Why eating in-season vegetables means extra nutrition

shutterstock_219462244 woman in garden holding carrot July15It is well known that fruit and vegetables play such an important part in any healthy, balanced diet. And by eating them when they’re in season, you are getting them at their very best – packed full of nutrients and extra fresh. Suzie Sawyer – Consultant Nutritionist – shares her three in-season vegetable winners with us.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Eating fruit and vegetables when they are in season is always best because you’re eating foods at the time nature intended:

  • The taste is always bettershutterstock_259019876 carrying a basket of veg July15
  • The nutrient profile will be higher, particularly with regards to Vitamin C
  • The growing season hasn’t been artificially enhanced, meaning you are eating produce at its natural best
  • It’s kinder to the planet – more environmentally friendly
  • They’re normally much better value

However, because there’s an abundance of fruits and vegetables all-year round, it’s not always easy to know what’s in season!

So, here are three winning vegetables, in season right now to give you an extra nutrition boost:

shutterstock_289838444 carrots with tops July15CRUNCHY CARROTS

Carrots always taste better when eaten in season.  Delicious cooked or raw, they really are a store-cupboard staple, with so many uses.  From a nutritional viewpoint, they’re an excellent source of Vitamin A (for the skin, immune system and good vision), potassium (great for the heart) and beta carotene.

Carotenes are a large group of fat-soluble compounds, many of which the body can transform into Vitamin A and this is particularly true of carrots.  Numerous population studies have demonstrated that a high intake of carotene-rich foods help protect the body from some of the more common degenerative diseases.

They’re also a great source of powerful antioxidants which are particularly beneficial in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Raw carrots make a great snack chopped up into batons and served with hummus or other dips – a lunch-box winner – and make a delicious side dish roasted in the oven with honey and soy sauce.

shutterstock_298717892 beetroot with tops July15BEAUTIFUL BEETROOT

Beetroot has earnt a reputation as a superfood in recent years, and has it has been found to help reduce blood pressure.  It is packed with nitrates which are turned into nitric oxide in the body; nitric oxide in turn relaxes the artery wall, thereby helping manage blood pressure.

Beetroot provides a great source of usable iron (good news for non-red meat eaters), together with magnesium (a relaxing mineral) and antioxidants, to help fight off those nasty free radicals.  It also contains betaine, which is particularly good for the liver and is why you’ll often find it included as part of a detoxification programme.

Beetroot has been found to increase exercise performance, primarily in people who were previously sedentary.  Because it helps to dilate blood vessels, it can also increase exercise endurance, as more oxygen flows through to the muscles; athletes therefore often drink lots of Beetroot juice!

Beetroot is very versatile; it works really well as part of a juice, together with carrots, apples and ginger, making a fabulous internal cleansing drink.  Alternatively, it’s another vegetable that roasts really well – why not combine it with chicken portions, carrots, and potatoes – delicious!

shutterstock_284758136 caulilflower on table July15COOL CAULIFLOWER

Part of the brassica family, which includes cabbage and broccoli, cauliflower actually comes in a range of colours – it can be green or purple as well as white.

Brassicas are all high in disease-fighting vitamin C and potassium, as well as containing lots of fibre to help keep the bowels regular.  Brassicas, particularly cauliflower, help to uprate the immune system so are great all-year round, but especially good on the menu right now, whilst in season.

Cauliflower can sometimes be slightly maligned, particularly by children, partly because it smells unpleasant if overcooked, so it’s always best lightly steamed.  Children will certainly be tempted when cauliflower is covered in a delicious cheesy sauce – it makes a great tempura dish but is also tasty just on its own, lightly steamed and tossed in a little butter. However, it’s actually great raw, dipped in some taramasalata or added to salads, and has found recent fame whizzed up into tiny grains or ‘cauliflower rice’ and used in place of carbohydrates.


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Five healthy picnic treats your kids will love!

shutterstock_156066815 family picnic July15Packing a picnic is a lot of fun – so many delicious things to choose from. But feeding a family on the go can be challenging, as can balancing nutrition with fun, nibbly bits. Consultant Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us some great ideas for fun, fresh and nutritious picnic treats.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

A summer picnic with the kids can be one of the nicest ways to spend a summer’s day.  However, if your little ones are notoriously fussy and they all want a different menu, the whole day can become rather stressful before it’s even begun.

So can you please everyone? I have come up with five tempting but healthy picnic treats that all the family can enjoy:


shutterstock_114505228 spinach pancake July15MAKE IT PANCAKE DAY EVERY DAY!

There are not many children, or adults for that matter, that aren’t excited by pancakes!  Here’s a tasty and healthy twist on an old favourite that can be eaten cold.

Just make up your pancake mix in the normal way but whizz in some spinach.  Packed with iron, often lacking in children’s diets, Spinach is a good option for boosting this mineral in the diet – and iron is particularly important as children hit their teenage years. Once the pancakes are cold, spread on some low-fat cream cheese, and add some cucumber strips – then just roll them up.  Easy and very transportable!

shutterstock_231475324 brownies July15VEGETABLE BROWNIES

Whilst it may seem strange to put vegetables into what is traditionally seen as a sweet dish, sweet potatoes are great in both savoury and sweet dishes, such as brownies. They are packed full of nutrients so the more ways you can find to use them, the better! Sweet potatoes are full of fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, as well as beta carotene – a great antioxidant and protector from the damaging effects of the sun.

To make around 10-12 brownies, you will need two large sweet potatoes, some dates, ground almonds, which are rich in the omega 3 fatty acids, buckwheat flour, maple syrup and raw cacao powder.

You can use ordinary cocoa powder, but raw cacao has good levels of iron and calcium – particularly important for children’s bones, teeth and brains!  Use a little honey to sweeten the mix and your little ones might not even realise that their traditional brownie has a slightly different twist!

shutterstock_143373568 pitta pizza July15EASY PIZZAS

Whisper the word ‘pizza’ and you’ve already got children’s attention!  These are so simple to make: they are great cold, easily transportable plus they’re supremely healthy!  All you need are some pittas – preferably wholemeal – then whizz up a tomato paste using tinned tomatoes and a little onion, together with some dried oregano.

Spread the mixture onto the pitta and sprinkle on some sliced mushrooms and cheese.  Once they’ve been grilled and then cooled in the fridge, they make a healthy and filling picnic treat.

shutterstock_223504360 flapjacksHEALTHY FLAPJACKS

Many flapjacks are heavily sugar-laden with huge amounts of butter. Making healthy flapjacks provides a great opportunity to include some omega 3 seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower – great for your children’s brains.  Additionally, you can add some raisins (which are high in iron), bananas (loaded with B vitamins) and rolled oats (which provide sustained energy release).

Add these together with some almond nut butter, which will provide some extra protein and provide even more omega 3 fats.  Omega 3’s are essential to have as part of your diet because the body cannot make them. They fulfil so many important functions in the body particularly for the brain, skin and hormones and really need to be included in the diet every day.

These flapjacks are also great as lunch box fillers and for those that have missed breakfast!

shutterstock_162423197 veg frittata July15VEGTABLE FRITTATAS

Frittatas are very easy to cook: they’re also great cold for a picnic and you can make up your own recipes, depending on individual tastes.  It’s also an excellent way of getting children to eat eggs.

One of my favourite frittata recipes is peas, chopped tomatoes, onions, and spinach.  For extra flavouring and additional protein, it’s great to add some cheese.  Most children will eat cheddar but if they’re slightly more adventurous then try feta or parmesan for a great flavour.

You can even turn your frittata into more of a Spanish omelette by adding some cooked potatoes. And if your family are super adventurous you could give it an Indian twist by adding some mild curry powder, chopped coriander and turmeric.  Indeed, the more turmeric you can add to your meals the better; it can provide enormous health benefits, particularly for the digestive system and any areas of inflammation in the body.

So there you go!  Some ‘quick wins’ and delicious picnic treats that all the family will love and you won’t have to spend hours preparing.  In fact, get the children involved in preparing and packing the picnic – the fun can begin even before you hit the park or the beach!


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Seven sizzling summer saviours: have a healthy BBQ this season

shutterstock_218144947 women bbqing July15

BBQs can be a dieter’s nightmare. Even if you’re not watching your weight, BBQ food is notoriously full of fat and often of low quality. But there are plenty of healthy alternatives which you can add to your BBQ repertoire to create a delicious and nutritious spread. Consultant Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us which BBQ dishes she recommends for a nutrition boost!


SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picWith the combination of warm sunshine, long summer evenings and the school holidays coming up,  our thoughts often turn to barbeques.  However, whilst some traditional barbeque foods are deliciously tasty, they may not always be very healthy; many are very high in calories and fat.

So here are seven of my favourite healthy barbeque foods and why they’re so nutritionally beneficial:


HOMEMADE BURGERSshutterstock_131316113 homemade burgers July15

Shop-bought beef burgers are frequently high in fat and often contain preservatives or flavourings.  Homemade burgers are much better, healthier and tastier and making them doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you might think.

Use extra lean mince, some crushed cream crackers, beaten egg, parsley, a little chopped onion and salt and pepper. Gather all the ingredients into a ‘round’ and you’ve got a great burger for the barbeque.

Now for the burger bun dilemma – it is really needed? Meat is obviously high in protein which will give you that feeling of fullness. Add a delicious salad, including some sun-dried tomatoes, to create a very healthy and satisfying meal.  Plus you’ll save yourself another 200 calories!

shutterstock_243972283 bbq squid July15BARBEQUED SQUID

This is maybe a slightly pricier option but well worth it for special barbeque occasions.  The fresh squid needs to be cut into rings – the fishmonger may even do this for you if you ask him nicely! Then feed it onto four sharp skewers, alternating with some peppers and onions. The squid head can also be fed onto the skewer last and secured with the tentacles if you’re feeling brave!

The skewers can then be drizzled with some olive oil and put onto the high heat of the barbeque for around one minute.  A delicious, low calorie, low fat treat with the peppers and onion providing some Vitamin C.  Incidentally, onions are also high in a compound called quercetin which helps to keep histamine in check – especially good for anyone experiencing summer allergies.

shutterstock_284840882 bbq skewers July15VEGETABLE SKEWERS

An easy and healthy addition to any barbeque meal.  Many people tend to overeat at barbeques and then feel lethargic the next day.  The digestive system can also take a hammering when people indulge on too many fatty foods, particularly red meat, which is difficult to digest.  Vegetable skewers are high in fibre and rich in minerals and won’t ‘sit’ on your stomach.

You can be as creative as you like; red, green and yellow peppers, aubergines, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, which are packed with lycopene and help to protect the skin from the aging effects of the sun.  And to turn this into a more complete meal, why not add some slices of halloumi cheese, which is always great barbequed.  All-in-all a really healthy choice!

shutterstock_271844594 whole fish July15THAI WHOLE FISH

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can use nearly any whole white-fleshed fish or rainbow trout.  My favourite choice would be a whole sea bream; you can get the fishmonger to gut it for you.  Then fill the middle with lemon grass, coriander, ginger and lime and either wrap the fish in foil and place it on the barbeque or place it in a fish griddle – delicious.  Quick, easy, high in protein and low in fat – a real summer winner!

shutterstock_228252178 roasted banana July15BARBEQUED BANANAS

This is such a simple idea but sometimes overlooked for creamier, calorie-laden desserts! Bananas taste absolutely delicious cooked on a barbeque.  Just wrap each banana in silver foil and put onto the barbeque.  They will need around half an hour, or maybe slightly more, to cook but the wait is worth it and your heart will love all the potassium that each banana delivers.  They’re great served on their own or with some crème fraiche.

shutterstock_101162371 tuna burger July15TUNA BURGER

Another spin on the traditional barbeque food, a tuna burger is low in saturated fat but contains some of the healthy essential omega 3’s, plus it’s really easy to make!  All you need is some fresh tuna steak, some basil, mint, spring onions, coriander and some lemon whizzed up in the food processor and then made into burger rounds.  These are great served with some salad leaves and fresh buffalo tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh basil, olive oil and a wedge of lemon.

shutterstock_228206065 grilled asparagus July15ASPARAGUS

English asparagus is currently in season and it’s absolutely delicious cooked on the barbeque.  It’s also a nutritional power-house, providing high amounts of immune-boosting Vitamin C, and giving you a good hit of the B vitamins, particularly folic acid (needed for healthy pregnancies) and potassium (which is great for the heart).

In addition, asparagus also helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut keeping your bowels and digestion in smooth working order.  It only needs a few minutes on the heat and is great served with a little butter and sprinkled with salt.

So sizzle your way through the summer this year with some delicious but healthy barbeque alternatives and keep your weight and health in check at the same time!


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4 quick and easy food swaps for a healthier you.


shutterstock_167078342 woman carrying punnet of berries July15We would all like to be just that little bit healthier, whether it’s increasing our intake of fruit and veg, shedding a few extra pounds or getting a bit more exercise. Sometimes it can feel like we are being bombarded by the latest diet fads and it can feel like a lot of work to suddenly change everything we eat. Suzie Sawyer – Clinical Nutritionist – tells us how we can make a few small and simple changes to our daily diet but for a big health boost.

suzi-sawyer-clinical-nutritionistEating healthily is not always easy to do; we have busy lives, with a large percentage of us working long hours, and it can be difficult to come home at the end of the day and put together a balanced and healthy meal. So why not make a few little changes which can be quickly and easily incorporated into your everyday life and which will provide you with great health benefits.

Here are 4 nutrient-rich food swaps which will really make a difference:

1. SWAP POTATOES FOR SWEET POTATOESshutterstock_131520458 sweet potato July15

The humble white potato is frequently the mainstay of many traditional British meals.  A jacket potato with beans and cheese makes a quick mid-week meal when time is short.  However, you can treat sweet potatoes in exactly the same way. They are great in their jackets, can be mashed with black pepper and a small knob of butter or can be cut into chip slices and roasted in the oven with some olive oil.

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene which helps raise our blood levels of vitamin A – essential for great eyesight, and particularly important in the body as an antioxidant.  Interestingly, carotenoid-rich foods can also visibly brighten the skin, giving the skin a sun tanned like glow.

And if that’s not enough encouragement to include them in your diet regularly, then remember that sweet potatoes have a much lower glycaemic index, particularly when they are boiled.  This means that they don’t affect your blood sugar levels as dramatically, making weight loss an easier task, if that’s your current mission.

shutterstock_236913367 giner, lemon and manuka July152: SWAP BLACK TEA FOR GINGER, LEMON AND MANUKA

Whilst a cup of good old ‘builder’s’ tea contains lots of antioxidants, having too many cups in one day can disturb the absorption of a number of minerals, in particular, iron.  So, why not swap a couple of cups of black tea for your own blend of crushed ginger, squeezed lemon juice and a teaspoon of Manuka honey with your hot water?

Ginger is great for the digestive system and also helps to increase levels of the beneficial bacteria in your gut, needed for smooth functioning!  Manuka honey, versus standard honey, is an ancient remedy but with known and proven benefits for the immune system. This combination is especially good first thing in the morning as a natural liver cleanser.  Just ensure that you use slightly cooled water from the kettle as boiling water destroys some of the beneficial compounds in the Manuka. It will definitely put a zing into your step each day

3. SWAP WHITE BREAD FOR RYE BREAD shutterstock_112138280 rye bread July15

White bread has been heavily refined, meaning that it has been stripped of fibre and has also lost many nutrients, particularly the B vitamins and other essential minerals.  The lack of fibre has an adverse effect on blood sugar levels, meaning that weight control is harder to maintain and it tends to exacerbate weight gain.

There are a number of nutritional benefits associated with eating rye bread in preference to white bread. Most importantly rye does not contain wheat which can cause digestive problems, particularly bloating.  Rye bread also helps to keep you feeling fuller or longer, making it a great choice with your scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Additionally, research carried out on mice and published in the journal of Nutrition [1] found that those consuming whole grain rye had reduced body weight, lower cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity versus those eating white bread – all very beneficial and healthy outcomes from simply swapping to rye bread.

shutterstock_271617749 homemade lollies July154. SWAP MAGNUM ICECREAM FOR HOME-MADE LOLLIES

When the temperature soars, our thoughts tend to turn to ice-cream!  However, it will come as no surprise to learn that a Double Chocolate Magnum contains a whopping 340 calories with 21 grams of fat.  Time to turn to the home-made variety and have some fun making up new recipes.

All you’ll need is 100 ml lolly moulds and some creativity! An easy one to start with is a blend of coconut water and fresh or frozen strawberries.  Coconut is the ingredient of the moment because of its high potassium levels, which help you to re-hydrate quickly, and because it is not stored in the body as fat – it’s just used as an energy source.  Another great combination is banana, cashew nut butter and a little honey to sweeten.  Let your imagination run wild – and don’t forget to freeze them overnight.

So whether you’re trying sweet potato chips or some delicious rye toast for breakfast, these little changes to your diet can have some really big benefits – enjoy your swaps!

[1] Nutrition.  February 2010; 26(2):230-9. Epub 2009 Jul 31


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[1] Nutrition.  February 2010; 26(2):230-9. Epub 2009 Jul 31






Top 5 foods to boost your mood

shutterstock_106787477 headshot woman in sun with hat Jun15

With the heat wave hitting the UK this week, sunshine always makes us feel happier and brighter. But when the sun goes in, how can we keep that summer glow and radiate happiness even when it’s gloomy? Consultant nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top 5 recommendations for mood-boosting foods.



The sunny weather always helps to put a smile on our faces!  However, what we eat is also key to a happier mood. Whether it’s glorious outside or cloudy and grey, what we include in our diet can make a huge difference to how we are feeling.

Here are my five top mood-boosting foods to help keep you feeling upbeat and contented this summer.

SALMONshutterstock_130631954 salmon Jun15

Oily fish, and in particular, salmon, contain the essential omega 3 fatty acids.  They are termed ‘essential’ because they have to be eaten in the diet – they cannot be made naturally by the body.  They fulfil many important functions, one of which is the healthy production of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially dopamine.  Dopamine is needed to maintain a good mood state and to keep us motivated; the more omega 3’s we have to support this, the more likely we are to feel just that little bit happier because of it.

If you can, try to eat salmon a couple of times a week; why not try a salmon nicoise salad with boiled new potatoes, lettuce, olives, green beans and hard boiled eggs – delicious!

shutterstock_232565083 dark chocolate squares Jun15CHOCOLATE

Chocolate is a mood booster because it appears to help moderate stress levels. This will come as great news to many, particularly women!  A recent study from the International Journal of Health Sciences[1] found that 40g of chocolate eaten every day over a period of two weeks helped reduced perceived stress levels within the study group.  It appears to reduce the levels of cortisol, which is our stress hormone.

Whilst there may be a physiological reason for improved mood after having eaten some chocolate, there is no doubt that it raises your feel-good endorphins.  However, the real nutritional value is only found in dark chocolate, which was also used in the above study. Dark chocolate is also packed with antioxidants which keep your immune system in good order and stop the aging process to boot!  Two to three squares daily is actually all that’s needed.

SPINACHshutterstock_245029057 spinach Jun15

Spinach is bursting with folic acid, probably best known for its essential role in pregnancy in preventing neural tube defects in unborn babies.  But it is also used in the production of our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin which helps to regulate mood.  Serotonin is made in the gut, which is why people with digestive problems can often feel depressed in addition to their ongoing symptoms.

There is another reason why eating spinach can make you feel happier; it helps to stimulate the fat-burning protein, adiponectin and that’s enough to boost anyone’s mood! However, if spinach really isn’t for you, the good news is that folic acid is found in most green leafy vegetables. Try to include at least one portion of broccoli, kale, spinach or rocket in your diet every day to really boost your mood.

shutterstock_196239605 pomegranate Jun15POMEGRANATE

It’s delicious, packed full of healthy antioxidants and has also been found to boost mood.  Various studies have been carried out on married couples who were asked to drink a glass of pomegranate juice daily for a week. They found that their mood became more positive and, even better, their sexual desire also increased.  The reason for this appears to be that pomegranate stimulates the oestrogen and serotonin receptors in the body – the former being partially responsible for sex drive and the latter helping improve mood.

As well as making a delicious juice, pomegranates are great in fruit salad or on their own as a healthy, mood-boosting snack.

OYSTERSshutterstock_214482454 oysters Jun15

Oysters are a bit like marmite – you either love them or hate them! Their claim to fame is that they are a known aphrodisiac which of course, would boost one’s mood!  The reason for this is that oysters are very high in the mineral zinc which is essential for healthy female egg production, as well as male sperm production.

Conversely, zinc is frequently found to be deficient in sufferers of depression; this is partly because zinc is an essential co-factor in the metabolism of the brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for good mood, including serotonin.

Oysters are also rich in the amino acid tyrosine which helps to enhance mental function and elevate mood.  But if you’re still struggling to eat oysters, they’re great with some lemon juice and tabasco!

So, come rain or shine, include some mood foods in your diet every day and keep your mood on the sunny side of the street.


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[1] Al Scinni A, Latif R.  Effects of chocolate intake on Perennial Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. Int J Health Sci 2014 Oct 8(4): 393-401.