Holiday nutrition: delicious European dishes to try this summer

A beach restaurant overlooking the sea

With the holiday season in full flow, many of us will be looking forward to some delicious new dishes to try at our holiday destination. Eating local fayre is an important part of any holiday and it’s always good to try local or new tastes.

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There is plenty of delicious and nutritious food on offer around Europe – be brave with your food choices and you’ll be rewarded!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite dishes from around Europe.

Menemen in Turkey

I always like to start the day right on holiday and this meal really does the trick! Although it’s not always seen on restaurant menus, it’s a quick breakfast dish that’s basically up-market scrambled eggs. For me, eggs are always the best breakfast because the protein keeps me going for longer so I’m not tempted to keep snacking through the morning.

Menemen Turkish egg breakfast dish

Even better, menemen is cooked with onions, peppers and oregano. This means I’m enjoying a great taste, some additional vitamin C from the peppers to keep my immune system strong and digestive support from the oregano. Oregano can help to keep nasty tummy bugs at bay – just what’s needed whilst on holiday.

Gazpacho in Spain

Whilst cold soup may not appeal to everyone, this traditional dish from southern Spain definitely needs to be tasted to be fully appreciated. It’s essentially a tomato soup with garlic, onions, red peppers, vegetable stock and plenty of olive oil. The key to having the best tasting gazpacho is to use vine-ripened tomatoes (even better if you’ve got home-grown ones).

Gazpacho

This dish is super-healthy as tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Red peppers contain some of the highest amounts of vitamin C of all vegetables, and garlic and olive oil are both great for a healthy heart. Plus it can be made really quickly and stored in the fridge for a few days. Whilst you’ll certainly be wanting to be make your own on your return, traditional food always seems to taste even better when enjoyed on its home soil!

Moules in France

No visit to France would be complete without a bowl of moules mariniere (mussels) served with some fresh crusty bread, to soak up all the lovely juice. The traditional way of preparing French moules is with onion, garlic, chopped parsley, some white wine and a little double cream.

A dish of moules mariniere French Mussels

Whilst I absolutely love this dish, I also know just how nutrient dense it is. Interestingly, mussels have the most impressive nutrient profile of all shellfish, being a fantastic source of protein and low in fat. Plus they contain plenty of energising B vitamins, vitamin C and iron. Parsley is great for liver health, so you don’t need to feel too guilty about enjoying these with a small glass of white wine too.

Dolmades in Greece

I’ve often struggled in Greece with food that is overly heavy and fat-laden, particularly moussaka. Thankfully, there are actually plenty of other healthy and fresh dishes to be enjoyed around the mainland and islands. And if all else fails, then traditional Greek salad with feta cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes, olives, cucumber and onions never fails to delight!

Sufed vine leaves from Greece

However, a real Greek treat is dolmades which are grape or vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, mint, onions, dill and lemon juice. They are very time-consuming to make so I’m not sure I would ever try them at home, which is another reason to enjoy them, generally as part of a meze plate, whilst away.

The combination of the varied herbs makes for a great taste but they also help the digestion, which is often helpful whilst on holiday.

Tagliatelle marinara in Italy

Whilst I would generally steer away from eating pasta in the UK, mainly because it can taste pretty bland, in Italy pasta takes on a whole new meaning! In fact, every trip to Italy should feature trying an array of freshly made pasta dishes with range of delicious sauces.

A plate of tagliatelle marinara

One of my favourites is tagliatelle with a marinara sauce. This is basically a very tasty tomato-based sauce with onions, garlic and olive oil and it really makes the pasta come alive. Clearly, the Italians love their sauces, and as delicious as they are, the creamy-based ones are very high in fat and calories. So enjoy these in moderation and instead opt for something a little less calorific so you’ll be able to enjoy pasta on more days throughout your holiday.

So enjoy eating abroad this summer and try as many local dishes as possible to really tickle the taste buds and boost your nutrition at the same time.

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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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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.

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.

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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