Breaking the bad food rut

*Originally posted on The Food Project/No Food limits blog in November 2016*

The easiest way to break bad food habits is to keep a log of what you eat every day. Human beings, especially nowadays, have extremely short memories.

We have our suspicions that it is due to technology – text neck anyone.

But with our lives becoming increasingly busier with working longer hours and trying to stretch between families, friends, hobbies etc., the endlessly balancing of the work-life ‘quality time’ blend, has never been more difficult.

So what about our nutrition? Who really has time to think about that?

The truth is our nutrition is so far down our daily priority list, it is easy to forget. Or perhaps a life change as occurred and you cannot be as diligent with your eating plan as you once were.

If you find yourself in a bad food habit rut, and it happens to us all, don’t disappear, which is always our first reaction – there is a way back.

Normally we get into bad food habits after a life change or a combination of events such as after having a baby, shift work or working long hours in general; bereavement and so on, the list is endless.  A very quick trick is to keep a log of what you eat and that way you can adjust it accordingly. Again with everything else happening in life, how are you to remember what you have eaten during the day, if you have eaten at all.

This is also a good point to note, nutrition is about eating correctly for you, but it is also about eating. If you find yourself hardly eating during the day, this is just as bad as having a quick chocolate bar to get through the next few hours, for example.

Keeping a log does help you get back on track and it can help with things like, for example, if a colleague brings cake into the office (or Krispy Kremes – we love Krispy Kremes). Check your book. If you have been good then why not have some cake, if you have had a chocolate croissant for breakfast, then perhaps not. Remember that good nutrition is all about knowing your body and your metabolism as well as your trigger foods. What works for some, may not work for you so this is important to think about. For example, the No Food Limits founder drinks skimmed milk instead of semi-skinned milk otherwise she is looking at an increase in a stone in weight.

Yes we know skimmed is only coloured water, but it was either that or buy a new wardrobe. Um, shoes… anyway…

From a health perspective, while skimmed milk is the healthier option, over time the lack of lactose and calcium could affect your bones, so if you also are a skimmed milk drinker, ensure that you make up for this in other areas, if you cannot drink the tastier milk. High calcium foods include dark leafy greens, cheese, low-fat yogurt, bok choy, fortified tofu, okra, broccoli, green beans, almonds, and fish canned with their bones.

For alternatives to milk, there is rice milk which is said to be the most allergy-friendly of the non-dairy milks, almond milk, soy milk and so on.

For your log book, it can be fun to use something quirky, however we do not recommend using a Lego notebook as your log as it will encourage people to pick it up and read it. This is fine if you are alright with that, but if you prefer to keep your calorie log personal then don’t draw attention to it.

We learnt the hard way.

What to do when you have a germ carrier in the family

*Originally posted on The Food Project/No Food Limits blog in December 2016*

Warning, this is a rather long article. Grab a drink and a comfortable chair!

A typical Monday, not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting the beginning of the week to start and hearing the wonderful words from Jack “I think I have a cold coming”.

Jack, my other half, is one of the reasons why my immune system takes a beating every now and then.

Jack is a carrier. Where he gets a few sniffles, I get a variation of the black death. It seems that our little Monster also shares my invulnerability, and for the last week we have both been fighting off a fever, congestion, aches and pains, chills, dizziness and more while Jack blew his nose once and just carried on.

I have now decreed that Jack is to move out of the house for 3-5 days if I hear the words “I think I am coming down with a cold,” or something similar again. Where he moves to, I really don’t care!

So back to Monday, my train was delayed, again, and my Bluetooth headset decided to remind me after every verse of the music I was listening to that its battery was low which was really getting on my last nerve.

As I had not had much sleep due to poor Monster up most of the night coughing, spluttering and I don’t want to mention what else (Monsters always want their mums when they are ill), I had spent what little sleep I managed to get on the futon cuddled up with my ill child. So it was inevitable that I was going to get ill. Sure enough I did.

This has been the second illness in the last two months, and it really has to stop. There has clearly been a knock to my immune system.

Monster is nearly eight months old, and one thing I quickly noticed following the birth is that my immune system was not as strong as it was before and during the pregnancy. One thing I should have done was continue to take my pregnancy tablets as they contain vitamins C and D (which you need to break down vitamin C) and of course folic acid. I still take my once a day Spatone iron supplements but clearly that is not enough. So off to Holland and Barrett I went.

I decided to purchase the Vitabiotics Immunace Tablets.

Below is the product information for each tablet. Unless you know what you are looking for, this information is not very useful, so please find below some explanations as to what each vitamin, mineral and amino acid means.

With the explanation of the amino acid the other explanations have been sourced from NHS Choices.

Vitamin A (800mcg) – This helps the immune system, vision in dim light, keeping skin and the linings of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy. It can be found in cheese, eggs, oily fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yoghurt.

Vitamin D (10mcg) – This is needed to break down Vitamin C, so if you are taking vitamin C, make sure you take D as well. We also gain our vitamin D from sunlight. The following foods contain Vitamin D: oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, cheese, fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin E (40mg) – You should be able to get all of the Vitamin E you need from your normal daily diet. It can be found in nuts, seeds and wheat germ which can be found in most cereals, or cereal based products.

Vitamin C (150mg) – the popular one that most will turn to when they are feeling under the weather. It is important to realise that Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so 40mg needs to be in everyone’s daily eating plan. Vitamin C is found in the following: oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (18mg) – Like many of the other B vitamins, Thiamin helps keep the nervous system healthy and works alongside the other B vitamins to ensure this happens as well as to help break down and release energy from food. Foods rich in Thiamin are: vegetables – such as peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, wholegrain breads, some fortified breakfast cereals and liver.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (6mg) – As above, Riboflavin also deals with keeping the skin and eyes healthy. Food and drink rich in Riboflavin are: milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and rice. Bear in mind that UV light can destroy riboflavin, so ideally these foods should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) (27mg) – Good sources of niacin include: meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs and milk.

Vitamin B6 (10mg) – This allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food, it also helps to form haemoglobin – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, such as: pork, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), fish, bread, whole cereals – such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk, potatoes and some fortified breakfast cereals.

Folic Acid (500mcg) – Most will think of pregnancy when they hear this vitamin. Folic acid, known as folate in its natural form, works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells and helps to reduce the risk of central nervous system defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies. It can be found in: broccoli, brussels sprouts, liver, spinach, asparagus, peas, chickpeas and fortified breakfast cereals.

I will say at this point, I ate a lot of spinach during my pregnancy and my Monster may have been small in size when born, but the force they could put behind a kick left me battered and bruised for days. Monster has kept the strength and the muscles. Spinach is awesome.

Vitamin B12 (14mcg) – This is important when taking high amounts of folic acid as it makes red blood cells and keeps the nervous system healthy, it also releases energy from the food we eat and it processes the folic acid. Good sources include: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals.

Pantothenic Acid (20mg) – this helps release energy from the food we eat and can be found in virtually all meat and vegetable foods, including: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, broccoli, wholegrains – such as brown rice and wholemeal bread.

Vitamin K (70mcg) – Vitamin K has several important functions a main one is that it is needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds to heal properly – this is the reason why babies are injected with it at birth. A woman cannot produce it from her milk so formula fed babies have the advantage here as it is in formula milk. There’s some evidence that vitamin K is also needed to help keep bones healthy. Good sources of vitamin K can be found in green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach, vegetable oils and cereal grains.

Betacarotene (3mg) – This gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour. It also turns into vitamin A once in the body, so it can perform the same functions in the body as vitamin A. Good sources of betacarotene include yellow and green (leafy) vegetables – such as spinach, carrots and red peppers, yellow fruit – such as mango, melon and apricots.

Iron (8mg) – this is an essential mineral, with several important roles in the body i.e. it helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Good sources of iron: liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit – such as dried apricots, wholegrains – such as brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, soybean flour, most dark-green leafy vegetables – such as watercress and curly kale.

Magnesium (50mg) – This is a mineral that, among other things helps turn the food we eat into energy, helps to make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones that are important for bone health, work normally. Good sources of magnesium include: green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, nuts, brown rice, bread (especially wholegrain), fish, meat and dairy foods.

Zinc (15mg) – This is a trace element that helps to make new cells and enzymes helps us process carbohydrate, fat and protein in food and helps with the healing of wounds. Zinc is found widely in the environment but good food sources of zinc include: meat, shellfish, dairy foods (such as cheese), bread and cereal products (such as wheat germ).

Iodine (200mcg) – This helps to make the thyroid hormones to keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy. Iodine is a trace element found in seawater, rocks and some types of soil. Good food sources include sea fish and shellfish. Iodine can also be found in plant foods, such as cereals and grains, but the levels vary, depending on the amount of iodine in the soil where the plants are grown.

Copper (0.5mg) – This is a trace element that has several important functions, some of which is to help produce red and white blood cells, and trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin – the substance that carries oxygen around the body is thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and strong bones. Good sources of copper include: nuts, shellfish and offal.

Manganese (4mg) – This is a trace element that helps make and activate some of the enzymes in the body. Good sources of manganese include: tea, bread, nuts, cereals and green vegetables (such as peas and runner beans).

Selenium (Yeast Free) (180mcg) – Anyone remember Evolution the film? Well not only does this get rid of pesky aliens but also Selenium is a trace element that plays an important role in our immune system’s function and in reproduction. It also helps to prevent damage to cells and tissues. Selenium is found widely in the environment. Good food sources include: brazil nuts, fish, meat and eggs.

Chromium (100mcg) – Chromium is a trace element thought to influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.

Good sources of chromium. Chromium is found widely in the environment, in air, water and soil, and in plants and animals. Good food sources of chromium include: meat, wholegrains (such as wholemeal bread and whole oats), lentils, broccoli, potatoes and spices.

Cystine (40mg) – Cysteine is an amino acid, a building block of proteins that are used throughout the body. When taken as a supplement, it is usually in the form of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC)

L-Carnitine (30mg) – Carnitine is an amino acid derivative and nutrient involved in lipid metabolism in mammals and other eukaryotes.

Bioflavonoids (30mg) – Bioflavonoids are a group of naturally occurring plant compounds, which act primarily as plant pigments and antioxidants. They exhibit a host of biological activities, most notably for their powerful antioxidant properties. Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and many vegetables, are also excellent sources of bioflavonoids.

For more information on the quantities a human needs per day as well as the differences between minerals and vitamins please visit the No Food Limits website.

Given that several of the nutrients listed above contain milk or some form of diary, I was then of the mind that perhaps my years of drinking just skimmed milk may mean I am lacking something. Therefore I propose to not only take the vitamins above, but also look into other ways to bridge the potential lactose lack.

Some further information regarding the Immune System

The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. One of the important cells involved are white blood cells, also called leukocytes, which come in two basic types that combine to seek out and destroy disease-causing organisms or substances.

The folks at Harvard Medical School state that to maintain a healthy immune system you must do the following:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  • Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.

You can still do all of the above and get ill, it is inevitable in life like taxes, and the government, but by following a healthy eating plan and looking after yourself, you may be able to avoid getting ill too often.

Find nutrition mind boggling? Why not take a short online course about it.

*Originally posted on The Food Project/No Food Limits blog in 2016*

Let’s face it, nutrition is not the most exhilarating of subjects, but having a good knowledge on the subject, as well as knowing what works for you, could save your life one day.

Keep in mind that good nutrition is different for everyone, and when you have found it, it can help with improved lifestyle, productivity, stabilise energy levels and ward off illnesses. One of our campaigners believes that a change in nutrition helped naturally remove two small tumours they had.

For the general public the main risks are of course high cholesterol, Type II diabetes which is caused by a high or unbalanced sugar intake, and heart health which is also linked to, but not limited to, cholesterol and fat clogging arteries. Obviously, some diseases and illnesses just happen, and there are many different variances to what has been listed above, but we are noting avoidable risks here. Identifying other more inborn risks will be covered separately.

While taking a course on nutrition may not be at the top of your list, it is worth thinking about. If you search on the likes of Groupon, you can find many discounted online short courses, or if you have access to Bounty (the mother and baby newsletters and offers), you can find heavily discounted online courses.

Although we completely understand that trying to do a course with little humans around is like trying to herd cats with a bucket of water. 

Recently we have seen the increase in banners advertising online learning either on billboards or online widgets. One that comes to mind is the current OU advertising one trains and at train stations. As follows:

If you’re standing here [arrow] you could be studying here. Search OU commute 

They also have an advert for if you are sitting on a train – though for some franchises several commuters often stand, but download a course and it could help pass the time as well as engage the brain further which may, as a result, help kick start your day. And if this occurs  pre-coffee even better.

At this point, we will say that we will never blame anyone for going into a coffee shop first thing in the morning, they are everywhere and they know their audience – bless those clever Baristas. Also one of our campaigners has a coffee addiction, to the point their nearly left their job in the city and started up their own coffee shop!

So where are some good places to study?

The British Nutrition Foundation have some good online courses, and they are aimed at those who are not qualified nor have any experience in nutritional science. One of our campaigners is on the BNF panel so they get to sample their text regularly and find that their work is both insightful and very easy to read. Please click here to see some of their courses.

There are some great courses with Shaw Academy particularly if you want to focus on key areas and not do one big qualification, such as personal nutrition (which could be the answer if you are having issues with portion control), weight loss, sports nutrition and the general principles which give further information on what causes low energy, irregular blood pressure, maintaining cholesterol levels and so on.

One of our campaigners has studied with the Shaw Academy so if you want any further information contact us via the main website.

Our website will continue to progress, and if you have any suggestions or core subjects that you think would be beneficial please let us know. We are also on the lookout affiliates also, so please get in contact if you would like to join with us.

Why earworms are nothing to Moana about!

Music is a massive part of my life, to the point where I wrote an article many years ago about how Apple saved commuters lives. Many will agree that music is a key stress relief, it promotes motivation, it gives us a place to forget our troubles, for a few minutes anyway. It can not only make us happy, but move us to tears. It is a very powerful media and it goes without saying, it is a very lucrative business.

However, there will be times where we listen to a song, and then spend hours, days, even weeks, trying to get the song out of our heads.
The film Easy A is a prime example of this where Natascha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” becomes the catchy tune to the main character Olive. She says at the beginning of the film, “eaaghhh…worst song ever…” and then listens to it nonstop for the next few scenes. By the end of the film she has the tune as a ringtone on her mobile phone.

The reason for this post, is because I have also experienced a recent earworm, that I cannot shake.

One of the benefits of having a toddler (some may also see this as not much of a benefit), is that you can watch as many children’s films as you like. Disney, DreamWorks and other children’s entertainment producers are known for subtly embedding phrases and topics into the films for the benefits of the parents, so they can also enjoy the films. Overall, while I laugh in the right places, I have never really needed the adult titbits to enjoy these films. If you appreciate them, then watch them, you don’t have to be a child.

My earworm (or brainworm if one prefers), comes from the film Moana. A very well crafted and delightfully entertaining flick, with very catchy songs.

The two main songs that I cannot get out of my head are “I Am Moana” and “You’re Welcome”. Dwayne Johnson really brings that song to life.
It has got to the point where I have been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify to try and get the tunes out of my head as I find myself randomly singing them. This is perhaps not an ideal situation to be in, when your colleague is trying to get their head down, devise complex techie equations for an important project, and then I belt out “I am Moana”, (not very well I might add).
Aside from listening to the song as a remedy, there are few other popular ways that can help remove the ‘sticky’ tune out of your head:

  • Chew gum
  • Solve word puzzles or maths problems (tech work doesn’t seem to work)
  • A spoonful of vinegar (it works for hiccups)
  • Find a distraction
  • Listen to your favourite song in the hope that it might override the current one.

Or you could just do what I did with Gnomeo and Juliet, and watch it continuously until the novelty has worn off.

Phrases used to describe an earworm include “musical imagery repetition”, “involuntary musical imagery”, and “stuck song syndrome. It is no surprise given that you can see 99% of individuals on public transport listening to music, the studies relating to earworms have increased, so there are plenty of text online if you want to read up on the science behind them.

Alternatively, if you want to join the Moana movement, you can find the soundtrack in the usual places, and I do highly recommend watching the film, especially if you are like me (and Moana), and the water calls you. Hmmm, perhaps that is the connection.