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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Eat seasonally: top fruits and vegetables for June

A woman holding a heartshaped bowl full of strawberries

As always time flies by and we’re already at the halfway point of the year. However, a big consolation is that June offers a wonderful array of colourful and nutritious fruits and vegetables. 

The more we can eat with the seasons, generally the better the nutrient content of the food.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top fruits and vegetables for June.

Courgettes

A range of courgettes

Courgettes are a type of marrow that are also known as zucchini to the Italians and Americans.  As with many fruits and vegetables most of their nutrients are found just under the skin, hence the skin is soft and perfectly edible.  However, because their flavour is very ‘light’, courgettes are often cooked in recipes with some stronger flavours.  A great option is baking them with garlic, sundried tomatoes, pinenuts and topping with breadcrumbs. Or why not try roasting with other vegetables with rosemary, or in a delicious ratatouille with tomatoes, thyme, garlic and aubergines.

Courgettes,Stuffed,With,Breadcrumbs,,Pine,Nuts,,Sun,Dried,Tomatoes,And

Courgettes are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps protect the skin from sun damage and the ageing process.  Additionally, they are high in energising folate and beta-carotene which is turned into vitamin A as the body needs, and which protects the immune system.

Strawberries

a punnet of strawberries

Strawberries are synonymous with the British summer and locally grown summer strawberries have a much fuller flavour than those imported during the winter months.  Whilst strawberries are called ‘fruits’ they are actually from the rose family.  However, we would certainly not hold this against them because they’re nutritional jewels when it comes to delivering plenty of vitamin C (one of the highest amounts within the berry family of fruits).

Strawberries are also rich in powerful antioxidants, helping protect us from disease including heart disease and other degenerative conditions.

Two bowls of strawberries and cream

Strawberries can stand proudly on their own. However, their delicious flavour is enhanced by eating them with a little balsamic vinegar, in a pie, with cream or with other colourful summer berries.

Asparagus

Close up of a woman holding a bunch of fresh asparagus

This is another example of how eating British and in season is an entirely different experience to eating imported versions that can be tough and tasteless throughout the year.  English asparagus needs to be grabbed quickly because the season is very short.  Plus, it quickly deteriorates after picking so it needs to be eaten as freshly as possible.

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Asparagus contains more energising folate than any other vegetable and which is a nutrient that’s frequently deficient in the UK population. Additionally, the fibre in asparagus works as a prebiotic, helping feed the beneficial bacteria that naturally resides in the digestive tract and which plays such an important role in our health.  It needs no more than lightly steaming and serving with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Or perhaps try them wrapped in parma ham.

Aubergine

Fresh,Healthy,Raw,Purple,Eggplant,On,A,Kitchen,Wooden,Table.

Whilst we tend to associate aubergine with Mediterranean countries, it is widely grown in the UK.  And whilst it used to be advised to salt them before cooking to draw out some of their bitterness, their flavour has changed over the years, so this is no longer necessary.

A colourful grilled vegetable salad with aubergine

Whilst aubergines are naturally low in fat, they are often griddled or grilled using oil and they do tend to soak it up like a sponge so use it sparingly!  They are delicious cooked in this way, but many may prefer to use them in stews, curries, or ratatouille dishes.  Their beautiful purple skin means aubergines are rich in anthocyanins – powerful antioxidants – hence it’s always better to cook them retaining the skin for most nutritional benefits.

Watercress

A bunch of watercress on a wooden board

With its very distinctive peppery flavour, watercress is one of the healthiest salad vegetables. Indeed, it’s a member of the highly nutritious cruciferous vegetable family, just like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.  Watercress will therefore also have many of their unique health benefits: it is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene and iron, plus it’s a great liver and kidney cleanser.

A bowl of watercress soup

Watercress is traditionally used in soups and works really well used in this way with Jersey Royal potatoes (also now in season).  However, it’s great to fully enjoy its delicious flavour in salads with bacon, spinach and Parmesan or in carrot-based juices.

So, embrace seasonal eating and enhance your health too this June – 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

Cream,Cheese,And,Avocado,Bagel,Against,A,Black,Background

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

Vegan,Breakfast.,Oatmeal,With,Chia,Seeds,,Berries,,Seeds,And,Caramel

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

Poached,Egg,With,Spinach,,Portobello,Mushrooms,And,Vine,Tomatoes

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

Buckwheat,Pancakes,With,Berry,Fruit,And,Honey.selective,Focus

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

Oatmeal,Porridge,With,Berries,In,A,Bowl,On,Rustic,Wooden

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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Celebrating tomatoes

shutterstock_454912315 tomatoes Mar17

It’s British Tomato fortnight, acknowledging everything that is great and healthy about tomatoes.

Known as the ‘Apple of Love’, tomatoes are technically a fruit rather than a vegetable, with the affectionate name originating from the Italians.  However, it was actually the Mexicans that first made the discovery of this wonderful fruit.

So, what is so fabulous about tomatoes?  Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells all.

Nutritional low-down

Whilst tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, they are a great source of many of our essential nutrients.  Tomatoes provide a very good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, one of our busiest vitamins. They also contain he B-vitamin biotin, often called the beauty vitamin because of its beneficial effects on hair and skin, plus heart loving vitamin E and potassium. Indeed, they have a wide and varied nutritional profile.

shutterstock_203320249 tomato salad June15

You can find red, orange or yellow tomatoes and whilst all colours have nutritional merits, it’s red tomatoes that deliver on all fronts.

Antioxidant power

Tomatoes are rich in conventional antioxidants vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E (in the form of carotenoids) and zinc and manganese. But it is carotenoids that really deliver antioxidant power.

shutterstock_186831911 tomatoes in heart shape Feb20

There has been much research carried out on the carotenoids that are abundant in tomatoes, namely lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein. And it’s specifically lycopene that has been found to have wonderful benefits for heart health. It appears that lycopene can help reduce levels of harmful fats in the blood, a major cause of cardiovascular issues.  Tomatoes can help reduce levels of cholesterol, an accumulation of which is a major cause of atherosclerosis, as well as managing platelet activity in the bloodstream, helping fend off blood clots.

Lycopene has also been much studied in relation to male prostate health, again with very positive outcomes, and huge quantities of tomatoes don’t need to be consumed to gain some real benefits. Plus, the antioxidant power provided by beta-carotene is great at protecting the skin from sun damage.

How to eat them

The carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients which means they are best absorbed with other fats.  The Italians certainly understood how to get the best out of tomatoes by eating them with olive oil.  Interestingly, lycopene is very well absorbed when tomatoes are made into a sauce or paste that contains some olive oil.

shutterstock_175597250 soup June15

One of the healthiest recipes is to make soup from ripe tomatoes. The soup can be made with carrot, celery, and onions (fried in some olive oil), vegetable stock and tomato puree.  It has all the right ingredients for producing one of the best ways of gaining all that’s great about tomatoes nutritionally.

shutterstock_663551029 spaghetti and tomato sauce Sept17

If you want the real taste of Italy, then spaghetti with tomato sauce including some chillies, shallots and basil, with some torn mozzarella to serve, is really going to make the mouth water.

So, celebrate this wonderfully nutritious jewel in the fruit basket and get creative with tomato recipes!

Stay well.

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Probiotics and prebiotics: how to support your gut bacteria the natural way

Close up on woman's stomach with hands making a heart shape to show a healthy tummy

A nutritionist will always say that if your digestive system is not working correctly, then nothing else will.  In essence, what goes on within the gut affects all other body systems. 

The good news, however, is that if you look after what’s inside, you’ll glow on the outside. Much of this is down to probiotics, otherwise known as friendly gut bacteria, and the prebiotics that fuel them.

This World Digestive Health Day, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares the ins and outs of probiotics and prebiotics.

What are they?

A word cloud around Probiotics

The word probiotic literally means ‘for life’ such is their importance to our overall health.  The exact number of probiotic strains is thought to be around 400 but more research is being carried out all the time.  Most current research tends to be around some of most important and prevalent strains being Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Variety,Of,Prebiotic,Foods,For,Gut,Health,,Low,Carb,Diet,

Prebiotics on the other hand are a type of non-digestible fibre that help feed these friendly guys. They are found in many different types of foods, especially certain fruits and vegetables. Prebiotics are sometimes referred to as the ‘fertiliser’ of the digestive tract because they stimulate growth and wellbeing of probiotics.

Why do I need them?

Probiotics are essential for human health and the more we know, the more we realise just how critical they are to our wellness.  They fulfil many different functions throughout the body, including encouraging healthy digestion and helping to normalise issues such as constipation and diarrhoea. They also help to control and limit the production of parasites and pathogenic intestinal yeasts.

Close up of woman's tummy with her hands making a heart shape in front

Probiotics synthesise vitamins including vitamin K, vitamin B12, folic acid and biotin, hence they have a big role to play in skin, bone, brain and hair health.  Importantly they are essential for keeping the immune system in good shape (even more important right now).

shutterstock_271645694 jogger with bones higlighted in leg Aug15

Clearly, if probiotics aren’t correctly nourished then they aren’t going to flourish, which is why prebiotics are essential too.  They help to feed the good guys and research has found they aid calcium absorption, hence are important for bone density. They also play a key role in brain health and help the body to process carbohydrates and balance blood sugar levels. Prebiotics are often used on their own or alongside probiotics in supplement form to great effect in cases of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.

Where do I find them?

A,Set,Of,Fermented,Food,Great,For,Gut,Health,-

In short, probiotics are primarily found in fermented foods, which are widely eaten in traditional Asian diets. They are naturally found in kefir made from goat, cow or sheep milk with kefir grains and kimchi made from fermented cabbage, cucumber and radish. Sauerkraut, produced from fermented cabbage, miso from fermented soya beans and natural live yoghurt are also great sources.  Whilst they are not always the first-choice foods in traditional western diets, more and more people are realising their health benefits so are including them in their diets.

Prebiotic,Products,,Sources,Of,These,Bacteria,,Nutrient,Rich,Food.,Flat

Prebiotics can be found in bananas, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, green vegetables, onions, garlic, soybeans, chicory and asparagus.  And if you’ve ever wondered why you may have more flatulence after eating these foods, it’s because they start a feeding frenzy in the gut.  This is a good thing but maybe not so pleasant for you (or those you live with!). However, once the gut is in better shape, the effects of eating these foods will be much less noticeable.

How can I use them in daily recipes?

The short answer is ‘very easily’. You don’t necessarily need to have probiotics and prebiotics in the same meal and the good news is that many of these prebiotic foods are frequently included in the diet already.

Pot of natural yoghurt

Natural yoghurt is often part of the daily diet and kefir is readily available in drink form or in yoghurts, in supermarkets. And if you’ve not tried other fermented foods, why not start with this simple miso and prawn recipe from BBC Food. It’s got a great balance of probiotics and prebiotics and is super tasty too!

So, with a little careful planning, you can increase your intake of probiotics and prebiotics naturally, providing wonderful health benefits.

Stay well.

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How to eat mindfully

A balanced meal of chicken, rice and vegetables

Meditation and mindfulness are both about bringing awareness to yourself in the present and can help ease feelings of anxiety and stress. Eating mindfully is also talked about frequently but what does it actually mean in reality? 

It can actually mean different things to different people but overall it’s about getting the most out of your mealtime experience and, in turn, harnessing the wonderful powers of nature for maximum health benefits.

This World Meditation Day Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top tips on how to eat mindfully.

Plan your meals with passion

Mealtimes are not just a time for re-fuelling the body with essential nutrients. They are an opportunity to show your body some love and also enjoy what you’re eating.  Think about living to eat rather than eating to live, because food is one of life’s pleasures.

Person's,Hand,Filling,Meal,Plan,Form,On,Clipboard

Unfortunately, life is busy and meal planning often goes down the list of priorities. However, rather than over-complicating things, try to plan at the beginning of the week and just think about the amount of colour each meal is going to provide.  The more colour, the more nutrients you will consume and the more appealing the food on the plate becomes.

Vegan,Chili,With,Beans,,Mushrooms,,And,Vegetables

Two great examples of colourful meals would be mixed bean chilli, including tomatoes and chopped carrots, with basmati rice and some steamed broccoli. Or how about poached salmon, mashed sweet potato, with steamed cauliflower and mange tout.  Both of these will provide wonderful health benefits with a great combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.Boost your Breakfast

Chew thoughtfully

This advice is actually embedded in science.  When we chew slowly, putting our knife and fork down between mouthfuls, the sophisticated and complex signalling mechanism that engages from mouth to gut works much more efficiently.  In turn, digestive enzymes and bile production are increased (both essential for successful overall digestion) and this also helps nutrient absorption.

A balanced meal of chicken, rice and vegetables

Additionally, the satiety hormones that signal feelings of fullness are also triggered with slow, mindful eating rather than ‘scoffing’.  In short, it will stop you overeating and taking in additional and maybe unwanted calories.

The,Smiling,Woman,Enjoys,Eating,A,Salmon,Salad.,To,Lose

In terms of mindset, taking time to savour each mouthful also enhances enjoyment of the meal generally.  Furthermore, it’s no secret that wolfing down food causes all kinds of digestive issues.  Be kind to mind and body and your relationship with food will improve significantly.

Meal timing creates greater harmony

With so much information available and so many different dietary plans being followed, it’s no wonder that confusion reigns when it comes to when to eat.  The most important thing to remember is that the body likes routine and, importantly, likes to know when it’s going to be fed. So, chopping and changing and eating at erratic times is not being kind to our body and it may start to store fat to protect itself from potential starvation.

Alarm,Clock,,Plate,And,Cutlery,On,Red,Background,,Flat,Lay.

In order to be mindful about your own personal decision around following a specific diet, the most important point is not to chop and change.  For instance, there is good research to support the effectiveness of intermittent fasting for weight loss, either 16:8 or 5:2.  However, both need careful planning, mainly to ensure as many nutrients are included but also to ensure meal timing is consistent.

Breakfast,,Lunch,And,Dinner.,Healthy,Eating,For,Day

Generally, most people tend to follow the traditional three meals per day plan, which the body likes.  Even if you can’t quite face breakfast first thing, do make sure you’ve eaten it by around 10 am in order for the subsequent meals to be spaced out evenly.  The body also likes to have plenty of time to enter the post-absorptive phase of digestion, which helps balance blood sugar levels and, in turn, aid weight management. Many of us constantly graze, even without thinking.  And this certainly doesn’t constitute mindful eating.

So, by planning your meals and relishing every mouthful of food, this mindful eating will improve your approach to food and increase your enjoyment too.

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.

shutterstock_245873155-cruciferous-vegetables-jan17

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

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Suzie’s five top tips to support your health

shutterstock_583532458 nutrition word cloud heart Mar21

We all want great health and to look and feel well.  Good nutrition is the cornerstone to health; there is so much truth in the adage ‘You are what you eat’. 

But when it comes to the right nutrition where should we start and what should we prioritise?

This World Health Day we ask clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, to help simplify things by sharing her top five health tips.

Routine creates balance

Stressful and busy lives can negatively impact our eating patterns.  Eating at erratic times, missing meals and grabbing food on the run will just create more stress on the body.  When we’re stressed, the body naturally shuts down the digestive organs by diverting blood flow away, which in turn interrupts absorption of essential nutrients.

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

Additionally, the body likes to know when it’s going to be fed otherwise it will start storing fat for survival and naturally slow metabolic rate. Keep eating times regular, chew mindfully, savouring every mouthful (you’ll also naturally not overeat) and take some pride in what you have prepared.  Food is one of life’s amazing pleasures, so use it to feed your amazing body as it deserves. Put eating a varied and balanced diet at the top of your priority list.

Take vitamin D all year-round

If your joints and muscles are stiff, you’re feeling low in mood or sugar cravings are off the scale, chances are you’re low in vitamin D.  Public Health England advise we should be taking a supplement all year round, (and don’t stop just because the sun’s come out!).  It is advised that we should all take a supplement of 10 micrograms daily as a minimum, such is the level of deficiency in the population: in fact, ongoing research telling us we need more. Interestingly, upper safe levels for supplementation of vitamin D are 75 micrograms daily.  If you’ve still got any of the above symptoms, or blood tests reveal you’re low in vitamin D, then do increase the dosage.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Oily fish with bones, eggs and mushrooms are good food sources of vitamin D so eat these but you’ll still need to supplement as well.

Eat the colours of the rainbow

I talk so much about eating a rainbow of foods and it’s one of the best insurance policies you can choose for protecting health.  The colour of foods, especially in fruits and vegetables, all represent nutrients, and especially antioxidants in many different forms. All are essential for protecting the body against free radical damage.

A range of colourful fruit and veg rainbow

If counting portions of fruit and vegetables is a bit too much (and let’s face it we can’t always know what an individual portion size is), then just aim for meals that are full of colour.  Without even counting, you will be eating a rainbow every day and your health will love every mouthful.

Don’t fear fat

Fat is not only essential for providing energy and keeping us warm, it’s also needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D. Healthy fats include the omegas 3 and 6, which can’t be produced in the body, as well as olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil and a variety of other nuts and seeds with their oils.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

In short, the body needs them every day, and eaten in the right quantity, healthy fats are not going to cause weight gain.  On the contrary, without sufficient healthy fats in the diet, the body will start craving sugar causing blood sugar imbalances and often consequential weight gain.

Prioritise protein

Many people wrongly think that starchy carbohydrates fill you up.  And for a time, they will. Carbohydrates from whole grain sources such as oats and whole wheat bread and pasta are slow-energy releasing, keeping everything balanced.  However, it’s protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer.  Most importantly, protein is essential for numerous body functions such as maintaining healthy immune and hormone systems, building and repairing muscle and bone, and essential detoxification processes.  Ideally it needs to be eaten at every meal where possible.

A range of foods containing protein

The good news is that there’s plenty of choice when it comes to food sources; eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, beans, legumes, soya, nuts, seeds and all foods produced from them. An average-sized person needs a minimum of 50-60 grams daily and most people need much more, especially if they’re active.  You’ll be amazed just how much stronger and energised you’ll feel just by putting protein on the priority list when meal-planning.

So, embrace these five tips and hopefully you will really feel the health benefits.

Stay well.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

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

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Easter eating: healthy and delicious dishes to enjoy

shutterstock_1676194471 easter family Mar21

Traditionally Easter is a time when we see friends and family and enjoy various gatherings.  Whilst it’s not going to be possible in quite the same way this Easter, it’s still a great opportunity to enjoy some wonderfully healthy, tasty dishes and treat yourself.

Whether you enjoy a traditional roast or would like to try some vegetarian alternatives, there is lots of in-season food on offer.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her favourite recipes for an Easter Day treat!

Start the day right

Whilst many people love the great British breakfast fry-up, this is very high in calories and fat and can make many of us feel really bloated. Eggs, of course, are the food of the Easter celebration, so before you tuck into the chocolate variety why not start the day with a traditional Easter breakfast of boiled eggs. In fact, eggs make a great breakfast whatever day it is.

shutterstock_374871019 boiled egg Mar21

Eggs are a great source of protein, delivering all the essential amino acids, helping balance blood sugar levels, whilst keeping you feeling fuller for longer without bloating.  Why not serve them with some sourdough bread, which is much kinder to the digestive system and really tasty too.  And don’t forget to find your marker pens and decorate the eggs before you enjoy them!

Lunchtime roast

For many, Easter is not complete without eating roast lamb.  British spring lamb, as the name suggests, is at its best right now.  Lamb is an intrinsically fatty meat, so it’s good to try and cook a leg which is naturally lower in fat.  It’s a great source of protein but also rich in immune-boosting zinc, plus it contains some omega-3 fats at higher levels than grass-fed beef.

shutterstock_446946859 roasted lamb Mar21

To further boost the immune system and to enhance the great natural taste of the meat, roast the lamb with some garlic and rosemary which are natural accompaniments. Serve it with some Jersey Royal potatoes (also in season right now) which are rich in nutrients, especially vitamin C. Add some delicious broccoli, stir fried with sesame seeds, and glazed carrots.  Both vegetables are rich in antioxidants to further protect the immune system.

shutterstock_1183271935 cauliflower cheese Mar21

And for the vegetarians, why not bake some in-season vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and spinach with a cheese and chive sauce.  This dish would work well as a vegetable side and a tea-time treat too.

Dinner delights

shutterstock_1516787810 roasted ham Mar21

Roasted ham is another traditional favourite at Easter.  If you’re wanting to relax after lunch why not cook the ham ahead of time and serve cold.  How about using wraps rather than bread and add some lovely salad vegetables, especially sweet tomatoes which complement the ham well.  Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene which is another powerful antioxidant and great for the immune system.

shutterstock_238145404 vegetarian pie Mar21

Easter is all about colour so vegans and vegetarians can embrace the colours of the rainbow with a carrot, sweet potato, celeriac and beetroot pie.  All vegetables are in season, providing a nutritional feast.  The more colourful your vegetables the more nutrients you’ll be eating.

Sweet Treats

shutterstock_1016929156 hot cross buns Mar21

Why not make some easy Easter biscuits so you can have a little sweet treat and the younger members of the family can join in with the baking?  And of course, no Easter is complete without sone hot cross buns.  They don’t take too long to prepare and cook, and you can use gluten-free flour for those that can’t tolerate gluten.  Why not use brown flour rather than white, which contains some energising B-vitamins and won’t upset blood sugar too much.  They’ll make a great snack the next day too.  And for the vegans, hot cross buns are great made with almond milk and a dairy-free spread.

So, make the most of your Easter eating and enjoy some of these healthy and nutritious dishes.

Stay well.

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

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Five nutrients to maximise your health this spring

Fruit and vegetables in the shape of a

It’s National Nutrition Month highlighting how important good nutrition is for our overall wellbeing. Eating the right foods containing the right nutrients can really help us to reach optimal health. 

Whilst the body needs 45 different nutrients daily (including water), there are some that really lead the field.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, share fives of the best.

Magnesium

Whilst all nutrients work synergistically, some get involved more than others and magnesium is one such mineral. It is essential for energy production, protein formation and cellular replication (aiding cell renewal) and is involved in 300 different enzyme reactions: it’s certainly busy!

A range of foods containing magnesium

Magnesium is primarily found in bones and muscles, as well as soft tissue and body fluids (it is a key electrolyte).  Interestingly, whilst it’s needed as part of our energy-producing mechanisms, magnesium is also known as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’ helping rest and relaxation. The truth is that magnesium helps the body’s metabolic processes in terms of long-term energy production rather than creating a quick burst.  It’s also essential for the proper functioning of the entire cardiovascular system and can help manage high blood pressure or issues with heartbeat irregularities.

Green vegetables and whole grains are your friends when it comes to upping magnesium levels – the more the better!

Zinc

Zinc competes with magnesium in terms of how busy it is in the body: it is responsible for over 200 different enzyme reactions and is found in every cell.  It’s also essential for the proper action of many hormones throughout the body but tends to gain fame for its essential work within the immune system, keeping white blood cell levels in good order.

Zinc is also essential for both men and women in terms of fertility; women prior and during pregnancy to ensure proper foetal development and in men for testosterone production and sperm formation and motility.

A range of foods containing the mineral Zinc

Unfortunately, it’s very often deficient in both men and women, partly because good food sources are seafood and nuts and seeds, which many people don’t eat.  Oysters are the shining light as the best source of zinc, but whole grain foods such as oats, buckwheat and whole-wheat bread still contain acceptable amounts.

Vitamin C

One of our key antioxidant vitamins, it’s also probably the best known.  Vitamin C shot to fame when our famous sailor Captain Cook solved the deficiency disease of vitamin C, scurvy, by giving the crew lemon and lime juice. This also helped better understand the key role of Vitamin C in strengthening blood capillaries.

Vitamin C is essential for immune system function, helping the body manufacture our main structural protein collagen. It also helps fight off free radical damage, protecting us from degenerative disease and premature aging.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Being water soluble, it’s not stored in the body and therefore needs eating regularly throughout the day. Luckily though, it’s widely available in many fruits and vegetables with the best sources being red peppers, guavas, kale and broccoli.

Vitamin D

Thankfully, vitamin D is now on the radar for most of us, having been found to play such an essential role within the immune system as researched before and during the COVID pandemic.  The issue with vitamin D is that very little is available in foods. Our main source is via sunlight on the skin, which of course is in short supply during the winter months, especially in the northern hemisphere.  Interestingly, it’s now been discovered that we need much more than originally noted in order to keep us optimally healthy.

A range of foods containing vitamin D

Let’s not also forget the essential role vitamin D plays alongside calcium in bone, muscle and teeth health.   We need to take heed of Public Health England advice and supplement with 10 micrograms daily all year round.  Do be aware though, that much research has been carried out on the benefits of higher amounts so take advice on individual needs from your healthcare provider.

Iodine

Iodine is not as well-known as the nutrients discussed above, but equally as important to our health.  Even though iodine is only needed in micro amounts, a deficiency can lead to symptoms, especially involving the thyroid gland and its hormones. However, iodine is also needed for a healthy pregnancy, for the foetus to grow and develop correctly, and for brain function.

A range of foods containing iodine

The best source of iodine is from dairy foods. But if you don’t do dairy it is also found in seaweeds such as kelp and dulse which can be bought in their dried form and added to soups, stews and stir-fries.

So, celebrate National Nutrition Month and aim to get more of these nutrients into your diet every day!

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