Winter Warming Minestrone Soup & Cheesy Scones…

This old winter favourite of mine takes me back to my childhood and is sure to be a well-balanced, winter warming and delicious meal.

To make the soup

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil

1 onion

2 cloves chopped garlic

2 chopped celery sticks

1 chopped red pepper

2 large carrots, sliced

1 tin of beans of your choice (kidney, white, green)

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbs tomato puree

1 bay leaf

1 tsp oregano

2 tsps fresh basil

2 oz (56g) wholewheat spaghetti

1 ½ pints (85l) water with half a vegetable stock cube

1 tsp soy sauce

Add black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Put the oil into a large saucepan and turn on the heat
  2. Add the onion, garlic and the celery and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Add all the vegetables, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree
  4. Add the herbs and the stock liquid
  5. Cover the soup and bring it to the boil
  6. Once boiled, cover the soup and allow to simmer for around 30 minutes
  7. Add the spaghetti, beans and soy sauce and simmer for another 20 minutes
  8. Add pepper to taste
  9. Serve warm with some cheese scones
 Recipe adapted from: Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen

To make the scones

Makes – 6 medium sized scones

Ingredients:

12 oz (340g) self raising flour (6oz white, 6oz wholemeal)

3 tsps baking powder

A pinch of salt and pepper

3 oz (85g) butter

6 oz (170) grated cheddar

A teaspoon English mustard powder

Milk to bind

Method:

  1. Add the flour, salt and pepper and butter into a bowl
  2. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it appears to be like crumbs
  3. Add the mustard and the cheese and stir the ingredients together
  4. Add a splash of milk to make the mixture a soft rolling consistency
  5. Roll out the mixture and cut it into scone shapes
  6. Place each scone mixture onto a greased baking tray
  7. Cook on high temperature oven (180 degrees or gas mark 7-8) for 10 mins
  8. Serve warm with minestrone soup
Recipe adapted from: from Marguerite Patten’s Every day cook book

The Dieting Dilemma: Obesity and food industry profits…

A recent article in the Guardian entitled “Fat profits: how the food industry cashed in on obesity” and a television programme entitled: “The Men who made us Thin” provided an expose of the way in which the food industry is making money out of people who consider themselves overweight…..twice. Once by selling them food that makes them fat in the first place, and secondly by then selling ‘diet foods’ and processed food which promise to make them thin again.

As the article quotes: “We think of obesity and dieting as polar opposites, but in fact, there is a deep symbiotic relationship between the two”.

Several issues arose from the article and the television programme. Firstly many of the organisations  which claim to be dedicated to helping us lose weight are, in fact, owned by food or investment companies. For example Weightwatchers was sold to Heinz in 1978 and  Slimfast is owned by global food company Unilever. Additionally, a US diet phenomena ‘Jenny Craig’ was bought by Nestle.

So – the food companies dedicated to making a profit and making us fat, are also dedicated to making a profit by promising to also slim us down.

Another issue highlighted by the article was the fact that the parameters of what constitutes ‘normal’ and ‘overweight’ underwent a change in the late 90s. The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) drafted a report on obesity, lowering the cut-off point for being overweight – from a BMI of 27 to 25 and as the article puts rather startlingly: “Overnight millions of people around the globe would shift from the ‘normal’ to ‘overweight’ category”.

The article continues to say that the funding for the IOTF report lowering the BMI, came  directly from drug companies, who may have a vested interest in profiting from this ‘epidemic’ as weight-loss drugs are now a multi-billion pound industry.

Often the ‘processed food’ industry and the tobacco industry are compared. Both which sell products which we know are detrimental to public health and both which are quite famous for attempting to distort the science and denying any harm from their products. This is highlighted in the article as it mentions a confidential memo, written by an executive in the tobacco industry advising Kraft foods on strategies for dealing with criticism for creating obesity. It is entitled “Lessons learned from the Tobacco Wars”. It gives advice on how the food industry can fight to deny any culpability in the problem of obesity, and suggests that “a panoply of defensive strategies are put in action”.

For me, as a nutritionist, this is scary stuff. We are fighting against some of the richest and most powerful companies in the world in the struggle to reduce obesity and improve the health of the public.

Companies sell foods high in fat and sugar and empty of nutrients. They promote them to our children, make them cheap, work with the supermarkets to advertise them in the most prominent ways and use the most robust marketing tools possible to continue to sell these foods that we all know are unhealthy. Then, when people become overweight, that very same food industry will then produce highly processed ‘diet foods’ which often contain more sugar and still have high levels of fat with the promise that they will make us thin.

There are a lot of people making money out of obesity and unfortunately, very few who will make money out of us achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Therefore, I ask, is it up to us as individuals to make the ultimate change?

Original article can be viewed here:

Fat Profits: how the food industry cashed in on obesity by Jacques Peretti.

How about a Healthy Halloween..?

With one in three children in year 6 being overweight or obese, festive times like Halloween and Christmas certainly aren’t going to be any help towards bringing these levels of childhood obesity down.

Halloween is yet another event in our calendars, which is now simply represented by sugar and fat in the form of sweets and chocolates. Why not challenge this idea and have a go at offering something slightly different.

  • Homemade sweets – Offer something homemade which is likely to contain less sugar and additives. You could try making some sweets and basing them on fruits e.g. apricots coated in dark chocolate.
  • Healthier options – Instead of sweets you could offer boxes of raisins or other dried fruits (mango and banana are popular), bunches of grapes or packets of mixed fruit and nut (see photos below).
  • Halloween themed toys – instead of sweeties why not opt to give out Halloween themed toys, magazines or minature games for children to play with. It might make a nice change for them and is something that will at least last past their bedtime.

If you do want to give out sweets, be mindful of how much you are giving. Opt for snack size chocolate bars and packets of sweet rather than large bags and only offer a small amount per child.

It may sound like an unlikely and unpopular idea but remember, we are living in times when these foods are not just eaten at Christmas, birthdays and Halloween. They are generally consumed on a daily basis, which, as the National Child Measurement shows us, is resulting in increased weight and decreased health for our next generation of children.

Every little helps.

See my cousin's little boy, Archie, Trick or Treating for apples at a local market. Adorable.
See my cousin’s little boy, Archie, Trick or Treating for apples at a local market. Adorable.

Other ideas for a healthy Halloween:

Take a look at this great spread of Healthy Halloween treats from my friend and colleague Catherine Lippe:

From: http://www.catherinelippenutrition.co.uk
From: http://www.catherinelippenutrition.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

also

Kelly Springer MS, RD, CDN – “Halloween gone healthy with scary parfaits…….yogurt is goo, grapes are eye balls, strawberries mashed up is blood, granola is the ground bones…..gross, fun and healthy!”

Wholefoods market ideas:

– Creepy ginger ale with spooky ice cubes – Blood-red, raspberry ice cubes are fun for tricks and treats alike. As the ice cubes melt, the soda will turn red!

– Popcorn bags – mixed with paprika for that rusty, spooky look.

Childhood Obesity and Food Marketing…

There is always controversy in the food and nutrition world. One of the most disputed and complicated area of nutrition is the question of responsibility. Ultimately, what we want to know is: ‘Whose responsibility is it to fix the obesity epidemic’?

Should Government be taking control of the problem? Is it simply down to parenting choices? Is it the job of public health and our doctors? Or, does the food industry need to own up and take some accountability?

Well whichever view you have you will find plenty of opposition. Food industry blames the parents, parents blame the government and so on, and so on.

Ultimately, as I have said many times before, everybody, including schools, politicians, individuals and food corporations need to work together to create positive changes and improve the health of our next generations. However one of the biggest influencers of public health IS the food industry.

Don’t believe me?

Have a look at this incredible video from the American foodmyths.org  and see if we can change your mind?

 

 

Ask a Nutritionist: Q and As on Nutrition and School Kids…

Q1. Should schools have a say which foods the children should bring to the school? Why?

Yes. With one in three children in year 6 now overweight or obese we need to start seeing combined efforts from parents, schools, health professionals, the food industry and the Government in order to make a change. Schools have a significant role to play in reducing obesity and improving the diets of children. By helping to control what foods children are consuming during one or two meals of the day (as well as educating parents and children on what foods are and are not nutritionally adequate) schools may be able to have a positive impact on the health and even the weight of these children.

Q2. Do you think parents should have a stronger influence on their children’s nutrition? How do you think they are able to do this?

Parental influence is extremely significant. We know that overweight parents are likely to have overweight children and therefore this is an area that needs much improvement. Unfortunately we live in an ‘obesogenic’ society and consuming unhealthy, high calorie foods as well as being sedentary is the default behaviour for many people. Parents certainly have the power to influence their child’s eating behaviour and activity levels but this needs to be instilled from a young age. Educating parents on the importance of a healthy weight and a healthy diet are some of the ways this could be improved, however, little change will occur without alterations to the way the food industry markets their food to children and families and without tighter Government regulations or without a united healthy eating message from health professionals.

 

Butter Vs Margarine: What will you be choosing..?

I came across this interesting video looking at how butter is made which inspired me to share it and discuss the age old argument of Butter Vs Margarine.

The question of whether butter or margarine are better for our health is an ongoing controversial issue in the nutrition world.

When margarine was initially developed it was hailed as a healthy alternative to butter. However, manufacturers were using a process called hydrogenation which involves heating oils to very high temperatures in order to make them solid. Unfortunately, this created what we now know as trans fats which raise the “bad” cholesterol in the body and lower the “good”.

Since this was discovered manufacturers in the UK worked very hard to reduce the levels of trans fats in margarine and now most of these products contain only traces of it. The process of hardening these fats without hydrogenating them is now a process called interesterification and involves changing the structure of the fat molecule which is usually done with chemicals and enzymes.

As you can see from the video above butter is also made in a way that involves a fair amount of processing and the addition of quite a lot of salt as well as sometimes preservatives, however it is perhaps still more ‘natural’ than its margarine counterpart.

So what is the answer?

Seeing as in the UK most of our fat consumption comes from foods other than butter and margarine such as meat and processed meat products, fast foods and foods such as cakes and biscuits does our choice of spread really matter?

As long as we remember that most spreads are high in fats and should be used sparingly then I would leave it up to an individual to decide on their own preference.

Fruit Juice Vs Whole Fruits…

With the Government pushing their 5-A-Day messages and health professionals constantly promoting the benefits of fruits and vegetables, you would hope that people are starting to get the message to “just eat more”.

However, as is always the case with anything ‘nutrition’, there has been some conflicting information and confusion around the concept of fruit juice. This has been highlighted by recent research suggesting that ‘whole fruits protect against diabetes but juice is a risk factor for diabetes’.

Official recommendations suggest fresh juice should count towards no more than one of your 5 a day. The reasons behind this are as follows:

Whole fruits – When you consume a whole fruit you are consuming the flesh, the skin and the pulp. Each of these parts contain different sets of nutrients – such as fiber and flavonoids in the skin and vitamins and minerals in the flesh and even more fibre in the pulp. The nutrients in each component are likely to interact with each other, enhancing their digestion and absorption into the body.

Fruit juice – With fruit juice, the skin and pulp of the fruits are often removed which therefore reduces the number of nutrients and leaves a much more concentrated source of sugar. This concentrated source of sugar results in rapid increases in blood glucose and therefore blood insulin levels which may be detrimental for health and increase the risk of diabetes (see more on sugar’s effect on health here). Additionally some juices contain added sugar and/or sweeteners so you always need to check the labels.

So what is the answer?

  • Fruit juice is ok to have occasionally as long as it is 100% juice (with no added sugar) and you keep to no more than around one glass of juice a day.
  • Making fruit juice at home, including skin, pulp, flesh and even some vegetables, can help to increase the fibre, vitamin and mineral content of the juice. However, it is still likely too have an increased affect on blood glucose levels.
  • If you are a big drinker of soft and fizzy drinks however, swapping to fresh juice is still a better option as it contain extra vitamins and minerals which are not found in the empty calories of other soft drinks.

Children under 5 do not need fruit juice in any form. Milk and water are the only tooth friendly sources of fluid and these are what should be encouraged. However if you do decide to give your child juice it should be:

  • 100% juice
  • diluted with water
  • offered only in a cup or free flowing beaker and
  • offered only at mealtimes.

For more information see our blog on appropriate drinks for children.

Processed foods linked to allergy risk in infants…

What are our infants and toddlers eating?

A new study undertaken in the UK has found that babies eating diets higher in real, fresh and homemade food were less likely to develop food allergies than babies who were fed predominantly on processed or packaged foods.

This is something that health professionals have been shouting about for years. Children’s consumption of homemade, real food is something that should be encouraged from the very first introduction to solids.

During early weaning, offering homecooked foods means that babies are likely to be exposed to different tastes, textures and flavours – thereby reducing fussy eating later on -as well as allowing them to become familiar with the taste and smells of family meals.

Additionally foods that are highly processed such as ready meals, convenience foods and even processed baby foods often contain lower levels of nutrients and higher levels of fat, sugar and salt – which we need to keep to a minimum in the diets of our children.

As this study shows there may also be a link with high intakes of these foods and higher risk of your child developing allergies.

Dr. Magnus Wickman, a professor in Sweden commented on the study saying that

“Healthy food has so many good things, and maybe it also can reduce the risk of food allergy in the child,”

To see the article in full, see here:

Diet and food allergy development during infancy: Birth cohort study findings using prospective food diary data

To read more about feeding your child visit blogs:

First Foods to try

Packed Lunches

Packed Lunches and Your Child: What should they be eating..?

Recently SR Nutrition was asked to appear on BBC Radio Two for a quick chat about Children’s Lunch Boxes! Unfortunately because we’re so busy of late, we couldn’t make it, so thought we would write some tips and information here; it certainly seems to be a popular topic at the moment.

Recent reports have suggested that the Government is considering a proposal to ban lunchboxes in a bid to support the new ‘healthy’ school meals, which have been introduced (that is another story). However children’s lunchboxes always seem to be an important issue, and are especially a huge challenge for parents. How many times can you keep sending the same apple to school before giving up offering a portion of fruit at all?

The trouble mainly stems from the fact that healthy eating simply isn’t “cool”. Additionally the crisps, biscuits and sugary drinks that were once an occasional treat have now become the lunchbox staple and therefore many parents feel they need to conform for fear of their children being left out or even picked on.

Many schools are introducing “Lunchbox Policies” to help tackle this, but there is a lot of resistance from both school children and parents alike. Many feel that they should be able to feed their child as they like. However, with obesity statistics still soaring and one in three children in Year 6 being overweight or obese, (boys 35.4%, girls 32.4%) it seems that something, somewhere needs to change.

Children need a wide variety of nutrients and plenty of energy throughout the day; after all, they are still growing and developing at varying rates. This means that main meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – are all essential to provide children with a good source of energy, as well as a high dose of their daily macro-nutrient (protein, fats, carbohydrates) and micro-nutrient (vitamins, minerals) needs.

Therefore children’s lunch boxes need to include the essential foods that will provide a good balance of their daily nutrient needs.  It is recommended that children’s lunchboxes should contain:

  • Some starchy food – e.g. wholemeal bread, wraps, pasta or crackers
  • A portion of fruit AND a portion of salad or vegetables
  • A portion of dairy food – e.g. small piece of cheese, a small yoghurt or a carton of milk
  • A portion of protein rich food – e.g. tuna, slices of meat, nuts or seeds, egg or beans
  • A HEALTHY drink – e.g. milk, water, 100% juice or a smoothie

For example:

  • A wholemeal sandwich with tuna and sweetcorn
  • An apple
  • A small yoghurt
  • A bottle of water

For more examples and lunchbox ideas please see our Healthy Lunchbox Blog.

However it is all well and good offering great lunchboxes, but getting children to eat the food you offer is another thing. Here are some tips and ideas on how to go about this:

  1. First and foremost don’t pack their lunchbox with high fat and high sugar foods such as sweets, crisps and biscuits. Doing this only means that they will fill up on these ‘empty calories’ first and avoid eating the nutrient dense sections of their lunchbox!
  2. Offer them choice – try changing what you offer day to day, but also involve your child by giving them options that they can choose from. This means that they are more likely to feel like the food offered was their choice, rather than simply what they were given.
  3. Get them involved in preparing the lunchbox – children often eat more food when they know they contributed to its making.
  4. Add in some little extras – including little toys, a note, some pretty ribbons or decorations to your child’s lunchbox can really make the lunchbox a little more special and can be a good way to get your children excited about lunchtime.
  5. Include practical tools – plastic knives and forks, napkins and ice packs ensure your child’s lunchbox stays fresh and makes foods easier to eat.
  6. Listen to their likes and dislikes – if your child doesn’t like apples there is no point continually offering them. Ask them to let you know what foods they do like and keep a list of these so you know it is something they will enjoy.
  7. Pack a variety of food – offering different types of bread as well as wraps, hot cross buns, rolls and bagels help to stop your children getting bored with the same old lunch. Additionally try to reduce waste by using leftovers from the evening meal for their lunchbox the next day.

More Anti-Sugar Campaigns…

Reports on the negative effects of sugar have recently been storming the press, and if you haven’t read any of the coverage it’s time to get up to date now.

Professor Lustig has been a catalyst for the fight against sugar and the sugar industries and now there is yet another new campaign out to try and make the public aware of the effects that sugar can have on our health.

A few of the claims made in this campaign are controversial as the scientific literature has some way to go to catch up. However, a number of specialists including Doctors and researchers are now beginning to agree and get on board the fight against sugar.

See the latest campaign here:

Enough horsing around: The low down on eating meat…

With the “horse meat scandal” recently gripping our attention in the press, we thought it was about time to set the story straight and help our readers to understand the dire situation we currently have with our meat purchasing practices.

Meat is a source of iron, protein and provides a number of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. However, in the EU we are currently consuming around 2.5 times the recommended amount of meat and the NHS now recommend that people should be consuming no more than 70g of meat a day to ensure good health.

Factory Farming and our Health & Environment | Slow food movement

A recent document written by Compassion in World Farming, in combination with Slow Food and Action Aid, has highlighted the need for changes in our current meat consumption in the UK. You can see the full report here: Too Much at Steak and we have provided a brief summary of the important points below.

Standard industrial farming and what it means:

  • Our desire for excessive meat consumption and the belief that it should be cheap,     drives farmers to produce large quantities of low quality meat.
  • The more cheap meat we buy, the higher the environmental costs e.g. public health, animals, farmers, the environment.
  • For every 100 calories of food fed to livestock, only 30 calories are produced (that excess could have been used to feed the hungry in under-developed countries).
  • Industrial livestock production produces huge quantities of manure and requires the use of environment damaging pesticides and fertilisers. Even our honey bees are dying out from this!
  • Industrial meat production is therefore clearly a large contributor to climate change and greenhouse gases.
  • Producing a kilo of beef is equivalent in energy to leaving a100-watt light bulb switched on for 20 days!
  • Animals fed grains rather than fed naturally on grass or forage have lower levels of omega-3s; this means those eating poor quality meat may also be low in essential omega-3s.
  • The modern intensively farmed dairy cow is the hardest working of all farmed animals and is killed after around 4 years (rather than naturally after 15 years) when they are so worn out that they become infertile and so are of no use to farmers.
  • Animals are treated as commodities and kept in unnatural environments often with no lighting, no space to move and in their own excrement.
  • The long transport times of live animals also puts them under a lot of stress and high doses of antibiotics and other drugs are often used to reduce infections due to close confinement.Many farms are going out of business as there are very small returns for the farmers after supermarkets and processed food industries take their cut.

So what can YOU do about it:

  1. Base your diet on plant foods “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” (Michael Pollen).
  2. Choose local products, including meat where possible by checking the label.
  3. Try different cuts of meat as the parts of the animal that are not purchased are just wasted which leads to a higher demand for meat.
  4. Buy different types of meat rather than just opting for chicken and steak.
  5. Ask about the welfare standards of the meat and meat products you buy.
  6. Eat less meat but choose a higher quality meat when you do so.
  7. Check standards of particular brands see www.compassioninfoodbusiness.com and use the higher standard companies more often.
  8. Avoid overly cheap meat prices as these are a sign of exploitation.

Allergy Friendly Baby Food…

So SR Nutrition’s founder, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, has her first E-book published in partnership with Dribble delights (http://www.dribbledelights.co.uk) which is designed to help parents of children with food allergies and food intolerances through the weaning process and beyond, using natural ingredients and simple recipes.

All recipes are made without Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Lactose, Eggs, Soya and Nuts and the book also contains tips and advice on weaning and feeding your baby.

The release of the book is aligned with Allergy Awareness Week 2013, which began on 22nd April. The e-book will retail at a special launch price of £6.95 and be available to purchase through Lulu. (http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/allergy-friendly-baby-food/13809337) The book caters for babies 6-12 months, from early eaters to confident eaters.

Click on the picture below to buy the book:

Follow Charlotte