Are you compensating what you’re eating?

Are you compensating what you’re eating?

What I mean by this is when you’re eating or maybe before you start eating, do you have thoughts of;

“I’m going to the gym later so it’s OK for me to eat this” or
“it’s OK for me to eat this cake so long as I have a smaller portion of my evening meal” or maybe
“I’m going out for dinner tonight and I don’t mind eating more than normal because it just means that tomorrow I’ll eat a little less”.

Thoughts like these are super common for people living in ‘generation wellness’ who have been batted over the head by unhelpful social media messages. Or for those who have dieted for many years and have a collection of different rules from different diets that they struggle to adhere to. Or it can be so serious that someone with an eating disorder refuses to have breakfast before doing a punishing exercise regime. Wherever someone is at, compensatory behaviours are a form of disordered eating and holds one back from having true enjoyment and satisfaction in their food.

As a non-diet dietitian, this is something I pick up on all over the shop. I could be in a supermarket and hear a naïve group of friends buying chocolate ‘because they have been good all day’ or I could be sitting down to pasta with a friend and a comment such as ‘I really need to get to the gym’ will pop up. I listen out for these types of beliefs with my clients as I legitimately can call them out – whereas to a random in a supermarket would be slightly awkward. Although my verbal diarrhoea could get the better of me one day..

So, let’s strip this back and look at what compensatory behaviour is. This is the definition for compensate from my trusted google search;

“reduce or counteract (something unwelcome or unpleasant) by exerting an opposite force or effect”

I almost deleted the part in brackets as I didn’t want food to be portrayed as something unwelcome or unpleasant, but then I realised that this is the crux of the matter. One who engages in compensatory behaviour is doing so because they believe that something ‘unwelcome or unpleasant’ will occur from eating. For example, breaking out of a diet rule means the diet is ‘broken’. Or not exercising after a pasta meal might instil fear of weight gain. Or in the case of the friends buying chocolate in the supermarket, they perceive chocolate as ‘bad’ and therefore ‘unwelcome or unpleasant’ so they can only justify having this if they have been ‘good’ for the rest of the time.

Why does this matter one might ask? Surely there’s a national weight and health problem out there so it’s good if people are conscious of what they’re eating?

Nein, nein, nein! (no, no, no in German). Compensatory thoughts and behaviours take enjoyment and freedom away from eating. If you’re unable to enjoy a pasta dish without thinking of your upcoming compensatory run, then you’re not truly engaging with that experience. Imagine you’re in a morning meeting at your current work but have an interview in the afternoon for a new job that you’re very nervous about. You might not be able to concentrate or give your best to the discussion because your mind is filled with thoughts and anxieties over the interview. This is legitimate for the morning meeting situation, however, having the same difficulty in engaging over a meal isn’t a positive vibe.

So what’s the alternative?

Food experiences should be a single experience of enjoyment and satisfaction in its entirety. One’s mind shouldn’t be mulling over compensating, instead thoughts such as; ‘I prefer how this restaurant cook’s risotto compared to the last place’ or ‘perhaps I overcooked the meat this time but never mind’ or ‘this chocolate bar tastes delicious’. Sure, being active and eating nutritious food is positive behaviour – however, it’s not part of a maths equation with not being active and eating ‘bad’ food (there is no bad food FYI).

For some, just hearing this message might be enough for you to do less ‘compensating’. For others, this has been a behaviour for quite some time and thoughts are entrenched in your eating experiences. If you struggle with letting go of your compensatory behaviours, ask yourself a few questions;
“what or who am I serving by engaging in compensating?”
“how is it having a negative impact on my relationship with food?”
“would I tell my best friend, daughter or brother to do the same thing?”
“do I like doing this?”
As I always say, food is meant to be enjoyed! It sends physical signals of pleasure to the brain, it socially brings people together, it can be creative in the kitchen and it keeps us moving and breathing all day long! Let’s love food rather than place unncessary conditions of ‘earning’ or ‘counteracting’ it.

Can I get an Amen?!

Helping the nation to fall back in love with pasta

Helping the nation to fall back in love with pasta

Contrary to common belief, pasta was first discovered by the Chinese. It has been recorded as being a thing as far back as 5000 BC. With a few jumps in agriculture and humble developments in trading, pasta is now enjoyed pretty much all over the world – but remains inherently recognised as an Italian dish.

Being a 90’s baby, my first memory of pasta is my Mum’s macaroni cheese. Consisting of teeny tiny tubules of pasta in a bath of melted cheese, beneath a deliciously crunchy layer of grilled cheese (which my sisters and I furiously fought over) – it was a classic 90s dish. Fast forward a few years to the noughties and the UK pasta boom happened, in combo with ‘sauce in a jar’ – making it a desirable convenient dish for many a family.

I have several other memories of pasta dishes, dating as far back as 2 days ago – but without turning this post into a memoir – I suppose the message I’m looking to provide is ‘is pasta OK?’ Quite a high proportion of my clients describe pasta as a ‘naughty food’ or are reluctant to tell me that this is what they have eaten. They seem somewhat surprised when I suggest trying a pasta dish or they’re happy to try a new recipe but would prefer to substitute pasta for some awful spiralized thing.

WHY one asks! It would seem a vicious common moral panic has been spread about the dried wheat stuffs. The media messages include; pasta makes you fat, bloated, sluggish, it’s processed and therefore… avoid avoid avoid as if your sole integrity depends on it!

As a nutrition professional, it’s important to get the truth out there about the much beloved pasta.

I advocate neither a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ label, all foods are morally neutral and shouldn’t result in a pat on the back for avoiding or guilt trip for giving in and eating. This way, you can truly explore whether a food is to your taste or not.

If you’re eating per your intuition, then pasta in its entirety won’t make you fat. Whilst eating, it’s important to tune in to your physical signals and to gage when you’re feeling full and satisfied. Some people find pasta filling and experience satisfaction relatively easily. Others might find pasta a very enjoyable experience and eat a bit over a physical sense of fullness to feel truly satisfied – that is perfectly fine and well! If, however, you’re eating a pasta dish totally distracted – maybe in front of the latest Made In Chelsea episode (my guilty pleasure), then you won’t necessarily gage your physical fullness and might eat more than your body is asking for at that time.

In terms of bloating, there are many a reason for why someone might experience bloating after pasta. We know that the digestive system is covered by the nervous system and therefore the mind-gut connection is very strong. If we’re not feeling very happy and content in our minds, this can transpire to our guts and make the digestive system not very happy and content. Some people then interpret this as ‘I can’t eat that because it makes me bloated’ when in fact, eating the food with a happy mind-frame may mean no bloating occurs. Hallelujah!

Pasta can be a great source of variety in the diet. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of pasta options out there! Twirled, ribboned, orzo’d, tagliatelle’d, lasagne’d ecetera ecetera. Basically, pasta doesn’t belong in the ‘bad’ box and one shouldn’t be afraid of enjoying a gorgeously Italian dish coupled with a smooth glass of red wine… ahh one of life’s great pleasures.  

Healthy lives are fruitful lives.


A lymeric about turmeric

A lymeric about turmeric

****this blog was first posted in January 2017 but due to an unfortunate hack I thought it was lost forever… until I found a copy in my ‘downloads’ folder, Amen Amen***

2017 is here. I mentioned on my first blog of 2016 that I had good feelings about the year, turns out my vibes were true. For one reason or another, it has been a good year of progress, excitement and real fun. Here’s to 2017 being great too!

I always encourage clients to look at New Year’s as being an opportunity to assess life status and think of ways to improve in a non-pressurised, curious way. For example, instead of ‘I’m going to eat really healthily this year’ think of ‘3 foods you would like to include more regularly in your diet’. Your answers could be as broad as vegetables or as specific as green beans. Or perhaps you’ve excluded foods from your diet unnecessarily and have noticed this so including more dairy foods or carbohydrates could also feature. Keep it personal and keep it positive – food is to be enjoyed!

Anyway, without any further ado – I present to you my lymeric about turmeric:

You may have noticed a hype around turmeric
Some health claims they make are nothing short of barbaric
But try as you might
It may provide an anti-inflammatory fight
Read my blog for a balance in the hysteric


Most noted for providing a gorgeous golden tone to Indian dishes and a spicy kick to your lentil dhal – turmeric has more recently been hailed as a must have supplement or tea ingredient in various health shops and cafes, you know the sort.

But just how valiant is this spice? Can it cure you of all ailments, give you a Zen of calm and detox all toxins, or do its benefits belong solely to its lovely colour and taste? Before I get self-righteous and myth-busting, turmeric has in actual fact been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years since pre medical world. First recorded for its use in South Asia, turmeric was a remedy for food poisoning – it has also been used for digestive problems, wound healing and cold and flu symptoms.

The active ingredient in turmeric is in actual fact a phytochemical called curcumin. Some studies have shown fairly promising results for using curcumin to fight inflammation and oxidative stress. This has led to some believing turmeric or curcumin supplements can help prevent or manage some diseases such as; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and arthritis.

Before one rushes to the health shop to stock up on a bottle – the studies remain inconclusive, as most nutritional science does! Many of the studies with positive results have been on animals which immediately weaken the relativeness to humans. Also, no conclusions have been drawn to the potential side-effects or toxicity from high doses in supplements.

However, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been demonstrated in studies and is therefore not total nonsense. I would, therefore, recommend using turmeric, within reason, when you’re cooking (ie not on your fruit salad or something, that wouldn’t work). Moreover, think of dishes like curries, spiced roast vegetables, soup and curried rice… For some inspiration, this recipe from the BBC looks like a pretty good place to start .

If you suffer from an illness related to inflammation and are tempted to trial a turmeric supplement, please take with caution! They should always be used in conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet and never used to replace conventional medicine without a discussion with your GP.

So before your drawn in to the hype around turmeric and order the ‘turmeric latte’ at your next opportunity, remember that the health claims aren’t quite what they seem…

Healthy lives are fruitful lives.




Mastering supermarket shopping

Mastering supermarket shopping

I recently enjoyed a whole 7 days off work. It was much needed as I haven’t had a week off since last May and I started a new p/t role in December at an eating disorder clinic which has been amazing but also very tiring! So for the week I packed my bags and popped to the Cotswolds for a weekend and spent the rest of my time off in my home town Bristol. Oh and I also celebrated turning 28 in this time… #birthday.

Anyhow, I returned home on Sunday evening and between the station to my home I pondered on what I would eat for dinner. I had the option to pop into a shop at Victoria but I had a suitcase and a holdall which was a pain in the * carrying around London (one awkward moment my suitcase got caught at the bottom of the escalator and I was already travelling up, I had to let go and watch my bag get further and further away… A hero stranger saved the day and reunited me with my bag, thank you so much). So adding to my luggage with food was a thought I could not fathom and I was sure I had something at home to have instead… I was pretty wrong. No bread, no tinned tuna, no eggs (my flatmate stole them #snitch), no bananas, cheese had gone off, no fresh meat, fish, vegetables, I’d even ran out of frozen vegetables… It was a dire moment. I ended up with pasta (can always rely on cupboard pasta) with fried onion and mushrooms… I had no pesto – I dressed with vegetable oil – also ran out of olive oil – and topped with cheese (I stole back from my flatmate). Luckily I had pepper and mixed herbs to add a bit more flavour… I suppose the meal took away my hunger but it wasn’t the most inspiring, satisfying meal. That’s OK though, it happens sometimes!

I wonder how many times you find the thought of food shopping just too much and ‘put it off’ for another day meaning you have to create something at home which is extremely basic and boring. Or going round the busy isles at the end of the busy working day is an experience you wish to divert and therefore go straight to the convenience options; ready meal, filled pasta, pizza, soup, etc. There isn’t anything wrong with this as sometimes convenience foods really come in handy. In this scenario, however, it means that you haven’t filled up your cupboards with essentials for tomorrows meals, so the cycle continues..

As the saying goes, you fail to prepare – you prepare to fail. Food shopping is a form of self-care and health respect in intuitive eating terms. Rather than an act of extreme planning and prep to keep up your strict healthy eating/diet regime – thinking your meals ahead and ensuring you have enough food in the house to create meals of enjoyment and satisfaction is a pretty great thing to do. Getting into a routine where you know when works best for you to shop, what time of day you find it easiest and knowing the typical foods that build up your food personality will make food shopping a much easier part of your life.

Here are my absolute 5 top tips for success at self-care food shopping:

1. Check what you have already! Look through all your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you DON’T need. There’s no point in getting more chopped tomatoes if you have 4 tins already. My Dad fails at this all the time… previous examples include about 5 tubs of Bisto, 3 jars of pickle and 2 big bags of RAW chick peas – not even tinned! So they need to soak for about 20 million hours and who does that, really?!

2. How many days’ worth of shopping are you buying for and how many meals does that include? Do this roughly, as we all know life happens and maybe you’ve planned a meal but end up eating out with a friend instead, or maybe an unexpected date if you’re lucky… However, this makes it less likely that you’ll under-shop and then need to hit the shops again at that time after work where you are more drawn to the convenience isle. Or you might over-shop and then food will go off and waste will happen… I’m not about wasting food.

3. Pick fruit and veg from all different colours. The colours mean they have different types of nutrients in them. Example – orangey colours means they’re packed with beta carotene – good for keeping your eye sight sharp. Greeney veg is full of folate – super great for your brain and nervous system. Deep purpley colours are rich with phytochemicals and antioxidants – fantastic stuff all round.

4. Get to know your staples. What items do you regularly use in your diet and so need in pretty much every shop? This will speed up your shopping trips. Mine include; bread (YES bread – normally the scrummy seeded loaf), eggs, milk, flaked almonds (for my porridge), onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, greek yoghurt, tinned tuna and some sort of snack bars. These items keep me going and then I add to it items that I fancy depending on my planned meals or maybe cupboard ingredients that I need to top up.

5. Shop savvy. Remember the shops are designed to make you spend AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE. It’s a business, this is their sole purpose. They will use whatever techniques to lure you in; sexy packaging, money ‘off’ offers, ‘health claims’ and strategic layouts. Keep your head screwed on, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting and trying something new but if it’s as a result of a promotion or it looks appealing, first ask yourself; ‘do I need this?’ ‘what meal/snack will I have it?’ ‘is it reasonably priced for my budget?’ ‘is what they’re claiming true?’.

So there you go… food shopping Rachel Clare Nutrition style! As my intro shows, it’s not always perfect – sometimes you do run out and fail to prepare. That’s A OK – pick yourself up and plan for tomorrow, don’t think about yesterday… #inspo.

Hope this is helpful, if you have any questions please feel free to ask… If it’s a subject that you’d like to talk about in much more detail – I offer supermarket tours as part of my service. At a supermarket near you, within reason… but I’m more than happy to be flown out to your supermarket in California if you wish… I take you round each isle and discuss all the food on offer and help you develop your ‘supermarket shopping personality’.

Healthy Lives are Fruitful Lives

Which potato deserves a halo?

Which potato deserves a halo?

My friends don’t know how lucky they are having a dietitian ‘on tap’. One Friday evening, after a long day at work my long standing school friend Bekki (who is an awesome cook and we have been meaning to do a collaborative blog post for a long time, ahem Bekki!!) sent me a text:

I have a food question… Emma is doing slimming world and apparently new potatoes are less points than other potatoes because they contain less starch. Explain…


This question is an example of many a question I receive regarding the humble English spud, hence blog. One will explain…
The basics – what are potatoes?
Making up part of the nightshade family of vegetables – they grow underground and provide food for the green leafy plant that grows above ground. Given that they feed a plant, they are also a good source of food for humans. So good that they are actually recognised as a staple, starchy carbohydrate more so than a vitamin rich vegetable but they serve an equal purpose for both in my opinion.

Tell me more about the starch…
Also known as ‘complex carbohydrates’ starch is a plants way of storing energy by connecting lots of glucose pieces together. When we eat the starch it provides a ‘slow releasing’ energy source as our body has to digest the starch into individual glucose pieces before it is released into our blood stream – a relatively timely process.

So why are new potatoes better than old because they have less starch?
Let’s look at the numbers…
A medium sized old potato, baked in the oven (because how else do we eat these spuds?!) weighs 180g and contains 54.9g starch. An average portion of 4 new potatoes, boiled with skins weighs 160g and contains 23g starch.

How so?
A reason that is actually pretty simple… New potatoes contain more water than baked old potatoes… Our 160g portion of new potatoes contains 129g of water that’s a huge 80% water! In the jacket potato it contains 112g of water so approx. 60% water. So what the new potato lacks in starch, makes up in water which is calorie free!

Quite simply, starch is energy and energy is calories. For those in the slimming world community – new potatoes contain less calories than old potates and will therefore help you to lose weight.

So should I never eat a baked potato again?
No! Although they have more calories, they are also rich in nutrients that are really good for you. Particularly rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B6 (more so than the new potato) they are a healthful option for any meal. So for those that aren’t following a diet plan and cutting calories wherever possible (eating intuitively), an old baked potato gets the thumbs up.

Talk to us about sweet potatoes

This was where I cut the texting convo with Bekki short and said “oh gosh girrrl I’ve had a long day!! Sweet potatoes have good vitamins in. I’ll expand as per blog; ‘the potato dilemma’ I’ll think of a better title later haha” of which I have right?!

To expand…

To say that sweet potatoes have become more popular of late is a huge understatement. The white potato variety has been cast aside by many-a-health freak opting for the sweet potato which has been dubbed a superfood, an anti-inflammatory rocket pocket and a cancer fighting warrior.

Just how much better is the sweet potato?
Back to the figures…
An average portion of sweet potatoes, boiled or baked, weighs 160g. My book gives figures for the boiled variety so if you’re baking them be aware the numbers may be slightly different!

Drumroll… Water = 118g, 74% and starch = 14g so comparing it to old and new it sits quite neatly in between the two varieties.

In terms of vitamin content… It has particularly less potassium, vitamin B6 and folate to the old baked potato – however the beta carotene content is huge in comparison to the old and new that only contain Tr amount and vitamin C is a touch higher.

So I suppose the battle of white vs sweet potato is swings and roundabouts! Both contain healthful properties so my advice is to include both types in your diet on a regular basis!

For the visual learners, I’ve put together a wee table to help you compare all 3 spuds…

The new The old The sweet
Average portion size 160g 180g 160g
Calories 105kcal 244kcal 134kcal
Water 129g 112g 119g
Starch 23g 54.9g 14g
Potassium 688mg 1134mg 480mg
Magnesium 29mg 57.6mg 72mg
Beta carotene Tr Tr 6336ug
Vitamin B6 0.5mg 0.9mg 0.08mg
Vitamin C 14.4mg 25.2mg 27.2mg
Folate 30.4mg 79.2mg 12.8mg

In conclusion… Good news is that every potato deserves a halo! For different reasons, each variety get the green light. I don’t know about you but I like a variety in my diet, I get bored with eating the same thing all the time (except bananas, I eat them all the time) so including all the types of potatoes helps to mix things up a bit.

Happy potato eating!

Healthy lives are fruitful lives.

Give a hoot for beetroot!

Give a hoot for beetroot!

Today I gave a wee presentation to a lovely group of sports-keen city workers on the topic of sports nutrition (shout out to my attendees!).

Giving a few pointers on performance nutrition and how to recover well to avoid injury and illness – I will consider myself partly responsible for their new PBs at the next marathon or for 1st position in their next racquets tournament, thank me later.

In a bid to grab interest I started with a line up of small tumblers with a mystery red juice – mildly resembling a Holy Communion setting – for participants to try and ‘guess the flavour’. Being a rather distinct flavour no one failed to recognise beetroot and a slight hint of apple juice.

Alas there was method to the madness! Beetroot juice is quite possibly a handy little drink when it comes to sports nutrition. The mechanism isn’t completely proven yet but it’s believed to be down to the high nitrate content of this humble vegetable.

Nitrates are ions which are converted in the body to nitrites and then nitric oxide (NO). The NO works primarily in the walls of blood vessels to help them relax and widen thus blood flow is enhanced and particularly blood pressure is lowered. The NO also works as a secondary energy source to oxygen – therefore, your body does not rely solely on the oxygen you breathe in for energy but can hall on that little pool of NO also so you are able to exercise for longer with greater exertion! A study found that when a group of cyclists drank beetroot juice they were able to exercise for 16% longer before reaching exhaustion – crazy right!

Q & A

Can’t you just eat beetroot in your salad? No! The content of nitrate in beetroot is not always the same, it depends on where it is grown, in what soil or on what farm. However, beetroot juice often has a standard quantity of nitrates in every bottle.

How much beetroot juice do I need to drink? Quite a bit! If you drink 0.5L for 5 or 6 days prior to your race day and 3 hours before the starting line you’re more likely to have the amount of nitrates you need to see a difference.

Is it only beetroot juice that has nitrates? No! Spinach is also a good source of nitrates, however, you would need to consume a relatively large amount of the stuff to reap the benefits. As with beetroot, it’s also not possible to know how much nitrate is actually in your spinach salad or home-made nutribullet juice.

So my conclusive advice is to give the beetroot juice a go if you’re a highly competitive type and keen to get that sub 4 (or even 3!) hour marathon time.

If you’re not that type then beetroot as a salad vegetable or as an enjoyable daytime juice is a favourable choice! The high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to the nitrates makes it a truly healthy option any day of the week 🙂


Healthy lives are fruitful lives.