Healthy snacks

 

Mixed nuts

Most of the energy and nutrients we get in our diet comes from meals but sometimes you find you need something to keep you going until the next meal. This is where a snack is needed.

Before the 1970s snacks were unheard of but that changed when chocolate manufacturers identified a gap in the market. Now there are many types of chocolate bars, crisps, snack bars etc. to tempt us in between meals. These types of snack are best eaten occasionally as they contain a lot of sugar or processed fats.

So what is a healthy snack and how do you ensure you always have one to hand?

It goes without saying snacks should be a small part of the diet. If you are relying on snacks for a lot of your nutrition, then you aren’t getting enough energy in your meals, so first of all check you are getting a good balance of each of the food groups in your meals and enough of each: carb-rich foods, protein-rich foods and veg.

If you are satisfied your meals are adequate, but you still get a little hungry in between meals and need something to keep you going, then here is my list of my common sense healthy snacks:

  1. Nuts

Nuts make an excellent snack. They contain fibre so it is difficult to overeat them and a host of nutrients such as good fats, iron, vitamin E and B-vitamins. Most supermarkets sell a re-sealable bag of mixed nuts.

  1. Dark chocolate

Sometimes a bit of a treat is needed and dark chocolate is a good choice for this. It also has some nutritious qualities with antioxidants, magnesium and theobromines amongst them.

  1. Fruit

Any kind of fruit is good but if you can get hold of it seasonal fruit is even better as it will contain more of the beneficial nutrients and more taste. At this time of year look out for raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots. Fruit is a great snack to have in-between meals as the slow release sugars will help to bridge the gap until the next meal.

  1. Fruit scone

For those really hungry times I find a fruit scone is really useful to get you to the next meal. It is a kind of a cake but not too sweet or fatty. The bakery section of some supermarkets sell these singly so you can buy just one, when you need it.

  1. Plain yoghurt

Having a yoghurt is a good way to get one of your three dairy portions of the day. Fruit yoghurts contain a lot of sugar so I would recommend a plain one and just add your own fruit.

  1. Cheese and crackers

This also contributes to one of your dairy portions and can be a good substitute for a sugary snack. An ideal portion size for cheese is 50g.

The best types of snacks are as in the rest of the diet, whole foods such as fruit, cheese, yoghurt or nuts. These foods can supplement the diet with extra nutrients rather than providing so called ‘empty’ calories.

Keep these snacks to hand and you will be able to avoid more easily the temptation of milk chocolate bars, crisps and so-called ‘healthy’ snack bars.

 

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Lemon cake

Lemon cake

This is a simple loaf cake, easy to make, lemony and delicious. Perfect for Mother’s Day or any occasion (Saint Patrick’s Day?). There is something spring-like about lemons. They are refreshing and cleansing. They are the colour of daffodils. What’s not to love? I have reduced the sugar a bit in this recipe but it will still taste sweet and you can increase the fibre by using half wholemeal flour. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 oz (225g) butter or margarine

6 oz (175g) caster sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

3 eggs

8 oz (225g) plain flour (variations: use half wholemeal and half plain for more fibre, or substitute 2 oz, 50g with ground almonds)

3 teaspoons of baking powder

Method:

  1. Line a 8 x 21 cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
  3. Beat together the butter or margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy. This is the most important step.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time and if the mixture curdles add a tablespoon of the flour, with each egg.
  5. Then add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat again.
  6. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  7. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and spread out with a pallet knife. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife comes out clean from the middle.
  9. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning it out.

New year: new you: new diet?

New Year

So we are well into the New Year. So did you start a new diet? How is it going?

At this time of year many of us feel motivated to change our diet for the better. A new year feels like turning a corner, where you can say goodbye to old habits and practice and re-inforce new ones.

But why is it so hard to keep going after the first week of January?

We may say it’s the cold, or the dark, or we have a cold, or we are too tired, or the wrong diet, or the wrong exercise plan or whatever excuse we use.

Could it be that we forgot the most important part of changing? That is actually wanting to do it for yourself and not for someone else, or because you think you should, or you’d quite like to have the body of Rihanna, but actually really, really wanting it.

Preparation for change is often overlooked, and that is why changing your diet suddenly and dramatically can do more harm than good.

Often people tell me they don’t have the willpower to make changes to their diet, but if you generate a strong sense of why you want to do it, and feel good about that, then you will have generated the ‘willpower’.

If you have found it difficult to keep going with your new diet this year, try looking at your motivation. Is this something you really want?

Write a list of the benefits of doing it and feel how good it will feel to achieve all of them. It is important to generate the positive feeling.

Once you have generated the feel good excitement about making this change, keep going back to it, daily if possible.

Once you have focused on the benefits and generated that feel good energy for some time, then make the change. I find this approach helps me to make positive changes.

If your New Year’s resolutions have now come and gone, don’t give up. Start again once you have generated the positivity for the changes that you want and see how much easier it is.

Happy eating!

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

prawn-curry-002

Apologies, it has been such a long time since my last blog. It has been a busy time with work, family birthdays, and Christmas preparations, but now it is time to get back on track and time for a new recipe.

This is one that I like to cook on Saturday night as it is quick and easy and comforting. It uses mostly ingredients you have in the store cupboard or freezer, but can be made extra special by the addition of some fresh coriander and fresh lime juice.

I am using brown rice to add extra fibre, because most of us don’t eat enough.

You can also use a mixture of butternut squash and sweet potato or other types of squash.

I have used the coconut cream you buy in a block as this involves less wastage (a little of this goes a long way), and less unwanted chemicals, though you can use the tinned coconut milk if you prefer (use a quarter of a tin). The fat in coconut cream and milk is mostly saturated and government advice is to not have more than 10% of your energy from this or about 20g per day. This recipe will give you roughly 15g saturated fat, so just below this.

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2/3rd of a mug of brown rice (dried)

boiling water

olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

250g butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into cubes

1 red pepper, washed, deseeded and cut into medium-sized chunks

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons curry spices such as garam masala

cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

1/8 of a block of coconut cream

1 tsp of mango chutney or ½ teaspoon of sugar

200g frozen prawns

squeeze of lemon or lime juice

salt to taste

Method:

  1. Prepare the ingredients as above. Put the prawns in a bowl of cold water to defrost them a bit.
  2. Wash the rice in boiling water. Then add double the volume of water so for 2/3rd of a mug of rice add 1 1/3 mugs of boiling water. Put in a saucepan with a lid on a very low heat and leave for 20-25 mins. When cooked all the water should have disappeared, if it is too dry add more water.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a minute, then add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli flakes and cayenne and stir fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add 250ml boiling water and crumble in the coconut cream, mango chutney and tomato puree.
  5. Stir well and bring to the boil, then add the butternut squash and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
  6. Drain the prawns and run them under the cold tap to remove the excess ice. Then add them to the pan and bring back to the boil. Add the lime or lemon juice and cook for a few minutes to ensure the prawns are heated through. Taste it and add salt to taste.
  7. Serve on warmed plates sprinkled with chopped coriander and with the rice.

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!

budapest-2016-004

 

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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Nutrition in the News – vitamin D recommendations change

Raw salmon fillet

It has been a miserable day weather wise, so it’s a good time to look at the new vitamin D recommendations. Vitamin D is made by the body by the action of sunlight on skin.

New recommendations

A recent government report recommended that everyone needs 10 micrograms a day of the vitamin. This is a change from the previous recommendation which were that only those over 65, pregnant and lactating women and children needed supplements. It was believed that others could get enough from the action of sunlight on skin.

Now the recommendation has changed and a supplement is recommended in winter months to ensure people are meeting this amount, as it is recognised that it is difficult to meet the target amount by diet alone.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

Foods containing vitamin D include cod liver oil, oily fish, eggs, liver, margarine, and breakfast cereals, however if you don’t eat oily fish everyday (and it is not recommended to eat it every day due to fish stocks and contamination risk), it is difficult to come close to an intake of 10 micrograms per day.

How do you make vitamin D in the summer?

To produce vitamin D in the summer months, you need to get short bursts of sunlight without using sunscreen, but ensure you don’t get burnt.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is important to maintain calcium and phosphate in the body, which is vital for growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Deficiency causes rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults). It is also vital to maintain a healthy immune system.

This BBC article and NHS choices page explain more about the changes:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36846894

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2016/07July/Pages/The-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-D-what-you-need-to-know.aspx

 

Summer ready – the long-term approach

Holiday

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the disarray surrounding the Brexit vote fades a little you may find your concerns moving towards your summer holiday and how you will feel stepping into the pool in a bikini/bathing suit. You want to feel confidant, slim and toned but with only a few weeks to go how can you best prepare yourself for that moment?

It may be tempting to go on a crash diet but before you do, consider the long-term approach.

By taking the long-term approach you recognise that you may not have reached your goal yet but you are on the way.

If in doubt, here’s why you don’t need to succumb to that crash diet and what to do instead:

  1. Severe dieting works only in the short-term

Diets work because you put a lot of effort into making them work. You do things such as recording what you eat, counting points or calories, eating low fat, eating small portions, avoiding certain foods. This works in the short-term but it is difficult to keep up in the long term. That is why many diets don’t work long term. Often after about three months, your motivation to stick to the diet wanes.

To avoid the three month lag, try not to pick a really severe diet but instead choose one that is not too restrictive so that you can keep it going for the long term, and not just a few months.

  1. When you are on a severe diet you focus only on a short-term goal

‘To lose a stone in time for my summer holiday’ may be your goal but once your holiday has been and gone, you are still left wanting to lose the weight and berating yourself for not achieving it.

Instead it is better to think of a long-term goal such as ‘lose a stone in a year and keep it off’ and think of why you want this? This brings a stronger motivation to do it. Then imagine a point in the future when you have achieved this. Visualise how you feel and what you have done to get there. You can then break this goal down into smaller targets so that it becomes achievable.

  1. On a severe diet you may not be getting enough nutrients from your food

This sounds obvious, but on a severe diet you not only restrict calories but also valuable nutrients, which can affect many processes in your body. For example levels of fat-soluble vitamins are much higher in whole milk and lower in skimmed milk, as the levels of these vitamins depend on the fat content of the milk1. The main fat-soluble vitamin found in whole milk is vitamin A, but there is also some vitamin D and E. Fat is needed to assist the absorption of these vitamins. Vitamin A is important in vision, growth and to support the immune system; vitamin D is essential for bone development; and vitamin E is an antioxidant.

  1. On a severe diet you may not be getting enough protein

Protein is not only found in meat and fish, it is present in milk and dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses. It is essential to have some protein with each meal as it helps to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood, keeping you fuller for longer. So for example, have some nuts and seeds on your cereal in the morning, have boiled eggs in your salad at lunch and have a portion of meat or fish with your dinner. Protein is essential for many body processes such as supporting the immune system and making hormones.

In summary, by taking the longer-term approach, setting a realistic goal, ensuring you have a nutritious diet which includes carbohydrates, fats and protein will enable you to feel and look great on your summer holiday (if not this one, then the next!).

Whatever you eat, enjoy it and have a great summer holiday!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 10th Ed. 2000, Edited by Garrow, JS, James, WPT, Ralph, A.