Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert answers your questions on food and health

The world of nutrition is a minefield at the best of times, with constantly changing advice  on what we should and shouldn’t eat, how and when. Cutting through that noise is Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and author of The Science of Nutrition.

Known on Instagram as Rhitrition (also the name of her Harley Street clinic), Rhiannon has made a name for herself by busting social media nonsense and debunking the nutrition myths we’ve all been led to believe.

Rhiannon Lambert

We asked YOU readers for your burning questions on all things health, food and nutrition and put them to Rhiannon. Here’s what she had to say…

My lower abdomen is constantly bloated, I look pregnant! Could this be a food intolerance or allergy?

Bloating can be caused by a number of things, not just food intolerances. For example, excess gases in the intestines, water retention and eating a big meal can all cause bloating. In some cases, bloating may be a sign of wider gut health issues, so if you’re concerned always seek advice from a specialist gut health dietitian or you GP to help alleviate the symptoms.

Do you eat the same as your children?

Often, and depending on the age of your child, parents will cook the same meal for the whole family for convenience. This may have numerous benefits for establishing good eating habits and creating a positive eating environment at home. Of course, portion sizes and the amount of salt for yourself and your child will be different, but eating the same foods if you both like them can be an enjoyable experience.

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How should we manage our diet when peri-menopausal?

Plant compounds called phytoestrogens may help to ease hot flushes and night sweats, the most common symptoms. So far, research has focused on one type: isoflavones, found in soya beans and soya-based foods and drinks. Only 10–20 per cent of Asian women experience hot flushes compared with a large majority of peri-menopausal or menopausal women in the US, where soya intake is lower. However, a 2021 review of over 400 studies concluded that eating around 50mg of isoflavones daily is associated with both reduced frequency and severity of hot flushes. Soya-based cheese and meat alternatives often have added salt and more fat than tofu, tempeh and soya beans, so eat these less often. Caffeine and alcohol can also exacerbate hot flushes.

What are the best foods to eat and avoid to lose weight around the hips and waist?

Categorising our body areas just isn’t that simple. Whether it’s the distribution of fat on our bodies, or the way our stomachs look, we are all far too individual to fit into these tidy, oversimplified categories. A good place to start is to eat well-balanced meals and incorporate movement. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our bellies. Remember that the ideal nutritional plan should provide flexibility and room for socialising, address emotional and physical needs and help you feel good.

What should you eat and drink for instant energy?

What you eat really does have an impact on how effectively and efficiently you can provide energy to your body. The body converts the food we eat (carbohydrates, protein and fats) into fuel through several different energy pathways. The most important thing is to be eating the right snacks to keep your energy levels up. Look for things that are high in fibre, things like mini rice pots or oat cakes. I often recommend things with hummus in so they’ve got a bit of protein, healthy fats and fibre all in one. And it’s always good opportunity to have some fruit, like an apple or banana mid-morning or afternoon.

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I can’t function without 10 slices of bread daily! Is there a nutritional alternative?

There is no one way to achieve a healthy, balanced diet; it has to reflect your body’s energy needs and your lifestyle, beliefs and preferences. If you are eating lots of the same food, aim to try new foods in place of a slice of bread and when you are eating bread, include wholegrain versions.

When it comes to mealtimes, focus on the ‘balanced plate’ concept; it’s a useful guide to the types and proportions of foods we should try to consume at mealtimes. Some key aspects of a balanced plate include starchy carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, pasta, spelt and barley; fruit and vegetables such as berries, apples, melon, carrots and broccoli; protein-rich foods like pulses (kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas), quinoa, soya products, nuts, eggs, fish and meat; dairy products, including hard and soft cheeses, yoghurt and cow’s milk; and finally a source of healthy fats or oils such as avocado, olive oil or rapeseed oil.

For portion-sizing, a general rule for everyone is to follow hand sizes; a palm of protein, one handful of carbohydrate, two handfuls of non-starchy vegetables and one thumb of healthy fats.

Apply this method when shopping, cooking or eating out to help you eat a varied, nutritious range of food.

What is one good food to eat regularly that is nutrient dense?

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods for people of all ages. They contain high quality protein and are a natural source of vitamin D, selenium, iodine, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, as well as containing vitamins B12, B2 and choline. They are versatile, quick to cook and friendly on the purse strings.

How do I reduce blood sugar?

Eating foods that are lower in simple sugars, such as white bread or pasta, and swapping them for wholegrain versions means that there are less sharp spikes in your blood sugar.

I’m really struggling with PCOS – what foods are good for me to eat?

Eating a balanced diet whilst keeping active can help to improve the symptoms of PCOS. For women with PCOS it is recommended to eat lots of fruits and vegetables while limiting intake of foods and drinks high in fat and sugar. Focus on a balanced plate at each mealtime and including variety in your diet as well as keeping hydrated through the day with six to eight glasses of water.

Should I really be avoiding water from the tap? I hate the idea of buying plastic bottles.

It’s been a long-standing myth over the years that tap water is unsafe to drink. However, due to strict and tightly controlled regulations, the UK has some of the safest drinking water in the world. It’s also cheaper than bottled water and much better for the environment. Using your own BPA-free reusable bottle to carry tap water will reduce the number of plastic bottles that are sent to landfill each year.

How do I lose weight sensibly?

Studies show that slow, steady weight loss over a longer time period is the most effective way to lose body fat. According to one study, sustained adherence to a diet – rather than following a certain type of diet – is the key to successful weight management. Instead of cutting out entire meals and risking fatigue and cravings, aim to control your portion sizes at each meal and choose healthier snacks between meals. Eating more variety is also thought to enhance weight loss; try different types of meals and vegetables each day.

How can I lose menopause-related weight?

Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and staying fit by taking regular exercise can improve symptoms and support with weight management. It has also been shown that caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms, so it may help to reduce your intake of these. Postmenopausal women are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and should eat less salt, more fibre and replace saturated fats with unsaturated. Calcium is also important because menopause can accelerate the age-related decline in bone mineral density. You should get enough in a healthy diet from sources including leafy greens, calcium-fortified foods, dairy products and fish eaten with bones. It’s also crucial to get enough vitamin D alongside calcium and supplements may be required, especially if suffering from osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Deliciously Healthy Pregnancy by Rhiannon Lambert is out 8 September 2022 and you can pre-order it now.