What I Eat in a Day – 16 weeks post baby

 

My goodness it’s taken me ages to write this post! I think I started it when my baby was about 8 weeks…he’s now 4 months. It’s been a mixed bag with moments of joy and exhilaration with overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude to almost weeping with tiredness as my baby wants to feed yet again when I have no milk left to give him. It’s definitely a roller coaster, one moment thinking I’m handling my 3 year old boy and new born pretty well for it all to come crashing down in an instant (usually in the middle of the supermarket) with tears and lots of screaming.

I feel I’ve reached a bit more of an equilibrium now. The 3 year old is at nursery every morning (phew) and my little one is more settled, feeding less frequently and sleeping more at night. I still have daily doses of chaos but it’s certainly getting more manageable.

My approach to regaining my strength, vitality and body is a gradual one, nothing too dramatic or extreme. Eating fresh foods, lots of vegetables, fats and proteins and keeping carbohydrates to the gluten-free variety and in 1-2 meals a day. I thought the best way to show this is to give you an idea about how and what I eat on an average weekday.

Breakfast – Porridge with almonds, coconut, chia and cacao.

I’ve been eating this breakfast for a few months now since the combination of oats and almonds are ‘lactogenic’, meaning they help to stimulate breast milk production (essential when one has a constantly hungry boy – for those non-breastfeeding people this won’t make you lactate!). My 3 year old is also a porridge fiend, he can have up to 3 breakfasts in the morning (especially on a weekend) and porridge is always the first. I make a big batch and then divvy it out with different toppings for each of us. It’s quick, easy and (with the toppings) full of healthy fats and proteins.

Here’s the contents of mine. Be warned, I seriously load it up with a lot of extras, all of which are helping me to recover from the birth and keeping my adrenals (stress glands) supported.

  • 1/4 cup of organic oats.
  • 1/4 cup of full fat organic milk.
  • 1/4 water.
  • 1 tbs coconut chips.
  • 1 tsp chia seeds.
  • 2 tsp cacao nibs.
  • Approx. 8 almonds.
  • 1 tsp of Organic Vitality Mix (Inspiral). This is a really nice mix of immune and adrenal supportive nutrients (the adrenal glands manage our stress response and can become depleted when the body experiences prolonged stress).
  • 1 tsp Milled Flaxseed, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts and Co-Q10 (Linwoods).
  • 1 tsp raw honey.

I team this with a pot of Jasmine green tea (Pukka).

Morning snack

My 3 year old fireball is in nursery 5 mornings week, which means I actually get a bit of breathing space. I’ll sit down (and try not to waste too much time looking at banal YouTube videos) and drink a range of beverages to keep my hydration levels up. These range from a cup of English breakfast tea and water to my new discovery of a matcha latte. I realise this sounds like a slightly pretentious drink, but I brought some matcha powder a few years ago (it’s not cheap), needed to use it up and found adding lots of almond milk made it much more drinkable. I’ll combine this with either a raw snack bar (Nakd) or if I’ve been organised and made these energy balls.

Lunch – Green Scramble

This is pretty standard for me, unless I’m having leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. My life becomes much more chaotic once my older boy is home so lunch needs to be quick and easy. It usually involves eggs and spinach, I’ll also chuck in any other veg that’s in the fridge (again any leftovers from the night before such as roasted sweet potato or steamed broccoli) and then scramble it up with two eggs (fried with coconut oil). I’ll add on a side of sauerkraut and avocado if it’s going. It’s easy, can (mostly) be done one-handed and is very healthy.

Thankfully my 3 year old will also eat scrambled eggs with spinach (cut up into minuscule pieces), combined with sourdough toast and butter.

It doesn’t always look like this photo, in fact this photo was only made possible because my snot-imbuded boy was so tired after nursery that he fell asleep on the sofa and let me make this attractive looking meal and eat it without having to read Pepper Pig whilst breastfeeding the baby!

HOWEVER, there are days when the only thing possible to make is a piece of toast and peanut butter!

 

Dinner – Salmon with roasted vegetables and rice.

The preparation time I put into dinner varies a lot. It can veer from a  stressful and noisy 30 minutes to a relaxing hour. It all depends if my husband gets back in time to sit with the boys. If I have time I like to try some new recipes a couple of times a week or if time is short I go to my staples. I also try to get in a couple of vegetarian dishes a week alongside the lamb, chicken or fish we normally have.  Here are the basic dietary rules I follow:

  • Must contain a solid source of protein i.e. lamb (my husband doesn’t eat any other red meat), chicken, fish or if we’re doing veggie halloumi cheese.
  • Must contain at least 3 different vegetables (including something green such as broccoli, kale or spinach). These are either steamed, roasted or sautéed. My 3 year old is a picky eater and getting anything green in him is nigh on impossible. He does eat raw carrots and cucumber so I always give him a good helping of these as a pre-dinner snack while he gets his time watching Bing/Peppa Pig/Teletubbies. If possible I will also try and sneak in some more during dinner (but this isn’t always possible).
  • A gluten-free starch or carbohydrate such as rice, quinoa, rice pasta, sweet potato or regular potatoes. I may skip this but the others demand them!

What you see here is a pretty standard meal of roasted vegetables, baked salmon (makes it easy as I can shove everything into the oven), homemade pesto (whatever herbs are around combined with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper). This is with rice but I may make some pasta for the boy as I can mix some of the pesto into it without him complaining too much! Thankfully he loves salmon and will eat the same size portion as me.

Afters

My boy will get some fruit and full fat natural yoghurt. If it’s the weekend, he’ll also get a biscuit or some chocolate.

I’m also partial to a little bit of something sweet but will try to have made something healthy-ish. If there’s nothing I’ll opt for a piece of dark chocolate.

Drinks

  • I start the day with a pot of Jasmin Green Tea.
  • I will have 1 cup of English breakfast tea with milk a day (sometimes 2 if I’m flagging in the afternoon).
  • Possibly a decaf coffee if I’m out.
  • Fennel or the Pukka Chai tea.
  • I’m trying to drink 2 litres of water a day but this is where I seem to struggle at the moment (which is not ideal as I’m breastfeeding).

That’s it! This will vary on the weekends and if we have guests. I’m very lucky in that my husband loves to cook and is a phenomenal one! So on the weekends he goes all out and will dive into a cookbook (Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghayour are favourites) and may also make a decadent dessert.

Super Speedy Ice Tea

 

Summer is here! I’m well and truly sweltering in this hotter then Sahara heat (apparently). Being 9 and a bit months pregnant I’m in need of genuine refreshment.

Last summer I gave you a very lovely recipe for a beautiful ice tea, which is still a firm favourite….If I can be bothered to make it. Maybe it’s having a feral toddler to run after, maybe it’s the pregnancy but I’m finding my energy levels are pretty variable. So I’ve come up with a solution. Ice tea ice cubes that I can add to a glass, along water and just drink. Very simple, very effective and very easy. The joy of these is that you can make a ton when you have the time and inclination and keep in the freezer ready to be used when the need arises.

I’ve chosen four varieties, which can be drunk alone or mixed together, but the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients

  • Tea bags – I love this blackcurrant one from Pukka, a white tea, ginger tea and a peppermint tea.
  • Fresh peppermint leaves (optional).
  • Raspberries (optional)
  • Boiling water.
  1. Boil the kettle and place place each tea bag into a separate pot or large mug. Once the kettle has boiled fill with water and let them brew for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer to let the water cool.
  2. Pour one of the cooled teas into a jug and then pour into your ice cube trays. Add a mint leaf or berry to a couple or all of the cubes.
  3. Repeat with the other types of tea.
  4. Freeze. Take the frozen cubes out of the trays and place in separate, labelled, bags ready to be used.
  5. When you’re ready to make your tea simply add 5 or 6 cubes (I like mixing the blackcurrant, ginger and mint) to a large glass and fill with water (still or sparkling). I like to then add the juice of half a fresh lemon or lime. Wait for a few minutes for the cubes to melt and then drink. If you need a bit more sweetness then free add a dash of elderflower cordial, which works wonders with this mix.

Health Benefits

What I love about this drink is that it allows you to get the benefits of the herbal tea even when you don’t fancy a hot drink. Here’s a brief rundown of the positive effects of drinking this concoction:

  • Blackcurrant Beauty (Pukka) – I love this one because it’s so much more then a fruit tea. With the obvious blackcurrant there is also beetroot, rosehip and hibiscus flower. Brimming with vitamin C and other antioxidants this has great immune support and have anti-inflammatory properties. These herbs are mild diuretics making them useful (when combined with their antioxidant content) in supporting kidney function. Fennel and liquorice also support digestive function.
  • White tea (Clipper) – White contains high levels of certain antioxidants (catechins) shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes. They also help to protect the skin from UV rays (but don’t think you can skip the sunscreen) and support cardiovascular health.
  • Three Ginger Tea (Pukka) – Helpful for relieving digestive discomfort, especially nausea and vomiting. Has anti-inflammatory effects, which is why people it has ben shown to help people with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
  • Three Mint tea (Pukka) – Supports digestion and helps to sooth stomach spasms (much needed for me at a the moment when all my digestive organs have been pushed out of place).

As you can see this tea has multiple benefits, as well as being quick and easy to make it hydrates and refreshes. It also gives a pleasant alternative for those pregnant and avoiding alcohol.

 

My Labour Survival Kit

I’m pregnant,  very pregnant i.e due to give birth to my second child any day now. I’ve gone through the nesting/sorting/getting my hospital bag ready phase am now waiting. As I’m pretty static at the moment I thought I’d do something useful and share with you a few of foods, drinks and natural remedies I found helpful the first time around, which have made it into my hospital bag. Hopefully they will work for me again this time. I totally understand that what one woman wants/needs during labour can be completely different from another and maybe this time these things may not hit the spot. I’d also like to add, these are supports. I had a pretty challenging and long labour last time and for all of my hypnobirthing ended up having epidural (almost an emergency cesarean). These are not going to guarantee a successful, easy, natural labour, but they all helped me in little ways through the dark times.

Some of the food and drink items may surprise you a little, they could be deemed a little unorthodox for a natural food-based nutritionist. But what I learnt from my last labour was that you just have to go with what works for you during the time.

Food

To be honest I found it difficult to eat anything during my last labour and in the end I had to have a drip to re-hydrate me. While my lovely mother had brought me a massive range of healthy snack bars I couldn’t face them. However there was one that I could eat, albeit very slowly, which helped to give me much needed energy and sustenance. I found the winning formula to be that it was soft and easy to eat with not too strong of a taste and high in natural sugars. Yes, you need the quick releasing sugars during these times.

To try and ensure there’s something that appeals I’m bringing a variety. Here are the ones in my bag;

  • Nakd Raw Cocoa Orange Bar, Primal Pantry Bars – Basically a range of soft fruit and nut bars. These are tasty, easy to eat and with a good amount of natural sugars to give me energy.
  • Meridian Nut Bars, 9 Bars   – My aim was to get a range of bars here, which is why in included these. While not perfect in their ingredients they still ticked the box for being gluten-free, with a solid base of natural foods. Like the flapjacks below there are some ingredients I wouldn’t normally endorse but I think that’s just fine during this time.
  • Trek Cocoa Oat Protein Flapjack – Not perfect, they contain some dubious ingredients (soya protein, palm oil) but they fit my criteria of being soft and with a good amount of sugars.
  • Chocolate Biscuits – OK, now there’s nothing healthy about these. But they completely hit the spot after the birth of my last boy, accompanied by about a pint of strong tea. Never has a biscuit and cup of tea tasted so good! There are times when you just have to eat what you want, and this is one of them. Sorry to disappoint but I wanted to be honest!

Drinks

  • Still water – I’m sure I’ll have access to this at the hospital but always good to be stocked up.
  • Coconut Water – With a blend of essential electrolytes this drink is very effective at helping to re-hydrate the body after either rigorous or extended bouts of physical activity. Perfect during labour! My only concern is that I won’t want to touch the stuff. As I found last time around I could only tolerate very specific things. Hence the option below…
  • Lucozade – Like the chocolate biscuits this may be another surprise addition and again I would not normally suggest one drinks it. BUT last time it really helped me. Even through the fog of exhaustion and pain I was still surprised I drank it! I was extremely dehydrated and tired, I found a few sips made me feel a little better, helped to re-hyrate me and brought my energy levels back up.
  • Tea – The 3 cups of PG Tips I drank after my last labour, with my little boy in my arms were the best ever. So this time I’m stocked up. Whatever you’re preference whether it’s a strong Assam, PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea or a herbal one I’d suggest you do the same.

Music

One of the things that I realised through my attempt at hypnobirthing was the importance of relaxation during labour. While I didn’t master it completely I found that music really helped me at certain times (combined with the hypno-breathing). Like all of my suggestions my playlist is a very personal one and you’ll have your own preferences. Here are a few on my playlist:

  • Alexi Murdoch – Away We Go
  • Sigos Ros – We Play Endlessly
  • London Grammar – Metal & Dust
  • Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack

Natural Remedies

  • Arnica 200c (Helios) – I’m a big fan of arnica and have been using it for years for bruising, injury and shock. I realise homeopathy is a much debated over topic but I’ve always found this particular remedy very useful. This is a very high potency and suggested for use during and after childbirth to help deal with the soreness, swelling, bruising and injury that can occur. I took it last time and I think it helped the healing process. I ordered mine from Helios who were also amazingly helpful in recommending other potentially useful remedies.
  • Emergency Essence (Australian Bush Flower Essences) – Again I took this during my last labour, in the first stage when I was having a hard time of it. This is similar to the Bach ‘Rescue Remedy’, but I find this one more effective. It’s designed to help tackle emotional upset during times of crisis especially feelings of panic, distress and fear. I found this helpful, it’s not a drug, it won’t take away the pain, but it helped to calm me a little.
  • Relaxation Remedy (Neal’s Yard) – A blend of essential oils that help to relax the mind and body and promote relaxation. Yep, I’m fully aware that I may be throwing this at my husbands head during labour but on the other hand it may just help.

 

Miscellaneous

  • Facial Spray (Mario Badescu) – Last time I didn’t have anything like this but I heard from some other mum’s that these types of refreshing and cooling facial sprays were really nice to have during labour. I need little excuse to buy stuff like this anyway so this went straight into the bag.
  • Lip balm (Elizabeth Arden) – Quite simply because I got really dry lips last time. A stick is easier then a pot.
  • Socks – Soft and easy to put on, because weirdly my feet got really cold.

 

I’m hoping these all help to contribute to a smooth and healthy labour and birth of my little boy. I’m sure some stuff will help while others may be left in the bag. If you’re reading this pregnant and anticipating what you may need then I hope this gives you some useful ideas.

A Warming Summer Breakfast

Once again the weather has scuppered my latest blog post. I’d just finished my ‘healthy and speedy ice tea’, perfect for the balmy summer days. Then it started to rain, and rain and rain some more.

Instead you’re going to get what I’m eating for breakfast at the moment on these cold rainy mornings. It’s perfect for when the weather is damp and you need something filling yet healthy and simple. I make porridge every morning as it’s my 3-year old’s staple breakfast, so it makes sense for me to have it as well.

It’s a great way of getting some healthy fats (almonds, coconut, chia seeds), good fibre (oats, berries, nuts and seeds) and seasonal antioxidants (blueberries) into your system first thing. You can even prep it the night before and heat it up in the morning, or keep it cold, depending on your preference and time scale.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup of organic oats
  • 1 cup water or milk of your choice (I prefer it quite liquid-y, use less if you like it stodgier)
  • Sprinkling of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Small handful of almonds (around 8)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut chips or desiccated coconut
  • Handful of organic blueberries
  • 1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup
  1. Measure out the oats and add to a small saucepan. Add the water and/or milk and the cinnamon. Heat on a low-medium heat with the lid on. Once it starts to gently bubble take the lid off and turn down the heat to a simmer and stir. Add more liquid if needed.
  2. Once cooked pour into a bowl and top with the chia seeds, almonds, coconut, blueberries and maple syrup.

The Benefits

  • You probably already know about blueberries and their antioxidants. They’re one of the fruits highest in those health-giving phytonutrients. By protecting damage to cellular DNA they’re actions are far flung in our body, from helping cognitive function and memory and heart health. But it’s really important to go organic as they can also be one of the most heavily sprayed crops with a variety of pesticides. Antioxidant levels have also been shown to be higher in organic rather then non-organic ones.
  • This is also a meal full of fibre, pretty much all the ingredients (apart from the maple syrup) contain it! This means feeling fuller longer, help in regulating digestion and improving bowel motion.

At least you can have a nice breakfast while watching the summer rain fall. I really do hope that I can post my ice tea recipe soon and we can all sit and drink it in the sunshine.

The Low Maintenance Chocolate Chip Cookie

I’m always trying to think up ways of converting unhealthy, but rather delicious foods (cake, cookies/biscuits/desserts) into healthier versions of themselves. The results are mixed. If you read my last post you’ll see they can be down right terrible but sometimes they come out pretty well. While my tastebuds are quite forgiving when it comes to healthy treats, my husband’s are not (this is a man who likes to eat M & Ms for breakfast!). So when I made this batch of cookies and he actually liked them I knew they could make it onto the blog.

As well as tasting great they’re also incredibly easy to make. Requiring just a handful of ingredients (I normally have in my cupboard) and a few tools (bowl, spoon, measuring cups) you can whip them up in and have them cooling nicely in half an hour.

For those of you who know and love my Healthy Chocolate Brownies these will definitely ring a bell. I’ve basically switched some of the ingredients around and changed their shaped.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like them)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of chocolate pieces (90% coco solids) I use this one

 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4/350F. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl (ground almonds, coconut, bicarbonate of soda and salt) and mix together.
  3. Pour in the maple syrup and vanilla essence and mix again until well combined.
  4. Finally stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Measure out a tablespoon of dough, shape into a ball and place on the parchment. With a fork press down on each dough ball gently.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack before eating.

 

That is it! Really easy, really tasty and no nasty hidden ingredients.These cookies are a treat rather then an every day occurrence in our house. But as a gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo alternative to shop brought ones they’re pretty special.

My Blood Sugar Balancing Easter Breakfast

In an attempt to do a seasonal post I’ve managed to spend this past week in a state of supremely unproductive procrastination.

I’ve managed to create two, almost, inedible chocolate-inspired desserts and go around in circles trying to think of how to make a healthy chocolate egg. Bored, already, of the chocolate theme and realising that there is no dearth of healthy, chocolately treats flooding blogs and magazines at this time I thought I would give you something a little different. Namely a breakfast that shall line your stomach in anticipation of all the wonderful Easter chocolate you are very likely going to eat this coming weekend.

The aim of this breakfast is to taste good and also give you a range of nutrients that will provide a bit of a buffer to all the sugar from the chocolate, resulting in fewer energy drops, mood swings and subsequent sugar cravings. It will help you to enjoy the delicious treats rather then gorge uncontrollably on them.

This breakfast is particularly special because it has been inspired by by my great grandma Tilly. She used to make a version of this many moons ago for my Grandma back in 1920’s New York. Way ahead of her time!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 1-2 free range, organic eggs (depending on how hungry you are)
  • 2 small slices of bread (I make this paleo one or you can go for a rye, sourdough or gluten-free).
  • Fresh lemon juice (I use around 1/4 of a fresh lemon)
  • Dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat a saucepan of water. Once it boils, gently lower in your eggs. You’re looking to get a hard boiled egg so cook on a high heat for at least 8 minutes. Once done drain and soak in cold water for a minute or two before peeling.
  2. Toast your bread and peel the avocado.
  3. Place the avocado and eggs into a bowl and mash with a fork.
  4. Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix again.
  5. Place this mixture on your toast, sprinkle with the chilli and feta (if using) and eat!

Serves 1

As well as being quick and easy this also works well when you’re having big traditional family breakfasts (though you may have to bring your own avocado). You’ll generally be able to get hold of the basic ingredients and make it up without too much fuss.

I hope you find this as a delightful of a breakfast as I do and it helps to diffuse the chocolate assault that may well take place this weekend.

Carrot and Beetroot Cupcakes

One of the culinary goals in my life at the moment is to get my little 2 year old boy to eat more vegetables! He is the light of my life, yet his stubbornness to eat anything plant-based drives me bonkers. He seems to have insanely tuned tastebuds that can detect any kind of vegetable on his palate within milliseconds. The offending articles of food get routinely ejected and he spends the rest of the meal inspecting his food to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistake again.

This means I now try to find subversive ways of hiding vegetables into dishes. Some work, some don’t. These carrot and beetroot cupcakes have been a success (phew) and they now get regularly consumed by my vegetable-hating tot.

Ingredients

  • 225g of spelt flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g of walnut pieces, chopped into very small pieces (obviously omit this if your child has a nut allergy)
  • 50g carrots, finely grated
  • 50g beetroot, finely grated
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 ml maple syrup
  • 140g of organic butter, melted.

For the topping

  • 250g mascarpone or full fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup

 Makes approximately 18 cupcakes

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 4/320F. Place cupcake cases inside the cupcake tin.
  2. Add the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder, nuts) into a large bowl and mix well.
  3. In another bowl mash the bananas then add the eggs, butter, carrots, beetroot and maple syrup.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cases.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cupcakes have risen and are golden. Check by inserting a skewer into the centre of a cake, it should come out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then place on a cooling rack.
  7. To make the topping. Put the mascarpone in a small bowl. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup and stir well. Add a teaspoon of this mixture onto each cake and spread.

Store the cakes in the fridge or freeze (without topping). This makes a really big batch. If you feel it’s too much, simply cut all the quantities in half to make fewer cakes.

Benefits

  • These are a great way to get immune boosting carrots and beets into unsuspecting toddlers. Both of these veg are bursting with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
  • The mix of healthy fats (coconut oil, walnuts and mascarpone cheese) and protein (eggs, walnuts and mascarpone cheese) help to slow the release of the sugars from the other ingredients (flour, banana, maple syrup). Making this beneficial for energy levels.
  • These are very versatile making a great, quick breakfast (no topping with a natural, full fat yoghurt on the side). They also make a good snack or dessert with the creamy topping.

My journey continues. The daily task of presenting vegetables in various attractive guises is ongoing. I’ve found these cakes a little treasure when he’s refusing to touch any veg. My aim is to still get him to eat recognisable veg (which I continually present to him). I am aware these are a support not a solution, but to all frustrated parents, a very welcome one.

My New Year Revitalising Kit & Clean Green Soup

I, along with many, who have just got to the other side of the Christmas and New Year festivities am feeling in dire need of some revitalisation. Ideally this would involve a few weeks at a retreat in Bali, but this is most definitely not going to happen.

So I’m attempting to bring elements of a retreat to very rainy Wales. It’s just a little different from a real retreat, not as relaxing, warm or immersive, but I’m trying. Having a two-year old little boy who doesn’t stop moving (and throwing stuff everywhere, especially play doh and crayons) means I have to work harder at this. But in-between picking up and clearing away the same stuff he pulls out of cupboards and battling the rain I’ve found introducing a few small changes to daily life have made me feel a lot better. These are them:

  • Drinking a large mug of warm water with a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar (with the ‘Mother’) each morning before breakfast. Find out more of the benefits in this post. I’m on Biona’s at the moment.
  • Drinking Pukka’s ‘Serene Jasmine Green’ tea. A new find and a pleasure to drink.
  • Taking baths with a cup of magnesium flakes (aka epsom salts) and essential oils. A great way to absorb magnesium, relax the muscles, reduce stress and improve sleep.
  • Squeeze in yoga at least twice a week. The only way I can do this is with the help of ‘YogaGlo’ an amazing online yoga tutorial site. Brilliant teachers, and lots of classes of varying lengths, levels and styles.
  • Discovering Cheryl Strayed and reading her inspiring book ‘Brave Enough‘ given to me by my wise sister.
  • Making and eating my Clean Green Soup. I adapted this from my sister’s exceptionally good pea and mint soup. By adding a hefty load of nutrient-rich greens (watercress and spinach) it made this culinary gem into a therapeutic one.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for serving
  • 25g butter
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 500g fresh peas, shelled (or frozen peas)
  • 200g watercress
  • 200g spinach
  • 75g mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 litres organic vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional).

Preparation:

  • Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Add 3/4 of the peas, the chopped mint leaves, and 3/4 stock. Cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and cook on a medium boil for 10 minutes.
  • Add the watercress and spinach to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Blend the soup in a food processor, you will have a thick puree. Return the puree to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining peas and stock. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

If using Parmesan cheese place a small mound in the center of the bowl and pour the soup around. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. This soup is also delicious cold, but not chilled.

4-6 servings

The Benefits

Watercress

  • This aquatic plant has long been known to house a powerful array of nutrients (as far back as Hippocrates, 400 BC). Throughout history its been known as a healing herb, which could cleanse the blood.
  • Science has revealed it contains impressive amounts of vitamin C, calcium and folate. It is also has significant levels of vitamin K, which is integral to healthy blood clotting, bone health and and heart health.
  • Containing an array of phytonutrients (isothiocyanates) , antioxidants (zeaxanthin and lutein) and co factors for antioxidant enzymes (manganese). This plant works to protect key areas of the body from cell damage (the eyes, the lungs) and helps to fight infection.

Spinach

  • Like watercress this plant is packed with vitamin K. It also has high amounts of another fat-soluble vitamin A. Both need to be eaten with fat to support their absorption. The olive oil and butter in this recipe are not only integral to the taste but also to the therapeutic effect!
  • Contains high levels of phytonutrient flavonoids (a class of antioxidants) that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Along with the vitamin C, E and minerals zinc and manganese this food provides a comprehensive range of antioxidant micronutrients that will protect your cells from damage and support healthy cell function.
  • As will all nutrients they play a myriad of roles within our body, working together synergistically to support our health. Likewise all of these nutrients help our immune system to function effectively. Giving us much needed support during this rainy and damp time of year.

Mint

  • Mint may be best known as a digestion-soothing herb. Many of us gravitate towards this after a heavy meal or when we’re experiencing stomach upset. Great for those whose digestion is feeling heavy and sluggish from the festive period.
  • The menthol oils have been shown to help relax smooth muscle tissue. Thereby helping to counter some of the symptoms of IBS,  dyspepsia and cramps.
  • The essential oil in peppermint is anti-bacterial and has been shown to stop the growth of many digestion-disturing bacterias such as Salmonella enteritidis.

I hope these small things bring as much joy, inspiration and vitality to you as they have to me.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016!

Digestion Thanking Salad

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. While this is an event not normally celebrated by Brits, with a Grandma born and bred in the New York, and other family members of US birth or residence, it’s a meal we always mark. For my family it’s a great excuse to get lots of people we love together around a table eating lots of good food, drinking nice wine and giving thanks for all we have in our lives.

This is all well and good, but the thanksgiving meal is like the Christmas day meal: epic and gluttonous. So to pre-empt this gluttony I’ve decided to introduce a starter to the meal that combines a number of foods and condiments that prep the digestion and support liver function. They work by sending a signal to the brain to get the whole digestive tract (stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver) ready, which makes the meal and its aftermarth a little more comfortable.

Ingredients

  • 100g rocket
  • 100g watercress
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into rounds

Dressing

  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Mix the rocket, watercress, fennel and cucumber in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate, small bowl combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together.
  3. Just before serving pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.

Serves 4 (as a starter)

The Digestive Benefits

Rocket & Watercress – These are both ‘bitter herbs’ that stimulate the bitter taste buds on your tongue and in doing so start to stimulate all the digestive organs. This is vital in helping to digest effectively the various components of your meal. If you feel that eating fatty foods can cause you some discomfort, these leaves are perfect as they help to activate the liver and gall bladder, which in turn helps with the breakdown of fat.

Lemon juice – For proper digestion it is vital that our stomach acid is at the correct level. It helps to breakdown protein and stimulates further digestive processes. A common misconception is that indigestion is due to the stomach acid being too high. Often the symptoms are due to low stomach acid. Lemon juice may help to improve the acid level and promote the production of other digestive juices.

Fennel – In all its forms fennel has long been used to help with digestive function and upset. Whether the seeds are chewed after a meal (as in India), made into a tea or the bulb eaten it can help to reduce a myriad of discomfort from gas, bloating and cramps.

Apple cider vinegar – Like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar also helps ensure your stomach acid is high enough. This type of vinegar has also been shown to help in various ways with insulin function and blood sugar balance. A much needed aid when you’re indulging in a high-carb meal! Specifically it’s been shown to help us to respond much better to the insulin hormone.

This salad is probably not going to prevent all the effects of the pecan pie and red wine but it may help to make the meal a more comfortable experience. If it goes down well I’ll be rolling it out again for Christmas!

Healthy Hobnobs

My husband is partial to eating chocolate Hobnobs for breakfast. Not daily but every so often I see him surreptitiously slipping a couple in as he goes off to work. Over the years I’ve tried various ploys to discourage his ingestion of these refined-sugar laden, bad-fat filled biscuits but alas they haven’t worked. I feel I’ve failed a little as a nutritionist.

So rather than fighting it I’ve decided to embrace it. I’ve taken on the challenge of making a much healthier alternative that will give him that fix of crunchy, chocolate dipped tastiness but with a much healthier nutrient profile.

The joy of these biscuits, as I found when trialling the recipe, is that they are perfect for little people too (I push the chocolate-free version their way). My little boy could not keep his mitts off them! Not only are they easy to make (especially if you skip the chocolate dipping bit) but also hugely versatile, great as a snack or a dessert.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened

Makes approximately 14 biscuits

Topping

▪ 100g dark, fair trade chocolate (70% coco solids). This will be enough to coat half of the biscuits in this batch.

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4/350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Add the ground almonds, oats, coconut, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the maple syrup and butter to this dry mixture and combine. Mix with a spoon or your hands. You want to end up with a slightly crumbly consistency that sticks together when pressed.
  4. Form into golf-sized balls and place on the tray. Then pressed them down with a fork to flatten.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. They should be golden in colour. Cool in the tray for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack and leave until completely cool.
  6. If you’re adding the chocolate (I tend to add it to half of the biscuits) then place a bowl over a small saucepan, which contains a little water in the bottom. The bowl should not touch the water in the pan. Break up the chocolate and add to the bowl. Heat the pan so the water gently simmers and let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the chocolate has completely melted gently take the bowl off the saucepan. Leave to cool for a minute. Take one of your biscuits and tip the top half into the melted chocolate, then place on a plate lined with parchment. Continue with the rest of the biscuits. To get a thicker covering, dip the slightly cooled biscuits again in the chocolate. Then place in the fridge to cool and set. Store in the fridge in a tupperware. Chocolate-less biscuits can simply be stored in a cupboard.

Why a better biscuit?

  • They contain no trans fats. This is good because processed trans fats are the worst type of fat you can eat. Our body cannot recognise this type of fat and fails to break it down properly. Adding to this these fats also inhibit us from absorbing other important essential fatty acids (such as omega 3). These good fats are vital in helping to keep our heart healthy, support our immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. It’s no wonder trans fats are consistently linked with increasing the risk of coronary heart disease! The less we have of these in our diet the better.
  • They have no refined sugar. Thankfully the health risks of eating refined/processed sugar are now coming much more into the lime light. High in calories with no important nutrients, refined sugar actually drains nutrients from your body as they use vitamins and minerals when metabolised. They also disrupt energy, increase fat storage and over the long term increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes!
  • There are no mysterious preservatives or additives. The problem with these is that we don’t actually know the true danger many of the commonly used food additives or preservatives pose, both individually or when they are combined together in one product. What we do know is that some are linked to asthma and allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhoea, ADHD and hyperactivity.
  • They are full of vitamins, minerals. protein and healthy fats. Yep, the ingredients in these biscuits contain a wide range of important nutrients that help our body to thrive. They support energy, immune function, strong muscles and good brain function.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with these. They go down a treat with everyone and provide a very good reason to stop buying chemical filled biscuits. So for all those trying to sway loved ones into healthy eating, start with these little wonders.