Children's Nutrition, Nutrition Science, Sustainable eating

What we eat or how we eat?

“Some find the whole matter of eating easy, while others find it hard. I used to be on the wrong side of this great divide and somehow, to my own surprise and relief, leaped over to the other side.”
“First Bite – How we learn to eat” by Bee Wilson

I often recommend this book to my clients. Eating should be such a simple pleasure that fuels and nourishes our bodies. Yet so often it isn’t. We get stuck in a “diet culture” where food can be used to shame or punish us. Having studied nutrition, I’ve also been through my own journey – learning which foods nourish and support my health and which don’t, but simultaneously walking that tightrope of not being obsessed with vitamins and minerals, fibre, essential fats and probiotics etc! Too much focus on these aspects also doesn’t create a healthy and relaxed eating environment which is also essential for good digestion, mental health and healthy life-long habits.

Wilson is not a nutritionist nor a psychologist, yet she artfully navigated both these disciplines to produce an extremely insightful book that prompts us to reconsider our own relationship with food without ever feeling we are being judged. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t found doing so a useful exercise, myself included.

I also found this book incredibly helpful when weaning my own children and supporting other parents through this same process. There is so much information about what to say and now say to new eaters and fussy toddlers, but getting a deeper understanding of why that is is invaluable in reacting intuitively and with confidence.

It also allows us to relax a little and allow our children to follow their own intuition with regards what and how much they need to eat. I think we can agree that our ultimate aim is to raise children with a good understanding of how the right foods help them to develop and thrive, and also build a healthy relationship with and desire to eat these foods for the long term.

When it comes to raising healthy eaters or changing our own eating habits, understanding the “why” of how we eat is just as essential as structuring our plates in the right way and reading this book has also helped me to support my clients to bigger and better successes.

Dairy-free, Gluten free, Good.Mood.Food, Recipes, Vegan

Turmeric latte

For those of you wanting a hug in a mug but looking to ditch the caffeine (and I’d urge you to give it a go if you’re under stress – it may seem like it peps us up and keeps us going, but stress has a cumulative effect regardless of where it comes from, so it’s really just adding more stress impacting sleep and immunity) this is a recipe for YOU!

• 1 cup (250 mls) dairy-free milk ie. almond, rice or oat based
• 1 tsp fresh grated turmeric root
• 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
• Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
• Pinch cinnamon
• 1 tsp coconut oil
• 1/2 tsp honey (optional)

Method: Blitz all ingredients bar the honey in a blender before heating, then heat gently in a pan on a low-medium heat until just hot enough (but not boiling). Taste and add honey if desired. Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy.
*If you don’t have a blender, or there are still “bits” in the finished drink, simply strain through a sieve before drinking.

Breakfast, Children's Nutrition, Dairy-free, Gluten free, Kids meals, Recipes

Best baked beans

I have had a “best baked beans” recipe for a long time now, but every time I make it, I tweak it – anyone else do that? Now that we’ve been a couple of months sans-Heinz over in rural northern Sweden I have had plenty of practice and plenty of tweaks and boy, is this THE recipe I have for you now!!!

If you think you don’t have time to make beans and that they couldn’t possible stand up to the comparison of your favourite can – think again, I promise you will not be disappointed 😉

(Serves 4)


  • Little olive oil for frying
  • ½ onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed / finely chopped
  • 2 rashers of streaky bacon (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • Pinch ground coriander
  • 250 mls tomato passata
  • 1 400g tin cannellini beans (or 100g dried beans soaked overnight then boiled for approx. 90 mins until cooked)


  1. Gently fry the onions and garlic in a little oil for 2-3 minutes on a medium temperature, stirring so they don’t burn, then add the bacon (if using) and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until it’s all cooked through
  2. Add the passata, coriander and cumin and bring to the boil before adding the beans.
  3. Cook through for 10 minutes or so until everything is piping hot.

What are your cupboard staples that could use a tasty and healthy makeover?

Good.Mood.Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegan

Matcha Latte

Photo by Ann on Unsplash

For the next instalment of my Good.Mood.Food series, I wanted to share with you the amazing benefits of green tea. Many people that are trying to “be healthier” ditch the caffeinated drinks and green tea tends to fall into this category for them, but the caffeine in green tea is gentler than in coffee – there’s not only a lower quantity of it, but it’s also buffered by the presence of an amino acid called L-theanine. I find L-theanine to be such a powerful nutrient for me personally – it supports neurotransmitters in the body, supporting the brain by producing an anti-anxiety effect. My morning green tea is therefore a non-negotiable for me, and my kids know that so I get my 5 mins peace to help me start my day on an even keel with love and patience.

But once in a while I switch up the tea bag for this lovely treat – a matcha latte. I used to always only have them when I could buy them out, but they’re remarkably easy to make – why not give it a go?


  • 1 cup (250 mls) dairy-free milk ie, almond, rice or oat
  • 1 tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • ½ tsp honey (optional)


Heat all ingredients gently in a pan at a low heat and ensure it does not reach boiling point. Either blitz in a Nutri bullet-style blender to froth, or whisk with a hand whisk for that authentic frothy “latte” feel.

I hope you enjoy that, and that it helps you to feel great. For more feel-good recipes, why not have a look at my Good.Mood.Food post?

Breakfast, Children's Nutrition, Dinners, Gluten free, Kids meals, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Savoury, Uncategorized

Buckwheat pancakes

Continuing with my Good.Mood.Food series on food to support mental health, I wanted to introduce you to buckwheat – have you tried it? When it comes to supporting mental health, it’s such a lovely source of supportive nutrients and definitely something I love to have in my weekly repertoire.

First of all, it’s high in protein – in fact it is one of only a few plant sources of protein that are considered “complete”, in that they contain some of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to get from their food. Protein is so important for building neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that we need for a happy mood). It also stabilises our blood sugar levels, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and also on a more even keel energy and mood wise.

It also contains a good dose of magnesium, manganese and B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and B6, all of which are important for our brain health amongst other things!

Buckwheat flour is used a lot in Brittany, northern France, for making “galettes” – savoury pancakes like these, and that’s exactly where I discovered it many years ago, long before I had any appreciation for its nutritional benefits. You can fill these pancakes with whatever you fancy, I like a simple ham and cheese which also goes down well with the kids and is a brilliant toddler food when cut into strips like an alternative quesadilla. Here I’ve made a simple ratatouille and topped with a little hard goat’s cheese, and accompanied it with a green side salad to further boost the nutrient density of my meal.

Makes 6


  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 300mls mls water (approx.)
  • Knob of butter, melted (optional)


  1. Mix the egg into the flour and salt using a whisk, then gradually add the water until it has a smooth and runny but not watery consistency. Add in the melted butter if using and thoroughly mix in. You want to be able to pour pancakes that are as thin as you would expect to make sweet ones.
  2. Heat a little butter in a large frying pan to a medium – high heat, pour the batter and leave to cook for approx 2 mins until it is dry on top and comes away from the sides easily (don’t try to remove it to quickly or it will stick and tear). Once it comes away, flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  3. Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
  4. The batter will last in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container if you don’t want to eat them all at once. They can also be stored cold in the fridge and used as wraps for lunches / lunchboxes

Do let me know what you think, and I hope you’re enjoying my series on Good.Mood.Food – the full blog post and links to more recipes for your mental health are here.

Dairy-free, Dinners, Gluten free, Recipes

Brain-healthy Salmon Salad

For those of you who read my previous Good Mood Food post on supporting mental health through the Covid-19 lockdown and looking for inspiring recipes, this is such a lovely simple but wonderfully supportive salad. Eating the right fats is so important for brain health, as it getting sufficient proteins and the variety of different vitamins and minerals we need to keep all the process running effectively to keep us on an even keel and feeling great.

For the salad:

  • 1 chicory (endive) sliced, or other salad leaves
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 small beetroot, grated
  • 1/2 a large or a whole avocado, sliced
  • 1 pre-cooked salmon fillet (simply bake for 20 minutes or pan fry in advance) This is delicious served warm or cold
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt

1. Mix the salad dressing ingredients together in an empty jam jar, and shake well to mix
2. Assemble the salad ingredients on a plate, then drizzle over the dressing (there will be plenty spare for another day, just use as much as you like for taste)

Nutrition Science

Good mood food

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Just looking at this picture makes me feel better personally, but have you ever thought about the impact of WHAT you eat has on how you FEEL?

I can’t pretend that navigating mental health is one-dimensional, that everyone will respond in the same way, or that what we eat is the only things that can change how we feel, it absolutely isn’t. But I grow increasingly frustrated at the “experts” that reject diet and lifestyle interventions as a way to modulate our brain chemistry and our mood.

As someone who struggles with my own mental health at times, I am particularly concerned at the impact that this extended lockdown is having on others. I am lucky, I am not confined to my home right now and I am free to enjoy nature and all the benefits that offers me, but I know that if I had stayed in London I would be experiencing something entirely different. I have no doubt that I would not have been able to sit here right now and write this blog post which I hope you will find helpful.

Because what we eat really does have an effect on how we feel. I say that from scientific research and I say that from my own personal experience. I was never diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but since having my children there were days when I felt incredibly depressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Through those postpartum days particularly, I never realised what it was that was making me feel that way, but I am so thankful for the calling I felt to study nutrition and the motivations I had to feed myself well. I have no doubt that they (alongside my husband and family) were what carried me through that time and to where I am now.

So how can we eat to support our mental health right now?
Here are five tips to start you off – try one, add another, see how you feel…

1 Choose real, wholefoods

When we are feeling low, cravings for high-sugar, highly processed foods are quite normal. Our minds set us up to want them, to get the quick hit of dopamine (our “reward” hormone) from a sugar or caffeine rush. But they are not our friends. They are low in nutrients that support our brain health, they spike then crash our blood sugar levels and they contain inflammatory fats.

“Swap the white bread sandwich for a wholegrain option, choose natural fruits and nuts to snack on or make yourself a colourful “rainbow” salad”

Instead, swap the white bread sandwich for a wholegrain option, choose natural fruits and nuts to snack on or make yourself a colourful “rainbow” salad. Foods such as wholegrain rice, quinoa, barley, nuts and seeds are all abundant in B vitamins that support the creation of healthy neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that interact with our brains and stimulate feelings) in the body. Vitamin B9 (folate) which can be found in abundance in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli is also key in this production process, as is vitamin B12 which is found in animal products and supplements.

2 Get plenty of protein

Proteins form the backbone of many of the neurotransmitters we need for balanced brain chemistry, so ensuring that we get sufficient in our diet, gives our bodies the building blocks they need to do so.

Including protein in our meals also ensures that they are digested more steadily and release their energy at a speed that is balanced. Our brains use mainly glucose for energy, but we will feel much better if this is delivered at a constant and regular speed, rather than a roller-coaster of highs and lows.

“Include at least one source of protein with every meal or snack you eat”

Protein foods are meat, poultry and fish, dairy and eggs, pulses like beans, chickpeas and lentils, and nuts and seeds. Try to include at least one source of protein with every meal or snack you eat.

One amino acid (an essential protein building block) that plays a particular role in our mental health is tryptophan which forms the basis of the hormones serotonin (that makes us feel good) and melatonin (that helps us to sleep well). Tryptophan is particularly rich in red meats and turkey, eggs, soy, beans and cherries.

3 Eat healthy fats

Fats play a crucial role in our health, not least in our brains which are made up of about 60% fat. They are also used in the membranes of each and every cell in our bodies, and as such play a crucial role when we want to send signals from one cell to another.

“Eat oily fish such as salmon and mackerel”

Healthy fats are those found in whole foods such as nuts and seeds, avocados, cold pressed oils like olive oil, and oily fish. Omega 3 fats have been shown to be particularly helpful with supporting brain health, so include some regular oily fish such as salmon and mackerel in your diet.

4 Swap your coffee for a green tea

Green tea contains another helpful amino acid, theonine. Theonine is linked to another neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps to calm us down. It can be very helpful in reducing feelings of anxiety and helps to buffer the effects the caffeine that is consumed alongside it.

5 Consume magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium, in conjunction with calcium and vitamin B6, is a great nutrient for relaxation and enabling sleep. It is also important for energy production, and often those with low levels can also experience fatigue as well as low mood.

The good news is magnesium-rich foods are plentiful and delicious – dark chocolate (70% or higher), avocados, nuts such as almonds and peanuts, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, buckwheat and bananas to name a few.

If you are feeling low, please don’t hesitate to reach out and get some help. These dietary interventions on their own may not give you everything that you need, but please do give them a try alongside. As a personalised nutrition expert, I can’t make specific recommendations without looking at you as a unique individual, but all of the above, in moderation, are safe food choices to make and at the very least won’t make you feel any worse. On the contrary, they have the potential to make you feel so much better.

Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming posts where I will share with you my favourite mood-boosting recipes to help you start feeling better:

  1. Strawberry Omega 3 Granola

2. Brain-healthy Salmon Salad

3. Buckwheat Pancakes

4. Matcha Latte – the magical powers of green tea…

Children's Nutrition, Lunchboxes, Recipes, Snacks, Sweet treats, Uncategorized

Rock cakes

There’s something quite cosy going on in my home, sheltered inside amidst the chaos. There’s an attempt at home schooling that has moments of varying success, there’s some cabin fever at having only our immediate family for company and a distinct lack of “me” time despite not being able to go anywhere, and yet I am spending precious time with my kids and teaching them all the things I also love to do… like baking!

These rock cakes are a variation of a recipe that my mum used to bake with me and my sister. Blissfully easy to do with small people, and as the name suggests, the appearance is better when no attention is paid to it at all. And so very comforting for me as a memory of my childhood, albeit I’ve switched out some of the less than healthy ingredients (hello glace cherries!) for some more wholesome alternatives.

Makes 12


  • 200g wholemeal flour (I used spelt)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g butter
  • 150g dried fruit – I used 50g raisins, 50g chopped dates and 50g chopped apricots
  • 30g chopped mixed nuts
  • 80g brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2-3 tbsp milk


  1. Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases and pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan assisted)
  2. Measure out the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir together
  3. Add the butter to the flour mix, chopped into 1-2cm square cubes
  4. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers. This was always a step emphasised by my mum as being important not to over-heat the butter and make a doughy consistency, but I don’t find that true in reality (sorry Mum!) so the kids get stuck in
  5. Clean children’s hands thoroughly so that the mix remains mostly in the bowl!
  6. Add the sugar, dried fruit, nuts and lemon rind and mix together
  7. Add the egg and milk and stir to form a thick mixture that can be scooped out – then scoop it out dividing evenly into the cupcake cases
  8. Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden brown on top, then leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as the small people can wait.

Do please let me know what you think of these! Other great family bakes to try are:

Savoury Cheese Flapjacks
Courgette Cupcakes
Apple Sauce Super-Flapjacks

Children's Nutrition, Nutrition Science, Uncategorized

Homemade natural bath bombs

So here’s an aspect of my work that doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when you’re thinking about a nutritionist – bath products. But what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them too, and there’s plenty of reasons to be just as sceptical of a long list of ingredients on the back of your toiletries as you should be of your food products.

Not so long ago I was merrily purchasing bath bombs from a well-known high-street chain that professes to be “natural” and “environmentally friendly” – indeed they are making huge strides in this industry and don’t use lots of plastic packaging etc. But here’s the catch – I didn’t look at the ingredients, I just trusted them! Yep, I’m also a busy mum trying not to neglect my kids as I juggle work and the ever elusive balance so bam, quick bath bomb treats and everyone’s a winner right?

But no… one day they stuck the ingredients label on the package and as I sat on the bus heading home my gaze landed on it… In this instance it was SLS that popped out at me, but there are a number of others that you also want to be mindful of.

SLS – this is what makes products bubbly, something we probably desire in our bathroom products, but actually it is hugely irritating for the skin and can strip it of water, essentially damaging it. If you’re prone to eczema or sensitive skin, this one is a definite no-no.

SLES – this is a bit like SLS, but the additional processing that makes it kinder to the skin than SLS can actually create a toxin (1,4-dioxane) that has been linked to cancer. So I will pass on that too…

Parabens – these are essentially preservatives, anti-bacterial agents that ensure products have a long and stable shelf life. These are what hit the headlines a while ago because research has started to show that they can mimic hormones like oestrogen in the body, essentially interfering with our hormonal balance. In addition, they are playing a role in contaminating water, and spreading these effects further into our planet’s delicate ecosystem and wildlife so another that I avoid.

I won’t make this article too long, but if you’re interested in learning more about the ingredients in your kids toiletries, here’s a great article from Green People For me, it’s a simple answer – as much as I can I am making my own or sharing batches with friends and family; that way I know that only safe natural ingredients are involved, and bonus – we are having an absolute blast doing it too! If you want to get started, I absolutely love this book, Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert – it’s got “grown-up” recipes, but you can adapt them to make more fun versions for kids which is exactly what I’ve done here!

Recipe: Natural Bath Bombs
(Makes 8)


  • 300g bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g citric acid
  • 50g corn flour
  • natural food colouring liquid or powder – amount varies*
  • lavender essential oil – approx 50 drops**
  • biodegradable glitter – as little as small hands will allow!
  • water in a spray bottle
  • Silicone cupcake case


  1. Combine the bicarb, citric acid and corn flour in a large mixing bowl, then add the food colouring, essential oil and glitter mix thoroughly with your hands – you may wish to use rubber gloves for this as it’s quite harsh on the skin.
  2. Continue to mix the mixture whilst spraying with water until it forms a consistency that whilst still loose, will pack and stick into the silicone cupcake forms, which is the final step.
  3. Leave the bathbombs in the silicone moulds for 24 hours in a dry warm spot (the airing cupboard is perfect but the counter top also works just fine.

For a fun variation, split the recipe in half and make two separate batches with different colours. You can also substitute the glitter for dried flowers like lavender – once you start, you’ll soon get the hang of these and make infinite numbers of different and fun creations!

* You can use a variety of sources for this, but I have thus far stuck to the good old Waitrose Essential range.

**Lavender essential oil I buy from The Natural Dispensary – do have a look at their essential oils selection, and you can use the code POHL10 alongside my name (Catherine Pohl) to get a 10% discount (full disclosure, I also get a referral bonus when you do).

Nutrition Science, Sustainable eating

Should we eat meat?

Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash

I have been asked for my opinion countless times now, on the recent Netflix film “The Game Changers”. Close friends have called me excitedly to talk about their new found vegan diet, and clients are increasingly asking me for help with cutting out meat and animal products.

But many seem somewhat confused that I’m not eating a vegan diet myself? The film was indeed very compelling. But I can assure you that I’m not vegan, and as a nutrition professional I have very solid reasons for the choices that I make around my own diet, as well as advising others with theirs and helping people make sense of the overwhelm of “information” that bombards us on a daily basis.

So why am I not vegan?

The first thing missing from the film for me was individuality. Functional medicine – which underpins my nutrition training – recognises is that we are all individuals, no two of us are exactly the same genetically or in terms of our lifestyles and life experiences.

For some, many even, a vegan can be fantastic and perfectly healthy. There is growing pressure on cutting down animal farming from an environmental perspective as well as the ethical factors for which people choose a vegan lifestyle, and all these things should be considered in the bigger picture, but if you’re choosing to eat only plant-based foods, you need to know how to feed yourself well and this is not something I feel the film either conveyed or equipped the viewer to do.

“If you’re choosing to eat only plant-based foods, you need to know how to feed yourself well”

Secondly, I want to take a moment to raise the question around the science of research. My training involved numerous hours learning how to research appraise the whole body of research evidence around a particular issue and review it critically. If that doesn’t make sense I apologise, but it basically means that I have done my time learning how to assess the scientific evidence for any number of dietary and nutrient-based hypotheses, and I do this on an almost daily basis when working with my clients.

The film flashed up and referred to many studies, but on closer inspection, many of them were what is called “cherry-picked” to support an argument, ie. they didn’t also take present the other side of the argument. James Cameron, one of the directors, actually owns a vegan food business – did you know that? He stands to make a direct profit from creating more vegans in the world. In the world of scientific research this would be classed as a “conflict of interest”. It doesn’t mean his motivations are not right, but it adds a aspect of doubt that should be considered.

And lastly, I’m tiring of the “binary choice” that we seem to be getting thrust upon us at every turn. There can be huge benefits in increasing plant-based foods in our diets, but why did the film instead push the extreme outcome of excluding animals completely?

It compared our human digestive tract to that of a lion – completely different, I agree – but not of a cow (you guessed it – also completely different) I couldn’t find a picture of a cow sorry – but here’s another carnivore, a dog, and here’s the cow. Which looks more like the human digestive tract?

Images taken from

Do we really need animal protein?

Ok, so that covers the my main points of complaint for the film, now for why I eat meat… No, we don’t necessarily need animal protein, but there are a few factors to consider if you want to give it up, and certainly if you’re an athlete (as many of those in the film were), serious consideration does need to be given to this aspect.

For an athlete like Patrik Baboumian who was featured in the film, there is a greater requirement for protein than eating a typical vegan diet can easily provide. A simple flick into his YouTube channel will reveal exactly what he does eat, and it consists of a number of daily protein shakes, and many additional supplements. That’s not to say we all need to eat that much protein, or that his diet isn’t healthy, but protein needs to be considered, and skimming over that and implying that a body builder can get enough protein from an average vegan diet is rather misleading. Are you happy to take artificial supplements for your day to day life? I’m not.

Patrik Baboumian’s supplement box

How much protein do we need, and how do we get it?

The film also suggested that there is the same amount of protein in a peanut butter sandwich as is found in three eggs. There is approx. 18g protein in three eggs, which would translate to about 80g, or almost ¼ of a regular 400g sized jar peanut butter. I ask you this – how much peanut butter do you put in a sandwich?

“How much peanut butter do you put in a sandwich?

Additionally, animal sources of protein are what are referred to as “complete proteins”, that is to say that they contain the full set of essential amino acids (protein molecules that our body needs to eat as it cannot break down other molecules and make them itself). Most vegetable sources do not contain all 9 of these amino acids, or if they do, few contain them all in sufficient quantities to be able to only eat that single source for our full protein requirement. For example, diets high in pulses can typically lack the amino acid methionine, but this is more plentiful in rice, hence the traditional “peas and rice” meal combination.

In the peanut butter v egg example, eggs contain all the essential amino acids, peanuts are however lacking in three of them (threonine, lysine and methionine), so they need to be topped up with other forms of protein (and before you ask, wheat isn’t a great source of lysine either so would not make up the shortfall!) You cannot just substitute eggs for peanut butter.

“You cannot just substitute eggs for peanut butter”

What else do I need to think about?

In addition to protein, there are a number of other nutrients that are more difficult to attain easily on a vegan diet, namely: iron, vit B12, vit D, omega 3 fats, vit A, iodine, choline, zinc.

With the exception of B12, it is possible to get these nutrients without eating animal products, but would it not have been more helpful for viewers to have helped them understand what they need to eat to get sufficient quantities of them?

For many, calculating amounts of protein, their corresponding amino acid content and additional nutrients isn’t easy or practical – hello fussy kids or IBS and IBD sufferers that simply can’t tolerate large quantities of pulses and legumes. For those, small amounts of animal products provide an easy solution.

So why did the athletes and firemen do so much better on a vegan diet?

This is what made me feel truly sad about the film. The exposure that it’s had could have done so much good.

The film picked individuals that consumed a lot of poor-quality food: hamburgers, deep-fried chicken, cheap processed meat and very little in the way of fresh vegetables, and gave them a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables.

“The film picked individuals that consumed a lot of poor-quality food: hamburgers, deep-fried chicken, cheap processed meat and very little in the way of fresh vegetables, and gave them a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables”

Binary choice: meat or vegetables?

It really is that simple – any downside that they might have experienced from reduced proteins and nutrients plentiful in animal products (arguably negligible in the short term) was of course going to be far offset by the inclusion of nutrients that their bodies had previously been lacking – fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants plentiful in fresh vegetables and fruits.

This was not a robust scientific study. If it had been, it would have taken into account different variables such as reduced meat consumption with increased vegetables, and I would hypothesise that this would have been at least as effective in improving health and performance.

What about the environment?

I have tried to cover the fundamentals of why eating meat may not be a bad thing for health, but in addition to that there is a lot of attention more recently on the impact of eating meat on the environment. I won’t go into detail as, in all honesty, I’m not qualified to do so. But it is an area that interests me, and for which I am personally motivated to do what I can.

Agricultural practices

The film showed images of large-scale industrial livestock farming in desolate fields (that may or may not have previously been lush forest) and urged us not to eat meat from them.

The meat I eat does not come from such farms. I am fortunate to be able to source meat from organic, small-scale, high welfare British farms. Not everyone in the world has this option, and the research does suggest that the whole world population cannot now be fed on a diet that includes animal products to the scale at which we consume them, but the meat, dairy and eggs that I personally choose to consume is not from farms such as those depicted.

I also do not eat it in the quantities also depicted in the film. I simply wouldn’t fit it all in, especially around the amount of veggies I eat, and it’s definitely not necessary. I don’t want to provide a precise guide on how much you need as this is so personal at many levels (please get in touch if you would like help working out what is right for you), but for most, 3-5 portions of meat/fish/eggs (always including oily fish) a week alongside careful protein planning should provide enough of the nutrients you might otherwise find lacking.

Please also take a closer look at the farms you buy from, and ask questions of your butcher, farmers market stall owner about how they produce the food they are selling. Get comfortable with what you feel is right for you from a welfare, ethics, environmental and health perspective. With the changes in food legislation that look likely to happen with Brexit (US imports, the lifting of EU bans on GMOs and pesticide use etc.) this is all the more important to do now.

The environmental impact of plant-based foods

“Are your avocados sustainably grown or are they intensively grown on deforested land and shipped all the way from Mexico?”

Please also apply this to the plant-based foods you eat too. Are your avocados sustainably grown or are they intensively grown on deforested land and shipped all the way from Mexico? Is your almond milk made from local organic almonds, or Californian almonds heavily sprayed with pesticides which are decimating bee populations? How much energy did it take to produce, package and transport the foods you’re eating, and are there any additional waste or pesticide issues that accompany them?

“Is your almond milk made from local organic almonds, or Californian almonds heavily sprayed with pesticides which are decimating bee populations?”

This is the bigger issue for me right now, and one I’m keen to share on here and via my social media. Plus it’s a conversation that’s so important – it’s not binary, it needs to be openly discussed if we want to make any real progress.

In summary

My personal diet and the message I share around healthy eating has not changed in light of this film or any others that I’ve seen. I continue to preach the message that the majority of people should be eating more plants – 10 portions of veg and fruit per day. Initiatives like “meat-free Monday” are brilliant for helping people to reach that target. But I won’t be eliminating animal foods, (meat, fish, eggs and dairy) from my diet.

I will continue to choose high-quality and responsibly farmed products animal products, and I will continue to eat them in moderation – not every day, never more than ¼ of my plate at a time, and always alongside plenty of fresh vegetables. And I will strive to uphold these standards across all food items I consume, plant- as well as animal-based. For me, this is the right balance between supporting my health and the environment right now, but I remain open to new research and ideas that might change that.

What’s your take? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

“I eat meat, not every day, never more than ¼ of my plate at a time, and always alongside plenty of fresh vegetables”