Five energy-boosting food tips

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

shutterstock_174553253 woman jumping over sunset Mar15There is so much written in the ‘popular press’ about the ‘balanced diet’ but what does this actually mean?

As with clothes, it’s certainly not ‘one size fits all’.   We’re all individuals with our own unique body bio-chemistry.  However, there are a few guidelines which will go some way towards achieving a balance, and which, most importantly, will keep energy levels sustained throughout the day.

Here’s our favourite five!

shutterstock_95067928 carbs Apr15Tip 1 – Eat slow release carbohydrates

In very simple terms, all food is eventually turned into glucose, the body’s main fuel, but it is particularly needed for the brain.  However, some foods, especially white bread, white pasta and white rice, together with sugary cakes and biscuits are turned into glucose, quickly producing a ‘sugar high’.  However, every high brings a low; this manifests itself as low energy, low mood, irritability and poor concentration.

Conversely, eating foods such as oats, beans, brown rice and wholewheat bread and pasta, which are broken down into glucose much slower, will ensure energy levels are sustained throughout the day.  Try to avoid the ‘white’ and stick to ‘brown’ foods as much as possible!

Tip 2 – Eat protein at each mealshutterstock_221308501 antioxidant crate of fruit Apr15

Protein is not just for body builders!  Protein is essential for producing hormones, maintaining a strong skeletal frame and general body repair.  Additionally, collagen which is the body’s main structural protein also gives the face its shape and, therefore, helps to keep those wrinkles at bay!

An average diet should contain around 80 g of protein daily.   This means eating some protein at every meal.  Good sources are white or oily fish, chicken or turkey, lean meat, eggs or dairy products.  For vegetarians, soya-based foods, beans, tofu, quinoa or lentils all provide good amounts of protein.  However, do bear in mind, if you’re vegetarian, that you need to be combining grains and beans to obtain the right balance of protein, although these don’t need to be eaten in the same meal.

For those that suffer the mid-afternoon energy slump, eating some protein at lunchtime will help keep you ‘wide-eyed’ through the rest of the day.  Always remember that it’s protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

shutterstock_153409043 veg in sieve apr15Tip 3 – Aim for your ‘five a day’

We hear it said often but why is it so important?  The reasons are many and varied.  However, regardless of anything, fruits, and especially vegetables, are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available.  Many are packed with vitamin C, especially red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and citrus fruits, but, most importantly green leafy vegetables are particularly high in minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.

Think of each meal as an opportunity for getting more nutrients into the diet.  Additionally, there is a wealth of antioxidants in all fruits and vegetables which help protect the body against the daily onslaught of free radicals.  And, best of all, they taste great!  Prepare and roast a tray full of vegetables which you can add to dishes or eat cold for a healthy lunch.

Tip 4 – Start the day right!shutterstock_227387746 eggs breakfast Apr15

There’s no getting away from it!  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  After a night of ‘fasting’, blood sugar levels are low.  The body and, most importantly, the brain need fuel.  Many people will reach for a banana or a cereal bar but these will just produce a sugar rush and then an energy low.  Equally, you’ll be hungry again in about an hour so you will start grazing; this will set up a pattern for an energy rollercoaster throughout the day.

It is much better to start the day right, with a good balanced breakfast, which includes some protein.  A bowl of porridge, which contains slow-release carbohydrates from the oats with a dessertspoon of plain soya yoghurt and some berries or, alternatively, poached eggs on whole meal toast, are both great options and will keep you feeling fuller for longer.  Adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to your porridge will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, and more importantly, will lessen any sugar cravings.

shutterstock_242540662 eat regularly Apr15Tip 5 – Eat at regular intervals

The body likes to know that it’s going to be fed at regular times throughout the day.  Missing meals, going on low-calorie diets and eating at erratic times of the day, especially after 8 pm in the evening, will encourage weight gain.  This is because the body has an innate drive to survive.  Any sense of starvation and it will quickly start to store fat.

The best advice is not to go for longer than three to four hours without food to further ensure that your energy levels remain stable throughout the day.  If you know that it’s going to be difficult to eat at lunchtime, as a suggestion, why not boil up some quinoa – a great source of protein – the night before and just add some salad vegetables, together with an avocado to fill the lunchtime void.

As with all things in life, it’s all about balance!  However, making some simple changes to your diet, can have some really positive effects on your energy levels!


Keep on laughing: 5 ways to hold back the years.

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

shutterstock_163782449 two women laughing Apr15

William Shakespeare once famously said, “With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come”!  One can assume that he meant the more you laugh, the longer you’ll live.

If only it were that simple!  However, it is generally accepted that positive and happy people tend to be healthier and, therefore live longer.  There are some definite, physiological changes that happen when we laugh; laughing triggers the release of the feel-good endorphins which encourage feelings of happiness.  Additionally, secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol, is reduced which helps to minimise any pain we’re experiencing – and on-going pain can makes us look and feel older.

Laughing a lot may be one of the keys to living longer but what we put into our bodies can also hold the key to a long and healthy life.

Here are our top five anti-aging tips to set you on the path to looking and feeling younger!

shutterstock_221308501 omega 3 foods Apr15Tip One: Eat Smart Fats

Becoming more forgetful doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of the aging process.  Indeed, many people continue with high-powered jobs, or mentally challenging hobbies well into old age.

It’s a case of use it or lose it – keeping your brain stimulated is really important.  And feeding it with essential fats also helps.  Your brain is actually the fattest organ in the body, boasting a whopping 60% of all body fats, with a large percentage being essential fats or the omega 3’s.  And it is these smart fats which may be involved in encoding memories.

It makes sense, therefore, to ensure you’re eating sufficient omega 3’s in your diet every day if you can, such as salmon and mackerel. If you’re vegetarian, or you don’t like fish, make sure you’re eating nuts, particularly almonds, and seeds. You can also take a supplement with around 1000 mg of fish oil, or the vegetarian equivalent flaxseed, every day to give your brain a boost.

shutterstock_268257674 antioxidants crate Apr15Tip Two: Stop the Rust

Whilst oxygen is, literally, essential for life, it is also responsible for the aging process.  Why does a car rust or an apple go brown when exposed to the air?  It’s all down to oxygen and this is why the body requires antioxidants to protect itself from the aging process.

The body houses powerful antioxidant systems to help combat free radicals, generated by oxygen.  However, additional antioxidants are provided by the foods we eat, particularly fruits and vegetables.

The more colourful fruits and vegetables are especially potent and provide an abundance of antioxidant nutrients.  Make sure you include some berries (the strawberry season is nearly upon us!), broccoli, kale, butternut squash, peas, carrots – the list is endless – everyday.  How many days a week can you exceed the recommended five?  Why not aim for nearer 10 for an even greater antioxidant hit!

shutterstock_249400753 50+ woman walking in park Apr15Tip Three: Keep Physically Active

Keeping physically active is as important as keeping mentally active!  However, many people find their joints become less flexible and more painful as they get older, therefore causing them to be less active – it’s ‘chicken and egg’.

However, you don’t need to spend hours in the gym or pounding the pavements; taking a brisk walk – at least 20 minutes daily – will elevate your heart rate and get the blood moving around the body.  This in turn helps to stimulate the immune system, so hopefully you’ll get less colds, and it will help maintain a well oxygenated supply of blood to the brain.

If you’re struggling with aching joints or muscles or you find that gardening is becoming too uncomfortable, then the herb Devil’s Claw, which is readily available in health food stores, is a great anti-inflammatory and can help to ease any pain you are experiencing.

shutterstock_129300599 woman saying stop Apr15Tip Four: Stop the Wrinkles

The most obvious outward sign of aging is wrinkling skin – something we all dread!  However, your skin is primarily a reflection of what’s within.  Therefore, you can prevent some of those dreaded wrinkles by eating some of the right foods.

Vitamin C, the workhorse of the vitamin community, is important for collagen production.  Collagen is the body’s most abundant protein and is an essential part of its structure, and especially your skin.  Unfortunately, the production of collagen declines after the age of 30, so if you want to stop the wrinkles you need to take steps to combat this effect.

Whilst a great facial cleansing and moisturising routine is essential, anti-ageing from the inside also plays a significant role on how your skin looks on the outside. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers and green vegetables, so make sure they are included in your daily diet.  Additionally, you can supplement collagen itself in tablet or powder form, alongside vitamin C, as a daily top up.

shutterstock_229899757 woman sleeping on pillow Apr15Tip Five: Sleep More

Easier said than done right?  It is estimated that as much as 60% of the British population are not getting enough sleep.  Of course, we all differ in terms of our sleep needs but achieving seven to eight hours a night seems to best suit most people.

There are many different sleep remedies.  However, many people find that putting some lavender oil on the pillow or feet before bedtime can be really beneficial.  Additionally, foods which contain the amino acid ‘tryptophan’, which helps to make melatonin – our sleep inducing hormone – are best eaten in the evening. These include fish, turkey, cottage cheese, avocados and oats.  Interestingly, bananas are the best sleep-inducing foods.  And as always, avoid caffeinated drinks and instead enjoy some camomile tea before bedtime.

So age more gracefully by integrating these top tips into your everyday life. But whatever you do – remember to keep on laughing!

Five food swaps your body will love!

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyershutterstock_237555907 cake v apple with woman Apr15

How many times have you heard the expression ‘think outside the box’? This can be related to many things in life but specifically when it comes to making food choices.  We are all tempted to eat the ‘wrong’ food at times; this may be a sugary treat or a high fat meal.  However, did you know that by making some different food choices, you can eat something much healthier and so much tastier?

Here are our five delicious food swap suggestions:

SWAP 1 – Chips for Sweet Potato Wedgesshutterstock_162306056 sweet potato wedges Apr15

There’s not many of us who haven’t been tempted by a bowl of good old fashioned chips at some point in time.   However, the sweet potato is a much healthier and tastier option, and technically it’s not even a potato!

A baked, medium sized sweet potato contains 438% of your daily value of vitamin A, which supports the immune system, your eyesight and skin. It also provides 37% of your vitamin C requirements – another must-have for your immune system.  Sweet potatoes also pack more than double the fibre of ‘normal’ potatoes.

Prepare and peel them just like potatoes, cut them into wedges, toss them in a little salt and rosemary, pour over a little olive oil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.  They’re delicious, and only deliver around five grams of fat per serving. What’s not to like!

SWAP 2 – Ice Cream for Frozen Bananasshutterstock_159811616 frozen banana Apr15

A serving of traditional Cornish dairy ice cream contains around seven grams of fat per scoop, of which almost five grams is saturated fat. We should be aiming to eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.  However, by popping a humble banana into the freezer, it can be transformed into a delightfully tasty and satisfyingly healthy dessert!

Bananas are very low in saturated fat, and high in fibre, potassium and vitamin B6.  Plus, people with allergies or intolerances to dairy can still enjoy this alternative, creamy-tasting dessert.

Put the frozen banana through a blender, for a lovely, smooth texture, and then scoop the frozen banana into a bowl and squeeze a little lime juice over the top.  Delicious!

shutterstock_183622835 strawberry smoothie Apr15SWAP 3 – Milk Shakes for Smoothies

A strawberry milkshake can pack up to 11 grams of fat per serving and a whopping 379 calories – and there’s not a fresh strawberry in sight!  So, why not swap it for a healthy smoothie?  You can use frozen fruit for convenience and mix it up to suit your particular favourites.

Why not blend together some mixed berries, frozen mango, banana and avocado.  Add some almond milk, a spoonful of natural soya yoghurt and some ground flaxseeds, and you’ve got yourself an amazing ‘power’ breakfast, with some sustaining protein to keep you going through the morning.  The flaxseeds provide some added fibre, but most importantly, some essential omega 3 fatty acids for great skin and sharp brain function.

SWAP 4 – Potato Crisps for Grilled Curly Kaleshutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Grilled curly kale, sprinkled with just a little salt, is a wonderfully healthy snack or addition to your meal.  Kale, deservedly, often appears on the list of superfoods.  Its nutritional profile is hard to beat; it is high in vitamins K, C and A, and is also a great source of lutein (an antioxidant which keeps the eyes healthy), folate (a B vitamin which is needed in pregnancy) and the mineral manganese (which is great for joints).

It is all too easy to forget that green leafy vegetables, and particularly kale, can provide as much as 120mg per portion of calcium; you don’t need to be drinking glasses of milk to get your daily quota!  All you need to do is sprinkle the washed kale with a little salt and put under the grill for a few minutes.  You’ll have a delicious snack or ‘side’ with almost zero calories and no fat!

shutterstock_101162371 tuna burger Apr15SWAP 5 – Beef Burgers for Tuna Burgers

Many people resist eating fish because they don’t like the taste and worry it’s not as filling. However, fish has nearly the same amino acid or protein content as meat, which will keep you sustained for longer, and also provides a welcome break for your digestive system. 

Meat is notoriously difficult to digest because of it tough, fibrous texture, and lamb, in particular, is intrinsically fatty, which can also be challenging for the digestion.

Why not swap the meat for fresh or tinned tuna: mix with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and coriander, round into traditional burger shapes and then lightly fry in olive oil for around one minute per side.  If you’re using the canned variety, make sure you’re choosing tuna in water, rather than oil, as this contains less saturated fat but more of the healthy and essential omega 3’s.

So, as you can see, healthy food swaps don’t have to be dull: they can be fun, flavoursome and most of all your body will be so glad of all those extra nutrients!



We can become a healthier nation: World Health Day 2015

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

shutterstock_260850131 world health day Apr15

Today is World Health Day.

It marks an important day in the World Health Organisation (WHO) calendar as it provides a great opportunity to raise public awareness of health around a particular topic or agenda that needs focus.

This year’s ‘hot topic’ is food safety.  It’s very easy to forget to take simple measures in the kitchen to protect you and your family but with a little extra care, no-one needs to succumb!

It’s surprisingly easy to pick up a bacteria or parasite just from being less than fastidious about cleanliness in the kitchen.  And with the barbeque season coming up, many people may be at risk from eating contaminated food, particularly if it hasn’t been cooked thoroughly, or the food preparation has been less than hygienic.

Here are some simple tips general hygiene and cleanliness in the kitchen avoiding any ‘nasties’ from the WHO:

Five Keys to Safe Food

shutterstock_223786780 washing hands apr15Keep clean

Wash hands, particularly prior or after food preparation


shutterstock_216598042 colourful knives and fruits apr15Separate raw and cooked foods

Especially raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods and use different utensils and chopping boards for food preparation


shutterstock_125396864 meat with thermometer apr15Cook thoroughly

Be especially careful to cook through meat, poultry, eggs and seafood


shutterstock_127413191 fridge food apr15Keep food at safe temperatures

It should not be kept at room temperature for longer than two hours

shutterstock_153409043 veg in sieve apr15Use safe water and raw materials

Wash fruits and vegetables before use and select fresh and wholesome foods



Eating in Season: what to eat right now

The last point about selecting fresh and wholesome foods is also important.  Specifically, eating foods in season, perhaps from local farmer’s markets, may provide greater nutritional benefit because there have been no nutrients lost through excessive storage and, all those food miles that many have travelled.

shutterstock_253513240 watercress salad apr15Vegetables in season around this time of year are broccoli, specifically purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, watercress and spring onions.  Watercress in particular adds a peppery flavour to salads, is a classic soup ingredient, is great in juices and gives carrot-based drinks a lovely bite.  Watercress also packs a punch in terms of nutrient content providing high concentrations of vitamin C which helps support immune function and vitamin K needed for healthy bones.

So enjoying foods in season, particularly fruits and vegetables is important, and eating them raw, in salads or juicing is another great way of getting more nutrients into the diet.  We should all be aiming for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, which is not always easy to accommodate into people’s busy lives, but juicing is an excellent way of increasing fruit and vegetable intake, whilst retaining most of the nutrient content.  Why not whizz up a delicious ‘in season’ juice of one carrot, one to two green apples and four to five branches of broccoli florets?  Your liver will love it and so will your immune system!

So, try your best to keep your kitchen germ free as well as remembering to grab some foods of the season – happy eating!


Eggs, eggs, glorious eggs!

From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer


shutterstock_149414660 chocolate egg amongst hens eggs Mar15With the period of Lent coming to an end this Easter week, many people’s minds will be firmly fixed on eggs!

There are two reasons for this; firstly, eggs were frequently one of the foods not eaten in Medieval Europe during the 40 day period of Lent, and many people still remove them from their diet during this time.

Secondly, all chocolate lovers will happily be enjoying their Easter eggs on Sunday morning! Interestingly, many people probably don’t realise that the custom of eating chocolate eggs at Easter time was viewed as a symbol of new beginnings in the Christian church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, the humble egg (not the chocolate one!)  is frequently an important part of our daily diet, and for very good reason.

So, what is it about the nutrient content of an egg that makes it so special? shutterstock_241351633 egg, salmon and spinach Mar15

  • It is actually one of the most nutritious foods money can buy!  It contains the full range of amino acids that make up protein, meaning that its protein profile is complete.
  • Eggs are naturally rich in vitamins B2, B12 and D, plus the minerals selenium and iodine.
  • Around 9% of an egg is fat, which is found predominantly in the yolk, and is rich in the good omega 3 fats, mainly in the form of DHA.  This long-chain fatty acid supports brain function and vision.
  • Interestingly, the egg white contains no fat but delivers high quality protein making it a popular choice for people wanting to increase their protein intake.
  • They’re so versatile! Eggs aren’t just for breakfast and at around 70 calories each, they provide a low calorie food option which can be used in so many dishes, including pancakes, quiches, kedgeree or hard boiled in salad nicoise, just to name a few!

So, back to the chocolate egg variety! 

shutterstock_241773214 chick in chocolate egg Mar15For those that have given up chocolate for this period, Easter Sunday probably couldn’t come soon enough.  But why not try swapping to dark chocolate, with a high cocoa content.

It naturally contains high amounts of antioxidants, and is packed with trace minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Some research has even found it to be beneficial for blood pressure as certain compounds within dark chocolate relax the artery walls.  You also tend to eat less dark chocolate – it takes just a few squares to hit the spot – which also brings health benefits and equals less calories!

So with the period of Lent coming to an end, this is also a good time to adopt some sustainable lifestyle habits. shutterstock_112007606 woman star jump Mar15

Here are five top tips for people who want to do the best for their body but don’t want to live a life of denial!

Try to eat a rainbow diet.

This doesn’t need to be as hard as it sounds when you think about the abundance of colours, particularly in fruits and vegetables, from which to choose. Check your plate at every meal and make it as colourful as you can!

Drink six to eight glasses of water daily.

It’s a great habit to adopt and your skin, brain and figure will all benefit.  Your body will crave the water once it’s got used to having more and it will become an easy habit to adopt longer term.

Don’t beat yourself up!

If you’ve had a bad day and feel like you’ve eaten too much, drunk too much alcohol or made unhealthy food choices just acknowledge it and move on.  Tomorrow is another day!

Many people can live by the 80/20 rule.

That means try to make 80% of what you eat and drink as healthy and nutritious as possible, and the other 20% can be less so.  It’s all about balance – treats every now and then are an essential part of enjoying life!

Keep the body moving.

Try and take some exercise every day – even if it’s only walking around the block during your lunch break.  Ideally, try to exercise for at least 20 minutes every day.


So, enjoy the humble egg this Easter, in whatever form you choose, and after Lent think about how you can gain a bit more balance in your life through diet, nutrition and exercise.