How to keep your diet and lifestyle resolutions in the new year!

shutterstock_289811555 women drinking wine and smiling Dec15With one year over, and the next just round the corner, the potential of a ‘new year, new you’ comes round again. But with so many good intentions how can you keep yourself motivated and maintain these lifestyle changes throughout the new year?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top tips on how to keep your diet and lifestyle on track after the 1st January!

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So, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions and even if you haven’t written a definitive list, you probably have some thoughts in your mind of what you’d like to address. A new year provides a fabulous opportunity to ‘start afresh’! But how do you keep your resolve?

shutterstock_5787301 woman on scales Dec15KEEP IT REAL

Don’t start the New Year by setting yourself unrealistic targets. For example, if you want to lose some weight in the New Year, be realistic about how much and how long this is going to take. At the start of any weight loss plan, you may well lose quite a lot of weight in the first two weeks. This is because your carbohydrate or glycogen stores are also filled with water, and the water is released when you’re consuming less calories in a day.

Healthy and sustained weight loss means losing around one to two pounds per week. This is all the fat that can be lost (the body is unable to lose any more fat than this in a week and if you do lose more than this, it is likely to be loss of water and/or muscle) and, of course, it’s body fat that needs to go. Dramatic weight loss will normally lead to a slow-down in metabolism; if you enter a ‘starvation’ diet, once you start to eat more normally again, the weight will go back on again plus another 10%!

Slow, sustainable weight loss in the key.

shutterstock_270698843 drink less note Dec15MAKE ACTIVE CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE

Life shouldn’t be about a six week plan: it’s about making changes to your lifestyle and diet that you will continue over the months – and hopefully years – to come. So, you may make a New Year’s resolution to give up drinking alcohol, for example; this may be fine for January, but are you sure this is going to be a long-term plan?

Instead, why not decide that you will only drink alcohol one or two evenings per week? That way you will give your liver a chance to recover between your ‘alcohol evenings’ and fully detoxify. You’ll certainly feel more energised by only drinking twice-a-week.

So make your resolutions sustainable, realistic and reflective of a longer-term lifestyle change – otherwise you can set yourself up to fail before you’ve started.

shutterstock_283163987 woman with cup cakes Dec15BEAT THE CRAVINGS

If one of your resolutions is to cut down on sweet foods, or chocolate, then you may find that your sugar cravings make this a very difficult resolution to maintain.

Eating some protein will make sure you keep your blood sugar levels in balance, as well as the cravings. For meat-eaters try including chicken, turkey or other lean meats (as well as fish) into your diet every day; for vegetarians, eggs, soya, tofu, quinoa or lentils are good sources of protein.

Additionally, taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that contains chromium will also help to stop cravings: the mineral chromium specifically keeps blood glucose levels in check.

shutterstock_331591157 woman eating crisps Dec15EAT THE FOODS YOU LIKE

So many people choose a New Year diet plan but really don’t like the foods they are being asked to eat! This is going to make it very hard to sustain.

We’ve established that it’s not about a six week plan, but sustainable changes. So if you’re hoping to lose some weight and you know that you enjoy eating biscuits, for example, make sure that your new diet plan includes some biscuits!

I often advise people to remove dairy from their diet, for health reasons, and sometimes to help with weight loss. If you are a lover of dairy, you won’t want to exclude it completely from a new diet plan, but there are healthier alternatives which you might enjoy just as much: for example why not try coconut or almond milk? You may not feel as deprived as if you cut out milk altogether.

If you love your sweet snacks, you may need to work hard to avoid the cakes in the office, but why not have a bar of delicious raw chocolate in your drawer at work? You can eat a piece of this instead as a sweet treat.

It is not about having a life of denial, but finding healthy alternatives whilst still enjoying eating.

shutterstock_277695731 woman in control wiht CTRL button Dec15TAKE CONTROL

This is probably the best piece of advice I could ever give.

A lot of people feel they are in a situation where food controls their life as opposed to them controlling the food they eat. Food becomes a very emotional thing for many people. Once you have resolved to make changes to your eating, either to lose weight or for other health reasons take control of the situation. Don’t allow food to rule your life.

For example, if you know you’re susceptible to a 4pm biscuit binge because your energy levels are flagging, then include protein in your lunch time meal – you’ll feel less likely to binge on sugary snacks.

By not seeing food as the enemy, but as an enjoyable part of life, your relationship with food can become more balanced. Don’t allow negative thoughts about food to come into your mind: you are ‘in charge’ and you’re not going to allow food to rule your life moving forward.

So welcome in the new year and the lifestyle changes it may bring! Make as many resolutions as you want to, but make them realistic. And keep going – it’s going to be a great year!


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How to have a healthier, treat-filled Christmas!

shutterstock_232325464 woman in kitchen christmas flour tree Dec15We all like to treat ourselves at Christmas – a mince pie here, a chocolate coin there – and why not? We’ve worked hard all year and Christmas is a time for celebration, merriment and traditionally a lot of food! But if you fancy some healthier indulgence this year there are many nutritious ways that you can treat yourself but feel better for it! Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five treats with some seriously good health benefits.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog picWith Christmas just around the corner, many of us will be wondering how we can make what we eat a little healthier without feeling ‘deprived’ of some of the traditional tastes of the season. Here are some ideas to give your treat-filled Christmas a slightly healthier boost:

shutterstock_261192740 cacao beans and pod Dec15



It’s Cacao! Cacao is a great alternative to cocoa – it has some of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any food, plus it’s a great source of magnesium which is needed for healthy bones and energy production.

Cacao pods are produced from the Theobroma Cacao tree and part of the fruit is used to make raw cacao powder. It contains more fibre than cocoa as well as protein, vitamin C (great for healthy skin) and minerals, including energising iron. Even better, it’s cholesterol-free!

Cacao is actually one of the purest forms of chocolate you can consume because it’s classified as a ‘raw’ food and is not processed like cocoa-containing chocolate bars. You can use cacao powder in baking recipes and it’s the chocolate of choice if you’re entertaining some vegan guests this Christmas.

shutterstock_179669312 bowl of nuts Dec15GO NUTS FOR THE RIGHT KIND OF NUTS!

Peanuts are often an integral part of any Christmas treat bowl. But did you know that peanuts are actually not nuts at all? They are legumes which are grown underground as opposed to being grown on trees. Whilst they are a good source of protein, they do not contain any of the beneficial omega 3 fats that other nuts do.

So instead, stock up on Brazils, almonds and walnuts, which all contain some essential omega 3 fats. Plus Brazils have an added bonus; they are packed full of selenium – a powerful antioxidant mineral that is so often deficient in the Western diet – for an even more nutritious nut!

shutterstock_347739773 goats cheese and camembert Dec15CHOOSE HEALTHIER CHEESE

A very large percentage of Christmas dinner tables will feature a cheese board – delicious! However, there are certain cheeses that are healthier choices than others. For example, goat’s cheese contains around half the saturated fat content of cheddar cheese; Camembert contains around a third less fat and fewer calories than hard cheeses.

Interestingly, the highest calorie and fat content of all cheeses is found in Swiss cheeses such as Emmenthal. However, Swiss cheeses do slightly redeem themselves by providing good amounts of bone-healthy calcium and zinc – essential for healthy fertility and reproduction.

So, as with all foods, it’s always a question of balance, but if you want to try to keep a watchful eye on calories, then be sure to include some soft cheeses on your Christmas cheese board!

shutterstock_206976145 star mince pies Dec15OPEN-TOP MINCE PIES

Mince pies are a traditional Christmas treat – any Christmas gathering wouldn’t be the same without them! However, if you’re making them yourself – and there’s nothing quite as delicious as home-made mince pies – why not make a slightly healthier option?

If you use filo pastry rather than flaky pastry (which is still equally delicious) you will be dramatically reducing the calorie and fat content. Even better, if you make a little star shaped lid, or leave the top off your mince pies all together, you can reduce the calorie content even further!

shutterstock_289557317 family country winter walk Dec15AND ROUND OFF CHRISTMAS DAY WITH A CALORIE-BURNING WALK!

Instead of slumping down on a sofa in front of the TV after a mega Christmas lunch, why not take you and your family on a brisk walk? It doesn’t need to be a hike – 20 minutes is all that’s required to feel the benefits of fresh air and exercise after a big meal.

It’s not just calories you burn from taking a brisk walk; insulin – which is naturally produced from the pancreas and secreted to balance blood sugar levels when we eat – works more effectively at distributing glucose around the body when we take a walk fairly soon after eating. This means that less glucose is stored as fat – so you might enjoy your Christmas lunch even more if you plan a walk straight after it … it could be considered guilt-free! What a treat indeed!

So enjoy a very merry, treat-filled Christmas with a healthier twist this year – and roll on the New Year!


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Nutritious Nibbles: 5 healthy alternatives to Christmas party snacks

shutterstock_289811555 women drinking wine and smiling Dec15

With party season well and truly upon us it can be difficult to avoid the junk food during Christmas festivities. But if you’re in charge of your work party, planning a friend’s Christmas night in or a big family event why not consider making some delicious but healthy alternatives to the party stodge instead?

Consultant Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top canapé recipes for a healthy, bloat-free party!

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Whilst there are lots of things to get excited about at Christmas time, many of us get concerned about the inevitable ‘party’ food at pre-Christmas gatherings and the potential for piling on the pounds before Christmas has even fully arrived! For those of us trying to be healthy or not wanting to feel bloated and sluggish, there’s often a dilemma about what to choose, or what serve if you’re hosting. So if you are in charge of providing food this season why not try one of these 5 options:

shutterstock_259277711 pumpernickel bites with beetroot Dec15



These are so simple, yet healthy and colourful!

Slice some pumpernickel bread into squares and then spread with cream cheese. Then place a few cubes of beetroot on the top! It couldn’t be easier.

Contrary to what you might think, I always prefer to use full-fat cream cheese as I find it has a slightly better taste profile – and as you are using so little, it actually makes very little difference in terms of calories. Equally, you’ll be getting some calcium and protein from the cream cheese, plus beetroot is a real super food and contains lots of natural iron, which is great for energy.

Look for pumpernickel bread that is just made with rye flour rather than wheat and rye; many people find that wheat-based foods can cause bloating but you’ll still be getting a good amount of fibre from this type of bread.

shutterstock_236341678 tuna on cucumber Dec15


This is another colourful party treat that tastes like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, which you haven’t!

You can use tinned tuna for this recipe, but you may prefer to use chopped fresh tuna loin.

Mix the tuna with some wasabi, soy and grated fresh ginger and place the mixture onto slices of cucumber. And just make sure that you cut the cucumber slices quite thickly – your guests need to be able to pick them up without them bending! You can even add sweetcorn if you so wish.

This recipe is bursting with nutrition. Tuna is a great source of low-fat protein and cucumber is great for cleansing the liver and digestive tract. In addition ginger is another one of nature’s super foods, providing excellent anti-inflammatory properties – particularly helpful if you’ve got joint problems. Ginger also helps to settle the stomach – a ginger tea is especially soothing the morning after the night before when you might be feeling a little queasy so save some of the grated ginger!

shutterstock_167666840 mackerel on potato cake Dec15FLAKED MACKERAL ON POTATO CAKES

These make deliciously healthy and filling party snacks!

You can actually buy ready-made mashed potato from the supermarket that is just potato mashed – nothing else! Or of course make your own from scratch. The easiest way to get started is to spread the potato mash onto a smooth surface and lightly coat with seasoned flour. Then use a cutter to stamp out circles and fry these until lightly golden on both sides. Once they’re cooled, spread some crème fraiche and flaked smoked mackerel over the top.

These canapes provide a great balance of protein and carbohydrate to ensure blood sugar levels remain balanced – particularly important when you’re enjoying a tipple! Smoked mackerel provides a great source of essential omega 3 fats, which are needed for the brain, skin, joints and eyes.

shutterstock_284805569 spinach pancake with cream cheese Dec15SLICED SPINACH PANCAKES

Another tasty winner providing a great protein/carb combo!

Start by whipping up your normal pancake mix or if you’re really short of time, you can buy this pre-mixed. Chop up or rip some fresh spinach leaves into the mixture, together with some seasoning and then lightly fry the pancake mix as normal. Once it’s cooled spread each pancake with some cream cheese, roll up and slice. If you’ve got guests who have problems with gluten, then you can use gluten-free flour in the pancake mix – there are plenty of alternatives on the supermarket shelves.

Spinach is a great source of energising iron, plus its dark green colours provide plenty of flavonoids delivering a range of antioxidants. This is great for the immune system and so especially good at this time of year!

shutterstock_257592838 hummus and crudites Dec15CRUDITES WITH HOMEMADE HUMMUS

Everyone loves dips and this way you’ll be providing some delicious and nutritious alternatives!

To make the hummus, all you need is some tahini paste, a couple of garlic cloves finely chopped, some lemon juice and olive oil, plus a couple of cans of chickpeas, and then whizz it all together in a blender.

Chop up some carrot sticks (full of Vitamin A), some celery (great for reducing blood pressure) and some red and green peppers (one of the best sources of Vitamin C) and you’ve got a great and colourful dish to hand around at the party with some fantastic health benefits. Chickpeas are also packed with phytoestrogens that have a hormone balancing effect – an added bonus for those experiencing menopausal symptoms.

So the party season just got healthier! Why not start your healthy eating New Year’s resolution a month early and try creating these delicious snacks.


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Boost your immunity: the wonders of black elderberry

shutterstock_309376814 woman in winter with scarf Dec15

Keeping well this winter should be top of you Christmas list so you can enjoy the festivities with your loved ones but without a runny nose! One of nature’s little treasures, the black elderberry fruit really comes into its own at this time of year, and for very good reason: it is packed full with immunity-boosting nutrients.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us the ‘low-down’ on this wonder fruit and why you should ‘gift yourself’ black elderberry products this winter!

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The Elder, or Sambucus niger, is a sprawling bush that is grown mainly in southern England and in central and southern Europe. Interestingly, the word ‘elder’ comes from an Anglo Saxon word meaning ‘fire’. The berries are ready for picking at the end of the summer and are a popular food source amongst many birds – they clearly know a thing or two about health!shutterstock_154309295 black elderberries Dec15

The black elderberry has a very long history of traditional medicinal use, going as far back as 400 BC when Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, referred to the fruit as a ‘medicine chest’.

Whilst the benefits of the black elderberry fruit can be applied to a wealth of ailments, it was mainly used to treat colds, flu and infections, predominantly because it contains a unique anti-viral compound. There is literature dating back to 1644 extoling the many medicinal virtues of the black elderberry describing how all parts of the plant are medicinally useful – but especially the black elderberry itself.

shutterstock_323937011 black elderberries in a bowl Dec15WHAT DOES IT CONTAIN?

Much is written about dark-coloured fruits, particularly berry fruits, which contain amazing health-giving properties. It is within these beautiful dark purple, blue and red fruits that compounds known as anthocyanins are found. These compounds are particularly high in antioxidants which help to support the immune system, and these compounds are highly potent in the black elderberry.

Much research has been carried out on the antioxidant capacity of these berries, and in particularly, black elderberry, confirming that they contain the highest levels of anthocyanins [1]. Black elderberries have three and a half times the antioxidant performance of vitamin E and five times more anthocyanin activity than blueberries!

Black elderberries are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and choline (originally called Vitamin J!) Choline is a phospholipid which is important for metabolising fats, but also helps the liver carry out some of its detoxification processes and prevents toxins from building up.

shutterstock_318557849 black elderberries and juice Dec15IMMUNE SYSTEM BENEFITS

Black elderberry’s main ‘claim to fame’ is its ability to protect body cells from viral infection. Viruses are coated with hemagglutinin spikes that ‘pierce’ and enter the cell wall and replicate. However, it has been discovered that black elderberry contains a particular compound that deactivates this activity so that viruses can no longer enter the cell.

If a virus does manage to penetrate the cell, the powerful antioxidant activity also helps to attack the viruses, so all in all, black elderberry has a great all-round anti-viral action.

Black elderberry has also been found to be effective in beating the flu virus[2]. A study carried out in 2004 found that symptoms abated much sooner when using an oral elderberry syrup. Again this would be down to its wonderful anti-viral properties.

So, it’s certainly quite an amazing berry! Make sure you find a supplement containing some black elderberry to support you and your family this winter – your immune systems will be very happy that you did!


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[1] Wu X et al. Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanins in some cultivars of Ribes, Aronia and Sambucus and their antioxidant capacity. J. Agric Food Chem 2004 Dec 29;2(26):7846-56.

[2] Zakay-Rhones Z et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2): 132-40.