Tag Archives: nutrition

13th September 2016

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Sources: Calcium & Vitamin D

Through promoting a plant-based diet and the increase in veganism, the question of potential nutritional short-falls naturally arise.

A diet transitioned from regular consumption of dairy and meat products may concern some with regards to calcium or vitamin D, which are both essential for the good health of bones and teeth. Good sources of calcium are typically dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt), but with careful consideration and planning, there is no reason why a healthy adult cannot meet the recommended 700mg calcium per day with a highly plant-based or vegan diet.

Plant-based sources of calcium include:

  • Fortified non-dairy milks (simply check the labels to ensure calcium has been added)
  • Sesame seeds (and tahini) and almonds
  • Dried fruits such as prunes, figs and apricots (remember 30g is considered a portion)
  • Breads (white and brown flours in the UK have added calcium by law)
  • Beans and pulses
  • Vegetables – dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, kale, edamame
  • Tofu
  • Fresh oranges


Vitamin D is synthesised naturally from sunlight, typically between the months of April to September in the UK. It is essential to include food sources of vitamin D in your diet as it is highly unlikely sunlight alone can meet your daily requirement all year round. In fact, new UK recommendations have been recently published (July 2016) encouraging the routine supplementation of vitamin D during Autumn and Winter – 10 micrograms per day, due to common seasonal deficiencies.

Foods high in vitamin D include oily fish, eggs, meats and dairy, however plant-based sources include:

  • Fortified non-dairy milks (simply check the labels to ensure vitamin D has been added)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified fat spreads and margarines
  • Suitable vitamin D supplements (most vitamin D3 is extracted from sheep’s wool, so check the sources), e.g. VEG1 Multivitamin is recommended by The Vegan Society


If particularly conscious of increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake, why not try the following example day:

Breakfast: Fortified cornflakes with handful of raisins and fortified soya milk

Mid-morning: Fresh oranges

Lunch: Hummus and salad sandwiches

Mid-afternoon: Sesame snaps (sweet sesame crackers) and a milky coffee

Evening meal: Tofu, broccoli and bok choy stir fry (sauce made with soy sauce, tahini, ginger and chilli)

Evening: Fortified soya yoghurt

Susanna Author:

UK registered Dietitian • Obsessive foodie • Plant-based blogger • Recipe magician • Free-from

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28th August 2016

 | In Blog

What does ‘healthy’ really mean?

Think about what ‘health’ and ‘being healthy’ means to you. Many picture a glowing angelic being, the owner of tight abs and firm skin, transcending through a yoga-fuelled vortex, indulgently munching on sprouted beans and truly loving the flavours of raw earth… Am I right?

‘Health’ is the noun that represents being free from illness or injury. ‘Healthy’ is the verb used to describe promoting the idealism of good health. In my opinion, the word ‘healthy’ is over-used and misunderstood.

I recall a time when I was offered a ‘healthy’ handmade raw chocolate bar: ‘Full of nuts and seeds, it’s completely sugar free and totally delicious,’ he said. I was naturally intrigued, and seeing as my stomach was over-ruling my head at the time, I purchased my ‘guilt-free treat’. It was a big, dark and handsome snack, that’s for sure, however on munching away I couldn’t help but feel I had been misled and mis-sold something deliciously unbalanced. This chocolate bar was in fact not sugar free, as the sweetness came from the copious amounts of blended dates, full of concentrated natural sugars. Indeed, unrefined sugars, and dates are a great food to include in your diet, but still sugar, thus the phrase ‘sugar free’ was unarguably false. Furthermore, the main setting agent for many raw chocolate treats (admittedly, including some of my own recipes) is coconut oil. My super ‘healthy’ chocolate bar of sinless-satisfaction-yet-hopeful-waist-line-friendly-goodness, was indeed high in coconut oil, the most confusing saturated fat in the health food industry. Though my beautiful raw chocolate bar looked and tasted amazing, I was left feeling heavier than expected and started to reflect on the potential dangers of the newborn health food clan.


Anyone can label themselves a ‘nutritionist’ – go on, jump on the bandwagon if you must! It seems like everyone everywhere is an expert in food and the apparent ‘science’ behind what we eat. It is truly a great thing that so many people are caring more about what they eat, however the concerns lie with those without sufficient knowledge and hard evidence to base seemingly factual statements on. As a Dietitian, I represent the British Dietetic Association (BDA), as well as being a member of the Healthcare Professionals Council (HCPC), therefore I aim to avoid giving false statements about foods or nutrition. I aim for my recipes and products to be ‘nutritious’ – i.e. offering additional nutrients to maximise the nutritional profile and efficiency of a food. However, I will never deny that my delicious foods, that offer so many added benefits, are free from fats or sugars where they are not, or even label something as exclusively ‘healthy’.

‘Healthy’ is over-used and sometimes misleading. ‘Healthy’ cannot be applied to a single food, but can describe a person’s overall physical, mental or nutritional intentions. Do not be pressured by the new-wave of ‘Orthorexia’ (an obsession with eating health foods). Enjoy foods in the right amounts, maximise the nutritional value of your diet by making it varied, eat what you enjoy and try not to be influenced by wild low-key health claims that may or may not get you into summer-body heaven.

Susanna Author:

UK registered Dietitian • Obsessive foodie • Plant-based blogger • Recipe magician • Free-from

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24th August 2016

 | In Blog

Why plant-based eating?

We live in an ever-evolving health-bribed society, with increased pressure to eat and live in a specific moral way. We are all aware that as these health expectations leave less room for error, the number of chronic illnesses and obesity-related problems increase. However, this roller coaster of dietary fads are hopefully extinguishing themselves out, with lack of effectiveness and evidence base.

Going ‘vegan’ is one of the newest growing dietary and lifestyle changes people are willing to take on. In the last 10 years, the number of vegans in Britain has increased by three and a half times, to around 542,000 people [Vegan Society]. Though full-on ‘vegan’ labelling may be yet another short-lived fad for some, there is a sufficient base of evidence for increased ‘plant-based eating.’ This does not automatically have to exclude all animal-based products from consumption, but encourages the benefits of increasing, and prioritising, foods derived from plants. Essentially, ‘plant-based eating’ means that at least two-thirds of the diet should be made up of these kinds of foods. By prioritising foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, the consumption of processed sugars and saturated fat can be instantly reduced for better long-term health outcomes.


It started modestly with Paul and Stella MacCartney’s Meat Free Monday in 2009, still publicised and shared on social media to this day. This campaign promoted better health, environmental benefits, saving the pennies, as well as the animals.

More recently, Veganuary encouraged people to try being vegan for one month, in the hope that they embraced the enjoyment of plant-based eating and found true compassion for animals. Plant-based sources of protein tend to be low in saturated fats, and sources of essential vitamins and minerals high in fibre. These nutritional benefits help to mitigate some of society’s most severe health problems, which include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

In 2014, more evidence into the benefits of eating 7-a-day fruits and vegetables came to light (BBC reported this – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26818377). Reaching this new 7-a-day goal could not be easier when following a varied plant-based or vegan diet (original paper by Oyebode et al. 2014).

In conclusion, whether you’re a meat-eater, a health-freak, a fitness-fanatic, an animal-lover, someone who is considering going vegetarian or vegan, my message to all is be a plant-based eater. Do what you can, as often as you can and try to meet up to 7-a-day fruits and vegetables (it’s easier than you think, I promise!). By making two-thirds of your diet the good stuff, you could actively be preventing chronic illnesses and keeping your weight at a healthy level (ideally BMI 20-25kg/m2). Think better health, a longer life, happier bank balance, increased awareness of nature’s prosperous produce and of course cruelty-free for animals. Ultimately, if we know that what we are eating on a regular basis is having an effect on our future health, it makes sense to prioritise what is better for us, so let’s make a meal of it!

Susanna Author:

UK registered Dietitian • Obsessive foodie • Plant-based blogger • Recipe magician • Free-from

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