Eat Balanced comments and provides opinion on topical subjects related to nutrition

Nutrient density versus calorie density

We are what we eat. It’s a commonly used phrase and one that really rings true when you dig deep into the benefits of eating healthily. One of the most important parts of any diet is to eat nutrient dense food or, in other words, food that gives you plenty of nutrients for relatively low calories. Let’s take a deeper look at nutrient density and how you can make healthy diet choices.

The importance of nutrient density. When you eat plenty of high nutrient density food this ensures your body receives a range of vitamins and minerals. In turn, this supports the systems in your body and keeps them working efficiently. For example, one of the main causes of high cholesterol levels is too much saturated fat in your diet. By limiting the amount of this bad fat and replacing it with more nutritious options you can start to regulate blood pressure, amongst other things, and bring those levels down.

Conversely, if you eat a diet full of low nutrient foods the chances are your body is not going to process things very well. Also, high density foods have a tendency to make us feel fuller for longer, therefore we don’t feel the need to eat all the time. On the other hand, certain types of ‘unhealthy’ food can leave us wanting more and lead us towards eating higher calorie meals and snacks throughout the day.

Healthy breakfast

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Incorporating high density food

We’ve mentioned the benefits of eating plenty of these types of food but how do you go about doing it? Check these six top tips:

1. Eat more leafy greens – these provide some of the highest nutrient levels you will find.
2. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on fibre packed cereals – skip the toast and go for a highly nutritious breakfast to start the day off right.
3. Fill your plate with a rainbow of produce – eating a range of coloured fruit and veg provides a variety of essential nutrients.
4. Eat protein at every meal – this helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
5. Drop the low-density foods – replace food like white bread, rice and pasta with sweet potatoes, whole grains and pulses.
6. Add healthy fats – these are vital for mood, cognitive function and hormone balance.

If you can work these tips into your diet you are going to reap several health benefits. These include maintaining a healthy weight, increased energy and countering many of the causes of high cholesterol.

Whole foods vs junk foods

This comparison highlights the issue further, in that even though all foods provide calories they don’t all provide quality nutrients. Junk or processed foods are very high in calories versus the nutrients they provide, whereas whole foods give you much more by way of nutrients in relation to the number of calories they contain.

While whole foods by and large are natural in origin, junk food tends to be processed with high levels of salt and sugar. Junk foods may be good for a quick hit of energy but that doesn’t last long, whereas whole foods like oats, grains and beans will give you a slow release of energy which is much more beneficial. Also, because junk food provides a quick hit it doesn’t always fill you up, whereas a whole food with the same calorie content will do.

The key is to find a balance in your diet; a little of what you like is fine, but it’s vital to eat plenty of high nutrient density food and limit the amount of junk food you eat. Do that and you’ll be well on your way to better health.

Get kids moving – 5 tips to best fuel kids’ exercise

Let’s take inspiration from this year’s Tour de France and the Rio Olympics and get kids moving this Summer.  We explain why eating the right foods are important to maximise performance and give you 5 tips to best fuel kids’ exercise.


When it comes to performance carbohydrate is the body’s preferred fuel.  When we eat carbohydrate rich foods we store this as glycogen in both our liver and muscles.

Carbohydrates digest and absorb into the bloodstream quicker than fats and proteins.  When we exercise, the glycogen acts as our carbohydrate fuel to power our muscles efficiently.

Tip 1 – Before the kids do a full day of exercise, a dinner which includes complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta, rice and bread is important.  For kids, a simple meal of wholegrain pasta, chicken breast pieces, tomato sauce and peas sprinkled with a little cheese is ideal.


When we exercise we cause small tears in the muscles and in order to recover, we need to consume protein to repair and rebuild our muscles. In order to promote optimal rebuilding we should consume protein soon after exercise.   Foods like chicken, turkey, beef, milk, natural yoghurt, nuts and seeds are great sources of protein,

Tip 2 – After a day of exercise, it’s important to get a quick source of protein, a fun way of doing this is to make up a protein smoothie for the kids (but no protein powder please) which makes them feel full, and is tasty too.  We like this banana, peanut butter and cocoa recipe from the Taylor House.


The right type of fat is good for you, especially growing kids.  It plays a number of key roles in relation to exercise, such as acting as an energy source and helping with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.  From a recovery perspective, healthy fat sources such as omega-3 have shown to reduce inflammation and could potentially aid in the recovery process from exercise.

Tip 3 – After exercise: oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds are great sources of omega-3.  For fussy eaters, and children that are allergic to peanuts, we really like the Nakd Nibbles, which are great for kids to munch in the car on the journey home.


These are vitamins and minerals and they can often be overlooked, however they are very important for maximising optimal performance during exercise.

Tip 4 – We have a whole section on vitamins and minerals, but these are the ones worth considering to fuel kids’ exercise:

Vitamin D

This plays an important role in relation to bone health, immunity and muscle function.  You can get this from direct sunlight, but these foods are also great sources of vitamin D.


Iron mineral plays an important role in transporting oxygen in the blood and muscles.


Calcium plays a key role alongside it’s friend Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.


Lastly, it’s very important for kids to drink enough water, pre-exercise, during and post exercise.  Too often drinks can be loaded with sugar, even the fruit based ones can contain too much sugar, which is bad for teeth and can spike their blood sugar.

Tip 5 – Try mixing juice like pineapple or cherry, which are also high in potassium, with half water to make it more palatable than pure water.

Overall, making sure the kids’ get a balanced meal at breakfast, lunch and dinner will help ensure that they are getting all the right nutrients to fuel kids for exercise.

Childhood obesity – bold and brave action

The UK Government’s Health Committee recently released their report “Childhood obesity – bold and brave action”. It calls for urgent action on treating obesity and it’s consequences, which costs the government £5.1bn every year, and has suggested a number of recommendations.

New UK Government on childhood obesity

Did you know that one fifth of children are overweight or obese when they begin school, and this figure increases to one third by the time they leave primary school?

The report goes onto highlight that the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived, therefore childhood obesity is a significant contributor to health inequality.

Recommended actions to tackle childhood obesity

The report calls on a number of areas where further action is required from the top to reach the most vulnerable individuals:

⦁ Tougher controls on price promotions and advertising of unhealthy food and drink
⦁ Taxation of high sugar and fat food
⦁ Product reformulation of foods high in fat, salt and sugar
⦁ Nutrition standards in schools (which is already happening – see Scottish school nutrition regulations)
⦁ Greater powers for local authorities to help families affected by obesity
⦁ Improved education and information on the importance of a balanced diet

This is just a quick summary of some of the recommendations and for anyone that is interested in the detail you can download the report for some bedtime reading.

Our thoughts to tackle childhood obesity

At Eat Balanced, if we were to support one of these initiatives it would be product reformulation of high fat/salt/sugar food and drinks. We aim to improve children’s nutrition by reinventing kid’s favourite foods, like pizza, into tasty, balanced meals.

What do you think?

If you’re involved in the food and drink industry, we’d love to hear you’re thoughts @eatbalanced and tell us what how you would go about tacking childhood obesity.

Scottish attitudes to healthy eating

Food Standard’s Scotland (FSS) recently released the survey results on Scottish people’s attitude to diet and health.  The findings will be used to help inform the development of FSS diet policy, including approaches to consumer messaging on healthy eating.   Here’s some of the highlights.

Consumer understanding of healthy eating

When someone says or you see the phrase “healthy eating”, this is what the majority of Scottish people think it means:

  • Having a balanced diet
  • Eating food that is locally sourced
  • More fresh food – like fruit and vegetables
  • Less sugar, fat and salt
  • Less snacking in between meals

The survey findings could suggest that the majority of Scottish people understand what it takes to eat a healthy diet, but are not able to do it in practice.

What makes it difficult to eat healthily?

The survey goes onto suggest some of the reasons as to why Scottish people are struggling with implementing healthy diet into their daily lives:

High Cost

75% would approve taxation of foods high in fat, salt and sugar if it reduced the cost of healthy foods


Eating a healthy diet outside of the home was viewed as more difficult, as there was a perception of limited availability and convenience of healthy options outside the home

Lack of willpower

The survey found that lack of willpower when it comes to foods high in fat, salt and sugar was a key reason

Snacking culture

Snacking on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar was another reason.   For adults this appeared to be linked to habit (e.g. TV viewing) and emotional factors such as stress and boredom, whilst for children it was more focused on refuelling when hungry.

 Our responsibility as a food producer

With a fifth of children either overweight or obese, we’ve made it our mission, as a food producer, to help children eat a balanced diet.  We’ve taken into account the cost, availability, the fact that kids can be fussy with food and the difficulty with getting kids to eat a full meal.

It’s not been easy, but we now have a solution that offers a popular and tasty balanced meal, that is affordable and available in schools and kids leisure sites.

The healthyliving award for the food service sector

The healthyliving award is a national award for the food service sector in Scotland. Eating out plays an important part in people’s lives and what people are increasingly looking for is good healthier food.  We’re delighted that our Pizza Power Kids’ range ticks all the boxes for the healthyliving award.

Putting Caterers and Parents on the Podium

Caterers can now rest assured that they can let kids eat their favourite food, and parents will be glad to know that it is actually improving their health.  Pizza Power Kids, means that children can eat a pizza which is a complete balanced meal.  One small pizza provides 15% of all the nutrients a child aged 5-10 needs for good health.

Food of the future for our future generation

There is no denying that children love pizza. It regularly tops their list of favourites.  However with Scotland having one of the highest levels of obesity in the world, with almost one third of Scottish children classed as overweight, parents and caterers are, quite rightly, are careful in how often the average pizza is served to kids because of the high calorie, salt and fat content.

That’s why Pizza Power Kids have been designed to look and taste like a normal pizza but has secret nutritional ingredients inside, and that’s why we call it ‘health by stealth’.

How can Pizza Power Kids help with the healthyliving award?

These revolutionary new pizzas have seaweed instead of salt, are lower in fat and are high in vitamin C and vitamin A with more fibre than many other foods for children. Parents can enjoy peace of mind that their children are getting all of the 27 nutrients they need in the right proportions, equating to a complete balanced meal. For children, they can still enjoy one of their favourite meals with all the same great taste.

If you are in the food service industry and would like to find out more about the Pizza Power Kids range, please get in touch and we’ll send you a brochure and some yummy samples.


Our thoughts on fast food outlets near schools

Do you remember the excitement of going to ‘big’ school and being allowed to venture out to the shops at lunchtime?

The freedom to venture outside the school gates is a big bonus for older children.  However, with more fast food outlets situated near schools and marketing foods high in fat, salt and sugar, is this new right to choice sacrificing the health of our young adults?

What’s the problem with food outside the school?

School is a crucial environment for children to learn, not just how to read and write, but lifelong lessons, like the importance of a balanced diet and how we can achieve it.  Scotland has made great improvements to the diet of young children with the introduction of school nutrition regulations, and the launch of free schools meals for Primary 1 – 3.  However, as the uptake of school lunches at Primary increases, secondary school pupils are shunning the school canteen and hitting the streets.

This trend for older children to buy their lunch and snacks outside of school wouldn’t be a problem if food outlets offered healthier choices on the menu.  This is best highlighted in a study by Glasgow Centre for Population Health in 2012 which found that the most popular purchases contained:

  • Chips often with bread rolls, curry sauce, gravy, cheese and fish
  • Sausage rolls, pizza, pot noodles, beef burger/cheese burger, rolls and sausage and donner kebabs
  • With sugary drinks, chocolate, crisps, and sweets

The study’s findings confirmed that many pupils who eat outside of school at lunch-time buy unhealthy, convenience food of poor nutritional value.

A National crisis which needs to be tackled

In 2014, the Scottish Government released a publication called “Beyond the School Gate- Improving Food Choices in the Community”. The document set out a comprehensive list of opportunities for action, and a series of case studies on successful approaches to keep kids eating healthy lunches and snacks whilst at school.

Innovative approaches to keeping kids on site

Reinvent the school canteen to be more like the high street brands

The alternative school food outlets

Develop your own dedicated school food van which serves tasty and healthy food on-the-go

Wait a minute, what about supporting small businesses?

As a small business, we fully appreciate the fact that food outlets have evolved to satisfy a customer demand.  We understand that there is no one simple solution to this problem, particularly with the news highlighting that the ban on street food vans within a certain radius have affected people’s livelihood.

Schools and food outlets working together

Studies by Young Scot have shown that children will buy healthier options, like water, sandwiches and fruit if they are available and affordable.  Fast food outlets offering meal deals could consider adding healthier alternatives.  The Healthy Living Award helps food outlets prepare and promote the sale of healthier food options and rewards caterers who reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar in food they provide and make healthy options more easily available.

In conclusion

We believe that food outlets and schools can work together to promote healthy eating at an affordable price to children.  At Eat Balanced we always try to find a WIN-WIN solution.  Have you come across any innovative solutions that make it easier for kids to eat a balanced diet?  We’d love to hear from you @eatbalanced

Becoming a Good Food Nation – Scottish Government

The Scottish Food Commission states that making Scotland a Good Food Nation is a challenging task, however, if we all strive to achieve this common goal, the result will follow shortly.

2015 was the Year of Scotland Food and Drink and Scotland presents the world with undeniable high quality produce due to our clear waters, fresh air and rich soil.

The main question is; why when Scotland’s local products are so fresh and delicious is the nation’s health suffering?

Consequently, health is one of the core values outlined by Good Food Nation in addition to prosperity and sustainability. The main idea of the campaign is to significantly improve our food culture by 2025.

We summarised several steps set by Scottish Food Commission:

1. Educating consumers: making them interested in fresh and local food that is really good for them.

2. Motivating the public sector to be an example, as it has a huge influence. For instance, schools providing tasty and balanced meals for kids. It goes without saying that educational institutes are one of the most important targets as it might take a generation to alter the perception of healthy food and transfer ignorance to knowledge.

3. Making sure that people have easy access to good food.  We can start this for ourselves and our families by focusing on eating a balanced diet. However, as more families eat outside of the home, the key would to make healthy food available in places like leisure centres, stadiums, and other family venues at an affordable price.

5. Supporting local food and drink businesses to make Scottish products even better!

6. Making food companies an appealing place to work by offering more work experience and apprenticeships.

7. Making the most of the campaign: promoting  Scottish food and drink internationally, let it be one of the reasons to visit our beautiful country.

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions, we are always open for conversation @eatbalanced or get in touch with us!

Seaweed may improve your memory

Guest Blog from Dr Craig Rose at Seaweed and Co.

The right nutrition for memory, brain function and development is critical for children, from birth and all the way throughout their education.

What is it about seaweed that may improve our memory?

A healthy, balanced diet can achieve this, and specifically the inclusion of, believe it or not, seaweed can have some profoundly positive effects!

When we talk about seaweed and memory, it may seem a little bit of an odd combination. However, seaweed has many benefits as it is hugely nutrient dense, and particularly rich in natural iodine.

Iodine is well known to be good for cognitive development specifically, as well as overall normal development in children. In fact, these two statements are Approved Health Claims in the European Union in relation to getting a sufficient level of iodine in your diet.

I don’t know much about Iodine, what research supports these claims?

There is research from various countries which show that not eating enough iodine during pregnancy, as well as deficiency in early childhood is associated with cognitive impairment. Studies have shown, however, that improved iodine intake in school-aged children improves cognitive performance, and that maternal iodine supplementation may improve the cognitive performance of their babies.

Despite the clear importance of iodine, as a nation we have a diet insufficient in iodine that is worse than South Sudan! Shockingly, in the UK the majority of school-aged girls have a diet insufficient in iodine. This is primarily due to a reduction in eating of fish, milk and other dairy products (and of course not enough seaweed!).

So how can we increase our uptake of seaweed?

We understand of course that a slab of seaweed on your plate isn’t something for everyone just yet, and so the development of Scottish Seaweeds in a dried and milled format that is included in foods like Pizza Power Kids, can be an ideal way to get your children eating healthy, balanced foods. Each pizza has more than your daily requirement of iodine present, and so is an excellent, safe and natural source of iodine for children.

Got a question?

Doctor Seaweed writes, researches and educates on the benefits of seaweed. All seaweed supplied by and approved by Doctor Seaweed is safe to eat, and appropriate for its uses and markets.

For more information on seaweed and its benefits visit and tweet any questions about #seaweed to @doctorseaweed