The 7 greatest nutrition myths debunked

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Whether it’s scrolling Instagram or flicking through newsfeeds, we’re constantly being fed messages to make sure we eat healthily. But what does good nutrition really mean, and how can we separate the myths from the tips actually worth following? Jenna Farmer speaks to the experts to get to the bottom of some of the most common nutrition myths to separate fact from fiction

The 7 greatest nutrition myths debunked

When it comes to eating healthily, we all know the general rule of having our five a day and drinking plenty of water. But when trying to keep up to date with the latest nutritional advice, it can seem as though superfoods are changing all the time, and a week won’t go by without a new trend hitting the headlines. Is it any wonder many of us feel clueless? How can we know which tips are valuable, and which ones we should take with a pinch of salt? Our experts unravel these common nutrition myths to help you sort facts from fiction.

Myth: Low-fat foods are healthier

Reality: Any trip to the supermarket will leave you bombarded with low-fat alternatives to the staples. But high-fat foods don’t always deserve their bad reputation. For example, you may read about high-fat foods being linked to heart attack risk, but one study published in the Lancet found your total fat intake isn’t actually linked to your risk of cardiovascular disease. Many healthy foods are high in fat but are still super healthy, such as avocados and oily fish. These are both rich in omega 3s, found to support brain health.

In turn, lower fat equivalents aren’t always what they seem. “With food and drinks that are labeled low-fat or even fat-free, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good for you, in fact it can be the opposite. They often come with more salt and sugar than the real deal,” says nutrition advisor Simone Thomas.

Myth: Opt for sugar free dupes

Reality: Research has found many of us eat double the amount we should. However, sugar isn’t always the enemy – it’s actually found in a whole range of healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. These foods also contain other beneficial nutrients as well as fibre (which can slow down the absorption of sugar, which is why eating a whole apple would have less impact on your blood sugar levels than drinking a cup of juice).

“Processed, low-sugar products from the supermarket come with their own health concerns – sugar is replaced with artificial sweeteners in these foods, and these can lead to changes in gut bacteria, and continued sugar cravings. A better option is low sugar fruit, such as berries that contain other nutrients, or raw honey that contains B vitamins and iron,” says nutritionist Hannah Hope.

Myth: Everyone should take a multivitamin

Reality: Whether it’s to help with your energy levels, or for better skin, should we always reach for the multivitamin? Well, not necessarily. According to the NHS website, most of us don’t need to take a multivitamin if we’

What to eat when it’s ‘one of those days’

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When you’re having an ‘off’ day, finding the energy to eat well can be a challenge – but fuelling ourselves properly is one of the best ways to get back to our best selves. Here, expert columnist Claudine Thornhill shares essential tips to keep you nourished, even when it’s been a long day…

What to eat when it’s ‘one of those days’

Off days are inevitable, and they tend to negatively affect our eating habits. Even the most diligent of meal preppers, balanced eaters, and foodie types can be caught out by having an ‘off day’.

As a nutritional therapist and health coach, I work with women who are spinning multiple plates, due to busy careers, sometimes alongside thriving businesses or side hustles, busy family lives, caring responsibilities, and commitments at home. And that’s on top of trying to maintain social relationships, and cultivate hobbies and interests. I see many people struggle with catering to their own needs, even those as basic as eating well.

On those days when you’re feeling uninspired, unmotivated, have low mood or low energy, are stressed, overwhelmed, or simply off, just coming up with nourishing meal ideas can feel like a mammoth task, never mind conjuring up the energy and patience to stand in the kitchen and actually prepare the meal. It’s tempting to reach for the quick and easy fixes – the crisps, chocolate bars, pastries, and biscuits to fill that hunger gap, and it makes sense. The fat and sugar content of these foods provide a quick dose of energy, albeit short-lived. It’s equally tempting to reach for the array of options that come in a few clicks on a food delivery app. The evidence shows that people are less able to make healthy choices when they are stressed, tired, and hungry, and although there are some great balanced options you can order online, it’s more likely that the high fat, sugar, and starchy carb options will stand out.

So, what should we do when we really can’t be arsed, but still want to nourish our bodies? Here are some proven tips that work.

Stock up

Firstly, don’t get caught out by an empty kitchen. We’ve all been there, standing in front of the open fridge door, searching for inspiration, but it’s unlikely to come if the fridge is empty. Set yourself up for success by having quick and easy staples to hand. These might include couscous, rice noodles, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, spice pastes, tinned beans, frozen vegetables, fresh soups, and flatbreads including pitta bread – these are also great freezer options. Have a tasty curry ready in 15 minutes by combining your frozen mixed vegetables, tinned chickpeas, curry paste, tomato puree, and a little water. Your curry can be served alongside flatbread or couscous. Similarly, throw frozen mixed vegetables in a pan, and combine with rice noodles that have been soaked in boiling water, add soy sauce or tamari, peanut butter, and whatever spices you have to hand, and you’ll have a tasty noodle dish in a similar time.

Lean on the good days

Harness the energy of when you’re firing on all cylinders to prepare for those off days. Leveraging the times when you&#

How to save money on your weekly food shop

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With food costs on the rise and everyday essentials taking up an uncomfortable chunk of our budgets, we ask: how can you really save money on your weekly food shop?

How to save money on your weekly food shop

According to the latest figures, we spend an average of 16% of our budget on food and non-alcoholic drinks. For the average UK household, that’s around £3,601 on groceries, and £1,744 on takeaways and eating out each year. That means we’re spending nearly £70 on our weekly food shop, and £31 on takeaways. Other figures have estimated a £643 rise in average grocery bills this year, with shoppers paying around £12 extra each week to buy the same food and groceries.

With inflation at a 40-year high leaving many of us seeing soaring gas and energy prices, while wages for the majority of workers are falling behind inflation, it’s no wonder more and more of us are looking for creative ways to save money.

But other than the obvious changes of cutting back on meals out, ditching the occasional coffee on your way to work, and switching down a brand on your favourite purchases, what can we do to save money on food shopping?

Keep track of what you have

Know what you have in your cupboards before you get started. How many times have we all accidentally bought yet another pack of lasagna sheets, pasta sauces, or our fave cupboard staples? By knowing what you have, you can minimise food waste and your weekly shopping spend. If you struggle to remember what you’ve got, apps like No Waste can help you to easily track your fridge, freezer, and food cupboards, helping you to create shopping lists and plan around the ingredients you've got.

How to save money on your weekly food shop
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Plan your meals before hitting the shops

We’ve all heard the advice: don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. But it’s not just our hunger that can lead us to over-spending - our lack of planning can lead to us buying an unbalanced basket, relying heavily on more expensive ingredients or ready-made options.

Planning your meals for the week ahead (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) can help you to avoid the temptation of splurging on extra takeaways or meals out. It can also reduce the time and energy needed to think about what you’re going to cook - something that can lead many of us to feel demotivated at the end of a long, stressful day.  

Meal planning can also help us to pick more sensible meal options. Making a full-on roast may sound like a great idea when you’re shopping on a Monday, but when Sunday rolls around and you’re feeling the end of the weak dread, you might not have the energy to cook such a big

5 valuable tips on how to soothe anxiety with food

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Food has the ability to transform our wellbeing – so here’s how to use it

5 valuable tips on how to soothe anxiety with food

From meditation and mindfulness tools, including classes and apps, to a broader offering of therapies, and a wide variety of courses involving movement such as yoga – there’s a lot on offer when it comes to effectively soothing anxiety. However, one key topic has not had as much publicity, even though it plays a crucial role in our mental health and mood, as well as providing the foundation for our body to function and restore balance.

After creating and delivering numerous presentations on the link between nutrition and mental health, I really felt so passionate about this subject and it has now become a major part of my clinical practice. So, to give you an idea of how powerful food can be when it comes to mental health, I will share my top tips on what to eat to soothe anxiety.

1. Healthy fats

Healthy fats, such as omega 3, are crucial for brain function, and are strongly linked to our mental health. Research shows that an imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats can increase our risk of developing mood disorders. To help restore balance, try to include three portions of oily fish in your diet per week – such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring.

While oily fish are the best food source of omega 3 fats available, you can also include shelled hemp seeds, ground or soaked flax/linseed, and soaked chia seeds on a daily basis. These are an excellent source of omega 3, as well as protein, fibre, and other beneficial nutrients. You can sprinkle these over salads, stir them into porridge or overnight oats.

Also, try to limit processed foods made with sunflower or corn oil (crisps, biscuits, chocolates, cakes, and many ready meals), as these are particularly high in omega 6 fats.

2. Tryptophan

The amino acid L-Tryptophan is a crucial precursor of serotonin, our happy hormone. While serotonin also has many other functions in the body, it is best known for its role in stabilising our mood. Without enough tryptophan, the body can’t make adequate amounts of this essential hormone.

To ensure you get plenty of tryptophan in your diet try to get at least 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. Getting adequate protein is one of the best ways to cover your tryptophan needs, and remember to always eat protein with carbohydrates (from vegetables, fruit, or whole grains) as the body can only properly utilise tryptophan when consumed with carbs.This is because carbs are needed in order for tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, and be converted to serotonin.

I often see clients who report chronic low moods and increased anxiety when trying to lose weight on a very low-carb diet. Some foods, which are particularly high in tryptophan, to add into your meal rotation are turkey, oats, nuts, seeds, bananas, and cherries.

3. Magnesium

Otherwise known as ‘nature’s chill pill’ (among nutritionists), magnesium aids relaxation and helps to regulate neurotransmitters. A 2017 review that looked at 18 different studies found that magnesium did reduce anxiety. The studies looked at mild anxiety, anxiety during premenstrual syndrome, postpartum anxiety, and generalised anxiety. Including plenty of magnesium-rich foods is important not just for anxiety, but also helps build stress resilience, and improves sleep quality. To meet your daily needs, I

How to make healthy, nutritious (and delicious) kids' lunchboxes on a budget

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Making a healthy, filling, nutritious lunch your child wants to eat shouldn’t be stressful – or break the bank. We share tips and tricks to help keep costs down while ensuring you’re helping make healthy food choices for your kids

How to make healthy, nutritious (and delicious) kids' lunchboxes on a budget

School dinners have always had a bit of a bad reputation. Just try giving it a quick google: Why are school lunches… and you’ll get an autocomplete suggesting ‘so bad’. For many, the lack of variety and memories of past frozen, processed foods from our own childhood lunches make us wary of school dinners. As of April 2022, the average cost of a school dinner has reached £2.60 per day, making them a costly option for many families.

New research has revealed that packed lunches aren’t much better. According to research released by Starling Bank in September, the cost of kids’ packed lunches has increased by an eye-watering 70% since April 2021, from an average £1.40 to £2.37 per day. When you add in the additional time spent preparing lunches, cleaning up, and meal planning, not to mention the often strict school guidelines on what can and cannot be included in your child’s lunch, it can make preparing a daily lunchbox a stressful task.

With worries about the cost of living driving many families to cut back where they can, the rise in the cost of food feels like a double-edged sword. How are you supposed to give your child the best possible diet, without over-spending? The good news is, despite 41% of Brits associating healthy food with unaffordable prices, you can eat healthily for less. With a little bit of planning, getting back to basics, and trying top tips from nutrition experts, you can start making packed lunches a less stressful, more affordable option for the whole family.

What should be in a ‘school-approved’ packed lunch?

Making a packed lunch can be tricky. While the exact rules vary from school to school, many have banned items that were commonly considered as lunchbox staples. For parents with limited time and money, this can make lunches feel like a challenge.

It’s always worth checking with your school directly to ensure which foods are and aren’t allowed. Including banned foods can mean that part of your child’s lunch is confiscated, or they may be required to eat by themselves in another room. This can mean some kids may still feel hungry after lunch, as well as missing out on valuable time socialising with friends outside of the classroom.

Commonly banned foods can include:

  • chocolate or sweets
  • high-sugar yoghurts
  • crisps
  • anything containing nuts
  • cake or biscuits
  • fizzy drinks or squash
  • foods high in processed sugars
  • processed, packaged meat products (sausage rolls, store-bought pies or pasties)

Food also needs to be able to last until lunchtime without needing refrigeration and should be edible without the need for reheating.

But what is allowed in your child’s lunchbox? Schools often recommend:

  • at least one portion of fruit
  • at least one portion of vegetables
  • meat, fish or non-dairy