Recipes: Life on the veg

Karen Neville


Nutrition basics
Budget Tips
Base shops
Example menu

Lelita Baldock is a web-developer by day, fiction author by night. Part-time nutritionist, full-time foodie. She says: “I love food. But I am also very busy. So for me, healthy, satisfying meals that are quick and easy to prepare, that also come in on a tight budget are essential” Follow her tips & recipes here

It’s the new year, a time of renewal, resolutions and looking forward to the future. And if you are anything like me, a time to focus on healthy choices. The festive season is delightful, but it can often come with over-indulgence. And that’s all part of the fun. But by January our bodies can be crying out for simpler, more nourishing meals.

Luckily for us in the UK, January is also a time of hearty, healthy seasonal produce: think root vegetables and leafy greens. Perfect food to nourish our bodies and come in on a budget too.

The cost of living has been rising, and many of us are feeling the pinch. So it is natural that we are looking for savings everywhere, including on our grocery bill.

But budget doesn’t mean meals can’t be delicious too!

To help us all incorporate healthy, nourishing meals into our routine, while also being budget conscious, I have put together a series of tips and recipes to guide your choices. And have fun with food!

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Nutrition basics

Let’s start with the basics of nutrition. We all know we want to be eating a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This baseline ensures our intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Also fruits and vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Low in calories, high in nutrition. The perfect bang for your buck!

So, the first focus is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Add berries or chopped fruit to breakfast cereals or toast.
Add spinach or kale to smoothies.
Include vegetables with lunch and dinner.

And my biggest tip? Include a serve of beans/pulses everyday. Beans are a nutrition powerhouse. Packed with fibre and plant-based protein, they are filling and great for digestion. Including them is easy. Spread hummus on wraps or sandwiches, add lentils to soups and stews, mix white beans into salads.

Aim for 30 different plants a week. Time and time again, research is showing the importance of fibre and consuming a variety or different plants. The fibre and variety supports the development of a healthy microbiome. Don’t get hung up though, 30 is just a positive goal.

Other tips to round out your nutrition basics are:

Enjoy dairy twice a day. Top porridge with yogurt, snack on a slice of cheese, add milk to coffee and tea. If you are plant-based or doing veganuary, swap your animal products for plant alternatives, just be sure to choose calcium fortified options (see more veganuary tips below).
Base each meal on whole grains or starches. Grains and starches are rich sources of soluble fibre, that type of fibre that adds bulk to our stool and helps waste move smoothly through our digestive tract. Full of nutrition and filling, these foods should form the base of each meal.
Snack on fruit, dairy or nuts. An easy way to reach your five a day.
Keep red meat to a maximum of two serves per week. Red meat is a great source of iron and protein, but we don’t need huge quantities. Enjoy up to twice a week.
Enjoy fish. Fish is a lean, healthy protein that also boosts our intake of healthy omega 3 fats. Aim for two serves per week.

So how do we keep to a budget?

With the rising cost of living many of us are looking to save where we can. And our food budget is a great place to look for bargains.

Healthy eating does not have to be expensive. Here are some tips to fill your plate with nourishing food at a low price.

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Budget Tips:

Buy in season
Use what you have: stew, soup, roast veggies – don’t let anything go to waste, it can all be made into a meal
Use fresh first so thing’s don’t go off
Add bulk: cabbage, kale, spinach will add nutrition and satiety to meals for low cost
Halve meat and add beans/ pulses to make it go further
Cook in bulk
Buy in bulk. Purchase large bags of staples like rice/pasta/potatoes. If you have time to prep them, choose dried beans/ pulses and soak, rinse and cook. With meat/poultry/fish buy large amounts when on special and portion and freeze
Focus on starches. Cheap and filling
Use herbs and spices for flavour, rather than buying packaged food
Buy the fruit that is on sale. If apples are 6 for £1, buy apples, if oranges are on special, buy oranges
Purchase essentials then add extras according to budget: fresh herbs, out of season veg (eg salad items for sandwiches/ wraps)

So what’s in season in January?

Think hearty roots and filling greens:
Beetroot (can cook and eat leaves too!)

Another budget tip is to include frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen is great. Produce is snap-frozen as soon as possible after picking, which ensures that the nutrients are kept. You can buy frozen food at a lower cost and in bulk to save money. Great for fruit and meal bulking veggies.

Putting it all together

As an example, I have created a 2 week meal plan that will provide all your nutritional needs, with all meals coming in at under 30p per serve (most even less).

This menu is what I call a ‘base shop’. It is a plant-based menu that will cover all your nutritional needs, for around 30 pounds.

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Base shop

Potatoes x6
Carrots x4
Leek x2
Avocado (if you enjoy them, buy the large bags much better value)
Apples x3
Pears x3
Frozen mixed berries
Frozen peas
Frozen ratatouille mix
Frozen spinach
Peanut butter
Bread mix
Canned tomatoes x2
Canned chickpeas x2
Canned cannellini beans x2
Canned red kidney
Canned lentils
Basmati rice
Porridge oats
Almond milk (traditional milk is fine, this is just personal preference)

You can take this base menu and then add meat and dairy as per your taste, preference and budget. To keep the cost of these additional lower, go for bulk:


Buy litre tubs of yogurt for breakfast topping and snacks
Choose large cheese blocks for sandwiches and grated on meals

Meat/ fish/ poultry

Halve your meat portion and mix with beans/pulses to make it go further
Look for bargains, choose cheaper options such as: beef chunk, chicken drumsticks, fish pie mix

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Example fortnight menu

All meals are quick and easy to make, simply peal, wash and chop the produce, put it in a pot, cover with water and cook. All can be cooked in a slow cooker or on a stove top. You can sauté or fry the onion first if desired. But I am a lazy cook, so I just put it all into a pot and cook!

All herbs are optional. Fresh or dried is fine. Add according to preference and availability


Oats, berries, linseed
Toast peanut butter apple slices


Sandwich topped with bean spread and lettuce/ grated carrot/ spinach/ tomato/ cucumber
Soup – I have chosen pumpkin, leek and white bean soup


Pumpkin, pea, spinach, thyme risotto
White bean, carrot, onion (sage optional) stew over baked spud
Slow-cooker root stew (beef optional)
Ratatouille and lentil pasta
Shepards pie with lentils carrots, peas, onion (mince optional)
Cabbage and red lentil dahl over rice (fish optional)
Chickpea, spinach, tomato stew over rice or pasta (chicken optional)

Other budget meal ideas:

Muesli and milk/ yogurt
Corn and potato chowder with peppers
Goan fish curry
Fish pie
Beef stew
Pea and ham soup
Tuna and corn in baked spud
Baked beans on toast with cheese
Potato and spinach pie
Sardines on toast with spinach and tomato slices
Chicken drumsticks with rice and steamed veggies (great in air-fryer)
Red lentil, chickpea, can tomatoes, onion, pepper and chipotle
Red lentil, grated carrot, onion, gammon soup
Peas, onion, bacon soup
Salmon, pea, spinach risotto with fresh dill

Time-saving tips:

I like to bulk cook on the weekend, portion and freeze. Great time saver.

I will cook up the following on a Sunday to enjoy through the week:

Soup for lunches
Bean spread (e.g. hummus) for sandwiches/ wraps
Stew for dinner
Pasta sauce to top pasta or baked potatoes
Curry to top rice
A bake/ pie

Some Veganuary swaps for healthy plant-based eating

Veganuary is a fun way to focus on getting more plants on your plate, and do something for the environment and animals. If you are vegan, or looking to eat more plant-based, here are some tips to ensure you are still getting all the nutrition you need:

Plant-based swaps:

Beef – lentils
Chicken – chickpeas/ tofu
Fish – white beans
Milk – oat milk
Iron – eat plant foods rich in iron with foods high in vitamin c, this helps iron absorption
Calcium – fortified plant milks such as almond, oat, soy
If you eat vegan long term, add in a high quality vitamin b12 supplement

Whole grain swaps

It is not essential to choose whole grain options. If you are getting a variety of fruits and veggies you will cover your fibre needs. But whole grains are more nutritious and higher in fibre than their more processed equivalents. Experiment and find some you like.

Bread – grainy/ whole grain bread
White rice – brown rice
Pasta – whole grain pasta/ bean based pasta
White wraps – corn tortillas

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices add flavour and variety to your meals. The initial cost to purchase them can be high, but a little goes a long way. They will last you for many meals. My tip would be to stock up your spices over time, purchasing something new each week as you build up your selection.

The essentials I swear by for versatility and taste are:

Dried thyme

From just these three options alone you can create all manner of Mexican, Indian and European dishes.


Mustard – a little goes a long way
Mayo – buy in bulk for dressings
Ketchup – if you like
Hot sauce – great for extra flavour and affordable

By focusing on eating a variety of in season fruits and vegetables, basing meals on grains and starches and adding small portions of meat/ fish/ poultry and dairy, you can build a tasty, health-promoting meal plan that is also affordable.

Experiment with different recipes, use what you have, and most of all, enjoy your food!

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Breakfast Oats

Serves 3-4

· 1 cup rolled oats
· 2 cups milk
· 2 cups mixed fruit of choice
· Yogurt for topping

Place oats and milk in saucepan. Heat until oats are soft.
Serve with a dollop of yogurt and portion of fruit.

Breakfast fruit toast

Serves 1

· 2 slices whole wheat toast
· 2 teaspoons peanut butter
· 1 banana

Toast bread.
Spread with peanut butter. Top with chopped banana
(Tip: experiment with different nut butters and fruit combinations. I love almond butter and blueberries)

Bean-spread open sandwich

Serves 2

· 4 slices whole grain bread
· 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
· 1 avocado
· 1 cup salad vegetables of choice, eg chopped tomato, cucumber, lettuce, spinach

Place beans and avocado in a bowl. Mash together until mixed like a chunky spread
Toast bread. Top with bean spread and salad vegetables. enjoy.

Pumpkin and white bean soup

Serves 4-6

· 1 whole pumpkin (technically out of season, but always a cheap staple at the supermarket)
· 1 can cannellini beans – drained and well rinsed
· 1 leek – green part discarded. Washed and chopped
· 1 litre chicken stock or water and salt to taste
· Dried thyme

Chop pumpkin and leek. Add all ingredients into a saucepan. Cover with chicken stock.
Cook until pumpkin is soft. Allow to cool. Blend with stick blender. Sprinkle with dried thyme.
Serve warm with thick slice of whole grain toast.

Pumpkin, pea, spinach, thyme risotto

Serves 4-6

·  1 cup basmati rice
·  1 cup chopped pumpkin
·  4 rounds of frozen spinach (or 2 cups fresh)
·  1 brown onion, finely chopped
·  1 cup frozen green peas
·  2 cups chicken stock, or water and salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until rice is cooked and vegetables are soft. Serve warm. Optional – top with grated cheese

Slow-cooker root stew

Serves 6-8

· 1 swede
· 2 potatoes
· 2 carrots
· 2 celery stalks
· 1 brown onion
· 1 parsnip
· 200 grams chunk beef (optional)
· Chicken stock to cover
· Black pepper to taste

Peal and chop all vegetables into large chunks. Place in a saucepan with beef if using. Cover with stock and cook on medium to low heat until cooked.
Serve warm.

White bean, carrot, onion (sage optional) stew over baked spud

Serves 3-4

· 1 can white beans, drained and well-rinsed
·  2 carrots
·  2 stalks celery
·  1 brown onion
·  4 sage leaves, chopped finely
· 1 potato per person

Peal and chop carrot, celery and onion. Place in a saucepan with white beans. Add chopped sage. Cover with water. Cook on medium heat until all vegetables are soft.
While cooking, wrap potatoes in foil and bake in the oven until soft.
Serve potatoes cut open with bean mix as filling. Optional – sprinkle with grated cheese.

Ratatouille and lentil pasta

Serves 4-6

· 1 packet of mixed Mediterranean vegetable: eg. courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes
· 1 can lentils, drained and well rinsed
·  Chicken stock
·  Pasta for number of people you are feeding

Place vegetable mix and beans in a saucepan. Cover with chicken stock. Cook until soft and soupy.
Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Serve vegetable mix over pasta. Optional – add a sprinkle of grated cheese

Shepards pie with lentils carrots, peas, onion (mince optional)

Serves 6-8

· 1 can lentils, drained and well rinsed
· 1 cup frozen pea
· 2 carrots, pealed and chopped
· 1 can chopped tomatoes
· 4 rounds frozen spinach
· 250 grams lean beef mince (optional)
· 2 large potatoes
· 1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)

Place all ingredients except potato into a pot. Cover with water and cook until vegetables are just soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While cooking. Boil and then mash potatoes.
Pour vegetable and beef mix into a baking dish. Cover with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with grated cheese (optional).
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
Serve hot.

Cabbage and red lentil dahl over rice (fish optional)

Serves 3-4

· 1/2 green cabbage, washed and chopped
· 1 cup dried red lentils
· 1 carrot grated
· 250 grams fish pie mix
· 1 can diced tomatoes
· 1 cup water
· 2 teaspoons curry powder (or, if you have them, a teaspoon each of: turmeric, cumin, chilli flakes)
· Salt and pepper to taste
· Rice for each person

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook until lentils are soft.
Cook rice according to package instructions
Serve over a portion of rice
Top with fresh herbs like coriander (optional)

Chickpea, spinach, tomato stew over rice or pasta (chicken optional)

Serves 3-4

· 1 can chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
· 4 rounds frozen spinach
· 1 can diced tomatoes
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 250 grams chicken thighs, diced (optional)

Rice or pasta for number of people
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook until soft.
Cook rice or pasta according to package instructions
Serve vegetables over rice or pasta

A holistic approach = glowing skin

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Dr Seema Warner, skin expert & founder of Oxford’s YourSkinStory, explains why a holistic approach will add that vital glow to your skin

Your skin….

It is your barrier to the outside world. Standing up to attack from UV rays, pollution, bacteria, pathogens, dirt and grime and environmental toxins. It’s a powerhouse of immunity making hormones that are important for defence and physically keeping our internal environment of blood, tissues and cells protected. It has the power to change how we feel about ourselves. We wear it every day and if we don’t care for it, it won’t be able to care for us. The power of healthy, beautiful skin goes beyond just a great selfie – although that’s always a bonus!

“The power of healthy, beautiful skin goes beyond just a great selfie – although that’s always a bonus!”

Your skin is unique to you. Holding within it cells responsible for oil production, pigment, cell repair and turnover, as well as its own population of bacteria and microbiota known as your skin microbiome. No one else has skin like yours or receives the same sensory input, external stimuli or nutrition as you do. Which is why it’s so important to treat it individually with a personalised approach that fits into your life and addresses your unique make up. It is yours and yours alone.

We need to stop seeing skin as detached from the rest of our body. It’s very much part of our whole body. Blood flow, lymphatics and nerve cells ensure that there’s a constant connection between our internal environment and that of our skin. If skin care is not integrated, we are not treating our skin fully or adequately. We need to step back and see the whole picture. If you’ve seen the difference a really good night’s sleep can make to your skin, then you’ve already seen the power of integrating skin health care!

Get in touch

If you’ve tried many skin products with no luck or simply don’t know where to start. I’d love to help you find the ideal routine for your skin. Or if you’ve struggled with a skin issue that will not respond to other treatments or are interested in healing from the inside and out, please do get in touch. I run online skin programmes to help you virtually through product, nutrition and lifestyle advice, as well as treatment programmes from my Oxford clinic. I make my advice as practical as possible and personalised to your skin, body and lifestyle so you can put things into practice in a way that makes sense to you. Skin treatments focus on skin health as well as results and emotional well-being to give you whole body results.

New scientific research is emerging every day, with the realisation that we can control our health more than we initially thought. That although we’re born with a specific set of genes, it’s our environment and lifestyle that modify and switch these on or off. And that we’re connected throughout our body with an incredibly sophisticated system that relies on each aspect supporting the other. Each day will bring new elements for your body to manage and so your skin will change to accommodate this. It will tell the story of you and your life. It is your skin story.

Eat better in lockdown

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Food and drink have been one of the few pleasures we have still been able to enjoy during this lockdown and although the odd treat is fine, many of us are finding ourselves eating and drinking more, and have gained a few unwanted inches.

Commercial weight loss programs don’t work long term, with most achieving limited and/or temporary weight loss. So here are a few practical tips to eat better in lockdown.

1. Build your food environment.

The evidence is the rise in obesity is linked with our obesogenic environment. Be aware of the foods around you, and what you put on your shopping list, if you buy those Doritos chances are they will get eaten!

Abi Barclay-Watt, nutritionist

2. Kitchen opening hours.

If you easily succumb to snack cravings, try and stick to 3 meals a day. If you do need a snack have something nutritious on hand. Have a big fruit salad or veg sticks and nuts easily available. Meals can then be social focal points and it will mean less clearing up too!

3. Eating speed.

It has been shown that slower eaters release less of the hunger hormone than faster eaters. So, eat mindfully with your senses and chew well.

4. Portion size.

An obvious one, try and only cook what you need. Try and fill at least a third of your plate with veg.

5. Distraction activity

Are you really hungry, or just bored or thirsty? Try drinking some water first and wait before you grab that snack. Find another activity you enjoy to fill that craving, go for a walk, get lost in a good book etc.

6. Be kind to yourself.

There is nothing wrong in indulging occasionally and it is important to acknowledge resisting what your appetite wants can be a challenge. Try applying the 80:20 rule – eat healthily 80% of the time, it can make you aware of how much better you feel when you eat well but allow yourself the food you enjoy.

Find out more

For more information see my website and please do email any questions

Forging past the food fads

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We are constantly bombarded by information on nutrition and lifestyle and frankly much of it is ‘nutrib******s’ with little or no evidence base. Here are a few simple thoughts that I hope might help you navigate that mass of information.

  1. Nutrition is extremely individual
  2. Healthy eating does not have to be complicated
  3. Socio-economic factors have a massive influence on health outcomes
  4. The words we use to talk about nutrition and health matter – avoid stigmatising language
  5. It’s important to think about the bigger picture of health – not just nutrition
  6. Sleep has a huge impact on health and nutrition-related outcomes
  7. Food is so much more than the sum of it’s parts, eating for pleasure is key
  8. Self-compassion is vital for improving relationship with food
  9. No food needs to be avoided unless it is poisonous or you are allergic to it
  10. Most answers about nutrition start with “It depends on…”
  11. There is much more to sustainable eating than plant-based diets
  12. It is rarely helpful to comment on what others are eating
  13. Context matters in all areas of nutrition
  14. A plant-based diet doesn’t need to be a plant-only diet
  15. The complexity of nutrition is often under-estimated
  16. The appeal to nature fallacy is very common with nutritional beliefs
  17. Low-carb diets continually resurface under many different disguises!
  18. Food beliefs are often deep-rooted, tribal and linked with sense of self
  19. No nutrition messages should be black and white
  20. Sometimes all you should do is laugh at the latest ridiculous fad diet
  21. Focusing on health is much more important than just weight
  22. A flexible approach to healthy eating is vital
  23. Nutritional science contains many fascinating shades of grey
  24. Food should complement our life, rather than dominate it
  25. Variety is an important part of a satisfying and nutritious diet

More info

Abi Barclay-Watt is a registered associate nutritionist in Blewbury. Visit

Squirrel Sisters: nutty and nice

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We talk to Fulhamites Gracie and Sophie – aka Squirrel Sisters – about their mission to bring their vegan snack bar start-up to the masses.

Q. You’ve both lived in Fulham all your lives – why do you love it here?
“We were born in Richmond but we moved to south-west London after university. Fulham is amazing because it’s so central and well connected with that buzzy London attitude at the same time as having a lovely village feel to it. You get the best of both worlds in Fulham.”

Q. Tell us a bit more about how you went about starting the business…
“Health, wellness, food and how it makes us feel has always been a passion of ours so we started Squirrel Sisters as a blog in 2014. Our blog gained a large following quickly; people connected with our mission and the fact we are two normal girls with a busy lifestyle who want to enjoy life while feeling great.

“With a growing following on our blog we saw an opportunity to turn our blog into a business so after much planning and preparation we launched our snack bars in November 2015, which we already had the recipes for [Gracie used to make them for Sophie due to her gluten intolerance.]

“We wanted to prove that healthy could be delicious and exciting so set off on a mission to help people make better and healthier choices more often. We wanted to help others believe that in treating yourself you can treat your health.”

Q. You’re stocked in an impressive range of places! Have you found it hard to break into the supermarket giants?
“We are extremely proud of our distribution – after two and a half years you can now find our products in more than 1,000 stores across the UK including Waitrose (you can find our cacao brownie and cacao orange flavours stocked in the Waitrose by Parsons Green), Morrisons, Boots, Whole Foods (all our flavours are stocked in the Fulham Whole Foods), Planet Organic, Selfridges, Ocado, Amazon and hundreds of independent delis, cafes and supermarkets.

“Launching into supermarkets is a challenge for a small company, especially if you haven’t had investment. We have won several awards for our bars (including three Great Taste awards) and we have great branding so this really helped with breaking into the bigger supermarkets.”

Q. There are lots of small, independent shops and supermarkets around Fulham. Do you think these are important as well?
“So important! In our first year we focused on all the independents and created good sales case studies that we could show the big supermarkets to prove how popular our bars were. We always make a conscious effort to support the smaller independent stores.”

Q. Which healthy cafes or restaurants do you like to visit in Fulham?
“We love Little H (especially because they stock our bars) on New Kings Road [], Esquires Coffee (they do the best avocado on toast) just across the bridge in Putney, Megan’s by the Green on Parsons Green Lane and Boy’s N Berry on Fulham Road.”

Q. And what are your plans for the future?
“We have big plans for Squirrel Sisters – we are currently in the process of securing investment, which will really take us to the next level. We want Squirrel Sisters to be accessible to everyone. We want to be a global brand that is known for its real, honest and exciting approach to health.”

Q. Anything else to share with our readers?
“We recently published our first cookbook, Naturally Delicious Snacks & Treats, which is available in all good bookshops and online retailers including Waterstones and Amazon.”

Squirrel Sisters maple bacon popcorn

Recipe: bacon maple syrup

The ultimate sweet and savoury popcorn combo – you’ll make this again and again!

• 2 slices dry-cure smoked streaky (fatty) bacon
• A splash of olive oil
• 50g / 1 3⁄4 oz / 1⁄4 cup popcorn kernels
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• 1⁄2 tsp sea salt flakes

Put the bacon in a non-stick frying pan (skillet) with a small splash of olive oil. Fry over high heat until crispy and golden all over, turning when needed so that it all browns evenly. Remove the bacon from the pan with tongs and leave to one side to cool.

Tip any fat left from the bacon into a large saucepan with a lid. Add the popcorn kernels and pop the lid on. Heat over high heat until you begin to hear pops. Keep cooking, shaking the pan frequently so that none stick and burn, until the popping subsides. Turn the heat off and leave it for another 30 seconds or so before removing the lid to make sure any late-popping kernels don’t fly out at you. Tip the popcorn into a bowl, discarding any un-popped kernels.

Once the bacon has cooled and hardened a little, put it into a food processor and blitz to a coarse powder.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the popcorn, stirring gently all the time so that it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle in the bacon powder and sea salt flakes, mix well and serve.

We have teamed up with Squirrel Sisters to offer a mixed box of bars and a cookbook to one lucky reader. Click here to enter

How toxic is your world?

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We live in a world that is literally awash with a concoction of untested chemicals. They are in soaps, detergents, cleaning products, furniture, cars, trains, planes, till receipts, plastics, paints, carpets, clothes, cosmetics, drinking water and food… and this is not an exhaustive list! Not only have about 80,000 chemicals been released into the environment since 1945, the majority have never been fully tested. Studies suggest you do not have to be exposed to a high dose to experience harmful effects. We are only now just beginning to see the results of this “experiment”…

Some have been classified as “hormone disruptors”, meaning they interfere with the intricate balance of hormones in humans and wildlife, potentially leading to developmental and reproductive problems. There is concern over the rising number of hormone-related disorders in both humans and wildlife and the results of recent scientific research include thyroid disease, hormonally driven cancers, early puberty, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The United Nations and the World Health Organisation have jointly published a report calling for more research to understand the link. It is unfortunately now impossible to escape being exposed to some extent to toxins, but you can dramatically reduce the total toxic load you are under, by making sensible lifestyle choices when it comes to what you eat, drink, wear and use. For example avoid consuming plastic bottled water (especially carbonated), filter your drinking and bathing water, eat organic foods, buy environmentally friendly/or make your own household detergents/dishwashing/cleaning and laundry products, stop using a fabric conditioner, think carefully about the use of garden chemicals/lawn treatments, use natural soaps/shampoos and reduce the use of personal care products and cosmetics/seek out natural alternatives. Consuming a nutrient-dense diet as well as directly supporting optimal liver and gut health are also key.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit

Stomach acid is crucial for health

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Stomach acid is not a design flaw of the body (which is often how it is portrayed), but is, in fact, crucial for optimal health and wellbeing. Without appropriate levels of stomach acid, the whole digestive process starts off on the wrong foot. Proteins need to be broken down into their component parts (amino acids) for efficient absorption further down the digestive tract and stomach acid is essential for this process to happen efficiently. The efficient absorption of vitamin B12 and minerals is also dependent on sufficient levels of stomach acid. B12 is crucial for energy production, mental/nerve function and cardio-vascular health. Typical symptoms that might suggest less than optimal levels of stomach acid include bloating, cramping, gas/belching shortly after a meal, reflux/heartburn, parasitic and yeast infections, feeling tired after a meal, problems digesting animal protein, nausea, bad breath, skin problems, undigested food in stools, increased susceptibility to food poisoning, rectal itching, IBS, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, food sensitivities and weak fingernails. If you suspect that you might have suboptimal levels of stomach acid, the following actions may well help: consume ginger and sauerkraut, avoid drinking large amounts of fluid just before and after eating a meal, eat smaller meals, consume the largest meal of the day when you are the least stressed, chew your food thoroughly, sit down and take your time to eat and consider taking a ‘food state’ multi vitamin and mineral supplement, using digestive bitters (natural stomach acid stimulants) and the use of very specific stomach acid supplementation. Please note that if you are taking any medications or have any significant health concerns, it is essential that you work with a suitably qualified health practitioner/doctor before taking any supplementation. Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit

Is a vegan diet healthy?

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Society considers a vegan diet a “healthy” lifestyle choice (both for humans and the environment). But is it? Some of the most severe and chronic health conditions I see are often connected to current or past veganism.

The science is convincing; vegans are far more likely to present with a number of key nutritional deficiencies compared to omnivores, particularly B12, omega 3 essential fats, choline and bioavailable forms of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A and D. Our cells require optimal nutrient levels to function. When cells malfunction, we develop disease.

Our digestive system closely resembles other predatory animals’ and is designed to break down animal protein with stomach acid. Herbivores do not produce stomach acid. Plants are difficult to break down, which is why herbivores have a special stomach (a rumen) containing significant quantities of bacteria whose sole purpose is to release nutrients. If you watch a cow eating, you’ll notice grass is regurgitated multiple times – “chewing the cud”. The human digestive system has very few bacteria in the stomach (stomach acid is very hostile to gut bacteria), with the vast majority residing in our version of a rumen, the colon (which is as far away from the stomach as possible) and located after the small intestine, the key part of the digestive system that absorbs nutrients (in herbivores the rumen is before the small intestine). We are designed to absorb the vast majority of our nutrients from foods broken down in the upper digestive systems (animal proteins/fats), with indigestible plant matter passed to the colon, where the gut bacteria get to work and produce a raft of essential metabolic by-products that we have discussed and confer considerable health benefits.

I’m not advocating we eat lots of animal protein; it should be the “garnish” with veg centre stage! I’m pointing out that abstaining from all animal protein is not “healthy”. A vegan diet is essentially a form of fasting.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit

Gluten-related disorders

Round & About


If you are presenting with any chronic health or wellbeing conditions that cannot be explained, then a professional assessment should be advised for the following disorders.

Gluten-related disorders (GRDs) are fundamentally caused by the inability of the body to properly digest gluten (the storage protein in grains), typically driven by imbalances in the bacterial species of the gut in combination with genetic predisposition. If identified, eliminate gluten from a diet permanently in order to repair the damage.

Coeliac disease (CD) is the autoimmune variant of GRDs where the immune system attacks and destroys the small intestine reducing the ability of the body to absorb nutrients. CD can be diagnosed using a combination of blood, genetic and physical assessments.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are not an auto-immune disease, but is no less serious. This evidence is based upon results of a large study that reviewed 351,000 intestinal biopsies clearly showing that there was not only just as much inflammation detected with NCGS as with CD, but also that the increased risk of early mortality was 72% with NCGS compared to 39% with CD.

There is also a “new kid on the block” called non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (NCWS), where gluten is not necessarily the trigger, but instead significant immune system reactions are being triggered by other components of wheat. You can start to appreciate that both gluten and wheat can have serious implications on individuals that do not have CD but instead NCGS/NCWS.

Simply eliminating wheat or gluten, in your diet, before you have had a professional assessment is not advised.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 0118 321 9533 or visit

Food is the most powerful medicine

Round & About


We all know that the NHS is under considerable pressure. The cost of diabetes alone to the NHS is over £1.5 million per hour, says Diabetes UK. The conventional medical view on type 2 diabetes (T2D) is that this condition is irreversible and requires long-term medication to control.

T2D typically responds very well to specific dietary and lifestyle interventions. Working in collaboration with their GPs, I have seen, firsthand, clients come off/reduce their diabetic medications by making substantial changes to their diets and lifestyle.

I am therefore somewhat perplexed by the fanfare that has surrounded the results of a very recently published randomised controlled trial in The Lancet, that has concluded that after the participants focused on a weight loss programme for 12 months that ‘almost half achieved remission to a non-diabetic state and off antidiabetic drugs. Remission of type 2 diabetes is a practical target for primary care’. This is great news, but not new news. There is considerable existing evidence to suggest that calorie restriction (in particular carbohydrate restriction) is one of the most beneficial approaches to optimally managing diabetes, which, after all, is an intolerance to carbohydrate. Obviously any such intervention does need to be carefully managed by a suitably, qualified health care practitioner in conjunction with the client’s GP/medical consultants. The reality is that standardising this type of approach, has the potential to save the nation around £7 billion.

It is time to stop simply focussing on how much more money the NHS requires and really start thinking about reducing overall load on the system, by using well-managed dietary and lifestyle interventions that are supported by unbiased science. Food is one of the most powerful medicines known to human kind.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit