Intelligent Food

Healthy breakfast ideas…

I really struggle with breakfast as I don’t like eating first thing in the morning. The most I can manage on waking is a couple of soya cappuccinos. I see them as protein drinks without the added protein powder. If I’m going to the gym I’ll eat a banana.

I need my first meal at about 10 or 11am and by then I’m starving. I thought I’d post up some of my favourite breakfasts (in addition to my Kilner jar breakfast from a previous post). Two of these recipes I can knock up at work with the toaster and two are strictly for weekends. Here they are…

Homemade wholewheat pretzel with a soft poached egg


Pretzel ingredients: 1⅟2 cups of water, 1⅟4 Tsp dry yeast, 2Tbsp brown sugar, 1⅟4 Tbsp salt, 1 cup Wholewheat bread flour, 3 cups flour, sea salt

Recipe as follows. Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water and dissolve, add sugar, salt and flour and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise. Make into pretzel shapes, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 minutes gas mark 7.

Marmite, cream cheese and fresh tomatoes on toast


Oatbran pancakes with warmed strawberries


Recipe as follows. Mix 2 Tbsp oatbran, 1 egg and skimmed milk to make a pancake batter consistency. Spray a not stick pan with oil and split the mixture in half to fry two pancakes, flipping to cook on each side. Warm strawberries for 30 seconds to 1minute in the microwave and serve together. I sprinkled mine with sugar 🙂

Peanut butter and banana on toast


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Breakfast and lunch on the go…update

I wanted to do a follow up on my original post as I’ve been using my Kilner Jar for ‘work breakfasts’ ever since. It’s worked really well for me as I find them really filling in a way that cereal bars aren’t. I’ve been experimenting with the best ingredients to keep the fat content low and the flavour high. I initially swapped my fruit compote for frozen berries on the bottom layer, then seeded granola, dried fruit and yoghurt. As I make it the night before work, the yoghurt soaks into the granola, which creates a Swiss-style breakfast that’s really delicious.

I’ve just discovered tinned blackcurrants in juice though. This version (pictured) is like eating cheesecake for breakfast which suits me fine. Seeded granola, fat-free yoghurt and tinned blackcurrants only. I’ve been looking for a lower sugar granola as the shop bought one I use is quite high at 12g per 100g, even though I only need about 25g. If anyone can recommend one, let me know.

I have to admit that I haven’t used the Kilner Jar as much for salads as it’s much easier to eat a sandwich at your desk. I love the theory behind these salads though. If you put the dressing into the bottom of the jar and then layer ingredients on top, the salad doesn’t go soggy and they’ll stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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Fussy Little Eaters

Like most parents, I struggled to get my two children to eat a varied diet as they were both incredibly fussy eaters as toddlers. For the first few years of their lives, I made things that I knew they would eat, just glad that they wouldn’t be hungry. I knew that I was making a rod for my own back, but I allowed them to be fussy and rarely challenged them. It did bother me though and I knew that I had to deal with it at some point.

It’s something that I’ve dealt with now with both of my children (although it’s an ongoing project) and I thought I’d post up my strategies in case other parents might find them useful/ interesting. I’m not saying that these will work for everyone but they are working for me.

Here are the rules that I followed/ continue to follow:

  • We all eat dinner together at the table for the majority of meals.
  • I started by making meal plans based on the food that the children liked but adapted them for the whole family. e.g. they loved fish fingers so I bought brown rolls, good quality fish cakes, salad and tartare sauce. There was something in the meal that they liked and other things that they hadn’t tried. I still use the strategy of making unfamiliar foods familiar. I regularly let my kids put food they’re unsure about in a tortilla wrap or on a sandwich and they tend to try anything this way. If they eat it once, they’ll eat it again, often without the bread the next time.
  • I put all different foods out separately on plates or in bowls. My kids loved helping themselves to food and would put something from most bowls on their plate. I then encouraged them to have a taste of everything on their plate but I never made them eat more than a mouthful if they didn’t like it. Alternatively I let them make their food, like pizza or homemade breaded chicken. My youngest started by just having his pizza base with peas and cheese on it (gross) but from that point, in his mind he liked pizza and gradually he ate any variety. You’ll be glad to know I don’t need the separate plates anymore (less washing up!).
  • If they didn’t eat a healthy portion of their dinner and try one mouthful of everything, they didn’t get a treat – harsh I know and not always a rule I apply to myself.
  • I never ever made more than one dinner for the family but they could choose the elements that they put on their plate.
  • I didn’t criticise the kids for not eating something but they were encouraged to try new things (at least one bite) and they got a lot of praise when they did – I love an excuse to clap!
  • I did this consistently and adapted meals to become more adventurous. Like I say though, it’s an ongoing project!

Tonight’s meal was whole wheat pasta with chicken, onion and peppers, served in a tomato, basil and mozzarella sauce. Everyone cleaned their plate which hand on heart, would have been impossible six months ago. Out of all of those ingredients my youngest would only have eaten plain pasta. It’s a miracle and I’m going to have a little clap 🙂

I ran my strategies by Dr Anna Robins, Senior Lecturer/ Researcher in Exercise, Physical Activity and Health at the University of Salford (and mother of two) to see what she would advise from a professional point of view. This is what she said.

“It is not uncommon for young children to go through ‘ faddy’ stages with regards to eating, especially when they learn that there is more to life than food. However, at the point at which your child says ‘ I don’t like…’ whatever it may be, the worst thing a parent can do is to simply remove any sight, smell and taste of that food again.  It is crucial that children have a varied diet in order to meet their nutritional needs, and by continually reducing the types of food they will eat, this can not only lead to child and potentially adult neophobia (fear of new foods) but also the likelihood that they are deficient in some nutrients. It’s also incredibly embarrassing from a social point of view to have a child that is a fussy eater. Failing to put healthy eating and a varied diet high on the agenda early on in their life, will only come back to bite you as a parent very hard later on.

Jayne, you’ve done the right thing by thinking of ways in which to make eating interesting and giving your children some autonomy with regards to food choice, albeit within a covertly decided range of healthy foods. It is advised that a child will need to be exposed to a disliked food at least 8-10 times before preferences begin to shift favourably towards that food. This certainly does not mean force feeding your child with the disliked food, but instead thinking of ways in which to increase the consumption of that food and also introducing novel foods into their diet. It is worth knowing that besides ‘exposure’ increasing the chance of a disliked food to become a liked food, ‘social’ and ‘associative learning’ can also help.  For example, if a child dislikes carrots yet a very good friend is seen to tuck into carrots when eating together, this can increase the likelihood of your child trying that food.  At a young age, superhero’s and well liked adults (usually well known family members) eating important foods can also increase the chance of your child also trying these foods.  Jayne, I see you’ve tried rewarding your children for eating required and healthy foods. This is good although it is not advisable to reward with treats (which may be less healthy) as the reward food is then seen as more positive than the access food. Positive adult behaviour can be sufficient in itself, but this needs to be very enthusiastic behavior, especially at the beginning – so try a gold sticker chart or something similar.  Children love to be able to literally see the benefits of their good behaviour (eating in this instance) and if you have more than one child it is inevitable that the competition between siblings can actually be advantageous.

And yes, getting children to continue to eat as healthily as possible when outside of your reach is incredibly hard, which is why you have to lay the foundations down very early on.  You will then find that as your children grow, they actually start to make informed healthy choices themselves and that is so rewarding to watch as a mother/parent. Well done, and carry on the good work! ” (Anna)

I’d like to thank Dr Anna Robins and The University of Salford for taking the time to contribute to this blog on ‘fussy little eaters’. We hope that’s its useful to other parents out there.

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Breakfast and lunch on the go…

Its that time of year again, the Christmas Countdown, when I try to lose a few pounds before the festivities. Last year I peaked too soon, lost weight early but on the big day had to wear leggings. Not good! This year I’m starting a bit later, today in fact. The idea for using Kilner Jars for lunch came through Pintrest, so I thought I’d give it a go. They certainly look ace! Today I’ll be eating Greek style fat free yoghurt with fruit compote and seeded granola (breakfast) and beetroot, smoked haddock, horseradish and cous cous salad (lunch).


added in the evening…

It was really delicious!

Ingredients: Layered beetroot, mixed salad drizzled with olive oil and black pepper, cous cous with raisins and smoked mackerel blended with creamed horseradish.

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Vitamin D found to promote fat loss and muscle gain in women

Vitamin D found to promote fat loss and muscle gain in women.

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Open Innovation

There are lots of food entrepreneurs out there who have spotted a gap in the market and created a genius product. I’ve loved watching Gizzi Erskine and James Averdieck and all the great food ideas on Cooks to Market, Sky Living. It’s well known that the road to market for food entrepreneurs usually involves a long, hard slog as well as a lot of financial risk. We think one answer could be the growing trend in the business sector, Open Innovation.  A term used when businesses work collaboratively, sharing risks (strategy, innovation and new product development) as well as sharing rewards. Could it be an effective route for supporting would-be food entrepreneurs who have great ideas and reduce risk for them?

In the food industry, Open Innovation only usually occurs where patents can be applied to a new food technology or design. That way a transaction can occur. Something that can’t be copied is licensed from one party to the other. Could this model work with a ‘good idea? The difficulty is that you can’t protect ‘a good idea’ if it doesn’t have a design or advanced technological element. Non Disclosure Agreements are useful, if you have the funds in place to back up a legal case should anyone try to use your confidential information.

Coming from the arts sector, Jane and I are used to working in partnership with other organisations most of the time, across museums, galleries, the public, private, charitable and voluntary sectors. Strategic partnerships permeate every bit of our business. Not for financial gain, but from an absolute belief that we’ll be stronger together than apart and that the sharing of knowledge and ideas will create something better and attract more people to it.

Personally, we would love to see Open Innovation in the food industry supporting the sharing of great food ideas at all levels. It would need a recognised model of protection and support as well a greater level of trust in the industry. Ultimately though we believe collaboration between businesses and consumers, through licensing or joint venture agreements remunerating both parties, would take products to market quicker and make them more vibrant, innovative and ultimately more competitive within the global marketplace.

If you want to be a food entrepreneur, or are living the dream already, if you’re an IP lawyer or work in the food industry, we’d love to hear your comments on Open Innovation. Let us know what you think.

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Intelligent Food

I’m genuinely interested in food, health and nutrition. I can’t work out whether this is my one true passion and I should’ve studied it at University instead of ‘Media’ or, whether I’m just vain and want to look better, for longer. In any respect, if there’s any new thinking related to food, diet or exercise, to read, watch or listen to then I’m there.

Recently I’ve learnt that not all calories of the same value react with our bodies in the same way. Processed foods, laden with refined carbohydrates and sugar are the foods which most rapidly turn to body fat. This includes most current weight loss foods which is particularly ironic or more to the point incredibly annoying!

This week, Tesco’s move to adopt the traffic light system on packaging after years of delay is signalling the universal adoption of the system by UK supermarkets.  But isn’t the system now proven to be flawed? Whilst a food might have a low fat, salt, sugar and calorific value (so every traffic light will be green indicating health) if it’s highly processed and uses refined ingredients, it’s now been proven that this choice isn’t the healthiest one a consumer can make. Perhaps it could be argued that the 5-a-day logo could go some way to helping with this. The official DEFRA stamp would again have to be universally adopted by manufacturers and matched to strict government guidelines as to what can constitute part of your five-a-day in processed food. At the moment these don’t exist.

Unfortunately though, I don’t think these things will help consumers to fully understand what is and what isn’t healthy and what will or won’t help them to manage their weight. In front of us lies a massive opportunity to educate consumers on healthy food through mass on-pack information. In the end it seems that this will just be an exercise in compromise and half-truths but perhaps a nice NHS poster campaign could fill in the gaps!


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