Jo Travers has been a practicing nutritionist for five years. She runs thelondonnutritionist.co.uk and has written books geared towards getting people in the kitchen and keeping them away from ready meals. In the latest in our exclusive interview series we caught up with Jo to discuss the rise of office workers working through their lunch breaks, people’s awareness of their diet and nutrition and much more.
The previous edition of Advocate magazine reported a BBC survey that 54% of office workers regularly worked through their lunch break (http://issuu.com/advogroup/docs/advocatespring2013/39). How serious an issue is this for people’s nutrition and what do you think can be done to help the situation?
It is important that we eat regularly. Food fuels our body and often when people complain of the 4-o’clock-slump it’s because they’re hungry! The body & brain need a regular dose of carbohydrates to function efficiently so missing lunch shouldn’t be a regular thing. Also, in order to get all nutrients necessary it’s important to have the variety that several meals offer.
Working through lunch is a real problem these days as people are under pressure with their workloads, but there is some evidence to suggest that productivity can be increased when a proper lunch break is taken.
What do you think is the number one issue in the UK preventing people from getting the level of nutrition they need? E.g. nutritional education, working hours, ease and availability of junk foods etc.
I think it’s a combination of a lot of factors. Time pressures, a lack of cooking skills, and the huge range of convenience and ready-prepared foods which often don’t put nutrition high on their list of priorities.
Do you think people have become more aware of their diet and nutrition over recent and if so why do you think this is?
There is a lot of information out there and it’s pretty easy to access in the Internet age, but not everyone acts on it! Being aware of one’s diet is one thing but making changes to it is something else altogether.
What tip(s) would you give to people looking to make the first steps in improving their nutrition?
Start by looking at your plate and divide it into sections 40% should be non-starchy vegetables, 40% should be filled with starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, pasta or rice, and 20% should be filled with protein such as meat, fish or alternatives.
A couple of important nutrients that are sometimes lacking in the western diet are calcium and iron. Calcium can be found in dairy products, green leafy veg and the soft bones in tinned fish. Good sources of iron are red meat, beans and pulses and dark green leafy vegetables.
Do you think employees are starting to place a greater value on focusing on the health, wellbeing and nutrition of their employees?
Some are for sure. More and more companies are pushing a wellbeing agenda, from making changes to their canteen menus to offering exercise classes. It’s these little things that help people make healthy choices.
How valuable a perk do you think it is for employees to be offered access to fresh fruit, cooled water etc as part of their workplace?
As I said above, it’s things like this that make it easier to make healthy choices, but at the same time, it’s not hard to take a piece of fruit to work with you if your company doesn’t provide it. Some responsibility must lie at our own feet!
What is the most popular service you currently offer and why do you think this is?
At the moment I’m seeing more and more people with low energy. We have really busy lives and work and home life can be very demanding. On top of that people don’t take the time to look after themselves so they are expecting their bodies to do more yet are looking after them less.
With half of them it’s because they aren’t eating enough carbs and fad diets have a lot to answer for here!
What kind of information can we expect to find on your blog (http://www.thelondonnutritionist.co.uk/nutrition-blog/)?
All sorts but all of it is evidence-based. People often ask me questions that I answer, I might comment on a current nutrition topic. I also keep track of the latest studies to be published and report on them.
You have a strong presence on a range of social media sites. What kind of information can we expect to find on each of these?
I offer tips & tricks on how to get the most from your food, and highlight nutrition articles that I come across. It’s also a medium for people to get in touch with me and ask me questions. Again everything is evidence-based.
Are there any nutritional events coming up that you would recommend people attend?
Every mealtime is a nutritional event! Have a think about what you are putting in to your body and whether this will help you achieve your best health.
Are there any particularly popular diets or methods of dieting that you would recommend people avoid?
Fad diets are all pretty difficult. They are notoriously hard to follow and while they often give quick results, they rarely provide long-term weight loss. It’s much better to make small changes for life than huge changes for a couple of months and then put all the weight back on again. I do worry that people are not getting enough carbohydrates or fat-soluble vitamins on low-calorie diets.
Also, it is possible to get what you need on a vegan diet, but you have to really work hard at it. If you’re thinking of becoming a vegan, get some good support from someone who knows what they are talking about.
Your website says you are the author of two books! Please tell us more
I have written a couple of books for people who don’t like cooking! They are not diet books at all but just aimed at getting people in the kitchen and exploring food, rather than shoving a ready meal in the microwave. I have written a carnivore and a vegetarian edition.
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