Wishing you a very Happy Christmas!


There is only a day or so to go until the big festive feast.

If this instills you with panic about what will happen to your waist band over the period, have a look at my festive survival tips here.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas,

Enjoy your feast!



Eating out in Budapest-traditional, basic food

This week’s post is a bit of a food account of my recent trip to Budapest, which I can highly recommend. As a nutritionist and food lover when I go abroad I am always interested in the food and drink. Here the food was simple and basic (which I liked) and also tasted and looked freshly cooked.

This pork dish which seemed to be a traditional dish contained lots of garlic and salt (probably more than I would use) but was very tasty. The sweet, red cabbage which I had with it was delicious. The chips were described as cubed potatoes!



This chicken paprika dish was very basic and lacking in vegetables and was served with a heavy type of pasta, but you could appreciate that this was something to eat in the cold weather to keep out the cold (and we were very cold after an open air evening boat trip!).


Generally meat was the order of the day (this is not a good place to go for vegetarians) but I did manage to have a lovely pike perch which may have come out of the Danube.


Other food and drink highlights included this latte served in a weird-shaped glass and Palinka, a spirit which came in many different flavours (plum, apricot, cherry) and was an acquired taste but one I had grown to like by the end of the break.












We also visited an amazing food market which had all sorts of fruit and vegetables. I was particularly impressed by the size of the radishes, which you can see in this picture.


There were also lots of different cheeses to sample, freshly baked biscuits and different sort of cakes such as sour cherry strudel.

This may all sound quite heavy and calorific but on this trip we did a lot of walking and it was fairly cold in the evenings. My point is don’t be afraid to sample local food when you go away and enjoy it. It is part of the experience of travelling. Hopefully you won’t be eating foods that you eat at home. You may not love everything you eat (or you may) but this is part of experiencing a country and learning about its culture.

If you are going on a trip to the Christmas markets soon, enjoy! If not why not plan a trip to somewhere you haven’t been before and make sure you sample the local food?

The drinking guide – how to negotiate the party season whilst enjoying a few drinks

Red wine BrianHolm

Glass of red wine. Image courtesy of Brian Holm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Alcohol is not good for us from a scientific point of view.

The scientific spiel goes something like this:

Alcohol adversely affects every organ of the body and levels of most vitamins and minerals are reduced by its consumption. It irritates the lining of the gut. It prevents the release of digestive enzymes and leads to the malabsorption of vitamins such as folate and thiamine. It can cause diarrhoea due to fluid overload, as alcohol passes rapidly to the colon, or overstimulate microorganisms in the colon.

So whilst all that is potentially going on each time you have a drink, depending to what extent by how much you have, why do we drink at all?

Well perhaps because there are some benefits to drinking. Teetotallers have a lower life expectancy (in population studies, so not proving cause and effect so this may be due to other factors apart from alcohol intake). Also alcoholic drinks don’t just contain alcohol; there are other parts with nutrients in as well. For example, the tannins in red wine protect against heart disease and resveratrol helps to remove chemicals responsible for blood clots. Beer is high in B-vitamins, which have many functions including B-12 which helps to prevent a type of anaemia. Also alcohol makes us more relaxed and sociable, to a point and many feel a glass of wine makes a meal a bit more special.

Alcohol can be a part of a common sense healthy diet, but at this time of year there is more opportunity to drink and this can sometimes get out of control.

So what can you do to ensure drinking has a positive effect both in your life and on your health?

  1. Always eat before you start drinking. Okay so you may be at an event where it wasn’t possible to eat first, you came straight from work or another event. What do you do? If nothing else is available go for a bag of crisps or peanuts from the bar. This will help to slow the absorption of the alcohol from the stomach and reduce the irritation to the gut. It can also mean you won’t be so ravenous later when you do come to eat.
  2. Really enjoy the first one or two drinks. Then ask yourself each drink after that do you really want it. Alternating drinks with glasses of water can also help. Often when drinking you do enjoy the first glass and then don’t really taste the others. This goes back to mindfulness of what you are eating. If you eat (and drink) for enjoyment, then you can stop when you are not enjoying it, instead of making it a mindless habit.
  3. The next day make sure you have good food. Replace vitamin and minerals with orange juice and eggs on toast for breakfast and plenty of water. Eat plenty of vegetables throughout the day and make sure you have a good protein portion with lunch and dinner.
  4. If you drank and ate more than you intended on a night out, don’t beat yourself up. Slips happen when trying to make changes and perhaps you really enjoyed the night out? Don’t let this one incident knock you off track so you no longer keep going with your health goals and give up. Go back to your healthier ways and keep going with your plan.
  5. Don’t weigh yourself the day after the blow out. Salty food and alcohol can affect your fluid balance so it won’t give you an accurate picture. Weigh yourself no more than once per week or use other measurements such as waist circumference, hips and arm circumference.

If you would like to know more about how a few drinks can be a part of a healthy diet contact me to book you free Common Sense Nutrition Strategy Session where you will find out 3 things you can do now to improve you energy, enjoyment of food and health.

5 Ways to Create Time For Your Health When You Feel You Don’t Have The Time

It is still November thankfully, but with Christmas just around the corner, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of things you need to do at this time of year. So much so that health can seem to be a lesser priority. Food preparation needs to be quick and easy, and there may not be much time for relaxation and exercise. So what can you do to keep your healthy intentions on track?

  1. Make some goals for your health

Once you have decided you want to improve your health, energy, or lose weight the next stage is to make some goals. These may be short-term goals such as exercising twice per week, cooking a nice meal twice per week, or long-term goals such as dropping a dress size or being able to run up the stairs without feeling out of breath. Whatever your goals, it is important to give them a timescale (such as in one week, or in three months) and make them measurable (such as exercise for 45 minutes twice per week) so that you know when you have reached them.

2. Plan

Plan when you are going to do the work required to meet your goals, so each week, make some time to plan your exercise, plan your meals and your shopping list, plan your week so you have the time to cook your meals.

3. Record and reward yourself

Then mark on your calendar when you have met your goal (you may want to give yourself a gold star) and give yourself a monthly reward, such as a trip to the cinema. It is important to keep track of your progress, in any way you like, so that you can see you are making progress.

4. Make some time to eat

You may be rushing around for most of the day so breakfast and lunch could be a hurried affair, but in the evening, you may have a bit more time to slow down and relax and food can be a part of that. So twice a week, or more, depending on your schedule, plan an easy meal and take time to cook it and eat it (at a table). Make it a ritual: have a nice space to eat, use a table decoration or table cloth, have some relaxing music on and take your time to eat it. Really notice what you are eating.

5. If you don’t achieve your goal one week, go back to it the next week, instead of giving up.

Persist with your goals and allow for times when you give up, or don’t make the time to meet them. If you miss meeting your goals one week, start again on them the next week. If you really are struggling to meet your goal every week, review whether it is something you really want to do or the end goal is something you really want. If you are not motivated to do it, you will not find the time.

I hope these tips are useful to help you create some space, time and good health during the party season. Let me know which you have tried and what success you have had.

Relaxing sceneImage courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The festive season is upon us: tips for dieters

WelcomChristmas tree chocolatese to the first Common Sense Nutrition blog. On this blog I aim to bring you practical eating advice based on good science. This week I am looking at difficulties for dieters during the festive period.

The cupboards are stacking up with Christmas ‘treats’: chocolates for the tree, biscuits, nuts, snacks for when people pop in unexpectedly. The shops are crammed with high-energy ‘snacks’: new ‘ranges’ of chocolate bought out ‘exclusively’ for Christmas, boxes of ‘luxury’ biscuits, little tiny chocolate snowman or Christmas trees (found near the tills) that are so small, you may as well try one, as they are nearly not there. The food marketers know how to pull our strings.

Many of these treats also end up around us at work, when well meaning-people bring them in for us to try. We start heading to Christmas parties where we are offered party food, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, samosas and other little bite-sized deep-fried foods, or we go for a three-course Christmas dinner with all the trimmings plus copious alcohol. For some who are trying to lose weight it seems there are a lot of obstacles to negotiate on the road to weight loss. But perhaps if we make small changes to our outlook, this time of year need not be so testing, but okay or even enjoyable.

First of all, we need to always listen to our bodies. If we are hungry then we need to eat, if not we don’t. It sounds simple but some of us find it hard to resist temptation. There is a caveat to that in that if we don’t eat regular meals we will not be hungry at mealtimes. I am talking more about snacks here. In order to be healthy we need to eat regular meals.

Some of us respond more readily to the cue of being offered food and rarely say ‘no’. There is something that may help you if this is the case. It may seem a bit alarming, if you have been dieting off and on for a long while, but the answer may be to not diet. Dieting, in terms of restricting the number of calories you have, is not an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Research carried out by psychologist Traci Mann  and colleagues1, at the University of Minnesota, looked at the long-term effectiveness of calorie-restricting diets. They reviewed studies on dieting and found that one third to two thirds of dieters regained more weight than they lost on their diets. Traci and colleagues also concluded that this may have been an underestimate due to bias towards dieting in the studies they looked at.  What may be a better approach, is to eat well and not worry about the number of calories you consume. Dieting during the festive period may be an even worse idea as you will feel deprived and hungry and your body will make up for it at some point.

Stop dieting you say? Stop counting calories? Stop worrying about what I eat? It sounds like madness. How am I going to lose weight? It may sound like madness, but as the paper above shows dieting does not seem to help people to lose weight and keep it off. Ask yourself, since you have been dieting, how much weight have you lost? And how much have you put back on? Roughly the same? More? Try shifting your focus off calories and onto eating balanced regular meals and have snacks only when you are hungry.

Another tip is to enjoy what you eat. That may sound obvious but if you are feeling guilty or distracted you do not enjoy what you eat. So focus on what you are eating, eat sitting down if possible, and enjoy it fully. Don’t feel guilty, feel you deserve to eat nice, delicious food. If it isn’t delicious, don’t eat it.

Try these tips:

  • Don’t diet over Christmas.
  • Eat only when you are hungry.
  • Concentrate on eating (eat sitting down, enjoy what you eat, only eat food that you like).

Try it and see what happens. You may even lose weight. I will discuss this more in upcoming blogs. Good luck.

1Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew Am, Samuels B, Chatman J 2007 Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol Apr,62 (3): 220-33