Calories on menus

Calorie counting for customers – Do the numbers add up?!

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Steak and sweet potato wedges

Steak and sweet potato wedges

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales has called for calorie data to be included on menus in restaurants, café and pubs

But this is not a new initiative back in 2010 the then health secretary Andrew Lansley wanted information routinely displayed on menus, as a way to encourage people to choose healthier options – and help reduce the estimated £4.5bn annual cost to the NHS of treating patients with diet-related conditions.


It was a voluntary scheme and some food outlets did rise to the challenge; Wetherspoons, being one of them. All of their menus now display calorie information and sometimes it can be very enlightening!


Ned ludd bfastTheir full rack of pork ribs is over 2000 calories; a woman’s total calorie intake for the whole day. A tradional cooked breakfast has over 900 calories, but a carrot and coriander soup a mere 130, if you decide to have the Nachos as a starter I suggest you share them and halve the 1400 calories with someone else

The vegetarians amongst us fare rather better when calorie counting but be careful of those sides dishes, coleslaw 186, onion rings 285, garlic ciabatta 254 and a simple bowl of chips nearly 800 calories.


IMG_3932Will all this information put the customer off ordering as much food, will it make them order differently, will it make no difference, or could be done differently? For instance by using the existing traffic light system that we are seeing on labels in supermarkets, or maybe the amounts of salts fats and sugars for instance being represented in teaspoons rather than grams



I asked a women’s networking group (Aspiring Business Women) what they thought about additional information on menus; there responses are I think pretty indicative of most of us

calories on menus pdf

Whether we traffic light menus, give calorie information or just make them healthier in the first place something needs to be done to halt this obesity crisis.

I’ve said this a number of times now but we need to have a co-ordinated and consistent approach to healthy eating, with everybody taking some responsibility

Manufacturers need to produce healthier foods,


Councils need to consider the numbers of fast food outlets that are appearing on our high streets,


supermarkets should shop a full range of healthy products and have a similar amount of offers on fruit and veg as they do on crisps, cakes and sweets


Schools need to educate children about healthy lifestyles like cooking and exercise


and as consumers we need to understand what a healthy balance diet looks like, so we can make informed food choices


I’d love to hear your views on how we can all tackle this growing issue


review of the Station restaurant Long Eaton

Veg out review for the Nottingham Post

The Station Restaurant, Long Eaton

Was the restaurant on track with their veggie options?! 

IMG_3771I’d heard some good things about the Station, so I decided to spread my wings and take a trip into Long Eaton.

The restaurant is all exposed brick and railway memorabilia, which creates a nice relaxed atmosphere.



Our large group of ladies were all seated quickly and immediately supplied with menus and water for the table.

I’d phoned ahead to ask a few questions about the veggie options and was told that adaptations could be made on the day. Time to put that theory to the test

stationMy review is in todays Nottingham Post – its not too late to buy a copy





IMG_3782The menu had a pleasing amount of ‘V’ symbols, but anyone who knows me or who regularly reads my reviews will know a ‘V’ a is not always a guarantee that a dish is truly vegetarian. For my starter I could have soup, deep fried brie or goats cheese and beetroot tart. After confirmation that the cheeses were suitable for veggies I had a beetroot and goats cheese salad; a variation of the tart. It was very tasty and not too ‘goaty’, all coated in a very zingy dressing. Again, there were a couple of choices for mains; mushrooms in a filo basket and a spinach and cheddar tart. I opted for the tart, which came with possibly the bestchips I’ve had in a long time. They were chunky and crispy but with soft fluffy insides, and served in individual chip baskets. Bowls of freshly cooked seasonal vegetables were placed on the table for us all to help ourselves. We all managed to eat our 5-a-day that night. A fellow Vegetarian had the mushroom and filo basket and said it was very creamy, tasty and filling

IMG_0953My tart was a bit disappointing; the cheddar cheese was quite bland and there was no other flavour to complement the spinach. My meat eating companions were very pleased with their chicken wrapped in pancetta with mash potato

On the whole I was frustrated by the lack of variety on the menu. Out of the 5 vegetarian options one starter and two mains were pastry based; and three out of the five dishes were cheese based. Fine if you like cheese and pastry. I would like to have seen pulses or beans being used, as they are packed with protein and fibre. Even eggs, maybe as a vegetable packed Frittata would have been great with those chips


IMG_0954The portions were very generous so I passed on the pudding, but they looked good and some of my dining companions managed the Crème Brule, which I’m assured was delicious

I couldn’t end my meal with my much loved soya cappuccino – no soya milk and my second choice of earl grey tea wasIMG_3780 not available. So I had another glass of wine


Overall the meat eaters were entirely satisfied with their choice, the vegetarians slightly disappointed with the variety of options. But we all agreed that the chips were delicious and moreish.

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

Spinach and butter bean gnocchi

Spinach and butter bean gnocchi

Serves 3, 340 calories per serving

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

IMG_3874This is a great dish if you have some leftover tinned spinach from making your favourite curry, fresh is equally as good.  It is also really adaptable; so you can use your favourite beans like cannellini, borlotti, chick peas etc.  If you like it a bit spicier then add more chilli, pepper and paprika

The beans add some really good quality low fat protein, the spinach is a great source of fibre and vitamins – especially A,E and K,  Which makes it great for bone health

1 (75g) onion

½ fresh chilli

IMG_3868200g chopped spinach (fresh or tinned)

1 garlic clove

1 tsp olive oil

1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes

1 tin butter beans

50g pitted olives

1 tsp capers (optional)

½ tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

1 packet dried gnocchi

Splash of lemon juice

Handful of chopped mint



Fry the chopped onion gently in a pan with the olive oil for 5 minutes until it softens. Add the chilli and chopped garlic and cook for a few more minutes

IMG_3871Add the drained tinned spinach or the washed fresh spinach, tinned tomatoes and drained and rinsed butter beans and stir thoroughly. Cook on a medium heat until it all starts to bubble, reduce to a simmer and add in the chopped olives (I prefer the green ones), capers (if you are using them) and the paprika.


IMG_3869Have a taste and add a pinch of salt and plenty of pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly


In the meantime put a pan of water on to boil as soon at it starts bubbling tip in the gnocchi. It is ready when each one pops up to the surface. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and tip into the spinach sauce and stir to mix




Add a splash of lemon juice and a handful of chopped mint and serve into 3 bowls

The rise and rise of Diabetes!

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imagesThe rise and rise of Diabetes!

Diabetes has been in the news again, with headlines stating it costs the NHS nearly £10 billion a year (or 10% of the total NHS budget), with 80% of that being spent managing avoidable complications.  More than a third of adults in England are at the brink of developing type-2 diabetes.

A study, in the British Medical Journal, reports that there has been an “extremely rapid” rise in pre-diabetes since 2003; then 11.6% of adults surveyed had pre-diabetes, but the figures trebled to 35.3% by 2011.

diabetes graphIt predicts a surge in type-2 diabetes in the coming years, with consequences for life expectancy; between 5% and 10% of people with pre-diabetes go on to develop type-2 diabetes each year.

Pre-diabetes (also known as borderline diabetes) is where blood sugar levels are abnormally high, but lower than the threshold for diagnosing diabetes.


Should you be worried?

If you are overweight (use the BMI calculator to find out) or over 40, you should ask your GP for a test for Type 2 diabetes.

Did you know that if you are overweight, every kilogram you lose could reduce your risk byimages up to 15%?

You could start by taking the Diabetes Risk Score Test to calculate your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.  If the results concern you then consider visiting your GP and following the 10 tips below

Diabetes UK has said that ‘up to 80% of cases of type-2 diabetes could be avoided or delayed’ and risk can be reduced by up to 60% after making some basic lifestyle changes.

The statistic that should worry you is that 1 in 5 hospital patients has diabetes 

Top 10 tips to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes

  1. Read my 5 top tips for weight loss if you consider yourself to be overweight
  2. Eat regular healthy meals to keep your blood glucose levels stable.
  3. Include all the food groups every day,  fruits and veg, starchy carbohydrates (such

    as wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereal and pasta, oats, sweet potato or brown rice), dairy (such as milk (cows, goats, sheep or soya), yoghurt, cheese), and a small amount of protein (such as lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, lentils, quinoa and pulses).

  4. Choose low-GI snacks such as fruit, yoghurt, reduced fat cheese and wholegrain crackers or unsalted nuts. And limit sugar and sugary foods, sugary soft drinks, white bread, potatoes and white rice
  5. Limit unhealthy snacks that are high in salt, sugar or saturated fat – this is easier if you eat less processed foods and stick to fresh produce where you can.
  6. IMG_3596Watch your portion sizes. Eating smaller amounts at main meals and snacks will help with weight loss and improve blood glucose levels. Take a look at my article about portion control
  7. Stick to your recommended daily alcohol limit i.e.  2–3 units for women and 3–4 units for men. Drinking five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200 calories over a year, the equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts. The average wine drinker in England consumes around 2,000 calories from alcohol every month.
  8. Exercise burns calories, so try and be active for at least 30 minutes, five times a week
  9. If not now, when?Set yourself goals – mark your milestones and celebrate your successes.
  10. Most importantly, start today!

Minty watermelon smoothie

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Minty watermelon smoothie

Serves 1, 130 calories

IMG_3807I bought a whole watermelon last week and rather than watch it go off, I decided to cube it, place it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer.  So I thought frozen watermelon would make an ideal ingredient in a smoothie.  It would add coolness (no ice required) and watermelon has great levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids.  Lycopene (a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage) is especially useful for men of a certain age and can help promote a healthy prostate.  In fact watermelon has more lycopene than tomatoes.  So fellas make friends with watermelon!


IMG_3803100g  frozen watermelon

8 mint leaves

50g blueberries

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon porridge oats

200ml coconut water



Place all ingredients in a high speed blender, like a Nutribullet and blitz for 15-20 seconds

pour into a glass and serve

Adding coconut milk instead of the water would barely increase the calorie content , but would increase the calcium content and may make you feel fuller for longer

But for a really refreshing and thirst quenching smoothie stick with the coconut water

Obese Children – why the concern

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Obese Children – why the concern


A recent newspaper headline announced that the NHS was funding weekly weight loss classes for children between the ages of 18 moths and 4 years, who are overweight or at risk due to having obese parents.

This is not a unique approach; Last year a school in China placed 47 young overweight children into extra exercise classes


As many as a fifth of UK children are obese by the time they are 11



Photo courtesy of Carrie and family

Children who are a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn and are more self-confident. They are also less likely to have low self esteem or be bullied. And crucially they are much less likely to have health problems in later life.


Notts TV interviewed me for their 6.30 news show; this 30 second clip has me talking about children’s ability to learn and adapt.


But is it right that overweight toddlers are singled out?


I’m not sure it is. I spoke to a number of parents, NHS and Public Health staff on Facebook to get their opinion on this issue and most were not in favour of this approach. They IMG_3747thought the parents role was really important, supermarkets should take some responsibility and promote healthy eating for children, encourage children to be more active and put cookery back on the school curriculum,

This was a recent photo I took in a local supermarket; at least 5 full cages of chocolate and sugary treats.  All on offer and all placed near the entrance


The role of parents is crucial


  • IMG_3640Set a good example –
    • eat a wide variety of foods
    • eat lots of veggies
    • limit sugary foods
    • don’t smoke
    • spend time outdoors
    • play games
  • Set boundaries – around time spent on phone, tablets, in front of the TV etc
  • Prepare family meals – cook together
  • Eat as a family
  • Portion size appropriate meals
  • Water or milk should be the main drink consumed at meal times


It’s not just about food

Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they’re asleep. If they can walk on their own, they should be physically active every day for at least three hours a day – standing, walking, playing, skipping, hopping etc

Back in May Notts TV asked similar questions about children and weight issues; heres my response


Try leaving the pushchair at home and walk your child to the shops or play group. Reward good behaviour with outdoor games and activities.

So small changes to both your child’s diet and their activity levels could be all that’s needed to make them healthy and happy


If you are a parent or you work with children what are your views on this latest approach to tackling childhood obesity?

Spiced plum crunch

Spiced plum crunch – serves 2, 120 calories per serving

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

IMG_3701This is a very versatile dish and is a great way of using up a glut of plums.  If the plums are very ripe you could reduce the amount of sugar.  You can replace the plums with nectarines, peaches or fresh apricots. You will probably be able to reduce or omit the sugar altogether

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ½ a star anise
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large or 8 small (200g) plums, halved and stoned
  • 2 ginger nut biscuits


  • Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Mix the sugar with the water in a small baking dish, add the star anise, ginger then the plums, cut-side down. They should be packed in quite tightly. Bake for about 5 mins until the plums are starting to soften on the bottom, then turn them over. Bake for another 5 mins or until tender – this will depend on how ripe your fruit is


  • Roughly crush the ginger nuts and scatter over the softened plums. Return them to the oven for a few mins more until the topping turns a golden colour. remove the star anise




  • Serve the plums and their juices as they are or with a spoonful of live/soya yoghurt or protein packed Skyr



Portion control

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

Over 60% of the UK adult population is currently overweight or obese, and we all have a responsibility to reduce that statistic including fast food outlets, cafes and food manufacturers

IMG_2782Research has shown that when people are presented with larger portion sizes, they will eat more and most people underestimate how many calories they consume each day by as much as 25%.



imagesSince the 1980s, typical servings have increased dramatically: a bag of crisps has grown from 25g to 40g. ‘Big Eat’ bags have 50% more than standard bags – a bag of Walker’s crisps, for example, now contains 55g – that’s 290 calories and 18g of fat, compared to 130 cals and 8g of fat in 25g.


Soft drinks are still sold in 330ml cans (139 cals for a can of Coke), but 500ml bottles of are just as popular (210 cals in a bottle of Coke).

IMG_1082King-size and pocket pack chocolate bars are up to twice the size of regular bars – a Mars Big One has 100 calories more than a regular bar, while a King-Sized Snickers has 200 extra calories than the regular version.  There are now even 1 and a half bars of chocolate and Bounty bars are available in triple packs!

Double and triple burgers (with all the extras) are available from every burger chain. If you double-up your cheeseburger in McDonald’s, for example, you increase your calories from 300 to 440, and your fat intake from 11.5g to 23 g.  Pasta servings and nearly five times bigger than they were 20 years ago.

Ready meals have also ballooned over the past 15 years with products such as curry, cottage pies, pasta dishes and casseroles now weighing in at twice the size they were in the 1990’s.

You’re not even safe in the local coffee shop – Your morning caffeine fix in the 50s would be 45 calories. Nowadays, a 16oz takeout coffee with mocha syrup would be 350 calories.images

Even the standard dinner plate used in most restaurants has increased from 10 to 12 inches!

And how many times are you asked if you want to ‘go large’?


This is called portion distortion and it’s making us fat!
 The more we eat the more calories we consume

Are you shocked by this, did you have any idea that food portion sizes have been on the increase?

To put it in to context eating just 200 extra calories a day over a year can mean a weight gain of over a stone (6.3 Kg)

So what is a correct portion size?

  • A 75g serving of meat, poultry or fish is the same size as the palm of your hand
  • A medium potato is the same size as your computer mouse
  • Keep portions of cheese to 25g – around the same size as a matchbox
  • A medium piece of fruit is the same size as your fist
  • A serving of rice is half a teacup
  • A serving of vegetables is about 70g
  • A teaspoon of butter or margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb.

A useful guide is to use your hand as a visual template:

palmProtein like meat, fish, poultry, tofu lentils, eggs should be no bigger than the palm of your hand




Carbohydrates like bread rice pasta should fit into one cupped handcupped hand




cupped handsFruit and vegetables should fit in to two cupped hands




For more information about the increase in portion size please click on this link to the Food Standards Agency booklet

Chocolate and date chia pudding

Chocolate and date chia pudding

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

IMG_3686This dessert is so tasty and rich you will not believe it is also low in calories.  I made it with cacao powder; which is raw and much less processed than cocoa powder.  It is also bursting with antioxidants, fibre and magnesium.  I’d urge you to try it

(serves 3) 116 calories per serving (without toppings)


IMG_366030g chia seeds

250ml of coconut,  almond, hazelnut or oat milk

4 dates – with stones removed

1 tablespoon cacao or cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey



IMG_366715g cashew nuts (80 cals), hazelnuts (100 cals) or peanuts
 (80 cals) – dry toasted in a hot pan until they smell nice and nutty

1 tsp (10g) wholenut peanut butter (60 cals)– add at the time you put all the ingredients in to the blender

1 small banana (90 cals)- sliced

1 tbls (5g) toasted puffed rice

1 tbls (10g) rolled oats (40 cals)


  • Soak the chia seeds and dates in the milk for at least 4 hours or cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
  • Pour the soaked mixture to a blender (I find the Nutribullet works best) with the remaining pudding ingredients and blend until smooth and thick.  If you are using peanut butter add at this time too







  • Serve in a glass dish, layered with the toppings of your choice



5 top tips for weight loss

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website

Top 5 tipsI have previously published an article on the Nutritionist Resource website all about how to lose weight and keep it off.

Did you know that in England over 60% of adults are overweight or obese? If you fall into that category then why not try my simple tips to help with your weight-loss efforts.

Tip #1

Keep a food diary, many of us forget about the food we eat in the car, the latte we drink on the way to work or the children’s leftovers.  Why not download and print my example of a food diary so you can keep an accurate record and start to make some changes

Tip #2

IMG_3348Always eat breakfast – even if it is just yoghurt with some blueberries or strawberries.  This provides you with protein and vitamins that will fuel you until lunchtime, as well as counting towards one of your 5 a-day

Or delicious  scrambled eggs for those who have more time for a relaxed breakfast.  Protein is a great for making you feel nice and full and eggs are also packed with protein and a range of 18 vitamins and minerals.


Tip #3

imagesBe mindful, research has shown that not paying attention to our food makes us more prone to snacking later. So put down that phone, tablet, laptop and enjoy what you are eating; How does it look, taste, smell?



Tip #4

IMG_2782Practice portion control.  Did you know crisps use to be sold in 25g bags, now it ranges from 30g to 150g (for the large sharing bags). In Briton we polish off six billion packets of crisps a year or almost 100 packets per person, so over our lifetime thats lots of extra calories!

A recommended portion size of your favourite breakfast cereal is usually 30g.  Have you ever weighed out how much you eat.  Try this morning, you may be surprised just how much that is

Tip #5

IMG_3011If chocolate is your thing,  before you pop a piece in your mouth imagine what it smells like, think about the choclatey taste, how will it feel as it melts and coats your mouth.  Then pop that piece in.   Doing that simply exercise will make you eat less


Do you have a favourite weight loss tip?