Nutrition and Immunity

Rainbow salad and veg to protect immune function

Nutrition and Immunity

By Helen Phadnis, BSc MSc PgDip MBDA, Consultant Dietitian

In the current environment more than ever, its important to maximise your immunity and fight off disease. In this article I’d like to give you some commonsense advice, dispel some immunity myths, and share whats on the horizon for personalised nutrition to optimise your immunity.  I have a strong belief in the power of nutrition, having witnessed time and again the positive impact that dietary change can have on health and well-being.  At times we can feel helpless when exposed to disease risk or the disease process itself, but our ability to choose how we nourish our bodies on a daily basis can have far-reaching effects on our immune system and empower us to take control of our health.

Healthy Eating

It’s well known that a Mediterranean style diet has been proven to be the healthiest way of eating in terms of preventing disease, and this also applies to optimisinimmunity. But what can we do beyond the Mediterranean diet, and why is it important for our immune system? 


The moisture barrier in our noses and our mouths (saliva) is reduced if we are dehydrated. Staying hydrated maintains that barrier. General advice is to drink 2 litres of fluid daily, which equates to about eight glasses. This can include tea and coffee, which are not dehydrating as previously thought. However fluid requirements vary substantially from person to person. In my work with athletes I see a variation in sweat rates when exercising from 200ml/hour to 2L/hour. In this case it’s important to monitor your own hydration via following thirst cues, and regularly checking your urine colour to ensure it is at least the colour of straw. 

Alcohol does not need to be eliminated, but avoid more than 14 units a week for men and women, and limit to no more than 2 alcoholic drinks at a time e.g. 2 pints of beer or 2 glasses of wine, and keep 2 alcohol free days a week. Excessive alcohol intake not only causes dehydration, it also disturbs your quality of sleep, which in turn has a negative impact on the immune system. 

It’s all in the detail

Healthy nutrition goes far beyond calorie counting and knowing your ‘macro’s’ – the popular practice of calculating how much fluid, carbohydrate, protein and fats our bodies require. Of equal importance in my opinion are to nurture the more detailed aspects of your nutrition:


  • By eating a balanced Mediterranean style diet, you will be ensuring you meet all your vitamin and mineral micronutrient requirements. If there are barriers to this for you (e.g. reduced appetite and diet intake during illness) it may be pertinent to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Take this with your biggest meal of the day to ensure the best absorption – try keeping them in your cutlery drawer to make sure you don’t forget. 
  • The one vitamin supplement I recommend everyone to take regularly is Vitamin D 10ug  per day (5ug  for children) especially between October – March when we do not receive enough sunlight. This prevents deficiency which has a proven negative effect on immune function. 
  • Avoid high dose vitamin C supplements. This is a common supplement people take to try and boost immune function, however unnecessary excessive intake can cause your body to downregulate its uptake, and high doses of vitamin C can cause nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain, all of which have a negative impact on immunity. Your daily requirements can be met via eating one orange or kiwifruit for instance. 


There is good scientific evidence to show that maintaining a healthy number and variety of gut microbes (bacteria and fungi) confers a health benefit. Probiotic foods come in the form of live yoghurts, mould ripened cheeses, kefir, and fermented foods such as kimchee and sauerkraut. I encourage my clients to ‘eat something living every day’. 

Fibre acts as a prebiotic, which means it provides food for these beneficial microbes to feed of, and helps them flourish. Aim for 30g fibre a day via wholegrains, fruit and veg, nuts and seeds. Also aim for variety in your fibre – try to include 30 different types of plant-based foods a week. Avoiding emulsifiers and sweeteners also helps our gut microbiome to thrive


Phytonutrients are biologically active chemical compounds found in plants. They help protect plants from predators, and then in turn help prevent us from getting sick. They are not only found in fruit and vegetables, but also in pulses, tea, coffee, red wine, cacao, herbs, spices and olive oil. 

Wider lifestyle advice

Remember that nutrition does not act in isolation and that the other ‘pillars of health’ must be present to prevent the roof collapsing. Expert immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi states that lack of sleep lowers our immune system by over 60%. Smoking also has a negative effect. Moderate exercise is immune protecting, whereas intense exercise can be an immune depressant – listen to what your body is telling you and avoid over-training. 

Exercise nutrition

Timing of nutrition around exercise can help negate this dampening of the immune system immediately post-exercise. Eating within your ‘recovery window’ of an hour, or ideally as soon as possible after exercise can maintain healthy immunity.  This should ideally contain carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and healthy fats to help you Refuel, Rebuild, and Rehydrate, the ‘3 R’s’ of recovery. 

Beware of misinformation

There is always interesting nutrition advice out there – remember to check the credentials of anyone handing out this advice to ensure they are either a Registered Dietitian such as myself, or an Accredited Nutritionist. Let me dispel some common myths. 

  • Milk does not cause excess mucus. Dairy is not ‘inflammatory’ and does not dampen our immune systems. 
  • Celery juice, garlic and elderberry supplements will not ‘boost your immunity’. It is tempting to take a supplement or pill to help with your health, but don’t ignore the power of something so simple as eating healthily, and remember supplements can cause more damage than good. 
  • You cannot ‘flush out’ an infection within your body. It is important to stay hydrated, but excessive fluid intake will not help your body’s ability to fight off infection. 

Personalised nutrition 

Although there are general rules about nutrition we now know that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutrition is not the best approach to optimising health. Our genetics differs from person to person, which means our bodies differ in how we absorb, digest, and excrete nutrients. Genes also affect our appetite, taste and smell. This all means some blanket nutrition advice is more relevant to certain members of the population than others. I use DNA testing in my own clinics to provide a completely bespoke service when forming nutrition plans, so clients can focus on what health risks are most relevant to them and how they can mitigate these risks through diet. 

When there is so much in life you have no control over, I hope this article leaves you feeling empowered with the knowledge that the diet choices you make several times a day can optimise your health and well-being. 

Nutritics : quality nutrition analysis software, a freelance dietitians’ perspective

Here’s a review the nutrition analysis software Nutritics, which is currently my most valuable tool in delivering a quality service to my clients. 

My background is as an NHS dietitian where I worked in hospitals for over 10 years, but for the past 6 years I’ve been fully freelance. 

I work in a few areas:

  • I hold private dietetic clinics at Brighton Sports Therapy, as well as the Montefiore Hospital, in Hove, 
  • I’m the sports nutrition tutor to the sports Scholars at Brighton University, 
  • And I work as head of nutrition for Bluecrest health screening company.

Within all these roles it’s really important I have a user-friendly tool for nutrition analysis. It needs to be accurate, easy and efficient to use, GDPR compliant for data protection, and to produce easy to understand analysis of results for my customers to read and be able to interpret what the quality of their diet is at baseline, and what they need to do to improve it. 

I’ve moved over from Dietplan 7 to Nutritics just one month ago, but I would not go back.

I’m going to use my own food diary analysis and meal plan to show how user-friendly Nutritics is. 

I often invite my clients to keep their own 3 day food diary so I can assess the quality of their diet at baseline. I can now offer them the free app that comes with Nutritics, Libro to easily enter the food diary themselves. Here’s a snapshot of my own food diary – it’s much easier then writing everything down, and more accurate as portion sizes are displayed as you enter the food. 

This food diary can then be imported at the click of a button into your Nutritics account, forming a report on the nutritional adequacy of your clients intake. 

Here’s my own report. Graphs are clear, and information on nutrients where there may be a suboptimal intake can be displayed at the click of a button, along with information on which foods that nutrient can be found:

Since using Nutritics my admin time has gone down, and I feel I’m able to offer a better quality service in terms of diet report and meal plans to my customers. 

Entering 3 day food diaries used to take me on average 1 hour per client, they now take half that time if I enter items manually, or I can import food diaries instantly if my client has used the Libro app. 
This means I have more time for seeing clients face to face, and putting together an appropriate meal plan.

Meal plans are easy to compile as macros and calories are updated as you add foods, and displayed in relation to your clients own nutritional targets. You can save templates that are commonly used, e.g. Mediterranean diet, and then modify quantities appropriate to clients.

Most useful is the content of the food tables, which includes branded items as well as protein powders and dairy alternatives, which many of my clients report in their food diaries. 

I would really recommend Nutritics if you often analyse food diaries for your clients:

  • It has a huge range of foods and supplements within its food tables.
  • Data entry is minimal due to the food diary app, which means admin is cut down for your customer also.
  • It reports a clients’ baseline diet in an easy to understand way, and you can insert your own logo in there too.
  • It’s easy to create and store meal plans, which in my experience is a valuable tool in customer education, when it comes to implementing diet changes. 

I hope this blog was useful, please get in touch with me through the contacts page of my website Nom Nom if you’d like to hear more about my services and the work I do. 

Fuelling For Females

Nutrition for health | October 16, 2018

Female athletes are special because we can process oxygen more quickly than males, which means we’re naturally more athletic. Yes men have more testosterone and so find it easier to build muscle, but our oestrogen and progesterone means we’re more suited to endurance exercise. Not only that but these female sex hormones if kept in the right balance help keep our bones strong, protect against heart disease, and improve mood. Diet is key in helping our bodies produce these hormones. 

I regularly see girls and women in my nutrition clinic who have lost this advantage as a result of under-fuelling, and start to suffer the consequences of reduced hormone production. The traditional view of under-fuelling female athletes was full blown eating disorder, leading to periods stopping, and osteoporosis with subsequent recurrent bone fractures. But I often see Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, or RED-S in a more subtle way. No deliberate restriction in eating, but an increased training schedule not matched by increased nutrition intake (often due to lack of time), causing more coughs and colds, low mood, muscle strain, stress fractures, and much, much frustration! 

So how do you know if you have RED-S? As women we can keep a check on our hormone production from our menstrual cycle. Teenagers should have started their periods by the age of 15, cycle length should be 28days – longer or shorter could indicate RED-S. Lack of periods in athletes should never been seen as a badge of honour gained from intensive training, but a warning sign that injury and poor health may be just around the corner. Supplementing iron or calcium may be necessary, but more important is getting the calorie balance right, so increasing diet intake, or reducing training until normal periods return. 

So where do we get the extra food from, and how do we know how much? As a general rule of thumb I recommend eating an additional meal with every additional daily training session. Rest days can be 3 meals with fruit between meals, one training session a day and one of those snacks turns into a mini meal e.g. a sandwich or bowl of cereal, two sessions a day and add in an extra full meal on top of that e.g. two breakfasts – one before a morning training session, and another after. 

Another great way to sneak in the extra calories when you’re training hard but too busy or tired to eat and prepare food all the time is a smoothie. I call these catch up smoothies as I often recommend a smoothie at the end of the day to catch up on calories as well as other key nutrients: calcium for bones, vitamins for immunity, protein to rebuild muscle, carbs to refuel glycogen stores, healthy fats to reduce inflammation after training. This recipe contains 20g protein which is the ideal amount for our bodies to process after exercise. Gulp one of these within your 30minute recovery window after exercise and be reassured you’re Refuelling, Rebuilding, Rehydrating, and most importantly providing the calories your body needs to produce our precious hormones that keep up so healthy, fit and strong. 

Catch-up smoothie
Serves 1
Post-workout recovery smoothie
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 200ml milk
  2. 3 tbsp natural bio yoghurt
  3. 2 tbsp frozen berries
  4. 1 banana
  5. 1 tbsp linseeds
  1. Put ingredients into blender. Blend!
  1. If you're vegan replace dairy with calcium-fortified dairy alternatives. Even better if you're peri-menopausal replace with soya for added phyto-oestrogens which may help to ease hot flushes.
Nom Nom Nerd



Dietitian in your Pocket

Nutrition for health | February 22, 2018

Let me advise you from the comfort of your pocket!

Using Oviva telehealth software I can work with you direct from your mobile phone or tablet. By downloading the free Oviva app onto your phone or tablet you’ll be ready to receive a 30 minute video consultation followed by a month of secure messenger-style follow up to help with motivation and guidance when you need it the most.














£80 for one month of nutrition coaching, or book 3 months for £195

Book now by calling Helen on 07779 021 767  or use the form below:




10 top tips to reach your 10-A-Day

Rainbow salad and veg to protect immune function

I was pretty confident in my abilities to meet the 5-A-Day guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. I would exceed this target and feel virtuous about my fantastic  7 or 8 rainbow portions of lovely fruits and veggies that I had eaten that day. I felt I’d pretty much optimised my fruit and veg intake. Turns out I was wrong!

On 23rd Feb news from a large review into fruit and vegetable intake health hit the headlines. The study revealed a reduction in disease and mortality with each 200g/day increase in fruit and vegetables. A daily intake of 800g (about 10 portions) was linked to:

  • 33% reduced risk of stroke
  • 31% reduced risk of all-cause mortality
  • 28% reduced risk of cardio vascular disease
  • 24% reduced risk of coronary heart disease
  • 14% reduced risk of total cancer.

The UK guideline of 5-A-Day had been set as a realistic goal – yes its a healthy intake, but more – up to 10 portions a day – is better. So how can we boost our fruit and veg intake further?

Here are my 10 top tips to meet your 10-A-Day:

  • Pimp your f&v
    • Even I sometimes get bored of the same old fruit and veg. So pimp it up! Try new things – how about wasabe peas, or chocolate coated edamame (Itsu do these – find in your local supermarket)
  • Soup
    • Yup, it’s an obvious one, but it’s often so much easier to eat large volumes of the green stuff when it’s been blended into a tasty soup
  • Roasted veggies
    • Again, the cooking process turns another 240g of veggies (3 portions) into a tasty meal accompaniment with far less chewing involved.
  • Veg snacks whilst cooking dinner
    • I get super-hungry whilst preparing the family meal in the evenings and use this as an opportunity to graze on an extra portion of goodness: carrot sticks, olives, celery sticks, sliced peppers, all gone in seconds when presented at this time of day
  • Pickled, frozen and tinned veg
    • It’s so hard to always have fresh veg and salad in the fridge. Have a larder full of back ups either to supplement meals or use as the veg component for when the chiller drawer is depleted!: Kimchee and saurkraut have the added bonus of boosting your gut bacteria, and the many benefits this brings.
  • Catch up smoothie
    • Whether you’ve had a busy day, or you’ve been out and the food choices have meant your way short of your 10 a day, you can always catch up with a smoothie in the evenings. Make your own for the full benefits – shop bought are often sieved so contain little fibre (the good stuff!).
  • Make it available
    • If fruit and veg is there, it will usually get eaten. Keep the fruit bowl topped up, leave it where the kids can reach and help themselves. Get into the habit of always leaving the house with a few of pieces of fresh fruit, you’ll be thankful for them later. Keep dried fruit and seaweed snacks in your drawer at work.
  • Starters and sides
    • Both at home and when your out these can boost your intake of the good stuff. Transport yourself back to the 80’s and treat yourself to garlic mushrooms, steamed asparagus with butter and lemon or some melon slices to start. And always order extra vegetable sides or the trusty side salad – veg portions are hardly ever big enough in restaurants to help towards your 10 a day.
  • Increase variety
    • Try a different fruit or vegetable that you’ve never eaten before every week. Great for increasing the variety of nutrients in your diet as well as increasing overall intake.
  • Switch all snacks to fruit and veg
    • think carrot and celery sticks, edamame beans, dried fruit and nuts, seaweed thins, fresh fruit, dates stuffed with nut butter, banana on toast

So enjoy your new nutrient packed diet! I look forward to celebrating with you when we all get to 100 🙂

Video consultations 50% off March promotion

Virtual nutrition consultations for just £30 this month with me at Ringwell. See me from the comfort of your own home, or slot me in during your lunch break at work for an online video consultation.

I hold my virtual consultations via It’s super easy, quick and free to register – here’s the all important voucher that provides a 50% discount for your first 3 online nutrition consultations on RingWell:

This works out at just £30 for each individual 45 minute consultation, saving you £35 on the usual face to face rate. Or pay just £75 for three 30 minute virtual consultations for weight loss. Let me work with you to compile a bespoke nutrition plan to meet your needs whether they be to loose weight, ease irritable bowel symptoms, or perform better in your sport.
Just take a minute to register at, search for my name, and book a package. You can even chat to me immediately when I’m flagged as ‘available’. Daytime and evening appointments available.

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

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 .

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

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

seaweek thins and edamame beans

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

“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
 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

Nutrition for health | February 25, 2016

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.