school meal Educational

School Meals – ban desserts

School meals may ban desserts.  Scottish news yesterday reported that Dentists are calling for a ban on school desserts, to help reduce tooth decay.  At last! This is a matter close to my heart and something I’ve pushed for over a number of years.

About 6 years ago when my eldest child was in nursery they started to offer a starter instead of a dessert a couple of times a week, I remember the staff telling me that the children were asking for their dessert and staff had to explain they had a starter instead.  For me this just enforced how important this scheme was. Why are we conditioning children at such a young age to always expect a pudding after their main course – its just wrong and does not fit with our healthy eating messages.

Then a few years ago when I worked in Public Health in Leeds we piloted swapping the dessert for a starter on two days a week – following on from the good work some nurseries are setting up.  Unfortunately the scheme was not so popular with teachers and children, who preferred sponge and custard and the scheme was scrapped. Feeding obesity and tooth decay rather than improving it.  In Leeds we also have the worst dental decay in young children than the rest of the UK – so this scheme is very much needed.

School meals were first introduced as a two course meal, back in war times when it aimed to provide the majority of calories a child needed in one meal.  Now even with food poverty, we need to ensure children receive a nutrient dense meal and prevent empty calories and excess sugar.

I really hope this scheme is implemented and we can practice what we teach in healthy eating. I believe that a starter rather than a dessert 2-3 times a week would really help educate children about healthy eating, work towards reducing dental decay and obesity.

Read the BBC News report:

gut Nutrition

Gut Health

Gut health is becoming the most talked about area of nutrition at the moment.  Here is some information to get you up up to speed on gut microbiota.

Our digestive tracts are home to types of ‘living’ friendly bacteria and it is thought that these bacteria may play a part in our health and immune system as well as help reduce wind and bloating.

Its recommended to have a combination of prebiotics and probiotics in our diet – but what are they?

Prebiotics are the food ingredients which reach the large intestine unaffected by digestion and ‘feed’ the good bacteria in our gut, helping them to grow and flourish. It is not considered necessary to take a supplement of prebiotics – just include plenty of these foods in your diet; fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, wholewheat products, nuts and seeds.

Probiotics are types of ‘living’ bacteria similar to those which inhabit our digestive tract.  They are naturally found in cultured or fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, aged cheese, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso, tempeh and kombucha, a fermented tea drink. Probiotics help to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria in the intestines and support the immune system.  They are also thought to be useful for people suffering from bloating, gas or flatulence and may help restore good bacteria after a course of antibiotics.

Its important to include a wide variety of foods as different foods have different nutrient and antioxidant properties which are known to be beneficial for the body.  As well as the above the polyphenols (antioxidants) in fruits and vegetables are thought to be beneficial and the fatty acids in oily fish also have a role to play.

Exciting research is linking our gut microbiota with obesity, diabetes, and depression, highlighting a varied and balanced diet based around the Mediterranean diet may help to improve gut microbiota and reduce these disease symptoms.




Allergies and intolerances

This week I had the pleasure of attending the British Dietetic Association (BDA) event on allergies and intolerances.  the event was well attended and we heard from specialists in the area of food allergies, I was pleased to hear it reinforced that often young people do grow out of allergies and it is important for them to be re-tested and evaluated by a professional.

So how do they test?  Its important that people with allergies are tested correctly and and thoroughly and this would involve what is called a ‘skin pick test’. This means that particles of the foods are applied to the skin for a period of time and the bodies response recorded.  This would then be reinforced with a ‘food challenge’ this involved consuming some of the food, under professional supervision,  to monitor the bodies response.  It can be that the skin can react but the oral intake still be perfectly fine.

I was most interested in the talk around allergies and iodine deficiency as this is something which we are starting to hear more about in the nutrition world.  People who are excluding foods due to allergies or intolerances may be missing out on important nutrients in their diet.  People avoiding dairy may choose almond milk or soya coconut milk as an alternative and although these have been fortified with calcium and sometimes Vitamin D, Iodine is lacking and a standard milk would have provided this.  An iodine deficiency would be picked up in clinic once an inidvidual presents with a goitre, which is a growth on the neck.  This is something when I studied nutrition we only heard of in developing counties, but is now becomign more common in the UK.  If you are excluding diary in your diet, it is important to eat other iodine rich foods, such as white fish or eggs and to re-introduce dairy if and when possible to avoid long term deficiencies and seek advice from a fully qualified Registered Nutritionist

Allergies and intolerances

or Dietetian to ensure your diet is as balanced as possible.

So what does this all mean, the most important message is that you can not tell if you are allergic to a food through completing an online allergy testing kit, there is no point in sending a finger prick of blood or a strand of hair to clinic for testing.  Anyone with an allergy needs to seek medical advice and needs referring to an allergy specialist and seek advice from a qualified nutrition professional to ensure you are not excluding foods unnecessarily and are obtain all the essential nutrients your body required.


Fat balls

The new craze is not protein balls, but now fat balls, sometimes known as fat bombs.  And no I don’t mean for birds, these are the new craze in wellness circles.  The little balls are usually made from a mixture of butter, seeds, coconut oil and other oils.  The craze is hyped to be great if you’re following a low carbohydrate diet and is labelled as great for feeding the brain!

In reality these are highly calorific and although its true we do need some fat in our diet, healthy sources from ‘real’ foods such as oily fish, avocados and nuts and seeds are a much better source.  Including fat balls in your diet would mean you are including a highly calorific snack, which would not be recommended.

If you are trying to feed your brain, the brains actual preferred energy source is from carbohydrate and consuming healthy unrefined carbohydrates means we can also ensure we have a good fibre and b-vitamin intake too.  The brain also needs healthy PUFAs in the form of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, the best sources of these are from oily fish, eggs, avocados and nuts and seeds.

So, the best dietary advice would be to avoid highly calorific snacks, eat a wide variety of foods, including plenty of colourful vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds and don’t forget to drink plenty of water to keep the body and brain hydrated!

healthy eating tomato soup Nutrition

Tomato & quinoa soup

A tasty, healthy and filling soup recipe which makes a great warming lunch. 

Serves 6

  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tsp reduced-salt vegetable stock powder
  • 1.5tbsp thick balsamic vinegar
  • 3tbsp shredded fresh basil
  • 80g quinoa
  • 1tbsp shredded fresh mint
  • 1tbsp shredded fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 6 thin slices granary bread, toasted, to serve
  1. Put a large pan over a medium-high heat, then add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic and oregano. Mix the stock with 1ltr boiling water in a jug, then add to the pan along with the vinegar and half the basil. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 min until the soup thickens.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa in a medium pan according to the pack instructions. Drain.
  3. Take the soup off the heat and purée with a stick blender (or leave to cool slightly and whiz in a food processor). Stir the quinoa into the soup with most of the remaining basil, the mint and parsley.
  4. Garnish with the remaining basil and a grind of pepper, then serve with the toast.

Breakfast oat pancakes

A client recently shared their healthier breakfast pancake recipe with me this week and I thought I’d share for all to enjoy over the weekend!

Serves 2

100ml skimmed milk

1 tsp sugar

80g oats (blitzed to a power)

1 egg yolk

2 egg whites – whipped until fluffy

Banana mashed / fresh berries

Natural / Greek yoghurt



Blitz the oats until they resemble a powder.

Whip the two egg whites until thick and fluffy.

In a separate bowl combine the powdered oats with the remaining ingredients, fold in the egg whites.

Heat a large non-stick pan and mist with spray oil, add spoonfuls of the mixture to make small pancakes, turn halfway through cooking.

Serve topped with mashed banana or fresh berries such as raspberries and strawberries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.


sleep Nutrition

Food to Help a Good Night’s Sleep

We all know how important it is to have a good night’s sleep, to ensure we feel well and have a productive day.  However, research suggests that around a quarter of people report poor sleep.  Evidence shows that a lack of sleep has a negative effect on our body’s ability to regulate our appetite, meaning we overeat and often crave sugary foods to provide the energy that sleep should have restored.

So, how can our diet help us to sleep well?

  • Have a warm milky drink before bed, its something your Grandmother will have told you to do as a child, but there is scientific evidence to support this, milk is shown to help our muscles relax and thereby helps the body relax and get ready to sleep!
  • Have a couple of Brazil nuts, these are high in the nutrient Selenium, if we don’t have enough of this in our diet we can struggle to get to sleep. Three Brazil nuts is enough.
  • Have carbohydrates with your evening meal, evidence suggests that the serotonin released in the brain after consuming carbohydrates helps to calm the body.
  • Avoid sugary foods which cause spikes in our blood sugar throughout the day and makes us feel worse rather than better. Sugar contains no nutrients and nothing our body needs.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime, as a stimulant it might be nice to enjoy a morning cuppa or coffee, however avoid it after lunch and switch to water to hydrate. Even decaf varieties contain some caffeine (often around 12mg per mug) and can disrupt sleep in some people.  Remember cans of coke, energy drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine!
  • Reduce your alcohol intake, although it may help you feel sleepy, the effects are short lived and prevents the body from falling into a deeper sleep, meaning you will feel tired in the morning. It also provides empty calories and sugar and so is best limited to one small glass!
  • Finally, try and eat a healthy balanced diet overall, this will help you maintain a healthy weight, excess weight in itself can cause sleep problems. To get further advice seek support from an AfN Registered Nutritionist.


weight-loss Nutrition

Top tips for weight-loss

Whether you have a lot or a little to lose, its great to get some helpful tips:

  • Include protein at each meal, protein helps to keep us full for longer, which helps you stick to healthier choices throughout the day. Protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, lentils, milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives.
  • At meal times make sure half your plate is vegetables or salad, not only does that increase your intake of vital micronutrients and antioxidants it also reduces the calorie content of the meal!
  • Check your portion sizes, your hand is a great guide to your required portions – a fist is the size of your serving of potato, pasta or rice; palm of your hand is the protein; handful for a vegetable portion, try and include 2-3 at each meal. Also make sure your plate is not too large, a large plate means a bigger portion as we tend to eat what is in front of us.
  • Read the food label and avoid foods with added sugar, these increase your blood sugar levels and increase your sweet tooth and desire to eat more. If the nutrition information on the back of pack says more than 5g of sugar per 100g chances are its not a good option.
  • Drink enough fluid, we often mistake hunger for thirst, its important we drink enough to keep hydrated and help our brain function correctly.  Its recommended we have around 1.5-2lts a day and water is a good choice as its free from sugar and sweeteners.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep, adults need 7 – 9 hours sleep each night. A lack of sleep means the body cannot function optimally the next day and also increases our desire to eat energy dense and unhealthy foods.
  • Try and get in some activity each day, walk the children to school, take the stairs instead of the lift, have a lunchtime stroll.  Increased activity will boost your endorphins, the feel good chemical and help to burn a few extra calories.
  • Remember to lose weight sensibly, any diet which claims you will lose a stone in a week is not to be trusted. You should aim to lose a steady 1 – 2lbs per week by making small changes and improvements to your lifestyle habits, this will ensure your body does not feel deprived and make it easier to keep the weight off.
  • Visit NHS choices to find out if you are a healthy weight:

For more help contact Dr Lisa Gatenby for tailored advice to suit your lifestyle. /

healthy diet


immune boosting foods Home

Foods to boost your immune system

Its that time of year when everyone starts to pick up coughs and colds and feel under the weather.  Although colds are viral infections we can all benefit from including health boosting foods to help prevent catching the bugs! Here are my top tips:


Include plenty of vegetables into your daily diet, different coloured vegetables contain different nutrients and antioxidants, so try and vary your intake.  Try garlic, onions tomatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, spinach and cabbage.  You could make a quick tasty stir fry or a warming stew in the slow cooker.


Try a tasty vegetable soup for lunch, make your own or use a shop bought carton of fresh soups such as chicken and vegetables or spicy tomato.


Include some berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, fresh or frozen are both good, add them to your porridge or top your favourite Greek yoghurt with a generous handful.  Berries and other fruit such as kiwi and oranges have a high vitamin C and antioxidant content and help to boost our immunity.



Include some chillies in your diet, labelled as antibacterial, anti carcinogenic as well as high in antioxidants and flavinoids, these help add flavour and a touch of spice to warm you up.  As well as chillies its worth including garlic, ginger and spices to your weekly diet.


Make sure you stay hydrated, its recommended that we drink around 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. Water is a perfect drink as its contains no sugar or sweeteners.


Don’t drink too much coffee/tea or alcohol each day, too much, ie more than 4 cups of coffee/tea a day or more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day all adds extra strain on our bodies and therefore affects our immune system.


Be careful not to eat too much sugar, we should have no more than 30g of sugar a day, thats equivalent to 7 teaspoons.  When we consider sugar is added to many daily foods such as cereal, beans, bread as well as the more obvious cakes and biscuits its important we keep an eye on our intake to help our body function as well as possible.


Try and include some gut friendly foods, information is emerging which suggests if we look after our gut health by consuming a diet with a wide variety of different foods and some extra gut friendly foods such as Kefir, natural yoghurt and ferment foods such a Sauerkraut, this helps boost our gut health and immune function.

Finally make sure you get enough sleep, we can’t expect our bodies to work well and fight off all the winter bugs if we are not allowing ourselves enough time to rest and sleep. Try and relax in a bath or by listening to a favourite tune and make sure you get to bed at a reasonable time.  Most adults need between 7-9hours sleep each night to help brain and body function correctly and help improve our wellbeing.

For more advice and a nutritional consultation, get in touch, Dr Lisa Gatenby