Published on the 11th Dec, 2018 by Azmina

Newsweek today published my comments on new research showing that weight maintenance tips and knowledge of how much exercise you need to do to work off Christmas food and drink, could prevent Christmas weight gain. The results showed that on average, participants in the comparison group gained some weight over Christmas but participants in the intervention group did not. Those in the intervention group ended the study weighing on average 0.49kg less than those in the comparison group.

Feasting backed turkey on holiday table ready to eat

My 5 take-outs from this study (more…)

Your vegan breakfast

Published on the 11th Oct, 2018 by Azmina

The jury’s still out as to whether breakfast is the most important meal, but no-one can argue that it’s a way to help you get some essential nutrients. My patients often say they simply don’t feel hungry on a plant-based diet, and this is usually because I’ve suggested they have lots of fibre and plant proteins, which are very filling. This can mean you have fewer opportunities to take in all the foods you need to give you nutritional balance, so making time for breakfast is a chance to fill the nutrient gap.

This blog focusses on your breakfast carbs. They help to get your blood glucose up, which leads to a raised brain sugar, helping you to concentrate after you break a whole night’s fast (hence the name!). Low GI cereals will give you nice slow rises in blood glucose, helping you to stay alert for that mid-morning meeting – and you’re less likely to crave for sweet treats before lunch. If you can’t face a bowl of cereal and plant-based drink, try tea and wholegrain toast with peanut butter, a yogurt alternative smoothie, or even a banana as you swing out the door.


For a speedy smoothie, take half a cup of soya plant-based drink, a few berries, half a banana, half an apple, and a handful of almonds. Blitz them together and enjoy the protein and essential fats from almonds, antioxidants and fibre from the fruit, and calcium from the fortified soya drink. The carbs come mainly from the fruit, and most of the ingredients are low GI.

Choosing your breakfast carbs

Breakfast Cereals

Be careful as many processed breakfast cereals have a high GI, especially if they’re sugar-rich. When choosing cereals look for high fibre cereals such as All Bran or muesli. If you find these hard going on their own, add some of your favourite fruits, or a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and seeds.


Porridge is one of the best breakfast foods ever invented. The beta glucans in oats have been shown to lower blood cholesterol, and the carbs are slowly digested, helping to keep you fuller for longer. Instant hot oats are a convenient substitute.


Toast is always a favourite but choose your bread carefully. Go for grainy varieties such as multigrain, granary, soy and linseed. If you prefer white,  try sourdough, it’s low GI….

Top Tip: Tasty toast toppers include beans on oaty toast with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, grilled vegan cheese, chives and sliced tomato on 2 slices of granary toast , or sliced banana on 2 slices of currant bread.

Vegan all day breakfast

And for a cook-up, try my vegan all day breakfast made from grilled seasoned tofu chunks, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado, baked beans and baby potatoes.

vegan bf

Check out the recipe here


Is the vegan diet a trend or a movement?

Published on the 31st Jan, 2018 by Azmina

In my practice, I find that young people, especially girls, begin to explore vegan eating after watching a documentary that may be sensational, or even alarming, in parts. And although this is worrying in terms of making sure that people get a balance of nutrients, my view is that veganism isn’t just a passing trend. It’s here to stay, and so it needs to be considered within the context of a varied eating pattern.hummus tabouleh vegan

Why is it a movement?

You just need to look around you to see how this is becoming big business. Anyone who’s been to coffee shops like Pret in the last 6 months could be tempted to try a vegan or veggie diet – they have an entire section of each of their shops dedicated to it. Anyone who shops in Tesco could be influenced to try the vegan diet as they scour shelves with a massive new range of plant based ready meals and sandwiches. Anyone who reads Time Out could be influenced to try the vegan diet due to the myriad of new vegan cafes and restaurants popping up all over London, pretty much every week. Anyone who sat on London Underground this month could be influenced to try the vegan diet as they read the “Veganuary” tube adverts. More on Veganuary.



Dietary change needs to be carefully considered

There are limited studies specifically on vegan diets, so it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions about the long-term health benefits. Vegan eating tends to be lower in calories and saturated fats than non-vegetarian diets, and typically, vegans have been shown to be slimmer, and have lower cholesterol levels. Having a lower BMI may also help to protect against certain cancers. But as yet, there simply isn’t enough research to suggest that we should all turn to vegan eating, and indeed, certain groups who may be tempted to go vegan need to be mindful of meeting their nutritional needs.

What young people need to watch

  1. Calories. It may be tempting to opt for a vegan diet to lose weight. Chances are, you will lose weight, and that’s helpful if you’re overweight and need to address that. But many of the girls I see do not have a weight issue. Plant-based foods tend to be lower in calories, so they need to be advised on making sure they eat regular meals and snacks to allow them to take enough food over the day.
  2. Calcium. Dairy foods are the richest sources of calcium. Teenage life is a time of rapid growth and about half the strength of the adult skeleton is laid down in adolescence. Many dairy-free milk and yogurt alternatives aren’t fortified with calcium, and those that are may not have the same amount of calcium as dairy products. Check labels and compare the “calcium per 100g” figure with milk or yogurt. A teenage girl needs 800mg calcium per day.
  3. Iron. You need more iron during adolescence to help with growth and muscle development. Red meat is a rich source of iron, but you can also get iron from plant foods: choose dark-green vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, lentils and beans (especially dark coloured ones like green mung beans), nuts, and breakfast cereals that are fortified with iron. Teenage girls need 14.8 mg of iron each day.
  4. B12. You need this vitamin for healthy blood and a healthy nervous system, but you only find it in animal foods. Make sure you have foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, such as breakfast cereals, soya drinks, and yeast extract (such as Marmite). You may need a supplement of B12.
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids. Since these are found mainly in fish, you need to get yours elsewhere. Vegan sources include walnuts, linseed oil, rapeseed oil, soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu. Note they may not have the same cardio-protective effects as the type of omega 3 fats you find in oily fish.

Bottom Line

Switching to eating more plant based foods is a good thing. But a strict vegan diet is very hard to get right, and you need to make sure you’re thinking about where you’ll get your nutrients from. Ideally, seek professional advice from a registered dietitian.


Fraser GE. Vegetarian diets: What do we know of their effects on common chronic diseases? Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1607S-1612S.

Craig WJ. Health effects of vegan diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1627S-1633S.

Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Diet and body mass index in 38,000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(6):728-734.

Veganuary – how to stay in balance!

Published on the 15th Jan, 2018 by Azmina

With the rising awareness of “Veganuary”, and the movement in vegan eating, it’s timely for experts to share their knowledge on how to make a vegan diet balanced and nutritious. So here are my top tips.


Well-planned vegan diets can be good for your health. A diet that’s primarily based on plant foods has been shown to have numerous health advantages, such as helping to reduce rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers. But simply changing to plant-based milks and avoiding meat and animal-derived products won’t necessarily bring you the health benefits. To be sure you’re getting the right mix of quality proteins, and the full range of essential nutrients, your vegan diet does need to be well designed and thought-through.

Five top tips (more…)

WORLD DIABETES DAY – could almonds make a difference?

Published on the 14th Nov, 2017 by Azmina

My eight years as Chief Dietitian to Diabetes UK has always given me a soft spot for supporting World Diabetes Day. There are an estimated 4.5 million people with diabetes in the UK, and research suggests that lifestyle changes, including being more physically active, managing your weight and eating a varied healthy diet, are crucial to help manage type 2 diabetes (T2D), and can even significantly reduce the risk of developing T2D.

People with diabetes are more prone to heart disease, and yesterday, I moderated a professional RDUK twitter chat on #CholesterolTips and heart disease, supported by the Almond Board of California (I like to call them ABC!). You can check out the archive here – lots of engaging conversations about coconut oil, eggs, almonds, and the latest research on diet and cardiovascular disease.

19almondheartbowl156RTFLT (3)

South Asians and Diabetes Risk

People of South Asian origin are genetically more predisposed to non-communicable diseases like T2D and heart disease. (more…)

How are you Tackling the Health Challenge?

Published on the 11th Oct, 2017 by Azmina

It’s World Obesity Day! Figures released today on an estimated 124 million children  being obese worldwide is yet another reason for us to find creative ways to work together to tackle the obesity crisis.

Is this about sugar? Is it about advertising spend? Is it about accessibility and appeal of healthy foods? I’m always in favour of experts debating the issues, so I think it’s timely that the Food and Drink Federation are holding their annual nutrition event focussing on the health challenge and how food and drink manufacturers can address it. (more…)

It’s time to reward good sugar reduction practice!

Published on the 2nd Oct, 2017 by Azmina

I was excited to read that The Sugar Reduction Summit has this year launched the Sugar Reduction Awards to recognise and celebrate the progress that’s being made in sugar reduction.  The Awards run alongside the Summit, on Thursday 9th November at The Royal Society in London.
I think this is a great initiative and am delighted to have been asked to join the Panel of Judges.

Az Judge at Sugar Reduction Awards

There are 7 categories to cover a whole raft of innovations and initiatives – from reformulation, to NPD, to best research, best sugar reduction awareness campaign and “sugar reduction hero” – it would be great to see some entries for this category from fellow dietitians or nutritionists that are specialising in this area!  Criteria varies across the categories but we’ll be looking at things like public health gain, impact, innovation, resourcefulness.


Restaurant Nutrition Review – Mac & Wild

Published on the 25th Aug, 2017 by Azmina

So, yesterday was National Burger Day. I decided to set off to review Mac & Wild, so that I could check out how you might make a healthier choice, whilst still enjoying the fun and frivolities of the atmosphere. Why Mac & Wild? I wanted to reconnect with my Scottish roots, and I must say the sensory stimulation did remind me of home. The tartan blanket over the bannister, the thistle pot on my table, and the Rabbie Burns poetry on the mirror, all added to the experience.


5 top tips for eating out

Published on the 20th Aug, 2017 by Azmina


  1. Eat a snack before you get there so you’re not famished. If you’re too hungry, you might not make mindful choices when ordering. Or order in two rounds, so your starter has had a chance to settle before you choose what’s next.
  2. Find ways to share – that way you get to try lots of dishes.
  3. Look at the menu online in advance, so you’re not lured into making unhealthy choices by friends or by seeing what’s on the next table!
  4. Eat slowly, put cutlery down between mouthfuls. Be mindful.
  5. Be conscious of drinks: alcohol and sugar-rich soft drinks can easily tot up the calories and undo all your good intentions.

Check out some Restaurant Nutrition Reviews.

Is it possible to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet and still get all your nutrients?

Published on the 3rd Aug, 2017 by Azmina

Veganism is a growing trend. I’m seeing more and more young people, mainly women, who have concluded that this is the way to go, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with a vegan diet if it’s properly planned and includes a wide range of essential nutrients, I do have concerns. As far as I can tell, there’s a growing number of young people, especially girls, who choose to eat this way without having an understanding of nutrient needs, and often because the diet is so fibre-rich and filling, it can be hard for them to get enough calories into the day.


That’s one reason why I’m co-hosting a professional Twitter debate as part of the award-winning RDUK chats. We typically have around 50-80 participants on each chat and this gives you access to the latest thinking from registered dietitians and nutritionists in the field. Tune in for our Plant Power chat on Monday 7 August at 20.00BST by following @rdukchat. More on the chat.

Is it automatically healthier to be a vegetarian?

No! If you normally eat meat and then suddenly cut it out, you’re removing a whole range of nutrients that you need to put back in via other foods. And you could be eating vegetarian foods that are smothered in cheese or creamy sauces, or you may by buying processed veggie sausages and burgers that are likely to be high in salt. (more…)

Cutting the salt at the WI Fair

Published on the 7th Apr, 2017 by Azmina

A palace full of women, clunking of pots and pans, and delicious dishes cooked with less salt…that was the setting for my live cookery demo with top chef James Fisher at the WI Fair at Alexandra Palace on 1 April 2017.


Our fun interactive session at the Live Kitchen was an informal cooking demonstration and talk, with me interviewing James while he conjured up Aubergine and Tomato Gratin, and Salted Caramel Brownies made using LoSalt instead of regular salt.



Nutrition & Growth – where does yogurt fit in?

Published on the 31st Mar, 2017 by Azmina