A few weeks ago we Nutracheck members Sprog and Steve wrote the ‘Wobbleblog’ – a joint blog about our recent maintenance experiences, in which we both struggled to get back to a weight we wanted, following unwelcome increases. While we were writing the blog we realised that our eating and drinking habits and the speed that we lost weight were very different, and we thought it might be interesting to look at these things in detail, to see if we could learn anything from one another. We also persuaded Steve’s wife, Ann, to join us in our study – Ann has been a Nutracheck member for some time, and while she is not yet maintaining, we thought that the experiences of somebody in a slightly different situation would make things even more interesting. In the same way as the Wobbleblog, this blog is in the form of a ‘virtual chat’. Our chat started with Sprog giving a recap of how the study worked…
It was quite simple, really. We all completed our Nutracheck diaries in as much detail as we possibly could, including food and exercise, and we weighed ourselves every morning, after a wee and naked (although glasses to see the scales were allowed!) We did that for eleven consecutive days at the end of March 2017, but we had a look at one another’s diaries occasionally, to see how we were getting on.
Why did we choose those days?
We wanted them to be fairly typical, so not to include one of us being on a holiday for eight days for example. And those days were more or less the only ones we could find for the three of us at the same time. And the last day was the day the whole team could meet up and…err…basically have a few drinks and a nice meal. Not so easy when we live a two-hour drive from one another.
Hi I’m Emma, Nutracheck’s Nutritionist.
Members have been asking us to track more nutrients – so we have! Nutracheck now tracks carbs, sugar, protein, saturated fat and salt – as well as calories and fat.
Whilst it’s great to get more insight, it can be difficult to know exactly how much of each nutrient you should be eating.
So we’ve added nutrient guides to help. Our standard Well Balanced guide sets targets for a healthy diet – this is what your diary is set for.
We believe it’s important to eat foods from all food groups – we don’t recommend excluding things.
But if there’s a particular nutrient you’d like to focus on and eat less or more of, we have 4 nutrient guides to help – Less Sugar, Lower Carb, Lower Fat and Higher Protein.
My previous blog was a joint effort with Sprog, in which we talked about recent weight wobbles where our weights had increased, and how we had not been able to get back down to weights we were happy with. My own story following that was that I did manage to lose significant weight, and just at the moment I am going through quite a low-weight period in my maintenance. Make no mistake – maintenance can be a roller-coaster ride!
I think that, for me, a big maintenance difficulty is that it’s difficult to find something to focus on. Losing weight is exciting – there is always a lower weight to aim for, and when you get there, there’s a real sense of achievement and it’s a time for celebration. And then there’s another weight to aim for! With maintenance, there are no new targets – it’s just carry on staying the same. As our resident Nutritionist Emma Clarke says “it’s simply not an exciting business when compared to losing weight”.
Thanks to everyone who completed our recent survey asking about the extra nutrient tracking we’ve added to the service. From your feedback, it is clear it has raised a few questions – especially around some of the targets and what this means for you.
So I’ve addressed below the top 3 questions that have come up.
1. Sugar! I’m going over my target really easily, should I be worried about fruit sugars?
In short – no. Sugar is a tricky nutrient to track because there is no way to distinguish between added sugars and those naturally occurring in things like fruit and milk. This is because current UK labelling laws don’t require manufacturers to split out these types of sugars in the nutrition panel. But eating sugars from natural sources is not the same as eating lots of added sugars.
At present, the official guideline for sugar intake is only for added sugars – to reduce these from 10% of our total energy, to 5%.
Cereal killer: how cereal serving sizes really measure up – and why bowl size can matter most
Part of the obesity crisis can be blamed on overinflated portion sizes. And for many of us, this starts early in the day when we open the cereal box and start to pour.
Breakfast cereals feature in around 60% of breakfasts – but a lot of us are simply eating far too much.
The serving sizes on cereal packets seem to resemble fantasy more than truth. On average, the recommended portion is 40g – yet when you tip this amount into a bowl, it can look a bit sparse.
Emma Clarke MSc, nutritionist for weight loss App, Nutracheck, is not surprised by the findings.
“We tried a little experiment asking people to pour a 40g portion of 3 popular breakfast cereals. Pretty much everyone served themselves way too much:
- Muesli – 91% of people overestimated
- Sultana Bran – 65% overestimated
- Cheerios – 33% overestimated
“We eat with our eyes, relying on visual cues – people pay more attention to the proportion of the bowl filled rather than the actual amount of cereal in it.
“The habit of using a visual clue for eating, rather than being conscious of satiety – how full you feel – is a tough one to break. The simplest solution is to swap to a smaller bowl and always weigh out your cereal.
“Breakfast gives the body fuel after an overnight fast – skip breakfast and you’re effectively running on empty. You’re far more likely to reach for high sugar mid-morning snacks, so a bowl of cereal can be a good start to your day – just be aware of how much you’re eating, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.”
You can track up to 6 nutrients in your diary on the website – and this handy bar chart on the right gives you a summary at a glance on how you’re doing.
The bars change colour when you exceed the guide amount.
Salt and saturated fat immediately turn red as a warning to keep a close eye on these.
If you go over on carbs and protein, the bar turns amber – it’s not a major health concern to go slightly over on these nutrients, but it’s helpful to try and stick around the guide amount to maintain a healthy balance in your diet.
If you exceed the sugar guide, the bar will turn amber to flag up that you should check your diary to see which foods the sugar is coming from. If it’s from natural sugars in fruit and milk products, that’s okay. If it is from foods with added sugars, try to limit these.
Hover over the bars to see how many grams you’ve eaten. In the App, tap on each bar.
Or you might be more interested in the overall proportion of nutrients in your diet, how many calories are coming from the 3 main food groups – you can view a pie chart. It shows the guide amount and how you are tracking against it.
Or if you liked things the way they were, you still have the simple calories and fat bar chart.
Switch between the charts by clicking on the icons. The same applies for your Week View, get a 7 day picture of your diet. There are lots of reports on the website to help you – see your top 20 highest sugar or salt foods.
In the App, tap on the icon top right. The standard chart shows all nutrients – just tap top right to see your pie chart.
It is not currently a requirement for UK food products to include fibre in the nutritional breakdown on the pack. Some products show fibre, but many do not. As we use food labels as our data source, until this changes, Nutracheck doesn’t track fibre.
Q. How much fibre do we need?
A. 30g a day
Most adults only manage around 12g per day.
5 tips to get more fibre in your diet
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg every day – ideally more.
- Make wholegrains the rule and refined grains the exception i.e. choose brown not white.
- Always have breakfast and choose a high fibre cereal or wholemeal toast.
- Replace meat in casseroles and stews with beans (e.g. kidney beans or chickpeas) and lentils to cut calories and increase fibre.
- Include extra pulses in home-made soup e.g. pea and ham, lentil or minestrone soup with a mix of beans.
10 good sources of fibre