Are you prepped for the party season? Top nutrition tips to see you through to Christmas Day!


Party season is upon us!  And though there are still a few weeks to go before the ‘big day’ itself, party too hard and you could face burn out at Christmas! With so many Christmas menus, cocktails and buffets at your social events, is it really possible to enjoy yourself and still be semi-healthy?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her five top tips to get your body prepared and ready for the Christmas merriment to begin! 

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Your body copes better with different foods, late nights and an increase in alcohol consumption if it’s in an alkaline rather than acidic state. Too much acidity in the body creates digestive problems and can result in poor sleep, low energy and mood swings. So the more vegetables you can include in your diet right now, the more alkaline your body will be and the better you’ll feel.  Plus your skin will glow, you’ll feel energised and you’ll enjoy partying even more!


You can get really creative with your own juicing recipes, but one of my favourites is beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger: beetroot (a great liver detoxifier), carrot (packed with antioxidants to support the immune system), apple (full of vitamin C and adds a lovely flavour) and ginger (the best anti-inflammatory spice around and adds a great ‘zing’ to any juice). All perfect ingredients to prep you for a month of celebration.


Try to have a juice everyday over the next month.  But if you don’t have much time, or the right equipment, for juicing there’s so many fresh juice shops, cafes and brands on the high street – just grab one during the day!


Milk thistle has been traditionally used for supporting the liver and gallbladder for over 2,000 years.  Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century pharmacist, described its use as opening ‘obstructions’ of the liver. The numerous benefits for the digestive system have been well-documented: its active component is silymarin which is a powerful antioxidant and protects and supports liver function.


Milk thistle is great at protecting the body before and after ‘over-indulgence’. So if you start taking it before the party season gets into full swing, your body (and liver) will cope much better once the celebrations really kick in.


Why is this so important?  The reason is that protein such as turkey, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, eggs and nuts contain specific amino acids that are all key for the health of the liver. And let’s face it – the liver needs all the help it can get at this time of year.


As your liver is the main organ of detoxification, the more support you can give it, the better your body will cope with partying!  Specifically, the amino acid glutamine converts into several different compounds that help to balance blood sugar levels.  This in turn may help to reduce our desire for substances such as sugar and alcohol, which can be helpful in a party situation!


The best advice is to make sure you’re including good quality protein at every meal time; for example, have an egg-based breakfast, some chicken at lunch and some fish (oily fish such as salmon  is great for omega-3’s) at dinner. If you can keep to a good routine of regularly eating good quality protein at each meal over the next four weeks or so, you’ll arrive at Christmas Day in much better shape!


Most of us enjoy a tipple at some point during the party season.  But what are the best drinks to choose so that you minimise both the calories and potential for a headache the next day?


The ‘healthiest’ drink is probably vodka and soda with a wedge of fresh lime.  It’s lowest in calories, is a purer form of alcohol and you’ll also get some vitamin C from the lime!


But this may get a bit tiresome over the course of several hours, so another option is to use your willpower and drink less but make each drink a totally enjoyable experience!  Whether you’re a prosecco, wine, beer or cocktail person, alternating an alcoholic drink with a glass of water will also help modify how much you drink during the evening. It will also help with overall hydration, and how you feel the morning after!


The traditional buffet is not always the healthiest of food options; sausage rolls, vol au vents and sandwiches are all going to be high in calories and may also cause uncomfortable bloating as the night goes on.


You would do much better avoiding the unhealthy buffet and eating a good quality meal (with protein and vegetables) before you go out. If you don’t have time to cook, you could consider having a protein shake: it will help the hunger pangs and the cravings for sugar-laden drinks and unhealthy snacks.


The key is not to arrive at a party in hunger mode! Drinking on an empty stomach is also a recipe for disaster, even if you’re taking Milk thistle. But if you really can’t avoid the buffet, then head for the vegetable crudités with hummus, olives, nuts, chicken wings, rice salads and anything ‘green’.

So there’s no need to be a party pooper when you’re an amazing party prepper! Enjoy all your pre-Christmas parties and still arrive at Christmas day feeling fresh and energised!


Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie


‘K’ is for Kale: everything you need to know about this amazing vegetable!


shutterstock_232612981-woman-with-kale-nov16Kale is one of a number of superfoods currently ‘on trend’. But the benefits of this green, leafy vegetable have been known for a long time. Packed full of nutrients, Kale is a versatile vegetable, whether steamed, boiled, grilled, stir fried or as part of a delicious soup.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us the ‘low-down’ on what’s so amazing about kale and why we should all be including it in our daily diet.


SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


It is not known exactly when kale was first discovered. What is certain is that the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed its health benefits although seemingly for slightly different reasons than ourselves: the Romans ate it as a cure for drunkenness for example!


The Brits actually lead the way in bringing kale into the United States in the 17th century. And during World War 2, the growth of kale was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign to help supplement nutrients that were missing from the diet during rationing.


Kale is a member of the brassica family of vegetables which are renowned for their amazing health benefits. There are several varieties of kale including curly, ornamental, red russian and dinosaur kale. They all look slightly different with varying tastes, with curly kale having the deepest green colour and strongest taste.


Kale is an excellent source of two of our most powerful antioxidants – vitamin C and beta carotene.  Beta carotene converts into vitamin A in the body as it’s needed, whilst Vitamin C is great for supporting the immune system. A 100 gram serving of kale provides more than three quarters of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and almost twice the recommended intake of vitamin C!


Kale also contains good levels of the minerals calcium and iron which we know are widely deficient in many sectors of the UK population.  Plus, kale is a great source of vitamin K (another ‘K’) which is great for the heart and bones, and even contains small amounts of those wonderful omega 3 fats, which are especially good for the brain.


Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant (also known as a carotenoid) which helps to support the immune system.  However, kale also contains some lesser-known carotenoids being lutein and zeaxanthin.


These nutrients have an incredible affinity for supporting eye health:  In nature, it would seem that lutein and zeaxanthin absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye. These powerful nutrients appear to protect the eyes from macular degeneration, which is an increasingly common condition found in older people, and which can lead to blindness.


But what are they you may ask?  In simple terms they are sulphur-containing compounds which have been, and continue to be, heavily researched for potential cancer-preventing benefits. Glucosinolates are also found in other brassicas but have the highest concentrations in kale.  Research is continuing, and clearly we can’t expect one food to work miracles; however suffice to say that a very regular intake of kale in your diet is definitely going to benefit your health.


These glucosinolates are also made into other compounds that support the body’s natural detoxification processes.  The body (and primarily the liver) has two phases of detoxification and kale supports both – further confirmation of the power of the kale and often why it is included in a detox!


As with all vegetables, there are many ways of preparing, cooking and eating them!

One really great way to use kale is to make kale crisps!  All you need to do is to wash and lay plenty of kale leaves onto a roasting tin.  Pour over some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.  Put them under the grill until the kale becomes crispy.  Delicious, and a perfect mid-afternoon snack!


Kale is also delicious lightly fried with chorizo to make a tasty vegetable side dish with a little kick!  And it also makes a great side gently cooked with butter and garlic, in a wok.


Kale also works really well with eggs at any time of day.  Steamed for breakfast with a poached egg on top, or in a goat’s cheese frittata with onions.  As with any vegetable, the lighter and shorter the cooking time, the more nutrients you’re going to preserve.  Therefore steaming is always going to be the healthiest way to enjoy this health-boosting vegetable!

So whether you add kale to your smoothies or salads, soups or stews, you’ll definitely enjoy the health benefits associated with this green super food!


Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie


The truth behind Old Wive’s Tales: can these sayings really improve your health?


There are many Old Wive’s Tales which advise us on how to take better care of ourselves, particularly when it comes to well-being and nutrition.  But are they fact or are they fiction?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, investigates some of the more common sayings and provides the real answers – and some of them may surprise you!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Whilst it would of course be unrealistic to expect the humble apple to solve all our health problems, apples (and indeed, all other fruits) provide some amazing health benefits and should certainly feature in your diet every day.


Firstly, apples contain pectin – a soluble fibre which helps to reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (which can clog our arteries) and also helps keep our bowels regular.  Apples also contain quercetin, which is a natural anti-histamine, so is particularly effective at reducing allergic reactions such as hayfever.


All fruits contain phytonutrients which are beneficial plant compounds that provide antioxidant protection for the whole body: antioxidants help to protect us from damaging free radicals which are partly responsible for our degenerative diseases.  Plus, all fruits are packed with the mineral potassium which is great for the heart and helps to regulate blood pressure.

So will an apple a day keep the doctor away? Maybe not, but it can only do you good if you eat one every day!


This saying appears to date back to the 14th century and interestingly there is still some debate about whether this is the right approach!

It goes without saying that whatever the illness, the body needs increased liquids to support it in fighting off the infection.  When there is fever present, frequent sipping of cool liquids certainly helps to reduce body temperature.

shutterstock_357288659 glass of water June16


One thing we do know is that we tend to lose our appetite when we are poorly, and maybe this is nature’s way of helping the healing process.  It would seem that starving the body may promote a particular type of immunity that can help combat bacterial infections that often result in a fever.


However stopping eating altogether would not be advised as the body still needs optimum nutrients to keep the body in as healthy state as possible. You’ll also need energy if you’re feeling under the weather, so a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables is still key during ill health even if you don’t really feel like eating.


This saying can be applied to many areas of our lives. But in terms of what we eat, changing our diet to include different nutrients can be just as beneficial to the immune system as resting.


It seems an obvious statement to say that we are all different. Of course we are!  And it has been shown that our health definitely benefits from eating foods that suit our metabolic type. For example, some people do much better including animal protein from meat and dairy in the diet, whereas others benefit from a more plant-based diet.  If a person is eating against their metabolic type, health can suffer.


For example, there are many people following a vegetarian or vegan diet who are actually not suited to it, and this can lead to poor immunity, weak muscles and joints, and low energy.  Of course the reverse can also be true and if you are generally well and feeling energised it is likely that you have it just right!

If you want to find out more about your metabolic type feel free to tweet me @nutritionsuzie or speak to any nutritionist and they can advise you on dietary changes based on your own individual experience of health and well-being.


Getting sufficient R & R (rest and relaxation) is also crucial to our health; when we are not getting enough sleep the immune system definitely suffers, making us more susceptible to infection. The body also does much of its healing and repair when we sleep, which is why we sleep so much when we are poorly.

So is a change as good as a rest? It turns out that varying your diet and ensuring you get enough sleep are both really beneficial to our health!


Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dine like a pauper. There is certainly some truth in this.

Much of it depends on body type, but most people definitely benefit from a good-sized and well-balanced breakfast.  The key point though is that it’s really important to eat breakfast full stop! The body has fasted for up to 10 hours overnight, which means in the morning your blood sugar levels are low.  If no food is eaten, the body’s natural adrenaline signals the release of glucose for energy which can promote anxiety and the stress response – not the best start to the day!


As a general principle, we should always try to eat a low glycaemic breakfast so as not to promote a sugar rush and subsequent energy dip.  Oats are great to include in your cereal choice or a dish containing eggs – both hit the spot beautifully!


Lunch is also an important meal; it’s another opportunity to get some great nutrition in and do make sure you include some protein and slow-release carbohydrates to keep energy levels in good shape.

When it comes to dinner, the key is not to eat too late in the evening.  Dining like a pauper may well have been advised because eating a large meal late at night is going to encourage weight gain, not to mention indigestion and poor sleep.


Try to eat no later than 7 p.m. in the evening, therefore allowing time for the body to properly digest the meal. However you can apply the ‘pauper principle’ if you are eating later than 7 p.m. by reducing or cutting out your carbohydrate intake altogether (rice, pasta, potatoes etc) and focusing just on protein and vegetables.

So the outcome? There’s always some truth in what those wives had to say – it’s just that some of the reasons why they still ring true have changed over the years!


Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie


Keep the bugs at bay: five ways to boost immunity through nutrition



Although the weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, let’s not forget that around the corner is the dreaded cold and flu season.  But catching a cold doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion this winter; take good care of your immune system right now and you’ll benefit all season long!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top five immune-boosting foods and some may surprise you!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Whether you love prawns, clams, crab, lobster, oysters or mussels, all shellfish is packed full of zinc. Zinc is one of the hardest working minerals in our diet and is particularly key in supporting the immune system and preventing colds and other nasty bugs from flourishing!


Zinc works particularly well with vitamin C to provide great immune support, so squeezing some lemon over your delicious shellfish would also be beneficial!  However, if shellfish doesn’t float your boat, eggs and wholegrains such as brown rice or quinoa also provide good amounts of zinc.


Live cultures in yoghurt have a really positive effect on the immune system. Much of the body’s immune system lives in the gut, therefore, a healthy digestive system is the key to strong immunity and live natural yoghurt can really help with this.


Look for one that highlights high levels of friendly bacterial strains or cultures; the yoghurts that state ‘bio-cultured’ contain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains which are the most naturally prevalent in the digestive tract and therefore provide the most benefit to health.


There is plenty to choose from in the supermarkets, but just watch out for the fruit and sugar-laden varieties; sugar destroys the good bacteria that naturally resides in the body so can be counterintuitive. If you really don’t like the taste of plain yoghurt though, try eating it with some fresh blueberries which are high in antioxidants and provide even more support for the immune system.


Coconut is a really hot ingredient right now and for very good reason.  As well as being the healthiest oil to use in cooking, coconut is also great for the immune system.  This is because it contains lauric acid which is turned into something called monolaurin in the body; it is this compound that is known to help stimulate production of T cells which are key in fighting off viruses and bacteria.


One of the many great things about coconut is that it’s so versatile and therefore so easy to include in the daily diet.  It can be used in stir-fries, raw recipes, smoothies and sweet treats such as brownies or cookies.


If you’ve never tried papaya you’re in for a real treat!  Not only do papaya taste amazing they contain some of the highest amounts of vitamin C of all the fruits and vegetables.  Vitamin C is probably best known for its immune-boosting properties, particularly enhancing white blood cell production which is key to keeping the body in fighting form.


Papaya also contains high levels of vitamin A, which is another immune-loving nutrient as well as being a powerful antioxidant.


Go bananas this season!  They are one of the most versatile and portable snacks, popular with all the family and they really help to boost the immune system.


Bananas are high in vitamin B6 which is key to providing immune support by helping to protect us from infection. Factors such as tea and coffee intake, pregnancy and taking the contraceptive pill all deplete vitamin B6, as does alcohol; with the party season coming up, eating more bananas may well be a factor to consider! Bananas also make a great mid-morning ‘pick-me-up’ or a pre-workout energy booster!

So, by including some of these particular nutrients into your diet, you can boost your immunity as much as possible throughout the winter months and not miss out on the upcoming party season!


Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie


The wonders of Vitamin D: an essential vitamin for wellness and long term health

shutterstock_310287731 woman sun bathing May16

Known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s predominantly made on the skin when the sun’s out, Vitamin D is currently one of the most talked about vitamins. And that’s because it delivers so many wonderful health benefits. Unfortunately it is very deficient in the UK population (not surprisingly) due to our lack of sunlight as we are located in the northern hemisphere.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides a complete low-down on Vitamin D and how we can make sure we get enough all year round.


Vitamin D is often described as a hormone rather than a vitamin; a hormone is defined as an essential compound that the body manufactures in order to control a particular biological function.  In the case of vitamin D, it helps to control the absorption of calcium.  It also serves a number of other key functions in the body, specifically supporting the immune system.

shutterstock_200010890 smiling woman in sunshine Aug15

So how does sunlight affect our Vitamin D levels? When sunlight hits the skin, it converts a form of cholesterol into the active form of vitamin D. This happens firstly through the liver and then through the kidneys, which is why many people with liver or kidney problems will often be deficient in Vitamin D and Calcium, regardless of their exposure to the sun.

Even in ‘sunny’ countries, people can actually still be deficient; a recent study[1] for example found that women in Brazil were actually lacking in Vitamin D!  Overall, research suggests that this vitamin is so important to health that widespread supplementation would be beneficial to all populations.


Vitamin D’s key role is to support the metabolism of calcium.  And since calcium is our main bone-building nutrient, Vitamin D is obviously key in bone health.  Indeed, a study carried out in 2010[2] found that Vitamin D could hold the key to pushing back the years when it comes to maintaining strong bone health and muscle strength.

shutterstock_277907438 highlighted bones of woman exercising May16

The better your Vitamin D levels, the more likely you are to maintain good structural function of the body throughout the years. Peak bone mass is achieved at around 18 years of age; bone mass declines more rapidly without adequate Vitamin D, which is why it becomes more of a problem as we age.


It has been found in recent years that Vitamin D plays a key role in the correct functioning of the immune system; it works by increasing the number of anti-inflammatory proteins as well as antimicrobial proteins, all of which help support immunity.


Vitamin D, therefore, helps to ward-off those dreaded coughs and colds.  These proteins are so powerful that they seem to be able to reduce the risk of developing pneumonia, which can be a complication following a bout of flu.


It appears that Vitamin D is successful in preventing a number of heart-related conditions.  Recent American studies3 have found that Vitamin D may help reduce the build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels by helping to prevent cholesterol from sticking to the artery walls.

shutterstock_205649467 heart with hands sun Feb16

This is particularly important for diabetics (and there are now around 4.5 million people in the UK living with Type 2 diabetes), who are at a much higher risk of heart disease because they have difficulties in properly processing cholesterol.


It’s not just these health conditions where Vitamin D is so crucial; it’s needed for healthy teeth, treating chronic pain, weight management and the prevention of autoimmune and degenerative diseases.  It really is a wonder vitamin!


It’s not just being in the sunshine that makes us feel good!   It’s also the fact that higher levels of Vitamin D in the body are attributable to better mood, and even a reduction in depressive illnesses.

shutterstock_137699207 woman smiling in the sun Mar15

This is partly because there are Vitamin D receptors in the brain and also because it is thought that Vitamin D increases levels of our happy hormone, serotonin.  The mode of action isn’t fully understood but it’s always good to grab more happiness and positivity when you can!


Vitamin D is mainly found in animal food sources such as oily fish, egg yolks, butter, liver and milk.  There are small amounts in green leafy vegetables and mushrooms but these are not as absorbable.  Because of the animal origin of most Vitamin D sources, vegetarians and vegans may well need additional supplementation.



It is now fully accepted that we need higher levels of this amazing vitamin to achieve optimal health. Such is the extent of Vitamin D deficiency in the UK population, that Public Health England recommends a minimum of 10 micrograms of Vitamin D daily for everyone throughout the year.  Whilst we do sometimes see good levels of sunshine during the British summer, and the body can store Vitamin D, high factor sun cream blocks its absorption on the skin. So it is advised that we spend around 15 minutes in the sun every day before covering up.

So as you can see getting enough Vitamin D all year round, and especially during the dark winter months, really is essential to overall wellness and longer term health.


[1] Lopes et al. Highly prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among Brazilian women of reproductive age.

Arch Endocrinol Metab 2016 Oct 10:0

[2] Federation of American Sciences for Experimental Biology (2010, April 26). Better vitamin D status could mean better quality of life for seniors

3 Bernal-Mizrachi C et al.  (2009) 1,25 (OH) vitamin D inhibits foam cell formation and suppresses macrophage cholesterol uptake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.  Circulation. 120 (8) pp.687-698



Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing tips.

Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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