Enjoy your healthiest festival ever with these top nutrition tips!

Two women lying in a tent at a festival wearing wellington boots

Festival season is here! And whilst they’re not renowned for being the healthiest of experiences, there is much you can do both before and during the event to ensure you stay happy and healthy throughout.

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Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for festival health!



Before you go

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’ and this is most certainly the case when it comes to festival health. The body is going to be severely challenged during a festival; low-nutrient food choices with the potential for an upset tummy, lack of sleep, too much sun (if you’re lucky!) and maybe a tad too much alcohol.

However, your digestive system is your best friend here because if you can keep that in good shape, everything else will be supported. First up is the friendly bacteria in your gut; when this is well balanced it will help prevent tummy troubles, support the immune system and help the body better metabolise alcohol or too much sugar generally. If possible, take a course of probiotics for a couple of weeks prior to the event; these are readily available in health food stores.

A word cloud around Probiotics

Additionally, eat loads of foods that help feed the good gut bacteria such as live natural yoghurt, onions, garlic and green leafy vegetables. Green tea is also fantastic for both the immune system and the digestive tract.

Your natural health survival kit

There’s a few natural health aids you can take with you which will help to keep troublesome symptoms at bay. For a start, keep taking the probiotics (one a day is fine) for the duration of the festival. Also be sure to pack the herb Milk Thistle which can be easily purchased in tablet form from health food stores. It’s one of the best herbs for supporting the liver and soothing nasty hangovers. It also helps the digestion, so may soothe a grumbling tummy whilst you’re away.

Milk thistle flower and herbal medicine tablets

Whilst you’ve not gone to the festival to sleep, you’ll feel a whole lot better and enjoy the event to the full if you’re able to get some shut-eye. The herb valerian specifically helps with sleep, so take it while you’re there. An eye-mask and earplugs might also be advisable!

Make great food choices

Clearly, there’s a lot of unhealthy food to tempt you at festivals but there are some great staples which can provide you with a good balance of healthy nutrients. Breakfast is THE most important meal when you’re at a festival to help keep blood sugar in balance and energy levels sustained. Plus, you’ll be less likely to be tempted by unhealthy snacks and food later if you’ve started the day right. Eggs are always the best choice.

Poached egg on brown toast

Some of the best festival food choices are veggie options, including falafels, tacos and bean salads which are all energy-dense. They’ll fill you up without causing bloating. Plus, there’s often a coconut van on site; coconuts are great for energy and will also banish hunger pangs.

Water is your best friend

There’s rarely a more important time than when you’re at a festival for keeping the body properly hydrated. Lack of water is going to leave you literally feeling ‘drained’. Worse still, severe dehydration, coupled with sun and alcohol can lead to health problems. However, this is easily avoided by drinking around ¼ litre water every couple of hours, and definitely try and hit the 1.5-2 litres per day (more so if the weather is hot). If you are drinking alcohol try and alternate with a large cup of water in between alcoholic drinks.

Close up of woman drinking a bottle of water in summer

It’s also an occasion where drinking slightly diluted fruit juice is good to do; the body rehydrates quicker with a very slightly sweetened liquid.

Sneak in some snacks

Whilst it’s not always easy to take your own food into a festival and each event will differ, it’s not normally too difficult to take snacks such as protein bars, nut and seed combinations, coconut pieces, dried fruit or energy bars.

A selection of nuts as a snack

Whilst many snack bars are fairly high in calories, because they’re generally a combination of protein and carbohydrate, they will certainly get over any energy dips and keep blood sugar levels in balance. It might not always be convenient to buy food and having some handy snacks will help you through. Equally, you’ll be getting some additional nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc, to support your immune system.

So enjoy your festivals this season and hopefully you will return home feeling relatively healthy!


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

Five nutritious snacks to get you through the afternoon!

For many people, the 3pm hunger pangs can often mean reaching for something not-so-good for you! But if you’re flagging what’s the best way to beat the energy dip?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, recommends her five top healthy snacks to get you through the afternoon.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

There are many possibilities for healthy afternoon snacks.  As with main meals, snacks should contain some protein in order to keep blood sugar levels in good balance and energy levels sustained for the rest of the day. Here’s some great suggestions:



This is a great twist on traditional hummus with even more benefits! It’s so easy to mix up some walnut hummus using walnut butter, crushed garlic, chickpeas and the zest of an orange. This combination of protein and carbohydrates plus oat cakes release energy slowly, so you won’t get any unwanted blood sugar spikes.

Walnut butter is one of the healthiest nut butters, packed full of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Garlic is great for the heart, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and oranges of course contain Vitamin C.


Not only does avocado deliver a range of nutrients but it makes a very tasty and easily transportable snack.

Whilst they do contain around eight grams of fat, the bigger picture is that avocados provide good amounts of heart and skin-healthy monounsaturated fats, together with high levels of the mineral potassium, also great for the heart.  Potassium also helps regulate the body’s natural water balance, therefore avocados can also help manage any uncomfortable water retention.

An avocado can be mashed on many things! A slice of rye or wholemeal toast, rice cakes, or oatcakes.  Alternatively, it can be eaten with a few prawns or a little smoked salmon.


These are fantastically easy to make and require no cooking and very little thought!  Plus they satisfy the criteria for balancing protein and carbohydrate. All you need to do is combine some peanut butter, ground flaxseeds, agave syrup, oats and some coconut flakes and make them into balls that can be left in the fridge and eaten as needed.

These balls will really rev up your afternoon energy levels; coconut is an excellent energy booster, flaxseeds are a great source of omega 3’s (also good for metabolism), whilst oats provide sustainable energy.  They’re real winners!


Soya yoghurts are a great ‘go-to’ snack!  They also contain protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer, plus the combination of the carbohydrate-containing fruit, together with the protein will ensure your energy levels soar for the rest of the day!

All types of yoghurts, whether they be made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, coconut milk, goat’s milk or soya beans have become increasingly popular over the years.  However, soya yoghurts have a slight advantage as they generally have less calories and fat.

Add a handful of delicious berries of your choice, which are low glycaemic (or slow-energy releasing) and packed full of vitamins, and you’ve got the perfect afternoon snack.


Oats don’t always have to be for breakfast -they also make an excellent afternoon snack.  Oats are low on the glycaemic index, and if you add a little coconut milk to provide even more energy, together with some sliced apple, you’ve got a really balanced snack.

However, the real show-stopper is a generous sprinkling of cinnamon over the top!  Cinnamon is great for blood sugar balancing, therefore keeping energy levels sustained, and is also a powerful antioxidant, to help hold back the years.

This is a really portable snack; the oats can be soaked in apple juice and ‘potted’, making them more digestible later in the day.  Just add your milk, sliced apple and cinnamon.

So enjoy these afternoon treats and pack some energy into your afternoons!


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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.

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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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Seven must-have foods for your pantry: how to keep a healthy cupboard!

shutterstock_327076697 woman with pantry jars Feb16Meal planning can really help you stay on track with a healthy diet. Making sure you have a good range of fruits and vegetables available to add to dishes and to snack on is always a great tip but what else should you have to hand? Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her pantry staples that we should keep in stock all year round.

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How many times do you rush in from work, open the food cupboard door and look at empty shelves? The daily question of ‘what shall I eat today?’ can be partly relieved by planning your meals ahead but to help support the daily decision-making, here are my seven top foods that you should always have in your cupboards:

shutterstock_128060603 bowl on quinoa Feb16QUINOA

Quinoa is such a versatile grain that can be included in so many different recipes, plus it’s super healthy! Quinoa is high in protein, low in fat, is gluten-free (gluten can be digestively problematic for many people) and is low glycaemic, meaning that its energy is released slowly into the body. It’s a super food!

It’s so easy to prepare – it’s just like boiling up a saucepan of rice. Why not prepare a large batch and then it can be kept in the fridge for two to three days. You can add some cold roasted vegetables or some salad vegetables, together with some tuna for a great lunch-time meal, particularly if you’re on the run.

Quinoa makes an excellent meal-filler alongside roasted chicken or salmon. It also makes a perfect veggie risotto with some sautéed mushrooms, butternut squash and onion, finished off with some grated parmesan cheese – delicious!

shutterstock_239132320 Coconut oil Feb15COCONUT OIL

This is an absolute ‘must’ for your store cupboard. Firstly, coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils for cooking as it has a high melting point and is, therefore, chemically stable. However, coconut oil is also great for energy production, therefore it should be used lavishly in other dishes.

Think delicious chocolate brownies, beautifully roasted potatoes and authentic-tasting Thai curries. Additionally, coconut is not just for the food store cupboard – it should also be in your cosmetic cupboard as coconut oil is one of the best body moisturisers around!

shutterstock_267665951 sweet potato Jan16SWEET POTATOES

When you’re short on time and ideas, make sure you’ve always got some sweet potatoes in the cupboard. They provide a wealth of amazing health benefits including high levels of vitamin A which is great for the immune system. Additionally they don’t upset blood sugar levels, unlike ‘normal’ potatoes.

Sweet potatoes can be used in exactly the same way as your humble white potato. Why not try them in their jackets with some tuna or prawns, mashed with some black pepper and a knob of butter or used as a healthier topping on your fish or shepherd’s pie.

shutterstock_360523724 flaxseed Feb16FLAXSEEDS

Ground flaxseeds are readily available in all major supermarkets and provide a great source of gentle fibre, which keeps your digestive system running smoothly, plus

They’re also a great source of omega 3 essential fats, so if you don’t eat or don’t particularly like oily fish, then flaxseeds provide those essential omegas. Omegas are needed for healthy hormone production, beautiful skin, and a healthy heart, eyes add joints – quite an impressive list!

Flaxseeds have a slightly sweet and are therefore great added to the top of your porridge or cereal, stirred into a yoghurt with some blueberries or they make a very healthy addition to your smoothie.

shutterstock_332709455 ginger Feb16GINGER

Ginger looks slightly strange on the supermarket shelves, in its raw state, but this makes it no less attractive in terms of its nutrient punch!

Ginger is a great natural anti-inflammatory food; this makes it especially useful for joints, particularly after injury or for those people suffering from arthritis. Additionally, it’s a great digestive soother, particularly in cases of nausea: ginger has proved to be invaluable for helping morning sickness in pregnant women and also for sea-sickness.

Ginger can be incorporated into the diet in so many different ways; it provides an amazing ‘zest’ when added to fresh juices such as beetroot, carrot and apple. You can even pour hot water over it to make your very own ginger tea and it’s an essential ingredient in a good stir fry.

Which bring us on to yet another ‘must-have’ in your stir fry…

shutterstock_157278356 garlic Sept15GARLIC

No stir fry is complete without garlic! And by including it in your cooking as much as possible, you’ll also be giving yourself some amazing health benefits.

Garlic is great for the heart, specifically reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and supporting the immune system. It also feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system, keeping everything running smoothly.

Adding garlic to your roast potatoes, to lamb with some rosemary, making cheesy garlic bread (slightly naughty) or wilting some spinach with a little oil, are just a few ways of enjoying all its health benefits. Garlic keeps well in a cool, dry place for around two weeks, so there’s no excuse not to always have some on hand.

shutterstock_90650398 walnut Sept15WALNUT BUTTER

Walnut butter provides an excellent source of protein, particularly if you’re vegetarian. However, for those who are especially rushed in the mornings, if you have to eat breakfast on the run, then you could do a lot worse than packing up a few oatcakes with some walnut butter to help keep you going throughout the morning.

Equally, it provides a great snack with some crackers or oat cakes any time of the day. And if your children are particular insistent on having some chocolate spread in the cupboards then you can make your own with walnut butter. You just need to add some cocoa powder and maple syrup and you’ve got a much purer version that any ‘shop-bought’ variety.

Walnuts are a good source of those healthy omega 3 fatty acids and they’ve also been shown to reduce blood pressure, so another great all-rounder cupboard staple with health benefits to boot!

So hopefully these little tips mean your store cupboard can become a whole lot healthier and your meal decisions a little easier! Happy Cooking!


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2015 Superfood: 5 reasons to love coconut oil!

shutterstock_239132320 Coconut oil Feb15Coconut Oil is one of the hot superfoods of 2015. It has so many uses and benefits and should have prime position in all our store cupboards. Whether it’s used as a cooking aid, in recipes, straight from the spoon, as a replacement for normal butter or margarine or as a moisturising beauty aid, Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, tells us 5 reasons why Coconut Oil is one of the most versatile ingredients on the planet. 


From our Nutritional Expert – Suzie Sawyer

Although coconut oil (created as a result of heating coconut butter) has been used for centuries in tropical countries as a cooking ingredient, it’s only relatively recently that its big benefits to health have been so widely acclaimed on this side of the world.

Coconut oil comes from the seed of the coconut palm tree, Cocos nucifera, which is grown in all parts of the tropics and sub tropics and has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people from these parts of the world for generations.  Indeed, research indicates that people living in the Philippines have some of the lowest incidence of heart disease, partially attributed to their high intake of health-giving coconut.

So in addition, here are 5 more great reasons why you should incorporate coconut oil into your life!

shutterstock_97616777 coconut oil and butter and husk June15It’s healthier than other fats

It’s great to use in your daily cooking because coconut oil is actually high in a type of saturated fat called medium chain fatty acids which are not normally stored in the body as fat: they are metabolised and can quickly help to produce energy and fuel for the body.  It is also slightly lower in calories than most other fats and oils and does not raise cholesterol levels.  This makes coconut oil an especially great choice for avid exercisers or those trying to lose weight.

shutterstock_245568370 woman in spa with coconut June15It’s a wonderful beauty aid

It’s actually as useful in the bathroom as the kitchen!  It makes a fantastic beauty aid! You can use it as a body exfoliator, as well as a moisturiser, which leaves your skin feeling soft and supple. Plus you’ll smell divine!  Additionally, it makes a great hair conditioner.  Coconut oil is best applied to the hair and left for 20 minutes or so to really penetrate the hair and scalp.  After washing and drying in the usual way, you’ll be left with luxuriant and shiny hair!

It has anti-fungal propertiesshutterstock_161171273 cream heart on back of hand June15

Coconut oil has strong anti-fungal properties, either taken internally or used topically.  It is a major source of the antimicrobial fatty acids lauric acid and octanoic acid, which can help to kill fungal or bacterial infections that occur on the skin or in the gut.

Unfortunately, some antibiotic use, stress and a highly refined diet can all cause Candida – an overgrowth of yeast – to proliferate.  Candida can cause some unpleasant digestive symptoms, but research indicates that the lauric acid in coconut helps to fight off the Candida.  Eat it daily or apply directly to your skin if you‘re suffering with Candida or fungal infections on the skin.

shutterstock_109436963 cooking with coconut butter oil June15It’s very safe for cooking

Certain oils that we regularly use for cooking, particularly polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower, are chemically unstable, meaning that they produce free radicals when heated.  Heating unstable oils produces hydrogenated and trans fats which are both chemically altered and unrecognisable to the body.  Trans fats can also raise your ‘bad’ (or LDL) cholesterol and lower your ‘good’ (or HDL) cholesterol.  In addition, they can actually stop the body from metabolising the healthy omega 3 fatty acids which we all need in our diets.

But coconut oil is one of the safest oils for cooking. It has a much higher melting point and is therefore more stable when used at high temperatures.  It is even safer than olive oil!

It works well in so many recipes

Coconut oil is so versatile!  For raw foodies, it’s a store cupboard essential.  However, it can be used in curries, stir fries, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, cereal bars, to name just a few.  It also helps to produce fantastic roast potatoes!

Here’s a little treat for you to make yourself: Blackberry and Coconut Squares

250 g self-raising flourshutterstock_149457191 blackberry and coconut squares June15

280 g soft brown sugar

50 g oats

200g Coconut Butter

75 g desiccated coconut

2 medium eggs

300 g blackberries

  1. Heat the oven to 180 (Gas Mark 4) and line a 12” x 6” baking tin
  2. Put the flour, oats and sugar into a large bowl and mix in the coconut butter.  Then stir in the desiccated coconut
  3. Fill a teacup with the mixture and set the remaining aside
  4. Mix the eggs into a bowl of remaining mixture then flatten into baking tin.  Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon and scatter over the blackberries.  Top with the mixture from the teacup
  5. Bake for about 1 hour until golden.  Leave to cool and then remove from tin and cut into squares
  6. Serve with extra berries and crème fraiche.

So, all in all, coconut oil is a real all-rounder and certainly an essential product to have in any cupboard!


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