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Jessica Sepel answers your questions

Jessica Sepel

5 minute read
jessica sepel outside talking about sugar addiction

Navigating the world of nutrition can be complicated, which is why we've partnered with nutritionist Jessica Sepel to answer some of your burning health, diet and wellbeing questions.

If you’re running out of energy throughout the day, have lost the willpower to say no to a 3pm sweet treat or if you’re struggling to know when to stop eating, you might find her expert advice is just what you need.

Q: I do a lot of cycling and swimming and find that I run out of energy during the day. What’s the best food to eat to recover between training sessions?

A: Thank you for your great question. First of all, congratulations on your commitment to movement and exercise.

My first suggestion is to consider what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In order to provide your body with the fuel that it needs to thrive in your active lifestyle, it’s essential that your plate always contains the four macronutrients. Your meal should include a slow-releasing carbohydrate (such as oats, brown rice or quinoa) a good-quality source of protein (such as eggs, fish or chicken), healthy fats (such as avocado, olive oil or nuts) and fibre (such as fruits, vegetables or legumes). This helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable, which is key to helping you feel full and satiated after meals.

I also recommend eating a protein-rich snack between training sessions to aid muscle recovery and keep you energised. Some good options are Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and berries, a protein-rich smoothie, a handful of raw nuts and seeds, a green apple with almond butter or some veggie sticks with hummus or cottage cheese. Check out more snack ideas on the JSHealth website. It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so aim to drink two litres of filtered water.

A breakfast smoothie

Q: I have been addicted to eating sugary foods since I was a child. I'm now 43. How can I give it up? I have tried many times but never succeeded. I have very little willpower.

A: Thank you so much for writing in. We totally understand where you are coming from! To help you limit your sugar intake, I recommend making one small change at a time. Habits can take time to break, but with persistence and dedication, it’s definitely possible.

Before you embark on this journey, relieve the pressure to do it perfectly. Instead, focus on making small, achievable swaps to your diet and lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you along:

  • Eat protein and fat in every meal: Protein and fat are the most satiating macronutrients to stabilise your blood sugars.
  • Eat a protein-rich breakfast: Avoid cereal, fruit or oatmeal on its own. Instead enjoy boiled or poached eggs with avocado, veggies and a slice of healthy toast. Other options include a protein-rich smoothie or a healthy breakfast bowl with berries or Greek yoghurt with cinnamon, berries, nuts and seeds.
  • Substitute sugar and artificial sweeteners: This includes both white and brown sugar. Instead, use cinnamon and honey to add flavour to your food.
  • Drink plenty of water: Dehydration is one of the most common causes of sugar cravings. In fact, being dehydrated can often lead to feeling hungry, even when you’re not. Aim to drink two litres of filtered water throughout the day.
  • Eat five small meals a day: Eating regularly will keep your blood sugar levels stable, which is the key to reducing sugar cravings. It also prevents reaching the dreaded afternoon slump which has you reaching for the nearest packaged treat.
  • Cut down on coffee: Enjoy one cup a day before 10am. Too much coffee can trigger sugar cravings.
  • Avoid sugary drinks: This includes cordial, cocktails, fruit juice, energy drinks, soft drinks and milky, syrupy coffees. They’re loaded with sugar which spikes your cravings.
  • Go for complex carbs over refined carbs: They help the body to absorb glucose slowly for better energy. Opt for brown rice, quinoa, oats and whole grain pasta.
  • Learn to love cinnamon: Sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon in your coffee, over fruit or in your porridge and smoothies. It’s an excellent blood sugar level stabiliser and it provides a natural hit of sweetness.

Q: I’m struggling with knowing when I need to eat and when to stop eating. I feel like I tend to overeat, but start feeling full almost as soon as I start eating when I attempt to eat slower and more mindfully. Do you have any tips on accurately gauging hunger and satiation levels?

A: Thanks for asking this question. It’s actually incredibly common and many people struggle with this. I encourage you to start to look at how satiating and filling each meal is, as you may not be eating enough of the right foods at mealtimes to support your body. I encourage my clients to eat three balanced meals each day and enjoy two snacks between meals, which helps to reduce overeating in general.

A big tip is to also eat mindfully, which means no phone, social media or other distractions at mealtimes. Instead, try sitting down with a plate of food and eating in a calm environment. This immediately helps you to connect to when you are full and does wonders for your gut health too.

I also ask people to take three deep breaths before each meal and slow down the whole process. Finally, know that you can always eat more food later if you’re still hungry. This shift in mentality helps people to gauge how much they really need to eat.

Check out more articles by Jess, including the delicious and healthy recipes she’s created exclusively for nib.

Founder of JSHealth, author of two best-selling books and accredited nutritionist, Jessica Sepel is passionate about taking a balanced approach when it comes to food. Jess believes we need to give up ‘diets’ to overhaul our relationship with food and advocates for moderation, mindfulness at meals and healthy body image.

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