Dolmio pasta sauce – what’s all the fuss about?

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.

Azmina ITV news Apr 2016 Dolmio

creamy pasta

My 5 Facts

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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….

 

The Government’s SACN Carbohydrate (& Sugar!) Report – are we demonising the wrong foods?

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….

www.dietitianslife.com

www.dietitianslife.com

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…)

Is this cookware ingenious?

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.

samosa mix

 

Verdict: It was easy to use, and nothing stuck to the bottom. (more…)

The National Sugar Debate – building a consensus amongst nutritionists

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.

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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…)

Is 7-a-day the new way?

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.

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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. 

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Do you throw away your five-a-day?

Published on the 25th Mar, 2014 by Azmina

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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?

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England’s low ‘Food IQ’ revealed in new research

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.

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Fat Tax – what do UK dietitians think?

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.

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Is it ok to snack?

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:

  1. Have healthy snacks accessible and get rid of those that don’t help you reach you healthy lifestyle goals.
  2. 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).
  3. 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!

Can Change4life supermarket vouchers really change lives?

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…)

Are you getting your whole grains?

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…)

What’s all the fuss about the Mediterranean diet?

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…)

Tomato frenzy

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.

My 10 shopping list essentials

Published on the 30th May, 2011 by Azmina

  1. Semi-skimmed milk
  2. Fresh fruit
  3. Eggs (any, so long as they have the Lion quality brand)
  4. Vegetables, frozen or fresh
  5. 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)
  6. Lower GI bread, e.g. granary or multi-grain
  7. Reduced fat humus (I use it for dips, on toast and on top of spray-fried egg!)
  8. Bulgur wheat (here’s a fab recipe)
  9. Canned beans (great for salads , speedy soups and instant curries)
  10. Pasta