt. Add a few berries or an inch of banana.
– Milk – shown to be even more hydrating than water when exercising. The sugar in milk (lactose) can cause weight gain if you have a lot, the fat doesn’t.
The Moody Cow at Allonby sells the real thing – unpasturised. It tastes delicious.
– Coconut water – a great isotonic refresher. Best if you buy a coconut, pierce the top and pour it out. Bought coconut milk will be older and may have additives so read the label.
– Iced tea. Not the syrupy type in a can or bottle. Make some delicate green tea, add a slice of lime and some ice.
– Water – fruit infused. Put a strawberry or a couple of raspberries / blackberries or a slice of lemon / lime in a mug and pour an inch of boiling water over. Let it sit for 10 minutes then top up with cold.
– Water – re-hydration solution. Make your own if it’s very hot and you’re doing a lot of exercise. Add a little salt and sugar to your water.
– Water – great choice – would be even better if they stopped fluoridation!
Top tip – switch to healthier drinks.
Eat Well News
To get my full Eat Well News, sign up here. It’s so much more than the blog posts I write. I’ll be in touch with you about nutrition and health, and to provide articles, and updates (eg research and campaigns relating to nutrition and health), and marketing (eg events, products, services, talks and courses), and recipes, and things to bring a smile. Please let me know all the ways you would like to hear from me either by using this form or sending me an email.
The UK, South Africa (where Prof practices), Australia and America have similar official dietary guidelines based on a flawed, misinterpreted American study from the 1950s. The result has been damage to the health of the populations of these countries for many years.
The world is waking up to the influence of the food industry on our governments and this incredible 4y legal case has exposed the way they work to undermine and discredit health practitioners who don’t toe the official line. With overwhelming evidence on his side, Tim has won which gives hope that things may now improve for everyone.
Read more here
May was National Walking Month so hopefully you’ve enjoyed taking the occasional stroll in the lovely weather.
Moving your body every day is a good thing. It’s only a minor factor for weight loss but crucial when it comes to health. For many conditions it’s better than any medicine, even having value in preventing and treating cancer. However, in common with many other good things, more is not always better and too much can hurt you.
I’ll just back up and do a detour to deal with the weight loss thing in case you fell straight off your chair. Food is the main factor for weight loss – not exercise. Weight training and high intensity interval training are best. If you’re one of the 1000s pounding the treadmill every day watching the calories tick, you need to know that aerobic exercise is the worst for weight loss. It generally burns very little and makes you quite a bit hungrier. Even if energy balance worked at all (which it doesn’t), the way diet clubs teach it is very misleading as Zoe Harcombe explains here. The energy you burn, above what you always burn at rest, does not cancel out that bun and a latte in the gym cafe. As Dr Aseem Malhotra says, you can’t outrun a bad diet. What matters for weight is the type of food. Some you’ll burn, some you’ll store. Different foods affect different hormones. But I write about that most of the time so I’ll get off my soapbox and end my diversion. Oh, but while I still have one foot on my soapbox, energy drinks are terrible, especially for children, and no one should drink them. More on drinks next month.
OK, where were we? Exercise and Health.
I always ask people on my courses to listen to their bodies. It isn’t something we’re used to doing. Life is all one mad charge forwards regardless of how we feel. We’re driven by external expectations, work, family, social norms. If our bodies complain, the usual reaction is to take over-the-counter drugs to silence the messages.
Most of us recognise that too much work is a bad thing but surely any amount of exercise is good.
If you feel generally snoozy and sluggish, it could be a sign that you need to move more.
If you are very tired and exercise doesn’t energise you, it could be a sign that your body needs some recovery. We often underestimate the importance of rest. It can seem a bit soft to take a nap or a day off. When I was on the Great Britain Field Archery team I remember hearing that the commitment to rest is as important as the commitment to train hard.
Shame I didn’t take more notice at the time!
I used to have a stressful job and I used exercise as an antidote. The more stressed I got, the more desperately I exercised. Adding to the burden, I didn’t know then about eating right for your metabolic type. My diet was full of sugar but lacking the fat that I needed. And there were toxins in the low-fat products I ate. I believed the adverts saying they were better for me; how wrong can you be? I got more and more run down and relied too much on cortisol and adrenalin to keep me going. I dragged myself out of bed each day feeling like death and forced myself onwards. You can scrape the bottom of the barrel of your resources for so long but the end result for me was a hole in the barrel. I suffered total exhaustion and chronic fatigue. I was incapacitated for a year and half.
I’m not the only one to fall into the excess exercise trap. Sometimes the consequences are more severe than I suffered and can appear suddenly. I was saddened by the death of a Cumbrian chef at this year’s London Marathon. Here’s a piece about the dangers of over-doing it and how extreme sport scars your heart.
Nowadays I prefer a bit of balance and self care to punishing my body with gruelling regimes.
What do you think counts as exercise? Have you realised it doesn’t have to be done in a special place (eg a gym) or for a certain period of time (eg an hour)? Actually your body is designed for continuous movement and you can include lots of things you might not have counted before. Vacuuming, washing the car, playing with the kids, digging the garden, dancing, walking the dog, doing a few squats while the kettle boils, reaching up to hang out the washing.
I’m a fan of Dr Mercola’s NO dump (developed by Zach Bush). I love Michael Mosely’s book on Fast Exercise – here’s a little HIIT video. And have a listen to this podcast on primal play Dr Chatterjee and Darryl.
Dr Chaterjee’s book The Four Pillar Plan talks about movement snacking and Dr Joan Vernikos explains the need for non-exercise movement throughout the day regardless of whether you do ‘exercise sessions’. Just standing up from your chair every 20 minutes lets your body engage with gravity and brings many health, strength and weight benefits.
Do you take your health for granted? I used to but not any more. Having experienced life without it, health is really important to me now and that’s why I don’t compromise on food, exercise and rest. I don’t want to ever go back to that misery.
Good health is a lot about self care. It’s about getting some exercise every day, but not so much that you burn yourself out. It’s about nourishing your body with good food, but not sticking so rigidly to a dietary regime that it prevents you from living a rich, happy life. It’s about deep sleep, rest and fun. It’s about balance.
Top tips: Real food is good. Exercise is good. Rest is good. Balance is good.
The right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, not too much, is the safest way to health.
Hippocrates 2,500 years ago
Nutrition is king, exercise is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
How do you decide what to eat?
Since the introduction of calories as a measure of food energy content, we’ve become obsessed with them. The government’s official messages at the moment mention nothing else. However in spite of its popularity, calorific content is a poor basis for making food choices.
A huge and powerful industry makes and aggressively markets low-calorie food products. The BBC showed some years ago in ‘The Big Fat Truth about Low Fat Food’, that these products are not good for your health.
Instead of thinking primarily about calories, I ask the people on my Nutrition Coaching courses to focus on the goodness in foods. Some foods provide nutrients and improve your health. These include fresh meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit, veg and natural fats. Good food gives you essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Other foods are bad for you and your body has to work really hard to deal with them by using up lots of your vitamins, minerals and enzymes and most of your energy too. They leave you with compromised health and feeling exhausted. These include processed foods, biscuits, crisps, donuts, snack bars, fizzy pop, flavoured water and ready meals.
Bad food contains refined sugar, salt, damaged fats, artificial sweeteners and additives. Often processed foods are chemically altered to increase the appeal to your taste buds. They override your body’s ways of knowing when you’ve had enough and you can just carry on eating more and more.
So stop worrying about calories and think about goodness. Ignore the marketing hype which results in low-fat and low-calorie foods being labelled as healthy even if they’re not. Think instead how food can build your health or harm you.
Top tip – eat real food!
Let’s eat what God gave us.
(Clarissa Dickson Wright’s partner on the BBC cookery series Two Fat Ladies)