Category Archives: Client Case Studies

How to go gluten-free without going broke!

I was working with a client recently, and her face dropped when her test results showed she would need to go gluten-free.

“But it’s so expensive to go gluten-free!” she cried.

And indeed, it can work out expensive.

Visit any supermarket and you’ll find a section dedicated to gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, biscuits, and cakes. Take a look at their price tags and you’ll likely need to take a lie down to recover from shock! Gluten-free bread is rarely less than £2 for a tiny loaf of miniature slices, while a 500g bag of gluten-free pasta also hovers around the £2 mark, and it’s hard to know which brands will turn to mush when you cook them. And don’t get me started on the lack of nutrients in most gluten-free products… it seems to be a case of remove the gluten, and replace it with a bunch of sugar and/or incredibly refined carbohydrates, add a handful of weird chemicals for flavour and texture, then stick on a huge price tag.

But is it really necessary to buy all your products from the gluten-free section of the supermarket?

I don’t think it is, and here are four of my favourite inexpensive purchases for going gluten-free without going broke:

1. Courgettes. Not the coolest of veggies, but grab a julienne peeler or a spiralizer and you can make your own nutrient dense noodles that will soak up a good bolognese sauce and add flavour to your meal. You can also use those gadgets to make noodles out of butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

2. Rice. For many people avoiding gluten, this is can be a staple go-to as it is naturally gluten-free and generally inexpensive. Some clients with a gluten intolerance will cross-react with rice, but if you’re ok with rice then always go for brown rice for extra nutrient density.

3. Lettuce. Again, not a particularly cool veggie, but makes a great alternative to bread or tortilla wraps. Stuff a large crisp lettuce leaf with whatever you fancy (burrito style) or layer with ham and roll together (like a savoury swiss-roll!)

4. Oats. Gluten free oats and gluten-free oat cakes are widely available, and make a great breakfast alternative to the high sugar gluten-free breakfast cereals and gluten-free biscuits found in the gluten-free section of the supermarket. Sadly, gluten-free oats are not suitable for all, so always check your test results before tucking in!

If you’re not sure whether you should be avoiding gluten, you can book an appointment with us to find out your food intolerances in just 60 minutes!

Kate

 

5 ways to slow down when you just don’t have time!

Yesterday morning, on my way into clinic, I witnessed a young lady in her mid-20’s being knocked off her feet by a cyclist. The cyclist hadn’t jumped a traffic light, nor was he cycling on the pavement. The lady, presumably on her way into work, was in such a rush that she chose not to wait for the lights to change at the junction and attempted to cross the busy road while the traffic was moving. A handful of city-workers helped her to her feet, the cyclist apologised, and everyone continued their morning rush.

The lady was fine, but as she dusted off her knees and continued on her journey, I wondered if it would change her approach to life. Would she take more time, be more mindful, and appreciate the now?

As I walked further up Bishopsgate towards Liverpool Street, I noticed just how many more people were in a hurry, rushing here, there, and everywhere. And it reminded me that I’ve been there. 10 years ago, that was me. Rushing into work an hour early, never taking lunch breaks, all in the hope of getting home on time. For me, it never worked. My days were just even longer, and I ended up in a state of burnout with a myriad of health issues and my work suffered because I was just too tired to do anything. And then I realised, I’m almost pushing myself back to that point again – I have two young children (one of whom has currently forgotten how to sleep!), I’m studying for my mid-year exams, I’m running two businesses and doing some mini-courses alongside them, and I’m not taking time for myself again.

With hindsight, I can see that rushing into work early and not taking breaks, is a recipe for disaster. But seeing that unfortunate lady get knocked off her feet, made me realise that whether we work in the City or not, we need to take the time to be mindful, slow down a little bit, take the time to appreciate good food and good company, do regular yoga and meditation, and preserve our wellbeing… but who has time for all of that AND their work?!

So here are 5 simple ways to slow down, in a busy world:

1. Shower in the dark

This is without a doubt, my favourite way to switch off and remove myself from stress.

2. Mindfulness Apps

Download one of the many available (I like Headspace, but there are many others) and take 10 minutes during your commute to listen to the guided meditation session.

3. Take regular short breaks

If you can’t manage a full hour for lunch, take a short 10 minute break every two hours. Go for a short walk, get some fresh air (and some vitamin D if the sun is shining!), do some deep breathing, perhaps a few yoga stretches if you can find somewhere to do them.

4. Eat well

Batch cook at the weekend – spend an hour making a huge pot of soup with vegetables, lentils, perhaps a little meat or fish. Then everyday, take at least 20 minutes away from whatever you are doing, and have a portion of that soup for lunch. So much more nourishing than a meal-deal grabbed from the shop and eaten at your desk while you catch up on emails. For evenings, make a stir-fry, or invest in a slow cooker so you can arrive home to a homecooked ready meal.

5. Cut the caffeine

If you’re using coffee or caffeinated drinks as a crutch to get you through the day, to get you going or to keep you going, then there’s a problem. Try switching to green tea (I love Pukka’s Green Tea with Matcha tea bags) which contains a lower amount of caffeine and an amino acid known as L-Theanine, which relaxes the nervous system and reduces anxiety.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas, and maybe the drive to make some changes to your life. And if you have any other ideas for slowing down in our busy world, I’d love to hear from you!

Kate x

References: Effects of L-Theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses

Nine things you probably haven’t tried for dealing with sleep deprivation

Happy new year everyone!

For the first time in 6 years, I stayed up last night to see in 2016 with my partner. Our children went to bed at 10pm (3 hours past their bedtime) so it seemed reasonable to assume they would sleep in this morning, and we could get away with staying up for a whole 3 hours past our bedtime too… Oh, what a mistake. They were up bright and early before 7am, which is almost an hour later than they would usually get up, but meant we had just 6 hours sleep. And for me, it was 6 hours of broken sleep, dealing with a sleep walking 3 year old at 4am AND at 6am…

For those who have never experienced it, let me tell you: sleep deprivation is not fun or good for your health.

I actually feel qualified to say that, after 6 years of restricted sleep, broken sleep, early mornings, and the odd night of no sleep thrown in for fun (clearly their fun, not mine!)

Short term (one or two sleep restricted nights) the effects include the obvious fatigue, brain fog, sugar cravings, and grumpiness, but repeat those sleep restrictions too frequently, and you’re left with raised cortisol levels (feeling “wired but tired”), insulin resistance, and a subsequent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Throw in a lowered libido, and things are really not looking too dreamy.

Long term (weeks, months, or even years of sleep restricted nights) the risks are far greater. We’re talking autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, and more. Then there’s the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s enough to give you insomnia just thinking about it!

But this blog isn’t about looking for your sympathy (though, feel free to offer it!)

I’m writing this because I know I’m not the only person with children who think sleep is for wimps, and even if you don’t have children, with modern lifestyles and high levels of stress for many there’s a high chance that you’re burning the candle at both ends too – the studies show that “work hard, play hard” isn’t a recipe for success anymore either.

So, if we can’t (or won’t) change our sleep habits, what can we do to lessen the effects on our wellbeing?

  1. Resist the temptation to use sugary foods, coffee, or any other caffeinated drinks to give you energy – the high will only be temporary, and you’ll end up craving more or, heaven forbid, feeling even worse than you did! Go for nutrient dense foods like nuts and seeds, and perk them up with a bit of Himalayan salt, or perhaps a few oatcakes with almond or peanut butter. Green tea is a good alternative to coffee with a lower caffeine content, or choose herbal teas (I love Pukka teabags).
  2. Spend one or two hours a week preparing huge batches of heart-warming soups or casseroles, then freeze them in individual portions. A homemade “ready-meal” is the perfect way to stop you eating your way through all the Nutella with a spoon because you’re just too tired to cook.
  3. Go to bed as early as possible! My children go to bed at 7pm, and are up by 6am everyday, without fail. My bedtime most nights is now somewhere between 9pm and 30pm. If I didn’t need to eat/run a business/research college assignments, I would be in bed at 7pm too!
  4. Grab a 15 minute power nap if you need it. For those with children, everyone who told you to “sleep when the baby sleeps” was right. Now, this only works if you have just one child at home, or no children. But yes, short naps have been proven to improve attention spans for the rest of the day.
  5. Download yourself a guided meditation app for your phone (Headspace is great for 10 minute sessions, and the first 10 sessions are free) and enjoy the benefits of switching off your brain while you listen. Studies show that meditation can improve insomnia, lower cortisol levels and improve overall quality of life. Try 10 minutes before your day begins (even if that is at 5am on the sofa while your little ones play with their toys, or 8.30am squashed on the central line with your nose in someone else’s armpit). If you like it, why not do it at the end of your day too?
  6. If you can’t handle meditation, then how about adult colouring-in books? Or painting with watercolours? If you have children, you can even colour in their books (if they’ll let you!) or play with their paints or their play dough. Again, 10 minutes at the start of your day can be very therapeutic, and incredibly beneficial to your wellbeing. Plus the kids will love you playing with them…
  7. If you’ve never tried it, then find a class near to you, and experience the health improvements that yoga can provide such as lowered anxiety and stress levels. Once you feel confident with a range of positions, you can practice in your own home and in your own time. Try to do an hour session at least once a week, if not twice a week.
  8. Find an exercise you enjoy, and spend time once or twice a week enjoying it. It could be walking, running, cross fit, swimming, exercise DVDs… whatever floats your boat. If you enjoy it, then do it. If you don’t, then stop. You don’t need more stress!
  9. When you feel like everything is on top of you, take time out to just stop and do some deep breathing. Take 10 deep breaths, and remind yourself that you’re only human/you only have one pair of hands/life happens, etc.

And of course, if children are the reason you’re sleep deprived, call in as many favours as you can to help you out. Family, friends, other parents… if someone offers to have your child for a few hours (and you know and trust them) then let them! And if they offer to do the night shift for you, then you can laugh hysterically at the state of them the next day (and then show them this blog post to help them cope!)

Love Kate x

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20054188 Influence of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance and insulin sensitivity in healthy women.
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19337560 Sleep restriction increases white blood cells, mainly neutrophil count, in young healthy men.
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664 A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects.
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17524614 The effects of 40 hours of total sleep deprivation on inflammatory markers in healthy young adults.
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14592192 Sleep duration and mortality: The effect of short or long sleep duration on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in working men and women.
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14975482 Effect of sleep loss on C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk.
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17431741 The relevance of sleep abnormalities to chronic inflammatory condition.
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22844441 Impact of five nights of sleep restriction on glucose metabolism, leptin and testosterone in young adult men.
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21162647 Sleep disturbances and inflammatory bowel disease: a potential trigger for disease flare?
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19240794 Sleep restriction increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by augmenting proinflammatory responses through IL-17 and CRP.
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26390335 The value of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of insomnia.
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14749092 Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16124661 Recuperative power of a short daytime nap with or without stage 2 sleep.
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22502620 The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress.

Five ways to be an unhealthy vegetarian

This post is dedicated to my parents, who reminded me this weekend of my dislike of vegetables as a teenager. I know you guys are reading this 🙂

Now, it wasn’t so much that I disliked vegetables as a teenager – it was more that I disliked the vegetables from my parent’s allotment that came with extra protein in the form of slugs, snails, caterpillars etc. I’ve had a phobia of slugs and snails since I was young, and will go to great lengths to avoid touching them – I’ve even been known to cross a road if there are too many on the pavement! And when you have a phobia like that, it can be pretty difficult to still eat that pile of broccoli and cabbage that may or may not have been nibbled before reaching your plate!

But moving on…

In my early 20’s I went through a spate of health issues and, having consulted the “health” pages in several glossy magazines, I decided I would cut out meat and fish and follow a vegetarian lifestyle. But after just six months my health issues had worsened. I felt dreadful, and my skin looked terrible. I’d gained weight and had no energy. I was “clinically infertile” according to my GP. And I had no idea why – surely being vegetarian should have made me healthier?

Years later, while training as a nutritionist (and no longer a vegetarian) I slowly realised the mistakes I’d made, and why they had caused me so many issues.

1. Too many refined carbohydrates
A typical day for me would have involved a bowl of cereal or a sachet of porridge for breakfast, a white bread sandwich for lunch, and pasta or pizza in the evening. It was all refined carbohydrates, and they were giving me blood sugar imbalances on a daily basis. I had mood swings, acne, and afternoon slumps in energy. Not only that, but the gluten found in wheat, oats, rye and barley is known to increase inflammation – did I mention I was trying to improve my health? I was really not helping myself at all. I should have stuck to complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, brown rice pasta, quinoa, rye bread, and oat cakes which would have regulated my blood sugar levels.

2. High dairy intake
Cheese. I ate so much cheese while I was playing at being a vegetarian. Brie, stilton, cheddar, parmesan… I certainly wasn’t fussy about which type of cheese. I had milk with my cereal, and got into drinking milky teas and coffees too. Somehow I ignored the nausea in the pit of my stomach, the sinus congestion and the headaches, and the weight gain.
Avoid making the same mistake I did and keep high fat dairy products such as cheese to a minimum. If you want to move away from cows milk, then choose almond or coconut milk alternatives.

3. Inappropriate protein choices
I can’t digest eggs, which are one the of the better protein sources for vegetarians, so I didn’t eat them at all whilst vegetarian. I also didn’t eat many legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, or beans. Instead, I ate soya products – tofu, tempeh, soya mince, soya cheese and so on, on a daily basis. Soya products are often cited as the cause of hormonal imbalances, and while I can’t prove it, I suspect this was the source of my fertility issues.
I also discovered quinoa – we all know that is marketed as a high protein vegetarian food right? I didn’t like the taste but believed the hype surrounding it and ate it daily – what I didn’t realise is that quinoa is actually not that rich in protein. Yes, it’s true – look here!  Quinoa is really just a carbohydrate with a little bit of protein (21g carbs and 4g protein, per 100g quinoa!) and my high intake wasn’t doing me any favours.
Better protein choices would have been nuts, seeds, eggs, protein powders (I personally like Pulsin Hemp protein powder), lentils and other legumes. And don’t believe the quinoa propaganda.

4. Too many raw vegetables
Whilst vegetarian, I ate a disturbingly low number of cooked vegetables. Plenty of fruit and salad leaves, maybe a few raw peppers, but very few cooked vegetables. In those six months, I probably cooked and ate one courgette, one head of broccoli, a few carrots, and my entire body weight in jacket potatoes!! Aside from the mental “extra protein” scarring from those allotment vegetables, my main issue was that I just didn’t know how to cook many vegetables so I stuck to salad leaves as they were easy (open bag, rinse, place on plate). Salad leaves, and raw vegetables in general are of course incredibly good for us, but research shows that cooking vegetables releases nutrients locked away in the cell walls, such as lycopene from tomatoes – known for it’s anti-cancer properties. And there I was missing out on these for the majority of my meals.
These days, a three tier vegetable steamer saucepan is my most used kitchen gadget. It’s an absolute essential as you can steam just about any vegetable and retain most of it’s nutrients in just a few minutes (and with minimal cooking skills!)

5. No omega 3
You’ve probably heard of omega 3 supplements, and you may know it’s found in oily fish – I think that is well drummed into our heads these days. Nuts and seeds are another source of omega 3, particularly walnuts, linseeds/flaxseeds, and chia seeds. I don’t recall whether chia seeds existed in the UK 15 years ago, but I was terrified of eating nuts and seeds in case they made me gain weight, so I probably wouldn’t have eaten them anyway. And I definitely wasn’t eating fish, so omega 3 was not something I was getting through my diet.
Omega 3 is vital to our health – it reduces inflammation, reduces the risk of chronic inflammation related diseases, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you want to supplement with a non-fish oil based supplement, you could try Viridian Organic Golden Flax Seed Oil (1 teaspoon per day) – try adding it to smoothies or drizzled over salad.

Kate x