Aveen Bannon

Aveen has accumulated 20 years of nutrition experience since graduating from Trinity College with a BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics). She is also a current member of the I.N.D.I (Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute) and founder of the Dublin Nutrition Centre.

Aveen is renowned in the Nutrition & Food Industry and has many years’ experience working with medical and health food institutions. Aveen is passionate about food and health promotion. She firmly believes that our diets have a huge impact on our health and lifestyle…

‘What we need is overall education on the functionality of nutrients from an early age coupled with encouraging people to have daily physical activity. We need to reassure people what a portion size actually looks like and get away from the concept of ‘good versus bad food’.

Aveen’s mantra is always ‘there’s no such thing as a good or bad food, only a good or bad diet.’

Aveen first began working with Keelings in 2006 and is thrilled to still be working alongside a company with such great naturally healthy products and also a passion for health and nutrition. Keelings along with Aveen want to work together towards helping people understand nutrition while knowing that they can enjoy food too!

Aveen Bannon - Keelings Ireland

Nutrition Blog

Surviving Christmas

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Aveen Bannon

Surviving Christmas…

With the festive season upon us, we can easily end up overindulging. However there are some ways to hope you stay on track while still managing to enjoy Christmas. On average, we will put on 0.5-1kg over the Christmas period and this weight can be stubborn to lose! That is equivalent to eating an extra 300 calories per day.  So a few drinks and canapés at a party or maybe a take-away on the way home after a night out, or perhaps a fried breakfast the morning after seasonal excesses!

  • Firstly make sure you eat at regular intervals; Have a fibre rich breakfast like porridge topped with fruit to kick start the day.  Skipping breakfast can result in us over compensating for calories later in the evening. Do not starve yourself at lunchtime because you know you will be eating out later! Have a warming bowl of vegetable soup or a wholegrain sandwich to keep you going during the day.
  • Never go to a party hungry! We often eat faster and therefore more than we need when we are hungry – If you are going to a party straight after work, have a snack like nuts, fruit, soup or a yogurt with some fruit before you go.
  • Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and studies have shown that the greater the choice of food on offer, the more calories we tend to consume…. So rather than trying a little of everything from the buffet, stick to a couple of smart choices. Also avoid standing right beside the food table or bar while you are talking. Easy access to food or beverages will be more of a temptation during any lulls in the conversation…
  • Just say ‘No’ to food…. It looks delicious but I´m full’, ‘I already tried it and thought it was amazing’ ‘I ate before I came but thank you’ or the best option can often be “I’ll try some in a minute…” that way you aren’t saying no but not committing to eating it either!
  • Quit while you´re ahead! Avoid the mentality of “I’ve already blown it so what difference does it make now”. When you are full, get rid of your plate and napkin and grab a glass of water.
  • Choose smaller wine glasses, switch from pints to bottles and measure rather than pour spirits. Remember if you do overindulge in alcoholic drinks, drink plenty of water before you go to bed and keep more by your bedside, as rehydration is key to help reduce the effects of a hangover. However do try to be sensible.  Avoid drinking too much alcohol…as each gram of alcohol is around 7 calories and remember alcohol offers no nutritional benefits at all!Have a glass of water between each drink…doing this will not only save you calories but help you drink less alcohol too.
  • Be wary of the tin of chocolates! Just two small chocolates have the same amount of calories as a slice of bread! Step away from the tin, put the lid on the tin when done and put them out of sight especially when watching TV!
  • Be realistic. Trying to loose weight at this time of year is both unrealistic and socially unpleasant! Food and tempting treats are everywhere aim for weight stabilisation.
  • Above all, keep active. Anyone can survive the party season if they keep active and get fresh air. Don´t let the weather get you down, wrap up and get out for a brisk walk this will keep you fit over Christmas and help you burn of any extra calories you may have enjoyed over the party season.

Nutrition and Cancer

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Aveen Bannon

Nutrition and Cancer

Nutrition and cancer is a very topical area. However, frustratingly, a lot of the research linking diet and cancer is “substantial, yet inconclusive,” according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). This is because it is so difficult to establish a definitive link between cancer and specific foods or nutrients. Most findings come from tracking dietary patterns in different populations. What we do know is that 1/3 of all cancer deaths are linked to lifestyle behaviours including diet and exercise. What this tells us is that we need to look at a package of healthy lifestyle choices.

  1. The first step is to be a healthy weight – It is estimated that 20% of all cancers are related to obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight may not only help prevent cancer but also may reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. Reducing obesity with healthy food choices along with portion control and keeping active are important steps for reducing cancer risk.
  2. Fibre! We know that those who reach their daily fibre requirements tend to be leaner. Including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils as part of your daily diet will help boost your fibre intake. Research has shown that eating 30g of fibre or more per day can protect against certain cancers. One example is that for every 7g increase in fibre there is a 7% reduced risk of colon cancer! Fill 1/3 to 1/2 of your breakfast, lunch and dinner plate with fruit, vegetables or salad each day to help meet your fibre goals. Try to eat a rainbow every day and get as many different coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet daily.
  3. Reduce your intake of foods with added sugars that may provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. Although there is no direct link between sugar and cancer one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating or drinking foods that are high in sugar can make you gain weight. There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese is linked to 12 types of cancer. The other factor is that if you fill up on these foods you may displace intake of healthier options!
  4. Moderate your meat portions! Red and processed meats have been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer. Your best bet is to enjoy a small portion of meat and fill the rest of your plate with whole grains and vegetables. Limit red meat to about 3 times a week in your diet and include more fish and plant sources of protein in your diet like tofu, tempeh, beans and pulses.  White meats haven’t been associated with an increase in colorectal cancer.
  5. Focus on Plant Proteins  – Beans, pulses, nut and seeds are all great sources of protein that also proved fibre too. Aim to include them in your diet 2-3 times per week.
  6. Keep alcohol to sensible limits, enjoy in moderation. Ideally, for women to limit to no more than 11 units and for a man 17 units per week.

For more tips on reducing your risk or managing diseases through nutrition, consult a registered dietitian.

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Fibre

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Aveen Bannon

Fibre

Did you know that almost 80% of Irish people don’t get enough fibre in their diets but fibre is like a natural
sweeping brush for the gut? Fibre contains no calories and is not actually a nutrient as we do not absorb it
but it is imperative for good health. It slows down the absorption of sugar and fats in the blood which help
regulate blood sugar levels. And those who eat more fibre tend to be leaner!

Fibre has many benefits, one of which is keeping our digestion regular. I find that most people think they
are eating enough fibre by having a high fibre breakfast cereal or 1-2 pieces of fruit or vegetables per day .
However this is not the case, in fact in Ireland the average person eats less than 14g per day! We need to
aim for 24-35g of fibre per day. For kids up to the age of 18 they need their age plus 5g so e.g. if you have
a 10 year old they would need 15g per day. To meet these goals you need to include some fibre at each
meal.

As fibre helps you feel fuller for longer choosing foods that contain fibre will help you feel more satisfied.
For example a pear contains about 80-calories with 5-6g of fibre so you will feel fuller afterwards than
you would if you ate a 80-calorie snack with no fibre. Because of this, fibre can help you maintain a
healthy weight. The easiest ways to increase your family fibre intake of fibre is to ensure some colourful
fruit or vegetable at every meal, include fruit or vegetables as snacks, chose higher fibre breakfast cereals,
use wholegrain breads & cereals and keep the skin on your potatoes.

On average most servings (80g) of fruit or vegetables will offer between 2-4g of fibre. Berries happen to
yield one of the best fibre-per-calorie ratios. Since berries are packed with tiny seeds, their fibre content is
typically higher than that of many other fruits. So an 80g portion of raspberries will provide about 5g of
fibre in just 20 calories!

One word of warning though is to go slowly when increasing your fibre! If you normally eat very little
fibre you will need to increase it gradually over a couple of weeks as your bowel adjusts to getting more
fibre. And drink lots of water…fibre soaks up lots of fluid in the bowel which helps keep your stool soft
and moving. For most people 1.5-2L of water per day is the right amount. If you find you have a little more
wind or altered bowel habit at the beginning down worry this should settle down quickly…and then you
will get to enjoy all the health benefits of having a fibre filled diet!

How can I add more fibre?
You need to think about fibre at every meal
Make sure you get your ‘5-a-day’ from fruit and vegetables – this will give you about 10g of fibre
Go for a high fibre cereal for breakfast – check the labels and look for cereals with ‘6g of fibre or
more per 100g of cereal’
Add more beans – beans on toast, bean salads, chili-con-carne with kidney beans.
Add lentils to soups, stews and casseroles.  Try adding a handful of red lentils to Bolognese
Go for brown rice, brown pasta and baked potatoes (and remember to eat the skins!).
Make sure half of your plate at lunch and dinner comes from vegetables or salad.
Add seeds like sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds to cereals, yoghurt and salads.
Snack on nuts and dried fruit – go for mixed peanuts and raisins; apricots; brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

Top ten fibre rich foods to include in your weekly shopping basket for the family;
Breakfast cereals with more than 6g of fibre per 100g.
Wholegrain breads, rolls and pitta pockets.
Nuts.
Beans.
Seeds.
Peanut butter.
Popcorn.
Fruits and vegetables.
Dried fruit e.g. raisins, apricots, prunes.
Fruit and vegetable juices.

There’s something about Strawberries

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Aveen Bannon

There’s something about Strawberries

There is something undeniably romantic about the strawberry…. their Latin
name is Frugaria, meaning fragrance and they are actually a member of the
rose family; they taste utterly delicious and are bursting with nutrients
including Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and fibre.

Strawberries are heavenly for your taste buds and are little angels when it
comes to improving the health of your body! The great thing about them is
that they are naturally so sweet yet they provide a multitude of health benefits
in so few calories….

Firstly, strawberries are a great source of vitamin C. One serving of
strawberries gives you all the vitamin C you require for the day! Vitamin C is
well know to help boost our immune systems but also it is involved in the
growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. Vitamin C also helps the
body absorb iron from non-meat sources like fortified cereals and green
vegetables. So top your cereal or salad with these little sweet nutritious gems
to helps increase your absorption of iron.

Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the
outside? And despite being so tasty strawberries can be used in beauty
treatments as an exfoliator for your skin and in some cultures for teeth
whitening! However it is because of these tiny seeds that strawberries fibre
content is typically higher than that of other fruits. Strawberries have one of
the best fibre to calorie ratios when compared to other foods.

Serve them with yogurt instead of cream, add them to your breakfast or top on
a salad. Their tastiness combined with the fibre and antioxidants make
strawberries a healthy choice…. And who doesn’t love strawberries!

Magnesium

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Aveen Bannon

Magnesium…one to think about! 

Did you know that magnesium is involved in over 300 functions in the body and is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body?  The majority of the body magnesium is stored in bone (about 60%) and muscle (about 25%).

In the past it was recognised that magnesium could aid sleep and was important for good bone health. It can also help relieve muscle cramps and constipation and plays an important role in supporting the nervous system and heart health. Magnesium also helps you take energy from food and make new proteins. More recently it has been recognised for its role in reducing anxiety…in fact some even refer to it as natures tranquilliser!

Vitamins and minerals often work in synergy and magnesium is no exception. Magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D in the body. So if you are getting your vitamin D from sunlight or supplements you need to ensure that you are getting enough magnesium in your diet too.

So where does magnesium come from… a good rule of thumb is the greener the vegetable the more magnesium it contains e.g spinach, broccoli, kale…another reason to eat your greens! Other sources include beans, legumes, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and fish. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggest that women aim for 300 mg per day and men 350 mg per day. Girls aged 7-18 aim for 250 mg and boys aged 7-18 aim for 300 mg per day. Those who may need to consider looking at boosting their magnesium are expecting mums, those with muscle cramping, sports individuals, or those taking calcium or vitamin D supplements.

Magnesium is a mineral that you need every day for good health and by eating rich green vegetables daily, getting your 6 or more a day of fruit and vegetables, including whole-grains, nuts and legumes in your diet regularly you should get enough from food.

 

Magnesium Content of Common Foods

Food Serving Size Magnesium (mg)
Pear 1 fruit 88
Spinach, cooked 125g 83
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 44-55
Quinoa, cooked 125 g 63
Beans (black, lima, adzuki, kidney, pinto, chickpeas), cooked 175 g 60-89
Pumpkin seeds 30g (2 tblsp) 158
Nuts – Almonds, cashews  30g 44-55
Salmon cooked 90g 110

* Magnesium from supplements should not exceed 350 mg per day unless advised by doctor or dietitian. It is safe to consume more than your daily magnesium needs from food and water.

Fructose…what’s the story?

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Aveen Bannon

Fructose

Sugar has certainly been a hot topic of debate in nutrition in recent years and as a result, there is increasing concern and confusion about sugar in the diet. The sugar debate is not a new concept but in 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated guidelines recommending that ‘free’ or added sugars should be less than 10% of total calorie intake…their view is to reduce this to less the 5% of total calories.

Understanding the difference between natural and added sugars is important. Natural sugars are those that occur naturally in the food e.g. lactose is the natural sugar in milk and fructose in the natural sugar in fruit and vegetables. These foods are important foods in our diets and offer lots of nutritional benefits. The WHO guideline is not referring to these types of sugars.  Added or ‘free’ sugars are the sugars that are added to a food either in production or by us. These sugars can include table sugar, glucose, sucrose, honey, syrup, agave nectar and fruit juice. Once they have been added to the food they are considered a ‘free sugar’. These are the ones we need to reduce in our diets.

When we look at fruit we know that fructose is what gives fruit it’s lovely sweet taste but fruits also offer many nutrients and substances that are essential for good health including vitamins, antioxidants, potassium, water, and fibre.  In fact, the fibre found in fruits has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease! So fruit gets it delicious sweetness from fructose but is relatively low in calories, thereby making fruit a healthy tool for quenching that sugar craving!

Portion sizes

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Aveen Bannon

So what’s the story with portion sizes?

Firstly let’s look at the difference between a portion versus a serving…A portion is what you choose to eat on the other hand a serving is a specific amount of food. An example might be a cereal…the cereal box may say 30 g is an adult serving but how much you choose to eat is your portion size! Here in lies the problem! Portion sizes have been gradually increasing over the last 20 years, research shows us that this increase in portion sizes has made it harder for us to recognise what an actual recommended serving size looks like.

Believe it or not but the size and colour of our dinner plate can affect our portion sizes too. Plates are bigger than what they used to, plate sizes have increased by 40% over the last 50 years. People tend to fill their plate when they sit down for a meal – and most of us do not stop eating until our plate is clean! That means on average we could be almost eating twice as much as our parents did. Using smaller plates will help us eat less and hopefully eat to appetite yet still feel satisfied! Kids should eat off smaller plates than adults. I usually recommend serving dinner on a side plate until about 12. Then if still hungry you can assess if they need any more food.

Some say that eating off very strong coloured or contrasting colour plates can result in us eating less…more specifically as there are no blue foods we are supposed to eat less from a blue plate! Rather than redecorating your kitchen I’d suggest trying smaller plates first! Our hands are a good reference tool for portion sizes. Ideally, your plate should be about the circumference of your hand when stretched out. A closed fist is the about right for your portion of carbohydrate e.g. rice/potato or pasta and your protein serving is the palm of your hand. This simple tool works for the whole family and can be a good indicator of what a recommended serving size
should look like.

Snacking is another zone we need to be mindful of when it comes to portions sizes! It is a no surprise that portions sizes of snack foods have increased over the last 50 years and in some cases by more than 50%! One instance where the serving sizes have remained the same as what our parents would have eaten is fruit! An average serving of fruit is 80g which equates to about the size of a tennis ball…e.g. an apple, an orange, about 8-10 strawberries or 2 kiwi fruits. A serving size of nuts is 30- 35g or about the size of a golf ball. By choosing healthy snack foods like nuts, fruit or yogurt you will find it easier to stick to the recommended serving size.

The next step is balance on the plate…divide your plate in 3 with 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbohydrates and 1/3 fruits or vegetables. If trying to lose weight adjust the plate a little to contain 1/2 vegetables or fruit, a 1/4 protein and 1/4 carbohydrate. When eating out be aware that meals may be much larger than you would eat at home and, if you want, share one dish between two or bring leftovers home!

Apples

A parents guide to fussy eaters

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Aveen Bannon

A parents guide to fussy eaters          

Firstly you are not alone! Most children will go through a phase of not eating well. In fact, fussy eating is now recognised as a normal part of a child’s development….Another parenting challenge! Try to remember in most cases it is just a phase and as long as your child appears healthy, has energy and is meeting growth goals you probably do not need to worry.

Children’s appetites, like our own,  can vary from day to day so it is a good idea to listen to their appetite cues. For example, some children eat better earlier in the day than the evening time or others tend to graze on food. At a young age this can be ok…snacking can be a very important part of kids diets and they can rely on snacks for about 30% of their calories. So always have healthy snacks to hand e.g. fruit, yogurts, rice- cakes, cheese etc.

Food refusal can be a show of independence, seeking attention or wanting to take control of food. Whatever the reason for fussy eating here is some tips to help keep you sane!

  1. Avoid giving your child fluids before mealtimes in case they fill up on them. Also ensure your child does not rely too much on milk, 400-500 mls of milk per day is plenty for a child over 1 year of age.
  2. Don’t take foods off the plate…if a child states they don’t like ‘the green’ on the plate just tell them to leave it or just try one bite. Don’t take it off the plate as it will be much harder to get it back on at a later date. Keeping colour on the plate is important.
  3. Although it can be trying, keep offering new foods… Some children will need to be exposed to foods 12 times before they decide if they like it!
  4. Keep a list of the foods your child will eat and post it on the fridge in the kitchen. With every bit of progress add it to the list.
  5. However tempting try to avoid bribery! Otherwise, it won’t take long for them to realise they have the upper hand!!
  6. Avoid offering alternatives at the table…if you do it can run the risk of becoming a personal chef and making multiple dinners nightly.
  7. When possible try to eat as a family or sit down at the table with the child while they are eating. This can make the mealtimes a more positive social experience. Avoid distractions like TV at mealtimes.
  8. Don’t force feed – the child may develop a negative association with a food.
  9. Try to be patient and encourage your child with lots of smiles and praise, the golden rule is; if after 20 minutes the food is not eaten simply remove uneaten food and perhaps offer something from the same food group an hour later.
  10. And remember, children learn by example, so if you’re fussy they’ll be fussy too!

 If you have any concerns ask for professional help, from a dietitian or doctor.

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