Maximising the opportunity to eat well

“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly” says designer and author Anna Thomas. And it’s so true – food is a basic essential of life. But there’s so much food available (to most of us) alongside so many opinions on what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that deciding what to eat has become complex and confusing. Continue reading “Maximising the opportunity to eat well”

New Year, new Eating – the whole issue

So, what are your resolutions for 2017? Most people tend to say eat better and exercise – both positive actions, often short lived though! Making changes can be hard, especially if you are doing it on your own. With social media, however, you never need be alone now, and there are campaigns throughout the year you can join in with to help keep you going on your well-being mission.

There’s been a huge rise in eating a more natural plant based diet and the Veganuary campaign during January has played a big part in this (see for more information). It’s easy to access, with lots of information, ideas and recipes to keep you interested throughout the month, and hopefully feeling keen and enthusiastic to make lasting changes to the way you eat as well as your health.

Big campaigns that raise awareness are great, and as customer demands increase, so does supply of products – you only need to see the expansion of ‘free from’ ranges in the supermarkets to note how animal-free is becoming mainstream. But that’s where my word of warning comes in – just because something is ‘vegan’ doesn’t automatically give it ‘healthy’ status. Chips (as a rule) are vegan after all!

Essentially, the way I look at it from a nutrition, and therefore health, side of things is that processed and refined food is still generally junk, whether it’s animal or plant derived. Once the ‘whole’ has been taken out of ‘food’ and chemicals and extras added in the nutritional content goes down and the negative impact on us, and the environmental cost, goes up.

As a sensitive eater, vegan processed food is often still a no-go area, with yeasts added in all over the place, whether as yeast extract or ‘natural’ flavourings and preservatives. And you’ll often still find a high amount of refined sugars in varying forms as well as highly refined oils.

So what to do? The best way is to eat as close to a food’s natural form as possible most of the time and enjoy it in all it’s lovely gloriousness, and add in a few plant based extras in every now and then. Then you will get all the amazing benefits of going plant based, and will feel so good and energised that Veganuary will slip into February, then March……..see where it will take you!

So if you’re taking the plant based plunge for New Year – enjoy!  Don’t forget there’s loads of easy, tasty recipes for you to try on this blog. And if you want to know more, then why not check out my Eat Well, Live Well course that starts again at the end of the month? You will gain loads of essential information about eating whole food and plant based plus a whole bunch of amazing recipes, meet some great people and dine on dishes made by me. What more could you want to really get 2017 off to a great start? Check out

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Junking our health?

There are an increasing number of studies being published that relate health to diet. Recently, one suggests there is evidence showing that fast food caused asthma and other allergic conditions

This study is related to an ongoing international research programme into asthma and allergies in childhood. It concludes that those children who eat fast food more than three times a week have up to a 39% increase in allergic conditions. Those who ate fresh fruit 3 times a week or more cut the risk of asthma and allergies by 11% or more.

For me, this study is interesting as it points to a causal relationship between the food we put in our bodies and our health – chronic conditions that require medication and can be life threatening are being created by poor diets. And the fact that such a small amount of fruit a week can make a positive difference is staggering – how much more if fresh produce was consumed in abundance?

The problem with research studies such as these, or any medical research really, is they never give firm ‘proof’, it’s all incidental. There will always be those few who eat junk food all their lives and never suffer any ill effects, same as those who can smoke 20 cigarettes a day and not suffer from lung cancer or other respiratory disease. But this study is big – 500,000 children in 50 countries, so it’s pretty persuasive.

In todays Western diet, many children and adults eat junk food a lot more than 3 times a week. And chronic health problems including obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart disease to name a few continue to increase. So will this information change anything? Sadly, probably not. Whilst there are medicines to ‘manage’ these diseases, there’s not much incentive to really get to the root of the problem. And fast food is such big business is it really going to harm them? Probably not.

Hopefully, though, some will listen up and make a change. Asthma and allergies can be debilitating at any age, but in children it always seems so much worse. The medications and treatments can be unpleasant in themselves with their own potential side effects, and it’s pretty scary rushing a child to hospital with an asthma attack in the middle of the night.

For us, we’ve realised that dairy has a definite causal link to my son’s asthma, something we’ve only just discovered (but that’s another posting). Fortunately, he’s of an age where he can make his own conclusions and is willing to try alternatives. So hopefully now we can keep him off dairy, off the meds and wheeze free. Lots more fruit and veg for him!

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!