How to pack a healthy picnic

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

It’s picnic season and time to fully enjoy the great outdoors with some delicious and super-nutritious foods that the whole family will love.

There is often a tendency when packing picnics to default to prepacked sausage rolls, Scotch eggs and crisps! But this doesn’t need to be the case. Picnics can be really healthy, nutritionally balanced, and tasty too!

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top picnic tips.

Crudités and Dips

Most people love a variety of dips, many of which are healthy.  However, it’s what’s dipped into them that really counts! Chopped carrots, celery, red peppers, and cucumber all make great accompaniments.

shutterstock_495222628-hummus-and-veg-crudites-nov16

Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene which the body turns into immune-boosting vitamin A as needed. Both celery and cucumber work as natural diuretics which help banish water retention and bloating (especially common in women) and red peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, also amazing for the immune system.

Guacamole,Dip,In,Bowl,Over,White,Stone,Background.,Healthy,Avocado

Pack some hummus, which is high in protein and tzatziki made from natural yogurt which helps balance the gut bacteria. Guacamole, produced from super-healthy avocados, is a great option too. Adding these dips to your picnic has just upped the nutrition a good few notches.

Superfood Salad

Salads don’t need to be dull or limp!  If you pack a grain-based salad such as quinoa or couscous, you’ve got the perfect base on which to build your amazing superfood salad. For starters, these healthy grains contain some protein which helps to keep energy levels sustained throughout the day. Plus, quinoa has the added benefit of being gluten-free if that’s a consideration for you.

Salads,With,Quinoa,,Arugula,,Radish,,Tomatoes,And,Cucumber,In,Bowl

A superfood salad can be totally freestyled!  You can add what takes your fancy.  However, the greater colour variety you have, the more health benefits you’ll gain.  For example, chopped tomatoes are high in the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which can help protect the body from free radical damage.  Or why not roast some vegetables to add to the grains?  Roasted aubergine, peppers, mushrooms and onions make a great combination.

Salad,Baked,Eggplant,And,Fresh,Tomatoes.,Top,View

Aubergines help replenish the gut bacteria, peppers are rich in vitamin C, mushrooms provide a small amount of vitamin D and onions are high in quercetin, a natural antihistamine which will help protect against hay fever symptoms. Even better, these salads are really easy to transport, can be cooked and kept in the fridge overnight and are simply delicious with pesto added.

Fruit Extravaganza

Just as you’ve packed some deliciously crisp and healthy crudités for dips, the same treatment works for fruit, and the colours will delight! It’s always good to end a picnic with a sweet treat, and rather than loading up with high sugar and fat-laden pastries or cookies, why not enjoy some delightful fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet cravings?

Mixed,Berry,Salad,With,Mint.,Fruit,Salad.

It being summertime, there is a great selection of berry fruits available.  Berries are all rich in anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants, that protect the body from illnesses.  Why not grab some strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries?  They can all be mixed, just remember to wash them all thoroughly before packing in the picnic basket.

Healthy,Fresh,Fruit,Salad,In,Glass,Bowl,On,White,Wooden

You could also chop up some apples and pears, which are both high in vitamin C and fibre. Once chopped, and exposed to oxygen, they will go brown.  However, squeezing some lemon juice over them will stop this happening (lemon also contains antioxidants, which prevent oxidation of foods).

Kiwi,Fruit,In,A,Bowl,On,Wooden,Background.,Copy,Space

To complete your colourful extravaganza, pack some kiwis which don’t need to be chopped.  Kiwis can be eaten just like a boiled egg and peeled from the top and dipped with a spoon.  Kiwis contain some of the highest levels of immune-boosting vitamin C of any fruit.

So enjoy the healthiest, most colourful picnic yet this summer!

Stay well.

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Back to basics: everyday nutrition tips

shutterstock_335465993 nutrition words Mar21

The whole topic of nutrition has been highly glamorised in recent years, partly down to social media.  Whilst this is great in many ways because good nutrition is the cornerstone of wellness, it has left many people confused about what is right and what is wrong.

When it comes to a balanced diet there are a few simple rules which we can all follow to ensure we are getting the optimum nutrition we need.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, takes us back to the basics of daily nutrition.

What are macros?

As the name suggests, they are big, and in this case refer to the groups of food that we eat most of.  Essentially, there are three macronutrients: proteins,  carbohydrates and fats. Some people also talk about fibre as being another macro such is its important in overall health, although technically fibre is a carbohydrate.

Protein – essential building blocks for life

All macros form an essential part of the daily diet, so any restrictive diet is going to lead to nutrient deficiencies somewhere along the line.  Protein is literally the building block of life. It is essential for every bone and muscle in the body, as well as producing hormones, neurotransmitters and supporting the immune system.

A range of foods containing protein

There are nine essential amino acids that must be eaten in the diet (there are other amino acids that are essential, but these can be produced in the body). These nine amino acids are found primarily in animal produce including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy and plant sources quinoa, buckwheat, and soybeans.  If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you should combine grains and pulses to get sufficient amino acids, although this does not need to be in the same meal.

Carbohydrates – energy and nutrient providers

Carbohydrates, including fibre, provide an essential energy source for our muscles and brain.  Indeed, the brain requires around 30% of all carbohydrate the body intakes. Carbs are not all created equally in that slow releasing ones (essentially whole foods and fruits and vegetables) provide sustainable energy throughout the day. Conversely, fast release carbs primarily found in processed and refined foods give an energy boost then an energy crash due to their adverse effect on blood sugar.

Foods,Highest,In,Carbohydrates.,Healthy,Diet,Eating,Concept.

Carbs are often maligned but this food group contains some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and are loaded with antioxidants, so the body is missing out if they are not being consumed.

Fat – protecting and sustaining

Another maligned food group is fat.  However, fat provides the second energy source for the body, and it is essential for absorbing our fat-soluble vitamins vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

There is often confusion around good and ‘bad’ fats.  Essentially, good fats are the omegas 3 and 6 which must be eaten in the diet as the body cannot make them.  The omega 3s are crucial for hormones, joints, the heart, brain and eyes. Oily fish and nuts and seeds are your friends in this respect.

shutterstock_196052645 avocadoes Oct15

Monounsaturated fat found in avocados and olive oil is great for the heart and should be included in the diet.  However, try to avoid the damaged fats; the trans fats found in margarines and refined foods.  The body cannot deal with these and trans fats are known to raise cholesterol levels, so try to be aware of not overeating the foods that contain them.

Fruits and vegetables – overflowing with goodness

As nutritionists we talk endlessly about getting sufficient fruits and vegetables into the diet.  Why? Because quite simply they are loaded with nutrients, especially the trace minerals that are so often deficient in the typical western diet.  It is all about colour and variety and not over thinking it.  Try to have plenty of colour on your plate at every mealtime.

A range of fruits and vegetables

There’s also confusion as to whether juicing is good or bad.  Juices are a great way of getting more nutrients into the body.  You might lose the fibre content, but juices are still loaded with nutrients.  Try to include more vegetables than fruits in your juices or blends to keep fructose (a fruit sugar) content to a minimum.

Water – pure and simple

We talk about the body being around 80% water.  Of course, this is not pure water because it is made up of solutes and everything within cellular tissue.  However, the body still needs plenty of plain water to keep it sufficiently hydrated.  It will quickly complain if dehydrated and you’ll feel low in energy, suffer brain fog, plus constipation may be problematic.

A close up of a woman holding a glass of water to represent staying hydrated

Our water needs vary depending on activity levels.  However, as a general rule, if you are having around 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily you will be doing ok, plus fruits and vegetables can count towards this target since they’re high in water.

The body’s needs are relatively simple so there is no need to overcomplicate diets; just try and stick to the basics for well-balanced nutrition.

Stay well.

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Super salads: top nutritious side dishes to accompany your barbecue this summer

Group of friends enjoying eating a barbeque outside

Barbecues aren’t just about the cooked food; the side dishes you create to accompany meat or veggie options can make all the difference.

Great salads can really enhance the flavour of all the other food and there are so many delicious options.

Here are nutritionist Suzie Sawyer’s three favourite healthy salad ideas to make your barbecue truly come to life!

Suzie’s Special Salad (with nothing left out!)

As a nutritionist, I talk endlessly about maximising the colour on your plate to enjoy the benefits of as many nutrients as possible.  And this salad doesn’t disappoint in that respect. It’s gorgeously colourful, is packed with immune-boosting vitamin C, energising B vitamins and loads of antioxidants to protect the body from everything life throws at it.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

This recipe contains black beans and spinach leaves as a base and is then loaded with chopped vine tomatoes, cucumber, mango chunks (use frozen ones and defrost), red onion, avocado and crumbled feta cheese on the top.

Fresh,Mint,Leafs,In,Mortar,On,Grey,Wooden,Table

Herbs also contain some wonderful health benefits in terms of their antioxidants but are helpful for the digestion too.  So, blending up a bunch of mint, coriander and basil with garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and honey makes a delicious and healthy dressing.

This salad will stand proud with any barbecued meat or vegetables but works especially well with lamb.

Quinoa Vegetarian Salad

Most barbecue meals contain a grain-based salad, not just for ‘bulk’ but also because they taste great.  Quinoa, (which is technically a seed not a grain), is perfect because it provides some starchy carbs, but most importantly, has a high protein content, keeping everyone fuller for longer. Plus, quinoa is a great source of fibre helping the digestive system to run smoothly.  Even better, it’s got plenty of energy-boosting B-vitamins, so you can enjoy the barbecue to the full!

Quinoa and bulgar wheat salad with feta

Quinoa can be cooked just like couscous.  Indeed, if quinoa is not your bag, then couscous is fine but do remember it contains gluten and quinoa does not, which may be a consideration for some of your guests.

You can freestyle this one in terms of what goes in.  However, it works really well with feta cheese, pine nuts, spring onions, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and pepper with some pesto stirred through.

Another dish with plenty of colour, loaded with nutrients, making a great addition to the barbecue feast.

Griddled courgette, basil, and chilli salad

Griddled or roasted vegetables are always welcomed in salads, and courgettes are in season right now.  They are naturally low in fat but high in minerals folate, heart-loving potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C which are great for the immune system.  And because you eat them with the skin left on, you’ll be getting the added benefit of soluble fibre which helps balance blood sugar levels, banishing cravings. Courgettes are in season now which generally brings higher nutrient content and better taste, especially if you buy them fresh from farmers’ markets.

Tasty,Grilled,Zucchini,On,Parchment

Cut the courgettes into long strips, coat with chopped red chilli, salt, pepper and olive oil and then griddle in a very hot pan.  Once the courgettes are cooled, they can then be tossed in some more olive oil, chopped basil and lemon. This is a dish that looks very impressive but actually takes very little time in the preparation and cooking.

So, enjoy some great barbecue salads Suzie-style this season!

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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Top nutrition tips to support your smile

Cloe up of woman smiling brightly with a becah background

A great smile can light up your face (and a room). But what if you’re worried about your teeth or just don’t feel confident enough to really pile on the smile? 

Whatever the reasons, it’s time to change your thought processes and embrace your smile.

This National Smile Month, clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips to show you how.

Get the basics right

When we give a big smile, obviously our teeth are one of the first things that get noticed.  This is great if your pearly whites really are white, but not so good if you don’t think yours look great or they are giving you trouble.

Vitamin D and a sunshine symbol written in the sand

As with everything in the body, good nutrition underpins health and teeth need ‘feeding’ with the right nutrients. Top of the list are vitamin D and calcium; both used to build and protect healthy teeth.  Whilst most of this is done during childhood development years, just like bones, the teeth need feeding from within throughout life.

A range of foods containing calcium

Vitamin D deficiency is still widespread as it’s not easy to obtain from food. Supplementation with a minimum of 10 micrograms daily is needed throughout the year.  However, some foods that are rich in calcium. like oily fish with bones  such as sardines, also contain some vitamin D.  Other great sources of calcium are dairy, calcium-enriched plant milks, green leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds.

Love your gums

Just as your teeth need looking after from within, so too do your gums.  And as one gets older, it’s often gums that fail rather than teeth so it’s vitally important to serve them well!

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Top of the list of nutrients is vitamin C; it helps build strong blood capillaries, supports the immune system and generally protects gum health.  It’s time to load up your plates with colourful fruits and vegetables, all of which are rich in vitamin C.

A range of foods high in iron

Additionally, vitamin D and calcium are needed for healthy gums, along with iron.  If eating a juicy red steak is not for you, then leafy greens are a great source of iron, as are dried fruits such as prunes, raisins and apricots.

Glow from within

If you feel good inside, you’re much more likely to give a wide smile!  Again, good nutrition underpins how we look – you can literally glow from the inside out when your diet is right.

A range of foods containing protein

Make sure the basics are solid; enjoy a variety of colourful vegetables, as well as good quality protein from poultry, meat, eggs, legumes, dairy and go for whole foods. Also drink plenty of water (1.5 – 2 litres daily), plus fruit or herbal teas.  Skin will look lacklustre without sufficient hydration.

Importantly, keep refined sugars and stimulants to a minimum as these rob the body of key nutrients.

Body and mind combined

Food not only nourishes the body it also nourishes the mind.  And when the head is in a happy place, then we feel much more like smiling.  Having a varied and balanced diet is obviously essential.  However, many people don’t realise that most of our neurotransmitter production, some of which controls mood and motivation, is made within the gut and only happens with the right nutrients in place.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Having plenty of fibre from whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is key to maintaining a healthy gut and, in turn, a healthy mind.  The omega-3 essential fats figure highly in the brain so make sure you’re eating plenty of oily fish (also rich in calcium), nuts, seeds and omega-3-rich oils and butters.

Practice makes perfect

For an extra confidence boost, why not stand in front of mirror and see what others see when you smile.  Clearly, it’s best to have a natural rather than forced smile but sometimes practising in front of the mirror can help build extra confidence.  How much should you open your mouth? Should you have a wide smile?  Does your face crinkle (which is very warming for those on the receiving end)?

Smiling,Beautiful,Young,Woman,Looking,At,Herself,In,The,Bathroom

If you can get your basic health into good order, then this will only but improve the health of teeth and gums, and in turn, your smile.

Stay well.

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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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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.

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Seasonal foods for springtime health and happiness

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

Spring generally brings lots of positive energy both for the mind and body.  And this Spring is no exception when it looks like we’ll finally have a little more freedom and there’s even more to celebrate! 

It’s always best to eat seasonally in order to enjoy the best tastes, textures and nutritional benefits.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five favourite seasonal foods this Spring.

Celeriac

Closely related to the celery family, celeriac delivers many of the same nutritional benefits as celery.  Despite its rather unkind nickname ‘the ugly one’, celeriac has a slightly nutty flavour without any excessive salty taste.

Celeriac on a table

Celeriac is high in heart-loving potassium and can help reduce high blood pressure, but also contains plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C. The only downside with this vegetable is that it requires a bit of preparation, with a tough outer skin which needs cutting off.  However, it’s well worth the additional effort because celeriac is delicious mashed with butter and garlic or adds a great flavour to soups or stews.

Mussels

Fished in UK waters and at their best at this time of year, mussels never fail to deliver a wonderful taste experience, especially if paired with garlic, onions, chilli or tomatoes.  You can still smell the sea when you eat super-fresh mussels.  However, you should never eat mussels that aren’t opened after cooking.

Mussels in a pot

As with oysters, mussels are rich in zinc. This is one of the busiest minerals, being involved in over 200 different enzyme reactions within the body, so it is a very essential nutrient.  Additionally, mussels are high in selenium, a key antioxidant mineral and also needed for the immune and cardiovascular systems.  You’ll even find small levels of the super-healthy omega-3s in mussels.  And they don’t need too much cooking to produce a really delicious and warming dish.

Jerusalem artichoke

Another slightly strange-shaped vegetable it is totally delicious roasted, plus delivers an array of health benefits.  Importantly, Jerusalem artichokes contain inulin which feeds the beneficial gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria play such an important role in our overall health, especially when it comes to immune, digestive, brain and skin health.  It’s therefore important to feed the friendly guys within the gut so they proliferate as needed.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Additionally, Jerusalem artichokes are rich in energising iron and immune boosting vitamin C. They can be roasted with the skin on to retain maximum nutrients and are delicious as a side to almost anything!

Spinach

As with all green foods, spinach is rich in antioxidants which help protect the body from disease. Specifically, it’s packed with carotenoids that support the immune system and crucially, eye health.

Whilst spinach does contain some iron and calcium, these minerals are not necessarily well-absorbed down to its high oxalic acid content.  However, eating spinach with foods that are rich in vitamin C, including other vegetables, really aids absorption.

A bowl of fresh spinach leaves

Importantly, spinach contains plenty of other valuable nutrients, including vitamin C and energising folate. It works so well and easily in plenty of dishes including soups, salads, as a side lightly steamed with butter and garlic or with eggs for breakfast.

Parsnips

We often associate them with other winter root vegetables which they are, but parsnips are still in season right now and are certainly one of the tastiest of roots. Indeed, parsnips don’t really like frost, hence their taste is better at this time of year. They are slightly starchy which means they make a great alternative to potatoes. They provide plenty of fibre and also vitamin C, vitamin E and folate which helps produce healthy red blood cells.

A pile of parsnips

As with all root veggies, parsnips are very versatile and can be included in soups, pasta dishes or roasted on their own sprinkled with a little parmesan. They also make a great roast vegetable medley alongside other vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.

So, enjoy some seasonal treats this spring and your body will benefit from the array of nutrients on offer.

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