Published on the 9th Mar, 2017 by Azmina
Inviting young people to cook under a competitive environment is a great way of getting them to enjoy healthy cooking. Students leaving home for the first time to head to university are suddenly confronted with questions around what and how to cook – and in February 2017 I met with some inspiring student chefs who entered the LoSalt Student Cook of the Year (SCOTY) competition. As nutritionist to LoSalt, it was up to me to judge the entries for nutritional composition and I was impressed with the level of knowledge demonstrated by the five short-listed students from around the UK.
My interest in this area stems from personal experience with my own two children, and my work with NHS choices on helping students to eat well after leaving home. The other judges joining me were:
There were two stages to the competition, and the final stage was a “Bake-off style” cook-off with the five short-listed candidates. The event took place at Cactus Kitchens (where Saturday kitchen is filmed), and was orchestrated by Satellite PR.
The criteria (more…)
Published on the 7th Mar, 2017 by Azmina
I’ve just been on BBC Asian Network (goto 2.14 hr) to give my opinion on whether plain packaging on confectionery and unhealthy snack items might be a way of combating our obesity crisis. This stems from a proposal by neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz, from Cambridge University, who suggests that the way sugar-rich and fatty foods are marketed can make them irresistible to some people.
I absolutely agree that one of the most important ways to help us to improve our eating habits is to make a change to our environment. If you make unhealthy food less accessible, for example, then it’s just more difficult to grab and go. Initiatives such as removing sweets at the checkout in supermarkets have been introduced by the BDA in an attempt to reduce the purchase of such foods. (more…)
Published on the 21st Feb, 2017 by Azmina
On 15 February, I presented to nutritionists and students at the University of Westminster on the potentially damaging effects of nutrition misinformation, on behalf of the Dairy Council. Why? Because since 2009 I’ve been concerned about fake news on nutrition being dished out by non-experts and being taken as fact by people who just want to eat a little better.
What’s the fuss about Fake News in nutrition? (more…)
Published on the 22nd Jan, 2017 by Azmina
Lazy Sunday morning…time for brunch. On average, as a population, we generally eat enough protein, but often breakfast is the meal that has the least protein. Today I needed something to fill me up, so I decided to opt for a satisfying protein-rich start to the day, as protein is the most satiating nutrient. Protein-based eating can help to reduce hunger pangs. No need to go overboard; most of us eat enough protein for our needs, but certain groups may need more. (As you age, your muscles start to lose their strength; eating protein at each meal might help prevent those bingo wings!). (more…)
Published on the 21st Dec, 2016 by Azmina
New data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that almonds provide fewer calories than we previously thought, and this depends on whether the almonds are whole, chopped or roasted.
David Baer, PhD, and his team from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducted a controlled human clinical trial (Gebauer et al) using a new method to measure the calories absorbed from almonds, taking bioavailability into account. The new method allowed the researchers to determine the number of calories actually digested and absorbed from almonds.
In a nutshell:
- Compared to the number of calories listed on nutrition labels, participants in the study actually absorbed 25% fewer calories from whole unroasted almonds.
- If they ate whole roasted almonds, they absorbed 19% fewer calories.
- Chopped roasted almonds provided 17% fewer calories, though the difference between the calories absorbed from chopped and whole roasted almonds was not statistically different.
Published on the 3rd Oct, 2016 by Azmina
As experts in nutrition, dietitians pride themselves in keeping up to date with the latest developments in public health policy, research and nutrition trends. The publication of Public Health England’s Childhood Obesity Report in August 2016 received mixed reviews, and the Childhood Obesity Summit offers us a chance to come together and debate the best way forward.
When and where?
The Royal Society, London on Thursday 3rd November. Full programme.
Why go? (more…)
Published on the 18th Aug, 2016 by Azmina
Today, the British Dietetic Association has expressed its disappointment at the “much diminished” Childhood Obesity Strategy published today by the government:
Key policies which could drive down obesity rates amongst children and young people have been dropped, including proposals to ban junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed and regulation of price promotions on unhealthy food. This is despite support from numerous sources, including the Commons Health Select Committee[i] and the Obesity Health Alliance[ii], which have brought together a huge range of expertise and evidence.
Published on the 5th Aug, 2016 by Azmina
When & Where: Thursday 22nd September at The Royal Society in London
This conference looks pretty exciting – have you seen the line-up of speakers? I’m looking forward to hearing about expert views on voluntary reformulation and the potential impact of a sugar tax. I’ve been fairly vocal about my views on how realistic the SACN “5% energy from free sugars” recommendation is in practice, so it’ll be particularly interesting for me to hear my friend and colleague, Prof Jack Winkler, talk about how differently we’d need to be eating in order to achieve that.
And I’ve also voiced my opinion at conferences and in publications about the necessity to look at the whole food, rather than focusing on one single macronutrient. Indeed, demonising sugar could compromise fibre intakes (think whole grain breakfast cereal), although the SACN Report advises us to increase our intake to 30g fibre daily. It could also potentially affect our intake of micronutrients like vitamin C or potassium (think juices and smoothies, in appropriate amounts of course). Check out the BNF Paper on Micronutrient status and intake in the UK – where might we be in 10 years’ time? It’s really worth a read.
The lovely Tanya Haffner will no doubt be a hit for me and other dietitians as she presents on “Is a continued focus on sugar actually counter-productive?”. I’m guessing she’ll be balanced – we all know we are eating too much sugar, especially as sugar sweetened beverages; that’s not in question, in my mind. It’s the practicality of cutting to such drastic levels, and the unintended consequences on our overall nutrient intakes.
There’s so much more on the programme about the big question: will all this sugar frenzy lead to an impact on childhood obesity, or not? And there are also insights on sweeteners, sugar tax and much more.
- Sugar Reduction: 3 years on, what’s changed – and what’s next
- How has consumer purchasing of sugar changed in the last 12 months and what impact did the sugar tax announcement have on purchasing
- Can we achieve the 5% target or is it unrealistic?
- What would need to change to get us closer to 5% of calories from added sugars?
- What changes would have the most dramatic impact in reducing sugar consumption?
- Should and can we follow the USA, in separating added and total sugars on labelling?
- Is the focus on sugar counter-productive and muddling for consumers?
- Should sugary drinks contain health warnings?
- Will the sugary drinks tax be passed on to consumers, lost in promotions or absorbed by manufacturers – and will it have any impact on purchasing?
- The evidence: are sweeteners an effective way to reduce total calorie intake?
- How do sweeteners impact on behaviour?
- Artificial versus natural sweeteners – what’s the difference?
- Sweetness economics – what impact will changing prices of sugar and sweeteners have on manufacturing
- Could sweeteners be extended to more categories?
- What are the opportunities for new sweeteners?
- Is the sugar tax legally viable?
- How will the design of the sugar tax impact its effectiveness?
- Is positioning the sugar tax as a positive for school sports actually counter-productive?
- Which categories might be next in line for a sugar tax?
- Industry is “on notice” to produce meaningful change – how will that happen without legislation?
- What motivates voluntary action in the food industry, how do we get it right?
There are a limited number of discounted tickets to freelance nutritionists and dietitians or those working for the NHS or in community healthcare roles, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Published on the 15th Jul, 2016 by Azmina
Paul: “I used to be starving just before mealtimes and so ended up overeating a lot. Since I started having snacks between meals even when I wasn’t hungry, I no longer feel ravenous at meal-times.”
Wise, planned snacks can be part of a balanced eating plan, whether you’re slimming or not. With GiP eating, low glycaemic snacks can be your best friends, as they help you to keep blood sugar steady in between meals.
What’s more, they can positively help you watch that waistline, since a feeling of fullness means you’re less likely to raid the fridge as soon as you drop your briefcase in the hallway. Good snacking means having a healthy relationship with all foods.
The Gi Plan actually forces you to have snacks. The book has a whole chapter devoted to snacks, but here are some examples of low-GiP alternative snacks.
||2 Rice cakes
|Walnut halves (half a dozen)
|2 Cream crackers
||2 Water biscuits
|Roasted peanuts 25g (half-pack)
||Crisps (small packet 25g)
|Chocolate chip Muffin, American style
|Fun size Snickers bar (19g)
||Milk chocolate (4 square pieces)
|1 Pitta bread
||1 Baguette (individual)
The Gi Plan is about enjoyment of food, and being mindful of what you’re eating. So, at a glance you can see from the above that 2 cream crackers “cost” you more GiPs than 2 oatcakes, so this might nudge you in the right direction – the oatcakes will be more slowly digested. What you also need to be aware of, however, is that certain foods may be lower in GiPs (take the muffin for example) but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a healthy food! Incidentally, the chocolate in this muffin helps to lower the GI, and the jam in the doughnut raises it; hence the swap idea.
The Comfort Cushion
Food only fills a physical hole, not an emotional need. If you become more aware of the underlying feeling that causes you to overeat, you are more able to make some changes by doing something different. You can regain control and experiment with new and healthier ways to meet this same need.
You may wish to keep a daily Food and Mood Diary (sample in the book) that will highlight the emotional need that causes you to reach for certain snacks, for example, boredom, stress, comfort, security or any other challenging feelings that you are striving to manage.
Remind yourself. ‘What would have to happen, that is within my control, for this need to be met in a healthy and functional way?’ Before you reach for solace in that ‘naughty but nice food’, remind yourself if choosing this is taking you nearer to the ‘new’ you and if it isn’t, choose again!
Taken from the best-selling Gi Plan by Azmina Govindji & Nina Puddefoot
Published on the 11th Jul, 2016 by Azmina
I’m always keen to stay up to date on developments in policy, so thought I’d share news of this CPD certified event for my colleagues…
Thursday, 26th January 2017, Central London
Guest of Honour: Dr Rachel Pryke, Clinical Champion for Nutrition for Health, RoyalCollege of General Practitioners
Bringing together stakeholders and policymakers, this seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss the next steps for the Government’s upcoming childhood obesity strategy, expected to be published later in the year.
Discussion will also be informed by the introduction of a soft drinks industry levy, Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide and the Committee of Advertising Practice initiating a full public consultation on regulating advertising HFSS foods to children.
Delegates will have the opportunity to discuss policy priorities for improving the nutritional content of foods, including portion size and sugar reduction, and preventative measures for reducing the prevalence of obesity during early years and in school.
We are delighted to be able to include in this seminar keynote addresses from: Dr Rachel Pryke, Clinical Champion for Nutrition for Health, Royal College of General Practitioners; Chris Askew, Chief Executive, Diabetes UK; Dr Adrienne Cullum, Technical Advisor, Centre for Public Health and Social Care, NICE; Guy Parker, Chief Executive, Advertising Standards Authority and Gavin Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association.
Further confirmed speakers include: Shaleen Meelu, Founder, Healthy Futures andKim Roberts, Chief Executive, HENRY (Health, Exercise, Nutrition for the Really Young).
Thanks to Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum for, yet again, putting on a thought-provoking event!
Published on the 25th May, 2016 by Azmina
The foodie news this week has been dominated by the announcement from the National Obesity Forum (NOF), which the headlines summarise as advice to eat more fat, fewer carbs, and to stop buying low fat foods and counting calories. This may sound like the best news ever, but it was criticised by Public Health England as being “irresponsible”.
Here are my top ten thoughts:
- Nutrition is an evolving science and it is essential to review dietary guidelines as and when new research emerges. Controversy and debate over the science helps us to re-examine our advice.
- Dietary guidelines should always be based on robust scientific evidence. The British Heart Foundation and others have suggested that the NOF Opinion Paper has been selective in its review and that it has not been compiled after a comprehensive review of the evidence.
- The recommendations made in the NOF Opinion Paper go against current dietary guidelines from Public Health England and leading bodies such as the British Dietetic Association (and other Dietetic Assoc. around the world), British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK. These organisations are globally respected bodies; they are robust in their policies.
- Lower fat products can help people enjoy everyday foods at a lower calorie cost. Foods like lower fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are great examples. Having said that, in my experience many clients think they can get away with twice as much of foods like reduced fat sausages and mayonnaise, so this could potentially be counter-productive.
- Low carb, high fat diets can compromise our intake of fibre.The latest SACN Carbohydrates and Health Report recommends we eat 30g of fibre a day. It’s hard enough to do this with a moderate carb diet. We also need whole grains from carbs for good health and cardio-protection.
- Taking in more calories than your body needs will make you gain weight, regardless of where those calories come from.
- It does make sense to eat high fat foods that are part of the traditional Mediterranean diet – avocado, nuts, oily fish, and olive oil. This diet, which is also rich in fruit and vegetables, has been linked to longevity and a lower risk of cardio-vascular disease. (And I also think eggs, which are often quoted as being high in fat, are a great food!).
- Choosing fewer processed foods and more home-cooked meals is a good thing. But some processed foods enable us to eat better – milk, whole grain bread, canned tuna, frozen peas, stir-fry veg packs… These are all processed, yet also healthy. Best to limit processed foods like cured meats, pies, pastries, cakes and biscuits. (Note these foods are typically high in fat).
- Media frenzy over such sensational headlines leads to confusion and a lack of confidence in the experts. We all need to work together to compile realistic and evidence-based dietary advice that speaks in an engaging tone of voice.
- I will not be changing my advice as a result of the NOF publication. Eat more vegetables, more fruit, more whole grains, and healthy fats. Eat a variety of foods. Eat slowly and mindfully and watch your portion size.
In conclusion, I welcome debate, but it must always be entrenched in a robust body of scientific evidence for it to be taken seriously by the experts in nutrition – registered dietitians (BDA) and degree-qualified nutritionists (AfN).
Read Azmina’s views on the Sugar Debate.
Published on the 25th May, 2016 by Azmina
I’ve just published a brief feature on eggs, in my role as resident dietitian to patient.co.uk. Judging by the comments I received, it seems that the most surprising information was that “There’s no recommended limit on how many eggs you should eat in a week“. Yes, it’s true! Eggs are a great source of protein and essential nutrients, and although they contain cholesterol, this doesn’t have as much effect on your blood cholesterol as saturated fat.
I decided to test out Black Farmer eggs to see if they were in any way superior to regular eggs.
Published on the 15th Apr, 2016 by Azmina
Today I was interviewed by ITV news about the announcement from Dolmio that they plan to warn customers not to have some of their pasta sauces and rice products more than once a week. They say they’re going to guide people how often they should eat certain foods, based on their sugar, fat and salt content.
My 5 Facts
- Pasta sauce, esp. tomato-based pasta sauce helps you to eat pasta. The jar is around 80% tomatoes, which give you vitamins and potassium, and one portion of veg – good. If you choose brown pasta, you get a serving of whole grains – good. If you add frozen veg to the boiling water with the pasta, and serve a side salad, you could get another couple of servings of vegetables, contributing to your “at least 5-a-day” portions of fruit & veg – good.
- Drawing attention to the hidden salt and sugar in it’s products and advising on how much to eat helps to raise awareness. It’s helpful to let people know that many processed foods can be high in sugar, salt and fat.
- The food industry does need to reformulate to cut down on salt and sugar, but not at the expense of adding other ingredients that might drive the calories up, or by using additives and more processing techniques to improve flavour.
- Pasta sauce and quick-cook rice are not the culprits for our obesity crisis! If they enable us to cook a meal at home rather than ringing the local take-away, we’re more likely to have made a nutritious choice.
- Let’s focus time and resources on the bigger issues like special offers on unhealthy foods like confectionery, improved accessibly and affordability of healthier choices, and measures to increase our activity levels.
Time to tuck into that tuna pasta bake….
Published on the 22nd Dec, 2015 by Azmina
Sweet potatoes are under-rated, in my opinion. Yet they are so versatile, easy to cook, and offer you a source of beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in your body. Although they are starchy and a great replacement for regular potatoes, unlike potatoes, the humble sweet potato counts towards your fruit and veg intake. (more…)
Published on the 15th Dec, 2015 by Azmina
Sugar is still high on the government health agenda and The Royal Society of Medicine was this year’s venue for the Sugar Reduction Summit. I love going to conferences for the networking, tweeting (#sugarsummit was trending in the UK!), as well as the learning.
Here are 10 summary tips from some of the lectures: (more…)
Published on the 29th Nov, 2015 by Azmina
1. Stuffed flat mushrooms
Pan-fry sliced courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and spring onions in a dash of olive oil. Flavour with garlic granules and cracked black pepper. Meanwhile, warm the inside of a flat mushroom in a pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Turn the mushroom over to lightly brown the outside, stuff with the sauteed veg, and serve piping hot. (more…)
Published on the 31st Oct, 2015 by Azmina
I was lucky enough to attend the 12th European Nutrition Conference in Berlin in late October. Of course, I brushed up on my German history during my sight seeing…
…but I also made the most of the lectures from top speakers around the world. Here are my key learnings from the sessions on Sugar. (BTW, scroll down to the end if you want a 50% discount to the Sugar Reduction Summit). (more…)
Published on the 25th Jul, 2015 by Azmina
I’m always keen to get consensus of opinion from my colleagues on hot topics, so here are screenshots of the tweets that were posted after I published my blog on the 17 July 2015 SACN Report on Sugar and Carbs. Scroll down, enlarge if needed, and have a peek!
Published on the 17th Jul, 2015 by Azmina
Today saw the publication of the much awaited Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition “Carbohydrates and Health” Report. This Report examines evidence from robust research, and the key recommendations are that we should aim to reduce our intake of free sugars* to 5% of our daily calorie intake, and also up our fibre intake to 30g a day. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, we’re currently on about 12% when it comes to sugars, and around 18g in terms of fibre. So, we have a long way to go….
My view is that we need to cut down on sugar and that we need targets to aim for. The acknowledgement that we’re eating too much sugar is huge progress, particularly since it’s based on the evidence. However, it’s my hope that Public Health England (PHE), who will be responsible for translating this science into recommendations for the public, will consider the impracticality of cutting down sugar to just 5% of daily energy – the equivalent of about 5-6 teaspoons of sugar for an average woman (7-8 tsp for men). I hope that dietitians and qualified public health nutritionists who work with people on the ground will be consulted before PHE translates the SACN Report into Government Policy.
There’s been a media frenzy today about the limit on free sugars. Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on the crucial fibre part of the recommendation … (more…)
Published on the 7th Jul, 2015 by Azmina
This documentary film, just released, covers 60 days in the life of actor Damon Gameau, who goes on a diet that includes 40 teaspoons (tsp) of sugar, which he suggests is the national average consumption in Australia. He doesn’t do this by drinking sugar-rich drinks or indulging in puddings and desserts; rather he chooses everyday foods that are perceived to be healthy, like cereals, dried fruit, honey, flavoured yogurts, cereal bars, smoothies, fruit juice, frozen yogurt, ready meals and pasta sauce.
Published on the 29th May, 2015 by Azmina
Today, on the BBC, Action on Sugar highlighted the sugar coating on dried fruit snacks. I agree that the coating is an unnecessary addition of sugar and calories, but I am concerned that too much focus on sugar in healthy foods like dried fruit and fruit juice (in the right portion size, of course) could mean we eat less fruit as a nation.
We are already not meeting the government target of 5-a-day, and scaremongering can sometimes cause so much public mistrust, that they end up not listening to good practical and realistic advice from experts like registered dietitians.
Fact 1: Sugar is empty calories
Sugar gives you energy and carbohydrate, but no vitamins or minerals, so it isn’t good for you. It provides 4 kcal/gram, which is the same as a gram of pure starch (like flour), or a gram of pure protein (like egg white). Note that it has less than half the calories of fat (such as oil), which provides 9kcal/g.
Fact 2: Sugar is not the new tobacco
There is no conclusive link between sugar intake and diseases like diabetes, obesity or heart disease (1). The only proven link is sugar can cause dental caries.
I believe that small amounts of sugar as part of a varied diet helps us to enjoy food. A little sweetness in healthy foods can encourage consumption – think of a fortified breakfast cereal which can help children to eat a nutritious breakfast containing whole grains, vitamins and minerals, as well as milk. Or a slice of wholegrain bread with honey.
Similarly, people who don’t like plain yogurt, a healthy source of calcium and quality protein, might enjoy sweetened fruit yogurt.
Fact 3: Fruit juice is not junk food
Fruit juice does contain natural sugars in liquid form, but it comes with nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. This could be important particularly for people on low incomes, as it’s a cheap source of these nutrients.
Fruit juice can’t be put into the same camp as soft drinks that have the same amount of sugar, but don’t provide the added nutritional benefits. Smoothies, which are typically made up of pulped fruit and fruit juice, will also contribute fibre (2). People who drink fruit juice tend to also eat more fruit & veg (3).
It’s easy to over-consume sugar in liquid form, so keeping to 150ml of fruit juice a day (which counts as one of your five a day fruit and veg recommendation), is a sensible portion size. And best to have it with a meal so you reduce the damage to teeth.
The Bottom Line
Stop demonising sugar or fat and let’s talk about food! We eat food not nutrients, so we need to put all this into context. After all, healthy eating is about balance, variety, and enjoyment.
- European Food Safety Authority (2010) Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for carbohydrates and dietary fibre. EFSA Journal 8(3): 1462 [77 pp.]
- Ruxton CHS (2008). Smoothies: one portion or two? Nutrition Bulletin 33, 129-132.
- Gibson, S (2012) Proc Nut Soc 71
Published on the 12th Apr, 2015 by Azmina
Mindfulness helps you to achieve success…
You can only achieve your happy weight if you really want to! So, the very first step, is to make up your mind that this is what you really do want and then to take action that is likely to support you in getting the results. Patience, it is said, is a virtue. It took time to reach the weight that you are and it will take time to shed it, too. Tempting as they are, the quick-fixes that are on offer, can lull you into a false sense of security.
Think slim, see yourself at that ideal weight, feeling energetic, doing all the things and taking part in the activities that you would love to, with that increased sense of confidence, whilst enjoying your food as part of a new and healthy lifestyle. Just thinking about ‘going on a diet’ possibly conjures up food deprivation, preventing pleasurable sensations and more. Given that your mind will always look to find the easiest route to achieving a result, it’s no wonder that most so-called diets are so short lived! In effect, you are programming your mind ahead of time, to rebel against the diet, even before it’s started..
Published on the 20th Mar, 2015 by Azmina
Old habits die hard
The more you use the methods that you’ve created to sustain your own way of life, especially over time, the more embedded they become. Old habits die hard, so you may have heard. Not so. Change can happen in an instant if you are determined to make the change. It’s deciding to make the change that appears to take longer.
In other words, the more you use that same and familiar method or pathway, the more habitual your response becomes.
If you want to change it, then stop conditioning it: Use it or lose it! Practise becoming the minder of your own mind. Learn to catch yourself saying what you’re saying and if it isn’t encouraging you towards the goal that you really want, change your internal chatter. (more…)
Published on the 12th Mar, 2015 by Azmina
Want to know how to change your thinking?
Your beliefs are your reality. If you don’t like the reality you see, change your beliefs!
Think you gain weight by just looking at a cup of black coffee? How frustrating is it when someone you know can eat twice as much as you and still look like a stick insect? Without the ‘right’ thinking, approach and attitude, the best food plans in the world are unlikely to work! Lets look at the strategies to help those pounds roll off smoothly and steadily….
Published on the 1st Feb, 2015 by Azmina
In my quest to learn more about products and gadgets that help us to eat better, I decided to test out the new Ingenio range from Tefal*. I believe in using non-stick cookware that allows you to pan-fry in the minimum of oil, and being a busy mum, I’m always attracted to pots and pans that don’t need much effort in the washing up department…
What I made
My starter was one of my favourites – chicken samosas. I wanted to make them without added fat, and to bake them in place of deep-frying. So I started to use one of the pans and create the spicy low fat filling from this recipe.
Verdict: It was easy to use, and nothing stuck to the bottom. (more…)
Published on the 23rd Jan, 2015 by Azmina
Current guidelines include 150ml of fruit juice as one of your 5 a day fruit and vegetables, once-a-day. This is only a small glass and it’s best to have this with a meal, to slow down the rise in blood glucose. Although you get vitamin C from fruit juice, it is also high in natural sugars and acids, which can damage your teeth. Drinking too much can also make you put on weight. Babies under 6 months shouldn’t be given fruit juice and the best drinks for children are water and milk. If you do want to start giving your children juice, remember to dilute it with water.
Published on the 3rd Dec, 2014 by Azmina
I was asked by a brand to develop a Risk Rating Scale for heartburn and indigestion. This was challenging because people react differently, and there are no hard and fast rules about which foods or situations cause a reaction, with much of this being subjective. There is very little published scientific evidence on risk factors and how to prevent indigestion and heartburn.
But, certain lifestyle behaviours can make you more prone… both heartburn and indigestion tend to be more common when we over-indulge, have irregular eating habits and are more stressed. Does this sound like you at Christmas time? (more…)
Published on the 6th Aug, 2014 by Azmina
I love risotto but can’t be bothered to stir and wait, stir and wait, so I decided to create a short-cut recipe with some leftover boiled rice I had in the fridge.
Raiding the veg box, I found some courgettes, peppers, spring onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves. I’m using semi-skimmed milk and low fat soft cheese in place of cream and Parmesan.
Time to sir-fry the veg – I think I’ll add some cashew nuts for crunch and protein.
As for the rice, I stir-fried it in a little olive oil and garlic and threw in a couple of dollops of soft cheese and some milk.
Time to mix it all together and smother it in more milk, cover and simmer till creamy…smelling good!
Published on the 18th Jun, 2014 by Azmina
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in the debate around sugars and fruit juice, and have been trying to build a consensus of expert opinion from key nutritionists and dietitians, as summarised in my sugar debate blog. June and July are packed with sugar seminars, and the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) Draft Report on dietary recommendations on carbohydrates (including advice on sugar), is due out imminently.
My biggest aspiration about debates around sugar is that they need to be evidence-based and balanced. Government recommendations are devised from quality research, and nutritionists need to be constantly up to date so we can better inform the public and help minimise mixed media messages, which only lead to confusion and a lack of confidence in “the experts”. So, when I saw the programme for The Sugar Reduction Summit, I knew I had to be there. (more…)
Published on the 3rd Jun, 2014 by Azmina
In my quest to seek out places to eat whilst watching your waistline, I checked out the Four Seasons in Mayfair, for those times when you want to dine in style…I wasn’t disappointed. I discovered it was such a party for the taste buds that I write this blog in time for Father’s Day, incase you fancy treating dad to a nutritious and delicious sensory experience.
Warm continental bread was served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and I was mesmerised by the patterns on the specially designed plate. I should have asked him to stop drizzling that oil ages ago but it was so much fun to watch!
Published on the 7th May, 2014 by Azmina
I am passionate about the value yogurt brings to balanced nutrition and when I was invited to attend the 2nd Global Summit on the Health Effects of Yogurt in (wait for it) San Diego, I didn’t need much arm-twisting.
San Diego Convention Centre
The programme was packed with eminent speakers including Angelo Tremblay (Laval University Canada), Nita Forouhi (University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine) and the distinguished Professor John Bienenstock (McMaster University). The morning started as you’d expect it, with a refreshing yogurt and berry parfait, just enough to get those digestive juices ready for an avalanche of evidence-based insights on yogurt and health.
Here I’ll share some key learnings and give you a flavour of the #YINI2014 twitter conversations during the 4-hour seminar. (more…)
Published on the 17th Apr, 2014 by Azmina
I’m often asked about the world of freelancing and how easy it is to get noticed, or not! One of the areas that nutritionists and dietitians are keen to dabble in is the area of private practice, so I thought I’d share some of my learnings on which websites I have found helpful in increasing my reach, and indeed my business.
Registering with reputable websites is a cost-effective way to promote your services, especially if you don’t have your own site. Here are a couple for you to try out: (more…)
Published on the 3rd Apr, 2014 by Azmina
From the start of 2014, the media frenzy over sugar has heightened… January started off with British Dietetic Association spokespeople contributing to major newspapers, and it’s still a hot topic with no sign of cooling down. Since the start of the year, I’ve been leading twitter chats, giving a presentation to media medics and providing quotes to newspapers and magazines to see if I can get some sort of expert consensus. Here’s a summary of my three months debating whether sugar really is the new tobacco.
12 January 2014 – you may remember the headline in The Sunday Times: “Obesity tsar calls for tax on juice”. Soon after that, I was asked for my opinion in The Guardian’s equally sensational headline “How fruit juice went from health food to junk food”. My opinion then (and now) is that fruit juice is perfectly acceptable in the appropriate portion size of 150ml a day and that ideally you should drink it with a meal to reduce the impact on teeth. (more…)
Published on the 1st Apr, 2014 by Azmina
The hot story today is about research published in The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Heath suggesting that we should be eating seven or more portions of fresh fruit and veg a day. The British Dietetic Association phone lines have been jammed and as a BDA spokesperson, my day so far has been spent on the frozen and canned fruit story.
The study asked more than 65,000 middle-aged people in England about how much fruit and vegetables they ate over the last 24 hours and evaluated their risk of death from diseases like heart disease and cancer. There is enough scientific evidence to persuade me that eating more fruit and veg is protective against these non-communicable diseases, period. But I do have issues with lumping frozen fruit with tinned fruit,whether it’s in natural juice or syrup.
Published on the 26th Mar, 2014 by Azmina
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I decided to check out restaurants that fit the bill for lovely mums who fancy a tasty yet healthy day out in London. Today I visited 21, situated in the heart of Covent Garden.
I instantly liked the natural surroundings – the restaurant is located underground and the setting is a series of rustic alcoves with brick walls and stone flooring. I was keen to experience the healthier Italian dishes on offer, as I believe Mediterranean cuisine can be one of the most nutritious in the world.
We started off with wild mushroom and truffle risotto with mascarpone and parsley. It was a big portion, so just right for hungry mums, and although it had the texture you’d expect from a risotto, it wasn’t too creamy or rich. I couldn’t taste the truffle, which was a bit of a let down, but it was full of flavour and had a generous amount of wild mushrooms. It didn’t look or taste like it had been smothered in cream, butter or cheese, so I’d say it seemed to be a healthier version of classic risotto.
Published on the 25th Mar, 2014 by Azmina
my new machine
Surveys suggest that people tend to add fruit and vegetables to their shopping trolley, they proudly display fruit in a bowl, or store a variety of veg in the fridge, but by the end of the week much of it ends up not being eaten. In my quest to help people reach their five-a-day target, I decided to check out whether having the appropriate equipment (in my case, a Nutribullet) at home would make a difference.
When I first got my machine, I must admit, the box and cookbook were displayed in the kitchen for a few days, waiting for me to read the instructions and give it its first wash. But once I had overcome that hurdle, I decided to keep the machine on the kitchen surface with all the cups and blades nearby. I’ve learnt that in order to make any change to your eating habits, you need to make it easy for yourself, so I made sure everything was ready and within easy reach. That was step 1. So, did it make a difference?
Published on the 25th Feb, 2014 by Azmina
Here’s the article I wrote with Yoga Bugs (May 2013)…
Do you cook and shop for a household, including a fussy eater or two?
It’s easier than you might think to ensure everyone gets five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. There are many ways to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet. The wider the variety of fruit and vegetables you eat, the better. Dietitian Azmina Govindji gives a few simple tips to get you started.
Think about your day
There are 5 A DAY opportunities throughout your family’s day.
“Not all those opportunities are immediately obvious,” says Govindji. “A cooked breakfast, for example, can give you several portions if you have grilled mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and a glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice.”
If you have cereal or porridge for breakfast, add some fruit, such as sliced bananas, strawberries or sultanas.
Govindji highlights some other 5 A DAY opportunities: (more…)
Published on the 19th Feb, 2014 by Azmina
I get so many requests from people wanting to eat out whilst on a gluten-free diet that I just had to check out the gluten-free offerings at Pizza Express. There were a few things that you’d expect to be gluten-free – like olives and toasted almonds. But I wanted to be sure that people who need to avoid all gluten could be guaranteed a gluten-free meal and be saved from any embarrassment when out with friends.
My pizza party included people on a gluten-free diet as well as those who were watching their weight and we ordered an array of dishes to see if they tasted as good as they sounded on the menu.
What we ordered
Our starters included huge olives, dough balls (which unfortunately weren’t gluten free) and a creamy gluten-free risotto, which was demolished in seconds by all.
Published on the 30th Jan, 2014 by Azmina
Do you ever worry that your man has become super-obsessed with healthy eating? Label-reading for fat and calories…avoiding going out to dinner…spending a lot of time planning meals? Then start looking for tell-tale signs of orthorexia. You might notice he looks paler, or is always exhausted, yet will still be disciplined with his hundred push-ups.
I’m about to go on BBC Asian Network lunch-time news programme to increase awareness of orthorexia. This condition is masked as eating healthily, but it is taking a healthy diet to extremes, and often means you cut out all processed foods and live on fruit and veg.
Published on the 14th Jan, 2014 by Azmina
January is diet month and this is National Obesity Awareness Week, so a perfect time for the British Nutrition Foundation’s symposium on popular diets. I like to make sure I am convinced by the science before I recommend any weight management system, so I couldn’t wait to hear the latest insights from key researchers on the 5:2 diet, low GI diet, high protein low carb diets, Palaeolithic diets, and more.
We know that you get significant health benefits from losing just 5% of your body weight, and that miracle diets offering speedy and massive weight loss are doomed to failure. But let’s face it, the mantra of eating a sensible varied diet is dull, and one size doesn’t fit all. So the evidence behind popular diets needs to be considered and each one is part of a toolset that dietitians can use to suit the individual; different people will require different strategies that fit with their culture and lifestyle habits.
Published on the 13th Jan, 2014 by Azmina
I’m always keen to test out healthier versions of classic recipes and was recently attracted to Good Food Good Health, the latest book by Fatima Patel. Colour photos of mouth-watering dishes are always a good selling point, but my interest lies in the traffic light coded recipes, as I believe this helps people to make healthier choices at a glance.
Being Indian, I do like my food to be, let’s say, well flavoured, and flicking through the book, I see Chicken Kofte cooked in cumin and coriander, Enchiladas spiked with cayenne pepper, and Chicken Kashmir smothered in aromatic spices like garam masala and cinnamon.
The traffic lights are easy to read and the nutrition analysis relates to 100grams of the recipe, so it’s easy to compare one recipe with another and choose the one with more green or amber lights. I think the book could be improved by adding nutrition data per portion. I believe for the recipes to be of real practical use, we need to know how many calories we’re munching through, how much saturated fat we get in one serving, and so on. Otherwise we could end up eating a dish that we think is one thing according to the nutrient info, yet the amount on your plate tells a different story.
Published on the 8th Jan, 2014 by Azmina
Despite a busy schedule, it’s important to me that I stay up to date with the latest research and the government initiatives that are set to influence people’s eating habits. It’s no wonder obesity is still high on the national agenda – 2010 data from Health and Social Care Information Centre suggests that over a quarter of us are classed as obese. We must take massive action. If we continue with the current health education programmes, we will continue to get the same results. Is the same enough? Although each of us needs to take responsibility for our actions and eating behaviour, we need to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.
Published on the 31st Dec, 2013 by Azmina
My NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) journey spans about 10 years and I commit to giving myself a training top-up every now and then to help me learn new skills. My absolute favourite trainer is Ian Ross. He is an INLPTA Master Trainer, having studied negotiation and conflict resolution at Harvard. He has over 25 years experience of applying NLP in commercial contexts.
He, with Lynne Kerry, is a Director of Vievolve and I was lucky enough to go on one of their NLP Practice Days in December. The course was about Developing Purpose, Congruence and Authenticity in a business or personal context. In English, to me, that means living your life so you are totally aligned, making business or other decisions that are congruent with your values. I was interested in this because I feel we sometimes get caught up in the rat race and don’t give ourselves time to pause and reflect on our actions and how they represent who we are.
There were many special interactions with the rest of the group and here are some of my take-outs from the day:
- Authenticity is about honesty with yourself.
- If you are 100% your authentic self, your dark parts show up too! But those not-so-good bits of you must be fulfilling a need. They must be giving you some sort of benefit, even if it’s not obvious to you. And they make up the whole you. So be aware of these.
- To discover your true purpose, identify your core values – what’s important to you? There are many techniques that help you to discover your values. One way is to write down what’s really important to you, then to put that list in some order of priority. A great exercise we did was to match that list with how you spend your time. I found that family came very high up on my list, and work and money quite low. Yet I spend much more time at work than with my family, so there is a mismatch for me. I now have the knowledge of where I am, so I can do something about it. (more…)
Published on the 29th Oct, 2013 by Azmina
I’ll be speaking at this year’s Nutrition & Health Live conference on 2 November and am busy planning the content so we ensure the session is engaging and informative. Well, of course it will be engaging when it’s about my pet subject, Social Media! The workshop is aimed at nutritionists and dietitians, especially those who haven’t yet caught the social bug, and I’ll also be chairing the Expert Panel. I’m partial to this conference as it’s a great networking opportunity and the lectures are usually very insightful (and I was lucky enough to be short-listed for Nutritionist of the Year Award 2012).
Here’s what me and my colleagues have in store for delegates this year:
I’ll kick off to spread some Twitter basics, get the group to create a tweet or two, and I’ll introduce the successful RDUK Twitter chats, which are supported by the British Dietetic Association. Then Emma Carder takes it up a notch as she discusses multiple social media interaction using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Nichola Whitehead later shares her journey on how she works and how to increase your number of followers.
The Expert Panel Discussion points will include: (more…)
Published on the 25th Aug, 2013 by Azmina
Fancy a healthy brunch or light lunch for two? Try this 5-minute wholemeal tortilla quesadilla:
1. Stir-fry diced courgettes (zucchini) with ground black pepper and spring onions (scallions), 2 minutes.
2. Heat a little olive oil, sunflower seeds and garlic in a non-stick frying pan and lay a wholemeal tortilla on top, 1 minute.
3. Spread it with light soft cheese and throw in the fried courgettes, 1 minute.
4. Place a second tortilla wrap on top, drizzle with oil and grill, 1 minute.
Published on the 9th Aug, 2013 by Azmina
This is a recovery tool for getting over Food Addiction or Binge Eating; it’s probably one of the most important tools.
Dieters tend to plan to lose weight for something in the future….the celebration, the holiday, the job interview, etc. This type of goal focuses on the future and it is this which can cause many people to relapse. The simple concept of taking things One Day At A Time is that the person trying to recover from overeating has to think about what they need to do for that day only. They do not have to project further forward than that. (more…)
Published on the 24th Jul, 2013 by Azmina
I was tempted to learn more about food addiction as I believe many people are somewhere along the spectrum of some sort of distorted relationship with food. So I enrolled on this fab course and summarise my learning here for you. There was something special about Rochelle Craig’s LinkedIn profile that attracted me to her way of thinking…
Published on the 6th Jun, 2013 by Azmina
I’ve been helping Duncan Walker at BBC online with his article on the rise of protein drinks for ordinary people, published today.
If you look at dietary surveys we are actually doing okay for protein and there’s no reason for dietary supplements unless you are in a vulnerable category. But who is vulnerable?
Nutrition and Diet surveys are based on people recording what they eat – if you’ve ever tried to do that, you’ll know how difficult it is to remember every mouthful. And food eaten outside the home, including sandwiches and takeaways, are estimates of portion size rather than accurate weighed measurements. So it’s not a complete picture of what we’re eating.
Protein as we get older…
Protein shakes could be important, or popular, with middle aged people. On average, between the age of 50 and 70, you will lose about 30% of your muscle strength. That’s why we look flabby as we get older! Protein is the nutrient that helps to re-build your muscles. And I think that’s probably one of the reasons why there’s this growing attention – we’re an ageing population and 50 is the new 30. We all want to be as active as we once were. (more…)
Published on the 5th Jun, 2013 by Azmina
Yesterday I was interviewed by a researcher from ITV This Morning in preparation for their debate on new mums eating their own placenta. It follows news that Kim Kardashian plans to do this once she delivers her baby. Gosh, being a media nutritionist is full of surprises! I set to work on finding out what this could mean for you nutritionally…
This practice seems to be common in some cultures. In my search for credible evidence, I found none. There was nothing in the research that pointed to this being good for you – but there was none that confirmed it was harmful either.
- Placenta is indeed a nutritious organ. It’s rich in protein, vitamin B12 and iron. These are important nutrients, especially for women or if you are vegetarian (though I wonder what vegetarian women would think about eating placenta?). We don’t know the nutritional value of cooked placenta. You can get these nutrients from red meat and liver.
- This is a matter of personal choice. You need to eat a varied diet, regular meals, and protein and iron-containing foods after pregnancy. If you’re breast-feeding, you must take a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D and 500 extra kcals.
- There have been reports that the hormones help to combat post-natal depression. I wonder how much of this is a placebo effect.
Anyone for liver?
Published on the 30th May, 2013 by Azmina
I was asked for my views on this proposed ban today by ITV Daybreak. Salford City Council is proposing that fast food outlets (like MacDonald’s and local fish and chip shops) near schools should be banned from serving hot food before 5pm, in an aim to reduce the obesity crisis. The ban would only prevent new outlets that apply for a licence and the public is being asked for their views before the ban is implemented.
If unhealthy food is within easy reach, you’re more tempted to go for it. And when you’re hungry, the smell of hot food can be even more alluring. I advise people wanting to lose weight to remove the temptation by not keeping unhealthy snacks accessible– out of sight is out of mind.
But this proposed ban only addresses new businesses, so children who frequently visit existing outlets are unlikely to change their habits. Hence, I doubt this ban would have a significant effect. (more…)
Published on the 18th May, 2013 by Azmina
The Department of Health Responsibility Deal has encouraged manufacturers to gradually improve the nutritional content of their products. Restaurants, especially big chains, are printing calorie values on their menus. It’s vital that brands use qualified experts to nutritionally analyse their range, and dietitians need to have the knowledge and skills to provide accurate calorie values on menus and food labels.
I attended last month’s Calories on the Menu course organised by Nutrition & Wellbeing. We met at a convenient location in London and were an intimate group of about 12 people. We had access to a laptop and were coached through the up to date regulations on health claims, front-of-pack labelling, calculating fruit and veg portions in composite foods, and more. We had hands-on training on calculating calories using Saffron software and the delegate handouts were comprehensive and professional. My 10 top tips… (more…)
Published on the 8th May, 2013 by Azmina
Thanks to my friend Sumant Bhal, I was invited to the launch of Moti Mahal Delux in London. I didn’t know what to expect – I’d been told they created legendary dishes but I needed to sample them for myself.
As we walked in, the atmosphere was buzzing. It seemed to me that customers had taken in the aroma of the freshly roasted spices and had been lured into the restaurant even before it was officially opened. We were directed to our seats and then offered a taster menu of various delights. I was particularly interested in the healthier items, so here’s a sample of those dishes that won’t go straight to your waistline.
I had a platter of goodies including some spicy roasted aubergine, grilled chicken tikka, charred tandoori lamb, spicy potato cakes and grilled paneer with roasted tomato. All accompanied by a fresh mint chutney and home-baked naan bread (no butter or ghee on top). (more…)
Published on the 29th Apr, 2013 by Azmina
I was lucky enough to attend the latest Food and Drink Innovation Network Nutrition & Science Claims Masterclass event in Daventry. I haven’t been to one of Jeffrey’s seminars for some time and this was a chance for me to be reminded of how refreshing these events can be. Learning aside, I met some inspiring people, was fed and watered tastefully, and also had a fun time.
Speakers included Dr Carrie Ruxton, Claire Nuttall, Dr Janice Harland, David Jago from Mintel and the eminent Professor Rob Pickard. The short and sharp lectures were interspersed with team exercises and networking opportunities.
10 take-outs from the day:
- The consumer needs to “feel the benefit” if you’re making a nutrition claim. However, adding nutrients doesn’t often translate to benefit for a number of years.
- If the shopper buys something that doesn’t taste good, they’re unlikely to buy it again.
- Let’s get health on the shopping list! Manufacturers need to help people interpret labels and health info (cue the registered dietitian…).
- There are a number of issues consumers are concerned about – bone and health issues are amongst the big ones.
- The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is reviewing vitamin D and carbohydrate evidence, so there may be more public health campaigns that could work to the benefit of food manufacturers.
- Brands can start the education process by using credible experts to help communicate issues such as bone density in teenagers. This type of responsible advice can help create long-term loyalty to a brand.
- Asian dishes seem to be penetrating much of Europe. There’s a lot of focus on nutrient claims regarding eyesight improvement in countries like Japan and China. New ingredients from Asia will gradually filter through to the UK – we may see more “Beauty Food”.
- Food-based advice is important for brands – how much of a food you need to eat to get a benefit and derive recommended nutrient intakes.
- We can’t get complex science across on a pack, and we need to use consumer-friendly info to help the brain to analyse messages. The brain depends on repeated messages, so brands need to repeat key statements on all communications. Alliteration is an incredibly powerful means of communication.
- You don’t necessarily need to talk about the benefit – other things like graphics on-pack can convey a clear message.
If you want more snippets, check out my tweets below. And you can download the presentations here.
Published on the 12th Apr, 2013 by Azmina
I love ordering this type of dish in restaurants and wanted to create my own healthier (cream-free) version at home in about 15 minutes – so I cheated!
I added one tsp. each of crushed garlic and ginger to a skinless baby chicken, which I asked the butcher to cut into small pieces (you could use boneless chicken thighs or breast, or turkey for this instead). I then coated this in flour and added a little seasoning.
I heated a couple of teaspoons of rapeseed oil and threw in the chicken, stirring it from time to time. Meanwhile, I chopped a green pepper and an onion. Once it was browned (which took just a few minutes), I added the chopped peppers and onions with some semi-skimmed milk (about a mugful), covered the pan and let the chicken cook happily on its own for about 10-15 minutes, stirring now and then, and adding more milk if the sauce was too thick.
This lower fat yet creamy velvety dish was then brought to life with some chopped flat leaf parsley, and I devoured it with some mustard mashed potato and green beans. Want some?
Published on the 8th Mar, 2013 by Azmina
I’m working with Change4life to help get us eating better and moving more. Today I was on Sky breakfast news talking about the latest survey of 2000 mums around the challenges of cooking from scratch. The story is also in the Metro, Daily Mail online, Express and more.
Time and confidence are the main barriers that mums report when it comes to preparing meals for their families:
- Over half (51%) of those surveyed said the reason they don’t cook more often is because it is too time consuming;
- Almost a quarter of mums (24%) said they don’t cook from scratch more because they don’t know how to; and
- Almost three quarters (71%) said they eat convenience foods instead of cooking from scratch because they are quicker to prepare.
The survey was commissioned for Change4Life’s Be Food Smart healthy eating campaign, which aims to lift the lid on the hidden nasties – salt, sugar and saturated fat – found in many popular foods, particularly convenience meals.
It’s understandable that over time eating habits change and that the time-pushed mums of today aren’t necessarily going to approach cooking family dinners in the way their own mothers once did. However, many take-aways and processed foods can contain high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat, so shoppers needed to be encouraged to buy healthier options whist still taking short-cuts to fit in with demands on their time. (more…)
Published on the 11th Feb, 2013 by Azmina
Keep a note of what you’re eating, when, how much, and your mood at the time. This can help you lose weight! Research suggests that simply knowing and recording your eating habits makes you more conscious of what you’re eating and that in turn leads to improvements because you’ve got your brain in gear.
Print off your Food & Mood Diary by right clicking the table below, and saving it.
Published on the 11th Feb, 2013 by Azmina
Warning: you will need a large supply of napkins before you dig in!
This is one of my easy short-cut recipes that always goes down a treat. Simply mix together a tablespoon (tbsp.) of olive oil, 2tbsp honey, 2tbsp light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons (tsp.) coarse grain mustard, 1 tsp. crushed garlic and a huge handful of freshly chopped coriander leaves. (more…)
Published on the 19th Jan, 2013 by Azmina
I had only a few small pieces of chicken in the fridge yet needed to feed the family. So I improvised to find a way to bulk up my chicken with whatever else was in the fridge and ended up with this delicious and easy concoction of pan-fried chicken on the bone with onions, peppers and jalapenos. I decided to call it Spanish Chicken because of the lovely Mediterranean ingredients and hot japapenos.
I put some pasta on the boil and just added some dried roasted garlic and olive oil to it. It worked beautifully and we had clean plates all round!
Here’s what I did: (more…)
Published on the 3rd Jan, 2013 by Azmina
Just returned from a sofa chat on ITV Daybreak studios with John Stapleton and Helen Fospero, and today we were talking about healthy living campaign Change4Life survey results on what consumers know about nutrition. Watch one minute of the interview.
Two thousand adults took the newly launched ‘Food IQ’ quiz, designed to highlight levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat in popular foods. The results show that the majority of people are largely unaware of what is in their food – with over three quarters (77%) of respondents’ Food IQs rating as low (scoring 50% or under).
I’m not surprised that people have low awareness. I wouldn’t expect the average person to know that a cheese and ham sandwich has more salt than a packet of crisps. We’re bombarded with different nutritional messages from websites, magazines, even celebrities; often this can be confusing.
And you need to be really label savvy to make healthier choices. Food labels need to be simpler. We don’t often realize that there’s hidden salt in bread or that a fruity cereal bar could be packed with sugar. Cakes & biscuits have hidden fat and sugar, and cured meats, cheese, & breakfast cereals can be high in salt.
Published on the 2nd Jan, 2013 by Azmina
You don’t need me to tell you which foods are fattening; you probably already know that. You don’t need me to tell you to cut down on your portion size – you know that too. But you might not know what makes you reach for unhealthy foods, and what gets in the way of you keeping to your goals – that’s where I come in!
I’m a believer in the slow and steady approach to weight loss, and the more success I have in helping people avoid yoyo dieting, the more I am convinced that the trick is to find ways to make a healthier lifestyle fit around you, not the other way around.
There’s good published research to suggest that if you tackle your weight issues with good behaviour-change tools, you’re more likely to lose weight and most importantly, keep it off. Having practised behaviour-change strategies for years, I believe the Counterweight method is an effective way to lose weight. Here’s why, and what it could mean for you…
Why count on Counterweight?
This programme fits me like a glove because all my working life I’ve ensured my advice is based on good published evidence that encourages realistic weight loss. This philosophy promotes simple ways to change your eating behaviour, your activity levels and crucially, the thought processes that led you to becoming overweight in the first place! This is exactly the type of thinking that I practise and believe in; there’s no point in learning about fat and calories if we’re still holding on to those old habits that make us overeat.
Published on the 31st Dec, 2012 by Azmina
Simply heat a saucepan with a lid (ideally a glass lid) and drizzle a few drops of oil into the pan. Throw in 2 tablespoons of popping corn, cover and allow to pop over a medium heat. It takes about three minutes for the popping to stop. Add red chilli powder and a dash of lemon juice. All you need now is that Friday night DVD…
Published on the 24th Dec, 2012 by Azmina
You really can enjoy a festive feast and still fit into your little black dress this holiday season…
If you plan ahead, you can have tasty nibbles around the house that won’t go straight to your waistline. And the full traditional Christmas fayre is all there for the taking; just be aware of which bits of the meal you pile onto your plate first, and your portion size…. (more…)
Published on the 19th Dec, 2012 by Azmina
As consultant nutritionist to ITV Lorraine show’s Little Black Dress Diet with Dannii Minogue, Lisa Faulkner and Jane Wake, I thought I’d share some tricks on how to stay focussed while you’re out partying the night away.
- Eat before you go to the party. (more…)
Published on the 16th Dec, 2012 by Azmina
Homemade burgers are full of texture and goodness. They are likely to contain far more beef than any fast food burger you could find, and you know exactly what’s in them! I had some leftover salad so just mixed it in for extra goodness – you can probably spot the cucumber and carrots! Here’s the original recipe (more…)
Published on the 22nd Nov, 2012 by Azmina
I’m a great lover of all things nutty and I make sure I get my ‘dose’ of nuts each day. If it’s not a handful of peanuts or almonds, I have two teaspoons of peanut butter on toast or I make some skewered chicken with this tasty satay dip.
Makes 4 portions, 130kcal each
Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry 1 finely chopped onion for 2 minutes.
Add 2 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp tomato puree & 2 tablespoons water.
Cook for 1 minute. Stir in 4 tbsp (60g) crunchy peanut butter and 200ml semi-skimmed milk and cook over a low heat till the mixture just begins to thicken. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge or devour with chicken or fish.
If you don’t have peanut butter, blitz together some roasted peanuts with coriander and a touch of olive oil – it works beautifully!
See Azmina’s Quick Healthy Bites videos.
Published on the 13th Nov, 2012 by Azmina
Do you have Type 2 diabetes? If you’re overweight, losing only 10% of your weight could make a major contribution to your blood glucose levels and improving the quality of your long-term health.
eat a rainbow
There’s good evidence to suggest that a moderate weight loss of 5–10% of body weight will have a major impact on the long-term complications of obesity. Weight reductions of 5-10 kg have been shown to improve back and joint pain, and symptoms of breathlessness.
The science bit
The UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), published in the Lancet in 1998, was carried out over 20 years on over 5000 people with type 2 diabetes. The results showed that weight loss of 10kg in people who weighed 100kg could achieve greater reductions in HBA1C (the longer term predictor of your blood glucose control; lower HBA1C is better). They also had better fasting blood glucose levels than if they’d been treated with the glucose lowering drug metformin. The weight loss also reduced the need for blood pressure and lipid-lowering drug treatment (drugs to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride) in people with diabetes.
A comprehensive review of studies on 10% or less weight reduction was published in the International Journal of Obesity in 1992. The studies indicated that 10% weight loss in obese people with non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) appeared to improve blood glucose control, reduce blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol levels. Modest weight reduction also appeared to increase length of life.
Even 5% loss of body weight can improve insulin action, decrease fasting blood glucose concentrations, and reduce the need for diabetes medications. Data from the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 demonstrated that weight loss (7% of weight loss in the first year) and increased physical activity (150 min of brisk walking per week) was nearly twice as effective as drug treatment with metformin in preventing diabetes in people who already had raised blood glucose levels.
In short, if you move from 100 kg to 90 kg or lose 10% of your body weight, you could enjoy the following benefits:
- Improved blood glucose levels
- Lower blood cholesterol and other blood fats
- Reduced blood pressure
- An improvement in back and joint pain
- Reduced risk of angina
- Less breathlessness
- Improved sleep
- Improved self esteem and confidence
For many people, losing 10% of your weight could also help to reduce your dosage of medication. Might be time for a chat with your dietitian or diabetes specialist team? More weight loss tips.
Check out Azmina’s Diabetes Weight Loss Diet with Antony Worrall Thompson and her Little Black Dress Diet on ITV’s Lorraine Show, launched 12 Nov 2012.
Published on the 30th Oct, 2012 by Azmina
- Ironing for half an hour can burn up to 150 calories.
- 30 minutes of vacuuming can shed up to 200 calories.
- 250 calories can be lost whilst cleaning the windows and with all that stretching on your tippy toes, you will tone the arms, thighs, love handles and shoulders, too!
- Using the stairs 10 times a day will see another 250 calories away, whilst toning the thighs and bottom.
- Check your room temperature. The green house effect is said to slow down the rate at which you burn calories.
- If gardening is your thing, 30 minutes can burn off around 150 calories.
- Cycling is a great incentive for burning calories and an hour on your bike can help you lose around 330.
- A brisk walk, so as you feel yourself getting slightly out of breath, for 15 minutes at a rate of 4mph, can burn 100 calories, effortlessly.
- Your brain becomes more energized when you stand whilst working or studying. Plug in your standing time at least 5 times for ten minutes, preferably every hour. This will see a further 25% of calories burnt away.
- Can’t get a seat on the train? Take heart – you burn more calories while standing!
Published on the 4th Aug, 2012 by Azmina
I regularly get asked about what counts as a portion of fruit and veg. It seems there’s still a lot of confusion out there. So, I decided to create some simple photographs to show you what a portion looks like. As you’ll see, it’s generally a handful – children need smaller portions, and conveniently they have smaller hands!
Is 7-a-day the new way?
Published on the 19th Jun, 2012 by Azmina
How many people do you know who at some point in their lives have been ‘on a diet’? And how many have kept the weight off? The dieting industry in the UK is estimated to be worth over a billion pounds each year, and most of us are likely to have contributed to this in one way or another, through buying meal replacements, books, diet plans and so on.
When you start to deny yourself of your favourite foods, they become even more desirable. So the trick is to allow yourself small amounts of those foods, but to enjoy every mouthful and to be very conscious of your habits.
Published on the 16th May, 2012 by Azmina
We’ve been here before; I remember being interviewed about this by the BBC during last year’s National Obesity Forum conference. This time new research from Oxford has hit the headlines. There have been reports in the press today about how a “fat tax” applied to unhealthy foods could help combat obesity.
Oliver Mytton and colleagues at the University of Oxford examined the evidence on the health effects of food taxes. It’s suggested that a tax on unhealthy food could help improve health, but the tax would need to be fairly heavy to make a difference – up to 20%. Ideally, a move to make fruit and veg cheaper would have to accompany such tax.
Published on the 25th Apr, 2012 by Azmina
Nutrition is taking centre stage; everybody seems to have an opinion on it. I believe that nutritionists and dietitians need to become more visible on social media platforms, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and present my views to nutritionists and other healthcare professionals at a seminar in London yesterday.
Check out my slides if you’re hungry for more…
Topics I covered were:
Published on the 17th Apr, 2012 by Azmina
The fuss about Carbohydrate
Flick through a newspaper and it isn’t surprising to see the latest trend in carbohydrate – “avoid wheat”, “starchy foods are fattening”, or “pasta is the best food ever invented”. How do you know what’s best? Is this conflicting advice or do the experts agree? Well, let’s review some of the issues here.
When you eat carbohydrate foods (such as bread, potatoes, pasta, cereals and sugary foods), the body digests it and converts it to glucose (sugar); this can then be used for energy. As the carbohydrate gets digested to glucose, the glucose level in your blood rises. In other words, each time you eat a carbohydrate food, the blood glucose level in your body rises. (more…)
Published on the 16th Mar, 2012 by Azmina
Snacking gets a lot of bad publicity – linked to weight gain and unhealthy habits. And it’s true that if you choose lots of unhealthy options, they won’t do your waistline any good. But I am someone who doesn’t like to deny people foods they enjoy. Eating well isn’t a life sentence; it’s about allowing yourself your favourite foods whilst being conscious of your choices.
So, are you a snacker? If so, examine what you’re reaching for. Here are my three top tips:
- Have healthy snacks accessible and get rid of those that don’t help you reach you healthy lifestyle goals.
- Stock up on lower calorie, lower fat versions of your favourite treats. Choose crisps that aren’t fried (e.g. popped crisps), popcorn (make your own so you can control the amount of salt or sugar), nuts that aren’t honey coated (e.g. mixed nuts and raisins), bites that fill you up (e.g. soya nuts), fridge goodies (e.g. olives, gherkins, cherry tomatoes).
- If you are hooked on choc chip cookies or the like, allow yourself to buy them but store them creatively. Put a couple in a separate container and allow yourself no more than two at one sitting (ideally not every day). That will help reduce the temptation to finish off the whole pack at once!
And think about eating more consciously. Engaging your brain means you’ll be more aware of what you’re snacking on, and how much you’re munching through. It also helps you to be aware of the fullness signals from your stomach, which in turn help you to stop overdoing it!
So, enjoy every mouthful and get rid of the guilt by making choices that nourish you but still taste yummy!
Published on the 13th Mar, 2012 by Azmina
So, there’s been huge media frenzy over a large Harvard study just published in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’. News reports today talk about how red meat substantially increases the risk of deaths from heart disease and cancer. Let’s look at this in context….
Published on the 27th Feb, 2012 by Azmina
Which fits for you:
- The only thing I can’t resist is temptation! Food is a comfort to me.
- Some days, when I’m feeling a tad under the weather or down in the dumps, I reach for the unhealthy snacks.
- Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry.
Striking up a healthy and balanced relationship with food is a positive thing. To eat consciously and enjoy each mouthful is an art in itself and the occasional overindulgence is fine too. Mainly, get to know your body so that you stop when you feel full.
Published on the 3rd Jan, 2012 by Azmina
2012 saw the launch of a nation-wide government campaign to help us buy and cook healthier meals on a budget. Yesterday I was quizzed about my views on this, live on the Vanessa show Radio London, as part of my work with the British Dietetic Association. (more…)
Published on the 22nd Dec, 2011 by Azmina
Party temptations can be the downfall of the best intentions at Christmas; such delicious little morsels that are so hard to resist. But just how much harm will canapés and party snacks do to your waistline – and your health? To make it easier for yourself when you are confronted by a table full of calorie-laden choices, plan ahead by eating something before you go out, like a banana. It will take the edge off hunger pangs and make it easier to resist temptation.
Published on the 21st Dec, 2011 by Azmina
The British Dietetic Association estimates the average adult gains 5 to 7 lbs during the festive season. The good news is it doesn’t have to be so. If you plan ahead, you can have tasty nibbles around the house that won’t go straight to your waistline. And the full traditional Christmas fayre is all there for the taking; yes it’s true, provided you follow some simple guidelines.
Perhaps surprisingly, many of our traditional Christmas treats are healthy foods, low in calories and high in health-promoting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Smoked salmon, roast turkey, lean ham, and a wonderful variety of fruit and vegetables all contribute to our enjoyment of Christmas.
Published on the 6th Dec, 2011 by Azmina
It really does make a difference if you take a list with you when you go shopping as it helps you to avoid costly impulse buys. You may trust a brand name, but buying into brands can burst the budget. Supermarket own brands tend to be cheaper but we sometimes shy away from buying them in the expectation that they will be inferior in some way. Start off by just buying one can or packet of a different brand and if you like it, you can make it a regular item on your shopping list. (more…)
Published on the 15th Nov, 2011 by Azmina
Here I show you how you can keep an eye on your waistline as well as your wallet. This blog post looks at planning ahead, but come back soon for more tips on being savvy in the supermarket and making use of the freezer and special offers. You’ll soon be tucking into delicious healthy food whilst still keeping an eye on the pennies.
Eating well on a budget
Published on the 18th Sep, 2011 by Azmina
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
September is whole grain month in the USA. So I thought I would give you the lowdown on what a whole grain is and how to get more whole grains onto your plate. You can also check out my easy picture swaps below. (more…)
Published on the 31st Aug, 2011 by Azmina
- Try home-made fish fingers! Cut your favourite fish into rectangular chunks – white fish like Pollock and oily fish like salmon work well. Coat in beaten egg, then in a mixture of orange breadcrumbs, oats and dried herbs. Drizzle with a little oil and bake in the oven till crisp.
- Pan-fry your favourite fish in a teaspoon of olive oil and crushed garlic. Sprinkle some crushed chillies on top if you dare! Pour a little lemon juice into the hot pan so you get a sizzling sound and serve immediately.
Published on the 31st Jul, 2011 by Azmina
1. Make a refreshing drink with crushed ice, sugar-free cordial and sparkling water.
2. Munch on some fresh dates. They’re much lower in calories than dried dates and the extra chewing means extra mouth-feel and satisfaction. (more…)
Published on the 30th Jun, 2011 by Azmina
I’m a great advocate of Med-eating. Not only do I love my garlic-infused pasta, I’m also pretty convinced by the evidence on the health benefits. Typical Med foods are olive oil, fish, nuts, garlic, grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.
Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 studied almost 75,000 men and women over 60 in nine European countries over a period of 12 years. Those who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet had a lower overall mortality – basically, choose these foods and you could live longer. Note that this is about the whole diet, not just a token addition of some beans to your jacket potato. (more…)
Published on the 20th Jun, 2011 by Azmina
Are carbs good, bad or ugly? With all the confusing messages out there, it’s sometimes tough to know whether to ditch the carbs or to enjoy them with a clear conscience.
My view is don’t be tempted to go low carb; there’s really no need for you to do this for weight loss and it could be potentially harmful. If you cut out carbs, you could be missing out on a whole range of nutrients. And what do you replace the carbs with? Often low carbing means high fatting – and eating more fat, especially saturated fat isn’t conducive to healthy eating. Low carb diets often also encourage you to avoid fruits and veg (or at least cut down on them) and this goes against a whole host of studies that support the benefits of fruit and veg for disease prevention. (more…)
Published on the 4th Jun, 2011 by Azmina
So, I’ve just completed working on the Real Woman’s Bikini Diet for GMTV’s Lorraine show. What fun sampling and analysing Masterchef winner Nadia Sawalha’s yummy recipes. You won’t believe you could lose weight on this mouth-watering array of tasty treats. From exciting breakfasts like No Fry Fry-Up to sumptuous suppers like Creamy Mushroom and Basil Chicken, you can be sure to find a delicious meal that won’t show up on your waistline.
I’ve taken Nadia’s recipes and checked them out for good nutrition so you don’t need to worry about getting the right balance. The diet goes live on the box on Monday 6 June but you can get a sneak preview here.
Published on the 2nd Jun, 2011 by Azmina
This recipe uses canned green lentils as a speedy shortcut for a filling soup.
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
100 mls sieved tomatoes
Quarter of a pint vegetable stock, made using fresh vegetable stock, vegetable bullion or half a stock cube.
Half a can of green lentils, drained
Generous handful of coriander leaves and stems, chopped
- Heat a non-stick pan, spray on the oil and add the onions and garlic. Stir-fry for about 5-8 minutes till soft.
- Add the tomatoes, stock and lentils, and cook for a few minutes to heat through.
- Stir in the coriander and serve hot.
Lentils are a fantastic low GI carbohydrate. But getting the pressure cooker out to cook them isn’t always very enticing. Using canned lentils as in this recipe is healthy and less time-consuming. Add a drizzle of lemon juice or a few drops of chilli sauce if you want to give this dish some extra zing.
(c) The 10-day Gi Diet by Azmina Govindji & Nina Puddefoot, 2005
Published on the 2nd Jun, 2011 by Azmina
So, you’ve made the commitment to get fit and religiously go to the gym no matter what. Sometimes we forget the other part of the equation – the fuel that’s going to get you through the exercise.
Your body’s preferred source of energy is starchy carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and cereals. Even if you can’t stop for a proper meal there are quick and easy foods you could fill up on: a buttered granary roll, bean and couscous salad, packet of nuts and dried fruit, a banana or some ready-to-eat cereal with milk. If you need to graze throughout the day, pasta or rice salads, fruit breads or cereal bars are great choices to snack on. If you’re planning to go to the gym after work, you need to eat something starchy a couple of hours before you go for the best possible workout.
And after the gym, a glass of milk or some chocolate milkshake gives you a good combo of protein, carbs and fluid to refuel and rehydrate.
Published on the 31st May, 2011 by Azmina
How annoying is it when you go to the supermarket and can’t compare ‘like for like’ because of the way food is packaged? I wanted to buy tomatoes, I was in a hurry and I just wanted value for money. So I picked up a pack of 6 tomatoes, which cost 95p. Then I saw the loose tomatoes, which were being sold at £1.75 per kilo. How do I know which one is better value without calculating how many tomatoes you get in a kilo, or working out how much 6 loose tomatoes would cost me? It’s the same with apples.
But hats off to the supermarkets for having offers on fruit and veg almost every week.
Published on the 30th May, 2011 by Azmina
Just think about this… Your body has gone through an overnight fast and when you break that fast in the morning, you kick start your engine. This allows your brain to get its food for performance and if it doesn’t get this, it will have to find ways of getting it. So you sort of become more attracted to food; you are likely to feel hungry and be tempted to eat so that your blood glucose (sugar) and brain glucose, your brain’s performance fuel, go up quickly. It’s usually unhealthy high sugar foods that have the fastest effect on your blood glucose. (more…)
Published on the 30th May, 2011 by Azmina
- Semi-skimmed milk
- Fresh fruit
- Eggs (any, so long as they have the Lion quality brand)
- Vegetables, frozen or fresh
- High-fibre cereals e.g. granola (I mix it with some bran cereal & I don’t worry too much about sugar as it helps me have milk which I normally hate)
- Lower GI bread, e.g. granary or multi-grain
- Reduced fat humus (I use it for dips, on toast and on top of spray-fried egg!)
- Bulgur wheat (here’s a fab recipe)
- Canned beans (great for salads , speedy soups and instant curries)
Published on the 29th May, 2011 by Azmina
- Lacking in concentration? Try starting your day with a high bran cereal mixed with a handful of raisins. The B vitamins are crucial for transmitting nerve signals.
- Trans fats are often found in processed foods like take-aways, cakes, pies and biscuits. These act in your body just like saturated fats, which can raise your blood cholesterol and can clog your artery walls, making you more prone to heart problems.
- More than 70% of the salt you eat is added to your food by the manufacturer, often without you even knowing it. So worry less about salt you add at hoem and more about salt the food industry adds.
- Men – Watch that waist. Men typically carry more fat around their belly. Note that a waist measurement of more than 37 inches (and 36 inches for Asian men) increases your risk of heart disease. If your waist measurement is as high as 40 inches, it really is time to take some serious massive action.
- Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of the anti oxidant beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. This vitamin is essential for healthy skin and night vision.
- The GiP diet encourages a variety of foods from all the food groups. If followed, it should contain enough nutrients to meet your daily needs. However, dieters often prefer to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement as well. If you do so, ensure that you choose one that has no more than 100% recommended daily amount (RDA) of nutrients.
- The Inuit population has a high animal fat diet, yet they seem to be protected against heart disease. Their fat comes primarily from cold water of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Suffer from fatigue? This could be a sign of low iron levels. Look at labels and select those foods that have been enriched with the iron, like breakfast cereals. Red meat, dark poultry meat, dark green leafy vegetables and lentils, and dried apricots are all good iron providers.
- Kids behaving badly? Choosing healthy slow-release carbs in meals and snacks for children can help to improve their concentration as well as sustain steady energy levels.
- Losing your marbles? There is good research to show that as we get older, Omega 3 fats may play an important role in memory.
Published on the 30th Apr, 2011 by Azmina
You may not have tried bulgur wheat before but don’t judge this till you’ve had a go. It tastes nutty, it’s filling and you can throw in some leftovers if you want to make it more substantial. You just bung everything in the pot and leave it to cook for about 15 minutes.
50 g bulgur wheat
200 mgs vegetable stock (made with 200 mls of boiling water and half a stock cube)
Mug of frozen veg
Good pinch ground turmeric
3 whole black peppercorns
One cinnamon stick, broken
Good pinch garam masala (optional)
Quarter to a half-teaspoon hot red chilli powder, to taste
Handful of fresh mint or coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
Half fresh lime, cut into wedges
- Put everything into a pan.
- Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes till all the water is absorbed and the veg and wheat are cooked.
- Stir in the fresh herbs (if using) and drizzle with lemon juice.
Bulgur is whole grain, low GI and really filling. Add some chopped peppers and extra veg for even more nourishment.
(c) The 10-day Gi Diet by Azmina Govindji & Nina Puddefoot, 2005