This week I have been giving my eating an overhaul, clearing my cupboards of all the sweets and treats from Christmas and focussing on good, healthy, non processed, nutritious food. I'm a firm believer of balance in diet, I enjoy my food and I'm not looking to detox or going overly 'clean'. I'm after quick, simple meals that are family friendly too.
I'm certainly no expert in this field and so I've turned to nutritional therapist, Sandra Greenbank. Sandra is a specialist in women's heath/ fertility and a Mum to three small kids as well. She also has the most beautiful and inspiring Instagram feed. Check it out here.
So, if you're a busy parent feeding your children day in day out, if you've just had a baby and need to nourish yourself or if you're in the process of trying to get pregnant read on! There's some excellent advice on how you can make nutrition work for you.
1. Hello there, firstly could you just introduce yourself…
Hello, I'm Sandra Greenbank, I'm 37 and originally from Sweden, my parents are from Italy and Finland so growing up was never boring! I'm currently living in a gorgeous town called Harpenden, in Herts UK with my husband and three young kids. When I first came to London I had a busy job working in the TV and media industry which was full of fun and games, but about ten years ago I decided that I'd had enough of the hectic lifestyle. I'd always had a passion for food, thanks to my Italian Nonna who was the most incredible cook, and also my restaurateur father who used to run a number of Italian restaurants in Stockholm. I also felt that I had lost sight of what a healthy lifestyle was since leaving Sweden, so I went back to University to retrain and study nutrition. I now run my own business and absolutely love my job as a nutritional therapist.
2. Tell me a little bit about your job and in particular the area you specialise in...
I trained for four years at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition in London and I'm currently working towards certification with the renowned Institute for Functional Medicine. I specialise in women's health with a special interest in fertility, and recently my clinic has evolved to look after the little people in their lives too - I run workshops on weaning and how to raise happy, healthy eaters. I love so many things about my job, in fact it's a dream to be able to call this my job as it's just pure joy. The best job satisfaction ever is when you get that call from a client who's been trying to get pregnant for years and finally after a few months of working with me it happens!
3. What is your overall approach to nutrition?
I believe that food is there for us to enjoy, and eating should never ever induce feelings of guilt or shame. I believe in real food and that it should not be complicated, expensive or time consuming to feed ourselves and our families healthy, nourishing meals every day. I also believe in balance and consistency, but not perfection because that is not achievable. Finally, I believe in good old female intuition and really listening to our body and what it needs.
4. What would be your top piece of advice, in terms of nutrition, for women who are trying to get pregnant?
Gosh, just one! I would make sure their plate is charged up with very good quality food at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a decent piece of protein (it should be the size of your palm), plenty of healthy fats and half the plate should be filled with vegetables grown above ground, ideally in a range of colours. It takes 90 days to mature an egg and 100 days to produce a batch of sperm, so ideally they should be looking after themselves for three months before even starting to try for a baby to ensure that the embryo gets the best start in life.
5. And for those busy Mum’s who have just had a baby?
Again, enough protein, plenty of good fats and lots of different colour vegetables is really important to get in to the diet to promote healing, and also in order to produce breast milk for a hungry baby while ensuring mum's stores aren't depleted. Also, sleep when baby sleeps - doctor's orders!
6. Feeding a family healthily can be a challenge at times, do you have any tips for doing this?
I could write a book about this topic! A slow cooker is a godsend for a busy family as you can have a healthy casserole or soup ready and waiting for you when you get home from school or work with very little prep, and if you make double you've saved yourself a job for another day. If your children are young they may be resistant to trying new dishes but you can start slowly by doing some healthy swaps. Brown rice instead of white (short grain brown rice makes a fab risotto), sweet potato instead of white, homemade chips instead of shop bought etc. You could start slowly by doing 50/50 until they've got used to the taste and all of a sudden one day you've 'ran out' of the old stuff and then you just 'forget' to buy it again...Or you could start to get their taste buds used to unfamiliar tastes such as cauliflower or courgettes by grating a little bit into their rice, if you peel the courgette first they won't be able to detect the green. Obviously everyone knows that you can hide a multitude of veg in a tomato sauce, and if I serve up pasta with tomato sauce for my kids I make sure the pasta is practically swimming in the sauce and then I add lots of really good quality olive oil on top. Green smoothies are also great for kids but do watch the fruit content and make sure you also put some good fats in, avocados are fab.
7. What is the one piece of food/ meal you just can't live without?
Eggs! They are little powerhouses of nutrition and so full of goodness. I eat them every day and we go through crazy amounts in our house! We have a little organic egg farm nearby who deliver fresh eggs to our doorstep every week and it's just so fab to be supporting a local farmer while also knowing that they come from genuinely happy free-range (practically wild) hens.
8. Finally do you have any favourite chefs/ cook books/ food bloggers that are your go-to places, when you're looking for recipes or food inspiration?
I love Hemsley + Hemsley, Sarah Britton @mynewroots and Amelia Freer (a fellow ION graduate). Riverford Organic have a fab recipe collection on their website...I don't really have lots of time to browse for recipes but I will often go on to the BBC website and tweak any recipes I find on there. I also love anything by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage.