Lunchbox nutrition: top ideas to keep that holiday feeling going

Happy woman at desk eating her lunch

Whilst many of us have already returned from our summer holidays, there’s no reason not to hang onto that summer feeling for as long as possible. And this includes keeping a holiday-theme going in our lunchtime menus.

By planning your ‘back-to-work’ lunches so that you’re never without something nourishing and energising during the day, it can really help banish the post-holiday blues.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top lunch-box tips to keep you in the summertime mood!

Thoughts of the Mediterranean

Packing up a chicken salad with a Mediterranean theme doesn’t need to take long in the morning.  As with everything, it’s all about planning.  If you roast a large enough chicken on a Sunday, then you’ll have plenty left-over for your Mediterranean chicken salad on a Monday and beyond.

chicken salad with spinach and tomatoes

Simply slice the chicken, then add some spinach leaves, chopped spring onions, baby tomatoes and chopped red cabbage with some French dressing drizzled over, and you have your lunch right there.

It’s especially important to have enough protein at lunchtime in order to avoid the 3pm slump, which chicken more than delivers.  Additionally, spinach is rich in energising iron and tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, to help protect the body from the upcoming ‘bug’ season.

Satisfyingly Spanish

There are lots of reason to love Spain and one of them is the Spanish omelette.  It’s a great option to make the night before and it also serves as a satisfying dinner.  Plus, eggs are one of the best sources of protein, as they contain all the essential amino acids.

Sliced spanish omelette

Traditional Spanish omelette is so easy to make; it needs chopped potatoes and onion lightly fried until soft, with beaten egg cooked until the mixture is completely ‘set’.  You can also add tomatoes and parsley for extra flavour and nutrition. Throw in a few salad leaves as well and this is an excellent lunchtime re-fuel that will keep you going all afternoon.

Summertime wraps

Wraps are some of the quickest and easiest packed lunch choices.  Plus, if you fill them right, you’ll be serving yourself some nutritional powerhouses.

Great fillings are:

Beetroot (in season right now and a nutritional powerhouse), with feta (excellent low, fat protein), and a choice of crunchy leaves.

Avocado (a great source of skin-loving vitamin E), hummus (vegetable protein) and cucumber

Tuna, which provides low-fat protein, sweetcorn and energising spinach

All are nutrient-packed and delicious; just remember to use wholemeal wraps which are rich in B-vitamins and will also help keep energy levels sustained through the rest of the day.

Sunshine noodles

Cooked egg noodles can be eaten hot or cold and can simply be put into a lunchbox with whatever happens to be in your store cupboard.  The great thing about egg noodles is that they’re light so won’t make you feel heavy and bloated later in the day.

Salmon and noodle stir fry

Why not add some tinned wild salmon, grated ginger, soy sauce, red peppers and spring onions to keep thoughts of sunshine not too far away? You will have created a perfectly balanced lunch-time meal, full of protein and immune-boosting vitamin C.

A Mexican theme

Talk of beans and thoughts often turn to Mexico; beans are one of Mexico’s staple foods.  They’re also one of the best sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans, as well as for meat eaters.  Even better, they’re easy to put into a lunchbox.

Mexican bean salad

Simply use a tin of black beans and add some feta cheese, spring onion, chopped tomato and avocado.  You can then choose how much ‘heat’ you want to add.  This dish is always delicious using chopped coriander and parsley, but you can also add some cumin, for a real Mexican feel.

There will certainly be enough here to last for a couple of days, and you’ll feel completely satiated until dinner time.

So keep that holiday feeling alive in your lunchbox for as long as you can – you’ll also be benefitting from some great nutritional choices too!

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Seasonal nutrition for May

A bowl of delicious spring salad

Eating seasonally is always best for health because foods contain more nutrients when eaten fresh and haven’t sat in a supermarket store rooms for many months. Plus, the taste and texture of foods in season is vastly improved when they’re eaten at the time of year nature intended.

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May brings us deliciously fresh greens to bring colour to our plates as well as other salad staples.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods this May.

Asparagus

Now prized by chefs around the world for its delicate taste and texture, and also within traditional medicine, asparagus is certainly a great vegetable of the season.

Grilled asparagus wrapped in parma ham

Medicinally, asparagus is an effective diuretic so works well within any detoxification programme. It’s also used by weight trainers and body builders because it’s a low calorie, fat-free food that helps eliminate excess water from the muscles. However, for those just wanting to enjoy a delicious and healthy food, asparagus contains plenty of energising folate, immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin E plus beta-carotene.

Steam or boil asparagus gently. It is perfect sprinkled with parmesan cheese, wrapped in Parma ham or served with hollandaise sauce.

Watercress

Watercress has gained much credence over recent years and has often been hailed as a ‘superfood’. It was used in traditional medicine to treat liver and kidney disorders and is also a natural antibiotic. However, much of its acclaim stems from it being a member of the super-healthy crucifer family. Watercress is certainly in good company alongside Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower.

A bunch of watercress on a wooden board

Watercress is a healthy salad vegetable so it makes sense to include it every time you’re preparing a salad. It’s a great source of vitamin C as well as iron, which is so often deficient in our daily diets.

These dark green, peppery tasting leaves are not only great in salads but also in a super-easy lunch dish with tinned cannellini beans, lemon zest, mixed sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Jersey Royal New Potatoes

A real British staple for so many people, Jersey Royals have a unique taste and texture and they’re in season right now.

With the increased popularity of low-carb diets, potatoes have often been ditched from the daily diet. However, it’s the free sugars that are most problematic for people and can hi-jack a weight-loss plan rather than nutrient and fibre-rich foods such as potatoes. That said, it’s generally best to eat carbohydrates earlier in the day. Potatoes often get forgotten when discussing nutrients, but they’re a great source of vitamin C and heart-loving potassium.

A pan of just boiled jersey royal new potatoes

Jersey Royals need nothing more than lightly boiling, served with a little butter and fresh mint and are the perfect accompaniment to any fish or chicken dish. Equally, they’re great eaten cold so can be added to your lunch-time salad for a delicious treat.

Sea trout

We talk about salmon as being a rich source of omega-3s but trout often gets forgotten. However, just like wild salmon sea trout is a great option. It has a darker colour due to the astaxanthin-rich algae the fish naturally eat; astaxanthin is an amazingly powerful antioxidant. Plus it tastes so much better than the slightly bland supermarket farmed trout.

Trout with lemon wedges and herb

Trout is a great source of the omega-3 fats which are essential for the heart, eyes, joint, hormones and skin. Plus it can be eaten in much the same way as salmon, although sea trout particularly lends itself to barbecuing, served with a shallot and lemon sauce.

Radishes

Whilst eating radishes may be a slightly acquired taste, it’s well worth getting to like them as they’re another member of the health-giving cruciferous family of vegetables. They make a great snack or salad vegetable for the summer months. This is because they’re high in vitamin C which is needed for collagen production, helping prevent lines and wrinkles that are often more noticeable when skin is at its driest. However, vitamin C is also a very powerful antioxidant so it will help protect the skin against sun damage.

A bunch of radishes on a wooden background

Radishes are low in calories so are very popular with those watching their weight. However, they’re also great added to a tray of crudités served with hummus and taramasalata.

So enjoy these five healthy, tasty and versatile foods that should be eaten right now whilst in season.

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Nutrition for feeling good from the inside out

Close up of a happy young woman holding an apple

It’s no secret that what we eat has a massive impact on how we look and feel. The body is no different from a car; it needs the right fuel to work optimally. Plus, it’s easy to forget how much work the body does.

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As you’ve been reading this, in the last second your body has produced around two million new red blood cells! It’s certainly an amazing piece of machinery.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips on how to optimise your body from the inside out.

Love your liver

The liver is the main organ of detoxification, therefore it needs to be the first port of call when we’re thinking about health from the inside out. The liver get lots of abuse that we’re not necessarily aware of due to environmental toxins all around us: the liver has to deal with toxins from the inside and the outside on a daily basis.

Symptoms such as excessive bloating or wind, recurrent headaches, sensitivity to chemicals, poor digestion of fatty foods, bad breath or less than one bowel movement daily, may all be indications of a sluggish liver.

The good news is there are lots of foods that love your liver and will help it to detox gently and naturally without you having to go on a drastic ‘detox’ programme. The liver primarily needs four types of foods:

Fibre: beans (all types), brown rice, fresh fruit and vegetables, lentils, oats, whole wheat and rye

Enzymes: pineapple and papaya

‘Friendly bacteria’-promoting foods: Jerusalem artichokes, live natural yoghurt, miso, garlic and onions

Woman eating a healthy breakfast with berries, yoghurt and orange juice

Antioxidants: avocado, beetroot, broccoli, green tea, nuts, watercress, sweet potatoes, berries and peppers

Try to include as many of these foods as possible into your daily diet; there’s certainly plenty of choice. Plus don’t forget the main ‘food of life’ – water. Drink at least 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily to keep your liver running optimally.

Beauty from within

It’s true to say that all the creams, potions and lotions in the world are not going to promote beautiful glowing skin if you’re not putting the right nutrients in. Just like the liver, your skin is an organ of detoxification and is therefore a reflection of what’s going on inside. Whilst the liver is certainly the first consideration, there are also specific nutrients that can help your skin to glow.

Vitamin C is the most important nutrient for the skin because it’s essential for the production of collagen, the skin’s main structural protein. Our natural production of collagen declines after the age of around 30 which is one of the reasons why we start getting those dreaded lines and wrinkles. Therefore, try to eat as many foods rich in Vitamin C as possible.

A selection of fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C

Enjoy strawberries, kiwi fruits, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and all citrus fruits. All these foods are high in antioxidants which help protect the body (including the skin) from free radical damage. Vitamin C can help neutralise internal and external toxins, therefore you’ll soon be glowing from the inside out!

Healthy fats for glowing skin

There are certain fats that are absolutely essential for the body and that includes glowing skin. Whilst damaged fats (often called trans fats), frequently found in margarines, cakes and biscuits, should be avoided as much as possible, certain healthy fats are needed regularly.

The essential omega-3 fats contain potent anti-inflammatory properties which help heal many skin conditions. Plus, the omega-3s are an intrinsic part of our cellular structure, therefore we need to keep eating them regularly. Furthermore, they help keep the skin properly hydrated. Best sources of omega-3s are oily fish, nuts and seeds. However, if you’re vegan then try to find algae oil which contain the omega-3s that fish feed on.

A range of foods containing healthy Omega-3 fats

Coconut oil is another great fat for the skin. Whilst it does contain saturated fats, so needs to be used in moderation, its medium chain triglycerides have great affinity for the skin and are also used for energy, another great benefit. Coconut oil is good for cooking, particularly in stir-fries.

Avocado on rye toast showing healthy breakfast

Avocados are loaded with skin-loving vitamin E and have a double benefit because they also help the liver detoxify. Sesame oil contains useful fatty acids for the skin but is also high in polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants. Sesame is also high in lignans which have a great hormone-balancing effect.

So getting it right nutritionally on the inside can really help to give you great results on the outside!

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Seasonal eating: top nutrition this Easter

 

A range of easter foods

Traditionally Easter is a time of getting together with friends and family and enjoying plenty of delicious food. It’s always best to ‘eat with the seasons’ and Easter offers some wonderful food choices.

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Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top seasonal foods for a super-healthy Easter!

 

 

Crab

All shellfish is high in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in calories and crab is now in season.

Most of the calories in crab come from protein (around 75 calories per portion) so it will fill you up and keep you feeling that way for longer. People often think of crab dishes as fatty but this is often because it is served with mayonnaise or Marie rose sauce. It’s also high in the mineral selenium, a very powerful antioxidant. Selenium also binds to toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury helping excrete them from the body.

A close up of a bowl of crab salad

If it’s energy you’re after then crab is loaded with vitamin B12, also important for a healthy nervous system. People are often concerned about crab meat (and other shellfish) because of its high cholesterol content. However, cholesterol is poorly absorbed from foods and crab appears to help reduce rather than raise cholesterol levels.

Lamb

Easter wouldn’t be the same without eating some spring lamb. It’s delightfully tender and a traditional Easter dish.

Roast leg of lamb with trimmings

Lamb, like other red meats such as pork and beef, is fairly high in saturated fat, although racks and loins can have their visible fat removed before cooking. Lamb is obviously a great source of protein, plus energising B vitamins and zinc to help support the immune system. As with all red meat, lamb is a great source of usable iron, which is often deficient in the UK population, particularly in teenagers and young women.

Lamb is best simply cooked with garlic, rosemary and oregano. In fact, oregano is a great herb for the digestive tract, so may help alleviate any associated digestive issues. It works really well with a huge plate of colourful roasted veggies.

Leeks

Leeks partner really well with lamb, either lightly steamed or in a tasty gratin dish! Interestingly, leeks were used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments ranging for sore throats to gout and kidney stones. This is partly down to their high potassium content, making them an effective diuretic and supportive of the kidneys. Leeks are also high in folate, so are good for energy.

Leeks in a wooden trough

Squid

Just like crab, squid is high in protein and low in calories. Plus, it’s cheaper than crab and it’s in season right now. Squid is fished predominantly along the Cornish coast and is therefore popular in many restaurants in that part of the world, certainly at this time of year.

With the increase in popularity of low-carb diets, squid earns its rightful place; however, these benefits are lost if you choose the ever-popular calamari rings. Instead, eat squid lightly grilled with a little olive oil and chilli for extra taste.

Fresh grilled squid on a barbecue

Squid is high in the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, both great for managing the ageing process and keeping skin looking young and fresh. Plus it’s got good amounts of B vitamins which are protective of the heart. They’re a ‘win-win’ for your Easter menu!

Watercress

The peppery, dark watercress leaves are amongst the healthiest of salad vegetables, being rich in vitamins and minerals and with only 22 calories per 100 grams. Watercress works as a vegetable side and can certainly replace spinach in many dishes.

Just like leeks, watercress was often used to treat kidney disorders in traditional medicine and generally helps support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

Watercress soup

Watercress should certainly feature on your Easter menu; in salads, baked in a salmon quiche, made into soup or as a vegetable side gently wilted with a little butter.

So why not make this Easter the healthiest and tastiest yet? Enjoy!

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Three deliciously nutritious breakfast treats for Mother’s Day

Three generations family Grandmother, mother and daughter

With another Mother’s Day just around the corner, why not serve up a delicious and highly nutritious breakfast to really put a smile on her face? Or why not treat yourself? In many ways, breakfast is the most important meal of the day; the body has been ‘fasting’ for a number of hours and blood sugar levels are low. The body’s natural circadian rhythm is saying it’s time to grab the day and get moving, so it needs some high-quality fuel.

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So what better way to start Mother’s Day than with a really healthy treat-filled breakfast?

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyers shares three healthy breakfasts to serve your mum, or yourself, this Mother’s Day.

Have another Pancake Day!

Pancakes with syrup and blueberries

Officially, Pancake Day has just passed. However, pancakes are a really great breakfast choice for a number of reasons and a real treat for you or your Mum.

This recipe uses:

Egg – great for protein

Wholemeal flour – low glycaemic for sustained energy

Banana – loaded with heart-loving potassium and hormone-balancing vitamin B6

Almond butter – for protein and skin-loving omega-3 fats

Coconut oil – which has a higher smoke point making it healthier for cooking

Blueberries – packed with antioxidants

Maple syrup – as a special treat!

All the ingredients, apart from the fruit, maple syrup and coconut oil, should be whisked up and then added to a pan of melted coconut oil. The batter needs about a minute a side to cook. Once on the plate (after they’ve been tossed) add sliced banana, blueberries and maple syrup. Then rush straight up the stairs and put a smile on your mum’s face! Or enjoy yourself. A delicious start to the day.

If you mum’s a chocolate-lover, try adding 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder to the batter mix.

Veggie-packed frittata

Spinach and mushroom frittata

 

Frittata is a delicious, super-healthy breakfast and loaded with energy giving nutrients to really get the day off to a brilliant start. Eating ‘5-a-day’ may not be top of you or your Mum’s list of priorities today but you will be pleased to know this one provides at least some of these.

This frittata includes:

Spinach – great for energy-giving iron

Cherry tomatoes – which contain the antioxidant lycopene

Potatoes – loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C

Mushrooms – great for energising B-vitamins

Eggs – packed with protein

It’s always best to have protein at breakfast time, whatever your choice of meal, as it helps stabilise blood sugar and maintains feelings of fullness for longer.

For this delicious Mother’s Day treat, the mushrooms should be gently fried and then set aside. The diced potatoes and tomatoes are then fried separately. Two eggs can then be added to the pan, along with the mushrooms and spinach. Cook gently for around 10 minutes and then brown under the grill.

This might take a little longer to prepare, but you and your Mum are certainly worth the effort. It’s a wonderfully nutritious start to the day.

The loveliest smashed avocado

Smashed avocado, cherry tomatoes and feta on toast

Smashed avocado is very popular right now so why not treat you or your Mum to some today? Many people avoid avocados, fearing they’ll help pile on the pounds. Whilst they are fairly high in calories, they’re packed full of healthy fats, and so can still be eaten regularly.

Avocados have some protein but most importantly are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which will also keep hunger in check. Plus they’re loaded with vitamin E so you or your Mum’s skin will glow!

For this you will need:

Avocado

Cherry tomatoes

Lime Juice

Balsamic Vinegar

Feta Cheese

Rocket

Sourdough bread

Toast some sourdough bread (it’s much lower in gluten so potentially less disruptive to the digestion). Smash the avocado in a bowl with some lime juice and salt and pepper. In another bowl, mix a few chopped cherry tomatoes with some balsamic vinegar. Then spread the avocado mixture on the toast and load it with the tomato mixture, crumble over some delicious feta cheese and finish with some rocket. A truly delicious treat on Mother’s Day.

So enjoy making one of these three great breakfasts either for your Mum or for yourself and your family this Mother’s Day.

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Healthy body, healthy mind: top brain-boosting foods

 

Sideways view of a happy woman's face with her brain outlined and glowing

It’s no secret that what we eat has a massive impact on brain function. However, wouldn’t it be great if we could really improve concentration, mood and stress just by changing up the diet a little?

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There are plenty of small changes you can make which will have a real impact not just on how you feel but also in supporting your cognitive functioning.

Suzie Sawyer shares her favourite foods for getting brain health on track.

Avocados to beat stress

There are a number of nutrients involved in the stress response. Vitamin B6 is one of the major players, and delicious avocados are a great source. In fact, avocados are all-round good guys, loaded with great nutrients, including vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which is also protective of the brain.

Avocado, guacamole and avocado salsa

On trend right now as a favourite breakfast is smashed avocado on sour dough bread, which makes a wonderful start to the day. Or why not include half an avocado in your morning power smoothie with banana, frozen berries, almond butter and coconut milk, to start the day right?

Turkey is not just for Christmas

For some reason, people forget that turkey is a really healthy, protein-packed food and should definitely be eaten all year round, especially if you want your brain to fire on all cylinders.

Sliced turkey breast

Turkey is high in vitamin B3 which is key in the production of brain neurotransmitters. A lack of vitamin B3 can cause low mood and depression, so turkey can really keep you feeling happier. Turkey breast meat has slightly less fat than chicken. Therefore, cooking up a turkey stir fry with plenty of colourful veg makes a nutrient-packed, easy and low-calorie meal.

Sharpen your brain with lecithin

Lecithin is a phospholipid (fat) that is essential for brain function. There is evidence that people have seen great benefits in their memory and all-round cognitive functions from increasing lecithin in their diet.

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

Lecithin granules, which can be bought at most good health food shops, may not sound particularly appetising but they can be added very easily to soups, stews, cereals – in fact, any hot or cold dish, as their health benefits are not destroyed by heat.

Egg yolks are also a great source of lecithin so make sure you’re eating around six eggs per week, if you can. Lecithin granules can be suitable for vegetarians – always check out the label.

Boost your mood with beans

Many people avoid all types of beans as they’re worried about the all-too common digestive distress. However, the flatulence that beans often cause is generally because the body is not making enough of the enzyme which breaks them down. The more beans you eat however, the more the enzyme reaction will be uprated – something else to smile about!

A range of beans

All types of beans are high in B vitamins, plus the amino acid tryptophan, needed to produce our happy hormone, serotonin. Plus, they’re so easy to include in the diet on a regular basis, in soups or mixed with tinned tomatoes, onions, peppers and some chipotle, for a tasty dinner. YOU can even go for the old faithful of beans on wholemeal toast for breakfast. If you’re having tinned baked beans, make sure you opt for the sugar and salt-free versions though.

Keep focussed with pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of brain-boosting omega-3 fats and the mineral zinc. Even better, they contain protein to help balance blood sugar levels; another reason concentration levels will be improved. The brain contains lots of fat, much of that being the essential omega-3s, hence it’s really important to include them in the diet to support concentration and good mood.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are very easy to include in many dishes and are certainly great sprinkled over smashed avocado, porridge, cereals or mixed into natural yoghurt with fruit in the mornings. Pumpkin seeds are best not heated as this can damage the omega-3 fats.

We are what we eat. Just like the body, the brain can only function optimally with the right fuel so give it some help with these brain-boosting foods.

 

 

 

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Brain Nutrition: the top 5 foods to eat for a sharper brain

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

Many of us struggle with poor memory or lack of concentration from time-to-time, and for some, more frequently. Whilst the brain will always show signs of ageing, generally from age 50, we’d all like some extra brain power, whatever our age!

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five foods to give your brain that extra boost.

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EGGS

Eggs are not only an all-round superfood, they’re rich in choline, a member of the family of B-vitamins. Choline’s main ‘claim-to-fame’ is that it helps make acetylcholine, the brain’s key memory transmitter. Importantly, a deficiency of this nutrient could be the single most common cause for a declining memory.

One large egg contains around 300 mg of choline. Choline has two major functions; it’s needed for the structure of brain cells, plus the production of acetylcholine. The human body can make some choline in the liver, but it’s not usually sufficient to make healthy brain cells, hence it’s needed regularly in the diet.

A topped boiled egg in an egg cup

Eggs are also a great source of protein, containing the full profile of amino acids. Having an egg-based breakfast will help keep blood sugar levels in balance throughout the day and this will also keep your brain in sharp focus.

OILY FISH

Oily fish is rich in brain-loving omega-3 fats. These fats are key for good brain health because they’re part of the myelin sheath within the brain structure and are also needed to make those all-important neurotransmitters. The best fish to eat are primarily cold water ones that consume other fish! This means herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna. Try to include some oily fish in your diet around three times a week.

A whole cooked fish to represent healthy omega 3 fats

If you’re vegetarian, then you don’t need to miss out. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are great sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a key omega fat which the body converts into the most active form being EPA (rich in fish). So the brain will still get what it needs.

BANANAS

This perfect, conveniently wrapped fruit is high in vitamin B6, which is another nutrient that’s essential for the production of those essential neurotransmitters. It’s no coincidence that bananas are a popular weaning food for babies, maybe for this reason. Plus, of course, they’re easy to digest (when fully ripe).

Porridge topped with bananas and blueberries

The brain needs a constant supply of certain nutrients to keep these neurotransmitters ‘firing’ and sending messages between cells. Several B-vitamins, and in particular B6, also encourage the production of acetylcholine as well as keeping nerves healthy.

Bananas are one of the easiest foods to incorporate into the diet because they’re so transportable but also versatile in dishes. They’re also a great start to the day on top of your morning oats with some natural yoghurt.

AVOCADOS

We know that the brain contains lots of fats, which are key to its make-up. However, this makes the brain susceptible to attack from damaging free radicals. If not stopped in their tracks, free radicals can cause damage throughout the body, particularly to nerves, which will inevitably impact on brain function.

The good news is that nature has provided a wealth of foods containing protective nutrients. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant found in avocados, works in partnership with vitamin C in the antioxidant department. Interestingly, people with good blood levels of antioxidants may do better in memory tests!

Avocado on rye toast showing healthy breakfast

Whilst some people shy away from avocados because of their higher calorie load, the benefits of including one in your diet, three times a week, far outweighs any negatives. They’re particularly delicious with prawns, in salads, smashed on toast with eggs for breakfast, or with bacon and grilled chicken.

PEAS

The humble pea is rich in folic acid, which works alongside vitamin B6 in helping produce the brain’s neurotransmitters. Plus, they’re so versatile and tasty too! They’re a good source of protein and fibre, helping to keep blood sugar levels in good balance and therefore, the brain in great working order.

a bowl of fresh peas and pea pods on a table

Peas are a very popular frozen vegetable because they’re so quick and easy to add to a meal. The freezing process can actually retain more of their nutrient content because they’re frozen quickly after harvesting, so don’t worry that these frozen vegetables are any less nutritious than fresh ones. They will also certainly contain less starch. We tend to forget that peas also come in the form of mange tout or the sugar snap variety, which are both equally great for the brain.

So add some of these brain-boosters to your diet this season and stay sharp!

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Autumn wellness: is your body fit for winter?

Happy woman in autumn playing with autumn leaves

As our beautiful UK summer comes to an end, just as night follows day, winter will be upon us before we know it! Sad as it is to feel the cooler days (and nights), it’s also the perfect time to ensure your body is well equipped to prevent any nasty bugs or infections from getting a hold this season.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for winter immunity.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

OVERHAUL YOUR DIET

Whilst it’s often hard to eat the ‘perfect’ diet every day, the more foods you can eat that help boost your immune system on a daily basis, the better. In fact, your diet is the first port of call when it comes to ‘prepping’ your body for winter.

Eating some protein such as fish, chicken, eggs, dairy produce, beans, lentils and wholegrains at every meal is key. The immune system needs these types of foods to produce immunoglobulins – blood proteins that act as disease-fighting antibodies. Plus, many other nutrients such as vitamin C (found in most fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (in wholegrains, nuts, seeds and avocadoes), vitamin A (high in liver, cheese, eggs and sweet potatoes) and zinc (especially rich in pumpkin seeds and lean red meat) are all key immune boosters. So try to keep your diet as varied and colourful as possible to ensure your body gets the spread of nutrients it needs.

Range of foods to show a balanced diet

It is also important to keep sugar to a minimum; try to reduce the amount of refined carbs, alcohol, and fizzy and caffeinated drinks on a daily basis. Sugar in all its forms has an adverse effect on the immune system.

INCREASE YOUR HERBS AND SPICES

There are a wealth of herbs and spices that have strong immune-boosting powers and even anti-viral and antibacterial properties. Plus, they all enhance the flavour of many popular dishes.

For example, garlic is probably one of the best known infection-fighters and works well with so many different foods; meat, fish, and vegetables – the list is endless. Additionally, ginger is equally beneficial to the immune system. Both herbs can be used in easy stir-fries, for example.

A range of fresh herbs in pots to add to cooking

The herb thyme is delicious added to casseroles or pasta dishes and is great made into an infusion with boiling water and gargled if you’re unlucky enough to get struck down. Thyme tea is recommended for all types of infections, including earache and sinusitis. All herbs and spices will have far-reaching health benefits, so add as many as possible to your dishes!

BOOST YOUR MOOD

A healthy mind is equally important for a strong immune system and can reduce your likelihood of getting struck down with a cold or flu. If you’re suffering from low mood, then you’re more likely to suffer from infections. Sharing problems with friends or family can often help. However, it may also be helpful to seek out some complementary therapies such as massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture to help lift a low mood.

Woman with legs crossed sitting on bed meditating

Equally, self-help strategies can be very powerful. Daily meditation, for example, is very effective for many reasons and may really help alleviate stress. It takes some practice (and obviously a little time, initially), but it is well worth persevering.

However, if low mood persists or there are emotional issues in your life, then it may be helpful to seek the services of a qualified counsellor. Often talking to someone who is properly trained to deal with problems can be very beneficial.

ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE

There are so many positive reasons to get moving! Not only will it support the immune system by boosting infection-fighting white blood cells, it will help relieve stress, release mood-enhancing endorphins and better nourish your body generally by enhancing oxygen to every part of your body.

Close up of two women enjoying a run outdoors together to show benefits of exercise

You may not want to spend hours in the gym, which is fine. However, any form of exercise carried out four or five times a week, for around 30 minutes, is going to be hugely beneficial to the immune system. And don’t forget that a brisk walk every day certainly counts as great exercise. If you haven’t got a dog to walk, maybe ‘borrow’ one from a friend to help with motivation!

SUPPORTIVE SUPPLEMENTATION

If your diet isn’t always as nutrient-dense as you’d like or you’re under a lot of stress, this is going to put a strain on the immune system. It makes sense, therefore, to take a good quality daily multivitamin to help plug any nutrient gaps and to ensure you’re definitely getting the sufficient vitamins and minerals associated with a strong immune system.

Echinacea flower and tea

There are certain herbs, licensed as herbal remedies, which are great to take as a preventative measure. Echinacea is a popular herb, which has been used for many years to help prevent and treat colds and flu. It’s worth starting it now for a few weeks, since it increases white blood cell production. Equally, the herb pelargonium is anti-viral and antibacterial and can be taken at the very first sign of a cold, if you’re unlucky enough to get caught! Both herbs should be a medicine cupboard staple for the winter months.

So with a few simple tweaks to your diet and lifestyle, you can have a bug-free autumn and winter!

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITIONAL AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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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 website Herbfacts

 

The five best breakfasts to kick-start your day

Woman eating a healthy breakfast with berries, yoghurt and orange juice

For so many reasons, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Every main meal is an opportunity for taking on board nutrients and giving the body the fuel it needs in order to keep it functioning optimally. And as the body has been fasting for quite a number of hours while you sleep, first thing in the morning your blood sugar levels are low, energy is not at its best and the body is crying for refuelling.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares five of her favourite breakfasts to start your day right!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

AMARANTH PORRIDGE WITH PEAR

There’s no down side to starting your day with some porridge; it’s packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates which will keep you feeling fuller for longer and won’t send blood sugar levels soaring; imbalanced blood sugar will adversely affect energy and mood for the rest of the day. Porridge is also packed with energy-giving B-vitamins, as well as other key nutrients.

Why not try a slightly different take on traditional oat-based porridge? Try using the grain amaranth which has a wonderful nutrient profile; high in minerals calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorus as well as protein.

Porridge with pears showing a healthy breakfast

One of the best ways is to simmer amaranth flakes (readily available in supermarkets and health food stores) is with some coconut milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon for about five minutes. Then add the sliced pears and continue to simmer for another five to 10 minutes. It’s delicious sprinkled with a few seeds and a little natural yoghurt if desired.

POACHED EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS

This delicious breakfast option is a meeting of two highly nutritious foods which actually work really well together. Depending on how much time you have in the morning, this might need to be a healthy weekend breakfast as it requires a few more minutes of preparation. However, it’s well worth it; asparagus is high in those energy-giving B-vitamins and eggs are one of the best sources of protein on the planet. Breakfast never tasted so good!

A poached egg on top of steamed asparagus to show a healthy breakfast

Ideally, steam or boil some asparagus spears for a few minutes until slightly tender. Meanwhile, poach a couple of eggs; clearly everyone has their favourite way of doing this but a proper poaching pan is definitely the easiest way! The asparagus can be served sprinkled with some grated parmesan cheese and black pepper with a slice of rye toast on the side. A great energy-booster to see you through till lunch.

SPECIAL MUESLI

Shop-bought muesli can often be rather sugar-laden, partly because of the high amount of added dried fruit which contains far more sugar than fresh or frozen fruit. It is a much better idea to mix up your own batch of muesli, store it in the cupboard and then add some fresh fruit when you come to eat it.

Oats, nuts and seeds to show homemade museli and healthy breakfast

Wholegrains are unrefined, which means they have had none of their nutrients removed, particularly the B-vitamins and other minerals such as magnesium (which is essential for your bones and energy, as one example). Mix some oat flakes, barley flakes, wheatgerm, sunflower and pumpkin seeds plus a few raisins. You can actually get more adventurous by adding other grains such as quinoa flakes.

It’s a great ‘go-to’ breakfast, always in the cupboard, and only needs some milk (why not try almond or coconut milk), plus some natural yoghurt and fruit of your choice if so desired.

AVOCADO ON TOAST

No breakfast suggestions would be complete without avocado! It’s an amazing superfood with so many wonderful nutrients. Most importantly, avocado will keep you feeling full all morning, plus their high vitamin E content will leave you with glowing skin.

Avocado on rye toast showing healthy breakfast

What could be simpler? A slice of rye toast is one of the best choices because it has a great nutrient profile. Additionally, it’s a denser bread so will keep you going for longer and has less gluten, which means you’ll be less likely to suffer from bloating.

Slice or mash the avocado, add to the toast and try adding a crunchy topping with some munchy seeds. For an added ‘twist’ swirl a little balsamic glaze over the top.

THE ULTIMATE BREAKFAST ‘ON THE RUN’

For those who literally ‘wake up and go’ then breakfast doesn’t have to be a double espresso and croissant! A small pot of natural yoghurt is packed with protein to keep energy levels balanced through the morning, topped with a few berries of your choice. All berries are low on the glycaemic index, keeping blood sugar levels in check and also adding some great nutrients.

Woman eating yohurt with berries showing healthy breakfast

This breakfast can be packed in your bag, eaten on the bus or when you reach the office!

So start every morning the right way with a nutritious breakfast, refuelling the body and providing you with the energy you need to get on with your day.

FOR MORE GREAT NUTRITIONAL AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

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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 website Herbfacts

 

Enjoy fun in the sun with these top summer health tips

After, what seems like a very long winter, summer is finally here! So are you full of energy and ready to enjoy these longer days or feeling a little lack-lustre?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives some top tips on how to best prepare for some summer fun!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

ENERGISING NUTRIENTS

If you’re not feeling super-energised right now, then it may be that you need some more energising nutrients in your diet. A key nutrient to give you that ‘get-up-and-go feeling, is iron; it transports oxygen throughout the bloodstream. People who are slightly iron-deficient often get out of breath easily, particularly during exercise, and other symptoms can include fatigue and pale skin. So how can you increase this important nutrient?

Red meat contains the most absorbable form of iron. However, if you’re a non-meat-eater or vegetarian, foods such as beans, dried fruit, spinach and dark chocolate contain some iron and if eaten with other foods or drinks containing vitamin C, then the iron becomes much more absorbable.

The family of B vitamins are also essential for releasing energy from food. Some of the best food sources are whole grain cereals (some are also fortified with additional B-vitamins), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and lentils.

TROUBLE SLEEPING?

Light mornings often means we wake up earlier than we would like, plus summer nights can be hot and humid. Ideally a bedroom needs to be dark to allow the body to naturally produce melatonin, our sleep hormone. If you find you’re waking up too early, either invest in some black-out blinds or curtains or alternatively try an eye mask.

A warm milky drink before bedtime is not just an old-wives’ tale! Any type of milk, particularly cow’s milk or soya, contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce more melatonin. A couple of oats cakes as a snack before bed will also encourage a peaceful slumber.

DRINK FOR YOUR SUMMER SKIN

The hotter it gets, the more hydration your body needs and your skin will really suffer if you’re dehydrated. As a general rule, the body needs at least 1 ½ – 2 litres of water daily (this can include herbal or fruit teas). However, if you’re getting really hot and sweaty, then the body needs its electrolytes replenishing as well: these are salts within the body that are depleted when the body loses fluids. Magnesium, sodium and potassium are examples of electrolytes.

Whizzing up a juice or smoothie is a great way of getting some of these electrolytes back into the body. Think avocado, blueberries, and beetroot with some coconut water for an electrolyte punch. Plus, avocadoes are packed full of skin-loving vitamin E, to give you an extra glow!

DOUBLE UP YOUR EXERCISE

The summer often makes us feel like we want to increase an existing exercise plan or get one started. The best way is to double up your gains is by joining a group or club (think tennis or outdoor fitness) or participating in a team sport.

High intensity training can be tough, especially in the summer heat. However, sessions are often relatively short and when done with other people (or a partner or friend), they can actually be fun too! It will make sticking to the plan much easier.

EAT AWAY STRESS

Stress is our modern day epidemic; long working hours, busy family life, relationship woes or money worries all take their toll. Plus, of course, it can impact on summer fun and enjoyment. Whilst stress is often unavoidable, the body can be fuelled to better cope.

Vitamin C is needed to help produce our stress hormone cortisol. Strawberries (in season right now), red peppers and citrus fruits are all great sources of vitamin C. Plus the B vitamins also play a key role in helping the body to manage the stress response.

Additionally get some walnuts in your life! Why? Because they’re high in the essential omega-3 fats. We frequently forget about them but omega-3’s are key in brain function and in helping the body better manage stress. If walnuts are not your bag, then pumpkin seeds or oily fish are also great sources.

So with a few dietary changes and some lifestyle shifts, you can be enjoying wonderful summer days to the full.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health 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 Herbfacts