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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Make this the year of fruit and veg: how to get more nutrients into your diet


What better way to start a new year than by planning to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables!  Packed full of nutrients, eating a wide variety of fruit and veg in your daily diet is a great way to make sure you’re getting as many vitamins and minerals as you can.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shows us just how easy it can be and shares some great ideas for upping your fruit and veg intake.

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Salads can often provide quick and healthy meals.  Although we might tend to associate salads with summer, winter salads are just as easy, nutritious and versatile.

One of my favourites is beetroot, watercress, walnut and goats cheese.  Watercress provides a great non-dairy source of calcium (many people can’t tolerate dairy foods), plus it’s rich in iodine which is great for the brain and thyroid gland.


Wonderful beetroot offers a wealth of benefits, including being a great support for the liver (excellent if you’re trying to detox), plus it’s a rich source of iron, providing extra energy.  Athletes can also benefit from eating more beetroot; it has been found to improve endurance training and makes recovery from exercise much quicker.


Walnuts are an excellent source of those essential omega-3 fatty acids; these little wonder nuts help to reduce blood pressure as well as keeping the brain razor-sharp!  And finally goat’s cheese provides the protein you need to keep feeling fuller for longer, not to mention adding a wonderful tangy flavour to the dish.

There are so many wonderful winter salad combinations – let your imagination run wild and add in both hot and cold elements to keep it interesting.


Trying to eat enough fruit and veg throughout the day (at least 5 portions) can sometimes be a challenge.  Busy lives, lack of time and last minute food prep can all mean we don’t eat as much as we know we should!  Take the pressure off; you can actually clock up some of those 5 portions just by using fruits and vegetables as snacks throughout the day.


Prep some crudites in advance. It takes only a few minutes to chop some carrots (filled with beta-carotene and great for your immune system), some red and green peppers (high in another immune-booster – vitamin C), celery (great for reducing high blood pressure) and cucumber (high in potassium and good for the heart).  Pack a pot of hummus and you’ve got yourself an amazing snack to keep you going throughout the day.

Berry fruits are another excellent snack that can be eaten on the run.  Whilst it’s always best to eat fruit and veg in season, we are lucky enough to be able to select a wide range throughout the year.  For example, blueberries are packed with health-protective anthocyanins – wonderful antioxidants helping to prevent degenerative diseases.


The old adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ makes complete sense considering apples are nutritional powerhouses: they contain vitamins A, C, B complex, calcium and potassium. Bring one with you every day – it’s a lot easier to reach for a healthy snack when you have one to hand at all times.


There’s actually no better way of fast-tracking your vegetable intake by making soups. A hearty and nutritious soup doesn’t have to take long at all – you don’t even need to peel many vegetables before adding them to the saucepan.


Think potatoes, leaks, carrots and onions gently cooked with some stock and then liquidised – it really is as easy as that.  Add a bag of spinach and you’ve got a really powerful, nutritious, iron-rich soup, with minimal effort.  With so many people deficient in the mineral iron, essential for energy, it makes sense to add spinach into your cooking as much as possible.

You can also add kale to soups in exactly the same way; it’s tasty and cheap plus it’s an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin – two antioxidants which really help to protect eyesight, particularly as we age.


Many people struggle to go shopping every few days for fresh fruits and vegetables.  So instead, load your freezer with your favourites and use them when there’s no fresh options left in the fridge.


Remember that many pre-packed frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested and frozen very quickly, thereby retaining great amounts of all their valuable nutrients, so these are a great option when you’re short on time. You can also freeze any leftover fresh fruit and vegetables for use another time and also freeze individual batches of soup for a quick go-to meal.

So make this the year of fruit and vegetables and get creative with all the ways you can incorporate more into your daily diet!


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Food facts: everything you need to know about protein


Protein is an essential macro nutrient that we need to eat every day.  It is present in every cell of the human body, which shows why it’s so important. But how much do you know about protein and what are the best sources?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives us the low-down on protein: its main benefits, which are the best foods to eat, plus what are the alternatives if you’re vegetarian or vegan?

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Every cell in the human body contains protein: it is a major part of the skin, muscles, organs and glands.  Protein is also used to make the brain’s neurotransmitters (which communicate with other parts of the body), and it is used for growth and development and for the creation of DNA (the key building blocks of life).



Protein is made up of nitrogen-containing molecules called amino acids. They come together in specific combinations to make different types of proteins that form our cells and organs, in much the same way that letters make words to form sentences and paragraphs.

There are actually eight amino acids that are essential for humans; foods that contain all eight are called complete proteins.  Eggs are one example of a complete protein food.



There are two main types of protein – animal and vegetable protein.  Animal protein obviously comes from animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy produce and eggs.  Animal protein is much more ‘complete’ than vegetable protein, meaning it contains more of the amino acids that make up protein.


Examples of vegetable protein foods include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy, tofu, quinoa and lentils.  In order for a vegetarian or vegan to obtain all these essential amino acids, they need to combine both grains and beans during the day (though these don’t necessarily need to be eaten at the same meal).  So for example a corn and beans dish or rice and beans are great combinations.  Quinoa is one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans: whilst it is a grain, it is also more ‘complete’ than other grains – a great way of topping up those essential amino acids!


There is one source of vegetable protein that is complete – hemp protein.  It’s been around for many thousands of years and also has the benefit of containing some essential fats.  It has a slightly nutty flavour and is a great addition to juices or smoothies for a protein top-up – you certainly don’t need to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy its benefits!


You should try and eat protein at every meal.  It’s especially important to eat protein at breakfast-time when blood sugar levels are low: by eating a protein-based meal first thing in the morning, such as scrambled or poached eggs perhaps with some wholemeal toast, you’ll start the day with a good level of protein in your system. This will also ensure your energy levels and mood are balanced throughout the day.


Protein is not stored in the body in the same way as fats and carbohydrates, so it needs to be eaten daily. The recommended amount is around 25-30g of protein at each meal.  This is roughly the equivalent of two eggs, a chicken or salmon fillet or a vegetarian chilli con carne containing beans and served with wholegrain rice.  Protein is particularly important for children, whose bodies are growing and developing constantly.


High protein diets have become very popular over the last few years, and whilst some of them may actually contain too much protein, the basic concept of using protein to help with weight loss has merit.

As we know, protein helps to balance blood sugar levels – a key mechanism in managing weight.  If there is too much sugar or glucose in the blood, the body’s natural insulin response will simply send the excess sugar to be stored in the fat cells.  This where a high sugar diet makes effective weight loss very difficult.


Protein also helps the body to feel satisfied for longer, so hunger pangs are controlled and therefore less food is ultimately eaten.  Protein also stimulates the production of CCK, an intestinal hormone that is released after a meal and signals fullness.  It’s actually not true that a carbohydrate-laden meal such as pasta that will keep you feeling fuller for longer – it’s all about the protein.


Everybody needs protein.  However, children are especially at risk of low protein intake, partly because many exist on higher carbohydrate diets that contain lots of pasta or potatoes.  Pasta does contain a small amount of protein but is not sufficient for their daily needs; children should be eating food from the protein groups mentioned above.


The elderly are also at risk of deficiency.  Maintaining muscle mass is particularly important as we age, particularly keeping the legs strong to help prevent falls and broken bones (and protein is a major constituent of bone).  A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that older men and women who ate the most protein-rich foods lost approximately 40% less muscle mass over three years compared to those who ate the least amount[1].


Certain sectors of the population eat a lot of protein – athletes and body-builders for example.  However, whilst it was once thought that this put additional strain on the kidneys and also caused calcium to be leached from the bones, this is now not thought to be the case. We know that excess amino acids are simply eliminated in the urine from the body.  Therefore, those eating a very high protein diet don’t appear to be at risk.

So in a nutshell, include a range of proteins throughout the day and eat protein at every meal to provide your body with the best support you can.



[1] Houston DK et al.  Dietary protein intake is associated with lean mass change in older, community-dwelling adults.  Am J Clin. Nutr. 81: 150-155


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Boost your immunity at every meal: top nutrients for a healthy immune system


With the cold and flu season currently in full flow, it makes sense to try to avoid succumbing to these bugs any way you can. A good diet and active lifestyle will always help support a healthier body but the really good news is that there are many everyday foods you can simply include more of to help banish the bugs!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides her top food tips to help make your breakfast, lunch and dinner immune-boosting and delicious!

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Each meal time is an opportunity to include foods that are going to provide essential nutrients, not only to boost your immunity but to enhance your overall health. So here are some ideas to keep your immunity going from breakfast, through to lunch and onto dinner.


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  However short of time you are in the mornings, you really need to make eating a well-balanced breakfast your top priority. Blood sugar levels are naturally low in the morning and if you grab a quick expresso and croissant you’ll find your energy levels will dip later in the day.


Make your breakfast a really joyful time of the day. Eggs are great, cooked any way you like! Their yolks contain good amounts of immune-boosting vitamin D, which is sadly lacking at this time of year due to the lack of sunlight.  Try scrambling some eggs and putting them on rye or wholemeal toast. This way you’ll also be getting some zinc – a key mineral involved in supporting the immune system: there is much research to suggest that zinc reduces the duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold[1] so if you are unlucky enough to catch one it will be less severe.  Add some mushrooms on the side for even more vitamin D, plus tomatoes for an even better balanced breakfast.


Natural live yoghurt contains beneficial bacteria which help to boost the immune system.  Try adding some delicious fruits which are packed with our all-time favourite immune-booster, vitamin C. Kiwi fruit are top of the list for vitamin C content but colourful berries such as blueberries and raspberries contain powerful antioxidants which also help to stave off nasty bugs.  If you add some wheat germ to your bowl (readily available in supermarkets) you’ll also be increasing your zinc intake, together with adding some useful fibre for healthy bowels.


When it comes to good immunity-boosting lunch foods, chicken soup or chicken bone-broth really hit the mark as they have great anti-viral properties.  Making a large saucepanful of soup for the week is a great way to plan ahead and have a batch at hand, plus chicken soup can be frozen.  You can add carrots, mushrooms, parsnips or whatever vegetables you love, but be sure to include some garlic and turmeric which are both amazingly powerful herbs when it comes to boosting immunity.


Smoked or poached salmon is another great idea for lunchtime; it’s an excellent source of protein which will help to prevent the 3 pm energy slump, plus it contains good levels of vitamin D.  Why not add some salmon to a jacket sweet potato (packed full of health-giving vitamin A).  For a more portable option, mashed avocado and tomato in a wholemeal pitta provides great vitamin C as well as antioxidants for an extra immunity hit.



After a long day you’ll be looking forward to something to tempt those taste buds and to warm you up at this time of year.  This is where a colourful plate can really come to life!  Every food colour represents different vitamins and minerals (many associated with immunity) and the more variety you have the better your immune system will be supported.

Think broccoli, red peppers, ginger, sugar snap peas, pak choi, sweet potatoes, carrots, red cabbage – it already sounds like a great recipe for a stir fry! Then add your protein of choice – chicken, prawn or pork for example. This provides a great opportunity to include a wealth of colourful vegetables and herbs into your delightful dinner dish!


It really is important to include some protein at every meal. The immune system needs protein to function at its best: antibodies which help to fight infection, are actually made from proteins. With so much to choose from you can really mix it up when it comes to dinner preparation, whether you go for chicken, fish, turkey, or red meat (also packed with iron which is great for immunity). For the vegetarians among you, try eggs, cheese, beans, nuts or lentils for your protein hit.  I particularly love steamed seabass with ginger, lemon grass and garlic, served with steamed sugar snap peas, pak choi and sweet potato – a really tasty, immune-boosting meal.


Another top tip: simplify the decision-making process about what to eat for dinner by choosing your protein source first and then think about the coloured foods to eat it with!  You’ll automatically be getting a great balance of immune-boosting foods by planning your meals this way.

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And finally what to drink. Top of the list for immune-boosting drinks has to be green tea which is packed full of antioxidants, ginger tea (you can easily make your own infusion) or cat’s claw tea (also a great source of antioxidants). And of course water – plenty of water!

So use every meal time to boost your immunity and make this winter the healthiest yet!


[1] Science M.  Zinc for the treatment of the common cold; a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.  2012 Jul 10; 184 (10): E551-61



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Millions of Brits are under-nourished: National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows state of the nation


In a country like the UK where fresh, quality food is available in abundance, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find severe nutrient deficiencies within the population. However, the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey highlights a number of deficiencies across 11 key vitamins and minerals. This government report on the nutritional state of the nation raises ongoing concerns around the UK diet, also highlighted in a recent article in the Mail Online.

 Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, breaks down the report and gives us a top line overview of what we need to know and how we can improve our own diet.

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In an ideal world, everyone would get all the nutrition they need from their daily diet but the National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that this is unfortunately not happening. Public Health Nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire, has commented on the ongoing 5-a-day initiative: “Everyone knows the five-a-day recommendation for fruit and vegetables, but three-quarters of working-age adults and nine out of ten children are not hitting this basic target”.

There are several nutrient deficiencies outlined in the report which are cause for concern but I have highlighted what I think are the top 4 deficiencies that we need to focus on:


Called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it is mostly made on the skin in the presence of sunlight, Vitamin D is essential for immunity, healthy bones and teeth and protection against certain serious diseases. Public Health England are now advising everyone to take a supplement containing at least 10 µg of Vitamin D daily.  Widespread deficiencies exist so the message still needs to be communicated around the importance of getting enough Vitamin D.

shutterstock_115649197 vitamin D beach May16


Iron is needed to transport oxygen around the body, so is therefore essential for energy. The easiest absorbed source of iron is found in red meat, which means that vegetarians and vegans are often at risk of deficiency.


The survey confirms that iron deficiency amongst women and girls has reached “epidemic” proportions.  It’s also essential for growth in children.  Clearly, the UK diet is not providing sufficient amounts of Iron.


The trace mineral Iodine is most abundant in sea vegetables, including seaweed but is also found in dairy products.  Iodine is essential for healthy growth and development in children. It’s also essential for healthy functioning of the thyroid gland which helps control body weight and temperature: an imbalanced thyroid gland can also adversely affect other hormone functions throughout the body.


Worryingly, the survey shows twenty percent of teens, eight percent of adults and seven percent of children aged four to ten years are deficient, which may lead to serious health consequences in the future.


Probably the most hardworking mineral, Zinc is key for immunity, so is especially important throughout the winter months.  Although widely found in meat, fish and wholegrain cereals, it’s not always well absorbed in people with digestive problems or those with higher intakes of alcohol.


The survey found that Zinc is actually deficient across all ages of the population, with teenage girls having the lowest levels.


Other nutrient deficiencies were covered in the survey, including:

  • Vitamin A (essential for immunity and good vision)
  • Vitamin B2 (needed for a healthy nervous system)
  • Folic Acid (for healthy blood and pregnancy outcome)
  • Calcium (essential for bones and teeth)
  • Selenium (for immunity and fertility)
  • Magnesium (essential for energy and muscle)
  • Potassium (for a healthy heart)


Unfortunately the statistics are very clear.  The general population is not getting enough nutrients from their diet alone, leading to poor health and potentially more serious conditions moving forward.


However, these deficiencies can be reversed by taking a slightly different approach to eating.  There are two key dietary changes that you can make which could have a marked improvement on overall health.  The first one would be to try to adopt a rainbow diet.  If counting portions of fruit and vegetables is too challenging, looking at colour variety on the plate at each meal time can be easier.  Every food colour represents a different range of vitamins and minerals, so by trying to eat a rainbow every day, your body’s nutritional status will automatically be improved.


Secondly, reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Try not be tempted by biscuits every day: reduce or avoid sugar in tea and coffee and be mindful of sugary drinks and snacks.  Sugar is an anti-nutrient which stops the body from absorbing beneficial vitamins and minerals, so the more sugar in the diet, the less nutrients available to the body.


Taking a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement as a top-up to the daily diet is also a good way to make sure you’re getting what you need – like an insurance policy for the future. The Alive! range of multi-vitamins and minerals contains a broad spectrum of nutrients, specifically balanced to combat any deficiencies and with specially formulated solutions to suit the whole family. You can find out more here:

Suzie Sawyer, DipION BANT, is Consultant Nutritionist to Nature’s Way UK



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Go clean in 2017: how to refresh your lifestyle for a healthier you


As another year turns, January is always the time when thoughts turn to starting afresh and cleaning up certain areas of our lives, whether it’s our diet, our mind-set or our health.  To many people, this could mean losing some weight, starting a new fitness regime or having more structured life goals.

So where to start?  Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us seven key ways to create sustainable change and clean up all areas of your life for a much healthier you.

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Cleansing the mind should be your number one detox tip. In order to make lasting, sustainable and effective changes to your body and your lifestyle, you need to adopt a positive and clean mind set to allow for new ways of thinking.

Start by stating your life goals – what do you want to achieve during 2017? Make these goals achievable and be realistic about your body and lifestyle too: if the goals are too far-reaching you may become frustrated and give up.


For example, saying you want to lose 2 stone in weight during January is not healthy: losing weight over a longer period of time is much more realistic and reflects a change in mind set and lifestyle.  A good approach is to write down how you will make January the beginning of a much healthier eating pattern that will take you through the year, and what exercise you are planning to do each week.

Keep track of all your goals and see how well you’re doing at key times throughout the month and year to keep your motivation up!


By far the most effective dietary change you can make is to ditch sugar.  Sugar in all its forms encourages weight gain and provides what we call empty calories; cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolates and pastries all need to be avoided – it’s harsh but simple!  But if you really struggle to eat your cereal or porridge for example without a little sweetness, then look for natural sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia, which are readily available in the supermarkets, and are calorie free.


Another benefit of clearing out the sugary foods is that they upset blood sugar balance, which is a main contributor to energy dips and mood swings. Once sugar has mostly been eliminated from your diet, you will feel much more positive mentally and your energy levels will soar – great ways to start feeling healthier all round!


The acid/alkaline balance within the body is an important factor when assessing health. The body should be more alkaline than acid and unfortunately sugary foods and drinks, alcohol, processed foods and stress all create acidity in the body.  Acidity, in turn, can lead to poor detoxification, low energy, blotchy skin and, if this is one of your goals, difficulty losing weight.


However, the good news is that when you load up on fresh vegetables, particularly the cruciferous variety such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and sprouts, you’ll be re-balancing the body towards being more alkaline.

Having a vegetable juice each day will also help to alkalise the body: try one including carrot, kale, beetroot, celery, cucumber, plus some ginger and apple to flavour.  Your body will really benefit from eating as many fresh vegetables as you can – eat plenty each day in order to gain the full nutritional benefit of these vitamins, minerals and fibre.


The liver is your main organ of detoxification and the one that takes most assault from any overindulgence and excesses.  It’s also the only organ that can re-generate, so now is the time to get it back into full working order.  Everything we’ve already talked about will help to detoxify the liver but you can also drink dandelion tea or coffee for extra detoxification. Why not try adding parsley to your dishes (or vegetable juices) for an added detox boost!


Most importantly, the herb Milk Thistle is a traditional herbal remedy (THR) that helps to support the liver – and it’s also a powerful antioxidant.  In fact, it’s the most liver-loving herb there is!  Take a course of Milk Thistle capsules for the next two months to really get your liver back on track, but make sure you choose a brand bearing a THR symbol so that you can be sure of the herb’s purity and efficacy.


So we’ve talked about the food but what about the drinks?

Obviously, we know that alcohol is laden with sugar which simply provides you with empty calories.  Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola are stimulants which upset blood sugar balance, regardless of whether they are sugar-free. Whilst these may not be high in calories, they can add to fat storage and impact your weight loss plans.  Most importantly, they put a strain on the liver – your main organ of detoxification.

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Green tea is one of the best hot drinks you can choose; it’s packed with antioxidants to help quench those damaging free radicals, and also helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Try and replace at least one of your hot drinks every day with green tea – this is a good goal to start with and should be achievable.

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And it goes without saying that you should be aiming to drink at least 1 ½ – 2 litres of water a day to ensure your body is getting enough. If plain water is not very desirable and you know you won’t stick to this goal, think of ways to make it more appealing: add fresh fruit or frozen berries to give it an extra flavour twist. For every other type of drink you have, follow it with a glass of water and try to make this a habit day to day. And if you really can’t do without a nice glass of wine or beer, aim to alternate any alcoholic drink with a glass of water to stay hydrated.


When it comes to digestion, the bowels are a very important part!  Regular bowel movements are key to a healthy digestive system – they can become sluggish with too many rich and sugary foods.  Including plenty of fibre in your diet from wholegrains such as oats and brown rice, as well as beans and lentils, is key.


You can also add things like ground flaxseeds to cereals or porridge or smoothies. Aloe vera juice is also great for cleansing and detoxifying.  And don’t forget the magic that is good old H2O – try to drink two litres of water a day.


As well as burning calories, exercise also moves lymph around the body. Lymph is the fluid that removes toxins from the tissue space around body cells, but is reliant on exercise to move.  A fast 15 minute intensive ‘blast’ in the gym (or regimes such as HIIT – High Intensive Interval Training) are incredibly effective at this.  A brisk 30 minute walk every day will also help to boost the lymphatic system as well as burning calories and enhancing your mood and motivation levels.


Whatever you do, make sure you move – find an exercise regime that works for you and keeps you motivated week in, week out. If you’re not sure what’s right for you, try a few things out: buddy up with a friend and check out a local sports venue, exercise class, or adult dance school. You may even discover a new sport that you didn’t think was your cup of tea – but it might be! Until you try, you’ll never know!

So, set those goals and clean up your body and mind for your best year yet! Good luck!



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Stay smooth: how to maintain a healthy digestive system


We all like to treat ourselves now and again. But an overindulgent weekend can take its toll on your digestive system!  However, just like millions of other people who tend to suffer from uncomfortable digestive symptoms, there are some simple things you can do to get yourself back on track.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, provides her top tips on how to support a smoother digestive system.


One of the keys to efficient digestion is keeping the good bacteria (otherwise known as ‘friendly flora’) well balanced.  The digestive tract is home to billions of naturally occurring bacteria – some good and some not so good. For a healthy digestive system it is important that there are more good than bad and this can be achieved through eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones!


The friendly flora love foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, live natural yoghurts, green tea and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.  They don’t like sugary foods, alcohol or stress!  Of course, it’s not always easy to avoid these things and over the festive period, your diet and lifestyle might have gone somewhat astray. You may be experiencing more digestive discomfort (wind and bloating) than usual. Whatever the reasons, everyone can benefit from increasing the number of good bacteria-loving foods in their diet.


You could also try taking a probiotic: good health food stores stock a range of probiotics, to be taken on a daily basis, and should be able to provide advice on the right one for you.


Prized by ancient civilisations for thousands of years for its health-giving properties, the ancient Egyptians referred to it as the ‘plant of immortality’ and the Chinese called it the ‘elixir of youth’ – quite a plant!  Aloe Vera is actually a superfood which has amazing benefits for the digestion, skin, and heart, plus it’s an antioxidant, helping to quash those damaging free radicals.


Aloe Vera aids the digestion and absorption of protein, which will always help make digestion smoother.  It also helps to encourage bowel movements, so anyone that’s slightly constipated can really benefit.  Even better, it helps to promote the growth of friendly bacteria and discourages yeast growth – all very positive news for a healthy digestive tract!


Aloe Vera can be taken in juice or tablet form, depending on your preference.  Visit your local health food shop to look at the options and start enjoying its many health benefits straight away.


Many of us believe that we are intolerant to certain types of food.  However many people develop these ‘intolerances’ to a particular food group, over time or simply through eating too much.


For example, foods such as bread, pasta and cereals generally contain gluten, which contains gliadin – a really ‘sticky’ protein that tends to bind within the digestive tract. This is why so many people feel bloated after eating bread which can then lead to assumptions that they may have a gluten intolerance. If you eat food containing gluten at every meal (for example, cereal for breakfast, sandwich at lunch, pasta for dinner) it may just be that you are eating too many of these types of food in your daily diet.

I would always advise removing or cutting down on certain food groups, just for a month – this can often have amazingly positive benefits on the digestive tract.  Bloating, wind, constipation and diarrhoea can also be solved by really analysing what you’re eating on a daily basis and looking for alternatives.


For example, switch to porridge for breakfast; try a jacket potato, soup or a rice or quinoa salad for lunch. Avoid pasta as your carbohydrate for dinner every evening and instead try sweet potatoes: they are naturally filling and a much healthier carbohydrate source.


It sounds so simple but it’s one of the most effective things you can do for your digestive tract. Drinking at least 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily is essential for keeping everything moving through your system and allowing effective elimination and detoxification.  You should be having at least one bowel movement daily, but if there’s not enough water flushing through the digestive tract, everything slows down and you can feel sluggish and bloated.


Once you’ve got into the habit of drinking more water, you’ll never look back; your skin will glow, you’ll have more energy, your digestion will be better. Plus if getting a bit leaner is part of your New Year plan, it will also help you to shed those extra pounds.


Another traditional but very effective remedy is apple cider vinegar. It has been used for centuries and supports a healthy digestive system in two main ways: it contains pectin, a soluble fibre that promotes both healthy bowel function, and helps to break down foods as they pass through the digestive tract.


If you regularly suffer from bloating high up in the stomach area soon after you’ve eaten, then taking a dessertspoon of apple cider vinegar before eating, can really help.

So don’t suffer in silence! Make some small changes to your diet and everything will run much smoother!


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Combat your over-indulgences: how to stay healthy during the festive season



With the festive season in full flow, you might be starting to feel the after-effects of late nights and over-indulgence. But there are some easy ways to support your body not just over Christmas but well into the New Year.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top tips on staying healthy through the yuletide season and beyond.

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This may seem strange advice, particularly at this time of year, but if 80% of your diet is ‘clean’ during the festive period, when you do enjoy some festive treats your health won’t suffer quite as much!  Plan three days during the week when you limit caffeine (try switching to green tea) and avoid processed foods (particularly pre-packed meals), chocolate and sweet treats. You could also consider ditching any extra sugar you consume (i.e. on your cereal or in tea and coffee) and switch instead to natural sweeteners, xylitol or stevia.


Saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products such as butter can sometimes be more difficult for people to digest. Therefore, cutting down on these types of foods and eating fish or plant-based meals, including lots of vegetables and pulses, also helps to give your digestive system and your liver a break.

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The most important aspect of a clean diet is to support your liver as much as possible. Green tea is a great liver detoxifier and can be drunk as much as possible throughout the day.  Certain vegetables, particularly green leafy ones such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are all liver-loving veggies: packed with nutrients they really help in the detoxification process.  The better your liver is ‘fed’ with good foods, the better it will cope when you overindulge.


This may sound like very simple advice, but the amount of water you take in is absolutely key to your health. You should aim to drink at least two litres of water daily. This will really help to get your bowels moving which in turn gets the body’s cleansing mechanisms revved up!



If you are planning to lose a couple of pounds, the more water you drink the more effective your weight loss campaign will be.  Even better, your kidneys love to be flushed through with lots of water: dark circles under the eyes can be a sign that your kidneys are sluggish. So keep drinking that water – especially the morning after the night before, and ideally during the night before: try to alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic drink you consume.


Not only does exercise raise your endorphin levels (which in turn makes you feel happy) but it helps to move lymph within our lymphatic system. Lymph is the fluid that removes toxins from the tissue spaces around our cells and is reliant on exercise to move.  So regular mild to moderate exercise not only boosts a sluggish lymphatic system, but also boosts your mood!

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Fresh air and exercise combined are a great way of combatting the feelings of overindulgence. Try to fit in a 30 minute walk each day over the festive period and you will feel so much better for it.


Milk thistle is a popular and well-known herb that’s been used for centuries to help support the liver and pick you up the morning after the night before!  As well as supporting liver cells, it can help protect the liver from free radical damage caused by alcohol and it also helps break down fats in food.


The best advice is to start taking it now and continue to take every day, in order to support you through the Festive season.  Your liver will certainly thank you and any late nights or over-indulgence should be less painful the next day!


The family of B vitamins like to work together in the body to generate energy. However, one of their other main functions is to help detoxify the liver.  Therefore, on your 80% days, it makes good sense to eat as many B vitamin-rich foods as possible; chicken, turkey, fish, wholemeal bread and pasta, eggs and wholegrain cereals such as oats are good examples of B-vitamin staples.


Green leafy vegetables are also high in B vitamins – another great reason for eating them as much as possible!

So, with a little forward planning, you can sail through the festivities and come out the other side feeling better than ever!


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Have yourself a delicious and nutritious Christmas: healthy twists on festive fayre


Planning a Christmas party? You may not always think ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ are words that go hand in hand with Christmas treats and party food, but it’s actually pretty easy to rustle up some Christmas party snacks that are both!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourite healthy treats you can make this Christmas time.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


A twist on traditional potato wedges, sweet potatoes are delicious and quite different to the traditional spud. Sweet potatoes provide a much greater range of nutrients than its humble potato cousins. They contain beta carotene which makes vitamin A in the body (great for immunity), vitamin C (also great for immunity and the skin), B vitamins (for energy) and an array of essential trace minerals (frequently lacking in the modern diet).  Plus they can actually help you to lose weight as they keep your blood sugar levels balanced, meaning you feel fuller for longer, and discourage your body from storing fat.


For an even healthier twist, roast them in the over with some coconut oil: coconut oil is one of the best oils for cooking plus it helps provide an extra boost of energy.  Sprinkle a little paprika on the wedges whilst they’re cooking for an extra kick and why not make a quick dip of crème fraiche, dill and chilli to accompany – a great little treat for handing around at your Christmas party!


Nuts provide a wealth of health benefits but often the nuts on offer at parties are salted or roasted peanuts – the least healthy nut options!  However, there’s a great alternative – caramelised, sugar-free roasted nuts!


Try a mix of cashews, Brazils (high in the mineral selenium which is a powerful antioxidant and often lacking in the Western diet) and almonds (high in brain-boosting omega-3’s) to pack a real nutritional punch! Lay a mixture of the nuts on a heated roasting tray and sprinkle with sea salt.  Then lightly sprinkle some granulated stevia (a natural sweetener) over the top and gently roast until all the nuts are nicely caramelised.  Your party guests will be impressed!


With cranberries featuring heavily in traditional Christmas fayre, why not use them to their fullest potential in some delicious but healthy treats to hand around during your Christmas cocktail party?


These chocolate and cranberry brownies are a healthy alternative to the usual brownies and here’s why: they contain prunes (great for digestion), xylitol (a natural sweetener), plain 70% cocoa solids chocolate (high in antioxidants), chopped pecan nuts (rich in brain-boosting omega-3’s), wholemeal self-raising flour (which contains many more nutrients than refined white flour) and eggs (additional protein and omega 3’s).


Liquidise the prunes and xylitol with some water. Then melt the chocolate, separate the eggs and stir in just the egg yolks with the other ingredients. Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks and then fold carefully into the remaining mixture.  Bake for around 20-25 minutes.  A guilt-free party treat!


No buffet table is complete without some crudités and dips!  However, some people tend to shy away from hummus because they fear it’s a bit fattening.  Enter, hummus made with walnuts!


Walnuts are high in healthy, essential omega-3 fats and also help to reduce blood pressure.  All you need to do is to combine some crushed garlic, a can of chickpeas and the zest of an orange, and whizz in the food processor. Then add around 100 g of walnut butter (readily available in supermarkets) and you’ve created a truly delicious dip.

Serve it with toasted, sliced wholemeal pittas; wholemeal pittas contain much higher levels of energising B vitamins than the white variety – another boost to your party platter!


Traditionally consumed from Thanksgiving, until after Christmas in Canada and the USA, eggnog has also become a popular festive drink in UK households.  However, many people find the shop-bought varieties are too sweet and also worry about the fat content.

So how about proudly serving some delicious, home-made, low fat eggnog at your Christmas drinks party to really get people into the Festive spirit?


Traditionally, it is made with milk or cream, together with sugar, whipped eggs and a spirit of choice (usually rum, brandy or bourbon).  Why not create a dairy-free version using coconut or almond milk as both contain a much healthier fat profile?

Add your chosen milk to a saucepan with a split vanilla pod and gently heat.  Mix together some eggs with xylitol (a natural, calorie-free sweetener) and some cornflour, then gradually add this to the heated mixture whisking constantly to ensure they don’t scramble.  The mixture then needs to cook and thicken.  Remove from the heat and when cooled you can add the alcohol of your choice together with a little freshly grated or powdered nutmeg and add a cinnamon stick to flavour.

So why not try making a few of these recipes this festive season, and enjoy a Christmas that is both delicious and nutritious!


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Spice up your life: the health-giving properties of spices


Spices are aromatic vegetables used mostly in cookery. But spices are not just for enhancing flavour and bringing an extra kick to your favourite dishes. From boosting energy, to balancing blood sugar and maintaining healthy digestion, there are many reasons for adding spices to your daily diet that will actually enhance your health.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares with us her four favourite spices, why they’re so beneficial for your health and how to use them in everyday cooking.

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Ginger has a very distinct flavour and can be included in many different dishes, sweet or savoury. Think of fish dishes alongside lemon grass, coconut milk, garlic and lime. Add ginger to a juice made with beetroot, apple and carrot. Bake cookies or make gingerbread men. And of course it’s a classic flavour in stir-fries and Asian cuisine. It’s also very versatile and can be used fresh, dried or ground into a powder.


But what about its health benefits?  There are two key areas where ginger appears to exert its fiery nature (in a good way!)  Firstly, it appears to be really effective against nausea particularly associated with pregnancy and morning sickness.  Additionally it can help symptoms of nausea and motion sickness commonly associated with travelling.


What’s more, ginger appears to help areas of inflammation in the body, whether caused by over-exertion in the gym or just from everyday activities.  In cases of osteoarthritis where there is both pain and inflammation, ginger seems to ‘blunt’ the mechanism that causes both of these inflammatory reactions in the body.


Turmeric has become a rather iconic spice.  This is because it’s been the subject of fairly robust research into its health-giving properties.[1] Clearly, there’s still a way to go, but there are many other great reasons for including turmeric in your cooking, both for its taste and health benefits.


You’d not be wrong in thinking that turmeric looks a little like ginger in its root form; that’s because it’s actually part of the same family. Whilst it’s available fresh, it’s actually most usable in its powdered form.  It’s used extensively in Indian dishes such as curries and dahls, is a staple of most chilli dishes and makes a great addition to spicy sweet potato soup.  It also gives many chutneys and pickles their distinctive yellow tinge.


Turmeric has long been used as a tonic for the liver, to help calm digestive problems and also as an anti-inflammatory agent; sports people often including turmeric in their everyday cooking to aid recovery after heavy workouts.

So whether you’re a gym bunny or a party goer (or both), turmeric should feature as much as possible on your plate.  And at this time of year, the combination of turmeric and the herb Milk Thistle are really going to support your liver through the festive period!


Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of the tree species Cinnamomum, hence its brown colour and slightly rough twig-like appearance when in its raw state.  It can be used exactly as it is in many recipes or in its dried powdered form.  It also contains an essential oil which produces that lovely warm aromatic smell we tend to associate with Christmas and winter time.


As with most spices, the medicinal uses of cinnamon are many and varied. One of the more recent discoveries around the health benefits of cinnamon is balancing blood sugar, thereby supporting weight management.  A study published in the American Journal of Nutrition[2] found that including cinnamon in a meal delayed the rate that the food passed through the digestive tract.  This, in turn, reduced any blood sugar rise (the main reason for weight gain).


Cinnamon can be used in a variety of sweet or savoury recipes including curries, stews, fruit crumbles and in its whole state – simmered in milk for a delicious warming drink. And of course it works perfectly sprinkled over the top of your cappuccino!  A great way to start the day is by sprinkling cinnamon onto porridge.  It will help keep you feeling fuller for longer during the day, plus sustain your energy levels.


Fenugreek is a perennial plant that produces aromatic seeds.  Although these seeds have a slightly bitter taste similar to celery, their flavour becomes far more pleasant when cooked.  The leaves can be used directly in cooking and the seeds can be either dried or ground into a powder.


In recent years, fenugreek has become a popular nutritional supplement. Its seeds are rich in minerals such as potassium (good for the heart), iron (great for energy), calcium (to support bones and teeth) and zinc (for immunity), plus it also contains a variety of vitamins.


As if that wasn’t enough, fenugreek’s key health benefit relates to blood sugar balancing.  As with cinnamon, it helps to keep blood glucose in check but it appears to go further than that; it helps to control glucose in people already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and also moderates cholesterol levels.


Fenugreek tends to be traditionally used in Indian cuisine. However, if Indian dishes and curries don’t float your boat then fenugreek is readily available in capsule form from your local health food store, so you can still reap the rewards of its many health benefits.

So, why not add some spice to your life and your meals this week – you can boost your health whilst enjoying these amazing tastes and flavours!

[1] Subash C et al. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials AAPS J. 2013 Jan; 15(1): 195-218

[2] Hiebowicz et al.  Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying and satiety in healthy subjects. Am J Clin. Nutr. 2007 Jun; 85(6):1552-6



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