Top 5 food tips for students

Top 5 food tips for students

A-level results are out, so for many its now off to University.  You may be completely prepared for it or you might be terrified of what the next three years holds for you.  But either way you will have to be more independent than you probably have been.  And that goes for what you eat.

Follow my 5 simple tips and at least you will have the food side of things sorted!

Tip #1

Try and avoid fast food outlets, takeaways and ready meals.  If that’s not possible limit them to once or twice a week.  The reason being they are heavily processed, contain high amounts of salt, sugar, fat and calories and are often lacking in nutrients.  The result could be weight gain, tiredness, bad skin, irritability, poor sleep and concentration.  Instead focus on plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, water, nuts and pulses.

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Tip #2

Buy the basics; by that I mean a selection of tins, jars and packets that can quickly be turned in to a nutritious meal.  And don’t be afraid of frozen veg and fruit; they are nutritious, inexpensive, reduce food waste and easy to prepare.

store cupboard basic

 

Do your food shop at the end of the day, when you are more likely to bag bargains like reduced prices.  Also buy food the day before a shop is closed for a public holiday (and they have to get rid of stock).  Buy fresh fruit and veg when its in season – it is bursting with nutritional goodness and also cheaper (often greengrocers or local Asian supermarkets have very reasonably priced items).  But don’t buy food when you are hungry, it will encourage you to buy high fat, sugar processed items

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Tip #3

Buy in bulk.  Dried goods are often cheaper when bought in quantity.  If you haven’t got the space to store lots of food, club together with your friends; share the cost, share the quantity, share the discounts.  Don’t be afraid to shop around; Aldi, Lidl, Coop, Morrisons are often cheaper than the big named supermarkets.

Tip #4

Whilst you’re still at home get some quick and easy recipes under your belt.  Base your meals around vegetables, they are incredibly cheap, nutritious, versatile and easy to cook

  • spaghetti Bolognese – either with mince, Quorn or lentils, tinned tomatoes, lots of herbs, chopped veggies (carrots, peas, sweetcorn, onions, mushrooms courgettes, or wherever you have available) and some stock powder. Served with wholemeal spaghetti (to keep you fuller for longer)
  • Curry – cauliflower and chickpea is simple and cheap.  Fry frozen cauliflower in a pan with a chopped onion.  Add a jar of curry sauce or curry powder/paste.  Add a tin of chickpeas and its water (if using curry powder or paste).  finish with a splash of lemon juice and some fresh coriander (if you want it to look cheffy!

vegan

  • stir-fry – use can use a frozen stir-fry mix and a jar of Sharwoods black bean and pepper sauce (low in sugar).  Add chicken, beans, tofu, nuts or Quorn for protein

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  • cheats risotto – using microwave wholegrain rice, frozen veg and leftover cooked chicken, Quorn, tofu or beans.  You can make it fancy by adding fresh or dried herbs and spices

IMG_0632

 

Tip #5

If you really don’t know where to start come to my student cookery classes that take place in West Bridgford, Nottingham every Thursday at 2pm

student cooking

How to be a healthy vegan

How to be a healthy vegan

What a vegan diet should include (macro and micro nutrients)

 

People have very different reasons for choosing a plant-based diet and for some the transition can be daunting and fraught with complexity.

people-ask-if-being-vegan-is-hard

Hopefully I can help you navigate your way through and understand what food types, nutrients and minerals you should include in your diet and what if any supplements you should ask your GP about

 

Lets start with the biggie PROTEIN!

Protein, if you didn’t know is a “macronutrient,” meaning you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. Different protein sources contains various amounts of amino acids that help build and repair muscles in our bodies

Vegan protein sources. jpeg

The average UK adult should eat about 50g of protein a day. To be more precise, it’s about 0.75g per kilo of body weight. If you weigh 11 st (70kg) your daily protein intake should be 52.5g. For a vegan that’s about 2 palm-sized portions of tofu, nuts, vegan quorn etc or pulses and beans

Protein rich meal ideas

Carbohydrates

This is another macronutrient, and its fair to say we should and probably do obtain most of our carbs from eating wholegrains, fruits, veg and pulses. And as with any healthy diet the carbs from simple sugars (cakes, biscuits, pastries, processed food etc) should be limited, as they have little nutritional value.

pasta-portionIf you need to lose a kilo or two I would advise you to portion control your bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. A balanced portion of wholegrain pasta or rice is 75g uncooked or 125g cooked. A portion of potato is 80g, and a serving of wholemeal bread is one slice

 

 

Fats

This is the final macronutrient. Its role is to transport fat-soluble vitamins, as a secondary energy source, to keep us warm and to aid brain function. It is the most calorific food at 9 calories a gram compared with protein and carbs at 4 calories a gram. So moderation is the watchword!

Too much fat has been associated with heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer. With that in mind I would suggest for general cooking, dressings etc you use olive oil or rapeseed oil. Coconut oil has a higher smoking temperature and can be used for deep fat frying and roasting. Be careful of processed, diet foods and ready meals as these can have high levels of fats

vegan-shoppingAs more and more supermarkets are stocking vegan versions of family favourites it is now easier than ever to find vegan cheese, milk, yoghurts and ice cream. But just take a look at the labels and check the fat content as you may be consuming more than the recommended daily amounts of saturated fat (20g for a woman and 30g for a man)

Other fats to incorporate are from avocados, nuts and seeds.  They contain good levels of omega 3 fatty acids

Now we get on to the micronutrients! The foods we need in smaller amounts

 

Vitamins

Many vegans will have been told that they will be lacking in vitamin B12 and D. This of course can be the case but it could also happen to a meat or fish eater. It really depends on the person’s ability to absorb nutrients and how varied and balanced their diet is. That said vegans do have to take more care as B12 especially, is only found naturally in a few foods and most of those are animal in origin

B12

 

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin; in order to keep your levels topped up spend about 10 minutes a day outdoors without sun protection. If that isn’t possible some vegan foods are fortified with this vitamin i.e. soya milk, orange juice, cereals and breads. Just make sure your D3 is from vegan sources. There is some evidence that if mushrooms are placed in the sunlight they will synthesise the rays in the same way we do and produce vitamin D enriched mushrooms

 

Calcium

Ryvita hummus

 

This mineral works with vitamin D to produce strong bones and helps maintain the function of our heart, muscles and nerves.

Good vegan sources are green leafy veg like chard, cabbage, spinach, kale, sesame seeds (hummus and tahini), oranges, soya (beans, milk, tofu)

 

 

Iron

Another mineral that vegans may have difficulty consuming because it is found in large quantities in meat and offal. But it is possible to have healthy iron levels if your diet contains some of the following: fortified breakfast cereals, kale, broccoli, watercress, soya based foods, dried prunes, dried apricots, nuts and seeds, beans, pulses and fortified wholemeal bread.

Vitamin C rich foods help with the absorption of iron but tea and coffee can hinder it.

Vitamin C

Is fast food making us fat?

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

Is fast food making us fat?

Should we be concerned about the number of fast food meals our family eats?  

The average UK diet appears to be in dire need of an overhaul.  It contains more than the recommended levels of sugar, salt and fat and less fruit and veg than the 5-a-day guidelines –  only 26% of adults met the fruit and veg target. 15 year olds fare much better with 52% stating they get their recommended daily intake *

This situation is not helped by the increase in the number of fast food outlets appearing on the high streets and in our suburbs

*  Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet England: 2017

The Guardian’s recent article about Takeaways has an interactive map showing the proliferation of fast food outlets.  Simply enter your location or post code.

Take-aways and ‘fast food’ tend to be high in fat, salt, calories and sugar; making them an unhealthy food choice when eaten regularly. It has also been shown that people who eat quickly and until full are more likely to be overweight.

 

fast food

Being overweight can lead to obesity, which if left unchecked can increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure and some cancers. Currently ⅔ of adults and ⅓ of 10-11 year olds in England are obese or overweight.

Is there ‘good’ fast food?

Maybe, is the short answer. The longer answer is, choose your fast food wisely and make them an occasional treat rather than a daily necessity. Try and avoid the breadcrumbed versions, high calorie sauces, the thin cut fries, processed meat additions, calorie ladened ‘sides’ and the large bottles of fizzy drinks. Here are some examples of the good(ish), the bad and the downright ugly!

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The KFC Chicken flamin’ wrap has an acceptable 305 calories but nearly 3 teaspoons of fat and over ¼ teaspoon of salt and sugar.  And definitely keep away from their treats; the White Chocolate Krushems has 435 calories and a whopping 15 teaspoons of sugar.

To put that in to context, that’s double the government’s recommendation for the daily amount of added sugar 

The McDonald’s Filet-o-fish, which is probably one of the least fattening choices in their range still has 329 calories, 3 teaspoons of fat, ½  teaspoons of sugar and over ¼ teaspoons of salt. The other chains are similar; the lowest calorie Subway is roast chicken with 5 salad items at 306 calories, almost 1 teaspoon of fat, nearly 1½ teaspoons of sugar and over ¼ teaspoon of salt. It only remains that low if no dressings are added. However if you chose the Chicken and bacon ranch melt the calories etc increase – 503 calories, nearly 5 teaspoons of fat,  almost 2 teaspoons of sugar and over ½ teaspoon of salt.

And don’t be fooled by the salads; although the Subway Meatball Marinara salad only boasts a waist nipping 270 calories it contains over 3 teaspoons of sugar and nearly 4 teaspoons of fat.

You’d  also be wise not to assume that the vegetarian choice is the ‘healthier’ option.  In all cases a vegetarian burger, sub or wrap could contain more calories, salt, sugar and fat than the meat or fish basic version. For instance the McDonald’s vegetable deluxe has 400 cals, nearly 4 teaspoons of fat, 3 teaspoons of sugar and over ¼ teaspoon of salt

Probably the worst offenders of them all is Burger Kings Steakhouse king at 1100 calories and 24g of saturated fat, that’s over half a woman’s calorie consumption and all her saturated fat intake for the whole day!

And Dominos ‘scrummy’ small classic crust pizza – 1152 calories, almost 13 teaspoons of fat, 3 ½ teaspoons of sugar and almost 2 teaspoons of salt

On the good side if you are vegan, you will probably be an infrequent visitor to these places.  Thankfully (for some of you!) they haven’t yet incorporated many vegan options in to their menus.  All Dominos pizza bases include milk powder, you can enjoy Subways veggie delight (various salad items on a sub or salad), KFC, McDonalds and Burger King only have a few vegan sides like corn on the cob, fries, apple pie and green beans.

20623898_10154869962571903_22678629_nSo please don’t be in a rush to eat fast food

Have your cake and eat it

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/ 

Mindful eating – how to have your cake and eat it (But not whilst watching the TV!)

By taking some simple steps and following these tips you can still enjoy your favourite takeaway or treat

Henpecked, the female over 40s online resource has kindly uploaded my article about being mindful when it comes to eating and other tips to enable you to ‘have your cake and eat it’!

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Click on this link for the full article  Henpicked article or follow their tweets

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But below is also a little snap shot of those hints and tip

 

mindful eating

 

Be mindful of what you are eating. Studies have found that if you eat while distracted, you don’t always register what you have eaten and you can consume up to 288 calories more! So, switch off the TV, put down your phone, shut your laptop and focus on your food and you’ll eat less and enjoy more!

 

 

 

eat slowly

 

Slow down your eating.  Appreciate the taste, texture, smell and look of your food.  take a small forkful and chew it properly (20-30 times!). Swallow before you put in the next mouthful, put down your knife and fork.  And finally try and take 20 minutes to eat your main meal

 

 

 

DSC_1228Who doesn’t love a treat?! But whenever you have a high fat or high calorie meal like a pizza always have it with a large salad (go easy on the dressing!).  This will fill you up without adding lots of calories.  For instance a medium 12” pepperoni pizza could have up to 1700 calories.  But if you share it with a friend and fill the gap on your plate with a large mixed salad (with a balsamic vinegar dressing) you would consume about 920 calories.  A big calorie saving and equally as important a reduction of up to 38g of fat (which accounts for nearly half of the calorie saving)

 

 

plates2Have you noticed how plates and bowls have got bigger, both in restaurants and in your home; that can affect the amount you eat.

Research has shown that if you serve yourself from a larger serving dish onto larger plates and bowls then you’re likely to help yourself to 56% more food! So downsize your dishes, plates and serving tools and fool your brain into saving calories

 

 

 

 

Dementia: food and lifestyle

Dementia: food and lifestyle

According to NHS choices dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. It is a common condition, affecting about 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65.

dementia

As its ‘Dementia Awareness Week’, I’ve pulled together the findings from recent research to give a guide on what should and shouldn’t form part of a healthy balanced lifestyle

 

Be the correct weight for your height

Being overweight or obese could increase your risk of dementia.

puzzles

Keep the brain active, with puzzles, learning a new skill or language, get smartphone or tablet savvy

 

Challenge yourself, by trying something new or different each week; go to a different supermarket or coffee shop, try a new recipe, read a different type of book than you normally would, buy a new magazine or paper, walk a different way to the park or a friends house, eat with your opposite hand!

 

Include a range of healthy foods in to your diet. This can include:

  • fruit and vegPlenty of fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy veg); think a ‘rainbow of colour’
  • Wholegrain rice, bread and pasta – for increased fibre
  • Less saturated fat, from dairy, meat and processed foods and more fat from olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • Increase your intake of beans, peas and lentils – low in fat and high in fibre
  • Oily fish like salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel and sardines. Or linseeds, chia seeds or seaweed if you are vegetarian or veganbeans
  • Reduce your salt intake; try and aim for no more than 6g (or 1 ½ teaspoons) a day – this will help maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Reduced the amount of ready meals, takeaways and processed foods you eat – these can be high in fats, sugars and salt

 

 

yoga

 

Get more active, walk a bit more rather than always take the car or bus, spend time in the garden, do the housework, mow the lawn, go swimming, practice yoga or pilates, or go dancing. Walking as little as 15 minutes a day can help reverse shrinking of the brain.

 

 

Stay within a safe alcohol limit; that is now 14 units a week for both men and women. The latest advice is to also have a number of alcohol free days.

 

WIBe sociable, join a class or group, get to know others or have family gatherings and keep your brain active

 

Try and manage your blood pressure – many of the above lifestyle changes could have a positive impact on your blood pressure

 

Stop smoking (if you do)

heart and brain

A good guide is that what is good for the heart, such as regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet, is also good for the brain.

dementia brain food

Information and support can be vital in maintaining mental heath and wellbeing. I can help support a person to make informed food and healthy eating choices that’s right for them.

I can give informal and practical advice about food shopping and budgeting. How to turn those foods in to simple low cost meals that can be eaten on the day, stored in the fridge or frozen (ready for another day).

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 17.01.17Why not consider coming to learn how to make simple vegetarian or vegan meals in my kitchen in West Bridgford

https://youtu.be/UgRRosfrK70

 

 

 

Testimonials

 

“We enjoyed Susan’s visit to our group we found it very informative,

She was very easy to listen to and was very knowledgeable regarding

the questions asked, We are so pleased that we are currently arranging for her to come back and give us a talk on food and mood. We learned new things about the everyday foods we use. As a result of this we have started to change some of our eating habits. Very knowledgeable and understanding of our needs Thank you” The Gedling Follow On Group

 

 

memory cafe keyworth“Susan very generously gave her time and expertise to speak on eating well for brain health at a memory cafe I run.

 

Thank you so much for coming to talk to us at the memory cafe this morning Susan. Everyone said what a good talk you gave. I’m sure people will be greatly helped in putting your suggestions into practice. You gave us very clear, practical advice and guidance, and enabled us to feel it’s okay to have some treats too. We really liked the simple and quick meal suggestions, and ways of adding fibre and protein to foods in easy ways.” H Rawlinson, memory café Keyworth

Bone up on calcium

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

Why should you care about the amount of calcium in your diet?

There is more calcium in the body than any other mineral and it has several important functions.images

These include:

  • helping build strong bones and teeth
  • regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeat
  • ensuring blood clots normally
  • helps in a the absorption of vitamin B12, needed for a healthy nervous system

logoTry this handy calcium calculator  to work out your weekly calcium intake.  If its low just incorporate more of the food below into your daily diet

This week the National Osteoporosis Society issued a press notice with this headline

 

dairyDoes it make you think, are you concerned about your child as they head off too university, move in to their first flat.  Are they confused about what makes a healthy balanced diet, are they concerned about their weight and have tried fad diets or cut out food groups like dairy?

If the answers yes then maybe read on

Good sources of calcium include:

  • IMG_2210milk, cheese and other dairy foods
  • green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and okra
  • soya beans, tofu and chickpeas
  • soya or other non- dairy drinks and yoghurts with added calcium
  • nuts (especially almonds), tahini and sesame seeds
  • bread and food made with fortified flourmixed nuts
  • fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and salmon
  • Fresh citrus fruits or calcium fortified orange juice
  • Dried figs – about 6

 

If you are concerned about your calcium (or vitamin D levels, for that matter) then maybe come and see me for a nutrition session.  Call me on 07946 301338

Cancer research UK has stated that dairy products (and non dairy alternatives) are high in calcium, and several studies show a lower risk of breast cancer for women with high calcium intakes or calcium blood levels.

calcium radio nottmBBC Radio Nottingham were also keen to explore this issue and asked me on to the Mark Dennison breakfast show.  Here’s a clip of the interview

 

It is important to make sure your children especially your daughters eat plenty of foods IMG_4234high in calcium so they have good bone density throughout their teens. It is thought that 1 in 10 teenage girls have very low intakes of calcium. By age 20, the amount of bone is at its greatest (called the peak bone mass), and then it slowly but steadily decreases. So, if not enough calcium is taken in during this critical period, less is available in the bones for the rest of life.  Encourage your children to drink and eat dairy and non- dairy alternatives; even low fat if its gets them to eat them!

Calcium friends

Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium. It is found in oily fish, liver, fortified spreads and cereals, and egg yolks. Your body also makes its own vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunshine (without sunscreen).

Be active – doing weight bearing exercise like walking, running, dancing, lifting weights and skipping are all good activities to strengthen bones

Magnesium – calcium needs magnesium to aid absorption so eat plenty of green leafy veg, brown rice and nuts

Vitamin K2 – works in conjunction with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones and heart healthy; found in offal, egg yolks and dairy products

Calcium foes

cola-drinksCoal drinks – Women who drink too many cola type fizzy drinks could have an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, because the phosphoric acid in these drinks has the potential to weaken bones. If the drinks also contain caffeine it could affect how much calcium is much absorbed in the body

Protein – Too much protein like read meat and poultry can drain the body of calcium

Salt – If you have a high salt diet, you will excrete a lot of sodium and with it a lot of calcium.  People who consume too much sodium  could face an increased risk of kidney stones.

Superfoods

Superfoods  – myth or magic?

Are you buying the superfood hype; either literally or figuratively?  These foods have been in the press for the last few years but recently new magic morsels have been added including lentils, quinoa, chills and green tea.

Its worth remembering there is no official definition of a “superfood” and the EU has banned health claims on packaging unless supported by scientific evidence.

So do certain foods deserve that badge of honour?

What makes a food ‘Super'; they often contain higher than average amounts of antioxidants or compounds that can keep the body healthy and potentially help fight some diseases.  In that respect foods like blueberries, broccoli, oily fish, beetroot juice, dark chocolate and to a lesser extent red wine all deserve praise as they have high levels of compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids

homemade chocolate bar

But so do blackberries, carrots, apples, oats, nuts, red cabbage, raspberries, flaxseeds, and most fruits and vegetables.  And importantly they are often cheaper than their ‘superfood’ cousins

The superfood debate got the attention of BBC radio Leicester, so I joined them for a discussion along with Sangita the owner of a local Leicester deli.

Click here to listen to the interview (15 minutes)

https://soundcloud.com/user-95908886/radio-leics-superfood

 

fruit-and-vegTo eat a ‘superfood’ rich diet we agreed that it should contain more fruit and veg than we currently eat.  Incidentally, did you know that only about 30% of the UK adult population get their 5-a-day.

cakesTry and reduce your level of processed foods; anything from ready meals, cured meats to pastries and cakes

Go for variety and moderation; the occasional treat is fine

 

Drink within safe alcohol limits (max 14 units a week) a small glass (125ml) of red wine can be beneficial

Stay hydrated with the original ‘superfood'; Water

In other words adopt a more Mediterranean diet that includes plenty of wholegrain, pulses, vegetables, fruit and olive oil and you will feel “SUPER

 

 

 

5 top tips for weight loss

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

weight loss
I 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 61% of adults are overweight or obese? If you’d like to get healthier and fitter 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

tofu-eggAlways eat breakfast – even if it is just yoghurt (dairy or non dairy) with some blueberries or strawberries and a tablespoon of raw oats.  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 or tofu eggs for those who have more time for a relaxed breakfast.  Protein is a great for making you feel nice and full and both tofu and eggs are packed with protein and a range of 18 vitamins and minerals.

 

Tip #3

Mindful eating

 

Be 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 that’s 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 rich, deep chocolatey 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 that you could share?

Case study – fasting and chemo

fastingFasting through chemotherapy is a new concept that I first heard of when I met Yasmin and she said she was thinking of trying it and asked for my views.  That conversation culminated in me working with and supporting her through the process.

 

 

misoMany people believe fasting means no food or drink is consumed on those days.  That is not the case in ‘fasting through chemo’ Rather like the 5:2 fasting principle calories are restricted to 4-500 per day and is called ‘the fasting mimicking diet’.

The research behind this new concept believes that a short-term fast starves cancer cells and facilitates the chemo drug therapies to better target the cancer, whilst protecting healthy cells.

A non medical way to understate it is that without lots of food (fuel) your healthy cells go into repair and protect mode, in effect hibernate. But cancer cells are highly energetic and constantly want to divide and multiply so they are still very active and therefore more susceptible to the chemo treatment

This method of coping through chemo may not be for everybody but it is a possible option.  If you’d like more information please get in touch or talk to your oncology team

yasmin preThis is Yasmin’s account of her fasting experience

  • how you heard about fasting through chemo

I first came across fasting with cancer and chemotherapy two years ago via Michael Mosley’s co-authored book on the 5:2 diet, Eat, Fast and Live Longer.   Also the Horizon programme 2012-13, which I think you can see on youtube.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2015 and subsequently found that my treatment plan required chemotherapy, I remembered reading about fasting and chemo and revisited the fasting subject doing as much internet research as I could find.  There were some useful discussion forums, published research articles and evidence of the effectiveness in research trials on mice (our closest comparator in the animal kingdom) and some human trials.  I was surprised that it was pretty unheard of here.

  • What made you consider trying it?
Yasmin short hair

a short chop before the chemo

I had some experience of fasting having taken up the 5:2 diet two years ago to help with regular but mild stomach upsets and found it to be beneficial.  I realised I felt healthier with one or two fasting days in the week.  When I discussed the idea with my oncologist and medical team they were supportive if it was something I wanted to try but they didn’t have any advice to offer.  I hadn’t discovered anyone else trying the approach in the UK but, having done as much research as I could, I found the evidence from the US and the explanation for how it worked compelling.  As well as helping to reduce the side effects of chemo, the idea that fasting helps protect good cells from chemo whilst cancer cells remain exposed also made me think it was worth doing.  However, as none of my medical team seemed to have heard of it and their advise was to eat to combat the side effects of chemo I was nervous.  I didn’t want to do anything that made me weaker or more vulnerable at a time when the treatment was going to attack my immune system. In addition, it became clear that I would need to fast for 4-5 consecutive days around chemotherapy.  I had only ever fasted for 1 or 2 days before so it was a challenge.   I became aware that there were nutrition workshops available through Maggie’s Centre, Nottingham and I was keen to learn as much as I could about how I could boost my diet in non-fasting days.

  • What support did you receive?

I was able to attend one of the nutrition workshops Susan gives at Maggie’s just before my first fast.  It was really helpful, first of all giving me some great tips on nutrition and recipe ideas and improving my understanding of the right balance of foods.  I had thought I was pretty knowledgeable but the session made me realise how much more there was to know.  Secondly Susan was familiar with 5:2 and its benefits and although she hadn’t heard of it being used with chemotherapy before she was really interested to find out more and to support me through the experience.  By the next workshop Susan had also done research and had been in touch with the team in America that have been studying the effects of fasting for the past 16 years and who were in the process of applying for a licence for their chemo food kits.  Although this would be too late for me, they were able to confirm the kinds of foods that were acceptable during fasting, as a small amount of food intake (400-500 calories) is okay.

  • What was your experience like?
My 50th during treatment

My 50th during treatment

I restricted my diet during fasting days to 400 calories and reduced/cut out protein and carbs and dairy.  I had some fruit and tended to make things like wholewheat couscous with stirfry veg and soy sauce – adding chillies for some flavour!.  Or salads.  When not fasting but not feeling like eating, I nutribullet/blended a good mix of greens/fruit and fibre which set me up for the day.  Being vegetarian helped but I did have some fish occasionally.  So the main thing was listening to what my body wanted, increasing plant based food, reducing processed foods and fasting round chemo.

I can’t say that I have been completely free of side-effects but I do seem to have fared much better than a lot of people.  It is impossible to say whether this would have been my experience anyway.  I came across the following article recently by a journalist and her experience seems more definitive than mine.  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jun/03/how-to-get-through-chemotherapy-decca-aitkenhead-cancer-treatment

After each session of chemo I did feel under the weather and for a few days and I felt what I described as ‘jet-lagged’. There were also ‘awake’ spells in the night due to steroids and chemo has brought on my menopause so I have been having hot flushes. My ability to ‘taste’ went for a week or so and there were times when I felt tired or needed a sleep in the day. How I felt with chemo was hard to describe.  Not exactly ill but not exactly well either.  But I didn’t need to take the extra anti-sickness tablets I was prescribed each time, or use the mouthwash for mouth and throat sores.  The tests prior to each chemo were generally good so I also know that it didn’t have a detrimental effect on me from a medical perspective.  My weight went down a few pounds each time I fasted but then came back up again before the next round.  I lost a few pounds overall. I generally had a few days of not feeling well but was still able to function.  The rest of the time I felt ok and by week three back to normal.

The days of fasting were manageable.  I tended to keep busy and take on a lot of fluid.  I did sometimes get headaches which I initially put down to reducing caffeine.  Once or twice the headache persisted despite headache tablets but then I found the next day I felt even better.  The main thing was boredom – eating is such a pleasure!   Fasting felt cleansing and although there were times when my energy dipped overall I felt stronger for it and there was for me a sense of achievement and control.  Hunger pains don’t last and they don’t grow.  When I did eat, I really took my time and ate simple and nutritious food and kept broadly within the guidelines I had come across through my research.

  • Post treatment

    Post treatment

    Things I’ve learnt

Listening to your body is really important.  Also things that in your head are ‘treat’ foods don’t turn out to be during chemo – so the treat became a nutribullet smoothie rather than a jam donut – it takes a while for you to notice the felt experience is different to what your head remembers!

 

Hangovers – the morning after!

The morning after…..Hangover cures 

alcoholThat double vodka, large glass of wine or a whole bottle or one more for the road seemed like a good idea last night.  But this morning it’s a different story, you feel nauseous, thirsty, have a headache, feel tired; basically you’re hungover

So how can you start to feel like your old self again?

 

  • Hydration – water is the best thing, sip it in case your stomach reacts.  If you prefer and have them available an isotonic drink is a good way to replenish lost fluids and minerals.  But they can be expensive and have a fair amount of sugar.  An answer is to make your own; mix one part orange juice, one part water and a pinch of salt.

IMG_9999This is exactly what I told a Notts Tv reporter when he visited me yesterday

Click on this Youtube link to hear the 30 second snippet

https://youtu.be/XsWPvQ0O-dc

 

 

  • If you have a headache water will help with the dehydration and a painkiller could also ease the discomfort.  Be careful with aspirin based medication as they can upset your stomach
  • Eating some protein can aid recovery, especially eggs as they contain  a protein called taurine that helps the liver to recover
  • If you can’t stomach eggs, a bowl of porridge will restore some energy especially if its served with some fresh fruit like a banana, which will help replace your depleted potassium levels
  • fruitA fruit smoothie made with yoghurt will also give you some much needed protein.
  • failing that some wholemeal toast with either jam or wholenut peanut butter
  • Try and take some gentle exercise, a walk would be a great idea as it releases  ‘feel good’ endorphins
  • Try and resit the temptation to have too many cups of strong coffee.  Caffeine can upset your stomach and it also acts as a diuretic increasing your dehydration
  • Don’t overdo the amount of sugar you consume as it produces an energy spike and then a crash, leaving you feeling more tired and lethargic

To minimise some of the symptoms of over indulgence take painkillers with a pint of water before you go to sleep   That way you may wakeup feeling more human!