The latest episode of The Apprentice has left me tutting loudly at the television and has in turn inspired me to give my thoughts on the shelves of the health food shop… what would and wouldn’t go into my basket…

First picks

Cereal bars – some really snazzy options on the market now, and thank goodness none of them have been made in The Apprentice kitchen. Think about what you want your cereal bar to do – if it’s a snack choose one around 100 calories and if it can contribute to your fibre intake, then great as most of us don’t meet the whopping 30g recommended per day.

If it’s as a meal replacement, for example breakfast – choose one with a high protein content (10g or more). This will fill you up for longer and a meal replacer can happily be between 200 and 300 calories. On the other hand that’s a pretty hefty snack!

Omega 3 supplements – if oily fish aren’t your bag, then definitely consider a supplement – we are recommended to have 400mg a day and it helps your heart and brain with new research emerging all the time. Vegetarian/ vegan options are also available.

Vitamin D supplements – the Aussie’s and Kiwi’s reading this can laugh from their sun loungers but unfortunately the brits are likely to be on the low side over the winter months. Many of the UK population are deficient all year round, particularly if we have a rubbish summer or spend long periods of time covered up or indoors. Not enough of the sunshine vitamin is linked to poor bone health as well as low immunity and many other long term health problems.

Brazil nuts – just two a day boosts selenium intake. Seleni-what I hear you say but 50% of women and a third of men are deficient in this little known mineral. It plays a vital role in metabolism and immune function – two things you definitely need on your side in the winter months following Christmas!

Fancy grains – no, gluten free grains aren’t ‘healthier’ but they can jazz up your kitchen and make a change from pasta and potatoes! Experiment with brown rice, millet or spelt pasta (not gluten free) for example. Wholegrains are rich in magnesium which helps relaxation of muscles and deficiency can contribute to poor sleep – and you definitely don’t want to miss out on that!

 Second thoughts…

Chia seeds – I aim to spread nutritional sense not chia seeds over everything I eat. Although a source of plant based omega 3’s these aren’t well converted to a useable form in the body. Everything else these seeds provide comes from straight forward fruit and vegetables and the last time I looked a banana and broccoli floret didn’t cost 12 quid.

Nut milks – not knocking them as an alternative taste and they are of course important for those needing to follow a dairy free diet for medical reasons. Their protein contents however, are low which can in turn make breakfast a low protein meal. This may have a knock on effect on your hunger levels by mid -morning and research shows we should ideally spread protein intake out across the day. Also be aware organic versions cannot be fortified with calcium so this may then be lacking in your diet.

Coconut water – if you’re under a palm tree maybe, but otherwise I wouldn’t go out of your way to buy it. Yes it can hydrate you, but so can water – if you love the taste go for it but don’t think your sips are that superior!

Yogurt coated raisins – although these got me through exams, their presence in a health food shop has always surprised me – they wouldn’t know yogurt if it hit them in the face as it’s the flavouring the name refers to. At 65g of sugar per 100g that’s 17 cubes of the stuff so go easy on your portion size!

And finally, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables are never found on the shelves of health food shops and yet these provide the solution perhaps for many things you’re raiding the shelves for. 5 a day is a conservative estimate so make sure you serve a double helping of sprouts* this year!

*other vegetables are available!