Top nutrition tips for a delicious summer picnic

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

It’s that time of year when we should be enjoying being in the great outdoors with a picnic! And your picnic basket certainly doesn’t need to be filled with lifeless sandwiches.

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Think colourful, appetising and, most importantly, healthy foods!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five healthy and tasty picnic ideas.

Energising salad

Whether you’ve woken up and decided ‘today is the day’ for a picnic you certainly don’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen preparing food. You want to get out there and enjoy the day. A salad will help keep you energised for the odd ball game during the day, and is a great choice.

A quinoa salad with vegetables

As with any meal or dish, the more colour you can inject, the better and this salad is no exception. This one has a base of protein-rich quinoa (try to get as many colour varieties as possible of quinoa. Add broad beans (also known as lima beans) which are packed with energising folate. Then mix some spring onions, chilli, chopped celery, mint leaves and chopped parsley with some tasty French dressing.

This is a really energising and sustaining salad, loaded with antioxidants but also containing two healthy herbs; mint and parsley both help digestion and detoxification.

Wraps

Whilst sandwiches may become limp and unappetising, wraps are much more substantial and are easier to transport. Plus, you can pack a variety of different fillings to suit all tastes. A really nice option is falafel, sliced beetroot, feta cheese and crispy lettuce. It’s a really colourful wrap that’s packed with liver-loving beetroot and protein-rich feta and falafel. It’s also great for any vegetarians in the group.

Falafel wraps

Another wonderful alternative wrap recipe is smoked salmon, egg and spinach with a little mayonnaise. Not only is this one really quick to prepare, it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Smoked salmon contains plenty of brain-loving omega-3s, plus spinach is a great source of energising iron as well as some B-vitamins. And even though you’ll be out in the sunshine (hopefully), egg yolks are a source of vitamin D which will help top up levels in the body. We’re finding out more and more about the absolute need for plenty of vitamin D so use every opportunity you can to top up.

Colourful skewers

Here’s another colourful picnic idea that’s really quick to prepare and won’t spoil in transportation. Why not take on an Italian theme for this one? Cherry tomatoes work really well with mozzarella, cheese, olives, basil leaves,  tomatoes and perhaps a little folded Parma ham.

Tomato mozzarella and basil skewers

Tomatoes are full of the powerful antioxidant, lycopene. It’s a fat-soluble nutrient meaning it’s much better absorbed when eaten with a fatty food such as mozzarella and Parma ham. Additionally olives are high in monounsaturated fats which are very beneficial for the heart. So, if you’re picnic takes on a more active theme, you’ll be protecting your heart health both from the exercise and your menu plan!

Flapjacks

It’s always nice to enjoy a sweet treat on a picnic and flapjacks don’t need to be sugar-laden. This recipe contains some energising oats as well as plenty of seeds-containing omega-3s. You can use agave syrup to sweeten which is still a form of sugar but is higher in fructose than glucose so won’t give you a dramatic sugar-rush.

Homemade flapjacks

Porridge oats work really well mixed with seeds, chopped dates and apricots, chopped hazelnuts, a little butter and some raisins. These flapjacks also provide energising snacks throughout the week and will become a lunch-box favourite if you’re running short of ideas!

And to drink …..

Finally, you need to think about what to drink and what better than some delicious elderflower cordial? It’s one of those drinks that everyone can enjoy and whilst it contains some sugar, it doesn’t need to be overly sweetened. Elderflowers are in abundance on trees right now, so grab around 30 heads, pour over boiling water, add some lemon and orange slices and a little sugar and leave overnight.

Homemade elderflower cordial

Elderflowers have been used traditionally for many years as a general health tonic, to help digestion and to soothe a cold and unblock sinuses.

So enjoy a healthy, fun-filled picnic as part of your day in the great outdoors!

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

Five healthy herbs for your home garden

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

Culinary herbs make a wonderful addition to many dishes. We often enjoyed their amazing tastes but we don’t always realise just how many health benefits they bestow. Even better, many of them are really simple to grow in your home herb garden or on a bright windowsill.

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Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite herbs to grow at home and explains their numerous health benefits.

 

 

Mint

Whilst many herbs have a lovely natural aroma, mint is one of most popular scents and it certainly evokes thoughts of summer; think mint as an essential part of summertime Pimms for example!

However, mint delivers some wonderful health benefits and has a long history of traditional medicinal use. It’s very useful for aiding digestive upsets, particularly flatulence and bloating; it seems to control muscle spasms so relaxes the intestines.

Mint tea

If you’re wanting to gain maximum health benefits from mint, then it’s probably best taken in a tea. However, it works really well in either sweet or savoury dishes, particularly accompanying Jersey royal potatoes which are in season right now. It also works brilliantly with roasted aubergine, garlic, plain yoghurt and a little ground pepper.

Parsley

Parsley is king of green herbs and is often used in green juices and smoothies, for very good reason. It is a great liver tonic and is very cleansing for the body overall. It also helps to calm any troublesome and persistent skin conditions.

A bunch of fresh parsley

Parsley’s ‘claim-to-fame’ is largely down to two of its key components. It contains volatile oils which contribute towards its liver health benefits and also contains antioxidants which help protect the body from many degenerative diseases. Parsley is also a rich source of energising folate and vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant.

Parsley has a wealth of culinary uses in salads, soups, sauces and pesto. It’s particularly lovely very simply used with grilled fish and a little butter.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a perennial favourite herb available all year round and is very easy to grow in a small pot. It will also deliver a wonderful aromatic smell on your patio!

From a health perspective, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant so is great to eat during the summer months to help protect the skin from sun damage. Rosemary also helps support both the immune and digestive systems.

A bunch of fresh rosemary and dried rosemary in a pot

Even better, there are so many wonderful ways that its amazing pine-like aroma and distinctive pungent flavour can be added to dishes. It’s a favourite in lamb or chicken dishes or can be added fresh to egg frittatas. Rosemary can also be crushed and added to olive oil, perhaps with some fresh garlic, and used as a dipping sauce for bread.

Basil

Basil is a great go-to herb and will always sit well in any kitchen herb garden. It’s another herb that contains an array of powerful volatile oils which have the potential to protect DNA from oxidation. This process is one of the main causes of body ageing.

These volatile oils also help protect the digestive tract from unwanted bacteria. If you’re planning on travelling abroad or further afield this summer, then it makes sense to try and include basil as much as possible in your dishes. Basil leaves are also a tasty addition to salads.

Basil and pesto pasta in a bowl

Basil is probably best known as being the main ingredient in pesto alongside pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Plus basil is perfect with mozzarella and tomatoes, as well as when added to soups, salmon or pasta dishes.

Chillies

They are slightly more sensitive to grow at home, but if you’ve got a warm, sunny windowsill, then it’s certainly worth persevering and growing some chillies. Best known for the ‘heat’ they add to dishes, chillies contain capsaicin which delivers their delicious pungent flavour; the hotter the flavour, the more capsaicin they have.

There’s often a question mark around hot spices and whether they are any good for the digestive system. To the contrary, chilli may actually help protect the gut from stomach ulcers. However, chillies may have an adverse effect on the beneficial gut bacteria. If you’re eating them regularly, then make sure you’re also eating natural yoghurt or other fermented foods which help feed the good gut bacteria. Even better, chillies and yoghurt can be combined into a delicious dip.

Red and green chillies

Chillies are also known to help with weight loss; they are thermogenic which means they produce calorie-burning heat. They can be added to so many different dishes – think curries, stews and stir-fries. Just remember to wash your hands after chopping and handling them! There’s a wide variety of chillies to grow depending on your requirement for mild to very hot – always do your research and find the chillies which will suit your palette the best.

So enjoy creating your herb garden and bring healthy and delicious herbal additions to your daily dishes.

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

Five ways to clean-up your diet this spring

Happy woman in field showing spring time

It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to spring-cleaning everything. Hopefully, you’ll be feeling quite proud of yourself at the moment if you’re eating a fairly healthy diet.  However, there’s always room for improvement and new ideas, plus eating food in season is always going to be better from a nutritional perspective.

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So what are some of the new things you could be doing to revamp your diet and wellbeing this spring?

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top tips for spring-cleaning your diet and life!

Eat purple sprouting broccoli

It’s no secret that broccoli is a wonder food. This is because it contains such a wide range of nutrients. Broccoli contains vitamin C, vitamin K and folate as well as the minerals iron and potassium in abundance. It also has immune-boosting beta-carotene, alongside many other disease-preventing compounds. Broccoli (and indeed, all vegetables within the brassica family) contains compounds called indoles which may offer protection against some diseases. Broccoli also contains sulforaphanes which help detoxification.

Purple sprouting broccoli

The great news is that purple sprouting broccoli is in season right now! Its deep purple colour actually makes it even healthier due to the presence of flavonoids which are rich in antioxidants. These phytonutrients are retained whether broccoli is fresh, frozen, raw or cooked. However, much of the vitamin C content is lost by from boiling, therefore always lightly steam your broccoli to retain the most nutrients.

It’s a great spring vegetable to be enjoyed as much as possible and works really well as part of a spring cleansing plan.

Spring clean from the inside

What’s going on in the digestive system directly affects how you look and feel on the outside. You don’t necessarily need to be making drastic changes to see real improvements. Try making a ‘detox’ water with lemon, cucumber, mint and ginger.

Glass of water with lemon

Lemon helps the production of pepsin in the stomach, which in turn helps break down food and nutrients, aiding digestion and a flatter stomach. Cucumber is a great diuretic, helping cleanse the bladder and kidneys. Mint is brilliant for the digestive tract and eliminates excess wind and ginger is an all-round great anti-inflammatory and gut-lover. The combination of all these ingredients mixed into your detox water and drunk every day will thoroughly cleanse the system and make your skin glow! Drinking about two litres daily is a great place to start.

Banish the bubbles

This may sound harsh but fizzy drinks all cause bloating and wind and are certainly not going to help your spring cleanse. The other problem is that most fizzy drinks are either loaded with sugar or sweeteners, the latter being one of the main causes of digestive upsets.

Additionally, fizzy drinks are high in phosphoric acid, encouraging greater acidity in the body generally, which can cause calcium to be leached from the bones.

Fruit tea with berries next to a cup

Make this spring the time to resolve to kick the bubbles (yes even prosecco and champagne) and opt for detox water (as above) or herbal or fruit teas for your daily brew.

Beat hay fever with asparagus

Unfortunate hay fever sufferers probably don’t need reminding that the season is fast approaching. However, as with anything, prevention is better than cure and the flavonoid, quercetin, high in asparagus, can really help if eaten regularly enough. Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine and seems to work more effectively when eaten before symptoms really take a hold.

Other great sources of quercetin include apples, green tea and onions. However, asparagus has a truly excellent nutrient profile of vitamins and minerals. It also contains inulin which feeds the beneficial bacteria and acts as a ‘hoover’, sweeping out all the bad guys.

Asparagus tied in a bunch

Many people resist eating asparagus because it produces unpleasant-smelling urine! However, this is merely the result of one of its more beneficial antioxidants being broken down. Asparagus is just doing its work and should certainly be part of your spring cleanse, particularly as it’s in season right now.

Resolve to be more positive

There are many positive benefits to being part of social media platforms. However, it can also breed dissatisfaction with our body and life in general, which is certainly not going to put a spring in your step.

People often find that having a social media detox can really help their mood and body self-image. Write down some positive affirmations about yourself and say them every morning to the mirror. Focus on what you (and others) really love about yourself and keep repeating them over and over.

A happy woman in from of a blossom tree showing spring time

Part of feeling great for the new season ahead is having a positive attitude to life. Resolve to be grateful for one thing every day, whether it’s seeing the first tulips, a great cup of coffee or watching rabbits run across the field. Being positive is work in progress and, like anything worth having in life, takes practice.

So with a few easy tweaks, your spring-time cleanse will have a really positive impact on your wellbeing.

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