Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert answers your questions

The world of nutrition is a minefield at the best of times, with ever-changing advice on what and what we should and shouldn’t eat, how and when. Cutting through that noise is Rhiannon Lambert, licensed nutritionist and author of The science of nutrition.

Known on Instagram as Rhitrition (also the name of her Harley Street clinic), Rhiannon has made a name for herself busting social media nonsense and debunking the nutritional myths we’ve all been led to believe.

We asked YOU readers your burning questions about all things health, diet and nutrition and we put them to Rhiannon. Here’s what she had to say…

My lower abdomen is constantly swollen, I look pregnant! Could it be a food intolerance or allergy?

Bloating can be caused by a number of things, not just food intolerances. For example, excess gas in the intestines, fluid retention, and a heavy meal can all cause bloating. In some cases, bloating can be a sign of wider gut health issues, so if you are concerned always seek advice from a gut health dietitian or your GP to help alleviate symptoms.

Do you eat like your children?

Often, and depending on your child’s age, parents will cook the same meal for the whole family for convenience. This can have many benefits for establishing good eating habits and creating a positive food environment at home. Of course, the portion sizes and amount of salt for you and your child will be different, but eating the same foods if you both like them can be a pleasant experience.

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How to manage your diet during peri-menopause?

Plant compounds called phytoestrogens can help relieve hot flashes and night sweats, the most common symptoms. Research so far has focused on one type: isoflavones, found in soybeans and soy foods and beverages. Only 10-20% of Asian women experience hot flashes, compared to the vast majority of peri-menopausal or post-menopausal women in the United States, where soy consumption is lower. However, a 2021 review of over 400 studies concluded that daily consumption of around 50 mg of isoflavones is associated with both reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes. Soy-based cheese and meat substitutes often contain salt and more fat than tofu, tempeh, and soybeans, so eat them less often. Caffeine and alcohol can also exacerbate hot flashes.

What are the best foods to eat and avoid to lose weight around the hips and waist?

Categorizing our body zones is simply not that simple. From the distribution of fat on our bodies to the appearance of our stomachs, we are all far too individual to fit into these tidy and oversimplified categories. A good starting point is to eat well-balanced meals and incorporate movement. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our bellies. Remember, the ideal nutrition plan should provide flexibility and space to socialize, meet emotional and physical needs, and help you feel good.

What should you eat and drink for instant energy?

What you eat really impacts how efficiently you can supply your body with energy. The body converts the food we eat (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) into fuel through several different energy pathways. The most important thing is to eat the right snacks to maintain your energy levels. Look for fiber-rich foods, such as mini rice pots or oatcakes. I often recommend things with hummus so they have a bit of protein, healthy fats, and fiber all rolled into one. And it’s always a good opportunity to have some fruit, like an apple or a banana mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

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I can’t function without 10 slices of bread a day! Is there a nutritional alternative?

There is not just one way to have a healthy and balanced diet; it should reflect your body’s energy needs as well as your lifestyle, beliefs and preferences. If you eat a lot of the same food, try trying new foods instead of a slice of bread, and when eating bread, include whole-grain versions.

As far as meals are concerned, favor the concept of a “balanced plate”; it is a useful guide to the types and proportions of foods we should try to eat at mealtimes. Some key aspects of a balanced plate include starches like rice, potatoes, pasta, spelled, and barley; fruits and vegetables such as berries, apples, melon, carrots and broccoli; protein-rich foods like legumes (kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas), quinoa, soy products, nuts, eggs, fish, and meat; dairy products, including hard and soft cheeses, yogurts and cow’s milk; and finally a source of healthy fats or oils like avocado, olive oil or canola oil.

For portion sizing, a general rule for everyone is to follow hand size; a palm of protein, a handful of carbs, two handfuls of non-starchy vegetables, and an inch of healthy fats.

Apply this method when shopping, cooking or dining out to help you eat a varied and nutritious range of foods.

What is a good food to eat regularly that is rich in nutrients?

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods for people of all ages. They contain high quality protein and are a natural source of vitamin D, selenium, iodine, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins B12, B2 and choline. They are versatile, quick to cook, and friendly on the purse strings.

How can I lower blood sugar?

Eating foods low in simple sugars, like white bread or pasta, and swapping them out for whole-grain versions means there are fewer sharp spikes in your blood sugar.

I really struggle with PCOS – what foods can I eat?

Eating a balanced diet while staying active can help improve PCOS symptoms. For women with PCOS, it is recommended to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables while limiting the intake of foods and beverages high in fat and sugar. Focus on eating a balanced plate at every meal and include variety in your diet while staying hydrated throughout the day with six to eight glasses of water.

Should I really avoid tap water? I hate the thought of buying plastic bottles.

It has long been a myth that tap water is not safe to drink. However, due to strict and tightly controlled regulations, the UK has some of the safest drinking water in the world. It’s also cheaper than bottled water and much better for the environment. Using your own reusable BPA-free bottle to carry tap water will reduce the number of plastic bottles sent to landfill each year.

How to lose weight in a sensible way?

Studies show that slow, steady weight loss over a long period of time is the most effective way to lose body fat. According to one study, consistent adherence to a diet — rather than following a certain type of diet — is the key to successful weight management. Instead of cutting out entire meals and risking fatigue and cravings, try to control your portion sizes at each meal and choose healthier snacks between meals. Eating more variety is also thought to improve weight loss; try different types of meals and vegetables each day.

How can I lose weight related to menopause?

Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and staying fit by exercising regularly can improve symptoms and help with weight management. Caffeine and alcohol have also been shown to exacerbate symptoms, so reducing your intake of these may be helpful. Postmenopausal women are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and should eat less salt, more fiber, and replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat. Calcium is also important because menopause can accelerate age-related decline in bone mineral density. You should get enough of it in a healthy diet from sources such as leafy greens, calcium-fortified foods, dairy products, and fish eaten with bones. It’s also crucial to get enough vitamin D in addition to calcium, and supplements may be needed, especially if you have osteopenia and osteoporosis.

A deliciously healthy pregnancy by Rhiannon Lambert was released on September 8, 2022 and you can pre-order it now.

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