Creme eggs as a unit of sugar

I hope this isn’t too offputting… Happy Easter!


Thirty 100 kcal snack ideas you’ve probably not tried yet

A great resource, this. Fitbie have put together thirty ideas for quick snacks (more like mini-meals, actually) that clock in under 100 calories. As that implies, they are more suited to those on a low-cal rather than a low-carb diet. There are some brilliant ideas, some of which are a little more inspiring that the standard offering, like these celery, peanut butter and cranberry sticks above.

Admittedly, evil rice cakes are on the list. You can’t have everything.

Tapeworms and baby puke – what would get you to lose weight?

Would a nutrition-sucking parasite be your best approach to losing weight? What about ruining your appetite by carrying a small jar of vomit to sniff when you’re hungry?

It sometimes seems that despite the depressingly similar advice given by most in the industry, few have the guts to try something new or controversial.

Research shows that half of obese children become obese adults, compared to about 25% of non-obese children. And the cost to society is high: obesity-related healthcare makes up almost 20%  of all of [the USA’s] healthcare spending, for example.

So what happens if you get a dozen people from different walks of life (both related and unrelated to the weight loss industry and academia) and ask them to “explore the biological, behavioural, political and economic angles of obesity”? What if you ask them for their best ideas, regardless of whether they would be acceptable to the public?

You get a very thought-provoking 40min podcast, where no ideas are off the table. Are you willing to see if you could use any of their ideas?

Foodswap: cucumber & pork scratchings for crisps

Hear me out!

No, it doesn’t sound like a great swap at first. But if you’re on a low-carb diet, pork scratchings are a perfect crisp replacement. They’ve still got the crunch you’re looking for but with no carbs. Why not make a hot sauce dip from mayonnaise and Franks or Tabasco sauce?

Cucumber works too. I find that if you cut the cucumber on a diagonal you end up with a good-sized crisp replacement that goes very well with this low-carb hummus recipe.

If you’re entertaining for Easter, give these a go on your guests and see how well they respond!

Earn your Easter Egg

It’s coming.

After Christmas, Easter was always one of my favourite excuses to devour as much chocolate as I could physically cram into my body.

So thanks today to Nutracheck, who have worked out the effort you need to exert to compensate for those goodies. Does a Creme Egg, which they’ve generously given as 4 minutes of enjoyment, feel worth the 17 minute run you’ll need to take to burn those calories?

Egg Calorie content Time to burn at moderate walk Fastest way to burn
 Mini Egg Easter Egg + 1 bag Mini Eggs 780 cals 3 hours 31 mins 1 hour 10 mins vigorous cycling
 Maltesers Easter Egg + 3 x snack size bags 820 cals 3 hours 41 mins 1 hour circuit training + 1 hour Zumba
 Kit Kat Chunky Egg + 1 Kit Kat chunky 836 cals 3 hours 46 mins 1 hour front crawl + 28 mins running at 6mph
 Mars Easter Egg + 2 x snack size bars 894 cals 4 hours 2 mins 1 hour vigorous cycling + 26 mins front crawl

Read more – and hopefully renforce your good intentions – here.

Junk food – and why it’s so much worse than you thought

 An amazing article by Michael Moss in the New York Times – which was adapted from his book – recently showed in full, unflinching detail exactly how well the snack food industry knows its sins.

In summary – The food industry has been doing amazing science, for decades, to make terrible food more addicting, and to market it so it penetrates every potential meal you eat. It worked.

It’s a little longer than the reads I usually publish here so if you’d rather, there’s a nicely-summarised version at Buzzfeed, which turns the article into 23 points. I’d encourage you to read the full version.

The book and its article go to great lengths to avoid painting the industry as evil, but rather just dispassionate – responding to the demands of the market. Moss writes:

The public and the food companies have known for decades now that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiralling out of control?

It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.

This is one way to look at it. But Moss already spoke about how the industry is aware of the damage it is doing.

[Michael Mudd, a vice president of Kraft,] drew a connection to the last thing in the world the C.E.O.’s wanted linked to their products: cigarettes.

“If anyone in the food industry ever doubted there was a slippery slope out there,” Mudd said, “I imagine they are beginning to experience a distinct sliding sensation right about now.”

Viewing snack manufacturers as corrupt drug pushers, like tobacco vendors can now be seen by many is an easy and possibly glib caricature. But more and more evidence is coming out regarding the real, systematic damage these food can do and the lack of understanding among consumers. There may be a time in the future where Big Sugar stands alongside Big Tobacco as one of society’s problem children.

Shop online and in advance to make the right choices


Struggling to avoid the sweeties when you go shopping? Avoid the temptation altogether by shopping online.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you know what you should be eating, but sometimes what you want takes precedence.

By ordering your food online, when you’re in a calm mood and you’re not hungry, you’re avoiding most of the temptations the supermarkets can throw your way.

Even better, it looks like the further in advance you order, the more measured you can be. Research at the Harvard Business School looked through a year’s worth of orders from an online supermarket. Interestingly, they didn’t focus on the difference between the average online basket vs an offline one, but rather the differences between orders placed in advance and those that were to be delivered soon:

Specifically, they wanted to find out whether a delay between order completion and order delivery would have an effect on which items the customers chose to buy. In other words, would a customer be more likely to choose kale over Kit-Kats if he ordered his groceries a week in advance rather than a day in advance?

Indeed, the data showed that customers tended to order a higher percentage of “should” items (like leafy greens) and a lower percentage of “want” items (like candy bars) the further in advance they placed an order.

Emotional eating

I’ve previously spoken about food diaries. Perhaps you think it won’t work for you. “I know what I eat. I eat 3 square meals a day, it can’t be the food. Perhaps I have a thyroid issue?”.

Perhaps you do. Certainly, it wouldn’t hurt to have it checked out. But for most of us, it is the food we’re eating – especially when you eat, and why.

If you record what you eat, when it was and, crucially, how you felt at the time, you can start to spot your own patterns. Were you tired? Bored? Angry? Lonely? Upset?

Many people are emotional eaters – they eat to self-soothe, to medicate. This is not wrong, as a habit or a behaviour, but it’s not helping any more. If you’re attempting to lose weight, some of the habits that have brought us where we are aren’t working as well as we’d like. This could be one of them.

Identifying when we allow our emotions to control our food intake is one of the fastest, strongest ways to break the cycle.

Lack of exercise causing over 36,000 preventable deaths a year

A study published by the Lancet this month found that physical inactivity is one of the the UK’s top risk factors for death and disability.

The South West Public Health Observatory and Sustrans crunched the numbers and came out with the surprisingly specific 36,815 premature deaths in England caused by a lack of physical activity every year.

They think that if every 40-79 year-old in England was getting the 2.5 hours of activity a week currently recommended, each year there would be:

  • 12,061 fewer emergency hospital admissions for coronary heart disease
  • 6,735 fewer cases of breast cancer
  • 4,719 fewer cases of colorectal cancer
  • 294,730 fewer people living with diabetes

Unsurprisingly, their advice is to leave your car at home and walk – because Sustrans is a charity that promotes sustainable transport. But that doesn’t invalidate their argument;

“…the key for most people is to build physical activity into their daily lives, rather than thinking of it as something extra to fit in to already hectic lifestyles. One way to do this is to leave cars at home, walk and cycle more often to school, work and for leisure.”

Should we label food by exercise needed, not calories?

An interesting study led by Sunaina Dowray, a student at the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina, looked into the impact on people’s habits if they were shown one of four different menus, giving them the food’s calorie count, the time it would take to walk those calories off, the distance it would take to burn them, or none of this extra information.

People who viewed the menu without nutritional information ordered a meal with up to 200 kcals more than those with the exercise information.

This wasn’t in the real world- it was a hypothetical test online. But the results are promising; saving just 100 kcal twice a week could add up to over a kilo of weight loss over one year.