What I learnt from Ocado

Over a week ago, I had the pleasure of joining Ocado for a corporate wellness day. The day, which included an expert-led nutrition talk and mini nutrition consultations by me, proved to be an insightful exercise and even threw up a few unexpected truths.
Here is what I learnt:

Having more energy is the main priority
The number one improvement requested by employees during the nutrition consultations was to have more energy. Most tend to flake out after lunch.

Men care about nutrition (tech guys included)
If you are a guy and reading this, advanced apologies. In the world of nutrition, 75% of my client base if female. Women are simply more likely to seek out a nutritional therapist and at a fairly young age too. 
In a corporate environment, however, 75% of talk and consultation attendees were male and over 30. Interestingly, a large proportion were from the tech department.

Sitting all day = snacking
Most reported weight gain after starting to work in an office. The reality is, most offices have a culture of snacking.
You are in front of a computer, you are bored and the answer almost always tends to be: snack time.

A realistic steady start
This was probably the most surprising finding of all.
Most employees know what a healthy diet is, it’s all over social media, newspapers, magazines and the like. It’s not exactly hard to find the information if you look for it but the very thing that most employees were looking for is a realistic, small start that they could implement without having to go on an impossible eating regime.

Luckily, realistic, personalised nutrition is my strong point. 
Find out more about the corporate wellbeing packages I offer here

Couscous, balsamic onion, cumin roasted carrot

 
couscous.JPG
 

Now that the cold weather is officially upon us, cold salads aren't so desirable.
Luckily you don't need to miss out on the nutrients by utilising this recipe. It's salad (kind of) but a little warmer and much more comforting.
The recipe doubles up with ease and keeps well in the fridge for endless lunches.

Ingredients to serve 2
For the couscous
200g couscous
250ml boiling water
two handfuls of fresh rocket
2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
juice of half a lemon
sea salt and black pepper to season

For the balsamic onions
2 small or 1 large red onion (150g approximately), cut into wedges
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
a drizzle of olive or rapeseed oil
sea salt and black pepper to season

For the cumin roasted carrots
2 carrots (250g approximately), peeled and sliced
a teaspoon of coconut oil
a teaspoon of cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, left unpeeled
sea salt and black pepper

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Add the red onion wedges to a small baking tray (small enough to fit them snugly). Pour over the honey and balsamic vinegar and drizzle with some olive or rapeseed oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Stir well to coat and roast for 45 minutes.
Melt the coconut oil in a small baking tray. Add the sliced carrots, cumin seed, unpeeled garlic cloves and season with black pepper and a small pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.
Remove the unpeeled garlic from the carrots and squeeze out the flesh. The garlic should be roasted but still soft inside. Mash the roasted garlic with a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.
Mix the couscous, boiling water, half a teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
In a large bowl, combine the roasted carrots, balsamic onion, couscous and the roasted garlic dressing. Add two handfuls of fresh rocket and serve immediately.
If you are saving some for lunch, add the rocket once the couscous has cooled to stop it from wilting.

Trout, greens, cashew mayo and cucumber

As recipes go, this trout, greens and cashew mayo combo was the one that got the most "wow this tastes amazing" comments during this food show season.
It's a simple, yet impressive, dinner that can be thrown together in 10 minutes so it was almost too good not to share.
The trout can be swapped for almost any other firm fish but do make sure it's a responsibly sourced one.

 
Trout with cashew mayo.JPG
 

Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 trout fillets
greens & peas of your choice (a mix of spinach and kale is ideal)
organic butter to cook
1 lemon

For the cashew mayo: 
1 cup of cashews, soaked in water overnight or for at least 2 hours
1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
100ml of water

For the cucumber:
1/2 cucumber, halved lengthways then sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
a pinch of sea salt

Method
To make the cashew mayo, drain the cashews, put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more water if required to reach the desired consistency. The end result should be thick and creamy, just like mayo.
For the cucumber, put all of the ingredients in a bowl apart from the ginger. Take the grated ginger and squeeze the juice onto the cucumber. Stir together until well combined.
To cook the fish, heat a pan on a medium heat, melt a knob of butter and cook the trout fillets skin side down for 3 minutes. Turn them over for another 2 minutes and set aside.
Add the greens and peas to the same pan, cook for a minute, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and season well with sea salt and black pepper.
To serve, divide the greens between two plates, place the fish on top, add a good dollop of the cashew mayo and finish with crunchy cucumber pieces scattered over the fish.

Stick to this one rule and you’ll never diet again

 
toa-heftiba-205003.jpg
 

If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the many Britons that have already had one or two attempts at dieting. Truth be told, we’ve all been there. 
From shifting those last few pounds to dropping that magic half a stone, we are a nation of serial dieters. In fact, two-thirds of us are permanently on a diet.
As a registered nutritional therapist, I see a fair share of individuals wanting to lose weight and have even been there myself (yup, you are reading that last bit correctly, even as a professional I’m not immune).
This blog focuses on the one “rule” that has worked for a large number of my clients and myself to avoid dieting and the good news is it’s not a magic potion or an unaffordable diet programme. 

If you read the first bit thoroughly, you may be wondering why I want to share this diet dodging trick with you, after all, I’m a nutritional therapist so I should be making big money from slimming you all down, right? Luckily, this is wrong. As a registered nutritional therapist, I help individuals that genuinely need to work on their health. From digestive issues to hormone health and some more complex conditions, nutritional therapy can be used to assist with the journey of returning to feeling your best. You can read more about it here.
Weight loss lets just say isn’t worth forking out such a high fee for.

In my opinion, dieting isn’t healthy. 
Yes the majority of us could do with a bit less weight around the middle but the constant yoyo-ing and food-related denial/ deprivation rarely leaves us feeling on top of our game. And that’s assuming that those lbs lost stay off.
Given that the UK diet industry is worth over £2 billion and we have approximately 65 million people in the country, each of us is spending a fair amount on diet “stuff”.
Yet with one easy switch, the loss of lbs won’t translate to fewer £££s.

The more I assess various diets, the more I realise that they are just lesser or greater variations of this one rule, with a few extreme exceptions of course.
Clean eating, paleo, vegan, Dukan, the zone and even the low-carb movement all share one common theme.
Luckily you won’t need a new book/ count calories/ invest in products or diet guidelines.

The solution that helped my clients and I is simple: prioritise whole foods.
Our modern dietary habits have become too focused on processed as opposed to whole foods, leaving us without many essential nutrients. Whole foods are the very things that supply these missing vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Nutrients are kind of a big deal for overall health not just for weight loss so you may notice a few additional positive side effects such as more energy.
The evidence isn’t just anecdotal when it comes to eating this way either. The Blue Zones project which assesses populations around the world that live the longest, for example, noted a predominantly whole food based diet in these healthy groups.
EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), a large study which has been following over half a million people across 23 European countries since 1993 also backs up this notion, highlighting better health, a lower BMI and lower rates of annual weight gain in those that eat a whole food based diet.

There is another good reason: our bodies don’t derive calories from whole foods the same way as we do from processed foods.
As an example, the average 100g bar of milk chocolate has a similar calorie content to 100g of almonds, both clocking up in the region of 600 calories. Yet when it comes to the almonds we only absorb give or take 200 calories. Needless to say, we get the full 600 calorie hit from the chocolate.
Whole foods, especially plant-based ones, aren’t that easy to digest and more often than not contain a good dose of fibre too. Couple this with the fact that we probably don’t chew foods well enough and you can see how calorie absorption would be more difficult. 

The chocolate, on the other hand, is a doddle since most of the “digestion” has already been done for us during processing. The cocoa beans have been crushed up, the sugar taken out of sugar cane or beat so the calories are readily accessible.

BANT (The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) have come up with a genius representation of a whole food based diet that makes getting our heads around this super easy. Their ideal plate looks like this:

 
BANT plate for wellness.jpg
 

If you are looking at this for the first time, you may have just had a bit of a “what the ….” moment, so let me break it down for you. 
Simply switch half of what you eat in a day to a variety of non-starchy vegetables plus have some protein and a few starches at each meal.
Prioritise whole foods over processed ones. See the word prioritise. This doesn’t mean you can’t have cake ever again, it just means that the majority of what you eat should come from unprocessed sources.

So that’s it, the “secret” to achieving a slimmer body and better health is simply down to whole foods in the right proportions.
If this notion is still scary, start small. Start by adding in more and more vegetables, eventually aiming for 3 different kinds at each meal. Get more of the good stuff first and be kind to yourself along the way. Remember, this isn’t a diet, this is eating for health and the slimmer body is just a happy byproduct.

Switching to whole foods is something that can be achieved without much guidance but in case you need an example of what a personalised version of it looks like, the One Week Tweak is a great place to start.

Mexican-ish eggs

 
 

Another Monday calls for another meat free recipe, this time, in the form of these tasty Mexican style eggs.
These are a staple brunch option in my household but work very well for dinner too.
Whilst we are on the topic of staples, this is the kind of dish that can be thrown together from those last few ingredients from the back of the cupboard. Just keep some chopped tomato or passata in there and the rest can easily be adjusted.

Ingredients for 2
4 eggs
1 can of good quality chopped tomato
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 a teaspoon each of smoked paprika, cumin seeds and ground coriander
85g of feta cheese
a handful of parsley leaves to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Method
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until softened (5-10 minutes). Add the spices (cumin, smoked paprika and coriander) and crushed garlic and cook for a further minute.
Pour in the chopped tomato, stir well, season with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat a grill to the highest setting.
Make 4 wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each hole. Cook for a couple more minutes.
Crumble the feta over the egg and tomato mix and put it under a grill until the cheese is starting to colour (approximately 2-3 minutes).
To serve, divide the eggs and sauce between two plates and sprinkle some parsley over the top.