Alcohol during pregnancy: What’s the current advice?

In January 2016 our Government’s Chief Medical Advisor proposed new guidelines around alcohol,  including new advice on consuming alcohol during pregnancy. These new guidelines have now been accepted by the Government and you can read about them here & specifically on pregnancy here.

Previous guidelines were published in 1995 so there was certainly a need for this update from the Government.

What do the new alcohol guidelines say (non-pregnant population)?

The new guidelines state a recommended upper limit of alcohol per week, rather than per day for adults who are not pregnant. The guidelines also set an upper limit which is same for BOTH males and females.

The new upper limit for alcohol suggests that we should:

“not drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level”.

It’s also recommended to spread this intake out over three days or more.

Previously, women were advised to drink no more than 2-3 units a day and men no more than 3-4 units a day.

What do the new guidelines say about alcohol during pregnancy?

Advice around alcohol during pregnancy has also changed, which has been quite a controversial move by the UK Government.

Previous recommendations suggested that alcohol should be avoided (especially during the first 3 months of pregnancy) but, that if a pregnant woman chooses to drink, they should have no more than 1-2 units once or twice a week.

The new guidelines take a much more hard line approach and suggest that:

“if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum”.

 Why the changes to advice on alcohol during pregnancy?

Personally I was pleased to see the changes to advice on alcohol during pregnancy. There are many reasons why this recommendation has been made, and why it may seem like the Government have taken a tough approach with their new guidelines.

Firstly, the latest guidelines were based on old research and since 1995, research around alcohol intake during pregnancy has moved on. The new recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer have taken into account the most up to date research and evidence on alcohol and health from all over the world.

Guidelines on alcohol intake during pregnancy
Diageo Alcohol Awareness Session

Additionally, what is a ‘safe’ amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy is largely unknown and is likely to vary from person to person – which makes it impossible to safely recommend any level of alcohol intake. Additionally the range of impacts that can occur from consuming alcohol during pregnancy are wide, and known under the umbrella term as “Foetal Alcohol Syndrome”.  However, research on the effect that low levels of alcohol can have on a growing foetus is complicated and also likely to be minimal. However we can’t be sure that drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is completely safe for an individual.

Lastly, although we usually measure alcohol consumption in units, it seems that many people don’t completely understand what units mean and how many are in drinks. Recently I was invited to a roundtable event with Diageo where the Registered Nutritionists and Dietitians attending were asked to try and work out levels of alcohol in a variety of drinks. Results varied, showing that even for professionals the advice on units may not be 100% clear. Therefore, recommending specific units as ‘maximum amounts’ to have during pregnancy is likely to be interpreted differently by individuals and therefore poses a risk towards over consumption.

To read more about units and interpretation of them you can visit the NHS website and find out more, additionally there is a ‘drink aware’ website that can help you to tot up units and calorie intakes from alcohol at a time when you’re not pregnant.

Conclusion on alcohol during pregnancy…

For now, if you’re pregnant or even trying for a baby, the best advice is to avoid drinking alcohol as we simply don’t know what levels might be ‘safe’.

How about a Healthy, Happy Christmas ?

Christmas is all about the chocolates, mince pies and sweeties…right? Well how about a Healthy, Happy Christmas this year…? No, maybe I can convince you. My latest blog talked all about the long month that is December and how we can actually improve how we feel in January by eating for the season and watching what we eat before we get to the big day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…healthy eating…over Christmas?! But, actually, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy yourself, to indulge a little but also to not start the year feeling at your worst and yet again forcing yourself into another diet which you know won’t last first two weeks of January? (See my ditch the detox article for Harper’s Bazaar and articles on New Year New You!)

Below I’ve written some of my FAVOURITE top tips to help you make the most out of the holiday season, but without compromising your weight and health for next year!

  • Aim to stick to your normal food routine, eating regularly to make sure you don’t miss out on your daily nutrients or that hunger pangs lead to episodes of overeating!
  • Try to eat regularly, having something similar to a breakfast, lunch, dinner and some healthy snacks in-between – even on Christmas Day – as this can help you to avoid grazing on too many readily available choccies during the day.
  • Top up at breakfast by having something filling and nutrient-dense such as scrambled egg on wholemeal toast or porridge with dried fruits. See my top ten healthy breakfasts for some inspo!
  • Use seasonal foods such as chestnuts, oranges and cranberries to highlight the festive time rather than just focusing on sweets and other ‘empty calories’.
  • Hot cross buns, teacakes and fruit scones can make a delicious, healthy treats and there are plenty of in-season vegetables to include in meals and snacks throughout the day too.
  • For Christmas dinner try lean and organic meats so you eat less calories for your meal overall.
  • Trim the fat off any meats and also try healthier methods of cooking such as boiling, steaming, grilling and dry roasting.
  • You could also try making your own gravy using the water from the vegetables rather than the fat from the meat and use herbs, spices and lemon juice to flavour foods and dishes, rather than salt, sugar and fat.
  • Make homemade soups using seasonal vegetables or leftover vegetables to avoid food waste and as another healthy meal idea.
  • Christmas dinner is all about the….VEG…! Remember to fill your plate with mostly vegetables, which helps to boost your nutrient and fibre intake, whilst keeping calorie intake much lower. You could also make mealtimes a little more exciting by trying new or exotic vegetables with your evening meals.
  • Fruit puddings are great at this time of year so have a go at making plenty of nutrient-rich desserts for the whole family.
  • Get outside and get active – it may be cold, but this time of year is all about having fun, playing and being with your family. So instead of sitting inside, watching TV and playing computer games, get the kids wrapped up and get outside for some active games, snowman building or a nice walk.
  • Alternatively make plenty of active games to take part in inside such as hide and seek or musical chairs.
  • Avoid fizzy and sugary drinks this year and instead try making your own fresh juices or opt for cordials. You could try making a non-alcoholic mulled wine for the family by warming fruit juice and adding some cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours.
  • When going to parties, try and have a small, healthy snack to eat before you leave so you don’t feel too hungry when you get there. Avoid standing by buffet tables and reduce the urge to ‘pick’ at foods, which often ends in us eating much more than we think.
  • When drinking, try and have some water in-between each alcoholic drink to keep you hydrated and stop you from getting too drunk and feeling the effect the next day. See my article from Harper’s Bazaar on the best alcohol choices.
  • Don’t completely restrict yourself – enjoy your cake and some choccies – but be mindful that going overboard is likely to make you feel much worse in the long run.

I hope you’ve found these useful! Please do send me any tips you have yourself or any feedback on the ideas above. Have a Healthy, Happy Christmas!

Christmas Healthy Eating

Eating for the Season: December

It’s December and time to kick-start your health in the run up to Christmas and start eating for the season …..Seriously, forget January when we are often feeling at our worst. Making some healthy changes now, at the very start of December could see us enjoying the Christmas ‘blow outs’ and parties without feeling so awful afterwards. Food shouldn’t ever make us feel guilty, but if you’ve given up with healthy eating at the very start of December you can end up with a whole month of unhealthy behaviours to make up for!

So forget the sweets, cakes, pies and chocolates for just a little while longer, and focus on eating healthily and ‘seasonably’ this winter.

There are SO MANY great foods which are at their best this month and that are so easy to include in the diet. Eating fruits and vegetables in season also means that they will be at their peak and therefore more nutrient dense – so get munching!

There is a full list of seasonable fruit and veggies at the bottom but for now, here are a few of my favourites.

Eating for the season: December –

Apples in season
Source: http://blovelyevents.com/2013/09/27/how-bout-them-apples/

Apples – These fruits are something that we tend to eat all year round, but in the winter they are at their best and there are so many ways to consume them. I love chopping apples up and having them with a few slices of cheese or with some peanut butter spread on top. They are also great in homemade pies, smoothies and even soups! Don’t forget the fun you can have with apple bobbing too and using them for decorations around the house.

Clementines – Just perfect at this time of year and one of my all time favourite snacks. Leaving them lying around the house in the Christmas holidays is a great way to add colour to your room, as well as encouraging people to eat them, thereby getting plenty of vitamin C and fibre. Helping to prevent the recent scurvy problems we’ve recently been hearing about!

Chestnuts – these, as the song goes, are great roasted on an open fire, but if you don’t have an open fire you can always roast them at home. See here for BBC Good Food’s recipe on roasting chestnuts. These are quite a luxury item too and something that children are bound to love getting involved with.

Leeks, Carrots and Celeriac – So good in soup and these three also go together so nicely too. Celeriac is an odd looking vegetable; but makes a brilliant soup – try it chopped and cooked with an onion and a little seasoning and then liquidised – adding something different to your December diet for the whole family.

Dates – Another good food to include as snack or to add with your cereal in the morning to add some fibre and some nutrients. Remember that dates are high in sugar and the chewy nature of dates means that they are best to consume alongside other foods such as cereals, yogurts and desserts.

Eating for the season
Homemade sweet potato wedges sprinkled with paprika!

Sweet potato – I love using these as an alternative to an ordinary potato or making them into homemade, chunky wedges and sprinkling them with paprika. A perfect winter warming comfort food idea.

Cranberries – Usually great made into cranberry sauce but this can be used alongside roasts, served with pies or even used as a sauce served with breakfasts and puddings. A great way to add a few antioxidants and vitamins into your diet this winter too.

Swede, Turnip, Parsnips – Again great for soups and for an addition to any roast. These can also be used as alternatives to mashed potato, for example on top of shepherd’s pie or with a homemade fish pie. They can also be roasted and sprinkled with herbs to make good alternatives to chips.

Kale, Cabbage and Pak Choi – These are all perfectly in season and great to add as a side to many dishes to make sure you’re getting some leafy greens. Kale – when seasoned well – can be fab used as a side salad and any of these could be used instead of spinach in an omelette or in a stir fry.

Let me know what your favourites are and how you plan to use them when you’re eating for the season in December! And don’t forget my list of healthy dinner ideas, which can be used all year round!

Lastly, a comprehensive list of December’s best fruits and vegetables:

Apples

Artichokes

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celeriac

Celery

Clementines

Cranberries

Chestnuts

Dates

Kale

Leeks

Pak Choi

Parsnip

Pear

Pumpkin

Sprouts

Spring onion

Swede

Sweet Potato

Turnip

Winter Warming Comfort Foods: Harper’s Bazaar article…

Forget what you currently think about comfort foods! Winter warming comfort foods don’t have to involve high calories and zero nutrients. There are PLENTY of delicious, warming, healthy foods that will give you energy, a dose of nutrients and a buzz to keep you happy during cold winter months. Throughout January – with the return to work and the post-Christmas blues – there is no better time to start focusing on healthier comfort foods.

With the world now posting about their ‘healthy’ dinners and their #Fitspo on social media, there are so many ways you can get your inspiration for good, healthy foods. My instagram has been FILLED with winter warming ideas and quick fix meals that don’t take forever to prepare. I also try and ensure that my instagram is filled with REALISTIC foods, so that people actually feel confident that they can make them. Head over to my instagram if you’d like some ideas from my page and check out some of my favourite sample ideas below too.

Otherwise….this month I have written a piece for Harper’s Bazaar (see here for other work I’ve written for Harper’s Bazaar too) all about my healthy comfort foods to include right now! The article also has plenty of top tips for healthier cooking too including using plenty of vegetables, trying out meat free days and getting to grips with herbs and spices.

Check out the article here and let me know if you have any ideas you want to add to my list too – always happy to take more food ideas from readers.

Lastly, here are a couple of recipes for my Enchilada WrapsMinestrone Soup and Scones and my favourite list of Healthy Dinner Ideas to keep you going until Christmas 😉

Eating for the season
Homemade sweet potato wedges sprinkled with paprika!
Healthy Dinner ideas
Wrap pizza anyone? So quick and delicious!
Charlotte's easy peasy Pesto Recipe
Courgetti with homemade pesto anyone?
Winter Warming Comfort Foods
Minestrone soup with some wholegrain garlic sourdough!

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is the way nature intended us to feed our babies. However, for some women breastfeeding is not possible and for others, they simply choose not to do so. Certain research tells us that mothers often feel judged about the way they choose to feed their infant, regardless of whether their chosen method is via breast of formula milk. This ‘shaming’ is a societal problem and shows a real need to influence society’s opinion and understanding on infant feeding in the UK. On top of this, mothers need to be supported in their method of infant feeding by health care professionals and others around them.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that there are a number of benefits of breastfeeding both for the health of baby and for a breastfeeding mother.

The benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Firstly, breast milk is a dynamic food, meaning that it is ever changing dependent on the needs of a baby. In hotter weather breast milk will become more liquid, to help keep baby hydrated. Additionally at the end of a feed the breast milk will often become more concentrated, signifying baby to come to the end of their feed. This helps encourage self-regulation. Over time the composition of breast milk also changes as baby grows and develops and their nutritional needs change.
  • Breast milk contains antibodies and immune factors which help to build baby’s immune defences.
  • Colostrum (the first milk secreted from the breast in the first few days after birth) also contains antibodies to provide immune support for baby straight away. This colostrum is also high in vitamin A, D and B12 which are all important in supporting and building baby’s own immune system.
  • Breast milk has been shown to protect infants from gastrointestinal infections as well as containing enzymes which aid in digestion and absorption.
  • Breastmilk also appears to be protective against allergies and eczema as well as other childhood diseases and infections (such as respiratory tract infections).
  • Breast milk cannot be replicated

Benefits of breastfeeding for mum:

On top of this, there are some added benefits of breastfeeding for mothers too.

Firstly, breast milk is free which can save a great deal of money in a child’s first year of life (estimated around £700.00+ based on First Steps Nutrition Trust’s £16.00/week calculation.)

Additionally, it’s very convenient – you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t need sterilizing equipment, expensive bottles or varying teats. This also means less risk of contamination and bacteria which can occur if a feed isn’t made up correctly.

Lastly, the benefits of breastfeeding for mum include the fact that it uses up excess calories each day and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life.

What vitamin Drops should I be giving to my baby?

Jamie Oliver takes on the Child Obesity Plan

Today I’ve been invited to attend a debate with Jamie Oliver (eeek!) where he is hoping to simply re-open the UK’s current obesity debate! I’m looking forward to seeing how Jamie Oliver takes on the child obesity plan.

The problem with the Child Obesity Plan –

Since the release of the ‘Child Obesity Plan’ in the UK, which was published in August, there seems to be a general consensus from health care professionals and public health figures alike that it just isn’t good enough.

The ‘strategy’ seemed to start out as a much more rounded and robust plan with input from a number of experts and a positive response from David Cameron. However, since Theresa May came to power the report was altered and released as a 13 page document in the middle of Parliament’s summer recess (when no one was in Parliament to give it any attention). The response from those who care about child obesity was astounding. To read the responses from some of the UK’s biggest media outlets, see my blog post –> Childhood Obesity Plan: Nutrition News

You can also see what the original suggestions were for the report from Public Health England, here: https://www.srnutrition.co.uk/2015/10/childhood-obesity-sugar-tax-and-more

The Child Obesity Debate re-opens –

Today Jamie Oliver is gathering social media influencers and industry experts to re-open the obesity debate, ahead of his appearance on Dispatches; ‘The Secret Plan to Save Fat Britain’ (Monday October 31, 8pm on Channel 4). This programme plans to investigates the change in the government’s childhood obesity strategy.

I’m really pleased to be asked to join as I completely agree that the report was a HUGE disappointment to public health, especially at a time when we simply can’t afford not to make BIG and BOLD changes.

Current Child Obesity Statistics –

You may have seen the slide below before from the National Obesity Observatory, but it becomes more concerning when we know that very little progress is actually being made to reduce these worrying levels of obesity.

Child Obesity

At a meeting recently, when I asked a Department of Health representative how they were actually acting on childhood obesity I was told that the Government would be:

  • Working with industry to introduce voluntary sugar reduction targets
  • Introducing a sugar tax on sugary drinks
  • Starting the conversation about obesity more broadly in the upcoming weeks/months/years (?!)

See more about what the Government’s plans are the full Child Obesity Plan.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that there are some changes happening BUT these suggestions are, alone, going to have a VERY minor impact on obesity rates (if any), unless they are combined with many, many more. We need tighter regulations like we have seen working now for smoking. To back this up, following on from the obesity plan we saw industry members themselves calling for the regulations around sugar reduction to be made mandatory, not voluntary. We also have known for years from reports such as the McKinsey report that multiple interventions are needed to reduce obesity. Not single interventions in isolation.

Jamie Oliver takes on the Child Obesity Plan

So what’s Jamie’s role in this? Well I have written before about the positive role that celebrities and public health campaigners like Jamie Oliver can have on public health. In Jamie’s view this Obesity plan “…will not save lives, it will not help unburden the NHS from the enormous strain it is under from Obesity, and it is not fit for purpose in any way.”

This debate is planning on opening out the discussion on Child Obesity once again and hopefully Jamie’s dispatches show will go some way to doing this also. See the trailer here:

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 levels of childhood obesity down!

Halloween Sweets!

Halloween is yet another event in our calendars, which is now simply represented by sugar and fat in the form of sweets and chocolates. I always think it’s a shame when festive times get taken over by unhealthy foods alone. There are so many delicious, healthy foods out there and there are also so many ways to make festive times fun without simply reaching for the sugar!

A Healthy Halloween?

This Halloween, why not challenge the idea of high sugar, high fat foods being the centre and try something different to make Halloween fun? You could try games, decorating the house, Halloween related dinners or even a ghost walk with the family.

If you’re looking for some sweet treats that might still be of interest to your little ones, there are still plenty of these ideas too. A quick Google search for Healthy Halloween Ideas can help but I’ve included some of my favourite ideas below.

  • Focus on fruits. There are so many varieties of fruits and so many colours that it’s easy to make things like squashed brains (mashed banana), blood (squashed red fruits), spiders (raisins with legs) etc.
  • Try making homemade sweets so you can control the amount of sugar in them. There are plenty of recipes online. Again, you can also base these on fruits – apricots, bananas and strawberries dipped in chocolate, flapjacks with writing on them, cornflake cakes with red berries squashed on top.
  • Halloween themed toys may also work instead of sweeties why not opt to give out Halloween themed toys, magazines or miniature 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.
  • Tangerines and bananas also make a great treat, especially if you can draw some spooky faces on them.
  • Making mini popcorn bags can be fun too. Make some plain popcorn and top them off with a sprinkle of paprika so they have a rusty, halloweeney look, or you could dip them in squashed raspberries too.

Of course these are all ideal treats for kids at this time of year, but realistically (and if you want to avoid your house being egged!) you may also need to offer up some run of the mill (boring) sweets too. If this is the case, try to opt for snack size chocolate bars and small packets of sweet rather than large grab bags and just offer a small amount, rather than handfuls per child.

Some more Healthy Halloween ideas..

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 is resulting in increased weight and poor health for our children.

Other ideas for a Healthy Halloween:

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

Hello Fresh UK have also shared some brilliant ideas for healthy, fun Halloween treats too:

See my cousin’s little boy, Archie, Trick or Treating for apples at a local market. Adorable.
Healthy Snack ideas for toddlers
Healthy Halloween
From: http://www.catherinelippenutrition.co.uk

This website also has some fab foodie ideas with a real Halloween twist

And here are some other ideas from twitter too:

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! – Kelly Springer MS, RD, CDN

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! – Wholefoods market

Harper’s Bazaar Nutrition Writer…

One of this things I love about my work is speaking to the masses – mainly via the media. There is so much confusion about food and nutrition, and so I like to try and get “out there” and have my voice heard as much as possible. As a Registered Nutritionist I only talk about evidenced-based nutrition – basically nutrition messages that have scientific research behind them – not simply my opinion or something I read in a paper.

Harper’s Bazaar Nutrition Writer

That’s one of the reasons why I love (and am very proud of) the articles I have written for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Harper’s Bazaar is known as one of the most ‘sophisticated women’s fashion magazines’ in the UK. The Hearst UK website says that the Harper’s Bazaar reader is: “…a discerning, style-conscious, intelligent 30+ woman who is cultured, well-travelled and independent. She knows her own mind, yet also appreciates Bazaar’s curated edit, helpful advice, and knowledgeable point of view.” So it’s great to have some kind of influence over the nutrition advice that this group of people have access too.

My Harper’s articles

I’ve written for Harper’s on a variety of topics and provided them with quotes on a number of their own articles. These include:

Drinking Smart – an article about what we should and shouldn’t be ordering at the bar

Ditch the Detox – An honest article highlighting how we’ve been slightly duped by the ‘detox’ myth and explaining how our body will quite happily do the detoxing for us.

Best foods for fertility: An article cutting through the myths and getting to the bottom of foods that can actually help with fertility

The Healthy Way to Barbeque: A fun article which gives a bit of a healthy twist on the traditional British BBQ

What are the benefits of a Vegan Diet? A look into some of the more positive aspects of the 2015/2016 vegan trend.

The healthiest takeaway breakfasts: Giving you the best choices for a quick fix breakfast when you just don’t have the time to sit down in the morning.

Do food fads really work? A Q and A with me and another nutritionist looking at different food fads and their pros and cons.

Healthy low-calorie comfort foods: All about winter warming, healthy food ideas to get you through the winter when you need it the most.

I’m hoping to do more work with Harper’s Bazaar in the future so watch this space and I hope you find the above interesting. Let me know if you have any topics you’d just love to read in Harper’s so I can pitch some ideas to their team by contacting me here.

Guidelines on alcohol intake during pregnancy

What’s the problem with clean eating?

A few weeks ago I was asked to be part of an expert panel for The Rooted Project, where we discussed some hot nutrition topics in front of 150+ audience members. The hosts had sent us ideas for questions in advance, all of which were really relevant to today’s society and the trends and fads that we see about nutrition in the media.

One of those hot topics was the idea of ‘clean eating’ which has, in the last few months, had some bad publicity from the science community. Never the less, it’s a popular topic and one of the most shared foodie hashtags on instagram too!

So let’s start positively, what’s right with ‘clean eating’?

Well, for me, anything that encourages the public to think about their food and pay attention to their nutrition and health status is a good thing. So encouraging people to eat more home cooked meals, include more veggies in their daily diet and to try new foods is certainly a plus.

Recently ‘health’ seems to have come onto many peoples’ agenda and I for one am really pleased to see this happening. However, the WAY in which we think about or try to improve our health is also important.

So what’s the problem with ‘clean eating’?

The problem comes mainly from the title. Firstly – what does clean eating even mean, as it seems to mean completely different things

how much sugar is ok
To cut out or to cut down?

to different people; Vegan? Raw food diets? Avoidance of processed foods? Home-cooked only? Fresh ingredients? Who knows, the definition is up for grabs and depends largely on an individuals’ interpretation of what ‘clean’ really means.

Additionally, clean eating suggests that other ways of eating are ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’ and this isn’t the message that Public Health Nutritionists, and dietitians have been trying to get across about our food. It’s actually not very helpful to make people think that some foods are ‘bad’ or ‘good’ as it often stirs up negative emotions when eating. For example, we eat a large bar of chocolate and we feel guilty or like a failure, when in fact, healthy eating is all about context!

If you eat well the majority of the time, then having chocolate or cake, or anything you fancy, isn’t ‘bad’ at all. I’ve been trying to help people understand the moderation side of healthy eating since I started my career, and I’ve seen first-hand how overly restrictive diets can have the exact opposite impact on a person’s health.

Health isn’t just about body, it’s about a good physical AND mental condition and therefore if you’re feeling guilty about eating certain foods, then that’s not healthy either.

Eating well should allow you to have a balance and a healthy relationship with food and your own food choices. Not restrict you and make you feel bad about your one-off food ‘splurges’.

Is clean eating realistic?

The other thing that I don’t like about the whole ‘clean eating’ fiasco is that it’s comparable to celebrity magazines, in that it often sells an ‘unrealistic’ portrayal of what a healthy lifestyle should be. In exactly the way that we see unrealistic images of celebrity bodies in magazines, which can make us feel inadequate and ‘less of a woman’, the same thing may be said about ‘clean eating’. People may feel pressure to have beautifully presented ‘clean’ meals every day, and feel like failures if they cannot keep up or when life just gets in the way!

That’s one of the reasons why I try and make my instagram blog as realistic and honest as possible. Real, simple foods that anyone can make and that don’t cost the earth!

So, in conclusion, when it comes to clean eating…

By all means follow bloggers and be inspired

But

Be realistic about foods and think about the CONTEXT of your eating

Also

Do continue to think about health and ways you can improve your diet

BUT

Avoid feeling guilty or having negative relationships with ANY food types.

Lastly, check out my blog on “What actually is a healthy balanced diet” and one on getting the BASICS of nutrition right before attempting to follow health halo trends…

The problem with clean eating
Is this clean eating? I hope not…

Should I be eating for two during pregnancy?

An old myth that people often still refer to is the idea that women need to be eating for two during pregnancy. We now know that during pregnancy a woman’s body becomes much more efficient at absorbing nutrients and in using the bodies’ readily available stores of nutrients too. For this reason, calorie intakes don’t increase much during pregnancy. In fact expectant mothers only need around 200 extra calories during their third trimester and no extra calories in the first and second trimester at all.

This means that pregnant women can eat roughly the same amount of food that they did prior to becoming pre

gnant. However it’s important to make some healthy changes to your diet such as taking pregnancy supplements and keeping an eye on the foods to avoid eating while pregnant.

Extra calories needed during pregnancy?

The extra 200 calories that are recommended during the third trimester are equivalent to eating:

  • a small bowl of porridge and milk
  • a small sandwich

or

  • around 30g of nuts
A good kitchen guide to pregnancy
Herbal tea, a pear and 30 grams of nuts is a great pregnancy snack.

Having cravings for certain foods is fairly normal during pregnancy, but it’s also important to eat healthy foods and to avoid putting on too much weight. If you’re finding you’re hungry, make sure you stick to a structured routine around mealtimes and include some healthy snacks during the day when you’re most likely to feel hunger or cravings. Good snack ideas to include are cheese and crackers, vegetable sticks and dips, plain yogurt and fruit or a handful of nuts and seeds.

Choose protein and fibre rich foods at mealtimes and snacks to help you feel fuller for longer – this includes wholemeal and wholegrain carbohydrates, plenty of vegetables and protein and fibre rich foods such as beans and lentils which can add bulk to meals, without the extra calories. Ensure you’re getting plenty of fluids throughout the day and keeping well hydrated too.

For more information check out my blog post on all the ins and outs of what to eat when you’re pregnant, as well as other clear information about caffeine recommendations for pregnant women and more about SR Nutrition’s work around pregnancy nutrition.

A quick and easy healthy salad

Every now and then, when I talk to people about improving their health, I receive comments like ‘I don’t want to just eat salads all day’, and I probably don’t do much to help quash the stereotype that healthy eating is all about eating salads! This is because I really enjoy salads and I find them tasty and versatile and with a salad, there really are no limits. Take a look at my Healthy Eating in Spring blog to see just what I mean!

Salads are a great, often low calorie, healthy meal option and at the same time they can be a great way to include a good few portions of your 5 A Day too. On top of this, salads can be really cheap, quick and easy to prepare as well as a good way to include a balance of foods from all the food groups.

When making a salad, I try and always include:

  • 2-3 portions of salad and or vegetables/fruits
  • A portion of carbohydrates to help give me energy and keep me fuelled for longer

On top of these two, I often include some dairy in the form of grated or grilled cheese and/or a portion of protein-rich foods such as beans, hummus, egg or lentils…

However, one of my favourite healthy salad recipes this spring has been the healthy salad recipe below. Mainly because it takes no time, is incredibly quick and tasty and allows for total creativity too.

Ingredients: (Serves 1)

  • Around 4 leaves of spring greens (very cheap at this time of year). Or you could use kale or lettuce
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½-1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Some stale bread chopped into little cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary
  • And then whatever veggies you like. I like using tomatoes, avocado, peppers and spring onion, simply because they really work with this recipe

Method:

  1. Chop up all the vegetables you’re going to use and chop the spring greens roughly and add them all to a mixing bowl
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a sauce pan and allow it to heat for a minute
  3. After a minute, add the chopped cubes of bread – turning every 30 seconds so they don’t burn
  4. Meanwhile add lemon juice and the garlic to the spring green mixture and combine all ingredients together well
  5. Just before the bread has browned, add a few sprigs of rosemary to the saucepan and leave to heat for a minute
  6. Once the bread is browned and crisp on the outside add it to the bowl with the salad mixture, mix well and serve.
A quick and easy healthy salad
Delicious! One of my all time favorite salads!

Thriva: At home finger prick blood tests…

A few weeks ago a new company – Thriva – got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to trial out and feedback to them on their new products. As a Nutritionist and blogger it isn’t unusual for me to be asked to trial out products, but as this one was quite different, and I could see some real practical benefits to its use, I was really keen to give it a go.

What is Thriva?

Thriva is a smart, finger-prick blood test that you can use at home. Something I’d never really heard about before, but a concept that I felt straight away could have multiple benefits to members of the public as well as health care professionals. Currently they have two different options for the test kits: “Lifestyle” (£29.00) which tests blood cholesterol and liver function and “Energy” (£49.00) which tests vitamin D, thyroid function and iron levels in your blood.

Thriva’s at home blood testing kits:

The process to complete these finger-prick home blood tests was very impressive. Forget about delayed appointments, GP waiting rooms and minimal feedback from your results. Thriva offer a very efficient service, with just a few clicks of the button.

Having recently had some blood tests done at my local GP surgery, I was quite astounded by the speed with which I went from ordering the test, to receiving my feedback from the team. All in all the whole process was around 2 days.

thriva
How the Thriva box was delivered…

Taking the Thriva at home blood test…

Thriva at home blood test
The complete package and very clear instructions

I chose to trial the “Energy” test kit, as I had never been offered, or had my vitamin D levels tested before, and because I know I have a family history of thyroid problems. Additionally, vitamin D has become a widely debated topic and recent recommendations suggest many of us could benefit from taking vitamin D supplements at certain times of the year.

The test kit comes in a very compact, neat little box which opens out to contain a few lancets to prick your finger, a collection tube, wipes, a plaster, a very clear instruction leaflet and a prepaid envelope for posting it off afterwards. All very simple. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading and following instructions, and I know some people aren’t, but I would strongly recommend following these to the T to make sure you can get enough blood and do it in the safest, most effective way possible.

One thing to add here was that the amount of blood that Thriva were asking me to collect seemed a little overwhelming at first. I can see how some people may be slightly put off by this but by following instructions carefully it’s actually quite easy and really does only take a few drops of blood to fill the collection tube (it’s smaller inside than it looks!).

Once all was collected, it was easy just to fill out a label, seal it all up and pop it in the post.

My Thriva Results

From posting the blood sample in the postbox, to receiving my results it was less than 24 hours – something I was incredibly impressed with and certainly something that would be unlikely with most GP surgeries. The report included personalised information for me, based on some questions I had answered when initially ordering the kit. Additionally, the data on my blood results was really clear, showing charts with my levels of thyroid stimulating hormones, vitamin D, iron (and some extras), in comparison to typical ‘healthy ranges’. Each result also included written feedback from a GP, who had analysed my results and written the feedback report. Luckily, especially considering my profession, my results were all within healthy ranges, but I would be interested to test in winter months and see if my vitamin D levels alter significantly.

My Feedback to Thriva

I was really pleased with the efficiency, speed and the general concept behind the at home Thriva test kits, and so I send Thriva my personal feedback and comments on the service. Most of my feedback was extremely positive and I let them know that I would be happy to recommend to clients that I see on a one to one basis.

From a professional standpoint, it would be really useful to easily access information on a client’s vitamin D, iron and thyroid levels when running consultations, as well as potentially cholesterol and liver function information too. I’m fairly confident that this product could also benefit other Nutrition Consultants, as well as freelance dietitians, who I think would also find having this additional information to hand during consultations beneficial.

Additionally, for someone wanting quick, simple feedback on their own blood levels such as vitamin D, iron or thyroid levels, for whatever reason, these test kits offer a really simple, informal and quick way of getting the results, right from the comfort of your own home.

Thriva Vitamin D results example
A snapshot of my Vitamin D results from the Thriva report

Next steps for me and Thriva

I’m going to be doing a little digging over the next few weeks to see if other professionals will find these tests useful for their services. I’ll also be trying to get even more feedback for Thriva from other Nutritionists and Dietitians in the field.

If you’re interested in trying the kits, you can order them from here: https://thriva.co/ and use the discount code SRNUTRITION for 10% off your first test. Alternatively, feel free to drop me an email or give me a call to chat through my experience with them a little more.

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