SR Nutrition is a nutrition consultancy company directed by Charlotte Stirling-Reed who is a Registered Nutritionist and specialises in child health, weight loss and Nutrition in the media. Follow this blog for Simple and Realistic nutrition advice, tips, healthy recipes and more.
When Raffy decided he loved mushrooms, I decided that I didn’t offer them or cook with them at home enough. So I’ve been on the lookout recently for some great mushroom meals to add to his weekly diet. Of course a meal that came up a lot when I was researching mushroom dishes was stroganoff. It’s not something I see people offering to babies a lot and so I thought, “why not”. I had a look at a few recipes, tried some out for size and then got to work making my own Mushroom and Chickpea Stroganoff For Babies.
I decided to add chickpeas into this recipe to make it a good source of plant-based protein and iron and I also omitted any salt or stock (although I’ve included Marmite which does contain added salt).
The serving here was ideal as a small portion for me and 1-2 meals for Raffy. The portions will vary a lot depending on how much your little one eats, what age and stage they are at weaning-wise and also how much you eat as an adult too. If you’re unsure about portion sizes check out our ‘Little Portions’ factsheet over on the LittleFoodie.Org website.
I also like the fact that this can be served with rice (2-5 tablespoons of cooked rice for a 1-4 year old), pasta or potatoes too, which is good for adding variety to a baby’s diet.
Ingredients: (serves around 2-3 portions)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 – 1 ½ tablespoon of paprika
250g of chestnut mushrooms
125mls of recently boiled water
1 heaped teaspoon of marmite
½ a tin of chickpeas
3 tablespoons of yogurt or dairy alternative
Heat the oil in a pan for a few minutes and then add the onion.
Fry the onion until it’s nicely browned and then add the paprika and the garlic, stir well.
Add the mushrooms and continue to stir until the ingredients have blended well (for around 5 minutes).
Add the recently boiled water and the marmite and cook for 5-10 minutes until most of the water has boiled off add the chickpeas for a couple of minutes at the very end.
Remove from the heat once it’s nice and thick and add your yogurt – stir well to avoid seperation.
Serve a large spoonful or two to baby along with 2-5 tablespoons of rice (age dependent).
Save the rest for yourself or as a meal for baby at a later date (or both).
Mushroom and Chickpea Stroganoff For Babies
And here you have a wonderfully satisfying mushroom and chickpea Stroganoff for babies and toddlers! You make want to make more though, as you will want to try it for yourself! Please take a look at other healthy recipes I have written.
You may have heard a lot of talk recently about folic acid and the potential fortification of flour in the UK. Although for many this may have come out of nowhere, it’s actually been a topic under discussion in the UK for a number of years. Additionally, many countries have already been fortifying foods with folic acid for years. So in the UK we might be somewhat behind with the fortification of our flour.
Folate vs Folic Acid
You may see these two words being used interchangeably throughout the media, but as similar as they may sound, they actually refer to two different things. Folate is a member of the family of B vitamins, more specifically B9; and folic acid refers to the synthetic form of folate – this is the type that is used in the fortification of foods and in food supplements.
Folate naturally occurs in a variety of foods such as green leafy vegetables (spinach and broccoli), avocado, potatoes and peas. It plays an important role in the everyday function our bodies supporting growth and the formation of DNA (pretty essential stuff!)
On the other hand, folic acid is the chosen form of folate that is added to a range of processed food products such as breakfast cereals and milks. It is suggested that folic acid is chosen for fortification as it is a lot more stable and is more readily absorbed than folate itself.
Folate is fairly widely available in a number of foods commonly eaten in the UK. However, if your diet is low in folate-rich foods, you’re likely to be at risk of becoming deficient, which can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, mouth ulcers, muscle weakness, pins and needles and even anaemia. In addition to this, the NHS state that taking high doses of folic acid may mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency which could eventually damage the nervous system if not treated.
If you’re worried you may have folate deficiency anaemia or may be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency, the best thing to do is see you GP as this can often be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
Folic acid and pregnancy
On top of this, low levels of folate in the body before and during pregnancy can have implications for a growing baby. Folate is essential for the development of the neural tube (spine and skull) during gestation and, without enough of it, there is a risk of a baby being born with severe abnormalities such as spina bifida, which affects around 1000 pregnancies in the UK every year.
Spina bifida is when a foetus’ spinal cord does not develop as it should during the early stages of pregnancy, which causes a gap in the spine and leads to a whole range of issues for a baby.
Folate and folic acid recommendations
It is for this reason that all women who are planning a pregnancy in the UK and for those who are pregnant (up until 12 weeks) are advised to take a daily supplement (400ug) of folic acid.
At the moment, fortification of flour with folic acid is simply on a voluntary basis but over the last few weeks it has been announced that the Government will consult on the idea to make the fortification of flour with folic acid in the UK mandatory.
As seen in the table above, it’s not enough to just have food sources of folate during pregnancy and before. Recommendations state that in order to lower risks of neural tube defects (such as Spina Bifida), it’s important to take folic acid when planning a pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of being pregnant. Despite this advice in the UK, many women don’t follow the recommendations and 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, making it hard for many to be aware of the need for supplements.
Therefore fortification of flour with folic acid is a simple way to ensure that everyone in the population, including women of childbearing age and pregnant women, are getting enough.
Are there any risks of fortifying UK flour with folic acid?
If folic acid is added to flour, this won’t make a difference to the look or the taste of flour. In fact, white flour is already fortified in the UK with nutrients such as niacin, thiamine and iron.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has considered potential harm that could occur as a result of fortification of folic acid and have concluded that there is no cause for concern. However this will continue to be considered in the next few months before the decision to fortify all our flour is made in Spring next year.
Take home points:
Folate is an important B vitamin and folic acid is its synthetic form which can be taken as a supplement and used to fortify foods.
Any women considering pregnancy are recommended to take a folic acid supplement (of 400ug) and must ensure that they are meeting the recommendations of 200ug of folate through a wide range of food sources.
It may soon be mandatory for flour to be fortified with folic acid in the UK, but the decision will not be made until Spring 2019.
I hope you enjoyed reading and have found this post interesting!
Article written by Holly Roper MSc student University of Sheffield with support from SR Nutrition.
See below the sources I used and found incredibly interesting when putting together this post!
Processed foods are likely to play a role in our diets whether we like it or not. Unless we are on a raw food diet (wouldn’t recommend it) or are trying to eat like our ancestors did millions of years ago, most of us will be consuming some form of processed foods daily. And this really isn’t a problem. As with everything in nutrition, it is moderation – how often we consume processed foods and what the rest of our diet looks like – that’s important.
Last week I wrote about the pros of eating processed foods in “Processed Foods: The pros and cons – Part 1” so if you haven’t read that yet, it’s a good place to start (it’s always good to start with the positives ;-)).
Cooking from scratch
When it comes to processed foods, people mainly compare these foods with the alternative – preparing foods at home from scratch for the whole family. There certainly are lots of benefits to eating this way. For example you have complete control as to what goes into the recipes, you can flavour foods to your own tastes, you can add less or no amounts of salt, fat and sugar, you can control for food allergies or special diets and you’re more likely to use “group one” ingredients (defined below) that contain fibre as well as plenty of vitamin and minerals.
If you’re able to cook this way and eat most of your meals from scratch, then that is certainly likely to be beneficial to your health, and result in a diet high in fibre, micronutrients and lower in sugar, saturated fat and salt. However for many of us living busy lives in the 21st Century, it’s not always possible or practical for us to be cooking from scratch for every single meal.
Defining processed foods
Now it’s also important to remember that frozen vegetables, tinned tomatoes and sliced bread all count as ‘processed food’ and these aren’t necessarily foods that we all need to be limiting. Therefore, it seems realistic to try and break down what we mean by PROCESSED somewhat, to include different levels of processing. Luckily a group of researchers have produced something called the NOVA scale that helps to do just this.
They split processed foods up into:
Group 1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
Group 2. Processed culinary ingredients
Group 3. Processed foods
Group 4. Ultra-processed foods
Group 1 are simply edible parts of plants and animals or those that are altered by minimal processes, for example to remove inedible parts or to preserve and store foods naturally. These include freezing, drying, boiling and packaging foods. A lot of this would happen in a domestic environment.
Group 3 processed foods include fruits and vegetables or fish bottled or tinned in salt or syrup as well as cheeses and breads. Basically anything that is a group one food that has Group 2 ingredients – salt, sugar and oil added.
Lastly, group 4 are ultra-processed, which are not simply modified foods but are foods that have undergone multiple processes which result in little, if any, intact group 1 foods being present. These include soft drinks, sweets, packaged snacks, ready meals and usually non-culinary or non-domestic ingredients are used to create them including additives and ingredients such as hydrogenated or interesterified oils, hydrolysed proteins, soya protein isolate, maltodextrin, invert sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Ultimately ultra processed foods are generally considered as foods that involve additional energy, saturated fat, sugar and salt as well as additives.
On top of this, the NOVA scale suggests that ultra processed foods tend to be foods that are a poor source of fibre – something that many of us don’t consume enough of – and micronutrients.
Additives: A side note
Actually it’s important to note that although additives get a bad reputation. Any that are used in foods in the UK all pass safety checks and, if necessary, have strict limits on how much can be used in food products throughout the EU.
High intakes of processed foods
If you’re consuming a diet which relies heavily on processed and ultra processed foods, you may be at risk of having high intakes of ingredients such as salt, saturated fat and sugar. These are ingredients that the UK Government recommends we reduce in our diet, as, if eaten in excess, they can have negative effects on our health including our dental health, our weight and our heart.
If your diet is high in processed and ultra processed foods, you’re also unlikely to have much control over how much sugar, fat, salt and fibre you’re consuming – which may lead to an overall “unhealthy” and unbalanced diet.
The palatability factor
Ultimately, ultra processed foods include sugar, fat and salt because these ingredients help to make food ultra palatable which is great…to a certain extent. If you’re consuming too many foods and calories because food is super palatable, this can be a problem and is what often leads people to associate certain foods with addictions (which is controversial and a whole new blog post in itself – it’s not officially proven that people can be addicted to foods and research is very mixed).
One study which reviewed the use of the NOVA scale suggested that there has been a large growth in the consumption of ultra processed food and that concern comes when these foods displace unprocessed/minimally processed and freshly prepared dishes in the diet. This displacement in the diet is what some evidence shows is increasing rates obesity and potentially other diet-related diseases (mainly, as I’ve mentioned through high intakes of calories, sugar, fat and salt and low intakes of fibre and micronutrients).
Processed foods are not all evil and we certainly don’t need to completely avoid them in our diet – that wouldn’t be practical and might actually reduce the variety of foods that you might otherwise be exposed to. However, high intakes of processed and especially ultra processed foods can lead to people over consuming food and calories as well as overeating ingredients that we know we should be limiting such as sugar, fat and salt. Larger intakes of processed foods may also lead to people having lower overall intakes of important nutrients such as iron, calcium and B vitamins as well as further reducing fibre intakes.
As with everything in nutrition, the realistic, sensible message turns out trumps. Eating a well balanced diet and consuming foods high in fat, sugar and salt in moderation. If you’re not sure what a “healthy balanced diet” consists of, check out my blog post here.
On top of this, here are a few of my top tips to choosing processed foods.
Charlotte’s Top Tips:
Don’t believe everything you read, see or hear when it comes to processed foods – the media tends to like scaremongering, but often it’s not that black and white
Remember that some processed foods are essential and can be beneficial for our health e.g. tinned fish, fortified milks, frozen vegetables
Try to put ‘processed foods’ into context and look at HOW OFTEN you’re consuming them throughout the week
By all means cook from scratch whenever possible but remember that using tinned beans, frozen vegetables and pre-packaged rice is NOT a problem
When choosing snacks or processed foods, try to think about the nutrients that these foods will offer and make your choice with that in mind
Check labels on foods for levels of sugar, saturated fat and salt – especially per 100g which allows you to compare between products
Check labels on food you choose and take note of fibre contents. In the UK we only consume around 19g of fibre a day and the recommendation is 30g
Include plenty of fruits and vegetables including fresh and frozen every day
Remember that most foods are processed to some degree but it’s the ultra processed foods that we should eat a little less of
Don’t ever feel like you can’t eat foods or feel guilty about the food you eat – a positive relationship with food is the best way to learn how to have a healthy diet
Welcome to Nutrition News. This week in the Nutrition News there is some revelation of salt content in meat alternative products, advice about vitamin supplements, the environmental impact of our eating habits and much more.
This week I wrote about processed food. Also there were many headlines about the salt content found in processed meat alternatives:
Alpro very kindly sent me some samples of their new “unsweetened” range of plant-milks. In return they asked me to create some recipes to go along with the range and to help spread awareness of their new “no sugars” messages.
Their aim with this new range is to be all about no added SWEETNESS. For example often foods say “no added sugar” and still contain honey, syrups or sweetness – which can still be just as (if not more) sweet than added sugar varieties.
Rhubarb and blackberry porridge
I have some leftover rhubarb in my garden that needs using up and so I decided to go with one of Raffy’s favourite recipes and make this an adult version of Raffy’s rhubarb porridge.
I often talk about what a wonderful food porridge is. It’s so versatile and so quick, as well as being nutritious and filling.
I love experimenting with different tastes when it comes to the porridge I offer Raffy. Usually it’s blueberries and strawberries with peanut butter but, as this year we had lots of Rhubarb in the garden, I started making it with this rather tart taste. The recipe actually works really well as the natural sugars from the fruits complement the rhubarb really well and help to take any real sharpness away – no sprinkled sugars needed!
We are just about coming to the end of rhubarb season so I thought I’d do a quick recipe to try to use up the leftovers! If it’s out of season, frozen rhubarb is fairly widely available from supermarkets and makes a great alternative.
200mls alpro unsweetened almond milk
1 large handful blackberries
2 large strawberries, sliced
1 large pinch of cinnamon
1 large dollop of @alpro plain unsweetened big pot yogurt
Add rhubarb and water to a pan and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft and has used up all the water. You may need to keep an eye on the pan to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Add a little more water if it does.
Next, add the oats to a pan with a large handful of blackberries and pour in Alpro unsweetened almond milk
Cook for around 5 minutes – until the porridge is nice and gloopy and then stir in the strawberries, cinnamon and about half of the rhubarb mix (you can add more if you prefer – I like to do a little taste test as I add). Remove the porridge from the heat.
Add the ingredients to a bowl and top with Alpro plain unsweetened big pot yogurt and a large sprinkling of milled linseeds as well as a small dollop of rhubarb.
Recently I did some filming for a new one off television documentary (will share more details when I’ve been given the nod to talk about it) all about ‘processed foods’.
The topic of processed foods is such a controversial one, and one that often stirs up a lot of emotions in people and so I knew that I wanted to approach it from a very balanced point of view.
In the UK we are a “ready meal nation” with nearly half of all ready meals created in Europe being consumed in the UK. However, processed foods and ready meals get a lot of negative press, which, whilst often justified and based on evidence that high intakes of processed foods are not great, can also be exaggerated and miss important points about the benefits of processed foods to our life/health too.
Before you stop reading, scream at the screen or decide to banish me to the list of “industry shrills”, I’m going to explain why and write about the side of processed foods that we rarely get to hear about.
The benefits of processed food
In a world where we have thousands of mouths to feed every single day, the processing of food is not only helpful, but in some cases it is essential. Almost all foods are processed in some way before they are consumed – think chopping, freezing, blending, cooking. But what counts as “processed food” is really variable and often depends hugely on an individual’s own ideas of what processed means.
For example, many people don’t think of frozen vegetables, free-from foods, honey or even energy balls as being ‘processed’, but some of these go through multiple processing methods before they are ready to eat.
Without processed foods, we would never have the huge variety of foods that we have available to us today. We can visit the supermarket and have our pick of a huge array of different foods from nuts to beans and pulses to plant-based proteins such as Quorn and tofu as well as huge variety in crisps, breakfast cereals and jams. In some ways this HUGE choice can be concerning, but it has to be said that we are very lucky to have such a variety available to us every single day.
Importantly, processing also makes our food safe to eat. For example, when milk is pasteurised, this is done simply to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be lurking in the raw product. Pasteurising ensures that any bacteria isn’t allowed to grow, contaminate milk for sale and potentially make consumers unwell. Additionally, raw kidney beans contain an inedible protein that needs to be removed before they are safe to consume. Heating the beans helps to ensure they are edible and safe for consumption.
“Never before have we had such an abundance of safe, and healthy food available to us around the world.” (Anon)
And, now comes the most controversial one of all…
Food processing helps us to consume more healthy food options:
Yes. I said it. Processed foods can actually encourage us to consume more variety and a variety of healthier options too. For example freezing fruits and vegetables can help encourage many more people to consume the recommended 5 A Day. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a very quick and healthy option to add to dinners, soups, cereals and smoothies and the freezing process actually helps to lock in nutrients that may otherwise be lost in fresh fruit and veg.
On top of this, many foods are often fortified with nutrients during processing. For example plant-based milks are often low in calcium, B-vitamins and iodine but many manufacturers choose to voluntarily fortify their milks with these vitamins and minerals to help make them more nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk. Without this fortification, those choosing plant-milks for allergy, cultural or welfare reasons may be at risk of having low intakes in some of the nutrients present in cow’s milk.
Additionally the fortification of white and brown (not wholemeal) flour with iron, thiamine and niacin is enforced by law in the UK, and this helps to ensure that these breads offer nutrients that may be removed during their processing.
Last but not least, processing foods helps our foods to be much more palatable…which leads me on nicely to talk more about the negatives of processed foods which will be what I post about in next week’s blog.
Processed foods can be of benefit to many people, helping to provide safe, healthy food to vast numbers in the population. Different processes help to preserve foods and lock nutrients in as well as add extra vitamins and minerals. Of course processed foods do often have higher amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fats and lower levels of fibre and micronutrients and we will cover more on this in Processed Foods: The pros and cons 2.
Welcome to Nutrition News. This week in the Nutrition News there were topics related to UK flour being fortified with folic acid, supplements, explanations and how vegetarian options started. I hope you enjoy it.
Over the previous weeks, there are a variety of articles about food allergies