Five ways to eat healthily on a budget

An,Elegant,Woman,Is,Reading,The,Shopping,Lists,On,Her

With food prices going through the roof, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to balance the weekly food bill, whilst maintaining a healthy diet.

With nutrition being the cornerstone to health and wellness, it’s one area where we need to find ways of keeping costs in check, without missing out on essential nutrients.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great ideas for eating on a budget, whilst keeping body, mind, and pocket happy!

Batch-cook for the week

Cooking in bulk is a great way of saving money and it means you’ll always have meals available, rather than having to eat expensive takeaways or grabbing something on the run.

Batch,Cooking,Text,Written,On,Slate,With,Take,Away,Dishes

Meals such as lentil spaghetti bolognaise is high in protein – very filling for a hungry family and can easily be batch cooked and then frozen. Many dishes, especially curries and stews, often taste better after freezing.

Maximise your nutrients

Pasta and rice are often meal staples and can really bulk out other ingredients.  However, it’s all about getting as much bang for your buck when it comes to nutrients, therefore ensuring the pasta and rice are delivering on all fronts.

Whole,Grain,Pasta,With,Cheese,,Tomato,And,Basil

It’s important, therefore, to choose ‘brown’ rather than ‘white’ because you’re going to get so many more nutrients.  Importantly whole grain or brown rice and pasta retain their B-vitamins which are essential for energy production.  Whole grain foods are also rich in much needed minerals such as magnesium which will help us through stressful times.  If the family resist the brown varieties, try going half and half by mixing it with white rice or pasta initially.

Get seasonal and go for roots

Eating foods in season should be cheaper and produce bought in farmers’ markets tend to be better value.  During the winter months, root vegetables such as swede, turnips, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, and butternut squash are all available, are energy dense and great for feeding a family cheaply.

Root,Crops,,Carrots,,Parsley,Root,,Turnip,,Onion,,Garlic,,Jerusalem,Artichoke,

How about a butternut squash curry using plenty of filling root vegetables?  Potatoes always work well in curries and if you add some chickpeas, as an idea, you’ll also be getting that all-important protein.

Buy dried versions rather than tinned

Beans and lentils are great sources of protein which can be purchased ‘dry’ and in bulk and are incredibly cost effective.  Not only are they great sources of protein, but beans and lentils are high in fibre so keep the digestive tract in good working order.

Bowls,Of,Legumes,,Lentils,,Chickpeas,,Beans,,Rice,And,Cereals,On

Many people do have issues with beans and their digestion!  This is because we often lack sufficient amylase enzyme, which helps break down starches.  The more you eat these kinds of foods, the greater the body’s natural production.

Dried beans and lentils just need to be soaked before cooking but by avoiding the tinned varieties, you’ll generally avoid unwanted sugars, salt, and preservatives whilst also saving money.

Look for ‘ugly’ fruit and veg

Many supermarkets have ranges of ‘ugly’ or ‘wonky’ fruits and vegetables.  However, these less attractive specimens are no less nutritious and are considerably cheaper. People often reduce the amount of fresh produce they buy during tough times, but hopefully this will help to stretch the budget further.

Ugly,Vegetables,In,Wicker,Basket,,Wooden,Background,,Copy,Space.

And don’t forget frozen fruits and vegetables which can often be purchased in large bags and are cheaper portion for portion.

What’s on the menu?

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are still a very cost-effective and versatile food which are high in protein.  They make one of the best starts to the day.

Lunch

View,Of,Crispy,Fish,Steak,,Fish,Fingers,Or,Strips,Served

Many of us love fish fingers so why don’t you make your own using a cheap white fish such as pollock and some homemade breadcrumbs (just bread, eggs and seasoning).  You’ll also be avoiding any preservatives and E numbers in the frozen varieties.

Dinner

Turkey,Casserole,With,Broccoli,,Rice,And,Crumbled,Crackers

We know that pasta is cost-effective for feeding the family, so why not make a tuna pasta bake and add some fresh or frozen broccoli and peas?  And don’t forget to use brown pasta too! This is a great meal providing your macronutrients and many micronutrients too.

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How to have a healthy afternoon tea

Luxury,Porcelain,Tea,Set,With,A,Cup,,Teapot,,Sugar,Bowl

Afternoon tea is a British tradition; the ‘meal’ you don’t always need but the foods on the table are too good to resist!

However, afternoon tea doesn’t always need to be calorie and sugar-laden. There are lots of delicious swaps you can make and still enjoy it.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top ways of making afternoon tea healthier and even more delicious.

 

Beetroot hummus and crudités

Homemade beetroot hummus is delicious and nutritious, whilst bringing life to any chopped vegetables you may eat with it. Beetroot really is a super food, delivering plenty of energy, antioxidants and betaine which helps many conditions, especially high blood pressure. 

Beetroot,Hummus

Beetroot hummus is also incredibly easy to make; cook some raw beetroot, add a can of chickpeas, some natural yoghurt, lemon, and cumin.  You can take your choice of veggies but chopped peppers of any colour and carrots are good choices and both deliver plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C.  You’ll be hooked from the first bite!

Toasted bagels

These may not be on the usual tea table, but bagels are much lower in fat and higher in fibre if you choose the whole grain variety rather than other tea-time breads.

Peanut,Butter,On,Half,A,Bagel,On,Snack,Plate

Choice of toppings is up to you, but almond nut butter is incredibly creamy and contains the omega-3 fats which are great for the heart and hormones. Add some smashed avocado and you’ve created a super tea-time treat.  Avocados are rich in vitamin E which is great for the skin. Healthy certainly doesn’t mean ‘tasteless’ with this dish.

Chewy oat cookies

These provide a sweet treat without too much sugar and contain plenty of fibre to keep the bowels regular. These chewy oat cookies contain whole grain oats as the base ingredient which are full of energising B-vitamins, plus beta glucans which naturally help reduce cholesterol levels.

Homemade,Oatmeal,Cookies,On,Wooden,Board,On,Old,Table,Background.

Just add to the oats some shredded coconut, dried apricots and cranberries and a little milk. Mix, bake, and there’s not much more needed for the healthiest, tastiest cookies ever!

Delicate prawn and lemon sandwiches

These are delicate in both taste and shape but are high in protein, so you won’t need too many to fill you up.  Prawns, when drizzled with plenty of lemon juice, become much more flavoursome.

Prawns,In,Mayonnaise,On,Granary,Bread,With,Salad

Traditionally everything is ‘small’ for afternoon tea, and these can be sliced into bite-sized portions.  It’s much healthier to use whole grain bread rather than white, which is refined and stripped of most nutrients, plus brown bread seems to work much better with prawns in terms of flavour.  As you’ve used plenty of lemon juice, the need for too much mayonnaise is reduced, hence this dish is pretty healthy, and, importantly, enjoyable.

Rainbow wraps

Eating a rainbow diet is what we should all aim for.  This means having loads of colour variety in your diet as colour equals nutrients. Wraps tend to much better tolerated by the digestive system as they are lower in gluten.  There are also plenty of options for gluten-free wraps.

Vegan,Tortilla,Wrap,,Roll,With,Grilled,Vegetables.

So, these rainbow wraps deliver on all fronts and can easily be sliced into small portions and arranged on your tea table.   Simply shred some red cabbage and sprinkle with loads of lemon juice and leave for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop some red peppers, carrot, and spring onion (if desired). Spread the wrap with hummus of your choice, add the cabbage and other vegetables, and you’ve not only added colour to the table, but you’ve ticked some boxes in terms of nutrients too.  All colourful fruits and vegetables naturally provide plenty of antioxidants which help protect the body.

Afternoon tea doesn’t need to contain loads of fat and calories but can still be a healthy treat that all the family will enjoy.

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Summer just became simpler! Five easy and nutritious dishes to fuel your summer

Healthy,Diet,Eating.,African,American,Young,Female,Preparing,Salad,In

When it comes to food and meal planning, it’s easy to forget that dishes don’t have to be complicated to be nourishing and, importantly, delicious.

We all want to enjoy the warmer weather rather than spend hours in the kitchen and there are some great dishes that don’t take too long to prepare that will keep your energy up this season.

This National Simplicity Day, Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five simple, but nutritious dishes to help you enjoy summer even more!

Summer salmon with spicy noodles

Salmon is an oily fish, loaded with the essential omega-3 fats.  They’re essential because the body can’t make them but also because they’re needed for the health of the hormones, joints, eyes, brain, and heart.

Somen,Noodle,With,Teriyaki,Salmon,Sprinkle,With,Scallions,And,Sesame

Simply mix up some miso sauce (great for gut health), balsamic vinegar and paprika, spread over the salmon and grill for around six minutes.  Meanwhile, stir fry some chopped ginger and garlic, and quickly cook the noodles in boiling water.  The drained noodles can then be tossed in the garlic and ginger with some sweet chilli sauce and served with the salmon.  Add some steamed broccoli and you’ve got a perfect meal in around 10 minute

Tasty mushroom pasta

You can use crème fraiche in this recipe as a protein source or oat crème fraiche as a vegan option. Always try to use wholemeal pasta because its nutrient content is far higher than white pasta, especially when it comes to the energising B-vitamins.

Farfalle,Pasta,With,Champignon,Mushrooms,And,Garlic,Creamy,Sauce,On

Fry some onions and garlic, which are loaded with fibre and antioxidants, with mushrooms (a good source of vitamin D).  Once soft, then add either form of crème fraiche with some fresh baby spinach and cook until wilted (about one minute). Spinach is a rich source of iron and folate, essential for DNA repair.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, combine it all together and you’ve got a delicious meal in around 15 minutes.

Quick beetroot salad

Summer is of course synonymous with salads.  However, it’s always worth bearing in mind that salad vegetables tend to naturally have lots of water and are not as nutrient dense as vegetables.  Therefore, try to add some ‘heavy weights’ into the mix!  Enter beetroot!

Baked,Beetroot,Salad,With,Blue,Cheese,And,Avocado,,CloseupBeetroot delivers so many amazing health benefits especially for the liver and brain health too, down to its betaine content. You can mix and match with this salad but add cooked chopped beetroot to some rocket, with sliced pear, soft goat’s cheese, and a dressing of your choice.  Anything with an olive oil base is going to be great for heart and joint health too. Even better, this dish will only take around 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

 

Posh beans on toast

Certainly not the normal ‘beans on toast’ you’d expect, this one contains plenty more nutrients. Use ready-podded broad beans (ones that are free from the tough outer coating) and which are easily bought frozen.  These are then cooked with some green beans. The beans can then be tossed with some pesto and added to toasted ciabatta, spread with either cream cheese or almond nut cream butter (either are great). Finish off with some lightly dressed rocket leaves.

Smashed,Avocado,On,Soda,Bread,With,Broad,Beans,,Coriander,And

This dish really is a nourishing and super quick summer meal. Beans are a great protein source, are packed with fibre and immune-boosting vitamin C.  However, some slices of prosciutto add even more flavour and protein. 

Quinoa and pomegranate salad

This dish is actually much more than a salad, providing plenty of protein and much more besides. I talked about beetroot being a heavy weight vegetable; this dish really brings in the full cavalry!

Quinoa is not actually a grain, but a seed and therefore doesn’t upset those of you how may have issues with gluten.  Plus, it’s very high in fibre and protein and quick to boil up with a stock cube.  It takes the same time as rice.  However, when you add plenty of pomegranate seeds, it steps up a level.  Pomegranate is great for heart health but also feeds the beneficial gut bacteria.

Quinoa,Salad,With,Pomegranate,On,Rustic,Kitchen,Table

Simply add these with some chopped coriander, lemon juice, raisins and chopped red onion to the quinoa. Onions also work as a prebiotic fibre, providing great benefits to gut health.

After that, it’s up to you!  Feta, pine nuts, goat’s cheese and walnuts will all provide excellent additions.

Summer cooking has never been so easy and nutritious – enjoy!

 

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Five foods to feed your brain

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

You may be surprised to learn that the brain requires more energy than any other organ of the body. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise when you think that the brain is always on!

It’s not just energy-dense foods that it loves, but specific nutrients too.  You can often notice the difference in all aspects of brain function when you feed it correctly.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to sharpen the mind.

 

Salmon

Salmon, and indeed all oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout, and pilchard, are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids.  The brain contains loads of these fats and therefore they need to be topped up regularly for optimal function.

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

Importantly, the body can’t make these fats, so they need to be eaten in the diet (or supplemented).  If fish is not for you then make sure you’re eating plenty of flaxseeds (they can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals or porridge) or go for other nuts and seeds. 

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of many nutrients, but specifically choline, which the brain uses to create a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood (amongst other key functions).

Scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes

Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also needed for many brain functions, but specifically to produce brain neurotransmitters.  Protein is key for a sharp and balanced brain, and eggs deliver on this front too.  Indeed, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast will tick all the boxes for your brain health.

Blueberries

These beautiful berries are loaded with antioxidants which help protect the brain from damaging free radicals and the aging process.  Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C which helps support blood flow to the brain, which in turn is going to improve memory and general cognitive function.

shutterstock_270983405 porridge and blueberries Sept15

Blueberries are, of course, very easy to transport, so they make a great snack.  However, they are just as easy to throw over your morning oat-based breakfast or added to natural yoghurt, with some seeds, for a great breakfast option. The great news is that all berries love the brain, so with summer berry season approaching, you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, plant compounds that protect the brain from free radical damage but also help memory and overall brain function.  And there’s loads of research to support this too. What’s more, dark chocolate contains plenty of magnesium which helps to reduce stress levels; high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) are known to adversely affect brain function.

Squares of dark chocolate

Go for dark chocolate (ideally 70% or more of cocoa).  Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits and will deliver lots of sugar.  A couple of squares of dark chocolate daily can satisfy any sweet cravings and keep your brain sharp too. 

Water

Dehydration will reduce brain function quicker than nutrient depletion. It’s the often-forgotten piece of the nutritional jigsaw puzzle.  Water is essential for maintaining attention and keeping focus, reducing headaches and memory loss, and improving overall cognitive function. Even just 2% dehydration takes a toll on brain function. Whilst it’s not easy to quantify what this means in terms of volume of liquid, the important point is that even a marginal deficiency will have big impact.

CLose up of a woman holdnig a glass of water

If you aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, and you might need more if you’re exercising heavily, then you’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain function feels.  And energy levels will soar too!

So, feed your brain by adding some of these elements into your diet and you should start to notice a difference.

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Fuel your walks with energising nutrients

A woman out for a walk in the hills with her arms outstretched enjoying herself

With winter now firmly behind us, hopefully we will all be spending more time in the great outdoors.

For many of us this means enjoying walks wherever the mood takes us!  And eating the right things to keep your energy up means you will get the most out of your walks.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares three great tips for getting the most out of your diet to ensure you’re fuelled and ready to enjoy!

 

Pack in the protein

Most people think that they need to load up on carbohydrates before doing any exercise as this macronutrient provides energy.  Carbohydrates certainly do provide energy and are important but getting your metabolism working correctly will help provide sustained energy to support your walks.

Keeping blood sugar in good balance is crucial to maintaining energy levels throughout the day and, of course, during your walks. This means eating sufficient protein at every mealtime, balanced with some good fats too.  For example, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast with avocado and a slice of whole grain toast, would be the perfect pre-walk meal.  This breakfast provides a great balance of protein, good fats, and carbohydrates.  If you support your blood sugar at the beginning of the day, it sets up the metabolism for the day ahead.

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

Alternatively, whipping up buckwheat pancakes with some blueberries and natural yoghurt would be another great start, again providing a good balance of macronutrients.

A range of foods containing protein

As a general rule, it’s important to include protein at every mealtime, whether that be from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, meat, beans, lentils, dairy, fish, and eggs are all great choices for that all-important metabolic balance.

Keep it whole

This means eating whole grains. These are grains that haven’t been refined, therefore retain their natural nutritional profile.  Importantly, they contain plenty of B-vitamins which the body uses to extract the energy from the food we eat, making a great partnership. Key foods to include in your diet are wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, and oats, together with buckwheat, quinoa, and rye.

A range of wholegrains in heart shaped dishes to show they are good for the heart

If you’re heading out on a longer walk and need to take a packed lunch with you, then a rice or quinoa salad is the perfect choice.  Simply cook the grains the night before, leave overnight in the fridge and then add some tuna, sweetcorn, chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions for a superfood salad that will keep energy levels up.  This lunch also provides a good balance of macronutrients and will keep blood sugar levels in check.

shutterstock_286876157 tuna and rice salad Aug16

 

Resolve to make eating whole grains rather than refined ‘white’ grains part of your life.  For those slightly resistant to change, your palette will quickly adjust to the more defined flavours and textures. Eating more whole foods will also help banish sugar cravings.

Hydration is key

Just as important as the food you eat, is ensuring your body is fully hydrated.  When we are feeling low in energy, or perhaps are suffering with brain fog and irritability, it’s often because we need to drink more water. 

A close up of a woman holding a glass of water to represent staying hydrated

Have you noticed that the more tea or coffee you drink, the thirstier you become?  This is because caffeinated drinks don’t hydrate the body and only provide ‘false’ energy in the form of a quick high. Many people barely drink any water throughout the day. Consequently, they may not notice their thirst but instead suffer with low energy.  This is because the body is inwardly adapting to the ‘norm’, not that it doesn’t require water; the body will still be dehydrated at a cellular level. From a nutritional perspective, sometimes the simplest of things can make the biggest difference to how we feel (and look).  Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily.

Woman,Drinking,Water.

Additionally, if you’re walking in hotter weather, it’s imperative that you take plenty of water with you.  Start the walk well hydrated, continue sipping throughout the day, and you’ll find that you can cover off those miles so much easier.

So, follow these simple rules to fuel your walks and enjoy a more energised life overall.

Stay well.

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Seasonal eating: what to eat in April and May

Fresh,Green,Asparagus,Pattern,,Top,View.,Isolated,Over,Green.,Food

Many of us like to know what’s on trend. Likewise, keeping up with what’s in season when it comes to food can have a great impact on our diet and health. 

Unlike other consumer goods, these foods come back into season year after year so that nature can provide the body with what it needs at the right time of year.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five favourite in-season foods this Spring.

Asparagus

From a nutritional perspective asparagus is particularly rich in folate, the food-form of folic acid, which is great for energy and producing healthy red blood cells.  In fact, a 100g portion of asparagus produces around three-quarters of the body’s requirement for folate each day, so your energy levels will be supported.

Additionally, asparagus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin E which help support the immune system, together with beta-carotene, also great for immunity.  It’s high in vitamin K which is needed for blood clotting, strong bones, and a healthy heart.

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Asparagus is delicious lightly steamed and served with some hollandaise sauce. Another really easy way with asparagus is lightly roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic or tossed with some parmesan cheese.  And for real simplicity, just pop it onto the barbeque sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.

Even better, it’s on many restaurant menus right now, so enjoy it whilst you can!

Spinach

Spinach has a slightly bitter taste which can be off-putting for some people. However, it’ what you put with it that makes all the difference. Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse and can also be added to many dishes to increase nutrient content without being too overpowering.  A good example of this might be a lemon risotto with prosciutto, where other flavours are strong, and spinach doesn’t conflict.

Dish,With,Delicious,Spinach,Risotto,On,Wooden,BoardNutritionally, spinach is packed with immune-boosting beta-carotene and vitamin C (and we need to protect the immune system all year round), plus energising folate. It also contains iron and plenty of health-protective antioxidants.

Plaice

 

Whilst it’s a fairly humble white fish in terms of taste, plaice is still as popular as ever in the UK.  Hopefully you can find some that’s been caught in our waters at this time of year.

Sea,Bream,Fillet,With,Tomatoes,,Green,Olives,And,Capers

Plaice is tasty, moist, fleshy, and high in protein.  As with all white fish, it’s also low in fat and rich in the trace mineral iodine which is frequently lacking in the UK diets and is essential for thyroid function.

For a super-easy and nutrient-rich meal why not tray bake plaice with spinach, olives and tomatoes, for a real Mediterranean treat.

Jersey Royal potatoes

The people of Jersey certainly know a thing or two about growing the most delicious potatoes as they’ve been doing it for over 140 years! It’s all about the soil, climate and careful farming methods that make these potatoes so unique in terms of taste and texture.

Summer,Salad,With,Potatoes,,Green,Beans,,Asparagus,,Peas,And,Radishes

From a nutritional perspective, they are no different to any other potatoes being rich in vitamin C, the B vitamins and fibre.  Plus, the skin is generally eaten with Jersey Royals as it’s so soft, so the fibre content increases.

For the simplest of recipes, enjoy them with a fresh tuna steak salad with hard boiled eggs and, of course, some spinach leaves!

Spring onions

As with all onions, spring onions are packed with flavonoids – plant compounds that provide much nutritional goodness, including antioxidant support. They’re also high in vitamin C, B-vitamins, and fibre.

Pile,Of,Fresh,Spring,Onion,On,Wooden,Table

Spring onions can be added to many dishes to provide some additional flavour without overwhelming the recipe, as can often happen with larger onions.  For example, they’re great added to mash and cheese. Spring onions are also great in stir fries and work really well with ginger, garlic, chopped veggies, and any type of protein.

So, why not get into the habit of eating more seasonally and benefit from eating flavoursome food at it’s best when nature intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay well.

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Suzie’s top foods to help increase your energy levels

 

Vector,Illustrator,Of,The,Fork,And,Spoon,With,White,Plate

Food is of course our main source of fuel and energy.  So, giving your diet the thought it deserves on a daily basis is very important.

The quality and variety of the food we eat is critical to our overall wellbeing which includes energy production.

To help you on your way, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five energising foods to keep you going all day long!

 

Whole grain bagels

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Delicious, versatile, and low in fat, whole grain bagels provide a great energy boost.  Whether you start the day with a toasted bagel with scrambled eggs, or with some low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon at lunchtime they will really hit the spot!

Whole grain foods are naturally high in energising B-vitamins because they haven’t been highly refined.  They also contain plenty of minerals, especially magnesium, which is needed for energy production too.

Eggs

A healthy breakfast of eggs, smoked salmon and avocado

You might not associate a high protein food like eggs with energy.  However, protein keeps blood sugar levels in check, and so too energy levels.  In fact, having some eggs at breakfast really helps to keep energy levels sustained all-day long. Eggs are not only high in protein but also rich in energising iron and B-vitamins.

The great news is that there are many ways to eat eggs, so you’ll never get bored of having the same meal. Scrambled, fried, poached, as an omelette or frittata, or even as French toast where bread is dipped in egg and lightly fried – the options are endless. 

Sweet potatoes

shutterstock_260427179-baked-sweet-potato-feb17

Whilst all types of potatoes are great for providing energy, sweet potatoes have the slight edge on nutrient content, but also for keeping blood sugar levels in balance. This in turn will provide sustained energy for longer.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is made into vitamin A in the body, and helps protect the immune system too. And sweet potatoes can be prepared and eaten in exactly the same way as white potatoes.  Plus, if you eat them with some protein, energy levels will soar all day long.  It’s time to enjoy a jacket sweet potato with tuna as an easy, low-fat lunch or quick evening meal.

Chickpeas

Chickpea salad with feta

Chickpeas are a legume which are high in both protein and good carbs.  And they’re certainly a perfect food for vegans.  In terms of energy, chickpeas are great because they’re packed with B-vitamins, especially folate, alongside iron, magnesium, and copper.  Furthermore, they’re rich in fibre so they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer and well as keeping your energy levels high.

If you’re struggling to decide how to eat them, then why not try this delicious and easy recipe for even more energy.  The addition of iron-rich spinach makes it the perfect lunch or dinner choice. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spinach-chickpea-curry

Bananas

Whole bananas and diced banana

No wonder we often see athletes eating bananas before, during or after an event or match. Bananas provide an instant pick-me-up, especially when energy levels are flagging.  Even better, they’ll keep you fuelled up because bananas are high in fibre so energy levels will be sustained.

Bananas are also a great food for exercise recovery because they provide electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which are lost during exercise.  The quicker you can recover from a heavy workout, the sooner you’ll have the energy for another session. And if you’re thinking of eating them as an easy breakfast, then do add some protein in the form of natural yoghurt for an even great energy hit.

So, up your energy levels with Suzie’s five easy ways of keeping you fuelled and ready to go for longer!

Stay well.

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Three soups to help support your immunity

A range of bowls of soup

There’s so much being talked about in terms of immunity currently, and for obvious reasons. The immune system needs to be fully supported at this time of year and especially right now.  Whilst it’s never ‘one thing’ that cures all, taking a combined approach is always best. 

What we put into our body nutritionally is very important.  Enjoying an immune-boosting soup is an easy, delicious, and effective way of protecting the body against unwanted invaders.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three favourite soups to help support your immunity.

The rooted soup

Push back against the same old recipes for chicken broth soup and get the body rooted where it loves to be!  All root vegetables are in season right now and this is no coincidence.  Nature knows what the body needs and provides it at the right time of year.

Root vegetables including turnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, parsnips, and onions all work really well in soups.  You can blend them as much as you like, either to create a smooth texture or enjoy as a thicker broth.

A bowl of warming butternut squash soup

Root vegetables are a great source of energising B-vitamins, immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene as well as a range of other antioxidants to help protect the body. You don’t need to over think what you put into the mix with this soup as all the vegetables work superbly together.  And if you haven’t got them all in the larder, that’s no problem either; just use what’s to hand. Spice them up with other roots such as garlic and ginger to really super-charge the immune boost.

The detox soup

Whilst the body has its own, very effective methods, of detoxifying, if the remnants of Christmas over-indulgence are still putting extra stress on the body, then the immune system may be under more threat.  Helping the body to detoxify is going to be really beneficial right now.

A bowl of watercress soup

Foods that encourage liver detoxification include broccoli, garlic, turmeric, and onions.  These ingredients work really well in a soup – you can also add celery which is a natural diuretic.  Additionally, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A within the body.

You’ve got the perfect range of ingredients; you just need to boil them up with some vegetable stock and add seasoning.

The East meets West soup

Coconut milk is a staple ingredient in many eastern cultures.  It’s generally well-tolerated by all digestive systems and contains plenty of compounds that help to naturally cleanse the body. A coconut curry soup is great for supporting detoxification but also contains many warming spices to naturally support immunity during the winter months. Furthermore, the super-healthy brassica vegetables, cauliflower and kale play a starring role in this tasty soup.

Leek and potato soup in a bowl

You’ll need onions, garlic, vegetable stock, chopped cauliflower and kale, curry powder, ginger, turmeric, and coriander leaves, plus, of course a can of coconut milk. As with most soups, the ingredients just need to be gently simmered until cooked and then the soup is best blended to bring all the delicious flavours together.

A word about spices

Nature has provided an amazing treasure chest of delicious and warming spices which are especially beneficial to the immune system at this time of year.  Why not experiment with their flavours?  Cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, ginger, garlic, coriander, various curry powders, and garam masala all have a place in daily cooking. 

CLose up of a pestle and mortar surrounded by herbs and spices

They all provide disease-fighting, blood-sugar balancing, digestion-soothing and internal cleansing benefits, so fill up your store cupboard with dried versions so they’re always available.  Also look to use fresh herbs as much as possible.  Your body will certainly thank you for it!

So, enjoy these delicious soups and give your immune system a helping hand at the same time.

Stay well.

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Boost your mood naturally this January: top nutrients to support your mood

Happy woman outside in winter with energy

It’s that time of year again when we all tend to feel low in mood and generally lack-lustre.  Grey skies and post-Christmas blues all contribute to these feelings.  However, all is not lost! 

There is an unequivocal link between what we put into our body nutritionally and how we feel and there are some important nutrients that can contribute to your mood.

This Blue Monday Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top mood boosting nutrients and natural herbs, to help put a smile back on your face.

Omega-3 fats

We might not want to see the word ‘fat’ in January but, trust me, these are the good ones!  The omega-3 essential fats are part of the brain’s cellular make up and are essential for mental wellbeing.

A range of foods containing omega-3 fatsIf you’re following ‘Veganuary’ or are already vegan, then you might want to add at least a tablespoon full of ground flaxseeds to your morning cereal as they are a very rich source of omega-3s.  However, if you can eat fish, especially the oily kind, then omega-3s from these sources tends to be better absorbed by the body. As an example, wild salmon at least three times a week is recommended for you to notice an improvement in mood.

 

Vitamin B6

As with all the busy family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B6 fulfils many key functions within the body.  As well as helping with hormonal balance, thereby improving mood, vitamin B6 is needed to produce serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. 

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

B-vitamins are water-soluble so need to be eaten really regularly. Food which is high in vitamin B6 includes fish, liver, bananas, starchy vegetables, and other non-citrus fruits.  Why not cook a delicious root vegetable casserole including sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, white potatoes, and broccoli. Add some vegetable stock, coriander and serve with cheddar cheese on the top. Root vegetables are all in season currently and this dish is certainly going to put a smile on your face.

Vitamin B12

If you’re vegan or just starting Veganuary, then do take particular note of vitamin B12.  It’s only really found in animal produce and is essential for the production of serotonin.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B12

Interestingly, some vitamin B12 can be produced in the gut and fermented foods may encourage this process.  Foods such as tempeh and tofu (great in a delicious Thai curry or stir-fry), miso soup and sauerkraut are your friends in this respect and will also provide plenty of other health benefits. However if you follow a vegan diet, a B12 supplement is recommended.

Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced on the skin in the presence of sunlight, vitamin D is deficient in the UK population especially during the winter months.  As well as being essential for healthy bones, teeth, muscles and immunity, research has also found it be essential for mood.  So, there’s certainly a physiological reason why we often feel low during January.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Whilst you can get some vitamin D from a few foods, namely oily fish, milk, and mushrooms, it’s not nearly sufficient for the body’s needs.  Therefore, it’s important to supplement with vitamin D (at least 10 micrograms daily) if you want to feel brighter.

Ashwagandha

The herb ashwagandha is known as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb. This means it helps the body better cope with stress and improves energy levels.  However, this effect also helps improve mood (it’s often recommended for people suffering from depression), and generally encourages people to feel more balanced.  It’s found only in supplement form.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

However, it’s also worth noting that if you’re feeling low, it’s generally not just one food or herb that makes all the difference: it’s generally a cumulative effect.  Nutrition also needs to be combined with lifestyle changes; why not write down a list of things that make you happy and things that you are grateful for.  Even if it’s only having clean sheets on the bed more often, small changes can have big effect.

So, help your mood naturally by including these nutrients more frequently into your diet.

Stay well.

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Veganuary 2022: top 5 vegan foods to try

The word 'vegan' spelt out using plant-based foods

Veganuary has now become the ‘buzz’ word for January!  Going vegan or flexi vegan for January – or even longer – is increasingly popular as we continue to recognise its benefits to health. 

However, with the greater availability of pre-packed vegan and vegetarian meals in the supermarkets, it’s not surprising that people become confused about what’s healthy and what’s not.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five vegan foods to make choices so much easier.

Quinoa

Quinoa is increasingly becoming one of the world’s heathiest foods and not just with vegans.  Quinoa is high in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, is gluten-free and contains a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

One of the biggest watchpoints for vegans is ensuring you eat sufficient protein, and this means including all nine essential amino acids.  These can’t be produced in the body, therefore need to be eaten daily. Quinoa ticks this box, although, as with all plant proteins, it’s slightly low in a few of the amino acids, hence the need for variety.  That said, it contains a very respectable 8 grams of protein per 185 grams of cooked quinoa.

Its impressive nutrient profile, especially of bone loving magnesium and phosphorus, plus its high antioxidant content, more that warrants its title of ‘superfood’.

Fermented soy

Soy can be very confusing as not all products are created equal! You might see soya lecithin or soya protein isolate in a number of products, especially protein powders.  Whilst foods containing these do provide protein, they don’t have the fabulous health benefits of fermented soy.

Teryaki,Tempeh,With,Rice,And,Roasted,Vegetables

 

Tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, tamari, and kombucha are where it’s at for the real health benefits.  This is because fermented soy has a very positive effect on the gut bacteria (also known as the gut microbiome), which is so essential for overall health. 

Whilst other soy products do provide some health benefits, try to include fermented soy as much as possible.  Tofu and tempeh make great additions to any stir fry dishes.

Legumes

You may have heard the word but what exactly are they? Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas is the answer.  These foods are great sources of protein, contain plenty of bone-loving calcium, and fibre as well as energising B-vitamins and iron.  And if you’re looking to lose a few kilos during January, legumes can really help as they’re great for blood sugar balance, being low on the glycaemic index.

Legumes,,Lentils,,Chikpea,And,Beans,Assortment,In,Different,Bowls,On

We know from much research that vegan diets are very heart-healthy which is partly down to the quantity of legumes frequently consumed. It seems they help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol and general inflammation, all risk factors for heart disease.

Great recipes to try are Hearty Lentil Soup, Chickpea Salad, Black Bean Burgers or Pasta with Chickpeas – all totally delicious and super-healthy too!

Flaxseeds

Want to give your heart some further love during Veganuary?  Then sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseeds onto your porridge, overnight oats or yoghurt. Flaxseeds are a great source of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats which are essential and must be taken into the diet very regularly.  The omega-3s are also needed for hormone balance, and eye, brain, skin, and joint health. 

Whole,And,Ground,Brown,Flax,Seeds,Or,Linseeds,On,Wooden

It’s always best to use the ground flaxseeds rather than whole ones (often referred to as linseeds) as they need to be chewed to release the lignan content. Whole linseeds tend to go in and come out whole which means the body isn’t gaining all their health benefits.

Nutritional yeast

It might not sound very appetising but if you think of nutritional yeast as a healthy substitute for Parmesan cheese, you’ve got a great alternative. Nutritional yeast has a slightly cheesy, nutty flavour, is generally found in powdered or flaked form, and is therefore very easy to incorporate into loads of dishes.

Nutritional,Yeast,,Vegan,Cheese.

Importantly, nutritional yeast is rich in vitamin B12, often deficient in vegan diets as it is generally only found in animal produce. Plus, it’s loaded with other B-vitamins so your energy levels will be getting a great boost too!

So why not make this Veganuary the healthiest yet and also continue to add these top vegan food to your diet throughout the year.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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