Thought for Food
With the bikini season safely behind us, many of us breathe a sigh of relief. But perhaps this is exactly the time to start thinking of how to get healthy, in preparation for upcoming Christmas excesses. And with soaring numbers of people suffering from diabetes putting a huge burden on the NHS system, it is more relevant than ever. Tracey Frost, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner has some advice – and you might just like her approach.
Tracey is passionate about nutritional therapy, having retrained through sweat and tears in her own time whilst working full time as a media buyer. Her approach is decidedly pragmatic and open minded and aims to help people achieve health through food and lifestyle choices.
She arrives at our meeting looking disconcertingly like Angelina Jolie, radiant and healthy. Frankly it’s a little intimidating - she looks like one of those girls we would love to hate - except we can’t because they’re too likeable.
She sits down in the restaurant and immediately orders a beer and starts chatting about how an unrealistically strict approach to food and health is not her style. “A holistic approach to health is the way forward” she says, torn between the choice of the burger and a super food salad, which virtually has a halo hovering above it on the menu, mid-air. We agree to share a burger and a salad, achieving semi-goodness and halving the guilt. This perfectly illustrates her approach to food – allow yourself a little of what you really want and top it up with what you know is good for you.
After some small talk our food arrives and she launches into talking about her work: “The thing with nutritional therapy is that you can’t go in, gung ho, to someone and say: right, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, when they’re just not achievable goals.”
Happily munching through her half of the surprisingly delicious salad, she continues: “When I do a consultation, the first hour is gathering information about what makes the client tick, who does the shopping, who does the cooking, what they crave, when are they are likely to snack etc.”
This helps identify where the root of any nutritional problems lie and after explaining the science behind how it all works, Tracey can hopefully negotiate a plan with her client. The key word for her is always “achievable”. “No one will make changes if the programme is too strict” Tracey says, tucking into her half burger.
So what are her top five tips for healthy eating?
“My first tip is to eat as close to the grain as possible” she says. “That means choosing wholegrain when possible and limiting refined carbohydrates such as white bread and sugar. Basically limit the white stuff as much as you can.”
She explains how our bodies are finely tuned machines, with everything in delicate balance - from the thickness of your blood, through to the amount of water in your system. As soon as something upsets the balance, your body goes into alarm mode, disturbing your homeostasis - basically a fancy word for the equilibrium of your system.
Refined sugar is one of the big baddies of food, according to Tracey. She explains: “Hormones work hard to extract the sugar from your blood, clean it, and return it in a safe and healthy state.” There are two types of hormones doing this – insulin and a stress hormone called cortisol. So for a short time after having sugar, your body is under stress, triggering a huge chain reaction. That’ll be the sugar “high” kicking in!
And what about sweeteners? So many people swear by them - are they bad?
“It depends on what you are using them for” Tracey explains.” If I am dealing with someone who has a massive addiction to sugar, then using sweeteners to get them off the sugar can work. That’s fine in the short term.”
The significant factor is that sweeteners don’t trigger the hormones in the same way that sugar does. And some are better than others. “Aspartame is really bad for you and has been linked to attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in kids – it’s not good news” says Tracey.
Certain fruit sugars have less than a quarter of the calories of normal sugar. Xylitol is a good one, commonly used for baking and it comes as a powder so you can use it as you would normal sugar. It is however not magic, as Tracey points out: “At the end of the day, sugar is sugar – but fruit sugars are better for us.”
Tracey’s third tip is to “eat the rainbow.” She laughs at how this might sound like a hippy trippy mantra, but continues: “There is abundant colour in fresh food; tomatoes, peppers, broccoli - eat as much colour in your daily diet as you can. Not only does it look appealing on your plate, it really is good for you.”
Herbs and garlic come up fourth - make the most of them: “They can make the most benign, boring food turn into something that makes your mouth go: “Uuh, taste sensation!”
Tracey’s final tip is preparation and forethought. Planning your weekly menu might seem like a chore, but most of us already run our lives through our diaries. It is only one little step further to include your food in this system. “Think about when you are going to be eating at home, when you’ll be out and double up your cooking when you can, making both a dinner and lunch in one go. Home delivery shopping is a great way of helping you to plan - if your budget allows it.”
And being prepared on the move is easy: “Make sure you have a bottle of water and have a piece of fruit with you when you’re out and about. This can help you steer away from tempting things like a frappucino.” Tracey pauses, and through dreamy, iced coffee glazed eyes, she sighs: “Oh, but I do love a frappucino!”
Bottom line seems to be that, in Tracey’s world, you can have your cake and eat it - as long as you only have a small slice. And not too often.
Sessions with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner like Tracey costs around £45 per session and to get a good nutritional plan going you would need, on average, 2-3 sessions.