Hauntingly Healthy Halloween treats!



We hardly need reminding that Halloween is just around the corner!  There’s lots of fun to be had around this time of year, and our minds often turn to the sweet ‘treats’ on offer.  But treats don’t have to be unhealthy!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides five great ideas for healthy Halloween foods that the whole family can enjoy this spooky season!

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Pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutritious, providing good amounts of the essential omega 3 fats; omega 3 fats play an important role in great skin, balancing hormones and in supporting a healthy heart so eating them provides a wealth of benefits.  Plus your children will have super-sharp brains as omega 3’s also support cognitive function!


Try gently roasting them with a little soy sauce – they really are quite delicious. You can either buy them ready roasted and slightly seasoned or you can gently roast them yourself in the oven, for around 10 minutes.  Once you and the family have tried them, you’ll be hooked (and so will your neighbours!): they make a great picky snack in place of the usual crisps at a party.


You can’t think about Halloween without pumpkins!  And this big orange vegetable is high in vitamin A, which is great for the immune system and the eyes, plus it contains a good range of trace minerals, which are often lacking in modern diets.


This pumpkin soup recipe is soup-er healthy because it’s made with coconut butter!  All you need to do is to fry some onions and garlic in coconut butter until they’re lightly browned.  Then add the chopped pumpkin with a bay leaf and fry for around ten more minutes until the pumpkin has softened.  Remove from the heat, put the mixture into a food processor with some milk and whizz until smooth.

This soup can be served with dollop of pumpkin seed butter stirred in for an extra flavour hit; it’s delicious and healthy, packed full of those wonderful omega-3 fats, and you might even convert your children from peanut butter to pumpkin seed butter for the future – an added bonus!


The famous saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was introduced for a reason: as well as being a healthy fruit, apples are low on the glycaemic index meaning they won’t upset blood sugar levels and are therefore great if you’re watching your weight.  Additionally, they’re high in the fibre pectin, which helps keep the bowels regular, plus they deliver a wonderful array of vitamins and minerals.


To make chocolate-dipped apples, firstly cut the stem out of the apple and put a wooden stick through the middle (you can buy wooden lollypop sticks from most cookery shops). Melt 70% cocoa dark chocolate and dip the apples until they are fully coated – leave to set.

By choosing this high cocoa chocolate, you’re introducing lots of antioxidants from the flavonoids naturally present in the chocolate. These flavonoids have wonderfully protective effects on the body, so these chocolate-dipped apples make a real treat that all the family will enjoy but will also provide some great health benefits.


Green is such a traditional Halloween colour, and it also represents healthy foods!  If you’re children are resistant to eating anything green then now’s the time to encourage them to eat some scary-shaped healthy green foods!


Using Halloween-shaped cutters and moulds you can create a delicious and healthy plate of spider shaped kiwi fruit or ghost-shaped honeydew melon for example.  Both these fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C which provides great immune support, particularly needed as the winter months approach.


If your children are really resistant to green vegetables, then think celery stick monsters with peanut butter hair and eyes and teeth made from cream cheese dotted on top; scary stuffed peppers; carrots and cucumber arranged into spooky face shapes with some guacamole dip. It’s all in the presentation!


For a really tasty but healthy spooky green soup, think peas!  Pea soup is delicious, easy to make and can be served in child-friendly small bowls.  You can even use frozen peas (as frozen vegetables are often healthier than fresh because they’ve been frozen so soon after picking).


Just fry up some shallots, with some chopped cooked potatoes, cook the peas with vegetable stock and blend all together. Why not add some single cream to serve in the shape of a Halloween face on top!


Believe it or not, you can cook some really healthy chocolate cookies and still make them Halloween-friendly by cutting them into spider’s web shapes, adding a spider or two or creating pumpkin lanterns.


These chocolate cookies can be made with dates, pecan nuts, flaxseeds (great for omega-3 fats which love the brain), cocoa powder and vanilla.  They’re gluten-free, free from refined sugar and suitable for vegetarians, so real winners all  round!

So, enjoy this Halloween and also enjoy some guilt-free, spook-tacular treats at the same time!


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Kick-start your immunity and fight off those colds: top nutrition tips to prepare for winter


With a slight chill in the air the seasons have definitely changed and many of you may have already started suffering from the seasonal colds and bugs.  However, catching a cold doesn’t have to be inevitable just because winter is approaching: with some smart lifestyle choices you can boost your immunity and prepare yourself as much as possible for the cold weather.

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Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five top tips on staying as healthy as possible this season!


Sugar is actually an immune suppressant.  And we’re talking about sugar is all its forms: table sugar, honey (but not including Manuka honey, which is actually a great immune-booster), fizzy drinks, biscuits, and of course, alcohol. Don’t forget the ‘hidden’ sources of sugar such as in cereals and ready meals when trying to cut down.


It has been found that drinking two averaged-sized fizzy drinks can suppress the immune system for a minimum of two hours afterwards, and in some cases for as long as five hours, which really highlights the damage too much sugar can do to our bodies. So how can you cut down the sugar?

Try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible (i.e. fewer processed foods). Swap added sugar for naturally derived sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia.  When it comes to fluid intake, there’s nothing better than just drinking plain water – always try to drink a minimum of 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day – more when you’re exercising.


There’s no such thing as a bad vegetable, but some are overflowing with so many nutrients that they should feature on your plate as much as possible.


When planning your meals always think about trying to eat a rainbow of colours every day.  Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower have amazing immune-boosting nutrients, particularly vitamin C.  Other great green vegetables including spinach, kale and Swiss chard are all high in vitamin C and antioxidants.


Orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A in the body and is also a great immune-boosting nutrient.


For even more immune-boosting power seek out the purple: why not add some purple sweet potatoes, beetroot, aubergine or cabbage to some of your meals for an extra boost!


Your body needs sleep to restore and repair; lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in the immune system so that it’s less able to fight off any potential infections.

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The body has a natural 24-hour circadian rhythm that never changes even if you’re a shift worker – it likes to be awake when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark.  Shift workers can often find their immunity gets depleted and that they become poorly more often (although this can be conquered to some extent by ensuring decent catch-up on lost sleep).


Generally, eight hours sleep a night is optimum. However if you’re having trouble sleeping it’s worth getting a good bed-time routine in place. Try a warm bath with some lavender or bergamot drops, a milky drink and a good book: avoid TV and smart phones or tablets just before bed as they are too stimulating for the brain. These are just a few great ways to unwind and get the body prepared for sleep, but whatever works for you try and keep the routine consistent and go to bed at the same time each night.


Two herbs that are well worth keeping at the ready to boost your immunity: Echinacea and Pelargonium.

Echinacea helps support white blood cell production, which are essential for a healthy immune system. Remember to take this herb for a couple of weeks, especially if you’ve been around people with nasty bugs or your children are in danger of bringing infections home.


If you’re starting to feel the first signs of a cold – that slightly scratchy throat coupled with a few sneezing fits – the herb Pelargonium is particularly effective and is suitable for all the family. Pelargonium is actually one of the most widely researched herbal medicines and it has been found to have some pretty potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Start taking it at the very first signs that you might be coming down with something for best results.


It’s a fact – exercise boosts your immune system. The increase in blood flow to your cells from exercising helps to increase the production of immune-boosting cells, particularly white blood cells.  And you don’t need to be running a marathon every week for your body to benefit. In fact, just raising your heart rate for around 30 minutes a day, four to five times per week is enough to gain the beneficial effects.


On the flip side over-exercising can actually suppress immunity; this happens soon after an intensive training session and can last for quite a few hours.  You may have noticed friends or family training for an endurance event, such as a marathon, only to end up picking up an infection or multiple infections?  Moderation is the key, and the benefits of regular exercise to your immune system are far-reaching and build over time.

So be well prepared for the cold and flu season before it gets into top gear! Taking a few simple steps can make all the difference to the health of your immune system and your body’s ability to ward off any unwanted germs.



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Make the most of blueberries: find out all about this nutrient-rich little berry!


Blueberries are often called a superfood and for very good reason.  As with all berries, their power is in their beautiful rich colour and whilst they may be tiny, they pack a great nutrient punch!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us why they’re so special and reveals what’s in that vibrant blue colour! 

Three facts you might not know about blueberries:

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  • A blueberry should be dusty in colour. The ‘dust’ protects the fruit and shouldn’t be rinsed off until you’re ready to tuck in!
  • They keep you young: Blueberries are packed with free-radicals, helping to delay the ageing process
  • They’ll keep you regular: Blueberries are filled with fibre, helping everything run a little smoother from a digestion point of view!


Blueberries have high amounts of special plant compounds called anthocyanins which are present in the lovely blue pigment.  It’s these anthocyanins that actually deliver most of blueberries’ wonderful health benefits.


Anthocyanins contain anti-bacterial compounds which are particularly effective against some forms of the bacteria E.coli, which can spread into the bladder causing urinary tract infections, such as cystitis.


These amazing compounds prevent infectious bacteria from attaching themselves to the bladder. These bacteria are also the main culprits of many stomach upsets, so blueberries can also help maintain a healthier digestive tract.


Anthocyanins are also really beneficial for heart health; they help widen the blood capillaries therefore encouraging healthy blood flow around the body.  The natural fibre in blueberries also helps by encouraging the removal of ‘bad’ cholesterol (known as LDL cholesterol) from the body and as we know high cholesterol is another negative factor for heart health.


Blueberries are high in vitamin B6 and folate which have a positive effect on reducing homocysteine – a harmful compound that can build up in the body if left unchecked and potentially cause a number of health-related issues.


As we get older, we are more likely to suffer from age-related eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.  Whilst we can be more pre-disposed genetically to these conditions, the traditional Western diet, which is high in refined sugars, certainly doesn’t help!


Anthocyanins have a really positive effect on the retina of the eye and help to reduce eye strain and vision loss.  In short, they help you to see much more clearly and for longer!


Whilst blueberries are beneficial for the skin on your whole body, it’s the wrinkles and signs of ageing on our faces that we tend to be most concerned with.


The anthocyanins in blueberries have amazing antioxidant powers to mop up those nasty free radicals which are responsible for so much of the ageing process.  Free radicals are caused by the sun, pollution, smoking, alcohol and just general living.  The body has its own antioxidant protective mechanisms, but foods like blueberries just encourage those antioxidant processes and provide greater barriers.  So the better you’re protected the younger you’ll look, and who wouldn’t want that?!


Blueberries are fantastically versatile!


Add them to your porridge or cereal, your favourite cheesecake recipe, muffins (for a special treat), as an additional boost to your salad, with bananas on your pancakes, as part of a homemade muesli or with some other berries, banana and avocado to a smoothie.


Blueberries also deliver a fantastic array of nutrients; vitamin C for great skin and immunity, vitamin K for strong bones and a healthy heart and B vitamins and copper for endless energy.  So, because blueberries have such an excellent nutrient profile, you’ll be adding a whole load of goodness to your dish.

So, embrace the ‘blue’ on your plate and enjoy all that blueberries can offer your health!


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What you need to know about Butternut Squash: 7 nutritious facts!


Butternut squash, often called Winter squash, is a delicious and nutritious food at any time of year. With its inviting orange colour and unique taste, it’s a great addition to any autumn menu and there are so many ways to prepare and enjoy it. And the bonus is it’s packed full of nutrients and health benefits!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares 7 interesting facts about the butternut squash.

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Butternut squash is from the same Cucurbitaceae family as the pumpkin (which also in season right now) and in Australia, they often call butternut squash pumpkin. Interestingly, cucumbers and courgettes are also part of the same family and are sometimes referred to as Summer squash. But technically, butternut squash and pumpkin are two different plants – and you’ll see why in my next point!



Did you know that butternut squash is classed as a vegetable, whereas pumpkin is actually classed as a fruit? Another reason that butternut squash differs from pumpkin. But either way it’s still one of your five a day – or two of your five a day if you include both squash and pumpkin in your daily diet!



It’s all about the beta carotene in butternut squash.

The lovely warm orange colour delivers the real deal, providing high amounts of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, which protects the body against free radical damage. This is especially important during the winter months, to help support the immune system.

Beta-carotene is also turned into vitamin A in the body as needed, so butternut squash is a great source of this important antioxidant and vitamin. It is also loaded with powerful carotenoids, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, which are particularly supportive of eye health.



Many vegetables are actually great sources of calcium (such as broccoli, kale, soy beans to name a few) and butternut squash is no exception.

Calcium is our key bone-building mineral, essential for the support of normal bones and teeth as well as the normal growth and development of bone in children. But with many people not able to tolerate too much dairy, especially milk, finding other sources of calcium is essential, so why not try adding more butternut squash to your daily diet and top up those calcium levels.



As well as helping to keep things ‘moving along’ the digestive tract, foods that are high in fibre are also lower on the glycemic index, meaning that they don’t adversely affect blood sugar levels. Butternut squash is one of those fibre-rich foods.

Additionally, the starch content of butternut squash contains ‘long-chain polymers’, which also help to keep blood sugar levels in check.  This is great news for those watching their weight as well as the fact that butternut squash is a low calorie, low fat vegetable – perfect!



As you can see, butternut squash contains an impressive array of nutrients to support many aspects of our health.  It also boasts significant amounts of folate, which helps to prevent neural-tube defects (for example spina bifida) in the growing foetus.

Folate is so important before and during pregnancy that the Department of Health recommends women take a 400 micrograms daily supplement from the moment they start trying to get pregnant, right through pregnancy.  But as well as this, it should also be eaten in the diet as much as possible: folate is water soluble which means it’s easily excreted from the body, and therefore needs to be eaten every day.

Another folate fact: Folate comes from the latin word folium meaning ‘leaf’, which is a good indicator of where else you can find folate. Green plant foods such as spinach, broccoli and asparagus are some of the richest sources.

Folate also works really well alongside vitamin B6 (also present in butternut squash), to keep hormones in balance and energy levels up – another bonus of this nutrient-rich vegetable!



There are so many things you can do with butternut squash.

As a starting point ahead you need to peel the squash and scoop out the seeds.  It can then be sliced into wedges and baked in the oven, roasted with other vegetables as a side dish, diced and used as a great alternative to potatoes or added to soups, stews, curries or risottos. It also makes a wonderful main ingredient for a soup all on its own.

Why not simply cut off the ends, cut the squash in half lengthways and bake the two halves in the oven.  You can then scoop out the roasted flesh once it’s cooked – it’s a particularly great accompaniment to roast beef.


You can also eat the seeds! Squash seeds provide an excellent source of omega-6 fatty acids, good for the skin, and oleic acid (also found in olive oil) which is really heart-healthy. They can be removed from the pulp, laid out on a baking tray and gently roasted in the oven for around 15 minutes with some olive oil and a pinch of salt – they make a great addition to a winter salad or just eaten as a snack.

So why not source some squash this autumn and enjoy this delicious, nutrient-packed vegetable throughout the season.


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[1] Rimer EG et al.  Acute dietary nitrate supplementation increases maximal cycling power in athletes. Int J Sports Physiol. Perform. 2015 Dec 2