breakfast bowl with yogurt and fruitRemember breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for weight loss!


My youngest daughter is in the middle of her first pregnancy.  She heard that mayonnaise with egg in it can be harmful during pregnancy. Is this true? Even with commercially sold products?

Mayonnaise is traditionally made with raw egg yolk and represents a risk to pregnant women because it may contain high levels of salmonella. The same applies to hollandaise sauce. Pregnant women are urged to take extra care with food safety because their own immunity is reduced, and food-borne infections could harm their unborn child. However, most commercial products in supermarkets and foodservice use pasteurised egg, so are safe to consume – but always check the label and/or contact the manufacturer, because it is not a legal requirement to use a pasteurised egg. You could also try low-fat mayonnaise, as many of these don’t contain any egg at all (but again, check the label), or look for ‘egg-free mayo, made for people with egg allergies. Finally don’t forget to ask your server when eating out – hand-made mayonnaise or hollandaise with raw egg may be served, particularly at expensive restaurants.

Are there any foods I should eat (or avoid) to increase my energy levels?

Many young women have low iron levels, which can make you feel like you have less energy. Eating 65-100g red meat three times a week will help you meet your iron requirements. Vegetarians can get iron by eating iron-rich foods like tofu, chickpeas, together with foods high in vitamin C, like tomatoes. High protein foods and low GI foods will keep you feeling full for longer, keeping your energy levels up. Try having some protein at each meal with foods such as low-fat milk, egg, or tinned tuna.  Swap high GI foods like white bread for low GI alternatives such as grain bread to keep the spring in your step the whole day.

How many calories are recommended to consume each day?

The number of calories you need to eat each day can depend on several factors, including your age, size, height, sex, lifestyle, and overall general health. A physically active 186 cm male, aged 22 years, requires considerably more calories than a 160cm sedentary woman in her 70s.

It has been discovered that even factors such as how you eat your food can influence how many calories get into your system. The longer you chew your food, the more calories the body retains, a team from Purdue University found.

Recommended daily calorie intakes vary across the world. According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, the average male adult needs approximately 2,500 calories per day to keep his weight constant, while the average adult female needs 2,000. US authorities recommend 2,700 calories per day for men and 2,200 for women.

It is interesting to note that in the UK, where people on average are taller than Americans, the recommended daily intake of calories is lower. Rates of overweight and obesity among both adults and children in the USA are considerably higher than in the United Kingdom.

The NHS stresses that rather than precisely counting numbers (calories), people should focus more on eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, being physically active, and roughly balancing how many calories are consumed with the numbers burnt off each day. If you eat your five portions of fruit and vegetable per day you will probably live longer, Swedish researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (July 2013 issue).

Over the last twenty years, sugar has been added to a growing number of foods we consume. Unfortunately, food labels in the USA and Europe do not include details on how much added sugar there is.


Fast facts on daily calorie intake

  • Recommended calorie intake depends on factors such as age, size, height, sex, lifestyle (activity level) and overall general health.
  • The longer you chew your food, the more calories your body retains.
  • US authorities recommend 2,700 calories per day for men and 2,200 for women.
  • A big breakfast helps bring your weight down or keep it down.
  • When we eat our food probably matters as much as what and how many calories we eat.
  • In industrialized nations and a growing number of emerging economies, people are consuming many more calories than they used to. Portion sizes are far greater today.
  • For the human body to remain alive, it requires energy. Approximately 20% of the energy we use is for brain metabolism.
  • Ideal body weight depends on several factors including age, sex, bone density, muscle-fat ratio and height.
  • Not all calories are the same, not all diets are the same. Simply counting calories, and ignoring what you put in your mouth might not lead to good health.
  • A 500-calorie meal of fish/meat, salad, and some olive oil, followed by fruit, is much better for your health and will keep you from being hungry for longer than a 500-calorie snack of popcorn with butter or toffee.

Timing is as important as how many calories you should eat

A big breakfast helps bring your weight down or keep it down – researchers from Tel Aviv University explained in the medical journal Obesity that a large breakfast – one containing approximately 700 calories – is ideal for losing weight and reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

When we eat our food probably matters as much as what and how many calories we eat.


mixture of raw food on table I am 168 cm and weigh 80 kg and I have been trying to lose 12 kg for years. I eat plenty of chicken, fish, fruit, and veggies and work out 12 hours a week. What am I doing wrong?

It is difficult for me to give you a definitive answer as I don’t know what you are eating, how much you are eating, and when you are eating. I also don’t know what exercise you are doing. Portion size is extremely important. You are either eating too much or too little.  Start by writing down everything you are eating throughout the day, then check your calorie counts using an app on your phone. Ensure everything you eat is sitting down and on a plate so you are not eating without realising it – you must be mindful of everything you are consuming. If you find you are consuming between 1200 – 1500 calories a day you need to see a dietician evaluate your diet and energy needs. You may not be getting all the nutrients your body needs from the food you are eating. As crazy as this sounds, try scaling down to an hour of cardio on most days and strength training three times a week. Hitting the gym more often – and eating too little – could also make your body hold on to fat. Last, just keep in mind that you are just 5kg away from a healthy body mass index (BMI). If you focus on the health benefits of exercise and the way your clothes fit, the number on the scale may matter less.

I have done a cleanse and been dieting so strictly that I feel so deprived and stressed – what should I do?

Sure, the “Master Cleanse” may have knocked off 3 kilos – but it may also be putting your health in jeopardy.  A study found that women on a low-calorie eating plan had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those on a more flexible regimen. Restricting food is emotionally taxing. Plus the body pumps out cortisol as a response to generate energy. To stay healthy and still slim down, allow yourself regular indulgences and scale back on sugar and caffeine; both have been shown to raise levels of stress hormones. Eat balanced meals and keep your portions small. Exercise regularly as this results in endorphins being released which reduces your stress levels.

I have trouble substituting evaporated skim milk for cream in recipes. Every time I do, I always find the final outcome too sweet. Is there another alternative?

It will depend on the recipe, but I can certainly give you some reliable alternatives. For a creamy taste without the sweetness, mix some extra light sour cream with a little low-fat milk and add it to your dish. Another option is to combine extra light cream cheese with low-fat milk, water, or stock, then add to your dish. For a creamy sauce, minus the kilojoules and the fat, heat low-fat milk in a saucepan over low heat and thicken with a little cornflour, stirring. If you want an even thicker texture, add low-fat natural yogurt, but only do this at the end of cooking because it will curdle if it gets too hot or boils. Depending on the recipe, you may be able to leave out the cream and substitute in stock or canned tomato. Add rich flavour with a sprinkling of parmesan.