Thursday, 31 May 2012

Is There Enough Weight For Love?

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Image from google

A word of advice.  Before you say ‘I do’, you may wish to sign up to that gym membership too.  You really don’t want to give up on your hunky trainer just yet, for a study from Shanghai published in Public Health Nutrition this month revealed a little shocking bombshell. 

From a total of 342 newlyweds, this study reported an average weight gain of 2.2kg for men and 1.6kg for women.  All within one year of tying the knot too!

What’s worse, dig into those sweets and fats over the late romantic movies and you will be well on your way to gaining weight with every happy bite.

But can you really blame the couples?  Newlyweds have valentines, anniversaries, a newly acquired set of birthdays and ‘oh so lovey’ celebrations after celebrations to get through.  Plus don’t forget somebody’s got to eat and sample the left over cake, wine and champagne.  You cannot possibly let it go to waste, right?

Wrong!  Think back to your single days.  Were you at your slimmest then?  Is this because you always made time for those exercise sessions with your gorgeous personal trainer?  Did you always eat healthy home cooked meals instead of being whisked off to lovely restaurants with your significant other?  And then even if you did eat out, did you usually forgo dessert because you knew there was nobody to share it with?

If this sounds all too familiar then you’ve been living for too long in that love bubble.  You’ve neglected and completely forgotten your better half.  Who you ask?  I am talking about you!   
That’s right - you.  

Think back to where you got your inner inspiration from.  Who made sure you got off that couch and went out for that run even in the rain?  Who rationed your evening meals so that leftovers were exactly that – leftovers and not a second course on your private date for one.  Finally, who made sure you always stopped at the shops and tried on a dress or two to verify that your beautiful bod still fit into that stunning wee dress.  I bet that somebody was still you.

If it’s too late to ditch the partner in crime but you are piling the pounds, then there’s only one thing left to do – book those training sessions with the hunky trainer.  Soon your man will want to follow you and his competition to every single exercise meeting.  Even sooner, you’ll both be exercising together into the old but ‘minus the 2kg thank you very much’ beautiful you.

So hunt out your forgotten gym gear love birds, it’s time to ditch the wedding cake and hit the gym.

What tips have you got for shedding the weight after a gain?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

What You Need To Know When Your Baby Has Reflux

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Image by google.

Are you debating about pulling your hair out because your healthy and thriving baby is crying and vomiting yet again?  Don’t worry; you’ll be relieved to know that this may actually be perfectly normal.

Did you know that almost half of babies vomit at least once a day?  One in every five babies may vomit up to 4 times a day.  You may describe these vomits as effortless regurgitation, with earfuls of crying, back arching and ‘spills’ immediately or hours after a feed.

The good news is that almost all babies grow out of these symptoms of reflux completely by 18 months of age.

Remember, gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR) is a symptom, not a disease. 

So don’t panic if your baby decides to ‘spill’ yet again today.  If you are feeling frustrated after having only just changed your baby into clean clothes, relax, grab a cuppa and read my tips below.

Conservative therapy

Try to remember, that this period of ‘possits’, ‘spills’ and 'vomits' are only temporary and the situation will improve and resolve spontaneously.

Have you tried to modify feeding positions to find out your baby’s preferred feeding posture? 

Do keep your baby’s head elevated by approximately 30 degrees during and after feeds for around 20 to 30 minutes. 

Babies have stiff stomachs and the distance between their stomach and mouth is so short that if you bounce them on your lap immediately after a feed, you may find that you’ll be changing both your own and your baby’s clothes yet again!  

Supine positioning during sleeping is also recommended and may be helpful.

You can also trial smaller, but more frequent feeds.  For example, if your baby is feeding every 3 to 4 hourly, consider changing the feeding schedule to every 2 to 3 hourly. 

Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for your baby.  If you have chosen to breast feed, it is recommended to continue to do so whilst you overcome this period of reflux.

For formula fed babies, a pre-thickened formula may be beneficial in reducing the frequency of visible regurgitation.  This does not however, treat the underlying cause of the reflux.

A study showed that when parents adopted the above conservative therapy approaches, symptoms of reflux improved in more than half the babies without the use of any medications.

In severe cases of reflux with multiple symptoms, cow’s milk protein sensitivity or allergy may be the cause of unexplained crying and vomiting.  It has been suggested that up to 40% of infants with severe reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) may suffer from cow’s milk protein allergy.  In this scenario, a 2 to 4 week trial on a cow’s milk protein free formula (for formula fed babies) may be beneficial.  

If your baby is over six months of age, you could also trial a soy based infant formula.  In some occasions where cow’s milk protein allergy is evident this may also be linked with soy allergy/sensitivity.  If the symptoms of reflux and history of vomiting persist even after a change in infant formula, speak to your GP or dietitian for further advice.

Seek medical advice if your baby is experiencing..
Repeated vomiting after every feed
Faltering growth (your baby’s growth is crossing lines on the growth chart)
Feed refusal
And your baby has also been diagnosed with other medical condition(s).

Monday, 28 May 2012

Paleolithic Diet & CrossFit - A Bodybuilder's Winning Combo?

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I admit it – I was full of contempt when Joseph Hoang talked to me about the paleolithic diet experience.  You may also know this diet as the ‘caveman diet’.  I believe it’s taken the world by storm, but seriously; to me - it really is just another low carb and low energy diet..

Yet I’ve met Joe who swears by the diet.  Joe is 31 and is an IT consultant.  He is dedicated to his exercise regime of crossFit workouts and has successfully lost around 18kg since commencing the paleo diet.

How did you hear about the diet?
‘I hit a time in my life when I thought to myself, I need to do something about my body.  I want to look good.  My diet was unhealthy and I ate a lot of rubbish.  Takeaway meals such as Chinese, Lebanese or Indian used to be my usual dinners whilst cheesy crackers and chocolate biscuits were my staple snacks.' 
'I decided to exercise and I joined the gym.  I gave up smoking.  I got introduced to crossFit training and my coach in Australia at the time suggested that I give the paleo diet a go.'

 Your first impressions on the paleo diet
‘Being of Asian background I was worried about the restrictions such as rice, potato and milk.  I gradually took the approach by cutting out one food at a time.  I first cut out all refined sugars so out went the chocolate biscuits.’

‘By this stage I had reached 82kg and I thought it was all muscle.  I was gaining weight but I didn’t worry as I knew that muscle weighed heavier than fat.  I really thought it was all muscle.  Boy did I need a wake up call!’
'I commenced the diet in December 2010.  It took me 3 months to lose the weight.  I dropped down to 64kg which is a 22% body weight loss.  My waist used to be 35cm and I reduced this to 28cm.  I am a small guy so these measurements are better suited for me.’

Give me a quick example of what you used to eat like before your dramatic weight loss

‘Hangover food’ like bacon and eggs, a large bread roll with BBQ sauce and mushrooms

A whole box of cheesy & salty crackers called ‘Shapes’.  I would then start on a packet of ‘Tim Tams’ (chocolate biscuits in Australia).

I would also drink three mochaccinos with whole milk and during the weekends I would drink a 1 litre bottle of fizzy drink per day.

A large meal based on meat, rice, bread, potato and veggies.  Often take-aways.

‘At my fattest I was working full-time so I really didn’t have time for exercise.  I was also a smoker so I didn’t have the energy or even the lungs to run!  I was only able to run 200 metres without stopping.  Enough was enough so I quit smoking in 2009.'

What changes did you make first?
‘I joined crossFit, started exercising and cut out the biscuits.  As a result, I lost around 5kg but it was a struggle to lose more.  I had a huge appetite after exercise and really struggled to shift the weight.  I hovered around the high 70s for about a year.  By this stage I was running and swimming.  I even completed two marathons that year but still struggled to shed the extra body fat.  During this time, a friend at work recommended that I cut out carbs from my evening meal.  I tried it and this helped me lose a little bit more body fat.’

‘I then cut out some of my high fat snacks and replaced it with berries, apples, cherry tomatoes and nuts.  For lunch, instead of large sandwiches I chose large chicken salads.  For dinner, I ate roast chicken with steamed vegetables.  Once a week I’d treat myself to my favourite foods such as noodles or absolutely anything I wanted.’

What happened when you transitioned onto the caveman diet?
‘I cut out all of my high fat snacks and ate only fruit or nuts.  I also got inspiration from John Stone Fitness who took photos of his weight loss every day for an entire year.  My photos above are my weekly progress over 3 months.

Was there anything that you could eat on the paleo diet?
‘I did my own version of the diet.  This is how I ate.'

Coffee and 2 x hard boiled eggs

Almonds and macadamia nuts.  If I felt naughty I ate cashew nuts, but always plain, never roasted.  I ate these in unlimited quantities, but you get so sick of eating them.  After about 20 nuts you can’t face eating another.  It kept me full until lunch.

I ate the same lunch every day!  A small can of flavoured chicken or tuna.  Or fresh roasted chicken with lettuce, tomato and tabbouleh which was based on tomatoes, onions, garlic and parsley prepared with olive oil.

‘I never felt hungry as I always snacked on berries and nuts.’

Roast or grilled meat with vegetables such as broccoli or bok choy to name a few.  Potato and sweet corn were not allowed on the diet but I did eat avocado as this was highly recommended.

Cup of tea with berries

‘This was the hardest three months of my life but the feeling I had afterwards was amazing.  My stomach felt tight like I had abs all the time.  I felt surreal.  I was eating such an unhealthy diet previously that I didn’t know what being healthy felt like.  This felt amazing!’ 

What was the hardest about the diet?
‘The first two weeks was the hardest as I had a huge energy crash.  I was highly irritable and was sleeping at my desk by 3pm.  My shirt would be untucked and my tie swung behind me the wrong way around.  I also had to cut out yoghurt and milk which I really loved.'

Did you take any multi-vitamins or any other supplements?
‘I took a multivitamin tablet a day.  The diet said that you didn’t need calcium from dairy alone, greens were sufficient.  I don’t recall the diet recommending a calcium supplement and I am not sure if the multivitamin tablet contained calcium.  The diet did not recommend additional supplements but I felt that I needed a vitamin tablet.’

How are you maintaining your weight loss?
‘I maintained the diet but re-introduced carbs.  I eat carbs only in the form of sweet potatoes as it's a low GI food.  I was not keen on pasta and rice as I always noticed that I felt sleepy after eating these.  If I was out with friends and I ate rice, particularly Jasmine rice, then I would be the first to be asleep at the dinner table!  I still have a cheat meal once a week where I still choose to eat rice, pasta and other favourite foods.'

What’s your diet like now?

1 x sweet potato with tuna, chicken or hard boiled egg

Avocado and chicken salad with salad greens, tomatoes and another sweet potato

‘I continue to snack on fruit and nuts all day.’
Similar to lunch

‘I eat dinner quite late as I train after work for almost three hours.  Sometimes I feel a little faint during training and hence why I introduced carbs back into my breakfast and lunch.' 

Your last words before we bid you farewell?
‘It was the best thing I did.  At first it was one of the hardest 2 weeks during the crash, but then it all came together.  The satisfaction of securing tight abs made it totally worthwhile!   I’ve made it to the top 30 for crossFit and I have also made it on TV last week.  If you'd like to watch the clip where I am exercising then check out this video on 'The Box UK' on Ramp Training
The purple impression
Thank you so much Joe for sharing your inspiring story with us today.  The positive changes for Joe are that he stopped smoking and he is exercising successfully at a competitive level considering that he never exercised previously.  He is also eating fruit and vegetables which are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.  

I have recommended that Joe introduces carbs pre-exercise in the form of smoothies, fruit and yoghurt or in another format that is easy to digest and is acceptable for him.  This could help improve performance and avoid the ‘dives in energy’ that he has experienced previously.   

As he trains for up to 2-3 hours per each exercise session, he may benefit from a sports drink during training to replace electrolytes and provide additional energy.

The diet over a short period of time has clearly been helpful in reaching Joe's weight loss goals.  Joe was insightful and was able to recognise when he needed to increase his energy intake through carbohydrates to meet the high demands of his exercise routine.  

I still feel that Joe can reach peak performance if he increased his intake of carbohydrates pre and post training.  

What do you think?  

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Part Two - Interview With A Marathon Runner

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In part two of the marathon series, Shaun Cleghorn tells us about his journey through a marathon.  He is 39, a cost manager, has a delightful sense of humour and is the proud father of a beautiful little girl.

‘Awesome! He’s married to a dietitian.' I remind myself. 'So will he have the perfect diet..’ I wonder. ‘Or will he surprise me through this interview process..’  Surprisingly, through-out the line of questioning, he was funny, warm, honest and just himself.  ‘Ah, this is going to be good,’ me thinks and ‘yes, you don’t want to miss Shaun's words of wisdom.’

What inspires you to run?
‘It’s a combination of things; to keep fit, watch my weight and generally stay healthy.  It also appeals to my competitive nature and I enjoy pushing myself.’

In your opinion, how important is food in relation to performance?
‘I wouldn't say I place a lot of emphasis on food to improve my performance. However, I am very conscious before I run or play any sport that I have eaten correctly and what I have or haven't eaten won't negatively affect my performance.’

Is there any food or drink that can increase your speed?
‘Again I don't think there is anything that I think makes me go faster but I find that if I haven't eaten properly or hydrated well beforehand then I won't be as fast as I could be.’

How do you eat during training?
‘For breakfast I'll have a bowl of muesli and the only thing I'll vary is the number of bowls I have. This is my most important meal and can't leave the house without it.'

Why is breakfast so important to you?
‘It kickstarts my metabolism and also sets me up for the day. If I start out healthy and structured I’m more likely to follow that behaviour through for the rest of the day.'

What do you eat for lunch and dinner?
‘For lunch I'll have either pasta or a noodle salad or a whole wheat baguette.  In addition, I may also have some fruit or a nut / dried fruit snack.’

‘For supper it really depends on how well stocked the fridge is. Generally it involves chicken, fish, pasta, vegetables and occasionally red meat. This is followed by a yoghurt and sometimes chocolate.  I tend to get quite a sweet tooth when I'm training.  There are obviously occasions when I eat out, in which case I don't tend to worry too much about what I eat.’

Have you ever felt any pressure when eating out?
‘The way I look at it is I try and eat healthily when I can but I’m not obsessive about it.  I realise that one’s lifestyle is not conducive to doing this 100% of the time and I suppose going out is a kind of ‘reward’.  I’m more conscious of doing a workout beforehand to earn the credits rather than burn it off afterwards!  The more I exercise the easier I find it to eat healthier.'

What’s your favourite recipe?
‘I don't have a favourite and I like most things cooked well. For me the enjoyments from food come from the occasion and the company you are sharing it with.’

Well said, so what did you eat the night before the ‘big day’?
‘I had a large bowl of pasta with a simple light tomato sauce. I was quite bloated afterwards but felt fine by the next morning. Throughout the day I ensured I was well hydrated.’

Tell me about breakfast on the day.
'In the morning I had a bowl of cereal (what else!) and about 1/2 litre of water. About half an hour before the start I had a bottle of Lucozade Sport.'

Do you take any supplements?
‘I didn't this time but in the past I have taken anti oxidants to help with my immune system as it tends to become less resistant when I'm training hard.’

Interesting, tell me more about the antioxidants?  Did anybody recommend it?
‘I didn’t get any specific advice from anyone but did do a bit of research. Not specifically aware of the products but used Zinc and Vitamin C to boost my immune system and Vitamin B to help with muscle repair.'

‘I didn’t mention it before but for this marathon I had a Lucozade recovery drink.  This had 25g of carbs to help rebuild lost glycogen stores.  I also had an ice bath after every long training session which helped ease muscle stiffness.’

Do you count your carbohydrates during training?
‘I did have a diet drawn up for me by my personal dietitian to increase my carbohydrate intake.  I found it quite difficult to maintain it as I had to eat a lot more than I normally do. When not in heavy training I try to maintain a balanced diet and let the carbs take care of themselves.’

How much carbs were you aiming for per day?
‘I was aiming for about 550-600g carbs per day which was based on 3 main meals a day as well as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. I struggled a bit to follow it during the day as it made me feel quite full and I really felt like I was eating too much.’

What are your top three advice to other runners?
‘Stay well hydrated before, during and after your run.
Ensure your carbs intake is sufficient for the type of running you are doing.
Practice your race day fuelling strategy during training so you know what works for you.’

Finally, how long did it take you to complete the marathon?
‘I finished it in 3 hrs 54mins which was slower than I had intended but probably reflective of the amount of training that I did. I didn't run for any charity as I had a ballot place. This was my second marathon and I hope to do some more in the future, provided that I can set aside enough time for proper training.’

Purple Impression
Thank you so much to Shaun who has just inspired me to consider running a marathon next year!  He makes it sound effortless and 'do-able' don’t you think?   

Friday, 25 May 2012

What’s Going On The BBQ Tomorrow – Stuffed Salmon

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You’re thinking what I’m thinking....or dreaming..  Let’s take advantage of this sizzling weather and relax with friends over a BBQ.  Sound good?  I think so.  So what are we cooking?

Did I hear someone say salmon?  Fantastic choice.  I do love salmon.  There’s simply something about its coral and rose coloured flesh that always makes my belly shimmy in joy. 

Why salmon?

Along with other fatty fish, it’s rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats of course!  These essential fatty acids have been well documented for their heart protective role.   

What’s more is that an Australian study in Nutrients implied that omega-3s may play a role in appetite suppression and a shift in metabolism for the accretion of lean body tissue.  Obviously we need long-term and well controlled studies to confirm these effects but it certainly is food for thought.

Don’t forget that PUFA rich diets can lower your levels of plasma triacylglycerols and cholesterol too.  This does not mean loading up your plate with PUFA rich oils.  Instead, trade in your saturated fats from butter, baking, processed foods and takeaway meals for nuts, fish, walnuts, soybeans, DHA fortified margarine and canola oil to name a few.

Stuffed salmon

But that’s certainly enough geek talk for now.  Here’s a great suggestion for a BBQ.

Last summer, a wonderful French lady I know picked up a large fresh salmon from a fishmonger.  She then proceeded to fill the centre with sliced onions, carrots and tomatoes.  We dressed the salmon with lemon juice, freshly cracked black pepper and dried herbs. 

After wrapping it in aluminium foil, pop it in the oven or on a blazing hot BBQ for a remarkably regal feast.

Believe me; your guests will be blown away by this exquisite meal.  While that’s cooking, escape the heat for some fresh air with my Spanish Sangria.

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!  Please don’t hesitate to share your favourite salmon recipes below.  I love hearing from you.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Honey I Ate Your Dinner – Succulent Mango & Coriander Chicken Legs

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What’s the dietitian eating tonight?  Mine and everybody else’s dinner! OOps!

This is a delicious Thai influenced dinner recipe based on the teachings from a cooking workshop that I attended in Changmai, Thailand.

This is so Thai!  It's based on the usual fish sauce, sugar and oyster sauce threesome.  The star ingredient is mango of course, another great way of sneaking in another serving of fruit!  

The high point of this recipe is that it requires very little preparation.  It will demand a loving hand though.  You will need to keep stirring constantly over a slow fire to ensure that the chicken is permanently smothered in the rich sticky sauce.

2 x free range chicken legs (skinned and trimmed from visible fat)
1 medium mango, mashed (150g)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar (I used Agave Nectar as I need to use this up)
3 teaspoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons spring onions, sliced
1 tablespoon coriander, chopped

Add the chicken, mango and garlic to a saucepan.  You will not need any oil.  Allow the ingredients to mix well together over a low heat.  Cover for 10 minutes, but ensure that you check often, stirring continually.  

Uncover and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and any juices run clear.  Ensure that the chicken is coated in the mango sauce at all times.  

In a separate bowl, mix together the fish sauce, brown sugar and oyster sauce.  Pour over the chicken and cook well.  

Before removing from the heat, add spring onions and coriander.  Personally, I did not need any further seasoning, but you may add salt if you wish.  Always taste your food first.

Serve with a salad and wholegrain bread or rice.  I was so hungry after my run that I ate both legs as I couldn’t wait for the rice to cook!  Not ideal and definitely not recommended. 

It tasted so good that I just could not stop myself.  Thank god that the French man is out for a black tie dinner tonight.  Ignorance sure is bliss!

Additional notes
This meal served with a salad and rice is wheat, gluten, milk, egg and soy free.  
Make sure that you read all ingredient tables carefully in the sauce bottles first.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Beachy Tropical Mango, Strawberry & Oat Breakfast Smoothie With Agave Nectar

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London is simply divine this week.  I thoroughly enjoyed my run through the park today, which looked spectacular with swans, ducklings and a large expanse of flowers through-out. 

Isn’t exercise amazing?  I feel like I am on cloud 9 and probably will remain there for the entire evening!

And so to celebrate summer, I’ve got a delicious breakfast smoothie for you - for the busy woman on the go!

It's delicious and you won't regret making it.


1 x banana (approx 90g peeled)
8 strawberries (150g)
1 slice mango (70g)
3 tablespoons oats (35g)
2 tablespoons peach flavoured yoghurt (reduced fat)
1 tablespoon Agave Nectar


Put all ingredients in a blender.  Blend for a minute or so and serve immediately.  You can use ice if you desire, but personally, if you mix all ingredients cold, straight from the fridge, you may not need it.  

I am feeling posh so I'll have mine in a martini glass tomorrow..

Enjoy this low GI breakfast with Agave Nectar.  For those who have yet to discover this, read my article The Sickly Truth About Agave Nectar.  Don't forget - brown sugar or honey will work brilliantly in this recipe too.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

8 Perfect Reasons To Indulge In Berries

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With a perfect circle of smouldering sun in our English sky, it really is time that we celebrated this long awaited moment of joy with the promised goodness of berries.  Here are some reasons why you should start your morning with a lovely handful of berries.

# 1 Memory Booster
Packed with antioxidants, berries are the splendid catalyst for reducing oxidative damage that occurs with aging.  Blueberries in particular, are thought to increase verbal memory performance as per an article in the Journal of Nutrition.

# 2 Anti-Aging
Similarly, the anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds found in blueberries and strawberries may protect you against your aging brain and body.  To keep your mind and body alert the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry advocate a diet rich in fruit such as berries.

# 3 Cancer Prevention
Numerous studies have explored the relationship of berries with cancer risk.  A recent Polish study in Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis reported that flavonoids and polyphenol extracts from raspberries may quench the risk of colon cancer.

# 4 Vitamin C
A cup of strawberries provide more than 100mg of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is another antioxidant that is important for healthy teeth and gums.  It enhances absorption of non-haem iron from plant sources and helps build your body’s defence against infection.

# 5 Low in Calories
A cup of strawberry halves will only set you back around 50 calories.  Have another bowl and no-one will even notice.  Only that healthy glow from eating the berries might give you away!

# 6 Quality Time with Kids
Berry picking is one the most fun activities that I’ve enjoyed with children in France.  It truly is a wonderful and relaxing way to spend time with the children.

# 7 Taste & Colour
The beautiful shades of reds and purples also add colour and vibrancy to any dish.  Not only do they dress up a lacklustre plate, the sweet juices from these fresh berries can tantalise just about anyone’s taste buds.

# 8 Party Starter
Hosting a party but you only have white wine for the aperitif?  Don’t fret, ‘put a strawberry in it’ and you’ll literally get the party started!

Happy Summer!  If you have great ideas for enjoying berries then please do share below.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Is Ghrelin Making You Fat?

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Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone that has been riding the waves of fame.  If you know the expression ‘keep your enemies close’, then you know that it’s sensible to start getting familiar with the ins and outs of our dear 'food greedy' hormone.

# Does ghrelin increase your appetite after weight loss?

Sadly a review in Obesity 2010 thinks so.  You may have lost a few dress sizes, but your gorgeous new figure and weight loss may lead to compensatory increase in hunger, cravings and decreased ghrelin suppression that encourages weight re-gain. UH OH.

# Am I doomed to stay fat?

Of course not and there’s loads that you can do to overcome temptation island.  Keep reading for the good news.

# Do you eat breakfast?

What a sensible start to your day to prevent over-indulging later.  ‘Break the overnight fast’ with petit dejeuner.   

What you may not know is that a study in Steroids this year showed that ghrelin levels were suppressed almost by half after eating breakfast.  Include protein and carbs in this meal and you’ll also enjoy significantly improved hunger and craving scores. 

Egg on toast anyone?  Sound good?  Better still, you are more likely to continue to lose weight if you eat carbs and protein, than just a low carb breakfast due to increased satiety from protein.  So ditch the low carb meal and somebody please pass me the banana and yoghurt!

# Are you coping with stress?

Research suggests that ghrelin is drawn to stress like bee is to honey.  It responds by increasing its levels with heightened stress hormones. 

Are you stressing already?  Stop panicking!  Jump off that stress wagon and find ways of coping with stress. 

Schedule in regular exercise, it could be as simple as walking 30 minutes a day.  So before life stressors make you ditch your diet plans, just follow these simple tips and you’ll help keep surging levels of ghrelin at bay. 

Regular exercise is also of course a great way to help maintain your beautiful new body.  If you don’t believe me, one study in Endocrine 2008 showed that exercise decreased ghrelin levels, leading to smaller meals and lower body weight.  Time to get your walking shoes out?

Don’t forget, losing weight is the easy part, maintaining this weight loss, is the more challenging part.

# Are you sleeping enough?

Before you trade in your beauty sleep for an extra hour on the books, thanks to the Journal of Sleep Research, we also know that even a single deprived night of sleep could lead to increased hunger and appetite as a result of higher ghrelin levels.  It’s the calorie-dense, sugary foods that you’ll most likely be after too.

The Purple Impression

Eat breakfast.  Exercise and find ways to cope with stress. But most importantly, think twice before burning the midnight oil. 

On that note, I think I am going to get my beauty sleep.

What are your thoughts on ghrelin?  If you have juicy new research at your finger tips, then please do share.  I love hearing from you. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Are You Being Deceived By Food Labels - Screen Your Fats

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Thanks to my shopping experience at Marks & Spencer today, I was compelled to share this story with you.  I believe all my readers are now shopping savvy.  If not, please read Be Shopping Savvy.

I was so excited about the prospect of MAC Cosmetics shopping with a girlfriend this afternoon.  I knew that my body needed sustenance before proceeding with the next hour of blissful shopping, so I headed to Marks & Spencer for a quick lunch stop.

After settling on pita bread and houmous, I automatically reached for the reduced fat version of ordinary houmous made with extra virgin olive oil.  I quickly glanced at the fats which stated 19g of fat per 100g.

Houmous is not a low fat food.  I would class this as moderately high in fats.  I make allowance for this as chickpeas are an excellent source of both protein and slower releasing carbohydrates. 

Houmous is usually prepared by blending chickpeas with tahini and vegetable oils such as olive or rapeseed oil.  Although tahini is rich in fats, only a small proportion of these are saturated fats.  Olive and rapeseed oils are also abundant in good fats such as mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids.

As I planned to eat this meal without any other added fats, I was quite happy to indulge in this vegetarian feast. 

Feeling adventurous, I then reached for the ‘spicy red pepper houmous’.  I was pleasantly surprised when it read 15.2g fat per 100g.  

Had I not bothered to read labels, I would have missed the opportunity to screen the fats myself. 
It was a bitter sweet moment when I realised that even I had almost fallen for deceptive food labels.  And yet, there was certainly nothing wrong with the labels for these varieties of houmous.  Just a tiny case of labeling deception.

Afterall, the reduced fat version of houmous prepared with extra virgin olive oil certainly had a lower fat content when compared to its original. But not, when compared with alternative flavours such as the 'spicy red pepper' version.

This is an excellent example to illustrate that it really is worth investing time to read labels.

If I eat a 100g portion or half the tub of the red pepper houmous, I will eat 15g of fat compared to 19g.  I save a total of 4g of fat in the day.  This equates to roughly 36 calories or a small clementine. 

It may not sound like much, but it all adds up.  It’s exactly the same scenario when you sneak in an extra eyeshadow at the MAC counter and then realise your £36 bill has suddenly climbed to £48.  How did that happen?  ‘All that glitters’ sure is a lovely eye shadow, but life is not always full of glitter and promise and do you really need all of the eye shadows?  Likewise, do you really need the extra 4g of fat?

Possibly not and sometimes, it’s not all about the total amount of fat either.  The proportion of fats are important too so know your sources of fat.  Read your labels.

For example, if you read the ingredients list for ‘spicy red houmous’, you will notice that the second ingredient is ‘pulped sesame seeds’.  These provide one of the sources of fat to the final dish.  Rapeseed oil is listed as the fourth ingredient, whilst extra virgin olive oil is listed towards the end of the list of ingredients.  All are sources of mono and poly unsaturated fats.   Tahini is also a useful source of calcium.

I believe houmous gets my tick for fat, but as it's moderately high in fat, consider the amount you plan to eat.  Just don’t eat the whole tub in one sitting!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Do You Teach Your Kids To Say Yes To Veges?

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Parents you already know this, but research says that you play a pivotal role in shaping children’s food preferences.  A very recent study in Appetite this month indicated that in child food trials, vegetable consumption was not influenced by fussiness as you may have thought, but with drink accompaniment. 

Adults had a strong preference for pairing soft drinks with high calorie foods.  Vegetables were not chosen with soft drinks. 

When adults pair soft drinks with energy dense foods instead of vegetables, children as young as 3 years of age are already mimicking these food patterns. 

Is it possible that adults who choose water during meals as their default drink of choice also follow a healthier diet?  These parents are likely to include vegetables regularly with meals, whilst modelling the healthy eating plate to their children at the same time.

Parents, you are the role models for your children.  An earlier study in Public Health Nutrition said just that. 

Healthy eating behaviours begin at home.  Young children and adolescents ate fruit and vegetables, when their parents did.  Employ rules for healthy eating in your home and encourage your children to eat fruit and vegetables every day.

How can you tempt your child to eat fruit and veg?

Give them a choice.  It’s as simple as that.  

A 2010 issue in Public Health Nutrition suggested giving children a choice during fruit and vegetable eating situations.  Instead of offering an apple alone, offer them the apple and a pear.  Let them make the choice.  This is a positive method that you can employ for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in your own home.

To get you started, why not try my Asparagus & Spinach Risotto.  It’s delicious with a feta & tomato salad.

Asparagus & Spinach Risotto

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch Asparagus (approximately 12 – 14 spears), cut into 1 inch pieces
6 large button mushrooms
200g baby spinach
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups stock of your choice
2 tablespoons reduced fat crème fraiche
Handful of parmesan, grated

Serves 4-5 persons

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add garlic and onions and fry until golden brown.  Add asparagus and stir fry for a few minutes.  Then add rice and stir regularly.  Gradually add a third of the stock and allow simmering.  Now add mushrooms.  Add the second third of your stock, followed by the spinach.  Keep stirring continuously.  Finally add the remainder of the stock.  Mix in the crème fraiche just before removing from the heat.  Serve with a generous coating of the parmesan and a lovely salad.

Tip – if you are entertaining, you can try replacing a bit of the stock with a large glass (250ml) of white wine.  If you choose to prepare with wine, then add this first, then the remainder of the stock.  Delicious!  

This was our first meal in Spain so forgive the Sangria that you can see in the background!  I also prepared it with a mixture of white wine and stock.

What tricks have you got up your sleeve to get your kids to eat fruit and veges?  Do share!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Sickly Truth About Agave Nectar

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My god It’s true! I have a sweet tooth.  I've said it.  In fact, I eat something sweet every day.  Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Agave Nectar.  The label promised a low glycaemic index.  Indeed I found this to be true.

A quick literature search told me that Agave nectar is quoted to hold a low glycaemic index of around 11, as published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

This is an incredibly low index, considering that glycaemic index refers to how quickly a carbohydrate food is broken down and then released as glucose in your blood (commonly referred to also as blood sugars).

On reading the nutrition label, I was slightly shocked to learn that 1 teaspoon of this sickly nectar provided 14kcal, so no different to regular sugar.  To learn more about nutrition labelling, see my article Be Shopping Savvy.

What is Agave Nectar?
Sourced from a plant in Mexico where tequila is made, many consider this as a ‘natural sweetener’.  The label behind the bottle certainly quoted ‘Agave Nectar comes straight from the originally grown Blue Webber Agave Plant in Mexico’.  Premium agars are considered to be sourced from Blue Webber Agave plant.

What does it feel and taste like?
I tried it today with strawberries.  I was pleased that it wasn’t sticky like golden syrup and was certainly much lighter in its consistency.  To me it resembled very much like honey.  It was pleasant tasting without an after taste.  I could happily have this on my plain Scottish oats instead of brown sugar for breakfast.

It can even be used in cooking or baking without the bitter after taste that may be produced when cooking with alternative sweeteners.

Too good to be true?
Maybe so.  The ravaging truth is found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which showed that when compared to dark molasses, sweeteners such as refined sugar, corn syrup and agave nectar had minimal antioxidant activity. 

After molasses, maple syrup, honey and brown sugar showed the highest antioxidant activity.  Antioxidants are crucial in reducing oxidative damage that have been linked with cardiovascular disease and cancers.

BUT Before you rush off to load your plates with maple syrups and honey, did you know that fruit and vegetables are abundant in antioxidants?  I’ve enjoyed my antioxidant load with strawberries today, what will you have?

The Purple Verdict

I am not entirely convinced that this is a wonder product.  I regret my purchase but glad that I've given it a try.  Low glycaemic index or not, calorie restriction is vital for weight loss.  I normally wouldn't have eaten my strawberries with any added sugar!  I think I might be returning this sickly sweetness back into the cupboard, until I decide to bake something.  Perhaps my banana cake, see Banana & Pecan Delight.

If you’d like to share your knowledge on agave nectar, then please do comment below!