Food Foundations

For all of us, our well-being and health relies on strong foundations – a bit like a building. If we focus on constructing strong foundations, our building or our body can withstand demanding usage, unexpected storms or stress levels, a few days of poor weather or poor food, or adverse conditions outside – be it poor weather or a poor quality environment where germ season is in full swing – giving us a greater chance of keeping fairly well protected from these elements thrown at us.

The food we regularly choose to put into our bodies is the building blocks of these foundations – over the courses of the weeks, months & years, our regular choices are what dictates the strength of these foundations.

If we are able to eat well 80% of the time, we have a good start to our food foundations; 85% and we will have stronger foundations: 90% of the time, we will have even stronger foundations but will probably find we are having to make sacrifices in other areas of life; and 100% is a perfectionist approach that I don’t think is healthy, or conducive to a balanced approach to life.

Most of us, if we put in reasonable effort, can manage around 85%, and that is absolutely fabulous – and remember too that it is best to look at it over the course of a week – there will be days, or even a few days, where our work schedule or social schedule means that we can’t achieve this – if this is a case just aim to make those foundations stronger those few days before & those few days after.

So, if you feel like a few minutes of work, let’s make a rough estimate of where we are currently with our Food Foundations by reviewing the last 7 days – and what do we mean by healthy here? In summary, foods that you can recognise & that you know occur in the natural environment; not processed foods out of a packet that are very different from the original natural food source.

It doesn’t matter if you are unsure of what’s protein, carbohydrate or fat, or which of your current foods contain these nutrients – that’s the purpose of working with What Food; we will give you this knowledge.

I made time for a healthy breakfast on X days in the last 7 days;

  • My breakfast Carbohydrate sources included:

  • My breakfast Protein sources included:

  • My breakfast Fat sources included:

  • My breakfast fruit & vegetables included:

  • As a general rule, breakfast accounts for XX% of my food intake, and on this week in question it ranged from a minimum of XX% of my daily food intake, to a maximum of XX %

I made time for a healthy lunch on X days in the last 7 days;

  • My lunch Carbohydrate sources included:

  • My lunch Protein sources included:

  • My lunch Fat sources included:

  • My lunch fruit & vegetables included:

  • As a general rule, lunch accounts for XX% of my food intake, and on this week in question it ranged from a minimum of XX% of my daily food intake, to a maximum of XX %

I made time for a healthy dinner on X days in the last 7 days;

  • My dinner Carbohydrate sources included:

  • My dinner Protein sources included:

  • My dinner Fat sources included:

  • My dinner fruit & vegetables included:

  • As a general rule, dinner accounts for XX% of my food intake, and on this week in question it ranged from a minimum of XX% of my daily food intake, to a maximum of XX %

So, was the reality as you thought? Are there areas or knowledge that you want to improve? If so, please get in touch & we can chat more over the phone or over a coffee face to face.



Ladies that Lift

So, if you are going to be starting a training regime that involves lifting, your foundation is your food & eating patterns – and probably the most important one of the lot is breakfast. Without this you will not have the physical capability to lift at your best that day – additionally you may well compromise the mental bit as well; the effective working of your neuromuscular pathways to lift safely, effectively & with determination. And there are many other reasons to have breakfast too:

Breakfast with Benefits

It kicks your life into high gear each morning; skipping it deprives you of nutrients, leaves you short of mental & physical energy, reduces your concentration, and sabotages any long term goal to lose body-fat.

Our brain takes about 25% of our total energy needs – skipping breakfast means it is short of fuel, and we’ll be short of brain power. Some interesting statistics:

  • 45% of the population fail to eat a proper meal in the morning, and 46% said they lack energy on these days

  • 43% admit to being less productive without breakfast,  36% said that they felt tired, and 28% stated they suffer from a lack of concentration

  • 20% admitted they are unable to do their job properly

Food Ideas:

So for lifters in particular, here are some simple breakfast ideas; and remember too that these will work at any meal – with a little bit of tweaking they can be your pre & post workout nutrition too; if they are your pre-workout, consume about 1.5 to 2 hours before training; if they are your post workout, add some additional fast digesting carbohydrate, and eat as soon as you can post training.

Remember too that if you are training hard with lifts, then you need that decent protein count – circa 25-30 grams in the main meals you are consuming.

Chose healthy, real, simple foods – foods you enjoy. The food industry has conditioned us that breakfast should be cereal, often processed, with some milk, maybe some toast, & some fruit juice; but this often leaves us hungry.

Reality is we have a far wider choice of foods available – and I would certainly ditch the processed cereal & fruit juice from the carton…

  • Eggs, rye or wholemeal toast, add some tomato, add some rocket or any other green that appeals- and yes, eggs are back on the menu for most of us; I attach a recent piece from The Guardian in our interesting articles section.

  • Salmon, cheese or ham in moderation, on some rye toast, add a bit of salad & tomatoes.

  • Rye toast, with a good quality almond or peanut butter in moderation, and some sliced banana or other fruit or veg of choice on top

  • Porridge or unsweetened muesli (rather than processed cereal), with nuts & plain yogurt

  • And finally – one of the easiest – save something from the previous evenings supper! We have been conditioned that breakfast should be cereal or toast based – it doesn’t have to be; it just has to be nutritious – so if last night’s supper falls into that category, there’s a fab easy suggestion ready & waiting – and maybe just use a piece of fresh fruit or veg to give that extra morning zing of vitamins & minerals.

Going for these alternatives will give you a more satiating balanced breakfast than just cereal, fruit & fruit juice - and remember, if you just have fruit for breakfast, it’ll give you a selection vitamins, minerals & carbohydrate, but it does not contain anywhere near enough energy, protein or fat to even start your day – and the lack of fat means we won’t be able to use any of the fat soluble vitamins effectively – vitamin A, D, E, K

And if you just want a very simple meme:  Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper…

Interesting Articles:

And here’s are a few interesting articles; some good stuff from the Boston Globe, an egg update, the concept of ‘Brinner (who has tried it?), and finally, and a little more indulgent, some breakfasts from around the world – we are not saying these are necessarily healthy, but they do give fun scope for a bit of variety & possibly a weekend treat…


Food, Fitness and Fun

It is time for all those parties, events, & foods that play havoc with both our usual routine and our waistlines. The average person gains about 2-3 kilograms over the Christmas period, and the media tells us there is no escaping our forthcoming excesses – but is there really no way to avoid undoing the last 11 months of good work?

We could be cynical and say that this is quite deliberate so that come January we will be buying products, books & magazines that promise instant and easy weight loss.  So, let’s be realistic – we are probably not going to lose any weight over the period, but we can certainly aim to keep the status quo by adopting a few sensible principles:

Diary Planner:

Make a list of all social events from early December onwards, including plans over the Christmas and New Year period. This will show how different this period will be from the normal routine. Denote the following:

  • Days or events where eating or drinking out, highlighting those with large amounts of (free) food and drink available, and easy to go to excess. Additionally, mark the days before and after as priority time for balancing out the impact of these events.

  • Days you plan to exercise and/or get to the gym, and what you plan to do. Additionally, mark days the gym is closed, and between Christmas and New Year, make a plan to get some physical activity – even if just daily walk (particularly beneficial after large meals)

  • Remember that between Christmas & New Year you are likely to use less energy than usual – no trips to/from work, less gym, more time at home, more television, more time with friends & family – so your body has a reduced energy need.

Party Preparation:

Plan to go out and enjoy yourself. Deprivation generates resentment; instead accept that the evening will be one of moderation regardless of what colleagues or friends get up to.

  • Consume a largish snack high in protein, with some slow release carbohydrate and fats, about two hours before. Also drink a few glasses of water.

  • Find a friend or colleague who also plans to have an evening of moderation, agree a plan, and support each other through the evening.

  • If the event clashes with a time where you would normally be in the gym, make an alternative plan for fitting in the gym session.

At the Party:

  • At a buffet, fill half the plate with the likes of chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, and lean protein sources such as chicken drumsticks (skin removed), prawns, lean beef and ham. Avoid French & garlic bread, sausage rolls, quiches, and handfuls of nuts & dried fruits.

  • For drinks, have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink, and set a sensible limit before you go out which you will be able to adhere to. If drinking alcohol stick to the white wine & champagne as these tend to be the lowest in calories.

  • Avoid mulled wine and creamy liquors which are the highest; a cup of eggnog will contain over 300 calories.

Christmas Day & Lunches

The average person consumes the equivalent of 2 to 3 days’ worth of calories on Christmas Day, partly by snacking excessively before & after the big meal. It is these that do the damage rather than the meal; chocolates, nuts, shortbreads, mince pies, crisps etc.

  • Start the day with a filling breakfast, use eggs and some lean cooked meat, as well as some wholemeal toast. Drink plenty of water – brain often mistakes dehydration for hunger, encouraging further snacking

  • The traditional turkey & Brussels sprouts are quite healthy, so fill the plate with these. Minimise the traditional extras of mini sausages wrapped in bacon (approx. 150 calories each), Yorkshire pudding (100 calories), Stuffing & Roast potatoes (each about 200 calories)

  • For other meals out, avoid the breads and pastries for starters and choose a soup, salad, or cold meats. For main meals, avoid the creamy sauces: anything grilled, boiled or steamed is usually a good option, and fill up with green vegetables rather than pastas and rice. Salad is a good choice; though avoid potato salad and a lot of dressing.

  • And be wary of pudding – Cheesecake, fruitcake & Christmas pudding will be approximately 300 calories per slice, and only a little less in each mince pie consumed. The pudding with custard and brandy butter will contain at least 25% of daily energy needs


  • Remember that the shops are only shut for 2 days. Avoid buying excess on the off chance it will be needed  – there is nothing more tempting than excess food sitting at home, our brain starts to use the rationale that ‘it needs finishing’, or ‘it must not be wasted’

  • Avoid buying festively packaged products or ‘Large Christmas Family Packs’; we are usually paying excess just for the packaging, and buying a quantity far in excess of our needs.

  • For any shopping trips, particularly those lengthy ‘days at the sales’, make sure you are well fed and hydrated before you commence – this will reduce the temptation to succumb to fast food whilst shopping.

And Finally:

Above all, enjoy!! Remember if we get our eating regime right about 80% or so of the time, we can enjoy a combination of Food, Fitness, Festivity & Fun….

  • We should plan for a little indulgence, just in moderation. Moderation is far healthier than All or Nothing. If we deprive ourselves whilst everyone else is having fun, we feel resentful.

  • And don’t forget the basics of a good diet – Christmas snacks, foods & the subsequent leftovers certainly give us more than enough protein, carbohydrates and fats but we often leave ourselves of short of the vital vitamins & minerals.

  • Rectify this by aiming to consume fruit & vegetables from all the different colours of the rainbow; aim for 7 to 8 portions per day, and remember sugar coated dried fruit does not count…..

A few more ideas:

  • Plan in some walks with family and friends.

  • Remember that the supermarkets are only shut for 2 days

  • Freeze lots of leftover frozen food rather than feeling obliged to eat it at the time

  • Budget:

    • Retailers know that you are more tempted to buy at this time, and try to shift larger volumes with tempting offers. However, is it really value for money if the ‘free’ amount goes to waste, or if it encourages you to eat in excess of what you need.

    • Things like nuts are often packaged as special festive mixes. You are paying for the packaging for a mix that it is just as easy to make yourself. Buy the standard ingredients at half the price and make the mix yourself

    • Fruit and vegetable costs can be kept reasonable by keeping seasonal. Avoid the exotic, the expensively packaged, the peeled, and the well -travelled. Loose, in season, unprepared and of varying shapes usually provides the best value.

    • In season from the UK or near continent at present are: Brussels sprouts, parsnips, swede, kale, turnips, carrots, onions, winter cabbage, leeks, celeriac, apples & pears

    • However, the one area of indulgence I would recommend is meat – avoid the cheap factory farmed meats – which are fatty and of poor quality, and reared under intensive conditions pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones.

And if you want to put some calorie values on a few of the usual Christmas items; here goes:

Mince Pie, Sausage Roll, Vol au vent, Cup of Eggnog, Glass of Bailey’s, Irish coffee, Glass of wine, Beer, Mulled Wine, Large handful of mixed nuts, Handful of Pringles, Small piece of fudge/chocolate, Slice of cheesecake, Slice of Christmas Cake, Roast Potatoes...


The Basics of Nutrition

So who wants to look & feel great today & every day? Me, you, the person next to you on the bus, the person crammed next to you on the train, your colleague, your boss; In reality, probably all of us…

Clever marketing people, businesses, food manufactures all know this too – they know that we will prick our ears up at any solution that will help us to look & feel great, particularly if it seems to be new & easy – so every day we are bombarded with the latest diets, supplements and foods that allegedly enable us to do this.

‘Follow this routine for a month, eat this food for a month, take this supplement, consume this rare South American herb daily.’’ All of these allegedly lead to us miraculously achieving the look we want.

Reality though is a little more complex than being determined by a few foods, supplements or exercises – and a lot more mundane than the glamorous super foods, the latest wonder-supplement, the latest celebrity diet routine, or the latest piece of ‘at-home’ kit on the Home Shopping channel.

On the plus side, reality is cheaper too; we don’t need expensive or bespoke foods and supplements, we just need a balance of the right nutrients from nutritious foods at the right time & in the right quantity. We also need to be mindful of the uniqueness of our own body, and the type of exercise we are doing – though more on this later.

It is important to realise that is the food choices that we make hour by hour, meal by meal, week by week that really determine how we look & feel every day; our body shape, appearance, mental agility, body fat, concentration, physical ability are all a reflection of the frequent regular choices that we have made over the last few weeks, months & years.

In fact, science now tells us that our physical appearance, well-being & health & fitness goals are influenced 75% to 80% by diet, and only 20% to 25% by exercise; so regardless of the amount of exercise that we do, an exercise regime will never effectively counter the impact of a poor diet, or eating more food that our body needs (and yes, too much healthy nutritious food can be too much overall energy going into the body).

Here at What Food our aim is to give you the knowledge that enables you to put all this in to a context that works for you – I call this our Food Foundations – and the good news is that proper healthy eating leaves scope for that night out, that favourite ice cream, that odd weekend fry-up – as long as we are mindful that at other times we are getting that balanced of nutrients that our body needs from a range of natural fresh foods – with plenty of fruit, and more importantly plenty of vegetables.

I’ll take more about our Food Foundations in our next blog.