Eating with the seasons: nutritional foods for January


It’s always important to eat with the seasons and as nature intended, to gain the biggest health benefits.  And for many of us, trying to be as healthy as possible during January is very much at the front of our minds.

Nature has provided what the body needs at certain times of year, plus if you buy locally grown produce, nutrient content will generally be better and it’s kinder to the environment too.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five in-season foods for January.


Jerusalem Artichokes

Top of my list has to be this amazing vegetable. They are supremely healthy and provide a really useful addition to the diet. 

Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with a prebiotic fibre called inulin which is incredibly healthy for the gut.  The gut houses billions of bacteria (hopefully more good bacteria than bad), but they need feeding with this kind of fibre for the gut to remain healthy. 

shutterstock_541940524 roasted jerusalem artichokes Dec17

A healthy gut supports a healthy mind, the immune system, hormones, digestion, skin and so much more. Jerusalem artichokes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, which are all frequently deficient in the daily diet. Serve them roasted in a little olive oil.


A member of the super-healthy cabbage family, kale is not always popular, partly because of its bitter taste and often tough texture.  However, this is much improved when eaten seasonally and with some other flavourings such as garlic and soy sauce.


The health benefits are certainly forthcoming, especially because kale contains a plant compound called sulforaphane, which has been found to help prevent some of our nasty degenerative diseases.  Kale is also a rich source of calcium to help support strong bones and Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – all important antioxidants.


Pomegranates are slightly strange to look at because of their mass of tiny seeds.  However, these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, and have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits. This is probably one of the reasons that research has found them to be especially beneficial for brain health; they can help protect this vital organ from free radical damage. Additionally, they are loaded with fibre so are great for the digestive system.


Just like many fruits, pomegranates work well in sweet or savoury dishes, and are a particular favourite with salty cheeses and walnuts, making a great salad trio.  Moreover, it’s lovely to see some vibrant colours on the plate when the weather is so grey outside!


Clearly the UK climate is not going to support the growing of oranges, but they are certainly at their best at this time of year, imported generally from Spain.  Whilst it’s always best to eat locally grown produce, it’s difficult when we want to gain the wonderful health benefits of a food we simply can’t grow in any meaningful numbers.

A bowl of oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C.  As this vitamin is water-soluble and easily destroyed during storage, preparation and cooking, oranges are probably best eaten in their raw state to gain maximum health benefits. They also contain good levels of folate which will help to give energy levels a boost too.


Oysters are available all year round but are certainly good at this time of year, and can be sourced from UK waters, especially around Colchester and Whitstable.

Oysters become especially important coming into February with Valentine’s Day looming.  Oysters are often referred to as ‘aphrodisiacs’ or ‘the food of love’.  The reason for this is that they contain really high amounts of the mineral zinc, essential for healthy reproduction.  There is always some truth behind these ‘old wives’ tales!

A plate of fresh oysters

Oysters also contain other minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and the antioxidant, selenium.  Importantly, they’re a rich source of iodine which is frequently lacking in typical western diets and is essential for cognitive function, especially in the developing foetus. 

So, why not add some of these season foods into your diet this January and reap the nutritional benefits?


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What are the health benefits of cheese?


Cheese features highly in many people’s diets.  In fact, more people are often in love with cheese than chocolate!  It not only tastes delicious, in all its various guises, but it provides many health benefits. 

There are a wide variety of cheeses with the only common theme being they are made from the same basic ingredient – milk (except for vegan cheese – more on that later).

Cheese is often given a bad rap from a health perspective because of its relatively high fat content.  However, various studies have found many positive benefits of eating cheese, in moderation!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the various types of cheeses, together with their health benefits.

Let’s start with the basics: what is cheese?

Essentially, cheese making involves coagulating the milk protein, casein, separating the milk into solid curds and draining the liquid whey.  This is the process we often see on TV with the large vats of what looks a lot like cottage cheese with big separators moving the liquid around.


Many cheeses are produced from cow’s milk, but they can also come from other animals such as sheep, buffalo, and goat, all of which produce different flavours. Goat’s milk is higher in water than cows milk so yields less cheese, and the cheeses are usually softer.

Cheeses and their moisture content

The moisture content affects both taste and texture.  An example of a low moisture hard cheese is Parmesan, and medium moisture would be cheddar.


High moisture cheese is soft and an example of this would be mozzarella. A cheese with very high moisture is cottage cheese.


Unripened soft cheeses, such as cottage, have a very light texture with little flavour, and ripened ones such as Camembert have mould added to the outside of the cheese which produces protein-digesting enzymes: these also have a stronger flavour.


Certain hard cheeses such as Stilton have mould added during the cheese-making process and they are then pierced with metal rods, creating air channels, and the mould you see grows within the cheese. This also creates their distinctive flavours.


What about the health benefits?

The nutritional profile of cheese is going to vary depending on the variety. However, all cheese is a great source of protein, with cheddar cheese producing around 8 grams for every thumb-sized wedge and 120 calories. 

For the same number of calories, you can have half a cup of soft cheese which provides 14 grams of protein. Indeed, cottage cheese has a higher protein content than most others, and is lower in calories, hence if appears on many weight-loss programmes.


When it comes to micronutrients, cheese is a great source of calcium (highest in blue cheeses) which is essential for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Cheese also provides vitamin A (essential for immunity), vitamin B12 (needed for the nervous system and red blood cell production), zinc (important for the immune system and a range of body functions) and phosphorus, which works in tandem with calcium.


Cheese is also known to be high in fat, with halloumi, brie and camembert topping the leader board in this respect.  Additionally, some cheeses are high in sodium so intake may have to be watched if you have raised blood pressure and are salt sensitive.

What about vegan cheese?

With the rise in veganism, many vegans, understandably, don’t want to miss out on their cheese hit.  The good news is there are myriad vegan cheeses available, made from some form of vegetable proteins such as brown rice, nuts, coconut oil, soy, peas, and tapioca; it really comes down to personal taste preference.


However, as nutritional yeast is a great protein and nutrient source for vegans, do try and choose vegan cheeses that contains this amazing food.  Nutritional yeast is rich in protein but also B-vitamins, and essential minerals including iron, and potassium.

Cheese can certainly provide a healthy and nutrient-dense addition to any balanced eating plan so enjoy!



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How to keep up a healthy diet this year

A chalk board with the words Healthy Lifestyle written on alongside other words which represent this

So, you’ve made the resolution to eat healthier during 2023. But what does this mean, and importantly, what is the best way to stick to a heathier diet?

Many of us don’t feel at our best after over-indulgence during the Festive period and so kick starting the New Year with good intentions for a healthy diet is a common goal.

And Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer is on hand to say “you can do it” as she provides inspiration and motivation with her five top tips for maintaining a healthy eating plan.


Be realistic

Firstly, and, most importantly, be realistic about what you are prepared to change but also will still enjoy eating. There is no point in picking a fad diet plan that includes foods that you don’t like; you will quickly fail and become demotivated. 

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

Instead, don’t be a slave to the scales; if you’re eating healthier, the chances are weight loss will happen, as processed foods cause digestive, hormonal and mood disruptions which all have a negative impact on weight loss.

Always remember, this plan is a new start for the rest of your life.  It’s important to aim for a nutritionally balacned diet in order to achieve the best outcomes and also, hopefully, protect future health and longevity.

Choose colour

We’ve all heard of the Government recommendations to eat five portions of fruits and veggies a day.  This is great advice and has bundles of research to support it (indeed the more fruits and veggies the better).

However, it can be confusing and time-consuming to know how much a portion of each fruit and vegetable is; a portion of tomatoes is different to a portion of berries, for example.  Therefore, just look at the amount of colour on your plate at every meal.


Choose fruits and vegetables that you enjoy and that you are happy to eat daily, and then have fun with the number of different colours you can get onto the plate.  As I always say, colour equals nutrients, so the more colour you have, the more nutrients you will be consuming. Make the process enjoyable rather than a chore.

Be aware of portion sizes

If weight loss is part of your heathier plan, then you do need to be looking at portion sizes.  Whilst calorie-controlled eating is not sustainable and has research to suggest it may be detrimental to a weight loss programme, it’s very important to be aware of how much you are eating. And if you are snacking throughout the day, you may not actually be eating loads of calories, but it will affect your metabolism, making fat storage more likely.

A balanced meal of chicken, rice and vegetablesIt’s good for the body to feel hungry sometimes too.  We have got very used to the availability of food in the developed world and it’s in front of us throughout the day.  Once you start to take control of the situation, rather than food controlling you, changes will start to happen.


Become a label guru

Always look at food labels which show you the amount of fat, sugars and salt in food. When reviewing the full ingredients list, if you don’t know what something is on the label, then try to avoid it completely.  One of the big issues we have in our foods is that the processing and packaging of them frequently requires other chemicals to be used, including artificial flavourings, as well as sugar in many different guises.


The problem with chemicals is that they are gut disruptors and once the good gut bacteria become imbalanced, an inflammatory cascade starts within the body, which not only affects health but also the ability to control weight.  Aim to become much more mindful about what you are putting into your body; the nearer the food is to its natural state – how it started life – the healthier and more nutritious it will be.

Ditch the junk

If you’re starting a healthier eating plan, then junk food really needs to be out of the diet completely or as a treat only.  Maybe you have one day a week where you eat what you want and enjoy it.  However, this needs to be limited and controlled for the best outcomes.

A woman kicking away donuts to represent cutting out junk food

Fizzy drinks, especially the diet kind, are some of the worst offenders.  The chemicals in them disrupt mood, encourage weight gain, discourage retraining our taste buds to want less-sweet foods, and can cause damage to the bones and gut. 

Many people are literally addicted to them, so there may need to be a weaning off period, but the rewards are there.  Equally, ultra-processed foods are not going to serve your health well.  Try to redress the balance in your diet, so they don’t predominate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but they WILL happen if you’re consistent.  Always remember, not every day will be perfect but keep going – you can do this!



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 Instagram @feelaliveuk or on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at 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