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Top foods to boost your white blood cell count

White blood cells produce antibodies to fight infections and are an essential part of your immune system. They are formed in the bone marrow from stem cells. If your white blood cell count is low, for example through chemotherapy, then your immune system is weakened and is no longer able to fight infections effectively. Even a common cold can become dangerous.

What to eat

Although there are no “magic” superfoods (despite some claims) you can help boost your white blood cell count by ensuring you have enough protein and the correct vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is a great way to keep hydrated without adding calories or damaging your teeth. Add slices of cucumber, citrus fruits or some berries to add flavour. It is important to consume enough to prevent getting headaches and tiredness.

Eat a good source of protein throughout the day

Turkey meat is a good source of protein. Chickpeas, broad beans and quinoa also provide a source of vegetable protein. Fish and seafood, for example Salmon, tuna and prawns provide protein too.

Eat your greens

Kale provides key vitamins and anti-oxidants which are compounds essential in preventing oxidative stress which damages or kills cells in the body.

Eat Regularly

There may be times when you have lost your appetite and struggle to eat a full meal but your body is reliant on the necessary calories to function effectively. Take in snacks when you can.

8 Meal and Snack Suggestions

1. Seafood Salad

Seafood Salad ImagePoached salmon and prawns served with a portion of wholewheat cous cous, a roasted carrot and orange salad and a green salad made from mixed salad leaves, cucumber and olives.

2. Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie ImageMix a scoop of wheatgrass or Greens powder, a cup of apple juice and blend with a cupful of green leafy vegetables for an instant boost to your folate levels which help the formation of blood cells.

3. Sweet vegetable tea

Sweet Veg ImageCut sugar cravings with this tea made from one part each of chopped pumpkin, cabbage, carrot and onion. Add 12 parts water and bring to a rolling boil, simmer for 10 minutes, remove the chopped vegetables and drink the liquid for a nourishing and soothing alternative to tea.

4. Fresh cut vegetables

Fresh Cut Veg ImageBlanch raw chopped broccoli and carrot in boiling water for 30 seconds and dip in cold water instantly and serve with a handful of cherry tomatoes with an omelette for a nutritious breakfast. Studies have shown that a compound found in broccoli has an anti-inflammatory effect on cells. Lycopene found in tomatoes and beta-carotene in carrots are both antioxidants.

5. Turkey Meat

Turkey Meat ImageTurkey meat is a great for providing lean protein and easy meals can be made using turkey meatballs cooked with fresh herbs, then served in a warm pitta bread with natural yogurt and salad leaves or buy cooked sliced turkey meat and make a sandwich with avocado, tomato and lettuce. It’s a good alternative to bacon, lettuce and tomato.

6. Avocadoes

Avocado sandwhich ImageEating avocadoes helps reduce cravings for fatty foods, they are a good source of vitamins A & E and also contain a combination of vitamins B6, C and D, riboflavin and manganese to support and strengthen the immune system. Eaten on wholewheat toast or sunflower and barley toast gives the added dietary fibre to help the bowel.

7. Mushroom soup

Mushroom Soup ImageMushrooms have been shown to have a stimulating effect on the immune system of immun-compromised patients. A mix of mushrooms such as Shiitake, chestnut and oyster is a delicious combination and in a soup with garlic and onion they are easy to eat in large quantities.

8. Yeast Drinks

A tasty way to take in vitamin B12 and boost your immune system.
Look out for the forthcoming ebook with more information
Thank you,



The material contained in this blog is for information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or consultation from a qualified health practitioner.


Avocado – telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/diet/3337073/Super-foods-avocado.html
Dietary advice for patients with neutropenia (Leukemia and lymphoma research 2012)
Mushrooms – www.mushroomsandhealth.com
Macmillan – uk/information-and-support/coping/maintaining-a-healthy-lifestyle/healthy-eating
Recipes – ottolenghi.co.uk/plenty-more-shop

Eat the seasons

Alty market

It’s finally summer and St George’s Day marks the official start of the British Asparagus season.

I was in Hereford last week and got some lovely asparagus which has become part of today’s lunch, roasted in rape seed oil with cherry tomatoes and leeks and seasoned with thyme.

Allergy awareness week starts on Monday 24th April and I having been thinking of hayfever sufferers who probably aren’t as glad to see British growers ramp up to full production, however, the summer is packed full of great food that is right on our doorstep.

As the saying goes “if you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food”.

British Lamb for Sunday lunch with roast root vegetables was a favourite for my family last week and yesterday I bought fresh rhubarb which I boiled gently in water with a splash of apple juice, a pinch of cinnamon and served with creamy vanilla low fat yogurt.

Coming up in May there is the Watercress Festival  (18th-24th) http://www.watercressfestival.org/ and also British Tomato week (22nd May – 28th May) http://www.britishtomatoes.co.uk/british-tomato-week/


I’ll leave you with the words of Elizabeth Berry as a reminder of why it’s good to eat locally sourced food

“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables.  They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.”

~ Elizabeth Berry

5 reasons for teenage girls to nurture a healthy diet

The first term of the school year is over, you have settled into the new timetable and worked out that there will be even more homework than last year.

School meals have not changed, it’s still ‘chips on Friday’, fizzy drinks are not allowed and the time you spent learning about the Eatwell plate seems like a waste because a different Eatwell Guide has been launched. The food groups reflect the importance of fruit and vegetables in the diet, sugary soft drinks have been replaced with water and there is an increased emphasis on fibre.

The Food Technology class is familiar territory with its continued focus on healthy options, so ‘Meat Feast’ pizza won’t cut it anymore. It’s all about the swaps. White rice is out, wholegrain is in, Bolognese sauces have added chopped vegetables and ‘brown food’ has been pushed out by a rainbow of colour on the finished plate.

Why is this important? Here are the reasons:

  • Maintaining energy levels

Breakfast literally means “break the fast”.  If you eat at 7pm in the evening and then eat your next meal at 8am, your body will enter a fasting mode after 12 hours and starts using energy stored as glycogen. Having breakfast provides a welcome source of energy and helps keep the brain alert and maintains concentration throughout the school day.


  • Build up calcium levels

As a teenage girl you continue to grow until around age 16, but your body requires high amounts of calcium for your bones to grow in size and density until your early 20’s.  Dairy foods, calcium enriched milk alternatives, dark green leafy vegetables, fish eaten with bones, and weight-bearing exercises, all help to build strong, heathy bones.


  • Establish a healthy weight as you start periods

Teenage growth requires sufficient energy and nutrients to give you a healthy weight. No food is a bad food, it is the amount that you eat of it that counts. Your body will increase its lean body mass (muscle tissue) and will need more iron as the blood volume expands and you start your periods. Eating a plant based diet provides a source of fibre and nutrients and adding good quality proteins such as eggs, nuts, pulses and meat gives you much need protein.


  • Staying hydrated

Drinking water is not only the best way to quench your thirst, but it is a necessity to help keep you hydrated, especially when exercising or taking part in a physical activity.  Carry a water bottle at school so that you can top-up throughout the day.  Adding slices of cucumber, citrus or chopped fruit will give it a natural flavour.


  • Creating a healthy relationship with food

Keep on mind that there are three important relationships in life:

  1. Your relationship with money;
  2. Your relationship with food;
  3. Your relationship with yourself.

Having a good relationship in these three areas will help you worry less about what your friends think about how you look and what you eat and give you the tools to enjoy life.


Barbara Bray

Registered Nutritionist (AfN)




Llauradó, E., Albar, S.A., Giralt, M. et al. Eur J Nutr (2016) 55: 1789. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0997-8

  • Iron requirements in adolescent females. Beard JL. J Nutr.2000 Feb;130(2S Suppl):440S-442S.

Potatoes – the kitchen heroes

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”

― A.A. Milne

I have had the humble potato on my mind since I attended a study day a couple of months ago and learnt that potatoes are high in potassium, which is good news for most of the population, but not so good if you happen to suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Dietitians recommend special diets for CKD sufferers depending on the severity of their condition and this can include recommendations to adjust their diet for protein, potassium, phosphate and sodium. If the level of potassium becomes too high in a person suffering from CKD, it can cause the heart to stop suddenly. As a precaution renal dietitians advise their patients not to eat potato crisps and to reduce their consumption of potatoes and potassium salt substitutes.

The unintended consequence of this is that convenience food then becomes difficult to navigate as many dishes already have a significant amount of salt which is one of the minerals CKD patients have to avoid and if the dishes also contain potato then it’s off the ‘approved’ list.

Cooking from scratch is an option but the potatoes need to be rinsed, boiled for longer to leach out the potassium and the water drained off which has an impact of the vitamin C level.

Potatoes are a source of vitamin B6, vitamin B1, vitamin C, fibre and folate as well as potassium so when eaten at reasonable quantities they contribute to a healthy diet.

So the majority of us can keep eating this great food source but spare a thought for those who aren’t able to enjoy extra roast potatoes with Sunday lunch or a add a side of fries to go with a lunchtime wrap.


It’s afternoon tea week – Leave the teenagers at home without breaking your health kick………….

Afternoon tea week is definitely something to celebrate and if, like some of my friends, you have been counting down the days until school starts and looking for reasons not to engage with your 14 year son then this is a clear option.

Usually, I’m quite happy to share an afternoon with friends and kids over a cup of tea but there is a step change in 14 year old boys that means it is no longer ‘cool’ to hang out with mum. In addition, it seems that half the U.K is heading to Spain this holiday and employing the usual ‘no carbs before marbs’ strategy.

What to do?

It would be a shame not to acknowledge the celebration of all things ‘afternoon tea’ so here is a list of places to enjoy that are unlikely to be a playground for said teenagers. Alternative menus are available for those who’ve already started the post-holiday restraint or want to stick with pre-holiday salads…


The Tea Box, Richmond nr London


A delicious selection of salads and gluten free dishes is available from the main menu in addition to afternoon tea. The selection of teas is amazing and the fabulous tableware ‘to-die’ for.

Abode, Manchester


A gorgeous venue that I ate at a few months ago. Relaxing but suitably smart for you to feel like you are out to celebrate. They offer a vegetarian selection.

Rockcliffe Hall, Darlington


My go-to venue when in search of a p.i.e (psychologically inspiring environment), the relaxing view over the golf course and gardens is difficult to move away from. High quality ‘light bite’ alternatives to afternoon tea.

Malmaison, Leeds


The last time I attended a girls’ get-together here. We drank far too much champagne and spent serious money in the Victoria quarter. I recommend going easy on the champagne. Vegan options available.

The Orangery, Burghley House, Stamford


A trip to Stamford is not complete without a visit to Burghley House. The lovely, light Orangery reminds me of a scene from a 1920’s film and the selection of small plates is recommended for those not wanting indulgent afternoon tea.

Brandshatch Place, Brands Hatch Kent


A beautiful setting for a spa day with afternoon tea thrown in. The Spa is discretely tucked behind the hotel and has its own cafe. Standard afternoon tea is available in the hotel as well as light bites from the main menu.

Betty’s, locations in Yorkshire


No afternoon tea list would be complete without a mention of Betty’s. Any of my visitors to the U.K get a standard trip to Betty’s thrown in so that they can experience afternoon tea at its best. The light menu is very good.

The Sheraton, Edinburgh


There are so many fabulous places to have afternoon tea in Edinburgh. The Sheraton has a wonderful Spa and is a great venue where you feel part of the city but tucked away from the hustle and bustle. A small plate menu is available.

If you’d like to know how to progress your career in nutrition………..

Last month’s planning meeting for the Nutrition Society Student Conference was a sunnier affair than usual. We met at the venue to confirm timings, session activities and logistics and then enjoyed having our photos taken outside the Riverside Innovation Centre where the event will be hosted in September 2016.

Like any big project, it has been a journey from the time of pulling the bid together in December 2015  to securing the conference venue and the speakers and now selling the tickets. I think back to the days when I used to have ample leisure time and wonder where they went!

As the chair of the students from three faculties at the University of Chester,  – the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Clinical Sciences, the Faculty of Health and Social Care and the Faculty of Science and Engineering, I have been busy co-ordinating with the local team, university departments and the Nutrition Society staff and student body to deliver the range of conference requirements. The academic lead, Professor Basma Ellahi, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University, and a team of academics, have been instrumental in helping us secure speakers from across the field of nutrition and line-up includes Dr Louis Levy from Public Health England, Dr Vlassopoulous from Nestle Research Centre talking about reformulation and Dr Virani from the University of Reading presenting Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics. In total, 6 topics are covered by the presenters and then students have the opportunity to present their own research projects as well as network with people from industry, academic and public health nutrition.

The Thursday evening event will be held at the Chester Racecourse and guests will be joined by the motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Stuart Armfield.

The programme was put together by students for students and whilst I’m sure that topics such as protein efficiency in sports nutrition will be very popular, the speed networking and careers events are a great way for students to meet potential employers or get feedback on the research work that they want to do.

I have been impressed by the enthusiasm of industry and academic partners who have requested to be involved and have been happy to lend their time and expertise to support students on the day. It is refreshing to see that there is a healthy environment for the next generation of graduates and postgraduates to step into and flourish.

The conference is held over two days at the Riverside Innovation Centre (RIC building) at the University of Chester Riverside Campus from Thursday 8th September, 2016.

Click the link for more details and ticket sales


How do you solve a problem like dashboard dining?

I can spend a considerable amount of time, driving or travelling between clients so can I eat away from home several times a week. Hotel breakfasts are a convenient way to get started in the day, sandwich lunches at client sites are not uncommon and dinner selected from the preferred motorway service station supermarket is an established habit. Sound familiar?

This month I decided that if I was going to improve my diet and fitness then I would have to follow a programme in order to get some discipline and routine back into my daily life. I chose the ‘Arbonne 30 days to Healthy Living and Beyond Programme’ then set about working out how to follow it.

The instructions were simple – have a protein shake and two plant based meals a day for 30 days, or to lose weight, substitute a second meal with a shake. The programme required setting myself goals and methods to overcome any obstacles then measure my progress over the 30 days.

This is where the problem started…….

How to eat healthily and maintain an exercise regime with so much time spent away from home?

Create smaller goals as part of an overall improvement plan

My personal exercise goals had to at least hit the Public Health England minimum target of 150 minutes per week but I threw in a 2 minute plank challenge to boost my core strength. Starting from 30 seconds it certainly seemed liked a goal that would stretch me mentally and physically! I uploaded an exercise DVD onto a memory stick and used that whenever I was staying somewhere without a gym.

Plan food shopping to include meals and snacks eaten away from home

The food goals then boiled down to what I could increase and what I could decrease. I chose 5 portions of veg a day as a target and replaced bread with wholegrain rice, quinoa, oatcakes etc. The snacks were usually tangerines, dark chocolate and almonds.

Build flexibility into your meal plans

I managed to have a basic protein shake most days although when I was at home I could add 3 portions of veg and kill 2 birds with one stone. I chose eggs for breakfast when staying in hotels or plain yogurt and fruit.

Have a hit list of products that available from your preferred retail outlet

I bought packs of ready to eat houmous and carrot sticks, salmon salads, crayfish and rocket salads from the motorway service station shops when I needed to get vegetable based meals. When on the run in town then avocado and edamame salads were another handy choice.



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Remember to drink plenty of water

Water is not only refreshing but also filling. Unlike consuming sugar sweetened drinks and fruit juice, you can drink to quench your thirst without overdoing the sugar.

In general I was able to follow the plan but the beauty is that now it has finished, I have a ready made shopping list and routine that can work with lifestyle and keep me fit and healthy.


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Mindful Eating

This year I took the opportunity at Lent to try something new.

I would normally give up chocolate, wine, or restrict another food in order to spend the 40 day period leading a simpler life without indulging in rich treats on a regular basis.

Chocolate and wine

I noticed that over the years I was doing this more out of habit than anything else so this year I decided to take the advice I have been hearing from dietitians and nutritionists and start to eat in a ‘Mindful’ way.

I first came across Mindful Eating when I attended a talk by Dr Lucy Aphramor, RD. She set up Well Founded, an organisation which teaches the principles of being healthy at any size, HAES®.

Mindful eating focuses on eating a diet that nourishes you, eating when you are hungry and stopping just as you start to feel full. It takes time to adapt but the advantages are that you make better food choices, the way you eat improves and the feeling of well-being increases.

I reflected recently on the assumption that ill health is not exclusive to people who have gained a lot of weight over their lifetime, my own family being a prime example of how to combine chronic illness very effectively with a body mass index (BMI) of under 25kg/m2!

Armed with new found motivation, I started by planning meals so that if I would be away from home I would take healthy and enjoyable snacks to have to hand. I checked restaurant menus online before going out so that I ordered what appealed rather picking anything really filling because I was hungry. I had red wine with meals but there were times when I didn’t drink any alcohol for days. I ate chocolate in the office when it was passed around but I had my block of dark chocolate to nibble at which I found more satisfying and I needed less of it compared to milk chocolate.

Switching the computer off, leaving the phone to one side and chewing my food thoroughly showed me that I pay more attention preparing my meals than actually eating them. Whilst eating in silence is not mandatory, eating without distraction really did make me focus on my meal and let it digest before rushing off to do something else.

Tea and laptop

Learning to eat only when hungry has been my biggest challenge as normally I eat when I know I am not going to be in a meeting, in the car or on a factory floor. I must admit that there were times when I was genuinely full but had a craving for sweet food. Colleagues would comment on the random choice of roasted vegetable salad for lunch followed by chocolate cake for dessert, I am convinced that my hormones were rebelling at the change in lifestyle but now the 40 days are up the sweet cravings seem to have disappeared. The added bonus is that I’m also in a better mood…