Winter Squash is such a lovely winter vegetable. Not only does it have a sweet comforting taste. But it is rich in antioxidants, and also has anti-inflammatory and insulin regulating properties. It also has several nutrients in it that are beneficial for eye health.
Winter squash (such as butternut or coquina) is primarily a complex carbohydrate so it is excellent for steady energy.
It is also rich in carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lutein), vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, copper and potassium. All of which have their own important roles in the body.
This super simple recipe can be made in a big batch as per the amounts below, or you may wish to half the quantities if you wanted to make a smaller amount. This can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days, or frozen if you wish to keep it for longer.
This soup can be enjoyed at lunch or dinner time, or even in a mug as an afternoon snack on a cold day.
1 butternut/coquina squash (peeled, deseeded and chopped into small cubes)
2 medium onions (chopped)
4 tsp medium curry powder (I use Bart’s)
1.5 litres organic vegetable stock
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
One of the most important things you can do for your health is to enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Studies are now suggesting we should be aiming as high as 10 portions* a day, and while this isn't always easy for some people, we can all work out our own personal targets to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetable we consume on a daily basis.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help to prevent chronic life-threatening diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease, as well providing all important fibre for optimal digestion, improving general immunity and even boosting eye health. Eat a broad variety of types and colours to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs.
Follow the tips below for getting more plant goodness into your daily diet:
1. Have a breakfast smoothie
Have fun experimenting with different combinations of fruits and vegetables into a delicious smoothie. Frozen fruit and veg can work well in smoothies too.
2. Fill an omelette
Perfect for a simple lunch or a lazy weekend brunch, whisk up eggs and fill with veggies like onions, mushrooms, spinach and peppers – or anything else you have in the fridge.
3) Try cauliflower or broccoli rice
Cauli rice has a bit of a cult thing of late. You can buy it ready-made in several supermarkets, but it is also very easy to whizz up yourself in a food processor. Simply chop a whole cauliflower into florets and pulse until the cauliflower is a fine, rice-like consistency. Perfect as a rice replacement or as a veggie side dish. There are many different ways to cook it such as stir frying or roasting. Also try with broccoli.
4) Pasta sauces
Pasta dishes are the perfect place to hide vegetables. Experiment with spinach, tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, peas and broccoli and pretty much any other vegetable you can think of. This is great for vegetable-adverse kids too as they will barely notice if you grate carrot or zucchini into a sauce, or blend a vegetable sauce until its smooth and just looks like tomato sauce.
5) Don’t forget your herbs
These count as vegetables, too, and are easily incorporated into almost any dish, from soups and stews to scrambled eggs.
6) Experiment with a spiralizer
You can get courgetti or butternut squash noodles from most supermarkets, or make your own with a spiralizer. Blanch for a minute or two, then serve with a favourite pasta sauce such as pesto or lentil bolognese.
7) Super snacks
Good old veg makes for a speedy snack. Celery sticks, radishes, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas don’t even need any chopping.
8) Squeeze in an extra portion where you can
Whatever you are making for dinner, think ‘how can I add another vegetable to this?’
9) Bring in berries
Berries of any kind are choc-full of inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Add them to granola, muesli or porridge along with a sprinkle of seeds for a nutrition boost.
10) Carry handbag snacks
Apples, pears, bananas and satsumas are perfect travelling companions, and teamed with a small handful of nuts, make the perfect satisfying snack.
11) Make fruity lollies
Make some healthy ice lollies and keep in the freezer. These always go down a treat with kids. Experiment with different combinations. My favourite is to blend some mango, pineapple and coconut milk, with a squeeze of lime, and freeze.
* What constitutes a portion?
A portion means 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg - the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas.
This Mexican inspired one-pot dish is great for a mid-week family meal. It takes less than 20 minutes and uses mostly store cupboard ingredients.
This meal is vegan with plenty of protein coming from the quinoa and black beans. And even if you aren't vegetarian or vegan, try it a meat-free Monday meal.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4*)
1 tsp Coconut oil
2 clove garlic, minced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
500ml Organic Vegetable stock
240g or 1 tin Black beans, drained and rinsed
250g or 1 tin Chopped tomatoes
100g sweetcorn, tinned or frozen
1/2 tsp Chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and pepper
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
1. Heat the oil in large pan over a medium heat
2. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
3. Stir in the quinoa and toast for 30 seconds
4. Add the vegetable stock, beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, chilli powder and cumin
5. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste
6. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked
7. Stir in the avocado, lime juice and coriander.
8. Serve immediately.
*Just halve the quantities if you would like to make this for 2.
Do you think you could have some kind of food intolerance? Something that doesn’t quite agree with you?
It’s really important to fix this, especially if you’ve had niggly symptoms for years. Food intolerance can cause long term low grade inflammation through the body. If your body doesn’t like something that you are repeatedly eating, it can lead to worsening symptoms in the future. Inflammation is a big driver of chronic disease so it is important to address any long term inflammation.
Below you will see the the most common symptoms of food intolerances, so you can decide if a test is something you need to do.
If you do discover you have a food intolerance its likely that you don’t have to remove the food forever. But it’s important to know that it’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it.
If you find you have a food intolerance, this is your body telling you that your digestive tract needs some TLC to restore it to optimal function. Without this vital step, you’re likely to end up (over time) with more intolerances and more symptoms.
Do you experience any of the following:
Abdominal pain Fatigue
Weight that won’t shift Arthritis
Bloating Blocked nose
Migraines Ear Infections
Coughs (frequent) Sinusitis
Itchy or overly waxy ears Hives
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FOOD INTOLERANCE & ALLERGY
A food allergy produces IgE antibodies in response to a food, drink or other substance the body mistakenly thinks is attacking it. The issue can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – anaphylaxis – which can be deadly. The reaction is often immediate.
If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP.
If you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever.
When you have a food intolerance, it can be very difficult to spot the problem food because the reaction can happen fairly quickly after eating it, or, in some cases, many hours or days after. This can make it quite difficult to pinpoint what is causing the adverse symptoms.
These food sensitivities cause the body to produce IgG antibodies, and raised levels to specific foods can cause low level inflammation through the body and a variety of symptoms (as above).
WHO SHOULD TEST?
If you suspect you have a food intolerance, testing is the first step so you can start pinpoint what is causing the problem. It is advised that you work with a Nutrition Professional to restore the integrity of the digestive tract, ready for when you eventually reintroduce this food.
HOW TO TEST
I use the Lorisian Laboratories 150+ food intolerance test, which is a highly accurate IgG food intolerance test, testing over 150 types of foods. It is a finger-prick blood test which can be taken during your consultation. The test is then sent back to the laboratory and analysed, and results are usually received within a week.
WHAT IS THE COST?
The food intolerance test alone costs £299. I strongly advise people who want to test to take my Food Intolerance Package for £399 which, as well as the test, includes an Initial and follow up consultation. This provides professional guidance on how to apply the test results to your diet in a safe way, and to work on any restoration required to the digestive tract. This package also provides you with a saving of £50 on my usual consultation prices. If you are interested in finding out more, or booking a test, please get in touch.
These nut-free energy balls are great for kids packed lunch boxes as they taste like a sweet treat, but without the refined sugar, and contain lots of nutritious goodness. They are also perfect to take to work as a snack, or just to keep in the fridge when you are at home.
The recipe below makes 10-12 balls depending on the size.
1 cup dates
1 cup oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tbsp water
1. Soak the dates and pumpkin seeds, in 2 small separate bowls, for 1 hour in a little water to soften. (This step is not essential and can be skipped, but it helps to soften the dates for blending, and also makes the seeds easier on the digestive system).
2. Place the oats in a food processor and pulse until fine. Remove and put to one side.
3. Drain the dates and pumpkin seeds if you have soaked them.
4. Blend the dates until smooth, then add the oats and the pumpkin seeds together with the cocoa powder and cinnamon, and blend until combined.
5. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to soften the mixture. It should be sticky, not crumbly, but not too wet either. If it gets too wet add a few more oats.
6. Take 1 heaped tablespoon of mixture and roll into a ball. Continue until all of the mixture is used.
7. Place the balls in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours then serve.
8. These will last, if kept in a container in the fridge, for up to 5 days.
In this post I am referring to childrens school lunches, however the principles can be applied to any packed lunches for children or adults.
After a long summer its time to go back to school, and for many parents this means preparing a daily packed lunch. If you often get stuck on what to put into your child’s packed lunch that is nutritious and that they will actually eat, then read on.
A good healthy packed lunch should be able to sustain the body and brain through the school day. Giving the best nutrition to your children really gives them the best start. A white bread sandwich with a sugary cereal bar and a packet of crisps doesn't really cut it. Fortunately many schools want their kids to be healthy and therefore don’t allow fizzy drinks or chocolate bars to be brought in. Nuts are a great healthy food, but these are also off limits in school packed lunches due to potential severe allergies. So what foods can we pack that will be healthy and sustaining?
The primary fuel for the body and brain is glucose which is mainly obtained from carbohydrates. Too many simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and white bread, can lead to hyperactivity, then energy and mood dips later in the day. This is why complex carbohydrates are best, to ensure an even supply of fuel to sustain your child through their day. Complex carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes and pulses.
To build brain cells the body needs the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These are found in oily fish (such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring and tuna), flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds.
Protein is made up of 23 different amino acids. Some of these can be manufactured in the body, and some can only be obtained from the food we eat. Just one of the roles of amino acids are making neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers controlling mood, memory and many other cognitive processes and behaviours. Good protein sources include eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, soy, legumes and pulses.
Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, and are found in abundance in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Each micronutrient plays an important role in the body to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. A healthy balanced diet of natural foods will contain an abundance of micronutrients, whereas most processed foods are void of micronutrients.
Its very important to stay hydrated throughout the day, even just minor dehydration can lead to tiredness, poor memory and lack of concentration. So ensure you kids get hydration through water, and also through fruits and vegetables. If your child is really resistant to drink water on its own, mix it with a little fresh fruit juice.
9 PACKED LUNCH IDEAS
As you will see below, I follow the same pattern for each packed lunch - an energy sustaining main, one fruit portion, one vegetable portion, 1 dairy (or dairy alternative) portion, 1 drink, and for bigger appetites/very active kids an additional energy sustaining snack. These are all small portions, relative to the child's age, giving them a variety of different foods to cover a broad range of nutrients. Pick and mix up the ideas below for many more healthy lunches.
Calcium is vital in all stages of life, from young growing children, all the way through to old age. Calcium makes up 1-2% of an adults body weight, making it the most abundant mineral in the body. Most of us remember being told to drink our milk at school as it contains Calcium to make our bones healthy. And while this fact is true, you will see that Calcium can be found in many food sources other than dairy. For people that cannot, or do not wish to eat dairy, it is still easy enough to get all the calcium you need. Just ensure that you regularly eat a variety of the calcium rich foods listed below, along with the other nutrients essential for optimal Calcium absorption.
Why do we need calcium?
Where can I find calcium?
Rich sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, spring greens and kale), tofu, dairy products, sardines, sesame seeds, oranges, figs, seaweeds and fortified dairy free milks.
Factors that reduce calcium absorption in the body
Vitamin D status, age, lowered oestrogen levels, high amounts of phytic acid or oxalic acid, chronic GI problems, low stomach acid levels, pregnancy, excessive alcohol intake, some medications.
Other important nutrients
If you are concerned you may not be getting enough calcium, vitamin D or vitamin K2, speak to a nutrition professional. They can ensure that you maximise your calcium absorption, for a healthy and strong body, now and in the future.
Its always great to try different variations on favourite dishes. This is what fills the pages of most cookbooks, publications and foodie blogs, as people look for new and updated ideas. However, a classic dish done well is hard to beat. These are often dishes that have been passed through families for generations and the reason for this is that they taste great!
One classic dish that is very popular in middle eastern cuisines is hummus. Hummus is now very popular in the UK too, and while most shop bought hummus is fine, home made hummus tastes far superior. Once you have tried it there will be no going back.
Full of nutritious goodness, and smooth and creamy in flavour, this hummus only takes minutes to make. It will last for 3-5 days in the fridge.
You can use tinned chickpeas or dried chickpeas. If you prefer to use dried chickpeas, batch cook some and then freeze them in portions so that you have them to hand when you need them. You can defrost them in boiling water the same way you would with garden peas.
What nutritional benefits can you get from eating hummus?
CHICKPEAS - rich in fibre which is great for healthy digestion. The soluble fibre in chickpeas is also linked to lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The combination of fibre and protein in chickpeas is also excellent for blood sugar stability. Chickpeas are also rich in antioxidants which help to mop up free radical damage in the body, helping to prevent chronic disease and ageing.
TAHINI - is made from crushed sesame seeds. Sesame seeds might be tiny but they are nutritional powerhouses, rich in minerals such as Copper, Manganese, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc. They have also been shown to have a positive effect on lowering LDL cholesterol.
GARLIC - garlic is a true superfood. It has a chemical compound called Allicin which has powerful medicinal properties. Garlic has been found to be antiviral and antibacterial so it is a great immune system booster. Another ingredient that can assist in lowering LDL cholesterol. Garlic has also been shown to be useful in reducing high blood pressure.
OLIVE OIL - hailed as another superfood across the mediterranean. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants which can prevent free radical damage and reduce inflammation in the body. It also has antibacterial properties. Be sure to buy cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, and ensure it is in a dark glass bottle (to prevent oxidation).
140g cooked chickpeas
1 garlic clove roughly chopped
3 heaped tsp tahini
3 tsp lemon juice
a little water
Extra virgin olive oil
A good pinch of sea salt
Christmas is such a magical time of year, when family and friends gather together to spread some festive cheer. However, with all the parties, meals, and celebrations, it can be difficult to keep the balance. Here are 7 tips to help keep you healthy and happy this christmas and new year:
There is an absolute wealth of information that can be found on nutrition and diet today, some of it is very valid, helpful and credible. However, now the internet has given everyone a voice, there are also some questionable opinions and advice out there.
'Health gurus' will claim a specific diet, or way of eating, helped them resolve all their health issues, they lost 20lbs and have never felt better. But when someone else follows the same diet, they have not found the same results, found the diet unsustainable and can sometimes even feel worse. This is because every BODY is different. There is no 'one size fits all' in nutrition.
No two human bodies are the same. Just some of the ways in which we vary can be genetics, gender, age, our lifestyle, previous medical history, current health, impaired absorption of a particular nutrients, hormones... to name but a few!
Of course, there are parts of nutrition that can be relevant for most of us, and we can make some profound changes through sound general advice. But, when people start excluding food groups, over eating other food groups, or have underlying health issues that need supporting, then this is where people can run into problems. Not to mention the guilt when you find the diet is unsustainable, fad diets usually are.
A nutrition expert should always be consulted if you are thinking of changing your diet, or excluding certain food groups. Functional laboratory tests can be offered to confirm any allergy or possible intolerance, and a balanced diet plan will be created to ensure you are still getting adequate nutrition from the rest of your diet.
When you come for a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist you will talk about your current health, previous medical history, your family medical history, and your current and previous diet, lifestyle and wellbeing. Tests may also be required to find out other information such as vitamin D levels, or a stool test. These tests are not essential, but can be helpful if it is relevant to your case. Some can also be carried out by your GP.
Supplements may also be recommend, tailored to your particular case, if I feel it will be beneficial for you.
A Nutritional Therapist likes to 'build a bigger picture' of each case, and try and get to the root cause of health concerns, rather than only addressing the symptoms. A plan is then tailored perfectly to all of this collected information, and this is where to will really start to see the benefits of good nutrition, through your own personalised nutrition plan.