> The Beesley Buzz: Q&A with Nutritionist Angela Dowden

Q&A with Nutritionist Angela Dowden

You may remember a while back we created a recipe using Canderel, our Heaven Scent Polenta cake. Well Canderel loved the recipe and so we got to have a special Q&A session with renowned nutritionist and writer Angela Dowden.

These are the questions we asked along with her answers:

My 9 year old son struggles with getting grumpy when he's hungry. We try a low GI diet with him but it is still a struggle when hunger pangs suddenly hit. Any tips for ideal snacks for him or alternative ways of keeping blood sugar levels stable?

Angela: It sounds like you’re doing what you can. Kids need snacks in a way adults don’t so the key thing is always to make sure that you have some fairly substantial snacks to hand, keeping the “main” meals modest so these can easily be accommodated in the overall diet. Dried fruit has a relatively low GI and teamed with cubes of cheese or some nuts makes a great snack. Milky drinks are perfect too. I wouldn’t obsess about GI for a healthy active youngster and things like malt loaf, scones, and hummus and of course veg nibbles (peppers, cucumber) are great too.

I always feel the need for something sweet after a meal. Any healthy options other than fruit that would really help with a sweet tooth?  

Angela: If you are going to have something sweet, after your main meal is the best time as the sugar is less likely to cause unhealthy fluctuations in sugar and insulin like it can on an empty stomach. So go for then (in moderation) it if you want to! Otherwise you can sweeten your fruit  (berries for example) with Canderel to get a wee bit more of a sweet kick without the health downsides, or make your own sweet bakes or puds with sweetener instead of sugar.  Another suggestion is a (small!) cream cake like a chocolate ├ęclair – it’s often lower in both sugar and calories than, say, cheesecake or pie.

Are there any probiotic type yogurts / drinks that have been properly proved to be effective and 'stronger' than things like Yakult or Actimel? I'm wondering whether it is worth getting my daughter drinking these regularly as she is starting on methotrexate and that will reduce her ability to fight infection - could these help her avoid tummy bug type infection?  (She’s 3 years old)

Angela: In honesty, not really and though there may be some that work, there are many different variations and it’s not really known what really might work for which condition.  That said Actimel and Yakult should both be safe in three year olds and I would stick to mainstream one such as these for someone so young unless she has specific advice from a specialist.

A friend of mine has a vegetarian daughter. She asks about safe vitamins and supplements for children.  Her daughter is a strict vegetarian so won't eat fish oils. She isn't a fussy eater but would love to know safe brain food for children that are veggie friendly. People tend to steer clear of advice for children and suggestions of spirulina doesn't crack it for kids especially asd children.

Angela: I believe there are algae based DHA supplement that would be worth looking into that will provide her with good amounts of the “brain” omega-3 DHA and are acceptable to most vegans. If she is including dairy and eggs then she may not need to worry about iodine and vitamin B12, but if she is not then these also should be considered and there are acceptable vegetarian forms (ask at a health food shop). Milk alternatives given to children must be fortified with calcium. To get adequate vitamin D she will need 15 minutes in sunlight before sunscreen is applied. Iron can be an issue, but nuts, green veg and tofu supply good amounts.

I'd love to cut down more on meat, especially red meat but find I don't get on with pulses e.g. I think I may be intolerant to lentils and some beans as have been sick several occasions after eating them. Other good alternatives? 

Angela: Some people do have an issue with pulses. Other options include tofu, quorn, textured vegetables protein and of course good old eggs if you prefer something less processed. Nuts are a very underrated source of protein too.

My niece has acid reflux. Any dietary advice to help? 

Angela: In a nutshell, eat little and often, avoid too much fat (a common guide is 45 g per day for men and 30 g for women. Coffee (not just caffeinated) and alcohol should be moderated. Some people find particular food sensitivities make reflux worse, e.g. lettuce, onions, garlic and capsicum. I would urge your niece to keep a food diary to see what seems to affect symptoms. It’s worth noting that some sufferers may have a problem with gluten. A specialist dietitian should be able to help.

I'd love to know what you would consider to be the best type of oil to cook with?  I switched from olive oil to rapeseed oil years ago for cooking but recently heard groundnut oil is good too. Any benefits of one over the other?

Angela: I personally use rapeseed a lot for everyday (a good monounsaturated and heat stable oil), but I also mix things around with sunflower (vitamin E rich) and olive too. Groundnut is also a “good” oil, but I really do advise mixing it up a bit in general.

I love the taste of rice milk especially brown rice milk. I'm not intolerant to dairy so can also have normal milk. Pros and cons of each?

Angela: Rice milk is much lower in protein. It’s also lactose free, but on the downside, not a source of calcium of vitamin B12. Most brands are fortified with these nutrients however, making them much more equivalent nutritionally than they would otherwise be. Dairy milk also supplies much of the iodine in our diet – if you choose a plant based alternative you need to include a fair amount of fish in your diet to make up for this

We're really enjoying energy balls (e.g. bounce and own homemade ones too) and also seed bars like 9bar. Although they are packed with goodness, they also seem quite calorific. Is it worth the calories? 

Angela: Maybe, as long as all everyone tucking in is a healthy weight and is managing their weight well. Just watch the sugar content – some can be quite high and if that comes from honey or concentrated fruit juice it’s as bad for you as added refined sugar. Research suggests we may not absorb all the calories from nuts and they are super nutritious. People who eat nuts tend to be slimmer if anything. Just make sure to sometimes eat nuts and seeds completely plain too – whizzing them up very fine can increase the amount of calories and fat we absorb from them

I've recently been reading about sprouted flours. What do you think about these? Just a fad or something good in it. 

Angela: I’d say watch this space. I haven't seen much data on how they compare nutritionally with other flours, but I understand that they are higher in some vitamins and minerals and maybe better digested too. Forms of sprouted flour have been popular in Spain for a long time, so they are hardly new. Maybe they will become mainstream here soon, a bit like quinoa is now, despite seeming very exotic a few years ago.

And finally, if you could give only one really mega top tip regarding nutrition and healthy eating - what would it be?

Angela: Fill half your plate with veg or fruit at every meal.

Thank you Angela. We've found these ideas and tips really helpful. I know I'll be filling my plate with a lot more fruit and veg! 

You can find out more about Angela here on her website and more about healthy eating with Canderel here on their Health and Wellbeing section of their website. 

Writer and Nutritionist Angela Dowden
(image courtesy of Angela Dowden)

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