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?

Healthy Eating · Pregnancy

Healthy Eating in Pregnancy

I recently had the opportunity to speak to midwives at the Northern Maternity and Midwifery Festival about nutrition in pregnancy. If you are a health professional who works with pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, here is a little CPD.

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you may find the information helpful too, albeit in a different format.

Improving dietary intake through knowledge and behaviour change – Aliya Porter from Policy Review on Vimeo.

Diet · Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Policy

Eating to reduce your risk of cancer

Today sees the launch of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. The report takes all the studies on cancer and brings them together to see what the evidence base is. It takes all the individual studies you see in the newspapers and many more and brings them together. The report is 2000 pages long!

What does the new report recommend? (directly copied from http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/recommendations-for-cancer-prevention/)

1Be a healthy weight
Keep your weight within the healthy range and avoid weight gain in adult life

2Be physically active
Be physically active as part of everyday life— walk more and sit less

3Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans
Make whole grains, vegetables, fruits and pulses (legumes) such as beans and lentils a major part of your usual daily diet

4Limit consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars
Limiting these foods helps control calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight

5Limit consumption of red and processed meat
Eat no more than moderate amounts of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb. Eat little, if any, processed meat

6Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
Drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks

7Limit alcohol consumption
For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol

8Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone

9For mothers: breastfeed your baby, if you can
Breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby

10After a cancer diagnosis: follow our Recommendations, if you can
Check with your health professional about what is right for you

Also: Not smoking and avoiding other exposure to tobacco and excess sun are also important in reducing cancer risk.
Following these Recommendations is likely to reduce intakes of salt, saturated and trans fats, which together will help prevent other non-communicable diseases.

 

If you need help changing your lifestyle, do get in touch. The key thing is to make sustainable changes.

Healthy Eating · Parenting · Pregnancy

Eating healthily whilst pregnant and nauseous

Congratulations you are pregnant! Exciting times ahead and what a responsibility; you are the sole provider of nutrition for your unborn baby. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also have to deal with nausea, tiredness, aches… Who would be pregnant!?

As someone who couldn’t open my mouth without being sick for a period of pregnancy I would rather not repeat, I am very sympathetic of the reader who requested this post.

Here are some tips for eating well whilst being nauseous.

Tip 1: Keep Hydrated

The most important thing to make sure you do when you are pregnant and nauseous is to stay well hydrated. This is often the reason women end up in hospital in pregnancy with their ‘morning sickness’. Small sips of water totalling about 2 litres a day is the aim. If you can’t stomach plain water, add unsweetened squash or have some decaffeinated tea (although don’t drink 2 litres of tea or it may affect your iron absorption!). Avoid sweetened drinks, for the sake of your teeth but also your mood. Avoid having more than 2 cups of caffeinated tea or coffee a day.

Tip 2: Snack well

You may find it helpful to have small meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than big meals. Strong flavours and smells can often make you feel more nauseous so dry foods such as wholemeal crackers or breadsticks can help. Better still, vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, and raw baby sweetcorn or raw sugar snap peas are a great snack. If you feel you need more calories, dip them in homous or have them with a handful of nuts or seeds. Plain yoghurt is also a good snack with a handful of berries.

Tip 3: Limit sugary and high fat snacks

If you don’t have sugary or high fat snacks in the house, it makes it a lot harder to eat them! Yes, you can send your partner out to get some but at least they are not right under your nose. If you can, limit sugary or high fat snacks to one a day. This includes highly processed snacks. Remember cravings last about 20 minutes usually. If you feel like you want a snack, have a drink of water, go away and do something else and if you still want something to eat, try and have something savoury and within the balance of the Eatwell Guide. If you can have snacks which are high in fibre, this can help reduce the risk of constipation too.

Tip 4: It’s all about balance

As always, try and stick to the Eatwell Guide. If you have already had lots of starchy carbohydrates today, it might be time for some protein (eg pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts), some fruit and veg, or some dairy (or alternatives like almond or soya milk).

Tip 5: Don’t kid yourself, you are not eating for two.

Yes, you are eating for 2 in a sense but not in the way we often think of it. You need nutrients for your baby but you only need extra calories in the last trimester. Even then you only need 200kcal extra a day (which you get from 50g cheese, a chicken leg or a bagel). If you eat lots of extra calories in pregnancy, you only have to get rid of them later, so if you can avoid unnecessary weight gain in pregnancy, it helps later down the line.

Good luck!

For further tips on eating well during pregnancy, check out First Steps Nutrition

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Health promotion · Healthy Eating · Parenting

Portion sizes for children

All children are different and have different appetites. Here are 8 tips to help all those with responsibility for feeding children to know how much to give them.

  1. Know the child’s weight and get them weighed regularly (at least once a year for school-age children, more often for younger children). If they are tracking along their growth chart, they are probably getting the right amount of food (although not necessary the right type of food)
  2. Look at the balance of food across their day. Focus more on the variety and types of food, rather than just the amount. Focus on fresh, unprocessed foods. Focus on the nutrients rather than just the calories. From the age of 2, children’s diets should reflect the Eatwell Guide.
  3. Make sure your child is well hydrated. Children should have about 1-1.5l a day and more when it is hot. Water is the ideal drink. It is important to limit sugary drinks as well as limiting fruit juice to 150ml a day). For more specific amounts for different age groups click here
  4. Give your child a small amount of each food and let them ask for more. This will help them to regulate their own appetite
  5. Banish the rule which says you have to finish everything on your plate
  6. Encourage your child to have regular meals and not snack in between meals and your regular snack times
  7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘you have had enough’.
  8. If in doubt, ask a health professional

 

Remember, food is not just about calories, it is amount nutrition, social activity, learning and new experiences. Get your child involved with every stage as they learn to love food.