Practical modern day health tips for sporting youngsters who are looking to better their diet.

Proper diet tips from a registered Public Health Nutritionist.

Tamara has over 25 years experience and is passionate about helping people better understand HOW to improve their eating in order to realize better health. She gives sound, no-nonsense advice on what combinations of foods help give you more energy and how to eat moderately to avoid long term health issues. She believes that we need to try to re-learn a few basic rules about food and eating so we can get on with our lives…healthier.

Tamara is mum to 3 busy children – all sporty and all hungry all of the time. Oh, and one’s very fussy….so she’s learnt how to juggle that challenge too!

Tamara is really excited to come on-board with the wonderful ‘Wellity Tribe’ and to hear that the Wellity children are interested in getting the nutrition message across to their young audience. I hope that children and parents alike will take note, so they can all enjoy better health and improved fitness.

  1. Why am I always so tired?
  2. Are all fats bad?
  3. Are fruits bad for you if they contain loads of sugar?
  4. Does too much social media really effect my sleep and actually, how much sleep do I need and why?
  5. Are whey protein shakes necessary to build muscle?
  6. How important is water and when is the best time to drink it?
  7. If I’m always tired – what do you think is the problem with me and how can I get more energy?

Read below what Tamara had to say on these questions … and many more.

Our Interview with Tamara…

Q: What can be done to improve children’s eating habits?

A: I think that there are a few things to consider here:

  1. Sitting down and eating meals’ as a family is a big ‘plus’ for children.
  2. Ensuring that portions are appropriate for the age and level of activity of the child
  3. Increasing their vegetable and fruit intake
  4. Ensuring that any snacks eaten are nutritious and not just SUGAR based.
  5. Replacing fruit juice, squash and canned drinks with Water. (And not allowing energy drinks or sports drinks.)

Q: What are the worst but sadly the most common bad foods?

A: Sugar Anything processed with high levels of hidden/added sugar.

Anything highly refined and that has palm oil, or its derivative, in it.

Q: What nutritional meals are quick and easy for children to prepare?

A: … and in no particular order…

  • Baked Beans on wholewheat toast with cucumber or carrot sticks.
  • Boiled Egg with wholewheat Soldiers and Cherry Tomatoes.
  • Tomato and Mushroom Omlette. Everyone should be taught how to make an omlette – quick, easy, tasty, nutritious and filling.
  • Wholewheat ‘quesadilla’ – wraps with melted cheese and chopped spring onion or sliced tomato.
  • Baked Potato with Tuna, Sweetcorn and celery.

I could go on and on and on and on……..

Q: What is the best food to eat before sport for energy and after sport for recovery?

A: Before: 1 hour before – a banana or an apple or a couple of satsumas or a fruity bun – depending on how long the sport will go on for.

After: Any of the above but with a fistful of nuts or seeds or a yogurt. 

Believe it or not, a recent University study suggested that a chocolate milkshake was the ideal post workout food combination (mixing the carbohydrate and the protein in a near-perfect ratio!) – HOWEVER I should caution that before any young athletes jump on that band-wagon that they avoid 90% of the commercially available sugar-laden options for fear of undoing all the good that their time playing sport might have done them!!!

PLEASE NOTE: More important than “what food” is best to eat before exercise, it is even more important to make sure that the body is HYDRATED ie. Don’t forget to drink WATER – before, during and after any sporting activity; This is fundamentally important for performance, while playing sport, and for good recovery afterwards.

Q: Are whey Protein drinks necessary to build muscle?

A: Whey protein drinks are most certainly NOT necessary for building muscle.  Consistent hard work, a safe and proper training program, desirable genetics and lean protein foods are necessary for building muscle…not to mention a good dozen or so vitamins and minerals to allow the process of muscle repair and growth to occur AND, of course, the all important ‘Sleep’ – because it is when we are asleep that the repair and growth of our muscles occurs.

Personal Note: Whey Protein drinks are a waste of money. Think about it…did the Roman Gladiators drink ‘whey protein’ to fight lions in the Coliseum? Nope, their primary protein source was the humble Barley grain!

Q: What is the most nutritional breakfast?

A: Aha, is this a trick question?

I would suggest alternate days of these two or three:

  1. Poached or scrambled egg on wholegrain toast; with a side of grilled tomato – to add one of your 5-a-day.
  2. Full fat Greek Yogurt with Fresh Berries and seeds.
  3. Porridge made with full-fat organic milk, a teaspoon of honey (or even better – sweeten with fruits) and a fistful of nuts or seeds.

Q: What foods have the most unhealthy levels of sugar disguised under the most attractive glossy packaging?

A: The National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveals that children (11-18 yrs) are getting 15% of their daily energy from ADDED SUGAR.  This figure should be more like 5%!!! Eeeeek, Wake-up call for all of us!!!!

11-18 yr olds get 40% of their ADDED Sugar from drinks; mainly soft drinks eg cola. A 500ml bottle of cola contains an equivalent of 17 cubes of sugar.  But take note, even 100% Pure Unsweetened Orange Juice is high in FREE sugars, as are commercially made smoothies, milkshakes and chilled Frappuccino’s– so be careful.

27% of our SUGAR intake is in the form of sweets (confectionary) and chocolate and jams. But that’s a pretty predictable stat.

Sadly, food manufacturers are hiding more and more SUGAR IN SAVOURY foods. Can you believe that in jars of oriental sauces there can be up to 11 teaspoons of sugar! Crisps, sandwiches and condiments can make those ‘Meal Deals’ really high in sugar.  Take a look at the Nutritional Panel. According to the British Heart Foundation, if a food item has more than 15g sugar/100g of product then consider it a HIGH SUGAR food. Go look at that Sweet Chilli Chicken Wrap you had for lunch!!!

So, take note, and get Sugar Smart.  Read the label and make an informed decision on whether you want to become a sugar junkie with a risk to your oral health and your poor pancreas, or whether to ditch the sugar-saturated fizzy drink for a healthful glass of, very hip, WATER.

Q: Are fruits bad for you because they contain too much sugar?

A: Noooooo, fruits are not bad for you! On the contrary; pretty much any food that grows on a bush or tree is not bad for you. That said, too much of any one food it not a great idea, and VARIETY is important. My advice is, if you are a bit of a fruit fiend, try to eat a rainbow of fruit ie a green one, a purple one, a red one, a yellow one, an orange one.  It is also worth taking note that tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, melon, papaya can have different effects on blood sugar levels compared to our home-grown fruits. They are, also, easy to ‘over-eat’ because they are so deliciously sweet and more-ish, so make a conscious effort to moderate the serving size.

Fruits do contain, proportionately more sugar than vegetables and other unprocessed foods, but the sugar is integral in the fruits cells and the presence of dietary fibre in the fruit, serves to control the rate that the (natural) sugars enter the blood stream. They also provide us with naturally present vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – all of which have considerable health benefits. So fresh fruit is both delicious AND nutritious.

Q: Everyone is on social media – is it bad to have too much social media late at night and will it effect sleep as adults are telling us?

A: I consulted ‘sleep specialist’, Stephanie Romiszewski, to help answer this. This is what she says:

Social media is very stimulating for your brain which is exactly the opposite to the state you need to be in to sleep. We also know that social media doesn’t always make us feel positive, content and comfortable which affects sleep quality. Lastly social media means screen time which means exposure to bright light. In part of that bright light is ‘blue light’ which reduces our melatonin levels (our ‘sleepy’ levels) which can delay how long it takes to get to sleep and we know that in children it can upset their melatonin response permanently. Your body naturally winds down a couple of hours before bedtime, so try and schedule social media time earlier and then do something that is fun, makes you happy and relaxed:)

Q: How many calories should we eat in a day? Are all fats bad and should we be counting our calories?

A: I rarely refer to ‘calories’. They can give us an unhealthy preoccupation with ‘counting’ and ‘obsessing’ about our food in a very unhelpful way.

I prefer to use terms like ‘energy dense foods’ or ‘high energy foods’ depending on the context.  So my recommendation is “Don’t count Calories”.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ in nutrition. Our own bodys’ needs can vary week-to-week and our bodies have different ‘needs’ from our sisters or friends or colleagues; so suggesting that an individual needs 1,500 kcals of food in a day is not helpful.  You might need 1,370 kcals today, but tomorrow you might need 1,625 kcals because you were restless in bed last night, have a maths test in the morning and the PE teacher made you do 20 minutes extra cardio warm-up in your PE lesson. No two days are the same, and no two days nutritional/energy needs will be the same.

Q: Are all fats bad?

A: Simple answer ‘No’. That said, there is rarely a simple answer without a justification behind it!  There are good fats – ESSENTIAL to health and there are fats that should be eaten minimally, because eating them in excess can damage our health.

The good fats, to be eaten heartily, are found in plants, nuts, seeds and fish.

Eg. Avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds and salmon.

The fats to be eaten with a mindful caution are the ones found in red meat .

Eg. Beef, lamb, Pork and Bacon.

And the ones to be consciously avoided are those in processed foods.

Eg. Sausages, salami, shop bought cakes, biscuits, pastry, milkshakes.

In all honesty, I could write reams on this to better inform on how, what, why with fats and oils. But the above can serve as a very brief précis.

Q: How important is water and when is the best time to drink it?

A: Water. Water. Water. Water is massively important.

There is a silly, but vaguely accurate saying that suggests…

“We can’t live beyond 3 minutes without Oxygen.

We can’t live beyond 3 days without WATER.

We can’t live beyond 3 weeks without Food”.

Of course, we know there are ‘outliers’ to all of these for example there are some phenomenal people can hold their breath for ‘free diving’ for well over 5 minutes (PLEASE do not try that in the local swimming pool!), and some people have been found seriously dehydrated in natural disaster situations and been able to recover fully, but ESSENTIALLY we all, without exception, need WATER as a basic life sustaining substance. Even being dehydrated by 1% less than our bodies ideal, can affect our brain function, muscle function (don’t forget the heart is a muscle!) and our bodies capacity to function optimally on a cellular level eg. Cell respiration, energy production, detoxification etc. So staying properly hydrated is super important and the best means to stay properly hydrated is through drinking WATER…Note; through WATER…Definitely NOT lurid coloured, sugar-saturated, aggressively advertised, money wasting, health challenging sports drinks, fizzy drinks or fruit juices…. Just plain, clear, free, nourishing water.

Q: If I’m always tired – what do you think is the problem with me and how can I get more energy?

A: If you are always tired, there are numerous potential reasons for this. You need to consider:

  1. Are you getting good quality sleep and are you getting enough (hours) sleep?
  2. Are you eating lots of sugar or highly refined carbohydrates?
  3. Are you getting enough iron in your diet? Iron status is important and can be affected by diet, medications and menstruation.

The answer to question number 1 is key, of course – and we have briefly discussed the importance of sleep in a previous blog; but if, in answer to question 2, you consume lots of sugar and refined foods this could be responsible for energy slumps due to your bodys’ on-going attempt to control the level of sugar in your blood.  If the blood levels become too high, signals in the brain instruct the pancreas to secrete insulin (a hormone), to act like ‘sugar police’, to clear the excess sugar from the bloodstream and deposit in the cells (as fat) leaving you feeling deplete of energy and making you hungry (or ‘crave’ more sugar!).  It’s a horrid vicious cycle; but essentially eating sugary foods and drinks gives a short term gain and a long term (cyclical) problem in the energy stakes: And that’s without the added challenges it puts on our bodies with regards to challenging its immune system, heart heatlh, obesity and oral health.  So to avoid ‘energy slumps’, avoid sugar.

If you suspect you are iron deficient – that’s another matter – and will need a visit to the GP to confirm – and then supplementation with an iron chelate and some improved dietary habits. 

Thank you Tamara! For any further nutritional advice please visit www.nutritioninpractice.co.uk