Latest blog entries Tue, 23 May 2017 06:51:55 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Healthy Futures' Food School My younger friends say there is nothing worse than going silent on social media...that one should blog on a weekly basis, tweet hourly and update FB regularly. I find this impossible. So, whilst we've been silent, we haven't been inactive. Since returning from a month in Berlin, I agreed to work part time for the Nutrition Advice team in Public Health England headed by Dr Louis Levy who is just fantastic to work for. My colleague and I are updating guidance to support 'Healthier, More Sustainable Catering' for Adult settings. This will be launched regionally in February. I have to say that working for PHE has been an incredible experience. I've met the teams responsible for the Change for Life campaign, Responsibility Deal, SACN, obesity strategy and maintaining food composition databases. A great learning experience.  

In October I also met a property developer with a vision for a 'Food School.' In his words one that isn't just about teaching people how to bake cup cakes but tackles some of the public health and environmental issues we are facing. I developed a concept paper incorporating training for school staff and budding food entrepreneurs as well as community cooking classes. Now we are trying to develop a robust business plan (through the help of friends and family including Robert, Kavita, Thilo, Uncle and the developer himself) and somehow need to raise £150,000.00 to start it off. We're speaking to investors, banks, entrepreneurs, commissioners, potential users which has also been a great learning experience.  

The aim of the Food School will be to support the public to make 'healthier,more sustainable food choices'. I don't for one minute believe that this translates into 5-a-day, eat organic only workshops...rather a multi-purpose centre where organisations, communities and individuals of all ages and backgrounds can learn more about food. The more we understand, the more likely we are to develop the skills to make choices for health, wellbeing and sustainability. Let's see how it goes...We're also speaking to an Alliance of businesses, academics and entrepreneurs (headed by Dr Rick Robinson of IBM Smarter Cities) to develop a Smarter Food Project. 

"A few months ago we held a food workshop to explore the potential for a “smart local food” initiative in Birmingham. As a consequence, Shaleen Meelu is starting a new business venture, the “Birmingham Food School” in a recent development.

The objectives of the business are:

  • To bring national investment in food training programmes to Birmingham and to offer food training to public sector, private sector and  consumer customers.
  • To build a directory of local food suppliers and eventually operate sustainable local food delivery network in partnership with  the transport entrepreneur Carbon Voyage.
  • To increase employment opportunities in the food sector in Birmingham by offering training course in running successful food businesses.
  • To make it easier for public sector catering services to procure food from local producers.
  • To contribute to healthier diets across Birmingham.

The business is more likely to succeed if we can introduce it to people and organisations in Birmingham who buy food or who buy food training; or to business support schemes and funding that can help the Birmingham Food School succeed.

This is an example of an initiative that usually starts in London, not Birmingham; let’s do everything we can to help it succeed here." 

Update 6th May 2014

We signed the lease in March after securing funds to develop the site. We will be submitting plans for development in May and hope to construct the Food School over the summer months (planning approval takes 8 weeks). 




Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Sat, 14 Dec 2013 06:22:53 -0500
Vitamin D Vitamin D

My hairdresser recently told me that she was feeling very low in energy and after tests the doctor said this is due to vitamin D deficiency. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggests that 25% of 19 - 24 year olds and 1/6 th of the total adult female population are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Most people are aware that vitamin D is produced following exposure to summer sunlight but in the winter, we are not exposed to the frequency of sunlight needed to produce vitamin D. So where do we get vitamin D during winter time if we don't have time or money to travel to the southern hemisphere? Good question and I'll see if we can figure it out from reading relevant documents including SACN update on vitamin D, NICE review on implementing vitamin D guidance (due out  June 2014). First off... 

What do we need vitamin D for? 


  • Absorb calcium from the intestine and to support skeletal development and bone health (this continues throughout adult life)
  • Regulate the synthesis of PTH - parathyroid hormone which also plays an important role in maintaining calcium through production of active vitamin D 
  • Interact with VDR (vitamin D receptor) present throughout the body including small intestine, colon, T and B lymphocytes, brain, heart, gonads, prostate and breast. Researchers are investigating why this interaction takes place and the roles vitamin D has throughout the body
  • (potentially) Support cell differentiation (i.e. when cells develop specific functions), cell proliferation (when cells with a unique/specific function multiply) and immune function

If the above sounds complicated, the key is to remember that vitamin D which is produced through exposure to the summer sun is required for skeletal development and bone health and is likely to have a role in a number of other important functions in the body. 

What happens during the winter months? 

The evidence suggests that between October and April we obtain vitamin D from the body stores accumulated during the summer and dietary sources including eggs, fish and enriched products like margarine and cereal. It is difficult to obtain vitamin D from dietary sources so it is important to stock up on sun over the summer. 

What happens if we don't get enough vitamin D? 

Severe lack of vitamin D is associated with rickets and osteomalacia (in adults and children). Long term conditions associated with lack of vitamin D may also include osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes. Rickets and osteomalacia are reported rarely in the UK but there is 'significant incidence' in UK based South Asian and African Caribbean populations.

According to the guidance we only need exposure for 5 - 15 minutes a day of summer sun but of course, after this it is important to cover up. Those of us with darker skins may need more exposure and this is currently being investigated. 

So what shall we do now that summer is over? 

Current guidance suggests that exposure to summer sun will provide enough vitamin D for the winter months. However groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency have been identified and include

  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • People over the age of 64
  • Children under the age of 5
  • People who do not go out during the summer months or are completely covered up by clothing

If you fall into these groups then supplements are advised to reach the RNI set by the Department of Health. Your health visitor or GP can provide advice in relation to this. Some groups may receive prescriptions.

Is the guidance changing? 

SACN is currently reviewing the RNI for vitamin D set in 1991. NICE is currently producing guidance to encourage health professionals to raise awareness of the importance of vitamin D and encourage use of supplements in at risk groups. This includes all of the groups highlighted above as well as people with darker skin whose bodies do not make as much vitamin D as people with lighter skins. The guidance will be published next year. 

So do I need to worry? 

Not unless you fall into one of the at risk groups in which case it is definitely worth speaking to your health professional if they haven't already spoken to you. It is important to find out what supplement to take from a qualified health professional. For example most commercially available supplements are not suitable for pregnant women who may be able to access 'Healthy Start.'

Vitamin D is unique but like other vitamins it plays an important role in the body to prevent disease and maintain health. Nutrients don't work alone and it is important to achieve a varied and balanced diet for optimum health.


Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Sun, 08 Sep 2013 09:12:27 -0400
Noodle and veg summer salad Noodles and Veg Summer Salad

This is the first of our summer recipes. If you are spending holidays at home and have a little more time than usual to cook we'll be posting a recipe a day to inspire you. Feel free to adapt and change ingredients. All our recipes will incorporate at least 3 portions of veg and a balance of protein, carbohydrate and good fat. 


  • 2 inches fresh ginger grated including juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice, apple or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin vinegar or add 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Noodles and veg

  • 100 g soba noodles cooked according to instructions
  • 250 g spinach
  • 100 g tofu
  • 4 carrots - make ribbons
  • Half a spring cabbage sliced
  • Two teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • Two inches fresh ginger finely chopped


  1. For the dressing whisk all the ingredients until smooth 
  2. Boil a small amount of water and steam cabbage and carrots for around 4 minutes (until soft). If you don't have a steamer, add 50 ml of water to a pan, add the cabbage and carrots and cook under cover for a few minutes
  3. Sautee the spinach with garlic and ginger 
  4. Separate noodles into two bowls and cover with steamed veg and dressing.
  5. Slice smoked tofu on to each dish and eat with a side of spinach!

Nutrient information 

There is about 8g protein in 100g of Tofu. Asian food often includes nuts, eggs, fish and meat to boost protein content but it is also rich in vegetables. 

This dish contains 3 of the 5 portions of veg/fruit we aim to eat on a daily basis. 





Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) Recipes Thu, 01 Aug 2013 08:09:00 -0400
Mung Dahl and Raita Mung Dahl and Raita

This is probably my favourite dahl although we'll also prepare 'kaala chaana' (black chickpeas) in the next couple of days which is my all time fav Indian pulse. You can buy green mung beans in bulk from most South Asian stores and smaller packs from supermarkets. You need to prepare in advance as the beans need to be soaked overnight. Most recipes involve a pressure cooker but we don't have one here today so we will use a big pan and cook for around 45 minutes 

Ingredients for 6 people

  • 700 g of dry mung beans 
  • 2 large onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 inches ginger
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 - 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp fresh cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 a can of tomatoes


  1. Soak the mung beans overnight in a large bowl
  2. Wash the beans and cover with 2.5 x water in a large pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and remove the froth that forms 
  3. Add the turmeric and bay leaves to the simmering daal. This will continue to cook for around 40 minutes
  4. Chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Using a pestle and mortar press the garlic and ginger to form a rough paste. Kavita says that this is 'super important the flavour'
  5. Sautee the onions, garlic and ginger in a tablespoon of oil. Today we used coconut oil but, vegetable based oils are fine.
  6. Once the onions are golden brown add the spices
  7. Add half a can of tomatoes to the spice mix and fry for 2 - 3 minutes
  8. The spice tomato mix is combined with the daal in the middle of cooking (say 20 - 25 minutes into cooking). 
  9. Cook the daal for a further 20 - 25 minutes. Depending upon the mung you may need to cook for longer.
  10. Chop fresh corriander onto the daal before serving

Side dishes

Today we'lll use up the rest of the cabbage used in yesterday's noodle dish and prepare a spicy cabbage and peas 'sabzi' as shown on the youtube video- although we only use 1 tbsp of oil and don't add any salt. We'll also serve with yoghurt raita - chopped cucumber and mint in yoghurt. 




Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) Recipes Thu, 01 Aug 2013 06:46:53 -0400
Birmingham Food Tour - Gallery Food Tour Gallery 

Anne Mackey previously worked as a chef prior to retraining as a secondary school teacher. She booked a Healthy Futures 'International Food Tour' of Birmingham for year 10 pupils who are interested in pursuing careers in food and catering. The tour cost £225.00, lasted for four hours and included food tasters along the way. 

We started off at the wholesale market which is a 21 acre complex that supplies horticulture, meat, fish and poultry to businesses in the West Midlands. Robert described how the Bullring has evolved over the years. 



At the indoor market students snapped pics of a freshly caught shark!




Our first workshop was led by Sushi Passion chef Adam. We learned about Japanese food culture, observed sushi preparation and of course sampled a variety of pieces. Did you know sushi means vinegared rice? 



We met the proprieter of the Caribbean food stall who introduced students to the variety of root vegetables used by the local West Indian and some African communities. We were taught the difference between plantains and green bananas. 


At the Chinese supermarket, students discovered dumplings, a variety of greens and noticed the difference in packaging between Chinese and local products. A few students familiar with Chinese food purchased sweet buns and cold drinks with unique flavours including lychee and green tea.



We walked through Birmingham's China Town to the farmers market on New Street and stopped off to try 'bubble tea' along the way. This is a Taiwanese drink that contains 'tapioca pearls.' 




Our favourite stall at the Birmingham farmer's market is described as a 'Vegetarian Haven'. Mo asked pupils to name countries in the Middle East before explaining the origins of the food he prepares. The talk attracted  a large crowd of shoppers who were also passing by. We sampled stuffed baby aubergines and a chickpea salad as well as falaafel wraps.




At the next stop students discovered key ingredients used in Thai cooking including lemon grass, 'Thai basil', chili, tofu, noodles, coconut milk, corriander root and galangal.

Other students visited a Southern States inspired stall where 'low and slow' chef described how he cooks his meat for 9 hours.



 Annie looking happy after tasting Thai food samples. 





At the French bread stall we learnt about 'Real Bread' which is made with four key ingredients (flour, water, yeast and salt) and includes no articial additives. 




Our final stop  Piccolinos where manager and chef Danielle hosted a pizza workshop demonstrating how easy it is to prepare home made pizza with fresh ingredients. 


Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Wed, 31 Jul 2013 09:12:49 -0400
Love Food, Hate Waste Love Food, Hate Waste - Food Skills Research

 Healthy Futures has been commissioned to carry out research on behalf of WRAPs 'Love Food Hate Waste' (LFHW) campaign. We will gather insight from community food schemes throughout the UK to highlight the food skills people develop following participation in community cooking courses. 

LFHW aims to raise awareness of food waste and helps everyone reduce the amount of food we throw away. Through this research we hope to identify the resource, practical support and information community food programmes are using to encourage participants to reduce food waste whilst learning more about cooking, food safety and good nutrition. 

Examples of food projects that support the public to develop their food skills include Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and Community Food and Health Scotland. We have identified public, private and third sector organisations throughout the UK delivering a range of activities who we will invite to take part in the research. This is an exciting opportunity to show how community food programmes support both 'Health and Wellbeing' and 'Sustainability' agendas.

If your organisation is interested in taking part or discussing this work further, please contact Shaleen on or call 07990660055.

To find out more about the Love Food Hate Waste campaign visit



Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Wed, 12 Jun 2013 04:31:28 -0400
Eating out? Staying in... So, a French restaurant chain does a two course lunch for £9.99 and yesterday I was enticed in by the menu items which included butternut squash and carrot soup for starters followed by cod on stew of chickpeas, olives and toms. I also ordered a side of the rocket salad which also included baby toms, avocado and pine-nuts and an orange juice. A perfectly balanced meal with good amounts of protein, good fats, all five fruit/veg portions and lots of yum factor. So, the next question is can we make the same thing at home for a fraction of the price. 

I've found a similar recipe online and wondered if foodies amongst you could try this (I'm about to do the same) and cost it out. The recipe is by Alissa Robinson and also contains quinoa visit There was also a similar recipe in last week's Grazia for those of you who read it.

Eating Out? Staying in...A Competition

So, it makes sense to turn this into a competition

  1. Make a home-made version of the dish and side salad (use the recipes or modify for your own version)
  2. Tell us how much it costs and how many portions you made
  3. Tell us more about the fish - Where did you buy it from? Does it have the MSC label?
  4. Add some top-tips for adding flavour, boosting nutrition and making a cost effective meal
  5. E-mail pics and top-tips to 
  6. We'll post pics and tips and choose a winner 

Please submit entries by 24th May 2013

The prize for the winner. £10.00 voucher for Abel and Cole who have a fish sale on at the moment. Please note we don't really support any one company over another but like the description on the website about local producers and the fish sale fits in with this particular activity so we thought it would be a nice prize.




Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) Recipes Thu, 16 May 2013 06:55:36 -0400
Midweek Munch - orange food An Orange Recipe 

Yesterday I popped into a local restaurant for lunch and they were serving carrot and butternut squash soup. I'd never tasted the combination before and I thought to myself  I think we need to spice this up a little. So imagine my surprise when I visited my Aunt's house later and she also said she had prepared a butternut squash and carrot sabzi (meaning vegetable dish). Conicidentally, I noticed a tweet from @Endinghunger

"The best solution to tackle Vitamin A Deficiency already exists and it's called vegetables' We responded 'Orange vegetables - you've inspired us to post some recipes'. To find out more about vitamins also see Nutrition matters

The salad on the left is simply chopped up carrots, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and this is the reason we ate so much salad when we were younger. The green dish is mint chutney and the dish on the right the carrot and butternut squash prepared by my beautiful Aunt (who we call Masi which means mother's sister - pic of both below). This is how you do it:

Carrot and Butternut Squash Sabzi

  • Two tablespoons of vegetable oil e.g. rape seed oil 
  • Three medium sized onions finely chopped
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of inches of chopped ginger
  • Two - three chopped garlic cloves
  • 3 chillies chopped (optional of course) 
  • One medium sized butternut squash - remove the skin, de-seed and then chop into cubes
  • Five carrots 
  • 1 teaspoon of - turmeric, coriander power, garam masala
  • Aunt also adds salt but I don't ever think salt is necessary when using fantastic flavours - so it's up to you the cook! 
  1. Chop three medium sized onions and fry in the oil. Use a heavy based wide pan that you can cover (step 4)
  2. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, chopped ginger and chopped garlic
  3. Add all the orange veg and stir through the spices
  4. Cover and leave on a medium heat until the veg is cooked through 

Another popular butternut squash recipe is Warm lentil butternut squash salad taken from a Waitrose cook book. We've prepared this in school/community cookery sessions and parents and children love it as you can tell from the number of hits. I think it's one of the most popular blog posts. 

Do you want to know how to make the family mint chutney also? 

That's me in between my mother (left) and my Aunt (right) who are the greatest cooks ever. As is the little sister. I'm really not that great but enjoy tasting the good food on offer!

For mint chutney simply mince (they have a short chopper ideal for chutneys) 6 tomatoes, a bunch of mint, one red onion, 6/7 chillies and add salt/balsamic vinegar to taste (easy on the salt by the way). 






Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) Recipes Thu, 16 May 2013 05:39:28 -0400
Reducing Salt Reducing Salt 

This blog was published on World Health Day 2013 to raise awarness of the risk of hypertension read Hypertension and blood pressure to find out more

Salt actually refers to 'sodium chloride'. We need sodium chloride for muscle contraction, fluid regulation and nerve impulse transmission. However, too much salt has a negative impact on all of these functions. Reducing salt in our diet is recommended as a key strategy to prevent hypertension - the technical term for high blood pressure. We are therefore advised to consume no more than 6 g of salt a day (just over a teaspoon). Many of us consume excess salt as it is used in ready meals, processed foods, snacks and restaurant foods. This kind of diet suits our hectic lifestyles but not knowing exactly how much salt we're eating may take a toll on our health and lead to hypertension. The organisation CASH campaigns to raise awareness of salt levels in foods.



Recommendations for reducing salt intake include 

  1. Fill your plate with fruit and vegetables as they contain low amounts of soidum but higher amounts of potassium as well as lots of other important micronutrients. Read Nutrition matters to find out more about micronutrients. I think in the UK when we talk about healthy eating people focus on cutting out food groups and calories but there needs to be more of a focus on this key message i.e. Eat more veg! 
  2. Retrain your tastebuds I think the key is to wean yourself off the added salt and replace it with lo-salt, herbs, spices and other new ingredients. It's not easy but certainly possible. Have a look at our Healthier shopping list which includes a starter list of herbs and spices. CASH also provides examples of low salt recipes. 
  3. Stealth Health According to Harvard most people can't detect a 25% reduction in salt levels which is the message being used to encourage food manufacturers to join the fight against hypertension. As a consumer, familiarise yourself with organisations who are making an effort to protect our health
  4. Watch out for hidden sodium in ready to eat food for toddlers, take away food, pizzas, ready meals, sauces and dips, processed food, soups, breakfast cereals, sports drinks, muffins and other baked items.

If a food label provides a sodium value per portion remember to multiply  by 2.5 to calculate salt in grams per portion e.g. if a food contains 2 g of sodium then this implies 2 x 2.5 = 5 g of salt. 

Note that recommendations for children are less than 6 g of salt per day. To find out more, visit CASH





Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Sat, 06 Apr 2013 07:37:12 -0400
Focus on managing stress Focus on Managing Stress 

April 7th 2013 is World Health Day and the WHO are raising awareness of blood pressure and hypertension. It is commonly known that people can maintain a normal blood pressure through making healthy lifestyle choices, one strategy that is often overlooked is managing stress. In the UK the New Economics Foundation researched and developed the five steps to wellbeing which can be summarised as 'connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.' We review this during MECC Train the Trainer during which we also address the issue of stigma around the term/phrase 'mental health/wellbeing.' Evidence exists to suggest that managing stress (mental wellbeing) is key for promoting physical health and some would argue good physical health can promote mental wellbeing. 

Harvard Medical School have recently highlighted strategies for managing stress to avoid hypertension

  1. Get enough sleep - nutritionists also consider this key for weight control. Sleep is a time of specific hormonal activity and recuperation for the body. It's so important to sleep well to maintain energy levels and a feeling of vitality during the day. 
  2. Learn relaxation techniques - this may include lying back like the man in the picture and focusing on relaxing every part of your body starting from your little toe and mentally moving towards your head in stages repeating the process of tensing and relaxing. Physical relaxation techniques like this coupled to  'mindfulness' techniques can help both body and mind relax. 
  3. Strengthen your social network - we should probably add here 'your real-life social network' see a related tip from the New Economics Foundation below. It is possible to meet people throughout your life and develop networks related to different aspects of your life. I meet people through work but also through family friends and even in a coffee shop I frequent. Conversation and interaction with others can prevent feelings of isolation and feeling alone. 
  4. Hone your time management skills - I guess here is it also important to realistically assess what it is possible to accomplish within a specific time period. I've started reducing the number of tasks I set for myself on a daily basis to give myself an opportunity to do things well and also to feel as if I have achieved what I set out to do. People with busy work, social and family lives may need to refer to point 7. 
  5. Try to resolve stressful situations - at both work and home. Probably worth having that 'hard conversation' rather than letting things fester. Use diplomacy and 'negotiation skills' to resove conflict..ok easier said than done but sometimes, it's seriously not worth the effect on physical and mental wellbeing to let things drag on. 
  6. Nurture yourself - take a day off and do the things that make you happy and put that in your timetable alongside all the important tasks, work duty and family responsibilities.
  7. Ask for help - people like feeling needed and may provide the help you need to manage 3, 4, 5 and 6. This is also highlighted in the five steps to wellbeing highlighted above. 

In the UK the New Economics Foundation researched and developed five steps for workplace wellbeing. The top point is 'talk to someone instead of sending an e-mail' Read more on the Mind website. 


Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Sat, 06 Apr 2013 06:39:44 -0400
Hypertension and blood pressure World Health Day

Sunday 7th April 2013 

This year the World Health Organisation are focusing on maintaining a 'normal' blood pressure to prevent hypertension which is described as a 'silent, invisible killer that rarely causes symptoms'. Raised blood pressure leads to heart attacks and strokes and researchers estimate it causes death in 9 million people each year. 

What do we mean by 'normal' blood pressure? 

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers usually written as one above the other. The top number relates to systolic blood pressure i.e. the pressure in the blood vessels as blood is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body as it contracts. The lower number is referred to as diastolic pressure and is the presssure in the vessels as the heart relaxes. 

'Normal' blood pressure is defined as 120/80 (units are mmHg)

Hypertension or high blood pressure is equal to or above 140/90 

How do we keep our blood pressure low?

We can prevent hypertension by making lifestyle changes such as eating healthily, getting active and maintaining a normal body weight. It is also important to manage stress.

In the UK we are entitled to an annual health check from the age of 40 and if hypertension is detected, it is worth receiving some personalised advice from a health professional to consider what changes you need to make. I also think it is worth raising awareness of blood pressure, hypertension and lifestyle amongst younger people. We recently observed a training session where young people in their twenties were recorded as having higher blood pressure. 

Focus on managing stress

Stress has been highlighted by researchers, academics and charities as a key factor influencing physical wellbeing. Harvard Medical School provided some useful guidance on strategies for dealing with stress. This is complemented by the New Economics Foundation 5 ways to wellbeing. To find out more read Focus on managing stress

Focus on reducing salt

Most people are aware of the link between salt and high blood pressure. The FSA launched a national campaign to encourage people to reduce their salt intake to no more than 6 g of salt a day (just over a teaspoon). However, some campaigners are continuing to highlight hidden salt in processed foods, restaurant meals, products such as soups and sauces. The food industry is being encouraged to reformulate product. To find out more read tips for Reducing Salt

Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Sat, 06 Apr 2013 05:30:00 -0400
MECC Train the Trainer Training the Trainer to Make Every Contact Count

The NHS Ambition Making Every Contact Count requires the systematic delivery of health improvement through staff, using consistent and simple healthy lifestyle advice combined with appropriate signposting to lifestyle information and services. The MECC Train the Trainer programme was developed by NHS Midlands and East to support staff within the NHS and partner organisations to implement the MECC strategy.

Training aims to equip key staff with the skills to offer opportunistic brief advice to clients and patients and train them to deliver MECC training to their colleagues. Lifestyle topics include alcohol, smoking, obesity, healthy eating, mental health, sexual health and physical activity. So far we have delivered training to 15 organisations including Luton and Befordshire NHS, Birmingham and Solihul Mental Health Trust, Princess Alexander Trust Hospital, NHS Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust, Warwickshire and Coventry NHS, Herefordshire NHS, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham Public Health and partners, Milton Keynes PCT and Walsall Public Health and partners. We are currently developing the training material for the Prince's Trust 'Get into Health' programme and adapting the training for the Ambulance Trusts.

If you would to book training or need support implementing your MECC strategy, please contact Shaleen Meelu on 07990660055 or e-mail See below for feedback from NHS Midlands and East 

I have worked with Shaleen since April 2010 and know her to be efficient, reliable and extremely knowledgeable. Shaleen has led a number of training projects as part of the QUIT chat initiatve and then the SHA MECC ambition that superceded it. These training projects have included work with private, public and voluntary sector organisations. I have exceptional feedback from leads within these organisations on Shaleen's delivery technique, ability to answer questions as well as her approachability. I have no problem in highlgy recommending Shaleen and am happy to be contated to discuss in more detail. Liz Micintyre, MECC Strategic Support

Staffordshire NHS The training was thought provoking and enjoyable. It was very relevant and had no tone of 'teaching a grandma to suck eggs'. Shaleen's approach made the topic very discursive and not 'preaching' about healthy lifestyle. Shaleen has made a significant effort to tailor the training and approach to us as a mental health trust and in relation to our local implementation plans/existing staff wellbeing framework, and encouraged participants to further tailor the pack for specific serice areas when they deliver/support with roll-out training. Lesley Faux North, OD and Innovation FAcilitator

NHS Herefordshire Shaleen was great to work with in organising delivery of 3 MECC train the trainer sessions for NHS staff. Her wealth of experience in health improvement meant that she was able to enhance the presentation with practical, relevant examples and facts which really helped to bring the content to life for participants. She is also adept at facilitating groups sessions and was able to skillfully manage both positive and negative comments from pariticipants with regards to MECC. Shaleen's passion for health promotion comes through in her presentation and participants described her as an 'enthusiastic trainer' Leah Kitteridge, Health Improvement Practitioner





Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Thu, 28 Mar 2013 08:18:18 -0400
Turkish Poached Eggs Turkish Poached Eggs

I was at the Bristol Lido last week swimming, steaming and eating. The package included breakfast, lunch and dinner. I opted for Turkish poached eggs which include a unique combination of yoghurt and egg. As a big breakfast fan, I'm always looking for something different and nutritious rather than breakfast cereals or breakfast biscuits.  This version is similar to Shakshuka - but here we use a tomato rather than a tomtao and pepper base. Poached eggs aren't the easiest but, you only get better! Apparently Ferran Adria took six months perfecting his. 

Ingredients for one portion

Two eggs

1 cup of plain yoghurt

Two cloves of garlic

Chopped fresh herbs

1/2 a tin of chopped tomatos or chop 3 large tomatoes

Half a small onion chopped


Chili flakes


  1. To prepare tomato sauce simply sautee the onions until soft and brown before adding the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer for five - 10 minutes.
  2. Season using chili, chopped basil or chopped corainder.
  3. Poach your eggs - if you're not sure how follow instructions on the BBC website or look at this video  
  4. The tomato sauce is placed in a shallow bowl or plate (if it is thick enough). Place your two poached eggs on the sauce.
  5. Combine the yoghurt dressing with the chopped garlic and cover the eggs
  6. Add herbs to garnish. Then munch. 




Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) Recipes Thu, 14 Mar 2013 07:18:00 -0400
Free resources for school Food Route a Journey Through Food (all ages) 

Primary and secondary resources including teacher's guide produced by the Food Standards Agency and British Nutrition Foundation. The resources include target charts to help children and young people achieve compreshensive food competency skills including Diet and Health, Food Safety, Shopping and Cooking. We piloted Food Route resource with schools in Worksop and found the worksheets and target charts worked well in a variety of classes and out-of-hours clubs. The British Nutrition Foundation has recently developed this further to support young people to achieve healthy and active lifestyles.

Wellcome Trust Big Picture Resources (I'd say 14+)

Although the Wellcome Trust say these resources are for Biology teachers and A-level students, I find the resources useful for a variety of settings including training health professionals and getting young people to think about the broader context in relation to nutrition, food and health. 

Obesity teaching resource topics include

  • How is body weight controlled?
  • Why is the incidence of obesity increasing?
  • What is the impact on people and society?
  • What can be done about it?
  • Whose responsibility should it be?

Big Picture Food and Diet provides a holistic view of food. Topics include

  • Building a baby: Maternal Diet
  • Anatomy of Appetite
  • Exploring ancient diets

In relation to this the Wellcome Trust have compiled a list of links to support teaching about food and diet

Big Picture Exercise, Energy and Movement

I like the youtue clip on 'Exercise busting myths' this may be worth showing to young people to encourage more physical activity. 

British Nutrition Foundation

BNF develop a range of resources called Fact for Life and are promoting a Healthy Eating Week from the 3rd - 7th June. 

If school staff need further support/advice on using these resources please e-mail 







Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Tue, 05 Mar 2013 04:42:13 -0500
Engineering versus Cooking in Schools Engineering versus Cooking classes

Sir James Dyson said 'Children should get practical lessons in cutting-edge technology and engineering rather than learn how to girll a tomato'. He added, 'This new curriculum will not inspire the invention and engineers Britain so desperately needs.' Interestingly, I think that there are some analogies to make between the two topics being compared. Personally, I think that cooking classes in their traditional format won't bring about the change in food culture that Britain so desperately needs either. 

Clearly both sets of skills - food competency and thinking creatively/practically about the material world are incredibly important. Despite studying physics, chemistry and biology at A-level (2 decades ago), even I wasn't aware of the different engineering subjects until I started my Biochemistry undergraduate degree at Imperial which is well known for excellence in engineering. The majority of students pursuing these subject were international from countries like Malaysia, China, Greece. Coincidentally, they also knew how to cook really well. I have to say I didn't get much out of the school cooking classes and learned more about food from my home and social circle.

Supporting Teachers and other School Staff

My first  job following graduation involved setting up the Biochemical Engineering Education Scheme (BEES). This programme was sponsored by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to raise awareness of the link between engineering and healthcare. We developed workshops, resources for use in school (a mini-bioreactor), curriculum linked lesson plans, training for teachers and activities for science clubs. During this time, I was studying part-time for a Masters in Human Nutrition. So when developing nutrition, food and health programmes for schools and early year's settings in subsequent roles, I've adopted a similar approach. That is to...

  • Develop or use existing curriculum linked resources
  • Provide training for teachers and school staff
  • Engage parents/carers as much as possible through e.g. health promotion events and out of hours activities
  • Encourage children/young people to make the link between what is being taught, the real world and their own lives

My favourite  Free resources for school have been developed by the Food Standards Agency (their Nutrition department moved to DH last year and is now part of the new Public Health England) and also the Wellcome Trust. The FSA Food Route resource includes age appropriate activities and target charts. The Wellcome Trust resources are ideal for older pupils - an oft forgtten group. 

Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Tue, 05 Mar 2013 04:10:17 -0500
Public Health Transition 2013
Healthy Futures and Public Health Transition 2013

Registered nutritionist, Shaleen Meelu set up Healthy Futures in 2009 after working as a programme manager for a PCT's public health department. We are mindful that a variety of organisations use the description 'health and wellbeing' to describe their services. At Healthy Futures we work directly with health professionals, organisations and schools to implement national and regional health and wellbeing strategies and initiatives led by local authority alliances  and health promoting charities, organisations and professional bodies. 

Healthy Futures Team of Experts

We are subject matter experts in 'nutrition, food and health'. Healthy Futures team of experts include registered nutritionists, medical consultants, public health academics, a GP with an interest in weight management and diabetes, a public health information and intelligence specialist and business development managers with experience of working within both public and private sector. 

To support public health transition 2013, our combined expertise can be used to offer

  • Programme design and costing in response to the new environment
  • Needs assessment and options appraisal
  • Evaluation and review
  • Transition and novation of services and projects to new management and governance
  • Advice on new business models
  • Bid writing/bid support

We also have links to leading academics who are able to support research and evaluation of existing services. 




Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Thu, 24 Jan 2013 11:54:00 -0500
HF Team 2013 Healthy Futures Team 2013


Me, Shaleen Meelu

I set up Healthy Futures in 2009 after working in public health. Healthy futures was established to realise national and regional health and wellbeing strategies  through an evolving programme of practical activity, training, health programme management and evaluation. We've developed a relationship with a network of individuals who passionately believe in the aims of our organisation and especially look forward to working with Ian, Kavita, Robert and Janice over the coming year. 


Dr Ian Lake 

Ian is a GP in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire with an interest in diabetes and preventative health. In 2007 Ian carried out research into using internet providers of weight management collaborating with the NHS in a best practice arrangement. This developed into a commissioned programme which won Clinical Team of the Year, Nutrition at the General Practice Awards 2012. Ian says 'I would like to see a prevention culture establishing itself firmly alongside treatment in the NHS. 

Miss Kavita Meelu 

My younger sister Kavita moved to Berlin in 2009 the year Healthy Futures was launched. She is currently European director of New York based start-up Kitchen Surfing. The entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by Kavita and her colleagues in Berlin provides inspiration for the nutrition, food and health projects we deliver here in the UK. This year Kavita will help establish a network of  community chefs to support our work and other community food initiatives. I love the idea of identifying talent from within the community to revolutionise attitudes to food rather than turning to tv chefs for inspiration. 

Mr Robert Smith

Robert has been supporting Healthy Futures since launch. This includes sponsoring events, supporting project delivery and building links to public and private sector contacts. Robert worked for PwC for 25 years before setting up Nexus Professionals with the city's big wigs. He has unique experience delivering multi-million pound projects across a variety of sectors (food, pharma, public sector, LA) and is currently supporting the development of the city's business support unit based on Michael Heseltine's recent recommendations. He's kinda smart.

Prof Janice Thompson

We are SO HAPPY Janice has moved to Birmingham University to take up the role of Professor of Public Health Nutrition and Exercise. Janice is a rare example of a successful academic who gets involved in community work and delivers projects/programmes herself. If we are commissioned to evaluate or deliver nutrition projects she's an ideal supervisor. We also use her nutrition text books as reference material.


Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Thu, 24 Jan 2013 04:01:42 -0500
Communicating the benefits of healthy lifestyles sensitively On Wednesday I delivered MECC training to staff at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and I have to say it was a great experience not least because I live only 5 minutes away from the hospital but also because staff are totally committed to training their colleagues and providing support for patients. Matron Sarah Needham and David Richardson (Head of Learning and Development) supported training delivery and provided fantastic leadership and encouragement. Sarah, won an award for her work developing an 'alcohol liaison' service in the West Midlands which was subsequently replicated across the region. She was able to describe how to raise the issue of alcohol consumption in a sensitive manner and to explain the risks as well as well as how to sign-post and refer to appropriate services if requested. Likewise, through the MECC training we discuss how to do this in relation to healthy eating, weight management, physical activity, mental wellbeing and even sexual health. 

Not so sensitive approaches

A friend said to me 'Shaleen my doctor told me I'm obese'...he was flabbergasted and continued 'I'm not obese, why would he say that?' So I explained how BMI is calculated, what the ranges relate to and why it is important to maintain a weight within the healthy range. We also discussed stigma around the word 'obese' and I have to say, I felt so sad that he was given this information without any advice or support on how to address it. Naturally we went on to discuss this.  

Yesterday a training participant described how she heard a medical consultant at a conference say that all NHS staff who are overweight and smoke should be sacked. To be honest, I initially expressed disbelief because apparently this consultant was at the launch of a strategy which is all about promoting healthy lifestyles and also about supporting employees to make healthier choices. 

Clearly, the majority of the population take part in one or more 'unhealthy behaviour/s' (The Kings Fund recently raised awareness of 'clustering of unhealthy behaviours') and support for employees is as important as support for 'the public' (interchangeable groups surely). Research has shown that people want help to make positive lifestyle choices. 


I have to say I respect health professionals. I'm amazed by their commitment, dedication and hard-work. Doctors, nurses, health support workers - ALL. But I think that some individuals definitely need to think about their communication style and to stop passing judgement on others. We're all living in a world where making healthy choices is NOT easy. And the idea is to support and encourage individuals...not to pass judgement, belittle or make feel crap. Why would anyone do that? 

Yet, it is clear that some health professionals are passing judgement based on perception of social background and lack of  knowledge in relation to health behaviours. I remember advising a GP friend not to skip breakfast he retorted 'that advice is for the common people.' Initially puzzling yet, this morning, an article in the Times highlighted that yes, it is is true, some health professionals are just not very good at communicating sensitively and also unaware of how to simplify complex information.  

Funnily enough (and this is what has prompted me to blog this morning) NHS satire 'Polyoaks' on BBC Radio 4  highlights exactly how NOT to have a conversation with patients/clients. Perhaps I'll use this at future training days. At the beginning of episode 5, the GP rudely tells a young  man he is fat and needs to get on and do something about it. 

As for the GP friend he was diagnosed with heart disease and cancer a year later and now we're constantly having discussions about food and health. I believe he is passing this info onto his patients in a sensitive manner! I also encouraged him to read The Spirit Level which clearly describes the multiple factors that influence lifestyle choice and actually changed his attitude!  



Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Fri, 07 Dec 2012 06:34:19 -0500
Where does nutrition fit into the new NHS? Where does nutrition fit into the new NHS?

In the nineties and noughties, nutritionists developed,delivered and co-ordinated the following:

  • Food-in-Schools (breakfast clubs, healthier vending, healthier catering, curriculum links, water)
  • Child obesity interventions (local and 'franchises' - MEND, GOALs etc)
  • Adult weight management (various)
  • Support for patients with specific health conditions e.g. CHD and diabetes
  • Culturally sensitive food for health promotion 
  • Promoting government campaigns e.g. 5-a-day, Change for Life, Healthy Start
  • Early years nutrition including support for mothers and staff in early years' centres
  • Training a variety of public sector workers including nurses, school staff, care home workers
  • Setting up and managing food access projects including urban agriculture and support for local convenience stores 
  • National Child Measurment Programme 
  • Food and health promotion events and activities in public settings
  • Healthier catering in public sector settings and supporting community organisations
The programmes were funded by public health directorates based in Primary Care Trusts and regional Department of Health. 

The New NHS

The new public health system will have a new national delivery organisation known as Public Health England. Along with the NHS Commissioning Board, the national and regional representation of these organisations will have health commissioning responsibilities and these will need to be taken into account when trying to map out services available to support the public. 
At a local level, Health and Wellbeing boards set targets which may include e.g. reducing smoking rates, reducing overweight/obesity, improving mental health and wellbeing, reducing alcohol related hospital admissions and reducing healthy inequality gaps. These targets are included in the Public Health Outcomes Framework (domain 2 - health improvement and domain 4 - increased life expectancy) and can also be linked to the NHS Outcomes framework. The clinical commissioning groups will also be involved in delivering some cross cutting topics such as breast feeing uptake and smoking in pregnancy.

But who is responsbile for commissioning public health nutrition services?

Most people agree that chronic disease prevention is ia priority for the NHS, yet, it isn't clear how prevention programmes will be commissioned and delivered. At the moment, health improvement teams are trying to justify inclusion into the new local authority public health structures but who is responsible for making this decision and are we providing enough information about the kind of services we offer. Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to speak to my networks to find answers to the following...

What do commissioners need to know about nutrition in order to understand what services to offer to the public? 

What additional information do we need to provide to be taken seriously? 

....If you are a nutritionist and would like to discuss, please contact me on or 07990660055.





Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Fri, 07 Dec 2012 05:40:02 -0500
Is Five-a-Day really enough? Is Five - a - day really enough? 

Five is actually the minimum recommended number of daily portions in the US. Health professionals there say eating more is beneficial for health. 5 -a- day in the UK is based on our food culture 'there must be a balance between what is healthy for the British people and what is feasible'DH consultant quoted in the Guardian

The Danes aim for 6, the French aim for 10 and the Japanese aim for seventeen! 5 is chosen by a number of countries as 'the nutrients included in 400 g of fruit and vegetables' is likely to be effective at protecting the population against chronic disease such as obesity and diabetes. Personally, I try and adopt the US message - aim for five and go for more if possible. There are a few recipes I know which include at least four portions in one meal which helps. The Japanese number of portions is more but their portion size is slightly smaller than ours (50 g versus 80 g). 

Are smoothies really all they are cracked up to be? 

Smoothies can count as up to two portions a day (Innocent brand). Smoothies are more nutritious than high sugar carbonated drinks and fruit flavoured drinks (which don't really contain that much fruit at all) BUT consumers need to be aware that preparation of some smoothies will result in loss of fibre and increase sugar availability. For this reason, 

  • Dentists recommend consuming fruit and fruit drinks as part of a meal (fruits contain natural sugar which can promote acid erosion)
  • Pure juices and some smoothies need to be diluted for young children to protect their teeth and should only be consumed as part of a meal. 
Nutritionists are currently studying the effect of fluid versus solid on appetite regulation. Drinks used to replace meals may not be very good at keeping us feeling fuller for longer.

Fruit versus Veg

 I spoke to Professor Janice Thompson (Public Health Nutrition and Exercise, Birmingham University) who suggests that like Japan we should introduce guidance around the amount of veg versus fruit we should eat . Janice says people should attempt to consume 3 out of 5 portions from vegetables and 2 from fruit sources to manage the 'sugar' problem and introduce diversity 

The Five - a -day challenge

Despite my passion for food and my title 'registered nutritionist' even I find it a challenge to consume five-a-day without careful meal planning and preparation. I've figured out a few simple recipes that I alternate on a daily basis that include at least four portions in one meal and we will post this in the coming weeks (December 2012). I try and eat at least one main meal at home so that I don't need to rely on fast food or convenience food which is typically poor in veg/fruit.  

Why do we need Five-a-day?

What counts as your Five-a-day?

Read More]]> (Shaleen Meelu) General Fri, 23 Nov 2012 09:43:55 -0500