What not to eat.

This feels like a bold blog for me to write. My approach has always been a gentle, nurturing one, encouraging people to embrace the 80-20 rule and focusing more on what to add into the diet.

I am also aware that there is so much more to consider when it comes to food, and that thinking about ‘what or what not to eat’ is only part of a complex picture.

However, there is a great deal of confusion and overwhelm around food, so this feels like really important blog to write.

We enjoyed a really inspiring session at Nurture Club last Monday. One of the original Nurture members shared the impact making tiny lifestyle changes has made to her health and happiness over the past year. After participating in my Menopause group coaching program early last year, she is now a regular member of both Supper Club and Nurture Club. and has created tiny, but consistent lifestyle habits, and she feels the happiest and healthiest she has felt in a long time, despite having a particularly challenging time this past year. She really epitomises the saying ‘Change your habits, change your life’.

However, she also more recently made small but significant changes to her diet, and it is these dietary changes that I would like to focus on here, because the huge shifts she noticed in just a month were really remarkable and inspiring to us all. We always have a theme at Nurture Club and these past few weeks have been discussing food, and reflecting on this brilliant bitesize podcast by Tim Spector. 

This led this her to pause and ask herself ‘ Is my diet quite as healthy as I have always told myself?’

She started to make changes to her breakfast, swapping her muesli for a more wholefood version, and adding in a whole variety of nuts and seeds into the mix. She also started to increase the variety of different plants in her diet and to add in a few fermented products as recommended by Tim Spector.

However, she also started to mindful around what she was eating, and cut out the ‘treats’ or occasional processed foods that showed up in her diet.

In less than a month she started to notice huge improvements in her health and wellbeing, the most significant being the improvement in her sleep! For many years she has struggled with joint pain that woke her up in the night, leaving her unable to get back to sleep. Her new anti-inflammatory diet regime reduced the pain and improved her sleep, which subsequently led to huge improvements in both her energy levels and her mood. How fantastic is that!

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet has huge benefits for our health and wellbeing because inflammation in the body is the root cause of chronic disease. However, our food choices have the power to both reduce or increase inflammation in our body which is why what we eat is so important to our health and wellbeing.

However, despite having shared the powerful effects of adding in anti inflammatory foods many times, I think I have perhaps failed to emphasise the foods that cause inflammation in the diet.

Felice Jacka who carried out the brilliant smiles trial that demonstrated the power of nutrition to reduce depression in a significant number of participants in the trial, was very clear that what those subjects eliminated from their diets was as significant as what they added in.  However, in my blog about her brilliant work at the time I simply focused on ‘What to Eat’. Felice Jacka feels strongly that it is the introduction of ultra-processed food that is the leading cause of chronic disease, autoimmune disease, and allergies.

Many health experts are sharing this very important message and in his brilliant podcast about the message about Nutrition for brain health, Max Lugavere also explains how he feels the 80-20 rule is really unhelpful for people.  He believes it simply gives people permission, or an excuse to choose the unhealthy option, and tends to be used more than 20 % of the time!

Let’s talk about processed foods.

It is without doubt that processed foods are the biggest culprit when it comes to diet related disease. In a recent  blog I wrote following on from Dr Hussain’s brilliant Supper Club,  I shared the alarming statistics that the UK’s average diet is made up of a staggering 50% of processed foods.

In that blog I shared how important it is to take away the blame around this as we are clearly surrounded by highly processed convenience food wherever we turn, which has become the norm for many people in their busy, stressful lives.

Blaming and shaming is neither right nor helpful. The food industry is a powerful force, and much of the information we have been told around food wrong. Blaming individuals is therefore clearly wrong and simply telling people to ‘improve their diets’ futile.

However a clearer understanding of what a processed food is and the impact it has on our body’s is actually really important for people.

What is processed food?

Processed food is any food that has been through industrial processing, and the further away it is from its original form as ‘farmer jack ‘would have known, the more processed it is. Anything that comes in a ‘packet’ is likely to have been processed, and I’d invite you turn the packet over to look at just how processed it is. The longer the list of ingredients the greater the processing. I’d also invite you to look at the list of ingredients. Once you start looking at a long list of ingredients you don’t recognise, you might start to consider how beneficial it might be for you to eat it.

I would also urge you question food labelling. Unfortunately, food manufacturers interest is in selling a product more than the health and wellbeing of the customer, and the low-fat products we have been told are the healthier option, are far from it! Unfortunately these low fat foods are often loaded with sugar to make them palatable.

Sugar is the biggest problem when it comes to processed food and it takes on many forms; it often appears in the form of a syrup (such as corn syrup) or ends in ‘ose’ (such as fructose, sucrose maltose etc) Sugar is a major cause of inflammation in the body. Many people have an awareness that sugar is harmful but they often do not recognise that continued consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation in the body, which are both arguably the biggest contributors to chronic disease.

The Menopause

The importance of preventing insulin resistance is very much in the forefront of my mind as I work to support women in the menopause. The changes in hormones are also accompanied by changes in insulin metabolism, which make women more susceptible to insulin resistance.  Mindful eating around avoiding inflammatory foods, eating balanced meals, and  avoiding refined carbohydrates and processed foods takes on even more significance during the Menopause.

 Artificial sweeteners, preservatives, trans fats.

All the chemicals and preservatives and processed fats in processed foods have a huge impact on our health. They disrupt the beneficial bacteria in our gut which are a vital part of our immune system. They can also damage the sensitive lining of the gut wall, which is essential for the absorption of nutrients, but also forms a vital barrier that prevents allergens and pathogens entering our blood stream. Damage to the gut and to the gut wall creates a powerful inflammatory response in the body,

Processed, damaged fats are particularly harmful and are another major cause of chronic inflammation in the body. Saturated fat was demonised back in the late 70’s and this has had a major impact on food processing today. Ancel keys published a highly influential study back in 1978 which concluded that fat was the biggest cause of heart disease.  It led to the development of ‘low fat’ products and a universal fear of fat.

Unfortunately it also led to an overconsumption of carbohydrates as people were encouraged to cut out fats from their diet. It was also responsible for the development of processed, chemically altered fats that are far more damaging to our health.

However, as Dr Aseem Malhotra explains in his brilliant book ‘The Pioppi Diet,’ many of the foods that were singled out as being high in saturated fat and harmful in their correlation with heart disease were processed carbohydrate foods such as cakes, ice cream, biscuits and pastries.’

Later, more comprehensive research also ‘ found no association between the consumption of saturated fat and any cause of death, heart attacks, heart disease deaths, strokes or the development of type 2 diabetes.’

Hopefully the message is now getting through that healthy fat is an important part of a healthy diet, but there is still much more work to be done.

The key is always about increasing ‘real food’ and eliminating processed food as much as possible!

A more recent podcast on food with Dr Mark Hyman has been the ‘icing on the cake’ with all of this for me. He is prominent figure in the lifestyle medicine movement and has written many books on nutrition over many years. However, I found it fascinating to hear his own personal journey with food, as he outlined how he feels and looks fitter and healthier in his 50s than in his 40s, after focusing on reducing his carbohydrate intake, and focusing on the protein and healthy fats in his diet. If you are interested in making dietary changes to promote heathy ageing, I cannot recommend this podcast enough. It has inspired me to make small tweaks to my own diet and it will be incredibly powerful in helping me to support the menopausal women that I work with.

Where to start?


Awareness is always the starting point when you are trying to make a healthy change, so it is crucial you take the time to notice where processed foods show up in your diet. You can simply start by noticing where you are at, and as my lovely Nurture Club member did simply ask yourself the very simple question.

‘Is my diet actually as healthy as I like to think it is.’

Then it is important to pause and consider what impact any dietary changes might make to your health and wellbeing, whilst offering yourself a huge dose of self- compassion…

e.g. ‘This won’t be easy but it is important because I want to …….’live a long healthy life and I want to continue to be able to do all the things I love…’ etc…… you fill in the blanks)


There is no denying that cutting out refined and processed foods from your diet will be hard, especially if you have been regularly consuming these foods for many years. The dopamine receptors in your brain will make you naturally crave these foods. Highly processed foods high in sugar are highly addictive so it will be especially hard to begin with. However, as you start to feel better you will naturally start to crave healthy foods in the same way you craved these highly addictive processed foods.

Take action.

Once you have made the decision to make a change and you are clear on why this important, you will be ready to take action.

This is the time to set yourself up for success by clearing those cupboards of processed foods, filling your fridge with real food, and making sure you have the right support around you….

Remember that you do not have to make rigid decisions around food forever. You can simply start with 10 days and just start to notice how it makes you feel. We are all individuals who will have different food preferences, and we all react differently to different foods. The key is to become your own experiment and start to become mindful about your own food choices and the impact it has on you individually

It is also not about achieving perfection. There is no such thing as perfection! It is about increasing self awareness and empowering you to make choices that serve you best in any particular moment.

To conclude…

You deserve a long healthy happy life.

Making simple changes to your diet can help to dramatically improve your wellbeing, boost your energy and your mood, and crucially reducing your risk of chronic disease.

If you would like any support around making healthy changes please do get in touch.

In the meantime, thank you for reading. I hope it has been helpful.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else who you think might benefit from it.

Wishing you a happy and healthy week,

Harriet x







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