What you wanted to know about healthy eating, straight from a nutritionist!

I know so many of you are very interested in healthy eating, as am I. But with new information about the topic emerging on a daily basis, it can become a total mind-field to know what right and what's not.So that's why I wanted to write this post, because after all, what better idea than to talk to someone who deals with it for a living?

Sarah is a naturopathic nutritionist and raw food educator based in Brighton & Hove.  She divides her time between one-to-one nutrition sessions, teaching raw food classes & raw chocolate workshops and giving health talks to local groups.  She attained her diploma in Nutritional Therapy with the College of Naturopathic Medicine, is a member of her industry professional body (BANT) and is fully insured with Holistic Insurance Services.  She keeps her knowledge up to date by attending seminars on relevant areas of interest, and has been kind enough to answer some questions I think we have all been thinking about.

1) With so much info out there about what we should or should not be eating, lets take it back to basics. What are the most basic guidelines for good nutrition?
1)With so much information and conflicting views out there on diet and nutrition it can feel very daunting at times.  There are two basic guidelines I would give for basic nutrition.  One is to make sure you're eating foods from all the main food groups that is (slow release) carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats along with adequate fibre and antioxidants (from fruit and vegetables) plus the often forgotten essential nutrient ~ water.  Another approach would be to strive to eat a 'wholefoods' diet where everything is as close to how it grows or is found in nature as possible whilst at the same time eliminating processed foods as much as possible.  This sounds simple but is a highly effective tool to achieve vibrant health through great nutrition.

2)Can you describe what a typical day of healthy eating should look like for the average person?  
2)In my view a typical day of healthy eating should include 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables along with slow-release carbohydrates, low fat proteins and healthy fats which should come from nuts, seeds, avocado's, olives and all their oils.  Animal products if eaten should form the minority of a person's diet not the majority as is often the case.  Oh, yes, and 2 litres of water!  There are many good reasons for this kind of approach to diet.  Having said all this, I also advocate listening to your own body and giving it what it needs (within reason!)

3)We are a nation obsessed with diets, and always want to lose a few pounds.....what should we be doing or not doing, if we want to lose weight?

3)We are obsessed with weight loss and diets, this is true.  The weight and subsequently the health of our nation we are in crisis and this is set to continue, if we continue with the same eating and lifestyle habits.  Our eating has gotten out of control and our activity levels are worse.  Food has become so accessible (think fast food, 24 hour shops etc), is very cheap and with so much processed food now available, often very poor quality. We've lost touch with our body's own messages and for the many people who are continually on diets and still overweight, surely this is proof that diets don't work.  My advice for tackling this is threefold:
1.Make long-term healthy dietary changes. 
2.Start and continue regular exercise for life.
3.Seek out therapy for deep-rooted emotional issues if necessary.  With diet, rather than thinking about what not to eat, sometimes just by focusing on all the 'good' things like water (2 litres a day), 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables, low fat protein with every meal and every snack and moderate amounts of slow-release carbohydrates some of the habits that contribute to our weight gain will melt away as the body finds its own balance.  Exercise is my other 'must' for weight loss; half an hour 5-6 times a week to start with at an intensity suitable for your level of fitness.  Finally, if there is an emotional-related reason for having excess weight then this also needs to be addressed via therapies such as hypnotherapy, counselling etc.

4)What do you think are the most common healthy eating myth's that people should know about? 
4)I have three.  The first is that dairy products are essential for calcium (question 8 talks about this in more detail), this is simply not true.  The other is that 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is enough.  Ten is really where we need to be aiming for now.  Lastly, that we can get all the water we need from our food and drinks like tea, coffee and juice.  Again, this isn't the case.

5)How important is it that we read food labels and what is it we should be looking out for?  

5)Food labels can tell us so much from how much protein, sugar and good/bad fats are in our food to pointers about the quality such as organic status and also information about ingredients. Here are a few pointers but there are others: 
*Generally I would say that if there are several ingredients that you've never heard of then they're probably artificial ingredients and you don't want to be putting these into your body.  
*The nearer an ingredient is to the top of a list the more of that ingredient is in that particular food.  This can also help you make decisions about whether to choose an item.  
*Get clued up on multiple names for ingredients. For example, sugar can be called so many different things including sugar, honey, glucose, dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, malt, maltose etc.  
*Whilst a few e-numbers are safe most are questionable plus we have no idea what effect multiple e-numbers have in our bodies.  There are online resources where you can find out which ones are which but again if there's lots contained in a product then my advice would be to steer clear.  

6) How important is it do you think that we have a good relationship with food? this is something I personally struggle with as i'm sure many others do, do you have any advice on learning to love food rather than have an emotional connection to it?
6)  Having a good relationship with food is critical for long-term health and happiness.  There is so much guilt around food especially for people who are overweight or have eating disorders.  Food can be a big emotional trigger for many and most often people may not even understand that deep rooted connections.  Because we have to eat to stay alive, it's also not something we can ignore as it's constantly there.  This is one of the reasons I emphasise the importance of seeking some kind of help such as counselling, hypnotherapy etc where necessary to assist you in making sense of what can be a very complex and deep-rooted issue.

7)Should we be taking supplements or can we get what we need from a healthy diet?  
7)This is a hotly debated subject.  Supplements can definitely help address a known vitamin or mineral deficiency.  Certain groups of people may also benefit from taking supplements such as vegans, pregnant and breastfeeding ladies and individuals with certain health conditions where we know a certain nutrient can help.  In an ideal world we would get everything we need from our diets but unfortunately we're not living in an ideal world and our food generally has significantly less nutrients in it today than, for example, 50 years ago for a number of reasons.  Therefore I do think there is a case for supplements on a person-by-person basis.  I would also stress that the quality of supplements on the market can vary significantly and high-street supplements can be questionable.  Quality can be seen as not only how absorbable a product is but also the quality of the raw materials and also whether they contain any fillers etc.  The only way to be really sure is to consult a qualified professional

8)There are so many people out there who are totally anti milk and dairy, what's your take on that?  
8)Aside from the often inhumane treatment of cow's within the dairy industry (google to find out more about this), my view is that dairy products, certainly in the quantity we are consuming them in the West, are not great for most of us.  Around the age of two we stop making the enzyme we need to break down lactose, the milk sugar in milk that many people have a problem with.  I believe this is nature's way of telling us we don't need milk after this age. Traditionally we would have only had milk from our mother's and around two is we would have been weaned (cow's milk after all is designed to support baby calves not baby humans).  Dairy products are also known the be mucous-forming and acidic in the body and the belief that they are essential to provide us calcium and various other nutrients, I'm afraid is also a myth.  This is demonstrated when you consider the level of osteoporosis in Europe and the US even though we consume mammoth amounts of dairy.  Conversely in the East, in counties like Japan, they have very low levels of osteoporosis and consume hardly any dairy products and lots of fermented soy soy products.  I think small amounts of dairy can be a useful, even a healthy addition to a person's diet but only when consumed in a raw, unpasteurised state from a licensed dairy.  In their raw form they are most nutritious and our bodies can fully utilise the nutrients contained within them unlike widely available pasteurised dairy products.

9)What are your top tips for those of us who are vegetarian?  what should we make sure we include in our diet?  
9)People following a vegetarian diet just need to ensure they're including plenty of calcium-rich foods in their diets (green veg, soy products, nuts and seeds) as well as getting adequate levels of plant-based proteins (eggs, quinoa, beans & pulses, nuts & seeds and soy products) and Vitamin D (eggs, butter and sunshine).  Essential Fatty Acids are also very important including especially Omega 3 is also important if oily fish isn't eaten which can be obtained from walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax.  I always recommend that vegans should look at supplementing Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.

10)I'm a huge believer in what you eat effecting how you look, are there things we should be eating that could benefit our skin?  
10) I agree that what's going on on the outside (ie our skin) is a reflection of how things are on the inside.  There are a number of nutrients we can be get through our diets which are particularly good.  These are Vitamins A (orange fruit & veg), C (green veg & citrus fruits) & E (wheatgerm & avocado's), antioxidants (dark purple/blue fruits), Selenium (wholegrain cereal, brazils, garlic, seafood & eggs if eaten) and Zinc (pumpkin seeds, eggs and lean meat if eaten).  Also fibre (wholegrains, beans, nuts & seeds, fruit & veg) and Essential Fatty Acids (oily fish eaten, nuts & seeds and their oils).   2 litres of water a day and a clean diet.

So there you have it, the best advice out there. I hope you found this helpful and have learned something new from it, I know I have.

You can find our more about Sarah and also get access to a variety of recipes at www.pure-people.co.uk or follow her on facebooktwitter or pinterest

You can contact Sarah at sarah@pure-people.co.uk or 07976 936363.



  1. I was wondering if, based off what you learned by talking to her and personal experience ect., if you have any opinion on the Paleo diet? I am just beginning (have yet to decide if I am going for a lifestyle change or 30 day cleanse) and was looking for another view seeing as you have been so successful in sharing your health and nutrition. If you've never heard of the Paleo diet, definitely check it out! It's very interesting and the Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf is super great at going into scientific detail about how different foods affect the way our bodies run. If you have or get a chance, definitely let me know what you think compared to past knowledge.

    1. I don't really have an opinion on it as I know it would not work for me because I don't eat meat or fish xx