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Life Practice Nutrition

Welcome to Good Mood & Food

Month

June 2015

How well is your workforce?

Right now 1 in 6 workers in the UK is dealing with anxiety, depression or stress.

Mental health problems alone among workers cost the UK economy over £26 billion every year. This does not include physical health problems which adds considerably to the cost and sickness days away from work.

We spend the majority of our time working so it is vital that the place in which we work is a happy and supportive one and where we feel valued. Whether you are a part of a team, Line Manager or Senior Partner the support that you offer your staff is key to performance. The culture of the workplace in recent years has begun to change as companies are recognising that mental and physical health does impact on their bottom line. If you look after staff wellbeing then staff morale and loyalty, innovation, productivity and profits will rise.

Research studies show that companies that are rated “the top 10 Best places to work” are more profitable than those that are not. This is down to the supportive environment within their organisations and how the company make their employees feel valued and supported by providing resources such as Resilience Training, Wellbeing workshops and teaching them effective communication skills.

Findings from 56 studies on work site wellness programs that were published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average 27 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health care costs, and 32 percent reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management cost claims.

So where does a company start with wellness?

You need to start at the top and work down. A supportive corporate culture includes not only a commitment to the wellness program from senior management, but also extends to the mid-level and front line managers best positioned to affect program success due to their day-to-day contact with employees. It is, thus, important to align their management and performance goals with the health and wellbeing of the people who report to them.

It is also important for Managers to recognise the environmental context which includes influences external to the workplace, such as the home setting, friends and social networks, and the policies and resources of the local and national community. Although workers spend a significant amount of their time in the employment setting, these other factors can also affect their need for and success in a wellness program.

How does a company motivate their staff to change?

consultationOnce again when influencing and promoting change in a work place it needs to start from the top down so firstly, Senior Executives could implement initiatives or form a working party within their organisation to investigate what their employees would like to see or what challenges they face.

Whilst keeping within HR regulations, a Health related questionnaire could be developed for all employees to complete which would give the company insight into their variety of needs and therefore support to be offered. Here are some other examples for introducing wellness into an organisation:

  • By delegating and giving more autonomy to staff, chosen staff members could set up a health and wellness in the workplace committee and have them take responsibility for implementing the selected ideas for health promotion activities
  • Designate a wellness coordinator for implementing action plans
  • Allocate a budget for health and wellness in the workplace activities
  • Develop good employment practice and policies, eg, communication systems; training and personal development; supervision, appraisal and mentoring; attendance / absence management; equal opportunities; return to work/rehabilitation for people with illnesses or disabilities; time off for career responsibilities (children, other dependents); job sharing; flexi-time and flexible hours / days; dealing with harassment and bullying; grievance procedure; disciplinary procedure
  • Include health and wellness in the workplace activities in manager’s objectives

It is a good idea but these things cost money

There are many ways in which companies have incorporated Wellness into their organisations which come with relatively little cost. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cross-department teams could earn points over a 12-week period by doing healthy things like drinking a certain amount of water or going for a walk on their lunch breaks
  •  Subsidising healthy options in vending machines with junk food options. For instance, charge more for a cupcake and less for an apple.
  • Set up a walking club before or after work.
  • Conduct meetings whilst walking.
  • Start a pedometer challenge with a goal of 10,000 steps a day.
  • Provide a safe place to store bikes in the office.
  • Encourage employees to take the stairs.
  • Buy healthy food for meetings instead of junk food.
  • Health and wellness seminars / discussions – with guest speakers
  • Awareness raising, workshops, training sessions on health topics

Once you have management fully on board, it’s time to market the program to employees. Posters, emails and newsletters can spread the word. Even inject a little fun into the project and utilise photos of executives displaying bad posture or holding up an apple to advertise wellness events. Prize incentives can also be offered when running a challenge.

At the Life Practice we offer Wellness at Work programs to help companies promote health and wellbeing within their organisation.  We offer a range a programs to suit all budgets. Call us today for more information Tel: 01462 431112 or Visit our website

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Our “Wheat free” family experiment

Since starting my family on a wheat free regime last April, I have learnt so many alternative ways to designing meals without bread and pasta. As a Mum of two, these two foods are a staple of most quick and easy breakfasts, lunch boxes and evening suppers so I knew I had my work cut out to find alternatives for a family who live on toast, cereal, spaghetti and sandwiches (with fruit and vegetables nestled in between somewhere). Not only that but to “sell” the idea of the alternatives to them as well.

The Wheat Free regime works on the basis that wheat laden foods carry a heavy carbohydrate load. These carbohydrates burn quickly sparking glucose to be released into the bloodstream which then triggers the pancreas to release insulin in order to “mop up” the blood sugar (glucose) to bring levels back to normality. What goes up must come down and it is these “peaks” and “troughs” that can create an imbalance. The dip comes within an hour or so of eating that carbohydrate  and it is at this point that cravings then set in. So, another carbohydrate is consumed and so the cycle goes on and on. By taking wheat out of the diet (as well as sugary foods) this keeps the body in a balanced state and thereby reducing patterns of cravings, and the grabbing of a carbohydrate fix.  Over time, apart from gaining weight, there is potential for the insulin excretory cells of the pancreas to wear out and reduce it’s insulin output or the receptor cells which “mop up” the glucose (insulin resistance) can also wear out, this can lead to Type 2 diabetes. So by reducing foods that “spike” our blood sugar fast we can reduce the “wear and tear” on our body and reduce cravings.

One thing I had noticed at home was the amount of snacking in between meals that went on with both children and my husband. Whilst I have always allowed the children unlimited access to the fruit bowl, most snacks were carbohydrate laden in the form of cereal bars, toast, sandwiches and dried fruit.  Whilst fruit is healthy, it is contains high levels of fructose which is a sugar, just not a processed one but many fruits can create these “spikes” in blood sugar too so I started to look into varieties that carried less sugar such as mixed berries, melons, peaches, pineapple, apricots and oranges. We also did away with dried fruits as these are high in fructose.

After we all agreed that it would be an interesting “experiment” to see the benefits of cutting out wheat, I set on a journey of trawling Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to see what was out there.  Social Media offers an array of recipe ideas and techniques to help come up with a variety of meal plans. Armed with my Wheat Belly book and Against all Grain website  I read through reams of recipes to find something that my family would all eat at the same time without fuss (yes I too have fallen into the trap of cooking three different dinners to suit everyone).

So to begin, Breakfasts. This area has been the hardest as both children love their cereals and although occasionally I would buy a sugary one as a holiday treat, most days the children are offered Weetabix so these were excluded and replaced with Rice Krispies. I also offered them yoghurt and fruit as an alternative and on weekends we tried a wheat free pancake recipe made with coconut flour which was delicious. For me, I prefer muesli and despite going for a sugar free, salt free wholegrain one this was still out of bounds. I found a fabulous recipe using Chia Seeds, almond milk and cashew nut butter. When you soak overnight a tablespoon of Chia seeds into a Nutri bulleted mix of almond milk and a spoonful of cashew nut butter, the chia seeds expand and become softened and of similar consistency to caviar (without the fishy taste obviously). It works like a bowl of porridge where you can then top it with chopped figs, strawberries, raspberries or a banana. Chia seeds are full of fibre and work brilliantly on sustaining me until lunchtime.

Lunchboxes were the biggest challenge mainly because of the lack of convenience of throwing a sandwich together, grabbing a bag of crisps and a piece of fruit or yoghurt. I found that I needed to be more experimental with the food choices so purchased lots of small tupperware pots which I filled with cucumber and carrot batons, hummus, mozarella cheese balls, ham strips, chicken strips and a variety of berries. My son embraced this with excitement as he enjoyed opening up each pot to discover it’s contents. He also only has lunchboxes twice a week so this was not too complicated but I did need to be organised and ensure these things were on the shopping list every week. My daughter buys her lunch at secondary school and she found it very difficult to find choices that were wheat free. She was reluctant to sit down for lunch where the hot food choices were better than the takeway canteen which only offered sandwiches, pizza, paninis and pasta salads – all wheat laden foods so I started to make up a lunch box option for her too some days and on other days she made an effort with her friends to sit down and eat (which by the way is far healthier for your digestion)a hot choice of soup or meat and vegetables.

Wheat free bread made with flaxseeds, almond butter and coconut flour
Wheat free bread made with flaxseeds, almond butter and coconut flour

I have attempted a wheat free bread recipe which consists mainly of flaxseeds, almond butter and coconut flour and whilst it was delicious, the  ingredients made this recipe cost about £8.00 per loaf so not something I would make often.

Dinners required more creativity as we often had cous cous and pasta as a base for our dinner. Occasional, time saving dinners for the children were frozen convenience foods which contain wheat, like fish fingers or pizza. So, I bought more fresh fish and made my own fish cakes. I also made veggie bakes and chicken nuggets all using coconut or chick pea flour. It was a little more time consuming and dinner preparation started a little earlier most days. The children still craved my pasta sauces and I must admit as I usually batch make these and freeze it was annoying that we couldn’t utilise these, until I discovered the Spiralizer!

SpiralizerThis nifty little gadget has taken pride of place on my kitchen worktop. A glorified cutting device to some but to me it has injected a sense of interest and variety to all our meals.  We can use it to create spirals from brocolli stems, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, potatoes (high in carb but we eat less this way). It sounds so simple but interestingly I have served up courgette noodles with pesto chicken and the whole family love it. Helmsey and Helmsey do a great recipe for the base of this dish.

Give a sliced courgette to the children and they would normally turn their nose up at it, so by offering some fun into the meal design this seems to have a positive affect on everyone to at least try it. Furthermore, the spiralised veggies can also be blitzed to make rice shapes which can equally be used as a base. This alternative to pasta is blood sugar balancing, lower in calories and helps to include everyone’s “five-a-day” easily. Win, win for everyone. Plus, the children are always happy to help if they get a turn on the Spiralizer.

So, two months on, how are we all doing. Well, out of all of us the children have slipped occasionally when at a party or eating out but my husband and I have maintained our “Wheat Free” status. My husband has lost 16 lbs in weight and feels more energised, we have both benefitted from less bloatedness. The children have curbed their frequency of snacking and the moments of cravings have subsided.

I never thought I would ever have an empty bread bin but not a slice of bread has entered this house for these passed few weeks and whilst I do salivate when I pass the baked goods aisle in the supermarket I do now realise that there is a life without wheat.

Karen is a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist who runs her clinic in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. For more details visit Life Practice Nutrition or call for a free 20 minute telephone consultation on 01462 431112

Horticulture and therapy at The Triangle Garden, Hitchin

This weekend I visited the Triangle Garden Open Day at Ransoms Recreation Park in Hitchin, a community project that promotes the benefits of working with the natural world of Horticulture.  It is available for all ages and abilities and brings together the community in a positive way. Having passed by this area daily on my trip to the Nutrition clinic in Bancroft Hitchin, I was intrigued in knowing what took place there and what activities were on offer for the community. I was so surprised what I discovered behind the shadow of Grove road.

As I began the Garden Tour through the Willow Arch we passed the evocative scents of the Herb Garden and saw the flowering blossoms of “soon to grow” fruits in the Mini Orchard. This led us by the Pollinators Garden yet to be planted but soon to be a guaranteed haven for bees and other insects which are crucial to pollinating and food growth – without them we would have no produce to harvest! Further areas included The Willow Maze, Bluebell Glade, Wildlife Pond, Winter Garden, Ferny Stepping Stones, Christmas Tree, Bug Hotel and Forest Garden. This thoughtfully designed landscape really does offer an opportunity to discover the wonders of nature at any time of the year.

The Community Mosaic is the centrepiece which brings all corners of the garden together. This was created with many local groups under the artistic guidance of local artisan, Jane Visick Mosaics. It provides an outdoor classroom space for visitors and groups. Throughout the summer there is a weekly Friday morning Gardening Club where anyone can learn more about sustainable gardening and get some healthy exercise at the same time whilst socialising with others, perfect for anyone suffering with boredom, loneliness or simply wishes to find a healthy hobby. For those who work during the week, on the last Sunday of every month, volunteers are welcomed to come and join in the fun too.

Community Projects are also run from the site:

Growing Ability is for people with learning disabilities and uses social and therapeutic horticulture to improve self-esteem, confidence, literacy and numeracy in budding gardeners.

Growing Gang is a community based work-experience project, whose members offer gardening services locally to churches, village halls and schools.

Growing Health is a guided support group set up to help its learning disabled members lead healthier, more active lives. Activities include cooking, learning about healthy eating, walking and sport.

Finally, Ransom’s Pavilion offers shelter on rainy days for community meetings, children’s parties and private workshops as is available for hire by external groups for a small fee of £15 for a half day.

This community project has inspired me to venture further so this week I will be meeting with one of their volunteers, Liz McElroy to discuss how my skills as a Nutritional Therapist can be utilised to support this worthy project further. There are other Volunteer Vacancies currently available if you would like to be part of this project. Publicity Coordinator and Events Coordinator are both currently available. Email: triangle.garden@ntlworld.com for further details.

If you would like to know more about the Triangle Garden you can contact Liz McElroy at liz@trianglegarden.org

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