Three things I’ve learned about motherhood in the first three months

I have no idea how we got here, but here we are. We have had our little boy for nearly four months. Becoming a mum has been an amazing journey so far, and while parts of it are a total blur already (probably for good reason!), there is no better feeling in the world than seeing those shiny blue eyes stare back at me and a smile creep across his face.

I appreciate everyone has their own individual journeys into parenthood, and every person and couple will have their own challenges. This post certainly isn’t about giving advice to anyone and it’s not even strictly related to diet or health! However, I wanted to share this in the hope that my honest account of how having a baby impacted my lifestyle in the first few weeks provides you with something that you may be able to relate to, and may even find amusing.

  1. Breastfeeding is HARD
    Before baby was born, I lost count of how many people asked “are you planning on breastfeeding?”, my go to answer would be “I hope to.”

    I guess as a dietitian, I felt an added pressure to abide by the ‘breast is best’ campaign. However, from working with new mums previously, I knew that it wasn’t always possible for people to breastfeed for so many different reasons. I understood that I might not have enough milk, I knew that baby and I might have trouble getting the latch right, I knew baby might not gain weight, and I was prepared to have to work hard at it, BUT I was not prepared for how much it would hurt.

    Why does no one tell you this?! All those antenatal classes, midwife appointments and even mum friends, I kept hearing and reading that it shouldn’t hurt, but it did. Day and night. I was careful with the latch, tried several different positions and baby even had a minor tongue-tie issue corrected but it still hurt. My other half sat with me holding my hand for moral support while I fed our baby and sobbed. I thought I was doing it wrong, I didn’t feel it would ever get any better, how long would I have to put up with this pain? If it wasn’t for my fabulous mum friends and a wonderful  midwife at Cheltenham hospital acknowledging that it hurts, but it gets better, I’m not sure we’d still be breastfeeding today. I think it took about 6 weeks of this pain until it clicked; our latch improved, my sore, cracked nipples healed, and I started to enjoy feeding him.

    Many mums put so much pressure on themselves to breastfeed, but I have a new-found appreciation for how difficult it can be, and those mums I know – whether their baby is breastfed or formula fed – are all doing an amazing job and their babies are happy and thriving.

    2. Are post birth cravings a thing?!
    I never really had pregnancy cravings, but after having baby, in the early days especially, I craved sugar. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but it was for me. Whether that was because of the sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, hormones, irregular eating habits or a mixture of several different things, our normally healthy eating habits more or less went out of the window for the first 4-6 weeks. We had biscuits with our 2am and 4am cuppas, slices of cake during the day and our dinners might have included some veg if we had our hands free long enough to peel some carrots.

    I think in those early days you just do what you’ve got to do to get through each day, and worrying about getting your 5-a-day in doesn’t really come into it! However, a big help was having a freezer full of prepared meals I’d made when pregnant that we could just stick in the microwave (this was one of those helpful pieces of advice I mention below!)

    3. Only you know what is best for you and your baby
    It’s so cliche, but this has been (and continues to be) my mantra. So many people have advice and feel that their way is the best way; some of these people haven’t even had babies, (and I now realise I was probably guilty of this too – sorry friends!). Don’t get me wrong, some advice I’ve received has been great and really helpful, but I try to remember that every baby is different, so what worked for one won’t necessarily work for another.

    Whether you choose to co-sleep or not, breastfeed or formula, swaddle or not, introduce a routine or not, even down to how many layers of clothes you dress your baby in. Every choice we make as parents is made in the hope that we are doing what we believe is best for us and our baby.

    And that’s just it. We are all trying our best.

    Go easy on yourself.

baby1

 

I’m back!

Hello all!

So it’s been a little while since my last post in December 2015, and a lot has changed since then!

As those of you who followed my blog or knew me from Brussels may recall, I returned to the UK to work for the NHS at the start of 2016. I started work in oncology (cancer care), and then covered gastroenterology, surgery and critical care. I really enjoyed all these specialities, and my days were very different to how they were in Brussels. It was lovely to work in a close team and a hospital environment again.

All through this time my intention was to start the blog up again, with the aim of promoting what dietitians do in an acute environment, but I never got round to it as my personal life has also been very busy…

As well as setting up home in the UK and all the life admin that comes along with that and buying a house, I’ve also got engaged and had a baby! I’m currently on maternity leave and the wedding is planned for later this year 😀

Moral of the story is we can’t always do everything we would like to or set out to, and it’s okay to sometimes have to put things on the back-burner for a little while.

Anyway, upcoming posts are likely to come from more of a motherly slant as I learn about how to balance a healthy lifestyle with being a mum! Perhaps with some more acute-based dietetics too as I read dietetic magazines to my newborn!

Here goes then….

It’s good to be back!!

 

Oaty Apple Crumble

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I am so pleased with how this recipe turned out!

Apple crumble has to be one of my all-time favourite desserts, and this is a great healthy version made with oats. The crunch you get from using walnuts means you can omit the butter and it’s much lower in sugar than other versions too. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

 

 

Ingredients
(for the filling)
Approximately 5 large apples
1 tsp cinnamon
(for the topping)
50g + 20g oats (or 50g oat flour + 20g oats)
50g walnuts
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200’c.
2. Cut the apples into bitesize chunks (no need to peal if you don’t want to!). Add the cinnamon and place in a pan with a lid on a low heat. Leave to stew for 5-10 minutes.
3. Using a food processor, blend 50g of the oats until you have a flour (this can take a while!).
4. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in the microwave.
5. Once the oats are ground, tip the honey and coconut oil into the food processor. Mix together.
6. Add the additional 20g of oats, the walnuts and cinnamon and blitz it all together until the nuts are chopped. You should have a mixture that resembles a crumble topping.
7. Tip the stewed apples into a dish and cover with the topping. Pop in oven for approx. 20 minutes, or until the crumble topping has gone slightly golden.

IMG_0201Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or custard!

Nutritional info per portion
(based on above serving 6 people)
Calories: 218kcal
Fat: 10g
Saturated fat: 3.5g
Protein: 3.5g

Red meat and cancer

You may have noticed that there’s been a fair bit in the news lately about how eating lots of red and processed meat causes cancer. This latest media frenzy was caused after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report in October stating that processed meat is a ‘definite’ cause of cancer, and red meat a ‘probable’ cause.

What are red and processed meats?
Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. Note that this list includes pork, and minced meat would also come under this classification.
Processed meats include any meat that has been salted, cured, smoked or other processes used to enhance flavour or preserve. For example; bacon, salami, sausages, ham and canned meats.

What did the IARC report investigate?
Actually, this report didn’t investigate anything new, it was an evaluation of existing evidence and research. They evaluated over 800 studies that involved the relationship between intake of red and processed meats and cancer. According to this evidence, they then worked on grouping foods into certain classifications.
(An important thing to note is that the categories in the infogram below represent how confident the IARC are that something causes cancer, not how much cancer it causes).

151026-IARC-Meat-rating-TWITTER

Basically, what this chart is telling us, is that the IARC found sufficient evidence to conclude that high intakes of processed meats definitely cause cancer. The evidence for red meats was not as strong or clear, so is classified as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer.
Most of the evidence was linked to bowel (colorectal) cancer, and stems from a meta-analysis of 10 studies published in 2011. A key finding from this paper was that processed meat was more strongly linked to bowel cancer than red meat. They concluded that:
Every 50g/day of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
Every 100g/day of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.

However, this doesn’t mean that eating red or processed meats increases your risk of bowel cancer by 17/18%, as this is a measure of relative risk. In other words, someone who eats 50g of processed meat every day has a 1.18 times increased risk of developing bowel cancer when compared to someone who doesn’t eat processed meat. To put this into perspective, compare it with smoking (the most important avoidable cause of cancer in the world). Men who smoke 15-24 cigarettes a day have a 26 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers.

So should I still eat red meat?
Red meat is fine in moderation, and is a valuable source nutrients including protein, iron and zinc. But, what exactly is moderation? This is much harder to quantify.
In general, the Department of Health recommends that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red meat per day should cut down to 70g or less. Try to keep processed meats such as sausages and salami as ‘occasional’ foods rather than things you eat every day. You could also try having alternative sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lentils and pulses (kidney beans, chickpeas etc.)

In conclusion, having a diet that is high in red meat is not good for you, but the occasional bacon sandwich is still fine. And importantly, the risks are much lower than other things associated with cancer risk, such as smoking.

More info:
IARC Press release
IARC FAQs

Cancer Research, UK: Processed meat and cancer
NHS Choices: Red meat and bowel cancer
Cancer Research, UK: Smoking and lung cancer

FAQs – session 1

I’m opening up my brain to you guys!
Do you have a burning question about food, diet or nutrition that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to?
No matter how random, get in touch via email, twitter or facebook and I’ll do my best to answer in my new series of FAQs.

Due to my hectic work schedule, I sometimes eat really late at night, is this bad?
Research shows that it’s not the time at which you eat the calories, but the total amount of calories consumed throughout the day that matters.

It’s not like by eating just before you go to bed you’ll immediately store those calories all as fat because…(prepare yourself! Shock…horror…!)…you still burn calories when you sleep! I know, it’s great! If you think about it, it makes total sense. You still need your heart, your lungs and even your brain to work when you’re sleeping, right? All of these processes require energy.

The one downside of eating just before going to bed might be that some people get an upset stomach from going into a horizontal position so soon after eating, but in terms of weight gain, the balance of what you eat through the day is much more important.

Are carbs fattening?
I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this question.

First of all, scientifically speaking, the term ‘carbs’ or ‘carbohydrates’ doesn’t just apply to starches, it applies to all ‘sugars’, so this includes the sugars found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and chocolate. Fibre is also a type of carbohydrate. However, when people ask me this question, most of them are referring specifically to starchy carbs such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.

Starchy carbs are an important source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre – (fibre is important in disease prevention and some types have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, see my post on fibre for more details).Per gram, ‘carbs’ contain the same number of calories as protein, so no, they on their own are not fattening. Carbs have got their bad reputation because people often eat much more than they need, and because we tend to add fats to them. A large number of processed products are also carbohydrate based, and these often have fats added to them to enhance their flavour. Rice, pasta, potatoes, bread or cereals in sensible portions are healthy foods to include in your diet (select brown/wholewheat options to up your fibre intake).

I’ve heard that I shouldn’t eat fruit after a meal, is this true?
The short answer here is…..NO!

People have asked me this stating that they have read that eating fruit straight after a meal interferes with the digestion of food eaten.  Well I’m not quite sure where this comes from, but the truth is fruit may actually HELP with the absorption of some nutrients after a meal. As mentioned in my vitamin C post, fruits containing vitamin C may help absorb iron from foods, especially non-meat sources. Rich in nutrients, fruit is a completely healthy thing to have as a dessert, it’s lower in calories than apple pie and custard, and if it helps curb your sweet tooth, it’s definitely a better option than a handful of biscuits!

Remember though that it’s everything in moderation, fruit (like any other food) contains calories and too much of a good thing can be not such a good thing! See my post on portion sizes for more info.

Do I need to go gluten free to lose weight?
No. Unfortunately, the media has a big impact on what diet is perceived as ‘healthy’. Gluten free does not automatically mean less calories, sometimes it can even mean more…as well as more added sugar…!

Some people have a true intolerance to gluten and have to cut it out from their diet. Given that gluten free produce is (generally) more expensive, harder to get hold of, there is less choice available, I tend to advise people not to go gluten free unless they need to. That said, of course, health is about the bigger picture, so yes, it is possible to lose weight and be healthier by going gluten free, but do you need to do it? Certainly not.

How many eggs should I have in a week?
People are often concerned about the egg and cholesterol debate. Eggs are a great source of nutrients, quick to cook and easy to make a meal from. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, in fact 1 egg contains around 55% of your daily recommended amount. However, it is not as simple as eating more cholesterol = higher cholesterol levels*. It has been found that saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, mostly from animal sources) have a bigger impact on your total cholesterol level than cholesterol contained in foods.

There is currently no recommendation in place regarding a maximum number of eggs per week, but bear in mind that we should try and eat a variety of foods – so don’t rely on eggs as your sole source of protein.

*For people with familial hypercholesterolemia (a hereditary condition causing high-cholesterol), there is a recommended limit on eggs and other foods that contain cholesterol. For more information, download this comprehensive leaflet from the British Heart Foundation.

Is planning the key to eating healthily?

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“Planning is the key to success”

People associate planning with success in many aspects of life, and it is often something that is also associated with food too.

There’s no doubt that planning can help make eating healthily easier when work gets busy or when you get tired, and I strongly believe that some degree of planning is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. However, the extent of planning needed can vary, and you need to find something that works for you. The idea would be that, to whatever extent you choose to plan, it eventually becomes normal and you’re able to incorporate it into your routine without even thinking of it as planning!

Planning is something I talk through with my patients, and below I’ve included some ideas I commonly suggest. These suggestions range from more drastic to small changes that could help make healthy eating easier for you. Try applying some of these to your life, depending on what you have time for.

  • Ensure your cupboards, fridge and freezer are stocked with basics to make a healthy meal. I suggest that people at least have the following, these are food items that have a relatively long shelf life and can be used to make a balanced meal:
    • Starchy carbohydrates: oats, pasta & rice
    • Proteins: eggs, beans, lentils, tinned tuna/salmon, maybe some yoghurt
    • Fruit & vegetables: tinned tomatoes, dried fruit, frozen vegetables of choice, onions, garlic, salad items
    • Spices & herbs
  • Make in bulk. Whenever you’re making a meal, make extra and freeze it.
  • Take the time at a weekend to design a menu plan for the week. You can choose whether to detail every meal, or just write down evening meals if you find this is when you struggle most.
  • Spend an afternoon at the weekend preparing all meals for the following week
  • If you prefer to buy fresh vegetables, but hate the time it takes to prepare them, try chopping in bulk and freezing. This will save you the prep time next time.
  • Have a ‘go-to’ list of meals that are quick to prepare and that can be made from ingredients you usually have in your cupboards. Examples might include:
    • Vegetable omelette with some rice
    • Tuna & sweetcorn pasta salad
    • Rice with kidney beans in tomato sauce

So is planning essential to have a healthy diet?
…I’m not saying that everyone should sit down on a Sunday, plan every meal for the following week and then spend hours preparing it all (although that may work for some)! However, having in enough ingredients to make a healthy meal is a big helping hand when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and even that requires a little planning!

Overnight Oats

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Rushed in the morning; no time to make breakfast?
Want something quick, convenient and tasty that will keep you going till lunch?
Enjoy porridge in the winter but not so keen on hot breakfasts through the summer?

It’s your lucky day!

This recipe can be prepared the night before, saving you loads of time in the morning! It’s healthy, tasty and can be varied by adding different toppings so you don’t get bored.

INGREDIENTS
Porridge oats (40g) (use gluten free oats if necessary)
Milk (120-150ml) (The nutritional values below are for semi-skimmed cow’s milk, but you could also use soy, almond or any other milk!)

METHOD
1. Put the oats into a bowl (or a sealable jar if you have one!)
2. Pour over the milk.
3. Cover with cling film or close the lid, and leave the oats in your fridge overnight.
4. The following morning, choose the toppings of your choice and enjoy. (You can also pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute if you prefer it warm.)

NUTRITIONAL INFO:
Calories
: 220kcal
Carbs: 33g
Protein: 11g
Fat: 5g
Saturated fats: 2g

20140730_083037 (2)Topping ideas:
– Banana (or just about any other fruit!)
– Frozen berries
– Chopped apricots
– Yoghurt
– Chopped nuts
– Seeds
– Honey
– Peanut butter