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.

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Lunchtime nutrition: three ‘Back to Work’ lunches you’ll love

CLose up of chicken salad lunch at desk while working in office

If you’re one of the many people getting ready to go back to the office, one dilemma that hasn’t disappeared during the pandemic is “what to eat for lunch”. 

Many of us prefer, or have to, take lunch with us; therefore, it can become a daily conundrum. Each lunchtime is an opportunity to provide the body with much-needed nutrients to sustain your energy throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to plan in advance.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some much-needed lunchtime inspiration for your return to work.

Wrap up some goodness

Wraps are the perfect transportable lunch that will provide a great array of nutrients without causing any uncomfortable stomach bloat, as they are not a ‘heavy’ as normal bread.  Plus, it’s  really easy to buy gluten-free wraps or those made with sweet potatoes, spinach, or coconut flour.

Chicken,And,Salad,Tortilla

It’s important to include plenty of protein either from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, turkey is high in protein and lower in fat than chicken and therefore makes a great choice.  Why not wrap up some lettuce, turkey, sliced cabbage (red or white are both great for the digestion) and some cucumber strips, with a little mayonnaise?

Tortilla,With,Vegetables,And,Hummus,With,Chickpeas.,Top,View.,Black

As a veggie option, spread the wrap with plenty of hummus and then lay lots of lettuce, avocado slices, cucumber sticks and tomato.  For a little extra pizazz, why not add some cheese of your choice and within minutes you’ve created a colourful and nutritious lunch.  Both of these wrap options contain plenty of protein, vitamin C, energising B-vitamins, and immune-boosting vitamin E.

Zingy rice noodles

Rice noodles are a great lunchtime choice; not too heavy but still providing plenty of nutrients, which can taste even better depending on what you put with them. It’s good to get your base flavours right and garlic is the perfect start; great for the immune, digestion and cardiovascular systems.

Rice,Noodles,With,Chicken,,Mushrooms,Mun,And,Vegetables,,Prepared,In

Fry some garlic and fresh chopped chilli (a great fat-burner), and then add some chicken, prawns, or tofu.  Add some soy sauce, lime juice, chopped carrots and peppers and your base is made.  All you need is to quickly cook the rice noodles, add them to the mixture and then serve into your  transportable pots. It’s a great idea to make up a couple of lunch boxes for your working week as they keep well in the fridge.

Tasty cauliflower rice

If you’re watching your waistline, then this dish is perfect.  It’s high in protein (around 16g per portion) but low in carbs.  Cauliflower is a member of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, and contains plenty of antioxidants, protecting the body from degenerative diseases.

Cauliflower,Rice,With,Vegetables,In,Bowl,On,White,Background.,Paleo

Chop up a whole cauliflower and then blitz in a food processor so that its texture becomes like fine grains.  Then mix up some immune-boosting spices including cinnamon and allspice. Coat the cauliflower in the spices and put into a roasting tin to cook in the oven. Once it’s cooled you can add whatever takes your fancy, but chopped onion, mint, parsley, and feta are fabulous accompaniments.

Alternatively, you can quickly grill or stir fry some tofu with teriyaki sauce and chopped spring onion and add to the cauliflower.  Tofu is not only a great source of protein, it is also good for the digestive system and contains lots of calcium.

Three extra lunchtime tips

  • If you’re struggling with hormones, especially during the menopause, throw a good handful of edamame beans into your wrap or lunch box.

Edamame,Beans,In,Bowl,On,Light,Background.,Close,Up,View

  • Any chopped, raw vegetables with a dip such as hummus make great snacks and really improve your daily nutrient status.

Hummus,With,Vegetables,On,Plate

  • Always think about cooking extra portions when preparing your evening meal, such as chicken breast, poached or steamed salmon, or roasted vegetables. These can then be incorporated into your lunches for the week.

Baked,Salmon,Pasta,Salad,With,Spiral,Rotini,Vegetable,Pasta,In

Stay well.

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Cycle to Work Day: how to boost your energy levels

Close up of a bike's water bottle in situ

With National ‘Cycle to Work’ day being celebrated today, it’s a great time to focus on upping your energy and fuelling your rides. 

Whether you’re going to actually cycle to work, or just want to feel more energised for your workouts or in your everyday life, there are some great nutrient-rich foods that can help.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top foods for feeling more energised.

Blueberries

Delicious and in-season now, blueberries are going to provide great energy and an excellent start to the day, especially if you’re planning on cycling to work. Blueberries are a low glycaemic fruit, meaning they won’t adversely affect blood sugar balance and you’ll enjoy sustained energy throughout the day.

A wooden bowl of blueberries

Blueberries are often referred to as ‘super foods’ because they are packed with nutrients.  Importantly, their beautiful rich, dark colour signifies plenty of antioxidants, which help protect the body against the ageing process and degenerative diseases.  Why not enjoy some with your breakfast with some natural yoghurt and ground flaxseeds for a perfectly balanced start? Alternatively, they make the perfect accompaniment to oats (my next energy-giving food recommendation).

Oats

Another low glycaemic food, partly down to their rich fibre content, oats are loaded with energising B-vitamins.  However, look for ‘whole’ oats that have not been refined to gain full benefit.  Any refining strips out fibre and nutrients.

A bowl of oats

Oats contain plenty of trace minerals, especially magnesium which is also needed for energy production.  In short, they’re real powerhouses!  Oats are great soaked either in some plant or dairy milk and a little apple juice for flavour to make ‘overnight oats’.  Take them out of the fridge the next morning, pop on some yoghurt and berries. Either eat before your journey to work or when you arrive, and you’ve got the perfect start to your day.

Brown Rice

As with all whole grain foods, brown rice is great for encouraging sustained energy.  It’s rich in fibre and high in nutrients, especially those energising B-vitamins.  Brown rice has a much higher nutrient profile than white, because it hasn’t undergone any refining process. Furthermore, it can really help on a weight loss journey because it balances blood sugar levels and is very low in fat.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

The nutrient content of brown rice is equally as impressive with not only high levels of B-vitamins but a great range of essential trace minerals.  Of note is zinc which is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body to keep it firing on all cylinders. Serve brown rice as an accompaniment to any protein such as fish or chicken or serve cold the next day with plenty of salad vegetables.

Bananas

Bananas are many people’s ‘go-to’ when it comes to the need for quick energy.  Although high in complex carbs, the riper bananas have a higher sugar content, delivering a fast-release boost, hence they are popular with sportspeople.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Bananas are especially high in vitamin B6, much utilised for energy release but they also contain loads of potassium which is great for the heart.  As they are high in starchy carbs, bananas will keep you going all day and will also help you burn up those hills if some happen to be on your cycle route to work.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a much higher nutrient profile than traditional white potatoes.  That’s not to dismiss white potatoes from the diet as they still have a place, but sweet potatoes have the edge when it comes to delivering sustained energy.

shutterstock_429273175-sweet-potato-wedges-dec16

It’s all down to the complex carbs which keep blood sugar in balance and energy buzzing. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, essential for immune health.

You can eat sweet potatoes in the same way as white potatoes; mashed, chipped, jacketed, take your pick, and enjoy with a topping or foods of your choice.

So, whether you’re cycling to work or just want more energy, add these five foods into your diet and feel your energy soar!

Stay well.

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Super salads: top nutritious side dishes to accompany your barbecue this summer

Group of friends enjoying eating a barbeque outside

Barbecues aren’t just about the cooked food; the side dishes you create to accompany meat or veggie options can make all the difference.

Great salads can really enhance the flavour of all the other food and there are so many delicious options.

Here are nutritionist Suzie Sawyer’s three favourite healthy salad ideas to make your barbecue truly come to life!

Suzie’s Special Salad (with nothing left out!)

As a nutritionist, I talk endlessly about maximising the colour on your plate to enjoy the benefits of as many nutrients as possible.  And this salad doesn’t disappoint in that respect. It’s gorgeously colourful, is packed with immune-boosting vitamin C, energising B vitamins and loads of antioxidants to protect the body from everything life throws at it.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

This recipe contains black beans and spinach leaves as a base and is then loaded with chopped vine tomatoes, cucumber, mango chunks (use frozen ones and defrost), red onion, avocado and crumbled feta cheese on the top.

Fresh,Mint,Leafs,In,Mortar,On,Grey,Wooden,Table

Herbs also contain some wonderful health benefits in terms of their antioxidants but are helpful for the digestion too.  So, blending up a bunch of mint, coriander and basil with garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and honey makes a delicious and healthy dressing.

This salad will stand proud with any barbecued meat or vegetables but works especially well with lamb.

Quinoa Vegetarian Salad

Most barbecue meals contain a grain-based salad, not just for ‘bulk’ but also because they taste great.  Quinoa, (which is technically a seed not a grain), is perfect because it provides some starchy carbs, but most importantly, has a high protein content, keeping everyone fuller for longer. Plus, quinoa is a great source of fibre helping the digestive system to run smoothly.  Even better, it’s got plenty of energy-boosting B-vitamins, so you can enjoy the barbecue to the full!

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

Quinoa can be cooked just like couscous.  Indeed, if quinoa is not your bag, then couscous is fine but do remember it contains gluten and quinoa does not, which may be a consideration for some of your guests.

You can freestyle this one in terms of what goes in.  However, it works really well with feta cheese, pine nuts, spring onions, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and pepper with some pesto stirred through.

Another dish with plenty of colour, loaded with nutrients, making a great addition to the barbecue feast.

Griddled courgette, basil, and chilli salad

Griddled or roasted vegetables are always welcomed in salads, and courgettes are in season right now.  They are naturally low in fat but high in minerals folate, heart-loving potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C which are great for the immune system.  And because you eat them with the skin left on, you’ll be getting the added benefit of soluble fibre which helps balance blood sugar levels, banishing cravings. Courgettes are in season now which generally brings higher nutrient content and better taste, especially if you buy them fresh from farmers’ markets.

Tasty,Grilled,Zucchini,On,Parchment

Cut the courgettes into long strips, coat with chopped red chilli, salt, pepper and olive oil and then griddle in a very hot pan.  Once the courgettes are cooled, they can then be tossed in some more olive oil, chopped basil and lemon. This is a dish that looks very impressive but actually takes very little time in the preparation and cooking.

So, enjoy some great barbecue salads Suzie-style this season!

Stay well.

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How to pack a healthy picnic

A picnic basket on a wodden table overlooking a beautiful countryside scene

It’s a National Picnic Week which means it’s a great time to celebrate everything we love about picnics as well as spending time outdoors in green spaces.

There’s always a great temptation to pack too many ‘treats’ into the picnic basket but there are some great ways to get nutrition without missing out on flavours.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five healthy picnic swaps, but which don’t swap out the taste!

Swap white for brown

This includes using brown bread or wraps rather than white if you’re packing sandwiches, but also wholemeal pasta rather than white. White bread and pasta have been refined, meaning much of the healthy fibre, essential for good digestion,  been stripped away. So too have many of the nutrients, especially energising B-vitamins and essential minerals such as chromium.

Sandwich,With,Ham,tomato,,Cucumber,And,Arugula,On,The,Wooden,Cutting

Brown pasta has a much fuller flavour and more of a texture than white.  And pasta salads are great for taking on picnics.  Why not try beetroot and cold poached salmon wholemeal pasta, adding some avocado, cucumber, dill and a little natural yoghurt.  This is a really delicious super-food pasta salad.

Swap potato crisps for veggie crisps

Most picnic baskets include crisps in some shape or size. Unfortunately, potato crisps are generally high in fat and low in nutrients.  So, why not swap potato crisps for veggie crisps? Think beetroot, parsnip, or carrot (or all three?) – there are a lot of veggie ‘crisp’ options available in supermarkets.

Home made kale chips in a dish

Even better, make your own kale crisps.  Kale belongs to the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family which are high in heart-loving vitamin K, relaxing magnesium and are loaded with antioxidants.  Simply pull off the leaves and rub them in a little olive oil and salt. Then roast in the oven for around 10 minutes and once cooled, you’ll have some of the healthiest veggie crisps to take on your picnic.

Swap ham for turkey

If you’re taking sandwiches, then what you put into them can make all the difference.  Ham sandwiches are often popular in the picnic basket.  However, ham is a processed meat and generally also contains high levels of preservatives.  Ham also contains saturated fats which are best minimised in the diet.

Grilled,Turkey,Breast,With,Salad

A far better choice is to use turkey meat instead. Turkey is very low in fat and high in protein (at 31 g per 100g, more than chicken). Why not cook up some turkey breast steaks the day before, which can be quickly grilled.  If you cook a few extra, they’re delicious eaten with Jersey Royal potatoes (now in season) and salad.  For the picnic, turkey steaks can be chopped, mixed with a little pesto and tomatoes, and made into delicious brown bread sandwiches.

Swap cheese spread for nut butters

There is a plethora of ready-made cheese spreads in supermarkets.  Whilst they might taste good, they are high in fat and are not especially nutrient dense.  Why not swap these for some delicious omega-3 laden almond butter.  Omega-3 fats are essential and whilst we need to be mindful of the amount of saturated fats we consume, the omegas are seriously deficient within the UK population and are essential for the heart, brain, eyes, skin and hormones.

Nut butter on rye bread

Almond butter is also high in protein so will keep energy levels sustained throughout the day. Why not add some watercress (one of the healthiest salad vegetables around) for colour and a nutrient blast?

Swap fizzy drinks for kombucha

Fizzy drinks are always popular on picnics.  However, they are certainly not the healthiest of drinks.  Sugar-free versions are packed with sweeteners which have a detrimental effect on mood, but also encourage cravings for sweet food so you still end up eating all the wrong things!

Kombucha,Second,Fermented,Fruit,Tea,With,Different,Flavorings.,Healthy,Natural

Kombucha, however, is a great alternative. It’s a fermented, lightly effervescent, green or black tea drink, which is low in sugar but high in health benefits.  Fermented foods and drinks provide probiotics which are great for feeding the good bacteria and are essential for healthy digestion, good mood and effective weight management. Once you’ve tried them, there’ll be no turning back!

So, get outdoors and celebrate National Picnic Week with these super-healthy food swaps.  Enjoy!

Stay well.

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Five breakfast boosts for a healthier start to the day

Healthy,Breakfast,Set,On,Grey,Background.,The,Concept,Of,Delicious

As we approach mid-year, with hopefully the promise of some summer sunshine, now is a great time to overhaul your breakfast to ensure it’s as nourishing and energising as possible. 

Each mealtime is an opportunity to fuel the body with some of the 45 nutrients it needs every day, and a well-balanced breakfast is very important. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five breakfast choices to super-charge your day!

Avocado on wholemeal bagel

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Avocados are really ‘on trend’ food wise, and for very good reason.  And whilst many people avoid avocados because of their high fat content, this is actually one of their plus points. The body needs a certain amount fat in the diet, not least because it’s essential for absorbing our fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Avocados are also rich in monounsaturated fats which are help support heart health. Choosing a wholemeal bagel as opposed to white will deliver lots more energising B-vitamins, in a balanced way, and sprinkling a few pumpkin seeds will top up protein levels and essential omega-3 fats too.

Chia seed porridge

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Porridge is another breakfast staple. It can be eaten hot or the oats can be soaked overnight in a little apple juice and then eaten cold the next day.  Either way, oats are packed with fibre, so are great for digestive health, plus they naturally include beta-glucans which help reduce cholesterol levels.

It’s great to mix chia seeds with flaxseeds as a topping as both are rich sources of the essential and healthy omega-3s. Then add some vitamin C-rich berries and delicious oat yoghurt.  This is a great option for vegans and will help you power through until lunchtime.

Eggs and mushrooms

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Eggs make one of the best starts to the day because of their high protein content.  This helps balance blood sugar levels and, in turn weight, mood and energy.

Button mushrooms, which are a source of immune-boosting vitamin D, are gently cooked, sprinkled with thyme, in a little olive oil with chopped tomatoes for additional antioxidants and flavour.  Spread them over the plate and poach one or two eggs and pop on the top.

Gluten-free buckwheat pancakes

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Despite its name buckwheat contains no wheat at all.  This makes it the perfect base for the many people who find they can’t tolerate gluten which predominates in wheat-based foods.  This is because gluten is rather ‘sticky’ and tends to cause digestive problems for people even if they’re not allergic or intolerant to wheat.

Buckwheat is also high in protein and low on the glycaemic index, meaning energy levels will be sustained through till lunchtime. These pancakes can be made with egg if desired, and your choice of milk with a little butter and sugar to suit your tastes. Top with fruit and natural yoghurt for a wonderfully delicious and nutritious start to your day.

Protein-powered oats

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Whilst oats do contain some protein, if you want a powerful re-fuel after your morning workout, then this breakfast is a great choice.  All nuts are high in protein and although peanuts are not actually nuts in the true sense of the word, they still deliver on the protein front and help repair worked muscles.

If you’re short of time after a workout (or just generally pushed for time), then why not soak some oats overnight in some water with frozen berries of your choice.  It’s always great to have some frozen fruit to hand and it’s just as nutritious as fresh, so there’s no need to worry if getting to the shops is an issue.  Simply stir in some peanut butter or other nut butter such as cashew, and you’re super-charged and ready for your day.

Try not to skip breakfast, as this can often lead to poor food choices later in the day and instead enjoy one of these recipes to charge up your day.

Stay well.

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The importance of fruits and vegetables: how to eat more every day

A range of fruits and vegetables

We all know that fruits and vegetables are vitally important to include in the daily diet.  There are many great reasons for this but primarily they are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, so it makes sense to eat them as often as possible. 

Unfortunately, we know from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) that only around 27% of the UK population are managing even the basic minimum of five portions per day.  However, there are some easy ways of getting more into your diet.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips for including fruits and vegetables at every mealtime.

Boost your Breakfast

We all want to feel energised at the beginning of the day and having the right fuel can really help set you on a good path.  It’s important to include protein at breakfast time to get blood sugar and energy levels in good balance throughout the day.  However, a jump start of more energy is always welcomed!

Spinach and mushroom om

How about cooking up a delicious spinach omelette with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes?  This meal is super-charged because spinach is rich in both energising B vitamins and iron.  Plus, mushrooms contain some immune-boosting vitamin D (although supplementation is still needed) and tomatoes are rich in antioxidants so help shield the body from damaging free radicals.

A green smoothie

However, if you prefer a fruitier start to the day, you can still enjoy the health benefits from spinach but in a delicious green banana smoothie.  Bananas are loaded with energising vitamin B6 and why not add some ginger and mango which are both great for the immune system. Coconut water is high in potassium which is great for the heart and you can even throw in a few kale leaves for an additional nutrient burst.

Load up at lunch time

When we’re busy, on the run or in and out of zoom or team meetings, lunch can sometimes get forgotten.  We should always remember that each meal is a time for re-fuelling and getting valuable nutrients into the body.  If we miss a meal, we miss out big time!

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

Lunch does not need to be complicated and time-consuming to prepare it just needs to be colourful.  How about poaching a piece of salmon the night before and putting it into a colourful salad?  Whilst salad vegetables are high in water, so not always the highest in nutrients, if you include an avocado, you’ll not only feel fuller for longer, you’ll be getting the benefits of Vitamin E for your skin and immune system.

Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables

Alternatively, you can cook up some quinoa the day before and again add loads of salad vegetables or pre-roasted veggies of your choice to the mix.  The more colour you include, the greater the amount of plant antioxidants which help support immunity, protect the body against disease and keep us looking young and fresh.

Dive in at Dinner

There’s been an enormous upsurge in people ordering in meals from fast food apps during lockdown.  Unfortunately, we know from statistical data that this has also led to a prevalence of nutrient deficiencies, which can make us more prone to illness.

Salmon stir fry

A take-away or delivery meal is no bad thing occasionally, but nothing beats home-cooked food for the wealth of nutrients it provides.  And it doesn’t need to be complicated either! Plan a stir fry which includes chopped peppers, onion, carrots, baby sweetcorn, chopped broccoli and mange tout. Add flavourings such as soy sauce, coriander, and sweet chilli sauce and a protein source of choice for a quick, colourful and super nutritious dinner.

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Each fruit or vegetable brings a wealth of nutrients to the table: variety is key, and the body gets a balanced spread.  In terms of vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and pak choi) are extremely nutrient dense, and especially rich in magnesium which we know to be deficient in the average diet.  Magnesium is essential for so many bodily processes including for hormone balancing, and good nerve and brain function. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in fibre which helps to keep the bowels working smoothly.

And if vegetables really aren’t your bag, then they can always be ‘disguised’ in dishes such as spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces, curries and other spicy dishes.

So, try to include as many fruits and vegetables in your daily diet as possible – your body will definitely thank you for it.

Stay well.

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Five foods to boost your mood this January

Two strawberries and a banana make into a happy face

January is often a month where people struggle with low mood, partly because of the dark days and cold and miserable weather.  And that’s notwithstanding the current situation. “Blue Monday”, this year on 18th January, is also supposed to be the lowest day of the year.

However, the good news is that you can put a smile back onto your face by adding some ‘feel-good’ foods to your diet.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top happy foods.

Oats

The perfect start to the day is porridge with your choice of milk or soaked overnight in some apple juice. Oats are loaded with mood-enhancing nutrients.  Importantly, eating oats for breakfast avoids wheat-based cereals or bread, which can be troubling for many people’s digestion.  That’s certainly going to disrupt mood too.

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

Oats are high in B-vitamins which, as well as helping with energy production, are needed to produce brain neurotransmitters responsible for mood and motivation.  They are also high in the calming mineral magnesium (great for stress-reduction) and keeping your blood sugar levels in balance, thereby keeping you smiling!

Bananas

One of the easiest and tastiest snacks, bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our happy hormone, serotonin.  They are also high in vitamin B6, essential for the body to produce tryptophan which in turn helps to make serotonin, so it’s a win-win situation.

Whole bananas and diced banana

Whilst they’re a great snack and can also star in delicious banana bread, bananas are high in starch so are best eaten in moderation as a treat, rather than every day.  Plus, their sugar release is better balanced when eaten with protein, so they partner well with mood-boosting walnuts which are high in omega-3 fats.

Salmon

On the topic of omega-3s, salmon is one of the best food choices for getting some of these super-healthy fats into your diet.  Omega-3s are essential for brain function, particularly getting neurotransmitters to fire correctly, so will help support your mood.  Plus, they’re needed for great skin, smooth-moving joints, a healthy heart and eye health, so they provide plenty to smile about.

Brown rice with salmon fillet amd vegetables

Salmon is really easy to include in the diet: it’s great grilled with some lemon juice and a little butter, cooked in the oven in a foil parcel with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, or added to pasta dishes.  If you want a quick and healthy lunch, then look for tinned wild salmon. Wild salmon is best because they’re reared in a healthier way and contain more of the powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin (it’s what makes them pink), so you’ll also be supporting your immune system and the ageing process as well.

Pineapple

For tastes and memories of summer, why not bag some delicious pineapple?  If you can’t find fresh, then frozen is fine because it’s usually quickly frozen after harvest locking in all the nutrients. As well as encouraging happy thoughts of holidays (which will happen later this year!), pineapples contain some tryptophan, so they’ll also help to increase serotonin levels.

A bowl of cut up lineapple next to a whole pineapple

Pineapples also contain a special protein called bromelain which helps with digestion but has a strong anti-inflammatory action so is great for any joint pain or muscle soreness you might be experiencing.  Pineapple is delicious added to a vegetable juice for sweetness but, when eaten between meals as a snack (perhaps with some almonds), its health benefits tend to be more effective, plus it’s easier to digest.

Pumpkin seeds

Many people are not great lovers of fish which means they may not be getting their essential omega-3s.  Pumpkin seeds are a great source of omega-3s, but also immune-boosting zinc and calming magnesium.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

If you can’t face them plain, then why not very lightly roast them with some soy sauce?  That way you’ll be much more likely to eat and enjoy them and sprinkle them liberally on vegetables, salads or smashed avocado on toast (a fantastic start to the day!)

So, brighten up your January – and your mood – with some great mood-boosting foods!

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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

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

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit our sister site Herbfacts

All images: Shutterstock