Libby Limon is a professional nutritionist who works extensively with the hospitality industry. We asked our audience for questions they’d like to ask her and here are her responses:
- What are the smallest changes someone can make that have a huge impact?
Eat balanced healthy meals that contain protein, carbohydrate, fibre and healthy fats in every meal. This helps balance blood sugar which in turn works to energise and prevent undue stress on the body. For most people, this simple change will transform the way they feel. For example for breakfast rather than have a virtually pure carb meal of toast or cereal, have wholegrain toast, eggs, and avocado.
- There are a lot of pseudo-nutritionists giving advice that ranges from nice idea through expensive & unnecessary to downright criminal – what should we actually be paying attention to and how do we sort the (gluten-free) wheat from the chaff…?
Steer clear of any restrictive or faddy diets unless you have been diagnosed or have sought the advice of a qualified nutritionist to do so. Keep it simple but with lots of variety. Balance your meals to contain the key elements of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. Ideally prepare and cook yourself. Make plants, including vegetables, beans, peas and pulses the back bone of your diet, 7+ portions a day has been shown to be optimal for health.
- Best things to eat at what time and what is the best thing to eat to increase and maintain energy levels while at work best things to snack on?
Carbohydrates and fats are the bodies source of energy production, so I would recommend slow release combination of these to give you sustained supply of energy over your shift. Complex carbs such as whole fruits, vegetables, pulses or wholegrains and healthy fats such as those found in nuts and seeds. For example carrot sticks combined with hummus or an apple with nut butter or olive tapenade and cucumber on oatcakes. If working an evening shift, try to eat your main meal of the day mid-afternoon before your shift. Avoid refined carbs as white rice, bread, sugary drinks and pasta as these for most people will only give you a short energy spike but followed by energy dip and sluggishness.
- For vegetarians, what is the actual amount of protein you need for daily intake, and the best sources to get it.
Everyone needs approx. 0.8-1g of protein per Kg of body weight. So if you weigh 60Kg then you need roughly 60g of protein. It is important to have protein with every meal as this helps your body effectively regulate blood sugar levels which effect everything from weight management to energy and sleep to stress levels. I recommend that as a rule of thumb having 20g of protein per meal. As vegetarian you can easily get this from protein foods such as eggs, Greek yoghurt, high protein cheeses such as feta or tofu. You can also combine wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds to achieve the required amounts e.g. lentils and brown rice or peas and quinoa. Lastly you can now buy vegan ‘protein’ pastas made from lentils or beans and protein powders from hemp or sunflower seeds. It is important to have a variety of vegetarian proteins because they are not often ‘complete’, i.e. they don’t contain the full range of amino acids that we need.
- Do I need to take vitamins, if so, what exactly?
If you eat a healthy diet and aren’t suffering from particular health issues you shouldn’t really need to take lots of supplements. There are 3 exceptions to this rule.
Firstly, vitamin D, this is produced in our skin as a reaction to sunlight on it. Most people don’t have enough exposure so can benefit from supplement vitamin D, it is best absorbed through an oral spray, a maintenance dose is between 400 and 1000 i.u. per day.
Secondly is omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. We need these to balance inflammation in the body as well as for brain function. It is difficult to get enough through the diet as the best source is oily fish which most people don’t eat enough of. Taking supplement either from a fish source or algae source if you are vegetarian is the best way to increase intake.
Magnesium, government stats show that up to 90% of us don’t consume enough magnesium via the diet. Even those people that consume magnesium rich foods often don’t absorb it due to anti-nutrients in the same food preventing it being bioavailable. Magnesium is used in many processes and insufficiency is often indicated tight muscle, poor sleep, stress and anxiety and female hormone imbalances. Take in absorbable form such as citrate or bisglycinate and in a powdered form to get adequate dosage (200mg to 300mg per day
- The saying goes ‘that we are what we eat’, but how important is what we eat to our overall health?
Everybody is different some people can survive on a poor diet because they are genetically very efficient. However, for most of us we will have health challengers in our lifetimes, a healthy diet and lifestyle is proven to protect us and in some cases cure us. As a nutritionist I believe diet is so important if you want to a live not just a long life but a healthy and vibrant one too.
- What would be 3 simple things that people can do to improve their nutrition?
Eat more vegetables – aim for 7+ portions a day
Eat a variety of foods to get the broadest nutritional profile
Avoid sugar, refined carbs and unhealthy fats
- What do you recommend for avoiding or reducing the effects of a hangover?
Firstly the best way to prevent a hangover is not to drink too much! Generally if you having a hang over that is a sign that there is an undue stress on the bodies detoxification systems and most likely it will not only do you short term damage but increase the risk of disease in the future. Having said that there are things that you can do protect and redress the imbalance caused by imbibing. There are two major elements that cause a hangover. Dehydration and alcohols intermediary detox product acetaldehyde. In order to prevent dehydration, hydrating with not only water but also electrolytes, particularly potassium and magnesium. You can add sports electrolyte powder to water or coconut water is fantastic natural source. Secondly supporting your detoxification pathways on a daily basis with a diet rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, E and those from green tea, green leafy vegetables, onions and turmeric can be of benefit.