Monday, 30 April 2012

10 Ways To A Marathon - A French Perspective

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Fabien Lopez is French, 32 years old and a contract manager.  He is a sports machine spending a minimum of one hour each day on football, swimming, squash, tennis, running, roller blading, snow boarding, rock climbing, cycling or strength training at the gym.  He also loves salsa dancing!  The marathon was a new sporting challenge that he endeavoured to experience and complete with a tick in that box to say 'Yes I did it!'  

1 What inspires you?
‘Being the best I can be.  There was no doubt in my mind that I could finish the marathon.  It was simply a question of putting myself out there for a race and seeing how long it would take me to finish.  In general, sport is important to me to feel good in my body.  I also find exercise a useful medium for evacuating stress after work.  Running definitely offers that.’

2 Can food improve your performance?
‘To be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to my diet as I am naturally fit.  Sport comes very easily to me and I really love it.  However, I have now discovered that if you want to prepare for a marathon, then nutrition plays a big part in this.  My diet is not entirely healthy but I did try to take care of what I ate a few days before the race.  I eat a lot of pasta which I believe is important.  It’s a great energy source for meeting the high requirements that running demands.  Besides, I love pasta so perfect!’

3 Did you take any supplements before or during the marathon?
‘Yes, a google search on a few different sites promoted the use of carbohydrate gels called Isostar.  I found these easy to digest and I wanted to try the product, mainly because I wanted the extra boost in energy to improve my performance.  The gels offered me the solution I needed to overcome the wall that many runners hit after about 35K into the marathon.  The extra energy from carbohydrate and Powerade for fluids was what I needed to get to that finish line.  I also wanted to reach the end by only running for the entire race’.

4 Did you change your diet when you trained for the marathon?
‘Now that I think about it, I did not change my diet at all except to eat bigger portions.  A few days before the marathon, I started to eat a lot more pasta which I love. 

½ a large baguette with butter & jam, a glass of orange juice and a mug of hot chocolate

Pasta with bacon, cheese and crème fraiche

Meat with vegetables and a larger portion of pasta

I didn’t feel the need to change my diet as I’ve always been sporty.  The only difference was that I decreased other sports and focused my efforts on running and strengthening my lower body.  On reflection, I probably could have paid a lot more attention to my diet, who knows how it could have changed my performance on the day!’

 5 What’s your favourite meal?  Let me guess, is it pasta?
‘You guessed it, carbonara!’

100g dried penne pasta
250g diced bacon
3 heaped tablespoons crème fraiche
Yolk of 1 egg
Salt to taste

‘After boiling the pasta, mix all ingredients over a slow fire and finally add the yolk.  This a great quick recipe after a long run.’

6 What did you eat the night before the marathon?
‘The carbonara!’

7 What was for breakfast on the big day?
‘My usual breakfast of baguette, orange juice and hot chocolate.’

8 How did you mentally prepare yourself on the day?
'When I start a project, I see it through to completion and it’s exactly how I viewed the marathon.  I signed up with a friend which sealed the deal for me.  We did not train together but it was great to discuss training schedules with him.  Unfortunately, he could not run on the day as his partner was expecting a baby.  I didn’t really need to do any other preparation except for sticking to a training program and then showing up on the day!  

9 What advice would you like to share with other marathon runners?
‘Buy proper fitting shoes.  Build realistic goals and expectations.  Know what time you want to complete the marathon by.  Prepare a training plan and give yourself a minimum of 3 months to train.  I ran three times a week and completed at least 10-20km per run.  Importantly, challenge the distance that you run each week.  Finally, believe in yourself and then you can definitely do it!’   

10 What did you do after the marathon?
‘I went out for drinks with friends to celebrate of course!’

My Impressions
Fabien is a competitive sporty guy who loves exercise.  It’s clear that he invests a large proportion of his free time towards this.  He completed his marathon in 4 hours and I am really impressed with his drive and attitude towards sport.  He may not run another marathon, but he admits that he may have under-estimated the role of nutrition in sports.  Careful attention to his diet leading up to the marathon and again on the final day may have been useful.  I’ll be expecting his call when he embarks on his next sporting challenge!

Do comment below, I look forward to your thoughts and comments!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

How The French Stay Slim - Interview With A French Woman

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Celine Chabourine is 31, French, 163cm and weighs a mere 53kg.  She believes that eating is a waste of time.  She eats only to re-fuel.

We sip our cups of green tea and Celine lay sprawled across the bed, mimicking a petite lioness, poised, cool, casual and oh so slim.

Eating is for re-fuelling.  
Celine explains that she did not grow up learning to cook.  She views food only for its purpose to energize.  I ask her how she remains so un-detached to food.  She shrugs her shoulders.  She grew up with meals that were prepared quickly and with a purpose to replenish instead of pleasure. 

When I am hungry I am happy to eat.  
Celine eats 3 meals at the same time each day but does snack regularly.  I am surprised to learn that she snacks.

I snack on anything and everything.  
“I am not difficult,” she says, laughing.  “I eat chocolate cake, sweets, biscuits or cereal bars.” I laugh with her whilst repressing an urge to throttle her.  Where she puts it, I wonder in deep amazement. 

Small but several times.  
It’s clear from her descriptions that her portions are very small.  A piece of chocolate cake would be the size of a little finger, not the extravagant slice from your usual coffee shop.  She would snack up to 5 times a day.

Breakfast.  A cup of black tea with a spoonful of sugar.  One slice toast with butter and jam (tartine).

Snack.  Often a piece of the home-made chocolate cake.

Lunch.  Meat or fish with a selection of vegetables such as green beans and petite pois, accompanied with fries, rice or new potatoes.  A piece of fromage or yoghurt to polish off the meal.  I suspect the portion sizes are small.  Yes.  Confirmed.

Snack.  More cake.

Snack.  More cake.

Snack.  Maybe a biscuit.

Dinner.  Soup of leeks, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes with a slice of bread and cheese, yoghurt or ice cream for dessert.  “I eat pasta or rice sometimes,” she said.  “Prepared with jambon, grated cheese or eggs.”  Again, a very small portion only.  I am not surprised that she’s chosen to eat her main meal for lunch, followed by lighter choices for her evening meal.

Favourite foods.  
Pasta & chocolate.  Is she really French?  Or is she just blessed with a speedy metabolism?  Either way, we've got cake to bond over.

Smoking is not good.  
“I know I shouldn’t do it,” she says, “but yes I smoke.  I plan to stop, but need something to motivate me.  Maybe a baby?”  I laugh, it’s clear that this is her weakness and is not proud to admit this.

Alcohol is not good either but I don’t drink.  
“I never have” she says.  “I don’t require it to party or socialise, but I understand why people feel the need for it.  From what I’ve seen, it helps others feel confident to speak to strangers, dance at parties or to simply relax.  I don’t need a drink to find the courage to speak to a stranger and I simply call a friend if I need to unwind after a hard day at the office”.  I couldn’t agree more and am really in awe of her decision to not drink.

Three recommendations to stay in shape.  
Exercise, eat well and smile.  Smiling radiates and attracts happiness, which blocks any desire to fill an empty pit with food’ she explained.  Brilliant, I love how she thinks!

Type of exercise.  
It’s clear that looking good is important to her.  ‘Running, stomach crunches and any firming exercises for the butt’ was her advice.

What time is dinner?  
‘I’m hungry’ she says, so we must bid farewell to you to feed her grumbling tummy. 

My impressions.  
So it appears the secret the French adopt for a slim body is by ‘eating what you want but in small portions’.  Simple and effective.  I did notice that she didn't mention fruit, so I have suggested that she incorporates these into her snacks.  

Bon appétit! 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Partying Tonight? Don't Read Till Sunday!

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I think that I am in love with cocktails with an unprecedented appreciation towards its exceptional ability to relax and delight on a Friday night out. 

To most, cocktails are colourful, delicious, powerful and oh so simply magical.  One sip and you could be transformed to paradise, strawberry fields, Jamaica or even into the most glamorous in the room.  You would be mad to even dream of rationing your drinks, right?

The Department of Health advice up to 3 to 4 units (24-32g) of alcohol for men and up to 2 to 3 units (16-24g) of alcohol per day for women.  They report no significant health risks associated with drinking up to this amount of alcohol per day.

Great, but exactly how many units of alcohol and calories are there in say, a caipirinha; one of my favourites!  I am not entirely sure, but according to one site, if there is at least one shot of cachaça, that’s 165 calories per cocktail if you assume that there are 55 calories in every 10ml of alcohol.  Any extra sugar is extra of course.

Don’t you love a sugar rush after a hard week in the office?  Mix it with alcohol and you are probably in heaven.  What you may have not realised during these countless moments of bliss is that alcohol oozes calories. 

Did you know that alcohol after fat is the most energy dense?  Fat provides a generous 9 calories per gram.  Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram whilst carbs and protein will give you about 4 calories per gram.

Worse, alcohol also can have an aperitif effect, stimulating your appetite.  After a drink or two, you’ll probably suddenly remember that you haven’t eaten dinner and before you even have the time to say ‘fat belly’; there’s the waiter, smiling and cooing over you, insisting that you try their delicious selection of breads and dips.  “Or why not choose more of our bar snacks?” he offers with another devilish smile.  And you give in whilst you order a Bellini.

Metabolism of Alcohol

Alcohol is also metabolised differently to fat, carbs and protein.  The body has no capacity to store alcohol, thus it is broken down immediately, especially as it has toxic properties.  This takes place in the liver.  These empty calories when consumed in large amounts (i.e. binge drinking), may also interfere with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals.

Show me the calories!

Lager provides the least calories at 29 calories per 100ml.  This is followed closely by Guinness at 30 calories per 100ml while cider provides 36 calories per 100ml.  Red wine contributes 68 calories and white 74 calories per 100ml.  Spirits are energy dense at 207 calories per 100ml whilst creamy liquers top the list off at 325 calories per 100ml.

If you’re head is spinning from all the numbers, let’s try to put this into perspective. 

How many units of alcohol?

½ pint of standard strength beer, lager and cider is 1 unit
Bottle or 1L of cider has 8 units!
125ml glass (small) has 1 unit
175ml (large glass) of wine has 2 units
1 pub measure of spirit has 1 unit

Tips to sensible eating & drinking

Be prepared and eat a light snack before you go out.  This will prevent you from over-eating from the aperitif effect of alcohol.  Suggestions – share a sandwich with a girlfriend whilst you get ready for a night out.

Instead of ordering a drink on an empty stomach, start your evening with a mocktail or sparkling water.

Order a soft drink or water in between every alcoholic beverage.  This will help you stay hydrated, aware and may prevent any embarrassing moments later.

Choose single over double shots (it is after all....double the calories otherwise).

Drink a glass of red wine with your main meal, then choose dessert or alcohol, but not both towards the end of your evening.

Instead of spending the night seated at your table, get on that dance floor and burn the extra calories whilst having the time of your life.

Celebrating a very special occasion like your birthday or anniversary?  Then enjoy yourself you party animal and try to apply at least one of the saver tips that I’ve suggested above. 

Do remember to slot in an extra session of exercise at the gym this week if you plan to keep your heart ticking healthy and your body moving lean like a panther.

Happy Friday!

Please do post any comments below. I love receiving them and always read all of your comments.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Devilish Red Fried Chicken Thighs

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I woke up this morning, yearning to be in hot sunny India..  

I visited Bangalore for the first time over a year ago for a friend’s wedding.  It was a spectacular affair with wild array of colours, festivities and mouth watering cuisine.

I love a delicious curry every now and then, but who has the time to invest into the laborious task of cooking up a feast mid-week?  That’s when I created the ‘Devilish Red Fried Chicken Thighs'; a must try if you are a fan of Southern India and craving it on a cold, wet day in April!

What I really love about this recipe is the delicate spiced aromas and the slight tingle on your tongue, even after you’ve eaten.  Select the right level of heat when using curry powder and you won’t be jumping up and down half-way through your meal.

This recipe is also rich in tomato paste.  It gives me great pleasure to tell you that tomatoes are abundant in antioxidants such as vitamin C, β-carotene, flavanols, lycopene (bright red carotene) and tocopherols (vitamin E). 

Antioxidants play an important role in the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. 

An impressive study in Experimental Biology and Medicine from 10 European countries concluded that the lycopene found in fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, was found to be key in protective against heart attacks. 

Tomatoes are therefore a useful and luscious addition to your diet.  They are low in calories and will add a wonderful characteristic bright richness of colour to your dish too.


470g free range, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons tomato paste or puree
3-4 heaped teaspoons of hot curry powder (go mild if needed)
1 teaspoon garlic puree
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chilli infused extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste


Grab your kitchen knives and trim all visible fat.

Place the thighs in a large bowl and mix in the marinade of tomato paste, curry powder, garlic puree and fresh crushed garlic.

Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight for maximum boom in flavour.

Don't forget to add garlic!  Crush well like so.

Add garlic puree and blend well.

When you are ready to prepare the meal, heat a large saucepan with oil.

Add the chicken thighs and fry over medium heat.  Turn after 5 minutes and allow to brown on both sides.

Reduce heat, cover and allow to cook for a further 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare your basmati rice and serve with broccoli or a lovely green salad.

I hope you’ll enjoy my easy devilish red fried chicken thighs, inspired by India! 

Better still, this meal is milk, egg, soy and wheat free!

Please post your comments below, I love and read all your comments.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Why Food Diaries Are A Girl's Best Friend

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It’s 10pm so I quickly glance over the stats to check what my most popular page is.  You love the diets, but you also absolutely love the entries in my food journal.

So let’s talk food diaries.  Are you just nosy or are you contemplating starting one?  I enjoy recording my food intake as a diary never lies.  The journals quickly tell me if I’ve over eaten; that is, if my belly doesn’t do that first of course!

If you are goal oriented, then you’ll love scrutinising your daily intake and documenting your progress with exercise and weight change over the next few months using a food diary. 

A study in Eating Behaviour concluded that someone who consistently records their food intake is more likely to lose weight.  This makes perfect sense.  Witnessing how much you actually eat may be the only concrete fact that will inspire and kick start you into making the necessary and much needed changes to your diet.

A more recent study in Obesity compared paper diary and electronic food diaries with feedback facility in 210 healthy adults.  I was not surprised to discover that the group who used the electronic diaries displayed the greatest devotion and therefore the greatest weight change.

I’ve given you the evidence and I’ve also provided you with the tool to start your food diary (go to  So what are you waiting for?

Before you begin, always formulate your long-term goals as well as your day to day goals.  In the short-term you may be working on increasing your fruit intake or reducing frequency of foods rich in salt.  

Your long-term goal should not be isolated to weight loss alone.  Instead focus on strategies to keep that shed weight, off!  Consider what methods you will adopt to ensure that you will keep eating fruit daily.  Perhaps you will visit a farmers market every Saturday morning with a friend or your neighbour to achieve this.


When starting your food diary, aim to be as accurate as possible when selecting foods in the drop down boxes.  If you eat a muffin for mid-morning break and you cannot find the apple and cinnamon flavour, instead of selecting ‘chocolate muffin’, choose the apple and cinnamon cake if this option is available.

Read labels

If you have not read my article Be Shopping savvy-nutrition.html then please read this now!  It’s essential that you understand and appreciate the principles of label reading. 

When you purchase the apple and cinnamon muffin, retain the wrapping so that you can accurately recall the calories per serving size (1 muffin) and the weight per serving size.   Unless the muffin weighed 100g, the value for the serving size will differ and be usually displayed in the front of the packaging or under the ‘serving size’ column.  Enter this amount in weight (grams) by choosing the 1g option in the ‘how much’ column in myfitnesspal.  For the number of servings, enter weight of the product.

For example if the muffin weighed 150g, select ‘apple and cinnamon cake’, then for ‘how much’ select ‘1g’ for amount and finally enter 150 servings. 

Portion sizes

This might sound pedantic, but if you usually eat the same breakfast during the week like I do, then I suggest you weigh your cereal at least once.  Or measure it once in a measuring cup so that you know precisely the amount of cereal you eat.  The manufacturer’s guidelines for serving sizes are often unrealistic and misleading. 

When you weigh your usual portion of breakfast cereal, you will notice that you naturally eat more than the manufacturer’s specified portion size (in grams).  Don’t worry if this is the case, this is completely normal. 

The advantage of weighing your cereal or any other food item that you regularly eat is that you will know exactly how much you eat in grams.  Luckily, once you create a food entry, most online journals often ‘remember’ and list your selected food items with your selected portion sizes for quick and efficient food journal entry on your subsequent visit.


I regularly walk to work.  I therefore jumped onto to calculate distance and speed to allow for additional accuracy when recording the exercise aspect of the food journal.  I also mapped out my regular runs for the same reason.


Remember, weight is only a number.  Instead of focusing on this number, observe the change in weight.  If the trend is a decrease then you are probably losing body weight.  However, changes in fluid status can also cause your weight to fluctuate.  It is best to weigh yourself at the same time each week.  Better still, record your body measurements as this will be a more powerful tool for judging weight loss. 

Did you know that muscle weighs almost three times as much as body fat?  If you exercise regularly and your weight does not change, this could be because you are gaining muscle and shedding fat.  Fat also occupies a lot of space, whereby muscle is lean. 

The most effective way to judge progress is therefore your measurements and your clothing size.

Finally, complete your food diary at the end of each day to avoid overlooking snacks which can be easily forgotten.  The more accurate your food diaries, the quicker you’ll identify areas of weakness and opportunities for change.

Please comment below, I love, read and really look forward to all of your comments!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Should You Sweeten Up?

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I was inspired to write about this very topic today, after I looked at the latest issue of ‘Grazia’.  Doesn’t ‘Cheryl’s killer body’ look toned and fabulous?  If I can look half as good for summer, then I will be thrilled.

Every now and then, I too succumb to artificial sweeteners.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them.  After all, the British Dietetic Association reports that sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose are not bad for you and are safe for human consumption.  See their foods fact sheet on

Sweeteners can be useful, particularly if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or simply want to curtail any extra calories from drinks.  It appears that it’s currently acceptable and safe to choose ‘diet’ version of drinks or to add a sweetener to your morning coffee. 

Yet something nags me.  What about the power of sweeteners on your body and mind?  Does drinking a large glass of ‘diet’ coke trick your body into thinking that you’ve just consumed a lovely cool drink of sugary sweetness only to be later disappointed by the deception?  Does this make you feel dissatisfied, disillusioned and desire sugar ever more fiercely?

Did you know that an American study in 2005 showed that those who consumed artificially sweetened drinks were more likely to gain weight than those who consumed naturally, sweetened soda?

A small body of evidence confirms that the brain responds differently to ‘sugar’ and artificial sweeteners.  It’s probable that satisfaction is out of reach with the deceptive sweetness. 

In contrast, another study showed that women surprisingly begged for more and progressed to increase their overall intake of calories during the day, after drinking a normal sugary drink.  Men on the other hand, remained unaffected after consuming both sugar and artificially sweetened drinks. 

How good is the evidence?  Very conflicting, yet it’s no secret that refined sugar itself is possibly addictive.  Repeated consumption releases feel good hormones; opiates and dopamine, which encircle you into its addictive potential.

Wouldn’t you agree that you occasionally experience that intense desire to eat or drink something sweet?  Mouthfuls or a glass later, you feel good and yet you want more.  Would you have had the upper hand if you had held firmly onto that glass of Sprite zero? 

Perhaps in small amounts, artificial sweeteners really are not that bad, but what’s this I hear about associations with brain cancers and bladder cancer? 

Saccharin, one type of artificial sweetener was initially banned in Canada for this very reason.  Subsequently, the link to bladder cancer was isolated to male rats, not human.  Relieved yes, but how should we perceive the rest of the sweeteners?

In my opinion, choose water or diluted naturally sweetened drinks as much as you can.  The occasional use of artificial sweeteners or the glass of ‘diet’ drink may do no harm, but let’s wait to see what the growing body of evidence reveals in the future.

I wonder what Lord Sugar would say?  'Sweeteners, you're fired!'

Please comment below, I love, read and really look forward to all of your comments!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

So What’s The Big Deal With Salt?

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The big deal is that we all eat too much salt. 

Salt can increase your blood pressure.

Salt in large amounts can therefore lead to hypertension.

Hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart failure and renal insufficiency.

Reducing your salt intake can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can I get you to eat less salt now?

Did you know that almost 1 in 3 people suffer from high blood pressure around the world?  We may actually be putting ourselves at a disadvantage every time we buy a pre-packaged meal or a takeaway meal on the go.  Worse, several studies have also linked high salt intake to stomach cancer.  In women, high salt diets may also drive your risk of osteoporosis; the bone thinning disease.

So it’s truly time to take action.  Of course I am not suggesting that you stop eating out completely, but you will need to give salt some consideration.

It’s not always salt that you add to cooking that’s the culprit.  The hidden sources in food are also to be blamed.  Perpetrators are cheese, baked beans and other canned foods, smoked meats or fish, processed meat like sausages, bacon and ham.  Other sources include soups, breakfast cereals, pizza, breads or crisps.  I bet you have no idea how much salt there truly is in some of these foods as not all even taste salty.

Sauces like soy sauces on the other hand do taste salty, but what about that innocent pre-packaged ‘healthy’ sandwich you buy for lunch daily?  What do you cut out first?

Let’s start with things that we can change.  You certainly cannot change the amount of salt added to breads and cereals, but if you buy lunch daily then why don’t you take left-overs for lunch instead?  Or try to prepare your own sandwiches.  Skip the cheese and choose tuna tinned in spring water instead of brine.  Choosing stronger flavoured cheese also helps, as you usually need a much smaller portion for flavour.

Always choose brands that offer a reduced salt variety.  I am not asking you to read labels for salt; in fact, for the general healthy population, this isn’t always necessary.  Just by reducing the frequency of consumption of high salt foods, you will be well on your way to reducing overall intake.

Remember freshly prepared foods will always boast little or minimal salt as long as you don’t shake that salt shaker like mad above the saucepan.  We also know that fresh cuts of meat prepared with fresh herbs will beat any processed or smoked competition.  Especially when it’s your heart we’re talking about. 

What with studies declaring that even Japanese men with high salt intake are likely to have high blood pressure, clearly no one is immune.  It’s definitely time to get cracking on our salt intake. 

The good news is you really don’t need to turn your kitchen upside down, just few small changes is all it takes.  I am going to focus on buying smoked fish only once every couple of weeks instead of weekly.  What change will you make?

Please comment below, I really look forward to and love, read all of your comments!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lazy Fruit Salad

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Do you work 9 to 5, or at least wish you left the office by 5pm?  Do you yearn for more free time so that you can pay a little more attention to your diet?  

Well let me help you plan your week by offering you my simple fruit salad.  My recommendations are based on what I practise myself.  I'm really excited to show you the picture above, which has been freshly prepared to last and intended to literally save my butt!  

Each day after work, I ravenously explore the fridge, hoping to find what I need to fix my falling blood sugar levels (or so I say).  And everyday I am greeted with this gorgeous, colourful fruit salad that seriously works up a treat.

A typical day at work involves me visiting sick children at their bed sides.  I work towards optimising their nutritional intake to improve their recovery, quality of life or overall treatment for their condition.  Or you'll find me wrapped up in journals, seeking the answers for my current research project.  Either way, I arrive home emotionally drained, tired and hungry.

Like me, having snacks that have been screened using the nutritional screening tool that I have taught you previously (see my article Be Shopping Savvy) will take you a long way towards reaching your nutrition goals.

Besides stopping you from filling up on what I call 'empty calories' from biscuits, crackers, chocolate etc, fruit salads are not only pleasing to the eye; but they'll also give you the healthy glow that you're after.

I am not fussed about recipes during the week, I like things to be simple, quick & easy.  Small changes to your diet really is all that is needed when you're trying to juggle a million things and look after your body at the same time.

So without further delay, let me introduce you to my Lazy Fruit Salad!

2 punnets fresh strawberries, halved
1 punnet raspberries
1 pound grapes (green or red)
Clementines (you choose how many)
3 small bananas, sliced
4 pears, cut into small pieces
Fresh peaches or 1 can of peaches (tinned in fruit juice), drained
1 can pineapple (tinned in fruit juice)
1 can fruit cocktail (tinned in fruit juice)
Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

Reserve half the juice from the can of fruit cocktail and pineapple.  Mix all ingredients together, taking care not to bruise the raspberries.  Add juice and the lime juice.  This will help keep the salad looking fresh for longer.  Refrigerate immediately & enjoy.  

Tip - if you struggle to find fruit tinned in fruit juice, then choose 'light syrup' over 'syrup' to avoid adding unnecessary extra sugars and calories to your snack.  Don't forget, the juice or light syrup from the tin is to help preserve the fruit, so try not to eat/drink it.

So go on, make yourself a fresh salad.  Your body will thank you for it.

I do look after you.

Please comment below, I really look forward to and love, read all of your comments!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Is Wheat Making You Bloat?

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Wheat is one of the most common causes of food related allergy or intolerance, yet we have been eating it for thousands of years. 

Wheat intolerance is not the same as coeliac disease or an allergy to gluten.  Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease whereby the body rejects gluten present in wheat, barley, rye and contaminated oats.  It affects the lining of your small intestine and may have a genetic component.  A strict gluten free diet for life is a very large aspect of the treatment for coeliac disease.  If you suspect that you or your child may have coeliac disease, please speak to your doctor.  

For further information on coeliac disease, visit Coeliac UK on

Wheat intolerance on the other hand is not as clearly understood.  Again it is separate to wheat allergy whereby food allergies illicit an immune response whilst intolerances do not. 

Intolerance to wheat may be characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation.  Symptoms may occur several hours after eating a food consisting wheat.  In some children and adults, symptoms may not occur until days after consuming the offending food.  This can be frustrating as it may be difficult to pin point exactly which foods cause pain and discomfort without the expert guidance of a specialist dietitian. 

You may have already consulted your GP who was not able to explain the cause of your abdominal pain and other related symptoms.  You feel misunderstood and confused as the symptoms may have only appeared in the past year.  Or you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.  This can certainly be associated with wheat intolerance, and yet you are not sure if wheat really is the problem.  The bad news is that it is difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis for food intolerances.  So what can you do?

From experience, the only way to know for sure is to exclude.  An exclusion diet consists of excluding the troublesome foods (i.e. wheat) from your diet for a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks.  It is best to follow these diets under the guidance of a specialist dietitian.  Do it alone and you run the risk of needing to repeat the exclusion diet because you included hidden sources that slipped in un-noticed.  Inexperience with exclusion diets can also lead you to exclude the wrong foods without careful consideration to vital vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.


What to look out for

If you are considering a wheat free diet did you know that wheat, rye and all foods containing these grains must be excluded as part of the exclusion diet?  Did you also know that thickeners, edible starch and things like batter may contain wheat?

Always check processed meats, cheese spreads, breakfast cereals, ice cream, flavoured crisps, stock cubes, ketchup and salad creams to name a few. 

Foods labelled as gluten free may not necessarily be wheat free, so always read the ingredient list to check for hidden sources of wheat.

If you do suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and would like to trial a wheat free exclusion diet, then ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist dietitian.  The dietitian can guide you safely on how to exclude and then re-introduce wheat back into the diet to confirm the intolerance. 

If wheat is a problem then I won’t be surprised if after the trial, you decide to never go back..

If you have questions about following a wheat free exclusion diet, then feel free to post your thoughts below.

Please comment below, I really look forward to and love, read all of your comments!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Top Ten Diet Busters

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Share before it’s too late.  So it’s 4pm and somebody let the cookie monster out.  Uh oh, you bought the cookie.  Don’t panic.  Share your treat with a friend or colleague and you’ll be making friends and saving your figure at the same time.

Avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach.  Are you rushing to get to the supermarket?  Are you starving too?  Have you just returned with a car full of ‘forbidden’ items that you never planned to splash out on in the first place?  Next time, eat before you leave.  Don’t let your stomach do the shopping.

Eat slowly.  Did you know that it takes roughly 20 minutes for your brain to realise that you’ve just eaten?  Take your time with food.  How?  Have an intense conversation with your colleague or friend over lunch, just remember to return to work!

Place treat foods strategically in the fridge.  Remember that saying ‘out of sight, out of mind?’  Place any treat foods cleverly at the back of the fridge.  Next time you access the fridge you should hopefully be greeted with a spectacular display of fruit salads and pre-planned snacks.  So splendid, that you’ve already forgotten what’s behind..

Accumulate the extras.  Prepared too much dinner?  Tempted to eat seconds?  Eating is all about the right attitude.  Spice up the routine and surprise yourself with a delicious left-over meal for tomorrow’s lunch.

Grab the kitchen scissors for meats.  Trim excess fat and skin off meat and chicken.  It tastes the same with or without.  No one will notice.  Not even you. 

Plan emergency snacks.  Is that fruit bowl looking a bit lonely?  Is the fridge looking bare?  Always stock your fridge with delicious and pre-planned snacks, so that you’ll never be a victim of that naughty cookie monster again!

Eat salads from time to time for dinner.  No meat.  Just a simple salad.  You can add cheese, chick peas or nuts for alternative sources of protein.  Think of it as your weekly ‘super healthy night’ to counterbalance all those nights of creamy desserts & endless cocktails.

Finally, beat the statistics!  An article by the Daily Mail quoted that ‘1 out of every 5 meals will be sold by McDonalds during the Olympics’.  I know it’s hard, but try not to be the one...

Have you got any tips to add to this list?  Do share!

Please comment below, I really look forward to and love, read all of your comments!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Purple Carb Diet: How Low Do You Go?

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If you are thinking ‘I am a mother of three and not a goddess with endless legs’, then you might be toying with the idea of low carbs diet.  Or perhaps you are a 20 something career woman needing to shed a few for a glamorous party.  You want that quick fix and you want it now.

Either way you’ve asked me to review the dispute between low carb diets and low fat diets.

The verdict?

The truth is it’s complicated.  I’ve reviewed the literature and it doesn’t matter if you decide Atkins (low carb) or just a low fat diet.  Stick to any diet and you will have guaranteed results. 

The gripe? 

Well you may relish the rapid weight loss you experience initially from a low carb diet, but compared to your tough grind, the low fat diet group will sail straight through to the end with similar weight loss results. 

If I have to eat fatty meats and give up my one love; chocolate, then I need to know that it’s worth it.  I definitely will be gutted if my fellow dieter managed to eat cubes of chocolate daily and still managed to reach his/her weight loss goals.  And on a more pleasurable diet too!

What will your Dr say?

From a medical perspective, weight loss of any kind will certainly have a beneficial effect on your cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose profile.

However, the long term benefits on a low carb diet have not been assessed.  This is not surprising if you consider how demanding and challenging it is to maintain low carb meals repeatedly through-out the day.  The risks of eating large amounts of fat and protein over a long period of time are not known and may be associated with health risks.

So final word, forget the low carb diet.  Losing weight is the easy bit, but how do you plan to maintain your fabulous new shape?

The purple carb diet

Keep reading if you want suggestions on how to lose weight and to lose weight fast.  But when I say fast, I still mean months depending on how much you want to lose.  It’s safe and realistic and the ideal plan if you are asking yourself ‘how do I lose weight’ the healthy way.

Finally the diet that you’ve all been waiting for!

Refer to my article Purple Detox How To Do It Safe Way as it has excellent suggestions for breakfast which are delicious and contain the right type of carbs.

The right carbs, what are they?

You may know what carbs are and restrict this quite successfully, but do you know what the different types of carbohydrates are?

Carbs with a high glycaemic index (GI) are foods like sugar, sweets, cornflakes, dates, syrups, pretzels, rice cakes, instant white rice, mashed potato and so on.

Low to medium GI carbs on the other hand are foods such as basmati rice, brown rice, wheat pasta, new potatoes, milk chocolate, most fruit, legumes and dairy such as yoghurt, milk and sweetened custard.

You may be surprised to see high fat foods on the low GI list, but that’s because carbs combined with fats in a food take much longer to digest.  Hence eating low GI foods ensures a slower release of sugar from the digested carb into your blood stream. 

High GI carbs on the other hand are usually ‘highly processed carbs’.  Your body requires little work to break this down and it’s very quickly released into your blood stream for that instant peak in blood sugar levels.   This is why a glass of fizzy drink is an excellent solution for a diabetic child who suddenly experiences a very low blood sugar level or a hypoglycaemic episode.  

Select from vegetables, salads, small portion of meat or fish and combine with complex or low GI carbs.  Don’t forget that wholegrain breads have a lower GI in comparison to highly processed white breads.

Ensure that these are also from the low GI group, but don’t fall into the trap of choosing high fat foods, simply because they are a indexed as a low GI food.  Remember, the ultimate goal is calorie restriction if you want to lose weight.  Or simply spice up your weight loss plan by burning off any extra snacks with exercise.

Evening meal
If I have played sport or have completed a run, I will include low GI carbs as part of my evening meal.  Stick to a small portion but fill your plate up with veg.

On the nights that I don’t plan to exercise, I may choose to skip the carbs in my evening meal and trade it for low GI desserts such as fruit salads for my daily dose of vitamins & minerals.  This is the ultimate compromise when juggling desires for healthy dewy skin and the need to satisfy a sweet tooth!  Alternatively, low fat yoghurts or custards make excellent desserts mid week too. 

So there you have it, my purple carb diet.  I hope you’ll find this useful and I wish you success with your weight loss plan.

For an example of a low carb dinner plan, why don’t you try preparing my Thai Salmon & Pepper Meal? 

Thai Salmon & Pepper

It’s dead easy!  Heat a sauce pan, throw in the salmon fillets with crushed garlic, Waitrose Cooks Ingredients Thai Mix (blend of lemongrass, coriander, ginger, garlic and chilli), fresh chives and yellow and green bell peppers sliced.  Add mushrooms, dash of fish sauce and finally season with salt & pepper to taste.  Finish your meal with yoghurt or fruit salad and a refreshing cup of tea.  You will not need any oils for this recipe.

For more delicious ways to eat fish, try Melissa's Mack Daddy for a yummy mackerel twist.

Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Please comment below, I really love and read all of your comments!