Spaghetti with lentil pasta sauce

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Spaghetti with lentil pasta sauce – Serves 4

This dish is packed with good stuff – low fat protein, vitamin A and  B complex, fibre, low releasing carbs and calcium to name but a few.  if you want to further cut the carbs and increase the fibre and vitamins then substitute the wholewheat spaghetti for Sweet potato spaghetti made on a spiraliser or ribbon sweat potato using a potato peeler


1 tbsp olive oil

IMG_19141 onion, finely chopped or ½ a leek

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 red pepper, chopped

250g of dried red lentils

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puréelentils

2 tsp each dried mixed herbs

1 bay leaf

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

500 ml vegetable stock

500g  wholemeal spaghetti,

Vegetarian or vegan hard cheese, grated to serve


IMG_3853Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery, pepper and garlic. Cook on a low heat for 15-20 mins until all the veg are soft. Stir in the lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, mixed herbs, chilli flakes, bayleaf and stock. Simmer for 40-50 mins until the lentils are tender and break apart – Add some water to the pan if the sauce gets too dry. Season with S&P.





Keep on a low heat while you cook the spaghetti, following pack instructions, or blanch the sweet potato spaghetti in hot water for 2-3 spiraliserminutes. Drain well, divide between two pasta bowls, spoon sauce over the top and add a small amount of grated cheese.images






So which do you prefer wholewheat pasta spaghetti or sweet potato spaghetti?!! 


The 80/20 rule of healthy eating

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imagesVery few things in life are perfect and the same can be true of your diet.  Its hard to not look at the delicious cakes at the coffee shop and then ask only for a black coffee, when you really want that lovely cake as well.  This is where the 80/20 rule comes in.  We never do 100% of things 100% perfectly , so why do we expect to eat perfectly all of the time.  It places an unrealistic expectation on us. If you want to lose weight and keep it off then give then 80/20 rule a go.

It’s the perfect way to eat

For 80% of the time eat a healthy balanced diet and 20% of the time have some well deserved treats.  It’s that simple!

How it works

Over a week you will probably eat 3 meals and 2 snacks every day, that’s 35 different times every week you have to make food choices.

So 80% of the time (or 28 times during the week) make good healthy choices; for instance:

  • Eat lots of fruit and veg in a rainbow of coloursfruit-and-veg-225x300
  • Drink 8 glasses of water
  • Eat good quality protein like quinoa, eggs, Quorn, tofu, oily fish (salmon and mackerel) and chicken
  • Eat more wholemeal grains like wholemeal pasta, bread and rice
  • Incorporate more beans and lentils into your cooking – for low fat and high protein nutrition
  • Eat nutrient rich fats like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil
  • have plenty of calcium rich diary
  • Cut down on alcohol 

  • Snack on nuts and dried fruit
  • Reduce your portion size

dark chocolateAbout 20% of the time (or 7 times during the week) relax a bit and have a few treats.  That’s the time to really enjoy a glass of wine, a packet of crisps, a biscuit or two, a square of dark chocolate, a latte or a piece of cake.  But eat that treat Mindfully, which means really savour and appreciate that treat and most of all ENJOY it and don’t feel GUILTY.

A healthy balanced diet can accommodate treats but like many things (and I’ve talked about this before) it’s all about moderation!

This handout may help you to apply moderation with your diet

The 80-20 rule

Try to follow these guidelines at least 80 % of the time for                                           a healthy lifestyle change.

The Crimson Tree, Sherwood

Veg out review – the Crimson Tree, Sherwood

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IMG_6411Recently I took a trip back to Sherwood, my old stomping ground to experience the food at the newly re-located Crimson Tree on Mansfield Road. A while ago they took over the old cookery school on the corner of Mansfield Road and Burlington Road and have extended their range, opening times and capacity


The night I visited was tapas night, which is usually good news for a vegetarian because who doesn’t love patatas bravas? The menu has some family favourites including hummus, bread and olives and some interesting newbies such as warm figs with blue cheese and almonds

Nottm Post reviewMy review can also be seen at online Nottingham Post Crimson Tree  and will be in the paper tomorrow

Food aside the décor is absolutely amazing; lots of flickering candles and chandeliers, warm colours on the walls, rustic and mismatched furniture which combine to create a lovely relaxed atmosphere.


CT NPUpdate: catch my review  in today’s Nottingham Post (22nd June), along with the new 200degree coffee shop




Veggie plate

I went with a group of women friends and as we all like different things so it made sense to order the sharing platters and to add some extra dishes. The food arrived on wooden boards and both the vegetarian and seafood platters looked really interesting and appetising.

Sorry their isn’t a picture of the complete veggie platter; it looked so good we dived right in before I could take a picture!


But on my veggie board was cheese stuffed sweet peppers, mixed olives, falafels, halloumi, parsnip crisps, hummus and tzatziki. All served with some soft white bread. There was such a variety of tastes and textures that was really pleasing. And a really nice touch was a scattering of very peppery watercress. We also ordered Spanakopita (filo pastry, cheese and spinach). It’s hard to say what my favourite dish was because they all worked so well together, but I especially loved the crunchy falafals. A friend thought the spanakopita was by far the best dish


Seafood platter

The seafood platter for the fish eaters was equally well received. It included smoked salmon, marinated crayfish, garlic & chilli king prawns, hot smoked mackerel and marinated boquerones (anchovies apparently!) The platter also contained some tasty veggie accompaniments like the piquant pickled fennel, small gherkins and capers. They would have worked equally well on the veggie platter and if I go again I would ask for them to be added.


One of our group is diary and egg intolerant and the staff were very good at making sure she was aware of all the food that was ok for her. Major brownie points for them on that score.



The dessert menu was a big too ‘cakey’ for us, so we opted for pots of tea instead





IMG_6423Overall I would definitely recommend the Crimson Tree for a vegetarian night out, but I have a few suggestions; I’d like to see a salad or two on the menu just to increase the veggie uptake, it would also be nice to have more artisan type bread like a good robust rye bread or zingy sourdough. The staff need to be a bit more attentive and organised and I would appreciate a bit more variety on the dessert menu


I know its early days for the revamped Crimson Tree so I expect these little issues will soon be ironed out. That aside it is a relaxed and convivial place to eat, chat and laugh.

Freekeh salad


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Freekeh (pronounced “free-kah”) is a tasty roasted grain that is a great alternative to rice, couscous, cracked wheat etc.  It has a lovely nutty, chewy texture and has up to 3 times the amount of fibre and protein as brown rice! Which all helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.  It can easily be substituted in your favourite tabbouleh recipe and is available from most supermarkets.  So try it today, you may like it!

Freekeh (Green wheat) salad , Serves: 2, 235 calories

300ml vegetable stock (made with ½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder or ½ a veggie stock cube)

70g Freekeh (green wheat)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼  teaspoon soy sauce or ¼ tsp wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 large tomatoes, diced

¼ cucumber, diced

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, grated

15g each of fresh parsley and mint, chopped


IMG_1201Put the freekeh and stock in a pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. If all the stock hasn’t been absorbed turn the heat up to high and stir until it has evaporated. Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce or mustard, lemon juice, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, carrots, parsley and mint. Stir in the cooled freekeh.

Non fast day additions

To make it more substantial add either tinned beans,  an avocado, 200g cooked diced chicken, steamed salmon or quorn

Calories per serving with ½ a tin of chickpeas = 305

Calories per serving with ½ an avocado = 325IMG_1205

Calories per serving with chicken = 305

Calories per serving with salmon = 325

Calories per serving with quorn= 290



I encourage you to check out freekeh, and let me know what you think!

Are vegetarians less likely to get diabetes?

Is there a link with vegetarianism and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes?

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We are coming to the end of Diabetes week, so I thought we should end on a potential high note.

“How becoming a vegetarian can CURE type 2 diabetes: Plant-based diets improve blood sugar levels” scientists claim


IMG_0848Now as a life long vegetarian and strong believer in the benefits of a plant based diet I would love this headline to be true.  So is it?

Well, to a degree; according to the NHS; in their recent article  they state being veggie could have ‘slight benefits in diabetes’.  The study, on which the headline was based found a vegetarian diet led to a quite modest fall in only one measure of blood glucose called HbA1C.

Diabetes UK also believe there is merit in going veggie.  They say “These foods are higher in fibre, antioxidants, folate and phytochemicals, which are all good for our general health”


gym and foodBeing vegetarian or a part time veggie, if you follow the ‘meat free Monday’ campaign has long been associated with better health, including

  • living longer
  • a reduced risk of heart disease and bowl cancer – due to the lack of red meat
  • a reduced risk of obesity  – because vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat eaters.  And as over half the UK adult population is overweight or obese this is something we should all take seriously.
  • And now we can add a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes


If you decide to try being veggie, how do you start?




Obviously it means cutting out meat and fish, but protein is a valuable part of a healthy balanced diet and should therefore be included.  Here are some tasty protein rich alternatives



IMG_6235Tinned beans and lentils – from a simple hummus to a shepherds pie made with lentils

Quinoa – use in place of cous cous for a protein rich salad

Eggs –  in a simple frittata , or cracked into spiced up peppers and tomatoes

Cheese – use small amounts (28g) grated over roasted veg or a baked sweet potato

IMG_6263Quorn – a quick veggie sausage casserole using tinned beans and tomatoes and as much spice as you can handle, or a Quorn mince spag bol using courgetti

IMG_1826Nuts and seeds – great in muesli, for slow releasing energy, or in a pesto dish

Tofu – a natural low cholesterol ingredient that is a perfect match for a stir fry with cashew nuts

Peas – these are bursting with protein, so enjoy a pea and mint soup, pea risotto or have a plateful with your main meal


Click here for more of my simple but delicious recipes

I would love to hear about your favourite veggie recipe

Sweet potato noodles with kale

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It’s the start of Diabetes week, and what better way to raise awareness of the condition than by creating a diabetic friendly dish.  This recipe is oozing with slow releasing low GI ingredients, that will keep your blood sugar levels nice and stable.  The portion size is also not too large

Serves one

spiraliased* 100g spiralised sweet potato

1 tsp oil

30g washed torn kale

½ a tin of drained borlotti beans (other beans can also be used such as chickpeas, cannellini, butterbeans etc)

save the liquid from the beans

1 clove of garlic ,crushed or chopped

a few chilli flakes – depending on how hot you like it


1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

few leaves of chopped parsley or mint


spiraliasedIn a large frying pan heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the sweet potato, and move them around to stop them becoming too brown.

After 1 minute add all the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and herbs

Press the beans with a back of a spoon of fork to break them down slightly. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the kale is soft.

If the mixture sticks or gets too dry add some of the bean liquid to make a bit of a sauce


Taste and season with lots of ground black pepper





Serve in a bowl and scatter over the seeds and herbs





* If you haven’t got a spiraliser you can buy veggies already spiralised in many supermarkets.  Or you can use a speed peeler and make sweet potato ribbons instead

Caffeine and kids

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energy drinksDo you know how much caffeine your children are consuming, do you think its something you should be checking or do you not know what all the fuss is about?

It’s recently hit the headlines that teenagers are consuming large amounts of energy drinks to get them through their exams. The NASUWT, the teachers union is calling for the Government  to commission independent research into energy drink use and the long-term effects on health.



news 1


In adults excess caffeine can lead to a caffeine habit and dependency, but experts are not sure what it will do to children in the long term.  But they worry that it may affect their behaviour.


During a normal day your child may consume more caffeine than you think

a can of 500ml energy drink 160g

a can of cola has around 40mg of caffeine

a cup of tea  – upto 80mg

a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg,

a mug of filter coffee has around 140mg

small bar of milk chocolate – 25mg

painkillers and cold and flu medications generally contain between 50 and 120mg

The guidelines for adult daily consumption of caffeine is clear

  • Pregnant women – 200mg
  • Everyone else – 400mg

But it is less clear for children.  When researching this article I found guidelines that said 100mg is a safe limit and another that 3mg per kilo of body weight is.  Therefore a 50kg child should consume a maximum of 150mg.  Based on either of those guidelines if your child has one energy drink they could be exceeding that safe limit



This week I was contacted by Gem106, radio to talk about this issue.  Here are two very brief news clips (20 seconds each)


“So what”, you might be thinking.  Well, an excess of caffeine in children could lead to

  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • palpitations
  • energy ‘crash’
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased bone loss – especially worrying for teenage girls
  • poor sleep

Many of the energy drinks come in 500ml cans, so a child is consuming large amounts of caffeine in one go.  They are often high in sugar also.  Monster contains nearly 14 teaspoons of sugar.  This high level may condition a child to crave sweet things, and could lead to an increase in weight

At a time when many children need to be at the top of their game, caffeine can sabotage all their hard work.  In small amounts caffeine can enhance mood and brain function, but so can natural foods

Whats the alternative?

first of all stay hydrated – water and milk are healthy options, weak green tea can also boost concentration

snack on nuts, dried fruits and seeds – they contain a mix of serotonin (mood IMG_2578enhancer), antioxidants (boosting the immune system), dopamine (a brain chemical involved in increasing motivation and concentration), zinc (to boost brain function) and omega 3 fatty acids (help the brains ability to think and process). Muesli is a great option as it also contains oats, which are great for heart health and delivering energy slowly (so no ‘crashes’)

yoghurt and fresh fruit  – the vitamin C helps to improve mental agility, high in fibre (helps to sustain a regular level of energy) ripe bananas also contain dopamine

peanut butter and rice cakes – contain B vitamins (good for memory and concentration) and fibre

IMG_6060veggie sticks with hummus  – packed with antioxidants, protein and fibre

Eggs  and avocado on wholemeal toast – full of good fats, antioxidants, protein,vitamins, especially vitamin E


The Foods Standards Agency confirms that drinks that contain caffeine from whatever source at a level over 150mg per litre (mg/l) must state: ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’. Supermarkets including Asda and Tesco  state they do not sell energy drinks to youngsters and ask for proof of age.

So do you think its about time national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children are introduced?


Pappardelle pesto pasta

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At just 237 calories a portion this is a great dish to have on your 5:2 fast regime, or if you’d like to get more greens into your diet.  For those not on the 5:2 it is a really nutritious and 14281445-largequick dish to cook for the family.  The watercress is packed with Vitamins A, C & E, which can all help fight cell damage and improve skin health. The hazelnuts contain the good monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E and lots of antioxidants all good for heart health, cell regeneration and mental alertness .  Although the nuts are high in calories they will also make you feel fuller for longer

And if you are gluten free, follow the alternative recipe for the pasta and use courgette ribbons


Pappardelle pesto pasta – serves 3, 237 calories per serving

IMG_2765150g dried pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta (wholemeal if possible).  An alternative would be to use 150gs ribbons of  raw courgette (made using a speed peeler)

85g bag watercress

large handful of basil and mint leaves

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

few flakes of dried chilli or ½ fresh chilli chopped (more if you like it spicy)

25g soft goats cheese* – crumbled.  To make this dish vegan friendly substitute tofu instead

25g toasted hazelnuts, brazil, pine nuts or walnuts

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

 Always check the cheese packaging to make sure it is suitable for vegetarians i.e. it contains no animal rennet

Cook the pasta following pack instructions, or blanch the courgette ribbons in boiling water for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, put the watercress, herbs, chilli and garlic in a food processor and blend for a few seconds until finely chopped. Add the cheese (or tofu), half the nuts, the olive oil and lemon juice . Season well with ground black pepper and blend until it is a purée consistency.

Pappardelle pastaWhen the pasta (or courgette ribbons) is cooked, drain, keeping a cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan and pour in the pesto, using as much of the saved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Stir everything together and divide between 3 bowls. To serve, top with the remaining nuts and extra cheese if desired (although this hadn’t been included in the 237 calorie count).


If there’s only two of you or just you, the other portions can be cooled and then kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.  The dish is just as tasty eaten cold the next day for a quick lunch.  Add ½ a tin of beans such as butter beans for a more substantial evening meal

Childhood obesity

Obesity and children – should we be concerned?

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As a nutrition coach I have noticed that sugar smart 4more of my clients are concerned about the weight issues affecting their whole family, including the children.  It seems that some parents are really worried and don’t know what to do.


The first ever UK awareness week focusing on child obesity issues takes place this week, 4-10 July 2016.  National Childhood Obesity Week

The issue of obese children has also come to the attention of Notts TV.  They came to interview me last year.  Here’s a short clip of the interview that was later aired on ‘The 6.30 show’


So why do we have this potential epidemic? 

I don’t believe there is one simple issue or factor, I think it is a combination of the following (and probably more):



  • Lack of knowledge and education about healthy eating.
  • The availability of food (on the way to school, at school, after school, at the weekend, in the cinema etc),
  • Too much sugary and processed food
  • Lack of exercise and activity
  • Overweight parent(s)



If you have concerns about your child’s weight what should you do?

  • First get their BMI etc confirmed by your GP or from the National Childs Measurement Programme data
  • Get support from the GP or a support group
  • images5Look at portion control
  • Encourage your child, tell them they are great, boost their confidence
  • Don’t make it all about weight loss
  • Find fun family things to do that encourage activity (and burns calories)
  • Get cooking together, include more veggies and fruit
  • Make sure they are well hydrated as thirst is often mistaken for hunger.  Water or milk is the preferred drink
  • susan posterGet some cookery advice – as a trained chef I can help you gain back your cooking confidence with my vegetarian and vegan cookery classes.  These take place during the day (although early evening sessions could be a possibility)
  • Exercise can be as important as diet.  To lose weight effectively and to maintain a healthy weight it is always best to both eat sensibly and to exercise regularly.


Phone to book your place 07946 301338

  • The Governments recommends  that children and young people aged 5-18 need to do:
    • At least 60 minutes  of physical activity every day, such as cycling and playground activities and fast running and tennis.
    • On three days a week, these activities should involve muscle and bone strengthening activities like push-ups, skipping or running.
  • Get some healthy eating advice; that could be from the school, the GP or a nutrition coach like me. I have recently been talking about this very subject on Notts TV so please Contact me on 07946 301338 for a free consultation.

 In the end we all have a responsibility

  • Children need to learn about the relationship between ‘food in and calories out’ as soon as they go to school – through education at school, after schools clubs and in the home
  • IMG_0848Parents need to set a good example, eat together around a table, prepare home cooked meals and practice portion control
  • Restaurants and food outlets need to offer healthy unprocessed children’s meals that are the right portion size for their smaller appetites
  • Supermarkets and manufacturers need to take their responsibility seriously and reduce the amount of sugar, salt and chemicals etc in food.  And offer appropriate portions
  • IMG_2408Restaurants, supermarkets and food outlets could display their nutritional and calorie data on the produce so customers can make informed choices wherever food is available.
  • Government bodies need to continue getting the message out there about calories, portion control, high sugar, physical activities etc
  • GPs need to be proactive and ask to see children of overweight parents, because there is an increased likelihood is that the child is also overweight.  Statistics show that overweight children more often than not become overweight adults.  They are then at a higher risk of developing diabetes, cardio vascular disease and some cancers
  • IMG_1326Healthy eating needs to be widely promoted in supermarkets, rather than the high sugar high, fat foods that we often see in prominence

If you are unsure where to start to make a healthy change for your family, have a look at some of my previous blog posts where you will find guidance, advice and healthy eating recipes


For Fat’s sake!

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IMG_6167Fat has been in the media recently; more precisely the row between Public Health England (PHE) and the National Obesity Forum (NOF) as to what foods should form part of a healthy balanced diet.  This is an important issue because more than half of all Britons are overweight or obese.

PHE believe “We are eating too many calories – if we want to tackle obesity people do need to eat fewer calories and that means less fat and less sugar.” So far so expected! But then NOF weighed in with “eating fat could help cut obesity and type 2 diabetes.” Not so expected

Where do you sit in this debate for or against fat?!

Let me tell you what I think, I’ve been working with clients for a long time and the consistent message I give to anyone seeking a healthy or healthier lifestyle is MODERATION.  It’s boring, it’s not sexy and its not headline grabbing. But, it does work.  

IMG_5896Our bodies are designed to eat a diverse range of foods, however some people for a number of reasons chose to exclude certain foods; I’m vegetarian for instance and coeliacs for medical reasons avoid gluten. But even within those constraints a healthy balance diet should be achieved and that means eating a wide variety of permitted foods, including fat.

Problems often occur within our diets when moderation and balance isn’t observed, for instance the over consumption one food type such as refined or simple carbs like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice (especially white versions) and sugars.

More than half of all Britons are overweight or obese. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Does this look familiar?

Sugary cereal or white toast with jam for breakfast or grab a sausage roll  and syrupy coffee on the way to work; a biscuit or two for a mid-morning snack; a sandwich from the local deli for lunch on the go (accompanied by a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar); a piece of cake for a mid afternoon pick-me-up; homemade pasta dish with garlic bread for your evening meal followed by a little sweet treat

IMG_4640There will be elements of good nutrition within this diet; milk in the cereal and the coffee, salad in the sandwich, maybe some veggies and protein in the pasta dish.  But it is rich with refined and processed food and therefore out of balance.

And most certainly it will be oozing Fat.  Now according to NOF Fat is not the enemy and in that I agree.  However the fat in the above foods will predominately be highly refined (hydrogenated or trans fat). And that is where the problem lies.  Both sides in this row are actually saying a lot of similar things, limiting the amount of fat from highly processed foods is one of them.

I would suggest you regularly eat foods such as unsalted nuts, avocados, eggs, olive and nut oils, full fat diary, lean protein.  These are all deemed high in fat but in Moderation they should form part of a healthy balanced diet.  It’s about portion control!

Making slight adjustments to your diet now can have a big impact.  ‘One You’ , a new campaign believes that living healthily in midlife can double your chances of being healthy at 70 and beyond

What does moderation look like?

IMG_5321A portion of nuts is 28g or a small handful, an avocado a day is acceptable, 2 – 3 eggs a day is a great way to get good quality protein,  an ideal salad dressing is olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a portion of cheese is 28g, (if it’s a hard cheese grate it and it will look more!), 2 – 3 portions of oily fish a week – or lots of flaxseeds and nuts if you are veggie, a couple of squares of dark chocolate a day

Intersperse that with lots of vegetables and fruit, plenty of water, regular exercise, safe alcohol limits and no smoking and you achieve a healthy balanced diet

Talk radioIf there are folks out there who didn’t catch my chat on Talk radio a few weeks ago (there can’t be many of you surely!), then you can listen again  ‪#‎nutrition coach‬