Nutrition articles

Good nutrition often slides down the priority list at exam time. However, an exam is a mental marathon and endurance is crucial. The right food and drink can energise you, improve your stamina and concentration through the exam.

Personal Development

Accountancy Ireland Extra has partnered with the team at SpunOut.ie to bring you some top nutrition tips for the exam season. Eating well is good for both your mental and physical health. When it comes to exams and studying, you want to be at your best – that means eating the right foods to ensure your concentration levels are where they need to be. We have put together some tips to ensure that you can eat your way to exam success. Avoid skipping meals No matter how rushed you are, try to avoid skipping meals – especially breakfast. Starting your day with breakfast gets your body going and maintains your concentration for the day. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables It might sound like hard work, but try to add fruit or vegetables to every meal if possible. Simple ways to increase your fruit and veg intake include smoothies, adding banana to toast, and adding fruit to porridge or breakfast cereals. Drink plenty of water Try to drink eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated. By drinking enough water, you’re also less likely to be hungry. If you’re not a fan of water on its own, add a sugar-free diluted squash. Opt for healthy snacks It can be tempting when studying to reach for unhealthy snacks. Snack foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets can be high in sugars and saturated fat, and low in certain vitamins and minerals. Instead, keep fruit such as apples, blueberries or bananas on hand for those moments you need a snack. Check out our article on swapping your favourite snacks for healthier alternatives. Wholegrains The brain cannot function without the right energy, and it needs a constant supply throughout the day to ensure it functions correctly. Achieve this by eating wholegrains with a low glycaemic index (GI) such as brown pasta, brown rice or brown bread. Things to avoid… Avoid sugary snacks as they will result in a short-term high that will eventually come crashing down, leaving you feeling tired. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Coffee and soft drinks such as Diet Coke may give you a short-term energy boost but in the long run, it will result in an energy crash that just isn’t worth it. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull, as they will result in a caffeine and sugar rush that won’t do your body any favours. And lastly, when you’re studying, alcohol is not your friend. It will dehydrate you, disturb your sleep and wreck your concentration the next day. Not worth it! This article was produced by Spunout.ie, Ireland’s youth information website. Five great brainfood-based snack ideas The last thing you need right now is to spend time researching what to eat in the run-up to your exam, so we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our favourite brain food snacks, all of which are quick and easy to prepare... Hummus and carrot/celery sticks. You could make both from scratch or – to save time – pick up the end-product in your local supermarket. Apple slices with almond butter. The latter can be pricy but you’ll pick up a bag of apples for less than a euro, so it all balances out. Natural yogurt with chia seeds, banana, blueberries and nuts. This can also be a full breakfast, but it’s a superfood bonanza for the brain. Smashed avocado on wholegrain toast. A big snack that’ll keep you going for a couple of hours. Dark chocolate. A daily portion of dark chocolate has been found to improve blood flow to the brain, so treat yourself!

Apr 05, 2020

Whether you’re trying to give up cheesecake, cigarettes or Cabernet Sauvignon, one thing you won’t be a stranger to is cravings. Cravings are described as a motivational state where you feel compelled to find and consume a particular substance, for instance chocolate, which is arguably the most commonly craved food. Yet the more you try to put the object of your desire out of your mind, the more you can’t stop thinking about it. And so the stronger your craving gets, until you just have to give in and satisfy it. Trying to stop yourself from thinking about the thing you’re craving may seem like the right thing to do. But thinking about or doing something else to take your mind off it is a far more powerful tool in the fight against cravings. In other words, if you want to manage or even beat your cravings, one of the best things you can do is to distract yourself. The art of distraction Distraction isn’t generally considered as something beneficial. You certainly don’t want to be distracted when you’re driving, operating heavy machinery or performing a complicated surgical procedure. Distraction can also be used to help you avoid doing something you’re not looking forward to, such as checking your emails and social media when there’s a tricky or boring task to carry out at the office. But distraction can be a healthy action too. In this context distraction isn’t about suppressing your cravings. It’s not about denying yourself something. It’s when you redirect your thoughts from one thing to another, either a mental or physical activity – preferably one you have to devote your full attention to. You’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself, you’re just trying to delay saying ‘yes’. And when you consider that research suggests cravings become weaker within about 15 minutes, all you have to do is distract yourself for a short amount of time. You could, for instance, try doing one of the following… Phone a friend or talk to a work colleague Write an entry in your diary Go for a walk Read a chapter or two of an absorbing book Do some push-ups/skip/dance Practice meditation … or indeed anything that directs your thoughts away from the thing you’re craving. Scientific evidence Scientists have studied the idea of distraction to find out whether it could be an effective strategy to manage cravings. One study from Plymouth University has shown that you only have to play the computer game Tetris for 3 minutes before your cravings for food start to diminish. The same technique works for other types of craving too. Another experiment carried out by experts at McGill University in the USA looked at how imagination can help when you’re trying to curb food cravings. The researchers asked one group of volunteers to imagine they were doing something they enjoy as vividly as possible whenever they had cravings over a 4-day period. Meanwhile, another group simply had to think about their intention to control their cravings or recite the alphabet backwards. The results of the study showed those who imagined doing something pleasant had significantly reduced cravings compared to the other groups at the end of the study period. A similar idea has been tested by researchers at Queen Mary’s University of London, who tested an app designed to help with food cravings. Volunteers were asked to use the app whenever they felt a craving. By pressing a button on the app they received an instruction to imagine something – a forest, for instance. The results showed significant reductions in overall snacking in those using the app, as well as reductions in unhealthy snacking. Meanwhile, other experts believe physical distraction is powerful too. Austrian researchers worked with overweight people who ate chocolate or other sweets every day. They asked some of the volunteers to go for a brisk 15-minute walk after taking a mental test designed to put them under stress – a situation that often makes people turn to comfort food – while the rest were told to sit quietly for the same amount of time. At the end of the study, the volunteers who had taken the 15-minute walk were found to have much lower cravings for chocolate than those who sat still. So next time you start craving something, why not try distracting yourself for 15 minutes. You never know, it could work for you too. For tips, recipes, and resources to help you promote your physical wellbeing, visit our physical wellbeing microsite. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 05, 2019

Power of protein From a nutrition point of view, protein content in lunches is often too low resulting in mid-afternoon energy crashes and craving stimulants such as coffee or cake. As an approximation if you wish to maintain your current weight, guidelines suggest 0.75g protein per day per kg body weight. As an example, if you weigh 11 stone you should aim for 53g protein per day. Approximate protein examples include: Chicken breast contains 35g protein A tin of tuna contains 25g protein An egg contains 6g protein In effect a 70kg person should have almost a full tin of tuna for lunch assuming an egg for breakfast and chicken breast for dinner. The government guidelines for protein consumption are 50g protein per day which as a registered nutritional therapist I think is a little low. Understanding labels: To help compare brands to identify which is the healthier brand, look at the per 100g column on food labels. If you have no known health concerns focus on the amount of protein in bought lunches. If your cholesterol is a little high, choose items with lower saturated fat. If you have hypertension choose lunches which are low in salt, and if you are diabetic choose lunch options which have lower sugar content.  Sandwiches, wraps or pitta bread Some people have uncomfortable bloating feelings after eating sliced bread sandwiches. Replace sliced bread with wraps or pitta bread and see if the bloating resolves itself in a couple of days. Lunch ideas Here are some lunch ideas you can make at home to tempt taste buds: Simple salad Ingredients: 2 handfuls of spinach (high in iron) 2 tsp lemon juice (to help activate the iron in spinach) ½ red pepper sliced (high in vitamin C) Handful of pomegranate seeds (antioxidants) Cucumber Handful olives 1 tbsp pine nuts Palm size amount of protein (chicken, fish, 2 eggs, feta or goats cheese) Method: mix all ingredients together and add other vegetables if desired. Baked sweet potato Ingredients: 1 large sweet potato (baked) Toppings (beans, guacamole and salad) Method: bake potato and fill with toppings Quinoa vegetable mix Ingredients: 1 cup quinoa (cooked) Dressing (tahini, apple cider vinegar, ½ mashed avocado) Fresh or cooked vegetables Method: Mix all together once each has been cooked. Veggie bowl Ingredients: 2/3 cup brown rice 1 carrot grated Handful tomatoes ½ avocado sliced Hummous Sesame seeds  Method: cook the rice and once drained add the vegetables to the top adding the final piece - the hummous. Simple rosti Ingredients: 1 potato ½ onion finely chopped 1 medium egg whisked 1 tsp plain flour Olive oil to cook Handful mushrooms and tomatoes grilled (to serve) Method: peel then grate the potato. Mix with other ingredients. Heat oil in hot pan. Divide the mixture into two and cook for 10 to 12 minutes each side or until golden brown. Serve with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes. Warming soup Ingredients: 250g carrots peeled and finely chopped 250g sweet potato peeled and chopped 100ml can coconut milk ½ garlic clove Method: Boil potatoes and steam carrots until cooked. Blend both together adding coconut milk and garlic. Add pepper to season. Written by: The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd was founded in 2006 by Anjanette Fraser whose previous career was in Corporate Finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. With a previous career in finance and studying a MSc in Nutritional Medicine, Anjanette translates the latest scientific research into an easier to understand format to improve employee health, and making healthcare more accessible by bringing Nutrition health professionals into the workplace. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 21, 2019

Preparing lunchboxes may seem a tedious task, a bit of an uphill struggle. But preparing ahead can boost your health. Making your own lunch allows you to ensure each meal is balanced, has enough protein in it, and gives more energy. You can even save some money doing it. Meal prepping Prepping your lunches is a great way to keep track of what you’re eating. But if like many of us you struggle to find time to make lunch during the week, you could try and prepare your lunches for the whole week on a Sunday. Once they're ready, add two to the fridge for start of the week and then put the remaining three in the freezer for the end of the week. You’ll likely spend less money, and best of all, you only need to take your lunch out of the fridge each morning. No further work required! Things to consider when prepping your lunch It’s important to make sure you’ve got balance between the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), when prepping your food. As a quick reminder: Carbohydrates = rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, vegetables, fruit Proteins = meat, fish, dairy, eggs, soya, quinoa, or combing at least two of the following in lunch (nuts, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, grains) Fats = avocado, oily fish (mackerel, sardines), nuts, seeds, and saturated fats (animal fats) in moderation Power of protein Nutritional therapists talk a lot about protein,the macro nutrient which fills you for longer, giving you more sustainable energy. For many the mid-afternoon energy slump is due to insufficient protein at lunchtime.  As an approximation we suggest 0.75g protein per kg body weight. As an example, a person who weighs 11 stone should aim for 53g of protein per day. As an approximation of grams of protein: Chicken breast contains 35g protein A tin of tuna contains 25g protein An egg contains 6g protein It may help to have a think about how you spread your protein throughout the day. Many people might be a bit light on protein for breakfast so there’s scope for having more protein included in your lunch box. Switching grains If you haven’t already tried it, add quinoa to your shopping list. It’s cheap, easy to cook (boil it in water like rice - for as long as rice) and it’s mild in flavour. It’s biggest selling point is that it’s a protein. Yes it looks like cous cous and it cooks like rice, but cous cous and rice are carbohydrates (sugars), whereas quinoa is protein! Add it to soups, stews, salads or on the side like you would have done with rice. Replacing carbohydrates on some days with quinoa cuts down on the amount of carbohydrates you’ll eat which for most people can assist with weight management goals. Food for thought: fats After years of negative reports about fats - increased cholesterol and weight gain - we often struggle to convince people to increase the omega 3 (good fats) in their diet. Now however we know a bit more about fats, particularly omega 3 and how essential it is for our health (heart, joints, skin etc). Fats also keep you fuller for longer which is a big bonus when many people tend to have an energy slump mid-afternoon. Where possible add some good fats into your lunch - ½ avocado, handful of nuts and seeds, oily fish (mackerel, sardines). Each of these can be bought ready to eat so there’s no fuss or prep required from you. Fruit & vegetables Hopefully you’ve already had one piece (clenched fist size) of fruit with breakfast. Now to tick off at least another one or two of your 5-a-day with lunch. Include in your lunchbox some uncooked vegetables (most will lose some nutritional value when heated) - how about carrot batons, sticks of celery, cucumber or pepper. Save your second piece of fruit for the mid-afternoon snack when you can combine this with some yogurt or a handful of nuts and seeds. Make your salads more exciting and interesting by putting in something to add a bit of interest - feta cheese, olives, capers, anchovies, radish, pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, pesto etc. Don’t forget to add in some vitamin C (squeeze of lemon, raw vegetables) with leafy green vegetables to get the added bonus of additional iron conversion. Purchasing on-the-go lunches If you find yourself in a convenience store or petrol station at lunchtime here is a suggestion. Personalise the lunch to you! Wrapped food has a label. Look at the per 100g column to help you compare 2-3 lunch options. If you’ve no health issues focus on maximising protein. If you’ve high cholesterol focus on least saturated fat. If you’ve high blood pressure focus on least amount of salt. Healthy lunch recipes If you decide to give prepping your lunches a go and want some inspiration, I have written another blog which contains some healthy lunch recipes. Written by: The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd The Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing Ltd was founded in 2006 by Anjanette Fraser whose previous career was in Corporate Finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. With a previous career in finance and studying a MSc in Nutritional Medicine, Anjanette translates the latest scientific research into an easier to understand format to improve employee health, and making healthcare more accessible by bringing Nutrition health professionals into the workplace. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 21, 2019

If you're already struggling with other household bills, the last thing you need is to have to spend even more money on keeping yourself fed. But, thankfully, not spending a fortune on food doesn't mean you have to compromise your health. Here are some practical ideas for how to eat well for less:  Before you go shopping, write down all the meals you want to cook in the coming week and make a list of the ingredients you'll need. Then when you're shopping, just buy what's on the list – and nothing else. Remember to buy canned and frozen fruit and veg as they are usually cheaper than fresh (but just as nutritious).  Don't buy lots of fresh fruit and vegetables at the same time because you may not be able to eat them all before they start going off. Just buy enough for the next day or two, even if it means buying one or two of every fruit and vegetable you need.  If you have a freezer, look out for reduced-price bargains that have to be eaten the same day and freeze them as soon as you get home. You can also save on cooking fuel by making enough for two or three portions each time you make a meal, and freezing what you don't eat.  Shop around for the best prices if you have time. Local markets often sell fruit, veg, fish and meat cheaper than supermarkets. Farmers' markets are also usually cheaper too, especially when you buy produce that's in season. If there are no local markets where you live and your only option is a supermarket, try the store's own-brand foods. These are usually cheaper and are just as nutritious as well-known brands. Take a packed lunch that you've made yourself to work. This alone could save you a small fortune compared to buying lunch every day. Cut down on food waste by keeping leftovers in the fridge and making a meal of them the next day. Save on buying expensive cuts of meat by looking for cheaper – but healthy – sources of protein such as tinned fish (sardines and pilchards, for instance), turkey or beef mince, stewing steak, beans, chickpeas and lentils.  Try growing your own fruit and veg if you're lucky enough to have a garden. Even if you only have a patio, many types of fruit and veg can be grown in containers and pots. Don't go shopping when you're hungry, as you may well end up buying more than you need. Also be wary of buy-one-get-one-free offers, because although they may seem like good value for money, you may end up buying more than you can actually use.   Find out more about how you can cut down on food waste – and save money while you're at it – by visiting the Love Food Hate Waste website. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 11, 2019

Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg each day ensures your body gets the vitamins, minerals and fibre it needs. But what does a portion of fruit or veg look like?  80g for fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables 30g of dried fruit 150ml of fruit or vegetable juice, or a smoothie Stick to one smoothie a day The production of smoothies removes most of the healthy fibre found in whole fruit. This means that the fructose (sugar) in the fruit is absorbed into your blood stream much quicker. Experts recommend sticking to just one portion of fruit juice or smoothie each day, perhaps just before a period of physical activity when your body will benefit from an energy boost.  3 top tips: Eat a variety of different coloured fruit and veg - the darker or brighter the colour, the better Choose frozen fruit and veg. It has the same nutritional value as fresh fruit and veg, and it lasts longer! Buy seasonal. Fruit and veg is often cheaper and much tastier when it's in season 7 ways to get your 5 a day: 1. Add fruit to your breakfast Add some natural sweetness to your muesli with sliced bananas, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. For a delicious, warming treat, stew down some apples and blackberries, add a touch of cinnamon and serve with your porridge. Or how about some sliced banana and nut butter on toast? 2. Make a smoothie Quick, convenient and fun, smoothies are a great choice for people on the go. Plus, you can get more than one (or all!) of your five a day in one sitting. Remember, fruit is naturally high in sugar, so  try to use a combination of both fruit and veg. Here's one for you to try: Ingredients: 2 cups spinach or kale 1 cup milk or coconut water 1 tbsp flaxseed 1/2 cup oats 1-2 items of fruit Method: Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. 3. Make a soup A warming healthy soup is simple to make, and could give you all of your five a day in one bowl! Here's one recipe for you to try: Ingredients: 250g carrots, peeled and finely chopped 250g sweet potato, peeled and chopped 100ml can coconut milk 1/2 garlic clove Method: Boil potatoes and steam carrots until cooked. Blend both together adding coconut milk and garlic. Add pepper to season. 4. Snack on fruit Swap out your mid-morning biscuits for a piece of fruit. The carbohydrates in all fruit are a great source of energy, but for a super quick burst, try fruits without a skin e.g. banana, mango or pineapple. Perfect just before a workout. 5. Take a dip Liven up raw sticks of carrot, celery, pepper or cucumber with a delicious dip, like hummus. 6. Use vegetables as ingredients Add extra vegetables to your dish. For example, you could chop up some pepper to put into your chilli or simply add some lettuce, cucumber and tomato to your sandwich. You could also make your rice more exciting by adding peas, sweetcorn or spring onions. 7. Make your own sauce Instead of buying ready-made sauces, why not use tinned tomatoes for your pasta dish? Not only will this count towards your five a day, it will also reduce your salt and sugar intake. Plus you can add your own herbs and spices to suit your taste buds. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 11, 2019