Overnight Oats

20150624_081620

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

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Portion Distortion

Did you know….?

  • Dinner plate size has increased an average of 6.5cm over the last 50 years – that increases the area on your plate by up to 70%!
  • Choosing extra thickly sliced bread over medium increases the amount you eat of it by 60%
  • Fast-food chains used to serve just one size of fries, this is now the portion size provided with the kids meals

Given these facts, perhaps it’s not surprising at how quickly the obesity crisis has taken a global hold. It has become the norm to expect larger portions when eating out, and this (together with increased plate size) often leads to eating more at home.

This is portion distortion.
Your norm becomes bigger and bigger until the bigger is the new ‘normal’.

Obviously, everyone is different and will need different amount of foods depending on your weight, how active you are and your current situation.

However, there are some simple rules you can apply when cooking and when eating out that will help you get your portion sizes back in check – and there’s no need for weighing scales or any special equipment!

This reference guide groups food into different types to make it easy to see what a typical portion* should be.

Vegetables

Guiding-Hands-ArtWhen you’re looking at how much of what to put on your plate, the vegetable part of your meal should take up around 1/3 to 1/2 of your plate, and roughly fill your hands like the picture opposite.
Recommended portion size of vegetables is larger than other foods because they are low in calories and provide us with minerals, vitamins and fibre.

Guiding-Hands-Art

Fruits

A portion of fruit would be what you could fit in one hand, or roughly the size of your fist. The exception here is dried fruit, in this case you need to think of it in its hydrated form to get the right portion size. For example, 2-3 apricots would fill your hand, therefore 2-3 dried apricots are a portion.

Starchy Carbohydrates

Guiding-Hands-Art

Starchy carbs include foods like; pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, cereals and cereal products. You should look at having a source of starchy carbs with every meal. Good choices are oats, wholewheat pasta, brown rice and wholegrain bread as these are higher in fibre and release energy more slowly. Depending on how active you are, you could have between 1-2 portions (or 1-2 clenched fists) of starchy carbohydrates with every meal.

ProteinGuiding-Hands-Art

The amount of protein someone needs can vary depending on their weight and what their aims are, but for the general population a portion is around the size of your palm. This would be equal to a small chicken breast, two eggs or a few tablespoons of beans/lentils. Aim to have 2-3 palm-sized portions every day.

Fats & Oils

Guiding-Hands-Art

As it’s the most calorie dense nutrient, a portion of fat or oil is considerably smaller than the other foods. There are some fats that are beneficial for heart health, but when it comes to calories a fat is a fat! More info
When you’re cooking with oils, spreading butter or using oil as a dressing, try to stick to no more than a thumb-print (or teaspoon) size portion.

In addition to the above, you should also try to have 2-3 portions of dairy products per day. A portion is a matchbox size of cheese, a standard yoghurt pot (~125g) or a 200ml glass of milk.

 *Serving or portion?

A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or 100mls of juice. A portion is the amount of food that you put on your plate to eat, you choose whether this is a big or a small portion. Take soft drinks for example, they will often quote a serving size on the label that is less than the amount within the bottle.

Fibre

Dietitians and other healthcare professionals can often be heard talking about how we should eat more fibre. You may understand that it is “good for you” to have fibre in your diet. But have you ever thought about why?

This post explains the different types of fibre, looks at some of its benefits and suggests how you can include more of it in your diet.

Types of fibre

Fibre-rich foodsAn easy way to remember foods that contain fibre is that they all come from plants. Meat, fish and dairy foods do not contain fibre.
Fibre can be split into two different types, soluble and insoluble. Both have different health benefits, so we should try to include both types in our diets.

  • Soluble fibre
    As the name suggests, soluble fibre dissolves in water. In the gut, this helps soften your stools. Consequently, if you suffer from constipation, gradually increasing your intake of soluble fibre can help make it easier to go. Soluble fibre can also help lower cholesterol levels.
    Foods such as oats, pulses, lentils, golden linseeds, potatoes and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fibre.
  • Insoluble fibre
    Insoluble fibre cannot be digested, instead it is used as a ‘food’ source for good bacteria we have in the gut, helping keep our gut healthy. Insoluble fibre also acts as a sponge, helping keep us fuller for longer and move food through our digestive system.
    Good sources of insoluble fibre include; bran, wholegrain and wholemeal foods, skins of fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds.

To help differentiate between the two different types, think about making porridge (or oatmeal) on the stove, the oats ‘dissolve’ into the liquid. When cooking brown rice, the rice does not dissolve, but rather absorbs the water and goes soft. This is because the oats are high in soluble fibre, whilst brown rice is high in insoluble fibre.

Benefits

As fibre can help you feel full for longer, it can be a useful tool when trying to manage your weight. It can also help control your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Having a diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

How much?

According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) adults should be aiming for around 25g of fibre per day. Most people aren’t eating enough. On average, people manage to eat around 14g of fibre per day.

Increase your fibre intake

If you want to increase your intake of fibre, it is important that you do so gradually. Increasing your intake too rapidly can result in stomach cramps and leave you feeling bloated. You should also make sure you drink plenty of water, aim for 6-8 glasses per day.

You can increase the amount of fibre in your diet by ensuring your diet contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, opting for wholegrains (brown rice/bread/pasta over white), leaving the skin on potatoes and adding beans or lentils to your soups and salads. Ensuring a vegetarian meal once per week is a great way of upping your fibre intake #meatfreemonday!

What does 25g a day look like?

fibre in a dayIBS

People who have digestive problems or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may need to adjust the type and amount of fibre they have in their diets depending on their symptoms. This is something that needs to be assessed on an individual basis. You should see your doctor or dietitian for more advice regarding this.

More information

Fibre-rich foods
General information on fibre from patient.co.uk
NHS information on constipation
NHS information on diarrhoea
NHS information on IBS

Hydration, hydration, hydration!

As featured in my April newsletter (sign up here), this is a post all about the importance of keeping hydrated.

Sooo many clients I see tell me “oh, I know I need to drink more” or “I don’t drink enough”. Consequently, I often focus one of their goals around finding a way to get more water into their day.

Of course, drinking enough water is important all year round, but as the weather gets warmer, the amount of water your body loses increases, which means that more needs to be replaced.

waterWhy do we need water?

It is very easy to take the humble tap, hose or water cooler for granted. We typically use water for so much of our daily routine; watering the garden, washing clothes, showering, cooking and drinking. Water plays an important role in many aspects of life, and our body is no exception; we could not live without it.

Most of our body is made up of water; our cells, muscles and blood all contain it. Water plays a part in controlling our body temperature, metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure as well as removing waste products and ensuring the concentration of minerals in the blood stays balanced. When this balance is disrupted, processes in the body cannot function properly.

As well as the critical role water has in our general health, drinking plenty can also help with weight management. This is because occasionally our brain mistakes the signals of thirst for hunger. So next time you feel peckish, think about when you last had a glass of water before reaching for the nibbles!

What happens when we don’t drink enough?

If you lose more fluid that you drink, you will eventually become dehydrated. You lose fluid through breathing, sweating and urinating. However, the amount of fluid that you lose can vary a lot depending on how active you are, your environment and your current state of health.

Signs that you are not drinking enough may include: dark coloured urine, not needing to urinate as often as usual, dry mouth, thirst,  tiredness and lack of ability to concentrate.

How much to drink

This varies depending on how much water you are losing. The hotter it is and more active you are, the more you will need to  drink.

A loose guide is around 1.2-1.5 litres (or 6-8 glasses). However, the best way to tell if you are drinking enough is by the colour of your urine. It should be a light, straw colour.

NB: Try not to wait until you are thirsty to drink as by this point you are already dehydrated!

What to drink

Water is always best to rehydrate you. Milk, diluted squash, fruit juice and soft drinks also count, but watch out for the calories in juices and sugary sodas and the caffeine in teas and coffees (which can have a diuretic effect). Green or herbal teas are a good choice if you prefer something warm.

How to drink more

Sometimes, people are well aware that they should be drinking more, but it is a habit that is difficult to get in to. People find different ways that work for them but here are some suggestions:

  • Drink from a big bottle
    This is a handy way of measuring exactly how much water you are getting through on a daily basis. If you are sat at a desk and have the bottle handy, you are much more likely to take sips throughout the day. It is surprising how far away the water cooler is when you are in the middle of writing that report…!
  • Always carry water with you
    If you are often out and about it is very easy to go hours without drinking. So, it is always a good idea to take a bottle of water with you, especially when on holiday somewhere warm.
  • Have large glasses with meals
    If you really struggle to get into the habit of drinking water through the day, having a large glass of water with every meal is a good start.
  • Develop a schedule
    Start the day with a large glass of water, drink every time your kids do, set a reminder on your phone to leave your desk every hour for a drink…Find something to set a schedule to and stick to it. It will soon become a habit.
  • Mix it up!
    If you get bored with the taste of normal water, try adding a slice of lemon, lime or even mint leaves! Green teas taste great too!

Like my Facebook page for more handy hints and to keep up to date with my nutrition goings on! 

How to prevent weight gain on holiday

When on holiday, it’s so easy to abandon all principles of healthy eating and forget everything we know about moderation. Holidays are definitely a well-deserved time to relax but being too relaxed about what we eat can set us back weeks on weight management plans. Whilst holidays are not a good time to try and lose weight, preventing weight gain is a positive goal that is achievable!

I’ve put together my 5 top tips, so you can relax and feel spoiled but without relaxing the rules (too much) on your healthy diet.

1. Have a healthy breakfast

bfastBreakfast really is the most important meal of the day. It sets you up energy wise, kick-starts your metabolism and prevents you getting peckish through the morning.

Healthy options include; fruit, yoghurt, oats, muesli or granola. Or, if you’d like something warm; scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and toast, or an omelette. Try and have a source of protein (milk, eggs, yoghurt) mixed with a source of carbohydrate (bread, oats, muesli) as this combination will help keep you fuller for longer and prevent those mid-morning munchies. Make it even better by adding in some fresh or dried fruit for one of your 5-a-day!

2. Get active

tennisMost holiday destinations provide guests with ample opportunities to burn some calories. Whether it be a swim, a gym session, tennis, a walk, whatever your preference. Look into what the place you’re staying offers before you go, and make it your goal to do 30 minutes of something active every day.

Why not try something you don’t usually do! You’ll feel much better for it.

3. Make sure you drink enough

waterNormally, an average adult should be drinking 35mls of fluid per kg of body weight. So, for a 70kg individual, that’s (35 x 70) 2450mls, or nearly 2.5 litres per day. Add in the heat and sight-seeing, and you’re likely to need even more than that. The easiest way of telling if you’re hydrated enough is by checking the colour of your urine, anything darker than a pale straw colour and you need to drink more.

I would always suggest carrying round a bottle of water. It’ll help keep you cool and hydrated. In addition, the brain can confuse hunger and thirst signals. So, when you think you’re hungry, you may just be thirsty. Have a drink, and if you still feel hungry 30 minutes later, then it’s probably time to have something to eat.

4. Take some snacks

nutsDon’t go hungry and then pick something unhealthy to snack on just because it’s more convenient! If you know you’re going to get hungry, be prepared and take some healthy snacks with you. Fruit and nuts are great things to nibble on to see you through to the next meal.

Or, if you’re off for the day, see if you can take something for lunch from the breakfast buffet; a wholemeal chicken salad sandwich and some fruit is going to be so much better for you (and your waistline) than grabbing a quick kebab or portion of chips!

5. Portion control

Don’t go piling the plate up just because it’s there. Remember all the hard work you put in at home and try to eat similar portion sizes. Stick to a similar dietary pattern to what you have at home. If you have 5-a-day at home, aim for 5-a-day on holiday too.

If you know you’re going to be eating out regularly, do some research on what dishes are popular for your destination and get calorie wise. It’s a great excuse to try some of the local cuisine! Also, don’t be afraid to ask waiting staff for more information about a dish. Most restaurants will oblige if you ask for the fish to be grilled rather than fried, or for new potatoes rather than chips.

Need something to cool you down? Some ice lollies are less than 100 calories (check the packet). Really want that ice cream? Fine…have it, but have one scoop and do an extra couple of lengths in the pool tomorrow.

Don’t deprive yourself completely. Holidays are an important time to forget the stresses of work and enjoy company of your loved ones so it’s important to have a little bit of what we enjoy. Good news is there’s some easy ways that this is possible without piling on the pounds; MODERATION AND COMPENSATION!

 

I hope you find my tips helpful. Please comment with any added suggestions you may have!

BBQ Calorie Savers!

We all love a good summer BBQ. As I write this, it’s raining outside – but that’s not stopped us before! One particular memory that comes to mind is my neighbours calling the fire brigade because they thought our garage was on fire. Actually, my dad had just decided to do the BBQ from there!

BBQs are not only a great way to spend a summer evening with friends and family, but it is also a healthier method of cooking than frying or roasting. However, they can turn into an all-out feast – not good for those eating healthily!

So here’s my top 10 tips on how to make better choices when it comes to BBQs!

1. Healthy munchies

hummus

Swap those cheesy crisps and creamy dips for veggie sticks, hummus or sliced fruit and you’ll save yourself bags of calories before you’ve even started!

Another great tip for ‘picking’ is to put what you want on a plate, don’t pick out of the serving dish. You’ll be more aware of the amount you’re eating and more likely to think twice about what you’re putting in your mouth.

If you’re not hosting, take some with you! Chances are you won’t be the only one who’s eating healthily and veggie sticks add a lovely splash of colour to the table.

2. Tell your friends

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a BBQ elsewhere, tell them you’re eating healthily before you go. Ask them to leave salad dressings on the side, or to avoid putting mayonnaise in EVERYTHING.

Depending on the friends (some can be bad culprits for “oh, go on…”) they may prepare low calorie drinks and dishes. Or, if you think they’re the “encouraging” type, be prepared and take your own. I’m sure that Rachel next door would be more than happy to hear you’ll prepare the salads or take along some prawns and homemade lentil burgers!

3. Plenty of veggies

vegetarian-kebabs-12BBQ’ing doesn’t have to be all about meat! There’s lots of veggies that taste great on the grill; corn on the cob, peppers, aubergine, sweet potato, the list goes on. Plus, you could kill two birds with one stone and occupy the kids with making some tasty vegetable skewers!

Change things up a bit and prepare some unusual salads. So many fruits and vegetables taste great at this time of year. Some wacky combinations include; avocado & pineapple, orange & carrot, kidney beans & chilli, mango & prawn and fennel, chic pea & pomegranate.

4. One plate

BBQs can turn into a bit of a free-for-all. However, we don’t eat four plates of dinner normally and BBQs should be no different! Limiting yourself to one plate will help you keep track of how much you’ve eaten and save on those calories.

Try to occupy your plate the same way you would at home. A rough guide would be third to half full of salad or vegetables, then split the remaining area into half between starchy carbohydrate (bread, potato, rice or pasta) and a source of protein (lean meat, fish or bean burger). Having a mixture of all three will keep you fuller for longer and help prevent multiple trips back to the food table!

5. Leaner meat choices

grilled-salmonAs I said, BBQs don’t have to be all about meat, but for you meat lovers there are definitely some meats that are better choices than others. Try to choose meats such as chicken, turkey and fish that are lower in fat and calories than burgers and sausages.

6. Alcohol

The silent contributor, the calorie queen! Per gram, alcohol contains 7 calories. In comparison, fat contains 9 calories per gram and carbohydrate and protein contain around 4 calories per gram. Put more practically, a medium sized glass of Pimms and lemonade contains around 150 calories and a bottle of beer around 100 calories. When you’re sat chatting (and drinking) for hours, it’s easy to see how the calories can add up!

berry-forest-mocktail-172155_LIf the idea of not drinking at all is too much of a challenge, then try to lessen your intake. Dilute wine with diet lemonade and ice to made a refreshing spritzer, or alternate between alcohol and soft drinks.

Provide the kids with some fresh fruit, ice and diet soft drinks and let them experiment making some non-alcoholic mocktails. One of my personal favourites is; mashed strawberries, a couple of mint leaves, sparkling water and ice.

7. Healthy dessert

Fresh-Fruit-Salad-for-headerFresh fruit makes the perfect dessert; it’s sweet, full of vitamins and antioxidants and one of your 5-a-day! Plus it’s low in calories. You have the standard fruit salad or you could try making a lower calorie recipe ‘trifle’.

If you fancy chocolate, snap a few squares of dark chocolate onto a sliced banana, wrap in tin foil and pop it on the BBQ for a couple of minutes. You’ll still get that chocolate fix but in a controlled portion, plus they taste deliciously indulgent.

9. Get active

Make the most of being with the people you love! Get out the rounders kit, tennis rackets, hide and seek! Whatever! Being active will give you a mood boost through release of happy endorphins in your body and also help you burn off some calories.

8. Pick your treat before going

Psychologically, if you’ve planned ahead, you’ll feel more in control and be more able to say ‘no’. Choose before hand whether you’re going to have a burger, decadent dessert or a couple of drinks. Remember, as long as we eat well 80% of the time, it’s perfectly fine to have treats of the things we enjoy occasionally.

10. Enjoy it

Finally, just relax and enjoy it. If you’ve used the above tips to plan ahead then you’re well prepared.

And, at the end of the day, if it all goes a little bit awry, just eat extra healthily the day after. One day of overeating won’t make you fat.

 

Watch out for some of the recipes I mentioned above – I’ll be posting them soon! I hope these tips are helpful, do let me know any tips you have.

Fats: which ones should we choose? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my post regarding fats, see part 1 here.

What are omega-3 and omega-6?

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids found in polyunsaturated fats. They are essential because they cannot be made by the body and are required for good health, so it’s important that we get these fatty acids from our diet.

Omega-3, or alpha-linolenic acid, can be found in rapeseed oil, dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts and seeds. Some eggs are also fortified with omega-3. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring) are a rich source of a specific type of omega-3 that can help reduce inflammatory responses and blood clotting, thereby reducing risk of heart disease. Current recommendations state 1-2 portions of oily fish per week. Omega-6, or linoleic acid, is found in vegetable and nut oils such as sunflower and peanut oil.

There is growing evidence to suggest that omega-3 and omega-6 can help lower our risk of heart disease and some studies show reduced risk of type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Coconut oil; good or bad?

There have been a lot of health claims about coconut oil recently, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Firstly, it should be noted that coconut oil is around 92% saturated fat. As you can see in the graph below, this is extraordinarily high and, using the general ‘rules’ regarding saturated fats coconut oil should be avoided. However, the composition of coconut oil is unusual. A large proportion of the fats found in coconut oil are medium chain fatty acids.

Oil fat content

…What are medium chain fatty acids?

Fatty acids are the bits attached to the glycerol backbone (go back to the structure of a triglyceride explained in part 1). Short, medium and long are terms used to indicate the length, or number, of carbons present in the fatty acid chain. Short (0-6 carbons) and medium chain (6-13 carbons) fatty acids are digested, transported and metabolised more quickly than long chain fatty acids (14+ carbons). This could mean that the high concentration of medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil results in it behaving differently within the body to most saturated fats.

It may also be that the length of the carbon chain changes the impact the fat has on blood cholesterol levels. For example, research suggests that long chain fatty acids increase total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol while medium chain fatty acids increase the HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and have a neutral effect on LDL. However, more research is needed to confirm this.

What about the other health claims of coconut oil?

About 49% of the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil is lauric acid. It has been suggested that lauric acid has special antibacterial properties. However, many of the health claims that exist around coconut oil and it’s antimicrobial properties are not yet proven. There are also claims suggesting coconut oil increases metabolism therefore aiding weight loss. Unfortunately, very few studies investigate health benefits of coconut oil, especially when compared to the substantial evidence backing health benefits of mono and polyunsaturates (see part 1). Plus, it is consumed in such low quantities that any impact on microbes or metabolism is likely to be minimal.

Having said this, coconut oil is fine to use in small amounts or as a replacement to other oils in cooking. It can add a tasty nutty flavour to food and the presence of medium chain fatty acids may have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol. Coconut oil, in particular, is a fat that requires lots more research!

So what fat should I choose?

There are lots of different types of oils and spreads available, and people may use different types for different things.

The biggest difference between butter and different types of spread is the saturated fat content. The graph below demonstrates the amounts of fat present in different types of spreads. (Values have been averaged from commonly used brands but can vary).

Fat spreads comparison image

Which oil and spread you choose is likely to depend on lots of things; taste preference, health benefits, cost, habit etc.

In summary, to choose a fat low in saturates with higher proportions of mono and polyunsaturates is best for heart health, i.e rapeseed/olive oils and spreads. However, if used sparingly (as any fat should be anyway!), fats with higher amounts of saturates (such as butter and coconut oil) can be incorporated as part of a balanced, healthy diet.

It’s important to remember that all oils and spreads are fats, so whatever ones you use should be in small amounts, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.