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Health and Nutrition

M&S Health & Nutrition

Ask Our Nutritionist

Ask Our Nutritionist

Email Our Nutritionist

There is lots of nutrition and healthy eating information available but sometimes we all need some extra guidance to help us make healthy choices to suit our individual needs. That's why you can email us any nutrition related questions that you have to our nutritionist.
Email us at nutrition@marks-and-spencer.com or simply click the link below.

If you have any product specific comments please follow this link to contact our customer services team

Previously Answered Questions



Q. I want to start being more active but I work in an office every day and don't feel like going to the gym by the time I get home. What can I do?

A. Being active is a really important part of a balanced lifestyle. Not only can it help maintain a healthy weight, it can help you feel more energetic, may help manage stress and can reduce your risk of diet related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.

We're advised to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 times a week. But you don't have to go to the gym to be active. Gardening, walking, cycling, ironing and cleaning can all contribute to our daily activity.

Small changes are the key

Making small changes to your daily routine can make considerable differences to the amount of exercise you do. For example:

  • Go for a brisk walk at lunch time
  • Take the stairs not the lift
  • Park your car further away from the exit
  • Go and find colleagues when you need to speak to them instead of emailing
  • Cycle to work (if it's not too far)
  • Go for a family walk at the weekends

Q. How do I lower my cholesterol level through my diet?

A. A healthy diet and active lifestyle are important factors for lowering cholesterol levels; raised cholesterol can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

The amount of saturated fat in our diet can be a major contributor to cholesterol levels. Saturated fat can be typically found in foods such as fatty cuts of meat, pastry products, cakes, biscuits, butter and full fat dairy products. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and instead replace some of this fat with more unsaturated fats, which can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Foods that are good sources of unsaturated fats include oily fish, vegetable oils (such as olive oil), nuts, seeds and avocados.

Soluble fibre can also help to reduce cholesterol levels and can be found in a variety of foods such as oats, peas, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables. So try to include more of these foods in your diet. Other foods that may help to reduce cholesterol levels include foods that contain plant stanols and sterols, which are often found in dairy based shot drinks or margarines.

Q. I don't really like any oily fish but want to make sure I still get enough omega 3. What are the other sources of omega 3?

A. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that our body cannot make, so we need to obtain it from our diet. This type of fat is important in preventing heart disease and for proper functioning of the nervous system.

Oily fish is the best source of omega 3 but other sources include some oils (rapeseed, linseed and soya oils), walnuts, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, wholegrain cereals and enriched food products, such as omega 3 milk.

Omega 3 from plant based sources have to be converted by our bodies so we need to eat more of these foods. If you are struggling to obtain sufficient omega 3 from your diet you may wish to take omega 3 supplements, wish can be based on fish oils or algal sources.

Q. I have recently been diagnosed with Coeliac's disease and I am struggling to find foods that are suitable for me. Do you have anything that can help?

A. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body mounts an immune response to gluten from the diet. If left untreated, this can result in damage to the small intestine and can result in a variety of symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and fatigue. Although there is no cure for Coeliac disease, a diet that does not contain gluten can manage symptoms and treat damage to the small intestine.

Gluten is a protein that can be found in wheat, rye, barley and some types of oats and should be excluded from the diet. Instead these grains can be replaced with foods that either naturally do not contain gluten (such as potatoes, rice, corn, quinoa, and buckwheat) or have been specially developed to be free from gluten (such as gluten free flours and breads).

Our Made Without Wheat range has been specially developed to be free from gluten and offers a selection of breads, rolls, cakes and muffins and now also includes two gluten free sandwiches. Each product within this range displays our gluten free logo which can also be found on many other products in our stores, such as sausages, burgers and desserts.

We can also provide a list of our products that do not contain gluten to help you find products that are suitable for your diet.

Q. I really don't like drinking water but worry that drinking squash each day isn't good for me?

A.Water is essential for normal functioning of our bodies and can be obtained from most fluids we drink each day (with the exception of strong alcoholic drinks). The amount of fluids we need can vary depending on many factors such as the weather, our level of activity and age, however we should try to consume around 6-8 glasses a day (1.2litres). This doesn't have to be water; diluted fruit juices, diluted squashes, semi-skimmed milk and weak teas or coffee can all contribute. Adding small amounts of fruit squash or fruit juice to your water can be a good option, especially if it helps you to drink sufficient amounts of fluids each day.

Fruits squash or fruit juice can provide additional sugar in your diet, so just remember to stay within your recommended daily intake of sugar (90g for women and 120g for men). Good dental hygiene with daily brushing will also help to keep your teeth healthy too.

Q. I'm often hungry between meals and find myself snacking on crisps and biscuits as they're quick and easy but I'm not sure if this is very healthy?

A. Snacking can be included as part of a healthy balanced diet, just remember to include them in your daily calorie intake. If you find you're hungry between meals then snacking can help to maintain your energy levels and it can also be a useful way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Crisps, biscuits and cakes can often be popular snacks however they can be higher in salt, sugar and fat so should be only be eaten on occasion. Instead, why not try some of these healthier snacking options below:

  • Whole fruit (apple, banana, peach, pear etc)
  • Nuts (try to chose mainly blanched or plain roasted variety with no added salt or sugar)
  • Dried fruit - such as cranberries, raisins, apricots
  • Vegetable batons - such as carrots and peppers
  • Oat cakes with houmous
  • Plain popcorn
  • Toasted teacake
  • Low fat yogurt

We also have a range of portion controlled snacks, some of which are healthier options (easily identified by our Eat Well logo) and others which are more indulgent options. These products are either less than 150 calories or less than 100 calories each so can make the perfect calorie controlled snack between a meal.

Q: I'm a school teacher and don't get much time to eat during the day. I often miss breakfasts in the mornings and don't always have time to have a proper lunch so I find myself buying a chocolate bar on the way home instead! I'm bored of sandwiches but don't have time to make a different lunch every day. Can you help?

A. Busy working days and tired evenings can make it quite difficult to follow a healthy balanced diet. Not eating properly during the day can often result in your body craving quick energy fixes, such as chocolate, on your way home.

It's a well used saying but it has a lot of truth in it that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the energy your body needs after the overnight fast and can help to kick start your day. If you don't feel like you can eat something too early then try to have something when you get to work such as a pot of instant porridge (you just need to add water), a cereal bar, banana or a pot of yogurt with granola. Porridge is a particularly good breakfast option as the oats contain slow releasing energy that can help to keep you feeling full.

In terms of quick lunch solutions, try making slightly more for dinner so the leftovers can be saved for lunch or preparing food over the weekend that can be stored or frozen for lunches during the week (such as soups, casseroles or pasta salads). Below are some healthy lunch ideas:

  • Soup (make in batches and freeze in individual containers) - add pulses (such as kidney beans, pearl barley, pinto beans etc), potatoes, noodles or pasta and blend to help to keep you feeling full.
  • Filled wholemeal pitta breads - fill with a selection of cold lean meats (chicken, turkey or occasionally ham) with salad and houmous.
  • Pasta or rice salad: small pasta shapes mixed with a selection of chopped vegetables, with flaked smoked salmon/mackerel or tuna or lean meat.
  • Wraps: Used wholegrain or seeded wraps with a selection of fillings (lean meat, fish, salad, vegetables, houmous, pesto etc)

Small healthy snacks that you can eat when time allows can help to keep you going between your meals if you're hungry, e.g. oatcakes, handful of dried fruit and nuts, rice cakes, low fat yogurt, popcorn or fresh fruit.

Q: I will be entertaining my family over the Christmas period and my Aunt has Coeliac Disease and I'm struggling to find alternatives for her - can you help?

A. We have a wide selection of Christmas products that are gluten free including mince pies, Christmas cake, sausages, stuffings and stuffed joints so your Aunt can enjoy all her festive favourites without having to worry about the ingredients. Each of these products will have our gluten free logo on pack so are easy to identify. To download a complete list of our gluten free Christmas products, please click here.

We also have our 'Made Without Wheat' range of gluten free bakery products which has been specially developed to be gluten free and includes bread, cakes, pizza bases, crumpets, sandwiches and sweet treats.

Q: I'm slightly overweight but mainly want to just start eating a better diet but there's so much information out there I'm not sure where to start!

A. A healthy balanced diet doesn't have to complicated or boring, it's all about balance and variety. Below are some simple steps to start you off:

  • Always eat breakfast - after the overnight fast, breakfast provides the energy to start your day and is an important source of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Try different options to keep up your interest such as toasted crumpets with low fat spread, high fibre cereal with semi-skimmed milk, low fat yogurt topped with fresh or dried fruit, or wholegrain toast with low fat spread.
  • At least five portions of fruits and vegetables - include different varieties of fruits and vegetables of different colours and shapes - eat a rainbow! Fresh, canned, frozen and dried can all contribute.
  • Plenty of starchy carbohydrates choosing wholegrain varieties whenever possible (such as brown pasta, brown rice and wholegrain cereals).
  • Lean protein sources such as lean meat, fish and pulses (peas, beans and lentils). Try to have at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish (such as salmon, trout, mackerel or fresh tuna).
  • Include lower fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed milk and low fat yogurt. Try to include 2-3 portions a day - these are an important source of calcium for strong and healthy teeth and bones.
  • You can still include small amounts of foods that are higher in fats, sugars and salt (such as biscuits, crisps and cakes) - just enjoy these in smaller quantities on occasion.
  • Plenty of fluids - water is best but weak teas, coffees and diluted fruit juices can all contribute.

Regular physical activity is another important part of a healthy lifestyle as it can help to maintain energy balance and it has also been associated with improvements in overall health and can help to boost mood. Being active doesn't have to involve joining the gym - any activity that raises your heart beat and gets your feeling warmer can count - such as walking to the shops, cycling, house work, swimming or gardening. Try to aim for at least 2 ½ hours of activity over the week - this doesn't have to be done all at once, instead it can be split up into 10 minutes slots throughout each day.

To find out more about healthy eating please visit our health website on the link below: http://health.marksandspencer.com/

Q: I have low iron levels but I also have Coeliac Disease and worried that the gluten free breads contain more phytic acid which will prevent me absorbing enough iron.

A. Our gluten free breads don't contain any phytic acid as an ingredient, however phytic acid does occurs naturally in many plant foods especially grains and seeds. There are a number of other simple steps you can take to help increase the amount of iron in your diet, take a look at the points below.

Try to include more iron rich foods in your diet each day such as:

  • Lean cuts of red meat,
  • Poultry,
  • Beans,
  • Nuts,
  • Gluten free fortified breakfast cereals,
  • Dark green leafy vegetables.

Iron from animal sources is easier for our body to absorb than from plant sources. This is because of the presence of plant components such as phytates, which can bind non-meat iron and reduce absorption. Nevertheless, vitamin C, when eaten at the same time, can help our body to absorb iron, particularly from non-meat sources. So try to include more vitamin C rich foods with your meals, such as a glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal or red pepper and broccoli with your dinner.

Q: I tend to get most of my 5-a-day from fruit and am worried that this may mean I'm eating too much sugar?

A. Fruit does contain natural sugars which will contribute to your daily sugar intake. Fruit and vegetables are an important part of your diet each day, providing many vitamins, minerals as well as some fibre and we should aim to have at least five portions each day. Vegetables tend to be more nutrient dense providing more vitamins and minerals and less sugar than fruits so it is best to aim for 3 portions of vegetables and 2 of fruit each day. Swapping some fruit portions for vegetables instead may help to reduce your sugar intake as well as limiting other foods that are typically high in sugar such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets, carbonated drinks and squashes.

Q: I am trying to record the calories I consume each day and wanted to ask whether the nutrition information provided on your salads includes the dressings in the individual pots or not?

A. Where ever possible, we aim to provide nutrition information for a product as it would be eaten, so for salads this would include the dressing provided and for dry goods such as rice or pasta, nutrition information would be provided for the cooked product rather than the raw version.