Summer ready – the long-term approach


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

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

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


What inspires you to cook?

Fish pie 003

Fish pie

A few weeks ago the BBC announced that it was closing the BBC Food website in order to save money. This prompted massive protest and a petition signed by 90,000 people.

Chefs including Nigella Lawson, the Hairy Bikers and James Martin contribute to the site. Thankfully the BBC announced that it will move as many recipes to the BBC Good Food website.

I am a big fan of BBC Good Food. It has thousands of recipes which are easily searchable. It is a good resource to find recipes from food programmes that are on the BBC, without having to buy the whole book.

This week I have picked out some recipes from BBC Food that have inspired me. It is worth having a look at the website before it is lost.

I tried these breakfast bars by Nigella, but I substituted some of the exotic ingredients for bog-standard ones such as raisins (instead of cranberries) and sunflower seeds (instead of chia seeds). It worked just as well,or you can go exotic if you have the time and the budget!

I made this fish bake inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie uses ½ pint of cream in his recipe, which serves 4. If you are uncomfortable with using cream, you can make a roux sauce with flour and milk.

There has been some talk in the press about the low-fat high carb diet being bad advice for those wanting to lose weight and I would agree with this to a certain extent. If you eat more fat, you will be more satisfied by your meals. Eating carbs without any fat leads to hunger soon after a meal . Fat slows down the absorption of carbs into the blood, meaning you are less drawn to sugary, fatty (unhealthy) snacks in between meals.

The recipes and link to the BBC article are below.

Let me know which recipes you try.

Happy Cooking!


Nigella’s breakfast bars:

Jamie’s Tasty Fish Bake

BBC article about closure of BBC Good Food: BBC unveils shake-up of online services including recipes, 17 May 2016, BBC News website

Or search BBC Food for your own recipes, before it goes!


A guide to replacing sugary foods (and drinks) in your diet

Walnuts by Mister GC

Walnuts by Mister GC, courtesy of

It was good to hear the government are finally taking some action on sugar in soft drinks (in 2 years’ time!) with the soft drinks levy. Hopefully other measures to reduce sugar in foods will soon be announced.

It is difficult to escape the fact that, many soft drinks contain a lot of sugar, and so these are one of the first things to avoid when trying to reduce your sugar intake. But most processed foods also contain some sugar so reducing and replacing these in your diet, is a good way to reduce your sugar intake.

So what can you eat instead of processed foods such as chocolate, biscuits, shop-bought cakes, cereal bars, ready meals, sugary breakfast cereals? And what do you drink instead of soft drinks?

1. Chocolate. Sorry guys, chocolate contains a lot of sugar! Milk chocolate contains around double the amount of sugar that dark chocolate does, although some of this will be milk sugars (which are not classed as free sugars) but unfortunately this is not specified on the label. So try to reduce your chocolate intake if this is something you eat a lot of, or switch to dark chocolate (in moderation!). A few squares of dark chocolate with a handful of nuts makes a good alternative to a whole chocolate bar.

Maybe start to make the changes after Easter!

2. Biscuits, shop-bought cake, and cereal bars. These all contain a lot of sugar and processed fats so are best kept to a minimum, also for the moreish reasons. Make your own biscuits, cakes cereal bars where you can, reducing the sugar in the recipe and adding nutritious additives such as nuts, or dried fruit, and even making them with wholemeal flour or ground almonds. Home-baked cakes and cereal bars add some variety to your diet.

3. Ready-meals. Try to avoid these and check the amount of sugar they contain. If you are in a rush try these quick meals instead:

  • Omelette with mushrooms, chopped ham, or cheese, with a few boiled potatoes and some vegetables or salad.
  • Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a fried mushrooms or smoked salmon and a handful of watercress.
  • Stir fried vegetables with frozen prawns and rice.
  • Pasta with a tomato-based sauce and chopped good-quality ham.

4. Breakfast cereals. The sugary versions can also add a lot of sugar to your diet. Check how much sugar they contain per 100g and go for the ones with the least amount of sugar, less than 5g per 100g if possible. Add some fresh fruit or a few raisins to sweeten.

5. Soft drinks (canned or bottled). Check labels for the amount of sugar per whole product and remember that one teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4g. If you find it difficult to stop drinking soft drinks, start reducing them and then gradually cut them out. The best thing to replace them with is water. Making this kind of change can take time and it is a process of building up the amount of water you drink.

Remember a can of cola has 9 teaspoons of sugar (over the maximum recommended amount for an adult of 30g or 7 ½ teaspoons per day). Also orange juice and other fruit juices count towards your free sugar intake as the fruit sugars have been taken out of the fruit. 150ml orange juice counts towards your intake of free sugars as 3-4 teaspoons. It is better to have the fruit instead.

6. Alcoholic drinks. Opt for wine or spirits as these contain less sugar and calories than other drinks, but drink in moderation (of course!). Most mixers contain lots of sugar so have these occasionally or have spirits on their own or with a dash of water.

I hope you have found this helpful. Remember it takes time to reduce your sugar intake, so do it in stages.

Have a good Easter,




Why bother to plan your meals?

As a student I would often find myself eating a jacket potato with ‘something’ for dinner. The jacket potato would be microwaved and the something would be grated cheese, tinned fish or sliced ham. I would also have a vegetable component in the form of steamed broccoli, sliced tomato, or maybe a bit of lettuce. But after a while of eating like this, I started to get bored. It was then that I discovered meal planning. I found some recipes which looked easy and I liked. I bought the ingredients in my next shop and started cooking delicious meals which I repeated each week. As I was having a different thing each night, I didn’t get bored with my food.

So far this year we have been looking at making goals for the year and beyond and how to ensure these goals get put into practice. Having goals helps to spur you into action, as long as the bigger goal is something you want. If one of your goals is to feel healthier and have more energy, then a good place to start towards this is to make sure you eat home cooked meals. When I was a student I found that eating interesting, rather than microwaved, meals, gavMenu planning 003e me more energy and I was less prone to colds.

Of course time to cook delicious meals is not always easy to find amidst the busy lives we all lead. But in order to give yourself a good chance of achieving this most of the time, I recommend meal planning. Make a list of the meals you are going to cook for the week. You can plan this so that you have really easy things on days when you are going to the gym or are going out, and cook things that take a little longer on days when you have more time. Look out for a suitable notepad that you can use to stick on the fridge door with your list. Some stationary shops stock menu planning pads which are really useful.

I also recommend finding and making a list of 10 easy recipes that you like. Find them in your cookbooks or on-line sites such as:

If you don’t stick to it exactly it doesn’t matter. My clients and I have found that making a menu plan makes shopping easier, cheaper, and meal preparation quicker and easier, as you are never stuck for something to cook.

Have fun with your meal planning! Let me know how you get on.


How to feel good about everything you eat (and drink) this Christmas: 5 festive tips


The average person consumes 6000 kcal on Christmas Day and puts on 5 lb in weight over Christmas.

I don’t know if this is accurate (who records how much they eat on Christmas Day?) but I know the average person consumes a lot, me included.

My Christmas dinner starts with smoked salmon blinis and includes a turkey dinner, Christmas pudding, black forest gateaux, plus lots of champagne. In the evening there is always a bit of room for turkey sandwiches, followed by Christmas cake and Christmas chocolates and probably a few more drinks.

Generally over the Christmas break we eat more than we would normally. There are lots of tempting snacks around and the drinks cabinet is usually full. This is of course part of celebrating Christmas. It is a celebratory feast after all!

To someone who is wanting to lose weight this time of year can be worrying, because you know you are likely to put on weight, and this makes you feel bad about yourself.

You may not be able to avoid putting on weight, but you can avoid feeling bad about yourself by following these five festive tips:

  1. Christmas doesn’t last forever

If the thought of putting on weight over Christmas sends you into a panic one thing that can help is to remind yourself of the bigger picture.

Everyone puts on weight over Christmas, but remember it is only for a short period.

When you adjust to your normal eating, the weight will naturally come off.

  1. Enjoy what you eat!

This may sound obvious, but Christmas is a time when you can slow down your usual pace of activity, take time to eat, and really enjoy some delicious meals and snacks.

We spend so much time rushing around the rest of the year and may not take time to fully appreciate or enjoy our meals.

Now you have a little more time to eat and to listen to your body.

With practice this can become a natural control over what you eat and form the basis of good eating habits.

You can read more about this in my post on mindful eating here.

  1. Avoid the scales

Don’t be tempted to weigh yourself over Christmas.  Give yourself a break from the scales.

Salty foods and alcohol can affect weight dramatically and temporarily. It is best to weigh yourself no more than once a week, preferably at the same time each week, e.g. Sunday morning.

  1. Sensible snacking

Perhaps the biggest source of extra calories at this time is snacks.

Chocolates, canapés, nuts, crisps, biscuits, cheese and biscuits, mince pies etc. Everywhere you look it seems there is something inviting to eat.

It is no surprise that we put more food in our mouths, simply because it is there.

This is part of Christmas and I wouldn’t suggest avoiding the treats and snacks, but I would encourage you to still have meals and keep your snacking to one or two times a day, instead of eating snacks all through the day.

Also tell yourself there is plenty of time to eat all this food. Chocolate has a long shelf life so you can spread the eating out throughout January!

Feeling that you have to eat everything before the end of 31st December is an example of black and white thinking that may not be the best way to help you lose weight.

So allow yourself a more flexible approach to healthy eating and allow yourself some ‘bad’ foods in January (meaning you don’t have to eat them all in December!)

You can read more about this approach to dieting in a blog I wrote about this here.

  1. Keep eating the healthy foods

If you are eating more snacks and treats these foods can push the healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables out of your diet.

It is important to still keep the basics of healthy eating up during this time such as: eating  your fruit and vegetables, ensuring you have some fibre in your diet, e.g. wholemeal bread, drinking plenty of water, eating three recognisable meals a day, and getting some exercise (Boxing Day walk?).

One practice I like to follow is to start the day with a mug of hot water and slice of lemon and have some fruit on my cereal.

These together will help you to resist snacks, keep you healthy (to fight infections), and help keep your blood sugar regular.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

This blog was first published in December 2015 and updated in December 2016.