Tag Archives: healthy

Confused about organic fruit and veg shopping?

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Should all our fruit and vegetables be organic? If i can’t afford organic is it better to totally avoid or can I just eat non-organic produce? This can be such a confusing topic!

The answer is no, not all of our fruit and vegetables have to be organic, there are some that can be bought non-organic but others that really really should be because their level of pesticide residue may be just too high to make the food nutritious and worth while eating.

Hopefully this will make things easier for you, print this list out and stick it on your fridge or in your bag for when you go shopping.

The following should be bought organic (known as the Dirty Dozen, but there’s 14 now!):

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Blueberries (domestic)

These ones don’t need to be bought organic (known as the Clean 15):

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes

I hope this helps! xxx

How to make healthy choices when you’re out and about town

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Staying healthy when you’re out and about can be easy when you know the right foods to look for and where to find them. In London or a big city there are so many healthy options for meals or snacks on the go.

Here’s where to look:

  • Pret
  • Pod
  • Crussh
  • Wholefoods
  • Planet Organic
  • Chop’d
  • Itsu
  • M&S

Pret for example do great snack pots containing nutritious winners like salmon, boiled egg, quinoa, spinach, chicken, hummus, edamame beans. They do lunch pots with quinoa and rice with a vegetarian or meat option, and salad boxes with avocado and crayfish, which can be added to a snack pot to create a larger meal. Just avoid their sandwiches, melts and wraps. They now have a great coconut dairy free yogurt with raw cacao nibs too.

Pod and Crussh have excellent choices for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Just look for good quality protein like salmon, chicken or eggs, whole grains like quinoa, brown or wild rice and dark green leaves, other veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

For people who are not in London or a city where these types of places are available to you then keep little airtight containers with you containing nuts, seeds, good quality dark chocolate, chopped apple or blueberries. You can even carry things like boiled eggs and spinach, smoked salmon and avocado and a plastic fork so you don’t get caught out needing to buy something unhealthy to eat due to lack of choice.

Stay hydrated when out by always keeping a bottle of water in your bag and stopping off for cups of herbal teas like green tea, chamomile and peppermint.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Good Nutrition

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The food we eat can have the most profound effects on how we feel and how we act, I sometimes look at a person who’s getting stressed out at a checkout or speak to a friend who isn’t handling a particular situation very well, or I think back to my own past experiences when I would feel so down both physically and mentally and it affected the way I treated my family and friends and the time I gave them. Knowing what I now know about the power of good nutrition I want to take all these people in and show them what they could to transform the way they act, re-act and feel day to day. 

Lack of the right nutrition can affect our day to productivity massively, whether at work, at home or in social situations. A person could be perceived as an introvert, ‘away with the fairies’, under performing at work, or as someone who lacks patience, or is aggressive, ‘snappy’ or ‘moody’, all of these traits could be linked to their nutrition.

It’s so vital, especially in today’s stressed out and rushed way of life, that we get the right nutrition for our unique needs.
It’s so easy to opt for convenience foods, crisps, bars and other packaged on-the-go foods. The tendency for so many people is to gear towards a way of eating that saves us time in the kitchen, wanting to maximise the time spent doing other things. It’s this way of thinking though that can lead to so many health issues in the future as well as make us feel like rubbish day to day! What’s the point in having more time if you just feel so rubbish that your productivity, body and mind suffers, your loved ones and work colleagues won’t thank you for that!
We should all be making positive changes towards the way we eat in order to increase productivity, by increasing our energy levels, improving clarity, feeling full of beans and looking great! Why doesn’t everyone want this?! The problem is we do all want this, but so many of us don’t realise the true power that nutrition holds when it comes to how we feel and perform. Nutrition isn’t just important for athletes, it’s important for all of us, everyday! I also think a lot of us simply think that the way we feel is just the way it is, maybe you think it’s just a natural part of the ageing process and just life. It really isn’t, we can all feel great everyday it’s just knowing what to do.
Here are some daily tips to live by, start to incorporate these one by one into your daily routine until you have them all mastered and being second nature:
  • Eat real, whole foods and avoid processed foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  • Cook at home from scratch (and this can be done very quickly!) and bulk cook
  • DO include fat everyday (I will write a separate post on fats) eg avocado, salmon, nuts and nut butter, butter. Coconut oil, full fat products.
  • Include protein, fat and good carbohydrates at every meal and snack and eat this every 3-4 hours
  • Drink around 2 litres of filtered water daily, start the day with big glass of water with the juice of half a lemon, and also have a green smoothie eg celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, apple, lettuce.
  • Get to bed before or around 11pm and have a good 7-8 hours
  • Have a bedtime snack such as an oatcake with but butter or cottage cheese so your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low and stop you sleeping well.
  • Avoid alcohol late at night and as much as you can in general, saving it for special occasions.
  • Meditate! Even just 5-10 mins each day will do. Just to create some space in your day to be mindful and present can make a big difference to your wellbeing.
  • Strength train! Lay off cardio and build a weights programme into your weekly schedule even just one to sessions per week of a 15 min programme would do.

Best wishes as always, FLNutrition x

A day in the life of a blood sugar roller coaster

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Here is a day’s food diary that one of my clients sent to me prior to our first meeting (don’t worry she was more than happy for me to use her case for this purpose!).

This client came to me because she had low energy and trouble losing weight despite her best efforts in the gym and ‘watching what she ate’.

For the purpose of this blog let’s call this client Laura. Laura is 33. She works in the city 5 days a week, and is currently single and has no children. She is a member of a gym to which she goes about 3 times a week, usually taking part in a spin class. Laura wants to lose a stone, and tone up. She has been going to the gym for almost 2 years, before that she used to go for jogs outside here and there. She has been struggling to lose her excess weight for the last year and it was her main motivation for joining the gym. She is frustrated that she hasn’t managed to shift any weight, although she does say she feels good and quite energised for going to the gym regularly.

Here is Laura’s food diary which she filled in just before we met for your session together:

Breakfast – 1 bowl of bran flakes with skimmed milk 1 banana 1 glass of fresh orange juice 1 black coffee (Nescafe) with 1 sweetener.

Lunch – Jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw 1 can diet Coke Snack Flapjack (Starbucks)

Dinner – Usually 1 chicken breast with roast potatoes and cabbage.

Following a diet like this Laura would certainly have trouble losing weight despite any exercise she might be doing, and her energy would no doubt be low.

Although Laura believes she is doing the right thing, here’s why this way of eating won’t help her to reach her goals.

Most of Laura’s food shown here is made up of simple carbs, which means they break down to sugar as soon as they’re swallowed, and this sugar is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. There is little protein, very little good fats, and it’s low in fibre.

Insulin and fat storage

the more simple carbs we include in our diet and the less protein, the more of a job insulin has to do. Insulin is a hormone that’s released by then pancreas in response to sugar that we eat and send into the blood stream. Insulin moves this sugar from the blood stream into the cells to be used as energy and any leftover sugar gets stored in the fat cells. The trouble is if we are constantly eating sugar and simple carbs, we are constantly left with excess sugar to be stored in the fat cells. This is when we start to gain extra weight (usually around the middle, and hips and thighs for women) that’s hard to shift no matter how much exercise you do or how many calories you count. A diet high in sugar and these simple carbs will also have you energy levels fluctuating all day long – leading to hunger and cravings you can’t control!

Let’s look at Laura’s diet meal by meal:

Breakfast – bran flakes are marketed to us as a nutritious source of fibre, but in reality any of these commercial cereals break down into sugar quickly in our body, plus they have extra sugar added to them as well, whether they are plain bran flakes or with added things like honey or dried fruit (even worse). Per 30g serving of Laura’s breakfast (but I’d assume she would have more like 50g) there is 6g of sugar which is 1 and a ½ teaspoons.

Laura uses skimmed milk, this is whole milk with all the fat (and nutrients) stripped out of it and per 200ml (roughly the amount she may use) there is just over 2 teaspoons of sugar. Full fat milk would be a much better choice (natural fat is good for us and the fat also slows down the body’s absorption of the natural sugars in milk).

The glass of orange juice (if a small glass) contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar, and little fibre due to the fact it is not the whole fruit. So the sugar total here is about 10 teaspoons, before the day has even begun.

Protein really helps to balance our blood sugar level and keep it from spiking too high (which is what causes insulin to be released and fat storage). As Laura has very little protein its likely that her blood sugar level is constantly too high or too low, and either scenario will mess with energy levels and lead to fat storage on the body.

The coffee would be better if it was freshly ground rather than processed simple because processed coffee is difficult for the liver to process whereas ground coffee beans come with some health benefits!  But! Having caffeine on an empty stomach can stimulate the release of sugar into the blood stream in the same way that eating sugar and refined carbs do. So its best to have your fresh coffee with some protein to prevent this from happening.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity and some studies suggest that although its not sugar, the artificial sweetness may still trigger an insulin response , and then lead to fat storage. Plus the liver struggles to process artificial sweetness and we really don’t want to be burdening our precious liver.

Snacks – Laura leaves 6 hour gaps between meals which, would be fine for someone with a healthy diet with enough protein, healthy fats and fibre, but it’s not great for someone who eats mostly refined carbs, sugar and little protein and fat. Her blood sugar level will likely drop too low in-between meals causing cravings, hunger, irritability, mood swings, and fatigue. In Laura’s case she would benefit from putting a snack in between her meals that contain some protein and fat, such as a couple of oatcakes with a tablespoon of olive oil hummus.

Lunch – White jacket potatoes will break down quite quickly into sugar once eaten, which is fine if you’re doing intensive cardio training e.g. training for a half or full marathon, but for the regular person who works in an office and goes to the gym a few times a week its probably too much simple carbs. She would be better off with a small sweet baked potato instead which is much lower in glucose and higher in fibre. Shop bought coleslaw will most likely contain a fair amount of sugar, just adding to the load. Laura will feel sleepy after lunch and probably crave something sweet a couple of hours later.

Mid Afternoon snack – Flapjacks are usually laden with syrups and sugar so this will just raise her blood sugar again, cause fat storage and a drop in energy shortly after.

Dinner – her dinner finally see’s her having some quality protein! But by now the blood sugar rollercoaster damage has been done and Laura will have felt pretty rough all day and have stored new fat on her body. Chicken breast is high in lean protein which will keep Laura fuller for longer, the cabbage is a good source of fibre and nutrients (as long as it’s not overcooked!), all she needs to do to improve on this is replace the potato with either lots of extra green veggies or a small sweet potato, handful of brown rice or quinoa.

To learn more about constructing an ideal food plan for you and your needs give me a call today on 07860 573 901 :-)

You don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight – 8 Steps to Healthy Weight Loss

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And so the cycle continues. Fad diet after fad diet, with short lived success and feelings of deprivation and restriction.

If I told you that you do not need to starve yourself to lose weight or go on a restrictive, boring and miserable diet would you believe me? I have this conversation with so many people, mainly women, who just don’t see how this can be true. They walk away forgetting what I’ve said within about 30 seconds, so sure that calorie restriction and excessive cardio at the gym is the only way to shed the weight they are so very fed up with.

I also find that when it comes to weight loss, so many people don’t regard the nutrition factor with any importance, and that they are only really concerned with losing as much weight as they can, as quickly as they can. Yo-yo dieting can have a detrimental effect on our health, not to mention the stretch marks! Aside from the health effects of restrictive and yo-yo dieting so many people are missing out on the true enjoyment of food. Good, tasty and wholesome foods that make us feel satiated and energetic are being overlooked in this bid to lose weight at whatever cost.

I am going to explain the key to successful and sustainable weight loss in the hope that many of my readers will accept it, try it for themselves and have faith that it will work for you!

1) Eat breakfast within an hour of waking

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day when it comes to fat loss. Leaving large gaps between meals causes our blood sugar to drop too low and so the next meal we eat can cause a sharp rise in our blood glucose (sugar) level. Insulin is responsible for moving excess glucose into fat cells for storage and is released in response to food consumption. The more glucose in the blood at any one the more fat is stored. In the morning our blood sugar level is at its lowest so what you eat for breakfast is all important. Having a sugary low protein breakfast can causes a high spike in blood sugar and thus a larger amount of fat is stored by insulin. Ensure your breakfast always contains good amounts of protein, a complex carbohydrate and some healthy fats. Protein slows down the release of sugar into the blood (so reduced fat storage) and has a satiating effect, keeping us fuller for longer.

2) Then eat every 3-4 hours following breakfast

This will prevent your blood sugar level dropping low and keep it stable throughout the day. Keeping the blood sugar level stable will minimize fat storage. All meals and snacks should contain a protein, a complex carbohydrate and some healthy fat. This will also keep energy levels stable too!


3) Stick to complex carbohydrate and low GI fruits

Go easy on fruit; although it contains fibre and vitamins its still sugar at the end of the day, and your body doesn’t differentiate between the sugar from a load of fruit and the sugar from a bar of chocolate. Include low sugar fruits such as apples, pears and darkly coloured berries like blueberries, or blackberries and use no more than a handful per day.

Switch white/refined carbs for complex carbs, see the list below!

4) Include plenty of fibre from vegetables especially leafy greens
Fibre is important not only for our digestive health but also for weight loss. Fibre stretches the stomach and so we feel fuller faster, and also for longer. Fibre takes longer to chew and digest and therefore slows down eating so we signal to our brain that we are full BEFORE we have eaten everything in sight and then realised we were probably already too full! Fibre also holds onto sugar, slowing its release into the bloodstream and so preventing the high blood sugar spikes that lead to fat storage.


5) Include healthy fats

The fats we must avoid are trans fats and hydrogenated fats; these are found in most processed foods, including biscuits, cookies, margarine, fried and battered foods, and pie crusts. It’s important however to include healthy fats daily. You have probably heard a lot about coconut oil and how healthy it is, that’s because it really is, and it can help with weight loss too. Although coconut oil is composed of saturated fatty acids they are the beneficial kind, known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are burnt for energy rather than stored and they help to speed our metabolism to burn fat faster. MCTs also have a satiating effect helping us feel fuller quicker and for longer. There are so many benefits of coconut oil I will have to save that for another article! But for now please just know that coconut oil is a healthy and beneficial item to add into your daily diet, for general health reasons as well as weight loss.

It’ also important to include essential fats everyday such as avocado, omega-3 rich fish like wild salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines, nuts and seeds, olive oil, hemp oil, hemp seeds, flax oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, nut butters. These can help to burn fat and improve the body’s response to insulin (minimizing fat storage). Aim to include oily fish 3-4 times per week and minimize red meat (organic and grass fed) to 1-2 portions per week.

6) Reduce or eliminate stimulants

Stimulants such as caffeine, energy drinks, nicotine and alcohol raise our blood sugar level and so increase the production of insulin, which, as we know, leads to fat storage the more it is produced.

7) Get the right amount of sleep!!

Lack of sleep and broken sleep can have detrimental effects on our weight loss efforts and fat storage! We can go to the gym everyday and eat well but if we are not sleeping well and for long enough each night those our efforts are in vain. A lack of sleep can decrease levels of an important hormone (leptin) that tells our brain we are full and or not hungry. This is not to say that we shouldn’t eat, or we should feel full even when we haven’t eaten properly, it’s just that if levels of leptin are low then we are more likely to overeat and crave sugar. Furthermore lack of sleep increases a hormone (ghrelin) that makes us hungrier and again, crave carbs and sugar.

8) Reduce stress!
This is soooo important. Stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol increases our blood sugar level in a bid to provide the brain with the fuel it needs to handle stressful situation, the problem is we just don’t need that amount of sugar for a stressful situation that isn’t physical (e.g. running from a tiger) but psychological, such as running late for work or being stuck in traffic. The excess sugar is then stored as fat. The more these events occur the more fat is stored. So it’s vital to get your stress levels under control using techniques such as meditation, simple meditation breathing and mindfulness, again there is so much to say about this and I will write on it separately.

Here’s an idea for an ideal day:

Breakfast (within an hour of waking)

2 eggs scrambled with 50g of smoked salmon, spinach and baby tomatoes on 1 slice of rye toast. Or, for busy people on the move a protein breakfast smoothie.

Snack (if not eating lunch within 3 hours of finishing breakfast)

1 apples and about 12 almonds/walnuts/brazil nuts

Lunch

1 wild salmon steak, 50g of brown rice, spinach, watercress, rocket, red onion and baby tomatoes (grated carrot and beetroot, and fennel if you’re happy to add even more veg!)

Snack

150g of natural Greek yoghurt e.g. Yeo Valley with handful of blueberries and sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Dinner

1 chicken breast with a small baked sweet potato, spinach and broccoli

There are so many options and ideas for a day of nutritious, satiating and tasty easting. We do not need to nor should we starve and restrict ourselves or follow fad diets. Love food, love eating it, just choose it wisely, plan ahead and be organised.

Swap the refined carbs for the complex carbs:

Refined carbohydrate foods:

 White bread

 White pasta

 Potatoes (except sweet potatoes)

 White rice

 Cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolates, croissants, doughnuts etc etc

 Pizza

 Quiche and any pastry pies

 Cereals e.g. Coco Pops, Cheerios, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes etc.

 Fizzy drinks, concentrated juice drinks, sports drinks, other sugary drinks

 Pre-packaged and processed foods

Foods that release glucose into the blood stream in lower amounts and more slowly are known as ‘complex’ carbohydrates foods:

 Brown or wholemeal pasta

 Brown basmati rice

 Wholemeal bread

 Rye bread

 All vegetables apart from potatoes and parsnips

 Sweet potatoes

 Low sugar fruits such as berries, apples and pears

 Whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, oats and rye

 Beans, pulses and lentils

 Ryvita

 Oatcakes

We need to eat and not diet, simply eat well all year round, for good, and you will never need to deprive yourself again AND you will enjoy a weight you’re happy with and one you can sustain for life.

For a consultation with me for a more detailed and personalised weight loss plan call now on 07860 573 901

Best wishes,

Francesca @FLNutrition

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