Welcome to the Naturally Energising Challenges!

Welcome to the Nairn’s Naturally Energising Challenge! The next six weeks are designed to inspire you and show you and your family how easy it is to have a wonderfully healthy diet and a more active lifestyle. Get ready to kick start your usual routine and see what a difference it can make! 

 I’ll be writing about healthy breakfasts, how to get your family to eat more vegetables, packed lunch ideas for children and adults, on-the-go snack tips and my advice (as a nutritionist and mum of two) on getting your children more involved in the kitchen. In other words, we’ve got most things covered! 

But first up, we are going to get real!

By that I mean talking about real food. If the ingredients on a food label look more like a science experiment than a recipe, it’s probably best avoided. 

Real food is simply whole foods - fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products as well as pulses and grains which haven’t been overly processed and modified - for example whole brown rice rather than white rice, oats rather than refined breakfast cereal or a fresh chicken breast rather than a frozen, bread crumb coated chicken dipper!

Eating real food doesn’t mean feeling deprived. There’s no need to cut out whole food groups or count every calorie, rather, the focus is on nutrition and delicious, fresh ingredients.

If you cut out or reduce processed food, you will dramatically reduce your sugar and salt intake too, which is great news for the overall health of adults and children alike. 

Sugars divide into two group: ‘free’ and ‘intrinsic.’ Processed food containing free sugars should be limited as they offer no nutritional benefits. Intrinsic sugars are naturally found in whole fruit and vegetables are are good for us.

The recommended daily maximum added (free) sugars intake is:

  • 19g, that’s 5 teaspoons for children aged 4 to 6
  • 24g, that’s 6 teaspoons for children aged 7 to 10
  • 30g, that’s 7 teaspoons for children aged 11 or older

Here’s an example how many free sugars you’ll find in some of the most popular processed foods: 

  • 3-4 teaspoons  in 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • 5-6 teaspoons in 200 ml glass of OJ
  • 4 teaspoons in pot of sweetened (low fat) yoghurt
  • 3 teaspoons in a 30g bowl of Frosties  

So, if we move towards a real food diet, swap those sugary and processed foods for these delicious alternatives containing NO free sugars at all!

  • Greek yoghurt instead of ice cream 
  • Fresh mandarin oranges rather than OJ
  • A bowl of pure wholegrain oats made into porridge with some chopped banana rather than a processed breakfast cereal 
  • A small bag of nuts and dried fruit instead of a sugary cereal bar
  • Dried apple slices smeared with almond butter or unsweetened peanut butter instead of a bag of sweets

Hopefully, by now you are convinced about the shift to a real food diet - but how can you make sure that your family is engaged and excited too?

The more children are involved in the process of selecting ingredients or preparing meals or snacks, generally the more open minded they are to trying new tastes. Of course, no parent has the time to endlessly wander the supermarket aisles, so give younger children a couple of items to choose, explaining the difference between the fresh ingredient and a processed ingredient, in a way that’s age appropriate and fun. With older children, try downloading a food app that reads labels, making a game of keeping shopping trolley choices more natural and real.  

It doesn’t take most children too long to adopt a new normal, as long as others around are doing the same. It can be fun to create a menu plan as a family, recreating whole food versions of classic family favourites - you’ll be surprised how easy it can be and how much more fun it is than just putting something ready made from the supermarket into the oven. 

Next week we’ll be talking about getting the best start to the day with a brilliant breakfast - in the meantime, happy shopping, and remember to share some of your progress on social using the hashtag #NaturallyEnergising

Amanda Hamilton

About the author

Amanda Hamilton
Nutritionist and broadcaster

Amanda is one of the UK's most established nutritionists, with a career that has included three best-selling books (with a new title coming out in January), an internationally syndicated TV series and regular slots on BBC radio. She runs her signature detox and weight loss retreats in leading spas across Europe. But most of all, she's a busy working mum who is passionate about healthy, tasty and wholesome food.