weight loss

Its not all about the calories

Today the headlines are about reducing calories in processed and takeaway foods, and encouraging people to choose the lower calorie options.

The report also states that women should not consume more than 2000 calories per day, however everyone is not equal and into todays more sedentary life styles, daily calorie requirement are actual lower for the majority of people.  Height and age also effect the calories required, for example Susan burned 2200 calories last Sunday, but that included a 10k run, compared to Thursday where the only exercise was a 2 mile dog walk and she burned 1600 calories, so without the exercise Susan’s daily calorie requirement would be much lower than the average quoted.  It’s not good to get too worried about daily calories but look at it on a weekly basis as quite often it will all balance out and stop any unhealthy relationships with food.

Every person has an individual daily requirement, your basic metabolic rate (BMR) this is the daily calories that your body requires to stay healthy and not lose weight assuming you didn’t leave your bed all day, however these calories should be nutritious and not empty calories.  Your  individual total calorie requirement will then be based on how active you are in the day, the more active the more calories you will require to stay at your current weight, if you are trying to lose weight lower your calorie requirement by 200/300 calories per day.  Apps such as fitbit or my fitness pal, allow you to calculate your BMR and then track your food intake to allow you to have a rough idea (they will not be scientifically accurate) of your calories in compared to your calorie out, tracking food over the course of a week is a good idea, it makes your more mindful of foods that you are eating and looks at the macro nutrients balance as well. The three macronutrients (Carbohydrates, protein and fat) all have their own specific roles and functions in the body, and all supply us with calories or energy. For this reason, the body requires these nutrients in relatively large amounts to grow, develop and continually thrive. Remember macro means large, though many diets the proportion is out we eat far higher carbohydrates and proteins than required and too little fats. Healthy fats are an essential part of our diets, good fats come from nuts and seeds and their oils and oily fish.

If you rely on processed meals, its important to not just go for the lowest calorie option, in the long run this may not be the best for your health.   For example a ham sandwich on white bread is 275 calories, this is processed meat, giving 42% of your daily sodium, 9% of fibre, 33% of your protein, wheres as a wholemeal chicken sandwich with lettuce is 328 calories per serving, however sodium is 6% of daily requirement, fibre 22% of daily requirement, 60% of daily protein, along side having a portion of salad and benefits of B vitamins in the bread a far better choice.



Prescription medication, vitamins, supplements and food.

When you take prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, do you take also a vitamin, mineral, or other dietary supplements? Have you considered whether there is any danger in mixing medications and dietary supplements?  It is  widely highlighted that grapefruit juice affects the way your medicines work, especially if you have high blood pressure or arrhythmia (irregular or abnormal heart beat).  It can effect other drugs a swell,  but the severity of the interaction can be different depending on the person, the drug, and the amount of grapefruit juice you drink.

Many drugs are broken down (metabolized) with the help of a vital enzyme called CYP3A4 in the small intestine. Grapefruit juice can block the action of CYP3A4, so instead of being metabolized, more of the drug enters the blood and stays in the body longer. The result: too much drug in your body.

There is now further research that shows that grapefruit juice can also have the opposite effect.  Fexofenadine an anti-histamine, instead of changing metabolism, grapefruit juice can affect proteins in the body known as drug transporters, which help move a drug into our cells for absorption. As a result, less of the drug enters the blood and the drug may not work as well.  Orange Juice and apple juice also have the same effect with this medication so its important to always read the leaflet that comes with your medication.

St. John’s wort can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, leading to breakthrough bleeding and an increased risk of unintended pregnancy. It also interacts with anti – depressants, statins, and many others.

Herbs that decrease blood sugar may interact with anti-diabetes drugs to cause blood sugar to drop too far.

Echinacea a popular supplement at this time of year, but there are many interactions, especially with medications that follow the CYP3A4 pathway since these all have  toxic effects on the liver.

There are lots of reports in news that as well as vitamin D being a common deficiency in the UK this is closely followed by magnesium, however magnesium tablets can interact with blood pressure tablets and antibiotics.

The list is not exhaustive,  before you take any medication either prescribed or over the counter , vitamins, supplement or herbs please check for any interactions.  Please also mention all medication, herbs, supplements and vitamins, to medical staff and your nutritionist.

© 2018 – Susan Monk BSc (Hons) Open,  MFNTP.




Meat Free Monday, veganary or just looking to reduce your meat consumption.

Many people are looking to reduce their meat consumption after the festive period, some are looking to become vegetarian or vegan for a month, some will follow meat free Monday for the whole year, whatever your reason there are lots and lots of tasty recipes easily available on the web for you to try.  For some they choose to ty meat substitutes or ready meals, but remember a highly processed diet is unhealthy in the long term it doesn’t matter if it comes with a ‘healthy’ label.

First thing most people find difficult when they swap to no meat is that there is no centrepiece to their meal, the meat was the focus, the whole meal is the focus with many vegetarian dishes, also many people are soon put off eating dishes with lots of vegetables since they find the preparation time consuming, if need by when changing your diet cheat, use ready made curry paste, ginger/ garlic purees and ready prepared vegetables.

Susan’s Meat Free Monday meal for her family today is River Cottage’s Fragrant Veg stoup served with brown basmati rice, it took about one hour to cut, chop and cook but the kitchen smells lovely.

For just the soup it comes in at around 340 calories per serving, this was made using full fat coconut milk so you can reduce the calories if you use a lower fat version.   It is high in saturated fat due to the coconut milk so not a meal to have every day.  The stoup provides 15% of your daily protein, 105% of your vitamin A, 10% of your potassium requirements, handy for those on diuretics that tend to be low in potassium due to the medication, low in carbohydrates 9%, high in fibre 26% of daily requirements  and 50% of your daily vitamin C, with 5% of your daily iron.

Add in 100g of cooked Basmati Rice – Basmati rice is lower GI than all other rices so better to help keep blood sugar levels stable.  Basmati has the highest content of all rice for amino acids and essential nutrients.

Percentage daily values are based on a 2000 Calorie per day diet.




Christmas Day Food

Nutrition experts reckon that the average food and drink intake on Christmas day could add up to a staggering 6,000 calories!  And whilst it’s true that much of this comes in the form of sugary desserts and snacks (mince pies, Christmas pudding…) and calorie-laden alcoholic drinks, there are also some seriously nutritious aspects too.

Most people eat excess over Christmas, we’ve all got our favourite must haves, if it’s only for a day or two, don’t worry.  I see so many people worrying how they are going to manage their diets. What can they eat to keep their calories down? Stress is just as bad on the body as poor food choices, if you want to have one or two days of less heathy food choices try not to worry, a walk after a meal will help to regulate the blood sugar, alternate your alcoholic drinks with a soft drink – preferably not high sugar fruit juice, water / fruit teas are the best alternative if you are drinking more alcohol/ coffee than usual since both these drinks are dehydrating. On your plate pile it high with veg, or use a smaller plate so you are having smaller amounts but not depriving yourself of any of the tasty treats.

Christmas day in Susan’s house is normally a late breakfast and then the main meal of the day sometime between 2 and 3, with sandwiches on offer at supper for the teenagers who are never full. Traditions play a big part in the Christmas food, but the meat of choice is chosen each year by a different person, so turkey is not a regular option, this year its a game roulade.

The breakfast which we have at every major celebration is eggs benedict – with salmon,  this is a good source of protein to start the day which helps keep you fuller for longer and stops you dipping into that box of chocolates. On Christmas day it is normally served with  a glass of orange juice (with perhaps some added fizz), the vitamin C in the orange juice helps the body absorb the iron.

Staying with tradition, the teenagers like the same starter every Christmas, so it’s prawn cocktail in Susan’s house.  Prawns are even lower in calories and fat than chicken yet with much more protein. As well as being high in protein, prawns contain magnesium, which plays a role in bone development and nerve and muscle function; Zinc, which is good for growing bodies, and selenium, an important antioxidant, add in some shredded lettuce for some extra goodness and wholemeal bread for fibre and B vitamins, quite a balanced starter.

On to the main event, by having roasted parsnips and potatoes, the fat content lowers the GI level and slows down the rate at which they raise blood sugar so while higher in calories, it can be beneficial to eat them roasted and limit your portion of starchy sugary veg.

Parsnips – Parsnips are rich in potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, folate and phosphorous. It is also an excellent source of fibre, as well as vitamins B, C, E and K,

Sprouts are a superfood and have many nutritional benefits so pile them on to your plate – This food is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate, Copper and Manganese. They also contain powerful glucosinolate phytonutrients, which support the body’s detoxification enzymes, helping to clear potentially carcinogenic substances from the body more quickly.

Broccoli – It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium.

Cauliflower –  Is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.

Turkey Breast – 

The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat. It is also a good source of Riboflavin and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium.

The bad: This food is high in Cholesterol, and very high in Sodium.

The dark meat normally has more calories and fat per 100g.

Nut roast – While normally higher in calories than a meat alternative, the calories are beneficial fats and they are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Since nut roasts vary considerably depending on ingredients, there will be good quality roasts with higher % of nuts and some that are more breadcrumb/ loaf than nuts.  A slice of a good quality nut roast will provide protein, good source of Vitamin A, C, E, copper, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium and thiamine.

Christmas pudding  – Topped with a dollop of brandy cream, these are not seen as healthy, but if you can find a pudding that is packed with fruit and nuts and less carbohydrate, limit the cream you can gets some benefit from the fruit and fibre in the pudding- lots of dried fruit is not recommended for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes due to the effect on blood sugar so  small portion of pudding only.


These can help head off high blood pressure, provide energy-boosting iron and are rich in protective antioxidants.


Like raisins, sultanas are dried grapes and share many of their health benefits including potassium and iron. Sultanas are a source of calcium, magnesium and manganese which strengthen bones and help head off osteoporosis


With four times the immune-boosting vitamin C of oranges, several studies suggest currants can help combat winter sniffles by inhibiting the flu virus, reducing inflammation in the airways and boosting levels of friendly gut bacteria that strengthen the immune system.











Flavonoids are one of my recommendations for many of my female clients to help with PMS symptoms, and while a deficiency in flavonoids does not cause any disease it does offer protection against inflammation and some degenerative diseases.
Recent research has shown some correlation between flavonoid intake and low incidence of dementia. Flavonoids were found to be involved in the reduction of oxidative stress through mechanisms regulated by the glyoxalase pathway, proving beneficial for many degenerative conditions and neurological conditions.
The flavonoid nutrient family is one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists. Over 6,000 unique flavonoids have been identified in research studies, and many of these flavonoids are found in plants that are routinely enjoyed in delicious cuisines throughout the world. In terms of nutrient richness, we get far more flavonoids from plant foods than from animal foods, and in particular, vegetables and fruits can be especially nutrient-rich in this type of phytonutrient.
Flavoinids may be broken down into 5 groups.
flavonols flavan-3-ols* flavones flavonones anthocyanidins
onions apples parsley oranges blueberries
apples bananas bell peppers grapefruit bananas
romaine lettuce blueberries celery lemons strawberries
tomatoes peaches apples tomatoes cherries
garbanzo beans pears oranges pears
almonds strawberries watermelon cabbage
turnip greens chili peppers cranberries
sweet potatoes cantaloupe plums
quinoa lettuce raspberries
garbanzo beans

Flavonoids  content in foods however are significantly reduced by storage and cooking. Onions can lose up to a quarter in the first two weeks of storage, and many are water soluble with 80% lost into the cooking water.

One of the best sources after purple fruit and berries is the pith in oranges, by drinking concentrated orange juice when the fruit is processed rather than squeezed you can obtain a  higher concentration of flavonoids than freshly squeezed juice.