Boost your immune system: easy, everyday swaps to help fight the bugs


Keeping your immune system in tip-top condition is important all year round but especially in the traditional cold and flu season.  But there are some easy ways to help ward off any bugs flying around by making some simple swaps to your diet and upping your nutrition.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer suggests some easy tweaks to your diet that will rev up your immune system and stop those bugs in their tracks!

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Many of us drink orange juice in the morning in the belief that this will help support our immune system.  The reality is that much of the vitamin C content is lost in processing and the fibre content is also reduced. It can also give your blood sugar levels an unwanted surge. A better option is to make a delicious ginger drink which you can keep in the fridge and which will boost your immune system every morning.


Ginger is an antioxidant which helps to protect the immune system, plus it directly helps eradicate those nasty cold viruses.  It’s also a natural antimicrobial which means it helps fight any invaders.  This drink is easy to make; grate some ginger into a jug with the zest and juice of two lemons (you can use bottled lemon juice), together with some Manuka honey and water.  Manuka honey is different from other honey – it has an amazing nutritional profile, plus it’s also a great immune booster in its own right! This is a delicious drink that will really wake up your immune system and taste buds every morning.


Do you tend to add sugar to tea, coffee and cereals? Enjoy baking biscuits and cakes?  If you’ve got a sweet tooth then trying to combat cravings can be tricky.  As well has having a detrimental effect on your waistline, sugar also impacts negatively on your immune system.  So why not swap to xylitol which is a natural sweetener and is readily available in the supermarkets?


You use it just as you would sugar, but the great news is it has a minimal effect on blood sugar levels so it’s not going to encourage cravings.


The wonderful array of colours provided by fruits and vegetables deliver so many positive effects on the immune system that it makes sense to include as many as possible in your diet. So try swapping different snacks for colourful fruit and veg throughout the day for maximum health benefits.


It’s not as difficult as you might think. Even if you don’t take all your lunch to work you can still increase your ‘colour’ intake by bringing a raw carrot, some sticks of cucumber and chopped peppers to work; these make a great colourful snack or side with your lunch.  If possible, why not leave some hummus in the fridge at work? Beetroot hummus is packed with antioxidants and tastes delicious, making a great dip for your raw vegetables.

Why not grab a tub of blueberries on your way to work? Blueberries are a superfood that really rev up the immune system, plus they don’t have too much impact on blood sugar levels, and, therefore your waistline.


Just like carrots, sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene which turns into vitamin A and helps to soak up those damaging free radicals. This in turn helps bolster the immune system and may even help stop the ageing process. A medium-sized sweet potato contains around 40% of your daily vitamin C requirements plus some iron which is great for the immune system, as well as energy levels.


Even better you can make some deliciously tasty and healthy breakfast muffins with sweet potatoes.  All you need is a couple of eggs, some xylitol, cooked sweet potatoes, plain flour, cinnamon, baking powder and some chopped pecans (which will also add some protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer). Just combine the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then blend all together and fill some muffin cups with the mixture. Bake in the oven and in 25 minutes, you’ll have a delicious, on-the-go breakfast!


Your digestive tract is packed full of bacteria – some good and some bad.  The more good or friendly bacteria you have the better; friendly flora deliver many positive health benefits, but specifically boost the immune system.


You can feed these good bacteria by drinking green tea and Cat’s claw tea and sprinkling flaxseeds onto your morning cereal. Why not add more Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus to your diet which also boost these good bacteria?  Eating live yoghurt is another great way of helping the good guys in your stomach.

Top tip: if you’ve had to take antibiotics recently, it’s good advice to take a course of probiotics for at least a month to replenish the good bacteria and ensure you’re not at more risk from nasty invaders.

So why not try these easy nutrition tips and give your immune system a helping hand!



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Going back to your roots: why root vegetables are so good for you


Root vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Because they grow underground, they absorb a huge amount of nutrients from the earth around them. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, they are versatile and provide a great accompaniment to many dishes and in some cases can be the main event themselves!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top five root vegetables and their nutritional benefits.

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In ancient times, people only ate beetroot leaves, with the purple root being used medicinally to treat toothaches and headaches!  Now of course we know that these delicious roots are packed with beta-carotene (an antioxidant which helps to protect against the ageing process), vitamin C (to support the immune system), iron (which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue), and folic acid (great for energy).


Beetroot has now built a reputation as a superfood: most recently, it’s been found to boost exercise performance, meaning beetroot juice is a great choice for athletes.

Nutritionally, freshly boiled beetroot is as good as the raw vegetable with very few nutrients lost during cooking.  There are a wealth of sweet and savoury dishes that work well with Beetroot; as a side to mackerel, in combination with goat’s cheese, as a soup, in chocolate brownies, roasted with carrots, in a salad with chorizo and pear… the list is delicious and endless!


Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene; our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A as we need it, and vitamin A is great for the skin and is also needed for healthy vision. Interestingly, if you’re deficient in vitamin A, just one carrot a day can be enough to improve your night vision.


Nutritionally, carrots are actually better eaten cooked than raw; raw carrots have tough cellular walls which makes it more difficult for the body to extract the beta-carotene.  Carrots – and in fact all vegetables contain beta-carotene – are actually best eaten in a meal containing fats (such as meat or cheese); beta-carotene is a fat soluble nutrient which means it is much better absorbed by the body when eaten with foods containing fats.


This sweet, starchy vegetable makes a great alternative to potatoes and can often be overlooked as a source of fibre, which keeps those bowels moving! Parsnips are a good source of vitamins C and E – both great for the immune system as well as supporting a healthy heart and good skin.


Spicy parsnip soup is a real winner. Roast the parsnips in the oven with some garlic, turmeric, cumin and onions for about half an hour. Then put into a food processor with some vegetable stock and a little lemon juice and blend until smooth – heat and serve as needed. This soup makes a great starter for any dinner party or provides a nutritious lunch to pack for work.


Sweet potato is yet another vegetable that’s packed with beta-carotene; it’s the rich colours in root vegetables that provide this wonderful health-giving antioxidant. Sweet potatoes also provide good levels of vitamin C (for immunity) and potassium (to support a healthy heart). Although they’re very slightly higher in calories than white potatoes, sweet potatoes are much better at balancing blood sugar levels, which is really important for providing sustained energy and for effective weight management (if that is your goal).


Sweet potatoes are also incredibly versatile. As a quick and easy lunch you can eat them just like you would with white potatoes – in their jackets with some tuna and sweetcorn and a little mayonnaise. You can roast them as wedges for a delicious side dish, and they can be mashed with a little butter and black pepper. Sweet potatoes are great included in curries, pureed in soups with butternut squash, added to lamb tagines or even baked in chocolate brownies and muffins. Whatever you choose to do with them, their amazing health benefits make them a great alternative to the standard spud.


Garlic is often regarded as a staple ingredient to enhance the flavour or most dishes, but it also delivers so many health benefits! It has natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties which means it’s great for supporting the immune system in warding off colds and infections, and it protects the digestive tract from nasty invaders causing stomach upsets.  Taking a course of garlic pills and upping your intake of garlic in meals prior to travelling abroad can really help protect the body from nasty stomach bugs.


The medicinal properties of garlic are the result of the sulphur compounds it contains. These compounds actually provide more health benefits when raw rather than cooked, but most people might find eating raw garlic a bit of a challenge!  Regularly including garlic in your cooking is still going to provide great health benefits, including a healthier heart, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.


Garlic is particularly good roasted with chicken or lamb, with some rosemary.  You can also mix it with chilli, thyme and olive oil to make a marinade for a delicious roast rib of beef or steak. Garlic also works really well with roasted vegetables or stir fried broccoli; it can be sautéed with butter and mushrooms or fried with cabbage, onion and bacon. Delicious!

So why not explore the many ways you can include more roots in your diet and enjoy the health benefits of these colourful and nutritious vegetables!


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Mindful lunch prep: nutritionally-balanced meals to see you through the week



If you’re working long hours and are always on the run, trying to eat healthily at every meal can be a challenge. During a busy work day it’s important to refuel with a well-balanced meal; what you eat at lunchtime can significantly impact your energy and concentration levels throughout the afternoon. But there are easy and smart meals to eat in the evenings in order to provide you with a range of delicious lunchtime options.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, takes the stress out of lunchtimes with pre-planned delicious and nutritious meal suggestions for every day of the week. 

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Making work-day lunches doesn’t have to be a struggle. By planning in advance you can create a range of exciting options, packed full of nutrients to see you through the day. Almost any dish in my list below can be made in advance and used later – in fact lots of dishes, such as curry, actually improve with age!


Monday is one of the easiest days for lunch-time planning; it’s all about what you’ve eaten the day before!  If you’ve cooked a lovely Sunday roast, make sure you’ve bought a larger chicken or joint of meat that leaves you a portion or two for the next couple of days.


Chicken, for example, can be quickly thrown into a lunch box with some salad leaves, cucumber, tomato and some seeds of your choice, together with a wholemeal bap. Why not try a super sandwich – put your roast chicken between two slices of wholemeal bread, with some avocado and rocket.  It really is as simple as that!


Some days don’t need much pre-prep at all – you can take all your ingredients to work and make your lunch there and then!  For example, take a potato which can be microwaved at work, together with some tinned tuna (low fat protein to keep you going all afternoon) and some sweetcorn (which provides great colour and also helps fills you up) mixed together with some crème fraiche (which also provides an extra hit of protein). A tasty lunch indeed!


Why not swap your white potato for a sweet potato which are a more nutrient-rich alternative to the traditional spud; they’re high in fibre which supports a healthy digestive system and also contain a great array of nutrients, including vitamin A to boost the immune system.


After an easy Tuesday lunch, Wednesday is all about using leftovers from your evening meal.  For dinner on Tuesday, why not roast some salmon in a foil parcel (to keep it moist) and serve with some wholegrain brown rice, broccoli and peas.  A super-healthy dinner which can then be transformed into a super-healthy lunch the next day!


You could serve the salmon and rice as a cold salad, perhaps adding some other salad vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. You can heat the whole lot up at work for a hot lunchtime meal or just bring the salmon and a potato to microwave, again mixing the salmon with some crème fraiche and serving with a side of salad vegetables.


This lunchtime option has high nutritional content and is one that can easily be prepared from your dinner the night before – stir-fry. The more colourful the stir-fry, the more nutritious the dish; think mange tout, peas, baby corn, pak choi, asparagus, onions, red, green and yellow peppers … let your imagination flow!


Prawns are a great low-fat, high protein option. Why not use chicken thighs rather than chicken breast to provide more flavour? A stir-fry is a very versatile dish and you can literally add whatever takes your fancy. A left over portion can then be eaten hot or cold the next day.  It’s high in protein providing sustained energy throughout the afternoon and an excellent array of vitamins and minerals.


Here’s another great lunch that stays fresh in the fridge for two to three days – quinoa and roasted vegetables!  This dish is easy, quick and cost effective and can be enjoyed with your choice of protein to keep it interesting.


The most time-efficient way to prepare this meal is to make a large batch of roasted vegetables on Thursday evening and eat them with whatever else you’re serving.  It could be a piece of fish, a chicken breast or a steak (go, on treat yourself!)  Whilst this is cooking, boil up a few portions of quinoa with some stock, for additional flavour, and you’ve got a healthy lunch of roasted vegetables and quinoa that you can dip in and out of.

Quinoa is a wonderful protein source, so it will fill you up and keep you going throughout the day, plus the roasted vegetables provide a range of vitamins and minerals. Roasted vegetables also provide lots of fibre to keep your digestive system running smoothly.



Why not create your own version of Saturday kitchen?  Spend a couple of hours on a Saturday making some dishes for the coming week.  Why not make a big batch of soup?  You can literally throw anything into the saucepan with some stock and you’ve got a few lunches ready to go; think potatoes, leaks, spinach, peas, onions, and broccoli – the easiest and most nutritious lunch you’ll ever have!

So, healthy eating at lunchtime doesn’t have to be a chore! Just get into the habit of menu-planning for the week and prepping the night before for an easy, no-nonsense approach to filling your lunchbox.


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Love your Friday night Takeaway? Try these healthier options from your favourite restaurants.


Most of us love a good Friday night takeaway!  Whether it’s a treat or a necessity because there’s nothing in the fridge, a takeaway provides a quick and tasty option. But if you’re trying to eat well this year which are the best dishes to choose without ruining all your good work?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, looks at the six most popular takeaway meals and provides the low-down on the healthiest choices.

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The most calorie-laden part of any pizza is the base.  So choosing a thin crust base is not only better for your waistline, but you’ll really taste the varied flavours of the toppings.  When choosing toppings, vegetarian options are great because they’ll always contain colourful vegetables such as peppers, onions, courgettes, olives, sweetcorn, mushrooms and chilli; as with all meals, the more colourful the pizza, the healthier it is!


Tomatoes are always a big feature of any pizza and they provide wonderful health benefits; tomatoes deliver lycopene, an amazing antioxidant which is great for the skin and keeping the ageing process at bay. Even better, those benefits are not lost when the tomatoes are cooked, so why not ask for extra!

Try to avoid salami, pepperoni and other processed meat toppings. You might like the spicy tastes but the salt and fat content is high.


There are some really healthy spices used in traditional Indian cooking; turmeric for one, should be included in the diet as much as possible.  It’s great for helping any inflammatory issues the body might be suffering with and it will certainly keep your brain sharp! Look for dishes that are made with lots of spices – all of them will deliver varied benefits to your health.


The main dishes to avoid are those made with cream such as kormas, which are very high in fat and, therefore, calories.  Murgh dishes are a great creamy alternative; made with yoghurt (great for the digestion with their friendly bacteria), garlic (a real heart-lover) and lots of spices, they are a great choice.


If you’re going to eat fish and chips, it’s always going to be quite calorific. But don’t beat yourself up over it as there are ways to make it healthier.


Thick-cut chips actually absorb much less fat than thinner chips or fries, so if this is an option always go for the chunkier chips. You also don’t need to eat all the batter on the fish! Why not take off the batter from one side and enjoy that way?  The good news is that all white fish are high in protein and low in fat.  And if you’re concerned for the environment then choose fish that’s more sustainable such as plaice or huss. And don’t forget the peas for some good greens!

But avoid the saveloys!  They might be tasty but they’re produced from pork and pork fat and contain nitrates which can have negative effects on health. The nutrient value of a saveloy is minimal.


The base ingredients used in traditional Chinese cooking are really healthy and nutritious.  It’s worth heading for soups and stir fry dishes with vegetables and egg noodles, for the healthiest options.


Ginger regularly features in Chinese cuisine. It’s great for the immune system which makes it the perfect choice for this time of year, so choose dishes which feature this super spice. Chinese vegetables such as pak choi are incredibly healthy too.  Pak choi is one of the brassica family of vegetables, which means its nutrient profile is impressive, it’s very low in calories and fat but high in fibre. So why not order as a side dish to accompany your Chinese takeaway!

Unfortunately some of the sauces used in Chinese cooking can be high in calories; sweet and sour is one example that tastes great, but is packed with sugar.  It’s also worth checking with the shop that they don’t use monosodium glutamate (MSG) in their cooking; digestive upsets that are commonly experienced after a Chinese are often caused by MSG (used to colour and flavour many sauces).


The traditional image of a kebab shop is the rotating piece of meat that sits in the window.  Commonly known as a doner kebab, this is not the greatest choice when it comes to nutrition; the meat will certainly be processed in some way and any food that is kept under luke-warm temperatures for a period of time is going to be more susceptible to germs.


A much better choice would be a shish kebab which is barbecued meat or chicken, covered with spices and served with salad and pitta bread.  Even if the salad looks like it has been sitting there for a while, there will still be some good ‘green’ benefits plus you’ll be getting plenty of quality protein from the meat or chicken.


Thai food is known for its varied and fragrant flavours and there are so many healthy choices on a Thai menu.  Whilst red and green Thai curries are quite delicious, the steamed fish or salads are much less calorie-laden.  All Thai food is made using a variety of herbs such as lemon grass, coriander, garlic, ginger, lime leaves and basil, to name but a few. These all provide plenty of extra health benefits.


Your taste buds will always be stimulated by the multitude of flavours found in Thai food and if you eat slowly, the feelings of fullness will happen and you won’t overindulge on the sticky rice!

So enjoy your Friday night takeaway but just spend a few more minutes thinking about your food choices so you feel a little less guilty the next day!


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