Mindful eating – stop, think, relax, eat

Family nosh | December 9, 2015

It’s a crazy busy time of year. Christmas shopping is in full swing and the social calendar is fully booked. There are now meagre seasonal pickings from the garden, and sub-zero temperatures mean a few kilos weight gain can be easily disguised under a stylish Winter knit. Discussing healthy fresh meal ideas is less of a priority and is replaced with debating the best mince pies, or the best choccie from the tub of Quality Streets.

Oh dear. How many calories in that strawberry cream? How many squats to work off that mince pie? How many marathons will I need to run to earn my Christmas dinner?

STOP. Think. Relax. Eat.

If you’re starting to feel out of control of your eating habits, or feeling negative towards food it might be time to focus on mindful eating. Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. The more we are in tune with why we are eating, the more control we have over it. I like the HALT acronym for identifying if you are eating because your body needs some food, or if you are eating for emotion. Next time you find yourself reaching for the seasonal post dinner mince-pie or chocolates ask yourself am I:





If you find yourself eating for emotion don’t panic. It’s very common to get into the habit of emotional eating. Try to accept that this is the way you feel, and try some distraction techniques so that you put off that urge until you are truly hungry:

  • Go for a short jog.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Have a bath.
  • Surf the web.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Work or play on your computer.
  • Immerse yourself in a project or hobby.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Work in the garden.
  • If you have children, play some games with them.
  • Clean the house.

It can be easy to over-eat at usual mealtimes when not being mindful. In particular it’s easy to super-size carbohydrate portions in your evening meals, especially when ‘double carb’ ing – think pasta with garlic bread. Are you actually eating this big meal for a reward after a hard week at work? Are you eating an entire pizza in a restaurant because you were brought up to always finish your plate? But it’s also easy to then remedy this problem by hitting the other extreme and eating too little carbohydrate. I find in my practise clients who limit carbohydrates in the evenings report frequent hunger, sugar cravings, low mood and disturbed sleep. This can all be linked back to limited carbohydrate intake affecting blood sugars and stress hormones.

Including a fist-sized portion of slow-release carbohydrate can help address hunger, mood, sugar cravings and sleep: think oats, rye bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice or pasta. Here’s a great recipe for embracing a low carb technique (spiralizing veg) but incorporating it into a healthy balanced nourishing meal with a sensible fist sized portion of slow release brown spaghetti. Help yourself to a modest portion first, enjoy and savour every mouthful. Eat mindfully and enjoy!

Spaghetti courgetti with prawns and pine nuts
Serves 2
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1 large courgette
  2. 150 wholemeal spaghetti
  3. 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  4. 2tsp olive oil
  5. 200g prawns
  6. salt and pepper
  7. one large handful of pine nuts
  8. 1/2 red chilli (optional)
  9. rocket
  1. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions
  2. meanwhile spiralize your courgettes (with a spiraliser or a vegetable peeler)
  3. Cook the garlic in the oil for 20 seconds
  4. add & toss the courgette noodles and prawns for 2-3 minutes
  5. add cooked spaghetti to the pan
  6. season with salt, pepper, chilli and cheese
  7. Serve with salad or steamed vegetables
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/


Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling:

Nutrient per 100g %RI per 432g serving %RI
Energy kJ 585 6% 2525 30%
Energy kcal 139 6% 602 30%
Fat 5.0g 7% 21.6g 30% High
Saturated Fat 0.9g 4% 4.0g 20% Low
Total Sugars 1.5g 1% 6.5g 7% Low
Salt 1.1g 18% 4.6g 76% High
Protein 9.9 __ 42.8g

Bloated stomach? a low FODMAP diet could be the answer…

Family nosh | July 14, 2016

We’re well into Summer now and if like many men and women you regularly experience bloating, you will be having wardrobe dramas in addition to the miserable abdominal discomfort bloating brings. No matter if you are a size 16 or a size 8 a bloated belly is not compatible with bikinis or bodycon dresses. The good news is that making some simple changes to your diet and the way you eat can help to ease symptoms.

Not everyone can eat anything they would like without suffering abdominal discomfort. If you regularly experience abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, wind, or a change in bowel habit like diarrhea or constipation you may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. According to The IBS Network this condition affects around a third of the population at some point in their lives. You may be thinking ‘that’s me! I have IBS!’ but remember it is important not to self-diagnose, and to see your GP so that other conditions such as Coeliac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be ruled out.

As a freelance dietitian I am seeing an increasing number of clients with IBS. It often comes up as a side issue to the main reason for seeking dietary intervention, but inevitably ends up being the main focus of their dietary aims. The symptoms may be embarrassing but immense relief can be gained from simple dietary interventions.

So what actually causes IBS? Well even the experts don’t really know, but we do see that mind-gut sensitivity is increased in sufferers. The concept of mind-gut relationship is only too apparent to people even with ‘normal’ gut health put into stressful situations. For myself this manifests as butterflies, nausea, and the need to fully ‘evacuate’ in the nearest possible loo before any sporting event I take part in. This mind-gut sensitivity is amplified in IBS sufferers. In some cases this is possibly due to difficult experiences in your past, which makes you permanently more sensitive to stress and symptoms of pain and discomfort.

But nevermind the cause, what can we do about it? The great news is that you can take control and help ease IBS symptoms by optimizing your dietary intake. Very simple changes such as eating three regular meals a day, and not skipping meals can help. Stay hydrated. Reduce irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, high fat and spicy foods. Overall ‘Just Eat Real Food’, take time out for your food, and chew well. The British Dietetic Association have a great ‘Food Facts’ sheet that covers first line diet changes in more detail www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/IBSfoodfacts/pdf .

Most people with bloating and IBS in my experience will have taken note of basic healthy eating habits already. At this stage if you are still experiencing symptoms you may be ready to try a low FODMAP diet. Recent research has shown that certain carbohydrates contribute to IBS symptoms. These are Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides , Mono-saccharides And Polyols or FODMAPs. Reducing intake of FODMAPs has been shown to improve gut symptoms in most people with IBS like symptoms. In general a low FODMAP diet will exclude wheat and rye, chickpeas and lentils, lactose, and various fruits and vegetables. For many IBS sufferers reading this list will be like an epiphany – these are the foods that have been hurting me all this time!

A low FODMAP diet can be intimidating at first as it is extremely restrictive in the initial stages. A registered dietitian can help guide you through the process of eliminating high FODMAP foods for 4-8 weeks, and then reintroducing them to ascertain which you are able to tolerate, and in what quantities. Dietitians will also be able to balance your diet to ensure you are meeting all essential nutrients during this period.

Let me get you started on your low FODMAP journey towards a flat stomach, your bikini and that bodycon dress! Here’s a delicious low FODMAP recipe for the whole family to enjoy.

Low FODMAP family rice bowl
Serves 4
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  1. 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  2. 500g lean pork mince
  3. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 1 tbsp chopped chives
  6. 280g jasmine rice
  7. ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  8. 240g baby leaf spinach
  9. 4 eggs
  10. 1 cucumber
  11. juice of ½ a lime
  12. large dash of fish sauce
  1. Cook one cup of jasmine rice as per packet instructions.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork mince and fry until browned. Mix in the soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
  3. In the same pan add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add the cooked rice and chives. Mix and heat until you get some nice crispy bits, then transfer to the serving bowl with the pork. Cover.
  4. In the same pan add the sesame seed oil and then the washed spinach. Cook until wilted then transfer to the serving dish.
  5. Spiralize the cucumber and add to the serving bowl – dress with lime juice and fish sauce. If you don’t have a spiralizer just grate long strips with a vegetable peeler.
  6. Fry the eggs sunny side up and put on top of the finished family rice bowl.
  7. Serve immediately – mix the egg yolk into the rice and pork for the best effect!
  1. Rice bowls are a popular south east Asian home cooked dish. They are easy to make, delicious, nutritionally balanced, and with just a couple of flavouring adaptations completely FODMAP free. My kids especially love the spiralized cucumber.
Adapted from Inspiralized
Adapted from Inspiralized
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/

10 Healthy Snacks to nourish your body & fill your belly!

seaweek thins and edamame beans

Clean eating | June 9, 2016

My name’s Helen and I’m a snackaholic! My clients often tell me it’s my advise on snacking that improves their energy levels, mood, and outlook on food in general. My ethos is to focus on nourishing your body, feel good about those in between snacks, and think of the extra nutrients you’re sneaking in between meal-times. Increase your vitamin and mineral intake, reduce over-eating at main meals, regulate your blood sugars and appetite…. SNACK!  

Do you find some snacks just make you feel more hungry? When you’re truly hungry but your next meal isn’t for another couple of hours you want something that will sit in your belly for a while filling you up. Think healthy fats and fibrous nutrient dense foods that will be registered by your body and cancel out those hunger signals. Steer clear of highly processed carbohydrate snacks, which get absorbed very quickly, and leave your stomach grumbling, or even worse make you more hungry. So put that skinny muffin down, start looking after yourself, and pick up one of these tasty morsels instead:

  1. Edamame beans  At 10.8g protein per 100g snack-sized bowl these are a dream for cancelling out hunger. Usually found in either the prepared salad or frozen sections of the supermarket. Simply dress with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and if you’re feeling adventurous a sprinkle of chilli powder. 
  2. Seaweed thins  Hunger can be driven by nutrient deficiencies. Vegetarians can find it hard to eat enough vitamin B12 – seaweed thins contain 360% or your daily recommended intake per packet which would solve this problem. Deliciously crisp and salty these are available in all major supermarkets.
  3. Home made vegetable crisps  Take your favourite root vegetable: parsnips, beetroot and carrots all work well. Slice using a mandolin as thin as you can, coat with 1 tbsp olive oil, season, and lay flat on baking parchment. Bake for 20min at 200 degrees, then turn the oven off and leave crisps in there until they crisp up. Ovens vary so modify cooking time/ temperature according to your own ovens temperament! These go lovely with a glass of wine at social gatherings.
  4. Padron peppers   As with the home made veggies crisps these often make an appearance alongside a glass of wine at social gatherings, but are great anytime. Simply rinse and pat dry then shallow fry until skin has blistered, dab off excess oil with kitchen towel, season and serve.
  5. Poppadoms  The chickpea flour that these are made out of make these 20% protein and fibrous, and therefore satiating. No need for any oil, just pop some plain uncooked poppadoms in the microwave for 30 seconds and watch them puff up. Nom nom!
  6. Celery sticks with nut butter  I never liked stringy old celery until I used a trick from Gok Kwan & peeled the outer string of with a vegetable peeler. Delicious crunchy celery but without the dodgy stringy bits! All that chewing helps your body acknowledge you’ve eaten something. Add nut butter for healthy fats and protein. 
  7. Apple slices with nut butter  Apples contain pectin which helps keep you fuller for longer. Add nut butter and you wont get bored half way through the apple!
  8. Almond stuffed dates  Adding nuts to dates helps to blunt the insulin spike produced by the glucose they contain. Almonds help with weight control but personally I usually eat them alongside something else to jazz them up a bit. 
  9. Dark chocolate Clinically proven to lower blood pressure. Take the stress out of a Friday afternoon with a few squares of >70% cocoa solids dark choc!
  10. Bliss balls  Still a fave in this house: blitz your fave nuts and dried fruit, roll into balls, pop in the fridge and consume one ball at a time when hunger strikes. See my recipe for pecan brownie bliss balls in my July 2015 blog post. 

Vitamin Z – eat better, sleep better

Family nosh | April 15, 2016

“You look tired, you should get more sleep”. Well thank you concerned friend/ family/ stranger at till in supermarket. I am well sold on the extensive health benefits of a good nights rest: improved mood, immunity, memory, longevity, reduced inflammation, reduced weight gain. However there are two main barriers: my children & my life. Sometimes the stars align and my children actually sleep in their own beds, I’ve completed the bare minimum household chores, ticked off the daily ‘to do list’ and yet I lie awake, waiting and wishing for sleep to come.  

Luckily one thing always in our control is our diet. Our nutritional intake can directly affect how easy it is for us to fall alseep, and to help us stay asleep, waking up well rested. Try these diet tips to help improve your intake of sleep, or as its now being coined ‘Vitamin Z’:

  1. Avoid caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine from chocolate, tea and coffee can hang around in our bodies for several hours. Even decaf varieties still contain caffeine, so better to stick to herbal teas after 2pm.
  2. Nicotine is a stimulant too – just another reason to kick the habit.
  3. Alcohol is initially a sedative but can lead to a restless night causing you to wake in the early hours, and prevents you entering a deep sleep.Stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before you hit the sack.
  4. If you suffer from heartburn avoid acidic and spicy foods in the evenings.
  5. Eat Tryptophan containing foods. Tryptophan is an essential amino-acid that along with vitamin B6 makes serotonin which in turn regulates sleep and appetite. Tryptophan can be found in oats, meat, fish, soybeans, chickpeas and bananas.
  6. Don’t skip carbs. Carbohydrate makes Tryptophan more available to the brain so the best bed-time snack combines protein and carbohydrates. This is a big one for anyone watching their weight. Cutting down on carbs can aid weight loss, but eliminating them can lead to problems sleeping, which in turn reduces the body’s production of ghrelin leading to hunger.

Smoothies are great post dinner if you always crave something sweet but want to stay healthy. I love smoothies but find them unappealing when the weather’s not hot, which lets face it is most of the time in the UK!! Hot smoothies however hit the spot for a sleep inducing pre-bed hot drink and dessert in one.

Hot Banana Smoothie
Serves 1
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 200ml milk (your usual) heated for 1min in the microwave at full power
  2. 1 banana
  3. 1 medjool date
  4. 3 walnuts
  5. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Put all ingredients into blender and whizz up till smooth and creamy!
  1. If using a glass blender you will have to heat the drink up after blending to avoid an explosion!
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/
 Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling:
Nutrient per 100g %RI per 347g serving %RI
Energy kJ 496 5% 1722 20%
Energy kcal 118 5% 411 20%
Fat 5.0g 7% 17.5g 25% Med
Saturated Fat 1.1g 5% 3.7g 18% Low
Total Sugars 13g 14% 46g 50% High
Salt 0.1g 1% 0.2g 3% Low
Protein 3.3g __ 11.4g

Active Nutrition open for business

In need of a nutrition MOT? I am now practicing from Nevill Ave, Hove for one to one nutrition consultations.  Call ahead for a free 10min phone consultation on 07779 021767. If you can’t make it to see me in person I can offer remote nutrition consultations via Skype, phone and e-mail. 

See ‘services‘ for more details of what I can offer you. 



Rest day nutrition – avocados, yoga & wine

As with many athletes I like structure, and a clear set of rules to work to.  I believe in evidence-based rules. Carbs: 6-10g/kg body weight/day. Protein: 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight/d. Fat: 20-30% total energy. Recovery: 1-1.5 g carbohydrate / kg body weight/30min. Hydration: 500ml/ 0.5kg body weight lost during exercise.  Eat 2 hours pre exercise. Eat within 30min post exercise. Thanks ACSM for giving us structure to our training week.

But what about rest days? There are no guidelines as there are no studies around this, so what do we do? My clients tend to go to either extreme on rest days. There are those who can only justify eating through exercise and cut back on calories, carbs and frankly spend most of rest day thinking about food and feeling hungry. Then at the other end of the spectrum we have those that embrace the freedom to break free from ‘the rules’ and have a cheat day – pizza, pasta, ice-cream, burgers, fries – and that’s just breakfast 🙂 So how do we get the balance right?

It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. Don’t change a thing. Your body needs nutrition on rest days to recover and refuel. The calories you are not expending on exercise will be used for topping up your glycogen stores, and continuing the muscle repair which carries on for 24hours post workout. The only reason to change what you are eating would be if you are trying to lose weight and you find yourself constantly hungry on rest days. In this case the best thing to do is to focus on healthy fats and protein as well as filling fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Think eggs & beans for breakfast, avocado on rye for lunch, and quinoa salad for dinner.

Find it hard to take a rest day at all? I find yoga a great way to recover and stretch – a perfect activity for any athlete who finds it hard to sit still and has a tendency to overtrain. Gentle exercise such as yoga is also an appetite suppressant, so good for those watching their weight.

Fancy a tipple on rest day? Go ahead! Alcohol inhibits glyconeogenesis (and therefore prevents you stocking up your energy stores post workout), as well as inhibiting protein synthesis, so should ideally be avoided during training days. Rest day is therefore the best day to enjoy a glass of wine without leaving your legs feeling heavy & unresponsive at the next training session. 

Here’s my favourite recipe from that clever man Jamie O’s new recipe book Superfoods. I love all the tasty recipes in this book, as well how the nutritional properties of the ingredients are celebrated. Each recipe also has it’s nutritional breakdown so you can plan your 4:1 carbs: protein recovery meals and snacks, and check you’re reaching your 20g protein recovery target. Also packed full of healthy fats and wholegrains, perfect for rest day nutrition. I modified this recipe to boost the healthy fats and protein and simplify the prep. 

Avocado, Salmon & Quinoa salad
Serves 4
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
  1. 250g quinoa
  2. 1 ripe avocado
  3. 300g tomatoes
  4. 2 limes
  5. extra virgin olive oil
  6. 2 corn on the cob
  7. 2 cloves garlic
  8. 1 fresh red chill
  9. 2 salmon fillets
  10. 20g feta
  11. 1/2 bunch fresh coriander or mint
  1. Cook the Quinoa according to packet instructions
  2. Peel avocado and roughly chop with tomatoes
  3. Toss with lime zest and juice, 2bsp olive oil, salt and pepper
  4. Grill corn cobs on a direct gas flame, then slice off the kernels
  5. Peel garlic and slice with chilli, add to pan with oil and fry salmon fillets skin side down until cooked and the skin has gone crispy (about 10min)
  6. Remove skin and slice into 'salmon crackling' strips
  7. flake salmon into veg, add quinoa and corn and toss together
  8. Sprinkle with feta, herbs, and salmon crackling
Adapted from Everyday Super Food Jamie Oliver
Adapted from Everyday Super Food Jamie Oliver
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/

Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling:
Nutrient per 100g %RI per 307g serving %RI
Energy kJ 656 7% 2011 23%
Energy kcal 157 7% 480 24%
Fat 7.0g 10% 21.5g 30%
Saturated Fat 1.3g 6% 4.0g 20%
Total Sugars 1.2g 1% 3.6g 4%
Salt 0.1g 1% 0.3g 5% Low
Protein 22.1g __ 7.2g

Caffeine fuelled sport. Fancy a cuppa? Wake up and smell the coffee.

Green tea, dark chocolate and lemon

Sports nutrition | January 28, 2016

A green light for the hot, smooth, dark, freshly roasted coffee you’ve been craving all morning? Fancy a cuppa? Go ahead, the nerd is sanctioning caffeine.

During the month of January there’s a lot of nutrition noise around cutting foods out, making changes to your diet. Well how about just focussing on what you’re doing already and feeling good about it.

I love tea. I love coffee. I love caffeine. Four years of post-kids cumulative sleep deficit combined with an increasingly hectic work schedule, not to mention moving with my family 6 times through 3 continents in the past 5 years has pretty much sealed this relationship. I love caffeine and caffeine loves me. It dusts out the cobwebs, it lets me see brighter and it makes me run faster. 

So what’s the science, nerd? Caffeine has long been embraced by athletes to enhance sporting performance. Caffeine spares glycogen stores. Once a banned substance it was removed from the prohibited list for professional athletes in 2004. Robust scientific studies involving meta-analysis have shown improvements in endurance activity and capacity as well as reduced perceived effort when exercising after taking caffeine at the dose of 3mg/kg body weight 1hr pre-exercise. For an average 70kg person this equates to 200mg which is not a huge amount. You can get this via:

  • One mug of home brewed coffee
  • Two shots of espresso (and therefore one latte/ flat white)
  • Two mugs of tea
  • Four mugs of green tea (or 800ml)

There are side-effects if too much caffeine is consumed: headaches, anxiety, heart palpitations and insomnia are warning signs you’re overdoing it. The Mayo Clinic recommends capping caffeine intake at 100mg/d for adolescents, 200mg/d for pregnant women, and 500mg/d for the general population. So for most of us 5 cups of tea or coffee is the limit. 

Remember some people are ‘responders’ to caffeine, and others ‘non-responders’. This explains my husbands ability to knock back a double espresso after eating out and then fall straight asleep. You don’t know if you don’t try, so have a go at dosing yourself up with some green tea and dark chocolate before your next work-out, and see how you feel.

I use green tea for the extra anti-oxidants. For an optimal caffeine hit I drink 250ml of my green tea as a hot drink, then add ice and lemon to the remaining 250ml and sip from my drinks bottle pre-workout. All to be enjoyed with a few squares of good quality dark choccie to provide 200mg caffeine – remember the higher the cocoa content the greater the caffeine content. Enjoy!

Green tea pre-workout turbo booster
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  1. 500ml boiled water
  2. 1 green tea bag
  3. 1 slice lemon
  4. handful of ice cubes
  5. 3 cubes 80% cocoa dark chocolate
  1. Brew the green tea bag with 500ml water in a jug
  2. Pour half into a mug
  3. Pour half into a drinks bottle and add a handfull of icecubes and a slice of lemon for your iced tea
  4. Enjoy with chocolate
  5. Now go and WORK OUT!
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/

5 tips to Dodge a Hangover

drinks and nibbles

Clean eating | December 21, 2015

As I dusted the heels off last Friday for a rare night out on the town with some equally excited local ‘mum friends’ I felt smug in my hangover prevention preparations: I was well hydrated; I’d eaten a wholesome balanced dinner with the family before heading out; I snacked with my drinks when out; and the old classic – I downed a pint of water before going to bed. 

I can report that this wasn’t enough. A pounding headache and teenage moody tendencies followed my Friday night of cocktail abandon, and lasted for the entire weekend. I’ll put my hands up and admit there are confounding factors here 1. age, 2. children, 3. lack of sleep (see point 2). I’ve realised I need to up my game in the prevention and subsequent treatment of my potential hangovers this festive season. And here I present my research findings!

  1. Avoid drinks that are darker in colour. That’s right – our beloved red wine causes a worse hangover when drank in the same quantities as white wine, and takes less glasses to tip us over into hangover territory. It contains more congeners – substances which colour and flavour drinks – along with Brandy, rum and whisky. image from www.alcoholhangover.comfig1
  2. Get a good nights rest. mmm – that would be nice, and so much easier said than done, but many hangover symptoms are actually a result of sleep deprivation.fig2
  3. Stay well hydrated. I do love a martini glass, but I must get into the habit of ordering a glass of ice water alongside my dainty cocktail. Alternatively stick to long drinks, and remember the best way to avoid hangovers all together is to stick to the recommended limits of 2-3 units a day for women, 3-4 for men. 
  4. Include healthy fats in your pre-drink meal. If you ‘line your stomach’ before you drink you’ll be slowing down your gastric emptying from the stomach to the small intestine where alcohol is absorbed. Fat slows gastric emptying more than other macronutrients and will stop you getting too tipsy too quickly. Next time I’m on the cocktails I’ll order nuts instead of the wasabi peas and olives from last Friday nights misadventure. 
  5. Eat mindfully post drinking. Towards the end of the night talk turned to cheesy chips and ‘special burgers’ including cheese, fried egg and topped with kebab meat (an Oxford classic I may just have indulged in in the past!). We crave such delights when alcohol causes our blood sugars to drop and make us insanely hungry. An healthy and cheaper alternative to this greasy junk is a bowl of high fibre breakfast cereal as soon as you get home – perfect for rehydrating at the same time as correcting low blood sugars, and keeping them up with slow release carbs until morning. 

And so I’ve found the answer to hangover prevention is – beyond drinking in moderation – getting a good nights kip and eating good food. I’ve found this banaganoush and parsnip chip combo works great alongside a glass of pre-dinner bubbles or gin and tonic. Cheers!

Parsnip crisps with Baba Ganoush
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For the crisps
  1. 2 large parsnips sliced finely
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
For the dip
  1. 1 aubergine
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 1tsp tahini
  4. 1tbsp olive oil
  5. juice of 1/2 a lemon
  6. sal and pepper
For the crisps
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
  2. Peel and finely slice the parsnips using a mandolin
  3. Pop in a bowl and mix in 1tbsp olive oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper
  4. Lay one slice deep on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper
  5. Bake for 20mins turning once
  6. Turn off oven and leave crisps inside for another 20min to fully crisp up, checking every now and then.
For the dip
  1. Blacken the aubergine all over on a direct gas flame or under the grill
  2. allow to cool in a bowl and then peel the skin off and discard
  3. chop the garlic and crush it with coarsly ground pepper, add to the aubergine
  4. mix together with all remaining ingredients
  5. add a sprinkling of sumac if you're feeling particularly fancy
  1. These vegetable crisps are great with butternut squash or beetroot too.
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/

Top 5 Immune Boosting Diet Habits

Clean eating | November 8, 2015

As a nutrition expert I feel pressure to look the picture of health at all times. Glossy hair, long nails, glowing skin and a skip in my step are all evidence of the nutritious healthy lifestyle I live. However sometimes the odds are stacked against me and over-training, stress, a change in seasons and lack of sleep lead to a depressed immune system… and a snuffly nose to match. So I have spent the past week counselling junior athletes on how to boost their immunity through diet, whilst trying to disguise my own coughs and sneezes. 

Exercise boosts the immune system, but too much then weakens it, increasing the frequency of coughs and colds in those who undertake intense exercise. Research has also shown that athletes are more susceptible to cough and colds for 1-2 weeks following race events. This is most likely due to adrenaline and cortisol suppressing the immune system. It’s important to avoid over-training – think quality over quantity and make sure you are on a sensible training schedule which includes adequate time for recovery.

“So what supplement should I take?” is what I then hear. Vitamin C? Echinacea? Glutamine? There’s big bucks to be made in this area and so many research studies have been funded to see if these nutrients help reduce the immune-supressing effect on exercise. None of these studies have shown any significant benefit. However there are adjustments you can make to your diet that have a proven benefit towards ensuring your coughs and colds are less frequent and shorter in duration: 

  1. Eat sufficient carbohydrates and protein: If you are well-fuelled with carbohydrates your body produces less stress hormones during exercise. Taking carbohydrates during exercise (such as sports drinks during exercise lasting longer than 60minutes) also reduces these stress hormones further, which protects your immune system. 
  2. Avoid excessive fat intake
  3. Ensure adequate intake of  Iron and Zinc from food in your diet. Think seafood and lean meat. 
  4. Eat plenty of vitamins A, C and E. ‘Eat a rainbow’ to get these anti-oxidant ACE vitamins in.
  5. Eat loads of vitamins B6 and B12. Choose wholegrain bread, pasta and rice to maximise B vitamin intake. 

So back to ‘healthy eating’ and timing your intake around exercise – try not to run on empty and always take your recovery snack immediately after exercise. For more practical tips and links to the primary evidence on this subject check out this Australian Sports Commission article.

Here’s another recipe to try to help you get all the immune boosting nutrients from real food – the only proven way to boost your immunity via nutrition. Have a look at the nutrient breakdown, there are plenty of anti-oxidant vitamins here. For even more zinc choose seafood such as oysters or mussels. For an iron boost how about mackerel – with more iron per 100g than steak plus it’s omega-3 content it makes a perfect dinner choice for athletes.

Tuna, sweet potato wedges and roasted veggies
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
  1. 2 tuna steaks
  2. 1 large sweet potato
  3. 1 red pepper
  4. 1 orange pepper
  5. 1 red onion
  6. 1 portabella mushroom
  1. peel the potato and cut into thick wedges
  2. chop the vegetables
  3. coat the veg and potatoes with 2 tbsp olive oil in a bowl and toss
  4. spread in a thin layer atop greaseproof paper on 1 or 2 large baking sheets
  5. roast in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 40minutes
  6. meanwhile griddle the tuna for 4 minutes each side
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/
Nutrition Labelling:
Nutrient per 100g %RI per 602g serving %RI
Energy kJ 390 4% 2345 27%
Energy kcal 92 4% 555 27%
Fat 1.4g 2% 8.6g 12% Low
Saturated Fat 0.3g 1% 1.5g 7% Low
Total Sugars 6.5g 7% 39.0g 43% High
Salt 0.1g 1% 0.4g 6% Low
Protein 9.1g __ 54.5g 109%
Vitamin A 276ug ___ 1661ug 208%
Vitamin C 33mg ___ 200mg 250%
Vitamin E 1.34mg ___ 8.07mg 67%
Iron 0.67mg ___ 4.01mg 29%
Zinc 0.44mg ___ 2.63mg 26%

Protein powders – are they safe? are they necessary?

blueberry protein smoothie

Sports nutrition | October 13, 2015

The biggest guys at the gym all take protein powder, celebrity athletes endorse it, and just look at the photos on the tubs, these powders get you ripped! Or do they? Are protein supplements just burning a hole in your wallet? Are they replacing fibre containing meals and leaving you constipated? Or worse still are they negatively affecting your health from contaminants undeclared on the label?

Some people have higher protein requirements than the general population, and could potentially benefit from a protein supplement:
– endurance athletes in heavy training
– Strength athletes in the initial stages of training
– athletes trying to gain body mass.
Most people will meet their protein needs easily through regular diet, but if you are vegetarian or vegan you may need to consider protein powder. Protein powders could also be more convenient for time-restricted carnivores. The key number to remember is 20g protein. This should be high biological value (i.e. animal or soy protein) to contain all the amino acid building blocks to repair and grow your muscle. Any more protein than this does not stimulate any more muscle growth. Taking 20g protein several times a day can keep muscle protein synthesis maximised during the 24hrs after a workout. To achieve this through normal diet see my blog post on ‘Tone up with your 20g recovery protein’.

The main issue here is that the supplements industry is unregulated. Protein powders are not classed as food or medicine, and so many brands when randomly tested have been found not to match up with the label. There have been several lawsuits over the past year over protein supplements containing half the amount of protein promised on the label, but containing extra carbohydrates. They can also be contaminated with steroids and stimulants, which is a risk you cannot take if you are undergoing doping for elite level sports (visit WADA for more information on this).

If you have made the decision that you would benefit from a protein supplement you will need to consider how to take it effectively and safely.
Effective: – Take the supplement in portion sizes equivalent to no more than 20g protein, any more than this cannot be used by the body.
– Aim to take the supplement within the 30minute ‘recovery window’ after exercise.
– Take alongside carbohydrates in a ratio of 4:1 carbs:protein. The carbohydrates will encourage muscle synthesis by stimulating the release of insulin, a natural anabolic hormone.
– Choose a brand that has been tested so you know the contents match up with the label: look for the Informed Sport logo on the packet.
Safe: – I would not recommend taking any supplement that has not been safety tested in a laboratory. Look for the Informed Sport or NSF mark on the packet. Don’t worry there are absolutely loads who go through this quality assurance process, you will still have a wide choice.

In conclusion I’d say yes, protein powders can be safe, but are they necessary? No. You can get the same protein from REAL FOOD, it’s not that time consuming, and it tastes better.  Seeds whizzed up into smoothies are almost flavourless, and once blitzed give a lovely angel delight texture with no grainy bits. Chia seeds particularly are great for adding extra protein and have the added bonus of omega three oils, perfect for anti-inflammatory effects post exercise. I’ve been making this ‘recovery smoothie’ for years and absolutely love it. Give it a go, its beats anything out of a tin or a packet.


Chia & Blueberry Protein Recovery Shake
Yields 1
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Total Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
  1. 1 cup frozen blueberries
  2. 1 banana
  3. 1 heaped tsp chia seeds
  4. 4 tbsp low fat natural yoghurt
  5. 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  1. Put all ingredients into a blender.... and blend!
  1. use a frozen banana if you like your smoothies extra thick, or if you fancy a smoothie bowl for the added satisfaction of eating your smoothie with a spoon
  2. Substitute in unsweetened, calcium fortified soya milk and soya yoghurt for a dairy free alternative
  3. A full portion would constitute one of your 5 daily meals/ snacks
Nom Nom Nerd http://www.nomnomnerd.com/

Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling:

Nutrient per 100g %RI per 723g serving %RI
Energy kJ 258 3% 1866 22%
Energy kcal 61 3% 443 22%
Fat 1.4g 2% 10.5g 15% Low
Saturated Fat 0.7g 3% 4.7g 23% Low
Total Sugars 8g 8% 57.9g 64% High
Salt 0.1g 1% 0.6g 10% Low
Protein 21.1g __ 2.9g