Healthy Packed Lunches – check it’s balanced!

It’s a clinic day for me today which means I’m away from home for lunch.  On the days when I am away from home I usually take my lunch with me.  That way I look forward to what I have, it’s ready to eat when I get chance and I know exactly what I’m eating!  Being a Dietitian there’s one thing that I always ensure and that is it’s balanced, ready to fuel my afternoon and avoid those dips in energy!  Let’s unpick my lunch…

I have a wheat and white wrap filled with grated cheddar cheese, lettuce and chopped red pepper with a squeeze of salad cream and a handful of cherry tomatoes on the side.  Followed by defrosted frozen berries and mango with greek natural yoghurt for after. 

The wrap provides a complex carbohydrate source with some fibre from the added wheat germ which will be digested slowly over the course of the afternoon to provide a longer lasting supply of energy for my brain.  The grated cheese (about the size of a matchbox) provides a dairy portion giving me calcium for my bones and teeth, contributes some protein which is important for satiety amongst other things and the fat-soluble vitamin A required for normal structure and function of our skin and mucous membranes, immune system and vision.  The salad in my wrap and cherry tomatoes meets one of my 5-a-day and I tick another 5-a-day with my berries and mango.  Remember a portion of fruit and vegetables is 80g (about 1 handful).  A bonus dairy portion is met with the greek natural yoghurt.

I could of course have had all sorts of different things but today’s lunch was a case of what was left in the fridge and cupboards before the shopping arrives later!  Whatever I choose, I always ensure there is a complex carbohydrate source such as wholegrain breads, crackers, couscous, pasta or rice; a protein source such as houmous, falafel, tuna, egg, lean meats, peanut butter or pulses; and a couple of fruit and vegetable portions to meet the 5-a-day or more target.  It’s all made the night before as there’s not enough time in the morning and packed in a cool bag with an ice block to keep it cool until lunch.

I nearly forgot…flapjack!  Homemade with oats, coconut, apricots and raisins…just because!  I may have it after lunch if I’m particularly hungry or save it for mid afternoon with a cup of tea.  Yum!

If you don’t know if you’re nutritionally balanced throughout the day or have health needs or busy work patterns that make it tricky to plan your meals then I can work with you to review your diet and current situation.  From there I can support and guide you to achieve the right balance of nutrients to meet your health goals.  For personalised and professional support then do contact me at llnutritionandwellbeing@gmail.com or via the contact page. 

Is your Plant Based Diet healthy?

Throughout January I have been substituting some of the family meals for more vegetarian options.  This was in response to the recent environmental concerns as well as wanting to improve my repertoire of vegetarian and vegan recipes and experiment with new and exciting flavours and textures.  Plant based diets are growing ever more popular and are fuelled by a combination of health, economic, religious, ethical and environmental reasons.  However, it is not just a case of cutting out meat and/or dairy and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake as this is likely to leave you with nutritional deficiencies later down the line.

I noticed that when searching for recipes I was drawn towards ones which contained not only vegetables but protein as well as carbohydrate to ensure a filling and satisfying meal for the family. 

Good sources of plant based protein include beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, seeds, nuts and nut butters, tofu and soya.  Eggs and dairy are also good sources if you’re not following a vegan diet.  Meat substitutes such as vegetarian burgers, soya sausages and other meat alternatives can be a useful source of protein but they can be high in added salt and fat so check the labels carefully and use in moderation.

If you are following a vegan diet two nutrients which you are more at risk of becoming deficient in are Iron and Vitamin B12.  Plant based sources of iron include dried fruits, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and pulses.  As bioavailability (the amount absorbed by the body) is lower in plants than in meat it is best to combine citrus and other vitamin C sources with plant based sources of iron to increase absorption.  Vitamin B12 is a nutrient found mostly in animal products therefore the only reliable plant sources of vitamin B12 are fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals, yeast extracts, soya yoghurts and non-dairy milks.  Supplements may be required.

If you’re planning on continuing a plant based diet long term then as long as it’s well planned and balanced it can support every age and stage of life.  It can also have health benefits such as helping you manage your weight and may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  However, a poorly planned diet that relies heavily on processed foods, and doesn’t replace nutrients found in animal products can lead to deficiencies in protein, Vitamin B12 and Iron as well as omega-3 fatty acids, Calcium, Iodine, Vitamin D, Zinc and Selenium.  So if you’re not sure if you’ve covered all these nutrients then I can work with you to review your diet to support you in achieving the right balance of nutrients to meet your health goals.  For personalised and professional support then do contact me at llnutritionandwellbeing@gmail.com or via the contact page. 

Eat and Stay well this Autumn

The clocks are about to change, the days become shorter and the dark evenings longer! The warming soups and stews are cooking and the puddings with custard serve to make us feel warm and provide the ultimate comfort.  Here we discuss some top tips to help you eat well and stay well during this Autumn. 

Balance

It’s boring but ‘balance’ is the name of the game.  It’s not a time to be starting restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups.  This just leaves us feeling hungry and deprived and can set up negative thought patterns and behaviours that can lead to overeating.  Foods should not be labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’!  Nourishing yourself properly with regular meals that provide complex, wholegrain carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and oats to sustain energy levels throughout the day; a protein source such as meat, fish, beans or pulses, plenty of fruit, salad or vegetables and a dairy source will give a good balance of nutrients to support your overall health.  Snacks are allowed but the key is to plan them!  Unplanned snacking can result from skipping meals and over-restrictive diets and then the foods chosen are often high in fat and sugar and over consumed.  This can cause feelings of guilt and fuels a negative thought process impacting on our relationship with food.  Build the foods you love into your diet and enjoy them in moderation and guilt free.  

Compassion

The Autumn months can see an increase in depression and if you already struggle with depression it can worsen symptoms.  Eating well when you are struggling mentally can be extremely difficult.  Feelings of guilt and shame if you’re unable to prepare meals will make things worse so it’s important to show yourself compassion and kindness during these times.  Planning ahead for this by having good store cupboard and freezer supplies can help you grab a healthy snack or meal when the going gets tough.

Social Interaction

Food is a very useful way to interact with others and help keep a good relationship with food.  If you are struggling with depression the thought of socialising can be very difficult but those cosy Autumn evenings can be the perfect time to socialise with friends and family over a meal and a drink, or meeting a friend for lunch can boost your mood on a gloomy day.  Missing a friend’s party because you’re too anxious will always be worse for your health than any food you would have eaten. Food is so much more than just nutrients! 

Hydration

Colder days mean we don’t feel as thirsty and can often forget to drink.  Dehydration can leave us feeling tired, sluggish, irritable and light-headed.  Remember to drink regularly, at least 6-8 glasses, throughout the day and more if you’re exercising.

Exercise

We all know exercise is good for us but fitting it in when the days are short can be challenging.  Every little helps!  It is recommended that adults should have a mix of aerobic and strength based exercise every week (see https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ for actual guidelines).  The benefits of physical activity are cumulative so if you aren’t meeting current guidelines then build up gradually in 10-15 minute blocks.  It’ll boost your physical and mental wellbeing.

If you are seeking support for dietary changes then do contact me at llnutritionandwellbeing@gmail.com or via the contact page.

Food and Mood

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2019

Do you lead a busy life and have erratic eating patterns?  Do you feel grumpy, sluggish or lack concentration during the day?  Do you suffer with cravings or turn to food for comfort? Have you asked yourself if there’s a connection between the foods you’ve eaten and how you’re feeling? With World Mental Health Day on the 10th October it is important to remember that the food we eat not only impacts our physical health but also our mental health and wellbeing. 

The food we eat can play a big part in how we feel, just like how we feel can influence what food we choose to eat.  Physical hunger is just one of the many reasons that drive our food choices.  When we are hungry our blood glucose (sugar) levels dip causing us to feel irritable and sluggish.  Erratic eating patterns or over restrictive diets can be a common cause of this.  It is therefore a good idea to eat breakfast and have regular meals containing a starchy carbohydrate to ensure a regular supply of glucose to the brain.  Other reasons that drive our food choices might be the perceived pleasure that a certain food will provide e.g. chocolate or food eaten at special occasions e.g Christmas and birthdays.  Some foods will have a negative association with them such as those linked with dieting, deprivation or illness and some will have a cultural, religious or economic significance which will affect how we feel when we eat them. 

We also know that a diet lacking in variety and therefore key nutrients (such as Iron, Selenium and some B vitamins) can impact our energy, mood and brain function.  Therefore, eating a healthy balanced diet with a variety of foods from the five food groups will supply a range of nutrients that promote good health and good mood.  If you would like a review of your diet with a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist please contact me on llnutritionandwellbeing@gmail.com. For more information on ‘Food and Mood’ please visit https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/foodmood.pdf