Cutting the salt at the WI Fair

Published on the 7th Apr, 2017 by Azmina

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

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

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Eat fat to get slim – really?

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”.

onion rings

Here are my top ten thoughts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Taking in more calories than your body needs will make you gain weight, regardless of where those calories come from.
  7. 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!).
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

10 things I learnt at the Sugar Summit 2015

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.

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Here are 10 summary tips from some of the lectures: (more…)

10 things I learnt about Sugar at the FENS Conference 2015

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…

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…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…)

Calories on the Menu – maximising accuracy

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.

Sunflower

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…)

Nutrition & Health Claims for Food Brands

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.

FDIN Daventry

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:

  1. 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.
  2. If the shopper buys something that doesn’t taste good, they’re unlikely to buy it again.
  3. Let’s get health on the shopping list! Manufacturers need to help people interpret labels and health info (cue the registered dietitian…).
  4. There are a number of issues consumers are concerned about – bone and health issues are amongst the big ones.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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”.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

FDIN tweets

 

10 ways to burn off calories

Published on the 30th Oct, 2012 by Azmina

  1. Ironing for half an hour can burn up to 150 calories.
  2. 30 minutes of vacuuming can shed up to 200 calories.
  3. 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!
  4. Using the stairs 10 times a day will see another 250 calories away, whilst toning the thighs and bottom.
  5. Check your room temperature. The green house effect is said to slow down the rate at which you burn calories.
  6. If gardening is your thing, 30 minutes can burn off around 150 calories.
  7. Cycling is a great incentive for burning calories and an hour on your bike can help you lose around 330.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Can’t get a seat on the train? Take heart – you burn more calories while standing!

Having a snack attack? Make sure you enjoy it…

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.

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10 things to do with fish

Published on the 31st Aug, 2011 by Azmina

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. (more…)

Ten Craving Curbers

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…)

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

Ten health boosters

Published on the 29th May, 2011 by Azmina

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Losing your marbles?  There is good research to show that as we get older, Omega 3 fats may play an important role in memory.