The Nutrition Coach Blog London Nutritionist The Nutrition Coach offers advice on healthy living, nutrition and diet issues such as IBS, bloating, gluten intolerance and more.

Stuff the turkey not yourself

December 7, 2010

Yes we know, christmas time is a stressful time with all those festive parties, lunches and dinners, sorting out presents, getting the christmas tree up and running, writing christmas cards, queueing at the post office….The list goes on and on and you have probably stopped exercising weeks ago due to ‘being too busy’ and ‘you might as well start all over in January now’ and your usual healthy eating patterns seem to have gone all wrong by now.

But hey you say, again, what’s the point in sticking to it in December when everything is about overindulgence anyways and you’ll put on your usual 5 -8 pounds over the festive period anyways?

It doesn’t need to be that way. Let me tell you. Christmas is only one - two days of  ‘overeating’ so there’s really no need to throw all your good intentions out of the window. It’ll only get harder in January to go back to your healthy you and lose those christmas pounds!

That’s why it’s time to take the following thought on board: ‘stuff the turkey and not yourself’ . MAke sure you keep up the good work, incorporate your regular eating patterns, keep eating enough protein and all those immune boosting veggies and fruits out there now which are perfect in soups and stews. Eating well is all about preparation so while you’re doing your christmas shopping always make sure you buy some healthy snacks as well which you can keep in your drawers and handbag so you don’t have to opt for the mince pie lying around in the office. And if you really are too busy to exercise make sure you use every chance to be as active. Take the stairs, go for a walk, get off a tube stop before your home stop, have a dance at the christmas party, carry the presents up to the 4th floor , do some gardening, go ice-skating etc….

And overall, enjoy the festive time with your family and friends. It’s a time to be grateful and share with others.

In festive spirit,


Holiday calories in a mug

December 3, 2010

‘tis the season – and also the weather – for a cozy fireplace. But unless your office has a fireplace (lucky you), you’ll be heading to your local coffee shop to recreate that feeling.

And what better way than drinking yourself warm with a fancy holiday latte, hot chocolate, or mug of mulled wine?

But be warned, it’s not just the mince pies that add up to a festive muffin top. Looking at the nutritional value of some of these festive drinks, you might be crossing the finish line of the eat-athon sooner than you expected.

Here are some numbers:

Calories in a mug *

Your normal, everyday skim latte has about 190 calories. Go for some caramel syrup on top and you can add about 50 calories. If you feel more festive, you may choose to drink a small meal worth of calories and have a gingerbread latte (320 calories) or a hot chocolate (370 calories – this includes whipped cream because you’re treating yourself). But if you want to top it off and drink ¼ of your daily recommended calories, go for an eggnog latte which has 470 calories.

That’s not a problem, you say. You’ll just skip your lunch or have a smaller dinner to make up for the calories – you’ll still fit into your LBD at the upcoming Christmas party. But then you find yourself going for a cheeky after work drink in Winter Wonderland, and soon you’re sipping on more calories in a mug, approximately 230 in your first mulled wine.

Here’s a thought to take on board: skipping meals will not help you lose weight, and neither will swapping your lunch for a fancy latte. It will only cause your blood sugar levels to drop rapidly or rise very quickly (due to the high sugar content in those winter warmers), which means you will quickly hit the keyboard wanting another of those yummy sweet warm drinks (or one of the mince pies you saw in the kitchen).

Now let’s have a look at the sugar content of some of those warming festive drinks.

Sugar in a mug

When looking at these numbers, remember what I wrote about previously: Your body can only ever deal with one to two teaspoons of sugar circulating in your system. One teaspoon equals about 4.2g of sugar. (I will leave some of the maths to you when converting the sugar content into teaspoons.)

Your normal skim latte has about 16g of sugar (because of the sugar in milk), but choose one of the festive lattes and you can easily double the sugar content and drink up to 39g of sugar in a medium sized cup. A hot chocolate might even have up to 43g of sugar which is about as much sugar as your daily recommended allowance. And if maths has never been your strengths, this equals about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Now imagine having your morning cup of tea adding 10 (in words, ten!) teaspoons of sugar. I would like to know if you will still be able to enjoy it.

The problem with all this sugar is that you will not only get an energy slump, but your body will also release more insulin to take the sugar out of your cells. And if you don’t end up using all this energy, your body will eventually store it, and your LBD won’t be looking as good anymore.

Why not choose an equally warming herbal tea that’s full of spices, such as yogi or chai tea? After all, you don’t want to be first to cross the finish line of the six week eat-athon. Because you most definitely won’t be wearing your LBD.

Think you might be addicted to sugar? Drop us a line and get in touch so we can help you getting back on track!

Enjoy the festive season,


P.S. And if you’re still looking for a christmas present, why not give away a consultation with the Nutrition Coach in January!

The 5 week Eat-athon

November 30, 2010

How’s the liver-loving campaign going? Bought (and eaten) your first pack of mince pies already, washed down with brandy butter and some mulled wine?

Studies have shown that 50% of the average annual weight gain is most likely to be gained in the six weeks between mid-November and Christmas. So we’re about one week in to the fixe week eat-athon which usually finishes with the consumption of a whopping 6,000 calories on Christmas Day (that’s three times the daily guideline amount of 2,000 calories for females). And unfortunately, that weight gain will (for most of you) still be there when Christmas comes around next year.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be taking a closer look at the nutritional value of some of the foods we tend to stuff our faces with during this six week eat-athon. The first on the list is the seasonal must-have, mince pies.

Did you know the female record holder ate 46 mince pies in 10min? With an average 250 calories per mince pie, this equals 11,500 calories, the recommended calorie intake of 5.75 days! Now I’m sure you don’t eat that many mince pies, but let’s have a closer look at this serious calorie punch.

So we’ve established an average mince pie contains 250 calories, 1/8th of your daily guideline amount of 2,000 calories. Put this into the mince pie calculator, and it tells you if you go swimming for an hour you burn off 1.4 mince pies. (But who has the time to do more exercise with all those festive dinners, ice skating events and shopping evenings. And be honest, do you really fancy showing off your body in an all-too-revealing swimming costume at this time of the year?) The mince pie might be small in size but high in sugar, containing up to 25gram per pie – that’s a total of five teaspoons of sugar in one mince-pie!

Considering your body can only ever deal with one teaspoon of sugar circulating in your system, you know what this will do to your blood sugar, insulin, and energy levels. The fat content isn’t much better – some of the mince pies out there contain a whopping 8g of total fat, and that’s not the healthy kind of polyunsaturated fat. So if you happen to eat 2.5 mince pies (which can happen too quickly, I know) you can easily reach your recommended daily allowance of 20g of saturated fat. The puff pastry offers little to no fibre, and can cause you to feel bloated and sluggish should you tend to be wheat or gluten intolerant. Protein levels are low so you won’t be satisfied for a long time, and you’ll want more mince pies in no time.

Now add a teaspoon of single or double cream (or brandy butter) and you can easily hit the 500 calorie mark. If you can’t resist a humble mince pie, keep these figures in mind, start reading labels, and try one of the gluten-free and lower calorie/fat versions out there.

After all, you don’t want to be first to cross the finish line of the five week eat-athon!


P.S. Check out my weekly column to find out more how to survive the festive season and still fit into your LBD on Christmas day.

Satisfying heart hunger

November 20, 2010

This week we come to the last of the seven types of hunger…. Heart hunger. 

We associate certain foods with particular memories and the mood or emotion that the memory evokes.  Therefore the memory of special times infuses foods eaten at that time with warmth and happiness.  For example, many people long for foods that they’ve eaten on holiday, or foods eaten with people they loved.  Therefore, the particular food isn’t as important as the mood that it evokes.  If you have a particular comfort food, think back to when you first had that food and how it has before a comfort.  Is it connected to a story that triggers happy emotions and a connection to other people?

Many people are aware that they eat in an attempt to fill a hole, not in the stomach but in the heart.  For example, eating when they are lonely or when a relationship ends.  These are ways that we try to take care of ourselves, but we need to be mindful that filling the stomach doesn’t ease emptiness in the heart. 

Over eating comfort foods wont satisfy heart hunger, but we can start to feed our heart by preparing food for ourselves, and treating ourselves as well as we would a guest.  It only takes a few minutes to arrange food nicely on a plate, to sit down at a table set with colourful utensils and a candle, rather than standing up at the kitchen counter.  In this way we are eating in the present and connecting with the experience, which is far more fulfilling and comforting.  According to Zen teachings, whenever we eat, we take in the energy of many other beings.  The food on our plate, for example, is the product of the sun, the earth, the rain, the insects that pollinated the plants, and many people along the food supply chain, including farmers and grocers.  When we eat we are therefore connecting to this flow of energy that has enabled to food to get to our plate. 

If you feel hungry and recognise that it has arisen from heart hunger, then try to deliberately nourish the heart, by doing something that you love.  For example, talk to someone you love, create something, listen to your favourite music or do anything that you really enjoy.  If you eat, then be mindful to prepare your food as if you were preparing it for a guest and eat slowly with mindfulness of the many steps that have brought the food to your plate.

Heart hunger affects everyone, but can be a particular problem in cases of binge eating, overeating and other disordered eating patterns.  If you have a question about disordered eating then please do give us a call to see if we can help you, or to book a consultation at one of our London nutrition clinics.


November Blues

November 19, 2010

November Blues – Living with Anxiety or Depression in Winter

With the reduced daylight hours and the sun setting by mid-
afternoon, November can be a mellow month.

It’s tempting to want to warm ourselves up and boost our spirits by reaching for traditional comfort foods.  Unfortunately these tend to be stodgy, high-fat foods that do little for boosting our mood and actually make us feel worse in the long run.  If this sounds familiar and you suffer from the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s all the more important to eat well to ensure that you’re getting enough mood-boosting nutrients.  Try following our top mood food tips to keep you feel merry in the run-up to Christmas:

  1. Aim to include oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel into your diet two to three times per week, and have a handful of seeds or nuts (walnuts and hemp seeds are ideal) per day.  These foods are rich in omega 3 fats which help build receptor sites for ‘the happy hormone’, serotonin.
  2. Include foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan in the diet, such as fish, chicken, turkey, oats, eggs, cheese and beans.  This is because tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin.
  3. Eat complex carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, rye bread, pulses and vegetables.  These help to stabilise blood sugar level fluctuations which can cause mood swings and depression.  They are also rich in brain boosting nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
  4. Always start the day with a good breakfast.  Ideal options include eggs on rye toast, sugar-free muesli with seeds and berries, porridge or sourdough toast with nut butter.
  5. Eat three meals a day and a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.  Eating little and often helps prevent large dips in blood sugar levels and can leave you feeling low.  Ideal snacks included a Satsuma with a palm of walnuts, a handful of cranberries and almonds and vegetable crudités with bean dip.
  6. Aim to eat some protein with every meal, such as eggs, fish, chicken, pulses, nuts, seeds and red meat but in moderation.  Protein is vital for good brain health and for maintaining blood sugar levels.
  7. Avoid artificial stimulants including sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine as these play havoc with blood sugar levels and lead to low mood.  This includes white bread, pasta, cakes, many breakfast cereals, chocolate, coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks.  Diets based on refined foods can reduce your levels of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and the B vitamins which are vital for good brain health.
  8. Avoid food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, flavourings and eat organic food where possible.  Artificial additives and heavy metals can act as brain toxins and affect brain health.
  9. Food intolerances can play a part in depression and therefore it may be worth seeking advice from a nutritional therapist to identify the culprit foods.
  10. Get outside in the natural daylight as much as possible, aiming to spend at least 30 minutes outside daily.  It may is also worth investing in some ‘full spectrum’ lighting.  These light bulbs have the same quality of light as the sun and have been shown to be helpful in overcoming SAD.

Sign up for our newsletter or come and see one of our Nutritionists in London (London Nutritionists)  or Scotland

Sleep More – Lose Weight

November 17, 2010

In case you’ve picked up The Metro last Monday, you might have read it, in black on white, on a Monday morning: Britain is the fattest nation in Europe. Not the kind of motivation you want or need on a rainy Monday morning, when you are slightly depressed anyway (X Factor, rugby, winter blues). Next time, why not stay in bed and catch up on your sleep? It’s an absolutely essential nutrient for our well being, and it’s important for this nation to slim down.

If you think about it, our ancestors slept an average of nine to ten hours per night. What a luxury, some of you think. But to others, a huge waste of invaluable time you could spend catching up on your favourite TV show, reading emails or checking out your 300+ online friends.

Nowadays you are probably happy when get six hours of sleep (followed by two skinny lattes to wake you up). The problem is that sleep deprivation causes imbalances in your hormones, which cause you to crave more (junk) food to get through the day. And that causes you to pile on the pounds. Thinking about this, our ancestors didn’t seem to have the same issues with rising obesity or type 2 diabetes, either.

There are two hormones mainly involved in regulating your food intake: ghrelin and leptin, and they influence eating in different ways. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone released mostly by the stomach, whereas leptin is a satiety or fullness hormone, released by your fat cells. When ghrelin levels are up, you feel hungry. When leptin levels are high, that sends a message to the brain that the body has enough food, and the person feels full. Low levels indicate starvation and increase appetite.

Research studies indicate that sleep-deprived people produce higher levels of ghrelin, which have been shown to ‘reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, and promote retention of fat.’ Meaning: too little sleep can make you fat!

If you have trouble getting to sleep and can’t switch off, there are a range of vitamins, minerals and herbs to support your nervous system and a good night’s sleep, such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and valerian. Switching off electrical stimulants at least an hour before you go to bed will help you to calm down as well.

Now that you know the influence of your sleeping pattern on your eating schedule, I challenge you to increase your sleep and try to get at least 7.5 hours undisturbed sleep per night.

Sweet dreams!


Nutrition coach
© 2016 The Nutrition Coach Ltd. All rights reserved. Web development by CreaCom Design.