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Ask the experts

Q I get an energy dip at work around 4pm and end up having a few biscuits to keep myself going. Could you recommend some quick and healthy afternoon snacks?

A You can ward off the afternoon slump by eating a blood-sugar balancing snack that will help you feel more energised and alert throughout the afternoon.

Try cutting an apple into thin slices and spreading peanut butter on them. The apple will give you a natural sugar hit, while the protein in the peanut butter is filling and provides long-lasting energy.

Most supermarkets do small tubs of hummus which make for a great snack. Try spreading hummus on a couple of oat cakes. The B vitamins found in the oats and chick peas are great little stress busters and will naturally boost your mood.

If you enjoy a little sweetness then opt for a small handful of dried fruit such as apricots. Ideally combine the dried fruit with a few nuts such as cashew, almond or brazil nuts. Thanks to their mix of good fat and protein, the nuts will slow down the release of sugar from the dried fruit, which means you will get a steady release of energy to see you through the afternoon.

Q I'm four months pregnant and people keep telling me that I need to eat more than usual as essentially I'm eating for two now. Is this true?

A The old 'eating for two' saying is advice that many expectant mothers are only too delighted to follow but, unfortunately, it's a myth. In fact, increasing evidence suggests that excessive weight gain during pregnancy could damage both the mother and the baby's health.

For the first six months a woman's recommended energy intake of 1,940 calories per day does not change at all, so there's no need to eat more. In the last three months, pregnant women only need an extra 200 calories a day, which is equivalent to a pot of yogurt with fruit. When the baby is born, if you choose to breast feed, then you will need to consume an additional 500 calories per day to produce quality breast milk.

I would suggest that instead of trying to increase portion sizes you should try to focus more on the nutritional value of the food you eat during pregnancy.

Eat small meals regularly and make sure you eat a portion of protein with every meal to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced. Consume quality proteins such as organic eggs, lean red meat, organic chicken as well as beans and lentils. Also, ensure that your diet contains a good balance of wholegrain carbohydrates such as oats and brown rice and make sure to eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie


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