Wednesday 19 February 2020

Interview with Naomi Mead from Food First

SoGlos chats to Food First nutritional therapist Naomi Mead about juicing, healthy fats, eating clean and saying no to fad diets – and discovers her recipe for a mean sugar-free peanut butter and banana ice-cream.

Whether you’re looking to kick-start your healthy habits or give your lifestyle a bit of an overhaul, someone who knows just how to do that is Naomi Mead, nutritional therapist and one half of the duo behind Cheltenham-based Food First.

Naomi, along with fellow nutritionist Gabrielle Dean, offer workshops, one-to-one sessions and group talks along with sharing healthy, delicious and simple recipes on their website.

In this interview, SoGlos chats to Naomi who offers top tips to help inspire you on your path to boosting your physical and mental wellbeing.

Can you tell SoGlos readers a bit about yourself and where you’re from?

My name’s Naomi Mead, I’m a nutritional therapist and moved to Cheltenham at the end of 2014 after getting tired of the high-paced, high-stress London lifestyle!

How long have you worked as a nutritionist? What made you decide to follow it as a career path?

First and foremost I love food, and every job I have had has involved food in some shape or form. I retrained as a nutritional therapist five years ago; inspired largely by my personal experience of the power that good, nutritious food has on my health and wellbeing.

What are your top tips for someone who wants to start leading a healthier lifestyle?

Don’t try to change everything all at once, as you are just setting yourself up for failure. Start off by just making one or two small additions to your daily routine, such as drinking more water and walking for half an hour every day. Once you have implemented these, and start to feel the health benefits, you will be naturally inspired to bring in more changes.

What’s your fitness philosophy?

Do something you enjoy. It’s taken me years, and several unused gym memberships, to really appreciate this. I find that signing up to a challenge and having something to train for is the best way to keep motivated.

Can you describe your daily food routine?

This can vary depending on where I am, but as I’m often travelling or on the go, the key for me is to be organised. I generally always start the day with a homemade smoothie and pack this with as much goodness as I can get into it, including greens, seeds and superfood powders.

I will then usually have a large protein-based salad for lunch, and in between if I’m hungry I snack on foods such as nuts, yoghurt and fruit, and veggies with hummus. Dinner will be anything from a curry to grilled fish, but usually always homemade as I love cooking. It may well be accompanied by a glass of red wine too!

Do you find people think that foods that are good for you have to be boring?

I think the misconception that healthy eating is boring is starting to become dispelled, especially as health food is getting a really positive platform in the media. I consider it one of the most important parts of my jobs to inspire and teach people to eat and cook healthy, nutritious and delicious food.

Are diet and exercise just as important as each other?

Absolutely. If you are eating well, you will naturally feel more energised and motivated to exercise, and vice versa; if you are looking after your body by regularly exercising, you will want to fuel it the right way.

What are the best things to eat after a workout?

It is important to consume a combination of carbohydrate and protein in the post-workout period, to promote refuelling, muscle repair and muscle protein synthesis. It is advised that protein is combined with carbohydrate in a ratio of about one to three, with approximately 20 to 25g of protein to be eaten within a window of two hours.

Good post-workout snacks include 50g of almonds or cashews with a cup of natural yogurt; two cups natural yogurt blended with fresh fruit, such as banana and berries, to make a smoothie; or 85g lean meat with two slices of wholegrain bread and salad.

What do you think about carb-free, fat-free and diets crazes in general?

I don’t believe in any sort of diet as they can lead to people developing a negative relationship with food. Also, studies show over and over again that diets simply don’t work in the long-term. Being healthy should be about enjoying food packed with health-boosting properties rather than deprivation and restriction.

I’ve been hearing a lot about ‘eating clean’ on social media, what does it mean?

‘Clean eating’ is now something of a mantra in the world of health food, particularly on social media. The hashtag #eatclean has become a way of people giving a particular ingredient, dish or recipe a ‘healthy’ stamp of approval, and you just have to scan Instagram and Twitter to see how this trend is gaining traction.

The most commonly held interpretation of ‘clean’ is foods that are natural and unprocessed, but this is by no means definitive. My interpretation of ‘clean eating’ is about becoming more mindful of what you’re putting into your body; so eating more nutrient-packed foods that energise you and make you feel great, and minimising the foods that make you feel sluggish.

How healthy are milk alternatives such as almond and coconut milk?

For those individuals who are dairy intolerant, or even for those who choose to reduce or even exclude dairy from their diet, I think it is fantastic that there are now many more options available on the market.

But, be aware that these free-from products are not necessarily always the healthier option and some are sweetened with sugar or other sugar substitutes.

Can you explain the difference between good and bad fats?

The belief that fat is bad, will make us put on weight, and will increase our risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, has dominated dietary advice for decades. As a result, we have become a nation of fatphobes and the low-fat and fat-free food market has soared.

However, attitudes are slowly changing as we know that fat has an absolutely crucial role in the health of our entire body. It provides a concentrated source of energy, and it also contains essential fatty acids which are vital for good cardiovascular health, hormone production and healthy skin, hair and nails.

Which are the fats to steer clear of?

The ‘bad’ fats that should be avoided are the trans or hydrogenated fats found in found in deep-fried foods, processed items, bakery products and margarines. These heat-modified fats are completely void of nutritional value, and have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.

Which fruits and vegetables should we opt for?

The importance is actually in the variety and the best way to look at it is if you think of every colour representing a different health boosting antioxidants. I’d also say, aim for much higher than five-a-day (10 is a much better target), with a ratio of 80:20 of vegetables to fruit.

What’s the best way to stay on track with healthy eating?

Be realistic. We often decide, usually after a particularly indulgent weekend, that we are going give our diet a complete overhaul, and then beat ourselves up when we (inevitably) fail.

My top three pieces of advice would be to make small, gradual changes that you are able to maintain; focus less on the foods that you are giving up, and more on getting more healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods into your diet and if you fall of the wagon, don’t punish yourself or feel guilty, just get back on track at the next meal.

What are your top five store cupboard staples?

Good-quality tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, spices, sea salt and soy sauce

Is it true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?

A well-balanced, nutritious breakfast will provide you with the kick-start and energy boost you need for the day ahead. The temptation can often be to spend that extra 10 minutes in bed, and grab your latte and croissant on the way to the office, but your body won’t thank you for it when come 11am you’re left craving another sugary, caffeine-fuelled snack!

So, what’s the best breakfast option?

What you eat first thing is important for setting your blood-sugar pattern and energy levels for the rest of the day. Avoid relying on caffeine and sugar, and instead opt for a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates such as porridge with yoghurt and fruit, eggs with toasted rye bread and avocado, or a protein-rich breakfast smoothie.

How beneficial is juicing?

Juicing is a fantastic way of getting a large dose of easily assumable nutrients into your body. Fruit-only juices can be very high in sugar, so I would always recommend making your juices as vegetable based as possible, with just a little fruit for sweetness. Juices should not replace whole fruits and vegetables, but they can be a wonderful addition to your diet.

Do you have a favourite healthy recipe?

At Food First we have developed a series of recipes called Give Me Five! which are quick and healthy recipes based around just five main ingredients and a few store cupboard staples. One of my all time favourites is our Greek Shepherd’s Pie with butterbean mash.

What do you make if you crave something sweet?

I blend four very ripe bananas that have been peeled, sliced and then frozen for at least two hours, with two tablespoons of peanut butter and it makes the most delicious banana and peanut butter ice cream, with absolutely no added sugar needed!

For more information about the services on offer at Food First, call Naomi on 07939 292666 or visit directly.

© SoGlos
Wednesday 08 July 2015

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