In the genes

HEALTH:

Ageing is a complex biological process, driven by the build up of damage in our cells, tissues and organs. This damage is accumulated by a mixture of how we live our lives and the genetic mechanisms that repair that damage, making nutrition and lifestyle an irrefutable factor in the ageing and disease process.

EXERCISE:

detoxification-camtreatments.jpgNew research has discovered that just 20 minutes of activity can alter the DNA in your muscle cells, making them work better for further exercise. It has also been found that certain genes are boosted in their ability to metabolise sugar and fat, as well as regulate glucose (blood sugar) levels. These positive DNA effects increase as the intensity of the exercise does.

NUTRITION:

You can greatly improve your health outlook by simply changing certain environmental factors to which you expose your body – specifically, by avoiding harmful compounds (such as harmful trans fats and large amounts of sugar and salt) and including more protective polyphenols (powerful antioxidants found in colourful fruits and vegetables). Every little helps!

© Sarah West Nutrition
Advertisements

Happy New Year

HEALTH:

This New Year, be realistic with your goals. Resolving to run a marathon by March is wholly unfeasible for an inexperienced exerciser. Likewise, intending to cut out entire food groups is likely to be a short-lived (as well as potentially harmful!) tactic. When choosing a resolution, try to pick a safe, attainable goal with a realistic time frame.15058979974098659_lLqXLSvY_c

EXERCISE:

Don’t make too many resolutions all at once. There’s no rule that you have to cover all areas you’d like to change, so pick one or two themes that are most important to you and set reachable targets within these areas.

NUTRITION:

Looking closely at what you eat is often an eye-opening experience, and keeping a food diary is a great way to keep track of everything you put into your body.

Monitoring your daily intake will help you to tweak your diet so that you can still enjoy foods you love without sabotaging your fitness efforts. You don’t have to do it for the rest of your life, but it’s a great way to start the year feeling your best.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Happy, Healthy Christmas

HEALTH:

The average Christmas dinner comes to a massive 6,500 calories. However, enjoying a hearty Christmas lunch whilst still following a healthy eating plan is still perfectly achievable; all you have to do is make a few minor adjustments. With a bit of planning you can breeze through the season without it registering on the scales.

EXERCISE:f01bcd9c664c6e15d21549399cf1d2af

Christmas is the season to enjoy a little over-indulgence – but it’s also time to keep up the exercise. Research has revealed that keeping fit actually affects how much we eat in the first place. A recent Harvard University study found that physical exercise encourages a healthy diet, so regular exercise (such as a brisk walk or jog each morning) might help you to limit the damage this year.

NUTRITION:

The skin on a turkey, or any other roasted poultry, is where most of the fat is; if you remove the skin you can save around 40 calories per portion. Light meat also has slightly fewer calories than dark meat, so always choose breast instead of leg or thigh. Before you cook your meat, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain out. Cook it on an upturned ovenproof plate so it’s not sitting in the fat. Serve with lots of steamed vegetables and you have the perfect Christmas feast, without all the extra calories.

© Sarah West Nutrition

How to avoid bloating

Bloating – defined as a general swelling or feeling of tightness in the abdominal area – causes daily discomfort and misery to millions of people in the UK. In some cases bloating can be a symptom of an underlying health problem, but it is more often than not due to poor eating habits:

  • Digestion starts in the mouth. It’s where food gets broken down, not just physically but also chemically (by the digestive enzymes found in saliva). Many of us eat our food far too quickly, meaning that food makes only a passing acquaintance with this vital first stage of digestion. If food isn’t adequately broken down this can cause problems further down the line, in the form of gas and bloating. Always take the time to chew eat bite properly, around 20-30 times. Try putting your knife and fork down between bites, to encourage you to really focus on each mouthful at a time.
  • Your brain is about 10-20 minutes behind slow-foodyour stomach when it comes to registering fullness, so always wait 15 minutes before deciding whether to go back for seconds or a pudding. This will help to avoid you feeling uncomfortably full and bloating after each meal.
  • When you’re eating, do nothing else but eat. Our blood can only be in one place at one time and when we eat the focus is needed in our digestive system. If we are doing something else (such as reading, walking, talking or watching TV), our blood will be diverted elsewhere in the body and taken from where it is needed in the digestive system. Make an effort to sit down at the table for at least a couple of meals each week. Eating without distractions can make a huge difference to your digestion and will help you to notice when you are satisfied.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Eating out the healthy way

Many Britons eat at least one main meal a week from a fast food outlet, and the choices you make can have an important bearing on your health. An investigation by consumer magazine Which? found that a 300g portion of takeaway pepperoni pizza can contain more than two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of salt for an adult and more than a whole day’s worth of saturated fat, while a Chinese meal contained more than 19 teaspoons of sugar.

The Food Standards Agency says it is confident that a voluntary partnership with the catering industry will eventually result in widespread calorie labelling on menus in the majority of British food outlets, helping people to make healthier choices when eating out (or ordering in). In the meantime, the following tips may help:

Pizza

Try to choose pizzas with a thin crust, a var6122149462937122_EMGepxLS_ciety of colourful, nutrient-rich vegetable toppings and steer clear of high fat meat toppings such as bacon and salami. Many pizza chains now offer ‘lighter’ pizza options (with less pizza and added salad) which is a good way or keeping track of your calorie intake. Steer clear of  side dishes like garlic bread, chicken wings or dippers, wedges and stuffed potato skins as these push up the calorie and fat content considerably.

If you fancy a heavier starter or a dessert, opt for a salad as a main to reduce the overall calorie count. Make sure it contains a form of lean protein such as chicken. Protein is a blood sugar stabiliser, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer (on less calories than a pizza). Always ask for the dressing on the side so you can control the portion size.

Chinese

Healthy-Chinese-BroccoliTry to avoid anything battered or marked as “crispy” on the menu, as this means it’s been deep fried. If you’re likely to have a high calorie main, skip the crispy seaweed, spring rolls and prawn crackers and opt for vegetable dishes, dumplings or steamed soups.

Main dishes such as szechuan prawns and stir fried mixed vegetables with tofu are flavoursome and nutritious but relatively low in calories. Try to choose dishes with spices that also contain healthy properties, such as turmeric and ginger (both great digestive aids) or chilli (which may help boost metabolism in high does). Fried rice has around 50% more calories than plain so always order plain boiled rice and try to share it with someone else. Rice is very easy to overeat but a serving size should ideally be no larger than the size of your fist.

Indian

Tarka-Dhal-2Indian food offers a great selection of  richly flavoured vegetable dishes so try skipping the poppadoms and filling up on a colourful side dish instead, such as brinjal bhaji (aubergine with spiced tomato) or Tarka dhal (lentils with garlic). As a general rule the more colours in a meal, the more nutrients it contains. Avoid deep-fried entrées such as samosas, bhaji and pakoras. Even though they may contain vegetables, they are high in fat.

Opt for a tomato-based sauce such as tandoori or madras (rather than fattening cream or ghee based dishes) and choose chicken or prawn (which are lower in fat than beef or lamb). Veggie curries are also a good option as they have all the kick and spice of a curry, plus they’re packed full of healthy vegetables. Choose one accompanying carbohydrate – either boiled rice or naan – rather than both (to save on calories and allow for a Cobra beer instead!).

© Sarah West Nutrition



			
		

Healthy school lunches

With many children consuming at least half of their daily meals at school, good nutrition in schools is more important than ever. Research suggests that providing well-balanced, nutritious school meals not only improves children’s general health but also drives up standards in classrooms, with well-nourished pupils showing clear academic benefits. With this in mind, it’s important for parents and school workers to collaborate in a bid to encourage and deliver healthy, nutritious choices every day.

A healthy balance

No single food group will provide all the nutrients that growing children need. A balanced school meal should therefore follow the following formula:

4364* Energy-giving carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes)

* A source of protein (from lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses)

* A dairy item (such as cheese or yoghurt).

* Vegetables or salad, and a portion of fruit.

Following this formula for school lunches will ensure that each meal provides the key nutrients children need for energy, weight management, cognitive function, growth and development

Lunchbox nutrition

All meals served in schools must meet strict nutritional standards, and lunchboxes should be no exception. Despite this, a 2010 report commissioned by the Food Standards Agency found only 1%of lunchbox meals met the same healthy standards as school canteen meals. More than four-fifths contained foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, only one in five contained any vegetables or salad and only half included a piece of fruit.

Sandwiches are the obvious choice for packed lunches, but the nutritional content depends largely on the filling. Spreads such as jam and honey have high sugar content and are low in protein, which is essential for growing tissues. Meals than are low in protein are also not as satisfying as protein-rich alternatives, so may leave children feeling hungry soon afterwards.

With this in mind, some ideal protein-rich sandwich fillings include:

* Sliced ham, chicken or turkey with mixed salad

* Hummous and grated carrot

* Cream cheese with sliced tomato or cucumber

* Egg and cress

* Peanut butter

Dark green salad leaves such as rocket and watercress are a great addition to any sandwich as they are higher in heart-healthy nutrients than standard iceberg lettuce, as well as being rich in flavour. Extra fillings such as sliced avocado (rich in beneficial monounsaturated fats) and beetroot (an excellent source of potassium, magnesium and iron as well as vitamins A, B6 and C) will provide a further nutrient-boost to any sandwich.

Brown vs. white34

Wholemeal bread and pasta contain more nutrients and fibre than white alternatives, meaning they take longer for the body to digest and keep children feeling fuller for longer. ‘Best of both’ varieties of bread (made with 50% white and 50% wholemeal flours) or wholemeal pitta breads are a good alternative for children who are more used to white bread.

Healthy snacks

Healthy snacks for children should provide a source of energy as well as a selection of key nutrients. Most crisps, chocolates and biscuits are high in sugar or fat but low in vitamins and minerals, meaning they provide very little nutritional benefit. They are therefore best as a treat a couple of times a week, rather than an everyday staple.

Nutritious alternatives include:

* A small pot of nuts (in non-allergic individuals)

* Individually wrapped cheeses (such as Babybels or mini Cathedral City squares)

* Fresh or dried fruit (such as a banana, an easy-peel satsuma, dried apricots or a small box of raisins)

* Chopped vegetables such as celery, carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes

* Yogurts (opt for natural yogurt where possible, with fresh berries for natural sweetness)

* Vegetable crisps made with carrots, parsnip and beetroot.
Try to give them plenty of variety so they’ll have enough energy to last throughout the day and won’t get bored of the same textures and flavours. Snacks that include a mix of brightly coloured produce will also provide the most varied selection of beneficial nutrients:

44050902574705617xtH0qrFGc* Fresh fruits are a great source of vitamin C, which strengthens children’s connective tissue, muscles and skin and increases resistance to infection

* Dried fruit is an excellent source of iron, which is especially essential during periods of rapid growth

* Orange vegetables such as carrot sticks are a great source of vitamin A, which promotes normal growth, healthy skin, and tissue repair, and aids in night and colour vision

* Yogurts are a good source of calcium, perfect for developing bones. An inadequate calcium intake during childhood can not only affect present growth but might also help contribute to the development of osteoporosis later in life.

Here’s to happy, healthy lunches!

© Sarah West Nutrition



			
		

Winter blues

HEALTH:

During the cold, bleak winter months it can be tempting to let things go a bit and hide behind extra layers of clothing.

However, it’s especially important to make sure you fit in daily bouts of exercise over winter as we lose our natural inclination to go outside for a walk or play outdoor sport, making it a prime time to get out of shape.

f01bcd9c664c6e15d21549399cf1d2afEXERCISE:

If you think you’ll feel better over the next few months by closing the curtains and settling down in front of the TV, think again.

Research has repeatedly shown the ill-effects of not doing exercise, including an increased risk of viral infections, diabetes, heart disease and even premature death. In contrast, regular exercise boosts your immune system and increases your life expectancy.

NUTRITION:

When it’s cold and dark outside we tend to crave warming, filling food. Try adding lentils or beans to shop-bought soups to give them a boost of filling protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre.

Making your own hearty homemade vegetable soups means you can also control the salt and fat content, making them an even healthier choice.

© Sarah West Nutrition

The importance of breakfast

Upon waking up in the morning, it will have been at least eight hours since your last meal or snack from the day before. Your body needs to refuel blood sugar levels and help regain the energy lost during such a lengthy overnight fast. The best way to revitalize your body is with a filling and nutritious breakfast, to help you meet the demands of the hours ahead and keep you satiated until your next meal.

Our breakfast choices are very important as eat55ing an insufficient breakfast can be a detrimental as eating nothing at all. People who start the day with a cup of tea or coffee plus a sugary cereal or cereal bar, a croissant or a pastry may think that because they have eaten something, they are providing their body and brain with a good start to the day. However, they are likely to also wonder why they are still tired and hungry mid-morning.

Refined convenience foods, such as those listed above, are high in sugar and have very little nutritional value. As a result, they are digested very quickly and their glucose is released almost immediately into the bloodstream. Together with the caffeine, this causes the body’s blood sugar levels to soar and provides an instant energy boost immediately after eating. The downside of this effect is that the increase in energy levels is extremely short-lived. By the time you reach work, your body will be crying out for the next quick fix to boost energy levels and you are likely to need another caffeine fix or sugary snack to keep you going.

So what should you eat? Your breakfast should provide you with around a quarter of your daily nutrients so it’s important to get a
healthy balance from each of the food groups. Breakfast foods containing fibre-rich complex carbohydrates – such as wholemeal or granary bread – combined with a source of protein – such as eggs – will help to energise you and keep you feeling fuller for longer, meaning that you are less inclined to reach for sugary snacks mid-morning. Eggs (particularly the yolks) are also a great source of vitamins A, D, B2 and iodine. Adding vegetables such as tomatoes, lightly fried in a source of healthy fat such as olive oil or rapeseed oil, will add a further boost of nutrients, including vitamin C, folate and cancer-protective lycopene.

Other wholesome breakfast ideas include:

  • Sugar-free muesli or porridge oats sprinkled with blueberries and seeds
    Natural yoghurt served with apple, cinnamon and chopped hazelnuts
  • Reduced salt Baked Beans on wholemeal toast
  • A vegetable and ham omelette20120531-154158-800x533
  • A fruit smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit and live yogurt
  • Tinned sardines/ mackerel on wholemeal toast
  • A grilled lean bacon and fresh tomato sandwich
  • Nut butter (including peanut, cashew, hazelnut or almond) on wholemeal toast.

Drinking a glass of fresh orange juice alongside your breakfast instead of tea of coffee will help you to absorb the iron from your food and further assist your energy levels, whereas caffeine interferes with iron absorption so should ideally be avoided around meal times.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Sleep tight

Although the reasons for sleep problems can be complex, unstable blood sugar is a common (and easily rectifiable) cause of insomnia. A drop in sugar levels can prompt the release of hormones which stimulate the brain, making it difficult to drift off to sleep.

A drink or snack before bed can help counter this, but what should you choose?

Bananas are a good source of potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is converted in the brain to serotonin (a relaxing, sleep-regulating neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles). Try served with live yogurt and Manuka honey before bed.

Chamomile – this flowering plant belongingmoon-march-2012-senin-4264 to the daisy family is one of the oldest and most widely used medicinal plants in the world. Chamomile preparations (such as teas) are used to treat insomnia and induce calm; the effects are thought to be due to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to receptors in the brain. Try avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate and cola in the six hours before bed and swapping for this calming herbal infusion.

Almonds contain magnesium and are a good source of protein, helping keep blood sugar levels steady while you sleep. They are also a natural source of melatonin – consuming foods rich in melatonin can help raise blood levels of melatonin significantly. Try almond butter on an oatcake or wholemeal toast as a pre-bedtime snack.

Oatmeal is a source of complex carbohydrate, which triggers a rise in blood sugar and insulin production, stimulating the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oatmeal is also rich in vitamin B6 – an anti-stress vitamin. Try mixed with ground flaxseeds and sprinkled on natural yogurt.

Kiwi fruit contains many medicinally useful compounds, among which antioxidants and serotonin may be beneficial to aid sleep onset and duration. Oxidative stress has been shown to be higher in people who have sleep problems so eating foods high in antioxidants before bed may help combat this.

© Sarah West Nutrition

Healthy eating for aeroplane flyers

Going away this year? With so much to think about when travelling, what you’ll be eating along the way is likely to be the last thing on your mind. However, a reliance on airport food will often mean an overdose of bad fats, processed foods and sugar that may leave you feeling sluggish, fatigued and uncomfortable.

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or holiday maker, a little bit of effort and willpower can make a difference to your overall health; leaving you feeling healthier, happier and more alert.

To help you stay on track when making food choices at the airport, I’ve created the following guide in association with PurpleParking.com:AirportFoodGuide

It includes tips and meal recommendations for airport chains for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, as well as what foods to avoid when travelling.

Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday!

© Sarah West Nutrition