For a Good Day, Eat a Good Breakfast

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I say it’s the most important meal to get right.

Sadly, years of mis-information, marketing and confusion mean it’s often the worst meal of the day consisting of little more than processed carbohydrate (here’s why that’s bad).

The trick is to find things you know will last you through to lunchtime. That’s very unlikely to be breakfast cereal or jam on toast which can set you up for rapid hunger, unhealthy snacking later on, and weight gain. Eating no breakfast can be preferable to bad breakfast.

Some of my clients have improved their weight and health simply by changing their breakfast habits.

  Here are some ideas that might suit you better.  They use the principle that every meals should contain plants, proteins and fats.

Some people do well on porridge made from natural oats. (Beware the type in sachets as some contain loads of sugar.) To add some protein and fat, top with nuts and seeds and a dollop of cream. For plants sprinkle on a spoonful of berries.

Boost your weight loss with low-carb porridge. It doesn’t have any oats! Mix ground flax seed, chia seed, desiccated coconut and protein powder with some coconut milk and warm until thick. Top with a bit of fruit, some full-fat plain yoghurt and a few flaked almonds.

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Muesli can be goodchoose one with plenty of nuts and not much dried fruit. Again, top with full-fat plain yoghurt.

Granola is less good as it’s generally sweetened and cooked in vegetable oil. If you enjoy it, it’s definitely worth making your own using coconut oil.

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume and with the right ingredients can keep you satisfied for 5 or 6 hours.

Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, protein powder, peanut butter, cream, eggs, yoghurt etc.

Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries. (Fruit is sugar so an all-fruit smoothie (bought or home-made) is not a healthy option.)

To save time, you can batch up any dry ingredients in advance so that in the morning you just tip them into the glass with your veg, fruit and milk choice, whizz with a stick blender and drink straight from the glass.

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. For traditional Full English, choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato. Another favourite of mine is the Aussie classic – steak and egg – fab with wilted spinach.

Fancy something a little lighter? Go continental with boiled eggs, ham and cheese (you can save time by hard boiling an egg the night before).

Dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

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In the summer, Jon Gabriel’s light but satisfying plain yoghurt mixed with nuts, seeds, protein powder and fruit is hard to beat.

 

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For a change, go fishy with a tin of mackerel plus half a pear and some seeds or indulge in smoked salmon, delicious teamed with scrambled eggs and courgette.

Top tip: To have a good day, eat a good breakfast.

Quotes of the Month – Health

Three quotes today

1.

The real pandemic is poor metabolic health, or metabolic inflexibility.

Aseem Malhotra

Poor metabolic health makes us vulnerable to obesity, diabetes and a severe outcome when we catch the coronavirus. If you want to lose weight, it’s best to do it in a way that protects your metabolic health, by eating well.

Here’s an article co-authored by Dr Malhotra on the change of food environment that’s needed, starting with the NHS itself.

2.

I wouldn’t start from here

Lewis Carol

(with thanks to @Beth Pipe for reminding me of this one!)

3.

How random and fragile life can be.

Megan Divine

We can’t control the things in life that hit us. We’re going through pain with no rhyme, reason or cure. But we can control how we care for and nurture ourselves and each other.

 

 

Grow Your Own

 

I’ve loved getting emails from people saying they’ve started to grow veg during lockdown. Time spent with living plants is good for you and your efforts are rewarded with the amazing taste and superior nutrition of home-grown.

My favourite gardening programme, The Beechgrove Garden, had this handy idea.

When you have nearly finished a head of celery, cut the last few stems, leaving about 3” (10cm). Pop in a glass of water on the windowsill for 2 or 3 weeks until you can see roots growing, then plant in the garden. Here’s what you get!!!

On a smaller scale, herbs have health benefits and add wonderful flavours to your cooking. You can grow them in the garden, in pots outside or even on the windowsill in your kitchen. If you don’t want to start from seed, you can buy herbs in pots at the supermarket, harvest some to freeze then plant out the rest to keep on growing.

Sprouted seeds and beans are salad as fresh as fresh can be and eaten raw they pack a powerful enzyme punch. Grow them on your worktop in sprouting trays – they don’t even need soil. This video shows you how.

Quote of the Month – A is for Artificial

Following my 10 ten tips series, here’s the first of my a-z of nutrition and health snippets. All on LinkedIn.

 

A is for artificial

The thing about the way most food is produced these days is, if you knew the story behind it, you wouldn’t want to eat it

Eric Schlosser, food journalist

 

In Britain we eat less real food than healthy European countries like France.

Check out Joanna Blythman’s Swallow This for a read that will make your hair curl.

Good news – the only way is up!

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For lasting change, convert your habits to real food tackling one meal at a time – until the artificial food is squeezed out.

Choose what you’ll improve first – your mid-morning snack perhaps. Could you by-pass the vending machine and instead have nuts or a piece of cheese with an apple?

A real food breakfast instead of cereal from a packet could transform your day. Here are some breakfast ideas.

Added bonus – you won’t need a mid-morning snack at all.😉

Making your own lunch instead of buying a sandwich could save you lots of money too.

Take your pick and make one of your meals the health-boosting highlight of the day.

If you want to learn to eat well but find all the messages confusing, I can show you how. My next Eat for a Better Life course starts at the end of the month. Contact me now to book your place jackie@learntoeatwell.co.uk

Obesity Strategy

Have news reports about obesity and coronavirus alarmed you? Do they make you determined to lose the weight that’s putting your life in greater danger?

Boris has certainly been spurred into action by his time in hospital. He realised that carrying extra weight is one of the highest risk factors for becoming seriously ill with COVID19.

Obesity also makes you more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancer, fatty liver, respiratory disease, and mental health problems.

To tackle all of this the Government has launched a strategy to slim down the nation.

Pexels

So what is their focus?

Calories.

Sorry, that’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Calories don’t help you make good food choices; they drive you towards processed foods.

Surely cutting calories helps. Will you not burn more energy than you eat?

Only for a while.

Our bodies are survival machines. Cut the food you eat and your body shuts down your metabolism and hangs on in there until it can put all the weight back on again. That’s why 100 people on a diet will all lose weight but later 95 of them will find themselves back where they started or even heavier than before. And the cycle will repeat.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What are people eating now that causes obesity and poor health? Food-like products. And that includes the low-calorie ones.

  • They’re addictive – so you over-eat.
  • Chemicals make them taste great – so you over-eat.

  • They’re low in the nutrients your body needs – so you over-eat.

  • They interfere with your body’s control mechanisms and stimulate appetite – so you over-eat.

  • The label says they’re healthy – so you’re fooled into thinking it’s OK to over-eat.

    A Colin Shelbourne cartoon from Survival Guide for the Skint.

Since calories became popular and the food industry got into gear 50 years ago, the weight of the average Briton has gone through the roof whilst health is in an ever steepening decline.

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The Government rightly blames advertising and the food environment we live in. We’ve been brainwashed into buying this junk and thinking it’s an acceptable way to feed our bodies. Offers are always for extra junk, not BOGOF on cabbages or steak. They’ve recognised this and I’m glad they’re introducing some controls.

What can you do?

Britain’s health was best between 1950 and 1970. Almost everyone was slim. Almost everyone ate real food.

Real food works with your natural appetite controls. When food satisfies you, there’s no need for will-power and no desire to over-eat.

I so hope you’ve all got used to doing your own cooking during lockdown and that you’ve been soothed by the rhythm of spending time in the kitchen, enjoyed what you ate and noticed how much money you saved.

It’s a missed opportunity but in reality the Government is unlikely ever to tell people to eat real food; they don’t want to damage the processed food industry.

So it’s down to you.

  • You can take control. 🙂

  • You can choose better food. 🙂

  • You can care for your body and nourish it. 🙂

Top tip: To be slim and healthy, forget the calories and learn to eat well.

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

This month was the Public Health Collaboration Conference.

They had to cancel the real one of course and instead did the whole thing on YouTube with the speakers doing their talks from home. What a great idea because now any of us can watch at any time we choose.

Check it out on the PHC’s YouTube channel here. They covered all sorts of things including: coronavirus and diet, cooking demos, diabetes, stress.

Of great relevance in these trouble times was Dr Aseem Malhotra’s message:

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

The Government’s original “Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives” message was to prevent overwhelm of an already overstretched NHS.

Why overstretched? Britain already has a huge burden of lifestyle-related, chronic diseasesPeople with those diseases suffer much more severely if they do catch the virus.

People with poor blood-sugar control are 10 times (that’s 1000%) more likely to die if they get coronavirus (11% cf 1.1%). Many MPs were diagnosed with the virus but only Boris ended up needing critical care. He cycles every day but he clearly doesn’t eat right and that’s the most important thing for blood sugar stability.

Good things coming out of this experience – Boris had been thinking of removing the sugar tax on drinks – now he won’t. Instead, he’s to launch a war on fat (bodily not dietary). I hope he promotes what works rather than bowing to pressure from food and diet companies.

I and some of the speakers have been angered by TV and newspaper coverage of junk-food companies giving away junk like doughnuts, pizzas and custard creams as a brand promoting opportunity. It’s these very foods that have made Britain more vulnerable than the rest of Europe where they still mostly buy fresh ingredients and cook their own meals at home.

There’s a powerful message of hope in the talks.

Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome – can be improved in days or weeks by eating better so here’s the message the nation needs to hear:

Eat Real Food

All the talks will stay freely available on YouTube so do have a look. The ones I enjoyed most were those by Dr Aseem Malhotra, Dr Joanne McCormack (Custard Creams) and a spoof one by Dr Campbell Murdoch which showed (using bombs and bullets) how you can ruin your metabolic health.

Spread the message

Eat Real Food, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

NB – if you watch the talks and switch to low-carb make sure you speak to your doctor about balancing dietary change with any medication.

Coronavirus and Food

Evidence is mounting for the usefulness of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium all of which boost your immune system. You can make sure you get great nutrients from fresh food by ditching the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. Supplements can be useful too. And a have a care with alcohol which blocks absorption.

Metabolic Health

Another important thing is your metabolic health (defined as normal blood pressure, low triglycerides, high HDL cholesterol, low waist circumference, HbA1c showing not pre-diabetic).

Poor metabolic health or metabolic syndrome increases your risk of death from coronavirus by 10 times – that’s 1000%.

It’s being driven by our current high carbohydrate, low fat eating style. Baddies include: breakfast cereal, ready meals, snack bars, anything made of flour or containing vegetable oil and other ultra-processed foods with more than 5 ingredients.

Poor metabolic health doesn’t always link to obesity (although the same foods also cause weight gain). And it affects people of all ages. In America 7 out of 8 people are metabolically unhealthy including 6 out of 8 people aged 20-40. I don’t know the number in Britain but looking at diet, many of our young people may well be metabolically unhealthy. The prevalence of diabetes is 3-5 times higher in the black/Asian population and we’ve seen how they are suffering higher death rates from this virus. They may also need vitamin D supplements as there is too little sunlight in Britain for their darker skin to make enough.

You can improve your metabolic health in a few weeks by cooking your own meals from fresh meat, fish, vegetables.

My simple guide for every meal –

Plants, Proteins, Fats

Quote of the month – time and health

Saving time to harm your health isn’t a good deal for me

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Every cloud has a silver lining. The current crisis has allowed us to consider the importance of our own health.

At the moment we’re all doing our best to stay safe and well in ways we may not have considered previously.

I’ve been without my health before – for 1 ½ years – so for me it’s been a priority ever since.

While we have time, this is the perfect time to decide to put a bit of effort into being well.

  • Your daily allowed exercise.
  • Sunshine and fresh air.
  • Connecting with family and friends online.

Underpinning it all is what you put in your body – FOOD is a crucial factor. You can choose to ditch the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. 🙂

Immune System Boost

I hope all of you are OK and managing to stay safe and sane at home in this weird world. Here are some tips to help your immune system:

Most of your immune system is in your gut so it matters what you eat and drink. Eat more:

  • Oily fish and eggs for vitamin Dwhich has many health benefits, including priming our T cells
  • Vegetables which give you lots of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants plus fibre to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

  • Live natural yoghurt, kefir, lassi and fermented vegetables to repopulate your good bacteria.
  • Coconut oil which has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Supplement with:

  • Vitamin C (it’s quickly flushed out of your body so take some every day)
  • Magnesium (most people are deficient)
  • Selenium (2 or 3 Brazils nuts a day is plenty)
  • Zinc (good food sources are seafood, lamb, turkey and pumpkin seeds)
  • Vitamin D (most of us are short of this unless we supplement – especially at this time of year when our skin hasn’t seen sunshine for so long)

Avoid:

  • Sugar – it feeds bad bacteria, unbalancing your system.

  • Processed food – you want your body to cope with the virus, not use all its energy fighting bad food.
  • Alcohol.

Other tips:

  • Eat right for your metabolic type (I’m now offering testing by Skype/telephone).
  • Get lots of sleep to make the powerful anti-oxidant melatonin.

  • Exercise, especially out in the fresh air (only with members of your household of course!). It will help you sleep better too.
  • If you smoke, give it up now.
  • Wash with actual bar soap whenever you possibly can. Coronaviruses are in a fatty ‘envelope’ which can be destroyed by soap. Also soap won’t damage your own protective bacterial like antibacterials do. Joanna Blythman retweeted this Tweet thread on why soap is so good.Solutions of ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol at between 60% and 80%, plus 3% hydrogen peroxide are effective for cleaning surfaces
  • Manage stress and prioritise self-care. Your mental health, physical health and immune system are connected so it helps to keep a sense of purpose and optimism. We won’t get back to normal for some time yet so look after yourself and do things that relax you and give you joy.

No Substitute

The choice of coffees is dizzying in cafés these days. Not just flat white, cappuccino or Americano but many varieties of milk with which to make them. The supermarket range of milks has grown hugely too. Here’s a look at their nutrition.

Whole milk is rich and creamy with such high quality protein, good fats, high bio-availability minerals and vitamins and digestibility, it rates even better than steak. Dairy appears to protect against heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Jersey gold top is creamier still and hasn’t been homogenised so the cream rises to the top – remember the blue tits pecking through foil bottle tops?

Unpasteurised milk is available from farms around the country and still contains its enzymes and beneficial bacteria. It might reduce children’s risk of suffering from eczema, hay fever and other allergies.

Organic is the gold standard for animal welfare and lack of chemicals.

Reduced fat milk contains good protein, lots of B vitamins and plenty of calcium and phosphorous. It is usually fortified with synthetic vitamins A and D because the natural vitamins are lost with the fat. However, without the fat, it is harder for your body to absorb the vitamins and the calcium.

A common mistake is to think skimmed milk helps weight loss. I call it the skinny latte fallacy. It’s the natural sugar in milk that could cause weight gain so less milk is a better strategy.

Goats’ milk is similarly nutritionally to cows’ and its A2 casein causes fewer allergies than the A1 protein found in most cows’ milk.

Lactose-free milk is really useful if you’re intolerant to the sugar in milk (lactose). In South East Asia and Southern Africa 90% are lactose-intolerant but in Northern Europe it’s only about 3%. This problem has been exacerbated now that most of the milk available is pasteurised which destroys the enzyme lactase you’ll find in raw milk. Another option might be to use the fermented milk kefir which contains hardly any lactose.

Filtered milk has longer shelf life. This comes at the loss of health-beneficial good bacteria. You can make up for this by eating live, natural yoghurt or kefir.

Long-Life milk has been ultra-heat-treated to sterilise it. It’s very handy for a weekend away camping if you don’t have access to a fridge, as is powdered milk.

Flavoured milks are a bit like runny ice cream with their added sugar, flavouring and other chemicals, so don’t ever think of these as healthy. The best I found on sale were from Shaken Udder. My grandfather used to make us milk shakes using Jersey gold top, a few strawberries or cocoa powder and a bit (not a lot) of banana in a blender.

Milk substitutes are helpful if you have allergies. They’re white and they pour but they’re not milk. Most of them have more than 5 ingredients and are therefore classed as ultra-processed. They may have synthetic vitamins and minerals added and most have low protein and fat but you can use other foods to make up for what milk would have provided.

Nut milks generally contain only ~2% nuts and might have more added sugar than that – check the label. It’s easy to make your own. Just soak some nuts in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, rinse well in a sieve and put in a blender with some fresh water. Whizz. That’s it. You can strain out the pulp if you prefer.

Oat milk and rice milk have little to commend them nutritionally and are mainly carbohydrate or as Dr Unwin calls it “soon to be sugar”.

Soya milk has high protein content but this has only a partial set of amino acids. Its calcium comes with the anti-nutrient phytic acid which blocks calcium absorption. I do not recommend consumption of unfermented soya in any form, including milk.

Coconut milk is good for fat and flavour.

Hemp milk is a new one on me and provides some excellent fats.

Top tip – You’ll only get the full nutritional benefits from the real thing but with so many types to choose from, you’ll always be able to put something white in your coffee.