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The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

Download free PDF here The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

 

Whilst I may now be a well-respected nutritionist, it would be hypocritical to deny that I haven’t done my fair share of partying.  Having lived my teenage years with complete abandon through the 1990’s and drunk my own body weight in cosmopolitans at the Met bar during the early noughties, I will honestly confess to three day benders, raves in open fields and muddy festivals that were just part of the course during this era.  Unlike your ‘clean eating’ millennial’s, I feel fully qualified to impart my forty years of knowledge on the best way to survive the festival season unscathed!

Forget trying to keep up with the young ‘uns!

My first word of advice for anyone over the age of 25 is to forget trying to keep up with the teens. Those lucky buggers can do three days with a rucksack full of booze and get up fresh as a daisy after 2 hours’ sleep, but let me tell you, this just doesn’t work for the rest of us!

So, how do you survive Glastonbury and still look great in a pair of denim hot pants and Hunter wellies?

Preparation is the key

For those ‘clean eating’ disciples, this a time to let yourself go and live in the moment as your search for a green juice and kale salad is likely to fall on deaf ears! The modern health hedonist thrives on burning the candle at both ends whilst still retaining their well-being with dignity and coolness.

Save some space in your luggage for key essentials and that means packing a few food items and supplements to give you the energy to wake up on day two and three, ready for the party ahead! It’s rock and roll after all!

 

Essential festival survival kit

 

 

Best choice of drink

Well this is a difficult one and from experience I can only say that you should stick to one type of drink. I know it’s tough in the throes of the moment but mixing drinks is a sure-fire way to end up with your head down a portaloo or confessing your darkest secrets to some unsuspecting stranger (we have all been there!).

Don’t frontload your fun!  Try watering down the booze as the coolest partygoer stands the test of time and still looks like sparkly into the early hours of the morning.  Add fizzy water to wine or serve your spirits with extra mixers.  If you want to avoid the king of hangovers than my advice is to steer clear of red wine or brown spirits that are high in congeners, which are substances known to intensify the effects of a hangover.

Breakfast

It’s important to eat regularly during the day to soak up the booze and there’s no better way to start than a good breakfast.  Whilst lunch and supper might involve less than healthy food (you may even skip these meals), breakfast is likely to be the only meal you’re going to get to cook or prepare for yourself and is the easiest thing to pack.

Try and avoid the temptation of a greasy bacon and egg sandwich.  Far be it from me to tell you what to eat but whilst this may offer instant gratification you’re more than likely to be left feeling bloated and possibly suffering from a dodgy tummy for a few hours afterwards as your delicate stomach battles with the digestion of excess fats.

If you have access to boiling water then pack plenty of quick cook porridge sachets.  You can boost their nutritional impact by topping with dried fruits that will help to balance blood sugar levels after a heavy night of drinking and dancing.  Adding nuts and seeds will help to boost the prolonged energy supply by adding healthy fats and fibre.

You can also pack hard boiled eggs!  I know this is a bit of effort but they will last a while once cooked.  Eggs contain the amino acid, cysteine that helps the liver to breakdown alcohol.  If you pack rye bread and avocado then teamed with sliced boiled eggs you have the breakfast of champions that will keep you going until lunch.  Eggs and avocado also supply the body with B vitamins that are required to help the body breakdown alcohol and convert food into energy.  This combo also looks pretty sophisticated as a hangover breakfast!

Healthy snacks

It’s not a bad idea to chuck a few healthy snacks into your backpack before you leave the house. The easiest things are dried fruit and nut bars. You can make your own energy balls if you’re feeling particularly prepared. They’re easy to take with you as you venture out into the crowd and can provide a valuable energy source and pick-me-up during your favourite band sets.  Bananas offer a brilliant source of potassium, which is an electrolyte required for fluid balance and nuts are rich in another essential electrolyte, magnesium.

Nuts, seeds and fruit are also easy to pack and can be a great option to fill the gap between meals.

After party munchies

Depending on the weather and your ability to store food, cold meats and cheese teamed with pitta bread and crackers such as Ryvita (www.ryvita.co.uk) offer a good nutritious meal when you get back to your tent.  You can also pack dips such as hummus or even nut butters and dare I say Nutella (tastes amazing with sliced bananas after a few drinks!).  Canned tuna and pulses can also be used to rustle up a quick nutritious meal after the party if you can navigate the can opener! Pack a few fresh herbs, lemons, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to complete the meal.

Hydrate

It goes without saying that the most important thing after a heavy night is to re-hydrate.  Try packing as much water as possible if you can’t get it at the festival.  Watery fruits are also great for the morning after.  Melons are particularly cool as they have a high-water content and are rich in fruit sugars to balance out blood glucose levels.  Sometimes after drinking, still water just doesn’t hit the mark so try packing fruit and herbal teas, as these can be a little easier to face as can a good old cup of builder’s brew!

For the more refined partygoer, packing fresh herbs and spices can make for an ace hangover cure.  Fresh mint with lemon and a little honey works well.  Mint helps to alleviate bloating and gas.  Another brilliant combination is pouring boiling water over freshly squeezed lemons, ground turmeric, ground ginger and honey.  This spicy combination works well to perk you up and the ginger can help settle delicate tummies.

Try this soothing tea recipe.

Supplements

We’re all aware of the mantra that food should come first but in some cases a supplement can work wonders when you know you’re going to be drinking a lot of booze.  Either an artichoke extract or milk thistle supplement taken before, during and after the festival can help your liver to cope with the excesses of partying.  A good effervescent vitamin C tablet such as Healthspan Ruby Breakfast (£11.95 for 4×20 tablets) can help to replace this vitamin that is also required for the breakdown of alcohol.  A good B vitamin complex may also help as this group is rapidly depleted in the presence of excess alcohol.

My ultimate hangover cure is Dioralyte (https://www.dioralyte.co.uk) as it helps to replace the electrolytes lost through excess sweating and unfortunate instances of overdoing it on the booze! In emergencies take before bead and when you wake up!

My hidden party animal urges you to make having fun top of your list at festivals but there’s no need to suffer the next day.  Make space for a few key foods and supplements that can help to keep you going and ease the pain the next day. Also, importantly, make sure you try to drink wisely and keep in close contact with your fellow partygoers to ensure you stay safe.

 

Food and supplement checklist

 

 

Porridge sachets

Bananas

Avocados

Herbal teas

Honey

Lemons

Ryvita

Nut butter

Extra virgin olive oil

Canned tuna

Canned pulses

Spices (turmeric, ginger)

Effervescent vitamin C tablets (supp)

Milk thistle (supp)

Artichoke extract (supp)

Diorolyte (supp)

Fresh mint

Melons

Dried fruit

Nuts

Seeds

Boiled eggs

Dried fruit and nut bars

 

Download free PDF here The ultimate nutritionist survival guide to festival fun

 

Time to join the culture club – your guide to probiotics

Time to join the culture club – your guide to probiotics

Time to join the culture club (download PDF here The culture club)

So, you’re clean eating, gluten free, fasting, eating avocados like their going out of fashion, chugging down green juices with the latest wonder powders and using coconut oil to cook and apply to every part of the body from top to toe to achieve an enviable state of health and wellness.  But health trends come and go, and whether they stand the test of time is usually based on popularity over real results.

One area of health that has always been popular is the gut and the one thing we know for sure is that an efficient gut equals good health.  Probiotics have been hip for a while now and this is one trend with a lot of research to back up the claims. The discovery of how to sequence the bacteria that live in the gut has widened this area of research and allowed scientists to explore it in a similar way to DNA 20 years ago.

Good digestion insures that your body can process foods efficiently and deliver all the essential nutrients without bloating or other digestive complaints that can impact on how you feel day-to-day and the role of gut bacteria in this context is well established.  But these clever microbes are not just about good digestion and new exciting research is drawing associations between the microbiome and areas of healthy you may never have considered before. 

 

What’s the deal with bacteria?

The body is full of bugs that make up one of the most complex ecosystems in the world with over 400 different species living in the gut.  Generally, these bugs are not harmful and many have a beneficial role to play in the body. 

Gut bacteria are essential in the process of breaking down food to extract nutrients that are required for our survival.  Bacteria help to synthesize certain vitamins including B12, folic acid and thiamin that are required for energy metabolism, red blood cell production and maintaining a healthy nervous system.   These microbes also teach our immune systems to recognize foreign invaders and produce anti-inflammatory compounds that fight off disease-causing bacteria.  Clever stuff.

 

Nurture your own culture club

 The community of bacteria in your gut is specific to you and is referred to as your microbiome.  The diversity of your microbiome is especially important to help maintain a healthy gut as bad bacteria are limited and tightly controlled by the good variety.  If your diet is unhealthy and rich in sugary or processed foods then there’s a chance that the good bacteria in your gut will become weakened, impacting on health as you provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for bad bugs to thrive on and take over.   A buildup of bad bacteria may result in a number of health problems such as food allergies, yeast infections or inflammatory bowel disease. 

Interestingly, the trend for carbohydrate free diets could have an impact on the diversity of bacteria in your gut.  A high fat and protein diet is not necessarily the issue as bacteria will find something to live on in the gut but the diversity of bacteria and their activity may change in the absence of carbohydrates.  Like us, bacteria prefer to live on carbohydrates (glucose) and from this they produce short chain fatty acids that are good for your gut.  Once carbohydrates are taken out of the diet, bacteria start to thrive on amino acids that make up proteins, which produces other compounds that are considered more poisonous than beneficial

 

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that contain strains that have been shown to have a positive health benefit.  There seem to be a lot of interesting foods labelled as being probiotics ranging from chocolate through to tea but to get the most benefit you need to look for well researched strains such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium with at least 10 billion bacteria per serving.  Some foods such as kimchi are also touted as being a probiotic and although they may have health benefits for your gut the strains they contain (and there are many strains) are often not well researched and so cannot be classed as such.

 

How do probiotics benefit health?

One of the key benefits of probiotics is in maintaining good digestive health and research has shown how they can help with common digestive complaints such as diarrhoea and constipation.  Probiotics have also been shown to be of benefit for people suffering with IBS and food intolerances such as lactose intolerance. 

Immunity is also a key area of research.  Around 80% of the immune system resides in the gut and studies have shown that probiotics are successful in preventing upper respiratory tract infections (coughs and colds) as well as reducing the infection time.  Probiotics are also essential for anyone that has had to take antibiotics that have an apocalyptic effect on all the bacteria in the gut.   Taking probiotics alongside medication and for a few weeks afterwards should be a common place recommendation to help restore your microbiota.

 

The future of probiotics

Where things get very exciting is in the research that is starting to put science to the concept of that “gut feeling” by exploring the relationship between gut bacteria and how this may impact on behaviour, metabolism and mood via a signaling pathway called the gut-brain axis with early findings suggesting a possible link to conditions such as obesity and depression.

The future of gut bacteria is also fascinating as researchers at Kings College London predict that we may be able to receive individualized probiotic advice relating to the unique diversity of strains that make up our own personal microbiota.  Researchers have commented that it is naive to think that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to probiotics and that in the future.  Metagenomic testing may be able to map your microbiome by sequencing every gene in every living organism in your gut.  This would provide data on the functions of your microbes as well as viruses, fungi, virulent genes and antibiotics resistance.  Understanding this may help link in with the research around the how certain bacteria strains are associated with specific health conditions.

It may also be time to ditch expensive skin care products in place of probiotics to achieve a healthy, clear, glowing complexion.  Whilst the link between skin and gut bacteria is complicated, it has been shown that the health of your microbiome may be a significant player in the quest for healthy skin.  If your gut is overrun with bad bacteria or yeast then this can increase the permeability of the gut, which can result in inflammation as the immune system produces inflammatory cytokines in response to microbial toxins that enter your system.  Inflammation is at the root of skin conditions such as acne and research has shown how probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum may help to regulate the cytokines.  This doesn’t mean you can just pop a probiotic and expect great skin but there is an association with your microbiota.

 

Do we need to take probiotics?

If you have a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet then their maybe no need to invest in a probiotic but there is certainly no harm in taking them daily.  Probiotics are intended to be used in a therapeutic context as they help to deliver a beneficial dose to the gut that you may not be able to achieve by eating foods such as probiotic yoghurt.

 

What is the best way to take probiotics?

This is up to you really.  Probiotics are available in a capsule or tablet form such as Healthspan Super50 Pro (60 capsules for £28.50).  This form of probiotic is freeze-dried and activated on entering the gut. Other sources of probiotic yoghurt and drinks do contain beneficial strains but these are often not in as greater volume as a supplement or with as much variety.  You also need to be aware of the high sugar content of certain probiotic foods as some brands of ‘shot’ drinks have been shown to contain as much as 2 tsp of sugar. Probiotic foods are a good way to help maintain good bacterial levels but to make a real impact on the diversity of your microbiome you need a supplement.  Like all supplements, the key is to take them regularly to get the most benefit and this is even more important with probiotics as you are essentially trying to increase the amount in the gut.

 

What to think about when choosing and taking supplements

 If you’re considering taking a probiotic supplement then there are a few things you should consider when buying and whilst taking them.

  1. To be effective you need to choose a supplement that contains at least 10 million bacteria per serving.   
  2. Don’t take a probiotic supplement with hot food and drinks like tea or coffee as this can lessen the chance of the bacteria getting to your gut unharmed. Give it 30 minutes after taking them before you reach for the teapot.
  3. Alcohol can also render the bacteria in probiotic supplements useless so avoid knocking back with a glass of pinot!
  4. Research suggests that breakfast might be the best time of day as this is when bacteria have the greatest chances of surviving the acidic conditions in the upper part of the gut.
  5. Make sure you check the check the expiry date because once that’s passed there may not be any live bacteria left in the product.
  6. Choose a probiotic that includes a wide variety of strains to get the most benefit.

 

 Download PDF here (The culture club)

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet?

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet?

Are you and your daughters lacking iron in your diet (download as a PDF are-you-lacking-iron-in-your-diet)

 23% of Uk women have very low intakes of iron in their diet (1)

46% of UK teenage girls have very low intakes of iron in their diet (1)

Iron intake in the UK

Food surveys show that most healthy adults get enough of the vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health but there are still gaps, most of which appear to affect women, especially teenage girls.  A lack of iron appears to be common in a significant number of females in the UK with 23% of adult women and 46% of teenage girls having been shown to have very low intakes. 

 

What is the role of iron?

Iron is a vital component of haemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.  This mineral is essential for healthy red blood cell production.  Iron is also involved in the immunes system, energy production, DNA synthesis and muscle function.

 

Iron deficiency

 Diagnosed nutrient deficiencies are not that common in our well nourished population and whilst low intakes may not result in deficiency they may still impact on your health and increase the risk of deficiency if not addressed.  Globally, low iron is the most common nutrient insufficiency and has a huge impact on the health of children as it has a key role to play in normal growth and development.  In this same groups of women, around 5% of women have iron intakes low enough to be classified as being deficient, which is a condition called anaemia.

 

Symptoms of iron deficiency

The symptoms of iron deficiency are listed below and if you think you may be at risk then the first course of action is to visit your GP who can run a blood test to assess your status.  If your results show a low level of iron, then you will be advised to take iron supplements such as Healthspan Iron Care (£6.95 for 120 tablets) as well as being given advise about the foods you should be including more of in your diet (listed below).

  • Unusual weakness and fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Pale complexion
  • Brittle nails
  • Muscle soreness
  • Reccurent infections
  • Always feeling cold
  • Breathlessness

 

Iron requirements for women

 Women have a higher requirement for iron, with a daily recommended intake of 14.8mg per day.  This is mostly down to the effects of their monthly cycle.  Pregnant women have a higher requirement for iron across their pregnancy and more so during the third trimester due to the baby’s growth demands.

 

Factors affecting iron status

Like any other nutrient, low intakes of iron can be the result of many different factors including dieting, illness (resulting in a lack of food intake) or following diets that exclude food groups such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.  Other factors can impact on the body’s requirement for iron such as regular intensive exercise and can be a particular concern for elite or recreational female athletes.

 

Effect of medication and supplements

The prolonged use of certain medications, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that are used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, can also lead to iron loss through bleeding in the gut.  Whilst supplements such as a basic multivitamin and mineral can be a good way to ‘top-up’, they should be used sensibly as there are no added benefits to taking more than your body needs.  Excessive supplement use, especially individual nutrients and high strength products can impact on the absorption of iron, particularly calcium and zinc, which reduces the uptake of copper that is required for iron absorption.

 

Good food sources of iron

Maintaining a diet that is made up of nourishing foods as opposed to those that are highly processed is the best approach.  Red meat is the first food that people associate with iron and other animal sources include eggs, liver and mussels.  People that follow plant-based diets can glean iron from foods such as beans, pulses, dark green vegetables, oats, quinoa, tofu and nuts (meat eaters should also include plenty of these foods in their diet).  Other surprisingly good sources of iron that can be added to many dishes are dried herbs and spices that are highly concentrated in this mineral.  Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and plant-milks are also another useful way to boost the amount of iron in your diet.  White flour is also fortified with iron in the UK, which is useful for fussy teenagers that refuse to eat wholegrain foods such as bread and pasta.

 

Foods high in iron (content given in grams per serving taken from McCance and Widdowson)

  • Grilled fillet steak — (2.3mg)
  • Fried calf liver (12.2mg)
  • Black strap molasses (4.7mg)
  • Mussels (6.8mg)
  • Kale (1.7mg)
  • Dried figs (4.2mg)
  • Soya beans (2.3mg)
  • Cooked red lentils (2.4mg)
  • Oats (4.72mg)
  • Cooked Qunioa (1.5mg)
  • Tofu (1.1mg)
  • Eggs (1.9mg)
  • Brazil nuts (2.5mg)
  • Canned Chick peas (1.0mg)
  • Canned Red kidney beans (1.5mg)
  • Curry powder (two tsp = 6g) (58.3mg)
  • Dried oregano (two tsp = 2g) (44.0mg)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (bran flakes) (24.3mg)

 

 Increasing your absorption of iron

You can give your body a helping hand to absorb iron by combining your intake of non-meat iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C.  You can do this by drinking a small glass of fruit juice with your meal or including plenty of vegetables rich in vitamin C such as red peppers, cauliflower and dark green vegetables. You could also finish your meal with a small bowl of fruit, most of which are high in vitamin C.

Some food and drinks can negatively impact on iron absorption.  You should avoid drinking tea with your meals and leave a little time after you have eaten before you reach for the kettle as the tanins can lessen uptake.  Compounds called phytates found in wholegrain foods (such as bread) and beans (especially soya beans) can also impact on iron absorption, although this is really only a concern for people with particularly low iron stores.

 

How to include iron in your weekly diet

Given their increased risk of deficiency, women should try and include plenty of iron-rich foods in their diet to help boost their intake.  Below are examples of how you can introduce more iron into your diet (iron content given in grams per serving taken from McCance and Widdowson).

 

Breakfast

Scrambled egg (add turmeric) on wholegrain toast (4.6g)

Porridge oats (with soya milk) with chopped apricots and hazelnuts (4.3g)

Bran flakes (with skimmed milk) with sultanas and chopped apple (6.1g)

Oat and berry smoothie (3g)

 

Lunch

Chicken and avocado quinoa salad (9g)

Red lentil and tomato soup with wholegrain bread (7.5g)

Mexican tuna mayo (kidney beans, red peppers and chilli powder) wrap (3.5g)

Smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread (3.2g)

 

Dinner

 Beef and green vegetable stir-fry with noodles (9g)

Chicken and squash curry with brown rice (7g)

Black bean chilli with sliced avocado and quinoa (5.5g)

Roasted red peppers stuffed with lentils and feta cheese (7.2g)

 

Snacks

Homemade oat and date bars (2.3g)

Dried fruit and nuts (1.8g)

Yoghurt with nut and oat granola (1.5g)

 

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey-results-from-years-1-to-4-combined-of-the-rolling-programme-for-2008-and-2009-to-2011-and-2012

 

Check out my blog on iron at Healthista 

Download as a PDF are-you-lacking-iron-in-your-diet