Eat Well Live Well 5 week course – Worthing

  • 07/11/2018 - 05/12/2018
    7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Please note that once a deposit is made, refunds will only be made if the course is cancelled by The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen, or under extenuating circumstances. Your personal information is important to us. Your details will only be used for registration and administration purposes for this workshop and will be deleted from the database (more…)

Celebrating life on the veg

Today is World Vegan Day, a celebration of eating everything that plants have to offer. In fact, eating plant based is so awesome, the whole of November has been designated as World Vegan Month!

Veganism has become the fastest growing lifestyle movement in the UK – there are over 500,000 vegans, 3 1/2 times more than in 2006. Campaigns such as Veganuary and Meatless Monday have raised awareness and as more research reveals the damage caused by our Western diet, many are deciding to go and live life on the veg.

So what are the main reasons for this change in lifestyle?

1) Health – as the world gets fatter and sicker, many have looked to take control of their dietary choices and gone plant based. Of course, being vegan does not automatically mean healthy, as there are many highly processed, nutrient poor vegan options! That’s why I always harp on about eating whole food and plant based – that’s the healthy bit; and there’s loads of research out there that backs it up. After all, what we put in our bodies breaks down into chemical reactions at cellular level – whole foods maximise the nutrients for these reactions. So putting more of the good stuff in lessens the bad effects like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Which leads me to number two……

2) Weight loss – when I went dairy free, I lost weight. When I went mainly plant based, I lost more, even though I was eating, and enjoying, loads. I went from always being on a diet, to never having to think about weight gain. Nice! And I’m not alone. Research revealed that people who went on a vegan diet lost 5kg more than any other form of diet. But that’s as long as junk is taken out. No wonder it’s becoming popular with Beyonce and the like!

3) Animal welfare – traditionally one of the most important tenets of veganism, factory farms and poor treatment turns many off being meat eaters and on to the veg. Documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings have had a major impact on it’s viewers. Short films showing the conditions and treatment of animals in industrial slaughter houses is enough to make that steak look less appealing. Even though my journey to eating mainly plant based was motivated by my food sensitivities, the things I have learnt about the meat industry has definitely changed my view point.

4) Environment – going plant based is the single most direct effect a person can have on the environment. Producing food from animals is so costly to the planet, using up massive amounts of land and water, and contributing more green house gases than transport. That’s why campaigns like Meatless Monday are important for our world – less contributes so much more!

Everyone has their own reason for going more plant based; the internet has really opened up the debate and this increase in numbers is making it more mainstream. We delve into this topic in more detail in my Eat Well Live Well course, starting again in the New Year if you’re interested in finding out more.

So why not have your own little celebration, raise a glass of (vegan) wine and enjoy living life on the veg!

Is the white stuff the right stuff?

It’s funny how what may seem to be a major problem or crisis can actually turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. We certainly grow as individuals and gain much. When I discovered that I had a sensitivity to dairy, I was gutted; all my favourite creamy cakes, desserts and cheese were suddenly off the menu. Major changes to the way I view and ate food were on the way, and looking back now, I am so thankful as it has not only helped me to feel so much better health wise, but it’s also revolutionised my way of thinking and opened up a whole new adventure – The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen.

All my life I was told, and am still told, that dairy is good for me, and a vital part of a healthy diet. People are still aghast that I have eradicated it from my diet – how do I manage? Dairy is an integral part of our societal psyche – it’s hard to break free from the norms. So really, that is why I am grateful for my sensitivity; it’s enabled me to make a massive change for the better and been my excuse for being different. And when it’s hard to resist a slice of gorgeous looking creamy chocolate cake, I no longer feel deprived knowing that it will make me feel so ill it’s not worth it. Plus I know how to make a great alternative myself!

There has been lots of research about the dangers of dairy in our diets, how it contributes towards obesity, diabetes, allergies, osteoporosis, cancer – the list goes on. But even when the research is on a huge scale, some how the health and food industry manage to dispute or deny it, and so milk is still promoted as healthy product that should be consumed in large amounts.

The latest piece of research published last month in the British Medical Journal* seems to be finally bringing the message home – a study in Northern Europe that involved over 115,000 people concluded that those who consumed large amounts of milk (about a pint a day) had an increased risk of bone fractures and death. Women in particular, who are encouraged to consume more milk for healthy bones, have a 60% increased risk of hip fractures. For every glass of milk consumed, the risk of dying from heart disease increased by 15% and cancer by 7% and those who had 3 glasses a day or more, compared with just one glass, had a whopping 93% increased risk of dying. That’s huge! So who says milk is good for you now?

The truth is we just don’t need dairy in our diet – cow’s milk is for calves, goats milk for kids (not human ones!) and human breast milk for babies. It’s packed full of all the nutrients, protein and growth factors that a baby animal needs to do the fastest growth and development it’s ever going to have to do

in it’s life. If we were supposed to consume milk as adults, we would have evolved differently – maybe more like David Walliams character Harvey who wants ‘bitty’…….?
No-one in my house drinks dairy now – not that I’ve forced them to either! My son’s life long eczema and asthma have practically gone since eradicating dairy from his diet (plus teenage acne is much better!); my daughter’s joint pains have massively improved (dairy is inflammatory) and finally my husband continues to lose weight dairy free and plant based.

Change is hard, but good things are worth making the effort for. And the more people who go dairy free, to more it becomes mainstream. So why not give it a go, and give your body a break – it will thank you for it in the long run!  And if you’re not sure where to start, The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen is here to help. Come along to a dairy free cooking demo, or look out for my on-line support course coming soon.

*Michaëlsson  K, Wolk  A, Langenskiöld  S, et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ. 2014;349:g6015.

A weighty challenge

Do you always feel like you’re on a diet? Lose weight then put it all back on again, lured back into you’re old way, getting stuck in a dieting yoyo?  I’ve tried most of them during my lifetime, – Atkins (lasted 48 hours – it made me so ill!), weight watchers, Rosemary Connolly’s fat free, food combining to name a few. Most of the time, I had some success and would lose some weight, but always managed to put it back on again.

Whilst never being massively overweight, I’ve also never been particularly small and never felt comfortable. Looking back, I realise not feeling right was more to do with not eating the right foods for me, rather than being too heavy and needing to ‘diet’. But it was being on a particular diet – Carol Vorderman’s 28 day detox plan – that made me realise there was more to this eating malarky that meets the eye. This plan is plant based, cutting out any food source that can cause inflammation in the body (including wheat, alcohol and caffeine). Lacking the understanding I have now, it was hard, but I felt so good. More energy, less headaches and generally lighter in body and spirit. But I didn’t continue with it long term, so slowly the weight started creeping back on.

It was however, the start of my journey to wellness through a plant based whole food diet. And once I applied the principles properly, I lost weight without even trying. But not so much that I’m an unhealthy size. I’ve plateaued at a healthy 57kg and eat loads more now than I used to, it’s just all whole and plant. I’ve seen this in others too (my daughter lost 10kg over 6 months, a colleague at work must have lost half his body weight over the last year or so), and it’s backed up by research; at the Annal Meeting of the Obesity Society in America last week, research comparing different diets revealed that a fully plant based diet lead to the greatest weight loss without having to restrict calories* and The Permanente Journal states that current research is so strong that a plant based diet should be recommended to improve overall health and well being, including weight loss**

clogger burger
A Clogger Burger!

Although he enjoys the food I cook for him, my husband has been reluctant to go fully plant based; he does enjoy his meat and cheese! But a month away living in a hotel in Mexico eating too much meat and dairy not only expanded his waist line a bit too much, it made him feel pretty unwell in general. This was followed by our family holiday in the US, with large portions and gut-busting burgers. So much food! So much so, that on the way home, he declared his intention to eat a plant based diet for a month to kick start some weight loss (96kg at the mo) and a training plan to cycle up Ventoux (mountain in France) next year (see his blog Four days in and he’s doing really well, commenting on how he’s eating so much more than he would normally. The weekend is going to be his first challenge though – a day trip to watch football in Birmingham with the boys, which usually means many beers, burgers and pies. Beer is the first challenge, as like wine, many brands use animal products for fining (see my blog post Luckily, the Barnivore website has come to the rescue, and even has an app which he rapidly downloaded.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how he gets on with eating this way over the next month – I know it works, but social situations make it challenging at times. Hopefully more and more people will get on board and reap the health benefits of eating plant based; once mainstream, and easily accessible, eating out and socialising will become less challenging. And my man will be more streamlined!*

Vitamin C surprises

Recently, I completed an analysis of the vitamin content of my food over a few days. Eating a wholefood, plant based diet, I thought my intake would be fabulous. For some, like vitamin A and folate, it was amazing, for others, like B12 which is only found in animal products and yeasts, it was non-existent. No real shocks there.

What did surprise me was the vitamin C content. Whilst pretty good, and above the official recommended daily intake (RDI), it was still only moderate in comparison to the levels that are thought to really promote health, 500mg or above.

I don’t want to get bogged down in figures or controversies surrounding vitamin C (as there are quite a few!!), but think there’s a few things worth pointing out. RDIs are established to state the amount of a vitamin or mineral you should have to prevent specific, identifiable diseases. In the case of vitamin C, it’s scurvy, a horrible condition that used to hit sailors out on the high seas for long periods of time without any fresh fruit or vegetables. You don’t actually need much vitamin C to prevent scurvy, so the current recommendation of 40mg/day is higher than absolutely necessary. Which is great, because vitamin C does much more than stop your gums from bleeding.

In the 1970s, research suggested that vitamin C could prevent the common cold; many people still believe this and religiously take vitamin C supplements. In fact, vitamin C is the most commonly purchased food supplement in the UK. However, since then, loads more research as been undertaken which disagrees with Pauling’s original conclusion.

What has been found is that vitamin C is a highly active anti-oxidant. A co-factor for many enzymes, it’s essential for key metabolic functions in the body, including processing fatty acids, controlling blood cholesterol levels and processing drugs and toxins in the liver. Vitamin C is attributed to improving a multitude of common complaints including allergies, arthritis, asthma, eczema, PMT, osteoporosis – the list goes on. Eating processed foods, high in fat and protein, and taking medication for acute and chronic illnesses further exposes our bodies to stress; it seems to me that good doses of vitamin C are essential for everyone!

I want to get my vitamin C from my diet rather than taking pills, so what are the best foods to eat?  Everyone thinks that citrus fruits are the best source and whilst oranges and lemons are pretty well loaded with vitamin C, they are trumped by peppers and greens. I was amazed to discover that the best source by far is peppers – chilli, bell, all sorts and of all colours. This is swiftly followed by those marvellous greens – kale, spring greens, broccoli, watercress, sprouts – again the list can go on. The best fruits are actually blackcurrants and strawberries, which is great at this time of year in the UK, as strawberry season is upon us and I’m in strawberry heaven!! There’s nothing quite like a freshly picked, succulently sweet British strawberry!

By including more of these vitamin C packed foods its pretty easy to increase vitamin C intake – almost triple it. And of course, all fruits and vegetables contain a whole array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help our bodies not only function more efficiently, but heal from within.

New Year eating

The more I learn about food and it’s affect on the body, the more I realise just how much we take ourselves and our health for granted. Our bodies are finely tuned machines, wonderful at adapting to different situations and assaults, developing incredible coping strategies and processes so complex it’s too mind boggling to comprehend. The appropriate fuel is needed to ensure this continues – the right vitamins, minerals, micro nutrients as well as a good dollop of carbohydrates, and moderate amount of protein and fat. It shouldn’t be too complicated.

To many, a car is an essential item. It needs to be looked after though, so it gets checks at the garage, cleaned, the oil and water gets topped up the right levels and of course we put in the right fuel – diesel in a petrol engine spells disaster and the engine just conks out. Looking at it this way, we care for our cars better than our own bodies. Why is that? Maybe we don’t make a direct financial investment in our bodies or we just take our bodies for granted, then when it goes wrong find ways to patch it up until eventually it conks out. Or maybe we just don’t really know what we should eat, or have been fed the wrong information. Or maybe, we just care for our cars more than we care for ourselves.

Traditionally at this time of year, thoughts turn to the new year and our aspirations for the future. New year, new you. Losing weight or being more healthy usually heads up the top 10 new year resolutions along with quitting smoking and doing more exercise. But as nearly 80% of new years resolutions fail to be achieved, are they really worth making? Personally, I think they are, but maybe not to start on 1st January. That has to be the worse day to start anything positive, as most people are feeling pretty rubbish from the night before, be it from lack of sleep or too much alcohol – or both!

To make a positive change, there needs to be a specific aim or reason, a real desire to achieve something. For me, my aim is to get rid of my food sensitivities and to feel well again – a short term and (so it seems) very long term project! People ask me how can I live without cheese, or wine. I’m no health food saint, but I honestly feel so much better without dairy or yeast, it’s not really a hardship any more. Making changes depends on your perspective – I gain, not lose (although I would really love to eat bread and drink wine again!!). Making a positive change in your life can be hard but also so good.

Eating a plant-based wholefood diet is one the best treats you can give your body and your health – a real new year spring clean. If you want to give it a go, try the PCRM’s vegan kickstart programme They have food plans for Western and Indian tastes, and it’s pretty easy to follow. If you are a big meat and dairy lover, I would suggest you break yourself in gently – spend January reducing your meat and processed food intake and trying some of the menu ideas. Then try the kickstart in February when you’re ready for it and see what happens! Be prepared for lots of energy and feeling pretty good!

So don’t make a New Years resolution to go on a diet. Make a promise to be kind to yourself and make a positive change, to be in charge of what fuel you put in yourself not be a slave to an addiction to sugar, or fat. Have a tangible goal and above all respect yourself and your environment. And have a wonderful foodie New Year!

Up for a challenge?

Over the last few years I have been changing my diet to try to solve my dairy and yeast intolerance, but both have persisted. Mind you, the more I find out about milk and dairy products, the less I want it anyway, but that’s another post. Since August, I have been mainly eating a plant-based whole food diet in order to heal my gut, as I really want to be able to eat bread and drink wine again at some point in the future!

This has involved a change to the way I eat, but I have to say I feel great. Apart from clearer skin and less bloating, the chronic itching that I’ve suffered from for years has disappeared, which is amazing – and a relief!!! Certainly an unexpected bonus. I’ve managed a glass (actually it was 3!!) of wine one night with limited after effects but as yet haven’t been brave enough to try bread, even though I am longing for a thick chunky slice of a rustic seedy loaf. The last time I ate a roll, I had a migraine for three days afterwards, so it’s a risky business.

China Study

It’s not been too difficult changing to a plant based wholefood diet – it just needs some planning and the right frame of mind. It’s not what you’re missing out on, but what you’re gaining – a whole new way of eating that makes you feel great. The research is out there that people who eat this way have lower rates of heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cancer, asthma, stomach problems, skin problems, joint pains and psychological problems. I’ve just finished reading The China Study by Colin Campbell, an eminent scientist in the US; it’s packed full of research which shows that the western diet is responsible for so many chronic diseases which blight the lives of millions of people. It also shows how food can not only prevent these diseases from developing, but can also reverse the process and lead people back to good health – something nigh on unheard of when managed through orthodox treatments. I mean, once a diabetic, always, right?

Dr Neal Barnard, an American doctor has established a reversing diabetes programme. This same programme works for other chronic health problems, either to treat, or prevent. For those in India, there is a free 21 day kickstart programme starting on Monday 5th November. So if you’re up for the challenge and fancy seeing how your health can be changed purely eating a different way, check out this link and register – remember it’s free!!! There are some cooking videos featuring Dr Nandita Shah. The cooking demo I wrote about recently was run by her and I was lucky enough to have dinner cooked by her a few weeks ago – it was delicious!!!
There is a non-Indian food programme you can follow too which would be easier if you’re living outside the country or prefer western style food –
Go on, give it a try – what have you got to lose?

Tomato power!

Natural food products are constantly under investigation by scientists – and often the large corporations that fund them – to find the next superfood, the key to health or a particular chemical that can be claimed to be discovered and then patented. One of the latest studies to hit the headlines is about tomatoes, or rather the lycopene found in them. Published in Neurology magazine this month (the abstract can be found at if you’re interested!), a group of scientists in Finland monitored over 1000 men for 12 years and found the risk of stroke was cut by 55% in those with the highest blood levels of lycopene.  That’s pretty impressive!
Lycopene has already been heralded as a hero with evidence that it can help prevent or slow the growth of certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer. There are even tomatoes that have been bred to have double the amount of lycopene, and no doubt sold at a premium price! (

Lycopene is a carotenoid, a phytochemical that gives the red pigment to some fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, red bell peppers and papaya, but sadly not strawberries or cherries! It’s a powerful antioxidant that soaks up free radicals roaming around the body. These great anti oxidant properties have been connected to improving conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and now stroke. Free radicals are also associated with the ageing process, so hopefully if they are mopped up by lycopene, youthful skin will follow (maybe!).

The percentage of lycopene in red fruit and vegetables increases as it ripens. In fact, the lycopene content of tomatoes has been shown to increase and become more bioavailable when processed. This includes tinned tomatoes and manufactured tomato products such as pasta sauce and ketchup. This is great for food companies, some of whom are sponsoring ongoing research into the beneficial effects of ketchup. Unfortunately, from a purely nutritional point of view, this causes some other problems; the tinning process increases the sodium content of tomatoes and most sauces and ketchups have lots of added sugar, salt and preservatives, so not so good for overall health. And of course the supplement industry has seen an opportunity and you can buy lycopene tablets, but are these really necessary?

Tomatoes as a whole food contain lots of other goodies including potassium and vitamin C which tend to be lost when processed and heated, along with B vitamins, beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A) and of course has fibre and no cholesterol, all good reasons to eat them in their natural form, a fantastic whole food in a healthy diet.

Personally, I love to roast tomatoes with onion, a little olive oil and some garlic, then when cooked blitz them all together and reheat either as a sauce or add some vegetable stock to make a delicious tomato soup. When we first came to India, it was quite hard to find tinned tomatoes or tomato sauces that were suitable for someone with food intolerance – milk turns up in the strangest of things! So I had to get used to using the real thing, and found this to be the best way – the roasting concentrates the flavour and the blitzing increases the bioavailability of the lycopene without adding lots of nasty extras.

Wonderful watermelon

Interestingly, watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes, but also a higher water content, so you would need to eat a larger amount. It’s not as easily available in the west as tomatoes though, although over here in India, it so easy to find – and cheap – and works great as a base for smoothies.
Of course, the real message in this latest research is that fruit and vegetables are good for us! Eating a full range of produce provides us with all the nutrients we need to stay healthy – as long as they are in their wholefood form. If we only ate red pigmented vegetables then not only would we miss out on all the other antioxidants and nutrients available, in the long run the pigment could become concentrated in our skin and as much as I love tomatoes, I don’t really want to look like one!

Interesting tomato fact (well I found it interesting!!)
Apparently, a whole tomato has no flavour; that only comes by biting, cutting or cooking it. Carefully extracted tomato liquid has no taste. Biting into the fruit releases an enzyme that breaks down larger molecules into smaller ones and gives it the flavour. This enzyme reacts differently when cut crossways, so they will have more flavour sliced.

The organic food debate – real evidence?

Who would have thought that a humble carrot or potato could cause so much debate and hype in the media? A recent study produced by Stanford University has hit the headlines for claiming there is no evidence to show that organic food is safer or healthier than conventionally grown food. Using this report as new research, there have been many articles and commentaries vilifying those who believe in the organic ‘myth’.

I always find it interesting to see how ‘facts’ are translated into ‘proof’. With anything that is connected to big business and money, research is rarely independent and unbiased. The Stanford study claims to have no primary funding source. Really? The University does happen to have major funding from one of the large GMO companies, but that must be coincidence, surely?Putting all that to one side though, if you look at the study conclusion it does come to some positive conclusions about organic food, despite the way it’s worded. Oh, by the way, this is not a new study but a review of previously published research.

* organic food has significantly lower levels of pesticides – and 30% is significant!

* exposure to anti-biotic resistant bacteria was significantly lower in organic meat produce – up to 33%.

It may not prove that one carrot has more beta-carotene than another, but these two points are positive evidence that organic food is healthier. Pesticides are a big issue. Controls are in place to ensure that chemical residues don’t go above a level deemed ‘safe’ for health. As far as I’m aware of, each chemical is tested independently, whereas in reality our bodies are exposed to a cocktail which may, or may not, work together, building up in our cells, then have to work even harder to detox. And what do our cells need to clear away these chemical toxins – vitamins, minerals and energy that comes from our fruits and vegetables. So it seems logical to me that if you don’t eat the contaminated products in the first place, and stick to organic, then you’re ahead already in the healthier department!

 The conclusion regarding anti-biotic resistant bacteria is also highly significant. Routine administration of antibiotics to animals reared for food is a major contributing factor to the creation of superbugs. And we really don’t need any more antibiotics in our food, whether it’s meat or dairy products.

The study also concludes that all the studies are so different that it is difficult to come to any over all conclusion – so there is no evidence that conventional food is better or worse than organic food either.

Personally, I would rather have my food organically grown and locally produced, the closer the better. I like my food without genetic modification, antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones and chemical fertilisers. I think organic food tastes better, are more vibrant and I do believe they are better for my health. Bought in supermarkets, they can carry a higher price tag, but direct from the farmer, or even from my own garden, that’s not so much of an issue.

But one of the most important, and fortunate, things is that I have a choice, and when it’s possible I choose organic because I prefer it and believe that it’s healthier for me. Maybe the evidence tells me I’m wrong, but when that’s supported by large conglomerates willing to gamble our health and environment to make big bucks I’m just not ready to listen.