Have you ever wondered what your food and drink does to your body and mind? Well, nutritional therapist Claire Ward is in a great place to tell you as she has recently come to practice in Canada Water. When I met up with Claire, we started from the issues her clients bring to her sessions.
So what do people come to you about? What are the common reasons for consulting a therapist about nutrition?
‘There are loads of issues people have with their nutrition. For some it’s about just feeling tired and run down all the time and wanting to get the spring back in their step. For others who have been trying to lose weight for years, they just want to get clear accurate advice about dropping a dress size. Others come because they’ve a newly diagnosed condition such as diabetes and want to know how to make the move to better eating. And then there are the sports folk who want to run or swim faster, put on more muscle or endure a marathon better. There are as many issues related to diet as there are clients!’
We all tend to be low in one vitamin or another or some minerals even if our diet is really good
How did you start out as a nutritionist? What drew you to this profession?
‘As is so often the case, I started with my own health issues and wanted to know more about how my food was effecting my condition. I originally trained as a photographer in Scotland and so worked for a while taking photos as well as working as a support worker with Mencap. I’d always had an interest in doing something on the medical side and in my 20s, I read widely about nutrition. So finally I decided to move over to what I had learnt so much about and did my A Levels to enter a three-year BSC Hons degree course in Nutritional Therapy at the University of Westminster. The course provided me with a great balance of practical experience and theoretical input to make a career of nutrition.’
What happens if someone comes to you for nutritional advice? How does the session run?
‘My approach is to ask new clients to complete a questionnaire before they arrive. It gives me a picture of their diet, medical history and any biochemical imbalances they may have, which helps me understand more clearly what they are wanting to achieve. So when they arrive, we start by exploring their answers to my questions in a bit more detail. We talk through why they have come to see me and we look at what might form part of their dietary plan. Understanding the circumstances of the individual is really important to helping them get the best from my advice.
After the consultation, I will often spend an hour or two preparing a detailed action plan for them. If they seem to need additions to their everyday diet from supplements, I can always order those for direct delivery to their home and of course if I come across issues that reach beyond my field, I can always refer them on to colleagues and other professional help.’
You need to eat either protein or good fats with every meal, as these slow the release of glucose
Give me some of the keys to a healthy diet. What would be your three top tips?
‘My first one is easy to think of: eat more fruit and vegetables, especially veg. Getting as much good vegetable matter in your daily diet is a real way to strengthen your health. Fruit is great but it comes with lots of natural sugars that need to be enjoyed in moderation.
My second tip would be to always include some protein in every snack or meal. You need to eat either protein or good fats with every meal, as these slow the release of glucose from carbohydrates to the cells and help to balance your blood sugar, which help to increase your energy and concentration, plus keep you fuller for longer. The protein need not be meat or fish every time. Using nuts or pulses as an addition to other food types will give you some protein to balance the rest.
And third I would say, always take a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to make sure you are covering all the major inputs your body requires. We all tend to be low in one vitamin or another or some minerals even if our diet is really good in general, so this important to ensure you do not suffer from any deficiencies.’
So how long have you been working in Canada Water? How can people get hold of you?
‘I’ve been working here about two months now at the Dock Offices on Surrey Quays Road. I also have clinics in South Woodford, Hornchurch, Brentwood and Liverpool Street. It means that as I have an 18 month old, am moving house soon and getting married as well, life is pretty full at the moment! However I can normally fit new clients in around my busy schedule, as I am very flexible. It’s always best to have a look at my website, call me and we can arrange the appointment there and then.’