food · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Policy

Does healthy eating have to hurt the planet?

CSIRO_ScienceImage_3224_Pulses_and_legumes.jpg

Image: Commons Wikimedia -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSIRO_ScienceImage_3224_Pulses_and_legumes.jpg

 

This is a very complicated question because there are so many factors involved, but it has been the subject of much debate over the last few years.

The latest headline comes from work by scientists at Harvard University in the USA. The proposed diet moves us all away from eating as much meat (particularly red meat) and encourages us to eat more fruit and veg, more nuts and pulses. The amounts below are averages so you might have 100g of red meat on one day and then no more for the rest of the week for example.

  1. Nuts – 50g a day
  2. Beanschickpeaslentils and other legumes – 75g a day
  3. Fish – 28g a day
  4. Eggs – 13g a day (so one and a bit a week)
  5. Meat – 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
  6. Carbs – whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
  7. Dairy – 250g – the equivalent of one glass of milk
  8. Vegetables -(300g) and fruit (200g)

The diet has room for 31g of sugar and about 50g worth of oils like olive oil. (Source BBC)

Full details of the diet can be found here.

This diet still encourages eating fish (one of which should be oily) for health reasons and red meat is also a great source of iron so an important part of the diet.

I think this diet is manageable. It is realistic and you can make some very tasty things with the variety of ingredients on offer. Unlike a full vegan diet, followed properly, it should give you enough iodine and B12.

But like any diet, it requires knowledge to be able to follow it and achieve the health outcomes the authors desire. Why not take some steps today and swap one of your processed food snacks for a handful of nuts (unless you are allergic of course), and take one of your meat based meals and swap it for a legume based meal. Here are 2 to try:

Lentil Bolognese (you can swap the mushrooms for carrots if you are not keen on mushrooms)

Bean Curry (you can use any type of bean, you could even try a tin of mixed beans for variety)

 

If you are interested in this topic, the British Dietetic Association has also done work in this field. See here for more information.

Cooking · food · Healthy Eating

Jacket potato with tuna and salad

The humble jacket potato gets a lot a bad press but potatoes are a good source of starchy carbohydrate and vitamins, we just need to be careful what we put on them. Jacket potatoes are also a relatively cheap meal.

The focus should be on the vegetables. For a main meal, aim to have 2 portions of vegetables. Remember we are trying to eat a rainbow so different coloured vegetables are important.

For example 80g grated carrot, 80g chopped tomatoes, 140g canned tuna (or 140g tinned salmon if you are having oily fish) and a tablespoon a mayonnaise on top of your potato. The tomato (or sweetcorn if you want) will add moisture so you don’t need to add extra butter or oil to your potato.

You will be surprised how full you are after eating the topping so judge the amount of potato based on your appetite.

 

 

food · Health promotion · Healthy Eating

Should we even be selling food which can cause harm?

This is a question to wrestle with. I am not going to give you the answer but share a few thoughts to start off your dinner time discussion!

With the latest cancer prevention report suggesting processed meat should, if possible, be avoided and the government consulting (finally) on a total ban of the sale of energy drinks to children based on the overwhelming body of evidence which says that the levels of caffeine in energy drinks are harmful to children, we need to ask ourselves whether products like these should even be allowed to be produced, let alone, sold legally?

We know that alcohol is harmful, we know that cigarettes are harmful and yet we continue to sell these (although there are restrictions of course), why, perhaps because of the taxes they bring in or perhaps because we are fortunate enough not to live in a dictatorship. We know that not wearing a seat belt can be harmful so there is legislation in place to ensure we wear one to protect ourselves. Where are the parameters for food?

There are clearly some foods which are banned. The EU has very strict testing for approving additives, whether natural or artificial, and there are very strict safety and hygiene standards for foods produced or sold in the EU (let’s hope it stays like this post Brexit, but that is a discussion for another day!). But beyond the safety and hygiene of a product, what about foods which might not kill us or make us ill in the short term but ones which might have an impact on the quality or overall length of our lives?

I am an advocate of choice. Restricting a product and it doesn’t necessarily have the desired effect. Look at the impact of taxing sugary drinks, yes manufacturers responded by reducing the sugar in their drinks but they did not necessarily reduce the sweetness of the drinks. The focus was on calories, and not on the quality of the food consumed. The focus on calories is not a great message for the public. Children do not need to focus on calories, the tragic stories of eating disorders or of young children hating their own bodies show us that. Pregnant women should not focus on calories, yes, they should not be eating for 2 in terms of energy but the focus has to be on the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) the calories contain.

Policy makers have a hard job trying to balance the market and consumer demands with the scientific evidence but at some point the weight of the evidence must prevail. It may take time, like it did to get the ban on smoking in public places put in, but it must be done. I hope the consultation on banning the sale of energy drinks to children will lead to legislation. The supermarkets have already put a ban in place so we are half way there. I wonder if there are other foods we should have similar restrictions on – processed meat perhaps? For the sake of children, especially those from low income households, this might be needed. BUT we must look at the unintended consequences, we must ensure the quality improves of the cheaper products without pricing the poorest even further out of a healthy diet.

What do you think?

food

Musings of a nutritionist in Scarborough

 

On a recent trip to the seaside (in a rather cold week in February) I came across a couple of activities in the market hall in Scarborough which I thought I would share.

As I entered into the old hall I was pleasantly surprised to see a traditional butcher and masses of fresh fruit and vegetables. Around the edge of the lower section of the hall were stalls and eateries including an intriguing shop full of barrels of food.

In these barrels you could find pulses, pasta, rice, cereal, scone mix, dried fruit and much more. You could by in weight so you didn’t have to buy a full box. What a great way for a single person to shop – or someone on holiday for a short period of time. Students, the elderly and many more who shop for one could benefit from this kind of service. Prices were comparable to packets you would find in the supermarket and shoppers would save on food waste and packaging too. I hope we get one of these in Manchester soon…

Upstairs in the market hall we were able to have fish and chips with a twist (yes, a nutritionist can enjoy fish and chips!). The Seafood Social is a social enterprise which aims to tackle homelessness and the issues that lead to homelessness. Profits from our lunch go into the support and employment opportunities are given to support vulnerable people. It’s not the place I would recommend you get your portions of fruit and veg but the food was well cooked, not too oily and freshly made.

Pictured below are the scampi and the seafood platter both of which were yummy (I had one of them!).

A nutritionist is never really on holiday. Food is everywhere but one of the things I love about my job is being able to see how different parts of the country (and the world) interact with food. And as The Seafood Social shows, food can be a driver for positive change.