Monthly Archives: January 2016

Stories I loved this week.

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Happy weekend!

I am so thankful to have the next two days to rest, relax, exercise and spent time with my guys. It’s been a hectic few weeks with two weekends in a row of all day lectures, on top of settling into a new contract.

No complaints though – I signed up for this. My meditation right now is, “enjoy the process”. Sometimes, we’re so quick to want to get to the end, that we forget to enjoy all the stuff that comes in between.

So that’s me right now. Enjoying the process of becoming a naturopath, enjoying the evolution of mothering a baby to now mothering a rapidly growing little boy and enjoying the growth of my marriage.

More proof that you can’t out exercise poor nutrition. (The Telegraph)

Psychology and mindset play a much bigger role in nutrition and eating than they’re given credit for. (aeon)

One of the biggest benefits of working remotely when you have older children. Something to keep in mind as J gets older. (Signal v. Noise)

Do you dry brush? I’ve just started and I’m hoping for some good results. Anything to support lymphatic drainage (and get rid of cellulite!). (goop)

I absolutely love this photo essay. It’s amazing to see how hugely the level of fresh food varies by country. How much fresh produce is in your weekly shop? (Food Matters)

One person can eat white bread and have no blood sugar spikes, whereas with another person, the same food can cause massive blood sugar spikes. Nutrition is SO individual and this incredible study gives more evidence of this. (BBC)

Knowledge of the importance of good gut bacteria and the gut microbiome is becoming more mainstream, which is so important. It’s fascinating to see research on how Western diets (read: high in refined sugar and refined processed carbohydrates) can damage gut microbiota over generations. (LA Times)

Confessions of a Paleo diet pioneer. (WSJ)

Do you read labels?

One of my favourite things to do is spend an hour or two browsing the aisles of a health food shop like Whole Foods, Planet Organic or As Nature Intended, looking through the products, seeing what’s new, picking things up, flipping them over and reading the labels.

Do you read labels when you go grocery shopping, either in store or online? It can be a bit of a minefield, right? The good news is that in the UK and Europe, food labelling is strictly governed by law and manufacturers can’t just say what they want on labels. It’s illegal to have false information or misleading descriptions.

From understanding what the different food additives, emulsifiers, thickeners and flavour enhancers are, to figuring out how much added sugar is too much, to navigating calories, then adding in the different kite marks from the various standards associations, such as the Soil Association, Fairtrade, Organic (EU & USDA) and Freedom Food – it feels a bit mind blowing, doesn’t it?

I have a few rules of thumb that I follow when I buy food and read labels and I promise that with practice, it does get easier!

1. Shop along the edges of the supermarket and start with fresh produce first.

Fresh fruit and vegetables should have a single ingredient. If you can afford organic, great. In the UK, look for the Soil Association to help guide you through organic purchases, in the US, look for USDA Organic and in Europe, look for the EU Organic logo. If you can’t afford to do a full organic shop, try to buy the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables organic. Here’s Environmental Working Group’s most recent update to the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen.

And try to buy organic, grass-fed meat and dairy where possible.

2. Five ingredients or less.

When I buy packaged goods, I like foods that have 5 ingredients or less. Food labels appear on all processed foods, and the more ingredients, the more processed the food is. I’m not creating a strawman about processed food, as I know all food is technically processed is some way when it is changed from its original state. The difference is when I ‘process’ it in my kitchen, I know exactly what ingredients are being used and how it’s being ‘processed’ or er, cooked.

Food labels must list the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight, so keeping this in mind helps you understand if something like a beetroot, carrot and apple juice is actually mostly apple!

3. Know your E numbers.

E numbers are the European Union’s code for substances added to foods to perform specific functions. Here is the UK Food Standards Agency’s exhaustive list of the colours, preservatives, antioxidants, sweetness, emulsifiers, stabilisers, flavour enhancers and other additives that are classed as E numbers.

It’s worth noting that not all E numbers are bad for you. Additives may be natural, nature identical or artificial, however many people tend to avoid E numbers, because there are so many of them and it’s easier than trying to decipher what each one is, what it’s made from and their effects on the body.

4. Know your additives and which additives to avoid. 

Whole Foods have put together a wonderful list of ‘unacceptable ingredients for food‘, that includes additives and ingredients such as aspartame, bleached flour and hydrogenated fats. This is a good starter for ten. I also personally avoid carrageenan as there have been a few studies showing that it can cause inflammation and has been used to induce inflammation to study something completely unrelated.

5. Know the different names for sugar. 

It’s not just glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose. Sugar comes in many forms and natural or not, your body responds to it in the same way – an insulin release to help break down the sugars into energy. This image has the names of 56 different types of sugar, and believe it or not, there are more to add to this list, like coconut sugar!

56 different names for sugar

6. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

Until you understand exactly what the different food additives are, this is a good rule of thumb to follow.

7. Keep practicing. 

Get into the habit of reading labels and understanding what’s in the food you eat. It will soon become an automatic reflex to lift, turn and read. If you want to read more about food labelling and additives, Joanna Blythman released a fascinating book last year called Swallow This: Serving Up The Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets.

Part 2 covering calories, reference nutrient intake and the traffic light system coming soon!

Photos courtesy of Adam Wilson, Women’s Health and EWG

I Tried It: Keeping A Food Diary

 

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My second assignment for my second year of nutrition requires me to keep a food diary. Sounds too easy, right? Copy down breakfast, lunch, dinner and Bob’s your uncle.

For this exercise, we need to record every single element of each meal and put this information through a food calculator to analyse the macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) content consumed each day. Then map this against the government’s RNI for micronutrients and do a naturopathic analysis of what could be improved.

It’s fascinating stuff. And very eye opening.

I’ve been recording everything I eat and drink since Monday and it’s verified a lot of what I already know about the way I eat and my intentions for my nutrition. I eat a lot of good fats (almonds, avocado, meat), lots of carbohydrates, in the form of fruit and vegetables and a decent amount of protein. I don’t snack, so I like that satiated feeling I get after eating a meal full of good fats, proteins and lots of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to micronutrients, it’s a little bit addicting to see how eating certain foods can push up your daily vitamin and mineral intake. Kale and avocados, are a great example of this. I have them most mornings, in my smoothie, so by 8am, I’m well on my way to hitting the majority of the B vitamin (bar B12) requirement for the day.

My omega-3 intake is not high enough – the perfect excuse to eat more smoked salmon!

I can see how easy it is to become obsessed with this information. Equally, it’s really good for people who may be concerned that they’re not getting enough of the right micronutrients to spend a few days inputting their meals into one of these analysis programmes. I can see how good this could be for vegetarians and vegans, especially. It would’ve been very useful for me in my vegetarian days, when I know my diet was really poor. Think lots of cheese, wraps, bread and chocolate and very little veg. Oops.

Here’s what yesterday’s food intake looked like in terms of micronutrient intake, starting with vitamins, then minerals and then amino acids.

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Doing this exercise on myself is really interesting and it will be even more interesting once I’ve finished my training and I’m out in the ‘real world’.

For some clients, having access to all of this information could be very overwhelming and others, they might benefit from seeing a deeper analysis of their food intake.

It’s all very well having this data, but it’s what you do with it that matters. Based on a day’s worth of data, I can see that I need to work on my Vitamin D intake and look at including different plant based sources of calcium. And one day out of seven is just a slice of the whole picture. Once I have a full week’s worth of data, one of the requirements of my assignment is to do a full analysis of the week to identify any trends and potential insufficiencies. Should be fascinating stuff.

Do you keep a food diary or use a food tracking like DailyPlate or MyFitnessPal? Why do you use them?

Photo by Noah Basle

 

Stories I loved this week.

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Winter has officially arrived in London. It’s been really cold here this week, so we’ve had to pull out our parkas and toques and snuggle down. I like it.

Our food is either nutritious or not. We are healthy or we are not. If we eat nutritious food, we may enhance what health we possess. (Washington Post)

Great workout motivation tips. (Buzzfeed)

Have you ever had a ‘toxic’ friendship? I have, and even though it was painful to end it (the grief almost felt like a death), once I processed it all, the relief was palpable. (Verily)

Eight dangerous signs you’re a freezer hoarder. (The Telegraph)

Lots of conversation happening in the UK about parenting and parenting classes. This article talks about needing to teach parents how babies develop, not how to be parents. (The Conversation)

Are picky eaters the new normal? Thinking beyond gluten-free and dairy-free, this opinion piece talks about people who refuse ‘strong’ tasting food. (The Guardian)

B vitamins are important and most people don’t get enough of them. Green leafy veg like kale are great sources of B9 (folate) and red meat is a great source of B12, as it’s not present in non-animal sources. (goop)

What is your nutrition style? Abstinence or moderation?

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I love January. It’s the start of the new year (I’ve only recently stopped thinking in academic years! It’s funny how long it takes to break that mental habit), a time to reset and ease into new goals and intentions.

And I love all the television programmes about weight loss on right now (my version of car crash TV) and on the flip side, the many articles imploring people to love who they are and not fall into the trap of faddy diets (all good stuff!).

Gisele’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, recently spoke about the way he cooks for her and her husband, the football player, Tom Brady. No sugar, no dairy, no wheat, no caffeine, no nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants), no MSG. Their diet actually sounds amazing  and #real talk: my mouth was watering as I read about what their chef prepares for them to eat. However, once this interview hit the mainstream press, predictably, there were cries of ‘a little bit of what you fancy‘ and ‘moderation is the best approach’.

I see it in a different way. Not only are their bodies their living, they have a clear sense of what works and what doesn’t work for them from a nutritional perspective. Why should they eat cake or cheese if they know these foods don’t make them feel great? Fame aside, any sensible person would avoid the foods that make them feel ill.

For all the preaching about moderation, if bread makes you bloated and tired or dairy gives you acne, don’t eat it. Bloating, fatigue and acne are your body’s way of telling you that it’s not responding well to what you’re putting into it. The pleasure of eating should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put the food into your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal. If there’s a disconnect, then the pleasure becomes bittersweet, doesn’t it? I love eating ice cream, but it’s just not worth the hours I’ll spend afterwards running back and forth to the loo.

Is there a middle ground? I believe it really all depends on you and the type of person you are. There is no one-sized fits all solution to nutrition and everyone needs to figure out the best solution for them, based on their needs, lifestyle and goals.

What kind of person are you, nutritionally? It seems that there are abstainers and there are moderators. Some people find it easier to give something up altogether (me! I have to completely avoid wheat and sugar for my health, even through I love them both so, so much) and some people would rather have the option of moderation – having cheese once a month, for example – to help them manage their diet and cravings. There are also people who can completely abstain from one food, like sugar, but can moderate other foods and drinks like coffee and tea. Everyone is so different.

I would like to say there is a right way and a wrong way, but nutritional approaches are so individual and ultimately it’s important to take a long-term view, i.e. what kind of person are you and what approach is going to help you manage your diet in a healthy way for the next 5, 10 and 15 years.

And get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of your meals. I like what Anna Jones has to say about this.

What’s your nutrition style? Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Photo by Simon Schmitt

Stories I loved this week.

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Sometimes it’s important to get a reminder to be gentle with yourself. I got a big one this week when my new job finally kicked into gear and I came home each day very tired with only enough energy to eat, hang out with my husband and son and zone out with my laptop in front of the TV. No studying and no blogging was done this week. I felt guilty about it, especially since one of my goals was to be more intentional about blogging and about my leisure time this year. The guilt was counterproductive, so I had to say f*ck it and give myself a break. It’s exhausting feeling guilty about things, isn’t it? Such a waste of energy. Incidentally, have you read the book, F**k it therapy? It’s supposed to be very good.

Some simple but good tips for avoiding parental burnout. ‘Me time’ is essential and I often stay up a bit later so I feel like I have time for myself. Now that I’m working again, I do everything possible to take my full hour’s lunch break, to sit, eat, read a book and take a beat. (Mother)

Have you ever read the Michael Pollan essay that kick started it all? Well worth your time. (The New York Times)

Such a great piece on changing the way we think about food. In Anglo-Saxon culture, there seems to be so much unnecessary guilt around food – bad food, dirty food, guilty pleasures we can’t seem to just let ourselves enjoy a piece of cake and then move on. (goop)

As someone with a very strong sense of smell, I’ve always found it fascinating how much I use this sense to guide some of my decisions. Now I know a bit more about why. (aeon)

I love sparkling water, but have had this nagging feeling for awhile that it’s not good for me. Turns out, it’s perfectly safe. (BBC)

Finally. Why I’m always so, so, so, so hungry around my period. (Greatist)

 

Working in the advertising industry, this isn’t surprising at all. You do eat with your eyes, after all. (The Guardian)

Photo by Death to Stock

Stories I loved this week.

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The first week of the new year is finished! Did you make it though okay? I started a new contract on Tuesday, finished a big assignment for my nutrition degree and have lectures this whole weekend. But I’m ready for it and feel really refreshed after the Christmas break. How about you?

Made me laugh – the exquisite boredom of a vacation with a toddler. (New York)

Apparently poke (I want to try this!), savoury yogurt and algae are going to be some of this year’s trendy foods. (Thrillist)

I hate kitchen waste and really try to use as many of the cooking scraps as possible, especially in broths. Some great tips here. (Bon Appetit)

Want to send emails with more assertive language? Check out this Gmail plug-in that underlines words that undermine your message. (Just Not Sorry)

Change4Life, one of the UK government’s public health and nutrition initiative have released a great app that scans barcodes and tells you how many cubes of sugar are in packaged foods. Very eye opening! (iTunes)

Truth. The best type of exercise for losing weight is the one that you will actually do. (The Conversation)

Photo by Death to Stock