Diets: Team GB nutritionist shares ‘ideal’ foods to stay in shape – ‘it does work’

Jason Vale's HANDIEST advice on healthy eating

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An expert in what is good for the body and what to avoid, Nigel Mitchell spoke exclusively to about how diet and food choices can impact our physical and mental health – and how we can make the right choices about food consumption.

Having just touched down from Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Nigel explained that his main role is to work with cross-country skiers on their nutrition.

He stated: “I’m responsible for feeding three athletes, but to be honest it’s more like seven or eight because these guys do consume a lot of energy.”

Although most of us aren’t Olympic athletes, Nigel has adapted his knowledge of food to suit the masses, creating five full-proof healthy recipes in partnership with Aldi.

He shared with Express readers his top tips for maintaining a healthy weight and packing nutrients into their diets.

Nigel’s main philosophy for a healthy body and mind is to stick to natural ingredients and steer clear of ultra-processed foods where possible.

He presented the alarming statistic: “Some recent research shows that over 50 percent of the energy in the UK is now coming from ultra-processed foods.

“If you look at breakfast cereals for example, the vast majority will fit into this ultra-processed group. What we do is take the original food and remove a lot of the vitamins and minerals, then pack it full of sugar and salt which can then push people to eat more calories.

“Then, crazily, we’ll supplement it by putting some vitamins back into it, whereas if we just ate porridge oats for breakfast, we’d get everything we need.”

Nigel is all for snacking, but encourages dieters to reach for natural ingredients when peckish, rather than processed and packaged foods.

The expert dietician advised that snack lovers should reach for packets of nuts and dried fruit, which are “great” and not “supersizing”.

“Pistachio nuts are a whole, so they provide all of the essential amino acids, and it’s also really high in antioxidants, zinc and potassium.”

Another top tip from Nigel on healthy eating is to take some time away from animal products.

“One of the big benefits of removing some animal products is that it can make us think about the balance of our meals better. We start to think about where we get our protein sources from and of these protein sources, which ones have more nutrients in them?”

As for those who want to lose weight, Nigel set the record straight: “Dieting doesn’t work as far as long term, sustainable weight loss is concerned.

“What does work is looking at the way that we eat. But the food industry makes it more challenging for people.

Research shows that with ultra-processed foods, such as Pringles, sausages, and a lot of the snacks that people have, make people gain more weight because of their energy density and some of the ingredients really encourage people to eat more.

“Everything’s got to be balanced, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional bag of crisps, but if more than 50 percent of our food is processed then that is a concern.”

In order to maintain a healthy diet, his main advice is: “Bring in as much variety as you can, and don’t go too long without eating.”

He added: “Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry.”

Unlike many dieticians, slimmers will be happy to know that Nigel doesn’t recommend banishing carbs – in fact, quite the opposite.

“Your brain is what we call glucose dependent tissue. In other words, it can really only use carbohydrates for energy and if that carbohydrate level drops too much it affects our mood and cognition.

“I think one of the problems people have is they go too long without eating and so the blood glucose drops, and then they feel like they require a quick hit.

“This is where the cultural and emotional connection to food comes in, where they go, ‘I know that chocolate will give me a big boost’.”

As for his partnership with Aldi, Nigel explained: “What Aldi asked me to do was look at recipes where we’ve got links between ingredients and mental health, wellbeing and mood.”

While of course, certain foods cannot directly cure a bad mood, there are certain ingredients that are fantastic for both body and mind.

Nigel cultivated five new recipes jam-packed with Omega 3, low glycemic carbohydrates and phytonutrients fit for the best athletes in the country (and everybody at home).

His “number one” breakfast choice for athletes is porridge: “It’s warming, comforting and provides ideal slow-release carbohydrates. This helps to maintain blood glucose levels, which supports an even brain energy level to prevent drops in mood.”

For lunch, Nigel combines “two high-quality proteins” to create his tuna and pistachio quinoa salad, with the bonus that the greens and purples in the pistachio nuts are “high in anthocyanins (antioxidants) which have been associated with supporting a happy mind”.

Another main meal recipe is his marinated chicken thigh skewers, which is “great for combining meats and vegetables”.

He told “When we’re looking at protein foods, look to things that are more on the lean side, like chicken thighs.

“Chicken thighs also tend to be less expensive than breast. They’re also a bit more flavoursome.”

In terms of a “perfect plate”, filled to the brim with all the best stuff for the body and mind, Nigel recommended his mixed bean chilli.

“It’s just got everything, and the flavours are great. I just don’t think you can go wrong with it.

“The beans have got carbohydrates but it’s not what you’d call a massive carbohydrate load. There’s a lot of fibre in there and it’s all very low glycemic index [helping with weight loss and blood sugar].

For a dessert fit for Olympians, Nigel loves combining dark chocolate, packed with coco flavanols, with brightly-coloured berries to create a chocolate berry mess.

And healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank, as Nigel’s five recipes with Aldi come in at less than £1.50 per serving.

“Healthy food can be really expensive but it doesn’t have to be.

“The food industry is very powerful, in particular the sugar industry. It’s a very powerful lobbying organisation. Not many people are that bothered about this message, so what Aldi are trying to do is really trying to push is that we’ve got accessible, cost-effective food than can support you both physically and mentally.”

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