Create your healthiest festive menu yet! Top tips for your Christmas Dinner

A family eating christmas dinner

When it comes to Christmas menus, they are often a mix of healthy and not so healthy dishes; it is the season of treats after all!

However, there are so many foods on the traditional festive menus that are great for supporting wellbeing. Even better, they are delicious!

 

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five delicious and healthy festive foods.

Turkey

Turkey has more nutritional benefits than chicken in many respects. Importantly, it is higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken. However, with both meats, it’s important to avoid eating the skin as this is where most of the fat sits and there are no further benefits to eating it (apart from the taste of crispy skin which many of us love!)

Roast Christmas turkey

From an immune-boosting perspective, turkey contains one third more zinc than chicken, and this is especially rich in the dark meat. Turkey also provides all of the energising B vitamins, together with potassium which is great for the heart, and phosphorus which is essential for healthy bones. There’s no need for any guilt when loading up your Christmas meal plate with turkey!

Red cabbage

Any vegetable or fruit that is deep in colour is rich in nutrients, and red cabbage is no exception. Red cabbage is loaded with disease-preventing antioxidants.

Red cabbage stewed with apples

However, all cabbage provides a plethora of nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Uniquely, cabbage also contains a compound called S-Methylmethionine which has been found to help heal stomach ulcers and soothe pain in the gut. And if you’re struggling with acid reflux during the festive season, which is very common, then drinking raw cabbage juice will certainly help. However, there’s no problem with adding some beetroot and apple to make the juice more palatable and even healthier.

Red cabbage makes a delicious addition to any Christmas menu, prepared with apples, raisins, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

Parsnips

No Christmas menu is complete without the addition of parsnips. This slightly sweet root vegetable can be eaten instead, or in addition to, potatoes and provides a great source of fibre. Parsnips are also rich in folate, essential for the production of healthy red blood cells, and help support lung health. Additionally, they contain plenty of potassium which helps reduce blood pressure.

A bowl of roast parsnips

Parsnips clearly deliver on health and taste and are great roasted and flavoured with garlic, Parmesan cheese or coriander. Indeed, they also make a fabulous Boxing Day spicy soup with both turmeric and cumin providing the warming and delicious spices.

Cranberry sauce

Whilst cranberries can be rather sharp and sour in taste, used in cranberry sauce they certainly come alive. And they still deliver on health, providing plenty of anthocyanins – antioxidants that protect the liver from free radical damage. Even better, these antioxidants also have a protective effect on overall health.

CRanberry sauce in small ceramic jug and cranberries on wooden board

Cranberries are also well-known for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections because they stop any bacteria from hanging around internally.

Every turkey needs some accompaniments and cranberry sauce provides a very worthy and healthy partner.

Chestnuts

No nut conjures up feelings of Christmas more than chestnuts! If you’re lucky enough to have an open fire, then you can’t miss out on roasting these delicious nuts. And once they’re roasted, chestnuts are certainly easier to extract from their outer shell.

Chestnuts are naturally rich in immune-boosting zinc, energising iron and bone-loving manganese. They are also rich in complex carbs so will certainly hit the spot if you’re feeling in need of a snack between meals.

Roasted,Chestnuts,On,An,Old,Board.,Selective,Focus.

 

Of course, chestnut is the main event in chestnut stuffing which can quite happily be vegan with the addition of mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, and sage. All these additional ingredients provide immune-boosting antioxidants, and plenty of warming herbs to help protect the body against any nasty viruses floating around.

And chestnuts don’t just need to feature in savoury recipes; they work really well with chocolate made into a cake or as a cream to pour over some decadent poached pears (also now in season).

So, enjoy your festive feast and include some of these health-giving foods for an extra wellbeing boost!

 

Stay well.

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Seasonal Eating: What to eat in December

A table laid with christmas foods including turkey, cake, cheese and decorations

The festive season is upon us which brings its own traditional food choices during this period.  However, as always, it’s good to eat foods that are naturally in season as they are at their best.

And some of these can certainly feature as part of your Christmas menu.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for December.

 

 

Turnips

For some reason turnips don’t seem to get the same accolades as parsnips.  Perhaps it’s because turnips were traditionally grown as cattle fodder in the nineteenth century. And whilst turnips are generally available all year, they are at their tastiest right now.

Rustic,Organic,Turnips,With,Fresh,Green,Tops,And,Roots,On

From a nutritional perspective, they provide a range of nutrients including immune-boosting vitamin C, hormone balancing vitamin B6 and bone-loving calcium and manganese.  Importantly, and just like all members of the brassica family, turnips contain indoles which ramp up liver detoxification enzymes, perfect for this time of year.

Turnips can be baked just like potatoes, with some thyme, and are delicious sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.

Apples

Whilst the nutritional benefits of apples are never in question, they can be quite confusing to choose from as there are over 7,000 varieties! But which ever ones you choose they provide some great health benefits.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Apples are prized for their pectin content. Pectin is a gentle form of soluble fibre hence apples have traditionally been used to treat constipation.  Importantly, pectin helps remove ‘bad‘ cholesterol from the blood stream, making apples a heart-healthy choice.

Apples are also higher in fructose than glucose which means they’re lower on the glycaemic index and help to balance blood sugar levels. This is also important when keeping a watchful eye on the waistband.  Apples are also a rich source of vitamin C to give the immune system a much-needed boost at this time of year.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Interestingly, they are not from Jerusalem and are also not part of the artichoke family! However, I frequently write about Jerusalem artichokes because they are some of the best vegetables to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Close up of artichokes

Just like a garden, the gut microbiome needs to be cultivated and fed and this vegetable is great for the purpose. They are rich in inulin which is known as prebiotic bacteria. As with all vegetables they’re also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious side dish simply roasted with or without the skin.

Kale

Interestingly kale is not only in season at this time of year, but also definitely much tastier too! Kale is a member of the Brassica family and provides amazing health benefits, especially in protecting the liver, but also providing compounds to protect future health too.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

From an antioxidant perspective, kale delivers on vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, hence its role in protecting current and future health. It is also rich in key minerals such as manganese, iron, and calcium, all generally lacking in the typical UK diet and essential for the heart and bones, amongst other things.

Kale can be slightly bitter so is best sauteed with a little garlic and soy sauce to make a delicious side.

Potatoes

Potatoes often get bad press, especially from people following the ketogenic diet as they are obviously high in carbs.  However, boiled potatoes are lower on the glycaemic index than jackets, therefore their starch content is less.

a basket of jersey royal potatoes

Importantly, potatoes provide a great and inexpensive energy source so are great for feeding and satisfying families.  They also contain plenty of vitamin C and if eaten with the skin, provide a great source of fibre.

If you’re looking for a festive treat, then dauphinoise potatoes, made with cream, garlic and cheese is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever eat them!

So, enjoy all that nature has to offer this season and grab some great health benefits too!

Stay well.

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Dietary support for reducing feelings of stress

Close,Up,Of,Calm,Young,Woman,Relax,On,Couch,With

With a global pandemic still ongoing and Christmas not too far away, it’s no wonder that our nerves may be a little frayed.  We know from ongoing data that many people’s mental wellbeing is not in great shape at the moment, and we could all do with lifestyle advice to help us feel a little calmer. 

What we eat and drink can make a big difference to how we feel and there are some foods which can help support our bodies and our minds feel less stressed.

This International Stress Awareness Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares 3 foods you can start adding to your diet.

 

Start the day with oats

There are a number of reasons why this is a great way to start the day.  Firstly, oats are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our feel-good hormone serotonin.

A bowl of oats

Secondly, oats are rich in the mineral magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. Essentially, magnesium fulfils many important functions within the body, but it also works on the central nervous system; if you’re nerves are shredded, then it might be time to think about how much magnesium you have in the diet.  Interestingly, it’s very often deficient in the typical western diet.  This is largely because magnesium is found in whole grains, rather than refined ones which dominate western diets such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

Importantly, your breakfast bowl should contain whole grain oats (the large ones!) which can be eaten in many ways.  For a quick, easy win, why not soak the oats overnight in a little milk and apple juice. The retrieve from the fridge in the morning, top with berries and natural yoghurt and you’ve got one of the best starts to the day!

Opt for fish

There are many good reasons for including fish in the diet.  However, it’s oily fish, including salmon, which has the most health benefits and can help calm the nerves.  Salmon is very high in the omega-3 fats which are critical for brain health; low levels of omega-3s have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Why not have some delicious smoked salmon with your salad for lunch or with poached eggs for breakfast.  You’ll still be gaining all the wonderful health benefits. Salmon also makes a great dinner option and can quickly and easily be cooked in the oven in foil with some lemon juice, butter, and dill, if you have some. 

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

It’s important to recognise that farmed fish are often contaminated with unwanted. Always try to buy wild Alaskan salmon which has a much more distinctive pink colour.  This is because wild salmon naturally eat an alga called astaxanthin, which turns salmon pink, and which is also an amazing antioxidant, further protecting our bodies and minds.

Go for green tea

Often just having a warm drink can help soothe the nerves.  However green tea is a great option. This is because it contains the amino acid theanine, which can positively impact mood.  Interestingly, there has been much research around theanine and its ability to reduce stress. Theanine works in a number of ways but essentially by raising GABA, one of our calming brain neurotransmitters.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

Just like black tea, green tea naturally contains caffeine which will adversely affect the nervous system.  However, theanine appears to counter any of its negative effects.  Green tea is also rich in catechins which are powerful antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, partly responsible for its ageing and degeneration. Aim to drink around three cups daily to enjoy the best effects.

As an aside, and if you’re looking to lose a few kilos before Christmas, green tea appears to have thermogenic effects, meaning it may temporarily uprate metabolism.  Therefore, having a cup of green tea prior to your morning walk, run or workout could provide a wealth of health benefits.

So, if you’re feeling frazzled, try adding some of the above to your daily diet and support your wellbeing from the inside out.

Stay well.

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Support your immunity with these three top vitamins

shutterstock_114498919 woman cold flu Oct16

With the traditional cold and flu season in full flow, and Covid cases rising, now is the perfect time to boost your immune system by harnessing the power of nature. 

We can all strengthen our defences against unwanted viruses by making some positive changes to our diet.  And nature has kindly provided plenty of nutrients that are known to support immunity.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares three top vitamins to help build immunity.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms but specifically in increasing production of virus-fighting white blood cells and antibody levels. Infection is known to decrease the concentration of vitamin C in white blood cells. Vitamin C is also significantly reduced during stressful periods, by alcohol intake, pollutants, and cigarette smoke.  In short, most of us could do with a boost!

shutterstock_362885486 vitamin C Jan17

Vitamin C is of course widely found in fruits and vegetables, which is one of the many reasons that we are all encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. And with it being water-soluble, it’s not stored in the body, therefore needs to be taken in very regularly within the diet.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

It’s a great plan, therefore, to include vitamin C-rich foods at every meal.  Why not start the day right with plenty of berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries) which are high in vitamin C?  Overnight oats topped with berries, natural yoghurt with apple and kiwi and seeds, or an omelette with tomato, red peppers, and spinach.  They all make wonderfully nutritious breakfasts, with plenty of vitamin C.  Lunch might be a salad, or a jacket sweet potato with tuna.  And really load your dinner plate with veggies – think broccoli, cauliflower, and butternut squash – and finish up with some delicious watermelon.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and Vitamin C are actually perfect partners!  Whilst vitamin C works within the water-soluble part of the cells, vitamin E is an essential nutrient within the fat part of cells.  And as with all perfect partnerships, they look after each other! Vitamin E protects the immune boosting white blood cells from damage, supports the thymus gland (another essential part of immune function) and generally nurtures the immune system, especially during times of stress.

shutterstock_381113728 vitamin E Oct17

And since vitamin E protects fats in the body generally, the higher the diet is in fats, the greater need for vitamin E.  Fortunately, vitamin E is also found in sources of polyunsaturated fats, therefore nuts, seeds and whole grains are great options.

Vitamin E is also found in fruits and vegetables including berries, asparagus, avocado, green leafy veggies and tomatoes.  So, food choices from the list above are not only going to raise levels of vitamin C, but vitamin E too!

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is slightly unusual in that it’s only found in its retinol form in animal produce, but the body can make it from carotenoids in fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The good news is, therefore, that vegans don’t need to miss out.  Effective conversion does also depend on other factors, but especially vitamin C; another example of how everything in nature is designed to work in harmony.

A selection of foods containing Vitamin A

In terms of immunity, vitamin A helps in a number of ways, but primarily by protecting the mucosal surfaces which act as a barrier against invaders. It also helps to increase white blood cell production and antibody response.

The best sources of vitamin A are whole milk, offal, and butter. However, there are plenty of pro-vitamin A carotenes found in dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables. Top of the list are sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, butternut squash, apricots, and mangoes.

Close up of a lobster, oysters and prawns to represent shellfish

Interestingly, we also find carotenoids in various animal foods such as salmon, egg yolks, shellfish, and poultry. Furthermore, carotenoids are incredibly powerful antioxidants, so you’ll be protecting future health from disease too.

So, load up your diet to get the most out of these three vitamins this winter and help support your immune system from the inside.

Stay well.

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October eating: what’s in season right now

Vegan,Diet.,Autumn,Harvest.,Healthy,,Clean,Food,And,Eating,Concept.

Eating food at the time of year nature intended is always best.  It makes sense that nature provides us with what the body needs at the right time of year, which includes fruits and vegetables.

As seasons change, so do the body’s requirements for different foods.  And what nature provides in October helps support our nutrition and overall health.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top fruits and vegetables this month.

Kale

A member of the cabbage family, it is often referred to as collard or curly kale and is also home-grown in the UK. Importantly, kale contains some of the amazing compounds found in broccoli and Brussels sprouts that may block the action of certain harmful carcinogens.

shutterstock_192761054 bowl of kale Apr15

Kale contains a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals including immune-boosting vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and iron, and is one of the richest sources of calcium of all vegetables. It also contains compounds known as indoles which help liver detoxification, so it’s a great vegetable to be eating as we approach the festive season.

shutterstock_488572450-eggs-and-kale-nov16

Kale needs to be cooked well (but not overcooked) otherwise it may be tough.  It can be steamed, simmered or sauteed and stock can be added for some extra flavour.  However, it works really well with strong flavours such as smoked haddock, in a stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli or in a Caldo Verde soup (a traditional Portuguese recipe), with chorizo, onions, potatoes and garlic.

Swede

Proof that nature intended us to eat swedes at this time of year when the body is looking for additional warmth, is that they’re especially hardy and survive harsh frosts.

Freshly,Picked,Swedes

A member of the healthy cruciferous family of vegetables, swede also contains highly protective indoles which are especially great for balancing oestrogen.  As such, they may well be helpful for women going through menopause.

Swede provides a great source of fibre, plenty of vitamin C and bone-building magnesium, manganese, and calcium, so is a great all-round provider of nutrients.

Often confused with the root vegetable turnip, swede makes an equally tasty vegetable side, mashed with butter and pepper, or added to stews or soups for additional delicious flavour.

Fried,Dices,Of,Carrot,And,Swede,,In,A,Pan,+

Swedes work really well mashed with other root vegetables, especially carrots. They are also great cubed, roasted and sprinkled with cumin, or with leek and potato in a cheese gratin.

Plums

With over 2,000 varieties of plums to choose from, there’ll never be a shortage of colours available ranging from light green to yellow to dark red.

A bowl full of plums

The beautiful colours of plums are responsible for delivering an amazing array of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are protective of the aging process. Additionally, plums contain one of our key fat-soluble antioxidants, vitamin E, which is great for the skin and heart.  Unusually though, for a fruit, plums also contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps produces serotonin, our happy hormone.

When plums are dried, they are known as prunes, and contain a higher content of fibre, hence they have been used traditionally for many years to treat constipation.  Equally, prunes work really well in many meat and game dishes, and are often used in traditional French recipes.

Close,Up,Of,Fresh,Juicy,Grilled,Beef,Steak,Served,With

Whilst plums can be eaten raw, with the skin peeled, they work well in sweet or savoury dishes.  They can be simply stewed with a little sweetening agent and used on cereals or porridge or used in a simple crumble with cinnamon.  They are equally delicious in a braised pork dish with apples, potatoes, garlic and thyme. There are endless possibilities and a myriad of health benefits to eating plums right now.

So, enjoy seasonal eating this October and reap the many health and nutritional benefits.

Stay well.

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Lunchtime nutrition: three ‘Back to Work’ lunches you’ll love

CLose up of chicken salad lunch at desk while working in office

If you’re one of the many people getting ready to go back to the office, one dilemma that hasn’t disappeared during the pandemic is “what to eat for lunch”. 

Many of us prefer, or have to, take lunch with us; therefore, it can become a daily conundrum. Each lunchtime is an opportunity to provide the body with much-needed nutrients to sustain your energy throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to plan in advance.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares some much-needed lunchtime inspiration for your return to work.

Wrap up some goodness

Wraps are the perfect transportable lunch that will provide a great array of nutrients without causing any uncomfortable stomach bloat, as they are not a ‘heavy’ as normal bread.  Plus, it’s  really easy to buy gluten-free wraps or those made with sweet potatoes, spinach, or coconut flour.

Chicken,And,Salad,Tortilla

It’s important to include plenty of protein either from animal or vegetable sources.  For example, turkey is high in protein and lower in fat than chicken and therefore makes a great choice.  Why not wrap up some lettuce, turkey, sliced cabbage (red or white are both great for the digestion) and some cucumber strips, with a little mayonnaise?

Tortilla,With,Vegetables,And,Hummus,With,Chickpeas.,Top,View.,Black

As a veggie option, spread the wrap with plenty of hummus and then lay lots of lettuce, avocado slices, cucumber sticks and tomato.  For a little extra pizazz, why not add some cheese of your choice and within minutes you’ve created a colourful and nutritious lunch.  Both of these wrap options contain plenty of protein, vitamin C, energising B-vitamins, and immune-boosting vitamin E.

Zingy rice noodles

Rice noodles are a great lunchtime choice; not too heavy but still providing plenty of nutrients, which can taste even better depending on what you put with them. It’s good to get your base flavours right and garlic is the perfect start; great for the immune, digestion and cardiovascular systems.

Rice,Noodles,With,Chicken,,Mushrooms,Mun,And,Vegetables,,Prepared,In

Fry some garlic and fresh chopped chilli (a great fat-burner), and then add some chicken, prawns, or tofu.  Add some soy sauce, lime juice, chopped carrots and peppers and your base is made.  All you need is to quickly cook the rice noodles, add them to the mixture and then serve into your  transportable pots. It’s a great idea to make up a couple of lunch boxes for your working week as they keep well in the fridge.

Tasty cauliflower rice

If you’re watching your waistline, then this dish is perfect.  It’s high in protein (around 16g per portion) but low in carbs.  Cauliflower is a member of the super-healthy cruciferous vegetable family, and contains plenty of antioxidants, protecting the body from degenerative diseases.

Cauliflower,Rice,With,Vegetables,In,Bowl,On,White,Background.,Paleo

Chop up a whole cauliflower and then blitz in a food processor so that its texture becomes like fine grains.  Then mix up some immune-boosting spices including cinnamon and allspice. Coat the cauliflower in the spices and put into a roasting tin to cook in the oven. Once it’s cooled you can add whatever takes your fancy, but chopped onion, mint, parsley, and feta are fabulous accompaniments.

Alternatively, you can quickly grill or stir fry some tofu with teriyaki sauce and chopped spring onion and add to the cauliflower.  Tofu is not only a great source of protein, it is also good for the digestive system and contains lots of calcium.

Three extra lunchtime tips

  • If you’re struggling with hormones, especially during the menopause, throw a good handful of edamame beans into your wrap or lunch box.

Edamame,Beans,In,Bowl,On,Light,Background.,Close,Up,View

  • Any chopped, raw vegetables with a dip such as hummus make great snacks and really improve your daily nutrient status.

Hummus,With,Vegetables,On,Plate

  • Always think about cooking extra portions when preparing your evening meal, such as chicken breast, poached or steamed salmon, or roasted vegetables. These can then be incorporated into your lunches for the week.

Baked,Salmon,Pasta,Salad,With,Spiral,Rotini,Vegetable,Pasta,In

Stay well.

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Outdoor adventures: food to fuel your day trip

shutterstock_171654062 woman hiking Oct15

With the summer season now in full flow, some more favourable weather on the way and our freedoms promised, what better time to fully enjoy the great outdoors?  You will be bagging some great health benefits too from spending time outside in the sunshine and fresh air. 

When heading out for the day, what you pack to keep you feeling energised all day long is important to ensure you are able to make the most of your day trip.

This Love Parks Week Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top nutrition tips to help you fully enjoy your day in the fresh air!

Boost your nutrients

If you are out all day and possibly enjoying some hiking or physical activity, then the body is certainly going to need some decent fuel in the middle of the day.  Each mealtime is an opportunity to load up on valuable nutrients the body needs daily, as well as filling up the tank with energy.

Clearly everything needs to be easily transportable therefore wholemeal wraps loaded with protein and vegetables is one of the best options.  It is important to eat protein at every mealtime to balance blood sugar levels and keep energy sustained throughout the day.  Great choices for wraps include chicken, tuna, chickpeas, or grilled halloumi cheese.

shutterstock_461352127 selection of wraps

All choices work really well with some roasted vegetables (prepared the night before) and pesto.  The wrap (ideally wholemeal) will deliver plenty of energising B-vitamins (as will the filling) plus it is a great way of topping up your vegetable intake.

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

Another great option is smashed avocado with salad or roasted vegetables.  Avocados are loaded with healthy fats that are needed to absorb our fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E), all of which are required for the immune system.  Avocados also contain some protein, plus vitamin E which is great for the skin. So, be sure to make lunch count so energy levels are not flagging a couple of hours later.

Snacks to keep you walking smart

If you are walking or hiking, then you will need to keep energy levels topped up throughout the day, not just at lunchtime.  Great transportable and energising snacks include cashew nuts (a higher carb nut), raisins (for a quick energy shot) and bananas (the perfect pre-wrapped snack!)

Homemade flapjacks

Why not make some delicious flapjacks the day before full of protein and energising carbs too?  If you make them with agave syrup, porridge oats, raisins, hazelnuts and mixed seeds, you can fully enjoy a perfect, energy-boosting and nutritious snack.

Composition,Of,Green,Olives,,Oil,,Spices,,Gravy,Boats,,On,A

Other great snacks include olives which contain plenty of healthy fats to hold off hunger pangs or some veggie crisps (healthier than the ‘normal’ potato variety!)

Hydrate often

Let us not forget the most important thing to pack – plenty of water to keep you hydrated.  You won’t be walking very far if you are dehydrated.  It is important to keep ahead of thirst; when you feel thirsty the body is already slightly dehydrated so top up regularly. On a ‘normal’ day it’s recommended to drink 1 ½ to 2 litres of water daily.  However, strenuous walking uses up a lot more water in the body, so aim to drink at least 300 ml for every hour you plan on being active.

Woman,Drinking,Water.

Whilst having large quantities of sports drinks is not needed and will only increase daily sugar intake, the body is not pure water.  The body contains electrolytes that need replenishing especially when the weather is hot. So, it’s a good idea to add an electrolyte powder to your water which you can sip throughout the day.  Additionally, having one of your water bottles very slightly diluted with fruit juice will help the body rehydrate quicker.

Sun protection

Sun cream and a sun hat are essential items!  Even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s UV rays penetrate and can cause a nasty case of sunburn if precautions aren’t taken.

Hat,And,Glasses,Lie,On,A,Beach,At,A,Beautiful

It’s worth also noting that if you’re taking a daily multivitamin that contains beta-carotene, this does provide some protection against sun damage but not sufficient to avoid wearing sun cream.  However, it does help protect the skin against free-radical damage caused by the sun and will hold back the ageing process.

So, with the combination of rejuvenating fresh air, beautiful countryside parklands, and nutritious food, you can guarantee a great day out!

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.

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

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Five breakfast boosts for a healthier start to the day

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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

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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.

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