Nutritious seasonal eats this December

Woman preparing christmas dinner

With the festive season now upon us, supermarkets are packed with chocolates, cakes, puddings and treats! However, let’s not forget that we can still enjoy healthy treats and get a boost of vitamins and minerals at the same time. There are plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables in season in December, and with a little thought they can really excite the taste buds!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five fruits and vegetables this Christmas, together with her recipe suggestions.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

PEARS

These sometimes get forgotten and pushed aside for the more popular apple. However, pears are real winners both for their taste and nutrient content.

They’re high in immune-boosting vitamin C and heart-loving vitamin K. If you eat them with the skin on, they’re also rich in fibre; more than many other fruits and vegetables, around 40% of a pear’s health benefits lie just under the skin.

Pear, goats cheese and walnut salad

Pears work really well simply sliced in a salad with goat’s cheese, varied leaves and walnuts, which retains maximum nutrient benefits. However, at this time of year, they’re wonderful poached with lemon zest, ginger, a cinnamon stick, allspice and some apple cider. They can be served with vanilla ice-cream for a real treat, eaten cold as a desert or sliced over your morning porridge for a warming start to the day.

RED CABBAGE

Whilst white (also known as green) cabbage is the most commonly eaten, its nutrient benefits slightly fade into the background when compared to its red counterpart. As with all fruits and vegetables, the secret to its nutritional benefit lies in its colour; red cabbage is rich in immune-boosting antioxidants. This is especially helpful at this time of year. It also contains lots of anti-inflammatory compounds which is welcome news for those suffering from aching or painful joints during the winter months.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

One of the nicest ways to use red cabbage is braised with apples. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to any meat or is great on the Christmas dinner table. It’s so easy cooked in a pot, with onions, apples, balsamic vinegar, allspice and sliced apples. Cook slowly in the oven for an hour or so – the smell is wonderful.

CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower has become one of the most popular vegetables in recent times. Even better it’s in season right now. As with many fruits and vegetables, the most prominent nutrient in cauliflower is vitamin C. However, it’s rich in most of the B-vitamins as well as the important trace minerals magnesium and manganese. These nutrients are better retained when cauliflower is steamed rather than boiled.

Cauliflower cheese

In terms of serving, a perennial favourite dish is cauliflower cheese which is often a Boxing Day lunch staple. However, it works really well as a one-pot curry with chickpeas, cumin, curry powder, onions, lentil and almonds. Cauliflower rice is also really popular with those watching their weight or following the Paleo Diet. Placed into a food processor it then gets broken down into rice-sized pieces. Simply heat through with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.

CLEMENTINES

Always popular in Christmas stockings for their delicious, juicy and sweet taste, clementines are perfectly in season right now. Not only are they packed with vitamin C, they contain limonin which may help reduce blood cholesterol levels – another reason why they could be useful during the season of over-indulgence!

Clementines on wooden board

They’re also fabulous used in many recipes and work really well with our Christmas staple vegetable, the Brussels sprout. We tend to have a love/hate relationship with these little green vegetables, but when braised in the oven with sliced clementines, shallots, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and walnuts, they really come alive!

CRANBERRY

No Christmas table would ever be complete without cranberries. They deliver some wonderful health benefits, most notably for the urinary tract. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, and cranberries are able to prevent the E. coli bacteria from attaching to the wall of the urinary tract.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Importantly, whilst, cranberry sauce makes a wonderful accompaniment to turkey, they work really well in a muesli recipe or in homemade energy bars. Simply mix dried cranberries with golden syrup, sunflower seeds, desiccated coconut, oats, butter and sultanas for a delicious tray-baked, portable energy snack – much needed during the tiring month of December.

So alongside the traditional sweet treats of Christmas, treat yourself to some delicious and nutritious fruit and veg this season and reap their amazing health benefits.

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Autumn foodie favourites: what’s in season right now?

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutrition

Whilst it can be a bit confusing as to what’s in season when so much of our food is available year-round, it’s always best to try to ‘eat with the seasons’. So what does October bring us?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five great foods to eat this month.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

CRANBERRIES

Cranberries are traditionally associated with Christmas as an accompaniment to turkey. However, they’re at their best right now and that continues through to December. They used to be known as ‘bouncing berries’ as the fresh ones literally do! Most importantly, there’s a wealth of ways you can use them in the daily diet.

A basket of fresh cranberries

Cranberries are packed with plenty of immune-boosting nutrients to help you through the upcoming ‘bug’ season. They’re loaded with vitamin C, iron and plenty of antioxidants. Plus, they’ve also been proven to help fight urinary tract infections. However, it’s recommended to drink cranberry juice (look for low sugar ones), rather than the whole berries if you’re prone to suffering.

Cranberries are great in a sauce with roasted duck, can be used dried in breakfast muesli, and baked in muffins.

PUMPKINS

The month of October can never pass without mentioning pumpkins! The most famous of winter squashes, they are packed with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene which the body turns into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed.

A range of pumpkins and squashes

Pumpkin is delicious roasted; in fact it’s probably easiest cooked this way as the skin can stay on. Preparing pumpkins can sometimes be slightly challenging although well worth it as they are delicious in stews, soups or mashed as a vegetable side. The seeds are highly nutritious and can also be lightly roasted with a little olive oil and salt for a healthy snack.

PEAS

Peas are often one of our staple vegetables on the dinner plate, partly because they are a popular frozen vegetable option. Frozen peas often more tender as they are picked and frozen quickly so the natural sugar doesn’t have time to turn into starch.

A bowl of fresh green peas and a pea pod

Peas are high in vitamin B1 which is good for the heart, and supports natural energy and the nervous system, plus they’re a good source of vitamin C.

The versatility of peas means they can be eaten in many different dishes; with pasta, in stir fries and risottos, in soups and as part of a Spanish tortilla, just as a few suggestions!

OYSTERS

Hailed as a luxury food, oysters will always make a statement on any plate! October is actually one of the best months to eat them in season as they are spawning during the summer months and their taste and texture changes.

A plate of fresh oysters

One of the best nutritional facts about oysters is that they’re loaded with the mineral zinc which is needed for healthy reproduction and fertility; this is the very reason oysters are known as aphrodisiacs!

It can be quite challenging to shuck an oyster yourself, so it’s worth buying them already prepared by an expert fishmonger. However, they need to be eaten fairly soon afterwards. Some people like them plain, others squeeze some lemon juice over them, or they work really well with a little tabasco to spice things up a bit!

GOOSE

Not just for Christmas, goose is coming into season right now. Whilst it does contain more fat than chicken or turkey, at 22 grams per 100 grams, goose has an excellent nutrient profile with greater levels of immune boosting iron and vitamin B6. Plus it contains the same amount of protein as turkey, which is even more than duck or chicken.

Roasted goose on a plate

A goose will produce fat when it’s roasting and some people cook it on an open tray and catch the fat as it drains off the bird. Goose fat helps create the best roasted potatoes so if you cook a goose during October, the collected fat will still be great for cooking your roasties on Christmas Day!

So celebrate these healthy and delicious October foods and enjoy seasonal eating this autumn.

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

 

How to get your five-a-day during December

Close up of a woman's hands holding a pile of cranberries

Our healthy diet can sometimes go awry during December. Festive functions and busy diaries mean that eating healthily becomes, potentially, more difficult, and that includes getting the recommended ‘five-a-day’ of our fruits and vegetables. However, there are some delicious ways of eating foods in season right now to maximise their health benefits. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some of her favourites!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

Maybe not top of everyone’s ‘wish-list’ but Jerusalem artichokes provide some wonderful health benefits.

One of their top ‘claims to fame’ is that they boost our beneficial gut bacteria. This helps to improve mood and motivation because it stimulates the production of serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. It may also help to avoid winter SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which affects so many people, making them feel low through the cold, dark months.

Jerusalem artichokes are delicious simply chopped lengthwise and roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

CRANBERRIES

Not surprisingly, cranberries are in season right now!  But don’t just eat them once a year with your turkey; cranberries can offer some wonderful health benefits throughout the winter months.

Cranberries are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamin C so are great to eat at this time of year when the immune system needs a boost.  Plus, cranberries are brilliant at fighting urinary tract infections; they stop bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

If you’re prone to bladder infections, then the best advice is to regularly drink sugar-free cranberry juice and include dried cranberries in granola or muesli recipes, or your other favourite cereals.

CELERIAC

Often called ‘the ugly one’ because of its very rough physical appearance, celeriac’s rich nutritional benefits and distinct taste means it is quite an interesting vegetable!

It is part of the celery family and, just like celery, is rich in potassium which is great for the heart.  Both vegetables are particularly helpful in reducing blood pressure.

Celeriac is quite difficult to peel but once prepped it’s great as a vegetable side mashed with butter and black pepper.  Even better, celeriac can be roasted whole in the oven which means it doesn’t even need to be peeled!  Wash the outer skin and cut off the top.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning.  The celeriac should then be wrapped in foil and cooked in the oven for around two hours.  Once cooked, it’s easy to spoon it out of the skin and serve with some butter.

APPLES

‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ as the old wives’ tale goes, and apples certainly deliver some great health benefits which can be enjoyed during December.

Apples are packed with pectin fibre which helps to keep cholesterol levels under control.  Additionally, they contain a flavonoid called quercetin, a natural antihistamine that helps to calm allergies.

Apples are also used to make cider vinegar, which provides even more health benefits; it helps the digestion, eases joint pain, helps with weight loss and is great for the skin.  Indeed, its health benefits are as valuable as eating an apple a day.  Have a dessertspoonful before each meal.

KALE

Kale, with its rich dark green leaves, is in season right now and is great to add to your five-a-day. It’s packed with vitamin K, which is heart-protective, and folic acid and iron which support high energy levels.  It’s also full of fibre and low in calories and fat – a real winner!

Some people find kale’s fairly strong flavour slightly off-putting!  However, its makes an excellent addition to any pasta dish, such as chicken and bacon rigatoni, where there are also some other strong flavours, which combine really well.  Add a sprinkling of parmesan and black pepper and you’ve got yourself a wonderful mid-week meal to keep you running up until Christmas!

So even though time might be pressured over the next few weeks, you can still give your body plenty of nutrients to ensure you’re fully able to enjoy this Festive period.

 

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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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 Herbfacts