8 'Healthy' Things I Don't Do

8 ‘Healthy’ Things I

Don’t Do

 

As wellness & nutrition professionals, we are generally very good at making recommendations about practices and habits that are beneficial to health. What we are not so great at, however, is reassuring people about the things they don’t need to worry too much about. We don’t often share lists of things we can give ourselves permission to let go of. After all, we can’t ‘do it all’ when it comes to nutrition or wellness. We have busy lives and limited budgets. So to prevent a sense of overwhelm, or guilt that by not doing everything we are somehow not taking good care of ourselves, we need to prioritise those practices that serve us best and consciously choose to let others go. I hope this list might offer a helping hand to get you started.

The caveat to this article is that we are all individuals. Some things on here might well be helpful for you, or perhaps have been recommended by a professional.  Please always listen to your care team and your body in the first instance.  Never delay seeking or disregard personal nutrition or medical advice based on my, or indeed anyone else’s, content.

1. Make ‘healthy’ puddings

We can certainly make healthy puddings if we want and have the time to do so. But generally I really don’t bother cooking desserts, especially if it’s just for my family. Fresh seasonal fruit, a little natural or coconut yoghurt, a handful of nuts or a couple of squares of dark chocolate are all fine, nutritious and speedy options. If, that is, we need a dessert at all.

2.  Take ‘superfood’ powders

I am constantly sent messages from superfood powder brands who are launching a new, glitzy, all-singing-and-dancing supplement and would like me to try or perhaps promote them. The vast, vast majority of these requests I politely decline. Such powders are usually hugely expensive (money that I would prefer to spend on boosting my food budget for antioxidant-rich whole food ingredients like leafy veg, cacao, spices, green tea and berries), and I don’t like the texture or taste of powders. I prefer real food.

3.  Take a long term multi-nutrient supplement

Unless we are unable to enjoy a balanced diet for any reason, or perhaps have digestive or absorption issues that impair our ability to obtain all the necessary nutrition from our food, I don’t think that long-term multi-nutrients are essential for most people. There are exceptions to this, perhaps around pregnancy, for example, or on the advice of a nutrition professional. However, I’d generally recommend a food-first approach to begin with – getting as much of our nutrition through food sources as possible. Then I would consider targeted supplementation alongside testing and the support of a professional as required, on a short-term basis. More nutrients are not always better. Too much of a good thing is no longer always a good thing.

4.  Buy only organic food

I am a huge advocate of organic food production, not only following the precautionary principle of reducing my potential intake of agricultural chemical residue, but also from an ecological and animal welfare perspective. However, organic food is usually more expensive, and can be harder to source. I therefore don’t worry excessively if I can’t find an organic ingredient. I’d always prefer to eat the whole food than avoid it because it’s not organic, especially when it comes to fruits & vegetables. A good wash (and peel if necessary) is a good compromise. Also, not all organic food is automatically healthy – it’s more than possible to make

5. Drink 2 litres of water a day

Hydration is irrefutably important. But, the generally-held consensus that we need to have specifically 2 litres of water every day is a bit misleading. Other liquids besides water contribute to our hydration status (including milks, teas, fruits, vegetables, soups, stews, smoothies etc.), and setting an absolute amount we ‘should’ consume doesn’t take into consideration individual circumstances. If it’s a hot day and I’ve been very active, I might need upwards of 3+L per day, if it’s cold and I’m inside I might need less. I therefore follow more internal cues, such as thirst, fatigue and urine colour to ensure I am maintaining my hydration appropriately.

6. Avoiding tea & coffee

Coffee is, of course, a source of caffeine. And excessive caffeine can cause side effects and symptoms in some people, so it is sensible to consume a moderate amount according to our individual tolerance. For example, I am OK drinking caffeine in the morning, but avoid it after lunch to ensure I sleep well at night. But contrary to some messaging, coffee and tea is not all bad! They are both good sources of dietary antioxidants and consumption has been linked to a potentially reduced risk of various diseases including cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and perhaps even diabetes. I therefore don’t try to avoid tea & coffee, but enjoy it mindfully and consciously daily. Take a look at this article for more information

7. Short term detox ‘programmes’

There is nothing wrong with making the choice to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes, sweetened drinks or sugar. Indeed, I would recommend it heartily, if done sensibly and sustainably.  Likewise, I support my clients to reduce their toxic exposure from household cleaning and personal care chemicals, making the switch to cleaner, greener alternatives where possible. However, I don’t personally sign-up to short term detox programmes. Our bodies do a great job of detoxing all day (and night), every day. We don’t need to take supplements, shakes, special teas or other miraculous ingredients to make it happen – our body will do it regardless. We also can’t undo decades of unhealthy choices with a couple of weeks of green juice in January.

Instead, I think about supporting detoxification as an ongoing daily process, by eating a wholefoods, colourful diet (with plenty of fibre), maintaining hydration, regular exercise (especially where we get a bit hot and sweaty), restorative sleep, and reducing my exposure to avoidable pollution or chemicals.

8. Calorie counting

This is a controversial one, as ultimately, weight management is about maintaining a balance between energy absorbed and energy consumed by our bodies. However, I don’t like using calories as a proxy for this – I find them too inaccurate a measure of this energy balance equation, and can mislead us into thinking that calories matter above all else (including nutritional density). Eating well, to me, is not about maths. It’s about listening to my body, making predominantly whole food choices, eating abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, including high-quality proteins and healthy fats at each meal and cooking from scratch as often as possible.


Amelia Freer's Spicy roasted tomato and lentil soup

Healthy Batch Cooking & Freezer Meals

November 2021

Diana Henry said that ‘autumn cooking is not about instant flavours and assemblies of startling contrasts, it’s about layering and waiting’. I love that idea, and I certainly find myself at this time of year turning away from the punchy salads and raw dishes of high summer towards slow-cooked batches, where robust stews and pulses gradually yield into comforting meals with the magic ingredient of time.

But if I am going to commit that time (at least in terms of cooking, not necessarily in terms of preparation), then I definitely want it to give more than one meal’s worth of pleasure. So here is a handy collection of my all-time favourite batch cooking & freezer meals. The very definition of culinary hunkering down.

You’ll find links to lots of free recipes available online, as well as references to relevant recipes in my books (with handy page numbers so no need to go searching).

On busy days, or days when I just can’t face cooking from scratch again, I almost always turn to my stockpile of freezer meals and leftovers to help me get a quick, wholesome and tasty meal on the table with minimal effort. There is no nutritional disadvantage of relying on leftovers a few times a week.

Stored and reheated appropriately, they’re just as delicious as they were when freshly made.

Deliciously healthy batch cooking recipes

Amelia Freer's Spicy roasted tomato and lentil soup
Photo by Emma Goodwin

Soups

I absolutely love making soup during the colder months and will often make a different one each day for lunch using up whatever I have in the cupboards and fridge. Here are some of my favourite recipes that you can make in big batches. They will keep in the fridge for a few days if covered but equally freeze well to ensure you have a ready supply of healthy, hearty lunches. Try serving with a handful of toasted seeds or some salsa verde (see Sauces and Seeds below).

Roasted red pepper & lentil soup

Spicy roasted tomato & lentil soup

Butternut squash soup

Carrot & turmeric soup

Mushroom & thyme soup

Green soup (don’t freeze the cashew cream)

in my books

Simply Good For You

Instant tomato & cannellini bean soup – pg. 82
Instant watercress & avocado soup – pg. 85
Soup for the soul – pg. 86
Vegetable minestrone – pg. 92

Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Roasted vegetable & chicken soup (replace chicken stock with vegetable stock and omit the chicken topping to make this veggie) – pg. 206

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Beetroot Soup – pg. 116

High Speed Blender | Nutribullet

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Organic Chopped Tomatoes | Biona

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Stick blender

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Stews & Casseroles

Stews and casseroles are another autumn and winter staple of mine, and I always have a batch of one sort or another in the freezer. They are a great way to use up any vegetables that are left at the bottom of the fridge too so a useful way to minimise food waste. These are such versatile dishes and really you can add any ingredients that you like or have to hand but I have included some recipes for a little inspiration below.

Chicken, kale & bean stew

Slow-cooked Mexican beef

Puy lentil stew

Autumn Roasted Vegetable Stew

in my books

Simply Good For You

Fish provencale – pg 169
Slow-cooked fennel, lemon, chicken & cannellini bean stew – pg. 192
Slow-cooked lamb & aubergine tagine – pg. 203
Bottom of the fridge vegetable stew – pg. 214

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Duck with beans & greens – pg. 200
Winter oxtail stew with pumpkin & kale – pg. 204
Beef goulash – pg. 243
Puy lentil, mushroom & miso stew – pg. 274
Spiced winter stew with orange blossom water – pg. 309
Chicken & tarragon casserole on pg. 314

Slow Cooker | Morphy Richards

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Raw Organic Almond Butter | Vibrant Living

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Oval Casserole (27cm) | Le Creuset

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Photo by Jen Rich

Pies and Bakes

Whilst I don’t eat much pastry, I do enjoy a comforting cottage pie from time to time, especially when it is topped with sweet potato and of course, these dishes are perfect for feeding familes and they freeze brilliantly. I make double the quantity so even if it all gets eaten up, there is always one to pop in the freezer.

Veggie bake

Sweet potato cottage pie

Lamb moussaka

in my books

Simply Good For You

Cod, feta & leek bake – pg. 165
Za’tar chicken. aubergine & squash traybake – pg. 182
Moussaka – pg. 200

Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan

Cottage pie – pg. 281
Vegan cottage pie – pg. 283

Cook. Nourish. Glow.

Individual fish pies – pg. 227
Shepherd’s Pie recipe – pg. 244

Individual Enamel Pie Dishes | Falcon

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Reuseable Food Covers | Tabitha Eve

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Shallow Casserole Dish | Le Creuset

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Photo by Candida Boddington

Curries & Chilli

I find that often curries and chillis develop in flavour after a day or two in the fridge, so make plenty to ensure you have leftovers.  Try mixing up the side dishes – if you want them – to include brown rice, flatbreads, such as my simple to make yoghurt flatbreads on pg 109 of Simply Good For You, or just a spoonful of natural yogurt for a little extra protein.

Beef curry

Turkey & pumpkin chilli

Aubergine & chickpea curry

in my books

Simply Good For You

Turkey & vegetable chilli – pg. 188
Slow cooker summer chicken curry – pg. 197
Lazy Dahl – pg. 223

Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Sweet potato & black bean chilli – pg. 262

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Vegetarian Chilli – pg 302

1kg Red Lentils | East End

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Garlic Press | OXO

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Organic Coconut Milk | Biona

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Photo: Jen Rich

Sauces & Sprinkles

It is always a good idea to have a selection of easily made sauces, toppings and dressings to hand. This will ensure you have a ready supply to add to pasta, vegetables, meats, salads and soups, they will not only add flavour but can be a boost of nutrition too. Try to incorporate some healthy fats such as olive oil and a range of seeds, nuts and herbs.

Kale & almond pesto

Salsa verde

Lentil & mushroom ragu

Golden tahini dressing

Pickled red onions

in my books

Simply Good For You

Loaded green houmous – pg. 125
Iron-rich ragu – pg. 199
Red pepper pasta sauce – pg. 240
Butternut, cashew & sage pasta sauce – pg. 243

Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Beetroot houmous – pg. 136
Spiced seed sprinkle – pg. 140
Lime and ginger dressing on pg. 172
Tahini dressing – pg. 225

Cook. Nourish. Glow.

Sauce inspiration – pg. 62-63
Puy lentil houmous – pg. 73
Green houmous – pg. 73
Green harissa – pg. 74
Tapenade – pg. 74
Dressings – pg 79

Red Lentil Pasta | Seggiano

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Portobello Pasta Bowls | The White Company

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Bulk Cashews

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Photo by Jen Rich

Fruit and Sweet Things

We don’t eat many puddings at home, usually just a piece of seasonal fruit but when I have a glut of autumn apples, I will always make huge batches of stewed apple to keep in the freezer that I will use to top porridge or a bowl of natural yoghurt. It can, of course, also be used to make warming crumbles, topped with oats and nuts. Another tip to ensure you have some healthier sweet options available – rather than turning to unhealthier processed puddings – is to have some in the freezer.

Spiced apple sauce
Apple & plum crumble
Cherry compote

in my books

Simply Good For You

Coconut & almond pear crumble – pg. 254
Rhubarb & star anise crumble pot – pg. 271
Fruity lolly ideas – pg. 273

Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Nutty banana nice cream – pg. 227

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Healthy Bites – pg. 156

BPA Lolly Moulds | Eddingtons

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Cinnamon Sticks | Thames Organic

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3 in 1 Apple Peeler, Corer & Slicer | Lakeland

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Photo by Jen Rich

Prep Ahead Breakfasts

These are not so much things to go in the freezer, but rather prepare-ahead breakfast options to keep in the cupboard or fridge for those really busy mornings.

Fruity breakfast crumble bars (these also freeze well)
Crunchy nut & seed granola
Crunchy amaranth granola
Creamy coconut strawberry chia breakfast porridge
Blackberry & lemon chia pudding
Apple crumble oats
Quinoa Porridge
Kale & mushroom muffins

in my books

Simply Good For You

Coconut muesli – pg. 39
Beauty bars – pg. 42
Berry jam – pg. 56
Butternut baked beans – pg. 61
Egg & vegetable traybake – pg. 62

Nourish and Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Overnight oat crumble – pg. 196

Cook. Nourish. Glow

Nut granola – pg. 141
Turmeric & mango spied chia pot – pg.148

Bulk chia seeds

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3kg bulk organic oats

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Bulk almonds

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Freezer Staples

Here is a selection of other things I like to batch cook and keep in the freezer. Although it may seem a little daunting and time consuming to start with, I promise you, batch cooking becomes easier and quicker once you get used to doing it and it really is one of the easiest ways to make sure that healthy and nutritious foods are available to you and yoru family rather than falling back onto quick, processed foods when you are tired or time is short.

Mini frittatas

Carrot & Caraway Bread

Herby green bread

Beetroot, rosemary & walnut soda bread

Veggie nuggets

in my books

Simply Good For You:

Banana bread – pg. 46
Veggie bread – pg. 48
Spinach & beetroot falafels – pg. 148
Fishcakes – pg. 162
Pea & chicken burgers – pg. 185
Almond scones – pg. 248

Nourish and Glow: The 10 Day Plan

Beetroot Houmous – pg. 136
Chicken Stock (freeze concentrated stock in ice cube trays) – pg. 156
Pea & Sweet potato fritters – pg. 239
Falafel burgers – pg. 248

Cook. Nourish. Glow:

Puy lentil houmous – pg. 73
Salmon balls (don’t freeze the dipping sauce) – pg. 198
Sun-dried tomato & harissa turkey burgers – pg. 294

Labels

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Reusable food storage bags

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BPA Free Ice Cube Trays with Lids | Oliver’s Kitchen

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Freezer Ingredients I Always Have To Hand

These are not recipes but a list of useful ingredients that I buy ready frozen or I prepare and freeze.

  • Peas
  • Baby broad beans / green beans / soy beans
  • Frozen avocado
  • Fish & shellfish – unsmoked mackerel, fish pie mix, prawns.
  • Chopped onions / garlic
  • Chopped herbs / frozen herbs in oil (see pg 82 Cook. Nourish. Glow)
  • Frozen berries
  • Ice cubes
  • Portions of cooked pulses
  • Smoothie packs
  • Chicken / other stock – I make stock from leftovers, really reducing it down so it’s thick and packed with flavour, and then freeze in ice cube trays. I can then pop one out as and when needed as my own stock concentrate.

Simply Good For You

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Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan

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Cook.Nourish.Glow

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Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.


The supplements I use and (why they may not be right for you)

Photo by Nicolas Solerieu on Unsplash

Anyone familiar with my work will already know that I am extremely reticent to give blanket advice out about supplementation. There are lots of reasons for this, but ultimately, it boils down to the fact that while a particular supplement may greatly benefit one person, it may well harm another.  It is also an unregulated industry, often filled with hyped up marketing claims that sometimes leave me rather flabbergasted.

I will therefore always promote a food-and-lifestyle first approach. Spending our time, money and effort on getting the basics right; eating a balanced and nourishing diet, sleeping well, enjoying regular movement, actively managing stress and connecting with loved ones. These should be our first priorities before reaching for a supplement (unless advised otherwise by a qualified professional). Remember that real food contains many substances other than vitamins and minerals that are good for health. We cannot make-up for an unhealthy diet and lifestyle by popping the odd supplement.

Supplementation is therefore not something to experiment with randomly, and more is certainly not always better. We can harm our health through an excessive intake of nutrients or other supplements, just as we can be harmed from being deficient in a nutrient. There might also be contraindications to supplements in certain medical conditions or in combination with medication.  It’s therefore always best to speak to your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements. And where possible, to test nutrient levels before taking (although this itself is challenging, as not all nutrients have validated and clinically reliable tests yet).

Having said all that, there is a time and place for appropriate, safe supplementation – ideally under supervision from a medical or nutrition practitioner. I am a Nutritional Therapist, so am trained to make individual recommendations and support my own health with supplementation, but what I take may well not be suitable for anyone else. I am also cautious to not take a single supplement consistently. Often, I take none at all. If I do take supplements, I take them judiciously for the short term to meet my current requirements.

So after all of that, if you’re interested, below you’ll find a list of the supplements I personally do take intermittently, as well as some of those that I don’t.  Remember, this is what works for me, but it might not be what works for you.

The supplements I do take, & when I take them

Vitamin D

From about October to April each year, I take a daily dose of 400IU / 10 micrograms of vitamin D (as recommended by government guidelines). I use the DLux spray from BetterYou as it is so convenient. I will also test myself at the end of March each year (I use a quick postal blood-spot test), as this helps to guide my supplementation dose for the following winter. I have pale skin and get enough sun throughout the later spring and summer so don’t supplement during the warmer months, and previous tests at the end of summer demonstrate my levels are adequately met by sunshine alone during this period.

Please see my article on Vitamin D for more information on this.

Magnesium

Sleep is a bit of a tricky one, as there are lots of things to consider before reaching for a supplement. Cutting right down on caffeine and alcohol is my first port of call, alongside managing stress, taking regular exercise, and sleep hygiene (cool, quiet, dark room, minimising screen time etc.). Those have to be the foundations that come first, but if that’s not working, I take Wild Nutrition Food-Grown Magnesium on some nights. I find it helpful to calm racing thoughts, and notice the effects about 20 minutes after taking. I take 2 capsules once a night, as required.

Probiotics

I’m currently taking Symprove, as I’ve recently had a course of antibiotics. The evidence is patchy when it comes to lots of supplements, probiotics included, so I am still cautious with them. I therefore try to focus on eating a varied diet, rich in fibre, and including some fermented foods in the first instance. If I do take probiotics, I try to mix up the various strains.

Omega 3

Good quality Omega-3 oils can be expensive to buy, so if budget is an issue, I’d recommend spending that money on some carefully and responsibly sourced, good quality oily fish first (sardines, mackerel, trout, salmon), if this is possible.

It’s a little harder if you are plant-based, as plant omega-3 oils are not very efficiently converted into the longer-chain omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, so careful supplementation may be more important.

When I do take omega-3 supplements, perhaps for example when I’m not managing to eat much fish, I like the Bare Biology Life & Soul capsules.

I particularly like these new Rise & Shine, Omega 3 & Vitamin D, also from Bare Biology as they combine two high quality supplements into one capsule.

Ashwagandha

I intermittently take Wild Nutrition KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus (2 capsules taken once a day, in the morning) for short periods of time to help with stress and anxiety. It’s quite gentle, but I do notice an improvement in my mood after a couple of weeks. I think committing to exercising regularly a week has also been a really useful addition to my lifestyle for the same reason, and prioritising a few early nights each week is essential for me too.

The supplements I don’t take, and why not

CBD

Personally, I don’t think the evidence is there enough yet to justify many of the claims around CBD, and in particular, its safety profile in specific groups. It is generally really expensive too, so I would want to see very high-quality, objective and independent evidence before committing my cash. There have also been reports that what the bottle says it contains may not actually be what’s inside the bottle, which is a bit of a red flag for me. Although I am aware that lots of people have anecdotally really found it beneficial, so I remain open-minded and will certainly keep reviewing the evidence as new studies emerge. As I say, this is very much a personal decision and one we should each take on an individual basis.

Protein Powders 

I don’t take a protein supplement or powder, as I really can’t stand the taste or texture. I am also not working out at an intensity that requires immediate recovery nutrition. I prefer to wait until my next meal and make sure that is balanced and nutritious – and contains a decent portion of whole food protein (such as eggs, chicken, fish, pulses etc.). Again this is a personal preference. Some of my clients find protein powders very helpful, especially to add to breakfast smoothies, or as a way to boost overall protein intake over the course of the day.

Multi-vitamins

I do not currently take a regular multi-vitamin – I have a balanced, varied and colourful diet so I meet my general nutritional requirements through food sources. However, there have been times in my life, for example, leading up to and during pregnancy & while breastfeeding, or when I am otherwise unable to eat a healthy, balanced diet (perhaps due to ill-health), that I have taken a specific multi-vitamin.

In my clients, I have noticed a pattern where some clients rely on their multi-vitamin as an insurance policy against a good diet. This is a myth I really try to bust – they are absolutely not a replacement for a good, varied diet and balanced lifestyle.

Greens powders or other ‘superfood’ powders

Again, I am pretty reluctant personally to take powders, as I really don’t like their texture. I often find they are often very expensive, too, and would generally prefer to spend that money on buying extra fruits and vegetables to get my nutrition. But I know that some people really like (and feel a benefit from) their various powders, so again it’s personal choice.

And on a final note …..

Formulation is incredibly important when it comes to supplements, as certain forms don’t have good absorption, or combinations of nutrients may inhibit absorption of each other. It’s a big and complex topic and would take far more space and time than I have here to dive into it. What I would say, however, is to take the time to clue yourself up.

Examine.com is a brilliant independent resource on supplementation, and don’t be afraid to phone supplement companies directly and ask about their products.

Finally, and I am going to reiterate this again: Please always discuss any change or new supplement with an appropriately qualified health or nutrition professional beforehand. They are not universally safe or suitable for all.

SHOP THE EDIT

Live Bacteria Supplement | Symprove 15% off your first order of the 12 week programme with AMELIA15 until 30th November 2021.

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KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus | Wild Nutrition

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Vim & Vigour Vegan Omega 3 | Bare Biology 20% off your first order with AF20

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Life & Soul Omega-3 | Bare Biology 20% off your first order with AF20

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Food Grown Magnesium | Wild Nutrition

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Vitamin D 400IU daily spray | BetterYou

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Rise & Shine Omega 3 & Vitamin D | Bare Biology 20% off your first order with AF20

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Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you for your support as every little helps.

Thinking about: Intermittent Fasting

Thinking about: Intermittent Fasting

I receive many questions about intermittent fasting (IF) and so I decided to dive in and take a look at the research and hopefully share some of my thoughts and sensible take-home points with you all.

Before I start though, it is worth mentioning that this is a big topic and the evidence is very mixed so it’s not possible to cover the entire body of research on this topic in one article. But I hope that it is at least a helpful start for those of you wishing to understand a little more about it, and to act as a springboard for your own research (particularly important if you are a fellow health or nutrition professional).

The bottom line, to my mind at least, is that there are no clear-cut answers around intermittent fasting – the potential benefits and risks likely vary hugely from person to person. Therefore, as always, please discuss any changes you are considering making to your diet and lifestyle with a qualified nutrition or healthcare professional beforehand to make sure that you are doing what is best for you and you have all the appropriate support in place. Intermittent fasting is not necessarily safe or appropriate for everyone.

Photo by di_an_h on Unsplash

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting is a structured way of eating that limits your intake of food and drink during certain days of the week, or specified hours of the day. It is focused more on when you do or don’t eat, rather than what you do or don’t eat. Examples could include:

  • The 5:2 diet – where you eat normally for 5 days of the week, but significantly restrict your energy intake (usually to around 500-600 calories) for 2 days of the week.
  • The 6:1 diet – where you eat normally for 6 days of the week, but eat nothing for 24 hours on the final day of the week.
  • Alternate day fasting – where you eat normally one day, and then fast the next.
  • Time-restricted feeding – where you eat all of your meals over a 6-10 hour window, say 10am to 6pm, but fast overnight most evenings.

As you can see, there are lots of different ways to do intermittent fasting. And that in itself can be problematic, as all these different patterns are often grouped together to be analysed in the scientific literature, rather than looking at each one individually. It’s hard, therefore, to say whether one type of fasting programme might be better than another for various outcomes. More specific research is required.

What are the potential benefits?

Unfortunately, there is not (yet) a whole lot of good quality research examining the effects of intermittent fasting in humans. There are more studies in animals. Those studies that do exist tend to be quite small, and quite short. It’s therefore really important that we don’t try to draw conclusions from such studies and apply them to everyone, for life.

There are also not a lot of studies comparing intermittent fasting with other, perhaps more sustainable, approaches to healthy eating. So it’s hard to say it is better than another approach, such as following a generally healthy diet. As always, it is probably a case of finding the right approach for each individual, and so intermittent fasting is unlikely to be any sort of one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are some possible benefits to IF, that warrant ongoing research:

  • Intermittent fasting may help overweight adults to lose weight (compared to no diet), but according to a 2018 review on the topic, it was no more effective for weight loss than standard dieting approaches (Harris et al., 2018).
  • Some people, however, report that intermittent fasting is easier to stick to than a more general, everyday shift in eating habits – at least in the short term (Varady et al., 2009). This is not the case with everyone, though, and it might in fact be harder to stick to in the longer term for some people.
  • There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may help with blood sugar management and improve insulin resistance, but this outcome is not supported by all studies (Cho et al., 2019).
  • There have been other benefits reported, such as effects on blood lipids, aging and brain health, but more high-quality research in humans is needed before using IF for specific health outcomes can be recommended(Mattson, Longo and Harvie, 2017).

What are some of the potential risks?

Potentially negative effects of intermittent fasting in the longer term are still unclear. In the short term, potential ‘side effects’ of fasting might include the following (Harvie and Howell, 2017);

  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration (although water is allowed during fasts – so if you are fasting, do make sure you drink plenty)
  • Hunger pangs
  • Irritability or worsening of mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Eating-related thoughts
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Over-eating on non-restricted days

I would also put a possible risk of nutritional deficiencies into this list, particularly if intermittent fasting is followed long term without the support of a nutrition professional. If this is something you choose to do, it is therefore really important to ensure that on the times or days where you are not fasting, you get a very highly nutritious and balanced diet. Your body still needs all the essential micronutrients, high-quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and water you usually would, but consumed in fewer days or hours.

Who, generally, should not practice intermittent fasting?

As intermittent fasting can be quite a radical nutritional approach (especially if it is maintained for the longer term), it is highly recommended that you speak to your GP or an appropriately qualified nutrition professional before starting, to check whether it is safe and to help guide you through best practices. Below are some of the people or groups who are advised not to practice intermittent fasting, but note that this is most certainly not an exhaustive list of all risks and contraindications.

  • Pregnant or lactating women, or women trying to get pregnant
  • Those who have any history of eating disorder or any psychological or emotional struggles around food
  • Children or adolescents: Adolescent girls, for example, have been reported to potentially be more at risk of future eating disorders if they practice fasting (Stice et al., 2008)
  • People who are underweight, borderline underweight, or at risk of becoming underweight
  • Highly active people
  • Elderly people
  • People who are already feeling particularly run-down, exhausted, or stressed
  • Those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, or who are taking certain medications (particularly if they need to be taken alongside food).

Take-home points:

There is not a great deal of high quality, human evidence around IF yet – and not enough (in my opinion) to specifically recommend any specific type of IF for a specific goal or condition.

Always speak to your GP or a qualified nutrition professional before commencing a fasting programme, to see if it is suitable for you. Not everyone can safely fast, and it may make lead to a deterioration in both physical and/or mental health in some people.

If you are looking to start fasting for weight loss reasons, perhaps have a think about other lifestyle shifts first. I’ve written about this at length in my books and in articles online. The most important thing in weight loss is consistency – make changes that you can stick to, and try to tackle any root causes of weight gain too (please see my article Thinking About Weight Loss).

If you do choose to fast, think carefully about how fasting might impact day-to-day life on your low intake days. You are likely to be hungry, and possibly irritable and tired too – which could impact your work or family. It may also limit your ability to exercise, and you may well need to plan social engagements carefully.

Do make sure that you are still giving your body all the essential nutrients you need to function. Eating less food also means eating fewer nutrients. You will need to make up for this by eating a wide variety of really nutritious food on your non-fasting days. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water on both fasting and non-fasting days – set a timer if you are not great at remembering to do this to help reduce the risk of dehydration.

A sensible, physiological overnight fast of roughly 12 hours, however, I would not usually class as intermittent fasting. This is aligned to normal healthy eating habits – finishing your evening meal by 8pm and having breakfast the next day around 8am. It gives your digestion a break, and can reduce mindless evening snacking (without impacting significantly on your three main meals). This is a safe strategy for most otherwise healthy adults to follow.

Please be very wary of any apps or social media adverts that promote restrictive intermittent fasting programmes. I would not recommend using or following these, as they may not be safe or appropriate for you as a unique individual.

References

Cho, Y., Hong, N., Kim, K., Cho, S., Lee, M., Lee, Y., Lee, Y., Kang, E., Cha, B. and Lee, B. (2019). The Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Body Mass Index and Glucose Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(10), p.1645.

Harris, L., Hamilton, S., Azevedo, L., Olajide, J., De Brún, C., Waller, G., Whittaker, V., Sharp, T., Lean, M., Hankey, C. and Ells, L. (2018). Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 16(2), pp.507-547.

Harvie, M. and Howell, A. (2017). Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(4), p.4.

Mattson, M., Longo, V. and Harvie, M. (2017). Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews, 39, pp.46-58.

Stice, E., Davis, K., Miller, N. and Marti, C. (2008). Fasting increases risk for onset of binge eating and bulimic pathology: A 5-year prospective study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117(4), pp.941-946.

Varady, K., Bhutani, S., Church, E. and Klempel, M. (2009). Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(5), pp.1138-1143.


12 items I always have in my kitchen cupboard

12 items I always have in my kitchen cupboard

Keeping a few staple ingredients to hand makes cooking from scratch infinitely easier and quicker. Over the years I have found a few brands and products that I return to time and again, making my life in the kitchen just that bit simpler and more delicious. I do tend to invest in a few good basics, like a delicious extra virgin olive oil, as a little goes a long way and I find it seriously elevates the simplest of dishes. I might then save in other places – such as buying bulk grains or nuts and seeds, for example. So here are the 12 items you will always find in my kitchen cupboards at home.

1. Extra virgin olive oil

 I try to follow a mostly Mediterranean style diet, and therefore use olive oil for almost all my dressings and cooking needs. I tend to keep a relatively cheap and cheerful one next to the oven for cooking with, and then splurge on a really delicious extra virgin oil for drizzling and cold dressings.

 

2. Chilli flakes

Healthy food should never taste bland. Adding a pop of flavour to your dishes is so important, and for me, that often means a sprinkling of chilli flakes (lemon zest is another go to). I tend to buy in bulk, and then decant into old jam jars as we go through quite a bit.

 

3. Tinned / Jarred tomatoes

As much as I love fresh tomato sauces, I really don’t have the time to be blanching and peeling tomato skins. As a vast number of our favourite family recipes call for a tomato base, I will always, always have a few jars or tins of good quality tomatoes to hand. I tend to buy them in bulk from Biona or Cirio, as they both have BPA-free tins and also do a delicious passata in glass bottles.

4. Jars of cooked pulses

My absolute favourite brand for these is Brindisa. Their pulses are a little bit more expensive than the tins you find in the supermarket, but they are miles apart in terms of taste and texture. I will add them to stews and soups for a plant-based protein boost, but love them simply drained and rinsed and dressed in good olive oil and lemon juice, with some seasonal vegetables on the side for the quickest of lunches or weekday suppers. See my White Bean and Asparagus Salad with Charred Lemon Dressing for a little inspiration.

 

5. Apple Cyder Vinegar

I love a punchy dressing for salads and vegetables, and often drizzle one onto a tray of vegetables before roasting (it adds a definite flavour boost compared to roasting with olive oil alone). Apple Cyder tends to be my vinegar of choice, not for any supposed health benefits, but because I really like the fruity taste. My favourite brand is Aspall.

 

 

6. Merchant Gourmet quinoa, lentil & rice pouches

I always have a few of these pouches in the cupboard. They are more expensive than cooking the grains or pulses from scratch, but are a real timesaver and can bulk out a simple salad in no time at all. I relied on these heavily during the first few months of motherhood, when time and energy were always in scant supply.

 

 

7. Red Lentil Pasta

Willow loves pasta, as do I from time-to-time. We like to eat a variety of pastas, and tend to prefer them naturally gluten-free, like brown rice or the legume-based ones. Legume pastas (red lentil, pea, chickpea) are higher in protein than grain-based alternatives, which can make a simple bowl of pasta pesto, or pasta with tomato sauce a more nutritionally balanced meal with no extra effort.

8. Tahini

Tahini has become a real staple ingredient for me. It’s essential for making a quick homemade hummus, but I also make lots of tahini dressings and dips to pep up simple vegetables, chicken or fish dishes.

9. Jarred sundried tomatoes / cooked peppers

Cooking and peeling peppers is a real faff. I just don’t bother, but buy jars of ready-roasted peppers in olive oil instead. I will usually keep them in my cupboards alongside a couple of jars of sundried tomatoes too. I’ll drain both well (keeping the oil to one side as it has a delicious flavour) and roughly chop them into a bland salad or blend into a tomato-based sauce (my go-to for this is the red pepper pasta sauce on pg. 240 of Simply Good For You) or soup for an extra pop of flavour.

 

10. Miso 

I use miso like a stock concentrate in soups, sauces, gravies and casseroles, as well as a topping for roasted vegetables (it is especially delicious on aubergines). It adds a real umami hit, and has become a weekly staple in my cooking. I’ll sometimes whizz it into tahini dressings too.

11. Coconut milk 

I love making simple vegetable and chickpea curries, and coconut milk adds a much-loved creaminess and richness.  This is another thing I tend to buy in bulk from Biona (again, the tins are BPA free and the coconut milk is free from emulsifiers), although you can find good coconut milk in most large supermarkets.

12. Rolled oats

Oats are one of the quickest, cheapest and simplest ways to add wholegrains into our diets. A great source of fibre, I use them for overnight oats, porridge, bircher muesli (my favourite recipes is on pg. 36 of Simply Good For You, crumble toppings or to thicken smoothies. I even whizz them up with some spices and lemon zest to make a great coating for chicken or fish goujons (see pg. 242 of Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan).

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Listening to your body

The importance of ‘listening to your body’

Listening to your body

Understand that we are all unique

We all have different needs – both physiologically and emotionally – and those needs might also change over time. ‘Listening to our body’ first means recognising that what works for another person might not work for us. Advice that is shared online or in print (even in my books, website & social media) may not suit you as a unique individual. Kind suggestions from friends and families might be great for them, but not for us. Understanding our differences and sticking to what we know is helpful or unhelpful personally is OK. Just as it is OK to ask for impartial, appropriately qualified professional support if we are unsure.

It’s just as important to be able to know when advice might not meet our needs as it is to know when it might.

Appreciate that signs might be subtle, and can easily be overlooked.

The body communicates in symptoms and feelings, not words. Sometimes, these signs are very subtle and require focused attention to be acknowledged. Unfortunately, however, we live in a constantly distracted world, where it is increasingly common to go through an entire day without having to be alone with our thoughts for even a minute – thanks to our phones, tablets, computers, TVs and all manner of other shiny devices. The mental chatter and noise that these create, can easily drown out the little subtle signs of our body not feeling quite ‘right’.

A good question to ask ourselves on this topic is ‘How much time each day do I spend without other people’s thoughts in my head?’ This could be from the radio, music, online or written content, podcasts, audiobooks, social media, books, magazines, emails, messages etc. Our minds need some daily down time (outside of sleep) without external inputs, in order to process thoughts and communicate needs. I generally work to the guideline of 3-5 minutes of quiet or undistracted time for every hour we have been awake.

A wonderful tool for helping with this is yoga, or any other mindfulness practice. But if this doesn’t sit comfortably with you, then being out in nature, taking a bath or shower, pottering about the house (gardening or even cleaning can be good), walking, swimming or being creative can all work well too, so long as we do so without podcasts, radio or musical distractions.

I think of it as allowing my mind a little time to coast in neutral.

Food & Symptom Diary

The importance of making connections

Even if we are conscious of symptoms or signs in our body, sometimes it can be really tricky to make the connections between what might be triggering or exacerbating them: Was it the result of a really stressful few days at work? Or that bad night’s sleep? Or the way my desk is set up? Or that meal I had earlier?

This is precisely when a symptom diary or journal can be really useful. There is lots of information on exactly how to do this (and a printable weekly diary) in this article. Feel free to make notes beyond food & drink though – it’s a worthwhile exercise to consider the wider aspects of your lifestyle too.  It’s also a really useful document to share with your healthcare providers if needs be.

Simply ask the question

I admit that I have a quite long-standing mindfulness practice, so this one might not be everybody’s cup of tea. But I am often amazed at how specific the response in my mind is, if I simply allow myself to sit quietly for a couple of minutes, and then ask gently ‘How are you doing?’.

It can be followed up a couple of minutes later with ‘What do you need right now?’. The body and unconscious mind hold a great deal of wisdom and intuition. Sometimes, just asking the question can give us the answers we need. These are also lovely journaling questions to try if that feels more comfortable to you.

P.s., So often, the response to this question for me is ‘rest’. It says a lot about our frantically paced world, I think.

Honouring what is being communicated

This is a bit of a tricky one, because I know that life is busy and overwhelming and it can be incredibly hard to find the time, energy and other resources to prioritise taking care of ourselves. But this is just a gentle reminder that often, self-care practices don’t have to be grandiose to be effective. If your body is pleading for rest, is there a way of getting an early night just one day this week? Or if it is nature and movement you need, could you find 10 minutes for a quick walk? Or perhaps aim to batch cook something nourishing at the weekend so you can enjoy nutritious, home-cooked food a few times during the week?

Once we have been through the process of recognising the signs our body has communicated to us, and worked out what might help us find a little more ease, we are then absolutely worthy of the next step of actually honouring those messages – and ourselves – with all the appropriate care and compassion we deserve.

If you’re after a little inspiration for self-care practices, take a look at my article on Non-Food Treats. For lots of quick-and-easy healthy meal ideas, take a look at Simply Good For You. And this article has lots of ideas for getting a great night’s sleep.

Knowing when to ask for help

A crucial aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle is recognising when to ask for help. Health and nutrition professionals are trained to help us make connections and to interpret the signs of the body. Not only can this help to shortcut the process of unpicking exactly what’s going on, but it also shares the responsibility of self-care and provides a very important safety net to pick up on anything potentially concerning.

But asking for help doesn’t have to only mean asking for medical or nutrition support. It could also be asking for help at work, support with childcare, a fairer division of household chores or endless other things. Asking for help, in whatever way we might need it, is never a sign of weakness – but instead a sign of immense strength and insight. Be brave and ask the question.

 

 

Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash

Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.


10 tips for healthy snacking

Image by Ola Mishchenko on Unsplash

My philosophy with nutrition is always to keep things simple wherever possible. While we each have different, specific requirements, and these will change over time to meet our shifting needs, we can still rely on a few common sense strategies to help us cut through the noise and confusion that has built up around healthy eating.

One strategy that I suggest to many clients is to reduce snacking, or even cut it out completely, and aim instead to eat three nourishing, filling and balanced meals a day, fasting for 4-5 hours in between. Most of us do not need to constantly graze to eat well, particularly as ‘snack’ foods tend to be less nutritionally balanced than main meals. It is also a myth that healthy eating requires regular snacking, or that it is necessary for maintaining blood sugar. For most of us, particularly if we are generally healthy, three meals a day is fine.

In fact, I have also found that many people need this 3-4 hour period of fasting to feel hungry enough to enjoy a big plateful of vegetables and a decent portion of protein at their next meal. We were probably all warned against ‘spoiling our appetite’ by snacking between meals as children, but the same also applies to us as adults. We need a hearty appetite to tackle a pile of vegetables with enthusiasm.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule: Young children, those who are unwell, those who have problems with blood sugar balance, athletes, pregnant or breastfeeding women, those who are trying to maintain or gain weight and various other groups, may benefit from healthy snacking. But for generally healthy adults, snacking is not essential.

There are also occasions for all of us when snacking is inevitable. Unforeseen circumstances mean we’re missing a meal, a meeting overran and we need to grab something quickly before heading off to the next engagement, or we are genuinely stomach-hungry between meals. Then the aim is to make the majority of our snacks as nutritious as our meals, so our body has access to all the essential nutrients we need to function optimally.

To help you put that into practice, here are 10 tips to help you feel in control of snacking, and where necessary, to enjoy it in a healthy and nourishing way.

1. Focus first on nourishing meals

It’s important to focus first on mealtime balance before doing anything else with snacking habits. Our bodies need to be well nourished to give us a chance of change. If you want more advice on how to create a balanced meal, please see this article on how to build a healthy plate. And if you need a reminder, here are the food categories for you.

In summary, think: ½ a plate of vegetables + ¼ plate of protein + a thumbful healthy fats + a pop of flavour at every meal. Add some wholegrains or unprocessed carbohydrates if you’re particularly hungry.

There is lots more background information on this, along with how to create a balanced diet overall (plus plenty of tasty recipes) in my third book, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan.

2.  Don’t forget protein

It’s worth highlighting that eating enough high quality protein at every meal is particularly helpful if you’d like to cut down your snacking. It is the nutrient that is thought to have the biggest impact on reducing hunger, while also helping to stabilise blood sugar levels. Protein doesn’t always have to be animal protein (eggs, dairy, meat, fish), but could also be plant-based (nuts, seeds, tofu, pulses, beans). Aim for a palm-sized portion (approximately ¼ plate) at each meal.

A top tip is to start each meal with two mouthfuls of protein before eating the other items on your plate – it really does help you to feel fuller quicker, and for longer.

3.  Have a good breakfast (if you eat it)

Breakfast tends to be the time of day that most of my clients struggle to achieve nutritional balance. Many traditional ‘breakfast’ foods are relatively low in protein but high in refined carbohydrates (processed cereal, pastries, jam on toast). This sets us up on a blood sugar rollercoaster that impacts us for the rest of the day – making it much, much harder to avoid snacking. Take a look at this article for over 80 ideas of healthy, nutritious breakfasts (that all contain some protein).

Having said that, some people find that they do best without breakfast, enjoying a longer overnight fast instead. This does, however, mean that the remaining two meals should be packed full of nutrition, as you’ll need to meet your entire day’s requirements with 33% less opportunity.

4.  Have a drink first 

It is very common to mistake thirst for hunger. Dehydration can make us feel lethargic and sluggish, so we may find ourselves reaching for a sugary pick-me-up to counteract the slump in energy. Drink enough water or herbal teas to stay on top of thirst and to keep your urine a pale yellow. Remember that sugary drinks (even smoothies and fruit juices) may also have a rapid effect on your blood sugar levels and can therefore be considered ‘snacks’ too. I would also put very milky drinks into the ‘snack’ category too, such as milkshakes, lattes or glasses of milk. So for quenching thirst, the best (and cheapest) option is water. Add some lemon, orange, ice, rosemary, mint or berries for a flavour pop if this helps you to enjoy it more.

5. Don’t worry about occasional snacks 

Of course there will be times when it is necessary to snack. This is real life and honouring true hunger is very important, regardless of when you last ate a meal. So when you do need a top-up between meals, try to make it another opportunity to nourish your body. Think of snacks as ‘mini meals’, rather than just grabbing whatever is most convenient. When you can, include some sort of fresh fruit or vegetables and protein as a baseline.

Healthy snack ideas might include:

  • An apple (sliced) & 1 tbsp peanut or almond butter
  • Some cucumber, pepper or carrot sticks & 1 tbsp hummus
  • A small bowl of natural yoghurt (4 tbsp roughly) & a handful of berries
  • A boiled egg, some rocket & a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A slice of rye toast with some nut butter or tahini and squished blueberries
  • A small handful of almonds – about 8 (or other nuts of your choice) and a satsuma, plum or a pear.
  • A small portion of a leftover meal
  • A ‘protein’ snack pot (if you are out and about – M&S and Pret both do versions of this).

But equally, don’t worry if the occasion calls for something decadent – just make it a conscious and positive decision to enjoy eating it mindfully.

6. Don’t be scared of hunger between meals 

If you are in the habit of eating regularly between meals, be prepared to initially feel a little hungry around the times you usually snacked. This can be due to your body’s habitual release of hunger hormones, or simply from the emotional comfort you gained from taking a break from your day to snack. It takes around 3-6 weeks of consistent effort to re-train your body and mind, but it usually gets much easier after that.

7. Minimise visual cues to snack 

This is my number one easy ‘hack’ to minimise snacking: Don’t have snack foods out where you can see them, or in cupboards that you often reach into. Put them in opaque containers, ideally out of their original packaging, behind closed doors. And if you buy biscuits, don’t leave leave them in the same cupboard that you keep your mugs and tea! It means that every time you reach for a cuppa, you’re visually reminded to have a biscuit too. Of course a biscuit here and there, within the context of a healthy lifestyle isn’t anything to worry about, if you wish to reduce snacking, simple organisational things like this can make all the difference.

8. Add some “barriers” to snacking

Place the snack foods right at the top and back of your cupboards, so that it takes that bit of extra effort to reach them. Alternatively, you can ‘store’ decadent snacks (like crisps, chocolate, cakes etc.) at the shops, so you have to go to the effort of heading outside to buy them before eating. Avoid leaving snack foods in your car or by your desk, so you have to stand up and walk elsewhere or wait until you get home to eat them. Have a think about little ways you can make it that bit more effortful to snack. And likewise, are there any ways to make healthy cooking from scratch that bit easier and simpler?

9. Think about why, as well as what

Very often, snacking can be more emotionally driven than it is hunger driven. If you find yourself snacking at around the same time each day, or consistently around the same situation, perhaps one of the most important steps is to gently enquire as to what is really going on for you at that moment. Is it that you are actually feeling stressed? Anxious? Lonely? Bored? Or is there genuine hunger? Meet whatever comes up for you with compassion and kindness, but know that bringing gentle awareness to these situations can be the key that unlocks lifelong change. If you need some ideas that go beyond food for ways to reward and comfort yourself, take a look at my list of non-food treats.

10. Children (and some others) may need to snack

I know that this article, and this website, is aimed at adults, but many of us are also responsible for feeding children and teenagers. I therefore wanted to reiterate that for these groups, and for various other people (such as those mentioned in the introduction), snacking can be really important. The key is to try to make those snacks as healthy and balanced as reasonably possible.

SHOP THE EDIT

Nourish & Glow: The 10 Day Plan | Amelia Freer

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Crunchy Peanut Butter | Organic Kitchen

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 BPA-free infuser water bottle | Omorc

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Organic Almonds | Wholefood Earth

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Snack Container | Garden Trading

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Snack box | Black+Blum

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Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you for your support as every little helps.

Salad Dressings

Salad Dressings

These are my favourite go-to salad & vegetable dressings that can transform the simplest of dishes in next to no time. I tend to make and store them all in small glass jars, as it’s so easy then to screw the lid back on and keep them in the fridge for another day (most last a week or so like this). Simply add all ingredients into the jar, then whisk to combine (or securely add lid and shake vigorously), taste and adjust seasoning, then pour. Many thanks to Aspall for partnering with me to bring you these dressings.

Click here for printable download of my favourite Salad Dressings

This post has kindly been sponsored by Aspall

SHOP THE EDIT

Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar

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Aspall Organic White Wine Vinegar

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Aspall Organic Red Wine Vinegar

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Nutrition Discoveries | June

June 2021

Here are 9 discoveries from the world of nutrition and wellbeing that my team and I have found, which we think you’ll be interested in hearing about too. Some of the brands have kindly offered a discount to help you discover the products for yourselves, so do take a look at the exclusive offers below.

If you ever stumble across something that you think we might all enjoy, please do drop us a tip-off email hello@ameliafreer.com and we will definitely take a look. Thank you!

1. Supplement | SEED

I am very impressed with this daily symbiotic (combined probiotic & prebiotic supplement), delivered in highly sustainable and considered packaged. SEED is backed by a scientific advisory board that boasts over 2800 publications, and over 140,000 citations in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks between them, and their strains have been studied in 16 double-blind randomised controlled studies, and 13 mechanistic studies. Now this is the degree of academic scrutiny I believe all nutritional supplements, particularly probiotics, deserve. While science is evolving all the time, and we certainly need more research in this field to ensure efficacy, precision and safety when it comes to manipulating the microbiome, I shall certainly be watching SEED progress with interest.

Learn more here.

Seed have kindly offered my followers a 15% discount so use code AMELIA15 at checkout.

2. Organic fruit & vegetable delivery | Pikt

I was delighted to try out a big box of Pikt organic fruit and vegetables recently (which went down a storm in my household). Pikt are aiming to make high-quality, organic, fresh fruit and vegetables affordable to the majority, not the minority, and a big plus is that you can build your own box (so you get a choice about what is delivered). They are 100% plastic-free, everything they sell is soil association certified and are a registered B-Corp (and are also committed to being net zero by 2030). They do a 60-portion seasonal mixed fruit, veg and salad box for £30. I’m impressed! Do take a look.

Order here

Pikt have kindly offered my followers a 20% discount on their first box so use code AF20 at checkout. Valid until 31st July.

3. Plant-based milk alternative | Sproud

Sproud is on a mission to make the world’s best tasting, most sustainable and nutritious plant-based milk alternatives. Made with yellow split-peas, and developed in Sweden, it has a neutral taste and creamy texture (frothing well if that’s your thing). Both my partner and Willow have also been drinking it happily.  It is fortified with vitamins A, B2, B12 and D, and is packaged in renewable and recyclable materials.

Stocked in Waitrose, Ocado and Amazon, as well as various independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

Buy here.

4. TV programme | Waffles + Mochi

If you’ve got little ones and are interested in helping them to learn more about food, healthy eating and culture, I would recommend taking a look at Waffles + Mochi, a series on Netflix produced by Michelle Obama, and guest starring some brilliant chefs, growers and creatives. I’ve been really enjoying watching them with Willow (even if the episodes are a bit US-centric, I think they still offer a lot for young UK audience). Do take a look. Probably best suited to pre-school and young primary age children.

Watch now on Netflix.

5. Lightly alcoholic drinks | Percival & Co.

If you’re gearing yourself up for some socialising over the next few weeks, then take a look at this brand of lightly alcoholic drinks from Percival and Co. Their botanical infusions are lower in sugar, alcohol and additives than many other options on the market, at roughly 4% ABV. I also think they’d make a lovely gift for anyone hosting over the summer. Plus, every bottle purchased also contributes to supporting the regeneration of our country’s hedgerows. Buy online, or shop through Ocado, Amazon or Selfridges.

Percival and Co are kindly offering a 15% discount using this code PERCIVALAF15.

Buy here.

6. Recipe binder | Fraser and Parsley

I love to tear out and keep recipes from magazines and newspapers, squirrel away jotted-down ideas and save generously shared instructions from friends. These all need some sort of home to live in, and ideally one that means that I can actually find that recipe again! I think this new grey recipe binder from the lovely ladies at Fraser & Parsley is pretty perfect (and wouldn’t half make a gorgeous gift). P.s. their diaries are brilliant too, as are their bespoke kitchen and egg box stamps.

Buy here.

7. Book | I Can’t Believe It’s Baby Food – Lucinda Miller

With over 20 years’ experience specialising in children’s nutrition, Lucinda Miller really is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to all things babies, weaning, children (and beyond). Her latest book is a genuinely brilliant idea, containing over 120 easy, healthy recipes that are suitable for weaning babies from 6 months – but which can then be adapted to suit the whole of the rest of the family. Buy this if you’ve got a baby or toddler at home, or if you know someone who does.

Buy it from Waterstones and Amazon.

8. Website | Seasonal Fruit & Vegetables in Europe from EUFIC 

This brilliant new tool from EUFIC, the European Food Information Council, is a website that allows you to search for the fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area of Europe on a seasonal or monthly basis across the year. It’s definitely worth having a play with.

Access the online tool here.

9. Bread | Superloaf from Modern Baker

I was sent a press sample of this bread recently, and I have to say I was really impressed. 5 years in the making, it is produced from 16 recognisable plant ingredients (with no added emulsifiers, processing aids or artificial preservatives) and most importantly, tastes really good.  It also freezes brilliantly, perfect to toast from frozen in the morning with a poached egg, or some nut butter and squished blueberries, for a quick and nourishing breakfast.

With a hefty 3.8g protein (approximately the same as half an egg), alongside 13% of your daily fibre intake per slice, it is also a good source of selenium and folate. A big thumbs up from me.

P.s., They also have a lovely cookbook if you want to try their traditional and sourdough baking at home.

Buy here [via Amazon Fresh].

Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.


Why I am partnering with Chefs in Schools

Why I am partnering with Chefs in Schools

For a long time, I have been passionate about the potential role that food can play in the lives of children and young people. While of course, I am particularly interested in this from a nutritional science perspective, I have also come to appreciate the importance of approaching the topic with a much wider lens of vision: from encouraging young people to enjoy food and feel confident cooking, to education about farming and food production, to appreciation and understanding of the wider economic, social and cultural impacts that can influence all of our food choices, as well as the devastating impact of rising childhood food poverty.

It’s a vastly complex topic, and one that I am also ever conscious may be overlaid with a lot of emotion and strong feelings. And as a busy parent myself, I certainly know how hard it can be to get kids to engage with, and eat only nutritious food! There has to be a hefty dose of realism attached to any discussions on this topic. Yet despite all of this, I still feel deeply that feeding our children as well as we can, and encouraging them to develop a love of good food, is incredibly important – as parents, as educators and as a society.

It is for all of those reasons that I positively leapt at the opportunity to work alongside Chefs in Schools, an incredible charity whose mission is to encourage and enable schools across the UK to serve great, creative school food – that doesn’t just fill young people up, but feeds their imagination too. They believe that teaching the next generation how to cook and enjoy real, tasty food is crucial to their long-term physical and mental health. I couldn’t agree more.

Photo by Kate Kuzminova

They have three key objectives:

1.To work directly with schools to improve the food, and food education, offered to pupils.

This support is tailored to each individual school, but might include training existing kitchen teams or recruiting new chefs, as well as providing professional training programmes for school cooks, chefs and keen amateurs.

2.To develop materials, resources and training programmes to help all schools achieve better food.

One of these incredible resources is the new Hackney School of Food, a community garden and cookery school where young people and families from across London can learn to grow their own produce and cook affordable, healthy and balanced meals.

3.To campaign to improve children’s health through better food and food education.

Chefs in Schools campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of school food when it comes to child health. They also believe that food can be a tool for social mobility as hungry children don’t learn. Children across the country are missing meals day-in, day-out, and the meals provided by school might be their only food for the day. Food is fundamental to survival. Without food, little else matters. Chefs in Schools wants every school meal to be a good one and wants all children to learn kitchen skills.

Please, please watch and share this hard-hitting but very real and important campaign video.

Over the coming months, and hopefully years, I shall be sharing lots more about this collaboration, as well as resources and information on childhood nutrition, family friendly balanced recipes and inspiration for helping encourage kids into the garden and kitchen.

In the meantime, here are a few links and resources you might be interested in:

If you are a parent…

… and wish to support improvements in the food provision at your children’s school, please consider sharing the following with the teachers or headteacher;

Do also take a look at the free cook-alongs from the Hackney School of Food for some practical inspiration and ideas for family friendly cooking.

Also, the Hackney School of Food is launching new virtual and in-person cook-along classes which are suitable for friends and families who want to cook together, or for team building and corporate clients. Follow Chefs in Schools on Instagram where they’ll be posting more details – @chefsinschools_uk

 

If you are a cook or chef…

… and would like to know more about working in a school (Sensible working hours! School holidays! The chance to inspire a new generation!), please complete this Chef Contact Form.

If you are an education professional…

… and are looking to improve the food at the school you work in through Chefs in Schools, please fill in this School Contact Form.

You will also find plenty of actionable resources and toolkits from the School Food Plan here.

If you’d like to learn more…

… or support Chefs in Schools, please click here.

P.s., Chefs in Schools is currently recruiting kitchen staff from state schools in Southwark and Lambeth to take part in their free School Chef Educator Qualification pilot, a free online 14-week programme starting in September 2021. Schools can request more information, or sign up to take part, by emailing yenny@chefsinschools.org.uk.