Why do we find chips so irresistible?

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This time last week, I was sat on a local beach blissfully warm and loving the weather. I was pondering whether to get an ice cream, until I caught a whiff of the food of a stranger walking by. While the man in question was eagerly eyeing up his heavenly-smelling chip shop stash, I looked on with envy.

Before I knew it I had hot-footed it to the counter and was lovingly coating my freshly-cooked chips in oodles of vinegar. Thoughts of having an ice cream had vanished. As enjoyable as those lovely chips were, why were they suddenly so irresistible? Did the sea air make them seem all that more delectable?

Well…the overwhelming reason is because chips trigger cravings in the brain, according to new research. US researchers found foods with processed carbohydrates such as chips and white bread, trigger heightened levels of activity in the areas of our brain that are associated with rewards and cravings. Aha, that’s why.

Researchers at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital believe the findings of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, could now be used to help overweight people stop overeating by avoiding those sorts of foods.

How do you keep your processed carbs cravings in check? For me, chip shop chips are a very occasional treat. I think they taste better that way too…

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Five ways to tackle your energy slumps

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2.16pm is the most common time for us to experience energy slumps according to research – at this time we are most likely to feel drained and unable to concentrate.

Find out how to beat your energy slumps.

1. Eat more protein – this provides our bodies with long-lasting energy and avoids blood sugar drops that can negatively affect our alertness. Tuck into: oatcakes, wholegrains, lean meat, low-fat dairy options and nuts at lunchtime.

2. Have a mid-afternoon snack – beware that energy boosts from sugar snacks wear off quickly. Opt for fresh fruit, dried fruit or nuts instead as these are a longer-lasting source of energy. If you’re desperate for a chocolate fix – have a couple of squares of good-for-you dark chocolate. I also recently tried a new juice-based organic energy drink, Scheckter’s Organic Energy Lite. It’s made from all natural and organic ingredients and was a perfect pick-me-up from a big energy slump after an early start.

3. Don’t skip meals – having long gaps between meals can cause blood sugar levels to drop – try and eat something every 2-3 hours.

4. Drink water – keep a filled bottle of water on your desk so you’re more likely to have a drink regularly. Water can help you to feel less sleepy and also boosts concentration.

5. Get outside at lunchtime – the fresh air will perk you up and help to improve your concentration when you return to work.

Bored at work? Beware of those calorific snack attacks

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Female office workers consume 650 to 750 calories in snacks each day, just under a third of their daily recommended calorie allowance, a new study has revealed. Wowzer.

The survey by My Voucher Codes, found 87% of female office workers snack at their desks, while 50% confessed to eating between 650 to 750 calories on snacks alone. 2% admitted they can eat up to 850 to 950 calories over a working day, almost half of the 2,000 calories women are advised to eat each day.

Boredom was the main reason stated for snacking at work, while others said they snack to be more sociable. Over two thirds of the female office workers surveyed felt they snack more at work than they do at home. Chocolate and biscuits were cited as most favourite snacks with fruit and crisps also polling highly too.

Having healthy snacks in and around the office can help. I try to keep away from an every-single-day chocolate fix by keeping fruit on hand and having a regular Graze box delivered. If you would like to try a free Graze box, simply visit the site and enter the following code: 92Z1VF5D. The treat’s on me!

 

Image courtesy of Press Loft/Treat Her

Five reasons to go nuts for almonds

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As today is National Almond Day (no, I never knew it existed either!) – here are five fabulous health reasons why these tree nuts are bursting with good-for-you-ness.

1. Almonds are a great natural source of protein and fibre. They’re also high in essential nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

2. Celebrity almond fans include Elle Macpherson, Lisa Snowden, Karren Brady and Gary Barlow who enjoy a handful every day. Rumour has it that Mr Barlow insisted his X Factor contestants incorporated daily snacking on almonds as part of their strict diet.

3. Omega 3 fatty acids are natural providers of good skin health. Though oily fish is often cited as the best source, did you know, flaxseeds and almonds are also excellent vegetarian-friendly sources?

4. Along with dates, almonds are believed to be among the earliest cultivated foods, with both getting a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible.

5. In India, almonds are considered a prized brain food for children.

“When you snack on almonds, you can feel satisfied knowing that you’re eating something you love which is also providing you with the nutrients you need,” says dietician, Kimberly Haider. “That’s positive news on National Almond Day and every day.”

Visit Almond Board for more information including smart snacking tips from Karren Brady, snack suggestions and almond recipes.

Keep your eyes on the healthy food supplies…

 

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To keep your diet or healthy eating plan on the right track, the advice from psychologists is simple: putting healthy foods at eye level in the fridge can help you to lose weight (or stay trim) as you eat what you first see.

When faced with junk food temptation in the fridge and in our cupboards, experts say we often absentmindedly eat what is in front of us whether we are hungry or not.  

If your fridge currently resembles a tuck shop, and your cupboards are heaving with crisps and biscuits, putting snacks and sweet treats out of sight, so they are less accessible, can make a big difference, say psychologists. Changing the environment around you and ensuring you see only wholesome healthy food alternatives can help you to eat better without even realising it.

Becoming more aware of what you are eating by opting to use smaller plates and consuming meals at the table, away from TV distractions, can also help you to subconsciously eat less, and lose up to 2lb per month, studies have shown.

It makes perfect sense to me. If I look in the fridge and staring right back at me is a slice of cheesecake, I’d need some serious unswerving willpower not to dive in, whether hungry or not. If, when I next opened the fridge, a tray of blueberries were at my eye level instead, I’d still be happy to munch away, except this time I would have made a far healthier choice without thinking about it all that much.

So, just a load of twaddle or very useful advice for keeping you on the healthy track? Over to you…

 

 

Veggie Percy – Big up the new gelatine free sweet treat

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As I’m in a sweet-toothed frivolous frame of mind as it’s a Friday afternoon, I thought I’d share some super news with fellow vegetarians – M&S has revealed Percy Pigs are soon to be available in a gelatine free option!

It’s a royal pain in the bottom that so many sweets are off limits to us vegetarians as they are produced using beef and pork gelatine, a protein made from animal tissue and gruesome stuff.

Veggie Percy uses a pea protein which has been specially developed just for him. M&S has spent over three years developing a veggie solution which maintains both flavour and the must-have bouncy texture.

Now M&S have found a way to produce sweets without using gelatine, will other sweet manufacturers take the hint and start looking into vegetarian alternatives? I really do hope so.

Meanwhile, Veggie Percy, who has the green ear vegetarian-friendly guarantee, will go on sale nationwide from Tuesday 2nd August for the purse-friendly sum of £1.25 for a 70g portion.

See you at the checkout!

Go bananas for a natural brain power boost

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Inspiration for this week’s blog post comes from Middlesbrough College and its excellent energy-boosting concentration-improving solution for A-Level and AS-level students – bananas.

Yes, the yellow fruit packed with potassium, is a superfood that can help to combat stress and boost brain power. As bananas are also a slow-releasing energy food, this makes them a perfect option for a mid-morning snack to help maintain productivity through the day. Having a banana for breakfast is also a great way to start you on the right track to 5-A-Day.

Students at Middlesbrough College are offered a banana and a bottle of water 30 minutes before exams begin. This was designed to ensure those skipping breakfast do not experience dips in concentration as a result of missing out on the first meal of the day.

The college believes bananas are the ideal antidote to exam fatigue, which can cause students to answer incorrectly as energy and concentration levels begin to drop midway through exams.

Director of A-Levels, Richard Ronksley says: “The theory behind it is not new, bananas have many health benefits. It’s a simple idea but we believe it will be beneficial to students and will hopefully have a positive impact on their exam results.”

Bananas are a great choice for all – potassium is an essential mineral that helps to maintain normal blood pressure and healthy heart function. Other banana benefits include: they are a great source of fibre, are low in salt and high in vitamin B6 making them an excellent mood food. Vitamin B6 can also be highly effective in controlling muscle spasms and strains naturally. Lastly, bananas are low in calories and are easy for your body to digest.

What’s not to love? Bananas rock. Spread the word…