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My diet diary: Lisa Woollaston's family food diary

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Lisa Woollaston and son Charlie on holiday
goodtoknow user Lisa Woollaston let nutritionist Monica Grenfell take a look at her family food diary to see if her diet's as healthy as she thought

Lisa Woollaston's food diary

Name: Lisa Woollaston
Age: 39
Lifestyle: Married with one son aged 7. Lisa works for the emergency services department of an electricity company, a job she finds quite pressured at times. She's 5ft 8in and weighs 16 stone.

Lisa says: 'I've always struggled with my weight but, like a lot of things, I often think "maybe I'm supposed to be like this". I'd like to be smaller, but over the years I've accepted that I find it hard to put all the good advice into practice. My real downfall is my sweet tooth.

'However, I do pride myself in cooking and preparing healthy meals and snacks for all of us. I never buy ready meals.

'I get terrible sweet cravings and that's my downfall. It might be for a piece of cake or some chocolate, and my problem is I can't have just one square - it has to be the whole bar!

'Although I try and eat fresh food, I get into a terrible rut over meals. We tend to have the same things over and over again. I wish I could get more ideas about interesting meals but when push comes to shove I can never be bothered.'

Lisa's typical daily meals
Breakfast: Granary toast with butter.
Snacks: Fruit if at work, crisps or chocolate when home.
Lunch: Tuna or chicken salad at work, granary sandwich at home.
Dinner: Tuna with jacket potato or pasta with something.

Monica's verdict:

Lisa has said that she's struggled with her weight, and that she'd like to be smaller. However, she finds it hard to put good advice into practice, and has a real sweet tooth that isn't helping things.

What we've tried to do below is offer Lisa some dietary advice, that, along with regular exercise, will help her trim down to a healthier weight range. Front of pack labels based on Guideline Daily Amounts will help Lisa to see which products ae lower in saturated fat, total fat, salt, sugars and calories. Choosing products which are lower in fat and in particular calories should help Lisa with reducing her weight.

Guideline Daily Amounts are for people of a healthy weight and are based on 2,000 calories, but Lisa will probably need to consume fewer calories than this to lose weight. However, the front of pack label can still act as a guide for helping Lisa compare products and choose ones that are more appropriate for her diet.

Breakfast:
Breakfast is an important meal of the day and there is evidence to show that people who consume breakfast are more likely to be a normal weight. However, Lisa is not eating much for breakfast and this could lead her to want to fill up on less appropriate snacks later on in the day.

Granary toast is fine, but may not be enough on its own for breakfast. It would be good if Lisa included some fruit in her breakfast and adding a glass of juice, a fruit smoothie or a banana will count towards her five a day. Wholegrain is linked to a reduced risk in heart disease, so it's good that Lisa has selected wholegrain toast, but she may want to try a wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk as an alternative sometimes - check the GDA labels on packs to find lower salt and sugar versions.

Lisa, like many women her age, might be at risk of low iron. Eating a fortified cereal at breakfast may help with this, but she should eat it with a glass of fruit juice which contains vitamin C which aids absorption.

Some alternatives:
- Wholegrain cereal with sultanas and apple flakes, with skimmed milk.
- Low-salt baked beans on wholemeal toast.
- Porridge topped with a sliced banana and fromage frais.
- An omelette with 1 slice wholemeal toast, with a glass of fresh orange juice and toast.

Quick tip: To help her lose weight, Lisa could try one of the lower fat spreads on the market instead of butter as they are lower in calories and saturated fat. Check out the GDA label to compare the calorie and fat content of spreads.

Lunch:
Lisa's choice of salads are excellent as they provide fibre, low-fat protein and contribute to her five fruit and veg in a day, but Lisa also needs to add some carbohydrate to her meal.

The Government guidelines on healthy eating recommend that foods are based around starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bread or rice as these provide energy and will help to make Lisa feel satisfied by her meal, so she doesn't feel to need to keep snacking.

Her granary sandwich, again, is a good choice and there are lots of healthy filling options such as cheese and tomato or chicken salad. I suggest Lisa adds a low-fat yogurt afterwards to satisfy her sweet tooth and provide some calcium for healthy bones.

Some alternatives:
- Granary sandwich with some lean meat and salad. If choosing cheese for her sandwich, Lisa needs to try and choose a cheese which is lower in fat - again the GDA label will help Lisa compare the fat levels in different cheese. She could follow her sandwich with a low-fat yogurt - check GDA labels to compare fat and sugar levels.
- A vegetable soup with a slice of granary bread. Choose a non-creamy soup as this will be fairly low-calorie but filling, and as Lisa wants to lose weight, this is a good way to do so.

Dinner:
Lisa is worried about variety and because she has a busy life, the time she can put into meal preparation is limited and at a time of day when she is tired and just wants to do something which is easy and tried and tested. For this reason, I do think some ready-meals on the market these days are excellent and Lisa could consider these once or twice a week, serving them with a healthy salad or some extra veg which will add bulk to the meal but not calories!

I suggest red meat once or twice a week, as it is high in iron and protein. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines and seafood are good choices as they provide important long chain omega 3 fatty acids to the diet.

It's good to accompany meals with added vegetables or salad Jacket potato, rice and pasta are all good starchy carbohydrates to base a main meal around as they help fill you up but are not high in calories; though Lisa should watch any added fats added to them.

Some alternatives
- A risotto can be made out of almost anything, but seafood and/or mushrooms go well in a risotto. Remember to use the minimum amount of oil and use a stock cube to let the rice fluff up. If you're worried about salt check out the GDA label and choose a lower salt stock.
- Make yourself a curry out of fish, lean meat or vegetables. Again use the minimum amount of oil and choose a lower saturated fat version, which you can check by using the GDA label. Use brown rice if possible but remember it takes longer to cook.
- A chicken, turkey or quorn stir-fry with mixed vegetables. Noodles go well with this and are very quick to prepare.

Snacks
Snacking can actually be very good for your waistline as it may help you to not be so hungry at meal times that you eat anything and everything! However, choose your snacks carefully so they are not providing loads of sugar fat or calories (ideally keep snacks to below 200 cals).

- Oatcake with cottage cheese - It's a low-fat, low-GI, energy-boosting option, so it's a particularly good choice if you're watching your weight.
- A cereal bar, but do use the GDA labels to check how much sugar and calories it contributes as some can be quite high.
- A handful of nuts are thought to help keep hunger at bay, are very nutritious and are believed to help with weight loss. But as they can be quite high in calories stick to no more than 30g (1oz) a day.
- Fruit and yogurts also make good low-calorie snacks.

General observations:

Continued below...


1. Ready meals these days are often nutritious and tasty and can help people who have busy lives to get a nutritious meal. Many ready meals have GDA labels which show you how much of your GDA for calories, sugar, fat, saturates and calories are in a portion. Lisa just needs to check the labels, compare the options available and choose the right one for her and her family.
2. Manage those snacks! Lisa wants to control her weight and if she limits herself to two healthy 200-calorie snacks a day in between well-balanced meals which are based on starchy carbs. She should feel fuller and reduce her desire to nibble on chocolate and crisps.
3. Make use of milk puddings. They're easily made at home in a few minutes, and the likes of rice, semolina, tapioca and ground rice are highly nutritious, and as part of a balanced meal will help to keep Lisa feeling satisfied.
4. End meals with fruit. We all need fibre and the inclusion of a high-fibre piece of fruit, or maybe stewed fruit with yogurt, helps to encourage a healthy digestive system. Fruit is also a good source of micronutrients and phytochemicals they both need for good health and free radical protection.

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