Eat a Good Breakfast

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

The current fashion is for carbohydrate only but this sets you up for rapid hunger, unhealthy snacking later on and weight gain. All carbohydrates are sugars, whether that’s added sugars or natural sugars, simple sugars or starches (which are chains of sugar and quickly break down into simple sugars). Cereal / breakfast biscuits can be thought of as sugar, so can toast, fruit and fruit juices/smoothies. A bowl of cereal with low-fat flavoured yoghurt, and orange juice contains the equivalent of around 14 teaspoons of sugar. Here’s my article on breakfast cereal. Eating no breakfast is preferable to bad breakfast but what might be better?

Some people do well on porridge made from natural oats. Top with nuts and seeds. Beware the type in sachets as some contain loads of sugar. Muesli can be goodchoose one with plenty of nuts and not much dried fruit. Top with full-fat plain yoghurt.

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

Smoothies are quick to make and easy to consume and digest.

Base them on coconut milk, avocado, ground almonds, flax, spinach, whey powder concentrate, natural oats etc.

Add just a little fruit for sweetness eg ¼ apple, 1” banana or a spoonful of berries.

I have a smoothie 3 or 4 times a week and last for 5 or 6 hours on it.

To save time, you can batch up all the dry ingredients in advance so that in the morning you just tip them into the glass on top of your veg and fruit.

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Dry ingredients ready to tip in

Bought smoothies are usually made from fruit so can be very sugary.  Also beware smoothie recipes on the internet as many of these include very large amounts of fruit.

Fry-ups can sustain you for ages. Choose from bacon, egg, black pudding, sausage, mushroom, tomato or do the Aussie thing – steak and egg – a favourite of mine, with wilted spinach.

Go continental with boiled eggs, ham and Boiled Eggcheese (you can save time by hard boiling an egg the night before). Dip avocado or buttered, wholemeal toast ‘soldiers’ in soft-boiled eggs.

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

Top tip: Eat a good breakfast.

Avoid Weight Gain this Christmas

Weight gain seems inevitable at this time of year but if you don’t want to start 2016 fat, tired and ill, how can you minimise the damage?steak salad

Eat as much natural, realS/W Ver: 85.83.E7P food as possible. Buy fresh meat, fish and vegetables and fill yourself with good home cooked meals. Bake your own Christmas cake (nice with a slice of Wensleydale and some almonds) and mince pies using butter and reducing the sugar content.  Make salad dressings, dips and healthy treats (ask me for my no-cook chocolate, seed and nut recipe). Doing a bit of something in the kitchen can be great fun if the family gets stuck in too.

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

The right breakfast can set you up for the day. Include some protein and fat eg nutty muesli with natural yoghurt, poached egg on toast, home made porridge (not sachets/pots) with flaked almonds and cream or a low-sweetness smoothie (mine is based on avocado and coconut milk).

The worst choices are cereal, toast with jam, fruit juices/smoothies and chocolate which will have you on a blood-sugar roller-coaster for the rest of the day, and craving for more bad things.

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Water

Have a healthy snack before going out and drink plenty of water before and during parties. You’ll be less likely to drink too much alcohol or over-eat. Sugar and vegetable oil are in almost all processed ‘party’ food and will cause weight gain. Soft drinks are sugary and, surprisingly, “diet” drinks also increase weight.

NutsHide biscuits, chocolates, cake, crisps and alcohol in cupboards and leave bowls of nuts, veg sticks and dips in plain sight. Treat treats as treats. Enjoy them but don’t make a meal of them. If you try to abstain and you’re more likely to have a blow-out. Ditch the diet ‘on it, off it’ mentality and allow yourself to have a little. Accept that there will be naughty goodies everywhere you go; you will eat some, and so will I!

Top tip – Eat well and have a Merry Christmas

Super Foods

Super foods are ‘in’. People are going mad for all sorts of things from gogi Pastaberries to maca powder and cacao nibs. However, I was really taken aback when someone said their diet club had told them that pasta is a super food; it is not.

So what makes something a super food? 2 things. Firstly, it will have an unusually high nutrient content; things like vitamins, minerals, enzymes or good fats. Secondly, the nutrients will be in a form that the body can easily absorb and use. This is called bio-availability.  I have some videos on different superfoods here (scroll down through top tips and testimonials to get to the superfood series).

Avocado DSCF1323 freeTake the avocado, a true super food. This pear-shaped fruit is packed with amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and good fats. I base my breakfast smoothie on avocado. They’re also great as part of a salad. Contrast this with pasta which is just wheat starch. Like bread or Yorkshire pudding, it’s ‘padding’ with only a bit of protein, a few minerals, hardly any vitamins and no good fat. It will cause weight gain without boosting your health.

I’m quarter Italian and enjoy pasta as much as the next person but I eat no more than a handful in a meal. After all, in Italy pasta is not a main dish, it’s a starter. And what is this bizarre Cumbrian custom of serving lasagne with chips? That’s adding padding to more padding. Instead, have it with a large, mixed salad, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The goodness has diminished drastically in our modern diet. Super foods can help to fill the gap and give you a boost but a few gogi berries won’t make up for a poor diet. Build a solid foundation and always aim to eat well.

Top tip – Use super foods to enhance a good diet.

Food Education Petition

Jamie Oliver has started a petition for food education to be complusory, not just here in the UK – but world-wide.

The current trend of increasing weight and declining health is largely down to people eating processed food instead of cooking from scratch.  People aren’t going to want to prepare real, fresh food if they don’t know how.  We have a whole generation now that doesn’t know how to cook so they can’t teach their kids even if they want to.  Schools can help – by teaching every child how to grow and cook real food.

I’ve signed Jamie’s petition.

Here’s the link:
http://www.change.org/p/jamie-oliver-needs-your-help-fighting-for-food-education-2?recruiter=75736758&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

 

 

 

Junk Food Kids

I was heartbroken to watch a four year old girl having 8 rotten teeth surgically removed on Channel 4’s Junk Food Kids – Who’s to Blame?  Also featured were a boy with fatty liver disease and an obese 13y old girl whose parents wanted her to have gastric band surgery in preference to improving the family’s diet.   For all of these, typical fare at home was ready meals, takeaways, jacket potatoes with baked beans, piles of pasta, pizza, crisps, chocolate and sweet drinks – all guaranteed to pile weight on and rot teeth. The social media backlash accused parents of child abuse for letting their kids eat so badly but the parents were at their wits end. To them processed, sugary diets were normal and they didn’t know what to do to make them better.

Nutrition experts have campaigned many times for governmental control on sugar use by food and drink manufacturers. The government declined arguing that consumers can choose. Can they really? Manufacturers spend huge sums on advertising – and it works. Junk food is cheap, easy, quick and everyone eats it don’t they? Parents are left with a battle on their hands, parental discipline isn’t fashionable and a third of our children are overweight, many with bad teeth, both of which are entirely preventable.

What can we do? It seems the government isn’t going to help us and the manufacturers won’t so we need to support each other in raising awareness so that drinking water and eating real food become normal again.  A dentist near where I live has created a Sugar Shock poster showing the amount of sugar in different drinks. It’s brilliant! I had no idea that flavoured milk is worst of all. A local cafe has a lovely Michael Pollen quote on their wall ‘don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’.  What can you do to help spread the message?

Top tip – for the sake of the children, lets help get each other back into real food

Change for Healthy Eating

How did you get on with your New Year Resolutions? It’s common for people to start January by joining gyms and going on diets only to bail out by the middle of February. Why do we set resolutions? Possibly because we fear deep down that bad eating habits and inactivity are setting us up for a miserable existence of aches, pains, ailments and early death. That’s not a cheery thought so most of the time we sweep it under the carpet. No matter how we feel, we say breezily, ‘Oh I’m fine.’ But something about the arrival of a new year enables us to look at our lives and gives us a desire to make them better.

Change isn’t easy. New Year style change – switching overnight from a life of take-aways slumped in front of the TV to daily running and plates of lettuce leaves, is almost impossible. If we make things too difficult, we set ourselves up for failure before we begin.

The change equation states that to generate enough impetus to start making a change we need three things. 1) dissatisfaction with how things are, 2) a clear vision of the future, 3) some practical first steps. As a coach, I can help you to face up to reality (number 1) and to explore what you want instead (number 2). For the practical steps (number 3), I won’t put you on a diet because diets don’t help you long term and your body needs more than lettuce!S/W Ver: 85.83.E7P

My Eat for a Better Life course includes gradual improvements. Squeeze out bad things by cramming in more good things. Each time you drink some water or have a bit of salad with your lunch, you can feel good about yourself for building better habits.

Top tip – take small steps towards eating well.

How to read food labels

I am a person who tends to move at speed; this is not always a good thing. A while ago, in the supermarket, I failed to notice the state of the floor as I rounded the corner of an aisle. Someone had dropped a glass jar of tomato sauce and I slipped in the huge sticky mess on the floor.  My foot was now covered so I stood stranded in the red splat.  Walking on would have spread it far and wide and other people might have slipped too.  Plaintively, I called for help.

While I was stranded, a lovely lady came along who was trying to see the jars of sauces.  I apologised for being in her way and asked what she wanted.  It turned out she was doing pizza and didn’t know which tomato sauce to buy for the topping.  I suggested she make her own instead, but she didn’t know how.  So we had a little chat.

Later she came back.  She had looked at theCherry toms tomato puree I suggested but said that her chosen jar contained less sugar.  By the time a supermarket herorine with a mop came to rescue me (bless you), the pizza lady had gone.  But I was puzzled.  Surely tomato puree doesn’t conatin any sugar, only tomatoes.  So I went to investigate.

I realised that the lady had looked at the nutritional breakdown part of the label, where it said ‘of which sugars’.  This is about carbohydrate content.  Vegetables and fruits are primarily carbohydrate so the percentage was high.  The ingredients list stated simply, tomatoes – there was no sugar.  The jar on the other hand had lots of added sugar.  I once saw someone advise that a sugary breakfast cereal was a better choice than natural muesli on the basis of the nutritional breakdown.  That is complete nonsense.  Since that part of the label seems to cause confusion, it can be more helpful to skip it.

For me, what matters is the list of ingredients.  No 1, is there a list of ingredients?  When you buy a tomato, a cauliflower or a piece of meat, there is no list of ingredients.  Fresh, natural foods are always best.  No 2, is there added sugar?  Look for any word ending in ‘ose’ and other terms such as modified maize starch.  Sweeteners are as bad if not worse.  Each type of sugar might be listed separately so you have to add them up.  Notice how the percentage is given for many ingredients but often left a mystery for the sugar.  You can take a guess because the ingredients are listed in order of content, with the highest first.  No 3, is it made with vegetable/sunflower oil?  No 4, are there lots of chemical additives?  These might be emulsifiers, stabilisers, artificial colours and flavours.

Next time you reach for a jar, packet or box of anything ready-made, pause to consider whether you could avoid eating so much sugar, sweeteners, vegetable oil and additives by making a healthier version yourself starting with fresh, natural ingredients.

Top tip: Know what’s in your food.

 

Don’t Blame Your Age!

Clients sometimes say of their weight, lack of energy and ailments, ‘Well what can I expect at my age?’ I think it’s a shame that we’ve been conditioned to expect so little. It’s almost an abdication of responsibility – “there’s nothing I can do; it’s my age”. OK, we might suffer some wear and tear but our bodies have a remarkable capacity for renewal if we look after them. We don’t have to buy into the common pattern of junk food, inactivity and physical deterioration as if it was inevitable. If you commit to exercise and good food, perhaps you can stay younger for longer. It’s your choice.

You probably know people who are still sprightly in their older years and also young people who look and move as if they were decades older than they are. In my early 30s I was in a sorry state. Overweight and unhealthy, I felt lousy most of the time. Ten years ago I learned to eat well and transformed my life. I recently turned 50 but feel 19. Being 20 years older doesn’t matter to me; I feel young.

Find a good role model and emulate them. Jack LaLanne understood exercise and nutrition and lived a vigorous life to the age of 96. One of his sayings was, ‘Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.’

My grandfather was still fly fishing at 94.  Young at 94He was Italian and understood about eating good food.  When Channel 4 made a programme on the World’s Best Diets, Italy came second (just behind Iceland) and we saw a village of elderly people, full of vigour, eating only real food.  There is no paradox to the health of the French either; they eat well too.  Sadly the UK was way down with our love of processed food and you can see the results all around you in the population’s general lack of good health.

It’s always worth looking after yourself and never too late to get into good habits. Keep moving with a form of exercise that suits you, keep flexible and improve the way you eat. You’re worth it!

Top tips – you’re never too old to benefit from eating well.

Plate Clearing

I love food and enjoyed some wonderful meals in December but have you noticed how large portions tend to be when you eat out? It’s a necessary one-size-suits-all approach; to the chef I could be a 6′, 25st bloke. He doesn’t know that I’m a 5’6”, 8½st woman. I’m often faced with enough food for two of me! But how much of it to eat?

I teach people: when you’re hungry, eat; when you’re satisfied, stop. So whenever I have a huge meal put in front of me, I don’t try to force it all down. This was hard at first. Like lots of us, I hate to waste food. I was brought up with a strong plate-clearing culture and sadly this can lead to over-eating. When you eat more than you need, your body has to work hard to process and eliminate the excess or store it as fat. Food that you don’t need is already waste whether or not you eat it. It’s better to save it for another time or even to throw it away than to treat your body like a dustbin. To break the habit, leave something very small at first eg a pea or a chip.

Actually this delicious meal was the right size for me!

Actually this delicious meal at The Granville, Barford, was the right size for me!

Here’s my strategy when eating out. I always decline any bread that’s offered. I usually ask for a half portion of potatoes (which sometimes works but often is ignored). I’m not embarrassed to ask for a doggy-bag. If I can’t have one, I leave the rest which is a shame but better than treating my body disrespectfully. So enjoy your food when you eat out and when you‘ve had enough, stop eating and put down your knife and fork.

Top tip: Respect your body – don’t over-eat to clear your plate.