10 mins

Quorn x Nic’s Nutrition for the British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week

Nichola Ludlam-Raine is a UK Specialist Registered Dietitian with over a decade of clinical experience working for the NHS as well as a private hospital. She regularly speaks on BBC Breakfast and has featured on CBBC’s Newsround, ITV Tonight as well as several prime-time shows on Channel 4 and 5 discussing health and nutrition. Nichola is a published author in the Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics and as an award-winning health blogger has over 100,000 followers across her social media platforms @nicsnutrition and @mummynutrition.

This year the British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week is taking place on the 28th September to the 4th October and aims to bring the UK together for a dedicated week that focuses on promoting healthy eating habits. But what exactly is a ‘healthy balanced diet’ and why is it important? 

Generally speaking, a healthy, balanced diet incorporates the UK’s Eatwell Guide principles, which includes consuming at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates for energy - preferably wholegrain for fibre, a variety of protein sources (both meat and meat-free) and prioritising unsaturated, as opposed to saturated, fats. Foods that are high in fat and sugar, and are low in nutrients, in addition to alcohol, should be consumed less frequently and in smaller amounts. 

The benefits of eating a balanced diet, as well as keeping hydrated, not smoking, incorporating daily movement, getting sufficient sleep (at least 7-8 hours is recommended) and having meaningful friendships go well beyond the improvements on our physical health and reduced risk of disease, but can have a positive impact on our mental health too. It goes without saying that looking after our physical and psychological well-being is more important this year than ever before.

For each day of Healthy Eating Week there is a different challenge and focus. The idea is that each habit can be added on so that at the end of the week we are leading a healthier and hopefully happier life long-term!
This year’s challenges have been specifically designed to encourage a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to boost the nation's health and well-being:

MONDAY - Eat more Whole grains #goforgrains 

In the U.K, it’s recommended to consume at least 30g a day of fibre, although many of us are only achieving approximately two-thirds (18g) of the recommendation according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Choosing wholegrains, such as oats, wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta and whole grain rice can help to increase your intake of dietary fibre. Wholegrains provide essential vitamins and minerals that have a wide range of important functions in our body. A simple way to include more wholegrains is to swap ‘white’ for wholemeal carbohydrates, for example you could try using both wholemeal pitta and wraps in my delicious Moroccan-style Pitta Salad with Quorn Vegan Hot & Spicy Burger and Quorn Mince & Mexican Beans with Cheesy Tortilla Triangles recipes. My Nutritious Quorn Buddah Bowl includes the wholegrain quinoa but can also be swapped for wholegrain rice or even couscous.

TUESDAY - Vary your Veg #readyveggiego

Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain a varied and unique set of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant chemicals) mostly depending on their colour. Consuming a wide variety of colourful produce is a great way of increasing your overall health and ideally we should be aiming for at least 30 different plant-based foods a week. Fresh, frozen and tinned vegetables, as well as fruit, all count towards your five-a-day with a handful (80g) providing one portion. Try adding a handful of frozen spinach to a morning smoothie, tomatoes to a lunch time sandwich, and my Nutritious Quorn Buddah Bowl in the evening which is packed with four different types of colourful vegetables!

WEDNESDAY - Drink Plenty #greattohydrate

Aiming for at least 6-8 glasses of fluid a day is essential when it comes to staying hydrated. This is key to regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and removing waste products - fluid helps fibre to do its role properly. Even small amounts of dehydration can negatively impact our cognitive and physical function. Keeping a reusable water bottle with you at home, or on the go is a great way to measure your intake - insulated bottles can help to keep your water cool too! Water is the best choice for hydration, but no added sugar cordials or soft drinks can be consumed too. Teas and coffees are also fine in moderation but try not to add any sugar to protect your teeth!

THURSDAY - Move More #moveandgroovemore

Any form of movement that you enjoy should be encouraged. Physical activity is beneficial because it can help to maintain a healthy weight, improve heart health, strengthen muscles and bones, improve sleep, relieve stress and lift mood via endorphins. The more time you can spend keeping active and reducing your total sedentary time, the better. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still. It’s recommended that adults undertake 150 minutes of moderate activity - such as a leisurely cycle or a brisk walk per week, or alternatively 75 minutes of higher intensity activity such as running or dancing. This should be done in addition to resistance-based activity, at least twice a week, to keep our muscles strong.

Make sure to include a variety of different protein sources across the week, especially on the days that you exercise. Meat, fish, dairy, plant-based protein such as beans and lentils, as well as fungal-based protein such as Quorn, are all great options to support the maintenance of muscle mass and healthy ageing.

FRIDAY - Be Mind Kind #bemindkind

When we are feeling stressed, our body releases cortisol, which we need for our bodies fight or flight response, in the short-term it can help with focus and memory, too. Chronic stress however can negatively impact not just our mental health but can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal (gut) disorders, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as suppressing our immune function too.

The following strategies can help you to be more kind to your mind:

  1. Take time to breathe before making any decisions! Shorter inhales and longer exhales can help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us to feel calmer.
  2. Include yoga, meditation or mindfulness into your daily/weekly routine.
  3. Take some time out - go for a 5-minute power walk, or if you have time - read a chapter of a book or have a bubble bath!
  4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of colour and variety to ensure that you’re getting the vital vitamins and minerals that you need, including fibre for your gut which also impacts on mental health (did you know that 90% of serotonin is made in our gut!). Eating more alternative sources of protein such as Quorn may help you to increase your fibre intake too.

SATURDAY - Get Active Together #activefuntogether

The weekend is an ideal time for many families to get active together and the key is to make it fun! Exploring a local park or woodland is a great way of catching up on the week as well as clocking up the steps without it feeling like exercise. Work as a team the evening before to decide where you’ll go and how you’ll get there - you could even go swimming as a family if your local pool is open. Remember to follow social distancing rules.

SUNDAY - Eat Together #enjoyfoodtogether

Eating as a family at a table (instead of on your lap in front of the T.V!) can be a useful way to eat more mindfully and improve social connection too. Eating together also helps to teach table manners and is an ideal time to plan meals for the week ahead.

My Quorn Mince & Mexican Beans with Cheesy Tortilla Triangles is a great family meal to not only eat together but to make together too. Getting the kids involved in cooking at home is a great way to teach them valuable skills that will last a lifetime. Research also shows that eating behaviours during childhood track into adulthood, so getting them familiar with preparing, cooking and eating tasty, colourful and healthy dishes will be super important as they grow up!

The role Quorn can play in a healthy diet and eating healthily at home

A healthy diet is one that is balanced and varied across the week, which means not only eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, but a mixture of different protein sources too i.e. meat and meat-free foods. Quorn is a meat-free food that is made from Quorn mycoprotein, which is neither a plant-based (i.e. beans, lentils & soya) nor an animal protein. It’s made from a nutritious fungus that grows in the soil, which is then fermented (in the same way that beer and yoghurt is made!). Therefore, it’s a food kingdom all on its own!

Quorn mycoprotein is a complete source of protein, which means that it contains all 9 essential amino acids, is a good source of zinc, high in fibre and low in total and saturated fat. In addition to this it is also extremely sustainable as it uses 90% less land and water in comparison to producing some animal protein sources. You can find out more on Quorn.co.uk

I’ve been cooking with Quorn for well over a decade now and love the fact that it is so versatile with a wide variety of vegan options now too. Have you tried Quorn before? What’s your favourite dish to make? Let me now on social by using the hashtag #QuornNutrition

I really hope this blog post inspires you to give the Healthy Eating Week challenges a go in the hope that you will continue them throughout the whole of 2020 and beyond too!

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