Question Time with Lucy Williamson
Lucy Williamson, Ambassador & Nutritionist, Love British Food
Lucy is a Registered Nutritionist with a Masters’ degree from King’s College, London, working to inform and inspire better health for all. Fascinated by food, sharing nutrition knowledge is her passion! Previously a Vet and with a teenage family of her own, she understands the need for practical, evidence-based nutrition advice amid busy family lives. Her Nutrition Consultancy aims to promote happier health by sharing an understanding of sustainable, good food choices amid confusing ‘healthy eating’ media messages. Lucy is a Visiting Lecturer in Nutrition at Hertfordshire University, engages with schools, parents and professionals to promote nutrition science, offers personalised nutrition and through her Food LINKS initiative, provides evidence-based nutrition support for British food producers keen to create deeper audience connections with a sustainable focus.
We had a quick chat with Lucy to find out more:
When did you decide you wanted to be a vet and why?
When I was 11 years old! I loved the idea of being a Vet - working outdoors, loving animals, being connected to the countryside. I was also determined not to be discouraged by less than enthusiastic careers advice suggesting it might be too hard...
You obviously loved your job, what made you switch to food and nutrition when returning to work?
Yes, it was a really hard decision. I always had a keen interest in nutrition and used it as much as I could in veterinary medicine. Having children made me enquire more about good food choices and I wanted to know the science of nutrition rather than be tempted by food trends. I also became increasingly interested in human health and realised the need for nutrition as preventative medicine. Now I’m passionate about sharing nutrition science amid so much confusion around nutrition. I just feel fortunate to have taken the chance to let my career evolve - Veterinary Medicine provided a great springboard for me.
Do you think being a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine gives you better grounding to talk about nutrition and food?
Definitely! It’s a great foundation in many areas of nutrition - particularly in promoting the benefits of dairy and beef in our diet. As a Nutritionist, I understand the importance of increased plant-based eating, but I firmly believe that food from animal sources play a very important role in our long term health too. It also gives me a good background in animal welfare and our ecosystems, which helps to validate my knowledge in today’s climate of sustainable food choices.
What made you become involved in Love British Food and British Food Fortnight?
I was drawn to your website by the vibrant British theme! Also I saw first hand the devastation caused to our British farmers by the last Foot and Mouth outbreak so I was keen to be involved with increasing public awareness of our great British produce. Our farmers work tirelessly to produce some of the best quality produce in the world with exceptionally high animal welfare standards.
You became an ambassador in 2017, what do you think you bring to the campaign and what are you keen to achieve in your role?
I hope I bring a practical and informed approach to give clarity on the nutritional benefits of seasonal, British food. I hope to encourage our younger generation to understand food provenance and the importance of being connected with their land. I’m also delighted to work with food producers in promoting the health benefits of their products.
Why is it so important we all buy British and support the British Food and Farming industry?
I think with all the uncertainty around Brexit, it’s now more important than ever to embrace our fantastic British produce - more support for our farmers allows them to diversify towards more sustainable production; good for us and good for our planet! Buying British also means choosing seasonal produce at its most bountiful and most nutrient-rich; often cheaper too and certainly tastier!
What 3 things can we do to support British Food Fortnight?
Encourage even more schools to get involved - there’s a wave of enthusiasm now from the next generation and we need to embrace it.
Reach out to our Millennials, our savvy consumers who are keen to support ethically sourced, sustainable British food.
Use Farm Schools as another vehicle to promote Love British Food.
As a mum how do you encourage your children to take an interest in the environment and where are food comes from? In one of your blogs you talked about hiking the Ridgeway National Trail so did you manage to taste some local delights en route?
Having a dog helps! We get out together whatever the weather and that gives us time for family chats as well as encouraging (I hope!) a love of the environment. Yes we hiked the entire 90 miles of The Ridgeway National Trail last summer in over 30 degrees! We certainly came across many Farm Shops, Cafes and Inns with fabulous (and much needed) local food - we cooked up our own quite a bit of the time too - how many mothers carry a head of British broccoli in their backpack?!
What is your favourite British ingredient?
Milk! It’s had so much bad press over the years and yet it’s a wonderful source of valuable nutrients, with dairy welfare standards among the best in the world. You can do so much with it too - make yogurt, bake with it, ferment it into kefir, enjoy cheese etc and with my Dutch (milk drinking) heritage, I happen to believe that dairy really benefits growth - its calcium is absorbed better than any other food source.
What is your favourite British season for food?
Autumn - nothing better than cosying up with a homemade apple pie!
As a Nutritionist what ingredient do you recommend to the most people to include in their diet
Fibre! Public Health England now recommend we eat twice as much as we do - 30g/day if possible. It’s pivotal in our long term health and we now know from rapidly growing research that its key role is in providing energy for our gut bacteria. They are associated with so many health benefits from optimising our immune system, protecting us against bowel cancer, Type 2 Diabetes and influencing our mental health to name just a few. Probably the subject of another interview!
What nutrients are hard for us to get into our everyday diet and how can we do that with British Food.
Iodine - there’s far less in our environment now so our levels are getting lower. It’s really important in growth and development, particularly during pregnancy for brain development of the developing baby. Milk is an excellent source! One glass a day provides 50% of our daily intake.
Omega 3 - by far the best source is fish - we can get it from some plant sources like flaxseed and rapeseed oil which are great for may reasons, but the Omega 3 in fish contains far higher quantities of particular types of Omega 3 which are known to be important for their anti inflammatory roles and in protecting against mental illness.
You have been working a lot with schools, how do you go about encouraging children to try new foods and be interested in where their food comes from?
Having teenagers of my own helps - it’s about connecting with them and understanding the challenges they face in today’s media-driven world. Generally they’re a generation who are keen on environmental issues so I often promote healthy foods as the sustainable ones too. Quizzes are always popular, but above all, I try to give clarity where there’s often confusion and pass on helpful information which they may not be aware of; spinach contains iron but without Vitamin C it can’t be absorbed. (unlike iron in meat) Short, sharp facts are always good. I would also like to see the new concept of Farm Schools being embraced as a way of increasing food provenance and an appreciation of our land.