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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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…)