Category Archives: Nutrition

Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken

chicken

This Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken is nice, simple and low-fat way to cook a great protein source. Serve with my Greek-style spinach and Cauliflower rice.

Chicken breast is one of the best ways to get protein: relatively low-fat, low calorie and packed with the p-word.

Avoid the pre-packed rubbish from the supermarket that’s full of water and look for free-range and corn fed to get some real flavour. Better still, support your local butcher by buying from him.

If you’re on a weight-loss programme, most will advocate you steam it. But that just makes it rubbery and tasteless. This Mediterranean-style dish takes seconds to knock up, is ready in 20 minutes, is packed with flavour and keeps the chicken moist.

Our kids love it too…

Ingredients
500g chicken breast (or four fillets)
Zest of one lemon
1 clove of garlic
1tsp oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 200c
Grate the lemon zest into a baking tray
Crush the garlic and add to the tray along with the olive oil and spices. Stir to form a paste
Cut the chicken into strips and roll in the paste. Make sure they get good and covered. Add a little extra olive oil if needed.
Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning half way.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Greek-style spinach

spinach

Greek-style spinach… simple, tasty and ready in seconds. Boom! 

Some of you may know that I have some Greek roots. Not that I was born there or had Greeke parents, but I did grow up there.

We still visit a couple of times a year to see my mum and sister – and one of the first things we do is go to a Greek taverna and order a typical Greek meal. For me, it always has to include a side-dish or horta. 

What is it? Wild mountain greens (the literal translation is grass or weeds, but try getting the kids to eat that). What horta are available depends on the season but it can be dandelion leaves, poppy, nettles or beetroot leaves. All taste great and are packed with iron but when they get wild spinach, it’s the best.

In Greece, this is not cultivated stuff either. You’ll see black-clad giagiathes mourning grandmothers out in the fields or on mountains with a plastic bag routing around for them.

In England, spring cabbage (or spring greens) is the only thing you’ll find that’s close. But they can often be quite tough and take ages to cook, baby-leafy spinach is a good alternative but it tends to wilt quickly and retain no crunch at all, so I go for just regular, old spinach.

I’m almost embarrassed to list this as a recipe, but as a quick side, low on calories, full of fibre to fill you up and high in protein (yes, spinach is packed with the p-word), you can’t beat it. It goes well with my Mediterranean garlic and lemon chicken too.

Ingredients
A 500g bag of spinach
1 glove of garlic
2 tbsps olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Get a wide-based frying pan and pour in  half of the oil, put on a low-medium heat
Empty the bag of spinach into the pan, don’t worry if it piles high, it will soon wilt
Stir every so often for a couple of minutes
When wilted pour into a bowl, pour on the remainder of the olive oil and squeeze on the lemon

Serves 4, eat hot immediately or leave to cool. It will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

One-pot Mediterranean-style haddock and colourful vegetables

haddock in oven

This haddock dish is not only simple to make but full of good, colourful vegetables.

I love a one-pot dish, like my take on this Mediterranean-style fish dish with lots of colourful veggies. It’s something so simple to make, you can just bung everything in the oven at the same time and let the food do its work.

The key is not to overspice, but let the natural flavours kick in. I’ve done this when I’ve been skint using frozen fish and veg and it still tastes great. But if you can afford a nice piece of fish from a proper fishmongers and orgnic veg, so much the better.

When it comes to the fish, it needs something meaty and a relatively thick piece – here I’ve used haddock, which I prefer to cod, but you could equally use salmon or another sustainable fish such as hake or pollock or sustainably fished swordfish (check packaging for a blue-tick ecolabel. Tuna, I think, needs to be cooked more delicately and hence is not a good choice, unless you’re happy for it to be on the dry side.

From a vegetable point of view, I love to traffic-light or rainbow my food. That is, get a good selection of different colours in – as they all have different health benefits.

Red foods  are packed with lycopene that helps your body rid itself of damaging free radicals, and protect against prostate cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. They’re also loaded with antioxidants.

Orange and yellow foods contain beta-carotene which is good for night vision and the skin, as well as alpha carotene, which also protects against cancer.

Green foods help inhibit carcinogens and the high chlorophyll content helps purify the body.

Another key to this dish, is to cut your cloth according to size! It takes about 45 minutes to cook once in the oven, so you need to chop your veg sizes accordingly so everything is ready at the same time.

Mushrooms, for instance, that cook relatively quickly should be whole, harved or quartered – not sliced.  Sweet potatoes and carrots can be cubed or cut into rings. Onions and peppers can just be sliced – again they cook quickly.

I’ve used sweet potatoes here, but if you were using normal potatoes that take longer to cook, I’d pre-boil them for about 10-15 minutes to soften them up, or cut them into tiny cubes.

Which veg you use is up to you. I wouldn’t recommend spinach as it wilts so quickly, but aside from those here, you could add cauliflower, butternut squash, swede, turnip or whatever… just try and mix up the colours and make sure you cube and cut sizes according to cooking times: the longer the cooking time of the veg, the smaller the piece.

The good thing is that the dish is pretty forgiving… 45 minutes is the ideal time but if some veg are not quite done, you could add another 10-15 minutes easily to that.

Other good nutritional info? It packs 20g of protein per serving – and each serving is just 315 calories.

Ingredients
300g, haddock
300g, mushrooms
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
3 carrots
4 cloves garlic
4 sweet potatoes
160g broccoli
1 yellow pepper
2 tbsps olive oil
1 lemon
A couple of sprigs of thyme and rosemary
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Method

Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper (recommended) or foil. Leave enough overhang at either edge so you can pull together at the top to create an envelope.

Lay the fish out flat in one corner.

Cut/cube all the veg and lay it around the fish. Drizzle with olive oil.

Spread the garlic around the tray, slice the lemons and place on the fish to help keep it moist, and lay the rosemary and thyme around the tray. Sprinkle with the oregano.

Fold the edges of the paper/foil over to create an envelope and bake at 200C for 45 minutes.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Lactose-free blueberry muffin-in-a-minute

blueberry muffin-in-a-minute

This simple lactose-free blueberry muffin-in-a-minute takes seconds to make and offers a delicious, easy, hot home-baked breakfast.

I discovered the idea of the muffin-in-a-minute when I went low-carb on a training diet last year. The concept has its roots in the Atkins diet – but don’t let that put you off – it simply means it’s not packed with carbs.

Taking seconds to whip up and, as the name suggests, just a minute to cook, it uses flaxseed instead of flour so is packed with fibre and Omega 3 good fats, while the blueberries give it a decent amount of Vitamin C and antioxidants.

It’s also the kind of thing you can knock up with kids to give them their first lessons in baking.

And it’s less than 250 calories too, making it a great, filling breakfast.

Ingredients
1/4 cup of ground flaxseed
1 tsp sweetner such as Canderel
0.5tsp baking powder
1 tsp of soya spread (I use Pure, if you are not lactose-free, you can use butter)
20g blueberries

Method
Combine the dry ingredients together in a regular mug
Add the egg and spread/butter
Mix into a paste
Add the blueberries
Cook in a microwave for 60 secs. If the top still looks a little runny, give it a 15 sec blast.
Turn onto a plate, slice and add a little spread if you wish to each slice.

As an alternative, replace the blueberries with cinnamon.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Blueberry crumble lactose-free vegan breakfast

blueberries

You’ll love this lactose-free vegan breakfast

I don’t mind admitting that when it comes to food, I love taking other people’s ideas and tweaking them to come up with my own take on what they’ve done, depending on what ingredients I can get my hands on. This vegan, lactose-free breakfast was inspired by an Instagram post from my good friend and health coach Yasmina Cherquaoui.

As a kid, I always loved a crumble desert, cutting through layers of custard, crumble pastry and tangy fruit for a taste sensation and this breakfast reminds me of that. (Having said that, you could also serve this as desert!)

I first tried Yaz’s take on this and started tweaking it for myself last year when I did a low-carb regime ahead of a 24-hour ultramarathon. I’d been used to having porridge or homemade muesli breakfasts for so long, removing carbs left me bereft of ideas until this came along.

What’s more, as it uses soy yoghurt and almond milk, it’s not only low-carb but also ideal for vegans and those with a lactose intolerance.

It’s also packed with antioxidants thanks to blueberries, chia seeds, bee pollen (an incredible natural wonder every larder should have) and goji berries.

And at 225 calories a serving, great for anyone watching the pounds.

It’s also simple to make, 5 minutes at most … and that’s waiting for the chia seeds to soak.

Ingredients
50ml  Alpro almond milk (or similar)
1 tbsp chia seeds
100-150g Alpro unsweetened soya yoghurt (substitute low-fat Greek for a dairy version)
1.5 tbsp flax seed
5-10 goji berries
50g frozen blueberries
1tsp bee pollen

Method
Soak the chia seeds in the almond milk for 5-10 minutes. Chia seeds expand and become gelatinous in liquid so stir every minute so they don’t clump together. It will look like tapioca pudding or, if you’re being unkind, frogspawn when ready.

Defrost the blueberries for a minute in the microwave or under a warm tap.

Layer the dish in the following order:
Yoghurt
Almond milk/chia mix
Flax seed
Blueberries
Goji berries
Bee pollen

Tuck in with a spoon. Laura likes to mix it all up together, I prefer the layered effect, taking a little bit of each at a time. You get flavour from the yoghurt, sweetness and a little warmth from the blueberries, a chew from the Goji and crunch/crumble from the flax. Our kids love it too…

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Post-workout shake recipe

post-workout shake

People I train in north Leeds, Pool-in-Wharfedale and Harrogate often ask me what the best thing to have after a strenuous workout – which is why I came up with this delicious post-workout shake recipe, ideal for if you got a Nutribullet for Christmas.

You have a 20-30 minute window after a workout to replenish key nutrients, including carbs to restore energy levels and protein to help maintain and build muscle. Some antioxidant power to help reduce inflammation and essential fats are also a good idea.

In the past, I used a commercially bought shake, and I would still recommend products by Maxinutrition for anyone going down that route.

The great thing about this shake though is that not only does it contain all the above nutrients, but it is also dairy and gluten free, so offers a great option for those who have food intolerances or who are vegan.

The preparation method is also so simple, it takes maybe a minute longer than a commercially bought shake.

Simply add the following ingredients into a blender or Nutribullet:

300ml Alpro unsweetened almond milk
1 banana
10g Naturya Hemp protein powder
10g Naturya Chia seeds
50g frozen blueberries

blast away and pour into a pint glass… mint garnish optional

It will give you a whopping 10g of protein and 25 per cent of your daily vitamin C allowance. The calorie content is 256 so it also acts as a good meal replacement for those watching the pounds.

If you’re using My Fitness Pal, you can link to the recipe here (you need to be logged in to view)

Looking for a nutritionist?

If you’re looking for a nutritionist in Pool in Wharfedale, Otley, Harrogate or North Leeds, read on…

We’ve reached a stage in history where people who are obese vastly outnumber those with malnutrition in the world – yet despite a barrage of information, so many of us know so little about what we put in our bodies.

I’ve recently been taking a greater interest in nutrition. When I was growing up, I was always a bit of Porsche engine fuelled by Coca Cola kind of guy. I had a physique that should have made me a semi-decent sportsperson but by fuelling and re-fuelling habits were terrible.

Thankfully, I’ve put all that behind me and now eat a mostly balanced diet, cutting out the CRAP (caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed) food as much as possible.

But the thing that astounds me is it’s almost impossible to know where to look next when it comes to advice. Only in the world of nutrition can both a high protein and a high carb diet both be scientifically proven to be good for you! So who do you believe?

Many of us simply take in some of the cod science when it comes to newspaper or magazine columns and while that will have some health benefits over simply not caring what you eat, a health professional is the kind of person who can really help you.

As a disclaimer right now, I’ll say that until I do more studies, I am NOT that person. I did a personal training course that had two nutrition modules and have a basic understanding of how things work. I offer my clients a dietary analysis where I look at what they eat over a week and try and make some recommendations as to what they could do better to further their aims, but I am as far from a nutritionist as the next person – I simply have a very good understanding of how it all works.

If you are looking for someone who is (or should that be claims to be) a nutritionist, things start to get really murky – simply because in the UK it is not a protected name and anyone can claim to be one! The rest of this article will try and clear up who’s who and what’s what in the world of nutrition, so when you come to make a choice, you will be better informed.

Dietitian

According to the NHS, a dietitian is someone who translates the science of nutrition into everyday information about food. They are involved in the diagnosis and dietary treatment of disease and you will normally find them in a clinical setting such as a hospital or a GP surgery.

To qualify as a dietician, you need to have a four-year degree in dietetics and be registered with the  Health and Care Professions Council, meaning that dietitians are the only nutrition professionals that are regulated by government law.

Nutritionist

Nutritionists tend not to see people on a one-to-one basis, rather they work with bodies such as the NHS and local authorities to give advice on nutrition.

To qualify, one needs a BSc (Hons) in nutritional science and should be registered with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN)  which is regulated by the Association for Nutrition. Only nutritionists with the required learning can register and call themselves a Registered Nutritionist or a Registered Public Health Nutritionist.

Why is this important? Because unlike the term dietician, the term nutritionist is not protected, so anyone can claim the title!

Nutritional therapists

These are the kind of people we are more familiar with thanks to their semi-celebrity status, the like of TV’s Gillian McKeith and ‘Food Doctor’ Ian Marber.

Similar to a nutritionist, but nutritional therapists more often than not work directly with clients. Some work in private practice and people, sometimes even from NHS referrals.

They are usually registered with the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and have studied on a course approved by the Nutritional Educational Commission (NTEC). While these courses are often not degrees, they do tend to last for two or three years and have an element of biomedicine in the curriculum.

Many nutritional therapists believe that good nutrition is the key to a healthy and productive lifestyle – and that in cases, good nutrition can replace medicine. It should be noted however that they are not a replacement for a visit to your GP.

The rest

Under these qualifications are a number of people who have studied short courses (I am one of them) who may be able to offer some general advice. The length and quality of courses can vary – I have seen some that last no more than a month and are studied totally online with no clinical practice at all. While that might give some understanding of nutrition, it is certainly not a replacement for a therapist who has completed a course over several years, has an understanding of science and who has undergone regulated clinical practice.

Before booking a session with any nutrition professional, I’d advise asking for their qualifications and checking them against the above bodies to see who they are registered with.

Dead within two years? No thanks…

There was a great story in the Daily Mail a couple of years ago about Carole Wright, a mum who has lost 20stones – or 12 dress sizes – and was voted Slimming World’s Woman of the Year. She did this after being told by her GP that she would die within two years if she stayed the same weight.

You can read the full story here.

While I’m not entirely familiar with Slimming World’s dietary program, I do know that it’s not just about food and eating but that they advise people to take part in activity as well.

Losing weight is, at its basest level (i.e. for most of us) a simple equation – you need to burn more fuel than you put in.

A pound (or 500g) of fat equals 3,500 calories – which means that by eating just 500 calories a day more than what you should would add on a pound a week. That’s less than a McDonald’s burger, a couple of packets of crisps or a couple of pints of beer.

Extrapolate that over a year and you’d gain 52 pounds in a year – almost four stones or 27kg in new money.

Conversely, burn more than 500 extra calories a day and you should lose the same amount.

Play the numbers game when it comes to food and exercise and you can’t fail to lose weight.

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated: How much water should I drink a day? 

Believe it or not, it’s one of the questions I’m asked most often and the truth is, there is no set answer – but one thing is for certain: staying hydrated is essential for the body’s homeostasis (the body’s need for stability).

Usual health advice claims that eight glasses a day should be the norm – but that’s hard to back up, not least because who knows how big a glass they mean? Eight pint glasses would obviously be twice as much water as eight half-pints!

Then you have to take into account things like body weight, whether male or female and how much you exercise.

The best calculation I have come across is 0.03 litres for every kilogram of weight. So if you weigh 60kg, the amount you should drink would be: 60×0.03 = 1.8 litres

That’s actually about eight half-pint glasses, so the old adage has some truth in it – as long as you weigh 60kg.

If you want an old money calculation, it is 0.5 fluid ounces per pound – and there are 20 fluid ounces in a pint.

And if you exercise, you probably want to take on another half litre per half hour of exercise – although this should preferably be in the form of  a sports drink.

That’s a lot. How do I, er, stop peeing?

Well that’s a good question – but going to the loo is one clear sign that you are drinking enough water. Your wee should be the colour of light straw to ensure it is flushing out the toxins it should be, darker and you need more water, lighter and you need a bit less.

The best way to avoid constantly going to the loo though is to just pop a dash of sea salt into one of the glasses – and make sure you drink the lion’s share of your water (around 60-70 per cent) before noon.

Does it HAVE to be water?

The good news is to stay hydrated, it doesn’t have to be all water – other fluids: tea, coffee, milk and soft drinks do count. But do not use these as a total replacement for water… There is an excellent list of the pros and cons of all drinks on this NHS web page.

Cheers!

How to lose an inch from your belly

I suppose instead of How to lose an inch from your belly, this article could be called How to put on an inch on your belly!

We’ve just returned from a family holiday in Tenerife. The weather was gorgeous and the hotel was great, it was the perfect solution to a busy December and a great way to let our batteries recharge in the sun.

The problem with our break was we were staying at an all-inclusive resort – a great way to budget but not great on your waistline when you can go to the restaurant or bar and eat and drink what you want, when you want.

In less than a week, I managed to put on almost 1.5kg in weight – that’s almost four pounds in old money. Imagine if I’d not been going for a daily run!

So how does it work?

Well, in its simplest terms, weight gain is a purely mathematical concept.

Of course, some people have faster metabolisms or different body shapes than others and this can affect the maths, but as a general rule:

  • take on more fuel more than the energy you expend and you will put on weight,
  • take on less fuel than the energy you expend and you will lose weight.

According to Runner’s World, researchers have found that an inch of belly fat equates to around 14,000 calories – and believe me, it’s not hard to put that on in a month.

We need a basic calorific intake to maintain our bodily functions if we remain sedentary or largely inactive – that figure is around 2,000 calories for a woman and 2,500 for a man. Anything over this is excess and will make us add weight, anything less will make us lose weight.

In weight terms, 3,500 calories is roughly equivalent to a pound of fat – if you take on just an extra 500 calories a day more than you expend, it would take just a week to put on a pound, and just a month to put on four pounds (2kg) and an extra inch of belly fat (four weeks at 3,500 calories is 14,000 calories).

So what constitutes an extra 500 calories a day?

Well, take your pick: two cans of Stella, a glass and a half of Bailey’s, three glasses of champagne, two small Danish pastries, 100g of chocolate, a Big Mac… any number of things that can easily slip into your diet and soon add up.

Equally, of course, you can expend an extra 500 calories a day, eat your regulation daily amount and you should lose an inch around your belly (providing you are not cheating!)

What can you do to burn an extra 500 calories?

For a 180lb man, an hour of shadow boxing, walking with a rucksack, light cycling or football training will all burn more than 500 calories.

Plus there’s an added benefit to exercise – the fitter you are, the more calories you burn when resting (muscle needs more fuel than fat), so the benefits last much longer than just the hour in which you will have exercised.

If you’re finding it hard to banish the new year blues, stick to your fitness resolution or need some tips on nutrition, drop me a line via the contact form and I’ll give you the push you need.