The world of health and fitness is awash with myths to debunk, and one of the most frequent email questions I receive is about cutting foods; the sender has usually read somewhere that fat / carbs / protein are bad, and have therefore decided to leave them behind. This post is my first attempt at debunking some of those myths! I would never recommend cutting out any of the 3 macros, but to add weight to my view, I’m enlisting the help of a renowned specialist and friend, Leo Pemberton a BDA-registered practising Dietitian based in London’s Harley Street. He has worked within 3 large NHS trusts, several corporate healthcare providers, and has powered out 3 marathons (!). He operates at the top of his field, and is the right person to help lend some clarity to a dangerously confused topic, about which there’s a vast swathe of misinformation on the internet. Let’s set the record straight! (more…)
Easter has been and gone, and whilst I stayed on the straight and narrow, it was a tough old time! This recipe is inspired by my love of sweet things, and helped me keep control in the mornings, which kept me on track for the rest of the day. It’s naturally sweet (from berries, fruit and a sprinkling of cinnamon), has a low GI, healthy fats, plenty of protein, is filling, and is super-delicious. It takes hardly any time at all to make – 5 minutes tops, depending on how fastidious you want to be with your presentation! It serves as a great breakfast pot, dessert or indeed cheeky snack. My ‘recipe’ is by no means the final word; get creative, bring in colourful fruits to suit your emotions, and make your pot reflect your mood 😀 Click MORE for the ingredients list, and some more pics of my little compilation 🙂
I’ve been writing Fitness On Toast for a year now – it’s been huge fun, the response has surprised me enormously, and has taken me on some fabulous adventures! A big thank you to everyone who has supported the blog, for reading, for browsing aimlessly, for your lovely emails and heartening comments… I’d like to propose a toast to fitness; let’s make 2014 the healthiest year yet! Now I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, and a bit of a tipple is called for around this time of year, but to help you along, I’m reposting this “Alcohol vs Fitness” article I wrote at the start of 2013, as it’s totally relevant for this evening :D! HAPPY NEW YEAR xx (more…)
In this post I’ve attempted my very first YouTube video recipe! It’s on a healthy avocado snack-ette, the perfect dip for entertaining!
Avocado is packed with healthy fats and a good amount of dietary fiber too (27g per 100g). I often overhear someone at the gym discussing a wacky diet they’re trying out, whether it’s juicing for weeks, not eating for two days, or a trusty online purchase which ‘guarantees’ you’ll ‘lose over a stone in less than 4 weeks’… Often these ‘diets’ involve cutting out an entire food group, and any plan that claims this is a good idea sets alarm bells ringing for me! Often the food group they’ll cut is the much-demonised ‘fat’. Good fats work wonders for your skin, hair, training results and general well being. You don’t need to skip fat to lose weight – the body needs them for a range of functions;
1) Benefits of Fat:
– Growth, repair, and development of tissue, including muscle cells.
– Allows the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and without fats in the diet, you can become deficient in these (vits A,D,E,K)
– Provides energy, (1 gram of fat will provide 9 calories of energy)
– Cushions organs and insulates nerve cells
– Facilitates your body’s thermoregulation (temperature control)
2) Which types are good / bad?
– ‘Trans fatty acids’ (aka ‘trans fats’) are ones to avoid. They are not natural, but rather, are artificially produced through a process called ‘hydrogenation’, of converting liquid fat to solid fat. They’re often found in margarines, cakes, biscuits and junk food in general, and are proven to increase your risk of coronary heart disease.
– ‘Saturated fats’ can be found in animal produce – butter, cream, eggs, meat etc. They’re a good fat, however too much saturated fat can affect the body’s blood cholesterol levels, which over time can fur the arteries, leading to coronary heart disease. Once that happens, there’s little that can be done to reverse the effects, so it’s best to moderate saturated fat intake where possible.
– ‘Monounsaturated fat’ is a “good fat.” It can be found in olive oil, nuts, avocado and some seeds. It can lower your blood cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease.
– ‘Polyunsaturated fat’ is another good fat, and mainly derives from plants, vegetable oil, nuts and oily fish.
– ‘Essential Fatty Acids’, are ‘awesome fats’, being comprised of such health buzz-words as ‘Omega 3’ (found in foods like wild salmon, edamame, walnuts and flax seed), and ‘Omega 6’ (found in vegetable oil, black beans and wild rice).
With that in mind, watch this video to make my recipe Guacamole, with metabolism-boosting chilli, healthy avocado monounsaturated fats (+ omega 3 & 6), and vitamin C / antioxidant properties of Celery! Faya x
Many of my clients aren’t from the UK, and often ask me how to read the food labels here; it’s vitally important to understand the label in order to be in command of what you’re nourishing your body with. Even if you do understand it, far too few take the time to read and digest it – no pun intended! This post will set out some tips and tricks for staying on top of the label.
Questions I ask myself every time; is it high in fat? saturates? salt? carbs? sugar? Knowing the answers is essential to maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. The label should, at a minimum, list the information on energy – calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat and salt. Nutrition information is shown per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food. A good deal of supermarket products show a ‘traffic light colour coding’ system where red is a warning, and green is fine – but relying on these without further thought is lazy and won’t help awareness for the diet.
1) WHAT ARE THE GDA’s ???
Some product also list Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). The GDAs are based on UK government-set figures and are recommendations that give approximate amounts of certain nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. GDA’s don’t account for your size, age, lifestyle, activity levels etc, so take them with a pinch of salt (literally!). – FAT: Adult GDA is c. 70g, of which ‘saturates’ should be 20g (see ‘Ingredients’ below for more on this). Beware if the product has >20% fat, and I tend to think that <5% is truely ‘low fat’.
– SUGARS: Adult GDA is c. 90g. Sugars are carbs, so look for the ‘Carbohydrates (of which sugars)’ part on the label. You might see it as sucrose, fructose, maltose, honey, corn syrup or starch – but ultimately it’s still sugar. Aim for complex sugars, which are slow release, and sustain your blood sugar levels at a more constant rate through the day. Think whole grains, whole wheat, seeds, nuts and pulses. Too much simple sugar risks diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. – SALT: Adult GDA is c. 6g (one teaspoon!). Also labelled as sodium, it regulates nerves and the overall fluid balance in the body, but too much over time increases blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and/or stroke, plus it can make you look and feel bloated as it retains water. To cut down on salt when cooking use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, lemon zest or chili (will up your metabolism!) instead, to add flavour. Use low-salt stock. When buying tinned foods get them without the added salt or brine (e.g. tuna in spring water). Avoid microwaved ready meals, and if you must (for some inexplicable reason) get it with reduced salt. Keep an eye on sauces they’re are often high in sodium too. – CALORIES: Adult GDA is 2000 Kcal (calories) a day, though that will clearly vary hugely depending on gender, activity, metabolic levels etc. It’s a measure of energy contained within the food, so if you consume too much food-energy, you’ll store the excess as fat. Basic, but sometimes people forget this. Equally, if you have too little, you’ll lack the nutrients required to function properly! It’s about balance and control, which is the whole point of this post!
2) INGREDIENTS ???
– When reading the ingredients manifest, the nearer the beginning an ingredient is listed, the higher the content, e.g. if honey is the second thing listed on your granola bar, then that bar certainly contains a lot of sugar.
– Avoid transfats, they are usually fish or vegetable oils that have been artificially hardened by hydrogenation, they increase bad LDL cholesterol 🙂 and reduce good HDL cholesterol 🙁 which can contribute to stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and worse. You can usually find them in biscuits, cakes and pastries – so watch out for any oil that says ‘hydrogenated’ before it.
3) THE LAW ???
– All food products must legally be labelled and not be misleading – great in theory, but unfortunately it’s not like that in practise. You might fancy yourself for having an antioxidant boost when you drink a ‘blueberry milkshake’, but often it won’t contain blueberries – much like ‘cheese & onion crisps’ usually don’t contain onion.
– The word ‘light’ also has no legal definition, and simply means the product might be lighter than another product (which product that is we don’t know), whilst it might only refer to fat, alcohol, sugar or salt. Similarly, with ‘Low fat’, there’s no legal guideline around this, which makes it lazy and misleading to just ‘trust the claim’. Check it. Don’t let the food manufacturer insult your intelligence!
4) HOW TO COMPARE & CONTRAST !!!
– Deciding which product is healthier for you is very easy – don’t over-complicate it, and don’t be intimidated by the numbers.
– Whenever you look at two products, each will show a ‘Per 100g’ or ‘Per 100ml’ column – if you see that product A has 20g fat, that’s 20%. If you see that a similar product B has 10g fat, that’s 10%. If product A happens to weigh 200g, then you’re eating 40g fat out of your c. 70g GDA – that’s clearly way too much! Product B (also weighing 200g) would invariably be a better choice here at 20g fat. There are complexities around types of fat, amount of sugars (as discussed above) etc, but broadly, the process should be that simple.
I really hope this helps not only foreigners like myself, but also encourages more curiosity about what we’re putting in us (think ‘horse’ or ‘beef’). Worth checking the sell-by date too – the fresher the better!
1) IF YOU MUST… Clients often ask what the ‘healthiest’ alcoholic drink is… My view is that if you must drink, make it red wine as a glass or two a day has been shown to decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer (elevates good cholesterol, lowers the bad cholesterol, rich in polyphenol antioxidants for cell health). But the emphasis is on “one or two glasses, only”! If red wine isn’t your cup of tea (like me), a straight spirit (vodka, gin or scotch) is fine. Avoid mixing them with juice, tonic water, coke etc. as these mixers are bursting with simple sugars (which will be quickly metabolised into fat) and will only increase the calorie content of your night out!
2) CONSIDER THIS: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories, 1g of protein = 4 calories, 1g of carbs = 4 calories, 1g of alcohol = 7 calories. So Alcohol is nearly as calorific as fat but it only has ‘empty calories’ with no nutritional value, and will in fact speed up fat storage! For reference: a double Gin and Tonic = 175 calories (c. 10% of a girl’s daily calorie intake – alot for something that doesn’t fill you up!). Here are the scores…
– Single Gin and slimline tonic = 75 calories.
– Glass of Champagne = 91 calories
– Can of Stella Artois = 247 calories – Shot of straight Vodka = 55 calories
– A glass of Baileys = 133 calories
3) ALCOHOL’S EFFECTS ON MY TRAINING ? It can stop you reaching your goals by dampening performance, recovery and focus. Although it’s absorbed quickly, it metabolises slowly and can still affect the system up to 48hrs after consumption. It decreases strength, dehydrates (damaging to kidneys), exhausts the body (impairs liver function, as it metabolises alcohol at the expense of glycogen), disturbs sleep (crucial for muscle recovery), slows down reaction time, disrupts the body’s balance and co-ordination, impedes cardio exercise (raises blood pressure so the heart works harder to pump blood through the body) etc.
A typical night out will likely involve 3+ drinks and perhaps some cheesy chips as well. That could amount to 1250-1500 calories in itself, (>60% of your daily calorie allowance, on top of what you’ve already had that day). No wonder next day you’ll feel bloated and tired, so perhaps try to avoid the hangover fry-up – you don’t need the calories!!!