Every Friday since the beginning of 2022, we have asked our Orri Instagram community for their food and recovery questions, to put forward to our specialist dietetics team.
Below are our latest answers…
1) What foods are high in Vitamin D and B that do not contain dairy?
Vitamin deficiencies are common in those suffering with eating disorders. Especially when following a vegan diet, you might need to consider whether you are providing yourself with all the necessary nutrients.
As Vitamin B12 is mostly present in animal products (eggs, meat), a vegan diet may not provide you with enough of it.
- When choosing vegan dairy alternatives consider choosing those which are fortified with B12, such as yoghurts and milk
- When choosing breakfast cereal or bread, also consider choosing those fortified with B12 (e.g. Bran Flakes, Crunchy Nut (contains honey)). Most breakfast cereals are fortified with other B vitamins, which are also important to consider when vegan
Consider including other plant-based products rich in B12, such as:
- Marmite (on toast or crumpets)
- Nutritional yeast flakes (as an addition to pasta, rice, or any savoury dishes)
Vitamin D is crucial for our bone health, as well as teeth and muscles, and mood. The richest sources of Vitamin D are dairy and animal products. However, apart from the diet, we are also able to synthesise Vitamin D from the sunlight during the spring and summer months. In the winter, all adults are recommended to supplement Vitamin D to meet the requirements. When following a vegan diet, you should consider incorporating specific foods into your diet, but depending on other factors, you may need to supplement Vitamin D to make sure your needs are met.
For Vitamin D, consider similar foods as with B12 – fortified vegan alternatives:
- Fortified plant-based milks and dairy-like products: e.g. some (but not all) soya/coconut/oat milk and yoghurts
- Fortified cereals
- Orange juice
- Fortified tofu
Importantly, if you are aware of specific deficiencies, make sure to consult your team, your dietitian, or your GP to consider supplements and their doses. Remember, that although vitamin deficiencies can be dangerous, too much of specific vitamins can also be bad for your health. Follow your team’s guidance before you choose to supplement.
2) What ideas do you have for healthy snacks, to add in calorie intake?
Snacks are a very important part of the meal plan – just as much as your main meals. They ensure that you follow a regular eating pattern and provide you with energy mid-morning and in the afternoon, improving concentration and decreasing tiredness and irritability.
What snacks you are having will greatly depend on where you are in your recovery, and what feels manageable at the moment. If you are only beginning to incorporate snacks into your meal plan, having a banana or a yoghurt can be a good start. If you are looking to incorporate more substantial snacks, try varying your snack choices, introducing ones which you may view as being more challenging. Try granola bars, flapjacks, a piece of cake, cheese & biscuits, crumpets with spread and topping, falafels with hummus or hummus and pitta bread as energy dense snacks which can make a positive difference.
A good snack is one that will give you enough energy to engage with your day! Recovery is about freedom and flexibility around food so there is a constant need to challenge foods which feel new or unfamiliar. It is good to vary your snack choices, giving yourself the room to try new things.
3) Can you recover fully with a condition where you have to restrict some foods, such as Coeliac?
Recovery is about tuning into the intentions behind the choices you make around food, being honest and authentic with yourself about what is driving these decisions.
Stepping back and asking yourself if you are making a food choice based on preference or your eating disorder. Knowing you may have to restrict certain foods as a result of a medical condition doesn’t mean you can’t embrace recovery, if you know this is the only thing limiting your food choices.
It’s important for intolerances/allergies to be confirmed clinically, as sometimes this can be a sneaky way for an eating disorder to convince someone to restrict foods unnecessarily.
4) How can I add in more calorie-dense food to my plan?
Meal plans are very individual and will differ depending on one’s needs and stage in recovery. It is important that you discuss changes to your meal plan with your team and dietitian. Depending on how specific your meal plan is, there can be room for restrictive tendencies even if you are still within the guidance of your meal plan.
Think whether you have been holding back, choosing options which feel safer. If this is the case, try some of these tips to introduce meaningful changes to your meal plan:
- Think about what products you’re using: try choosing a thick bread loaf, moving away from low fat dairy products, and reduced/low-sugar alternatives etc.
- Reflect on your portioning: is it adequate? Are you stopping short when portioning carbohydrates and fats?
- If you are having cereal for breakfast, try having muesli or granola instead
- If your meal plan includes fruit at any point during the day, why not make it a banana?
As we’ve mentioned before, snacks are a very important part of the meal plan – just as much as your main meals. Try varying your snack choices, introducing ones which you may view as being more challenging. Try chocolate, granola bars, a piece of cake, brownie, flapjack, cheese and biscuits or hummus and pitta bread as energy dense snacks which can make a positive difference.
5) How to learn to touch food again whilst cooking? How to work with not wanting to touch food?
Consider what makes touching food difficult. It might be helpful to use the following questions as journal prompts and discuss these reflections with your team or your family who may be able to support you with challenging this.
- Are there certain textures which you find more difficult to touch?
- Do you struggle with the idea of food being messy? And if so, does it extend to anything which might cause messiness, or is it specific to food?
- Do you struggle with other aspects of cooking for yourself of others?
Challenging cooking and food preparation in recovery might be scary but is a part of working on re-building a healthy relationship with food. Although initially cooking itself might feel like too big of a challenge, there are things you can work on to encourage a gradual approach.
Try to introduce simple activities which will allow you practising touching food without the context of cooking first:
– Try preparing home-made salt-dough or playdough. This will allow you to interact with food ingredients in an unconventional way, with no food-related pressures. Once made, these can also be used as ‘fidget toys’! You can find simple and quick recipes and instructions online.
– Put some dry ingredients in separate bowls – e.g. rice, beans, lentils, flour, sugar. When interacting with them, reflect on how they feel, but also what touching them brings up for you.
For challenges with food preparation, consider:
– Start with meals which don’t require much preparation: breakfast cereal, oatmeal. Focus on things which seem more manageable.
– Pick a meal you’d like to challenge making and ask someone else to help. They can guide you and support you in the process.
– Although it may be a challenge, baking (for yourself or someone else) can be a good activity allowing exposure to various ingredients.
We learn through exposure and practise. As you repeatedly challenge food preparation and your confidence grows, it will become easier and more natural.
If you had any food based questions for your recovery, make sure to check in with Orri’s Dietetics team every Friday. All questions will be shared and answered anonymously through Instagram.
Alternatively, if you would like support or wanted to get in touch with us, you are welcome to send an email to email@example.com or fill out the form below.